1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Campbell

Mary Russell Mitford to Mrs. Mitford, 24 June 1814; L'Estrange, Life of Mary Russell Mitford (1870) 1:218-19.



I broke off on Wednesday just as we were going to Campbell's lecture with dear Mr. Perry. Never in my life was I so highly gratified. Campbell's person is extremely insignificant — his voice weak — his reading detestable — and his pronunciation neither English nor Scotch; and yet, in spite of all these disadvantages, the exquisite beauty of the images, the soft and sweet propriety of the diction, and the admirable tact of his criticisms enchanted and almost electrified the audience. Campbell's prose is all light — one longs for a little common writing as shades to the picture. And yet there were some terrible heresies; he likes Thomson's Seasons, which nobody, you know, likes now; and he prefers Pope to Dryden, which is quite astounding. Every body stared; and to make them stare, he said it. By-the-way, he was very unfair; for in comparing them he never mentioned the Music Ode. He made a very strong allusion to poor Lord Cochrane, which was unanimously seized by the audience; in short, I never knew such interest, such respect, such pity as he excites. After the lecture, Perry hurried us off to speak to Campbell, who was polite beyond all politeness.