1858 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Bidlake

Cyrus Redding, in Fifty Years' Recollections (1858) 1:110-11.



There were a few literary and scientific individuals, too, in the town [Plymouth] whom I knew, and who, occasionally, made up a small circle for conversation. One of these was Samuel Northcote, a brother of the painter of that name, and a superior man in mind to the artist. He was of a shy unobtrusive disposition, and his confidence was necessary to be acquired before he could be brought out. He had nothing of the cynical ill-nature, close disposition in pecuniary affairs, or small views of his brother. Meek in manner, and a profound thinker, he was one of those who attracted little public notice, either through his unobtrusiveness, or from that sterling love of independence which often rules superior minds, and keeps them retired. He possessed no wealth. He was above all the trickery of trading accumulation. Getting infirm, his brother wished him to come to town and reside in his house. He consented, but the cramped mind and narrow spirit of the painter, did not suit his more enlarged views and generous aspirations. He returned to his old home again, where he died. The Rev. Dr. Bidlake, Master of the Grammar School at Plymouth, was another of this small party. An excellent scholar, in person small and deformed, but with a well-stored mind. He had a brother, a colonel of marines, almost as insignificant in person as himself, whom he delighted in saluting as his "ugly brother." He loved to bring out talent wherever he could find it. He was the patron of Nathaniel Howard, whose translation of Dante's "Inferno" long years afterwards, I shewed to Foscolo, who pronounced it the most literal we possessed, and as I recollect mentioned it in his "Essay on Petrarch." It was published by Murray, but I believe did not pass through a second edition. It was the scholar's Dante. Dr. Bidlake was an amateur artist, and brought forward Rogers, a landscape painter of considerable promise. He educated Haydon, and gave him a love for his art, which did not please the artist's father. Fond of simple pursuits and of the country, Dr. Bidlake had a cottage some distance from Plymouth, which I used to visit, situated in a retired spot, where a clear brook ran brawling by, through a sweet flower garden, of which I cannot now think without regret and that our meetings there should have passed away for ever. Tea, fruit, clouted cream, and conversation, the latter of the most agreeable and instructive kind, formed our summer afternoon entertainments.