Home  »  Volume XII: English THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL The Nineteenth Century, I  »  § 9. The London Magazine; De Quincey’s Opium Eater; Lamb’s Roast Pig

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

§ 9. The London Magazine; De Quincey’s Opium Eater; Lamb’s Roast Pig

Another periodical of “the nimbler and more familiar” kind came to life very soon after the start of Blackwood, and very warm grew the rivalry between the northern and the southern monthly. The London Magazine (1820–9) had a short distinguished career, during which it introduced to its readers the works of men who were to take a very high place in British literature. Leigh Hunt and Lamb and Hazlitt were, in a special degree, selected for denunciation by Maga and the hostile critics of the northern metropolis, as representative of what they, with lofty superiority, denominated “the Cockney school.” In September, 1821, appeared the first instalment of De Quincey’s Confessions of an Opium Eater, which stimulated public curiosity, and which, as time went on, attracted a vast multitude of readers. In the September following was published that Dissertation on Roast Pig which ever since has been one of the most widely appreciated and most frequently quoted of all the Essays of Elia. Keats, shortly before his death, published two poems in The London; but, neither in its poetry nor in its prose, could “the Mohock Magazine” (for so the cockneys had nicknamed Maga) find anything in The London to mitigate the violence of its hostility.

Maga was but slightly the senior of the conflicting magazines, The London’s first number having appeared only a couple of years after “the Chaldee MS.” had rendered Blackwood famous. As regards recourse to personalities and insults, there was little to choose between them. Literary criticism on either side became submerged in torrents of personal abuse; and, in accordance with the fashion of that day, it very soon became necessary for Lockhart and John Scott (the first editor of The London) to seek satisfaction by meeting each other “on the sod.” A duel between them having, at the last moment, been averted by a clumsily managed and misapprehended arrangement, Lockhart returned to Scotland, only to hear from his friend and second, Christie, that he had himself felt bound to engage Scott in deadly combat at Chalk farm, and had left him mortally wounded on the field of battle.

These unhappy events produced a great effect upon Lockhart, whom his wisest and truest friends, Walter Scott, Christie and others had in vain attempted to withdraw from intimate association with Mohock methods. Jeffrey, indeed, had felt himself compelled unwillingly to drop all connection with Maga’s contributors. Political differences may, perhaps, have counted for something in bringing him to that determination; but that Murray, who was in strong political sympathy, and had, with Blackwood himself, a direct interest in the publication, should have withdrawn all countenance from it, and that Walter Scott should have remonstrated, indicate that, quite irrespective of party leanings, violence and personality had exceeded even the wide limits which the public sentiment of the day permitted.