LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 6: 1817-19

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, 1817-1819
Blackwood’s next scrape.—Its origin.—Cavalier and Covenanter.—Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe.—His edition of Kirkton.—Dr. M’Crie assailed for contributing to Blackwood.—Lockhart carries the war into Africa.—Attacks clerical contributors to the Edinburgh Review.—Writes as Baron von Lauerwinkel.—Criticises critics.—Shakespeare.—The real Lockhart.—On Napoleon.—On Jeffrey.—Jeffrey’s real insignificance.—His ignorance.—His treatment of Goethe.—Lockhart’s defence of Christianity against the Edinburgh Review.—How far justified.—Examples of religious criticism from the Edinburgh.—The sceptical priest.—Sydney Smith’s flippancies in the Edinburgh.—“Merriment of Parsons.”—Evangelicals “nasty vermin.”—Lockhart on Scottish religion.—His reprisals.—Personal attack on Playfair.—Scott’s disapproval.—Wilson and Lockhart are attacked anonymously.—“Hypocrisy Unveiled.”—They challenge their opponent.—Jeffrey’s reply.—Mr. Macvey Napier suspected.—Denies the charge.—Extracts from his unpublished Correspondence.—Sir John Barrow’s letter.—Playfair and the Quarterly Review.

The next formidable difficulty into which Blackwood picked its way was Lockhart’s own. The new feud was really a sequel of the old religious Cavalier and Covenanting struggles, at least it arose in the camp of the suffering yet lovely Remnant. Blackwood, though Tory, was not Cavalier in politics. We have seen how Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe was handled in “The Chaldee.” In the December number
of 1817 appeared a
letter to Sharpe, “On his original mode of editing Church History,”—that of Kirkton. “We have all along the upper part of the page, the manly narrative of honest Kirkton, speaking of his suffering friends with compassion, but of his enemies as became a man and a Christian. And below that” (in Sharpe’s notes) “such a medley of base ribaldry, profane stuff, and blasphemous innuendos, as at one view exhibits the character of both parties.” Sharpe, in fact, had done his best to rake up the by no means rare absurdities of the Remnant, and his taste led him to revel in the few scandalous anecdotes about the godly. Whether his new assailant was Lockhart or Dr. M’Crie, the Scorpion or the Griffin, is not known.1 It looks more like the Griffin’s touch. Sharpe himself, in a letter to Scott, calls Dr. M’Crie “a canting rogue,” speaks of “the loathsome puddle of Presbyterianism,” says he is collecting M’Crie’s blunders for the use of Chalmers, and is generally hostile to the reverend Griffin.

Now in these days arose one Calvinus, who printed “Two Letters to the Rev. Dr. Thomas M’Crie and the Rev. Andrew Thomson, on the parody of Scripture lately published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine” (Fairbairn, Edinburgh,

1Mrs. Wilson in a letter attributes it to Hogg, which seems improbable. (Christopher North, i. 277.) I have reason to believe that Dr. M’Crie, in fact, did not contribute to the magazine at this time. He refrained, as he disapproved of and censured the personal violences.

1817). His engaging motto was: “Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Calvinus warned
the Griffin that he was very like to be a castaway, if he did not desert Blackwood. The author of “The Chaldee” “makes indecent jests at his Creator,” which are certainly not visible to the common eye. “And you, the historian of Knox and the champion of the Covenanters, are accosted, from the Scorner’s chair, with the accents of good fellowship, and described in the record of his impiety as an ally.” The Griffin is warned that “the companion of fools shall be destroyed.” And what business, it is asked, hath the Griffin dans cette galère, he who “had so powerfully reprobated and chastised, in ‘Old Mortality,’ profanity not half so gross and odious as this.” Dr. M’Crie, in fact, had made a laboured defence of Habakkuk Mucklewrath and Mause Headrig.1 Dr. M’Crie, minister of the Auld Lichts, seems to have borne this chastisement with humorous indifference. Writing to his fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer, Dr. Thomson, he says, “Well, and how do you relish the letter of your good friend and great admirer, Calvinus? Glad you have got off so scratch-free? Gratified with his equivocal and conditional praise, and determined to merit and secure it by never entering again the virgin-door of Blackwood, and by immediately withdrawing from him your Instructor, as well as your Essay on

