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his celebrated poems,
“ The Vine-covered Hills," and “ Millions be Free." He also translated one of Petrarch's odes, which was inserted in the Mercurio Italico. Those compositions are deservedly classed among the most elegant and classical productions in the English language. .
While France maintained her long contested struggle with this country and the combined powers, Mr. Roscoe devoted himself to his immortal work, the history of Lorenzo de Medici, It was began in 1790, and completed in 1796. Its reputation did not stand in need of adventitious aid. Public feeling had determined its character, even before the tribunal of criticism had time to derogate from, or emblazon its merits. Even the Cynical Mathias, who seems to have prided himself in scoffing at merit of the highest order, has not ventured to impeach the character of this work, and we believe the lines which he has devoted to its praise, are some of the happiest in his “ Pursuits of Literature.
We are informed, that when Mr. Roscoe undertook his “Life of Lorenzo de Medici," he lived at the distance of two miles from Liverpool, whither he was obliged daily to repair, to attend the business of his office. T'he dry and tedious details of law, occupied his attention during the whole of the morning and afternoon ; his evenings, alone, he was able to dedicate to study: and it will be easily conceived, that a gentleman surrounded by a numerous family, and whose company was courted by his friends, must have experienced, even at these hours, a variety of interruptions. No public library provided him with materials.
The rare books which he had occasion to consult, he was obliged to procure in London, at a considerable expense. But in the midst of all these difficulties, the work grew under his hands; and in order that it might be printed under his own immediate inspection, he established an excellent press in the town of Liverpool.
Shortly after the publication of this work, Mr. Roscoe abandoned the profession of an attorney, and entered himself at Gray's Inn, with a view of becoming a barrister. He availed himself of the leisure which he derived from this circumstance, and began to study the Greek language, in which, we are told, he made very considerable proficiency,
The Life of Lorenzo de Medici,” made too strong an impression on the public mind, to suffer its aythor to pursue in peace the practice of a profession for which, though he was one of its highest ornaments, nature had never intended him. He was called upon by the general voice of the public to write the life of the celebrated patron of literature, “ Leo the Tenth," the son of Lorenzo, who was also the Mecenas of his age. Mr. Roscoe engaged in the work with a sort of filial devotion to the memory of a family, whose fame will descend to the latest posterity. He found Leo not to be the patron of genius and the Mecenas of his age, but, in fact, the actual reviver of literature in Europe. He recognized in him all those attributes of munificence and princely bounty, which characterized his father Lorenzo. His popularity suffered considerably, however, for a time, because he dared to do justice to a man whose creed was at variance with his own, but, whose actions and conduct through life have commanded the esteem and admiration of mankind. To do justice to an enemy, is the distinguishing characteristic of a noble and liberal mind; and yet Mr. Roscoe's liberality has been termed bigotry and infidelity, by those whose expansion of sentiment never ventures to extend itself beyond the niggard pale of their theological creed. We are told he is an apologist for popery, by those very people who accuse him of republicanism and licentiousness of religious opinions, The public, however, have subsequently done justice to his Life of Leo the Tenth.
While he was engaged in the completion of this work, he was invited to become chief partner in the banking house of Clarke and Sons, at Liverpool ; a situation which he reluctantly, and we regret to say, unfortunately accepted. He was also a zealous advocate of Mr. Fox's political principles, and in 1806, stood candidate for the representation of his native town, at the solicitation of the whigs who were then in office. He was triumphantly returned, but his friends having retired from office the following year, he judged it prudent to decline another contest. It should not, however, be forgotten, that, during his short parliamentary career, he was very instrumental in abolishing the African slave trade. He published some political pamphlets after retiring from parliament; and though they were received by one party with abuse, and by the other with unqualified applause, all parties acknowledged they were dictated by a spirit of moderation and mildness, which seldom characterize the productions of polemical controvertists.
While he was thus actively engaged, a series of unforeseen circumstances led the banking house to suspend payment. The creditors, however, had so much confidence in Mr. Roscoe's integrity, that the bank was afforded time to recover from its embarrassment; and Mr. Roscoe, on first entering the bank after this accommodation, was loudly greeted by the populace. The difficulties, however, in which the bank was placed, rendered it impossible for the proprietors to make good their engagements. Mr. Roscoe did all that could be expected from an honest man: he gave up the whole of his property to satisfy his creditors. His library, which was very extensive, and consisted principally of Italian works, was the only sacrifice which he had reason to regret ; as it deprived him of that intellectual society which he found in communing with, and imbibing the sentiments of kindred minds. The failure of the bank is supposed to have been occasioned by the great number of other failures which took place at that time.
Mr. Roscoe, when young, was extremely handsome. His countenance was open and generous, and his deportment dignified and majestic. He has long enjoyed the honour of ranking at the head of the circles of taste in Liverpool ; and has always evinced himself the friend and patron of genius. Whoever was fortunate enough to receive a letter of recommendation to him, was certain of being noticed and patronized in Liverpool. Minasi, the celebrated musician, was indebted to him for his early popularity. He was recommended to him by Mr. Smith, of the British Museum ; a gentleman universally respected for his
urbanity of manners, and polite attention to all who have occasion to visit that valuable collection of literary and scientific curiosities.
Though born of humble parentage, Mr. Roscoe has .evinced through life, that unaffected dignity of manner, that delicate sense of honour, and that pride of acting up to its most rigid and jealous dictates, which prove, that the principle which constitutes true greatness of mind, is not the exclusive birth right of ancestry. He is a zealous advocate for the rights of mankind, and the voice of freedom inspired him to sing “ The Wrongs of Africa,” and to pourtray them with a spirit and strength of colouring, that gave a new impetus to the enthusiasm which animated the friends of liberty at the time, and which eventually restored the degraded African to that equal freedom, which is the birth-right of the human race.
i It was this love of liberty, or rather the great and generous emotions which it awakens in the soul, that inspired him, when he breathed the following impassioned strains :
There Afric's swarthy sons, their toils repeat;