LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 5: 1817-18

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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EDINBURGH, 1817-1818
“There was a natural demand for libel at this period.”—Lord Cockburn.—Blackwood’s Magazine.—Account of it in letter to Haydon (1838).—Lockhart “helps Blackwood out of a scrape.”—“Row in Edinburgh.”—Lockhart made the scapegoat.—His regrets.—His prospects ruined.—“Intolerably grievous fate.”—Parallel of Theodore Hook.—Responsibility for Blackwood’s.—Wilson and Lockhart not paid Editors.—Lockhart not the assailant of the Lake Poets.—Errors in “Life of Christopher North.”—The early numbers of the Magazine.—Lockhart’s articles on Greek Tragedy.—Blackwood quarrels with his original Editors.—They take service with Constable.—Their new Opposition Magazine.—Scott and Pringle.—Attack on Coleridge.—Wilson, Jeffrey, and Coleridge.—Lockhart on literary Whigs of Edinburgh.—Attack on the “Cockney School.”—Keats and Lockhart agree in their views of Leigh Hunt.—“Vain, egotistical, and disgusting.”—His “Tale of Rimini.”—His enmity to Sir Walter Scott.—He and Keats fancy that Scott is their assailant.—Persistence of this absurdity.—“The Chaldee” Manuscript.—Hogg claims the authorship.—Burlesque reply.—Lockhart’s own statement.—Analysis of “The Chaldee.”—“No end of public emotion.”

The often told story of the early years of Blackwood’s Magazine has next to be repeated. It was an ill day for Lockhart when he first put his pen at the service of a journal, which for now the term of a long human life, has been eminently reputable and admirable. Frequently as the matter has been
discussed, there are points which have never before been clearly stated, while there are others that still remain obscure. Perhaps the best introduction to the subject may be found in a letter written by Lockhart himself, in later days, to
Haydon the painter. Haydon had been at first a victim of the Blackwood satirists, merely because he was an associate of their enemy, Leigh Hunt. But, as we shall see, this feud with Haydon was soon settled, and he confesses that his foes treated him with hospitality and good fellowship: aiding him to the best of their power in later life.

Nevertheless, on the appearance of Lockhart’sLife of Scott,” Haydon wrote him a long epistle, complaining of his early cruelties. On Haydon’s own showing this conduct was curiously inconsistent, but his unfortunate temperament, and melancholy end, excuse much in the painter.

Lockhart replied (July 11, 1838):—“I thank you for your two letters, though the second has given me a good deal of pain. Your approbation of the ‘Life of Scott’ is valuable, and might console me for all the abuse it has called forth both on him and me. . . .

(What follows will find more appropriate place later.)

“But I cannot be indifferent to your severe though generous reflections about my early literary escapades. You are willing to make allowances, but allow me to say, you have not understood the
facts of the case. They were bad enough, but not so bad as you make them out. In the first place, I was a raw boy, who had never had the least connection either with politics or controversies of any kind, when, arriving in Edinburgh1 in October 1817, I found my friend
John Wilson (ten years my senior) busied in helping Blackwood out of a scrape he had got into with some editors of his Magazine, and on Wilson’s asking me to try my hand at some squibberies in his aid, I sat down to do so with as little malice as if the assigned subject had been the Court of Pekin.2 But the row in Edinburgh, the lordly Whigs having considered persiflage as their own fee-simple, was really so extravagant that when I think of it now, the whole story seems wildly incredible. Wilson and I were singled out to bear the whole burden of sin, though there were abundance of other criminals in the concern, and, by-and-by, Wilson passing for being a very eccentric fellow, and I for a cool one, even he was allowed to get off comparatively scot-free, while I, by far the youngest and least experienced of the set, and who alone had no personal grudges against any of Blackwood’s victims, remained under such an accumulation of wrath and contumely, as would have crushed me utterly, unless for the buoyancy of

1 He had just returned from Germany.

2 A letter of Mr. Blackwood’s, to Lockhart in Germany, of August 28, 1817, gives him information as to the opposition of Constable, and the determination to begin a new series of the Magazine. Mr. Blackwood says that Wilson has promised several articles.

extreme youth.1 I now think with deep sadness of the pain my jibes and jokes inflicted on better men than myself, and I can say that I have omitted in my mature years no opportunity of trying to make reparation where I really had been the offender. But I was not the doer of half the deeds even you seem to set down to my account, nor can I, in the face of much evidence printed and unprinted, believe that, after all, our Ebony (as we used to call the man and his book) had half so much to answer for as the more regular artillery which the old
Quarterly played incessantly, in these days, on the same parties.2 . . .

“As to yourself, I really don’t remember that I ever wrote a line against you in my life. I don’t swear that I never mentioned your name in some ludicrous juxtaposition, but even of this I have not the remotest consciousness. I knew nothing then either of London or artists living out of Scotland, and I believe when you came down with the picture of the ‘Entry into Jerusalem,’ you were received even better by the ‘Tory wags’ than by

1 After Lockhart’s death, Miss Martineau took her favourite opportunity of “a newly made grave.” “Lockhart’s satire had, then and always,” she said, “a quality of malice in it, where Wilson’s had only fun.” It is “only fun” to deride the personal manners, and the poetry, of your benefactor Scott, and your friend Wordsworth—the guest who has just left your door. “Noctes Ambrosianæ,” September 1825, and vol. iii., 89-95, 134-135. I select acknowledged examples of Wilson’s innocuous raillery.

