LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 13: 1826

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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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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LONDON, 1826
Sorrows of 1826.—Failure of Murray’s newspaper.—Scott’s ruin.—Illness of Hugh Littlejohn.—Illness of Mrs. Lockhart.—Illness of Lady Scott.—Constable in London.—“Dear me, Archy!”—“A mad proposal.”—Cadell preferred to Constable.—Constable abandons hope.—Mr. Thomas Constable’s criticism.—Its futility.—Lockhart on Scott’s trading enterprises.—Sir Walter on James Ballantyne.—Defence of Lockhart against Constable’s biographer.—Ruin always inevitable.—Scott’s resolve.—“Firm as Eildon Hill.”—Letters to Lockhart.—Malagrowther.—Political predictions.—Illness and death of Lady Scott.—Letters from Sir Walter.—Reviews for the Quarterly.—Disappointments.—Scott in London.—A year of misery.—Lockhart on novels.

To Lockhart’s ultimate frame of mind—content with his daily task, and patience under the implacable assaults of fortune—the events of the year on which we now enter, namely, 1826, probably contributed their full share. At this period, and indeed generally, while Sir Walter lived, Lockhart’s career cannot well be contemplated or chronicled apart from that of his father-in-law. For this reason, and because Lockhart’s own letters at this date are so scarce, I must ask permission to insert in this chapter some unpublished letters of Scott’s. These often indicate, better than any other accessible materials, what was passing under Lockhart’s
roof. That he was editing the
Quarterly, of course we know, and need not perpetually refer to his business in detail. In a later chapter ample evidence will be given as to Lockhart’s genial and humorous correspondence with a contributor after his own heart. At present we are to consider his private anxieties and regrets.

The year 1826 was laden with misfortunes for Lockhart and those dearest to him. First, and to him least important, came the total failure from its very beginning of the “organ” whence he had expected to draw a great part of his income. Then arrived, about January 17, the news of Sir Walter’s financial ruin, and shortly after came the opinion of the physicians, that poor Master Hugh Littlejohn really had a disease of the spine, and must be removed to Brighton. Anxiety was increased by the condition of Mrs. Lockhart, who, somewhat prematurely, gave birth in spring to a son, christened Walter. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the health of Lady Scott was undermined, and the worst was feared. Even the Shakespeare on which Lockhart had laboured, went down and practically vanished in the wreck of Constable’s house. Thus ill tidings pressed hard upon ill tidings, and a new career, in a new society, could not have been more inauspiciously begun. The bad omens, moreover, were fulfilled, for few years henceforth ran their course without bringing to Lockhart a stab or a blow from destiny.


About Mr. Murray’s newspaper, christened by Mr. Disraeli the Representative, the story has been told in the “Memoir of John Murray,” and needs but brief summary. As soon as things came to the point, these ardent capitalists, Mr. Benjamin Disraeli and Mr. Powles, were no longer seen or heard of in this enterprise. Mr. Murray had already spent much money, and made many arrangements, but he had no editor! Practically, he never had an editor. Mr. S. C. Hall has left a few anecdotes of the forlorn, bewildered journal, staggering about “in worlds not realised,” now perhaps decorated with an “academic” political essay by Lockhart, now discredited by what Scott called some “genteel-blackguard, touch and go” effusion of Maginn’s. That Irish wit, after writing much in Blackwood, under the names of “O’Doherty,” and “Olinthus Petre,” and so forth, joined the Representative as Paris correspondent, and afterwards was attached to the editorial staff (if the words “staff” and “editorial” are appropriate) in London. “Had there been no other morning paper, the Representative might have succeeded,” says Dr. Smiles; but really, even if no rival had existed, its chances appear to have been very dubious. On February 7, 1826, Lockhart wrote to condole with Mr. Murray on the melancholy estate of the “organ”: “That I should have been in any measure accessory to bringing you into the present situation weighs, I assure you, more heavily
on my spirits than even the mass of domestic melancholy by which I am surrounded. . . . I hope you have never for a moment supposed it possible that I should add to your embarrassments by being willing to touch unearned gold. The
Quarterly Review, I think, promises well. Let us hope for better days. . . .”1

We need not follow the Representative to its grave. The child of Mr. Disraeli’s boyish fancy, it was never duly organised, never edited by a practical man: the Tories, in these times, seem to have been incapable of finding or buying an editor. The “organ” expired on July 29, 1826, entailing, if not “dishonour,” certainly “infinite loss.” Mr. Murray “returned,” as he said, “to reason and the shop.”

