LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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[John Scott]
Blackwood’s Magazine.
London Magazine  Vol. 2  No. 11  (November 1820)  509-21.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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No XI. NOVEMBER, 1820. Vol. II.


They do but jest—poison in jest—no offence i’ the world!

We shall be very serious, we foresee, in this article; and we think it right to warn the reader accordingly. With a strong conviction that what we are about to do, ought to be done—that, in fact, it is discreditable to the character of the literary censorship of the country, that it has remained so long undone—we nevertheless take the instrument of justice in our hands with considerable reluctance, and—(unaffectedly we say it)—with a regret, caused rather by a sense of the heaviness of the offences we are about to chastise, than any notion of difficulty or danger attending, in this instance, the task of retribution.

Our readers, we trust, will not for a moment imagine, that we could be silly enough to use this sort of language in claiming their attention, had we nothing in view but a squabble between rival magazines;—a retort to a joke, or reply to an attack, directed against ourselves;—an appeal to posterity, Baldwin versus  Blackwood;—Europe adjured by Weathercock against Wastle!—This would indeed be a “flourish of trumpets, and enter Tom Thumb.” What weighs upon our minds, at present, concerns literature generally, more than any magazine in particular. Our principal quarry is a higher one than either the New Monthly, or the Old Monthly, or the European, or the Gentleman’s—or Blackwood’s, which is not the Gentleman’s.* Very weak and short indeed, have been the few edi-

* This is borrowing at arrow from the quiver of another—a dead shot—who ought to have saved us this trouble, and then we shouldn’t have pilfered from him. As it is, we hope he will excuse our making free with what he can so well spare.
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torial hits made at us by the periodical work whose title stands at the head of this article. It has, to be sure, in a recent number, with rather more point, as it concerns us, than usual, called our Editor “Scot,” and our contributors “beasts,” and this pleasantry, it must be admitted, is stinging enough, for woe betide any
Scott who permits himself to become too closely connected with magazine brutalities! He is sure to have good cause given him to repent the degrading association—and this is a truth which, we doubt not, will be still more apparent in the sequel.

Our present business, however, has nothing to do with this sort of sparring—it is of a much more serious nature. Our strictures will, it is true, be directed, almost exclusively, to the conduct pursued by the chief writers in Blackwood’s Magazine; but the reason of this is, that their work forms the most foul and livid spot, indicative of an accursed taint in the literature of the day. Were it not that the poisonous infection, having insidiously commenced in cases the lurking mischief of which either went unnoticed or was disregarded,—has now become of the most virulent and fiery corruption, threatening plague on all sides, and extending disease to the noblest and most vital parts—were it not that this most loathsome nuisance is no longer apologised for, or concealed, but is vaunted and paraded with brazen insolence, supported by the meanest hypocrisy—were it not that the contagious influence must necessarily continue to spread its contamination, by means of the mercenary and malevolent elements in human nature, if shame and indignation be not, without further delay, powerfully roused against its progress, by appealing, in good faith, to honourable and manly dispositions,—and awakening the careless and unsuspicious to a sense of the profligacy of that which they may have been considering in the light of mere amusement—were it not, we say for these considerations, all of them connected with the most important interests of literature and society, we certainly should not have deemed it incumbent oil us to interfere at all with Mr. Blackwood’s notorious publication. We should, but for these, have left him, undisturbed by any remarks of ours, to settle the balance sheet of his magazine with his worthy Editors: to set off a second edition demanded, against a caning received;—an extra sale of a calumnious number, against the sum paid to the calumniated individual;—the salary of a professorship, against the disgrace of a series of ungrateful and unjust personalities, levelled at professors, clergymen, and benefactors;—a respectable connexion, against the forfeiture of respectability in society.

