1835 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Maginn

Alaric Alexander Watts to Robert Blackwood, 5 October 1835; Margaret Oliphant, William Blackwood and his Sons (1897) 2:174-75.



LN., 5th Oct. 1835.

In the number of "Fraser's Magazine" for June last there is an attack upon me by Maginn which for venomous falsehood and malignity has seldom been equalled. The singular audacity with which real names are paraded in that attack might delude strangers into the belief that there is some one of the many assertions contained in it that are really founded on fact. You will not fail to observe that a most impertinent and insulting allusion is there made to my acquaintanceship with your late worthy father, to the vileness of which I am sure you will not hesitate to bear your testimony.

I have a pile of letters from Mr. Blackwood which sufficiently attest his sense of the zeal with which, so far as my humble means extended, I endeavoured to promote the success of his Magazine, and that I was actuated by no mercenary motive in so doing you must be well aware, and equally so of the terms of courtesy and friendship in which I stood with your father.

I ask, therefore, that you will read the paragraph of which I complain, and say if during a period [of] more than fifteen years that we were acquainted he had, so far as you are aware, any reason to complain of my conduct, or if he ever employed me in any menial capacity.

You may form some notion of the position in which Mr. Fraser and his gang stand at this moment when I inform you that there is not a single living British artist who will not make his appearance at the Court of King's Bench when the trial comes on for the purpose of giving the lie to these statements respecting [me?], and there is scarcely a literary person alluded to in that blackguard lampoon who has not already volunteered his testimony. I have now fifty letters before me on the subject, and all of one tenor.

An attempt has been made to deter me from going on with the proceeding by assuring me that Fraser will be unable to meet the consequences of a verdict against him; but however this may be, I shall do my best to put these ruffians down. There will certainly be some expense in the affair, for I purpose calling no fewer than 100 witnesses, if the judge will let me, to disprove every syllable they have stated. I shall print the trial separately, with the text of letters I have received from all quarters, and such an exposure of the practices of the mock-Blackwood as will leave them but little ground for triumph. As your father's name has been thus impudently introduced, I am anxious to receive a few lines from [you] calculated to remove the impression which the statement referring to him is calculated to create.