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Thomas Campbell


Thomas Campbell CAMPBELL, THOMAS.—This poet, so justly and poetically called the "Bard of Hope," was born at Glasgow on the 27th of July, 1777. Like many of his name, he could trace his descent through an illustrious ancestry, beginning with Iver of Kirnan, the son of Archibald, Lord of Lochawe, who was the contemporary of Robert Bruce. To these genealogies, however, our poet was indifferent, being contented to be known as the son of Alexander Campbell, merchant, Glasgow, and one of a family of eleven children. The poet was especially fortunate in the intellectual character of his parentage, his father being the intimate friend of Reid, author of the "Inquiry into the Human Mind," while his mother was distinguished by her love of general literature, combined with sound understanding and a refined taste. Dull, indeed, would that mind naturally be, that could be nursed up under such guardianship to nothing better than mediocrity. Even at the early age of ten, Thomas Campbell had irrevocably become a poet, and such of his productions, composed at that season, as have been preserved, exhibit the delicate appreciation of the graceful flow and music of language for which his poetry was afterwards so highly distinguished. He entered the college of Glasgow in 1791, already a ripe scholar in Latin and Greek—an unwonted circumstance among the young students of our northern universities; and there he had the high privilege of studying under Richardson, the talented and elegant professor of Humanity, and Young, one of the most enthusiastic Grecians and accomplished scholars of the day. The example of the latter was not lost upon the congenial mind of his pupil; and the poetical translations which Thomas Campbell produced at this period, as class exercises, from the "Medea of Euripides," as well as other Greek poets, showed not only his mastery of the language in which they wrote, but the power he already possessed over his own. Many who are alive can still remember the pleasure with which Professor Young, in his college prelections, was wont to advert to these translations, and the pupil by whom they had been produced. Even in original poetry, also, Campbell was at this period distinguished above all his class-fellows, so that, in 1793, his "Poem on Description" obtained the prize in the Logic Class, although it was composed four years previous, and when he had not passed the age of twelve. Besides being distinguished as a poet and scholar at college, he was also well-known as a wit and satirist, and his lampoons were as much dreaded as his lyrics were admired; while his mots were so plentiful, that the usual morning question of the students was, "What has Tom Campbell been saying?" Being of a slim delicate make, and fond of a place near the class-room fire before the professor had entered, but finding it generally surrounded by a phalanx of Irish students, through which he could not break, he used often to disperse it, by causing their attention to be directed to some new roguish effusion he had written on the wall, which was certain to send them all scampering to the place of inscription. On one of these occasions, hearing that he had just written a libel against their country, they rushed away from the blazing grate in fervent wrath to the pencilled spot on the wall, and read, not in rage, but with roars of good-humoured laughter:--

" Vos, Hiberni, collocatis,
Summum bonum in—potatoes!"

The great choice of life, whether as to occupation or principles, is often determined by some incident so minute as to escape notice. And such was the case with Thomas Campbell. In common with most youthful minds, before their classical impressions have come in contact with the stern realities of everyday life, his whole heart was with Greece and Rome, with Brutus and Cassius, with liberty and the enemies of oppression. With him, as with others, all this might have faded away like a dream of boyhood, but for an event that indelibly stamped these feelings upon his mind, and made them become the regulating principles of his after-life. It was now the season when the example of the French revolution was at its height, so that even the grave and solid intellect of Scotland became giddy for a moment in the whirl; and the trials of Muir, Palmer, Gerald, and others, showed how narrowly our country had escaped the establishment of a convention modelled upon that of France. While these trials were going on, the young poet felt an impatient longing to visit Edinburgh, and witness the proceedings; to which his affectionate mother assented. He was to travel to the metropolis and return on foot, a journey of eighty-four miles; and to defray the expenses of such a pilgrimage, he thought himself richly furnished by the sum of 5s., which she gave him for the purpose. He reached Edinburgh with a light foot and buoyant heart, and repaired to the Parliament House, where the trial of Gerald was going on; and it was easy for an imagination such as his to convert the eloquent and impassioned culprit at the bar into a patriot of the old heroic ages, pleading less for his own life than the liberties of his country. "Gentlemen of the jury," said Gerald, at the close of his appeal, "now that I have to take leave of you for ever, let me remind you that mercy is no small part of the duty of jurymen; that the man who shuts his heart on the claims of the unfortunate, on him the gates of mercy will be shut; and for him the Saviour of the world shall have died in vain." Campbell was deeply impressed by these thrilling words, and the universal unbreathing silence of the multitude that listened; and his emotion at last found vent in the exclamation, "By heavens, sir, that is a great man!" "Ay, sir," replied the man beside him, apparently a decent tradesman, to whom the remark was addressed, "he is not only a great man himself, but he makes every other man great who listens to him." Campbell returned to Glasgow, a sadder at least, if not a wiser man, and, to the astonishment of his companions, his jokes and flashes of merriment were now laid aside. He had imbibed those impressions in behalf of freedom, and that hatred of oppression which burst forth so indignantly in the "Pleasures of Hope"—that ran like an electric gleam through the whole extent of his subsequent productions—and that finally, at his opened grave, called forth the tears of unhappy Poland, represented by the weeping group of her children who stood over it. He was now, and ever after, to be the poet of Liberty.

