Mrs. (Margaret) Oliphant.

Annals of a publishing house. William Blackwood and his sons, their magazine and friends (Volume v. 1) online

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there being fewer people who could furnish the like. (Indeed

^ The articles in the earlier Magazines were generally short, or at least
many were short, with one of greater importance now and then. Later
practice changed this, and for a long time there were no more than seven
or eight articles altogether in one number, all more or less of importance,
and the rate of payment was doubled or more than doubled.


you have not had a good reviewer of literary works but myself
and Wilson, in our separate styles, for the Doctor has scarcely
tried.) Secondly, I do think that a person who does so much
for your book ought to make more by doing so ; and that,
having entire confidence in your general liberality and the
most perfect reliance on your kindly feelings to me personally,
I am therefore under the necessity of considering ' Maga ' as by
no means in a flourishing condition.

What I can in justice to myself do for ' Maga ' shall be done,
because I am your fast friend and hers ; but I cannot go so far
as to think it probable, with this Shakespeare on my hands,
that I shall be able to do so much for some time to come as I
have recently been in the custom of doing. I earnestly hope,
therefore, since the Professor appears to be in such an indolent
if not indifferent key, you will be enabled to get Maginn to do
more — a great deal more — for you this summer than hitherto
he has done. Do persuade him to give you more of his mind,
and his beautiful scholarship.

I shall perhaps say something more as to all this soon.

These were the happy days when Magazine writers
were not as plentiful as blackherries, and when a
writer could address his publisher in this way with-
out receiving a polite answer next morning in the
words of King Henry when he heard of the slaughter
of Percy at Chevy Chase —

" I have a hundred captains in England
As good as ever was he."

No man is indispensable, the proverb says : and cer-
tainly nowadays no man is so indispensable to a peri-
odical as Lockhart believed himself to be, and to some
extent was. He followed up this letter, presumably,
for still we have no dates to guide us, with the fol-
lowing, which evidently refers to some very special
and carefully written article : — •

I think you will not accuse me of any impropriety when I


say that the enclosed Essay ^ has cost me a great deal of time
and thought, and that if it be printed in the Magazine I shall
consider myself entitled to be paid for it upon quite a different
footing than from usual articles.

I am of opinion that such a ^dew of such a subject would at
this particular time attract great notice even in the highest
quarters ; and really that important practical ' results might
follow. It is possible that all this is sanguine nonsense in
me ; but, however, I beg you to read my paper and state your

Mr Blackwood's reply was full of enthusiastic
praise of the article ; but his letter does not seem to
have been at all satisfactory to his correspondent.
Lockhart replied briefly, explaining that he had not
originally designed the article in question for the
Magazine, and requesting its return : a communica-
tion which called forth the following reply : —

W. Blackivood to J. G. Lochliart.

lUh June 1825.

I am quite aware that the article you were so good as to send
me was the result of knowledge and experience which few pos-
sessed, and that therefore anything I could offer in the shape
of money was not adequate to its intrinsic worth. I felt proud
in receiving the article, as a mark of friendship to myself as
well as of the deep interest you continued to take in my
Magazine, and I trusted that by means of it and others the
work would receive such an impulse that I should very soon
have it in my power to show you substantially that I was not
insensible of what you had done for me. I certainly did look
forward with some confidence to being able to pay all your
articles in future at a higher rate than it had hitherto been in
my power to do. To pay you, as I have already said, I could
not ; but I flattered myself that, independent of the interest
you take in my Magazine, its very success would prompt you
to write articles when you did not feel inclined to do anything

^ Probably an Essay on Universities.


else, and on the other hand I could have the satisfaction of
offering you more and more liberal remuneration. This has
all along been my first and most earnest wish, and if my means
have not yet equalled my wishes, I am sure you will give me
credit for its not being my fault. I hope you will excuse me
for saying so much in explanation of the views and feelings
under which I acted. Had I known, however, that you had
sat down to this article with other views than sending it to me
for the Magazine, I would have begged of you to tell me what
these views were, and to the very utmost of my powers I would
have endeavoured to promote them. And had I likewise known
that it had been the labour of some weeks, but that you thought
the Magazine the fit channel for giving your sentiments to the
public (and I still flatter myself it is the best), I should have
requested the favour, instead of naming any sum myself, that
you would frankly tell me what I could send you for it, taking
all circumstances into consideration. This is my earnest desire
now, and I hope you will do me this favour.

