CHARLES KIRKPATRICK SHARPE was the third son of Charles Sharpe of Hoddam, by Eleanora, youngest daughter of John Renton of Lammerton. His father was the son of William Kirkpatrick of Ailsland (brother to Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick of Closeburne, second Baronet), to whom Matthew Sharpe of Hoddam had bequeathed his estate. The Sharpes appear as citizens of Dumfries in the closing years of the sixteenth century; and John Sharpe, Sheriffclerk of Dumfries, bought the estate of Hoddam in 1690 from Lord Southesk, whose father purchased it of Lord Annandale in 1653. By his wife, Susan Muir, John Sharpe had sixteen children, of whom George, the eleventh child, succeeded his father; lie was admitted advocate 1712, and died unmarried 1740. He and his brother Matthew joined in the insurrection of 1715. Matthew returned to Scotland in the disguise of a drover, after the battle of Preston, and from thence went to France, where he remained till the death of his brother. He died unmarried, and left his estate to his kinsman, Charles Kirkpatrick, who took the name of Sharpe. One of the elder sisters of Matthew Sharpe, Catherine, had married, first, Grierson of Barjarg, by whom she had a daughter, Grizzel, married to Charles Erskine, Lord Justice Clerk; and secondly, James Grierson of Capenoch, by whom she had Jean, married in 1741 to Andrew Crosbie of Holm, Provost of Dumfries, and Susanna, to Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick, third Baronet. Thus the Sharpes were connected with the anti-Covenanting interest of the southwest of Scotland, with the persecutor Lag, and the Jacobite Provost of Dumfries who figures in "Redgauntlet." In volumes of Lag's and Crosbie's letters preserved by Mr. Sharpe, there is a spirited sketch of John Sharpe's house in Dumfries, and the following notes on Lag and his connections:—
"Sir Robert Grierson of Lag (so created 1685) made a great figure in what has been called the persecution of the Whigs, during the reigns of King Charles II. and his brother; he is made honourable mention of by Wodrow and other historians, and bath been of late reproduced to the public under the designation of old Redgauntlet.
"He married Lady Henrietta Douglas, sister to the first Duke of Queensberry. The, marriage-contract is dated at the Castle of Sanquhar, September 21, 1676. William, Earl of Queensberry, Robert Fergusson of Craigdarroch, Roger Grierson of Terrarane, and John Grierson of Capenoch, were Lag's curators or guardians: Lady Henrietta to have an annuity of 4000 merks Scots; but in the case of children procreat between the parties, and these surviving their father, she to be restricted to the yearly sum of 3000 merks, and to pay all the public burdens. Witnesses to the contract — Robert Lord Maxwell, Thomas Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, John Grierson of Capenoch, John Alisone of Glencorse, John Douglas of Stainhous, and Mr. John Richardson, writer in Edinburgh.
"The common people in Annandale gravely assert that Lag, like the other persecutors, had intimate dealings with the devil, and that he was partly in hell before his death, as his saliva burnt holes where it fell, and his feet put into cold water made it boil. I believe he died of the gout in the year 1733. My grandaunt, Mrs. Campbell of Monzie, remembered having seen him when she was a little girl. She was carried to pay a visit to Lady Henrietta, who then resided with her husband in Matthew Sharp of Hoddam's house in Dumfries (which she continued to rent after Lag's death; it is now pulled down). 'A grewsome-looking carle he was,' she said, 'wrapped up in blankets, wearing a wig, and in an elbow-chair;' it was during a fit of the gout. Lady Henrietta made her go up to him, and he kissed her — to her no small terror, both on account of his appearance and the terrible tales she had heard of him.
"There are many circumstances respecting him detailed in 'Redgauntlet' which are not true: 'exempli gratia,' he never kept an ape that I ever heard of; and the frown of the family of right belongs to Mrs. Jean Weir, the celebrated Major's sister, who was hanged for a witch, &c., in the year 1679. But this I know positively to be a fact: my granduncle, the late Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick (who was Lag's nephew — for Lady Henrietta Grierson's sister, Lady Isobel, was the wife of Sir William Lockhart of Carstairs, and by him the mother of Isobel, Lady Kirkpatrick, wife of the second Baronet of Closeburn, Sir Thomas's mother and my great-grand mother), attended his funeral in his carriage, drawn by four young stout black horses. About halfway to the place of interment the hired horses could drag the herce no farther, and stood stock-still, probably owing to the badness of the road, though the vulgar reason assigned is that the devil had got into the vehicle, which made it too heavy to be moved. Sir Thomas, who was then a very young man, made his own horses to be put to the herce, and drove his uncle's body to the churchyard; and strange it is, but true, his four young horses all died in the course of a few days! This disaster the old women of Annandale and Nithesdale still ascribe to 'the deadweight o' the deil and the Laird o' Lag.'
"I think that I never saw so rude a ruin as the tower of Lag, in the glen of that name. The stones appear to have been taken out of the burn and made walls of, without the help of pickaxe or chisel, and the scenery around is as dreary as the castle is uncouth; not a tree, nor anything like one, to be seen — nothing but huge round stones, stunted whin-bushes, and a scanty rivulet flowing between the solitary braes. Things, however, may now be changed, for it is more than twenty years since I visited the glen of Lag.
"Lady Henrietta (vulgarly called Lady Henny) Grierson rode behind her son Gilbert to her niece Lady Kirkpatrick's marriage at Carstairs. This I had from the present Sir Robert Grierson of Lag, Gilbert's son.
"She was a woman of short stature, and of an irreproachable character. Her sisters, Lady Margaret Jardine and Lady Katherine Douglas, were celebrated for their penurious dispositions. Lady Margaret would, for a penny, carry people cross the river Annan on her shoulders, and sit for days awaiting passengers, if there was a fair or other publick meeting at Lockerby. This several of her descendants have told me. As also, that she generally wore nothing but rags. Yet when she went to Rockhall to pay a visit to her sister, Lady Henrietta, she carried some articles of what she deemed finery in a bundle, and used to inquire at a cottage near the house if the Laird (Sir Robert) was at home. If answered in the affirmative, she sat down under a tree and made her toilet. If Lag chanced to be absent, she would say, 'My cockups'll no gae on the day,' and repair to her sister in her usual costume.
"N.B. — Cockups was a sort of high cap which at one period gave much offence to the godly.
"When Lady Margaret's nephew James, second Duke of Queensberry, resided in Holyrood House, she paid him a visit in her wonted dishabille. The centinel at the gate mistook her for a beggar, and pushed her back very rudely; but the Duke, who was at a window, called to him to let his aunt pass, to the man's great surprise, no doubt. This lady had always an ample fortune, and after Sir Alexr. Jardine's death, married Sir David Thoits. She could sometimes part with her money. In an account of the drinkmoney (vails) given to the servants at Closeburn during the life of her niece Lady Kirkpatrick, I find these items in the nurse's share: '2 half-milncrowns from my Lady Lagg, 23 lib. pieces from Apple-girth, 2 rix-dollars from his lady.'
"Her portrait is at Jardine Hall. There is none extant of Sir Robert Grierson, nor, I believe, of Lady Henrietta. Her picture may be at Drumlanrig, but now unknown, as very few of the portraits there have the names affixed.
"Sir Robert possessed originally a large estate, which his extravagance greatly diminished. He made one of his sons an apothecary in Carlisle, and when he sent him thither to practice he, at Parting, gave him his blessing, saying, 'God speed ye! ye'll revenge the fecht at Flowden!'
"The elegy on Lag, once so popular among the vulgar, was written, as I have heard, by one Irving, a schoolmaster, ancestor of the author of 'Fair Helen of Kirkconnell' and other poems, who, some years ago, in a fit of insanity cut his own throat in Edinburgh.
"Of late times the children in Dumfries dared not to play at ball in the close at Hoddam's house in the dusk, through dread of Lag's ghost.
"Sir Robert's two eldest sons were forfeited in the year 1715. Gilbert subsequently became chamberlain to the Duke of Buccleugh, and resided in the town of Dalkeith, where he took boarders to attend the school there. He assumed the title after the death of his brother Sir William, who was long an idiot, — the terror, it is said, he felt at being shut up in the Tower having deprived him of what judgement he originally possessed."
Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe's mother, herself a most beautiful and admirable woman, for the charms of whose person and mind her distinguished son had ever the most genuine and sincere admiration, was the granddaughter of a still more famous beauty — Susanna, Countess of Eglintoun, the patron and subject of poets, and the admiration of her contemporaries for grace and vivacity. His grandfather Renton, as he has recorded in his memoranda,
"Was educated at Christ Church in Oxford, and afterwards travelled into France. While at College he was a contemporary of the great Lord Mansfield; Trevor, Bishop of Durham; and Stone, Primate of Ireland. When the Bishop of Durham, in a progress through his diocese, came to Berwick, my grandfather went to wait upon him there, and carried my two aunts, Lady Murray and Mrs. Smollett, with him. When the, Bishop came out of the church (having his train borne up according to the fashion of that day), my aunts knelt down in the churchyard, and he blessed them with an imposition of hands. My grandfather said, pointing to Lady Murray, — 'My lord, this young lady is my daughter; pray give her a double portion;' on which the Bishop again touched her head. Trevor was a very handsome man, and usually went by the name of the Beauty of Holiness!
"My grandfather once dined in company with Swift at Lord Halifax's table. He used to mention his surprise at the Dean's freedom of behaviour, who recalled a dish, after the removal of the first course, which had chanced to please his taste.
"My grandfather went to Ireland, purposely to pay a visit to his friend Stone, after he became Primate, though he himself pretended to be of the Presbyterian religion, and was certainly a Whig in politicks."
Such associations with famous men and places were sufficient of themselves to predispose the subject of this memoir towards those studies and pursuits in which he afterwards achieved such distinction. He was duly sensible of the consequence to be derived from progenitors famous in history, and never allowed the ancestral glories of the Kirkpatricks to pass from his memory, delighting to celebrate, with pen and pencil, Caerlaverock, Repentance, and other scenes of their legendary history. He rigidly enforced in his own person the use of his true patronymic, and averred that his stockings wore out when his sister forgot to "sew that K on them"!
Hoddam Castle, where he was born, is not one of the very old fortalices of the south of Scotland — for the castle, burned by the Earl of Sussex, August 1570, stood upon the other or eastern bank of the river Annan — but was a very good specimen of the high double tower, with bartizan and steep roof, common in the baronial era of Scottish history. The engraving in Pennant's Tour gives an accurate representation of the structure itself at the end of the last century, but fails to convey the idea of the beauty of its situation, amidst fine woods, on the bank of the most picturesque part of the Annan. On one of the hills above is a singular square tower, in an old burying-ground known by the name of Trailtrow or Repentance; the latter designation being given to it from the word "Repentance" being carved over the door, between a serpent and a bird (perhaps intended for the cock so intimately associated with the repentance of Peter). The legend connected with this tower was made by Mr. Sharpe the subject of a ballad, one of those which he contributed to the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. As even two centuries later a commutation of penance was assigned to the repair of a church in Cumberland, there is nothing impossible in the tradition that it was built by the ancient possessor of Hoddam, Lord Herries, by way of expiation of an act of barbarity upon English captives. If we are to credit Mr. Sharpe's letters, he esteemed his home as miserable an exile as Ovid did the Euxine; but this sort of humorous dispraise was his habitual way of expressing himself about persons as well as things for which he had a liking. Hence his letters are full of outspoken sarcasm and simulated contempt of people whom in other ways he highly esteemed. Writing to be read by those who affected the same style of discussing their friends, he did not think it necessary to be reticent or even consistent. The keenest of patriots, he was ever "flyting" at the manners, religious prejudices, and climate of his native country. The most gentle and considerate of men in his intercourse with young people, he wrote of them with the rancour of a Herod. One of his favourite subjects of sarcastic criticism was his ancestress Lady Marie Stewart (daughter of Esme, first Duke of Lennox, and second wife of John, Earl of Mar, Treasurer of Scotland in the reign of James VI.), whose great-granddaughter, Jean, daughter of Charles Erskine of Alva, Lord Justice-Clerk, married his grandfather, William Kirkpatrick.
In one of his notebooks he has thus traced his Lennox descent: [genealogical table omitted].
Although he cherished with pride his descent through her from the royal race of Stewart, and diligently collected historical particulars of the Mar and Lennox families, as will be seen hereafter, he often mentions her in terms almost of disgust and derision, in his letters and notes — e.g., a letter to Mr. Gibson Craig in 1828, and many pungent notes and references to John O'Snytes, as the Treasurer-Earl was irreverently styled. A humorous petition from the distressed lady, or rather from her painted semblance, addressed to Sir Charles Douglas of Kelhead, will not be out of place, as showing the grim humour with which he invested topics very near his heart.
"To the Right Worshipful and our well beloved Cousin, Sir Charles Douglas of Kelhead, Knight Baronet, the Petition of the Lady Mary Stewart, Countess of Mar; Dame Helen Skene; Lady Alva; John Earl of Mar, Regent; John Earl of Mar, Treasurer; John Earl of Mar, commonly called Duke of Mar; and Sir Charles Erskine of Alva, Knight Baronet,
"Humbly showeth, — That your worship's distressed petitioners are all in a very dismal condition; but as it bath been the custom, time immemorial, for ladies to state, explain, show, and exhibit their cases in the first place, it is but fitting that the Countess of Mar and my Lady Alva should enjoy that precedence.
"Therefore I, Dame Marie Stewart, Countess of Mar, and daughter to that high and potent prince, Esme, Duke of Lennox, do commence the sad task of supplication, and beseech you to rue upon my disconsolate estate — once second to no woman who wore a hoop and farthingale in Scotland, saving the Queen's Majesty, the near cousin and favourite of that wise monarch King James the Sixth, the ruler of mine antient husband, and the rejector of fifty young fellows who wooed me in my widowhood. I am now cast aside and confined to an old, crazy, leaky house (the very epitome of my antique spouse), where I am rotted with damps, and ready to be devoured by long-tailed vermin even more ravenous than those lusty lovers who would formerly have eaten up my jointure — yea, had it not been for the gorgonical visage of my daughter-in-law, the Lady Alva, I should have long since been consumed outright; but, most fortunately, she possesseth such a stern grimalkin mien that the rats and mice avoid her presence as they would that of my Lady Marchioness of Carrabas, or Miss Catskin in her everyday garment. Sir Charles Douglas, to a lady of my delicacy, as well as dignity, you may divine how prodigiously it goeth against the grain (as the vulgar phrase it) to prefer an humble request of any nature to a man of any kind; but 'necessitas non habet legem' — for if you quickly take not pity upon me and remove me to dryer and sounder quarters, I shall in a very little time dwindle down to a worm-eaten frame and a handful of unseemly tatters."
"I, Dame Helen Skene, Lady Alva, have equal (yea more) cause of complaint with my mother-in-law, the Countess of Mar — mercy upon us! — in this ungallant and degenerate age. Beauty is not only neglected, but the very representation of it despised. My personal charms were once so potent that, albeit Sir Charles Erskine of Alva was a doting, purblind widower when first he met with me, he could discern the outline of my nose at the distance of twenty yards, and find the highway to my mouth without the aid of spectacles."
But two persons were ever sacred from this mocking spirit of make-believe sarcasm — his father and his mother. Of the elegant accomplishments and amiable qualities of the former he was justifiably proud. Carefully preserved among his papers are numerous testimonies to the worth of the laird of Hoddam — an offer of a baronetcy, an appointment as keeper of the Royal harriers for Scotland, commissions, &c., &c., and, more valuable than these, documents relating to his connection with the poet Burns, several of whose songs are dedicated to Mr. Sharpe. One of the best of Burns's letters is also addressed to him, and the correspondence proves him to have been a more sincere and discreet friend to the gifted ploughman than most of the Scottish gentry. With his mother, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe had a community of thought and sympathy unusual even in the happiest filial relations, and he recorded his admiration and affection for her in terms equally strong and genuine.
