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THOMAS CAMPBELL ***




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THOMAS CAMPBELL

[Illustration]




FAMOUS SCOTS SERIES


_The following Volumes are now ready_: -

THOMAS CARLYLE. By HECTOR C. MACPHERSON.
ALLAN RAMSAY. By OLIPHANT SMEATON.
HUGH MILLER. By W. KEITH LEASK.
JOHN KNOX. By A. TAYLOR INNES.
ROBERT BURNS. By GABRIEL SETOUN.
THE BALLADISTS. By JOHN GEDDIE.
RICHARD CAMERON. By Professor HERKLESS.
SIR JAMES Y. SIMPSON. By EVE BLANTYRE SIMPSON.
THOMAS CHALMERS. By Professor W. GARDEN BLAIKIE.
JAMES BOSWELL. By W. KEITH LEASK.
TOBIAS SMOLLETT. By OLIPHANT SMEATON.
FLETCHER OF SALTOUN. By G. W. T. OMOND.
THE “BLACKWOOD” GROUP. By Sir GEORGE DOUGLAS.
NORMAN MACLEOD. By JOHN WELLWOOD.
SIR WALTER SCOTT. By Professor SAINTSBURY.
KIRKCALDY OF GRANGE. By LOUIS A. BARBÉ.
ROBERT FERGUSSON. By A. B. GROSART.
JAMES THOMSON. By WILLIAM BAYNE.
MUNGO PARK. By T. BANKS MACLACHLAN.
DAVID HUME. By Professor CALDERWOOD.
WILLIAM DUNBAR. By OLIPHANT SMEATON.
SIR WILLIAM WALLACE. By Professor MURISON.
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. By MARGARET MOYES BLACK.
THOMAS REID. By Professor CAMPBELL FRASER.
POLLOK AND AYTOUN. By ROSALINE MASSON.
ADAM SMITH. By HECTOR C. MACPHERSON.
ANDREW MELVILLE. By WILLIAM MORISON.
JAMES FREDERICK FERRIER. By E. S. HALDANE.
KING ROBERT THE BRUCE. By A. F. MURISON.
JAMES HOGG. By Sir GEORGE DOUGLAS.
THOMAS CAMPBELL. By J. CUTHBERT HADDEN.


[Illustration:

THOMAS
CAMPBELL

BY
J. CUTHBERT
HADDEN

FAMOUS
SCOTS
SERIES

PUBLISHED BY
OLIPHANT ANDERSON
& FERRIER·EDINBVRGH
AND LONDON
]

The designs and ornaments of this volume are by Mr Joseph Brown, and
the printing from the press of Messrs Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh.

To

MY WIFE

WHO, BY HER QUIET HELPFULNESS AND
FAIR COMPANIONSHIP, LIGHTENS FOR ME THE
BURDENS OF THE LITERARY LIFE,
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK




PREFACE


Reviewing Beattie’s Life of Campbell in the _Quarterly_ in 1849, Lockhart
expressed the hope that no one would ever tell Campbell’s story without
making due acknowledgment to ‘the best stay of his declining period.’ He
would be a bold man who would think of doing so. As well might one expect
to write a life of Johnson without the aid of Boswell as expect to tell
Campbell’s story without reference to Dr Beattie. In addition to my
acknowledgments to him, I have to express my indebtedness to Mr Cyrus
Redding’s ‘Reminiscences of Thomas Campbell,’ which, though badly put
together, yet contain a mass of valuable information about the poet,
especially in his more intimate relations. For the rest I have made
considerable use of Campbell’s correspondence, and have, I trust,
acquainted myself with all the more important references made to him in
contemporary records, and in the writings of those who knew him. To
several of my personal friends, particularly to Mr G. H. Ely, I am obliged
for hints and helpful suggestions, which I gratefully acknowledge.

J. C. H.

EDINBURGH, _October 1899_.




