Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Campbell, James Dykes

CAMPBELL, JAMES DYKES (1838–1895), biographer of Coleridge, born at Port Glasgow on 2 Nov. 1838, was second son and third child of Peter Campbell. His grandfather, Duncan Campbell, was a ship-wright of Glasgow, and his mother, Jean, was daughter of James Dykes, his grandfather's partner. Campbell was sent to the burgh school at Port Glasgow at six, and there received a sound elementary education, but he left school in 1852 for a merchant's office in his native town. On his father's death, in 1854, the family removed to Glasgow, where Campbell was employed in the house of Messrs. Cochrane & Co., manufacturers of 'Verreville pottery.' There he found leisure for much study of English literature.

In April 1860 he went to Canada on behalf of his employers and stayed for two years at Toronto. A rare talent for making friends had already manifested itself, and at Toronto he speedily became a member of a very pleasant society, which included Edwin Hatch [q. v.] and other men of literary or scientific reputation. Campbell had for some years closely studied Tennyson, and had collected early editions of his works. It occurred to him to print privately a small volume giving from Tennyson's 'Poems chiefly Lyrical' (1830) and from his 'Poems' (1833) such pieces as the poet had afterwards suppressed, as well as a list of alterations made in those pieces which he had retained in later editions. The work duly appeared under the title 'Poems mdcccxxx-mdcccxxxiii. Privately printed, 1862;' it is a foolscap octavo of 112 pages in light-green wrappers. A publisher in London procured a copy, and prepared to publish it, but Tennyson obtained an injunction prohibiting the issue of the book, copies of which are now very scarce.

After returning to Glasgow in 1862 Campbell started in business for himself, but continued to gratify his liking for literary research. In 1864 he purchased accidentally a volume containing manuscript materials in Addison's autograph for three papers — 'of imagination, jealousy, and fame' — that were ultimately published in Addison and Steele's 'Spectator.' Accordingly in 1864 Campbell privately printed 250 copies of a blue-covered pamphlet entitled 'Some Portions of Spectator Papers. Printed from Mr. Addison's MS.' The genuineness of the manuscript, although it was impugned at the time by critics in the 'Athenæum,' was fully established.

In 1866 Campbell made a trip to Bombay, and at the end of the year accepted a proposal to join a mercantile firm in Mauritius. After some vicissitudes Campbell became in 1873 a partner of Ireland, Fraser, & Co., the leading firm of merchants in the island. Thenceforth his position was assured.

In Mauritius Campbell made numerous friends, and on 13 Nov. 1875 he married Mary Sophia, elder daughter of General F. R. Chesney, who held command in the island. In 1878 Campbell and his wife revisited Europe. In England they travelled through the lake district of Cumberland, carefully going over the ground sacred to Coleridge and Wordsworth. In 1881 Campbell found himself able to retire from business on a moderate competency. He finally left Mauritius in June 1881, and after a tour in Italy, in the course of which he formed a close friendship with the American author, Mr. Charles Dudley Warner, he settled in 1882 in a flat at Kensington. There he remained for six years and formed new friendships with men and women of letters, coming to know Mrs. Procter and Robert Browning very intimately. He acted as honorary secretary of the Browning Society which Dr. Furnivall and Miss Hickey had founded in 1882.

Campbell now mainly concentrated his attention on the biography of Coleridge, and he acquired a most thorough knowledge of the history not only of Coleridge, but of the whole circle of his friends. For many years he contributed valuable notes and reviews on that and cognate subjects to the 'Athenæum.' The massive result of his minute labours appeared as a 'biographical introduction' to a new edition of Coleridge's poetical works in 1893, and proved a monument of erudition, concisely packed into the narrowest possible limits. Next year Campbell's introduction reappeared, as it deserved, in a separate volume entitled 'Samuel Taylor Coleridge; a Narrative of the Events of his Life.'

Meanwhile, owing to his wife's ill-health, Campbell had removed from Kensington to St. Leonards in 1889. There he characteristically added to his acquaintance congenial neighbours like Coventry Patmore [q. v. Suppl.] and Dr. W. A. Greenhill [q. v. Suppl.] Subsequently deaths of friends and pecuniary losses troubled him, and his health showed signs of failure. He removed to Tunbridge Wells early in 1895, but alarming symptoms soon developed, and he died on 1 June 1895. He was buried in the churchyard of Frant. His wife survived him. He had no children.

Campbell was, as Mr. Leslie Stephen has pointed out, of that type of Scotsman which appreciates Burns's poetry more than the theology of John Knox. His cordiality and power of sympathy were exceptional, and while the value of his literary work rests on the thoroughness of his researches into bibliographical and biographical problems, he had no little critical insight, nor did he lack the faculty of appreciating literature for its own sake.

After his death there appeared 'Coleridge's Poems. A Facsimile Reproduction of the Proofs and MSS. of some of the Poems. Edited by the late James Dykes Campbell. With preface and notes by W. Hale White' (Westminster, 1899; fifty copies on large paper and 250 copies on small). A second edition of his 'Coleridge' was issued in 1896 with a memoir of him by Mr. Leslie Stephen.

[The memoir by Campbells friend, Mr. Leslie Stephen, prefixed to a reissue of Campbell's biography of Coleridge in 1896; notices by Canon Ainger and Sir Walter Besant in the Athenæum, 8 June 1895, and by Mr. Stephen in the same paper on 15 June; Times, 6 June 1895, and Illustrated London News, 8 June.]

S. L.