LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 4: 1815-17

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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EDINBURGH, 1815-1817
Edinburgh described in “Peter’s Letters.”—Letters to Christie.—Description of Wilson.—His inconsistency.—His charm.—Edinburgh populated by authors.—Sir William Hamilton writing on Waterloo.—A dinner with Hamilton.—Description of De Quincey.—Lockhart’s Essay on Heraldry.—An Edict of Glasgow University.—Study of Wordsworth.—Parodies of Wordsworth by Lockhart.—Sir William Hamilton an elder of the Kirk.—Death of Mrs. Nicoll.—Death of a friend.—Hamilton’s baronetcy.—His disadvantages.—Kean acting in Edinburgh.—Literary projects.—Lockhart called to the Bar.—His first fee spent in punch.—Criticism of “Old Mortality.”—Needless severity.—“Blacky.”—Lockhart’s train of negro servants.—Description by the Ettrick Shepherd.—German tour.—Early transaction with Mr. Blackwood.—Problem of Lockhart’s attachment to Blackwood’s Magazine.—Lockhart on Mr. Blackwood’s character.—Intellectual defects of Edinburgh society.—Whig arrogance and ignorance.—Lockhart’s mission.—Scotland in a state of “facetious and rejoicing ignorance.”—Lockhart’s ideas resemble those of Carlyle.—His want of earnestness.—His opportunity.—“Prophesying not to be done on these terms.”

The Edinburgh to which Lockhart betook himself in November 1815, was, doubtless, already familiar to him, already admired by him in its physical features. “Edinburgh, even were its population as great as that of London, could never be merely a city. Here there must always be present the idea of the comparative littleness of all human works.”1 The

1Peter’s Letters,” vol. i. p. 8.

rocks and mountains dwarf the structures erected on them, yet the builders of the Old Town “appear as if they had made Nature the model of their architecture,” “piled deep and massy, close and high,” as it is. To Lockhart’s eye the view—
“Out over the Forth
I look to the North,”
from George Street, where he lodged, must have been a delightful change from anything that Glasgow Green had to show.

As for society, he had friends and introductions enough, through his family and through Sir William Hamilton. Authors he found as common in Edinburgh as tobacco or sugar merchants in Glasgow. The book shops which he describes in “Peter’s Letters,” Blackwood’s, Millar’s, Laing’s, and the rest, consoled him for the total absence of new works, and of reading fellow-creatures in the capital of the West. The time had not yet come when curls of his raven hair were in such demand, that he expressed (to a sister) his fear of premature baldness (1819). But his handsome face (“Landseer tells me I was a good-looking chap twenty or thirty years ago,” he wrote long afterwards), probably made friends for him among the maidens and matrons of Edinburgh; the innumerable scribbling people learned to misdoubt “the laugh about the screwed up mouth of him, that fules ca’d no canny, for they couldna thole the meanin’ o’t,” and some very
sensitive souls may have dreaded “the bit caricatures,” which he drew in pencil, on every odd scrap of paper.1 “We have assemblies here, and routs, and balls, and plays, and concerts, and dinners without end or intermission. I find it all very good fun, and am quite contented,” Lockhart had written to
Christie, a year before, during a flying visit to Edinburgh. He took Horace’s advice, and he also took what a young philosopher in Thackeray calls “his whack.” He had made a new friend, of the highest importance in his career, John Wilson, who was writing poetry, angling, revelling with Patrick Robertson, “Lord Peter,” and not practising at the Bar. I may here quote, out of due season, Lockhart’s later remarks (Dec. 5, 1819) to Christie, on the character of Wilson.

“I fancy you understand him almost as well as I do. He is thirty-five years of age, has six children and a charming wife, and is, I suppose, very easy in his affairs. . . . He is a very warm, enthusiastic man, with most charming conversational talents, full of fiery imaginations, irresistible in eloquence, exquisite in humour when he talks (but too coarse in his humorous writing for the present age); he is a most fascinating fellow, and a most kind-hearted, generous friend; but his fault is a sad one, a total inconsistency in his opinions concerning both men and things. And thus it is that he continually lauds and abuses the same person within the space

1 See “Noctes Ambrosianæ,” November 1826.

of a day, so making neither his praise nor his censure of any avail. . . . He is, I think, afflicted with much despondency as a literary man, having never been able in anything to apply his mind so as to produce satisfaction to his own judgment. But in truth his life in earlier years has been such as to give him a thousand prejudices and sore places of which I know nothing, and I have by no means penetrated his intellectual physiognomy to its roots.

“This much is certain—I have a warm and tender affection for the man, and believe him incapable of deliberately doing anything dishonourable, either in literature or in any other way; but then it is very possible that I am unlucky in having been linked so much at my outset with such a man as this. . . . ”

In the troubles that followed thickly, it has been not unusual to exonerate Professor Wilson at the expense of, or in contrast with, Lockhart. The opposite course cannot be taken, even if it were chivalrous to take it, by the biographer of Lockhart. The young man who wrote the lines just quoted (lines which should be compared with Mr. Carlyle’s portrait of Wilson), was clear-sighted enough to take care of himself. But these lines were written (Dec. 1819) after two years’ close experience of Wilson’s literary vagaries and inconsistencies: his abuse of friends and idols, his sudden returns to his old loves. Four years earlier, in 1815, when Lockhart was just

1 Christie, in London, had heard tales to Wilson’s disadvantage.

of age, the society of Wilson, wildly fascinating, bruyant, full of what he considered practical jokes, (though unkind persons gave them other names), can hardly have been salutary for a young student of literature and law. There is more to be said on this topic, but we may now offer a letter (Nov. 29, 1815) on Edinburgh as Lockhart was seeing it, on his beginnings in miscellaneous literary work, and on a dinner with Wilson and
De Quincey.

