« PreviousContinue »
Memoir of Samuel Rogers.
THERE seems to be something so repugnant to and various passages display uncommon felicity. the pursuits of literature in habits of trade and As a whole, perhaps its chief defect is that it commerce, that the instances have been very rare wants vigor, but the deficiency in this quality in which they have been combined in one indi. is made up in correctness and harmony. Rogers ridual. The historian of the Medici, and ROGERS is one of the most scrupulous of the sons of the the Poet, are almost solitary instances of literary lyre in his metre, and he too often sacrifices that taste and talent being united harmoniously with harshness which sets off the smoother passages traffic. Samuel Rogers is a bos. ker in London, of a writer's works, and prevents sameness and and has been for many years at the head of monotony, to mere cold purity of style. Perhaps à most respectable firm. His father followed no poem of equal size ever cost its author so the same business before him, and amassed con- many hours to produce. Not satisfied with his siderable wealth, both which became the her own corrections, he repeatedly consulted the taste itage of the Poet, who was born about the of some of his friends; one of the most devoted year 1762, in London; but little or nothing is of whom, Richard Sharpe, then a wholesale hatter, known of the way in which he passed his early and since Member of Parliament,' has said that, years. His education was liberal, no cost having before the publication of this poem, and while been spared to render him an accomplished preparing the successive editions for press, they scholar, That he improved by thought and re. had read it together several hundred times, at Hection upon the lessons of his youth, there can home as well as on the Continent, and in every be no doubt; and, it is to be presumed, he lost temper of mind that varied company and varied no opportunity of reaping profit from the extra- scenery could produce. ordinary advantages which his station obtained In the year 1798, Rogers published “An Episfor him. He always kept the best society, both tle to a friend, with other Poems,” and in 1812 as respected rank and talent, the circle of which “The Voyage of Columbus." Two years after. in the metropolis of England in his younger wards, in conjunction with Lord Byron, or days was more than commonly brilliant. His rather printed in the same volume with Byron's political ideas are what are styled liberal, and no Lara, appeared his tale of “ Jacqueline;" a poem one has ever been able to reproach him with the which displays a strange contrast to the fire abandonment of a single principle with which he and energy of the author of Manfred. Sweet originally set out in life. Over most of his early and pleasing rather than striking, “Jacqueline," friends and companions the grave has now closed, though well received, contributed little to in. and they included among them inany great crease its author's reputation. “Human Life," names.
next to the Pleasures of Memory, is the most With a strong attachment for the Muses, after finished production of Rogers. The subject was the excellent education Rogers received, it is not a good one, for it was drawn from universal surprising that he ventured before the public. nature, and connected with all those rich assoHis first work was an “Ode to Superstition, and ciations which increase in attraction as we sther Poems,” which appeared in 1786. This journey onwards in the path of life. It is was followed by a second publication, “The Pleasures of Memory," when he had passed the greenness of youth, having attained his thirtieth interesting conversation to an unprecedented degree of year. In 1792 this poem was received by the perfection, having in fact reduced it to a matter of mere public with universal applause. The subject was index to his multitudinous common place books; and has
business, as systematic as Book-keeping. He keeps an happily chosen, coming home to the business and a deblor and creditor account with his different circles of bosoms of all; it was executed with great care, the jokes let off or the set speeches made.
1 This gentleman has carried the art of brilliant and
an epitome of man from the cradle to the grave, prescribed for the conduct of either, by the reguand is executed throughout with the poet's lations of social intercourse. wonted care.
Our poet has travelled much out of his own The friendship of Rogers with Sheridan and country, and he is not less a master of manners with Byron is well known. When the great in the better classes of society abroad than at wit, dramatist, and orator, was near the close of home. His “Sketches in Italy," prove that he his career, neglected by those who were fore was no unobservant sojourner abroad; and as most in the circle of friends when he enjoyed his opportunities for observation were great, he health and prosperity, the individual who re- did not fail to profit by them proportionately – lieved the wants of the dying man was Rogers; This may be noticed in his conversation, which whose opulence of purse enabled him to do is always amusing and instructive; and, more that act of benevolence to his friend, which particularly, when, visiting the circles of his must ever be one of his most gratifying remin- fashionable or learned friends, he becomes the iscences. It is seldom poets are so well enabled spokesman on some topic which interests him, and to meet the aspirations of their hearts towards which he sees affording gratification to others. others. A dispute, on the appearance of Moore's Rogers never entered upon the stormy ocean “Life of Sheridan," was very warmly kept up of politics. This is singular, from the number connected with this circumstance. It was said of his political friends, and the example set him that a friend of Sheridan, of no less rank than by his father. The elder Rogers was renowned the present King of England himself, had been in the annals of parliamentary elections for a among those who, in his last moments, were re- severe contest with Colonel Holroyd, subsequent. gardless of the pecuniary necessities of the dying ly Lord Sheffield, in dividing the suffrages of man; that at last, when no longer necessary, a the city of Coventry, when the obstinacy of the sum of money was sent by the royal order, which combat attracted much attention. He has wisely Sheridan returned, saying that it came too late, preferred the gratification of a pure taste, and a friend having furnished him with all he should the interchanges of urbanity, to the stirring require while life remained. Loyalty never hazards of political ambition : notwithstanding lacks defenders, or perhaps the Prince of Wales which he is a warm partisan of the principles he was not to blame, as tales of distress are always has chosen, and understands well how to main. slow in reaching the ears of individuals in tain them. What he has done every way proves august stations. However the matter might have that he is conscious of his own powers, but carebeen, the affair was warmly disputed in respect less of indulging them, though inuch in this to the implied