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The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 16: 1832-36

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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LONDON, 1832-1836
Social relations in London.—Benjamin Disraeli.—“A tenth-rate novelist.”—Friends.—Birth of Charlotte.—Scottish holidays.—Anne Scott’s death.—Death of Lockharr’s mother.—Lockhart and Maginn.—Letter to Mrs. Maginn.—Guests and hosts.—Death of Mr. Blackwood.—Lockhart on literature and rank.—Letter to Hayward.—Portrait of Lockhart.—His review of Tennyson.—Editing Scott’s works.—Relations with Milman.—Letters.—Jeffrey in the House.—Scott’s debts.—Southey and “The Doctor.”—A mystification.—The British Association.—Bad times.—Southey on Scott’s death.—” Birds of prey.”—Troubles with Hogg.—Wrath of Wilson.—Attack on Scott.—Extraordinary proposal by Hogg.—Hogg’s “domestic manners.”—Correspondence as to “Life of Scott.”—Mrs. Lockhart to Cadell.—Cadell’s praise of Lockhart.—Lockhart on his own work.—Letter to Laidlaw.—Criticisms of Scott’s “Life.”—Mr. Carlyle.—Remarks on the Biography of Scott.—Wrath of Fenimore Cooper.—Americans and Scott.

It has seemed desirable to finish the story of Lockhart’s relations with Scott, before sketching his London life, and describing his connection with one, at least, of his most important allies in the Quarterly. The letters to that friend, Milman, were partly written in Scott’s last days. The society which Lockhart frequented in town may easily be guessed from a series of diaries, mere jottings, kept by himself and Mrs. Lockhart. In 1826, as new-comers to London, we find the Lockharts entertaining,
among others,
Mr. Christie, Mr. Wright, and Mr. Disraeli, probably the elder Disraeli. The younger had vanished from the Representative, and was at odds with Mr. Murray. Lockhart speaks, later, without approval (to put it mildly) of his personal assault on “Crokey” as Rigby, in “Coningsby.” The old Blackwoodsman thought it too personal, without palliating Croker’s relations with the Marquis of Steyne. Lockhart and young Disraeli must have become unfriendly. Mr. Disraeli, wishing to revile Mr. Morier’s novel, “Zohrab,” in the Edinburgh, told Mr. Macvey Napier that it had been praised in the Quarterly because the Quarterly was edited by a “tenth-rate novelist.”1 Writing to Lady Blessington, he described Lockhart’s style as exquisitely bad, and notable for confused jumbles of commonplace metaphors—a childish criticism which only enmity could inspire.

Dinners with Christie, Lord Dudley, Sir Humphrey Davy, Lord Stafford, Lord Gifford, Terry, Galt, Croker, Palgrave, Moore, Murray, are very frequent in Lockhart’s diaries; Mr. Christie’s name comes on every page; there are visits to Lord Montague’s, and parties at Lydia White’s. Mr. Benjamin Disraeli, after all, occasionally appears. On January 1, 1828, is the important note, “At half-past three a.m., Charlotte born,” the future Mrs. Hope Scott, who, alone of the family, left a child to continue the house of Sir Walter in

1 Unpublished Correspondence of Macvey Napier, in British Museum.

the female line. There follow parties at
Peel’s, the Duke of Northumberland’s, Lady Louisa Stuart’s, Lady Gifford’s; the Richardsons of Kirklands, Mr. Morritt, the Hughes’s, the Dumergues are often mentioned; Maginn, Mrs. Maginn, and Theodore Hook occur, though rarely. Sotheby, Southey, Crabbe, are occasionally the guests of Lockhart, with Chantrey, Sir James Mackintosh, the Aldersons, Thomas Campbell, Mr. Gleig, Barrow, Lord Mahon, Basil Hall, Washington Irving, and Campbell of Blythswood. The Scotch holidays are usually a blank in the diaries, but dinners at Gattonside, the Pavilion, Torwoodlee, Bemersyde, occur, and visits from Mr. Blackwood and Hogg are noted (1830). Wilson, too, came to Chiefswood, and Mr. Christie and Professor Sedgwick; Brewster also, and Will Laidlaw. In 1832 the Ettrick Shepherd loomed on the town, and was feasted; Lady Salisbury became a friend, and the Maginns met Mrs. Jobson; the names of The Macleod, Lady Shaw Stewart, Mrs. Opie, the Milmans, the Duke of Buccleuch, Sir Samuel Shepherd, occur, and then Sir Walter came home for the last time, and the diary is a blank till his death on September 21 is briefly recorded.

No diary for 1833 seems to be extant, but, on July 20, Lockhart is obliged to inform his brother William of another death in this ill-fated family: “I need not write about poor Anne Scott’s death; . . . you may conceive how various circumstances have combined to make the blow really a shocking
one to
Sophia. She, too, ere things began to look seriously bad, had the luck to fall and sprain her old rheumatic knee very severely.” “She had never before been so stunned and shattered,” he adds, in a letter to Miss Violet Lockhart, “for Johnnie’s death and her father’s were long expected. This was so sudden.”

Even in the freshness of this calamity, the loss of her who is drawn as Alice Lee in “Woodstock,” the comfort and stay of Sir Walter’s age and widowhood, Lockhart is under fresh and too well-founded apprehensions about “my dear mother.” On January 9, 1834, arrived news of the death of that beloved parent. Lockhart attended her funeral, in the crypt of Glasgow Cathedral, on the 14th of the month.

A little later, on March 24, we find him writing to Mrs. Maginn. In the extraordinary licence which evil tongues have taken with the memory of Lockhart, some have even accused him of unkindness to Maginn. Of his relations with “bright, broken Maginn,” not many traces are left. The archives of the first series of Fraser’s Magazine, mainly conducted by Maginn, with that wonderful staff which included Thackeray, Carlyle, Galt, Coleridge, Harrison Ainsworth, and many another name of various note, are no longer accessible, and no key but that of conjecture is left as to Lockhart’s contributions; but of his unwearied kindness to Maginn, traces do survive.


Dear Mrs. Maginn” (he writes), “I have been with Mr. Clarke, and am very happy to find that it is not necessary, in order to attain our immediate object—the Doctor’s liberation—that I should put into the solicitor’s hands a further sum of £50, which had been provided with a view to that result. I am therefore enabled to leave the £50 at your own disposal, and I don’t doubt it will be agreeable to you to have it in reserve in case of any little difficulty arising before Dr. M. has got settled down once more into a regular course of life and industry.

“I don’t doubt that most industrious his life will be, when he has once recovered from his recent sufferings in mind and in body. But you must not let him overwork himself at the first, and perhaps this £50 may help you in your efforts to keep him easy, as well as steady.—Ever sincerely yours,

J. G. Lockhart.”

Nine years later, Lockhart secured a provision for Mrs. Maginn.

Life goes on, though the ranks of friends are thinned. We find Lockhart meeting D’Orsay at Lady Blessington’s; Mr. Cadell and J. W. M. Turner come to dine; Mr. Blackwood and his son are guests, as is Captain Burns, the son of the poet. Now and then we have a note of books read—“The Corpus Poetarum Latinorum,” “Virgil’s Georgics,” “Life of Virgil apud Heyne,” but this
is during a tour to Scotland in 1834. Lockhart there dines at
Lord Gifford’s, with Jeffrey and his ladies, forgetful of old feuds; with Thomas Thomson, and with his very old friend, John Cay. “Professor Wilson dines on the poddly1 Then come the notes:—

“Sept. 13.—Blackwood in bed. Dying. Quite clear—says he has got the turn, and asks me to smoke a cigar!

“Sept. 14.—Blackwood again.

“Sept. 16.—Blackwood dies. Walk with Wilson.

