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747 Broadway 

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, 
En the Clerk's Offli e of the DiaV.^t Court of the United States, for the Southern District of 
• New York. 


John Wilson was, confessedly, the greatest magazine writer 
of his time. From the establishment of Blackwood's Maga- 
zine, to the autumn of 1852, his pen was almost exclusively 
employed upon that periodical. Two or three volumes of 
prose fiction, and an " Essay on Burns," for an edition of the 
peasant-poet's works, were all that Wilson wrote outside of 
" Maga," until he closed with the final number of the " Dies 

In the Magazine, however, his hand was to be seen, and 
sometimes felt, almost every month during the thirty-five 
years of his connection with it. His genius was as abundant 
as his industry was tireless. The volumes which have been 
selected from his writings in Blackwood, three of " The Re- 
creations of Christopher North," and five of the " Noctes 
Ambrosianae," imperfectly represent what he supplied. He 
was not only the best, but also the most fruitful of con- 

If a man's life be written by a near relative, there usually 
is the disadvantage, that such a biographer has a natural 
tendency to take a rose-tinted view of personal character and 
action, — to write rather an eulogium than a fair record and a 
just estimate. This, independent of other causes, is mainly 
because of not taking an outside view of the departed ; of 
not seeing him as he was seen by the world. Yet, of the 
five best literary biographies in our language (Boswell's John- 
son, Crabbe's Life by his son, Moore's Byron, Lockhart's Scott, 
and Pierre M. Irving's Memoir of Washington Irving), three 
have been written by near relatives. 

The present biography of John Wilson, by his daughter 
is worthy, from its fairness and fulness, of a place by the 
Others, indeed, from Johnson to WilsOD and Irving, as re- 
lated in this series, the whole history of British literature, 
during one hundred and fifty years, may be found. 

A loving daughter, solicitous for her father's reputation, 
.M: G-ordon writes of him with admirable impartiality. He 


was a man of genius, with a fountain of humanity in his 
great heart ; a man eccentric in some things, but mean, 
wicked, or tricky, in none. His home affections were deep- 
rooted, and all who knew him loved him dearly. From the 
wild mirth, which he delighted to throw into the immortal 
" Noctes," the world who did not personally know him, fancied 
that Wilson was as reckless, humorsome, and jovial, as he 
represented their heroes to be. Mrs. Gordon's plain record 
shows that these very remarkable dialogues were written with 
prolonged toil, in a rapid manner, and upon no stronger in- 
spiration than a chicken for dinner, and tea or cold water 
as the beverage to follow ! 

This biography may be called the key to BlackwoocVs Mag- 
azine, and particularly to the " Noctes." The mere list of 
Wilson's contributions, from 1826 to 1852, occupies six pages 
in the Appendix ; and in the nine years before 1826, at least 
two hundred other articles were written by him. Rarely has 
any author exhibited such abounding industry, and, even 
when most careless, so little that is common-place or feeble. 

The glimpses of Wilson's contemporaries, afforded by Mrs. 
Gordon, show us Lockhart and De Quincey, Jeffrey and Scott, 
Hartley Coleridge and " Delta ;" and, above all, that singular 
" wild boar of the forest," James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, 
the redoubtable hero of the " Noctes," and William Black- 
wood, the astute publisher. 

Mrs. Gordon truly writes (p. 426) : " There is no literary 
man of our land more highly prized, or better appreciated 
in America than Professor Wilson. In that country his name 
is respected, and his writings are well known. It is doubtful 
if in England he has so large a circle of admirers." 

The great popularity of my own edition of the " Noctes 
Ambrosianse," attests the accuracy of the above statement. 
The best personal and critical estimates of Wilson were written 
in this country ; the first vigorously dashed off immediately 
after the announcement of his death in " The Citizen," by 
John Savage ; and the other, a thoughtful and analytic esti- 
mate of his character, by Henry T. Tuckerman, which is to 
be found in his " Characteristics of Literature," second series. 

It. Shelton Mackenzie. 
Philahelphia, April 4, 1863. 


i have with much misgiving taken upon myself the duty ot 
writing a Memoir of Professor "Wilson, believing that my 
father's life was worthy of being recorded, and that it would 
bear to be truthfully told. I was well aware of the great diffi- 
culties attending its performance, and they proved not less than I 
anticipated ; and I knew that I rendered myself liable to the 
charge of presumption in undertaking a task declined by abler 
hands. But I could not give up my persuasion that an imperfect 
picture of such a man was better than none at all, and in that 
conviction I have done what I could. 

The many-sided character of the man I have not attempted 
to unfold ; nor have I presumed to give a critical estimate of 
his works — they must speak for themselves. Now and then, 
in the course of the narrative, where letters are introduced re- 
ferring to literary subjects, I have made a few observations on 
his writings ; but in no other way, with the exception of those 
chapters devoted to Blackwood's Magazine and the Moral 
Philosophy chair, have I departed from my original intention 
of giving a simple domestic memoir. If I have in any way 
done justice to my father's memory in this respect, I am re- 


I have availed myself of the letters of my father's principal 
correspondents, so far as they served to throw light on the main 
subject, or were in themselves interesting and characteristic. I 
trust, in doing so, that I have inserted nothing calculated to 
displease or give pain to any now living. If I have erred in 
this or other respects, my inexperience in literary work must be 
my excuse. 

I have spoken of the difficulties that I had to encounter. It 
is now my pleasing duty to thank the friends who have so 
kindly lent me their assistance, without which I should indeed 
nave been much at a loss. 

To my brothers, Mr. John Wilson of Billholm, Mr. Blair 
Wilson, and my brother-in-law, Professor Aytoun, I am in- 
debted for memoranda and many domestic letters. 

Others, too numerous to mention by name, will, I hope, ac- 
cept my thanks for their courteous kindness in rendering me 
such service as lay in their power. 

To the various students of former days, who have so heartily 
contributed their reminiscences of the " old man eloquent" 
whom they loved, I offer my most grateful thanks. Those parts 
of the work which are chiefly made up of such contributions, 
will, I am sure, be regarded by many as among its most valu- 
able and interesting contents. To Mr. Hill Burton, the Rev. 
William Smith, and Mr. A. T. Innes, I am under very special 
obligations in this respect. 

To Messrs. Blackwood I am indebted for a complete list of 
my father's contributions to the Magazine from 1826, which 
has enabled me to make use of autobiographic details otherwise 


To Mr. Macduff of Bonhard, and Mr. John Boyd, Publisher, 
1 am obliged for their kindness in placing at my disposal the 
correspondence connected with the publication respectively of 
the Isle of Palms and of Janus. 

Sir David Brewster and Sheriff Cay have conferred a most 
valuable favor upon me in permitting the use of Mr. Lockhart's 

To my friend, Mr. Alexander Nicolson, Advocate, I am es- 
pecially indebted : his warm encouragement aided my labors, 
and his judicious advice guided me in the arrangement of my 
materials, which, both in MS. and in type, he also carefully 
revised. The trouble which he has kindly taken in connec- 
tion with this work is such as could have been expected only 
from one of those whom Professor Wilson loved to call his 
" children." 

In conclusion, I may express my humble hope that this vol- 
ume, however it may come short of expectation, will prove ac- 
ceptable to my friends and that portion of the public who love 
and respect the name of John "Wilson. 

Edikbubgh, October, 1862. 




Paisley— Nursery Amusements— His First Fish— Sermon— Oure John's Teegar— Mr. Feddle's 
School— Life in the Mearns Manse Pages 1-li 




His Father's Death— Enters College— Professor Jardine— Professor Young— Diary in 1801— Por- 
trait by Raeburn — Student Life in Glasgow— Fondness for Barley-sugar— Walking Feats— Es- 
say Writing — Companions — Letter to Wordsworth 14r-i>2 




Dychmont — First Love — Poems to Margaret — Oxford — Studies — Expenses— Commonplace-booka 
— Cock-fighting — Pugilism — Leaping — Reminiscences of Magdalen College by a Fellow-student 
— College Anecdotes 82-56 




Letters to Margaret and to Mr. Findlay — Letter from Mr. Blair — Letters to Mr. Findlay — Let 

ter from Mr. Blair — Examination for his Bachelor Degree — Letters to Mr. Findlay— End of the 

>ry > 55-77 




Description of Ellcray— The Old Cottage — The New House — First Meeting with Wordsworth; 

with De Qnlni Tent— Mathetes— Poetic Compositions — Boating — His Fleet 

on Windermere— Billy Balmer I Banting a IJnll — Love of Animals — I lis Game 

Birds— -A Muin at Elleray"— Wrestling A vara bod on to Lick" — Gale House— I tela motes 

— A Ball ; aBegatta etc.— Letter to Mr. Harden -Lettei toDe Quii j —Poetry— Letters to Mr. 

i. Smith, Publisher 77-lui 





Letter to Mr. Findlay, on the day of his Marriage — Letters to Mr. Smith about " The Isle of Palms" 
— Lines on James Grahame — Edinburgh, 53 Queen Street — Letters to Mr. Smith — Plansfor futur* 
work at Elleray — Loses his Fortune — Studies for the Scottish Bar— Note from Mr. Blair — De- 
parture from Elleray — Letter to DeQuincey Pages 105-119 


Edinburgh— Mrs. "Wilson, Senior— Called to the Bar— Letter to Mrs. "Wilson, from the "Head of 
the Yarrow"— The Shepherd at Home — An Adventure at Peebles — A Pedestrian Tour in the 
Hignlands by Mr. and Mrs. Wilson : their Adventures — The great Caird — Letter to Hogg, giv- 
ing an account of the Tour — Criticism on the Poets — Letter to Mr. Smith, proposing a new vol- 
ume of Poems — Publication of "The City of the Plague" — Letters to his "Wife — Letter to Mr. 
Smith — Letter from Jeffrey on his Poems — Loch Awe — Letter to Mrs. Wilson, from Achlian — 
Adventure with Tinkers — His mode of Fishing — Letters to Mrs. Wilson, from Blair- Athole and 
Dingwall — Adventure at Tomintoul — Mrs. Grant of Laggan's remarks on Wilson — At Elleray — 
Patrick Robertson 119-152 




His Connection with Periodical Literature — Edinburgh Monthly Magazine — Letter to Mrs. Wil- 
son from Kinloch Kannoch — Review of Lalla Rookh — Fishing Tour — Letters from Jeffrey re- 
garding Contributions for the Edinburgh Review — Fragment from Jeffrey regarding a Vindica- 
tion of Wordsworth — State of Parties in Edinburgh in 1817 — Establishment of Blackwood — 
Early Editors and Contributors—The Scots Magazine — A change in the Management — Number 
VII. — The New Contributors — The Scorpion — The Leopard — Mr. Lockhart — John Wilson — Mr. 
Robert Sym — James Hogg — Mystifications — Leigh Hunt and Sir J. G. Dalyell — More Mystifica- 
tion — Dr. James Scott, 7 Miller Street, Glasgow, alias The Odontist — Captain Paton's Lament 
— The Dilettanti Club — Letters from Mrs. Wilson to her Sister Miss Penny on the Magazine- 
Ensign O'Doherty — A Magazine Row, etc, — The Style of Criticism adopted — Letter to Professor 
Laugner — The Attack upon Professor Playfair — III Results — Hypocrisy Unveiled — Correspond- 
ence with the Author — Letter from Mr. Morehead — Letter to Mr. Morehead — Letter from Jeff- 
rey, vindicating the Edinburgh Rev iew from the Charge of Infidelity 153-198 


Removes to Ann Street— Sir Henry Raeburn — Sir John Watson Gordon — Sir William Allan- 
Death of Dr. Thomas Brown — Announces himself as a Candidate for the Chair of Moral Philos- 
ophy — Sir William Hamilton — Fierce opposition by the Whig party — Letters from Mrs. Wilson 
on the struggle — Letters to Rev. J. Fleming and Mrs. Grant of Laggan for a Certificate as to 
Character — Mrs. Grant's reply — Letter from Sir Walter Scott — His Election — Letter from Mrs. 
Wilson on her husband's Success — Letter to Mr. Smith — Preparations for his Lectures — Corre- 
spondence with Dr. Blair — A Fancy Sketch of the new Professor in his Study — Correspondence 
with Blair — Opening Lecture of his First Course ..198-228 


His Syllabus — The Professor in his Sporting Jacket — Adventure in Hawick — "A little Mill"— 
Makes two Students at home in Ann Street — The Professor and his " Children" at St. Mary's 
Loch — Mr. Hill Burton's Reminiscences of the winter of 1S30 — A Market-day atTarland — Akind 
Teacher — A Dinner at Gloucester Place — His Class — Saturday — A Snow-ball Kiot — Any Old 
Clothes? — "Sir Peter Nimino" and the poet Wordsworth — Dr. Syntax — A "Conservative" Meet- 
ing — Politics in the Class — Rev. Mr. Smith's Recollections of 1S37 — As a Lecturer — His Course 
for 1S37-183S — Illustration, the Love of Power— His Power as an Orator— "The Demosthenes of 
Ireland" — An Episode in the Class-room — His Care and Industry in Examining the Students' 
Essays — His Kindness to them privately — The Session forl850-lS51 — Mr. A. Taylor Innes — 
" Professor Wilson's Gold Medal" — The Origin of the Moral Faculty — His Appearance in the 
Class-room — An Unmannerly Student Pages 226-256. 



Lays from Fairy Land — Devotion to the Magazine, and Friendship for Mr. Blackwood — Lights 
and Shadows of Scottish Life — A Summer in Elleray once more — Letter from Mr. Blackwood — 
Letter from Mr. Lockhart on Mr. Leigh Hunt — The Gormandizing School of Eloquence — Misa 
Edgeworth, etc., etc. — Tom Purdie — Willie Laidlaw, etc. — Letters from Mr. Blackwood regarding 
the Magazine — Another Summer at Elleray — Letter from Mr. Blackwood — Letters from Mr. 
Lockhart — The People he met in London — Edward Irving's Preaching described — Party Politics 
— Library Gossip — Old Slop and the New Times — A Daily Paper at the Breakfast-table, etc. — 
Letter from De Quincey — Hill on Education — The "Breeches" Review — "A Confession" — Acci- 
dent to Mrs. Wilson — Letter to Mr. E. Findlay — Death of Mrs. Wilson, Senior — Letter from 
Principal Baird — Removal to Gloucester Place — The Proposed Chair of Political Economy- 
Letters from Mr. Patrick Robertson, Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Canning, and Sir Robert Peel on the 
Subject — Literary work — Projected " Outlines'' — Correspondence of Mr. Lockhart and Mr. Wil- 
son on "Janus" — Letters from Mr. Lockhart on Sir Walter's visit to Elleray — Letter from Pro- 
fessor Jameson — Letter from Mr. Lockhart on Canning — W. Maginn — Letter from Mr. Black 
wood— Letter to Delta on "Janus" — Illness of Mrs. Wilson — Letter from Mr. Lockhart, on be« 
coming Editor of the Quarterly Iievieic — Work during 1S26— Letters to Mrs. Wilson from Ken- 
dal— Colonsay 256-29S 

As a Friendly Critic — Letter to Delta — Views on Free Trade — "Mansie Waugh," etc. — Notes to 
Mr. Baflantyne — Innerleithen — Letter to Mr. Fleming, Rayrig, on "Christopher North," etc.— 
Letters to Mrs. Wilson — Hartley Coleridge — Contributions for 1828 — Letters from Allan Cun- 
ningham, regarding " The Anniversary," " Edderline's Dream," etc. — Mrs. Wilson to Miss Penny 

— ■• Evening at Furness Abbey" — Letter from Jai - Hogg, declining an invitation to Elleray— 

Letter to Mr. Fleming — Letter from Thomas Caiiyle— Letter from Mr. Lockhart — Contest for 
Oxford University, 1829— Letter to De Quincey, on Ins Sketch of the Professor — Thomas Do 
Quincey — Affection for him — His visit to Gloucester Place 'J'JK- '626 



L830 -'32. 

Home I..; ' in from Penny Bridge and Westmoroland- 

Homeric Papei Lettei from Botbeb] Letter from Miss Watson — A Conservative Meeting 


and Liberal Commentary — Criticism on Tennyson — Letter to Mrs. Wilson on his Cruise with 

the Experimental Squadron — London — Greenwich — H. M. 8. the "Vernon" — Sheerness — On 

board the " Vernon" — A Sailor's Death at Sea — Plymouth — The "• Campeadora" — The " Vernon" 

-Holystoning — Off the Lizard — Land's End — Cork — London and Home Pages 828-359 




Letter from an Author to a Critic — Political Feeling — Paper on Ebenezer Elliot, and Letter from 

him — " Come and break a ton" of iron— Letter from Mr. Audubon — From Rev. James White 

of Bonchurch — Letters to James Hogg — "The Shepherd's Reconciliation" — An Autumn in 

Ettrick— Rover and the Witch— Pets— A Dog Fighi— Thirlstane Castle— Letters to Mrs. Wilson 

from Edinburgh — Mr. Blackwood's Illness and Death— Letters from the Clyde to Mrs. Wilson — 

Public Dinner at Paisley — Last Letter from Mrs. Wilson to her Sister — Illness and Death of 

Mrs. Wilson 359-383 

Depression of Spirits — Life at Roslin — Marriage of his Daughters — His main work that of a 
Teacher — His little ways at Home — Pets — The Sparrow — His Dogs : Bronte — Tory — Grog — 
Game Birds — A new Coop — A Note to Delta on the Dispersion of his Aviary — Work for the 
Year — Letters to Mr. Aird on Burns — Had Burns Family Worship at Dumfries? — The Pro- 
fessor's Study — Writing for Blackwood — Habits of Composition — Letter to Mr. Findlay from 
Rothesay — Cladich — A Fairy's Funeral— Letter to his Daughter describing Billholm— Review 
of Macaulay's Lays — Letter to Dr. Moir 3S3-407 


Characteristic Letters from John Gibson Lockhart— The Kemp Absurdity — Maga— Novel Read- 
ing, etc. — Letter to his son John on Domestic matters — " The Kemo Affair" — Walking Feats — 
The Burns Festival — Letter to Sheriff Gordon — Letters from Sergeant Talfourd, excusing him- 
self from attendance at the "Festival" — Letter to Aird — Letter to his daughter Jane — Fishing 
in the Dochart — Letter to his daughter Jane — Maga Articles resumed in 1845 — British Critics — 
Elleray — Letter to Sheriff Gordon, asking him to edit an Article of his for Blackwood — Opening 
of Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, of which he was elected President — Melancholy Reflec- 
tions — Letter to Mr. Findlay requesting his presence at the Marriage of his son John — Visit to 
the newly Married Pair — Resolves not to return to Elleray — Weakness in the Hand, writes con- 
sequently with difficulty — Byron's " Address to the Ocean" — Peculiarities of Dress — Still in 
Mourning for his Wife — A Street Scene — A Carter defeated — Humanity to Animals — Visits to 
London — Sitting for a Portrait — Conversational Powers — Reminiscences of Social Meetings — 
Jeffrey's Receptions — Lord Robertson— The Professor's Songs — Sailor's Life at Sea — Auld 
Lang Syne— " A Quaint Ballad" 407-132 




''Dies Boreales"— Rituals of the Church— The Scottish Service— Marriage of his youngest daugh 

ter to Professor Aytoun — Playful ways — Toilet peculiarities — His Watch— Hat — Snufi-box— 

Gloves, etc., etc. — Horror of Gas — Love of Children — Letter to his second son Blair, mentioning 


" Billy's" Death — Letter to his son Blair — The " Dear Doctor" — From College Duties on account 
of 111 Health— Illness — Desire to return to his Labors — Excursion to the Highlands in search of 
Health — Passion for Angling — Visit to his Brother at Woodburn — Determines to retire from 
Active Life — Letter from the Lord Advocate to Sheriff Gordon, conveying the news of the Grant 
of a Pension of £300 per annum — Letter from Lord John Russell to the Lord Advocate, desiring 
him to have the Queen's intentions mentioned to "Wilson — Receives the News — Letter of Ac- 
knowledgment to Lord John Russell — Takes up his abode at "Woodburn — Last Papers for Mag- 
azine — Step feeble and unsteady — Letter to his son Blair, thanking him for supplies of Books — 
Macaulay a Candidate for the Representation of Edinburgh — Comes to Edinburgh and Votes 
for Macaulay — Letter from Macaulay to Sheriff Gordon, expressing his kindly feelings towards 
the Professor — Last Visit of Mr. Lockhart — Letter to Robert Findlay, congratulating him on the 
Marriage of his Son — At Gloucester Place again — The Last Christmas — Seized with a Shock of 
Paralysis— Rapid Decline— The End / Pages 433-462 


L — Public Funeral and Proposed Statue 463 

II. — Correspondence relating to Janus 464 

III — List of Professor Wilson's Contributions to Blackwood's Magazine from 1S26 .470 

brc>*x 477 



Portrait — from 4. Photograph (frontispiece), . d. o. hill. 

" The Strictures of the Edinburgh Review, con- 
sidered at a Private Meeting of the Caput," j. g. lockhart. 54 

Mr. Patrick Robertson, prof. e. forbes 151 

The " Leopard," j. G. lockhart. 165 

The "Scorpion," do. 169 

A Scotch Minister, do. 173 

A Scotch Judge, do. 177 

Mr. Gibson Lockhart, do. 185 

Sir William Hamilton, do. 203 




The epithets " pretty" and " pleasant," more than once applied 
in the writings of Professor Wilson to the place of his birth, are 
not those which the passing traveller would now think most appro- 
priate to the town of Paisley, where the smoke and steam of count- 
less lactones incessantly roll over the inky waters of once fair-flow- 
ing Cart. And yet it was not the mere partiality of filial affection 
that made it seem both pretty and pleasant to his eyes, for such it 
truly was in the days when he first knew it. And has it not still 
its pleasant walks and pretty gardens, and its grand old Abbey ? 
Do not green Gleniffer and Stanley Shaw still flourish near enough 
to be enjoyed? Is it not pleasant still to look beyond fields and 
trees to the sacred spot called Elderslie ? And though gauze and 
cotton be even more than ever the chief concern of Paisley, has it 
not still its poets and musicians and men of taste, to make it a 
" pleasant" habitation, in spite of smoke and steam and s'uggish 
waters ? No native of that respectable old town need be ashamed 
of his birthplace, and justly is it proud of him who stands foremost 
among all its sons. 

\ omewhal gloomy-looking house in a dingy court at the head 
of the High Street, now used ns a lecture-hall for the artisans of 
P v, is preserved aa classic ground, under the name of ,L Wil- 
son's Hall." Tn that house the poet was born, on the 18th of May, 
At M" greal distance stands the family residence, to which, 
after the birth of John, their first son l>ut fourth child, Mr. and 


Mrs. Wilson removed. It is a stately building, with large gardens, 
and an imposing entrance. The windows to the back command an 
extensive view of a beautiful undulating country, with the nearer 
prospect of a woody vale and rich sloping fields, a landscape suffi- 
ciently attractive to have awakened the love of nature in a child's 
heart, and to have held dominion there in after days, when memory 
recalled the home of youth, and those delightful pictures of boy- 
hood's life which were immortalized in the " Recreations of Chris- 
topher North." Of Mr. Wilson, senior, I know little more than 
that he was a wealthy man, having realized his fortune in trade as 
a gauze manufacturer. The integrity of his character and his mer- 
cantile successes gave him an important position in society, and he 
is still remembered in Paisley as having been in his own day one 
of the richest and most respected of its community ; while his 
house possessed a great attraction in his admirable and beautiful 
wife, a lady of rare intellect, wit, humor, wisdom, and grace. Her 
maiden name was Margaret Sym. Her brother Robert is not 
unknown to fame, as the "Timothy Tickler" of the JVoctes Ambro- 
sianrje. Her mother, of the Dunlops of Garnkirk, was lineally 
descended, by the female side, from the great Marquis of Montrose. 
Whether this gentle blood had any thing to do with the physical 
characteristics of the family or not, certain it is that Mrs. Wilson, 
her sons and daughters, were remarkably distinguished by personal 
beauty, of a refined and dignified type. An aspect so stately as 
that of the old lady is not often to be seen. Nor was she less 
gifted with qualities more durable than beauty ; for ere long she 
was called upon, by the death of her husband, to exercise the 
wisdom and strength of her character in rearing a large family of 
sons and daughters. How well she performed that duty was best 
seen in the reverence and love of her children, all of whom, save 
two sons and a daughter, lived to shed tears over her grave, and 
to give proof, in their own lives, of that admirable training which 
had taught them betimes the way that they should go.* 

* It will not be out of place here to give the names of the ton children born to Mr. Wilson and 
his wife : — 

1. Grace Wilson, married George Cashel, Esquire, Ireland; died, 1855. 2. Jane Wilson, died 
unmarried, 1S35. 3. Margaret Wilson, married John Ferrier, Esquire, W. S., Edinburgh; died, 
1831. 4. John Wilson, married Miss Jane Penny; died, 1S54. 5. Andrew Wilson, married Misa 
Aitken, Glasgow; died. 1812. 6. Henrietta Wilson, died young. 1. William Wilson, died in 
Infancy 8. Robert Sym Wilson, married Miss Eliza Penny. 9. Elizabeth Wilson, married Sif 
Jt'hu M'Xeill, G. C. B. 10. James Wilson, married Miss Isabella Keith, Edinburgh; died, 1856 


In liis childish years, John Wilson was as beautiful and animated 
a creature as ever played in the sunshine. That passion for sports, 
and especially angling, in which his strong nature found such char- 
acteristic vent in after years, was developed at an age when most 
little boys are still hardly safe beyond the nurse's apron-strings. 
He was but three years old when he rambled oif one day, armed 
with a willow wand, duly furnished with a thread line and crooked 
pin, to fish in a "wee burnie," of which he had taken note, away a 
good mile from home. Unknown to any one, already appreciating 
the fascination of an undisturbed and solitary " cast," the blue-eyed 
and golden-haired adventurer sallied forth to the water-side, to 
spend a day of unforgotten delight, lashing away at the rippling 
stream, with what success we may perhaps find recorded in Fytte 
First of "Christopher in his Sporting Jacket:" — 

"A tug — a tug! With face ten times flushed and pale by turns 
ere you could count ten, he at last has strength, in the agitation of 
his fear and joy, to pull away at the monster ; and there he lies in 
his beauty among the gowans and the greensward, for he has 
whapped him right over his head and far away, a fish a quarter of 
an ounce in weight, and, at the very least, two inches long ! Off 
he flies, on wings of wind, to his father, mother, and sisters, and 
brothers and cousins, and all the neighborhood, holding the fish 
aloft in both hands, still fearful of its escape; and, like a genuine 
child of corruption, his eyes brighten at the first blush of cold blood 
on his small fumy fingers. He carries about with him, up-stairs 
and down-stairs, his prey upon a plate; he will not wash his hands 
before dinner, for he exults in the silver scales adhering to the 
thumb-nail that scooped the pin out of the baggy's maw; and at 
night, 'cabined, cribbed, confined,' he is overheard murmuring in 
his -leep — a thief, a robber, and a murderer, in his yet infant 
dreams !" 

While the future Christopher was thus early asserting himself 
out of doors, the "Professor" also was displaying his capacity in 
the nursery. There his activity and animation kepi the little circle 
alive from morning to night. With hi- Bisters he was a great 
favorite; they Looked up to hi 1 - superior intelligence, and wondered 
at all he did. Of in-door amusements, the mosl exciting to their 

youthful minds and his precocious genius was thai of pulpit ora- 

t"iy. One sermon he used himself to -peak of as being a chef' 


tfmivre. So much was it appreciated, that he was continually 
called on to repeat it. Standing upon a chair, arranged to look as 
like a pulpit as possible, he would address his juvenile congrega- 
tion, along with the more mature audience of nurses and other 
servants assembled to listen to his warning voice. The text chosen 
was one from his own fertile brain, drawn from that field of expe- 
rience in which he Avas already becoming an adept, and handled 
not without shrewd application to moral duties. These were the 
words : " There was a fish, and it was a deil o' a fish, and it was 
ill to its young anes." In this allegory of life he displayed both 
pathos and humor, drawing a contrast between good and evil 
parents that excited sympathy and laughter, while the sermon was 
delivered with a vehemence of natural eloquence that, in a boy of 
five years old, may well have entitled him to be looked upon as a 

One other anecdote may here be given, which he used to tell 
with much humor. As a child, he was very fond of drawing, an 
accomplishment he regretted in after life having laid aside, before 
he had acquired sufficient skill to enable him to sketch from nature. 
One day he had copied a tiger, and, no doubt, having given to the 
animal considerable characteristic vigor, his mother — with natural 
mother's pride — treasured the specimen highly. He was not aware 
of the sensation this juvenile success in art had created, till one 
morning a visitor was announced when he was present, and was 
scarcely seated, ere, to his surprise, she was accosted by Mrs. Wil- 
son with the words, pronounced in broad Scotch, as was the manner 
in those days with many well-educated people, "Have ye seen oure 
John's teegar?" when forthwith the " teegar" was exhibited to the 
admiring eyes of her guest. It was not long before "oure John's 
teegar" was well known in Paisley.* 

The time had now come when the training of the nursery was to 
be followed by regular education at school, and John w T as commit- 
ted to the tuition of Mr. James Peddie, English teacher, Paisley. 
To a child who loved to learn, the drudgery of a first apprentice- 
ship at school would never be irksome. A year or two with Mr. 

* In Flight First of " The Moors," I find an allusion to this work of art. " Strange that, with all 
our love of nature and of art, wc never were a painter. True that in boyhood we were no con- 
temptible hand at a lion or a tiger — and sketches by us of such cats springing or preparing to 
spring in keelivine, dashed off some fifty or sixty years ago, might well make Edwin Landsew 


Peddle prepared him to enter upon more arduous studies. He left 
the teacher of his childhood with regret. 

The kindness and partiality with which he loved to speak of his 
friends in Paisley, may be seen in the words he made use of in 
reference to this old friend, as he was taking leave of duties he had 
followed for upwards of half a century. They are honorable alike 
to master and pupil : — 

" It was his method rather to persuade than enforce, and they all 
saw, even amidst the thoughtlessness of boyhood, that their teacher 
was a good man ; and therefore it was their delight and pride to 
please him. Sometimes a cloud would overshadow his brow, but 
it was succeeded by a smile of pleasure as gracious and benign as 
the summer sky. In his seminary, children of all ranks sat on the 
same form. In that school there was no distinction, except what 
was created by superior merit and industry, by the love of truth, 
and by ability. The son of the poor man was there on the same 
form with the sons of the rich, and nothing could ever drive him 
from his rightful status but misconduct or disobedience. ~No per- 
son would deny that the office of a teacher of youth was one of the 
most important in this world's affairs. A surly or ignorant master 
might scathe those blossoms, which a man of sense and reflection, 
by his fostering care, would rear up till they became bright con- 
summate flowers of knowledge and virtue." 

The Manse of the neighboring parish of Mearns was the next 
place fixed upon by Mr. Wilson to continue the education of his 
son; and there he found a dolce pedagogo fitted in every way to 
carry on the instruction in knowledge and virtue so well begun un- 
der the goodMr.Peddie. The Rev. George M'Latchie won no less 
a share of his pupil's veneration — "the minister in whose house he 
passed many of his sweetest youthful days, and who regarded him 
with a paternal, as lie always looked up to him with a filial 
regard." That warm heart was ever ready with its tribute of 
affection to the memory of good men ; and amid the tender recol- 
lections of the past, hallowed by sentiments of gratitude, no place 
is more touchingly alluded to than "the dear parish of Mearus." 
Whoever wishes to find a perfect description of its physical features, 
as well a- mosi exquisite pictures of the youthful pleasures on which 
memory casl back a glory, must turn to the pages of the Recrea- 
, particularly to the papers entitled "OurParish," "Ohrislo- 


pher in his Sporting Jacket," and "May Day." From the latter 
I cannot resist the quotation of the opening paragraph, perhaps 
the most beautiful of his many apostrophes to that beloved re 
gion :— 

" Art thou beautiful, as of old, O wild, moorland, sylvan, and 
pastoral Parish ! the Paradise in which our spirit dwelt beneath the 
glorious dawning of life — can it be, beloved world of boyhood, that 
thou art indeed beautiful as of old? Though round and round thy 
boundaries in half an hour could fly the flapping dove — though the 
martins, wheeling to and fro that ivied and wall-flowered ruin of a 
castle, central in its own domain, seem in their more distant flight 
to glance their crescent wings over a vale rejoicing apart in another 
kirk spire, yet how rich in streams, and rivulets, and rills, each with 
its own peculiar murmur, art thou, with thy bold bleak exposure, 
sloping upwards in ever lustrous undulations to the portals of the 
East! How endless the interchange of woods and meadows, glens, 
dells, and broomy nooks, without number, among thy banks and 
braes ! And then of human dwellings ! — how rises the smoke, ever 
and anon, into the sky, all neighboring on each other, so that the 
cock-crow is heard from homestead to homestead ; while, as you 
wander onwards, each roof still rises unexpectedly, and as solitary 
as if it had been far remote. Fairest of Scotland's thousand par- 
ishes — neither Highland nor Lowland — but undulating — let us again 
use the descriptive word — like the sea in sunset after a day of storms 
— yes, Heaven's blessing be upon thee ! Thou art indeed beautiful 
as of old !" 

Of the precocity of this boy there is evidence enough ; but, unlike 
most precocious children, he was foremost in the play-ground as 
well as at the task. With him both work and play were equally 
enjoyed, and he threw his whole energy into the one or other in 
its turn. In school he was every inch the scholar ; but when the 
books were laid aside, and the fresh air played on his bright cheeks, 
he was king of all sports, the foremost and the maddest in every joc- 
und enterprise. A pleasant idea of the relation in which the kind 
minister of the Mearns stood to his pupils, is given in a note from 
Sir John Maxwell of Pollok, who was a schoolfellow of my father : 

" He was above me in the ranks of the school, in stature, and 
mental acquirements. I may mention, as an illustration of the 
energy, activity, and vivacity of his character, that one morning, I 


having been permitted to go and fish in the burn near the kirk, and 
having caught a fine trout, was so pleased, that I repaired to the 
minister's study to exhibit my prize to Dr. M'Latchie, who was 
then reading Greek with him. He, seeing my trout, started up; 
and, addressing his reverend teacher, said, 'I must go now to fish.' 
Leave was granted, and I willingly resigned to him my rod and 
line ; and before dinner he re-appeared with a large dish of fish, 
on which he and his companions feasted, not without that admira- 
tion of his achievement which youth delights to express and always 

This simple relation, to those who knew the man in after life, 
and have heard him speak of the happy hours which gave, in his 
eyes, so great a charm to " Our Parish," suggests one of those 
bright days he loved to wander to in memory, long after the sunny 
visions of youth had glided into the silent past. "Such days," says 
he, "seem now to us— as memory and imagination half restore and 
half create the past into such weather as may have shone over the 
bridal morn of our first parents in Paradise — to have been frequent 
— nay, to have lasted all the summer long — when our boyhood was 
bright from the hands of God. Each of those days was in itself a 

It is impossible to overrate the influence of such a training as 
voung Wilson had, during these happy years, in forming that sin- 
gular character, in virtue of which he stands out as unique and 
inimitable among British men of genius, as Jean Paul, Der Elnzige, 
among his countrymen. In no other writings do we find so inex- 
haustible and vivid a reminiscence of the feelings of boyhood. 
There was in that heart of his a perpetual well-spring of youthful 
i motion. In contact with him, we are made to feel as if this man 
were in himself the type, never to grow old, of all the glorious* 
brighl eyed youths thai we have known in the world; capable of 
entering, with perfect luxury of abandonment, into their wildest 
frolic-8, bin also of transfiguring their pastimes into mirrors of 
things more sublime— of rising, withoul strain or artifice, from the 
level <•!' common and material objects into the serene heights of 
poetic, philosophic, and religious contemplation. Not In vain was 
this brilliant youth, with his capacity for every form of activity, 
bodily and mental, his passionate love of nature, and bis deep rev 

* - ■ q .- 01 9i U ion*! Wt 


erence for all things high and pure, placed in the springtime of his 
days amid the manifold wholesome influences of a Scottish manse 
and school in the " wild, moorland, sylvan, pastoral parish" of 
Mearns. For truly has he himself remarked of the importance of 
this period of life, " Some men, it is sarcastically said, are boys all 
life long, and carry with them their puerility to the grave. 'Two ul d 
be well for the world were there in it more such men. By way of 
proving their manhood, Ave have heard grown-up people abuse 
their own boyhood, forgetting what our great philosophical poet — 
after Milton and Dryden — has told them, that 

' The boy is father of the man.' 

and thus libelling the author of their existence. . . . Not only are 
the foundations dug and laid in boyhood, of all the knowledge and 
the feelings of our prime, but the ground-flat too built, and often 
the entire second story of the superstructure, from the windows of 
which, the soul, looking out, beholds nature in her state, and leaps 
down, unafraid of a fall on the green or white bosom of earth, to 
join with hymns the front of the procession. The soul afterwards 
perfects her palace — building up tier after tier of all imaginable 
orders of architecture — till the shadowy roof, gleaming with golden 
cupolas, like the cloud-region of the setting sun, set the heavens 

It were a vain task to attempt, in any words but his own, to re- 
call some of those boyish experiences, which made that life in the 
Mearns so rich a seed-field of bright memories and imaginations. I 
must, therefore, draw upon the pages of the Recreations for a few 
pictures of "Young Kit," as he appeared to himself looked at through 
the vista of half a life. After describing how his youthful passion 
for the observation of nature impelled him, when a mere child, to 
wander away among the moors and woods, he goes on : — 

" Once it was feared that poor wee Kit was lost ; for having set 
off all by himself, at sunrise, to draw a night-line from the distant 
Black Loch, and look at a trap set for a glede, a mist overtook him 
on the moor on his homeward way, with an eel as long as himself 
hanging over his shoulder, and held him prisoner for many hours 
within its shifting walls, frail indeed, and opposing no resistance to 
t.he hand, yet impenetrable to the feet of fear as the stone dungeon's 

• Wilson's Works, 


thraldom. If the mist had remained, that would have been nothing ; 
only a still cold wet seat on a stone ; but as ' a trot becomes a gallop 
soon, in spite of curb and rein,' so a Scotch mist becomes a shower 
■ — and a shower a flood — and a flood a storm — and a storm a tem- 
pest — and a tempest thunder and lightning — and thunder and light- 
ning heavenquake and earthquake — till the heart of poor wee Kit 
quaked, and almost died within him in the desert. In this age of 
Confessions, need we be ashamed to own, in the face of the whole 
world, that we sat us down and cried ! The small brown moorland 
bird, as dry as a toast, hopped out of his heather-hole, and cheerfully 
cheeped comfort. With crest just a thought lowered by the rain 
the green-backed, white-breasted peaseweep, walked close by us in 
the mist ; and, sight of wonder, that made even in that quandary by 
the quagmire our heart beat with joy — lo ! never seen before, and 
seldom since, three wee peaseweeps, not three days old, little bigger 
than shrew-mice, all covered with blackish down, interspersed with 
long white hair, running after their mother ! But the large hazel eye 
of the she peaseweep, restless even in the most utter solitude, soon 
spied us glowering at her, and her young ones, through our tears ; 
and not for a moment doubting (Heaven forgive her for the shrewd 
but cruel suspicion!) that we were Lord Eglinton's gamekeeper, 
with a sudden shrill cry that thrilled to the marrow in our cold 
backbone, flapped and fluttered herself away into the mist, while 
the little black bits of down disappeared, like devils, into the moss. 
The croaking of the frogs grew terrible. And worse and worse, 
close at hand, seeking his lost cows through the mist, the bellow of 
the notorious red bull! We began saying our prayers; and just 
then the sun forced himself out into the open day, and, like the sud- 
den opening of the shutters of a room, the whole world was filled 
with light. The frogs seemed to sink among the powheads; as for 
the red bull who had tossed the tinker, he was cantering away, with 
his tail towards us, to a lot of cows on the hill ; and liark — a long, 
8 loud, an oft-repeated halloo! Kab Roger, honest fellow, and 
Leezy Muir, honesl Lass, from the manse, in search of our (had 
body! Bab pulls our ears lightly, and Leezy kisses us from the 
one to the other, wrings the rain out of our long yellow hair (a 
pretty contrasl to the small gray sprig now on the crown of our 
pericranium, and the thin tail acock behind); and by-and-by step- 
g into Sazel-Deanhead for a drap and a 'ohitterin' piece,' l>v the 


time we reach the manse we are as dry as a whistle — take our scold 
and our pawmies from the minister — and, by way of punishment 
and penance, after a little hot whiskey-toddy, with brown sugar and 
a bit of bun, are bundled off to bed in the daytime!" 

Could any thing be more deliciously vivid than that picture of 
little Kit and the maternal peaseweep "glowering" at each other 
in the midst of the Scotch mist ? 

Let us see him now a few years older, and some inches taller, 
armed with that remarkable piece of artillery, " Muckle-mou'd 
Meg," of which he has himself given this most inimitable descrip- 
tion, or one only equalled by Hood's glorious schoolboy epis- 
tles : — 

" There had been from time immemorial, it was understood, in 
the Manse, a duck-gun of very great length, and a musket that, 
according to an old tradition, had been out both in the Fifteen and 
Forty-five. There were ten boys of us, and we succeeded by rotation 
to gun or musket, each boy retaining possession for a single day 
only ; but then the shooting season continued all the year. They 
must have been of admirable materials and workmanship ; for 
neither of them so much as once burst during the Seven Years' War. 
The musket, who, we have often since thought, must surely rather 
have been a blunderbuss in disguise, was a perfect devil for kicking 
when she received her discharge ; so much so, indeed, that it was 
reckoned creditable for the smaller boys not to be knocked down 
by the recoil. She had a very wide mouth — and was thought by 
us ' an awfu' scatterer ;' a qualification which Ave considered of the 
very highest merit. She carried any thing we chose to put into 
her — there still being of all her performances a loud and favorable 
report — balls, buttons, chuckystanes, slugs, or hail. She had but 
two faults: she had got addicted, probably in early life, to one 
habit of burning priming, and to another of hanging fire; habits of 
which it was impossible, for us at least, to break her by the most 
assiduous hammering of many a new series of flints; but such was 
the high place she justly occupied in the affection and admiration 
of us all, that faults like these did not in the least detract from her 
general character. Our delight, when she did absolutely and posi- 
tively and bond fide 'go off,' was in proportion to the comparative 
rarity of that occurrence; and as to hanging fire — why, we used to 
let her take her own time, contriving to keep her at the level as long 


as our strength sufficed, eyes shut perhaps, teeth clenched, face 
girning, and head slightly averted over the right shoulder, till 
Muekle-mou'd Meg, who, like most other Scottish females, took 
things leisurely, went otf at last with an explosion like the blowiug 
up of a rock.'* 

If we would see hirn, at a further stage of boyhood, engaged in 
still more exciting and boisterous sport, we would need to go back 
into the melCe of the "Snowball Bicker of Pedmouut,"* a quiet 
Homeric episode, to which it is impossible to do justice by an ex- 
tract. Those who care, in short, to obtain as complete a picture of 
that boyish life as it is possible now to have, will find it for them- 
selves in the pages of the Recreations, few of which are without 
some tender and graphic reminiscences of his early days. They 
are not, of course, to be always taken as literal descriptions of 
things that happened exactly as there painted; for, as he himself 
acul ely observes, giving the rationale of such reminiscence : — " You 
must know that, unless it be accompanied with imagination, memory 
is ••old and lifeless. . . . All minds, even the dullest, remember the 
days of their youth; but all cannot bring back the indescribable 
brightness of that blessed season. They who would know what 
they once were, must not merely recollect, but they must imagine 
the hills and valleys, if any such there were, in which their child- 
hood played. . . . To imagine what he then heard and saw, he must 
imagine his own nature. He must collect from many vanished 
hours the power of his untamed heart, and he must, perhaps, trans- 
fuse also something of his own maturer mind into these dreams of 
his former being, thus linking the past with the present by a con- 
tinuous chain, u hieh, though often in\ isible, is never broken." That 
my father, in these pictures of his youth, did transfuse something 
of his maturer mind into the vision is manifest enough, ami therein 
lie- their peculiar charm and beauty. But of the general fidelity of 
the impression they convey there can be no doubt. As regards in 
particular that surpassing excellence in all physical sports which 
might Bometimes appear to be the exaggeration of poetic fancy, 
there is sufficient testimony from contemporaries. Tims a school- 
fellow of his writes : " There \\ ere <>t her boys live or six years his 
senior; but in all games, in running, in jumping, in hockey, he was 
the first and fastesl ; and he could run faster, and walk longer than 

* Wilsons' Worfa, 


any of us." Another says : " He excited our admiration by his ox- 
cellence in fishing;" while, in regard to "mental superiority," he 
adds, "he was a capital scholar, and further in advance of the 
generality of the boys at Mearns than he outshone his competitors 
in after life." 

That, with all this many-sided ability, and the undoubted con- 
sciousness of superior power, he was a prime favorite among his 
fellows, is not difficult to believe, when we find how affectionate 
and magnanimous was his nature ; a nature in which the develop- 
ment of soul and body, of intellect and feeling, attained a harmony 
so rare. The combination of these gifts in such goodly proportion 
enabled him to enter, with a sympathy destitute of all affectation, 
into the feelings and pursuits of persons of the most diverse char- 
acter; and throughout all the exuberance of his literary activity, 
much as there is in its earlier stages of impetuosity, and sometimes 
even sansculottism, there is nowhere, from beginning to end, one 
trace of malignity or envy. Even such was he in those happy boy- 
ish days, when he " bathed his feet in beauty" by the banks of the 
Fearn, and nourished " a youth sublime " in the pure and healthful 
atmosphere of the dear old Manse. 

I pass with reluctance from this happy period, to which my 
father's heart ever turned with a freshness of delight which years 
and sorrows seemed only to increase. The chapter may fitly close 
with his own account of the feelings with which he bade farewell 
to that beloved parish, never mentioned without benediction and 

" Then this was to be our last year in the parish — now dear to us 
as our birthplace; nay, itself our very birthplace — for in it from the 
darkness of infancy had our soul been born. Once gone and away 
from the region of cloud and mountain, we felt that most probably 
never more should we return. For others, who thought they knew 
us better than we did ourselves, had chalked out a future life for 
young Christopher North — a life that was sure to lead to honor, 
and riches, and a splendid name. Therefoi'e we determined, with a 
strong, resolute, insatiate spirit of passion, to make the most — the 
best — of the few months that remained to us of that, our wild, free, 
and romantic existence, as yet untrammelled by those inexorable 
laws, which, once launched into the world, all alike — young and 
old — must obey. Our books were flung aside — nor did our old 


master and minister frown, for he grudged not to the boy he loved 
the remnant of the dream about to be rolled away like the dawn's 
rosy clouds. We demanded with our eye — not with our voice — 
one long holiday throughout that our last autumn, on to the pale 
farewell blossoms of the Christmas rose. With our rod we went 
earlier to the loch or river ; but we had not known thoroughly our 
own soul — for now we angled less passionately, less perseveringly, 
than was our wont of yore, sitting in a pensive, a melancholy, a 
miserable dream, by the dashing waterfall or the murmuring wave. 
With our gun we plunged earlier in the morning into the forest, 
and we returned later at eve ; but less earnest, less eager, were we 
to hear the cushat's moan from his yew-tree — to see the hawk's 
shadow on the glade, as he hung aloft on the sky. A thousand 
dead thoughts came to life again in the gloom of the woods, and 
we sometimes did wring our hands in an agony of grief, to know 
that our eyes should not behold the birch-tree brightening there 
with another spring. 

"Then every visit we paid to cottage or to shieling was felt to 
be a farewell; there was something mournful in the smiles on the 
sweet faces of the ruddy rustics, with their silken snoods, to whom 
we used to whisper harmless love-meanings, in which there was no 
guile. We regarded the solemn toil-and-care-worn countenances 
of the old with a profounder emotion than had ever touched our 
hearts in the hour of our more thoughtless joy; and the whole life 
of those dwellers among the woods, and the moors, and the moun- 
tains, seemed to us far more affecting now that we saw deeper into 
it, in the light of a melancholy sprung from the conviction that the 
time was close at hand when we should mingle with it no more. 
The thoughts thai possessed our most secret bosom failed not by 
the least observant to be discovered in our open eyes. They who 
bad liked as before, now loved us; our faults, our follies, the inso- 
lences of our reckless boyhood, were all forgotten ; whatever had 
been our Bins, pride towards the poor was never among the num 
we had Bhunned not stooping our head beneath the humblesi 
1'mtel; our mite bad been given to the widow who had losl her 
own; quarrelsome with tin' young we might Bometimes have been, 
for boyhood is soon heated, and boils before a defying eve ; In it in 
one thing at hat we were Spartans we revered the head of old 


" And many at last were the kind — some the sad — farewells, ere 
long whispered by us at gloaming among the glens. Let them 
rest for ever silent amidst that music in the memory which is felt, 
not heard — its blessing mute though breathing, like an inarticulate 
prayer !" 




"Long, long, long ago, the time when we danced hand in hand 
with our golden-haired sister ! Long, long, long ago, the day on 
which she died ; the hour, so far more dismal than any hour that 
can now darken us on this earth, when her coffin descended slowly, 
slowly into the horrid clay, and Ave were borne, deathlike and wish- 
ing to die, out of the churchyard, that from that moment we 
thought we could never enter more." That touching reminiscence 
of his golden-haired sister, which came back among the visions of 
a merry Christmas long after,* points to what was probably John 
Wilson's first deep experience of sorrow ; and it is no imaginary 
picture of the scene it recalled. For even in those early years, and 
still more as life advanced, he was intensely susceptible to emotions 
of grief, as well as of gladness. A heavier trial awaited him at the 
threshold of the new life on which he was to enter after leaving 
the manse of Mearns in his twelfth year. He had seen the yellow 
leaves fall, on to the close of that last memorable autumn which 
finished his happy school-time, and now he was summoned home to 
see his father die. As he stood at the head of the grave, chief 
mourner, and heard the dull earth rattling over the coffin, his 
emotions so overcame him that he fell to the ground in a swoon, 
and had to be carried away. Such an effect, on a frame more than 
commonly robust, indicated a depth of feeling and passion not 
often seen in oui clime among boys, or, in its outer manifestations 

* "Christmas Dreams," Wilson's Works, 


at least, among men. The aspect and the character of Wilson have 
sometimes suggested to the imagination those blue-eyed and long- 
haired Xorsemen, who made their songs amid the smiting of 
swords, who were as swift of foot and strong of arm as they were 
skilled in lore and ready in counsel, fierce to their enemies, tender 
and true to their friends. And this little incident reminds one 
more of what we read in Sagas of that passionate vehemence of 
theirs, than any thing we are accustomed to now-a-days. 

After the death of his father, he appears to have gone immedi- 
ately to Glasgow University, where he entered as a student in the 
Latin class for the session of 1797-98, attending other classes in 
due course down to 1S03. During those years he resided in the 
family of Professor Jardine, the same prudence which had dictated 
the choice of his earlier instructors being here again conspicuous, 
and the results not less satisfactory. His life in Glasgow was a 
happy one ; and, under the combined influences of admirable pro- 
fessorial instruction and a free enjoyment of good society and 
innocent pleasures, his character developed by natural and insensi- 
ble transition from boyhood to youth, from the period of school 
lessons and " Muckle-mou'd Meg" to that of essay-writing and 
speech-making, of first love and "lines to Margaret." 

Of the various professors under whom he studied, there were two 
who won his special love and lifelong veneration : these were Jar- 
dine and Young.* When the relationship between pupil an 1 teacher 
has been cemented by feelings of respecl and affection, the influence 
obtained over the young mind is one that does not die with the 
breaking of the ties that formally bound them. Of this Wilson's 
(<\\n experience as a professor afforded him many a delightful illus- 
tration. To Jardine, in the first place, as not only his teacher, but 
his private monitor and friend, he owed, he has himself said, a deep 
debt of gratitude. He La represented as having been "a person 
who. by the Bingular felicity of his tact in watching youthful minds, 
had done more good to a whole host of individuals, and gifted in- 
dividuals too, than their utmost gratitude could ever adequately 
repay. They Spoke of him as of a kind of intellectual fatlnr. to 

whom they were proud of acknowledging the eternal obligations of 
their intellectual being. He bas created for himself a mighty family 
among whom bis memory will long survive; by whom, all that ho 

• The fanner m Pro! r of Logic, tbu latter of Greek. 


said and did — his words of kind praise and kind censure — his grav- 
ity and his graciousness — will no doubt be dwelt upon with warm 
and tender words and looks, long after his earthly labors shall have 
been bi ought to a close."* 

Wilson's intercourse with Professor Young was of a nature equally 
friendly, and his reminiscences of that " old man eloquent" are not 
less pleasing : — 

" We have sat," he says. " at the knees of Professor Young, 
looking up to his kindling or shaded countenance, while that old 
man eloquent gave life to every line, till Hector and Andromache 
seemed to our imagination standing side by side beneath a radiant 
rainbow glorious on a showery heaven ; such, during his inspiration, 
was the creative power of the majesty and the beauty of their smiles 
and tears. 

" That was long, long ago, in the Greek class of the College 01 
Glasgow ; and though that bright scholar's Greek was Scotch Greek, 
and all its vowels and diphthongs, and some of its consonants too, 
especially that glorious guttural that sounds in lochs, all unlike the 
English Greek that soon afterwards, beneath the shadow of Mag- 
dalen Tower, the fairest of all Oxford's stately structures, was poured 
mellifluous on our delighted ear from the lips of President Routh, 
the ' erudite and the wise,' still hath the music of that ' repeated 
strain' a charm to our souls, reminding us of life's morning march 
when our spirits were young, and when we could see, even as with 
our bodily eyes, things far away in space or time, and Troy hung 
visibly before us even as the sun-setting clouds. Therefore, till 
death, shall we love the Sixth Book of the Iliad ; and, if we under- 
stand it not, then indeed has our whole life been vainer than the 
shadow of a dream." f 

A somewhat similar account of this interesting man, from another 
source, is worthy of insertion here : — 

" I own I was quite thunderstruck to find him passing from a 
transport of sheer verbal ecstasy about the particle apa, into an 
ecstasy quite as vehement, and a thousand times more noble, about 
the deep pathetic beauty of one of Homer's conceptions in the ex- 
pression of which that particle happens to occur. Such was the 
burst of his enthusiasm, and the enriched mellow swell of his ex- 

* Blackwood, July, 1818. 

t " Homer and his Translators," Wilson's Work*. 


paneling voice, when he began to touch upon this more majestic 
key, that I dropped for a moment all my notions of the sharp phi- 
lologer, and gazed on him with a higher delight, as a genuine lover 
of the soul and spirit which has been clothed in the words of an- 

"At the close of one of his fine excursions into this brighter field, 
the feelings of the man seemed to be rapt up to a pitch I never be- 
fore beheld exemplified in any orator of the Chair. The tears 
gushed from his eyes amidst their fervid sparklings, and I was more 
than delighted when I looked round and found that the fire of the 
Professor had kindled answering flames in the eyes of not a few of 
his disciples."* 

It may be seen from these sketches what manner of men had the 
moulding of that young taste in its perception of the good and 
beautiful. Xor could his mind fail to have been ennobled by such 
training. It was the means of encouraging him to cultivate the lit- 
erary taste, which, in addition to the more severe routine of his 
studies, aided to make his memory a storehouse of knowledge, 
rendering him even as a boy one of the most desirable companions 
with his seniors. 

Of the characteristic mixture of work and play which enabled him 
i'> be both an active and distinguished student, and a vivacious racer 
and dancer, there is fortunately some slight record extant under his 
own youthful hand, in the pages of a little brown memorandum- 
book, in which he carefully noted the chief transactions of each day 
from the 1st of January to the 26th of October, 1801. A very in- 
teresting and curious relic it is, if only for the light it throws on 
thai beautiful portrait by Raeburn, now in the National Gallery, 
Edinburgh, which has probably disappointed so many people as a 
entation of young Christopher North. That slender youth, 
so tidily dressed in his top-boots and well fitting coat, with face so 
placid, and blue eye bo mild, lookinij- as if lie never could do or say 
anything outri or startling,— can that be a good picture of him wo 
• i ii and heard of as the long-maned and mighty, whose eyea 
were "as the lightnings of fiery flame," and his voice like an organ 
who laid about him, when the lit was on, like a Titan, break* 
lall men's bones; who was Loose and careless in his apparel, 
even as in all things he seemed too Btrong and primitive to heed 

* l\Ur'n Laltera. 


much the niceties of custom ? So people ask and think who knew 
not Professor Wilson, save out of doors or in print, and who ima- 
gine that he could never have been otherwise than as they saw him 
in manhood or age. But true it is, that that gentle-looking cavalier 
represents the John Wilson in whom the deep fires of passion and 
the hidden riches of imagination lay still comparatively quiescent 
and undeveloped. For that youth, though he is a bold horseman 
and a matchless leaper, as well as a capital scholar and a versifier to 
boot, has not yet had his nature stirred by that which will presently 
make him talk of life as either bliss ineffable, or wretchedness insuf- 
ferable. The man whom we know in after life jotting down his 
lectures on old backs of letters, illegible sometimes to himself, at 
this time keeps a neat and punctual diary, with its ink rulings for 
month, and week, and day, and £ s d, all done by his own hand; 
the one page containing, under the heading "Appointments, Bills, 
Memorandums," notes of each day's events, with the state of the 
weather at the week's end ; the other, its careful double entry of 
"Received" and "Paid," duly carried over from page to page; and 
the expenditure in no single instance exceeding the income. It is 
altogether an illustration of character that might surprise the unin- 
itiated even more than Raeburn's portrait. 

As has been said, labor and pleasure seem not unequally to have 
divided his time. Invitations to dinner, balls, parties, etc., are fre- 
quently chronicled. A boy of sixteen might be supposed to be 
somewhat prematurely introduced to those social amenities. But 
in his case the thing does not seem to have been unnatural, or 
other than beneficial. No doubt his personal attractions, and a 
stature above his years, combined with the knowledge of his good 
prospects in life, made him an object of more attention than woild 
otherwise have been the case. In the heart of this gayety, too, 
there are indications of marked attention to the ordinary but too 
often neglected minor duties of society. He makes frequent visits 
of politeness ; he writes regularly to his mother and sisters; his 
respect to his grandmother and other relatives is undeviating, for 
upon the old lady he waits daily. Order and punctuality, in fact, 
seem to regulate his minutest affairs, — the more worthy of remark, 
as in later years these praiseworthy habits were almost entirely laid 
aside. It will perhaps not be altogether without interest to insert 
one or two of the entries from this pocket-book, even though mo- 


notorious, and to a certain extent unimportant, alluding to nrmies 
of persons, the mention of which, save to a very few, will scarcely 
awaken any familiar associations. 

The season is begun at home in Edinburgh, where his mother, 
with the rest of the family, had now taken up her residence. A 
happy band of brothers and sisters, and other relatives, there met 
together to welcome in the new-year. So, for a while, the dingy 
walls of Glasgow College, and its eight o'clock morning lectures, 
were shut out from thought, and the bright-hearted hoy rejoiced 
with his friends. Before quoting from the memorandum-book its 
brief record of those days, which gleams out from the past like 
light seen from an aperture for the first time, let us hear him in ma- 
ture years recalling the memory of such scenes: — 

"Merry Christmases they were indeed; one lady always pre- 
siding, with a figure that once had been the stateliest among the 
stately, but then somewhat bent, without being bowed down, l>e- 
neath an easy weight of most venerable years. Sweet was her 
tremulous voice to all her grandchildren's ears. Nor did those 
solemn eyes, bedimmed into a pathetic beauty, in any degree re- 
strain the glee that sparkled in orbs that had as yet sh< d not many 
tears, but tears of joy or pity. 

■• Whether we were indeed all so witty as we thought ourselves 
— uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, cousins, and 'the 
rest,' it might be presumptuous in us, who were considered by our- 
selves and a few others not the least amusing of the whole set, at 
this distance of time to decide — especially in the affirmative; but 
how the roof did ring with sally, pun, retort, and repartee! Ay, 
with pun — a species of impertinence for which we have therefore a 

kindness even to this day. Had incomparable Thomas 11 1 had 

•od fortune to have been bom a cousin of. mis, how with that 
line fancy of his would lie have shone at those Christmas festivals, 
eclipsing as all! Our family, through all its different branches, has 
ever been famous fur had voices, hut good ears; ami we think we 
hear ourselves-- all those uncle- and aunts, nephews ami nieces, and 

consins — ringing now! Easy is it to 'warble melody' as to breathe 

air. But we hope harmony is the mosl difficult of all things to 
people in general, for to U8 it was impossible; ami what attempts 

ours used to be at Beconds! Yet the most woful failures were 
rapturously encored; and ere the night was done we spoke with 


most extraot jinary voices indeed, every one hoarser than another, 
till at last, walking home with a fair cousin, there was nothing left 
for it but a tender glance of tie eye — a tender pressure of the hand 
— for cousins are not altogether sisters, and although partaking of 
that dearest character, possess, it may be, some peculiar and appro- 
priate charms of their own ; as didst thou, Emily the ' Wild cap!'" 

" 1st of January, 1801. — Union with Ireland celebrated; Castle 
guns fired ; no illumination. Called on Mr. Sym (Timothy Tickler 
of later date). 

" 2d of January. — Ball at our house : danced with the Misses 
M'Donald, Corbett, Fairfax, Chartres, Balfour, Brown, Lundie, 
Millar, Young." 

Not too long is he to be absent from work. On the 4th of Janu- 
ary the gayeties of home are left, and he takes a seat in the "Tele- 

"Left Edinburgh at seven in the morning; arrived in Glasgow 
safe, and dined with my grandmother." 

Items of travelling exnenses make a curious comparison betweei 
the past and present cost for a similar journey : — 

"For a seat in the 'Telegraph,' £1 Is. 

" For the driver and guard of ' Telegraph,' 4s. 

"For breakfast and waiter, Is. 6d." 

With his grandmother he was a great favorite. This lady, Mrs. 
Sym, lived to a good old age, as did also her husband ; he being 
above ninety when he died. The old gentleman had considerable 
character, and not a little caustic humor ; a quality that may be said 
to have pervaded the Sym family. A story is told of his having 
sent a note to his wine-merchant on receipt of a jar of rum, which he 
fancied had had more than the ordinary dilution, begging him to be 
so obliging, on his next order, as to send the water in one jar and 
the rum in another. His wife was a gentle, kind woman, and very 
attractive to young people, to whom she was ever ready to show 
attention and hospitality. She was very handsome in her youth, 
"stateliest among the stately," as Wilson has called her. In one of 
her daughter's letters, written five-and-thirty years later, there is a 
reminiscence of these early days: — 

"Occasionally you and some other boys getting a Saturday's din- 
ner, ii good four-hours, and being dismissed with — 'Now, you will 
go all away; you have gotten all your dues ; and, besides, .Pm weary 


of you? Then, as you advanced in your academic career, came 
Jamie Smith, Wee Willy Cumin', Alick Blair, sounding out, ' Ohon 
a ree ! ohon a ree /' Your grandmother ready dressed at her wheel 
in the parlor, your aunts at their work, Blair announced in the din- 
ing-room, and me the only one who would join him. On entering, 
I find him groping in the press and hoicking out a book, part of 
which was read with his peculiar burr."* 

Many a charmed spot is mentioned in this diary. The name of 
Hallside, Professor Jardine's residence, is specially associated with 
reminiscences of pleasant society and light-hearted diversions, which 
show how well philosophy and geniality agreed together under that 
hospitable roof. The following is a specimen : — 

"23d March. — Ran for a wager three times round the garden; 
accomplished it in nine minutes and a quarter. Won 5s." 

Hallside is a modern house, somewhat in the style of a Scottish 
manse. The grounds were about seventy acres in extent, gradually 
sloping to the east, and bounded in part by the river Calder. On 
the opposite banks stood the pretty cottage ornSe of Mrs. Jardine's 
brother, Mr. Lyndsay, whose wife was the niece of the celebrated 
Dr. Reid, the metaphysician. Their only child was a beautiful 
girl, whom Professor Wilson took in after years as model for the 
heroine of his TriaU of Margaret Lyndsay. The charms of this 
agreeable neighborhood were heightened by the beauty of the situa- 
tion. Calder Bank, Mi-. Lyndsay's residence, commanded a fine 
view of Both well woods and castle, the gray towers of which con- 
trasted well with the dark spreading trees that faced the ruins of 
Blantyre Priory, beautifying the banks of the Clyde. 

often did John Wilson and his companions from college visit 
those enticing scenes, and pleasanl it i- t<> find, after a lapse of sixty- 
one years, a memory fresh and distincl of these happy days. The 
"Margaret Lyndsay" of thai time, now Mrs. Palmes, says: — "Mj 
knowledge of your talented father was almost confined to the period 
of childhood; bul I well remember my own delighl when the fair- 
haired, animated hoy was my companion by the ('alder, in races on 

* Tin writer <>f tbl M I atharlne Byn a hi G ow u "> f ii* moat 

i daughter of Mr. und Mrs. Sym, Bbi was perhnps one 

«f the wittiest women ot her tlmi In that clrj waj o pocuHni to Scottish nal Before she 

dl.-.l. in. i many yea . ■: i ■ I . he returned to ber uephew a corre poudi i , 

udm '■..•.II Hi. 'in in iii. days of hi boy] N..t 

ill death be destroyed those papers, which, bad thi y bei n extant, might have suppUsil 
mil.' Inter* itti for this pari of the M 


Dyvhmont Hill, on foot or with our ponies. Whatever he did was 
done with all his soul, whether in boy's play or in those studies ap- 
pointed him by my uncle, Professor Jardine. His beaming coun- 
tenance and eager manner showed his deep interest in all he did. 

"I recollect suffering from his purchase of a violin. My room 
was under his, and during the night and early morning hours he de- 
voted himself to bringing out the most discordant sounds; for as 
he would not have a master, the difficulties to be overcome only 
proved an additional charm. The final result of his musical taste I 
do not remember. Poetry probably succeeded, for even at that 
early age he wrote little poems (long before the ' Isle of Palms'), 
some of which I hope were preserved." 

From his journal it is to be seen he purchased other instruments 
hesides a violin : — 

'•'■February 9th. — Got a flute and music-book to learn. 

" 10th. — Began to learn the flute by myself. 

"•March \\th. — Patterson came to-day. Liked Patterson pretty 
well ; agreed with him for sixteen lessons. Terms, a guinea. 
Bought and paid a German flute. 

" 12th.— Played a duet with Perkins." 

There is no further mention in Diary or elsewhere of this musical 
taste being carried out, although his playing on the flute at Elleray, 
long years after, is a circumstance which inclines one to believe that 
he continued some practice on this instrument after leaving College. 
He was, however, a devoted lover of music, both vocal and instru- 
mental, though always preferring the former. His singing was 
charming, uncultivated as it was by study ; no one could listen to it 
i without admiration or a touched heart. His voice was exquisitely 
sweet,* which, combined with the pathos he infused into every note, 
and expressed in each word, made the pleasure of hearing him a 
thing to be remembered forever. His manner of singing "Auld 
Lang Syne" may be described as a tribute of love to the memory of 
the poet, whose words appeared to inspire him with something be 

* " North. — Do you like my voice, James? I hope you do." 

"Shepherd. — I wad ha'e kent it. Mr. North, on the Tower o' Babel, on the day o' the great hub- 
bub. I think Socrates maun ha"e bad just sic a voice. Ye canna weel ca't saft. for even in its 
laigh notes there is a S'irt o 1 birr; a sort o 1 dirl that betokens power. Te canna ca't hairsh, for 
angry as ye may be at times, its' aye in turn-, frae the fineness o' your ear for music. Ye canna 
ca't Bherp, for it'.? aye sae nat'ral; and flett it could never be, gin you were even ;, r i'en owerby the 
doctors. It's maist the only voice I ever heard that you can say is at aince persuasive and com* 
mandint:--you micht fear 't, but you maun love "t." — Nodes. 


yond vocal melody ; his sweet, solemn voice filled the air with 
sounds that, while they melted away, seemed still to linger on the 
ear, delighting the sense. Many are there who can remember the 
effect produced by his rendering of this beautiful song. 

There is something very naive in the way some of his memoranda 
are mixed up, in humorous contrast, the important and trivial side by 
side. Thus Ave have in oue line — " Gave Archy my buckskins to 
clean ;" and in the next, " Prize for the best specimens of the So- 
cratic mode of reasoning given out in the Logic," followed by 
" Ordered a pair of corduroy breeches, tailor, Mr. Aitken ;" " Began 
the syllogism to-day in the Logic class," and so on. 

"February loth. — Called on my grandmother; went to the sale 
of books ; had a boxing-mat eh of three rounds with Lloyd — beat him." 

"147/*. — General examination to-day in the Logic class;" "not 
examined; went to the Mearns ;" " went to the sale ; went to the 
society ; the hack I had an excellent trotter ; beat Fehrzyen with 
ease; found a sack on the road.'' 

The result of the sale seems to have heen most satisfactory. Twc 
entries of purchases made are such as would give delight to a boy 
who paid due attention to his expenditure of pocket-money : 
"Bought Foote's Works at the sale, 2 vols., Is. 8d. ;" "also bought 
the Rambler, which Mr. Jardine was owing me." 

The next item betrays a true boyish weakness, in the form of a 
consuming love for sweetmeats, especially of one particular sort, — 
thus, "For barley-sugar, id. ;" and at another time, "For barley- 
sugar, at my old man's, most excellent, 6d." This taste is fre- 
quently indulged ; the sum seems to increase too, by degrees, and 
many a shilling was spenl at Baxter's upon this favorite luxury, for 
which lie retained his liking even in old age. 

During this winter his studies had been prosecuted with consid- 
erable assiduity, as may be gathered from his notes. 

" January 11th. — Agreed to-day with Mr. Jardine to give up the 
Greek class, as I am too throng. 

" 20th. — General examination to-day; went to the Speculative 
8 ■ ty : spoke as a stranger. 

u 21st.— Finished my exercise upon Logic. 

•* 23d. — Called upon my grandmother ; gave up the Greek pri- 
vate, finding I had too much to do this winter. 

i - February 5th.- Finished w Socratic mode of dialogue to-day; 


'"'•April 2tith. — Got the first prize in the Logic class. 

" May 1 st. — Prizes distributed ; got three of them." 

After this date there is no more allusion made to study at Col- 
lege, but enough has been quoted to show how he was disposed 
towards it. The rest of the summer is spent in various ways 
amusing to boyhood, while it is evident that the more agreeable 
pleasure of ladies' society was not wanting to interest him. The 
lasting effect of love on a boy's mind is, with most, a matter of 
doubt ; but where there is depth of character, and sincerity as well 
as strength of feeling, the results are not always to be judged by 
common experience. How it fared with him in this respect, will 
be touched upon in another chapter. 

One or two more extracts from the Diary before this year has 
closed must be given. The first is characteristic of his constant 
energy and movement. Even a simple walk with a friend finds 
him wearied with" any thing like delay: "Walked to Paisley with 
Andrew Napier ; tried him a race ; ran three miles on the Paisley 
road for a wager against a chaise, along with Andrew Napier; beat 
them both.'''' Another exploit of a similar nature, at a somewhat 
later date, is related by a friend who was present on the occa- 
sion :* — 

" He gained a bet by walking toe and heel three miles out and 
back (six miles in all) on the road to Renfrew, from the shedding 
of the roads to Renfrew and Paisley, in two minutes within the 
hour. I accompanied him on foot (but not under the restriction of 
toe and heel), and Willy Dunlop on horseback, to see that it was 
fairly won. Nobody could match your father in the college garden 
at 'hop, step, and jump.' Macleod (now the Rev. Dr. Norman 
Macleod, sen.), an active Highlander from Morven, who had also 
the advantage of being his senior, approached most nearly to 

It appears that even in holiday-time he set himself to work. 

'•'■June 4th. — Finished mj poem on Slavery. 

" 1th. — Began an essay on the Faculty of Imagination. 

" August 17th. — Finished the first volume of Laing's History of 

'•'•August 30th. — Made considerable progress in my essay upon 
Imagination ; finished the second division of my exercise. 

* Mr. Robert Findlay. 


«3lst — Stayed at home all day; wrote an account of the Mas- 
sacre of Glencoe." 

"September 19th. — Stayed at home all day, and wrote an essay 
upon the Stoical Philosophy." 

The notion of John Wilson having been at any time of his life an 
idle man, must have seemed absurd to those who knew him, though 
perhaps, for people who think that a hard Avorker must necessarily 
be dull and tiresome, natural enough. Even in his boyhood my 
father was no idler ; and there remains still more convincing proof 
of his assiduity and love of study to be shown in his career when at 
Oxford. There is yet some short time to be accounted for, spent in 
Glasgow ; and of his friendships formed at College, something may 
be said in this place. Boys generally combine themselves when at 
public schools, and other seminaries of education, into select co- 
teries, and are as frequently judged by the qualities of their com- 
panions as by their own. The very high character of the Glasgow 
professors at that time almost insured a certain number of first-class 
youths, especially as several of them received into their own houses 
vounff men whose education was privately, as well as in their 
classes, under their superintendence. 

Mr. Alexander Blair, to whom my father dedicated an edition of 
his poems, was an Englishman, and with him he began, at Glasgow, 
an intercourse that ripened into a lifelong friendship. This gentle- 
man has been deterred from acquiring a prominent position in the 
world as a philosopher and scholar, solely by the modesty and diffi- 
dence of his character. He was my father's companiou both at 
Glasgow and at Oxford, and in after life the Professor derived most 
valuable aid in his philosophical investigations from this friend, 
whose correspondence with him for many years was uninterrupted. 
It is much to be regretted that letters of so interesting and elevated 
a character should, with one or two exceptions, have perished. 
Another of those early companions was Robert Findlay of Easter 
Hill, grandson of an accomplished and learned doctor of divinity 
well known and beloved in Glasgow. He too continued a friend 
until death ; and from him there have come to me many treasured 
memorials of an affection on both -ides like thai of brothers. Be- 
these two, the rnosl intimate associates of John Wilson in 
those days were Mr. William Eforton Lloyd, an Englishman of large 
fortune (whose beautiful sister married Mr. Leonard Horner), Mr. 


"William Dunlop, and Archibald Hamilton, a distant relative of my 
father, who afterwards entered the navy, and prematurely closed 
his promising career in the engagement oft" Basque Roads. 

