Among the younger men who gathered about Mr. Blackwood — first on the South Bridge, and afterwards in his more aristocratic quarters in Princes Street — there was none more remarkable than John Gibson Lockhart, of whom and of whose doings the reader already knows so much. There are many of his letters in the Blackwood collection, but amid all the packets of them which are before me scarcely one has a date. They are written on "Friday morning," or on the 20th, say, of some month, sometimes named "October," "January," sometimes not; the year never. The subjects of them are almost invariably articles in the Magazine, but even these indicated with such a flying hand, things already half talked over by word of mouth, that it would require the minutest research to identify exactly what they are about. This produces a wealth, yet at the same time a poverty — or rather, a sense of wealth in the midst of actual poverty — which is exceedingly tantalising to the biographer. He seems to be told so much, yet knows so little; learning a great deal of the man, but very little about him; a glimpse at his inner self, but nothing at all of the outside. We shall do our best to put before the reader this very active member of the brotherhood — the one whose exertions had the greatest influence upon the new Magazine, the most romantic and picturesque figure among them, notwithstanding the Jove-like presence of Wilson, who was not by any means so unusual a type, in his big, magnificent fairness and size, as the darker, slimmer figure standing by him — all energy and darting wit on one side, all kindness and tender domestic feeling on the other; fastidious, keen, refined, yet quite capable of picking up the coarsest missile, and flinging it with a sudden impulse hotter and swifter than anything the ruddy Berserker was capable of. Men like Wilson are to be found everywhere in Scotland, if seldom with his endowment of genius. Men like Lockhart are very rare anywhere.
He was born in 1794, and was consequently just twenty-three when "Blackwood's Magazine" began its career, — the most irresponsible age, not yet free of the traditions of boyhood, yet formally endued with the independence of the man. He was, we may premise, ten years younger than Wilson, whom we class with him as if they were of the same age: but Wilson was always a boy, which was not Lockhart's case. He was the son of a much-respected Scotch minister holding at that time a charge in Glasgow. His father was of the class called squarson in England — half laird, half minister — though he did not succeed to the lairdship till the end of his life, — a class not so much represented in the Church of Scotland nowadays as at that time: and the son was thus a Lockhart of a well-known family, "come of kent folk," — an advantage always of the greatest importance both to a man's character and his fortune. He was educated at Glasgow University, and went thereafter, as so many of the best scholars of Glasgow do, by means of the Snell Scholarship, to Balliol, Oxford, which was not then, perhaps, so distinguished a college as it is now. But the Snell scholar has almost always been distinguished, and every generation of them has produced notable members, to the embellishment of their second home of learning, and the great honour and glory of the first. There is a curious story told in this beginning of his career, which is highly characteristic of him and of his after-ways. On some occasion, unidentified, he sent in to his tutor an exercise, apparently in Hebrew, to the confusion but great admiration of the tutor, who carried this learned production to the Master, who presumably possessed some knowledge of that language. After some examination, and no doubt much puzzling, this recondite study turned out to be a piece of satire aimed at the unsuspecting tutor himself, in good English, written in Hebrew characters — Hebrew forming part of the ordinary studies in Glasgow of theological students, from whom this daring young joker had no doubt picked up a knowledge of the characters. Dons are not good people generally to joke with, but it would seem that no particular harm came of this mystification. On leaving Oxford, which he did at a very early age, he came to Edinburgh to study law, and was duly called to the bar in 1816, and began with other young men those fruitless perambulations of the Parliament House which have wearied out so many aspirants, and sent them off into the paths of literature and others as precarious. Here, with the instinctive forgathering of like to like, he made close friends with John Wilson, a young man only like him in the fine fantastic distinction of genius, which naturally nobody knew of in these days, and in the external circumstances of life. Wilson was of the nouveaux riches, not such a phalanx then as now. He had gone long before Lockhart's time as a gentleman-commoner to Magdalen, the most expensive thing to be done, of which the Snell Scholar would no doubt be scornful. But the instincts of youth ignore such distinctions, and Wilson's university record was also brilliant. They became inseparable, the one stirring up the other to all kinds of glorious designs. Wilson was already a poet, author of the "Isle of Palms" and various other copies of verses, of which his companion probably thought nothing, and he himself not much. It is curious, however, that by right of this production Wilson continued for many years to be named at the tail of the so-called Lake poets as one of their school.
These two young men soon acquired a daily habit of dropping into Blackwood's establishment in Princes Street, of which one of them a few years later gave a delightful description in "Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk":—
"You have an oval saloon lighted from the roof, where various groups of loungers and dilettanti are engaged in looking at or criticising among themselves the publications just arrived by that day's post from town. In such critical colloquies the voice of the bookseller may ever and anon be heard mingling the broad and unadulterated tones of its Auld Reekie music; for unless occupied in the recesses of his premises with some other business, it is here that he has his usual station. He is a nimble, active-looking man of middle age, and moves about from one corner to another with great alacrity, and apparently under the influence of high animal spirits. His complexion is very sanguineous, but nothing could be more intelligent, keen, and sagacious than the expression of his whole physiognomy; above all the grey eyes and eyebrows, as full of locomotion as those of Catalani."
The young man who, when he had become a literary personage by the agency of the Magazine, wrote the above, had the best of reasons for appreciating the generous publisher who began to influence his life from his very first appearance in Edinburgh. Lockhart was a linguist, an elegant accomplishment rather than a necessity of education in his day; and knew German, then only beginning to come into favour as a storehouse of literature: and it was his eager desire to go to Germany to complete his knowledge, and with the view of translating something by way of paying his expenses. Mr. Blackwood evidently from the first had believed in the youth, and it was he who furnished the funds for the journey. He lent, or it would be more true to say gave, a sum which, we believe, was at least "£300 or perhaps more," to the young literary adventurer, for which he received a translation of Schlegel's Lectures on the History of Literature. The book seems to have done well enough, and many years later, when its author was well known, came to a second edition; but this act of liberality and confidence must have been a powerful retaining fee.
Wilson had no such bond to the publisher's service; but he was eager for work, and ready for any adventure.
They both began to help a little in the original series of the "Edinburgh Monthly Magazine," as edited by Pringle and Cleghorn; and no doubt it was partly their brilliant talk and literary ambition, and eager desire to find a fit medium of expression for the opinions and ideas with which their minds were overflowing, and especially for that "criticism of life" which, whether in poetry or in prose, it is the first mission and yearning of the young writer to get into print, that sustained and inspired Mr. Blackwood in his determination to take the periodical, of which he, still more than the young men, saw the possibilities, out of the incapable hands which were conducting it into pure mediocrity.
The question whether there was or was not an Editor, or rather a couple of Editors, to the new series, in succession to the old, is one that has been very much disputed. I do not think that the reader, after the glimpses into the Blackwood correspondence which I have been able to give, can have much doubt that the Magazine was, as I have before said, in commission, the committee of three occupying intermittently the supreme chair — one number sometimes in one man's charge, sometimes in another's, now one judgment uppermost and now another, but the veto always in Blackwood's hands, even in the few months when the influence of Murray made itself felt, and bound down a very independent and high-spirited group of men to an unwilling and rare compliance with rule and formula which was quite against their nature. A few letters from Lockhart addressed to a "Welsh clergyman of the name of Williams," who was, I am told, the brother of Archdeacon Williams, afterwards for a number of years headmaster of the Edinburgh Academy, were printed in several numbers of the "London Scotsman" — an extinct paper — in May 1868, and throw a great deal of light upon the situation. The first is in the usual tone employed by all the members of the triumvirate to possible contributors, frank and even eager acceptance of proposed articles from everybody supposed to possess talent or learning (especially the latter, on which the two Oxford men were strong, evidently troubled by the absence of scholarship which they found in Edinburgh on their return thither) — which enthusiasm of welcome, however, did not hinder, or even modify, the relentless rejection of such articles when not approved. Lockhart informs his Welsh friend that the articles he proposes are "exactly of the kind most wanted by Blackwood: for we can get enough of jokes and criticisms — to be sure far from the best in their way sometimes: but in this country-town of ours, which you are pleased to call by a fairer name than it deserves, by far the greatest rarities are information worthy of being so called and learning of any kind." There is a frankness about the following description of the Magazine in question, No. I. of the new series the number for October 1817 — which is quite unlike anything else which we have heard on the subject:—
"J G. Lockhart to Rev. Mr. Williams.
25 MAITLAND STREET, EDINBURGH,
February 21, 1818.
The two papers you mention as having particularly pleased you are the work of two very different persons, the first, 'Dandy Dinmont,' being mine, and the 'Depravity of Animals' — certainly one of the best pieces of grave burlesque since Swift — Walter Scott's. W. Scott is much interested in Blackwood and his Magazine, and has communicated something to each of the last five numbers. So has old Mackenzie, the 'Man of Feeling,' but I must say his day has gone by; so have Dr. G. D. Clarke, Thomson the chemist, Jameson the mineralogist, D. Brewster, J. Wilson Croker (bad), so that you have at least some good names to support you, though I confess that, chiefly owing to the insertion of a rash jeu d'esprit in the number you have seen, the chief burden since October has fallen on Wilson and myself. Wilson must have been your contemporary at Oxford: you are no stranger to his genius.
"I know you are a Whig, but you are not a Democratical one, therefore all good Britons must in main points agree with you. Christianity is a subject which you know none but boys and fools will make light of in print, therefore I am sure that anything John could write would of course do. But, I confess, if you like to write on politics, I hope you will write something off the line of the 'Edinburgh Review'; for admirable as it is, I think it is now a little stale — still more off the line of the blundering and bigoted pedantry of the 'Quarterly' and its crew. I am sure you loathe Croker and Southey's politics as much as myself.
"The truth is that no subject can come wrong to you, but I really know not what particular bent your studies have taken. If you have plunged deep into the higher philosophy, and could write on these subjects, you would supply our greatest vacuum. If you have, as I suspect, studied British history more, and more deeply than most men, surely there could be no field more glorious than this. A little liberal classical criticism comes to us like a delightful stranger from a more happy land, and I know you can command this pleasure for us without any trouble to yourself. In the notice prefixed to No. 7 of the Magazine occur names, of various articles. Such of them as have not since appeared do not exist, and may be called into being by you as well as by any other. After all we have had about Burns, a letter from you would still be most acceptable. An account of the plans for a seminary of education in Wales would be equally so, as some talk has lately been going on both here and in Liverpool in regard to educational schemes. Did I not formerly mention a paper on the probable reception Prince Charles would have met with in Wales? N.B. — A little memoir of Colonel Johnes, with some account of his library, an account of the state of religion in your country, &c., &c. A little theology would be capital. The Scots divines are very ignorant. I hope, then, that 'Cambria' will not be the only thing of yours in the next number. Blackwood publishes on the 20th here, but your parcel may be in good time if you send it off immediately on receipt of this. If you have any curiosity, I will send you an index of authors to the different numbers of the Magazine since October.
"We begin to hope that Hunt won't prosecute."
This, perhaps, is the only letter of Lockhart's extant that can be called boyish. His eagerness to confide all the secrets of the Magazine to his Welsh friend, though so strongly against the principles of the brotherhood, his still greater eagerness to intrust him with any subject under heaven, looks more like the delight of sudden and precocious power, and a rapturous sense of his own position as the very opener of the gates of Fame and Fortune, than anything else that ever appears — at least in the aspect of him which we are accustomed to. It is sad to think that the man to whom he offered so many openings — from Burns to the Welsh Seminary, which it is interesting to hear was thought of so long ago — from philosophy, classics, and the state of religion, down to an account of Colonel Johnes' library — does not make any continuous appearance in the records of Blackwood: neither he nor "John," who was the future Archdeacon himself, responding as appears to this large and liberal call. The second letter of the series proves that his correspondent did something in this earlier period of "Maga's" career:
"J. G. Lockhart to Mr. Williams.
July 8, 1818.
Your letter and the packet to Mr. Blackwood arrived to-day. How long they have been on their travels God only knows, for you have affixed no date to either of them. Although the history of the Minstrel of Bruges is very amusing, I think your Triads are more so, and look better at the beginning of a series; so they appear this month under the title of 'Horae Cambricae,' No. 1. Next month follows the life of your hero as No. 2, and I hope there is no fear of the series being a short one. I regret extremely that Ebony's vile sloth has caused the delay of the Magazine, but I trust it will reach you as soon as this letter, and henceforth every letter shall pass regularly to you by a few days after the 1st of each month. May none arrive to which you can say, [Greek characters].
"I had some days ago a very good and pretty long letter from John, in which he favoured me with a narrative of the row in Winchester College, and with some bitter epithets against the propriety of attacking such a character as Mr. Examiner Hunt. Even my high opinion of my friend's sagacity is insufficient to make me enter into or sympathise with any feelings of respect for such a conceited, coxcombical incendiary. But — dangerous ground.
