Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

upon the stage ; nothing could surpass her. But in society it is different. I cannot retract my opinion.”

“I do not think as you do ; she is great every where. I won't admit a word to her dispraise.”.

“She is one of his idols,” Mrs. Campbell would observe.

“She wants no worshippers,” said the poet; "she can spare one. R-- shall not play the iconoclast here."

“But your argument is, that the greatest of actresses is equally great in every thing.

“I won't admit of her want of excellence in any thing. She is an old friend of mine."

“ But that is no argument. Lawrence is a good painter, but that does not give him a claim to be a good mathematician.'

“Hush! you won't admire her as I do; as she deserves to be ; I see that."

“ On the contrary, I reverence her as an actress. I never saw, nor can conceive, any thing finer."

“ Then you must admit that, in society, she is an extraordinary woman."

“ With the prestige of her celebrity, one cannot look upon her otherwise ; abstracted from that impression, she is no way extraordinary, to my seeming."

“ You will admit nothing. She is an excellent friend of mine, and if I cannot convert you, why, you must continue wrong-headed. I won't hear a word against such a friend ; she is a wonderful woman.”

He would adroitly skip the faults of friends, or refuse to admit them, or gloss them over in the most specious way, while towards those to whom he had an antipathy, he was unsparing in his censure.

Mrs. Siddons seemed sensible of pleasure at hearing the effect her acting had produced on the minds of others. She exhibited undisguised satisfaction at my describing how I felt when I first saw her play Lady Macbeth, and how my youthful mind (I was then but twenty years old) was affected by her delineation of the character. She was now in her seventy-first year. The pleasure on her countenance was like a momentary sunbreak over a gloomy winter landscape, speedily darkened again by the contrast of the present with the past ; at least, so I fancied, as thought glanced, while observing it, upon the irresistible and melancholy course of human destiny. Her last evening at the poet's was in Scotland-yard, the year of her decease, where I was invited to meet her, Mr. Lockhart, and one or two others of the poet's friends, at an evening party—but I anticipate.

I find from a paper in my possession which purports to be a letter addressed to the principal of the Glasgow University from myself, that Campbell had been unable during Mrs. Campbell's illness to decree the prizes for poetical composition, which I should have before mentioned he had offered to the students for the best poetical compositions. Unfortunately, the document is a rough sketch of what I presume I must have sent, and has no date, but the time is fixed by the allusion to Mrs. Canıpbell's illness, and was therefore just precedent perhaps a week or two to her decease. The communication from myself to which I allude, states that the alarming illness of Mrs. Campbell had incapacitated Mr. Camp

bell entirely from every thing like study, and had induced him, doubtful of his own judgment at such a moment of anxiety, to call in the aid of two literary gentlemen to re-examine the prize poems sent up for adjudication, to which duty, from the perturbed state of his mind, he was fearful he might not be able to give the attention required. As one of the parties thus alluded to, he had further requested me to announce the decision made to the principal, I presume, of the university. That the non togatus poem entitled to the prize was beyond all question that denominated ** Petrarch Crowned,” that there was a second non togatus of high merit, but that making allowance for the difference in their education the former candidates did not equal the non togatus. But it is occupying room to give any thing further relating to the subject here, as it is only important because it bears upon the state of mind in which the poet found kimself during his wife's illness, and his utter incapacity for business. His anxiety about the office he filled, and all that concerned the welfare of the students was so great that could he have possibly executed the task himself he would not have confided it to the best friend he possessed. His mention of the university was always with strong affection. Its memory was linked with his youthful recollections, and as in pure imaginative minds such recollections recur with tenfold vividness either to “turn the past to pain,” or to cheer the drooping spirit under present depressions, it was now redoubled in interest and still more strongly linked with the poet's heart.