When Campbell reached the age of twenty, he had completed five sessions at the university of Glasgow, during the greater part of which period he had been obliged, through the mercantile losses of his father, to contribute to his own support by giving lessons in Latin and Greek as a private tutor. Long before this period he had endeavoured to make choice of a profession, but had been unable to settle upon any result: law, medicine, merchandise, the church, had successively presented themselves, and been each in turn abandoned. Even already, however, the idea of literature as a profession had occurred to him; and he was now in Edinburgh negotiating with the publishers of the day, and supporting himself, in the meantime, by the drudgery of private tuition, until some path could be struck out by his own talents, or some offer made to him by an Edinburgh bookseller. But even now, also, he was employed upon the "Pleasures of Hope," and forming those beautiful episodes of the work which became all the brighter and more attractive in consequence of the darkness by which their author was beset. Such, at this period, was the condition of the young aspirant for literary and poetical fame. If to this, the following sketch of him, by a lady, be added, the picture will be complete:—"Mr. Campbell’s appearance bespoke instant favour; his countenance was beautiful, and as the expression of his face varied with his various feelings, it became quite a study for a painter to catch the fleeting graces as they rapidly succeeded each other. The pensive air which hung so gracefully over his youthful features gave a melancholy interest to his manner, which was extremely touching. But when he indulged in any lively sallies of humour, he was exceedingly amusing; every now and then, however, he seemed to check himself, as if the effort to be gay was too much for his sadder thoughts, which evidently prevailed." "And now," he says of himself, "I lived in the Scottish metropolis by instructing pupils in Greek and Latin. In this vocation I made a comfortable livelihood as long as I was industrious. But ‘The Pleasures of Hope’ came over me. I took long walks about Arthur’s Seat, conning over my own (as I thought them) magnificent lines; and as my ‘Pleasures of Hope’ got on, my pupils fell off." At last the work was finished and published, and the celebrity which it reached was sufficient to compensate the author for all his past anxieties. In fact, it took the public mind by storm; and while commendation in all its forms was exhausted in lauding it, the universal wonder was, that such a poem should have been produced by a youth not more than twenty-one years old. Several of the most distinguished of the Edinburgh literati had already been prepared to estimate its merits from quotations which they had heard from the manuscript. But with those who were not thus forewarned, the first sight of the work was irresistible. Among these was the learned and accomplished Dr. Gregory, who, in stepping into the shop of Mr. Mundell, the publisher, saw the volume, fresh from the press, lying on the counter. "Ah! what have we here?" he said, taking it up; "‘The Pleasures of Hope!’" He looked between the uncut leaves, and was so struck with the beauty of a single passage that he could not desist until he had read half the work. "This is poetry," he enthusiastically exclaimed; and added, "Where is the author to be found? I will call upon him immediately." The promise of the professor was quickly fulfilled, and from that period he became one of Campbell’s warmest friends and admirers.

Having thus established for himself a high reputation by his first attempt, and being still in the opening of life, Thomas Campbell was impatient to see the world, and resolved, for this purpose, to take a trip into some foreign country. The proceeds of his work had furnished him with the means, and therefore he had only to select the route of his pilgrimage. His choice settled upon Germany, already become famous in Scotland by its rising literature, and the works of Wieland, Schiller, and Goethe. He crossed over to Hamburg, where his fame had already preceded him, so that he received an enthusiastic welcome from the British residents of that mercantile city. He soon found, however, that he had stumbled unexpectedly upon the outposts of a great and momentous war, so that he was obliged to direct his course according to its movements. But such was the rapidity of the French armies, that even an unencumbered traveller could scarcely avoid them; and on his arriving at Ratisbon, war was raging round its suburbs, and, finally, the French within its gates. Thus Campbell found himself in a situation that falls to the lot of few poets; he was likely to be the witness, as well as the eulogist and recorder, of great military achievements. "It was a sudden transition," he thus writes to a friend, "from the beauties of an interesting journey to the horrors of war and confusion that prevailed at Ratisbon. The richest fields of Europe desolated by contending troops; peasants driven from their homes, to starve and beg in the streets; horses dying of hunger and men dying of their wounds, were the dreadful novelties at this time." From the ramparts close to the Scotch monastery, he also witnessed the conflict that gave to the French the possession of Ratisbon, and thus describes the spectacle in a letter to his brother: "Never shall time efface from my memory the recollection of that hour of astonishment and expended breath, when I stood, with the good monks of St. James, to overlook a charge of Klenau’s cavalry upon the French under Grenier. We saw the fire given and returned, and heard distinctly the sound of the French pas-de-charge collecting the lines to attack in close column. After three hours, awaiting the issue of a severe action, a park of artillery was opened just beneath the walls of the monastery, and several drivers that were stationed there to convey the wounded in spring-waggons were killed in our sight." In a subsequent account of the event, he adds:—"This formed the most important epoch in my life, in point of impressions; but those impressions at seeing numbers of men strewn dead on the field, or, what was worse, seeing them in the act of dying, are so horrible to my memory that I study to banish them. At times, when I have been fevered and ill, I have awoke from nightmare dreams about these dreadful images."

