A few months ago,[*] at the great age of eighty-seven, Bryan Waller Procter, familiarly and honorably known in English literature for sixty years past as “Barry Cornwall,” calmly “fell on sleep.” The schoolmate of Lord Byron and Sir Robert Peel at Harrow, the friend and companion of Keats, Lamb, Shelley, Coleridge, Landor, Hunt, Talfourd, and Rogers, the man to whom Thackeray “affectionately dedicated” his “Vanity Fair,” one of the kindest souls that ever gladdened earth, has now joined the great majority of England’s hallowed sons of song. No poet ever left behind him more fragrant memories, and he will always be thought of as one whom his contemporaries loved and honored. No harsh word will ever be spoken by those who have known him of the author of “Marcian Colonna,” “Mirandola,” “The Broken Heart,” and those charming lyrics which rank the poet among the first of his class. His songs will be sung so long as music wedded to beautiful poetry is a requisition anywhere. His verses have gone into the Book of Fame, and such pieces as “Touch us gently, Time,” “Send down thy winged Angel, God,” “King Death,” “The Sea,” and “Belshazzar is King,” will long keep his memory green. Who that ever came habitually into his presence can forget the tones of his voice, the tenderness in his gray retrospective eyes, or the touch of his sympathetic hand laid on the shoulder of a friend! The elements were indeed so kindly mixed in him that no bitterness or rancor or jealousy had part or lot in his composition. No distinguished person was ever more ready to help forward the rising and as yet nameless literary man or woman who asked his counsel and warm-hearted suffrage. His mere presence was sunshine to a new-comer into the world of letters and criticism, for he was always quick to encourage, and slow to disparage anybody. Indeed, to be human only entitled any one who came near him to receive the gracious bounty of his goodness and courtesy. He made it the happiness of his life never to miss, whenever opportunity occurred, the chance of conferring pleasure and gladness on those who needed kind words and substantial aid.
[Footnote *: October, 1874.]
His equals in literature venerated and loved him. Dickens and Thackeray never ceased to regard him with the deepest feeling, and such men as Browning and Tennyson and Carlyle and Forster rallied about him to the last. He was the delight of all those interesting men and women who habitually gathered around Rogers’s famous table in the olden time, for his manner had in it all the courtesy of genius, without any of that chance asperity so common in some literary circles. The shyness of a scholar brooded continually over him and made him reticent, but he was never silent from ill-humor. His was that true modesty so excellent in ability, and so rare in celebrities petted for a long time in society. His was also that happy alchemy of mind which transmutes disagreeable things into golden and ruby colors like the dawn. His temperament was the exact reverse of Fuseli’s, who complained that “nature put him out.” A beautiful spirit has indeed passed away, and the name of “Barry Cornwall,” beloved in both hemispheres, is now sanctified afresh by the seal of eternity so recently stamped upon it.