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One of the most important characteristics of the literary world in the present day is, the universality with which literature is cultivated. Readers are no longer composed of the select few, but of the many, so that the expression of “the reading public," is almost tantamount to that of the public at large. And such is also the case with authorship. It is no longer the exclusive vocation of him who has devoted the greater part of his life to retirement and study, or of the poor and unbefriended scholar to whom no other of the numerous outlets of active life is patent. But people of both sexes, and of every occupation—the soldier, the sailor, the senator, the merchant, the artisan-all write, print, publish, and add their peculiar forms of thought to the general mass of intellect, which thus grows and expands beyond all former conception. And one of these novel additions to be found in the walks of literature is, the author of The Pleasures of Memory. A hundred years ago it would have been deemed an astounding phenomenon for a wealthy banker to be also an eminent poet.
Samuel Rogers was born in London, in 1762. Little or nothing is known of the manner in which he spent his early days. That his education was carefully attended to, and conducted upon the most liberal scale, is evident, from his taste and acquirements. During his youth, he enjoyed the society of the talented men of the last age—of Sheridan, Fox, Windham, and their renowned compeers, as at a latter period he was the companion of Byron and the illustrious of the present century. As poetry had occupied much of his early attention, Rogers had naturally composed verses, and at last he ventured before the public in his Ode to Superstition, and other Poems, which was published in 1786. This work was so favourably received, that the author was encouraged to persevere, and in 1792 appeared his principal poem, The Pleasures of Memory, which was received by the public with extraordinary approbation. In 1798, he published An Epistle to a Friend, and other Poems; and in 1812, The Voyage of Columbus. It will be seen, from these dates, that the works of Rogers appeared after considerable intervals; but this was owing to that fastidious delicacy of taste which appears in every line of his writings, and which forms one of the principal qualifications of his works. Two years afterwards he published, in the same volume with Byron's Lara, the poem of Jacqueline poem in itself possessing considerable merit, but which showed to great disadvantage on account of the splendid production with which it was associated. Indeed, no two authors could have been more strongly contrasted than Rogers and his noble friend; and the fastidious delicacy and cautious smoothness of the former appeared almost ludicrous, when contrasted with the dashing, fearless energy, and powerful light and shade, of the latter. Jacqueline, therefore, came into the world a dead twin in company with its vigorous, long-lived brother. This failure, however, was amply redeemed by Rogers' next poem, entitled Human Life, and by his subsequent work, Italy, the last and also the best of his pro. ductions, which was published in 1823. This last poem was also published in 1830, in a very splendid form, illustrated with numerous engravings from Turner and Stothard, and, on account of the expense of such a bold experi. ment, it was feared that the work would prove a complete failure. But, contrary to all expectation, it became one of the most profitable literary speculations of modern times. His other poems were therefore published on a similar plan in 1834. This zealous subserviency of painting and sculpture as faithful handmaids to poetry, is one of the grateful indications of improving taste, which are so abundant in the present day.
As a poet, Rogers is scarcely entitled to the praise of boldness and vigour. For this he is too scrupulous and careful, and he never ventures beyond sight of his land-mark. Such, indeed, were the extreme care and labour which he bestowed upon The Pleasures of Memory, that not satisfied with his own corrections, he read the poem many times over with a learned friend, and in every variety of mood and situation, before he ventured to commit it to the press. But if correctness, delicacy, and tenderness, can compensate for those high flights of imagination which constitute the chief requisite of poetry, and in which he is wanting, Rogers in these minor qualities will be found superior to any poet of the present day.
'Tis over; and her lovely cheek is now
'Tis over; and the rite,
She will awake as though she still was there,
When on her knees she fell,
Like a dream the whole is fled;
Death-like, and gathering more and more, till Death
But thou canst not yet reflect
All in turn
THE ALPS AT DAY-BREAK,
The sunbeams streak the azure skies,
From rock to rock, with giant-bound,
The goats wind slow their wonted way
And while the torrent thunders loud,
THE BOY OF EGREMOND.
“Say, what remains when Hope is fled?"
At Embsay rung the matin-bell,
There now the matin-bell is rung;