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XVI. The Bag of Gold .
Notes and Illustrations to · Italy
Memoir of Samuel Rogers.
There seems to be something so repugnant to and various passages display uncommon felicity. the pursuits of literature in habits of trade and as a whole, perhaps its chief defect is that it cominerce, that the instances have been very rare wants vigour, but the deficiency in this quality in which they have been combined in one indi- is made up in correctness and harmon Rogers vidual. The historian of the Medici, and is one of the most scrupulous of the sons of the Rogers the Poet, are almost solitary instances of lyre in his metre, and he too often sacrifices that literary taste and talent being united harmoni- harshness which sets off the smoother passages ously with traffic. Samuel Rogers is a banker in of a writer's works, and prevents sameness and London, and has been for many years at the monotony, to mere cold purity of style. Perhaps head of a most respectable firm. His father fol- no poem of equal size ever cost its author so many lowed the same business before him, and amassed hours to produce. Not satisfied with his own considerable wealih, both which became the he-corrections, he repeatedly consulted the taste of ritage of the Poet, who was born about the some of his friends; one of the most devoted of year 1762, in London ; but little or nothing is whom, Richard Sharpe, then a wholesale hatter, known of the way in which he passed his early and since Member of Parliament, has said that, years. His education was liberal, no cost having before the publication of this poem, and while been spared to render him an accomplished scho- preparing the successive editions for press, they lar. That he improved by thought and reflection had read it together several hundred times, at upon the lessons of his youth there can be no home as well as on the Continent, and in every doubt; and, it is to be presumed, he lost no op- temper of mind that varied company and varied portunity of reaping profit from the extraordinary scenery could produce. advantages which his station obtained for him.
In the year 1798, Rogers published « An EpisHe always kept the best society, both as respect-tle to a Friend, with other Poems,» and in 1812 ed rank and talent, the circle of which in the The Voyage of Columbus.» Two years aftermetropolis of England in his younger days was wards, in conjunction with Lord Byron, or more than commonly brilliant. His political rather printed in the same volume with Byron's ideas are what are styled liberal, and no one has Lara, appeared his tale of « Jacqueline ; » a poem ever been able to reproach him with the aban- which displays a strange contrast to the fire donment of a single principle with which he and energy of the author of Manfred. originally set out in life. Over most of his early and pleasing rather than striking, « Jacqueline, » friends and companions the grave has now closed, though well received, contributed little to inand they included among them many great crease its author's reputation. « Huinan Life,»
next to the Pleasures of Memory, is the most With a strong attachment for the Muses, after finished production of Rogers. The subject was the excellent education Rogers received, it is not a good one, for it was drawn from universal surprising that he ventured before the public. His nature, and connected with all those rich assofirst work was an «Ode to Superstition, and ciations which increase in attraction as other Poems,” which appeared in 1786. This journey onwards in the path of life. It is was followed by a second publication, « The Pleasures of Memory,» when he had passed the · This gentleman has carried the art of brilliant and greenness of youth, having attained his thirtieth interesting conversation to an unprecedented degree of year. In 1792 this poem was received by the perfection, having in fact reduced it to a matter of mere public with universal applause. The subject was
business, as systematic as Book-Keeping. He keeps an
index to his multitudinous common-place books; and has happily chosen, coming home to the business and
a debtor and creditor account with his different circles of bosoms of all; it was executed with great care, the jokes let off or the set speeches made.
an epitome of man from the cradle to the grave, conduct of either, by the regulations of social and is executed throughout with the poet's intercourse. wonted care.
