LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 24: Conclusion

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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Reminiscences of the Dean of Salisbury.—Lockhart on modern poets.—He advocates the republication of Keats.—Lockhart on Tennyson.—Admiration of Byron and Southey.—The Quarterly and the Oxford Movement.—Kindness to Dean Boyle.—On Scott’s letter about the death of his first love.—On his friendship for Mr. Murray.—The notice of Lockhart’s death in the Times.—The author’s final reflections.

The Dean of Salisbury, who has already printed some charming notes on Lockhart in his delightful volume of Reminiscences, has kindly written the following recollections. The edition of Keats referred to as published by Lockhart’s advice, is a kind of quarto, in double column. There followed (before Lord Houghton’s publication of Keats’s Letters and Remains) another edition, with a portrait. I have elsewhere said that in a letter of Lockhart’s of 1819, which was kindly lent to me by Mr. Enys of Enys, he speaks most amiably of Keats, hopes for his recovery from an illness, and says that he has attempted to write in this sense in Blackwood, “but have been thwarted, I know not well how.” It is, however, fair to add that, in his early Quarterly notice of Tennyson, Lockhart does not show symp-
toms of conversion as far as Keats is concerned. Real appreciation came later. Dean Boyle’s recollections follow:—

Dear Mr. Lang,—I do not require to dig into my memory for any particulars about J. G. Lockhart. Everything that I heard from him, from 1844 to 1853, is so strongly impressed on my mind that I can bring back at once the times that I met him and the utterances that he made. Mr. Lockhart unbent himself very freely in the house of a relation of mine, and his sayings and doings were very faithfully chronicled. When I read, very shortly after his death, the excellent sketch of his life and character, in the Times of December 9, 1854—a sketch which was attributed to Dean Milman and Lady Eastlake—I was struck with its complete agreement with all that I had myself thought about his character, as a critic and a man. The real love of letters, which he showed in his conversation, gave him an especial charm. I have heard him acknowledge freely the mistakes that had been made by critics as to Keats, Shelley, and Tennyson. From what I have heard him say, half in fun and half in earnest, about the fierce attacks in Blackwood upon what was thought the Cockney school, I drew the conclusion that he greatly regretted all that had been said about Keats; and I feel sure that Lockhart was never guilty, as Mr. Colvin thinks in his Memoir of Keats, of
betraying his knowledge of the poet’s life to the author of the article in Blackwood. I know, on the authority of the
Rev. Thomas James, a contributor to the Quarterly, much valued by Lockhart, that the republication of Keats’s poetry in 1840-41 was strongly advocated by Lockhart, who was always willing to repair injustice. I heard him express great satisfaction that John Sterling’s review of Tennyson, in the Quarterly, had created a great demand on the part of the public; and I remember his strong praise of the ‘Morte d’Arthur’ and the ‘Lord of Burleigh.’ Of Shelley, too, and especially his Letters and Essays, he said much that dwells in my memory. One of his pieces of advice to me was to cultivate a catholic taste in poetry. ‘Milton, above all things, Pope, Scott, Byron, and Crabbe—I am afraid Southey is not such a favourite with you young gentlemen as Shelley and Keats—but “Kehama” and “Thalaba” you ought to read, and don’t forget Wordsworth’sChurchyard among the Mountains.”’ I was often struck with his magnanimity. When Macaulay’s ‘Essays’ were becoming very popular, he spoke of them with great admiration; and when some one was running down Jeffrey, I heard Lockhart say very much what he wrote afterwards, in a most interesting article in the Quarterly. He treated me with extreme kindness, and asked me to make use of him if I wanted any particular information about books. He had a very warm heart, often
concealed by a cold, reserved manner, and my old cousin used to say to me, ‘Lockhart treats you with great kindness on account of what your father did for him in his Edinburgh days.’ He took great interest in the battle of the Churches in Scotland after the Disruption. An article by
Gleig on Dr. Chalmers made him talk very freely about religious opinion in Scotland, and the attitude taken by Walter Scott. ‘If I had to write my “Life of Scott” over again now, I should say more about his religious opinions. Some people may think passages in his novels conventional and commonplace, but he hated cant, and every word he said came from his heart.’ One day in his own house he read me a letter, written by Scott to a friend who had lost his wife, full of beauty; and he then added, ‘The lady was Scott’s first love.’ I think this letter, or a copy of it, must have been given to Lockhart by Sir John Forbes, the son of the banker who married the lady in question. There was an enthusiasm about Lockhart, when he expressed his views about poems he admired, such as I have never seen except in Matthew Arnold. It may seem strange to some to hear that the two poems I heard him admire most were Byron’s ‘Isles of Greece,’ and some very fine verses of Fanny Kemble’s, which he gave in the Quarterly in his review of her poems. May I venture to mention a personal matter? He was going to take a short tour on the Continent with
his friend
Lord Robertson, and he said to me, ‘If you can come with us, I will frank you. You would hear about Scott and Wilson to your heart’s content.’ But I was an undergraduate at Oxford, and the kind scheme could not be thought of. I venture, however, to think that there are not many men in Lockhart’s position who would think of doing such a kindness to a youth. I know that there had been from time to time grave questions and difference of opinion between Lockhart and the head of the firm in Albemarle Street, but Lockhart was fond of speaking of the generous treatment many authors had had from Mr. Murray, whom he called the prince of publishers. I have heard him say that he had often wished Sir Walter had had more dealings with the house. The line taken by the Quarterly as to the Oxford Movement has been much misunderstood. Lockhart was fond of quoting a famous sentence of Horne Tooke’s, about Hounslow and Windsor: ‘I went a certain way from Oxford, but I was not going to Rome.’ I should like to say that when he was last at Rome, he wrote a warm appreciation of the poetry of Dante, and said he had been deepening his acquaintance, under the guidance of Lucentini, ‘a man much to be commended.’ Lockhart used to quote a famous passage of Sir F. Palgrave, of the value to be gained from ‘one dear book.’ I could write at some length of the value to be gained from knowledge and acquaintance of one dear man.—I am, very truly yours,