With these young men poetry was a frequent subject of discus- 
sion, and there was one poet, viz., William Wordsworth, on whose 
merits, then but little recognized, they found themselves unanimous. 
Some time before he closed his career at Glasgow University, Wil- 
son's attention was attracted by the Lyrical Ballads, which had 
been recently published. There were at that time few eyes that had 
discerned in them the signs of future greatness. Among the earliest 
and most enthusiastic, but also most discriminating of their admir- 
ers, Avas young Wilson, who conveyed his sentiments to the poet in 
a letter of considerable length, written in a spirit of profound humil- 
ity, at the same time with perfect independence of expression. It is 
as follows : — 

" My dear Sir : — You may perhaps be surprised to see yourself 
addressed in this manner by one who never had the happiness of 
being in company with you, and whose knowledge of your charac- 
ter is drawn solely from the perusal of your poems. But, sir, though 
I am not personally acquainted with you, I may almost venture to 
afiirm, that the qualities of your soul are not unknown to me. In 
your poems I discovered such marks of delicate feeling, such benev- 
olence of disposition, and such knowledge of human nature, as made 
an impression on my mind that nothing will ever efface; and while 
I felt my soul refined by the sentiments contained in them, and filled 
with those delightful emotions which it would be almost impossible 
to describe, I entertained for you an attachment made up of love 
and admiration: reflection upon that delight which I enjoyed from 
reading your poems, will ever make me regard you with gratitude, 
and the consciousness of feeling those emotions you delineate makes 
me proud to regard your character with esteem and admiration. In 
whatever view you regard my behavior in writing this letter, 
whether you consider it as the effect of ignorance and conceit, or 
aorrect taste and refined feeling, I will, in my own mind, be satisfied 
with your opinion. To receive a letter from you would afford me 
more happiness than any occurrence in this world, save the happi- 
ness of my friends, and greatly enhance the pleasure I receive from 
reading your Lyrical JBallada, i r our silence would certainly dis- 


tress me ; but still I would have the happiness to think that the 
neglect even of the virtuous cannot extinguish the sparks of sensi- 
bility, or diminish the luxury arising from refined emotions. That 
luxury, sir, I have enjoyed ; that luxury your poems have afforded 
me, and for this reason I now address you. Accept my thanks for 
the raptures you have occasioned me, and however mueh you may 
be inclined to despise me, know at least that these thanks are sincere 
and fervent. To you, sir, mankind are indebted for a species of 
poetry which will continue to afford pleasure while respect is paid 
to virtuous feelings, and while sensibility continues to pour forth 
tears of rapture. The flimsy ornaments of language, used to con- 
ceal meanness of thought and want of feeling, may captivate for a 
short time the ignorant and the unwary, but true taste will discover 
the imposture ami expose the authors of it to merited contempt. 
The real feelings of human nature, expressed in simple and forcible 
language, will, on the contrary, please those only who are capable 
of entertaining them, and in proportion to the attention which wo 
pay to the faithful delineation of such feelings, will be the enjoy- 
ment derived from them. That poetry, therefore, which is the lan- 
guage of nature, is certain of immortality, provided circumstances 
do not occur to pervert the feelings of humanity, and occasion a 
complete revolution in the government of the mind. 

"That your poetry is the language of nature, in my opinion, 
admits of no doubt. Both the thoughts and expressions may be 
tried by that standard. 5Tou have seized upon those feelings that 
most deeply interest the heart, and that also come within the sphere 
of common observation. You do not write merely for the pleasure 
of philosophers and men of improved taste, but for all who think — ■ 
for all who feel. If we have ever known the happiness arising from 
parental or fraternal love ; if we have ever known that delightful 
sympathy of souls connecting persons of different sex; if we have 
ever dropped a tear al the death of friends, or grieved for the mis- 
fortunes of others; if, in short, we have ever fell the more amiable 
emotions of human nature — it is impossible to read your poems with 
out being greatly interested and frequently in raptures; your sen 
timents, feelings, and thoughts are therefore exactly such as oughi 
e the subject of poel ry, and cannot fail of exciting interes 
in every In -art. But, sir, your meril docs not solely con si si in delii 

eating the real of the human mind under those differei i 


aspects it assumes, when under the influence of various passions and 
feelings ; you have, in a manner truly admirable, explained a circum- 
stance, very important in its effects upon the soul when agitated, 
that has indeed been frequently alluded to, but never generally 
adopted by any author in tracing the progress of emotions — I mean 
that wonderful effect which the appearances of external nature have 
upon the mind when in a state of strong feeling. We must all have 
been sensible, that when under the influence of grief, Nature, when 
arrayed in her gayest attire, appears to us dull and gloomy, and 
that when our hearts bound with joy, her most deformed prospects 
seldom fail of pleasing. This disposition of the mind to assimilate 
the appearances of external nature to its own situation, is a fine sub- 
ject for poetical allusion, and in several poems you -have employed 
it with a most electrifying effect. But you have not stopped here, 
you have shown the effect which the qualities of external nature 
have in forming the human mind, and have presented us with sev- 
eral characters whose particular bias arose from that situation in 
which they were planted with respect to the scenery of nature. 
This idea is inexpressibly beautiful, and though, I confess, that to 
me it appeared to border upon fiction when I first considered it, yet 
at this moment I am convinced of its foundation in nature, and its 
great importance in accounting for various phenomena in the human 
mind. It serves to explain those diversities in the structure of the 
mind which have baffled all the ingenuity of philosophers to account 
for. It serves to overturn the theories of men who have attempted 
to write on human nature without a knowledge of the causes that 
affect it, and who have discovered greater eagerness to show their 
own subtlety than arrive at the acquisition of truth. May not the 
face of external nature through different quarters of the globe account 
lor the dispositions of different nations? May not mountains, forests, 
plains, groves, and lakes, as much as the temperature of the atmos- 
phere, or the form of government, produce important effects upon 
the human soul ; and may not the difference subsisting between the 
former of these in different countries, produce as much diversity 
among the inhabitants as any varieties among the latter ? The effect 
you have shown to take place in particular cases, so much to my sat- 
isfaction, most certainly may be extended so far as to authorize gen- 
eral inferences. This idea has no doubt struck you ; and I trust 
that if it be founded on nature, your mind, so long accustomed to 


philosophical investigation, will perceive how far it may be carried, 
and what consequences are likely to result from it. 

"Your poems, sir, are of very great advantage to the world, from 
containing in them a system of philosophy that regards one of the 
most curious subjects of investigation, and at the same time one of 
the most important. But your poems may not be considered 
merely in a philosophical light, or even as containing refined and 
natural feelings ; they present us with a body of morality of the 
purest kind. They represent the enjoyment resulting from the cul- 
tivation of the social affections of our nature ; they inculcate a con- 
scientious regard to the rights of our fellow-men ; they show that 
every creature on the face of the earth is entitled in some measure 
to our kindness. They prove that in every mind, however depraved, 
there exist some qualities deserving our esteem. They point out 
the proper way to happiness. They show that such a thing as per- 
fect misery does not exist. They flash on our souls conviction of 
immortality. Considered therefore in this view, Lyrical Ballads 
is, to use your own words, the book which I value next to my Bi- 
ble ; and though I may, perhaps, never have the happiness of see- 
ing you, yet I will always consider you as a friend, who has by his 
instructions done me a service which it never can be in my power 
to repay. Your instructions have afforded me inexpressible plea- 
sure ; it will be my own fault if I do not reap from them much 

"I have said, sir, that in all your poems you have adhered strictly 
to natural feelings, and described what comes within the range of 
every person's observation. It is from following out this plan that, 
in my estimation, you have surpassed every poet both of ancient and 
modern times. But to me it appears niat in the execution of this 
design you have inadvertently fallen into an error, the effects of 
which are, however, exceedingly trivial. No feeling, no state of 
mind ought, in my opinion, to become the subjecl of poetry, that 
does do1 please. Pleasure may, indeed, be produced in many ways, 
and by means that, at firsl sight, appear calculated to accomplish a 
very differenl end. Tragedy of the deepest kind produces pleasure 
of a high nature. To point out the causes of this would be foreign 
to the purpose. Bui we may lay this down :( s a general rule, that 
no description can please, where the sympathies of our soul are not 
excited, and no narration interest, where we do UOl enter into the 


feelings of some of the parties concerned. On this principle, many 
feelings which are undoubtedly natural, are improper subjects of 
poetry, aud many situations, no less natural, incapable of being de- 
scribed so as to produce the grand effect of poetical composition. 
This, sir, I would apprehend, is reasonable, and founded on the con- 
stitution of the human mind. There are a thousand occurrences 
happening every day, which do not in the least interest an uncon- 
cerned spectator, though they no doubt occasion various emotions 
in the breast of those to whom they immediately relate. To de- 
scribe these in poetry would be improper. Now, sir, I think that 
in several cases you have fallen into this error. You have described 
feelings with which I cannot sympathize, and situations in which I 
take no interest. I know that I can relish your beauties, and that 
makes me think that I can also perceive your faults. But in this 
matter I have not trusted wholly to my own judgment, but heard 
the sentiments of men whose feelings I admired, and whose under- 
standing I respected. In a few cases, then, I think that even you 
have failed to excite interest. In the poem entitled ' The Idiot Boy,' 
your intention, as you inform us in your preface, was to trace the 
maternal passion through its more subtle windings. This design is 
no doubt accompanied with much difficulty, but, if properly execu- 
ted, cannot fail of interesting the heart. But, sir, in my opinion, 
the manner in which you have executed this plan has frustrated the 
end you intended to produce by it ; the affection of Betty Foy has 
nothing in it to excite interest. It exhibits merely the effects of 
that instinctive feeling inherent in the constitution of every animal. 
The excessive fondness of the mother disgusts us, and prevents us 
from sympathizing with 4ier. We are unable to enter into her 
feelings ; we cannot conceive ourselves actuated by the same feel- 
ings, and consequently take little or no interest in her situation 
The object of her affection is indeed her son, and in that relation 
much consists, but then he is represented as totally destitute of 
any attachment towards her ; the state of his mind is represented 
as perfectly deplorable, and, in short, to me it appears almost 
unnatural that a person in a state of complete idiotism should 
excite the warmest feelings of attachment in the breast even of his 
mother. This much I know, that among all the people ever I 
knew to have read this poem, I never met one who did not rise 
rather displeased from the perusal of it, and the only cause I could 


assign for it was the one now mentioned. This inability to receive 
pleasure from descriptions such as that of 'The Idiot Boy,' is, I 
am convinced, founded upon established feelings of human nature, 
and the principle of it constitutes, as I dare say you recollect, 
the leading feature of Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. 1 
therefore think that, in the choice of this subject, you have com- 
mitted an error. You never deviate from nature ; in you that 
would be impossible; but in this case you have delineated feelings 
which, though natural, do not please, but which create a certain 
degree of disgust and contempt. With regard to the manner in 
which you have executed your plan, I think too great praise cannot 
be bestowed upon your talents. You have most admirably deline- 
ated the idiotism of the boy's mind, and the situations in which y<>u 
place him are perfectly calculated to display it. The various 
Jits that pass through the mother's mind are highly descrip- 
tive, of her foolish fondness, her extravagant fears, and her ardent 
hopes. The manner in which you show how bodily sufferings are 
frequently removed by mental anxieties or pleasures, in the descrip- 
tion of the cure of Betty Foy's female friend, is excessively well 
managed, and serves to establish a very curious and important 
truth. In short, every thing you proposed to execute has been 
executed in a masterly manner. The fault, if there be one, lies in 
the plan, not in the execution. This poem we heard recommended 
as one in your best manner, and accordingly v :- frequently read in 
this belief. Thejudgment formed of it i<. consequently, erroneous. 
Many people are displeased with the performance; but they are not 
careful to distinguish faults in the plan from faults in the execution, 
and the consequence i<, that they form an improper opinion of 
your genius. In reading any composition, mosl certainly the plea- 
sure we receive arises almosl wholly from the sentiment, thoughts, 
and descriptions contained in it. A secondary pleasure arises from 
admiration of those talents requisite i" the production of it. In 
reading 'The Idiot Boy,' all persons who allow themselves to think, 
imi-t admire your talents, bul they regrel that they have been so 
employed, and while they esteem the author, they cannol help heing 
displeased with hi- performance. I have seen a mosl excellent 
painting of an idiot, bul it created in me inexpressible disgust. I 
admired the talent- of the artist, bul I had no other source of plea 
sure. The po< m of 'The Idiot Boy' pro. I need upon me an effect in 


every respect similar. I find that my remarks upon several of your 
other poems must be reserved for another letter. If you think this 
one deserves an answer, a letter from Wordsworth would be to me a 
treasure. If your silence tells me that my letter was beneath your 
notice, you will never again be troubled by one whom you consider 
as an ignorant admirer. But, if your mind be as amiable as it is 
reflected in your poems, you will make allowance for defects that 
age may supply, and make a fellow-creature happy, by dedicating a 
few moments to the instruction of an admirer and sincere friend, 

" John Wilson. 
" Professor Jardine's College, Glasgow, 

24th May, 1802. 
"William Wordsworth, Esq., 
Ambleside, Westmoreland, England." * 




"Then, after all the joys and sorrows of these few years, which 
we now call transitory, but which our boyhood felt as if they would 
be endless — as if they would endure forever — arose upon us the 
glorious dawning of another new life, — Youth, with its insupport- 
able sunshine and its agitating storms. Transitory, too, we now 
know, and well deserving the same name of dream. But while it 
lasted, long, various, and agonizing, as, unable to sustain the eyes 
that first revealed to us the light of love, we hurried away from the 
parting hour, and looking up to moon and stars, invocated in sacred 
oaths, hugged the very heavens to our heart." 

These sentences contain one among many references in my father's 
Writings to an episode in his early life, of which, had w T e only these 
incidental and sometimes imaginative allusions to guide us, no more 

* The answer to this letter will he found :it page 192. vol. i.. of Memoir* of IF. Wordsworth, 
by G Wordsworth, D. D., 1SS1. For the foregoing letter I am indebted to Mr. W. Wordsworth 
son of the poet, who kindly sent it to rue, and also pointed out the reply, which is introduced U. 
the Memoirs, without a hint as to wflom it was addressed. 


could be said by the veracious biographer, than that, at the age 
when nature so ordains, this ardent and precocious youth was pas- 
sionately in love. So brief and general a statement, however, would 
but very poorly express the realities of the case, or indicate the 
depth of the influence which that first overwhelming passion exerted 
on the whole nature of John Wilson. As he has himself said, 
"What is mere boy-love but a moonlight dream? Who would 
weep — who would not laugh over the catastrophe of such a blood- 
less tragedy ? . . . But love affairs, when the lovers are full-grown 
men and women, though perhaps twenty years have not passed 
over either of their heads, are at least tragi-comedies, and. some- 
time, tragedies; closing, if not in blood, although that too when 
the Fates are angry, yet in clouds that darken all future life, and 
that, now and then, lose their sullen blackness only when dissolving, 
through the transient sunshine, in a shower of tears." Such a love 
affair was this, now for the Hist time to be made known beyond a 
circle consisting of some three or four p-ersons that are alive. 

In that note-book, already made use of, the names of two ladies fre- 
quently are noted. It may be seen that his visits to them were not 
paid after the fashion of formal courtesy, and that Miss \Y. and 
JMiss M. had made Dychmont to him a charmed place. Towards 
autumn, when walks along the banks of the Clyde begin to be de- 
lightful, these notices are of almosl daily occurrence. One day he 
calls at Dychmont ; then lie drinks tea with Miss W. and Miss M. : 
he rides to Cumbernauld with Miss W. : u Very pleasant and agree- 
able ride;" again, "drank tea at Dychmont;" then for the next 
three days at home, and begins hi:- essay "On the Faculty of Im- 
agination;" next evening it is again, " Drank tea at Dychmont;" 
and SOOD through the month, — nothing but Dychmont, walking, 
riding, breakfasting, dining, supping "at Dychmont," or "with 
Dyehmont ladies" somewhere. 

This attractive place was bul a Bimple farm-house, unadorned and 
almost homely, but the country around it was delightful. The hill, 

&om which it takes LtS name, is part of the dukedom of Hamilton, 

and from it^ summit the valley of the Clyde, from Tinto t<> the 
mountains of the west, presents ,-i view of greal beauty. No portion 
of t he Clyde is without beauty; for t he most part, more noble than 
the Rhine, with a sweep of water quite as majestic, it (lows through 
a variety of country ever embellished by its presence. Along the 


banks of the Clyde and Calder were all the favorite walks of John 
Wilson, for there were " Ha lside," " Calder Bank," " Millheugh," 
"Calderwood," and "Torrance," which, in later years, carried from 
Dychmont its attraction, and became the scene of joy and sorrow, 
deep as ever moved a young poet's heart. 

The occupants of Dychmont were two ladies, Miss W. and Mar- 
garet, as I may simply name her ; the one the guardian of the other, 
an " orphan-maid" of "high talent and mental graces," with fascina- 
tion of manners sufficient to rivet the regard of a youth keenly alive 
to such charms. At the time of Wilson's residence in Glasgow 
these ladies were the most intimate friends he had beyond the cir- 
cle of his youthful companions. During winter they lived in the 
College buildings, and were frequent visitors at Professor Jardine's, 
so that every opportunity existed for the cultivation of a friendship 
that gradually ripened into love, "life-deep" and passionate on the 
one side; on the other sincere and tender, but tranquil and self- 
contained, as if presaging, with woman's instinct, the envious bar- 
riers that were to keep their two lives from flowing into one. 

At the date when their acquaintance began, John Wilson had 
that composed and perfected manner which is acquired intuitively 
by the gentler sex, and gives them an advantage in society rarely 
possessed by boys at the same age. Thus Margaret, though no 
longer a school-girl, was delighted to find a companion so congenial 
as to excite at once her interest and friendship; while young Wil- 
son saw in the " orphan-maid" a creature to admire and love, with 
all that fervor which belonged to his poetical temperament. Their 
occupations encouraged the growth of graceful accomplishments; 
nor were their rides and walks merely pastimes of pleasure ; sterner 
matter arose from those early hours, and we have words of the past 
that make every line of this love-passage a tale of sorrow, sad enough 
for teai-s. A few years of this bright spring-tide of youth pass away, 
and one heart feels the gentle quiet of its womanly interest gliding 
insensibly and surely into something more deep and agitating, as 
does the dewy calm of daybreak into the fervent splendor of noon. 
The love of a poet is seldom so submissive as that which long ago 
wrote its touching confession in these words : — 

" Erama assai, poco spera, e nulla chietle." 
Trace this story further, and we see two years later that deeper 


feelings were brought into play; and though the high-minded Mar- 
garet gave no assurance to her lover entitling him to regard her 
heart as bound to him, it is at least apparent that when, at the end 
of that time, he left Scotland for Oxford, their communings had 
been such that the heart of the young poet looked back to them as 
recalling memories of "unmingled bliss." There is in the essay on 
"Streams" an imaginative episode, manifestly founded on reality; 
but as manifestly designed to be a skilful mystification of his real 
and unforgotten experience. As he naively hints at the end, "there 
is some truth in it ;" truth to this extent, undoubtedly, that in "that 
gloomy but ever-glorious glen," of which he speaks, young John 
Wilson and Margaret did meet many a time, and hold sweet con- 
verse together ; that to her sympathizing ear he poured forth the 
aspirations of as pure and ardent a love as ever dwelt in the breast 
of youth; and that the recollection of those happy hours, and of her 
many modest charms, working in a nature of fiery susceptibility 
and earnestness, drove him afterwards, when clouds came over the 
heaven of his dreams, to the very brink of despair. The coloring 
of imagination has transformed the picture in "Streams" into a 
vision of things that never were; but there is no fiction in the de- 
scription of that passion as having "stormed the citadel of his heart, 
and put the whole garrison to the sword," or, elsewhere, as "a life- 
deep love, call it passion, pity, friendship, brotherly aifoction, all 
united together by smiles, sighs, and tears." 

Of hie life, from the date last mentioned to the time of his leav- 
ing Glasgow for Oxford, I have unfortunately no memorial in the 
shape of letters, his correspondence with his aunt already referred 
to, who was his confidante and constant correspondent throughout, 
having been irretrievably lost. There has come to my hands, how- 
ever, a memorial of his love for Margaret, consisting of an octavo 
volume of "Poems" in .MS., written in thai fair and beautiful hand 
which he wrote up to the time when (it is no fancy to say so) the 
u fever of the soul" begins to Bhow itself in the impetuous tracings 
of his pen. It 'h without date, but must have been written before 
he h-i't G i a. On the title-page, facing which are two dedica- 
tory verses, is the inscription, "Poems on various subjects, by John 
Wilson," with a poetical quotation In-low. On the nexl leaf is this 
inscription : — 












After this comes an elaborate preface of thirty-eight MS. pages, 
which, considering that it was the composition of a youth under 
eighteen, is very remarkable for the ease and grace of the style, the 
knowledge of poetical literature, the acute critical faculty, and the 
judicious and elevated sentiments which it displays. This Preface, 
and the poetical compositions to which it is prefixed, indicate suffi- 
ciently that the person to whom they were addressed must have 
possessed no ordinary mental qualities, and that the relation be- 
tween her and the writer was founded on a true congeniality of 

The poems are thirty-eight in number, including an " Answer" 
by Margaret to "Lines" of his. The titles, copied from the table of 
contents, are given below. f There are few of these compositions 

* Then follow on the next page these lines: — 


If this small offering of a grateful heart 

The thrill of pleasure to thy soul impart, 

Or teach it e'er that magic charm to feel, 

Which thy tongue knows so sweetly to reveal, 

Blessed be the breathing language of the line 

That speaks of grace and virtues such as thine; 

Blessed be those hours, when, warmed by love and thee, 

I poured the verse in trembling ecstasy ! 

Oh that the music which these lines contain 

Flowed like the murmurs of thy holy strain, 

When thy soft voice, clear-swelling, loves to pour 

The tones of feeling in her pensive hour, etc. 
t Contents. — Poem on the Immortality of the Soul. Henry and Helen ; a TaTe. Caledonia, or 
Highland Scenery. Verses to a Lady weeping at a Tragedy. The Disturbed Spirit; a Fragment* 
The Song of the Shipwrecked Slave. The Prayer of the Orphan. The Fate of Beauty. Feeling 
at parting from a beloved object Lines on hearing a Lady play upon the Harp. Anna; a Song. 
Love. Florentine. Parental Affection. Elegy on the Death of Dr. Lockhart Lines suggButed 
by the fate of Governor Wall. Lines addressed to the Glasgow Volunteers. Osmond- an imita- 
tion of M. G. Lewis. The Pains of Memory. The Sun shines bright, etc. I ksow some people 
la tfiii world, etc. A Wish. The Child of Misfortune. Mary. To a Lady w ho said she was not 


in which there is not some fond allusion to the lady of his love, and 
the blissful hours spent by her side. The verses are often common- 
place enough ; but the sentiments are never other than refined. 
The adoration is unmistakably genuine, and, though fervent, re- 
spectful ; tinged with a sense of gratitude that touches the sympa- 
thies even now. Occasionally the strain rises above mere versifica- 
tion into something of real poetry. I refer to this collection not 
because of its literary merits, but solely on account of its relation 
to his "Margaret," of whom, and the story of their love, more au- 
thentic accounts will be given from his correspondence. 

From these gentle occupations, however, Wilson was called 
away to new scenes and pursuits, fitted to bring forth the whole 
energies of his many-sided character, but not of power enough to 
deaden in his heart the recollection of that beloved glen, of Beth- 
well Banks and Cruikstone's hoary walls, of Dychinont Hill and 
"her the Orphan Maid, so human yet so visionary," that made their 
very names dear to him forever. 

"Many4owered Oxford" now summoned the young scholar away 
from the pleasant companionship of his Glasgow friends; and, in 
the month of June, 1803, he entered as a gentleman-commoner of 
Magdalen College. Full of life and enthusiasm, tall, strong, and 
graceful, quick-witted, well-read, and eloquent, of open heart and 
open hand, apt for all things honorable and manly, a mere splendid 
youth of nineteen had seldom entered the "bell-chiming and clois- 
tered haunts of Rhedicyna." The effect produced on his mind by 
the ancient grandeurs of Oxford, naturally stimulated his poetical 
temperament and heightened the interest of every study. For 
there hovered constantly around him suggestions of the high and 
solemn ; he felt that he was in an abode fit for greal men and sages, 
and his soul was elevated by the contemplation of his scholastic 
home. Beautifully does he recall in after days the memory of that 
inspiring time, when, in the fulness of hope and vigor, the fields of 
the future opened out before him, stretching upwards to th 
height-; of fame, a-glitter in the dew of life's mornin 

"For haying bidden farewell to our sweel native Scotland, and 

•food judge of Poetry. Lines written at Both w< • Lines written 

Lines written l» Kenmore Bermltage. Lines written :<t Evening. Prince Charles's A 

hie Army befori ■<. i allodea Who to the pomp of burnt i > "• t gold, etc Petition of 

the liearni fcfair. Linee written In t glen bj tn light, Answer to the afcuve Lines, Thu 

Feelings of Lore, The Farewell 


kissed, ere we parted, the grass and the flowers with a show of 
filial tears — having bidden farewell to all her glens, now a-glimmer 
in the blended light of imagination and memory, with their cairns 
and kirks, their low-chimneyed huts and their high-turreted halls, 
their free-flowing rivers and lochs dashing like seas— we were all 
at once buried not in the Cimmerian gloom, but the cerulean glit- 
ter, of Oxford's ancient academic groves. The genius of the place 
fell upon us. Yes ! we hear now, in the renewed delight of the 
awe of our youthful spirit, the pealing organ in that chapel called 
the Beautiful ; we see the saints on the stained windows ; at the 
altar the picture of one up Calvary meekly bearing the cross ! It 
seemed, then, that our hearts had no need even of the kindness of 
kindred — of the country where we were born, and that had received 
the continued blessings of our enlarging love ! Yet away went, even 
then, sometimes our thoughts to Scotland, like carrier-pigeons waft- 
ing love-messages beneath their unwearied wings ! They went and 
they returned, and still their going and coming was blessed. But am- 
bition touched us, as with the wand of a magician from a vanished 
world and a vanished time. The Greek tongue — multitudinous as 
the sea — kept like the sea sounding in our ears, through the still- 
ness of that world of towers and temples. Lo! Zeno, with his 
arguments hard and high, beneath the porch ! Plato divinely dis- 
coursing in grove and garden ! The Stagyrite searching for truth 
in the profounder gloom ! The sweet voice of the smiling Socrates, 
cheering the cloister's shade and the court's sunshine ! And when 
the thunders of Demosthenes ceased, we heard the harping of the 
old blind glorious Mendicant, whom, for the loss of eyes, Apollo 
rewarded with the gift of immortal song ! And that was our com- 
panionship of the dead !"* 

Yet these new feelings, and all that fascination which belongs to 
novelty in "men and manners," could not efface the image of his 
old familiar Scottish home ; and he writes : — 

" It is not likely that I will ever like any place of study, that I 
may chance to live in again, so well as Glasgow College. Attach- 
ments formed in our youth, both to places and persons, are by far 
the strongest that we ever entertain. 

"I consider Glasgow College as my mother, and I have almost a 
son's affection for her. It was there I gathered any ideas I may 

* Old North and Young North," Wilson's Works, 


possess; it was there I entered upon the first pursuits of study 
that I could fully understand or enjoy; it was there I formed the 
first binding and eternal friendships; in short, it was there I passed 
the happiest days of my life. 

''I may even there have met with things to disturb me, but that 
was seldom ; and I would, without hesitation, enter into an agree- 
ment with Providence, that my future life should be as happy as 
those days. I dare say I left Glasgow at the time I should have 
left it ; my dearest companions had either gone before me, or were 
preparing to folloAV me; and had I stayed another year, perhaps my 
last best friends, Miss \V. ami Miss M., would not have been in 
College buildings ; in that ease I might as well have been at Japan." 

In this honest and unaffected language may be traced that power 
of local attachment, that clothed every home he found with a sacred 
interest, interweaving into all the dreams of his memory associa- 
t i< >ns that recalled either some day of unalloyed joy, or some mo- 
ments of sorrow, hallowed in memory with the " tender grace of a 
day that is dead." 

Of his studies and manner of life at Oxford I have no very mi- 
nute or extensive memorials. That he was a hard student is suffi- 
ciently proved, both by the relics of his industry and by the manner 
in which he passed his final examination. That he also tasted of 
the pleasures and diversions open to a lively young Oxonian, pos- 
sessed of abundanl resources,* is only to say that he vxis a young 
man, and lived at Oxford for three years and a half. But the gen- 
eral impression thai he led what is called a "fast life," and was not 
a reading man, is by no means correct. His wonderful physical 
powers gave him indeed great advantages, enabling him to overtake 
a larger amount of work in a short time than weaker frames could 
attempt, and to recover with rapidity the loss of hours spent in de- 
ng gloom or hilarious enjoyment. Bu1 with all his unaffected 
relish for the delights of sense, his was a soul that could never 
Linger long among them, without making them u stepping-stones to 

* His father ha a unencumbered for tui f £50,000 I And the following calculation 

i:i ■• memorandum books, apparently made Boon after liis coming i" Oxford : " Expenses 
for an Oxford life for five months amo loubled, to £840; ami 
■ - f ; m r tw'p mo ■ W0 the very loom possible." I am afraid Iho " neces- 
sary" expenses turned borl ol the actual. The booli contains an n int 

Itur mewhere up to tli" month of October 1S08, amounting to about SI SO, which 

maj l>e considered moderate. Bui :i"t long after there occurs this significant note:— "J And Hint I 
awnot htilanoi mj ■ foro will henceforth keep only general ones." 


higher things." Many, doubtless, were his wild pranks and jovial 
adventures, and for a brief space, as we shall find, he gave himself 
np, in the agony of blighted hopes, to " unbridled dissipation," if 
so he might drown the memory of an insupportable grief. All such 
excess, however, was alien to his nature, which from childhood to 
old age, preserved that freshness and purity of feeling imparted by 
Heaven to all true poets, and in few instances utterly lost. 

His life at Magdalen College, and his arrangements in regard to 
his studies, were marked by the same attention to order as had di- 
rected his daily course when in Glasgow. It was not till some time 
after he had left Scotland, that the agitation of harassing thoughts 
caused a change in the steadiness of his habits, leading him into 
strange eccentricities in search of peace. But the restlessness and 
occasional deep depression of his spirit were never of long continu- 
ance, otherwise the result might have been destructive. Fortu- 
nately, the strength and buoyancy of his nature were too great to 
be overcome, and he passed naturally from one condition of feeling 
to another, according as his spirit was soothed or agitated by out- 
ward circumstances. Thus, in the midst of all his sorrows, he is 
found throwing himself not unfrequently into the full tide of the 
life that surrounds him, as if he had no other thought ; while again 
he springs off upon some distant walk that takes him miles away, to 
seek solace in the solitude of the valleys, or drown care among the 
crowds of a city. Nothing, however, damped his ardor in acquir- 
ing knowledge, or in expressing admiration for those who inspired 
it by their writings. The heroes he worshipped were numerous ; 
and those he loved best have had their beauties recorded in essays 
of much discriminating power and taste. 

One of his first steps for methodizing the results of his study, and 
improving his mind, was the commencement of a commonplace- 
book, a valuable exercise which he had already begun on a small 
scale in Glasgow, probably by the advice of Professor Jardine. Of 
these commonplace-books several volumes more or less complete 
are still extant, giving evidence of an industry and a systematic 
habit of study very inconsistent with the notion that the writer was 
an idle or desultory student.* 

* " Volume L" is prefaced in the following philosophical style, a few days after his arrival iu Ox 
ford : the elaborate plan of study indicated was not. of course, rigidly adhered to: — 

"In the following pages I propose to make such remarks upon the various subjects of polite 
literature ■'•■• Uftvg been suggested to my mind during the course of my studies, by the perusiU jf 



It will be observed, from the extracts I have subjoined, that he 
writes of the manner in which his work is to be arranged with con- 
siderable confidence ; a tone observable in all he says, not the result 
of mere youthful self-complacency, but of that consciousness of 
power which accompanies genius, quickened by the freshness of 
new studies, and an increasing capacity to discern and appreciate 
the beauties and difficulties of the subjects laid before him. The ' 
various compositions resulting from the above plan, which have 
been preserved, give the same impression of easy power and well- 
balanced judgment, combined with a sensitiveness keenly alive to 
delicacy of thought, and a ready sympathy with those feelings which 
are excited by natural causes. Unlike most juvenile essays, they 
display no affected or maudlin sentiment ; there is no exaggeration 
or " line writing ;" the characteristic qualities, in fact, are clearness 
and sagacity, the true foundations of good criticism; forming, in 
(••injunction witli wide knowledge and sympathies, the beau-idial, 
afterwards in him exemplified, of what a critic should be, whose 
judgments will live as jjarts of literature, and not merely talk about 
it. As an example of the qualities now indicated, I may mention 

writers upon the different branches of human knowledge; reflections upon law. history, philoso- 
phy, theology, and poetry, will be classed under separate heads; and if my information upon the 
useful and Interesting subject of political economy can be reduced i" anj short disi ussions upon 
disputed or fundamental principles, or to a collection of maxims, such as form the groundwork of 
wider inquiries, observations upon the different theories of economists will form part of my pro- 
jected plan. In follow! general view, it will frequently happen that [shall haveoota- 
6ion to enter fully into the discussion of questions that have been merely suggested to m 
allusion of authors; and, accordingly, essays of some length will constitute a considerable part jf 
my plan. 

"With retrard to the department of poetry, original verses of my own composition will be fre- 
quently introduced, sometimes with the view to illustrate a principle, and "Hen « ith do other end 
■ gratification. 

-If. in theconrseol i espondei .any interesting subjects of literature should 

be discussed, thoughts thus communicated t<> me will be inserted in the words of the writer, under 

i to which they may belong, and accompanied b} my own remarks upon them. 

i an. reflections upon men and manners oeeur to my mind, even with regard ;■> the 

general characters of mankind, or the particular dispositions <>i acquaintances and friends, they 

written do ■■■ • ■■ ■.' emb< 11 shment, 

"In short, this commonplace-book, or whatever else ;t may he called, will contain, as far as it 

I titbful representation of the State of my mind, both in its moments of Study and nlire- 

,'.. nt I willi different radii of information upon literary topics, im- 

with regai I to human life, ami feelings of my own heart, in cases when I 
with u-o<.d i t'n-et. in referring to these pictnn s of my mind at different periods, I shall bi 
MtiinaU tl cquirements, and thi various changes that have 

■ e in my model "i thinking and I 
ill learn to know myself. In future times it will be pleasing t" behold what 1 once was, 

and what '. oi c ■ tflougbi ; and li I contemplate the acquit nts ol mj youth with any thing lit* 

coutem; • '-'. pr iceed from n com lotion oi n ol snperjoritj and virtue, 

"Ma'.ualk.n QoiUM*, /"(' -, lbui}.'" 



an essay out of the first of these two commonplace-books, " On the 
Poetry of Drummond," showing a most discriminating appreciation 
of a poet whose genius, as he justly says, has never received due 
acknowledgment. This essay is followed by a very elaborate and 
ingenious dissertation on the question, " Why have the Egyptians 
never been remarkable for poetry ?" a curious question, which, so 
far as I am aware, has never formed the subject of special observa- 
tion. A considerable portion of the volume is occupied with a 
translation of Sir William Jones's Observations on Eastern Poetry, 
and of the specimens, which are very happily rendered. Under 
date June 27th is the sketch of a proposed poem on the flight of 
the Israelites out of Egypt, which does not appear, however, to 
have been entered on. A volume seems to have been set aside for 
each of the chief branches of study, which from time to time en- 
gaged his attention. Some of these are probably lost ; and those 
which remain want a good many leaves in some places. One bears 
the heading Law, and contains a survey of the municipal law of 
England, apparently founded on Blackstone. Another is headed 
Theology;, and contains a careful review and summary of the evi- 
dences of Christianity, based on the study of Paley. Another was 
intended for History, but contains, besides some general observa- 
tions on the study of History, only an essay "concerning Ireland." 
Another, devoted to his miscellaneous subjects, contains a consider- 
able number of essays and reflections, some pretty elaborate, and 
displaying a remarkable grasp and comprehensiveness of mind as 
well as vivacity and grace of style. The folloAving are some of the 
subjects treated of: The Fear of Death; Female Beauty; Dissipa- 
tion ; Chastity ; Religious W T orship ; The Old Ballad Mania ; The 
Edinburgh Review ; The Study of History ; The Neglect of Genius 
in Britain ; The Present State of Europe ; Longinus as a Critic ; 
The Tendency of Little's Poems ; Duelling ; Modern Poetry ; The 
Martial Character of the Danes ; The Decline of the Moorish Power 
in Spain ; The Influence of Climate. These interesting volumes in- 
dicate altogether a very extensive range of study, and thorough 
mastery of particular topics. It must be remembered, too, that 
these were but the occasional exercises which filled up the intervals 
of a complete and successful course of classical study. The various 
poetical effusions and sketches for proposed poems, with which some 
of the volumes are to a great extent filled, belong manifestly to a 


later period. The most important among these are the original 
draught of several cantos of the "Isle of Palms," which will call for 
due notice in a subsequent chapter. 

The choice of friends is one of those things which most bring out 
a mans character and power of discrimination. On this topic I tin 
the following sentences addressed to Margaret: — 

" is a being in whom I have been most grievously disap- 
pointed. When I was first introduced to him, I was prejudiced in 
his favor, for three reasons : — Firsts He was grave, and did not take 
great part in the conversation, which turned chiefly upon dogs and 
horses! secondly, He was, as I thought, something like Alexander 
Blair ; and. thirdly, I was informed he studied a great deal. I ncc< 1 !- 
ingly thought thai I had fallen upon a good companion. For some 
time I believed that I had formed a right judgment, thought him a 
Bensible fellow, and, from obscure hints that he dropped, took it into 
my head that he was a poet. Having, however, one day got into 
an argument with him concerning the meaning of a line in Homer, T 
observed an ignorance in him which I was sorry for, and a degree of 
stupid obstinacy that I despised. This passed; and speaking one day 
of the Prince, commonly called the 'Pretender,' he thought proper 
to remark that his title to the throne was no greater than mine. 

•• With this I did not altogether agree, and having stated my 
reasons for dissenting from him, discovered that he was entirely 
ignorant of the history of his own country. Ignorance so gross as 
this is at all times pitiable, but more so when disguised under pre- 
tended knowledge. I accordingly gradually withdrew from his 
acquaintance, always preserving strict civility and politeness. At 
last, having judged it proper to be witty towards me, I wrote an 
epigram upon him, which il seems he did not like; so hi' now keeps 
a very resp ictful distance. He is a compound of good-nature, obsti- 
nacy, ignorance, honor, anil conceit, but the bad ingredients arc 

The uexl poi*trai1 is of a more pleasing nature: — 

" is a youth of Mich reserved maimers, thai although T was 

first introduced to him, I scarcely spoke twenty words to him to 
which 1 received any other answer than Yes, or No, for the first 
twent) days. Now, I know him rather better, and begin i<> like him. 
" He sometimes condescends to laugh at a joke, bul never to make 
one. He is a \ l.nt, and I be'ie, e i he first scholar in 


the College among the gentlemen-commoners. His father is the 
best Greek scholar in England, and 1 have given this youth the sur- 
name of Sophocles, a famous Greek tragedian. He has a taste for 
the Fine Arts, and paints, and plays upon the piano; but he is the 
worst hand at both I ever saw or heard. He is good-natured, and 
a gentleman." 

Auother still more genial companion is spoken of in the same 
letter: — 

" is a young man of large fortune, and still larger prospects, 

so he does not think it worth his while to study much; but he is 
naturally very clever ; is an elegant classical scholar, writes good 
verses, and has very amiable dispositions. He lives in the same 
stair with me, so we are often together, and I am very fond of him. 
His cousin is also a clever fellow, has lived long in dashing life in 
London, and is intimate with Kinnaird, Lamb, Lewis, Moore, and 
other wits in London ; 'a merrier man, within the limits of becom- 
ing mirth, I never spent an hour's talk withal.' He delights in 
quizzical verses, and we are writing together a poem called Magda- 
len College, which, should we ever complete, I will send to you." 

The journal breaks off here, and we find no more such familiar 
sketches of "men and manners," but more serious matter, for what- 
ever bears upon work is treated with earnest respect. His obviously 
methodical study obtained for him that clearness of perception and 
correctness of knowledge, without which no mind perfectly per- 
forms its work. Accuracy may in fact be called the foundation and 
the stronghold of all properly directed mental energy. There is no 
fault more common than want of accuracy, and none that might be 
so easily cured. Great intellect never has it, though cleverness may; 
and there was no fault of which my father was more intolerant. He 
often used to say to his children, in a spirit of fun, "You know lam 
never wrong ? Whatever I state is correct ; whatever I say is right." 
It was truly the case with regard to his information. 

The early efforts of genius are always interesting, and in his case 
they are enhanced in value, when it is considered with what they 
were combined. Very rarely does it happen that the same individ- 
ual possesses an equal proportion of mental and bodily activity, of 
intellect and imagination ; and the seductions that lie in the way of 
a youth so gifted, whose path of life is smoothed by fortune, must 
be taken into accouut in estimating the use made of his powers. Ho 


doubt conscious strength is in itself a spur to high achievements, 
and the enviable possession of great gifts of mind and body gives, as 
it were, two lives, fitting a man for a Titan's work. It was this com- 
bination of gifts that made Wilson singular among the men of his 
time; and the preservation of their harmony was proof that, amid 
the various influences tending to overthrow the balance, a healthy 
moral nature reigned supreme. The hard working intellect was not 
led astray by the fertile imagination ; the indefatigable bodily energy 
and exuberant sportiveness were still subservient to reason ; and all 
worked healthily together, despite the recurring gloom of cheerless 
days, and the restless wanderings that hardly brought repose. 

Judged by his poems alone, Wilson was to be classed with the 
most refined and sensitive of idealists ; tested by some of his prose 
writings and his professional reputation, he was one of the most 
acute and eloquent of moralists. That such a man should have de- 
lighted in angling and in boating, in walking, running, and leaping, 
is not extraordinary ; but that he should also have practically en- 
couraged and greatly enjoyed the ruder pastimes of wrestling, box- 
ing, and cock-fighting, may appear to some people anomalous. For 
the notion is not yet wholly extinct, that a poet should be a delicate 
and dreamy being, all heart and nerves, and certainly destitute of 
muscles ; while the philosopher is held bound to be solemn and dys- 
peptic, dwelling in a region of clouds remote from all the business 
and pleasures of men. It is unnecessary, I presume, to show the 
absurdity of such views. But neither is it necessary to say a word 
in favor of the cock-pit or the prize-ring. Suffice it, that at the time 
when my father studied at Oxford, there were i'vw young gentle, 
men, with any pretensions to manliness, by whom these now pro- 
scribed amusements were nol zealously patronized. The fashions 
change with the generations, and the fox-hunter may ere long be 
considered a barbarian, and the deer-stalker a kind of assassin. Cer- 
tain it, is, that Literary men do not now patronize cock-fighting, and 
the world would probably be scandalized to hear of Mr. Dickens 
in\ iting a party of friend- to " a main."* Vet about this time there 

* Although II d that the sage and i '■' Sid not considei It in 

eonslstenl with hit charocti i I a at, I musi omit hi* name from the num- 

ber, id htm very fondof field-sports, bat I am assured, on the best authority, thai then I 

a word "f truth in the tradition, nor In the following cap in ted from Bui pon I lf< 'f 

Drinking tea tl I i rcning. we waited a time for Mr. Mao* 

tppeorance ; hi caun In at last, heated and excited: ' What a glorious evonlng I havi badT 

leuutiful; but be went on to <t> tail the intense' en- 


was a regular cock-pit in Edinburgh, patronized by "many gentle- 
men still alive," says the editor of Kay's Biographical Sketches 
in L842, who would not, perhaps, relish being reminded of "their 
early passion for the birds.''* John Wilson was a keen patron of 
this exciting, though, to our eyes, cruel amusement ; so much so, 
that at Elleray he kept, as we shall presently find, a most extensive 
establishment of cocks, whose training and destinies evidently occu- 
pied no small share of his attention. While unable to appreciate 
fully the merits of this ancient but now almost extinct amusement, 
I would observe that, in his case, the mere pleasure in the exhibi- 
tion of animal courage was connected with a more deep and com- 
prehensive delight in the animals themselves. For, from those 
earliest days, when he made the acquaintance of peaseweeps in the 
midst of lightning and rain, he had been a keen observer of the 
habits of all kinds of birds; and he never ceased to take a special 
interest in them and their ways. I would also remark, that even 
in those years of student life, when he mixed with all sorts of com- 
pany, and took his pleasure from the most diversified sources, the 
study of human nature was truly a great part of his enjoyment. He 
went among the various grades of men and character much as a 
geologist goes peering among the strata of the earth ; and as a nat- 
uralist is not blamed who has his pet beasts and insects, to us repul- 
sive, so perhaps may such a student of men and their manners be 
rightly fulfilling his vocation, even when he descends to occasional 
companionship with the stranger types of humanity. 

Of his pugilistic skill, it is said by Mr. De Quincey, that " there 
was no man who had any talents, real or fancied, for thumping or 
being thumped, but he had experienced some jweeing of his merits 
from Mr. Wilson. All other pretensions in the gymnastic arts he 
took a pride in humbling or in honoring ; but chiefly his examina- 
tions fell upon pugilism ; and not a man, who could either 'give' or 
'take,' but boasted to have punished, or to have been punished by 
Wilson of 3Iallm's."\ 

One anecdote may suffice in illustration of this subject, having, I 

joyment be had bad in a cock-fight. Mrs. Mackenzie listened some time in silence : then looking up 
in his face, she exclaimed in her gentle voice, 'Oh, Harry, Harry, your feeling is all on paper !'" 

* A few years earlier a "main" was fought in the kitchen of the Assembly Rooms, then un- 
finished, between the counties of Lanark and Haddington, of which Kay gives a v : 7id picture,— 
photographing the better known cockers who were present on the occasion. 

+ Edinburgh lAterwy Gazette^ vol. i., No. 6 


believe, the merit of being true. Meeting one day with a rough and 
unruly wayfarer, who showed inclination to pick a quarrel, concern- 
ing right of passage across a certain bridge, the fellow obstructed 
the way, and making himself decidedly obnoxious, Wilson losl all 
patience, and offered to fight him. The man made no objection to 
the proposal, but replied that he had better not right with him, as 
he was so and so, mentioning the name of a (then not unknown) 
pugilist. This statement had, as may be supposed, no effect in 
damping the belligerent intentions of the Oxonian ; he knew his own 
strength, and his skill too. In one moment off went his coat, and 
he set to upon his antagonist in splendid style. The astonished and 
punished rival, on recovering from his blows and surprise, accosted 
him thus: "You can only be one of the two; you are either Jack 
Wilson or the Devil.'' This encounter, no doubt, led, for a short 
time, to fraternity and equality over a pot of porter. 

His attainments as a leaper were more remarkable. For this 
exercise he had, in the words of the writer already quoted, "two 
remarkable advantages. A short trunk and remai'kably long legs 
gave him one-half his advantage in the noble science of leaping; the 
other half was pointed out to me by an accurate critic in these mat- 
ters, as lying in the particular conformation of his foot, the instep 
of which is arched, and the back of the heel strengthened in so re- 
markable a way, that it would be worth paying a penny for a sight 
of them." After referring to the boastful vanity of the celebrated 
Cardinal du Perron on this point, he adds: — "The Cardinal, by his 
own account, appears to have been the flower of Popish leapers; 
and, with all deference to his Eminence, upon a better assurance 
than that, Professor Wilson may be rated, al the time I speak of, as 
the flower of all Protestant leapers. Not having the Cardinal's 
foible of connecting any vanity with this little accomplishment, 
knowing exactly what could, and what could not be effected in this 
department of gymnastics, and speaking with the utmost simplicity 
and candor of his failures and his successes alike, he mighl always 
be relied upon, and his statements were constantly in harmony with 

any collateral testimony thai chance happened to turn up." 

IHn most remarkable feat of this kind, the fame of which still 
lingers round the spot where it took place, is thus referred to by 
himself: — "A hundred sovereigns to five against any man in Eng- 
land doing twenty-three feel on a dead level, with a run and a leap 

48 MEMOIR OP John WtJ.SOtt. 

on a slightly inclined plane, perhaps an inch to a yard. Wo have 
seen twenty-three feet done in great style, and measured to a nicety, 
but the man who did it (aged twenty-one, height, five feet eleven 
inches, weight, eleven stone) was admitted to be (Ireland excepted) 
the best far leaper of his day in England."* 

This achievement, worthy of one of Dr. Dasent's favorite heroes, 
took place in the presence of many spectators, at a bend of the Cher 
well, a tributary of the Isis, where it glides beautifully through the 
enamelled meads of Christ Church, the leap being taken across the 

To one so full of life, and of the enjoyment of it in its various 
phases, Oxford was prolific ground for the exercise of his vivacious 
spirit ; and it will naturally be expected that, in connection with this 
period, there are many curious stories to unfold. But the flight of 
years soon obliterates the traces of past adventures ; very few of 
the contemporaries of those pleasant days survive ; and I am sorry, 
therefore, to say, that I have been able to gather but few authentic 
details regarding this portion of my father's life. Every one knows 
how a story, when it has passed from its original source, is, in an 
incredibly short space of time, so metamorphosed, as not again to 
be recognizahle ; complexion, manner, matter, all changed — just as 
if loving and making a lie were a matter of duty. Sensible persons, 
too, are sometimes found credulous of strange tales ; while the 
world in general is ever ready to pick up the veriest rubbish, and 
complacently exclaim, " How characteristic ; so like the man." Few 
men have had more fables thus circulated regarding them than my 
father. Perhaps the most foolish story that was ever told of him, 
is one that William and Mary Howitt allude to with wise in- 
credulity, in their pleasant yet somewhat incorrect memorial of him, 
and which now, to the disappointment of not a few, must be denied 
in toto. It was said that, when wandering in Wales, he joined a 
gang of gipsies, and married a girl belonging to that nomade tribe, 
and lived with her for some time among the mountains. That he 
had acted along with strolling players, and that there was one com- 
pany to which he was kind and generous, is quite true; but that he 
lived with them, or any other adventurers, is mere romance, "the 
baseless fabric of a vision." 

A journal of his wanderings through Wales and the south of 

* " Essay on Gymnastics." 

Llt'E Al n.M-uRt), 49 

England, the Lake District, the Highlands, and Ireland, would have 
been more amusing than most books of travel, for we have his own 
word for it that they were sometimes "full of adventure and scrape." 
But of these journeys he kept no record, and all that can now be 
gleaned is an incidental allusion here and there in his works.* 

The circle of his acquaintance at Oxford was most extensive, 
from the learned President of his College, Dr. Routh, with whom, 
as De Quincey says, "he enjoyed an unlimited favor," down through 
" an infinite gamut of friends and associates, running through every 
key, the diapason closing full in groom, cobbler, and stable-boy." 
But though a universal favorite, his circle of intimate friends was 
more select. Among these were Mr. Home Drummond (of Blair- 
Dmmmond), Mr. Charles Parr Burney, Reginald Heber; Mr. Sib- 
thorpe, brother of the late Colonel Sibthorpe; Mr. X. Ellison, Mr. 
Charles Edward Grey. None of these gentlemen was of his own 

An anecdote may here be given, illustrating a somewhat unusual 
mode of shutting up a proctor. One evening one of these important 
functionaries was aroused to the exercise of his authority by a con- 
siderable noise in the High Street. Coming forth to challenge the 
authors of the unlawful uproar, he found that " Wilson of Magda- 
wa> the prime author of the disturbance. Remonstrance and 
warning were alike thrown away on the indomitable youth ; he had 
put on bis "boldesl Suil of mirth, for he had friends that purposed 
merriment." Nothing could be made of him. In vain the proctor 
advanced; lie was received with speeches, and a perfect flood of 
words. The idea of repose was flouted by this incorrigible youth. 
Still the proctor protested, until he was fairly driven away by Wil- 
son repeating to him, with imperturbable gravity, nearly the whole 
of Pope's ■■ Essay on .Man." 

I am glad to be able to make up, in some respects, for the meagre- 

f these out in;.-, by some very interesting reminiscences kindly 

furnished by one who truly says, thai he is "perhaps the only per- 

• "' Ti't Tipptrary thXCULaght ■ ■•/ <* tumbUng about Ma nob a* thick- at grow? This is a 
image, which we ourselves once heard employed by averj delicate and modest 
;. Minn in a cottage near Limerick, when the cudgels in an affray. A t>roki-i> 

:, a Ireland always spoken of In terms of endearment; much of the same ten 

Ing is n 

t\ ■ gentle creature to us whl n affectionate look of admiration on our walk- 

• l'i/tt uoulU give a twate blow with •<:. v., p, 007. 


son now living who could give so many details at the end of half a 

"I became acquainted with the late Professor Wilson at Magda- 
len College, Oxford, about the year 1807 or 1808. He had already 
graduated, taken even (as I best recollect) his Master's degree, 
when I entered that College as a gentleman-commoner. His per- 
sonal appearance was very remarkable ; he was a powerfully built 
man, of great muscular strength, about five feet ten inches high, a 
very broad chest, wearing a great profusion of hair and enormous 
whiskers, which in those days were very unusually seen, particu- 
larly in the University. He was considered the strongest, most 
athletic, and most active man of those clays at Oxford ; and certainly 
created more interest among the gownsmen than any of his contem- 
poraries, having already greatly distinguished himself in the schools, 
and as a poet. 

"The difference of our standing in the College, as well as of our 
ages and pursuits, did not allow of our forming any close intimacy, 
and we seldom met but in our common room, to which the gentle- 
men-commoners retired from the diniug-hall for wine and dessert, 
to spend the evening, and to sup, etc. 

"I am not able to say who were Wilson's intimates in the Uni- 
versity ; he certainly had none in the College. I rather think he 
was much with Mr. Gaisford, the celebrated Grecian. I think of 
our men, Mr. Edward Synge, of the county of Clare, saw the most 
of him. The fact is we were all pigmies, both physically and men- 
tally, to him, and therefore unsuited to general companionship. It 
was therefore in the conviviality of our common room, to which 
Wilson so much contributed, and which he so thoroughly himself 
enjoyed, that we had the opportunity of appreciating this (even 
then) extraordinarily gifted man, who combined the simplicity of 
a child with the learning of a sage. He was sometimes, but 
rarely, silent, abstracted for a time, which I attributed to his 
mind being then occupied with composition. He never seemed 

"It was the habit and fashion of those days to drink what would 
now be considered freely ; the observance was not neglected at 
Maudlin, though never carried to excess. Wilson's great conversa- 
tional powers were drawn out during these social hours. He de- 
lighted in discussions, and would often advance paradoxes, even in 


order to raise a debate. It was evident that (like Dr. Johnson) be had 
not determined which side of the argument he would take upon the 
question he had raised. Once he had decided that point, he opened 
with a flow of eloquence, learning, and wit, which became gradually 
an absolute torrent, upon which he generally tided into the small 
hours. No interruption, no difference of opinion, however warmly 
expressed, could ruffle for a moment his imperturbable good temper, 
lie was certainly one of the most charming social companions it has 
ever been my lot to meet, although I have known some of the most 
agreeable and witty that Ireland has produced. There was a ver- 
satility of talent and eloquence {not of opinions) in Wilson, such as 
I have never seen equalled. I have heard him with equal cleverness 
argue in favor and disparagement of constitutional, absolute, and 
democratic forms of government ; one evening you would suppose 
him to be (as he really was) a most determined, unbending Tory; 
the next he assumed to be a thorough Whig of the old school ; on 
a third, you would conclude him to be a violent and dangerous 
democrat! You could never suppose that the same man could 
uphold and decry, with equal talent, propositions so opposite: and 
yet he did, and was equally persuasive and conclusive upon each. 
In the same manner with religious discussions: to-day there could 
be no more energetic and able ' defender of the faith ;' to-morrow 
he would advance Voltaireism, Hobbism, and Gibbonism enough to 
induce those who did not know him to conclude that he was a 
thorough unbeliever. He was, on the contrary, of a highly pious 
and religious mind. I may sum up his characteristics, as they ap- 
peared to me, in a few words: simplicity, kindness, learning, with 
chivalry ; for certainly his views and sentiments were highly chiv- 
alrous, and had he lived in those days, he would have been found 
among the foremost of 'les preux chevaliers.' 

"The established rule of our common room was, that no one 
Bhould appear there without being in full evening dress : non-com- 
pliance involved a fine of one guinea, which Wilson had more than 
niic inclined and paid. Having one day come in in his morning 
garb, and paid down the fine, he asked, 'Whal then do you con- 
iider dress? 1 'Silk Btockings,' etc., etc., was the answer. The next 
day came Wilson, looking very well satisfied with himself, and with 
us all. ' Now,' he cried, 'all is right, 1 hope to have no more lines 
to pay ; you see I have complied with the rules,' pointing to hia 


sillc stockings, which he had very carefully drawn over the coarse 
woollen walking stockings which he wore usually ; his strong shoes 
he still retained ! 

"He told us one evening that he imagined he had a taste for, and 
might become proficient in music, and that he would commence to 
practise the French horn ! which he did accordingly, commencing 
after we had broken up for the night, which was generally long after 
twelve. Some days after, old Dr. Jenner, one of the Fellows, ac- 
costed me with piteous tones and countenance: 'Oh, Southwell! do, 
for pity's sake, use your influence with Wilson to choose some 
other time for his music-lessons ; I never get a wink of sleep after 
he commences !' I accordingly spoke to him ; he seemed quite sur- 
prised that his dulcet notes could have disturbed his neighbors ; 
but he was too good-natured to persevere, and, as far as I know, 
his musical talents were no further cultivated. Being a Master of 
Arts, he was no longer subject to college discipline, and might 
have, if he wished, accompanied his horn with a big drum ! One 
of his great amusements was to go to the 'Angel Inn,' about mid- 
night, when many of the up and down London coaches met ; there 
he used to preside at the passengers 1 supper-table, carving for them, 
inquiring all about their respective journeys, why and wherefore 
they were made, who they were, etc. ; and in return, astonishing 
them with his w r it and pleasantry, and sending them off wondering 
who and what he coidd be ! He frequently went from the ' Angel' 
to the 'Fox and Goose,' an early 'purl and gill' house, where he 
found the coachman and guards, etc., preparing for the coaches 
which had left London late at night ; and there he found an audi- 
ence, and sometimes remained till the college-gates were opened, 
rather (I believe) than rouse the old porter, Peter, from his bed to 
open for him expressly. It must not be supposed, that in these 
strange meetings he indulged in intemperance; no such thing ; he 
went to such places, I am convinced, to study character, in which 
they abounded. I never saw him show the slightest appearance 
even of drink, notwithstanding our wine-drinking, suppers, punch, 
and smoking in the common room, to very late hours. I never 
shall forget Ids figure, sitting with a long earthen pipe, a great tie 
wig on ; those wigs had descended, I fancy, from the days of Addi- 
son (who had been a member of our College), and were worn by 
Ms all (in order, I presume, to preserve our hair and dress from 


tobacco smoke) when smoking commenced, after supper; and a 
strange appearance we made in them ! 

" His pedestrian feats were marvellous. On one occasion, hav 
ing been absent a day or two, we asked him, on his return to the 
common room, where he had been? He said, in London. When 
did you return ? This morning. How did you come ? On foot. 
As we all expressed surprise, he said : ' Why, the fact is, I dined 
yesterday with a friend in Grosvenor (I think it was) Square, and 
as I quitted the house, a fellow who was passing was impertinent 
and insulted me, upon which I knocked him down; and as I did 
not choose to have myself called in question for a street row, I at 
once s'tarted, as I was, in my dinner dress, and never stopped until 
I got to the College gate this morning, as it was being opened.' 
Now this was a walk of fifty-eight miles at least, which he must 
have got over in eight or nine hours at most, supposing him to 
have left the dinner-party at nine in the evening.* 

"He had often spoken to me when at Oxford of a protracted 
foot-tour which he had made in Ireland some years previous, and 
about which there appeared to me a sort of mystery, which he did 
not explain. "R- H. S."f 




Tin: course of true love, whether calm or troubled, whether issu 
ing in sunshine or in storm, is "an old, old story;" hut it is one 
thai sums up the chiefesl joys and sorrows of men ami women, and 

* Mr. Southwell's statement may seem an exaggeration; bat :i reference I > Mr. Findlay's ao- 

eonot,at p. 24, will show that my Cither had easily perfori i sis miles an hour in what I take 

I itedto be :i more difficult mode of progression than the ordinary, viz., "toe and heel." 

f \- ■ tall-piece to Mr. Southwell's letter, I take the libertj of inserting here one <■!' Mr. 
Lockhart'i Hogarthiai containing,] have no douht. correct If not very flattering por- 

ome '■( the Oxford i that day. 'I hi " Jtrictun 

which appi :ir to have excited Ion. were contained in two articles in the /•'' oil M 

of July, 1809, and of Ap b omeofthi weak points of tho contemporary system of 

rdkcatlon at Oxford were handled with a roughs ■ Ho of the oritioism (if that period. 


can only be regarded with indifference by those who are dead tc 
the influence of all deep and worthy emotions. The best and 
brightest spirits have shown how their lives were ennobled by the 
passion of love, the faith and purity of which in one heart were the 
spring of the finest song that ever immortalized genius, and the 
highest compliment that ever was paid to woman. Should it some- 
times happen, when the heart is overburdened with its weight of 
sorrow, that comfort and forgetfulness are sought in the tumultu- 
ous excitements of life, it does not always follow that nature be- 
comes lowered, any more than that love is quenched ; for nothing 
in reality can soothe an unfeigned grief but resolution to bear it. 
Those who can endure a sorrow, whatever its cause, elevate thereby 
their moral being, experiencing soon that all comfort from outward 
sources is but vanity. A strong and uncorrupted soul rises ere 
long above the aid of idle pleasures, and gratefully turns to the 
wisdom that teaches submission, believing, 

" Tal pose in pace uno ed altro disio." 

So was it with John Wilson, to the story of whose early love we 
now again turn. The reader may have ere this imagined that it 
was to be heard of no more ; that Oxford and its varied excite- 
ments had deadened the recollection of Dychmont and Both well 
Banks. So little was it thus, that from all the evidence which let- 
ters supply, there seems to have been no portion of his time, during 
the seven years preceding his permanent settlement at Elleray, in 
which his love for Margaret did not influence the tenor of his exist- 
ence, inspiring him at one time with ardent hope, oftener sinking 
him into the deepest anguish, from which he at times sought escape 
in assumed indifference or reckless dissipation. It shows how little 
the outward life of such a man can reveal of his whole nature and 
actual history, that but for these letters we could not have had even 
a gl.impse of what was in reality the dominant thought of his life 
at Oxford, nor ever known of the trial which brought out so 
btrcngly the nobleness of his nature and the depth of his filial love. 
Had it not been that so many years of his life were spent in the 
indulgence of a fond hope and engrossing passion, ending in a 
sacrifice to duty such as few men of spirit so impetuous have ever 
made, this tale had not been told. It may well move the admira- 
tion of all who reverence the power of self-control in tutoring the 


heart, while its brightest dreams are still objects of faith. It will 
be seen from these letters how hard it must have beeu for him co 
bend before obstructions, of whose reality and strength he was 
long in utter ignorance. 

Of all his letters to Margaret, the only one that survives of what 
must have been an extensive correspondence, is one written soon 
after his arrival at Oxford. Of hers to him there is, I regret to 
say, none to be found. The pensive simplicity that pervades it is 
in entire harmony with the strain of the "Poems," and, like the 
portrait by Raeburn, will perhaps surprise those who may have ex- 
pected to find young Christopher North addressing the lady of his 
love in the impassioned and eloquent style of a troubadour. The 
thing was much too genuine for that : — 

" Magdalen College, Oxford, June 12, 1803. 

'• Next to seeing yourself, my dear Margaret, and the greatest 
pleasure I know upon tins earth, is that of seeing your writing ; 
and I cannot describe what I felt when I read your letter, even 
although it contained some little censure for not having written 
you ere this. When I knew by the direction who it was from, my 
heart leaped within my breast, and I read it over and over again 
without intermission, so rejoiced was I to hear from one so dear to 
me as you are. Indeed I must confess that I Avas always afraid 
you would not write me, although this was more an unaccountable 
presentiment than an apprehension for which, after your promise, I 
could assign any reason. But where the strongest wishes are, 
then' also are the si longest fears. I see now, however, that you 
really will write me, and that, I trust, often. What a wretch, 
therefore, would I be, were I to deprive myself of such a blessing 
by my own foolishness! When I read your letters, I will be with 
you in spirit, notwithstanding the distance between this place and 
Dyohmont. My silence was Car from proceeding out of forgetful- 
Tic-- of my promise to write you. Before I could have forgot that, 
I must have forgol you, which never will be to my dying moment; 
aid should it ever happen, may my God forget me. The truth is, 
1 had Beveral reasons for not writing you sooner. I wished first 

to have seen your picture, which has not yet arrived, and indeed 

has scarcely had sufficient time yet. Bui I should have written 
you notwithstanding that, had I been able, but believe me when I 
tell you, that hitherto I was not. 


" Whenever I thought of wriiing to you, I thought of the dis- 
tance I was from you, of the sadness I suffered when I bade you 
farewell, and the loss of almost all the happiness I enjoy in this 
world by no longer seeing you. All this quite overpowered me, 
and I could no more have written to you than I could tell you that 
forenoon I last saw you not to forget me when 1 was away. Youi 
letter has revived me ; and if you have any regard for me, which 
I believe you have, oh, write often, often ! You know I am un 
happy ; comfort me, comfort me ! A few lines will delight me, 
and you are too kind to refuse me such a gratification. It will also 
serve to keep you in remembrance of me, when perhaps you might 
otherwise forget me, which, should it ever happen, would complete 
my sum of wretchedness. If hearing from me will afford you any 
pleasure, I will write as often as you choose — a small mark of affec- 
tion surely to one, to serve whom I would endure auy thing on the 
face of the earth. It will also afford myself greater pleasure than 
you. When I left you, my dear Margaret, you know that I was 
afraid that Oxford would be to me a dull, unhappy place. You 
seemed to think not yourself, and believed that the change of situa- 
tion and novelty of company would make me forget any thing that 
distressed me, and even make me think less on those friends I had 

" Perhaps though you said this, you did not exactly think it, and 
wished only to comfort me, which you have so often and so sweetly 
done. All my suspicions have been verified, and how indeed could 
it be otherwise ? Oxford is a gay place most certainly, and, I dare 
nay, to people whose minds are at ease, a pleasant one ; but to me 
it appears very different. It is true, that when I was in Glasgow 
I endeavored to dissipate my melancholy by company, for which I 
could often feel nothing but contempt, and by pursuits which I 
heartily despised. I imagined such a course of life might have 
moderated the violence of what my mind suffered, and I had cer- 
tainly acquired such a portion of self-command as frequently to ap- 
pear the happiest and most indifferent person in company. But 
this conduct did not do. When alone I was worse than ever, and, 
added to my other distress, had the idea of being guilty of decep- 
tion, and following conduct unworthy of myself. Accordingly here 
I follow another plan. I do not dissipate ; I live retired. I have 
no need to follow a course of deception, which, if long persevered 


in, 1 could imagine capable in some measure of deadening the sense 
of right and wrong, and which is at all events grating to the soul. 
I now try to read, and have, since I. came here, read a great deal; 
but all won't do ; my mind is ill at ease. Once, when I was un- 
happy, I had only to step across the street, hear your voice, see 
your face, and take hold of your hand, and for a time I forgot all 
my sorrow. This now I cannot do. At night I sit in a lonely 
room, nobody within many miles of me I love, left to my own med- 
itations and the power of darkness, which I have long detested. 

"I think of sad things, and weep the more, because I have no 
hope of relief. In such moments what a treasure will your picture 
be to me ! How it will delight me ; make me forget every thing on 
earth but you, and you looking like what you were when you 
agreed at last to give it to me. Would to God it were here! 
When, Margaret, you see how happy it will make me, how could 
you refuse it ? And yet to give it me was goodness I had no title 
to expect, and for which I will often thank you in moments of silli- 
ness and solitude. Oh, what a treasure is a friend like you ! How 
little is real friendship understood ! Who could ever conceive ihe 
happiness I have felt when with you, or so much as dream the mis- 
ery I endured when I left you for a long, long time ! As long as 
there is a moon or stars in the firmament will I remember you; 
and when I look on either, the recollection of Dychmont Hill, the 
house, the trees, the wooden seal, which I am grieved is away, will 
enter my mind, and make me live over again the happiest period 
of my existence. Last night I was in heaven. I dreamed that I 
was sitting in the drawing-room at College Buildings with you 
alone, as I have often done. The room was dark, the window-shut- 
ters close; the fire was little and ju>t twinkling. T had my feet 
upon the fender; you were sitting in the arm-chair; 1 was beside 
you; your hand was in mine; we were speaking of my going to 
Oxford; you were promising to write me; I was sad, bul happy; 
somebody opened the door, and I awoke alone and miserable. 

••I have given you my promise do1 to think of a plan you dis- 
snaded me from carrying into execution. Be assured thai 1 never 
will change my mind. 1 consider you as my better angel, for using 
your simple eloquence to make me abandon the project. It would 
have been cruel to my dearest friends, and perhaps useless to 


" Lev none, not even Miss W., see this. Heaven protect you, my 
dear Margaret, and love you as well as your affectionate friend, 

"John Wilson." 

The plan here referred to was a romantic project which he had 
entertained of going with the expedition of 1!S04, being Park's sec- 
ond journey to the interior of Africa. Apparently, the hostile in- 
fluences which ultimately prevailed in dividing him and Margaret 
had begun, before he left Glasgow, to disturb the current of his fe- 
licity. However extravagant the idea of a journey to Timbuctoo 
may appear as a medicine for disappointed love, he unquestionably 
meant it ; and with all the hardships and dangers connected with 
such an enterprise, it was one highly calculated to excite his imag- 
ination and love of adventure. A very old friend thus writes re- 
garding it : — -" lie had certainly a wild project of going there, and 
used to talk of it in his usual enthusiastic way. But I did not im- 
agine it had taken any hold of him till one day he astonished me by 
appearing in a complete sailor's dress, and told me he was going to 
join the expedition to Africa. I used all my influence to dissuade 
him from such a foolish proceeding. You may suppose what dismay 
he would have occasioned in his own family, who almost worshipped 
him." To them he never communicated his intentions. in the mat- 
ter, which only became known long after the project had been 

The next letter from which I shall quote is addressed to his dear 
friend, Findlay. The post-mark bears the date of "August 16, 1803.'' 
What had occurred between that and the month of June to give 
rise to expressions of despondency so unmeasured, can only be con- 
jectured to have been a further development of the cause of distress 
alluded to in the letter to Margaret. 

..." Since I saw you, my mental anguish has been as great as 
ever. I feet that I am doomed to be eternally wretched, and that I 
am cut out from ali the most amiable and celestial feelings of hu- 
man nature. ... At particular times I am perfectly distracted, and 
hope that at last the torment my mind sutlers may waste a frame is by mil ure too strong easily to be destroyed. I dare say few 
wotdd leave life with fewer lingering looks cast behind. My abili- 
ties, understanding, and affections are all going to destruction. I 
can d<> nothing; I can't, by Heavens! even assume that appearance 


of indifference and gayety I once did, without a struggle that I can- 
not support. I started in the career of early life as fair as that of 
any of my companions, and had, I confess, many hopes of being 
something in the world. But all these are blasted; I cannot un- 
derstand any thing that I read, and nothing in the world gives, or 
ever will give me pleasure. I see others enjoying the world, and 
likely to become respectable and useful members of society ; for 
myself, I expect to be looked at as a being Avho wants a mind, and 
to feel inwardly all the torments of hell. By Heavens! I will, per- 
haps, some day blow my brains out, and there is an end of the 
matter. If you will take the trouble, when you have nothing else 
to do, of writing now and then to me, I know it will be one of 
those few things that keep my heart from dying in my breast, and 
depend upon it, that every word coming from one whom I regard 
so dearly as you, will be interesting to me. What the happiness is 
which you so pleasantly allude to, I cannot understand, unless it be 
that J. S., yourself, Blair, and I are soou to meet. I will be glad to 
see you, but the word happy will never again be joined to the 
name of "John Wilson." 

The next letter, marked "September, 1803," shows an improve- 
ment in spirits : — 

'• Four former letters, my dear Bob, so far from offending, or 
giving mean idea that you are addicted to frivolous levity, relieved 
in a great measure the burden of my heart. Although few, per- 
haps, ever Buffered more from mental anguish in a short time than 
I have done, this Buffering lias not had the effect of making me look 
gloomy disapprobation upon the happiness of others. 1 feel, if all 
went well with me, I would he one of the happiest of beings that 
ever saw the Lighl of heaven, and that nothing would be too insig- 
nificant to delight mi'. This conviction has never quitted my heart 
even in its darkesl moments, and has been the means of making me 
look with complacency upon every kind of innocent and reasonable 

"The little ..'ill who brings the newspaper into the room, and 

trips Bmilingly along the floor, gives me something like happiness; 

for, wherever | gee joy and peace, I take a Bad delighl in looking 

at it. When your letter- Bhowed me how pleased you were with 
your new situation, and that nothing disturbed you there, it gave 


me much pleasure, therefore I hope you will not leave off that light 
and happy strain which pervaded them. 

' k I know that you and I are sworn friends, and that you are in- 
terested in every thing that concerns me. Nothing, therefore, in 
your behavior towards me, will ever appear unfeeling ; and what 
you are afraid I might have mistaken for indifference, I know to be 
the hallowed voice of friendship. Were you here, I would have an 
opportunity of pouring out my whole soul to you, and in that I 
would find much relief. 

" But a letter is such a short thing, and to me, sorrow is when 
written so unintelligible, that in cases of absence I am convinced it 
is best to say little upon such mournful topics. 

" If writing to you, and hearing from you, can divert my atten- 
tion from my own mind, much is accomplished ; and I assure you 
that your letters, with the minute superscription, effected this 
end. Before I go further, your resolution to be sorrowful be- 
cause I might be happier is very injudicious, upon this principle, 
that while it hurts yourself, so likewise does it him whom you 
mean to benefit." 

