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THE MONKS OF ST. LEONARDS.
"I find St. Leonards still, on the whole, agree pretty well with my health, though the highly bracing effect of the seaair has gone with its novelty; and there is something either in its saline particles, or in the glaring light of the place, that affects my eyes most disagreeably. The old gentleman, the Ocean, too, as if he meant to do honor to the greatest poet of St. Leonards,-and one who has bepraised him so lustily, -thunders beneath my windows in his equinoctial high spirits, so loudly, as almost to disconcert me. But what can I do? I cannot unsay what I have said-I can make no reproach or objection, now, to the old gentleman-or he would expose me for inconsistency, and call me as fluctuating as himself! I tell you my distress only in confidence. The society also-though the sea is not accountable for others-is too changeable. The disagreeable gentry are, for the most part, the most permanent; and the agreeables--almost as soon as you begin to know the value of their society--like 'riches, take unto themselves wings and flee away.' I experience this mutability of the place very much in a little literary society which I have formed, and which is called The Monks of St. Leonards, and of which I am the venerable Abbot! All our best cowls are going away -and very dull ones remaining in their stead. The monastery, however, is still to be kept up.
"I have told you the news from Poland! You may easily imagine that it is not without a strong effort I can rally my spirits under this flooring blow. I was obliged to put off a meeting of the Monks' the day of the fatal tidings. It seems to me, however, at this period-like a gift from Providenceto have formed a most interesting and instructive acquaintance with Mr. Pond, the Astronomer Royal, who is here with his accomplished and amiable wife. The philosopher seems really to like the poet-so does the philosopher's wife; and I am sure there is no love lost. I have spent every evening with them.
* Lines on the View from St. Leonards. POEMS, page 293.
Here Morn and Eve with blushing thanks receive
since their arrival in Hastings. They have brought a considerably magnifying telescope with them, through which we look at the planets; and Mr. Pond's remarks make this amusement very interesting. I had lately been dabbling in the astronomical relics of the Greek Alexandrian school, and had the idea of embodying my notes on ancient geography into a regular history, when this 'Life of Mrs. Siddons' suspended my attention. But I have of late been so interested in the subject, that I revised my mathematics, the better to understand the histories of ancient science given by Ideler and Delambre. Mr. Pond's conversation has been, therefore, eagerly sought by me,-and he is most affably communicative.
"We have just been gazing on Jupiter and his moons, through a glass that makes Jove appear as large as the sun's disk, and his satellites like ordinary stars! The moon appears through it as large as a church. His opinion of her ladyship is, that she is not inhabited-there being no atmosphere-and the whole region, probably, only ice and snow. Strange enough that a body, which creates such lively crotchets in so many human brains, should itself be cold and lifeless! Mrs. Pond-and her opinion is always worth hearing-thinks it diffuses positive cold; and I am sure I have sometimes thought the night colder for moonshine. This is the second time that I have spent many delightful hours with a great astronomer.*
"Mrs. Pond is among the most agreeable and enlightened women I ever met with. It is now many and many a day since I first saw her, when she was walking-shortly after their marriage-a young, fair, graceful woman, arm and arm with her very plain and elderly husband. She was pointed out to me by M. There was an epigram in the newspaper about them. Mr. Pond had published some remarks on the planet Venus,'—and the wit asked him, 'Why he troubled himself about Venus in the skies, when he had got Venus beside him on earth?' She is now no Venus-but winningly, unaffectedly courteous in her manners, deep read in both science and literature, and yet as humble as a modest child. I really love this worthy pair; and it grieves me that this is, probably, the last day I may ever enjoy their society, for any definite time.
"I had a hundred things more to say-but I have yet to pack up and prepare for my journey to town. So God bless you, my dearest sister." T. C."
* See Vol. I., Herschel.
FROM the pressing cares to which his letters of this date bear testimony, Campbell found a short respite among his friends in Derbyshire. On the eve of starting, he tells Mrs. Arkwright— "I am resolved at last to give myself the long-promised pleasure of paying you a visit. I purpose setting off on Saturday -I ought to say, if it be convenient to receive me; but I waive this ceremony, because I scarcely anticipate that it will be inconvenient. Accidental indisposition-a common cold of the most vulgar cast-prevents my sending a longer apologetical preparation for my arrival; but I shall cast off all colds, and indispositions, and be happy and renovated, when I reach your hospitable abode."
In this visit, Campbell enjoyed the twofold pleasure of congenial society and romantic scenery. In the family circle of Mr. Arkwright, he renewed his intimacy with the "Siddons and the Kembles"-all endeared to him by early and kindly recollections; while in his walks and drives in the neighborhood, he found himself on "haunted ground." From his "private and confidential letters," written during this visit, I select the following:
"STOKE, NEAR BAKEWELL, October 6, 1831.