1 This long review will be found in his collected works.

Education, with all the embryo and de futuro productions of your brain.” Neither gentleman “seems to have considered himself called upon to answer the summons of an anonymous writer.”1

Calvinus, unhappily, gave the world to know that he would “rather belong to the party that, with a Playfair, shares the honour of possessing no quality that can excite the complacency of so despicable a babbler” as the Chaldæan. This was an unhappy remark, for the Scorpion, dreading doubtless that his friend the Griffin, in fear of becoming a castaway, would forswear his company, carried the war into Africa. Calvinus (a Mr. Grahame, according to Lockhart) had called on Dr. M’Crie “to remember the fate of that priest who associated himself with the infidel compilers of the ‘Encyclopædia.’” Brewster was threatened in the same style. Lockhart’s mischief rose to revenge Ebony. In place of wooing the coy Griffin with fair words, he retorted by attacking the clergy who wrote in the Edinburgh Review, and he specially singled out the Rev. Professor Playfair, who then held the Chair of Natural Philosophy, and who “had been originally intended for the Church,” according to Professor Ferrier. He had been a placed minister. In the attack on Playfair, which justly caused “no end of public emotion,” Lockhart called himself the Baron von Lauerwinkel. Under this name, in March 1818, he had written “Remarks on the Periodical Criti-

1Life of Dr. M’Crie,” p. 229.

cism of England.” This admirable essay it is which justifies the opinion that, in the reserved and lofty centre of his genius, Lockhart regarded all the bickerings and feuds of literary people with impartial disdain. “These strange Reviews,” says the Baron (much in the tone of
Mr. Arnold’s Arminius), rule the authors and readers of England with the sway “of a sportive Nero, or a gloomy Tiberius.” He speaks as if Goethe had been censuring our Reviews, but this is probably part of the manner. In Germany, “a poem, history, or treatise is judged according to its merits by the critic.” “On the other hand, an Edinburgh Reviewer is a smart, clever man of the world, or else a violent political zealot.” The author may be alien to politics: “The Reviewer does not mind that; when he sits down to criticise, his first question is not, ‘Is the book good or bad?’ but, ‘Is this writer a Ministerialist or an Oppositionist?’ ‘No one knows . . . but if the author has a nephew, or a cousin, or an uncle, who is a member of Parliament and votes, that is quite sufficient,” for both Edinburgh and Quarterly.

What follows is eloquent.

“You remember what I have said of Shakespeare, that he is an angelic being, a pure spirit, who looks down upon ‘the great globe itself, and all which it inhabits,’ as if from the elevation of some higher planet. He is like Uriel, the Angel of the Sun, partaker of all the glories of the orb
in which he dwells. Undazzled by the splendour which surrounds himself, he sees everything with the calm eye of intellect. It is true that, at the moment when he views any object, a flood of light and warmth is thrown over it from the passing sun of genius. Still, he sees the world as it is; and if the beams love to dwell longest on some favoured region, there is none upon which they never shine.”

In the centuries of Shakespeare’s praises few are nobler, more severely great, more illuminating than those lines, tossed by Lockhart into the medley of a magazine—
“As rich men give that care not for their gifts.”
Lockhart goes on to say that “if the world shall ever possess a perfect reviewer, like Shakespeare he will be universal, impartial, rational. . . . He will have divine intellect and human feeling so blended within him, that he shall sound, with equal facility, the soul of a Hamlet and the heart of a Juliet. What a being would this be! Compared with him the present critics of England are either satirical buffoons, like
Foote and Aristophanes, or they are truculent tragedians, like the author of ‘The Revenge.’”1

Here we listen to the real Lockhart, and are admitted to the region above the polished threshold

1 According to Lockhart, in “Peter’s Letters,” this article gave deep offence to the Whigs.

of his disdain. He descends, he moves among the crew of “satirical buffoons,” and shares their pranks as if the Lady, in “
Comus,” had frolicked with the rout of revelling fauns and Sileni. Here we are with that Lockhart whom Scott loved, whom even Carlyle praised, not with the companion of the Leopard and the great Boar from the forest of Lebanon. This is the Lockhart of whom Lady Eastlake wrote:—

“How many kind and good things I remember from his lips—how unfailing his tribute to worth and duty, though under the homeliest garb.”

