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Painted by Sir Thomas Lanrence P.A.A_ Engraved by R. Groper.
Copied with permifsion from the British Gallery of Conte roary Portraits.
JULY 1, 1823.
MEMOIR OF THOMAS CAMPBELL, ESQ. Another guest there was, of sense refin'd, Who felt each worth, for every worth he had; Serene, yet warm; humane, yet firm his mind; As little touch'd as any man's with bad: Him through their inmost walks the Muses led, To him the sacred love of Nature lent, And sometimes would he make our valley glad.' CASTLE OF INDOLENCE. THE retirement in which authors live in these times, when compared with their former notoriety, is certainly very remarkable. Beyond that circle of intimate friends which surrounds every man, little indeed is known of the personal character of writers whose works are familiar as household words' to a considerable portion of the community. Besides the prevalent customs of society, one great cause of this is that there is really little in their concerns to interest the public attention: they are generally quiet and retiring persons; and unless, like Lord Byron, they have created a mysterious interest by eccentricities and coquetry, or, like Mr. Cobbett, by mere impudence and scurrility, folks in general care as little as they know about them. What more can be said by way of memoir than to specify the time of their births, and the periods and complexion of their works? If, then, our memoirs of authors should seem occasionally scanty, the benevolent reader must not blame us, but the barrenness of our poets' lives.
Thomas Campbell, Esq. the subject of our present labours, is an instance of this barrenness. He is nothing in the world but a gentleman and a poet; and we believe that by no action of his life has he ever placed his true claim to either of those characters in the slightest doubt. He is a native of Glasgow, where he first saw the light in the year 1777. He was educated at the grammar-school of that city, under the venerable Dr. Alison, who gained a well-merited reputation for the proficiency which his pupils acquired in the classics, and in polite learning of every description. Mr. Campbell is an exception to the common and often just opinion, that young men who distinguish themselves at college fail to realize the expectations of their youthful exertions. Nothing could be more brilliant or triumphant than his college career. He was entered of the University of Glasgow at the age of twelve, and in the following year gained an exhibition, or, as it is called there, a bursary on the foundation, by a victory over the man then bearing the reputation of the first scholar, and who was, besides, twice as old as our poet. During the whole of his academical course he gained every prize for which he tried, and his genius became so much the more remarkable, because to astonishing facility and aptness he added that, the want of which has been the ruin of many a man perhaps as eminently gifted by nature-unremitting industry. His study was even more remarkable than his success, and procured the advantage of the regard and friendship of many of the most eminent of his countrymen. His translations from the Greek dramatists were highly and deservedly VOL. 1. July, 1823. Br. Mag.
praised, and on the last of them the Glasgow professor pronounced a high eulogium when he awarded to it the prize.
On quitting college Mr. Campbell went to reside in Edinburgh, where he published his Pleasures of Hope. This poem has long been before the public, and is so well appreciated that we feel it unnecessary to say more than that, for correctness and beauty, it is unrivalled among modern poetry. It has been objected that there is a certain appearance of labour in the poetry: this may be true; but, if this be the only price which is to be paid for correctness, we should be sorry to quarrel with it. We have had quite enough of irregular poetry lately, and we are glad to see that one poet, at least, knows that verse is not to be dispatched with rapidity and carelessness.
Mr. Campbell visited the continent in the year 1800, and remained there about a year, the greater part of which time he spent in Germany. Here he contracted an acquaintance with some of the most eminent men of that nation, and, among others, with the aged Klopstock, whose character is said to be of the most amiable description. On his return to England Mr. Campbell visited London for the first time, and here he took up his abode, turning his whole attention to literary pursuits. He married in 1803 and went to reside at Sydenham, where we believe he still lives.
Although constantly employed in literary labour, Mr. Campbell, with that fastidiousness which is so natural to a man of his genius, has not chosen to acknowledge any but his poetical works, wisely considering that, as his fame must rest upon them, it would be injurious to mix it with the baser matter of his more useful but less eminent writings. He is said to be the author of a history of the late King's reign, which is remarkable for the ease of its style and the impartiality of its relation. In 1809 he published Gertrude of Wyoming and other poems. This tale, which is written in the Spencerian stanza, is no less excellent than the Pleasures of Hope, and from its nature is perhaps more popular: if he had written this alone, he would have done enough to entitle him to a place among the best of living poets.
Mr. Campbell is the Professor of Poetry to the Royal Institution, where he has delivered lectures on poetry, since published in the New Monthly Magazine, of the New Series of which he has become the editor. They are acute and elegant, and amply justify the choice which placed him in the office he holds. He has also published a Selection of the Beauties of the English Poets: of the taste displayed in this as a selection we cannot speak in the highest terms, because we think it might have been made much better; but we should find it difficult to point out a specimen of more elegant and correct English prose than is contained in the volume which forms the introduction to that collection.
Mr. Campbell's recent productions have been confined to songs and other lyrical pieces with which he occasionally enriches the pages of the New Monthly Magazine.
We may regret but we cannot blame the rarity of his publications; he knows better than any other person when he ought to write: he cannot be insensible to the voice of praise who has taken much pains to deserve it, and we must wait until his leisure shall allow or his judgment sanction his appearance before the public. We are happy to be enabled to add that, in his private relations, Mr. Campbell is as remarkable for the amiability of his temper and conduct as he is distinguished in the literary world for the powers of his mind.
THEI SLAND; OR, CHRISTIAN AND HIS COMRADES.
BY THE RIGHT HON. LORD BYRON.
FREQUENT sneers have been launched by Black wood's Magazine against Mr. Murray, whom they nicknamed the Emperor of the West; in all these, however, there was no great harm, because it was evident that mere envy prompted them. A much more serious accident has, however, now fallen upon poor Mr. Murray, for it seems that Lord Byron has withdrawn his countenance from that eminent bibliopole. A poem has just been published by Mr. John Hunt with the noble author's name in the titlepage. We do not profess to be in the secret, but we must wonder at the change, if it is by Lord Byron's desire.
The poem before us is touching the mutineers of the Bounty, and the first part of it is nothing more than a paraphrase in verse, not of the best kind, of Captain Bligh's account of that event. The simplicity so touching in the original is lost in the paraphrase; and we humbly think the subject is not well suited for the purposes of poetry. But the really interesting part of the volume is a sort of Episode describing the manner of Torquil's escape, favoured by the fair Neuha, a youthful South-Sea islander, to whom Mr. Torquil was married: the idea of this is taken from Mariner's Account of the Tonga Islands, and the tradition upon which it is founded is there universally credited. When a pursuit is made after the mutineers by the crew of a king's ship, Neuha takes Torquil into her canoe, and rows away from them. The escape is thus described:
The proa darted like a shooting star,
And gained on the pursuers, who now steered
And yielded scarce to Torquil's manlier strength.
With nought but soundless waters for its base;
And yon huge rock the tombstone of the wave ?"
Neuha, and, pointing to the approaching foes,
The wave rolled on, no ripple on its face,
Who left no marble (mournful as an heir)
Glared in his figure, more than mortal tall;
But no-he had melted from them like the spray.
And where was he, the Pilgrim of the Deep,
Wrung life and pity from the softening waves?
Young Neuha plunged into the deep, and he
So smoothly, bravely, brilliantly she went,
The depths where divers hold the pearl in chase,
The way then upward soared—and as she spread
* Of this cave (which is no fiction) the original will be found in the 9th chapter of Mariner's Account of the Tonga Islands. I have taken the poetical liberty to transplant it to Toobonai, the last island where any distinct account is left of Christian and his comrades.'