1802 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir James Mackintosh

Thomas Campbell to Dr. James Currie, 13 April 1802; Beattie, Life and Letters of Thomas Campbell (1849) 1:450-51.



Mr. Roscoe's introduction to Johnson has gained me the acquaintance of a very sensible and good man. I have met at his table some literary characters exceedingly interesting; in particular, Mr. Malthus, author of an Essay on Population — a most ingenious and pleasant man. In consequence of Johnson's invitation, I met with F[usel]i, but, "entre nous" (for I would not wish to offend * * * by animadversions on his friend), I think this painter of devils little better than a devil in mind and conversation. He is disgustingly conceited and overbearing. Of his talents in painting, I can only judge from the report of others; and his name among the London artists is not highly respected. As to the man, there is no information to be gleaned from his remarks, nor pleasure to be found in his society; for his conversation is such a salmagundi of joke and earnest, that it is impossible to relish either his wit or wisdom. I can give no quarter to a satirical disposition that embraces in its strictures the most admirable characters of modern times. It would have scandalised you to have heard this little buffoonish railer degrading the great name of our admired Mackintosh, a genius who will be read and admired, when —'s gallery of paintings shall be handed down to the latest records of oblivion.

I have been so fortunate as to meet with Mackintosh frequently since my arrival in town. It is only by comparison we learn to estimate the value of men. I confess, the more I see of this wonderful man, the more I am led to believe that modern times have not degenerated from the genius of antiquity, and there is an amiable simplicity, natural to great minds, in M.'s dispositions, which commands esteem as well as admiration. Though I cannot entirely like the combat of conversation which Mr. M. is so fond of maintaining at the King of Clubs, yet I long once more to behold these Knights of Literature sporting at their jousts and tournaments in that brilliant circle.