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family, stood a moment in amazement to hear them all conversing together in execrable French ; and then burst into a hearty laugh, saying,—“Why, you are all fools together! This is an Englishman, and these Highlanders, Mr. Crabbe, can speak as good English as you can." The amazement it occasioned may be imagined.
Trowbridge is not the sort of place that you would imagine a poet voluntarily choosing as a place of residence. It is a manufacturing town of about 12,000 inhabitants, chiefly of the working class, with a sprinkling of shopkeepers, and wealthy manufacturers. It has no striking features, but to a person proceeding thither from London, has a mean, huddled, and unattractive aspect. The country round is a good dairy country, but is not by any means striking. Crabbe, however, found there families of intelligence and great kindness. His sons married well amongst them, and John acted as his curate ; George, the writer of his biography, had the living, and occupied the parsonage of Pucklechurch, only about twenty miles distant. These were all circumstances, with a good parsonage, and a wide field of usefulness in comforting and relieving his poor parishioners, as well as in instructing them, which were calculated to make a man like Crabbe happy. By all classes he soon became much beloved ; and was, in every sense, a most excellent pastor. In his own children he seems to have been peculiarly blest ; his two sons, clergymen, being all that he could desire, and they and his grandchildren held him in the warmest and most reverential affection.
One of his great haunts were the quarries near Trowbridge, where he used to geologize assiduously ; for, after his wife's death, he ceased to retain his taste for botany, her youthful botanical rambles with him no doubt now coming back too painfully upon him.
His parsonage was a good, capacious old house, of grey stone, and pointed gables, standing in a large garden surrounded by a high wall. It lies almost in the heart of the town, and within a hundred yards of the churchyard. In his time, I understand, the garden was almost a wood of lofty trees. Many of these have since been cut down. Still it is a pleasant and spacious retirement, with some fine trees about it. The church is a very old building, and threatening to tumble. At the time of my visit workmen were busy lowering the tower, and the northern aisle showed no equivocal marks of giving way. The churchyard was also undergoing the process of levelling; the turf was removed, and it altogether looked dismal A very civil and intelligent sexton, living by the churchyard gate, in a cottage overhung with ivy, showed me the church, and appeared much interested in the departed pastor and poet. I ascended into the pulpit, and imagined how often the author of The Borough had stood there and addressed his congregation. There is a monument to his memory in the chancel, by Baily. The old man is represented as lying on his death-bed, by which are two celestial beings, awaiting his departure. The likeness to Crabbe is said to be excellent. The inscription is as follows :—“Sacred to the memory of the Rev. George Crabbe, LL.B., who died February the third, 1832, in the seventy-eighth year of his age, and the nineteenth of his services as rector of this parish. Born in humble life, he made himself what he was. By the force of his genius he broke through the obscurity of his birth ; yet never ceased to feel for the less fortunate. Entering, as his works can testify, into the sorrows and privations of the poorest of his parishioners; and so discharging the duties of his station, as a minister and a magistrate, as to acquire the respect and esteem of all his neighbours. As a writer he is well described by a great cotemporary, as ‘Nature's sternest painter, yet her best.'”
In the north aisle is also a tablet to the memory of the wife of his son George, who, it appears, died two years after Crabbe himself, and in the very year, 1834, in which her husband published his excellent and most interesting life of his father.
Trowbridge impressed me, as numbers of other places have done where men of genius have lived, with the fleeting nature of human connexions. Crabbe, so long associated with Trowbridge, was gone ; his sons were gone, neither of them succeeding him in the living, and all trace of him, except his monument, seemed already wiped out from the place. Another pastor occupied his dwelling and his pulpit, and the population seemed to bear no marks of a great poet having been among them, but were rich subjects for such a pen as that of Crabbe. The character of the place may be judged of by its head inn. It was a fair, and I found the court-yard of this old-fashioned inn set out with rows of benches, all filled with common people drinking. On one side of the yard was a large room, in which the fiddle went merrily, and a crowd of dancers hopped as merrily to it. At a window near that room, on the same side, a woman was delivering out pots of ale, as fast as somebody within could supply them, to the people in the yard. On the other side of the court lay, however, the main part of the inn. Here a gallery ran along which conducted to the different bedrooms, through the open air; and from this sundry spectators were surveying the scene below. All was noise, loud and eager talking, and odours not the most delectable, of beer, fish, and heaven knows what. The house was dirty, dark, and full of the same fumes. People of all sorts were passing up and down stairs, and in and out of the house in crowds. The travellers' room was the only place, I was informed, where there was space or comfort. Thither I betook myself, and while my dinner was preparing, I heard the fine strong, clear voice of a woman in an adjoining room, which I instantly recognised by the style of singing to be German. I walked into the said room to see who was the singer, and what was her audience. She was a strong-built, healthy-looking German girl, who was accompanying her singing on a guitar, in a little room closely packed with the ordinary run of people. To these she was singing some of the finest airs of Germany, with no mean skill or voice, but in a language of which they did not understand a syllable. My appearance amongst them occasioned some temporary bustle; but this soon passed, and they politely offered me a chair. I stayed to hear several songs, and proposed some of the most rare and excellent that I knew, amongst them some Austrian airs, which, in every instance, the poor girl knew and sung with great effect. As I went out, two French women were entering with a tambourine, and I soon heard them, accompanied by a fiddle, also performing their parts. Thus through the whole day, the strolling musicians of the fair entered this little concertroom of the head inn of Trowbridge, and entertained the fairgoing bacchanals. It was a scene which Crabbe would have made much of.