In an early number of the London Magazine, we alluded to the work in question, in a tone certainly less serious and severe than our present language: yet in that article we made it sufficiently manifest, as we have reason to know, to the consciousness of Blackwood’s Men, that what it has pleased themselves to term (thus giving the word to certain credulous people, who, on such subjects, only speak as they are prompted), their “foibles,” their “youthful indiscretions,” hey-day irregularities,—only required to be seized hold of by an arm of moderate power, to be shaken out of this flimsy disguise, and stand exposed before the world as designing treacheries and sordid scandals. We confess, indeed, that, when we wrote the article referred to, we were not totally uninfluenced by the juggling system of these individuals. We had read many able critical papers in their work, particularly on poetical subjects,—and we really had no conception,—or at least were most unwilling to believe,—that a regular plan of fraud had been concocted, at the very outset of the magazine: a plan to excite interest in the public mind, and realise profit to the unworthy perpetrators, by a series of cunning impositions—involving in their course the sacrifice of every feeling belonging to the writer of real principle, the violation of some of the most sacred rules of honourable intercourse in society, the disfigurement and disgrace of literature, by rendering it an accomplice in low remorseless outrages on reputation, and on truth. The hint of one of the most fundamental parts of this plan, we now find, was borrowed from the accounts that often appear in the newspapers, of the ingenious manner in which names and characters can be varied, without any corresponding
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change of persons, when the object is to live by one’s wits. The tradesman who purchases goods in Cheapside, is not only the gentleman of fortune who receives them in Baker-street, but also the wealthy merchant of the Minories, who vouches, on his own knowledge, for the goodness of the parties, and for the honour of the whole transaction! Beat up the empty counting-house and you find the clever fellows decamped to their west-end establishment: by the time the police officers are on their traces here, les drôles have vanished again—they are now dry cautious men of business on ’Change! Exactly after this fashion did Blackwood’s Men set forth; on this example have they consistently acted.
Z has made his virulent and lying attack on character and feeling; and Mr. Wastle has been of opinion that Z went too far; and Peter’s Letters have expressed the regrets and contrition of Blackwood’s Editors, for having been betrayed into unguarded personalities—and have claimed indulgence for the excesses of young and generous spirits;—and all this has been listened to by the public,—and we have ourselves been willing to think that distinctions were to be made, and have hesitated to attach the stigma of radical baseness to the management of the work generally.—There is no longer, however, any doubt, that Z and Wastle, and Peter, and the contrite Editors, are often the self-same individual, and always of the same gang: that Z is the Editors, taking advantage of the foulest malevolence, and angriest passions of party; that Wastle is the Editor, trimming off a little of the coarseness of this piece of profligacy; that Peter is the Editors, puffing their own magazine in the style of the quack-doctor’s stage, and professing contrition while hatching fresh offences! We understand that their pitiful subterfuge against the ignominy which every mind of common manliness must be inclined to attach to these mercenary artifices, is to laugh them off as jokes—hoaxes on public credulity—pleasantries for the solace of Mr. Blackwood—nuts to crack for the Dilettanti. Mr. Hardy Vaux, in his interesting history, transmitted from New South Wales, informs us that many a hearty chuckle was heard amidst the “family” circle of an evening, as the tricks of the day were recounted: pocket handkerchiefs were classed with puns, but a watch, or a diamond ring, was a genuine piece of wit—and a counterfeited tale, by which the flats had been done, was sufficient to secure for a rascal the unaffected admiration of the company.

To this feature, however, in the tactics of Blackwood’s Men, it is worth while to bestow a little closer attention. Let us contemplate it in some particular instances. The first article of their first number,* was an evidently nefarious assault on Coleridge, in the course of which all the bounds of legitimate criticism were overpassed, and the defects of the author made the ground of slander against the man. A mock energy of language was assumed in this paper, characteristic of the hypocrisy and dishonesty of its motive,—and which was sufficient to prove, to a tolerable judge of such matters, that it was any thing but the genuine offspring of the writer’s feelings and opinions. This paper is well known to have been written by Blackwood’s First Hand; and it was coolly designed to attract attention as a specimen of the sharp and stimulating materials of which the magazine was, for the future, to be composed. The Edinburgh Review had rapidly risen to a large sale by its severity; but to be severe far beyond the limits of justice, so a pleasantly to tickle the love of mischief which is so generally felt, without departing from the language of a gentleman, or forfeiting the character of one, demands a fine tact, and very consummate ability. The Edinburgh Review, with rare, but often perverted talent, has done this: but Blackwood’s Magazine has never once been able to do it. It has never contained a severe article, that has not, at the same time, been a dirty one: the pungency has never been of the fair sterling quality, like that of the real cogniac, but of a filthy, and cheating nature, like that of the trash they sell in the common liquor-shops under the name of brandy—which is seasoned

* No. VII. of Blackwood’s Magazine. The first six numbers were conducted by other Editors.
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with burning poison to recommend it to the diseased tastes of drabs and dustmen. This first article on Coleridge accuses him of “unblushing falsehood,”—of “grinning and idiot self-complacency,”—of “having got dead drunk;”—it does more than insinuate that he has wickedly abandoned his wife and children—and sneers at one of the finest
poems, of its class, in the English language, in mere subserviency to the vulgar understandings and appetites, which this venal reviler is aiming to please. The article in question bears no signature; it appears foremost in the first number of these people’s management: it is therefore to be considered as the unfurling of their banners,—and let it be contrasted with the several sarcastic notices of Coleridge in the Edinburgh Review, by any one who wishes to observe the difference between satire and abuse; between the critic who desires to torment the author, and the malevolent traducer whose object is to injure the man.

Since this article appeared, Coleridge has been, just as extravagantly, praised in Blackwoodand avowedly too by the conductors of the Magazine! In the same way, Wordsworth has been outrageously vilified, and zealously defended by the same individual—one of these conductors! Nay, we have seen in the same number lampoons on this poet, and high commendations of his genius—and we have had occasion personally to hear the poet express his calm contempt for both!

