« PreviousContinue »
and hereditary distinctions appears to have nearly faded like an unsubstantial vision, though his own name will not soon be forgot among the most distinguished of those which adorn the literary annals of the nineteenth century.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
BORX, 1772; DIED, 1834.
COLERIDGE was the youngest son of a vicar of St. Mary Ottery, Devonshire. His early years were spent at Bristol, and he received the rudiments of his education there. From thence he went to Christ's Church Hospital, London, where he greatly distinguished himself, as he afterwards did at Jesus College, Cambridge. After a life strangely chequered by the aberrations and inconsistencies which so frequently mar the full manifestations of true genius, he died at Highgate, in the house of Mr. Gilman, a benevolent surgeon, under whose care the latter years of his life were passed.
ROBERT SOUTHEY, LL.D.
BORN, 1773; DIED, 1835.
SOUTHEY, the son of a draper in Bristol, is distinguished as one of the most voluminous writers of his age. His learning was great, and the copiousness of his mind seemed nearly inexhaustible. He and Coleridge married sisters, and, after a brief stay, first at Lisbon, and then in London, Southey settled on the banks of the Greta, near Keswick, where he passed a laborious literary life,
characterized by remarkable perseverance, and cheered by a long continuance of domestic happiness, chiefly due to his own amiable and kindly disposition. The last years of his life were clouded by domestic sorrow, followed by the sad failure of a mind long overtasked by the demands of his unwearied literary activity. His genius was fitly recognised by a pension from the Crown; and on the Laureatship becoming vacant, in 1813, he was induced to accept the honorary post, which his reputation served to redeem from some degree of ridicule which had latterly attached to it, as is proved by its subsequent acceptance by Wordsworth and his successor, Tennyson; who now so honourably fills a post which we may hope will not again be disposed of otherwise than as a mark of the just estimate of high poetic genius.
THOMAS CAMPBELL, LL.D.
BORN, 1777 ; DIED, 1844. The author of the “Pleasures of Hope” drew his early inspiration from nature, in the Western Highlands of Argyleshire, where his family had once held ancient hereditary possessions. His father was a Glasgow merchant, who, before his youngest, gifted son was able to claim from him the advantages of an education suited to his fine intellectual powers, had been reduced to poverty. His noble poem, “ The Pleasures of Hope,” was published when he was only twenty-one years of age, and the reception which it met with determined him in the choice of literature for his profession, instead of entering the church, or studying the law, both of which he had in view.
For a literary man, his career may be considered to have been a prosperous one. He married a cousin, Miss Matilda Sinclair, and his domestic life appears to have been a peculiarly happy one, till the death of one son, and the madness of another, followed by the loss of his wife, cast a dark shadow over his later years.
Campbell enjoyed a pension from Government in his later years, and the remuneration he received for most of his literary labours was liberal, so that he had an income abundantly sufficient to maintain him in ease and comfort. He appears, however, to have been utterly destitute of the gift of managing his pecuniary means with prudence or discretion, and the difficulties he thus brought himself into were often very embarrassing, and occasionally ludicrous. His generosity also was very great. His mother owed her chief support to him in her latter years, and his sisters and other relatives shared largely in the fruits of his success. He appears to have been greatly esteemed and loved by all who knew him, though, unhappily, in the deep sorrows which clouded his later years, he sometimes sought that relief from wine, which he knew was only to be found in a far different source. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a beautiful marble statue has been erected in his honour.
BORN 1780; DIED, 1852. Has just passed away from among us. He was born in Dublin, and though his larger poems are gorgeous oriental compositions, his name and enduring memory will chiefly depend hereafter on his Irish Melodies; nor will he be forgot as the friend and biographer of his brother poet, Lord Byron.
BORN, 1788; DIED, 1824. This noble poet, who early entered on the enjoyment of such advantages as high birth can secure, partook of few of the more precious privileges of a virtuous and genial domestic education, such as conferred so precious a boon on the Ayrshire peasant, Robert Burns. His mother, a woman of ill-regulated passions and ungovernable temper, had been married by Captain Byron, solely for her fortune, which was soon squandered; and then, deserted by her heartless husband, she retired to Aberdeen, and secured for her son such comforts and education as a moderate annuity enabled her to command. His granduncle, whose estate and title he ultimately inherited, was even more eccentric and extravagant than his parents, so that the wild passions and fits of violence which so marred the brief life of the poet, and made him at length a misanthropist and an exile from home and country, were alike the fruits of early education and hereditary temperament. The most injurious effects on his character and habits may be traced to the training of his mother, a weak and foolish woman, whose alternate fits of violence and fondling appear latterly to have been a source of merriment to her son. During her fits of anger, she was accustomed to throw anything at him that chanced to be within her reach, and his own displays of ungovernable temper, after his marriage, were little less extravagant.
Under such a sad system of training, heightened by all the evils incident to rank, wealth, and the absence of any proper stimulus to exertion, young Byron grew up with the principles of his moral and intellectual nature unregulated by any fixed standard. He abandoned himself to scepticism and the indulgence of vicious passions, which the rejection of religious faith left the freer from any restraint; and when he had become familiar with the dissolute, the vicious, and the profane—had ruined his fortunes and blighted every pure source of domestic affection—the satiated pleasure-seeker turned misanthropist, and cursed his country and mankind, for evils which only followed as the natural harvest of his own conduct.
The peculiar cast of a mind educated under such adverse circumstances, is impressed on all Byron's poems; and their free scope is marred by the constant reproduction of himself under every guise of character which he introduces. Yet, notwithstanding all the great blemishes which are traceable in Byron's works, he occupies a high place among the modern poets of England, and has exercised an important influence, both for good and evil, on the present age. His “ Childe Harold” abounds with the most magnificent pictures of nature, combined with grand reflections and imagery, not untinged by the sad and mis