Our poet has travelled much out of his own The friendship of Rogers with Sheridan and country, and he is not less a master of manners with Byron is well known. When the great in the better classes of society abroad than at wit, dramatist, and orator, was near the close of home. His Sketches in Italy,” prove that he his career, neglected by those who were fore- was no unobservant sojourner abroad; and as most in the circle of friends when he enjoyed his opportunities for observation were great, he health and prosperity, the individual who l'e- did not fail to profit by them proportionately.lieved the wants of the dying man was Rogers; This may be noticed in his conversation, which whose opulence of purse enabled him to do is always amusing and instructive; and, more parthat act of benevolence to his friend, which ticularly when, visiting the circles of his fashionmust ever be one of his most gratifying remi-able or learned friends, he becomes the spokesniscences. It is seldom poets are so well enabled man on some topic which interests him, and which to meet the aspirations of their hearts towards he sees affording gratification to others. others. A dispute on the appearance of Moore's Rogers never entered upon the stormy ocean « Life of Sheridan,» very warmly ke up con- of politics. This is singular, from the number nected with this circunstance. It was said that of his political friends, and the example set him a friend of Sheridan, of no less rank than the pre- by his father. The elder Rogers was renowned sent King of England himself, had been among in the annals of parliamentary elections for a sethose who, in his last moments, were regardless of vere contest with Colonel Holroyd, subsequently the pecuniary necessities of the dying man; that Lord Sheffield, in dividing the suffrages of at last, when no longer necessary, sum | the city of Coventry, when the obstinacy of of money was sent by the royal order, which the combat attracted much attention. He has Sheridan returned, saying that it came too late, wisely preferred the gratification of a pure a friend having furnished him with all he should taste, and the interchanges of urbanity, to the require while life remained. Loyalty never stirring hazards of political ambition : notwithJacks defenders, or perhaps the Prince of Wales standing which he is a warm partisan of the was not to blame, as tales of distress are always principles he has chosen, and understands well slow in reaching the ears of individuals in how to maintain them. What he has done every august stations. However the matter might have way proves that he is conscious of his own powers, been, the affair was warmly disputed in respect but careless of indulging them, though much in to the implied royal neglect, and remains still this respect may no doubt be attributed to his in as much uncertainty as ever; but Rogers unceasing attention to the calls of business, from gloriously carried off the palm of friendship and which he never allows himself to be diverted. feeling on the occasion, let the truth lie which
Rogers is now in the « sere and yellow leaf » side it may, in respect of the tender from a of human vegetation. He is the kind, agreeable, higher quarter. Byron and Rogers were on affable old man; but there is nothing beyond the terms of great intimacy, both in England and good and amiable in character depicted upon a during the poet's residence in Italy. In that countenance by no means the best formed and medley of truth and falsehood, the « Recollections most impressive of the species, if the features are of Byron» by Medwin, the noble poet is described separately considered. His habits are remarkably as alluding to a singular talent for epigram, which regular, and his conduct governed by that urbaRogers is made to possess. This talent, however, nity and breeding which show he has been achas been very sparingly employed. Certain customed to iningle most in the best society. buffoons and scribblers in Sunday newspapers, He takes a great interest in all that promotes the who have been opposed from political principles, improvement of the state and contributes to the or rather whose pay at the moment was on the comfort and happiness of his fellow-men. In opposite side to that taken by the venerable short, Rogers, like all men of genius, if possesspoet, impudently ascribed a thousand bons-mots ing certain eccentricities, is gifted with the imand repartees to Rogers, whom they never saw press of high intellect which belongs to that chain their lives, and which they manufactured racter, and which makes it so distinguished above themselves. His skill in writing epigram, how the herd of mankind. There is about Rogers, ever, is acknowledged ; but what he has produced however, a sort of otium cum dignitate which is the work of the scholar and the gentleman ; seems to repress his energies, and to keep inacfor there is not an individual in existence less tive a spirit which, had it been less indebted to likely to trespass on the rules prescribed for the good fortune and flung more upon its own resources, would have performed greater things. irritability of temper, his general good-nature
Among the friends of Rogers were Fox, She- and kindness,-for he shows no tincture of envy ridan, Windham, and a galaxy of distinguish- in his character, -contribute largely to increase ed names, when they were in the zenith of the influence and impression made by his judgtheir glory. To the illustrious nephew of Fox, ment. the well-known Lord Holland, and to his friends Such is the sum of all which is known of Saof the same political party, Rogers still adheres. muel Rogers,-a poet who never rises to the He is accounted one of the literary coterie at Hol- height of Byron or Campbell, but who is of the land House, the hospitable receptacle of men of same school. He is remarkable principally for talent from all countries and of all creeds. He is the elegance and grace of his compositions, which introduced in the Novel of Glenarvon, at the he polishes up and smooths off as if he valued court of the Princess of Madagascar (a character only their brilliancy and finish, and forgot that intended for Lady Holland); and perhaps the strength and force are essential to poetic harmoname of no individual is more on the lips of a ny and the perfection of metrical style. Notwithcertain fashionable order of persons who are at standing this defect, Rogers will be read and adtached to literary pursuits, than that of Rogers. mired while the English language continues to be His opinion is looked up to, and justly, one of used or spoken in his native islands. great weight; and though not devoid of a certain