To divert his thoughts, he went ofi° in these autumnal days on 
one of those long solitary rambles which often landed him unpre- 
meditatedly at night in an unknown region, some fifty miles from 
his starting-point. A glimpse of one of these excursions is afforded 
in the next letter, the greater portion of which, however, is occu- 
pied with an outpouring of his woes. These seem to have received 
fresh stimulus from an ungrounded alarm that a rival had come be- 
tween him and the dear object of his anxieties. 

" I have been expecting to hear from you for some time past ; 
that is to say, I would not have been greatly astonished though I had 
heard from you, neither am I in the least surprised that you have not 
written. As I feel, however, what Wordsworth and other gentle- 
men of his stamp would think proper to call 'impulse to write 'mid 
deepest solitude,' I have disregarded entirely the great advance 
Upon the juice of writing materials, and will add to the revenue of 
the Post-Office by the postage of one letter, which you will nevei 
grudge to pay, when you have discovered the hidden soul which 
pervades these effusions. I have lately returned from a walk ovei 
a pretty wide extent of country, during which, if at particular times 
blistered soles and stiff joiuts did not vastly increase the pleasures 


of reflection, other moments amply recompensed me, and gave me 
enjoyment, though not unalloyed, of as perfect a kind as the general 
nature of frail humanity, assi-ted by the workings of particulai 
melancholy, could possibly admit. "Without being able to assign 
any reason for my conduct, though I entered into many philosophi- 
cal inquiries concerning all the possible combinations of motives, I 
arrived at Coventry, distant from Oxford fifty miles. The days of 
riding naked upon horseback being gone, I beheld no elegant nude 
bestriding a prancing courser, therefore I met with no gratification 
in the assumed character of peeping Tom. From this foolish place 
I went to Nottingham, distant fifty-one miles, and stayed there 
three days." 

Here he abruptly dismisses his pedestrian adventures, and enters 
on the subject more near his heart. 

. . . " What will time do to such love as mine? It is not pas- 
sion founded on whim and fancy ; ir is not a feeling of her excellent 
disposition resembling friendship ; it is nut a regard that intimacy 
preserved, but whose force absence may diminish. Such feelings 
constitute the common love of common souls. But with me the 
case is different. Xo holy throb ever agitates my heart ; no idea 
of future happiness ever elevates my spirit ; no rush of tenderness 
ever warms every fibre of my frame, that Margaret is not the cause 
and object of such emotions. If such a being were to confess she 
loved me; if she were to sink upon my breast with love and fond- 
ness, I would be the happiesl being that ever lived among men. I 
feel I have a mind that could then exert itself, and a heart that 
would love all the human race. Bat if this union is denied me; if 
she I love reposes on the bosom of another, — then is the chain 
broke which bound me to the world ; I have nothing to live for; 
all is dark, solitary, cold, wild, and fearful. When Margaret is 
married, on that nighl thai i r to another, if I am in any part 

of this island, yon musl pass thai nighl with me. Blair will do the 
game. I don't expect, indeed I won't suffer either of you to soothe 
the agony of my soul, for thai surely were a vain attempt. But 
you will -it with me. I know 1 could never pass thai nighl alone. 
I would crush to death this cursed heart which has so long tor- 
mented me, and bless with my latesl breath my own Margarel ; for 
she i- mine in the secrel dwellings of the soul, and not a power in 
the universe shall tear her from that hospitable home. When I 


consider the ways of Providence I am astonished. Whoever mar- 
ries her, let his virtues be what they may, I know he never could 
make her as happy as I could. He would not love her with so vast 
and yet so tender a love." 

With a true poet's mind, he fears the change an unworthy help- 
mate would bring to her refined and enlightened spirit: — 

"Kmy rival in her affections were a being superior to myself, 1 
would not repine ; at least, not so much as I now do, when I am 
afraid he is unworthy of her and inferior to me. Does Margaret 
prefer this man to me ? That she does I am afraid is too true. 
Will he make her as happy as I could ? Can he like her as well as 
I do ? Both suppositions are impossible. The wife of a soldier 
seldom sees intellectual scenes; and, in progress of time, that 
angel Margaret, for whom I would sacrifice every thing on earth, 
may become — oh, I shudder to think of it ! — a person of common 
feelings,* and laugh at all I have said to her, at my misery, my 
love, and my delusions. Such are often the transmigrations of 
spirit ; or, rather, the transformations which Providence permits to 
humble the hopes and destroy the happiness of those it made ca- 
pable of prodigious enjoyment. May I never live to see that day !" 

After relieving his breast by this outburst, he returns to his 
walking : — 

" I had almost forgot our walking match. I went from Notting- 
ham to Birmingham. There I met Blair. . . . He intends visiting 
me, perhaps at Christmas ; but I will tell you, however, when I 
expect him, and you must try to spare a few days from that eternal 
copying of letters, and see what an ajypearance an old friend cuts 
in purgatory. 

" I have sent — at least, am going to send — you a small parcel, 
containing the sermon I wrote, and a letter to Margaret. You may 
open the parcel, and read the sermon, if you choose. Pack them 
up in your best manner, and direct them to Miss M., College 
Buildings, Glasgow. I suppose you have safe communication with 
Glasgow, for I would not for the world the parcel was lost, as the 
letter is not for every eye, and contains secret feelings. 

* This reminds one of Lockaley Hall: — 

" Is it well to wish thee happy ? — having known me, to decline 
On a range of lower feelings, and a narrower heart than mine! 
Yet it shall be : thou shalt lower to his level day by day, 
What is fine within thee growing coarse to sympathize with clay." 

Ttffe OfiPHAU MAID. 65 

" Isabella S., I understand, is married. I wish her all possible 
joy. For God's sake, take care who thou tallest in love with) 
I wish I had done so, faith ! 

"The sooner you send Margaret the parcel the better, for I 
should have written her before now, and she will be wondering at 
my silence. And let it be safe. Write me when convenient, and 
don't be interrupted by your mercenary concerns and employments. 
I would have given you another sheet, from which you are saved 
by the entrance of the drill-sergeant, who has come to teach me 
how to fight the French, if they come. I am their man. ' God 
save the king !' " Yours, 

" J. "Wilson. 

" Oxford, 12th October, 1803." 

The next letter in the series is from Blair to Findlay, showing 
how deeply these two friends entered into the feelings of one 
whose trust in them was as that of a brother. It is dated 

" Hill Top, January 19, 1804. 
"The vacation is over next Tuesday week. I left him on Mon- 
day morning last ; but one of the gentlemen-commoners came to 
Oxford for two or three days, and breakfasted, dined, and supped 
with us on Sunday, so that I had no opportunity of speaking to 
him on many things of which I wished to have talked to him. 
From this, it happened that I said nothing to him of what we 
talked over that Wednesday night. If I had not thought we 
should have had all Sunday night to ourselves, I would certainly 
have spoken of it before; but it is a subject on which I dare not 
Bpeak to him, except at those moments when he seems happier 
than usual from my presence. If he is gloomy and dejected, as he 
i sometimes with me, I know thai his mind will be shut to all 
reasonings favorable to his happiness; and that to touch on that 
subject would be merely to give hira occasion to overwhelm me 
with one of those long bursts of passion and mi -cry to which I can 
mako do answer. Be was oul of Bpirits the firsl two days I was 
there; and I thoughl it mosl probable that in the last evening he 
would, from the idea of my going bo soon, feel a greater degree of 
kindness and affection for me, which would keep his mind in a 
state of gentle feeling, and dispose it more easily to think happily 
of himself. It' we bad been alone thai night, 1 should haw talked 


it all over with him. I am doubtful whether I ought to write to 
him about it," 

This affectionate friend did write to him on the subject, and a 
few days later he again addresses Findlay: — 

" Hill Top, Sunsei, Tuesday, 180J. 

" I am writing to Wilson, and shall send the letter to-morrow, 
bo that he will get it on Thursday morning. I tell him why I am 
convinced that he is loved ; and what I fear she may be induced to 
do, both from her delicacy and just pride, which must shrink from 
the idea of the disapprobation of relations, and from her scrupulous 
sense of right, which makes her refuse to separate him from those 
relations. I will say, that she is now guided in everything she does 
by the resolution she has formed since he left her, of sacrificing her 
happiness to her sense of right (she may perhaps think) to his hap- 
piness ; and I will, on that account, caution him against writing to 
her on that subject, because she might have strength of mind to 
write a refusal, that would blast all his hopes, and make him never 
dare to speak of it to her again. My wish is that he should see her 
next summer, and force from her a confession of her feelings. 

" See what he thinks about P — . He has talked to me as if he 
feared she was attached to him. P — left his country when she 
knew nothing more of Wilson than that he was a fine boy, and 1 
think it very probable at that time she might feel a grateful attach- 
ment to him for his love to her, and what she might think his gene- 
rosity. Does Wilson know so little of her and of himself as to 
dream for a moment that, after knowing him as she has done for 
these last three years, her heart can still hold by one wish to such 
a man as P — ? If she has formed any engagement to such a man 
as P — , God help us ! I cannot think it possible. If it had been, 
she must have acted differently. Her love might overpower in her 
for a time her sense of what she thinks she owes to the order of 
society ; while her only restraint was the idea that she ought not to 
separate Wilson from all his family connections. I can conceive her 
doing all that she has done with the purest and most virtuous mind, 
for she acted under a great degree of delusion ; I am convinced she 
did not suspect the consequences to her own heart or to Wilson's. 
But if she could in the slighte-t degree look on herself as the prop- 
erty of another, every thing becomes utterly incomprehensible; a 
positive engagement leaves no room for delusion, and in that situa- 


tion a woman of delicate feelings has but one way of acting. I have 
not time for more. " Yours ever, 

"Alex. Blaik." 

The next letter in my possession is dated March 7, 1804,* and 
may be inserted below for the sake of chronological order, as show- 
ing the kind of studies which were meantime engaging his attention. 

From this date down to September of the same year there is no 
record of his doings. Blair writing to Findlay, September 30th, 
says: — "I imagine Wilson should be in London about this time to 
meet his mother. I have not seen him this summer." It may be 
inferred that he was occupied during the spring with his studies, 
and struggling as best he could to overcome the dejection of spirits, 
which, judging from the next letter, did not for a time pass away 
During the summer, he went off on a long excursion through Wale-, 
to which he subsequently alludes in no very agreeable terms. It 
could not fail, however, to arouse his poetic sensibilities, and in one 
of the commonplace-books I find a sketch of an intended poem on 
this subject, entitled "Hints for the Pedestrian." 

The next glimpse of him from correspondence is in a letter from 
Blair to Findlay, of date November -J4, 1*04: — 

"Wilson has been walking about in Wales all this summer, and 
is now at Oxford again. I have not once seen him. He says he is 
going to Scotland in about five weeks. I believe he had better not. 

* It is little inure than b mere catalogue <>!' Kicks but the playful tone in which tin- commission 
Is rendered, gives Interest and nut a little character to the document. 
u Bob, yon scoundrel, did you get my last letter! If you can get any bookseller to trust mo 

Under my own name, or lie- under your name, for the following books, until this time twelve- 
monthSj bny them, and semi them down as soon as possible. I think that, with proper nianage- 
ron may manage to gel it done. 
••I. Ferguson'! Roman Republic, in octavo; don't buy it unless in octavo. •!. Mi tford's Greece, 
■ buy it uide;.* in octavo, -i. Stewart's edition of Reid's Philosophy. This hook 
is only fn octavo, therefore don't bnj It unless in octavo. 4. Malthus's Essay on Population — an 
■ book— read part of it; most acute thing of the present day. .V Godwin's Political Jus- 
tice; don't buy it unless In octavo. 6. Gillies 1 Greece in octavo; don't buy it unless in octavo, 
indent Scottish Poems; recollect this is not his Ancient Comic Ballads. 3. Ill 
mances, and Essaj on Abstinence from Animal Food. 
H edition in three vols, octavo, with i foreigner or another. 

ap and complete; thirty-four volumes, or pc Imps less ; hut< ip'cta, 

certainr. History, If tolerably cheap. 12. Turner' lllstor) ofthu An- 

Iny good edition of Gilbert Stuart's Works ; also, Mallei's Northern 
tory of this Country. 16. All Pinkerton'a works indeed 
you may buy, except bis Geography. It possible, lei thoni all be hi boards, 

"J. WlLSOM. 


■• Tuesday /•>< nliiff. n 


John J- inl ',v * is to come back with him. I expect to be in London 
about the middle or end of January, and I suppose Finlay will 
come while I am there, and we may settle him comfortably. Wil- 
son >•-.•> vs, in speaking of some prize he means to undertake, that he 
feels the vigor of his mind returning. God grant it! If he will 
promise to return happy, which I think he may do, from Scotland, 
his going will be a blessed event ; but if he is to come away again 
in the same miserable uncertainly, it will destroy the little calm he 
has gained, and repeat the same sufferings with less strength to bear 
them. I shall see him before he goes." 

Soon after this he was seized with a fit of illness, which caused 
much concern to his affectionate correspondents, Blair and Findlay. 
He quickly recovered, however; and his brother Andrew, then 
serving at Chatham, on board H. M. S. tl Magicienne," writes to 
Robert on the 7th of December, "that he had found him in very 
good health, but in very bad spirits." His own account of the 
matter in a letter to Findlay, of December 10, 1804, is sufficiently 
plain, and needs no comment : — 

"Though 'well when Andrew came here, as bad luck would have 
it, I was taken ill before he left me, but not dangerously, and I am 
rather better. I believe my complaint is nervous, and mortally 
affects my spirits. I have a constant beating at my heart, and a 
wavering of thought resembling a sort of derangement ; but I have 
been bled and feel better. 

"This wretched complaint has been brought on by my late at- 
tempt to bury in unbridled dissipation the recollection of blasted 
hopes. But God's will be done." 

Between this date and the next letter, there is a gap of ten 
months. Of what passed in the interval, there is no memorial be- 
yond the allusions in his letter, from which we gather that he trav- 
elled during the summer in the north of England and in Ireland 
that a considerable portion of the holidays was spent among the 
Lakes; and that there and then he seized the opportunity offered 
• f becoming the proprietor of Elleray, one of the loveliest spots in 
which a poet ever tixed his home. This letter is dated London, 
October 3, 1805, and is written in a cheerful strain, yet betraying 

* John Finlay. a young poet of great promise, autnor of Wallace, or the Vali; of ElUrsUe: 
Historical and Romantic Ballads, etc. etc.. was burn in 1782, and died tit Motlat in 1 S10. Wil- 
lun wrote tin account of his life and writings in Blackwood for November, lslT. 


the overhanging of the clouds, which were deepening over his love- 
prospects, though for a brief space breaking into delusive sun- 
shine : * — 

" London, October 3, 1805. 

" My dear Bob : — I received your letter in a wonderfully short 
time after it was written, considering the extensive tour of his Ma- 
jesty's dominion it had judged it expedient to take before conde- 
scending to pay me a visit. It spent the greatest part of the summer 
in visiting Oxford, London, Scarborough, Harrow -ate, Edinburgh, 
and the various post-towns of Westmoreland, Cumberland, and 
Lancashire. "When it fin-ally reached me, its visage was wofully 
begrimed with dirt, and its sides squeezed into a shape far from 
epistolary. It truly cut a mosl ridiculous appearance, and, indeed, 
was ashamed of itself, for it made its escape from my possession 
the day after I first cast salt upon its tail ; and as I have never seen 
it since, I am led to suppose that it may have once more set out on 
its travels, in which case you probably will meet with it soon in 

"I was not a little provoked to find, that during my solitary 
rambles in Ireland, you were improving yourself in polite accom- 
plishments among the mountains of Wales. The rapidity with 
which you travelled seems to have been astonishing and praise- 

"I do not feel myself in a mood just now to give you any 
account of my Irish expedition, which afforded me all the possible 
varieties of pain, and a good many modifications of pleasure. It 
was prolific in adventure and scrape, and made me acquainted with 
strange bed-fellows. Had you been with me, 1 am sure we would 
have enjoyed it more than you can well imagine. I havespenl this 
summer at Scarborough, Harrowgate, and the Lakes. The weather 
ha- been sufficiently bad to provoke an old sow to commit suicide — 
a fad which actually took place near Ambleside. The creature < at 
its throat with a hand-saw. 

" .... I have bought some ground on Windermere Lake, but 
whether in fufure years I may live there, I know not. I thiuk that 
a settled life will never do for me ; and [often lament thai I did 

• As hr in if' • y il.-ar Shepherd, my llfi to twenty-fooi 

U an utter blank, like a moonless midnight; at other til - XoctM, 


tO MEMoftt of joiiN WiLfoft 

not enter the array or navy, a thing which is now entirely impos* 
sible. While I keep moving, life goes on well enough, but when- 
ever 1 pause, the fever of the soul begins. 

" John Wilson." 

There is no letter again for a period of six months ; and we are 
left to imagine that the interval was filled up with alternations of 
gloom and gayety, of hard study and hard living. He was giving 
himself, like the royal preacher, not only " to know wisdom," but 
to know also " madness and folly." The mention of Margaret is 
briefer than hitherto, even slightly suggestive of constraint, and one 
begins to see some shadowing of the truth in that sentence of the 
Essay on " Streams :" — " For two years of absence and of distance 
brought a strange, dim, misty haze over the fires — supposed un- 
quenchable — of our hearts ; then came suspicion, distrust, wrathful 
jealousy, and stone-eyed despair !" It had not come to that yet, 
for, before the curtain closes on this love-drama, there is one 
glimpse of ecstatic happiness, followed only by deeper gloom and 
unbroken silence. 

The next letter is addressed to Findlay, and dated 

" Oxford, April 13, 1806. 

11 My dearest Robert : — If I have not answered your letter so 
soon as perhaps I should have done, it was neither from being in- 
different to the very agreeable contents of it, nor careless of that 
happiness which I see awaits you in life, and which no soul on earth 
better deserves than you. Most genuine satisfaction it did give me 
to hear of the kindness which your father's memory has procured 

" In your case it may justly be said that a good man's righteous- 
ness is an inheritance to his children. That happiness, prosperity, 
and peace may ever attend you, is a wish I need not express to one 
who knows me so well as you do. As to myself, I have not a very 
great deal to say. I am going on pretty much in the old way, 
sometimes unhappy enough, God knows! and at other times tol- 
erably comfortable. 

" I believe that I live rather too hard, and I have formed a veiy 
determined resolution to change my ways; but it is one thing to 
make a resolution, and another to keep it. I have certainly led a 
dissipated life for some time, but, 


" ' Wine, they say, drives off despair, 
And bids even hope remain, 
And that is sure a reason fair 
To till my glass again.' 

c I expected to have heard something from D., informing me of 
your intention relative to our summer tour to the Lakes. I wrote 
him how I was situated at present ; but I would like to hear how 
your intentions are, as I might perhaps accommodate myself in a 
great measure to them. I am uncertain whether I shall he in 
Scotland again for some years. If you could meet me at the Lakes 
in July early, even without our other friends, I think we might 
pass the time most happily. But I expect to hear from you very 
soon at great length. By the by, I know not what excuse to 
make for not having visited Torrance. If ever you see Margaret, T 
w T ish you would tell how happy you know I would have been to 
see her, but that it could have been only for an hour or two, and 
that I therefore put off' the happiness till I could stay a day or two 
with her in a few months. Perhaps she may attribute to coldness 
what arose from the deepness of love. It will give me sincere 
happiness to hear often and soon from you. Every thing interest- 
ing to you will interest me, so omit nothing of that kind. 

" Remember me kindly to Finlay and Smith, and to all you love, 
mother and sisters. Blair is with me, and wishes you well. 

" Yours ever, 

" Jous \\ r ILSOX." 

It would appear from the following letter, written from hta 
mother's house in Edinburgh, that the tour to the Lakes was 
changed for one in the Highlands of Scotland, which, during the 
space of six weeks' time, was agreeably spent by the aforesaid 
friends : 

" 53 Queen Street, Edinburgh, 

Jnhj 29, 1S06. 

"My drab Bob:—] have long been conjecturing the reason of 
your unconjecturable silence. Wnal in the name of wonder are 

you about? I had a letter from Dunlop, telling you proposed 

accompanying us to the Highlands. I hope you will do so. Both 
Dunlop and myself are good fellows, bui we should get d — ly 
tiresome without a third. I think the besl way will be to meet at 


Stirling. I shall be there on Saturday, the 9th, by five o'clock, 
and whoever arrives first can order dinner for the others. You 
can let me know of the inn we hud best go to. It would be a 
foolish waste of time for you and Dunlop to come to Edinburgh, 
except in the case of going to St. Andrews, which I strongly give 
my vote against. " I am thine ever, 

" John Wilson." 

There are no more letters dated from Oxford or elsewhere for 
some months. The next to which we come is, however, of deep 
interest. It is from Blair to Findlay, of date March 19, 1807, 
giving an account of Wilson's examination for his Bachelor 
Degree : — 

" My deak Robeht : — About a fortnight ago, Wilson wrote to 
me to desire I would go to him immediately, and he would tell me 
what had happened with regard to her. I went, of course, and 
found him very much distressed, with a degree of anxiety that I 
could not have conceived, about his examination, which was to 
come on in a few days. If his mind had had its former strength, 
this, he said, would not have affected him, but after what had hap- 
pened to him, he had no strength left. The terror of this exam- 
ination preyed so on his mind, that for ten days before I saw him 
he had scarcely slept any night more than an hour or two. I wish 
to know from you what it is that has happened in Scotland, that 
has shaken his mind to this degree, for he has not spoken a word 
on the subject to me ; and I could not begin to speak of it, after 
having seen, as I have seen, the state into which it threw him, to 
give way to his feelings. I could not begin a conversation that was 
to terminate in such bursts of anguish as I have witnessed. 

" Write to me as soon as you can to tell me this, though you 
should have time to write nothing more. When he walked from this 
college to the schools, he went along in full conviction that he 
was to be plucked. His examination was, as might naturally be 
expected, the most illustrious Avithin the memory of man. Sotheby 
was there, and declared it was worth coming from London to hear 
him translate a Greek chorus. I was exceedingly pleased with 
Shepherd, his examiner, who seemed highly delighted at having 
got hold of him, and took much pains to show him off. Indeed he 
is given to show people off; and ihose who know little are said 


not to relish the operation, so that his name is a name of terror, 
but nothing could be luckier for John than his strict, close style of 

" The mere riddance of that burden, which had sat so long on his 
thoughts, was enough to make him dance; but he was also elated 
with success and applause, and was in very high spirits after it. I 
left him last night." 

The examination was truly, to use his private tutor's expression, 
a "glorious" one. " It marked the scholar" is the measured but 
emphatic phrase of the formidable Mr. Shepherd, in referring to it. 
" I can never forget," said another of the examiners, the Rev. 
Richard Dixon, Fellow and Tutor of Queen's, "the very splendid 
examination which you passed in this University ; an examination 
which afforded the strongest proofs of very great application, and 
genius, and scholarship, and which produced such an impression on 
the minds of the Examiners, as to call forth (a distinction very 
rarely conferred) the public expression of our approbation and 

* From subsequent testimonies regarding his Oxford studies and reputation, a few may in this 
place be inserted. The Rev. Benjamin Cheese, who was his private tutor during the last twc 
yean of hie University course, thus referred to that period: — "Among all my pupils I never met 
with one who read with greater zest the sublime pages of the Greek tragedians, or penetrated 
with the same rapid acuteness into the abstruse difficulties of Aristotle. The analyses which you 
eto'ric, and Poetics of that great philosopher. I still preserve as 
a memorial of you. I never refer to them without regn tting that your Oxford examination for a 
introduction of the new system, under which men are now 

arranged in distinct cla . according to their real merits, as I am will assured that the public 

appi urance which yon then made (for I was myself present on the glorious occasion) would nmn 
fully entitle you to the very highest honors which our University can bestow." 

■lb was always considered by me," writes tin Rev. William Russell, Fellow of Magdalen 

I and by other meml I Which we were educated, to be a man of Strong 

power- of mind, great industry and zeal for learning, and no ordinary degree of taste. His college 

exercises and compositions invariably displayed much genius and skill in argument; and the 

small poem on - irehitecture, and Painting, which gained the University Prize, given 

by the la! i the first year of its establishment, was esteemed on all hands 

to t.e :i sopei lor sp< cimen of talent. And I can truly say, 'hat the n putation he acquired during 

rd, not only in our own Society, but in the University at large, rem:, ins 

fresh amongst as, though many years have elapsed since he left us, and many others of high talent 

during that period to attract our admiration.'' 

The-,. Collog Dr, Bouth, bore similar testimony: — "] 

of Magdalen College, who are generally about twelve in num- 
ber. I d . not recollect any one, during my long residence in it, who has bad an equal -hare of 
I ■ natural abilities, united with extensive literary acquirements. 

I remember the satisfaction I generally felt at tie ap] • arance yon made at the examinations it. 

■• ithln i hi I ollegi . and have often pern i 

t ' uly fault seemed to t>» 

'i hort." 

of Ui I) says, " Your char 



Little did these Examiners and admiring fr.ends imagine with 
what feelings John Wilson had walked into the schools that morn- 
ing, v, in the full conviction that he was to be plucked." Little did 
they know, as they propounded difficulties in Greek choruses and 
the Ethics, of the more oppressing thought that had made the last 
ten nights so dreadful, — "what had happened with regard to her /" 
Compared with that, what to him was Hecuba, or Antigone either? 
On this subject, let it be noted, he did not open his lips to the be- 
loved friend whom he had expressly summoned, that he might tell 
him " what had happened." And that sympathizing friend, who 
had hastened to hear and to console, religiously held his peace, and 
"could not begin to speak of it, after having seen the state into 
which it threw him ;" and had to go elsewhere for information. It 
is altogether a singular exhibition of character on both sides, re- 
minding one of those old Easterns who sat seven days speechless 
before their friend, "for they saw that his grief was very great." 

What it was that had " happened with regard to her" to bring 
him to this state of wretchedness, may be gathered from his own 
letter, apparently written about the same time, to Findlay : — 

" October 19, 1807. 
"My dearest Robert: — I have often wished to write to you, 
but to such an intimate friend as you I know not how to speak. 
There is not one ray of hope that I shall ever be able to make my 
mother listen for a moment to the subject nearest my heart. I 
know her violent feelings too well; I even know this, that if I were 
to acquaint her with ray love for Margaret, Ave never could again be 
on the footing of mother and son. 

actcr and talents were known to me when I was a tutor at Oxford, and yourself a student there 
before 1 had the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with you; an acquaintance I sought and 

and have always wished to improve." "Those who, like myself," says Archdeacon, 
Biirney, - kn ed and admired you at Oxford, would. I am sure, feel pleasure in bearing u just testi- 
mony to your acnteness of discrimination, your keen spirit of inquiry, your extended reading, 

piousness in illustration, which even then rendered you eminent above, yonr fellows." 
use of studies at Oxford," says Sir Charles E. Grey (formerly of Oriel College, Oxford, 
afterwards Chief-Justice of Bengal), "had shortly before been placed upon a new and excellent 
footing; and I shall always consider it a fortunate incident in my life that I fell on that period 
when all members of th< University were full of zeal for the new improvements, and were tn- 
gaging in t If- course that was opened for them with an ardor which it was not to be hopH iculd 

Bed for many years. With what eagerness and assiduity were the writings of the moral 

- rators, historians, and tragedians of Greece and Rome read, and almost learned 

l.y In-art. The distinguished examination which you passed, the pri7e which you obtained, and 

tin- general reputation which you acquired, are proofs that you were amongst the most succe«Bfu| 



"All this may be to you inexplicable; that I cannot help ; that it 
is the fact, I know to rny sorrow. Blair is with me, and unless lie 
had been so, I must have died. Before my examination, my state 
of mind got dreadful. He sat up several nights with me, and at 
last I was examined and got my degree ' cum laude,' a matter 
certainly of indifference to me. I do not wish you to come to Lon- 
don if you could, for I shall not be there. The only reason I have 
for writing is to show you how perfectly I am your friend, and ever 
will be so, for by your last I saw my silence had surprised you. If 
I feel more at home to-morrow, I will write you again, but unlesa 
I saw yourself I could not tell you ray feelings and future plans of 
existence, which must be joyless and unendeared. Thine eternally, 

"J. Wilsox." 

"Oxford. 1807. 
" My dear Bob : — I received your letter this morning, and it has 
confirmed me in what I feared, that I have written some infernal 
thing or another to Margaret : the truth is, that about the time I 
wrote her I was in a curious way, as indeed I am now, from having 
taken laudanum, not exactly with a view to annihilation, but spirits. 
That blessed beverage played the devil with my intellects, and ab- 
solutely destroyed my capacity of distinguishing right from wrong, 
or what was serious from ludicrous. At times I was in the same 
state as if I were as drunk as Chloe ; and at others, sober, sad, and 
sunk in despair and misery. If this he any excuse to you for what 
I may have said, of which I do not recollect one word, you can em- 
ploy it as such ; if not, you are a severer judge than I have ever yet 
found you. As to saying any thing savage to Margaret, I scarcely 
think that possible, for why should even a madman do that? 
have since written her, ami hope whatever offences I have com- 
mitted, I have her forgiveness. If you regard my soul, go again to 
her and try to explain my conducl as besl you can, for 1 am unable 

to justify myself, my thoughts are so dreadful when I wish to write 
to her. This lo\ e of mine has been a line thing ; first kept me many 
years in misery, ami now perhaps alienated from me the friendship 
and good opinion of those I love and regard; however, I need not 
expatiate much on that. As to the other parts of your letter, I can 
say nothing to them. Do you really imagine that I would easily 
rive up the prospecl of eternal felicity? I have corresponded with 



often upon the subject, and know too well how it is. I shall 

not injure them so far as to let you know all they have said on the 
subject ; the enclosed letter may give you some faint idea of it, a* 
it is the mildest and most fitted to inspire hope of them all. 

" J. W." 

We are now approaching the close of this tender episode 
That summer the lovers met, and the obstructing clouds for a brief 
space clear away in the light of mutual confidence and utter joy 
But the obstacles remain, nevertheless ; and as soon as he is left 
alone, he becomes a prey to the most distracting fears and perplex- 
ities. Thus he writes to his dear Robert from "Bowness," some 
time, as I conjecture, in the autumn of 1807 :— - 

" My dearest Robert : — I have often said that I would write 
you a long letter, and as often have I tried it; but such a crowd of 
feelings of all different kinds comes across my heart, that I sit for 
hours with a paper before me, and never write a single word. 
Indeed, even if we were together, I know not if I could say much 
to you, for with me all is strange and inextricable perplexity. I 
love, and am beloved to distraction, and often the gleams of hope 
illumine the path of futurity with a glory hardly to be looked at; 
while, again, extravagance of love seems only extravagance of 
fully, and excess of fondness excess of despair. I am betimes the 
mosl miserable and the happiest of created beings. So far I am bet- 
ter than during former years, when I had no hope, no wish to live, 
^sow, indeed, my sadness almost wholly regards Margaret. For 
If, I have been inured to wretchedness, and though, in some 
cts, or as far as it made me a man of worse conduct than of 
principles, I have yielded to the common effect of misery, in future 
T could look forward to dreary solitude of spirit with some tolerable 
■ I gree of composure. But for her, whose peace is far dearer to me 
than my nun. 1 have many dreadful anticipations. Should our union 
be rendered impracticable, and Miss W. to die, an event which, I 
trusl in God, is far, far distant, God only knows what would 
become of her." 

In anticipation of these obstacles being removed, he turns his 
thoughts to home, and addresses a beautiful short poem ("My 
Cottage") to Margaret. His spirit then did 


" Travel like a summer sun, 
Itself all glory, and its path all joy ;"* 

but this bright change was of brief duration. The curious would 
doubtless desire to know something more of why this " love never 
found its earthly close," while others will rest satisfied with such 
conclusions as may be drawn from the following expressions, met 
with in letters addressed to his dear friend, Robert Findlay: "I 
feel myself in a great measure an alien in my own family, and all 
this is the consequence of that my most unfortunate attachment." 
And once more, in allusion to this subject, he says: "I know 
enough now to know that my mother would die if this happened." 

The following fragment will terminate this story: — 

"I have made up my mind not to visit Torrance at present, in 
which case I must not come to Glasgow. This resolution, I hope, 
is right. It has been made after many an hour of (painful) reflec- 
tion. This I know, that were I to go, I could not bear to look on 
my mother's face, a feeling which must not be mine. Enclosed is a 
letter to Margaret. If you could take it yourself, and see how it is 
received, il would please me much; yet there may be people there, 
in which case that would be useless. 

"Thine till death in joy or sorrow. 

"Bowxess, December 22." 

We know not how they parted, but this we may imagine, that 
" they caught up the whole of love, and uttered it," and bade adieu 


life at i: i. r. i: BAT. 

180 7-1 S! 1. 

In 1807, John Wilson concluded his University career, the bril- 
liancy of which, for many years, gave his name a prestige worthy 
of long remembrance within the academic walls of Oxford. lie 
Loved the beautiful fields of England, and, with all the world before 

him where to choose a pla< f rest, he turned his steps from his 

» ir . p 


Ahna Mater, to that lovely land where cluster the fair la-Kes of 
Cumberland and Westmoreland. Having selected a home on the 
hanks of Windermere, we find him there in the prime of youth, 
with that keen nature of his alternating between light and shade, 
and every possible humor attendant on the impulses of an ardent 
heart, yet uneasy with a burden which there was none other to 
share. Possibly the restless life he led began in a hope of self- 
f< >i get fulness ; yet there was at the same time, in the conscious 
possession of so much bodily strength, and that unceasing activity 
of spirit, an irrepressible desire to exercise every faculty. To 
many his life in Westmoreland may appear to have been one of 
idieuess, but not to those who, with a kindly discernment of human 
nature, see the advantages which varied experience gives to a 
strong mind. 

We now follow him to Elleray. For a description of this beau- 
tiful spot I gladly avail myself of the striking description of Mr. 
De Quincey :* — 

v ' With the usual latitude of language in such cases, I say on 
Windermere; but in fact this charming estate lies far above the 
lake; and one of the most interesting of its domestic features is the 
foreground of the rich landscape which connects, by the most gen- 
tle scale of declivities, this almost aerial altitude [as, for habitable 
ground, it really is] with the sylvan margin of the deep water 
which rolls a mile and a half below. When I say a mile and a 
half, you will understand me to compute the descent according to 
the undulations of the ground; because else the perpendicular ele- 
vation above the level of the lake cannot be above oire-half of that 
extent. Seated on such an eminence, but yet surrounded by fore- 
grounds of such quiet beauty, and settling downwards towards the 
lake by such tranquil steps as to take away every feeling of pre- 
cipitous or dangerous elevation, Elleray possesses a double charac- 
ter of beauty rarely found in connection; and yet each, by singular 
good fortune, in this case, absolute and unrivalled in its kind. 
Within a bowshot of each other may be found stations of the 
deepest seclusion, fenced in by verdurous walls of insuperable for- 
est heights, and presenting a limited scene of beauty — deep, solemn, 
noiseless, severely sequestered — and other stations of a magnifi- 

• Letter addressed to the Edinburgh Literary <,nzette, 1S29, a forsj"rten newspaper, of which 
lher« were only two vols, published. 


cence so gorgeous as few estates in this island can boast, and of 
those few, perhaps, none in such close connection with a dwelling- 
house. Stepping out from the very windows of the drawing-room, 
you find yourself on a terrace which gives you the feeling of a 
'specular height,' such as you might expect on Ararat, or might 
appropriately conceive on ' Athos seen from Samothraee.' The 
whole course of a noble lake, about eleven miles long, lies subject to 
your view, with many of its islands, and its two opposite shores so 
different in character — the one stern, precipitous, and gloomy; the 
other (and luckily the hither one), by the mere bounty of nature 
and of accident — by the happy disposition of the ground originally, 
and by the fortunate equilibrium between the sylvan tracks, mean- 
dering irregularly through the whole district, and the proportion 
left to verdant fields and meadows, wearing the character of the 
richest park scenery; except indeed that this character is here and 
there a little modified by a quiet hedge-row, or the stealing smoke 
which betrays the embowered cottage of a laborer. But the 
sublime, peculiar, ami not-to-be-forgotten feature of the scene is 
the great system of mountains which unite about five miles off, at 
the head of the lake, to lock in and enclose this noble landscape. 
The several ranges of mountains which stand at various distances 
within six or ^xon miles of the little town of Ambleside, all sepa- 
rately various in their forms, and all eminently picturesque, when 
seen from Elleray, appear to blend and group as parts of one con- 
nected whole; and, when their usual drapery of clouds happens to 
take a fortunate arrangement, and the sunlights are properly broken 
and thrown from the mosl suitable quarter of the heavens, I cannot 
recoiled any spectacle in England or Wales, of the many hundreds 
I have -.en. bearing a local, if not a national reputation for magnifi- 
cence of prospect, which so much dilates the heart with a sense of 
power and aerial sublimity as this terrace-view from Elleray." 

At the time when my father purchased Elleray, there was no 
suitable dwelling-house on the estate. A rustic cottage indeed 
there was, which, with the addition of a drawing-room thrown out 
at one end, was made capable for man} a year to come of meeting 
the hospitable system of life adopted by its owner. It was built 
of common -tone, but it tnighl have been marble- for aughl that the 
eye could tell. Pretty French window- opened to the ground, and 
the "uly uncovered portion of it; all else was a profusion of 


jessamine, clematis, and honeysuckle. A trellised entrance, cluster- 
ing with wild roses, led to the chief part of the dwelling. Beyond 
the dining-room windows was the entrance to the kitchen and other 
parts of the house, only differing from the first door in being made 
of the dark blue slate of the country, and unadorned by roses. 
The bedroom windows to the front, peeped out from their natural 
as unshaded by other curtains, while the cottage was pro- 
tected by a fine old sycamore-tree that, standing on a gentle emi- 
nence, sent its spreading branches and umbrageous foliage far over 
the roof, just leaving room enough for the quaint, picturesque chim- 
neys to send their curling smoke into the air.* The little cottage 
lay beneath the shelter of a well-wooded hill, that gave a look of 
delightful retirement and comfort to its situation ; a poet's home it 
might well be called. The lofty peaks of the Langdale Pikes ever 
greeted the eye, in the dark shadows of evening or glittering be- 
neath a noonday sun; and Windermere as seen from Elleray was 
seen best — every point and bay, island and cove, lay there un- 
veiled. Perhaps in the clearing away of mist in early morning the 
scene was most refreshing, as bit by bit a dewy green cluster of 
trees appears, and then a gleam of water, with some captive cloud 
deep set in its light, a mountain base, or far-off pasture, the Avell- 
defined colors of rich middle-distance creating impatience for a per- 
fect picture ; when all at once the obscuring vapors passed away, 
and the whole landscape was revealed. 

Although this picturesque cottage remained the dwelling-house 
till 1825, my father began to build in the year 1808 a mansion of 
more elegant proportions, after plans of his own. We may gather 
some idea of what these plans were by referring to his ideal descrip- 
tion of Buchanan Lodge. The whole tenement was to be upon the 
ground Hat. " I abhor stairs," said he, " and there can be no peace 
in any mansion where heavy footsteps may be heard over head. 
Suppose three sides of a square. You approach the front by a fine 
serpentine avenue, and enter slap-bang through a wide glass-door 

•Of this sycamore he often spoke "Never in this well-wooded world," soliloquized the ruet, 
of the Druids, could there have been 6uch another tree I It would be easier 
peres. Yet I have heard people say it is far from being a large tree. A 
small one it cannot be, with a house in its shadow — an unawakened house that looks as if it were 
dreaming. Trw tage, a Westmoreland cottage. But then it has several roofs si slv- 

of Loveliest lichens ; each roof with its own assortment of doves «nd 
pigeons preening their pinions in the morning pleasancc. <>h, sweetest and shadiest of all syca- 
mores, we love thee beyond all other tiv 


»nto a green-bouse, a conservatory of every thing rich and rare in 
the world of flowers. Folding-doors are drawn noiselessly into 
the walls as if by magic, and lo ! drawing-room and dining-room 
stretching east and west in dim and distant perspective. Another 
side of the square contains kitchen, servants' rooms, etc. ; and the 
third side my study and bedrooms, all still, silent, composed, stand- 
ing obscure, unseen, unapproachable, holy ! The fourth side of the 
square is not ; shrubs and trees and a productive garden shut me 
in from behind, while a ring fence enclosing about rive acres, just 
sufficient for my nag and cow, form a magical circle into which 
nothing vile or profane can intrude." 

The new house at Elleray, of which this was an ideal descrip- 
tion, was, as Mr. De Quincey remarked, a silent commentary on its 
master's state of mind, and an exemplification of his character. 
The plan, when completed, which in appearance had been extrava- 
gant, turned out in reality to have been calculated with the coolest 
judgment and nicest foresight of domestic needs. 

In this beautiful retirement the young poet was now at liberty to 
enjoy all the varied delights of poetic meditation, of congenial 
society, and of those endless out-door recreations which constituted 
no small part of his life. Soon did his presence become identified 
with every nook and corner of that lake region. In the mountain 
pass, by the lonely stream, on the waters of the lake, by night and 
by day, in the houses of the rich and the poor, he came to be recog- 
nized as a familial- and welcome presence. Often would the early 
morning find him watching the rising mist, until the whole land- 
scape lay clear before his enraptured eyes, and the fresh beauty of 
the hoar invited him to a long day's ramble into the heart of the 
valley. Though much given, as of old, to solitary wanderings, he 
did not neglect to cultivate the society of the remarkable men 
whom he found in that district, when he took up his residence at 
Elleray, — Wordsworth at Rydal, Southey and Coleridge at Kes- 
wick, Charlee Lloyd at Brathay, Bishop Watson at Calgarth, the 
Rev. Mr. Fleming at Rayrig, and other friends of lesser note, l>ut 
not less pleasanl memory, in and around Ambleside. 

The first meeting with Wordsworth did nol lake place till the 
year 1807, the poel and his family having lived the greater pan of 
that year at Colerton, returning to Grasmere in the spring of I808. 
^.t his house there, towards the latter end of that year, Wilson met 

M. 1 Mk.Mi'ii: Of .I'Ml.N \\ 1I.M..V. 

De Quinoey. Strange to say, they had, when at Oxford, remained 
unknown to each other; but here, attracted by the same influence, 
a mutual friendship was not long in being formed, which endured — 
independent of years of separation and many caprices of fortune — 
till death divided them. The graces of nature with which De 
Quincey was endowed fascinated my father, as they did every mind 
that came within the sphere of his extraordinary power in the da)S 
of his mental vigor, ere that sad destiny — for so it may be called — 
o\ ertook him, which the brightness and strength of his intellect had 
no power to avert. The first impressions of the " Opium Eater" 
must be given in his own graphic words :* — " I remember the whole 
scene as circumstantially as if it belonged to but yesterday. In the 
vale of Grasmere — that peerless little vale, which you and Gray the 
poet and so many others have joined in admiring as the very Eden 
of English beauty, peace, and pastoral solitude — you may possibly 
recall, even from that flying glimpse you had of it, a modern house 
called Allanbank, standing under a low screen of woody rocks which 
descend from the hill of Silver How, on the western side of the 
lake. This house had been then recently built by a worthy merchant 
of Liverpool ; but for some reason of no importance to you and me, 
not being immediately wanted for the family of the owner, had been 
let for a term of three years to Mr. Wordsworth. At the time I 
speak of, both Mr. Coleridge and myself were on a visit to Mr. 
Wordsworth ; and one room on the ground floor, designed for a 
breakfasting-room, which commands a sublime view of the three 
mountains — Fairfield, Arthur's Chair, and Seat Sandal (the first of 
them within about 400 feet of the highest mountains in Great 
Britain) — was then occupied by Mr. Coleridge as a study. On this 
particular day, the sun having only just set, it naturally happened 
that Mr. Coleridge — whose nightly vigils were long — had not yet 
come down to breakfast ; meantime, and until the epoch of the Cole- 
ridgian breakfast should arrive, his study was lawfully disposable to 
profaner uses. Here, therefore, it w r as, that, opening the door hastily 
in quesl of a book, I found seated, and in earnest conversation, two 
gentlemen : oneofthem my host, Mr. Wordsworth, at that time about 
thirty-seven or thirty-eight years old; the other was a younger man 

by g 1 sixteen or seventeen years, in a sailor's dress, manifestly in 

robu-t health, fervidus juventa, and wearing upon his countenance 

* Disinterred from th Columns of the Edinburgh Literary Gaeettc 

Life at ei.i.kray. 83 

a powerful expression of ardor and animated intelligence, mixed 
with much good-nature. ' Mr. Wilson of Elleraxf — delivered as 
the formula of introduction, in the deep tones of Mr. Wordsworth — 
at once banished the momentary surprise I felt on finding an un- 
known stranger where I had expected nobody, and substituted a 
surprise of another kind: I now well understood who it was that I 
saw ; and there was no wonder in his being at Allanbank, Elleray 
standing within nine miles ; but (as usually happens in such cases), 
I felt a shock of surprise on seeing a person so little corresponding 
to the one I had half unconsciously prefigured. . . . Figure to your- 
self, then, a tall man, about six feet high, within half an inch or so, 
built with tolerable appearance of strength ; but at the date of my 
description (that is, in the very spring-tide and blossom of youth), 
wearing, for the predominant character of his person, lightness and 
agility, or (in our Westmoreland phrase) llshness ; he seemed framed 
with an express view to gymnastic exercises of every sort. . . . 
Viewed, therefore, by an eye learned in gymnastic proportions, Mr. 
Wilson presented a somewhat striking figure ; and by some people 
he was pronounced with emphasis a fine-looking young man ; but 
others, who less understood, or less valued these advantages, spoke 
of him as nothing extraordinary. Still greater division of voices I 
have heard on his pretensions to be thought handsome. In my 
opinion, and most certainly in his own, these pretensions were but 
Blender. His complexion was too florid, ; hair of a hue quite unsuited 
to that complexion ; eyes not good, having no apparent depth, but 
aing mere surfaces ; and, in line, no one feature that could be 
called fine, except tin- lower region ofhis lace, mouth, chin, and the 
put- adjacent, which were then (and perhaps arc now) truly elegant 
and Ciceronian. Ask in one of your public libraries for that little 
quarto edition of the Rhetorical Works of Cicero, edited by Shut/. 
(the Bame who edited JSschylus), and you will there see (as a front- 
ispiece to the first volume), a. reduced whole length of Cicero from 
the antique; which in the mouth and chin, and indeed generally, if 
I do nol greatly forget, will give you a lively representation of the 
contour and expression of Professor Wilson's hue. Taken as a 
whole, though not handsome (as I have already said), when viewed 
in a quiescent state, the head and countenance are massy, dignified, 
ami expressive of tranquil Bagacity. . . . Note, however, that of all 
thi- arraj of personal feature-, as 1 bavehere described them, I then 


saw nothing at all, my attention being altogether occupied with Mr. 
Wilson's conversation and demeanor, which were in the highest de- 
rive agreeable; the points which chiefly struck me being the 
humility and gravity with which he spoke of himself, his large ex- 
pansion of heart, and a certain air of noble frankness which over- 
spread every thing lie said; he seemed to have an intense enjoyment 
of life; indeed, being young, rich, healthy, and full of intellectual 
activity, it could not be very wonderful that he should feel happy 
and pleased with himself and others ; but it was somewhat unusual 
to find that so rare an assemblage of endowments had communicated 
no tinge of arrogance to his manner, or at all disturbed the general 
temperance of his mind." 

Many were the pleasant days spent by /these friends together; 
many the joyous excursions among the hills and valleys of the lake 
country. One memorable gathering is still remembered in the lone 
places of the mountains, and spoken of to the stranger wandering 
there. One lovely summer day, in the year 1809, the solitudes of 
Eskdale were invaded by what seemed a little army of anglers. It 
consisted of thirty-two persons, ten of whom were servants brought 
to look after the tents and baggage necessary for a week's sojourn 
iti the mountains. This camp with its furniture was carried by 
twelve ponies. Among the gentlemen of the party were Wilson, 
Wordsworth, De Quincey, Alexander Blair, two Messrs. Astley, 
Humphries, and some others whose names have escaped notice. 
After passing through Eskdale, and that solemn tract of country 
which opens upon Wastwater, they there pitched their tent, and 
roaming far and near from that point, each took his own way till 
evening hours assembled them together. 

The beauty of the scenes through which they rambled, the fine 
weather, and, above all, that geniality of taste and disposition which 
had brought them together, made the occasion one of unforgotten 
satisfaction. It formed the theme of one of Wilson's most beautiful 
minor poems, entitled the "Anglers' Tent," which was written soon 
■■A'wr at Elleray, w here Wordsworth was then living. One morning 
a great discussion took place between the poets about a verse Wil- 
son had some difficulty in arranging. At last, after much trying 
and questioning, it was made out between them: — 

" The placid lake that rested far below, 
Softly embosoming another sky, 


Still as we gazed assumed a lovelier glow, 
And seemed to send us looks of amity." 

The troublesome line was — 

'• Softly embosoming another sky." 

In a letter I received from Dr. Blair, he says: — "'The Friend' 
was oroinor on at that time — Coleridge living at "Wordsworth's — 
Wordsworth making, and reading to us as he made them, the 'Son- 
nets to the Tyrolese,' first given in 'The Friend ;' and from Elleray 
that winter went ' Mathetes.'* I remember that De Quineey was 
•with us at the time. He may have given some suggestions besides, 
but we certainly owed to him our signature." 

Of my father's poetic compositions during these years I shall 
speak presently. I find in one of his commonplace-books some 
unpublished verses, which may, however, be inserted here, if only 
in illustration of what at this time was a frequent practice of 
his, and continued to be indulged in for many years of his after 
life, viz., the habit of walking in solitude during the hours of night. 
In spite of his generally even flow of good spirits, and his lively 
enjoyment of social pleasures, it seemed as if in the depths of his 
heart he craved some influence more soothing and elevating than 
even the most congenial companionship could afford. In these 
silent hoars, whether pacing among the hills, or resting in contem- 
plation of the glories of the earth and sky, the solemnity of feeling 
which was thus induced found natural expression in words of re- 
ligious adoration. At the head of the lake stood the mansion of 
Brathay, the property of Allan Harden, Emj. There, on lii< way l'or 
a midnight ramble, did he often gain admittance, and. tor some 
time, hold converse with his friend, before taking his solitary way 
to the mountains, within the deep shadows of which he would 
wander for hours, engaged in what he appropriately calls 

" Midnight Adoration'. 

"Beneath the full-orb'd moon, that bathed in light 
The mellowed verdure of Belvellyn's steep, 
My spirit teeming with 
I walked 1 - wanders in his sleep! 

• A letter on Education, the Jo mid Blair, ad Htarof 



" The glittering stillness of the starry sky 
Shose in my heart as in the waveless sea; 
And rising up in kindred majesty, 

I felt my soul from earthly fetters free ! 

"Joy filled my being like a gentle flood; 
I felt as living without pulse or breath ; 
Eternity seem'd o'er my heart to brood, 
And, as a faded dream, I thought of death. 

"Through the hush'd air awoke mysterious awe 
God cheer'd my loneliness with holy mirth ; 
And in this blended mood I clearly saw 
The moving spirit that pervades the earth. 

"While adoration blessed my inward sense 
I felt how beautiful this world could be, 
When clothed with gleams of high intelligence 
Born of the mountain's still sublimity. 

"I sunk in silent worship on my knees, 

While night's unuumber'd planets roll'd afar; 
Blest moment for a contrite heart to seize — 
Forgiving love shone forth in every star I 

" The mighty moon my pensive soul subdued 
With sorrow, tranquil as her cloudless ray, 
Mellowing the transport of her loftiest mood 
With conscious glimmerings of immortal day. 

" I felt with pain that life's perturbed wave 

Had dimm'd the blaze to sinless spirits given; 
But saw with joy, reposing on the grave, 

The seraph Hope that points the way to heaven. 

"The waveless clouds that hung amid the light, 
By Mercy's hand with braided glory wove, 
Seem'd, in their boundless mansions, to my sigh : 
Like guardian spirits o'er the land they love. 

" My heart lay pillowed on their wings of snow, 
Drinking the calm that slept on every fold, 
Till memory of the life she led below 
Seem'dlike a tragic tale to pity told. 

When visions from the distant world arose — 
How fair the gleams from memory's mystic urn; 

How did my soul, 'mid Nature's blest repose, 
To the soft bosom of affection turn 1 


"Then sinless grew my hopes, my wishes pure, 
Breeding a seraph loftiness of soul ; 
Though free from pride, I felt of heaven secure 
A step, a moment from the eternal goal ! 

" Those fearful doubts that strike the living blood, 

Those dreams that sink the heart, we know not why 
"Were changed to joy by this mysterious mood, 
Sprung from the presence of Eternity. 

" I saw, returning to its fount sublime, 

The flood of being that from Nature flowed; 
And then, displaying at the death of time 
The essence and the lineaments of God I 

" Thus pass'd the midnight hour, till from tho wave 
The orient sun flamed slowly up the sky ; 
Such a blest spirit found illumined gaze, 
And seem'd to realize my vision high." 

Another extract from the same book contains a touching record 
of the associations connected with a summer day's ramble with 
"Wordsworth upon the slopes of Helvellyn. It appears to be an 
outline in prose of what was meant to form the subject of a poem, 
to be entitled Red Taex, and is as follows : — 

"Address to the reader about the reports he may have heard 
about the beauty and sublimity of the lakes. 

"He probably has resolved to go up to Helvellyn to admire the 
sublimity of that mountain : this is right. Now beneath that 
mountain there is a little tarn which you will see. I will tell you 
something about that tain. Two persons were sitting silent and 
alone beside that tarn, looking steadfastly on the water, and lost in 
thought. These were two brothers who dearly loved each other, 
and had dune bo from earliest youth to manhood.* The one was a 
man of genius and a poet, who lived among these mountains enjoj - 
ing his own thoughts. The other younger l>\ a few years, and had 
gone to sea, bu1 bad lately returned to see bis brother, and resolved 
to live with him. Ili> brother accompanied him across the hills on 

hi- way to join his ship for the last lime, and here lhe\ sat, about 

to part. They had talked over their future plans of happiness when 
they were again to meet, and of their simple spoils. As their last 

• Wordsworth and a brother who was afterward! drowued. 


act, (hoy agreed to lay the foundation-stone of a little fishing-hut, 
and this they did with tears. 

"They parted there, in that dim and solemn place, and reoom- 
mended each other to God's eternal care. 

" The one brother was drowned at sea. After the first agony 
was over, the recollection of that parting flashed upon the mind of 
the survivor; he at last found courage to go there, and in a state 
of blindness and desolation sat down upon the very stone. At last 
he opened his eyes, the tarn smiling with light ; the raven croaking 
as before when they parted ; all the crags seem the same ; the sheep 
arc in l he same figures browsing before them ; he almost expects 
to find his brother at his side ; he then thinks of shipwreck and 
agony of all kinds. 

" Next time he sits calmly and thinks upon it all ; be even now 
I"\ es the spot, and can talk of it. 

" I one sweet summer day went along with him and heard the 
melancholy tale. 

" Then, whoever goes to that sublime solitude, muse with holy 
feelings, and with the wildness of nature join human sympathies." 

But there were other pursuits besides poetry that formed a part 
of my father's life at Elleray too prominent and characteristic to be 
passed unnoticed. Of these his various commonplace-books contaiu 
not a few memoranda, strangely intermixed with matters of a 
graver or more sentimental kind. Among the other amusements 
with which he diversified life in the country, boating was one of the 
principal. As may be supposed, this was a favorite diversion in the 
lake country, and Wilson's taste for it was cultivated with a zeal 
that, in tact, became a passion. The result was a degree of skill 
aii' I hardihood beyond that of most amateurs. He had a small fleet 
on Windermere, the expense of maintaining which was undoubtedly 
very considerable.* Of the numerous boatmen required to man 
these vessels there was one whose name became at Elleray familiar 
as a household word — the faithful Billy Balmer. Billy Avas the 
neatest and best rower on Windermere, and knew that beauteous 
water from head to foot, in all her humors, from sunrise to night- 

• Among tbc miscellaneous jottings, from which I have been extracting above, I find such 

the following:—" Endeavor, and masts and >;iils,£160; ballast, £15-£175;" "Eliza, £30;" 

* Endeavor, £180;" "Palafox, £20;""Janc, £180;" * additional Endeavor, £25^" " Cjyde, Billy, 

Snail, £10." The names of his sailing vessel wer< [Tie Endeavor, The Eliza, The Palafto, Thd 

] The Clyde, The Jane, The Billy, bi ired Oxford barge, called Nil Timeo. 


fail, and even later. There was not a more skilful boatman, or a 
steadier steersman on the lake, and he was about the best judge of 
a pretty craft and good sailing to be found. He could sing a sailor's 
song, had an undeniable love of fun, understood humor, and felt the 
difference of wit. Xo one knew how to tell a story bettei', and 
with a due unction of excusable exaggeration combined with reality; 
and in every tale of Billy his master was invariably the hero. He 
was a little man, weather-beaten in complexion, and much marked 
from smallpox. His hair was of a light sandy color ; his eyes blue 
and kindly in expression, as was also his smile ; his gait, rather 
doglike, not quite straight ahead, but, like that honest animal, he 
was sure-footed, and quick in getting over the ground. That plea 
sant broad Westmoreland dialect of his, too, gave peculiar charac- 
ter to his voice ; and there is a grateful remembrance of the hearty 
grasp of his little, hard, horny hand when it greeted welcome, or 
bade adieu, while the whole picture of the man, in his blue dress, 
sailor lashion, stands distinctly before me, either as he steered the 
" Endeavor" or mowed the grass on the lawn at Elleray.* 

One or two anecdotes still linger about the country, showing how 
recklessly Wilson could expose himself at all hours to the chances 
of the weather. Cold, snow, wind, and rain were no obstacles ; 
nothing could repress the impulse that drove him forth to seek na- 
ture in all her moods. During a stormy December night, when 
the snow was falling fast, with little or no light in the heavens, he 
took a fancy to tempt the waters of Windermere, and setting off 
with the never-failing Billy, they took boat from Miller-ground and 
steered for Bowness. In a short time all knowledge of the point 
to which they were bound was lost. The darkness became more 
dismal every moment ; the cold was intolerable. Several hours 
were spent in tin- dreary position, poor Billy in despair, expecting 
every instant would find them at the bottom of the lake, when sud- 
denly the skill" went agroand. The oars were n<>t long in being 
made use of to discover the nature of their disaster, what and 
where they had struck, when, to their great satisfaction, a landing* 

Idom roae we." aald my father in after years, " from our delightful dormitory till, about 
twelve o'clock, ire beard the south breeze com< pushing up from the Bea. Then Billy n s<-<i to tap 
at our door, with hi- tarry paw, and wnlapor, 'Ma idy. [ have brailed up thi 

■all; ner j I'.* • and we nave ballasted with sand-baga 

i wil "i Work* 


place was found. They had been beating about Miller-ground all 
the time, scarcely a stone's-throw from their starting-place. Billy's 
account of the story was, "that Master was well-nigh frozen to 
death, and had icicles a finger-length hanging from his hair and 
beard." This adventure ended in the toll-keeper on the Ambleside 
road being knocked up from his slumbers, and their spending the 
rest of the night with him, seated by a blazing fire, telling stories 
and drinking ale, a temptation to which Billy had no difficulty in 

Those lake escapades were not confined to boating. Riding one 
day with his friend, Mr. Richard Watson, by the margin of Rydal 
Lake, my father's horse became restive. Finding that no ordinary 
process would soothe the animal, he turned his head to the lake, 
with the intention of walking gently among the oozy reeds that 
grew on its banks, when, quite forgetful or heedless that they sud- 
denly sloped to the water, the horse and his rider were in a mo- 
ment plunged beyond their depth. Having got into deep waters, 
there was nothing for it but to swim through them ; and presently 
he became aware that his friend's horse, true to the lead, was fol- 
lowing close behind. Fortunately the lake was not very broad, 
and their passage across was soon made, though not wdthout some 
little feeling of apprehension ; for his friend Watson could not swim 
a stroke. 

This equestrian performance suggests a story of another kind of 
diversion in which, according to Mr. De Quincey's account, my 
father occasionally indulged at Elleray. It is best given in the 
Opium-Eater's own words : — " Represent to yourself the earliest 
dawn of a fine summer's morning, time about half-past two o'clock. 
A young man, anxious for an introduction to Mr. Wilson, and as 
yet pretty nearly a stranger to the country, has taken up his abode 
in Grasmere, and has strolled out at this early hour to that rocky 
and moorish common (called the White Moss) which overhangs 
the Vale of Rydal, dividing it from Grasmere. Looking south- 
wards in the direction of Rydal, suddenly he becomes aware of a 
huge beast advancing at a long trot, with the heavy aud thundering 
tread of a hippopotamus, along the public road. The creature is 
soon arrived within half a mile of his station ; and by the gray light 
of morning is at length made out to be a bull apparently flying from 
some unseen enemy in his rear. As yet, however, all is mystery; 


but suddenly three horsemen double a turn in the road, and come 
flying into sight with the speed of a hurricane, manifestly in pursuit 
of the fugitive bull : the bull labors to navigate his huge bulk to 
the moor, which he reaches, and then pauses, panting, and b) owing 
out clouds of smoke from his nostrils, to look back from his station 
amongst rocks and slippery crags upon his hunters. If he had con- 
ceited that the rockiness of the ground had secured bis repose, the 
foolish bull is soon undeceived ; the horsemen, scarcely relaxing 
their speed, charge up the hill, and speedily gaining the rear of the 
bull, drive him at a gallop over the worst part of that impracticable 
ground down into the level ground below. At this point of time 
the stranger perceives, by the increasing light of the morning, that 
the hunters are armed with immense spears fourteen feet long. 
With these the bull is soon dislodged, and scouring down to the 
plain below, he and the hunters at his tail take to the common at 
the head of the lake, and all, in the madness of the chase, are soon 
half ingulfed in the swamps of the morass. After plunging together 
for ten or fifteen minutes, all suddenly regain the terra Jirma, and 
the bull again makes for the rocks. Up to this moment there had 
been the silence of ghosts ; and the stranger had doubted whether 
the spectacle were not a pageant of aerial spectres, ghostly hunts- 
men, ghostly lances, and a ghostly bull. But just at this crisis, a 
voice (it was the voice of Mr. Wilson) shouted aloud, ' Turn the 
villain ; turn that villain ; or he will take to Cumberland.' The 
young stranger did the service required of him ; the villain was 
turned and fled southwards ; the hunters, lance in rest, rushed after 
him ; all bowed their thanks as they fled past ; the fleet cavalcade 
again took the high road ; they doubled the cape which shut them 
out of sight ; and in a moment all had disappeared, and left the 
quiet valley to its original silence, whilst the young stranger and 
two grave Westmoreland 'statesmen' (who by this time had come 
into Bight upon some accident or other) stood wondering in silence, 
and saying to themselves, perhaps, 

' Tho earth hath bubbles as the water hath ; 
And these are of them 1' 

"But they were no bubbles : the bull was a substantial bull; and 
took do barm at all from being turned oul occasionally al midnight 

for a chase of fifteen or eighteen miles. The bull, no doubt, used to 


wonder at this nightly visitation; and the owner of the bull must 
Boraetimes have pondered a little on the draggled state in which 
the swamps would now and then leave his beast; but nj other 
harm came of it."' * 

Bis love of animals has already been noticed. f Next to his 
boats, if not claiming an equal share of attention, came his game- 
cocks ; these afforded a favorite pastime while he was at Oxford. 
As other nun keep their studs, and are careful of the pedigree and 
training of their racers, so did Wilson watch with studious solici- 
tude over the development and reputation of his game-birds. The 
setting down of hens to hatch was registered as duly and gravely 
as an astronomer notes the transit of the planets ; the number of 
eggs, the day of the month, and sometimes even the hour of the 
day being carefully specified.]; 

In one of the MS. books containing the principal portion of The 
Isle of Palms, I find many of these quaint entries in most eccen- 
tric juxtaposition to notes of a very different kind.§ Along with 

* Letter in Edinburgh Literary Gazette. 

t Of this there are numberless indications in his works. Birds were h s special favorites, but 

he was a general lover of animals, beasts, birds, and insects. Even that, to most people, un- 

| creature the spider, was interesting to him ; ami the Xoctcs contain sundry references to 

his observations on their habits "I love spiders," he says; -look at the iineal descendant of 

Arachne; how beautifully she descends from the chair of Christopher North to the lower regions 

of our earth." See Works, vol. i., 120 ; vol. ii., 14S, ITS, 230, 252, 262. Regarding bis qualifications 

as a naturalist, De Quincey writes: — " Perhaps you already know from your countryman Audubon, 

that the Professor is himself a naturalist, and of original merit; in tact, worth a score of such 

•< ikish naturalists as are formed in museums and by second-hand acts of memory ; having 

(like Audubon) built much of his knowledge upon personal observation. Hence he has two 

. that his knowledge is accurate in a very unusual degree; and another, 

that this knowledge, having grown up under the inspiration of a real interest and an unaffected 

love f.r its object- commencing, indeed, at an age when no affectation in matters of that nature 

could exist — has settled upon those facts and circumstances which have a true philosophical 

■value: habits, predominant affections, the direction of instincts, and the compensatory processes 

where these happen i rted — on all such topics he is learned and full; whilst, on the 

i' measurements and proportions, applied to dorsal fins and tail-feathers, and on the exact 

i nt "f colors. Are. — that petty upholstery of nature, on which books are so tedious and 

te — not uncommonly he is negligent or forgetful." 

following are mens from his memoranda: 

-■ ! hersi It' with no fever than nine eggs on Monday, the 6th of July. 
Black Edinburgh hen was set on Tuesday, the 23d of June, with twelve eggs— middle of the 
day. Larj on Wedm sday, the 24th of June, with twelve eggs— middle 

after she was set. Red pullet in Josie's barn was set with 
re on Thursday, t lie 2d of July. Sister to the above, was set with five eggs same day, 
npon :i day or two before. Small black muffled hen set herself wiUi 
night, or Tuesday morning, 7th July." 
j Side by side with ,! lines beginning- 

can I wish for thee? 
Like a perennial flow'ret may'st thou be. 
That spends its life in beauty and in bliss; 



calculations of the number of lines to be allotted to various pro- 
posed poems, such as " St. Hubert," "The Manse," "The Ocean 
Queen," there are elaborate memoranda of the " broods proposed 
for next spring." " The spangled cock," and " Lord Derby," the 
black brass-winged cock, bred from Caradice with the Keswick 
Gray," the "Red Liverpool hen," the "Paisley hen," large and 
small, and many other distinguished fowls, take a prominent posi- 
tion in these curious lists. The name of " Lord Derby," in partic- 
ular, from its frequent occurrence, implies that that high-bred 
animal, doubtless of the Knowsley stock, was one of the prime 
favorites of the establishment. The phraseology and figures in 
these memoranda are sometimes altogether unintelligible to the 

Of the many fields of fame on which "Lord Derby," "Caradice," 
and their fellows must have distinguished themselves, there is but 
one brief record. It is given by one of a party present (James 
Xewby), who recollects "a main of cocks being fought in the 
drawing-room at Elleray, before the flooring was laid down, and 
its bein<jr covered with sods for this occasion. The rival competi- 
tors were Mr. Wilson and Mr. Richard Watson. All the neigh- 
boring farmers were invited, and, after the sport, entertained at a 
genteel supper served from Mrs. Ullock's. Wilson was the victor, 
and won a handsome silver drinking-cup, bearing an inscription, 
with date, etc." 

The solemnity of these proceedings illustrates the enthusiasm 
with which this sport was cultivated in those days by such amateurs 
as Wilson, who really believed that they were keeping up one of 
the characteristic and time-honored institutions of the country.* 

Soft on thee fall th>' br. -iTh of time, 
An'] still retail] in heavenly clime 
The bloom that charms iti this" — 
1 the following "List of Oock I tor :i main with W. ami T.,'" of which a specimen may 
•■ : — 

1. A. heavy cock from Dobinson £5 8 

2. " " fromKeene ■> 8 

3 '' " " 5 8 

L P l( d & i 01dfl< Id •"> 2 

No. 18, vi 10s., and the total makes up 22 birds. Of these "iflare 
i for the main, and ; ■ J. w." 

• l: | ' $t 11 | 

■ nt than thai of the above event, the rearing of gai cocke 

onsly pr ■ ntlomen »( tin- old school. One Bunday, in st 

John's Chapel, Edinburgh, an old j Mend of my father's, wbb sitting gravely lu his 


Wrestling has always been the principal athletic exercise in the 
north of England, particularly in Cumberland, where it is still prac- 
tised perhaps more generally than in any other part of the kingdom. 
" It is impossible," says the Professor, " to conceive the intense and 
passionate interest taken by the whole northern population in this 
most rural and muscular amusement. For weeks before the great 
Carlisle annual contest nothing else is talked of on road, field, flood 
foot, or horseback ; we fear it is thought of even in church, which 
we regret and condemn ; and in every little comfortable ' public ' 
within a circle of thirty miles' diameter, the home-brewed quivers 
in the glasses on the oaken tables to knuckles smiting the board, in 
corroboration of the claims to the championship of a Grahame, a 
Cass, a Laugklen, Solid Yaik, a Wilson, or a Wightman. A politi- 
cal friend of ours, a stanch fellow, in passing through the Lakes 
last autumn, heard of nothing but the contest for the county, which 
he had understood would lie between Lord Lowther (the sitting 
member) and Mr. Brougham. But, to his sore perplexity, he heard 
the names of new candidates, to him hitherto unknown ; and on 
meeting us at that best of inns, ' White Lion,' Bowness, he told 
us with a downcast and serious countenance that Lord Lowther 
would be ousted, for that the struggle, as far as he could learn, 
would ultimately be between Thomas Ford of Egremont, and 
William Richardson of Caldbeck, men of no landed property, and 
probably radicals !"* 

During my father's residence at Elleray, and long after he be- 
came Professor, he steadily patronized this manly amusement, and 
though, as the historian of the subject, Litt,f remarks, " he never 
sported his figure in the ring," he was not without skill and prac- 
tice in the art, being, as an old wrestler declared, " a varra bad un 
to lick," which one can readily believe. He gave prizes and belts 
for the Ambleside competitions, such as had never been offered 
before, and the historian above mentioned describes in glowing 
terms how much the success of the annual sports in the neighbor- 
hood was owing to his liberal encouragement. In some of his let- 

Beat, when a lady in the 6ame pew moved up, wishing to speak to him. He kept edging cauti )usly 

away from her, till at last, as she came nearer, he hastily muttered out: ' bit yuiit. Miss , sit 

yont ! Dinna ye ken ma pouch is fu 1 o' gemin eggs !" 

* Blackwood, December, 1823. 

t Wrextliana ; or, an Historical Account of Ancient and Modem Wrestling, By WiUiaa 
Utt 12mo. Whitehaven. 


ters in after years, we shall meet with allusions to this subject, 
which he considered not unworthy of a special article in Blackwood. 
Speaking of the beauty of the spectacle presented by the ring at 
Carlisle, he thus amusingly parodied Wordsworth's lines on a 
hedge-sparrow's nest, winch, he says, by a slight alteration, " eggs 
to men, and so forth, become a sensible enough exclamation in such 
a case :" — 

" See, two strong men are struggling there,* 
Few visions have I seen more fair, 
Or many prospects of delight 
More pleasing than that simple sight." 

These imperfect reminiscences of my father's out-door life at 
Elleray may be appropriately closed by an extract from a clever 
little work recently published. f The author, Mr. Waugh, in his 
wanderings in "Westmoreland, encountered at Wastdale Head, in 
the person of the innkeeper there, one of the most characteristic 
specimens that could well be found of a genuine old Laker, William 
Ritson. " I was most interested," says the writer, " in Ritson's anec- 
dotes of famous men who visited Wastdale. He had wandered many 
a day with Professor Wilson, Wordsworth, De Quincey, and others. 
Ritson had been a famous wrestler in his youth, and had won many 
a country belt in Cumberland. He once wrestled with Wilson, and 
threw him twice out of three falls. But he owned the Professor 
was ' a varra bad un to lick.' Wilson beat him at jumping. He 
could jump twelve yards in three jumps, with a great stone in each 
hand. Ritson could only manage eleven and three quarters. ' T' 
first time 'at Professor Wilson cam to Wastd'le Head,' said Ritson, 
' he hed a tent set up in a field, an' he gat it wecl stock't wi' bread 
an' beef, an' cheese, an' rum, an' ale, an' sic like. Then he gedder't 
up my granfadder, an' Thomas Tyson, an' Isaac Fletcher, an' 
Joseph Stable, an' aad Itoberl (J rave, an' some mair, an' there was 
gay deed amang em. Then, dowi would sarra, bud he mun hev a 
boat, an' they mun all hev a sail. Well, when they gat into t' 
boat, he tell't un to be particklar careful, for he was liable to git 
giddy in t' head, an' if van ov his giddy fits su«l chance to cum on, 
he mud happen tummle into t' wratter. Well that pleased 'em all 

• In the original — 

dining there." 
t JiambUn in th, I ,- By Edwin Waugh. 12mo. London, Whlttaker 


gaily wool, an 1 they said they'd tak varra girt care on him. Then 
he leaned back an' called oot that they mun pull quicker. So they 
did, and what does Wilson do then but topples ower eb'm ov his 
back v t' watter with a splash. Then there was a girt cry — "'Eh, 
Mr. Wilson's i' t' watter !" an van click't, an' anudder click't, but 
Dean o' them could get hod on him, an' there was sic a scrowe as 
nivver. At last, yan o' them gat him round t' neck as he popped 
up at teal o' t' boat, an' Wilson taad him to kep a good hod, for 
he mud happen slip him agean. But what, it was nowt but yan 
ov his bit o' pranks, he was snurkin' an' laughin' all t' time. Wil- 
son was a fine, gay, girt-hearted fellow, as Strang as a lion, an' as 
lish as a trout, an' he hed sic antics as nivver man hed. What- 
ivver ye sed tull him ye'd get yowr change back for it gaily soon. 
. . . Aa remember, there was a " Murry Neet" at Wastd'le Head 
that varra time, an 1 Wilson an' t' aad parson was there amang t' 
rest. When they'd gotten a bit on, Wilson med a sang aboot t' 
] 'arson. He med it reight off o' t' stick end. He began wi' t' 
parson first, then he gat to t' Pope, an 1 then he turned it to t' 
devil, an' sic like, till he hed 'em fallin' off their cheers wi' fun 1" 
parson was quite astonished, an' rayder vex't an' all, but at last he 
burst oot laughin' wi' t' rest. He was like. Naabody could stand 
it. . . . T seam neet there was yan o' their wives cum to fetch 
her husband heam, an' she was rayder ower Strang i' t' tung wi' 
him afore t' heal comp'ny. Well, he took it all i' good pairt, but 
as he went away he shouted oot t' aad minister, 'Od dang ye, par- 
son, it wor ye at teed us two tegidder ! ... It was a' life an' murth 
amang us, as lang as Professor Wilson was at Wastd'le Head.' " 

In the same year that Wilson settled at Elleray, an agreeable 
addition was made to the society of the neighborhood by the ar- 
rival of a family of the name of Penny, who took up their abode 
at Gale House, Ambleside. The Misses Penny were the daughters 
of a Liverpool merchant, and removed to Windermere for the sake 
of its proximity to the residence of their eldest sister, who had 
been married for some years to Mr. James Penny Machell, of Hol- 
low Oak and Penny Bridge. Wilson soon became acquainted with 
ladies, and an intimacy gradually sprung up with the fair 
inhabitants of Gale House, which by and by led to frequent men- 
tion of his name in the correspondence of Miss Jane Penny. 
Writing in girlish confidence to a friend who has sent her a piece 


of dress, she informs her that " the jacket has "been much admired ; 
I wore it at a hall at Kendal, and there was only one like it in 
the room — that was worn by Lady Lonsdale ; it will always remind 
me of one of the pleasantest evenings I ever spent. I danced with 
Mr. Wilson ; he is the only one of my partners worth mentioning." 

