Page images
PDF
EPUB

On his return to St. Leonard's, having meanwhile been disembarrassed of his pecuniary responsibilities for the Metropolitan, he set himself down in earnest to the composition of the Life of Mrs. Siddons. In the spring of 1832 he was able to say that he had finished “ two chapters to perfection.” “I have got noble materials for the rest,” he wrote to Mrs. Arkwright," and you will not be sorry for my being her biographer.” To the same lady he wrote:

“ Wheresoever I go I hear nothing but your music, and either my poetry with it, or Lockhart's. Acquit poets of jealousy. Truly I love Lockhart's · Lay your golden cushion down' so that I always tell the fair songstress, • Tut! give us none of Campbell's drawling things, but that lively Spanish ballad, “ Get up, Get up, Zeripha!”, and, on my return home from the party, I sing it to myself all the way. I do think that air one of the happiest your happy genius ever threw off. It is “ wild, warbling nature all — above the reach of art!'

“ Pray don't relax in your ambition to be a popular melodist. The maker of melodies is a real poet; melody-making is a sort of distillery of the spirit of poetry, and the melodist may deny all submission in rank to the brewers and vintners of versification.”

The Metropolitan now passed into the hands of Captain Marryatt, the novelist," blunt rough diamond,” says Campbell, “ but a clever fellow and a gentleman.” He entreated the poet to remain in the editorial department; and, as they were old friends, the poet could not refuse. The Polish association, too, required his services, and he returned to London. “ I have left St. Leonard's,” he wrote on the 30th of April, “and given up my house there. It was inconvenient for me to be so far from town ; but I shall always have a kindly feeling to the place. The sea restored my health, and, excepting the agony I felt at the news from Poland, I never felt half a year pass over with more tolerable tranquillity. I had, besides the Milneses, some very pleasant acquaintances. My small neat house hung over the sea, almost like the stern of a ship.” His whole life was now engrossed with the cause of Poland.

“ His devotion to it,” says Dr. Madden in his recollections furnished to Dr. Beattie, “ was a passion, that had all the fervor of patriotism, the purity of philanthropy, the fidelity of a genuine love of liberty. I was with him on the day he received an account of the fall of Warsaw. Never in my life did I see a man so stricken with profound sorrow! He

a

looked utterly woe-begone ; his features were haggard, his eyes sunken, his lips pale, his color almost yellow. I feared that if this prostration of all energy of mind and body continued, his life or his reason must have sunk under the blow.”

The poet's letters give a lively impression of his habits and mode of life at this time :

May 31st. - We have had a dinner in the Association Chambers, - the room where Milton wrote his • Defence of the People of England!' Prince Czartoryski, and the other Poles now in London, were our guests; and we sat down fifty-three in number. Never did a fête go off better. The Rev. Dr. Wade, in full canonicals, offered a solemn prayer in form of grace, which was strikingly impressive.

“ I was in the chair. When we had the cloth removed, at seven P. M., I had not one word prepared for the score of toasts I had to give. But I felt no difficulty in speaking, except that of being overcome by my feelings; and the general feeling was so strong, that one of the Birmingham deputies, a noble-looking man, burst into tears, and sobbed audibly."

June 28th. — The affairs of Poland are getting more and more interesting * We have got the subject into Parliament. We have auxiliary Polish societies in the provinces. Everywhere the subject stirs up indignation and enthusiasm ; and, though one's interest in it is painful, it is still an irresistible subject. The business of the association has accordingly engrossed much of my time. I have letters in French, German, and even Latin, to write, — for we have correspondence as far as Hungary,— and these afford me nothing like a sinecure.”

June 28th. — You have heard that a strong party of my friends have already agreed to bring me in (if they can) for Glasgow. What my chance is, I believe no mortal alive, without preternatural powers, could determine. But I am really not at all anxious to get into Parliament.”

July 31st. — After full and frequent deliberation, I have come to the resolution not to make the attempt to get into Parliament. If I were elected to-morrow, - elected even for Glasgow,- I am con vinced that the seeming good fortune would be a misfortune to me. I find myself implicated in the Polish Association to a degree that half absorbs my time and attention. The German question - another

[ocr errors]

* " But my

and the same with the Polish - involves me also in correspondence with the German patriots ; and really, at this moment, my own private studies are so much impeded, that to go into Parliament - even if I could get into it - would be my ruin."

Aug. 25th. – Here, in the Polish Chambers, I daily parade the main room, - a superb hall, - where all my books are ensconced, and where old • Nol' used to give audience to his foreign ambassadors."

Sept. 28th. - I am not dissatisfied with my existence, as it is now occupied. * I get up at seven, write letters for the Polish Association until half-past nine, breakfast, go to the club, and read the newspapers till twelve. Then I sit down to my own studies; and with many, and, alas ! vexatious interruptions, do what I can till four. I then walk round the Park, and generally dine out at six. Between nine and ten I return to chambers, read a book, or write a letter ; and go to bed always before twelve.own proper business, you will ask, - what is that? Why, now, it is, in earnest, the Life of Mrs. Siddons. How it has been impeded I can scarcely tell you. The Metropolitan will hardly account for it,

- though, really, my random contributions to that journal break up more time than you would imagine. But our journal, Polonia, has imposed a great deal of trouble upon me."

