man's Magazine vol. ii. p. 93. Of the long series of literary productions which I have recorded, extending to nearly four-score volumes, much is mere bookseller's hack-work which does not need or deserve particularization.
Gait, in that Life of Lord Byron, which Maginn pronounces to be "the best and most honest history of the wayward course of that illustrious childe," has rather spoilt a good story in the telling. Speaking of the clever, but eccentric sister of Lord Carlisle, characterized by Charles James Fox as—
"Carlisle, recluse in pride and rags,"
he talks about a "still coarser apostrophe," in the shape of "two lines" written in answer to the command of her ladyship to go about his business, for she "didn't care two skips of a louse for him." Now the fact is, the witty impromptu consisted of four lines instead of two; and forms so admirable an epigram, that, despite its " coarseness," it merits preservation. It is as follows:—
"A lady has told me, and in her own house,
It is hard to botanize on one's mother's grave; and there is something that jars on the mind when we read Gait's story (page 62) of Byron distracting the melancholy of his thoughts by a sparring-bout with his servant on the day of the funeral of her of whom he spoke as his "one friend in the world." Still, it is consolatory to be told by the domestic that his master "hit harder than usual:" and it is on record that another poet,—the "divine" Hayley,—composed a sonnet on his return from the funeral obsequies of his son.
No one will care a jot to learn the minute details of Gait's squabbles with the Canada Company. The brief facts are these. Having been instructed by the Canadians to urge their claims on the home government for alleged losses during the occupation of the provinces by the army of the United States, his proposal was accepted that these claims should be defrayed by the sale of Crown lands in Upper Canada. A company was formed in 1826 to purchase and colonize these, and he went out to value them. Under his directions, the settlements were founded; Guelph is indebted to him for its existence, and the village of Gait preserves the memory of its origin in its name. But his popularity, for some cause, waned; complaints were made by the Governor against him; and he was superseded by the directors,—perhaps in part at least from the "nature of all human assemblies to kick down the ladder by which they have been raised." Anyway, Gait returned finally to England in 1839, when he was compelled by external pressure to take the benefit of the Insolvent Debtors' Act. His younger son. Sir Alexander Galt, is the well-known and influential Canadian statesman.
He now applied himself to literature, as he himself touchingly says, "to wrench life from famine." He became editor of the Courier, but did not hold the appointment long. His health speedily broke up; paralysis supervened; and he died at Greenock, April 11, 1839, a few days after he had undergone a fourteenth attack of palsy.Literature produced under such circumstances, must not be judged too
- Life of Lord Byron, p. 33.