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[John Scott]
The Mohocks.
London Magazine  Vol. 3  No. 13  (January 1821)  76-77.
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No XIII. JANUARY, 1821. Vol. III.


We learn that Professor Leslie, of the University of Edinburgh, has brought an action for damages against the publisher of Blackwood’s Magazine; and we apprehend it is now most likely that this respectable publication will be compelled to show its modest face in open court,—an exposure which it has hitherto avoided by heavy secret payments to the parties it has injured.—The cause of the action, and some of the circumstances attending it, are indeed highly characteristic. The article of which the Professor complains, is one signed “Olinthus Petre, D.D.;” and it is dated from “Trinity College, Dublin.” It forms the only reply Blackwood’s Magazine has offered to the notice of it taken in our November number; and to the charge, publicly stated against it, in an Edinburgh Journal, of having attached James Hogg’s name to papers he never wrote, and which were calculated to do the poet serious injury. One might have expected that the Magazine itself would have spoken out on this occasion: it seems to have concerned it so to do: setting the motives and the ability of the attack out of the question, there were facts affirmed, which, if true, are sufficient to brand any periodical work to which they may apply, with indelible infamy.—A letter from a correspondent on such a subject does not seem sufficient: but, at the same time, it must be confessed, that certain advantages attended this mode of reply of which the Editor might be happy to avail himself. A real signature, with a real place of abode,—and that one of the seats of learning,—and, in addition, a title vouching at once for the learning and religion of the party,—must naturally be supposed to confer responsibility on the defence. The Magazine, itself, the reader might be expected to say, does not choose to appear as an advocate in its own cause; but here is a man of condition and piety, a Doctor of Divinity, a resident in a college, the college of a metropolis, who steps forward in an honourable way to say—“I have done part of what you blame in Blackwood’s Magazine: I am prepared to avow it, for I have done it under a sense of duty; and as no scandalous motive can attach to me, let the general justice of your charge against the Magazine in which I have written, be judged of from this specimen!”

There would be much weight in this: a Doctor of Divinity residing in Trinity College, Dublin, is likely to feel more for his own respectability than for the interests of an Edinburgh Magazine: on questions of literary merit as to the writers, either in it, or any contemporaneous periodical work, he may be supposed pretty impartial; and if he deliberately puts his name and address to a severe accusation against an individual, holding a public office of eminence and trust in one of the most famous of the British seats of learning, the first presumption is inevitably against the person accused—for who, in the situation of a Doctor of Divinity, would come openly forward to make such an attack, unless the case was one of notorious crime?

Doctor Olinthus Petre, therefore, of Trinity College, Dublin, would be
Town Conversation.77
able to do much more for
Blackwood’s Magazine, with the public, than its Editor could do for it: and so the Editor thought:—and so he made the Doctor—manufactured him for the purpose! The D.D. has no existence but in Blackwood’s Magazine: Trinity College, Dublin, never heard of him! This letter is another over act of that conspiracy against character and truth, carried on by means of fraud, which we have made it our business to expose, which is now exposed, and which we trust will soon be crushed. We say nothing of the nature of the motives by which we are actuated: if the facts as we have stated them, the prima facie evidence is in favour of these motives, for we have made out a strong and crying case of guilt, dangerous to the public, disgraceful to literature, and provocative of the indignation of honourable minds. If the writers in Blackwood’s Magazine possess talents for satire and ridicule, let them exert these—but let them be fairly exerted. What we complain of is, that, by a series of tricks and impositions, unknown to criticism and literary discussion before their career, they have outraged private character, prostituted principle, insulted decency, perverted truth, and exhibited a spectacle of venal and spiteful buffoonery under the name of literature, to the corruption of taste, and the gratification of the worst feelings. One of their chief means, in this unworthy vocation, has been to fabricate and forge apparently real signatures. They have done this to give effect to some of their most malicious stabs at reputation; knowing well that the public attention would be thus eminently excited to their charges, and that more credit would be given to them, so recommended, than if they were offered in the common language of periodical works. This deception is of itself sufficient to establish the calumnious, venal, and malicious motive: it converts that, which might otherwise have been deemed criticism, into a private wrong; it gives the injured parties a claim on redress,—and throws distrust altogether upon professions and doctrines offered in the tone of discussion.

The extraordinary usage of James Hogg’s name in Blackwood’s Magazine, we fully described in our last: it seems to combine more treachery towards the public, and the abused individual, than any case of fraud we can recollect. The fabrication of Doctor Olinthus Petre is about as base. As it concerns Professor Leslie, it seems to prove the malevolent motive of the attack upon him. As a mode of replying to us it is beneath contempt: its formulation in falsehood renders it as nugatory as unmanly. The creature who would adopt such an expedient, would not scruple to speak against his own conviction in characterizing our writers; and we have absolute proof that he does so,—for one of those to whom he contemptuously alludes, by a signature in our Magazine,—and the very articles written by this gentleman for us, have been specified by Blackwood’s people as the best in our work! We mention this only to show the utter poltroonery of these men’s minds. They are without even the shadow of an excuse to their own consciousness. They have not a partition of any sort between them and infamy: it must come home hard upon them, even in the secrecy of their own hearts. We have been told that Mr. John Gibson Lockhart, having been originally included in the action now pending, has given it under his hand, that he is not the Editor of the Magazine. The people of Edinburgh are not surprised at this denial: it is well known there that Doctor Morris, under the assumed name of Christopher North, is the Editor of the work, and the author of its most malignant articles! Would the Doctor have the baseness to make a similar denial? We believe he would; for all the professions of a merry, careless temper, by which it has been attempted to characterize the publication he conducts, have evidently been intended to cover an organized plan of fraud, calumny, and cupidity. The cowardice which denies a perpetrated wrong, is the natural associate of such qualities. Doctor Morris would deny just as firmly as Mr. Lockhart.