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ET. 63.] LETTER TO HIS NIECE MARY CAMPBELL.
"61 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, April 12, 1841.
“MY DEAR NIECE,
"I trust that, in a few days after this letter reaches you, you will receive your pianoforte, on which, the first tune that I request you to practise is, 'The Campbells are coming!' in allusion to the prospect of your coming to live with me, when I return from Italy. Everybody tells me here that I shall spoil you; but I don't think there is much danger of that, because you have the character of having a solid mind, and have been bred up by a sensible mother. Besides, though I don't lead a dull and gloomy life, I live in nothing like dissipation. You will see or hear nothing to turn either your heart or your head. You shall have every opportunity for the cultivation of your mind, provided I see you studying and reading no more than is consistent with the most perfect state of your bodily health; plenty of indulgence in the pianoforte, if you like it, for that can never hurt you; but no stooping over books or pictures, nor reading aloud, till I am rid of all fear about the delicacy of your chest; plenty of exercise in fine weather; and plenty of cheerful company and conversation, especially with the better part of your own sex. I wish you to write to me sometimes. Don't write me flattering letters about your gratitude, for that gratitude is all by anticipation. Let it be proved first that I have done my duty, and then you may thank me. Write to me as you would speak to me-simply and naturally—for studied letters are never good. Do not be afraid of me as a critic, and study only your own health-not to come to me accomplished and wise beyond your years. Take pains-always avoiding the application that may hurt your chest-to write a bold, square, regular hand. I had by nature a bad hand of writing; not a scullion nor an ostler's boy ever wrote a worse hand than I did; but, by pains and perseverance, I now write so far well, that I can look without displeasure on my own MSS.
"Give my love to your mother and your brother. Tell your mother not to grieve at the prospect of eight months hence trusting her daughter to me. I will be your sponsor that you shall never forget your mother, nor think of her with less lively affection than at present. You will never cease to think of her with gratitude. The very act of her trusting you to me, will be a proof of her magnanimity. She is the fondest of mothersyet she has the fortitude to part with you, because she foresees
eventual advantages for you in the transfer. She is so fond of you, that she sacrifices her own fondness.
"I was going to dilate, my dear niece, on the prospect of happiness that my imagination opens, when I think of coming back from the sunny fields of Italy to the sunshine-far superior-of my own home and your company. But I must curb the fancy of a poet; for it would be a sad sinking of poetry if I were now to inflame you with views of perfect happiness, which in this world are never to be realized. I was about to describe to you our future domestication-our early breakfast—our morning lesson-our walks in the park-our parties in the evening; but why should I make you too sanguine as to happiness? Alas! if I should be perfectly kind to you, can I insure you entire felicity? No-truly not, my child; but still our friendship will be consecrated by nature, which ordains that you should love the brother of your father, and that I should love the child of my brother; and, in short, I think that we shall be as happy a little uncle and niece as ever lived together. Your affectionate uncle,
"To Miss Mary Campbell.”
"June 1st, 1841. . It may be several months before I have the happiness of your joining me in my house in London; but in the mean time I think it would be right that we should exchange a letter or two. I can easily enter into your feelings, as to your corresponding with me. You are young and timid, and shy to write to an old hardened literary man. 'He will require me to be so perjinck in my style.' But nobelieve me, dear niece, you need not be afraid of me. I hate formal writing; put down your thoughts as they come to you, and never mind the manner of writing. I know one difficulty in your way, which is What can I say to an uncle of whom I know so little, and with whom I never lived twenty-four hours under the same roof?' But let this relieve you from the difficulty: you have real matter to communicate to me. Tell me how you are coming on in your French and your music. As to French, don't be discouraged if you think your progress slow. It is a language of difficult grammar. Tell me what French
This plan was defeated. See page 401, note, of this volume.
This is another example of the endearing manner by which Campbell won the confidence and affections not only of his own family relations, but of many others, who at first had a dread of writing to him.-ED.
grammar you use. As to music-oh, there, my dear niece Mary, you must take pains, and practise The Campbells are coming!The rock and the wee pickle tow;' and in the Scotch and Irish airs I shall expect you to be an adept. I hope you will practise singing also. And pray don't forget the arithmetic-that will enable you to count up our bills. Your affectionate uncle,
I cannot dismiss the work without a few additional anecdotes of the Poet, as he generally shone in the society and conversation of his intimate friends. The following, so far as I know, are new to the public, and sufficiently characteristic of the man.
