LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 3: 1813-15
John Gibson Lockhart to Jonathan Christie, [December? 1814]

Vol. I. Preface
Vol. I Contents.
Chapter 1: 1794-1808
Chapter 2: 1808-13
Chapter 3: 1813-15
Chapter 4: 1815-17
Chapter 5: 1817-18
Chapter 6: 1817-19
Chapter 7: 1818-20
Chapter 8: 1819-20
Chapter 9: 1820-21
Chapter 10: 1821-24
Chapter 11: 1817-24
Chapter 12: 1821-25
Chapter 13: 1826
Vol. II Contents
Chapter 14: 1826-32
Chapter 15: 1828-32
Chapter 16: 1832-36
Chapter 17: 1837-39
Chapter 18: 1837-43
Chapter 19: 1828-48
Chapter 20: 1826-52
Chapter 21: 1842-50
Chapter 22: 1850-53
Chapter 23: 1853-54
Chapter 24: Conclusion
Vol. II Index
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“You and the Welshman are my only true and faithful correspondents,” he tells Mr. Christie, “and I don’t know how I should do without you, and your letters, of both of you, come to me at certain times with great effect of comfort. They keep me up in my connection with the world, which in many respects would be but in a perishing condition, where I am.

“I have not yet read through Wordsworth’s poem, from lack of opportunity only, you may be sure. I had one evening, however, the opportunity of reading several passages in it, with all of which I was most highly delighted. He strikes me as having more about him of that sort of sober, mild, sunset kind of gentleness, which is so dear to me from the recollections of Euripides, and the tender parts of the Odyssey, than any English poet ever possessed, save Shakespeare, the possessor of all.

“But then you underrate Lord Byron, I think. ‘Lara’ I look upon as a wonderful production. It is like Michael Angelo completing the unfinished
rock half hewn into a giant, or like
Roubillac opening the lips of Sir Isaac Newton’s statue, having originally represented them closed.

“Who but Byron would have dared to call such a spirit from the dead as Conrad, or who that could have dared, could have made him speak things so worthy of himself? Upon my honour, I think it shows more depth of insight into human nature to invent such a terrible band of ideas, all so fitted to this gloomy sort of being, than ever poet surpassed. I delight in all the great poets of our day, and am willing to put Wordsworth and Byron at the top.1 But I have not yet read ‘Roderic.’

“I rejoice to hear that your ‘Thirlestane Leslie’ thrives.”

This was a work begun by Christie: it was to contain “the remains of the late Thirlestane Leslie, Esq., consisting of poems and letters, with a biographical memoir.” Leslie was to be “a person of the imaginative cast, with strong logical powers and a dash of poetry, who afterwards went religious and died very young.” Mr. Christie asked Lockhart to give him any useful hints about the hero’s “unregenerate days”; he did not care to trust the future malleus hæreticorum, and of the profane Edinburgh Review, with the pieties of Thirlestane Leslie.

“I hope the child may escape the illnesses common

1 This, it may be remembered, is also the verdict of Mr. Matthew Arnold.

to his time of life, and yet be one of the Phœbo digna locuti. Have you really brought it to any tangible size and shape? If you have, I would strongly impel you to go on, and finish and publish him with all speed. You may put a few hundreds into your pocket, and you may get a name which will push you on in life. I see plainly there is no other way of getting into notice. In this age one must be an author, and why may not you hit upon a lucky stroke as well as another? I think the shape you talk of is likely to take very well.
Williams has a good many friends among the London booksellers. I would advise you to write to him before you fix anything. Murray is a most gentlemanly fellow, and most liberal.

“I don’t think the novel I have in hand will at all jumble with yours.1 I mean it chiefly as a receptacle of an immense quantity of anecdotes and observations I have made concerning the state of the Scotch, chiefly their clergy and elders. It is to me wonderful how the Scotch character has been neglected. I suppose the Kirk stood low in Smollett’s early days, and he had imbibed a disgust

1 Lockhart wrote to Constable, the publisher, from Milnburn (Dec. 29, 1814), saying that he had been “amusing himself with writing a novel,” the scene being in Scotland. Important classes of Scotch society, he thought, had been “left untouched.” His hero was one John Todd, a “True Blue,” in London during the visit of the Emperor of Russia. The “Romance of the Thistle” was the name he thought of. The tale would, apparently, have been something like Galt’sAyrshire Legatees.” The novel was to be anonymous. See “Archibald Constable,” iii. 151-152.

for it. He has given us, you see, only a few little sketches, nothing full or rich, like his seamen. Now I think there is just as great a fund of originality and humour in the Scotch character, modified as it is, in the various ranks of life, as in the English or Spanish, or any of those of which so much has been made. I think I shall have two volumes to show you when we meet, which I doubt will not be till spring. Indeed I have made up my mind to study the Scots Law here with all my might, whatever may be hereafter. I am deep in the early history of England and of this country at present. I find great use in my German, and am making myself acquainted with our Saxon remains. Indeed, I begin to think the antiquities of the Middle Ages are the most rational study a man could devote himself to, were he an idle person; as it is, an acquaintance with these things is indispensable to a lawyer.”