“Sept. 19.—Milton Lockhart. Write a few paragraphs about Blackwood for his magazine, before breakfast.”

A melancholy walk that with Wilson must have been; but Lockhart seldom recorded his emotions in diaries, nor often elsewhere.

The notes on this Scotch journey, whence the Lockharts returned by way of hospitable Rokeby, have diverted us from a view of the company which they kept in London. Lockhart “was never in any sense the lion of a season,” writes Mr. Gleig, “or of two seasons or of more. He kept his place to the last.” New friends or acquaintances he made, but, to the end, the name of Mr. Christie occurs most frequently in his records of engagements. Mr. Christie, Mr. Traill, Mr. Cay (when in London), the Aldersons, the James Wilsons, the Dumergues,

1 A poddly is a small fish of the lythe sort. How could Christopher dine “on the poddly”?

Croker, Mr. Murray, Lady Salisbury, Lord Mahon, any Borderers in town, Dr. Fergusson, Coleridge, the Shepherds, the Murchisons, the Milmans, the Miss Alexanders; the kindest of women, Mrs. Hughes—these were his most intimate associates. For diversion he had Theodore Hook, whom he pitted against “Lord Peter,” in a kind of drawn battle of wits, described by Mr. Jerdan; and at one time he had Maginn, and dinners with the staff of Fraser’s Magazine. Later came Carlyle, not edified by the Fescennina licentia of one of these banquets, and apt to think Lockhart “dandiacal,” though he changed his opinion.

“The great,” as Dr. Johnson calls them, were not unknown nor unfriendly, as the Marchioness of Stafford, the Duchess of St. Albans, Lord Montague, Lord Mahon, and others. Lockhart wrote, on Thomas Campbell’s aversion to general society:—

“There was no reason why he should not have set his rest on old equal friendships—no man but a fool ever does not; there was no reason why he should not have been kind and attentive to persons vastly his inferiors who had any sort of claim upon him—no man with a heart like his could have been otherwise. But he might have done and been all this, and yet enjoyed in moderation—and, as a student and artist, profited largely by enjoying—the calm contemplation of that grand spectacle denominated ‘the upper world.’ It is infinitely the best
of theatres, the acting incomparably the first, the actresses the prettiest.”1

There cannot be a more sensible view of the relations between men of letters and the great de par le monde, though among these, too, nothing prevents a man of letters from having friends, as Lord Mahon was a friend of Lockhart’s. Besides, Lockhart’s lineage was as good as that of any one he was likely to meet. He was a gentleman by birth, “and the king can be no more.” In none of his letters is there the faintest indication of that curious uneasiness as regards persons of rank, which Thackeray did not pretend to conceal. Mrs. Gordon has a rather unkind remark on Lockhart, as if he neglected old friends for grand new acquaintances.

“The gay coteries of London society injured his interest in the old friends who had worked hand in hand with him in Edinburgh.”2 Lockhart still wrote on occasion for Blackwood, especially when Wilson needed a rest. His letters (not many, Wilson was “a letter-hater”) and Wilson’s show no falling off in the old affection. But Thackeray himself has said something about the sentiment which finds expression in Mrs. Gordon’s remark. “No charge,” says Mr. Gleig, “could be more ungenerous or unjust than that Lockhart forgot, amid the blandishments of fashionable life, the claims of old friendships, or even of ties less sacred.”

1 Quarterly Review, lxxxv. p. 64.

2Christopher North,” i. 261.


“Unjust” and “ungenerous” are hard words; the biographer of Christopher North was only, as Scott says of Lady Charlotte Bury, “a little miffed.”

On this topic, the relations of men of letters with “society,” I insert, though out of due chronological course, a letter of Lockhart’s to Mr. Abraham Hayward. Hayward pursued society “in quite a legitimate, if not a very refined way—indeed, with a persistent hardihood,” says Mr. Locker Lampson in “My Confidences.” From what follows, it seems that he had irritated Lockhart by maintaining that “‘the great’ are prejudiced against literary people.”

March 3, 1845.

Dear Hayward,—I believe there was about as much cause for an apology from me to you as from you to me—at least we both lost our temper, and it signifies little which soonest or most. I was extremely unwell all yesterday, and therefore hope you will forget all my part of the mischief, as I do yours—with sincere thanks for your prompt and kind note.

“Since I am writing, let me say distinctly that I used the word gentleman, in reference to a most amiable man, in its heraldic sense only; though my acquaintance with him is very slight, I believe he is most entirely a gentleman in every other and better sense of the term; and I am sure you never dreamt that I meant, in reference to his wife, to insinuate that she was not, by every personal circumstance,
entitled to the position which, however, in my perhaps erroneous opinion, she owes to the literary merit generally acknowledged by the world. I was, I own, vexed, under Mrs. N.’s roof, and in the presence of Mrs. H. and Sir A. Gordon, to hear a literary man echo the complaint of something like a prejudice against literary men being entertained among the higher circles of English society. I don’t believe any such feeling lingers among them. It is, I daresay, very true that people of consequence in their own province, who find themselves of no consequence here, regard with some spleen the ready access which science or literature affords to the fine houses of which they themselves hardly ever see more than the outside. But I think, on reflection, you will also allow that if these rural dignitaries wished to strengthen their own complaint, they might with perfect justice say that science and literature are flattered by the aristocracy—the real aristocracy—in a degree remarkably contrasted with their social treatment of the great professions themselves. If you find, in fact, that a clergyman, a physician, a surgeon, has made his way into the fashionable circles here, you will find that this has been so because of his having earned an extra professional reputation. How many now of the eminent doctors and divines in this town can be said to move in the sort of society you consider as the thing? Does any lawyer mix in it, unless he has made himself distinguished either in politics or in letters?


“I have pretty well done with the beau-monde, and have no pleasure at all in it, though I am not so foolish or so improvident (being a father) as to desire to drop wholly out of it. You are younger, and will, I hope, long be much gayer than I am. But I was thinking most of Kinglake, who has just begun to see the interior of life in the West End—who enters the scene with something like radical feelings—and whom I should like to form his own opinion on matters of this class, without a preliminary impression that we Tories of his order do seriously at heart attribute to our worldly superiors a species of prejudice which, I do believe, has no existence whatever—quite the reverse.—Ever yours, very truly,

J. G. Lockhart.”

Lockhart’s personal aspect at this time is portrayed in the gallery of Fraserians, by Maclise. He is dressed (Sir Walter would have disliked the costume) in a kind of long dressing-gown; he has a cigar in his mouth, and a manuscript in his hand. His profile and head are of classical beauty, his figure is manly and finely proportioned. Another profile, in a group of “The Fraserians,” is no less distinguished.

On the fly-leaf of a diary of 1817, mainly blank, I notice a much less flattering sketch of the same profile, severe, sardonic, and actually older-looking—it is from Lockhart’s own unsparing hand. He was not vain: if Maclise’s pencil be faithful, no
man, not even
Byron, had more reason for personal vanity.

Before offering a collection of Lockhart’s letters to Milman, on Quarterly matters, we must not evade confession of his famous misdeed, the éreintement of young Mr. Tennyson’sPoems” of 1833. The biographer must admit that though his admiration of the greatest English poet since Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Scott, is apt to go further than “this side idolatry;” though he—as a matter of private opinion—ranks Lord Tennyson at least the peer of the highest; though Lord Tennyson’s early verses are, above all, his favourites, yet he cannot read Lockhart’s review without laughing. Laughter is not begotten by the review of Keats (whoever wrote it), or by the assaults on Leigh Hunt: these rouse a very different emotion. But “that noble lady, or gentleman who is not freely merry” over the Tennysonian criticism, “is not my friend.”

