1834 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Hogg

John Gibson Lockhart to William Blackwood, 18 August 1834; Margaret Oliphant, William Blackwood and his Sons (1897) 2:123-24.



I have been disappointed at not hearing from yourself, but Alexander has been kind enough to give me a few lines, from which I hope I may conclude that your disorder begins to yield to good management. As he assures me that your general health is firm and your spirits fair, I that know the strength of your fabric, both mental and physical, will not entertain any doubts that in a few weeks I am to see you quite yourself again. I was delighted with the last "Noctes." There never was a better or more lively and ludicrous picture drawn than in all the earlier part of it, and there is also a vast deal of real shrewd good sense, observation, and most biting sarcasm to boot. In Wilson's hands the Shepherd will always be delightful; but of the fellow himself I can scarcely express my contemptuous pity, now that his "Life of Sir W. Scott" is before the world. I believe it will, however, do Hogg more serious and lasting mischief than any of those whose feelings he has done his brutal best to lacerate would wish to be the result. He has drawn his own character, not that of his benevolent creator, and handed himself down to posterity — for the subject will keep this from being forgotten — as a mean blasphemer against all magnanimity. Poor Laidlaw will be mortified to the heart by this sad display. The bitterness against me which peeps out in many parts of Hogg's narrative is, of course, the fruit of certain rather hasty words spoken by me to Cochrane and MacCrone when they showed me the original MS., but nevertheless Hogg has omitted the only two passages which I had read when I so expressed myself, — one of them being a most flagrant assault on Scott's veracity, and the other a statement about poor Lady Scott, such as must have afflicted for ever her children, and especially her surviving daughter. Dr. Maginn has handled Hogg in his own way in "Fraser's Mag.": by-the-bye, I have only once seen the Dr. since you were here — I hear from James Wilson that he has been conducting himself considerably better. I don't suppose he has taken any step to wipe out his debt to you any more than to myself, and fear next Xmas we shall hear again of his being as bad as ever in money affairs. I was shocked to see Sir R Inglis abused lately in the "Age," and find that topic handled to-day with grand fury by Alaric the Goth, in a thing called the "Old England." Talking of these small deer, our old victim Corny Webb, the Cockney poet, is now the reader of the "Quarterly," in Clowes's printing office, and a very intelligent one he is.

London is now utterly desolate — and the only thing that seems to excite any interest is Brougham's quarrel with the "Times," &c. This, I believe, originated in the discovery by Barnes that B. was privately giving his information to the "Chronicle." The "Times" sneered at B. B. in his evidence before the Libel Committee brought out his scheme of taking off the newspaper taxes, and hinted at penny newspapers under the Diffusence Society's auspices. He has ever since been abused by Mr. Barnes lustily; and now, behold "the Society for diffusing Political Knowledge" is announced. Nay, the companion to the newspaper is already published as "thesis" — and the "Citizen" is to follow forthwith. We shall witness a hot struggle between these dear old allies in the cause of mischief. Nobody enjoys the prospect more than Thomas Moore, Esq., who has just been here and talking "conservatissime" on all points. I write on a very busy day, my last in London for 2 or 3 months. We go to Liverpool — thence by steam to the West Country — thence by-and-bye to Edinburgh, chiefly that I may see you; and then to Rokeby, where we shall graze as long as I find it convenient for me to be absent from Headquarters. I am now about to commence writing my Life of Scott, a heavy and anxious task, for which I have hitherto been collecting and arranging the vast mass of materials. You ought to have some memoranda and letters which would be of use to me. You were the publisher of several of his works, and it is important to have your views of him as well as those amply recorded by Constable and others.