Samuel Rogers.

Recollections of the table-talk of Samuel Rogers : to which is added Porsoniana online

. (page 1 of 19)
Online LibrarySamuel RogersRecollections of the table-talk of Samuel Rogers : to which is added Porsoniana → online text (page 1 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook









Table-talk of samuel Rogers.














Samuel Kogeus was born at Stoke Newiugton, SOtli July,
17G3. His first publication, An Ode to Siiperstilion, ivUh
some other Poems, ajDpeared in 1786 ; at which period the
coldly classic Mason (then a veteran) and the feeble Hay-
ley were perhaps the most popular of our living poets :
Cowper, though The Task* was in print, had scarcely
won all his fame; Crabbe had put forth only his earlier
pieces ; and Darwin was yet to come. By The Pleasures
of Memory^ in 1792, Mr, Rogers rose to high reputation ;
which he fully maintained by his Epistle to a Friend,
with other Poems, in 1798, He gave nothing new to the
public till 1812, when he added Columhusi to a re-im-
pression of his Poems. It was succeeded, in 1814 by his

* The second volume of Cowper's Poems, containing The Tasli,
is noticed with high praise in The Gentleman's Matjazine for
Dec. 1785.

t Seep. 153 (note) in the present volume.


Jacqueline^ in 181'J by his Human Life^ and in 1822 by
the First Part*- of his Italy, which was not completed
till several years after, and which closes the series of
his works. During the long remainder of his days he
confined himself to a few copies of occasional verses, one
of them composed so late as ISSo.f — Of all that Mr.
Rogers has written, Tlic Pleasures of Memory and the
Epistle to a Friend have been generally the most ad-
mired : it is questionable, however, if Human Life will not
be regarded by posterity as his master-piece, — as pre-eminent
in feeling, in graceful simplicity of diction, and in freedom
of versification.

Mr. Rogers commenced life by performing the duties
of a clerk in his fiither's banking-house ; but after in-
heriting a large share of the concern, he ceased to take
an active part in its management ; and, himself an object
of interest to society, he associated on familiar terms,
during more than two generations, with all who were
most distinguished for rank and political influence, or most
eminent in literature and art. — Genius languishing for
want of patronage was sure to find in Mr. Rogers a

* PuWished anonymously : see Literary Gazette tov January Id,
1822, where its reviewer thinks " there can be little hesitation in
ascribing it to Southey."

t See the lines, " Hence to the altar," &c,, in hisPocjiis, p. 305,
ed. 1853.

PllEFACE. vii.

generous patron. His purse was ever open to the dis-
tressed : — of tlie prompt assistance wliich he rendered in
the hour of need to various well-known individuals there
is ample record ; but of his many acts of kindness and
charity to the wholly obscure there is no memorial— at
least on earth.

The taste of JNIr, Rogers had been cultivated to the
utmost refinement ; and, till the failure of his mental
powers a short time previous to his death, he retained
that love of the beautiful which was in him a passion :
when more than ninety, and a prisoner to his chair, he
still delighted to watch the changing colours of the even-
ing sky, — to repeat passages of his favourite poets, —
or to dwell on the merits of the great painters whose
works adorned his walls. — By slow decay, and without
any suffering, he died in St. James's Place, 18th December,

From my first introduction to Mr. Rogers, I was in
the habit of writing down, in all their minutiae, the
anecdotes, &c. with which his conversation abounded ;
and once on my telling him that I did so, he expressed
himself pleased, — the rather, perhaps, because he some-
times had the mortification of finding impatient listeners.
Of those memoranda, which gradually accumulated to a
large mass, a selection is contained in the following

viii. PREFACE,

pages; the subjects being arranged (as far as such mis-
cellaneous matter would admit of arrangement) under
distinct heads : and nothing having been inserted which
was likely to hurt the feelings of the living.

A. D.



I WAS taught by my mother, from my earhest in-
fancy, to be tenderly kind towards the meanest liv-
ing thing; and, however people may laugh, I some-
times very carefully put a stray gnat or wasp out
at the window. — My friend Lord Holland, though a
kind-hearted man, does not mind killing flies and
wasps; he says, "I have no feeling for msects." —
"When I was on the Continent with Richard Sharp,
we one day observed a woman amusing her child by
holding what we at first thought was a mouse tied
to a string, with which a cat was playing. Sharp
was all indignation at the sight ; till, on looking
more closely, he found that the supposed mouse was


a small rat; upon which he exclauiied, "Oh, I have
no pity for luts! " — People choose to give the term
vermin to those animals that happen to like what
they themselves like ; wasps eat peaches, and they
call them vermin. — I can hardly persuade myself
that there is no compensation in a future existence
for the sufferings of animals in the present life,''' —
for instance, when I see a horse in the streets un-
mercifully flogged by its brutal driver.

