LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoir of John Murray
Chapter V.

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
‣ Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chap. XX.
Chap. XXI.
Chap. XXII.
Chap. XXIII.
Chap. XXIV.
Chap. XXV.
Chap. XXVI.
Chap. XXVII.
Chap. XXIX.
Chap. XXX.
Chap. XXXI.
Chap. XXXII.
Chap. XXXIV.
Chap. XXXV.
Chap. XXXVI.
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The publication of a Tory Review was not the result of a sudden inspiration. The scheme had long been pondered over. Mr. Canning had impressed upon Mr. Pitt the importance of securing the newspaper press, then almost entirely Whiggish or Revolutionary, on the side of his administration. To combat, in some measure, the democratic principles then in full swing, Mr. Canning, with others, started, in November 1797, the Anti-Jacobin, or Weekly Examiner.

The Anti-Jacobin ceased to be published in 1798, when Canning, having been appointed Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, found his time fully occupied by the business of his department, as well as by his parliamentary duties, and could no longer take part in that clever publication.

Four years later, in October 1802, the first number of the Edinburgh Review was published. It appeared at the right time, and, as the first quarterly organ of the higher criticism, evidently hit the mark at which it aimed. In its early days the criticism was rude, and wanting in delicate insight; for the most part too dictatorial, and often unfair. It was conducted by some of the cleverest literary young men in Edinburgh—Jeffrey, Brougham, Sydney Smith,
Francis Horner, Dr. Thomas Brown, and others. Though Walter Scott was not a founder of the Review, he was a frequent contributor.

Jeffrey could never appreciate the merits of Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge. “This will never do!” was the commencement of his review of Wordsworth’s noblest poem. Jeffrey boasted that he had “crushed the ‘Excursion.’” “He might as well say,” observed Southey, “that he could crush Skiddaw.” Miss Seward, whose ‘Life of Dr. Darwin’ had received a cutting notice, wrote to Scott: “Jefferies ought to have been his name. Ignorance and envy are the only possible parents of such criticisms as disgrace the publication which assumes the name of your city.”

Ignorance seems to have pervaded the article written by Brougham, in the second number of the Edinburgh on Dr. Thomas Young’s discovery of the true principles of interferences in the undulatory theory of light. Brougham was then only twenty-four years old, and he undertook to condemn the principles upon which science had set its seal. Sir John Herschell said of Young’s discovery, that it was sufficient of itself to have placed its author in the highest rank of scientific immortality.

The articles contained in some of the early numbers of the Edinburgh made many enemies, especially, in politics. The Government was bitterly denounced, whether its measures were good or bad. Mr. Murray observing with indignation the undue power acquired by the northern Review, the roughshod way in which it endeavoured to crush down rising authors and men of science, as well as its extreme democratic views, while there was no other periodical publication to counteract its influence, resolved to address Mr. Canning in the following letter.

John Murray to the Right Hon. George Canning.
September 25th, 1807.

I venture to address you upon a subject that is not, perhaps, undeserving of one moment of your attention. There is a work entitled the Edinburgh Review, written with such unquestionable talent that it has already attained an extent of circulation not equalled by any similar publication. The principles of this work are, however, so radically bad that I have been led to consider the effect that such sentiments, so generally diffused, are likely to produce, and to think that some means equally popular ought to be adopted to counteract their dangerous tendency. But the publication in question is conducted with so much ability, and is sanctioned with such high and decisive authority by the party of whose opinions it is the organ, that there is little hope of producing against it any effectual opposition, unless it arise from you, Sir, and your friends. Should you, Sir, think the idea worthy of encouragement, I should, with equal pride and willingness, engage my arduous exertions to promote its success; but as my object is nothing short of producing a work of the greatest talent and importance, I shall entertain it no longer if it be not so fortunate as to obtain the high patronage which I have thus taken the liberty to solicit.

Permit me, Sir, to add that the person who addresses you is no adventurer, but a man of some property, and inheriting a business that has been established for nearly a century. I therefore trust that my application will be attributed to its proper motives, and that your goodness will at least pardon its obtrusion.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most humble and obedient Servant,
John Murray.

So far as can be ascertained, Mr. Canning did not answer this letter in writing. But a communication was shortly after opened with him through Mr. Stratford Canning, whose acquaintance Mr. Murray had made through the
publication of the ‘
Miniature,’ referred to in a preceding chapter. Mr. Canning was still acting as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and was necessarily cautious of committing himself to a project which was meant to embrace political objects, and which might embarrass him in his political position. Mr. Stratford Canning, his cousin, was not bound by any such official restraints. In January 1808 he introduced Mr. Gifford to Mr. Murray, and the starting of the proposed new periodical was the subject of many consultations between them. It was some time, however, before any practical steps could be adopted.

Walter Scott still continued to write for the Edinburgh, notwithstanding the differences of opinion which existed between himself and the editor as to political questions. He was rather proud of the Review, inasmuch as it was an outgrowth of Scottish literature. Moreover, it kept authors and literary men up to the mark, and though it crushed the seemingly weak, it stimulated the strong. Scott even endeavoured to enlist new contributors, for the purpose of strengthening the Review. He wrote to Robert Southey in May 1807, inviting him to contribute to the Edinburgh. The honorarium was to be ten guineas per sheet of sixteen pages. This was a very tempting invitation to Southey, as he was by no means rich at the time, and the pay was more than he received for his contributions to the Annual Register. But he replied to Scott as follows:—

Mr. Southey to Mr. Scott.
June, 1807.

“I have scarcely one opinion in common with it (the Edinburgh Review) upon any subject . . . . Whatever of any merit I might insert there would aid and abet opinions hostile to my own, and thus identify me with a system which I thoroughly disapprove. This is not said hastily.
The emolument to be derived from writing at ten guineas a sheet, Scotch measure, instead of seven pounds for the
Annual, would be considerable; the pecuniary advantage resulting from the different manner in which my future works would be handled [by the Review] probably still more so. But my moral feelings must not be compromised. To Jeffrey as an individual I shall ever be ready to show every kind of individual courtesy; but of Judge Jeffrey of the Edinburgh Review I must ever think and speak as of a bad politician, a worse moralist, and a critic, in matters of taste, equally incompetent and unjust.”*

Walter Scott, however, was very soon led to entertain the same views of the Edinburgh Review as Southey. A severe and unjust review of ‘Marmion,’ by Jeffrey, appeared in 1808, accusing Scott of a mercenary spirit in writing for money (though Jeffrey himself was writing for money in the same article), and further irritating Scott by asserting that he “had neglected Scottish feelings and Scottish characters.” Scott was much nettled by these observations. He at once severed his connection with Constable, not so much because of his conduct, but because of the intemperate remarks of Hunter, Constable’s partner. Hunter had already been the cause of disagreement between Constable & Company and the Longmans, and now he broke off the connection betwixt Constable and Scott. And perhaps to this circumstance, as well as to Jeffrey’s biting review, may be ascribed Scott’s early connection with the foundation of the Quarterly. “Constable,” writes Scott to his brother Thomas, in November 1808, “or rather that Bear, his partner, has behaved by me of late not very civilly, and I owe Jeffrey a flap with a foxtail on account of his review of ‘Marmion,’ and thus doth the whirligig of time bring about my revenges.”