In “The Palace of ArtMr. Tennyson had this sufficiently paralysing verse:—
“Isaiah with fierce Ezekiel,
Swarth Moses by the Coptic sea,
And eastern Confutzee.”

Lockhart makes the following strictures:—“We can hardly suspect the very original mind of Mr. Tennyson to have harboured any recollec-
tions of that celebrated Doric idyll ‘The Groves of Blarney,’ but certainly there is a strong resemblance between Mr. Tennyson’s list of pictures and the Blarney collection of statues:—
‘Statues growing that noble place in,
All heathen goddesses most rare,
Homer, Plutarch, and Nebuchadnezzar,
All standing naked in the open air.’”

Lockhart, in a letter to Scott, speaks of Chantrey arranging statues “that noble place in”—namely, Windsor Castle: he liked the Doric idyll. He omits the singular taste displayed by Mr. Tennyson’s soul when “she lit white streams of dazzling gas” (so bad for pictures) in “The Palace of Art.” Yet Lockhart hated the globes of dazzling gas at Abbotsford. For the rest the curious may turn to the old Quarterly Review.

The illustrious poet, unlike any other poet known to history, altered the passages which gave such advantages to criticism. But while he showed wisdom, he did not display much humour. It is known that, in a very manly and generous letter to Christopher North (who had mingled praise with blame), he expressed his inability to see any merit in the Quarterly article. Yet merit the article has: the persiflage is good: some versifiers could have laughed over their own discomfiture, perhaps we should not ask so much detachment of mind from a poet.


Yet, how could the author of “I Ride from Land to Land,” and “When Youthful Faith is Fled”—how could he, as Mr. Saintsbury asks, overlook the merit of “Mariana in the South,” of the “Lotus Eaters,” and of “The Lady of Shalott,” and “Œnone,” even in their crude, early forms? Mr. Saintsbury speaks of Lockhart’s objection “to romantic poetry.” Yet Lockhart appreciated “Kubla Khan,” “Christabel,” and the “Ancient Mariner,” the very corner-stones of romantic poetry. His blindness is inexplicable. Probably, he was in a wicked mood; his sense of humour was captivated by certain passages exquisitely ludicrous; in “Mariana” and “Eleanore” he found only, what we all find with delight, “a dreamy tissue”; and he delivered himself to the spirit of mockery. Let it be remembered that Dr. Johnson, Scott’s favourite poet, analysed “Lycidas,” and the “Odes” of Gray, with just as little sympathy as Lockhart showed for the “Lady of Shalott.” In later years, Lockhart braved the wrath of “Crokey,” that Tennyson might be fairly reviewed in the Quarterly.

One regrets Lockhart’s review of Mr. Tennyson a little: he might have—and he should have—recognised, and made plain, the ways for a great genius. He did not do that, but he amused; and he wrote like a scholar—witness his quotation from “the learned continuator of Dionysius,” who retreated in despair from the African names which the young English poet made musical. To have
a critic, however unfavourable, who knows Greek, is now a very unusual luxury. Lockhart’s doctor’s degree, given to him by Oxford in June 1834, was a recognition of his scholarly merits.

During these years (1833-1836), Lockhart, in addition to his labours on the Quarterly, was revising and editing all Sir Walter’s works, poetry and prose. His letters to Mr. Cadell are mainly occupied with technical details about printing and publishing. The payment of the debts of Scott was Lockhart’s aim and reward. On June 16, 1835, he remarks, “To omit the Miss Austen” (the review of that great novelist by Scott) “would be unjust to Sir Walter’s character—his kind notice made her fame.” He goes on, speaking of his preparations for the “Life”: “I now sit among a multitude of Collectaneana, hopping and peering, for hours sometimes, before I can settle the plan of the day’s operations. Perhaps I may promise a volume of my own reminiscences of our intercourse and fireside talk. I never thought of being a Boswell, but I have a fair memory, and to me he no doubt spoke more freely and fully on various affairs than to any other who now survives. . . . The letters to the Major and myself are, in their different ways, the most valuable he ever wrote, being by far the simplest, honestest, and wisest. So I say from general recollection, never yet having gone over them with a view to practical purposes—I mean book-making purposes.”


We now offer a sample of Lockhart, not as a critic, but as an editor. His correspondence with Milman, the most distinguished of his regular literary contributors at this date, may be left, with very few elucidatory notes, to speak for itself. In 1826, Lockhart had read the manuscript of Milman’s “Anne Boleyn” for the publisher, and had declared it to be, with the exception of “half-a-dozen passages of stately and noble versification, feeble in the extreme. . . . If he would learn to write prose as well as he does verse, he might make a figure worth speaking of.”1 The criticism was a prediction. Milman became one of Lockhart’s closest friends, and to him, as to Carlyle, he was able, once or twice, to act on the spirit of his motto, corda serrata pando, to lay bare his heart.2 We find one early undated business note, ending with this scra pof rhyme:—

“In Fancy’s days, Hope’s fervid gaze
O’er Life’s fresh circuit ran;
And Faith, like Hope, found ample scope
Within this world of man.
But now my creed, from nonsense freed,
In three short items lies—
That nothing’s new, and nothing’s true,
And nothing signifies.”
Album Græcum.

The next note is of spring 1830, judging by

1Life of John Murray,” ii. 244.

2 (Chronologically the first letters should have been given earlier, but it seemed best to present them in unbroken sequence.)

Milman’s reply: he had proposed an essay on Indian poetry, meaning to turn it into Latin, for his lectures as Professor of Poetry at Oxford. He had begun his “History of the Jews,” suggested by Lockhart in 1828, for Mr. Murray, and was thinking of his work on “Early Christianity.” Dr. Dionysius Lardner, so much celebrated by Thackeray, was anxious to secure the book about the Christians. Lockhart therefore writes:—

“The Rev. H. H. M1lman, St. Mary’s, Reading.
Athenæum, Tuesday.

My dear Milman,—I fully expected to have had slips of your Ægyptiaca by this time—but am disappointed one post more. The Indian poetry will, I am sure (and I hope soon), form the subject of a not less delightful paper.

“I have just read to Murray what you say about Christianity and Dr. Lardner. He is confined with something in his foot—he denies gout—and is in great pain; but asked me to say that he is most ready to engage for Christianity, no matter how many volumes—that he will moreover pledge himself to accept as many books as you like to write for the ‘Family Library,’ as long as that work goes on, and to pay for them at the highest rate which any such work can offer—in short, that he hopes you will not lend your aid to Dr. Lardner, as Scott and Southey have both done through sheer misapprehension, and
as neither of them, accordingly, will do again. If you could give the ‘Family Library’ three vols. per annum—tant mieux for that concern.—Ever truly yours,

J. G. Lockhart.”

The following note briefly touches on a controversy as to Milman’s orthodoxy:—

My dear Milman,—I perceive your ‘Jews’ are now fast approaching the close. It is a splendid book, but some wise folks shake the head at some passages touching miracles. A few syllables would have disarmed them, and will no doubt do so in the next edition. Meantime I have been suggesting to Murray that your most efficient method might be to write a History of Christianity in the same form, and I sincerely hope you will smile on this proposal.

“But the Quarterly is much in need of your aid, and that must be my chief concern. I don’t mean that we are falling off; on the contrary, Murray says the Review has now regained all it had lost at one period. But we are in danger of becoming a little too business-like, and want grievously the grace from time to time of a pen like yours discoursing eloquent music.—Yours very sincerely,

J. G. Lockhart.”

The book by Henry Coleridge, referred to in the following letter, is his volume on Homer, in “Introduction to the Study of the Greek Classical Poets.”
Thiersch, Kreuser, Lange, and Volcker were among the Germans criticised.1 Milman’s is an excellent essay, and, after a deluge of German “ingenuities” about Homer—ingeniously and inconsistently absurd as a rule—may still be read with pleasure and instruction. These were happy days, when a man received £100 for a Quarterly article on Homer! Lockhart writes:—

“The Rev. H. H. Milman, St. Mary’s, Reading.
“Chiefswood, near Melrose, July 8, 1830.