Amidst these uncertainties produced by the war, the poet’s rambles were brief and irregular. He returned to Hamburg, visiting Leipsic and a few other towns in his course northward, and finally settled for the winter at Altona. During his residence near the historic and picturesque banks of the Danube, he had composed, or revised for the press, fourteen poetical productions, of which, however, only four were ultimately published. His well-known delicacy, not to say fastidiousness of taste, will sufficiently account for this reticence. Altona was soon no safe residence, on account of Denmark’s secret alliance with France; and the appearance of the British fleet off the Sound, gave sudden warning to our traveller to provide for his safety. He therefore embarked in a small trading vessel bound for Leith; but in consequence of a chace from a Danish privateer, Campbell was landed at Yarmouth, to which the vessel fled for shelter. A trip to London naturally followed; and for the first time he visited the mighty metropolis, little guessing, as he paced along its apparently interminable streets, that he should afterwards see it expanded into twice its present amount. After a short stay in the capital, where his "Pleasures of Hope" was a passport to the best of London society, he directed his course homeward. Even yet the inconveniences of his visit to the seat of war had not ended. "Returning to Edinburgh by sea," he writes in his memoranda of 1801, "a lady, passenger by the same ship, who had read my poems, but was personally unacquainted with me, told me, to my utter astonishment, that I had been arrested in London for high treason, was confined to the Tower, and expected to be executed! I was equally unconscious of having either deserved or incurred such a sentence." He found, however, on reaching Edinburgh, that this ridiculous report was no matter to be laughed at, for it was already buzzed through the streets of the northern capital, and had reached the ears of his anxious mother, who now resided in the city. It was a wild period of rumour and suspicion, and he found that the fact of his having messed with the French officers at Ratisbon during the armistice, been introduced to the gallant Moreau, and sailed as fellow-passenger with an Irishman of the name of Donovan, had been amplified into a plot concerted between himself, Moreau, and the Irish at Hamburg, to land a French army in Ireland. He waited upon Mr. Clerk, the sheriff of Edinburgh, to refute this report, and testify his loyalty at head-quarters; but here he found, to his astonishment, that the sheriff believed in his guilt, and that a warrant was issued for his apprehension. This was intolerable, and Campbell could not help exclaiming, "Do I live to hear a sensible man like you, talking about a boy like me conspiring against the British empire?" He offered himself for a strict examination previous to being sent to prison, and the inquisition was held amidst an array of clerks ready to note down his answers. A box of letters and papers which he had left at Yarmouth to be forwarded to Edinburgh, but which had been seized at Leith, was at the same time brought forward, opened, and carefully examined. But the contents soon put all suspicion to the rout: nothing in the whole collection could be found more treasonable than "Ye Mariners of England," which was already prepared for the press, with a few others of its afterwards distinguished brethren. "This comes of trusting a Hamburg spy!" cried the discomfited sheriff; for it seems that a rogue in Hamburg had been manufacturing for the credulity of his employers on this side of the water such treason as he could not find ready-made, and had treasured up Campbell’s movements there as a fit groundwork for his ingenuity. The whole inquest ended in a hearty laugh and a bottle of wine.

On returning to Edinburgh, Campbell found that instant action was necessary. His father had died during his absence in Germany; his widowed mother, now old and frail, was in necessitous circumstances; and his three sisters were all invalids under the maternal roof. It was also such a period of scarcity and mercantile depression over the whole island, that the prices of the common necessaries of life were nearly doubled, so that famine-riots, popularly called meal-mobs, became the order of the day among the lower classes. Urged by present emergencies, he betook himself, in the first instance, to the precarious resources of miscellaneous authorship, until something more permanent could be adopted. This latter opportunity seemed to occur from an invitation he received from Lord Minto to visit him in London; and on Campbell’s repairing thither in 1802, he was employed by his lordship as private secretary, and afterwards as travelling companion to Scotland. During this temporary absence from Edinburgh, he had composed "Lochiel’s Warning," and the "Battle of Hohenlinden." This, in the estimation of modern authorship, will appear to be very slow progress; but even in the most depressed period of his circumstances, his aim was to write for immortality, so that every expression was carefully considered, and every line touched and retouched, before it could satisfy that most severe of all critics—himself. Even that striking line—

"Coming events cast their shadows before,"

had cost him a whole week of study and anxiety. But who will say that the price of such a stanza was too high? Writing of the poet to a friend at this time, Telford, the celebrated engineer, asks, "Have you seen his ‘Lochiel?’ He will surpass everything ancient or modern—your Pindars, your Drydens, and your Grays." A similar feeling, but in a more poetical fashion, was expressed of its merits by Mrs. Dugald Stewart, wife of the distinguished philosopher. When the poet read it to her in manuscript, she listened in deep silence, and when it was finished, she gravely rose, laid her hand upon his head, and said, " This will bear another wreath of laurel yet," after which she retired to her seat without uttering another word. "This," said Campbell, "made a stronger impression upon my mind than if she had spoken in a strain of the loftiest panegyric. It was one of the principal incidents in my life that gave me confidence in my own powers."

