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directed to this subject, he produced a considerably long poem, called The Origin of Engraving, in which we find a remarkable passage in praise of Lorenzo de Medici, celebrated as the great restorer of art in the fifteenth century.
Whilst by his high character, his love of the arts, and his activity in diffusing a taste for them, Mr. Roscoe was rendering himself popular in Liverpool, he yet showed no disposition to conceal his feelings of hostility to the African slave trade. Unfortunately, at the era to which we are now directing the reader's attention, the merchants of Liverpool were so deeply involved in the nefarious traffic, that considerate men paused at the ruin which its abolition would effect. All Liverpool, not merely the merchants directly engaged in the trade, but the general mass of the population, whose interests were more or less involved in those of their wealthy neighbours, were bound as one man to oppose any attempt that might be threatened against their profitable occupation; and it required no little fortitude in that individual who, in such a community, would stand up and declare that virtue, and duty, and justice, nay, even mercy prompted him, as far as he could, to overturn the chief source of the opulence of the town, as a crime disgraceful to the country to which it belonged. Mr. Roscoe distinguished himself at an early period by displaying this fortitude ; for his poem of Mount Pleasant, which, though not published for six years afterwards, was composed in 1771, contained a noble passage of indignant denunciation applied to this execrable commerce. A society having been formed in London, in 1787, for the purpose of effecting the abolition of the trade, it rallied all the scattered friends of the great principle of abolition, and its effect on Mr. Roscoe was to draw from him his beautiful poem entitled The Wrongs of Africa. The first part of this fine composition appeared in the summer of 1787, and was succeeded by the second part in the year 1788. This production met with great and general applause, and as it was wrought with an extraordinary degree of pathos, its influence in gathering disciples to the cause of the poor slave must have been incalculable in their number, particularly amongst those classes to whom the medium of politics was distasteful. But it was not to the attractions of the muse that Mr. Roscoe was disposed to confide the case of the oppressed African, and a prose pamphlet, which he issued in 1787, showing the injustice and impolicy of the slave trade, is only a more sincere and untrammelled declaration of his views than the restrictions under which, as a poet, he laboured, permitted him previously to make. It may not be uninteresting to mention, as showing the temper of a certain class of the time, that the “ licitness” of the slave trade was openly maintained by some of the clergy. A minister of the Church of England, to which he had conformed from the Church of Rome, sent forth a pamphlet, in which he good-naturedly sought to quiet the con. sciences of the slave dealers by the blasphemous attempt to prove
“ the conformity of the slave trade with the principles of natural and revealed religion, as delineated in the sacred writings of the word of God!" It is scarcely necessary to add, that this outrage on public morality was duly noticed by Mr. Roscoe.
The breaking out of the French revolution furnished Mr. Roscoe with a fresh field for his ever active mind and liberal principles. About this era, too, prosperity in his profession enabled him to remove to a residence at Toxteth Park, about two miles from Liverpool, and having in its immediate neighbourhood a small dingle, celebrated by him in some very happy stanzas for its beauty, and the many delightful prospects which it commanded. This residence, however, he left; and, in 1793, having taken some land at Birchfield, on the northern side of Liverpool, he removed there with the intention of permanently remaining.