It is not very difficult to perceive why it was one of the " plea- 
santest evenings" ever spent. 

A ball or party seldom took place at Ambleside or elsewhere in 
the neighborhood, at which Mr. Wilson and Miss Jane Penny were 
not present. De Quincey, speaking of the gayeties at Low Brathay, 
the residence of his friend Charles Lloyd, says that at one of the 
social gatherings there he "saw Wilson in circumstances of ani- 
mation, and buoyant with youthful spirits. . . . He, by the way, 
was the best male dancer (not professional) I have ever seen. . . . 
Here also danced the future wife of Professor Wilson, Miss Jane 
P[eimy], at that time the leading belle of the Lake country." 
They were, undoubtedly, a couple of very uncommon personal at- 
tractions. A spectator at a hall given in Liverpool in those days, 
relates that when Mr. Wilson entered the room with Miss Penny 
on his arm, the dancers stopped and cheered them, in mere ad- 
miration of their appearance. 

Another extract from a letter of Miss Penny gives some further 
information about Mr. Wilson. There had been a regatta at Win- 
dermere : — 

"It proved universally pleasant. I think I never enjoyed any 
thing more than I did that week. The day of the regatta we spent 
the morning at Mr. Bolton's, Storr's Hall, and -ailed upon the lake 
the greater part of the day. We had the honor of being steered 
by a /•';"/ midshipman, a strikingly tine young man of the name of 
Fairer. .Mr. Wilson gave as a hall at the Inn in the evening. I 
had the honor of opening it with him, and of course 1 spent a 
charmingly delightful evening. We are likely to have a most de- 
lightful acquisition to our society tliis winter in .Mrs. and Mi-s Wil- 
Bon, mother and sister to our favorite. They are verj nice people 
indeed. I think Mrs. Wilson one of the finesl and mosl ladylike 
women I have Been for a long time. They mean to be at Elleray 
all winter, which will make it very plea- am to us. I hope we shall 
see a great deal of them. Mr. Wilson i- flirting with a pretty little 
widow who live- in Kendal. She is generally admired bj the male 


part of creation, but not by our sex. I think her appearance ia 
very pretty, particularly her figure, but I think her deficient in 
feminine propriety and modesty. Her husband has been dead some 
years ; she was married at fourteen, and is still quite a girl in ap- 
pearance. I don't know whether Mr. Wilson's attentions to her 
will end in a marriage, but I hope not, for his sake. I think he is 
deserving a very superior woman." 

There is a pretty touch of female character about this relation ; 
the evident -penchant for Mr. Wilson, the reserved manner of speak- 
ing of him, the slight grudge, if so it may be called, against the 
"little widow," the constant recurrence to his name, the interest 
taken in those belonging to him, all declare very plainly how much 
tendresse there lay in the wish, "he deserves a very superior 
woman." And most truly did he obtain one. 

The flirting with the " little widow" was but the amusement of 
idle hours, and Wilson had now begun seriously to feel the want, 
as he called it himself, of " an anchor," without which, he said, he 
should " keep beating about the great sea of life to very little pur- 
pose." A closer intimacy with Miss Jane Penny revealed qualities 
more precious than those which shine most in the light of ball- 
rooms, and he found that " the belle of the lake district" was also 
such a woman as was worthy of his whole heart's love, and wanted 
no quality to fit her for giving happiness and dignity to his life. It 
took some time, however, before his mind settled down to this con- 
clusion. The image of Margaret still rose before him tenderly in 
his solitary hours : he had as yet found no woman's heart in which 
he could confide so utterly as he had done in hers. Among other 
projects to divert his thoughts, he meditated an expedition into 
Spain along with Blair and TJe Quincey ; and in the course of the 
year 1809, he and the former occupied themselves for some time 
assiduously in the study of Spanish, in order to qualify themselves 
for enjoying the journey. The intelligence of Bonaparte's fresh 
descent upon that country caused the breaking off alike of their 
plan and their studies. 

The following letter, addressed about this time to his friend Mr. 
Harden, who was about to proceed to Edinburgh to edit the Cale- 
donian Mercury* gives some idea of the state of his mind and 
prospects : — 

* Mr. Allan .the proprietor, woe Mr. Harden's father-in-law 


"My dear Harden: — I received your interesting letter this 
morning about an hour ago, and cannot delay answering it for a 
single day, deeply concerned as I feel myself in every thing that re- 
gards your happiness. That you are to leave the clouds and moun- 
tains of this our delightful land, gives me, as far as my selfish emo- 
tions go, much real pain. I need not say how many happy days I 
nave passed at Brathay, and how affectionately I regard the family 
living within its walls. Our friendship, which I fear not, in spite 
of absence or distance, will continue with unabated sincerity, was 
voluntary on both sides; and, during the few years we have known 
each other, neither of us has found cause to repent of the affection 
bestowed. That the determination you have formed is in all re- 
spects right, I firmly believe, and the consciousness of having in 
part sacrificed enjoyments so dear to you, for the sake of those you 
tenderly love, will no doubt forever secure your happiness. 

" After all, you will appear to me in the light of a distant neigh- 
bor, and when you have leisure to come to your beloved and beau- 
teous lakes, if the smoke of Elleray is on the air, you know where 
you and yours will experience an affectionate welcome. 

"That you will find the paper a good concern there is no doubt ; 
and, at the same time, I cannot see that there will be any thing very 
irksome in it. Living at this distance, and being no very vehement 
admirer of daily politics, I fear it will not be often in my power to 
give you effectual assistance. Any thing I can do will at all times 
be cheerfully communicated. And, in the first place, a copy of the 
paper will not be amiss. Please mark what are your lucubrations. 
Of Oxford politics I neither know much nor care a great deal. Ox- 
ford lias long been sunk beneath the love or admiration of thought- 
ful men, in spite of all her magnificence and all her learning. The 
contesl has ere now been decided, though I have not heard the re- 
sult. If I find that any thing interesting can be said on the election 
of the Chancellor,* I shall transmit it to you in a frank, and you 
can either burn it or print it, as you think proper. 

"On this Bubject, therefore, let me conclude with every warm 
wish for your success; and may your residence in Edinburgh afford 
every enjoyment you can desire. 

"A- tor myself all my plans of delight and instruction, at least, 
on one greal subject, are for the present abandoned. It would be 

* Lord Giviivlllo. 



tedious to enter into a detail of all unlucky causes which have occa 
Bioned this. Such ay they are, they could not in the present junc* 
ture be avoided ; and I have at least the satisfaction to know, thai 
my plans failed not from any want of zeal or determination on my 

" I have nut, however, by any means relinquished my scheme of 
going to Spain, and whether we shall meet this summer or not 
seems very doubtful. I agree with you that travelling will make 
me, for some years at least, happier than any thing else. The 
knowledge it bestows can be acquired by no other means, and, un- 
less a man be married, it seems very absurd to remain, during the 
prime of his youth, in one little corner of the world, beautiful and 
glorious as that corner may be. I do not, I hope, want either bal- 
last or cargo or sail, but I do want an anchor most confoundedly, 
and, without it, shall keep beating about the great sea of life to 
very little purpose. Since I left Edinburgh, I have had a very dear 
old friend staying with me, and Ave have studied to the wonder of 
the three counties. We have made some progress in Spanish, 
though not much, the perplexity attending our change of scheme 
having occasioned some little interruption. I have written many 
poems, some of considerable length, which I may some night or 
other repeat to you over a social glass, or a twinkling fire. 

"A little elegy I wrote on poor little Margaret Harden* last 
spring, and which I promised to send to your mother, has been 
lost. I shall, however, endeavor to recollect it the first time I can 
vividly recall the melancholy event that gave rise to it. Let it be 
considered as the affectionate sympathy of a friend. I am, you 
know, the worst correspondent breathing ; yet to hear from you 
often and minutely, as to your pleasures and occupations, will 
always afford me genuine satisfaction. 

" While I write this, your paintings of Stavely and the Brathay 
smile sweetly upon me, though all without doors is wild and stormy, 
it being the most complete hurricane I ever saw at Elleray. The 
windows of the parlor have, during the night, been almost entirely 
destroyed, and the floor is literally swimming. I cannot conclude 
without again observing what pleasure I shall have in hearing from 
von. especially while vou are just entering on such anew scheme 

of life." 

• A daughter of liis frieud. 


About the same time he took an excursion into Scotland. Be- 
fore starting, he addressed De Quincey as follows : — 

" My dear De Quincey : — I am obliged to leave this to-morrow 
for Glasgow. I therefore trouble you with this note in case you 
should think of coming over during my absence. I expect to re- 
turn to Elleray in a few days, yet there is an uncertainty attending 
every motion of mine, and possibly of yours also. If you are ready 
for a start, I will go with you to-morrow on foot through Kentmere 
and Hawesdale to Penrith, and on Monday you can easily return by 
Ulleswater to Grasmere. The fine weather may induce you.* If 
you feel a wish to look at Glasgow and Edinburgh, would you take 
a trip witk me on the top of the coach ? I will pledge myself to 
return with you within eight days. If so, or if you agree to the 
first plan only, my pony or horse is with my servant who carries 
this, and you can come here upon it. I hope you will do so. 
There is no occasion for wardrobe. I take nothing with me, and 
we can get a change of linen. The expense will be small to us. 

" Yours ever affectionately, 

"John Wilson. 
" Elleray, Saturday, 1809." 

Of this pedestrian excursion we have a glimpse in the biographi- 
cal notice of his friend John Finlay, with whom they spent a few 
hours at Moffat. f 

I now come to speak of his poetry, and I am fortunately < cabled, 
from the preservation of his letters to his friend Mr. John Smith, 
the Glasgow publisher, to give some account of his first publication, 
for which the materials should otherwise have been wanting. The 
first trace I find in MS. of poems afterwards published is in tin' ■ 
1807. A -mall note-hook contains a considerable number of son- 
nets, composed in the autumn of that year, a selection from which 
appeared among the miscellaneous pieces appended to Tfu Tsh of 
Pabn8. Hi- commonplace-books contain the whole of the lattei 

* The proposal t.. walk over so min-h ground pi ! lima I '• Qntncey t.. have been no weak ,..-■ 

deatrion. Although be was a man considerably under height and slender of form, lie " ;:> capable 
i< Ihtlgne. and 'I he very feet of his being a « 

peaks well to a. which was not nnfreqnently taxed wueo 

cpt Perhaps, In lat • oia activity more 



poem, parts of it apparently written down for the first time, and 
other parts being final copies of the work as sent for revision to his 
friend Blair. The alterations in the first draught are more of entire 
passages than of phrases. It is evident that he never composed 
without first forming a clear conception of what he intended to 
embody in each particular poem. The prose outlines of some pieces 
in these books are sometimes so full as to require only their transla- 
tion into verse to entitle them to the name of poems. Of this the 
sketch entitled " Red Tarn," already given, may be taken as a 
specimen. The contents of these books show, in fact, that poetry 
was not a mere amusement with him, but a serious study, and that 
he had in those days very extensive plans of composition, on which 
he entered with an earnest desire to use well the gifts with which 
he had been endowed.* 

His first communication on the subject to Mr. Smith is from 
Edinburgh, and is as follows : — 

" Edinburgh, 53 Queen Street, 
Wednesday Evening, December 13, 1810. 
" Dear Sir : — I have, during the last three years, written a mini 
ber of poems on various subjects, from which I intend to form a 
selection for the press. The principal poem, entitled The Isle of 
Palms, which will give its name to the volume, is descriptive of sea 
and island scenery, and contains a love-story. It is nearly 2,000 
lines. The second is entitled " The Anglers' Tent." It contains 
nearly forty stanzas of seventeen lines each, in the same measure as 
Collins' Ode on the Superstitions of the Highlands. The third is a 
blank-verse poem upon Oxford. The rest it is needless to particu- 
larize. I can furnish as many poems as will make a volume of 350 
or 400 pages. As you have an opportunity of knowing the prob- 
able merit of any works of mine from Finlay, Blair, and others, I 
offer my poems in the first place to you. In a publication of such 

* Dr. Blair, in a letter, has expressed to me the following opinion: — "I have been always at 
■ know why your father did not follow further his youthful impulsion towards verse. 
I thought him endowed beyond all the youthful poets of his day, and in some powers beyond 
any of his contemporaries. I believe he had more of absolute deep and glowing enthusiasm 
m. lit- might require a severe intellectual discipline and learned study to balance 
that natural fire and energy for the composition of a great work. But. he had both will and 
ability for severe thought, and he had the capacity for searching and comprehensive inquiry, 
and such a wonderful power of storing materials and of managing them to his use, that I never 
could, nor can I now, understand why, loving poetry as he did, he left it. He had a flood of 
eloquence which not one of the other poets who have lived in his day had or has." This is tha 
opiiiiou of tl*e man most familiar with my father's mind. 


magnitude, I feel my own character deeply concerned, and will 
therefore insert nothing that does not please myself. The volume 
might in size resemble the octavo edition of the Lady of the Lake, 
and sell for the same price. 

"If you are willing to purchase from me the copyright of 400 
pages, such as I have described, I am ready to listen to your terms. 
I may, without presumption, say that at Oxford my name would 
Bell many copies, nor am I unknown either in Cambridge or London. 
But you will judge for yourself. I am not a man who would 
thoughtlessly risk his reputation by a trivial or careless publication. 

"I would prefer disposing entirely of the copyright to any other 
plan, as I wish to be free from all trouble or anxiety about it. Iu 
the case of a first publication I know that booksellers ought to be 
cautious. But I am now past the days of boyhood, and I feel that 
I shall come before the world, if not in the fulness of my strength, 
at least with few youthful weaknesses. 

" As I am uncertain of being soon in Glasgow, I shall expect an 
answer to this as quickly as convenient to yourself. Should we 
agree about this volume, I have other works in contemplation that 
I know will attract public notice. I am, sir, your obedient servant, 

"John Wilson." 

A few days subsequently he replied to Mr. Smith's proposals; part 
of which was that the work should be printed by Ballantyne : — 

"My dbab Sir: — Your proposals seem perfectly reasonable and 
honorable, and I have no objection to agree to them. I have to 
mention, however, that it will be impossible for me to have my 
poems ready for publication as soon as you wish. I was indeed 
ignorant of the season of publication, and also imagined that the 
printing would take much more time than I understand it will do. 

•• For a few mouths to come my time will not, I fear, be at my own 
disposal; for besides several important engagements, I have been 
very unwell lately, and may perhaps be obliged to lake a short voy- 
Bge somewhere. Considering all these circumstances, it would 
seem that the publication of my poems musl be deferred for a 
considerable time. Perhaps, on the whole, this may be of advan- 

"I cannot believe that a volume of thai size could be printed iv 
less than lour months from the commenci ment of printing it. Yoa 


will consider, therefore, of this hasty note, and arrange matters with 
Ballantyne, etc., etc. I am, yours truly, 

"John Wilson." 

In April, 1811, he writes from Elleray. He is on the eve of being 
married, and wants all the ready money he can get. He proposes, 
therefore, to dispense with some of those standard works " which 
no gentleman's library should be without," — Annual Registers, Par- 
liamentary Histories, Statistical Accounts, best editions of various 
Classics in Russia, etc., etc. 

"Elleray, Tuesday morning {April, 1811). 

"My dear Sir: — Since my arrival here I have been tolerably 
busy, and have written several small poems that please me, and it is 
to be hoped will produce the same effect on several thousand of the 
judicious part of the reading world. 

" My second longest poem I have also given the last polish to, 
and it now looks very imposingly. In a week or two, when the 
spring has a little advanced, I shall emigrate to the 'Isle of Palms,' 
and build myself a cottage there, both elegant and commodious, and 
subject to no taxation. I have this day written to Blair about Fin- 
lay, and expect to hear all particulars from him. If any thing further 
had occurred about his affairs in Glasgow, I should like to hear from 

" The principal object of my present letter is to speak to you about 
some books I wish to part with, being either tired of them or hav- 
ing duplicates. 

"The following is a list of some of the best. If they suit you, 
jou will take them, or any part of them, at your own price, most 
of them being books that you could sell easily. . . . 

"Out of these, I think, you might find some that might suit you 
well. I go to Liverpool to-morrow, to James Penny, Esq., Seel 
street, where I should like to hear from you on receipt of this. You 
might make something upon them, and I be enabled to take a little 
longer marriage jaunt, in these hard times money being scarce. 

" On my return, I shall send you some portion of my manuscript, 
of which, if you make any use beyond yourself, I don't fear it will 
be judicious. Remember that few are entitled to pass judgment on 
poetry. I am, dear sir, yours very truly, Johx Wilson. 

" P. S. — Should you ever publish any edition of any poet, and 
wish for preface, etc., you know where to apply." 





On t).e lltli of May, 1811, the following letter was written by 
Wilson to his friend Mr. Findlay : — 

"Ambleside, May 11, 1811. 

" Dearest Robert : — I was this morning married to Jane Penny, 
and doubt not of receiving your blessing, which, from your broth- 
erly heart, will delight me, and doubtless not be unheard by the 
Almighty. She is in gentleness, innocence, sense, and feeling, sur- 
passed by no woman, and has remained pure, as from her Maker's 
hands. Surely if I know myself I am not deficient in kindness and 
gentleness of nature, and will to my dying hour love, honor, and 
worship her. It is a mild and peaceful day, and my spirit feels 
calm and blest. You know what it is to possess a beloved woman's 
affections, and such possession now makes me return grateful thanks 
to my God, and remember former afflictions w T ith resignation and 
gratitude. On this tranquil day of nature and delight, to think of 
my earliest, best, oh! best-beloved friend, I may say, adds a solemn 
feeling to my dreams, and your most affectionate heart will, I am 
sure, be made glad to hear such words from my lips. In my heart 
you will ever live among images of overpowering tenderness, and 
to hear from you when convenient will ever gladden him who never 
felt, thought, or uttered word to you but those of affection and 
gratitude. God bless you, my dearest Robert, your wife, and all 
thai you love ! " 1 am your kindest brother, 

" John Wilson." 

I don't know it' any man ever conveyed the intimation of lm 
marriage in terms more unaffectedly beautiful than these. In their 
quiel depth of natural affection that inner spiril is truly revealed, 

Which, amid all varieties of energj and enjoyment, ever found its 

ni'i-t congenial life anion-- the tender sanctities of home, and con- 
nected its uighe»l delights witha genuine sense of religion. Thence* 


forth his life had a deeper purpose, and his home was a place of 
pure sunshine, whatever clouds darkened the sky without. Of her 
who made it so, it may be said, she was 

"A blooming lady — a conspicuous flower; 
Admired for beauty, for her sweetness praised ; 
Whom he had sensibility to love, 
Ambition to attempt, and skill to win;" 

one in whose gentleness and goodness he found long years of 

His energies were not called forth by the mere humor of the 
hour to prove what they were, but by the solemn realization of 
the high purpose for which they were given. 

He did not make the usual wedding tour, but took his bride 
directly to his cottage home. The fascination of his new life did 
not, however, engross him to the exclusion of work, much 
temptation as there was to a blissful idleness in his lot. The vari- 
ous expensive tastes he indulged, as well as his generous habits, 
could not have been so constantly exercised, had he not been in the 
enjoyment of a large fortune. No doubt he lived both at Oxford 
and Elleray with the free munificence of one who understood the 
charms of hospitality, and the satisfaction of bestowing pleasure 
upon others, but at neither period was he wasteful or careless of 
money. At the time of his marriage, therefore, he was in easy 
circumstances, and his wife's fortune, added to his own, made him 
a rich man. There was no care for the future ; worldly matters 
were in a smiling condition ; every thing around the young couple 
was couleur da rose. Days passed away quickly ; nothing disturbed 
the life of love and peace spent in that beautiful cottage home. 
Time brought with it only increase of happiness. Children were 
born ; and to live at Elleray forever was the design of the poet, 
who loved to look upon 

" The glorious sun 
That made Winander one wide wave of gold, 
When first in transport from the mountain-top 
He hailed the heavenly vision." 

These halcyon days were ere long interrupted by misfortune. 
But though that stern schooling was necessary to the full develop- 
ment of Wilson's character and powers, he had already, as we have 

"THE ISLE Oil PALMS." 107 

Been, determined to give the world some fruit of his meditative 
hours during these apparently idle years at Elleray. 

Three months after his marriage he again addressed Mr. Smith 
on the subject of his poems : — 

"Elleray, August 11, 1811. 

" It is now so long since you have heard from me, that I dare say 
you begin to entertain rational doubts of my existence. I am, how- 
ever, alive and well ; better both in mind and body than when I 
last saw you, and unless the damnation of my poems affect my 
health and spirits, likely for a considerable time to be off the sick- 

" So many things have occurred, if not to occupy, at least to 
interrupt my time since my marriage, which took place on the 11th 
of May, that I thought it best not to write you till I found myself 
in some measure settled, and in a hopeful way of doing some good. 
I have written a considerable number of poems of a smaller size 
since my marriage, so that were the first poems of the collection 
finished, I think I have MS. enough for a volume of 400 pages, 
which I am desirous it should be. I know not how it is, but I 
have felt a strange disinclination to work at the longest poem ; but 
on receiving your answer, all minor occupations shall be laid aside, 
and the work be proceeded with in good earnest. Indeed, such is 
my waywardness of fancy, that I feel constantly impelled to write 
each day on a different subject, which I should be prevented from 
doing were a day fixed for the commencement of the printing. 
Suppose we say that on the 1st of October every thing shall be 
ready for going to press ; and if so, you may depend upon it that 
the press shall never be allowed to remain idle one day for want of 
matter. It would be most satisfactory for me to retain the MS. of 
my poems in my own hands, except such quantity as need be in the 
printer's hands. Thus, I will send the longest poem by cantos, 
there being four, and so on. I cannot in a letter sufficiently explain 
my reasons for wishing this ; but unless you agree to it, it will bo 
very painful to me, and 1 am confident it will be for the interest of 
the work. With respect to preface, I am doubtful if I shall have 
one; if so, it will consisl of a very few pages, two or three .-it the 
niOSt. I Suppose tin; preface will he numbered separately from tlio 

poems, and therefore may lie printed after them, should I like it, 
and in like manner the title page, etc, 


'• With respect to the size of the volume, I am still partial to that 
of Marmion; or, if you choose, a little smaller, only as many or 
more lines hi each page. A thinly printed book of that size looks 
very badly. There will be verses of many different measures, 
though none exceeding twelve syllables. I think that a rather 
smaller type would look better, since the poems are miscellaneous. 
But all these particulars I leave to yourself. I shall expect to hear 
from you as soon as you can decidedly fix matters with me, and I 
hope that you will find me a tractable and reasonable author. The 
sooner every thing is fixed the better, as otherwise I shall never set 
to with invincible fury. If the printing can commence by the be- 
ginning of October, the first book of the Isle of Palms will be sent 
to you by the tenth of September. You should also advertise the 
work in the literary notices of the Reviews, and immediately ; but 
all this I will leave to yourself." 

"Ellkray, Kendal, September 17, 1811. 

" Dear Smith : — I send you at last the first canto of the Isle of 
Palms, ready for the press. 

" I had expected Mr. Blair here to revise the poem, but he did 
not come, so I had to send it to him, and he returned it only yes- 
terday, without any alteration (though with many compliments), 
and I had to fill up the blanks myself. The manuscript is in Mr. 
Blair's handwriting, and is, I trust, legible. As to punctuation, 1 
suppose the printer uses his discretion. 

••1 am going on correcting and writing, and certainly never will 
keep the press waiting for me. The proofs will, of course, be sent 
to me ; but I conceive that double proofs are altogether unnecessary. 

" Let it go to press immediately, and write me when you think 
it right to inform me of your proceedings. 

" This fust canto will, I believe, occupy 32 pages at all events, as 
there are nearly 600 lines. 

"You will give strict injunctions to Ballantyne to let no one see 
the proof-sheets. For the Isle of Palms is a wild tale, and must 
not be judged of piecemeal. But there are many reasons for this. 

" J. Wilson." 

"Elleray, Sept. 27 and 28, 1811. 
" I am glad that you are pleased with the manuscript on the 
whole. The introductory stanzas are perhaps not, at first reading, 

"the isle of palms." 109 

and in manuscript, very perspicuous ; but they were written upon 
principle, and will, I doubt not, give pleasure when the canto is 
thought of together, and distinctly embraced in one whole. Blair 
and Wordsworth were both delighted with them, and, as I shall 
have a very short preface, I am not afraid of their seeming obscure. 
At the same time, I shall be obliged to you for any remarks of the 
kind, as, though I have written nothing without due thought, all 
hints should be, and will be attended to, and gratefully l'eceived. 

" I am in daily expectation of receiving the second canto from 
Blair, written over in the same manner, and think you may be ex- 
pecting it on Thursday. Indeed, fear not of having regular and 
sufficient supplies. 

"The whole Isle of Palms is of a wild character, though, I trust, 
sufficiently interspersed and vivified with human feelings to interest 
generally :ui<l deeply. Its wildness and romantic character, being 
qualities that suffer greatly by piecemeal quotation, render me de- 
sirous of its being seen entire or not at all; but still this is not a 
matter of much importance, as I fear nothing when the poem comes 
before the public. I know the public taste, and neither will violate 
nor cringe to it, ami, with its own merits, and the respectable way 
in which it will be given to the world, I am fearless of its success. 
I find that the Isle of Palms will be nearer 3,000 than 2,000 lines. 
Of the other poems, I know there are many that will be more popu- 
lar, and therefore I expect that, as the printing proceeds, you will 
see reasoD to confide in those hopes of my success, which you have 
already been good enough to entertain. 

"On the whole, I think Ballantyne ought to print the work, if 
you can make good terms with him. Blue stockings are dirty 
things, but ool \ ery deleterious. 

■• \" \t Letter, 1 expect to hear from you positively when you 

begin printing, thai I may never be from home, and keep the devils 

from getting cool. In ten days I shall have sent you the first three 

cant'.-, containing above -,000 lines, and then I am Dot afraid of my 

being pressed upon, as correction will be my only task. 

"All the booksellers in Oxford know me well. Indeed, I once 
talked to Parker aboul publishing some poems there, but, though 
he was mosl w tiling to undertake it, I afterwards changed my mind, 
for the University is but a dullish spot, though undoubtedly many 
copies will be sold there. 


"The whole copy shall be sent in Blair's writing, or in a hand 
still better ; and if" there are any directions necessary about correct- 
ing the press, of which you think it probable I may be ignorant, 
you will instruct me. I am still in hopes of Blair coming here 

"Poor Grahame, I hear, is gone; let me hear some particulars; 
he was a truly estimable being." 

The reference here is to the Rev. James Grahame, author of 
"The Sabbath," and other poems. My father greatly esteemed 
him and his poetry, and at this time composed an Elegy to his 
memory,* which was published anonymously while the Isle of Palms 
was going through the press. 

Another letter is sent by and by along with the third canto of the 
Isle of Palms, which had been kept some time by Mr. Blair. He 
says : — " I expect you will like it fully more than any of the preced- 
ing ; and Blair thinks it equal to any poetry of modern times. The 
fourth canto I will send to him this day ; so Ballantyne will have it 
in time, although I fear he has been stopped for want of this one, 
■which will never again be owing to me. 

" I have had a long letter from John Ballantyne, most anxiously 
requesting a share in the work, or any concern in it that I would 
grant, so that his name should appear in the imprint. He wishes 
to have 500 copies to [sell], but on what terms I do not very clearly 

" I think that if he could be allowed some kind of share or con- 
nection with it, it might be well, as he has, I suppose, good connec- 
tions. I wish to hear from you immediately upon this subject, and 
1 cannot answer his letter till I know your wishes and views on it. 
It augurs well, his anxiety. Should you wish to see his letter? 
He says that Longman is now preparing his winter catalogue ; and 
that insertion of the title there would double the first demand. 
This seems fudge, although same time it should be sent for inser- 
tion in that catalogue, of which you probably know more than I 
do. I have advertised the work in the Kendal paper, and shall in 
one or two of the Liverpool. 

" Let me hear from you if the paper has been sent to Ballantyne, 
and if you think the work may be out by Christmas. Stir Ballan- 

* "Lines sacred to the Memory of ftc Rev. James Grahame. author of 'The Sabbath,' <kc 'A 
<n&n be was to all tbo country dear.' *to. Glasgow: Smith &, Sou." 

"the isle of palms." Ill 

tyne up with a long pole, and henceforth depend upon my being 

From these and other letters, it will he seen that the poet was 
by no means a careless man of business ; and that if he was pretty 
confident of success, he did not neglect any means to secure it. 

In his next letter he complains bitterly of the delay in the print- 
ing, not haviug heard from Ballantyne for a month, and then pro- 
ceeds to give some practical suggestions regarding the lines on 
Grahame : — 

" The copies of the ' Lines, etc.,' came safely to hand. They are 
exceedingly well printed and accurate in all respects. One copy I 
gave to Lloyd ; the other to my wife's sister, both of whom were 
greatly pleased. I find that it will be in my power to distribute a 
few copies without suspicion ; and there is a bookseller in Kendal 
who would, I think, dispose of halt' a dozen very easily. Send me, 
therefore, per coach, a dozen copies ; six to my own account, and 
6ix for the trade, which I will send to the bookseller in Kendal ; 
and if he sells them, he will account to me for them. Let me hear 
how they take ; now that Edinburgh is filling, perhaps some copies 
will be going off. I would wish a copy to be sent to Mr. Alison, 
and one to Mr. Morehead, the Episcopal clergyman hi Edinburgh, 
with 'from the author' on the title-page. Grahame was known 
about Carlisle, and I should think some of the trade there would 
take copies; Durham also. Are there any inquiries made after the 
author ? Is it attributed to any one ? You should tell a paragraph 
to be extracted from it in each of the Edinburgh papers; perhaps 
the same two as in the Glasgow papers. Some copies would sell 
in Oxford if seen there ; I should also think in Liverpool. A pas- 
sage ought also to appear in the London Courier and in the Scots 
Magazine; and also very early in other magazines. It is perhaps 
not worth all this trouble." 

The elegy attracted considerable attention, and a second editior 
w.i- soon called for. His next letter i-; written in December: — 

"I have had many letters from Edinburgh highly commending 
the 'Lines,' which I understand are considerable favorites there, 
though I find I am strongly suspected in thai quarter. With rcepi ct 
to giving my name you may now use your own discretion." 

\t Christmas he was in Edinburgh a1 bis mother's with his 
young wife and Iht BlsterSi He writes to Mr. Smilli:— 


"The volume gets on tolerably. Page 250 has gone to press 
this day. All the manuscript is in Ballantyne's hands. He thiuks 
the volume would not be the worse of being 450 pages. Iu that 
ease, would you wish the lines on Grahame to be included ? Fer- 
gusson, Cranstoun, and Glassford think them better than any thing 
Grahame himself has written. The Eclectic is favorable enough, 
but stupid enough too! Who, in writing an elegy, would give a 
critical dissertation on a poem ? The motto is a good one, and the 
punctuation excellent, except in two cases, which do not destroy the 

" Walter Scott talks to me in great terms of what he has seen of 
the 'Isle.'* The elder Ballantyne is in raptures, and prophesies 
great popularity- Considerable expectations are formed here among 
the blues of both sexes, and I am whirled into the vortex of fash- 
: on here in consequence. 

" I shall say nothing to any one of the dedication. Send Mr. 
M'Latchie a copy of the ' Lines,' ' with the author's affectionate re- 
gard,' and one to Mr. Gill with my ' respectful compliments.' 

" You ought certainly to come here before the publication, and 
soon, to arrange every thing. I think we shall attract some attention." 

A little glimpse of the life at 53 Queen street, and the pleasant 
footing subsisting between the relatives gathered there, is afforded 
in a note of young Mrs. Wilson's about this time to her sister. She 
thanks " Peg" for her note, which, she says, " was sacred to myself. 
It is not my custom, you may tell her, to show my letters to John." 
She goes on to speak of Edinburgh society, dinners and evening 
parties, and whom she most likes. The Rev. Mr. Morehead is 
w - a great favorite ;" Mr. Jeffrey is a " horrid little man," but 
" held in as high estimation here as the Bible." Mrs. Wilson, se- 
nior, gives a ball, and 150 people are invited. "The girls are look- 
ing forward to it with great delight. Mrs. Wilson is very nice 
with them, and lets them ask anybody they like. There is not the 
Least rest raint put upon them. John's poems will be sent from here 
next week. The lar^e size is a guinea, and the small one twelve 

* Sir Walter, writing to Miss Joanna Baillie about this time, says: — "The authorof the elegy 
upon poor Grahame is John Wilson, a young man of very considerable poetical powers. He is 
gagfcd ujMjn a poem called the 'Isle of Palms." something in the style ofSouthey. He is 
an eccentric genius, and has fixed himself on the banks of Windermere, but occasionally resides 
in Edinburgh, where he now is. He seems an excellent, warm-hearted, and enthusiastic young 
msn - something too much, perhaps, of the latter quality, places him among the list of originals." 

"the isle of palms." 113 

After sundry delays from want of paper or other causes, the vol- 
ume duly appeared on the 20th of February, 1812, entitled, The 
Isle of Palms, and other Poems, by John Wilson. The potent 
name of Longman, whose catalogue could work such wonders, 
came first, followed by those of Ballantyne and Co., Edinburgh, 
and John Smith and Son, Glasgow. It was affectionately dedi- 
cated to the author's old teachers, Professors Jardine and Young. 
How the work was received may be gathered from his own letters. 
Poets are seldom entirely satisfied with the reception of their 
works. The author of the Isle of Palms had no great reason to 
complain, and he did not do so. At any rate, any dissatisfaction 
he felt, as will be seen, took the very practical form of urging all 
legitimate means for promoting the sale of the work. 


"53 Qceex Street, 1st April, 1812. 
A day consecrated to Poets. 

" My long-delayed visit to Glasgow has been entirely put a stop 
to by the miserable weather and other causes, till I find that it will 
not be in my power to make it out at all for nearly two months to 
come. Mis. Wilson is in that rtate now that I could not comfort- 
ably leave her, and therefore it will not be in my power to see you 
till the time I mention. 

"From your last letter it would appear that the Isle of Palms 
has hitherto been tolerably successful. In Edinburgh it is much 
read, praised, etc., but I question if the sale of it has been very 
great. A less enterprising set of men than Edinburgh booksellers 
1 never had the misfortune to meet with. 

"From what you told me, I doubt not that Longman will adver- 
tise it properly. I have certainly seen it occasionally in several 
papers, but not so often as many other volumes of far less moment 
(poetical); and almosl all the booksellers I have spoken to here 
agree in stating, that the London advertising is v< ry dull and insuf- 
■ii. I mention this as 1 hearit, withoul supposing for an instant 
that anything will be wanting on your part to forward the sale of 
the volume. It seems evident t.. me that Bome steps should be 
taken to make the volume known better than it is, and firsl "fall 
by inserting occasional extracts in newspapers. I shall take care 
to do something in the Edinburgh and London papers. Bu1 what 


is of more importance is the provincial sale in England. Consid- 
erable inquiry was made after them in Liverpool ; and had there 
been copies there, many would have sold. And I think you should 
still establish some correspondence with the booksellers there. 
Two hundred of Crabbe's poems were sold in Liverpool. In Man- 
chester, many, many books are sold ; one shop of considerable 
magnitude is kept by a Mr. Ford. But it seems certain to my mind 
that you must bestir yourself through the towns of England, for 
the people are so stupid as not to know where to send for them, 
unless they come to the town where they live. This I had proof 
of from Liverpool in abundance. 

" I have sent Southey a copy. He will, I know, review it in the 
Quarterly, if he likes it, which I think probable; otherwise he will 
not. Jeffrey likes it much ; but will very likely abuse it for all 
that. I see it will be reviewed in the next Edinburgh Quarterly 
Review, but I suppose it is a despicable effort ; its praise or blame 
will be alike indifferent. 

"I find that people distrust their own judgment more than I had 
ever believed possible, and durst not admire any thing till they can 
quote authorities. I shall be happy to hear from you when at leisure. 
Glasgow criticism is not worth regarding ; but I wish to hear from 
you an exact account of the number of copies sold by you in Glas- 
gow, etc., to the public, and also of the number which you have 
altogether disposed of to the Edinburgh booksellers ; London and 
Oxford, too, if you have heard any thing from those quarters. I 
have as yet had no correspondence with England about it; here I 
am not a little caressed by the great, but I would excuse their 
caresses, if the public would buy my volume. If the volume do 
ultimately succeed, and nothing has yet occurred to make me sup- 
pose that it will not, then I shall in a year or two come before it 
again in strength ; but if not, I shall court the Muse no more. 

" Have any of my poems gone to Paisley or to the Sister Isle ? 
Give me the names of as many of the purchasers as you can. Have 
you ever sent Watson his copies ? for they had not been seen at 
Calgarth so late as last week, and I suppose the Kendal bookseller 
sent his there. Have any been sent to Cambridge or Birmingham? 
two places, by the by, well joined together. The longer your let- 
ter is the better, and by making a parcel of it, you may send the 
letters of the Oxford booksellers, and anything else you desire, but 


taking care not to write till you have time to send me a full and 
loDg letter."* 

In the next number of the Edinburgh Review appeared a criti- 
cism of the Isle of Palms, what publishers would call a "favorable 
notice," but, it would appear, not quite to the taste of the author. 
He would probably have preferred a good "cutting up" to the 
measured and somewhat patronizing approval of the reviewer. On 
the 3d of May, he writes to Mr. Smith : — 

"I write this in great haste, it being near two o'clock on Sunday 
morning, and at eight I leave Edinburgh on a fishing excursion to 
Kelso for a week. 

" Jeffrey's review is beggarly. I don't much like the extract ; it 
is too much of an excerpt, too quackish ; but please yourself. The 
other review is a masterpiece of nonsense and folly." 

Soon after he writes again from Elleray : — 

" I am meditating many other poems, and probably shall begin to 
write soon. I know that I can in a year write another volume that 
will make the Isle hide its head. But unless the Isle travels the 
Continent a little more before that time, I shall not throw pearls 
before swine in a hurry." 

" Elleray, Monday morning, 
"Nov. 23, 1812. 

" My dear Smith : — The day after I received your last, I left 
Elleray for Ireland, on a visit to my sister, who lives near Killarney. 
I stayed there a month, and on my return have received the melan- 
choly intelligence of my dear brother's death.f Since then I have 
not had the power of thinking of my literary concerns. We often 
know not how dearly we love our near relations, till called on to 

* The anxiety and disappointment of the author as to the early sale of the volume does not 

tber unreasonable, when we find that in Edinburgh, where the thief demand was to 

be looked lor. "the trade" received the work so cautiously, as the following "subscription list" 

Indicates :— " The hie of Pulmx. and other /'... OTA By John Wilson. Demy Bvo, retail at 12s.; 

under 10, Bs. 6d : above, Be. A !• w copii - Roj J -• oatsub. John Ballantyne & Co., two hundred 

I Mill. r. twenty-five; Archd. Constable &, Co., twenty-five copies; Jno. 

in, twenty-five copies; Wm. Blackwood, six copies." 

in the list looks specially curious now; but at that time Mr. Blackwood's busi- 
ness w . . < y, and the future Christopher North was unknown to him. 

About the same time Longman t Co. WTOte to Mr. Smith, to report the London " silt. Scrip - 

tion :" — "We received a copy ol us from Ballantynes, and our clerk, who subscribes 

Our book*, took it round the trad) Ithor is DOt known 

tin-: . wo have !■• en ■ i eril eonly be- 

tw.. rod fifty, though, from what you say of the merit of the work, and what w« 

henr of It from Other quarters, wi Lng very well here when it is known." 

til. fher Andrew. 


mourn over their graves. I know that I tenderly loved my dear 
brother, hut his death has afi'ected me more than I could have 
imagined, and I yet feel as if I could never again he happy or 
cheerful enough to resume my former occupations. 

"I leave every thing relating to my poems to your own judg- 
ment. If they do not sell, my poetry never will; for though I may 
write better, they are good enough for popularity — far better than 
many that circulate widely — and they deserve to sell. 

"Southey would have gladly reviewed them in the Quarterly, 
but found it impossible, without speaking at length of himself and 
Wordsworth; so he from conscience declined it. Blair I have heard 
nothing of since I saw you, nor am I likely to hear. A book must 
ultimately owe its circulation to itself, and not to the grace of 
reviewers. Take such steps about a second edition as you choose. 
I would advise, if there be one, no more than 750 copies. I will 
add no new poems, nor preface, nor note. 

" I would fain write you at greater length, but feel unable. Let 
the beginning of my letter be my excuse." 

The extent of his plans of composition at this time is indicated 
by a "List of subjects for meditation," in one of his books, contain- 
ing no less than 131 titles of proposed poems. In what spirit he 
entered on his work, the following note, written in his commonplace- 
book, may illustrate : — 

'■'•June 12, 1812. — Expected that a volume will be completed 
by June 12, 1814. May the Almighty enlighten my mind, so that I 
may benefit my fellow-creatures, and discharge the duties of my 
life.— J. W."* 

The list of subjects begins on the opposite page, and the proposed 
character of the strain in each case is indicated by such notes as 
these : — 

" Red Tarn — melancholy and mournful. 

" The widow — beautiful and fanciful. 

" A poet — characteristic and copious. 

* It will not, I hope, diminish in any reader's eyes the respect due to this solemn and surely 
nost heartfelt aspiration, that it is copied from a page, never meant for other eyes to see, be- 
ginning with so different a kind of memorandum as this — " Small black muffled hen set herself 
with about eight eggs mi .Monday night or Tuesday morning, Tth July." So far am I from being 
offended by this curious contrast, I specially note the fact as a characteristic illustration of 
the wholeness and sincerity of the man, who, whether it were high poetic meditation or the 
breeding of game-cocks that occupied him, did it with all his heart and strength, each in its seasoa 


" On tne death of Gough among the hills — different view of it 
from W. and Scott. 

" City after a plague — awful and wild, solemn. 

" Town and country — vigorous and bold. 

" On the Greek sculpture — in strong heroics. 

" The murderer and the babe — a contrast ; the moral to be — to 
watch well our own hearts against vice." 

A calculation is then given for a volume of 500 pages out of a 
selection of this large list, in which 170 are allotted to "St. Hu- 
bert," and 50 each to "The Manse" and "The Ocean Queen," and 
to the "City after a Plague" only 5. The proposed volume did 
not appear till January, 1816, not from any lack of materials, but 
in consequence of a change of plan, the " City after a Plague" hav- 
ing developed into a drama, instead of St. Hubert, while of the 
other subjects very few were ever wrought out, and some that 
were have been withheld from posterity. Of subjects completed 
and published, the titles of some will be recognized from the above 
extract. It is perhaps to be regretted that so rich a promise did 
not come to perfection ; but it was no sudden or fortuitous impulse 
that made the poet choose to develop his poetical powers in another 
form than that of verse. 

So much meantime of poetry. Of the four happy years that were 
passed in the cottage at Elleray, from 1811 to 1815, there is little 
t<> be recorded. It would appear that in the former year he had 
come to the resolution of joining the Scottish Bar, and, in that view, 
became a member of the Speculative Society, then in a highly flour- 
ishing condition. He must of course have spent some part of the 
bucc< eding winters in Edinburgh, but the only trace of the matter 
I find is the following allusion in a letter from his friend Blair, dated 
nber, 1813 : — 

" My dsab John : — I desire very much to hear further from 
you, and to know how your great soul accommodates itself to the 
Law Class, and other judicial Bufferings and degradations, and more 
about your Greek and polite literature." 

I find also, that he opened, on the 4tb of January, 1814, the de- 
bate in tin- Speculative Society -topic, "Has the War on the Con- 
tinent been glorious to the Spanish nation?" — in the affirmative, 
when the majority of the Societj roted with him. He only \\ i 
it appears, one Essay lor that Society on "some political institutions 


of military origin," of which there are some traces in one of his MS. 

This happy life at Elleray was soon to come to a close. In the 
fourth year from- the date of his marriage, there came a calamity so 
heavy and unlouked for that the highest fortitude was required to 
meet it, as it was met, bravely and cheerfully. 

The circumstances which occurred to make it absolutely neces- 
sary to leave Elleray were of a most painful nature, inasmuch as 
they not only deprived Wilson of his entire fortune, but in that 
blow revealed the dishonesty of one closely allied to him by rela- 
tionship, and in whom years of unshaken trust had been reposed. 
An uncle had acted the part of "unjust steward," and, by his 
treachery, overwhelmed his nephew in irretrievable loss. A sud- 
den fall from affluence to poverty is not a trial easily borne, espe- 
cially when it comes through the fault of others ; but Wilson's na- 
ture was too strong and noble to bow beneath the blow. On the 
contrary, with a virtue rarely exemplified, he silently submitted to 
the calamity, and generously assisted in contributing to the support 
of his relative, who, in the ruin of others, had also ruined himself. 
Here was a practical illustration of moral philosophy, more elo- 
quent, I think, than even the Professor's own lectures, when he 
came to teach what he had practised. In such a noble spirit, and 
with a conscience void of offence, he prepared to quit the beautiful 
home where he had hoped to pass his days, and set his face firmly 
to meet the new conditions of life which his lot imposed. The fol- 
lowing letter to De Quincey describes his journey from Elleray 
with his wife and infant family : — 

" Penrith, Crown Inn, 
" Friday Evening, half-past Six, 1815. 

" My dear Friend : — I found that it was impossible to see you 
again at your cottage before taking leave of Elleray. The tem- 
pestuous weather prevented me from going to Kendal on the day I 
had fixed, so I was forced to go on Thursday, a cold, rainy, and 
stormy day. Had I returned in the afternoon, I certainly would 
have cantered over to Grasmere for a parting grasp of cordiality 
ami kindness ; but I did not return to Elleray till near eleven 
o'clock. We rose this morning at six, and got under weigh at 
eight. We arrived here about five, and the children being fatigued, 
we propose to lie to during the night. The post-boy being about 


to return to Ambleside, I gave Keir this note, which has no other 
object than to kindly wish you all peace, and such happiness as you 
deserve till we meet again. If I cannot pay you a visit at Christ- 
mas, we shall surely meet early in summer. I will write you from 
Edinburgh soon. 

" Blair left Elleray on an opposite tack this morning ; weathei 
hazy with heavy squalls from the northwest. Mrs. Wilson begs to 
be kindly remembered to you, and so would doubtless the progeny 
were they of maturer age and awake. Yours with true affection, 

"John Wilson. 

"My books had not been sent to Elleray from the 'stamp-mas- 
ter's' * when I took my departure. If they still linger with fond, 
reluctant, amorous affection near Green's rotundities, perhaps you 
might wish to see those about Spain. If so, order them all to your 
cottage. The dinner in honor of Blucher and the Crown Prince at 
Ambleside, was, I understood, attended only by the Parson, the 
Apothecary, the Limner ;^the King, Lord North, and Mr. Fury, 
signifying nothing. 

" Vale ! iter unique, vale !" 





John Wilson's new home was now in Edinburgh. His mother 
received him and his family into her house, where he resided 
until the year 1819. Mrs. Wilson, senior, was a lady whose skill in 
domestic management was the admiration and wonder of all zealous 
housekeepers. Under one roof she accommodated three distinct 
families; and, besides the generosity exercised towards her own, 
she was hospitable to all, while her charities and goodness to the 
poor were unceasing. This lady was so well known and so much 
esteemed in Edinburgh, thai when Bhe died, it was, as it were, the 

* Wordsworth 


extinction of a "bright particular star;" nor can any one who ever 
sn w her, altogether forget the effect of her presence. She belonged to 
that old school of Scottish ladies whose refinement and intellect never 
interfered with duties the most humble. In a large household, where 
the fashion of the day neither sought nor suggested a retinue of 
attendants, many little domestic offices were performed by the lady 
of the house herself. The tea china, for example, was washed, both 
after breakfast and tea, and carefully put away by her own delicate 
hands. Markets were made early in the morning. Many a time 
has the stately figure of Mrs. Wilson, in her elegantly fitting black 
satin dress, been seen to pass to and from the old market-place, Ed- 
inburgh, followed by some favorite " caddie,"* bearing the well- 
chosen meats and vegetables, that no skill but her own was ever 
permitted to select. Shrewd sense, wise economy, and well-ordered 
benevolence marked all her actions. Beautiful and dignified in 
presence, she at once inspired a feeling of respect. Pious and good, 
she at the same time knew and understood the world ; and false 
sentiment, or affectation of any sort, was not permitted to live near 
her ; wit and humor she did not lack ; but it is doubtful whether 
poetry was a material of her nature in any shape. Proud as she was 
of her son John, and great as his devotion was to her, he used always 
to say that his mother did not understand him. Sometimes, it is no 
great wonder if his eccentricity might have been a little too much 
for her order and regularity. It is very doubtful if any lady of the 
present regime could so wisely and peacefully rule the affairs of a 
household as did this lady,f when, for several years, she had under 
her roof two married sons, with their wives, children, and servants, 
along with her own immediate household, a son and two daughters, 
yet unmarried, making in all a family of fourteen persons. Yet 
peace and harmony reigned supreme ; and there are now not a few 
of her grandchildren who remember this fine old lady, either as she 
moved through the active duties of her house, or, seated at the fire- 
side on a chair, the back of which she never touched, dignified in 
bearing as a queen, took a short nap, awaking with a kindly smile 

* Street porter. 

t Mrs. Wilson, senior, was a keen Tory; and it is told of her that on hearing of her son con 
tributing to the Edinburgh Review, Bhe said to him significantly, "John, if you turn Whig, this 
house is no longer big enough for us both." She must have been well pleased with the principles 
of her daughter-in-law, who, writing after the Reform Bill passed, " thanked God she was born la 
the reign of the Georges." 


at the sound of some young voice demanding a story, in the telling 
of which, like all good grandams, she excelled. 

So, to the pleasant house of his mother, No. 53 Queen street, 
Wilson changed his ahode from dear sycamore-sheltered Elleray. 

In 1815 he was called to the bai*, along with his friend Patrick 
Robertson.* John Gibson Lockhart joined them in the year follow- 
ing. For a short time, but only for a short time, Wilson followed 
the usual routine of a professional promenading in the " Hall of 
Lost Steps." He did sometimes get cases, but when he found them 
lying on his table, he said jocularly, when speaking of this after- 
wards, "I did not know what the devil to do with them!" The 
Parliament-House life was plainly not the thing which nature meant 
for him. The restrictions of that arena would not suit his Pegasus, 
so he freed his wings and took another course. 

There are some pleasant fragments of his letters to his wife, writ- 
ten in holiday time, when he would now and then run away for a 
day or two to saunter, fishing-rod in hand, by the streams of pretty 
pastoral Peebles, and into Yarrow to visit the Ettrick Shepherd. 

He writes from the " Head of the Yarrow," on " Wednesday morn- 
ing, seven o'clock," in June, 1815 : — 

" My deakest Jane : — T take time by the forelock merely to inform 
you that I am still a sentient being. On Sunday, I did not leave 
Sym's till near twelve o'clock. I called, on my way to Peebles, at 
Finlay's, at Glencorse, where I sandwiched for an hour, and arrived 
at Peebles about seven o'clock, a perfect lameter, my shoes having 
peeled my timbers. The walk was rather dreary. At Peebles I 
had to stop, and remained there all night. On Monday morning, at 
six o'clock (miraculous!) I uprose from the couch of slumber, and 
walked along the Tweed to Traquair Knowe (Mr. Laidlaw's). There 
I fished, and stayed all Monday, the place being very beautiful. 
joined the party that night, and several other people. Mr. 
Laidlaw is married, an insectologist and poet, and farmer and agri- 
culturist. On Tuesday morning 1 walked to Hogg's, a distance of 
abonl eight miles, fishing as 1 went, and surprised him in his cottage 
bottling whiskey, if- i- well, and dressed pastorally. His house is 
bitable, but tl ait good, and may become very pretty. 

• Anr same time, were John 

U»y, An ind, Alexander Prlugle, 

ArcblbaM Alison, Duncan M ■ N . - i 1 1 , Jamea lv<., 


There 'being no beds in his domicile, we last night came here, a 
farmer's house about a quarter of a mile from him, Avhere I have 
been treated most kindly and hospitably. The house and entertain- 
ment something d la Wastdale, but much superior. I have risen at 
seven o'clock, and am preparing to take a complete day's fishing 
among the streams near St. Mary's Loch. 

"To-morrow night I fish down to Selkirk, to catch the coach to 
Hawick in the evening ; thence on Friday morning to Richmond's, 
whom I will leave on Sunday evening. So if I can get a seat in the 
coach on Sunday night at Hawick, you will see me in Edinburgh on 
Monday morning before breakfast. Mrs. Scott informs me breakfast 
is ready, so hoping that you will be grateful for this letter, bald as 
it is, I have the honor to subscribe myself your obedient and dutiful 
busband, " John Wilson." 

On one of these fishing excursions he had proceeded from St. 
Mary's Loch to Peebles, where he could not at first get admittance 
to the inn, as it was fully occupied by a party of country gentlemen, 
met together on some county business; on sending in his name, 
however, he was immediately asked to join them at dinner. It is 
needless to say that under his spell the fun grew fast and furious. 
Xo one thought of moving. Supper was proposed, and as nothing 
eatable was to be had in the house, Wilson asked the company if 
they liked trouts, and forthwith produced the result of his day's 
amusement from basket, bag, and pocket, in such numbers that the 
table was soon literally covered. As the Shepherd afterwards said, 
" Your creel was fu' — your shooting-bag fu' — your jacket-pouches 
fii' — the pouches o' your verra breeks fu' — half-a-dozen wee anes in 
your waistcoat, no to forget them in the crown o' your hat, and last 
o' a', when there was nae place to stow awa' ony mair, a willow-wand 
drawn through the gills o' some great big anes." 

The fresh fragrance of summer, as enjoyed by the running streams 
and " dowie dens o' Yarrow," combined with the desire to show 
his English wife something of the beauty of Scotland, suggested 
about this time an excursion, which was regarded by many as an act 
of insanity. 

About the beginning of July my father and mother set out from 
Edinburgh on a pedestrian tour through the Western Highlands. 
That such a feat should be performed by a delicate young English- 


woman was sufficiently astonishing. A little of the /singularity, no 
doubt, arose from the fact, that she was the wife of an eccentric 
young poet, the strangeness of whose actions would be duly exag- 
gerated. Such a proposal, therefore, could not be made without 
exciting wonder and talk in the demure circles of Edinburgh society. 
Mrs. Grant of Laggan thus writes upon the subject to a friend: — 

" The oddest thing that I have known for some time is John Wil- 
son's intended tour to the Highlands with his wife. This gentle 
and elegant Englishwoman is to walk with her mate, who carries 
her wardrobe and his own, 

' Thorough flood and thorough mire, 
Over bush, over brier;' 

that is, through all the bypaths in the Central Highlands, where 
they propose to sleep in such cottages as English eyes never saw 
before. I shall be charmed to see them come back alive ; and in the 
mean time it has cost me not a little pains to explain, in my epistles 
to my less romantic friends in their track, that they are genuine gen- 
tle folks in masquerade. How cruel any authority would be thought, 
that should assign such penance to the wearers of purple and line 
linen, as these have volunteered." 

A few facts relative to this romantic walk are not, after a lapse 
of so many years, lost sight of by those who remember meeting 
the travellers, and entertaining them kindly. Scotland was dear to 
Wilson's heart, as was the fair sisterland he was so loath to- leave. 
Who has ever written such words about Highland scenery as he 
has done ? Well he knew all those mist-laden glens in the far west ; 
and the glorious shadows of the great mountains, beneath whose 
shelter he and his wife would rest after a long day's walk. In this 
tour they visited the Trosachs, Loch Katrine, ami the smaller lochs 
in that neighborhood, taking such divisions of the Western Iligh- 
lands a- -uited their fancy. They did not k -clialk out a route," or 
if " they had sworn a solemn oath to follow it." From Loch 
Lomond w< tward to Inverary, and thence northward by Loch 
Awe and Glen Etive, they wandered on — halting when wearied, 
either for a night, or a day or two, and always well received, 
strangers though they were; making friends too, in far-off places. 
Through the wild rampanl cliffs and mountains, which lend bo awful 
a. grandeur to Glencoe, they proceeded to Ballachulish, billeting 
upon tic- ho household of Mr. Stewart, where 


they received such kindness as made the remembrance of that family 
a bright spot in the wanderings of memory many years after, and 
meetings with its different members always agreeable. The dis- 
trict of country, however, which seemed to have the greatest 
charm, and where they lingered longest, was that between lnverary 
and Dalmally. Loch Awe with its wooded shores, noble bays, 
beautiful islands, and unsurpassed mountain range, topped by the 
magnificent crest of Ben Cruachan, whose mighty base, wood- 
skirted, sends its verdure-clad bounds gently to the margin of the 
deep waters — was an object too attractive for such lovers of nature 
soon to part from. Again and again they retraced their steps to 
this enchanting scene. 

In this neighborhood they found a resting-place for a time in 
Glenorchy, at the schoolmaster's house. Dr. Smith, the present 
clergyman of lnverary, remembers, when a youth, seeing this de- 
voted pair travelling on foot in these parts ; Wilson laden with 
their travelling gear, and his gentle wife carrying in her hand the 
lighter portion of it. He says : " I remember well the feelings of 
wonder and admiration with which I regarded his manliness and 
her meekness; and whether it be that the thoughts of youth are 
apt to become indelible impressions, or that what awakened them 
was a reality in this case, as I am inclined to believe ; the thoughts 
and feelings of youth still remain, so that over and high above all 
he wrote, I see the man, the earnest, generous man, who though 
singularly tolerant to others, cared not to measure any odds against 
his own consciousness of power. It was on this first visit in 1815 
that some of those incidents occurred which are not easily forgot- 
ten, in a country where the acts of a stranger are narrowly noticed, 
though kindly interpreted. He and Mrs. Wilson, on their way to 
Glenorchy, passed a little thatched cottage close by the falls of the 
Aray. The spot was beautiful ; the weather had been wet, and the 
river rushed along its rocky bed with a fulness that was promising 
to the angler. It was too attractive to be passed, so they lingered, 
stopped, and waited for ten days or a fortnight, taking up their 
quarters at the cottage, and living on the easiest terms with its 

"It is yet told, how on a Sabbath morning the daughter who 
served came into the room — the only one — where Mr. and Mrs. 
Wilson slept; and after adjusting her dress at the little mirror 


hanging by a n:iil on the unmortared wall, she was unable to hook 
her gown behind, but went at once to the side of the bed, from 
which they had not yet risen, saying, ' Do help me to hook my 
gown.' Mr. Wilson sat up in bed, and served her with the utmost 
good-nature. In Glenorchy, his time was much occupied by fish- 
ing, and distance was not considered an obstacle. He started one 
morning at an early hour to fish in a loch which at that time 
abounded in trout, in the Braes of Glenorchy, called Loch Toila. 
Its nearest point was thirteen miles distant from his lodgings at 
the schoolhouse. On reaching it, and unscrewing the butt- end of 
his fishing-rod to get the top, he found he had it not. Nothing 
daunted, he walked back, breakfasted, got his fishing-rod, made all 
complete, and oft* again to Loch Toila. He could not resist fishing 
on the river when a pool looked invitingly, but he went always on- 
wards, reached the loch a second time, fished round it, and found 
that the long summer day had come to an end. He set oif for his 
home again with his fishing-basket full, and confessing somewhat 
to weariness. Passing near a farm-house whose inmates he knew 
(for he had formed acquaintance with all), he went to get some 
food. They were in bed, for it was eleven o'clock at night, and 
after rousing them, the hostess hastened to supply him; but he re- 
quested her to get him some whiskey and milk. She came with a 
bottle-full, and a can of milk with a tumbler. Instead of a tum- 
bler, he requested a bowl, and poured the half of the whiskey in, 
along with half the milk. He drank the mixture at a draught, and 
while his kind hoste-s u -as looking on with amazement, he poured 
the remainder of the whiskey and milk into the bowl, and drank 
-.. II. then proceeded homeward, performing a journey of 
not Lesa than Beventy miles.* 

"On leaving the Glenorchy schoolhouse, they went to Glen 

eir way along the banks of Loch Etive, and near the 
mouth of the river Conglas, they came to a shepherd's house, where 
they intended t<> waitfor afew days to fish. The shepherd waa 
gervanl to Mr. Campbell of Achlian. Wilson had a note to him 
from his master. The morning had been tine, but, as often happens 
in this climate, it had become very wel towards evening. As the 

ached the drenched,on knocking a1 the door, 

i told, with s slight variation, by tb btinsolfln his " Anglimsnia. 


the shepherd's wife thought not well of them, perhaps startled by 
the height and breadth of the shoulders of him who stood at the 
door, for her husband was a little man. She said at once, ' Go on 
to the farm-house, we cannot take in gangrels here.' The note j:ut 
all right, and the shepherd with his wife, both dead now, often told 
the circumstance to enforce hospitality to strangers, as by so doing 
one might entertain angels unawares." 

This kind of reception was at last no novelty to them. A gentle- 
man now residing near Inverness remembers their arriving at Foy- 
ers, with a letter of introduction to the late proprietor of that pic- 
turesque estate, from their friend Mrs. Grant. Wilson was dressed 
in sailor fashion, and his wife's attire was such as suited a pedes- 
trian in the mountains. The Highland lassie who received them 
at the door had not been in the habit of seeing gentlefolks so ar- 
rayed, and naturally taking them for "gangrel bodies" from the 
South, ushered them into the kitchen. 

On their returning route they passed through a village where 
Wilson, on a subsequent expedition, met with adventures to be 
afterwards recorded. Their appearance is described by the writer 
of a collection of Highland Sketches,* from whose narrative I bor- 
row the substance of the following account: — 

On a fine summer evening, the eyes of a primitive northern vil- 
lagef were attracted by the appearance of two travellers, appa- 
rently man and wife, coming into the village, dressed like cairds or 
gipsies. The man was tall, broad-shouldered, and of stalwart pro- 
portions ; his fair hair floated redundant over neck and shoulders, 
and his red beard and whiskers were of portentous size. He bore 
himself with the assured and careless air of a strong man rejoicing 
iu his strength. On his back was a capacious knapsack, and his 
slouched hat, garnished with fishing-hooks and tackle, showed he 
was as much addicted to fishing as to making spoons : — 

" A stalwart tinkler wight seemed he, 
That weel could mend a pot or pan ; 
And deftly he could thraw the flee. 
Or neatly weave the willow wan'." 

The appearance of his companion contrasted strikingly with that 

* Mr. William Stewart. 

t Mr. Stewart calls it Tomintoul. but that must bo a mistake, as at a subsequent date my father 
•peaks of it as a place visited for the first time. 



of her mate. She was of slim and fragile form, and more like a 
lady in her walk and bearing than any wife of a caird that had ever 
been seen in those parts. The natives were somewhat surprised to 
see this great caird making for the head inn, the " Gordon Arms," 
where the singular pair actually took up their quarters for several 
days. Thence they were in the habit of sallying forth, each armed 
with a fishing rod, to the river banks, a circumstance the novelty 
of which, as regarded the tinker's wife, excited no small curiosity, 
and many conjectures were hazarded as to the real character of the 
mysterious couple. 

A local hero named the King of the Drovers, moved by admira- 
tion of the peculiar proportions of this king of the cairds, felt a 
great desire to come into closer relations with the stranger. He 
was soon gratified. A meeting was arranged, in order to try 
whether the son of the mountain or the son of the plain were the 
better man in wrestling, leaping, running, and drinking; and in all 
of these manly exercises the great drover, probably for the first 
time, found himself more than matched. 

After nearly two months' tour, the travellers came down by the 
low-lying lands of Dunkeld, where Mr. Wilson was somewhat sus- 
piciously regarded, being by some good folks looked upon as a 
lunatic. Mrs. Izett, a lady of accomplishments and taste, and a 
great admirer of genius gives a description of Mr. and Mrs. Wil- 
son's arrival at her house at midnight. She writes to Mr. John 
Grieve, a friend of my father's, who lived many years in Edinburgh, 
a man of good judgment, and refined and elegant pursuits: — 

"Had you a glimpse of Byron, Southey, etc.? By the way, 
Southey brings your friend Wilson to my recollection. We had 
the pleasure of seeing him and his agreeable partner here. Though 
they were licif fin- several nights, I really could not form an opinion 
of him. They arrived lure laic a1 aight. The following day, and 
greatest part of the night,he passed rambling among our glena 
alone, and the day after, the whole of which he passed within 
doors, I happened unfortunately to be confined to my room with 
the headache— a1 least during the greatesl part of it — and thus lost 
the opportunity you kindly afforded me, of enjoying what I should 
have considered a ureal treat. There is something very striking in 
the countenance of Mr. Wilson, particularly his eye. His head I 
think quite a model for a minstrel ; there is so much of fire, and at 


the same time so much simplicity. His wanderings, etc., etc., made 
some people in this quarter — no matter who — think him quite mad, 
and they will not be persuaded to the contrary. The eccentricities 
of a poet certainly do bear some resemblance to this at times, and 
to say truth, Mr. Wilson has his good share of these. I was quite 
tantalized the day he passed in the house that I was not able to 
appear, and avail myself of so good an opportunity to become ac- 
quainted with him. I saw more of Mrs. Wilson, and was much 
pleased with her. She made out her walks you see, and after this 
you must allow woman to possess resolution and perseverance. 1 
greatly admired the patience and good-humor with which she bora 
all the privations and fatigues of her journey. She might make 
some of your southern beaux blush for their effeminacy." 

My mother during this tour walked one day twenty-five miles. 
The travellers had been overtaken by a mist falling suddenly over 
them when in Raunoch. They missed the beaten track of road, 
and getting among dreary moors, were long before they discovered 
footing that could lead them to a habitation. My father made his 
wife sit down among the moss, and taking off his coat, wrapped 
her in it, saying he would try and find the road, assuring her, at 
the same time, that he would not go beyond the reach of her voice. 
They could not see a foot before them, so dense and heavy was the 
dreary mist that lay all around. Kissing his wife, and telling her 
not to fear, he sprang up from where she sat, and bounded off 
Not many seconds of time elapsed, ere he called her to come to 
him — the sound guiding her to where he stood. He was upon the 
road ; his foot had suddenly gained the right path, for light there 
was none. He told her he had never felt so grateful for any thing 
in his life, as for that unexpected discovery of the beaten track. 
He knew well the dangers of those wild wastes when mists fall, 
and the disasters they not unfrequently cause. A weary walk it 
\n as that brought them to " King's House," the only inn at that 
time for travellers among these Highland fastnesses. 

On their return from tins wonderful tour, they were quite the 
lions of Edinburgh. It was fully expected by the anxious commu- 
nity of the fairer sex, that Mrs. Wilson would return weather- 
beaten and robbed of her beautiful complexion, sunburnt and 
freckled. But such expectations were agreeably disappointed. 
One lady who called upon her directly after her return, old Mrs. 



Mure of Caldwell, exclaimed, " Weel, I declare, she's come back 
bonnier than ever :' ' 

My father's own account of their adventures is contained in the 
following letter to the Ettrick Shepherd, soon after his return, writ- 
ten evidently in the full enjoyment of the highest health and spirits, 
— to use his own phrase, " strong as an eagle :" — 

" Edinburgh, September. 

" My deae Hogg : — I am in Edinburgh, and wish to be out of it. 
Mrs. Wilson and I walked 350 miles in the Highlands, between the 
5th of July and the 26th of August, sojourning in divers glens from 
Sabbath unto Sabbath, fishing, eating, and staring. I purpose ap- 
pearing in Glasgow on Thursday, where I shall stay till the circuit 
is over. I then go to Elleray, in the character of a Benedictine 
monk, till the beginning of November. Now pans.' and attend. If 
you will meet me at Moffat, on October 6th, I will walk or mail it 
with you to Elleray, and treat you there with fowls and Irish 
whiskey. Immediately on the receipt of this, write a letter to me, 
at Mr. Smith's bookshop, Hutcheson street, Glasgow, saying pos 
itively if you will, or will not do so. If you don't, I will lick you, 
and fish up Douglas Burn before you, next time I come to Ettrick. 

I saw a letter from you to M the other day, by which you seem 

to be alive and well. You are right in not making verses when 
you can catch trout. Francis Jeffrey leaves Edinburgh this day for 
Holland and France. I presume, after destroying the king of the 
Netherlands, he intends to annex that kingdom to France, and 
assume the supreme power of the United Countries, under the title 
of Geoffrey the First. You, he will make Poet Laureate and Fish- 
monger, and me admiral of the Mosquito Fleet. 

•■If you have occasion soon to write to Murray, pray introduce 
something about 'The City of the Plague,' as 1 shall probably offer 
him that, poem in about a fortnighl or sooner. Of course I do not 
wish you to say that the poem is utterly worthless. I think that a 
bold eulogy from you (if administered immediately) would be of 
Bervice to me ; but if you do write aboul it, do nol tell him that I 
have any intention of offering it to him, but you may say, you hear 
I am going to offer it to a London booksi Her. 

"We Btayed seven day- at Mrs. [zett's, al Kinnaird, and were 
most kindly received. Mi . [zetl ie ly of yours, and is a 


fine creature. I killed in the Highlands 170 dozen of trouts One 
day nineteen dozen and a half, another seven dozen. I, one morn- 
ing, killed ten trouts that weighed nine pounds. In Loch Awe, in 
three days, I killed seventy-six pounds' weight of fish, all with the 
fly. The Gaels were astonished. I shot two roebucks, and had 
nearly caught a red-deer by the tail — I was within half a mile of 
it at farthest. The good folks in the Highlands are not dirty. 
They are clean, decent, hospitable, ugly people. We domiciliated 
with many, and found no remains of the great plague of fleas, etc., 
that devastated the country from the time of Ossian to the acces- 
sion of George the Third. We were at Loch Katrine, Loch Lomond, 
Inverary, Dalmally, Loch Etive, Glen Etive, Dalness, Appin, Balla- 
chulish, Fort William, Moy, Dal whinny, Loch Ericht (you dog), 
Loch Rannoch, Glen Lyon, Taymouth, Blair-Athole, Bruar, Perth, 
Edinburgh. Is not Mrs. Wilson immortalized ? 

" I know of 'Cona.'* It is very creditable to our excellent friend, 
but will not sell any more than the 'Isle of Palms,' or 'The White 
Doe.'f The ' White Doe' is not in season ; venison is not liked in 
Edinburgh. It wants flavor; a good Ettrick wether is preferable. 
Wordsworth has more of the poetical character than any living 
writer, but he is not a man of first-rate intellect ; his genius oversets 
him. Southey's ' Roderic' is not a first-rate work ; the remorse of 
Roderic is that of a Christian devotee, rather than that of a de- 
throned monarch. His battles are ill fought. There is no proces- 
sional march of events in the poem, no tendency to one great end, 
like a river increasing in majesty till it reaches the sea. Neither is 
there national character, Spanish or Moorish. No sublime imagery; 
no profound passion. Southey wrote it, and Southey is a man of 
talent ; but it is his worst poem. 

" Scott's ' Field of Waterloo' I have seen. What a poem ! — such 
bald and nerveless language, mean imagery, commonplace senti- 
ments, and clumsy versification ! It is beneath criticism. Unless 
the latter part of the battle be very fine indeed, this poem will in- 
jure him. 

"Wordsworth is dished. Southey is in purgatory; Scott is 

• Cona or the Vale of Cltoyd, and otiter Poems. Edinburgh. 12mo. The author of this little 
volume was .Mr. Jamea Gray, one of the teachers in the High School, an accomplished man, a 
friend of my father's. He afterwards took orders in the Church of England, and was appointed 
to a chaplaincy In India, lie died in September, 1830. 

t Wordsworth's " White Doe of Rylstone." 


dying ; and Byron is married. Herbert* is frozen to death in Scan- 
dinavia. Moore has lost his manliness. Coleridge is always in a 
fog. Joanna Baillie is writing a system of cookery. Montgomery 
is in a madhouse, or ought to be. Campbell is sick of a constipa- 
tion in the bowels. Hogg is herding sheep in Ettrick forest ; and 
Wilson has taken the plague. O wretched writers ! Unfortunate 
bards ! 'What is Bobby Miller'sf back shop to do this winter ! 
Alas ! alas ! alas ! a wild doe is a noble animal ; write an address to 
one, and it shall be inferior to one I have written — for half a barrel 
of red herrings ! \ 

"The Highlanders are not a poetical people. They are too 
national ; too proud of their history. They imagine that a colley- 
shangy between the Macgregors and Campbells is a sublime event ; 
and they overlook mountains four thousand feet high. If Ossian 
did write the poems attributed to him, or any poems like them, he 
was a dull dog, and deserved never to taste whiskey as long as he 
lived. A man who lives forever among mist and mountains, 
knows better than to be always prosing about them. Methinks I 
feel about objects familiar to infancy and manhood, but when we 
speak of them, it is only upon great occasions, and in situations of 
deep passion. Ossian was probably born in a flat country !§ 

>tt has written good lines in the 'Lord of the Isles,' but he 
ha- not done justice to the Sound of. Mull, which is a glorious 

"The Northern Highlanders do not admire Waverley, so I 
presume the South Highlanders despise Guy Mannering. The 
Westmoreland peasants think Wordsworth a ibol. In Borrow- 
Southey is not known to exist. I met ten men at llawiek 
who did not think Hogg a poet, and the whole City of Glasgow 
think me a madman. So much tor the voice of the people being 
the voice of God. I left my Bnuff-box in your cottage. Take care 
of it. 'I'll'- Anstruther bards have advertised their anniversary ; I 

forget the day. 

