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He set sail for Hamburgh, where, struck with the sight of the many Irish exiles in that city, he strung his harp anew, and sung that touching song, The Exile of Erin, which will endear his name to the heart of every honest Irishman. On his road from Munich to Linz, he witnessed from the walls of a convent the bloody field of Hohenlinden (Dec. 3, 1800), and saw the triumphant French cavalry, under Moreau, enter the nearest town, wiping their bloody swords on their horses' manes. But he saw, while abroad, something more than “the red artillery” of war; he passed a day with Klopstock, and acquired the friendship of the Schlegels. He was away altogether about thirteen months, when he returned to Edinburgh, to make arrangements with Mundell about the publication, in London, of a quarto edition of his poems. Mundell granted at once a permission which he could not well refuse, and Campbell started for London by way of Glasgow and Liverpool. At Liverpool he stayed a week with the able and generous Dr. Currie, to whom he was introduced by Dugald Stewart. Currie gave him letters of introduction to Mackintosh and Scarlett. “The bearer of this,” Dr. Currie writes to Scarlett, “is a young poet of some celebrity, Mr. Campbell, the author of ‘The Pleasures of Hope.” e was introduced to me by Mr. Stewart, of Edinburgh, and has been some days in my house. I have sound him, as might be expected, a young man of uncommon acquirements and learning, of unusual quickness of apprehension, and great sensibility. “He is going to London, with the view of superintending an edition of his poems, for his own benefit, by the permission of the booksellers to whom the copyright was sold before the work was printed ; and who, having profited in an extraordinary degree by the transaction, have now given him the permission above-mentioned, on condition that the edition shall be of a kind that shall not interfere with their editions. He is to give a quarto edition, with some embellishments, price a guinea; the printing by Bensley. You must lay out a fee with him; and if you can do him any little service you will oblige me and serve a man of
Currie's letter is dated 26th February, 1802, so that we may date Campbell's arrival in London (there was no railway then) on or about the 1st of March.
“When Campbell came first to London,” said Tom Hill, to the collector of these imperfect ‘Ana,” “he carried a letter of introduction to Mr. Perry, of the Morning
Chronicle. He was then a poor literary adventurer, unfitted with an aim. Perry was so much pleased with him that he of fered him a situation on his paper, which Campbell thankfully accepted. But what could Campbell do? he could not report, and he was not up to the art of writing leaders. At last it was agreed that he should receive two guineas a-week, and now and then contribute a piece of poetry to the corner of the paper. He did write, certainly,” said Hill, “but in his worst vein. We know what newspaper poetry is, but some of Campbell's contributions were below newspaper poetry—many pieces were not inserted, and such as were inserted, he was too wise to print among his collected poems.” Tom Hill's means of information were first-rate; he was, moreover, the intimate friend of Perry, and Campbell's neighbor for many years at Sydenham. The quarto edition of his poems, which Campbell was allowed to print for his own profit, was the seventh. This was in 1803. The fourth edition, corrected and enlarged, was printed in Glasgow in 1800. His own edition is a fine specimen of Bensley's printing; but the engravings are of the poorest description of art. In 1803, and before the publication of his subscription quarto, he printed, anonymously, at Edinburgh, and at the press of the Ballantynes, his “Lochiel” and “Hohenlinden.” The title is simply “Poems,” and the dedication is addressed to Alison. “John Leyden,” says Sir Walter Scott, “introduced me to Tom Campbell. They afterwards quarrelled. When I repeated “Hohenlinden’ to Leyden, he said, ‘Dash it, inan, tell the fellow I hate him, but, dash him, he has written the finest verses that have been published these fifty years.' I did mineerrand as faithfully as one of Homer's messengers, and had for answer, “Tell Leyden that I detest him; but I know the value of his critical approbation.’” Scott knew “Hohenlinden " by heart; and when Sir Walter dined at Murray's in 1800, he repeated at the table, as Wilkie tells us, Campbell's poem of “Lochiel.” What Campbell's profits or expectations were at this time I have never heard. When a poet is in difficulties, he is sure, said William Gifford, to get married. This was Campbell's case, for I find in the Scotch papers, and among the marriages, of the year 1803, the following entry —“11th Oct., at St. Margaret's Church, Westmin
ster, Thomas Campbell, Esq., author of
“O cherub Content, at thy moss-cover'd shrine
“But thy presence appears from my pursuit to fly,
“In the pulse of my heart I have nourish'd a care
“O cherub Content, at thy moss-cover'd shrine
This is poor poetry, after the passionate love-songs of Burns, in the earlier volumes of the same publication.
