ART. IV. — Recollections of the Table Talk of SAMUEL ROGERS; to which is added Porsoniana. London: 1856. [Edited by Alexander Dyce.]
For more than half a century a small house in a quiet nook of London has been the recognised abode of taste, and the envied resort of wit, beauty, learning, and genius. There, surrounded by the choicest treasures of art, and in a light reflected from Guidos and Titians, have sat and mingled in familiar converse the most eminent poets, painters, actors, artists, critics, travellers, historians, warriors, orators, and statesmen of two generations. Under that roof celebrities of all sorts, matured or budding, and however contrasted in genius or pursuit, met as on the table land where (according to D'Alembert) Archimedes and Homer may stand on a perfect footing of equality. The man of mind was introduced to the man of action, and modest merit which had yet its laurels to win was first brought acquainted with the patron who was to push its fortunes, or with the hero whose name sounded like a trumpet note. It was in that dining-room that Erskine told the story of his first brief, and Grattan that of his last duel: that the "Iron Duke" described Waterloo as a "battle of giants:" that Chantrey, placing his hand on a mahogany pedestal, said, "Mr. Rogers, do you remember a workman at five shillings a day who came in at that door to receive orders for this work? I was that workman." It was there, too, that Byron's intimacy with Moore commenced over the famous mess of potatoes and vinegar: that Madame de Stael, after a triumphant argument with Mackintosh, was (as recorded by Byron) "well ironed" by Sheridan: that Sydney Smith, at dinner with Walter Scott, Campbell, Moore, Wordsworth and Washington Irving, declared that he and Irving, if the only prose-writers, were not the only prosers in the company. It was through that window, opening to the floor and leading through the garden to the Park, that the host started with Sheridan's gifted grand-daughter on "The Winter's Walk" which she has so gracefully and feelingly commemorated. It was in the library above, that Wordsworth, holding up the original contract for the copyright of Paradise Lost (1600 copies for £5.), proved to his own entire satisfaction that solid fame was in an inverse ratio to popularity; whilst Coleridge, with his finger upon the parchment deed by which Dryden agreed for the translation of the Aeneid, expatiated on the advantages which would have accrued to literature, if "glorious John" had selected the Iliad and left Virgil to Pope. Whilst these and similar scenes are passing, we can fancy the host murmuring his well-known lines:—
Be mine to listen pleased but not elate,
Ever too modest or too proud to rate
Myself by my companions, self-compell'd
To earn the station that in life I held.
This house, rich as it was in varied associations, was only completed in 1801 or 1802; but the late owner's intimacy with men and women of note goes back to a long antecedent period. He had been, some years before, proposed at Johnson's club — "the" club, as it is denominated still — by Fox, seconded by Windham, and (as he fully believed) black-balled by Malone. He had met Condorcet at Lafayette's table in 1789. In the course of a single Sunday at Edinburgh in the same eventful year, he had breakfasted with Robertson, heard him preach in the forenoon, and Blair in the afternoon, taken coffee with the Piozzis, and supped with Adam Smith.
There is surely something more in this position, than the extraordinary prolongation of human life, or than its utility as a connecting link between two or three generations, the point of view in which hitherto it has been almost exclusively considered. It leads naturally and necessarily to reflections on the state of our society, especially in relation to the literary, artistic and intellectual elements, during the last seventy years; and we feel eager to profit by the experience and sagacity of a nonogenarian who has enjoyed such ample opportunities for appreciating mankind. Fortunately Mr. Rogers's mental habits and tendencies strongly disposed and qualified him for turning his length of years to good account. His writings teem with maxims of worldly wisdom, enforced or illustrated by remarkable incidents, and his conversation was replete with anecdotes selected for the sake of the light they threw on manners, the trains of thought they suggested, or the moral they involved. What has been printed of his "table talk" is very far from being in keeping with his character, or on a par with his fame. Indeed, those who form their opinion from such records as the volume before us may be excused for attributing the assiduous court paid him to the caprice of fashion; whilst others, with better materials for judgment, will haply account for the phenomenon by the felicitous combination of long life, ample means, cultivated taste, refined hospitality, and poetic celebrity in one man. Whichever party, the detractors or the admirers, may turn out right, the critical analysis of his life and writings which must precede any honest attempt to adjudicate upon his reputation, cannot fail to be highly instructive; nor will it be found wanting in the leading attractions of literary biography. We therefore propose to review the principal incidents and performances of a life extending over ninety-two of about the most exciting and eventful years of the world's history.
Samuel Rogers was born at Newington Green, on the 30th July, 1763. He was one of a family of six children, three sons and three daughters; he was the third son. The father was an opulent banker, head of the firm carried on till the present year under the name of Rogers, Olding, and Co., 29 Clement's Lane. Prior to his marriage, he was a member of the Church of England; but the influence of his wife speedily effected his conversion to her own creed, the Unitarian; and by Samuel was old enough to understand or be moved by such things, the whole family were in regular and rigid attendance on the ministry of the celebrated Dr. Price, the adversary of Burke. The relative importance of the principal dissenting bodies has undergone so sensible a diminution of late years, in social and literary distinction, that it may be difficult for the present generation to form a just estimate of the eminence and influence of the nonconformist community in question. Yet its annals are rich in literary illustration. The names of Defoe, Dr. Watts, Dr. Price, Dr. Rees, Mrs., Barbauld, and Dr. Aikin, with others by no means undistinguished, are indelibly associated with the congregation of Newington Green; which still flourishes under the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Cromwell (of the Protector's family), and still comprises most of the natural and highly respectable connexions of the banker-poet, who was undeniably indebted to his Dissenting friends for his first introduction to celebrated people in England, Scotland, and France. Nor was this tie to the primitive nonconformists of his youth altogether dissolved by his excursions into the regions of orthodoxy and fashion. Mr. Rogers was a trustee of the Newington Presbyterian Meeting House from 1790 to his death — a period of sixty-five years; and when the Dissenters Chapel Bill was before Parliament, he signed a petition in favour of it in that capacity.
According to his own account, Samuel Rogers had every reason to congratulate himself on his parentage, paternal and maternal. His mother, of whom he uniformly spoke as an amiable and very handsome woman, sedulously inculcated kindness and gentleness; whilst his father, who lived till 1793, gave him a good education suited to his intended mode of life, put him in the way of making a fortune, and carefully refrained from thwarting or crossing him in his inclinations or pursuits, although these must frequently have jarred against the Dissenting banker's notion of the fitness of things. On seeing his son taking to poetry and fine company, the old man must have felt like the hen who sees the duckling, which she has hatched as a bird of her own feather, suddenly taking to water; and in his heart, he probably agreed with Lord Eldon, who on hearing that a new poem ("The Pleasures of Memory") had just been published by a young banker, exclaimed "If old Gozzy" — alluding to the head of the firm with which he banked — "ever so much as says a good thing, — let alone writing, I will close my account with him the next morning."
In early boyhood, the future poet's impulse was to start off the course in a diametrically opposite direction. When he and his brothers were called in and asked by the father what professions they wished to follow, Samuel avowed his predilection for that of a preacher; a choice which he explained by his admiration for Dr. Price. "He was our neighbour of Newington Green, and would often drop in to spend the evening with us, in his dressing-gown: he would talk and read the Bible to us till he sent us to bed in a frame of mind as heavenly as his own. He lived much in the society of Lord Lansdowne and other people of rank, and his manners were extremely polished." If the child be father to the man, we must be pardoned for suspecting that the mundane advantages of the divine had at least as much to do with the influence which he exercised over his young admirer, as the truths divine that came mended from his tongue.
The chief part, if not the whole, of Rogers's formal and regular education was received at a Dissenting school at Hackney, where he learnt Latin enough to enable him to read the easier Latin classics with facility. By the time he quitted it, he had got rid of his pulpit aspirations, and he is not recorded to have manifested any marked reluctance to his destination when he was placed in the paternal counting-house, with the view of being in due course admitted a member of the firm. He seems to have begun the serious business of life with the good sense and prudence which never left him; although he was constantly exposed to temptations to which most men of poetical or susceptible temperament would have succumbed. When his solid comforts and his well understood interests were involved, the Dalilahs of fame and fashion, of vanity and sensibility, exhausted their arts on him in vain. He kept his gaze steadily fixed on the main chance. Even when he set up as a poet, he could honestly say, "I left no calling for this idle trade — no duty broke;" and he continued laying the foundations of his ideal edifice of social enjoyment and prosperity, with a patience and precision worthy of the most painstaking and methodical of economists and calculators.
It was his favourite speculation, that the greatest command of worldly happiness was attainable by one who, beginning low on the social ladder, should mount gradually and regularly to the top. It has been invidiously objected that this sounds very like the career of a successful tuft hunter. But Rogers insisted that every step in the ascent should be won honourably, and the sustained gratification was to arise from recognised merit, and would be poisoned by the smallest admixture of conscious unworthiness. Fortunately, he has himself explained and amplified his theory, in one of the most striking passages of his "Italy":—
All, wherever in the scale,
Have — be they high or low, or rich or poor,
Inherit they a sheep-hook or a sceptre—
Much to be grateful for; but most has he,
Born in that middle sphere, that temperate zone,
Where Knowledge lights his lamp.
What men most covet, — wealth, distinction, power,
Are baubles nothing worth, that only serve
To rouse us up, as children in the schools
Are roused up to exertion. The reward
Is in the race we run, not in the prize;
And they, the few, that have it ere they earn it,
Having, by favour or inheritance,
These dangerous gifts placed in their idle hands,
And all that should await on worth well-tried,
All in the glorious days of old reserved
For manhood most mature or reverend age,
Know not, nor ever can, the generous pride
That glows in him who on himself relies,
Entering the lists of life.
Thirsting for distinction, he hurried into the lists without adequate preparation, and with ill-fitting and borrowed arms. Man is little less an imitative creature than the monkey or the mocking-bird. He instinctively copies the model that caprice or accident has made popular; and indiscriminately adopts, to the best of his ability, the vice or virtue, the folly or wisdom, the style of dress or the style of writing, that is in vogue. When Rogers started as an author, he was not exempt from this almost universal weakness; and, to explain his poetical development, we must east a retrospective glance on the poetical productions and literary tendencies of the generation in which he was trained up.
The period in question was the Augustan age of historians and novelists; for within it flourished, in fulness of reputation, Hume, Robertson, Gibbon, Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, and Goldsmith. The rich mine opened by the essayists, beginning with the Tatler and the Spectator, had been worked out, and was virtually abandoned after the termination of the Idler in 1757; whilst a cold shade was flung over poetry by the name and memory of Pope. No school has practically proved more depressing to originality in its followers than his, — despite (perhaps by reason) of his own exquisite fancy, and notwithstanding the encouragement to erratic courses held out to them in the familiar couplet—
From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art.
Nor have many schools retained their influence longer; for Crabbe was wittily described as "Pope in worsted stockings;" and the spell was not completely broken until the 19th century, when Sir Walter Scott inspired the taste for metrical tales of passion and adventure; an exploit, the honour of which has been claimed for "Christabel" by Coleridge, who borrowed the suggestion from Goethe. Collins and Gray, emboldened by Alexander's Feast and the Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, produced some fine lyrical pieces, as the "Ode to the Passions" and "The Bard"; but for more than fifty years after the death of the bard of Twickenham, English poetry ran almost exclusively in the didactic, descriptive, or elegiac line, with an occasional digression into satire. Rogers's avowed favourites were Gray and Goldsmith; and his preference has been justified by posterity. "I used," he said, "to take a pocket edition of Gray's Poems with me every morning during my walks to my father's banking-house, where I was a clerk, and read them by the way. I can repeat them all." On another occasion he exclaimed, "What pleasure I felt on being told that Este (Parson Este) had said of me, 'A child of Goldsmith, Sir.'" This must have been after the publication of the "Pleasures of Memory": for it is curious that Rogers, having first tried his strength in prose, began his poetical career by taking for his prototype the one of these two (Gray and Goldsmith) whose genius was least in harmony with his own, and by imbuing himself with the spirit of what must have been to him the least congenial of Gray's productions.
The to all agreeable, to many intoxicating, sensation of first seeing oneself in print, was experienced by Rogers in 1781, when he contributed eight numbers, under the title of The Scribbler, to "The Gentleman's Magazine," — the same which, under the editorship of Sylvanus Urban (Cave), was the repository of the earliest efforts of Johnson in the same walk. "He told me," says Boswell, "that when he first saw St. John's Gate, the place where that deservedly popular miscellany was originally printed, he beheld it with reverence." Probably it was Johnsonian influence that gave their peculiar form to Rogers's first attempts at authorship; for the great lexicographer was amongst the idols of his youth. "My friend Maltby and I," he used to relate, "had a strong desire to see Dr. Johnson; and we determined to call upon him and ourselves. We accordingly proceeded to his house in Bolt Court; and I had my hand on the knocker, when our courage failed us, and we retreated. Many years afterwards I mentioned this circumstance to Boswell, who said, 'What a pity you did not go boldly in! he would have received you with all kindness.'"
