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SYDENHAM, November 18th, 1815.
I had the pleasure of observing your lordship among the encouragers of Mrs. Allsop at her débût in Covent Garden. I am interested very much in her success. Mrs. Campbell and myself have long known her as a neighbor, and most respectable private character, in Sydenham; and I was the first to exhort her to try the stage. Harris has offered her terms at Covent Garden, but, in the opinion of all her friends, quite inadequate to the expectations she had a right to form from the public reception. Will your lordship excuse me for asking your opinion, how far you think the proprietors of Drury Lane are likely to be interested in her favor? and if the matter of her being engaged should rest with the proprietors, how far I might rely on your lordship's good opinion of my friend coinciding with my own? I should be extremely obliged to your lordship for the slightest communication on this subject, addressed to me at the post-office, Oxford, where I shall be next week.
I have the honor to be, &c.,
To this letter he received a very prompt and obliging answer. Lord Holland thought Mrs. Allsop was a great acquisition to the stage; but he had no interest in the management of Drury Lane, -where the line of characters which would best suit Mrs. A. were filled by Miss Kelly, and thought the managers there would be less anxious to engage her, than her merits might lead her friends to expect.
Campbell then wrote to Lord Byron as follows:
SYDENHAM, Nov. 26, 1815.
A boon-a boon-my dear Lord Byron; will you grant me the greatest of all kindnesses, by your well-known regard for unprotected talent? Mrs. Allsop, the daughter of Mrs. Jordan, who lived long in Sydenham, well known to Mrs. Campbell and myself as a most respectable and amiable character, has tried the stage chiefly by the advice of her Sydenham friends. She was unfortunately prevented applying to Drury Lane, or was rather rejected on applying, by the discouragement of Mr. Arnold, the then manager. Unfortunately, though it was a fine débût, she came out at Covent Garden, where, in spite of the crowded houses, she has been treated with rigor.. On this subject the papers have teemed with lies. I can assure your lordship that she has been refused a fair negotiation.
Whatever your lordship may have heard of her theatrical
talents, I can only assure you that my own humble opinion of them is such, that if I felt the impulse and abilities to write a good play, and particularly if it contained one character of a gay cast, I should think Mrs. Allsop's acting the most favorable circumstance that could befall the piece. I feel the deepest confidence, as far as my own opinion can give me confidence, that the public has not seen a fiftieth part of the signs of her theatrical genius. By the way, it may not be uninteresting to your lordship to know that her countenance very much reminds one of our friend, the inimitable Anacreon Moore. Comedy will certainly be her forte, of a finer kind, however, than her mother's; and of her singing, the public has yet heard nothing, compared to the power and expression of her voice, where she is not under the influence of fear. I do not, my lord, ask or expect you to believe all this, either on my word, or on what may be said even by those who have been pleased with her début, but I conjure and implore your lordship to take such an interest in getting her on the boards of Drury, as may enable your lordship to judge of her in person. I give you my word, I am zealous for her not half so much because she is Mrs. Campbell's friend and my own, as because I feel an irresistible conviction that her naive and Jordan-genius, and the charm of her singing, which Sir Thomas Lawrence pronounced the most exquisite he ever heard (and Sir Thomas Campbell-if your friend the Regent should ever knight him-will depose to the same truth), will one day, if she is not cast away like a neglected pearl, be the delight of the public. I should be ashamed to ask Lord Byron to take an interest in anything that was not sterling, or to countenance any one that had not a claim to encouragement. But great as my opinion is of your lordship's talents, and public importance, such is my idea of this daughter of Mrs. Jordan's, that I really consider myself as recommending a protégée worthy of your splendid reputation and noble heart. Forgive me if I am tediously importunate. I should have done myself the honor of waiting on you and Lady Byron, if I had not been confined by a long and obstinate cold. With best respects to her ladyship,
I remain, my dear Lord, your obliged and sincere
LETTER TO LORD BYRON-MRS. ALLSOP.
So much zealous and warm-hearted advocacy was not thrown away; it secured the co-operation of those to whom his letters were addressed. The result to Mrs. Allsop was a profitable en
gagement; and to Campbell the pleasing recollection of having served the cause of real but unobtrusive merit.
The immediate effect of his own improved circumstances was an expanding benevolence towards every human being in difficulty or distress. Active himself, in charity and good works, he had a few cordial friends on whose cheerful co-operation he could always depend; and, on behalf of a miserable outcast, who was now suffering the penalty of his offences, Campbell makes the following appeal:
TO MRS. FLETCHER, EDINBURGH.