"Should you visit the North in the summer, I fear you would not find much to amuse you in the way of society here; but in the winter I imagine few places can be more abundant in good society — the best I have ever seen, because it is so thoroughly mingled — i.e., there are not enough of different sorts of people to make different circles as in London, and they all move together very amicably and agreeably — Peers, Lairds, Advocates, Reviewers, Poets, &c. It is very amusing certainly, and worth coming to taste, at all events for once. With the high men of letters here I have very slight acquaintance; indeed I do not admire any of them much except Scott, and he is an exception to what I have said, for he has been very kind to me often, and I spend many hours every week in his house. I shall mention to you what I do not to any one here: that he has asked me to write for him the history of the 'Edinburgh Annual Register,' the allowance for which is £500 per annum, and I have accepted his offer. This is done sub rosa, the booksellers knowing nothing of it. I fancy his novels occupy him so much that he really could not proceed with it any longer. The years '16 and '17 are both to be done, so I have work enough on hand; but I mean to finish both within a year, which will be £1000 in my pocket, and afterwards I think the business may be managed without very much labour.
"Blackwood, I rejoice to say, flourishes mightily; his sale increases vastly every month, and he is praised everywhere."
The third of these letters, in some respects the most interesting of the three, throws a curious new light upon the circumstances, and discloses the short-lived arrangement which existed through a few numbers only:—
If you have seen No. 7 of 'Blackwood's Magazine' you will have perceived that he has now got a partner in the concern who, it is supposed, may have it in his power vastly to improve it. Murray had a scheme, you recollect, of setting up a Magazine of his own some time ago. He printed 12,000 of the first number, but lost heart and never published. Barrow of the Admiralty was to be the editor, but he is sadly deficient in the Literae Humaniores, and has never read anything but geography. Murray and Blackwood, however, may now do much in unison.
"The two bibliopoles have offered John Wilson and myself £500 a-year between us to conduct their Magazine, and to pay us and our friends at the handsomest rate they can afford per sheet for what we write. This agreement we have made for one year, at the end of which we expect the work will be established, so as to afford better things. They at present print 6000, and expect soon to sell that number regularly.
"Our only object is to make the book a good one: to this you can much contribute, and I trust you will do so, and you shall be paid for your trouble. Of the last Welsh pieces you have sent, I am afraid most are too strictly antiquarian, and locally so, for the Magazine readers in their present uninitiated state. Do give us some things more in the fashion of the Tale of Ivan, more intelligible to all to begin with. Mr. Merivale, author of 'Orlando in Roncesvalles,' who was a friend of Mr. Johnes, and may therefore be known to you, has agreed to write a good deal, and I think his knowledge of old French and Italian books may render him a most valuable hand.... It strikes me that a most amusing series of papers might be given on the Fathers, translating and commenting on those rare views of society and manners, and also those specimens of eloquence which are lost to the world in that mass of unread folios. Would you undertake this? I suppose you have, or could easily procure, copies of the most important, and I really conceive you might furnish us with a most valuable body of entertaining as well as instructive matter. Think of this: you will perceive very soon a change, I hope much for the better, in the contents of the Magazine. Whatever you can do in the way of curious information, above all things, will be paid for handsomely and instantly, in case these should be matters of any moment in your eyes: for the longer one lives the more visible becomes the ubiquity of the reign of 'Diva Pecunia.'"
The statement in this letter of the absolute engagement of Lockhart and Wilson to edit the Magazine is the sole trace existing, so far as I am aware, of any arrangement of the kind: and my instinctive idea on reading it was that it must have been a temporary plan of Murray's, who loved to do things formally and in order, and to whose ideas an editor would be as necessary for a Magazine as a handle to a door. I have ascertained since that this was precisely the fact. Murray's partnership with Blackwood lasted, however, as the reader has seen, for six months only, and this engagement produced nothing but the already quoted letter inserted in our last chapter from these two responsible (though so completely irresponsible) persons, whom Blackwood calls "our friends," and who ran wilder riot than ever, as far as they could, while in their temporary authority. They never got the money, I am told, thus promised — (at all events both denied strenuously in after life having ever received a penny for editorial work) — and I do not think that even for these six months they were ever free from the silent authority behind backs, who indeed permitted a great deal to their audacity, but not all.
Lockhart's proposal that his correspondent should make amusing papers on the Fathers, and their rare views of society and manners, is a wonderful suggestion; and the idea of the Welsh divine searching for fun and frolic in the pages of the "Acta Sanctorum," of which he could easily procure copies, is more amusing and original than we fear the papers would have been. Our young man is never elsewhere so young, so elated, or so important as in this curious scrap of correspondence. I am sorry there is no more of it.
They were idle young men, and, according to all the usual estimates, it was a rash thing to depend upon them and their flighty exertions for the success of a grave undertaking; but Blackwood had a keen eye for character, and divined his men more justly than their fellows: besides, he had the very exceptional gift of influencing and guiding the unruly Pegasus, which probably would not have gone soberly in harness for any other man. They treated him sometimes a little cavalierly, from that "de haut en bas" of education and conscious genius on which the Oxford scholar, freshly issued from the mint of intellectual superiority, is apt to feel himself elevated, looking down upon the general world; but they acknowledged his power with more or less cordiality, laughing at it sometimes and taking it as a good joke, at other times straining against the curb, but on the whole recognising the guidance with sufficiently good grace, notwithstanding their self-will and the impetuosity of their natures. It would scarcely seem to have been suspected by others that such coadjutors were really and seriously to be trusted for steady work. "They were so constantly employed," says Mr. R. P. Gillies — himself afterwards a member of the Blackwood band — in his "Recollections of a Literary Veteran," "in giggling and making giggle, like Cowper and Thurlow in another generation, that they seemed to have no time for work." Lockhart, besides being the greatest wit, was the caricaturist of the gay party: no one was safe from him, specially not himself, of whom he made prim sketches, in all the stiffness of correct demeanour which veiled his wild and headlong fancy. All the Edinburgh notabilities came under the very sharp pen of the reckless artist — the judge on the bench and the preacher in the pulpit. I find, however, a pen-and-ink sketch of a head, which I suppose to be that of Mr. Blackwood, among these dusty papers, not satirical at all, as like as possible to the literary portrait which has just been quoted. Lockhart was himself a handsome young fellow, dark and brilliant, a little reserved in manner, very shy! with a winning air of half-melancholy, unobtrusive, well-mannered in society. There is something curious in the contrast between the external description thus given of him, and the reputation which he soon acquired of reckless indifference to the feelings of others, and a bitterness of wit which was tempered by no regard for his neighbour. "The Scorpion which delighteth to sting the faces of men" was no undeserved nickname, but seems to describe his peculiar character with considerable insight. Was it his own? We are disposed to suspect it was.
He was not a swashbuckler like Wilson, making his sword whistle round his head, and cutting men down on every side. His satire was mischievous, virulent, not so much from hate as from nature. It was as if he had a physical necessity for discharging that point of venom, which he emitted suddenly without warning, without passion or excitement, proceeding on his way gaily with perfect unconcern when the dart was flung. It is impossible to imagine anything more unlike the roaring choruses of conviviality which were supposed to distinguish Ambrose's than this reticent, sensitive, attractive, yet dangerous youth, by whose charm such a giant as Scott was immediately subjugated, and who slew his victims mostly by the midnight oil, not by any blaze of gaiety, or in the accumulative fervour of social sarcasm. From him came the most of those sharp things which the victims could not forget. Wilson hacked about him, distributing blows right and left, delivered sometimes for fun, though sometimes with the most extraordinary impulse of perversity, in the impetus of his career. Lockhart put in his sting in a moment, inveterate, instantaneous, with the effect of a barbed dart — yet almost, as it seemed, with the mere intention of giving point to his sentences, and no particular feeling at all.
He was, like the others — like most of the notable young men in Edinburgh in their several generations — a briefless barrister, an advocate without clients. It is said that, though he could write with such force, he was incapable of public speaking, and therefore could not have succeeded as a pleader before law courts, under any circumstances. He was, as we have noted, a linguist — an accomplishment much more rare then than now, though even now it is not too common. He was capable of incursions into that dark German sphere, of which in those days the world in general knew so little, had encountered and been noticed by Goethe, and was sufficiently familiar with local colour and phraseology to report the opinions of apocryphal German professors, giving perhaps a suggestion to Thomas Carlyle, whose Teufelsdrockh was indeed of a very different order from Lockhart's Dr. Ulrich Sternstare or Baron von Lauerwinkel, but who might have caught the idea from his predecessor. Lockhart was also one of the first modern translators and expositors of Spanish literature, which was a more elegant language, and one more romantic and gentlemanlike, according to the fancy of the time. He was indeed a very Proteus of literary capacity, and could disport himself within the covers of one Magazine under half-a-dozen different characters. His wonderful powers of work have already been remarked. He idled or seemed to idle through the day, absorbed in the cheerful nothings of a young man's life in town, and probably went home late like the rest of his kind, but all the same had his sheet ready for the Magazine next morning. Nerves were happily unknown in those days. Men feared overwork as little as they feared writer's cramp, an exquisite malady which was almost epidemic a short while ago, but now seems happily to have died out of fashion again.
After the commotion of the immediate beginning, the new periodical went on with great vigour, asserting by all its mouths, for the satisfaction of Mr. Murray and other fastidious persons, that the "personalities" had come to an end, and that henceforward its progress was to be virtuous beyond all the usual requirements of virtue. Murray dropped off, as we have seen, perhaps with but a limited confidence in those promises, perhaps for other reasons; but we can scarcely pretend that the personalities did cease. The Cockney School continued to be the object of unsparing attack, and other opponents arose, natural foes of the Tory band, natural rivals for the public approval. There was a raid against the "Scotsman," the well-known Edinburgh paper, which then was laying the foundations of its great popularity, and which being as Whig as Blackwood was Tory, had violently attacked the Magazine. This, however, raised no great grievance or complaint, for in the unusual instances when "hawks" do "pike out hawks' een," the spectators are generally too thankful to see their arms turned against each other to interfere, and the newspaper was baited by the Magazine under the form of a mad bull, with lively illustrations and to the general delight. The Cockney School also replied at intervals, with much splutter of returning musketry from the "Examiner" and other papers devoted to that school in London, and there were renewed threats of actions from Hunt and Hazlitt, from time to time, but no further harm done. I do not know by whom the idea of a series of papers, in which the affairs of the world, the characteristics of the party, and things in general, should be treated in the imaginary talk of a number of half-fictitious persons, was first conceived. It was, however, begun some time before the day of the "Noctes," whether tentatively or accidentally, by the record of a sort of literary picnic and expedition to the Kirk of Shotts, and by a further and more prolonged excursion, in which the members of the brotherhood, after their rambles or their sport, met in a Tent, and discussed over their toddy every subject in earth and heaven. The same idea, with a difference, had already been used in a series of letters, professedly by Timothy Tickler, which was the pseudonym of one of the older men of the brotherhood, Mr. Robert Sym, the uncle of John Wilson, who afterwards became one of the most notable figures in the "Noctes." I do not imagine, however, that either the letters of Timothy or his after-utterances in the "Noctes" were actually from his hand, though he had a small share now and then, among the many who took part in the production of these amusing monologues or dialogues. Such light summer divertisements ended in the institution of the Evenings at Ambrose's, where, independent of wind or weather, the beauties of nature or the attractions of sport, a certain merry circle were supposed to assemble, and carry on the same discussions, with a continuity which made of the "Noctes" one of the most admirable mediums for the "criticism of life" that was ever known — as well as, perhaps, the most popular and living series of periodical literary sketches ever given to the world.
There are few ideas in literature more attractive than that of the "Noctes" — especially in that periodical literature which is never so powerful as when it can manage to prolong the interest of the reader from publication to publication, giving him as it were himself a part to play in the discussions which are there carried on. This continual commentary, putting public events and books, and all the undertakings of the period, to the test of reason or of imagination, discussing the people and the things of common life for us and with us, in the freedom of literary irresponsibility yet authority: or with the light and rapid survey of a still easier tribunal, at which the ludicrous side of life is the favourite aspect — has a never-failing charm. It is delightful for the writer and the reader alike, and when well done is the most effectual criticism that can be of the varied drama of existence which goes on around us, and is our chief interest. The writers of "Blackwood's Magazine" added a new attraction to this lively review of life by producing themselves in their own differing individualities in the foreground, a gay and reckless yet powerful band, wielding the flying pen in caricature of each other, in light-hearted personal sallies and attacks, in which each man had the power of instant retaliation upon his neighbour, and all went merry as marriage-bells. It was true that it was generally a Barmecide's feast at which these imaginary sittings were held, and the draughts of the giants therein recorded were the completest fiction; but as the lively manuscript passed from hand to hand, or two of the laughing critics laid their heads together over it, each man's sayings were probably more like him and true to nature than if the mirth of Ambrose's had been as noisy as they pretended it to be.