I well remember one of the heads of the rebels
upon a pole at Temple-Bar, — a black shapeless
lump. Another pole was bare, the head having
dropt from it.t

In my childhood, after doing anything wrong, I
used always to feel miserable from a consciousness

* Compare a, poem Ofi tlie Future Existence of Brutes, by Miss
Seward,— Poi?;; Worlis, ii. 58. — Ed.

f " The last heads which remained on the Bar were those of
Fletcher and Townley. 'Yesterday,' says a uews-writer of the
1st of April, 1772, ' one of the rebels' heads on Temple Bar fell
down. There is only one head now remaining.'" P. Cunning-
ham's Ilcindhook of London, sub Temj'le Bar. — Ed.


of having clone it : my parents were quite aware of
this, and therefore seldom reproved me for a fault,
— leaving me to reprove myself.

When I was about thirteen, my father and mo-
ther gave a great children's ball, at which many
grown-up folks were also present. I was dancing
a minuet with a pretty little girl ; and at the mo-
ment when I ought to have put on my hat and given
both hands to my partner, I threw the hat among
the young ladies who were sitting on benches, and
so produced great surprise and confusion in the
room. This strange feat was occasioned by my sud-
denly recollecting a story of some gallant youth who
had signalised himself in the same way.

In my boyhood, my father one day called me
and my brothers into his room, and asked us each
what professions we wished to follow. When my
turn came, I said (to my father's annoyance) that
I should like "to be a preacher;" for it was then
the height of my ambition to figure in a pulpit ; —
I thought there was nothing on earth so grand.
This predilection, I believe, was occasioned chiefly


by the admiration I felt for Dr. Price and for his
preaching. He was our neighbour (at Newington
Green), and would often drop in, to spend the
evening with us, in his dressing-gown : he would
talk, and read the Bible, to us, till he sent us to bed
in a frame of mind as heavenly as his own. He
lived much in the society of Lord Lansdowne and
other people of rank ; and his manners were ex-
tremely polished. In the pulpit he was great in-
deed, — making his hearers forget the iweacher and
think only of the subject. The passage " On Virtue,"
cited from Price in Enfield's SiJcahcr, is a very
favourite one with me, though probably it is quite
unknown to readers of the present day.


" Virtue is of intrinsic value and good desert,
and of indispensable obligation ; not the creature of
will, but necessary and immutable ; not local or tem-
porary, but of equal extent and antiquity with the
Divine Mind ; not a mode of sensation, but ever-
lasting Truth ; not dependent on power, but the
guide of all power. Virtue is the foundation of
honour and esteem, and the source of all beauty,


order and happiness in nature. It is what confers
vakie on all the other endowments and qualities of
a reasonable being, to which they ought to be ab-
solutely subservient, and without which, the more
eminent they are, the more hideous deformities and
the greater curses they become. The use of it is
not confined to any one stage of our existence, or
to any particular situation we can be in, but reaches
through all the periods and circumstances of our
being. — Many of the endowments and talents we
now possess, and of which we are too apt to be
proud, will cease entirely with the present state ;
but this will be our ornament and dignity in every
future state to which we may be removed. Beauty
and wit will die, learning will vanish away, and all
the arts of life be soon forgot ; but virtue will re-
main for ever. This unites us to the whole rational
creation, and fits us for conversing with any order
of superior natures, and for a place in any part of
God's works. It procures us the approbation and
love of all wise and good beings, and renders them
our allies and friends. — But what is of unspeakably
greater consequence is, that it makes God our friend,
assimilates and unites our minds to His, and engages


His almighty power in our defence. — Superior beings
of all ranks are bound by it no less than ourselves.
It has the same authority in all worlds that it has
in this. The further any being is advanced in ex-
cellence and perfection, the greater is his attach-
ment to it, and the more he is under its influence. —
To say no more ; it is the Law of the whole uni-
verse ; it stands first in the estimation of the Deity ;
its original is His nature ; and it is the very object
that makes him lovely.