The abuse of Coleridge was sure to stimulate the attention of common readers, in the existing prevalence of a diseased, jaded, but spiteful temper amongst the mere talkers on literary subjects—to whom an infusion of bitter personality in their reading, is as necessary, to enable them to get through with it, as are curry and cayenne to worn out gastronomes. The praise of Coleridge that followed was intended, first, to gain a contributor; secondly, to excite curiosity by the contrast; thirdly, to afford the Magazine—what it has really possessed—an advantage over the abject fashionable criticism of the day on poetical subjects. The mixture was altogether calculated to give poignancy to the publication; and it was one of Mr. Wordsworth’s professed private friends, who undertook to perform in the double capacity of traducer and panegyrist, in regard to that eminent author. Supposing for a moment that the reports in circulation on this subject are partially incorrect—and that the separate parts of this labour have been divided in the hands of the colleagues—that it has been arranged between them, where, and how, each shall hit the other—the one acting as defamer, the other as eulogist—we would ask if such a connection is not, evidently, on its face, unprincipled and sordid? The love and veneration professed by the author of the Angler’s Tent for his host and companion, would be incompatible with such a compact, were they honourably professed.* An Editor, of course, does not hold himself responsible for the soundness of all the opinions that may appear in the work under his management, if it be of so open and miscellaneous a nature as a magazine; but if the Editorship be a conjunct one, it, at least, ought to be cemented by coincidence of sentiment

* The following are lines written by one of these men on the gifted person just named:—
To thee, my Wordsworth! whose inspired song
Comes forth in pomp from Nature’s inner shrine,
To thee, by birth-right, such high themes belong,
The unseen grandeur of the earth is thine!
One lowlier simple strain of human love be mine.
Now we know, for an absolute fact—and could, were it necessary, cite time, place, and persons—that
this man, who has so written, is in the habit of acting the miserable mimic of the individual he thus solemnly celebrates—and that not in good humoured, though distasteful mirth—but with the evident design of holding up the object of his mimicry to ridicule—accompanying the real or pretended imitation with ribaldry of his own invention. There is therefore good reason to believe, (as is generally reported), that he is the author of the indecent lampoons on this great poet, that have appeared in the work of which he is one of the principal conductors—Such are his low simple strains of human love! They are indeed very low.
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on all the higher public questions, directly affecting personal reputation and principle. Such niceties, however, it would be needless to discuss in the present case: it is generally and loudly affirmed, and has never been contradicted, that these virulent attacks and violent commendations, are allowed to fall into the same hands, or are divided between the colleagues, indifferently, as it may happen; while, by a scandalous juggling of signatures and characters, a mystification has been kept up for dishonest purposes, and under cowardly motives. It was in their first number that
Z’s first article appeared—a striking feature in their adopted system of calumny—as well as the Chaldee Manuscript there is, therefore, strong evidence of its falling within their organized plan, though they have since chosen to speak of the articles of Z. as communications. In the same number, too, as a note to the pretended correspondent’s vindication of Wordsworth, we have the announcement of a paper on the Editor of the Edinburgh Review—a soi disant translation from the German—which is ascertained to have been written by themselves. If such disguises may sometimes be innocently employed, to give variety, infuse life, and create interest in a periodical work,—it can only be when their employment stands palpably exempt from any charge of moral deception,—when the object is entirely literary, and has no reference whatever to personal considerations. But here we have two men, whose habits of life are notoriously free—not to use a stronger word—and whose real opinions are known to be loose and sceptical,—starting a publication, in which, systematically and of aforethought, the most licentious personal abuse was to be the lure for one class of readers, and the veriest hypocritical whine, on matters of religion and politics, the bait for another;—in which the violation of decency was to render it piquant, and the affectation of piety render it persuasive, and servility to power render it profitable;—which should be made to circulate amongst the spiteful and ill-tempered by its venom; amongst the interested by its baseness; amongst the simple by its cant and quackery! It it in furtherance of this honourable design, that they have assumed the externals of harlequinade and buffoonery; that false names have been taken; false recommendations and characters forged. The language of pleasantry has been employed to advance the deep-laid schemes of a grovelling selfishness, and to feather the darts of a wicked malignity. And now we ask, if this is a system that ought longer to he permitted to triumph, or even escape with impunity? If it be not high time that these poisoners in jest should have their career arrested, or at least their infamy proclaimed, by some one prepared to hold them at defiance in every way? The only security mankind have against the perpetration of the most desolating and degrading mischiefs, by unprincipled and spiteful individuals, is, that wickedness always proves a source of weakness when it is firmly met—that, although it may for a time inflict considerable pain and injury, it becomes, in a moment, a warning to deter, a spectacle to disgust, when honesty and resolution are aroused to wrestle with it on close ground. Until the exposure be completely made, stupidity in many cases, and bad feelings perhaps in more, procure it a certain countenance: people are often glad to the heart to see a thing done, which they would not for the world themselves do: it pleases numbers that callous mercenary men should inflict uneasiness at the expense of their own characters;—many private spites, and party prejudices are thus gratified in a cheap way. But when the infamy of the thing is laid bare to the day; when the system has been routed out to its foulest nooks; grappled with in particulars; uncovered even to the blackness of its heart,—its discredit is found infinitely to overbalance any satisfaction it can afford, and no one can henceforth exult in its effects, without making up his mind to share its ignominy.