(Postmark, Nov. 29, 1815.)

My dear Christie,—You and I are in general such exemplary correspondents that I begin to feel a degree of wonder at the two months’ silence which has prevailed betwixt us, greater than a much longer cessation of any other epistolary traffic could have occasioned in me. Since I wrote you last I have spent a few weeks at Gourock, a few weeks (including the occasion) at Glasgow, and now I have been for a fortnight in this our Athens. Certainly if the name Athens had been derived from the Goddess of Printing—not from the Goddess of Wisdom—no city in the world could with greater justice lay claim to the appellation. An author elsewhere is a being somewhat at least out of the common run. Here he is truly a week-day man. Every other body you jostle is the father of at least an octavo, or two, and it is odds if you ever sit down to dinner in a company of a dozen, without having to count three or four quarto makers in the circle.
Poets are as plenty as blackberries—indeed much more so, unless blackberries mean sloes. And as for travellers—good Jehovah! I think I am safe in saying that there have appeared at least twenty different lucubrations in that way concerning Paris alone within these last eighteen months. Old crambe-recocta stuff out of
Horace Walpole and Sir Joshua—spouted by one boy of eighteen, who had never seen in his life but one or two Edinburgh exhibitions—and profound disquisitions on national character and Napoleon by another, who never had seen the tenth milestone from Auld Reekie, or read anything better than Jeffray and Cobbet’s Parliamentary debates. I have passed my trials in the Civil Law, which cost me a little fagging, and am now seriously at work on the Scots.

Hamilton and I have been amusing ourselves with doing into English ‘the Relation’ of the Battle of Waterloo. I have done my half, and H. is sitting by me at his. I have much amusement in seeing his ways—primo, he is against all French terms and fought hard for Field-assistant, loco, ‘Aide-de-camp.’ Secundo, he insists upon having the pages marked with Roman numerals, having lately imbibed a bitter spite against the d—d Arabic cipher. Tertio, he has just been reading Longinus, and would fain have an imitation of his manner in a note. We are promised half profits by Laing, and I hope to touch £25 for my quarter. I have got a few articles in
the ‘
Encyclopædia’ which is going on, and intend reviewing a little—being convinced that there is nothing I want more than a habit of writing with ease. The Picnic” (the Oxford Olio) “sleeps for the present, but will assuredly begin to squall in the spring. The Oxonian friends here are all very well, Hannay fighting away in the usury case. Innes in statu quo. Connel ditto. Traill I saw once—but I have been confined to my room with a cold since, and have heard no more of him. Tom Traill’s wife has brought him a son and heir, whereof Tom is very glorious. Such is an epitome of our status here. I have written it that I may provoke a speedy answer, containing the minutiæ of your transactions for these last two months. You are now of course as I left you, grinding Law, and quizzing the Balliolite B.A.’s at the dinner table—unless you have changed your gown and your butts for paullo majora! The transition is not tremendous from Everett to Dicky. Give my love to Nicoll, and do let me hear from you immediately.—Yours most affectionately,

J. G. Lockhart.

Hamilton desires his kindest remembrances to you. I dined the other day at his house in company with two violent Lakers—Wilson for one, and a friend of his, a most strange creature, for the other. His name is De Quincey; he was of Worcester. After passing one half of an examination which has never, according to the common report, been equalled,
he took the terror of the schools, and fled for it to the Lakes. There he has formed the closest intimacy with
Wordsworth and all his worthies. After dinner he set down two snuff-boxes on the table; one, I soon observed, contained opium pills—of these he swallowed one every now and then, while we drank our half-bottle apiece. Wilson and he were both as enthusiastic concerning the ‘Excursion’ as you could wish. Wilson is just going to publish a dramatic poem—subject, ‘The Plague in London.’ It opens with the conversation of two shopkeepers, a trunk maker and a calender-mill mender, all whose families have caught the infection. It is in eleven (books?), and includes many lyrics. (The two friends have gone off on a pedestrian tour to Staffa!)”

Among the articles which Lockhart speaks of contributing to the “Encyclopædia,” the only one known to me as his is that on Heraldry. It is ascribed to Lockhart by Mr. Christie, and bears marks of his style. The passage on the origin of armorial bearings is careful, clear, and rather sarcastic on the learned who make classical or ancient Egyptian peoples the first beginners of the science. Much is now known about the heraldry of savages which, in Lockhart’s time, was either unknown or disregarded. Mediæval blazonry was, with additional points of curiosity and display, very like a systematic development from the usages of
the North American Indians and other uncivilised races. But there can be found no catena of heraldic blazonries from prehistoric European savagery to the earliest mediæval tombs on which coats of arms appear. The things more or less analogous to crests, and tinctures, and coat armour among the antiquities of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, are only analogous in a vague one-sided way, with casual resemblances to the mediæval usage, and essential differences from it. Lockhart elucidates all this, (except the savage side of the topic) with plenty of sense, wide and rare reading, and satirical humour. It was “meat and drink to him to see a fool” who argued in the fantastic manner of Barnabas Moreno de Vargas, who “blazons all the tribes of Israel.” On one point, the arms of
Jeanne d’Arc, Lockhart is decidedly wrong, but we need not enter into critical details. The essay proves that he had read and that he could write.