2 The omission contains merely an unexplained reference to a distinguished person, which might be misconstrued.

your fellow-sufferers of the Whig brigade.1 I believe the only individuals whom
Blackwood ever really and essentially injured were myself and Wilson. Our feelings and happiness were disturbed and shattered in consequence of that connection. I was punished cruelly and irremediably in my worldly fortunes, for the outcry cut off all prospects of professional advancement from me. I soon saw that the Tory Ministers and law officers never would give me anything in that way. . . . Thus I lost an honourable profession, and had, after a few years of withering hopes, to make up my mind for embracing the precarious, and, in my opinion, intolerably grievous fate of the dependent on literature. It is true that I now regard this too with equanimity, but that is only because I have undergone so many disappointments of every kind, crowned by an irreparable bereavement, that I really have lost the power of feeling acutely on any subject connected with my own worldly position. . . .”2

It was thus that Lockhart, under a blow which struck at his heart, the loss of his beloved wife, reviewed his early days of raillery. His pleas of youth, of association with an elder friend who should have set him a different example, and of freedom from personal malice, may be accepted even

1 Haydon’sAutobiography” leaves no doubt on this point.

2 The rest of the letter is a vigorous remonstrance with Haydon on his own fortunes and the causes of them.

by severe judges. What he wrote about
Theodore Hook, might be said about himself. “It is fair to recollect, too, that in the case of Theodore Hook, when he was making his paper so formidably famous, there really could not have been any true personal malignity at work. He was fresh from a colonial life, in which few men’s passions are ever much disturbed by sympathy with the ups and downs of the great parties at home. He had sustained no sort of injury as yet at the hands of either Whigs or Radicals. He knew little, and could have cared nothing, about those who became the objects of his satire. Exquisitely cruel as it often seemed, it was with him a mere skiomachy. Certain men and women were stuck up as types of certain prejudices or delusions; and he set to knocking them down with no more feeling about them, as individual human creatures, than if they had been nine-pins. In all this there was a culpable recklessness—a sad want of thought; but, at the same time, want of reflection is not exactly to be confounded with deliberation of malice.”1

It is conspicuously apparent, from Lockhart’s letters, that he knew nothing of Leigh Hunt, nothing of Hazlitt, for example, and nothing of “Shelly,” as he then writes the name. To him they were, vaguely, the enemy, the other side, assailants of his party, and, as far as Hazlitt and Hunt were concerned, “Cockneys.” He therefore attacked them with a

1Theodore Hook,” p. 51, London, 1853.

light heart, and with a bitterness which was merely part of the performance. But his very coolness, clearness of head, and logic made his attacks terrible, while his personalities, if not without example, went beyond even the Tory standard of the time. Doubtless the storm which he at once awoke drove him further than he had dreamed of going, and the whole results were deplorable. Yet literature was surely, more than law, his real province, though his pride appears to have resented his official connection with literature, as an editor.

To return to Blackwood. In a matter where the chief sinners, both publicly and privately, in later years, “took blame to themselves,” an apologia cannot now be offered. This is not a case of which we may say, tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner, for all the motives could not be understood, as Lockhart frankly admitted, even immediately after the commission of one of the offences. At best we can put ourselves in the position of the culprits, try to see things and men as they must have seen them; make allowance for prejudice, for the manners of the age, for the vivacities of youth. When all this is done there abides an amount of wrong which is not to be palliated, not to be smiled away.

As to the weight of responsibility it was partly editorial, partly, in each case, a question of authorship. About the editorial department there was division of public opinion from the first. Mr. Blackwood, the publisher, and, to all appearance,
the director of the Magazine, averred (according to
Scott, as cited by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe in a letter to Constable) that an article, the now innocuous “Chaldee Manuscript,” had been inserted “against his will.”1

Yet the periodical, if it began as it went on, was under the direction of Mr. Blackwood himself. “Ma Maga,” he used to call it, according to Lockhart.2 Again, in an unpublished note to Maginn, at the time of Byron’s death, Lockhart says that “Blackwood will not have it,” that is, an attack on Byron, proposed by the Irish writer, which Lockhart deprecates himself. Yet Wilson was, from the beginning, supposed by the curious to be actual editor. Thus Scott, in a letter to Sharpe of September 1817, says, “Wilson will be a spirited charioteer, or I mistake him, and take the corner with four starved authors in hand, in great style.” Assuredly neither Lockhart nor Wilson would have publicly disassociated himself from any responsibility and fixed it upon his friend alone.

For a certain brief period, in 1818, it appears, from the “Memoir of John Murray,” and from Lockhart’s own letters, that he and Wilson were actually in command of the Magazine, though, (according to Lockhart) even then with Mr. Blackwood in power behind them. The arrangement proved unworkable for many reasons: among others, I believe,

1Archibald Constable and his Literary Correspondents,” ii. 349.

2 Lockhart to Wilson, 1825. From Manuscript.

because Mr. Blackwood was not content to be a mere constitutional monarch. The money which
Mr. Murray had advanced, as partner in the venture, was returned to him.1 Both Lockhart and Wilson denied that they had ever received money for conducting the periodical. Wilson’s denial was written in 1828, after the troublous times were over, to his personal friend the Rev. Mr. Fleming of Rayrig. “Of Blackwood’s Magazine I am not the editor. . . . I am one of the chief writers, perhaps the chief, and have all along been so, but never received one shilling front the proprietor, except for my own compositions. . . . To you I make the avowal, which is to the letter correct, of Christopher North’s ideal character.”2

It thus appears that the intended editorial arrangement, like the connection with Mr. Murray, was rescinded, or rather, never “implemented,” in the Scots Law phrase. A letter of 1818 from Sir Walter to Will Laidlaw seems to confirm this theory.3 As to authorship of articles, on one point I am constrained, in fairness to Lockhart, to differ from an earlier writer. Mrs. Gordon, in her pleasing “Life of Christopher North,” her father, writes, like a good daughter, “I cannot say that I have been able to trace to his hand any instance of unmanly attack, or

1Memoir of John Murray,” i. 495.

2Christopher North,” ii. 123.