My most ardent desire is that you should continue to give
your powerful aid to my Magazine, but I never dreamt that
you were to devote any portion even of your leisure time to
it, without being paid liberally. It would give me the deepest
pain if you did not feel satisfied on this head. In future there-
fore, if agreeable to you, I would wish very much that you
would send me a note from time to time for £20, £30, or £50,
just as you yourself thought right ; or if you preferred it, that
you would say a quarterly or annual sum you would draw,
leaving it entirely to yourself to send such contributions as
your leisure or inclinations prompted you to write : then at the
end of the year you would also notify to me any additional
sums, if you found you had done more than you had laid your
account with.

I have written this letter with great pain in one sense. I
dislike so much any dissensions when mere money is concerned.
I have written it, however, with the deepest anxiety that you
may be satisfied as to my feelings and conduct. I cannot say
a fiftieth part of what I feel on this matter, so deeply interest-
ing to me. All I shall further say is, that if I did not feel
from the bottom of my heart that I had acted all along in a


way deserving of your friendship, I should feel myself most
unworthy of it.

If we did not know to the contrary, we could
almost imagine there was a certain irony in the tone
of this extraordinarily liberal letter, and in the sudden
granting thus at a word of any or every claim the
startled author might bring forth. Perhaps it was
this sentiment which made Lockhart answer it in a
way more consistent with such a hypothesis than with
the real effusion with which it was written : —

It is not necessary that you and I should at this time of day
write long letters on the subject of your Magazine. I perfectly
appreciate your warm feelings to me personally, and I am sure
you will never have any good reason to suspect me of not
desiring to see you and all your concerns prosper.

As to bargaining with you or with anybody about money in
this style, it is out of the question. I put a paper in your
hands, and asked what you would think it worth for your
Magazine. We, it appears, thought differently as to that matter.
I can see nothing here but what happens every day in the world.
You will return me the paper, and the whole affair is as if it
had never been. I told you plainly I was not thinking of the
thing as an ordinary contribution to the Magazine. It was a
solitary effort, and, as hinted, my original intention was some-
thing in the nature of a volume on Universities in general, an
intention to which, when leisure serves, I may recur.

I think the enclosed paper very admirable indeed, and that
it will have a powerful effect.

P.S. — Allow me to beg that this may be the last of a corre-
spondence which, knowing you as I do, I am sure must be
equally painful to us both. Think anything you please, except
that there is or has been the least touch of unkindness in my
feelings. Nothing is more remote from my thoughts. Indeed,
the tone of your letter is only a great deal too generous towards
me personally.

Blackwood answered on the 16th June as follows : —


Since you desire it, I lose not a moment in returning your
MS. I do hope, however, it is only for the present. You know-
better than I can tell you that this article is of the highest im-
portance to me. Mortified as I certainly would be were it not
to appear in the Magazine, I do not wish to press upon you to
send me this article unless you yourself are perfectly satisfied
with regard to doing so. I have no wish to recur to anything
that has already passed ; but while I know you hate bargaining
about the price of this or anything else, I hope you know me
sufficiently to believe that it is not the consideration of any sum
whatever which would tempt me to act in the smallest way
differently from what you would expect from me. Saying this,
I leave the matter entirely to your own good feelings.

I am unable to say what was the precise occasion of
the letter which follows : probably it was after the un-
happy affair of the duel in which Mr John Scott, the
editor of the ' London Magazine,' met his death. The
great shock of this fatal event, and the depression into
which Lockhart fell, would seem to have given him the
greatest distaste for his previous work, and everything
connected with it : from whence no doubt arose the
report that he was about to withdraw from the
Magazine altogether.