On the 28th of October, 1806, Campbell had a pension granted to him from the Crown, payable out of the Scotch Excise, of one hundred and eighty-four pounds a-year. It was Fox's intention to have bestowed this pension upon Campbell, but that great statesman died on the 13th of the preceding month. His successors, however, saw his wishes carried into execution, and the poet enjoyed his pension to
the day of his death, a period of nearly eight and thirty years. He now took up his residence in the small hamlet of Sydenham. Here he compiled his “Annals of Great Britain, from the Accession of George III. to the Peace of Amiens.” Forty years of eventful history, compiled without much accuracy of information, or any great elegance of style. This was a mere piece of journeyman's work, done to turn a penny. Few have heard of it, fewer seen it, and still fewer read it. The most intelligent bookseller in London was, a week ago, unaware of its existence. Some small accession of fortune about this time, and the glorious certainty of a pension, enabled him to think seriously of a new poem, to outstrip his former efforts, and add another stature to his poetic height. As soon as it was known that the celebrated author of “The Pleaures of Hope” was employed upon a new poem, and a poem of length, expectation was on tiptoe for its appearance. The information first got wind in the drawing-room of Holland House. Then the subject was named— then a bit of the story told by Lord Holland, and a verse or two quoted by Lady Holland; so that the poem had every advertisement which rank, fashion, reputation, and the poet's own standing, could lend it. The story was liked—then the metre was named and approved—then a portion shown ; so that the poet had his coterie of fashion and wit before the public knew even the title of the poem they were trained up to receive with the acclamation it deserved. Nor was public expectation disappointed, when it became generally known that the poet had gone to the banks of the Susquehanna for his poem—had chosen the desolation of Wyoming for his story, and the Spenserian stanza for his form of verse. The poet, however, was still timidly fearful, though he had the imprimatur of Holland House in favor of his poem. I was told by Tom Hill that Campbell sent the first printed copy of his poem to Mr. Jef. frey (now Lord Jeffrey). The critic's reply was favorable. “Mrs. Campbell told me,” added Hill, “that, till he had received Jeffrey's approbation, her husband was susfering, to use his own expression, “the horrors of the damned.’” A Whig poet was safe in those days, when in the hands of a Whig critic. He had more to fear from the critical acumen of a Tory
writer; but only one number of the Quarterly Review had then appeared. If Gifford had dissected “little Miss Gertrude,” he might have stopped the sale, for a time, of a new edition; but no critical ferocity could have kept down “Gertrude of Wyoming” for more than one season. But Gifford was prepossessed in favour of Campbell; he liked his versification and his classical correctness; so the poem was intrusted to a friendly hand—one prepossessed, like Gifford, in his favor—the greatest writer and the most generous critic of his age—Sir Walter Scott. No poet ever dreaded criticism more than Campbell. “Coleridge has attacked ‘The Pleasures of Hope,” andall other pleasures whatsoever,” writes Lord Byron; “Mr. Rogers was present, and heard himself indirectly rowed by the lecturer. Campbell will be desperately annoyed. I never saw a man (and of him I have seen very little) so sensitive;—what a happy temperament 1 I am sorry for it; what can he fear from criticism 2 '' His next great work was the “Specimens of the British Poets,” in seven octavo volumes, published in 1819. This was one of Mr. Murray's publications, and one of his own suggesting. His agreement with Campbell was for 500l., but when the work was completed he added 500l. more, and books to the value of 200l., borrowed for the publication. Such fits of munificence were not uncommon with John Murray; he had many dealings, and dealt fairly, straightforwardly, beyond the bounds of common liberality. We wish we could say the same of Campbell in this transaction. No second edition of the “Specimens” was called for before 1841; and when Mr. Murray, in that year, determined on printing the whole seven volumes in one hansome volume, he applied to Campbell to revise his own work, and made him at the same time a handsome offer for the labor of revision. Campbell declined the offer, and set his face at first against the publication. What was to be done 7 There was a demand for a new edition, and it had been a piece of literary madness on Mr. Murray's part if he had sent the book to press with all its imperfections on its head—not the imperfections, be it understood, of taste and criticism, but of biographical and bibliographical information. Good taste can never change—it is true at all times; but facts, received as such, for want of better information, may be set aside by any dull fact-monger who will take the pains to examine a parish register, a