15 DUKE-STREET, ADELPHI, Dec. 24, 1815. I have been casting about in my mind to whom I should apply for executing a small commission of humanity, and am almost ashamed of my hesitation, my dear Mrs. Fletcher, when I think upon your name. This commission relates to an outcast of pity, a poor man who wrote to me, some years ago, from the hulks at Woolwich, and who has lately sent me the inclosed communication from Botany Bay. His letters, I remember, struck me with a melancholy and almost horrible interest; for though he certainly had merited punishment, he seemed to writhe under it with such anguish, and his letters had such a piercing tone of despair, that I could not forbear applying to the Secretary of State's office, though I did not succeed, to get his punishment commuted from transportation for life to a limited term. By the way, he does me injustice, when he says in the inclosed that I did not answer his last letter; for I well remember having sent him a long and exhortatory answer. I heard with great joy of late from an officer of the Botany corps, who had known him, that he was a sober and decent character. The officer added that he had known him well. Now, although this Stewart was known in Edinburgh, I fear under too many disadvantages, and the Edinburgh people, with whom I have spoken of him, speak harshly of him-yet it appears from this letter, and from authority which I trust still more, that he is an amended man. His letter, I think, is well written; his journal I mean to encourage him to send-it will be valuable if he complies with what I have conjured him to do, viz., to give the bare and rigid facts, and to allow not a particle of fiction or imagination to mix with his narrative. But, what is of more importance than his narrative-he is to all appearance, as I said, an amended man. Surely, when amendment is begun, the object of punishment is attained, and punishment should cease; and what a scourge of ex
istence will be the terrible and dead letter of the law, if we let it fall unmitigated by attention to circumstances that commend its victims to consideration and compassion? Poor man! he writes to me in February last, and his letter reached me only a few days ago. A fellow-being at the other side of the globe calls for our compassion, and his cry takes nine months to reach us!
My object in troubling you is to get an exact report of his sentence, and to answer the question-which it does no discredit to the convict to have put-if his aged father be alive? Perhaps, if you have any old newspapers lying about,-it is a charity worth suggesting to your humane mind, to assist in forming the packet which he seems to expect from me, and in which I feel somewhat more difficulty, with regard to newspapers, than I imagined. However, I ought not to trouble you about this. I beg you to remember that it is only conditionally thrown out, provided you happen to have such lumber in your house.
Before now I ought to have been in Edinburgh, renewing my intercourse among my old and dear friends, which was lately to me like a renovation of my existence. I lament sometimes, when I am in bad spirits, the too much appearance which this broken promise may have of levity, or inconsistency; but be assured that never was prospect more defined and certain, than mine was of having my time at my own disposal this winter for Edinburgh; and never was an intention more cruelly frustrated. It would be tedious, and would oblige me to crowd too many circumstances together, if I were to tell you all the outs and ins of the disappointment. The main cause was shortly this--The publication of my intended "Specimens" required an aid, which I had long been promised, viz., the loan of a collection of books from the only man who could lend them--Richard Heber, and he disappointed me. I believe now, at the expiration of three years, and after a hundred delays, he will at last, thus late, give me the volumes; but he has kept me in suspense (had I not learnt a little philosophy, it would have been despairing vexation) respecting my publication, which could not come out without his aid. No one is admitted to his library; but he will at last, I believe, send me the books, and let my work appear.
Mr. Heber, you probably know, is the fiercest and strongest of all the bibliomaniacs; and has more than twenty thousand works which are famous for being scarcely known. Strange to say, though he has been to me more treacherous than Ney to
LETTER TO MRS. FLETCHER-CONVICT POET.
Louis XVIII.," he is really a good-hearted fellow; ana is-excepting practical penitence-quite as much hurt, surprised, and indignant at his own conduct, as I am myself.
But to pass to a pleasanter subject-from convicts and traitors -I trust that this will find all your domestic circle happy and well, and Mr. Fletcher's health much better than when I was under your roof. May I beg my kindest, sincere compliments and remembrance to your son and daughters; and to our common friend, Dr. Brown? Writing under the awful precincts of a frank, I fear I have scribbled too closely for legibility; but, as the sailors say-you will excuse bad writing. God bless you and yours. Believe me, with best regards to Mr. Fletcher, your respectful and affectionate T. CAMPBELL.
As the reader may feel desirous to know something farther of a man whose case had excited so much interest and sympathy in the mind of Campbell, I annex the following note.*
The only stanzas of this year's production are those "To the Memory of Burns;" with the following "Troubadour Song," written for the Eighteenth of June:
* In the end of 1808, a young man, named Andrew Stewart, who had figured for some years before as a poetical contributor to "The Scot's Magazine," and inserted there, among other things, a set of Stanzas in honor of "The Last Minstrel," was tried and capitally convicted on a charge of burglary. He addressed, some weeks after his sentence had been pronounced, two letters to Sir Walter Scott, who took so feeling an interest in his unhappy case, that an appeal was made to the Royal Mercy, and sentence of death commuted to that of transportation for life. His letters addressed to Campbell, while suffering the penalty of his offence, have not been found; but, from the active exertions made for a remission of his punishment, as will be seen hereafter, he was liberated.
From his letters to Sir Walter Scott, written while under sentence of death, I borrow the following passage:-" "My age is only twenty-three, and to all appearance will be cut off in my prime. I was tried for breaking into the workshop of Peter More, calico glazer, Edinburgh, and received the dreadful sentence, to be executed on the 22d of February next. We have no friends to apply for Royal Mercy. If I had any friend to mention my case to my Lord Justice Clerk, perhaps I might get my sentence mitigated. You will see my poems are of the humorous cast. Alas! it is now the contrary. I have to mention, as a dying man, that it was not the greed of money that made me commit the crime, but the extreme pressure of poverty and want."
"Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, by Andrew Stewart; printed for the benefit of the Author's Father, and sold by Manners and Miller, and A. Constable and Co.," appeared soon after the convict's departure for Botany Bay. See Life of Sir Walter Scott, Vol. II., pp. 239–241.