• 'I In- Honorable William Herbert D in of "> lied in 1 ^ 17. in bis 70th year. Ho 

ma author of several volumes or translations from the Icelandic and other northern Iah 

' « hlch was publi shed in i 
' principal Edl 
X An- The " Address to a Wild D ' ■ ' j * i ■ ^ ■ M «■■ >iut»«>^ii ion.*. 

'■ . AWCKfU'l 

MoQttaint for November, - 



"I wish Lieutenant Gray of the Marines* had been devoured by 
the lion lie once carried on board his ship to the Dey of Algiers, or 
that he was kept a perpetual prisoner by the Moors in Barbary. 
Did you hear that Tennantf had been taken before the Session for 
an offence- against good morals? If you did not, neither did I. 
Indeed it is, on many accounts, exceedingly improbable. 

" Yours, truly, John "Wilson." 

Apparently the Isle of Palms had by this time made way with 
Borne success, if it did not quite realize the hopes of the author. 
Previously to the writing of the above letter, he had put himself in 
communication with Mr. Smith, in reference to the publication of 
his new volume : — 

"Edinburgh, 53 Queen Street, 
September 5, 1815. 
" I have as many poems as would make such another volume as 
the Isle of Palms, which I wish to publish this winter. The long- 
est is nearly 4,000 lines. I have as yet spoken of it to no one, friend 
or bookseller. I have made up my mind not to publish it unless I 
sell the copyright for a specific sum. I shall not correspond with 
any other person on the subject till I hear from you, and what your 
intentions may be concerning it. 

" I hope that you are quite well. I have been in the Highlands 
for two months, with Mrs. Wilson, and am strong as an eagle." 
Having received no reply, he wrote a few days later : — 
" I felt myself bound by friendship and other ties to acquaint you 
with my intention before I communicated it to any other person of 
the trade. As the winter is fast approaching, I wish to have this 
business settled, ere long, either in one way or another, and will 
therefore be glad to hear from you as soon as convenient. It is 
probable that I may appear in Glasgow during the Circuit, to smell 
the air of the new court, but my motions are uncertain. If I do 
make it out, I trust the oysters will be in season." 
Early in October he writes again, from Glasgow : — 
" The volume which I have now ready for the press will contain 
any number of pages the publisher may think fit, from three to four 

* Charles Gray, author of several Scotch ballads, poems, and songs. He died in 1851. 
t W ; :iium Tennant, Professor of Oriental Language in St. Andrews ; Author of " Anster Fair ;" 
died iii 1842 


aundred, so as to be sold for twelve shillings, and to be a counter- 
part of the Isle of Palms. 

" The first and longest poem is entitled ' The City of the Plague, 
is dramatic, and consists of nearly four thousand lines, or between 
three and four thousand. The scene is laid in London, during the 
great plague of 1665, and the poem is intended to give a general 
picture of the situation of a plague-struck city, along with the history 
of a few individuals who constitute the persons of the drama. 

"The second poem, 'The Convict,' is likewise dramatic and in 
blank verse, and its object is to delineate the passions of a man 
innocently condemned to death, and the feelings of his dearest 
relations. It is between two and three thousand lines. 

" The third poem is a dramatic fragment, entitled 'The Mariner's 
Return,' about six hundred lines, and principally consisting of 
descriptions of sea scenery. 

" The remaiuder of the volume will be made up to the length 
deemed necessary for poems of a miscellaneous character, in rhyme 
and blank verse. 

"It is not my intention to publish this volume unless I dispose 
of the copyright ; and the sum I have set on it is £200. 

"If you feel any inclination to purchase it of yourself one word 
can doit; if not, one word between friends is sufficient. 

"If you determine against purchasing it of yourself, then you 
can inform me whether or not you would be willing, along with 
Murray, or Miller in Edinburgh, or any other bookseller, to give 
me thai sum lor the copyright. 

" If yon determine against having any thing to do with it, as a 
principal, on these terms, then, for the present, the subjecl drops." 

Mr. Smith appeai-s to have declined the sole responsibility of the 
publication, which was ultimately undertaken by Constable, along 
with whose name thus,, of Smith and of Longman appeared on the 

title-page. Shortly after this coi onication my lather paid a visit 

to Elleray, probably for the purpose of inspecting the state of the 
place, and making arrangements for letting it. On the 31s1 of Oc 
tober he reports bis progress to hi^ wife: — 

" Ku.kkw -ht, Oct. 31, is 15. 

"Dearest Jam:: — I am not to blame for no1 having written 
before this night, owing lirst to a mistake about the post-night j 

134 MEMOlfe OF JOHN WtLSOtf. 

and secondly, to the want of sealing-wax or wafer ; so, if angry, 
pray become appeased. On Monday I reached Penrith, the weather 
being coldish to Hawick ; then I took inside to Carlisle, thence out- 
side to Penrith. At Penrith I dined with an old Oxonian, and 
walked on to Pooley Bridge ; there I found Jeany* waiting for 
me, and proceeded to Patterdale, which I reached about ten 
o'clock ; dark and stormy night. On Tuesday morning I walked 
to Ambleside, sending Billy (whom I found there) with pony to 
Elleray. From Ambleside I walked to De Quincey's, with whom 
I dined ; we returned per coach to Ambleside, and drank punch 
with Dr. Scandler, who is considerably better. The night being 
indifferent, I stayed all night at Chapman's ; on Wednesday I sent 
for pony and rode to Elleray. I found Mrs. Ritson alive and well. 
Rode down and called at the parsonage ; all glad to see me. Called 
at the Island ; saw Mrs. Curwen and children, well and looking 
well ; W. Curwen in Cumberland ; dined therefore at Ullock's ; 
went in the evening to parsonage and drank tea. Thursday, 
walked about Elleray ; dined at Pringle's ; met the Baxters and 
Greaves ; pleasant party, Greave falling asleep immediately after 
dinner. Mr. Pringle is looking tolerably, though I fear he will feel 
the effects of the accident all his days. Blind of one eye, and con- 
fused at times in his head. Mrs. Pringle handsome and kind, and 
Miss Somerville with her. Friday, have spent all this day along 
with myself and Mr. Ritson, and Billy at Elleray. The place which 
had been a wilderness is again trim and neat, and looks as well as 
possible. The trees are greatly grown, and every thing seems 
thriving and prosperous. There are eight chickens with whom I 
am forming a friendship ; and I feel as idle as ever. 

" I dare say no more about a place so dear to us both ; would to 
God you were here ! 

" But next time I come, whenever that is, you shall be with me. 
I have not seen the ' stamp-master.' Saturday and Sunday I intend 
keeping alone, and at Elleray. Monday I shall probably go to Hol- 
low ( )ak or Ulverston. The Misses Taylor have gone to Bath. Of 
the Hardens I know nothing. Mr. Lloyd is worse than ever, and 
gons to Birmingham; I believe never to return. Kitty Dawes 
(mother to Dawes) is dead. So is the old miller of Restock, and 
young Bingham of Kendal, two well-known cockers. 

* A favorite pony. 


" De Quiucey will accompany me to Scotland ; but I will write 
about bis rooms in a day or two. 

" I bave not yet been in the new house. The little detestable bit 
of avenue looks tolerable. Of Robert and Eliza I know nothing. 
Kiss everybody you meet for me up-stairs. Write to me, care of 
Mrs. Ullock, immediately. Thine with eternal afi'ection, 

"John AVilson." 

Of what happened in the interval between this date and January 
following there is no record. No doubt lie was busy with the 
proof-sheets of the City of the Plague. In January, 1S1G, he was 
again at Elleray, and thus relates his adventures to Mrs. Wilson : — 

" Bowness, Sunday, January, 1816. 
" Dearest Czarina : — I hope that you received my scroll from 
Carlisle, which I committed to the custody of Richard, and there- 
fore doubt not that he would fulfil his trust. 

"I supped at the Pearsons', and was very kindly received there; 
Miss Alms being in love with me, which 1 think I told you before. 
Going down to their house I fell?<£>o?i a slide, and was most severely 
bruised, so much so that I had to be carried into a shop, and, drink 
wine which the people very kindly gave me. This was an infernal 
fall, my rump and head suffering a dire concussion against one of 
the most fashionable streets. I however made out my visit, though 
still lather >ick and headachy all night. Indeed my journey seemed 
to consist wholly of disasters. In the morning (no coach going 
sooner) I pursued my journey to Penrith — day cold and snowy — • 
outside- for cheapness. I then got tired of the coach, and, after 
drinking a glass of wine and water, started on foot for Coleridj 
at Poole v Bridge ; there I dined, and, al half-pasl seven in the even- 
ing, feeling myself hold and chivalrous, I started again for Tatter- 
dale, againsl the ineffectual remonstrances of the whole family who 
all prophesied immediate death. The nighl was cot dark, and in 
two hour- I was -'•nte, | in il H . kitchen of .Mi-. I >obson at a good lire. 
I then proposed crossing Kirkstone, when shi'ieks arose from every 
quarter, and J then found a young man had jusl been brought in 
dead, having been lost on Sunday evening coming from Ambleside, 
and only found tint day. < >f i ourse, the melancholy accident made 
me give up nil thoughts of pursuing my journey till daylight, so 


I supped and went to bed. Next forenoon at eleven o'clock, a party 
of men arrived from Ambleside with the Coroner, and I found from 
them that the road though difficult was passable, so I faced the hill 
and arrived safe at Chapman's in two hours and ten minutes, hav- 
ing slid along with great rapidity. The thaw was beginning, and 
had I waited another day, the snow would have been soft and im- 
passable, as it lay in many places ten feet deep, and I walked over 
two gates. I dined with William Curwen, and walked to De Quin- 
cey's, which I reached at half-past one o'clock in the morning; he 
was at the JVccb, and when he returned about three o'clock, found 
me asleep in his bed. I reached Elleray only last night, having 
spent. the whole of Saturday with the lesser man; he walked to 
Elleray with me, where we drank tea ; he then returned to Gras- 
mere ; and no sheets being on the bed, I walked to Bowness, and 
stayed all night. I am still here, and it rains severely. As yet, El 
leray is all in the dark. I shall dine there to-morrow alone, but not 
stay all night, for the lonesoineness is insupportable. I will write 
a longer letter, and give you news. Nobody, I fear, has died here 
since I saw you. Billy is well, and his two nephews are at present 
residing with him at Elleray. His father and mother are expected 
daily, and a few distant relations. 

"Lloyd is in a mad-house; Wordsworth and family from home. 
Write me on receipt of this (if not before) ; direct to me at Mrs. 
Ullock's, Bowness. Eternally thine with all affection, 

"J. Wilson." 

During the next month he was constantly occupied with the 
printers, and on the 13th of March he writes to Mr. Smith: — 

" I ought long ago to have acknowledged the receipt of your dif- 
ferent letters ; but I have been busier than any man ever was before. 

"My volume went round the trade to-day; with what success I 
know not. My expectations are but moderate. The volume is too 
thin and so is the paper, but I believe there is more printing and 
pages than 10s. 6d. books in general. I put your name into the 
title page, which I shall ever be happy to do on similar occasions. 

"These failures in Glasgow will not be favorable to me as an 

The reception of the volume was altogether favorable ; and it was 
recognized as indicating a marked increase of power and discipline 


in the mind of the author. With the exception of that first sugges- 
tion of the subject already referred to, I find no allusion to the prin- 
cipal poem nor any trace of it in note-books. Of the other poems, 
there are but four which correspond in title with any in the "List 
of Subjects" of 1812. These are "The Children's Dance," "Th 
Cnvict," "Solitude," and "The Farewell and Return." 

In the next number of the Edinburgh Review, the volume received 
a friendly criticism from the hand of Jeffrey, who, in reply to a 
letter from the author, unfortunately not extant, addressed the fol- 
lowing interesting letter to him : — 

" Mr dear Sir : — I am extremely gratified by your letter, and 
thank you very sincerely, both for the kindness it expresses, and 
the confidence it seems to place in me. It is impossible, I think, to 
read your writings without feeling affection for the writer; and 
under the influence of such a feeling, I doubt whether it is jiossible 
to deal with them with the same severe impartiality with which 
works of equal literary merit, but without that attraction, might 
probably be treated. Nor do I think that this is desirable or would 
even be fair; for part, and not the least part of the merit of poetry, 
cousins in its moral effects, and the power of exciting kind and 
generous affections seems entitled to as much admiration as that of 
presenting pleasing images to the fancy. 

■• Fori wish, however, to be treated as a stranger, and, I think, I 
have actually treated you as one, for the partiality which I have 
already mentioned as irresistibly produced by your writings, cer- 
tainly has not been lessened by the little personal intercourse we 
have had. I am nol awan ihat'it has been materially increased by 
that cause, and was inclined to believe that I should have felt the 
same kindliness towards the author of the work I am reviewing, 
although I had never seen his face. As i<> showing you no favor 
lor the l'i it i iic « ,n the score of the past, 1 am afraid it' I do not exactly 
comply with your request, it will be more owing to my own selfish 
unwillingness to retracl my former opinions and abandon my pre- 
dictions, t ban from any excess of good-nal ure towards their objects. 
However, your requesl is very natural and manly, and I shall do 
what I can to le1 you have nothing more than justice, and save you 
from having any other obligations to your critic than for his dili- 
gence and integrity. 


"As to Wordsworth, I shall only say, that, while I cannot at all 
agree, nor is it necessary, in your estimate of his poetical talents, I 
love and honor the feelings by which I think your judgment has 
been misled, and by which I most readily admit that your conduct 
should be governed. I assure you I am not the least hurt or of- 
fended at hearing his poetry extolled, or my remarks upon it 
arraigned as unjust or erroneous ; only I hope you will not set them 
down as sure proof of moral depravity, and utter want of all good 
affections. I should be sorry that any good man should think this 
of me as an individual ; as to the opinion that may be formed of my 
critical qualifications, it is impossible for any one to be more indif- 
ferent than myself. 1 am conscious of being quite sincere in all the 
opinions I express, but I am the furthest in the world from thinking 
them infallible, or even having any considerable assurance of their 
appearing right to persons of good judgment. 

" I wish I had more leisure to talk to you of such matters ; but I 
cannot at present afford to indulge myself any further. 1 think we 
now understand each other in a way to prevent all risk of future 
misunderstanding. Believe me always, dear sir, very faithfully 

yours, "F. Jeffrey. 

" 92 George Street, Saturday Evening." 

The pleasant relations thus established between these two men 
led to a still closer intimacy, which, though unhappily interrupted 
by subsequent events, was renewed in after years, when the bitter- 
ness of old controversies had yielded to the hallowing influences of 

Whether there was any work done during this year in poetry or 
prose, I cannot say ; but in the way of acquiring materials for future 
" Recreations of Christopher North" there was undoubtedly a good 
deal. All the other memorials at least that I have of this year, and 
a good part of the next, are connected almost entirely with angling, 
and extensive "raids" into the Highlands. It would almost seem as 
if there was an unwillingness fairly to cast anchor and remain stead- 
ily at work. The stimulus to literary exertion had not yet come with 
imperative force, and in the interval, before he fairly girded himself 
up to regular work, he sought strength for it in his love of nature 
and pedestrian wandering. These excursions, it is but fair to ob- 
serve, however, appear to have been confined to the proper vacation 
time of his profession. 


Again and again he roams over country he had so often trod be- 
fore, and in the year following that in which he introduced Mrs. 
Wilson to the beauties of his native land, he returned to the neigh- 
borhood of Loch Awe, extending his tour into Inverness-shire, as 
we find from the following letters written in the spring and autumn 
of 1816:— 

"Achliax, 20th April, 1816. 

"Dear Jane : — I have risen at six o'clock to write to you. Your 
letter, I find, will not be here till Tuesday morning, I know not 
■why. Curse all country posts ! 

" To be brief, James Fergusson* and I reached Glasgow on Mon- 
day ; he went to the play; I did not. On Tuesday, I was tempted 
to stay in Glasgow, and saw Kean as Zanga in ' The Revenge.' It 
is heavy work, and he acted poorly, and is in every respect inferior 
to Kemble. On Wednesday, I went to Greenock by steamboat, 
of which the machinery went wrong, and blew up part of the deck, 
on which myself and two fattish gentlemen were sitting. This 
stopped us, and after along delay we got into another steamboat, 
and arrived at Greenock. It was four o'clock. I found that I 
could only cross the water that night, so I thought it was needless ; 
dined with Bissland, and went to the play, when I again saw Kean. 
I was too near him ; he acted with occasional vigor, ami his action 
is often good, but he rants abominably, and on the whole is no actor 
at all. On Thursday, I hired a boat and got to Ardentinny — dis- 
tance eight miles; there fished a few miles, and got six dozen; 
then walked to Strachur, but on the way cut my foot severely, and 
awoke on Friday morning dog-lame. With great difficulty I 
reached, on Friday, the waterfall above Inverary, and was obliged 
p in a small cottage there. On Saturday, I fished up the 
stream (as when with you), and killed eighteen dozen. When 
evening came I was eighl miles from Achlian, and so lame thai I 
could not walk a step. I procured, therefore, a cart to drag me 
where I arrived at eleven o'clock, and found a warm wel- 
come. 3Testerday 1 rested, and to-day intend going out in the I i al 
for a Utile fishing. This wound in my heel will render my \lsit to 
M srney impossible, for there is no horse-road, so 1 will write to- 
day informing Menzies of my mishap. Js not this a Bevere trial to 
one'- temper ? 

• A member of Qu Scottish bar, ulio married a slater of my father's friend, William Dunloi- 


"The wound is in itself insignificant, but is just on the sole of my 
heel, and is much festered, about the size of a shilling, so that I 
cannot walk a single step without the greatest difficulty and pain. 

•• 1 shall ride from this, back to Greenock if possible. Immedi- 
ately on getting this (which I expect will be Thursday forenoon), 
write that moment — directed to me at Achlian, by Tnverary. On 
Wednesday the 8th, write to me at Miss Sym's, Glasgow, where I 
will bo on the 10th, and at Edinburgh, on Saturday the 11th, prob- 
ably about six o'clock. Your other letters, of course, become use- 
less. I will write again first opportunity. 

" Thine with heart and soul till death, 

"J. Wilson." 

The manner in which he wounded his foot is not a little charac- 
teristic. He does not mention the real cause of it to his wife, but 
curiously enough a story communicated by Dr. Smith, of Inverarv, 
whose reminiscences have been already quoted from, explains this 
circumstance, the date of the occurrence he relates agreeing with 
that of the above letter : — 

"At a point on the road near to the house which I now occupy, 
and close by the river-side, as he was on his way to Achlian, a 
large party of tinkers were pitching their tents. There were men, 
"women, and children — a band — some preparing to go to fish for 
their supper in the adjoining pool, and some, more full of action, 
were leaping. They were tall, powerful young men, ready for any 
frolic, and all the bonhomie of Mr. Wilson's nature was stirred in 
him. He joined the group; talked with them and leaped with 
them. They were rejoicing in their sport, when he, finding him- 
Belf hard pressed, stripped off coat and shoes; but the river had had 
its channel once on the spot ; it had left a sharp stone, which was 
Dnly concealed by the thin coating of earth over it ; his heel came 
down on that stone ; it wounded him severely ; and, unable to bear 

hoe "ii. lie had to go to Achlian. The tinkers would rather that 
the accident had happened to one of themselves, and they procured 
a cart in the neighborhood in which he was conveyed to Achlian. 
The heel \v> carefully dealt with there by all but himself. Mrs. 
Smith,* then a little girl, tells me that her mother remonstrated 
often, but in vain ; for he would fish, though scarcely able to limp j 

* Then Miss Campbell, daughter of Mr. Campbell, of Achlian. 


and one day, as lie was fishing from the shore, a large trout, such 
as Loch Awe is remarkable for, was hooked by him. His line was 
weak, and afraid to lose it, he cast himself into the loch, yielding to 
the motions of the strong creature until it became fatigued s\nd 
manageable. Then he swam ashore with his victim in subjection, 
and brought it home; but he was without the bandage, and his 
heel bleeding copiously." 1 

This was no unusual mode of fishing with my father. As the 
Shepherd remarked : "In he used to gang, out, out, out, and ever 
sae far out, frae the point o' a promontory, sinking aye further and 
further doon, first to the waist-band o' his breeks, then up to the 
middle button o' his waistcoat, then to the verra breist, then to the 
oxters, then to the neck, and then to the verra chin o' him, sae that 
you wunnered how he could fling the flee ; till last o' a' he would 
plump richt oot o' sight, till the Highlander on Ben Cruachan 
thocht him drooned. No he, indeed ; sae he takes to the sooming, 
and strike- aw a wi 1 ae arm, for the tither had hand o' the rod ; and 
conld ye believe't, though it's as true as Scripture, fishing a' the 
time, that no a moment o' the cloudy day micht be lost ; ettles* at 
an island a quarter o' a mile ail", wi' trees, and an auld ruin o' a reli- 
gions house, wherein beads used to be counted, and wafers eaten, 
and mass muttered hundreds o' yens ago ; and getting footing on 
the yallow sand or the green sward, he but gies himself a shake, 
and ere the sun looks out o' the clud, has hyucket a four-pounder, 
whom in four minutes (for it's a multiplying pirn the cretur uses) 
he land-, gasping through the giant gills, and glittering wi' a thou- 
sand Bpots, streaks, and stars, on the shore."f 

With him the angler's silenl trade was :( ruling passion. He did 
not exaggerate to the Shepherd in the Nbctes when he said that he 
had taken "a hundred and thirty in one day out of Loch Awe," as 
• by bis letters that even larger numbers were taken by him. 

After the lapse of a week he again writes: — 

"Deabesi Jane: The 1 'evil is a letter-sorter at the Edinburgh 
Post < >fnce, so your < rlenorchy letter of Thursday has qoI been sent 
to the place of his birth. The Enverary one I got on Saturday, 
which told me of your welfare, and the brats, which is enough. 
Where the other is gone if known only to the old gentleman, who 
will assuredly be hanged one day or oilier. 

* Wp '-t- I t Woc&tt' 


" I promised not to write any more ; but thinking you will not 
be angry with me, I have ventured to scribble a few lines more. 

"My heel is in statu quo (two Latin words which Robert will 
explain to you). 

"I tried a day's fishing in Loch Awe, and killed a dozen fine 
ones. Yesterday I rode Achlian's charger to Craig. All here arc 
well, and desire their love to you. Miss Campbell has been poorly, 
but mends apace. I have received most hospitable welcome. 1 
slept last night in our old room. To-day I limped up to Molloy 
with my fishing-rod. Mrs. M'Kay there has just been brought to 
bed of a son, who is doing well. They inquired most kindly for 
you, and were delighted to see me. What a fishing ! In one pool 
I killed twenty-one trouts, all of them about two pounds each, and 
have just arrived in time for dinner at Craig, loaded so that I could 
hardly walk. I have dispatched presents to all around. Miss 
M'Intyre, with whom we dined, desires her love. Dr. M'Intyre is 
from home. I shall stay here all night, being tired. On Wednes- 
day, I leave Achlian on horseback, so depend on seeing me on Sat- 
urday. That is our marriage-day. In you and in my children lies 
all my bliss on earth. Every field here speaks of thee. Thine for- 
ever, "J. Wilson." 

The next letter is two months later, the Court of Session having 
sat in the interval. Very probably, however, he was not particular 
in waiting till the last day of the summer sittings to start once more 
for his favorite Achlian and Loch Awe. I suspect the idea of 
eighteen dozen of trout out of the Aray would have influenced liim 
more in these fine days than the mere chance of another brief before 
" the Lords" dispersed. 

" Achlian, Monday, 22d July, 1816. 

" Dearest Jennet : — Your letter of Thursday I received here on 
Saturday, and as Sir Richard Strahan said when he fell in with the 
French fleet, ' We were delighted.' 

" The day after I wrote last, namely, Monday, I walked up to the 
wooden bridge and fished there, killing fifteen dozen. Unluckily 
the family from home. On Tuesday I dined with Captain Archi- 
bald Campbell and his fair daughters at their cottage. We visited 
on Loch Fyne Bide, and met a pleasantish, smallish party. On 
Wednesday I left Inverary at a quarter before four in the morning, 


with young James M'Xicol, brother to Miss M'Nicol, and fished 
some moor farms about eight miles off; sport but moderate ; 
fatigue great ; slept like a top. On Thursday I dined with Mr. 
M'Gibbon, the clergyman, who lives in that nice place beyond the 
wooden bridge. Passed a most social evening, and stayed all night. 
On Friday I went to another class of moor farms, about eight miles 
from the wooden bridge, along with young Mr. Bell; hail very bad 
sport indeed; separated from him by chance, and after wandering 
among the hills for hours, got to the wooden bridge about ten at 
night. Found Miss Giles Bell and her sister returned ; got supper, 
and in several hours their brother arrived in despair, thinking I was 
drowned. On Saturday morning returned to Inverary and packed 
up. Found a gig going to Dalmally which carried me snugly to 
Achlian, where I found all the worthy inhabitants well. On Sun- 
day, crossed the Loch to Hayfield, and dined with Mr. M'Neill, of 
that place.* In the evening a most terrific thunder-storm. 

"To-day fished in Loch Awe; bad day; killed only one dozen, 
and returned to dinner ; hitherto my sport has been but poorish. I 
feel unaccountably lazy, and doubt if I shall go to Rannoch at all. 

"I am quite well, but more fatigued than you can imagine, so my 
letter is but shortish. 

"Immediately on getting this, write me to Achlian, by Inverary, 
and Bend Barton's lett< r. Let thine be put into the Post-office be- 
fore seven o'clock in the evening. You will please me by not going 
on board the ' Kainillies' till I return. But I do not countermand 
you, nor will I be the least angry if you do go. Bless the small 
creatures. Everlastingly yours, J. Wilson." 

"AOHXIAN, August 2, 1816. 
"My in aim st Jane: — Since I lasl wrote you I have been where 
ire no posts or post-offices, and till to-day have had no oppor- 
tunity of sending you a letter. I suppose you are incensed, and so 
am I. Your letters nave reached me Bafely, hut nol Barton's, which 
I have never seen. Therefore hope you have forgotten to send it 
io the posi ; if you have, keep it till I see thee. I have been over 
the moor of Rannoch, in Glencoe, and other glens near it; at the 
fooi <,f Loch Ericht, and the country round Loch Treig; I have 

* '-My poor dear old Mend M'Nelll, of Hoyfleld. God rest hie wall It i» '» uwivea At 
■ lnctj be wan as lik-ful as R - 


seen gneat scenery, undergone hardships, and am in good health. 
I revarued to Achlian a few days ago, but the post was one day 
missed, and I sent this by a private hand to Dalmally, and thence tc 
Edinburgh I hare had much good fishing, much bad, and much 
tolerable — picture of human life. Keep all letters till I see thee. 
But immediately on getting this write to me, care of Robert Find- 
lay, Esq., Miller Street, Glasgow. I shall be there ere long, day I 
cannot iix, because conveyances are doubtful, but you will be look- 
ing upon me with a pleasant countenance somewhere about the 7th 
or 8th of this month. Recollect I left you on the 11th, so it is not 
so long since I went away as you said in your letter. 

"I suppose Cadell wished to see me about the Edinburgh Re- 
view. This is conjecture. What he calls agreeable to me may turn 
out to be supercilious praise, saying I am not a good boy. Fare- 
well. "J.Wilson." 

From Achlian he now worked his way across to Blair Athole, 
whence he writes to tell how he fares. He is "lame in the knee," 
and has "not been in bed," but he is just starting, at 6.30 a. m., as 
if under voav or penance, on a journey of thirty-four miles ! 

" Dearest Jane : — It is half past six morning, and I am just set- 
ting off to Braemar, anxious for your letter. I will write you at 
length first moment I have an opportunity, which will be in two or 
three days; meanwhile I am well, though lame in my knee. 

" Obey all your directions, but, in addition to them, write on 
Friday (this day week) to me, care of Alexander M'Kenzie, Esq , 
Millbank, Dingwall. I hav« not been in bed, and am just setting 
off thirty-four miles. God bless and preserve thee and ours ever- 
lastingly ! " J. Wilson. 

" Bridge of Tilt, Blair Athole, 
Fi day, August, 1816." 

So northward he goes with his lame knee, as one burdened with 
some great exploring quest, which must be fulfilled at all hazards, 
and through all fatigues. Through the loneliest glens, up the high- 
est mountain-tops, careless of weather, and finding "adventures" 
in the least likely places, he holds on to the north, and again to the 
west, till we light on him, after twenty-five miles' walk, sitting 
down to address his wife from the hospitable abode of his friend 
Mr. M'Kenzie : — 


"Millbank, Dingwall, 
Wednesday, VZth August. 

■ Mr dearest Jane : — I wrote you last from Abergeldy, and I 
Kua afraid you may have been longing for a letter before this reaches 
you. Such, I hope, is not my vanity, but mutual kind love; may 
it be our only blessing here and hereafter, and I am satisfied. 

"From Abergeldy I started (I think the day alter I wrote you) 
and proceeded to the head of the Don river. My burden was 
truly insupportable. The same evening I got to Inehrory on the 
river Aven or Avon, a most lovely place, perhaps the most so in 
Scotland, where I slept. Next day (Thursday) I got to Tomin- 
toul,* where I slept, a wild and moorland village. Next day was 
the annual market, and it rained incessantly. My adventures there 
I will give you afterwards, and they were not to my discredit. Oa 
Saturday morning (still most rainy) 1 proceeded to Grantown, four- 
teen miles, where I arrived at night, and slept comfortably; the 
country most wild and desolate. About live miles from this live 
tie' Miss (.rants, of Lifforchy. Thither on Sunday morning I re- 
paired, and found them all at home and well, with a brother lately 
arrived from the East Indies. On Monday morning at three 
o'clock, he and I started to the top of Cairngorm, one of the high- 
est mountains in Scotland, and returned at eight o'clock in the 
evening; I tired, and he sick even unto death. On Tuesday morn- 
ing, I left the house and walked on towards Inverness, to a place 
called Craga, distance twenty-seven miles. It rained incessantly, 
and 1 had both toothache and earache. On Wednesday morning I 
Btarted from Craga, and this same Wednesday reached Millbank, 
Mr. M'Kenzie's house, from which I now write after a walk of 
twenty live mile-. So much then for a general sketch, which I will 
fill up when I am once more with you. 

" I find from your letter that our RWeel ones are all unwell, and to he so. Thai lasl letter was dated Friday, August 8th. 1 
am miserable aboul them. To-morrow, thai is, Thursday, August 
14th, and that one day. 1 musl rest here, for the fatigue I have 
lately undergone ha- been beyond any thing I ever experienced. 
On Friday, the i.-,th, I shall start again, aid hope to be at A.chlian, 

• Of e f» In the '•- Drinking ' 

on all the time In Tomlntoul. Junes, for* lair there is a wild rendezvous, a- we both kimw, sum 
■•rand winter; and :..i:!,..-r dock ' liuih." 


Dugald Campbell's, by Inverary, in a week from that time. So 
immediately on receiving this, which I think will be on Saturday, 
16th, write to me to that direction. Say you write on the day after 
you receive mine, whatever that day may be, and I will immediately 
write yon on my arrival there ; I will lose no time in getting there, 
and I think in about a fortnight I shall see you. I trust in God the 
accounts will be good when I reach Achlian. But to that point I 
will go as soon as I can. I have undergone great fatigue, and 
much bad weather, and long for your kind bosom, so help me God ! 
Inverary is nearly 150 miles from this, and no carriages, so I must 
walk all the way. Once more, I pray to God to take care of our 
beloved children, and to make them well to us. To take a chance 
of hearing from you, write one line to Post-Office, Fort-William, 
the moment you receive this, telling me about the children. But 
write as above mentioned to Achlian, as I may be at Fort-William 
before your letter reaches. In short, I will go to Achlian as soon 
as possible, and from your letter there will judge if I am instantly 
to return home. No delay will take place. I am most anxious 
about the children. God bless you! and may the Almighty recover 
to us all our sweet ones ! The chicken-pox is not a bad complaint, 
so we need not fear; poor Johnny fainting ! But they are all dear. 
So farewell, yours tenderly, John Wilson." 

The adventures of which he says " they were not to my discred- 
it," were doubtless made known to Mrs. Wilson, but never came 
to the ears of the younger generation, being considered either too 
trivial, or after many years forgotten. They were not forgotten, 
however, in the North, for in a recent letter from Mr. Alexander 
MTvenzie, Dingwall, tins very adventure is thus narrated : — 

" I am the person specially honored by that visit. Mr. Wilson 
came to me (then living at Millbank near Dingwall) in such peculiar 
circumstances as leads me to think he would have made some 
memoranda about it. He had been fishing in the Dee, and by 
accident came to a fair at Tomintoul, where he saw a poor man 
much oppressed and ill-used by another, who was considered the 
bully of the country, and whose name, I think, he said was Grant. 
Circumstances led to Mr. WiNon putting off his coat and giving 
this fellow a tin-ashing, but on picking up the coat he found it rifled 
of his pocket-book, containing all his money but a very few shU 

THE 4IG1ILAND5. \tf 

lins:s ! In this state he left for Carrbridge, where he passed the 
night without more than enough of refreshment. In the morning 
he left for Inverness, and calling at the Post-Office he found many 
letters to his address ; but not having money to pay the postage, 
the person in charge declined trusting him ! He then crossed Kes- 
sock Ferry with only a few pence, and arrived at Dingwall about 
midday, where I happened to be at the time, and was quite over- 
joyed at seeing him. He was dressed in white duck trousers 
covered with mud, and his white hat entirely so with fishing gear ! 

" As he proceeded to my house, distant about a mile, he shortly 
detailed his late adventure, and said he was almost famished. My first 
work was to send to Inverness for his letters, after which we enjoyed 
one of the most delightful evenings of my life. He kindly rested 
himself for several days, and I accompanied him through the most 
romantic and impassable parts of the country to Kintail, where I 
parted with him at the house of a worthy mutual friend, George 

" In our rambles, which included some curious incidents, and 
which occupied several days, he fished wherever a loch or stream 
presented itself. We avoided all roads entirely, and lived with the 

Such stories as these might, to a certain extent, justify that 
excellent old lady, Mrs. Grant of Laggan, in making the following 
observations, when, in writing to a friend, she burst forth upon the 
•i! licit its of the young poet: — 

" Did I ever tell you of one of the said poets we have in town 
here — indeed, one of our intimates — the most provoking creature 
imaginable! lie is young, handsome, witty; has great learning, 
ran< spirits a wife and children that he doats on (eircurn- 
- one would think consolidating), and no vice that I know of, 
hut, on the contrary, virtuous principles and feelings. Yet his 
wonderful eccentricity would pu1 anybody but his wife wild. She, 
I am convinced, was actually made on purpose for her hushand, and 
has that kind of indescribable controlling influence over him that 
Catherine is said to have had over that wonderful savage the Czar 


'• Pray look at the last Edinburgh Review, sad read the favorable 
article on John Wilson's 'City of the Plague.' lie is the person 
in question." 


In the month of September he again visited Elleray, accompanied 
by the eldest of his little girls. On his way he wrote to his wife : — 

"PENKITH, Friday, September 20$, 
Evening, Nine o'clock, 1816. 

"Dearest Jane: — "We got safely to Hawick about ten o'clock; 
found a comfortable room and fire ; supped, and went to bed. 
Maggy and Mary Topham* drank tea at the fireside in the same 
room with us, and were in bed by eleven. Maggy stood her journey 
well ; made observations on the moon, and frightened me with the 
beast several times. We left Hawick in a chaise at ten next morn- 
ing, and proceeded to Knox's, where we dined. We left that by 
eight o'clock, and reached Longtown by eleven. 

" I supped the ladies and bedded them in half an hour. We left 
Longtown after breakfast, at ten o'clock; came through Carlisle, 
and dined at five o'clock. Maggy drank tea at seven, and imme 
diately after retired to bed with Mary Topham, and I believe they 
are both sound asleep at this moment. 

" To-morrow morning at six o'clock we leave this for Patterdale, 
and I think most probably will remain all night at Bowness. On 
Sunday will reach Hollow Oak to dinner. Nothing can excel 
Maggy's behavior — she is perfect ; all eyes that looked on her loved 
her, and Miss Knox, I understand from Mary Topham, cut off a 
lock of her hair to keep. Merit is sure of being discovered at last. 

" She has sat on my knee almost the whole way, and I feel I love 
her better than ever I did before. She will be an angelic being 
like her gentle mother. I will write from Hollow Oak on Monday, 
so you will hear on Tuesday or Wednesday. Write to me on 
Tuesday, care of Mrs. Ullock, Bowness. 

" Give me all family and other news. Love Johnny for my sake, 
and teach him some prayers and hymns before I return. 
" Thy affectionate husband, 

"John Wilson." 

In another letter a few days later, dated from Elleray, he gives 
rapid notes of his doings ; how he attended a ball which was " most 
dull, though it gave universal satisfaction;" how next day he "lay in 
bed all day," and the next " crowed all day like a cock at Elleray, to 

* Nursery- maid. 

ELLEEAY. l-±9 

Robortson's* infinite delight;" "the next dayDe Quincey and Wil- 
liam Garnet dined with me here, Billy and Mrs. Balmer officiating." 
He adds, " Party here very agreeable," which one can well believe. 
"To-morrow," he goes on, " Garnet, Robertson, and self take coach 
to Keswick, and thence proceed to Buttermere and Eunerdale. I 

* His friend Patrick, afterwards Lord Robertson, one of the most witty and Trarm- hearted of 
men. He was born in 1793; called to the Scotch bar in 1815; elected Dean of Faculty in 1842; 
raised to the bebch in 1S43; died in 1S55. Lockhart wrote many a rhyming epitaph upon him, 
one of which is quoted elsewhere. On another occasion, he is reported to have written, "Piter 
Robertson is 'a man'" to use his own favorite quotation, "cast in Nature's amplest mould. He is 
ai*«-\itted to be the greatest corporation lawyer at the Scotch bar ; and he is a vast poet as well an 
a r eat lawyer. Silence, gentlemen, for a song by Peter Robertson : — 

"Come listen all good gentlemen of every degree ; 
Come listen all ye lady-birds, come listen unto me; 
Come listen all you laughing ones, come listen all ye grave; 
Come listen all and every one, while I do sing a stave. 

" One morning, I remember me, as I did lay in bed, 
I feJt a strange sensation come a throbbing through my head; 
And I thought onto myself, thinks 1, Where was it I did dine? 
With whom ? Oh, I reeull the name, — 'twas Baron Brandywine. 

"Let me see: Oh, after turtle we had punch, the spirits 1 rain, 
And, if I'm not mistaken, we had iced hoek and champagne, 
And sundry little sundries, all which go to make one merry, 
An intervening toss, or so, of some superb old sherry. 

" Well, then, to be dramatic, we must needs imbibe a dram 
(A very sorry sort of pun — the perpetrator Sam); 
And then to porl and claret with great industry we fell, 
Which, sooth to say, appeared to suit our party pretty well 

" Then biscuits all b. -devilled we designedly did muneh, 
. :n a proper relish lor that glorious bowl of punch, 
But after that 1 cannot say that 1 remember much, 
Except a hiccup-argument 'bout Belgium and the Dutch. 

" Such were my recollections, and such I siiiL' to yon. 
Good gentlemen and lady-birds — upon my soul it's true; 
And if you wish to bear away the moral of my somr, 
It's this — for all your headaches let the reasons still be s^ong? 

I think I iUttt Mr. Lockhart's hand In the following good wishes: — 
"Oh, I'etrus, Pedro, Peter, which yon will, 
Long, long thy radiant destiny fulfil, 

Bright be thy wit, and brlghl tl Iden ore, 

Paid iio'A n in feet ' deep legal lore. 

Brighi . brisk i"' t in champagne, 

Thy whiskey punch a vast, exhaustlesa main, 
With thei bore, 

<tt that glad spirit qnafling ever more, 
Keen i ich, potenl thj 

Ate! long cl arcs on • tie- genet al qui lion, 1 

While yon:, II out tie- general -train, 

We ne'er shall loo tin,™ 


will write llice on Saturday, fixing my day of return. I go to 
Ulverstone to see Maggy, etc. Don't hire a servant without seeing 
and approving her — mind that. Write me on Saturday as before. 
Put Elleray on the letter, else a surgeon at Bowness will read it. 
Love to Ung* and others. 

" Eternally yours, 


From the excursion with Garnet and Robertson he is hurried back 
to Elleray on business, and writes in haste : — 

"Elleray, Sept. 28th, 1816. 
"My dearest Wife: — I have not half a minute to spare. 
Immediately on receiving this, send me the inventory of every thing 
at Elleray. If it is too large to go by post, copy it over in one 
long sheet, and send it off on Thursday. If it can go by post, 
write on Tuesday — same day you receive this. On receiving your 
letter to-morrow, I will write you at length, and tell you when I 
come home, which will be immediately. It was impossible to leave 
this hitherto, for reasons I will explain. You will have heard of 
Maggy since I saw her. I will see her on Wednesday, and tell you 
all about her. Whatever my anxieties and sorrows are or may be 
in this life, I have in your affection a happiness paramount to all on 
earth, and I think that I am happier in the frowns of fortune, with 
that angelic nature, than perhaps even if we had been living in 
affluence. God forever bless you, and my sweet family, is the 
prayer of your loving and affectionate husband, 

" J. Wilson." 

There are no more letters or memorials of that year. The next 
brings us into a new field, which calls for a chapter to itself. 

* A. playful soubriquet for his eldest son. 

Patrick Robert on, Esq.- Bron n ki ten by the late Profi or Edward Forbes. 




With the year 1817 we enter on a new epoch in Wilson's life. 
Hitherto his literary exertions had been confined almost exclu- 
sively to poetry ; and the reception of his works, however favorable, 
had not been such as to satisfy him that that was the department in 
which he was destined to assert his superiority, or to find full scope 
for his varied powers. Much as has been said as to the mode in 
which these were exercised, and the comparative inadequacy of the 
results, I cannot but think that there is misconception on the subject. 
I dismiss the question what he or any other man of great powers 
ought to have done: I look simply at what he did do, which alone 
concerns us, now that his work is finished. Whether he might'or 
should have written certain works on certain subjects, for the use or 
pleasure of his own generation and of posterity, seems to me an idle 
question. Enough for his vindication, that in a long and laborious 
literary life he wielded a wholesome and powerful influence in the 
world of letters; and enough for his fame, that amid the haste and 
exigencies of incessant periodical composition, he wrote such things 
as no other man but himself could have written, and which will be 
read and delighted in as long as the highest kind of criticism and of 
prose-poetry are valued among men. Periodical literature, it seems 
to me, was precisely the thing for which he was suited by tempera- 
ment, versatility, and power; and unless it be broadly asserted, that 
the b irvice done to letters and civilization through the medium ot'a 
great literary organ is unimportant, and unworthy of the efforts of 

a man ofgenius, I do UOl see how it can be maintained that Profes- 
sor Wilson neglected or threw away his gifts when he devoted them 
to the establishment and maintenance of the influence of Black- 
wood's Magazim . 

I'm tore, however, entering on the less peaceful events which follow, 
let us have a glimpse of him one.' mor< — rod in hand, and knapsack 
on back — away in the hear! of the Highlands towards the close of 
July, 181 7. This time, how ever, he n as burdened w ith a new load, 


for he cnrrit..^ besides his wardrobe and fishing-basket, a parcel of 
books. He had, in fact, come bound to produce an " article" for the 
Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, and that inexorable familiar the 
printer's devil followed on his heels even into the wilds of Rannoch. 
There he finished for the August number of that magazine a review 
of " Lalla Rookh," of which the first part had appeared in June. 
The following letter is the only memorial of this expedition: — 

" My dearest Jane : — Or Monday at four o'clock I got to Perth, 
and during the journey felt much for poor Robert, who must have 
got dreadfully wet. We dined comfortably there, and walked to 
Dunkeld in the evening on foot, a very pleasant walk after the rain. 
On Tuesday, we took the top of the coach to Pitlochry, thirteen 
miles from Dunkeld, and about six from the bridge, where we got 
into the coach from Mrs. Izett's. We thence walked by the river 
Tuinmel (a scene somewhat like Borrowdale) to an inn at the head 
of Loch Tumrnel, where we stayed all night. On Wednesday, we 
fished up to Kinloch Rannoch, and I killed forty good trouts. I found 
our. worthy friends here in good health and spirits. They have had 
two children since we saw them, and they inquired very kindly for 
you. On Thursday, I fished down to Mount Alexander, but the 
day w r as cold and unfavorable. Mr. Stewart, of Inverhadden, dined 
with us at the inn — a rare original. I fear I did not go to bed sober. 
(Friday.) — I have breakfasted with him, and fished; good sport, 
though, as usual, I lost several large ones. Menzies and his friend 
left me to-day for Loch Ericht, and I expect to see no more of them. 
To-morrow r I ought to leave this, but that confounded Lalla Rookh 
is still on my hands ; so I shall review it to-morrow, leave it here, 
and be off to Blair Athole on Suuday. On Monday, I shall be at 
Captain Harden's, Altnagoich, Braemar, and hope on Wednesday 
to have good accounts of my sweet girl and the fry. After that my 
motions are uncertain, but on Sunday evening write to ' Mr. Wilson, 
Post-Office, Inverness, to lie till called for,' and I hope to be there 
as soon as the letter. That is the second Sunday after my depar- 
ture. No mistakes now. Write long and witty letters. The weather 
has been tolerable, and I am in good health. Give my love to Ung 
and the others, and God in his mercy keep them all well and happy. 
Heaven bless you forever, and believe me thy loving and grxtefi*! 

•'Kixloch Raxxoch July 27, 1817." 


Here also may come in two pleasant letters from Jeffrey, before 
we arrive at the point when it became impossible for the editor of 
the Edinburgh Review to exchange confidential and friendly com- 
munications with an acknowledged contributor to Blackwood : — 

" (Jkaigcuook, 10th October, If 17. 
" My dear Wilson : — Do you think you could be prevailed on to 
write a review for me now and then? Perhaps this may appear to 
you a very audacious request, and I am not sure that I should have 
had the boldness to make it, but I had heard it surmised, and in 
very intelligent quarters, that you had occasionally condescended to 
exercise the functions of a critic in works where your exertions must 

arily obtain less celebrity than in our journal. When I apply 
for a-si>t;mce to persons in whose talents and judgment I have as 
much confidence as I have in yours, I leave of course the choice of 
their subjects very much to themselves, being satisfied that it must 
always be for my interest to receive all they are most desirous of 
sending. It is therefore rather with a view to tempt than to assist 
you, that I venture to suggest to you a general review of our dra- 
matic poetry, a subject which I long meditated for myself, but which 
I now feel that I shall never have leisure to treat as I should wish 
to treat it, and upon which indeed I could not now enter, without 
a pretty laborious resumption of my early and half-forgotten studies. 
To you, I am quite sure, it is familiar, and while I am by no means 
certain that our opinions could always coincide, I have no hesitation 
in saying, that 1 should very much distrust my own when they were 

olute opposition to yours, and that I am unfeignedly of opinion 
that in your hands the disquisition will be more edifying and quite 
as entertaining a- ever it could have been in mine. It is theappear- 
ance of the weak and dull article in the last Quarterly, which has 

1 me to the resolution of procuring something more worthy of 
the subject tor the Edinburgh, and there really is nobodj but your- 
s.-ll'to whom I can look with any satisfaction for such a paper. 

•■ I do not want, as you will easily conjecture, a learned, ostenta- 
tious, and antiquarian dissertation, bul an account u ritten with taste 
and feeling, and garnished, if you please, with such quotations an 
may he either very curious or very delightful. I intended some 
thing of this sorl when I began my review of Ford's plays, bul I ran 
off the c'Hir.M' almosl a' tnd could never gel back again. 


" Now, pray, do not refuse me rashly. I am not without impa- 
tience for your answer, but I would rather not have it for a day or 
two, if your first impression is that it would be unfavorable. If you 
are in a complying mood, the sooner I hear it the better. • 

"Independent of all this, will you allow me again to say, that I 
am very sincerely desirous of being better acquainted with you, and 
regret very much that my many avocations and irregular way of 
life have forced me to see so little of you. Could you venture to 
dine here without a party any day next week that you choose to 
name, except Saturday ? If you have no engagement, will you come 
on Monday or Tuesday ? Any other day that may be more conve- 
nient. If you take my proposal into kind consideration, we may 
talk a little of the drama; if not, we will fall on something else. 
Believe me always very faithfully yonrs, " F. Jeffrey. 

"Send your answer to George Street." 

The fact that my father agreed to contribute to an organ which 
soon after became the object of determined hostility in the periodical 
to which he chiefly devoted his services, will not, I imagine, be now 
regarded in the same light as it was by the Edinburgh Whigs of 
1817. The practice of writing on different subjects in organs of 
the most hostile opinions is one which is now so universal among 
men of the highest character in the world of letters, that it needs no 
vindication here. At the time, too, when my father received this 
friendly overture from Jeffrey, the Magazine had not assumed that 
♦position as a representative of high Tory principles which by and by 
placed it in direct antagonism to the Review. The subjects on 
which he agreed to contribute were purely literary, and he was, no 
doubt, very glad to get the opportunity of expressing his views on 
poetry in an organ where that subject had not been treated in a style 
which he could consider satisfactory. It would appear that he had 
offered to review Coleridge in a friendly manner, which, taken in 
connection with the fact that a fierce onslaught on that poet appeared 
in the Number of Blackicood at that very time in the press, may 
furnish matter fur unfavorable judgment to any sympathizers in the 
angry feelings of that period. I have no fear, however, that this 
circumstance will lead to uncharitable conclusions in the minds of 
any whose opinion I value. I am content to risk the reader's esti- 
mate of my lather's generosity and kindliness of nature on the real 


facts of his life, without keeping any thing in the background that 
throws light upon them. The following is Jeffrey's reply to his 
communication, which I regret has not come into my hands : — 

"Craigceook, Hth October, 1817. 
"Mtdeae "Wilson: — I give you up Byron freely, and thank- 
fully accept of your conditional promise about the drama; for Cole- 
ridge, I should like first to have a little talk with you. I had in- 
tended to review him fairly, and, if possible, favorably, myself, at 
all events mercifully ; but, on looking into the volume, I can discern 
so little new, and so much less good than I had expected, that I 
hesitate about noticing him at all. I cannot help fearing, too, that 
the discrepancy of our opinions as to that style of poetry may he 
too glaring to render it prudent to venture upon it, at least under 
existing circumstances; and besides, if I must unmask all my weak- 
ness to you, I am a little desirous of having the credit, though it 
should only he an inward one, of doing a handsome or even kind 
thing to a man who has spoken ill of me, and am unwilling that a 
favorable review of this author should appear in the Review from 
any other hand than my own. But we shall talk of this after I have 
considered the capabilities of the work a little further. 

" I am very much gratified by the kind things you are pleased to 
say of me, though the flattering ones with which you have mixed 
them rather disturb me. When you know me a little better, you 
will find me a very ordinary fellow, and really not half so vain as 
to take your testimony in behalf of my qualifications. I have, I 
si ij i] )<>.•,(_■, a little more practice and expertness in some things than 
you can yet have, but I am very much mistaken if you have not 
more talent of every kind than I have. What I think of your char- 
acter jrou may infer from the offer I have made you of my friend- 
ship, and which I rather think I never made to any other man. 

"I think you have a kind heart and a manly spirit, and feel per- 
fectly assured that you will always act with frankness, gentleness, 
and firmness. 1 a>k pardon for sending you this certificate, hut I 
do not know how else to express so clearly the grounds of my re- 
gard and esteem. 

"Believe mi' always, very faithfully yours, 

"F. Jeffrey. 

"I hope to see vou on vour return from Glasgow." 



Of the subjects spoken of or contemplated, the only one which 
he took up was Byron, the review of whom did not make its ap- 
pearance till August of the following year. That was my father's 
first and last contribution to the Edinburgh Review. Another frag- 
ment of a letter from Jeffrey, that must have been written not long 
after, may also be inserted here for the sake of coherence. It refers 
to a vindication of Wordsworth by my father, in reply to a letter 
in the Edinburgh Magazine criticising the poet's strictures on the 
Edinburgh Review" 1 s estimate of the character of Burns: — 

. . . "hear that you had any thing to do with it, and was so far 
from feeling any animosity to the author that I conceived a very 
favorable opinion of him. I have not had an opportunity of looking 
into it since I saw your letter, but I can most confidently assure 
you that nothing that is there said can break any squares between 
us, and that you may praise Wordsworth as much as you please, 
and vilipend my criticisms on him in the most sweeping manner 
without giving me a moment's uneasiness or offence, provided you 
do not call me a slanderer, and an idiot, and a puppy, and all the 
other line names that that worthy and judicious person has thought 
fit to lavish on me. I fairly tell you that I think your veneration 
for that gentleman is a sort of infatuation, but in you it is an amia- 
ble one, and I should think meanly of myself indeed if I were to 
take exception at a man for admiring the poetry or the speculative 
opinions of an author who, having had some provocation, has been 
ridiculously unjust to me. One thing I am struck with as a wilful 
blindness and partiality in the paper in question, and that was your 

passing over entirely the remarkable fact of the said W saying 

little or nothing of the blasphemies against Burns which occur in the 
Quarterly, and which are far more violent and offensive than mine, 
and pouring out all the vials of his wrath at the Edinburgh, Avhich 
had given him much less provocation. Is it possible for you in your 
conscience to believe after this that the tirade against the Edinburgh 
critic was dictated by a .pure, generous resentment for the injuries 
done to Burns, and not by a little vindictive feeling for the severities 
practised on himself. By the way, I think I am nearly right in 
what I have said of Burns; that is, I think the doctrine and moral- 
ity to which I object is far oftener inculcated in his writings than 
any other, and is plainly most familiar to his thoughts, though per- 
haps it was ungenerous to denounce it so strongly, 


" I have not written so long a letter these three years. Pray let 

me hear that you are writing a review of Lord B for me in 

peace and felicity, and that you have resolved to dirty your lingers 
no more with the quarrels of magazines and booksellers. God bless 
you ! " Very truly yours, F. Jeffrey." 

My father's connection with Blackwood' 's Magazine was such as 
to make it absolutely necessary, in any record of his hie, to give 
some account of the rise of this periodical, and of the circumstances 
which led to his becoming so intimately associated with its history. 
I shall endeavor to do so as briefly as I can. Fortunately, we are 
now sufficiently removed by time from the controversies of those 
exciting days, to look at them with perfect calmness, if not impar- 
tiality ; with something of wonder, it may be, at the fierceness dis- 
played in contests about things which, in our own more peaceful 
times, are treated with at least the affectation of philosophic indiffer- 
ence; but also, with some admiration of the vigor manifested in 
supporting what was heartily believed. It is, indeed, impossible 
for us at this time to realize fully the state of feeling that [prevailed 
in the literature and politics of the years between 1810 and 1830. 
an hardly imagine why men, who at heart respected and liked 
each other, should have found it necessary to hold no communion, 
but, on the contrary, to wage bitter war because the one was an 
admirer of the Prince Regent and Lord Castlereagh, the other a 
supporter of Queen Caroline and Mr. Brougham. We cannot con- 
ceive why a poet should be stigmatized as a base and detestable 
character, merely because he Mas a Cockney and a Radical; nor 
can we comprehend how gentlemen, aggrieved by articles in news- 
papers or magazines, should have thought it necessary to the vin- 
dication of their honor, to horsewhip or shout the printers or editors 
of the publications in which such articles appeared. Yet in 1817, 
and the following years, we find such to have been the si 
things in the capital of Scotland. Nol only was society actually less 
civilized; but politics, which now happily forms no barrier between 
men of otherwise congenial minds, then constituted the one great 
line of dt marcation. S*on were either a Tory and a good man, or 
a Whig and a rascal, and vice versa. If yon were a Tory, and 

wanted a place, it was the duty of all g 1 Tories to stand by you; 

if you - your chance was small; bul it- feeblen< 


all the more reason why you should be proclaimed a martyr, and 
all your opponents profligate mercenaries. If I exaggerate, I am 
open to correction ; but such appears to me to have been the pre- 
vailing tone among the men who figured most actively in public life 
about the time to which this chapter relates. In literature, at that 
time, the Edinburgh Review was supreme. Its doctrines were re- 
ceived, among those who believed in them, as oracular ; and in the 
hands of the small retailers of political and literary dogmas who 
swore by it, these were becoming insufferably tiresome to the Tory 
part of mankind, who, singularly enough, had no literary oracle of 
their own north of the Tweed. I suppose the party being strong in 
power did not feel the want of such influence. The more ardent and 
active minds on that side, however, were naturally impatient of the 
dictatorship exercised by Mr. Jeffrey, and wanted only opportunity 
to establish an opposing force in the interests of their own venerable 
creed. That opportunity came, and was vigorously used, too vig- 
orously at first, sometimes cruelly and unjustly, but ultimately with 
results eminently beneficial. 

To begin then at the beginning. In the month of December, 
1816, Mr. William Blackwood, who had by uncommon tact and 
energy, established his character in the course of a few years as an 
enterprising publisher in Edinburgh, was applied to by two literary 
men to become the publisher of a new monthly magazine, which 
they had projected.* These gentlemen were James Cleghorn,f 
who had acquired some literary position as editor of a Farmer^ 
Magazine, and Thomas Pringle,J a pleasant writer and poet, who 
afterwards emigrated to South Africa.§ The idea was good, and 
the time fitting for the " felt want," which is now pleaded about 
once a week as the ground for establishing some new journal, was 
then a serious reality; the only periodical in Edinburgh of any 
mark besides the Review being the /Scots Magazine, published by 
Constable, once a highly respectable, but at that time a vapid and 

* Mr. Gillies in his Memoirs gives the credit <rf the origin and suggestion to Hogg. — Vol. i, 
p. 230. 

t Mr. Cleghorn was more fortunate in his financial tnan his literary undertakings, having 
been the founder of the Scottish Provident Institution, by whom a monument to his memory has 
boen erected in the Edinburgh Warriston Cemetery. He died in May, 1S3S. 

* Author of Narrative of a Reaidencein South Africa, Ephemerides, &c. ; born 17S9, died 1834 
§ By a curious coincidence both these gentlemen were lame, and went on crutches, an infirmity 

to which ludicrous but most improper allusion is made in the Chaldee MS., where tbey are de 
scribed as coming in " skipping on staves." 


almost " doited " publication. Messrs. Cleghorn and Pringlc had 
secured the co-operation of several clever writers — among others, 
Mr. R. P. Gillies and James Hogg — and Mr. Blackwood's saga- 
cious eye at once discerned the elements of success in the project. 
The arrangements were accordingly proceeded with, on the footing 
that the publisher and the editors were to be joint proprietors, and 
share the profits, if any. The first number appeared in April, 
1817, under the title of The Edinburgh Monthly Magazine. The 
contents were varied and agreeable, but no way remarkable ; and a 
prefatory note to the next number, in which the editors spoke of 
u Our humble Miscellany," indicates a certain mediocrity of aim 
which must have been distasteful to the aspiring energy of the pub- 
lisher, who had very different views of what the Magazine ought 
to be made. There was no definite arrangement for the payment 
of contributors. In fact it seems to have been taken for granted 
that contributions were to be supplied on the most moderate terms, 
if not altogether gratuitously. I find Mr. Blackwood stating in 
his subsequent vindication of himself, in reply to the charge of hav- 
ing supplied no money to the editors, that during the six months 
of I heir connection, he " had paid them different sums, amounting 
to £50." He adds, "They will tell you I never refused them any 
money they applied for. They may perhaps say the money was for 
contributors; but to this moment I am utterly ignorant of any con- 
tributors to win on they either have or were called upon to pay 
money, excepting some very trilling sums to two individuals."* 

Perhaps this fact may have s ithing to do with the crisis that 

soon occurred in the management of the Magazine; at all events, 
it had not gone beyond two numbers, when editors and publisher 
found they could not work together. Mr. Pringle was a very 
amiable man, but his brother editor was a less agreeable person, 
and with an estimate of lii^ own literary powers considerably 
higher than that entertained by his sagacious publisher. On the 
p.uli of .May the co-editors formally wrote to Mr. Blackwood, let- 
ting him know that his interference with their editorial functions 
could do longer be endured. Mr. Blackwood was probably nothing 
loath to receive such an intimation, and in the exercise of his rights 

yleofwork contrasts curiously with the munificence subsequently prao- 
*-i -•-• 1 in connection with the Magazine A few years uftur this, I li >■ • I Wilson Lnfannin 
Irtbutor, "Our irlj doubled. 


as partner and publisher, advertised in tlie June number of the 
Magazine that its publication would be discontinued at the end of 
three months from that date. The editors, thrown adrift by thia 
coup, immediately offered their services to Messrs. Constable and 
Co., as editors of a new series of the Scots Magazine, to appear 
under the title of The Edinburgh Magazine ; while Mr. Black- 
wood, after some contention and correspondence, agreed to pay his 
quondam partners £125 for their share in the copyright of the Ed- 
inburgh Monthly Magazine? In acquiring the copyright of the 
Magazine, Mr. Blackwood determined to abandon its old title, and 
give it a name combining the double advantage that it would not 
be confounded with any other, and would at the same time help to 
spread the reputation of the publisher. 

Accordingly in October, 1817, appeared for the first time Black- 
woocVs Edinburgh Magazine (No. VII. from commencement), and 
it needed no advertising trumpet to let the world know that a new 
reign (a reign of terror in its way) had begun. In the previous six 
numbers there had been nothing allowed to creep in that could pos- 
sibly offend the most zealous partisan of the Blue and Yellow. On 
the contrary, the opening article of No. I. was a good-natured eulo- 
gium on Mr. Francis Horner ; the Edinburgh Review was praised 
for its ability, moderation, and good taste; politics were rather 
eschewed than otherwise ; the literary notices were, with one or two 
exceptions, elaborately commonplace and complaisant, and, in fact, 
every thing was exemplarily careful, correct, and colorless. No.VIL 
spoke a different language, and proclaimed a new and sterner creed. 
Among a considerable variety of papers, most of them able and in- 
teresting, it contained not less than three of a kind well calculated 
to arouse curiosity and excitement, and to give deep offence to sec- 
tions more or less extensive of the reading public. The first was a 
most unwarrantable assault on Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, 
which was adjudged to be a "most execrable" performance, and its 

* The sum they had demanded was £300, but according to the publisher's accounts, submitted 
to th* law-agont of the editors, the success of the work had not been such as to justify that es- 
timate. The accounts showed that so far from having made profit, the publisher was nearly 
£140 out of pockei and that, ''even if the whole impression were sold off, there would not be 
£70 clear profit™ According to this estimate, which seems to have satisfied the agent (no other 
than the afterv. i T ge Combe), the half share of the editors at the most would 

have been worth £85. What th.- number of copies printed was I have no means of knowing; 
it w i-, probably, not large, and tin- fact that the whole impression was Dot disposed of, gives some 
ground for the belief that the publisher had reason to be dissatisfied with the management. 


author a miserable compound of " egotism ami malignity."* The 
second was an even more unjustifiable attack on Leigh Hunt, who 
was spoken of as a "profligate creature," a person ''without rever- 
ence either for God or man." The third was the famous " Chaldee 
Manuscript," compared with which the sins of the others were al- 
most pardonable in the eyes of a great portion of the public. The 
effect of this article upon the small society of Edinburgh can now 
hardly be realized. f 

It was evident, in a word, that a new and very formidable power 
had come into existence, and that those who wielded it, whoever 
they were, were not men to stick at trifles. The sensation produced 
by the first number, was kept up in those that followed. There 
was hardly a number for many months that did not contain at least 
one attack upon somebody, and the business was gone about with 
a systematic determination that showed there was an ample store 
of the same ammunition in reserve. .Most people, however virtuous, 
have a kind of malicious pleasure in seeing others sacrificed, if the 
process be artistically gone about, and the Blackwood tomahawk- 
ers were undeniable adepts in the art. Even those who most con- 
demned them, accordingly showed their appreciation of their per- 
formances by reading and talking of them, which was exactly the 
thing to increase their influence. It must not be imagined, how- 
ever, that the staple of Blackwood '« contributions consisted of mere 
banter and personality. These would have excited but -light and 
temporary notice, had the bulk of the articles nol displayed a rare 
combination of much higher qualities. Whatever subjects were 
discussed, were handled with a masterbj vigor and freshness, and 
developed a fulness of knowledge and variety of talent that could 
nol fail to command reaped even from the least approving critic. 
The publisher knew too well what suited the public taste, and had 
too much innate sense and fairness, to allow more than a reasonable 

• I' to find this articl ■: thus in "Peter's Letters" two years afterwards:— 

"This Is Indeed the only one of all the various sins of the Magazine for which I am at a loss 
to discover not an apology but a motivi . . I Jt is bad, and, in truth, very pitiable" 

t II Ive any accouol of this 

wi U '■' Professor Pi . to It, In vol. Iv. of Wil- 

son's Wm I iay add this fact It was compo i \ mid shouts 

re, la ivondi r, n aal the entle- 
nfonm d thai □ n< m- 

wit in writing a verse, and «u» 
*> •mi chair In a lit of laughter. 


modicum of abuse in the pages of bis Magazine. But be bad a dif- 
ficult task in accommodating the inclinations of bis fiery associates 
to the dictates of prudence and justice; appreciating highly, as he 
did, their remarkable talents, and unwilling to lose their services, 
it required great tact and firmness to restrain their sharp pens, and 
he more than once paid dearly, in solid cash, for their wanton and 
immoderate expressions.* 

The public, whether pleased or angry, inquired with wonder 
where all this sudden talent had lain hid that now threatened to set 
the Forth on fire. Suspicions were rife ; but Mr. Blackwood could 
keep a secret, and knew the power of mystery. Who his contribu- 
tors were, who his editor, were matters on which neither he nor 
they chose to give more information than was necessary. It might 
suffice for the public to know, from the allegorical descriptions of 
the Chaldee MS., that there was' a host of mighty creatures in the 
service of the " man in plain apparel," conspicuous among which 
were the " beautiful Leopard from the valley of the Palm trees," 
and " the Scorpion which delighteth to sting the faces of men." As 
for their leader, he was judiciously represented as a veiled person- 

* The early defects of the Magazine are nowhere better analyzed than by the very hands that 
were chiefly engaged in the work. The authors of " Peter's Letters," after pointing out the 
faults of the Edinburgh Review, go on to say : "These, faults— faults thus at last beginning to be 
seen by a considerable number of the old readers and admirers of the Edinburgh Review— seem 
to have been at the bottom of the aversion which the writers who established Blackwood's Ma- 
gazine had against it; but their quarrel also included a very just disapprobation of the un- 
patriotic mode of considering the political events of the times adopted all along by the Review, 
and also of its occasional irreligious mockeries, borrowed from the French philosophy, or soi- 
disant philosophy of the last age. Their great object seems to have been to break up the mo- 
nopoly of influence which had long been possessed by a set of persons guilty of perverting, in 
so many ways, talents on all hands acknowledged to be great. And had they gone about the ex- 
ecution of their design -with as much candor and good feeling as would seem to have attended 
the conception of it, I have little doubt they would very soou have procured a mighty host of 
readers to go along with them in all their conclusions. But the persons who are supposed to have 
taken the lead in directing the new forces, wanted many of those, qualities which were most ne- 
cessary to insure success to their endeavors; and they possessed others which, although in them- 
selves admirably fitted for enabling them to conduct their project successfully, tended, in the 
idanner in which they made use of them, to throw many unnecessary obstacles in their way. In 
short, they were very young, or very inexperienced nun. who, although passionately fond of lit- 
erature, and even well skilled in many of its finest branches, were by no means accurately ac- 
quainted with the structure and practice of literature as it exists at this day in Britain. . . . 
The.v approached the lists of literary warfare with the spirit at bottom of true knights; but they 
had come from the woods and the cloisters, and not from the cities and haunts of active men, and 
they had armed themselves, in addition to their weapons of the right temper, with many other 
weapons of offence, which, although sanctioned in former times by the practice of the heroes in 
whose repositories they had found them rusting, had now become utterly exploded, and were re- 
garded, and justly regarded, as entirely unjustifiable and disgraceful by all who surveyed with 
modern eyes the arena of their exertions." 

Mr. Wilson, alias "The Leopard. 1 


age, whose name it was in vain to ask, and whose personality was 
itself a mystery. On that point the public, which cannot rest satis- 
fied without attributing specific powers to specific persons, refused 
after a time to acknowledge the mystery, and insisted on recog- 
nizing in John "Wilson the real impersonation of Blackwood's 
•• retted editor." The error has been often emphatically corrected: 
let it once again be repeated, on the best authority, that the only 
real editor Blackwood' 's Magazine ever had was Blackwood him- 
self. Of this fact I have abundant proofs. Suffice it that contribu- 
tions from Wilson's own pen have been altered, cut down, and kept 
back, in compliance with the strong will of the man whose name on 
the title-page of the Magazine truly indicated with whom lay the 
sole responsibility of the management. 

At what precise date my father came into personal communica- 
tion with Mr. Blackwood does not appear. Before that, however, 
he had been an anonymous contributor to the Magazine. In the 
very first number is a poem entitled, " The Desolate Village, a Rev- 
erie," with the initial N., which bears strong marks of his style. 
Si .me others, similarly signed, and of similar qualities, occur in sub- 
sequent numbers. In the Notices to Correspondents in No. II., it is 
stated that the "Letter on the proposed new translation of the 
Psalms" was too late for insertion. That letter, which did not ap 
pear, is referred to in the following note, without date or signature, 
in my father's handwriting: — 

"Sub:- I enclose a letter for your Magazine from the same 
anonymous writer who sent you a communication relative to anew 
translation of the Psalms. If these communications are inserted, 
and I feel -.lip- confidence that they are tilted for a work like the 
Edinburgh Magazine, I shall take care to send you some little trifle 

ry month. But I prefer remaining anonymous at present, till I 
Bee liow my communications are appreciated." 

How the monthly trifles were appreciated by Mi'. Blackwood's 
tu Litors, matters not ; thai the) were appreciated by thai gen- 
tleman himself soon b< came apparent. Probably enough, s< of 

the anonymous correspondent's contributions gave rise to those dif- 

nces of opinion between the publisher and the editors, which 
ended in their separation. One cannot but suspect that the writer 


of the paper referred to in the following "Notice to a Correspond 
ent" was either the Leopard or the Scorpion : — "The paper on Crani- 
ology by Peter Candid would have appeared in our present number, 
if it had not contained some improper personal allusions." In the 
same number (III.), at all events, is a review of "The Craniad," a 
Poem, which may be given entire.* I have no doubt the cautious 
editors inserted it with great misgivings as to its containing " im- 
proper personal allusions;" very possibly the publisher inserted it 
without consulting them. It is one of the very 'Lew lively things in 
the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine. 

In the new Magazine, relieved from the editorial incubus, and 
the embarrassments of a divided responsibility, the genius of Wil- 
son found free scope. Like a strong athlete who never before had 
room or occasion to display his powers, he now revelled in their ex- 
ercise in an arena where the competitors were abundant, and the 
onlookers eagerly interested. Month after month he poured forth 
the exuberant current of his ideas on politics, poetry, philosophy, 
religion, art, books, men, and nature, with a freshness and force 
that seemed incapable of exhaustion, and regardless of obstacles. 
It was in fact only a change in the form of his activity. In that, 
new and more exciting field he doubtless dealt many a blow, of 
which, on calm reflection and in maturer years, he saw reason to 
repent. But without at all excusing the extravagance of censure 
and the violence of language which often disfigured these early coi> 
tributions to the Magazine, I cannot say that I have been able to 
trace to his hand any instance of unmanly attack, or one shade of 
real malignity. There did appear in the Magazine wanton and un- 
justifiable strictures on persons such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, 
with whom he was on terms of friendship, and for whom, in its own 
pages and elsewhere, he professed, as he sincerely felt, the highest 
esteem. But when it is well understood that he was never in any 
sense the editor, and that in these early days of the Magazine the 
ruling principle seemed to be that every man fought for his own 

* Ttte Craniad, or Spurzheim Illustrated,. A Poem in Two Parts. 12mo. Blackwood. 
Edinburgh, 1S17. "The Craniad is the worst poem we have now in Scotland. The author has 
it in his power at once to decide the great craniological controversy. Let him submit his skull 
to general inspection, and if it exhibit a single intellectual organ, Sptirzheim's theory is over- 
thrown." The original of this characteristic bit of criticism occurs in a MS. book, described by 
Mr. Gillies as an "enormous ledger," which, he says, was taken possession of by my father, and 
filled with "skeletons' of proposed articles. Of these sketches, however, the. much mutilated 
volume coutairs none, the existing contents being al nost entirely poetry. 

A, hi. ulUn "'I ho - 


hand, and was surrounded with a cloud of secrecy even from his 
fellows, it will appear that he had simply the alternative of ceasing 
to contribute further to the Magazine, or of continuing to do so 
under the disadvantage of seeming to approve what he really con- 
demned.* That he adopted the latter course is, I think, no stigma 
on his character; and in after days, when his influence in the 
Magazine had become paramount, he made noble amends for its 
former sins. 

