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THE

POETICAL WORKS

OF

SAMUEL ROGERS.

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Memoir of Samuel Rogers.

THERE seems to be something so repugnant to|and various passages display uncommon felicity. the pursuits of literature in habits of trade and As a whole, perhaps its chief defect is that it commerce, that the instances have been very rare wants vigor, but the deficiency in this quality in which they have been combined in one indi- is made up in correctness and harmony. Rogers vidual. The historian of the Medici, and ROGERS is one of the most scrupulous of the sons of the the Poet, are almost solitary instances of literary lyre in his metre, and he too often sacrifices that taste and talent being united harmoniously with harshness which sets off the smoother passages traffic. Samuel Rogers is a basker in London, of a writer's works, and prevents sameness and and has been for many years at the head of monotony, to mere cold purity of style. Perhaps a most respectable firm. His father followed no poem of equal size ever cost its author so the same business before him, and amassed con- many hours to produce. Not satisfied with his siderable wealth, both which became the her- own corrections, he repeatedly consulted the taste itage of the Poet, who was born about the of some of his friends; one of the most devoted year 1762, in London; but little or nothing is of whom, Richard Sharpe, then a wholesale hatter, known of the way in which he passed his early and since Member of Parliament,' has said that, years. His education was liberal, no cost having before the publication of this poem, and while been spared to render him an accomplished preparing the successive editions for press, they scholar. That he improved by thought and re- had read it together several hundred times, at flection upon the lessons of his youth, there can home as well as on the Continent, and in every be no doubt; and, it is to be presumed, he lost temper of mind that varied company and varied no opportunity of reaping profit from the extra-scenery could produce.

names.

ordinary advantages which his station obtained In the year 1798, Rogers published "An Episfor him. He always kept the best society, both tle to a Friend, with other Poems," and in 1812 as respected rank and talent, the circle of which "The Voyage of Columbus." Two years afterin the metropolis of England in his younger wards, in conjunction with Lord Byron, or days was more than commonly brilliant. His rather printed in the same volume with Byron's political ideas are what are styled liberal, and no Lara, appeared his tale of "Jacqueline;" a poem one has ever been able to reproach him with the which displays a strange contrast to the fire abandonment of a single principle with which he and energy of the author of Manfred. Sweet originally set out in life. Over most of his early and pleasing rather than striking, "Jacqueline," friends and companions the grave has now closed, though well received, contributed little to inand they included among them inany great crease its author's reputation. "Human Life," next to the Pleasures of Memory, is the most With a strong attachment for the Muses, after finished production of Rogers. The subject was the excellent education Rogers received, it is not a good one, for it was drawn from universal surprising that he ventured before the public. nature, and connected with all those rich assoHis first work was an "Ode to Superstition, and ciations which increase in attraction as we other Poems," which appeared in 1786. This journey onwards in the path of life. It is was followed by a second publication, "The Pleasures of Memory," when he had passed the greenness of youth, having attained his thirtieth year In 1792 this poem was received by the public with universal applause. The subject was happily chosen, coming home to the business and bosoms of all; it was executed with great care,

1 This gentleman has carried the art of brilliant and interesting conversation to an unprecedented degree of perfection, having in fact reduced it to a matter of mere

business, as systematic as Book-Keeping. He keeps an index to his multitudinous commonplace books; and has a debtor and creditor account with his different circles of the jokes let off or the set speeches made.

vi

MEMOIR OF SAMUEL ROGERS.

an epitome of man from the cradle to the grave, prescribed for the conduct of either, by the regu
and is executed throughout with the poet's lations of social intercourse.
wonted care.