Rogers commonly followed up this anecdote with another of the advice he gave, instead of a letter of introduction, to a young friend who was going to Birmingham, and had a similar desire to see Dr. Parr. The advice was to be collected from the result. "Well, what did you do?" was the first question to the traveller on his return. "Exactly as you told me. I knocked boldly at the door, and asked for Dr. Parr. I was shown into a parlour on the ground floor by a servant-maid. When the Doctor appeared, I looked steadily at him for a moment, and then said, 'Dr. Parr, I have taken an inexcusable liberty, and I cannot complain if you order me to be kicked out of your house. On seeing your name on the door, I could not make up my mind to pass the house of the greatest man in Europe without seeing him. I knocked, was admitted, and here I am!' The Doctor seized me by both hands in a kind of transport of welcome, fairly danced me up and down the room, and ended by keeping me to dinner on a roast shoulder of mutton."
Rogers's admiration of Johnson never extended to his style, and the most remarkable features of "The Scribbler" are the correctness and ease of the language. The author of the "Table Talk" has reprinted one of the worst Numbers by way of specimen. All are commonplace enough in point of thought and conception, nor would it be difficult to specify the very "Ramblers" or "Idlers" which the writer had in his mind's eye whilst composing them; but the one on "Fashion" is written with a freedom and rythmical flow which are rarely found in essayists of eighteen—
"Whether she (Fashion) heightened with a pencil the vermilion of her cheek, or clothed her limbs with a tight or flowing vest; whether she collected her ringlets in a knot, or suffered them to hang negligently on her shoulders; whether she shook the dice, waked the lyre, or filled the sparkling glass, — she was imitated by her votaries, who vied with each other in obsequiousness and reverence. All insisted on presenting their offerings; either their health, their fortunes, or their integrity. Though numbers incessantly disappeared the assembly, receiving continual supplies, preserved its grandeur and it brilliancy. At the entrance I observed Vanity, fantastically crowned with flowers and feathers, to whom the fickle deity committed the initiation of her votaries. These having fluttered as gaily as their predecessors, in a few moments vanished, and were succeeded by others. All who rejected the solicitations of Vanity, were compelled to enter by Ridicule, whose shafts were universally dreaded. Even Literature, Science, and Philosophy were obliged to comply. Those only escaped who were concealed beneath the veil of Obscurity. As I gazed on this glittering scene, having declined the invitation of Vanity, Ridicule shot an arrow from her bow which pierced my heart: I fainted, and in the violence of my agitation awaked."
To judge from the type in which they were printed, and the places assigned to them in the columns of Mr. Sylvanus Urban, that practised judge of literary merit appears to have attached no great value to the lucubrations of "The Scribbler," and they were discontinued after September 1781. The author of the "Table Talk" states that he was present when Mr. Rogers tore to pieces, and threw into the fire, a manuscript operatic drama, the "Vintage of Burgundy," which he had written in early life. "He told me he offered it to a manager, who said, 'I will bring it on the stage if you are determined to have it acted, but it will certainly be damned.'" Unless this drama was composed wholly or in part between 1781 and 1786, we must conclude that this interval was employed in preparing for his first public appearance as a poet, which was not unlikely, considering the amount of "limae labor et mora" that he was wont to devote to his compositions. The "Ode to Superstition, with some other Poems," was published in 1786. It was an eighteenpenny quarto of twenty-six pages, after the fashion of the times, when the eye was relieved by "rivulets of text running through meadows of margin." He is reported as saying: "I wrote it whilst in my teens, and afterwards touched it up. I paid down to the publisher £30 to insure him from being a loser by it. At the end of four years, I found that he had sold about twenty copies. However, I was consoled by reading in a critique on the Ode that I was an 'able writer' or some such expression."
Whoever lived much with him will remember, that any reference to the "Ode," was the inevitable prelude to the production of the volume containing the critique, — the "Monthly Review," December 1786. It began thus: — "In these pieces we perceive the hand of an able master. The Ode to Superstition is written with uncommon boldness of language and strength of diction. The author has collected some of the most striking historical facts, to illustrate the tyranny of the demon he addresses, and has exhibited them with the fire and energy proper to lyric poetry. The following stanzas are particularly excellent." The reviewer then quotes, without remarking the resemblance, the very stanzas or strophes which are most palpably imitated from Gray's Bard. Dryden's magnificent lyrical burst was also copied in parts; and the result recalls the fable of the ambitious frog, or reminds us of "all the contortions of the Sybil without one particle of her inspiration." Almost the only lines which do not creak, groan and tremble with the strain, or which bear token of his subsequently matured preference for simple uninverted language, are the following:—
Hark! who mounts the sacred pyre,
Blooming in her bridal vest:
She hurls the torch! she fans the fire!
To die is to be blest.
She clasps her lord to part no more,
And sighing, sinks! but sinks to soar.
Thou spak'st, and lo! a new creation glowed.
Each unhewn mass of living stone
Was clad in horrors, not its own,
And at its base the trembling nations bowed.
Giant Error, darkly grand,
Grasped the globe with iron hand.
The wonder is, that whilst imitating Gray, Rogers was not irresistibly and exclusively attracted by the "Elegy." One would have thought that Rogers, of all others, would have been fascinated by the exquisite finish and sober grace of that incomparable performance. But it was easier to mimic the clamour of the dithyrambic ode than to catch the pathos and simplicity of the "Elegy" or the "Ode to Eton College."
Mr. Rogers's compositions down to this time, both in verse and prose, leave the impression that he was extremely anxious to write without having anything to write about. He had sharpened and polished his tools, and had acquired no slight dexterity in the use of them, but materials were altogether wanting. He had laid up no stock of thought, sentiment, or observation worthy of being worked up or moulded into form; and his attempts to compensate for this deficiency by artificial fire, borrowed movements, and forced enthusiasm, proved about as successful as those of the German baron who jumped over the chairs and tables to acquire vivacity. Rogers, however, was not to be dispirited by failure. He at length hit upon the right vein, and from the moment he discovered that he was destined to excel by grace, elegance, subdued sentiment, and chastened fancy — not by fervid passion, lofty imagination, or deep feeling, — his poetic fortune was made.
During the six years that elapsed before he again ventured into print, he visited Paris and Edinburgh, conversed with some who were acting as well as with those who were writing history, and indefinitely extended his knowledge of books, of external nature, of social systems, and of mankind. The first-fruits were the "Pleasures of Memory," published with the name of the author in 1792.
The epoch was fortunately hit upon or judiciously chosen. The old school was wearing out, and the new had not commenced. The poem struck into the happy medium between the precise and conventional style, and the free and natural one. The only competitor formidable from newly acquired popularity, was Cowper. Crabbe's fame was then limited: Darwin never had much: and Burns, incomparably the greatest poetic genius of his generation (1759-1796), was not appreciated in England in his lifetime, or something better than an exciseman's place would have been bestowed upon him. We are therefore not surprised at the immediate success of Rogers's second and better calculated experiment on the public taste. Yet with undeniable merits of a high order, it had little of the genuine inspiration of original genius. The strongest proof of its deficiency in this respect is that, although it has long taken its place as an English classic, none of its mellifluous verses or polished images are freshly remembered, like "The coming events cast their shadows before," of Campbell: or the "Oh, woman in our hours of ease," of Scott; or the "Oh, ever thus from childhood's hour," of Moore; or the "He who hath bent him o'er the dead," of Byron; or the "Creature not too bright or good," of Wordsworth. Any zealous admirer of these writers will be ready at any moment to justify his or her admiration, by quoting passage after passage. Where is the zealous admirer of Rogers's poetry, who feels qualified, without adequate preparation, to recite six consecutive lines from the "Pleasures of Memory?" Yet the most cursory reader will light upon many passages of great elegance of expression, impaired by unmeaning antithesis and incessant alliteration, and seldom relieved by originality of thought or novelty of metaphor. The commencement, and indeed almost everything rural or pastoral in the poem, is too redolent of Goldsmith; and in minute description, Rogers provokes compromising comparisons with Crabbe; but he has never been excelled in the art of blending fancy and feeling with historic incident and philosophical reflection, as in the passage beginning—
So Scotia's Queen, as slowly dawned the day,
Rose on her couch, and gazed her soul away.
The next line is spoiled by an inversion, and we pass on to—
Thus kindred objects kindred thoughts inspire,
As summer clouds flash forth electric fire.
And hence this spot gives back the joys of youth,
Warm as the life, and with the mirror's truth.
Hence homefelt pleasure prompt the Patriot's sigh,
This makes him wish to live and dare to die.
And hence the charm historic scenes impart;
Hence Tiber awes, and Avon melts the heart;
Aerial forms, in Tempe's classic vale,
Glance through the gloom, and whisper in the gale,
In wild Vaucluse with love and Laura dwell,
And watch and weep in Eloisa's cell.
The fondness for alliteration displayed in this poem attracted the attention of the critics; and Rogers used to say that a proposed emendation in the second of the following lines, which form the commencement of the second part, was the best suggestion he ever received from a reviewer—
Sweet Memory, wafted by thy gentle gale,
Oft up the stream of Time I turn my sail.
The critic's suggestion was that, to complete the alliteration, the line should stand thus—
Oft up the stream of Time I turn my tail.
The "Pleasures of Memory" ends thus:—
Hail, Memory, hail! in thy exhaustless mine
From age to age unnumbered treasures shine:
Thought and her shadowy brood thy call obey,
And Place and Time are subject to thy sway;
Thy pleasures must we feel, when most alone,
The only pleasures we can call our own.
Lighter than air, Hope's summer visions die;
If but a fleeting cloud obscure the sky;
If but a beam of sober reason play,
Lo, Fancy's fairy frost work melts away!
But can the wiles of Art, the grasp of Power,
Snatch the rich relics of a well-spent hour?
These, when the trembling spirit wags her flight,
Pour round her path a stream of living light;
And gild those pure and perfect realms of rest,
Where Virtue triumphs, and her sons are blest.
These are the lines which Mackintosh, thereby giving the measure of his own poetic feeling, used to say were equal to the closing lines of "Dunciad." This was like saying that Virgil's apostrophe to Marcellus is equal to Homer's battle of the gods, the style being essentially distinct; and the only real question is, whether any given degree of grace or sentiment can be placed on a level with the corresponding degree of grandeur or sublimity. We are by no means sure that, if it were necessary to challenge a comparison with Pope, we should not rather rely on one of the passages in which Rogers, by dint of finely-shaded language and felicitous illustration invests the description of a familiar phenomenon in mental philosophy with the most seductive charms of sensibility and poetry. For example:—
Ah! who can tell the triumphs of the mind,
By truth illumined, and by taste refined?
When age has quenched the eye, and closed the ear,
Still nerved for action in her native sphere,
Oft will she rise with searching glance pursue
Some long-loved image vanished from her view;
Dart thro' the deep recesses of the past,
O'er dusky forms in chains of slumber cast;
With giant grasp fling back the folds of night,
And snatch the faithless fugitive to light.
So thro' the grove the impatient mother flies,
Each sunless glade, each secret pathway tries
Till the thin leaves the truant boy disclose,
Long on the wood-moss stretched in sweet repose.
Why verses like these should have failed to lay fast and durable hold on the public imagination, is a problem well worthy of critical examination. The most plausible solution is suggested by their want of simplicity and spontaneity. Their linked sweetness is too long and elaborately drawn out for such a purpose; and the very symmetry and artistic finish of a production may militate against its general popularity. When Campbell complained to James Smith of not having been included in the "Rejected Addresses," he was politely assured that to parody his poetry was as impossible as to caricature his handsome and regular features. "I should like to be amongst them for all that," was his remark; and he was right, if he valued notoriety as well as solid fame; for what cannot be parodied will not be so often quoted, nor so freshly remembered. In the preface to the annotated edition of the "Rejected Addresses," Rogers and Campbell are placed on the same footing, and their common exclusion is justified on the same complimentary principle. To the "Pleasures of Memory," in addition to the invaluable service which it rendered literature by its purity of language and chasteness of tone, which immediately became the objects of improving imitation and elevating rivalry, must be assigned the honour of having suggested "The Pleasures of Hope."