My dear Milman,—Owing to some mistake at Albemarle Street, I did not receive your letter of the 25th of June until last night—which I much regret, as time is beginning to be precious for the next Quarterly. I also have read Heber’sLife,’ and with great disappointment. The subject had in truth been exhausted before Mrs. Heber took it up. But although under these circumstances I can hardly think a ‘Memoir’ of the Bishop would be the thing for the Quarterly Review, I feel strongly that the book might furnish you with materials whereon to construct a most interesting general article. It is a proud thing for the Church that it always contains men of the same class with Heber—gentlemen—almost universal scholars—sincere patriots and philanthropists and Christians. There is no other

1 Quarterly Review, January 1831.

Church—certainly no other Protestant one—of which all this could be said. Here is one point. . . . I admire
Henry Coleridge’s book very much indeed, and should be delighted to receive the proposed article on him and the nameless Germans you allude to. Let me have Heber and Coleridge—which you please first. But do let me have one of them, or something, at all events, from you forthwith, for I never was so poorly off for materials of the right cut; and please, if you write to me again, address me here at once.

“My wife desires her best remembrances. We have had very wretched weather, considering the time of year; but still there have been fine days some, and fine half days not a few; and finding ourselves after some summers’ absence re-established in our old favourite cottage juxta Tuedam, we have been thinking of anything but complaint. I hope Mrs. Milman is quite recovered, and all your pretty children in full bloom.—Ever truly yours,

J. G. Lockhart.

“Anything more as to the Indian poetry, and, may I add, as to the Christian scheme, Q.F.F.Q.S.1 Sir W. Scott has not yet been released from Edinburgh, but will be here next week.”

In the next note, Lockhart refers to the editorial custom of altering contributions. This will be dis-

1 Quod felix faustumque sit.

cussed later. He did
review Moore’sByron,” as we have already seen, finding no fresher contributor on that old theme:—

Chiefswood, Sept. 12.

My dear Milman,—I was tempted to put in some allusion to Mrs. Heber’s change of name, but withstood it, not doubting she has already begun to taste of her punishment.

“Your paper on Homer will be most valuable and acceptable, and I shall expect it for next number, unless you should, on maturer thoughts, accede to my old proposition touching Moore’sByron.’ Just such a review as that of Heber’sLife’ would be the thing. If you don’t undertake it (in which case the second volume would be sent instantly), I must try myself; but I have written often about Byron, and feel barren. You, without effort, could throw off some sixteen pages of good sense and fresh feeling, and stick in sixteen more of capital extracts from Moore’s second volume,—and behold it is done. Byron is dead and buried, and your feelings, as a contemporary poet, should interfere little with this affair. I would ask Scott, but he has already said his say in the Quarterly Review.

Galt’sLife of Byron’ is rather a murder, and the crime is perpetrated with a coarse weapon.—Sincerely yours,

J. G. Lockhart.”

We now have an excursion into politics.

“Last night Jeffrey made a very unfortunate début—where he was good, he was far too metaphysical for the House, going into first principles, which they always vote above; and, on the whole, his matter was poor and his manner feeble—so much so, that I could not have recognised my once voluble and sarcastic ally. Croker (Quarterly versus Edinburgh!) was capital and most powerful. I never saw so much horror excited as by his slashing dissection of Lord John Russell; and the House, at first cold and reluctant, became, as he went on, intoxicated with glee. He had some real eloquent declamation too, and his delivery was manly and authoritative, wherever it was not diabolical and vindictive.—Yours truly,

J. G. Lockhart.
London, Saturday,
5, 1831.”

At the end of a letter on business, comes a characteristic anecdote:—

“The Rev. H. M1lman.”

(With Pope’sEssay on Man,” and Wilkinson’sMateria Hieroglyphica.”)

. . . . . .

“A friend of mine witnessed a set-to t’other day between two blackguards in Covent Garden’s sweet purlieus, and they saluted each other, in place of
the olden endearments, with ‘you blasted borough-monger,’ and ‘you damned bishop.’

“Set your house in order.—Ever yours,

“J. G. L.
Monday, Nov. 14, 1831.”

Here is brief reference to Johnnie’s death. The scheme of a poetical collection seems to have collapsed:—

London, December 30, 1831.

My dear Milman,—. . . Thanks for your kind note. In addition to that long expected, but still painful blow, my little girl of three years has fallen downstairs and broken an arm, poor thing; but she is doing well; and when something re-established, if you don’t come up to town I think I shall invade you on my first excursus. I want to talk with you about various matters. Meantime, have you any stray leaves of verse, original or translations, you could entrust to my hand in case of a thing being suddenly begun which we spoke of as proper to be attempted? There appears to be an embryo getting into some signs of life.—Yours ever very truly,

J. G. Lockhart.”

The edition of Milman is referred to here.

. . . . . .

“I think Murray will make you an offer about an Edition of Gibbon one of these days;1 at least, I

1 The Gibbon here alluded to, unlike the verses, was a happy and most successful enterprise.

heard him ordering calculations to be made about printing such a book, &c As to the F. L., he still persists in keeping total silence to me.

Biography was always Lockhart’s favourite theme: his liking for it is manifest here:—

“The Rev. H. Milman, Reading.
London, July 1, 1832.

My dear Milman,—What think you of an idea that has come into my head? It is to have an extra number of the Quarterly Review this autumn entirely biographical. We have just lost Cuvier, Goethe, Mackintosh, Crabbe, and Bentham. Would you, if you approve the notion, make one of the articles—and would ‘Goethe’ please your hand? If so, the materials are abundant, and by interweaving original translations you could make a most charming paper. I think of asking Herschell to do Cuvier—Croker, Mackintosh, and of assaulting Crabbe myself. But I want before going further to ascertain your opinion of the scheme, and whether I might rely on your co-operation. (Should there be prints?) Sir Walter Scott continues to linger on in a hopeless stupor—how much longer he might do so none can guess, but I suspect the end will be hastened by a fresh attack.—Ever yours,

J. G. Lockhart.”

Domestic troubles caused by the ignorant gossip
of journalists after
Scott’s death, are here exposed:—

“My wife and her sister are now well and quiet—I and my brothers-in-law are harassed beyond imagination about the money affairs of Sir W. Scott. The newspaper paragraphs here, though well meant, have done us in the meantime at least a world of mischief. They have inflamed the hopes of the creditors, and, I fear, taken away all chance of their acceding to the proposals we tendered for a general settlement of the affair. And all, or almost all, this difficulty comes of the officiousness of friends here who could not wait one week till some of the family could be communicated with.

“The Quarterly Review has been sadly neglected, and I must work hard at it now. Do let me have your strenuous quill at my need.—Ever yours,

J. G. Lockhart.

Thanks to the enterprise and goodwill of Mr. Cadell, who advanced £30,000 on the security of Scott’s copyrights and literary remains, a settlement with Sir Walter’s creditors was concluded on February 2, 1833. The “Life” of Scott did much towards clearing the debt.

