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WITH A PORTRAIT, DRAWN AND ENGRAVED BY J. THOMPSON.
“ Full many a gem of purest ray serene
These lines are peculiarly appli- quainted with writing and arithcable to the birth and parentage, metic. Through an obstinacy of of Mr. Roscoe. He was a “ gem,' temper, however, which, in many produced in obscurity, whose lustre minds, is the forerunner of genius, did not seem intended for the gaze and Roscoe could not be prevailed upon admiration of mankind; but, happily, to submit to the tame drudgery of he was destined to emerge from the scholastic discipline ; and, conselowliness of his situation, and to sur- quently, he did not avail himself mount the difficulties, which the hu- even of the small advantages of edumility of his birth had opposed to his cation, which his parents were able advancement and literary fame. He to afford him. Indolence, however, was born at Liverpool, of obscure was not the character of his mind; parents. Both his father and mo- and though he would not attend ther were engaged in the service of school, he studied assiduously at a batchelor, a gentleman of the home. He began early to perceive most amiable and generous disposi- the advantages of thinking for bimtion, in whose service it is probable self, on every occasion, and the hathey first became acquainted. A mu
bits of thought and mental applicatual attachment became the conse- tion soon gave evidence of that quence of this acquaintance, and it genius, which has since shone forth was approved of by their master, to with so pure a lustre. At this pewhom their fidelity had strongly re- riod, however, he studied things, commended them. They were, con
not words. He endeavoured to resequently, married with his consent, solve into their individual elements, and young Roscoe, their first-born, all his general conceptions, and to was brought up at his expense.- form general theories from an agHaving died without an heir, he gregate of individual principles.left the greater part, if not the entire He pursued nature through her of his property, to the subject of mazy march, and the wizard perour memoir.
plexity of her course was not more It does not appear that bis patron unaccountable to him, than the vapaid any attention to his early edu- riety of appearances and dresses cation, and his father had no higher which she assumed, at every deviaambition than of making him ac- tion from her direct course, But
while he was thus endeavouring felt his situation very poignantly, to combine the kindred, and sepa. but it was not a feeling that rerate the heterogeneous attributes of mained dormant in his breast. He things, he seemed to be perfectly found a new passion awake in his bofree from the dominion of that rest- som, and he was no longer prompted less spirit which pants after fame; to study by that spirit of idle cuand his studies to have been deter- riosity, which proposes to itself no mined by no other stimulus than final object. Pride and ambition the desire of gratifying that imme- took immediate possession of him, diate thirst of knowledge, which, in and he henceforth yielded to their nim, was rather an instinct than the restless but inspiring influence. He result of mature deliberation. He now thirsted after knowledge, benever reflected, that the treasures of cause he felt its value, and he spurned intellectual knowledge, which he was that effeminacy which delights to linamassing at this early period, might ger in the softer recesses of science, lead either to the promotion of his and darcs not pursue her to her most future interests, or literary reputa- formidable and difficult retreats.tion. He studied, because study He immediately procured Cicero's was pleasing to him,-because the treatise de Amicitia, and, by a percharms of science, the captivating petual recurrence to his Grammar scenes of ideal creations, and the and Dictionary, he soon became acsyren images of imagination and the quainted with elegancies of style, muse, were perpetually hovering and beauties of diction, which no art around him in sportive maze, and could transfer to his native tongue. communicating a secret gratification He did not rest his career, however, to the most simple occurrences and till he became a perfect master of occupations of his youth. As pre- the Roman language, and intimately sent enjoyment and not prospective acquainted with the best Latin poets advantages was, therefore, the secret and historiáns. In the accomplishmagnet by which he was attracted, ment of this arduous task, he derived he totally néglected the study of very considerable assistance from his languages
, in which there is nothing intercourse with Mr. Francis Holden. to gratify or enchant the youthful A knowledge of the Latin tongue mind. Å knowledge of Greek and was not, however, sufficient to satisfy Latin is an endless source of plea- his ambition. He now applied himsure to him who possesses it, but self to the study of French and until a language is known, this plea- Italian, in the latter of which, he is sure can have no existence, and universally allowed to be as proRoscoe 'entered only into those foundly versed as the most distinregions of science, where every guished of its native writers. When prospect presented some