But these men have expressed their contrition. Yes, we know they have,—as well as that their publisher has admitted the falsehood of their abuse, by paying an atonement to injured character. From their first number, so often referred to, they withdrew the Chaldee Manuscript, with expressions of “regret,” on the part of the Editor, that it had given offence “to
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individuals justly entitled to esteem and regard,”—and, in the subsequent numbers of their work, up to the present day, they have perseveringly followed up this offence, by repeated outrages against the same individuals, written by the same beings who made this apology!—These men afterwards got up their “
Peter’s Letters”—in which Coleridge is praised by the very individual who had abused him in Blackwood—and here contrition is professed in the name of the Editors, and praise lavished on them—and all by the Editor’s themselves, who, since the publication of these Letters, have reiterated and aggravated every crime of which they had, under their alias, made recantation! But the most ludicrous examples of the penitence of Blackwood’s Magazine have been furnished by Mr. Blackwood himself. This gentleman has been a very Jane Shore in the agonies of his remorse:—he has figured, in his letters, as Ebony in a white sheet, bewailing the licentiousness of his magazine, and refusing to he comforted. Modesty, we have always understood, is the infirmity, and sensibility the failing, of this Reekie bookseller: hence it has happened that the malignity of Z, and the ingratitude of the Chaldee manuscript, have affected him very seriously! He has even been in the habit of anticipating each fresh outrage, and inditing deprecatory epistles, to lessen the shock of what was about to appear! Nothing can be imagined more fervent, and apparently heartfelt, than his disavowals of regarding with approbation, or even acquiescence, these attacks on private character—solely attributable, as he states, to the satirical turn of his Editors, and of each of which he considers himself the victim, almost as much as the person attacked! Indeed with such delicate nerves, as we have good reason to believe Mr. Blackwood possesses, we cannot but conclude that his situation is a very disagreeable one; and our only wonder is, that he makes no effort to escape, either from its torture—which a man of resolution might perhaps bear—or from its disgrace, which to an honest man would be intolerable.

These mock penitences, and commiseration of the injured—are borrowed from as respectable a source as the alias feature in the Blackwood system. It is a common trick with the pickpockets in the streets, to profess great interest in the misfortune, of the person they have just knocked down and plundered:—the very rascals who have struck him from behind, and filched his watch from his fob, will come round in his face, to ply and to pat him—with their mouths full of asseverations against the roguery and cruelty of the outrage of which he has been the victim. Blackwood’s Men cannot be complimented with the invention of thus manœuvre. Peter Morris, the hypocrite in front, and Christopher North, the ruffian behind, are but varieties of the same personage, copied from the practice. of a profession, which is certainly more respectable than that of calumniator, though not quite so safe. Then honest Reekie comes in as the smooth receiver—who is very sorry for the gentleman’s loss: vows to heaven that he desires no dealings but such as are in the way of fair trade—and is ready with all his heart to give up the article, or pay its value, if the aggrieved individual should demand it roughly, or talk about consequences! In all this, however, they do but jest—there is no offence i’ the the world!

That their conduct has been generally thought criminal enough to require reformation, will be admitted to be true by every one who has ever heard of the character of their work; and, we believe that, for a long time, it was pretty commonly expected that they would, one day or other, set about it:—it was not thought possible that all they said of contrition and regret should be mere artful falsehood. Yet the delusion would have been sooner dissipated, if it had not been assisted, (in good faith we are willing to think) by the casual declamations, expressing hope and belief, of respectable persons who professed to know something of the feelings and views of the faulty parties. How connections arise in private life, and partialities originate in the accidents of social intercourse, and the coincidence of party opinions, as well as at the meeting of personal interests, we need not inquire: ill-assorted and deplorable unions are often to be observed in the world, which excite general regret and wonder, but with the secret of which all but persons devoid of delicacy would wish to avoid in-
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terfering. For our own parts, we feel no hesitation to declare, that when we understood that
Sir Walter Scott, during his last visit to London, had spoken freely of the improprieties of the Magazine in question—coupling his disapprobation with something very like an assurance that its cause would for the future be removed—we very gladly and frankly accepted his testimony as valid, knowing that his opportunities of acquiring information on this subject were as excellent, as, in our view at least, his interest in ascertaining the fact was strong. The notice, however, of this circumstance brings us to what our readers will no doubt agree with us in thinking the most important part of the present article; and to the consideration which has chiefly induced us to engage in this work of chastisement and exposure.

The honour of the literature of the present day we consider as now at stake: some marked and serious innovations have been recently made in its usages, and the taste naturally belonging to the artificial state of our society, has a tendency to coalesce with the self-interest of writers, to give these exceptions the weight of examples—a circumstance which there will be much cause to deplore, should the influence extend widely, and lead to the formation of a class in our literary productions. But before we proceed further on this subject, we must digress into some introductory observations.

