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fewer than thirty pages, you have read Ossian through, for it is a ceaseless repetition of the same imagery and metaphors.
From Burns I one day travelled to another great genius of nature, equally uncultivated with Burns by education. On mentioning Chatterton, Campbell became an enthusiast, expressed his astonishment at the precocious talents of this surprising youth, and quoted immensely, especially from “ The Bristowe Tragedie, or Death of Sir Charles Bawdin, and " The Mynstrelle's Songs.” Pointing out with great emphasis the most beautiful passages of the poems, in his rapture, he said, " In reflecting on this miraculous genius, this child of poverty and disaster, never forget that poor Chatterton died in only his eighteenth year.”
This led to my observations on Dr. Johnson's treating this lad as a felon, for feigning the antiquity of the poems, by alleging that he had found the black letter manuscripts in the great chests in the tower of Redcliff church (Bristol), of which his father was sexton; the doctor treated this as if it had been a forgery on a banker, by which felony Chatterton had ruined some private individual
, or even a family. Campbell shuddered and said, “And yet Dr. Johnson could palliate the unpardonable forgery for which Dr. Dodd was hanged. But Dr. Johnson hated Chatterton because he had committed suicide. Do you not recollect Dr. Johnson's treatment of Pope's beautiful poem, • The Elegy to the Memory
of an Unfortunate Lady ? She had been frail, and destroyed herself, and Dr. Johnson did not spare the lady, and much less the poet, for making her the object of sympathy. Dr. Johnson's philosophy was unsatisfactory and coarse, his Dictionary was only on a foreign model, his etymologies were very often wrong, and his illustrations are frequently the worst passages quoted from the most contemptible authors. His great strength lay in literature, but even in this, as in his · Lives of the Poets,' his very gross prejudices often destroyed the utility of the biographies. He was a moralist, but had no elevation of mind to improve or advance his fellow-creatures."*
“ As to his being a moralist, Mr. Campbell, I have always considered his celebrated Life of Savage' to be one of the most immoral books in our language: it is a palliation of downright crimes, and an effort to excite our sympathies for a vile profligate, who had every bad and not a single good quality; and yet this is the doctor who, having played a similar part in behalf of Dr. Dodd, could villanize poor Chatterton, and almost villanize our great poet, Pope, for his · Elegy to the Memory of an unfortunate Lady.'
After Savage was condemned to death for his murder of Mr. Sinclair, Doctor Johnson threw off his respect for authority, which amounted to a superstitious awe, and kept abusing the judge that tried the case. Savage, with all his callous insensibility to every thing decent and humane, could not tolerate the doctor's conduct, and said, “ I am not obliged to my friend, whose apology consists in making out that I am habitually a drunkard, and that when drunk, I am disposed to cut throats.”
Campbell cordially assented to all I had said, and proceeded to commend Lord Byron for his spirited and judicious defence of Pope against the attack of Bowles. I never could get Mr. Campbell to say any thing favourable of Milton.
I have since met with this opinion in the writings of the celebrated American divine (unitarian) and preacher, the Rev. Dr. Channing.
He admired Dryden, but as I loved to be controversial, in order to elicit
, “is occasionally brilliant, but on the whole he is a dull, heavy poet.'
Of music Mr. Campbell had not the slightest idea, though his ear was so nice as to the melody of versification. His utmost taste for music amounted to a reminiscence of some jig tune, or some local ballad ; and in the latter I observed that he dwelt on the words more than the tune. I have run through the greatest of modern composers, commencing with Corelli, and going on with Haydn, Mozart, Paisiello, Gluck, and others, ending with Beethoven and Rossini. I did not omit our own countrymen, Purcell and Matthew Locke, and I used my humble efforts to illustrate their several styles and innumerable beauties. He was utterly indifferent to the subject, and finding me rather an enthusiast, he good-temperedly quizzed me, concluding with the anecdote of Boswell and Dr. Johnson. " When Boswell was running on to Dr. Johnson in the same strain as you are running on to me, the doctor replied, “Sir, if music made such a fool of me, I would never hear a note again.'” I joined in his laughter against myself equally.
I once said to him, “ In your younger days you must very often have been even compelled to hear Handel, he was all the rage." "He made a very odd but an equally apposite remark.
