1836 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges

Thomas Campbell to an unnamed correspondent, 6 June 1837; Life and Letters of Thomas Campbell, ed. Beattie (1849) 3:227-28.



To amuse my solitude, I had only two books — one of them a treatise on the Millennium, the other * * *'s Memoirs of Himself. The latter disgusted me. His book had been sent to me by a periodical editor, with a request to criticise and cut up the work. No — poor old man: he has cut up himself: and if he chooses to lay the morbid anatomy of his breast before the public, I have no taste for being his demonstrator.... He swears that the world has given him nothing but injustice — both as an author and as a man. He pleaded for the title of —, but could not get it; then for the title of a poet — with little better success; and now, when turned of seventy, he shows the ulcers of his festering spirit, and talks of "injuries that stick like barbed arrows in his brain." It is shocking to see human nature, not untalented, thus disgracing old age with a spectacle of undignified misery. At his years — if he has not religion enough to be thinking of a better immortality than that of his writings, he should at least have the philosophy to estimate the value of this world — and among these the "bubble reputation" — at their proper value.

Lord help us! if one had the brains of Newton and Napoleon minced into his own individual celebrity, what would it be worth to him in a few years? Why — that a plaster-image of his dead skull would be carried about on the head of some Italian boy, vending it in company with cats and mandarins, all wagging their heads together! * * * is too crazy ever to learn anything on the subject: but I think his book ought to be a striking lesson to every one, approaching old age, as to the government of their minds. A being more bereft of all that resignation, which alone can make old age respectable, never was painted more hideously than by * * *, when painting himself. He inspires pity — but it is a haggard kind of pity; for, by his own showing, he seems never to have had a heartfelt affection for any human being, except himself.