The author of the Scotch Novels is doubtless to be regarded, taking his works in their mass, as the brightest ornament of his country’s modern literary history: and, supposing him to be the gentleman whose name could scarcely have continued to be so long and so generally affixed to them by the public voice, were the public notion in this respect an erroneous one, we may challenge, we think, any period, and any place, to match its so alert, so vigorous, so elastic, so unfailing an intellectual spirit. In keenness of facility, and intense enjoyment of the picturesque variety of life, we certainly do not know his equal. His power of observation, and his vivacious sense of the past and the present, cause us, when we are engaged in his compositions, to feel as if we were making healthy and animating excursions into the wide high-grounds of nature. It is not reverie, it is not imagination, if is not reasoning, or sensibility, or mere description that so engages us in these compositions; but it is an intimate, and lively, and exhilarating communication with the most interesting phenomena of the world;—an ardent and robust, (if we may so speak) coursing down of natural objects, and a vast and noble range of natural scenery. With him
Try what the open, what the covert yield:
we set off with him to stretch our curiosity and sympathy to their fullest strain, excited by his inspiring tally-ho; and all that is foul, morbid, or effeminate in our habits or constitutions, is likely to be worked out under the invigorating influence of such gallant exercise.

We are, however, only repeating what we have already said of this bewitching writer, in a paper entirely devoted to his most popular productions.* Regarding him, however, as holding forth the most honourable example which the present day affords, of literature exercising its functions in a manly, sensible, unaffected style; free from bitterness, gloom, sickliness, whimsies, cant, and intolerance—all besetting faults of the time—we cannot let slip any opportunity of offering him our sincere homage, and expressing the admiration due to him as the author of our period, who will form the pinnacle of its genius in the sight of our posterity; whose name will be “familiar as household words” in their mouths; whose delightful works will furnish the fascination of the fireside, and topics of cheerful and social converse, when the discords and profligacies of the living generation are laid quiet and forgotten in their tombs. In the age of Byron, of Shelley, of Hunt, of Wilson, we owe—(and momentous is the obligation)—to the author of the Scotch Novels, our chief, perhaps our only assurance, that the literature of the present era will not he indelibly branded hereafter with a diseased, false, affected, profligate, whining, and hypocritical character. Most of

* Living Authors, No. I. inserted in our first Number.
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the persons we have mentioned by name are men of genius—all of them are men of eminent talent; but all of them are men destitute of true intellectual dignity—all and each are sectarians and egotists in literature—wonders of the day rather than lights for all time. The mawkishness of Wilson’s poetry betrays its hypocrisy; it shows the want of genuine sentiment; its pretensions are to religious sensibility—but the composition rather seems larded with cant, than to be of a really religious quality. The hollow-heartedness of the writer escapes to observation in a fault of his style. Hunt permits a smallness of soul to be apparent in all he does: he cannot, or dare not, grapple with the real elements of human nature: his philosophy is as petty as his taste—and poisonous in a worse way. He would convert life into child’s play, in which sweetmeats represent every thing desirable, and a surfeit is the summam bonum.* Instead of being malevolently inclined, he is really of in amiable disposition; but he is very vain, and totally destitute of magnanimity—and hence it has happened, that he has quite as often outraged merit, misrepresented character, and calumniated motive, as any of the public writers who are known to be either venal or malignant. Shelley is a visionary, with a weak head and a rich imagination: and Byron, who has far more internal strength than any of those we have mentioned, is for ever playing tricks either with himself or the public;—his demoniac energy, like that of the Pythia, is either wrought-up by his own will, or altogether assumed as a deception. We incline to the former supposition. The author of the Scotch Novels appears amongst these perverters, as if charged to restore to literature its health and grace,—to place it again on its fair footing in society, legitimately associated with good manners, common sense, and sound principle. If he really be,—as it is now almost fair to take for granted,—the respectable and eminent person to whom general report gives these productions, we may safely affirm, that, while Sir Walter Scott greatly increases his fame as a writer by this addition to his known works, the author of the Scotch Novels merges in one whose previous reputation in literature, and honourable bearing in the world, are calculated to render the discovery highly agreeable. The vivacity, keenness, intelligence, and easy elegance of Sir Walter’s mind, as manifested in his poems, and other avowed publications, become sublimated into genius of a high standard in the merits of the novels;—but the kind is not altered,—the degree only is increased. By the recent honour he has received from the crown, our country and age may be considered illustrated; for never, since the first origin of titles, has this distinction more obviously waited on rare and eminent qualities. There is, moreover, peculiar happiness characterising this grant, with reference to the period, the title, and the individual. The first is honoured by the intellectual nature of the merit which has been selected for illustration; while the old associations or the knightly title, are refreshed and brightened-up in our minds, by the chivalrous cast of that taste, those talents, and even personal habits, which unite in the character of Sir Walter Scott.