Rather more than another lustrum was to elapse before Rogers had hived up enough for another publication. His "Epistle to a Friend, with other Poems," appeared in 1798. The "Epistle" is a vehicle for conveying, after the manner of Horace and (in parts) of Pope, the writer's notions of social comfort and happiness, as dependent upon, or influenced by, the choice of residence, furniture, books, pictures, and companions, — subjects on all of which he was admirably qualified to speak. His precepts are delivered in a series of graceful couplets, and enforced by authorities collected in the notes. Of course, he is all for modesty, simplicity, and retirement, — what poet or poetaster is not? — with about the same amount of practical earnestness as Grattan, when he declared he could be content in a small neat house, with cold meat, bread, and beer, and plenty of claret; or as a couple from May Fair, who, when they talk of love in a cottage, are dreaming of a cottage like the dairy-house at Taymouth or Cashiobury. All Rogers wanted, was to be able to enjoy every pleasure or luxury he really cared about; and as he did not care about a numerous establishment or a large house, the model villa to which he invites his friend is of restricted dimensions—
Here no state chambers in long line unfold,
Bright with broad mirrors, rough with fretted gold:
Yet modest ornament with use combined,
Attracts the eye to exercise the mind.
"Small change of scene, small space his home requires,
Who leads a life of satisfied desires."
This strikes us to be what Partridge would call a non sequitur. Like the Presbyterian divine who, after praying that all the lady of the manor's desires might be gratified, judiciously added, "provided they be virtuous," — Rogers should have added "provided they be limited." The spendthrift who complained there was no living in England like a gentleman under forty thousand a year, would not have led a life of satisfied desires, with small change of scene, or small space to disport in.
Nothing in their way can be better than the fourteen lines in which the poet inculcates the wise doctrine, that engravings and copies from the best pictures and statues are far preferable to mediocre or second-rate originals. The ornaments of the rustic bath, also, are happily touched off, and the "Description of Winter" is marked by the same delicate fancy which is displayed in the "Rape of the Lock" on a different class of phenomena:—
When Christmas revels in a world of snow,
And bids her berries blush, her carols flow:
His spangling shower when Frost the wizard flings,
Or, borne in ether blue, on viewless wings,
"O'er the white pane his silvery foliage weaves,"
And gems with icicles the sheltering eaves,—
Thy muffled friend his nectarine wall pursues—
There is no disputing the eye for nature which fixed and carried off the image of the silvery foliage woven on the white pane. At one of his Sunday breakfasts, he had quoted with decided commendation Leigh Hunt's couplet on a fountain (in "Rimini"), — also selected by Byron as one of the most poetical descriptions of a natural object he was acquainted with:—
Clear and compact, till at its height o'er run,
It shakes its loos'ning silver in the sun.
"I give my vote," said one of the guests, for "O'er the white pane its silvery foliage weaves" — And Rogers looked for a moment as if he were about to re-enact Parr's reception of the flattering visitor at Birmingham.
Fourteen years elapsed between the publication of the "Epistle to a Friend," and "Columbus," which formed part of a new edition of his poems in 1812, and was followed by "Jacqueline" in 1814. We look upon both these productions as mistakes, especially the first, which is a kind of fragmentary epic, and deals with topics requiring the highest order of imagination to invest them with fitting grandeur and interest. When chasms are left in the narrative, and an author only professes to open glimpses into the past or the future, he can claim no allowance for Homeric slumbers, — for tameness of diction, or for extravagance of invention. Each detached scene or picture should be complete in its way, for the very reason that it is detached. Rogers, however, has done little more than versify, with less than his usual attention to metre and rhythm, the well-known events in the lives and adventures of Columbus and his companions, interspersed with imitations of Dante, Virgil, and Euripides. His machinery is an unhappy medium between Pope's and Milton's; and when he made an American deity, or angel of darkness, hight Merion, rise "in pomp of plumage," in the shape of a condor, to descend and "couch on Roldan's ample breast" in the shape of a vampire, he delivered himself, bound hand and foot, into the hands of the scorner. How he could have read over the following passage of "The Argument," without becoming aware of his danger, would be a mystery to us were we less familiar with the weaknesses of authors when their offspring is concerned:—
"Alarm and despondence on board. He (Columbus) resigns himself to the care of Heaven, and proceeds on his voyage. Meanwhile the deities of America assemble in council, and one of the Genii, the gods of the islanders, announces his approach. 'In vain,' says he, 'have we guarded the Atlantic for ages. A mortal has baffled our power; nor will our votaries arm against him. Yours are a sterner race. Hence, and while we have recourse to stratagem, do you array the nations round your altars and prepare for an exterminating war.' They disperse while he is yet speaking, and in the shape of a Condor, he directs his flight to the fleet. His journey described. He arrives there."
We wish that we could add that the conception is redeemed or exalted by the execution; but the perusal of the poem is rendered positively disagreeable by the breaks, the obscurity, and the constant straining after effect. The most successful contrivance is the use made of the trade-winds; the waterspouts of the New World, also, are felicitously introduced:—
And see the heavens bow down, the waters rise,
And, rising, shoot in columns to the skies,
That stand, and still when they proceed retire,—
As in the Desert burned the sacred fire,
Moving in silent majesty, — till Night
Descends and shuts the vision from their sight.
The scorner soon came forth in the guise of a candid friend. The late Lord Dudley (then Mr. Ward) reviewed "Columbus" in the "Quarterly Review" in a tone of calculated depreciation, made more incisive by the affectation of respect. The poet's feelings may be fancied when he read the polished quiz upon his deities and his condor, and was asked, "what but extreme haste and carelessness could have occasioned the author of the 'Pleasures of Memory' to mistake for verse such a line as—
There silent sate many an unbidden guest.
This line will not be found in the later editions, but the two following are in the last—
And midway on their passage to eternity. (Canto 1.)
That world a prison-house full of sights of woe. (Canto 12.)
Nor would Rogers have shown much indulgence for couplets like these by another:—
Bight through the midst, when fetlock deep in gore,
The great Gonzalvo battled with the Moor.
He said, he drew: then at his master's frown,
Sullenly sheath'd, plunging the weapon down.
The first of these might lead a superficial or ill-informed reader to suppose that the great Gonzalvo was a Centaur; and the second is much like saying—
Swallowed the loaf, gulping each morsel down.
Ward had greatly aggravated his offence by communicating with his intended victim on the subject of the criticism during its composition; and he well merited the characteristic retaliation which it provoked—
Ward has no heart, they say; but I deny it.
He has a heart, and gets his speeches by it.
According to the author of the "Table Talk," Rogers confessed to having written this epigram, "with a little assistance from Richard Sharp." One day, he adds, while Rogers was on bad terms with Ward, Lady D. said to him, "Have you seen Ward lately?" "What Ward?" "Why our Ward, of course." "Our Ward! — you may keep him all to yourself."
Ward was not a man to be behindhand in this kind of contest; and his adversary's cadaverous complexion afforded as ample material for jocularity as his own alleged want of heart. Indeed, Jack Bannister remarked that more good things had been said and written on Rogers's face than on that of the greatest beauty. It was Ward who asked him why, now that he could afford it, he did not set up his hearse; and it was the same sympathising companion who, when Rogers repeated the couplet,—
The robin with his furtive glance
Comes and looks at me askance,
struck in with, "If it had been a carrion crow, he would have looked you full in the face."
Mackintosh made a gallant effort in this Review (No. 43. Nov. 1813) to neutralise the corrosive sublimate of Ward's article, but impartial opinion concurred in the main with the less favourable judgment, and even the Vision (Canto 12.) which both agreed in praising, is not free from the prevalent faults of the poem, — obvious effort, abruptness, and obscurity.
Matters were not much improved by the publication, two years later (1814), of "Jacqueline," in the same volume with "Lara," which suggested the notion of an innocent maiden choosing a high-bred rake for her travelling companion. If she preserved her virtue she was tolerably sure to lose her reputation; and
Pretty Miss Jacqueline,
With her nose aquiline,
afforded fine sport to the wits and to her noble yoke-fellow amongst the rest. The "Corsair" had already got his Kaled, a young lady who did not stand upon trifles and wore small clothes. How, in a corrupt age, could Jacqueline hope to obtain a preference by dint of the gentle virtues, even though
Her voice, whate'er she said, enchanted;
Like music to the heart it went.
And her dark eyes, — how eloquent!
Ask what they would, 'twas granted.
Some years since, a story got about touching an application from an American lady of distinction for a ball-ticket for a female friend who was staying with her. The request was politely declined, and the applicant wrote to express her surprise at the slight put upon the young lady, "who, in her own country, was more in the habit of granting favours than of asking them." "She must be like my Jacqueline," said Rogers, when he heard the story; "for Byron would always have it that the line—
Ask what they would, 'twas granted,
did not necessarily refer to her eyes."
We had some hopes of Jacqueline, when she left her paternal abode at midnight "a guilty thing and full of fears," or she might have made a sensation by getting drowned, like Lord Ullin's daughter, when
One lovely arm was stretched for aid,
And one was round her lover.
But when, after so much preliminary weeping and melancholy, it turns out that her departure was "pour le bon motif"; and that D'Arcay's intentions were all along honourable; when she returns safe and sound, in person and reputation, hanging on the arm of a young husband, to ask and obtain an aged father's blessing, — readers, with palates vitiated by more stimulating food, might be excused for exclaiming like Sheridan when the servant threw down the platewarmer without damage to its contents — "Why, — it, sir, have you made all that noise for nothing?"
Rogers was, but we realty think had no great cause or right to be, very angry at the brief notice taken of this poem in Mr. George Ellis's review of the "Corsair" and "Lara" (in the "Quarterly Review," vol. ii. p. 428.) as "the highly refined, but somewhat insipid, pastoral tale of 'Jacqueline.'" Lady Byron is reported to have told Rogers in 1851, at Brighton, that her liege lord, on reading Ellis's article, had said, "The mans a fool. 'Jacqueline' is as superior to 'Lara,' as Rogers is to me." We might suspect a double meaning in these words, as in Porson's remark that "'Madoc' will be read when Homer and Virgil are forgotten." But Lord Byron has said nearly the same thing in the preface to the joint publication; and in his Diary of Nov. 23. 1813 (published by Moore), after saying that "Scott is undoubtedly the monarch of Parnassus, and the most English of bards," he continues: "I should place Rogers next in the living list. I value him more, as the last of the best school; Moore and Campbell both third. At the same time, he could hardly have helped seeing that 'Jacqueline' did not belong to the best school (Pope's) and that to couple this poem with 'Lara' was as suicidal or self-sacrificing an act in Rogers, as Byron would have committed, had he consented to print his "Hints from Horace" (which he himself originally preferred to "Childe Harold") in the same volume with "Human Life."
In "Human Life," published in 1819, Rogers was himself again. In it and by it, in our opinion, his genius, if not his fame, reached the culminating point. The subject, or rather range of subjects, exactly suited him; and in this, the master-piece of his matured powers, he occasionally combines the worldly wisdom of Horace, the glancing philosophy of Pope, the tender melancholy of Goldsmith, and Cowper's mastery over domestic scenes and affections, with an elevation and comprehensiveness of view which have been rarely, if ever, attained by either of them. The similarity in parts to Schiller's "Song of the Bell" is certainly striking; but the common character of the subject, and the widely different style of versification, completely repel all suspicion of plagiarism.
Nothing can be happier than the rapid introductory sketch of the four epochs — the birth, the coming of age, the marriage, and the death, of the proprietor of the old manor-house; for example:—
And soon again shall music swell the breeze;
Soon issuing forth, shall glitter through the trees,
Vestures of nuptial white; and hymns be sung,
And violets scattered round; and old and young,
In every cottage porch with garlands green,
Stand still to gaze, and, gazing, bless the scene.
While her dark eyes declining, by his side,
Moves in her virgin veil, the gentle bride.
Spenser himself never painted with words more distinctly; though when the Faery Queen was read aloud to an old lady deprived of sight, she remarked that it was as if a succession of pictures had been held up before her. Admirably, again, is indicated that instinctive sense of immortality, — that vague longing for something better than the evanescent realities of life, — by which the noblest minds are stimulated and disturbed unceasingly. We refer the reader to the passage beginning—
Do what he will, he cannot realise
Half he conceives, the glorious vision flies.
Go where he may, he cannot hope to find,
The truth, the beauty, pictured in his mind.
The expansion and effusion of heart, with the delicious interchange of thought and feeling, which follow the acceptance of the lover by his future wife, are thus described:—
Then come those full confidings of the past;
All sunshine now, where all was overcast.
Then do they wander till the day is gone,
Lost in each other; and when night steals on,
Covering them round, how sweet her accents are!
Oh when she turns and speaks, her voice is far,
Far above singing! but soon nothing stirs
To break the silence, joy like his, like hers,
Deals not in words. And now the shadows close,
Now in the glimmering, dying light she grows
Less and less earthly! As departs the day,
All that was mortal seems to melt away,
Till, like a gift resumed as soon as given,
She fades at last into a spirit from heaven.