Scarcely had the termination of the year approached than Campbell received an intimation that it was the intention of a large body of the students of the Glasgow University to propose him a third time for the Lord Rectorship. His first year of serving the office had expired in 1827, at the close of which year he was elected again. So highly pleased were the students at the conduct of their lord rector, that during his first year's office they had presented him with a piece of silver plate. They kad perceived that Campbell was still susceptible of those youthful feelings which he had formerly experienced at the same seminary ; that with the simplicity of manners and playfulness which adhered to him, when he returned to the scene of his early instruction, he sympathised in their youthful bias, and that as far as he might, he became again what he had been when he might exhibit his feelings with propriety. carriage, it is probable, was not after the example of the formal bearing of the professors. A feeling of distaste towards the poet was soon strongly exhibited by some of them. Moreover, Campbell was a Whig and they were Tories, and Scotch Tories, too, which generally means something very far beyond English Toryism.

A supper was given to a party of fifty students, at the house of a gentleman in Glasgow,* to which the poet was invited. One of the party, after a brief and eloquent address to the poet said—“Permit me, my lord rector, to present you with a small testimony of our regard ; the expression indeed is feeble, but the impression is indelibly fixed in our hearts.”

The piece of silver plate, a cup, was then presented, bearing the following inscription:

This easy.

* Mr. Gray, of Claremont Place.

Thomas CAMPBELL, Esq,
Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow,

From a few of his Constituents,
Appreciating his worth and admiring his genius.
Intrata duni Aluvii currunt, dum montibus umbra
Lustrabant convexa, polus dum sidera poscet,
Semper honos, nomenque tuum, laudesque manebunt.


him a

Campbell made a very animated reply, and the evening was passed in the most social manner and greatly to the poet's satisfaction. The attention of the students on that occasion he spoke of long subsequently as giving birth to the most gratifying feelings he had ever experienced.

The expiration of his second year of office was now approaching. He was in London, having no idea that the students would propose third time. The election took place on the 14th of November. The “ four nations," as they are styled, for the election does not take place by a majority of votes in the university, but by a majority in the four nations into which the university is divided ; namely, Glottiana, Rothseyana, Transforthana, and Londoniana. The four nations had to choose between four candidates: Campbell, Lord John Campbell, Sir Walter Scott, and Lord John Russell. The professors had made themselves extremely active among all the students whom they could influence in favour of a Tory candidate ; of any one, in fact, but the poet, who, besides his political sentiments, had become a great favourite in the university, which could hardly fail of arousing a feeling of jealousy. The office of rector is one, in its nature antagonist to the professors, being instituted to defend the rights of the students, and to hear and redress their complaints, if well founded.

The election came on ; but before that event it was thought advantageous by the professors that the partisans of Lord John Campbell and Sir Walter Scott should coalesce. The opposite party perceived this policy to be good, and followed the example. The university then voted, -for Campbell: Glottiana, 130; Rothseyana, 75; Transforthana, 30; Londoniana, 28. For Scott: Glottiana, 90; Rothseyana, 36; Transforthana, 31; Londoniana, 43. Though Campbell had 263 votes to 200, the voting was even ; two nations voting for each candidate. But the nation Transforthiana had carried it by a casting vote in favour of Sir Walter Scott. That vote should have been the casting vote of the last lord rector, Campbell himself, who was in London at the time; and in default of the lord rector himself not being present, then the casting vote was, according to the rules, to be given by the preceding lord rector; but here the same difficulty occurred. A party of the professors, on this difficulty occurring, hit upon an expedient to further their own selfish views, and unsupported by the rules or laws of the university, called out of his sick-bed the individual whom Campbell had not imagined of course, to be unfavourable to himself, had previously appointed his own vice-rector, and made him vote against his nominator. The professor of law in the university at once declared against the validity of the vice-rector's right to vote for such a purpose. The majority of sixtythree on the part of Campbell over Scott produced a considerable sensation among the students, who felt how ungracious it was that, seeing the spirit of the university thus declaring in favour of Campbell, the professors should endeavour to obtain an advantage over that majority by a subterfuge.

Sir Walter Scott, on hearing of this event and the circumstances, with that magnanimous and good tone of feeling which were a part of his Dature, wrote by return of post, declining the honour thus proffered. The students wrote off to Campbell in London, conjuring him to come down to them immediately. This summons he immediately obeyed, and left by the mail post haste, on the 18th of November. I was not at home, but on the same day he wrote me the following letter, putting all he left behind into my hands, and giving me due authority over his son.

