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LIFE AND LETTERS
VISIT TO BRIGHTON.
At the close of the season Campbell writes, “ My health is getting sadly crazy' again.”—“ Sept. 3. A severe fit of illness has obliged me to leave home. I have trifled with my complaints this summer till they have got ahead of me. This morning, a physician attended me, and directed that I should repair to sea-bathing. I write you from bed in the Salopian ;' and to-morrow I am to start for the coast. I have suffered some hours of acute pain.” Such was the actual state of his health at this moment; yet in a strain that, to those unacquainted with his real character, would appear to savor of levity, he forces his sad thoughts, to use his own expression, into a new channel; and affects much ease and gaiety, * while, in fact, his mind is anxious, and his health impaired.
His journey to the modern Baiæ is preserved in a humorous diary, entitled, “Journal of an old Poet of the Eighteenth Century,” from which, and his letters, I am enabled to present the following extracts :
“ September 6, Thursday Night. Could not sleep at the Salopian ;' set off at seven next morning; looked at myself in the glass, pale, unshaven; an ugly man and a bad author.. Mem. Since the year 1810 my physical beauty has much declined. N. B. to treasure up the beauties of the mind. . A silly fellow-passenger in the coach with four dumbies ; heard the talker named Alison ; deigned to speak to him for the sake of his name. After a long pause, one of them, an officer, asked me if I had been 'amused counting the mile-stones ? Answered by—Is that your mode of amusing yourself on a road ?' Not another word exchanged. . . Nearer Brighton the country grows more beautiful; the smooth Downs are very strikinginterspersed with wide expanses of green, and fields of fine corn; the landscape looks like a colored print; the oats like fine plush velvet, so thick, so rich and glossy; the potato fields, like green carpets spread upon the Downs. Mem. to keep this nice comparison for a clap-trap at the Institution Lectures! ... Dined at the White Horse Inn upon a fine fried sole. ...".
* This, as it repeatedly struck the narrator, was very characteristic of Campbell, who often appeared lively and companionable, while actually suffering from pain or anxiety. In this mood he endeavored to forget himself-drew from incidents, however trivial, something for the mind to lay hold of; but, in his very playfulness, he was still a philosopher.”
“ Saturday Morning. Stepped over to a house near the sea, and saw lodgings at a guinea a week; neat, very small, civil. The landlady of the White Horse calls the folks of the house 'good, 'sponsible people ;' so I took the lodgings. Called upon D'Israeli, a good modest man; invited to dine with him to-morrow. . . Mem. forgot to mention an important event of yesterday: On the road saw some nets hanging out to dry, in which an unlucky cow had got entangled, and other cows were assisting her out. The sight was interesting. . . . . T. C."
BRIGHTON, September 11. “... The seasoning cold' is going off. Matilda's arrival is important. You women are delightful beings; but your fault is, never making distinctions. An illness might be intolerably troublesome, without being dangerous ; -yet you all set me down as very ill. Before Matilda's arrival, I had a world of troubles. Mrs. Drake advised us to go to a boarding-house -without seeing the rooms! I bespoke boarding for us all at seven guineas a week. I had been told the rooms were good; when, lo! on being shown them, they were high, bleak atticsno place for a fire--and it was chilling cold. This complimentary allusion to my attic poetry, at the expense of my constitution, I did not relish; yet how was I to untwist the Gordian knot ? . But the boarding-mistress was civil, and disem. barrassed me, as soon as I found another lodging—for three guineas a week, the suite of splendid apartments from which I have now the honor of writing to you. I had asked if they
ÆT. 35.] LETTERS FROM BRIGHTON-SIDDONS. were quiet? “Oh, the quietest in the world. Nothing had the landlady said to me of a family of a dozen children, I suppose, graduated most regularly in their scale of noises, from the wail of sucking infancy, to the roar of naughty boyhood; nothing in the world had she said to me of a beautiful Poll-parrot, of the first powers of mimickry, who gives me all their gamut of melody at second hand, interspersing his own natural shrieks and ho-ho-laughs, and whistlings, and triumphant chuckles in the midst of his ludicrous imitations. . . . .
“But, after all, I cannot get rid of this terrestrial paradise ; for when you go to an alluring window-pane, instead of lodgings, you find something about a milch-ass or a donkey-cart. Friend N. coming out of the bathing machine is very like a water-rat. ... I have seen Mrs. Siddons—every day that I could stir out, in a chair or without it. Herschel the astronomer is here, and I expect to be introduced to him. His son, a very young man, is going to turn out a second Newton.
To another Sydenham friend he writes in continuation :
“BRIGHTON, September 12, 1818. “To-day has been exceedingly beautiful, and the weather most exhilarating. Luckily for us, our lodgings are very near the sea; and I believe, from experience, that if good is to be got by sea air, it must be in the very vicinity of the waves. Thomas amuses himself incessantly, and delightfully, on the beach and among the shipping, and looks the better for his sea air already. Matilda, who was threatened with a fit of illness, is apparently better for the sea breezes... I am giving myself up to idleness here, and aiming only at breathing as much of the sea air as I can get for my three guineas a week. ..