CONTENTS


PAGE

CHAPTER I

ANCESTRY - BIRTH - SCHOOLDAYS 9

CHAPTER II

COLLEGE AND HIGHLAND TUTORSHIPS 20

CHAPTER III

‘THE PLEASURES OF HOPE’ 36

CHAPTER IV

CONTINENTAL TRAVELS 51

CHAPTER V

WANDERINGS - MARRIAGE - SETTLEMENT IN LONDON 66

CHAPTER VI

POETICAL WORK AND PROSE BOOKMAKING 85

CHAPTER VII

LECTURES AND TRAVELS 99

CHAPTER VIII

CLOSING YEARS 122

CHAPTER IX

PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS AND PLACE AS A POET 141




THOMAS CAMPBELL




CHAPTER I

ANCESTRY - BIRTH - SCHOOLDAYS


The Campbells, as everybody knows, can claim an incredibly long descent.
There is a Clan Campbell Society, the chairman of which declared some
years ago that he possessed a pedigree carrying the family back to the
year 420, and no doubt there are enthusiasts who can trace it to at least
the time of the Flood. The poet was not particular about his pedigree, but
the biographer of a Campbell would be doing less than justice to his
subject if he denied him that ell of genealogy which Lockhart deemed the
due of every man who glories in being a Scot.

In the present case, fortunately for the biographer, there is
authoritative assistance at hand. The poet’s uncle, Robert Campbell, a
political writer under Walpole’s administration, made a special study of
the genealogy of the Campbells; and in his ‘Life of the most illustrious
Prince John, Duke of Argyll,’ he has traced for us the descent of that
particular branch of the Clan to which the poet’s family belonged. The
descent may be stated in a few words. Archibald Campbell, lord and knight
of Lochawe, was grandson of Sir Neil, Chief of the Clan, and a celebrated
contemporary of Robert the Bruce. He died in 1360, leaving three sons,
from one of whom, Iver, sprang the Campbells in whom we are now
interested. They were known as the Campbells of Kirnan, an estate lying
in the pastoral vale of Glassary, in Argyllshire, with which, through many
generations, they became identified as lairds and heritors, ‘supporters of
the Reformation and elders in the Church.’ In a privately printed work
dealing with the Clan Iver, the late Principal Campbell of Aberdeen, who
was distantly related to the poet, gives a slightly different account of
the origin of the Kirnan Campbells, but the matter need not be dwelt upon
here. There is a suggestion, scouted by Principal Campbell, that the poet
believed himself to be remotely connected with the great ducal house of
Argyll. In some lines written ‘On receiving a Seal with the Campbell
Crest,’ he speaks of himself as having been blown, a scattered leaf from
the feudal tree, ‘in Fortune’s mutability’; and even Lady Charlotte
Campbell, a daughter of the ‘illustrious Prince John,’ hails him as a
clansman of her race, exclaiming ‘How proudly do I call thee one of mine!’

These, however, are speculations for the antiquary rather than for the
biographer. They are interesting enough in their way, but the writer of a
small volume like the present cannot afford to be discursive; and so,
leaving the arid regions of genealogy, we may be content to begin with the
poet’s grandfather, Archibald Campbell. He was the last to reside on the
family estate of Kirnan. Late in life he had taken a second wife, a
daughter of Stewart, the laird of Ascog. Before her marriage the lady had
lived much in the Lowlands, and now she said she could not live in the
Highlands: the solitude preyed upon her health and spirits. Hence it came
about that the laird of Kirnan set up house in an old mansion in the
Trunkmaker’s Row, off the Canongate of Edinburgh, where the poet’s father,
the youngest of three sons, was born in 1710.

Beyond the interesting fact that he was educated under the care of Robert
Wodrow, the celebrated historian and preacher, from whose teaching he
drew the strict religious principles which regulated his life, we hear
nothing of the earlier years of Alexander Campbell. He went to America,
and was in business for some time at Falmouth, in Virginia. There he met
with the son of a Glasgow merchant, another Campbell, to whom he was quite
unrelated, and together the two returned to Scotland to start in Glasgow
as Virginia traders. The new firm at first prospered in a high degree, for
Glasgow about the middle of the eighteenth century was just touching the
culminating point of her commerce with the American colonies. Even as
early as 1735 the Glasgow merchants had fifteen large vessels engaged in
the tobacco trade alone. But the outbreak of the American War in 1775 put
a speedy end to the city’s success in this direction. ‘Some of the
Virginia lords,’ says Dr Strang, ‘ere long retired from the trade, and
others of them were ultimately ruined. Business for a time was in fact
paralysed, and a universal cry of distress was heard throughout the town.’

