« ПредишнаНапред »
THOMAS CAMPBELL was born in Glasgow, on the 27th of July, 1777. His father was a resident of that city, and a respectable shopkeeper, or merchant, as the Scotch say, which is equivalent to the Kauffman of their kindred the Germans. Merchant Campbell was descended from an old Highland family, upon which circumstance it is said the poet prided himself no little, though most probably he himself was the greatest man his family had ever produced. He was the tenth and youngest child of his parents, and was born in the sixty-seventh year of his father's age, at which age it is somewhat remarkable that he himself died. He was baptized by his father's intimate friend, Dr. Thomas Bird, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the university, after whom he was also named. The house in which Campbell was born stood very near the university, close, I believe, to the east end of George-street; it has been, how
ever, cleared away in effecting some of the modern improvements of the city; but as to how much is now known about it, or the place where it stood, may be best shown from my own experience in Glasgow in the autumn of last year.
My peregrinations in that city in quest of traces of Campbell, was one of the most curious things I ever met with. Accompanied by Mr. David Chambers, the younger brother of Messrs. William and Robert Chambers, of the Edinburgh Journal, I called on a Mr. Gray, a silversmith in Argylestreet, a cousin of Campbell, and the gentleman at whose house he stayed when he came there. Here we made ourselves sure of our object, at least as to where Campbell was born. We were not so sure, however. Mr. Gray, a tall gray man, made his appearance; and on my asking if he could oblige me by informing me where Campbell was born, to our great astonishment he replied, that he really did not know. “And, indeed,” asked he, very gravely, “what may be your object in making this inquiry ?" I presented my card, and informed him that it was to gain information for a work on the residences of celebrated poets. The tall gray man reared himself to an extraordinary height, and looked very blank, as though it was a sort of business very singular to him, and quite out of his line. Had my name been that of a silver merchant, no doubt it would have been instantly recognized; as it was, it was just as much known to him as if it had been Diggery Mustapha, the Ambassador of the Grand Turk himself. He shook his head, looked very solemn, and “could really say nothing to it.” “What !" I exclaimed, “not know where your celebrated cousin was born ?” “Well, he had an idea that he had sometime heard that it was in Highstreet.” “In what house ?” “Could not say—thought it had been pulled down.” “Could he tell us of any other part of the city where Campbell had lived ?" You might just as well have asked the tallest coffee-pot in his shop. He put on a very forbidding air,"Gentlemen, you will excuse me,-I have business to attend to. Good-morning !” Away went Mr. Gray, and away we retreated as precipitately.
This was an odd beginning. We then proceeded to the shop of Mr. Robertson the bookseller, who entered most cordially into the inquiry, and said at once, “Oh! Mr. Gray, the silversmith, is the man!” We laughed, and related our adventure. On this, Mr. Robertson, with the most zealous kindness, accompanied me to various parties; but it was not till we reached Mr. Strang, the city chamberlain, that we got a glimpse of intelligence. Mr. Strang most politely offered to accompany me in my search. He believed it was in High-street. Away we went, and called on the secretaries of the Campbell Club; but they, like the tall Mr. Gray, and still more like the Shakspeare Club, who know nothing about Shakspeare, knew nothing of Campbell. So we proceeded to the very end of the town, to a blind gentleman, a nephew, I believe, of Campbell; but he was not so blind but that he had found his way out. He was not at home. On returning, we met another Mr. Gray, a brother of the former one, and Mr. Strang exclaimed, "Now we have it! Mr. Gray is a particular friend of mine, and we shall learn all about it.” We accosted him with the question, but he shook his head—and “really did not know!" This was rather too much for my gravity, and I observed that I supposed the fact was, that Campbell was not known in Glasgow at all. This remark seeemed not quite lost. He replied gravely—“ They had heard of him.” And we too, had heard of him, but not where he was born. On this we went and asked two or three other people, with the like result. We then went across the bridge, I suppose a mile, to Mr. Strang's house, and consulted several books. Mr. Dibdin in his Northern Tour, we found, gave a very long account of many things in Glasgow, and incidentally mentioned that Campbell, the poet, was a native of the town. We referred to other books, and learned just as much. Taking my leave of Mr. Strang, a man of much literary taste, and a friend of the late poet Motherwell, and who had amid pressing public business devoted some hours to assist my inquiry, I went and dined, and afterward set out afresh to clear up this great mystery. Had I wanted but a manufacturer of any stuff but poetry, how soon could I have found him! I directed my way to High-street itself, a very long street, running up to the High Kirk, that is, the old cathedral, and in which the college stands; and inquired of the booksellers. It was in vain. One bookseller had been forty years on the spot, but had never heard where Campbell was born. Seeing all inquiries vain, I went on to the cemetery, to see the grave of Motherwell. Now Motherwell, too, was born in Glasgow, and he is buried here. He was not only a poet, but an active editor of a paper. I asked a respectable-looking man, walking near the cemetery gate, if he knew where he lay. “Oh," said he,“ ye'll find his grave, and that of Tennant too.” “What! is Tennant dead then ?” “Oh, ay, sure is he.” “What! Tennant the author of Anster Fair? Why, he did not live here, and I fancy is still living.” “Oh, no," replied the man, “I mean Mr. Tennant of the Secret Chemical Works there;" pointing to a tall smoking chimney. Heaven help us! what is a poet in Glasgow !--I went on and found tombs and mausolea as big as houses, ay, and fine large houses too; but Motherwell has not a stone as big as an ostrich egg to mark the spot where he lies ! One of the grave-diggers, however, knew the place. “Strangers,” he said, “ often inquired after it; but you'll not find it yourself," he said, “there's nothing to distinguish it”—so he went and pointed it out. There stand, however, on the spot a thorn and a laburnum. It is at a turn of the carriage-road, as you ascend at the north end of the cemetery. God save the mark! There is the poet's grave, sure enough, without a stone or epitaph, and opposite to it is a large Doric temple, with wreaths of bay on its front, the resting-place, no doubt, of some mighty man of mills. Such was my day's perambulation in Glasgow in quest of the traces of poets.
But to return now to Campbell, as a boy living in Glasgow. As a child he gave evidence of considerable powers of mind, and before he attained the age of twelve was a good Latin scholar. At twelve he commenced his studies in the university, where he distinguished himself greatly. As regards this part of his life we can not do better than quote from a well written biographical sketch of his life, published last year in Hogg's Weekly Instructor. “In his thirteenth year, Campbell succeeded, after a formidable competition with a student nearly twice his own age, in gaining the bursary on Archbishop Leighton's foundation. He continued seven years at the university, receiving at the close of each session numbers of prizes, the reward of his industry and zeal. The exercises which gained him these distinctions were often of a very difficult nature, and such as tested his powers severely; but his correct taste and sound judgment, combined with his diligence and application, enabled him to accomplish the tasks prescribed to him, in a manner highly creditable to himself and most satisfactory to his teachers. In translations from the Greek especially he excelled; so much so, indeed, that his fellow-students were afraid to enter the lists with him. His poetical versions of several Greek plays of Aristophanes, Æschylus, and others, obtained the highest commendations of his professor; who, in awarding the prize for the translation of The Clouds of Aristophanes, thus eulogized, in terms the most flattering, the production of the youthful poet—that, in his opinion, it was the best performance which had ever been given within the walls of the university. Portions of these translations have been published in his works.
"At this period of his life, Campbell is described as being a fair and beautiful boy, with pleasant and winning manners, and a mild and cheerful dispositior. That he had at