Page images
PDF
EPUB

ner so lively as to show that it must have produced the strong impression she represents :

“ It was a most interesting scene ; and, although very young, it made a deep and lasting impression upon us. Mr. Campbell's appearance bespoke instant favor : 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 humor 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. As Dr. Anderson became more and more interested in the young poet, he sought every occasion to awaken in his favor a similar interest in the minds of others : and in this effort he succeeded."

Dr. Anderson introduced his young friend, with a warm recommendation, to Mr. Mundell, the bookseller, who immediately employed him to prepare an abridged edition of Bryan Edwards' West Indies, for the sum of twenty pounds. On this visit Campbell remained but about two months at Edinburgh, when he returned to Glasgow to finish his translation of the Medea, and the preparation of his abridgment for Mundell. For the Medea he received an offer from his new friend, the bookseller ; but the intention of publishing it was abandoned, from the conviction probably that it would not pay. While at Glasgow he planned a magazine that was never started, but he still continued an amateur student of the law. “My leisure hours," he wrote to Dr. Anderson, “ I employ in perusing Godwin, and the Corpus Juris. The latter I always held as a somniferous volume; but really, on closer inspection, there is something amusing as well as improving in tracing the mental progress of mankind from the period of the Twelve Tables till the advanced time of Justinian."

Campbell mixed freely in the general society of Glasgow, and continued to cultivate relations with his old college professors. Of these, John Miller, for forty years professor of law in the university, seems to have been his favorite. John Young, the Greek professor, Campbell remembered as a man of great humor, with an exquisite

[ocr errors]

sense of the ludicrous ; of Professor Jardine he spoke as the “ amiable," the “benign,” the “philosophic.” He thought all the professors at Glasgow very respectable, college-like persons, but of Miller he wrote with enthusiasm. “ There was an air,” he said, “ of the high-bred gentleman about Miller, that you saw nowhere else, something that made you imagine such old patriots as Lord Belhaven, or Fletcher of Saltoun. He was a fine, muscular man, somewhat above the middle size, with a square chest, and shapely bust, a prominent chin, gray eyes that were unmatched in expression, and a head that would have become a Roman senator. He was said to be a capital fencer; and to look at his light, elastic step when he was turned of sixty disposed you to credit the report. But the glory was to see his intellectual gladiatorship, when he would slay or pink into convulsions some offensive political antagonist. He spoke with no mincing affectation of English pronunciation ; but his Scoto-English was as different from vulgar Scotch as that of St. James's from St. Giles's. Lastly, he had a playfulness in his countenance and conversation that was graceful from its never going to excess.”

On completing his abridgment, be returned to Edinburgh, performing the journey on foot. For a while he obtained sufficient employment from Mundell, but was obliged to have recourse again to the uncongenial vocation of a tutor. “ And now," wrote Campbell, many years later, “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. I was not friendless, nor quite solitary, at this period, in Edinburgh. My aunt, Mrs. Campbell, and her beautiful daughter Margaret, so beautiful that she was commonly called Mary Queen of Scots, — used to receive me kindly of an evening, whenever I called ; and it was to them — and with no small encouragement – that I first recited my poem, when it was finished.” Before he became known as an author, he was intimate with Francis Jeffrey, and with Thomas Brown, asterwards the successor of Dugald Stewart in the Moral Philosophy chair of Edinburgh. With John Richardson, then serving his apprenticeship with a writer to the Signet, and James Grahame, an advocate at the Scottish bar (author of “ The Sabbath”), Campbell at this time formed an intimacy, which continued till the death of Grahame in 1811, and between the survivors for forty-six years, unimpaired. Richardson enjoyed through life the confidential friendship, not only of Campbell, but of Walter Scott and Joanna Baillie.

Allusion has been made to the intention some time entertained by Campbell of joining his brothers in America. The final abandonment of this purpose was communicated to his friend Thomson, in a letter, that is interesting from the evidence it gives of the early republican bias which marked Campbell's political character through life. The letter is dated at Edinburgh, March 30th, 1798 :

“ You were among the few to whom I mentioned my resolution of going to —, and you may well suppose I congratulate myself now upon the discretion with which I mentioned it; being compelled by necessity to stay at home! Yes, there is surely either a fate or a Providence, or a blind necessity, which regulates the course of things. Ever since I knew what America was, I have loved and respected her government and state of society; but, without incurring censure, I cannot yet become a citizen of that enviable country. My youngest brother, who resides there, anxious to see me once more, negotiated for me, at my request, and procured me a situation ; but my eldest brother, who is a man of more experience, forbids me to quit Britain till I have acquired more useful knowledge. I venerate his opinion, and, however unwilling, I relinquish my wish.”