In Edinburgh the cloud which had begun to gather in mid-November was, in January, already darkening all the sky. Constable left Edinburgh for London on January 13. It is no longer of importance to ask whether he should have started a fortnight earlier, whether he was delayed by his health, whether he could have availed to stave off ruin if he had come to town with the New Year, and so on. Constable’s purpose, of course, was to raise money, by selling copyrights or otherwise, so as to meet the demands on his allies, Hurst and Robinson. Lockhart was made “privy to all” by Constable. These few words, and a similar passage written by Constable “under harassed feelings,”

1Memoir of John Murray,” ii. 212.

on January 18, 1826, represent from his side the strange scenes and proposals described by Lockhart.1 “It was then,” says Lockhart, “that I, for the first time, saw full swing given to the tyrannical temper of ‘the Czar.’ . . . I will not repeat his haughty ravings of scorn and wrath. I listened to them with wonder and commiseration. . . .”2 In
Mr. Constable’s Memoir, by his son Thomas, we are informed that “though passionate and irritable, if any one who understood his nature had patted him gently on the shoulder, and said, ‘Dear me, Archy, what is all this about?’ you would see the usual kind and benignant smile return in an instant.”3 Perhaps, indeed certainly, Lockhart did not sufficiently understand Constable’s nature, for he abstained from patting him gently on the shoulder, and saying, “Dear me, Archy!”

Concerning the excited manner of the publisher, on occasion, at this distressing moment in his fortunes, unpublished letters of Sir Walter to Lockhart entirely corroborate Lockhart’s own statements. As Lockhart says, and as Constable’s letter of January 18, 1826, agrees, the publisher wished Scott “to join, as additional cover, to the amount of £20,000.”4 Lockhart had already left Con-

1Archibald Constable,” iii. 418. “Life of Scott,” viii. 174-178.

2 Constable, January 17, describes himself as “nearly unfitted for business.”

3Archibald Constable,” iii. 464.

4 Ibid., iii. 418. The date of the letter, by an error of the press, is given as January 18, 1825.

stable once “in stern indignation” after declining to take a wild financial step in a matter where he had no right and no power to interfere. There was “another scene,” when Constable wished Lockhart “to back his application to Sir Walter to borrow £20,000 in Edinburgh, and transmit it to him in London. I promised nothing but to acquaint Scott immediately with his request, and him with Scott’s answer. Sir Walter had, ere the message reached him, been made aware that his advances had already been continued in the absence of all ground for rational hope.”

Lockhart’s opinion as to this “mad proposal” of Constable’s is unconcealed. When Constable and his partner, Cadell, separated, Sir Walter held by Cadell, because he had lost confidence in Constable. “And he had lost confidence,” says Lockhart, “especially because of the invitations to borrow large sums of money for his support after all chance of recovery was over.” By acting as Constable desired, in a mood and moment of great excitement, Sir Walter would have thrown good money—æs alienum too—after bad.

This was Lockhart’s opinion, and this, to myself, seems plain on Constable’s own account, written on January 19, 1826. “Hurst, Robinson & Co. have not succeeded” (in raising money) “to the extent necessary, and therefore the plan is at an end; they could have got to one half of the amount, which would not be at all what would have done the
deed.”1 Now we know the amount for which Hurst and Robinson failed, dragging down Constable with them. And we know that if Scott had borrowed £20,000, as he was asked to do by Constable, the sum would not “have done the deed” and saved the two firms. The biographer of Mr. Constable, however, writes: “Had Sir Walter Scott agreed to the guarantee suggested by my father, his” (Scott’s) “creditors would not indeed have received more than the twenty shillings in the pound which he honourably paid them; but those of Constable & Co. might have had good cause to differ from Mr. Lockhart as to the insanity or soundness of the suggestion.”2 How this could have happened, if the £20,000 demanded by Constable from Sir Walter was totally insufficient “to do the deed,” I am unable to conceive.

Constable’s proposal, that Sir Walter should raise £20,000, being written in London on January 17, could not reach Mr. Cadell in Edinburgh till the evening of January 19. By that time Mr. Constable had abandoned hope of raising the money, and was leaving town. He reached his home on January 22, and had thrown up the game before Sir Walter could have accepted the “mad proposal,” had he wished to do so. Obviously nothing that Scott might have done, could have saved Constable, and Constable recognised the fact.

This proposal of Constable’s may, among other

1Archibald Constable,” iii. 421. 2 Ibid., iii. 430.

causes, have induced
Lockhart, in his “Life of Scott,” to adopt a tone towards the publisher which cannot always be defended, which must be regretted. But that is a matter apart from the soundness of Constable’s suggestion about Scott’s raising more money, and from the wisdom of the hypothesis, that had Scott agreed to the plan the firm might have been saved! These two ideas appear to be absolutely untenable.1

Throughout this dark month of January, Lockhart was in frequent communication with Scott, apprising him, for example, of Constable’s designs and demands. “I was so very unwise,” Lockhart writes, “as to express surprise at the nature of Sir Walter’s commercial engagements.” He prints Sir Walter’s answer, so gentle in terms, yet so far from being really satisfactory as an explanation. It came to this, “with my little capital I was too glad to make commercially the means of supporting my family.” In this letter occur the sentences, “I have been

1 Mr. Thomas Constable occasionally complains that Lockhart does not quote Scott’s Journal in full. Here is an example against which he takes no exception:—