Our poet has travelled much out of his own
The friendship of Rogers with Sheridan and country, and he is not less a master of manners
with Byron is well known. When the great in the better classes of society abroad than at
wit, dramatist, and orator, was near the close of home. His "Sketches in Italy," prove that he
his career, neglected by those who were fore- was no unobservant sojourner abroad; and as
most in the circle of friends when he enjoyed his opportunities for observation were great, he
health and prosperity, the individual who re- did not fail to profit by them proportionately.—
lieved the wants of the dying man was Rogers; This may be noticed in his conversation, which
whose opulence of purse enabled him to do is always amusing and instructive; and, more
that act of benevolence to his friend, which particularly, when, visiting the circles of his
must ever be one of his most gratifying remin- fashionable or learned friends, he becomes the
iscences. It is seldom poets are so well enabled spokesman on some topic which interests him, and
to meet the aspirations of their hearts towards which he sees affording gratification to others.
others. A dispute, on the appearance of Moore's Rogers never entered upon the stormy ocean
"Life of Sheridan," was very warmly kept up of politics. This is singular, from the number
connected with this circumstance. It was said of his political friends, and the example set him
that a friend of Sheridan, of no less rank than by his father. The elder Rogers was renowned
the present King of England himself, had been in the annals of parliamentary elections for a
among those who, in his last moments, were re-severe contest with Colonel Holroyd, subsequent-
gardless of the pecuniary necessities of the dying ly Lord Sheffield, in dividing the suffrages of
man; that at last, when no longer necessary, a the city of Coventry, when the obstinacy of the
sum of money was sent by the royal order, which combat attracted much attention. He has wisely
Sheridan returned, saying that it came too late, preferred the gratification of a pure taste, and
a friend having furnished him with all he should the interchanges of urbanity, to the stirring
require while life remained. Loyalty never hazards of political ambition: notwithstanding
lacks defenders, or perhaps the Prince of Wales which he is a warm partisan of the principles he
was not to blame, as tales of distress are always has chosen, and understands well how to main-
slow in reaching the ears of individuals in tain them. What he has done every way proves
august stations. However the matter might have that he is conscious of his own powers, but care.
been, the affair was warmly disputed in respect less of indulging them, though much in this
to the implied royal neglect, and remains still respect may no doubt be attributed to his unceas
in as much uncertainty as ever; but Rogers ing attention to the calls of business, from which
gloriously carried off the palm of friendship and he never allows himself to be diverted.
feeling on the occasion, let the truth lie which Rogers is now in the "sere and yellow leaf"
side it may, in respect of the tender from a of human vegetation. He is the kind, agreeable,
higher quarter. Byron and Rogers were on affable old man; but there is nothing beyond the
terms of great intimacy, both in England and good and amiable in character depicted upon a
during the poet's residence in Italy. In that countenance by no means the best formed and
medley of truth and falsehood, the "Recollections most impressive of the species, if the features are
of Byron" by Medwin, the noble poet is described separately considered. His habits are remarkably
as alluding to a singular talent for epigram, regular, and his conduct governed by that urban-
which Rogers is made to possess. This talent, ity and breeding which show he has been accus-
however, has been very sparingly employed. tomed to mingle most in the best society. He
Certain buffoons and scribblers in Sunday news- takes a great interest in all that promotes the
papers, who have been opposed from political improvement of the state and contributes to the
principles, or rather whose pay at the moment comfort and happiness of his fellow-men. In
was on the opposite side to that taken by the short, Rogers, like all men of genius, if possess-
venerable poet, impudently ascribed a thousand ing certain eccentricities, is gifted with the
bons-mots and repartees to Rogers, whom they impress of high intellect which belongs to that
never saw in their lives, and which they manu- character, and which makes it so distinguished
factured themselves. His skill in writing epi- above the herd of mankind. There is about
gram, however, is acknowledged; but what he Rogers, however, a sort of otium cum dignitate
nas produced is the work of the scholar and the which seems to repress his energies, and to
gentleman; for there is not an individual in keep inactive a spirit which, had it been less
existence less likely to trespass on the rules indebted to good fortune and flung more upon

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its own resources, would have performed greater as one of great weight; and though not devoid things. of a certain irritability of temper, his general good-nature and kindness, for he shows no tincture of envy in his character,-contribute largely to increase the influence and impression made by his judgment.

Such is the sum of all which is known of Samuel Rogers,-a poet who never rises to the

Among the friends of Rogers were Fox, Sheridan, Windham, and a galaxy of distinguished names, when they were in the zenith of their glory. To the illustrious nephew of Fox, the well-known Lord Holland, and to his friends of the same political party, Rogers still adheres. He is accounted one of the literary coterie at height of Byron or Campbell, but who is of the Holland House, the hospitable receptacle of men same school. He is remarkable principally for of talent from all countries and of all creeds. He the elegance and grace of his compositions, which is introduced in the Novel of "Glenarvon" at he polishes up and smooths off as if he valued the court of the Princess of Madagascar (a only their brilliancy and finish, and forgot that character intended for Lady Holland); and per- strength and force are essential to poetic harmohaps the name of no individual is more on the ny and the perfection of metrical style. Notwithlips of a certain fashionable order of persons who standing this defect, Rogers will be read and are attached to literary pursuits, than that of admired while the English language continues Rogers. His opinion is looked up to, and justly, to be used or spoken in his native islands.

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