bookseller's catalogue, or a will in Doctors' Commons.
Mr. Peter Cunningham, at the eleventh hour, was called in by Mr. Murray to superintend the reprint, and correct the common errors of fact throughout the seven volumes. Various inaccuracies were removed; some silently, sor it had been burdening the book with useless matter to have retained them in the text and pointed them out in a note; while others, that entangled a thought or gave weight, were allowed to stand, but not without notes to stop the perpetuity of the error. A quiver of rage played upon the lips of the poet when he was informed that any one had dared to revise his labors: but when he saw what was done, and knew the friendly hand that had gone with so much patient care through the whole work, he expressed his unfeigned pleasure, and, as we have heard, thanked Mr. Cunningham for his useful services.
The Essay is a charming piece of prose, fresh at the fiftieth reading, and the little prefatory notices abound in delightful criticism, not subtle and far-fetched, but characteristically true to the genius of the poet. He is more alive to beauties than defects, and has distinguished his criticism by a wider sympathy with poetry in all its branches, than you will find in any other book of English criticism. Johnson takes delight in stripping more than one leaf from every laurel—he laughs at Gray—Collins he commends coldly, and he even dures to abuse Milton. Dryden and Pope, the idols of Dr. Johnson's criticism, are the false gods of Southey's :
“ Holy at Rome—here Antichrist.”
Campbell has none of this school of criticism; he loves poetry for its own sweet sake, and is no exclusionist. The great fault of Campbell is, that he does not give the best specimens of his authors; but such pieces as Ellis and Headly had not given. Of Sir Philip Sydney he says, “Mr. Ellis has exhausted the best specimens of his poetry. I have only offered a few short ones.” No one will go to a book of specimens for specimens of a poet in his secondbest manner, or his third-rate mood. We want the cream of a poet, not the skimmed milk of his genius. A long extract from Theodoric would not represent Mr. Campbell's manner in the fiery Hope, or the more gentle Gertrude. Specimens are intended for two classes of people—one who cannot afford to buy, and the second who do not care to possess, the British Poets in one hundred and fifty odd volumes. The poor want the best, and the other class of purchasers want surely not the worst. In the year 1820 Mr. Campbell entered upon the editorship of the New Monthly Magazine, which he conducted, we are told, “with a spirit and a resource worthy of his reputation, and of the then palmy estate of periodical literature.” We doubt this. He drew his salary regularly, it is true, but contributed little of his own of any merit. The whole labor, and too much of the responsibility, rested on the shoulders of the assistant. The poet's name carried its full value; the Magazine took root and flourished, and the pay per sheet was handsome. He soon drew a good brigade of writers around him, and placing implicit confidence in what they did, and what they could do, he made his editorship a snug sinecure situation. “Tom Campbell,” said Sir Walter Scott, “had much in his power. A man at the head of a Magazine may do much for young men; but Campbell did nothing, more from indolence, I fancy, than disinclination or a bad heart.” A series of articles appeared in the New Monthly Magazine when Campbell was its editor, entitled Boswell Ridivivus—a catchpenny name, given by Hazlitt to a collection of Northcote's conversations and sayings, uttered, as was urged, by Northcote, in all the confidence of friendship. An illnatured saying or two brought the painter into trouble, and Northcote wrote to Campbell, complaining of their appearance, in a letter in which he calls Hazlitt a wretch who had betrayed him. Campbell's answer is a striking illustration of the system he pursued in editing the New Monthly.
