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Soft sigh the winds of heaven
O'er your grave !
of the brave !
It was at this time that Campbell first thought of the publication of specimens of the British Poets, and communicated his plan to Scott in the letter containing a draft of the foregoing poem. Scott's ideas with regard to publishing were on a larger scale than Campbell's; and on the 12th of April they were developed in a letter to his partner, James Ballantyne, apparently on the suggestion of his brother-poet. “I have imagined,” he says, “a very superb work. What think you of a complete edition of British Poets, ancient and modern? Johnson's is imperfect and out of print; so is Bell's, which is a Lilliputian thing; and Anderson's, the most complete in point of number, is most contemptible in execution both of the editor and printer. There is a scheme for you!" Further correspondence took place between Scott and Campbell on the subject, and some negotiation with the booksellers. It was contemplated to unite their labors in the production of the larger work suggested by Scott. Constable entered warmly into the scheme, and Campbell had some conference with Cadell and Davies, London publishers, who had been treating with Sir James Mackintosh for the biographical and critical prefaces to a similar work. Campbell offered the same terms which were suggested by Mackintosh - - a thousand pounds for thirty lives; but the booksellers higgled about the price, and the negotiation appears to have been broken off on this difference of terms. Hence, instead of giving the world a really superb and valuable collection, edited by Scott and Campbell, the booksellers secured for their proposed publication the cheap services of Mr. Alexander Chalmers, whom Lockhart describes as one of their own Grub-street vassals. This, said Campbell, was disgraceful even to booksellers. One man, he was told, offered to stake his whole reputation on the work for one hundred and fifty pounds; and Chalmers was not reluctant to contract for three hundred. The publishers saved seven hundred pounds by the operation, and lost the making of many times seven hundred. A twelvemonth afterwards, Campbell formed the acquaintance of
Murray of Fleet-street, whom he found a very excellent, and gentleman-like man albeit a bookseller ;'' and none the less so, no doubt, in the poet's judgment, for being willing to pay a thousand pounds for the Lives, by the partnership. But Scott, by this time, was too much involved in his own literary labors to resume the undertaking; and Campbell negotiated with Murray for the Specimens, which did not appear for many years afterwards.
Campbell's second son was born on the 2d of June, in this year, and in a long letter addressed to Mr. Alison, we find a humorous sketch of his two boys, and his nursery amusements.
“ 17th July. - Your beloved namesake is growing a sweet and beautiful child. The elder, Telford, I am sorry to send you less favorable accounts of. Don't alarm yourself, however, for his health ; it is his moral dispositions which are become rude and savage ! He talks a language like man in his pristine barbarity, consisting of unmodulated cries and indefinite sounds. He is rapacious, and would eat bread and milk till the day of judgment; but he is obliged to stint his stomach to five loaves and as many pints of milk per diem, besides occasional repasts. He is mischievous, and watches every opportunity to poke out little Alison's eyes, and tear the unformed nose from his face! He had not been christened, but only named, till Alison and he were converted to Christianity together. The watering of the young plants was a very uncommon scene. Telford scolded the clergyman, and dashed down the bowl with one smash of his Herculean arms. He continued boasting and scolding the priest, till a wild cry of Y-a-men! from the clerk, astonished him into silence. The first meeting of Telford and his young friend of the nursery was diverting. T. had seen no live animal of the same size, except the lambs on the Common, which he had been taught to salute by the appellation of B-a-a! This was for some time his nickname for your namesake.
“ The importance of these pieces of information may well be called in question ; but you remember the anecdote of some one who was found on his knees playing with his bairns, and who asked his visitor • Have you ever been a father?' I shall not incur your contempt by confessing that I have worn out the knees of my breeches, not so much by praying as by creeping after Telford, the rumbustical dog! What would we give to have one day of you at Sydenham, to join our creeping party!"
For the disappointment of his great scheme with his brother poet, and the “ happiness he had built upon it,” he was to some extent consoled by an event that figures in a laconic-and agreeable postscript to a letter, otherwise in a very low key, to Walter Scott:
“P. S. His Majesty has been pleased to confer a pension of 2001. a year upon me. GOD SAVE THE KING!"
It is not known to whom, nor for precisely what services, Campbell was indebted for this seasonable assistance. At the time it was ascribed to the suggestion of one of the princesses, who had been charmed with his poetry, and had interceded with the king in his behalf. Campbell's notes on the subject are in very general terms. ". My pension,” he says, “ was given to me under Charles Fox's administration. So many of my friends in power expressed a desire to see that favor conferred upon me, that I could never discover the precise individual to whom I was indebted for it. Lord Minto's interest, I know, was not wanting : but I hope I may say, without ingratitude to others, that I believe Charles Fox and Lord Holland would have bestowed the boon without any other intervention.”
