1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Campbell

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine NS 22 (August 1844) 213-15.



June 15. At Boulogne, aged 67, Thomas Campbell, esq. LL.D. the Poet.

Mr. Campbell, the tenth and youngest child of his parents, was born at Glasgow on the 27th of July 1777. His father was a retired merchant, of old Highland family, and an intelligent and cultivated man. The son of his age (for Thomas was born when he was sixty-seven) seems to have been early "laid out" for honours. An excellent education was given to him at the college of Glasgow; but the poet, like the rest of the fraternity, was but an idle schoolboy. His superiority, however, flashed out once or twice. He carried off a bursary, when only thirteen, from a competitor twice his age; and won a prize for a translation of The Clouds of Aristophanes, which was pronounced as unique among college exercises. When still a young man, Mr. Campbell removed to Edinburgh, and there made himself honourably known among the choice spirits of the place; devoting himself to private tuition. He published The Pleasures of Hope in 1799, that is, in the twenty-second year of his age. This work was profitable to its author in more ways than one: since its success enabled Mr. Campbell to take the German tour, the earlier and later fruits of which were the noblest lyrics of modern time. Hohenlinden, — Ye Mariners of England, written at Hamburg with a Danish war in prospect, — The Exile of Erin, a gentler breathing of the affections, but also referable to the poet's casual encounter with some of the banished Irish rebels, — may be all dated from this tour.

Returning from the continent, Mr. Campbell again sojourned for awhile in Edinburgh, and there wrote other of his celebrated ballads and poems. In 1803 he was drawn southward by the attractions of London. He married his cousin, Miss Matilda Sinclair, in the autumn of the same year; and at once commenced a course of literary activity of which few traces remain. Among his labours was an historical work entitled Annals of Great Britain, from the Accession of George III. to the Peace of Amiens, printed at Edinburgh in 1807, in three volumes octavo. His conversational powers drew around him many friends: and to these, probably, as much as to the liberal principles which he unflinchingly maintained from first to last, may be ascribed the interest taken in him by Charles Fox, who placed him on the pension list at 200 a-year.

After six years of anxiety, drudgery for the press, &c. and the other trials which await the working author, Mr. Campbell gave a proof that his poetry was not merely an affair of youthful enthusiasm, by publishing, in 1809, Gertrude of Wyoming, with Lord Ullin's Daughter, and The Battle of the Baltic — adding to a subsequent edition that most haunting, perhaps, of all his ballads, O'Connor's Child. He was now in the zenith of his popularity: known as one who could discourse upon — as well as write — poetry. In this capacity he was engaged to deliver a course of lectures at the Royal Institution: the success of these led Mr. Murray to engage him in the well-known Critical Essays and Specimens, which established him on our library shelves as a prose-writer, and is the best of his unrhymed — not unpoetical works. It forms seven volumes in small octavo, 1819. His subsequent publications may be charged with carelessness in collection of materials, and an uncertainty of style, incompatible with lasting reputation.

In the year 1820 Mr. Campbell entered upon the editorship of The New Monthly Magazine, which was conducted by him for ten years. In 1824 he published his Theodric, the feeblest of his long poems. He interested himself eagerly in the foundation of the London University; he took an active part in the cause of Greece, and subsequently in that of Poland; and was twice elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, a distinction upon which he highly prided himself.

In 1830, in which year he had to suffer the loss of his wife, he resigned the editorship of the New Monthly Magazine, and from that time to his decease the decline of health and energy became evident, in sad and steady progress. He established, in 1831, The Metropolitan Magazine, but relinquished it after a short time. He also composed Letters from Algiers, whither he went for a short visit in 1832, The Life of Mrs. Siddons, Letters from the South, The Life of Petrarch, (reviewed in our number for Aug. 1841,) and lent his name editorially to a reprint and a compilation or two — but the oil was seen to burn lower and lower in the lamp, year by year, and the social wit waxed faint, or moved perplexedly among old recollections, where it had formerly struck out bright creations. It was a sorrowful thing to see him gliding about like a shadow — to hear that his health compelled him to retreat more and more front the world he had once so adorned.