He attended Dr. Robison's class in Edinburgh in 1796-97, and in 1798 he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. June 17, 1802, and M.A. June 28, 1806, having passed the necessary examination June 8, 1804. He was not by any means an enthusiastic admirer of university customs, especially of the tutors, whom he stigmatises as unmannerly and disgusting in their behaviour. The stately head of Christ Church, Cyril Jackson himself, who was said to have contemptuously tossed an offer of a bishopric to his brother, was in his eyes an "inspired swine," who preached exceeding dry sermons with a prodigious degree of snuffling. In fact, mere classical lore, as distinguished from elegant taste in literature, he despised. One of his marginal notes in the "Diary Illustrative of the Times of George IV.," referring to Dr. Parr, says: "What a companion for a princess! I have met him at Oxford, the very worst bred brute, composed of insolence and tobacco, that I ever saw or heard of;" and he was just as sarcastic upon the smart young sportsmen, and Irish anti-Unionites, who formed a considerable section of the undergraduate world at Christ Church.
He meditated and partially carried out an idea of recording his satirical views of Oxford society in poetical epistles, after the model of the then famous "New Bath Guide." Two of these are in existence and are worth preserving from the contrast they present to many of the accessories of modern university life, while they record much of the spirit of flippancy and bad taste which still disfigures certain circles in Oxford. But he dismissed the idea after the second epistle, and in some severe stanzas upon a rival rhymester gives it as his opinion that
Of all ills by which mankind is curst,
Ill-nature joined to folly is the worst.
Ill-nature teaches curs at wheels to bite,
Ill-nature teaches viler fools to write.
And he seems wisely to have bridled his sarcastic Pegasus, lest he should overstep the limits which his intrinsic good feeling prescribed. One other lampoon alone comes to hand among his papers — a satire upon the famed Doctor Toe, that universal laughingstock of Oxford, who is the hero of Heber's "Whippiad," and is depicted at full length in Barham's novel, "My Cousin Nicholas."
THE NEW OXFORD GUIDE.
Mr. SIMKIN B—D TO MISS JENNY B—D. — HALL, NORTH.
THE GRIEF OF A FIRST SEPARATION — THE SPEECH OF AN OLD NURSE WHO HAD HEARD THE STORY OF FRIAR BACON'S HEAD — A DESCRIPTION OF COLLEGE GARRETS — A BED-MAKER — A SCOUT.
Alas, what distresses the feelings o'ercome
Of a youth the first time that he ventures from home!
Dear Jenny, no mortal the sorrow can tell
That I suffered in bidding you all a farewell.
My dearest mamma — how I blubber'd and kiss'd her!
And then fell a-hugging of thee, my sweet sister;
And then to the monkey; and then to the parrot—
I wept till my nose was as red as a carrot.
In the hall stood my nurse, like a fountain of tears,
'Mid a crowd of old serving-men, scratching their ears:
Poor woman — her sluices of tears so gush'd out
That they carried her spectacles quite off her snout.
She whined, "Well-a-day, this will break my old heart!
Lackadaisy, at Oxford they teach the black art!
Magicians dwell there, who work all sorts of evil,
Such as laying of spectres and raising the dl.
They make brazen heads, with assistance from hell,
That wise as a gipsy's can everything tell;
And 'tis said that you never set foot in the street,
But some such curs'd noddle you're certain to meet."
This utter'd, with many a rueful grimace
She squeez'd me up close in a parting embrace;
And a chorus of serving-men join'd in the roar
Of her grief — when the carriage drove oft from the door.
Well — safely arriv'd in the centre of knowledge,
I was lucky enough to get garrets in college;
And up a long staircase with pain did I clamber
To reach the black door of my desolate chamber.
Imagine, dear Jenny, a garret so small,
That one feels like a nun in't, built up in a wall;
With a chimney that smokes when the wind's in the south
Like Mynheer of Holland's tobaccofied mouth;
With a window contriv'd, as were casements of old,
To keep out the light and to let in the cold;
With a tatter'd settee, and a parcel of chairs
That grievously totter and creak for repairs—
And a poor widow'd fire-screen, without its best half,
For Vulcan hath eaten it all but the staff.
I here sat me down, with my mind quite in gloom,
When a hideous appearance stalk'd into the room,
In her left hand a pail, in her right hand a broom;
Like any fell Succubus, wrinkl'd and old,
With the lip of a shrew, and the nose of a scold,
And a ragged red cardinal, dire to behold.
I shriek'd (and my terror seem'd much to offend her),
For I thought her the ghost of the woman of Endor—
To judge by your eyes and your nose, you had said,
Nay sworn, she was something just risen from the dead:
And as she remain'd between me and the stairs,
Quite hopeless of flying, I fell to my pray'rs;
And she told me at last with a horrible mien,
"Sir, I makes your bed up, and keeps your rooms clean."
And, sister, this office is wisely contriv'd
To fall on sage dames who their charms have surviv'd;
For were it bestow'd on each careless young jade,
'Tis certain our beds would be seldom well made.
We read of a painter, on canvas who strove
To draw a full length of the goddess of Love,
While all the gay belles of high fashion in Greece
Display'd their chief beauties to forward the piece:
One furnished an eye, or a pair of red lips—
Another a toe, or a couple of hips;
While he cull'd with gusto, and consummate art,
Like a bee among flow'rs, ev'ry excellent part.
Now should some Apelles desire in our days
To paint a Medusa beyond any praise,
Or a likeness that Hecate's self might acknowledge
Of Hecate grim — let him come to this college;
Such a group I defy Pandemonium to show
As a bevy of bed-makers all in a row.
But I've got a man-servant, yclep'd here a scout,
And am counsell'd to look pretty sharply about,
And be sure that the locks of my strong box are stout:
For in this reservoir of Latin and Greek,
All follow as much as they can the antique—
Our students, in truest Laconian style,
Are abstinent, secret, and patient of toil;
And the scouts, whom no conscience or shame e'er disheartens,
Will pilfer and cheat like the craftiest Spartans.
You see that I write very sprightly and hearty—
No wonder indeed, for I've been at a party;
But oh! it requires fifty muses like mine
To do justice, my dear, to this party of wine;
'Twas so very delightful — so vastly divine—
'Twas given by a gentleman commoner gay,
Whom I met at my tutor's, at breakfast today,—
Master Growler, a person of high reputation,
Who dresses and struts in the pink of the fashion,—
And ask'd me to wine in that elegant tone,
As if he had rather have let it alone.
But neither my paper nor patience can last
Now to give an account of this charming repast;
So I think it, dear Jenny, a thousand times better,
To keep the affair for a following letter—
Concluding abruptly — with love to my mother—
Your slave to command, and affectionate brother
Mr. SIMKIN B—D TO MISS JENNY B—D. — HALL, NORTH.
A WINE-PARTY — DESCRIPTION OF THE GUESTS — A DISPUTE — AN ACCIDENT.
As you write me, dear sister, how sorely you pine
For my promis'd account of the party of wine,
Though I've got heaven knows how much business to do,
It shall all be postpon'd to give pleasure to you;
And so, with alacrity seizing my pen,
I'll first just describe Master Growler, and then
Go on to his party and other fine men.
Young Solomon Growler's a person of breeding,
Of much understanding, and very great reading;
Yet in one point perhaps he a little may fail,
Fundamental indeed — and thereby hangs a tale.
His sire, Skinflint Growler, got riches by trade,
And long did he bargain a peer to be made;
But his pristine economy never forsaking,
He offer'd a bribe that was not worth the taking:
Refused — the old cit, fill'd with rage and disdain,
Gave dinners to Godwin and toasted Tom Paine;
Made his wife the chaste works of Moll Wollstonceraft read,
Which sorely bewilder'd the good woman's head;
Bought kindly th' uncastrated monk for his daughter,
Who'll ne'er be a nun from what Matthew hath taught her;
And whipp'd his young sons till they learnt to repeat,
That a king is a tyrant, a bishop a cheat.
But tho' Master Growler's by whiggery tainted,
With all the young noblemen here he's acquainted,
And fills them with liquor and crams them with supper,
Never mentioning Paine — which is perfectly proper.
So I went to his rooms about four, where I found
A table, with chairs placed in order around,
And bottles, replete with the juice of the vine,
Which clumsier poets would style red port wine;
A sumptuous dessert then enchanted my eyes,
Ripe oranges, perfect in colour and size—
Grapes, peaches, and apples, as much as you please,
Cakes, ruskins, prunelloes, and sweet damson cheese—
Dry biscuit, that chiefly to Bacchus belongs,
Delicious when toasted till brown in the tongs—
And huge lumps of ice which exactly did look
Like the floating ice-hills in the drawings for Cook.
The company had not assembled as yet,
And the president seem'd in a bit of a fret—
Now biting his thumbnail, now sipping his wine,
While he skimm'd a deep chapter of Gibbon's "Decline":
A work which doth many new secrets impart
For cleansing the reason and mending the heart,
And relates in such style the decline of old Rome,
That it proves we are sadly declining at home.
But a number of youths all at once huddl'd in,
Some chattering like jackdaws with ominous din,
Some roaring Eke huntsmen a whoop and a hollo,
Inspire me to mention the chiefs, great Apollo!
Ye muses that sip from Castalian springs,
The poet invokes not your aid while he sings
And numbers the heroes in sweet sounding line
Who fuddl'd their noses with nauseous wine.
Ah! well do our damsels in stockings of blue
The steps of their darlings the muses pursue!
Coy nymphs — who all liquors like black doses flee,
And drink nothing stronger than sober Bohea.
"O dear! filthy sherry, no mortal can bear it;
We faint at the fume of a bottle of claret—
The hussey who tipples a horsewhip deserves:
To be sure gin is wholesome to settle the nerves."
Now first of a native of Wales will I speak,
Sir Griffith ap Shenkin ap Tudor ap Leek,
A baronet fam'd for his courage and strength,
And a pedigree, Jenny, of wonderful length;
His arms are compos'd of three rampant goat-tails,
An ancient armorial bearing in Wales—
And his crest is a cheese, which the baronet swore
Was the very same crest that Cadwallader wore.
This Welshman is fiery, as Welshmen are wont,
And will not put up with the slightest affront;
But ne'er contradicted, he's full of goodnature,
You cannot imagine a pleasanter creature.
Master Margin was there, most profound in his looks,
A very great buyer of very fine books,
Which he hoists in his study for boobies to stare at,
Bedight in the gold and morocco of Barratt.
But tho' he would fain make the vulgar believe
That he puzzles and construes from morning till eve;
Tho' he swears that the dunces would make e'en an ass sick,
And quotes too to prove it from some Latin classic;
Tho' he talks of sage editors wiser than any,
One Bentley, and Burmann, and certain Stephani—
Yet I think (but let this be a secret between us)
That old nurse at home knows as much of Quae Genus.
And I, luckless I, had the sorrow to sit
Next Billy Bamboozle, a quizzer and wit—
At least so he thinks; but he's d—bly bit.
Alas poor Bamboozle! beshrew his base heart
Who taught thee to hold thyself clever and smart;
He was some cunning rogue, it most plainly appears,
Who laid a deep plot 'gainst thy nose and thy ears,
And instill'd such provocative powers in thy speaking
That even Job's fingers would itch to be tweaking.
This Billy makes noise, and imagines it fun,
With frequent miscarriage of embryo pun;
And still does he prate, oh unfortunate Billy,
Tho' pummell'd and cudgell'd and kick'd to a jelly.
I hear he derives from a glorious race,
That matchless assurance, that vile saucy face;
From sources more noble his life never man drew,
A Billingsgate drab, and a quack's merry-andrew.
Now hark! — a small pitapat step on the stair,
And voice softly trilling opera-house air!
The door gently opens — and bathed in perfume
Sweet Dicky Cosmetic trips into the room.
Like a rosebud his cheek — with a patch on his chin,—
His shirt-frill adorn'd by a diamond pin;
Ye gods, what a shape, what an elegant air!
Was ever a face, or a neckcloth so fair?
"Gauls, never again can ye Albion dread!
Our fortitude, strength, our proud honour is fled—
On us Fame her laurels no more does bestow
Nor Fear shade with lilies the heads of the foe—
No more from our troops our base enemies fly;
Where now are our heroes that conquer or die?
Long laid in the dust — and this pitiful race
Exists but to cover their graves with disgrace.
"Poor wretches, so pithless, so nervously weak,
That sink on soft cushions, and languish, and squeak!
Can chicken glov'd fists e'er be harden'd to wield
The glittering faulchion and ponderous shield?
Or armour be borne on that cowardly breast
In summer by silk and thin muslin opprest?"
So exclaim'd Master Caustic when Dicky appear'd,
A rogue who has got more ill-nature than beard;
And with cross jaundic'd opticks sees every thing yellow—
A very old-fashion'd and cynical fellow.
This Dicky, for so cruel fate had decreed,
Brought in a small lapdog of true Blenheim breed;
A sweet pretty thing, with a collar of pink,
And overnice feeding compell'd it to stink—
Which bred in the sequel a woeful disaster,
As you'll find by-and-bye, to itself and it's master.
Then came my Lord Rubbish — the son of an earl,
Who keeps a la mode both a stud and a girl;
But Fortune and all his bad stars he may curse,
For his horses are lame, and his nymph something worse.
Yet himself's much in fault — for that evening I heard one
Say Rubbish knew little of cattle of burden,
And so (but he begg'd it might not be repeated)
His lordship in horseflesh was apt to be cheated.
A gay golden tuft on his cap he displays,
Which dazzles all eyes with its ravishing rays—
True badge of nobility, awful and grand,
Confin'd to the essence and cream of the land.
O tuft fraught with radiance, that still can't transmit
To folly good sense, to stupidity wit,
And tell like a label hung over the skull
With what notable stuff the utensil is full—
How I love to adore thee with honours divine,
To court thy bright favour, and bask in thy shine!
Last came Tommy Drivel, whose noddle's a thick one,
And a gentle tuft-worshipper, meek Master Pickbone,
Who with pleasure will suffer his ears to be cufft
By any Scotch cousin of any Scotch tuft.
Now seated and settl'd, the bottle gone round,
The youngsters held forth with much sense and much sound
They were angry with rums, they were troubl'd with bores,
And sporting of oaks they call shutting of doors.
"My tutor's a raff, and the son of a b—h;
I rode out today and fell into a ditch;
I twisted my ancle — foment it with grease
By Jingo! Bet Beesley's a dev'lish good piece."
At last a dispute between Growler and Leek,
Both bawling as loud as town-criers can speak,
Our pleasure and harmony manag'd to break.
Cosmetic was telling us much of a cape
Very lately invented, of exquisite shape,
And Billy was thrusting his tongue in his cheek
When the rumpus assail'd us from Growler and Leek:
They talk'd of the slave trade, which Growler abhors,
And Sir Griffith ap Shenkin of Tudor adores;
For a Welchman who can at a couple of bites
Demolish a million of innocent mites,
May very well argue in favour of knaves
Who live by kidnapping and selling of slaves.
Sir Griffith used phrases extremely improper,
And swore, heaven bless us, far worse than a trooper;
But he sputter'd so fiercely, and nodded his head,
That I could not make out the one half that he said;
And I've heard 'tis a sign that an orator's good,
When he makes a great noise and is not understood.
Then Growler replied in a torrent of words,
The longest and hardest our language affords,
And where he imagin'd our idiom weak,
Still helpt it with patches of Latin and Greek.
He spoke of free will, which aristocrats tell us
Leads its votaries still to the block or the gallows;
And energy high, that despises mean things,
Such as ribbons and stars and tyrannical kings;
And taste picturesque, which wild nature adores
From far Otaheite to Gallia's shores;
And much our degenerate system bewails,
That no longer we're born with Monboddo's long tails.
Then he talk'd of oppression, and deep double-dealing—
Mankind's Magna Charta, and honour, and feeling:
"The treatment," quoth he, "of our horses and asses,
Stigmatises our nature — our species disgraces;
I can prove it" — and then put his hand to his head—
They were born rightful heirs to the forest and mead,
Yet we gall them with stripes, and compel them to work
And," striking his breast, "I abominate pork—
"My heart bleeds at sight of a collar of brawn;
See that pig whipt to death for a despot in lawn,
How its lubug'rous outcries astonish our ears,
While the hogstye dissolves in a torrent of tears,
And the mitred Apicius—"
With that Dicky's dog, in good breeding no critic,
Emitted an odour exceeding mephitic,
Which all of a sudden assaulted our noses
With a fume much unlike to the essence of roses.
Every youth in the room clapp'd his hand to his snout,
Which stopp'd the harangue, putting Solomon out,
Whose rhetorical flow'rs, though so fragrant and sweet,
Were outdone in a trice by the small Blenheim pet;
He roared like a cannon, surcharg'd with his ire,
Then caught up a poker that lay by the fire,
Fine feeling forgot — and without more ado,
Alas! broke the lapdog's hind spindle in two.
