1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Rogers

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 267.



Rogers (1763-1855) was the son of a banker, resident near London. In 1776 he entered the banking-house as a clerk. Once, when a boy, he resolved to call on Dr. Johnson in Bolt Court, but his courage failed him as he placed his hand on the knocker, and they never met. In 1782 Rogers published The Pleasures of Memory. Its success was remarkable. In 1793 his father died, and Samuel, inheriting a large fortune, had ample leisure for literature. At his residence in St. James's Place, he delighted to gather round him men eminent in letters and art. In 1830 he published a superb edition of his poem, Italy, illustrated with engravings after drawings done for him by Stothard, Turner, and other artists. Rogers was a careful and fastidious writer. His Italy has passages of high artistic merit, and will long make his place good among British poets. A certain quaint sarcasm characterized some of his sayings. The late Lord Dudley (Ward) had been free in his criticisms on the poet, who retaliated with this epigrammatic couplet:

Ward has no heart, they say; but I deny it;

He has a heart — he gets his speeches by it.

On one occasion Rogers tried to extort from his neighbor, Sir Philip Francis, a confession that he was the author of Junius; but Francis gave a surly rebuff, and Rogers remarked that if he was not "Junius," he was at least "Brutus." The poet's recipe for long life was "temperance, the bath and flesh-brush, and don't fret." He thus, in his Italy, refers to himself:

Nature denied him much,
But gave him at his birth what most he values:
A passionate love for music, sculpture, painting,
For poetry, the language of the gods,
For all things here, or grand or beautiful,
A setting sun, a lake among the mountains,
The light of an ingenious countenance,
And, what transcends them all, a noble action.

Rogers died in his ninety-third year, his life having ranged over four successive generations in the history of English literature.