Tuesday, June 29, 2010

John Leyden

June 29 (1826).—I walked out for an hour last night, and made one or two calls—the evening was delightful—

"Day its sultry fires had wasted,
Calm and cool the moonbeam rose;
Even a captive's bosom tasted
Half oblivion of his woes."

I wonder often how Tom Campbell, with so much real genius, has not maintained a greater figure in the public eye than he has done of late. The Magazine seems to have paralysed him. The author, not only of the Pleasures of Hope, but of Hohenlinden, Lochiel, etc., should have been at the very top of the tree. Somehow he wants audacity, fears the public, and, what is worse, fears the shadow of his own reputation. He is a great corrector too, which succeeds as ill in composition as in education. Many a clever boy is flogged into a dunce, and many an original composition corrected into mediocrity. Yet Tom Campbell ought to have done a great deal more. His youthful promise was great. John Leyden introduced me to him. They afterwards quarrelled. When I repeated Hohenlinden to Leyden, he said, "Dash it, man, tell the fellow that I hate him, but, dash him, he has written the finest verses that have been published these fifty years." I did mine errand as faithfully as one of Homer's messengers, and had for answer, "Tell Leyden that I detest him, but I know the value of his critical approbation." This feud was therefore in the way of being taken up. "When Leyden comes back from India," said Tom Campbell, "what cannibals he will have eaten and what tigers he will have torn to pieces!"...
The selection above from Scott's Journal shows Scott musing about Thomas Campbell, whose death was covered earlier.  John Leyden, who introduced Scott and Campbell, was known as an orientalist.  He was born in 1775, and died of fever on an expedition to Java in 1811. 
Leyden worked with Scott collecting ballads for Scott's "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border", so the two became well known to each other.  Among Leyden's own works was "Discoveries and Settlements of Europeans in Northern and Western Africa", which was inspired by the adventures of Mungo Park.

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