Loud yell'd the poor spaniel, and louder scream'd Dick;
He faints — "bring us hartshorn and Grosvenor quick!"—
Now he sprawls in convulsions — and now he lies still—
How disorder'd his neckcloth, how rumpl'd his frill!
The scene was so moving I fled from the place,
And left all the others to settle the case—
Who did what they could, with much riot and strife,
To set the dog's leg, and bring Dicky to life.
But, if its social life was unpleasing, no man more thoroughly appreciated the advantages which Oxford affords to all kinds of antiquarian and literary study. The libraries and the picture-galleries were his constant resort; and ere long, his turn for caustic comment, and his unrivalled talent with his pencil, won him friends among the best society of the University. Foremost among these friends appear the names of Lord Gower (Duke of Sutherland); Lord Newtown (Earl of Lanesborough); Stapleton (son of Lord le Despencer, and father of the present Baroness); Conybeare (Professor of Poetry from 1812 to 1821); Inglis (who subsequently represented the University in Parliament for a quarter of a century); Tarpley; and one for whom he appears to have entertained a peculiar regard, Elijah Barwell Impey, son of the famous coadjutor of Warren Hastings, Sir Elijah Impey, Chief-Justice of Bengal. "This amiable man dedicated many years of labour to the vindication of his father's memory, and eventually, indeed, sacrificed his life, shortened by the emotions excited in his affectionate mind by the renewal of oft-refuted calumny, and the irksome task of a search through public documents by a man in impaired health."
Other acquaintances known to fame are mentioned in his letters either incidentally or by way of friendly remembrance: as, in 1801, "Young Macdonald, the Chief Baron's son, who played Thais with such eclat" (in Terence's "Eunuchus," at Westminster), afterwards, as Sir James Macdonald, Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands; Lygon, second Earl Beauchamp; Granville Somerset, Daniel Finch, Gaisford, Addington, St. John, &c., &c.
Heads sketched in masterly style, and finished like miniatures, on the shoulders of figures attired as cavaliers, Roman heroes, knights in armour, or dignified ecclesiastics, commemorate these and others of his acquaintance; and it is not surprising that to possess such a portrait of a friend or relative was an object of ambition with many. A highly finished sketch of Dean Jackson himself underwent the ordeal of the "great man's" approval; and his head of "poor Walter Bagot, which I hope his father will like" (a Westminster student drowned in the Avon in 1800) still hangs in the family mansion. That he thoroughly enjoyed the society of his friends is evidenced, not only from his letters while at the University, but also from the lifelong intimacies which in more than one case resulted from the college friendship. Unluckily, at some later period, probably after the publication of the "Diary of the Times of George IV." in 1838, he seems to have destroyed many of his own Oxford MS. diaries, so that a scattered page or two only remain to show how he spent his time at college.
"Catalogue of the books I have read, and may chance to read, this month of March 1804. Laus Deo.
"Burnet's 'Essay on Queen Mary,' a bad subject pretty well handled. I believe Burnet, however, to have been a rogue.
"Wodrow's 'Sufferings of the Church of Scotland.' The author a Whiggish rascal.
'La Vie de Philippe, Due D'Orleans,' a Cologne, 1793. Many bad and foolish sentiments — a fustian style; the whole, however, amusing.
"'The History of the Caliph Vathek,' 1786; entertaining, but rather indecent in many parts. Mr. Beckford of Founthill supposed to have had a hand in the translation: 'tis likely, for there are warm descriptions of young men in the book.
"March 21. — Aubrey's 'Miscellanies,' amusing beyond measure. 'The Spanish Curate,' by Beaumont and Fletcher — good things in it, yet there is something so improbable in all B. and F.'s plots, that their plays are intolerable to a person of experience. N.B. — I have read Voiture's 'Letters' now and then, which I borrowed of George Eden, Lord Auckland's son. They please me more than Sevigne's, though perhaps more laboured. A fig for nature if art is more entertaining.
"March 22. — Gave wine to Allen, Lord Allen's son, Inglis, and Vernon, son to the Bishop of Carlisle. Allen is an Irishman, who talks much of himself; Vernon, a deal of the maid who brought in tea; and Inglis is so polite that he will speak on any subject. This term hath ended much to my satisfaction. I never spent a pleasanter in Ch. Ch. I wrote to Magdalene Murray today, directing to the Duke of Buccleuch.
"23. — Read the Duchess of Marlborough's 'Apology,' which shows her to have been an imperious jade, however humbly she may carry it. N.B. — There are many of her MS. letters in the possession of the Lygons, which came from old Mr. Jenyns.
"Monday, 26. — Finished 'Buscon,' by Don. F. Quevedo, which is penned with much wit, but of a gross nature. Run over the greatest part of Spottiswood's 'History' — full of curious matter.
"Wednesday, 28. — Went to the Bodleian Library, and skimmed Lord Orford's Works. In his 'Reminiscences' found some entertaining anecdotes of the Duchess of Marlborough, Buckingham, and Lady Dorchester.
"April 8. — Finished Wodrow two days since — a tedious piece of Whiggery. Read since a great part of Granger's 'Biographia,' of which I am very fond. Barrow's 'Sermon on Wit and Jesting,' which is inconvenient, — a good description in it of the different kinds of wit. Re-perused Johnson's 'Life of Savage' — excellent: and several of that poet's verses, but cannot admire them as much as the Dr. did, Also read the second vol. of 'Letters from a Nobleman to his Sister,' a work founded on the detestable amours of Lord Grey and Lady Harriet Berkeley, and written in a debauched and silly strain.
"Friday, June 8. — Was examined for the degree of A.M. God be thanked that it is over.
"Saturday. — My dear friend, Newtown, went from this place; may Heaven prosper him wherever he goes! his direction is Sans Souci, Dublin. I lent Berens the first vols. of Sevigne and Moliere; Corne, 'Burnet on the Catechism;' Fiennes, the second vol. of Clarendon; Grey hath Homer, and Inglis my 'Julian of the Bower.'
"June 21. — Finished my business in the schools. I have within this time read 'Sir Tristrem,' Lord Chatham's 'Letter,' Archbishop Laud's 'Troubles,' Lord Clarendon's 'Life,' Sir J. Reresby's 'Memoirs,' &c., &c. Mem. — I can put on my master's gown the term after next Easter. Read Boswell's 'Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,' printed 1786 — entertaining; also the 'Romance of the Forest!'"
During his residence at Oxford, two outlets for his genius were placed in his way. The first of these, through Canning ("a bachelor of the House" Oedes Christi), was his enlistment in the band of Anti-Jacobin writers. His first contribution was a poem entitled "The Vision of Liberty," written after the manner of Spenser, which may be found in the Anti-Jacobin Review, vol. ix. p. 515. It commences with an introductory description of ravaged and deserted France, over the wasted fields and ruined chateaux of which appears the towering brazen temple of the idol Liberty, supported by pillars of the bleeding heads of the victims of the Reign of Terror — three stanzas being dedicated to the memory of the Queen, the Dauphin, and Madame de Lamballe. Towards this shrine approach in procession, after the manner of the Court of Queen Lucifera ("Fairy Queen," book i. canto iv.), the leaders of the English Whigs, headed by Fox. Mrs. Wollstonecraft Godwin and her spouse are not forgotten, nor is Peter Pindar, nor his special antipathy, the Irish devotees of liberty. The stanza descriptive of Ireland is unhappily so true to the present condition of affairs there, that it deserves reproduction:
Oh Ireland, spot accursed! the glorious fair
Shines there the sun, the flowers enamelled blow,
And scent, with fragrance sweet, the balmy air
Rippling the gliding pools that softly flow:
No noxious reptile there to man a foe
Abides — but black revenge with cautious plan,
Cold-blooded cruelty with torments slow,
Springs rank; with weeds the goodly soil's o'erran,
And all the reptile's venom rankles in the man.
The "Ode to a Vagabond Savan," in the same publication for December 1801, bears marks of his turn of thought and expression, though no allusion to it occurs in his MSS. The Hibernian poet of love and liberty is the theme of sundry unfinished pasquils of this date, piquant enough:
Oh dear, pretty Tommy! the thunder may roar,
And also in pailfuls the rain may down fall,
But you and your draggle-tailed sweetheart no more
Shall nestle like toads brooding under a wall.
The chill winds may blow till they blister their cheeks,
And shake the fresh myrtle of love to the root;
My Tommy no longer melodiously squeaks—
Alas! Epicurus's pigstye is mute.
This next might refer to that
That ever-glorious, almost fatal fray,
between Moore and Jeffrey. In anticipation of the poet's death by the "leadless pistol," the following fragment is very appropriate:
Following then poor Tommy's bier
Came all the nymphs of virtue brittle,
Whose names, with cadence soft, appear
In luscious strains of Master Little.
First, with solemn measured tread,
Came Julias, flocking on in dozens,
With nodding, dripping, drooping head
So like, the criticks swear they're cousins,
Or sisters, — for in these fine times,
Thanks to our philosophic foxes,
Poets act incest in their rhymes,
Begetting tuneful paradoxes.
Perhaps the best estimate of his poetical politics may be made from a poem of about a hundred and fifty lines on the subject of the once notorious stay-maker of Thetford, Thomas Paine, author of "The Age of Reason." It commences with an apostrophe to its subject:
Hail, sacred light of Reason, Paine — refined,
New blessing to the long-benighted mind!
O thou who showest man he is a slave,
Wretched on earth, nor lives beyond the grave;
That but a foolish joy, whate'er appears
A smile of sunshine in this vale of tears;
That but a foolish hope, the hope to soar
To other worlds when time shall be no more;
With thankful hearts we woo thy genial rays,
And bless Philosophy of modern days.
And thou, sage Paine, who with no sparing hand
Hath scattered knowledge o'er thy native land!
Eager to prove that heaven and hell are jests,
Mankind deluded fools and soulless beasts;
Dear to the world was that auspicious day,
When, grasped the quill, the needle cast away
Ardent for liberty, agape for praise,
You fell to botching books from botching stays.
Can any worthy meed, great Thomas, say,
Be found thy generous labours to repay?
Is there a meet reward beneath the sky,
Thou precious fish that cleansest Tobit's eye?
Bring purple robes, the cap with beaded knee,—
A fool's cap? no; the cap of liberty,
And cut whole forests of dark laurel down
To build a gallows? no; to form a crown.
Yea, lucky Paine, you wrote in happy times
Now blasphemy and treason are not crimes.
In days when men revered the kingly breed,
Thy neck or ears had paid th' audacious deed.
Then Williams, sweetest of Apollo's train,
Had sung thy rope in many a melting strain,
Melodious Coleridge mourned thy ravished ears,
And Southey's maudlin muse dissolved in tears.
He then proceeds to describe in vivid colours the effects upon society of the spread of principles of irreligion and anarchy. Take one example:
Oft on his father's grave young Paul would think,
How long the old man lingered on the brink—
Alack, ye heavenly powers, that it were sin
Gently to shove the tedious dotard in!
Paul skimmed Voltaire — the crime grew very small;
Paul studied Paine — the sin seemed none at all;
Paul slew his sire, was hanged, and hung in chains,
A bright example to the tribe of Paines.
The Liberal ladies, "loose in their principles as in their dress," now come in for their share of condemnation, — their apostle, Mrs. Mary Godwin, being, of course, specially execrated; and then, apropos of the influence of the hopes inspired by religion in softening the severity of the pangs of parting from friends or relatives, occur probably the best lines in the poem, an apostrophe to a friend of his own, drowned in the prime of life:
How is thy playful mirth, thy fancy fled!
Ah, Walter, mouldering on thy silent bed
Beneath the baneful yew's funereal shade,
How premature thy youth was doomed to fade!
Alas! the leafy grove and verdant field
At times to winter's powerful influence yield.
The painted flowers, dulled by his icy breath,
All disappear in temporary death.
But when the spring returns with genial showers,
Fresh grow again the forests, meads, and flowers,
Gay, green, and lovely as they were before;
But man — but man, once withered, springs no more.
And the poem concludes with a melancholy picture of the triumph of Paine and Buonaparte, and of the future high-priest of infamy, Peter Pindar. It will be seen at once that, with much neatness of versification, and even occasional happiness of expression, the poem is wanting in power. His satire does not bite and rend; it nibbles and tickles. He moves like a stripling in unaccustomed panoply, and evidently would be more at his ease in lighter harness. There is, nevertheless, an evident vein of sincerity, which gives dignity and force to passages not otherwise conspicuous for poetic merit.
At this time, also, he formed an acquaintance with one who lived to become his most constant and valued friend, and to be of infinite service to his pencil, by suggesting subjects for its exercise — and to his pen, by withdrawing it from the ignoble service of political strife to the more worthy field of chivalric poetry and historical research. In 1802 the two first volumes of the "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border" appeared, under the editorship of Walter Scott.
A publication so congenial to his tastes induced him to address the editor, then personally unknown to him, with an offer of assistance as a contributor of old ballads.
The sequel of this application was the contribution of two original ballads from his pen to the third volume of the "Minstrelsy," published in 1803. Though there exposed to a comparison not only with Scott himself, but with Leyden, Lewis, Colin Mackenzie, Morritt, and others of no little poetical merit, his contributions stood the test of public criticism as favourably as the other contents of the collection. The verdict may be given in the words of Anna Seward, in whose case, to quote Lockhart's "Life of Scott," sound sense, as well as vigorous ability, had unfortunately condescended to an absurd disguise of style. "How rich is Scotland at this period in poets! Mr. Sharpe is a fine one; witness his 'Tower of Repentance.' The 2d and 3d stanzas are admirable; so is the whole of the ensuing poem, 'The Murder of Caerlaveroc.' It contains an original poetic picture of the extremest beauty — a lady asleep:
Unclosed her mouth of rosy hue,
Whence issued fragrant air,
That gently, in soft motion, blew
Stray ringlets of her hair.
Then how natural is the ensuing dream (when wet, as she slumbers, by the blood of her bridegroom), that the waters of the Forth flowed over her! The musical locality of the last stanza but one is striking." — Miss Seward to Walter Scott, July 29, 1803.
The first interview between the future friends took place in Oxford in April 1803, and his early impressions of Scott were hardly so favourable as to presage the fast friendship which ultimately united them. He thought the Border Minstrel too high-flown, especially in his compliments, of which Sharpe's fastidious nature always had a suspicion. Ere long they understood one another better. Scott, writing to Surtees in April 1808, takes occasion to say: "Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe is here at present; he is, I find, an old college friend and correspondent of yours. He is a very ingenious as well as agreeable young man, and, I think, will be an excellent poet when the luxuriance of his fancy is a little repressed by severer taste. I never saw so excellent a drawer of comic figures, for I will not debase his sketches by calling them caricatures." The two friends, with these points of dissimilarity, united to produce a combination of genius, taste, and acute power of portraiture without which the history of Britain, of North Britain especially, would have wanted half its popular interest.
Sharpe did not, however, immediately give up political writing; on the contrary, during the critical years which succeeded the brief Peace of Amiens, he did his part towards the propagation of national principles by the circulation of an ironical address to the people of Dumfriesshire, in imitation of the tracts circulated by the Friends of Liberty, which was much appreciated at the time it was published. But his pen from this time forward was rather employed upon poetry, romance, or history, or all three combined. The next few years were chiefly passed in Scotland, with but brief visits to Oxford and London; and he did not publish anything till 1808, although he speaks of endeavours to get a play acted (which had been submitted to and approved of by Scott and Impey), of which he says that "worse plays have passed off very well."
This play — a tragedy in five acts, "begun 1807, finished 1808" — is a close imitation of his favourite, Dryden, and contains about 1800 lines of blank verse, from the mouths of but six characters — the Duke and Duchess of Medina, their two daughters, their son, and a fickle Marquess, whose betrothment to the elder donna, while he loves the younger, is the cause of all the catastrophes. The jealousy of his contracted spouse Elvira involves her brother Carlos in a duel with Pedro, in which the former is slain. The Duke poniards Pedro in revenge, and Leonora, the younger sister, goes mad and stabs herself with the fatal dagger, while Elvira announces her intention of repairing to a convent; but, as Walter Scott — to whom the play was submitted, and from whom it received high encomium — remarks pertinently enough, in a note, "I doubt Elvira's penitence, though her retirement to a convent may be announced. She should be like Tirconnel, who became a Chartreux friar,—
"Il y vecut sans jamais dire un mot,
Mais sans pouvir jamais etre devot!"
