1856 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Francis Cary

Samuel Rogers, in Table Talk (1856) 282-84.



In the Memoir of Cary by his son, Coleridge is said to have first become acquainted with Cary's Dante when he met the translator at Little Hampton. But that is a mistake. Moore mentioned the work to me with great admiration; I mentioned it to Wordsworth; and he to Coleridge, who had never heard of it till then, and who forthwith read it.

I was present at that lecture by Coleridge, during which he spoke of Cary's Dante in high terms of praise: there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the room. But I doubt if that did much towards making it known. It owes some of its celebrity to me; for the article on Dante in The Edinburgh Review which was written by Foscolo, has very considerable additions by Mackintosh, and a few by myself. Cary was aware (though his biographer evidently is not) that I had written a portion of that article; yet he never mentioned it to me: perhaps there was something in it which he did not like.

On the resignation of Baber, chief librarian of the British Museum, I wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury urging Cary's claim to fill the vacant place. The Archbishop replied, that his only reason for not giving Cary his vote was the unfortunate circumstance of Cary's having been more than once, in consequence of domestic calamities, afflicted with temporary alienation of mind. I had quite forgotten this; and I immediately wrote again to the Archbishop, saying that I now agreed with him concerning Cary's unfitness for the situation. I also, as delicately as I could, touched on the subject to Cary himself, telling him that the place was not suited for him.

After another gentleman had been appointed Baber's successor, the trustees of the Museum recommended Cary to the Government for a pension, — which they seemed resolved not to grant; and I made more than one earnest application to them in his behalf. At last Lord Melborne sent Lord E. to me with a message that "there was very little money to dispose of, but that Cary should have 100 per annum." I replied that "it was so small a sum, that I did not choose to mention the offer to Cary; and that, as soon as Sir Robert Peel came into office, I should apply to him for a larger sum, with confident hopes of better success." Lord Melbourne then let me know that Cary should have 200 a-year; which I accepted for him.

Cary never forgave me for my conduct in the Museum business; and never afterwards called upon me. But I met him one day in the Park, when he said (much to his credit, considering his decided political opinions) that "he was better pleased to receive 200 a-year from Lord Melbourne than double the sum from Sir Robert Peel."