(Major Robert) Calder Campbell

(1798-1857)

Contributions to The Germ:

II.
Sonnet

Campbell retired from the Indian army in 1839, and was introduced to the Rossettis in 1847 by sculptor Alexander Munro. He was a minor writer who contributed to literary annuals and published three volumes of poems, a novel, and his memoirs. Lays from the East (1831), his first poetry collection, is reported inscrutable today, but The Palmer's Last Lesson (1838) -- in its epigraph as well as its contents -- prominently displays the influence of Keats, who was not a common taste at the time. Nonetheless, both volumes were highly praised.

Considered Dante Gabriel Rossetti's first literary mentor, Campbell was presumably responsible for the cult of Keats among the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He campaigned for the publication of "My Sister's Sleep" in the Ladies' Journal and consistently encouraged Dante Gabriel Rossetti's efforts in writing. In 1850, perhaps inspired by the feverish activity of the young Rossettis, Campbell published The Winter Nights, which included a vignette titled "Lo Zingaro," in which the heroine's middle-aged father was called Rossetti.

Besides exerting such an indisputably formidable influence, Campbell was also instrumental in securing William Michael Rossetti his post (as an unpaid picture reviewer) at the Critic. Yet William Michael Rossetti wrote of him in Family Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti:
To pretend that he was an author of high mark, or capable of something greatly better than what he gave forth, would be futile; but he was a lively writer in a minor way, an amusing chatty talker, who had seen many things here and there, and knew something of the world, and a straightforward, most unassuming gentleman, whose society could do nothing but good to a youth like Rossetti. (110-111)

For William Michael Rossetti, at least, his role in The Germ can perhaps be summed up by the 15 November 1849 description of "Calder Campbell, who offers his services for the magazine, and will hunt up subscribers."