* ‘The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey,’ iii. pp. 124-5.

Murray, too, was greatly annoyed by the review of ‘Marmion.’ “Scott” he used to say, “may forgive but he can never forget this treatment;” and, to quote the words of Mr. Lockhart: “When he read the article on ‘Marmion,’ and another on foreign politics, in the same number of the Edinburgh Review, Murray said to himself, ‘Walter Scott has feelings, both as a gentleman and a Tory, which these people must now have wounded; the alliance between him and the whole clique of the Edinburgh Review is now shaken;’” and, as far at least as the political part of the affair was concerned, John Murray’s sagacity was not at fault.

Mr. Murray at once took advantage of this opening to draw closer the bonds between himself and Ballantyne, for he well knew who was the leading spirit in the firm, and was desirous of obtaining the London agency of the publishing business, which, as he rightly discerned, would soon be started in connection with the Canongate Press, and in opposition to Constable. The large increase of work which Murray was prepared to place in the hands of the printers induced Ballantyne to invite him to come as far as Ferrybridge in Yorkshire for a personal conference. At this interview various new projects were discussed—among them the proposed Novelists’ Library—and from the information which he then obtained as to Scott’s personal feelings and literary projects, Murray considered himself justified in at once proceeding to Ashestiel, in order to lay before Scott himself, in a personal interview, his great scheme for the new Review. He arrived there about the middle of October 1808, and was hospitably welcomed and entertained. He stated his plans, mentioned the proposed editor of the Review, the probable contributors, and earnestly invited the assistance of Scott himself.

During Murray’s visit to Ashestiel No. 26 of the Edin-
burgh Review arrived. It contained an article entitled “
Don Cevallos on the Occupation of Spain.” It was long supposed that the article was written by Brougham, but it has since been ascertained that Jeffrey himself was the author of it. This article gave great offence to the friends of rational liberty and limited monarchy in this country. Scott forthwith wrote to Constable:—“The Edinburgh Review had become such as to render it impossible for me to become a contributor to it; now it is such as I can no longer continue to receive or read it.”

“The list of the then subscribers,” said Mr. Cadell to Mr. Lockhart, “exhibits, in an indignant dash of Constable’s pen opposite Mr. Scott’s name, the word ‘STOPT!’”

Mr. Murray never forgot his visit to Ashestiel. Scott was kindness itself; Mrs. Scott was equally cordial and hospitable. Richard Heber was there at the time, and the three went out daily to explore the scenery of the neighbourhood. They visited Melrose Abbey, the Tweed, and Dryburgh Abbey, not very remote from Melrose, where Scott was himself to lie; they ascended the Eildon Hills, Scott on his sheltie often stopping by the way to point out to Murray and Heber, who were on foot, some broad meadow or heather-clad ground, as a spot where some legend held its seat, or some notable deed had been achieved during the wars of the Borders. Scott thus converted the barren hillside into a region of interest and delight. From the top of the Eildons he pointed out the scene of some twenty battles.

Very soon after his return to London, Murray addressed the following letter to Mr. Scott:—

John Murray to Mr. Scott.
October 26th, 1808.
Dear Sir,

Although the pressure of business since my return to London has prevented me writing to you sooner, yet my thoughts have, I assure you, been almost completely employed upon the important subjects of the conversation with which you honoured me during the time I was experiencing the obliging hospitality of Mrs. Scott and yourself at Ashestiel.

Mr. Murray then proceeded to discuss the question of the Novelists’ Library, described in the preceding chapter, and continued:—

This project is tolerably mechanical, and does not require in its production the mental energies of every kind which are indispensable in the other grand plan of a Review, which I perceive to be imperiously demanded. You have probably seen the advertisement of the New Review, which is to appear from the shop of the publisher of the Satirist, each critique to be signed by its author, and the whole phalanx to be headed by the notorious veteran Richard Cumberland, Esq. The miserable existence of such a Review cannot possibly linger beyond the third number; but it assists in showing practically how much a good Review is wanted in London by every class. I understand—indeed, I may say with certainty—that Marmion is to be the second article in the first number, after Fox, and it will probably bear the signature of your friend Cumberland himself. It happens very luckily, both for himself and the admirers of this gentleman, that he is about to publish a novel (now in the press), ‘John de Lancaster,’ in which he relies upon his talents as a writer, and his moral character as a man; for, having made two or three slips in former novels, he intends in this work to give his recantation, so that, whatever figure he may make in his own Review, he would certainly be a most admirable subject, and it will be hard if, upon this occasion, he does not receive that justice which his writings and character have so long merited. But I am diverging too much. I have seen Mr. William
Gifford, hinting distantly at a Review; he admitted the most imperious necessity for one, and that too in a way that leads me to think that he has had very important communications upon the subject. He has been so obliging as to give me a work by the learned Dr. Ireland to publish. This is one of those gentlemen whom you may remember to have been suggested by Mr. Heber as capable of contributing to our Review. I feel more than ever confident that the higher powers are exceedingly desirous for the establishment of some counteracting publication; and it will, I suspect, remain only for your appearance in London to urge some very formidable plan into activity. I will trouble you no further upon these subjects until I am favoured with your wishes, and I will only add, that you shall ever find me active and faithful. I trust that Mrs. Scott and the family have returned with you in perfect health, and that you are preparing for your journey to London. I beg leave to offer my most respectful compliments to Mrs. Scott, and to assure you that Dear Sir,

I remain, with the highest esteem,

Your obliged and obedient Servant,
John Murray.

