JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART, Editor of the Quarterly Review from 1826 to 1853, was born at Glasgow, in Scotland, in 1792. His father was a clergyman coming from Milton-Lockhart, in Lanarkshire, the family seat, which has descended to William Lockhart, the eldest son, now M.P. for Lanarkshire.
Belonging thus to the capital of "the West Countrie," young Lockhart received his education, almost as a matter of course, at the time-honored University (founded 1450) where Wilson had preceded him, not long before. In the days of auld lang syne, a liberal Scot who had also graduated in this University, had appropriated a considerable estate for the purpose of founding Exhibitions, to afford certain selected Glasgow students the means of passing through the more aristocratic and expensive University of Oxford. Lockhart was elected to an Exhibition (or paid Scholarship) in Baliol College, Oxford, the annual emolument of which was estimated at £200 a year, and there completed his education. His career was not marked by any distinguished public honors, but he gained the reputation of having thoroughly succeeded in his classical course, and of having voluntarily acquired, while at Oxford, a familiar acquaintance with French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Having duly graduated as Bachelor of Arts, (he afterwards took the degree of Master, and finally that of Bachelor of Civil Law, preparatory to practice in the Ecclesiastical Courts in England,) Lockhart quitted Oxford, and proceeded upon a Continental tour. This was shortly after the downfall of Napoleon. While in Germany, he became intimate with Goethe, the majestic beauty of whose countenance struck him with as much awe as admiration.
Returning to Scotland, about the time when Blackwood's Magazine was commenced, and fully sharing in its sturdy proprietors strong Toryism and unquenchable hatred of the Edinburgh Review, it was not long before he "flashed his maiden pen" in its pages. His first ascertained assistance was the infusion of a large quantity of bitter local personalities into THE CHALDEE MANUSCRIPT. Hogg publicly and repeatedly accused him of having added nearly all that was mischievous and objectionable to that celebrated article.
This was in October, but, before this, Lockhart had taken the necessary steps (like Wilson) to become a member of the Scottish bar. In process of time he was admitted, and duly attended the Courts in quest of practice, but the aggregate of his bar-earnings must have fallen far short of the £300 which he had to pay, in fees and for stamps, on becoming a "Counsellor."
From the appearance of the Chaldee Manuscript, the two writers upon whom Blackwood placed most reliance, as contributors, were Wilson and Lockhart. Both composed rapidly, but Lockhart never tired. He would dash off, in the, course of one day, thirty-two printed columns, or a whole sheet of Blackwood, and found no difficulty in continuing to cover paper, at the same rapid rate, for ten days consecutively. He used to say (and it was no boast) that he readily could write a whole number of the Magazine in a week.
In May, 1818, he was introduced, at dinner, to Scott, with whom he had a great deal of conversation, chiefly about German literati and their writings, The impression he made on the mind of the mighty Master must have been favorable, for, shortly after, was communicated to him Scott's desire that he (Lockhart) should write the Historical department of Ballantyne's Edinburgh Annual Register for 1816 — a task which Scott had executed in the two preceding years, but could not then accomplish, from pressure of other and more important literary engagements. Acceding to this request, he so frequently met Scott that an intimacy arose between them, and Lockhart became a constant guest at Scott's Sunday dinners, to which none but hearty friends were admitted. In the Life of Scott, it is mentioned what quaint old stories and racy anecdotes used to enliven these select parties, and a promise is there held out, not yet realized, of collecting and recollecting enough of them to make a volume, additional to Scott's works.
During this period, Lockhart's contributions to the Magazine were numerous and important, though wholly anonymous. From time to time, there appeared a series of letters almost exclusively devoted to attacks on "the cockney School of Literature," (whereof Leigh Hunt, William Hazlitt, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley were assumed to be the principal) and the unbounded and sarcastic personalities of these epistles, bearing the signature "Z," exceeded any thing which, up to that time, had been introduced into respectable periodical literature. It was reported and believed that Lockhart was the writer.