The picture now known to the reader as "Latilla's Child," was first exhibited in Colnaghi's window. Every morning, on his way from Lincoln's Inn Fields to the Literary Union, Campbell had to pass the window; and, on coming opposite, walked deliberately up "to have another peep at the little roguish sprite," as he called it. He did not know why, but the picture was ever before his eyes-it seemed to follow him; and when he sat down at night in his "lonely chambers," the "little minx" was constantly looking at him-"In short, if ever poet was haunted by a painted faëry, I was. 'Well,' I said to myself, 'I think I can buy it; and it will be pleasant company these long evenings; a few guineas for such a piece of art will be well spent.' So I went boldly in to Colnaghi, and asked the price. Thirty guineas-only thirty!' I came immediately out, wishing I had not asked the price-for thirty guineas, I can tell you, were no trifle to me at the time. I went back to my chambers with the sad conviction that much printing* had left me nothing for painting. But still I could find no rest; I was fascinated— and in trying to pass the shop next morning, the temptation was irresistible. It was useless to plead poverty-in I went ; bought-paid for it; and there the little sly minx (pointing to the picture) has been laughing at me ever since."
M. Buznach, of whom Campbell has made honorable men
*May 11th, 1840. He had just expended a large sum in printing and illustrating his Poems. For this subject, see pages 426-33 of this volume; and Poems, page 331.
May 6th, 1840. See page 326 of this volume; also Letters from the South, Vol. I., pages 207-8.
tion in his Letters from the South, was a personal friend of the warlike Emir, Abd-el-Kader. He was a tall, athletic, and powerful man; with a flash of the wild Arab in his eye, and a frank and fearless expression of countenance that took the Poet's fancy, and carried him back, in thought, to the wilderness of Mascara. On dining together, with one or two travelled friends, at my house, Campbell told us many incidents of his African adventures, which Buznach confirmed. The story of the lion which he had heard roaring in the desert, saw shot, and his tongue served up at a repast in the Arab tent next day, was told in his own peculiar way. "And now," said Buznach, "I remember something of a lion;" and he told us the following adventure, in rapid French: "We were on a march through one of the narrowest defiles of Mount Atlas, and impatient to get forward. On our left were deep precipices; over our heads inaccessible rocks, from which small cataracts swept across our path, which was often broken into channels and covered with débris. We could only advance in single file, but were still prepared to act in case of surprise. Our horses, you remember [addressing Campbell], are very spirited, but docile; we were all well mounted; but as there was hardly room to turn round-much less to manœuvre an ambuscade would have proved disastrous. At length, we reached the most difficult step in our day's march, where the path ran along a very narrow ridge-like the roof of one of your English houses-shelving precipitously to the right and left, with torrents flashing among the rocks at the bottombut at so great a depth as scarcely to be heard. The word 'steady' passed along the line, and we groped our way with increased vigilance and caution. A little beyond us, the rocks were thickly shaded with copsewood; and there we promised ourselves a short respite from the heat, which had become oppressive. But just as we approached the entrance, our vedette suddenly halted; and the next moment we were startled by the roar of a lion in the pass. We could not see him in his ambuscade-but no doubt he saw us very distinctly, and meant to lay us under contribution. Moved with instinctive terror, our horses began to snort, and paw, and actually trembled under us. In a moment our position had become embarrassing-not that the lion would instantly spring upon us-but it was impossible to urge our horses forward; and in a few minutes we should have been in absolute danger from jostling one another. The only words were 'halt--be firm.' But the horses were almost unmanageable, and the moment was perilous. The officer in
command-superbly mounted, and well worthy of such a barb— dashed forward; but his horse-that would have faced an open battery-suddenly reared, wheeled round, and he was on the point of being thrown. Quickly recovering himself, however, he made another desperate effort-bounded forward-fired his pistols-killed the lion-and the next instant his charger dropt dead under him." Campbell, like the rest of the company, was deeply interested by this story; and the evening passed away amidst sketches of wild African adventure, that had a strange sound in English ears.
One day the Poet wrote me a very peremptory note:"March 22d.-I am sorry to send you a mortal challengebut you cannot refuse! Send me your Coat of Arms! T. C." This was followed by another, two days later:-"You must positively lend me your Arms-as Achilles lent his to Patroclus! I will dine with you on Saturday, with the greatest pleasure.— T. C." I knew nothing of his intention; but when he came to dinner, M. Buznach and Dr. Sayer had just arrived—and while speaking to his Arab and English friends, he deposited a small wooden box, which he carried, in the corner of the room. In answer to some observation, he said :-" Oh, you know my partiality for children-it is only a little pet I have brought-not only to introduce, but to beg my worthy friend to keep for my sake!" At dinner, the "little pet" was duly presented, and turned out to be a beautifully chased silver claret flask*-after a Grecian antique-which was duly inaugurated by a speech from Dr. Sayer, to which the Poet replied with much classical point and gratifying allusion.
One day that Colonel D- and another officer of the Guards were dining with us, the conversation turned upon duelling-suggested, probably, by a work which had just appeared. Our military friends contributed some modern instance, in which both parties were killed: "Served them right," said Campbell; "now I will tell you something much better-an instance in which neither party was killed. On my way to Paris in 1814, I spent a few days at Rouen. Things were still in a very unsettled state-national animosities ran high; but, thanks to my
*This most precious memorial bears the following inscription:-" To William Beattie, M.D., from his grateful friend, Thomas Campbell, LL.D.”