Edinburgh, January 16.—Came through cold roads to as cold news. Hurst & Robinson have suffered a bill to come back upon Constable, which, I suppose, infers the ruin of both houses. We shall soon see.” So Lockhart, in “Life,” viii. 197. He does not quote the passage in full. It runs on: “Constable, it seems, who was to have set off in the last week of December, dawdled here till, in all human probability, his going or staying became a matter of mighty little consequence. He could not be there till Monday night, and his resources must have come too late.” These remarks of Scott are omitted by Lockhart: to be sure, Scott repeats the ideas elsewhere.

far from suffering by
James Ballantyne; I owe it to him to say that his difficulties, as well as his advantages, are owing to me. I trusted too much to Constable’s assurances of his own and his correspondents’ stability, but yet I believe he was only sanguine. The upshot is just what Hurst & Co., and Constable, may be able to pay me: if fifteen shillings in the pound, I shall not complain of my loss, for I have gained many thousands in my day.”1

These manly words of Sir Walter’s are quoted here, because they ought, I think, to have been the keynote of Lockhart’s comments, in the “Life,” on Constable and the Ballantynes. Lockhart did not, it must be confessed, maintain the tone. Yet we must remember how Scott himself said about Constable, to his own friend Skene of Rubislaw, “He paid well and promptly, but, devil take him, it was all spectral together. Moonshine and no merriment. He sowed my field with one hand, and as liberally scattered the tares with the other.”2 It is also not to be forgotten that when Scott wrote the letter just cited (Jan. 20, 1826) he still hoped that Hurst & Robinson would pay fifteen shillings in the pound. They and Constable really paid about ten per cent.3 Lockhart himself, as he toiled at

1Life,” viii. 232.

2 Mr. Skene’s “Reminiscences.” Scott’s Journal, i. 95.

3 Scott’s Journal, i. 99. Notes. As to the sanguine temperament of Constable, see the accounts of his relations with Mr. Murray’s house, in 1806-1808, given in Murray’s “ Memoir,” i. 80-84, and in “Archibald

his great biography, was prolonging the task which killed Sir Walter: he was writing not to reap the fruits of his labour, but to pay off the debt of Scott and the Ballantyne firm. He was not without excuse for acrimony, and one point must here be defended. At the close of his Memoir of his father,
Mr. Thomas Constable prints a letter from Sir James Gibson Craig. In this letter (November 25, 1848) Sir James says that, in 1813, Sir Walter, by Constable’s advice, applied to the Duke of Buccleuch for a loan of £4000. At the same time, and “on the faith” of this loan, Sir James says that Constable gave Sir Walter bills “to a very considerable amount,” a beginning of bills from Constable to Sir Walter, and from Sir Walter, by way of countersecurity, to Constable. Later, Constable, says Sir James, grew uneasy, and was obliged to meet his engagements for Sir Walter by discounting his bills. And all this “could not fail to produce, and did produce, the ruin of both parties.”1

Constable,” i. 380-382. In April 1807 “Constable began to draw heavily on Murray, and the promissory notes went on accumulating until they constituted a mighty mass of paper money. . . . But repeated expostulation was of no use against the impetuous needs of Constable and Co.” “The bill transactions with Constable had become enormous: they amounted to no less than £10,000. . . . Murray found it necessary peremptorily to put an end to it.”—“Memoirs of John Murray,” i. 81-83. Mr. Thomas Constable’s version of these affairs, loc. cit. i. 382, is not quite so explicit (he may not have known the facts), and is only to be understood in the light of Murray’s “Memoir.” All this was long before the year 1813, when, it is stated, the transactions of Constable and Scott first became so sadly entangled.

1Archibald Constable,” iii. 457.


As a matter of fact, in 1813 Constable did suggest that Scott should ask aid from a friend, and Scott himself selected the Duke of Buccleuch.1 And Lockhart remarks that any success which fell to Scott’s measures was due to Constable, “who did a great deal more than prudence would have warranted.”2 There is, in fact, on essential matters, no difference between Lockhart’s account, here, and Sir James Gibson Craig’s. By a common logical artifice, or unconscious fallacy, an impression is given that Sir James Gibson Craig corrects, whereas he really corroborates, Lockhart’s statement as to the origin of the dealing in bills and counter-bills. It is when Lockhart describes Constable’s reckless use of Scott’s bills (viii. 95-101) that, I suppose, his opinion is attacked. What I know about the matter will be stated later. But I have shown that, as early as 1807-8 (long before the affair of Scott’s distress and Constable’s aid in 1813), Constable was already dealing with bills, and paper money of the brain, in a manner which Murray found intolerable, and declined to endure. When we remember, in addition to the sanguine temperaments of Constable and of Sir Walter, Scott’s own pathetic remark to Ballantyne, “I can’t follow details which would be quite obvious to a man of business,”3 ruin seems to have been bound to arrive by pre-established harmony.