3 The letter is rather too familiar for publication. It more than bears out what Lockhart says as to Scott’s grudge, at a certain time, against Mr. Blackwood.

one shade of real malignity. There did appear in the Magazine wanton and unjustifiable strictures on persons, such as
Wordsworth and Coleridge, with whom he was on terms of friendship, and for whom, in its own pages and elsewhere, he professed, as he sincerely felt, the highest esteem. But when it is well understood that he was never in any sense the editor, . . . it will appear that he had simply the alternative of ceasing to contribute further to the Magazine, or of continuing to do so under the disadvantage of seeming to approve what he really condemned.1 That he adopted the latter course is, I think, no stigma on his character; and, in after days, when his influence in the Magazine had become paramount, he made noble amends for its sins.”

All this is demonstrably erroneous reasoning: the facts, too, are erroneous. Mrs. Gordon had access, she says, to the arcana imperii of the house of Blackwood, only after the date 1826. To the authorship of early articles, I myself have, what Mrs. Gordon had not, the clues of statements in Lockhart’s hitherto unpublished letters. There is also internal evidence of style, no two styles being (as a rule) so easily distinguishable as the “swashing blow” of Wilson, and the rapier thrust of Lockhart. Again, in 1817-1819, Lockhart knew not one

1 “Thus it is possible his desire to review Coleridge favourably in the Edinburgh may have arisen from a wish to do justice to that great man, the opportunity for which was denied in the pages of Blackwood” (Mrs. Gordon’s note.)

of the Lake School;
Wilson knew them all, and all the ins and outs of their little domestic politics and quarrels. Lockhart’s deep and earnest admiration of Wordsworth’s poems has already been apparent in his letters, nor was Wilson, as a rule, a less ardent advocate. Which of the twain, then, is to blame for personal attacks on men who were the intimates of the elder partner, while they were personally strangers to the junior? On December 5, 1819, Lockhart, in a letter to Christie, disclaims any personal knowledge of any single victim of the Magazine. “With Wilson the case is most different. With Coleridge, Wordsworth, Jeffrey, &c, &c., in short with all that have been attacked, he has lived, at some time or other, on terms of intimacy, and, therefore, they have all in turn complained grievously of him.” Whoever attacked Coleridge and Wordsworth, Lockhart was not the man, and one assault on Wordsworth is included in Wilson’s acknowledged works: in “Noctes Ambrosianæ September 1825.

Lockhart, in the letter cited, refers to an extraordinary “bam” attempted by Wilson on Wordsworth, and much talked of in London, as having occurred during his own absence in Germany. Wilson’s conduct, in fact, is attributable to his amazing lack of consistency, his want of any “tie-beam,” as Mr. Carlyle says. Meanwhile, about Wilson’s friends, “the Lakers,” Lockhart, at twenty-three, knew nothing personally, except what Wilson told him.


It is needless to say more. The weight of responsibility for personal unfairness to the Lakers cannot be transferred to the shoulders of Lockhart. That excuse does Wilson injustice. A man of thirty-two would not permit “a green unknowing youth” of twenty-three to revile his personal friends in a magazine where his influence was, at least, very considerable. As Mr. Gleig wrote in a review of Mrs. Gordon’s book: “Is it conceivable that a man at the mature age of thirty-two, already known to fame as a poet and a critic, would give himself up, bound hand and foot, to the guidance of a boy?”1 It is not conceivable, and the facts were the reverse. No just critic can lay all the fault on the shoulders of the youngest person concerned, who, moreover, as a matter of fact, was innocent of the deed. Yet, young as he was, even in these days Lockhart gave proofs, as will be shown, of such a clear judgment, and sound unbiassed taste, as are not displayed by any of his comrades. His excesses are like those of a sober man who, finding himself in riotous company, conforms himself to their humour. One can imagine that, within himself, he cherished a proud disdain of the frays in which he figured, and of the work to which he lent his hand. I do not know quo numine laeso Mrs. Gordon penned her remarks on her father’s constant friend. In matters where both were culpable in their degree, be it far from me to exculpate Lockhart at the expense of his

1 Quarterly Review, vol. cxiii. (1863, p. 228).

comrade, except where his own written statements cannot in fairness be overlooked. Mr. Gleig says, as regards Lockhart’s letters, published by Mrs. Gordon: “She must need preface them with words of her own,” which follow:

“They” (Lockhart’s letters) “are as characteristic of his satirical powers as any of those off-hand caricatures that shred his best friends to pieces, leaving the most poetical of them as bereft of that beautifying property as if they had been born utterly without it.” Pictorial caricature, even in the pages of Mr. Punch or elsewhere, is very seldom resented even by the most thin-skinned of mortals, and Mrs. Gordon herself publishes a caricature of her father. Lockhart, who certainly had whatever “beautifying property” a “poetical” aspect may entail, frequently “shred” himself “to pieces,” with his pencil. Mrs. Gordon’s “Life of Christopher North” has been widely read, as it deserved to be, and has been long in the field—in fact, since 1862. This remonstrance is therefore necessary. For too many years Lockhart has been made the solitary scapegoat of Wilson, and of Blackwood in general.

Lockhart, though he began so young, was, I think, a critic eminently well equipped with learning, and, where he touched on the classics of any language, eminently well endowed with delicacy and breadth of appreciation. But where party prejudice came in, and contemporaries were his themes, he was no better, often, than other literary judges of his
time. Lest the reader, inexpert in the fugitive productions of that day, should think Lockhart a prodigy of dark critical malevolence, I would ask his attention for the
notice of Coleridge’sChristabel” and “Kubla Khan,” which appeared, a year before, in the Edinburgh Review (September 1816). Coleridge was, of course, a Tory, as Leigh Hunt and Keats were Liberals. He was also a man hardly treated by fortune, and thwarted by much that was now, “humanly speaking,” beyond control in his own constitution and character. Moreover, he was very poor, and had sold his fragment, “Christabel,” to Mr. Murray for a small sum, which two editions probably did not repay to the publisher. His relations with Jeffrey, the Editor of the Edinburgh Review, I shall take on Jeffrey’s own, not on Coleridge’s larger estimate. In 1810 they had met at Southey’s, and, after a pleasant hour or two of talk, had passed the next day “in the fields,” Coleridge dining with Jeffrey at his inn. Jeffrey, who did not care for metaphysics, “exhorted him rather to give us more poetry.” “We spoke, too, of ‘Christabel,’ and I advised him to publish it,” knowing nothing of it but four or five lines quoted by Scott, who “spoke favourably of it,” and said that to “Christabel” “he was indebted for the metrical method of his ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel.’”1

Christabel,” with “Kubla Khan,” and “The

1 Jeffrey, in a personal note to the criticism of “Biographia Literaria,” Edinburgh Review, vol. xxviii., August 1817, pp. 509-510.