This letter was crossed in transit by the following:—

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
Ashestiel, by Selkirk, October 30th, 1808.
Dear Sir,

Since I had the pleasure of seeing you I have the satisfaction to find that Mr. Gifford has accepted the task of editing the intended Review. This was communicated to me by the Lord Advocate, who at the same time requested me to write Mr. Gifford on the subject. I have done so at great length, pointing out whatever occurred to me on the facilities or difficulties of the work in general, as well as on the editorial department, offering at the same time all the assistance in my power to set matters upon a good footing and to keep them so. I presume he will have my letter by the time this reaches you, and that he will communicate with you fully upon the details. I am as
certain as of my existence that the plan will answer, provided sufficient attention is used in procuring and selecting articles of merit.*

What Scott thought of Murray’s visit to Ashestiel may be inferred from his letter to his political confidant, George Ellis, of which, as it has already appeared in Scott’s Life, it is only necessary to give extracts here:—

Mr. Scott to Mr. George Ellis.
November 2nd, 1808.
Dear Ellis,

We had, equally to our joy and surprise, a flying visit from Heber about three weeks ago. He staid but three days, but, between old stories and new, we made them very merry in their passage. During his stay, John Murray, the bookseller in Fleet Street, who has more real knowledge of what concerns his business than any of his brethren—at least, than any of them that I know—came to canvass a most important plan, of which I am now, in “dern privacie,” to give you the outline. I had most strongly recommended to our Lord Advocate (the Right Hon. J. C. Colquhoun) to think of some counter measures against the Edinburgh Review, which, politically speaking, is doing incalculable damage. I do not mean this in a party way; the present ministry are not all I could wish them, for (Canning excepted) I doubt there is among them too much self-seeking. . . . But their political principles are sound English principles, and, compared to the greedy and inefficient horde which preceded them, they are angels of light and purity. It is obvious, however, that they want defenders, both in and out of doors. Pitt’s
“Love and fear glued many friends to him;
And now he’s fallen, those tough co-mixtures melt.”
Were this only to effect a change of hands I should expect it with more indifference; but I fear a change of principles

* The remainder of this letter, which deals with the proposed Novelists’ Library, is printed in the preceding chapter.

is designed. The
Edinburgh Review tells you coolly, “We foresee a speedy revolution in this country as well as Mr. Cobbett;” and, to say the truth, by degrading the person of the Sovereign, exalting the power of the French armies and the wisdom of their counsels, holding forth that peace (which they allow can only be purchased by the humiliating prostration of our honour) is indispensable to the very existence of our country, I think that for these two years past they have done their utmost to hasten the accomplishment of their own prophecy. Of this work 9000 copies are printed quarterly, and no genteel family can pretend to be without it, because, independent of its politics, it gives the only valuable literary criticism which can be met with. Consider, of the numbers who read this work, how many are there likely to separate the literature from the politics?—how many youths are there upon whose minds the flashy and bold character of the work is likely to make an indelible impression?—and think what the consequence is likely to be.

Now, I think there is balm in Gilead for all this, and that the cure lies in instituting such a Review in London as should be conducted totally independent of bookselling influence, on a plan as liberal as that of the Edinburgh, its literature as well supported, and its principles English and constitutional. Accordingly, I have been given to understand that Mr. William Gifford is willing to become the conductor of such a work, and I have written to him, at the Lord Advocate’s desire, a very voluminous letter on the subject. Now, should this plan succeed, you must hang your birding-piece on its hook, take down your old Anti-Jacobin armour, and “remember your swashing blow.” It is not that I think this projected Review ought to be exclusively or principally political; this would, in my opinion, absolutely counteract its purpose, which I think should be to offer to those who love their country, and to those whom we would wish to love it, a periodical work of criticism conducted with equal talent, but upon sounder principles. Is not this very possible? In point of learning, you Englishmen have ten times our scholarship; and, as for talent and genius, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than any of the rivers in Israel?” Have we not yourself and your cousin, the Roses, Malthus, Matthias, Gifford, Heber, and his brother? Can I not
procure you a score of blue-caps who would rather write for us than for the
Edinburgh Review if they got as much pay by it? “A good plot, good friends, and full of expectation—an excellent plot, very good friends!”

Heber’s fear was lest we should fail in procuring regular steady contributors; but I know so much of the interior discipline of reviewing as to have no apprehension of that. Provided we are once set a-going by a few dashing numbers, there would be no fear of enlisting regular contributors; but the amateurs must bestir themselves in the first instance. From the Government we should be entitled to expect confidential communications as to points of fact (so far as fit to be made public) in our political disquisitions. With this advantage, our good cause and St. George to boot, we may at least divide the field with our formidable competitors, who, after all, are much better at cutting than parrying, and whose uninterrupted triumph has as much unfitted them for resisting a serious attack as it has done Buonaparte for the Spanish war. Jeffrey is, to be sure, a man of the most uncommon versatility of talent, but what then?
“General Howe is a gallant commander,
There are others as gallant as he.”
Think of all this, and let me hear from you very soon on the subject.
Canning is, I have good reason to know, very anxious about the plan. I mentioned it to Robert Dundas, who was here with his lady for a few days on a pilgrimage to Melrose, and he highly approved of it. Though no literary man, he is judicious, clair-voyant, and uncommonly sound-headed, like his father, Lord Melville. With the exceptions I have mentioned, the thing continues a secret . . . .

Ever yours,
Walter Scott.
Mr. Scott to John Murray.
November 2nd, 1808.

I transmitted my letter to Mr. Gifford through the Lord Advocate, and left it open that Mr. Canning might read it if he thought it worth while. I have a letter from the
Advocate highly approving my views, so I suppose you will very soon hear from Mr. Gifford specifically on the subject. It is a matter of immense consequence that something shall be set about, and that without delay. I am truly surprised at the inexhaustible activity of
Mr. Cumberland’s spirit. His proposed Review * cannot be very long-lived—I hope ours stands a better chance of longevity. I am truly vexed at being kept in my present state of uncertainty concerning my motions southwards.

The points on which I chiefly insisted with Mr. Gifford were that the Review should be independent both as to bookselling and ministerial influences—meaning that we were not to be advocates of party through thick and thin, but to maintain constitutional principles. Moreover, I stated as essential that the literary part of the work should be as sedulously attended to as the political, because it is by means of that alone that the work can acquire any firm and extended reputation.

Moreover yet, I submitted that each contributor should draw money for his article, be his rank what it may. This general rule has been of great use to the Edinburgh Review. Of terms I said nothing, except that your views on the subject seemed to me highly liberal. I do not add further particulars because I dare say Mr. Gifford will show you the letter, which is a very long one.—Believe me, my dear Sir, with sincere regard,

Your faithful, humble Servant,
Walter Scott.

In a subsequent letter to Mr. Ellis, Scott again indicates what he considers should be the proper management of the proposed Review.