After having laboured for some time in fugitive articles for the newspapers, and the compilation of history for the booksellers of Edinburgh, by which he managed to secure a respectable temporary livelihood, Campbell once more repaired to London. A poet by choice, he was now a prose author from necessity, and the British metropolis he knew to be the best mart in which his literary commodities could find a ready sale. Here, then, he was employed fagging, as he informs us, for ten hours a-day, and purloining the opportunity for calls and recreation from the hours of sleep. At this time, also, he published the seventh edition of the "Pleasures of Hope," and several of his smaller pieces, in a quarto volume, which brought him such a profitable return as to relieve him from all his pecuniary embarrassments, as well as his anxieties about the future. This happy deliverance he forthwith proceeded to signalize in a fitting manner, by selecting for himself a permanent home, and a partner to gladden it. He married one who had been the object of his youthful admiration nine years before, and had latterly become the object of his more matured affections. This was Matilda Sinclair, daughter of his mother’s cousin, a gentleman who had formerly been a wealthy merchant and provost in Greenock, and was now a trader in London. The prudent father demurred at the thought of bestowing his daughter upon one who, kinsman though he was, and now of high reputation, was still nothing more than a poet. It was indeed a perilous venture; but the ardour of the young couple overpowered the old man’s scruples, and wrung from him a reluctant assent. They were married on the 10th September, 1803. It was a poetical union, for Campbell’s whole fortune at this time amounted to the sum of fifty pounds; but he had fifty thousand pleasures of hope in perspective, and was therefore rich in his own imagination. At length he became a father; and here we cannot refrain from quoting his own account of feelings, so common to every father, at the arrival of his first-born, but which Campbell, in a letter announcing the event, has described with such beauty and tenderness: "Our first interview was when he lay in his little crib, in the midst of white muslin and dainty lace, prepared by Matilda’s hands long before the stranger’s arrival. I verily believe, in spite of my partiality, that lovelier babe was never smiled upon by the light of heaven. He was breathing sweetly in his first sleep. I durst not waken him, but ventured to give him one kiss. He gave a faint murmur, and opened his little azure lights. . . .Oh, that I were sure he would live to the days when I could take him on my knee, and feel the strong plumpness of childhood waxing into vigorous youth! My poor boy! shall I have the ecstasy of teaching him thoughts, and knowledge, and reciprocity of love to me? It is bold to venture into futurity so far. At present, his lovely little face is a comfort to me; his lips breathe that fragrance which it is one of the loveliest kindnesses of nature that she has given to infants—a sweetness of smell more delightful than all the treasures of Arabia. What adorable beauties of God and nature’s bounty we live in without knowing! How few have ever seemed to think an infant beautiful! But to me there seems to be a beauty in the earliest dawn of infancy, which is not inferior to the attractions of childhood—especially when they sleep. Their looks excite a more tender train of emotions. It is like the tremulous anxiety we feel for a candle new lighted, which we dread going out." Such was an event, which, though an important era in the life of every man, is especially so in that of a poet; and such is the description, which none but a poet, and that of the highest order, could have so embodied. To our thinking, the above quotation may take its place in the highest rank of Campbell’s poetical productions.

A happiness like this was not to be enjoyed without a due mixture of life’s cares and anxieties; and at this period, the income of the poet for the support of such a home and family, consisted of the proceeds of his daily literary toil, which was so severe as seriously to injure his health. He had not, indeed, that slap-dash facility of writing which characterizes most of those who follow literature as a profession; nor could he, when the hours of study had been ended, abandon the subject of his thoughts as lightly as the man of business can leave his shop or counting-house, when he shuts it up for the evening, and repairs to the enjoyments of his fireside. Instead of this, the fastidious taste that abode with him through life, made him slow in the selection of ideas, as well as scrupulous in their expression; and thus, when the price of his labour was to be estimated by bulk, his toil was scarcely half-paid. One of his resources at this time, in addition to periodical literature, was an engagement in the "Star" newspaper, which produced him four guineas a-week. At this time, also, he was willing to endure expatriation for the advantages of a permanent living; so that, when a regency in the university of Wilna had become vacant, he sent his name to the Russian minister as a candidate. But here his sentiments in favour of liberty, and his sympathy for Poland, which he had expressed in the "Pleasures of Hope," intervened to damp the ardour of his application, which might otherwise have been successful. After having established himself in authorship as a profession, he removed from London to Sydenham, where he resided for the next seventeen years of his life; and it was here, during the first summer of his removal, that amidst many articles written for the "Philosophical Magazine" and the "Star," upon every uncongenial subject, agriculture not excepted, he published "Lord Ullin’s Daughter," the "Soldier’s Dream," the "Turkish Lady," and the "Battle of the Baltic." But for one so delicately organized both in mind and body as Campbell, the daily hard work which he had to encounter was so exhausting that his health gave way; and in his letters at this period, we find him labouring under fits of gloomy despondency, alternated by attacks of sickness. To add also to his cares, the sole support of his aged mother, and partially of his sisters, was still devolved upon him, so that he had to maintain two household establishments, the one at Sydenham and the other at Edinburgh. But just at the time when it seemed inevitable that he must break down under the double pressure, relief was at hand. Some unknown but highly influential friend had interposed with royalty itself in his behalf, and the result was a pension of 200 pounds per annum conferred by his Majesty upon the Bard of Hope. His application of this munificent boon was truly honourable to the poet’s heart and memory; for, after reserving only a portion to himself, he allotted the remainder to the support of his mother and sisters.