Descending from his height Lockhart compares Whigs and Tories to the Neri and Bianchi of criticism; Jeffrey and Gifford are the leaders. “The former resembles the gay despot of Rome, the latter the bloody and cruel one of Capræa. Both are men of great talent, and both, I think, are very bad reviewers.”

Lockhart then avers that no man can be a good critic, unless he be more than a mere reviewer. “Aristotle and Lessing remain, but Chamfort and all the wits of the Mercure have perished.” This is hardly true of Chamfort, but, compared with Lessing and Aristotle, his is an ineffectual light. In Gifford, with many better things, Lockhart notes “ill-natured abuse and cold rancorous raillery. . . . He is exquisitely formed for the purposes of political objurgation, but not at all for those of gentle and universal criticism.” Gentle and universal criticism,
of the masters of literature, not of contemporaries, for that end Lockhart was formed. But, in the main, he took the world and the press as he found them, and, with a stoical disdain that verged on cynicism, he subdued his hand to that it worked in.

“We often read the reviews in Gifford’s journal with pleasure—such are the strength of his language, and the malignity of our nature. . . . How can one who thinks the ‘Lauras’ and ‘Della Cruscas’ matters of so great moment, form any rational opinion concerning such men as Scott, Wordsworth, Byron, or Goethe?” Lockhart then protests against the Quarterly’s “truly English” view of Napoleon. “Nations yet to come will look back upon his history as to some grand and supernatural romance. The fiery energy of his youthful career, and the magnificent progress of his irresistible ambition, have invested his character with the mysterious grandeur of some heavenly appearance; and when all the lesser tumults, and lesser men of our age, shall have passed away into the darkness of oblivion, history will still inscribe one mighty era with the majestic name of Napoleon.”

Jeffrey is ingeniously described, by the German Baron, as “an advocate before the parliament of Edinburgh.” “The intellectual timidity of Jeffrey’s profession has clung to him in all his pursuits, and prevented him from coming manfully and decidedly to any firm opinion respecting matters of such moment, that it is absolutely impossible to be a
great critic while the mind remains unsettled in regard to them.” He is represented as carrying the popular ways of the legal advocate into the court of the literary judge. “He can very easily persuade the multitude that nothing is worth knowing but what they can comprehend; that true philosophy is quite attainable without the labour of years” (as in reviewing
Kant through the French), “and that whenever we meet with anything new, and at first sight unintelligible, the best rule is to take it for granted that it is something mystical and absurd.”1 He is acute enough to see that, however great his authority “among the generation of indolent and laughing readers to whom he dictates opinion, he has as yet done nothing which will ever induce a man of research, in the next century, to turn over the volumes of his review.” On the threshold of the next century we may ask who does read Jeffrey? Mr. Saintsbury, who reads everything (except “Popol Vuh”), has indeed read Jeffrey, and in a remarkable essay has formed a much more favourable judgment of his criticisms than can be done by a writer who stills resents, like a personal affront, Jeffrey’s review of “Marmion.” “There may be much that Jeffrey does not see,” says Mr. Saintsbury; “there may be some things which he is physically unable to see: but

1 Jeffrey’s letter to Macvey Napier, many years later, on Sir William Hamilton’s review of Cousin, shows that Jeffrey remained impenitent.

what he does see, he sees with a clearness, and co-ordinates in its bearings on other things seen with like precision, which are hardly to be matched among the fluctuating and diverse race of critics.” Thus Mr. Saintsbury; but Lockhart writes: “When the great men whom Jeffrey has insulted by his mirth shall have received their due recompense in the admiration of our children, it will appear but an unprofitable task to read his ineffectual and shallow criticisms.” In later life Lockhart took an infinitely more favourable view of Jeffrey.

“When the good and venerable Goethe,” writes the Baron, “told the stories of his youth to a people who all look upon him with the affectionate admiration of children, this foreigner, who cannot read our language, amused his countrymen, equally ignorant as himself, with an absurd and heartless caricature of the only poet, in modern times, who is entitled to stand in the same class with Dante, Calderon, and Shakespeare.” Jeffrey is then said to have given up his original strictly “classical principles” of Pope’s and Boileau’s school, not as a man converted by reading and reflection, but as a politician who sees what way the cat is jumping—“I admire his talents, I lament their misapplication, and I prophesy that they will soon be forgotten.”