The letters of Sir Walter to Lockhart at this

1Life,” iv. 99-102. 2 Ibid., iv. 120. 3 Ibid., iv. 102.

time, when so many anxieties pressed hard on both of them, mainly repeat reflections already published in the “Life,” or in the complete edition of Scott’s
Journal. A little extract may be made from a letter of January 26, 1826. Scott mentions his design of taking lodgings, or rooms in a Club. “What a relief it would have been to have had one of your attics, and to have seen affectionate faces at your daily meal, which must now be solitary enough. . . . As for myself, I look with perfect firmness and calmness on the life before me, and though I have no delight in the circumstances which have led me to adopt it, yet in respect of the life itself I like it well.

“I shall have Abbotsford to walk about in, Tom to lead me, and a pony to carry me. We will keep Pete” (the coachman) “and the old horses, if by any sacrifice it is possible; and study must be at once my amusement and my business, as indeed it has always been. For I never knew the day that I would have given up literature for ten times my late income.

“I am afraid you will suffer about the Shakespeare; but surely you will have retention on the book so far as it has gone, for recompense of your labour.

“I am, with kindest compliments to Sophia and good and kind wishes to poor Johnnie, very truly and affectionately yours,

Walter Scott.

“Do not let Johnnie forget poor old Ha papa.
Talking of the
Review, can you help me to the place where is found the curious passage about the pickling the quarters of criminals, tempore Caroli secundi, and the blow-out which the hangman gave on the occasion? It was the Retrospective Review, perhaps.

“I am sorry to send away an unsatisfactory letter; but I think you would be glad to know that I feel as firm as the Eildon hill, though a little cloudy about the head now and then, like him. My mind tells me I will get above these things in two or three years.”

The Shakespeare, on which Lockhart had expended much labour, is occasionally spoken of, as in the letter just cited, and its fate remains a literary mystery. One would have expected to find copies of the three volumes finished, at Abbotsford. It was much later abandoned by Lockhart, Mr. Cadell distrusting its success.

In January (no date), Scott says, “We relished the Representative very much,” but the “relish” was short-lived. On February 25, Sir Walter refers to Lockhart’s severe indisposition, and he encloses his Malachi Malagrowther pamphlets on the English interference with that palladium of Scottish liberties, the One Pound Note. “I think the sooner Murray gets rid of his paper the better. It is, as I feared it might be from the beginning, heavy; wants the touch-and-go blackguard-genteel which distinguishes the real writer for the press.


“Am I wrong in detecting you in ‘The Omen,’ a very beautifully written but melancholy tale just published here? I had not read two pages when I said to Anne, ‘Look, Erasmus aut Diabolus,’ or something equivalent. She told me it had (been) advertised as by Wilson, but we all thought it much more like you—more elegant and simple than he is when he sets about sentiment. First proved hand I will send you ‘Napoleon,’ and ‘Woodstock,’ so far as they are done.”

The Omen” was a tale by Galt, with whose novels those of Lockhart were apt to be confused. Some remarks on Constable show an increase of asperity.

The next letter deals with Lockhart’s domestic cares: and adds a reminiscence of Sir Walter’s own childhood:—

“3rd March.

My dear Lockhart,—I had Sophia’s letter yesterday, and your kind note to-night. I rejoice to hear of Johnnie’s health and his grand flip towards instruction. I hope Mrs. Mactavish, whom I like not the worse, you may be sure, for her name, will be mild in her rule, and let him listen to reading a good deal without cramming the alphabet and grammar down the poor child’s throat. I cannot at this moment tell how or when I learned to read, but it was by fits and snatches, as one aunt or another in the old rumble-tumble farm-houses could give me a lesson, and I am sure it increased my love and habit
of reading more than the austerities of a school could have done. I gave trouble, I believe, in wishing to be taught, and in self-defence gradually acquired the mystery myself. Johnnie is infirm a little, though not so much so as I was, and often he has brought back to my recollection the days of my own childhood. I hope he will be twice any good that was in me, with less carelessness.”

He now speaks of his patriotic and very disinterested efforts in the “Malagrowther” Letters.

Old Gardiner, when wounded at Prestonpans, almost dying, himself rode up to the infantry when the cavalry were broken, and saying, ‘These poor lads will be destroyed without a leader,’ called out, ‘Fire away, my lads, and fear nothing;’ a wiser man would have galloped off. But my heart will not brook—‘fall back or fall edge’—to leave the cause of my country, as I do sincerely conceive it to be, in a state so precarious, without doing whatever one poor voice can to sound the alarm. If my power had been answerable to my will, I would, like old Hardyknute, have
——‘blown a blast so shrill,
The trees in greenwood shook thereat,
Sae loud rang ilka hill.’
It is pretty well as it is, though—for you never saw braid Scotland in such a humour.”

It was now Sir Walter’s turn to be the recipient
of bad news, as to his beloved little grandson. He writes:—

Abbotsford, 17th March 1826.