Early in 1834 arose a little question of literary interest. Who wrote “The Doctor”? Lockhart says to Milman (February 19). “I have a letter from Southey about ‘The Doctor,’—he wholly
denies it, and suspects
Frere; but Henry Coleridge tells me he knows the author. Can he be, after all, Hartley Coleridge or De Quincey? They both have lived much with the elder Lakers, and may either of them have been Boswellising as to stories as well as opinions. I could have sworn Southey wrote the bit about Lord Lauderdale and the Chimney Sweeps—and now believe he spoke it.—Ever yours,

J. G. L.”

Milman replied:—“‘The Doctor’ must be Southey’s. He told me the story of Thistlewood which appears there, totidem verbis, when we met at dinner at Murray’s. I confess that the gleams of genuine Southeyism appear to me faint, as far as his nobler qualities go; much of the art is his, and style.”

Southey himself had written to Lockhart (February 3):—“’The Doctor’ has been sent to me, with my name in rubric letters on the back of the title-page, and with the author’s compliments, but with no indication who that author is; nor has the channel through which it came enabled me to guess at the source. Some guesses that seemed likely enough were met by greater unlikelihoods; but when I heard Frere named as the supposed author, I wondered that I had not thought of him at first. I know not in what other person we could find the wit, the humour, the knowledge, and the consummate mastery of style,” which were really Southey’s own!


All this was fairly cool in Southey, who, of course, was himself the author. He amused himself, later, by fixing on Theodore Hook as the writer, and by sending to him all letters on “The Doctor” that reached his own hands. “I have to thank you for a copy of ‘The Doctor,’” he wrote to Hook on January 24, 1832. Lockhart, in his essay on Hook, remarks that Southey had, in a letter, quite unprovoked, to himself, “seemed to deny most explicitly the least concern in the anonymous production. It is probable that if we could lay our hands on it at this moment a loophole could be detected; but in our notice of ‘The Doctor’ we assumed that our original conjecture had been unfounded.”

The letter survived, and has just been quoted. It is a strange affair. Southey played off a hoax much in Hogg’s vein—or rather, several hoaxes. Coleridge had assured Lockhart that the book was Southey’s. But Southey, in his letter to Lockhart, does not say explicitly, “I did not write ‘The Doctor.’” The kind of amusement which the worthy man sucked from his mystification is not very obvious, but he certainly praised “The Doctor” in a manner which he usually kept for his own productions. There soon follows, in a note to Milman, an early reference to Lockhart’s work on “Scott’s Life”:—

“Now don’t cut the Quarterly Review. If you do, this next year or so we go to pot, for my hands
are much employed on another concern for that time, and really without you we can’t do at all.”

From Edinburgh, where Mr. Blackwood, as we saw, was dying in 1834, Lockhart wrote:—

September 12, 1834.

My dear Milman,—I received your letter here yesterday, having come hither to see the savants” (the British Association) “in their glory. I squeezed in in the evening, and found Buckland amusing, with puns and conundrums about the ichthyosauri, an assembly of nearly 2000 Christians, male, female, young and old—horrid humbug, but the newspapers will give you enough of it. I shall be at Rokeby, in Yorkshire, in another week, and, as there is a good library there, shall begin and think again of business. As the Murrays are both out of town, I need not write about anything to Albemarle Street; but I wish you would find the exact title of a book called something like ‘Origines Biblicæ,’ lately published by a Mr. Beke, of London, which I heard much spoken of by a clever man I met a week or two ago. Mr. Beke, it seems, has discovered that the Mityraem” (Mithraim?) “of the Pentateuch is not Egypt, but Arabia Petræa, and my friend appeared to think he had established many points of his argument. I can’t believe that the universal tradition could have been wholly wrong on such a matter; but pray, look at the book and consider it along with Arundel, who is,
I fear, a weak brother. Please ask ‘Mr. Dundas or Mr. Day’ at Murray’s to forward you these or any other books; and, N.B., though I ask you to consider Beke with Arundel, I should like two shortish articles better than one long one.

“I have heard nothing of the last Quarterly Review, except from yourself and Murray, whose intelligence is that he has rarely sold so many copies of a Number, and that pleases him. I thought and think the Number a bad one, all but your own article, and that on Bérard. It is the radical vice of a certain acute mind1 that it really is cursed nil admirari, and therefore I must try, as far as possible, to keep it at work in such affairs as French politics and French memoirs.

“My wife unites with me in earnestly hoping that Mrs. Milman may soon shake off the relics of her disorder.—Ever sincerely yours,

J. G. Lockhart.”

On the last day of 1834, Lockhart wrote a letter of political gossip, asking for an article on ecclesiastical affairs. He ends thus:—

“Meanwhile here are Coleridge’sAna’ full of all sorts of ultra Toryism, to be quoted. He says, ‘Mark the use Shakespeare always makes of a villain when he gets hold of one—he makes him speak all the grand wickednesses that have been

1 Croker?

coming into his own head since he had such another opportunity.’ Now old Samuel Taylor Coleridge shall be
my villain for once. All this treason pray suppress, except to your fair dame, if she cares for such matters; and do write your article quam primum, for you see time is likely to press, and especially if I am obliged to run down to Scotland for these elections.

“I told Croker ten days ago that Peel ought to give you one of his first good things, and I know that Croker wrote to him to that effect—but the answer has not been communicated to the sous-signé,

J. G. Lockhart.”

Here comes an unhappy gap in the correspondence, which is either missing, or devoid of interest, till the year, the most unhappy, or one of the most unhappy, in Lockhart’s life, 1837. Southey’s letters in 1831 are much occupied with a topic noticed in his published articles, a temporary diminution in the rate of payment for his articles. The times were bad (owing to Reform); Lockhart writes gloomily thereon to one of his brothers; and he himself (September 16, 1831) expressed his readiness to have his own rate of payment lowered.1 Croker, at the same time, took the same position. Southey appears not to have received due notice of a change most unwelcome to a man who “drew his revenue from his inkstand.” On March 15,

1Life of John Murray,” ii. 371.

1832, he says, “
Mr. Murray overpays me largely,” so times may have improved for the Quarterly. Southey was anxious that Scott should see Landor in Florence, as the thing “most worth seeing in Italy.” Of Sir Walter’s death Southey writes with deep feeling (September 16, 1832): “My heart has often ached at thinking of you and Mrs. Lockhart. The tragedy, I hope, has now closed. You have indeed been tried in the burning fiery furnace; God grant you present support and relief, and peace and happiness hereafter.” In March 1833, Southey sent Lockhart some of Sir Walter’s letters: he had looked over his correspondence in 1826. “This is a task in which the person who performs it saves his representatives from much trouble, at the expense of much pain to himself.”

There is a short way with letters!

“The birds of prey are already at work,” Southey says, referring to magazine articles on Scott.1 He had refused an invitation to write a dirge on his own terms. He replied that “the death of an old friend was not an affair which he could treat in this way, nor upon such considerations.”

Here, again, the correspondence ends, till, in 1838, Southey congratulates Lockhart on having produced “the most complete biography that has yet appeared of a great man.” As a rule, Southey’s letters to Lockhart are of very slight interest.

1 An unauthorised “Life of Scott,” by George Allan, appeared in 1834.


The task of collecting material for the great biography was heavy, and involved much correspondence. By far the most extraordinary letter on the subject of his “Life of Scott” which Lockhart received, was written by James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. Now, some friends of the Shepherd, among them his daughter, Mrs. Garden, in her “Memorials,” and Professor Veitch, in the same work, have blamed Lockhart’s behaviour to Hogg, and especially his comments on Hogg in the “Life of Scott.” I do not think that either the Shepherd, or the faithful to his memory, have many serious grievances against Lockhart; and if “dear friends may meet once more,”
“Beyond the sphere of Time,
And Sin, and Fate’s controul,
Serene in changeless prime
Of body and of soul,”
there, assuredly, all unkind temper and rancour is long ago forgotten and forgiven.

