Immagini della pagina

In the boroughs, the old kings, both Scotch and English, first drew the industrious common people about them, under their royal protection; and the burgesses, in return, reared up a bulwark to defend both kings and commons from a tyrannous aristocracy. Then courts of justice and civic magistrates first protected citizens and subjects from the dungeons and gallows of the barons. In fact, our 'borough-towns' were the nests of British liberty-strange (but what a tissue of strangeness is human history!) that the chartered boroughs degenerated into nests of monopoly and corruption! Corruption seized them to hatch institutions and corporations, unfavorable to trade and civic elections--just as the cuckoo seizes on the song-bird's nest to rear her own tuneless progeny. Still I look at the old borough-towns with fond recollections of antiquity. Rutherglen was a place of shipping and commerce six or seven centuries ago, and traded with France, whilst Glasgow was merely the seat of a few clergymen. When they built the splendid cathedral of Glasgow, in the twelfth century, the workmen came and brought all their provisions from Rutherglen. The place is famous for ancient customs, among which is one that I believe is descended from paganism--namely, the baking of sour cakes,' and presenting them to strangers who frequent the fair, or annual market. I should not wonder, considering all the ceremonies of this old custom, that it is a remnant of the heathenism which Jeremiah* condemns. It is precisely what the children, fathers and women of Rutherglen do on this occasion, though they stop short of fulfilling the rest of Jeremiah's words :-' to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.'


[ocr errors]

Now, if you are not asleep after all this preaching, take notice that you ought to receive, either with this letter, or shortly after its arrival, a little souvenir from me-a butterfly prettily made (I hope you will think) with wings of Scotch pebbles. The butterfly, though we call it a sign of fluttering levity, was a symbol of the soul's immortality among the ancients.


"T. C."

Campbell's next appearance among his Glasgow townsmen

* Chapter vii. 17, 18: "Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judea, and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough," &c.



was at a grand meeting of the Polish association, where his speech, as the "poet and advocate of freedom," was heard and responded to with enthusiasm. On this subject he writes:


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"Tuesday. I had a public theme to discourse on, and I am glad that I did speak out about it. I certainly did once, and that not long ago, decline public speaking on the subject of Poland; but that was in London, at a time when all public men were engrossed with arduous, impending questions, respecting our own affairs. But this place is not London; and its provinciality-in spite of politics being as much divided here as in London-seemed at the present time to offer me an opportunity of discharging my duty as a friend to the Poles. I succeeded almost quite to my own satisfaction; for my speech has produced a sensation in Glasgow such as I, at least, never produced by addressing an audience; and I got through it without a break or stop. It is also accurately reported, though somewhat abridged-for I was three-quarters of an hour on my legs. But I regret that I did not say everything that I intended to say. "My wish was to have given every solid argument in behalf of this truth which I solemnly feel-namely, that the Polish cause, though to be deferred, is not to be despaired of. Two topics on which I intended to have spoken, I omitted. One of them was the important truth, that neither the Poles nor the friends of Poland ought to be dismayed at the attempts of Russia to abolish the Polish language, and to substitute their own in its stead; for, supposing they could succeed in doing sowhat then? Could not the Poles tell their wrongs to their children, and their children's children, in Russian words? Do Shiel and O'Connell need to speak old Irish to the people of Ireland, though they rouse them as effectually as if the spirit of Bryan Boromh was to descend again upon the Kerry Hills? It is difficult, to be sure, to think and reason coolly about such an atrocious attempt as that of Nicholas to abolish the language of a gallant and once glorious people. It is as if a robber was trying to cut out the tongue of his victim, that he might not tell who robbed him. But think calmly of this intended cruelty, and say if it can be perpetrated! Figure to yourself the

See the Glasgow " Argus," for July 7, 1836:-Meeting of the Friends of Poland; the Lord Provost in the chair.

This may remind the classical reader of the subjugated Posidonians, as mentioned by the Greek historian Athenæus:Καὶ τήν τε φωνὴν μεταβλη Kival.-Lib. XIV., c. 81.

difficulty of abolishing a national language by force, by command, and it will show itself to be an impossibility. England, superior in civilization, conquered, as to general usage, the Celtic language to the north and west of Britain; but has she exterminated either the Welsh, the Irish, or the Gaelic speech? No. Russia has not superior civilization; and her barbarism is a check upon the propagation of her tongue. And, further, can she have a schoolmaster in every Polish family to prevent Polish from being spoken? It would require half a million of teachers, with the rod and the knout in their hands. Russia cannot abolish the Polish tongue. Thus, to use the words of her own war-song, 'Poland will not perish.' Her language— her popular songs-and her popular traditions-will remain,those terrible traditions that call for vengeance on Russia!

