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Thomas Campbell and General Pepe.

The poet Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), well known in his day for his long poem The Pleasures of Hope, was a constant sympathizer with revolutionaries seeking liberty for their people. The French Revolution in its early days, the slave trade, the struggle for Polish independence, emancipation for the Irish Catholics, and the cause of freedom in Germany, Greece, Spain, and Italy all received attention in his poems, letters, and the New Monthly Magazine, which he edited from 1821 until 1830. Like other poets of the Romantic Period, he can be called a social activist.

Among those who received Campbell's personal friendship and support was General Guglielmo Pepe, a lifelong Italian freedom fighter, who had been defeated by the Austrians when he led the revolutionary army of Naples in March 1821.

Campbell met him during his subsequent exile in England and counted him among the friends he was privileged to know and assist. In a letter to an unknown correspondent quoted by his biographer William Beattie, Campbell introduces Pepe as the source of information for an article being written for the New Monthly on the subject of Naples:

I have a goodly stock of articles for my next number. I am promised an interesting one, by Foscolo, on the subject of Naples. General Pepe is to supply him with documents; and I think it a debt due to history, and to the brave men who have been forsaken by their countrymen in this attempt, to give a plain statement of the facts... I have seen a good deal of Pepe, and been greatly interested by many circumstances regarding himself and the Parliament of Naples, from which he brings authentic documents. Foscolo is all on fire on the subject - Pepe is an agreeable man, and improves on acquaintance. His situation in London is forlorn as to friends - not circumstances, for he has an easy income; but he is very cautious of mixing with indiscreet Whig society; and he has but few acquaintances on the safe side. I have exhorted him to keep clear of public dinners; and he perfectly coincides in my view of his delicate position. Still he is very cheerful and gentlemanlike, and the handsomest man, I think, I ever saw.... He calls on me, with great simplicity, for advice about little matters; and to-morrow I have to overlook his bills. While the business of Naples was going on, how little did I expect to be rendering this service, in a few months, to the poor General! . . . Had he succeeded, how different had been his history! But success with me is not a standard of esteem. I shall honor the brave man for his intentions.

Beattie comments on Campbell's friendships:

His social intercourse at this time, as appears from the letters before me, was limited to a circle of literary friends, few and well chosen, whom he delighted to see at his frugal dinner-table, or in the quiet of his own study. In this circle was comprised much of the talent, literary and political, then residing in London, with frequent visitors from the country, and a number of distinguished foreigners. Among the latter were General Pepe and his friend Colonel Maccrone, who had served, and suffered together in the same cause. Campbell, indeed, was the uncompromising friend of every exile, every foreigner in distress; and this strong feeling of sympathy for the oppressed, never abated until, in after years, he founded the Polish Association one of the proudest monuments of British philanthropy.

In a footnote on the same page Beattie quotes a letter from Pepe to Campbell:

. . . Le Colonel Maccrone est enchante de votre amabilite, comme le sont tous ceux qui ont l'avantage de vous connaitre; et je vous prie de me croire un de vos admirateurs qui vous estiment le plus.(2)

In his own memoirs, Pepe tells of his associations with Campbell:

Poco tempo dopo il mio arrivo in Londra presi un buon maestro a sette scellini la lezione; e, allorche principiai a saperne un po', ebbi a precettori tutti gli amici mici, fra quail il poeta Thomas Campbell e il dotto Gilchrist. Compensavo il primo dandogli lezione d'italiano; il secondo, indirizzandolo a leggere molti libri francesci, senz'aver mai potuto indurlo a parlar questa lingua. Ugo Foscolo mi fece conoscere il poeta Campbell. Vi fu un inverno in cui passai quasi tutte le sere nella costui casa: egli per me non aveva secreti; mi confidava i suoi amori, le sue condizioni pecuniarie, le affezioni, le antipatie. Spesse volte quell'ardente Scozzese, e in sua casa e nelle nostre lunghe passeggiate, con discorrere sempre animato, mi faceva porre in obblio le me sventure. In altro capitolo trascrivero la lettera che mi scrisse quando fu eletto lord rector nell'universita di Glasgow, avendo per competitore Canning.(3)

(Shortly after my arrival in London I hired a good teacher at seven shillings a lesson; and when I began to learn something, I had as tutors all of my friends, among them the poet Thomas Campbell and the learned Gilchrist. I compensated the first by giving him a lesson in Italian, the second, by directing him to read many books in French, without ever having been able to induce him to speak this language. Ugo Foscolo introduced me to the poet Campbell. There was one winter during which I spent almost every evening in this man's house: he had no secrets to keep from me; he confided to me his loves, his financial circumstances, his likes and dislikes. Many times that fiery Scotsman, in his house and on our long walks, his speech always animated, made me forget my own misadventures. In another chapter I will transcribe a letter he wrote me when he was elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, having as his competitor Canning.)