" Such is the importance of virtue. — Of w^iat
consequence, therefore, is it that we practise it ! —
There is no argument or motive which is at all fitted
to influence a reasonable mind, which does not call
us to this. One virtuous disposition of soul is pre-
ferable to the greatest natural accomplishments and
abilities, and of more value than all the treasures
of the world. — If you are wise, then, study virtue,
and contemn every thing that can come in compe-
tition with it. Remember, that nothing else de-
serves one anxious thought or wish. Remember
that this alone is honour, glory, wealth and happi-
ness. Secure this, and you secure every thing.
Lose this, and all is lost."]


My father belonged originally to the Church of
England ; but, soon after his marriage with my
mother (a very handsome and very amiable woman),
he withdrew from it at her persuasion, and became
one of Dr. Price's hearers.

When I was a school-boy, I wore, like other
school-boys, a cocked hat ; — we used to run about
the fields, chasing butterflies, in cocked hats. Af-
ter growing up, I have walked through St. Paul's
Churchyard in a cocked hat.

I saw Garrick act only once, — the part of Ranger
in The Susjncious Husband. I remember that there
was a great crowd, and that we waited long in a
dark passage of the theatre, on our way to the pit.
I was then a little boy. My father had promised to
take me to see Garrick in Lear; but a fit of the
mumps kept me at home.

Before his going abroad, Garrick's attraction had
much decreased ; Sir William Weller Pepys said
that the pit was often almost empty. But, on his


return to England, people were mad about seeing
him ; and Sir George Beaumont and several others
used frequently to get admission into the pit, before
the doors were opened to the public, by means of
bribing the attendants, who bade them "be sure, as
soon as the crowd rushed in, to pretend to be in a
great heat, aiid to wipe their faces, as if they had
just been strugghng for entrance."

Jack Bannister told me, that one night he was
behind the scenes of the theatre when Garrick was
playing Lear ; and that the tones in which Garrick
uttered the words, "0 fool, I shall go mad!"* ab-
solutely thrilled him.

Garrick used to pay an annual visit to Lord Spen-
cer at Althorp ; where, after tea, he generally enter-
tained the company by reading scenes from Shake-
speare. Thomas Grenville,t who met him there,
told me that Garrick would steal anxious glances at

" You think I'll weep ;
No, I'll not weep.

I have full cause of weeping ; but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
Or ere I'll weep. — Ofool, I shall go mad! "

King Lear, act ii. sc. 4. — Ed.

t The Eight Honourable T. G.— Ed.


the faces of his audience, to perceive what effect his
reading produced ; that, one night, Garrick observed
a lady Hstening to him very attentively, and yet
never moving a muscle of her countenance ; and that,
speaking of her next day, he said, " She seems a very
worthy person ; but I hope that — that — that she won't
be present at my reading to-night." — Another even-
ing at Althorp, when Garrick was about to exhibit
some particular stage-effect of which they had been
talking, a young gentleman got up and placed the
candles upon the floor, that the light might be thrown
on his face as from the lamps in the theatre. Gar-
rick, displeased at his officiousness, immediately sat
down again.

My friend Maltby''' and I, when we were very
young men, had a strong desire to see Dr. Johnson ;
and we determined to call upon him and introduce
ourselves. We accordingly proceeded to his house
in Bolt Court ; and I had my hand on the knocker,
when our courage failed us, and we retreated. Many
years afterwards, I mentioned this circumstance to

* See notice at the commencement of the Porsoniana in this
vol. — Ed.


Boswell, who said, " What a pity that you did not
go boldly in ! he would have received you with all

Dr. Johnson said to an acquaintance of mine, " My
other works are wane and water ; but my Rambler is
pure wine." The world now thinks differently.

Lady Spencer recollected Johnson well, as she
used to see him often in her girlhood. Her mother.
Lady Lucan, would say, " Nobody dines with us to-
day ; therefore, child, we'll go and get Dr. Johnson."
So they would drive to Bolt Court, and bring the
doctor home wdth them.

At the sale of Dr. Johnson's books, I met Gene-
ral Oglethorpe, then very, very old, the flesh of his
face looking like parchment. He amused us young-
sters by talking of the alterations that had been
made in London and of the great additions it had
received w'ithin his recollection. He said that he
had shot snipes in Conduit Street !