To return to his letters, the judicial faculties of the mind decline to accept as genuine the Latin Edict of the Glasgow Senatus, as given in the following epistle. The approving quotation from Leigh Hunt, and his paper, the Examiner, comes oddly from one of the future assailants of “The Cockney School”:—

Edinburgh, 9 George Street,
January 3rd, 1816.

My dear Christie,—I would have answered your kind and amusing epistle more in proper
course, but have been spending the holidays at home, which must be my excuse. I found the good folks of Glasgow just recovering from the sensation occasioned by the visit of two Archdukes. The Faculty of the College at Glasgow issued a primitive enough edict on the occasion, thus:—1 ‘Q. F. F. Q. S. Senatus Academicus Togatis et non Togatis salutem. Ab Altissimo et Potentissimo Principe
Marchione de Douglas

1 May it be lucky! The Senatus Academicus salutes the gowned and the gownless. Being informed by the Most High and Puissant Prince, the Marquis of Clydesdale and Douglas, that their Imperial Highnesses, the Archdukes John and Louis of Austria, intend to-day to honour us with a visit, we are pleased to issue the following rules, by which all are to govern themselves, and whosoever fails to observe them shall be most severely punished afterwards:

1. Their Imperial Highnesses will take a cold collation, in the first Hall, with the Principals and Professors (in their gowns), and some gentlemen of the city and district, about noon, at the expense of the Faculty.

2. Students who have beards must shave them, and wash, as on Sundays.

3. All students must put on clean shirts, as when the Duke of Montrose was here.

4. Students of Theology must be combed, and wear black breeches and coats, and decent gowns, like ministers.

5. All must be in a state to be seen by the Archdukes and the honourable persons with them, and must decently and quietly form two lines between the first and the common Hall when the procession is walking. The juniors must not laugh, or make faces, when they see the foreigners.

6. In the common Hall, Professor Jardine, who was formerly in France, will speak in French to them, for Professor Richardson is dead.

7. One of the Professors of Physics will pronounce an English oration, and Principal Taylor will pray in Latin; and then dismiss yourselves without making a noise.

et Clydesdale certiores facti, quod eorum altitudines imperiales Archiduces
Johannes et Ludovicus de Austria, hodie nos visitatione honorare intendunt nobis placuit hasce regulas generales emittere quomodo omnes se sunt gerere—et quicunque eas observare non vult severrime punitus erit postea.

“‘1. Eorum Imperiales Altitudines Archiduces J. et L. de Austria, capient frigidam collationem in aula priore cum Principali et Professoribus (in togis suis), et generosis quibusdam hominibus ex urbe et vicinitate circa horam meridianam impensis Facultatis.

“‘2. Studentes qui barbas habent tondeant eas et lavant sese ut in die dominico.

“‘3. Studentes omnes nitida indusia induant secuti quum Dux Montis-Rosarum erat hie.

“‘4. Studentes Theologies omnes pectantur et nigras braccas et vestes induant et pallia decentia quasi Ministri.

“‘5. Omnes in statu sint videri per Archiduces et persones honorabiles qui cum iis sunt—et decenter et cum quiete et ordine duas lineas faciant inter aulam Priorem et aulam communem cum Processio ambulat, et juniores ne rideant nee faciant facies cum Peregrinos vident.

“‘6. In aula communi Professor Jardine qui olim in Gallia fuit Francisce illis locutus erit nam Professor Richardson est mortuus.

“‘7. Aliquis ex Physicis sermonem anglicam pro-
nunciabit et
Principalis Taylor Latine precabitur et sine strepitu dismissi estotis.—Per nos,

“‘Decanus Facultatis, &c., &c.’

“When Jardine’s French speech was over, John observed to Louis, ‘Ah! que c’est une vile langue cet ecossais——’

“By way of qualifying myself for forming a sane judgment on a subject more than once discussed between us, I have lately read over all Wordsworth—prose and verse. The ‘Doe’ is certainly wretched, but not quite so bad as ‘The Force of Prayer.’ The ‘Excursion’ I enjoyed deeply—particularly the character of the Solitary, and the description of the Churchyard and its inhabitants. One of these sketches pleased me more than anything of this day’s poetry I have ever read, unless it be O’Connor’s Child and Michael; it was that of the young man ‘all hopes Cherished for him who suffered to depart—Like blighted buds; or clouds that mimicked land—Before the sailor’s eye; or Diamond drops—That sparkling decked the morning grass, or aught—That was attractive, and had ceased to be.’ The whole picture is exquisite. The Examiner has well characterised Wordsworth as a poet—who, had he written but half of what he has, would have deserved to be immortal. He certainly has more
prosing and less variety than I thought it possible for a man of genius and learning, such as his.