The staff of contributors whom Mr. Blackwood had contrived to 
rally round his standard contained many distinguished men. "The 
Great Unknown," and the venerable " Man of Feeling," were en- 
listed on his side, and gave some occasional help. Dr. M'Crie, the 
biographer of Knox, and Dr. Andrew Thomson, were solemnly 
and at much length reproved by an orthodox pamphleteer, styling 
himself Calvinus, for their supposed association with the wicked 
authors of the Chaldee Manuscript. Sir David Brewster contri- 
buted scientific articles, as did also Robert Jameson and James 
Wilson. Among the other contributors, actual or presumed, were 
De Quincey, Hogg, Gillies, Fraser Tytler, Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Sir 
William Hamilton, and his brother,f the author of Cyril Thornton. 
But though all these and more figured in the list of Blackwood's 
supporters, there were but two on whom he placed his main reli- 
ance, the most prolific and versatile of all the band, who between 
them were capable at any time of providing the whole contents of a 
Number. These wen- .John Wilson and John Gibson Lockhart. 
Those whose only knowledge of thai pair of briefless young advo- 
cate- was derived from seeing them pacing the Parliament House, 
or lounging carelessly into Blackwood's saloon to read the news- 
papers,! and pass their jokes on everybody, including themselves, 

* Thus it is possible fa 'avorably in tl 1 ( may liav* 

mi?. nil.. in a wish to do Justice to that groat man, the opportunity for which hi \ois denied in 
t Tbomu llatiiilt.m wrote several wo among others, .1 wi 

. ■!!■ • umpaign, and Men and Maimers Vn .1 

% That siluon and its proprh • cribed by Dr. Pet< r Morris:— "I hi n yon I an 

• - anil literary dilettanti 

in looking at, or criticising among themselves, the pu Ived by that 

uacfa IV.. in town. Iti rand anon 

the broad and unadulterated nob ocon- 

■ •f the premise! wltl I he has his usual 

i II. i • a ii. . in hi .,i middle igi . m •] i net i* 


could have little idea of their power of work, or of the formidable 
manner in which it was being exercised. That blue-eyed and 
ruddy-cheeked poet, whose time seemed to hang lightly enough 
upon his hands, did not quite realize one's idea of the redoubtable 
critic whose "crutch" was to become so formidable a weapon. 
Nor did his jaunty-looking companion, whose leisure seemed to bo 
wholly occupied in drawing caricatures,* appear a likely person, 
when he sauntered home from Princes street, to sit down to a 
translation from the German, or to dash off at a sitting "copy" 
enough to fill a sheet of Blackwood's Magazine. The striking con- 
trast in the outward aspect of the two men corresponded truly to 
their difference of character and temperament — a difference, how- 
ever, which proved no obstacle to their close intimacy. There was 
a picturesque contrast between them, which might be simply de- 
fined by light and shade; but there was a more striking dissimilarity 
than that which is merely the result of coloring. Mr. Lockhart's 
pale olive complexion had something of a Spanish character in it, 
that accorded well with the sombre or rather melancholy expression 
of his countenance; his thin lips, compressed beneath a smile of 
habitual sarcasm, promised no genial response to the warmer emo- 
tions of the heart. His compact, finely-formed head indicated an 
acute and refined intellect. Cold, haughty, supercilious in manner, 
he seldom won love, and not unfrequently caused his friends to dis- 
trust it in him, for they sometimes found the warmth of their own 
feelings thrown back upon them in presence of this cold indifference. 
Circumstances afterwards conferred on him a brilliant position, and 
he gave way to the weakness which seeks prestige from the re- 
flected glory found in rank. The gay coteries of London society 
injured his interest in the old friends who had worked hand in 
hand with him when in Edinburgh. He was well depicted by his 
friend through the mouth of the Shepherd, as " the Oxford collegian, 
wf a pale face and a black toozy head, but an e'e like an eagle's; 

another with great alacrity, and apparently under the influence of high animal spirits. His com. 
plerlon is very sanguineous, but nothing can be more intelligent, keen, and sagacious than the 
expression of his whole physiognomy; above all, the gray eyes and eyebrows, as full of locomo- 
tion as those of Catalani." — Peter's Letters, vol. ii., pp. 1ST, 188. 

* It is said, with what truth I know not. that clever as Mr. Loekhart was with both pen and 
pencil, he lacked curiously ono gift without which no man can be a successful barrister; hecould 
not, like many other able writers, make a speech. His portfolios show that, instead of taking 
notes 'lurii.^r a trial, bis peu must have been busily employed in photographing all the parties 
engaged, jie. . and prisoner i avail myself of this opportunity tc insert here twrt 

specimens of his wonderful power, oue .a]u-n from the Bench, and another from the Pulpit, 

•• Whan last In Scotland I was advised to look about among the pulpits, to try 
whether any living specimen could be found resembling the ancient Bcottlsh 
worthies i did w>, bul was nol successful."— Dr. Vlrici 8ter*etar6 m the 
S'atwral OKar-cUir ■>/ fta Scots.— Blackwood, toL iv., p 329. 


and a sort o' lauch about the screwed-up mouth o' him that fules 
ca'ed no canny, for they cooldna' tliole the meaning o't." I am 
fortunate enough to be able to give the capital likeness on page 185, 
drawn by his own hand, in which the satirist who spared no one, 
lias most assuredly not been nattering to himself. 

Wilson's appearance in those days is thus described in Peter's 
Letters by Mr. Lockhart: — "In complexion he is the best specimen 
I have ever seen of the genuine or ideal Goth. His hair is of the 
true Sicambrian yellow; his eyes are of the brightest, and at the 
same time of the clearest blue, and the blood glows in his cheek 
with as firm a fervor as it did, according to the description of 
Jornandes, in those of the ' Bello gaudentes, prgelio ridentes Teu- 
tones' of Attila." The black-haired Spanish-looking Oxonian, with 
that uncanny laugh of his, was a very dangerous person to encoun- 
ter in the field of letters. "I've sometimes thocht, Mr. North," 
says the Shepherd, "that ye were a wee feared for him yoursel', 
and used rather, without kennin 't, to draw in your horns." Sys- 
tematic, cool, and circumspect, when he armed himself for conflict 
it was with a fell and deadly determination. The other rushed into 
combat rejoicingly, like the Teutons ; but even in his fiercest mood, 
he was alive to pity, tenderness, and humor. When he impaled a 
victim, he did it, as Walton recommends, not vindictively, but as if 
he Loved him. Lockhart, on the other hand, though susceptible of 
deep emotions, and gifted with a most playful wit, had no scruple 
in wounding to the very quick, and no thrill of compassion ever 
held back his hand when lie had made up his mind to strike. He 
was certainly no coward, but he liked to fight under cover, and 
keep himself unseen, while Wilson, even under the shield of an- 
onymity, was rather prone to exhibit his own unmistakable per- 

Such were the two principal contributors to Blackwood when it 
broke upon tin- startled gaze of Edinburgh Whigdom, like a fiery 
tomet "that with fear of change perplexes monarchs." Not with- 
out reason did the adherents of the " Blue and Yellow" wish ill to 
the formidable new-comer, for, apart from its undeniable offences 
i feeling and taste, tin re was a power and life about 
the Magazine that betokened ominously for the hitherto unchal- 
upremacy of the great Review, [n spite of i .the 

lubstantial merits of the Magazine securely established its popu- 


laxity, and in the course of a few years it became recognized 
throughout Britain as the most able and interesting periodical work 
that had ever been published. 

In noticing the early contributors, it would not do to pass over 
Mr. Robert Sym, whose pseudonym of " Timothy Tickler" became 
as familiar to its readers as that of Christopher North himself. 
That "noble and genuine old Tory," as the Shepherd calls him, was 
Wilson's uncle, and in his hospitable house in George Square, alias 
" Southside," the contributors to the Magazine had many a merry 
gathering. He was a fine-looking, elderly gentleman, of uncommon 
height and aristocratic bearing, his white hair contrasting strikingly 
with the youthful freshness of his complexion. " Tickler," says the 
Shepherd, "is completely an original, as any one may see who has 
attended to his remarks; for there is no sophistry there; they are 
every one his own. Nay, I don't believe that North has, would, 
or durst put a single sentence into his mouth that had not proceeded 
out of it. No, no ; although I was a scapegoat, no one, and far less 
a nephew, might do so with Timothy Tickler.* His reading, both 
ancient and modern, is boundless; his taste and perception acute 
beyond those of other men; his satire keen and biting; but at the 
same time his good-humor is altogether inexhaustible, save when 
ignited by coming in collision with Whig or Radical principles. 
At a certain period of the night our entertainer knew by the long- 
ing looks which I cast to a beloved corner of the dining-room what 
I was wanting ; then with ' Oh, I beg your pardon, Hogg, I was 
forgetting,' he would take out a small gold key, that hung by a 
chain of the same precious metal to a particular button-hole, and 
stalk away, as tall as life, open two splendid fiddle-cases, and pro 
duce their contents, first the one and then the other, but always 
keeping the best to himself. I'll never forget with what elated dig- 
nity he stood straight up in the middle of that floor and rosined 
his bow: there was a twist of the lip and an upward beam of the 
eye that was truly sublime; then down we sat side by side and be- 
gan At the end of every tune we took a glass, and still our 

enthusiastic admiration of the Scottish tunes increased, our energies 
of execution were redoubled, till ultimately it became, not only a 
complete and well-contested race, but a trial of strength to deter- 

* But all the papers in Blackwood, signed "Timothy Tickler," were not written by Mr. Sym, 
Mr. Hogg notwithstanding 



mine which should drown the other. The only feelings short of 
ecstasy that came across us in these enraptured moments were 
caused by hearing the laugh and joke going on with our friends, as 
if no such thrilling strains had been flowing. But if Sym's eye 
chanced to fall on them, it instantly retreated upwards again in 
mild indignation."'* 

The Shepherd himself was not the least remarkable among that 
set of remarkable men. In spite of qualities that made it impossi- 
ble perfectly to respect him, his original genius and good-natured 
simplicity made him a favorite with them all, until his vanity had 
become quite unendurable. He plumed himself immensely on being 
the real originator of the Magazine, and of the Chaldee MS. He 
was a very frequent contributor, but, in addition to his own genu- 
ine compositions, he got the credit of numberless performances, 
both in prose and verse, which he had never beheld till they ap- 
peared under his name in the pages of the Magazine. This was a 
pari of that system of mystification practised in the management, 
which has never been carried so far in any other publication, and 
undoubtedly contributed very greatly to its success. The illustri- 
ainple of Sir Walter Scott had given encouragement to this 
ea of deception, and the editor and writers of Blackwood 
thoughl tin mselves quite at liberty, not only to perplex the public 
by affixing all sorts of fictitious names and addresses to their coin- 

* | .'n on Tickler, from the Nodes, is worthy of extraction :- 

for the soul 
1 ■■ : ! y Tickler; 
For the Church and the bowl 

" Born and bred in thi 
Where Fyne herrii 

' tpil il band 
At co punch. 

u From thai great bumper school 
To AuM Reekie hi 
Arid drew In 

.M t 1j - - same. 

•• But, though W. 8., 

And ambitiouB to thrive, 
Even hie foes i 
Cheated no man alive. 

'• Neither harried poor gentn 
Of house or of land, 
Nor bolted the country 
Witli cash in his hand. 

" w in re tall as a Bteeplo, 
A i '1 tiiiu as a shadow, 
li> i..« erod o'( r i lie people 
In the Link;; or the Meadow. 

(ri,.,ruM.y- With n pi] e iii his cheek 

A ii- 1 I I 

night of the 


d died, In \-i4. 



munications,* but to put forth their jeux cV esprit occasionally under 
cover of the names of real personages who had never dreamed of so 
distinguishing themselves. This was certainly carrying the system 
to a most unwarrantable length ; but it must be allowed that in the 
ease of the two individuals most played upon in this respect, the 
liberty was taken by no means amiss. " The Shepherd" was one 
of these, and he rather enjoyed the fame which was thus thrust 
upon him in addition to his own proper deserts.f He gives a most 
amusing account of his sufferings at the hands of Lockhart, whom 
he describes as " a mischievous Oxford puppy, dancing after the 
young ladies, and drawing caricatures of every one who came in 
contact with him." " I dreaded his eye terribly," he says, " and it 
was not without reason, for he was very fond of playing tricks on 
me, but always in such a way that it was impossible to lose temper 
with him. I never parted company with him that my judgment 
was not entirely jumbled with regard to characters, books, and lit- 
erary articles of every description. "J Lockhart continued to keep 
his mind in the utmost perplexity for years in all things that related 
to iLhe Magazine. The Shepherd was naturally anxious to know 
whose the tremendous articles were that made so much sensation 
.monthly, and having found by experience that he could extract no 
information out of Sym or Wilson, he would repair to Lockhart to 
ask him, awaiting his reply with fixed eye and a beating heart : 
" Then, with his cigar in his mouth, his one leg flung carelessly over 
the other, and without the symptom of a smile on his face, or one 
twinkle of mischief in his dark gray eye, he Avould father the arti- 
cles on his brother, Captain Lockhart, or Peter Robertson, or Sheriff 

* In the early numbers of the Magazine one meets a perfect host of these mythical person 
ages, and the impression conveyod to the credulous reader must have been that contributions 
were flowing in from remarkable persona in all quarters of the empire. There was really so 
much variety and individuality imparted to these imaginary characters that it was very difficult 
to perceive that the same writer was assuming the guises of William Wastle, Esq., and Dr. 
tJIrick Stern stare, and Philip Kempferhausen, and the Baron Lauerwinkel. 

t His expressions of opinion on the subject varied according to his mood, but his sober judg- 
ment of the matter is on record in his own words : — " My friends in general have been of opinion 
that he (Wilson) has amused himself and the public too often at my expense ; but, except in one 
instance, which terminated very ill for me, aad In which I hud no more concern than the man 
in the moon, I never discovered any evil design on his part, and thought it all excellent sport. 
At the same time, I must acknowledge that it w^s \asing too much freedom with any author to 
print his name in full to poems, letters, and essays which he himself never saw. I do not say he 
has done this, but either he or some one else has done it many a timrf." This was written in 1862. 
Of Wilson's own kind feeling to Hogg, see letter of lb30. 

J Hogg's Memoir t. 



Cay. or James Wilson, or that queer, fat ' body,' Pr. Seott, and 
sometimes on James and John Ballantyne, and Sam Anderson, and 
poor Baxter. Then away I flew with the wonderful news to my 
other associates, and if any remained incredulous, I swore the facts 
down through them ; so that before I left Edinburgh I was ac- 
counted the greatest liar that was in it except one."* The simple 
Shepherd by and by found out that these conspirators had made up 
their minds to act on O'Doherty's principle, of never denying any 
thing they had not written, or ever acknowledging any thing they 
had. lie accordingly thought himself safe in thenceforth signing 
his name to every thing he published. " But as soon," he says, " as 
the rascals perceived this, they signed my name as fast as I did. 
They then continued the incomparable JToctes Ambrosiancz for the 
sole purpose of putting all the sentiments into the Shepherd's mouth 
which they durst not avowedly say themselves, and these, too, often 
applying to my best friends." f 

A single instance will show to what lengths this system of decep- 
tion, for it can be called nothing else, was carried. In the articles 
on Leigh Hunt, already mentioned, he was accused, among other 
things, of having pestered his friend Hazlitt to revie\v him in the 
Edinburgh. Soon after — I find from Leigh Hunt's "Correspond- 
ence," recently published — he wrote to Lord Jeffrey the letter given 
below.]; Which of the writers in Blackwood perpetrated this very 
wicked joke I know nut, but its point lay in the fact that Sir J. G. 
Dalyell, with whose name so great a liberty had been taken, was 
perhaps of all men then in Edinburgh the one who, as a good Whig, 
regarded Blackwoo<l's Magazine with most abhorrence. A cor- 

* It _-;''s Menurire. 
t Tbid. 

* ■• I)f:AK Sir.: — I trouble you with this, to say. that since my last I have been made acquainted 
with the atrocious nonsense written about me j ; . .. .mil that nothing cm 

than what is said respecting my having asked ai Mr. Hazlitt to write an article 

. poem in thi I Review. I never breathed a syllable to him on the bi 

anybody who knows me would say lor me at once, for I am reckoned, if any thing, somewhat 
Dtastic on such matti I '■■>■ liom 

. ithorof which tells me at that he le the writ 
. not mean to attack my private character I Ee only attacked the I 
evinced in mj I this that this letter is a strangi mixture 

paltering. 1 : to tho 

1 '.. r Mr. Dalyi it avows him ir of the 

letter. Bui [ am taking op your time witl era, I merely wished, in thi 

to slate what I have inentli 

■■ ):• Heve me, my dear el raw, 

u l.; I : - 



respondent informs me that he recollects well Sir John coming to 
him in a state of violent agitation, to show the letter he had just 
received from Leigh Hunt, enclosing the pretended confession of 
authorship by himself. " Oh, the villany of these fellows !" ex- 
claimed the persecuted Baronet.* It was in truth a most unscrupu- 
lous trick. 

But the most elaborate and successful of these mystifications, of 
all which I suspect the invention must be attributed to Lockhart, 
was that about Dr. Scott, of Glasgow, or "the Odontist," as he 
dubbed him. I am not aware, indeed, of any other instance of this 
kind of joke being carried out so steadily and with such entire suc- 
cess. The doctor was a dentist, who practised both in Edinburgh 
and Glasgow, but resided chiefly in the latter city, — a fat, bald, 
queer-looking, and jolly little man, fond of jokes and conviviality, 
but with no more pretensions to literary or poetic skill than a street 
porter. To his own and his friends' astonishment he was intro- 
duced in Blackwood' 's Magazine as one of its most valued contrib- 
utors, and as the author of a variety of clever verses. There was 
no mistake about it, "Dr. James Scott, 1 Miller street, Glasgow," 
was a name and address as well known as that of Mr. Blackwood 
himself. The ingenious author had contrived to introduce so many 
of the Doctor's peculiar phrases, and references to his Saltmarket 
acquaintances, that the Doctor himself gradually began to believe 
that the verses were really his own, and when called on to sing one 
of his songs in company, he assumed the airs of authorship with 
perfect complacency. The " Odontist" became recognized as one 
of Blackwood's leading characters, and so far was the joke carried, 
that a volume of his compositions was gravely advertised in a list 
of new works, prefixed to the Magazine, as "in the press."f Even 

* He had been held up to ridicule, under a most horrible disguise, in the " Chaidee MS., 1 * for 
which, however, he had the satisfaction of receiving damages in an action brought agairst the 

t Had the volume ever appeared, it would have proved a very unique collection. One of the 
songs attributed to him became so popular, and is really so admirable in its kind, as to be worth 
reproducing here as a specimen of these curious lyrics. There is no doubt that Mr. Lockhai was 
the author. 


" Touch once more a sober measure, and let punch and tears be stied, 
For a prince of good old fellows, that, alack-a-day, is dead! 
For a prince of worthy fellows, and a pretty man also, 
That has left the Saltmarket in sorrow, grief, and woe. 
Oh. we ne'er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo J 


the acute publisher, John Ballantyne, Hogg relates, was so con- 
vinced of the Odontist's genius, that he expressed a great desire to 
be introduced to so remarkable a man, and wished to have the honor 
of being his publisher. The Doctor's fame went far beyond Edin- 
burgh. Happening to pay a visit to Liverpool, he was immediately 

" His waistcoat, coat, and breeches were all cut off the same web, 
Of a beautiful snuff-color, or a modest genty drab; 
The blue stripe in Lis stocking roun 1 his neat slim leg did go, 
And his ruffles of the cambric fine they were whiter than the snow. 
Oh, we ne'er shall see (he like of Captain Paton no mo! 

" His hair was curled in order, ai the rising of the sun, 
In comely rows am n irl that about his ears did run; 

And before there was a toupee that some inches up did grow, 
And behind there was a long queue that did o'er his shoulders flow. 
Oh, we ne'er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo! 

" And whenever we forgathered, he took off his wee three-cockit, 
And he proffered you his snuff-box. which he drew from his side-pocket; 
And on Bnrdett or Buonaparte he would make a remark or so. 
And then along thi plainstones like a provost he would go. 
Oh, we iie'< r shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo! 

"Now and then upon a Sunday ho invited me to dine, 
On a herring and a mutton chop, which his maid dressed very fine; 
There was also a little Malmsey, and a bottle of Bordeaux, 

Which between me :.m1 the Captain passed nimbly to and fro. 
Oh, I ne'er shall take pot-luck with Captain Paton no mo ! 

* Or if a bowl was mention* d, the Captain he would ring, 

And bid Nelly run to the We tport, and a stoup of water bring; 
Then would he mix the genuine stuff, as they made it long ago, 
Withlim j thai j in Trinidad did grow. 

shall taste the like of Captain Paton's punch no mo! 

" And then all the time 1. n sensible and courteous, 

vs talking of last sermon be had h.ard from Dr. Porteous, 
lit Mrs. So and So, 
Which hi' \ [ng heard I he con, but not the pro. 

Oh, we He',]- ghall bear tl ptain Paton no mo! 

" Or when the can o th, and the nighl was fairly setting la, 

Be would 1 out Minden -field or Dettingen ; 

How hefo I | n at a blow, 

bia blood ran out 111 
(ih. we ne'er shall bear the like of Captain Paton no niol 

"K tal > t Captain sickened, and grew worse from day to day, 

And ill missed bin in. from Which he now stayed away; 

. show, 

All for wai ting of the pr08< ncc of "in- venerable beau. 

like ..i ( laptain Paton no mo ! 

* An i id i i kindale could do. 

dtohl foe, 

• di must go, 



welcomed by the literary society of the town as the " glorious (Mon- 
tist" of JylacJaooocVs Magazine, and received a complimentary din- 
ner, which he accepted in entire good faith, replying to the toast of 
the evening with all the formality that became the occasion. 

But the spirit of fun and mischief that prompted these outrageous 
jokes did not confine itself to practising them on the outer world. 
The overflowing satire of the inventors was turned by them even 
upon one another. In a very clever but rather tedious composition 
of Lockhart's, called the "Mad Banker of Amsterdam," he pokes 
his fun at his friends all round. There was a society in Edinburgh 
called the " Dilettanti" club, of which Wilson was President. They 
came in for a sketch, and he begins with his friend the President : — 

" They're pleased to call themselves The Dilettanti, 
The President's the first I chanced to show 'em ; 

He writes more malagrugrously than Daute, 
The City of the Plague 's a shocking poem; 

But yet he is a spirit light and jaunty, 

And jocular enough to those who know him ; 

To tell the truth, I think John Wilson shines 

More o'er a bowl of punch than in his lines." 

It is said that my father chanced to see the proof-sheet by acci- 
dent before it went to press, and instantly dashed in immediately 
after the above stanza, not a little to the chagrin of the author, the 
following impromptu lines : — 

" Then touched I off friend Lockhart (Gibson John), 
So fond of jabbering about Tieck and Schlegel, 

Klopstock and Wieland, Kant. <uid Mendelssohn, 
All high Dutch quacks like Spurzheim or Feinagle ; 

Him the Chaldee yclept the Scorpion ; 

The claws but not the pinions of the eagle 

Are Jack's ; but though I do not mean to flatter, 

Undoubtedly he has strong powers of satire." 

The troubles in which the publisher and supporters of the Maga 
zine became involved commenced, as has been seen, with its very 
first number under the new regime. The assaults on Coleridge 

" Join all in chorus, jolly boys, and let punch and tears be shed, 
For this prince of good old fellows that, alack-a-day, is dead! 
For this prince of worthy fellows, and a pretty man also, 
That has left the Baltmarket in sorrow, grief, and woel 
For it ne'er shall see the like of Captain Puton no mo!" 

For ft complete copy of this lyric see Blackwood, vol v., p. T85. 

Mr. Qlbaon Lockhort, alias Baron Lanerwinkel, aUas William Wastlo, alias Di 
Dr. Peter Morris, ota, as sketched bj blm 


and Hunt might have been overlooked by the Edinburgh public, 
but the Cbaldee MS., though in reality a joke in comparison, raised 
a storm of solemn indignation, which it required all the courage 
and energy of the publisher to bear up against. In a second edition 
of the Magazine, which was very rapidly called for, the obnoxious 
article was withdrawn,* doubtless much to the disappointment of 
purchasers. For in fact the outcry, which at first seemed to 
threaten the extinction of the Magazine, was the best possible stim- 
ulant to its success. It throve on opposition, and waxed more 
bold and provoking as the enemy showed more sensitive apprecia- 
tion of its power. But for some time the publisher's position was 
no enviable one, as may be gathered from the second of two follow- 
ing letters from Mrs. "Wilson to her sister in England : — 

••Edinburgh, December 18, 1817. 
" I hope you got your last number of the Magazine ; I have been 
bo busy working that I have not had time to look at it. The first 
thing in it, on the ' Pulpit Eloquence of Scotland,' is written by 
Mr. Lockhart, a young advocate, a friend of Mr. Wilson's. I be- 
lieve there is not much of Mr. W.'s in the last number. I think 
there is something about llie Lament of Tasso ; that is his. You 
were right in your conjecture about Mr. Hogg's production ; his 
prose compositions an- nol in the happiest style; there will bo 
another of his in tin- next number, — a letter addressed to C. K. 
Sliarpe, Esq. Another article in it, entitled, 'On the late National 
Calamity,' is Mr. W.'s ; and the one on Mr. Alison's pulpit elo- 
quence i^ written by a son of iiis. A review of Mandeville is by 
Mr. Lockhart. There is something besides of Mr. W.'s; hut I 
don't exactly know what it is. I think it is about Old Masters." 

"May 20, 1818. 

"The number thai comes out to-day is pronounced a very good 

one, and I Buppose yon will soon have it. The articles written by 

Mr. W. an- those '< >n Ti nth,' the ' Fudge Family in Paris,' Childe 

Harold, canto 4th, and Horace W^alpole's Letters. Tin- Letter to 

! (.■ Hi.' Novembi r number:- "The editor baa learned with 
a an article in ti.' ■ /'<*/>rit, 

i t.i Individuals ju I 

hn ims, on Qui in "iiiy add that, ii what hai 

i * could bjtve b talnlj o< r< i would I 


Dr. Chalmers is by Mr. Lockhart. I am not quite sure if Mr. W. 
will have any tiling in the next Edinburgh Heview, but I hope he 
will, and I will tell you what it is when I know. 

" You asked if Ensign O'Doherty was a fictitious character; he 
is, and was created by a Mr. Hamilton, a particularly handsome and 
gentlemanly young man in the army ; he is a brother of Sir Wil- 
liam Hamilton, a friend of Mr. Wilson's, whom you may have heard 
me mention. The city of late has been in a state of pleasing com- 
motion owing to a fracas which took place last week between 
Blackwood and a Mr. Douglas from Glasgow, a disgusting, vulgar, 
conceited writer, whose name was mentioned in one of Nicol Jar- 
vie's letters* in the Magazine, which gave the gentleman such high 
offence, that after mature deliberation he determined on coming to 
Edinburgh, and horsewhipping Mr. Blackwood. Accordingly, 
about a week since he arrived ; and one day as the worthy book- 
seller was entering his shop, Mr. D. followed him, and laid his whip 
across his shoulder; and before Mr. B. had time to recover from 
his surprise, Mr. D. walked off without leaving his address. Mr. B. 
immediately went out and bought a stick ; and, accompanied by 
Mr. Hogg, went in search of Mr. D., whom at last they detected 
just about to step into a coach on his return to Glasgow. Mr. B. 
immediately attacked him, and beat him as hard as he could, and 
then permitted him to take his place in the coach, and proceed 
home, which he did. I have given you a long story, w r hich I fear 
you cannot feel the least interest in ; but as you take the Magazine, 
you will not be wholly indifferent to the fate of the publisher, Avhose 
conduct on the late occasion is thought perfectly correct ; the other 
man everybody thinks has acted like a fool." 

Nothing w r as left undone to spread the fame and fear of Black- 
wood. Formidable announcements of forthcoming criticisms were 
monthly advertised, to keep expectation on the stretch. The very 
titles of the serial articles indicated uncommon fertility of inven- 
tion, and a terrible faculty for calling names. There were articles 
on " The Cockney School of Poetry," on " The Pluckless School of 
Politics," on " The Gormandizing School of Eloquence." There 
were letters to literary characters by Timothy Tickler, by Freder- 
ick Baron von Lauerwinkel, by Dr. Olinthus Petre, T. C. P., by 

* Blackwood^ January and March, 1818, 


Ensign O'Doherty, by Mordecai Mullion, and a host of others too 
numerous to mention. The variety and mystification thus produced 
undoubtedly gave great additional zest to the writing; and this 
apparently multitudinous host of contributors danced about the 
victims of their satire with a vivacity and gleefulness which the 
public could not but relish even when it condemned. After all, 
and giving their full weight to the censures which were justly in- 
curred by many of these compositions, there is much truth in the 
following remarks, in a vindication of itself prefixed to the Maga- 
zine a lew years after : — ,L For a series of years, the Whigs in Scot- 
land had all the jokes to themselves; they laughed and lashed as 
they liked; and while all this was the case, did anybody ever hear 
them say that either laughing or lashing were among the seven 
deadly sins'.-' People said at times, no doubt, that Mr. Jeffrey was 
a more gentlemanly Whig than Mr. Brougham; that Sydney Smith 
grinned more good humoredly than Sir .lames Mackintosh, and so 
forth, but all these were satirists, and, strange to say, they all re- 
joiced in the name." While I cannot agree with the statement 
following these remarks, that the only real offence of Blackwood's 
contributors was their being Tories, there is no doubt, I think, 
that that circumstance greatly aggravated their sins in the eyes of 
their opponents.* 

The faults in question were, however, in themselves sufficiently 
. and may now be referred to, it is hoped, without risk of re- 
kindling the oid embers. The worst of them undoubtedly, for 
which even " Dr. Peter Morris" could afterwards see no apology, 
was the attack on the venerable Playfair, which appeared in 1818, 
in the September number of the Magazine, under the guise of a 
"Letter to the Rev. Professor Laugner, occasioned by bis writing 
in the Konigsberg Review: by the Baron von Lauerwinkel."f In 

irerj seld I i her wanting In I he 1 1 oroua youth 

of journ i he most 

respect. The J 
!i Immaculate. Th< ■. remark : and 

periodical, for some time - 
• • le of Black' -it.> propriety tint 

■ ,1 (:l lit- 

I ith le, among others, 

i conducted bj " \ wosafow j much admired 

my by aami i opinions 

d by mi a ol tr, 


a previous letter under the signature of " Idoloclastes," a strong 
remonstrance had been addressed to Dr. Chalmers on his support 
of the Edinburgh Review, in which, with great professions of re- 
spect and admiration both for Chalmers and Jeffrey, there was 
mingled a most offensive strain of rebuke on the subject of infidel 
principles, which were alleged to be characteristic of the Review. 
In the pretended letter to Professor Laugner, these charges were 
repeated with still greater violence of language, and combined 
with the same professions of regret and esteem. The excellent 
Professor of Natural Philosophy was broadly accused of having 
turned his back on the faith which he once preached,* and allied 
himself with a band of unprincipled wits and insidious infidels. 
The author of both these letters was Mr. Lockhart, and they are 
striking specimens of that unpleasant power which led his own 
familiar friends to attribute to him, in their allegorical description, 
the character of the Scorjnon. For calm, concentrated sting it 
would be hard to find six pages to match the Letter of the Baron 
Lauerwinkel.f The very natural indignation excited by this attack 
on one of the most amiable and eminent men of whom Edinburgh 
could then boast, attained its climax in the publication of a pam- 
phlet, called Hypocrisy unveiled and Calumny detected, in a Re- 
view of Blackwood' 's Magazine. The author wielded a powerful 
pen, and fixing on Wilson and Lockhart as the special objects of 
his criticism, accused them both in very unvarnished terms of con- 
duct disgraceful to men of letters and gentlemen. His own style, 
indeed, w r as not the most choice, his elaborate periods being thickly 
strewed with all the harshest epithets to be found in the dictionary. 

it is nevertheless true that this journal numhered among its supporters several clergymen of the 
Lutheran Church. One of these was the late celebrated preacher, Hammerschlag (Dr. Chalmers 
was here pointed at), another was Professor Laugner of the University of Konigsberg. The in- 
dignation of the zealous and worthy Baron von Lauerwinkel was excited," «fcc. 

* Professor Playfair was parish minister of Liff and Bervie from 1773 to 1782. ne becamo 
assistant to Professor Ferguson in 17S5, and in 1S05 resigned the chair of Mathematics for that 
of Natural Philosophy, which he occupied till his death, in 1S19. 

t Much as these letters were to be condemned, however, it is but. fair to observe that the ex- 
ample had been shown on the other side. A voluminous and vehement writer, Calvinm, already 
referred to, had inflicted not less tl, an live pamphlets on the public, addressed to Dr. M'Crie and 
Dr. Andrew Thomson on their sinful alliance with BlackwoocCa Magazine. In thundering sen- 
arnished with plentiful texts of Scripture, he calls upon them to "remember the fate of 
that priest who associated himsa'f with the infidel compilers of tli<- Encyclopedia? and hopes that 
id priest in this country is willing t<. let it be supposed that he receives wages from a till that is 
replenished by the dissemination of blasphemy, Similar remonstrances and insinuations were 
very frequently levelled airaiivit Dr. Brewster; and there can be no doubt that such attacks wer« 
calculated to provoke retaliation. 



But much of Lis censure went home to the mark, and he pledged 
himself, in conclusion, if the subjects of his criticism did not amend 
their ways, to return to the charge " with less reserve, and more 
personal effect."* TTho the author of this philippic was remained 
a secret, but there is now no reason to doubt that he was himself 
a well-known member of the legal body. His allusions to Wilson 
and Lockhart were too pointed to be passed without notice, and 
both sought redress in the mode then considered necessary for the 
vindication of the character of gentlemen. The author of the 
pamphlet received these communications as might have been ex- 
pected, he declined to reveal his identity, but printed the corres- 

* Id furtherance of this purpose he announced as preparing for publication "A Letter to the 
Dean and Faculty of Advocates on the propriety of expelling the Leopard and the Scorpion from 
that hitherto respectable body " 

t From the Scotsman, Saturday. October 24, ISIS: 

" To the Autlior of Hypocrisy Yv r, il< <L 

" Sik : — As it is no part of a manly disposition to use insulting epithets to an unknown enemy, 
who may perhaps have resolved to remain unknown, I shall not, at present, bestow any upon 
yon. So long as you remain cone* all 1 yon are a nonentity; and any insults offered by me to a 
person in that sanation might probably not be felt to carry with them any degradation to him, 
inly would not he lilt as conferring any triumph upon me. It is probable, however, 
that you will come forward from your concealment, when you feel that you cannot, continue in 
it without the consciousness of cowardice. I therefore request your name and address, that I may 
send a friend to you to deliver my opinion of your character, and to settle time and place for a 
' at which I may ex , from you for the public insult- you have offered tome. 

. Friday, Oct. 28, 1618." "John Wilson. 

"Sir :— I have no wish to apply epithets of insult to you till I know who you are. If you 

f a gentleman, you will take care that I he 
without this knowledge. I remain, sir. your obedient servant, 


" Tu ■! W 8 | .'■■'. ocate. 

" Friday, 23d October. 
"Sir:— The note which I understand to have been forwarded to you by my publisher, will 

I why I did not receive your Communication till within these few bonis. 

I conductor or supporter of Blackwood' Vagaai', a, you have no 

me. If you I thoror furnisher of materials for an attack on 

rtntck, which you your si If Btated to be higldy unjustifiable, and of which you denied 

lost abusive attack on your 

I Iswortb; If you did not, by an unfounded story, prevail with Mr Blackwood's 

ert that attack; if you be m I traduoer of Mr. Playfulr, Mr. Haz- 

: if you be not the wanton and cruel revller of those (tentlemen named 

din b of friendship; il yon b< nol oi f the 

; ' 'hat calumnloui and mall dlum of 

on all that la elevafa d, woi if you bo 

■ of ii, . [etti rsadd Mr. Leigh Hunt. ami 

elter under a n m Junius, and submit to be publicly stigmatized 


H ■ have eommltted th gl upply 


When Mr. Lockhart found that the author would not reveal 
himself, he appears to have concerned himself no more about the 
matter, but to have relieved his feelings by caricaturing all the 
parties concerned in his friend's literary " Ledger" " The Leop- 
ard" and "The Scorpion," as drawn in the "Ledger? will be found 
on pages 1G5, 169. 

The following admirable letter, addressed at this time to my 
father, by his friend the Rev. Robert Morehead,* seems, in spite of 
its length, to be worthy of insertion here. I have no doubt it pro- 
duced a considerable impression on his mind, though at the time his 
indignation at the charges of the pamphleteer made him rather im- 
patient of remonstrance : — 

to you, in that case you have lost every claim to the character of a gentleman, and have no rignl 
whatsoever to demand that satisfaction which is due only to one who has been unjustly ac- 

"The cause, besides, in which I have engaged is a public one; it is that of right feeling against 
all that is vile, treacherous, and malignant. My vocation is not ended; I have pledged myself to 
the public to watch your proceedings, and. if occasion shall require, to give a more ample exposi- 
tion of your conduct and character— to inflict a more signal chastisement on your crimes. This 
pledge shall be redeemed. 

"Do not think that I shall be deterred, by any threat, from discharging the duty I have thus 
imposed on myself, or that I shall be so weak as, by a premature avowal of my name, to deprive 
myself of the means. 

•• Prove to the satisfaction of the public that the charges which I have made are unfounded, or 
that they do not apply to you ; or, as you yourself ask of Mr. Hunt : — ' Confess that ycu have done 
wrong. — make a clean breast of it, — beg pardon of your God and of your country for the iniquity 
of your polluted pen, — and the last to add one pang to the secret throbbings of a contrite spirit,' 
the first to meet your challenge, if then renewed, shall be, sir, your, etc., 

"The Author of ' Hypocrisy Unveiled.' 

" p. S. — As Mr. Lockhart obviously acts in concert with yourself, I have made the same answer 
to him which I now make to you." 

* This estimable man was for many years an Episcopalian clergyman in Edinburgh. He was 
presented to the rectory of Easington, Yorkshire, in 1832, and died there in December, 1842. 

Mr. Morehead, as may be gathered from the above letter, was a dear friend of my father's, but 
shortly after this date he became editor of Constable's Magazine ; and it is to be regretted that, 
"in that lamentable madness of the time which drove high-minded and honorable men from their 
propriety," my father, by the unscrupulous liberty of his pen in Blackwood? 8 Magazine, gave 
offence to Mr. Morehead, who. justly displeased, wrote an indignant letter to him. begging that 
personal allusions should cease as far as he was concerned, and promising that, on his part, he 
should abstain from any allusion to the Professor in his Magazine. I am happy to be able to say 
the terms of peace were observed, as their friendship remained unbroken. A notice of Mr. More- 
head is made a dozen years later in a Xoctes, which exhibits my father's real estimate of the author 
of Dialogues on Natural and Revealed Religion. 

" Shepherd. — I love that man." 

" North. — So do I, James, and so do all that know him personally — his talents, his genius, and, 
better than both, his truly Christian character, mild and pure." 

" Shepherd. — And also bricht." 

"North. — Tos, bright : 

' In wit a man — simplicity a child.' " 

—Xoctes, May, 1830. 


" Sunday Evening. 

"My dear Wilson : — I trust you will forgive me for addressing 
you on a subject which has been running in my head all week, and 
has incapacitated me, I believe, from reading or writing, for when- 
ever I attempted either, your image, or the image of some other 
person or thing connected with JBlackwoocV s Magazine, immedi- 
ately took its station in my brain, and prevented any other idea 
from obtaining an entrance. 

" I have frequently thought of writing to you, yet I have always 
drawn back, from an aversion to appear to be giving advice or 
intermeddling in an affair with which I have nothing to do, separate 
from the interest which every one who knows you must take in 
you. I hear, however, that you have called on me to-day, and I 
cannot any longer refrain from saying something to you, though 
perhaps it may be rather incoherent, on the unpleasant circumstan- 
ces of the last week. That blame must attach to you and your 
friend Lockhart for the delinquencies of JBlacJcwood? s Magazine I 
am afraid must be admitted ; but even if the blame should not go 
the full length of the accusations which are made against you, I 
have myself too distinct a conception of the hazards accompanying 
mysterious and secret composition, and the temptations which it 
throws in the way of men of imagination and genius (much inferior 
to either of yours), that I can conceive, in the heat of writing, your 
trespassing very much upon the limits of propriety or a due re- 
gard for the common courtesies and regulations of social life. As 
it is impossible, too, for another person to enter into all the feelings 
which may have actuated you on different occasions, I can imagine 
thai you may have done what you are stated to have done, with- 
out deserving those imputations which have been thrown upon 
you. [ndeed I cannot, for my own part, think any thing very bad 
of yOU. Vou have always appeared to me a person of high and 
noble character, and I should be very sorry toviewyou in any 
oilier light. I am not at all, however, surprised that torrents of* 
abuse should be tin-own upon you, both in private and publio, and 
I cannol say thai the world is unjusl in this retaliation. 

"The person who bas written the anonymous letter to you does 
not ad perhaps in the mosl chivalrous manner possible, nol to let 
bimself be known ; but I rather think he is in the right, and as [ 
am one of those people who are di posed to believe all thin I 


imagine he is really what he gives himself out to be — a person un- 
connected with the matters in dispute, and determined, from a sense 
of justice, to defend what he thinks the cause of violated public 

" If he had been himself a party, he would have written with 
more bitterness, and been less disposed to make stupid quotations. 
All this, however, my dear Wilson, unpleasant as it is at present, 
may be attended with a very excellent result, if you will allow it to 
be so. Both you and Lockhart are, I think, designed for much 
higher things than the game you are playing. I believe that, with 
the wantonness of youth and conscious power about you, which 
yon do not care much how you exhibit, you are really desirous of 
doing good; and that you are anxious to root out of the world 
false sentiments in politics and religion, with a perfect unconcern 
who may entertain them. This is the best view to take of you ; 
and in this kind of crusade, you are heedless what shock you may 
give to individuals, whose feelings yet deserve to be consulted, and 
with whom the public will, in general, take part. I really think 
nothing less than a Divine commission, such as Joshua received to 
extirpate the Canaanites, could justify the way in which you aro 
throwing around you poisoned arrows against those whom you sur- 
mise to be infidels. When you go beyond a certain mark, you lose 
your aim. While with all the eloquence that you can mus- 
ter, you will never persuade the reasonable part of the na- 
tion that the Edinburgh Review has for its insidious, skulking 
design to make as many Jacobins and infidels as it can, I suppose 
the character of that publication is pretty well understood. No- 
body takes it up in the notion that they will receive religious in. 
struction from it, or that the writers are very competent to give it; 
but nobody of sense supposes, whatever slips it may sometimes 
have made, that its object and secret view is to pull down Christi- 
anity; and particularly, no one who knows Mr. Playfair conceives 
that this is one of his darling contemplations and schemes, whatever 
may be his opinions upon the subject of Revelation, which nobody 
has any business to rake out. I believe the only slip he is supposed 
to have committed in the Review, was something on the subject of 
miracles ; and what he says is, I imagine, defensible enough, and 
reconcilable to a belief in Christianity. Then as to politics, although 
here, too, there may be various offences, yet I believe the general 


drift of the politics of the Edinburgh Review is felt by the nation 
to have on the whole a good tendency. If you and your friend per- 
sist in writing in Blackwood's Magazine, I exhort you strenuously 
to make that Magazine what you are capable of making it; to take 
the hint which has been given you; to take warning from the awk- 
ward perplexities in which it has involved you, and from which it 
would be idle to attempt to extricate yourselves entirely, and hence- 
forth to avoid unhandsome personalities. I do not say, spare the 
Edinburgh Review; on the contrary, where you find- in it any sen- 
timent that you think militating either against the Constitution or 
Christianity, by all means expose it ; but do not impute motives to 
the writers which you cannot think exist. Your readers will go 
more thoroughly along with you if you are temperate, and give 
that Review the credit which it deserves, and speak of its authors 
rather as men who do not see the whole truth, than as men who 
are wittingly blind. If you cannot get the regulation of that Mag- 
azine into your own hands, but must have your writings coupled 
with party politics and personalities, which you yourselves, disap- 
prove of, I really think, for your own credit, you should have 
nothing to do with it ; for there is not a piece of abomination in 
the Magazine which will not be fathered upon one or other of you; 
and neither Christianity nor Toryism is at present in so low a state 
that there is any necessity to suffer martyrdom." 

The following letter from my father about the same time appears 
to have been! to Mr. Morehead, in reference to a suspicion 
of Mr. Macvey Napier having Keen the author of the pamphlet. 
it I, .nay- the keenness of hi on the subjeel : — 


Half-fast Ten, li ■ 1817. 

'• Mv dbab Sra: — Your message to me from Mr. Napier would 

have been perfectly satisfactory, even had 1 had any suspicion that 

i the author of the pamphlet. Bui knowing Mr. Napier to 

b< ■ man and a man of education, I could ool have su | ected 

him to be a blackguard and a villain. Had public rumor forced me 

:it any time to ask him if he was the author of thai pamphlet, the 

on wonM bave been accompanied with an ample apologj for 

mining it, for, without that, the question would itself have been 


an insult. Assure Mr. Napier of this, and that I am sorry he should 
have been put under the necessity by disagreeable and stupid 
rumor of disowning that of which I know his nature to be inca- 
pable. Had I suspected Mr. Napier, and yet "alluded" to him as 
the object of my suspicion, I should have acted like an idiot and a 
coward. In a case like this, suspicion is not to be so intimated. 
Should I ever suspect any man, I will send with privacy a friend to 
him ; he may be a man of some nerve, and if ever he avows himself 
he will require them all. My affection and friendship for you never 
can suffer any abatement. But may I gently say to you, this villa- 
nous and lying pamphlet has been read by you with feelings, and 
has left on your mind an impression, which I did not imagine such 
a publication could have created in you towards your very attached 

"J. Wilson." 

Not the least of the ill results of that unhappy letter of the 
Baron Lauerwinkel was the interruption of the friendly relation 
between my father and Jeffrey. The latter conveyed his sentiments 
on the subject in these manly and honorable terms : — 

"Craigcrook House, 13f/t October, 1818. 

" My dear Sir : — I take the liberty of enclosing a draft for a 
very inconsiderable sum, which is the remuneration our publisher 
enables me to make for your valuable contribution to the last num- 
ber of the Edinburgh Review; and though nobody can know better 
than I do, that nothing was less in your contemplation in writing 
that article, it is a consequence to which you must resign yourself, 
as all our other regular contributors have done before you. 

"And now, having acquitted myself of the awkward part of my 
office with my usual awkwardness, I should proceed to talk to you 
of further contributions, and ... to save editorial disquisition on 
the best style of composition for such a journal, if I had not a still 
more awkward and far more painful subject to discuss in the first 

" You are said to be a principal writer in, and a great director 
and active supporter of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. In the 
last number of that work there is an attack upon my excellent 
Mend Mr. Playfair, in my judgment so unhandsome and uncandid, 


tl»ai I really cannot consent either to ask or accept of favors from 
any one who is aiding or assisting in such a publication. 

" I have not the least idea that you had any concern in the com- 
position of that particular paper, and perhaps I have been misin- 
formed as to the nature and extent of your connection with the 
work in general. But if it be as I supposed, and if you still profess 
to take the same interest in that Magazine, I do not see that we can 
possibly co-operate in any other publication. 

" I have no right, certainly, and I am sure I have no intention to 
rebuke you for any opinions you may entertain, or any views you 
may have formed of the proper way of expressing them ; but if 
you think the scope and strain of the paper to which I allude in any 
degree justifiable, I can only say that your notions differ so widely 
from mine, that it is better that we should have no occasion to dis- 
cuss them. To me, I confess, it appears that the imputations it 
contains are as malignant as they are false; and having openly 
applied these epithets to them, whenever I have had occasion to 
6peak on the subject, I flatter myself that I do not violate the 
courtesy which I unfeignedly wish to observe towards you, or act 
unsuitably with the regard which I hope always to entertain for you, 
if I plainly repeat them here, as the grounds of a statement with 
whi<h no light considerations could have induced me to trouble you. 

•• 1 Bay, then, thai it \*f<rfse that it is one of the principal objects, 
or any object at all, of the Edinburgh Review to discredit religion, 
or promote the cause of infidelity. I who have conducted the work 
for nearly fifteen years should know something of its objects, and 
I declare t<> you, upon my honor, that nothing with that tendency 
has ever been inserted without its being followed with sincere 
'.both on my part and on that of all who have any permanent 
connection with the w<>r!<. That expressions of a lighl and indec- 
orous nature have sometimes escaped us in the hurry of composi- 
tion, and that, in exposing the excesses of bigotrj and intolerance, 
, has been sometimes employed, I am most 
ii with all humility to acknowledge; but, that anything was 
ever bespoken or written by the regular supporters of the work, 
or admitted, excepl by inadvertence, with a view \<> discredit the 
truth of religion, I most positively deny, and thai it is no part of 
its object to do so, I think musl be fell by every one of its candid 


" Iii the second place, I say it is false that Mr. P. lent his support 
to the Review in order to give credit and currency to its alleged 
infidel principles. 

" And, finally, it is false that the writings which he has contributed 
to it have had any tendency to support those principles, or are in- 
tended to counteract the lessons which he once taught from the 

It is much to be regretted that my father's reply to this letter is 
not extant. What it may have been can only be conjectured. I 
can have no doubt that he would not attempt to justify the malig- 
nant article. But he was not a man to abandon his associates even 
when he disagreed with them. He had cast in his lot with Black- 
wood and its principles, and was resolved to stand by them at all 




An eventful life seldom falls to the lot of the man of letters. His 
vicissitudes and excitements are for the most part confined to an 
arena in which he figures little before the public gaze. In this 
sense Wilson's life was uneventful; but the constitution of his na- 
ture, both physical and mental, made it impossible that it should 
ever become uninteresting or monotonous. It may be said that he 
threw himself into the very heart of existence, and found in the 
lowliest things on earth a hidden virtue that made them cease to be 
vulgar in his eyes. For fundamentally, though that I know is not 
the general opinion, he was as much a philosopher as a poet, and 
had that true instinct, that electric rapidity of glance, that enables 
a man to penetrate through the forms of things to their real mean- 
ing and essence. And when free from the bias of passion or preju- 
dice, his judgment was most accurate. Caprice or change in regard 
to principles, or persons, or tastes, was no part of his character. 


Faults of temper and intolerance sometimes glared forth, finding 
utterance, it might be, both violent and unreasonable. Thus his 
highly-strung nervous organization made him keenly alive to all 
outward impressions, loud laughter, sudden noises, rudeness, affec- 
tation, and those offences against minor morals that are generally 
regarded with indifference or passing disgust, affected him painfully; 
and if but for a short time exposed to any such annoyances, no self- 
control prevented him from giving expression to his feelings. But 
such outbursts, whether manifested in spoken or written words, 
were as summer storms, that leave the air purer and the sky brighter 
than before. He was, in fact, too large a man to be unamiable. 
His natural temper was, in mature life, as it had been in boyhood 
and youth, sweet and sunny, and, with all his enjoyment of activity 
and excitement, he never liked any company half so well as that 
which he found at his own fireside. To that quiet and simple home, 
in which his happiness was summed up, we now turn for a short 

Towards the end of the winter of 1819, my father, with his wife 
and children, now five in number, two boys and three girls,* left 
his mother's house, 53 Queen street, and set up his household god? 
in a small and somewhat inconvenient house in Ann street (Xo. 20). 
This little stive?, which forms the culminating point of the suburb 
■ •t Muckbridge, was at that time quite "out of town," and is still 
a secluded place, overshadowed by the tall houses of Eton terrace 
and Clarendon Crescent, in the literary "Ledger," already referred 
to, which contains all sorts of memoranda in my father's handwriting, 
f{ I liken up with an estimate of the cost of* furniture 
for dining-room, sitting-room, nursery, servants' room, and kitchen, 
making up a total of £195, with the triumphanl query at the end, 
in a bold hand, "Could it be less?" Truly, I think not. This little 
entry throws an interesting light on the circumstances of this de- 
voted pair, who, eight years previously, had started in life so dif- 
ferently under the prosperous roof-tree ofElleray. Bui the limita- 
tion "f their resources had, from the beginning, brought with it 
neither regrel nor despondency, and now that they were for the 
firsi time fairly facing the cures of life, they took up the burden 
with hope and cheerfulness. .My father fell strong in his own pow- 

• r namea, in the order of tl lows: — FohD, born April, i-i-', Margaret 

July, 1813, Mary, Auyuit, lsll; Blair, April, WO; Juuu Emily, January, lslT. 


ers of work, and his deep affection for his wife and children was a 
mighty stimulus to exertion. My mother, on the other hand, along 
with a singular sweetness of disposition, possessed great prudence 
and force of character ; she entered, as her letters indicate, into all 
that concerned her husband with wife-like zeal, and her sympathy 
and counsel were appreciated by him above all else that the world 
could bestow. 

In withdrawing from the more fashionable part of Edinburgh, 
they did not, however, by any means exclude themselves from the 
pleasures of social intercourse with the world. In Ann street they 
found a pleasant little community that made residence there far 
from distasteful ; the seclusion of the locality made it then, as it 
seems still to be, rather a favorite quarter with literary men and 
artists. The old mansion of St. Bernard's, the property and dwel- 
ling-house of Sir Henry Raeburn (the glory of Scotland's portrait- 
painters) offered them its hospitality and kindly intercourse. ~No 
one can forget how, in the circle of his own family, that dignified 
old gentleman stood, himself a very picture, his fine intellectual 
countenance lightened by eyes most expressive, whose lambent glow 
gave to his face that inward look of soul he knew so well to impart 
to his own unsurpassed portraits. Genius shed its peculiar beauty 
over his aspect, yet memory loves more than aught else the recol- 
lections of the benevolent heart that lent to his manner a grace of 
kindliness as sincere as it was delightful. The place in Scottish art 
which he had so long occupied without a fellow was soon to become 
vacant. But a worthy successor was at that time following his 
footsteps to fame. 

Sir John Watson Gordon lived with his father (then Captain, 
afterwards Admiral Watson) and a pleasant group of brothers and 
sisters, in the house adjoining that of Professor Wilson, in whom 
this rising artist found a warm and kind patron. Not a few of his 
early pictures were painted under the encouragement and advice of 
his genial friend. Almost the first subject that brought him into 
prominent comparison with the best English painters of the day 
was a portrait of my sister, when seven years of age — a beautifully 
colored and poetically conceived picture. This gentleman has long 
since reaped the reward of his industry and talent, and now wears 
the honor of knighthood, along with the important position of 
President of the E-oyal Scottish Academy, continuing still, from 


time to time, to give evidence to the world, by the admirable vigor 
and truthful individuality of his portraits, that his eminence is in- 
creasing with his years. 

Another illustrious name is to be numbered in that coterie of 
artists. William Allan (who also attained the honor of knighthood 
and presidentship) was a frequent guest in my father's house. He 
had not long returned from a residence of some duration in the 
East. His extended travel and fresh experience of foreign lauds, 
made his society much sought after. He had the advantage of an 
intimate friendship with Sir Walter Scott, in itself an introduction 
to intercourse with the best people of the time. Mr. Allan was a 
man whose intelligence, power of observation, quaint humor, gentle 
and agreeable manners, made him welcome to all. Many were the 
pleasant reunions that took place in those days under Professor 
Wilson's roof, where might be seen together Lockhart, Hogg, Gait, 
Sir William Hamilton, his brother, Captain Thomas Hamilton, Sir 
Adam Ferguson, Sir Henry Raeburn, Mr. Allan, and Watson Gor- 
don. In such meetings as these, it may easily be imagined how 
the hours would pass, the conversation and merriment perhaps con- 
tinuing till sun-rising. 

Wilson had now apparently committed himself to literature as 
his vocation ; and when he removed to Ann Street there seemed no 
great probability of his being soon called to any more definite sphere 
of exertion. His professional prospects were not much to be calcu- 
lated on, for, though fitted in some respects to achieve distinction 
at the bar, he appears never to have seriously contemplated that as 
an object of ambition. His aspirations were in a very different 
direction. Though his pursuits and acquirements had been of a 
very general and eclectic sort, he had given early proof of his love 
and capacity for philosophic studies. He had not, it is true, made 
philosophy his special pursuit, like his illustrious friend Sir William 
Hamilton, for poetry and literature divided his allegiance. But the 
ace of mind, and more particularly Moral Philosophy, had for 
him at all times liigh attraction. Human nature had been in fact 
his study par excellence, and when the prospect opened to him of 
being able to cultivate that study, not merely as a field of analytical 
skill, but as a means <>t' practically influencing the minds of others 
with all the authority of academic position, he eagerly grasped at 
au object worthy of his highest ambition. That prize was not 


to be won without a desperate struggle, to the history of which a 
few pages must uow be devoted. 

In April, 1820, the chair of Moral Philosophy in the University 
of Edinburgh became vacant by the lamented death of Dr. Thomas 
Brown. The contest which ensued has had few parallels even in 
the history of that University, whilst the patronage lay with the 
Town Council, whose members had to be canvassed personally like 
the voters in a rotten borough. My father announced himself as a 
candidate in the course of the month, and so did Sir William 
Hamilton. Other distinguished men were mentioned as possible 
competitors, such as Sir James Mackintosh and Mr. Malthus ; but 
it soon became apparent that between these two alone the struggle 
was to lie. Then came the tug of war. The rivals were intimate 
personal friends, and between them, happily, no unpleasant word or 
thought arose during the time that their respective friends were 
fighting for and against them, like Greek and Trojan. Both had 
been brilliant Oxonians ; but the one was known to have devoted 
himself to philosophy, with a singleness of aim and a specialty of 
power, that seemed to his friends, and certainly not without reason, 
to throw the pretensions of his rival utterly into the shade. Happily 
for him, too, he had, as became a philosopher, abstained from any 
interference in public questions, either openly or in secret ; and his 
retired and studious life afforded no possible mark for censure or 
insinuation even to the most malicious enemy. The other, though 
reckoned by men well fitted to judge, as a person singularly gifted 
with philosophic as well as poetic faculty, was better known in the 
outer world as a daring and brilliant litterateur ; one of a band of 
w r riters who had excited much admiration, but also much righteous 
censure, and personally as a somewhat eccentric young man ol very 
athletic and jovial tendencies. How these qualities affected his 
position as a candidate will speedily appear ; but all other distinc- 
tions were lost sight of in the one great fact of political creed. Sir 
"William was a Whig : Wilson was a Tory. The matter all lay in 
that. Wilson, too, was not only a Tory, but a Tory of the most 
unpardonable description ; he was one of the leading hands, if not 
the editor, of that scandalous publication, Blackwood' 's Magazine, a 
man therefore who needed no further testimonial of being at least 
an assassin and a reprobate. He, forsooth, a Professor of Moral 
Philosophy, a successor of Dugald Stewart ! The thing was mon- 

a. at Oxford— -Froir. a sketch by Mr. Lookbart 


strous ; an outrage ou decency and common sense. Such, without 
exaggeration, was the view taken by the Whig side in this contest, 
and strenuously supported publicly in the columns of the Scotsman? 
and privately in every circle where the name of Blackwood was a 
name of abomination and of fear. 

How the proceedings of this election interested my mother may 
be seen best from her own true womanly feelings expressed without 
reserve, in a letter to her sister : — 

"My mind has been anxiously occupied on Mr. Wilson's account, 
by an election in which he has, amongst other literary men, started 
as a candidate. It is for a Professor's Chair in the University here. 
The Professorship of Moral Philosophy is the situation, which becamo 
vacant about six weeks ago, by the death of Dr. Brown. The gift of 
the Chair is in the power of the Magistrates and Town Council, and I 
have no doubt there will be a great struggle between the two polit- 
ical parties hei-e. The Whigs hitherto have had every thing their own 
way ; and the late Professor was one, as well as the well-known Du- 
gald Stewart, who resigned the situation from bad health, and who 
has it in his power to resume lecturing if he chooses, and which I fear 
he will do from party spirit, if he thinks there is any chance of Mr. 
Wilson's success. Mr. Wilson has been assured of all the support 
that Government can give him, and Sir Walter Scott has been par- 
ticularly kind in his exertions for his success. The testimonials 
which he has received from the Professors at Glasgow, as to his 
powers for such a situation, arc most gratifying and flattering; in- 
deed, hie prospects are at present favorable; but I will not allow 
myself to be sanguine, though 1 musl say that if Mr. Wilson was to 

* •■■ cimen of t! ••. being the peroration of a long and angry 

leading article which appeared Immediately before il lection. The electors were, in conclusion, 

thus solemnly adjured:— "Again we call upon members oi' Council who are fathers of fam- 
ilies; whi they have taken; who have some regard for religion, morals, and 
sad the CbaldeeMS. ; the pilgrimage to the 'Kirk of Shotts; 1 the attacks on Messrs, 
Pi I ridge, and others; to weigh and consider the spirit andcha- 
rticlesin the Magazine, winch are either written by Mr. Wilson, or pub 
i ■■ci if Hi. -j- can possibly exi i private Individual, we still 

■ intry, and their God, tosi leel 
to fill the chair of M and to confide to him the tasto, the morals, 

and I.'. Ion." 

n u d, through the same channel, that the con- 

ns on the 1 om n I Souncll," and that though it 

ilrouuy as iow as they could be in the estimation of 
their fei. clu Ion to b( erroneous, m<t 

t .ttlll. 


get such au honorable situation, it would indeed be truly gratifying 
to me; and I think he is well calculated to fill, with respectability 
and credit, such a Chair. All the principal men here on the Gov- 
ernment side are most anxious for his success ; and even if he should 
be disappointed, the handsome manner in which they have come 
forward, may be as useful to him at some future time as it is satis- 
factory at the present. The emolument of the situation in itself is 
nothing, but depends on the number of students who may attend 
the class. Dr. Brown had about a thousand a year from it. He 
was brother of the Miss Brown whom you may remember seeing 
here, and the authoress of Lays of Affection. 

"If I have anything to say with regard to Mr. Wilson's affairs, I 
will let you know soon, but the matter will not be ultimately decided 
for some time ; his opponents at present are few, and the most formid- 
able is Sir William Hamilton, who is not a Government man, but 
others may start more appalling. Malthus is one talked of, and Sir 
James Mackintosh. The latter is an elderly man, who ranks very 
high in the literary world, and a Whig." 

This letter is dated 29th April, 1820. She writes again in July ' 
"I know that you take an interest in all our concerns, or I should 
not again bore you with the old story of the election, which, when 
I last wrote to you, I thought was concluded ; indeed, the report 
that Dugald Stewart meant to resume his lectures, came from such 
good authority that Mr. Wilson set off immediately to Peebles to 
recover his fatigue. He was no sooner gone than he was sent for 
back again ; for the very next day Dugald Stewart sent in his resig- 
nation, and the canvass began instantly in the most determined 
manner. You can form no idea with what warmth it is still going 
on, and the Whigs are perfectly mad. The matter is to be decided 
ne,xt Wednesday, and as yet Mr. Wilson has greatly the majority 
of Votes, and I trust will continue to have them, and that his friends 
will prove stanch. They have been uncommonly active indeed in 
his behalf, Sir Walter Scott in particular, who says there are greater 
exertions making by the Whigs now, than they ever made in any 
political contest in Scotland. The abuse lavished upon Mr. Wilson 
by them is most intemperate ; his greatest crime is that he is a con- 
tributor to Blackwood's Magazine, that notoriously Tory journal. 
But I trust all will end well. I shall not write again till the 19th, 
when our suspense will be at an end." 


Hostility on grounds purely political would have been, in the 
singular state of feeling which then prevailed, more or less excusable. 
But as the contest deepened, and my father's prospects of success 
grew stronger, the opposition took a form more malignant. Wheu 
it was found useless to gainsay his mental qualifications for the office, 
or to excite odium on the ground of his literary offences, the attack 
was directed against his moral character; and it was broadly insin- 
uated that this candidate for the Chair of Ethics was himself a man 
of more than doubtful morality ; that he was, in fact, not merely a 
"reveller" and a "blasphemer," but a bad husband, a bad father, a 
person not fit to be trusted as a teacher of youth. These cruel charges 
touched him to the quick. It is difficult now to realize that they 
could have required refutation ; but so far, it appears, did the si rength 
of party bitterness carry men in these angry days. My lather found 
it necessary, therefore, to adduce "testimonials" to his moral char- 
acter, as well as to his intellectual acquirements. How painfully he 
felt these malicious attacks maybe judged from the following letter 
to his friend the Rev. John Fleming, of Rayrig, Windermere: its 
manly spirit and noble tone, under circumstances so trying to the 
temper, are worthy of remark: — 

" 53 Queen Street, Edinburgh, 
July 2d. 
" My dear Sir : — I owe you many thanks for your most kind 
and friendly letter, which I laid before the electors, along with 
many others from persons of whose good opinion I have reason to 
be prond. The day of election is at last fixed, after many strange 
delays, all contrived by my opponents, who have struggled to ob- 
tain time, during which they contrived to calumniate me with a 
virulence aever exceeded and seldom equalled. The election will 
take- place upon Wednesday, the L9th of July, and the contesl lies 
between Sir William Hamilton. Bart., a bai'rister here, and myself; 
other four candidates being supposed to have little or do chance of 
Buccess. I am, unfortunately, opposed by all the Whig influence in 
Scotland ; but, on the other hand, I have t he most strenuous support 
of Government, as far as their influence can be legitimately exer- 
cised, and of many of the i ios1 distinguished independent men in 
Scotland. My friends are all sanguine; many of them confident; 
and I myself entertain strong, and I think well-grounded hopes of 
success. My enemies have attacked my private character at all 


points, and within those few days, have not scrupled to circulate 
reports that I am a bad husband and a bad father. I confess that 
this has affected me greatly ; as, whatever my faults or errors may 
have been, it is true as holy writ that I do tenderly love my wife and 
children, and would willingly lay down my life for their sakes. I 
need not say that such base insinuations have roused the indignation 
of my friends ; but though calumny is in general ultimately 
defeated, it often gains its ends for the time being ; and in this case 
it is likely to operate to my disadvantage with some of the electors 
whose minds are not yet made up. Now you, my dear sir, mar- 
ried me to one of the most sinless and inoffensive of human beings, 
whom not to love would indeed prove me to be a wretch without a 
soul, or a heart, or a mind, and to treat whom otherwise than 
kindly and tenderly would be an outrage against nature. God has 
blessed me with six innocent children, for whom I pray every night ; 
and all my earthly happiness is in the bosom of my family. But to 
you I need say no more on such a subject. As an answer to all 
such calumnies, I fear not that my future life will be satisfactory ; 
but, meanwhile, you will be doing me another friendly office by 
writing to me another letter, containing your sentiments of me as a 
man, — such a letter as you would wish to address to a friend who 
has ever loved and respected you, on understanding that he has 
been basely, falsely, and cruelly calumniated. The electors are 
satisfied with my talents, and even my enemies have ceased now to 
depreciate them ; but the attack is now made on my moral character, 
and they are striving to injure me in the public estimation by 
charges which, at the same time, cannot, in spite of their falsehood, 
fail to give me indescribable pain. I am, my dear sir, ever yours 
affectionately, John Wilson." 

Mr. Fleming's reply is not extant, but the answer to a similar 
request addressed to Mrs. Grant of Laggan may be given as a cu- 
riosity in literature, being, it is to be hoped, the last specimen that 
will be seen of such a testimonial to any candidate for a professor- 
ship. My father wrote to Mrs. Grant as follows : — 

"Sunday Afternoon. 
"My dear Madam:— During the course of the canvass in which 
I have for some time past been engaged, I am sorry to know that 


many calumnies have been industriously circulated against my pri- 
vate character. Among others, it has lately been insinuated that I 
am a bad husband, a bad lather, and, in short, in all respects a bad 
family man. I believe that I may with perfect confidence assert, 
that whatever may be my faults or sins, want of affection for my 
wife and children, my mother, sisters, and brothers, is not of the 
number. My whole happiness in life is centred in my family, whom 
God in his infinite goodness has hitherto preserved to me in their 
beauty, their simplicity, and innocence. I am more at home than 
perhaps any other married man in Edinburgh; nor is there on earth 
a human beiner who feels more profoundly and gratefully the bless- 
edness and sanctity of domestic life. This, my dear madam, must 
be your conviction ; and you would now be conferring upon me a 
singular favor, by expressing to me in such a letter as I could show 
to my friends in Council, of whom I have many, your sentiments 
with respect to me and my character. Your own pure and lofty 
character will be a warrant of the truth of what you write, and a 
hundred anonymous slanders will fall before the weight of your fa- 
vorable opinion. I would not write to you thus, if I were conscious 
of haying dune any thing which might forfeit your esteem; but 
whatever may be thought of my talents or of my poetical genius, 
neither of which I have ever wished to hear overrated, I have no 
doubt that 1 am entitled to the character of a virtuous man in the 
relations of private life. I am, my dear madam, yours, with true 
resp< "John Wilson." 

( rranl (has replied: — 

'• I have known your family for several year- intimately; indeed, 
through intermediate friends, have known much of you from your 
very childhood; and in the glow of youth, high spirits, and un- 
clouded prosperity, always understood you to be a person of amia- 
ble and generous feelings and upright intentions. Since you mar- 
ried, I have known more of you, and of tin' excellenl person to 
whom you owe no common portion of connubial felicity; and I 
always believed her to be the tranquil and happy wife of a fond and 
faithful husband, domestic in his habits, devoted to his children, 
and peculiarly beloved by his brothers and sisters, and his respect- 
ai.' and venerated parent. <Mien have 1 heard your sisters talk 


with the warmest affection of you, and praise you, in particular, for 
your fond and unremitted attention to your wife ; and, moreover, 
remark how quiet and domestic the tenor of your life has been 
since you left their family, and what particular delight you took in 
that very fine family of children with which God has blessed you. 
If you were, indeed, capable of neglecting or undervaluing such a 
wife and such children, no censure could be too severe for such 
conduct. But in making an attack of that nature, your enemies 
have mistaken their point, as your domestic character may be called 
your strong ground, where you are certainly invulnerable as fir as 
ever I could understand or hear. People's tastes and opinions may 
differ in regard to talents and acquirements, but as to domestic 
duties and kind affections, there can be but one opinion among 
those whose opinion is of any value." 

A still higher authority came forward in vindication of his charac- 
ter. The following letter was addressed to the Lord Provost by 
Sir Walter Scott :— 

"Edinburgh, 8th July, 1320. 

" My Lord Provost : — Some unfavorable reports having been 
circulated with great industry respecting the character of John 
Wilson, Esq., at present candidate for the Chair of Moral Philoso- 
phy, now vacant in this University, I use the freedom to address 
your Lordship in a subject interesting to me, alike from personal 
regard to Mr. Wilson, and from the high importance which, in 
common with every friend to this city, I must necessarily attach to 
the present object of his ambition. 

"Mr. Wilson has already produced to your Lordship such testi- 
monials of his successful studies, and of his good morals, as have 
seldom been offered on a like occasion. They comprehend a his- 
tory of his life, public and private, from his early youth down to 
this day, and subscribed by men Avhose honor and good faith cannot 
be called into question ; and who, besides, are too much unconnected 
with each other to make it possible they would or could unite their 
false testimonies, for the purpose of palming an unworthy candidate 
upon the electors to this important office. For my own part, whose 
evidence in behalf of Mr. Wilson is to be found among certificates 
granted by many persons more capable of estimating his worth and 
talents, I can only say that I should have conceived myself guilty 


of a 'very great crime, had I been capable of recommending to the 
Moral Philosophy Chair, a scoffer at religion or a libertine in mor- 
als. But Mr. Wilson has still further, and, if possible, more strong 
evidence in favor of his character, since he may appeal to every 
line in those works which he has given to the public, and which are 
at once monuments of his genius, and records of his deep sense of 
devotion and high tone of morality. He must have, indeed, been a 
most accomplished hypocrite (and I have not heard that hypocrisy 
has ever been imputed to Mr. Wilson) who could plead with such 
force and enthusiasm the cause of virtue and religion, while he was 
privately turning the one into ridicule, and transgressing the dic- 
tates of the other. Permit me to say, my Lord, that with the 
power of appealing to the labors of his life on the one hand, and to 
the united testimony of so many friends of respectability on the 
other, Mr. Wilson seems well entitled to despise the petty scandal 
which, if not altogether invented, must at least have been strongly 
exaggerated and distorted, either by those who felt themselves at 
liberty to violate the confidence of private society by first circula 
ting such stories, or in their subsequent progress from tongue to 
tongue. Indeed, if the general tenor of a man's life and of his 
writings cannot be appealed to as sufficient contradiction of this 
species of anonymous slander, the character of the best and wisest 
man must stand at the mercy of every talebearer who chooses to 
work up a serious charge out of what may be incautiously said in 
the general license of a convivial meeting. I believe, my Lord, 
there are very few men, and those highly favored both by temper- 
amenl and circumstances, or else entirely sequestered from the 
world, who have not at some period of their life been surprised 
both into woid- and actions, for which in their cooler and wiser 
moments they have been both sorry and ashamed. The contagion 
of bad example, the removal of the ordinary n 3traints of society, 
must, while- men continue fallible, be admitted as some apology for 
such acts of folly. But 1 trust, that in judging and weighing the 
character of a candidate, otherwise qualified to execute an irupor- 
tanl trust, the public will never be deprived of his services by im- 
posing upon liim the impossible task of showing thai he has been, 
at all times and moments of his life, as wise, cautious, and temper- 
ate as he is in hi.- general habits, and his ordinary walk through 

the u olid. 


" I have only to add, that supposing it possible that malice 
might have some slight ground for some of the stories which have 
been circulated, I am positive, from Mr. Wilson's own declaration, 
an 1 that of those who best know him, that he is altogether inca- 
pable either of composing parodies upon Scripture, of being a 
member of any association for forwarding infidelity or profaneness, 
or affording countenance otherwise to the various attacks which 
have been made against Christianity. To my own certain knowl- 
edge he has, on the contrary, been in the habit of actively exerting 
his strong powers, and that very recently, in the energetic defence 
of those doctrines which he has been misrepresented as selecting 
for the subject of ridicule. 

"I must apologize to your Lordship fur intruding on your time 
such a long letter, which, after all, contains little but what must 
have occurred to every one of the honorable and worthy members 
of the elective body. If I am anxious for Mr. Wilson's success on 
the present occasion, it is because I am desirous to see his high 
talents and powers of elocution engaged in the important task of 
teaching that philosophy which is allied to and founded upon reli 
gion and virtue. 

' ; I have the honor, etc., " Walter Scott." 