By the by. General Fitzpatrick remembered the
time when St. James's Street used to be crowded
wdth the carriages of the ladies and gentlemen who


were walking in the Mall, — the ladies with their
heads in full dress, and the gentlemen carrying their
hats under their arms. The proprietors of Eanelagh
and Vauxhall used to send decoy-ducks among them,
that is, persons attired in the height of fashion, who
every now and then would exclaim in a very audible
tone, " What charming weather for Eanelagh " or
" for Vauxhall ! "

Eanelagh was a very pleasing place of amuse-
ment. There persons of inferior rank mingled with
the highest nobility of Britain. All was so orderly
and still, that you could hear the u-ldshiug sound of
the ladies' trains, as the immense assembly walked
round and round the room. If you chose, you might
have tea, which was served up in the neatest equipage
possible. The price of admission was half-a-crown.
People generally went to Eanelagh between nine and
ten o'clock.

My first attempt at authorship was a series of
papers headed The Scribbler/'- which appeared in

* T/te Scrihhler extends to eig:lit numbers, — in The Gentleman^ s
Magazine for 1781, pp. 68, 119, 168, 218, 259, 306, 355, 405 (mis-


The Gentleman's Magazine, — for what year I forget,
I have never looked at them since : I dare say they
are sad trash.

"0 Tcmpora! Mores'.

" The degeneracy of the age has ever been the
favourite theme of declamation : yet, when the sub-
ject has been attentively examined, the Moderns will
not appear inferior to the Ancients.

' ' Greece and Kome shine with peculiar lustre in
the page of history. The former contained several
states, the principal of which were Lacedsemon and

" Devoted entirely to war, the Spartans were
brave, frugal, and temperate ; but divested of every
sentiment of humanity. The reduction of Athens and
the capture of Cadmea, the execution of Agis and the
barbarity exercised on the Helotes, reflect indelible
disgrace on the annals of Lacedaemon.

paged 409), (several of the references to wliicli in Tlic General
Index to that work are wrong). The first Number is signed
u g****» jj^*««*«_'> Tiiege juvenile essays are on various subjects,
and quite up to the standard of the periodical writing of the time.
I have given, as a curiosity, No. 4 entire, — Ed.


"With a delicate taste and a fine imagination,
the Athenians were vain, inconstant, and irresokite.
If no nation ever produced more great men, no
nation ever behaved to them with such ingratitude.
Miltiades died in prison ; Aristides, Themistocles,
and Cimon, were banished ; Socrates and Phocion
were condemned to suffer death. The rest of Greece
does not present a scene more honourable to human

" Individuals appeared among the Eomans who
merit the highest encomiums. Their national cha-
racter, however, was haughty and oppressive. The
destruction of Carthage and Numantia, the murder of
the Gracchi, their injustice to the Aricians and the
Ardeates, their triumphs and their gladiatorial com-
bats, sully the glory they acquired from their patriot-
ism, moderation, and valour.

' ' Such were the Ancients ; while they cultivated
the severer, they neglected the milder virtues ; and
were more ambitious of exciting the admiration than
of deserving the esteem of posterity.

" Examples of heroic virtue cannot occur so fre-
quently among the Moderns as the Ancients, from
the nature of their political institutions ; yet Eng-


land, Holland, and Switzerland, are entitled to
greater applause than the celebrated republics of

" Generosity, sincerity, and a love of indepen-
dence, are the characteristics of the English. No
nation had ever juster ideas of liberty, or fixed it
on a firmer basis. They have concerted innumerable
establishments in favour of the indigent, and have
even frequently raised subscriptions for the relief
of their enemies, when reduced to captivity. Their
conduct indeed in India has been excessively unjust.
Nor can this appear surprising to those who reflect,
that India is under the direction of a commercial
society, conducted by its members in a distant
country ; and that its climate is fatal to the consti-
tutions of the Europeans, who visit it only with the
design of suddenly amassing wealth, and are anxious
to return as soon as that design is accomplished.

" Holland, however circumscribed in its extent,
has acquired liberty by a war of above half a cen-
tury, and risen to the highest rank among the powers
of Europe. Though the Dutch are universally en-
gaged in lucrative pursuits, neither their sentiments
are contracted, nor their ideas confined. They have


erected edifices in which age may repose, and sickness
be reheved ; and have often Hberally contributed to
the support of the persecuted. The destruction
of the De "Witts was entirely the result of a mo-
mentary passion.

