1834 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Wilson

Ebenezer Elliott to John Wilson, 8 May 1834; Mary Wilson Gordon, Christopher North (1862; 1894) 361-62.



Sheffield, 8th May, 1834.

MR. PROFESSOR:

I do not write merely to thank you for your almost fatherly criticism on my poetry, but to say, that when I sent that unhappy letter, addressed, I suppose, to the Editor of Blackwood's Magazine, I knew not that the Professor was the editor. I had been told that the famous rural articles were yours, and the Noctes. This was all I knew of that terrible incarnation of the Scotch Thistle, Christopher North. I had judged from his portrait on the cover of the Magazine. I understand it is a true portrait of Mr. Blackwood, whose name even now involuntarily brings before my imagination a personage ready to flay poor Radicals alive. When at length I understood you was the editor, I still thought you was only the successor of C. North, the dreadful. The letter must have been the result of despair. The Monthly Review had stricken me on the heart with a hand of ice, but I had failed to attract the attention of the critics generally; and perhaps I then thought that even an unfavorable notice in Blackwood would be better than none. But when I was told, a few days ago, that I was reviewed in Maga, I expected I was done for, never to hold up my head again. Having no copy of the letter I know not what vileness it may contain, besides the sad vulgarity unfortunately quoted, and for which I blush through my marrow; but on the word of a poet, whose fiction is truth, when I wrote it I was no more aware, than if you had never been born, that I was writing to Professor Wilson. I should hate myself if I could deliberately have sent a disrespectful letter to the author of those inimitable rural pictures, which, before God, I believe have lengthened my days on earth.

After your almost saintly forbearance, I must not bother you about the Corn-Laws; but I will just observe that in our Island of Jersey, where (perjury [sic] excepted) the trade in corn is free, land lets much higher than in England. But is it not a shame that wheat should be sent from Holland to Jersey, after incurring heavy charges, and the Dutchman's profit, and then be sent to England as the produce of Jersey? Poor John Bull paying for all out of his workhouse wages, or the sixteen-pence which he receives for fourteen hours' factory labor in the climate of Jamaica.

What is to follow such legislation? I am, with heartfelt respect and thankfulness,

EBENEZER ELLIOTT.