“Let me touch,” he says, “a string of much delicacy—the political character of the Review. It appears to me that this should be of a liberal and enlarged nature, resting upon principles—indulgent and conciliatory as far as possible upon mere party questions, but stern in detecting and exposing all attempts to sap our constitutional fabric. Religion is another slippery station; here also I would endeavour

* The New Review, mentioned above.

to be as impartial as the subject will admit of. . . . The truth is, there is policy, as well as morality, in keeping our swords clear as well as sharp, and not forgetting the Gentleman in the Critic. The public appetite is soon gorged with any particular style. The common Reviews, before the appearance of the
Edinburgh , had become extremely mawkish; and, unless when prompted by the malice of the bookseller or reviewer, gave a dawdling, maudlin sort of applause to everything that reached even mediocrity. The Edinburgh folks squeezed into their sauce plenty of acid, and were popular from novelty as well as from merit. The minor Reviews, and other periodical publications, have outréd the matter still further, and given us all abuse and no talent. . . . This, therefore, we have to trust to, that decent, lively, and reflecting criticism, teaching men not to abuse books, but to read and to judge them, will have the effect of novelty upon a public wearied with universal efforts at blackguard and indiscriminating satire. I have a long and very sensible letter* from John Murray, the bookseller, in which he touches upon this point very neatly.”

Scott was most assiduous in his preparations for the first number. He wrote to his brother, Thomas Scott, asking him to contribute an article; to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, of Christ Church, Oxford; to Mr. Morritt, of Rokeby Park, Yorkshire; and to Robert Southey, of Keswick, asking them for contributions. To Mr. Sharpe he says:—

“The Hebers are engaged, item Rogers, Southey, Moore (Anacreon), and others whose reputations Jeffrey has murdered, and who are rising to cry woe upon him, like the ghosts in ‘King Richard.’”

Scott’s letter to Gifford, the intended editor, was full of excellent advice. It was dated “Edinburgh, October 25th, 1808.” We quote from it several important passages:—

John Murray, of Fleet Street,” says Scott, “a young bookseller of capital and enterprise, and with more good sense and propriety of sentiment than fall to the share of

* Given below, under date Nov. 15, 1808.

most of the trade, made me a visit at Ashestiel a few weeks ago; and as I found he had had some communication with you upon the subject, I did not hesitate to communicate my sentiments to him on this and some other points of the plan, and I thought his ideas were most liberal and satisfactory.

“The office of Editor is of such importance, that had you not been pleased to undertake it, I fear the plan would have fallen wholly to the ground. The full power of control must, of course, be vested in the editor for selecting, curtailing, and correcting the contributions to the Review. But this is not all; for, as he is the person immediately responsible to the bookseller that the work (amounting to a certain number of pages, more or less) shall be before the public at a certain time, it will be the editor’s duty to consider in due turn the articles of which each number ought to consist, and to take measures for procuring them from the persons best qualified to write upon such and such subjects. But this is sometimes so troublesome, that I foresee with pleasure you will soon be obliged to abandon your resolution of writing nothing yourself. At the same time, if you will accept of my services as a sort of jackal or lion’s provider, I will do all in my power to assist in this troublesome department of editorial duty.

“But there is still something behind, and that of the last consequence. One great resource to which the Edinburgh editor turns himself, and by which he gives popularity even to the duller articles of his Review, is accepting contributions from persons of inferior powers of writing, provided they understand the books to which their criticisms relate; and as such are often of stupifying mediocrity, he renders them palatable by throwing in a handful of spice, namely, any lively paragraph or entertaining illustration that occurs to him in reading them over. By this sort of veneering he converts, without loss of time or hindrance to business, articles, which in their original state might hang in the market, into such goods as are not likely to disgrace those among which they are placed. This seems to be a point in which an editor’s assistance is of the last consequence, for those who possess the knowledge necessary to review books of research or abstruse disquisitions, are very often unable to put the criticisms into a readable, much more a
pleasant and captivating form; and as their science cannot be attained ‘for the nonce,’ the only remedy is to supply their deficiencies, and give their lucubrations a more popular turn.

“There is one opportunity possessed by you in a particular degree—that of access to the best sources of political information. It would not, certainly, be advisable that the work should assume, especially at the outset, a professed political character. On the contrary, the articles on science and miscellaneous literature ought to be of such a quality as might fairly challenge competition with the best of our contemporaries. But as the real reason of instituting the publication is the disgusting and deleterious doctrine with which the most popular of our Reviews disgraces its pages, it is essential to consider how this warfare should be managed. On this ground, I hope it is not too much to expect from those who have the power of assisting us, that they should on topics of great national interest furnish the reviewers, through the medium of their editor, with accurate views of points of fact, so far as they are fit to be made public. This is the most delicate and yet most essential part of our scheme.

“On the one hand, it is certainly not to be understood that we are to be held down to advocate upon all occasions the cause of administration. Such a dereliction of independence would render us entirely useless for the purpose we mean to serve. On the other hand, nothing will render the work more interesting than the public learning, not from any vaunt of ours, but from their own observation, that we have access to early and accurate information on points of fact. The Edinburgh Review has profited much by the pains which the Opposition party have taken to possess the writers of all the information they could give them on public matters. Let me repeat that you, my dear sir, from enjoying the confidence of Mr. Canning, and other persons in power, may easily obtain the confidential information necessary to give credit to the work, and communicate it to such as you may think proper to employ in laying it before the public.”

Mr. Scott further proceeded, in his letter to Mr. Gifford, to discuss the mode and time of publication, the choice of subjects, the persons to be employed as contributors, and
the name of the proposed Review, thus thoroughly identifying himself with it.

“Let our forces,” he said, “for a number or two, consist of volunteers or amateurs, and when we have acquired some reputation, we shall soon levy and discipline our forces of the line. After all, the matter is become very serious—eight or nine thousand copies of the Edinburgh Review are regularly distributed, merely because there is no other respectable and independent publication of the kind. In this city (Edinburgh), where there is not one Whig out of twenty men who read the work, many hundreds are sold; and how long the generality of readers will continue to dislike politics, so artfully mingled with information and amusement, is worthy of deep consideration. But it is not yet too late to stand in the breach; the first number ought, if possible, to be out in January, and if it can burst among them like a bomb, without previous notice, the effect will be more striking.

“Of those who might be intrusted in the first instance you are a much better judge than I am. I think I can command the assistance of a friend or two here, particularly William Erskine, the Lord Advocate’s brother-in-law and my most intimate friend. In London, you have Malthus, George Ellis, the Roses, cum pluribus aliis. Richard Heber was with me when Murray came to my farm, and, knowing his zeal for the good cause, I let him into our counsels. In Mr. Frere we have the hopes of a potent ally. The Rev. Reginald Heber would be an excellent coadjutor, and when I come to town I will sound Matthias. As strict secrecy would of course be observed, the diffidence of many might be overcome. For scholars you can be at no loss while Oxford stands where it did; and I think there will be no deficiency in the scientific articles.”

Thus instructed, Gifford proceeded to rally his forces. There was no want of contributors. Some came invited, some came unsought; but, as the matter was still a secret, the editor endeavoured to secure contributions through his personal friends. For instance, he called upon Mr. Rogers to request him to secure the help of Moore.