As to politics, it is enough to quote one sentence. “A great country, in the hour of her conflict, should not hear the voice of despondency from
her children.” That voice
Jeffrey uttered, though personally a volunteer in the peril of England.

The Baron now defends Christianity from the Edinburgh Review. “This journal has never ventured to declare itself openly the champion of infidelity; but there is no artifice, no petty subterfuge, no insidious treachery, by which it has not ventured to weaken the influence which the Bible possesses over the minds of a devout and meditative people.”

The Baron exclaims—“Does any man dare to speak, with the feelings and the fearlessness of a Christian, concerning God and the destiny of man? Mr. Jeffrey is sure to ridicule his piety as Methodism, and stoops to court the silly sneers of striplings against a faith which, as he well knows, neither he nor they have ever taken the trouble to understand.” He must not imagine that, as a public instructor, “he can avoid being either the friend or foe of religion.” The Edinburgh advocates Catholic claims, the Quarterly attacks Catholics. But the Edinburgh “befriends Catholicism only because it despises Christianity.”

What element of truth is there in these and even stronger assertions? Had Lockhart’s observations any bottom of fact? These old feuds are dead enough, but they had the deepest influence on Lockhart’s future. It is, therefore, necessary to ask “how far had he any justification in fact?” It will be shown that he did
denounce that chilly and ignorant scepticism, which
Carlyle hated.

The Edinburgh Review prolonged, one may say, and even carried farther, the principles of the “Moderates” of the last century, the party which secured the alliance of Burns. This Moderation, even among the clergy, was sometimes a thing inconsistent, not only with the Standards of the Kirk, but even with the dogmatic and doctrinal essence of Christianity. In the earliest number of the Edinburgh some assurance is given to orthodoxy by the remark that “the presumptuous theories and audacious maxims of Rousseau, Mably, Condorcet, &c., had a necessary tendency to do harm.” “Submission to lawful authority is indisputably the maxim of Christianity, and they who destroy our faith in that religion take away one security for our submission, and facilitate the subversion of governments. This is a great truth” (Edinburgh Review, i. p. 13). Voltaire and d’Alembert, with other Encyclopædists, are described as “pernicious writers.” The value of morality is insisted upon—“We agree with our author in the importance of the doctrines peculiar to Christianity” (iv. 193).

But “good sense and morality are indispensable requisites” (in a preacher), “and if the preacher gives us these, he may be allowed, in other respects, to follow the dictates of his peculiar genius or fancy.” That is, if we read through the spectacles of an orthodox Scot, a Christian pulpit may be occupied
by a Buddhist, or an Atheist, if only he has sense, morality, and a genius to follow, a fancy to indulge (vi. 105). In an essay on the sermons of
Sir Henry Moncreiff, an essay marked by the courtesy of its manner, the writer says—“A preacher who studiously keeps Christianity in the background . . . is by no means doing his duty,” a lenient censure, yet in contradiction to the opinion about genius and fancy. But, in the next sentence we read—“Whether that religion (Christianity) be true or false is another question, but surely no one who thinks it true ought to be ashamed of it.” Evangelical preaching is handled thus: “Preachers who have not their supernatural evidences” (the power of working miracles is referred to), “must take a lower and more moderate tone” than the Apostles. Preachers must remember that it is “extremely disagreeable to be kept in the trammels of mystery.”

“Too great constancy in enforcing Christian doctrines” is censured in Sir Henry Moncreiff. He laid stress on “those doctrines of revelation which, in the eyes of the world in general, and especially in those of sceptics, have most the appearance of foolishness.” Still, as against Moncreiff, “the charge of hypocrisy would be highly illiberal.” These remarks are not, on the whole, reassuring to a defender of the Christianity of the Edinburgh Review. Christianity may be true, or false—it is an open question, but a preacher who happens to think it true, should not keep it in the background altogether. Still, he
must be very careful. He cannot work miracles, so he must not ardently uphold the doctrines of the Apostles, whom he believes to have authenticated their doctrine by their thaumaturgy. Unless he can heal the sick, and blast the apostate, he will do well to avoid expounding these doctrines of revelation (whatever they may be) which are most conspicuously absurd in the eyes of the world in general. Perhaps if the preacher, however firm his belief, burks it, and gives us only morality and good sense, his conduct is most judicious. The preacher, in common charity, must remember that, though he has been solemnly called to announce the mysteries in which he has no less solemnly avowed his belief, yet it is “extremely disagreeable to be kept in the trammels of mystery.”