• Handel is to music precisely what Milton is to poetry-now and then bright, but in general very dull. Besides, Handel's subjects are most unfortunately chosen ; very many of them ought not to be admitted before a civilised audience."
I briefly replied, “ You may make the same objection to some of the paintings of the greatest masters.”
He was equally indifferent to painting. It was amusing to have him on my arm and hear his observations on historical pictures. His enjoyment was mental, and certainly not artistical. He would view a great historical painting, especially if it were from the Greek or Roman authorities, solely on the narration of the story, or representation of the revived scene, and without the slightest notice of the chiaro-scuro, the perspective, the tints, or the arrangement and ingenuity with which the artist had managed the subject. In a badinage (revenge for his quiz of me about Dr. Johnson and Boswell, and music), I observed," that the doctor was so indifferent to painting, that he declared that if he were sitting in a hall or room hung with the finest paintings in the world, he would as soon have the fronts turned to the wall and the backs to him; but,” I added satirically, “Dr. Johnson had an acknowledged defect of vision, and you can make no such excuse."
He laughed at my retaliation. I took him into the hall of the Society of Arts in the Adelphi, and placed him before Barry's painting of the two or rather three worlds, heaven in the summit, the reverse place in a corner below, whilst the place of our mundane inheritance was in the opposite corner, pictured by a few philosophers in large full wigs. My friend uttered his usual “pshaw!" but I mentioned that his vain countryman, Dr. Beattie, had set his heart on Barry's promise of placing him amongst this grotesque group, with his Essay on Truth under his arm. With another“ pshaw,” our poet turned to the opposite painting, by Barry, and of equally large dimensions. This was the Grecian games, and Mr. Campbell was delighted with its bringing to his fancy what the games of the ancients were. His enjoyment of the picture was entirely mental and historical.
He had been acquainted with that extraordinary pedant of the canvas, Fuseli, the academician and professor of painting to the Royal Academy. I spoke to him of Fuseli's illustrations of Milton. “Extravagant absurdities-extravagant absurdities, and nothing else." I once asked him what he thought of West. Mr. Campbell, with a laugh, and an evident enjoyment, replied, “ The best criticism ever made on West was the laconic criticism of his royal patron-West's paintings are all beautifully polished, and as smooth as glass.'” Certainly there are persons fond of the tea-board school. Mr. Campbell had a greater enjoyment of sculpture, but of architecture he had not the slightest idea. “ Greek and Roman sculpture of females," he said, “ are sublimities, but the females of modern sculptors, such as Canova, are nothing but naked women.” This was a severe but not altogether an inaccurate criticism.
In politics, Mr. Campbell was very much inclined to American republicanism, and was about what we now call a radical, but he never would acknowledge that he was any thing else than a Whig of the school of the illustrious Charles James Fox. He almost adored this great statesman, legislator, and philosopher, and spoke with affection of the kindness with which Mr. Fox treated him at Holland House, on his first coming to London. I wish I had space to expatiate on some of the scenes which he described at this noble and hospitable mansion. Mr. Campbell when he wanted some distinguished man to take him by the hand to patronise him, found these friends and patrons in Mr. Fox, and in his noble-minded and generous nephew, Lord Holland.
It was not in this distinguished poet's nature to speak ill of any body, for his heart was always inclined to kindness, and to take the most favourable views of character. I never knew him to speak ill of any publisher or bookseller but one, and against him he certainly had even a hatred, founded on both feelings and principles. I wished to allay, his animosity but was always defeated by a recurrence to facts, which I knew to be too true to be replied to.
I mentioned to him my disinterestedness towards a brother officer and old shipmate, whose works I edited, and that in gratitude for my liberality my friend left me an ample legacy. The work was published by Mr. Murray, and on mentioning this name, Campbell started up, and after a eulogy on the late Mr. Murray, “ • Absolute John,' as he was called,” he said, “ by my contract with Murray for my work, the English Poets,' I was to receive five hundred guineas, and the publication succeeded so well, that this generous man gave me a thousand.”