In Blackwood, for February, 1819, had appeared a review of "Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk," — a work professing to be written by Dr. Peter Morris, (Pensharpe Hall, Aberystwith. No such book was then published, or written. It was said to contain the Doctor's letters from Edinburgh and Glasgow, during a visit to both places in the winter of 1818-19, treating most freely indeed of the Whigs of Edinbargh — Scottish University Education — the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews — the state of society in Edinburgh and Glasgow — the bar of Scotland, with sketches of its leading members — the famous Glasgow punch — the state of religion, &c. This review, apparently written by Mordecai Mullion, (one of Lockhart's numerous eidolons of the pen,) excited so much curiosity, that "Peter's Letters" was greatly inquired for. In the following month (March, 1819) a further and fuller review was given, with copious extracts, including descriptions of Clerk, Cranstonn, and Jeffrey, the leading lawyers of the place and time,) and the sensation thus created and kept up was so considerable that the actual composition and publication of the work was determined on.
Accordingly, "Peter's Letters" was put into type as fast as written, and emanated, in July, 1819, from Blackwood's as the "second edition." It was, and continues to be, a work of great interest. Twenty years afterwards, Lockhart said, "Nobody but a very young and very thoughtless person could have dreamt of putting forth such a book." Scott, after reading the work twice over, expressed his opinion that Dr. Morris had "got over his ground admirably," only that the general turn of the book was perhaps too favorable, both the state of Scottish public society and of individual character. He added that, every half century, Dr. Morris should revive "to record the fleeting manners of the age, and the interesting features of those who will be known only posterity by their works."
There was abundant outcry against "Peter's Letters," at first, for the author and keenly assaulted and ridiculed the Edinburgh Whigs, but the merit of the work was great, and has carried it into repeated editions. The descriptions of Edinburgh and Glasgow are appreciative and racy, — the sketches of Jeffrey ad his distinguished contemporaries are forcibly, yet delicately done, — the glance at Henry Mackenzie has produced a sun-portrait, so true is it in all respects, — Wilson, Hogg, Playfair, Brewster, Jameson, and Lord Buchan are portraits. So are the theatrical etchings, and the broad, Raeburn-like full-lengths of the Scottish bar, judges and advocates. Very vivid, too, are the delineations of leading book-makers and booksellers, — the con amore criticisms upon the Fine Arts in Scotland, — the faithful account of Abbotsford, and its minstrel lord, — the clerical groupings of the General Assembly of the Scottish Church — the anatomic dissection of society in Edinburgh and Glasgow, — and, in its strange mixture of serious feeling and subdued fun, the account of a Sacrament Sabbath in the country. In truth, the melange was very clever, and made its way.
Some of its success was collateral. The work contained several well-engraved portraits (some, like Hogg's, dashed with caricature,) which gave it great value. Among these were Professors Leslie, Playfair, and Jameson; my venerable relative, Henry Mackenzie, author of "The Man of Feeling;" John Clerk, of Eldin; Jeffrey; Macqueen of Braxfield; Allan, the painter; Walter Scott; Alison, author of the "Essay on the Principles of Taste," and father of the historian; the Ettrick Shepherd; Dr. Chalmers; and John Wilson. All have departed, but their portraits, as they looked five-and-thirty years ago, flourish greenly and truly in "Peter's Letters."