Four years went onward at Sydenham under these improved circumstances, but still the necessity for continued exertion was little abated; for the pension, comfortable as it looked in the abstract, underwent such mutilation, through fees of office and taxation, that it reached him in the shape of 140, while out of this he paid an annuity of 70 to his mother. The comfort to be derived from it depended more upon its permanency than its specific bulk. He there fore continued his toil, amidst alternate fits of lassitude and sickness. His contributions to the "Star," which consisted chiefly of translations from foreign journals, occupied him four hours a-day, and the remainder of his time was filled up by a "History of the Reign of George III." in three volumes, for which he had contracted with an Edinburgh publisher before he left Scotland, and with his "Specimens of the British Poets," a compilation in which the selection of materials for extracts, as well as the composition of biographical notices, cost him abundance of labour and anxiety, All this, however, was for mere daily subsistence, not future fame; and even to keep up the reputation which his first work had procured him, it was necessary to follow it with one of at least equal excellence. To this necessity he was far from being insensible; and therefore, amidst his seasons of intermission, he had devoted himself with all the ardour of a first and undiminished love to the production of "Gertrude of Wyoming," which at length was published in London in 1809. It was much that it should have fully sustained the fame that had been acquired by the "Pleasures of Hope;" but it did more—it evinced equal poetical power, with a more matured judgment and better taste. Jeffrey, that prince of critics, who had seen the work while passing through the press, thus characterized its excellencies:—"There is great beauty, and great tenderness and fancy in the work, and I am sure it will be very popular. The latter part is exquisitely pathetic, and the whole touched with those soft and skyish tints of purity and truth, which fall like enchantment on all minds that can make anything of such matters. Many of your descriptions come nearer the tone of ‘The Castle of Indolence’ than any succeeding poetry, and the pathos is much more graceful and delicate." After this commendation, which has been fully borne out by the admiration of the public for more than forty years, the talented critic introduces the emphatic "BUT," and proceeds to specify the faults which he found in "Gertrude of Wyoming;" and these, also, were such as the world has continued to detect. It consisted too much of finished episodes rather than a continuous poem. The language was still overlaboured, as if he had "hammered the metal in some places till it had lost all its ductility." These were faults, or blemishes, so inseparable from the mind of Campbell, that they were part and parcel of his intellectual existence, and he could only have abandoned them by relinquishing his individual identity. After this affectionate chastisement, Jeffrey adds, "Believe me, my dear C., the world will never know how truly you are a great and original poet, till you venture to cast before it some of the rough pearls of your fancy. Write one or two things without thinking of publication, or of what will be thought of them, and let me see them, at least, if you will not venture them any further. I am more mistaken in my prognostics than I ever was in my life, if they are not twice as tall as any of your full-dressed children." In the same volume were published several smaller poems, some of which had previously appeared before the public. Among these were "Lochiel" and "Hohenlinden," the first characterized by the "Edinburgh Review" as the most spirited and poetical denunciation of woe since the days of Cassandra, and the second, as the only representation of a modern battle which possesses either interest or sublimity; and "Ye Mariners of England," and the "Battle of the Baltic," two songs that have justly ranked their author as the naval Alcaeus of Britain. In a subsequent edition of "Gertrude," which appeared in the following year, the volume was enriched by the addition of "O’Connor’s Child," the best, perhaps, of all his minor poems. Its origin was in the highest degree poetical. A little flower called "Love lies bleeding," grew in his garden, and the sentiments which it inspired, as he looked at it in his morning walks, gathered and expanded into the most beautiful of his ballads.

With a new task thus ended, relaxation was necessary; and with such an increase to his poetical reputation, it was natural that the society of Campbell, on re-entering the world, should be courted with renewed eagerness. Amidst the many introductions to the most distinguished of the day, there were two that gave him especial pleasure: the one was to Mrs. Siddons, the "Queen of Tragedy;" the other, to Caroline, Queen of Great Britain. He was now also to appear in a new literary capacity. This was as a lecturer on poetry at the Royal Institution, a task for which, perhaps, no poet of this period, so prolific of distinguished bards, was so well qualified. He commenced this course on the 24th of April, 1812, and had the gratification not only of numbering among his audience some of the most illustrious in the literary world, but of being crowned with their approbation. There was, indeed, only one dissenting voice that made itself be heard at the third lecture. "At the most interesting part," he says, "a storm of thunder, lightning, and rain came on. The window above me was open, and the rain poured down on my paper as it did on Leander in the Hellespont. The lightning had given me an electrical headache, and the thunder, aided by the pattering rain, being my competitor in my endeavours to gain the public attention, it required all my lungs to obtain a hearing." His lectures were so popular in London, that he resolved to repeat them in Edinburgh, but this purpose he could not at present find time to execute. The peace of 1814, that threw Paris open to the world, enabled Campbell to accomplish the design of visiting that wonderful city, which he had entertained in 1802, but was prevented from executing by the sudden renewal of war. He accordingly crossed the channel, one of many thousands of visitors, and amidst all the marvels of Paris, nothing seems to have delighted him so much as the Louvre. The great master-pieces of ancient art seemed to burst upon him like the creations of another world, and made him shed tears of mingled awe and delight. In describing, immediately afterwards, the effect they produced on him, although he tells us he was no judge in statuary, yet we at once see he was more—he was a poet, feeling the inspiration of a kindred spirit manifested in a different department of their common art. Of the Apollo Belvidere, he says, "Oh how that immortal youth in all his splendour, majesty, divinity, flashed upon us from the end of the gallery! He seems as if he had just leapt from the sun." His visits, which were made to the Louvre in company with Mrs. Siddons, were of too transporting a character to be exclusively repeated, and therefore he gladly had recourse to the theatres, concerts, and conversaziones, the promenades, and public spectacles, with which the great metropolis of earth’s pleasures is pervaded as its living principle. "But still," he adds, "after the Louvre, I know scarcely anything that is quite transcendant." After nearly two months that were spent well and happily in Paris, Campbell returned fresh with new sensations, that continued to animate him for years, and resumed his necessary studies at Sydenham. In 1815, an event also happened to alleviate the necessity of continual toil, and brighten the prospects of his future life. This was a legacy bequeathed to him by his Highland cousin, M’Arthur Stewart of Ascot, which, though nominally not more than 500, was increased to nearly 5000, through his share in the unappropriated residue bequeathed to the legatees by the testator.