Schiller takes the comparatively prosaic view of marriage, as the death of sentiment; and the grave of romance. Rogers strikes into a more original and (all things considered) perhaps truer vein. At least for the credit of poor human nature, we will hope so. He bids the young bridegroom to regard his bride, as "a guardian angel o'er his life presiding;" and warns both of them in lines that deserve to be written in letters of gold over every hearth, that—
The soul of music slumbers in the shell,
Till waked and kindled by the master's spell;
And feeling hearts, touch them but rightly, pour
A thousand melodies unheard before.
As we proceed from love and marriage to the closing scene, the death-bed, our admiration is still, with few pauses or interruptions, on the ascending scale:—
When on his couch he sinks at last to rest,
Those by his counsel saved, his power redress'd,
Come and stand round — the widow and her child,
As when she first forgot her tears and smiled.
They who watch by him see not, but he sees,
Sees and exults — Were ever dreams like these?
Those who watch by him, hear not; but he hears,
And Earth recedes, and Heaven itself appears!
The four concluding lines are genuine poetry. They will bear any test or criterion, and will fare best by being tried by Worthworth's, — the extent to which the imagination blends itself with the scene supposed to be passing, and realises it to the mind's eye.
The first part of "Italy" was published anonymously in 1822; and the secret must have been tolerably well kept for a period, since the "Literary Gazette" confidently attributed the authorship to Southey. The poem was subsequently completed at intervals; and in its finished state, offers a rich repast to the scholar, the virtuoso and the lettered traveller. No one would have exclaimed more enthusiastically, or with less call for factitious warmth, than Rogers: "Far from me, and my friends, be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue;" and, go where he would, his memory was stored with every description of image or incident, that could evoke, or harmonise with, the genius of the place.
There is a great deal more to see and feel in Italy, than objects or impressions that the classic student can alone, or best, appreciate. She has been three times the mistress of the world, — by Arms, by Art, by Faith; and her mediaeval annals teem with the genuine romance of history. Venice, Padua, Ferrara, Bologna, Florence Rome, Naples, — each of these names opens a separate treasure-house of associations, and to enjoy and fully profit by his tour, the traveller should have read Guicciardini, Giannone, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Vasari, besides Pliny, Horace, and Virgil; to say nothing of a trained eye for the masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Rogers had enough of all for an accomplished traveller, and perhaps more than enough for the poet who was to celebrate what he saw. His mind was obviously overlaid by his acquired knowledge: his invention was stifled by his memory: when he wished to record an impression, he involuntarily reverted to what an admired author had said on the same subject; and we strongly suspect that what really charms so many cultivated readers of this poem, is that they so frequently find their favourite passages reproduced with a certain air of novelty. Thus the fine passage beginning "O Italy, how beautiful thou art!" recalls Filicaja's famous sonnet; and
The very dust we tread, stirs as with life,
comes too near
Pause, for thy tread is on a nation's dust.
His reflections on entering Rome are tame for poetry, and will not bear a comparison with Alison's (in his "Essay on Taste"), although conveyed in the humbler vehicle of prose. Rogers is more at home in the Campagna of Rome, at Venice, on approaching Genoa from the sea, or on the Alps, in ascending and descending which he is inspired with what strikes us as the finest and truest of his descriptive passages.
"Italy" was the last of Rogers's formal and deliberate appeals to the public; although down to his ninetieth year he occasionally wrote verses, and, whilst his mental powers lasted, he was unceasingly occupied in polishing his couplets and correcting or enriching his notes. A bear keeping itself alive by sucking its paws, was suggested as a parallel case, and was repeated to him. The real culprit, on being charged with the simile, coolly assigned it to Luttrell, who laughingly consented to accept it "with its responsibilities;" and it is by no means a bad illustration of the manner in which Rogers coddled and dandled his literary productions and reputation to the last. The result is that he has left in the shape of notes, or episodical narratives (like Montorio and the Bag of Gold, in "Italy"), the choicest collection of anecdotes and quotations, and some of the most exquisite pieces of prose composition in the language. Where do we find more happily expressed than in the introductory paragraphs of "Marco Griffoni," a train of reflection which recent events have forced upon mankind all the world over?
"War is a game at which all are sure to lose, sooner or later, play they how they will; yet every nation has delighted in war, and none more in their day than the little republic of Genoa, whose galleys, while she had any, were always burning and sinking those of the Pisans, the Venetians, the Greeks, or the Turks: Christian and infidel alike to her.
"But experience, when dearly bought, is seldom thrown away altogether. A moment of sober reflection came at last: and after a victory, the most splendid and ruinous of any in her annals, she resolved from that day and for ever to live at peace with all mankind; having in her long career acquired nothing but glory, and a tax on every article of life."
Mackintosh used to cite the short essay on "National Prejudices" in "Italy," as perfect both in thought and style. The following paragraphs will enable the reader to estimate the justness of this commendation. The immediate topic is the prevalence of assassination at Rome:—
"It would lessen very much the severity with which men judge of each other, if they would but trace effects to their causes, and observe the progress of things in the moral as accurately as in the physical world. When we condemn millions in the mass as vindictive and sanguinary, we should remember that, wherever justice is ill-administered, the injured will redress themselves. Robbery provokes to robbery: murder to assassination. Resentments become hereditary; and what began in disorder, ends as if all Hell had broke loose.
"Laws create a habit of self-restraint, not only by the influence of fear, but by regulating in its exercise the passion of revenge. If they overawe the bad by the prospect of a punishment certain and well-defined, they console the injured by the infliction of that punishment; and, as the infliction is a public act, it excites and entails no enmity. The laws are offended; and the community for its own sake pursues and overtakes the offender; often without the concurrence of the sufferer, sometimes against his wishes.
"Now those who were not born, like ourselves, to such advantages, we should surely rather pity than hate; and, when at length they venture to turn against their rulers, we should lament, not wonder at their excesses; remembering that nations are naturally patient and long suffering, and seldom rise in rebellion till they are so degraded by a bad government as to be almost incapable of a good one."
One of Rogers's peculiar fancies was that all the best writers might be improved by condensation; and it was vain to warn him that to strip Jeremy Taylor or Burke of what he called redundancies overlaying the sense, was like stripping a tree of its blossoms and foliage, with the view of bringing out the massive roundness of the trunk. "There," he exclaimed one evening, after displaying one of Burke's noblest effusions (in which every word has its appointed task) reduced to less than one half of its original dimensions, — "there, concentrated as it now is, it would blow up a cathedral." "Not," he added after a short pause, "that Burke would like it to be used for such a purpose." In a note to the last canto of "Columbus," may be seen a specimen of this system of condensation; the famous passage in which the Angel addresses Lord Bathurst, being reduced to little more than a caput mortuum. It was a constant source of triumph to him that he had told within the compass of a moderate paragraph, an anecdote to which Wordsworth devotes twenty-three lines of verse, and Mr. Milnes twenty-eight. It stands thus in Rogers's prose version:—
"You admire that picture, said an old Dominican to me at Padua, as I stood contemplating a Last Supper in the refectory of his convent, the figures as large as the life. I have sat at my meals before it for seven and forty years; and such are the changes that have taken place among us — so many have come and gone in the time — that, when I look upon the company there — upon those who are sitting at that table, silent as they are — I am sometimes inclined to think that we, and not they, are the shadows." (Italy, p. 312.)
There was one consequence of having printed his best anecdotes to which Rogers submitted reluctantly. He was loth to surrender the privilege of relating them; and he was comically perplexed between the pleasure of having told what was accepted as new by the company, and his disappointment at finding that his cherished notes had been forgotten or never read at all. "You don't seem to know where that comes from," became at last his too frequent reproach to a friend, who knew all his notes by heart, yet listened to them with an air of interest. "I will show you whether I do or not," was the rejoinder; and during their two or three next meetings, he invariably gave the reference to each story as it was told. Rogers could not bear this, and a compromise was effected; he agreeing to give his auditor credit for the knowledge which had only been suppressed from courtesy.
A portion of the "parting word" which he addressed to the readers of "Italy," will form an apt introduction to our remarks on those features of his character and elements of his reputation which must be learnt and studied apart from, and independently of, his writings:—
Nature denied him much,
But gave him at his birth what most he values;
A passionate love for music, sculpture, painting,
For poetry, the language of the gods,
For all things here, or grand or beautiful,
A setting sun, a lake among the mountains,
The light of an ingenious countenance,
And what transcends them all, a noble action.
Nature denied him much, but gave him more;
And ever, ever grateful should he be,
Though from his cheek, ere yet the down was there,
Health fled; for in his heaviest hours would come
Gleams such as come not now; nor failed he then,
(Then and through life his happiest privilege)
Full oft to wander where the Muses haunt,
Smit with the love of song.
Nature did not give him a passionate love for anything, animate or inanimate—
Not the wealth to some large natures lent,
Divinely lavish, even when misspent;
That liberal sunshine of exuberant soul,
Thought, sense, affection, warming up the whole.
What she gave him — and a rich endowment it is — was an exquisite sensibility to excellence, or (what is nearly the same thing) the power of deriving gratification from the most refined objects of human enjoyment: and he devoted his long life to the cultivation of this faculty till it reached the highest degree of perfection to which taste, without enthusiasm and cultivated with an Epicurean aim, can be deemed capable of attaining.
So striking a confirmation of our own theory of his character has just reached us from an accomplished friend, who knew and loved him, that we are tempted to quote a part of it: — "I believe no man was ever so much attended to and thought of, who had so slender a fortune and such calm abilities. His God was Harmony; and over his life Harmony presided sitting on a lukewarm cloud. He was not the poet, sage, and philosopher people expect to find he was; but a man in whom the tastes (rare fact) preponderated over the passions, who defrayed the expenses of his tastes as other men make outlay for the gratification of their passions. He did nothing rash. I am sure Rogers as a baby never fell down unless he was pushed; but walked from chair to chair in the drawing-room, steadily and quietly, till he reached the place where the sunbeam fell on the carpet. He must always have preferred a lullaby to the merriest game of romps and, if he could have spoken, would have begged his long clothes might be made of fine mull muslin instead of cambric or jacquenot; the first fabric being of incomparable softness, and the two latter capable of that which he loathed, starch."
Everything around and about him spoke the same language and told the same story. The voluminous catalogue of his accumulations has been recently perused by thousands; and his treasures have been laid bare for weeks to the inspection of connoisseurs under every disadvantage of confusion; yet (making due allowance for things, which, if they ever belonged to him, had been flung aside into drawers or cupboards,) the universal impression has been astonishment at the judgment, knowledge, forbearance, and eye for beauty throughout the whole range of art, displayed by the collector. It was said of a celebrated lawyer, that he had no rubbish in his head: it might have been said of Rogers (judging only from what met the eye) that he had no rubbish in his house. Varied as were his stores, they were not heaped one upon another, or thrown into incongruous heaps; his pictures, statues, bronzes, vases, medals, curious books, and precious manuscripts, simply supplied the place of the ordinary ornamental furniture of a gentleman's house; and there was nothing beyond their intrinsic excellence to remind the visitor that almost every object his eye fell upon was a priceless gem, a coveted rarity, or an acknowledged masterpiece. In this respect, as in most others, the superiority of the tenant of 22. St. James' Place to the fastidious lord of Strawberry Hill, shone conspicuous.
It should also be remembered that Rogers was at no time overburdened with superfluous wealth; and that sixty years since the patronage of art and literature was confined to the most opulent of our nobles and landed gentry; who devoted their thousands per annum to furnish a gallery, with the same indiscriminating prodigality with which their less polished compeers proceeded to form a racing stud. There were no railway kings, or Liverpool merchants, or Manchester manufacturers, to bid for Wilsons or Gainsboroughs, as they now bid for the productions, as fast as they can be finished, of Landseer, Leslie, Millais, Mulready, Hart, Roberts, Stansfield, or Maclise; nor, under any circumstances, would it be easy to over-estimate the beneficial influence of a judge and occasional purchaser, like Mr. Rogers, mingling familiarly with artists, distinguishing genuine originality from its plausible counterfeit, encouraging the first faint struggles of modest merit, and controlling the extravagance into which genius is too often hurried by its characteristic rashness or self-confidence. Although his limited house-room and fortune commonly restricted his personal acquisitions to objects of known value, he had an unerring eye for coming success and celebrity. "I envy and admire your courage in buying Turners," was his remark to Mr. Munro of Novar, when that gentleman, in well-founded reliance on his own taste and knowledge, ventured to anticipate the verdict of posterity and Mr. Ruskin.