The day of success at last arrived ; and Mrs. Wilson thus com 
municates the joyful news to her sister : — 

" I am* sure you will rejoice to hear that Mr. Wilson was yester- 
day elected Professor of Moral Philosophy, and that in spite of all 
the machinations of his enemies, the Whigs. He had twenty-one 
votes out of thirty, — a majority of twelve, which out of so small a 
number is pretty considerable. Poor ' Billy Balmer ' took such an 
interest in the thing that he went yesterday morning and stayed 
near the scene of action till it was all over, and then came puffing 
down with a face of delight to tell me that ' Master was ahead a 
good deal.' " 

A few days later she writes in a strain of high triumph. Like 
a good and brave wife she regards her husband's enemies as hers, 
and under the summary designation of WJiigs they come in for a 
proper share of her notice : — 


" An-x Street, July 27, 1820. 

" My dear Mary : — The want of a decent sheet of paper shall 
not deter ine from immediately thanking you for your and James's 
kind congratulations on our success in the late canvass, which, 
thank Heaven, is at last at an end, after a most severe struggle, in 
which I flatter myself Mr. Wilson has conducted himself with a 
forbearance and a magnanimity worthy a saint, and which, had 
he been a Catholic, he would have been canonized for. The perti- 
nacity of his enemies was unprecedented, and I suppose they have 
not done with him yet; but the Tories have been triumphant, and 
I care not a straw for the impotent attempts of the scum of the 
defeated Whigs. I must say I chuckle at the downfall of the 
Whigs, whose meanness and wickedness I could not give you any 
idea of were I to write a ream of paper in the cause. In the num- 
ber of Blackwood' '.•>• Magazine last published they got a rap on the 
knuckles, just as hints as to what they may expect in future if they 
persevere in their abuse.* .... 

" Mr. W. is very well, but as thin as a rat, and no wonder ; for 
the last four months he has had no rest for the sole of his foot. He 
is now as busy a- possible studying. His enemies have given him 
little time to prepare his lectures — one hundred and twenty in num- 
ber. The class meets the beginning of November, and he has to 
lecture an hour every day till April. But for the detestable Whigs 
the thing might have been settled four months ago, and he would 
have had ample time for his preparations." 

The proceedings at the election need not further be dwelt on. 
An attempt to rescind the vote at a subsequent meeting of Council 
was ignominiously defeated. The principal figure in that seem' is 
a certain Deacon Paterson, who appears for once on the stage of 
history, armed with a "green bag," the contents of which were to 
annihilate the- new Professor's reputation and quash the election. 
lint the Deacon and hi- bag were very speedily disposed of, and 

• Here follow sketches of some of Mr. Wilson's enemies and friends, allnded •" In ' 

ttnr, drawn In livelj eoloi h we can only 6nd room I ["he OdontUt:"— 

" Ttu- repnted tat .-'•«•, 

d who Is ti nl know, w Itb ;i vwi 

i or r. li-li a j..k'\ and all thi 
Ingly, though, poor man, I write a line U depended upon it. . 

■ ■ rhymeain pralaeof Blaoku>ood,\» one of Um great lawyer* bur* 
a Mr. Cnmstouri." 


forthwith disappeared into oblivion, in the midst of a hearty chorus 
of hisses. 

My father lost no time in addressing himself to his important 
labors, and applied in all quarters, where help was to be relied on, 
for advice and assistance in collecting materials to guide him in the 
preparation of his lectures. Three days after the election he 
writes to his friend, Mr. John Smith, the Glasgow publisher : — 

"53 Queen Street, July 22. 

" My dear Sir : — Many thanks for your very kind letter. The 
contest was, you know, of a most savage nature, but I never feared 
for the result. A protest was given in by the defeated party, but 
that means nothing, and I will be Professor to my dying day. 

" It is quite impossible for me to visit you at Dunoon, however 
delightful it would be. My labors are not yet commenced, but 
they must be incessant and severe ; and I do not intend to leave 
Edinburgh for one single day till after I have finished the course of 
Lectures. Nothing but perseverance and industry can bring me 
even respectably through my toils, and they shall not be wanting. 

"What works do you know of on Natural Theology? Ask 

" In short, the next month is to be passed by in reading and 
thinking alone, and all information you can communicate about 
books and men will be acceptable." 

On the 3d of August he again wrote to Mr. Smith :— 

" My dear Sir : — All is now fixed respecting my election, verb- 
ally as well as virtually. The Minute of Election is to be read, so 
says an old and obsolete law, twice in Council, and Deacon Pater- 
son, as you probably know, gave notice on the 19th, that he would 
move to rescind the election. Accordingly, on the first reading of 
the minute (Wednesday following election), he rose and declared 
his intention of opening a bagful of charges against me, which, he 
said, would cause my friends to rescind the election. This he tried 
to do yesterday, but my friends would not suffer his green bag to 
be opened. On this, he made a long prepared speech, full of all 
manner of calumnies against me, during which he was repeatedly 
called 'x> order even by some of my opponents. At last, a vote 


of censure upon him was proposed and carried by twenty-one to 
six. On ottering to apologize, this censure was withdrawn, and he 
did apologize. The vote was then put, 'rescind or adhere,' and 
carried 'adhere' by twenty-one to six, so that all is settled. The 
sole object, apparently, in all these proceedings has been to annoy 
me, my friends and supporters, and to give vent to the wrath oi 
party feeling. 

u I am anxious to know if you can get me Mylne's* notes. 
It is with no view, I need hardly say, of using anything of his, but 
merely of seeing bis course of discussion. 

"I am both able and willing to write my own lectures, every 
word ; but before I begin to do so, I am anxious to have before me 
a vista of my labors, and this might be aided by a sight of his or 
any other lectures. But all this is confidential, for my enemies are 
numerous and ready, and will do all they can to injure me in all 
things. But they may bark and growl, for it will be to no purpose." 

The successor of Dugald Stewart was certain to have all eyes 
upon him, and the circumstances of the election made him feel all 
ill e more imperiously the need of acquitting himself well in a place 
that had been filled by men so famous; above all merely personal 
considerations, too, he felt, with almost oppressive anxiety, the sa- 
credness of the trust thai had been committed to him as a teacher 
of that science which embraces all the higher truths and precepts 
which the light of reason can make known. He accordingly set 
about his preparations with his usual energy, and for the brief pe- 
riod that intervened before the opening of the session in November, 
a). pears to have worked incessantly. His portrait in his study is 
thus playfully sketched by my mother: — "Mr. Wilson is as busy 
studying as possible, indeed he has little time before him for his 

great task ; be say 3 ii will take bii month al least to make out 

a catalogue of the hooks he has to read and consult. I am perfectly 
appalled when I go into the dining-room and see all the folios, 
rjuart08, and duodecimos with which it is literally tilled, and the 
poor culprit himself sitting in the midst, with a beard as long and 
.in adult carrot, for he has not Bhaved for a fortnight." 

< >t all the friends to whom he applied for counsel in this tin f 

anxiety, there was none on whom he so implicitly relied, or whe 

* Prol f Moral Ph Glasgow, under whom he hod studied in 1801, 


was so able to assist him, as Alexander Blair. To him he un- 
bosomed himself in all the confidence of friendsh p, and in several 
long and elaborate letters— too long to be given entire — entered 
minutely into his plans for the course, asking for advice and sugges- 
tions with the eagerness and humility of a pupil to his master. He 
gives a list of the books he has got, and asks his friend to tell him 
what others he should have; what he thinks of this and that theory ; 
how many lectures there should be on this topic and on that. He 
sketches his own plan ; how he is to commence with some attractive 
and eloquent introductory lectures " of a popular though philosoph- 
ical kind," so as to make a good impression at first on his students, 
and also on the public. Here he purposes to give eight or ten lec- 
tures on the moral systems of ancient Greece, which Sir Walter 
Scott approves of; and which he hopes Blair will also approve of. 
"The subject is a fine one, and not difficult to write on. These lec- 
ture's, it might be hoped, would give great pleasure."* Then will 
commence his own course in good earnest ; six or more lectures on 
the physical nature of man ; then twelve more, " though for no cause 
known," on the intellectual powers. On this he wishes to have 
Blair's opinion, for at present he sees nothing for it but to tread in 
the steps of Reid and Stewart ; " which to avoid, would be of great 
importance." " Surely," he says, " we may contrive to write with 
more spirit and effect than either of them ; with less formality, less 
caution ; for Stewart seems terrified to place one foot before aD 
other." Then might come some lectures on taste and genius before 
coming to the moral being. "I believe something is always said 
of them ; and perhaps in six lectures, something eloquent and pleas- 
ing might be made out." Let Blair consider the subject. That 
brings us up to forty lectures. Then comes the moral nature, the 
affections, and conscience, or " whatever name that faculty may be 
called." Here seems fine ground for descriptions of the operations 
of the passions and affections, and all concerned with them. That 
requires twelve lectures at least; "indeed that is too few, though, 
perhaps, all that could be afforded." Then comes the Will and all 
its problems, requiring at least six lectures. " But here I am also in 
the dark." One more lecture, on man's spiritual nature, gives us 

* That anticipation was correct. No part of the course, I am informed, was more valued by His 
etndents. His lecture on Socrates, in particular, was considered one of his masterpieces in elo- 
mence and pathos. 


fifty-eight in all. The rest of the course will embrace fifty lectures 
respecting the duties of the human being. " I would fain hope that 
something different from the common metaphysical lectures will 
produce itself out of this plan." He will read on, and " attend most 
religiously to the suggestions" of his friend. Let his friend mean- 
time consider every thing, and remember how short the time is ; and 
that unless he does great things for him, and work with him, the 
Professor is lost. " I am never out of the house," he adds, " and 
may not be till winter." He is very unwell, and has just got out 
of bed; "but the belief that you will certainly be here at the time I 
fixed, and that you certainly will get me through, has enabled me 
to rise." So the letter ends that day with a u God bless you!" 
and the next begins with a recommendation to Blair to read Stew- 
art's argument against the Edinburgh Reviewer's assertion, that 
the study of Mental Philosophy has produced nothing, and imparted 
no power. He thinks "that both Jeffrey and Stewart are wrong, 
probably, however, Stewart most so;" but Blair must examine it, 
"for it is a subject on which you could at once see the truth." Let 
him also see what Stewart says on the origin of knowledge, " which 
seems worth reading;" "indeed," he adds, "these essays, though, 
1 believe, not generally so highly thought of, seem to me to be the 
best of all Stewart's writings. But I am a miserable judge."* He 
then goes on with the .-ketch of the com-.'. "Man's relations to 

— Natural Theolugy, will require say eight lectures. Then his 
relations to man, and lirst, the natural relations, say twelve lectures J 
then the relations of Adoption and Institution, not less than fifteen; 
t hi-, department to embrace discussions about Government, Punish- 
ments, and Poor-laws. This gives US thirty-three lectures, Leaving 
;i for the discussion of Virtues and Vices, the different 
Schemes of moral approbation, and other important questions; lit- 
tle enough space." These make up in all one hundred and eight 
Lectures, which he thinks will be about the number required. "I 
have got note.-, 7 ' he Bays, "of Stewart'- Lectures, bul thej are dull; 
they are but feeble Bhadows of his published works, en which he 

owed ini Lible pain-.*' He inquires about Mylne's Lecti 

» i :' the Professor's gonnine humility. Th self. 

Islojihor North »• n him • '■ H< ip In truth 

critic; and by hint In 

Y, were,] believe, referred lUlam Oamlltux as 


" I believe lie followed tlie French, for he hated Reid. But though 
an acute man, I cannot think lie had any wisdom ; he was contin- 
ually nibbling at the shoe-latchets of the mighty." He again recurs 
to Stewart's Essays, which Blair is to read and consider, "but only 
in the conviction that it is necessary for us, which it seems to be. 
The truth is, that metaphysics must not be discarded entirely, for 
ray enemies will give out that I discard them because I do not un- 
derstand them. I want, on the contrary, in the midst of my popu- 
lar views, and in general, to show frequently a metaphysical power, 
of which, perhaps, Stewart himself does not possess any very extra- 
ordinary share. In the first lecture on the Physical Being of Man 
this must be kept in view." 

This letter is dated August 7th, so that it would appear that 
already, in the course of a fortnight, the Professor-elect had gone 
pretty deep into his subject, and even got the length of having a 
complete outline of his proposed course nearly matured. His good 
friend Blair was not found wanting in this crisis, and appears to 
have faithfully complied with his wishes, sending a regular series of 
letters, embodying, in the form of answers and suggestions, the re- 
sults of his profound and varied study of jihilosophy, ancient and 
modern. Of these letters I have no specimen to give ; but there is 
another of my father's sufficiently interesting to be quoted entire. 
He is at this time apparently (for it is without date) far advanced 
in his preparations, and has reached that part of his course where 
the inquiry passed from the region of morals into that of religion. 

" My dearest Blair : — I would fain hope that your useful and 
enabling letters do not interfere too much with your own pursuits, 
whatever these may be. The morning that brings me a legible 
sibylline leaf, is generally followed by a more quiet-minded day. 

"I wish you to send me two or three letters, if possible, on that 
division of the passions regarding religion. It is imperfectly done, 
and altogether the whole subject of Natural Theology and our du- 
ties to the Deity i- heavy. However, I have remedied that in some 
measure, and will do so still more this session. "What I direct your 
attention to is the History of Idolatry. Some views of its dreadful, 
beautiful, reverent, voluptuous character and kind; and some fine 
things in the mythological system of the Greeks, in as far as feeling, 
q, or imagination were concerned. Every thing historical 


and applied to nations gives a lecture instant effect. Whatever be 
the true history of all idolatry (Bryant's or others), still the mind 
operated strongly, and there was not a passive transmission. The 
impersonalizing of imagination might be expatiated on here, for it 
was only alluded to in this respect in the Lectures on Imagination. 
I wish to see stated an opinion as to the power of religion in the 
ancient world, i. e., in Egypt and Greece, among men in general. 
Something of the same kind, whatever it was, must have existed 
and still must exist in Christian countries among the ordinary pen- 
pie, especially in ignorant and bigoted forms of the faith. The 
image-worship of Catholics is, T presume, susceptible of the holiest 
emotions of an abstract piety; certainly of the tenderestofa human 
religion, and in grosser and narrower minds, of almost every 
thought thai formed the faith of an ancient heathen. Many saints, 
intercessors, priests, etc., I mean no abuse of the Catholic faith, for 
I regard the doctrines of penitence and absolution and confession 
■as moral doctrines, and I wish you would so consider them in an 
instructive letter. The burden of guilt is fatal, and relief from it 
may often restore a human soul to virtue. Confession to a friend, 
to one's own soul, to an elder brother, to a father, to a holy, old, 
white-haired man (in short, the besl view of it), is surely a moral 
thing, and. as such, ought to be described. Our religious feelings, 
when justly accordant with the best faith, may be opposite, but 
true: the simple, austere worship of a Presbyterian, and the richer 
one of an Episcopalian, and the still more pompous sanctities ,,f 
Popery. There are deep foundations, and wide ones too, iii the 
soul, on which manifold religions may be all established in truth. 
We are dow speaking not on the question of bestness, bul as to 
fact. Surely the astronomer may worship God in the stars and the 
manifesl temple of heaven, as well ae a Scotch elder in a worm-eat en 
pew, in an ugly kirk of an oblong form, sixty by forty feel ; yet the 
IS a true man and pure. Sacraments in glorious cathedrals, 

or upon a little green hillside, which I myself have seen, bul cannot 
describe, ae you could do, who have never seen it ;* and, above all, 
funerals; the English service, so affecting and Bublime, and the 
Scotch service, silent, wordless, bare, and desolate dusl to dusl in 
the speechless, formless sorrow of a soul. In thai endless emana* 

* ii If I am Dot mistaki n, de ■ delltj, to 

Pttei't Lett* 


tion of feelings, how can reason presume to dictate any one para- 
mount rule to be observed ? No. But when by various onuses in 
any nation one tendency runs the one way, then the heart of that 
nation runs in that channel ; all its most holy aspirations join there, 
and there the sanctity of walls consecrated by the bishops of God, 
ami the sanctity of walls consecrated by no set forms of words, but 
by the dedication of the place to regular and severe piety, — as in 
England, the one ; in Scotland, the other.* In Scotland, people on 
week-days walk hatted into churches. Is that, to your mind, an 
allowable thing ? I have seen it done by very religious old men, 
and not harsh or sullen. To take off their hats would, I think, be 
reckoned by many a wrong action. This, I conceive, is allowing 
the inferior motive to prevail over the superior. For they remem- 
ber the idolatrous practices of the papists whom John Knox over- 
threw, and rather than resemble them in any degree, they violate 
the religio loci, which is, in the case, this over belief in God. This 
may seem a trifling concern to you, but it hurts me. 

" In the above you will probably see what I want, and perhaps 
other points may occur to yourself. With respect to metaphysics, 
do not fear on any subject to write, provided a conclusion is ar- 
rived at. No letter of yours, if filled, can be otherwise than most 
useful to me. That metaphysical point to which you referred in 
one of your letters lately, namely, the pure and awful idea of sanc- 
tity and reverence to God, which is probably only an extension of 
a 1 in man feeling, is exactly fit for a letter. There is a book called 
the Divine Analogy, by a Bishop Brown, that I do not understand, 
on this subject. I think you have seen it; and Copleston, I think, 
touches on it. I intend to put such pieces of the lectures on the 
Duties to God, as are good, into this part, so that any metaphysical 
or otherwise important thoughts on our religious emotions or 
thoughts will be useful. All human emotion towards human beings 
is fluctuating, and made up of opposite ingredients, even towards 
our earthly father: towards God, unmingled and one, and this un- 
mingledness and oneness is in truth a new emotion ; it exists no- 
where else. .Men's conduct seldom shows this ; but it is in the soul 
of many, mosl men. I once saw, in a dream, a most beautiful 
flower, in a wide bed of flowers, all of which were beautiful. But 
this one flower was especially before my soul for a while, as I ad- 

• This ratgect is beautifully treated by him in the first number of tho "Dies Iloreales," 


vanced towards the place where they all were growing. Its char- 
acter became more and more transcendent as I approached, and the 
one large flower of which it consisted was lifted up considerably 
above the rest. I then saw that it was Light, a prismatic globe, 
quite steady, and burning with a purity and sweetness, and almost 
an affectionate spirit of beauty, as if it were alive. I never thought 
of touching it, although still I thought it a flower that was grow- 
ing ; »and I heard a kind of sound, faint and dim, as the echo of 
musical glasses, that seemed to proceed from the flower of light, 
and pervade the whole bank with low, spiritual music. On trying 
to remember its appearance and essential beauty more distinctly, I 
am unable even to reconceive to myself what it was, whether alto- 
gether different from the other flowers, or of some perfectly glo- 
rious representation of them all ; not the queen of flowers, but the 
star of flowers, or flower-star. Now, as I did not, I presume, see 
this diining, silent, prismatic, vegetable creature, I myself created 
it, and it was 'the same, but, ah, how different' of the imagination, 
mingling light with leaf, stones with roses, decaying with undecay- 
ing, heaven with earth, and eternity with time. Yet the product, 
nothing startling, or like a phenomenon that urged to inquiry, 
What is this? but beheld in perfect acquiescence in its existence 
as a thing intensely and delightfully beautiful; but in whose per- 
ception and emotion, of whose earthly and heavenly beauty, my 
beholding spirit was satisfied, oh ! far more than satisfied, so purer 
than dew or light of this earth ; yet as certainly and permanently 
existing as m\ -elf existed, or the common flowers, themselves most 
fair, that lay, a usual Bpring assemblage in a garden where human 
hands worked, and mortal beings walked, among the umbrage of 
perishable trees! Perhaps we £ ie and feel thus in heaven, and even 
the Alexander Blair whom I loved well <>n earth, may be thus pro- 
portionally Loved by me in another life. Yours forever, 

"J. W." 

Among ot her friends to whom be resorted for advice at this time, 
was bis well-beloved teacher, Professor Jardine. The judicious 
"Hints" of the old mm are given with characteristic method and 
kindliness, bul • call for publication here. So far as tho 

order of the course wai concerned, my father preferred to follow 
big own plan, as sketched In his first letter to Blair, T<» thai plan, 


T believe, he adhered ever after, though, in important respects, he 
completely altered, in subsequent years, the substance of his lec- 

The opening of a new session is always an interesting occasion, 
and when it is the professor's first appearance the interest is of 
course intensified. The crowd that assembled to hear my father's 
introductory lecture proved too numerous for the dimensions of the 
room, and it was found necessary to adjourn to the more capacious 
class-room of Dr. Monro, the Professor of Anatomy. Wilson 
entered, accompanied by Principal Baird, Professors Home, Jame- 
son, and Hope in their gowns, " a thing we believe quite unusual," 
remarked the Scotsman, in whose eyes this trifling mark of respect 
seemed a kind of insult to the audience, composed as it was, to a 
large extent, of persons prepared to give the new Professor any 
thing but a cordial greeting. An eye-witness* thus describes the 
scene : — " There was a furious bitterness of feeling against him 
among the classes of which probably most of his pupils would con- 
sist, and although I had no prospect of being among them, I went 
to his first lecture, prepared to join in a cabal, which I understood 
was formed to put him down. The lecture-room was crowded to 
the ceiling. Such a collection of hard-browed, scowling Scotsmen, 
muttering over their knobsticks, I never saw. The Professor 
entered with a bold step, amid profound silence. Every one ex- 
pected some deprecatory or propitiatory introduction of himself 
and his subject, upon which the mass was to decide against him, 
reason or no reason ; but he began in a voice of thunder right into 
the matter of his lecture, kept up unflinchingly and unhesitatingly, 
without a pause, a flow of rhetoric such as Dugald Stewart or 
Thomas Brown, his predecessors, never delivered in the same place. 
Not a word, not a murmur escaped his captivated, I ought to say 
his conquered audience, and at the end they gave him a right-down 
unanimous burst of applause. Those who came to scoff remained 
to praise." 

Another spectator of the scene tells me that towards the conclu- 
sion of the lecture, the commencement of which had been delayed 
by the circumstance already mentioned, the Professor was inter- 
rupted in the midst of an eloqueut peroration by the sudden entrance 
of Dr. Monro's tall figure — enveloped as usual in his long white 

* The author of The Two Cosmos ; MS. letter. 


greatcoat — to announce that his hour had come. Pulling out hia 
watch, the unsyinpathiziug anatomist addressed him : ''Sir, it's past 
one o'clock, and my students are at the door; you must conclude." 
The orator, thus rudely cut short, had some difficulty in preserving 
his self-possession, and, after a few sentences more, sat down. 

The first lecture and those which followed amply justified the 
expectations of friends, and completely silenced enemies. Even 
the unfriendly critic above referred to, while attempting to dispar- 
age this first display of his powers, patronizingly assured the new 
Professor that if he made the exertions he had promised, and de- 
meaned himself as became the successor of Ferguson, Brown, and 
Stewart, his past errors might be forgotten, and he might obtain 
that public confidence which was essential to his success as a 
teacher. No such exhortations were needed to make Wilson feel 
the gravity of his position, and stimulate him to maintain the glory 
of the University, on which for the next thirty-one years he reflected 
so much lustre. When he uttered the confident prediction, "I 
shall be professor to my dying day," it was in no boastful spirit. 
He had made up his mind to devote his full strength to the duties 
of the office, and with all his distrust of his own metaphysical 
capacity, he had a reasonable confidence in his ability to make the 
Moral Philosophy class-room, a- it had been before him, a place of 
high and ennobling influence. To himself personally the change of 
position brought with it a consolidation of character and aims 
which imparted new dignity to his life and at the same time iu- 
d his happiness, in assuming the Professor's gown he did 
not indeed think it necessary, had that been possible, to divesl him- 
Belf of his proper characteristics, i" be less fond of sport, less lively 
with hi- pen. Hi- literary activity and influence increased in the 
years thai followed this, for "Christopher North" was as yet hut 
a dimly-figured personage. Bu1 from this time "The Professor" is 
hia peculiar, his mosl prized title; the Chair is the place where he 
feels his bighesl work to be. I believe the prejudices and hostility 
whi«-l: obstructed hi- way to it, however triumphantly overcome, 
threw their Bhadows forward more than i- generally supposed. 
for. while no om- could gainsay tin 1 fidelity with which he dis- 
■ I hi- duty, and the altogether unrivalled eloquence of bis lec- 
tures, 1 believe there were always some people who believed that 
he was nothing more than a splendid declaimer. ail that his course 


of lectures contained more poetry than philosophy. He was him- 
self aware of this, and refers to it in a letter to De Quincey, in 
which he naively asks his friend to describe him as "thoroughly 
logical and argumentative," which, he says, " is true ; not a rhetori- 
cian, as fools aver." The truth is, his poetical and literary fame in- 
jured him in this respect as a lecturer; commonplace people think- 
ing it impossible that a man could be both logical and eloquent, an 
acute metaphysician as well as a brilliant humorist. But among 
his own students generally there was but one opinion of " The Pro- 
fessor ;" to them he was truly Der JEinzige. Other professors 
enjoyed their respect and esteem; Wilson took their hearts as well 
as their imaginations by storm. They may have before this read 
and argued about philosophy ; they were now made to feel it as a 
power. "The mental faculties" w r ere no mere names; the passions 
and affections, and the dread mysteries of conscience, ceased to be 
abstract matters of speculation, and were exhibited before them as 
living and solemn realities mirrored in their own kindling breasts; 
and when they found that that formidable personage, of whom they 
had heard so much, and whose aspect, as he stood before them (he 
never sat), did not belie his fame, was in private the most accessible, 
frank, and kindly of men, their admiration was turned into enthusi- 
astic love. There are few who listened to him, whether in the 
palmy days of his prime, or in the evening of life, when he came to 
be spoken of as " the old man eloquent," that do not speak of him 
willi glowing cheek and sparkling eye, as they recall the cherished 
recollections of his moving eloquence, his irresistible humor^ his 
eager interest in their studies and their welfare, his manly freedom 
of criticism, and his large-hearted generosity. The readiness with 
which he grasped at any question j>ut to him gave his manner a 
quickness and animation of expression that at first was somewhat 
startling. While he had a terrible faculty for snubbing any display 
of conceit or forwardness, diffident talent was set at ease in his 
presence by the winning sympathy of his look and manner, which at 
once infused confidence and hope. But I am anticipating what will 
form the subject of a special chapter, and shall now close this with 
a brief letter, addressed to his friend Mr. Smith, on Christinas day, 

" Mr dear Sir : — If you can send me instantly, i. e., by the re- 


turn of mail or coach, Yince's 'Refutation of Atheism,' you will 
greatly oblige me. It is not in Edinburgh. Unless, however, you 
can send it immediately, it will be useless to me. 

"I have no time to write. We have ten days of vacation, and 
I resume my lectures on January 2d. I have delivered thirty lec- 
tures, and urn now advancing to the moral division of my course. 
As far as I can learn, my friends highly applaud, and my worst 
foes are dumb or sulky. The public, I believe, are satisfied. I 
need not say that my labor is intense. Direct to me at Xo. 53 
Queen street, where I send for my letters every day; and if you 
have time, tell me how you are, and what doing. Yours very truly, 

" John Wilson." 



It was no temporary enthusiasm that glorified the name of " the 

Professor" among his students, and still keeps his memory green 

in hearts that have long ago outlived the romantic ideals of youth. 

One of tin- most pleasing results of my labor has been to come 

upon traces everywhere of the love and admiration with which my 

father is remembered by those who attended his class. That re- 

membranci dated in some instances with sentiments of the 

inbounded gratitude for help and counsel given in the most 

times of a young man's life. How much service of this sort 

endered during an academical connection of thirty years, may 

imated ;i- something more to be thoughl of than the proudest 

ry fame. So, I doubl Dot, my father felt, though on thai sub- 

p on any claims he had earned for individual gratitude, he 

was never heard to speak. Of his merits as a teacher of moral 

philosophy I am not speaking, and cannot pretend to give any 

critical estimate, [leave thai to more competenl hands. Whal I 

of is his relation to bis students beyond the formal business 

of the class; foril is thai. I think, thai constitutes, as much as the 

quality of the lectures delivered, the difference between one teacher 


and another. Here was a po^t, an orator, a philosopher, fitted in 
anj one of these characters to excite the interest and respect of 
youthful hearers. But it was not these qualities alone or chiefly 
thai called forth the affectionate homage of so many hearts; what 
knit them to the Professor was the heart they found in him, the 
large and generous soul of a man that could be resorted to and 
relied on, as well as respected and admired. No man ever had a 
deeper and kindlier sympathy with the feelings of youth ; none 
could be prompter and sincerer to give advice and assistance when 
required. Himself endowed with that best gift, a heart that never 
grew old, he could still, when things were no longer with him " as 
they had been of yore," enter into the thoughts and aspirations of 
those starting fresh in life, and give them encouragement, and ex- 
change ideas with them, in no strained or formal fashion. No 
wonder that such a man was popular, that his name is still dear, 
and awakens a thrill of filial affection and pride in the hearts of men 
who once knew him as their preceptor and friend. 

I should have liked much, had I been ahle, to give some account 
of the Professor's lectures,* and his appearance in his class. But I 

* The following is the Syllabus of his course, drawn up by the Professor for the Edinburgh 
Hi/ Almanac, as delivered in the session i833-4, apparently the same in arrangement as 
originally determined on in his consultations with his friend Blair. In what year he remodelled 
his course, having previously remodelled his views on the great question of the nature of the 
Moral Faculty, I have not ascertained. It was at least subsequent to the year 1S37, to which Mr. 
Smith's .sketch refers. In later years he began in his first lecture with the subject of the Moral 
Faculty, the discussion of which extended, Mr. Nicolson informs me, over thirty-seven lectures, 
occupying the time from the commencement of the session in November to the Christmas recess : 


" This Class meets at Twelve o'clock. 

" PniLOSOPnT attempts to ascertain, as far as human reason can do so, the law which 
must regulate the conduct of Man as a moral being. Inasmuch as it does not derive this law 
irity, but endeavors to deduce it from principles founded in the nature of things, it 
takes the nauu- of a science. It may be called the Science of Duty. 

•' I'ln- re, will be to find those principles on which this law of duty must be 

grounded. For this purpose we have to consider — 1st. The nature of the human being who is the 
subject of such a law ; and 2d, The relations in which he is placed; his nature and his relations 
concurring to determine the character of his moral obligations. 

'• When the nature of man has been considered, and also the various relations of which he is 
capable, we shall have fully before us the ground of all his moral obligations; and it will remain 
to show what they are. to deduce the law which the principles we shall have obtained will assign 
But when we shall have gone ition of his nature, the mere statement of his re- 

rill so unavoidably include tee Idea of the duties that spring from them, that it would 
be doing a sort of violence to the understanding to separate them; and therefore the consideration 
of his Duties will be included in the Second Division of the Course. 

" Hut the performance of duty does nol necessarily take place upon its being known. Thereare 
difficulties and impediments which arise in the weaknesse . th< passions, the whole character of 
him who ia to perform it. Hence there arises a separate inquiry into the means to which man is to 


am saved the risk of attempting to describe what I have not seen, 
and cannot be expected to be skilled in, by the sketches with which 
I have been favored from men well able to do justice to the sub- 
ject, so far as any sketch can be supposed to do justice to an 
eloquence that required to be heard in order to be appreciated. Of 

resort, io enable him to discharge his known obligations. There must be a resolved and deliberate 
«ubjection of himself to the known Moral Law; and an inquiry, therefore, into the necessity, 
nature, and means of Moral Self-government, will furnish the Third and last Division of the 

"In the First Division of the Course, then, we consider the constitution of the Human Being. 
He has a Physical Nature, the most perfect of any that is given to the kinds of living creatures, 
of which he is one. infinitely removed as he is from all the rest. He has an Intelligence by which 
he is connected with higher orders of beings; he has a Mob u. Nature by which he communi- 
cates with God; he has a Spiritual Essence by which he is immortal. 

"All these natures and powers, wonderful in themselves, are mysteriously combined. The 
highest created substance spirit, and Matter the lowest, are joined and even bleuded together in 
perfect and beautiful UNION. 

"We begin by treating generally of his Physical Constitution and Powers, and showing 
that much of his happiness— it may lie of his virtue — is intimately connected with their health- 
Ail condition, as there is a mutual reaction between them and bis highest faculties. The Appe- 
tites are explained, and the phenomena of the Senses; and pains taken to put in a clear light 

the nature of SIMPLE SENSATION, before, proceeding to illustrate the Tur.oiiv OF PEEOEPTION. 

"The impressions received through the senses would be of no use; they could not become 

materials of Thought, if the mind were not endowed with a power of reproducing them to itself 

internal activity ; ami this power we consider under tie- name Ol CONOEl no , and very 

laws by which its action is regulated, the Laws of Association. 

"We arc then led to inquire what is the Faculty ok Thought itself; and if the different 

ions of Judgment, Abstraction, and Reasoning may all be explained as Acts of this one 

Faculty of Intm.i.i 

•• Im v. isa Hon- [tself seems to admit of being resolved into the union of this Faculty, with cer- 
tain Peelings, under the Law of Association; and here an inquiry is instituted inio the sources 
of the Sublime and Beautiful, an attempt made to define Genius and its province, and illus- 
be Philosophy at 1 \- > b. 
"Looking on Man's Moral Nature, we socm to see • presiding over and deter- 

mining the i [uished by diff i o other, per- 

mi well describes as that which expresses it to the common undi qi \- 

! - U simple or KATURALor ' [n endeavoring to answer these 

•.' of all the mosl celebrab b it has been 

fin, its composition, its growth, and its ] 
•• From the consideration of this Moral Principle, to which our whole d eted, we 

Powers 01 Passiok ind Lffection which aro placed under its juris- 
■i. and which, in their , ndless complexity ami Infinitely divi : 1 1 ii to 

rength of the human mind for action, and are tl 'the happiness, the sorrows '"I 

the ni ■ iman life. '1 bese numerous pi Inciples, » loch have been classed in dif- 

. writers, but of which no i quato to represent the va- 

riety, are very fully treat (l out 

tor*. \ men! and ordi r, h bi> b w bi them ■ it, ap- 

,'io-d facilities for ai 
"I" I Spibiti i I'.-, o ■•. . coi i,, the doctrines of the Immateriality ■ d 

Lmmoi : .riant an. I Interesting that no argument can bi t 

a more dti ply, and doei 

t. iei io spiritualize the afi 

e compn bond ■ an Inquli • i h • 

latum io us in oi mi. Would, and 


these various reminiscences I shall give three, in the order of the 
dates to which they respectively relate, viz., 1830, 1837, and 1850, 
interposing first two characteristic records of earlier relations 
between the Professor and his students. 

therefore it becomes necessary to consider, in the first place, what we are able to know of the 
At t ributes of that Great Being to whom he owes his First Duty, — a duty which is the foundation 
of all others. 

" The utmost powers of the human mind have always been directed upon this great object. Its 
Intelligence desires to know the Origin of all things. Its Moral Understanding impels it to seek 
the Author of all order and law. Its Love and Happiness carry it towards the Giver of all good. 

"The chief doctrines which are held concerning the Being and Attributes of Deity, men havo 
ived might be established by two methods; the first is that which deduces them from the 
absolute necessity of things, prior to all consideration of the effects in which they are manifested, 
— the Argument or Demonstration d priori. The other method is that to which nature con- 
tinually constrains us, which may be going on in our minds at every moment, an evidence and 
conviction collecting upon us throughout life. It deduces the Existence and Attributes of God 
fro!ii their effects in his works, which our Ueasou can ascribe to no other origin. It reasons from 
effects to the cause, and is therefore termed the Argument d posteriori. 

" The great points established by both these modes of argument are, in the first place, the Ex- 
istence of God, his Power, and his Wisdom. These may be called the Attributes which our Intel- 
ligence compels us to understand, and for which that faculty is sufficient. But there are other 
perfections which as nearly concern us, and to the contemplation of which we are called by other 
faculties of our being— His Love, Justice, and Righteousness. 

" And here it appears necessary to vindicate the argument of the Evidence of Design from the 
misrepresentations and sophistries of certain writers by whom it has been impugned, and to ex- 
pose the unphilosophical and impious spirit of their skepticism. 

" When we have considered the grounds on which our natural reason is convinced of these attri- 
butes, the relations of Man to God are manifest, and his Duties rise up in all their awful magni- 
tude to our minds. 

•■ From this part of the Second Division of our Course, which belongs to Natural Theology, we 
go on to consider the relations and duties of man to ins fellow-creatures. 

"The division of these relations, with their duties, is determined upon two grounds, being op- 
posed to each other, in one respect, as they are Public or Private, and, in another, as they are 
simply natural, or of human adoption and institution. 

■ private relations, we understand those by which a man is united to the members of his 

own family, household, and kindred, as a son, a father, a brother, a kinsman, a master, a servant, a 

friend. Under each of these relations, the particular circumstances attending it, which constitute 

rounds of obligation, are considered, and the duties arising from them explicitly and fully 

. under the head of Household Laws. 

"By the Public Relations, we are led to consider him as a Member of a Political Body. 

■ a twofold relation— that of Rulers and Subjects. We shall have to treat of tho 

Duties belonging h< both; as of Rulers, their first and especial duty to maintain the Indepf.nd- 

of tic Community among other States, and Good Government within their own; as of 

subject-, tie- duties of Ai.i.koi ance and Obedience; and here will have to be stated the grounds 

n d subjects, namely, Mutual Benefits; and their duty to their Common 

Co .in try. 

'■ In the course of these inquiries, questions of vast importance arise as to the Origin and 
i.s op Government; the Principles of Legislation; the Principal Forms which Po- 
litical Government has asi amed among different nations; and their various adaptation to the 
essential ends for which they were constituted. 

'■In this Division of the Course, all those various Theories are strictly examined, which have 
been offered at different times, of the Nature of Virtue, and the Grounds of Moral Obligation— 
from Plato and Aristotle, to Stewart and Brown ; and especial attention is paid to the Moral Phi 
losophy of Greece. 


About a year after he had entered upon his new duties, the Pro- 
fessor was rambling during vacation-time in the south of Scotland, 
having for a while exchanged the gown for the old " Sporting 
Jacket." On his return to Edinburgh, he was obliged to pass through 
Hawick, where, on his arrival, finding it to be fair-day, he readily 
availed himself of the opportunity to witness the amusements going 
od. These happened to include a " little mill" between two mem- 
bers of the local " fancy." His interest in pugilism attracted him 
to the spot, where he soon discovered something very wrong, and 
a degree of injustice being perpetrated which he could not stand. 
It was the work of a moment to espouse the weaker >ide, a proceed- 
ing which naturally drew down upon him the hostility of the oppo- 
site party. This result was to him, however, of little consequence. 
There was nothing for it but to beat or be beaten. He was soon 
"in position ;" and, before his unknown adversary well knew what 
was coming, the skilled ti>t of the Professor had planted such a 
"facer" as did not require repetition. Another "round" was not 
called for; and leaving the discomfited champion to recover at his 
leisure, the Professor walked coolly away to take his seat in the 
stage-coach, about to start for Edinburgh. He just reached it in 
time to secure a place inside, where he found two young men already 
seated. As a matter of course he entered into conversation with 
them, and before the journey was half over, the}- had become the 
best friends in the world. He asked all sorts of questions about 
their plans and prospects, and was informed they were going to 
attend College during the winter session. Amongthe classes men- 
tioned wen- Leslie's, Jameson's, Wilson's, and Borne others. "Oh! 
Wilson; he is a queer fellow, I am told; rather touched here*' 
(pointing significantly to his head); "odd, decidedly odd." The 
lads, Boraewhat cautiously, after the manner of their country, said 
tiny had heard strange stories reported of Professor Wilson, bul it 

M •■■ i.- attempted to explain 

. which Individual and National Virtue and Happlm ngth- 

ind guarded: ndtopuinl the most fal and Flail >•{ 


" At the eommei containing a Prottpectui 

•I Course of Fifty 1 i owy. 

rjefo i v,-.i in the u ■ " oT|.i»i»lii(j 

tli* •l.x-trlnch of 3m; 


was not right to believe every thing; and that tliey would judge for 
themselves when they saw him. "Quite right, lads; quite right; 
but I assure you I know something of the fellow myself, and I think 
he is a queer devil ; only this very forenoon at Hawick he got into a 
row with a great lubberly fellow for some unknown cause of offence, 
and gave him such a taste of his fist as won't soon be forgotten ; the 
whole place was ringing with the story ; I wonder you did not hear 
of it." " Well," rejoined the lads, " we did hear something of the 
sort, but it seemed so incredible that a Professor of Moral Philoso- 
phy should mix himself up with disreputable quarrels at a fair, we 
did not believe it." Wilson looked very grave, agreed that it was 
certainly a most unbecoming position for a Professor ; yet he'was 
sorry to say that having heard the whole story from an eye-witness, 
it was but too true. Dexterously turning the subject, he very soon 
banished all further discussion about the " Professor," and held the 
delighted lads enchained in the interest of his conversation until they 
reached the end of the journey. On getting out of the coach, they 
politely asked him, as he seemed to know Edinburgh well, if he 
would direct them to a hotel. " With pleasure, my young friends ; 
we shall all go to a hotel together ; no doubt you are hungry and 
ready for dinner, and you shall dine with me." A coach was called ; 
Wilson ordered the luggage to be placed outside, and gave direc- 
tions to the driver, who in a short time pulled up at a very nice- 
looking house, with a small garden in front. The situation was 
rural, and there was so little of the aspect of a hotel about the place, 
that on alighting, the lads asked once or twice, if. they had come to 
the right place ? " All right, gentlemen ; walk in ; leave your trunks 
in the lobby. I have settled with the driver, and now I shall order 
dinner." Xo time was lost, and very soon the two youths were 
conversing freely with their unknown friend, and enjoying them- 
selves extremely in the satisfactory position of having thus acciden- 
tally fallen into such good company and good quarters. The de- 
ception, however, could not be kept up much longer; and, in the 
course of the evening, Wilson let them know where they were, tell- 
ing them that they could now judge for themselves what sort of a 
iellow " the Professor" was. 

Another anecdote of holiday-time relates to a later period, when 
maturer years had invested the Professor with a more patriarchal 
dignity and sedateness. Tin >to hi- love for spring, he had selected 


that season for an excursion to the pastoral vales of Yarrow and 
Ettrick, where glittering rivers, 

""Winding through the pomp of cultivated nature," 

attracted more than one poet's admiration ; for if Wordsworth sang 
in verse, Wilson uttered in prose, how " in spirit all streams are 
one that flow through the forest. Ettrick and Yarrow come rush- 
ing into each other's arms, aboon the haughs o' Selkirk, and then 
flow Tweed-blent to the sea." In the month of May, he sent an 
invitation to his students resident in the south of Scotland, to meet 
him at "Tibby Shiels's," where they were to wander a day with 
him " to enjoy the first gentle embrace of spring in some solitary 
spot." Where could it have been better selected than at St. Mary's 
Loch ? It was said thai the meeting was one of unspeakable delight ; 
the hills were adorned with the freshest green, and the calm, quiet 
lake reflected the surrounding verdure in its deep waters, and they 

" The swan on still St. Mary's lake, 
Float double swau and shadow." 

The Professor spoke of the love of nature, and his words impressed 
them all, and of the poet of Altrive, " our own shepherd, dear to all 
the rills that issue, in thousands, from their own recesses among the 

: for when a poet walks through regions his genius has sung, 
all nature does him homage, from cloud to clod — from the sky to 
green earth — all living a therein included, from eagle to the 

mole. James knows this, and is happy among the hills." And was 
that little company then a I " dowie holms," not happy 

too? Wilson was in his brightest mood ; no one was overlooked; 

sly and pleasantly passed tin- day; and before evening laid its 

■i 1 1 ir shadows into gloaming, he called hi8 students around 

hiii), aid, rising up, "he shoot Ms wild locks among them, blessed 
them, called them his children," and bade them a. lieu Surely a 
kindly recognition of these young men in manner such as this would 
bring benefit with it nol less lasting, than when, in graver state, ho 
. . .,• cathedra, '" his assembled class. 
We gel an idea of whal that class «ras from the following recol- 
lections, which Mr. John Hill Burton has kindly scut to me II" 
: — 

"I first saw and made the acquaintance of Professor Wilson 


when I joined his class in 1S30. The occasion was of much more 
interest to me than the usual first sight of an instructor by a pupil. 
I do not know if there be any thing of the same kind now, but in 
thai day there was a peculiar devotion to Blackwood' 's 3tagazi7ie 
among young readers in the north. All who were ambitious of 
looking beyond their class exercises, considered this the fountais- 
head of originality and spirit in literature. The articles of the last 
number were discussed critically in the debating societies, and 
knowingly in the supper parties, and the writing of the master- 
hand was always anxiously traced. To see that master, then, for 
the first time, was an epoch in one's life. 

" The long-looked for first sight of a great man often pi*oves a 
disappointment to the votary. It was far otherwise in this in- 
stance. Mueh as I had heard of his appearance, it exceeded ex- 
pectation, and I said to myself that, in the tokens of physical health 
and strength, intellect, high spirit, and all the elements of mascu- 
line beauty, I had not seen his equal. There was a curious contrast 
to all this in the adjuncts of his presence — the limp Geneva gown, 
and the square, box-shaped desk, over which he seemed like some 
great bust set on a square plinth — but I question if any robes or 
chair of state would have added dignity to his appearance. 

" On a very early day in the session — I forget whether it was 
quite the first — we suddenly came to an acquaintance, on my hav- 
ing occasion to speak with him at the end of the lecture. When 
he found that I was an Aberdonian, he asked me if I knew Tar- 
land, 'a place celebrated for its markets.' To be sure I did; and 
Tarland was in those days not a place to be easily forgotten. On 
the border of the Highlands, it had been a great mart for smuggled 
whiskey ; and though the reduction of the excise duties had spoiled 
thai trade, custom continued it for a while in a modified shape, and 
the wild ruffianly habits it had nourished were still in their prime, 
and not likely to disappear until the generation trained to them 
had passed away. The Professor had seen and experienced the 
of the place. lie hinted, with a sort of half-sarcastic solem- 
nity, that he was there in the course of the ethical inquiries to 
which he had devoted himself; just as the professor of natural his- 
tory or any other persevering geologist might be found where any 
unusual geological phenomenon is developed, or the professor of 
anatomy might conduct his inquiries into some abnormal structure 


of the human body. His researches might lead him into trials and 
perils, as those of zealous investigators are often apt to do. In fact, 
he had to draw upon his early acquired knowledge of the art of 
self-defence on the occasion, and he believed he did so not unsuc- 
cessfully. Here there was a sparkle of the eye, a curl of the lip, 
and a general look of fire and determination, which reminded one of 
' The stern joy which warriors feel 
In foemen worthy of their steel.' 

" He described the market-day as a sort of continued surge of 
rioting, drinking, ami fighting; and when darkness was coming on, 
ne had to find his way to some distance among unknown roads. A 
lame man, very unsuited for that wild crowd, had in the mean time 
scraped a sort of acquaintance with him, and interested him by the 
scholarship interspersed in his conversation. He was the school- 
master of a neighboring parish ; and as their ways lay together, 
he was to be the guide, and, in return, to get the assistance of the 
stalwart stranger. The poor schoolmaster had, however, so ex- 
tensively moistened his clay, that assistance •was not sufficient, and 
the Professor had to throw him over his shoulder, and carry him. 
"With the remainder of the dominie's physical strength, too, oozed 
away that capacity for threading the intricacies of the path, which 
was his contribution to the joint adventure. Assistance had to be 
got from some of the miscellaneous Highlanders dispersing home- 
wards ; and as all were anxious to bear a hand, the small group 
increased into a sort of procession, and the Professor reached his 
abode, wherever that might be, at the head of a sort of army of 
these lawl< 88 men. 

•• A history of this kind was calculated to put a young person at 
ease, in the presence of the great man and the Professor of Moral 
Philosophy. We now sailed easily into conversation, and went nil' 
into metaphysics. That he should seriously and earnestly talk on 
such matters with the raw youth was, of course, very gratifying ; 
but there was a Borl of misgiving, that he took for granted my 

knowing more than I did. This s\ as a way of his, however, to 

which I became accustomed ; he was always read) to give people 
crodil for exl nsive Learning. There was do mere bollow courtesy 
or giving the go-by in his talk on this occasion. He hi Iped me at 
once to the rool of many importanl things connected with the 
studies I was pur oing. A poinl arose, on which he would speak 


to Sir William Hamilton, who knew all about it; he did afterwards 
speak to him accordingly, somewhat to my surprise, as I thought 
he would be unlikely to remember cither me or my talk — and I 
thus made an acquaintance which afterwards strengthened into an 
admiring friendship for that great man. Then another point came 
up, on which De Quincey might be consulted, and would give very 
curious information, if he could be caught. He was then dwelling 
with the Professor — as much as he could be eaid to dwell any- 
where. Suppose then I should come and dine with them ? That 
would be my best chance of seeing De Quincey. That it was 
quite right to take advantage of this frank invitation, and, an ob- 
scure stranger, to catch at an opportunity of thrusting myself on 
the hospitalities and the family circle of a distinguished man, may 
be questioned. But most people will admit that the temptation 
was gnat. It was too much for me, and I accepted, with immense 

"I went to Gloucester Place accordingly. The poet's residence 
did not represent the traditional garret, nor his guests the eccentric 
troop familiar to Smollett and Fielding, although I had gone there 
to meet one who had the reputation of bringing into the nineteenth 
century the habits of that age in their most grotesque shape. Him, 
however, I did not see. The Opium-Eater was supposed to be 
somewhere about the premises, but he chose neither to appear in 
the drawing-room nor the dining-room, and years passed before I 
became acquainted with the most peculiar man of genius, in Britain 
at least, of the age. Otherwise, there was good company, hand- 
somely housed, and entertained with hospitality thoroughly kind, 
easy, and hearty, but all in perfect taste and condition. 

" It was a sort of epoch to myself, and therefore I remember 
pretty well who were present. We had Professor Jameson, then at 
the zenith of his fame as a mineralogist, Lawrence M'Donald, the 
sculptor, and John Malcolm, then a popular poet and writer of mis- 
cellanies, whose fame, though considerable then, has probably been 
worn out ere this day; he was, as I knew him afterwards, a pleas- 
ant, gentle, meditatively-inclined man, though I think he had seen 
military service, ami knew the mess-room of the old war, — a differ- 
ent thing from that of the present day. Youngest, as well as I 
remember, of these seniors, was n Captain Alexander, whom I take 
to be the traveller, Sir J. E. Alexander. 


"Among my own contemporaries were some representatives of 
young Edinburgh, of whom a word or two presently, and a Pole, 
who happened to be the only guest with whom I had any previous 
acquaintance. His formal designation was Leon Count Lubienski. 
Seeing a good deal of him afterwards during the five months ses- 
sion, I formed a great idea of his abilities. He had nothing of the 
imaginative, or of the aesthetic — a term then coming into use from 
Germany ; but for an eye to the practical, and a capacity for mas- 
tering all knowledge leading in that direction, it did not happen to 
me to find his equal among my contemporaries. With all the diffi- 
culties of language against him, he carried off from young Edinburgh 
the first prize in the civil law class. After having astonished us 
throughout the session, he left us at the end, and I never could 
discover any thing of a distinct kind about his career, though I 
have turned up the initials of his name in the many biographical 
dictionaries of contemporaries which seem to be a specialty of the 
it day. I heard, many years since, a vague rumor that he 
had risen in the Russian service. He was just the man, according 
to the notions of this country, to be useful to such a government, 
if he would consent to serve it. I feel certain, however, that he 
was a man who could not have escaped being heard of by the 
world, had his career in practical life lain elsewhere than in a close 

" Such was the outer circle of guests ; within was the Professor's 
own family. And so hither I found myself transferred, as by a 
wave of an enchanter's wand, a raw, unknown youth, with claim of 
no kiud in the shape of introduction, with no credentials or tesLi- 
mony to my bare respectability; no name, even of a common 
friend, to bring our conversation io an anchor with. This success 
sc-in^ far more surprising when looked back upon than it, was felt 
:tt tin- time. Young people read in novels of su<-li things, :v.>\ there- 
ire t i - - 1 astonished by them; bul in after lili' they become 
aware of their extreme uncommonness. NTor was ii a mere casual 
acl of formal hospitality; I received afterwards many a cordial 
welcome within those hospitable doors. 

"It I- po siblj its personal bearing thai makes me now remember 
pretty distinctlj a good-humored and kindly pleasantry >f the Pro- 
: - .-it thai firsl dinner. I have mentioned thai there were 

Ediubu nt. I do nol know 


what precise position towards the rest of the human race the youth 
of Edinburgh may now claim, but it appeared to me, when I came 
among them at the time I speak of, that they considered it beyoDd 
any kind of question that they were superior to all the rest of the 
world. To one coming from the common hard drudgery of oui 
classes in the North, where we did our work zealously enough, with 
plenty of internal rivalry, but thought no more of claiming fame 
outside the walls than any body of zealous mechanics, it was a great 
novelty to get among a community, where the High School dux of 

18 — , or the gainer of the gold medal in the class, was pointed 

out to you; nay, further, to meet with lads of your own standing, 
who were the authors of published poems, had delivered great and 
telling speeches at the Speculative, or had written capital articles 
in the Edinburgh Literary Journal, or the University Album. 
Whether it were the inheritance of the long hierarchy of literary 
glory which Edinburgh had enjoyed, or arose from any other cause, 
this phenomenon was marvellous to a stranger, and rather disa- 
greeably marvellous, because a youth coming into all this brilliant 
light, out of the Boeotian darkness of Aberdeen, was conscious of 
being contemplated with compassionate condescension. We had, 
however, at the University of Edinburgh at that time, a consider- 
able body of Aberdonians, pretty compactly united. At our head 
was William Spalding, the first among us in learning and accom- 
plishments, as well as in the means of using them. He well justified 
our expectations by his subsequent career, sadly impeded as it was 
by bodily ailments, which brought it to an untimely close. I have 
got into an episode in mentioning him here, but it is not entirely 
inappropriate, for the Professor was, as I believe he has been in 
many other instances, the first who, from a high place, took notice 
of Spalding's capacity. 

" Well, emboldened and elated, I suppose, by being brought 
into social equality with them, it came to pass that, in our after- 
dinner talk, I threw down the gauntlet to the representatives of 
young Edinburgh then present, and stood for the equality, at least, 
if not the superiority of Aberdeen in all the elements of human 
eminence. In such a contest, a good deal depends on the number 
of Dames, in any way known to fame, that the champion remembers ; 
and Aberdeen possessed, especially if one drew on the far past, a 
very fair stock of celebrities. As I was giving them forth, amidst 


a good deal of derisive laughter and ironical cheering, the Professor, 
tickled by the absurdity of the thing, threw himself into the contest, 
on my side, and tumbled over some of my antagonists in an ex- 
tremely delectable manner. This was a first revelation to me of a 
power which I afterwards often observed with astonishment, — a 
kind of intellectual gladiatorship, which enabled him, in a sort of 
rollicking, playful manner, to overthrow his adversary with little 
injury to him, but much humiliation. I can compare it to nothing 
it so much resembles as a powerful, playful, good-natured mastiff 
taking his sport with a snarling cur. As I shall have to mention more 
especially, this was a powerful instrument of discipline in his class. 
He never had to stand on his dignity. When it was worth his 
while, he tumbled any transgressor about in a way that made him, 
though unhurt, thoroughly ashamed of himself, and an example to 
deter others from doing the like. On the occasion referred to, it 
was possibly visible to the bystanders, and had I possessed more 
experience, might have been known to myself, that I also had been 
gently laid sprawling in the attacks that seemed directed entirely 
against my adversaries; but I happily saw only their discomfiture, 
and rejoiced accordingly. All that was done for me was, however, 
entirely neutralized by a random shaft from the Pole, finding mark 
he never meant, and piercing more effectually than all the artillery 
of my opponents. Looking with an air of intense gravity on the 
whole discussion, he broke in with the inquiry, whether he was light 
or not in bis supposition, that 'Apperdeen was vcrray illoustrious 
for the making of stockingks?' After this, there was no use of 
haying more "J, either side. 

■• 1 wish I had tried to Boswellize, or could now remember the 
talk of that, as of many other evenings. One little incident I 
remember distinctly, but I am sure I shall be unable to tell it to 
.-my effect. Some priggish remarks having be< a made by some one 
on the power of exhaustive analysis, the Professor fell to illustrate 
it by an attempt, through that process, to send a hired assistant, 
name unknown, for a fre h bottle of claret, lb- began calling to 
him by the ordinary names, .John, .lam.-, William, Thomas, and so 
"ti. hni none hit tin- mark— the man standing by the sideboard, in 

demure contemplation, a- if inwardly solving s< • metaphysical 

difficulty. The Professor then passed on in a wild discursive flight 
tie. -ugh stranger name-. At last he Beemed to had' hit the right 


one, for the attendant darted forward. It was, in fact, in obedience 
to a sign by a guest that he was wanted, but it came in immediate 
response 1 o a thoroughly unconventional designation, — Beelzebub, 
Mephistophiles, or something of that sort; and the fun was en- 
hanced by the man's solemn unconsciousness that he had been the 
object of a logical experiment. 

" But to come back to the class. It was one that must have 
been somewhat memorable to the Professor himself, when he looked 
back upon it in after years. Not only was his son John in it, but 
it included John Thompson Gordon and William Edmondstoune 
Aytoun, so that unconsciously the Professor was instructing the 
future husbands of his daughters. There were others to give it 
interest and repute — as Archibald Swinton, now Professor of Civil 
law ; the clever Pole I have already referred to ; John Walker Ord, 
who showed poetic powers which promised a considerable harvest; 
and Todd Stoddart, who had won laurels, and thoroughly 
enjoyed them, too, in his published poem of ' The Death Wake.' 

" Tho powers of Wilson, as an instructor and a public speaker, 
will, of course, be described by others. I may simply say that 
attendance at his class, at the same time that it was an act of duty, 
rewarded the student with what duty seldom brings, the enjoyment 
of an oration alive with brilliant and powerful eloquence. 

" Saturday was a great day of enjoyment of a more egotistic kind. 
Then he spoke on the essays he had received. He gave us a breadth 
of topics, and allowed us wonderful latitude in the handling of them 
— but he certainly read them all — and what a mass of trash he must 
have thus perused! In criticising them, he was charitable and 
cordial to the utmost stretch of magnanimous charity. I can hardly 
say what an exciting thrill it imparted to the youth to hear his own 
composition read out from that high place, and commented on with 
stness, and not without commendation. The recollection of 
days sometimes also recalls BoswelFs garrulous account of his 
first symposium with Johnson. 'The Orthodox and High Church 
sound of Tin; Mitee; the figure and manner of the celebrated 
Samuel Johnson; the extraordinary power and precision of his 
conversation, and the pride arising from finding myself admitted 
as his companion, produced a variety of sensations, and a pleasing 
elevation <>f mind beyond what I had ever before experienced.' 
But our elevation uroceeded from entirely intellectual sources, 


wn /out the aid of the other stimulants which contributed to Bos* 
well's glory. Altogether, that class was a scene of enjoyment 
which remains in my mind entirely distinct from even the plea- 
Banter portion of other work-day college life. 

" The class was a very large one. I have referred to the Professor's 
peculiar power of preserving discipline, or rather of keeping up good- 
humor, gentlemanly fellowship, and order, without the necessity of 
discipline. An instance occurred during the session, when he exer- 
cised this power in a matter not peculiar to his own class, not indeed 
showing itself within the class, hut general to the students at large, 
as a portion of the inhabitants of Edinburgh having a common tie. 
There was a great snow-ball riot in that session. This is a thing pecu- 
liar to Edinburgh, and not ea>ily made intelligible to those who have 
not witnessed it. A- a si ranger it surprised me much. In the north 
we had our old feuds and animosities, often breaking out in serious 
violence and mischief. But that a set of people — must of them full- 
grown— should, without any settled feud, utterly change the whole 
tenor of their conduct, and break into something like insurrection, 
merely because Bnow was on the ground, appeared to be a silli 
utterly incomprehensible. This snow-ball affair became so formid- 
able-looking that a mounted foreign refugee, with his head full of 
revolutions, galloped through the streets (I forget if he was in any 
way armed) calling <>ut 'Barricade — bool !' 

-After it. was pretty well over, the Professor made a speech to 
u~ on the conclusion of his daily Lecture. He did not condemn or 
even disparage Bnow-balling ; on the contrary, he expressed glow- 

, hie sense-of its sometimes irresistible attractions. These he 

illustrated by whal hud once occurred to himself and a venerable 

and illustrious friend; we thoughl at the time thai he meant Dr. 

Chalmers. In a Bpring walk among the hills and in the middle of 

smi-metaphysical discussion, they came upon a snow-wreath. By 

a Borl of simultaneous Impulse, bor rathe recollection of early 

cussion Btopped, and they fell too to a regular hard 
bicker. After working away till they were covered with snow, 
panting with fatigue and glowing red with the exertii a, they both 
Btopped, and Laughed loud in each other's face; jusl sucli a laugh 

.■ have then expressed, did the Professor force upon hid 
class. Then came his contrast between such a scene and a fracas 
inthediit) Btreets, where low-bred ruffians took the opportunity 


to get out some bit of petty revenge or of mere wanton cruelty, or 
of insolence to those whose character and position entitled them to 
deference; and so he went on, until there could not be a question 
that every one in the class who had been concerned in the affair felt 
ashamed of himself. His practical conclusion was that they should 
have their bicker, certainly, but — adjourn it from the college quad- 
rangle and the street to the Pentland hills. 

" We naturally, among ourselves, talked over any little instances 
illustrative of the remarkable power of making any one whom 
he had to rebuke or correct feel foolish. For instance, there used 
to be a set of dusky personages who then stood at the corner of 
certain streets, and annoyed the passenger by stepping up right 
in front of him, like an established acquaintance, and saying, 'Any 
old clothes ?' It was said that the way in which the Professor on 
such an occasion turned round on the intruder, and said, ' Yes ; have 
you any ?' had such an effect, that the word was passed through 
the tribe, and he never was again addressed by any of its members. 

"I remember a very strong negative testimony to this peculiar 
power, in the circumstance of his entire freedom from the persecu- 
tions of two licensed tormentors, who were the terror of all the rest 
of the professors. They were men of venerable years and weak in- 
tellect, who had established a sort of prescrij^tive right to attend 
such classes as they might honor with their presence. It was not 
of course their mere presence, but the use to which it was put by 
tricky students, that made the standing grief of the professors. 
One of them was called Sir Peter Nimmo, a dirty, ill-looking lout, 
who had neither wit himself, nor any quality with a sufficient 
amount of pleasant grotesqueness in it to create wit in others. I 
believe he was merely an idly-inclined and stupidish man of low 
condition, who, having once got into practice as a sort of publio 
laughing-stock, saw that the occupation paid better than honest in- 
dustry, and had cunning enough to keep it up. He must have had 
a rather hard time of it, however, in some respects, for it was an 
established practice to get hold of the cards of important person- 
ages— especially if they were as testy as they were important — and 
to presenl them to Sir Peter with a request that he would favor the 
person indicated with his company at dinner. He always went, 
pretending simplicity, and using a little caution, if he saw symptoms 
of strong measures. I suppose he sometimes got a meal that way, 


following- an old Scottish saying about taking 'the bite with the 
buffet.' He always called himself Sir Peter. It was said that a 
man of high title had professed to knight him in a drunken frolic. 
He wandered about sometimes endeavoring to establish himself as 
a sponge in country houses. Strangely enough, he thus got the ear 
ot Wordsworth, who showed him attention. He used the Profes- 
sor's name, and Wordsworth, as I heard, talked of him as a Scotch 
baronet, eccentric in appearance, but fundamentally one of the most 
sensible men he ever met with. The Professor remarked that this 
compliment was no doubt owing to Sir Peter having judiciously 
preserved silence, and allowed Wordsworth to pour into his ear 
unceasingly the even tenor of his loquacity. 

"The other of this strange pair was a rather more interesting 
creature. He was called Dr. Syntax. He had of course another 
name, but of that the public knew nothing. The Tour of Dr. Syntax 
in search of the picturesque, with its doggerel rhymes and extrava- 
gant illustrations, had not then quite lost the great popularity it 
enjoyed. The representations of the hero were intended to be 
gross caricatures, but the structure of his namesake was so super- 
natural!)' protracted and spidery as closely to approach the propor- 
tions of the caricature. His costume, probably by no design of his 
own, completed the likeness. This being, if seen in the street, was 
always marching along with extreme rapidity, with his portfolio 
under his arm, as if full of important business, unless, indeed, he 
had jusl gol a present of a t urban, a yeoman's helmet, or some other 
preposterous decoration, when he would stand exhibiting himself 
wherever a crowd happened to pass. He honored the various pro- 
fessors and clergy of Edinburgh with his ;i t tendance al their lectures 
and sermons. He always chose the most conspicuous place he could 
find. There, with his long, demure, cadaverous face, on which a 
smile would have been at once frozen, he proceeded to busi- 
and spread out his portfolio. He sometimes took notes of what 
. at others took the portrail of the speaker; it may be pre- 
sumed that in church he limited himself to the former function. If 
•w dark, he would solemnly draw from his pocket a small taper 
and strike a light, determined not to be interrupted in his duties, 
and in the centre of the general gloom a small disk of lighl would 
distinguish his countenance, which was as solemn as the grave, yet 
shed around a degree of restless mirth which Bpoiledmanj a lecture, 


and must have sadly jumbled the devotions of the church-goers. I 
believe every professor received a full share of this man's attention? 
except Wilson. His literary ally, the Professor of Civil law, a man 
endowed with a great fund of humor, which, however, he could not 
convert like him into defensive armor, suffered dreadfully from Syn- 
tax, and when the pale face was visible in the highest desk, we 
knew that a day was lost, the poor lecturer having enough to do in 
keeping down internal convulsions of laughter, w T hich seemed as if 
ihey would explode and shatter his frame to pieces. 

" Both these tormentors, of whom I have, perhaps, said too much, 
stood in wholesome dread of Wilson. It was, I have no doubt, by 
effectually treating them according to their folly, that he earned this 
exemption, in which his brethren must have greatly envied him. 

" Before that session came to an end, an event occurred momen- 
tous to all of us — the Reform Bill was brought in. We youths had 
previously indulged in no politics, or if in any, they were of a mild 
Aristides and Brutus kind, tinged perhaps by De Lolme and the 
Letters of Junius. Now, however, we w T ere at once separated into 
two hostile forces. To the liberals, Blackwood's Magazine, ceasing 
to be the guiding-star of literature, had become the watchfire of 
the enemy. The bitterness of the hostility felt at that time by the 
young men of the two opposite political creeds cannot easily be un- 
derstood by those in the same stage of life at the present day. The 
friendship must have been fast indeed that remained after one friend 
had become a reformer and the other an anti-reformer. We used to 
make faces at each other as we passed ; and if a few words were ex- 
changed, they were hostile and threatening. I suppose our hostility 
was a type of a stage of transition between the ferocity of times of 
civil war and the mild political partisanship of the present day. 

"The Professor was known to take his stand against the Bill 
with great vehemence, but I never knew more than one instance 
of an approach to an ebullition of it upon any of his friends on our 
Bide. There had been many Reform meetings of all kinds, some- 
times assembling vast multitudes, when it occurred to attempt a 
Tory meeting — the word Conservative had not then been invented. 
A question arose among us whether they should be allowed to have 
it their own way. and, since they called the meeting public, whether 
our party should not go and out-vote them. The tactic of public 
meeting-, as simply one-sided demonstrations of the strength of a 


party, was not then understood, and they were confounded with 
meetings of representative bodies, where strength is tried by dis- 
cussing and voting. A friend of the Professor's, older than the 
youngsters of his class, but a good deal younger than himself, was 
known strongly to favor an invasion of the meeting from our side. 
lie called on the Professor presently before the meeting ; it was a 
friendly visit, but partially, I presume, for the purpose of sounding 
the Professor on the exciting question. Just before leaving, he ex- 
pressed a hope that there would be no disturbance. The Professor, 
drawing himself up, answered, as well as I can remember having 
heard, in this wise: 'What any set of blackguards maybe pre- 
pared to attempt in these days I cannot predict; but I can say, 
that if I see any man who is on terms of acquaintance with me 
go to that meeting to meddle with it, I hope I may be the first — 
(a pause) — to kick him out into the street.' And the visitor said 
the Professor looked as if he were so close on the point of rehears- 
ing this performance on the spot, that he involuntarily started a 
good pace back. 

"Though politics entered deeply into our social and literary in- 
tercourse at that time, yet the Professor was strong enough in his 
other elements of distinction to keep himself aloof, and remain un- 
touched in his other relations by the influence of party, without in 
the least degree putting in question the sincerity of his attachment 
to his own Bide. He made in the class jusl our allusion to politics, 
and it was emphatic An ambitious student, in one of his essays, 
finding his way to the characteristics of democracy, made some 
allusions to passing events in a tone which he no doubl thought 
likely to secure the favor of the Professor. We never would have 
known of this efforl had it nol been read oul in full to us in the 
class, and followed by a severe rebuke on the introduction of poli- 
tics to ;i place where party strife should be unknown." 

Another Btudent,* who attended th - later, for- 

tunately preserved his notes, and sends me the following vivid 
recollections of the winter session of i 837 : — 

"Of Professor Wilson as a lecturer on Moral Philosophy, il is 
not i ;. any adequate id w ho 

never Baw bis grand and noble form excited into bold and passion- 
ate action behind thai strange, old-fashioned desk, nor heard his 

I itii ('lunch. 


manly and eloquent voice sounding forth its stirring utterances* 
with all the strange and fitful cadence of a music quite peculiar to it- 
self. The many-sidedness of the man, and the unconventional charac- 
ter of his prelections, combine to make it exceedingly difficult to give 
any full analysis of his course, or to define the nature and grounds 
of his wonderful power as a lecturer. I am certain that if every 
student who ever attended his class were to place on record his im- 
pressions of these, the impressious of each student would be widely 
different, and yet they would not, taken all together, exhaust the 
subject, or supply a complete representation either of his matter or 
hi- manner. There was so much in the look and tone, in every as- 
pect and in every movement of the man, which touched and swayed 
the student at the time, but which cannot now be recalled, described, 
or even realized, that any reminiscence by any one can be interest- 
ing only to those whose memories of the same scenes enable them 
to follow out the train of recollection, or complete the picture which 
it may suggest. 

"I attended his class in session 1837-8. It was the session im- 
mediately succeeding the loss of his wife, the thought of which, as 
it was ever again and again re-awakened in his mind by allusions in 
his lectures, however remote, to such topics as death, bereavement, 
widowhood, youthful love, domestic scenes, and, above all, to con- 
jugal happiness, again and again shook his great soul with an agony 
of uncontrollable grief, the sight of which was sufficient to subdue 
us all into deep and respectful sympathy with him. On such occa- 
sions he would pause for a moment or two in his lecture, fling him- 
self forward on the desk, bury his face in his hands, and while his 
whole frame heaved with visible emotion, he would weep and sob 
like a very child. 

" The roll of papers on which each lecture was written, which he 
carried into the class-room firmly grasped in his hand, and suddenly 
unrolled and spread out on the desk before him, comiriencing to 
read the same moment, could not fail to attract the notice of any 
stranger in his class-room. It was composed in large measure of 
portions of old letters — the addresses and postage-marks on which 
be easily seen as he turned the leaf, yet it was equally evi- 
dent thai the writing was neat, careful, and distinct ; and, except 
in a more than usually dark and murk day, it was read with perfect 
and fluency. 


"Iu the course of lectures which I attended, he began by treat- 
ing of the desire of knowledge ; the feeling of admiration ; sympa- 
thy; desire of society; emulation; envy: anger; revenge; self; 
self-esteem ; the love of fame or glory, and the love of power. 

" The ino<t memorable points in these lectures were : (1.) a highly 
wrought description of Envy, founded on Spenser's picture of 
Lucifera riding in the gorgeous chariot of Pride, and preceded by 
six Passions (the fifth of which is Envy) ri ling each on an appro- 
priate animal ; (2.) a very minute and purely metaphysical analysis 
of the idea of Self; and, (3.) a highly poetical illustration of the 
workings of the Love of Power. This last display I can never 
forget ; and sure am I that no one present can ever forget it either. 
It appeared to have been a lecture whose place in the course and 
powerful eloquence were previously not unknown to fame. For 
when I went to the class-room at the usual hour on the last day of 
November, I found it already overcrowded with an audience, com- 
prising many strangers of note and several professors, all in a high 
state of expectation. Conspicuous in the centre of the front bench 
was the new Professor of Logic, Sir William Hamilton, eager with 
anticipation as the others. At length the door of the retiring-room, 
was thrown open, and with even firmer step and long< r stride, and 
more heroic gait than usual, the Professor, with his flowing gown 
and streaming locks, advanced to the desk and began the lecture. 
After a hasty recapitulation of the subjects discussed in previous 
lectures, he proceeded somewhat thus ; I can give but the feeblest 
sketch of the lecture : — 

'"Towards the close of yesterday's lecture we came to the con- 
sideration of another active principle, "The Love of Power," and 
we remarked "n the frequent corruption and melancholy degrada- 
tion of genius through an inordinate love of power. The origin 
of this love of power b found in tin- feeling of pleasure which uni- 
formly, and in a proportionablj greater or attends the 
consciousness of possessing power. Even in lower creation v 
this feeling of pleasure Bhown. The eagle evidently enjoys a deep 
sensation of pleasure as be cuts his unmarked path through the 
Btorm-tossed clouds. The borse also, when in the fulness of Ins 
strength he hastens o'er the course, outstripping all his rivals, is a 
supremely happy as well as an exqui tutiful animal. The 
child too attains : , aever-failing source of pleasure on his fust con- 


scionsness of possessing powers, and lie is overwhelmed with grief 
and vexation when he meets with any obstacle which presents an 
insurmountable obstruction to his free and unfettered exercise of 
these powers. 

" • All the jainciples which the human being possesses have been 
given to him for the purpose of enabling him to fight his waj 
through scenes of trouble, and difficulty, and danger, and it has 
been also wisely decreed that the exercise of these principles or 
powers, when crowned with success, should afford him pleasure. 
The woodsman who is engaged in felling pines in the awful depths 
of the American forest, derives pleasure from the consciousness of 
power, as he sees giant after giant laid low at his feet by the 
prowess of his own unaided arm, at the same time that he is use- 
fully employed in clearing out a domain for the support, it may be, 
of his wife and family. The lonely hunter feels a pleasure in his 
powers as he brings down the towering bird of Jove by his un- 
erring ball, or as he meets a boar in deadly conflict, and drains the 
heart's blood of the brute with his spear. The savage fisherman 
of the far north, as he goes in his frail canoe to pursue the most peril- 
ous of all enterprises, feels a pleasure in his powers, as he triumphs 
by the skill of his rude harpoon over even the mightiest denizens 
of the deep. The peasant from his conscious feeling of manly 
power in every muscle of his stalwart frame derives pleasure, and, 
at the same time, the ability to sustain all the trials and conquer all 
the difficulties which cross him on his toil-worn path. The life of 
the scholar is as much a life of difficulty as the life of the traveller 
who plods on his way through unknown countries, and requires in 
a high degree the sense of power to cheer and sustain him on his 
course ; for we all know that conquests in the kingdom of intelli- 
gence are not to be won by one day's battle. . . . 