Pains of Sleep,” appeared from Mr. Murray’s house in 1816, and was reviewed (by Hazlitt, according to Coleridge), under Jeffrey’s editorship, in the September number of the Edinburgh, 1816.

This odious critique is forgotten, perhaps because nobody could say that it “killed” Coleridge. It only killed his hopes of profit and fame (he being poor, ill, and in sad estate) from the most original compositions in the range of English literature. There is no critical vice which his Whig critic does not exhibit. With the blind eye, the deaf ear, the insensible heart, are allied gross and mean personal impudence, frequent imputations of insanity, and the wonted political rancour. An advertisement of the book mentioned that Byron had praised “Christabel” as “a wild and singularly original and beautiful poem.” Jeffrey knew that Scott was of the same mind, but the opinions of poets on poetry were nothing to him and his reviewer. “It seems,” says his man, “nowadays to be the practice of that once irritable race to laud each other without bounds; and one can hardly avoid suspecting, that what is thus lavishly advanced may be laid out with a view to being repaid with interest.” This is an elegant insinuation against Byron and Scott!

“Much of the art of the wild writers consists in sudden transitions, opening eagerly upon some subject, and then flying from it immediately. This indeed is known to the medical men, who not unfrequently have the care of them, as an unerring
symptom.” Under
Gillman’s care, Coleridge may later have reflected on this graceful innuendo. The poem is then burlesqued in a prose summary, and the passage,
“But vainly thou warrest,”
is said to “have been manufactured by shaking words together at random.”
Coleridge’s remarks on his own metre are “a miserable piece of coxcombry and shuffling.” Coleridge “was in bad health when he wrote ‘Kubla Khan’—the particular disease is not given, but the careful reader will form his own conjectures.” “Persons in this poet’s unhappy condition generally feel the want of sleep as the worst of their evils.” The whole work is “one of the most notable pieces of impertinence of which the press has lately been guilty, . . . . utterly destitute of value . . . . displays not one ray of genius . . . . has not one couplet which could be reckoned poetry were it found in the corner of a newspaper.” The work is not to be tolerated, “though a brother poet chooses to laud it from courtesy or interest.” Then comes the political spleen. “And are such panegyrics,” as Byron’s, “to be echoed by the mean tools of a political faction, because they relate to one whose daily prose is understood to be dedicated to the support of all that courtiers think should be supported?”

All this Jeffrey, as Editor, published, in mature life, in a well-established critical organ, about the
man of genius who had eaten his salt, and whom he had urged to print the very poem thus, and in this disgraceful manner denounced. Yet nobody throws a stone at Jeffrey. Nobody shakes the respectable head over “that wicked
review of poor Coleridge,” that dastardly censure of his chief treasure, his most accomplished and unequalled work.

I have introduced this digression to show the style of reviewing which was current and admired, in the most celebrated critical organ of the time, when Lockhart, almost as a boy, began to review. This was the model set him by the Whig Aristarchus, “the first of British critics.” And, if Jeffrey, mature, famous, omnipotent, could put his seal on the unspeakable meanness and stupidity, personal insolence, sordid imputations, and political clap-trap of the review of “Christabel,” I ask that some lenience may be shown to political partisanship, personalities, bad taste, as displayed by a raw young Tory of twenty-three, in his remarks on poems, which no one can regard as approaching in excellence to Coleridge’s masterpiece; poems written by persons whose salt he had never eaten, whose faces he had never seen, whom he judged only by hostile rumour, or on the evidence of their own undeniable affectations.

To return from this digression:—

The Edinburgh Monthly Magazine (not yet nominally Blackwood’s) commenced in April 1817. The Editors were Mr. Thomas Pringle and Mr.
Cleghorn, an authority on Farming. The prospectus announced the serial as “a Repository of whatever may be most interesting to general readers.” Antiquarianism was to be made a strong point: the articles in other magazines were to be criticised: “The Register” of public events, foreign and domestic, was almost to supersede the “Annual Registers,” in one of which, the Edinburgh Annual Register, Scott did much work. Nothing could be more blameless and pacific: the periodical, in brief, was to be an improvement on the old Scots Magazine, then in decay. Whether or not Lockhart was the author of the essays on Greek Tragedy, which began in the first number, his biographer has no documentary means of ascertaining. They are attributed to Lockhart by Mr. Gleig, in his Quarterly Review article, and they have none of Wilson’s characteristic diction. They bear the signature “Zeta,” later attached to the essays on the Cockney School, but such signatures were used in the early Blackwoods for the purpose of perplexing.1 The translations from the “Prometheus Bound” are certainly worthy of Lockhart, and do not justify the writer’s own remark, that “the inspiration of poetry vanishes at the touch of translation.” An example may be offered. Prometheus is describing the state of mankind before he came, the hero of the introduction of the Arts:

As a matter of fact, at least two writers used the signature “Zeta.”

“Eyes had they, but they saw not; they had ears,
But heard not; like the shadows of a dream,
For ages did they flit upon the earth,
Rising and vanishing, and left no trace
Of wisdom, or of forethought. Their abodes
Were not of wood or stone, nor did the sun
Warm them, for then they dwelt in lightless caves.
The season’s change they knew not, when the spring
Should shed its roses, or the summer pour
Its golden fruits, or icy winter breathe
In barrenness and blackness on the year.
To heaven I raised their eyes, and bade them mark
The time the constellations rose and set,
By which their labours they might regulate.
I taught them numbers, letters were my gift,
By which the poet’s genius might preserve
The memory of glorious events.
. . . . . . . . .
I was man’s saviour, but have now no power
From these degrading bonds myself to save.”