Of course the Campbell firm suffered with the rest. Beattie, who had
access to the books, declares that Alexander Campbell’s personal loss
could not have been less than twenty thousand pounds. Whatever the sum
was, it represented practically the whole of Campbell’s savings. This was
a serious blow to a man of sixty-five, with ten surviving children and an
eleventh child expected. He set himself to retrieve his fortunes as best
he could, but he never recovered his position; and we are told that his
family henceforward had to be brought up on an income - partly derived from
boarders - that barely sufficed to purchase the common necessaries of life.
It was, however, in these days of declining fortunes that the family was
destined to receive its most notable member. The eleventh and last child,
anticipated perhaps with misgiving, was Thomas Campbell, who was born on
the 27th of July 1777, his father being then sixty-seven, and his mother
some twenty-five years less.[1]

It will be well to say here all that needs farther to be said about the
poet’s parents. Alexander Campbell belonged to a Scottish type now all but
extinct - stolid, meditative, somewhat dour, fond of theology and the
abstract sciences: leading the family devotions in extempore prayer;
regarding the Sunday sermon as essential to salvation, and less concerned
about the amount of his income than about his honour and integrity. As his
son puts it:

Truth, standing on her solid square, from youth
He worshipped - stern, uncompromising truth.

That he was a man of character and intelligence is clear from the fact
that he numbered among his intimates such distinguished men as Adam Smith
and Dr Thomas Reid, the successive occupants of the Moral Philosophy Chair
at Glasgow. When Reid published his ‘Inquiry into the Human Mind,’ he gave
a copy to Alexander Campbell, who read it and said he was edified by it.
‘I am glad you are pleased with it,’ remarked Reid; ‘there are now at
least two men in Glasgow who understand my work - Alexander Campbell and
myself.’ He had the saving grace of humour, too, this old Virginia trader,
though, from a specimen given, it was apparently not of a very brilliant
kind. Some of the boys were discussing the best colours for a new suit of
clothes. ‘Lads,’ said the father, whose propensity for punning not even
chagrin at the law’s delays could suppress, ‘lads, if you wish to get a
lasting suit, get one like mine. I have a suit in the Court of Chancery
which has lasted thirty years, and I think it will never wear out.’ The
worthy man lived to the patriarchal age of ninety-one, dying in
Edinburgh - whither he had retired with his household three years
before - in 1801. In his last days ‘my son Thomas’ was the main theme of
his conversation.

Alexander Campbell had not married until he reached his forty-sixth year,
and then he chose the young sister of his partner, an energetic girl of
twenty-one. It must have been from her that the son drew his poetic
strain. She is spoken of as ‘an admirable manager and a clever woman,’
and, what is of more interest, ‘a person of much taste and refinement.’
She brought to the home the poetry in counterpoise to her husband’s
philosophy. Like Leigh Hunt’s mother, she was ‘fond of music, and a gentle
singer in her way’: her poet son, as we shall find, was also fond of
music, sang a little, and was, in his earlier years at least, devoted to
the flute. To her children she was certainly not over-indulgent; indeed
she is said to have been ‘unnecessarily severe or even harsh’; but the
mother of so large a family, with ordinary cares enhanced by the necessity
for practising petty economies, would have been an angel if she had always
been sweet and gracious. Between her and her youngest boy there seems to
have been a particular affection, and when he began to make some stir in
the world, no one was more elated with pardonable pride than she. There is
a story told of her having asked a shopman to address a parcel to ‘Mrs
Campbell, mother of the author of “The Pleasures of Hope.”’ She survived
her husband for eleven years, and died in Edinburgh in 1812, at the age of
seventy-six.

The house in which Campbell and his family resided at the time of the
poet’s birth, was a little to the west of High Street near the foot of
Balmanno Brae, and in the line of the present George Street. Beattie,
writing in 1849, speaks of it as having long since disappeared under the
march of civic improvement, and as a matter of fact it was demolished in
1794 when George Street was opened up. The Glasgow of 1777 was of course a
very different place from what it is to-day - very different from what it
was when Defoe could describe it as ‘one of the cleanest, most beautiful,
and best-built cities of Great Britain’; when Smollett, himself a Glasgow
youth, saw in it ‘one of the prettiest towns in Europe.’ In 1777 Glasgow
was only laying the foundations of her commercial prosperity. She had, it
is true, established her tobacco trade with the American plantations, and
her sugar trade with the West Indies, but her character as the seat of an
ancient Church and University had not been materially altered thereby.