The following extract may suffice as the specimen-stone of the entire edifice, and at the same time exemplify the critical remarks of Scott and Impey:—
And thou wilt curse me too, when Carlos dies [when Carlos lies
Within his timeless grave.
That will I never for I love I thee dearly. [Enfeebles the rest. — W. S.
Long my supreme delight, thy infant charms,
Thine early sweetness stole those griefs away
Caused by a husband absent and unkind.
Carlos abroad — the fierce Elvira ever
Her grandam's charge, my comfort was in thee;
Still present I would feast my tearful eye
Upon thy gracious dawn, thy rising sunbeams,
That through those days of sorrow varied bright
With all the dyes refulgent of the morn;
Then how I joyed, breathing a plaintive lay,
When first I marked thee softly lisp the close
As shepherd swain, piping at lonely eve,
Blesses the mimickry of Echo sweet,
[Beautiful. — W. S.
Responsive sudden from a flow'ry hill.
O days of innocence, fled past recalling!
When older grown, with transport still I hear thee
Chaunt heavenly clear the darlings of thy childhood,
Grenada's battles, where our mighty sires
Subdued the Crescent, and bedecked their loves
With Moorish gems and meed of many a fray.
Farewell to those for ever — now no more
Such lays of triumph suit me; I must sing
Sad requiems to the lute, of youths depressed
By cruel fate in life's delicious morn[ing]; [morn. — E. B. I.
Of fair ambition narrowed by the grave,
And fervent friendship wrapped in chilly lead.
Despair not so: thy brother yet may flourish; [? — W. S.
Tho' his physicians shake their heads and sigh, [sage. — E. B. I.
We know the Esculapian tricks of terror
To work a miracle from easy cures:
He doses now. [slumbers. — E. B. I.
The tragedy was never publicly performed, and it is questionable whether even the taste of that day would have endured so much of stage dialogue with so little action and so simple a plot. He published at this time, however, a small volume of poems, some of which must be allowed to possess considerable merit, and which as a whole were not unfavourably criticised by the literati of the day. "Talking of fair ladies and fables," writes Walter Scott to Lady Louisa Stuart, 19th. Jan. 1808, "reminds me of Mr. Sharpe's ballads. They exhibit, I think, a very considerable portion of imagination, and occasionally, though not uniformly, great flow of versification. There is one verse, or rather the whole description of a musical ghost-lady sitting among the ruins of her father's tower, that pleased me very much. But his language is too flowery, and even tawdry, and I quarrelled with a lady in the first poem who yielded up her affection upon her lover showing his white teeth. White teeth ought to be taken great care of, and set great store by, but I cannot allow them to be an object of passionate admiration — it is too like subduing a lady's heart by grinning." The more characteristic contents of the collection are, — first, a very successful imitation of an antique air, intended for music, most pathetic in its simplicity, of which the refrain runs, "O man, condemned to die"; and then a humorous remonstrance, supposed to be addressed by a portrait of an old Countess of Roxburghe to Miss Drummond of Perth, upon the indignity with which it had been treated by being condemned to the garret in Drummond Castle. In a copy of the book, illustrated by the pencil of the author, this piece affords an admirable specimen of his artistic skill: the stern virago is depicted as carrying out her threat, in case of her complaint being unheeded — of descending bodily from her frame to draw the curtains of her inattentive mistress, whose graceful form, starting from slumber, makes an admirable foil to the stiff presence of Countess Jean in her farthingale and stomacher.
At this period of his life, his residences at Oxford and Hoddam became varied by many visits to London, as well as to the country houses of hosts of friends, who valued him for his social qualities, and the store of varied information which he was capable of contributing to the general stock. Gray's Court, near Henley, was one of these, and so was Burghley ("by Stamford Town"), of which he speaks in after-years with great affection; but his great resort for several years was Benham, the residence of the Margravine of Anspach, with whom, and with her son Keppel Craven, he had formed a great intimacy. "Everybody knows," he writes on the flyleaf of a volume of her autograph letters, "that she was the daughter of Lord Berkeley, and first married to Lord Craven. When I was acquainted with her, she had the remains of much beauty, which she disfigured with an immense quantity of rouge and burnt cork, as I think, on her eyebrows. She was very graceful, and could assume, when she pleased, the manners of the best times; she composed music prettily, but spoilt her own songs with a cracked voice; she danced well, and was an excellent shot. I am told that she never was a tolerable actress, though extremely fond of exhibiting herself on the stage. She has written a great deal: what I know of her works are these: 'The Baron Kinkvervanhotsdorsprakingatchdern,' a tale which Miles Peter Andrews afterwards made a play of, and got hissed for his pains; a Poem to Dr. Jenner, published in the 'Foundling Hospital for Wit;' A Crimea Tour;' 'The Soldier of Dierenstein, or Love and Mercy,' an Austrian Story; 'A Funeral Panegyric on the Margrave,' folio; the song in this collection, the 'Address to the Gauntlet,' and her own Memoirs in two octavo volumes. Her beauty, her talents, her good fortune, and her bad temper, created her numerous enemies. She makes a figure in many scandalous works, such as 'The Female Jockey Club,' 'Me
moirs of the Due de Lauzun,' &c., &c. Her life, if faithfully written, would make a most extraordinary book. 1826. — She died at Bath in the month of Feb. 1828."
There was a congeniality of sentiment pervading the circle at Benham, which must have made it a place of real enjoyment to its inmates, among the most constant of whom were Sir Lumley Skeffington, "topographical" Gell, and Mr. Sharpe. "When at Benham," the latter writes home in 1810, "one night Keppel, Skeffington, and I acted the last scenes of 'Alexander the Great.' Keppel was the king; Skeff, Roxana; and myself Statira. I wish you could have seen us, for the exhibition was excellent. The audience, which consisted of Her Highness, Gell, and his sister, were in raptures, especially with Statira's death, who was stabbed with a faggot-stick, and expired upon the lapdog's cushion." A marginal note to a letter of the Margravine's gives the following portrait of the Roxana of the evening: "Sir St. George Lumley Skeffington, ci-devant the remarkable beau. He painted his cheeks, and wore a black wig of horsehair, and was the most frightful of all the hideous dandies I ever beheld, but with an excellent heart, and very good-natured." He died at the age of eighty-two in November 1850. Keppel Craven was more attractive, as well as more intellectual, and possessed no mean capacity for describing the scenes of foreign travel which had such fascination for him, if we may judge from his correspondence with Mr. Sharpe, and his "Tour through the Southern Provinces of the Kingdom of Naples."
Those who are familiar with the memoirs and fashionable novels of the last generation, will have no difficulty in picturing to themselves the circle with which we are now concerned — the wits and dandies, sometimes both in combination, of the days of the Regency; but, from his powers of minute observation, as well as from his shrewd and incisive style of description, the sketches of these celebrities, scattered throughout C. K. Sharpe's notes or correspondence, are always worth recording.
From the margin of a copy of Lady Charlotte Bury's "Times of George IV." we glean a notice of a well-known name:
"Lewis had numberless good qualities, of which she (Lady Charlotte) could be no judge: he was once in love with her, and she is the heroine of his 'Monk,' which made a great noise when it came out. The story is borrowed from other books. I first met him at her house in Cadogan Place at supper: he talked so much that I thought he was intolerable. I afterwards knew better how to value him."
Indeed he seems fully to have shared the feeling of affection with which Lewis is reputed to have inspired all who came into intimate contact with him, which Byron expresses in the couplet, a parody of two lines in "The Lay of the Last Minstrel,"
I would give many a sugarcane
Matt. Lewis were alive again.
The Count de Grammont, afterwards Due de Guiche, is another of the figures (always referred to as the handsomest man of his day) which encounters us at this period in his notes and correspondence. But undoubtedly the most striking and interesting acquaintance among his associates at this period of his life was the luckless Caroline of Brunswick, the ill-used wife of that "filthy piece of crustiness," as he terms George IV. It is curious to find that a minute observer, not given to indiscriminate good-nature in his estimate of others, keenly prejudiced against the political advisers by whom the Princess was surrounded, and by no means enamoured of either the personal or mental charms of her Royal Highness, pronounces most strongly in her favour with regard to the controverted question of her guilt or innocence as to the serious charges brought against her by her husband. In the flyleaf of a copy of Lady Charlotte Bury's book, already mentioned — given by him to a friend whose kindness enables this quotation to be made — he thus records his deliberate opinion:
"Before I had the honour of being acquainted with the Queen, I had heard many reports of her unchastity. I never saw anything to confirm them. She had much esprit, and talked as freely as many clever and most virtuous women of the highest rank whom I have known both in Scotland and England used to do. This is no proof of incontinence. There is an old Scottish proverb, 'The silent soo eats a' the draff.'
"I have watched her eyes, the tell-tales of the soul, when in the company of the handsomest men of the day, the Duke de Guiche and many more. There were no wanderings, twinklings, or gazings. She generally paid most attention to people who were ugly and had a reputation for anything like talent.
"That she was capable of inventing malicious lies, which this bad woman asserts in her second volume, I no more believe than that she was capable of raising devils. Devils enough she had about her, and could not lay them; but this I am very confident of, that she is now in a place where few of her former companion., have ever reached her; and consequently, where she enjoys that case and happiness to which she was here so much a stranger. I bid her a grateful farewell."
This is a strong testimony from a stanch Jacobite and aristocrat, while his estimate of her personal attractions dispels the idea that he was the victim of her charms.
"Her eyes projected," he says, "like those of the royal family. She made her head large by wearing an immense wig; she also painted her eyebrows, which gave her face a strange fierce look. Her skin — and she showed a great deal — was very red. She wore very high-heeled shoes, so that she bent forward when she stood or walked: her feet and ankles were dreadful."
This is not the language of an adorer; nor do her mental powers appear to have attracted his admiration, though one anecdote he relates, by its tone of superstition, may have produced a sympathetic tinge in his own mind:—
"I heard the Queen tell a story about her father's ghost. Sitting alone in her chamber very soon after his death, a puff of wind blew the smoke clown the chimney, and in this cloud she perceived him quite plainly. She seemed very serious in what she said."
The work to which these extracts were annotations is one the publication of which occasioned Mr. Sharpe exquisite pain, and did much to produce that rigid, almost misanthropic, caution as to intercourse with strangers which distinguished his latter years. The author, Lady Charlotte Campbell, had been an old friend of his, and he had entertained much regard for her happiness as well as literary reputation. His letters to her, written from oxford in the days of his residence there, were in the vein of cynic comment so natural to him and so entertaining to his correspondent. Few inheritors of human infirmity would wish to have their expressions of opinion lightly uttered in bygone clays, produced without revision to a public for which they were not designed. But Mr. Sharpe's case is even worse; for when at last he constrained himself to a perusal of Lady Charlotte's volume, we find him indignantly protesting against the process to which his own letters had been subjected. In the first emotion of indignation he expresses himself in strong terms:—
"I confess I have felt a hydrophobia as to ink lately — for an impudent covetous woman hath printed some letters of mine written nearly thirty years ago, which expose my former impertinence in that way fully enough; but she exposes her own profligacy more. Retired as I live, much she blazons cannot hurt me; but there are people here still who are mentioned in these scrawls, and I find they take no notice. So this is exactly the fable of the old grey-haired badger, who dug a hole to live and die in, and a fox tried to stink him out, but could not."
A more serious protest is contained in a letter to a valued friend, a connection of the offender:
"I cannot express my vexation about the book you mention. I ay am too poor to buy new publications and, living in the lonely way that I now do, I seldom hear anything about them. till they are stale with everybody else; but three days before you came hither, a friend of mine called expressly to tell me about this work. The intelligence came upon me like a thunderbolt: in all my reading and experience I never knew anything of the kind. When I wrote the silly, impertinent letters in question, between twenty and thirty years ago, I knew that I was writing to the Duke of Argyle's daughter, and thought myself safe by all the common rules of good-breeding and morality. But I find I was extremely deceived. I could say more on this head, but my gratitude gets the better of my spleen, for I am eternally bound to remember that Lady Charlotte Bury is Lady Wemyss's sister-in-law and Mr. Campbell's mother.
"She has done me an irreparable injury — not as to being deemed a fool for writing such silly stuff, as I am now at an age far beyond the consideration of vanity as to intellect; but by this publication I certainly must lose two sincere friends, who have been beyond measure kind to me for twenty years. Whatever regards them was written before any intimacy took place, so I think I can scarcely be blamed; but it is impossible that I can ever see or correspond with them more.
"Lady Charlotte was always writing to me about her novels, to which I could only return dry answers, being unable either to contribute to or read them: if I were of more importance than I am, I should be tempted to think that she has played me this trick out of revenge.
"I have not seen the book which has given me so much pain, and am resolved not to read it; for I know she has altered my letters, and I know my own temper and the embers of my decaying spirit so well, that were I to peruse it I should never be able to refrain from some sort of reprisal which would be most unbecoming in me on very many accounts. I do not think it possible that any of my now few friends can suspect that I should give my consent to such a publication; however, I have written to the Duchess of Sutherland on that head, and have made up my mind to do nothing more.
"It is lucky for me that I live entirely out of society — how could one show oneself in public after such an exposure?
"Dear madam, here is far too much on a very unpleasant topic, for which I sincerely beg your pardon; and I know, too, that you will forgive me. My reason for sending this by post is, that you tell me L. R. is to be at...; and I am anxious that she, who has been so long kind to me, should know as soon as possible what share I had in this odious book, which, unlucky as I have been in many ways, I deem the greatest evil that ever befel me in my life."
The narrative anticipates itself in relating these particulars, but not without a design of drawing from the mention of these circumstances a moral which may justify the editor of Mr. Sharpe's remains in a determination not, indeed, to exercise a fastidious or capricious censorship of his correspondence, but to regard it as the proper province of this brief Memoir to bring before the reading public the man of letters and critic, rather than the mere dilettante correspondent of idle seekers of ephemeral rumour. We are approaching a period of Mr. Sharpe's life when its daily routine becomes uneventful, and its progress is only notable by the results of his pen or pencil. The part he played in the revival of the purest forms of medieval art, in the protection of disregarded fragments of antiquity, in the correction of false taste and careless historical writing, will be found quite sufficient to account for the high esteem in which he was held by the best of his contemporaries, without any reference to the presumed satirical powers upon which the imagination of the educated vulgar has founded a superstructure of uncharitable conjecture. His satire, in fact, was for the most part levelled at those who, by their talent or eccentricity, or both, had made themselves public property, and who had no right to complain of the severity with which he undoubtedly was wont to treat them. Shelley, for instance, who was one of the subjects of his pen in the garbled letters of the publication above referred to, was one of those characters for whom, while admitting the genius of their writings, he had an intrinsic loathing. An undated letter, apparently of this period, begins thus:
"I send you the 'Cenci,' written by that wicked wretch Shelley, and well written. I remember him at Oxford, mad — bad — and trying to persuade people that he lived on arsenic and aquafortis. I also send three volumes of Lady Mary, not being able to find the second; but it is of little consequence, as the quintessence of her esprit is in her letters to Lady Mar and to Lady Bute, in her old age. I may study the latter carefully. All her criticisms are just, her good sense and knowledge of the world most instructive, and her style, a few old-fashioned expressions excepted, is inimitable for its vivacity and gracefulness. I talk like papa, in the same fatherly strain. I must hint my wishes for the restoration of your health, which cannot, I think, be improved by tea-parties, and nymphs in wet drapery, and French flounces, just at present. Even a mouthful of moonshine, mixed up with a ladeful of whale's blubber and six tears of a caterwalling cat, must needs be pernicious. I cannot add any more at present, because I am more than drowsy; but take my prescription, or rather warning, with your opium and camphor, and rely upon my probatum est. May the spirit of Galen make thy nightcap sit easy! A vous toujours — and goodnight."
