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for the sake of the light they threw on manners, the trains of thought they suggested, or the moral they involved. What has been printed of his 'table talk' is very far from being in keeping with his character, or on a par with his fame. Indeed, those who form their opinion from such records as the volume before us may be excused for attributing the assiduous court paid him to the caprice of fashion; whilst others, with better materials for judgment, will haply account for the phenomenon by the felicitous combination of long life, ample means, cultivated taste, refined hospitality, and poetic celebrity in one man. Whichever party, the detractors or the admirers, may turn out right, the critical analysis of his life and writings which must precede any honest attempt to adjudicate upon his reputation, cannot fail to be highly instructive; nor will it be found wanting in the leading attractions of literary biography. We therefore propose to review the principal incidents and performances of a life extending over ninety-two of about the most exciting and eventful years of the world's history.
Samuel Rogers was born at Newington Green, on the 30th July, 1763. He was one of a family of six children, three sons and three daughters; he was the third son. The father was an opulent banker, head of the firm carried on till the present year under the name of Rogers, Olding, and Co., 29 Clement's Lane. Prior to his marriage, he was a member of the Church of England; but the influence of his wife speedily effected his conversion to her own creed, the Unitarian; and by the time Samuel was old enough to understand or be moved by such things, the whole family were in regular and rigid attendance on the ministry of the celebrated Dr. Price, the adversary of Burke. The relative importance of the principal dissenting bodies has undergone so sensible a diminution of late years, in social and literary distinction, that it may be difficult for the present generation to form a just estimate of the eminence and influence of the nonconformist community in question. Yet its annals are rich in literary illustration. The names of Defoe, Dr. Watts, Dr. Price, Dr. Rees, Mrs. Barbauld, and Dr. Aikin, with others by no means undistinguished, are indelibly associated with the congregation of Newington Green; which still flourishes under the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Cromwell (of the Protector's family), and still comprises most of the natural and highly respectable connexions of the banker-poet, who was undeniably indebted to his Dissenting friends for his first introduction to celebrated people in England, Scotland, and France. Nor was this tie to the primitive nonconformists of his youth altogether dissolved by his excursions into the regions of ortho
doxy and fashion. Mr. Rogers was a trustee of the Newington Presbyterian Meeting House from 1790 to his deatha period of sixty-five years; and when the Dissenters Chapel Bill was before Parliament, he signed a petition in favour of it in that capacity.
According to his own account, Samuel Rogers had every reason to congratulate himself on his parentage, paternal and maternal. His mother, of whom he uniformly spoke as an amiable and very handsome woman, sedulously inculcated kindness and gentleness; whilst his father, who lived till 1793, gave him a good education suited to his intended mode of life, put him in the way of making a fortune, and carefully refrained from thwarting or crossing him in his inclinations or pursuits, although these must frequently have jarred against the Dissenting banker's notions of the fitness of things. On seeing his son taking to poetry and fine company, the old man must have felt like the hen who sees the duckling, which she has hatched as a bird of her own feather, suddenly taking to water; and in his heart, he probably agreed with Lord Eldon, who on hearing that a new poem (The Pleasures of Memory') had just been published by a young banker, exclaimed If old Gozzy -alluding to the head of the firm with which he banked-ever 'so much as says a good thing, let alone writing, I will close my account with him the next morning.'
In early boyhood, the future poet's impulse was to start off the course in a diametrically opposite direction. When he and his brothers were called in and asked by the father what professions they wished to follow, Samuel avowed his predilection for that of a preacher; a choice which he explained by his admiration for Dr. Price. He was our neighbour of Newington Green, and would often drop in to spend the evening with us, in his dressing-gown: he would talk and read 'the Bible to us till he sent us to bed in a frame of mind as heavenly as his own. He lived much in the society of Lord 'Lansdowne and other people of rank, and his manners were 'extremely polished.' If the child be father to the man, we must be pardoned for suspecting that the mundane advantages of the divine had at least as much to do with the influence which he exercised over his young admirer, as the truths divine that came mended from his tongue.