“ 10, Seymour-street, West, 18th of November, 1828. “ MY DEAR FRIEND,— Being obliged to depart suddenly for Scotland, and to leave behind me my son, with some apprehension on my part as to the state of his mind, I request of you to have the kindness to act for the best in my absence, and to consider yourself empowered to do whatever you think fit for his advantage.

“ I remain, yours very truly,

“ T. CAMPBELL. "To C. Redding, Esq., London."

He could not have been at Glasgow more than a day or two, for he omitted the day of the month, as it will be seen, before I got from him a letter, dated Glasgow, November, 1828

“I forgot to request of your kindness to let any letter that may have come to my house come to the care of William Gray, Esq., Claremont-place, Glasgow, as well as to drop me a single word to say how Thomas is going on.

“ The professors here have been put to consternation by Scott's refusal of their illegal offer of the rectorship, and by my arrival; but they are rallying all the slaves among the students—alas ! too numerous a bodyto appoint a new rival candidate, and to abuse me soul and body.

“My friends among the lads, however, still show pluck, and promise me that if I will not desert them, they will not desert me. The election must soon take place. I will send you a copy of my speech, which must be short ; believe me," &c., &c.

I find also the following communication, dated Glasgow, December 8, 1828:

“I send you a copy of the speech I made here at my installation. I am setting out for Edinburgh this evening, and expect to be in London on Saturday night.

• With a thousand thanks for your attention to my son."







THE VISION. "LEAVE me not, Francoise,' said the young countess one day, -knowst thou why the sight of thee alone brings me happiness? Because I feel while gazing on thee as if the cool breeze of Fontenay fanned my brow; and when thou speakest I fancy I can hear the gentle murmurs of the river in my father's park. Oh, for one hour's liberty to stray beneath the shade of those old chestnuts which my father loved so well! Seest thou, Françoise, I am choked ; I cannot breathe ; 'tis want of air alone which kills

Thou knowst that when a child I knew no happiness save when upon the hills with the breezes playing around my brow, and my feet in the long grass. And now, when I think of those days my mouth feels more parched, and my pulses throb with a greater beat. As I sometimes sit here silent and solitary, I fancy that even the sight of a few green leaves would refresh and cool the burning pain which devours me. For through the long, long night I dream I hear the rustling of the tall trees above my head, and scent the perfumed air wafted from the thousand flowers of our garden.'

“She shivered as she seized my hand and added, in a low tremulous tone of voice, ‘Even now, Françoise, there is one thing for which I would give all that remains to me of life. Parched and weary as I am, I would walk fifty leagues but to catch a glimpse

But no, no.

I am a child, and led away by foolish fancies ! 'Tis the long imprisonment which has rendered me thus weak. I will speak of it no more.'

" Nay, nay ; tell me, sweet mistress,' said I, “what is it that your soul is craving for? Is it for some cooling fruit to quench the burning fever of your lips ? Think not, dearest lady, that while I have life and health


should want for this.' “No, no, dearest Françoise, 'tis none of this,' returned the countess, with the same shudder which I had observed before. • Dost thou remember those two light and feathery acacias which grew before my

father's door ? Dost remember how they bent together and wove their boughs in fond companionship over the moss-grown portal ? Dost remember how I would sit for hours on the old gray stone, looking upwards to catch the gleams of sunshine or glimpses of the clear blue heaven through their playful leaves ?' She paused and added, hurriedly, 'Well, now would I give my hopes of happiness but for a bunch of their snowy flowers.'

“Her voice had sunk to a whisper, and her hands clenched the air as she spoke, and then with a loud sob she flung herself on my bosom, and burst into a flood of tears ; Georgette, I thought at that moment that my soul would have given way. I could not stay and see her anguish, and I ran from the cell almost before she had recovered composure.

“ • It was not without some little time and trouble, that I was enabled to procure for the dear lady a bunch of the much desired flowers, for it was Iate when I left her side and I walked through Paris almost until night

« PreviousContinue »