The letters of Lockhart which are to be found in the overflowing repositories of Blackwood are considerable in number, but they are extremely fragmentary and hasty in character. They give us a flying glimpse of the man in his overflowing energy and haste of youth, dashing off advice, direction, suggestion, as fast as his fingers can move over the paper, and with all the sharpness and decision of his age and character — without, however, penetrating into the inmost soul of him, or revealing much of his profounder nature. I have not, indeed, seen any of Lockhart's letters which do this. He was not introspective, according to the favourite jargon of our time. His age had scarcely begun to indulge in such terms, or to unrobe itself before the public. His letters to Blackwood are chiefly a series of illustrations of the work of the Magazine. They are the rapid billets interchanged by men who saw each other every day, or most days, and who spoke to each other as much by allusions understood by both as by formal statements. They show better, however, than anything else could do the position of the curious little company, writers and publisher, and the very peculiar place held by Mr. Blackwood among those hot-headed and high-spirited young men, who were occasionally rebellious, sometimes impertinent, now and then overbearing; but who one and all had an almost childlike confidence in his perfect friendship and well-meaning towards them, along with an almost invariable, though often unwilling and impatient, submission to his judgment. "The man clothed in plain apparel," plain too in all his pretensions, and even in the style, not literary or aiming at effect, but always forcible, sensible, and vigorous in expression, with which he replied — kept his place among them, steadily holding to his own view in face of all petulance and resistance, though always an enthusiast for literary excellence, and lavish in appreciation and praise.
These letters, as has been already said, are bewildering to the unfortunate historian, for they are absolutely without date; and as they were, it is to be supposed, generally delivered by hand, or sent in a parcel of books by the coach, there is not even the aid of a postmark to help us. It is very likely that their sequence as here given is not quite accurate. But the subject is continuous, and exact chronology is of the less importance that the "Noctes" of which they treat began in 1822, and Lockhart's regular contributions ceased in 1829, thus identifying the period. They show the singular union and interchange between the chief contributors, every man's hand in every other man's dish — not generally a very safe principle of procedure, but apparently answering perfectly well in the case of this sworn brotherhood, who, so far as is visible, had no serious quarrels among themselves, not any at least that came to the notice of the world, though they went on cutting up and adding to each other's manuscripts, as the following notes will show. They plunge us into the midst of the "Noctes" without introduction or explanatory pause, laying the machinery of these most popular and attractive papers before us in a way which may be a surprise, and possibly a disappointment, to some readers who have been brought up in the traditions of fun and jollity which have always hung about the imaginary table at Ambrose's. It would not seem that these Symposia were under any regular system at first or subjected to any editorship. When they began it was frequently Lockhart who was the author, sometimes Maginn (after the advent of that still more unruly contributor): occasionally Hogg had, or was allowed to suppose that he had, a large share in them. Finally they fell into the hands of Wilson, and it is chiefly his portion of these admirable exchanges of literary criticism and comment which have been preserved and collected. To produce them required many gifts beyond these of the moralist or critic. A certain amount of creative skill and dramatic instinct, in addition to the flow of wit and power of analysis and analogy, was necessary to one who had to keep up a keen argument single-handed, like a Japanese juggler with his balls, especially when every man who was supposed to speak was a notable man, whose thoughts and diction could both be easily identified; or to carry out all the quips of a prolonged jest, in which the tempers of some of the interlocutors were naturally roused, and free speaking was the rule: while, on the other hand, the number of subjects which had to be touched upon in a monthly commentary upon the doings of the world was very great. We are made to leap over a considerable number of early and agitated years, which, however, have already found a brief place in the record in following this interesting portion of the early productions of "Maga." The special series entitled "Noctes," after two or three preliminary series, as above indicated, began in 1822.
I give the following illustrations of the system, if system it can be called, in extracts from many letters, all short, and written with a flying pen. They are addressed to Mr. Blackwood, sometimes with books, as we have said, and by the "Blucher," the coach from Melrose to Edinburgh, sometimes by the familiar hand of the printer's devil, sometimes scrawled in "the shop." The following scrap may possibly refer to the beginning of these famous papers, and would seem to prove that it was from Blackwood's brain that the conception came
"Your idea of the 'Noctes' is most capital; but the thing must be done at leisure, and I rather think when Wilson and I are together. Meantime trust it to the Doctor, and let me have his hints. This would be the far best vehicle for discussing the Periodical Press. Never having seen Gifford, I could not do him very well. I think I could do 'John Bull' and Jeffrey. Get hold of Theodore's old farces, that I may steal his own puns. Hogg told me he had been writing a 'Noctes.' Let me see it when it is in type, that I may put in a few cuts at himself. This lad Carne, who is he? I can't understand who or what he is. You should make him write a little book or articles on Green. He is going to Westmoreland, and I have given him a note to Wilson, whom he will amuse."
The "lad Carne" had been introduced by Hogg, who brought him to Abbotsford, and also to Chiefswood, which was then Lockhart's home, with the freedom of the Shepherd's usual dealings with his friends. Lockhart complains that he had not been able to write at any length, being interrupted by these visitors. He writes on a "Sunday night," when he was something of an invalid, complaining of having been "confined one whole day, and part of another, to bed with this influenza":—
"I enclose what I have been able to do. I have all but omitted Hogg, according to the Professor's request, leaving him to fill up that character as he pleases. I have said nothing that I should not like to see stand, nothing which he or you may not strike out if you please; but don't 'dele' merely because a thing appears unintelligible or meaningless, for I know what I am doing, and am pretty sure of my hits. Hogg's song is very good, and if Cheape sends anything, Wilson will easily interweave that also."
"It will cost you considerable trouble to see that this Tickler of shreds and patches appears properly. I have numbered the pages in red, and I have marked out with red marks the bits to be taken in from Maginn's MS. I cannot very well judge, but I think the two hands will scarcely be detected. You must send down the Review to the printers again.
"I can't do anything to speak of in the 'Noctes' this month. I think Wilson's article on King Leigh quite 'magnifique'! quite inimitable. He will feel the fun more than a ton of bitterness from the Doctor or me. My notion is that it should be a part of the 'Noctes' after Maginn's part in the little bit I have sent; then this lecture of the Professor's; then the other little bit of mine, and the song with which 'Maga' concludes. But if you don't like this, anyway you like. Don't mind about sending the slips of the Chancery article. You can correct them yourself quite well. I shall therefore expect to have 'Maga' in my next parcel....
"The above was written with the intention of being sent on Monday, but I changed my mind, in the hope of hearing more from Maginn. However, I think it very likely the article on the 'Edinburgh' may be thought too long as it is. The article on Hayley will do quite as well next month if you haven't room now. It is very good, however, and if you have room, by keeping out indifferent things, 'tant mieux.'
"I have corrected a word or two in Maginn's 'Noctes,' but not the article throughout. Don't think of sending me any more proofs. Correct the song yourself."
Here follows a bit of gossip so entirely in the style of Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Skeggs that we are tempted to quote it, if for nothing else than to show how universal that taste is, and how little the ablest are really above the weaknesses which they pounce upon in others with the highest relish of mockery. Lord P. and Major F. are inscrutable:—
"The closing story is veritable, and I particularly wish it to appear, in order that Lord P. and Major F. may be obliged to tell in print, what for months past they have been talking. In fact, I heard the story from Lord P. myself, and have only altered a few circumstances for obvious reasons. The Archdeacon he called for was not our Butterfly but another; but I know you would like to gratify F. R. S."
This enigmatical note is printed, not for the sake of the little social mystery dead and gone, from which all sense has evaporated, but as a little fossilised froth, if that might be — the sort of thing which, alas! many of the cleverest of us love, like so many chambermaids. It is rare, however, to find in the "Noctes" anything of this description.
"I have run over the Doctor, and added a few pages, as you see, which will make it do very well for a continuation of Timothy — not a P.S. I really have not read the poem, but dipping here and there, it seems worthy of all that Maginn says. Send it back, if you please, by your next parcel. 'Maga' this time will be worthy of herself.
"If you have spare room, I am by no means sure that you should not clap in the 'Noctes,' short as they are. The topics will lose something in another month. I would not, however, give motto, &c., but just 'Noctes, No. VII.; a fragment.'
"I return the two beastly books of Col. Brown and Dr Poole. The Review in the former consists, I opine, of some hints of old Mackenzie, dressed up by the chief Blockhead, who evidently works in a muzzle. Old M. had been disgusted with your not inserting his affair on 'Lights and Shadows,' and your mutilations of his review of Miss Lyndsay.
"I am delighted with Cobbett, so much so that I wish you would order some of his books by your steam parcel — viz., 'English Grammar,' 3s.; 'Year's Residence in America,' 5s.; Cobbett's Sermons, 3s. 6d., to be got at 183 Fleet Street. I really would like to see these, and think the sermons in particular would be famous materials for the article I propose to give you on his late writings next month. You will of course send the 'Edinburgh Review' 'quam primum,' and anything that occurs; a stray paper or the like will always be exceedingly welcome. Leigh Hunt's new Indicator is just the old trash over again, and will die in two months, or rather will not live at all. Oh Lord! if it were worth while to touch Dr Poole! but on the whole I am decidedly of opinion that you would do him more good than harm. Jemmy Simpson's review of the Flood of Thessaly is just yours, done into Poolism and Prose. Not one idea but what is palpably and boldly stolen. What cats!
"P.S. — Don't send these reviews to the Professor — they will only annoy him if he be in a nervous state; but judge for yourself."
"The Professor can patch this concern as he likes. No traces of the lost packet yet? and I have had sad bother by the accident, for the same parcel contained a lot of Burns's life — which, by the bye, the Professor can puff in a page of dialogue anywhere, if he does not think it worth more. I have made a tailpiece for Cay's article which I now enclose. I have also corrected the slips of the review of Irving. I partly agree with you as to most of your suggestions, but I think there will be a better opportunity of introducing them in the 'Noctes.' As for the Laureate, I am inexorable at present.
"You may depend on having Timothy on the 'Edinburgh Review' and 'Liberal' soon: therefore if Maginn or Wilson send anything on that subject let me have it. You should get Galt to write a few paragraphs about Gill's 'Green.'... I suppose you will now begin to print your No. Let me know what you have and what you want. I shall certainly do the Cobbett and Faux on America."
We do not know in what Lockhart had been severe to Southey; but it is well to see that his inexorable attitude did not last. Another letter tells the excellent effect of the publisher's opinion on this subject. "Since you take it so much to heart," he says, "pray draw your pen through all the concluding part of the article about Southey: end it with the serious bit."
The temper of the Magazine got generally smoother as time went on, and other writers came in and the brotherhood became larger. But the "Noctes" always remained (sometimes disastrously) a safety-valve for the heat of jest or satire or almost irrestrainable impulse of slaughter (not altogether, as witness the regretful giving up of Dr. Poole: at the first outset Dr. Poole would have been slain and laid out upon the table for demonstration without consideration of his insignificance); and in this lucky medium they had always each other to spend a stray jibe upon, all in love and without malice. No one could be more ready to applaud, and with the fullest and most cordial praise, than the former Scorpion, though he was still quite willing and pleased by times to use his sting. The reference in the following is to the double number of Sept. 1829, or rather two issued together, a romantic and unusual expedient to use up superfluous material, and also (not less perhaps) to startle and dazzle the world:—
"Your two numbers are quite surprising. The Professor is very great indeed. So is Colonna, and so is the Essay on Wordsworth by I can't guess whom. Altogether they must make a grand sensation surely. I send a small notice, as much as in conscience I can offer you, of the St Albans Romance. Dibdin's book has just reached me. I have forgot it, and will look into it, but do get some person who would do the thing more con amore, for example Doubleday. I don't like Dr Dibdin — a little glutton; and would like much better to cast about for something of my own devising. Let me know whether you hear again from the Professor, and pray don't send me any more newspapers except the 'Herald.'"
"I received your packet yesterday evening, and now send you a review of Shelley's poem, which I expect will conclude the Magazine to your satisfaction. It is really a most capital number. Blair's pieces of prose are quite exquisite, and nothing can be better than the Irish articles. The Oehlenschlaeger kept me laughing for several hours. How that demon has entered into the very core of Ambrose's! I would have it by all means, and call it perhaps 'Horae Scandicae, No. II.,' not to interfere with any series of seriousness! By the way, who wrote 'Microsophus'? and what is Tom Hamilton doing with himself?"
"I am tolerably busy just now, but must and will give you a lift. Indeed both the London Magas are so good this month that even your own superexcellent number will be no more than what was needful. These people can't rival your best things, but they have many more hands and more steady ones. I don't think Croly is used to give himself much trouble or time. He is able to do far better than he commonly does for 'Maga.' I think I may venture to promise you one way or other two sheets, but I shall not begin till I know what Maginn is likely to be at. 'Don Juan' — these cantos are far better than the last three. Shall I say so?"
"I could give you a few pages on the 'Northern Tales,' 'Heraldic Anomalies,' 'Clarke's Travels,' 'Faux and Cobbett in America,' — any or all of them; but still I desiderate a new and a true and a grasping theme. Help me to that if you can.
1. By all means if you put in the Suicide put him in entire.
2. Poke Tom Hamilton.
3. Could this Courtenay or somebody else not help you to something about the new Law Commission?"
"I write because you ask me to do so, but I can say nothing but that the number gives me the utmost pleasure, and that I heartily congratulate you on it. It appears to me that it contains all any such thing should contain: liberal and eloquent criticism, sound sensible discussions, and most boyant (sic) fun and rich humour. If people are not amused with these 'Noctes,' for instance, Man must have ceased to be the 'laughing animal.' Altogether admirable is the Irish article: a series of the sort Maginn points at would be of the most important service not to you only, but really to the public.