Lady Mary, of course, is the introducer of inoculation — the most illustrious bearer of the name of Montagu, for whose wit he entertained a very high admiration. An extract from his memoranda is appropriate to the mention of her name:—
"12th Feby. 1821. — I went out to dinner at Niddrie with Count Arthur Zamoyski in his carriage. After dinner, in the drawing room, Sir James Stewart of Coltness, who has printed some of Lady M. W. Montagu's letters, told me that his father ordered him, being quite a boy, to wait upon Lady Mary when she came last to London, and was dying — I think he said in the year 1763 or 64. When he entered her chamber she exclaimed, 'Here comes my young gallant; let everybody quit the room.' He had never seen her before. She was seated in a large chair by her bedside — a shrivelled old woman, so wrapt up about the head and body that Sir James scarcely saw her. In the room were Lord Bute and a number of political characters, which inspired the boy with much awe and dread. Sir James told me that he had curtailed some of the letters at the desire of Lord Bute, though Lady Louisa Stuart was against it. I said I supposed that his father had been very handsome to interest Lady Mary so much; he answered that he was, but the lady was too old for gallantry. He seemed to think that some amour of hers occasioned her separation from her husband."
For Byron, like Shelley, Mr. Sharpe entertained a distaste founded on his objection to the moral principles of his muse — which led him to speak too slightingly, perhaps, of talents which in reality he could not but appreciate.
A memorandum of July 1815 bears reference to this topic:—
"Old Mrs. Baron Mure told me that Lord Byron's mother was a fool and his father a rascal. He poisoned his first wife, Lady Caermarthen, who was divorced for him, because her father, Lord Holdernesse, left his money to her legitimate children, and he had nothing more to expect. Miss Gordon, though she was told of this, and had a fortune of £3000 a-year, married him. He spent all her estate, saving about £30 a-year, on which she lived with her son in a garret at Aberdeen, supported in a great measure by her friends, who, when they killed a cow or sheep, would send her part. She was always fat. When Mrs. Siddons appeared first in Edin., Miss Gordon took a hysterick fit in the playhouse, clung round Mrs. Mure's neck, kicked off her shoes, and was carried out by Mr. Dundas, now Chief Baron, and put into Lord Napier's carriage, which conveyed her, screaming all the way, to George's Square, where she then resided with Baron Clerk's mother."
Conversation with Walter Scott, January 1819, from Mr. Sharpe's memoranda:—
"C. K. S. — I think Lord Byron took the plot of 'Manfred' 'from the story of Major Weir and his sister. You know he was in Scotland in his youth.
"Scott. — I do not believe it. He appeared to me to know nothing of Scotch literature. I showed (or repeated) some parts of 'Hardyknute' to him, which delighted him.
"I objected to his attempts at humour in 'Don Juan,' and mentioned 'Beppo' as a vulgar poem. Scott seemed not to agree with me. He did not seem aware that his prose was bad, and thought the 'Adventures of a Greek' written by him; but I perceived that his memory, which is bad, did not serve him on this subject. Do you think we shall have any more of 'Don Juan'?
"Scott. — Yes; when Lord B. wants money.
"C. K. S. — Did you ever read his first volume of poetry?
"Scott. — Yes, certainly, and there were some good things in it; but Jeffrey fell foul on it, and it cost him a great deal of flattery afterwards to do away the affront; but I should not wonder if Lord B. were to give him a blow yet all of a sudden.
"Scott seemed to think Lord B. a better man than I did, but then he gave him a silver vase.
"When I conversed with Scott about the story which Captain Manby tells as to his belief in apparitions, he assured me that he never either believed in them or pretended he did. He seemed to think Lord Byron very capable of telling lies to make people stare."
Before we finally lose sight of the celebrities of the gay world, a circumstance has to be recorded, important in itself, as well as for the influence it had upon the future career of the accomplished subject of our Memoir. We have seen that he frequently obliged friends by the gift of drawings, either portraits or fancy sketches of romance or caricature. But these were not only strictly private gifts, and were precluded by their rarity from obtaining even that measure of popularity which the existence of a few copies of a picture confers upon it, but were, moreover, only available for the illustration of any printed book by the employment of the services of a professional engraver, under whose hands, in but too many instances, the point and delicacy of a highly finished drawing is apt to disappear. As far back as 1808, Mr. Sharpe had executed for Walter Scott the drawing of Queen Elizabeth dancing in her private chamber (from a passage in Weldon, and not, as some suppose, in Melvil's "Memoirs"), in the letter of thanks for which inimitable limning is contained the highly flattering proposal that the donor should join the staff of the infant Quarterly Review. Nor was his fancy restricted to any particular style of art. One of his drawing-books, which we may take by way of specimen, begins with a couple of serious sketches from Scott's ballad of the "Eve of St. John," followed by a favourite subject of his, children with a cat in a blanket. A Moorish lady singing to her guitar comes next, and then a portrait of one of his father's gamekeepers with dogs. Then, exquisitely finished, an Eastern procession of weeping females carrying a human heart; and on the following page a water-colour copy of a picture by Murillo at Ch. Ch. The "Laird of Laminton," one of his favourite Scottish ballads, then suggests a sketch, the figures in which are most spirited, and Sir Hugh and the Jew's daughter, from the legendary ballad, are depicted with great force of expression. A little farther on, "Venus and Cupid" are treated in the Dutch style, the goddess correcting her son with the heel of her shoe for having audaciously pinked her with one of his shafts. Portraits of several friends come next, the faces finished with the minuteness of miniatures, the figures sketched in pencil in some fancy garb — here a cardinal, there a Roman warrior, &c. A sketch of contrasted figures from Crabbe's Poems, and some portraits in a more caricatured style — one of which, of a personage who obtained an unenviable notoriety in the criminal annals of the country during his residence in Oxford, lie was constrained to copy more than once at the request of some of his intimate associates. It was probably the desire to avoid the tedium of this process of repetition which induced Mr. Sharpe to commence etching on copper, and his first specimen of the art was devoted to a wellknown and most appropriate subject. In 1813 appeared a caricature of Madame de Stael, with the motto—
Corinne se consume en efforts superflus,
La vertu n'en veut pas, le vice n'en veut plus.
No description, save his own, could do justice to the fidelity of the satire, which is said to have inflicted the keenest wound that the incarnation of female vanity ever received. But the great step had been taken; the fertility of fancy and dexterity of hand which he possessed were henceforth to be, in a certain sense, the property of the reading public, and not to be restricted exclusively to the albums of a few intimate friends. Valuable as his antiquarian labours undoubtedly were, they derived at least half their importance from the fact that they were generally accompanied by his own pictorial illustrations.
This allusion brings before us very forcibly the taste which Mr. Sharpe possessed for collecting all manner of curious and antique relies connected with Scotland. His first acquisition of paintings took place in Oxford, where purchases and presents made him master of one or two Lelys and Vandykes. But it was when settled in Edinburgh in his later years that he extended his collection to the large dimensions familiar to his friends, and the visitors, "fit though few," to whom he delighted to exhibit it. While he had a full appreciation of the beauties of art, and selected his choicest morceaux with fastidious care, he was omnivorous in his desire to possess resemblances of personages in any way famous in Scottish annals, or connected with the families in which he was interested, so that any daub was admissible if a genuine likeness, and copies of well-known originals supplied the places of the actual portraits. He was not, in fact, the connoisseur to whom "Some demon whispered, Visto, have a taste;" but his collections had a fund of association belonging to each individual article, and were often more valuable from the suggestions conveyed by their inspection, than from their own intrinsic merit or beauty.
It must not be forgotten that the critical wit and the favourite of gay society was all this while a diligent student and careful searcher after the neglected remnants of early historical lore. Every year of his life was marked by the accumulation of a collection of notes and memoranda relating to Scottish pedigree, family anecdotes, or the annals of the Stuart sovereigns. Scott himself, indefatigable as he was, acknowledges over and over again his obligations to his friend and correspondent for information bearing upon witchcraft and ballad lore, or upon the wider field of historical research. We have seen in the fragment of his Oxford diary how he spent his days there; and the library, or the muniment-room, wherever he chanced to be staying, was infallibly made to yield up its treasures to his scrutinising investigation. In these researches he revelled; and to quote his own words from a letter written in his later days,—
"Amid all the direful modern productions that one is obliged to skim in order to keep up in the world, something like Dr. Swift's polite conversation, written by fine ladies and fine gentlemen — not to mention the debates in the two Houses of Parliament (alas! I am become a politician in my old age; penury and politics go hand in hand together, if one has any money in the Stocks), which are so extraordinary as to the wit which makes everybody there laugh, and the wonderful statements as to historical points. I once flattered myself I had read somewhat of history; but now, alas! Lord Brougham and many others on both sides of the question convince me of my error. In this case the perusal of a chartulary is a great pleasure to me. There is no effort at fine writing, no silly jests like those which delight the two Houses, no false rhymes, no false statements, I charitably hope — as I am no judge of old charter Latin — no sin against Magna Charta. In this case the charter has given me great pleasure — and I will allow your Grace to deem me a liar when I declare I have read the greater part of it with more pleasure than I have perused the 'Lady of Lyons,' 'Love,' by Lady C. B., or the last speech and dying words of Sir F. B. and Sir G. C. in some of the late newspapers."
But he did not confine his investigations to charters only. The miscellaneous character of his extracts may be exemplified from a page or two of one of these notebooks:—
"The Brahmans built hospitals for sick monkeys, and encouraged child-murder. I have known many Brahmans nearer than Hindostan."
"In 1517, Sultan Selim drove the Circassians (the Colchi of the ancients) out of Egypt after they had continued there 286 years. Another author says they were expelled 1437. — Buonaventure Vulcanius, vide Vallancey's 'Collectanea de rebus Hibernicis,' vol. vi. part 1st."
"Mr. Sharpe, the late Laird of Hoddam's picture was painted by Ramsay, 1749."
"Circumstances respecting the skeleton of Hugh of Lincoln, murdered 1255. — 'Lady's Magazine,' 1691, p. 501."
"One Rab Ker put the canting phrases of M'Millan and M'Neil (two noncon. hill preachers) in rhyme. — 'Ramsay's Poems,' 133."
"The testimony of Sir Thomas Bowes, Kt. which he spake upon the bench concerning the aforesaid Anne West, shee being then at the barre upon her tryall."
This is a long extract relating to a case of witchcraft at Manningtree, the town which has the dishonour of being the native place of Matthew Hopkins the witchfinder, and appears to have been copied from "A true and exact Relation of the severall Informations, Examinations, and Confessions of the late Witches arraigned and executed in the County of Essex, who were arraigned and condemned at the late Sessions holden at Chelmsford before the Rt. Honble. Robert Earl of Warwick, and several of His Maj.'s Justices of Peace, 29th July 1645."
"A monkey (a devil) beats a wizzard very sore. — 'Theatre of God's Judgments,' 121."
"A story like to that of Kirk and the woman, p. 366."
"Julius 3d, p. 504, vide Sleidanus."
"Mr. John Lowe, schoolmaster at Birmingham, answers the mathematical questions in the Town and Country Magazine, May, 1771."
"The source of female depravity is neither more nor less than the abominable, shocking, barbarous, and indecent fashion of the present scandalous headdresses. The basis of this horrid superstructure consists chiefly of goats' hair. Now the imagination is not only heated thereby to an unnatural degree, but imbibes by inspiration the most vicious ideas from the hair of that libidinous animal, a goat, whereby the fancy is set in a violent perturbation, and runs riot after every agreeable male object that presents itself. — Ditto."
"O. Cromwell's principal she-favourites were Genl. Lambert's wife and Major-Genl. Vernon's sister," &c.
He seems early in life to have meditated some historical works. A lengthy fragment upon the character of Mary Queen of Scots, in the shape of a letter to a student of her apologists, is too long and too outspoken to be given here, though worth preservation in another shape. A shorter fragment on John Knox will better illustrate the line of argument he was likely to take:—
"John Knox, of stern and pitiless memory, may with propriety be styled the father of the Reformation in Scotland, and of all the Presbyterian prejudices that unfortunately accompanied it. He was a man of great courage, of a haughty and imperious spirit, and possessed talents which, though neither profound nor brilliant, were admirably adapted to forward the great aims of his ambition. He gloried in extorting tears from a young and disconsolate Queen, who was guilty of the heinous crime of adhering to the religion in which she was bred; he instigated the mob to destroy those beautiful structures erected by Popish devotees or deluding monks, imagining that God is more properly worshipped in a cow-house than in a cathedral; and he esteemed the lawless murder of the Archbishop of St. Andrews so excellent a jest, that he could not refrain from being facetious on it even in the history which goes under his name.
"A man of such dispositions conducted the Scottish Reformation, and poured on the multitude those waters of bitterness which imbued their minds with hatred to Popery then, afterwards to Prelacy, and with it, to all order, civil as well as ecclesiastical; and which led them, at the period we now treat of, to those horrible excesses and enormities which bloated the fields and the scaffolds with their blood.
"Knox had the satisfaction long before his death of seeing his efforts crowned with success, and of being able to treat those whom birth and fortune had made his superiors with that brutal rudeness which low minds are fond of assuming. He chid the gentle Mary in such harsh expressions that she was forced to forget her dignity, and burst into tears; and he thus addressed himself to her husband, Darnley, while in the king's seat in the High Church of Edinburgh: 'Have you, for the pleasure of that dainty dame, cast the Psalm-book in the fire? The Lord shall strike both head and tail.' He ceased not to arraign with impunity the corruptions of the Court, the skipping and dancing and dallying with dames; while he could wink at and overlook the heaviest part of his accusations in a hater of Popery and the whore of Babylon. The Regent Morton, by such pretences, managed to retain his leman Janet Sharp and his friend John Knox at the same time. Janet did not meddle with Kirk matters, or get drunk with the blood of the saints — and John Knox was content."
His first publication of an historical character was the "Household Book of the Countess of Mar," — that same Lady Marie Stewart whose name hath been already noted as one of the illustrious points of his ancestry. The dedication of this work speaks for itself: "To James Erskine, Esq. of Cambus, this trifle is dedicated by his affectionate cousin and humble servant, the Editor." It was adorned with a portrait of the Lady Marie, a sketch of Mar's Work, Stirling, and a tailpiece in the style of Hollar's etchings, entitled "Mortalium Nobilitas," all of which will be found in the volume of his etchings published in 1869.
We have said that his association with the fashionable world of London was a brief one. The death of his father in 1813, and the settlement of his mother in Edinburgh, induced him, after that date, to fix his permanent residence in that city, which he scarcely left again, though he hinted at times a purpose of returning to Oxford to reside, and to the end of his life retained his name on the books of Christ Church. His health had never been robust, and now assumed that phase of chronic infirmity which necessitates care and precaution in living. Connections once near and dear were estranged; and his own temper was one adapted rather to a sedentary than an active career. He might have visited scenes of beauty and interest with one friend or another, to whom his conversational talents had endeared him as a companion; but of tours and travelling companions he entertained an amusing horror. Long before this he had written:
"It is now, let me see, good thirteen years since my mind was made up concerning tours to Highlands or Lowlands — by sea, or through the air in a balloon — that they are the most nauseous, miserable, comfortless amusements in nature. What can people cooped up in a cage or barrel, or straddling and jumbling together on horseback, do but quarrel? The very motion shakes up all the sentiment of ill-nature or peevishness in the soul, and every jolt of the carriage or stumble of the beast makes the cork of prudence fly out of the bottle, and your vinegar spirt upon one another's faces. Take Job, that Hebrew wonder, mount him upon a horse or ass, and clap patient Grizzel on a pillion behind him; or, if you please, put them both into a gig or tandem, or any other carriage mentioned on those tiresome boards with which tollgates are adorned, and send them off on a jaunt to Melrose, Loch Catrine, St. Andrews, or the Falls of Clyde. You would find, perhaps, ere they had got halfway, Job overturned, and sitting once more upon a dunghill cursing himself, his wife, all the world, but particularly Grizzel; while she — the jumbling having converted all her milk of human kindness into buttermilk, or Corstorphine cream — returns flash for flash, and raves against her evil stars for having coupled her for ever so brief a period with such a rude, awkward, illtongued, ungovernable, ridiculous;, ugly, old, bloodyminded rascal!"