That the Shepherd, in early Blackwood days, had something to forgive the author, whoever he was, of a certain review, is undeniable. But he did forgive it. We have seen how Lockhart brought Hogg to Abbotsford, not to Lady Scott’s delight; and to Hogg and Allan Cunningham Lockhart dedicated his “Life of Burns”; while he, of course, entertained and befriended the Shepherd in London. In some Reminiscences, at the beginning of his
Altrive Tales” (London, 1832), Hogg sketched the portrait of Lockhart as a very young man, with his six black servants, his hoaxes and his caricatures. “A warm and disinterested friend he has been to me,” says the Shepherd.1 At the close of his “Confessions of a Justified Sinner,” Hogg introduces Lockhart, and puts into his mouth comments on the Shepherd’s own love of literary hoaxes.

That, in early Blackwoods, Hogg’s name was occasionally attached to what he did not write, is certain; to a sonnet on Mr. Blackwood, for example, and, I believe, to a letter on the Edinburgh Review’s censures of his “Jacobite Relics.” This letter contains a curious expression of kindness to Keats, reports of whose illness had reached Edinburgh. It reads like a shame-faced apology. Whatever harm there was in all this, the Shepherd, himself a hoaxer, had long condoned. We have seen that Scott and Lockhart were busily trying to procure for Hogg a pension from the Royal Society of Literature. In 1831,2 Lockhart wrote about Hogg (we have already referred to this matter), “His acquirements are now such that the Royal Society of Literature, in patronising him, might be justly said to honour a laborious and successful student, as well as a masculine and fertile genius.” Then, to disarm objections which he may have encountered

1 P. cxxxix.

2 Quarterly Review, vol. xliv. pp. 8l, 82.

in pleading Hogg’s cause, Lockhart adds, “A more worthy, modest, sober, and loyal man does not exist in his Majesty’s dominions than this distinguished poet, whom some of his waggish friends have taken up the absurd fancy of exhibiting in print as a sort of boozing buffoon; and who is now, instead of revelling in the licence of tavern suppers and party politics, bearing up, as he may, against severe and unmerited misfortunes, in as dreary a solitude as ever nursed the melancholy of a poetic temperament.”

The plea is over-stated. Modesty was not Hogg’s forte, nor was melancholy his foible. Probably, when Lockhart wrote, the Shepherd was happy enough at the Roaring Game, or was shooting wild duck.1 The Shepherd of the Noctes, as described by Wilson, was, in fact, apt to be misconstrued by stupid people as a “boozing buffoon”—and the officials of the Royal Society of Literature were not clever people.

Wilson was very angry; he called Lockhart’s remarks “a feeble fumble of falsehood,” “a matter-of-fact lie by a Cockney in his dotage,” and so forth. Such was the point and polish of his repartee.2 In June 1830, Wilson had begun the trouble by attacking Sir Walter—“There’s Sir Walter wi’ his everlasting anecdotes, nine out o’ ten meaning naething, and the tenth itsel’ as auld as the Eildon Hills;” this, with other insolent reflections on

1 January 1831. 2Noctes,” March 1831.

Scott’s old age, Wilson had put into the mouth of
Hogg. But Lockhart’s observation was merely meant to satisfy the people who had in their gift the pensions of the Literary Society. Probably, too, he was not well pleased by the assaults on Sir Walter, which were assigned to the Shepherd. So Wilson fell back on the lie direct, and the cry of “Cockney!” Lockhart forgave the offences with perfect magnanimity.

As to Hogg himself, on December 14, 1831, he wrote to Lockhart, asking for a preface to his Tales, and proposing to “have half a mutchkin” with one of the writers in the Quarterly. Later, in an undated note, he acknowledges Lockhart’s literary advice as that of “a true friend.” Signs there are of a quarrel with Blackwood; in whose magazine he declares that he can never again consent to appear. This note was written from Huntley Burn (Sir Adam Ferguson’s), after the Shepherd’s visit to London. About that visit Lockhart writes thus to Will Laidlaw; there is no trace of “virulence” here:—

March 1832.

My dear Laidlaw,—We have letters last night from Naples. Sir Walter writes this time a much better hand than the last, but I grieve to say he seldom writes about anything but new books he is or is to be about! I fear he will find Cadell little disposed for new undertakings at this time.


“The Hogg is the Lion of the season, and is playing his part with great good sense to all appearance. I hope and trust we shall be able to do something for his real good in the way of a subscription edition of the ‘Queen’s Wake,’ which Murray is starting, and which the Highland Society are, it is believed, likely to patronise. As for his plan of twelve volumes of novels and tales, of that I never could have had any favourable opinion; and, between ourselves, I believe it is in the hands of a publisher not likely to be solvent, even if there were anything to pay.1 At all events, the Shepherd, if he retires soon, will have left a good impression of himself here—and laid in a stock of new observation to boot, and thus, if in no other way, I trust he will have benefited by his trip. I keep my budget of his sayings and doings, which is a rich one, till I can communicate it over a tumbler.

“Whether I may be able to get away from town this year long enough to admit of my making a run to see the laird” (Scott, in Italy), “wherever he may chance to be, I can’t yet say. If I cannot, we shall go down for a few weeks to Abbotsford, and place ourselves at the tender mercies of Mrs. Mackay.

1 Mrs. Garden, in her Memorials of her father, thinks that Lockhart believed in the solvency of Cochrane, the publisher. There must have been a misconception on one side or the other. The publisher failed: Hogg was often unlucky. A letter of Mrs. Lockhart’s, to Will Laidlaw, suggests that Lockhart may have changed his mind about Cochrane, as no better publisher was ready to take Hogg’s work.


“Love to the ladies, and, when you see him, to Colonel Ferguson.—Ever yours truly,

J. G. Lockhart.”

Finally, after Scott’s death, on October 4, 1832, Hogg writes from Altrive Lake, advising Lockhart, in composing the Life of Sir Walter, to take his (Hogg’s) “name and forthright egotistical stile, . . . which will likewise do him some credit as a biographer.” If Lockhart thinks it necessary, Hogg will copy the manuscript with his own hand. He ends, “May I copy a few pages of your ‘Life of Burns’?”

In a similar vein, Hogg had long before proposed that Scott should transcribe and father Hogg’s “Life of Hogg”!1 Lockhart’s comment on that request is, “To say nothing about modesty, Hogg’s notions of literary honesty were always exceedingly loose; but, at the same time, we must take into account his peculiar notions, or rather no notions, as to the proper limits of a joke.”

The malignant Lockhart could have given another and stranger example of Hogg’s ideas about literary honesty and the limits of a joke, namely, those set forth in Hogg’s letter of October 4, 1832. But Lockhart held his peace about that egregious and almost incredible proposal: so far did he carry his “virulence.”

For the rest, as Mr. Saintsbury has shown, the

1Life of Scott,” ii. 171, 172.

anecdotes about
Hogg, in the “Life of Scott,” exhibit the self-same Shepherd as the Shepherd of those memoirs which “I like to write about myself.”1

Unluckily Scott was not long dead when Hogg put forth his “Domestic Manners of Sir Walter Scott,” in which the vain, random, egotistic gossip was accompanied by depreciatory notes from some editorial hand. “The pamphlet,” says Mr. Saintsbury, “contains among other things, besides the grossest impertinences about Lady Scott’s origin, at least one insinuation that Scott wrote Lockhart’s books.” The Shepherd meant no harm, I believe. If, as Lockhart says, “he did not follow his best benefactor until he had insulted his dust,” there was no conscious malice in his blundering comments. The book contains some golden sentences on Sir Walter. But the man who could make the proposal about a “Life of Scott,” by Lockhart, but signed by Hogg, did not and could not see things as the rest of mankind see them. As Lockhart says, Hogg was “a true son of nature and genius, with a naturally kind and simple character.” But the children of nature are capable of very amazing and very irritating behaviour.2

From Lockhart’s correspondents on the subject of Scott’s “Life,” not many letters are preserved. The most important papers are those of Mr. Skene

1 “Altrive Tales,” p. 1.