In several of his earliest works, Mr. Roscoe had given evidence of the great value with which he was impressed of the useful and benevolent character of Lorenzo de Medici, and we shall not be surprized that this partiality finally resolved itself into a resolution to commemorate the life of that illustrious restorer of the arts. The subject appears to have been recommended to him at an early period, during his association with a distinguished Italian scholar, the late Francis Holden, from whom he imbibed an enthusiastic attachment for Italian literature; and though his professional avocations did not permit him to cultivate it with the devotion which he desired, still he regularly renewed his acquaintance with it at intervals. His collections from Italian authors had, in 1790, amounted to a considerable quantity; but, from the difficulty of consulting many authors whose names he had on his list, his progress would have been considerably retarded, but for the kindness of a learned friend, Mr.Clarke, who had lived near Florence, and who lent his valuable assistance in making researches in the public libraries of that city. The copyright of the Life of Lorenzo sold for 12001. ; it was completely successful, and passed rapidly through three editions. He received many testimonies of admiration from the most exalted members of society, particularly from Lord Orford and Lord Bristol. The latter nobleman, with that gallantry in extending his protection wherever it might be most efficiently applied for the support of genius, sought, in the first instance, from Mr. Cadell, the publisher, the name and residence, as well as the profession, resources in life, and connections of the author of Lorenzo, and particularly inquired what present of books, pictures, or statues might be most welcome to him. "Mr. Roscoe, with kindred liberality, declined all presents, being pretty well satisfied with the approbation of such an authority as that of his lordship. This noble person subsequently recommended Mr. Roscoe to undertake the life of Lorenzo's son, Leo X., offering him the use of his residence at Rome or at Naples to carry on his researches for that purpose; but Mr. Roscoe was unfortunately not in a disposition to avail himself of this liberal proposal. Amongst other correspondents who wrote their praises of his work to Mr. Roscoe, was that most indefatigable of all scholars and critics, Dr. Parr. The Doctor volunteered to make out a list of mistakes in some Latin passages which had been printed in the first edition. The catalogue was sent with the fol. lowing letter:
"I am determined to lose no time in acknowledging my good fortune upon the acquisition of a correspondent whose candour is worthy of his talents, and whose letters are fraught with all the elegance and all the vigour which decorate his publication. ... I rejoice, Sir, not so much upon your account, as upon that of your readers, to whom you have opened so large and so delightful a field of entertainment and instruction, when you tell me that the Life of Lorenzo' has already gone through three editions, and that it will soon appear in an octavo form. The edition open before me is that of 1796. I borrowed it from the learned librarian of New College, Oxford; and I shall return it next week, because it belongs to a society, where you will have many readers very capable of appreciating your merit, and well disposed to acknowledge and to proclaim it. ... By what the ancients would have called the afflatus divinus, I anticipated your willing. ness to let me speak with freedom; and your letter justifies me in ascribing to you that candour which is the sure criterion and happy effect of conscious and eminent worth. Indeed, Sir, I saw in your work vestiges of excellence, which, in my estimation, is of a much higher order than taste and learning. I found deep reflection, and therefore I expected to find a dignified and virtuous moderation in the science of politics. I met with sentiments of morality, too pure to be suspected of hypocrisy; too just and elevated to be charged with ostentation, and give me leave to add, that they acted most powerfully on the best sympathies of my soul. If, in this season of old corruptions and new refinements, a Fénélon were to rise up among us; and if, by a conversion in the understandings and hearts of sovereigns, not less miraculous than that recorded of Paul, he were appointed to train up the heir of a throne to solid wisdom and sublime virtue, sure I am that he would eagerly put your book into the hands of his pupil, and bid him
Nocturnâ versare manu, versare diurna.' “ I am no stranger to the sweets of literary and social intercourse between kindred spirits; and therefore I wonder not that you call Dr. Currie your friend. Present my best compliments to him, and believe me,” &c.vol. i. pp. 181, 182.
On the continent, the work produced quite as powerful a sensation as it had done in England, and an Italian translation forthwith appeared of the Life ; this was followed by another version in the German, by the celebrated Hurt Sprengal. Subsequently a French translation appeared in Paris, and in 1803 the English edition was reprinted in America.
Mr. Roscoe, at the period of his publication of Lorenzo's Life, showed the strongest evidence of his alienation from the details of his professional business. In the year 1793 he engaged in an extensive speculation, the object of which was to effect the draining
and cultivation of an extensive tract of peatmoss at Chat and Trafford, in the neighbourhood of Manchester. The promise of a certain security with respect to property, which the operations in draining held forth, induced Mr. Roscoe to separate himself from duties which he could no longer endure, and in 1796 he retired from the turbulent life of an attorney. Shortly afterwards he proceeded to London, where, seemingly under the influence of some sudden impulse, he entered Gray's Inn as a law student, with the intention of going to the bar. But this ambition as capriciously died away as it had sprung up, and an attendance at commons for one term only, constituted the whole of the preparation which Mr. Roscoe ever completed for the rank of counsel. Through the hospitality of the Marquis of Lansdowne, he was enabled to extend, and very considerably exalt, the character of his friends and acquaintance, and returned to Liverpool after a short stay in the metropolis, with renewed energies. Some translations, and one in particular, of a poem called The Nurse, appeared from his pen soon after his return, and he gave his immediate friends reason to believe that he was diligently engaged upon the Life of Leo the Tenth.