We shall therefore find Mr. Sharpe for full twenty years a fixture at No. 93 Princes Street, adding to his collection of portraits and relics, taking notes and making sketches for books or engravings, continuing his correspondence with a few and yearly decreasing number of old friends, and associating with such members of the world of letters as Thomas Thomson, David Laing, and Walter Scott, with whom his intimacy increased as its duration lengthened. The gift of the drawing of Queen Elizabeth had been speedily followed by that of another subject from the family annals of the House of Harden — the characteristic anecdote of Muckle-mou'ed Meg, for the legend of which see a letter from Walter Scott to Miss Seward in 1802, printed in Lockhart's "Life of Scott." He also executed for Scott the admirable drawing of the "Feast of Spurs," which hangs with the former in the anteroom of the library at Abbotsford, as does also another humorous illustration of olden manners, known as the "Best Foot Foremost," and the original sketch of the frontispiece to Petrie's "Rules of Good Deportment," engraved for the republication of the volume by his friend; and in 1823 an etching of a lady holding a shield, with a pavilion behind her, and a lion in front, "was executed (as Mr. Sharpe writes in 1835) by Lizars, from a drawing done, by Sir Walter Scott's desire, for a volume of poems written by Lady Anne Barnard and her relations, which he printed as his contribution to the Bannatyne Club. The shield bears the arms of Lindsay, and the lion and canopy allude to the supporters and crest of Balcarres. After the volume was printed Lady Anne and her friends changed their minds, and would let nothing appear but 'Auld Robin Gray' and the continuation: so Sir Walter was forced to destroy the whole impression, save the two ballads I mention. Of course nobody could imagine what the frontispiece had to do with them. Some people thought the female figure was Jenny, the shield her wheel, and the lion Auld Robin. When Lady Anne died she left Sir Walter fifty pounds."
In the same memorandum of 1835, he also says that the excellent plate of a man selling Jacobite ballads to a lady whose mother is a Whig, used in Mr. Laing's second series of fugitive Scottish poetry, "was done by Lizars, from my design, as a bookplate for Sir Walter. The scene is the High Street of Edinburgh, with the old Cross. This plate, alas! was never of any use to my dear friend."
When, in 1814, the magistrates of the city of Edinburgh conferred the freedom of the city upon Walter Scott, they at the same time presented him with a piece of plate, which he chose in the shape of an old English tankard, designed by Sharpe, and engraved with a Latin inscription by Professor Gregory, as recorded in Lockhart's "Life": a letter from Scott to Mr. Sharpe, with a sketch in pen and ink of the utensil in question, is now in the Scott Museum.
In December 1815, again, when the Sutors o' Selkirk were presented with a piece of plate by the Duke of Buccleuch, Sharpe was called into conference as to the design, the "birse" being, as Scott observes in one of his letters, a most unmanageable decoration. The result of the committee of taste is thus stated by Scott in a letter to the Duke of Buceleuch: "After some conference with Charles Sharpe, I have hit on a plan which I think will look well if tolerably executed — namely, to have the lady seated in due form on the top of the lid (which will look handsome, and will be well taken), and to have a thistle wreathed around the sarcophagus, and rising above her head and from the top of the thistle shall proceed the birse." In Lockhart's "Life," from which the above extract is taken, the mystery of the birse or birss is thus explained in a note: "A birse or bunch of hog's bristles forms the cognisance of the sutors (Anglice, shoemakers). When a new burgess is admitted into their community, the birse passes round with the cup of welcome, and every elder brother dips it into the wine and draws it through his mouth before it reaches the happy neophyte, who of course pays it similar respect."
On all occasions, indeed, the memory, the pencil, and the collections of Sharpe were at the disposal of his eminent friend, who constantly referred to him on such points. On the flyleaf of a fine copy of Terence (with Brandt's woodcuts, dated 1499) is the following inscription in Scott's handwriting: "For the acceptance of Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq. This volume, of which the text so well suits his Attic humour, and the grotesque decoration his talent for embodying the costume and manners of former times, is destined by his sincere friend, Walter Scott." Such was the opinion of the man most competent to judge of such qualities.
Mr. Sharpe's first historical publication was one in which he found ample and ready assistance from his distinguished ally. The nature of the work, indeed, would have commended it to Scott's sympathies from any quarter. The fanaticism of the Covenanters, painted by one of their own party, was naturally acceptable to the author of "Old Mortality" and "Bonnie Dundee"; and he must have rejoiced when his friend proposed to become editor of "The Secret and True History of the Church of Scotland, from the Restoration to the Present Time," by the Rev. Mr. James Kirkton. Mr. Sharpe, in his preface, states that he owed the possession of this curious MS. to his friendly correspondent, Mr. Surtees of Mainsforth, well known as the historian of Durham. He refers to two other copies; one in the British Museum, with this note at the beginning, "This book contains Mr. Kirkton's History of his own Times in the year 1679. He was a person of a good understanding, and of a great deal of witt." The other, in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, is among the MSS. of Wodrow, who made considerable use of Kirkton's Memoirs in his own better known work. "The reader," adds Mr. Sharpe, "will find that Kirkton's History is written with much spirit, and in spite of the strong prejudices which he had imbibed, frequently with a great degree of candour. And this fragment is valuable not only as containing various anecdotes of the author's contemporaries, hitherto unpublished, but as the production of a man once so highly reverenced by his own sect." On this publication Mr. Sharpe poured out, in the form of notes, as much pungent wit and curious learning as might have made a book of reputation had they been systematically used. He likewise appended to it the narrative of the murder of Archbishop Sharp, from the pen of James Russell, one of the assassins, and adorned it with portraits of the unfortunate prelate, of the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, and with a very spirited though slight sketch of the battle of Bothwell Brig, from a picture at Dalkeith House.
Walter Scott, however, warned his friend that he had bestowed care and pains upon a subject which would be caviare to the million; and this opinion as to the want of popularity of Kirkton was fully justified by the result. It was published by Ballantyne, a handsome quarto, in 1817, with a dedication to the editor's college friend, Earl Gower; but though now grown somewhat scarce, it never became popular. Its reception from the cognoscenti was on the whole favourable, though in some cases Calvinistic prejudices carried the day. There is a poor review of it in Constable's Edinburgh Magazine, 1817, where it is most obvious that the writer was struggling between a strong desire to vindicate the heroes of the Covenant against the Tory sarcasms of the editor, and an indisposition to fall foul of a valuable collaborateur. For in the same volume is a most spirited narrative of the famous family scandal of the house of Cassilis, the elopement of the first Countess with Johnnie Faa, the gipsy chieftain, sufficiently marked as from the hand of C. K. Sharpe, even were it not accompanied by an etching of the frail Countess, in that easy charming style which few of his contemporaries could equal. At this period Mr. Sharpe was an occasional contributor to Constable's Magazine, and as such had to suffer certain skittish impertinences from the juvenile wits who were flinging up their heels in the then youthful "Maga." We do not, however, notice anything from his pen worth reviewing but the contribution above referred to. Nor can the reviewer in the Edinburgh Magazine be complimented on the airiness of his style; the critique of "Law's Memorials," as well as of the prior work, being in the severest order of heavy platitude. As will be seen anon, the book was done ample justice to in the Quarterly; while the Edinburgh Review does not seem to have noticed it at all, possibly from a wish not to offend by that tone of hostile comment which consistency in politics would have necessitated. Besides, Mr. Sharpe had been a frequent contributor to the avowed organ of opposition, the Edinburgh Annual Register, in which, over and above several selections from family papers, such as letters from David Hume to Matthew Sharpe of Hoddam, of which a facsimile is given, of Lord Eglintoun to his son, Alexander Lord Montgomerie (afterwards tenth Earl, and murdered by Mungo Campbell), &c. &c., at least one original poem of Mr. Sharpe's had appeared — the "Fragment composed by Moonlight," in the volume for 1810. It was not, however, for want of the good offices of the Border Minstrel that the republication of Kirkton did not meet with its due meed of credit. His notice in the Quarterly was of the most appreciative character of just and discriminating approbation, and ended by a promise — ultimately unfulfilled — of returning to the subject in a notice of "Law's Memorials," the next republication of an obsolete author which Mr. Sharpe undertook; although from fragments in his papers he had evidently contemplated a memoir of the Duke of Monmouth, whose tragical history had always a charm for him. It would seem that a proposition from Sir Walter Scott for a joint book on Witchcraft induced him to select the chronicler of satanic exploits as a subject for a reprint, and Scott was again ready to act as adviser and accoucheur to the work.
In 1818 was published in quarto by Ballantyne, "Law's Memorialls; or, the memorable things that fell out in my time within this Island of Brittain," accompanied by a dedication to the Earl of Wemyss, and a prefatory notice containing some particulars of Mr. Robert Law himself, and an introduction tracing the legends of wizardry and spectral appearances to the earliest periods of Scottish history. By this admirable essay and the notes with which the text was adorned, Mr. Sharpe obtained a high reputation for knowledge of strange legendary traditions; but it would seem that he did not achieve sufficient success to tempt him to republish other works of the same character, as he seems at one time to have contemplated, or to carry out the suggestion of the Author of Waverley for a joint or independent original publication dealing with superstitious anecdotes.
Nevertheless his next production was identified with the same topic, being an etching, beautifully imagined, for James Hogg's poem, "The Witch of Fife," published in 1819.
We come now to a work which may strictly be described as a labour of love to him. His indefatigable industry in collecting fragments of ancient ballads had enabled him already to be of great service to Scott in introducing him to such ballads as the "Twa Corbies," and by improving the versions of other and better known specimens of the primitive muse. But Mr. Sharpe had an omnivorous taste for anything in rhyme, which had any pretensions either to antiquity or to eccentricity. Of these he appears to have contemplated a collection as early as 1803, to judge from the sketch of a burlesque essay prefixed to a copy of the singular canticle beginning, "O, Errol is a bonny place," which afterwards found a place in his ballad-book. He entitles it, "A specimen of the fourth vol. of the 'Border Minstrelsy,' shortly to be published. The following ballad was written down from the recitation of a middleaged woman who resides in a small cottage or hovel near Hoddam (which is spelled in old documents Hoddame) Castle, with no companions to relieve the tedium of solitude but an illegitimate indiscretion of her niece, and a lean tabby cat, whose ears have been curtailed, to impede her from catching goldfinches and other bird; which are wont to render vocal the hedges of Annandale," &c. &c.
At length he carried out his project in a small volume, printed in 1823 for private circulation only, and adorned with an exquisite etching in imitation of the German school, and a little vignette after Hollar. This year may be considered as his most prolific and successful one with the graver, since, in addition to the picture just mentioned, he executed a frontispiece for Mr. David Laing's "Fugitive Scottish Poetry," one for the same gentleman's "Book of the Howlet," and one for the reprint of Lady Anne Barnard's "Auld Robin Gray."
We do not find him actively engaged in any literary work during the two years following, though a memorandum of agreement is in existence, dated 10th December 1825, by which he undertook to edit the "Memoirs of Grammont," engaging to furnish notes at least equal to the text in extent. This intention, to the great loss of the students of the secret history of courts, never was carried into effect.
In 1826, the Bannatyne Club volume of "Letters of the Viscount of Dundee," presented by his friend and connection Mr. Smythe of Methven, was augmented not only by the results of some of his investigations into the Queensberry papers, but by a pair of exquisite portraits of Bonnie Dundee and his spouse; the former from the picture now in the possession of Lady Elizabeth Cartwright, the latter from a portrait in his own collection. In the same year he contributed to Mr. Laing's edition of the "Romance of Sir Greysteel," a charming illustration of an incident in the story, as well as a curious head of his own remote ancestor, the covenanting Earl of Eglintoun, who derived his sobriquet from the hero of the poem, taken from an indenture between Sir Hugh Montgomerie and Alexander Earl of Eglintoun in 1630. It will be discovered, however, upon inspection of the facsimile of the deed in Mr. Fraser's "Memorials of the Earls of Eglintoun," 1859, vol. ii. p. 288, that Mr. Sharpe's copy of the Earl's portrait is not very accurate. The year following found him employed upon a couple of quaint reprints, both of which were illustrated by engravings supplied by him. The first of these, entitled "A Pairt of the Life of Lady Margaret Cuninghame, daughter of the Earl of Glencairn, that she had with her first husband the Master of Evandale: the just and true account thereof, as it was first written with her own hand, including a letter to her husband the Master of Evandale, and another to my Lady Marquess of Hamilton, with her last Will sent to the said Lady Marquess inclosed therein," he states to have been printed from two manuscripts, neither of which is in the handwriting of the authoress: "One was long possessed by a family related to Lady Margaret, and is now much torn and defaced; the other is the property of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., who, with his wonted and well-known generosity, allowed it to be transcribed by the editor. I know not whether the original documents be still extant; and the point is of very little importance." From the same preface we cull a very characteristic passage: "At Hamilton Palace is a portrait of the Marchioness, which has been engraved in Pinkerton's 'Scottish Gallery,' a work composed of caricatures, and calculated to make us believe that our ancestors resembled the
Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders.
The villanous copyists for the engravers, not content with distorting the features of the faces, frequently added potbellies and bolster arms of their own invention, to fill up the measure of the plates. I verily believe that the world never saw such a foul assemblage of monsters; and of these the poor ladies have come off the worst, for, generally speaking, they remind one of the lothely dame in the ballad of Sir Gawaine:
Her nose was crookt and turned outwarde,
Her chin stood all awrye;
And where there sholde have been her mouthe,
Lo, there was set her eye.
Sir Kay beheld that Lady againe,
And looked upon her snout:
Whoever kisses that ladye, he sayes,
Of his kiss he stands in doubt."
Lady Margaret luckily escaped the posthumous martyrdom, as no picture of her is known to be extant. In truth, portraits of the Glencairn family are now very rare. The race, alas! hath passed away, even on panel and on canvas: their honours are extinct, and their forms are forgotten.
What is this moving tower in which we trust?
A little winde closed in a cloud of dust.
—LORD STIRLING'S Julius Caesar.
The vignette to this quaint volume (of thirty quarto pages) is a very highly finished specimen in the well-known manner of Hollar, representing a lady, in Charles I. costume, looking into a mirror in which is reflected a death's-head, a fancy not improbably suggested by a plate in a favourite book of his — Jeremy Taylor's "Holy Dying" — in which Lady Vaughan is depicted as contemplating a skeleton in a mirror. In its peculiar way, it is equal to the best efforts of his pencil. The companion volume, an account of the repentance of a beautiful murderess, Jean Livingstone, the wife of John Kincaid of Warriston, is from a MS. in the handwriting of the historian Wodrow, and is illustrated by a copperplate, "which I picked up in the Cowgate," writes Mr. Sharpe, of a lady with a crocodile's tail, attended by a maid carrying a parasol, while a cavalier, whose horse is held by a page, salutes her with deep reverence.
In the following year he edited the "Letters of Lady Margaret Burnet to John Duke of Lauderdale," which by the kindness of the Countess of Dysart were transcribed from the originals preserved in a drawer at Ham House, Surrey. The vignette to this volume, also a quarto, was a head of the Duke from a picture at Drummond Castle, and he supplemented the correspondence with numerous valuable biographical notes. In the preface he takes occasion to compliment his old friend Thomas Thomson, "to whose profound knowledge and ardent zeal the literature and history of Scotland are so much indebted." A sentiment reciprocated over and over again, in letters from the antiquary.
In 1828 the reprint for the Bannatyne Club of the "History of the House of Seytoun," by Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington, was also illustrated by two of his engravings: the one representing Robert first Earl of Wintoun, with his wife and daughter, a most characteristic study of ancient costume; the other a view of the interior of the Seton Chapel, a beautiful remnant of medieval art, in which, unfortunately, his graver was less at home than in portraiture or character subjects. No one would care to look at his etching of the Seton Chapel twice; while his next work, the frontispiece to a reprint of a quaint book, entitled Petrie's "Rules of Good Deportment," is a piece of inexhaustible fun. This appeared in 1835; but it must not be supposed that Mr. Sharpe was idle during the whole of the intervening period. We may instance some of his employments.