"The greatest beauty of a good number is that it always creates others by the stimulus it gives. I hope Maginn will attack Ireland seriously, now he has begun. By the middle of next month, I think you will be ripe for a real article on Spain; so be collecting all the pamphlets on that subject, and also on Greece.
"Don't send me any money just now, as I have enough to bring me to town. But do send me by Tuesday's Blucher, 'Wallenstein': and do try to get the 'Devil's Elixir' out of Gillies's hands. Try whether he would not submit to sit down composedly and translate six or seven of the best scenes of Schiller's 'Wilhelm Tell,' 'Carlos,' or 'Bride of Messina.' If he will, I answer for the prose.
"The best puff 'John Bull' could give you is to extract something excellently good said on a popular subject. I would leave it to Hook. Upon the whole, I think such a Magazine stands rather above a puff of his. Nothing delighted me more than to see, the way in which Hogg is treated — and next 'Noctes' will perhaps lift him yet higher by being partly his own.
"P.S. — I open my letter because, on reading Alaric's packet, I see it must be sent back to you without delay. The Fonthill affair will be quite cold by the 1st of December: so you should not meddle with Alaric's views, which, however, are exceedingly laughable, and would have been very good had they come sooner. I am not sure, however, whether either the Professor or I would have liked to see you dishing poor Frisby. Jerdan won't dare to print them. As for the letter of the Goth, 'tis excellent, and will be of use in the 'Noctes' of next number.
"The Suicide is really a man of talents. You should request him to write you letters on the Alaric plan as material for 'Noctes.'"
We quote these only half-comprehensible allusions to show how the "materials for 'Noctes'" came in from every side. Alaric was, of course, Alaric Watts, whom we now know only as a gentle minor poet, but who was then a bustling and ever-active newspaperman, pulling the strings of a multitude of journals, as will be apparent hereafter: there has never been any other man of literature with so alarming a name; and thus the tribute of both Goth and Vandal was taken in by the lively commentators. Nothing was amiss that came to their net. There are some individual articles, too, long forgotten, to which the critic returns again and again with an enthusiasm of pleasure. Oehlenschlaeger had kept him "laughing for hours." "On no account omit Oehlenschlaeger; but it will need a little pruning," says another letter. In a third report the circle of its admirers is enlarged. "Sir Walter Scott, Sir Humphry Davy (query, a Whig or not?), and Mr. Stewart Rose all sat bursting their sides over Oehlenschlaeger. Tell the author this," Lockhart says. The author was Maginn, and the article an imaginary review of a play very much in King Cambyses' vein, with copious extracts, which apparently it was supposed even by these admirable authorities a good joke to mark with the Danish dramatist's name, and which called forth a great deal of absurd and witty discussion from various imaginary German critics, principally by Lockhart's hand. Professor Aytoun did the same thing afterwards in 'Firmilian' with great effect, but his supposed author was as fictitious as the tragedy, which proves a certain amelioration in literary morals. Maginn had not joined the band till the year 1821, but plunged at once into the very heart of all its devices, as will hereafter be seen.
That Mr. Blackwood, however, did not invariably receive these triumphant 'Noctes' without criticism is apparent from the following letter:
"W. Blackwoocl to J. G. Lockhart.
12th August 1824.
Inclosed you have the slips of the 'Noctes,' which are most lively and amusing. There is one part, however, which I hope you will consider again, the introduction of Crafty and me. Anything, whether praise or ridicule of me as an individual in my own Magazine, will always appear out of place, and though I care, as you know, as little for these things as any one, yet it has always been very unpleasant to me to have myself individually brought forward. On the other hand, I can see no good effect it would have for my Magazine to be the channel through which the praises of the Crafty should be poured in such copious streams. It is not that this worthy and the Whig gang at his back tried for years to blast and ruin me, and every one they supposed connected with me, that I object to the butter you have given him, but it is because I hate all appearance of hunting liberality and praising of opponents, which is so much the cant of the day. There is not a man who knows anything at all about these matters, who would not laugh and sneer at such a piece of gratuitous blarney. Crafty himself would most likely consider it a sort of quiz, or if he did take it as serious, his vanity is so monstrous that he would not think it came within 100 miles of his splendid merits. It might perhaps please Sir Walter and James Ballantyne, who must feel such a deep interest in C.'s concerns, but James would think that he too ought to have had a mite. I fear you will not be pleased at the view I have taken of this matter, but I am sure if you will consider this matter coolly you will not blame me. Your friend Mr. Cay read it, and it struck him exactly as it did me."
He seems, however, to have taken with perfect good-humour a broad sketch of himself, asking a contribution from every new interlocutor, in a subsequent number. One of Lockhart's most persistent jests was the creation of an absurd but amusing individual, under the name of the Odontist, in the very accurately depicted person of a well-known dentist in Glasgow, Mr. James Scott, whose rotund figure lent itself to ridicule. Into his mouth some of the merriest sets of verses, songs sung by the imaginary travellers in the Tent, and best jokes were put. To judge from what Mrs. Gordon says in her life of her father, Professor Wilson, the Odontist took his reputation in very good part, and was not disinclined to pose as one of the contributors to 'Blackwood,' and to accept the dinners and fame thrust upon him in this understanding. I have, however, found a couple of letters from this ill-used individual, in which his feelings are expressed less amiably. Except for the quite unpardonable use made of his name and personal characteristics, it does not seem that there was much to find fault with in the part he was made to play. The letters are scarcely those of an educated man, and certainly do not give poor Mr. Scott any claim to the amusing qualities so forcibly thrust upon him in the pages of "Blackwood":—
"James Scott to W. Blackwood.
23rd August 1822.
I have returned the book you sent me. I looked over it, and I am quite astonished at you for allowing so much freedom with my person — especially one who has wished you well. It shall be at your peril if you publish any more low vulgar stuff concerning me and my name, either directly or indirectly. Every person is disgusted. How would you like it if I were to sit down and write a deal of stuff about you, Mr. Galt, or Mr. Wilson?
Your immediately suppressing these objectionable articles where I am alluded to, and indemnifying me for the damages done to me by holding me up to ridicule in a false and uncalled-for manner, must immediately take place. Otherways I shall take other steps to stop such malignant proceedings without delay."
Two days later we find a letter to Mr. Galt, who evidently was supposed by Mr. Scott to be the author of the outrage:—
"James Scott to John Gait.
25th August 1822.
If you had seen the impropriety of holding any one up to ridicule — under whatsoever denomination it may be ranked — Jockular, Ironical, or Quizzical, over the table, when well timed, great latitude may be given. But to vend Jocks for money must certainly appear more against the person, so presumptious, and whatever one may carelessly think, the Public will view it in no other light. Certainly a man must be callous indeed to put up with such freedoms, to say no more of it, for this cannot be allowed. I earnestly beg you not to delay a serious survey of the consequences to yourself, as well as to me and my friends who are exceedingly hurt. Surely strangers think me a poor silly chap, and I am afraid others think so likewise, otherways this trouble might have been spared."
Ungrateful Odontist! Lockhart had just put his own delightful "Lament for Captain Paton" into his mouth, and filled him with merry talk. He was like the Shepherd, who never forgave (yet was always forgiving) the brotherhood for attributing all their most poetical ideas to him. But as we hear no more of Scott's remonstrances, perhaps he was finally persuaded, as Mrs. Gordon says, to accept all the fine things put into his mouth.
This personage was the supposed author of the merry and vigorous verses in which fifty rhymes are found for the cheerful name of Blackwood which concludes every stanza. "Our celebrated Jurist long ago," says this poet, "coined twenty rhymes in praise of Mr. Packwood," but he pledges himself to a worthier name, and a more "sounding stanza."
Long ruled a Tyrant Fiend the Northern sky,
Impious and cruel, whom no hand attack would;
Till pitying heaven a stern Avenger, high
And bold, upreared in thee, illustrious Blackwood!
No cautious war thy hand would deign to wage,
At once thy spunck the fortress storm and sack would,
With sheer close thrust the tyrant to engage,
Alone might suit the energy of Blackwood.
At first high-seated in his old pavilion,
Fain scorn the unwonted foe the fiendish quack would,
And pass for pride before the subject Million,
The fear that made him shun the wrath of Blackwood.
But soon, I knew, thou'dst strip the thin disguise;
I knew-not long so crouse the Tyrant crack would,
Exposed in batter'd plight to vassal eyes,
All bleeding from the vulture beak of Blackwood.
The coxcombries of their blaspheming cant,
Full soon I knew to earth he hew and hack would,
And on the ruins of the unrighteous plant
The godly trophies of the march of Blackwood.
I knew thy thumps to quell the vauntings priggish,
Of pert and impious upstarts find the knack would,
And paleness mantle every visage whiggish,
At the bare echo of the name of Blackwood.
I knew the weight of thy o'ermastering digs,
Soon teach the pompous swells to shout alack! would,
I knew they soon, (these infidels and Whigs),
Not blue and yellow look, but blue and black would.
I knew thou wouldst run Leslie such a rig,
That he no more, like some fierce Don Cossack, would
Against the tongue of Moses shake his wig,
Cow'd into reverence by the rod of Blackwood.
I knew thou'dst find a whip for such a pig,
I knew full soon he stop his impious clack would,
And be constrained to dye his whitening wig,
By chemic tricks disguising dread of Blackwood.
There are some utter idiots, and I know it,
These most the merest balderdash attract would;
These, Burns of Paisley prize above the Poet,
And Baldwin's JOHN above the JAMES of Blackwood.
There is no arguing with folks like these;
Even from a martyr's patience it subtract would,
To think within our gracious King's four seas
Men can exist blind to the worth of Blackwood.
When wits revile him — 'tis mere fudge — no less
Even Jeffrey, were he fairly on the rack, would
Make a clean breast, I doubt not, and confess
He has in private a penchant for Blackwood.
A man like him, (who doubts?) it hugely tickle,
To hear the slang of his own low Whig pack would,
He knows that he himself has been a Pickle,
And must excuse the Random Shots of Blackwood.
I think of manhood if he had a particle
He instantly his nonsense all retract would,
And set about a clever leading article,
To be inserted (if approved) by Blackwood.
Envy they say's a rotten tooth — that tooth
From Jeffrey's jaw, with joy, myself extract would,
Then like the Eagle he'd renew his youth,
Breathing the "Ellangowan air" of Blackwood.
Yet if he did so, one cannot deny
That Leslie grunt like some demoniac would;
That's probably the reason Frank's so shy
To quit the old Review and write for Blackwood.
In the meantime Lockhart's own youthful life had come to rapid development while all these "Jocks" and labours were going on. In May 1818, while the air was still full of the dust and commotion roused by the establishment of the Magazine, our young man met Scott at an Edinburgh dinner-party, and was presented to him. "He received me," as we are told in the "Life of Scott," "with a cordiality which I had not been prepared to expect from one filling a station so exalted. This, however," he adds, "is the same story that every individual who ever met him under similar circumstances has to tell." The young man had the good luck, when the ladies retired, to find himself next to Scott, and the still greater good fortune to find a subject which interested him — i.e., a recent visit paid to Goethe at Weimar, to his account of which Scott listened with great interest, asking many questions about the man whom he said he had considered as his Master in his youth. He ended by inviting the happy youth to Abbotsford, which was about the finest thing that could happen to a young man of letters in those days. It is well known to what further developments that visit led, and advantages which were mutual: for Scott secured for himself the most admirable son, champion, and companion when he admitted Lockhart into his family. He was married to Sophia Scott in 1820, and from that date his name was never dissociated from that of her father. No more fortunate and happy relationship was ever formed. Scott's own sons have left but little record behind them. They fell back into the common crowd, as we believe it is usual for a race to do after it has come to a climax by producing one of the greatest of men: and, what also seems usual — obeying a law more subtle still than the fondly cherished theory of development — perished in the direct line, leaving no children to carry on his name. But Lockhart was the son of his heart, his confidant and faithfullest friend through all the troubles that followed, and his children were the only heirs of Abbotsford and their great forebear's glory. Lockhart's letters are seldom without an allusion to Scott after they became thus closely connected. Here is one of a later date which shows the position in which he stood to the great Magician of the age, when his "crowned estate began to pine in that reverse of doom." Blackwood had recently attained civic honours, whence the title
"ABBOTSFORD, 27th May.
MY DEAR BAILLIE, — You have indeed much reason to be cockahoop, for your present number is a glorious one throughout, and contains one passage (that on the Bloody hand row) worth alone twenty volumes of ordinary wit. It is the very finest thing I think he ever wrote [author's note: Professor Wilson in 'Maga,' June 1831]. I propose being in Edinburgh for two or three days next week, but can't exactly fix a day, as I should not like to leave Sir W. S. on one of those dull days that now chequer his existence. On the whole, however, he is mending, and I hope to see him pretty well restored before the summer is over."
From the same place he writes in 1825 of a visit of Constable, the (supposed) deathless enemy of the brotherhood. "Here is Constable and his hopeful, both as smooth as silk," he says. "I suppose the bargain is being ratified touching the next novel. The Crafty says there is a favourable review of Hogg's Jacobite songs in the forthcoming number of the 'Blue and Yellow.'" It may seem a curious fate that thus brought "the Scorpion" and "the Crafty" together under one roof, and that so imposing a roof as that of Abbotsford, where all quarrels were bound to be forgotten: but it is still more curious that Lockhart should be now working for that rival publisher in the intervals of the "Noctes" and other Blackwood productions, and had even, as has been seen, essayed to give the Crafty a large meed of praise in the very pages in which he had been insulted.