The sceptical priest is an object odious to an honest mind. The journal which writes as the Review wrote on Sir Henry Moncreiff encourages the sceptical priest, and discourages the priest of sincere faith. This much might be said by an observer who was of no faith. Much more might any man, the son and brother of Scottish ministers, if he cherished a sentiment of loyalty to a creed which his reason rejected, assail the tone, so to speak, of the Review. The nature of Lockhart’s own attitude to religion will be manifest later. If he chose to say that the Edinburgh Review shuffled, and, without the courage to make open profession of “infidelity,” adopted “petty subterfuges” to weaken
the influence of the Bible, I do not feel certain that we could blame him. It is not a question of whether the Review was right in regarding “the doctrines of Revelation as ‘foolish,’ to the world’s mind, in various degrees; but whether a journal which spoke in the tone of the Edinburgh had grounds for resenting the charge of what was then regarded as suppressed ‘infidelity.’”

Again, the flippancies of the Review were in the worst taste. Few people now, it is probable, read Sydney Smith. His Edinburgh articles on Methodism and missionaries would not to-day be reckoned decorous. Arminian and Calvinistic Methodists and evangelical clergymen of the Church of England are to his mind “three classes of fanatics,” differing only in “the finer shades and nicer discriminations of lunacy.” The Scottish clergy, being on the whole “Evangelical,” must apparently be inmates of the same asylum, though the reviewer makes exceptions, in the case of truly religious persons.

The reviewer of Moncreiff would allow preachers of miraculous gifts to preach the doctrine of Peter or of John. But when an evangelical preacher converts a man “of scrofulous legs and atheistical principles,” and when the man “walks home with the greatest ease,” Sydney Smith does not (as in common fairness an Edinburgh Reviewer should) make an exception in favour of Mr. Coles, the miraculously gifted divine in question. The Rev. James Moody is converted by a sermon. “The
Lord . . . was about to stop him in his vain career of sin and folly.” Stopped he was (which is something), and the Rev. Sydney Smith emphasizes this ludicrous circumstance by the aid of italics. Mr. Roberts was “given to feel that God was waiting to be very gracious to him”—what a truly laughable delusion! Mr. Kestin, on his death-bed, murmured, “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” and his degree and discrimination of lunacy is patent to our Edinburgh Reviewer. Mr. John Robinson, an hour before his death, cried, “Ye powers of darkness, begone,” and was later at ease. An ejaculation so natural in the mortal strait, on the threshold of the unknown, is exquisitely comic. Miss Louisa Cooke approaches the rapturous condition of
St. Francis and St. Theresa, “she often seemed to be dissolved in the love of God her Saviour,”—a rare jest indeed.

In brief, the experiences of the most saintly souls on earth, from St. Paul to St. Francis, emotions which have been familiar to the devout from the days of the Apostles to our own, are not, to the Edinburgh Reviewer, an awful mystery of the Soul, nor a topic in scientific psychology or pathology (and either view may be taken), but simply a ludicrous shade in a general lunacy.

A naval officer is reported to have said that there were Methodists present, and distinguished by their valour and discipline, in Nelson’s ship, the Victory, at Trafalgar—“These were the only fellows that I ever knew do their duty without swearing.” All
lived to do their duty again. This testimony might conciliate a Christian divine, like the
Rev. Sydney Smith, even if he had a personal partiality for profane language. But he merely says, “The army and navy appear to be the particular objects of the Methodists’ attention.”

“This merriment of parsons is very offensive,” said Dr. Johnson. Enough of it has been cited to prove that neither the spiritual consolations which, from the beginning, have been the common privilege, or the fortunate illusion of Christians without exception of sect, nor the change from vice to virtue (if occasioned by a sermon), nor valour accompanied by decency in conduct, if displayed by “fanatics,” was anything but a laughing-stock to the Edinburgh Review. Methodists (and Evangelical members of the Church of England) are “nasty and numerous vermin.” Their protests against ridicule are like the complaints of “lice against the comb.” The Review will clear out the vermin as it will also defend Christianity from “the tiger-spring of infidelity.” But where is the promised defence?