"This is what I intended to have said. Pardon me that I deposit in your hands a memorandum of what I may yet say, or publish, on some suitable occasion, on this subject. You are my dearest friend; and why should I not impart to you what I feel on the cause which I love next to yourself and my own country? I farther meant to have answered certain words which Nicholas has used in an attempt to deprecate the general indignation at Russia which his treatment of Poland has excited, namely, these words: Why should the patriotism and courage of my Russians be less respected in the eyes of Europe, than the same qualities in the natives of other countries?' Now, here there is something plausible; and the degree in which patriotism is laudable as a virtue, or ceases to be a virtue nay, I should say, ceases to deserve the name of patriotism— is a topic on which, to my remembrance, scarcely any moral philosopher has condescended to be satisfactory. There is a blind zeal for their emperors in Russians, which many people are blind enough to mistake for patriotism; but let us keep the name of patriotism sacred. Nationality, and a combative willingness to fight for our own country, is a gregarious instinct, which all nations and tribes naturally feel, and, if you will, are laudable for feeling. We respect it when it is merely defensive in the grossest savages; in the New Zealand cannibal; and in the most ignorant Russian, who is trained to loyalty by eating train oil. But this gregarious instinct of nationality is respectable only when it is self-defensive. The moment it is aggressive-the moment the cannibal or the Russian becomes a propagandist of ignorance and of man-eating-are we to call his aggressive nationality a virtue? No: it ceases to deserve the



name of patriotism. It is not the love of his country—it is the lust of blood and rapine-a gregarious instinct, to be sure, you may call it like that of wolves and jackalls; but it is no more to be compared to the enlightened patriot's true love of his country, than the grossest animal instinct can be compared to the noblest conjugal love—to the love of Brutus for his Portia.

"I did not forget this topic-but I felt nervous in approaching it. Writing coolly, I can treat it properly, even with a delicate woman-but I feared I might flounder into some unlucky expression on so delicate an allusion, and omitted it. Forgive me, my dearest M, for dwelling so long on a subject that may not be so interesting to you as to me. I thought of you much when do I not think of you?

"On Friday last, when I was on a visit to Robert Gray, my host's brother at Glen Orchard, where he has a nice estate of several hundred acres, we celebrated the christening of his child, three weeks old. It is a sweet infant; and its aunties, handing it about and kissing it, reminded me of your affection for your nephews. Positively, I think that you 'aunties' are fonder than mothers of their children. He was christened by the son of Lord Moncrieff, clergyman of the parish-and he was drunk after dinner-(that is, his health was drunk)-as 'the third cousin of Thomas Campbell, and the great-grandson of Sir Ewin Cameron of Lochiel.'

"I have been to hear a sermon from the preacher in Glasgow, deservedly the most popular and respected. His name is Wardlaw he was my college chum. He is better in the substance

of his eloquence than the most of popular preachers-i. e. he is more sensible and dispassionate. Chalmers himself carries his audience by storm; but Wardlaw is a reasoning and well-informed parson. His last sermon was on the history of the Jews-a subject on which I have seldom found any clergyman, either Scotch or English, overflowing with knowledge, Wardlaw was lucid upon it. T. C."


"July 28th. I have returned from the Highlands-Inverary-Rothsay-Castle Towart-and Greenock,* It would savor

"I spent," he says, in another letter, "seven days with Campbell of Kilberry, and his pleasant wife and family; two more at Rothsay, with Mrs. (Jane) Lee and her family; one at Castle Towart, with Kirkman Finlay; and another with my friend Reddie, who married one of my Glasgow cousins, and is one of my oldest friends."

of vanity to tell you how I have been received. Cheered on coming aboard the steamboats-into public rooms-and cheered on leaving them. Yes but Cobbett, you will tell me, had also his hand-shakings and popularity. True; but were the motives of those who greeted him so pure as those of my greeters? And yet, no small stimulus of happiness was necessary to help me over recollections which the scenes of Scotland have inspired-the homes of my dead friends!—above all that, 'yesterday'—my birth-day!-which reminds me how soon I shall be gathered to my fathers! . . . . But away with that subject! You and I cannot expect the sun and moon to stop for us."

"After an excursion of a fortnight in the Highlands, I slept at a friend's house, thirteen miles down the Clyde. ... Just before embarking, and when I was half a mile off, I saw a woman throw herself into the water, from an unfrequented bank. Before I could reach the spot, the hue and cry had gone forth; but her body was not found until half an hour had expired; and she was taken out irrecoverably dead.* I saw her carried on a board, covered with a sheet, to her father's house. She had been seduced and abandoned; and, being ill-used by her parents, for some time past, her mind had been deranged. The men's eyes in the crowd were all dry-but the women's were all in tears."

"On reaching Glasgow, I found waiting for me a communication from the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, stating that there had been a meeting, at which he presided, of those who wish to give me a public dinner there. It is to be on the T. C."

5th of August.

This was a memorable day in the life of Campbell: and on his return from Edinburgh to Blairbeth, he writes:

"Aug. 8th. The public papers have already told you how I have been made a freeman of Edinburgh, and fêted like a prince. I shall make you laugh at the effusions of my vanity, when I describe to you the windows of Queen-street filled with ladies looking at your poor little Solomon in all his glory! Well, laugh, as you well may, at my being vain of being seen by ladies, I think you know me well enough to believe me, when I tell you that the excitement of last Friday was intense

This incident was introduced as an episode in his poem of "Glencoe," but withdrawn, after the MS. was sent to press. It was during this tour that he collected materials for his new poem.

« IndietroContinua »