The impression left on guests of taste, refinement, and sensibility is admirably described in the following lines by one of the most courted and esteemed of them:—
Who can forget, who at thy social board
Hath sat, and seen the pictures richly stored,
In all their tints of glory and of gloom,
Brightening the precincts of thy quiet room;
With busts and statues full of that deep grace
Which modern hands have lost the skill to trace:
Fragments of beauty, perfect as thy song
On that sweet land to which they did belong,—
Th' exact and classic taste by thee displayed;
Not with a rich man's idle fond parade,
Not with the pomp of some vain connoisseur,
Proud of his bargains, of his judgment sure;
But with the feelings kind and sad, of one
Who thro' far countries wandering hath gone,
And brought away dear keepsakes, to remind
His heart and home of all he left behind.
[The Dream, and other Poems. By the Honourable Mrs. Norton, p. 180.]
Amongst his "fragments of beauty," were some female hands and feet in marble, carefully preserved under glass cases which it was treason to remove. One evening after dinner, when the male guests rejoined the ladies in the drawing room, a beauty in the full flush of rank and fashion, whose lightest caprice was law, called him to come and look at her feet, and he was not a little amused to find that she had disposed a pair of his marble models under her drapery so as to make them occupy the place of her own feet; and (barring nudity and immobility) they might have realised the tempting vision of Suckling:—
Her feet beneath her petticoat,
Like little mice stole in and out,
As if they feared the light.
The illustrated edition of "Italy" was, we believe, the first instance in which (since Boydell's time) first class artists were engaged without regard to expense for such a purpose. It was speedily followed by a corresponding edition of the "Poems"; and every succeeding reprint of Rogers's works has been enriched by engravings or vignettes from drawings or designs by the first of modern English painters, including Edwin Landseer, Eastlake, Turner, Stothard, and Calcott. Many of these are quite perfect in their way; and the author superintended the preparation of these illustrations with the same care with which he polished his own verses. The two first illustrated editions of "Italy" and the "Poems" cost the author about £15,000, and there was a period when the speculation threatened to be a losing one. Turner was to have received £50 apiece for his drawings, but on its being represented to him that Rogers had miscalculated the probable returns, the artist (who has been ignorantly accused of covetousness) immediately offered to take them back; and it was eventually arranged that he should do so, receiving £5 apiece for the use of them.
Rogers's musical taste was a natural gift, the result of organisation, and partook very slightly of the acquired or conventional quality. He delighted in sweet sounds, in soft flowing airs, in tunes linked with pleasing associations, and in simple melodies, rather than in complicated harmonies. He would have agreed with the critic, who on being informed that a brilliant performance just concluded was extremely difficult, ejaculated, "I wish it had been impossible." Amongst Italian composers, Bellini was his favourite. Although he was a constant attendant at the concerts of Ancient and sacred music, he had slight relish for the acknowledged masterpieces of Handel, Beethoven, or Mozart. When he dined at home and alone, it was his custom to have an Italian organ-grinder playing in the hall, the organ being set to the Sicilian Mariners' air and other popular tunes of the South. He kept nightingales in cages on his staircase and in his bedroom, closely covered up from the light, to sing to him. The morning was the time when he enjoyed music most: he would then listen for hours to female voices, and we need hardly add that he especially delighted in what may be called rather the musical recitation than the singing of Moore. Nothing annoyed him more than to hear the songs he loved profaned by inferior execution. "Can you stay and bear it?" was his muttered remonstrance to a friend, whom he fairly dragged out of the room when an accomplished amateur was throwing as much soul as he could muster into—
Give smiles to those who love you less,
But keep your tears for me.
On another occasion, a breakfast party, one of the guests sang one of Moore's songs in Moore's presence, to the evident discomposure of the poet. "Well," said Rogers, "I have seen the bravest men of my time: I have seen Nelson, Wellington, and Ney, and is the bravest of them all."
One of the few passages of Shakspeare which he heard or repeated with complacency was:—
Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low; an excellent thing in woman.
Natural sweetness of tone, however, did not satisfy him either in reading or singing. One of his female acquaintance, whose voice is singularly rich and musical, relates that he once asked her to read out some MS. verses of Moore's or Byron's which were pasted on the fly-leaf of one of his books. What he called her sing-song mode of reading so irritated him, that he snatched the paper out of her hands and (to use her own words) read it aloud himself most touchingly and musically.
Mr. Rogers was hardly cold in his grave, when the book named at the head of this article appeared under the auspices of his confidential publisher, Mr. Moxon. On its announcement, our hopes rose high. If we despaired of another Boswell, we anticipated something not inferior to Hazlitt's "Conversations with Northcote"; and ample materials might have been accumulated by a judicious note-taker for an entertaining and instructive volume, which would have done justice to the "Talk" it aspired to record. We regret to be obliged to say that this book is in no one respect a creditable one; and the circumstance of its having been brought out anonymously throws the entire responsibility on the publisher, Mr. Moxon, whose long intimacy with Mr. Rogers ought to have made him more sensible of what was due to the memory of a benefactor.
In the first place, we denounce the dishonesty of printing as the "Table Talk of Samuel Rogers" the half remembered and garbled contents of sundry well-known copybooks in which his recollections were set down in his own condensed and felicitous language. We allude particularly to his notes of conversations with Horner, Tooke, Grattan, Fox, Erskine, the Duke of Wellington, &c., which, we presume, are now in the possession of his executors, and some time or other will be accurately given to the world. As well might a note-keeping friend carry off an imperfect recollection of an original work that had been read to him in manuscript and publish an alleged abstract of it for profit.
In the second place, we impugn the qualifications of the compiler for his self-imposed task; for he has repeatedly made Rogers use the very phraseology he notoriously disliked, and fall into errors of which he would have been ashamed.
"I paid five guineas (in conjunction with Boddington) for a loge at Tooke's trial. It was the custom in those days (and perhaps is so still) to place bunches of strong-smelling plants of different sorts at the bar, where the criminal was to sit (I suppose, to purify the air from the contagion of his presence!) This was done at Tooke's trial: but, as soon as he was brought in, he indignantly swept them away with his handkerchief. The trial lasted six days. Erskine (than whom nobody had ever more power with the jury, — he would frequently address them as 'his little-twelvers') defended Tooke most admirably." (p. 128.)
Rogers never spoke of having taken a "loge," or a box either, on such an occasion. So nice an observer must have seen that bunches of strong-smelling plants or flowers were placed upon the cushions of the judicial bench as well as at the bar where the criminal stands; and he never could have understood Erskine as saying that he actually addressed a jury as "his little-twelvers."
The repartee given to Dunning (p. 56.), which was quite inapplicable to Lord Mansfield, is an old joke from Anstey's "Pleader's Guide"; and if Rogers (see p. 49.) really described Lord Ellenborough as endowed with "infinite wit," he probably gave some more convincing examples than the joke about Lord Kenyon's "laying down" his pocket-handkerchief; or than a touch of coarse humour like the following:—
"A lawyer one day pleading before him, and using several times the expression 'my unfortunate client,' Lord Ellenborough suddenly interrupted him: 'There, sir, the court is with you.'"
It was a young lawyer in his first case. He began, "My Lords, my unfortunate client. My Lords, my unfortunate client." "Proceed, sir," said Lord Ellenborough, "so far the court is quite with you."
To tell correctly the well-known story of the wig would require more space than it is worth; and this compiler's version of a shorter one will sufficiently illustrate his infelicity as a carrier of good things.
"The English highwaymen of former days (indeed, the race is now extinct) were remarkably well-bred personages. Thomas Grenville, while travelling with Lord Derby, and Lord Tankerville, while travelling with his father, were attacked by highwaymen; on both occasions, six or seven shots were exchanged between them and the highwaymen; and when the parties assailed had expended all their ammunition, the highwaymen came up to them, and took their purses in the politest manner possible." (p. 198.)
According to Mr. Grenville, whom Rogers always conscientiously repeated, after the travellers had delivered their purses, the highwaymen said, "What scoundrels you must be, to interfere with gentlemen about their business on the road." Mr. Grenville (and Rogers after him) used to follow up the story, by relating how, one night when he was walking down Hay Hill, he heard cries of "stop thief;" and saw a man on horseback dash down the steps of Lansdowne Passage, and escape; adding that, to prevent this happening again, the present iron bar was put up.
The following is another of Mr. Grenville's stories, which Rogers used to repeat correctly, and which the author of the "Table Talk" has spoiled:—
"I have often heard the Duke of York relate how he and brother George (George the Fourth), when young men, were robbed by footpads on Hay Hill. They had dined that day at Devonshire House, and then gone home to lay aside their court dresses, and afterwards proceeded to a house of a certain description in the neighbourhood of Berkeley Square. They were returning from it, in a hackney coach, late at night, when some footpads stopped them on Hay Hill, and carried off their purses, watches, &c." (p. 162.)
The footpads were a party of their own wild set. It was a repetition of Prince Hal and Poins's frolic, except that royalty was passive instead of active this time; and the two princes showed the white feather so ludicrously, that the pretended footpads thought it best to pocket the booty and keep their own secret. The learned in French "ana" will remember that a similar trick was once attempted with Turenne, who showed his habitual courage and presence of mind. "If you had succeeded in frightening me," was his cool remark on the avowal of the frolic, "I would have killed you and myself within the hour."
The remarks on Mrs. Barbauld, attributed to Fox, are so vague and wide of the mark, that it is difficult to imagine Rogers repeating them without specifying their inaccuracies. Her "Life of Richardson," which Fox praises, was written in 1804. Her "Books for Children" were written before the late Lord Denman, her pupil, had attained his fourth year. The "First Lessons" were composed at an earlier period, for her adopted son, Charles Aikin. She wrote no more children's books when she had no children to educate; nor was it "waste of talents" at any time to write such children's books as hers. When she had left off writing from domestic anxiety, Rogers urged her to resume her pen; and he used a powerful incentive when he told her that Fox had pronounced her to be the first prose writer in the language.
During the closing years of his life, Rogers often told the same story with variations, and a duly qualified reminiscent might be expected to preserve the best version. The compiler of this book has commonly managed to select the worst. Let his account of the visit to Coleridge (p. 203.) be compared with the following from another source:—
"Wordsworth and myself," said Rogers, "had walked to Highgate to call on Coleridge, when he was living at Gillman's. We sat with him two hours, he talking the whole time without intermission. When we left the house, we walked for some time without speaking — 'What a wonderful man he is!' exclaimed Wordsworth. 'Wonderful, indeed,' said I. 'What depth of thought, what richness of expression!' continued Wordsworth. 'There's nothing like him that ever I heard,' rejoined I, — another pause. — 'Pray,' inquired Wordsworth, 'did you precisely understand what he said about the Kantian philosophy?' R. 'Not precisely.' W. 'Or about the plurality of worlds?' R. 'I can't say l did. In fact, if the truth must out, I did not understand a syllable from one end of his monologue to the other.' W. 'No more did I.'"
At p. 287. we find, "When his physician advised him to take a walk upon an empty stomach, Sydney Smith asked 'upon whose?'" The advice was to take exercise; and the joke is older than Sydney Smith; in justice to whom it should be added that he always indignantly repudiated the "foie gras" theory of Heaven attributed to him in the same passage.
At p. 288. Rogers is made to say, "Witty as Smith was, I have seen him at my own house absolutely overpowered by the superior facetiousness of William Bankes." This is preposterous. William Bankes certainly possessed extraordinary powers of conversation, but they were not in the facetious line, and he was no match for Sydney Smith. What Rogers said was that Bankes "got the first innings" and kept it through two courses. The same gentleman once performed a similar exploit at Apsley House at a party made expressly for Sir Walter Scott. On this last occasion, whenever Bankes paused, a well-known reviewer (the agreeable individual whom the late Lord Rokeby christened the Boa Contradictor) struck in, and the result was, that the Author of Waverley's voice was never heard at all. Unless (which was a rare occurrence) Sydney Smith became irritated, he was essentially well bred, and any one gifted with a loud voice and ready utterance might have talked him down.
Indications are not wanting that the compiler was not on such intimate terms with Rogers as he would fain lead the purchasers of this volume to believe. Thus:—
"At one time, when I gave a dinner, I used to have candles placed all round the dining room, and high up, in order to show off the pictures. I asked Smith how he liked this plan. 'Not at all,' he replied, 'above there is a blaze of light, and below, nothing but darkness and gnashing of teeth.'" (p. 287.)
Any one who ever dined at Rogers's must surely have remembered that the room was lighted by sconces fixed in the wall, and that the light, which was not "high up," was reflected from the pictures.