Lockhart has informed the world, in his Life of Scott, that these letters "were not wholly the work of one hand." This was necessary, perhaps, as Dr. Peter Morris had included Lockhart among his Scottish Worthies. We subjoin, therefore, the character of himself, (which may or may not be the work of another hand,) which Lockhart published in 1819:
"It was on this occasion (a dinner at Mr. Gillies', at Hawthornden) that I had an opportunity of seeing and conversing with Mr. Lockhart, who, as well as Mr. Wilson, is supposed to be one of the principal supporters of this Magazine, and so of judging for myself concerning an individual who seems to have eared very little how many enemies he raised up among those who were not personally acquainted with him. Owing to the satirical vein of some of the writings ascribed to his pen, most persons whom I have heard speak of him, seemed to have been impressed with the notion, that the bias of his character inclined towards an unrelenting subversion of the pretensions of others. But I soon perceived that here was another instance of the incompetency of the crowd to form any rational opinion about persons of whom they see only partial glimpses, and hear only distorted representations. I was not long in his company ere I was convinced that those elements which form the basis of his mind could never find their satisfaction in mere satire, and that if the exercise of penetration had afforded no higher pleasure, nor led to any more desirable result than that of detecting error, or exposing absurdity, there is no person who would sooner have felt an inclination to abandon it in despondency and disgust. At the same time, a strong and ever-wakeful perception of the ludicrous, is certainly a prominent feature in his composition, and his flow of animal spirits enables him to enjoy it keenly, and invent it with success. I have seen, however, very few persons whose minds are so much alive and awake throughout every corner, and who are so much in the habit of trying and judging every thing by the united tact of so many qualities and feelings all at once. But one meets with abundance of individuals every day who show in conversation a greater facility of expression, and a more constant activity of speculative acuteness. I never saw Mr. Lockhart very much engrossed with the desire of finding language to convey any relation of ideas that had occurred to him, or so enthusiastically engaged in tracing its consequences, as to forget every thing else. In regard to facility of expression, I do not know whether the study of languages, which is a favorite one with him — (indeed I am told he understands a good deal of almost all the modern languages, and is well skilled in the ancient ones) — I know not whether this study has any tendency to increase such facility, although there is no question it must help to improve the mind in many important particulars, by varying our modes of perception.
"His features are regular, and quite definite in their outlines; his forehead is well advanced, and largest, I think, in the region of observation and perception. Although an Oxonian, and early imbued with an admiration for the works of the Stagyrite, he seems rather to incline, in philosophy, to the high Platonic side of the question, and to lay a great deal of stress on the investigation and cultivation of the impersonal sentiments of the human mind — ideas which his acquaintance with German literature and philosophy has probably much contributed to strengthen. Under the influence of that mode of thinking, a turn for pleasantry rather inclines to exercise itself in a light and good-humored play of fancy, upon the incongruities and absurd relations which are so continually presenting themselves in the external aspect of the world, than to gratify a sardonic bitterness in exulting over them, or to nourish a sour and atrabilious spirit in regarding them with a cherished and pampered feeling of delighted disapprobation, like that of Swift. But Mr. Lockhart is a very young person, and I would hope may soon find that there are much better things in literature than satire, let it be as good-humored as you will, indeed, his friend Wastle tells me be already professes himself heartily sick of it, and has begun to writs, of late, in a quite opposite key."
In August and September, 1819, "CHRISTOPHER IN THE TENT" appeared to dazzle the world. The greater part of this was written by Wilson, — but Lockhart and others contributed. I am inclined to think that the learned effusions therein attributed to Dr. Parr, were written by Lockhart, and I know that whatever is credited to Buller, Seward, Mullion, or the Odontist, including that admirable mock-pathetic "Lament for Captain Paton," (for which see Vol. I. p. 127 of this edition,) may, with entire propriety, be affiliated upon Lockhart.
As yet, however, he had not struck into the right vein. In Maga, for February, 1820, appeared "Horae Hispanicae, No. 1," in which be published some of his Spanish Ballads; about the same time, he gave more of them to the World, in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1816. The freedom of the translation, while preserving the spirit of the originals, obtained immediate Popularity; — "Zara's Ear-rings," and "Andalla's Bridal," were particularly admired. In the course of the year, further specimens were published, and their merit was instantly recognised.
Lockhart's intimacy with Scott had assumed the reality of warm regard and friendship. He became an invited and favored guest at Abbotsford, and it was arranged early in 1820, that he should marry Miss Scott, in the course of the coming spring. At this time he was in his twenty-eighth year; well-looking; gifted; and with pleasing manners. The lady (Sophia Charlotte Scott) was little more than twenty. Lockhart's pecuniary means chiefly arose, at that time, from his pen, — but Scott had pretty considerable confidence, no doubt, in the capabilities of his future son-in-law. The marriage took place in April, 1820, and Lockhart has recorded that it came off, "more Scotico," in the evening; "and adhering on all such occasions to ancient modes of observance, with the same punctiliousness as distinguished his worthy father."
