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The Books Of Samuel Rogers
by [?]

The richliest-laden ship
Of spicy Ternate, or that annual sent
To the Philippines o’er the southern main
From Acapulco, carrying massy gold,
Were poor to this;–freighted with hopeful Youth
And Beauty, and high Courage undismay’d
By mortal terrors, and paternal Love, etc., etc.

It is not improbable that Rogers caught the mould of his blank verse from the copy rather than from the model. In the matter of style–as Flaubert has said–the second-bests are often the better teachers. More is to be learned from La Fontaine and Gautier than from Moliere and Victor Hugo.

Many art-books, many books addressed specially to the connoisseur, as well as most of those invaluable volumes no gentleman’s library should be without, found their places on Rogers’s hospitable shelves. Of such, it is needless to speak; nor, in this place, is it necessary to deal with his finished and amiable, but not very vigorous or vital poetry. A parting word may, however, be devoted to the poet himself. Although, during his lifetime, and particularly towards its close, his weak voice and singularly blanched appearance exposed him perpetually to a kind of brutal personality now happily tabooed, it cannot be pretended that, either in age or youth, he was an attractive-looking man. In these cases, as in that of Goldsmith, a measure of burlesque sometimes provides a surer criterion than academic portraiture. The bust of the sculptor-caricaturist, Danton, is of course what even Hogarth would have classed as outre [14]; but there is reason for believing that Maclise’s sketch in Fraser of the obtrusively bald, cadaverous and wizened figure in its arm-chair, which gave such a shudder of premonition to Goethe, and which Maginn, reflecting the popular voice, declared to be a mortal likeness–“painted to the very death”–was more like the original than his pictures by Lawrence and Hoppner. One can comprehend, too, that the person whom nature had so ungenerously endowed, might be perfectly capable of retorting to rudeness, or the still-smarting recollection of rudeness, with those weapons of mordant wit and acrid epigram which are not unfrequently the protective compensation of physical shortcomings. But this conceded, there are numberless anecdotes which testify to Rogers’s cultivated taste and real good breeding, to his genuine benevolence, to his almost sentimental craving for appreciation and affection. In a paper on his books, it is permissible to end with a bookish anecdote. One of his favourite memories, much repeated in his latter days, was that of Cowley’s laconic Will,–“I give my body to the earth, and my soul to my Maker.” Lady Eastlake shall tell the rest:–“This … proved on one occasion too much for one of the party, and in an incautious moment a flippant young lady exclaimed, ‘But, Mr. Rogers, what of Cowley’s property ?’ An ominous silence ensued, broken only by a sotto voce from the late Mrs. Procter: ‘Well, my dear, you have put your foot in it; no more invitations for you in a hurry,’ But she did the kind old man, then above ninety, wrong. The culprit continued to receive the same invitations and the same welcome.”[15]


14: Rogers’s own copy of this, which (it may be added), he held in horror, now belongs to Mr. Edmund Gosse. Lord Londonderry has a number of Danton’s busts.

15: Quarterly Review, vol. 167, p. 512.]