My dear Lockhart,—I am almost stunned with the melancholy intelligence I have this morning received. It appears to be God’s pleasure that this year shall be a most melancholy one, but other considerations were trifles compared to the anxiety communicated by your intelligence. Most unhappily, Morritt is, I understand, just leaving Brighton” (whither Hugh Littlejohn had been sent by the physicians). “I own I have had always a deep-rooted anxiety on account of that poor dear infant, and have sometimes thought there was too much mind for the corporeal strength. I can scarce conceive a situation more melancholy than yours—thinking and feeling as you do. Even Sophia is easier, because she is at least constantly present where her anxiety is most anxiously fixed. What can I form for you but vain wishes? or what arguments can I use that will not occur to yourself, and when they have thus occurred, be of very little avail? We would send up Anne with pleasure if her presence could be useful.

“As for the political part of your letter, Scotland will, in twenty years, perhaps much sooner, be revolutionised from head to foot; and then let England look to herself, for she may have some reason to resume her own old proverb, ‘All ill comes from the North.’ The present time
reminds me strongly of 1638-9, when useless and uncalled-for changes unsettled the minds and irritated the temper of the Scotch, who were not long in communicating the infection to England. Then the opinions were religious, now they are political, but the effect may—indeed, I think, will—prove the same.

“Within these twenty years, nay, within these ten years, there have been so many alterations made, that law seems to be treated like religion, according to Hudibras
——‘as if intended
For nothing else but to be mended.’
In the meantime the Burghers have been assembled into popular meeting of Commissioners and so forth, and have most effectually modelled themselves in such a manner as will make it impossible long to refuse them the popular representation they demand. They will probably send up clever men, for the time is so near, and the prospect so tempting, that some of our clever friends in the Parliament House will never quit so pleasing a harvest. Bold, speculative, able men, long-headed, too, beyond the length of the Southron noddle, they will propose and carry through more general measures of alteration, all leaning to the popular side of the question. These will be given way to as concerning Scotland. Fiercer innovators will arise behind in the usual course of such events—England will catch fire in her turn—
and all this from encouraging a spirit of innovation in the most quiet and peaceful country in Europe. . . .

“As for myself, what reason on earth can I have to affront all my friends in power “(by his “Malagrowther” Letters), “but the deep consciousness that there is a duty to be discharged? If they can argue me out of the world, as they say, and into Liddesdale, I have not the least objections.

“I have written more than I intended, but I am not sorry that any of our private friends should know why I do not answer my friend” (Croker) “at the Admiralty. Mr. Canning is mistaken if he supposes I appealed to the populace. On the contrary, I resisted every proposal to put the ‘Letters’ into a shape for general circulation. If ever there should be an occasion to address the people, I fancy I might have a guess how to set about it. But it should not be against the present men, although I am so unfortunate as to disapprove of the present measures.

“My heart sinks at writing all this stuff on a subject so different from that which at present occupies us both. It is what, however, we would likely have talked about, to divert for a moment our thoughts from that which must be uppermost. I am alone at Abbotsford, and have spent one pleasant day here, but that which follows is after the manner of Sezed with a witness. Pray write often.—Yours truly,

W. Scott.”

This letter, in which the political prophecies are only a relief from private sorrow, was written on March 17. In Scott’s Journal for the same day Lockhart, long afterwards, read the lament for “the child almost too good for this world; beautiful in features, . . . having one of the sweetest tempers, as well as the quickest intellect I ever saw; a sense of humour quite extraordinary in a child,” with all that follows. “The poor dear love had so often a slow fever, that when I pressed its little lips to mine, I always foreboded to my own heart what all, I fear, are now aware of.”

Next in the series of calamities comes the fatal illness of Lady Scott; Sir Walter writes at first in good hope.

Abbotsford, Melrose, 22nd March 1826.

My dear Lockhart,—The return of mama and Anne to this place gave us yesterday a pleasant reunion, the more so as Lady Scott was much better than I had ventured to expect. The medicine which she is taking (digitalis or foxglove) seems to agree with her and do her much service, and I trust with care her health may be in a great measure restored. She is so well, and in such a good way, that she and I have a serious plan to send her up to be with Sophia during her illness.”

Far worse intelligence rapidly follows:—

Abbotsford, 27th March 1826.

“I grieve to say, my dear Lockhart, that we have but bad news to send up from this country in answer to your deplorable intelligence of my dear Johnnie’s health. Lady Scott is far from well; the asthmatical complaint has assumed the character of hydropsy, and Dr. Abercrombie, who has been consulted, looks very grave on the subject. They work by some new medicine, but I own I am not very hopeful of the result, at least as to perfect cure.”

The Lockharts were now at Brighton, whence, on April 16, the birth of a little boy was announced. “He is a very little one,” writes Lockhart to his mother, “for he comes three weeks ere his time.” The child was to be that Walter Scott Lockhart Scott, the young laird of Abbotsford, whose inconsiderate youth and early death clouded his father’s latest years. On April 18, after “a day of some anxiety about the baby,” Lockhart writes to his mother: “Sophia, even although she knew our fears in the early part of the day, is quite as well as any one could wish her to be—cool, calm, entirely placid in spirit, and easy in frame.” He writes hopefully, too, about Hugh Littlejohn.