In the whole attitude of Prometheus the critic finds “the love of independence and the hatred of tyranny, and the unquenchable daring of a noble mind, that rendered the play the delight of the Athenians. It was the bright reflection of their own souls, and the fair image returned to them again with all the joy of self-exaltation. This was the halo that shone from heaven, and shed over the tragedy a lustre by which it was sanctioned in the eye of freedom.”

Shelley would not have thought otherwise, and in these passages we probably discern the true self
Lockhart, at ease in the native air of his genius, as in the cold glade of frosty Caucasus.

Thus the Magazine went its way, certainly instructive to the antiquarian, for it contained original documents, and was aided by Dr. M’Crie, author of “Knox’s Life,” by Wilson, and by Sir David Brewster. But in the sixth number (Sept. 1817) appeared the announcement: “This work is now discontinued.” “The bookseller and Pringle quarrelled,” says Lockhart briefly, and Mrs. Gordon tells us, as does the author of “Hypocrisy Unveiled,” that the two editors resented Blackwood’s interference. Sharpe reports to Scott the same story in August 1817. As this was the ground of quarrel, it is unlikely that Mr. Blackwood in the new series (Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, begun in October 1817) would allow himself to be interfered with by Wilson or any one else. Meanwhile, Mr. Pringle and Mr. Cleghorn betook themselves to Mr. Constable, “offering their services as editors of a new series of the Scots Magazine, to appear under the title of The Edinburgh Magazine.”1 Blackwood remodelled his own serial, and with the October number began the war of political and personal scurrilities, at least on the side of “Ebony.” Mr. Pringle does not seem to have been very successful under the banner of Constable, and, as usual, we find Scott trying to help “a (literally)

1 We find no letters from, and no information about, Mr. Cleghorn and Mr. Pringle in the “Memoir of Archibald Constable.”

lame dog over a stile.” On September 8, 1819,
Mr. Croker writes to Mr. Goulburn, enclosing “a very dull and almost illegible piece of Walter Scott’s composition.” “One Pringle, a Scotch Tory, born lame . . . sets up a magazine, quarrels with his publisher, is turned off, abused, and ridiculed. Sets up a new magazine in opposition to the former . . . the new publisher (Constable) as bad as the old, another dismissal . . . applies to Walter Scott . . . Walter Scott . . .” as usual does all that man can do for poor Mr. Pringle, who goes to the Cape.1

The very first number of the new series contained three articles which illustrate at once the motiveless waywardness, the personal violence, and the boisterous humour which were to mark the periodical for years. These articles were the attack on Coleridge, the assault on Leigh Hunt, and the “Chaldee Manuscript.” To consider them, and their sequels and consequences, is practically to criticise the early history of Blackwood. In October 1817 we find Jeffrey trying to enlist Wilson under the Blue and Yellow of the Edinburgh Review. “It would appear,” says Mrs. Gordon, “that he (Wilson) had offered to review Coleridge in a friendly manner,” for Wilson was of lacustrine habits, and, at Elleray, had known the Lake poets, and all the minute politics of their settlements.

Jeffrey (October 17, 1817) evaded the review of S. T. C., preferring an article on Byron. These facts

1 I find an interesting letter of thanks from Mr. Pringle.

make it all the more extraordinary and unintelligible, that the October number of
Blackwood opened with a most violent personal attack on Coleridge. “This lampoon,” says Lockhart in “Peter’s Letters,” 1819, was “a total departure from the principles of the Magazine . . . the only one of the various sins of this Magazine for which I am at a loss to discover, not an apology, but a motive.” He then praises Coleridge with enthusiasm and discrimination, ending (as to the article), “I profess myself unable to solve the mystery of the motive. The result is bad, and, in truth, very pitiable.”

Possibly the motive is to be found in the end of the article. Maturin had written a tragedy, which Scott, in a letter to Terry, calls (after certain censures), “grand and powerful, the language most animated and poetical, and the characters sketched with a masterly enthusiasm.” This play was “Bertram.” Now Coleridge, in a critique (re-published in his “Biographia Literaria”), had described “Bertram” as “this superfetation of blasphemy upon nonsense, this felo de se and thief captain, this loathsome and leprous confluence of robbery, adultery, murder, and cowardly assassination, whose best deed is the having saved his betters from the degradation of hanging him, by turning Jack Ketch to himself.” “Bertram” had superseded Coleridge’s “Zapolya,” at Covent Garden.

It was thus that men like Coleridge wrote in the brave days of old! The assailant of Coleridge, in
Blackwood, contrasts his conduct with that of Scott, Byron, and Henry Mackenzie, who had all praised and encouraged the unfortunate Maturin. “Let me entreat you,” says Scott to Maturin (Feb. 26, 1818), “to view Coleridge’s violence as a thing to be contemned, not retaliated—the opinion of a British public may surely be set in honest opposition to that of one disappointed and wayward man. You should also consider, en bon Chrétien, that Coleridge has had some room to be spited at the world.”1

This attack on Coleridge in Blackwood is a fair example, not only of the violence, but of the incalculable waywardness of the Magazine. Wilson, just before the onslaught appeared, was anxious, as we saw, to praise Coleridge; Lockhart, in a very short space of time, is found applauding the author of “Christabel,” and, in later life, liked and admired him greatly. Coleridge was no Whig, no Edinburgh reviewer. Yet he was set upon and mauled, apparently in revenge for Maturin, who was “no kith or kin” to the Edinburgh Tories. The proceeding, whoever the author may have been, was characteristic.2 The vagaries of the Magazine were indeed inexplicable. Coleridge was presently taken into favour; Haydon was insulted till he was known; contributors themselves were as likely as any one else to be attacked. The chief writers, as

1 The real motive for the attack on Coleridge was too vague to be traced, and too childish to be revealed here.

2 The article was not by Lockhart; he names the author in a letter to Christie.

Haydon reports a saying of
Scott’s, were “like bears in a china shop.” As Blackwood could certainly assert himself, while Wilson was a man of mature years, with an ambition to instruct youth from a Chair of Moral Philosophy, the recklessness of their periodical is even more astonishing than its violence.

