1862 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Maginn

Mary Wilson Gordon, in Christopher North (1862; 1894) 288-89n.



William Maginn, alias Ensign O'Doherty, alias Luctus, alias Dr. Olinthus Petre, Trinity College, Dublin, &c., &c., was born at Cork in 1794, and died in London in 1842. This versatile writer and singular man of genius began to contribute to Blackwood in November, 1819. Dr. Moir says that his first article was a translation into Latin of the ballad of Chevy Chase, which was followed by numerous articles containing both wit and sarcasm, which Mr. Blackwood had to pay for in the case of Leslie v. Hebrew. Although be continued to write for Blackwood, the publisher was not acquainted with his real name, and the account of their first interview is amusingly told by Dr. Moir:—

"I remember having afterwards been informed by Mr. Blackwood that the Doctor arrived in Edinburgh on Sunday evening, and found his way out to Newington, where he then resided. It so happened that the whole family had gone to the country a few days before, and in fact the premises, except the front gate, were locked up. This the Doctor managed, after vainly ringing and knocking, to open, and made a circuit of the building, peeping first into one window and then another, where everything leaked snug and comfortable, though tenantless, he took occasion afterwards to remark, that no such temptations were allowed to prowlers in Ireland.

"On the forenoon of Monday he presented himself in Princes street, at that time Mr. Blackwood's place of business, and formally asked for an interview with that gentleman. The Doctor was previously well aware that his quizzes on Dowden, Jennings, and Cody of Cork (perfectly harmless as they were), had produced a ferment in that quarter, which now exploded in sending fierce and fiery letters to the proprietor of the Magazine, demanding the name of the writer, an he had received sundry notes from Mr. Blackwood, telling him the circumstances; and on Mr. Blackwood appearing, the stranger apprised him of his wish to have a private conversation with him, and this in the strongest Irish accent he could assume.

"On being closeted together, Mr. Blackwood thought to himself — as Mr. Blackwood afterwards informed me — 'Here, at last, is one of the wild Irishmen, and come for no good purpose, doubtless.'

"'You are Mr. Blackwood, I presume,' said the stranger.

"'I am,' answered that gentleman.

"'I have rather an unpleasant business, then, with you,' he added, 'regarding some things which appeared in your Magazine. They are so and so, would you be as kind as to give me the name of the author?'

"'That requires consideration,' said Mr. Blackwood; 'and I must first be satisfied that—'

"'Your correspondent resides in Cork, doesn't he? You need not make any mystery about that.'

"'I decline at present,' said Mr. B., 'giving any information on that head, before I know more of this business — of your purpose — and who you are.'

"'You are very shy, sir,' said the stranger; 'I thought you corresponded with Mr. Scott, of Cork,' mentioning the assumed name under which the Doctor had hitherto communicated with time Magazine.

"'I beg to decline giving any information on that subject,' was the response of Mr. Blackwood.

"'If you don't know him, then,' sputtered out the stranger, 'perhaps, perhaps you could know your own handwriting,' at the same moment producing a packet of letters from his side-pocket. 'You need not deny your correspondence with that gentleman; I am that gentleman.'

"Such was the whimsical introduction of Dr. Maginn to Mr. Blackwood; and after a cordial shake of the hand and a hearty laugh, the pair were in a few minutes up to the elbows in friendship."

From this time, 1820, till 1828, he continued his contributions more or less frequently. In 1824, about the time Mr. Lockhart writes of him, he was appointed foreign correspondent of The Representative; but as this newspaper was not long-lived, he was again thrown upon his resources, and he earned a scanty livelihood by writing for the periodicals. He assisted, as Mr. Lockhart says, Theodore Hook, in the John Bull, and obtained so much reputation is a political writer, that on he establishment of the Standard, he was appointed joint editor of the latter. He was ultimately connected with the foundation of Fraser's Magazine, in 1830, and along with Father Mahony, Mr. Hugh Fraser, and others, gave that periodical his heartiest support. He was then In the zenith of his fame, and his society courted; but in 1834 he was again corresponding with Mr. Blackwood, dating his contributions from a garret in Wych street, Strand, and from this time till his death his condition was one of wretchedness.