Home  »  Volume XII: English THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL The Nineteenth Century, I  »  § 7. Lockhart; Wilson; Hogg; Maginn

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

VI. Reviews and Magazines in the Early Years of the Nineteenth Century

§ 7. Lockhart; Wilson; Hogg; Maginn

In 1819, the indefatigable publisher found another recruit for his turbulent monthly, in some ways no less remarkable than Lockhart and Wilson—the Irishman Maginn. A more brilliant trio of singular individualities have seldom been united in literary enterprise. Lockhart, a son of the manse, had won distinction in scholarship at the universities of Glasgow and Oxford. A born linguist, he had betaken himself to the study of German and Spanish literature. He had made the acquaintance of Goethe at Weimar, and, on his return home, he must at once have found a position in the best literary circles of Edinburgh. Though he was called to the bar, it was soon evident that his activities would find their development rather in the pursuit of literature than in the practice of the law. Lockhart was exceedingly clever with his pencil as well as with his pen; and, in the exercise of both, he gave not a little amusement and offence to the good people of Edinburgh by the pungency of his clever caricatures and vivid word-sketches, which form part of Peter’s Letters to his Kinsfolk, published in 1819.

Wilson was a man of means, who, like Lockhart, had received his education at the universities of Glasgow and Oxford, and, in both, had won distinction as a scholar. As gentleman commoner of Magdalen, he had, moreover, achieved fame among undergraduates as an athlete of great prowess, and some of his feats of strength and agility, especially a long-jump in Christchurch meadows, were long remembered. On leaving Oxford, he had bought the property of Elleray on lake Windermere, where he had soon become intimate with his poetical neighbours, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey; but the sudden loss of a large portion of his fortune compelled him to abandon the life of a country gentleman, and to seek remunerative employment in Edinburgh. His poems, The Isle of Palms and The City of the Plague, had already made him known there. Jeffrey was ready to welcome him, and, in 1818, inserted in The Edinburgh a very able article from his pen on the fourth canto of Childe Harold. But political differences in those days counted for much, and the energies of Wilson, withdrawn from The Edinburgh, were quickly absorbed in fighting the battles of toryism and Maga. The Edinburgh town council elected him in 1819 to the chair of moral philosophy in the university, over Sir William Hamilton—a startling and even outrageous proceeding, only, of course, to be accounted for by the fact that the party preferences of the town councillors dictated the selection. Nevertheless, Wilson was to prove a very good and stimulating professor.

Lockhart and Wilson were now fast friends, differing greatly in personal characteristics, but alike in their recklessness and in the violence of their language and in the mischievous delight with which they assailed their foes and provoked commotion: Lockhart, “the Scorpion which delighted to sting the faces of men,” Wilson, overflowing with boisterous animal spirits, warm-hearted and generous, but heedless as to the strength of his blows, or as to restraining the violent outpouring of his feelings.