" Sheltered within the fastnesses of their native
mountains, the Swiss look down with security on the
revalutions around them. Though never actuated
with the spirit of conquest, they have exhibited acts
of the most exalted heroism in defence of their
country. Industrious, yet liberal ; simple, yet en-
lightened ; their taste is not vitiated, nor their man-
ners corrupted, by the refinements of luxury.

"That the Moderns are not inferior to the An-
cients in virtue, is obvious therefore on a review of
the nations that have acted with most honour in the
grand theatre of the world. The present mode of
conducting war, not to mention any other instance,
is the most humane and judicious that has yet been

" Let us not then depreciate the Moderns. Let
us admire, let us imitate, what is laudable in anti-
quity, but be just to the merits of our contem-


The first poetry I published was the Ode to Super-
stition, in 1786. I wrote it while I was in my teens,
and afterwards touched it up." I paid down to the

* According to a note in Mr. E.'s collected poems it was
"written in 1785." — The full title of this publication is An Ode
to Sujjerstition, ovitli some otlier Poems. The small pieces an-
nexed to the Ode are, lines " To a Lady on the Death of her
Lover," "The Sailor," "A Sketch of the Alps at Day-break," and
"A Wish." The first of these Mr. Eogers thought unworthy of
preservation : but it may be subjoined here : —

" To a Lady on tlw Death of her Lover.
" Hail, pensive, pleasing Melancholy, hail !
Descend, and woo, with me, the silent shade ;
The curfew swings its sound along the gale.
And the soft moonlight sleeps in every glade.

She comes, she comes ! through **'s dusky grove,
In mild Eliza's form, I see her come !
Mourning with all the widow's vows of love
Her Henry's summons to his long, long home.

But hark ! from you bright cloud a voice she hears !
' No more, fond maid, from social pleasures fly :
' I'm sent from heaven to smile away thy tears,

* For Henry shares the triumphs of the sky.

' He's gone before but to prepare for thee ;

• And when thy soul shall wing its willing flight,
' His kindred soul, from all its fetters free,

' Will spring to meet thee in the realms of light.

' Know, ye shall then, with mutual wonder, trace
' Each little twinkling star in yon blue sphere,
' Explore what modes of being people space,
' And visit worlds whose laws he taught thee here.


publisher thirty pounds to insure him from being a
loser by it. At the end of four years, I found that
he had sold about twenty copies. However, I was
consoled by reading in a critique on the Ode that I
was " an able writer," or some such expression. — The
short copy of verses entitled Cai)tivity was also com-
posed w^hen I was a very young man. It was a
favourite with Hookham Frere, who said that it re-
sembled a Greek epigram.

My lines To the Gnat, which some of the re-
viewers laughed at, were composed in consequence
of my sufferings from the attacks of that insect
while I lived at Newington Green. My eyes used to
be absolutely swollen up with gnat-bites. I aw'oke
one morning in that condition when I was engaged

' Go, act an angel's part, be misery's friend ;
' Go, and an angel's feelings shalt thou gain.
' Each grateful spirit o'er thy couch shall bend,
' And whisper peace, when flattery's voice is vain.

' Wake from thy trance. Can virtue sink in sighs ?

* When darkness frowns, she looks beyond the tomb.
' Memory and Hope, like evening stars, arise,

* And shed their mingled rays to gild the gloom.

' Religion speaks. She bids thy sorrows cease :
' With gratitude enjoy what God has given.
' Religion speaks. She points the path to peace :
' Attend her call to happiness and heaven.' "


to spend the day at Streatham with Mr. and Mrs.
Piozzi, to meet Miss Farren (afterwards Lady Derby);
and it was only by the appHcation of laudanum to
my wounds that I was enabled to keep my engage-
ment. Nothing could exceed the elegance and re-
finement of Miss Farren's appearance and manners.

People have taken the trouble to write my Life
more than once ; and strange assertions they have
made both about myself and my works. In one
biographical account it is stated that I submitted

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibrarySamuel RogersRecollections of the table-talk of Samuel Rogers : to which is added Porsoniana → online text (page 1 of 19)