In the fate of poor Burns, Mr. Roscoe took a very deep interest, and did not conceal, upon the death of the Scotch bard, his opinion, but rather indignantly expressed it, to the effect that the public had unjustly neglected this prodigy of genius. “ It has of late," writes Mr. R. “been my opinion that great talents are, in the present times, often repressed for want of a very small degree of encouragement; and the death of poor Burns, which has occurred since I wrote to you, confirms me in this opinion. I cannot express to you how sensibly I am affected by this event. I had not, indeed, the pleasure of his personal acquaintance; but at the time he was taken ill he was preparing for a journey to Liverpool, and had done me the honour (and it is an honour of which I shall always be proud) of sending me word that he intended to pay me a visit. His example has fixed the value of high poetical attainments in Scotland, and they amount to the place of an exciseman, with a salary of fifty pounds per annum. Such has been the munificence of the Scotch peerage and the Scotch gentry to a man who has done more honour to his country than all the throat-cutters it ever bred. May they never have another opportunity of insulting genius with paltry and insidious rewards!”
In the year 1799, Mr. Roscoe having abandoned all thoughts of business, retired to Allerton estate, a moiety of which he had purchased. The residence is situated about six miles from Liverpool, and was laid out in such a way as was calculated to satisfy a lover of botany, and one who sought health in rural employment. Here his more substantial occupation consisted of his application to the Memoirs of Leo X. But from this retirement, in the course of a brief twelvemonth, he was recalled, in consequence of the embarrassed state of a banking-house, in which one of his dearest friends, Mr. W. Clarke, already mentioned, was a partner. The other members of the company invited the assistance of Mr. Roscoe towards a settlement of their affairs. He applied himself to the task, and finally became an active partner of a concern whose affairs he had succeeded in restoring to a favourable position; and thus were his literary labours completely suspended for a considerable interval. As soon as the calls on his time at the banking establishment began to relax, Mr. Roscoe devoted his hours to the favourite study of botany. In conjunction with some of the most eminent scientific men of his day, Mr. Roscoe succeeded in opening by subscription, and under the liberal patronage of the Corporation, a botanic garden in Liverpool, where he was visited by Sir James Smith, through whom Mr. Roscoe was afterwards elected a member of the Linnæan Society.
Of the immediate friends of Mr. Roscoe, there was not one to whose companionship he attributed more importance than to that of Dr. Currie, a man celebrated for his medical eminence, and still more for his able work, The Life of Burns. The loss of this friend he deeply lamented, but it was not a solitary privation, for, about this period, the country, as well as Mr. Roscoe, had to endure the calamity of the deaths of many a friend, and amongst whom is particularly to be noticed that of the illustrious Charles Fox. The reflections of Mr. Roscoe upon the scene which this rapid succession of final departures amongst his acquaintance produced, are worthy at once of his philosophy and his heart. “ Surely," he exclaims, “ the misery that usually attends the close of life affords one of the strongest proofs of a future state of existence. For how is it possible to suppose that the same Supreme Being, who has distributed such various and extensive happiness to his creatures, would finally conclude the whole with pain and distress? This view of the subject is the only one that can afford us any real consolation, either for the sufferings of our friends, or for those which we must experience ourselves. After a life evidently intended to exercise our virtues, and improve our moral powers, death may be considered as the last great trial of our fortitude ; the display of which, as it exhibits a complete triumph over the weakness of human nature, seems the best calculated to terminate our labours in this world, and accompany us on our entrance into the next. In the meantime, we who survive are like soldiers in an army, who, as their ranks are thinned by the enemy, draw nearer to each other.” The letter which Mr. Roscoe transmitted to Lord Holland, containing his observations on the conduct of Mr. Fox, is marked with a fine and well-tempered enthusiasm in the cause of freedom, and redounds highly to the credit of Mr. Roscoe.
The importunity which his more exalted friends (who merely echoed the genuine voice of the literary community of England)