1830 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Gibson Lockhart

William Maginn, "Gallery of Illustrious Literary Characters: John Gibson Lockhart, Esq. Editor of The Quarterly" Fraser's Magazine 2 (June 1830) 77.



We are rising in the world, from the Literary Gazette to the New Monthly, from the New Monthly to the Quarterly. As we introduced Tom Campbell to our readers in his nightly guise, here we have John Gibson Lockhart in his morning attire.

There he sits in his Parisian morning gown, busily smoking his sempiternal cigar. Whatever may be thought of his critical severities, it is indisputable that there is no literary man in all the great republic of letters who is more constantly occupied with puffing. It would take several volumes to explain what may be the effects of smoking upon a reviewer: we have the authority of Lord Byron that sublime tobacco—

From east to west,
Sooths the tar's labours, and the Turkman's rest.

But as a reviewer is neither a tar nor a Turkman, we are not in the least degree advanced towards the proper elucidation of the subject. Far less are we prepared to enter in this desultory and autoschediastic, off-hand, and extemporaneous article, as Sir Charles Wetherell would call it, to discuss what should be the form or vehicle in which the tobacco should be exhibited under the particular circumstances — whether as cigar, meerschaum, cheroot, perquito, dudeen, hookah, yard of clay — or whether the material should be oriental or occidental, Havannah or Turkey, Virginian or Chinese. This would open too wide a field, and we decline entering into a subject which has already called forth so much acrimonious controversy, marked by that personality which is the disgrace of the literature of the present day. It will be seen by a reference to our plate of Campbell, that the New Monthly and the Quarterly take different sides on the question — the former patronizing a pipe, the latter a cigar.

His keen eyes are fixed on a book held at arm's length, but what the matter of the book is, or wherefore it is surveyed by that scrutinizing glance, is beyond our power to conjecture; one thing is evident, and he will agree with us in thinking, that, as exhibited by our engraver, it has a decided advantage over most modern works — or indeed ancient — for it is here depicted blank, and therefore escapes the fate of containing sixteen pages of nonsense per octavo sheet, which is the usual proportion. By its folio shape, we may perhaps conjecture it to be a Romancero, some ballad of which he is intently turning into those sounding fourteen syllable verses which his example has deluded various innocent damsels into considering as the original metre of Spanish ballad-mongers. We are tolerably certain it cannot be an article for the Quarterly; for we take it for granted that he is a gentleman of too much sense and acuteness not to fall into the regular editorial habit of never reading any such rubbish as the papers sent by contributors; it is quite enough to publish them.

As he is at present engaged in what Hazlitt would call an autobiography of himself, which we may expect in the next publishing season, (the fall of the leaves, as Bentley pleasantly says,) we shall not intrude upon his province any further, than to say, that he was born in the city of St. Mungo, the punch of which he has duly celebrated and immortalized; that he is a man of Oxford, of which also he hath celebrated the piety and polities:

Unfading in lustre, unbroken in years,
The great mother of churchmen and Tories appears;

that having studied in the bowers of Baliol, whilom King of Scotland — that he has hewn down various Philistines in divers quarters, fighting for ever, we need not say most thanklessly, the battles of church and king; and that now he sits in the seat of Gifford, in the workshop of Murray. Long may he there wield his critical baton, but we must recommend with more truculence! He looks on too patiently, while literary atrocities of the most deplorable nature are daily committed: this should be amended, and as a parting hint, we earnestly entreat him to turn off Barrow. It will be felt as a compliment by a grateful public.