“As you don’t read the Examiner, I may as well transcribe one of Leigh Hunt’s last sonnets

“‘Were I to name out of the times gone by
The poets dearest to me, I should say,
Pulci for spirits and a fine free way;
Chaucer for manners and close silent eye,
Milton for classic taste and harp strung high,
Spenser for luxury and sweet silvan play,
Horace for chatting with from day to day,
Shakespeare for all, but most society.
But which take with me, could I but take one?
Shakespeare, as long as I was unoppressed
With the world’s weight making sad thoughts intenser.
But did I wish out of the common sun
To lay a wounded heart in leafy rest,
And dream of things far off and pealing—Spenser.’

“Was there ever such a letter as this for quotations? Expect one of a different stamp forthwith. Meantime a good New Year to you, my friend, and farewell,

J. G. L.

“Compliments to Nicoll.

“P.S.—Riddel has just told me he heard from you lately, and that you are spending the vacation in Balliol. What means this? Is Connor with you? Write to me, and as soon as the bursar is in College transmit me the ready.1

“J. G. L.”

1 “The ready” here is his Snell Exhibition.


The following fragment (postmark Jan. 6, 1816), contains Wordsworthian sonnets to Wilson, very fair parodies of the austere singer’s mode of mixing morals and mountains. If published with W. W.’s initials these noble sonnets would have received much admiration, like one of Miss Fanshawe’s imitations, which deceived the Lacustrine elect.

J. G. Lockhart to the Rev. J. Williams, or J. H. Christie.

[Postmark, January 6, 1816.]

John Wilson walked off to Cumberland, a fortnight ago, in the midst of the storm, in spite of his wife, whereupon Mr. Wordsworth wrote two sonnets which I have seen printed at a private press here. One of them runs thus:—

“‘And could thy gentle spirit endure no more
The solemn prating of that ignorant town?
And would’st thou come in spite of frost and frore
And border-torrents leaping furious down,
The spirit of the mountains to adore,
And human converse hold with thy calm ake?
O Wilson! I am glad for the world’s sake
The reign of virtuous impulse is not o’er.
Domestic duties we must all partake,
And wife and children should to man be dear—
But thou did’st well, my Wilson, to forsake
Thy little ones, and bear thy spouse’s tear!
(When) holier duties call, these might not shake
The (resolute) worshipper of this lone Mere.’

Wilson went on the top of the Carlisle coach part of the way; it overturned, and Wilson’s head was broken—whence sonnet the second:—

“‘An outside place my Wilson did prefer,
Tho’ warmth and bodily ease within were found,
So well befits it nature’s worshipper!
To gaze more widely o’er the snow-clad ground,
Like the world’s joys in barren coldness shining;
To list the unseen streamlets’ innocent sound
Beneath the snow a small path undermining.
Like the poetic eye which moveth slowly,
And feeds itself in darkness on things holy—
To scatter crumbs, it may be, now and then,
To the small redbreast and pure-minded wren.
These things were worthy of thy soul’s desire,
And, if I know thee, spite of scoffing men,
Who have no part in the celestial fire,
And spite of this thy bruise, thou wilt seek these again.
W. W.’”

The next letter contains matter unknown to Sir William Hamilton’s biographer. To see the dark dæmonologist take his stand at “the plate,” and keep ward over the charitable coppers of the congregation, must have been a thing of high solemnity.

Edinburgh, 9 George Street,
April 17, 1816.

My dear Christie,—Your expressions are very vague, touching everything that regards yourself. I think you intend me to conclude that you are leaving Connor, and yet neither the date of your
letter, nor the way in which you talk of returning to Oxford, looks exactly that way. Pray let me know what your plans are. If you have no engagement during the summer, I would fain flatter myself with the hopes of your paying us a visit in Scotland, in which case you will know that few can be more anxious for the pleasure of housing you than myself. I am not to be in Oxford this spring.
Old John gave me leave of absence very graciously, and I had reasons for preferring to pay my last official visit next year rather than now. Traill also, as his sister told me the other night, got leave from John; but as he is at present at Newcastle acting as supercargo to a ship of kelp, she hinted that, should the sale be favourable, he might still make a run to Oxon, where I have no doubt he may easily find a way to dispose of all his seaweed riches.

“We go on here pretty much in the old way. Innes has been made elder, and serves in this General Assembly as representative of the borough of Kintore. Hamilton also was made an elder last Sunday at a village near this town—at least, the ceremony of his taking the vows was performed, for the legality of the process is still doubtful, a protest having been given in against his nomination by an old farmer in the eldership there, on three grounds: 1st, Hamilton having no domiceal within the bounds; 2nd, His being suspected of Episcopalianism; and 3rd, His having no certificate of moral
character, &c. The process of Presbytery, wherein the value of these objections is to be discussed, I shall certainly attend. Hamilton desires to be most affectionately remembered to you. He will write to you soon by his cousin the Freshman, and in the meantime earnestly begs you would write him. By-the-bye, do you not think he might have some chance for a Fellowship? and in God’s name, why don’t you stand yourself? There is no open fama clamosa against your character—electing you would not be considered as a sort of premium on idleness, blasphemy, and contempt (as electing some friends of yours might too justly be); and on the whole, as you can lose no character, either by competition with the three idiots you mention, or by any decision of those who have already lost all pretensions to justice in those matters—and as you may gain so much, Hamilton and I both agree that you will act very wrong if, being on the spot, you do not try.
Taffy, I presume, will no more trouble them with his fat face and his Greek, both of which are too good for them. I met yesterday at dinner with a Cambridge man, Foster, a craniologist, whom I remember your mentioning last summer. He seems totally cracked, but cleverish withal. He is a professed infidel, but certainly has a well-made forehead above his ugly face. He is cousin to Dicky Meade, as he says—and I believe him. I will send you a copy, by the first private hand, of my Essay on the ‘art noble,’—which is now in the
press. If you wish to have any sarcasm against anybody inserted in a note, you are still in time.—Yours, my dear

J. G. Lockhart.

P.S.—As Hamilton is not without some thoughts of standing for a Fellowship you must not whisper to the wind that he is an elder—observe this, and consider the passage as not existing.”