The chief part, if not the whole, of Rogers's formal and regular education was received at a Dissenting school at Hackney, where he learnt Latin enough to enable him to read the easier Latin classics with facility. By the time he quitted it, he had got rid of his pulpit aspirations, and he is not re
corded to have manifested any marked reluctance to his desti-
It was his favourite speculation, that the greatest command of worldly happiness was attainable by one who, beginning low on the social ladder, should mount gradually and regularly to the top. It has been invidiously objected that this sounds very like the career of a successful tuft hunter. But Rogers insisted every step in the ascent should be won honourably, and the sustained gratification was to arise from recognised merit, and would be poisoned by the smallest admixture of conscious unworthiness. Fortunately, he has himself explained and amplified his theory, in one of the most striking passages of his Italy':
6 All, wherever in the scale,
Have be they high or low, or rich or poor,
What men most covet, wealth, distinction, power,
These dangerous gifts placed in their idle hands,
Thirsting for distinction, he hurried into the lists without adequate preparation, and with ill-fitting and borrowed arms. Man is little less an imitative creature than the monkey or the mocking-bird. He instinctively copies the model that caprice or accident has made popular; and indiscriminately adopts, to the best of his ability, the vice or virtue, the folly or wisdom, the style of dress or the style of writing, that is in vogue. When Rogers started as an author, he was not exempt from this almost universal weakness; and, to explain his poetical development, we must cast a retrospective glance on the poetical productions and literary tendencies of the generation in which he was trained up.
The period in question was the Augustan age of historians and novelists; for within it flourished, in fulness of reputation, Hume, Robertson, Gibbon, Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, and Goldsmith. The rich mine opened by the essayists, beginning with the Tatler and the Spectator, had been worked out, and was virtually abandoned after the termination of the Idler in 1757; whilst a cold shade was flung over poetry by the name and memory of Pope. No school has practically proved more depressing to originality in its followers than his, despite (perhaps by reason) of his own exquisite fancy, and notwithstanding the encouragement to erratic courses held out to them in the familiar couplet
'From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art.'
Nor have many schools retained their influence longer; for Crabbe was wittily described as Pope in worsted stockings;' and the spell was not completely broken until the 19th century, when Sir Walter Scott inspired the taste for metrical tales of passion and adventure; an exploit, the honour of which has been claimed for Christabel' by Coleridge, who borrowed the suggestion from Goethe. Collins and Gray, emboldened by Alexander's Feast and the Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, produced some fine lyrical pieces, as the Ode to the Passions' and The Bard'; but for more than fifty years after the death of the bard of Twickenham, English poetry ran almost exclusively in the didactic, descriptive, or elegiac line, with an occasional digression into satire. Rogers's avowed favourites were Gray and Goldsmith; and his preference has been justified by posterity. 'I used,' he said, to take a pocket edition of Gray's Poems with me every morning during my walks to my father's banking-house, where I was a clerk, and read them by the way. I can re'peat them all.' On another occasion he exclaimed, 'What
'pleasure I felt on being told that Este (Parson Este) had said 'of me," A child of Goldsmith, Sir." This must have been after the publication of the 'Pleasures of Memory': for it is curious that Rogers, having first tried his strength in prose, began his poetical career by taking for his prototype the one of these two (Gray and Goldsmith) whose genius was least in harmony with his own, and by imbuing himself with the spirit of what must have been to him the least congenial of Gray's productions.
The to all agreeable, to many intoxicating, sensation of first seeing oneself in print, was experienced by Rogers in 1781, when he contributed eight numbers, under the title of The Scribbler, to The Gentleman's Magazine,' the same which, under the editorship of Sylvanus Urban (Cave), was the repository of the earliest efforts of Johnson in the same walk. 'He told 'me,' says Boswell, 'that when he first saw St. John's Gate, the 'place where that deservedly popular miscellany was originally 'printed, he beheld it with reverence.' Probably it was Johnsonian influence that gave their peculiar form to Rogers's first attempts at authorship; for the great lexicographer was amongst the idols of his youth. My friend Maltby and I,' he used to relate, had a strong desire to see Dr. Johnson; and we 'determined to call upon him and introduce ourselves. We ' accordingly proceeded to his house in Bolt Court; and I had 'my hand on the knocker, when our courage failed us, and we 'retreated. Many years afterwards I mentioned this circum'stance to Boswell, who said, "What a pity you did not go "boldly in! he would have received you with all kindness." Rogers commonly followed up this anecdote with another of the advice he gave, instead of a letter of introduction, to a young friend who was going to Birmingham, and had a similar desire to see Dr. Parr. The advice was to be collected from the result. 'Well, what did you do?' was the first question to the traveller on his return. Exactly as you told me. I knocked boldly at the 'door, and asked for Dr. Parr. I was shown into a parlour on 'the ground floor by a servant-maid. When the Doctor appeared, 'I looked steadily at him for a moment, and then said, "Dr. 'Parr, I have taken an inexcusable liberty, and I cannot com"plain if you order me to be kicked out of your house.
seeing your name upon the door, I could not make up my "mind to pass the house of the greatest man in Europe without seeing him. I knocked, was admitted, and here I am!" The 'Doctor seized me by both hands in a kind of transport of wel'come, fairly danced me up and down the room, and ended by 'keeping me to dinner on a roast shoulder of mutton.'
Rogers's admiration of Johnson never extended to his style,