“ Before that event, I had labored under such gloomy prospects as I am reluctant to look back upon ; and I should probably consign the history of them to oblivion, if I gave way to unmanly feeling or false pride. But everything that is false in my pride gives way to the gratitude which I owe to those friends who rallied round me at that period; and it would be black ingratitude if I could forget that in one of those days I was saved from taking a debtor's lodgings in the King's Bench by a munificent present which the Rev. Sydney Smith conveyed to me from Lady Holland.”
The pension netted him, after the deduction of fees and expenses, one hundred and sixty-eight pounds a year, — half of which he reserved to his own use, and the residue he divided between his mother and sisters. While some of his friends had exerted themselves thus beneficially with the ministry, others were seeking to make some permanent provision for his family, by again publishing a subscription edition of his poems. The celebrated Francis Horner, one of the poet's earliest friends, worked hard for him, and with good success. In a letter to Richardson, Horner says, “ It may do you good, among
the slaves in Scotland, to let it be known that Mr. Pitt put his name to the subscription when he was at Bath, and we hope that most of the ministers will follow him.”
Campbell mentions a dinner at Lord Holland's, where he met Fox, in the spring of 1806. “What a proud day,” he says, “ to shake hands with the Demosthenes of his time to converse familiarly with the great man whose sagacity I revered as unequalled, — whose benerolence was no less apparent in his simple manners,
- and to walk armin-arm round the room with him!” They spoke of Virgil. Fox was pleased, and said at parting, “ Mr. Campbell, you must come and see me at St. Anne's Hill; there we shall talk more of these matters." Fox, turning to Lord Holland, said, “ I like Campbell, he is so right about Virgil.”
“What particularly struck me about Fox,” the poet adds, “ was the electric quickness and wideness of his attention in conversation. At a table of eighteen persons, nothing that was said escaped him, and the pattest animadversion on everything that was said came down smack upon us ; so that his conversation was anything but passively indolent or un formidable. * My hope of seeing Charles Fox at St. Anne's Hill was frustrated, alas! by the national misfortune of his death -"
This year was passed by Campbell chiefly in seclusion at Sydenham, in revising an edition of Johnson's Lives, and in writing several new biographical sketches of the poets. Towards its close he is said to have made the first outline sketch of Gertrude of Wyoming.
A writer in the Quarterly Review gives a lively description of the society by which Campbell was surrounded at Sydenham. The neigliborhood was studded with the residences of comfortable families connected with the commerce of London, and with several of these the poet and his wife soon came to be on a footing of close intimacy.
• Weary wives, idle widows, involuntary nuns, were excited splendidly by such a celebrity at their doors. The requests for autographs were unceasing. No party could be complete without The Pleasures of Hope ; he was here in no danger of being overborne or outshone.
• By-and-by he joined a volunteer regiment, called the North Britons,' and for a time was constant at drill, and also at mess. This last was not good for his health. Already, his newspaper engagement bringing him daily to town, he had been quite enough exposed to the temptation of festive boards and tavern meetings. Moreover, temptations of a like kind were not wanting at Sydenham itself. There were jolly aldermen there, as well as enthusiastic spinsters. Above all, the original of Paul Pry, Tom Hill, then a flourishing drysalter in the city, and proprietor and editor of the Theatrical Mirror, had a pretty box in the village, where on Saturdays convened the lights of song and the drama, Matthews, Liston, Incledon, and with them their audacious messmate and purveyor, the stripling Hook. The dignity of Campbell's reputation surrounded him amidst these merrymakers with a halo before which every head bowed — which every chorus recognized. All this was very different from Holland House, from the King of Clubs — even from the Divan in the Row. To Campbell it was more fascinating. Even so Goldy, in the circle of Burke and Johnson, sighed secretly for his Irish poetasters and index-makers, and the shoemaker's holidays,' as he called them, of Highbury Barn."
But it was in the midst of all these influences — unfavorable as they may have been to poetic inspiration — that Campbell composed Gertrude of Wyoming. This exquisite poem was completed in 1808, and published in the following year with a dedication to Lord Holland. The proof-sheets were read by Mr. Alison and one or two judicious friends in Edinburgh ; but it does not appear that the poem was submitted to any such processes as no doubt greatly improved The Pleasures of Hope. Among the friends permitted to peruse the manuscript was the editor of the Edinburgh Review, who favored the author with an epistolary critique, to the justice of which every appreciating reader of Campbell must assent :
“ EDINBURGH, March 1st, 1809. “I have seen your Gertrude. The sheets were sent to Alison, and he allowed me, though very hastily, to peruse them. There is great