We have the greatest pleasure in dwelling upon these particulars, and that must be our excuse for the length of this digression. Humble as our testimony is, in the scale of evidence to the fame of this eminent man, it is at least sincerely offered, and we would wish it to appear zealously expressed. On the present occasion in particular, we entertain this wish, for we are about to touch on matters of a less agreeable nature. Amongst the many sterling claims to public attention, and legitimate means of exciting public interest, which Sir Walter Scott possesses, he is pleased (supposing him to be the author of the Scotch Novels), to employ one of a less valid kind—namely mystery as to the authorship. The question remains a perpetual puzzle; and in some respects it may be said to become more puzzling, in proportion as it seems more certain who the writer really is. This sort of concealment has been often practised by authors; and it may either be

* A most extraordinary, and, we really must say, atrocious assertion relative to Shakespeare’s feelings, which appeared very lately in the Examiner, shall be subjected to particular notice in our next Number.
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highly fit and necessary or—perfectly indifferent as far as any principle is concerned—or distasteful,—or altogether improper. There are no circumstances connected with the present concealment that could warrant us to call it improper; but, however accountable it might have been at first, it now appears quite unaccountable, except by alleging motives which we should be sorry to believe occupied a paramount place in so gifted a mind. As the stratagem of a trader in books, though it may be innocent, it is at least no longer dignified; and, while we are far from sorry that it was for some time kept up, as giving an a zest to our expectation and admiration, it has now degenerated into either mere trifling, or mere trick.

For ourselves, however, we certainly should have allowed gratitude for the works produced, to stifle the expression of this opinion as to the manner of their appearance, were it not that the trick in question is a bad precedent—that it has proved a mischievous example, and is of a nature to be turned to unworthy purposes in meaner and more sordid hands. The example given by the author of the Scotch Novels in this respect, is leading to a fashion of hoaxing and masquerade in regard to authorship, which must degrade, and is degrading, the character of our literature, by favouring licentiousness rather than independence, and affording at once covert and temptation to odious violations of decorum. Writing anonymously is, generally speaking, very different from writing in a false name and capacity; and this the author in question may urge in his own behalf: but, in this particular instance, the withholding of his name is practising what, in the jargon of the day, may be termed a mystification on the public—for the authorship of the works is keenly discussed—it is treated as a riddle—different names are specified as the solution—the common features therefore of anonymous cases are not to be found in this. The perplexity alluded to fans the interest of the novel; and the book itself scarcely excites so much curiosity as the question. who is the author?

Persons of grovelling and bad intentions were likely to see the advantage that might be taken of this new source of interest, both as a means of raising popular attention at a cheaper rate than by cleverness alone, and also as furnishing a mode of escaping from that responsibility which attaches to the writer who assumes no feigned character or title. It surely is—we are sure it ought to be—a severe mortification to the author of “Paul’s Letters to his Kinsfolks,” that his Book has formed the archetype, or exemplar, to “Peters Letters,”—a publication sinning both in its design and execution, against the rules of decency and the principles of honour. Of all low-minded expedients to gain success for talent, we know of none more sordid or more mischievous, than that of gratifying the paltry and nefarious curiosity which hovers round the enclosures of private life—prying and spying at loop holes and unguarded openings, anxious to discover something within the domestic fence, to purloin some morsel for ravenous scandal to glut itself upon, or foolish loquacity to amuse itself with. This is indeed dirty catering; it is all offence at once against morals, and against literature, degrading the latter as surely as it corrupts the former. Unfortunate and worn-out indeed, is the state of society, when this device to attract attention becomes general and popular: the source of intellectual pleasures may then be considered as poisoned; the bad passions of human nature are then let loose,—not in grandeur and terror,—not as wild beasts to excite notions of sublimity while they ravage,—but as vermin,—little, venomous, overrunning,—to infest, to soil, to sting, and to disgust.—The work called “Peter’s Letters,” has given the most notorious and profligate example of this felon conspiracy against the dignity of literature, and the order and peace of society: and in regard to that publication the word conspiracy is used with peculiar propriety,—for it has not even to plead that it bears evidence throughout of the sincerity and consistency of a single individual’s opinions, offered honestly in point of conviction, however wicked and injurious their scope and effect. No—it has been formed by means of a coalition of baseness: two unprincipled men have agreed in it to club their stores of personal allusions,—each to bring in his quota of stimulating materials of this de-
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scription,—mingling fabrications with facts,—false or fanciful tales with real anecdotes,—portraits with caricatures,—descriptions with misrepresentations,—fulsome praise with black calumny,—while, in regard to all matters of real opinion, all that would form the moral, or application of the narrative, they have each been ready to sacrifice to the other—if it be correct to speak of a sacrifice of principle where no principle exists. These men have availed themselves of the dinner parties, tea-drinkings, and assemblies of their neighbours, in the way that the romance writer sometimes avails himself of the records of history: in one page we find religious cant, in another drunken ribaldry, in another the small scandal of the tea-table, in another the most rancorous malignity, in another ungenerous caricature offered as portrait, in another facts that prove the treachery of the compilers.

The authors of this book are the principal writers in Blackwood’s Magazine; and the outrages of one publication have been transferred to the other; each his vouched for the other’s probity and talent; and the only question seems now to be, whether this system of fraud and scandal is to he suffered to establish itself, with the most insolent pretensions to justice and respectability, and under countenance calculated to raise presumptions in its favour!