In those days, those who went in quest of Parliamentary Reform, were like the patriots mentioned in The Prisoner of Chillon,
To whom the goodly earth and air
Were banned and barred, forbidden fare;
and the Yeomanry were bitter against the Radicals — as the reformers were called — (Ten years later, Reform was a government measure!) Lockhart joined the local cavalry, and, Scott said, was "a very good trooper." In 1822, during the visit of George IV. to Scotland, he was on duty with his corps, and continued to "play at soldiers," I believe, until he permanently went to London.
In August, 1820, Lockhart and his wife commenced a visit of several weeks to Abbotsford, and there, and for some time after, he was busy, — for "Valerius, a Roman Story of the First Century," was announced in March, and was published in April, 1821.
Before this, a very painful event had occurred. Mr. John Scott, author of a Visit to Paris in 1814, was the original Editor of the London Magazine, which, with its contributors, had been severely — personally — even coarsely assailed in Blackwood. John Scott replied, in several articles of marked severity, in which he particularly pointed at Lockhart as having written the papers in Blackwood, and of thereby being engaged in "a felon conspiracy against the dignity of literature." The last of these rejoinders by Scott appeared in December, 1820. Some weeks after, a Mr. Christie waited upon Mr. Scott, on the part of Lockhart, then in Edinburgh, with a demand for apology or satisfaction. John Scott said that he did not understand the absence of a principal, in such a matter. Lockhart then visited London. John Scott now declared that no gentleman could meet him, until he had cleared himself of the imputation of having written slanders in Blackwood for money or profit. Lockhart did not recognise Mr. Scott's right to have such a disclaimer, but eventually made it. In the interim, Christie had worked himself into the position of a principal, put Lockhart's "casus belli" wholly out of view, fought a duel with Scott, at Chalk Farm, (then the London scene of such rencontres,) and killed him. The circumstance materially mitigated the tone of Lockhart's future articles in Blackwood.
Though the publication of "Valerius" took place in April, 1821, Blackwood had no review of it until the following January, and then described it as an attempt to work fiction on new ground. It is the story of a sojourn in Rome, during a portion of the reign of Tragan. To the main points of history he faithfully adhered. The hero, son of a Roman officer in England, becomes enamoured of a beautiful Christian in Rome, and, after many trials, during which the heroic damosel nearly suffers martyrdom, succeeds in bearing her away, as his bride, to his remote insular home. Since Lockhart wrote, many such tales have appeared — among them Moore's Epicurean, Horace Smith's Zillah, Croly's Salathiel, and Bulwer's Last Days of Pompeii — but the meed of originality, as far as English fiction is concerned, belongs to "Valerius."
Wilson's critique said much in a few words when it told that Lockhart seemed as much at home in the "Eternal City," as the author of Guy Mannering in Auld Reekie — that seventeen centuries were rolled back — that we heard the stir and tumult of Rome. — "Valerius" was written in three weeks!
In January, 1822, appeared the announcement of "Some Passages of the Life of Mr. Adam Blair, Minister of the Gospel at Crossmeikle," with an intimation that the public had in reality to expect "a very elegant and amusing romance, not unlikely to become the Scottish Vicar of Wakefield," — the italics are not mine. It was published in the following month, and Adam Blair was as unlike our old friend Dr. Primrose as can well be imagined. Lockhart had sounded the depths of the passionate heart which he had given to his hero, and produced a forcible story of man's weakness under temptation, of woman's seducing and seduction, of quick remorse, of deep and public degradation, and, after long repentance, of restoration, with a subdued and humble spirit, to the duty of the Ministry. In the second edition, much that stood too strongly in relief was softened down; it remains, thus altered, a painful story, yet with much natural feeling and pathos.