G. D. Boyle.”

We may add an extract from the article in the Times, attributed to Dean Milman and Lady Eastlake.

From theTimes,” Dec. 9, 1854.

“It is not in the first few days of regret for Mr. Lockhart’s loss that the extent of it can be best defined. . . . Although his reputation has been confined to literature, and although, by early amassed knowledge and long-sharpened thought, he had reared himself into a pillar of literary strength, yet the leading qualities of his mind would have fitted him for any part where far-sighted sagacity, iron self-control, and rapid instinctive judgment mark the born leader of others. Nor did he care for literary triumphs or trials of strength, but rather avoided them with shrinking reserve.

“He entered society rather to unbend his powers than to exert them. Playful raillery, inimitable in ease and brilliancy, with old friend, simple child, or with the gentlest or humblest present, was the relaxation he most cared to indulge; and if that were denied him, and especially if expected to stand forward and shine, he would shut himself up altogether.

“Reserve indeed—too often misunderstood in its origin, ascribed to coldness and pride when its only source was the rarest modesty, with shyness both personal and national—was his strong external characteristic, Those whose acquaintance he was
expressly invited to make, would find no access allowed them to his mind, and go disappointed away, knowing only that they had seen one of the most interesting, most mysterious, but most chilling of men, for their very deference had made him retire further from them. Most happy was
Lockhart when he could literally take the lowest place, and there complacently listen to the strife of conversers, till some dilemma in the chain of recollection or argument arose, and then the ready memory drew forth the missing link. . . . And there were occasions also when the expression of the listener was not so complacent—when the point at issue was one of right and wrong; and then the scorn on the lip and the cloud on the brow were but the prelude to some strong speech, withering in its sarcasm.

. . . . . .

