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The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 3: 1813-15
John Gibson Lockhart to Jonathan Christie, 25 November 1814

Vol. I. Preface
Vol. I Contents.
Chapter 1: 1794-1808
Chapter 2: 1808-13
Chapter 3: 1813-15
Chapter 4: 1815-17
Chapter 5: 1817-18
Chapter 6: 1817-19
Chapter 7: 1818-20
Chapter 8: 1819-20
Chapter 9: 1820-21
Chapter 10: 1821-24
Chapter 11: 1817-24
Chapter 12: 1821-25
Chapter 13: 1826
Vol. II Contents
Chapter 14: 1826-32
Chapter 15: 1828-32
Chapter 16: 1832-36
Chapter 17: 1837-39
Chapter 18: 1837-43
Chapter 19: 1828-48
Chapter 20: 1826-52
Chapter 21: 1842-50
Chapter 22: 1850-53
Chapter 23: 1853-54
Chapter 24: Conclusion
Vol. II Index
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On November 25, 1814, we find him again writing to Christie, from his father’s house in Glasgow. He has “heard from Williams, very happy at Win-
chester. I doubt not he will yet rise in the world, by means of his strong head, and inflexible power of nailing himself to any rough piece of timber that comes in his way. You used to be skilled in the Lakish fellows, if I remember. Can you tell me anything of
Lambe? (sic) I never read his specimens of the Old Tragedians till the other day, and have been, I need not say, highly delighted with them. Really we may crack our thumbs over the departed play genius of Britain. We have lost, I think, the whole art of delineating the delicate mixtures of human character. We have now no specimens of contradictory beings such as Nature makes; but to be sure, it is the same in real life, and what can we expect on the stage?

“I am very sorry you did not write last year on the English Essay subject” (at Oxford). “Your studies have, if I mistake not, been a good deal among our elder writers and I understand the successful effusion is a mere nothing—for I have not seen any of these productions for the last two or three years. I do not know yet what the subjects of this year’s essays are; if you know, be so good as to tell me, for, although I am not idle, I may perhaps think of writing, should the theme tempt. Last year I was too sensible of my own defectiveness in Elizabethan learning to think seriously of it, for I well knew that the knowledge one can pick up in a few weeks’ reading is not at all of the kind necessary for explaining the genius of a set of writers such as these.


“This place is, for a seat of learning, so ignorant, that I have never yet been able to lay my hands on ‘Roderick,’ except for a moment, when I read the beginning, which I admire exceedingly. Tell me what sort of whole it is when you write next. . . . It is really a miserable thing to be without friends: out of my own family I have not a soul here I care for. The manners of men who talk perpetually of raw sugar and calicoes, and of chemical-botanical vulgar women, are intolerable to me. I am fain to take all my walks in solitude, which is as much as to say, that I walk very little, and horse I have none. . . .

“I have got abundant access to books, however, more so than I ever had either at Edinburgh or Oxon, and find, no doubt, great consolation in them, although the novelties are no longer new elsewhere by the time they come here.

“There is a vacancy at present in our Humanity Chair. I was inclined to be very desirous that Hamilton should stand, but he scorned the idea. For my part, I think he was a fool. I don’t well see how they could have refused him on many accounts, although nothing is too base for them; and I fancy I may count upon your perfect approbation for my sentiments respecting the merits of £1500 a year—an excellent house, library, &c., and six months of vacation—besides little more than two hours a day of drudging during the session.


“But altiora petit—and God grant he may get them, but I think if he ever gets high it will be as a writer, and I don’t see where he could have had more leisure than here, and the worse the society the more.

“I think a man may tolerate even Glasgow for half the year, with the prospect of spending the other half in company of his own choice—and this is really an opinion of which I may speak with some certainty, as I know not how I should endure it at present myself, unless I had the hope of making up for the deprivations I feel by a free month’s view of you all in summer.

Traill, I understand, is to be in Edinburgh this winter. I shall be there for a day or two very soon and see.

“My novel comes on wondrously—I mean as to bulk. My fears are many—first, of false taste creeping in from the want of any censor; secondly, of too much Scotch—from the circumstance of my writing in the midst of the ‘low Lanerickshire’—&c, &c., &c. But I think I have written a great many graphical enough scenes, and have really made up my mind to print two volumes of nonsense in the spring. I think of writing to Murray, but I believe I shall put it off till I come up myself. Once again let me ask you for any little odd tags, rags, and bobtails of good incidents, &c., for which you have no immediate use. They may do me great service. In the meantime, write me frequently—
frequentissime, and believe me, ever your most affectionate friend,

J. G. Lockhart.

“Compliments to your bantling.”