Lockhart occasionally accompanied Hamilton in his hunts after charters connected with his baronetcy. The following letter, after some sadder news, tells of Hamilton’s success:—

Burnbank, Hamilton, July 27th, 1816.

My dear Christie,—Hamilton came here on Friday last and stayed till this morning. He brought me the first news of Nicoll’s marriage, and had himself only that morning learned by a very unfeeling paragraph (as he reported it) from the Oxford paper, the sudden calamity which so soon turned all our friend’s happiness into misery. In time I have no doubt the usual lenitives of every distress among us must have their due influence in restoring him to himself—at present, of course, he must be left entirely to the working of his own feelings. The effect which this news produced in both was, I need not say, such as all Nicoll’s friends will easily imagine. For myself I heard, in the
same breath, both the marriage and the death—being saluted by W. H., ‘Poor Nicoll’s wife’s dead,’ before I had the least suspicion that Nicoll was married. Hamilton made after some time a lawyer’s remark, ‘Patrimonially, ’tis as well.’ If Nicoll is still in London remember us both to him. Hamilton will write in a few weeks when he thinks his letter may be received with calmness. I am sorry your letter did not arrive till after his departure.

“I have surely dreamed of writing you a long letter about ten days ago, for I remember the very words in which I communicated to you ——’s death. He died of two days’ illness—a scarlet-fever, much exacerbated, I am grieved to add, by the life of dissipation which he had been leading. All last winter he gambled and drank to excess—he was even tipsy one day beyond decency about three o’clock p.m., when I met him in the street. He used to sit up all night drinking whisky punch with some Aberdeen squires; he was fortunate at the dice, but it drew him both into bad company and bad habits over and above the thing itself. All this entre nous, —— was at bottom a good, honest soul —very affectionate in his temper, and deserves to be lamented by all his friends.

Hamilton, you may have observed in the papers, has at length served himself heir general to Sir Robert H. of Preston, who commanded the Covenanting army at Bothwell Bridge, and is now
Sir William at your service. Had he followed his original profession this might have much in his favour; at present I see no great good it can do him to be set at the upper end of tables among dowagers instead of the lower end among misses. However, he makes a most respectable baronet, and may, if he pleases, make additional use of his good leg in a matrimonial way; but he is not worldly-wise enough for that, to use a true-blue phrase. So you are, at last, nine hours a day at a conveyancer’s! May the tripling aes not be awanting. I beg of you to write again and more at length on a Sunday. My compliments to
Traill.—Yours ever,

J. G. L.

“Is Connor in town, or have you entirely separated?”

In the following epistle we see something like a germ of Blackwood’s Magazine. Christie, in early years, would occasionally suggest starting a new serial, but it never came to anything. Lockhart, as in this letter, and often afterwards, would try to make Christie exert himself with his pen. But in law Christie found a better profession than in writing for the papers; “it’s seldom any good comes of it,” says Captain Shandon, whom Lockhart knew very well:—

KEAN 111
J. G. Lockhart to J. H. Christie.
Burnbank, Oct. 18, 1816.

My dear Christie,—I have been tossed about the country a good deal these six weeks past, which is the only excuse I can think of, at this present, for not writing to you sooner. I wrote to Hamilton, however, touching the business of your last letter, so that I think myself, in some sort and manner as it were, almost out of your debt. I have more need to make an apology to Traill, which I beg you will do for me in the meantime, and say I mean to do so shortly myself. Last week I spent in Edinburgh, not that I am a member of the Caledonian Hunt, which then assembled there—nor that I am a knowing one on the turf, though the Musselburgh races were held—nor a lover of dancing, though there were balls every night—but I went in to officiate at the funeral of an aged female single cousin, on which occasion I had the satisfaction of witnessing a facsimile of Mrs. Bertram of Singleside her obsequies, the parallel holding good even as to the legacies.1 Kean was in Edinburgh, however, and that part of the gaieties I much enjoyed. Of four characters in which I saw him, Othello was my favourite, but neither Macbeth nor Richard were of the number. Murray, the manager, with whom I am a little acquainted, is a very gentlemanlike person; and in truth well entitled to be so

1 In “Guy Mannering.”

by his birth, as he is grandson to
Murray of Broughton, the Chevalier’s secretary in ’45.1 He wished to show Kean every attention in his power, but was given to understand that Mr. Kean accepted of no invitation wherein ‘his friends’ were not included—meaning two of the most despicable of Murray’s own candle-snuffers, with whom Kean got drunk every night during his stay. Were I in your shoes I would fain see Kean off the stage, and I daresay you might easily manage it. Hamilton has been ill of a quinzey, and is looking as ghastly as a spectre.

