1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Ellis

Walter Scott to George Ellis, 2 November 1808; Lockhart, Life of Scott (1837-38; 1902) 2:88.



I have been given to understand that Mr. William Gifford is willing to become the conductor of such a work [the Quarterly Review], and I have written to him, at the Lord Advocate's desire, a very voluminous letter on the subject. Now, should this plan succeed, you must hang your birding-piece on its hooks, take down your old Anti-Jacobin armor, and "remember your swashing blow." It is not that I think this projected Review ought to be exclusively or principally political — this would, in my opinion, absolutely counteract its purpose, which I think should be to offer to those who love their country, and to those whom we would wish to love it, a periodical work of criticism conducted with equal talent, but under sounder principles than that which has gained so high a station than that which has gained so high a station in the world of letters [the Edinburgh Review]. Is not this very possible? In point of learning, you Englishmen have ten times our scholarship; and as for talent and genius, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than any of the rivers in Israel?" Have we not yourself and your cousin, the Roses, Malthus, Mathias, Gifford, Heber, and his brother? Can I not procure you a score of blue-caps who would rather write for us than for the Edinburgh Review if they got as much pay by it? "A good plot, good friends, and full of expectation — an excellent plot, very good friends!"