royal neglect, and remains still respect may no doubt be attributed to his unceas. in as much uncertainty as ever; but Rogers ing attention to the calls of business, from which gloriously carried off the palm of friendship and he never allows himself to be diverted. feeling on the occasion, let the truth lie which Rogers is now in the “sere and yellow leaf" side it may, in respect of the tender from a of human vegetation. He is the kind, agreeable, higher quarter. Byron and Rogers were on affable old man; but there is nothing beyond the terms of great intimacy, both in England and good and amiable in character depicted upon a during the poet's residence in Italy. In that countenance by no means the best formed and medley of truth and falsehood, the “Recollections most impressive of the species, if the features are of Byron" by Medwin, the noble poet is described separately considered. His habits are remarkably as alluding to a singular talent for epigram, regular, and his conduct governed by that urban. which Rogers is made to possess. This talent, ity and breeding which show he has been accus. however, has been very sparingly employed. tomed to mingle most in the best society.--He Certain buffoons and scribblers in Sunday news. takes a great interest in all that promotes the papers, who have been opposed from political improvement of the state and contributes to the principles, or rather whose pay at the moment comfort and happiness of his fellow-men. In was on the opposite side to that taken by the short, Rogers, like all men of genius, if possess. venerable poet, impudently ascribed a thousand ing certain eccentricities, is gifted with the bons-mots and repartees to Rogers, whom they impress of high intellect which belongs to that never saw in their lives, and which they manu- character, and which makes it so distinguished factured themselves. His skill in writing epi. above the herd of mankind. There is about gram, however, is acknowledged; but what he Rogers, however, a sort of otium cum dignitate has produced is the work of the scholar and the which seems to repress his energies, and to gentleman; for there is not an individual in keep inactive a spirit which, had it been less existence less likely to trespass on the rules indebted to good fortune and Aung more upon its own resources, would have performed greater as one of great weight; and though not devoid things.
of a certain irritability of temper, his general Among the friends of Rogers were Fox, Sher-good-nature and kindness,- for he shows no idan, Windham, and a galaxy of distinguished tincture of envy in his character,—contribute names, when they were in the zenith of their largely to increase the influence and impression glory. To the illustrious nephew of Fox, the made by his judgment. Fell-known Lord Holland, and to his friends of Such is the sum of all which is known of the same political party, Rogers still adheres. Samuel Rogers,—a poet who never rises to the He is accounted one of the literary coterie at height of Byron or Campbell, but who is of the Holland House, the hospitable receptacle of men same school. He is remarkable principally for of talent from all countries and of all creeds. He the elegance and grace of his compositions, which is introduced in the Novel of “Glenarvon" at he polishes up and smooths off as if he valued the court of the Princess of Madagascar (a only their brilliancy and finish, and forgot that character intended for Lady Holland); and per- strength and force are essential to poetic harmohaps the name of no individual is more on the ny and the perfection of metrical style. Notwith. lips of a certain fashionable order of persons who standing this defect, Rogers will be read and are attached to literary pursuits, than that of admired while the English language continues Rogers. His opinion is looked up to, and justly, to be used or spoken in his native islands.
Or cald my mind, unfolded in my page, | regularity. They are sometimes excited by sensible Erighten climes and mould a future age;
objects, and sometimes by an internal operation of the There as it glow'd, with noblest frenzy fraught, mind. Of the former species is most probably the memDispense the treasures of exalted thought;
ory of brutes; and its many sources of pleasure to them, To Virtue wake the pulses of the heart,
as well as to us, are considered in the first part. The And bed the tear of emulation start!
latter is the most perfect degree of memory, and forms On could it still, through each succeeding year, the subject of the second. My life, my manners, and my name endear; When ideas have any relation whatever, they are atAm, when the poet sleeps in silent dust,
tractive of each other in the mind; and the perception fall hold communion with the wise and just ! of any object naturally leads to the idea of another, Yet should this Verse, my leisure's best resource, which was connected with it either in time or place, or When through the world it steals its secret course, which can be compared or contrasted with it. Hence Revive but once a generous wish supprest, arises our attachment to inanimate objects; hence also, Chose bat a sigh, or charm a care to rest;
in some degree, the love of our country, and the emoIn one good deed a fleeting hour employ,
tion with which we contemplate the celebrated scenes O tush one faded cheek with honest joy;
of antiquity. Hence a picture directs our thoughts to Best were my lines, though limited their sphere, the original: and, as cold and darkness suggest forcibly Though short their date, as his who traced them here. the ideas of heat and light, he, who feels the infirmities
1793. of age, dwells most on whatever reminds him of the
vigor and vivacity of his youth.
The associating principle, as here employed, is no less PART I.
conducive to virtue than to happiness; and, as such,
it frequently discovers itself in the most tumultuous Dolce sentier,
scenes of life. It addresses our finer feelings, and gives Colie, che mi piacesti,
exercise to every mild and generous propensity. Or' ancor per usanza Amor mi mena; Beo riconosco in voi l' usate forme,
Not confined to man, it extends through all animated Nog, lasso, in me.
nature; and its effects are peculiarly striking in the Petrarch.
Twilight's soft dews steal o'er the village-green, The Poem begins with the description of an obscure With magic tints to harmonize the scene : village, and of the pleasing melancholy which it excites Still’d is the hum that through the hamlet broke, a being revisited after a long absence. This mixed When round the ruins of their ancient oak esition is an effect of the memory. From an effect The peasants flock'd to hear the minstrel play, te naturally ascend to the cause; and the subject And games and carols closed the busy day. proposed is then unfolded, with an investigation of Her wheel at rest, the matron thrills no more the nature and leading principles of this faculty. With treasured tales, and legendary lore.
It is evident that our ideas flow in continual succes- All, all are fled; nor mirth nor music flows, son, and introduce each other with a certain degree of To chase the dreams of innocent repose.