Here is a touch of experience and wisdom which showed how happiness and the society of Scott had mellowed the mind and softened the tongue of the Scorpion:—
"I have to acknowledge your kindness in sending the 'Quarterly Review' and Magazine [authors' note: February 1831], both of which are in their kinds most excellent. Maginn is easily detected, and is as brilliant as ever.... Mrs. Ogle is exquisite, but I am sorry to say I think altogether unfair. You may have a right to quiz Jeffrey (but his own name were better than a vulgar edition of it), but nobody has a right to meddle with the private amusements of a private lady. How would Mr. Galt like to have an account in a Magazine of a little frolic played off in her family by a female of his acquaintance? I have had time and opportunity to reflect on such things, and out of friendship for you and regard for him I would suggest a hint on this subject. After all, the story is inferior to that with W. C. Being introduced to him at a tea-party, she took him all to herself, discussed all her family affairs, and concluded by prevailing on the cynical bitter fellow to avow that he would not think the change of name an insuperable difficulty to his marrying her sole daughter and heiress, the lass with the bit land.
"You have also some capital political articles, one of them as good as possible. Coleridge is evidently mad and unintelligible, but I venture to say you will never repent giving him sixteen pages a-month. There will always be thoughts and expressions of the most inimitable beauty — quite enough to interest all men of letters.
"Sir W. S. is in very high feather. I have read two volumes of the 'Pirate,' which is quite charming — as fresh and lively as ever."
The first independent publication (after the translation of Schlegel) by which Lockhart made himself known — though always under the shelter of the Anonymous, a veil which of course was easily penetrable by those whose opinion was of any importance — was the lively piece of contemporary history known as "Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk." We find the first sketch of it in the following communication:—
"I saw James Ballantyne yesterday, and sounded him a little about Dr Morris. He seems to say he would stake all his credit on the Doctor's success. Scott also writes in great terms touching the Doctor. On the whole, I do think that the writing of the book might be soon accomplished, and would be singularly pleasant in the doing. 3 volumes 12mo, size of 'Waverley.' 1st vol., Edinburgh town described. [Here follows a detailed account of contents, including sketches of the most notable persons in Edinburgh, Scotch Education, Scotch Church, &c., the 2nd volume taking Glasgow for its subject.] Vol. 3rd to be written chiefly by Wilson, and to contain accounts of the Doctor's tours into the Highlands, Tweeddale, and along the Clyde.
"All this to be done immediately, 'currente calamo,' on smooth paper. What do you think on't? I think it would do much in every way, and reflect much credit if successful on your Magazine. Let me, therefore, hear what you say."
There could be little doubt what Mr. Blackwood would say. His eager mind leapt at every feasible literary project, and no doubt he spurred on the writer with all the force of sympathy and encouragement. It was a book entirely concerned with what we have already called the criticism of life (with apologies to the representatives of Mr. Matthew Arnold), which was a kind of thing highly popular at the time, as it is now in a different fashion. It was probably in 1817 that the idea was formed; but it was not till two years later that the work was published, though the bewildering network of advertisements woven about it, and the other frolic circumstances of its origin, go far to make even a proved date doubtful to the bewildered reader. A review professedly of a first edition appeared in the Magazine in the numbers for February and March 1819, which it was part of the mystification to represent as being from no less a hand than that of Scott; but in fact there was no first edition at all, the first actual publication being called the 2nd edition. The reason for this, unless it were, like so many other things, "for fun," we are completely unable to divine. There are a few indications, however, that it did not pass through the press without various skirmishes between author and publisher, in which the former did not always come out victorious. The following scrap is dated, with concise but not very instructive brevity, "5 o'clock," which implies a running controversy over the items of the publication hour by hour, as the printer's boy ran to and fro:—
"I have altered all you alluded to except the little bit about Ballantyne, who, you must see, has taken more trouble than usual with me, and well deserves a compliment. He has really served the book by many of his suggestions. I think the vignette will be a glorious finis indeed."
And here is a characteristic little outburst:—
"I give you permission to alter as you please all about yourself; but I tell you honestly you have utterly sickened me with your eternal expostulations. Change, but don't speak to me again. If any other person mentioned had been allowed only one 50th of your remarks, the book would have been at the 2nd volume at Doomsday!"
After this "Peter" begins to be a familiar figure, entering into the midst of the continual talk about the Magazine and the manner of its concoction:—
"I enclose the rest of the 'Noctes.' The Professor may add what he likes. We have of late had so much of Hogg's talk that I have made him say little this time; but if Wilson pleases he can stuff out the porker with some of his own puddings. You must take Cay into your counsels (or somebody) anent the musical concerns. The airs I have given to Peter are what I heard to be popular at the time, and if you choose to give the music, with some of his Italian rhapsodies, you can find it in any shop. And if you have any thorough Italian scholar to go over the proofs of Peter's lingo and improve it, so much the better.
"I find that the fool who abuses us in the 'Athenaeum' is Charles Knight alias 'Crito.' The attack was begun, tho', by one Forbes, whom you wot of. I leave these folk scatheless for the present."
It need not be added after these curious statistics that "Peter" was a very successful publication, though its revelations of Edinburgh are not without traces of the mischievous inclination by which Lockhart was distinguished. Murray for one found offence in it, and made its indiscretion recoil on the Magazine, which was scarcely just; but in the meantime Blackwood and his band had become names to conjure by withal, as will be seen from the following letter of Lockhart's:—
"I am, of course, highly gratified with all your accounts both of 'Peter' and of 'Maga.' As for the poor Tories here, their views are of course entirely selfish. Sym had a visit from Crawford Tait t' other day [author's note: Robert Sym, already referred to, called in the Magazine Timothy Tickler], who evidently came in the view of sounding Timotheus, placed on high amid the sounding choir, touching the possibility of procuring the effectual aid of your friends to a weekly anti-'Scotsman' paper. The Sage scorned the idea in the shape it came in, justly thinking that any proposal (even a more feasible one than this) should have been brought forward through some very different sort of channel. Sym had his gun and bayonet standing in the corner of the room, and every way kept up the character of the Tickler.
"I have seen a great deal of Mr. Ellis, the Irish barrister, and been much pleased. He went with me to Roslyn yesterday, and left Edinburgh this morning per smack. He seems to have been delighted with everything here, and threatens another visit by Xmas, which I hope he will perform. Much ought to be done and thought in regard to Ireland."
This familiar sentiment has been perennial, as everybody knows, in England and Scotland for a multitude of years: at the moment indicated the agitation for Catholic emancipation was going on — a question very different, however, from those that move us now.
Lockhart wrote, I think, all his novels in this period of his life. They were much above the average as novels, and full of talent, but not of genius; and they made little difference in his reputation or in his career. The first was "Valerius," the scene of which was laid in the first century. It was followed by "Adam Blair" and later by "Matthew Wald," both studies, and very sombre ones, of Scotland in his own day: between which came a novel full of university experiences, called "Reginald Dalton, a Story of Oxford Life." We hear, however, very little of them in these letters; and though moderately successful, they cannot be said to have given their author any distinct standing-ground as a writer of fiction. Galt, with much less power, was infinitely more popular. Lockhart's chief Scottish story, "Adam Blair," was not of the kailyard by any means, but a strange and terrible study of passion. There is a curious reference in one of his notes to his own timidity in respect to original composition, and want of confidence in his genius, which are scarcely sentiments we should have expected from Lockhart.
"I am so subject to being disheartened, that I suspect I shall never do anything without the Famulus Typographicus to help me on. I have therefore some thoughts of sending you a little bit of the novel immediately, to try that way. But the truth is, I scarcely have the courage." Some time later he continues: "I send you the manuscript of the commencement. Have it copied and set up in common novel style by James Ballantyne, and if I like it sufficiently when I see it printed, I will go on speedily — at present I want courage."
A correspondence between an author and publisher, even when so fragmentary as this, would scarcely be complete without a discussion about money, and accordingly it is no surprise to find some letters in which this subject is taken up with all the warmth and baffled helplessness of a man fighting in the dark — a mood perhaps characteristic of an author's frame of mind in every such discussion. There is something, I cannot tell why, which is exasperating beyond measure in the constantly recurring contrast between literary applause and substantial success. A man finds himself praised on all sides, even perhaps with a kind of enthusiasm by the lips of his publisher himself: he is told (but this not generally by the lips of the publisher) that his book is read everywhere, and that the opinion of the general public coincides with that of his literary friends. To be a little elated, to hold his head in the air, and to expect wealth and distinction to follow, are very natural things; but it must be allowed that in a great many instances they do not follow to any great extent, and the author stands bewildered, hearing perhaps (as happens in some cases) that the publisher has even lost by this successful publication of his. What does it mean? It was in this puzzled and wrathful attitude of mind that Lockhart wrote as follows:
"J. G. Lockhart to W. Blackwood.
I have to acknowledge the receipt of £40 for my contributions to the May and June numbers of the Magazine. I have also, since you have thought fit so minutely to allude to other matters, looked over the whole of the last six numbers, and find that you are quite correct in regard to the number of pages my pen has furnished. I find also that all my articles during these months amount to sixteen in number, and that of these exactly eight contain, and eight do not contain, extracts. Now, I have no hesitation in telling you most distinctly two separate and distinct things: my first, that I think I have been during the last year by far the most efficient of your contributors, and that I consider the reviews of new books furnished by me in that time quite equal, taken altogether, to any equal number of articles you have had, they being equally interesting, and there being fewer people who could furnish the like. (Indeed you have not had a good reviewer of literary works but myself and Wilson, in our separate styles, for the Doctor has scarcely tried.) Secondly, I do think that a person who does so much for your book ought to make more by doing so; and that, having entire confidence in your general liberality and the most perfect reliance on your kindly feelings to me personally, I am therefore under the necessity of considering 'Maga' as by no means in a flourishing condition.
"What I can in justice to myself do for 'Maga' shall be done, because I am your fast friend and hers; but I cannot go so far as to think it probable, with this Shakespeare on my hands, that I shall be able to do so much for some time to come as I have recently been in the custom of doing. I earnestly hope, therefore, since the Professor appears to be in such an indolent if not indifferent key, you will be enabled to get Maginn to do more — a great deal more — for you this summer than hitherto he has done. Do persuade him to give you more of his mind, and his beautiful scholarship.
"I shall perhaps say something more as to all this soon."
These were the happy days when Magazine writers were not as plentiful as blackberries, and when a writer could address his publisher in this way without receiving a polite answer next morning in the words of King Henry when he heard of the slaughter of Percy at Chevy Chase
I have a hundred captains in England
As good as ever was he.
No man is indispensable, the proverb says: and certainly nowadays no man is so indispensable to a periodical as Lockhart believed himself to be, and to some extent was. He followed up this letter, presumably, for still we have no dates to guide us, with the following, which evidently refers to some very special and carefully written article:—
"I think you will not accuse me of any impropriety when I say that the enclosed Essay 1 has cost me a great deal of time and thought, and that if it be printed in the Magazine I shall consider myself entitled to be paid for it upon quite a different footing than from usual articles.
"I am of opinion that such a view of such a subject would at this particular time attract great notice even in the highest quarters; and really that important practical results might follow. It is possible that all this is sanguine nonsense in me; but, however, I beg you to read my paper and state your feeling."
Mr. Blackwood's reply was full of enthusiastic praise of the article; but his letter does not seem to have been at all satisfactory to his correspondent. Lockhart replied briefly, explaining that he had not originally designed the article in question for the Magazine, and requesting its return: a communication which called forth the following reply:—
"W. Blackwood to J. G. Lockhart.
13th June 1825.
I am quite aware that the article you were so good as to send me was the result of knowledge and experience which few possessed, and that therefore anything I could offer in the shape of money was not adequate to its intrinsic worth. I felt proud in receiving the article, as a mark of friendship to myself as well as of the deep interest you continued to take in my Magazine, and I trusted that by means of it and others the work would receive such an impulse that I should very soon have it in my power to show you substantially that I was not insensible of what you had done for me. I certainly did look forward with some confidence to being able to pay all your articles in future at a higher rate than it had hitherto been in my power to do. To pay you, as I have already said, I could not; but I flattered myself that, independent of the interest you take in my Magazine, its very success would prompt you to write articles when you did not feel inclined to do anything else, and on the other hand I could have the satisfaction of offering you more and more liberal remuneration. This has all along been my first and most earnest wish, and if my means have not yet equalled my wishes, I am sure you will give me credit for its not being my fault. I hope you will excuse me for saying so much in explanation of the views and feelings under which I acted. Had I known, however, that you had sat down to this article with other views than sending it to me for the Magazine, I would have begged of you to tell me what these views were, and to the very utmost of my powers I would have endeavoured to promote them. And had I likewise known that it had been the labour of some weeks, but that you thought the Magazine the fit channel for giving your sentiments to the public (and I still flatter myself it is the best), I should have requested the favour, instead of naming any sum myself, that you would frankly tell me what I could send you for it, taking all circumstances into consideration. This is my earnest desire now, and I hope you will do me this favour.