Such as we have described it in the preceding pages, was the training of Campbell for the production of The Pleasures of Hope. For the merely artistic portion of it he had been thoroughly schooled in the Greek and Roman classics, and was familiar with the masters of the best English style. In the practice of composition he had enjoyed no little experience. Besides the elaborate translation from the Greek dramatists, on which he had bestowed so much time and toil, he had written several original poems, some of which, with the choruses of Medea, he admitted, notwithstanding his fastidiousness, to a permanent place in his collected works. He had written not only his Elegy in Mull, which is said to have been the poem that first commended him to the attention of Dr. Anderson, but the two parts of the pretty poem addressed to Caroline, an elegy entitled Love and Madness, and the touching ballads of The Wounded

Hussar, and The Harper. The Dirge of Wallace, The Epistle to the Three Ladies of Cart, and the Lines to a Rural Beauty, were also poems of this period, which possess a merit and interest independent of the youth of the author, in the production of which he had tried and disciplined his wonderful powers.

His experience of life had not been large, but it had been not unfavorable to the cultivation of his poetical genius. The summer, which in childhood he had passed in the country, impressed upon his mind scenes and images of quiet beauty which were never effaced. The trial for treason, which he attended at Edinburgh, excited his earnest sympathies, and taught him to feel deeply with humanity struggling for enfranchisement in whatever land. He had loved, too, measurably, and, as well as we can guess, more than once ; and had been consoled for his disappointments, and learned to play his flute, and write verses to a new love when he was off with the old. The wild and stern displays of nature in her gloom and sublimity he had studied in the Hebrides and Highlands, in moods which sometimes made him an apt learner in so severe a school. But, above all, he felt the continual spur and impulse of necessity. Academic competition and honors had made the praise of men a want with him; and he had a name to make, and a position to win in the world, by which he might achieve a fortune or a fame that would give lustre to circumstances even more humble than his own. It is this ungentle and irksome necessity that has been the origin of the greatest works of man, and to which, beyond all things else, we are indebted for The Pleasures of Hope. If Campbell had been a child of wealth, he would have dreamed away life as an amateur and critic of the works of others; but poverty compelled him to be a " maker” himself.

In his notes of this year he narrates an anecdote of his friend, Mr. Thomas Robertson, with whose kindness he seems to have been deeply impressed. “I had a friend at this time,” he says, "s whose kindness I shall never forget."..."He had seen the manuscript of The Pleasures of Hope, and, calling on me one morning, he said,

Campbell, if you need money for the printing of the poem, my purse is at your service. How much will it cost?'

At a random guess, I said · Fifteen pounds. - But, my dear fellow,' I added, God only knows when I may be able to repay you!' — Never mind that,' he replied, and left me the money; but for the fifteen pounds I had a hundred and fifty calls more pressing than the press itself.”

Campbell had at first intended to publish the poem by subscription ; but finally, through his friend Dr. Anderson, submitted the manuscript to Mundell, the only bookseller with whom he had formed any profitable connection. After some discussion, the copyright was sold “out and out” for sixty pounds, in money and books. So scanty and precarious were the resources of its author at that time, he could not be dissuaded from thus disposing of the poem; and though, about three years afterwards, a London bookseller estimated the value at an “ annuity of two hundred pounds for life,” it is not probable that Mundell thought he was driving a hard bargain. The publisher, indeed, behaved with so much liberality that the poet received from the first seven editions of his work the large sum of nine hundred pounds, notwithstanding he had divested himself of all legal interest in the copyright.

“ The Pleasures of Hope,” says Campbell in his reminiscences, “ appeared exactly when I was twenty-one years and nine months old. It gave me a general acquaintance in Edinburgh. Dr. Gregory, Henry Mackenzie, the author of the Man of Feeling, Dugald Stewart, the Rev. Archibald Alison, the · Man of Taste,' and Thomas Telford, the engineer, became my immediate patrons.” With Walter Scott he had been previously acquainted; and, soon after the appearance of his poem, was invited by him to a dinner-party of his select literary friends, among whom Campbell found himself an entire stranger. No introduction took place; but, after the cloth was removed, Scott rose, and, with a kind and complimentary reference to the poem, proposed a bumper to the “ Author of the Pleasures of Ilope.” " The poem,” he added, “is in the hands of all our friends ;

and the poet,” pointing to a young gentleman on his right, “ I have now the honor of introducing to you as my guest.”

In a letter written, thirty years afterwards, to Mrs. Arkwright, the daughter of Stephen Kemble, we find a paragraph of peculiar interest, as containing the poet's description of himself at this period, and fixing the locality which suggested one of the remarkable passages in his poem. “The day that I first met your honored father,” he wrote, “ was at Henry Siddons', on the Calton Hill, in Edinburgh.

« PreviousContinue »