1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Maginn

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine NS 18 (October 1842) 435.



Aug. 20. At Walton-upon-Thames, in his 49th year, William Maginn, LL.D.

Dr. Maginn was a native of the city of Cork, and at an unusually early age (in his tenth year) he entered the University of Dublin, under the tuition of Dr. Kyle, afterwards Provost, and now Bishop of Cork, one of the most distinguished classical scholars of his time. The uncommon talents of young Maginn, and his undeviating success, entirely won the attachment of the rigid tutor, — an attachment that lasted to the close of Maginn's life. He attained the degree of LL.D. in 1816, at the age of twenty-three. He was one of the earliest correspondents of the Literary Gazette, and having removed from his native country to Edinburgh, became, 1818-19-20, a constant and striking contributor to Blackwood's celebrated magazine. Therein the famous Hebrew MS., and consequent law-suit and commotion, may be attributed to him ("O'Doherty"); and his intimate connection with such distinguished persons as Wilson, Lockhart, Hamilton, and others, led to the expansion of his views, and had a considerable and guiding influence upon his future and varied fortunes.

He returned to Cork for a while, and thence coming to London in 1823, continued his literary pursuits with vigour and activity. Of this, the singular romance of "Whitehall" was one of the most ostensible proofs; but his other and less known employments were multiplied and incessant. For the first sixteen months he edited a Wednesday newspaper, belonging to Mr. Shackell, which was his inducement to settle in the metropolis. We believe he resided in Paris in 1825-6, through an engagement with Mr. Murray. About 1828-9 he joined the "Standard" newspaper, and till nearly the period of his death was more or less intimately connected with that journal, which his ardent Tory, or Conservative, articles, and his admirable skill as a political controversialist, justly raised in reputation and efficacy as the organ of a great party in the State.

In 1830 Maginn began a new career in "Fraser's Magazine," to which his contributions for the last twelve years have been most miscellaneous and excellent. These alone, being collected, are enough to establish his fame as an able critic and accomplished scholar.

Dr. Maginn was a good linguist, endowed with a vivid and prolific fancy, and full to overflowing of that riotous, mercurial, extravagant humour, which is admired so much in Rabelais. At times, he could be sternly, bitterly sarcastic; no man more so; but, generally speaking, the leading quality of his humour was bon-hommie. A more invincibly good-natured wag than Sir Morgan O'Doherty, never delighted the multitudinous readers of "Blackwood." In his private capacity, the Doctor was social, warm-hearted, thoughtless, and ever ready to assist destitute literary men, and, indeed, all who applied to him for pecuniary aid. Considering the hectic, feverish life he led, his flow of spirits was remarkable; and it is little to be wondered at that his habits of good-fellowship were not those best calculated to establish his worldly fortunes. He has left a widow and three children (a son and two daughters) dependent on the bounty of his friends.

His body was interred on the 20th August in Walton churchyard.