Just before the coming of the new baby, appeared another bantling, the first number of the Quarterly, edited by Lockhart. In his Journal for April 9, Scott
says that he does not like Lockhart’s
article “on Sheridan’s Life. There is no breadth in it, no general views, the whole flung away in smart but party criticism. Now, no man can take more general and liberal views of literature than J. G. L.” However, Scott’s chagrin as to the treatment of his friend Moore is not expressed in his letters to Lockhart. He sends thanks, as regards his own article on Pepys, for “Mr. Murray’s generosity, but frankly the half was more than it” (the article) “is worth, and I make it a condition of future labours that I have no more than an adequate compensation for my time; and the present is extravagant. I will do ‘Cranbourne Chase’ with pleasure.”

On April 22, Scott was obliged to send to Lockhart the worst news of Lady Scott’s condition. For the Quarterly he undertook the long article on theatrical matters (“Life of John Philip Kemble”), which appeared in the June number. Lockhart himself reviewed some translations from Goethe, including those in Shelley’sPosthumous Poems.” All that Lockhart says about Goethe is excellent; as regards Shelley, he touches only on the translations. “He wanted little to be a distinguished original poet but distinctness of conception and regulation of taste.” The Quarterly was too much hampered by the politics of Mr. Matthew Arnold’s “beautiful ineffectual angel.”

As an editor having authority, Lockhart ventured on some “criticisms of style,” which, indeed, Sir
article about Mr. Pepys (written when under the influence of doctor’s drugs) rather clamorously demanded. Scott replies that he “literally never learned to read, far less has studied composition. . . . You will unceremoniously point out whatever you object to, which will be a great favour, and I hope you will not confine it to style alone.”

The health of Lady Scott failed day by day, but better hopes were entertained at Brighton, as appears from this letter of Sir Walter’s:—

“May 1826.

My dear Lockhart,—Your truly acceptable news gave me as much pleasure as circumstances make me at present capable of receiving. I am happy to think Sophia and the baby are doing well; and for dear Johnnie, as I remember myself on my back, and shrouded in a new sheepskin, taken hot from the back of the animal to communicate some genial warmth to the wearer, I have strong hopes that his present confinement may not prevent his enjoying robust health at a future period of life, and his lively temper and disposition to collect information will make the necessary confinement less irksome than one would guess. I who recollect much of a sickly infancy and childhood can judge well of this.

“I have no good news to send you in return—none—and you must take your own time and manner
of communicating to
Sophia that mama’s state of health admits of little hope.

“I send enclosed the greater part of the dramatic article; you will readily excuse the lateness and the quality when you read what is gone before; but I think it is unmanly to sit down to fold one’s hands in helpless regret, when exertion may do good to yourself and others. My philosophy, if it can be called such, is that of the porch” (stoicism).

“If Charles chooses to fall back on the Church, of course I may be of use to him; but it is entre nous a sneaking line unless the adoption of it is dictated by a strong feeling of principle, and one which, with good prospects in that career, I renounced.1 I would not go to the altar for a bit of bread unless I could do so with a strong conviction that I could adopt, in the fullest extent, the doctrines which I was to teach.

“I will put off Chaffin (Cranbourne Chase) to another occasion, unless you want it much.2 I cannot write anything about the author unless I know it can hurt no one alive, and your well-intended offer would not mend the matter, because it is not that I care for the consequences of such a thing personally, but because I do not think it right. What I consider right to do I am not anxious to conceal from any one, and what is not right should not be done at all.”

1 This seems not to be generally known.

2 From delicacy towards the possible feelings of Mr. Chaffin’s surviving relatives, Scott never wrote this article.


These letters display a good man in accumulated misfortune, an example already needed by Lockhart. Unlike Southey, Scott exclaims, “Use the scissors as freely as you like,” that is, on his contributions to the Quarterly. On May 15 he announces the death of Lady Scott. Lockhart was unable to leave his wife and attend the funeral. Sir Walter writes:—

Abbotsford, 23rd May 1826.

My dear Lockhart,—Anne has suffered, and still suffers, much from weakness. She is, contrary to her manner under trifling vexations, extremely quiet and patient, but every now and then Nature gives way, and she has swoons which last perhaps ten minutes.

“For me I must bear my loss as I can; at any rate, I have no want of comforters, for both old Botherby and Sir John Sinclair have volunteered to play Eliphaz and Bildad on the occasion—such is some folks’ delicacy. A better comfort is the regret expressed by great and small for the good qualities of the deceased. My poor labouring people affected me much by insisting on supplying a night guard in Dryburgh Abbey till such precaution should be totally unnecessary. There was something very delicate in this peculiar expression of attachment.