“I must confess,” said Rogers to Moore, “I heard of the new quarterly with pleasure, as I thought it might correct an evil we had long lamented together. Gifford wishes much for contributors, and is exceedingly anxious that you should assist him as often as you can afford time. . . . All this in confidence of course, as the secret is not my own.”

Gifford also endeavoured to secure the assistance of Southey, through his friend, Mr. Grosvenor Bedford. Southey was requested to write for the first number an article on the Affairs of Spain. This, however, he declined to do; but promised to send an article on the subject of Missionaries.

“Let not Gifford,” he wrote to Bedford, in reply to his letter, “suppose me a troublesome man to deal with, pertinacious about trifles, or standing upon punctilios of authorship. No, Grosvenor, I am a quiet, patient, easy-going hack of the male breed; regular as clockwork in my pace, sure-footed, bearing the burden which is laid on me, and only obstinate in choosing my own path. If Gifford could see me by this fireside, where, like Nicodemus, one candle suffices me in a large room, he would see a man in a coat ‘still more threadbare than his own’ when he wrote his ‘Imitation,’ working hard and getting little—a bare maintenance, and hardly that; writing poems and history for posterity with his whole heart and soul; one daily progressive in learning, not so learned as he is poor, not so poor as proud, not so proud as happy.”

Mr. James Ballantyne to John Murray.
October 28th, 1808.

“Well, you have of course heard from Mr. Scott of the progress of the ‘Great Plan.’ Canning bites at the hook eagerly. A review, termed by Mr. Jeffrey a tickler, is to appear of Dryden in this No. of the Edinburgh. By the Lord! they will rue it. You know Scott’s present feelings, excited by the review of ‘Marmion.’ What will they be when that of Dryden appears?”


It was some time, however, before arrangements could be finally made for bringing out the first number of the Quarterly. Scott could not as yet pay his intended visit to London, and after waiting for about a month, Murray sent him the following letter, giving his further opinion as to the scope and object of the proposed Review:—

John Murray to Mr. Scott.
November 15th, 1808.
Dear Sir,

I have been desirous of writing to you for nearly a week past, as I never felt more the want of a personal conversation. I will endeavour, however, to explain myself to you, and will rely on your confidence and indulgence for secrecy and attention in what I have to communicate. I have before told you that the idea of a new Review has been revolving in my mind for nearly two years, and that more than twelve months ago I addressed Mr. Canning on the subject. The propriety, if not the necessity, of establishing a journal upon principles opposite to those of the Edinburgh Review has occurred to many men more enlightened than myself; and I believe the same reason has prevented others, as it has done myself, from attempting it, namely, the immense difficulty of obtaining talent of sufficient magnitude to render success even doubtful.

By degrees my plan has gradually floated up to this height. But there exists at least an equal difficulty yet—that peculiar talent in an editor of rendering our other great sources advantageous to the best possible degree. This, I think, may be accomplished, but it must be effected by your arduous assistance, at least for a little time. Our friend Mr. Gifford, whose writings show him to be both a man of learning and wit, has lived too little in the world lately to have obtained that delicacy and tact whereby he can feel at one instant, and habitually, whatever may gratify public desire and excite public attention and curiosity. But this you know to be a leading feature in the talents of Mr. Jeffrey and his friends; and that, without the most happy choice of subjects, as well as the ability to treat them well—catching the “manners living as they
Edinburgh Review could not have attained the success it has done; and no other Review, however preponderating in solid merit, will obtain sufficient attention without them. Entering the field too, as we shall do, against an army commanded by the most skilful generals, it will not do for us to leave any of our best officers behind as a reserve, for they would be of no use if we were defeated at first. We must enter with our most able commanders at once, and we shall then acquire confidence, if not reputation, and increase in numbers as we proceed.

Our first number must contain the most valuable and striking information in politics, and the most interesting articles of general literature and science, written by our most able friends. If our plan appears to be so advantageous to the ministers whose measures, to a certain extent, we intend to justify, to support, to recommend and assist, that they have promised their support; when might that support be so advantageously given, either for their own interests or ours, as at the commencement, when we are most weak, and have the most arduous onset to make, and when we do and must stand most in need of help? If our first number be not written with the greatest ability, upon the most interesting topics, it will not excite public attention. No man, even the friend of the principles we adopt, will leave the sprightly pages of the Edinburgh Review to read a dull detail of staid morality, or dissertations on subjects whose interest has long fled.

I do not say this from any, even the smallest doubt, of our having all that we desire in these respects in our power; but because I am apprehensive that without your assistance it will not be drawn into action, and my reason for this fear I will thus submit to you. You mentioned in your letter to Mr. Gifford, that our Review should open with a grand article on Spain—meaning a display of the political feeling of the people, and the probable results of this important contest. I suggested to Mr. Gifford that Mr. Frere should be written to, which he said was easy, and that he thought he would do it; for Frere could not only give the facts upon the subject, but could write them better than any other person. But having, in my project, given the name of Southey as a person who might assist occasionally in a number or two hence, I found at our next interview that Mr. Gifford, who does not know Mr. Southey, had spoken to a friend to ask
Mr. S. to write the article upon Spain. It is true that Mr. Southey knows a great deal about Spain, and on another occasion would have given a good article upon the subject; but at present his is not the kind of knowledge which we want, and it is, moreover, trusting our secret to a stranger, who has, by the way, a directly opposite bias in politics.

Mr. Gifford also told me, with very great stress, that among the articles he had submitted to you was Hodgson’s Translation of Juvenal, which at no time could be a very interesting article for us, and having been published more than six months ago, would probably be a very stupid one. Then, you must observe, that it would necessarily involve a comparison with Mr. Gifford’s own translation, which must of course be praised, and thus show an individual feeling—the least spark of which, in our early numbers, would both betray and ruin us. He talks of reviewing himself a late translation of ‘Persius,’ for (entre nous) a similar reason. He has himself nearly completed a translation, which will be published in a few months.