we reflect, that he acquired this tic imagery. He was awoke, how- knowledge during the interval of ever, from his fairy dreams, by business, and never absented himself engaging in more active pursuits, from the duties of his office, we must pursuits, in which the idealisms of the acknowledge it is an instance of appoet, and the hypotheses of the phi- plication which has few parallels in losopher, are equally unknown. He the history of literature was articled to Mr. Eyes, a respect- His first passion for poetry and able attorney in Liverpool, and now, works of imagination, though it was for the first time, he was made moderated for a time by the toil of acquainted with the difference bes
more rigid pursuits, assumed its tween practical and speculative ac- original strength and energy, after quirements. A clerk in the office he became acquainted with the Latin, boasted one day of having read French, and Italian poets. His first Cicero de Amicitia, and commented production, accordingly, was a brillargely on the classic elegance and liant effusion of imagination. He simplicity of the illustrious Roman ; wrote " Mount Pleasant" in his six and Roscoe, though much more teenth year; and, we must say, that deeply versed in general literature, we know of no poem, composed at was obliged to remain silent, and 80 early a period, that consbines tacitly acknowledge a conscious such fertility of idea with such cor, sense of his own inferiority. He rectness of taste.
We are told that, after the expira- was inserted in the Mercurio Italico. tion of his clerkship, he was taken These compositions are deservedly into partnership by Mr. Aspinwall, classed among the most elegant and a very respectable attorney of Liver- classical productions in the English pool; and the entire management of language. an office, extensive in practice, and While France maintained her long high in reputation, devolved upon contested struggle with this country him alone. In this situation, he and the combined powers, Mr. Rosconducted himself in such a manner, coe devoted himself to his immortal as to gain universal respect, for not- work, the History of Lorenzo de withstanding his various pursuits, Medici. It was began in 1790, and he paid strict attention to his pro- completed in 1796. Its reputation fession, and acquired a liberal and did dot stand in need of adventitious minute knowledge of law. In clear- aid. Public feeling had determined ness of comprehension, and rapidity its character even before the tribunal of dispatch, he had few equals. of criticism had time to derogate
About this time he formed an in- from, or emblazon its merits. Even timacy with the late Dr. Enfield, who the cynical Mathias, who seems to was at the academy of Warrington, have prided himself in scoffing at a tutor in the belles lettres. When merit of the highest order, has not he published the second volume of ventured to impeach the character of the Speaker, Mr. Roscoe supplied this work, and we believe the lines him with an “Elegy to Pity,” and an which he has devoted to its praise “Ode to Education." About the same are some of the happiest in his "Purtime, he became acquainted with Dr. suits of Literature. Aikin, who was then resident at We are informed, that when Mr. Warrington. These gentlemen were Roscoe undertook his “Life of Lonot less admirers of his refined and
renzo de Medici,” he lived at the elegant manner as a writer, than of distance of two miles from Liverhis chaste and classical taste in paint- pool, whither he was obliged daily ing and sculpture. In December, to repair, to attend the business of 1773, he recited before the society his office. The dry and tedious deformed in Liverpool for the encou- tails of law occupied his attention ragement of drawing, painting, &c. during the whole of the morning an ode which was afterwards publish- and afternoon ; his evenings, alone, ed with " Mount Pleasant,” his first he was able to dedicate to study: poetical production. He occasionally and it will be easily conceived, that gave lectures on subjects connected a gentleman surrounded by a numewith the object of this institution, rous family, and whose company was and was a very active member of the courted by his friends, must have society. He also wrote the preface experienced, even at these hours, a to Dalby's Catalogue of Rembrandt's variety of interruptions. No public Etchings, in which he displays not library provided him with materials. only an original view of engraving The rare books which he had occaand painting, but an intimate ac- sion to consult, he was obliged to quaintance with the opinions of the procure in London, at a considerable best writers on the subject. No per- expense. But in the midst of all son saw more clearly the excellencies these difficulties, the work grew unand defects of Rembrandt, and the der his hands; and in order that it causes to which his faults were pro- might be printed under his own imperly owing.