“In about three weeks I shall be in Edinburgh for good, and I intend passing advocate the first week of the term, Q. F. F. Q. S. You have thrown out two literary hints this summer, neither of which has been neglected by me—one concerning reviewing, and the other touching a periodical paper. The latter is a project whereon I have long loved to dwell—even since the days of our meditated Western Star, &c., Bristol Mustard Pot, &c. &c. I think there are among my acquaintances several individuals who could contribute richly to such a thing, but it is necessary to have a stock-in-hand before we begin. Let me hear what your notions are at more length. I have a friend in this neighbourhood, by name Hodgson, an extremely accomplished man, and a great dabbler in writing

1 John Murray of Broughton, the Judas of the Royal cause. See Lockhart’sScott,” i. 242-245.

some years ago, though now the quiet minister of a very small parish, who was applied to by
Murray (Albemarle Street) not long ago, with a view to an undertaking of this sort—who, though he declined at the time, has been thinking a good deal of it ever since, and is anxious to see such a thing set afoot. The worthy baronet might contribute a few Greekified things—Taffy a few Cambrian sketches. You might be ‘the young fellow in town’ of the club—and I myself might depict Scottish men of this day. Oxford is a rich field common to us all and untouched.—Yours ever,

J. G. L.

“Direct your next to me at Glasgow—40 Charlotte Street.”

With the end of the year 1816 we find Lockhart, like Allan Fairford in “Redgauntlet,” “putting on the gown, and giving a bit chack of dinner to his friends and acquaintances, as is the custom.” Like Scott, Lockhart was to find that “we’ve stood here an hour by Tron, hinny, and deil a ane has speered our price.” However, he does not seem to have foreboded this end of his promenades in the Parliament House, when he writes:—

Edinburgh, 73 George Street,
December 22, 1816 (Sunday forenoon).

My dear Christie,—I am most willing to believe that your obstinate silence is owing entirely
to your hard studies, so, being unconscious of any such excuse, I am resolved to make one more attempt on you. I presume I need not ask you what you are doing. You are no doubt fagging hard at the law all the day, and drinking tea and reading Greek plays with Buchanan all the evening. Now and then you have a tavern shine with some young fellows—perhaps with
Traill, if he has in good earnest returned unto himself. I, you must know, pursue a more dignified strain of life. I am now an advocate of a week’s standing—have trod the boards of the Parliament House all that time, with the air of a man wrapped up in Potier and Cujacius, and have pocketed one fee of three guineas, which I spent in punch and tobacco the same evening—so far well. I am going west in a few days to cultivate the procurators of Glasgow.

“There is a young and itching devil here—so God speed the attorneys and damn sentiment.

“I suppose you have read before this time the new novels, supposed to be, like ‘Waverley,’ by Walter Scott. The ‘Old Mortality’ story was very delightful to me, as the scene is admirably laid and preserved in that part of the country with which I am most familiar; but I have, unfortunately, read too much of the history of that period to approve of the gross violations of historical truth which he has taken the liberty—often, I think, without gaining anything by it—to introduce. Burley has long been known by me as a short, in-kneed, squinting, sallow, snarling
viper,1 and now behold he is uselessly swelled out into a Covenanting giant, with a blue bonnet of the cut of Brobdingnag. He was drowned, on his way from Holland to Scotland, about the date of the Revolution.
Claverhouse’s original letters I have seen—they are vulgar and bloody, without anything of the air of a polished man, far less of a sentimental cavalier in them.2 These productions, in which true events and real personages are blended in so close a manner with nonentities of all kinds, are only tolerable to us in proportion to our ignorance of the places and period and persons described. The novels in question have so much merit in almost every other point of view, that they naturally attract uncommon attention to those passages of history on which they are, or pretend to be, founded, and so by their very merit work their own destruction. I wish the author had either stuck close to facts—in so far as never to invent anything which could be contradicted by history—or followed fiction altogether. This last tale is far more offensive than ‘Waverley,’ inasmuch as Waverley is a person more obscure than Morton, and more likely to have been omitted by the contemporary writers. At the same time, the general truth of the Covenanting manners exceeds, I should think, anything the author has executed in that

1 One is reminded of Mrs. Squeers’ turned-up-nosed peacock.

2 Here the biographer utterly dissents from this child of the Remnant.

Defoe’s history of that period in Scotland is, however, after all equally picturesque, better kept up, and incomparably better written; with all the other advantages that truth ever possesses over fiction. There is no doubt of it, that man has the strongest imagination of any prose writer that ever lived. Such is his power that he can make plain matter of fact infinitely brighter than all the inventions in the world could ever render a fictitious event.

This is sad prosing, but we are now so much separated that new books and old friends are the only subjects in which we can reckon on finding each other’s attention alive. Sir William Hamilton is very well at the other side of my table, and requests me to hand you his love. Remember us both to Buchanan. I rejoice to hear of his being so happy with you. I dined yesterday with his aunt, and they are all perfectly well.—Yours most affectionately,

J. G. L.

“How is Nicoll? I wish, if you are writing him, you would desire him to send me and Hannay our exhibs. with all speed convenient. Write me quickly, at Glasgow—if not for ten days (quod Deus avertat) here again.”