"My most ardent desire is that you should continue to give your powerful aid to my Magazine, but I never dreamt that you were to devote any portion even of your leisure time to it, without being paid liberally. It would give me the deepest pain if you did not feel satisfied on this head. In future therefore, if agreeable to you, I would wish very much that you would send me a note from time to time for £20, £30, or £50, just as you yourself thought right; or if you preferred it, that you would say a quarterly or annual sum you would draw, leaving it entirely to yourself to send such contributions as your leisure or inclinations prompted you to write: then at the end of the year you would also notify to me any additional sums, if you found you had done more than you had laid your account with.
"I have written this letter with great pain in one sense. I dislike so much any dissensions when mere money is concerned. I have written it, however, with the deepest anxiety that you may be satisfied as to my feelings and conduct. I cannot say a fiftieth part of what I feel on this matter, so deeply interesting to me. All I shall further say is, that if I did not feel from the bottom of my heart that I had acted all along in a way deserving of your friendship, I should feel myself most unworthy of it."
If we did not know to the contrary, we could almost imagine there was a certain irony in the tone of this extraordinarily liberal letter, and in the sudden granting thus at a word of any or every claim the startled author might bring forth. Perhaps it was this sentiment which made Lockhart answer it in a way more consistent with such a hypothesis than with the real effusion with which it was written:—
"It is not necessary that you and I should at this time of day write long letters on the subject of your Magazine. I perfectly appreciate your warm feelings to me personally, and I am sure you will never have any good reason to suspect me of not desiring to see you and all your concerns prosper.
"As to bargaining with you or with anybody about money in this style, it is out of the question. I put a paper in your hands, and asked what you would think it worth for your Magazine. We, it appears, thought differently as to that matter. I can see nothing here but what happens every day in the world. You will return me the paper, and the whole affair is as if it had never been. I told you plainly I was not thinking of the thing as an ordinary contribution to the Magazine. It was a solitary effort, and, as hinted, my original intention was something in the nature of a volume on Universities in general, an intention to which, when leisure serves, I may recur.
"I think the enclosed paper very admirable indeed, and that it will have a powerful effect.
"P.S. — Allow me to beg that this may be the last of a correspondence which, knowing you as I do, I am sure must be equally painful to us both. Think anything you please, except that there is or has been the least touch of unkindness in my feelings. Nothing is more remote from my thoughts. Indeed, the tone of your letter is only a great deal too generous towards me personally."
Blackwood answered on the 16th June as follows:—
"Since you desire it, I lose not a moment in returning your MS. I do hope, however, it is only for the present. You know better than I can tell you that this article is of the highest importance to me. Mortified as I certainly would be were it not to appear in the Magazine, I do not wish to press upon you to send me this article unless you yourself are perfectly satisfied with regard to doing so. I have no wish to recur to anything that has already passed; but while I know you hate bargaining about the price of this or anything else, I hope you know me sufficiently to believe that it is not the consideration of any sum whatever which would tempt me to act in the smallest way differently from what you would expect from me. Saying this, I leave the matter entirely to your own good feelings."
I am unable to say what was the precise occasion of the letter which follows: probably it was after the unhappy affair of the duel in which Mr. John Scott, the editor of the "London Magazine," met his death. The great shock of this fatal event, and the depression into which Lockhart fell, would seem to have given him the greatest distaste for his previous work, and everything connected with it: from whence no doubt arose the report that he was about to withdraw from the Magazine altogether.
Setting my own wishes and interests entirely out of the question, I regret, on your own account, that you should feel such a disinclination to do anything for the Magazine. Either by yourself or your friends it has been given out that you had dropped all connection with it. These reports I never listened to, and I could not bear to notice them to you; for, if you did not see the matter in the same point of view as I did, anything I had to say would be apt to appear to you as merely proceeding from selfish views of my own. My lips therefore have been sealed, and whatever I have felt or suffered I have kept to myself. Now, however, that you have introduced the subject yourself, I cannot help saying a few words with regard to it.
"You will, I am sure, do me the justice to believe that, had it been in my power to prevent it, never should you have had one uneasy or unpleasant feeling from anything connected with the Magazine. Whatever could tend to your honour or advantage has always been my first and most anxious wish, and to attain this I never have, and never could have, considered any sacrifice as too great. Had I for one moment believed that it would be either for your honour or advantage to cut all connection with the Magazine, you may rest assured I would have been the very first person to tell you so. My strong and decided conviction, on the contrary, has been that you owed it to yourself to stand forward in a manly way, so as to show that the attacks of the miscreants who slandered you so foully and so falsely were of no avail, and only recoiled on themselves. Their sole object was to induce you and others to abandon the Magazine, and any quailing was giving them a triumph. From the disagreeable occurrence which has been so annoying to you personally, it is not to be wondered at that you should have felt sore and unhappy. For months, therefore, I have said little, but left the matter entirely to your own feelings. If, however, you had given me your wonted confidence, I would have told you what my impressions were, and that they were no friends of yours who circulated reports of your having abandoned the Magazine: for were this true it would be an acknowledgment that the personal attacks upon you were well founded, and you were therefore forced to give way to public opinion. The Magazine supported with talent and spirit, I have always believed, would do honour to all acquainted with it, and put to shame all those who attempted to run it down.
"As to any claims of my own upon you, these I have never mentioned and never will. Only this I will say, that if you knew a thousand part of the miseries I have endured — and much of them on your account — you would have felt more for me than you appeared to do for many months past, when I seemed to be left in a state of desertion by those from whom I expected different things.
"It is most painful and distressing to me even to allude to any of these things, but I try to assure you that if I did not think it would be highly creditable to you to give your aid to the Magazine, and receive a most liberal remuneration for your contributions, I should be the last person in the world to have expected one line from you."
The last letter on this subject is the following. The matter had evidently grown more and more serious as it went on:—
I do not think any good end is likely to be served by a correspondence on these subjects — concerning points of which it is evident enough our opinions are very widely different. There are also some expressions in your letter which give me pain, and I should be sorry to have disagreeable feeling increased by any repetition of the like. I am not aware of having been at all the reverse of 'open' in regard to the Magazine. On the contrary, I think at least eighteen months ago I told you very distinctly that I was resolved periodical literature should never occupy any serious part of my attention. The longer I live I am the more steadily impressed with the utter worthlessness of that sort of thing. I have already had too much share in it; but I see neither the necessity nor the propriety of my having more connection with the periodical press than any given individual — unless I please. There are always enough of young people to write for Magazines, if they be paid. At the same time, I never have made or expressed any resolution not to write in your Magazine. I intend to send you from time to time anything that occurs to me, and I shall be happy if what I send proves acceptable. I have shown Mr. Wilson your letter and this answer, and I am happy to say he approves of the light in which I have viewed the subject. — Believe me, very sincerely yours, J. G. LOCKHART."
Was this note, so solemnly signed (the others only bear initials), intended for the moment to be the last? This is what we do not know; but if so, the intention was speedily abandoned. The "disagreeable occurrence" referred to in Mr. Blackwood's letter was without doubt, as we have indicated, the bitter and painful controversy with Mr. John Scott, the editor of the "London Magazine," which, after many discussions, sending of embassages on both sides, and publication of opposing "Statements," was suddenly turned into unexpected tragedy. The ridicule with which public sentiment had already begun to treat the practice of duelling, and the particular jest supposed to be involved in a projected duel between two men whose weapon was the pen and not the sword, were abruptly changed into horror and dismay by the death of Scott, not even by the hand of the man he had assailed, but by that of Lockhart's friend and intended second, Mr. Christie, who had been forced into the field after the first challenge had been insultingly refused. It is impossible to treat a matter lightly which ends in this way, otherwise the exaggerated abuse of Scott, and mock heroics of both parties, would be both ludicrous and offensive. To call a man a professional scandalmonger, a mercenary dealer in calumny and falsehood, because of even the worst of the attacks upon the Cockney School, was of course excessive and absurd. Whereas, on the other side, Lockhart's resentment of attacks upon himself, who had made so many lighthearted attacks upon others, and never hesitated to give forth a scathing word, was equally ridiculous. The elaborate accounts given by both parties of the discussions that preceded the duel might have afforded an admirable subject for Lockhart's own power of stinging banter. He would have held both sides up to the laughter of the world had the case not been his own — which was a very weak point with the wits of the period. They loved to goad and sting their neighbours, often into outbursts of fury; but they could not bear any touch upon themselves.
Nothing could be more ludicrous than to describe the gay band of young authors as "miscreants whose outrages in print have for the last four years desolated private society in Edinburgh, interrupted the course of friendship, and ruined the harmony of social intercourse," unless it was the solemn but out-of-date stateliness of the warlike response, the medieval formality of the counter-check quarrelsome, and all the rest. But the laughter is hushed when this antiquated farce ends in the sacrifice of a man's life, especially when an entirely innocent person is brought in to take the vicarious weight of such a quarrel upon him. The whole matter was looked upon with distress and pain, but also at first with something of that fictitious admiration of an "affair of honour" which still lingered in men's minds, in the circle in Edinburgh. The reader is in a position to know how true to fact (if also at the same time a little untrue in sentiment) was the denial finally extracted from Lockhart of being editor or part editor of "Blackwood's Magazine." It was perfectly true, in so far that he was in no point of view the last authority, and that he never was a salaried editor deriving payment for his work as such, except for the very brief period of Murray's influence (if then), when his position was little more than nominal; but that he was one of the mystic Three who presided over everything in the Magazine cannot be doubted. Mr. Blackwood preserved his Veto and his opinion, and was perfectly "dans son droit" in saying that he had no editor. The Veiled Tribunal was much more interesting than that institution of a responsible editor and a mere business publisher, which was more common; but we may allow that it was difficult for the ordinary public to understand how the system worked.
I have thought that the record of this long and close connection would not be complete without some notice of the storms which now and then would pass across the skies, terrible, but luckily temporary. In August of the same year in which that alarming hurricane occurred, we find all tribulations blown away, and the usual atmosphere of confidential friendship and cooperation completely restored:
DUBLIN, 14 August 1825.
I daresay you think I have been wrong in not writing sooner. The fact is, I have been kept eternally on the move, and have never had a pen in my hand except to do a sort of journal in the shape of letters to my wife — which you shall if you please have a reading of when the series is complete. I have seen and heard much worthy of remembrance; but am now thoroughly homesick, and happy to say that the day after to-morrow we sleep on Welsh ground if we escape the dangers of the steam voyage.
"I have found almost every person in society here pro-Catholic, and yet have been in company with but two Catholic gentlemen so far as I know — and the result of my whole observation is, that Dr. Maginn speaks the exact truth as to this matter in his Literary Sketch, which, by the way, I never got hold of till yesterday, when, on returning from a fortnight's ramble about Killarney, I stumbled unexpectedly on an old acquaintance in the shape of Mr. Curry, and from him got No. 103 of 'Maga 'and an excellent number I think it is.
"I assure you the High Church here swear by you, but of these we have, accidentally I suppose, met but few. The provost of the College here and Dr. Brinkley the Astronomer both told me your articles on the Catholic question were the only things worthy of being perused. 'Maga' I have never yet met with, in consequence of many unfortunate accidents."
This expedition was taken, as the reader will recollect, in attendance upon Scott, when Sir Walter received the unanimous homage of his admirers in Ireland. The party returned by Wales, and on their way north visited various hospitable houses in the Lake country, and among others Wilson's at Elleray. There are some notes connected with that last visit which I reserve to elucidate an incident in the Professor's life.
In the autumn of 1825, soon after his return from the Irish expedition, a curious embassy from London and the great house of Murray arrived at Chiefswood, where Lockhart was then staying, in the striking person of young Benjamin Disraeli, with various great projects and proposals in his hands. His chief object was to induce Lockhart to accept the editorship of a new daily paper which Murray had set his heart on establishing, and, in default of that, the "Quarterly Review," then wavering in uncertain hands after the death of Gifford. Lockhart's account of the matter to Blackwood would seem to have been in answer to some question addressed to him. There is no date upon the note in which he allows that it is "most true that Murray is about to have a daily paper, and that, I think, under most triumphant auspices, and it is also true that I was asked to be the conductor. But I declined this at once, and it was on that that the offer of the Review was made and accepted. Of course as to contributing to his paper I shall most likely do so, as I believe all his adherents mean to do, but anything more or even much of this would be quite out of the question." There is no note of any feeling on the part of Blackwood of disappointment and dismay in the loss of so important a contributor, though it can scarcely be supposed that it was agreeable news to him. The only comment we find on the event is in the graceful and cordial note of farewell which the publisher addressed to Lockhart on his final departure:
4th November 1825.
Deeply as I must ever regret your leaving Edinburgh, and seriously as I must ever feel your loss, yet I cannot but rejoice that you have now a field for exertion worthy of yourself. It is impossible for me to express how much I despise and feel a contempt for the poor pluckless animals here, whose business it was to hold out objects to you that would have made it worth while for you to remain among all the friends who will feel your loss so much. But all's for the best, and it is needless to regret what cannot be helped."