In what I have said upon this most exceedingly delicate point, and which I again submit to your most honourable confidence, I have no other object but just to show you without reserve how we stand, and to exemplify what I set out with—that without skilful and judicious management we shall totally mistake the road to the accomplishment of the arduous task which we have undertaken, and involve the cause and every individual in not merely defeat, but disgrace. I must at the same time observe that Mr. Gifford is the most obliging and well-meaning man alive, and that he is perfectly ready to be instructed in those points of which his seclusion renders him ignorant; and all that I wish and mean is, that we should strive to open clearly the view which is so obvious to us—that our first number must be a most brilliant one in every respect; and to effect this, we must avail ourselves of any valuable political information we can command. Those persons who have the most interest in supporting the Review must be called upon immediately for their strenuous personal help. The fact must be obvious to you,—that if Mr. Canning, Mr. Frere, Mr. Scott, Mr. Ellis, and Mr. Gifford, with their immediate and true friends, will exert themselves heartily in every respect, so as to produce with secrecy
only one remarkably attractive number, their further labour would be comparatively light. With such a number in our hands, we might select and obtain every other help that we required; and then the persons named would only be called upon for their information, facts, hints, advice, and occasional articles. But without this—without producing a number that shall at least equal, if not excel, the best of the
Edinburgh Review, it were better not to be attempted. We should do more harm to our cause by an unsuccessful attempt; and the reputation of the Edinburgh Review would be increased inversely to our fruitless opposition. . . . With respect to bookselling interference with the Review, I am equally convinced with yourself of its total incompatibility with a really respectable and valuable critical journal. I assure you that nothing can be more distant from my views, which are confined to the ardour which I feel for the cause and principles which it will be our object to support, and the honour of professional reputation which would obviously result to the publisher of so important a work. It were silly to suppress that I shall not be sorry to derive from it as much profit as I can satisfactorily enjoy, consistent with the liberal scale upon which it is my first desire to act towards every writer and friend concerned in the work. Respecting the terms upon which the editor shall be placed at first, I have proposed, and it appears to be satisfactory to Mr. Gifford, that he shall receive, either previous to, or immediately after, the publication of each number, the sum of 160 guineas, which he is to distribute as he thinks proper, without any question or interference on my part; and that in addition to this, he shall receive from me the sum of £200 annually, merely as the editor. This, Sir, is much more than I can flatter myself with the return of, for the first year at least; but it is my intention that his salary shall ever increase proportionately to the success of the work under his management. The editor has a most arduous office to perform, and the success of the publication must depend in a great measure upon his activity.

I am, dear Sir,
Your obliged and faithful Servant,
John Murray.

It will be observed from this letter, that Mr. Murray was aware that, besides skilful editing, sound and practical business management was necessary to render the new Review a success. The way in which he informs Mr. Scott about Gifford’s proposed review of ‘Juvenal’ and ‘Persius,’ shows that he fully comprehended the situation, and the dangers which would beset an editor like Gifford, who lived for the most part amongst his books, and was, to a large extent, secluded from the active world.

On the same day Scott was writing to Murray:—

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
Edinburgh, November 15th, 1808.
Dear Sir,

I received two days ago a letter from Mr. Gifford highly approving of the particulars of the plan which I had sketched for the Review. But there are two points to be considered. In the first place, I cannot be in town as I proposed, for the Commissioners under the Judicial Bill, to whom I am to act as clerk, have resolved that their final sittings shall be held here, so that I have now no chance of being in London before spring. This is very unlucky, as Mr. Gifford proposes to wait for my arrival in town to set the great machine a-going. I shall write to him that this is impossible, and that I wish he would, with your assistance and that of his other friends, make up a list of the works which the first number is to contain, and consider what is the extent of the aid he will require from the North. The other circumstance is, that Mr. Gifford pleads the state of his health and his retired habits as sequestrating him from the world, and rendering him less capable of active exertion, and in the kindest and most polite manner he expresses his hope that he should receive very extensive assistance and support from me, without which he is pleased to say he would utterly despair of success. Now between ourselves (for this is strictly confidential) I am rather alarmed at this prospect. I am willing, and anxiously so, to do all in my power to serve the work; but, my dear sir, you know how many of our
very ablest hands are engaged in the
Edinburgh Review, and what a dismal work it will be to wring assistance from the few whose indolence has left them neutral. I can, to be sure, work like a horse myself, but then I have two heavy works on my hands already, namely, ‘Somers’ and ‘Swift.’ Constable had lately very nearly relinquished the latter work, and I now heartily wish it had never commenced; but two volumes are nearly printed, so I conclude it will now go on. If this work had not stood in the way, I should have liked Beaumont and Fletcher much better. It would not have required half the research, and occupied much less time. I plainly see that, according to Mr. Gifford’s view, I should have almost all the trouble of a co-editor, both in collecting and revising the articles which are to come from Scotland, as well as in supplying all deficiencies from my own stores.

These considerations cannot, however, operate upon the first number, so pray send me a list of books, and perhaps you may send some on a venture. You know the department I had in the Edinburgh Review. I will sound Southey, agreeable to Mr. Gifford’s wishes, on the Spanish affairs. The last number of the Edinburgh Review has given disgust beyond measure, owing to the tone of the article on Cevallosexposé. Subscribers are falling off like withered leaves.

I retired my name among others, after explaining the reasons both to Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. Constable, so that there never was such an opening for a new Review. I shall be glad to hear what you think on the subject ot terms, for my Northern troops will not move without pay; but there is no hurry about fixing this point, as most of the writers in the first number will be more or less indifferent on the subject. For my own share, I care not what the conditions are, unless the labour expected from me is to occupy a considerable portion of time, in which case they might become an object. While we are on this subject, I may as well mention that as you incur so large an outlay in the case of the Novels, I would not only be happy that my remuneration should depend on the profits of the work, but I also think I could command a few hundreds to assist in carrying it on.

By the way, I see ‘Notes on Don Quixote’ advertised. This was a plan I had for enriching our collection, having
many references by me for the purpose. I shall be sorry if I am powerfully anticipated. Perhaps the book would make a good article in the Review. Can you get me ‘
Gaytoun’s Festivous Notes on Don Quixote?’

I think our friend Ballantyne is grown an inch taller on the subjects of the ‘Romances.’

Believe me, dear Sir,
Yours very truly,
Walter Scott.

Gifford is much pleased with you personally.

Meanwhile the breach between Scott and the Edinburgh Review was being widened.

Mr. James Ballantyne to John Murray.
November 21st, 1808.

You have no doubt heard, ere this time, of the universal indignation and disgust which the last number of the Edinburgh Review has given. Many people have given it up, and, if I may judge from what I hear, the general dissatisfaction is increasing. Mr. Scott was, I believe, the first who discontinued it. Constable was greatly affected by the annunciation; and I tell you in entire confidence that, from the aid which Mr. Scott determines to give your glorious work, and other causes, he anticipates an entire rupture with that house. He further told me, that if that event took place, you, if you chose it, should have the first offer of his future works. Indeed, he on every occasion expresses himself respecting you in the most flattering terms of approbation and respect.

Scott was very desirous of enlisting George Canning among the contributors to the Quarterly. He wrote to his friend Ellis:—

Mr. Scott to Mr. G. Ellis.

‘As our start is of such immense consequence, don’t you think Mr. Canning, though unquestionably our Atlas, might for a day find a Hercules on whom to devolve the
burden of the globe, while he writes for us a review? I know what an audacious request this is, but suppose he should, as great statesmen sometimes do, take a political fit of the gout, and absent himself from a large ministerial dinner which might give it him in good earnest—dine at three on a chicken and pint of wine, and lay the foundation of at least one good article? Let us but once get afloat, and our labour is not worth talking about; but, till then, all hands must work hard.”

