Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gently as a Languid Flower

‘On the 19th of April, 1819, Lord Webb Seymour, after a long decline, sank as gently as a languid flower. The long voluntary residence of this stranger among us excited a deeper sympathy with his fate, and seemed to impart more virtues to his character. Hallam's account of him is perfect. None of his peculiarities amused his friends more, or was a more frequent subject of joking to himself, than the slowness and vastness of his preparations. He was perfectly aware of this conscientious and modest infirmity. "I in retirement am endeavoring to work out the distant good of mankind. Leave me exempt from the casualties of human life, and I am almost secure of my object.  No — you would not.” An exemption from the casualties of life is a considerable postulate for a philosopher.  But its having been granted would not have brought the cautious Seymour to a practical result. Immortality would only have lengthened his preparation.

Playfair, though ill, and the day bad, followed poor Seymour to his grave at Holyrood. But those who saw him there shook their heads; and in about three months he joined his friend.’

This account of Lord Seymour’s death comes from Lord Henry Cockburn’s “Memorials of his Time”.  Lord Seymour was responsible for telling Walter Scott of the legend of Littlecote Hall, which then made its way into Scott’s poem “Rokeby”.  Seymour is described in Florence MacGunn’s “Sir Walter Scott’s Friends” as ‘gentle and wise’, a quote which came from Scott’s friend Lady Anna Maria Elliot. 

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