His books were always copiously annotated by his own hand, but at this period of his life he became more methodical in his habit of comment or supplement to the treasures of his library. One of these, the Scottish Peerage of Sir Robert Douglas, was a favourite receptacle of his out-of-the-way accumulations, and would be a valuable foundation for a new edition of the knightly genealogist. Some of the short notes refer to forgotten tales of personal scandal. Such as (under title Annandale): "Lady Harriet Hope has the smallpox. Annandale and Hopetoun are not on good terms; he thinks him a disobedient son because his wife took the smallpox without asking her mother's liberty. — Fragment of a letter, once in Lady Loudon's possession." But by far the larger number are of the character of the specimen which follows, deriving their interest more from the manner of their relation than from anything especially piquant in the anecdotes themselves:
"The anecdote alluded to is thus told by Pennant:—
"'A daughter of the first Earl of Gowrie was addressed by a young gentleman in the neighbourhood, much her inferior in rank and fortune. Her family, though they gave no countenance to the match, permitted him to visit them, and lodged him in a tower near another in which was the young lady's chamber, but up a different staircase, and communicating with another part of the house. The lady, before the communicating doors were shut, conveyed herself into her lover's apartment; but some one having discovered it, told it to her mother, who, cutting off, as she thought, all possibility of retreat, hastened to surprise them. But the young lady, hearing the well-known footsteps of her mother hobbling upstairs, ran to the top of the leads, and taking a desperate leap of nine feet four inches over a chasm of sixty feet from the ground, lighted on the battlements of the other tower, whence, descending into her own chamber, she crept into her bed. Her mother having in vain sought for her in her lover's chamber, came into her room, where, finding her seemingly asleep, she apologized for her unjust suspicions. The young lady eloped the next night, and was married. The top of the towers from and to which the lady leaped are still shown under the appellation of 'The Maiden's Leap.'"
"This story was some time since differently told; fear of an enraged father with a drawn sword in his hand being assigned as the reason of the lady's leap. An anecdote of the same kind, but still more wonderful, was formerly current in Annandale respecting the old tower of Cumlongan. There, it was said, a rash young lady being surprised in similar circumstances, as the old people expressed it, coming 'rampagin up the turnpyke like onie wood bear, wi' a nakit sword in his nieve,' she ran to the top of the castle, and leaping down to the ground, got entrance at the front door, and was in her bed before her sire could descend from the battlements. The feline Venus of the Egyptians certainly proved Propitious to those vaulting damsels. Alas that she was so cruel to the chaster Maid of Orleans! whose leap from the battlements of Beaurevoir was unbroken by the pinions of Cupid, and nearly cost her life. C. K. S."
His collection of antiquities also increased rapidly in bulk and in value. Many presents were made him of greater or less worth and rarity, and from time to time he added many rare and curious articles, selected with greater judgment than the miscellaneous treasures questionable value often thrust upon him. His habitual courtesy was frequently strained to find civil terms in which to acknowledge (where it was impossible to decline) the well-meant largesse of would-be virtuosos.
Recluse as he was, he appealed to the acquaintances of former years, and dedicated the epigrammatic satire so germane to him in defence of public privilege and of threatened antiquity. He had always a vast aversion to those whom he was accustomed to designate as Athenian improvers, watching over the relies of Caledonian history with an eye ever vigilant against the Vandalism of boards, committees, surveyors, and all municipal meddlers of the same sort.
A public protest against various contemplated acts of municipal barbarism is conveyed in the epistle which follows:
"To the Editor of the Edinburgh Observer.
"'Delenda est Carthago.'
"SIR, — I have perused, in your newspaper of the 10th, a very instructive letter as to the city improvements at present in meditation. Permit me to transmit to you a few additional observations which have occurred to me on this most interesting subject. Though the committee seem extremely anxious to prove that their intentions are far from hostile to the antique beauty of our metropolis, and somewhat rashly assert that 'if the question be limited to picturesque effect, the plans are calculated to meet the difficulties of the most fastidious' (p. 9), yet I can assure them and the public that very many of their fellow-citizens are of a different way of thinking, and that I have had the honour of knowing several persons of distinguished genius, not connected with Edinburgh, who deem all such encroachments little short of downright Vandalism. I need only mention the name of Mr. Westmacott, whose judgment in such matters few will venture to dispute. In the new plan as to the Castle, there is, should it be carried through, one thing particularly lamentable, — that by much the most picturesque side of the fortress must suffer in the common calamity. The projected cut will make it appear considerably lower, and destroy the whole grandeur of the southern part. To be sure, we shall have coal-carts and dung-carts to enliven it, and the continual smoke from the houses one storey above the road, which may conceal much of the mischief. Yet still, Mr. Editor, it is a circumstance to be deplored. 'In life's last scene what prodigies surprise!' Though I have lived to see, in the course of forty years, the old town lose much of its primitive features, from unavoidable decay, from the rage for improvement, and the little less destructive element of fire; tho' I have beheld Salisbury Craigs irretrievably injured, and the Calton Hill utterly destroyed, yet never did I expect to witness such a bold attack as this upon the rock and Castle of Edinburgh. Surely our city projectors have forgot the adage of Drummond of Hawthornden, which should be remembered for more reasons than one: 'Les murailles et les fortresses sont au Roy personne, ne peut abuser de son bien au prejudice de son souveraine.' 'The Castle,' say the committee, 'is thrown open to view in many points, and is improved in every point. In particular, it is thrown open to view throughout the whole line of the High Street, from which for ages it has been concealed; and if no other good arose than this from the scheme, it would be entitled to the regard of the city.' Now, Mr. Editor, the committee seem to have forgot that our castles were originally erected for defence; so they became, as one may say, the nest-eggs of towns, and houses were built as near to them as possible, forming by degrees streets and closes. Consequently the buildings on the Castle Hill were the commencement of the city; and as it is not evident that they ever stood much farther apart than they do at present, the High Street never saw the Castle at all, which might have been a pity formerly, but is of no great import now; for, cut as the committee advises, the High Street will only see a big-bellied bulwark, and other buildings devoid both of interest and beauty. The committee profess that no house of any celebrity is to be demolished for these alterations, forgetting, it would appear, that memorable mansion on the north side of the Castle Hill, which belonged to Queen Marie of Lorraine, mother to our unfortunate Marie, and in her minority Regent of Scotland, — a building probably one of the most ancient, certainly one of the most interesting, in Edinburgh. In truth, it would be very eligible to purchase this curious house by means of a public subscription, in which, I believe, there would be little difficulty, and carefully preserve it as a relic of times gone by. Mr. Westmacott was decidedly of this opinion, and made an admirable sketch of it when here. I must add, that the committee seem strangely mistaken also as to the pecuniary value of the buildings on the north side of the hill; for I positively know that two storeys of that old property were some time since sold for almost as much as they affirm would purchase the whole. At p. 24 of their report the committee tell us, 'An assessment, therefore, for such purposes is just one of the penalties which the inhabitants pay for their rugged and picturesque locality.' Their rugged and picturesque locality! Certainly, Mr. Editor, the committee are pleased to be facetious. After the havoc displayed on the Calton, and the proposal as to the Castle Hill, to talk of preserving rugged and picturesque localities! At present I will only trouble you with one remark more, and that is respecting the lowering of the High Street. If this expensive measure be rendered necessary, owing to the awkward position of the County Rooms, why should not the Rooms themselves be pulled down, and thus Mahomet go to the mountain? It is not very probable that the warmest admirers of modern architecture will much regret the destruction of a fabric which the Commissioners seem to have thrust down into a sort of potato-hole, purposely for the sake of concealment; and so odd a figure does it cut there, that it must ever remind one of Dean Swift's witty poem on the Parthenon near Castlenock:
The doctor's family came by,
And little Miss began to cry,
Give me that house in my own hand!
Then Madam bade the chariot stand,
Called to the clerk in manner mild,
Pray, reach that thing here to my child;
That thing, I mean, among the kale
And here's to buy a pot of ale.
"— I am, Sir, your most humble servant."
An admirable piece of caustic irony on municipal interference with the approaches to, and environs of, Edinburgh Castle, may be quoted here:—
"Eiks for a new Act for improving and embellishing the town of Edinburgh — the inhabitants to be cessed therefor according to the will and pleasure of the Magistrates. For painting pure white the whole of the Castle rock, which will not only beautify the same, but from the reflection of the sunbeams be of great advantage to the oculists of the town, as it will occasion a decay of sight in the inhabitants; item, it will be of infinite advantage to the perfumers (this becomes of beautifying also), as it will give a salutory hint to the older ladies of the city as to the use of Pearl powder and other applications well known to be of advantage to a weather-beaten complexion.
"For making a tunnell through said rock, which will afford easier communication than we at present possess between the Grass-market and the New Town, and forward the sale of turnips and cabbages from the garden in the North Loch. It will also, in case of a siege of the Castle, which is extremely probable, facilitate the access to water in the Well-house Tower; for the soldiers will have nothing to do but to descend by a rope through the aperture of the Castle well, as Don Quixotte entered into the cave of Monterinos, and convey as many bucketfuls as they please into the garrison — this plan to be submitted to the Board of Ordnance. That here and there in the Castle rock niches are to be hewn out, and in these colossal busts placed of all the Provosts and Baillies who have contributed by their refined genius to the improvement of the town — these to be executed by the best sculptors in London — as an encouragement to future Magistrates, and as example of the excellent taste of the present dynasty of Edinburgh.
"That Messrs Montgomery, Weddell, and Davidson be employed to draw up a plan of improvements for the High Church, being instructed that they are to contrive matters so that it should exactly resemble an antient saltcellar, the pride of the tables of our ancestors, surrounded with a wall of almond biscuits, spun sugar, and whipt cream. They are to preserve the old form as little as possible, because the walls must recall unpleasing remembrances to Catholics, Presbyterians, antiquaries, and all those whose ancestors have frequented said church for these six hundred years bygone. The sooner the arm of Saint Giles, the stool of Mrs. Janet Geddes, Haddo's Hole, and the tombs of Lords Murray and Montrose are forgotten, so much the better.
"That, as it is a great point to direct the admiration of strangers to our modern improvements, the said strangers being too apt to inquire after objects of curiosity in the Old Town, and thus totally neglect the extraordinary beauties of the new, the following places are to be destroyed, and Grecian houses erected on their sites: The oldest part of Holyrood House, containing Queen Marie's apartments; the Regent Murray's house in the Canongate, John Knox's House at the Netherbow, the Mint and French Ambassador's house in the Cowgate, Queensberrie House, Tweedale House, &c., &c.: these to be demolished and rebuilt according to the prevalent taste, the Act providentially including other houses which are principally sou ght after, as the Queen Regent's house of the Castle Hill, the West Bow, &c., &c.
"That the Mound, which has ever been considered as one of the most striking beauties of this city, particularly by country virtuosos who are critical in compost middens, be extended on both sides — on the east to the North Bridge, on the west to the Castle rock. This, fairly filling up the uncouth valley between the Old and New Town, will possess numberless conveniences: people, when drunk, will not tumble into the North Loch; and if a hat be blown off on the North Bridge, it will be easily recovered without the aid of the police. Besides, the town will have the advantage of the pens; and the smoke from so many low buildings to be erected will enable the inhabitants of Princes Street to dry their neats' tongues thoroughly by hanging them out of their windows, — a convenience of which they are very much in want, and such as the present plans for the Mound give us reason to expect.
Kirks, closes, kimmers, clatters, swythe, begone!
Deil tak' expense, heeze up the Parthenon.
Writes Robert Henryson; MS., p. 23."
He also drew up a petition from the inhabitants of the west end of Princes Street to the committee on the subject of the encroachments of the Mound; and a letter to his relative, Sir John Muir Mackenzie of Delvine, on the anticipated destruction of Gowrie House at Perth, will be found in its place.
To the very last he preserved his horror of wanton change; one of his latest notes being to the custodian of the gardens in Drummond Place, threatening, if the lopping of trees there were proceeded with, to appeal to a meeting of proprietors of houses.
Another event which raised a flame of patriotic indignation in his breast was the attempt in 1826 to alter the Scottish banking system, in accordance with English views on the currency, — an interference which led to the publication by Sir Walter Scott of two vigorous protests under the nom de plume of Malachi Malagrowther (see Lockhart's "Life"). Mr. Sharpe fully shared the indignant sentiments of his illustrious friend, as will be seen in his correspondence.
Letters written after the year 1830 are somewhat scarce. His practice of preserving copies of most of his own letters gave way, after the publication of Lady Charlotte Bury's work mentioned before, to the totally opposite custom of careful destruction of most of the originals where he could regain possession of them. He ceased also to write with the same ready pen as of yore; his letters and drawings exhibit tokens of tremor of the physical powers; and thus there is hardly any correspondence available for the memoir of his later years. The few brief notes, addressed to members of his own family or to his junior friends, are, however, worth printing, if only to show that the natural keenness of his intellect had not abated.
In 1836 he published an elegant quarto volume of musical compositions by one of his ancestors of the Erskine blood, Thomas sixth Earl of Kellie, rated amongst the most distinguished amateurs by Dr. Burney in his "General History of Music." To this, besides a short preface, he added a beautiful vignette, adapted from an old French print so as to represent the Edinburgh Assembly of bygone days, with a minuet in progress; also an illustration to a song composed by Lord Kellie, entitled "The Lover's Message." This book he dedicated to his mother; and it was the last token of his affectionate regard which he had it in his power to bestow, as shortly afterwards he had the misfortune to be separated from her by death, — an event, as we may well believe, productive of the very keenest anguish to a son so earnest in his feelings of filial regard. Her house in Princes Street was consequently given up; and Mr. Sharpe, after a brief trial of a residence on the south side of the Old Town, near Bristo Street, settled for life at No. 28 Drummond Place.
During the year 1836, in addition to the drawings mentioned above, he executed frontispieces for the Abbotsford Club publications of the "Romances of Otuel," and of "Roland and Vernagu," and a very pretty vignette for a poem (by a lady connected with his family) entitled "Flora's Fete." In 1837 he edited, from a folio MS. in the Advocates' Library, a reprint (fifty copies quarto) of a curious poem, "Surgundo, or the Valiant Christian," which he adorned with an etching of the heads of the Marquis and Marchioness of Huntly, and dedicated to his friend Mr. James Gibson-Craig. In 1838 he published the song of "Absence," "the words by Lady Grizzel Baillie, the air composed by Mr. Sharpe (his father) when only seven years old." The vignette on the title-page, though not etched by him, was from one of his drawings after Lely. In the same year he contributed a drawing to the Abbotsford romance of "Arthur and Merlin," another to "Sir Bevis of Hampton," and one to Mr. Maidment's edition of Sir Thomas Urquhart's "Rabelais." In 1840, "The Romaunt of Guy of Warwick," reprinted by Mr. Turnbull, received his aid, "whose exquisite graphic abilities are their own panegyric," says the editor's preface; and his latest work in 1842 was for the same gentleman's "Visions of Tundale," a weird assemblage of horrible faces worthy of Breughel. His later years, indeed, were uneventful to a degree. His reading was never suffered to grow rusty, and his MS. annotations on books were continued to the last; but for several years before his death he scarcely wrote a letter, and went but little abroad, except in search of some stray relic of antiquity or object of interest.
In 1850 symptoms of decaying health manifested themselves unmistakably, and in March 1851 he died, after a brief and not extremely painful illness. He was buried with his forefathers in the family mausoleum at Hoddam. More than one eulogistic notice of his career appeared in the periodicals of the day; but we select for extraction a portion of an article in the Scotsman, evidently from the pen of some one possessed of an intimate personal acquaintance with Mr. Sharpe:
"We had, from the time when we announced the death of this gentleman, resolved that we would not let so remarkable a man leave us without offering some homage to his memory beyond the usual obituary notice. Though delayed from time to time, we were yet resolved that the task should be fulfilled, and the more so from a consciousness that his was not the kind of eminence likely to secure any fuller commemoration than the columns of a newspaper can afford. 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 unsaleable merchandise.