In later life, when he wrote his “Life of Scott,” Lockhart took a far more favourable review of that masterpiece, “Old Mortality.” His early comments are rather pedantic. A knowledge of the Burley
Claverhouse of history does not spoil for us the Claverhouse and Burley of romance. As for Morton, and the shock caused to an historical mind by his absence from history books, his position, at Bothwell Brig, was very much like that of one of Lockhart’s own ancestors, the hero who hid up a tree. Yet that hero needs a good deal of research before we discover him in some obscure Covenanter’s narrative.

There is an unlucky gap in the correspondence between Christie and Mr. Lockhart, in the year 1817, while, of domestic correspondence, there is but one letter. This, to Mr. Lawrence Lockhart, contains a reference to “Blacky,” a servant, probably the negro of whom Hogg tells a story. Lockhart, at the time we have reached, “was a mischievous Oxford puppy, for whom,” says the Shepherd, “I was terrified, dancing after the young ladies, and drawing caricatures of every one who came in contact with him. . . . Even his household economy seemed clouded in mystery, and, if I got any explanation, it was sure not to be the right thing. It may be guessed how astonished I was one day, on perceiving six black servants waiting at his table upon six white gentlemen. Such a train of blackamoors being beyond my comprehension, I asked for an explanation, but got none, save that he found them very useful and obliging, poor fellows, and that they did not look for much wages beyond a mouthful of meat.”


The real explanation was simple—the coloured gentlemen were friends of Lockhart’s gentleman of colour, and aided him on festive occasions.

Dining out, giving dinners, dancing, drawing caricatures, taking part in the daily babble of the briefless round the stove in the Parliament House, Lockhart passed his time merrily, but not altogether in idleness. He wished to go to Germany in the vacation of 1817, and, though funds were scant, and his exhibition was running out, he managed to pay his way. He had made the acquaintance of Blackwood, the bookseller, and Blackwood paid him £300, or more, for a work in translation, to be written later. Lockhart selected Schlegel’sLectures on the History of Literature.” Mr. Gleig says, “Though seldom communicative on such subjects, he more than once alluded to the circumstance in after life, and always in the same terms. ‘It was a generous act on Ebony’s part, and a bold one too; for he had only my word for it, that I had any acquaintance at all with the German language.’”1

Of the German tour scarcely any records remain. In an old notebook, used again twenty years later

1 Mr. Gleig seems to date the German tour in 1815 or 1816, but I find no mention by Mr. Lockhart himself of any date, except that he had just returned from Germany in October 1817. See, however, Quarterly Review, cxvi., p. 452. According to Professor Veitch, in his “Life of Sir William Hamilton,” p. 89, the early autumn of 1817 was the date. Accompanied by Lockhart and a Mr. Hyndman, Hamilton examined, at Leipzig, a library which the Faculty of Advocates wished to purchase.

in composing the “
Life of Scott,” are a few slight drawings of German students, and a sketch, not caricatured, of Fichte lecturing to his class. We know that Lockhart met, at Weimar, Goethe, whom he describes in “Peter’s Letters,” and whom he defended against the sneers of the Edinburgh Review.

More important to him than his brief experience of Germany was his connection with Mr. Blackwood. That gentleman was commencing publisher: the first series of his Magazine had run only a few months: there are traces of Lockhart’s hand in it before July 1817. His liberality to the young writer was, indeed, well judged, for Lockhart, with Wilson, gave the Magazine a success of éclat: by no means wholly to their own advantage.

Gratitude to “Ebony” may, perhaps, partly explain that part of Lockhart’s conduct, which perplexes his biographer as much as Scott’s attitude to the Ballantynes puzzled Lockhart himself. Why would Lockhart, in spite of the remonstrances of Christie, and of Sir Walter, in spite of universal disapproval, cleave to Blackwood’s Magazine? The mere attraction of mischief should soon have worn off, but from Wilson and Blackwood’s Lockhart seemed unable to tear himself. Christie conceived a distaste for Mr. Blackwood at first sight; Lockhart sometimes lets fall a petulant word about the complacent proprietor of “Ma Maga,” yet he wrote occasionally for Maga to the end. One really begins to think
of Maga as of a cankered witch who has spell-bound the young man, and holds him “lost to life, and use, and name, and fame.”

This, of course, is an irrational sentiment, and unjust to the venerated Maga. She did not make Lockhart and Wilson write as they did: it was they who set their mark on her. Lockhart several times thought of breaking with her, now in deference to Christie and Sir Walter; now, in some temporary displeasure with Mr. Blackwood, in which Wilson shared. But he always “fell to his old love again.” He occasionally attributes this to regard for Mr. Blackwood, and, besides, the payment for his articles was highly necessary to him. But he could have employed his pen elsewhere, though nowhere with such freedom. The love of mischief, as Haydon says, was, no doubt, one cause of his constancy. But a freedom only trammelled by Mr. Blackwood, was very prejudicial to both Wilson and Lockhart. The former is said often to have repented of his articles, when the proofs had just gone beyond recall. The latter assuredly repented, and tried to make amends in his after-life. To love of mischief, of freedom to indulge caprice, to friendship for Wilson, and regard for Mr. Blackwood, one may most plausibly attribute Lockhart’s stormy, and often regretted, but never broken constancy to Maga.

