Page:The Maclise Portrait-Gallery.djvu/32

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6
THE MACLISE PORTRAIT-GALLERY.

the star of Wordsworth's genius appeared above the political horizon, to announce a new dayspring of poetry and beauty.

There is a translation into French by Albert Montemont, Pans, 1824. This is not the place for an elaborate criticism of the Spenserian "Gertrude of Wyoming," exquisitely beautiful and pathetic as much of it is; of "Theodric," which is pure, if wanting in force and spirit; or of the "Massacre of Glencoe."' Neither does the prose of Campbell, most of which was task-work, demand much notice; as the production of such a poet, it could hardly be otherwise than tasteful and felicitous, though it is too often florid and affected. Little of it is now remembered; and the greater part,—the Life of Mrs. Siddons for instance, which is perfect rubbish, full of errors, and probably the work of some vicarious drudge,— is not worth remembrance. Here, however, exception must be made to his brilliant and judicious criticisms on English poetry and poets, for a portable annotated edition of which, without the Specimens, we are indebted to the late and lost Peter Cunningham.

It is one of the crimes of Horace Walpole that he said, with reference to Chatterton, that "singing birds should not be too well fed." Be this as it may, few poets have been more liberally remunerated than Campbell. From first to last, he appears to have received nearly £1000 for the "Pleasures of Hope," making about fifteen shillings a line; than which Byron himself got no more,—receiving £2500 for "Manfred," the "Prisoner of Chillon," and the third canto of "Childe Harold."

Campbell was slow and fastidious in composition; we smell the lamp, and hear the limæ labor,—yet his local colour and incident are often faulty. Thus he places tigers on the banks of Lake Erie, hyaenas in South America, and associates the "village curfew," as it still may be heard at Bodmin and Penrith in our own " land of the grey old past," with the haunts of the red Indian.

Perhaps he has written nothing truly finer, or more Horatian, than "Hohenlinden," of which Father Prout has left us such a capital version; yet this exquisite lyric was rejected as a contribution to the Greenock Advertiser, with the intimation that it did not "come up to the editor's standard," and that poetry was evidently not the forte of the contributor![1] We must not, however, forget, as we criticize the critic, that Campbell himself would never admit the merit of the piece. We learn the fact from Cyrus Redding, who edited his poetical works, and who adds,—of such little worth is an author's judgment as to the comparative merit of his own productions,—that the poet positively forbade the "Dirge of Wallace," one of the finest of his minor pieces, to be included in the collection, (ii. 354.)

Campbell was a great lover of the "weed," and here we have him enjoying the

"Innocuos calices et amicam vatibus herbam,"—

as old Raphael Thorius has it, after the editorial worries and labours of the day. Beattie, his biographer, describes his lumbered room, " tobacco pipes mingled with the literary wares," etc. He was, indeed, like Tom Warton and Vinny Bourne, careless in his manners, and unobservant of the superstitions of the table. Lady Morgan relates that when dining with Lord Aberdeen, Manners Sutton, and the Duchess of Gordon, the

  1. Notes and Queries, Dec. 13, 1863, p. 475.