“I am afflicted beyond measure,” says the
et, “at finding my own inattention to have E. the means of wounding the feelings of a venerable man of genius. Dictate the form and manner of my attempting to atone for having unconsciously injured you, if I can make any atonement. The infernal Hazlitt shall never more be permitted to write for the Neur Monthly. I mean not to palliate my own want of watchfulness over the magazine which has occasioned such a paper being admitted. I only tell you the honest truth, that a crisis in my affairs, which is never likely to occur again, fatally tempted me this last month to trust the revision of some part of the number to the care and delicacy of another person : that person, like myself, has slept over his charge.”
This want of watchfulness was, we fear,
a monthly failing, not, as is here set forth, a rare occurrence.
The success of Gertrude induced him in 1824 to put forth another poem, a dramatic tale, entitled Theodoric. A silence of fifteen years put expectation upon tiptoe, but when Theodoric appeared it was much in the condition of Jonson's Silent Woman, there was no one to say plaudite to it. The wits at Holland House disowned the bantling; the Quarterly called it “an unworthy publication,” and friend joined foe in the language of condemnation. Yet Campbell had much to encounter, he had to outstrip his former efforts, and fight a battle with the public against expectation and the applause awarded to his former poetry. There is a conscious feeling throughout the poem that the poet is fighting an unequal battle; he stands up, but his play is feeble, he distrusts himself, and is only tolerated from a recollection of his bygone powers.
“I often wonder,” says Sir Walter Scott, “how Tom Campbell, with so much real genius, has not maintained a greater figure in the public eye than he has done of late.” Scott is writing in 1826. “The magazine seems to have paralyzed him. The author not only of The Pleasures of Hope, but of Hohenlinden, Lochiel, etc., should have been at the very top of the tree. Somehow he wants audacity, fears the public, and what is worse, fears the shadow of his own reputation.” “* * “What a pity it is,” said Sir Walter to Washington Irving, “that Campbell does not write more and oftener, and give full sweep to his genius! He has wings that would bear him to the skies, and he does, now and then, spread them grandly, but folds them up again, and resumes his perch, as if he was afraid to launch away. The fact is, Campbell is in a manner a bugbear to himself; the brightness of his early success is a detriment to all his further efforts. IIe is afraid of the shadow that his own fame casts before him.”
In 1827 he was elected lord-rector of his own mother university at Glasgow. He was elected by the free and unanimous choice of the students, and was justly proud of his election.
“It was a deep snow,” writes Allan Cunningham. “ when he reached the collegegreen; the students were drawn up in parties, pelting one another, the poet ran into the ranks, threw several snow-balls with unerring aim, then summoning the scholars around him in the hall, delivered a speech replete with philosophy and eloquence. It is needless to say how i. was welcomed.”
