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Victorian Life: At Home with the Authors: Samuel Rogers

Victorian Life: At home with Samuel Rogers
If you think that only people of the 20th and 21st centuries are interested in celebrity news, think again. Not only did Victorian periodicals include news about the day-to-day life of the royal family, but “At Home with” articles also became rather popular. In 1860, The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine ran a series of articles called “Poets: Their Lives, Songs, and Homes”, which were accompanied by pictures of said homes. I was quite thrilled to find one article about Samuel Rogers, a member of the old Holland House circle which I researched for The Lily Brand. By now, Rogers’ work is more or less forgotten, but at the time of his life, he was well known (at least in London circles), though perhaps not necessary for his poetry as becomes clear in the following snippet from the article in The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine:

“[…] it is rather as a lover of poetry, and the friend of literature, than a poet, that Rogers presents himself to the mind.

Certainly, ‘pleasing’ as his poetry no doubt is, we can scarcely imagine the want of it creating any considerable gap in English literature: he was neither the originator of a new school nor the expositor of novelty in thought, feeling, or expression, and his chief merit lies in being merely elegant and graceful. Taste and elegance, indeed, were his peculiar attributes; and we may almost say the former was so prominent a characteristic that his love for poetry, elegant poetry, was but a part of this idiosyncrasy. […]

In the history of literature, Rogers is the link connecting the age of Johnson and Goldsmith with the present. He was born on the 30th of July, 1763, nearly ten years before the death of the latter, and he lived until December 18th, 1855. He was alive when the ‘Vicar of Wakefield,’ ‘The Traveller,’ and ‘The Deserted Village’ were given to the world; and he lived to see Tennyson made poet-laureate, and to read ‘Vanity Fair’ and ‘Pickwick.’ […]

Samuel Rogers was the third son of Thomas Rogers, a wealthy London banker, of Freeman’s-court, Cornhill, from which place he afterwards removed his business to 29, Clement’s-lane, Lombard-street. His private residence was Stoke Newington, and there the poet was born, in the first house on Newington-green, not far from Ball’s Pond. The family belonged to that wealthy class of Protestant Dissenters satirized by Mr. Thackeray in ‘The Newcomes,’ and in the quiet routine of such society our author lived until he emerged as a poet. […] [H]is first published poem, ‘Ode to Superstition,’ appeared when he was only in his twenty-sixth year, and we can scarcely imagine so polished a composition to have been his first effort.

In 1792, his best known work, ‘Pleasures of Memory,’ appeared, and established his reputation; it was also the means of introducing him to the distinguished statesman, Mr. Fox, for whom he contracted a friendship almost romantic in its warmth and tenderness, and lasting uninterruptedly until the latter’s death. It was in accordance with the wishes of this friend that Rogers changed his residence to St. James’s-place, and emerged from the society of the merchants and bankers, the magnates of the dissenting class, into the ranks of fashion and genius — in that day almost synonymous terms. […]

It is well for Rogers that he  was possessed of an ample independence; his writings never could have been remunerative; and it may be even questioned whether they would have ever attained the rank they hold, had they been unaccompanied by the prestige of the author’s celebrity as a man of taste, and a person of consequence in society, from his known wealth, and the rank and talent of his associates. […]

Rogers was kind and generous to all who crossed his path. His actual vanity as an author — and its was actual — never produced mean envy; his ambition, and he had much, never created jealousy in his kindly nature; even his keen sensibility to ridicule, though it might provoke retaliation  of a similar kind, was never suffered to influence him further. The author might give satire for satire, but the man was incapable of revenge or persecution. […]

ROGERS’S HOMES.

On Newington-green, was we have seen, the poet was born, and here he remained still he was about thirty years of age. Then he had chambers in the Temple for some five years, and finally removed to his mansion, at 22, St. James’s-place. Here it was that he wrote nearly all his poems, with the exception of the ‘Pleasure of Memory,’ and here it was that he was visited by the most celebrated men of his time — and his time, as  has been shown, was beyond the usual age allotted to man. The front of his house overlooked the Green Park, possession, also, a gateway into it, and the interior was richly and picturesquely adorned with the highest productions of art, in all the varied forms of drawings, prints, miniatures, medallions, antique ornaments, paintings, and sculpture. The distinctive genius of every country, and every school, seemed there to find its fitting place. Happy was the man who was thus able to gratify< his love of the noble and the beautiful — happier still, that he was gifted with the sensibility to enjoy his precious possessions!”