It did not occur to Sydney Smith and the Edinburgh Review that but for the spiritual conditions at which he mocked, Christianity could never have been founded, the world could never have been converted, the Faith could never among persecutions and distresses have been preserved. Assuredly “rational Christians” would neither have originated,
nor perpetuated a law and a creed. As in the earth’s centre, so in the core of every vital Religion, lives a fire; on occasion it will break the crust of decent routine, and will excite the terror or the laughter of the “rational.” Yet without this fire there could be no spiritual life, and without its volcanic outbursts, there would be none of life’s cleansing and renewal. The critic, in fact, mocked (as
Lockhart wrote) at what he “had never attempted to understand.”

If Lockhart had confined himself to saying that the Christian faith, in the eyes of his opponents, was a respectable form of opinion, useful in discouraging the excesses of the populace, and (if taken in extreme moderation) not unworthy of the patronage of men of taste, Lockhart might have made good his argument. He might have supported it by such quotations as his industry could discover, or his acuteness detect. But he wrote in general terms, and, with occasional reservations, he argued as if the Edinburgh deliberately designed the overthrow of Christianity. He added the element of personality, in a calm and clearly conceived éreintement of an individual. His more superficial and discernible motives are plain enough. If Blackwood (to descend to the vulgar facts) was to lose its Griffin because of its irreligion, the war might be carried into Africa with little expense or trouble.

Lockhart, as a child, though a strange one, of the Covenanters (whose peculiarities were precisely those of the Methodists); as the son and the brother
of orthodox ministers, “an unmenseful bairn of the Manse”; as an admirer, were it but a sentimental admirer, of the Kirk and her exercises; as a man of taste above all, when prejudice did not blind him, might well dislike with heartiness the tone of the
Edinburgh Review. We may thus account for his attacks on the “infidelity” of the Review, first by a sentiment of loyalty to the ancestral faith.

We can appeal, on this point, from the Baron von Lauerwinkel, in the flush of his polemical youth, to Lockhart soberly writing the “Life of Burns.” He is criticising “The Holy Fair.” He asks, “Were ‘Superstition,’ ‘Hypocrisy,’ and ‘Fun’ the only influences which Burns might justly have impersonated? It would be hard, I think, to speak so of the old Popish festivals to which a critic of Burns alludes; it would be hard, surely, to say it of any festival in which, mingled as they may be with sanctimonious pretenders, and surrounded with giddy groups of onlookers, a mighty multitude of devout men are assembled for the worship of God, beneath the open heaven, and above the graves of their ancestors.”

Here we have Lockhart in his serious inward mood, and that mood, distorted and refracted by meaner passions, may have entered into his criticism of the Edinburgh Review.

Much more patently Lockhart was influenced by the desire to deal to the partisans of the Whig journal, the same measure as Calvinus and others had meted out to the “blasphemous” authors
of “
The Chaldee,” and to their learned and puritan associate, Dr. M’Crie. Mr. Saintsbury, referring among other things to the metaphysical creed of the Edinburgh Academy of Physics (to which Jeffrey and several of his staff belonged), says: “Seventy years ago it would have been the exception to find an orthodox metaphysician who did admit it; and Lockhart, or rather Baron von Lauerwinkel, was perfectly justified in taking the view which ordinary opinion took.”

He may, as we have seen, have been justified in “taking the view,” but emphatically (as Scott thought) he was not justified in his manner of urging home his opinions.

After a letter to Dr. Chalmers on his connection with the Edinburgh—a letter attributed to Lockhart by Mrs. Wilson—the Baron von Lauerwinkel, in September 1818, addressed another to the “Rev. Professor Laugner,” on his writings in the Königsberg Review. Laugner was meant for the Rev. Professor Playfair.1

Mr. Playfair, having begun as a parish minister, ended as a professor. What could be more blameless? Dr. Chalmers left his Glasgow parish for the Moral Philosophy Chair in St. Andrews, and such translations are common, and often laudable, never blameworthy. And Mr. Playfair wrote in

1 Minister of Liff and Bervie 1773-1782. In 1805 he accepted the Chair of Natural Philosophy in Edinburgh (“Christopher North,” i. 281, note). He died in 1819.

