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fifty years. I did mine errand as faithfully as one of Homer's messengers, and had for answer, · Tell Leyden that I detest him ; but I know the value of his critical approbation.'
If this communication took place before the 27th March, 1803, Campbell's resentment was stronger than his vanity, for under that date he writes of his sturdy critic in a strain that is anything but complimentary. “ London," he says, “ has been visited in one month by John Leyden and the influenza ! Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands. They are both raging with great violence. John has been dubbed Dr. Leyden, and the influenza has been called La Grippe. The latter complaint has confined Telford and myself for a week or so; the former has attacked us several times.” Three or four days afterwards he wrote, “ Leyden has gone at last, to diminish the population of India."
Dr. Beattie clears up Scott's passing allusions to this feud. Campbell had fancied he traced to Leyden an absurd exaggeration of his earlier distresses – which at last, it seems, took the shape of a newspaper paragraph, detailing how he had been actually on his way to Leith to drown himself, when he fell in with the schoolmaster Park, and that thus his very life was due to the first interview with Dr. Anderson. Campbell's pride was grievously wounded, and he never forgave the imputed offence. “ We have no belief,” says an intelligent writer in the North British Review, “ that Leyden either invented the story or wrote the paragraph ; but we can very easily understand that there was a repulsive instinct between that very rough subject and the pretty-looking, probably somewhat prim little junior, originally no doubt introduced to his notice as the Pope of Glasgow."
His poem published and the subscriptions still pouring in the Annals in progress at one hundred pounds the volume, a fifty-pound banknote in actual possession, and withal“ few or no debts,” Campbell thought he could safely venture upon matrimony. During the summer he had fallen in love with his cousin, and his love was returned. Of his intended change of condition he wrote to his friend, Dr. Currie, that it began with a dash of romance quite sufficient for a modern novel, “ for the lady's name is Matilda, and we intend to live in a cottage. What more romance would you wish for? — a poet, a cottage, a fine name, and a fortuneless marriage. It will set many an empty head a shaking to devise by what infatuation the poor youth has set his face against the ills of life, with this increase of responsibility! But it is happy that human prosperity does not depend upon frigid maxims. A strong and virtuous motive to exertion is worth uncounted thousands, for encountering life with advantage.”
Early in September, 1803, the London newspapers announced the marriage of " Thomas Campbell, Esq., author of The Pleasures of Hope, to Matilda, youngest daughter of Robert Sinclair, Esq., of Park-street, Westminster.”
The marriage of Campbell and his cousin was one of love on both sides. In the poet's eye his wife was a beautiful, lively and ladylike woman. She had travelled too ; and Campbell's stories of the Elbe and Danube were matched by hers of the Rhone and Loire. In Geneva she had learned the art of making the best cup of Mocha in the world ; and there was a tradition that the Turkish ambassador, seeing her at the opera in a turban and feathers, asked who she was, was told she was a Scottish lady, and thereupon said he had seen nothing so beautiful in Europe. “Her features,” says Dr. Beattie, “had much of the Spanish cast; her complexion was dark; her figure graceful, below the middle size; she had great vivacity of manners, energy of mind, and sensibility, or rather irritability, which often impaired her health.”
In a letter to the American publishers of Dr. Beattie's biography, Washington Irving confirms the poet's accounts of her personal beauty, and states that her mental qualities seemed equally to justify his eulogies. “She was, in fact," he adds, “a more suitable wife for a poet than poets' wives are apt to be; and for once a son of song had married a reality, and not a poetical fiction.”
The young couple took lodgings in the first instanco in Pimlico, where Campbell entered upon a course of life that he thought would
insure his industrious application to literature. “ I am habitually contented,” he wrote to his sister Mary, some three weeks after marriage, “and disposed to write from morning till night. Give me but the continuance of this prosperity, and, if vexations from external quarters do not come in upon my balance of mind, I shall ask no other blessing from Heaven but the habit of industry. Luckily, my wife is as domestic as myself. She sits all day beside me at her seam, and, except to receive such visitors as cannot be denied, we sit forever at our respective vocations. I ask no more from Ileaven than to be allowed calmly and peaceably to work for my bread in this manner; and, if I can only do so, there is no earthly doubt that my circumstances will expand -- not to competency, but to wealth. This is a full and true picture of my present situation and future prospects.”
