1825 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Pearse Gillies

Walter Scott, 3 December 1825; Lockhart, Life of Scott (1837-38; 1902) 4:395.



[R. P. G.] called last night to excuse himself from dining with Lockhart's friends to-day. He has been extremely improvident. When I first knew him he had an excellent estate, and now he is deprived, I fear, of the whole reversion of the price, and this from no vice or extreme, except a wasteful mode of buying pictures and other costly trifles at high prices, and selling them again for nothing, besides extravagant housekeeping and profuse hospitality. An excellent disposition, with a considerable fund of acquired knowledge, would have rendered him an agreeable companion, had he not affected singularity, and rendered himself accordingly singularly affected. He was very near being a poet, but a miss is as good as a mile. I knew him first, many years ago, when he was desirous of my acquaintance; but he was too poetical for me, or I was not poetical enough for him, so we continued only ordinary acquaintance, with good-will on either side, which [R. P. G.] really deserves, as a more friendly generous creature never lived. Lockhart hopes to get something done for him, being sincerely attached to him, but says he has no hopes till he is utterly ruined. That point, I fear, is not far distant; but what Lockhart can do for him then, I cannot guess. His last effort failed, owing to a curious reason. [R. P. G.] had made some translations, which he does extremely well — for give him ideas, and he never wants choice of good words — and Lockhart had got Constable to offer some sort of terms for them. [R. P. G.] had always, though possessing a beautiful power of handwriting, had some whim or other about imitating that of some other person, and has written for months in the imitation of one or another of his friends. At present he has renounced this amusement, and chooses to write with a brush upon large cartridge paper, somewhat in the Chinese fashion, — so when his work, which was only to extend to one or two volumes, arrived on the shoulders of two porters, in immense bales, our jolly bibliopole backed out of the treaty, and would have nothing more to do with [R. P. G.] He is a creature that is, or would be thought, of imagination all compact, and is influenced by strange whims. But he is a kind, harmless, friendly soul, and I fear has been cruelly plundered of money, which he now wants sadly.