W. Blackwood to J. G-. Lockhart.

Setting my own wishes and interests entirely out of the
question, I regret, on your own account, that you should feel
such a disinclination to do anything for the Magazine. Either
by yourself or your friends it has been given out that you had
dropped all connection with it. These reports I never hstened
to, and I could not bear to notice them to you ; for, if you did
not see the matter in the same point of view as I did, anything
I had to say would be apt to appear to you as merely proceeding
from selfish views of my own. My lips therefore have been
sealed, and whatever I have felt or suffered I have kept to
myself. Now, however, that you have introduced the subject
yourself, I cannot help saying a few words with regard to it.


You will, I am sure, do me the justice to believe that, had
it been in my power to prevent it, never should you have had
one uneasy or unpleasant feeling from anything connected with
the Magazine. Whatever could tend to your honour or advan-
tage has always been my first and most anxious wish, and to
attain this I never have, and never could have, considered any
sacrifice as too great. Had I for one moment believed that
it would be either for your honour or advantage to cut all
connection with the Magazine, you may rest assured I would
have been the very first person to tell you so. My strong and
decided conviction, on the contrary, has been that you owed
it to yourself to stand forward in a manly way, so as to show
that the attacks of the miscreants who slandered you so foully
and so falsely were of no avail, and only recoiled on themselves.
Their sole object was to induce you and others to abandon the
Magazine, and any quailing was giving them a triumph. From
the disagreeable occurrence which has been so annoying to you
personally, it is not to be wondered at that you should have
felt sore and unhappy. For months, therefore, I have said
little, but left the matter entirely to your own feelings. If,
however, you had given me your wonted confidence, I would
have told you what my impressions were, and that they were
no friends of yours who circulated reports of your having
abandoned the Magazine : for were this true it would be an
acknowledgment that the personal attacks upon you were well
founded, and you were therefore forced to give way to public
opinion. The Magazine supported with talent and spirit, I
have always believed, would do honour to all acquainted with
it, and put to shame all those who attempted to run it down.

As to any claims of my own upon you, these I have never
mentioned and never will. Only this I will say, that if you
knew a thousand part of the miseries I have endured — and
much of them on your account — you would have felt more
for me than you appeared to do for many months past, when
I seemed to be left in a state of desertion by those from whom
I expected different things.

It is most painful and distressing to me even to allude to
any of these things, but I try to assure you that if I did not
think it would be highly creditable to you to give your aid


to the Magazine, aud receive a most liberal remuneration for
your contributions, I should be the last person in the world
to have expected one line from you.

The last letter on this subject is the following.
The matter had evidently grown more and more
serious as it went on : —

J. Gr. Lockliart to W. Blackvjood.

I do not think any good end is likely to be served by a
correspondence on these subjects — concerning points of which it
is evident enough our opinions are very widely different. There
are also some expressions in your letter which give me pain, and
I should be sorry to have disagreeable feeling increased by any
repetition of the like. I am not aware of having been at all
the reverse of open in regard to the Magazine. On the con-
trary, I think at least eighteen months ago I told you very dis-
tinctly that I was resolved periodical literature should never
occupy any serious part of my attention. The longer I live I
am the more steadily impressed with the utter worthlessness of
that sort of thing. I have already had too much share in it ;
but I see neither the necessity nor the propriety of my having
more connection with the periodical press than any given indi-
vidual — unless I please. There are always enough of young
people to write for Magazines, if they be paid. At the same
time, I never have made or expressed any resolution not to
write in your Magazine. I intend to send you from time to
time anything that occurs to me, and I shall be happy if what
I send proves acceptable. I have shown Mr Wilson your let-
ter and this answer, and I am happy to say he approves of the
light in which I have viewed the subject. — Believe me, very
sincerely yours, J. G. Lockhart.