"His manners partook of the same obsolete character — not artificially or affectedly, but quite naturally. One may occasionally meet with an octogenarian carrying a shade of the old-world courtesy into this more brisk, unfettered generation; but Sharpe bore it in full bloom, as if it were not only his own natural manner, but that of the people he spoke to. It was older still than his costume — Sir Charles Grandison all over. Its general tone on the mere acquaintance was extremely pleasing and kind. Though it was but a manner, yet one almost felt grateful to its owner, so much of an old-fashioned, soothing pleasantness was there about it; yet it was sedately stately, and by no means encouraged familiarity. One of his characteristic pursuits was a severe stretch on the capacity of manner and address to carry out true dignity and ensure respect. His matchless collection of antiquities and works of art was well known and frequently visited. It was his great pride to be its exhibitor, and illustrate it with a running commentary of anecdotes and witticisms; but under the covering of his courteous good-nature and of his real pride in his collection, one might perceive two things which he dreaded and took particular pains to avoid: the one was, being considered a weak old man with a hobby with which he was ready to saturate every one who would submit to it; the other was, being used by persons of rank or importance, who heard of his collection, as a sort of showman to exhibit it. Hence there was an air of caprice and wilfulness in his management of the entree to his celebrated museum. Some people made continued efforts to obtain access to it, and were always defeated; while others were with bland courtesy asked to come when they chose, and bring whom they chose. His chief jealousy was about being considered the civil fellow ready to do service to great people. He was 'come,' as we say in Scotland, of the first families in the country, and he knew and felt it to the full. He was a good deal imbued with the kind of pride of old Sir Edward Seymour, who, when asked by Charles II. if he was not a member of the Duke of Somerset's family, answered, 'No, sire; the Duke is a member of mine.' Hence it was not the best way of getting the doors of the exhibition opened, to speak of the rank or importance of the person desiring to see it; but when he was in good humour, such vaunting might perhaps be met with a pleasant, good-natured nod, and, 'Oh, any friend of yours, my dear Mr. —, is welcome.'
"That museum was a place which few who have ever seen it can forget — the fairy suits of armour, the graven images of all kinds in mobs and processions, Sir Peter Lely's lay figure bedecked with a heap of ancient finery, the jewelled shrines and inexhaustible quantities of old silver-work, the trinkets by George Heriot, the enamels and the miniatures, brought out of the endless recesses of a multitude of ancient cabinets. Simply as a collection of beautiful and curious things, it was worthy of a long visit; but almost everything had some little history attached to it. The horrible, it must be admitted, but not the vulgar horrible, predominated. There were no pieces of the rope which had hanged Burke, or pistol that had penetrated into the slaughtered Weare's brains; but there were portraits of celebrated murderesses, from Queen Joan of Naples down to that picture by Hogarth for which Sarah Malcolm rouged herself in Newgate. This, by the way, was bought at Horace Walpole's sale. Hogarth remarked that no one would have taken that woman for a cutter of throats. It may be so; but his own portrait of her has a savage harshness about it — an appearance of relentless ruffianism — which is positively frightful. At this same sale Sharpe missed, much to his mortification, Hogarth's picture of Bainbridge, the governor of Newgate, under examination for cruelty to his prisoners. It would have fitted admirably into the collection. The collector himself had much congeniality of taste with Hogarth, and delighted in memorials of him. He had a portrait of the notorious Colonel Charteris, whose figure is characteristically conspicuous in the first plate of the 'Harlot's Progress,' and used to make a half-serious half-jocular boast about absolutely possessing a piece of the handwriting of the wretched accomplice who is peering over the Colonel's shoulder. It was of the perfumed and tinselled criminalities of Charles II.'s reign, however, that he preserved the richest memorials, and it was his delight to comment on the sweet simplicity of Lely's portrait of her who held the reins of her paramour's horse while he shot her husband.
"The accumulation of this museum was a sad torment to the class of men who cater to the taste of collectors. This one had not only a peculiar taste running in a zigzag direction, which it was not easy for the common trader in curiosities to anticipate, but he was exquisitely fastidious. It was as impossible to pass a forged note at a bank as to impose on him with a false picture. In fact, besides artistic capacity, he had great natural acuteness, and he directed it all to this one pursuit. He was unrelenting in his criticisms, and was not, like many a collector, deceived by the charms of ownership. We remember, on his having bought at a considerable price a portrait which had long stood in a well-known collection as an undoubted Kneller, with what zeal he set about proving for his own satisfaction, that from certain small but distinct morsels of artistic evidence, the picture could not be a genuine Kneller. His contempt of anything in art beneath certain high standards was indeed of the most withering kind, and was apt to extort from him sarcasms which were rather a striking contrast to the courteous blandness of his usual conversation. For instance, at a sale which occurred a few years ago, it had been a question whether a lot had been purchased by Mr. Sharpe, or by an artist who had no mean opinion of himself. The picture had been sent home to the artist; but he had, he said, no excessive anxiety to possess it — he was ready to give it up — only, he lightly observed, having seen some little defects in the picture, he had 'touched it up.' This statement, which the artist made with an honest purpose of enhancing the value of his sacrifice, elicited the savage answer, 'Oh, you've been touching it, have you? That's a pretty trick. It's just what the nasty boys at charity schools do when they spit on the porridge, to prevent the others from eating it. You may keep the picture.'
"We have probably been paying more attention to the peculiarities of Mr. Sharpe than to those capacities which made him a man deserving of commemoration. He had abilities of a very high order both for literature and art; and had he required to make his own bread, he would probably have been one of the most distinguished men of his day. But he never settled himself with seriousness and earnestness to a distinct pursuit; and indeed he had doubtless a little of the aristocratic leaven of Horace Walpole, which looked on the systematic practice of art or literature — especially their practice with an eye to remuneration — as an abandonment of position. He thus scattered the produce of his pen and pencil carelessly around, as the fruit of his amusement and recreation — after the manner in which the fisher or fowler treats the fruit of his sport; and even the towering greatness of Scott was insufficient in his eyes to dignify professional authorship."
And some years later, a friendly, if slightly caricatured, portrait of lifelike fidelity appeared in that most readable of works, the "Book-hunter":—
"Let us now summon the shade of another departed victim — Fitzpatrick Smart, Esq. He, too, through a long life, had been a vigilant and enthusiastic collector, but after a totally different fashion. He was far from omnivorous. He had a principle of selection peculiar and separate from all others, as was his own individuality from other men's. You could not classify his library according to any of the accepted nomenclatures peculiar to the initiated. He was not a black-letter man, or a tall-copyist, or an uncut man, or a rough-edge man, or an early-English-dramatist, or an Elzeverian, or a broadsider, or a pasquinader, or an old-brown-calf man, or a Grangerite, or a tawny-moroccoite, or a gilt-topper, a marbled-insider, or an editio princeps man; neither did he come under any of the more vulgar classifications of collectors whose thoughts run more upon the usefulness for study than upon the external conditions of their library, such as those who affect science, or the classics, or English poetic and historical literature. There was no way of defining his peculiar walk save by his own name — it was the Fitzpatrick-Smart walk. In fact it wound itself in infinite windings through isolated spots of literary scenery, if we may so speak, in which he took a personal interest. There were historical events, bits of family history, chiefly of a tragic or a scandalous kind, — efforts of art or of literary genius on which, through some hidden intellectual law, his mind and memory loved to dwell; and it was in reference to these that he collected. If the book were the one desired by him, no anxiety and toil, no payable price, was to be grudged for its acquisition. If the book were an inch out of his own line, it might be trampled in the mire for aught he cared, be it as rare or costly as it could be.
"It was difficult, almost impossible, for others to predicate what would please this wayward sort of taste; and he was the torment of the book-caterers, who were sure of a princely price for the right article, but might have the wrong one thrown in their teeth with contumely. It was a perilous, but, if successful, a gratifying thing to present him with a book. If it happened to hit his fancy, he felt the full force of the compliment, and overwhelmed the giver with his courtly thanks. But great observation and tact were required for such an adventure. The chances against an ordinary thoughtless gift-maker were thousands to one; and those who were acquainted with his strange nervous temperament knew that the existence within his dwelling-place of any book not of his own special kind, would impart to him the sort of feeling of uneasy horror which a bee is said to feel when an earwig comes into its cell. Presentation copies by authors were among the chronic torments of his existence. While the complacent author was perhaps pluming himself on his liberality in making the judicious gift, the recipient was pouring out all his sarcasm, which was not feeble or slight, on the odious object, and wondering why an author could have entertained against him so steady and enduring a malice as to take the trouble of writing and printing all that rubbish with no better object than disturbing the peace of mind of an inoffensive old man. Every tribute from such dona ferentes cost him much uneasiness and some want of sleep — for what could he do with it? It was impossible to make merchandise of it, for he was every inch a gentleman, He could not burn it, for under an acrid exterior he had a kindly nature. It was believed, indeed, that he had established some limbo of his own, in which such unwelcome commodities were subject to a kind of burial or entombment, where they remained in existence, yet were decidedly outside the circle of his household gods.
"These gods were a Pantheon of a lively and grotesque aspect, for he was a hunter after other things besides books. His acquisitions included pictures, and the various commodities which, for want of a distinctive name, auctioneers call 'miscellaneous articles of vertu.' He started on his accumulating career with some old family relics, and these, perhaps, gave the direction to his subsequent acquisitions; for they were all, like his books, brought together after some self-willed and peculiar law of association that pleased himself. A bad, even an inferior picture, he would not have — for his taste was exquisite — unless, indeed, it had some strange history about it, adapting it to his wayward fancies; and then he would adopt the badness as a peculiar recommendation, and point it out with some pungent and appropriate remark to his friends. But though, with these peculiar exceptions, his works of art were faultless, no dealer could ever calculate on his buying a picture, however high in artistic merit or tempting as a bargain. With his ever-accumulating collection, in which tiny sculpture and brilliant colour predominated, he kept a sort of fairy world around him. But each one of the mob of curious things he preserved had some story linking it with others, or with his peculiar fancies; and each one had its precise place in a sort of epos, as certainly as each of the persons in the confusion of a pantomime or a farce has his own position and functions.
"After all, he was himself his own greatest curiosity. He had come to manhood just after the period of gold-laced waistcoats, small-clothes, and shoe-buckles, otherwise he would have been long a living memorial of these now antique habits. It happened to be his lot to preserve down to us the earliest phase of the pantaloon dynasty. So, while the rest of the world were booted or heavy shod, his silk-stockinged feet were thrust into pumps of early Oxford cut; and the predominant garment was the surtout, blue in colour, and of the original make before it came to be called a frock. Round his neck was wrapped an ante-Brummellite neckerchief (not a tie), which projected in many wreaths like a great poultice; and so he took his walks abroad, a figure which he could himself have turned into admirable ridicule.
"One of the mysteries about him was, that his clothes, though unlike any other person's, were always old. This characteristic could not even be accounted for by the supposition that he had laid in a sixty years' stock in his youth, for they always appeared to have been a good deal worn. The very umbrella was in keeping — it was of green silk, an obsolete colour ten years ago — and the handle was of a peculiar crosier-like formation in cast-horn, obviously not obtainable in the market. His face was ruddy, but not with the ruddiness of youth; and bearing on his head a Brutus wig of the light-brown hair which had long ago legitimately shaded his brow, when he stood still — except for his linen, which was snowy white — one might suppose that he had been shot and stuffed on his return home from college, and had been sprinkled with the frousy mouldiness which time imparts to stuffed animals and other things, in which a semblance to the freshness of living nature is vainly attempted to be preserved. So if he were motionless; but let him speak, and the internal freshness was still there, an everblooming garden of intellectual flowers. His antiquated costume was no longer grotesque — it harmonised with an antiquated courtesy and highbred gentleness of manner, which he had acquired from the best sources, since he had seen the first company in his day, whether for rank or genius. And conversation and manner were far from exhausting his resources. He had a wonderful pencil — it was ,potent for the beautiful, the terrible, and the ridiculous; but it took a wayward, wilful course, like everything else about him. He had a brilliant pen, too, when he chose to wield it; but the idea that he should exercise any of these his gifts in common display before the world, for any even of the higher motives that make people desire fame and praise, would have sickened him. His faculties were his own as much as his collection, and to be used according to his caprice and pleasure. So fluttered through existence one who, had it been his fate to have his own bread to make, might have been a great man. Alas for the end! Some curious annotations are all that remain of his literary powers; some drawings and etchings in private collections, all of his artistic. His collection, with its long train of legends and associations, came to what he himself must have counted as dispersal. He left it to his housekeeper, who, like a wise woman, converted it into cash while its mysterious reputation was fresh. Huddled in a great auction room, its several catalogued items lay in humiliating contrast with the decorous order in which they were wont to be arranged. Sic transit gloria mundi."
These sketches give an impression of Mr. Sharpe's character — correct, no doubt, as far as they go; but they fail to do justice to the intrinsic chivalry and kindliness which were latent beneath the crust of his peculiarities. To young people in particular he was the kindest and best judging of friends; and many a subaltern at Piershill or the Castle had reason to remember with gratitude the introductions, the advice, and occasionally even the more substantial assistance, afforded him by
the recluse of Drummond Place. The mere cynic and scandalmonger could not have inspired the sincere friendship with which Mr. Sharpe was regarded by some of the most estimable individuals whose talent and virtue adorned British society during the first half of the present century. His true disposition was indicated by his fondness for animals — for all things weak and poor; his hatred of the tyranny of strength, the ostentation of wealth, and the pretension of popular approbation. His caustic side was all for the shams of a world which had not treated him over-kindly; and even the much-reputed notes upon "Douglas's Peerage" are not onehalf so personal in their scandal as general belief would have them. Scandal with a purpose in it — historic or genealogical, or connected with celebrities of the day — he certainly loved, but with a very discriminating and far from vulgar palate. His notebooks supply some of his characteristic remarks, giving a better idea of what was his idiomatic vein of humour than the personal passages which less frequently accompany them:
"Fiat justitia currat lex. A good motto for an Irish hangman, who always must run for his life after he has done his duty."
"Artists. Everybody artists now — fiddlers, players. John Ketch, Esq., artist."
"The players are gone, Esquires have come up — all the world Esquires."
"A Whig, properly such, always shows a complete ignorance of history as well as of human nature."
"For Swift, his apology is that he was always mad; but as to Pope, his conduct to Lord Hervey, Lady M. Wortley, the Duchess of Buckingham, his friends Allan and Bolingbroke, not to mention Charteris, concerning whose transactions with him I have heard strange traditions, demonstrate him to have been a little monster. I say nothing of Dryden, who was a hack and a brazen-faced rogue in most senses. I remember among gens comme il faut a strange prejudice against authors, derived, no doubt, from the conduct of these and suchlike men."
"The dead Nabob's grave covered with black toadstools, as I once saw a grave in the Greyfriars churchyard."
"Anger improves the appearance of nothing but a cat's tail; it looks like that of a squirrel or fox."
"When the lower ranks read too much, and the higher too little, what is to be hoped for in the State?"
"The oldest cheeses have the most mites; so old families with filthy relations."
"Bad people, my father said, might go to heaven and be cursed by seeing the happiness of the good; no spite, no scandal, no poison or dagger could reach them, and these sons of the devil would be miserable."
"Large drops of rain-tears of the tempest before the ravage of the furies."
"Many great travellers, or rather movers, whom I have seen are like the oysters and other shellfish that adhere to the bottom of a ship, and come, home from a voyage round the world as wise as they went."
"Snowdrops I consider as the tears of winter shed on his approaching dissolution."
"There is only one thing which everybody highly values, and yet is most liberal of — his own opinions and consequent advice."
"The ancients consulted fools as oracles — in this way, ask a fool's advice, take the other course, and it is safer than a wise man's."
"Women crazed about religion are mental suicides — they imagine that, by canting and outward observance of trifles, they may do whatever they please as to ill-temper, censure, scandal, lies, and something more."
"To an exaggerating poet. You are like the fairy whose wand transformed six mice into Flanders mares to draw a cinder-wench in brocade to a ball."
"I think the fashion of painting ladies as Arcadian shepherdesses in Charles II.'s reign originated from the fashion of Astrea and Arcadia: the Egyptians never, in idols of great dignity, showed the feet."
"Every old maid, when she hears of marriage, purses up and prims her mouth as if she had a couple of sloes in it."
"The piercing of a young girl's ears, this philosopher held, was an early attack upon her virtue, and he expressed his thankfulness that nose-jewels had gone out of fashion."
Such caustic or extravagant sayings, with notes of books, MSS., portraits, music, and ancient legend or history, abound, and give a good idea of his habitual vein of talk, though, from the unfinished state in which they are left, they can do little for his permanent reputation, which must rest mainly on those exquisite drawings, the possession of one of which was highly esteemed by the greatest and most talented of his compeers. When the writer of this Memoir collected the best known of these into a volume fifteen years ago, he hardly ventured to anticipate that the masses of correspondence in his possession could ever be reduced within readable limits; and had not the task been undertaken by the present editor, it would probably have never been completed. It is to be hoped that it will be a not unsatisfactory memorial of the Scottish Horace Walpole in that especial department of his varied ability in which he most closely resembled his English prototype.