Mr. Campbell visited Germany in 1842, and at his return, having lived since the death of his wife in the comparative loneliness of chambers, took a house in Victoria-square, Pimlico, and devoted his time to the education of his niece. He found, however, that his health was failing, and he retired about a year ago to Boulogne. His attached friend and physician, Dr. William Beattie, who, for a period of nearly twenty years, had devoted his talents and attention to him when needed, and to whom, in token of his gratitude, the poet dedicated his last work, The Pilgrim of Glencoe, received information of the dangerous state of his friend, and, proceeding to Boulogne, found him in a state much worse than he had been led to anticipate. A few days after death closed the scene.

His will, being short, we are able to insert at length:

"This is the last will and testament of me, Thomas Campbell, LL.D. now resident at No. 8, Victoria-square, in the county of Middlesex.

"Whereas: under and by virtue of the will of Archibald Macarthur Stewart, late of Ascog, deceased, my only son, Thomas Telford Campbell, will, upon my decease, be entitled to a certain sum of money, which I deem a competent provision for him: I do not, therefore, intend to make any provision for him by this my will.

"I give and bequeath the silver bowl presented to me by the students of Glasgow when I was Rector of that University, and the copy of the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, which was sent to me by the Queen herself (and which two articles I reckon the jewels of my property), and also all and every my manuscripts and copyrights of my compositions, whether in prose or verse, and the vignettes which have illustrated my poems, and also all and every my books, prints, pictures, furniture, plate, money, personal estate and effects whatsoever and wheresoever, whereof I may die possessed, after and subject to the payment of my just debts, funeral and testamentary expenses, which I do direct to be paid as soon as conveniently may be after my decease, unto my niece, Mary Campbell, the daughter of my deceased brother, Alexander Campbell, late of Glasgow, for her own sole and separate use and benefit.

"And I do hereby appoint my stanch and inestimable friend, Dr. William Beattie, of No. 6, Park-square, Regent's Park., in the said county of Middlesex, and William Moxon, of the Middle Temple, esq. to be executors of this my will, and also to act as guardians to my said son; and I revoke all former and other wills and testamentary dispositions by me at any time heretofore made, and declare this only to be my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand, the 7th day of November, 1842.

THOMAS CAMPBELL.

"Signed, published, and declared by the testator, Thomas Campbell, as and for his last will and testament, in the presence of us, present at the same time, who in his presence and at his request have subscribed our names as witnesses.

EDWARD CLIFFORD, 9. Ranelagh-grove, Pimlico.

HENRY MOXON, 67, Ebury-street, Eaton-square."

Mr. Campbell was rather under the middle height, and in his youth was considered eminently handsome. There is a fine portrait of him by Sir Thomas Lawrence, an engraving of which is prefixed to his collected Poetical Works, 1828, two vols. 8vo.; but his best likeness is said to be a picture taken by Mr. T. C. Thompson in 1833. There are also busts by Mr. Baily and Mr. Patrick Park.

On the 28th June the mortal remains of Mr. Campbell were brought from Boulogne to London, and deposited "ad interim" in a room adjoining the Jerusalem Chamber, at the west end of Westminster abbey. The funeral took place on the 3rd of July. The procession went through the cloisters into the Abbey, where it was met by the Rev. H. H. Milman. The pall-bearers were Sir R. Peel, the Duke of Argyll, the Earl of Aberdeen, Viscount Strangford, Lord Brougham, Lord Campbell, Lord Leigh, Viscount Morpeth, and Lord D. C. Stuart. The chief mourners were, Mr. Alexander Campbell, Mr. Whiss (nephews of the deceased), Dr. Beattie and William Moxon, esq. (executors), John Richardson, esq. Wm. Ayrton, esq. Rev. C. J. Hassells, and Mr. Edward Moxon, the publisher. Among the friends who followed were — Macaulay, Hobhouse, Sheil, R. M. Milnes, Emerson Tennent, Charles Mackay, Dr. Croly, J. G. Lockhart, Rev. A. Dyce, D'Israeli the younger, W. H. Ainsworth, Horace Smith, Sir James C. Ross, and many others of literary repute. Colonel Szyrma, one of the Literary Association of Poland, (of which Campbell became the first president in 1832) brought with him a small portion of earth from the grave of Kosciusko at Cracow, which he cast into the grave. The spot is near the centre of Poet's Corner, and close to the tomb of Addison. A public subscription has been opened for a monument, under the management of a committee.