Was this note, so solemnly signed (the others only
bear initials), intended for the moment to be the last ?
This is what we do not know ; but if so, the intention
was speedily abandoned. The " disagreeable occur-
rence " referred to in Mr Blackwood's letter was with-


out doubt, as we have indicated, the bitter and painful
controversy with Mr John Scott, ^ the editor of the
' London Magazine,' which, after many discussions,
sending of embassages on both sides, and pubhcation
of opj)Osing " Statements," was suddenly turned into
unexpected tragedy. The ridicule with which public
sentiment had already begun to treat the practice of
duelling, and the particular jest supposed to be in-
volved in a projected duel between two men whose
weapon was the pen and not the sword, were abruptly
changed into horror and dismay by the death of Scott,
not even by the hand of the man he had assailed, but
by that of Lockhart's friend and intended second, Mr
Christie, who had been forced into the field after the
first challenge had been insultingly refused. It is im-
possible to treat a matter lightly which ends in this
way, otherwise the exaggerated abuse of Scott, and
mock heroics of both parties, would be both ludicrous
and offensive. To call a man a j^'i'ofessional scandal-
monger, a mercenary dealer in calumny and false-
hood, because of even the worst of the attacks upon
the Cockney School, was of course excessive and absurd.
Whereas, on the other side, Lockhart's resentment of
attacks upon himself, who had made so many light-
hearted attacks upon others, and never hesitated to
give forth a scathing word, was equally ridiculous.
The elaborate accounts given by both parties of the
discussions that preceded the duel might have afforded
an admirable subject for Lockhart's own power of
stinging banter. He would have held both sides up

^ The reader will find this miserable story much more fully treated in
Mr Andrew Lang's ' Life of Lockhart,' along with other incidents of his


to the laughter of the world had the case not been his
own — which was a very weak point with the wits of
the period. They loved to goad and sting their neigh-
bours, often into outbursts of fury ; but they could
not bear any touch upon themselves.

Nothing could be more ludicrous than to describe
the gay band of young authors as " miscreants whose
outrages in print have for the last four years desolated
private society in Edinburgh, interrupted the course
of friendship, and ruined the harmony of social inter-
course," unless it was the solemn but out-of-date state-
liness of the warlike response, the medieval formality
of the counter-check quarrelsome, and all the rest.
But the laughter is hushed when this antiquated farce
ends in the sacrifice of a man's life, especially when
an entirely innocent person is brought in to take the
vicarious weight of such a quarrel upon him. The
whole matter was looked upon with distress and pain,
but also at first with something of that fictitious
admiration of an " affair of honour " which still lin-
gered in men's minds, in the circle in Edinburgh.
The reader is in a position to know how true to fact
(if also at the same time a little untrue in sentiment)
was the denial finally extracted from Lockhart of
being editor or part editor of ' Blackwood's Magazine.'
It was perfectly true, in so far that he was in no point
of view the last authority, and that he never was a
salaried editor deriving payment for his work as such,
except for the very brief period of Murray's influence
(if then), when his position was little more than nomi-
nal ; but that he was one of the mystic Three who
presided over everything in the Magazine cannot be
doubted. Mr Blackwood preserved his Veto and his


opinion, and was perfectly dans son droit in saying
that he had no editor. The Veiled Tribunal was
much more interesting than that institution of a
responsible editor and a mere business publisher,
which was more common ; but we may allow that it
was difficult for the ordinary public to understand
how the system worked.

I have thought that the record of this long and close
connection would not be complete without some notice
of the storms which now and then would pass across
the skies, terrible, but luckily temporary. In August
of the same year in which that alarming hurricane
occurred, we find all tribulations blown away, and the
usual atmosphere of confidential friendship and co-
operation completely restored : —

J. G. Lockhart to W. Blackwood.

Dublin, 14 Augicst 1825.

