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easiness), he shrunk from the semblance of repulse. He trusted, however, that the éclat which he should obtain by his talents, and particularly as an acknowledged poet, would counterbalance these deficiencies. This hope was doomed to disappointment, at least for the purpose with which it was cherished, and at the time when he expected most eagerly and most confidently that it would have been fulfilled.
The prizes for composition in the Latin tongue were obviously out of my brother's reach. The skill which they are intended to encourage is seldom or never acquired by self-taught men; and my brother, over and above his want of schoolteaching, had been brought up with little respect for these exercises, - less respect, I think, than they deserve.
But he wrote copies of English verse, each successive year, for the Newdigate prize, the subject of the first being the Horses of Lysippus.* He was unsuccessful on all three occasions, and was chagrined by his failures, more especially by the first, far more than the occasion
* “The Farnese Hercules” (see Essays) and “the Coliseum” were the subject of the other two. “In my own should-havebeen prize verses on the Coliseum,” he says in one of his note-books, " was this couplet
“ Where yellow Tiber rolls his scanty wave,
Reflecting empires' wreck and glory's grave.”.
warranted. He fell into a passionate despondency, which, deepened, alas ! by the errors into which it led, or helped to lead him, furnished the clue to much of his after-life. The springs of action were weakened, and he sought relief in the stimulus of present excitement, which only served to renew, to aggravate, and to perpetuate the evil.*
* The following remarkable confession, extracted from a critique upon a Westminster Play, in one of my brother's note-books, may serve to illustrate and confirm the above observations. The reader must supply what it was impossible for my brother to record —the extreme simplicity of character with which his very foibles were associated :
“ Westminster—though Ray, Smith, and Vincent Bourne were among her alumni-never competed with Eton in the regular supply of Latin verse. This I attribute to the greater strictness of the Eton rules. Restrictions which are the bane of original composition, are the strength of art where art must necessarily be all. I should allow myself fewer licenses in translation than in an original work. As this pretty knack of verse-writing (really an elegant and gentleman-like accomplishment) is the opus magnum of our public schools, and implies a familiar acquaintance with two or three authors quite worth knowing, I should be sorry to see it decline. The absurdity is not that it is encouraged and honoured, but that it is enforced on all. When a boy has made verses enough to be master of quantity and of the technicals of versification, he should make no more, unless he has shown some particular dexterity in the turns of phrase, or a peculiar inventive fineness of ear, or an antique cast of thought. English verse, as it gives a command of language, might be a profitable school exercise ; but the subject should be rigidly laid down. I very much doubt the expediency of English verse prizes at the Universities. That the poems produced
Other causes concurred. He took pupils, and exerted himself, faithfully and energetically, as a teacher; but he was unable, as well through utter inexperience, as through a natural incapacity which no experience could overcome, to govern them, and it is not surprising that they, on some occasions, governed him.
on these occasions are not always of first-rate excellence, is no great objection; but the train of feeling they induce is alien from the course of academical study, and the public recitation before the assembled beauties of commencements and commemorations, is too intoxicating for any
but mathematical heads to bear. I verily believe, that I should have gone crazy, silly-mad, with vanity, had I obtained the prize for my ‘Horses of Lysippus.' It was almost the only occasion in my life wherein I was keenly disappointed; for it was the only one upon which I felt any confident hope. I had made myself very sure of it, and the intelligence that not I, but Macdonald, was the lucky man, absolutely stupified me. Yet I contrived, for a time, to lose all sense of my own misfortune, in exultation for Burton's success. Poor dear Burton! -how calmly he took it, rejoicing chiefly in the pleasure his honours would afford to his mother and sister; though perhaps another, whom he mentioned not, was not less in his heart. The truth is, I was fey. I sang, I danced, I whistled, I leapt, I ran from room to room, announcing the great tidings, and tried to persuade even myself that I cared nothing at all for my own case. But it would not do. It was bare sands with me the next day. It was not the mere loss of the prize, but the feeling or phantasy of an adverse destiny. I was as one who discovers that his familiar, to whom he has sold himself, is a deceiver. I foresaw that all my aims and hopes would prove frustrate and abortive; and from that time I date my downward declension, my impotence of will,
My brother's freedom of speech, and the undisguised tendency of his opinions have already been mentioned. His unsuitableness to his position, as a member of a collegiate body, appeared in other ways.
On one occasion, when I was with him for a few days, he entertained in his rooms a young man who had made himself obnoxious
and melancholy recklessness. It was the first time I sought relief from wine, which, as usual in such cases, produced not so much intoxication as downright madness.
“My failures in two succeeding trials produced no such ill effects. They made me glumpy and despondent; but that was all. Still I believe success, which I once was within an ace of, would have upset the little discretion I ever possessed. Not that the simple reputation of making a fair copy of verses would have exalted me in my own opinion—though I was not then aware how very common is the talent of spinning something more like real poetry than any I had then achieved. But the exhibition in the Rostrum would have been too much. I had always a girlish love of display ; and it was not till some years after that I acquired the counterbalance of a more than girlish timidity of observation. I had a passion for spouting, which, had I not been conscious of a diminutive and ungainly exterior, might have tempted me to try my fortune on the boards. Above all, I had an intense and incessant craving for the notice of females, with a foreboding consciousness that I was never fashioned for a ladies' man. My perverse vanity made me take mere indifference for absolute aversion, and I fancied that all this antipathy would be changed into beaming, sun-shiny admiration should I appear in the irresistible character of prize-man, as a reciter of intelligible poetry, and it is not unlikely that I should have been an object for a few days of some curiosity to the fair promenaders in Christ Church
(justly, I doubt not) to college censures,-not from any sympathy with the man, or his pursuits, but from mistaken compassion, and a strong disposition, not sufficiently controlled by moral considerations, to side with the weaker party. Again, through awkwardness and habitual absence of mind, he was inattentive to forms, and inobservant of punctuality; and thus became involved in a maze of petty irregularities, from which he could never extricate himself. *
Meadow; while the dear creatures with whom I was on bowing and speaking terms, might have felt a satisfaction in being known to know me which they had never experienced before. A great poet I should not have imagined myself, for I knew well enough that the verses were no great things. Except the first copy I never thought much of them. But I should have deemed myself a prodigious lion, and it was a character I was weak enough to covet more than that of poet, scholar, or philosopher.
“Yet in my longing for the general good graces of the sex, I was not solely intoxicated by vanity. I conceived, and I believe I was not far wrong, that any woman in particular will give her affections more readily to a man who is a favourite with women in general than to one who is voted a quiz or a bore.”
The verses on the Horses of Lysippus have been preserved, and are given in an appendix. The other copies have not been recovered. I doubt not that each exhibited a fresh accession of skill,—for in the art of versification he had become a master, before he left Oxford, or very soon after it.
* To those who knew him well in after life, it became evident that this absence of mind, with the eccentricities to which it gave rise, was beyond control. He was," as one