In midsummer, 1822, appeared a new edition of Don Quixote, in five volumes, 8vo, edited by Lockhart, with copious notes, and an essay on the Life end Writings of Cervantes. This edition was suggested by John Ballantyne — who is also entitled to the merit of having proposed, seven years before it appeared, the annotated and illustrated edition of the Waverley Novels. Lockhart's notes were copious, occupying as much as forty or fifty closely-printed pages of each of the five volumes. These notes were full of historical, literary, and personal anecdotes, and also contained a further portion of Lockhart's Spanish Ballads. Previous to this, came the announcement (March, 1822) of "The Youth of Reginald Dalton," which was not published until June, 1823, (when it came out as" Reginald Dalton,") nor reviewed in Blackwood before the following January. This story, which I have read very many times, always struck me as singularly beautiful in many parts. It relates the adventures of a youth at Oxford — tempted, erring, yet ever prevented from all grossness of sin by the purity and depth of a virtuous and romantic passion, hopeless until the last, but sustained by intensity and principle through many trials, until, at last, it is happily crowned with the good fortune it deserves. Oxford life has been painted, and well painted, before and since the appearance of Reginald Dalton, but never by a hand at once so true and delicate in it's touch. Not until I actually lived in Oxford, could I understand the fidelity of the descriptions. Helen Hesketh, the beautiful heroine, is almost too fair and good for earth. There is scarcely any thing more charming, in the whole range of fiction, than the scene at Godstone Abbey, where Reginald and Helen mutually learn, and confess, that love has filled their souls, and pervades their being. If the book were cut down by a third, striking out the dull platitudes of London and Edinburgh society, it would indeed become a gem.
"Ancient Spanish Ballads, Historical and Romantic, translated by J. G. Lockhart, LL.B.," appeared early in 1823. The collection included all hitherto published, in magazines, as well as in Don Quixote, with a variety of fresh material. There was a fair sprinkling of prose, also, — critical, descriptive, and historical. The ballads proved that Lockhart had strong masculine energy as a poet, moral conception, great power of versification, and much originality of expression. The book has been popular from its first appearance. In 1841, a very ornate edition was brought out by Murray, beautifully printed in colors, and profusely ornamented with illustrations from drawings by Sir William Allan, David Roberts, William Simson, Henry Warren, C. H. Leslie, and William Harvey. Of this, one of the handsomest and most ornate works ever published in England, many thousand copies have been sold.
"The History of Matthew Wald," the last of Lockhart's prose fictions, was published in April, 1824. It is inferior to his other productions. The hero, whose mind was cast in a coarse mould, is his own biographer, and exhibits far from a pleasing picture of himself. There are some scenes of great merit — some touching episodes, also — but the perusal of the book leaves an unpleasant sensation, and there is not, cannot be any sympathy for the insane hero.
While Lockhart was writing these works, he and his wife resided at a cottage called Chiefswood, which they continued to occupy for six years. It was close to Abbotsford, and perhaps the happiest part of their life was passed in this calm retreat.
In July, 1825, Sir Walter Scott, with his daughter Anne and Lockhart, visited Ireland. The Great Unknown's reception in, and passage through, the Green Isle was a sort of ovation, so great was his popularity. On this occasion, then little more than a stripling, I first saw Scott and Lockhart. They were accompanied by Miss Edgeworth and Anne Scott. They slept, en route, in the prosperous town of Fermoy, in the south of Ireland, and Scott was curious to learn some particulars of John Anderson, a Scotchman, who, thirty years before, had found three mud cabins in the place, and, ere he died, saw it contain ever six thousand inhabitants. I was sent for, as one who, almost native to the place, was reputed to possess the information required. But the details of the interview, in which Scott's courtesy, Miss Edgeworth's shrewdness, and Lockhart's supercilious coldness were very apparent, do not belong to this rapid memoir, and will be more in place in another work. Scott's party returned by Windermere, to meet Canning, and be cordially greeted by Wilson, the Admiral of the Lakes."
