1851 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe

Anonymous, Obituary in The Scotsman (1851); Sharpe, Letters (1888) 1:65.



To the public, who, in his departure, only miss a peculiar figure whom they have occasionally met in their daily walks, Mr. Sharpe was what is usually called a character. But to those who really knew him, the outward peculiarities which invited and justified such an appellation were a very thin covering on qualities of a far more important and valuable kind. Even his external peculiarities arose by no means from any desire to attract notice by singularity. They were the fruit of that sort of unconsciousness, and that reluctance to do anything provocative of attention and remark, which sometimes makes one quietly abide by old customs, until, while congratulating himself that he is still the same man that he was of old, the world has a totally different opinion of him, in as far as of old he was like other people, but now he is quite peculiar in the rigid observance of the costume and manners of a previous generation. So it was with Mr. Sharpe's green umbrella, its crosier-shaped horn handle, and its long brass point; with his thread-stockings, and his shoes — of the kind which our fathers called pumps — tied with profuse ribbon; with his ever-faded frock-coat, and his cravat of that downy bulging character which Brummell repealed. The greater part of the whole costume was exactly as he had worn it in his college days in the preceding century; and we had always the idea that Sharpe never thought he dressed differently from other people. It was always a puzzling matter, however, to divine how he got his tradesmen to connive with him, and produce articles of dress which the tide of human fashions had long rolled over and buried in oblivion. It is possible that some profuse wardrobe of early days may have proved a sort of granary to him; but we have sometimes thought that an expert tradesman, who had by some accident a reserve of ancestral stock, had found him a useful duct for draining off the unsalable merchandise.