Though it is thus very clearly evident that there was no breach of the old bonds, there is no doubt that Lockhart had been since his marriage drawn much into the circle of Scott, and withdrawn from the constant communications of former days. His removal to London would seem, however, to have warmed his heart both to his old familiar companions and to the frolicsome labours of his youth. The great catastrophe which gave so melancholy a close to the noble life of Scott took place shortly after, indeed was threatening before Lockhart's removal, and the first letter from London is full of the thrill and agitation of that great event, augmented perhaps by a sense of the less warm atmosphere of understanding and sympathy which was around him in his new sphere:—
25 PALL MALL, 8th February 1826,
I called on Cadell when the alarm was at its height, and was rejoiced to be set at ease as to you. Thank God you have escaped being dragged into the whirlpool with your Leviathan neighbours.
"I have lost much money by him and others, and have been wounded to the very soul with the far greater distresses of Sir Walter Scott. I am sure you will excuse long letters at such a time from your always most truly, J. G. LOCKHART.
"I expect to have in my first No. a review of Mr. Bell's book on Italy, and also of the 'Subaltern.' Pray forward me early copies of anything you have, and remember me most affectionately to all the Divan. God bless you!"
Lockhart's heart was full, with the chill of novelty and separation from his friends just when he wanted sympathy most, and this burst of home-sickness and unusual utterance touches the reader all the more from so self-contained a man. Did he miss, one wonders, the periodical hazards of the Magazine, the exciting reign of the irregular, the panics as to whether the Professor would be ready, prolonged almost to the eve of the publishing day? One cannot but feel that the respectable business-like level of the "Quarterly" must have palled upon him now and then, and that he felt the sudden cutting off of the fun and frolic, even if, to a man sobered by early experience, those too had previously begun to pall. Notwithstanding all the sins of which these companions had been guilty, and all their devious ways, we are conscious of a sympathetic enlivenment when we find the correct editor of the stately "Quarterly" stealing off with delight to "make a 'Noctes.'" It suggests a weariness with the new circumstances, in which there is an almost tragic touch:—
BRIGHTON, Augt. 8, '26.
Dr. Maginn paid me a visit here about four weeks ago, and promised to come back soon for the purpose principally of making a 'Noctes.' But since then I have neither seen nor heard anything of him, nor indeed do I know where he is or what he is doing at this moment, though I think I can still trace his pen occasionally in 'The New Times and Rip,' and thence conclude he has made some partnership with Mudford. I am writing him to-day, and as soon as we can meet depend upon a packet. His account of the Westmoreland election is most rich, and I am on many accounts sorry the Professor was not there to help in and enjoy the triumph. Lord Lowther is rather displeased about his non-appearance, which, no doubt through some blunder, he thought he was to depend upon. I hope Lord L. tipped the Doctor decently; but he said nothing to me on that delicate topic, except, indeed, that there had been a discovery of some seventy years' old Rum, of which he (the Doctor) had been invited to take away some dozens for London consumption. Wordsworth and Maginn (!) wrote, verse about, a song of Betty Martin, &c., which I thought no great shakes for all the illustrious copartnery. I wish some of you would tell me what old Crafty is doing. When one sees the firm on title-pages, just as of yore, one begins to doubt the fact of a failure after all.
"My little boy improves so much here that we shall scarcely leave the place while he can bathe in the sea. To us it has no other recommendation, as we know nobody here except poor William Rose, who is in a very invalid and unconversable condition. The Tiger, as you have perhaps heard, is going shortly to Canada to hunt bears and other fellow-creatures. This will be a relief to the Professor's imagination, though to me, I assure you, it is a sorrow."
What a contrast this melancholy seclusion at the so-called gay watering-place to the happy company and communion of Chiefswood, with Edinburgh and all the brethren so close at hand! The Tiger was a certain Dr. Dunlop, a great hunter and traveller, whose literary manners and morals the society of Maginn and his wild band did not improve.
During the autumn Mr. Blackwood was able to send to the exile news of his beloved home and friends:—
EDIN., 23 Augt. 1826.
About three weeks ago I spent a few days at Chiefswood with our excellent friend Capt. Hamilton. It is a delightful spot, and I wonder how you could leave it. I was a good deal with Sir Walter, who is really in excellent health and spirits. That old tiresome pedant Dr. J. had been staying some days with Sir Walter, to the great annoyance of poor Terry, and every one who happened to be there. When you see Terry he will give you some droll sketches of the Doctor. At last, to the relief of every one, he took his departure in Sir Walter's carriage, and when stepping in he made a great many fawning speeches as to his regret if he took away the carriage when Sir Walter might be wanting it, to which the Baronet replied in his good-humoured way that 'his horses could not be better employed than in carrying Dr J. on his journey.' This Peter Poundtext swallowed of course as a great compliment, while Terry and the ladies could with the greatest difficulty contain themselves."
The following letters will show how difficult Lockhart found it to cut himself free from his old habits of work and his first love:—
28 March '26, 25 PALL MALL.
Having a private hand [this was in the days of heavy postage] I make up a small packet of notes for members of your Divan. I was delighted with 'Cottages' and the 'Naval Sketch-Book.' They show that our friend is in his best spirits as well as power; and if that be so, all is right.
"You will perhaps say I am infected with the chill air of the Metropolis. But I wish, in spite of that, to say a single word on a very delicate subject.
"Attack Political Economy as much as you like, but don't permit this Robertson to go on attacking so savagely the motives of Canning, &c. Why should you and Wilson suffer — in yourselves, perhaps — very probably (in his case extremely probably) in your families, for the sake of allowing a person of this kind to insult such a man as Canning? Depend on it, my dear Professor, this is worth a thought for you. If you make the Magazine by such papers as the 'Cottages,' you will be blamed or lauded for its politics, as the case may be. What I wish to see particularly avoided is any allusion to Canning personally; and I know he feels that personally, and avenges it so also. You will at least take this in good part."
The next reflects Lockhart's own circumstances, projects, and surroundings in a very interesting way:
25 PALL MALL, Nov. 16, 1826.
I lose no time in expressing the delight with which I have read the demolition of MacCulloch. Need I say how anxious I shall be to know what effect is produced on Jeffrey? Sir W. Scott is quite in raptures with it; so is Croker, to whom I talked yesterday morning anent it; and so must be every one. I have already had the satisfaction of showing it to one or two Whigs, and, that they all might see it, I have left my copy on the table of the Athenaeum, 'with Mr. Blackwood's compliments.' I hope this was right.
"We are going to live on Wimbledon Common for this winter. Johnny will not do in London. This is inconvenient in some respects; but it will add to my leisure, which already has begun to hang heavy on my hands. I do not think it is quite right or fair in me to assist in the Magazine while I have the Review on my hands, and I have a feeling on the subject that I can't well express; but I do not understand Murray having any suspicion that I was not doing whatever I did in the periodical line for the 'Quarterly.' Besides, your political tone must not be mine. I think it is wrong in all points of view, and particularly in the personal style in which Canning has been attacked in a work to which Wilson is an avowed contributor of the first importance. Others may point the dart; so it is. But who gives the shaft its wings? But for Wilson's wit, how few would read R.'s declamations, however clever!
"But now to my business. The same feeling which withholds me from publishing essays in 'Maga,' or a kindred one, prevents my wishing to have anything whatever to do with Murray out of his Review. We could not meet on fair terms. Old friends who had perfect confidence in each other, as I hope is the case with us, might no doubt do so; but 'verbum sat.' to you. I have enough to manage without quarrels already.
"I have in short a couple of post 8vos (peut-etre 3) to dispose of — i.e., shall have by the end of the year. The plan is this: I make an English lord (something like Dudley and Ward) take a place like Mar Lodge for the autumn. He brings down in his train the usual appendages of these great establishments — a character not unlike Coleridge for one, a sort of Croker for another, a Rogers for a third, perhaps a little of Hook, &c. I bring these Southerners into close communication with a set of your Northern lights — disguises of Scott, Jeffrey, and so forth; make them discuss the differences between England and Scotland in various points of manners, feelings, education, &c., &c., and illustrate their respective views with tales, all of them founded on fact, some comic, some tragic. I think to call the book 'Diversions of— say Glenmar,' a little romance of conversation.
"Tell me frankly what you think of all this. I have certainly no ambition to make one of Colburn's authors, but I am well aware that you may be far from anxious to publish much at present, and may have your hands full. I expect that you will sacredly keep what I have said to yourself in the meantime. I do not even except the Professor for this once.
"We have been, as you guess, in a horrible hubbub. Sir Walter will be in Edinburgh in about ten days. We dined at Croker's yesterday — party to meet the Unknown, the Speaker and Theodore Hook. These three sweet lads are always together.
"The Doctor, poor fellow, has of late done one very good paper for me, but what he spends his time in God only knows. I never saw a man grow more inferior to himself in a short time than he has to the O'Doherty of former days. Newspaper scribbling has totally destroyed a style that was always too light and hasty. There is now little whalebone indeed remaining.
Sept. 4, '28.
The Professor on Sir Humphry was capitally good, but I think (I am no angler) unjustifiably severe, particularly considering the circumstances of the book being written by a great man after two strokes of palsy, in miserable dejection of spirits and in health hopelessly shattered; but all this Wilson knew not, and I take it he hates Sir H. Davy for some private reason or no reason, as I daresay I should have done, had I not happened to see a good deal of him.... However, Sir Walter is to review Sir H. in the 'Quarterly,' so the Baronet will have it with the hair as well as against it.
"'Tis now said the Speaker goes to the Admiralty with a peerage; but no one is in town, and indeed I seldom go on the Stones, even when I am here. Next week I am going to Chelsea to see Gleig for two or three days. He has some sermons, some novels, and some histories all at press in London at this moment, how much more in Edinburgh you can tell. Colburn has given £750 for his novel, 3 vols., 'Chelsea Pensioners,' at least the Sub says so.
"I beg my love to Wilson, Cay, &c., &c., if any such people be now about the old haunts. I fear I shall not even get down this autumn; but as Johnny has rallied, we are really and seriously planning to be at Chiefswood all next summer, which I think must stop my hair getting grey so fast as it at present seems to be doing."
The Doctor and I have dined again at the Salopian, and made out the plan, which shall be filled up fitly and sent off by mail on Thursday next. I hope this will do. We are to give you our 'Mr. Theodore' as an interlocutor and improvisatore.
"But wait until Southey's new book has been properly puffed in the 'Quarterly,' and then for a grand 'Noctes' indeed. I mean to call up the shade of George Buchanan and introduce him to Hogg, who (Hogg) shall enlighten George, after the fashion of the Laureate enlightening Sir Thomas More, as to the history of the last two or three centuries, and the present state of politics and literature. I think Hogg explaining the steam-engine to Buchanan will answer.
"I expect at your hands efficient support of the Family Library, which if it turn out well may be a valuable property to me. I think I told you I have the third of it. We have now put the Napoleon to press again, having sold all the 6500 printed originally of the first vol. and all but 200 of the second."
"You have, indeed, gloriously performed your promise," says Mr. Blackwood in reply, "and the 'Noctes' has even gone beyond what I expected. I am so glad, too, that the Doctor has again made an exertion, and done what is worthy of himself. The whole will make no little sensation." In this case it seems also that the labourers were satisfied with their reward.
June 5, 1829.
Pardon for not answering sooner and acknowledging your enclosure, which the Doctor and I halved, and swore was munificent. Your No. is a good one. Do you want another 'Noctes'? If so, speak, and we shall have another dinner at the Salopian — that's all.
"Here is Galt, as large as life and as pompous as ever, full of title-pages and unwritten books, the 'Tyger,' the 'Squaws,' and, I am sorry to add, his own personal troubles, which are neither few nor trivial."
From these last it would appear that the editor of the 'Quarterly' did not consider such compositions as those which he prepared in escapades at the Salopian along with Maginn to be any real infringement of his rule against publishing "Essays in the Magazine." No doubt the delightful rush and impulse "to make a 'Noctes,'" recalling so much of the joys of youth, and the wild and flying inspiration of the past, was an exception, as it evidently was a delight to him amid the studied decorum and stateliness of Pall Mall. And that his youthful spirit was still but little modified (while always exaggerated by his coadjutor) will appear from the following letter, so sympathetic and regretful, yet resolute, with which the presiding genius in Edinburgh received one of these dashing effusions. It was written in the year 1827, though I am not able to give the precise date. It ought, therefore, to precede some of the above letters, but will, I think, be better understood by coming here. Lockhart continued to send "Noctes," or contributions to the "Noctes," for many years.
I have not been so happy for a long while as I was last Sunday when Cay called at my house and gave me the article you had been so good as to send me for 'Maga.' The moment he left me I sat down and literally devoured it. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the admirable way in which you show up the Cockney historical romance — the satire is so keen, and the sketches are so graphic. Forthwith, though it was Sunday evening, Alexander and I began to copy it, and before we went to bed we got nearly half through our task.
"Next day, however, when I considered the whole more closely than it was possible for me to do under my first excitement, I began to think with agony whether or not others would see the thing in the same point of view as I did. The fools and the malicious are so much more common in this world than their opposites, that there appeared to me not a little risk of the paper being either mistaken or misrepresented. It struck me that the stupid would take some of the sketches 'literatim,' and consider it an unwarrantable liberty to represent Lord Melville in a kilt; but this mattered not much, as they would be soon enlightened, and, as your friend the Secretary has it, stirred up with a long pole. What weighed with me was the use a certain gang might make of the article, and the annoyance it might be to Sir Walter Scott. And if you will consider the matter calmly, I think you will see I had some ground for my fears on this head.
