1847 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Pringle

Cyrus Redding, in "Life and Reminiscences of Thomas Campbell" New Monthly Magazine 81 (September 1847) 48-49.



Mention has already been made of Thomas Pringle, who had sent from Scotland to the poet an article, written by a friend of his own, in defence of Campbell against some censures of Hazlitt in his public lectures, to which the poet's reply has been given. Some time afterwards, Pringle went out, with some members of his family, as an emigrant to the Cape of Good Hope, where he set himself down in a sequestered valley, which he and his friends named Glen Lynden. It appears that, while in this remote region among Hottentots and wild animals, his well-known attachment to the muses did not weaken. He wrote Campbell, under date of September 1825, from Bavian's River, at the Cape. He had heard of the work being under the poet's superintendence. He stated that he had previously sent some trifles for the magazine to London, but they did not appear to have come to hand. I had no recollection of the receipt....

Pringle was soon after obliged to return to England, owing to the despotic conduct of that Verres of the Cape, Lord Somerset, then governing there. The South African Journal was a very excellent periodical work, and conferred great credit upon Pringle, who, indeed, was not unused to periodical literature, having had a hand in establishing Blackwood's Magazine, which he very soon afterwards left. Pringle gave both to Campbell and myself copies of the work up to the time of its suppression, a number or two only. It would have puzzled the most scrupulous diabolus regis, or attorney-general of the good old times, to find an assailable sentence in it. The contents were in no way political, the larger part confined to local and natural history. The "sic volo, sic jubeo," was all the redress poor Pringle could get. Lord Bathurst, then colonial secretary, wished him to go out again, considering he had been grossly ill-treated; but Pringle was wiser than to place himself where he would be continually marked out for that annoyance which Lord Bathurst could not restrain. He knew that the petty satraps, who govern some of our colonies, have it in their power to do if they choose, and he had experienced enough of Lord Somerset's tyrannical pretensions, as well, indeed, as the whole colony, had done. Pringle, therefore, looked about for something to do at home, and, soon after his arrival, called upon Campbell. He lodged, I think, in Arundel-street, in the Strand. Campbell introduced him nominally to me, some time in 1826.

The first article he sent to the magazine, related to colonial slavery at the Cape. He stated, in a note to Campbell, that he had "taken a very different view of the subject from some other recent writers; but that a residence of six years in the colony, and an intimate acquaintance with every class of its inhabitants, had enabled him to give a just and unexaggerated picture of the great moral and political evil as it existed in South Africa."

Campbell at once entered into the idea, gave me Pringle's letter, and I called upon him. I found a strong made, mild, good-humoured man, upon crutches, and at once formed an idea of the excellence of the man's character, that was never falsified, but rose higher on further acquaintance. I took him to the poet's house, as they had no personal knowledge of each other, and in turn introduced him. They afterwards became warm friends until the decease of Pringle, which preceded that of the poet eight or nine years. The letters on slavery in South Africa were his articles, among others, inserted in the seventeenth volume of the magazine.