“Far remote was he from the usual conditions of genius—its simplicity, its foibles, and its follies. Lockhart had fought the whole battle of life, both within and without, and borne more than his share of sorrows. So acute, unsparing, and satirical was his intellect that, had Lockhart been endowed with that alone, he would have been the most brilliant but the most dangerous of men; but so strong, upright, and true were his moral qualities also that, had he been a dunce in attainment or a fool in wit, he must still have been recognised as an extraordinary man. . . . All knew how unsparing he was to morbid or sickly sentiment, but few could tell
how tender to genuine feeling. All could see how he despised every species of vanity, pretension, or cant; but few had the opportunity of witnessing his unfailing homage to the humblest or even stupidest worth.

. . . . . .

“It was characteristic of Lockhart’s peculiar individuality that wherever he was at all known, whether by man or woman, by poet, or man of business, or man of the world, he touched the hidden chord of romance in all. No man less affected the poetical, the mysterious, or the sentimental; no man less affected anything; yet, as he stole stiffly away from the knot which, if he had not enlivened, he had hushed, there was not one who did not confess that a being had passed before them who stirred all the pulses of the imagination, and realised what is generally only ideal in the portrait of a man. To this impression there is no doubt that his personal appearance greatly contributed, though too entirely the exponent of his mind to be considered as a separate cause. . . .

“As in social intercourse, so in literature, Lockhart was guilty of injustice to his own surpassing powers. . . . No doubt he might have taken a higher place as a poet than by his Spanish Ballads, as a writer of fiction than by his novels. These seem to have been thrown off by a sudden uncontrollable impulse to relieve the mind of its fulness, rather than as works of finished art or mature study. . . . They
were the flashes of a genius that would not be suppressed: none esteemed them more humbly than Lockhart. . . . So, too, with his other writings of the period. The ice once broken, the waters went dashing out in irresistible force; his exuberant spirits, his joyous humour, his satiric vigour, his vehement fun, when the curb was once loosened, ran away with him. . . . These outbursts over, he retired again into himself.

. . . . . .

Lockhart was designated at once, for none else could be, the biographer of Scott. . . . But while his relation and singular qualifications gave him unrivalled advantages for this work, they involved him in no less serious and peculiar difficulties. The history must tell not only the brilliant joyous dawn and zenith of the poet’s fame, but also the dark sad decline and close. It was not only that Lockhart . . . enjoyed the closest intimacy with Scott, saw him in all his moods, with veneration which could not blind his intuitive keen judgment of human character: in some respects there was the most perfect congeniality between the two.

“In outward manner no two men indeed could be more different. Scott frank, easy, accessible, the least awful great man ever known. . . . Lockhart, slow at first, retiring, almost repelling, till the thaw of kindly or friendly feelings had warmed and kindled his heart. But in tastes, in political principles, in conviviality, in active life, in the enjoy-
ment of Scottish scenery and sports, in the love of letters for letters’ sake, with a sovereign contempt for the pedantry of authorship, warm attachments, even in the love of brute beasts—there was the closest sympathy. . . . But stern truth, honour, and faith with the public commanded the disclosure of the gloomier evening. . . .

“There was one thing which set Lockhart far above all common critics: high over every other consideration predominated the general love of letters. Whatever might be the fate of those of more doubtful pretensions (even to the lowest, the humblest of authors, there was one kind of generosity in which Lockhart was never wanting—if his heart was closed, his hand was always open), yet if any great work of genius appeared, it was one to him—his kindred spirit was kindled at once, his admiration and sympathy threw off all trammels. We have known, where he has resisted rebuke or remonstrance, to do justice to the works of political antagonists—that impartial homage was at once freely, boldly, lavishly paid.”

The tale is now all told, and we may look back on it and briefly review our impressions. Of no human character can another venture to be the judge, least of all when the character is so strong and so complex as that of Lockhart. He has been spoken of as cold, heartless, incapable of friendship. We have written in vain, and his own letters are
vainly displayed, if it be not now recognised that the intensity of his affections rivalled, and partly caused, the intensity of his reserve. Garrulous lax affections and emotions are recognised and praised: ready tears, voluble sorrows, win sympathy,—and may have forsaken the heart they tenanted almost in the hour of their expression. Lockhart felt too strongly for words, and his griefs were “too great for tears,” as the Greek says. His silence was not so much the result of a stoical philosophy, as of that constitutional and ineradicable ply of nature which, when he was a child, left his cheeks dry while others wept, and ended in a malady of voiceless grief. He was born to be so, and to be misconstrued.