We certainly deem ourselves authorized—nay called upon—to put this question distinctly to Sir Walter Scott: and our reasons, we think, are of sufficient force, to exonerate its from the charge of acting illiberally or impertinently in so doing. In the first place, it would scarcely be too much to say, that Sir Walter has, to a certain extent, identified himself with these men, and their scandalous publication, by the excessive zeal of his late endeavours to secure for one of them all appointment of momentous trust, and honorable name,—with which the very hopes, as well as the reputation of his native land, are most materially involved;—the holder of which should not only be free from crime, but far above suspicion—not only decently moral in his walk and conversation, but aloof from all degrading associations with freedoms and levities that partake of the nature of indecorums—that is to say, unless it be one of our modern discoveries that the preceptor may be a perpetually present burlesque on his maxims, without injuring the efficacy of the latter on the mind of the student. If it should be thought by any rather too severe thus to call Sir Walter publicly to account, for an act, which he no doubt would represent as one of private kindness,—our answer is, that the present is a very peculiar case, and must be regarded in its own remarkable features. If Sir Walter Scott has been elevated to a situation of perfectly unexampled celebrity and influence, by the unamimous applauses of all who are in any way concerned in the distribution of the honors of intellect, and in awarding literary fame, he must be content, along with what is pleasant and profitable in this distinction, to bear its responsibility. His name has become national property; his conduct, therefore, may have all immediate and direct influence on his nation’s interests and reputation. Scotland owes him much; but surely he does not owe less to Scotland; he owes her gratitude, and above all he owes her strict fidelity in all those actions which are likely to have authority with his countrymen in consequence of the admiration his talents have excited in their breasts. To fail them in these, from any motive whatever, is giving but sorry return to them for their confidence. The election of a Professor to the Metropolitan University of Scotland, was an affair in which the interference of Sir Walter Scott could not but be highly important, both to himself and the public. He is not a common man, and, the occasion was not a common one. That it was not so esteemed, may be inferred from the fact, that the vacant chair was respectfully tendered to Sir James Mackintosh; an individual of high consideration in society, and unquestionable eminence in intellectual and scholastic attainments. As the presiding distributor of justice and the blessings of British law to our Asiatic subjects, and as one of the most eloquent of British senators, Sir James has acquired a fame in Europe which would have reflected back its lustre on the University, had he accepted the invitation to enter amongst its professors. But the University of
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Edinburgh has not been so lucky;—instead of the late Chief Judge at Bombay, at present a member of the British Parliament, it has added to its Academical strength—whom?—
one of Blackwood’s men—a co-Editor of a slanderous periodical work! And Sir Walter Scott has exerted himself, with might and main, to procure this election!! Let us look at some of the circumstances connected with it, and with the recommendation in question. Blackwood’s Magazine wages war, with envenomed rancour, against the respectability and feelings of one, at least, of the professors of the Edinburgh University. We forbear to mention the gentleman’s name, because we do not wish to help the malignity we are exposing. Not a number of the work appears, that does not contain some bitter personality, levelled against this distinguished man of science, who is hauled out by name, with coarse indecency, and glaring defiance of all the laws of civilized criticism. Has Sir Walter Scott done well in exerting himself to send the traducer to sit by the side of the traduced, inevitably to excite emotions of disregard and derision in the minds of the students, and to cast scandal, by so unsuitable an approximation, on the University itself? Has his country no reason to reproach him for this? Then, again, we would ask him, if there is one man now living, who has benefited more by the good-will and liberal behavior of his critical neighbours, and almost of all who have had opportunities of making him the object of animadversion, than himself? That this is much to his own credit we are the foremost to state;—his great talents and respectable character have fairly claimed the praise he has received;—but we may venture to say that it is also to the credit of others; and if we remember the first circumstance, he ought not to forget the latter. We apprehend, therefore, that, considering the matter in a general point of view, Sir Walter Scott was called upon, more than most people, to avoid countenancing the degradation of criticism by abuse, and to show abhorrence of the practice of mingling it up with rancour and personality, seeing that he has been so much a gainer, in every way, in consequence of these qualities lying dormant in regard to himself. But, unless we are much mistaken indeed, there are peculiarities here, too, that ought to have weighed more strongly than they appear to have done on the mind of Sir Walter Scott, when it was suggested to him to become the zealous espouser of Blackwood’s cause—for so we interpret his conduct in regard to the professorship. His principal publisher, and his most effective critic (criticism being in his case synonymous with praise) have been both grossly injured in Blackwood’s Magazine: they have been treated in it with detestable unfairness—insidiously as well as malignantly. We pretend not to estimate the amount of any obligation which Sir Walter may owe to these gentlemen: perhaps he may think he owes none, and we do not mean to affirm he does—but we do mean to say, that, if slander be always hateful, it becomes still more repugnant to persons of well-constituted minds, when it is levelled against those whose honour and liberality they have experienced, and with whom they have maintained habits of familiar communication