2 Mr. Saintsbury’s criticism of Hogg, in relation to Scott and Lockhart, will be found in his “Essays in English Literature,” pp. 37-44.

of Rubislaw, whose “Reminiscences” would make a small volume of considerable interest. Mrs. Scott of Harden (Lady Polwarth) mentions two anecdotes of Sir Walter’s early childhood: “You don’t know how ignorant these boys are,” he said, when asked why he did not play with some other boys, instead of reading. Again, as he sprawled on the carpet, perusing, of all books, “Tristram Shandy,” some one inquired, “Do you understand that book, Walter?” “No,” answered the young critic, “and I do not think that the author meant it to be understood.”

The following letter, from Mrs. Lockhart to Mr. Cadell the publisher, describes Lockhart at work:—

“24 Sussex Place, March 4, 1836.

Dear Mr. Cadell,—Knowing how anxious you are for the ‘Life,’ I cannot help writing you a few lines to tell you it is fairly begun, and Lockhart working as hard at it as ever you could wish. He has been arranging it so long in his mind that, now fairly commenced, he will not be long about it; and he has read to me, and continues to do so, what he writes, and I am much mistaken if anything in our time will come up to it in interest, style, or as a picture of manners just passing away. I cannot speak enough of the interest he has contrived to give to the genealogy, the least promising part, and you may believe the rest is not behind hand.
. . . When once set to a thing, he neither sleeps nor takes the necessary exercise. . . .”

Among Lockhart’s correspondents, Mr. Cadell, Scott’s publisher, was the most active. He pursued all the old gentlemen who might remember Sir Walter’s youth, such as Mr. Irving, a Mr. Ramsay, and an English acquaintance, one Jones; “nobody knows what became of him.” This, probably, is the friend who predicted Scott’s literary greatness as early as 1789.1 Mr. Clerk, “Will Clerk,” was lazy in producing his recollections, and needed to be urged on by the Chief Commissioner, Mr. Adam of Blair Adam. Mr. Clerk found a few old letters; and the energetic Cadell says: “You may suppose that I implored, and prayed, and begged of Clerk to howk (dig) and search, and rummage for more, but I see nothing does him so much good as a note from Mrs. Lockhart. . . . Mr. Clerk cannot find the love-letters he thought he had, and thinks he must have burned them.” Sir Walter in these days (1793) “used unceasingly to quote and repeat Smollett.” On January 8, 1836, Mr. Cadell exclaims, à propos of Lockhart’s industry in composing the “Life”: “At no time did I ever hear you speak of yourself, certainly never in your own praise. I wonder if you ever think of yourself, and the filthy siller that you can make. I wonder, too, if it were possible to bribe you! If bribery in hand would be eschewed, the

1Life,” i. 215.

prospect of a lump of money at the completion of the job might be held out. . . . I am sure if you were selfish and money-loving all this must cross you.”

This is indeed “testimony to character.”

On November 24, 1836, Mr. Cadell sent to Lockhart the little sketch of his own life by John Ballantyne. “What a partner for the great minstrel!” he exclaims. In a letter of September 8, 1837, Mr. Cadell makes the important remark that Constable’s firm and the Ballantynes’ should have stopped on December 18, 1825, not on January 17, 1826. All the money raised by the firms between these dates was thrown away. “I told Sir Walter on the 18th December that the kettle would not clout” and Mr. Cadell blames Constable, then his partner, for continuing to struggle, or talk of struggling, for he did not at once go to London. This long letter is, unluckily, imperfect; but Scott’s Journal for December 18, 1825, shows that he regarded Mr. Cadell as the bearer of good tidings. These financial affairs are excessively perplexing; we shall be obliged to touch on them in the matter of the Ballantyne controversy; and it will, at least, be plain that if Lockhart made errors, he worked on the best accessible authorities, and under the supervision of the person most likely to understand these problems, namely, Mr. Cadell. That gentleman, on September 23, 1837, sent to Lockhart a letter from Sir Walter to Lord Kinneder, found by Constable in the box containing the Waverley MSS. “It completely bears out your
view of the ‘
Beacon’ affair.”1 Mr. Cadell’s letters were, throughout the composition of the “Life,” most appreciative and encouraging.

There is extant, fortunately, a letter of Lockhart’s to Will Laidlaw, written in January 1837, and describing his own attitude towards his work on the “Life.” He says that he is, “I think, wiser, at least more sober, neither richer nor more likely to be rich than I was in the days of Chiefswood and Kaeside—after all our best days, I at least believe. As to politics, I am a very tranquil and indifferent observer. Perhaps, however, much of this equanimity as to passing affairs has arisen from the call which has been made on me to live with the past, bestowing for so many months all the time I could command, and all the care I have had any real heart in, upon the MS. remains of our dear friend. I am glad that Cadell and the few others who have seen what I have done with these are pleased, but I assure you none of them can think more lightly of my own part in the matter than I do myself. My sole object is to do him justice, or rather to let him do himself justice, by so contriving it that he shall be, as far as possible from first to last, his own historiographer, and I have therefore willingly expended the time that would have sufficed for writing a dozen books on what will be no more than the compilation of one.

“A stern sense of duty—that kind of sense of it

1Life,” vi. 426.

which is combined with the feeling of his actual presence in a serene state of elevation above all petty terrestrial and temporary views—will induce me to touch the few darker points in his life and character as freely as the others which were so predominant; and my chief anxiety on the appearance of the book will be, not to hear what is said by the world, but what is thought by you and the few others who can really compare the representation as a whole with the facts of the case.”

Lockhart then asks Laidlaw to read, and advise with him on the proof-sheets, ending—

“Out of these confused and painful scraps” (the very last letters) “I think I can contrive to put together a picture that will be highly touching, of a great mind shattered, but never degraded, and always to the very last noble, as his heart continued pure and warm as long as it could beat.”1

This letter is, in itself, a sufficient reply to some of the censures urged, at the time of publication, against Lockhart’s work.

The first six volumes of the “Life of Scott” were published early in 1836. “The criticisms,” as Lockhart observed when the work was concluded, “were, of course, contradictory.” The book was too cheap; it was too dear; it was too

1 I owe the copy to Mr. David Douglas, who inscribes it thus, “From Maidment’s collection, in the possession of Mr. Kermack.” The letter is in answer to one of Mr. Laidlaw’s from the North, with a present of ptarmigan. It has been printed in Dr. Carruthers’Abbotsford Notanda.”

long; it was too short; it told too much; it did not tell enough;
Sir Walter was too much glorified; Sir Walter was traduced. Every author knows the discordant verdicts of contemporary criticism. On the whole, there was more agreement in the opinion that the book was too long, than in any other judgment. In his later abridged edition Lockhart declares that he would rather make it longer than shorter; the interest of Scott’s life lying in the details. He contemplated the publication of selected letters, and Mr. Cadell urged him to write a book of “Reminiscences,” while he himself thought of a collection of Sir Walter’s oral legends and anecdotes. None of these plans was carried into effect, to our great loss.