Of Mr. Colburn, to his last hours, he spoke with attachment, and said, “ How convenient it was to his finances, when Mr. Colburn gave him 6001. a year for editing the New Monthly, and allowed him an assistant editor.” He added, "The money was always punctually paid, and even by anticipation if I wanted it. For this editorship, which continued for ten years, I received 60001.”
He was very susceptible of praise, and I mentioned that the printer of the New Monthly told me that the mere influence of his name raised the circulation of the magazine to double its former number. I wish I had space and opportunity to expatiate on this and similar subjects.
He was fond of hearing of generosity towards any body, but more
especially towards literary persons. I mentioned to him what his friend, the celebrated Mr. Godwin, had narrated to me. This distinguished historian, novelist, philosopher, and miscellaneous writer, partook of the common lot of the literary tribe-he was the reverse of wealthy, being well off.”. Amongst his other children, he had a son, a lad of talents, whom he wished to start in life. Mr. Godwin went to his friend Mr. Maudesley, the engineer of repute, and asked him what fee would be required to apprentice a young gentleman to that profession, Mr. Maudesley replied that the eminent engineers required 5001.
, and that he never took less. The mention of this sum filled the poor author with despair; it would have been as easy for him to support the royal civil list out of his own funds as to lay down 5001.; but Mr. Maudesley infused the “ Pleasures of Hope" into the litteraire, by adding, “ But if
, Mr. Godwin, you are alluding to your own son, I shall be happy to take him for nothing."
This generous offer was accepted; the young gentleman was sent to Mr. Maudesley's extensive manufactory, but he very soon had a finger torn off by one of the machines, and taking a dislike to the business left it, and became a contributor to the Morning Chronicle. He published a novel of talent, and died prematurely of the then raging disease, the cholera morbus. Similar to Mr. Maudesley's generosity to Mr. Godwin was the legacy of 5001. to Mr. Campbell
, by the celebrated engineer Mr. Telford. Such homage to genius is an honour to our nature.
I must draw to a close. Of contemporary poets, Mr. Campbell most admired Mr. Samuel Rogers, Lord Byron, and the finely-gifted Percy Bysshe Shelley His sensitive nature was jealous of Lord Byron's fame. I had written an article for a periodical publication, and in which it was evident that, notwithstanding my warm attachment to my friend, and my exalted opinion of his genius, I gave the palm to Lord Byron, on the principle of Lord Nelson's motto,“ Palmam qui meruit ferat.” Some "d- good natured friend,” as Sheridan calls such people, and the world is full of them, took good care to let Mr. Campbell see the article. I knew he was mortified and vexed, but it made no difference in his friendship to me, and no diminution in his unbounded confidence. I felt his excessive sensitiveness where his literary fame was concerned. I was about to publish a small volume of political squibs, in verse and prose, and it contained, I think, four parodies of Mr. Campbell's most popular
It was very much a book of parodies, but I thought it but safe to have the consent of my friend. I read to him these parodies, previously telling him that I would omit or alter any thing or all things he might dislike. He heard my readings with evident mirth, and, in his usual style when he was well pleased, he kept knocking the ends of his fingers upon the table, repeatedly saying, “That will do, that will do.” As I had finished, a very celebrated literary member entered the club (the Clarence), and Mr. Campbell begged me to read the parodies to him, but even my vanity would not consent to this. The volume was published, and with a success more than equal to my anticipations.
Thus have I thrown together, rather hastily, I must confess, a few, and but a few, of the disjuncta membra of my reminiscences of this eminent poet, this excellent man, and to me a most warmly attached friend, who was so highly esteemed, and even beloved by all who knew him, and whose fame will increase with the progress of futurity.
CHÉNIER'S LOVE DRE A M.
BY THE HON. G. SYDNEY SMYTHE.
TIME is fleeting, Life is waning,
One word more ere both be gone, It shall not be of complaining,
For the wrong that thou hast done.
Smile not, Lady, though but lightly
Came from thee perchance the blow,
Where my prayers would nightly rise ;
Built in Dreamland out of air ;
Out of passion and of heat,
Mirrors back lagunes and isles,
Sees her charms, and seeing, smiles.
Dreams of voyage, where the cistern
And the spring in Seville play;
Where enchanted sleeps Byzance,
To fulfil each young romance.