1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Campbell

Archibald Alison to Thomas Telfourd, 2 March 1809; Beattie, Life and Letters of Thomas Campbell (1849) 2:173-75.



Edinburgh, March 2nd, 1809.

You never conferred so great a kindness upon us as in sending Gertrude. I was frightened to meet her. But I have seen her; and she is more angelic than I dared to hope, and as immortal as her author. We have fought for her: we have wept with her; quarrelled with regard to her beauties, but have always ended in triumphing in her existence, and prophesying her immortality. All this I might have told you in twenty-four hours after I received your invaluable packets. But I wished to try the experiment with better heads than those that happen to grow at Bruntsfield Links; so she was dispatched immediately to Callander House: you all know what must be the tone of feeling there, at this moment. The effect, however, was greater than even our own Poet could have wished. Mr. S. insisted upon reading it first by himself, and he returned to them as pale as a ghost, and literally sick with weeping. Mrs. S.'s rapture rose with every line; and when I hinted some apprehension that a little more detail would have been acceptable to the unlearned reader, and that there were symptoms of an iron hand having shorn some of the tresses of her luxuriant beauty, Mrs. Stewart declared, most positively, that "she was perfect, and that she could not have read one page more for the world." So much for Callander House. At present she is in the hands of — to whom I have laboured to introduce her with all the advantages, and with all the address in my power... As for Campbell, tell him, that all those he cares for, are more than proud — that they neither think or speak of rivals; and that amid all their wishes, they durst not have imagined Gertrude. Tell him that we never meet without speaking of Mrs. Campbell and his boys; and that a late letter of his to Callander House, had all the effects that he could wish from it.... A thousand thanks to you — not from this house alone, but from many whom our Gertrude has delighted and conquered.

A. ALISON.