At Pimlico their first boy was born, and was christened Thomas Telford, after Campbell's old friend, who stood sponsor on the occasion. The young father's introduction to him is thus tenderly described in a letter to Dr. Currie : “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 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 one kiss. He gave a faint murmur, and opened his little azure lights. Since that time he has continued to grow in grace and stature. I can take him in my arms, but still his good nature and his beauty are but provocatives to the affection which one must not indulge ; he cannot bear to be hugged, he cannot yet stand a worrying. O, 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."
All the poet's letters in the early stages of married life show that, whatever he may have suffered from insufficient or ill-managed resources, or from over-tasking his mental faculties to sickness, his connection was a fortunate and happy one. “They were greatly attached,” we are told by a lady who visited Mr. and Mrs. Campbell at Pimlico,“Mrs. C. studied her husband in every way. As one proof, — the poet being closely devoted to his books and writing during the day, she would never suffer him to be disturbed by questions or intrusion, but left the door of his room a little ajar, that she might every now and then have a silent peep of him. On one occasion she called me to come softly on tiptoe, and she would show me the poet in a moment of inspiration. We stole softly behind his chair - his eye was raised, the pen in his hand; but he was quite unconscious of our presence, and we retired unsuspected.”
“In my married life,” says Campbell, “ I lived a year in town, and then took and furnished a house at Sydenham, to which I brought my young wife and a lovely boy.” In that happy home he lived seventeen years, laboring sometimes at much uncongenial taskwork, but regularly and conscientiously, even under the pressure of bodily pain.
Laboring in this way” (to quote his own words), “ I contrived to support my mother, and wife and children.
Life became tolerable to me, and, at Sydenham, even agreeable. I had always my town friends to come and partake of my humble fare on a Sunday; and among my neighbors I had an elegant society, among whom I counted sincere friends. It so happened that the dearest friends I had there were thorough Tories ; and my Whigism was as steadfast as it still continues to be ; but this acquaintance, ripening into friendship, called forth a new liberalism in my mind, and possibly also in theirs. On my part, I know that it softened the rancor of my prejudices, without affecting the sincerity of my principles; and I would advise all spirits that are apt to be overexcitable, like myself, on party questions, to go sometimes — not as a spy, but as a truce-bearer, -into the enemy's camp, and useful views and knowledge will be discovered among them when they are least suspected."
Of his personal and pecuniary circumstances at all times information has been communicated to the world in unnecessary detail. It is a topic frequently touched upon in letters not intended for the public eye, and which in our judgment ought to have been suppressed. They are all highly honorable, however, to Campbell. If he was compelled to borrow small sums, he was scrupulous in their prompt repayment. In his extremest need, too, something was sure to “turn up” to prevent his distress from becoming serious. But a memoir of Campbell would be incomplete that failed to make some allusion to a subject which has been so thoroughly blazoned, and which we desire once for all to dispose of by the following extracts from his letters :
“I do not mean to say that we suffered the absolute privations of poverty. On the contrary, it was rather the fear than the substance of it which afflicted us. But I shall never forget my sensations when I one day received a letter from my eldest brother in America, stating that the casual remittances which he had made to my mother must now cease, on account of his unfortunate circumstances; and that I must undertake, alone, the pious duty of supporting our widowed parent. • •
I had two establishments to provide for — one at Edinburgh, and another at Sydenham'; and it may be remembered that in those times the price of living was a full third-part dearer than at present. I venture to say that I could live, at the time I now write, as comfortably on four hundred pounds a year, as I could have then lived on an income of six hundred. The war prices put all economy to flight and defiance."
In another passage, he says, “I had never known, in earnest, the fear of poverty before, but it now came upon me like a ruthless fiend. If I were sentenced to live my life over again, and had the power of supplicating Adversity to spare me, I would say, 'O, Adversity! take any other shape !'"
“ To meet these pressing demands,” he adds, “I got literary engagements both in prose and poetry; but a malady came over me, which put all poetry, and even imaginative prose, out of the question.