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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Thomas Campbell, Lord Rector of Glasgow University


THOMAS CAMPBELL held the honoured position of Lord Rector in the University of his native city,—his own Alma Mater,—for the term 1826-9. The poet Southey tells the following story of an incident in the life of Campbell, his brother poet, which occurred at that period, and in which his position as Lord Rector of Glasgow University figures prominently

Taking a walk with Campbell, one day, up Regent Street (London), we were accosted by a wretched-looking woman, with a sick infant in her arms, and another starved little thing at her mother’s side. The woman begged for a copper. I had no change, and Campbell had nothing but a sovereign. The woman stuck fast to the poet, as if she read his heart in his face; and I could feel his arm beginning to tremble. At length, saying something about its being his duty to assist poor creatures, he told the woman to wait; and, hastening into a mercer’s shop, asked, rather impatiently for change.

You know what an excitable person he was, and how he fancied all business must give way till the change was supplied. The shopman thought otherwise; the poet insisted; and in a minute or two the mercer jumped over the counter and collared him, telling us he would turn us both out; that he believed we came there to kick up a row for some dishonest purpose. So here was a pretty dilemma. We defied him, but said we would go out instantly on his apologising for his gross insult.

All was uproar, and Campbell called out:

"Thrash the fellow! thrash him!"

"You will not go out, then!" said the mercer.

"No, never, till you apologise."

"Well, we shall soon see. John, go to Vine Street, and fetch the police."

In a few minutes two policemen appeared; one went close up to Campbell, the other to myself. The poet was now in such breathless indignation, that he could not articulate a sentence. I told the policeman the object he had in asking change; and that the shopman had most unwarrantably insulted us.

"This gentleman," I added, by way of a climax, "is Mr. Thomas Campbell, the distinguished poet, a man who would not hurt a fly, much less act with the dishonest intention that person has insinuated." The moment I uttered the name, the policeman backed away two or three paces, as if awe-struck, and said:

"Gudeness, is that Maister Cammell, the Lord Rector o’ Glasgow?"

"Yes, my friend, he is, as this card may convince you," handing it to him; "all this commotion has been caused by a mistake."

By this time the mercer had cooled down to a moderate temperature, and in the end made every reparation in his power, saying he—.

"Was very busy at the time, and had he but known the gentleman" he "would have changed fifty sovereigns for him."

"My dear fellow," said the poet, who had recovered his speech, "I am not at all offended," and it was really laughable to see them shaking hands long and vigorously, each with perfect sincerity and mutual forgiveness.


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