Later Beattie quotes another reference of Campbell to Pepe in a letter dated 15 September 1830:

Did you or I ever think of living unto such strange times, my dearest M., as the age of daily revolutions? Yesterday, France - today, Brussels - to-morrow, Brunswick and Saturday, who knows where? There is something more important and interesting in the state of Belgium than is commonly imagined. I am sorely uneasy about its external political influence; it may, by some cause or mismanagement, involve ourselves to interfere; but as a piece of history, without reference to ourselves, I believe it to be pregnant with good effects for the general welfare. I have lately had access to some documents on the state of the country that are little known; and I hope to bring the subject pretty copiously before the public in the N.M. I wonder where Pepe is - or rather what he is doing, for I know he is in Paris. The French government, I understand, are chary in connecting themselves with revolutions; and they are wise in this respect; but, assuredly, we shall hear something ere long about it.(4)

Two letters which Beattie did not publish are now in the holdings of the Special Collections Library of Duke University. They show Campbell's personal interest in Pepe's welfare. The first is headed only 'Monday, No 10 Upper Seymour Street West', where Campbell was then domiciled:

My dear General

I think your idea of retiring for a month or two to some country village during the summer is a very good one - You will have better air & more practice in speaking English - than in London - Only let me advise you for your own sake not to go to any small or very retired place where you are not likely to meet with pleasant society - & let me request you for my sake not to go too far from London - for in that case I shall have little of your company before you cross the Atlantic - I think Sydenham might be desirable for its vicinity to town - It is also a sweet spot and I know one or two pleasant people there to whom I could introduce you - and strange to say though they are tories they are excellent persons. But the circle of society there is much too small & I think you would speedily get tired of it - I should think Hampstead or Highgate or some place perhaps still farther off more suitable -

I hope we shall see you some evening very soon - Believe me dear General

Your attached friend T Campbell

Later after a separation Campbell rejoices that he has heard from Pepe again. The letter, from 3 Adam's Street, Adelphi, 28 August 1825, is addressed 'Au General Pepe in Brussels, Pays Bas':

My dear General

Before your welcome letter arrived I had received the glad tidings contradicting those which had thrown me into the deepest affliction - I was on the point of writing to your brother requesting some materials for a memoir of your life. Let what has passed warn us to be provided with such materials in the event of my surviving you - Ay me! with what feeling I used to pass the lodgings where I had called upon you - I used to feel as if half my life had been taken out of me Most joyous reverse of feelings - I am now consoled for many sorrows by thinking you are alive - I fear I cannot visit you but you must come back to us - Nothing particular has happened in my private history excepting that Mrs Campbell has brought back Thos much against my will to our house in Upper Seymour Street - His insane dislike to me still continues & I have been obliged for the sake of studying in peace to take chambers in the Adelphi - The University is going on very well - We have raised names amounting to an hundred & fifty thousand pounds one half of the sum that can possibly be required - How much I rejoiced to hear of Pisa's liberation - In hopes of your return and with devoted affection I remain

My dear General your faithful friend T. Campbell

P.S. Address under Cover to T. P. Courtenay - M. P.

Cannon Street Westminster

Campbell's son Thomas was mentally ill, probably the result of the congenital syphilis which his mother had contracted from Campbell himself. The University is London University, of which Campbell was one of the leading instigators. The reference to Pisa's liberation evidently has to do with the sporadic efforts of Italian patriotic revolutionaries to free their country from foreign domination. The Congress of Vienna following the Napoleonic wars awarded Tuscany to an Austrian archduke of the house of Hapsburg, Ferdinand III, who was succeeded by his son Leopold II in 1824.

Not until 1861, however, did the region of Tuscany become a part of the kingdom of Italy.

MARY RUTH MILLER Durham, North Carolina

1 William Beattie, Life and Letters of Thomas Campbell (New York, 1850), II, 134-5. The letter is dated 26 August 1821. Ugo Foscolo was an Italian poet, novelist, and freedom fighter who refused to serve the Austrians after the fall of Napoleon and went into exile in England, where he contributed to periodicals to help support himself.

2 Beattie, II, 137.

3 Guglielmo Pepe, Memorie del Generale Guglielmo Pepe (Lugano, 1847), II, 402. Campbell was elected Lord Rector of Glasgow University in 1826 and again in 1827.

4 Beattie, II, 235. 'Dearest M.' is probably Mary Wynell Mayow, member of a family of Campbell's intimate friends, with whom Campbell had a romantic attachment after the death of his wife in 1828.
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Title Annotation:18th-19th-century poet; Italian freedom fighter Guglielmo Pepe
Author:Miller, Mary Ruth
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Jun 1, 1998
Words:1903
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