William Gifford, who had conducted the Quarterly Review, from its establishment in 1809, was compelled, by ill health, to retire in 1824. His place was filled up by the present Sir John T. Coleridge, now one of the Judges of the Court of Queen's Bench, in London, whose bar-practice so rapidly increased, at the time, as to cause him to resign the editorship, after holding it for a year. After considerable doubt and some delay, the situation was offered to Mr. Lockhart. At this time, he was only thirty-four years old, and, notwithstanding his literary celebrity, probably owed the appointment to his relationship to Scott. It was about the highest position that a man of letters could hold in England, and the salary, independent of separate and additional payment for each of his own articles, has been understood to be not less than £1500 a year.
Removing to London, with his wife and family, Lockhart took up his residence in a stately mansion, in Sussex Place, Regent's Park. But though worldly prosperity was his, the common infliction of domestic sorrow awaited him. John Hugh Lockhart, his eldest son, born at Chiefswood, in February, 1821, never enjoyed good health. He was affectionate and intelligent, (it was to him, as "Hugh Little-John, Esq.," that Scott dedicated the Tales of a Grandfather,) but it often happens that the best go earliest—
All that's bright must fade,
The brightest still the fleetest;
All that's sweet was made
But to be lost when sweetest.
After much suffering, this child of love, fear, and promise died on the 15th December, 1831. His brother, Walter Scott Lockhart, who lived to years of manhood, and was thoughtless and dissipated, died not long ago. One daughter, married to Mr. Hope, is the sole surviving fruit of Lockhart's marriage, and her youthful son, who has obtained the Royal permission to assume the surname of Scott, is the direct lineal successor of "the Great Unknown." Mr. Hope resides at Abbotsford, now the property of his wife.
From this digression, it is proper to return to Lockhart's becoming Editor of the Quarterly, in 1826. Applying himself, with energy and perseverance, to the duties of his new occupation, and speedily showing himself adequate to all its requirements, he proceeded with a "Life of Burns," upon which he had been for some time engaged; — indeed, it had been announced, early in 1825, as one of the earliest volumes of "Constable's Miscellany" — a magnificent undertaking, had it been carried out by its sanguine and able projector. It appeared in that collection, at a cheap price, in April, 1828, and the sale was immense. It has repeatedly been republished, in more expensive forms, and continues to stand high in the ranks of modern biography.
Lockhart did ample justice, in his Life of Burns, to the Man as well as the Poet — to the manliness of his character and the vigor of his genius. His pourtraiture of Burns showed the shades as well as the lights — but all was done in a benignant spirit. The events of his brief and brilliant career were carefully detailed, and a fine spirit of humanity — which was unexpected in Lockhart — breathed serious life into the whole production. I recollect no English biography which was more generally satisfactory than this.
In October, 1828, when "Murray's Family Library" was projected, Lockhart was requested to write a Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, but scrupled to undertake, in two volumes, what Scott had done in nine. Scott strongly urged him to the work, which was announced, in December, 1828, as the "Personal History of Napoleon Bonaparte," but did not appear until June, 1829, with steel portraits from French engravings and several clever woodcuts from Cruikshank's designs. It was the first issue of the "Family Library," and, from its clearness of narrative, general impartiality, handsome typography, good illustrations, and low price, obtained a large sale. At first, it was generally attributed to Croker, (a mystification commenced in THE NOCTES,) but the authorship has long been claimed for and by Lockhart. It was while discussing the merits of this work, that Wilson said of Napoleon, "Now, God pity us, he sleeps sound beneath a thousand weight of granite, and shame on the mortal who dares deny that he was the greatest man of the last thousand years."
While Scott lived, Lockhart and his wife visited Scotland almost every year. They were at Abbotsford in September, 1831, when it was resolved that Scott should spend the winter in Italy. Mrs. Lockhart returned to London some days in advance of her father, to make suitable preparations for his reception at her house, and Lockhart accompanied him a few days later. Of all that passed in London and Portsmouth, until Scott quitted England, a detailed and interesting account has been given in Lockhart's Life of Scott. There, too, will be found a touching record — pathetic in its sublime simplicity — of the last days of the "Ariosto of the North," ending with his death, at Abbotsford, in the presence of all his children — on the 21st September, 1832; "a beautiful day — so warm, that every window was wide open — and so perfectly still, that the sound of all others most delicious to his ear, the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its pebbles, was distinctly audible as we knelt around the bed, and his eldest son kissed and closed his eyes."