Even in 1773, when Johnson, on his way back from the Hebrides, had a look
round her sights, he found learning ‘an object of wide importance, and the
habit of application much more general than in the neighbouring University
of Edinburgh.’ Trade and letters still joined hands, so that Gibbon could
not inappropriately speak of Glasgow as ‘the literary and commercial
city,’ and one might still walk her streets without at every corner being
‘nosed,’ to use De Quincey’s phrase, by something which reminded him of
‘that detestable commerce.’ Whether Glasgow was altogether a meet nurse
for a poetic child may perhaps be doubted. The time came when Campbell
himself thought she was not. The town, said he, has ‘a cold, raw,
wretchedly wet climate, the very nursery of sore throats and chest
diseases.’ Redding once chaffed him about it. ‘Did you ever see Wapping on
a drizzling, wet, spring day?’ he asked in reply. ‘That is just the
appearance of Glasgow for three parts of the year.’ But Glasgow was not so
bad as yet. She was still surrounded by the cornfields and the hedgerows
and the orchards of Lanarkshire, her few streets practically within a
stone’s throw of the Cathedral and the College.

The youngest of their family, the son of the father’s old age, Thomas
Campbell was naturally thought much of by his parents. He had been
baptized by, and indeed named after, Dr Thomas Reid, and the old Virginia
merchant is said to have had a presentiment that he would in some way or
other do honour to his name and country. What proud father has not thought
the same? That he was regarded as a precocious child goes without saying.
We are told that he uttered quaint, old-fashioned remarks which were ‘much
too wise for his little curly head’; and he was of so inquisitive a
turn - but then all children are inquisitive - that he found amusement and
information in everything that fell in his way. A sister, nineteen years
his senior, taught him his letters; and in 1785 he was handed over to the
care of David Allison, the scholarly master of the Grammar School. Allison
was a rigid disciplinarian of the good old type, who seems to have whipped
the dead languages into his pupils with all the energy of Gil Blas’
master. Campbell remained under him for four years. He began his studies
in such earnest that he made himself ill, and had to be removed to a
cottage at Cathcart, where for six weeks he was nursed by an aged
‘webster’ and his wife.

No doubt the little holiday had its influence at the time; it certainly
had its influence in later life when, after a visit to the ‘green waving
woods on the margin of Cart,’ he wrote his not unpleasing stanzas on this
scene of his early youth. In any case he left the country cottage rather
reluctantly, and returned to his lessons at the Grammar School. He does
not appear to have been a particularly industrious student. He had
certainly an ambition to excel, and he was invariably at the top of his
class; but he made progress rather by fits and starts than by steady,
laborious plodding. In this respect, of course, he was only like a great
many more celebrities who have been dunces in the schoolroom. Not that
Campbell was in any sense a dunce. He was especially enamoured of the
classics; so much so, indeed, that, as Beattie gravely certifies, he
‘could declaim with great fluency at the evening fireside in the language
of Greece and Rome’; and some of the translations which he made for
Allison were considered good enough to be printed by the enthusiastic
biographer. His love for Greek, in particular, was the subject of much
remark, both then and afterwards. Redding says he could repeat thirty or
forty Greek verses applicable to any subject that might be under
discussion. Beattie, again, tells that Greek was his ‘pride and solace’
all through life; and there is good authority for saying that, even after
he had made a name as a poet, he wished to be considered a Greek scholar
first and a poet afterwards. That he was quite sincere in the matter may
be gathered from the circumstance of his having in his last days given his
niece a series of daily lessons in the language of Homer, ‘all in the
Greek character and written with his own hand.’ Nevertheless, as a
Grecian, the classical world can as well do without Thomas Campbell as the
Principal at Louvain, in ‘The Vicar of Wakefield,’ found that he could do
without Greek itself.

