LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 9: 1820-21
Sir Walter Scott to John Gibson Lockhart, 20 July 1820

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

Dear Lockhart,—I had your kind letter, and congratulate you on your hard-fought battle. Wilson has surmounted difficulties of which he was not aware, for the worthy wrote to Lord Melville on the subject of his interference, and received a most capital answer. Moreover, all sorts of anonymous letters were directed to little purpose at the same quarter. The victory, however, being gained, it is greatly the opinion of Mr.

1 Postmark, July 25, 1820. The letter could not be discovered for Scott’s Correspondence: I owe it to the kindness of my friend, Mr. C. M. Falconer of Dundee, who found this, and some other papers, by a curious accident.

Wilson’s best wishers, and most especially mine, that the matter may be suffered to rest. His best triumph, and that of his friends, will be in the concentration of his powerful mind upon the great and important task before him, and in utterly contemning the paltry malice of those who have taken such foul means of opposing him. Any attempt on his part, or that of his friends, to retaliate on such a fainéant as poor
Stookie, or on the Scotsman, is like a gentleman fighting with a chimney sweeper—he may lick him, but cannot avoid being smutted in the conflict. For my part, I vow to God I would sooner fight a duel with an actual scavenger than enter into controversy with such fellows.

“I am sure our friend has been taught the danger of giving way to high spirits in mixed society, where there is some one always ready to laugh at the joke and to put it into his pocket to throw in the jester’s face on some future occasion. It is plain Wilson must have walked the course had he been cautious in selecting the friends of his lighter hours, and now, clothed with philosophical dignity, his friends will really expect he should be on his guard in this respect, and add to his talents and amiable disposition the proper degree of retenue becoming a moral teacher. Try to express all this to him in your own way, and believe that, as I have said it from the best motives, so I would wish it conveyed in the most delicate terms, as from one
who equally honours Wilson’s genius and loves his benevolent, ardent, and amiable disposition, but who would willingly see them mingled with the caution which leaves calumny no pin to hang her infamous accusations upon.

“For the reasons above mentioned I wish you had not published the ‘Testimonium.’ It is very clever, but descends to too low game. If Jeffrey or Cranstoun, or any of the dignitaries, chose to fight such skirmishes there would be some credit in it; but I do not like to see you turn out as a sharp-shooter with ——. ‘What does thou drawn among these heartless hinds?’ If M’Culloch were to parade you upon the score of Stanza xiii., I do not see how you could decline his meeting, as you make the man your equal (ad hoc, I mean), when you condescend to insult him by name. And the honour of such a rencounter would be small comfort to your friends for the danger which must attend it. I have hitherto avoided saying anything on this subject,1 though some little turn towards personal satire is, I think, the only drawback to your great and powerful talents, and I think I may have hinted as much to you. But I wished to see how this matter of Wilson’s would turn, before making a clean breast upon this subject. It might have so happened that you could

1 Later Sir Walter says that he remonstrated before Lockhart’s marriage. It is impossible to know on which occasion,—the present, or a later period,—his memory was at fault.

not handsomely or kindly have avoided a share in his defence, if the enemy had prevailed, and where friendship, or country, or any strong call demands the use of satiric talent, I hope I should neither fear risk myself or desire a friend to shun it. But now that he has triumphed I think it would be bad taste to cry out—
‘Strike up our drums—pursue the scattered stray.’
Besides, the natural consequence of his new situation must be his relinquishing his share in these compositions—at least, he will injure himself in the opinion of many friends, and expose himself to a continuation of galling and vexatious disputes to the embittering of his life, should he do otherwise. In that case I really hope you will pause before you undertake to be the Boaz of the
Maga; I mean in the personal and satirical department, when the Jachin has seceded.

“Besides all other objections of personal enemies, personal quarrels, constant obloquy, and all uncharitableness, such an occupation will fritter away your talents, hurt your reputation both as a lawyer and a literary man, and waste away your time in what at best will be but a monthly wonder. What has been done in this department will be very well as a frolic of young men, but let it suffice, ‘the gambol has been shown’—the frequent repetition will lose its effect even as pleasantry, for Peter Pindar, the sharpest of personal satirists, wrote himself down,
and wrote himself out, and is forgotten. The public can be cloyed with this as well as with other high seasoned food. Remember it is to the personal satire I object, and to the horse-play of your raillery, as well as the mean objects on whom it is wasted. Employing your wit and wisdom on general national topics, and bestowing deserved correction on opinions rather than men, or on men only as connected with actions and opinions, you cannot but do your country yeoman’s service.

“The magazine, I should think, might be gradually restricted in the point of which I complain, and strengthened and enlarged in circulation at the same time. It certainly has done and may do admirable service; it is the excess I complain of, and particularly as respecting your share in it, for I care not how hard others lay on the Galwegian Stot, only I would not like to have you in that sort of scrape which, if he have a particle of the buffalo in him, might, I think, ensue. Revere yourself, my dear boy, and think you were born to do your country better service than in this species of warfare. I make no apology (I am sure you will require none) for speaking plainly what my anxious affection dictates. As the old warrior says, ‘May the name of Mevni be forgotten among the people, and may they only say, Behold the father of Gaul.’ I wish you to have the benefit of my experience without purchasing it; and be assured, that the consciousness of attain-
ing complete superiority over your calumniators and enemies by the force of your general character, is worth a dozen of triumphs over them by the force of wit and raillery. I am sure
Sophia, as much as she can or ought to form any judgment respecting the line of conduct you have to pursue in your new character of a man married and settled, will be of my opinion in this matter, and that you will consider her happiness and your own, together with the respectability of both, by giving what I have said your anxious consideration.

“I am delighted to hear you get on so soon with the Roman tale.1 It cannot but be admirable, and is quite new. I would have you anxiously consider the author for a little time. The Abb. gets on; I hope it will do, and am greatly encouraged by your sentiments and Erskine’s. James Ballantyne, a good specimen of a certain class of readers, likes the second volume better than the first—Vogue la galère.

I have at present a visit from Dr. [name illegible]; he has stayed with me some days, and I think him intelligent and sensible, under a good deal of high-church and classical bigotry—neither indeed is the sort of bigotry which I dislike. If Charles goes eastward ho! I shall be glad to have compassed his acquaintance . . .

[This part torn off.]

. . . which would be a beautiful thing if it could be


done, but I doubt it, and I make a point never to do anything over my poor neighbours’ necks.
Constable proposes £400 for the Review1—this is too little, I think, though fully what the work can afford. Write to James Ballantyne, who thinks it should be £500, what your own views are, and they will be complied with instantly. Do not let this business slumber, for in these matters one should be a man of business. I have nothing to add but my best affection to Fia, as Charles used to call her when a child, and kind respects to your father and mother. I need not say how happy I will be when your Western Circuit finishes, and you come here to see the rising towers.”