1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Ritson

John Gibson Lockhart, in Life of Scott (1837-38; 1902) 1:307.



Scott [editing the border ballads in 1800] opened in the same year a correspondence with the venerable Bishop of Dromore, who seems, however, to have done little more than express a warm interest in an undertaking so nearly resembling that which will every keep his own name in remembrance. He had more success in his applications in a more unpromising quarter — namely, with Joseph Ritson, the ancient and virulent assailant of Bishop Percy's editorial character. This narrow-minded, sour, and dogmatical little word-catcher had hated the very name of a Scotsman, and was utterly incapable of sympathizing with any of the higher views of his new correspondent. Yet the bland courtesy of Scott disarmed even this half-crazy pedant; and he communicated the stores of his really valuable learning in a manner that seems to have greatly surprised all who had hitherto held any discourse with him on antiquarian topics. It astonished, above all, the late amiable and elegant George Ellis, whose acquaintance was about the same time opened to Scott through their common friend [Richard] Heber.