The chief enemies, while friends were insecure, were of course the Whigs, the Edinburgh Review, the “Cockneys,” and the opposition in the persons of Constable, Cleghorn, and Pringle. In “Peter’s Letters,” written while the Magazine was in the flush of its unamiable youth, Lockhart speaks of the Edinburgh Review as offering “a diet of levity and sarcastic indifference,” as discredited in the perpetual croakings of prophecy, with which it certainly laboured to chill the heart of England during the struggle with Napoleon; and as tedious and odious by virtue of its coldness in criticism. “It never praised even the highest efforts of contemporary genius in the spirit of true and genuine earnestness. . . . They never spoke out of the fulness of the heart, in praising any of our great living poets. . . . Looking back now after the lapse of several years, to their accounts of many of these poems (such as Mr. Scott’s, for example) . . . it is quite wonderful to find in what a light and trivial vein the first notices of them had been presented to the public by the Edinburgh Review.” Wonderful it is to read Jeffrey on Wordsworth,
Jeffrey on “
Marmion,” and to remember that he (as he seems in these articles at least) was taken for Sir Oracle. A generous young man might well resent Jeffrey’s carping; his patronising manner when he praises; his cheery contented inaccessibility to what is noble, and to what is nobly spirited in verse. In “Peter’s Letters” Lockhart adds to the sins of the Edinburgh Review, “its occasional religious mockeries.” On this matter, unluckily, there is more to be said later. The Edinburgh Review, and the Whigs in general, were fair game, if the game was fairly played. How unfairly played it was will presently be apparent.

The excesses, to put it mildly, of the new Magazine began with the lampoon on Coleridge in the first number. They were followed, in the same number, by the opening attack on “The Cockney School of Poetry.” The head of the Cockney School was Leigh Hunt, then obnoxious to Tories as Editor of the Radical Examiner, the libeller of the Regent, the jaunty babbler about himself, his domesticities, and the young men around him, Keats, Cornelius Webb, Hazlitt, Haydon, and many others. That they should praise Hunt, that Hunt should praise them, that Keats should furnish Hunt with an ivy crown, that they should write and publish sonnets to each other, was not odd in members of a literary “circle.” But to persons at a distance, the spectacle of such endearments has always been irri-
tating. A genius like Keats’s could not long endure the atmosphere of a coterie. As early as May 10, 1817, before ever
Blackwood was, we find Keats complaining to Haydon of Hunt’s “self-illusions, they are very lamentable.” “There is no greater sin than to flatter oneself into the idea of being a great poet.”1 Hunt has spoiled Hampstead, Keats says, by identifying it with himself. “Hunt keeps on in his old way; I am completely tired of it all. He has lately published a Pocket-Book, called the ‘Literary Pocket-Book,’ full of the most sickening stuff you can imagine.”2 . . . “In reality he is vain, egotistical, and disgusting in taste and morals. He understands many a beautiful thing; but then, instead of giving other minds credit for the same degree of perception as he himself possesses, he begins an explanation in such a curious

1Letters of John Keats,” London, 1895, p. 18.

2 This Pocket-Book was rather kindly received by Blackwood, December 1819, after the attack on Keats. The Pocket-Book contained two sonnets by Keats, signed—I.: “The Human Seasons,” and “Ailsa Rock.” “As we are anxious to bring this young writer into notice, we quote his sonnets.” For the first, “we thank Mr. Keats.” The sonnet on Ailsa Craig is “portentous folly.” It is, indeed, an exquisitely bad sonnet—

“Thou answerest not, for thou art dead asleep;
Thy life is but two dead eternities,—
The last in air, the former in the deep;
First with the whales, last with the eagle skies—
Drowned wast thou till an earthquake made thee steep,
Another cannot wake thy giant size.”

“Do not let John Keats think we dislike him, he is a young man of some poetry:” heavy banter about apothecaries follows.

manner that our taste and self-love is offended continually. Hunt does one harm by making fine things petty, and beautiful things hateful.”1 Makes beautiful things hateful! Lockhart says, “Perhaps no writer, by half so feeble, ever succeeded in turning so many beautiful things into objects of aversion.”2 This extraordinary verbal coincidence between the testimony of a friend and a foe cannot be merely fortuitous. Leigh Hunt (at that time) pawed over and vulgarised the victims of his admiration: this, with his vanity, his egotistic babble, accounts for the spleen of Lockhart, though it does not excuse his ferocities. Keats’s remarks, though they abet those of Blackwood, are also splenetic, and doubtless exaggerated; he was later reconciled to Hunt. But if a friend thought he had cause to speak thus, we need not wonder at the scorn which Hunt provoked in the hostile conductors of Blackwood. Hunt is there written down vulgar, ignorant (and his education was really most incomplete); finally, as Keats says, Hunt is “disgusting in taste and morals.” His religion is “a poor tame dilution of the blasphemies of the
Encyclopædia.” His dress is ridiculed; “his muse talks indelicately like a tea-sipping milliner girl.” His “Tale of Rimini” is full of Cockney vulgarisms, an undeniably true

1 Keats to George Keats, January 4, 1819. Mr. Forman’s edition of “Complete Letters,” p. 242.

2 Quarterly Review, vol. xliv. p. 210.

remark. When Paolo and Francesca kiss, they are “all of a tremble”!