This suggestion was communicated by George Ellis to Gifford, the chosen editor, who was in frequent communication with Canning; and a few days after the above letter was written, Gifford addressed the following note to Murray:—

Mr. Gifford to John Murray.
November 29th, 1808.
My dear Sir,

I am sorry I was from home when you called; but Mr. Canning would not let me return till he came back himself, and he has this moment set me down at my door. . . . You will be glad to hear that Mr. Ellis has readily undertaken the Spanish article, but of this more when we meet.

Yours, &c.,
Wm. Gifford.

The support of Mr. Canning was eventually secured, as well as that of Lord Hawkesbury, Mr. Frere, and Mr. Long. Murray again wrote to Scott, assuring him of the active countenance and support of these, as well as other able contributors. Southey, besides his article on “Missionary Enterprise,” had promised another on the “Life of Bruce, the Abyssinian Traveller.”

John Murray to Mr. Scott.
Nov. 19th, 1808.

Mr. Gifford has communicated to me an important piece of news. He met his friend, Lord Teignmouth,
and learned from him that he and the
Wilberforce party had some idea of starting a journal to oppose the Edinburgh Review, that Henry Thornton and Mr. [Zachary] Macaulay were to be the conductors, that they had met, and that some able men were mentioned. Upon sounding Lord T. as to their giving us their assistance, he thought this might be adopted in preference to their own plans. . . . It will happen fortunately that we intend opening with an article on the missionaries, which, as it will be written in opposition to the sentiments in the Edinburgh Review, is very likely to gain that large body of which Wilberforce is the head. I have collected from every Missionary Society in London, of which there are no less than five, all their curious reports, proceedings and history, which, I know, Sydney Smith never saw; and which I could only procure by personal application. Southey will give a complete view of the subject, and if he will enter heartily into it, and do it well, it will be as much as he can do for the first number. These transactions contain, amidst a great deal of fanaticism, the most curious information you can imagine upon the history, literature, topography and manners of nations and countries of which we are otherwise totally ignorant. . . . If you have occasion to write to Southey, pray urge the vast importance of this subject, and entreat him to give it all his ability. I find that a new volume of Burns’ (‘The Reliques’) will be published by the end of this month, which will form the subject of another capital article under your hands. I presume ‘Sir John Carr (Tour in Scotland)’ will be another article, which even you, I fancy, will like; ‘Mrs. Grant of Laggan,’ too, and perhaps your friend Mr. Cumberland’sJohn de Lancaster.’ . . . Are you not sufficiently well acquainted with Miss (Joanna) Baillie, both to confide in her, and command her talents? If so, you will probably think of what may suit her, and what may apply to her. Mr. Heber, too, would apply to his brother at your request, and his friend Coplestone, who will also be written to by a friend of Gifford’s. . . . Would you also urge Mr. S. particularly upon the opening article on Spain, which should contain the most valuable information, and, at the same time, be written with the utmost possible care and ability.”


About the date of publication of the first number, Mr. Murray proceeded:—

Mr. Long expresses his doubts about publishing the first number in January next, and entreats the greatest consideration in every line, as so much depends on the first number; and, therefore, I proposed that, although every contributor should be required to send in his article by January 10th, yet that the time of publication should be determined merely by that moment when we are satisfied that we have got a really valuable number.”

On the 1st of December, Murray informed Scott that the article on Spain was proceeding under Mr. Canning’s immediate superintendence. Canning and Gifford went down to Mr. Ellis’s house at Sunninghill, where the three remained together for four days, during which time the article was hatched and completed. Mr. Murray further communicated that Mr. Rogers and Thomas Moore were likely to be secured as contributors; that Mr. Sotheby was proceeding with an article; that Mr. Hoppner was reviewing Lord Orford’sAnecdotes of Painters;’ and that two or three able hands were upon the point of employment at Oxford and Cambridge. “In fact,” he says, “by the end of this month I think the machine will be in motion.”

Mr. Scott’s reply not only indicates his energy on behalf of the Quarterly, but shows that already the toils of the Ballantyne business were closing around him, and that the demands of the presses were inexorable.

Mr. Scott to John Murray.
Edinburgh, December 14th, 1808.
Dear Sir,

I am glad to see you are all activity. I will soon forward you reviews of Burns’ fifth volume and of the ‘Cid,’ and hope they will not disgrace my coadjutors. Bruce’s ‘Life’
is undertaken by
Josiah Walker, who, I think, may do it well, as he knew the Abyssinian personally.

I know a young friend who, I think, will do Holmes’America’ well, but I cannot find the book in Edinburgh, and must trouble you to get a copy forwarded. My friend Mr. Erskine talks of reviewing Curran’sSpeeches’ and McNeil’s new poem, which hath just come forth from the shop of Mr. Constable. I have sent to my brother Lewis’sRomances’ and the American tale by Mrs. Grant. Any of these contributions which may be unnecessary for the first number may be laid aside till wanted. Our friend Ballantyne has been requested* by a number of literary gentlemen here to edit an Annual Register. The Mackenzies, father and son, Lord Meadowbank, William Erskine, I myself (quoth the wren), and several other persons of good literary reputation are concerned. We mean for certain reasons to keep a considerable number of shares ourselves, but Ballantyne has been empowered to offer some to the London trade. As the thing promises extremely well, I shall be glad to find that you engage in it, for I assure you every nerve will be strained to render it worthy of public acceptance. Ballantyne’s own share in this concern is not very great, but I think it will lead to his acting as Scottish publisher in other instances. Indeed, Mr. Constable’s favours being a good deal withdrawn from him, and a very large proportion both of the literary and political world being desirous to have an Edinburgh publisher of activity and judgment, as well as constitutional principles, I have no doubt of his succeeding in an eminent degree, and being of the greatest service to his friends, in London, as they may be to him reciprocally. This, however, is as yet barely in prospect, and therefore I beg you will take no notice to Ballantyne that I hinted at such a matter, as I know whenever his resolution is fixed you will be the first to whom he will communicate it. From what I have learned, he will neither want funds nor friends, and Constable’s migration of a part of his stock to London seems favourable to the success of such an undertaking.

* According to Mr. Lockhart, Ballantyne informed Murray at their interview at Ferrybridge that the “author of ‘Marmion’ had chalked out the design of an Edinburgh Annual Register, to be conducted in opposition to the politics and criticism of Constable’s Review.”

I will certainly give it all the aid in my power, having the greatest reason to complain of
Mr. Hunter’s behaviour towards me, although I retain great good-will to Constable as an individual.

I beg my compliments to Mr. Gifford, and believe me, my dear Sir,

Your faithful servant,
Walter Scott.