To demonstrate all the demerits of this book, would be to rewrite half of it at least. Its merit or utility consists in the aid or stimulant it may supply to the recollections of others, and in its conveying some notion of the kind of conversation in which Rogers delighted. His choice of topics, if not his mode of treating them, may be collected from it. These were books, pictures, morals, manners, literary history, the drama, men and women of genius, — anything or everything but the idle gossip, the unideal chatter half made up of proper names, in which the idle population of London contrive to occupy their time. A morning spent at his breakfast-table was almost invariably well spent. Vacant-minded and uncongenial was the man or woman who did not come away wiser or better.
Goethe says that one capital mode of preserving the mind healthful and the taste pure, is to begin the day by reading some good poetry, hearing some good music, and contemplating a fine picture. This is what Rogers literally did, and induced his guests to do. Most days when the party was small and disposed to linger over the intellectual portion of the entertainment, he would send for his favourite authors, and read aloud the passages he had marked, pausing at times to note the changes in his own or the popular appreciation. If a fine passage was alluded to by others, "Find it for me," was the word; and "Edmund," the most intelligent of improvised librarians, was dispatched for the volume. "That lad," remarked Rogers, "would find not only any book in the house, but I begin to think any book out of the house."
Without going so far as Byron, who one day said to Moore, "Well, after all Tom, don't you think Shakspeare was something of a humbug!" — Rogers had little real admiration for the greatest of poets: and he frequently read aloud from Ben Jonson's "Discoveries": — "I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakspeare, that in his writings, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, 'Would he had blotted out a thousand!'" Rogers always laid a strong emphasis on the concluding sentence. He one morning challenged the company to produce a passage from Shakspeare which would not have been improved by blotting; and after picking many beautiful specimens to pieces, he was with difficulty silenced by the one beginning—
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank.
A single inharmonious or superfluous word, like the crumpled rose-leaf on the couch, made him restless and captious, and his canons of criticism were fatal to most first-class poetry. He was constantly holding up to censure the remark of a brilliant and popular writer, that there is always something shadowy and vague in the very highest productions of the imagination; yet surely the very essence of sublimity is to be undefined and limitless—
What "seemed" its head,
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.
He is reported, we believe correctly, as saying, — "When I was travelling in Italy, I made two authors my constant study for versification, — Milton and Crowe." Yet Crowe's versification is commonly inharmonious, his descriptions are laboured, and his thoughts forced. The truth is, Rogers had little or none of the analytical or self-examining faculty, so indispensable in criticising either books or men. He bestowed praise or censure as he was pleased or displeased, without reflecting that when an impression is what the Germans call "subjective," it is a most deceptive test of merit or demerit in the object. Thus he once challenged his guests to produce a better verse than—
Those who came to scoff, remained to pray;
which has no one distinctive quality of poetry; and, he could hardly be brought to admit the poetic superiority of another line in the same passage:—
As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
"Swells from the vale and midway leaves the storm."
Yet one of his own verses:—
And Earth recedes, and Heaven itself appears—
is instinct with the same description of vitality.
In reading, he followed Bacon's maxim; to read much, not many things: "multum legere, non multa." He used to say, "When a new book comes out, I read an old one." He often invited popular authors to his house, and spoke to them of their writings, without having read a page of them. His first acquaintance with the many admirable creations of Mr. Dickens's genius was "Little Nelly." One of the last compositions which he read slowly and carefully, and praised emphatically, was the Duke of Newcastle's dispatch to Lord Raglan on the Battle of the Alma.
"Be it mine," writes Gray, "to lie all day long on a sofa and read eternal new novels of Marivaux and Crebillon." This having been quoted at one of Rogers's breakfasts, at which three persons were present besides himself, he asked all in succession whether they had read "Marianne." They all replied in the negative. "Then I will lend you each a copy," and the three copies were immediately produced. He strongly denounced modern French novels. At a breakfast party, consisting of two gentlemen and two young ladies of sixteen and seventeen with their governess, he produced Scribe's "Tonadillas"; and after expatiating on the moral tendency of the first story, gave the two volumes to the young ladies to take home with them. The next morning one of the male guests informed him of the true character of the book, all except the first story being in the most corrupting style of a corrupt school. He started off to redeem his error, but his fair friends had gone into the country and judiciously carried "Tonadillas" along with them. "You will never," he vowed, "see a modern French novel in my house again."
He often read from his Notes Rousseau's profession of "un gout vif pour les dejeuners. C'est les tems de la journee ou nous sommes le plus tranquilles, ou nous causons le plus notre aise." It was a current joke that he asked people to breakfast by way of probation for dinner; but his breakfast parties (till the unwillingness to be alone made him less discriminating) were made for those with whom he wished to live socially, and his dinners, comparatively speaking, were affairs of necessity or form. Even in his happiest moods, he was not convivial; his spirits never rose above temperate: he disliked loud talking or laughing; and unless some distinguished personage or privileged wit, was there to break the ice and keep up the ball, the conversation at his dinners not unfrequently flagged. It seemed to be, and perhaps was toned down by the subdued light, which left half the room in shadow and speedily awoke the fairer portion of the company to the disagreeable consciousness that their complexions were looking muddy and their toilettes the opposite of fresh. After making every allowance for this drawback, however, his dinners were justly reckoned among the pleasantest in Town; and all the diaries of (or relating to) the celebrated characters that have figured on the stage of London life during the last fifty years, bear ample testimony to the fact. Moore's and Byron's alone commemorate remarkable parties enough to give their host immortality as an Amphitryon, and they show, moreover, that he never fell into the weakness of which he is made ("Table Talk," p. 175.) to accuse Bishop Marlay, that of "giving great dinners chiefly to people of rank and fashion, foolish men and foolish women." Here are two extracts from Byron's Diary for 1814:—
"Sunday, March 6th. On Tuesday last dined with Rogers: Madame de Stael, Mackintosh, Sheridan, Erskine, and Payne Knight, Lady Donegall and Miss R. there. Sheridan told a very good story of himself and Madame de Recamier's handkerchief. Erskine a few good stories of himself only.
"March 10th. Thor's day. On Tuesday dined with Rogers, Mackintosh, Sheridan, Sharpe. Much talk and good, all except my own little prattlement. Set down Sheridan at Brookes's, where, by the by, he could not well set down himself, as he and I were the only drinkers."
Rogers used to relate that, when Madame de Stael first arrived in England in the fulness of her fame, she was invited to one of the large evening parties at Lanadowne House; and after deliberating on the best mode of making her debut, she requested him to stand with her in a conspicuous portion of the chief saloon, so that she might be first seen by the London world of fashion and politics in close communion with literature.
During the last half of his life, most foreigners of distinction, with many who had no claim on his notice beyond avowed admiration or curiosity, made a point of getting introduced to him, and an introduction almost always implied an invitation to breakfast. He was partial to Americans, both out of gratitude for his popularity in the United States, and because they did not compel him to speak French, in which he never conversed fluently or at his ease. The author of the "Table Talk" has transferred to Talleyrand's dinner-table a brief colloquy with Lamertine, which Rogers always used to mention as having occurred at one of his own breakfasts.
"Lamertine is a man of genius, but very affected. Talleyrand, when in London, invited me to meet him, and placed me beside him at dinner. I asked him, 'Are you acquainted with Beranger?' 'No: he wished to be introduced tome but I declined it.' 'I would go,' said I, 'a league to see him.' This was nearly all our conversation: he did not choose to talk. In short, he was so disagreeable, that some days after, both Talleyrand and the Duchess di Dino apologised to me for his ill-breeding." (p. 23.)
Circumstantial as is this version, we question its authenticity. Rogers, not allowing for the literary and political feuds of Paris (although he lived in a time when a Tory poet would not willingly have remained in the same room with a Radical), eagerly inquired of Lamartine, who doubtless thought himself a more legitimate subject of interest, what sort of a man Beranger was, and what he was about. "Je ne le connais pas," said Lamartine. "Je vous plains," rejoined Rogers.
He was still more unlucky with August von Schlegel, whom he asked if, since Goethe's death, there had been any poets in Germany. "I am a poet," was the indignant response.
Most appropriately might Rogers have exclaimed with Horace—
Quicquid sum ego, quamvis
Infra Lucili censum ingeniumque, tamen me
Cum magnis vixisse invita fatebitur usque
The solid advantages of such a position are undeniable. The privilege of mingling in daily and familiar intercourse with the most eminent men and women of the age, and of going at once to the fountain-head for every description of knowledge, is a proud and enviable one; and in labouring hard for it, Rogers is not to be confounded with the mere lover of titles and fine company for their own sake. A cursory reference to the obstacles he had to surmount at starting, will serve the double purpose of illustrating his character, and of claiming for him the credit which is his due, for his subsequent exertions to level or lower the artificial barriers between the aristocracy of birth and that of genius and intellect.
We learn from Moore that, when Sheridan came to Town with his first wife, it was a subject of anxious debate whether the son of a player could be received at Devonshire House, although that player was by birth and education a gentleman. An excuse is suggested by Miss Berry when, referring to the society which she had seen as a girl, she says: — "Authors, actors, composers, singers, musicians were all equally considered as profligate vagrants. Those whose good taste, or whose greater knowledge of the world, led them to make some exceptions, were implicated in the same moral category." She adds in the next page: — "It was not till late in the reign of George III., that sculptors, architects, and painters (with the single exception of Sir J. Reynolds) were received and formed a chosen part of the best and most chosen society in London."
This statement is somewhat over-coloured, particularly so far as authors are concerned; although the lives led by some of the most eminent (Fielding for example), and the early struggles of others (as depicted in Johnson's life of Savage,) gave plausibility to the charge of profligacy and vagrancy. But it is an undoubted fact that successful authorship did not constitute a recommendation to the best society till long after Rogers had aspired to become a leading member of it; and his first cautious advances were made rather in the character of a liberal host than of a popular poet. The completion of his house in St. James's Place, in which he sought, not unsuccessfully, to carry out the views developed in his Epistle to a Friend, was probably the commencement of his career as a Maecenas, a diner-out and a dinner-giver of the first water. Yet some of the most distinguished of his connexions were formed at an antecedent period, and one of his best stories was of a dinner given by him, when he occupied chambers in the Temple, to Fox, Sheridan, Erskine, Perry (of the Morning Chronicle), and other Whig notables.
The dinner had been ordered from the Mitre Tavern and was to arrive by installments. The appointed hour was past, yet not a dish made its appearance. "I quietly stole out," continued Rogers, "and hurried to the Mitre. 'What has become of my dinner?' I asked. 'Your dinner, Sir, — your dinner is for to-morrow.' I stood aghast, and for a moment plans of suicidal desperation crossed my brain: when the tavern-keeper relieved me from my perplexity, by saying that he had so many dinners on hand, that mine, if ever ordered, had escaped his recollection altogether. 'Many dinners on hand, have you? then if you will send me the best dish from each of them I will pay you double; and if you won't, you will never see my face again.' As I was a good customer, he chose the more prudent and profitable alternative; and after an hour's waiting, my guests were seated and served. 'And how did the dinner go off?' Oh, very well: they got a bad dinner, but they got a good story to tell against me." The conclusion was characteristic; for he himself would at any time have been consoled for a bad dinner by a good story against the host or the company.
There is another remarkable entry in Byron's Diary for Nov. 22. 1813:—
"Rogers is silent, — and, it is said, severe. When he does talk, he talks well; and, on all subjects of taste, his delicacy of expression is pure as his poetry. If you enter his house — his drawing room — his library — you of yourself say, this is not the dwelling of a common mind. There is not a gem, a coin, a book thrown aside on his chimneypiece, his sofa, his table, that does not bespeak an almost fastidious elegance in the possessor. But this very delicacy must be the misery of his existence. Oh, the jarrings his disposition must have encountered through life!"
This leads us to the consideration of a well known peculiarity in his mental construction or acquired habits, which, strange to say, no one would so much as guess from the "Table Talk" — namely, his mode of looking at, or placing, everything and everybody in the most disadvantageous point of view. Franklin, in his autobiography, mentions a gentleman who, having one very handsome and one shrivelled leg, was wont to test the disposition of a new acquaintance by observing whether he or she looked first or most at the best or worst leg. Rogers would have forfeited all chance of this gentleman's esteem at starting. Yet there was something irresistibly comic, rather than annoying or repulsive, in the pertinacity and ingenuity with which he indulged his caustic humour. We will give a few instances; but the look, the manner, the tone of voice, and the precise emphasis laid on particular words, cannot be transferred to paper. So uncertain is testimony, and so frail is memory, that even the accuracy of the expressions can rarely be guaranteed.
"Is that the contents you are looking at?" inquired an anxious author who saw Rogers's eye fixed on a table or list at the commencement of a presentation copy of a new work. "No," said Rogers, pointing to the list of subscribers, "the dis-contents."