mediate inspection, he established While the Combined Powers were an excellent press in the town of engaged in restoring the ancient or- Liverpool, and submitted to the disder of things in France, Mr. Roscoe gusting toil of correcting the proofs. animated by the rapid glow of youth- Shortly after the publication of ful emotions, and the enthusiasm in- this work, Mr. Roscoe abandoned spired by the love of freedom, at- the profession of an attorney, and entuned his lyre to the cause of liberty, tered bimself at Gray’s-inn, with a and composed his celebrated poems view of becoming a barrister. He “ The Vine-covered Hills,” and uvailed himself of the leisure which “ Millions be Free." He also trans- he derived from this circumstance, lated one of Petrarch's Odes, which and began to study the Greek
language, in which, we are told, he he judged it prudent to decline anomade very considerable proficiency. ther contest. It should not however
The “ Life of Lorenzo de Medici” be forgotten that, during his short had made too strong an impression parliamentary, career, he was very on the public mind to suffer its au- instrumental in abolishing the Af *thor to pursue in peace the practice rican Slave Trade. He published of a profession for which, though some political pamphlets after rehe was one of its highest ornaments, tiring from parliament; and though nature had never intended him. He they were received by one party with was called upon by the general voice abuse, and by the other with anquaof the public to write the life of that lified applause, all parties acknowcelebrated patron of literature,“ Leo leged they were dictated by a spirit the l'enth, the son of Lorenzo, who of moderation and mildness, which was also the Mecenas of his age, seldom characterize the productions Mr. Roscoe engaged in the work of polemical controvertists. with a sort of filial devotion to the While he was thus actively enmemory of a family, whose fame will gaged, a series of unforeseen circumdescend to the latest posterity. He stances led the banking house in found Leo not only to be the patron which he was engaged to suspend of genius and the Mecenas of his payment. The creditors, however, age, but in fact the actual reviver of had so much confidence in Mr. Rosliterature in Europe. He recognized coe's integrity, that the bank was in him all those attributes of muni afforded time to recover from its ficence and sprincely bounty which embarrassments; and Mr. Roscoe, characterized his father Lorenzo, on first entering the bank after this His popularity suffered considerably, accommodation, was loudly greeted however, for a time, because he dared by the populace. The dificulties, to do justice to a man whose creed however, in which the bank was was ať variance with his own, but placed, rendered it impossible for whose actions and conduct through the proprietors to make good their life have commanded the esteem and engagements. Mr. Roscoe did all admiration of mankind. To do jus- that could be expected from an hotice to an enemy is the distinguish- nest man: he gave up the whole of ing characteristic of a noble and li- his property to satisfy his creditors. beral mind; and yet Mr. Roscoe's His library, which was very extenliberality has been termed bigotry sive, and consisted principally of and infidelity, by those whose ex- Italian works, was the only sacripansion of sentiment never ventures fice which he had reason to regret; to extend itself beyond the niggard as it deprived him of that intellectual pale of their theological creed. We society which he found in comare told he is an apologist for po- muning with, and imbibing the senpery, by those very people who ac- timents of kindred minds. The case him of republicanism and licen- failure of the bank is supposed to tiousness of religious opinions. The have been principally occasioned by public, however, have subsequently the great number of other failures done justice to his Life of Leo the which took place at the time. Tenth.
Mr. Roscoe, when young, was While he was engaged in the extremely handsome. His countecompletion of this work, he was in- nance was open and generous, and vited to become chief partner in his deportment dignified and mathe banking, house of Clarke and jestic. He has long enjoyed the Sons, at Liverpool; a situation, honour of ranking at the head of which he reluctantly, and we regret the circles of taste in Liverpool; and to say, unfortunately accepted. He has alwaysevinced himself the friend was always a zealous advocate of and patron of genius. Whoever Mr. Fox's political principles, and was fortunate enough to receive a. in 1806, stood candidate for the re- letter of recommendation to him was presentation of his native town, at the certain of being noticed and patrosolicitation of the whigs who were nized in Liverpool. Minasi, the then in office. He was triumphaptly celebrated musician, was indebted returned, but his friends having re- to him for his early popularity. He tired from office the following year,
was recommended to him by Mr.