When his year of servitude had expired, he was unanimously re-elected, the students presenting him at the same time with a handsome silver punch-bowl, described by the poet in his will as one of the great jewels of his property. On the 9th of May, 1828, he lost his wife. This was a severe blow to him. She was a clever woman, and had that influence over him which a wife should always have who is a proper helpmate to her husband. I have heard him say, and with much emotion, “No one can imagine how much I was indebted to that woman for the comforts of life.” In 1829 and 1830, he quarrelled with Colburn, threw up the editorship of the New Monthly Magazine, and lending his name to another publisher, started a magazine called The Metropolitan. A Life of Sir Thomas Lawrence, in two octavo volumes, was advertised, with Campbell's name to it, about the same time. The Life was soon abandoned, and the new magazine, after a time, transferred to Saunders and Otley, with two editors instead of one, Tom Campbell and his friend Tom Moore. The after history of the magazine is wellknown—the two poets retired, and Marryat, with his “Peter Simple,” gave it a swing of reputation which it had not before. The sorrows of Poland, and the ebullitions of bad verse, occupied much of Campbell's time when editor of The Metropolitan. He lived in the Polish Chambers, and all his talk was Poland. Czartoryski and Niemciewitz were names everlastingly on his lips. A tale of a distressed Pole was his greeting when you met, and an alms or subscription the chorus of his song. Boswell was not more daft about Corsica than Campbell about Poland. Poor Tom Campbell, he exhausted all his sympathy on the Poles, and spent all his invectives upon Russia. Yet he did good—he was the means of assisting many brave but unfortunate men, whilst his ravings against Russia passed unheeded by, like the clamorous outcries for liberty of Akenside and ThomSon. In 1834, he published, in two octavo volumes, the “Life of Mrs. Siddons.” Our great actress had constituted Campbell her biographer, and Campbell has told me, more than once, that he considered the work a kind of sacred duty. No man ever went to his task more grudgingly than Campbell; and no man of even average abilities ever produced a worse biography
than Campbell's so-called “Life of Mrs. Siddons.” The Quarterly called it “an abuse of biography,” and its writer “the worst theatrical historian we have ever read.” Some of his expressions are turgid and nonsensical almost beyond belief. Of Mrs. Pritchard he says, that she “electrified the house with disappointment.” Upon which the Quarterly remarks, “This, we suppose, is what the philosophers call negative electricity.” Since Mr. Campbell's death, Mr. Dyce has addressed a letter to the editor of the Literary Gazette, disclaiming any partnership in the composition of what he calls “ that unfortunate book.” There was a rumor very rife, when the book appeared, that Mr. Dyce had had a main-finger in the pie; but the gross inaccuracies of the work gave the best answer to the rumor. Mr. Dyce's accuracy deserves to be proverbial, and no one could suspect that he could have had a hand in any thing like “a very large portion” of the unfortunate performance. However, in disclaiming the share assigned he lets us a little behind the scenes on this occasion. We see Mrs. Siddons in Tom Campbell's tiring-room.
“Soon after Campbell had received the materials which Mrs. Siddons had bequeathed to him for her biography, he wrote to me on the subject; informing me, that, as he had a very slight acquaintance with stage-history, he dreaded the undertaking, and offering me, if I would become his coadjutor, one-half of the sum which E. Wilson was to o him for the work. I refused the money, but promised him all the assistance in my power. He next forwarded to me his papers, consisting chiefly of Mrs. Siddon's memoranda for her life, and a great mass of letters which she had written, at various intervals, to her intimate friend Mrs. Fitz-Hughes. Having carefully gone over the whole, I returned them with sundry illustrations; and subsequently, from time to time, I sent him other notes which I thought might suit his purpose. As, on one occasion, he had spoken slightingly of the letters to Mrs. FitzHughes, (calling them ‘very dull,' and saying that ‘ the mind of Mrs. Siddons moved in them like an elephant’) and was evidently inclined not to print them, I strongly urged him by no means to omit them, since they appeared to me, though a little pompous in style, extremely characteristic of the writer.
“While he was engaged on the biography, a report reached him that Mrs. Jameson was about to publish Memoirs of Mrs. Siddons, and that Miss Siddons (now Mrs. Combe) had furnished her with many anecdotes. At this he was excessively angry; and showed me a letter which he had written to Miss Siddons, indignantly complaining that she should