The Maclise Portrait-Gallery/Tydus-Pooh-Pooh


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OUR MAN OF GENIUS.

Sandwich Islands! Behold the bard, who, erst, in his native country, degenerate England, sang unhonoured and unpraised—how praised, how honoured now! Not only is his Hyperion brow with

'Laureate crown adorned,'

and he reigns the undisputed monarch of Owhyheian literature, but he also rejoices in the knowledge that England at length bows to the supremacy of his genius— that his country proudly glories in her son."

Further on in the pages of Fraser (vol. xxi. p. 22), it may be read that this queer enigmatical plate is "merely a joke, the point of which is now forgotten." It was probably best so then, and even now the little mystery may not be worth the pains of elucidation. I would, however, just hint, suggestively and interrogatively, that the original of this odd caricature portrait was no other than the celebrated scholar, linguist, and political economist. Dr.,—more recently Sir John,—Bowring, so well known by his translations from the Russian, Servian, Polish, Magyar, Danish, Swedish, Frisian, Dutch, Esthonian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Icelandic poetry. Are we not to regard the strange effigy as a symbol or type of a concealed individuality.'* I fancy that it is possible to trace in the countenance before us, disfigured as it is, the features of the eminent scholar with whom I would associate it; and comparing it, as I do at this moment, with the engraved portrait by W. Holl, from the painting by B. E. Duppa, I feel the more confirmed in my opinion. Then again, is it not intended that the very name, "Bow-ring," is intended to be evolved, rebus fashion, either from the sort of bow which may be discerned in the head-gear, or more feasibly the bower in the back, and the ring which adorns the nasal organ of the principal figure? Anyway, I refer the curious to Fraser's Magazine, vol. iii. p. 334, for a clue which their ingenuity may enable them to follow up with success.

Sir John Bowring was born at Exeter in 1792. He became in early life (1820) the friend and political pupil of Jeremy Bentham, whose principles he advocated in the Westminster Review, established in 1823, and carried on by the aid of funds supplied by the latter. Of this the editorial duties were at first discharged conjointly by Mr. Southern and himself; then by himself alone, till, later on, they fell into the hands of Colonel Perronet Thompson, the celebrated author of the Catechism of the Corn Laws, and justly considered one of the most able and eloquent advocates of the Utilitarian Philosophy. Dr. Bowring subsequently acted as executor to his master,—wrote his life, with no very great ability or success,—and edited his works, in ill-arranged, ill-printed, incorrect, and incomplete fashion. The following lines from his pen, are little known, and are worthy of preservation:—

"JEREMY BENTHAM.

"I have travell'd the world, and that old man's fame,
  Wherever I went, shone brightly ;
 To his country alone, belongs the shame
  To think of his labours lightly.

"The words of wisdom I oft have heard
  From that old man's bosom falling ;
 And ne'er to my soul had wisdom appear'd
  So lovely and so enthralling.

"No halo was round that old man's head;
  But his locks as the rime frost hoary,
 While the wind with their snowy relics play'd,
  Seemed fairer than crown of glory.

"In him have I seen, what I joy to see,—
  In divinest union blended,
 An infant-child's simplicity,
  With a sage's state attended.

"He dwells, like a sun, the world above,
  Though by folly and envy shrouded,
 But soon shall emerge in the light of love,
  And pursue his path unclouded.

"That sun shall the mists of night disperse,
  Whose fetters so long have bound it;
 The centre of its own universe,
  And thousands of planets round it."


But deeply versed as Dr. Bowring was in the economics of literature and commerce, it is rather as a polylinguist that he is especially to be remembered. In this regard he was more remarkable than Cardinal Mezzofanti himself, as his acquirements were not merely verbal, but made ancillary to literary purposes. He himself estimated the number of languages which he knew, at two hundred, of which he spoke one hundred. Credat Judæus. Forty he is said to have known critically, including many from different classes. He retained his marvellous powers to the last; and, dying at his residence, Mount Radford, in the vicinity of his native city, November 23rd, 1872, in the eighty-first year of his age, stood, so far as I know, at the head of the linguists of the world.

Sir John Bowring served his Government ten years in China, as Plenipotentiary and Chief Superintendent of Trade. His salary for the discharge of the duties of this important office was £4000 per annum; and on his retirement in July, 1859, he had a pension of one-third of the amount conferred upon him, which he continued to receive till his death. This may seem a large amount for a short service; but it must be remembered that he had brought special acquirements to his duties, and had rendered important services to the state.

Dying thus, in easy retirement, and close to the place of his birth, the prophecy of Fraser was not, in his case, fulfilled:—

"By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed,
By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed,
By foreign hands thy humble grave adorn'd,
By strangers honoured, and by strangers mourn'd."