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Margaret and Dora,
A Thought suggested by the New Year,
LIFE OF CAMPBELL.
THE following spirited, and evidently truthful, account of the Life of Thomas Campbell, appeared in Fraser's Magazine for November, 1844.
I WISH to write about Thomas Campbell in the spirit of impartial friendship: I cannot say that I knew him long, or that I knew him intimately. I have stood, when a boy, between his knees; he has advised me in my literary efforts, and lent me books. I have met him in mixed societies have supped with him in many of his very many lodgings-have drunk punch of his own brewing from his silver bowl-have mingled much with those who knew and understood him, and have been at all times a diligent inquirer, and, I trust, recorder of much that came within my immediate knowledge about him. But let me not raise expectation too highly. Mr. Campbell was not a communicative man; he knew much, but was seldom in the mood to tell what he knew. He preferred a smart saying, or a seasoned or seasonable story; he trifled in his table-talk, and you might sound him about his contemporaries to very little purpose. Lead the conversation as
you liked, Campbell was sure to direct it in a different way. He had no arrow-flights of thought.' You could seldom awaken a recollection of the dead within him; the mention of no eminent contemporary's name called forth a sigh, or an anecdote, or a kind expression. He did not love the past he lived for to-day and for to-morrow, and fed on the pleasures of hope, not the pleasures of memory. Spence, Boswell, Hazlitt, or Henry Nelson Coleridge, had made very little of his conversation; old Aubrey, or the author of Polly Peacham's jests, had made much more, but the portrait in their hands had only been true to the baser moments of his mind; we had lost the poet of Hope and Hohenlinden in the coarse sketches of anecdote and narrative which they told and drew so truly.
Thomas Campbell was born in Glasgow, on the 27th of July, 1777, the tenth and youngest child of his parents. His father was a merchant in that city, and in his sixtyseventh year when the poet (the son of his second marriage) was born. He died, as I have heard Campbell say, at the great age of ninety-two. His mother's maiden name was Mary Campbell.
Mr. Campbell was entered a student of the High School at Glasgow, on the 10th of October, 1785. How long he remained there no one has told us. In his thirteenth year he carried off a bursary from a competitor twice his age, and took a prize for a translation of "The Clouds" of Aristophanes, pronounced unique among college exercises. Two other poems of this period were "The Choice of Paris," and "The Dirge of Wallace."
When Galt, in 1833, drew up his autobiography, he inserted a short account of Campbell. "Campbell," says Galt, "began his poetical career by an Ossianic poem, which his schoolfellows published by subscription, at two-pence apiece;' my old schoolfellow, Dr. Colin Campbell, was a subscriber. The first edition of The Pleasures of Hope' was also by subscription, to which I was a subscriber." When this was shown to Campbell,
by Mr. Macrone, just before the publication of the book, the poet's bitterness knew no bounds. "He's a dirty blackguard, sir," said Campbell; “and, sir, if Mr. Galt were in good health, I would challenge him; I feel disposed to do so now, the blackguard." "What's to be done?" said Macrone; "the book is printed off, but I will cancel it, if you like." Here the heading of the chapter, "A Two-penny Effusion," attracted Campbell's attention, and his thin, restless lips quivered with rage. "Look here, sir," said Campbell, "look what the dirty blackguard's done here!" and he pointed to the words, "A Two-penny Effusion." Two cancels were then promised, and the soothed and irritated poet wrote with his own hand the following short account of his early efforts:"Campbell began his poetical career by an Ossianic poem, which was published by his schoolfellows when he was only thirteen. At fifteen he wrote a poem on the Queen of France, which was published in the Glasgow Courier. At eighteen, he printed his Elegy called Love and Madness;' and at twenty-one, before the finishing of his twenty-second year, 'The Pleasures of Hope.'
Before Campbell had recovered his usual serenity of mind, and before the ink in his pen was well dry, who should enter the shop of Messrs. Cochrane and Macrone, but the poor offending author, Mr. Galt. The autobiographer was on his way home from the Athenæum, and the poet of "Hope" on his way to the Literary Union. They all but met. Campbell avoided an interview, and made his exit from the shop by a side door. When the story was told to Galt, he enjoyed it heartily. "Campbell," said Galt, "may write what he likes, for I have no wish to offend a poet I admire; but I still adhere to the 'twopenny effusion' as a true story."
On quitting the Glasgow University, Mr. Campbell accepted the situation of a tutor in a family settled in Argyleshire. Here he composed a copy of verses, printed among his poems on the roofless abode of that sept of the