Dec. 4th. About four-score refugees have been supported or relieved, and sent abroad, by our society. But the task of doing so was left entirely to your humble servant and our indefatigable and worthy secretary, Adolphus Bach. He has injured his business, as a German jurist, by giving up so much of his time for this purpose ; and I have injured my health.”

At this time Campbell occupied an attic at the Polish chambers, in Duke-street, which is now distinguished by a marble tablet affixed by his friend Bach, and bearing the following inscription : “In this attic Thomas Campbell, Hope's bard, and mourning Freedom's hope, lived and thought, A. D. MDCCCXXXII., while at the head of the Literary Association of the friends of Poland, his creation. Divine virtutis pietati amicitia, MDCCCXLVII. A. B. col.In the summer of 1833 he became more intimate than hitherto with Dr. Beattie, and went to reside at his cottage, in Hampstead. He immediately took possession of a room, which he designated as" Campbell's ward," the

[ocr errors]

name by which it is still known. In this pleasant village he passed his time in morning walks on the heath, visits to Mrs. Joanna Baillie and her sister, and in such literary pursuits as amused, without fatiguing or exciting him. His health rapidly improved under the watchful care of his friendly physician, to whom he was chiefly indebted for whatever comfort and happiness he enjoyed in his later years. These visits he frequently repeated, and, whenever he found himself suffering in health or spirits, “ Well,” he would say, “I must come into hospital!" and, packing up his valise, would repair to Campbell ward. Dr. Beattie was not only a skilful physician, but a man of letters, and an enthusiastic admirer of the poet's genius. The effect of his visits to the pleasant villa of his friend, and the society of Hampstead, is well described in a letter of the poet to his sister. He is speaking of Dr. Beattie.

“ His society," he

says, “and that of his wife and sister, have been to me a sort of moral medicine, they are such kind, amiable, and happy people. Beattie has been a fortunate man. * He married a charming woman. * * Their home is a little picture of paradise ! * I cannot describe to you how they have tended your brother's health.”

The Life of Mrs. Siddons was not fairly off his hands till the middle of 1834, having been originally written for one volume octavo, and expanded to two volumes for the accommodation of the booksellers. Campbell thought the matter would “ bear diffusion,” but we imagine the work must have suffered in the process. Having put the corrections to the last sheet, Campbell started for Paris, which he had not visited for twenty years. There the Polish Literary Society immediately waited upon him with a complimentary address, and a public dinner was given him, at which Prince Czartoryski presided. He was still occupied with literary projects, and commenced the collection of materials for a work on the Geography of Classical History. He wrote to Dr. Beattie that he was studying twelve hours a day. During his researches in the king's library he cast his eyes on a point of the map, the ancient Roman city of Icosium, that corresponded with the site of Algiers. It occurred to him that the recent French conquest might develop more interesting matters than were to be found in the labors of the classic topographers, and, closing his book, with all his soul he wished himself at Algiers. His old propensity for roving took possession of him, and, finding that he had the money necessary at his command, he determined to gratify it.

On his arrival at Algiers, he took lodgings in the house of a gentleman who had been an old officer of Napoleon's staff, then a merchant, but a great amateur of music, painting and natural history. Campbell first called on him to see his cabinet of Moorish antiquities, not knowing that he had apartments to let. Learning this, he went the next day to inquire their price. “ It is only,” he replied, “ for fear of hurting your feelings, that I do not offer them to you for nothing,” and named a price far below their value. “ Monsieur Descousse," the traveller rejoined, “ they are worth twice that rent; I am rather a rich man than otherwise, and let me pay for them what is fair and just.” He would not take a sou more, and this little act of courtesy seems to have gratified Campbell as much as to learn that Captain Palais, aid-de-camp of the commander in chief of the colonial army, was engaged in translating his poems, with a view to publication. At Algiers he met Chevalier Neukomm, whose acquaintance he had made at Mrs. Arkwright’s. At his instance Campbell undertook the composition of the words of an oratorio from the book of Job, and to this we owe the fragment which appears among his poems. Campbell found it impossible to versify the sublime text of the Bible without impairing it.

During his stay in Africa, he visited the whole coast of Algiers, from Bona to Oran, and penetrated seventy miles into the interior, as far as Mascara, the capital of an unconquered native province. “I have slept for several nights,” he says in a letter to his nephew, “ under the tents of the Arabs. I have heard a lion roar in his native savage freedom, and I have seen the noble animal brought in dead — measuring seven feet and a half, independently of the tail. I dined also at General Trizel's table off the said lion's tongue, and it was as nice as a neat's tongue.”

On his return from Algiers, in 1835, Campbell had a gratifying interview in Paris with Louis Philippe, who was curious to learn the state of the province from an intelligent Englishman, and received him with marked courtesy and respect. When the poet arrived in London, he looked and felt - some years younger” than when he commenced his travels. His mind and body were restored to their old tone and elasticity, and Dr. Beattie says that he never appeared to greater

« PreviousContinue »