Lockhart's connection with Blackwood did not wholly cease when he became Editor of the Quarterly. I know that he wrote for it then, for, in my own collection of Autographs, I have a letter, dated July 16, 1832, addressed to Mr. Wright, editor of Murray's collective and annotated edition of Byron's poems, then in course of publication, in which Lockhart says, "I have none of the sheets by me, and can't possibly write half a dozen reviews without materiel, but you will find what I could do in Blackwood for this month (which, however, is said only to yourself). Meantime get Dr. Maginn to draw up a little article for Jerdan, on the model of mine on Vol. VII., and let Murray ask Hook to give my preface to the new vol. in 'Bull,' with the song on the Cadiz Ladies."
It happens, however, that there is no mention of Byron in Blackwood for July, 1832. But in THE NOCTES, No. LXII., for September, 1832, the hand of Lockhart is visible. No doubt he furnished the concluding portion of that Noctes, (Vol. V. pp. 113-118 of the present edition,) in which the new issue of Byron was abundantly landed, with special reference to "that charming ditty on the Girl of Cadiz, which Byron originally designed to fill the place now occupied by a dismal concern," — namely, the lugubrious lyric To Inez, which now follows the eighty-fourth stanza of the first Canto of Childe Harold. At the close of 1836, appeared the first volume of "Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., by J. G. Lockhart, Esq., his Literary Executor." This work was completed within two years, and a revised and richly illustrated edition immediately followed. It is not necessary to give particulars respecting a work so widely known and so generally liked. To say that its place is next to, and certainly not lower than, Boswell's Johnson, is to say no more than the truth. Boswell devotes himself more particularly to what may be called the personality of his hero; Lockhart includes a variety of particulars relative to Scott's contemporaries. The two biographies, in fact, contain a graphic history of British Literature during the greater part of the Georgian era — from the commencement of Johnson's career, to the close of Scott's.
The defect of Lockhart's book is that he devotes too much space to a discussion of the connection between Scott and the Ballantynes. The tone and temper of this discussion are equally out of keeping with the biography and its author's intention of exhibiting Scott in a favorable light. The executors of James Ballantyne replied, in a voluminous pamphlet, the object of which was to show that Ballantyne was more sinned against than sinning. Lockhart retorted, in a bitter publication called "The Ballantyne Humbug Handled." It was contemptuous and personal. Then followed a rejoinder, going closely into detail, in which they showed how constantly Scott used to draw on Ballantyne for money, and how improvident he was. To this there was no reply, but the discussion, which was provoked by Lockhart's aspersions, did not tend to exalt Scott in public estimation.
It is singular (and I would scarcely have credited it had I not taken the trouble of ascertaining the facts by close examination) that no notice of Lockhart's Life of Scott ever appeared in Blackwood's Magazine.
While the book was being published, Mrs. Lockhart died, — May 17, 1837. In the fifth volume, (which appeared in October, 1837,) while alluding to the earlier years of his wedded life at Chiefswood, and the friends who witnessed it, Lockhart says, "Death has laid a heavy hand upon that circle — as happy a circle as I believe ever met. Bright eyes now closed in dust, gay voices for ever silenced, seem to haunt me as I write. With three exceptions, they are all gone. Even since the last of these volumes was finished, she whom I may now sadly record as, next to Sir Walter Scott himself, the chief ornament and delight at all those simple meetings — she to whose love I owed my own place in them — Scott's eldest daughter, the one of all his children who in countenance, mind, and manners, most resembled himself, and who indeed was as like him in all things as a gentle and innocent woman can ever be to a great man deeply tried and skilled in the struggles and perplexities of active life — she, too, is no more."
The Life of Scott was the last of Lockhart's published works. It is probable that a selection from his articles in the Quarterly will appear, to match those of Sydney Smith, Jeffrey, Macaulay, Mackintosh, Hamilton, and others.
