Friday 26 March 2010

'Here Rogers sat...'

I've written before about the pleasure of sitting in the dry in Holland Park and looking out at the rain. Earlier I was doing just that, from a comfortable bench in a south-facing alcove, enjoying the lusty singing of the blackbirds and robins all around. Over this bench is an elegantly lettered plaque bearing the couplet:
'Here Rogers sat, and here for ever dwell
With me those pleasures that he sings so well.'
Rogers? The only literary Rogers I know is the all but forgotten 19th-century poet Samuel Rogers - and surely that couplet sounds Augustan? But no, a little online research revealed that the lines were written by Lord Holland to commemorate his friend Samuel Rogers, the poet and conversationist who, it turns out, was a popular member of the Holland House set. Rogers was one of those figures who loom very large in their time, less for what they have written but for their conversation - Rogers' was sharp, fluent and witty, by all accounts - and their prodigious abilities as mixers. Rogers moved in the highest circles, both literary and social - the kind of man who knew everybody and was invited everywhere. Like T.S. Eliot (though in no other respect), he began as a banker before turning full time to the literary life. His greatest success was Italy: A Poem, a travelogue in verse which initially flopped, but which he cannily reissued with fine illustrations by Turner, Stothard and others - suddenly it was the book everyone had to have, if only on their coffee table. De luxe editions still fetch thousands of pounds in the antiquarian book market - for the binding and the pictures; nobody is interested in Rogers' all too perishable lines. Despite (or because of?) his limited gifts, he was, towards the end of his long life, offered the Laureateship - but, to his credit, turned it down in favour of Tennyson. Oddly, one line of his survives and thrives: it seems he originated 'To know her was to love her'. Thus something of Rogers lives on in countless funeral eulogies - and, with a slight adjustment of tense, in a Beatles song. And I have sat where Rogers sat...

1 comment:

  1. "But to see her was to love her, Love but her, and love forever" was Burns. Who adapted whom (if either)?