The criticism is not so strong as Coleridge’s censures on “Bertram,” but it is more personal. This kind of thing went on, and was continued in a letter to Leigh Hunt, by Zeta, in the January number of 1818. Zeta, withholding his name for the present (the Examiner had called him a liar, and so forth), declares that he attacks the poet, not the man, as immoral. It was of the man, however, that Keats spoke. The “Tale of Rimini” is “a smiling apology for a crime at once horrible in its effects, and easy in its perpetration,” which can hardly be denied, if we are to be moral.

Leigh Hunt appears to have imagined a wonderful cause for all this animosity, which, perhaps, has been sufficiently explained on general grounds. In 1810 he had edited an abortive quarterly magazine, The Reflector. In this he imitated Suckling’sSession of Poets,” by a piece called “The Feast of Poets”: and hence, he says, came “to the Tory critics of Scotland the first cause of offence.” Hunt had “taken a dislike to Walter Scott” for a singular reason. Charles II. was reported to have sent Lord Mulgrave to Tangiers in a leaky ship, along with a son of his own. In Scott’s “Life of Dryden,” he characterised this not very probable act of the good-natured king as “ungenerous.” Hence Leigh Hunt’s noble wrath. To avenge Lord Mulgrave, who reached Tangiers in perfect safety, “the future
great novelist was introduced to Apollo in ‘The Feast of the Poets,’ after a very irreverent fashion.”1 In 1832 Hunt withdrew the “irreverent” passages, stating, however, in his preface, that they “gave rise to some of the most inveterate enmities he had experienced.” We learn from
Keats, that Hunt believed the inveterate Scott to have been his assailant in Blackwood! “He was nearly sure that ‘The Cockney School’ was written by Scott, so you are right, Tom!” (January 23, 1818.) Scott’s desire, as he told Maturin, was ever to have his foes “where the muir-cock was baillie, or, as you would say, upon the sod, but I never let the thing cling to my mind.”

What manner of man at this time was Leigh Hunt, with his belief that Scott could let an impertinence “cling to his mind” for seven years, and then avenge it anonymously, the reader may now estimate for himself. But the worst of Hunt’s ignorance of a noble nature is, that he probably persuaded Keats to see his assailant in the most generous of men. A trace of the old incredible suspicion shows itself in Mr. Forman’s note on Keats’s text. “Mr. Dilke stated that it” (the article on “The Cockney School”) “was written by Lockhart, Scott’s son-in-law.” Now, when these articles began, Lockhart had never even met Scott in society. From the first, as the motto from Cornelius Webb shows, and as Keats himself

1The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt,” 1860, pp. 215-216.

observes, the writers of “The Cockney School” meant to pillory Keats.
“Our talk shall be (a theme we never tire on)
(Our England’s Dante)—Wordsworth, Hunt and Keats,
The Muses’ son of promise.”

These lines, written when Keats was the unknown author of a small book of poems, not all worthy of him, and when Hunt was no nearer Shakespeare than usual, were irritating to the most lenient observer; Keats was confused by the Blackwood men with Hunt and Webb; he knew it, he expected attack, and says that, if insulted, and if he meets his enemy, “he must infallibly call him to an account” (November 5, 1817).

After the affair of “The Cockney School” (which, unluckily, had sequels), it is almost a pleasure to reach the open buffoonery and ingenuity of “The Chaldee Manuscript.” Hogg soon claimed the authorship of “The Chaldee.” “I know not what wicked genius put it into my head,” says the Shepherd.1 He adds that Blackwood never thought of publishing it, but “some of the rascals to whom he showed it almost forced him to insert it.” “There is a bouncer!” cries a reviewer of Hogg, apparently Lockhart, or possibly De Quincey, in Blackwood for August 1821, and he goes on—

1The Mountain Bard.” Third edition. To which is prefixed a Memoir of the Author’s Life, p. 65.

“About the subject of ‘The Chaldee,’ let me now speak the truth.”
Christopher North, the writer himself, Blackwood, “and a reverend gentleman of this city, alone know the perpetrator. . . . It was the same person who murdered Begbie,” the bank porter, whose death is an undiscovered mystery to this hour. “Like Mr. Bowles and Ali Pasha, he was a mild man of unassuming manners, a scholar and a gentleman. It is quite a vulgar error to suppose him a ruffian. He was sensibility itself, and would not hurt a fly. But it was a disease with him to excite public emotion. Though he had an amiable wife and a vast family, he never was happy, unless he saw the world staring like a stuck pig. With respect to his murdering Begbie, as it is called, he knew the poor man well, and had frequently given him both small sums of money, and articles of wearing apparel.” However he decided that, by seeming to slay and rob Begbie, “there would be no end of public emotion, to use his own constant phrase on occasions of this nature. He was always kind to the poor man’s widow, who was rather a gainer by her husband’s death. I have reason to believe that he ultimately regretted the act, but there can be no doubt that his enjoyment was great for many years. . . . He confessed ‘The Chaldee,’ and the murder, the day before he died, to the reverend gentleman specified, and was sufficiently penitent; yet, with that inconsistency not unusual in dying men, almost his last words
were (indistinctly mumbled to himself,) ‘It ought not to have been left out of the other editions.’”

“After this plain statement Hogg must look extremely foolish. We shall next have him claiming the murder likewise, I suppose; but he is totally incapable of either.”

Professor Ferrier, in his edition of “Noctes Ambrosianæ,” does not wholly bear out the statements either of Hogg or of this writer. Hogg, he says, conceived the idea, and wrote, in addition to unpublished portions, Chapter I. i.-xxxvii., with two or three other verses. “The rest of the production was the workmanship of Wilson and Lockhart.”