On receiving the celebrated ‘Declaration of Westminster’ on the Spanish War, Scott wrote to Ellis:—

“Tell Mr. Canning that the old women of Scotland will defend the country with their distaffs, rather than that troops enough be not sent to make good so noble a pledge. Were the thousands that have mouldered away in petty conquests or Liliputian expeditions united to those we have now in that country, what a band would Sir John Moore have under him! . . . Jeffrey has offered terms of pacification, engaging that no party politics should again appear in his Review. I told him I thought it was now too late, and reminded him that I had often pointed out to him the consequences of letting his work become a party tool. He said ‘he did not fear for the consequences—there were but four men he feared as opponents.’ ‘Who are these?’ ‘Yourself for one.’ ‘Certainly you pay me a great compliment; depend upon it I will endeavour to deserve it.’ ‘Why, you would not join against me?’ ‘Yes, I would, if I saw a proper opportunity: not against you personally, but against your politics.’ ‘You are privileged to be violent.’ ‘I don’t ask any privilege for undue violence. But who are your other foemen?’ ‘George Ellis and Southey.’ The other he did not name. All this was in great good humour; and next day I had a very affecting note from him, in answer to an invitation to dinner. He has no suspicion of the Review whatever.”

In the meantime, Mr. Murray continued to look out for further contributors. Mr. James Mill, of the India House, promised (in December 1808) an article by Mr. Lowe on the West India Question, “a question,” says Mr. Mill, “which he would be very well pleased to communicate to
the public through so respectable a channel as your new work.” On forwarding the article, Mr. Mill said:—

“If I have any objection to it, it is this, that he (Mr. Lowe) does not show the connection between the book he reviews and the argument which forms the principal part of his critique in a light sufficiently strong. This he should be made to alter. There will be time enough for it, if you and your editor are sufficiently pleased with the latter part of it to reserve a place for the article.”

Mr. Mill adds:—

“You do me a great deal of honour in the solicitude you express to have me engaged in laying the foundation stone of your new edifice, which I hope will be both splendid and durable; and it is no want of zeal or gratitude that delays me. But this ponderous Geography, a porter’s, or rather a horse’s load, bears me down to a degree you can hardly conceive. What I am now meditating from under it is to spare time to do well and leisurely the Indian article (my favourite subject) for your next number. Besides, I shall not reckon myself less a founder from its having been only the fault of my previous engagements that my first article for you appears only in the second number, and not in the first part of your work.”

Another contributor whom Mr. Murray was desirous to secure was Mrs. Inchbald, authoress of the ‘Simple Story.’ The application was made to her through one of Murray’s intimate friends, Mr. Hoppner, the artist. Her answer was as follows:—

Mrs. Inchbald to Mr. Hoppner.
December 31st, 1808.
My dear Sir,

As I wholly rely upon your judgment for the excellency of the design in question, I wish you to be better acquainted with my abilities as a reviewer before I suffer my curiosity to be further gratified in respect to the plan of the work you have undertaken, or the names of those persons who,
with yourself, have done me the very great honour to require my assistance. Before I see you, then, and possess myself of your further confidence, it is proper that I should acquaint you that there is only one department of a Review for which I am in the least qualified, and that one combines plays and novels. Yet the very few novels I have read, of later publications, incapacitates me again for detecting plagiary, or for making such comparisons as proper criticism may demand. You will, perhaps, be surprised when I tell you that I am not only wholly unacquainted with the book you have mentioned to me, but that I never heard of it before. If it be in French, there will be another insurmountable difficulty; for, though I read French, and have translated some French comedies, yet I am not so perfectly acquainted with the language as to dare to write remarks upon a French author. If
Madame Cottin’sMalvina’ be in English, you wish it speedily reviewed, and can possibly have any doubt of the truth of my present report, please to send it me; and whatever may be the contents, I will immediately essay my abilities on the work, or immediately return it as a hopeless case.

Yours very faithfully,
E. Inchbald.

On further consideration, however, Mrs. Inchbald modestly declined to become a contributor. Notwithstanding her great merits as an author, she had the extremest diffidence in her own abilities.

Mrs. Inchbald to John Murray.

“The more I reflect on the importance of the contributions intended for this work, the more I am convinced of my own inability to become a contributor. The productions in question must, I am convinced, be of a certain quality that will demand far more acquaintance with books, and much more general knowledge, than it has ever been my good fortune to attain. Under these circumstances, finding myself, upon mature consideration, wholly inadequate to the task proposed, I beg you will accept of this apology as a truth, and present it to Mr. Hoppner on the first
opportunity; and assure him that it has been solely my reluctance to yield up the honour he intended me which has tempted me, for an instant, to be undecided in my reply to his overture.—I am, Sir, with sincere acknowledgments for the politeness of your letter to me,

E. Inchbald.

And here the correspondence dropped.

Mr. Pillans, then a Master at Eton, and afterwards Rector of the Edinburgh High School, offered to contribute an article on Pitt and Warton’sVirgil.’ It was forwarded and put in type. Mr. Gifford did not think it “quite correct,” but the corrections, he added, might be made “in the proofs.”

Another important contributor was Dr. Thomas Young, whom Brougham had so unjustly cut up in the Edinburgh.

“I am unwilling,” he wrote to Mr. Murray, “to give up the idea of doing something for your first number. I have therefore determined to prepare you a few pages on a late work of Laplace, the supplement to his ‘Mécanique Celeste.’ This work would have been my first choice, as nothing can be better calculated for the purpose, but for the extreme difficulty of keeping my own speculations out of the question, and of avoiding too open a declaration of my being the author. I shall, however, hope to attain both these ends, and I shall beg that as little as possible may be said of my having contributed the article.”

In a subsequent letter, enclosing the article, Dr. Young writes to Mr. Murray:—“I hope you will not compare me with Balaam, of asinine memory, who was sent to curse the people of Israel, and then blessed them three times; but perhaps what I have written will produce a better effect than if I had been more severe.” Gifford, on enclosing the corrected proofs of the article to Murray, said, “I trust Dr. Young will prove to be a powerful combatant for us. . . I have enlisted to-day a recruit in Finance! Be active and secret.”


It is now difficult to understand the profound secrecy with which the projection of the new Review was carried on until within a fortnight of the day of its publication. In these modern times widespread advertisements announce the advent of a new periodical, whereas then both publisher and editor enjoined the utmost secrecy upon all with whom they were in correspondence. Still, the day of publication was very near, when the Quarterly was, according to Scott, to “burst like a bomb” among the Whigs of Edinburgh. The only explanation of the secrecy of the preliminary arrangements is that probably down to the last it was difficult to ascertain whether enough materials could be accumulated to form a sufficiently good number before the first Quarterly Review was launched into the world.