We make these remarks with great reluctance; but the truth is, it has now become impossible any longer to avoid proceeding to extremities in this case. Blackwood’s Magazine, as it has been, and is conducted, is a nuisance that must be abated; and one of the first steps necessary to be taken is to look about and see from what quarters it derives a countenance and assistance calculated to further the imposition it practises on the public. Sir Walter Scott’s testimony in its favour is no trifling advantage; and many, who have suffered by that infamous work, have helped to increase that advantage, by dwelling, with complacency, on the eminent qualities that give weight to the evidence in question. Perhaps, therefore, they may have been doing quite as much injury to literature and society, in one respect, by their praises, as honour in another. Be that as it may, however, it is necessary we should know how the case really stands. In Blackwood’s Magazine they allude sneeringly to the wives and children of the writers they attack. Does Sir Walter Scott countenance this practice, and would he think
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reprisals fair? They forge letters, bearing well-known names, to throw ridicule on the objects of their severity. Is Sir Walter Scott prepared to see this done against themselves, without complaining, should by chance his name be employed, and private circumstances be taken advantage of to give point to the correspondence? In Blackwood’s Magazine they speak of one person as having “greasy hair,” another as being “pimpled,” another as being “dim-eyed,” another as clumsy and awkward? What does Sir Walter Scott think of these personal courtesies? Do they give grace to his recommendation in the instance of the Professorship? We repeat, that, if a man of character and genius will lend his great influence to strengthen a particular work, he must be held responsible for its qualities—society requires this security, and we are determined to enforce it.

But lest it should be thought that we have not, as yet, fully established a right to make this direct appeal to a person so distinguished in society and in letters, we must proceed a step further, and plainly ask whether we are, or are not, to consider Sir Walter Scott as aiding in the Magazine in question? Blackwood’s hints, the other day, in London, justify us in putting this interrogatory. Nay, more, Sir Walter has himself been lately in London, and we now find a series of papers in Blackwood, in which certain London parties and prayer-meetings, with the names of individuals, are exposed very much in the culpable manner of “Peter Morris,” though with a more delicate hand. A breakfast at Mr. Wilberforce’s figures in these descriptions; a dinner, we believe, at Mr. Charles Grant’s, &c. &c. The diminutive person of the former gentleman, his religions tendencies, and religious associates, are introduced in a way to give the air of portrait to the sketch: but surely a man of honour, and of good company, can never have been guilty of the enormous indecorum of availing himself of the attentions which he owes to his talents and reputation, to bestow poignancy and attraction on a scandalous Magazine, at the expense of the most sacred of those obligations which a gentleman implicitly contracts, when he steps over an hospitable threshold! This would be another and further step towards the degradation of literature, and the disgrace of the literary character, forcibly demanding vehement and instant interference. We forbear to say more on this subject, because we feel that we have great power in our hands. It may be necessary to return to it; but let us hope not. We must persist, however, in holding the voluntary contributor, and zealous recommender, answerable for the work; and the principles on which we do so are fair and undeniable.

We shall very soon allude specifically to the treatment which Hunt, Haydon, Keats, &c. &c. &c. have experienced from Blackwood’s Magazine: and, while stating how far we differ, in many respects, from certain of these individuals, we shall nevertheless expose the excessive falsehood of what we see is now attempted to be maintained by Sir Walter Scott’s Friends—viz., that their attacks on these persons just-named, have been restrained within the limits of fair criticism—that they have not manifested any “personal feelings towards them, good or bad,”—that they have only “expressed simple, and impartial opinions concerning the merits and demerits of men they never saw; nor thought of for one moment, otherwise than as in their capacity of authors.”

We shall prove that they have never offered one word of genuine criticism on the productions of these persons: that they have done nothing but abuse their faces, dress, professions, and conduct: that in no one instance have they written concerning them under the influence of any better feelings than those of personal rancour, or sordid greed: that, in fact, every single syllable they here say, in deference to what they feel to he a growing sentiment against their publication, is false—glaringly, grossly false—that they must know it to be false—and that they introduce it by a falsehood just as palpable as it is paltry.

They may try to get over this in their usual style,—making coarse burlesque the cover for mean untruth in the cunning of their knavery, they may seek to give the semblance of mirth to the explanations wrung from the consciousness of their exposed infamy—hoping thus to turn attention away from the insufficiency of
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their justification:—they may practise the tricks of mountebanks as a diversion from the charge of having forfeited the character of gentlemen—they may assume the broad, vaunting language of the professed motley-coated fool, in the mercenary spirit of the vile nostrum-vender:—by gaily uttering outrageous exaggerations they may seriously seek to give currency to insidious falsehoods, and under pretence of a merry banter insinuate a sordid dealer’s cheating puff:—they may ring the changes, in short, on all the devices left to men destitute of principle, when truth can no longer avail them, and they have no remaining ally but impudence—but they will do all this in real mortification, and deep bitterness of heart,—for they must know that such an article as this is a branding one.—It may not be quoted in their hearing in society, but it will be recollected at their entrance, and thought of silently as they are interchanging salutations with the company. All men will now know them—call them “shrewd knaves, but unhappy,”—and the conviction of this will lie for the future cold and corpse-like on their pleasantry. They had better, therefore, “turn their jests out of service, and talk in good earnest.” We have at least set them the example.