The loyalty of his friendships, and the loyalty of his friends to him, is not of common example. His great devotion to Sir Walter Scott, so unaffected, so enduring, coloured all his life and thought. To have won the entire trust and love of Scott, the singular affection of Carlyle, who saw him so rarely, yet who remembered and regretted him so keenly,—having “fallen in love with him,” as it were,—is no ordinary proof of extraordinary qualities in heart and brain. His generosity in giving, even beyond his means, is attested by Mr. Christie. His affection, within his family, was tender, and perhaps, in one instance, even too considerate. In society it is obvious, from the circle of his acquaintances, and the houses which were open to him, that he could both take and give pleasure. But instances of shy-
ness, petulance, and coldness, in society strange or uncongenial, were unforgotten and unforgiven by those who had never met Lockhart where he was himself and at home. That he was strenuously industrious and conscientious in his editorial and other literary duties, courteous and punctual, has been proved. His editorial work involved, as we have heard him state, the conciliation of several tempers and interests; he had to shine in compromise, and, on the whole, he succeeded. Reviewing all that I know of him, my own impression is one of respect, admiration, affection, and regret. The close of his days, so admirable for courage, kindness, endurance, sweetness of temper, and considerateness, is like a veiled sunset, beautiful and sad. He might speak of himself (
Mrs. Gordon says that he so spoke) as “a weary old man, fit for nothing but to shut myself up and be sulky.”1 The gay fortitude of his letters proves that he did himself injustice. Sorrows in a succession and severity almost without parallel, disappointed hopes, frustrated ambitions, the censures which pursued his great and immortal work, did not sour him. In spite of a retreat which was forced on him by his bodily health, he mellowed under years and griefs, like upland corn ripened by the frost. His end was fitting and beautiful, a continuation, in a softer key, of the close of the life of Scott. The presence of his dust at Dryburgh, the consciousness of his repose there, after a warfare so weary, makes

1Christopher North,” ii. 352.

the place doubly sacred. His lesser light is blended, for all time, with the warmth and radiance of the man he loved.

Lockhart’s errors have not been concealed. No “white alabaster image” of him has been, or could honestly be, erected. These errors, so unamiable, were mainly the faults of his conduct in criticism. The worst of them have whatever excuse youth, ignorance, the heated political and literary passions of a small town, and the example of an elder comrade, can supply. In his later years, every one who had, or fancied that he (or she) had, a grievance against the Quarterly Review, cried out upon the Editor. Among the festering vanities of a generation of scribblers was developed a legend or myth of Lockhart. On this point enough has been written, and it has been made clear that, whatever were Lockhart’s early deeds in bitterness of comment, he was not absolute in the control of the Review. His own essays, many as they are, contain not many phrases which deserve censure. On politics he did not write a single article.

Lockhart was not, through all his life, a man of sweet and placable temper in private. On this point let me quote an anecdote, handed on by his friend Mrs. Norton to Lord Dufferin. Lockhart said to her—

“To-day it is as if I had seen a ghost. My wife, whenever I got cross and spoke sharply, had a trick of putting her two hands together, and placing them
with the palms over my mouth. The other day my little daughter” (at this time about sixteen) “came across the room when I was angry about something, and, using exactly the same gesture as her mother, placed her hands over my mouth.”

Unfortunate in so much, Lockhart was most happy in a wife and a daughter who inherited the sweetness of spirit of their father and their grandfather. To their influence, in part, we may trace the admirable qualities which, in his later years, contrasted with the acerbity of his early manhood. To adapt the noble phrase of the Greek historian, “Being a man, he bore manfully such things as mortals must endure.”