With all his enthusiasm for the classics, Campbell does not seem to have
been anything less of a boy than his fellows at the Grammar School. He
loved Greek, but he loved games too. There are tales of stone fights with
the Shettleston urchins, such as Scott has described in his story of
Green-breeks, and of strawberry raids in suburban gardens which for days
afterwards made him restive under the pious literature prescribed by his
father. That he was indeed a very boy is shown by at least one amusing
anecdote. His mother had a cousin, an old bedridden lady, about whose
frail tenure of life she felt much anxiety. Every morning she would send
either Tom or his brother Daniel to ask ‘how Mrs Simpson was to-day.’ One
day Tom wanted to go on a blackberry expedition; his mother wanted him to
inquire, as usual, about ‘this deil of an auld wife that would neither die
nor get better.’ Daniel suggested that there was no need to go: ‘just say
that she’s better or worse.’ The boys continued to report in this way for
weeks and months, but finding that an unfavourable bulletin only sent them
back earlier next morning, they agreed that the old lady should get
better. One day Tom announced that Mrs Simpson had quite recovered - and a
few hours later the funeral invitation arrived! Campbell, in telling the
story long after, says he was much less pained by the cuffing he received
from his mother than by a few words from his father. The old man ‘never
raised a hand to us, and I would advise all fathers who would have their
children to love their memory to follow his example.’ The wisdom is not
Solomonic, but that Campbell set much store by it is quite evident from
the frequent reference which he makes in later life to his father’s
sparing of the rod.

Meanwhile he was giving indication of his literary bent in the manner
usual with youngsters. The ‘magic of nature,’ to quote his own words, had
first ‘breathed on his mind’ during his six weeks in the country, and the
result was a ‘Poem on the Seasons,’ in which the conventional expression
of the obvious runs through some hundred lines or more. A year later, that
is to say in 1788, he wrote an elegy ‘On the death of a favourite parrot,’
of which one can only remark that it will at least bear comparison with
the reputed tribute of Master Samuel Johnson to his duck. Strange to say
among the last things which Campbell wrote were some lines on a parrot, so
that any one who is interested enough can make a critical comparison
between his elegiac poems in youth and age.

But Campbell was doing better things than calling upon Melpomene, the
queen of tears, to attend his ‘dirge of woe’ on account of poor Poll. Mr
Allison was in the habit of prescribing translations from the classics
into English, which might be either in prose or in verse, as his pupils
thought fit. Campbell chose verse. He made translations from Anacreon,
from Virgil, from Horace, and from other Greek and Latin writers, all with
a fair measure of success, considering his years. Indeed these verse
translations are much superior to his original efforts of the same and
even of later date. Beattie, who saw the manuscripts, remarked upon the
almost total absence of punctuation in them all. It seems that Campbell
regarded the art of pointing as one of the mysteries, to which for many
years he paid as little attention as if he had been an eighteenth century
lawyer’s clerk. Even as late as ‘Theodoric’ (1824), he had to ask a
literary friend to look after the punctuation in the proofs.

There was, however, no printer’s convenience to study in these early days;
and the verse translations, punctuated or not, served their purpose, not
only in bringing prizes to the young student, but in contributing towards
the acquirement of that facility in verse-making which helped to lay the
foundation of his future fame. The provoking thing was that his father did
not approve of making verses. Like Jack Lofty, he thought poetry ‘a pretty
thing enough’ for one’s wives and daughters, but not for men who have to
make their living in the world; and he would much rather have seen his son
writing in the sober prose of his beloved Doddridge and Sherlock than
after the manner of Dryden and Pope. ‘Many a sheet of nonsense have I
beside me,’ wrote Campbell in 1794, ‘insomuch that when my father comes
into my room, he tells me I would be much better reading Locke than
scribbling so.’ But Campbell believed that he had been born a poet, and
although he did not entirely ignore his father’s favourites, he kept
thumbing his Milton and other models, and informed the parent - actually in
verse too! - that while philosophers and sages are not without their
influence on the stream of life, it is after all the poet who

Refines its fountain springs,
The nobler passions of the soul.




CHAPTER II

COLLEGE AND HIGHLAND TUTORSHIPS


When Campbell said farewell to the Grammar School prior to entering his
name at College, it was observed of him that no boy of his age had ever
left more esteemed by his classfellows or with better prospects at the
University. His first College session began in October 1791. At that time
the University was located in the High Street, the classic Molendinar, as
yet uncovered, finding a way to the Clyde through its park and gardens.
Johnson thought it was ‘without a sufficient share in the magnificence of
the place’; and not unlikely the scarlet gowns worn by the students were
in Campbell’s day pretty much what they were when Wesley reported them
‘very dirty, some very ragged, and all of coarse cloth.’ But there must
have been something very pleasant about the quaint old world life which


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