Be the explanation what it may, Lockhart was certainly very loyal to Blackwood. In describing
Scott’s relations with this bookseller, he styles him “a man of strong talents, and, though without anything that could be called learning, of very respectable information; . . . acute, earnest, eminently zealous in whatever he put his hand to; upright, honest, sincere, and courageous.”1 We know that, in finding fault (as he well might) with “The Black Dwarf,” Mr. Blackwood “did not search about for any glossy periphrase,” he was frank enough. In Mrs. Gordon’sLife of Christopher North” we meet Mr. Blackwood suppressing, very properly, some literary ferocities of Professor Wilson’s.2 Why, then—Mr. Blackwood deserving Lockhart’s deliberate and duly considered praises; and Lockhart himself being what his letters declare him; and Christopher North being Christopher North—the magazine which they produced should have been so brutal, it is difficult to imagine. These problems, of course, will recur; for the present it suffices to have shown how Lockhart became connected with Mr. Blackwood.

In the absence of exact information as to the first half of Lockhart’s first year as an advocate, we may be certain that, like Allan Fairford and Darsie Latimer, “he swept the boards of the Parliament House with the skirts of his gown; laughed, and made others laugh, drank claret at Bayle’s, Fortune’s, and Walker’s, and ate oysters in the

1Life of Scott,” vol. v. pp. 154-155.

2Christopher North,” ii. 63-64.

Covenant Close.” Though his letters, so far, have not contained one word on politics, he was probably regarded, being a friend of
Wilson’s and living in his set, as a Tory. Every barrister had to take a side, and we know, from Lord Cockburn’sMemorials of his Time,” that Tories were dull oppressors, while sweetness, light, knowledge, eloquence, emancipation, wit, wisdom, the Edinburgh Review—everything good but office—were all on the side of the Whigs. The admirable, overweening, unconscious arrogance of party pride in Lord Cockburn’s “Memorials” might make a man turn Tory in sheer irritation to-day. While these scarcely human splendours, Jeffrey, Playfair, Henry Erskine, Gillies, Grahame, Macfarlane, Fletcher,—fortisque Gyas, fortisque Cloanthus—they, or their successors, were dwelling in the serene air of perfect self-complacency; while they had at length set going a Liberal newspaper, the Scotsman; while Tories, like Scott, were calling it “a blackguard print,” a few young men had grown up who were neither stupid nor Whigs. They saw, Lockhart at least saw very well, that these illustrious Whigs, with all their learned professors, and Reviewers, and political economies, were really keeping Scotland in a state of “facetious and rejoicing ignorance.” “In Scotland they understand, they care about none of the three,” namely, the poetry, philosophy, and history of the ancient world. Even Dugald Stewart “has throughout been content to derive his ideas of
Greek philosophy from very secondary sources.” As for the common Whigs of the debating societies and the Junior Bar, “all they know, worth being known, upon any subject of general literature, politics, or philosophy, is derived from the Edinburgh Review.” The Edinburgh, again, perpetually derides
Wordsworth, and all the Whigs grin applause. “The same people who despise and are ignorant of Mr. Wordsworth, despise also and are ignorant of all the majestic poets the world has ever produced, with no exceptions beyond two or three great names, acquaintance with which has been forced on them by circumstances entirely out of their control. The fate of Homer, of Æschylus, of Dante, nay, of Milton, is his.”1

These ideas, expressed in “Peter’s Letters,” and such as these, were in the clear and well-furnished mind of Lockhart, when he looked at the intellectual self-complacency of Edinburgh’s illustrious Whigs. And he was soon to let these magnates hear the full measure of his opinion. That a cold superiority of ridicule did not become Whig witlings when they sat in judgment on the author of “The Excursion”; that a more exalted patriotism than the patriotism of the author of “Marmion” was not really theirs; that Goethe and Kant could not be criticised through the medium of French cribs and summaries; that a facetious and rejoicing ignorance of Greek could not be compensated for

1Peter’s Letters,” vol. ii. p. 144.

by a smattering of geology; that Christianity was a problem to be faced, not an institution to be scornfully patronised; these were among the lessons which the briefless new-gowned advocate was about to teach the Olympians of Whiggery. The spirit of mankind, in fact, was awaking in Lockhart, as it later awoke in a sage who had a strong sympathy with him, in
Mr. Carlyle. The Whig view of the world, and notably of poetry, did need to be assailed. But Lockhart, seeing almost as clearly as Carlyle the flaws in the ice palace of Edinburgh’s intellectual despots, was very young, and was constitutionally a mocker. Almost everything that he said in a serious humour, whether as the Baron von Lauerwinkel, or as Dr. Peter Morris, was truly and well said, and the truth has prevailed. But with the same pen, and in the same hour, he was writing humorous ditties as “The Odontist”; or attacks on men of whom, personally, he knew nothing; of whose politics he judged by the catch-words and prejudices of his party, and whose characters he detested mainly on the evidence of Tory gossip. Many a “sham,” many a “windbag” he exposed, or pricked, but to little or no avail, so strong in him, at that time, was the spirit of levity, and the “Imp of the Perverse.” He had great powers, much knowledge, clear ideas, a good opportunity, but the “Imp of the Perverse” had dominion over him. He began to write too young, he enjoyed a latitude far too wide, and he had, in Wilson, an elder
associate and friend whose genius was perhaps the most unbalanced in the history of literature. Therefore Lockhart never “blazed” in the serenity of the light which assuredly was within him, but only gave forth flashes of brilliance, when he did not pass wholly under the influence of “tenebriferous stars.”