I daresay you think I have been wrong in not writing sooner.
The fact is, I have been kept eternally on the move, and have
never had a pen in my hand except to do a sort of journal in
the shape of letters to my wife — which you shall if you please
have a reading of when the series is complete. I have seen
and heard much worthy of remembrance ; but am now thor-
oughly homesick, and happy to say that the day after to-morrow
we sleep on Welsh ground if we escape the dangers of the steam

I have found almost every person in society here pro-Catholic,
and yet have been in company with but two Catholic gentlemen
so far as I know — and the result of my whole observation is,
that Dr Maginn speaks the exact truth as to this matter in his
Literary Sketch, which, by the way, I never got hold of till yes-
terday, when, on returning from a fortnight's ramble about
Killarney, I stumbled unexpectedly on an old acquaintance in
the shape of Mr Curry, and from him got No. 103 of 'Maga' —
and an excellent number I think it is.

I assure you the High Church here swear by you, but of these

Disraeli's mission. 235

we have, accidentally I suppose, met but few. The provost of
the College here and Dr Brinkley the Astronomer both told me
your articles on the Catholic question were the only things
worthy of being perused. ' Maga ' I have never yet met with,
in consequence of many unfortunate accidents.

This expedition was taken, as the reader will recol-
lect, in attendance upon Scott, when Sir Walter
received the unanimous homage of his admirers in
Ireland. The party returned by Wales, and on their
way north visited various hospitable houses in the
Lake country, and among others Wilson's at Elleray|
There are some notes connected with that last visit
which I reserve to elucidate an incident in the Pro-
fessor's life.

In the autumn of 1825, soon after his return from
the Irish expedition, a curious embassy from London
and the great house of Murray arrived at Chiefs wood,
where Lockhart was then staying, in the striking
person of young Benjamin Disraeli, with various great
projects and proposals in his hands. His chief object
was to induce Lockhart to accept the editorship of a
new daily paper which Murray had set his heart on
establishing, and, in default of that, the ' Quarterly
Review,' then wavering in uncertain hands after the
death of Gifford. Lockhart's account of the matter
to Blackwood would seem to have been in answer to
some question addressed to him. There is no date
upon the note in which he allows that it is " most
true that Murray is about to have a daily paper, and
that, I think, under most triumphant auspices, and it
is also true that I was asked to be the conductor.
But I declined this at once, and it was on that that
the offer of the Review was made and accepted. Of


course as to contributing to his paper I shall most
likely do so, as I believe all his adherents mean to do,
but anything more or even much of this would be
quite out of the question." There is no note of any
feeling on the part of Blackwood of disappointment
and dismay in the loss of so important a contributor,
though it can scarcely be supposed that it was agree-
able news to him. The only comment we find on the
event is in the graceful and cordial note of farewell
which the publisher addressed to Lockhart on his
final departure : —

W. Blackwood to J. G. Lockhart.

ith November 1825.

Deeply as I must ever regret your leaving Edinburgh, and
seriously as I must ever feel your loss, yet I cannot but rejoice
that you have now a field for exertion worthy of yourself. It
is impossible for me to express how much I despise and feel a
contempt for the poor pluckless animals here, whose business
it was to hold out objects to you that would have made it
worth while for you to remain among all the friends who will
feel your loss so much. But all's for the best, and it is need-
less to regret what cannot be helped.

Though it is thus very clearly evident that there
was no breach of the old bonds, there is no doubt that
Lockhart had been since his marriage drawn much
into the circle of Scott, and withdrawn from the con-
stant communications of former days. His removal
to London would seem, however, to have warmed his
heart both to his old familiar companions and to the
frolicsome labours of his youth. The great catastrophe
which gave so melancholy a close to the noble life of
Scott took place shortly after, indeed was threatening
before Lockhart's removal, and the first letter from
London is full of the thrill and agitation of that great


event, augmented perhaps by a sense of the less warm
atmosphere of understanding and sympathy which
was around him in his new sphere : —

J. G. LocTchart to W. Blackwood.

25 Pall Mall, %ih February 1826.

I called on Cadell when the alarm was at its height, and was
rejoiced to be set at ease as to you. Thank God you have
escaped being dragged into the whirlpool with your Leviathan

Online LibraryMrs. (Margaret) OliphantAnnals of a publishing house. William Blackwood and his sons, their magazine and friends (Volume v. 1) → online text (page 18 of 41)