The practice of public lecturing had now become so congenial to the mind of Campbell, and his course had been so popular, that he repeated it in Liverpool, Birmingham, and Edinburgh, to numerous and delighted audiences. The merits of these "Lectures on Poetry" are now familiar to the public, as they were afterwards published, as well as his "Specimens of the British Poets," in which the germs of his prelections were first displayed. In 1820 he was enabled to revisit Germany with his family, and after a trip, in which the romantic scenery of the Rhine, and the distinguished literary societies of Germany, were enjoyed with equal pleasure, he returned with fresh zest to England and his literary engagements. The most important of these was the editorship of the "New Monthly Magazine," which had been offered him on the most liberal terms, and the duties of which he gladly undertook. It was a wholly new task, and therefore he was anxious to gather from his more experienced literary friends such advice upon the subject as might direct him in his course. Some of these admonitions could not have been very gratifying to a mind so sensitive and enthusiastic as his. In a letter written to him by the Rev. Sydney Smith upon the subject, that witty divine thus lectures him: "Remember that a mag. is not supported by papers evincing wit and genius, but by the height of the tide at London Bridge, by the price of oats, and by any sudden elevation or depression in the price of boiling pease. If your mag. succeeds, it will do so as much by the diligence and discretion you will impress upon your nature, as by the talents with which you are born." The "Magazine," however, acquired a new impulse from his superintendence; and among his own contributions, the poem entitled "The Last Man," one of the happiest of his productions, was universally applauded. While thus employed, "Theodric" appeared at the end of 1824. The following year Campbell started the plan of the London University, which he calls "the only important event in his life’s little history," and pursued the object with a life-and-death earnestness; and, aided by the practical minds of Brougham and Hume, the project, after much conflict, was brought to a successful termination. So earnest, indeed, did he labour in the whole affair, that, not contented with the experience he had already acquired of German colleges as the model for that of London, he also travelled to Berlin, to study whatever was excellent in the university of the Prussian capital, and transplant it into London. And well did he evince his enthusiasm for the improvement of our national education by undertaking such a journey, for, although not more than forty-eight years of age, he was already a weakly old man. His indeed had been a premature decay; all the more, perhaps, because he had enjoyed a precocious intellectual manhood. But education rewarded him in return with one of the highest distinctions, and the most grateful to the mind of Campbell, which she had to bestow. In his own alma mater, the university of Glasgow, a canvass had for some time been going on to elect him to the honoured office of Lord Rector; and in the winter of 1826, the students, by whom the election is made, had been so unanimous in their choice, that he was appointed to the office by unanimous vote of the "four nations." Nor did the honour conferred upon him stop here; for, in the following year, and also the one after, his appointment was renewed by the suffrages of the students. He was thus three times successively Lord Rector of the university of Glasgow, a repetition unusual among the holders of that high academic office. But, amidst all this distinction, the mind of the poet had much to grieve and try him. Of his two sons, the younger had died in childhood, while the elder, his first-born, who had opened such a fountain of tenderness within his heart, had for years been in a state of lunacy, and was obliged to be kept in confinement. He was thus even worse than childless. In 1826, also, his affectionate wife, Matilda, in whom he had found so congenial a partner, died, and he found himself alone in the world. The "New Monthly Magazine," too, that had prospered so greatly under his care, and been a comfortable source of emolument, passed from under his management by one of those unlucky accidents to which periodical literature is especially exposed. A paper was inserted by mistake in its pages without having been subjected to his editorial examination, and as the article in question was offensive in the highest degree, Campbell in 1830 abandoned the Magazine, and a salary of 600 per annum which he derived from it. Soon after this, an event of a public and political nature moved him still more highly than any pecuniary loss could have done. This was the sanguinary capture of Warsaw in 1831, and the national miseries with which Poland was afterwards visited. He had embraced the cause of that most injured and most afflicted of the nations with a poet’s enthusiasm; and now he predicted the final result of its wrongs with a poet’s prophetic prescience. His words upon the subject are well worth considering—for are they not, even at the present day, after a lapse of twenty-one years, undergoing their fulfilment? "All is over now; and a brave nation is thrust a second time, assassinated, into her grave. Mysterious are the ways of heaven! We must not question its justice—but I am sick, and fevered with indignation at Germany, for suffering this foolish Emperor of Austria; he fears letting his people taste a little freedom, more than resigning his own freedom to Russia, for he will soon be the very vassal of the inhuman Sclaves, which will be worse for him than if he had a free parliament under his nose—and so also will the King of Prussia be henceforth! All continental Europe, I distinctly anticipate, will be enslaved by Russia. France and Austria will worry each other till they are exhausted; and then down will Russia come on all the south of Europe, with millions and millions, and give law and the knout both to Germany and France." After such vaticinations, who can fail to recognize the truth of the following lines of Cowper:—

