hold-over from the Age of Sentiment with greater kinship to Gray and Sterne rather Byron, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, Rogers outlived the Romantic Era, during which he had scored commercial and artistic success with The Pleasures of Memory (1792) and the collection of verse tales, Italy (1828). He enthusiatically supported younger writers in the first half of the nineteenth century, particularly young Charles Dickens, whom Rogers met at one of Lady Holland's entertainments at Holland House. Rogers, with an income of some 5,000 pounds per annum after his retirement from his father's bank (having been made a partner at age twenty-one and head of the firm at age thirty), retired at age forty, and settled down to a rich bachelor's comfortable life, collecting art and giving breakfast parties in St. James's Place.
Although that most scrupulous and exhaustive of Dickens's biographers, Peter Ackroyd, is silent about the poet and art collector Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) as a member of the Dickens Circle, John Forster in his Life (1872-4), Hesketh Pearson (1949), and Fred Kaplan (1988) all mention how the old banker would turn up at various Dickens dinners:
When The Old Curiosity Shop was published in 1841, [Dickens] dedicated it to another, even more patriarchal representative [than actor-manager William Macready] of the older generation, the lame banker-poet Samuel Rogers, known for his cruelly sharp tongue, his humanitarian principles, and his celebrated breakfasts. (91)
When the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited England, Dickens introduced him to his circle of London friends, including Macready, Maclise, Stanfield, Cruikshank, Carlyle, Landor, Thomas Hood, and Samuel Rogers. According to Forster, in 1841 Dickens "greatly enjoyed a quiet setting-down of Moore by Rogers at Sir Francis Burdett's table, for talking exaggerated toryism" (Volume One, Chapter Ten, p. 101). On 13 September 1841 Dickens attended at dinner at Rogers's, whom Dickens complimented to Forster for reformist sentiments, particularly with respect to working conditions in factories. As late as 12 May 1849, the bachelor connoisseur was still attending dinner- and -music parties hosted by Dickens, and was one of the select group that attended the Copperfield dinner. Forster's biography also contains a brief account of how, when Dickens was first working on that novel, Rogers apparently passed out after drinking to excess:
Rogers had to be borne out, having fallen sick at the table, but, as we rose soon after to quit the dining-room, Mrs. Jules Benedict had quite suddenly followed the poet's lead, and fallen prostrate on the carpet in the midst of us. . . . . and the banquet so dolefully interrupted ended in uproarious mirth. For nothing really serious had happened. Benedict went laughing away with his wife, and I helped Rogers on with his over-shoes for his usual night-walk home. "Do you know how many waistcoats I wear?" asked the poet of me [Dickens], as I was doing him this service. I professed my inability to guess. "Five!" he said: "and here they are!" Upon which he opened them, in the manner of the gravedigger in Hamlet, and showed me every one. [Volume Two, Ch. 6, p. 57-58]
Dickens dedicated Master Humphrey's Clock, which appeared between 4 April 1840 and 4 December 1841, to the kind-hearted but sharp-tongued Samuel Rogers, and when The Old Curiosity Shop appeared in volume form, it too was dedicated to Rogers, who is reputed to have been the basis for Grandfather Smallweed in Bleak House.
Although written in the earlier eighteenth-century manner, in rhyming couplets, rather than the blank verse of Italy (1822-8), Samuel Rogers's two part poem on the processes and benevolent powers of vivid recollection, The Pleasures of Memory, initially published in 1792, became one of the most successful late Romantic illustrated books when Moxon brought out a splendid edition between 1830 and 1834, at a cost of 15,000 pounds, complete with 114 illustrations by J. M. W. Turner and T. Stothard (the earliest editions had but two plates by Stothard). Like Dickens's The Haunted Man, Rogers's poem demonstrates the power of memory to soften the harsher emotions of sorrow and despair into a gentle melancholy:
"When sleep has suspended the organs of sense from their office, she [Memory] not only supplies the mind with images, but assists in their combination. And even in madness itself, when the soul is resigned over to the tyranny of a distempered imagination, she revives past perceptions, awakens that train of thought which was formerly most familiar." [Rogers, 1793, "Analysis of the Second Part," p. 39]
Like Dickens in the Christmas Books a full half-century later, Rogers describes the positive effects of memories both sad and pleasant through a process whereby objects and scenes serve as conduits to the images and associated feelings of byegone days. In both the Christmas Books and The Pleasures of Memory, the illustrations emphasize objective, external realities that are shaded and refined by the passage of time rather than the process of association and remembrance itself. It is likely, given his relationship with the elder poet, that Dickens was familiar with the celebrated poem, and that the theme of memory's beneficent on the moral life of a desensitized individual such as Scrooge or Redlaw was suggested to the young novelist by Rogers's sentimental poem.
"Bibliography, V. Lesser Poets, 1790-1837, 1. Samuel Rogers." http://www.bartleby.com/222/0500.html
Cambridge Biographical Dictionary, ed., Magnus Magnusson and Rosemary Goring. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge U. P., 1990.
Forster, John. The Life of Charles Dickens in Two Volumes with Illustrations. The Charles Dickens Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, [n. d.].
Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography. New York: William Morrow, 1988.
Pearson, Hesketh. Dickens: His Comedy, Character, and Career. London: Cassell, 1949.
Rogers, Samuel. "The Pleasures of Memory" with Some Other Poems. Il. T. Stothard. London: T. Caddell and C. Dilly, 1793.
_____. The Pleasures of Memory. Il. J. M. W. Turner and T. Stothard. London: E. Moxon and T. Caddell, 1834.
Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1999.
Last modified 14 September 2004