1858 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Pringle

Cyrus Redding, in Fifty Years' Recollections (1858) 2:227, 3:7-9.



Pringle, after he was at Edinburgh, with "Blackwood," sent me communications from the Cape of Good Hope. Thence he was expelled by the Verres of that day, Lord E. Somerset. He went out as a settler, but was lame and not equal to the labours of a farm, in an uncertain climate, to which were added combats with the lion and the rhinoceros. He, therefore, repaired to Cape Town, and endeavoured to establish a paper. It was suspected that he was not as servile to the ruler as the latter, in his brief authority, expected his vassals should be, and would have the colonists his vassals even in opinion. The paper was put down by order, Pringle then commenced a Magazine, treating principally of natural history. This, too, "without rhyme or reason," was at once annihilated. He then came to England, and laid the conduct of the colonial despot before Earl Bathurst, who behaved in the kindest way, and wished to send him out again at the government expense, but he declined going, having drank too deeply of the oppression inflicted by the governor to put him-self once more within his grasp. Many were the pleasant stories he used to relate of the frolics of the Edinburgh literati. Some did not square well with Southern ideas of strait-lacedness and the reverent would-be conduct of the sons of the kirk....

I have mentioned Thomas Pringle before. He was the son of a Scotch agriculturist, who early in life became known to Sir Walter Scott by a poem, called "Scenes of Teviotdale." After starting "Blackwood's Magazine," he had a dispute with Blackwood and separated from the editorship. He soon afterwards emigrated to the Cape, and settled with his aged father at Albany. His lameness — for he was obliged to use crutches — rendered him unfit for a farmer's life, and he went to Cape Town, having letters from Sir Walter Scott to Lord Charles Somerset. He sent articles home for the "New Monthly," and published a volume of sweet poetry, called "The Ephemerides," and another, entitled "African Sketches." In 1834, I found him in lodgings in Bryanstone Street, rapidly sinking from a broken blood-vessel. He had taken a passage to the Cape in order to be off before the cold weather set in, thinking the climate might restore him. The Captain declared he should sail in a week. Pringle had paid his passage-money, and had been kept six or seven weeks waiting when I saw him. He had hoped to be in a warm latitude before the winter. Thus cheated, and the cold setting in, he became worse and expired December 5th. I shook hands with him — death on his countenance. He expired with that moral courage which belongs to a virtuous life. He was a man of simple mind and manners, for whom I had a strong regard. His abilities were of no mean order. His last letter came to me at Bath, just before his death.

"Portman Street, Portman Sq.

Dear Mr. Redding, — I have been very ill since June last, in consequence of the rupture of a blood-vessel in the lungs. I am now on the point of flying to South Africa to escape the deadly influence of our moist English climate, and in the hope of recovering a sound state of health. It is not probable — be my days few or many — that I shall ever return. I have had enough of the bustle and fagg of life; and, if I have only the humblest competency, I shall sit down content in that fine climate, under my own vine and fig-tree, without troubling myself further about the affairs of the great world. If you are in town, pray come and see me.

"Is the paragraph true in the papers which says Campbell is gone to Algiers? If so, I must provide myself with a speaking trumpet to roar into his lug from the Cape of Storms,

Yours very truly,

THOMAS PRINGLE."