"So when remote futurity is brought
Before the keen inquiry of her thought,
A terrible sagacity informs
The poet’s heart; he looks to distant storms;
He hears the thunder ere the tempest lowers;
And, arm’d with strength surpassing human powers,
Seizes events as yet unknown to man,
And darts his soul into the dawning plan."

It is gratifying to add that when Campbell’s heart was thus occupied, he did not, like too many, withdraw from the throng, that he might brood in solitude over the luxury of sensibility. Instead of this, he spoke, wrote, declaimed upon the miseries of Poland, pictured them in poetry and in prose, appealed against them in companies of every political shade of belief, exerted himself to make all feel that instead of being a mere party question, it was the common cause of justice, honour, and humanity; and, to evince his sincerity, bestowed liberally, not only of his time and labour, but also of his money, in behalf of the Polish sufferers, at a season when money was the commodity which he least could spare. And his labours were not in vain. He awoke a deep sympathy in behalf of Poland wherever his influence extended, and succeeded in associating the Polish committee in London, which for years has been so successful in relieving thousands of the expatriated.

While employed in these avocations, the literary duties of Campbell still continued to be of a varied character. After his editorship of the "New Monthly Magazine" had ceased, he was employed in the same capacity in the "Metropolitan;" and subsequently his attentions were occupied with letters and pamphlets in support of the London University, and upon the subject of education in general; with reviews on works of classical history and fiction; and with a wide and laborious correspondence in French, German, and Latin, which employed him four hours every morning. To these, also, was added his "Life of Mrs. Siddons," a work to which he devoted himself with all his characteristic enthusiasm, and finished in 1833. Thus, even when his name was least before the public, he was toiling generally in behalf of some great benevolent object with an earnestness under which his health frequently sank, and by which his final decay was rapidly accelerated. Still, however, he was earnest to produce one poem more—a final work, by which the poetical reputation he had hitherto acquired should be confirmed, and, if possible, extended—and as health was necessary for this purpose, he resolved to make the classical tour of Italy, by which mind and body should be braced alike for the contemplated enterprise. He therefore passed over to Paris in 1834; and although the Apollo Belvidere and Venus de Medicis were no longer there, he found the same cheerful society, and more than the same cordial welcome that had gladdened his visit of 1814. After having remained several weeks in the French capital, he resumed his journey, but with a very different destination; for, instead of Rome, he now embarked for Algiers. His friends at home were as much astonished at the tidings as if he had set off on a pilgrimage to Timbuctoo. But he had been poring in the king’s library at Paris over books and maps of ancient geography, where the Roman city of Icosium, that had occupied the site of Algiers, met his eye; and the late changes by which this Mauritanian city of the waters had been converted into the capital of a French province, fired his imagination with pictures of the future civilization of Africa. This was enough to decide him on embarking at Toulon, on the 11th September, 1824, and in seven days after he was traversing the crooked streets of Algiers, beneath the blaze of an African sun. But he was still among French society, to whom his literary reputation was a welcome passport; he even found one of the French officers there employed in a translation of his poems with a view to publication. New health, nay, a new life itself, was the reward of this journey, and he describes the scenery and his own feelings in the following buoyant style: "Oh, my old crony! it would do your heart good to see your friend prancing gloriously on an Arabian barb over the hills of the white city (for Algiers, with all its forts, battlements, mosques, and minarets, is as dazzling white as snow), and enjoying the splendid scenery. I have no words to convey the impression it has made on me. I felt, on my ride, as if I had dropt into a new planet! Some parts of the hills, it is true, are bare; but wherever there is verdure, it has a bold, gigantic richness, a brilliancy and odour, that mock even the productions of our hot-houses. Never shall I forget my first ride! It was early morning: the blue Mediterranean spread a hundred miles beneath--a line of flamingoes shot over the wave—the white city blazed in the rising sun—the Arabs, with their dromedaries loaded with fruits for the market, were coming down the steeps. Around, in countless numbers, were the white, square, castle-looking country-houses of the Moors, inclosed in gardens; the romantic tombs of the Marabouts, held sacred, and surrounded with trees and flowers, that are watered with a perpetual spring from marble fountains, where you see the palm towering with its feathery tufts as high as a minaret. . . .Then the ravines that run down to the sea! I alighted to explore one of them, and found a burn that might have gurgled in a Scottish glen. A thousand sweet novelties of wild flowers grew above its borders; and a dear little bird sang among its trees. The view terminated in the discharge of the stream among the rocks and foam of the sea,—

‘And where this valley winded out below,
The murmuring main was heard—and scarcely heard to flow.’

