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BY THE LATE
PROFESSOR OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH, EDITOR
OF BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, AUTHOR OF “THE ISLE OF PALMS,” ETC.
WM. MAGINN, LL.D. J. G. LOCKHART, JAMES HOGG, &c.
MEMOIRS AND NOTES
By R. SHELTON MACKENZIE, D.C.L.
EDITOR OF SHEIL'S “SKETCHES OF THE IRISH BAR"
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854,
By J. S. REDFIELD, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, in and for the Southern
District of New York.
John Gibson LOCKHART, Editor of the Quarterly Review from 1826 to 1853, was born at Glasgow, in Scotland, in 1792. His father was a clergyman residing at Milton-Lockhart, in Lanarkshire, the family seat, which has descended to William Lockhart, the eldest son.
Belonging thus to the capital of the West Countrie,” young Lockhart received his education, almost as a matter of course, at the time-honored University (founded 1450) where Wilson had preceded him, not long before. In the days of auld lang syne, a liberal Scot who had also passed through this University, had appropriated a considerable estate for the purpose of founding Exhibitions, to afford certain selected Glasgow students the means of passing through the more aristocratic and expensive University of Oxford. Lockhart was elected to an Exhibition (or paid Scholarship) in Baliol College, Oxford, the annual emolument of which was estimated at £200 a year, and there completed his education. His career was not marked by any distinguished public honors, bat he gained the reputation of having thoroughly succeeded in his classical course, and of having voluntarily acquired, while at Oxford, a familiar acquaintance with French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Having duly graduated as Bachelor of Arts, (he afterwards took the degree of Master, and finally that of Bachelor of Civil Law, preparatory to practice in the Ecclesiastical Courts in England,) Lockhart quitted Oxford, and proceeded upon a Continental tour. This was shortly after the downfall of Napoleon. While in Germany, he became intimate with Goethe, the majestic beauty of whose countenance struck him with as much awe as admiration.
Returning to Scotland, about the time when Blackwood's Magazine was commenced, and fully sharing in its sturdy proprietor's strong Toryism and unquenchable hatred of the Edinburgh Review,* it was not long before he
• It is worth notice that, when the Edinburgh Reviero was commenced, in 1802, by Sydney
fleshed his maiden pen” in its pages. His first ascertained assistance was the infusion of a large quantity of bitter local personalities into THE CHALDEE MANUSCRIPT. Hogg publicly and repeatedly accused him of having added nearly all that was mischievous and objectionable to that celebrated article.
This was in October, 1817; but, before this, Lockhart had taken the necessary steps (like Wilson) to become a member of the Scottish bar. In process of time he was admitted, and duly attended the Courts in quest of practice, but the aggregate of his bar-earnings must have fallen far short of the £300 which he had to pay, in fees and for stamps, on becoming a “ Counsellor."
From the appearance of the Chaldee Manuscript, the two writers upon whom Blackwood placed most reliance, as contributors, were Wilson and Lockhart. Both composed rapidly, but Lockhart never tired. He would dash off, in the course of one day, thirty-two printed columns, or a whole sheet of Blackwood, and found no difficulty in continuing to cover paper, at the same rapid rate, for ten days consecutively. He used to say (and it was no idle boast) that he readily could write a whole number of the Magazine in one week.
In May, 1818, he was introduced, at dinner, to Scott, with whom he had a great deal of conversation, chiefly about German literati and their writings. The impression he made on the mind of the mighty Master must have been favorable, for, shortly after, was communicated to him Scott's desire that he (Lockhart) should write the Historical department of Ballantyne's Edinburgh Annual Register for 1816—a task which Scott had executed in the two pre ceding years, but could not then accomplish, from pressure of other and more important literary engagements. Acceding to this request, he so frequently met Scott that an intimacy arose between them, and Lockhart became a constant guest at Scott's Sunday dinners, to which none but hearty friends were admitted. In the Life of Scott, it is mentioned what quaint old stories and racy anecdotes used to enliven these select parties, and a promise is there held out, not yet realized, of collecting and recollecting enough of them to make a volume, additional to Scott's works.
During this period, Lockhart's contributions to the Magazine were numerous and important, though wholly anonymous. From time to time, there appeared a series of letters almost exclusively devoted to attacks on Cockney School of Literature,” (whereof Leigh Hunt, William Hazlitt, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley were assumed to be the principal,) and the
Smith, Jeffrey, and Brougham, the eldest of the party was not 27. The earliest contributors, besides these, were Professors Playfair and Leslie, Malthus, Francis Horner, Dr. Walcot, (Peter Pindar,) Blomfield, (now Bishop of London,) and R. P. Knight.-M.
* Dr. J. W. Francis, of New-York, who was in Edinburgh in the winter of 1816, informs me that, about that time, Lockhart had obtained some little celebrity by several able speeches which he had delivered in the celebrated Speculative Society-a debating club, to which, by the way, no mercy was shown, three years later, in “ Peter's Letters.”—M.
unbounded and sarcastic personalities of these epistles, bearing the signature “ Z,” exceeded any thing which, up to that time, had been introduced into respectable periodical literature. It was reported and believed that Lockhart was the writer.
In Blackwood, for February, 1819, had appeared a review of “ Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk,"--a work professing to be written by Dr. Peter Morris, of Pensharpe Hall, Aberystwith. No such book was then published, or written. It was said to contain the Doctor's letters from Edinburgh and Glasgow, during a visit to both places in the winter of 1818-19, treating most freely. indeed of the Whigs of Edinburgh-Scottish University Education—the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews the state of society in Edinburgh and Glasgow—the bar of Scotland, with sketches of its leading members--the
famous Glasgow punch-the state of religion, &c. This review, apparently · written by Mordecai Mullion, (one of Lockhart's numerous eidolons of the pen,)
excited so much curiosity, that “ Peter's Letters” was greatly inquired for. In the following month (March, 1819) a further and fuller review was given, with copious extracts, including descriptions of Clerk, Cranstoun, and Jeffrey, (the leading lawyers of the place and time,) and the sensation thus created and kept up was so considerable that the actual composition and publication of the work was determined on.
Accordingly, “Peter's Letters” was put into type as fast as written, and emanated, in July, 1819, from Blackwood's as the “ second edition.” It was, and continues to be, a work of great interest. Twenty years afterwards, Lockhart said, “Nobody but a very young and very thoughtless person could have dreamt of putting forth such a book.” Scott, after reading the work twice over, expressed his opinion that Dr. Morris had “ got over his ground admirably,” only that the general turn of the book was perhaps too favorable, both to the state of Scottish public society and of individual character. He added that, every half century, Dr. Morris should revive“ to record the fleeting manners of the age, and the interesting features of those who will be known only to posterity by their works.”
There was abundant outcry against “ Peter's Letters," at first, for the author had keenly assaulted and ridiculed the Edinburgh Whigs, but the merit of the work was great, and has carried it into repeated editions. The descriptions of Edinburgh and Glasgow are appreciative and racy,—the sketches of Jeffrey and his distinguished contemporaries are forcibly, yet delicately done,—the glance at Henry Mackenzie has produced a sun-portrait, so true is it in all respects,—Wilson, Hogg, Playfair, Brewster, Jameson, and Lord Buchan are portraits. So are the theatrical etchings, and the broad, Raeburn-like fulllengths of the Scottish bar, judges and advocates. Very vivid, too, are the de. lineations of leading book-makers and booksellers,—the con amore criticisms upon the Fine Arts in Scotland,—the faithful account of Abbotsford, and its