Edinburgh Review, as Chalmers did, as Sir Walter Scott had done. He was now an old man, loved and respected. The Baron, to be brief, treated him as if he had been an apostate priest. He is called the d’Alembert of the Northern Encyclopædia. “You have manifested every possible eagerness to banish from the view and recollection of the public every trace of your previous habits and situation. You disclaimed every relic of that character, which in spite of, or in ignorance of, the existence of such men as you, the wisdom of the legislature has declared to be indelible.”

The Edinburgh, however, had argued long before this date that “the supposed indelibility of the sacred character is entirely a relic of Popish superstition,” “an imposition practised upon the public by the priests of the dark ages.”1 How Lockhart’s words applied to Mr. Playfair, whether he dressed as a layman and “sunk the minister,” it is not now easy, nor is it important, to ascertain. He handled the learned Professor as an apostate, allied with a band of men like those whom St. Augustine calls “the Corruptors.” It is not possible here, as in the case of “Peter’s Letters,” to say that the article “was such as only a very young and thoughtless person would write.” Young Lockhart was, but the article, in its calm implacable logic, could only have been written by one who had thought deeply and clearly

1 Vol. v., p. 315, note.

on the conditions of belief, and on the different lines of conduct open to a reluctant, an amiable, a proselytising, and a malignant sceptic. For “thoughtless,” in Lockhart’s apology, we must substitute “reckless.” Granting the premises—namely, that Mr. Playfair’s conduct had been that attributed to him,—the article is a model of polished vigour. But nobody grants or granted the premises, nobody can palliate what Scott, writing to Lockhart, calls “the personal and severe attack on Playfair, of which I did not approve.” (October 29, 1818.) “I agree with you,” Scott wrote to
Mr. Morritt of Rokeby, “that the conductors of the Magazine have acted inconsiderately and rashly in a personal attack on Playfair. It gives too much occasion to charge them with intolerance, for although Playfair has never been suspected of orthodoxy, yet I know not that he has on any occasion made any attack upon religion, and consequently the dragging forward a charge of infidelity, which cannot be proved from any overt act, sounds very like personal scandal. . . . It seems to me not sufficiently bottomed on specific allegations of assaults committed by him on Christianity.”

Scott was, at this time, a mere senior acquaintance of Lockhart’s, addressed by him on the following occasion.

Wilson and Lockhart had been attacked by the anonymous author of a pamphlet styled “Hypocrisy Unveiled.” It is unnecessary to make a garland
of the not undeserved amenities contained in this pamphlet.
Mr. John Murray, the publisher, is cited as a great denouncer of Lockhart and Wilson, which is interesting, if we remember how long Lockhart and Mr. Murray were to work together. Indeed, according to the pamphleteer, Croker had already reconciled Blackwood and the London publisher.

The sentence which probably gave most annoyance to Blackwood’s men was: “The Scorpion has often, in conversation, expressed his disbelief of the Christian religion,” while the Leopard makes “obscene parodies on the Psalms.” Wilson “has praised Coleridge’sChristabel,’ which sins as heinously against purity and decency as it is well possible to imagine.”

The author of “Hypocrisy Unveiled” was clearly of “a nice morality.” Finally the Leopard and the Scorpion are advised to hang themselves.

They did not take that extreme step; in letters to the author of “Hypocrisy,” published in the Scotsman (Oct. 24, 1818)—published, of course, without their knowledge—they asked for their assailant’s name and address. “If you suppose yourself to have any claim to the character of a gentleman, you will take care that I be not long without this knowledge,” said Lockhart (“Christopher North,” i. 283, note). The author (like Zeta) would not “make a premature avowal of his name.” He was sought for so eagerly, “by fair means and foul if any can in
such a case be foul,” says Lockhart to
Scott;1 he was in such undeniably anxious request, that he did not write any more pamphlets, and even suppressed one which he had advertised. Some suspicion fell on Mr. Macvey Napier, who disavowed the pamphlet “on his word of honour.” Lockhart prepared Scott for an agitated letter from Wilson. None arrived. Jeffrey broke with Wilson, in a letter which Mrs. Gordon prints, and justly describes as “manly and honourable.” “I say then that it is false that it is one of the principal objects, or any object at all of the Edinburgh Review, to discredit religion, or promote the cause of infidelity. . . . I declare to you, upon my honour, that nothing of that tendency has ever been inserted without its being followed with sincere regret both on my part, and on that of all who have any permanent connection with the work.” “A tone of too great levity in exposing the excesses of bigotry and intolerance” is admitted; for example, to say (as the Edinburgh said) that all Methodists would gladly “lie for the Tabernacle,” may be thought rather a light-hearted statement. “But that anything was ever bespoken or written by the regular supporters of the work, or admitted except by inadvertence, with a view to discredit the truth of religion, I most positively deny, and that it is no part of its object to do so, I think must be felt by every one of its candid readers.” (“Christopher North,” i. 299.)