In short, my dear John, I feel as if my soul had grown an inch taller since I came here. I have a thousand, and a thousand curious things to tell you; but I shall keep them all bottled up to tell you in Fludyer Street—unless the cholera comes over me. If it should, I have at least had some happy days; and the little void that I leave in the world will be soon filled up."

These "happy days" were extended over the two following months, during which the poet made short trips among the native tribes, and explored whatever was curious in the past and present history of these children of the desert, and the localities they occupied. And fortunately for him, the dreaded cholera did not come, so that he revelled uninterrupted amidst the healthy and spirit-stirring enjoyments of the new scenes into which he had entered. The consequence was, that on his return to London, his friends congratulated him on being several years younger than when he had set out on his travels. This healthy effect of a glowing Moorish atmosphere, was afterwards improved and made permanent by a trip to his native north, that followed soon after—an alternation that resembled the sudden plunge from a hot bath into a cold. But where was the poem which was to be produced on his return? Let no poet say to himself, "Go to, I will sit down on such and such a day and write an epic." History and antiquity, past events and living realities, the rich landscapes around Algiers and Oran, and their stirring throng of Moors and Frenchmen, had so wholly occupied his thoughts, that laying aside his poetical purposes to an indefinite period, he devoted himself to the preparation of "Letters from Algiers," which were afterwards published in two volumes. His financial affairs, too, notwithstanding his habitual disregard of money, and thoughtless facility in parting with it, were in a more prosperous condition than they had been at any former period. Such was the tranquil course of his life from 1835 to 1841, when a return of his former ailments so stirred his impatience, that without any previous notice or preparation, he suddenly started for Weisbaden, expecting to find a miraculous recovery among its Brunnen. Such, indeed, was his hurry, that he forgot to provide himself with money, so that on arriving at the baths, he was obliged to write to a friend in London, commissioning him to enter his house in Victoria Square, take out all the money he found there, and after remitting him a portion, to lodge the rest at his banker’s. It was truly marvellous that such a man should ever have had money to leave behind him! Fortified with this authority, his friend, accompanied by a lawyer, went to Campbell’s house, opened the press-door in his bedroom, which did not seem to be even locked, and commenced his exploration. But though every shelf, drawer, cranny, every shirt-fold and coat-pocket of this poetical chaos was searched and rummaged, there was nowhere a token of money. The lawyer was grievously scandalized, and talked professionally of careless custody, and burglary. At length, when closing the press-door in despair, the process was interrupted by the point of a red embroidered slipper, stuffed, as it appeared, with paper matches for lighting candles, and on unrolling these, they found that the apparently worthless papers consisted of bank-notes to the amount of more than 300! By an inconsistency not unusual in human nature, Campbell at this very period was grumbling at the rite of exchange in Weisbaden, where not more than 19s. 6d. was given for an English sovereign. His stay was only for six weeks, and during this period he composed the ballad of the "Child and Hind." He published also "The Pilgrim of Glencoe, with other poems," in which the "Child and Hind," the "Song of the Colonists," and "Moonlight," appeared for the first time. Unfortunately, however, the "Pilgrim," notwithstanding its excellencies, was felt to be inferior to his first productions, and was rated accordingly. But he was no longer the same youthful spirit that had produced the "Pleasures of Hope" and "Gertrude of Wyoming." Flashes, indeed, of his former self would still break out from his poetry and conversation, but they were the fitful irradiations of a once steady but now departing sunshine. He had now reached the age of sixty-six, and perhaps he had drawn too fervently and fast upon the resources of a naturally delicate constitution, to be otherwise than a feeble broken-down man at such a period of life. To add also to his distresses, the sale of his poems, which for some years had produced him about 500 per annum, could not now realize above 60 or 70. From the double motive of health and economy, he resolved to make his future residence in Boulogne, to which he repaired in July, 1843. His friends—and few had more attached friends than Campbell—felt as if this was a final departure, to be followed by no happy return.

These mournful forebodings were too truly verified. His constitution was already so old, and so completely exhausted, that no change of climate could enable it to rally; and the winter of Boulogne, instead of alleviating his ailments, only seemed to aggravate them beyond the power of removal. Spring came, and summer succeeded; but their bright sunshine only half lighted the curtained sick-room, and finally flickered upon the death-bed of him who had so often watched its changes, and delighted in its beauty. But in his last hours he was not alone, for besides his affectionate niece, who attended him with a daughter’s solicitude, his bed-side was solaced by the presence of Dr. Beattie, his faithful friend, physician, and biographer, who had crossed from London to Boulogne, to soothe the departing hours of his affectionate patient. Amidst such gentle guardianship, by which every aid and alleviation was administered, Thomas Campbell died without a struggle, and apparently without pain, solaced to the last moment by the consoling portions of Scripture that were read to him, in which he expressed his earnest faith and hope; and by the prayers in which he joined in look and attitude when the power of speech had departed. His death occurred on the 15th of June, 1844, in the sixty-seventh year of his age. The body was removed from Boulogne to London, and interred in Westminster Abbey; a handful of earth from the tomb of Kosciusko, the Polish hero, that had been treasured for the purpose, was thrown into the grave of the poet who had written so eloquently and laboured so much in behalf of Poland; and his ashes now repose in the neighbourhood of the monuments erected to Addison, Goldsmith, and Sheridan.


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