. . I have heard Neukomm play the organ. This is as great an era in my sensations as was the first sight of the Apollo.* It has come to me at a time when hardly anything on earth can give me pleasure. It is still all that I can do to support a tolerable cheerfulness before these kind, hospitable people--for Poland preys on my heart night and day. It is sometimes a relief to me to weep in secret, and I do weep long and bitterly." . . "But I still know the duty and the beauty of manliness; and my wretchedness has not made my
*See his "Letters from Paris," page 28.
manners uncouth here; for I can see that I am very acceptable, and have tokens of growing esteem from every member of the family. Mr. Arkwright talks to me about farming and machinery, both of which are amusing subjects; and I read poetry to Mrs. Arkwright and the ladies. This is all well. It is better for me to be put on my good behavior—great as the effort is.
"About my good fortune in hearing Neukomm, I know not what to say. You will think it strange-if anything in my strange nature can now surprise you that his music gave me an ecstacy that has shaken my fortitude more than I could have wished; and, since I heard him, I have been more disposed to tears and agitation than I was before. Unhappy me! pleasure itself turns into agony in my mind. The stunning surprise of this man's performance baffles all description. I had heard the church organ at Bakewell played by an ordinary hand. Neukomm tells me it is really a right good organ; but when I joined the party to hear him perform on it, on Monday, I could not credit my senses, though I saw it was the same instrument. A little child of six years old, they tell me, expressed the same astonishment, and told his father that it could not possibly be the same organ. When assured that it was indeed the very same, he said, 'Then it is not played with hands.' Bless the little soul! Shakspeare could have said nothing finer.
"Neukomm, I had heard, was a learned musician and a great composer; but that a human being could create such sounds, I never imagined. Such glory-such radiance of sound-such mystery--such speaking dreams-that bring angels to smile upon you-such luxury and pathos !-Oh, it is no learned music-it is a soul speaking, as if from heaven! No disparagement to Paganini, he is the wonderful itself, in music-but Heavens! what has he to do with the heart, like this organmusic of Neukomm? I seem as if I had never heard music before. We were all wrapped in astonishment! It was strange to see the expressions of ecstacy in the vulgarist rustic faces. I was soon, however, blind to all around me. . . The trial to me was dreadful... I would have given much to have been alone —and even much to have seen a tear on Mrs. Arkwright's face, or any one's in the pew. But their minds were healthy and happy; and they only smiled with intense pleasure! My heart was like to burst-for I was ashamed to cry; and my eyes, head, and throat ached, and throbbed, with the effort to suppress tears and sobbing. I did, however, suppress both very manfully.
LETTER FROM STOKE, DERBYSHIRE.
"Neukomm came, however, and dined with us, and as I was the only gentleman present who could speak French and German with him (for he speaks English with difficulty,) I got his conversation a good deal to myself. He is a highly polished man, and as meek and amiable as he is wonderful. We became such friends that he has promised to come and see me in November, at St. Leonards. The pleasure of his company beguiled me to go and hear him again on the organ, yesterday, and I almost wish I had not gone. His playing was, if possible, more exquisite. It was too too much. He made me imagine my child Alison was speaking to me from heaven! Again--as if he knew what was passing in my thoughts about Poland, he introduced martial music, and what seemed to me lamentations for the slain. I suspect he did so purposely; for we had spoken much of the Poles. I could not support this. Luckily, I had a pew to myself; and I believe, and trust, I escaped notice. But when two pieces were over, I got out as quietly as I could to a lonely part of the churchyard, where I hid myself, and gave way to almost convulsive sensations. I have not recovered this inconceivably pleasing and painful shock.
"Among the acquaintance I had formed in the Monday dinner party, was a family with whom the Chevalier Neukomm lives at Bakewell, the B- He asked Mr. Arkwright's permission to take me away from Stoke for half a day, to show me the country, which is uncommonly beautiful round Mr. B's lead-works. The old gentleman drove me in his own curricle, and our only third companion was the most interesting of his daughters. . . . We saw some sweet scenery, and went over Haddon Hall, where the brother of Henry VIII. was educated.”
In ten days Campbell was again in London; and, with wellplaced confidence in Mrs. Arkwright's sympathy, imparts to her the following "good news:"
"11, WATERLOO PLACE, October 17, 1831. "All is well. I have seen my son, and I have been agreeably surprised. I have got a share in the 'Metropolitan !' I am ten inches taller than when you saw me! and my regret now is, that I showed so little pluck under my late misfortunes,* as to throw a shade of the slightest uneasiness
*These misfortunes will be found explained in a subsequent note.