As to the authorship of “The Chaldee,” habemus confitentem reum. On January 27, 1818, Lockhart wrote from Edinburgh to Christie, “I never certainly have been more troubled in mind than for some two or three months past,”—apparently since Blackwood appeared on October 20, 1817. “The Chaldee Manuscript” has excited prodigious noise here—it was the sole subject of conversation for two months. . . . The history of it is this: Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, sent up an attack on Constable the bookseller, respecting some private dealings of his with Blackwood. Wilson and I liked the idea of introducing the whole panorama of the town in that sort of dialect. We drank punch one night from eight till eight in the morning, Blackwood being by with anecdotes, and the result is before you. . . .”


The Chaldee” set all Edinburgh in a flame. The Scot is not famed for being able to take a joke, especially a joke aimed at himself. People cried “Blasphemy,” because of the Oriental character of the style, which had good Jacobite precedent in “The Chronicle of Charles, the Young Man,” published in that year of grace abounding 1745.1 The “Chaldean” text was from the “Bibliothèque Royale” (Salle 2, No. 53, B.A.M.M.).2 Monsieur Silvestre de Sacy (of whom the Shepherd can have known little) was understood to be occupied with an edition of the original.

It may not be superfluous to give a very brief analysis of “The Chaldee.” Blackwood “is a man in plain apparel,” has “his name as it had been the colour of Ebony, and his number (17 Princes Street) was the number of a maiden, when the days of her virginity have expired.” To him come the Two Beasts (Pringle and Cleghorn, ex-editors), “the joints of their legs like the polished cedars of Lebanon,” for, indeed, “they came skipping upon staves,” being lame. They brought a book, “but put no words into it.” Mr. Blackwood, therefore, called together his friends, while “the man who was crafty in council” received overtures from the Beasts. This word, crafty, annoyed Constable, as the nickname had been given to him, says Lockhart, “by one of his own most eminent Whig supporters.”

1 The respectable Southey had already written a very dull Biblical parody on Jeffrey. Here was precedent!

2 Whereby is indicated bam or bite.

Blackwood, when Constable accepted the Beasts, said, “I will of myself yield up the book,” that is, abandon his magazine. However, he took and snuffed up dust from a gem of curious workmanship, and called in “an aged man,”
Henry Mackenzie, the Man of Feeling. Mr. Mackenzie later “forbade the magazine his house.”1 However, in “The Chaldee,” Mr. Mackenzie gives an evasive answer to Blackwood, “and all the young men that were there lifted up their voices and said” all manner of kind and respectful things to the venerated sage.

“The great Magician, who dwelleth in the old fortress hard by the river Jordan” was next appealed to. Sir Walter was très Normand, and gave identical answers to the man in plain apparel, and to the man crafty in council. “He afterwards confessed,” says Lockhart, “that the Chaldæan author had given a sufficiently accurate version of what passed on the occasion.” Then came Professor Jamieson, Sir David Brewster, Tytler the historian, and, alas, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe! Now Sharpe, at or about this time, was editing Kirkton’s contemporary MS. “History of the Covenant,” with notes on all the scandals about the Covenanters, for example, about the prowess of the hero of Cherrytrees. Wilson had a leaning to Covenanters, Lockhart’s ancestors had been “Whigs frae Bothwell Brig,” and their fellow-contributor,

1 Letter to Constable, October 8, 1818, in “Archibald Constable,” ii. 339.

Dr. M’Crie, was extremely Presbyterian. Sharpe’s love of scandal, and his amusing notes to Kirkton, may have suggested what “The Chaldee” says of his voice, “even like the voice of the unclean bird which buildeth its nest in the corner of the temple” (Kirkton). Sharpe was very angry; he complained to Scott, who said that his connection with the magazine was through Will Laidlaw. Laidlaw wrote the historical chronicle of events from month to month. Scott, it seems, had secured for him this appointment, and Laidlaw was his chief link with the magazine. Sharpe sneers at Laidlaw—“a person of whom I never heard.” Scott added that Blackwood had sent him an apologetic letter, “stating that the offensive article had been inserted against his will,” and said that his remonstrances made Blackwood omit the article in later editions.

In “The Chaldee” a Veiled Man now aids Blackwood with a list of names of contributors, “the beautiful Leopard from the valley of the palm trees” (Wilson), and “from a far country, the Scorpion, who delighteth to sting the faces of men” (Lockhart), “and the great wild Boar from the Forest of Lebanon” (which men call Ettrick Forest); “and the Griffin came with a roll of the names of those whose blood had been shed between his teeth; and I saw him stand over the body of one that had been buried long in the grave, defending it from all men.” The Griffin is the Rev. Dr. Thomas M’Crie, the Biographer of
Knox, and from his part in Blackwood arose contendings, and the shedding of much ink. Sir William Hamilton (who abode not long with them) is “the black Eagle of the desert, whose cry is as the sound of an unknown tongue, which flieth over the ancient cities, and hath his dwelling among the tombs of the wise men.” Constable now appeals to Jeffrey, “a familiar spirit unto whom he had sold himself. But the spirit was a wicked spirit and a cruel,” who helped him not. Leslie (Professor of Mathematics) is appealed to, and next the Rev. Professor Playfair. “He also is of the seed of the prophets, and ministered in the temple while he was yet young; but he went out, and became one of the scoffers” (Edinburgh Reviewers). These, too, would not aid Constable. Scott answered as he did to Blackwood. Macvey Napier, and a crowd of forgotten folk, rallied to the man crafty in council, including “John, the Brother of James, a man of low stature, who giveth out merry things, and is a lover of fables from his youth up,” that is, “Leeing Johnny,” John Ballantyne. “And there followed many women which knew not their right hand from their left, also some cattle.”

The Chaldee” ends—

“And I fled into an inner chamber to hide myself, and I heard a great tumult, but I wist not what it was.” A great tumult arose in little Edinburgh, “no end of public emotion.” Legal proceedings were threatened; private wergild was paid
to the Third Beast,
Graham Dalyell. Scott made Blackwood withdraw the article; there were excursions and alarms. Being local and personal, “The Chaldee” caused more trouble in Edinburgh than articles much more blameworthy.