1 Scott’sFamiliar Letters,” ii. 28.


The exact state of the case was well put by Mr. Morehead, an Episcopalian clergyman, in a letter to Wilson. “Nobody of sense supposes, whatever slips the Edinburgh may occasionally have made, that its object and secret view is to pull down Christianity, and particularly no one who knows Mr. Playfair conceives that this is one of his darling contemplations and schemes, whatever may be his opinions on the subject of Revelation, which nobody has any business to rake out.” Mr. Morehead implies that Wilson and Lockhart possibly “cannot get the regulation of Blackwood into their own hands,” and, if so, advises them to leave it. He gives both friends credit for sincerity, and allows for “the wantonness of youth and conscious power”—“this is the best view to take of you.”

Unable to exchange shots with the author of “Hypocrisy Unveiled,” Lockhart caricatured him, gowned, in a majestic attitude of conscious virtue, but with a villainously low forehead, protuberant occiput, and snub nose. (“Christopher North,” i. 284.) He then set about finishing “Peter’s Letters to his Friends.”

Mr. Macvey Napier, later the editor of the Edinburgh Review, was suspected, as we have seen, of being the author of “Hypocrisy Unveiled.” He denied the charge, and doubtless with truth. By way of curiosity, however, I add an expression of the feelings of a Tory writer, in a letter to Mr.
Napier, copied from his papers now in the British Museum.1

Mr. Barrow, afterwards Sir John, a Quarterly Reviewer, though he condemns an attack on Mr. Napier himself, feels for the wrongs of the Quarterly at Mr. Playfair’s hands.

“Admiralty, 17th October 1818.

My dear Sir,— . . . I assure you that your information respecting my aid to Blackwood’s Magazine is wholly unfounded. I have not, in fact, once been asked to do so, and from what I have seen of it, little value as I set on anything that proceeds from my pen, I think that I should feel no disposition to enter the lists. . . . To fair and liberal criticism I have not the least objection. If a man chooses to come before the public in print, his doctrines and opinions and his style are all fair game; but I thoroughly, and from my soul, detest those vile and slanderous personalities which are too much the fashion of the present day; but are they not peculiarly the vice that besets the gude town of Edinburgh? Were they not enrolled there? Did not the Edinburgh Review set the example of personal attack and party rancour? And have not your own domestic literary squabbles been conducted in that style ever since? The attack on Professor

1 (For examining these papers, and for making extracts, I have to thank Miss Violet A. Simpson, who has aided me in other researches.)

Playfair I have not seen and never heard of; but I did hear that the Professor, I suppose in some moment of irritation, declared aloud, in a public assembly, that the Quarterly Review was a most contemptible journal, and a disgrace to the literature of the age. Now, if such be the fact, and the young men you speak of who are friendly to the Quarterly should have heard it, Professor Playfair cannot refuse them the fair play (vile pun) of retaliation. But I know nothing of the matter in dispute one way or other, nor do I believe it interests us of the South in the slightest degree. For my own part, I am candid enough to confess that, in spite of the, talent put forth in the Edinburgh Review, and the trash which the learned Professor finds in the Quarterly, I am stupid enough to derive more amusement from the latter than the former, and this does not arise, I can assure you, from the slightest prejudice for or against either. . . .

“Very faithfully yours.”

This letter, from a future victim of Blackwood’s, refers to the publication of the challenges not accepted by the author of “Hypocrisy Unveiled.”

“Raith, 25th October 1818.

“My Dear Sir,— . . . I am glad to see from the Scotsman to-day, that those assassins of Blackwood’s have been made to feel some of the pangs which
they have been attempting to inflict on others. This will probably put an end to their plots.— Sincerely yours,

John Leslie.”

Professor Leslie was soon to learn that his hope was unfulfilled. Mr. Macvey Napier’s interest in these feuds probably led to the belief that he was the author of “Hypocrisy Unveiled.”