Of all the contemporary reviewals,1 but one holds its ground, that of volumes i.-vi., contributed to the London and Westminster Review, by Mr. Carlyle, in 1837. Mr. Carlyle was then a distant acquaintance of Lockhart’s; they afterwards became friends, Mr. Carlyle finding in Lockhart “a thinking man.” It was unfortunate that the reviewer had not the last melancholy and heroic volume before him, and it has often been conjectured that he resented Scott’s unlucky oversight of his letter about Goethe. Mr. Carlyle, indeed, did not write in his most genial mood. He objected to the quantity of the work,

1 There were minute, and to my mind prejudiced and unfair censures in Tait’s Magazine. I have read, but do not mean to notice them.

as if it were what Lockhart styled it, a mere “compilation,” a collection of materials. Mr. Carlyle did not foresee his own immense
Life of Frederick, called the Great. Indeed, Mr. Carlyle’s remarks on voluminousness were always like those of Baby Charles denouncing dissimulation, and Steenie lecturing on incontinence. However, he said that “sagacity, decision, candour, diligence, good manners, good sense, these qualities are throughout observable,” and “the compilation is the work of a manful, clear-seeing, conclusive man. Lockhart’s free-speaking has laid him open to censure, a censure better than a good many praises.” He has not left Scott “in the white beatified-ghost condition.” As to the Ballantynes, of whom, alas, there is more to be said, Mr. Carlyle detected “nowhere the smallest trace of ill-will or unjust feeling.” “Standing full in the face of the public, Mr. Lockhart has set at naught, and been among the first to do it, a public piece of cant; one of the commonest we have, and closely allied to many of the fellest sort, as smooth as it looks.” Mr. Carlyle then demolishes the absurd theory, attributed to Rogers, “that Mr. Lockhart at heart has a dislike to Scott, and has done his best in an underhand treacherous manner to dishero him.” On the other hand, if Lockhart has a defect, “it is that Scott is altogether lovely to him; . . . that his very faults become beautiful, his vulgar worldlinesses are solid prudences, proprieties, and of his worth there is no measure.”


Here Mr. Carlyle was undeniably in error. Lockhart records Sir Walter’s own remark that he had “a thread of the attorney in him,” in money matters. Lockhart’s sentiments about Scott’s commercial dealings, about his too close association with, to be frank, flatterers, and creatures, if devoted creatures, like the Ballantynes—are plainly expressed, and not merely to be read between the lines. Lockhart does not disguise (though he understands it so well that he forgives it) Sir Walter’s respect for rank, a feeling so often misunderstood. Nor does he conceal Scott’s financial recklessness. I am unaware of any other motes in the brilliance of Sir Walter’s moral character. Lockhart tells (though Mr. Cadell and other friends “winced”) the tale of Scott’s severity to his unhappy brother Daniel—and of his repentance. He shows how fraternal feeling caused Scott to behave as he did behave to Lord Holland at a Friday Club dinner; and he reports their reconciliation.1 Again the friends winced, but the truth prevailed.

Not of all men is it well, perhaps, that biography should be written thus. Not thus unsparingly did Lockhart think it becoming to write about Robert Burns. But it is a thing to rejoice in, that the full story of one great man’s life can be told as Lockhart has told the story of Scott’s life. We know the worst of Sir Walter; we have the full portrait of a man; the defects are blazoned by the intense

1Life,” iii. 198, ix. 225, iii. 239, x. 189.

light of genius and goodness, and, thus displayed, how slight they are, how high is that noble nature above ours, if indeed it attains not to the rare perfection of the saints! Scott, assuredly, was not a saint, but a man living in the world, and, it is granted by his biographer, living too much for the world. But he lived for other men as few but the saints have lived, and his kindness, helpfulness, courage, temper, and moral excellence, his absolute, immaculate freedom from the literary sins of envy, jealousy, vanity, shine in Lockhart’s pages as an eternal, if unapproachable, example. Only a good man could have so clearly observed, so affectionately adored, and so excellently recorded these virtues; and, though Lockhart’s assuredly was a very faulty, as well as a very complex and occasionally perverse character, that would be a judgment harsher than men should judge with, which finally denied to him the character of a good man. Our temptations strike us on the unguarded side, as the poor stag in the fable was smitten by an arrow from the sea. Against the very different faults of Lockhart and of Scott, pride might have seemed a shield, but its protection was unavailing.

Of the literary merits of the “Life of Scott” it is not possible for one whose breviary, as it were, the book has been from boyhood, to speak with impartiality. To a Scot, and a Scot of the Border, the book has the charm of home, and is dear to us as his own grey hills were dear to Sir Walter. Necessarily,
inevitably, the stranger cannot, or seldom can, share this sentiment.
Mr. Saintsbury, now in some degree a Scot by adoption, has, indeed, placed the book beside or above Boswell’s. That is a length to which I cannot go; for Boswell’s hero appears to myself to be of a character more universally human, a wiser man, a greater humourist, his biography a more valuable possession, than Sir Walter and Sir Walter’s “Life.” But it were childish to dispute about the relative merits of two chefs-d’œuvre. Each work is perfect in its kind, and in relation to its subject. The self-repression of Lockhart, accompanied by his total lack of self-consciousness (so astonishing in so shy a man), when his own person has to figure on the scene, is as valuable as the very opposite quality in Boswell.

Later writers, Thackeray, Macaulay, Mr. Ruskin, Mr. Carlyle, Mr. Louis Stevenson, Mr. Pater, have given examples of styles more personal, infinitely more conspicuous, than Lockhart’s; to many, doubtless to most readers, more taking. Lockhart has no mannerisms, no affectations, no privy jargon, no confidences with the reader; but it may almost be said that he has no faults. His English is like the English of Swift, all the light is concentrated on the object. Without disparagement of the great or pleasing authors already named; with every acknowledgment of the charming or the astonishing qualities of their various manners, we must also claim a place,
and a high place, for the style of Lockhart. He wrote English.

Concerning what may be reckoned the chief fault of Lockhart’sLife of Scott,” more must be said in a later chapter. In whatever degree the Ballantynes were accessory to the financial ruin of Scott, Sir Walter, in choosing such instruments, was himself foremost in the fault, and this (as I understand Lockhart’s account of the matter in the “Life”) was Lockhart’s own opinion. That all the anecdotes of the Ballantynes were strictly necessary to illustrate their characters, and the relations between Scott and them, I am far from being convinced; and Constable, too, might have been much more gently handled. Strange pictures of human life, entertaining passages admired by Mr. Carlyle, would, indeed, have been lost if Lockhart had been of this opinion; a portrait much less vivid of Sir Walter would have been presented. The balance must be adjusted by the sense of each reader of the book.

One other point in the “Life” may be regretted. Lockhart published certain passages of Sir Walter’s Journal which reflected on the manners of some Americans with whom he was acquainted. He had suffered a good deal from American tourists, and from volunteer correspondents, like the young lady who cost him ten pounds for postage on two copies of “The Cherokee Lovers,” in manuscript. English tourists and epistolary bores were, of course, no less frequent trials. But Cooper the novelist did his best
to secure some remuneration for Scott’s novels as circulated in the States. Unluckily, Scott dropped a remark on Cooper’s manner as contrasted with his genius, and this seems to have escaped the attention of Lockhart,
Morritt, and Milman, who read the whole Journal in print. Cooper was, not unnaturally, angry, and wrote a review in which, as Mr. Charles Sumner observed, he scathed “the vulgar minds of Scott and Lockhart.”1 Sir Walter had American friends and guests whose letters attest the cordiality of their relations. This “rapacious” man (as Macaulay terms him) was much more anxious that the Americans should have cheap “Waverley” novels, than that he should be paid for them by the Americans. They are the most pious and frequent of pilgrims to his shrines, so let us hope that the tomahawk is buried. But Professor Lounsbury in his “Life of Cooper” (1895), is still palpitating with a cruel sense of wrong!

1 In the Knickerbocker Magazine.