1852 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Beloe

William Jerdan, in Autobiography of William Jerdan (1852-53) 2:182-83.



In No. 29 of the Literary Gazette, my third number, I wrote a review of Beloe's Sexagenarian, or Recollections of a Literary Life, on which looking back I feel strangely admonished and affected. Beloe framed his autobiography in the third person, in order to avoid egotism; and made the supposition that after his death, the imagined friend had found and put the materials together. He died in the midst of his task; and what he had invented as an imagination was realised. His plan was prophetic, and his deathbed its fulfilment. A friend completed his memoirs; and his life, chequered by various prosperous and unfortunate events, was finished by another hand. The postscript says: "He was suddenly called from an existence of much pain and suffering. In the paths of literature his exertions had been attended with the most gratifying success. He had moved in the first circles of life; he had been fostered by the great, and rewarded by the good. As a friend he was respected and beloved; among his acquaintance, indeed, his good humour was proverbial. His open and generous nature was too often a dupe to the treacherous, and a prey to the designing. His latter days were spent in retirement from those busy scenes in which he had formerly borne a conspicuous part. In the last two years of his life, he amused himself with the composition of these Memoirs, which display an extensive knowledge of the events and characters of a former day. Many of the personages there described, like the hand which records them, are now in the dust, and have left only their names and their memories behind." In remarking on this text, I wrote, "Such was the plan and such the fate of poor Beloe, the Sexagenarian! Should the writer of this article ever have to record similar circumstances, at a similar period of life, it would be one of his earliest recollections that he had more than once met in society where the conversational talents to which so just a tribute is here paid, were exerted to the delight and information of the social circle!"