1830 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Campbell

William Maginn, "Gallery of illustrious Literary Characters. Thomas Campbell, Esq. Editor of the New Monthly" Fraser's Magazine 1 (July 1830) 714.



From the Literary Gazette to the New Monthly is but a step, as we had Jerdan in our last, we follow up the Series by Campbell. A biography of the Bard of Hope would be indeed sadly out of place here, and we therefore shall not write it. If we outlive him we may attempt his life, as he is now attempting that of Lawrence.

Our painter has taken him in his happiest moment, in that still sweet period when the hours are the smallest and minutes the gayest. What he is saying in that moment of openness, it is easy for his friends to conjecture. Complaining, perhaps, of Brougham, for having come between him and his own project of the College of Gower-street; deploring the fate of that learned University; abusing Moore; sighing over his lot in being tied to Colburn, or venting amatory suspirations after a fair authoress. Perhaps he is explaining to his audience how infinitely inferior all poets, past, present, and to come, are to himself; or enlightening them upon the vast number of lords and ladies, and knights of the garter, with whom he is familiar.

Behind is the half-finished Hippocrene whence flows his inspiration; scattered at his feet, the correspondence of the New Monthly Magazine which is destined in lighting his pipe, "ex fumo dare lucem"; supporting his ink-bottle, a box labelled, Literary Union, a name which, as the club that assumed it, can boast neither of literature nor union, has been, by general consent, changed into the more appropriate title of the Refuse of the Destitute. Over his head is a figure of Hope, not a little resembling the sign of the Blue Anchor; we have, in short, the room and the man, his business and his pleasures, literally before us.

It will be seen from the awry state of his wig, the dependent arm, the loosely-held pipe, the uncravated throat, the slip-shod feet, that Tom is completely at his ease. And why should he not rest and refresh himself after the labours of the day; after arbitrating in the wrangles of the Refuse, agitating in the turmoils of the College of all the Cockneys, writing lectures and biographies; reading, or even pretending to read, the proofs of the New Monthly; dropping in amid various coteries of Whiggery; and getting through other such deadly work; ought he not to be a weary man at night-fall? and being so, may he not lie down and rest, comforting himself with those chasers of grief to which the nepenthe of Homer is nothing. Depend upon it, readers, gentle and ungentle, that the likeness is exquisite, and taken at the witching hour.

A friend of ours has sent us some verses on this plate, of which we take a couplet:—

There's Tom Campbell in person, the poet of hope,
Brimful of good liquor, as gay as the pope.
His shirt collar's open, his wig is awry,
There's his stock on the ground, there's a cock in his eye.
Half gone his last tumbler — clean gone his last joke,
And his pipe, like his college, is ending in smoke.
What he's saying who knows, but perhaps it may be
Something tender and soft of a bouncing ladye.

The song then becomes scurrilous and abusive; we suppress, therefore, all the culpable verses to come to the last, which is panegyrical.

Well! though you are yoked to a dull Magazine,
Tom, I cannot forget it, what once you have been
Though you wrote of Lord Byron an asinine letter;
Though your dinners are bad, and your talk is no better;
Yet the song of the Baltic — Lochiel's proud lay—
The Seamen of England — and Linden's red day—
Must make up for the nonsense you write and you speak,
Did you talk it and write it seven days in the week!

In which we coincide and conclude.