« PreviousContinue »
gifts of Plutus and Apollo, and enjoying, perhaps, a higher reputation for the possession of each than he deserved. If the couplet ascribed to Lady B~ be really hers, her ladyship seems to have thought his most celebrated poem somewhat over-praised ; it ran thus :
• Of R-ms's Italy, Luttrell relates
In this opinion I do not, however, coincide, believing some of his Ausonian fragments — above all, those descriptive of Venice to be the finest he ever wrote, and worthy, of themselves alone, to place him high amongst poets. Of the peculiarities of which I had heard so much, but one was strikingly exemplified — his fondness for female admiration. Other men have been anxious to engross the attention of a beautiful woman, before it fell to the lot of Mr. R- to attempt it; but very few, I imagine, have tried to turn it in the same direction. Like a young Frenchman whom I formerly knew in Paris, his motto has been, — not comme je l'aime !' butó comme elle m'adore !' Goldsmith is said to have been jealous if a pretty woman attracted more notice than himself; and it was no uncommon thing for R. to sulk for a whole evening, if the prettiest woman in the company failed to make much of him."
We have the curtain agreeably lifted from the social converse of Rogers, in the following little passage from Mr. Bryant's account of his visit to the veteran bard : “ There are not,” says Mr. B., many more beautiful lines in the English language, there are certainly none so beautiful in the writings of the author, - as those of Mrs. Barbauld, which the poet Rogers is fond of repeating to his friends, in his fine, deliberate manner, with just enough of tremulousness in that grave voice of his to give his recitation the effect of deep feeling :
Life! we've been long together,
'Tis hard to part when friends are dear;
Choose thine own time
Bid me good-morning.'
It makes the thought of death cheerful to represent it thus, as Life looking in upon you with a glad greeting, amidst fresh airs and glorious light. The lines, we infer, were written by Mrs. Barbauld in her late old age, and I do not wonder that the aged poet, who some years since entered upon the fifth score of his years, should find them haunting his memory.”
Long may it be before the decease of the venerable poet may open to the world the rich stores for his biography, which must, no doubt, exist in his correspondence and commonplace books! Till that time comes, we must be content with the memoranda which are scattered here and there through the literary history of the century, imperfect and unsatisfactory, but furnishing an index to what remains behind.
But now we cannot bring this sketch to a more acceptable conclusion than by copying the latest notice we have seen of a spot that will long remain classic ground, from the pen of an American traveller. Mr. Tuckerman has been speaking of St. James' Park, and its various associations, which could not long withdraw the literary enthusiast from the bit of green-sward before the window of Rogers, which every spring morning, before the poet's health sent him into suburban exile, was covered with sparrows, expectant of their food from his kindly hand. 6. The view of the park,” he adds, “ from this drawing-room bow-window instantly disenchants the sight of all town associations. The room where this vista nature in her genuine English aspect opens, is the same so memorable for the breakfasts for many years enjoyed by the hospitable bard and his fortunate guests. An air of sadness pervaded the apartment, in the absence of him whose taste and urbanity were yet apparent in every object around. The wintry sun throw a gleam, mellow as the light of the fond reminiscence he so gracefully sung, upon
the Turkey carpet and veined mahogany. It fell, as if in pensive greeting, on the famous Titian, lit up the cool tints of Watteau, and made the bust found in the sea near Pozzoli wear a creamy hue. When the old housekeeper left the room, and I glanced from the priceless canvas or classic urn to the twinkling turf, all warmed by the casual sunshine, the sensation of comfort, never so completely realized as in a genuine London breakfast-room, was touched to finer issues by the atmosphere of beauty and the memory of genius. The groups of poets, artists and wits, whose commune had filled this room with the electric glow of intellectual life, with gems of art, glimpses of nature, and the charm of intelligent hospitality, to evoke all that was most gifted and cordial, reässembled once more. I could not but appreciate the suggestive character of every ornament, There was a Murillo, to inspire the Spanish traveller with half-forgotten anecdotes ; a fine Reynolds, to whisper of the literary dinners where Garrick and Burke discussed the theatre and the senate ; Milton's agreement for the sale of Paradise Lost,' emphatic symbol of the uncertainty of fame ; a sketch of Stonehenge by Turner, provocative of endless discussion to artist and antiquary ; bronzes, medals and choice volumes, whose very names would inspire an affluent talker, in this most charming imaginable nook for a morning colloquy and a social breakfast. I noticed, in a glass vase over the freplace, numerous sprigs of orange-blossoms in every grade of decay, some crumbling to dust, and others but partially faded. These, it appeared, were all plucked from bridal wreaths, the gift of their fair wearers, on the wedding-day, to the good old poet-friend; and he, in his bachelor fantasy, thus preserved the withered trophies. They spoke at once of sentiment and of solitude."
O! COULD my mind, unfolded in my page,