“I beg my best love and affection to Sophia. Tell her not to be in the least anxious about me. I am
of that age and temper which endure misfortunes the more patiently that they have ceased to look on the world with the same evident sensations of pleasure and pain which it presents to those who enter it. Kiss little
Johnnie for me, and also little Walter. My best love attends Violet.—I am always, dear Lockhart, most faithfully yours,

Walter Scott.”

Lockhart himself communicated the ill news to his wife, then at Brighton:—

London, May 16, 1826.

“I know you too well to hesitate about letting you see exactly how matters stand; and you know me well enough to be sure that it is a great misery to me to have to write instead of speaking such tidings. You must exert yourself and be, as poor Anne seems to be, satisfied that prolongation of life under such circumstances is a cruel prayer. Your father also writes to me, and much in the same tone; but he still preserves all his firmness, and in the midst of his sorrow has found time to give me an admirable review of ‘John Kemble’s Life,’ telling all his old stories about the man and his manners in the best style.”

On May 26 he adds,—“Your father writes with all his old composure. . . . What a blessing to have such a regulated manliness of heart and mind! The possession is even more enviable than his genius.”


On May 30, Scott writes,—“My love to little Walter, and especially to poor Johnnie; . . . he was one of the last persons mentioned by his poor grandmama, which will always make him the dearer to me.

“What do you about Shakespeare? Constable’s creditors seem desirous to carry it on. Certainly their bankruptcy breaks the contract. For me c’est égal: I have nothing to do with the emoluments, and I can with very little difficulty discharge my part of the matter, which is the Prolegomena, and Life and Times.
“So speak your wishes, speak your will,
Swift obedience meets them still.”

On June 30, Scott wishes Lockhart joy of the Review, “which is not only unexceptionable, but commands general praise. I am sorry you have trouble with Murray, but it was foreseen, and you must just be steady with him.” A letter of July 20, shows that Scott’s remonstrance against being overpaid for his Quarterly articles was successful. The “rapacity” lamented by Macaulay was not really a marked feature of Sir Walter’s character.

On July 6, Lockhart wrote to his brother Lawrence, from 16 Bedford Square, Brighton:—

My dear Lawrence,—Here we are now settled for three months more, certain—for the doctors all united that, as Johnnie was so much improved
by the air and bathing, it would be madness to remove him from the coast before October. We shall pass October and November in London, and the winter months in some of the villages near it, for the doctors say that it would kill the poor boy to be in town during the dark and foggy season. Our present plans are to be at Chiefswood in the beginning of June, for the whole summer of 1827. But who can speak boldly about so distant a period?

“We have met with many sore disappointments since I saw you last. But there is no use in repining; we must e’en take the world as we find it; and I would fain hope for better days hereafter, though I have thoroughly ceased to have any very sanguine dreams. My wife’s even and firm temper accommodates itself wonderfully to changes and chances, and if Johnnie recovers, and the baby continues to thrive as it is doing, we ought to be satisfied at home. . . .

Violet will soon be at home now.1 I fear my dearest mother has a poor dull life when she is away, and I have felt for her extremely, leaving Germiston at the very bloom of the season. . . .”2

Writing on the same day to his brother William, Lockhart says,—“I do not wish to write about my

1 Miss Lockhart had been with Mrs. Lockhart since the settlement at Brighton.

2 The rest of the letter deals with purely domestic affairs of Mr. Lawrence Lockhart’s.

own concerns. The change of situation has taken place under circumstances of unlooked-for difficulty and disadvantage, and things have turned out poorly indeed compared to what I had been led to expect. . . . I see no help, nor prospect of it, except in time, labour, and patience.”1

Writing to his father, on July 10, Lockhart expresses his anxiety to hear about his brother Dick, who had gone to India, with a letter from Sir Walter to a Mr. Swinton. “He wrote in a very particular manner, of which, having seen the letter, I can safely say it was beyond what we could have hoped, or even wished, almost.”

A very short time had passed before Dick was drowned in India, so resolutely did misfortune pursue Lockhart and his family. He ends by a description of the noise, heat, and glare of Brighton. “But the air is certainly most healthful, and the children are all day long on the beach, which is everything for them, and therefore for us.”

There exists a letter, written a few months later, by “Hugh Littlejohn,” to his “Aunt Violet,” as Scott says he used to call her. The handwriting is wonderfully good for a child not yet six years old:—

My dear Aunt Vi,—You left me in your letter five shillings, and I am very much obliged to you

1 Lockhart refers to the failure of the Representative, and of his hopes in that quarter.

for them. I have still fourpence left.
Walter is growing a fine boy, and baby is a little beauty. I have got a great many new books since you were here last time. I hope Grandpapa and Grandmama are quite well, and my Aunt Louisa, also my uncles and cousins. Give my love to them. I am to go to Scotland next year, and I shall have the pleasure of seeing you.—Your affectionate nephew,

John Hugh Lockhart.”