“I expect to be much disturbed, but I mind rest much less at present, than when I am studying. When I return, I shall set about Murray's 'Specimens,' and conclude it merrily. I shall probably give two lectures at the Institution in the course of the winter. I have seen much of Mrs. Siddons, who is here, and met me wandering about the day I came. T. C.”
“Thursday, September 14, 1813. "... What a world of small and great uneasinesses do we live in! Sometimes, in looking at this delightful scenery, when I see the prospect smiling, I think the sea and the air put on that smile because they are inanimate beings, not conscious of life's tormenting fire. . . . I wish I had you here, that we might look at the cliffs together, and feel the freshness of the sea-gale. If sensation could make one happy, Brighton would do it. Everything is gay, healthsome, heartsome, as the Scotch say, and amusing. The air gives an appetite, the fish is delicious; and the Library is quite a pleasant lounge, with the luxury of a band of music. I cannot get other lodgings, so must be contented where I am ; although the noise of the family and the green bird often drive me to the dreadful thought of committing poll-parricide.
In his next, a very different letter, Campbell has recorded the deep impression left upon his mind by an interview with the illustrious and venerable Herschel.
“ September 15, 1813. “I wish you had been with me the day before yesterday, when you would have joined me, I am sure, deeply, in admiring a great, simple, good old man--Dr. Herschel. Do not think me vain, or at least put up with my vanity, in saying that I almost flatter myself I have made him my friend. I have got an invitation, and a pressing one, to go to his house; and the lady who introduced me to him, says he spoke of me as if he would really be happy to see me. . . . I spent all Sunday with him and his family. His son is a prodigy in science, and fond of poetry, but very unassuming. ..
“Now, for the old Astronomer himself-his simplicity, his kindness, his anecdotes, his readiness to explain, and make perfectly perspicuous too, his own sublime conceptions of the universe, are indescribably charming. He is seventy-six, but fresh and stout; and there he sat, nearest the door, at his friend's house, alternately smiling at a joke, or contentedly sitting without share or notice in the conversation. Any train of conversation he follows implicitly; anything you ask, he labors with a sort of boyish earnestness to explain.
“I was anxious to get from him as many particulars as I could about his interview with Buonaparte. The latter, it was reported, had astonished him by his astronomical knowledge. • No,' he said : The First Consul did surprise me by his quickness and versatility on all subjects; but in science he seemed to know little more than any well-educated gentleman; and of astronomy, much less, for instance, than our own king. His ÆT. 35.]
BRIGHTON-CONVERSATION WITH HERSCHEL.
general air,' he said, 'was something like affecting to know more than he did know. He was high, and tried to be great with Herschel, I suppose, without success; and 'I remarked,' said the Astronomer, ‘his hypocrisy in concluding the conversation on astronomy by observing how all these glorious views gave proofs of an Almighty wisdom.' I asked him if he thought the system of Laplace to be quite certain, with regard to the total security of the planetary system, from the effects of gravitation losing its present balance ? He said, No; he thought by no means that the universe was secured from the chance of sudden losses of parts. He was convinced that there had existed a planet between Mars and Jupiter, in our own system, of which the little Asteroids, or planetkins, lately discovered, are indubitably fragments; and 'Remember,' said he, that though they have discovered only four of those parts, there will be thousands — perhaps thirty thousand more—yet discovered.' This planet he believed to have been lost by explosion.
“ With great kindness and patience, he referred me, in the course of my attempts to talk with him, to a theorem in Newton's ‘Principles of Natural Philosophy,' in which the time that the light takes to travel from the sun is proved with a simplicity which requires but a few steps in reasoning. In talking of some inconceivably distant bodies, he introduced the mention of this plain theorem, to remind me that the progress of light could be measured in the one case as well as the other. Then, speaking of himself, he said, with a modesty of manner which quite overcame me, when taken together with the greatness of the assertion_'I have looked further into space than ever human being did before me. I have observed stars, of which the light, it can be proved, must take two millions of years to reach this earth,' I really, and unfeignedly, felt at the moment as if I had been conversing with a supernatural intelligence. “Nay, more,' said he, if those distant bodies had ceased to exist two millions of years ago, we should still see them, as the light would travel after the body was gone.' . These were Herschel's words; and if you had heard him speak them, you would not think he was apt to tell more than truth.
“ After leaving Herschel, I felt elevated and overcome; and have, in writing to you, made only this memorandum of some of the most interesting moments of my life.* T. C.”
* The impression left upon Campbell's mind by this conversation, appears to have been a little too strong : Herschel's opinion never amounted