Rogers, as may be believed, was one of the earliest of Landseer's innumerable admirers. He was known to have spoken highly of the picture of a Newfoundland dog entitled "Portrait of a Distinguished Member of the Royal Humane Society." On Landseer expressing his gratification, Rogers said: "Yes, I thought the ring of the dog's collar well painted."
He was returning from a dinner at — House with a friend, who began expatiating on the perfection of the hospitality which they had just enjoyed. "Did you observe how he helped the fish?" said Rogers.
He had lent £800 to Moore, and as the fact was gratefully bruited about at the time, and is duly recorded in the published Diary, there was and is no harm in Rogers's or our allusion to it. "When he repaid me the money," said Rogers, "he exclaimed, 'There, thank God, I do not now owe a farthing in the world.' If he had been a prudent man, he would have reflected that he had not got a farthing."
On entering Moore's parlour at Sloperton, and seeing it hung round with engraved portraits of Lord Grey, Lord John Russell, Lord Lansdowne, &c., Rogers remarked, "So I see you have all your patrons about you." "A good-natured man," characteristically observed Moore, when he told the story, "would have said friends."
When he was speaking of some one's marriage in his usual tone, he was reminded that the friends of the bridegroom were very much pleased at it. Rogers replied, "He's a fortunate man then, for his friends are pleased, and his enemies delighted."
Whenever a disagreeable man, or one whom he disliked, married a pretty woman, he would say, "Now we shall have our revenge of him."
He spoke to Mrs. H. one day of Lady — with extreme admiration and apparent cordiality; he then left the room, and Mrs. H. remarked that she had never heard Rogers speak so well of any one before. The door opened, and Rogers thrust in his head with the words, "There are spots on the sun though."
When a late member for a western county and his wife were stopped by banditti in Italy, Rogers used to say, "The banditti wanted to carry off P— into the mountains; but she flung her arms round his neck, and rather than take her with them, they let him go."
This kind of malice, however, was a venial offence in comparison with the cross things which he sometimes addressed to people without the shadow of a provocation; and it is these which have given rise to so many animated controversies about his goodness of heart. The discussion is strikingly analogous, in one essential quality, to the tilting match touching the colour of a shield. He presented the white side of his disposition to those he liked, and the black side to those he disliked; both likings and dislikings being often based on no sounder principle than that which proved fatal to Dr. Fell. Hence the fervent abuse of one faction, and the equally fervent laudation of another. Only what his eulogists fail to see, or unfairly refuse to admit, is, that no extent of kindness or courtesy to an object of preference is an excuse for unkindness or discourtesy to an object of antipathy, to say nothing of the social offence of an annoying or rude remark in company. Good breeding requires delicacy of perception enough to know what is pleasing or displeasing to those with whom we mix, as well as good nature and good temper enough so to use our knowledge as never to cause an unpleasant feeling, or even to revive a disagreeable association. Rogers was eminently gifted with the instinctive tact in question, but his use of it varied with his mood; and there were times when he was both wayward and exacting to an unjustifiable extent, — when all his gentler emotions were "like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh."
One of his female favourites had made a little dinner for him, in which, she fondly hoped, all his tastes and fancies had been consulted. After a glance round the table, he remarked that the fish was out of season.
At a bachelor dinner where the attendance was scanty, he refused the two or three things that were offered him, till the solitary waiter had left the room. "Won't you eat anything, Mr. Rogers?" asked the host. "I will take some of that pie" (pointing to a "vol-au-vent"), "when there is any body to give it to me."
He bitterly repented of these two escapades, when, shortly afterwards, he was left out of a succession of small dinners to punish him, and was told "the reason why" by one of the presiding beauties. The redeeming feature was that when (as Mr. Jarndyce, would say), the wind was in the east, he was no respecter of persons, and distributed raps on the knuckles without ceremony to all alike, — to the strong and the weak, the big and the little, the rich and the poor, the proud and the humble Indeed, it is no more than justice to him to say, that he was commonly conciliated by humility, and was more especially irritated by self-confident people in high health and conversation, and forcibly broke in upon the monopoly of attention which he claimed or expected. His sense of humour made Sydney Smith's fun irresistible, and it was his pride to have so distinguished a guest at his table; but there was no love lost between them, and Rogers was all the bitterer in their incidental passages of arms from the consciousness of being (in Spenserian phrase) overcrowed. Thus, at a dinner at the late Lord S—'s, at which both were present, Sydney Smith, by way of falling in with the humour of the company, — mostly composed of Meltonians and patrons of the turf, offered a bet, and added, "If I lose, I will pay at once in a cheque on Rogers, Toogood, and Company," which was then the name of the firm. "And it shall be paid," said Rogers, in his bitterest tone, "every iota of it," — alluding to Sydney Smith's supposed reply, much censured for its levity, on being asked whether he believed the whole of the Thirty-nine Articles. When Rogers told the story, he justified himself on the ground that Sydney Smith "meant to take advantage of their being in fine company to run him down as a tradesman." When Sydney Smith mentioned it, he declared that he had fallen into an involuntary error from not calculating on the depths of human weakness, and that the notion of giving offence never so much as crossed his mind.
It should be added that Rogers had a morbid aversion for what he called "dog and horse men." He had omitted to observe how completely the coarseness and ignorance which was supposed, or at least declared by novelists and dramatists, to mark the country gentlemen of his youth, have been rubbed off and refined away by increased facilities of intercourse and the resulting cultivation of all classes.
Although a little jealous of Luttrell's superior fashion (of which an instance is given in the "Table Talk," p. 233.), Rogers's favourite amongst the wits and talkers in repute was the author of "Letters to Julia," and the most refined of their common contemporaries (admitting Sydney Smith's far larger grasp and higher vocation) will approve the selection. There could not be a more fascinating companion than Luttrell — so light in hand, so graceful in manner, so conciliating in tone and gesture, with such a range of well-chosen topics, and such a fresh, sparkling, and abundant spring of fancy to play upon them. When his poem (nicknamed "Letters from a Dandy to a Dolly") was published, a crack critic began a review of them by suggesting that the author had, as it were, cut up his gold-egg-laying goose by printing his entire stock in trade as a joker. Never critic made a greater mistake. Luttrell's sources of amusement were inexhaustible, and they were without alloy. To him belong some of the best mots recorded in "Moore's Diary;" and Rogers accurately described his peculiar manner when he said, "Luttrell is indeed a pleasant companion. None of the talkers whom I meet in London society can slide in a brilliant thing with such readiness as he does."
Rogers treated Moore much as Johnson treated Goldsmith, — rated him soundly when present for not attending better to his own interests, and did not always spare him when absent, but would suffer no one else to utter a word against him. In allusion to his restlessness, Rogers used to say, "Moore dines in one place, wishing he was dining in another place, with an opera-ticket in his pocket which makes him wish he was dining nowhere." Moore's Diary abounds with practical proofs of Rogers's unceasing liberality and unobtrusive charity. It also contains one valuable testimony of a rarer kind:—
"Rogers stayed more than a week [at Bowood, Dec. 1841]. Still fresh in all his faculties, and improved wonderfully in the only point where he ever was deficient, temper. He now gives the natural sweetness of his disposition fair play."
It appears from one of Moore's letters to Lady Donegal, published in his "Memoirs," that he had suffered severely at a preceding period from Rogers's carping humour and fault-finding propensity,—
"Rogers and I had a very pleasant tour of it, though I felt throughout it all, as I always feel with him, that the fear of losing his good opinion almost embitters the possession of it, and that, though in his society one walks upon roses, it is with constant apprehension of the thorns that are among them.... He has left me rather out of conceit with my poem, 'Lalla Rookh' (as his fastidious criticism generally does), and I have returned to it with rather an humbled spirit; but I have already altered my whole plan to please him, and I will do so no more, for I should make as long a voyage of it as his own 'Columbus,' if I attended to all his objections. His general opinion, however, is very flattering: he only finds fault with every part of it in detail; and this, you know, is the style of his criticism of characters; — an excellent person, but —." (Aug. 21. 1812; vol. viii. p. 114.)
"Your description of Rogers," replies Lady Donegal, is too like him. How vexatious it is that a man who has so much the power of pleasing and attaching people to him should mar the gifts of nature so entirely by giving way to that sickly and discontented turn of mind, which makes him dissatisfied with everything, and disappointed in all his views of life. Yet feel for others; and notwithstanding this unfortunate habit he has given himself of dwelling upon the faults and follies of his friends he really can feel attachment; and to you, I am certain, he is attached, though I acknowledge that the thorns sometimes make one wish, to throw away the roses, and forego the pleasure to avoid the pain. But with all his faults I like him, though I know he spares me no more than any of his other dear friends." (Aug. 28. 1812; vol. viii. p. 118.)
Her sister, Miss Godfrey — whose letters betoken a high degree of cultivation and refinement, superadded to a lively fancy, a kind disposition, and the most winning truthfulness — writes about the same time—
"We see Rogers often in the morning, but he does not dine here, as we have only one room that we can inhabit at present, and we have not yet dined with him. I sometimes like him very much, and sometimes I think him so given up, body and soul, to the world, and such a worshipper of My Lords and My Ladies, that I think it a great waste of any of my spare kind feelings to bestow them upon him. Love without a coronet over it goes for nothing in his eyes. However, he amuses me, and I had rather be on kind terms with him than not. Bab [Lady Donegal] is more his than I am: she sees him with kinder eyes, and shuts them oftener to his failings." (Vol. viii. p. 140.)
Rogers was unceasingly at war with the late Lady D. One day at dinner she called across the table: "Now, Mr. Rogers, I am sure you are talking about me" (not attacking, as the current version runs). "Lady D.," was the retort, "I pass my life in defending you."
Although fashion is tolerably discriminating upon the whole, and commonly exacts an entrance-fee in sterling or current coin of some sort (either merit or celebrity) from all who are not born and bred within her hallowed precincts, still individuals may now and then be seen there whose position is as puzzling as that of Pope's fly in amber:—
The thing we know is neither rich nor rare,
But wonder how the devil it got there.
For this anomalous species, Rogers professed the most unmitigated contempt; and their usual resource, industrious flattery, was worse than wasted on him. One evening when, leaning on the arm of a friend, he was about to walk home from evening party, a pretentious gentleman of this description made a desperate attempt to fasten on them, and prefaced the meditated intrusion by saying that he never liked walking alone. "I should have thought, sir," said Rogers, "that no one was so well satisfied with your company as yourself."
If he had done no more than check pushing presumption, or expose fawning insignificance his habitual severity of comment would have caused no reflection on his memory; but it became so formidable at one time, that his guests might be seen manoeuvring which should leave the room last, so as not to undergo the apprehended ordeal; and it was said of him with more wit than truth, that he made his way in the world, as Hannibal made his across the Alps with vinegar. His adoption of a practice which ran counter to all his avowed theories has been accounted for by the weakness of his voice, which, it was argued, induced him to compel attention by bitterness, — like the backbiters described by Lord Brougham, "who, devoid of force to wield the sword, snatch the dagger, and steep it in venom to make it fester in the scratch." This solution is unjust to Rogers, who was not driven to procure listeners by such means. It, moreover, exaggerates a failing which was common to the wits of his earlier days, both in France and England. Three-fourths of the good things attributed to Voltaire, Beaumarchais, Chesterfield, Selwyn, Sheridan, Walpole, Wilkes, and their contemporaries, would have found appropriate place in the "School for Scandal;" and before condemning Rogers on the evidence of those to whom the black side of his character was most frequently presented, we must hear those whose attention was constantly attracted to the white side.
One female reminiscent, nurtured and domesticated with genius from her childhood, writes thus:—
"I knew the kind old man for five-and-twenty years. I say kind advisedly, because no one did so many kind things to those who, being unable to dig, to beg are ashamed. The sharp sayings were remembered and repeated because they were so clever. There are many as bitter, no one so clever. He was essentially a gentleman, by education, by association — his manners were perfect. Once, when breakfasting with him, upon taking our seats he called my daughter to his side, thus obliging a young man to leave his place; feeling that this was not courteous, he said, "I ask you to move because I love your parents so dearly that I feel as if you were my son."
"He not only gave freely and generously, but looked out for occasions of being kind. My father once saw him, and he asked after a mutual acquaintance — 'How is K—?' The reply was — 'As well as a man with nine children and a small income can be;' the next day Mr. Rogers sent him fifty pounds. A friend once asked him to assist a young man at college; he gave immediately twenty pounds, and after leaving the house returned to say, 'There is more money to be had from the same place, if wanted!" We ought to observe how much all that appears from time to time tells to his credit in the various Memoirs, &c. You find him always a peace-maker, always giving wise counsel, generous and kind." (Private MS.)