It is known, also, that he has written a work on the Literary History of his Own Time, (chiefly autobiographical,) which will not appear until after his death. There is some expectation, also, that he will assist in the production of a biography of Professor Wilson.
Failing health compelled him, in the autumn of 1853, to terminate his editorial connection with the Quarterly Review, and pass the winter in the south of Europe. He returned to London, in the spring of 1854. It is understood that he has obtained an independence by the prudent application of his pecuniary gains from literature. He also is Auditor of the Duchy of Cornwall — a life-appointment, the duties of which are nearly nominal, while the salary has been variously stated at from £300 to £1500 a year. It is nearer the latter than the former amount.
There is no necessity here for examining into the general literary character and merits of Mr. Lockhart. In Blackwood's Magazine his contributions were marked by vigor, sarcasm, and personality. Time, as it advanced, brought more serious thought and more sober judgment. The fact of his having conducted the Quarterly Review, for seven-and-twenty years, with success, sufficiently attests his ability.
Those who best knew him have spoken cordially and gratefully of his kindly nature — among these were Hogg, Moore, Sterling, and Haydon. A certain hauteur of manner, which sometimes was even supercilious, has contributed to strengthen the opinion that he was cold, proud, and distant. But he has been afflicted with deafness for many years, — an ailment which naturally checks the geniality of one's nature, by preventing familiar companionship. His most determined assailants, at home and abroad, have been the small fry of literati, whom his casual touch has almost brushed out of existence.
From them I turn to a less suspicious and more impartial witness. The late Rev. Edmund D. Griffin, of New-York, visited England in 1829, and has recorded (too briefly) his impressions of the authors whom he met in London. His "Pencilings" contain the following, "To Moore, Lockhart offers a strong and singular contrast. Tall, and slightly, but elegantly formed, his head possesses the noble contour, the precision and harmony of outline, which distinguish classic sculpture. It possesses, too, a striking effect of color, in a complexion pale yet pure, and hair as black as the raven's wing. Though his countenance is youthful, (he seems scarce more than thirty,) yet I should designate reflection as the prominent, combined expression of that broad, white forehead; those arched and pencilled brows; those retired, yet full, dark eyes; the accurately chiselled nose; and compressed, though curved lips. His face is too thin, perhaps, for mere beauty; but this defect heightens its intellectual character."
To this personal description, may suitably be appended Mr. Griffin's analysis of his conversation. He says "Mr. Lockhart meantime, though he seemed to enjoy the pleasantries of others, contributed none of his own. Whatever he did say was in a Scottish accent, and exhibited strong sense and extensive reading. Mr. Washington Irving seems to be one of those men, who, like Addison, have plenty of gold in their pockets, but are almost destitute of ready change. His reserve, however, is of a strikingly different character from that of the Editor of the Quarterly. The one appears the reserve of sensibility, the other that of thought. The taste of the one leads him apparently to examine the suggestions of his own mind with such an over scrupulosity, that he seldom gives them utterance. The reflection of the other is occupied in weighing the sentiments expressed, and separating the false from the true. Mr. Irving is mild and bland, even anxious to please. Mr. Lockhart is abstracted and cold, almost indifferent."
The sketch of Mr. Lockhart which illustrates this volume, was executed by Daniel Maclise, B.A., (under the nomme de crayon of A. Croquis,) and appeared, in August, 1830, in Fraser's Magazine, as the third of the "Gallery of Illustrious Literary Characters," which, with Maginn's racy descriptions, never exceeding a page, and always struck off at a moment's notice, formed a very attractive feature in that periodical for many years. it represents him busily smoking his sempiternal cigar — he use of tobacco, in that shape, being one of Lockhart's small vices.
In the popular edition of his Life of Scott, (Edinburgh, 1842, in large 8vo,) a full-length which may be taken as authentic, being issued by himself. It shows the accuracy of Mr. Griffin's above-quoted description. In the very interesting picture by Faed, (from which a fine engraving has lately been issued here,) which exhibits Sir Walter Scott and his Friends, in 1825, a portrait of Lockhart occupies the centre, between Crabbe and Wordsworth, and is a striking and characteristic likeness.