"The object of your satire is clearly to ridicule the Cockney jumble of Brambletye Hall, and in this you are most successful. But when one reflects that this creature is a mere imitator of Sir Walter, and that any travestie is so much more applicable to an original than to a mere copy, for all readers are much more familiar with the Waverley romances than with this Brambletye trash, surely there is some reason to fear that such satire would be applied and caught up with delight by the whole press gang as appearing in my Magazine. Among other delectable quizzes that might have been quoted and commented on with this view, nothing could have been more apposite than your most droll sketch of the Duke of Wellington's Address to Napoleon's stucco figure as an inimitable counterpart to Cromwell before the picture of Charles I. This and some other things I am pretty sure Sir Walter would not have liked, and as I never could have revealed to him or to any one who was the quizzer, he would have thought it odd of me to allow such a thing to appear in 'Maga.'
"It was with a very heavy heart, therefore, that I at last resolved to give the MS. back to Mr. Cay. In this I have acted solely on my own judgment, for there is no one that I could venture to consult on such a matter. You will probably think I have decided wrong, and that it is from mere timorousness that I have not ventured to insert the article. I can only say that I have stated exactly what influenced me, and that the loss of such an article I feel to be a very severe one."
The correspondence, however, now seems to be interrupted by many such differences of opinion, but we add such extracts from it as may serve to show Lockhart's continuous feelings to his old home and friends among the changed circumstances of his career:—
30th January 1830.
These double numbers are capital. The Professor, since he is thus alive and kicking, ought to be ashamed of himself for not attending to my letter denouncing him about Sotheby's MS. The old man is a gentleman, and is entitled either to receive his manuscript back instantly (it is the only copy) or a promise that it is to be printed in the next number of 'Maga ' — for which purpose I understand Wilson to have solicited it. Some attention to the common laws of politeness would do no harm. Nothing more on this subject from me.
"By the bye, Murray has had a grand affair. The Master of the Mint, Harris, told the Duke yesterday that the last article in the 'Quarterly,' just published, had produced a panic among the Jews, and sunk Stocks 2 per cent. The Dictator sent for Croker and Barrow to the Cabinet Council and rowed them. They sent for Murray and rowed him, and then up came the Emperor to row me. I took it all very cool: he had been consulted quite at leisure beforehand. God knows how this may end — I care not."
December 28, 1830.
I was asked to deliver a message to you, and I agreed to do so — not doubting in the least what your answer would be, and never having dropped a hint that I doubted it. You and I have seen too much of the outs in the character of ins to be easily seduced by such persons. I have for the 'Q. R.' resisted giving the smallest pledge to any Minister (except indeed to the Duke of Wellington on his first coming in), and nothing shall ever induce me to put faith in any Minister's professions again. We are fighting the same battle, though in somewhat different methods, perhaps: and if, as I think it likely, the Grey Reform Bill will ere long compel us both to be apparently acting in concert with Peel and the Duke of W., I am sure we shall both think the alliance is likely to be one of brief endurance. The great Radical blunder of the Currency, &c., will remain.
"From all I can gather, there is a very angry feud going on between the Grey section of the Cabinet and the Althorp one. Sir H. Parnell and his set mean to declare themselves forthwith in opposition in consequence of the Irish jobs, and this Deanery given so disgracefully to the Premier's brother. Lord Althorp is a fat outspoken grazier, and can't help babbling everything. He has let out that they mean to give no compensation to the lords of the English rotten boroughs (all of which are to be disfranchised by the bill), or the existing country voters in Scotland, who are to enjoy the franchise henceforth, it seems, in common with any owner of £10 annual rent in land or house. These propositions will unite all the Scotch gentry and most of the English boroughmongers against the Government, and we shall see the issue.
"Thus we are brought to the brink of a crisis by the act of the ultra Tories in turning out the Duke. Of this there can be no doubt: he feels it, and they, I believe, repent it almost to a man. They did not foresee the terrible risks of this reform as a Cabinet proposition. They gratified their just resentment at the deep hazard of everything. Such is my view of the case, such is Southey's, such is Sadler's, such is Lord Chandos's. We are among the breakers; let us see how much we can save."
It is well sometimes to see the dismal prognostications with which even wise men of that period regard the changes under which even the oldest among us have grown up, in complete unconsciousness of any shipwreck. We too in our turn are often tempted to indulge in the vaticinations of alarm and woe, which it is an encouragement to the general mind to believe may turn out quite as excessive.
Lockhart was again busy with a Noctes' as late as Sept. 2, 1831. He seems to have learned in London the important art of dating his letters, and writes at that date from Chiefswood, where he was partly enjoying his holiday and partly waiting upon the darkened days of his illustrious neighbour and father-in-law- not well himself and full of apprehensions:—
Sir W. S. seems to have fixed on quitting Scotland for Naples about the first of October, and I suppose we shall be taking wing for London about the same time. The six or eight months during which we shall be absent from the glen here — what may they not bring forth? Who can guess or dream? I give all anticipation to the winds.
"Let me know if the 'Noctes' is liked. By-and-by you shall have another, but not till I have seen London again, I think."
In his next letter there is much banter of Hogg, from some of whose verses Lockhart with the editorial impulse docks eight lines, in which some unpleasant reference had evidently been made to a local potentate:—
"Hogg is mad to insult such a family, so near, and who have been on occasions kind to him, and in case of need would be ready to uphold him. You didn't know who was meant, I am sure [author's note: The Scots of Harden were the family referred to]. The poem has much of good and much of abominable, like most of the pig's. I have never heard of Wilson except once in a letter from Hamilton. It is capital to hear Wordsworth on him — only inferior to the Poet on himself, though in rather a different vein.
"Don't let Hogg dream I would have anything to do with his edition of Novels. Even if there were nothing else, I have not time for such a thing. It is quite impossible. 'None but himself could be his editor.'
"Perhaps my last of Chiefswood," he adds sadly at the end of this letter, which is dated 22nd September 1831. It is at least the last of the Blackwood letters dated from that spot so full of memories, the joyful little house which "the Sheriff" had been wont to rouse from its morning quiet by the happy barks and gambols of his careering dogs, and his own kind shout of good morrow. Now the light was darkened, and the cheerful visitor came no more.
And here is the brief and dignified record of what might have been a bitter quarrel. Something had been said in the "Quarterly" concerning Hogg which had seemed to Wilson and Blackwood a censure upon the Professor and the Magazine; while Wilson on his side had given utterance, in the casual incidental way in which he often delivered the most savage blows, to some unpardonable strictures upon Scott, specially ungracious at the moment. Lockhart makes his own apology and explanation very generously, while indicating the much harsher offence on the other side:—
"I can't let your letter go without expressing my concern that what was said in the 'Q. R.' should have given either you or the Professor any real uneasiness. I was working at the time for Hogg with the wigs of the Royal Society of Literature, and finding the dramatic character in my way at every turn, wrote that sentence simply, and merely in reference to his interests, and without the least wish to escape from any share of the blame. I described Hogg as I saw him a few days before I left Scotland in October, at Altrive, wet, weary, and melancholy. Before the review appeared he, to be sure, had contrived to make my statement look absurd enough by the reprint of his songs. After that I am dumb.
"As to Sir W. S., I shall just tell you one fact. Aristophanes Mitchell, one of 'Maga's' staunchest admirers, wrote to me that he had given up taking her in, and would never again look at her, solely in consequence of what appeared in one of the 'Noctes' about Sir Walter, whom he never saw. If a stranger feels like this, what must friends have done. There is no need to tell me that my friend meant no harm. I know him too well even to have dreamt of that. But rashness may, and sometimes does, produce serious mischief between friends, and I dreaded the effect in the present broken condition of Sir W.'s health and spirits. And now let there be no angry recollection between us. I am sure nothing of the kind will ever be done again in 'Maga'; and I tried, in as far as she was concerned, to make up for my little skit by a compliment to the 'Noctes' in the next number of the 'Quarterly.'"
Here, however, is a bit of denunciation in the old slashing tone, aimed at a perfectly legitimate opponent and leader of the opposite side; against whom — since the days when it was little more than a youthful bicker, and every long-armed lad threw the most stinging ball he could carry from the Blackwood side to all others — it had been the most natural thing in the world to volley every projectile that came to hand. But Lord Brougham was, throughout his career, one of the men whom nobody loved, and every harsh thing seemed natural when said of him — a painful but probably never quite undeserved fate. The occasion was the introduction of the Reform Bill:
Oct. 8, 1831.
Brougham's speech was four hours long: the greater part dull, cold, heavy, and tautologous to a wonder: insolent to intolerability in the placarding of characters on all persons he had or found occasion to mention, false to his party, and basely crawling to the Duke of Wellington — the whole a piece of treason under a splash of bravado. The impostor knelt at the end. Lord Wynford's speech was very excellent, the most logical on the whole. Lord Lyndhurst was worse used by the Whigs than any speaker ever was by any party in my presence. The effort of the Archbishop was grand, and indeed the whole scene was most noble and satisfactory. Not a soul in the streets; and, to-day, everything as dull as possible.
"The Ministerialists, in the Commons, will move on Monday or Tuesday an address to the King, on the part of Lord Grey. At the same moment Lord Harrowby will be opening his views of what a reform should be in the Lords. This last is good news."
We will conclude these quotations by a very interesting letter in respect to the immediate arrangements, and commotion of the public mind after the death of Sir Walter Scott. It is by no means the end of the correspondence, though we find little more preserved of the portion addressed to William Blackwood, except some affecting letters written very shortly before his death, which shall be quoted in their time. The friendship was continued with the sons, and lasted as long as Lockhart lived. It was his hand that prepared the two pages of stately and sorrowful record which were devoted to its founder in the pages of 'Maga,' and he remained always the faithful friend and helper, when aid was necessary, of the name which had so greatly influenced his youth.
LONDON, 3rd November 1832.
I have been and continue to be daily and hourly occupied with the affairs of the late Sir W. Scott, and can hardly command time even for a short note at this moment. My Magazine has arrived safe, which I fear all have not done, and the No. is very good — especially Charlemagne — the Rabbins — the working of the bill in Scotland, and the abuse of Colman, which refreshed me. I am afraid you must give me another month's law — I promise a 'Noctes' for Xmas — let Wilson keep up the ball till then.
"I know not what is to be the upshot of all these subscriptions. The folk here say it is a joke to be rearing monuments in various places, while, if the Major should die to-morrow, Charles would inherit Abbotsford at the best without a shilling to keep it up. They are for getting Walter to sell them his liferent, and take the whole back as a gift, with the obligation and entail, house, land, and library, in terms of his father's designation — and but for the fear of interfering with our dealings with the creditors they would ere now have done something publicly. They meet next Friday, at Bridgewater House, the Marquis of Stafford in the chair, in the hope of having by that time exact information as to the extent of the claims of those creditors who object to the Executors' proposal — and I share the hopes that such information may then be at their command. Sir Coutts Trotter, Croker, &c., &c., are sanguine enough, and believe that £50,000, a fair price for Abbotsford, will be easily raised. I think they are wild in these views; but as my brother-in-law has no objection to their proceedings (which he considers as moved entirely by the wish to make Abbotsford a lasting monument of his father's name and taste), and as, however the result may fall short of their hopes, it must 'pro tanto' relieve him — I have nothing to do but to wait in patience. If the Edinburgh people did well, they would put a statue where Castle Street cuts Princes Street, with the Castle-rock for a background; or they would make a huge Homeric Cairn on Arthur's Seat — a land and sea mark — and throw the rest, if anything, of their funds into the hands of the Bridgewater House Committee. But whether it is possible for them to do this now, I don't know. I consider it as disgusting to be putting Scott on a par with Dugald Stewart, Playfair, and so forth in the temple line. Meantime this is private to you and the Professor, until affairs have progressed a little further. As the literary property is tied up until, 'inter alia,' the encumbrances of £10,000 on the estate of Abbotsford, £5000 on the Library, are paid off, to release the Major of these would of course be advancing the time when the other children may expect to profit at all by the sale of the works.
"Sir W.'s will has an article expressly leaving the direction of publication to Cadell!"
Many letters passed, and there was much and constant communication between the younger Blackwoods and their father's old friend in after-years, which will be referred to from time to time. But we may take from these after-days a little note addressed to John Blackwood, which rounds off this story with an affecting touch of old kindness. It was written at the very end of Lockhart's life in the year 1853:—
DEAR B., — If you think the enclosed worth a page any time, they are at the service of 'Maga,' from her very old servant, now released from all service, J. G. L."
That gay and careless yet powerful service had lasted, with intermissions, for more than thirty-five years, the length of a generation. The Blackwood of old was dead, and most of the cheerful companions: the lively, brilliant, restless spirit was broken with sorrow and trouble. Not very many months after he was indeed to be wholly relieved from all service. It is with a tender remembrance of Lockhart that we thus close the record, by his last affectionate expression of feeling to the old "Maga" of the days that were no more.