JAMES HOGG, THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD.
AMONGST the many remarkable men which the humble walks of life in Scotland have furnished to the list of poets, Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, is one of the most extraordinary. There have been Allan Ramsay, the barber, Burns, the ploughman, Allan Cunningham, the stonecutter, Tannahill and Thom, the weavers. Had there been no Burns, Hogg would have been regarded as a miracle for a rural poet; yet how infinite is the distance between the two! Burns's poetry is full of that true philosophy of life, of those noble and manly truths which are expressions for eternity of what lives in every bosom, but cannot form itself on every tongue.
“ His lines are mottoes of the heart,
His truths electrify the sage.” Such a poet becomes at once and for ever enshrined in the heart of his whole country; its oracle and its prophet. To no such rank can James Hogg aspire. His chief characteristics are fancy, humour, a love of the strange and wonderful, of fairies and brownies, and country tradition, mixed up with a most amusing egotism, and an ambition of rivalling in their own way the greatest poets of his time. He wrote The Queen's Wake, in imitation of Scott's metrical romances, and bragged that he had beaten him in his own line. Byron, Wordsworth, Southey, Rogers, Campbell, all the great poets of the day he imitated, and that in a wonderful manner for any man,' not simply for a poor shepherd of Ettrick. Scott had a poem on Waterloo, Hogg had a Waterloo too, and in the same metre; Byron wrote Hebrew Melodies, and Hogg wrote Sacred Melodies; and On Carmel's Brow, The Guardian Angels, The Rose of Sharon, Jacob and Laban, The Jewish Captive's Parting, &c., left no question as to the direct rivalry. His third volume was one published as ayowed poems by Scott, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, and Wilson. He had conceived the scheme of getting a poem from each of these popular authors, and publishing them in a volume, by which to raise money for the stocking of a farm. Byron consented, and destined Lara for Hogg's benefit ; but Scott at once refused, not approving
the plan, for which Hogg most unceremoniously assailed him ; and Byron being afterwards induoed not to send Lara, Hogg set about at once, and wrote poems for them and the others named, and published them under the title of the Poetic Mirror. Of these poems, which were clever burlesques rather than serious forgeries, I need not speak ; here I wish only to point out one of the most striking characteristics of Hogg, that of imitation of style. This was also shown in the famous Chaldee Manuscript, which appeared in Blackwood's Magazine, and created so much noise. But this great versatility of manner; this ambition of rivalling great authors in their own peculiar fields, marked the want of a prominent caste of genius of his own.
There was an absence of individuality in him. There was nothing, except that singular egotism and somewhat extravagant fancy, which could lead you on reading a poem of his to say, that is Hogg, and can be no one else. His poems are generally extremely diffuse; they surprise and charm you on opening them, at the vigour, liveliness, and strength of the style, but they are of that kind that the farther you go the more this charm wears off ; you grow weary, you hardly know why; you cannot help protesting to yourself that they are very clever, nay, wonderful ; yet there wants a certain soul, a condensation, á something to set upon them the stamp of that genius which seizes on your love and admiration beyond question or control. Accordingly, while you find every man and woman in Scotland, the peasantry as much as the more cultivated classes, having lines and verses of Burns's treasured in their memories, as the precious wealth of the national mind, you rarely or never hear a similar quotation from Hogg.“A clever, ranting chiel was the shepherd,” is the remark; his countrymen read and admire, and do justice to his genius, but with all his ambition, he never seated himself in their heart of hearts like Robert Burns.
There is nothing so amusing as Hogg's autobiography. His goodnatured egotism overflows it. The capital terms on which he was with himself made him relate Aatteries and rebuffs with equal naïveté; and the familiarity with which he treated the greatest names of modern literature, presenting the most grave and dignified personages as his cronies, chums, and convivial companions, is Iudicrous beyond everything. He opens his narrative in this style : -“I like to write about myself; in fact, there are few things which I like better ; it so delightful to call up old reminiscences. Often have I been laughed at for what an Edinburgh editor styles my goodnatured egotism, which is sometimes anything but that; and I am aware that I shall be laughed at again. But I care not ; for this important memoir, now to be brought forward for the fourth time, at different periods of my life, I shall narrate with the same frankness as formerly ; and in all relating either to others or myself, speak fearlessly and unreservedly out. Many of those formerly mentioned are no more; others have been unfortunate ; but of all I shall speak the plain truth, and nothing but the truth.”
Immediately afterwards he adds—“I must apprise you, that, whenever I have occasion to speak of myself and my performances,