1871 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Gibson Lockhart

S. C. Hall, in A Book of Memories: Great Men and Women of the Age, from personal Acquaintance (1871) 331.



It is known that one of Wilson's closest allies in the conduct of Blackwood was JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART, the son-in-law of Sir Walter Scott, and the successor of Gifford in the editorship of the Quarterly Review. The personal appearance of Lockhart was familiar to all habitues of society reception-rooms in London. Neither in aspect nor manner, in mind nor in character, had he aught of the genial nature, the utter unselfishness, the large and universal sympathy, of his friend Wilson. Indeed, it would have been difficult to find two men so utterly dissimilar.

This is the portrait of Lockhart in Mrs. Gordon's Life of her father, Professor Wilson: — "His pale olive complexion had something of a Spanish character in it that accorded well with the sombre, or rather, melancholy, expression of his countenance; his thin lips, compressed beneath a smile of habitual sarcasm, promised no genial response to the warmer emotions of the heart: cold, haughty, supercilious in manner, he seldom won love." He is described by other authorities as "systematic, cool, and circumspect: "when he armed himself for conflict it was with a fell and deadly determination:" "no thrill of compassion ever held back his hand when he had made up his mind to strike." In Edinburgh he received the cognomen of "the Scorpion." His friend Wilson — through the mouth of the Ettrick shepherd — described him "wi' a pale face, and a black toozy head, but an e'e like an eagle's, and a sort o' lauch about the screwed-up mouth o' him that fules ca'ed no canny, for they couldna thole the meaning o't." In "Peter's Letters" he thus pictures himself: — "His features are regular and quite definite in their outline: his forehead is well advanced, and largest in the region of observation and perception." He protests against its being supposed that his play of "fancy is to gratify a sardonic bitterness, or to nourish a sour and atrabilious spirit." He was young then, and hoping to find there were better things in literature than satire. He did not find it, because he did not seek for it.

Certainly he was a strikingly handsome man: tall and slight, with abundant dark hair on a head well set on his shoulders, and with features "finely cut;" but on his face there was a perpetual sneer, as if he grudged humanity a virtue.