The author of "The Winter's Walk," after alluding to "the keen point of many a famed reply," proceeds:
But by a holier light thy angel reads
The unseen records of more gentle deeds,
And by a holier light thy angel sees
The tear oft shed for humble miseries,
Th' indulgent hour of kindness stol'n away
From the free leisure of thy well-spent day,
For some poor struggling son of Genius, bent
Under the weight of heartsick discontent.
And by that light's soft radiance I review
Thy unpretending kindness, calm and true,
Not to me only; but in bitterest hours
To one whom Heaven endowed with varied powers.
By sorrow weakened, by disease unnerved,
Faithful at least the friend he had not served:
For the same voice essayed that hour to cheer
Which now sounds welcome to his grandchild's ear;
And the same hand, to aid that life's decline
Whose gentle clasp so late was linked in mine.
Few readers can require to be reminded of the closing scenes in the "Life of Sheridan," when Rogers advanced £150 (not the first of the same amount, says the biographer) to procure the expiring orator the poor privilege of dying undisturbed.
Oh, it sickens the heart to see bosoms so hollow,
And friendships so cold, in the great and high born;
To think what a long list of titles may follow
The relics of him who died friendless and lorn.
How proud they can flock to the funeral array
Of one whom they shunned in his sickness and sorrow,
How bailiffs may seize his last blanket to day
Whose pall shall be held up by nobles to-morrow;
But it cheers the heart to see one neither great nor high-born stepping forward to prevent that last blanket from being seized; and, "in the train of all this phalanx of Dukes, Marquisses, Earls, Viscounts, Barons, Honourables, Princes of the Blood, and First Officers of the State, it was not a little interesting to see walking humbly, side by side, the only two men who had not waited for the call of vanity to display itself, — Dr. Bain and Mr. Rogers" [author's note: Moore's Life of Sheridan].
When some one complained in Thomas Campbell's hearing, that Rogers said spiteful things: "Borrow five hundred pounds of him," was the comment, "and he will never say one word against you until you want to repay him." He told a lady (the reminiscent before quoted) that Campbell borrowed £500, upon the plea that if he had that sum, it would do him a good service. Three weeks afterwards he brought back the money, saying that he found it would not be prudent to risk it. "At this time," added Rogers, "I knew that he was every day pressed for small sums."
Here is an exemplarily kind action followed up by unexceptionably kind words. We could fill pages with other well-authenticated instances of his considerate generosity. They have come to light gradually; and it is a remarkable fact that, whilst he was annually giving away large sums, his name figured little in subscription lists. He may have been acting all along rather from calculation than from impulsiveness, from head not heart. He may have been following Paley's counsel, who recommends us to cultivate our better feelings by alms-giving if only with a view to our own self-complacency. Or he may have been simply more fortunate in his experimental benevolence than the nobleman who, on being advised to try doing a little good by way of a new pleasure, replied that he had tried it already and found no pleasure in it. To what does this analysis of motive a la Rochefoucauld amount after all? Surely, to seek and find happiness in doing good, is to be good. Admitting that the mere voluptuary, and the general benefactor, have each the same end, self, — still the difference in the means employed will constitute a sufficiently wide and marked distinction between the two. When we have only calmly computed how much good might be done daily, how much happiness diffused, without the sacrifice of a wish or caprice, without the interruption of a habit, by thousands of the richer classes who never turn aside to aid the needy or elevate the lowly, — when we have done this, we shall then be in a fitting frame of mind for estimating the superiority of a man who had arrived at just conclusions regarding the real uses of superfluous wealth, and acted on them.
"Sir," said Adams, "my definition of charity is, a generous disposition to relieve the distressed." "There is something in that definition," answered Mr. Peter Pounce, "which I like well enough; it is, as you say, a disposition, and does not so much consist in the act as in the disposition to do it." There are plenty of Peter Pounces n our society. What we want are the Allworthys, or the worldly philosophers, on whose tombstone may be read without provoking a smile of irony: "What I spent, I had; what I gave, I have; what I saved, I lost." We commend this epitaph to the attention of the millionnaire who has been accused of wishing to invest the accumulations of more than half a century in one big bank-note and carry it out of the world with him. When (see "Table Talk," p. 51.) Lord Erskine heard that somebody had died worth £200,000, he observed, "Well, that's a very pretty sum to begin the next world with." Rogers had reserved for the next world just one-eighth of that sum, exclusive of the contents of his house, — not enough, had his income from the Bank failed, to enable him to enjoy the comforts which age, infirmity, and confirmed habits had made necessary to him in this.
The robbery which took place a few years ago, seemed likely at first to expose him to a trial which he had never had to encounter. It served, on the contrary, to show the generous confidence and attachment of his friends. So soon as the news of the robbery got abroad, one nobleman placed £10,000, a second £30,000, and a third (a merchant prince) £100,000 at his disposal. He bore this robbery, which might have led to very serious consequences, with great equanimity, and said it had done him good, — by the chastening effect of adversity, and by bringing out the good qualities of his friends. It was after repeating Pope's line,—
Bare the mean heart that beats beneath a star,
that he one day mentioned, by way of qualification, the munificence and promptitude with which noble as well as simple had hurried to aid and sympathise with him.
The best accessible specimens of his epistolary style will be found in the eighth volume of "Moore's Memoirs," edited by Lord John Russell, who says that Rogers himself selected those of his letters which were to be published. They are evidently written with the scrupulous care which marks everything he undertook; and we will answer for it that his love-letters, should they ever come to light, will bear internal evidence of having been composed on a diametrically opposite principle to that recommended by Rousseau, who says that the writer should begin without knowing what he is going to say and end without knowing what he has, said. Three or four of Rogers's letters relate to "Columbus." He writes to consult Moore as to which of sundry very ordinary verses is the best, telling him, on one occasion, that half of a particular line has received the sanction of Sharp and Mackintosh, and anxiously requiring to be informed if he agreed with them. Never, probably, since the Roman Senate was summoned to consult about the boiling of a turbot, was the importance of the subject more ludicrously contrasted with the solemnity of the reference.
One of the most pleasing of these compositions is that (p. 95.) in which he gives an account of the family of a brother who had retired from the Bank with an ample fortune, and was really living the life of rural enjoyment which the poet affected to think the acme of felicity. In another (p. 79.) he avows a confirmed dislike to letter-writing. The notes "which he wrote in the common commerce of the world are models of conciseness and calligraphy. If ever handwriting corresponded with and betrayed character, it was his; — neat, clear, and yet not devoid of elegance. "Will you breakfast with me to-morrow? S. R.," was his pithy invitation to a celebrated wit and beauty. "Won't I? H. D." was the congenial response.
There is no good likeness of him. The fact is, he would never allow one to be taken. He preferred that by Lawrence, because it was the most flattering. There is one designed and drawn on stone by an amateur artist (Lady Morgan's niece, Mrs. Geale) in 1838, which would have been excellent, had she ventured to give him his actual age at the time. Dantan's caricature bust is hardly a caricature, and for that very reason he held it in horror. One day Moore was indiscreet or malicious enough to say that a fresh stock had been sent over, and that he had seen one in a shop window. "It is pleasant news," said Rogers; "and pleasant to be told of it by a friend."
The accident which deprived him of the power of locomotion was the severest of trials to a man of his active habits and still extraordinary strength; for he delighted in walking, and thought his health depended upon the exercise he took in this way. Not long before, he had boasted of having had a breakfast party at home, — then gone to a wedding breakfast, where he returned thanks for the bridesmaids, — then to Chiswick, where he was presented to an imperial highness, — dined out, — gone to the Opera — looked in a ball, and walked home — all within the compass of fourteen hours. "When I first saw him after his fall," writes the lady already quoted, "I found him lying on his bed, which was drawn near the bed-room window, that he might look upon the Park. Taking my hand, he kissed it, and I felt a tear drop on it, and that was all the complaint or regret that he ever expressed. Never did he allude to it to me, nor, I believe, to any one."
One day, between six and seven, when he was just going to dinner, hearing a knock at the door, he desired his faithful and attached servant, Edmund, to say, not at home. "Who was it?" he inquired. E. "Colonel —, Sir." R. "And who is Colonel — E. "The gentleman who upset you, Sir, and caused your accident." R. "It is an agreeable recollection, did he come to refresh it?" E. "Oh, Sir, he calls very often to inquire for you." R. "Does he? then if he calls again, don't let him in, and don't tell me of it." The gallant officer was (at worst) the innocent cause of the mishap; for as his brougham was passing at an ordinary pace, Rogers, who was about to cross, suddenly checked himself, lost his balance, and fell with his hip against the kerb-stone.
When some one was speaking of a fine old man before Swift, he exclaimed, in a spirit of melancholy foreboding, "There's no such thing as a fine old man; if either his head or his heart had been worth anything, they, would have, worn him out long ago." Till near ninety, Rogers was a striking exception to this rule. He then gradually dropped into that state, mental and bodily, which raises a reasonable doubt whether prolonged life be a blessing or a curse—
Membrorum damno major dementia, quae nec
Nomina servorum, nee vultus agnoscit amicum,
Cum queis praeterita coenavit nocte, nec illos
Quos genuit, quos eduxit.
Although his impressions of long past events were as fresh as ever, he forgot the names of his relations and oldest friends whilst they were sitting with him, and told the same stories to the same people two or three times over in the same interview. But there were frequent glimpses of intellect in all its original brightness, of tenderness, of refinement, and of grace. "Once driving out with him," says a female correspondent, "I asked him after a lady whom he could not recollect. He pulled the check string, and appealed to his servant. 'Do I know Lady M—?' The reply was, 'Yes, Sir.' This was a painful moment to us both. Taking my hand, he said, 'Never mind, my dear, I am not yet reduced to stop the carriage and ask if I know you.'"
To another female friend, who was driving out with him shortly after, he said, "Whenever you are angry with one you love, think that that dear one might die that moment. Your anger will vanish at once."
During the last four or five years he was constantly expatiating on the advantages of marriage. "It was a proud, a blessed privilege," he would repeat, "to be the means, under Providence, of clothing an immortal soul in clay." He introduced and pursued this theme without respect to persons, and not unfrequently recommended matrimony to married people who would have lent a readier ear to a proposal of separation or divorce. In explanation of the rumours circulated from time to time in his younger days respecting his own attempts to confirm precept by example, he said, "that whenever his name had been coupled with that of a single lady, he had thought it his duty to give out that he had been refused." On his regretting that he had not married, because then he should have had a nice woman to care for him, it was suggested, — "How do you know she would not have cared for somebody else?" — an awkward doubt at all times.
His own version of his nearest approximation to the nuptial tie was, that, when a young man, he admired and sedulously sought the society of the most beautiful girl he then, and still, thought he had ever seen. At the end of the London season, at a ball, she said. "I go to-morrow to Worthing. Are you coming there?" He did not go. Some months afterwards, being at Ranelagh, he saw the attention of every one drawn towards a large party that had just entered, in the centre of which was a lady on the arm of her husband. Stepping forward to see this wonderful beauty, he found it was his love. She merely said: "You never came to Worthing."
In the case of most men over whom the grave had closed so recently, we should have refrained from such minuteness of personal detail, however curious or illustrative. But the veil had been removed from the private life of Rogers long before we approached the sanctuary; and we are not responsible for the profanation, if it be one. His habits, his mode of life, his predilections, his aversions, his caustic sayings, his benevolent actions, have been treated like common property as far back as the living generation can remember. They have been discussed in all circles, and have occasionally appeared (with varying degrees of accuracy) in print. Now that monarchs have left off changing their shirts at crowded levees, we should be puzzled to name any contemporary celebrity who, whether be liked it or not, had been so much or so constantly before the public as Rogers. He knew everybody, and everybody knew him. He spoke without first comer and the chance visitor, (haply some "penciller by the way") was admitted to his intimacy as unwarily as the tried friend. This argued a rare degree of conscious rectitude and honourable self-reliance; and in estimating his character, in balancing the final account of his merits and demerits, too much stress cannot be laid on the searching nature of the ordeal he has undergone. Choose out the wisest, brightest, noblest of mankind, and how many of them could bear to be thus pursued into the little corners of their lives? — "all their faults observed, set in a note-book, learned and conned by rote?" Most assuredly, if the general scope and tendency of their conduct be no worse, they may, one and all — to borrow the impressive language of Erskine — "walk through the shadow of death, with all their faults about them, with as much cheerfulness as in the common path of life." But if great virtues may not atone for small frailties, or kind deeds for unkind words, "they must call upon the mountains to cover them, for which of them can present, for Omniscient examination, a pure, unspotted, and faultless course?"