On October 7, Sir Walter announced his intended visit to London and Paris, in search of materials for his “Life of Napoleon.” From his Journal (October 17, 1826), we hear of this April weather meeting with his daughter and Lockhart. “Too much grief in our first meeting to be joyful; too much pleasure to be distressing. . . . I am childish with seeing them all well and happy here,” though poor Hugh Littlejohn “was kept, as much as possible, in a recumbent position.” With the Lockharts Sir Walter inspected Windsor Castle; they dined with Terry, the actor; and an hour was passed in teaching Johnnie the history of his namesake, John Gilpin. They dined with Dr. and Mrs. Hughes, and their son, the disinherited of Pepys. Mr. Pringle, the Lamb of “The Chaldee,” of all people, paid a visit, the Lamb who, with the Bear, came skipping on staves.1

1 Lockhart later did what he could for a book by his old victim, reviewing it in the Quarterly.

On Scott’s return from Paris in November,
Croker and Theodore Hook came to breakfast, and “we had, as Gil Blas says, a delicious morning, spent in abusing our neighbours.” They dined at Croker’s “with five Cabinet Ministers, Canning, Huskisson, Melville, Peel, and Wellington,” such a party as more modern times could not bring together. Sir Walter thought that “the presence of too many men of distinguished rank and power always freezes the conversation.” “I wish I could turn my popularity amongst these magnificoes to Lockhart’s advantage, who cannot bustle for himself. He is out of spirits just now, and views things au noir; I fear Johnnie’s precarious state is the cause.”

Lockhart persisted in not being able to “bustle” and push his fortune with magnificoes. One task for which he was eminently fitted nearly came to him; he was overlooked, and, as we shall see, the work which he could have done admirably has not been done even until this day.

In brief, the year 1826 did much to break the spring of hope and to destroy ambition in Lockhart. His industry remained unimpaired, but was seldom set to tasks that elicited his highest powers.

Lockhart at this time did not allow his troubles to interfere with his work. To his first number of the Quarterly (No. LXVI.) he contributed the Sheridan article, justly disliked by Scott, and a “cold-blooded” plea for reflection and discrimination in dealing with slavery and the West Indies.
Many a bright popular delusion, many a vulgar but moving error was exposed here, of course to very little purpose. In the next number he only wrote the
article on translations from Goethe, already mentioned. To No. LXVIII. he contributed an interesting and reflective essay on the art of fiction, taking for his topic Scott’s “Lives of the Novelists,” then pirated by Galignani, who ingeniously abstracted Sir Walter’s introductions from “Ballantyne’s Novelists’ Library.”

Lockhart argues that the novel is the only form, or genre, of literature which modern times have invented. Materials and genius were not wanting in Greece and Rome. “Who, to take an example, can read Horace, and doubt that Horace might have written a novel?” he asks. We are unconvinced: might Pope have written a novel? “Why,” he asks, “did Froissart’s age produce no novel?” Why, it did; Froissart wrote an immense historical romance, lately discovered among the MSS. of the “Bibliothèque Nationale.” Among the illiterate peasants of Domremy, one woman (giving her evidence at the Rehabilitation of Jeanne d’Arc) declared that she had learned some facts about the Fairy Tree from hearing them read aloud in uno romano, dans un roman. Lockhart, unobservant of these circumstances, argues that tragedy, comedy, satire, lyric and epic verse could exist where readers were few, but that novels can only flourish in a reading public. But the Rome of
Horace’s days read much, and romances, as a matter of fact, were extremely common in the Middle Ages. Froissart, as a young man, borrowed novels from, and lent them to, a young lady whom he admired, in the most modern way.1 Probably Lockhart is thinking of our contemporary novel of manners; but, even so,
Apuleius, and Longus, and many late Greeks practised the art of fiction in prose.

Among Sir Walter’s followers, Lockhart selects Cooper as the best, because “he has employed a style of delineation which he could never have invented, upon a fresh field, and, which is of still more importance, on a field of manners and feelings familiar to his own observation.” Scott’s English successors, on the other hand, “trust to reading and imagination for the best part of their materials, and being inferior beyond measure to their master, both in the accomplishment and the faculty, they have produced, at the best, the mere corpus exsangue of the historical romance.” Yet there is a general improvement, a higher common level has been reached. “One genius, in a word, has made many clever artists,” but “the imitating romancer shrinks at once into his proper dimensions when we ask—what new character has he given us?”2

In this number Lockhart also bantered, in brief space, Monsieur Parseval, who carried on the tradi-

1 See “Froissart,” by Madame Darmesteter.

2Dumas, of course, had not begun to write romances.

tion of
Chapelain in “Philippe Auguste, Poeme Heroique”; and he reviewedThe Subaltern,” by his friend Mr. Gleig, with some other “Military Memoirs.” Mr. Gleig had left Balliol to fight in Spain, in 1813, when Lockhart also was eager to take up arms for Iberian liberty, as we have seen in an early chapter.

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