" ' If the mind Heeds support in its search after virtue, it must 
much more need it in the ordinary business and pursuits of 

" ' To be weak is miserable, doing or suffering. . . . 

" ' It has often occurred to us that the most debased and humilia- 
ting state in which human nature could be found, is that where 
men have calmly bowed themselves under the disadvantages in 
which nature has seen fit originally to place them, without a single 
^-tout-hearted effort to relieve themselves from them; as, for instance, 


in the case of the inhabitants of New Holland, as they were be- 
scribed by those who first visited the island. And what a contrast 
is visible between their character and that of the North American 
Indians, vanquishing the feeling of pain in their breasts by the 
strength of their unconquerable wills ; "The Stoics of the wood, 
the men without a tear. 1 ' 

"'Let us picture to our mind's eye a pampered Sybarite, nursed 
in all the wantonness of high-Jed luxury, dallying on a downy sofa, 
amid all the gorgeousness of ornamental tapestry, listening to the 
sofl sounds of s music playing in his ears ; his eyes satiated 

with pleasure in contemplating the enchanting pictures that decorate 
ills, and the beautiful statues which in pleasing variety fill up 
the distant vistas of his palace; whose rest would be broken, whose 
happiness would be spoilt d, by the doubling of the highly scented 
rose-leaf that lies beneath him on his silken couch. Let us by the 
pow< r of imagination transport this man to the gloomy depths 
of an American forest, where the dazzling glare of a bright fire in- 
Stantlymeets his eye. If he does not forthwith ignominiously expire 
at the first view, suppose him to survey the characters who compose 
or fill up the busy scene around it. The barbarous savages of one 
tribe have taken captive the chief of another engaged in deadly hos- 
with them. They have not impaled him alive. That would 
be to consign him too speedily to unhealing death. But they have 
tied him fast with band- made of the Long and lithe forest grass, 
which yields not quickly to the fire. They have placed him beside 
the pile which they kindle with fiendish satisfaction, and feed with 
cautious hand, well knowing the poini or pitch to raise it to, which 
tortures but nol speedily consumes. They have exhausted all their 
energy in uttering a mosl diabolical yell, on witnessing their victim 
first feel the horrid proofs of their resentment, and now, seated on 
the grass around, they look oninsilence. The chief stands firm with 
unflinching nerve; his long eye-lashes are scorched off, bul his proud 
eye disdain to wink; his dark raven locks have all perished, but 
there is nol a wrinkle seen on his forehead. From the crown of his 
head to the sole of his fool his skin is one continued blister, bu1 the 
courage of hi soul remains unshaken, and quails nol before the tor- 
menting pain. The Sybarite has expired at the mere sight ; his 
craven heart hae ceased to beat. The Indian hero stands firm. 
There is even a smile on his Badly marred cheek, and il \t ool the 


sinile which is extorted by excruciating pain, and forms the fit ac- 
companiment of a groan, but he smiles with joy as he chants his 
death song. He thinks with pride and joy on the heroic deeds he 
has performed ; how he lias roamed from sunset to sunrise through 
the forest depths, and changed the sleep of his foemen into death. 
He beholds on all sides dancing around him the noble spirits of his 
heroic ancestors; and nearest to him, and almost, he imagines, 
within reach of his embrace, he sees the ghost of his father, who first 
put into his hand and taught him the use of the scalping-knife and 
tomahawk ; who has come from the heavens far beyond the place 
of mountains and of clouds to quaff the death-song, and to welcome 
to the land of the great hereafter the spirit of his undegenerate son. 
The chief is inflamed with a glorious rapture that exalts him beyond 
the sensation of pain, and conquers agony. "He holds no parley 
with unmanly fears." 

" The son of Alcnomon has ceased to endure; 
He consented to die, but he scorned to complain." 

" ' It seems a duty incumbent on us all to think well of ourselves 
and of our powers. But then comes the question, Where falls the 
limit to be fixed at which this feeling must cease ? We answer, 
Nature and the real necessities of life discover to a man the actual 
extent of his powers. Nature, reality, and truth, are the only 

" ' To show that the innate consciousness of power often sustains 
a person amidst severely trying difficulties, we may relate a Avell- 
authenticated anecdote of Nelson. When a very young man in the 
rank of midshipman, he was returning from India on sick leave, with 
his health broken by the climate, and his spirits depressed by the 
feeling that he was cast off from his profession, and that he could 
never rise further in it. Sitting one day solitarily, meditating on all 
this, his thoughts reverted to the great naval heroes who had fought 
and won his country's battles, and gained for England the empire 
of the deep; when a bright ray of hope seemed to shine before him, 
that filled his soul with intense pleasure, and made him exclaim : "I 
will be a hero ; England will not cast me off; England's king will 
be my patron and my friend." He often after spoke of this ray 
which did indeed blaze forth, and lighted his path to renown, till 
the noble watch-word of Trafalgar insured his last and crowning 


triumph, and the name of Nelson was known as widely as the name 
of England.' 

"This faint sketch taken at the time may serve, with all its im- 
perfections, to give some idea of the substance of this noble lecture, 
but it cannot convey to any not present the slightest conception of 
the transcendent power and overwhelming eloquence with which 
it was delivered, or of its electrifying effects upon the audience. 
The whole soul of the man seemed infused into his subject, and to 
be rushing forth with resistless force in the torrent of his rapidly- 
rolling words. As he spoke, his whole frame quivered with emotion. 
He evidently saw the scene he described, and such was the sympa- 
thetic force of his strong poetic imagination, that he made us, 
whether we would or not, see it too. Now dead silence held the 
class captive. In the interval of his words you would have heard a 
pin fall. Again, at some point, the applause could not be restrained, 
and was vociferous. Especially when the dying scene in his descrip- 
tion of the North American Indian's virtues reached its glorious 
consummation, the cheers were again and again repeated by every 
voice, till the roof rang again, and Sir William Hamilton, not less 
enthusiastic in his applause than the very youngest of the students 
behind him, actually stood up and clapped his hands with evident 
delighl and approbation. 

'•1 have beard some of the greatest orators of the day, — Lords 
Derby, Brougham, Lyndhurst ; Peel, O'Connell, Sheil, Fouett, < hal- 
i d, Guthiie, Rl'Neile; 1 have heard some of these in their 
very make some of their most celebrated appearances; 

but for popular eloquence, for resistless force, for the seeming inspi- 
ration that swayed the soul, and the glowing sympathy thai en- 
tranced the heart- of his entire audience, that lecture by Professor 
Wilson far excelled the loftiesl efforts of the besl of these I ever 
d to; and I have long come to the decided conclusion thai if 
he had chosen ih • sacred profession, and given his whole heart and 

BOul to hi- work, he would ha\ e raised the fame of pulpit oratory 
to a pitch far beyond what it ever has reached, and gained a 

rity ai • - as a preacher Becond to none in the annals of the 

( Ihurch. 

i!-<- was continued in lectures on, (].) Jealousy, which 
was illustrated by a very splendid ami elaborate analysis of the 
character of Othello, in which the erroneousness of the common idea 


of the Moor as a mere victim of the green-eyed monster was very 
clearly and convincingly exhibited ; (2.) The Love of Pleasure ; (3.) 
Hope; (4.) Fear; (5.) Happiness or Misery in this Life arising from 
the lower principles of humanity; (G.) Association, discussed at 
great length and with very great metaphysical acumen, as well as 
jopious illustration ; (7.) Imagination, treated in nine most interest- 
ing lectures ; and, (8.) Conscience; which, with a full and particular 
consideration of the various moral systems propounded by ancient 
and modern philosophy, occupied thirty lectures. 

"In the next division of the course the Affections were explained 
and illustrated in a series of sixteen lectures, in which all the wealth 
of poetry and pathos that were at his command had ample scope 
and glorious display in picturing scenes of domestic and social life, 
and in drawing from the whole held of literature examples of family 
affection and heroic patriotism. Thus we had the picture of a family 
— with all its interpenetrating relations, of the elder members 
towards the younger, and of the elder towards each other; the 
strong hold which any absent member retains over the affections of 
all at home, and the deej> reverence and affectionate love with which 
they ail regard the head of the family — set before us in a manner 
to rivet attention, by connecting with it a very fine disquisition on 
Burns's 'Cottar's Saturday Night.' We had the beautiful pic- 
tures of filial affection drawn by Sophocles and Shakspere respec- 
tively in Antigone and Cordelia, extemporaneously, but most effec- 
tively and splendidly described. This extempore lecture was imme- 
diately followed up by another, delivered also without the aid of any 

and of a very strange and discursive character, as the heads 
of it will show : — ' Antigone — Electra — Clytemnestra — Agamem- 
non — J^gisthus — Orestes — Good old Homer who never nods — 

ss — Achilles — Peleus — The Meeting of Laertes and Achilles — 
The Lake Poets — Southey and Wordsworth — Apples and Pears — 
Apple-pie ;' but in which the Professor succeeded in demonstrating 
the vast superiority of the great poets of antiquity, in delineating 
those simple touches of nature that goto prove the whole world 
kin. We had then parental affection copiously illustrated in a 

of lectures containing highly-wrought pictures of an outcast 
mother sitting begging by the wayside, of emigrant mothers about 
to be devoured in a burning ship, and of Virgil's sketches of Evau- 
der and Pallas, and Mezenlius and Lausus, as contrasted with Words- 


worth's sketch of the ' statesman' Michael and his son Luke. One 
whole lecture was devoted to Shakspere's character of Constance, 
as exhibiting the workings of maternal affection, and another to 
Priam's going to ransom the body of Hector from Achilles. The 
paternal affection- and friendship were next dealt with in the same 
interesting manner, with illustrative references to the writings of Jer- 
emy Taylor, Lord Bacon, Cicero, Shakspere, Dugald Stewart, Thom- 
son, and Coleridge. This part of the course was wound up by three 
very able lectures on Patriotism, during the delivery of the last ot 
which one of the few memorable ' scenes' during the session occurred 
in the class- The Professor had begun the lecture by a very earnesl 
and powerful defence of nationality or patriotism againsl the attacks 
of those who prefer a spirit of cosmopolitanism, in the course of 
tins, he had occasion to refer to the views of Coleridge and Chenevix 
on the character of fallen nation-, and particularly to the very pecu- 
liar relation in which Scotland had long stood to England; and in 
dealing with this latter point he was proceeding with the remark, 
that 'the great Dem >sthenes of Ireland, the ruler of seven million;.. 
of the finest peasantry in the world, had presumed to say at a pub- 
lic meeting that the reason Scotland had never been conquered waj> 
that Scotland had never been worth conquering.' I do not know 
how the lecture as written would have dealt with this charge, for 
the remark led to an interruption of its delivery. Some [rish stu- 
dent-, resenting the contemptuous torn- in which their great hero 
was mentioned, and especially taking offence, perhaps justly, at the 

comical way in which the word ' pizzantry* was pr unced, raised 

first a hiss, and then a howl, which provoked counter-cheering from 
the more numerous Conservatives present, tiil the class-room became 
for a few minutes something like Babel or a bear-garden. For a 
little the Professor looked calmly on; bul at last, fairly roused l>y 
the unusual uproar, he threw bis notes aside, and drowning all q< 

by tin- stentorian pitch of voice in which he repealed the m nlence 
that had provoked it ail. he on the spur of the moment bursl forth 

m a mosl eloquent and effective denunciation of all dem , and 

ot all [rish d< n particular, showing in return for O'Con- 

nell'a contemptuous remark about Scotland, the exact number of 
lish pikemen and archers that had sufficed for the total subju- 
gation of Ireland : and in castigalion of those of his "-Indents thai 

bad hissed him, launching all tic- shafts of bis raillery, and bhi 


were both numerous and sharp, at modern Radicalism, and its cant, 
phrase, ' March of Intellect.' The scene was one not to be forgot- 
ten. It was the only occasion any expression of political feeling 
or bias escaped from him; and yet, though he spoke under groat 
excitemenl and with merciless severity, he said nothing that made 
him less respected and admired even by those who differed from him 
in his political views.* 

" The course was concluded by a series of about twenty lectures 
on Natural Theology, in which that subject was treated in a manner 
altogether worthy of its vast importance. The great writers, both 
ancient and modern, were reviewed in a highly philosophical and 
finely appreciatory spirit. The ability of Hume was fully admitted, 
and his arguments met as fairly and successfully as they have ever 
been ; but the pretensions of Lord Brougham to authority in the 
matter were called in question, and some of his views severely 
criticised. The moral attributes of God ; the duties of man to his 
Maker ; religion in the abstract ; the immortality and immateriality 
of the soul ; the moral philosophy of the Greeks, and especially the 
doctrines of Socrates and Plato, were all handled in a way befitting 
the grandeur and sacredness of these topics, and so as to impress 
every student with the depth and earnestness of the Professor's 
religious views and feelings, as well as with the high-toned morality 
of his whole mind and temperament. 

"And now, reviewing generally one's old impressions of the 
character of the whole course, and qualifying these by the help of 
subsequent experience and knowledge, there remains a very decided 
conviction that while the overflowing wealth of poetical reference 
and illustration, and the somewhat excessive ornamentation of lan- 
guage, were calculated so far to choke and conceal the systematic 
philosophy of the lestures ; to amuse rather than instruct the stu- 
dents ; to deprave rather than chasten and purify their stjdeof com- 
position ; the high merits and distinguished qualities of the lectures 
are indisputable, ami their tendency to engender free thought, and 
to encourage large and liberal-minded study of the works of all the 

ference to the : ' Liberator" appears to have been subsequently omitted from 
the lecture; but tin- topic in reference to which it occurred seems to have been one in which the 
V difficulty in restraining his contempt for some of the cants of the day 

■ oul !' rch of Intellect, &c. Mr. Nicolson gives me the following extract from bil 

I --'.o. Immediately preceding annotation from M. Chenevix on the benefits 
of public instruction as the Barest basis of stable government : — " These sentiments are not tbe 
growth of late years, as some contemptible persons would seem to insinuate." 


greatest authors, were of the most decided and purely beneficial 
nature. It has been the fashion in certain quarters to decry hia 
lectures as loose and declamatory ; but only with those whose judg- 
ment is based on superficial appearances alone, and who are so 
destitute of every thing like sympathy, as to be unable to appreciate 
excellence that squares not in every point with their preconceived 
idea of it. One indubitable advantage was possessed by all Pro- 
fessor Wi\soifs students, who had 'eyes to see and ears to hear,' 
viz., the advantage of beholding closely the workings of a great and 
generous mind, swayed by the noblest and sinceresl impulses ; and 
of listening to the eloquent utterances of a voice which, reprobating 
every form of meanness and duplicity, was ever raised to its loftiest 
pitch in recommendation of high-souled honor, truth, virtue, dis- 
interested love, and melting charity. It was something, moreover, 
not without value or good effect, to be enabled to contemplate, from 
day to day, throughout a session, the mere outward aspect of one 
so evidently every inch a man, nay, a king of men, in whom manly 
vigor and manly beauty of person were in such close keeping with 
all the great qualities of his soul ; the sight at once carried back the 
youthful student's imagination to the age of ancient heroes and 
demigods, when higher spirits walked with men on earth, and made 
an impression on the opening mind of the most genial and ennobling 

"The Professor was not generally supposed to devote much time 
in private to the busii ails and work of his class. But all 

who really worked for him soon discovered the utter erroneousness 
of this supposition. Every essay given in to him, however juvenile 
in thought and expression, '.vis read by him with the most patient 
and judiciously critical care. IT any essay afforded proof of pains- 
taking research or ofnascenl power, it- author was at once invited 
to the Prof to enjoy the benefil of private conversa- 

tion, and to be encouraged and directed in his studies. I can never 
forgel an evening which I spenl alone with him in such circum- 
stances, when, after discussing I id views of some essay 
that had taken hi- fancy, and favoring me with some invaluablo 
hint> on these, he launched out into a long and most interest- 
ing discourse on mosl of the greal men of his time; and sen! me 
away at a late hour, not only gratified with his noble frankness of 
nature and manner, but more than ever convinced of his vast and 


varied powers in almost every field of knowledge. Though my 
intercourse with him was limited entirely to student life, I retain 
for him the deepest reverence and love. 

" ' I cannot deem thee dead ; like the perfumes 

Arising from Judea's vanish'd shrines, 
Thy voice still floats around me ; nor can tombs 

A thousand from my memory hide the lines 
Of beauty, on thine aspect which abode, 
Like streaks of sunshine pictured there by God.'" 

The following account of his last year's professional work (the 
session 1850-1851) is furnished by the medallist of the year:* — 

" The first thing that every one remarked on entering his class, 
was how thoroughly he did his proper work as a Professor of 
Moral Philosophy. This is not generally known now, and was not 
even at that time. There was a notion that he was there Christo- 
pher North, and nothing else ; that you could get scraps of poetry, 
bits of sentiment, flights of fancy, flashes of genius, and any thing 
but Moral Philosophy. Nothing was further from the truth in that 
year 1850. In the very first lecture he cut into the core of the 
subject, raised the question which has always in this country been 
held to be the hardest and deepest in the science (the origin of the 
Moral Faculty), and hammered at it through the great part of the 
-<-sion. Even those who were fresh from Sir William Hamilton's 
class, and had a morbid appetite for swallowing hard and angular 
masses of logic, found that the work here was quite stiff enough for 
any of us. It was not till the latter part of the session, in his lectures 
on the Affections and the Imagination, that he adopted a looser style 
of treatment, and wandered freely over a more inviting field. But 
it is not enough to say that he was thoroughly conscientious in 
presenting to his students the main questions for their consideration ; 
1 am hound to add that he was also thoroughly successful. It is 
I known that his own doctrine (though it was never quite fixed, 
and he stated publicly to his class at the close of his last session that 
he had ail along been conscious that there was some gap in it) was 
opposed to the general Scotch system of Moral Philosophy. His 

* Mr. Alexander Taylor limes, who says in reference to that distinction: — "'He was specially 
kind to me, as thi led that honor, much coveted at that time as 

coming fri for when the University offered to give a prize to his class, he declined 

to discontinue his own, and Btill year by year awarded 'Professor Wilson's Gold Medal,' giving 
the other separately or cnmulalivWy ," 


Etodaimonism was in fact a sublimed Utilitarianism ; so refined and 
sublimed that it might Lave appeared quite a fair course to have 
avoided discussing those metaphysical aud psychological questions 
which lie at the roots of the general controversy, lie did not follow 
this course. On the contrar}-, he laid bare the whole question : 
Whether conscience be a product of experience, or an original and 
intuitive faculty, with a frankness and fairness which are exceedingly 
rare, and which impressed most those who most differed from him; 
and at the same time with a perception of the statics qu€BStionis t 
how it bore on all that followed, and how the teaching of each 
philosopher bore upon it, which makes me regard his lectures as 
the most comprehensive, and indeed the most valuable thing in our 
language on this particular question, with the single exception of 
Sir Jumes Mackintosh's Dissertation. 

"His appearance in hi- class-room it is far easier to remember 
than to forget. He strode into it with the professor's -own hang- 
ing loosely on his arms, took a comprehensive look over the mob 
of voun<>- faces, laid down his watch so as to be out of the reach of 
his sledge-hammer fist, glanced at the notes of his lecture (generally 
written on the most wonderful sera]/- of paper), and then, to the 
bewilderment of those who had never heard him before, looked 
long and earnestly out of the north window, towards the spire of 
the old Tron Kirk ; until, having at last gol hi- idea, he laced round 
and uttered it with eye ami hand, and voice and soul and spirit, 
and bore tin- class along with him. A- he spoke, the brighl bine 
eve looked with a strange gaze into vacancy, sometimes sparkling 
with a coming joke, sometimes darkening before a rush of indignant 
eloquence; the tremulous upper lip curving with every wave of 
thoughl "r hint ofpassion, and the golden-gray hair floating on the 
old man's mighty shoulders — if indeed that could he called age, 
which seemed bu1 the immortality of a more majestic youth.* Ami 
isionally, in 'he liner frenzy of hi- more imaginative pas age — 

the "dlsdpHni 80, alluded to by Mr. Burton, Mr Nicholson says, twenty 

— "I shall d< by an 

. fellow, who 

■ n you will have the klndnesa i" wait (ill the close of Hi" 

the clu«> before the t> ruination '•: i be H^'Un attempt) d, titer 

such an i-xhiMiion." 


as when he spoke of Alexander, clay cold at Babylon, with the 
world lying conquered around his tomb, or of the Highland hills, 
thai pour the rage of cataracts adown their riven cliffs, or even 
of the human mind, with its 'primeval granitic truths,' the grand 
old face flushed with the proud thought, and the eyes grew dim 
with tears, and tho magnificent frame quivered with a universal 

" It was something to have seen Professor Wilson — this all con- 
fessed ; but it was something also, and more than is generally un- 
derstood, to have studied under him." 



In July, 1819, the following announcement appeared in the Book- 
lists : "In the press, 'Lays from Fairy Land,' by John Wilson, au- 
thor of 'The Isle of Palms,' " etc. 

" Doth grief e'er sleep in a Fairy's breast? 
Are Dirges sung in the land of Rest ? 
Tell us, when a Fairy dies, 
Hath she funeral obsequies? 
Are all dreams there, of woe and mirth, 
That trouble and delight on earth?" 

In the Magazine for January, 1820, one of these lays was pub- 
lished, and it seemed as if the formula, "in the press," really meant 
something was then preparing for publication, which I believe is all 
that it generally conveys to the initiated. Beyond that, however, 
the Lays, if ever in the press, did not show themselves out of it.* 
From dreams of Fairy Land the aCithor had been roused to the un 

* Unless I except a previous poem, "The Fairies, a Dreamlike Remembrance of a Dream," in 
due for April, 1818, with tho signature of N., evidently his. The subject was a favorite 
one with him. In one of bis Essaj - there is a very beautiful and fanciful description of a fairies' 


romantic realities of Deacon Paterson and bis green bag. The 
sober certainty of a course of Moral Philosophy lectures took the 
place of poetic visions, and the "folk of peace" seem thenceforth to 
have vanished from his view, so far at least as singing about them 
was concerned. The explanation is cleverly given in the lines of 
Ensign O'Doherty, in the Magazine for 1821, when the Professor 
was doubtless still hard at work on the Passions and the Moral 
Faculty. After " touching off" various other poets, he says : — 

"Let Wilson roam to Fairy-land, but that's 
An oldish story: I'll lay half-a-erown 
The tiny elves are smothered in bis gown." 

But though the heavy duties of his first session put an end for 
the time to all other occupations, his literary activity was rather 
stimulated than otherwise by his elevation to the chair. "With 
trifling exceptions his literary labors were confined exclusively to 
Blackwood's Jlaf/azo/e, and their extent may be guessed from the 
fact, that for many years his contributions were never fewer on an 
average than two to each number. I believe that, on more than 
one occasion, the great bulk of the entire contents of a number was 
produced by him during the currency of a month. No periodical 
probably was ever more indebted to the efforts of one individual 

Maga" was t<> Wilson. His devotion to it was unswerving, 
and whether his health were good or bad, his spirits cheerful or de- 
■1. lii- pen never slackened in its service. He became identi- 
character, it< aims, and its interests; and wearing, as 
it did, such strong marks of a controlling individuality, it was natu- 
rally believed to be under the editorial sway of the hand that first 
subscribed the formidable initials of " Christopher North." The 
conception of that remarkable personage was, however, as 
purely mythical a- tin- "Shepherd" of the Nodes, and "C. N." 
note- ami critioi ms were freely supplied by other hands, under the 
direction of the reallj responsible editor, .Mr. Blackwood. A- my 
father gradually invested his imaginary ancient with more and more 
of hie p< r.sonal attributes and experiences, the identification became 
: lete, till at length John Wilson ami Christopher North 
were recog • ynonymous. Am repudiation of the 

editorial character essentially associated with the latter was thence- 
forth regarded as bul a pari of the Bystem of mystification which 
had distinguished the Magazine from the beginning. Bul it was 



true, nevertheless, that the reins of practical government were 
throughout in the hands of the strong-minded and sagacious puh 
Usher. It lav with him to insert or reject, to alter or keep back; 
and though of course at all times open to the advice and influence 
of his chief contributors, his* was no merely nominal management, 
as even they -were sometimes made to experience. 

The relation between him and my father, considering the charac- 
ter of the two men, was not a little remarkable, and it did equal 
credit to both. Wilson's allegiance to the Magazine was steady and 
undivided. He could not have labored for it more faithfully had it 
been his own property.* This itself would suffice to prove high 
qualities in the man who owned it. Mere self-interest does not 
bind men in such perfect mutual consideration and confidence as 
subsisted between them throughout their lives. It required on 
both sides true manliness and generosity, combined with tact and 
forbearance, and every kind feeling that man can show to man. 
Blackwood's belief in Wilson was unbounded, not simply from ad- 
miration of his great powers, but because he knew that he could 
rely on him to the utmost, both as a contributor and a friend. 
Wilson's respect and affection for Mr. Blackwood Avere equally sin- 
cere and well founded ; and when he followed him to the grave, he 
felt that no truer friend remained behind. It is pleasant to be able 
to say that these relations of mutual esteem aud confidence were 
continued uninterrupted after the Magazine came into the hands 
of Mr. Blackwood's sons, who were able to appreciate the genius 
and the labor that had done so much to make their own and their 
father's name famous throughout the world. 

In the miscellaneous correspondence that follows, extending over 
many years, the reader will gather an idea of my father's varied 
relations, and of the general tenor of his life; but before passing 
from the subject at present, mention may here be made of the pub- 
lication in 1822 of a volume of his prose compositions, under the 
title of "Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life, a selection from the 
papers of the late Arthur Austin." Some of these had appeared in 
Blackwood under the signature " Eremus," which will also be found 
affixed to several poems in the very early numbers of the Magazine. 

* -of all the writers in lt(the Magazine), I have done most for the least remuneration, though 
Mr. IS. and I have never onee had one word of disagreement on that subject."— MS. letter of WU- 
»uii, dated 1833. 


Thtse beautiful tales have acquired a popularity of the most endur- 
ing kind. They are, indeed, poems in prose, in which, amid fanci- 
ful scenes and characters, the struggles of humanity are depicted 
with pathetic fidelity, and the noblest lessons of virtue and religion 
are interwoven, in no imaginary harmony, with the homely realities 
of Scottish peasant life. 

The emoluments of his new position, combined with his literary 
earnings, enabled him, after a few years, to remove from his house 
in Ann Street to a more commodious residence at no great distance. 
He was also in a position once more to take up his summer quarters 
in his beautiful villa at Elleray, the place which he loved above all 
others on earth; and in the summer of 1823 we find him there, 
with his wife and children, again under the old roof-tree. After 
the labors of the College session, and so long a separation from a 
spot so dear to him, it was not unnatural that he should crave some 
relaxation from work ; and in spite of his publisher's desire to hear 
from him, the study for a time was deserted for the fields. He was 
in the habit of sauntering the whole day long among the woods and 
walks of Elleray. This delightful time, however, had its interrup- 
tions. The indefatigable publisher writes letter after letter, re- 
minding him that the Magazine and its readers must be fed. Mr. 
Blackwood's letters discover the shrewd and practical man of busi- 
ness, temperate in judgment, and reasonable, though a little too 
much inclined sometimes to the use of strong epithets — a habit too 
common with literary men of that day, but now fortunately out of 
fashion. From these letters may be gathered the true relation o/. 
\\ ikon to BlaekwoocVs Magazine. On the 15th of May he says : — 

" Mv dbab Sir: — For nearly a week I have either been myself, 

had one of my sons waiting the arrival of the Carlisle mail, as I 
never doubted but that you would give me your besl help this 

onth. It never was of so much consequence to me, and 1 still 
: ( pe that a parcel is on the way. 

'•That I may be able to wait till the last n lent for any thing 

of yours, I am keeping the Magazine hack, ami have resolved to let 
it take its chance of arrival b\ doI Bending it off till the 28th, when 
it will go by tic steamboat ; this will just allow it time to be deliv- 
ered on the :;lst, and if no accident occur, it will he in lime. 

lt 1 wrote yon on the 3d with Wang) '. Review, and a lew other 


things. T wrote you again with the periodicals on the 6th. Both 
parcels were directed according to your letter, to be forwarded by 

Ambleside coach by Mr. or Mr. Jackson. I hope you have 

received them and the former parcel. 

" Qttcntin Durward is to be out on Tuesday, when I will send it 
i. Reginald* is not quite finished, but will be an at press in 
a day or two. Mr. Lockhart has done Barry Cornwallf and Tim'st 
Viscount Soligny in good style. My not hearing from you, how- 
ever, discourages him, and I fear much this number will not be at 
all what I so confidently expected it would have been. 
" I shall be happy to hear that you are all well again. 
" I am, my dear sir, yours truly, 

" W. Blackwood.'' 

About this time, Mr. Leigh Hunt was advised to threaten lega' 
proceedings against the London publisher of the Magazine, Mi. 
Cadell, who appears to have been greatly alarmed by this prospect, 
not having been quite so accustomed to that species of intimation 
as Mr. Blackwood. He accordingly wrote to Edinburgh, giving a 
very grave and circumstantial account of the visit he had received 
from Mr. Hunt's solicitor. Mr. Blackwood and his contributors 
took the matter much more coolly, as may be seen from the follow- 
ing letter from Mr. Lockhart, whose concluding advice is eminently 
characteristic. Indeed, all Mr. Lockhart's letters to my father, as 
will be seen, are marked by the satirical power of the man — piquant, 
racy, gossiping, clever, and often affectionate and sincere :- 

"Edinburgh, Friday, June, 1823. 
"My dear Professor: — Blackwood sends you by this post a 
of the second letter from Cadell, so that you know, ere you 
read this, as much of the matter as I do. 

••1 own that it a] ipears to me impossible we should at thistime of day 

it i<» be said that any man who wishes in a gentlemanly way 

to have our names should not have them. I own that I would 

lather suffer any thing than have a Cockney crow in that sort. 

■ khart. 
/' <'irl of Provence, and other Poems. By Barry Cornwall. Svo- 
lettat Mr. .-. the reputed author of Letters on England. By Victor Count 
and My Friend* and Acquaintances. 3 vols. 1854. 


But still there is no occasion for rashness, and I do not believe Hunt 
had that sort of view ; at all events, he has not acted as if he had. 

" My feeling is that in the next number of the Magazine there 
should be a note to this effect : — ' A certain London publisher has 
been making some vague and unintelligible inquiries at the shop of 
our London publisher. If he really wishes to communicate with 
the author of the article which has offended him, let him not come 
double-distilled through the medium of booksellers, but write at 
once to the author of the article in question (he may call him N. B. 
for the present), under cover to Mr. Blackwood, 17 Princes Street, 
Edinburgh. He will then have his answer.' 

" "Whether such a notification as this should or not be sent pre- 
viously I doubt — but incline to the negative ; at all events, the 
granting of it Avill save our credit ; and as for Hunt, how stands 
the matter ? First, Suppose he wishes to bring an action against 
the author ; against you he has no action, and that he knows ; but 
you would probably give him no opportunity of bringing one; at 
least, poor as I am, I know I would rather pay any thing than be 
placarded as the defendant in such an action. 2dty, Suppose be 
wishes to challenge the author. He cannot send a message to you, 
having printed the last number of the Liberal.* Therefore, either 
way, the affair must come to naught; I mean as to any thing 

" Blackwood is going to London next week, and will probably 
visit you on the way, when you ami he can talk over this fully ; 
but ere then, I confer, I should like to have your consenl to print 
Midi a note as I have mentioned. I cannot endure the notion of 
these poltroons crowing over us; and being satisfied that no serious 
consequences can result, I do think the thing ought to be done. 
Read Cadell's Letter, and think of it, and write me. 

"Above all. for God's sake, be you will and hearty! Who the 
devil cares for Cockneydom? Write a good article, and take a 
couple of tumblers. Yours, alllv, 

-J. G. L. 

"P. S.— Reginald DaUon\ is doing very well. The London 
subscription was 831, which Ebony thought <_ r n':ii for a three- 

• The Dumber of the Libei I | line, containing an article on the Scottl b chai in 

which the Blackwood writer* ore compared to "a troop of STah too, or a trl 
t Bsffinaid Daiton and Ada inon/ioona novels mitten bj Mr. I.< ckuart. 


volume affair. In a new magazine (Knight's) set up by the 
'Etonians,' there is an article on Lights and Shadows, Alam 
Blair, etc., in which you are larded tolerably, and but tolerably, 
and I lie poor Scorpion still more scurvily treated. It is their open- 
ing article and their best. The choice exhibits weakness, and con- 
Bcious weakness. No other news. Rich and Poor* is a clever 
book, but, very methodistical. I have read about half of it. I wu7 
write you a long letter, if you will write me any thing at all." 

A fragment of a letter from Mr. Lockhart, written about the 
same time, contains, like all his effusions, something racy and 
characteristic. His expressions of interest with regard to Mrs. 
Wilson's health are more than friendly. The first few lines of this 
fragment refer to a paper in Blackwood's Magazine for July, 1823, 
"On the Gormandizing School of Eloquence," "No. I. Mr. D. 
Abercromby." In such scraps as this we find the salt which fla- 
vored his letters, and without which he could not have written : — 

" Who is Mr. D. Abercromby ? You have little sympathy for 
a brother glutton. What would you think of the Gormandizing 
School, No. II. ' Professor John Wilson ?' I could easily toss off 
such an article if you are anxious for it, taking one of the dilettante 
dinners, perhaps, and a speech about Michael Angelo by David 
Bridges,! for the materials. No. III. ' Peter Robertson ;' No. IV. 
1 Willi.' Miss Edgeworth is at Abbotsford, and has been for some 
time;J a little, dark, bearded, sharp, withered, active, laughing, 
talking, impudent, fearless, outspoken, honest, Whiggish, unchris- 
tian, good-tempered, kindly, ultra-Irish body. I like her one day, 
and damn her to perdition the next. She is a very queer character ; 
particulars some other time. She, Sir Adam,§ and the Great 

• J:irh and Poor, and Common Events, a continuation of the former, anonymous novels, which 
were ascribed to Miss Annie Walker. 

t Mr. David Bridges, dubbed by the Blackwood wits, " Director-General of the Fine Arts." 
Kor a description of his shop, which was much resorted to by artists, see Peter's Letters, vol 
li . p. 280. 

rvorth's visit was in August, 1823. "Never did I see a brighter day at Abbotsfora 
thax that on which Miss Edgeworth first arrived there; never can I forget her look and accent 
wbcn ''" "I by him m his archway, and exclaimed, 'Every thing about you is ex 

1 wi( enough to dream.' "Scott's Life. 

cott, died on Christmas day, 1854. Mr. Chamber* 
remarks,Li a biographical .- old knight, published shortly after his death, th« 

'many interesting and pie ,, mnd the name of this fine old man, ana 


Unknown, are ' too much for any company.' Tom Purdie is well, 
and sends his compts. ;* so does Laidlaw. f I have invited Hogg to 
dine here to-morrow, to meet Miss Edgeworth. She has a great 
anxiety to see the Bore. 

"If you answer this letter, I shall write you a whole budget of 
news next week ; if not, I hope to see you and Mrs. Wilson in good 
health next 12th of November, till when I shall remain your silent 
and afFectionate brother-glutton, J. G. Lockhabt. 

" N~. B. — Hodge-podge is in glory ; also Fish. Potatoes damp and 
small. Mushrooms begin to look up. Limes abundant. Weather 
just enough to make cold punch agreeable. Miss Edgeworth says 
Peter Robertson is a man of genius, and if on the stage, would be a 
second Liston. How are the Misses Watson ? Give my love to 
Miss Charlotte when you see her; and do let me know what passed 
between you and the Stamp-Master,;]; the Opium-Eater, etc., etc. 
LL. D. Southey is, I suppose, out of your beat." 

The remaining portion of this season spent at Elleray contributed 
(as appears by allusions in the following letters) not a small share 
of its occupations to the satisfaction and gratitude of Mr. Black- 
wood : — 

In his removal from the world one important link between the Old and the New is severed. 
It will be almost startling to our readers to hear that there lived so lately one who could say 
he had sat on the knee of David Home." If 1 was about a year older than Sir Walter. 

* Scott's faithful servant, and affectionately devoted, humble friend, from the time that Tom 
was brought before Sir Walter in his rapacity as Bheriff, on a charge of poaching, and promoted 
into hie Service, till his death, which took place in 1829. A. full account of his peculiarities will 
be found in Lookhart'a Life of Scott. 

t V. he was always called, Willie Laidlaw, was the factor and friend of Sir Walter 

Bcott latterl] his amanuensis; and in this case "the manly kindness and 

i, of on'- noble nature was paralleled by 'lie affectionate devotion and admiration of 

mother." His family still retains as sacred the pens with which he wrote Ivanhoe tohismas- 

ni; and tie used to tell thai at the most intense parts of the story, when Scott hap- 

hich be very seldom did, running off, as he Bald, "like lintseed oot o'apoak," 

Laidlaw eagerly asked, " What next?" "Ay, Willie man, what next! that's the deevil o't"' so 

was the busy penman, it Is a curious subject how much 
oud how little an author ol his own creatures, if they live am' move, 

they possess him often m. That "shaping spirit'' within him is by turns 

ma t> i md ''■' author of Esmond, " Why did you :et Ks- 

mond marry bis mothei In law?" "II it nras'nt I; they did it themselves." 
Of i my father said, '■ 'TIs on.- .,i thi In the world: not a 

i in the old days when we used to wash our foci In thi Hon^-ias 

Burn, and herd In tie- hill. Oh mo I those sweet, sweet, days o' langsynn, 

jam!.- ii Millie Laldlaw's health, gentlemen !"• \"<:t4e. 
Mr. Laidlaw died la 

♦ Word -worth. 


" Edinburgh, September 6, 1823. 

" My dbab Sir: — I hope you would receivt the coach parcel yes- 
terday or to day, and I expect I shall have the pleasure of receiving 
a packet from you by Monday or Tuesday. Being so anxious to 
make this a very Btrong number, I have put nothing up yet till I see 
what you and Mr. Lockhart send rue. He is to send me some- 
thing on Monday, and if I receive Hayley* in time, I intend to 
begin the Dumber with it. I have time enough yet, as this is only 
the 6th, but in the beginning of the week I must be getting on. I 
rely so confidently upon you doing all that you can, that I feel quite 
at ease, at least as much as ever I can be till I see the last form 
fairly made up. I have not received the continuation of your 
brother's article; Mr. Robert promised to write him as he is still 
in the West. Dr. Mylne told me to-day that he had met him a 
few days ago at Lord John Campbell's, and that he was pretty 

" Your friend, Mr. Lowndes from Paisley, was inquiring for you 
here to-day. I had a letter this morning from Mr. Blair, in which 
he apologizes for not having fulfilled his engagement, and says, 'It 
has not been neglect of your claims, to which I have devoted both 
time and labor, but a complete want of success in every thing I 
have attempted. I should have written you some apology, but that 
I had always hopes of completing something before another month, 
and the only reason I had for sending nothing, seemed almost too 
absurd to write. I know nothing else I can say till I have some- 
thing else than excuses to send. I am at this moment engaged on 
an essay on a question of language, which I shall be glad if I can 
send for your number now going on, and I have been making re- 
marks on "Hunter's Captivity among the Indians," with the inten 
tion of reviewing it, which I shall go on with if I hear nothing from 
you to the contrary.' 

" He gives me no address, but merely dates his letter Dudley 
Perhaps yon will write him, and tell him not to be over-fastidious ; 
and point out to him something he should do. I have sent Mr 
L[ockhart] to-day Alaric'sf paper, in which there is a grand puff 
of ' Maga ;' he will forward it to you. 

" Maginn writes me in high glee about this number, and says he 

* A review of Hayley'e Memoirs, Art. X., September, 1828. 
t Aluric A. Watts, then editor of the Leeds Intelligencer. 


will send something. I hope I shall have the pleasure of hearing 
from you very soon, and I am, my dear sir, yours very truly, 

" W. Blackwood." 

" Saturday Morning, September 20, 1823. 
" My dear Sir : — Before coming home last night I got all to 
press, so that I will be able to send you a complete copy of the 
Number with this, by the mail to-day. You will, I hope, find it a 
very good one, and though not equal in some respects to No. 79, 
it is superior in some others. On Wednesday morning I did not 
expect to have got this length, nor to have had it such a number. 
By some mistake I did not get back from Mr. L[ockhart] till Wed- 
nesday afternoon the slips of O'Doherty on Don Juan ami Timothy 
Tickler. Not hearing from you or him on Tuesday morning, I 
made up Doubleday's 'Picturesque'* with Crewe's 'Blunt,'f and 
' Bartleiny Fair,' by a new correspondent, whom I shall tell you 
about before I have done ; and not knowing how I might be able 
to make up the Number, I put in Mr. St. Barbe's ' Gallery,' J and 
' The Poor Man-of-War's Man,' both of which had been in types 
for three or four months. There being no time to lose, I got these 
four forms to press ; I wish now I had waited another day, and kept 
'The Man-of-War's Man,' but still I hope it will pass muster, and I 
hope you will read it without prejudice. You will naturally be say- 
ing, Why did I not, when run in such difficulty, make up and put 

to mess your articles on , and the Murderers? Here I am 

afraid you will blame me, but first hear me. When I first read 
your terrible scraping of 1 enjoyed it excessively, but on see- 
ing if in types, I began to feel a little for the poor monster, and 
above all, when I considered that it might perhaps so irritate the 
creature as to drive him to some beastly personal attack upon you, 
I thought it better to pause. I felt quite sure that if published in 
its present Btate, he would be in such a state of rage, he would at 
all events denounce you everywhere as the author. This would be 
most unpleasant lo your feelings, for now that one can look at the 
article coolly, there are such coarseness and personal things in it ax 
one would not like to hear it said that you were the author of- 

• Art. I. In the Number. 

t Art. II. a review of Blnnt'i Pi tiiffes of A notent Manner*, dba. 
% Art. iv, "Tlme'a Whispering Gallery." 


There was no time for me to write you with a slip, and I sent it to 

31 r. , begging him to consider it, and write me if he thought 

aid venture to make any alterations. I did not get his packet 
till Wednesday, and he then wrote that he could not be art or part 
in the murder of his own dedicator. In these circumstances, I 
thoughl it Bafest to let the article be for next number, that you 
might correcl it yourself. I hope you will think I have done right, 
and 1 would anxiously entreat of you to read the article as if it were 
written by some other person. Few of the readers of 'Maga' know 

and weak minds would be startled by some of your strong 

expressions.* It was chiefly on account of the length of the ex- 
tracts thai I delayed the 'Murderers,' as the extracts from Don 
Juan and Cobbett are so very long. The extracts in your article 
will make eight or nine pages. They are not set up, but I have got 
them all correctly copied out, and I return you the book. I am 
not very sure, however, if these horrid details are the kind of read- 
ing that the general readers of 'Maga' would like to have. Curious 
and singular they certainly are ; but then the number lies on the 
drawing-room table, and goes into the hands of females and young 
people, who might be shocked by such terrible atrocities, but you 
will judge of this yourself.f Before I received Mr. L.'s MS,, I had 
also made up a very singular story of a suicide, which I received 
from London, from a person who merely signs himself 'Titus.' 
O'Doherty's note is by Mr. L. I also wished him to try to make 
some little alterations in the article, and perhaps add a C. N. note. 
He had nol time, however, to do either the one or the other. Write 
me what you think of the article, as I fear it will be apt to startle 
weak minds. However, there is so much talent in it, that I think 
it will be liked, but not having more I delayed it. 'London Oddi- 
1 >y M r. Croly. ' Timothy, No. IX.' by Dr. Maginn. ' No. X,' 
by Mr. L. 'Andrew Ardent,' by Stark, and the Answer by Mr. 
('. Never was any thing better than your 'General Question,' 
though there are some strong things in it, which you had written 
in a real savage humor, and which will make certain good folks 
stare. The 'Director-General' and the 'Prize Dissertation' are 
capital bits. ' Heaven and Hell' no one could have done but your- 
self. After getting all these made up, I found I had got ten pages 

* These good :>'\\ tees were not lost on the writer, 
t The "Murderers" did not appear. 


beyond my quautity ; and as I could not leave out the small letter 
this month, I had no room for your articles on 'Tennant' and 'Mar- 
tin.' I enclose the slips of Tennant,' but I have not got 'Martin' 
set up yet. When you noticed Gait's ' Ringan Gilhaize,' you would 
recollect, I dare say, Doubleday's ' Tragedy.' I wish much you 
could give half an hour to it, which would suffice. He has not said 
much ; but in two or three of his letters he has inquired, in his 
quiet way, if we were not going to have some notice of his Tragedy 
in 'Maga.' As you probably have not a copy with you, I enclose 
one, in case you should be tempted to take it up. By the by, the 
Old Driveller is actually doing an article on 'Ringan Gilhaize.' I 
have seen him several times lately, and a few days ago, when he 
stopped half an hour in his carriage at the door, he told me he 
would give me his remarks on it very soon. I am truly thankful 
he has not thought of laying his pluckless paws on ' Reginald Dal- 
ton.' There really ought to be a splendid article on Reginald. I 
shall be very anxious till I hear from you, how you like this number. 

" W. Blackwood." 

"Edinburgh, October 18, 1823. 

" My dear Sir : — This has been a busy and a happy week with 
me. Every night almost have I been receiving packets from you, 
and yesterday's post brought me the Manifesto, which, you will see, 
closes so gloriously this glorious number. 

" It is indeed a Dumber worthy of the ever-memorable month of 
October. Though I have given twelve pages extra, besides keeping 
out the Lists, I am obliged to keep ' Wrestliana' for next month. 

"I have been terribly hurried to ge*. all to press, but I hope you 
will find your articles pretty correct. 1 took every pains I could. 

•• I hope you will write me so soon as you have run through the 
number, and tell me how you like it. There is so much of your own 
thai your task will be the easier. 'Tennant' is a delightful article, 
and will make the little man a fool higher. Hogg is beyond all 
praise, and he will be a most unreasonable porker if he attempt to 
hi- bristles in any manner of way. I prefixed 'See Nodes 
AmbrosianccJ and wrote Mr. L to insert a few words mure in the 
Nodes with regard to it. Be did not, however, think this neces- 
sary. Every one will be in raptures with ' Isaac- Walton;' and the 
Nodes is buoyant, brilliant, and capital from beginning to end. 


Well might you say that the ' Manifesto'* was very good. I shall 
weary till I have a letter from you telling me all about the number, 
and when you think you will be here. 

" 1 enclose you a copy of a letter I had from Mr. Blair a few days 
ago, with two articles. The one on Language seems very curious, 
but it is so interlined and corrected, that I must send him a proof 
of it, and desire him to send me the conclusion, as it would be a 
pity to divide it. The other article is an account of Raymond Lulii. 
It is in his sister's handwriting, and is very amusing, but there was 
not room for it, and it will answer equally well next month. 

" I do not know what on the face of the earth to do with the Old 
Driveller's critique on ' Ringan Gilhaize.' Whenever I hear a car 
riage stop, I am in perfect horrors, for I do not know what to say 
to him. I sent the MS. to Mr. L., but he returned it to me, and 
told me I ought to print it as it is, as it would please both author 
and critic. 

" I send it to you in perfect despair, and I would most anxiously 
entreat of you to read it, and advise me what I should do. It is as 
wretched a piece of drivelling as ever I read, and I am sure it would 
neither gratify Gait nor any one else, while it would most certainly 
injure the Magazine. If you cannot be plagued with doing any thing 
to it, you will at all events return it carefully to me by coach as 
soon as possible. 

" I have at last settled with Hookf for Percy Mallory. I hope 
it will do, though it contains not a little Balaam. There are many 
inquiries about the ' Foresters.' I hope you are going on. It as- 
tonishes even me, what you have done for 'Maga' this last week, 
and if you are fairly begun to the 'Foresters,' Stark will soon be 
driving on with it. 

" I enclose slips of Mr. St. Barbe's article, and an amusing one 
by Titus. With these and Stark's article, besides several others, I 
have a great deal already for next number. I am, my dear sir, 
yours very truly, W. Blackwood." 

We come now to the spring of 1824. In the merry month of 

' A ih.rt article, chiefly addressed to Charles Lamb, on his exaggerated displeasure at a critl 
cal observation by Southey. 

t rercy Mallory, 3 vols., 12mo., publiphed in December, 1823. It was written by Dr. Jamel 
■f Worcester, brother of Tieodore Hook. He was also author of f$n. Oiten,<fba, 
Bora 1773, died 182a 


May the usual happy party filling "His Majesty's Royal Mail" set 
out for the Lakes. Travelling in those days was a matter of more 
Berious consideration than now. The journey to Westmoreland 
was taken as far as Carlisle per coach ; the remaining distance was 
posted. The arrival at Elleray generally took place between eight 
and nine o'clock in the evening, long after sunlight had left the 
skies. A number of trivial associations are remembered in connec- 
tion Avith the approach to this beloved place. The opening of the 
avenue-gate was a sound never to be forgotten. The sudden swing 
of the carriage at a particular part of the drive, when it came in 
contact with the low-lying branches of trees (seldom pruned), drip- 
ping with a new fallen shower of rain, would send a whole torrent 
of drops upon the expectant faces that were peeping out to catch 
a first glimpse of the house, which, lighted up, stood on its eleva- 
tion like a beacon to guide travellers in the dark. 

This new Elleray was as much indebted to natural position as 
was the old. Trellised all over, there was no more than the space 
for windows uncovered by honeysuckle and roses. In a very short 
time it became as great a favorite as the old cottage; which, had 
it been lost sight of altogether, might have been more regretted. 
A letter from Mr. Blackwood will show what the Professor had in 
contemplation for this summer's work. 

" Edinburgh, 6th May, 182-1. 

•■ My dear Sir : — I had so much to do yesterday that I had not 
time to write you ; I hope you got all sale to Elleray, and as the 
weather i- so delightful, I expect to hear iu a day or two from you 
that you have fairly begun to the 'Foresters,'* and are driving ou 
it and every thing else to your heart's content. That yon may see 
what I am doing. I send yon what I have made np, and the slips of 
a long article by Dr. M'Neill,f which I received a few 'lays ago. I 
am not sure if there will be room for ii in this number, but we shall 
It i- curious and valuable. 

"I wish very much you would write a humorous article upon 
that thin-skinned person Tommy Moore's ' Captain Rock.' This is 
the way the l>o<»k should be treated. We have plenty of the Beri- 
■ n- materiel in Mr. R.'s article, ami if yon would only take up the 

• One of Wll o i'i ! ties, u ■■■ i not published until tbo following Jnne, I 325. 

tTl»J brother-in-la . , at that Uwu in roral*. 


Captain in your own glorious way, poor Tommy would be fairly 
dished. A* you probably have not the two last numbers of ' Maga' 
with you, 1 enclose them with ' Captain Rock.' 

" I have not heard from Dr. Maginn yet, which I am quite an- 
noyed at. He proposed himself that he would send me off regu- 
larly every Monday a packet under Croker's cover. 

" W. Blackwood." 

The next letter is from Lockhart, and is of varied interest : — ■ 

" 161 Regent Street, Monday, 1824. 
"Dear Professor: — Many thanks for your welcome epistle, 
which, on returning from Bristol yesterday, I found here with 
• Maga,' and a note of Blackwood's. By the way, you will be glad 
to hear I found poor Christie doing well, both in health and busi- 
ness. I spent three very pleasant days with him. I have seen a 
host of lions, among others, Hook, Canning, Rogers, Croly, Ma- 
ginn, Captain Morris* (not the Dr.), Botherby, Lady Davy, Lady 
C. Lamb—**** (I copy these stars from a page in Adam Blair), 
Miss Baillie, old Gifford, Matthews, Irving, Allan Cunningham, 
WilMe, Colburn, and Coleridge. The last well worth all the rest, 
and 500 more such into the bargain. Ebony should merely keep 
him in his house for a summer, with Johnny Dowf in a cupboard, 
and he would drive the windmills before him. I am to dine at Mr. 

* Charles Morris, once the idol of clubmen in London, was born in 1745, and died on July 11, 
1888, ninety-three years of age ! Mr. Lockbart's parenthetical reference to the Doctor is, of course, 
to his own nom de plume as Dr. Peter Morris, of Pensharpe Hall, Aberyswith. The following 
allusion to the •' Captain'" is taken from M. Esqmros' English at Home : — 

"Among the last names connected with the Beef-steak Club figures that of Captain Morris, 
b in in 1745, but survived most of the merry guests whom he amused by his gayety, his 
rich imagination, and his poetical follies. He was the sun of the table, and composed some of the 
ipular English ballads. The Nestor of song, he himself compared his muse to the flying- 
flsh. At the present day his Bacchic strains require the clinking of glass, and the joyous echoes 
• lib, nf which Captain Morris was poet-laureate. Type of the true Londoner, he pre- 
ferred town to country, and the shady side of Pall Mall to the most brilliant sunshine iilurui- 
Uting nature. Toward the end of his life, however, he let himself be gained over by the charms 
of tin- rural life he had ridiculed, and retired to a villa at Brockham given him by the Duke of 
Norfolk. Before starting, he bade farewell to the Club in verse. He reappeared there as a visitoi 
in 1 885, and the members presented him with a large silver bowl bearing an appropriate inscrip- 
tion. Although at that time eighty-nine years of age, he had lost none of his gayety of heart. 
I i short time alter, and with him expired the glory of the Club of which he had been 

one of the last ornaments. Only the name has survived of this celebrated gathering where so 
rll was expended, but it was of the sort which evaporates with the steam of dishes and 
'.f punch." 
t An Edinburgh short-hand writer. 


Gill man's one of these days. Irving,* you may depend upon it, is a 
pure humbug. He has about three good attitudes, and the lower 
notes of his voice are superb, with a fine manly tremulation that 
sets women mad, as the roar of a noble bull does a field of kine ; 
hut beyond this he is nothing, really nothing. He has no sort of 
real earnestness, feeble, pumped up, boisterous, overlaid stuff is his 

6taple ; he is no more a Chalmers than f is a Jeffrey. I shall do 

an article that will finish him by and by. * * * Neither Maginn nor 
any one else has spoken to me about the concerns and prospects of 
our friend. My belief is, that he has come over by Croker's advice to 
assist Theodore in Bull,\ and to do all sorts of by jobs. I also be- 
lieve that Croker thinks he himself will have a place in the cabinet 
in case of the Duke of York's being King, and of course M. looks 
forward to being snugly set somewhere in that event. It is obvi- 
ous that Hook, Maginn, and all this set hate Canning ; and indeed 
a powerful party of high ton (Duke of York at head thereof) 
is forming itself against his over-conciliation system. I am not 
able to judge well, but I still believe that Canning is the man no 
Tory Ministry can do without; moreover, that the Marquis of 
Hertford (the great man with Croker's party, and the destined 
Premier of Frederick I.) has not a character to satisfy the country 
gentlemen of England. I met Canning at dinner one day at Mr. 
Charles Ellis's; the Secretary asked very kindly after you, and 
mentioned that 'he had had the pleasure of making acquaintance 
with Mr. Blackwood, a very intelligent man indeed.' I am to dine 
with him on Saturday, when I shall see more of him. He was ob- 
viously in a state of exhausted spirits (and strength indeed) when 
I met him. Rogers told me he knew that Jeffrey was mortally an- 
noyed with llazlitt's article on the periodicals being in the Edin- 
burgh Review, and that it was put there by Thomas Thomson and 
John A. Murray,§ who were co-editors, while ' the king of men' 

* Edwaid [rving, the celebrated preacher, was at this tin, urds on the full tide of 

popularity. Mrs, Oliphant, In her recent biography, writes thus regarding Us famous Berraon 

■■ 'i here can bi little donbt that it 

wasfooll tofW bearers, and that after th was over, 

nine-tenths of then • wonder, or even with possible contempt, thai 

i visionary conception.' 1 
t A wejl-known Whig lawyi r. 
% I he John Bull • Uted by Theodore iiw.,k. 

§ Afterward! !-<>r<J Murray. 


was in Switzerland.* Wordsworth is in town at present, but con- 
fined with his eyes. I thought it might appear obtrusive if I called, 
and have stayed away. John Murray seems the old man; the 
Quarterly alone sustains him. Maginn says he makes £4,000 per 
annum of it, after all expenses, and as they really sell 14,000, I can 
easily credit it. Colburn is making a great fortune by his Library 
and altogether. I meet no one who ever mentions his magazine but 
to laugh at it. The N"o. of Ebony is fair, but not first-rate. Your 
talk of Murders is exquisite, but otherwise the N~octes too local by 
far. Maginn on Ritter Bann not so good as might be. The article 
on Matthews (I don't know whose) is just, and excellent criticism. 
Tins wedding of James's came on me rather suddenly. Perhaps 
you will be delayed in Auld Reekie for the sake of witnessing that 
day's celebration. My own motions are still unfixed, but I suspect 
I shall linger here too long to think of a land journey or the lakes. 
More likely to make a run in September, and see you in your glory. 
De Quincey is not here, but expected. Yours, 

" J. G. L. 
" I don't hear any thing of Matthew Wald here, but I would fain 
hope it may be doing in spite of that. Ask Blackwood to let me 
hear any thing. Can I do any thing for him here ? I am picking 
up materials for the Baron Lauerwinkel's or some other body's let- 
ters to his kinsfolk, 3 vols, post 8vo. Pray write a first-rate 
but brief puff of Matthew for next number Blackwood, or if not, 
say so, that I may do it myself, or make the Doctor.f I shall write 

B one of these days if any thing occurs, and at any rate he 

shall have a letter to C. N. speedily, from Timothy, on the Quar- 
terly or Westminster Reviews. A JVbctes from me positively." 

Passing over the various other topics touched on in this letter, 
how strangely do these words about "Frederick I." now sound 
upon the car! How little did the sagacious foresight of politicians 
calculate that every day an invisible hand was preparing the crown 
for a little child of five years of age, and that in the short space of 
M" fewer than five heirs of the royal line should 

• From Mr. Irm.^'s Memoir of Thomas Thomson,! see that the editorship of the Edinburgh 
■ in his hands more than once. "This foremost of Eecord scholars, the learned 
lceai antiquarian, and constitutional lawyer," died in 1852, aged i ighty-four. 

I qf Matthew Wall, a novel by Mr. Lockhart It was reviewed in the May num- 
ber ut Blackwod. 


pa-- away, leaving a clear and uninterrupted passage for the Prin- 
cess Victoria to the throne of these realms ! 
The next letter is equally characteristic : — 

"Abbotsford, Sunday, 2d January, 1825. 

"My dear Wilson: — I left London on "Wednesday evening, and 
arrived here in safety within forty-six hours of the ' Bull and 

" Our friend the Bailie* might probably show you a letter of Dr. 
Stoddartf about getting some literary articles for the Xeio Times. 
I saw Old Slop, and introduced Maginn to him. What the Doctor 
and he might afterwards agree about I can't say, but I do hope 
there may be a permanent connection between them, as among 
newspeople there is no doubt Stoddart is by far the most respecta- 
ble man, and there is every reason to fear M.'s propensities tending 
more frequently to the inferior orders of the Plume. 

"For myself, I accepted Dr. Stoddart's offer of his newspaper, 
to be repaid by a few occasional paragraphs throughout the year; 
and upon his earnest entreaty for some introduction to you, I ven- 
tured to say that I thought you would have no objection to receive 
the New Times on the same terms. 

•■ Whether he has at once acted on this hint I know not, but 
thoughl it best to write yon in case. 

" i- a pleasant thing to have a daily paper at one's 
breakfa-t-tahle all the year through. 

"It can cost us little trouble to repay him by a dozen half-columns 
— half of these maybe puffs of ourselves, by the way — and Southey 
and others have agreed to do the same thing en the same terms. So 
if tli'- X' W Times comes, and you don't wish it upon these terms, 
pray let me know this, that I may advise Slop. 

•• London i- deserted by the gentlefolks in the Christmas holidays, 
bo that I have little new-. I placed my brother, quite to my satis- 
faction and his, at Blackheath. As for the matter personal to my- 
self, of which 1 spoke tO ymi, I can only -ay that I left it in Croker'g 

• Mr Blackwood. 

T which «•»» 

nd oontlnncd until I82S) wu bom in 177". and died in 16 hii 

:!.■• author <>; ■ Local & ■ ' I i (Scotland 

1801; In ! <phy of Language; and tome b 

I.itinn-. hi the politico Mint day, he wu continually Introduced u» 


bands; he promising to exert himself to the utmost whenever the 
high and mighty with whom the decision rests should come back 
to London. I think, upon the whole, that there is nothing to be 
gained or denied except Lord Melville's personal voice; and it will 
certainly lie very odd if, every thing else being got over, he in this 
personal and direct manner shows himself not indifferent, but pos- 
itively adverse. 1 entertain, therefore, considerable hope, and if I 
tail shall not be disappointed certainly, but d — d angry. 

" 1 shall be in Edinburgh, I think, on Thursday evening, when I 
hope to find you and yours as well in health, and better in other 
respects, than when I left you. May this year be happier than the 
last ! Yours always, J. G. Lockhart." 

A letter from Mr. De Quincey, after a long silence, again brings 
him before us, as graceful and interesting as ever, though also, alas ! 
as heavily beset with his inevitable load of troubles. His letter is 
simply dated "London;" for obvious reasons, that great world was 
a safer seclusion than even the Vale of Grasmere : — 

"London, Thursday, February 24, 1825. 
" My dear Wilson : — I write to you on the following occasion : — 
Some time ago, perhaps nearly two years ago, Mr. Hill, a lawyer, 
published a book on Education,* detailing a plan on which his 
brothers had established a school at Hazel wood, in Warwickshire. 
This book I reviewed in the London Magazine, and in consequence 
ed a letter of thanks from the author, who, on my coming to 
London about midsummer last year, called on me. I have since 
become intimate with him, and excepting that he is a sad Jacobin 
(as I am obliged to tell him once or twice a month), I have no one 
fault to find with him, for he is a very clever, amiable, good creature 
as ever existed; and in particular directions his abilities strike me 
sjreal indeed. Well, his book has just been reviewed 
in the last Edinburgh Review (of which some conies have been in 
town about, a week). This service has been done him, I suppose, 
through some of his political friends (for he is connected with 
Brougham, Lord Lansdowne, old Bentham, etc.), but I understand 
f>y Mr. Jeffrey. Xow Hill, in common with multitudes in this 

re is, " Plans for the Government and Liberal In-tructioD of Boys la 
Urge numbers, drawn from Experience." Svo. London. 1S23. 


Babylon — who will not put their trust in Blackwood as in God 
(which, you know, he ought to do) — yet privately adores him as the 
devil; and indeed publicly, too, is a great proneur of Blackwood. 
For, in spite of his Jacobinism, he is liberal and inevitably just to 
real wit. His fear is, that Blackwood may come as Nemesis, and 
compel him to regorge any puffing and cramming which Tiff lias 
put into his pocket, and is earnest to have a letter addressed in an 
influential quarter to prevent this. I alleged to him that I am not 
quite sure but it is an affront to a Professor, to presume that he has 
any connection as contributor or any thing else, to any work which 
he does not publicly avow as his organ for communicating with the 
-world of letters. He answers that it would be so in him — but that 
an old friend may write sub rosd. I rejoin that I know not but 
you may have cut Blackwood — even as a subscriber — a whole lus- 
trum ago. He rebuts — by urging a just compliment paid to you as 
a supposed contributor, in the News of Literature and Fashion, 
but a moon or two ago. Seriously, I have told him that I know 
not what was the extent of your connection with Blackwood at any 
time; and that I conceive the labors of your Chair in the Univer- 
sity must now leave you little leisure for any but occasional contri- 
butions, and therefore for no regular cognizance of the work as 
director, etc. However, as all that he wishes — is simply an inter- 
ference to save him from any very severe article, and not an article 
in his favor, I have ventured to ask of you if you hear of any such 
thing, to use such influence as must naturally belong to you in your 
general character (whether maintaining any connection with Black- 
wood or not), to get it softened. On the whole. I suppose no such 
article is likely to appear. But to oblige Hill I make the applica- 
tion. He lias no direct interest in the prosperity of BLazelwood : he 
is himself a barrister in considerable practice, and of some standing, 
I bdi.-v. : but he takes a strong paternal interest in it, all his 
brothers (who are accomplished young men, 1 believe) being en- 
gaged in it. They have already had one shock to stand : a certain Mr. 
Place, a Jacobin friend of the school till jusl now. having tal 
with it — and removed bis sons. Now this Place, who was formerly 
a tailor— leather-breeches maker — and habit-maker— having made a 
fortune and finished bis studies— is become an immense authority 
;is a political and reforming bead with Bentham, etc., as also with 
(he Westminster Review, in which quarter be is supposed to have 


the weight of nine times nine men; whence, by the way, in the 
'circles' of the booksellers, the Review has got the name of the 
j: /,, s R< vi( w. 

" Thus much concerning the occasion of my letter. As to myself 
i — though I have written not as one who labors under much depres' 
M.n of mind — the fact is, I do so. At this time calamity presses 
upon me with a heavy hand: — I am quite free of opium :* but it 
has lefl the liver, which is the Achilles' heel of almost every human 
fabric, subject to affections which are tremendous for the weight of 
wretchedness attached to them. To fence with these with the one 
hand, and with the other to maintain the war with the wretched 
business of hack author, with all its horrible degradations — is more 
than I am able to beai\ At this moment I have not a place to hide 
my head in. Something I meditate — I know not what — ' Itaque 
e conspectu omnium abut.' With a good publisher and leisure to 
premeditate what I write, I might yet liberate myself: after which, 
having paid everybody, I would slink into some dark corner — 
educate my children — and show my face in the world no more. 

" If you should ever have occasion to write to me, it will be best 
to address your letter either ' to the care of Mrs. De Quincey, Ry- 
dal Nab, Westmoreland' (Fox Ghyll is sold, and will be given up 
in a few clays), or 'to the care of M. D. Hill, Esq., 11 King's Bench 
Walk, Temple :' — but for the present, I think rather to the latter : 
for cbe suspicions will arise that I am in Westmoreland, which, if I 
were not, might be serviceable to me; but if, as I am in hopes of 
accomplishing sooner or later, I should be — might defeat my pur- 

•• 1 beg my kind regards to Mrs. Wilson and my young friends, 
whom I remember with so much interest as I last saw them at El 
leray, — and am, my dear Wilson, veiy affectionately yours, 

" Thomas De Quincey." 

In the following letter from my father to his friend, Mr. Findlay, 
of Kaster Hill, he refers to the death of his venerable mother, which 
took place in December, 1824. The accident to my mother, to 
which allu>i<.ii is made, occurred in the previous summer; he war 
driving with her and the children one day in the neighborhood of 
Ambleside, when the axletree gave way, and the carriage was ov« 

• I p the very last he assorted this, but the habit, although modified, was never abandoned. 


turned while ascending a steep hill. "No very bad consequences to 
any of the party ensued at the time. Mrs. Wilson, however, felt 
the shock to her nervous system, which affected her health so as to 
cause her husband much anxiety. 

"29 Ann Street, March 2, 1825. 

" My deaeest Robeet : — Much did I regret not being at home 
when you called upon us lately. Both Mrs. Wilson and myself felt 
sincerely for your wife and yourself on your late affliction. I had 
heard from Miss Sym that there were few hopes, but also that the 
poor soul was comfortable and happy, and now no doubt she is in 

"I am sure that you too would feel for all of us when you heard 
of my mother's death ; she was, you know, one of the best of 
women, and although old, seventy-two, yet in all things so young 
that we never feared to lose her till within a few days of her de- 
parture ; she led a happy and a useful life, and now must be enjoy- 
ing her reward. I have suffered great anxiety about Mrs. "Wilson ; 
that accident* was a bad one, and during summer she was- most 
alarmingly ill. She is still very weak, and her constitution has got 
a shake, but I trust in God it is not such as may not be got over, 
and that the summer will restore her to her former health. She 

* The following letter from Principal Baird alludes to the same accident: — 

"University Chambers. July 23<l, 1824. 
"My dear Sir: — In the first place, to begin methodically, 1 beg to congratulate you on the 
hair-breadth escape which the newspapers told us you so happily made when your horse *.as 
restive and your gig on the brink of a precipice; and, in the second place, I beg t" remind you 
that the ; atitude for the deliverance, will be to — to compose some para- 

ind translations for the use of the Church. I shall be glad to learn, and to see proof 
that you ore thus employed. 

-I have got several excellent pieces from Mrs. Bemans and Mrs. Grant, of Laggan, lately, in 
addition to those which I had formerly from Miss Joanna Baillie, &c. 
•■ I am at presi nl bnsj in the transmission of papers through the Church in respect to 
for Increasing tin- means of edocation, of religious Instruction ch 

In three contiguous parishes there is a population of about 20,000, 

and above 18,000 of these i t |""S havi di rerbeen taught to read, [n another distrii 

i been taught Ought thi o be? 

•• I am particularly Lnten st< .1 in the Btate of tona. 111 supplied with a Bingle school, it has no 
I ■ aronbip. The minister is bound to pn l only four tim ear. He 

Ill-side, and from that neighboring coast of the mainland ; lie bi 

that hill si. I ■ of never less than 1. I pi i ions, Thl Is the Btate of lona, from « blch c u 

remote day to our mainland the light of literatun and religion, [wish you would write a pe- 
tition by Ions i d belp. St Ellda's privations have been Buppliod by public 

sympathy and bounty. L<t us not in. ..i -ii, M ,i. -t • hie i ' ho e plaids would 

uot (.T'/« warmer f 

I am, with great regard, yours must faithfully, 

"Ukokob IJauu»." 


loots well, bu1 is not so, and many a wretched and sleepless hour 
do I pass on her account. 

" It is so long since the meeting of the good old Professor's* 
friends, thai I need now say no more than that ail the arrangements 
nut with my most complete approbation, that I read the account 
with peculiar pleasure, and especially your speech and Dr. Maegill's. 
Whatever was in your hands could not be otherwise than proper 

and right. I have been much worried with my own affairs, ■ 

having entangled me in much mischief, even after he had ruined 
me, but I am perfectly reconciled to such things, and while my wife 
and family are well and happy, so will I be. Could I see Jane per- 
fect ly restored, I should dismiss all other anxieties from my mind 

'• I should like much indeed to see you at Easter Hill for a day or 
two ; my plans are yet all unfixed. Perhaps I may take a walk as 
far early in May. 

" I am building a house in Gloucester Place, a small street lead- 
ing from the Cirous into Lord Moray's grounds. This I am doing 
because I am poor, and money yielding no interest. If Jane is bet- 
ter next winter, I intend to carry my plan into effect of taking into 
my house two or three young gentlemen. Mention this in any 
quarter. Remember me kindly to your excellent wife. Your 
family is now most anti-Malthusian. Believe me ever, my dearest 
Robert, your most affectionate friend, John - Wilson." 

The house in Gloucester Place was completed and ready for habi- 
tation in 1826, and thenceforth was his home during the remainder 
of his lite. The plan of receiving young gentlemen into his house 
was never put into execution. 

About this time a proposal was made that a separate Chair of 
Political Economy should be instituted in the University of Edin- 
burgh, and that the appointment should be conferred upon Mr. J. 
R. M'Culloch, then editor of the Scotsman newspaper. Wilson's 
professorship combined the two subjects of Moral Philosophy and 
Political Economy, but up to this period he had not lectured on 
the latter topic: he therefore resented the movement as an inter- 
ce with his vested rights, and by appealing to Government 
succeeded in crushing the project. After this controversy (which 

* Professor Jardine. 


included a sharp pamphlet, in which the Professor, under the nom 
de plume of Mordecai Mullion, dealt somewhat freely with Mr. 
M'Culloch), he lectured on political economy. Two years later, we 
find that he was an advocate of free trade, as may be seen from his 
letter to Dr. Moir in the next chapter. Could his new studies — 
consequent upon complying with his friend Patrick Robertson's 
advice to prepare a course of lectures on political economy — have 
led to this result ? It is more than probable that De Quincey may 
also have intliienced his opinions on this head. 

The following letters, from Mr. Patrick Robertson, Mr. Huskis- 
Bon, Mr. Canning, and Mr. Peel, will show the interest taken by 
Wilson's personal and political friends as to the proposed Chair : — 

"Edinburgh, Tuesday, \Uh June, 1825. 

"My dear Wilson:— I have your last. Lockhart and Hope 
concur with me in thinking that the idea of a petition is out of the 
question. It Avould not do to enter the field in this way, unless 
victory were perilled on the success ; and what will be the lethargy 
of our leading Tories and the activity of the Whigs ? I should 
fear the result of a contest in this form. You seem to me to have 
made every possible exertion ; and there is only one thing more I 
musl urge upon you, a positive pledge to lecture on this subject 
next winter. You are quite adequate to the task, and this without 
Leaving Elleray. Books can easily be sent; and if you don't know 
aboul corn and raw produce, and bullion and foreign supplies, so as 
i.. hi' ready to write in December, you are not the man who went 
through tli' 1 more formidable task of your first course. A pledge 
of this kind would he useful, and when redeemed (if the storm 
were now over), would be a complete bar against future invasions 
of your rights. Think of this, or rather determine to do this with- 
out T i i i 1 1 k i 1 1 •_; of it, and it is done. 

• I don'1 see why you should leave your charming cottage to 
i if down lu-rc al present, aor how you can he of any further ser- 
vice than you have been. It i- strange there is do answer from the 
Big Wigs. Lord Melville writes nobody, and I fancy William 
Dundaa ha- his hands lull enough of Ids city canvass since that in- 

sane ass, , started. [ ara in hopes you will hear soon. Both 

Hope and Robert Dundas are anxious to do all in their power, and 
expeel this plol Will he defeated; hut [ see no way of preventing 


it ultimately, except your actual lectures on the subject. None of 
US will eome up this year, that you may have time to study, so 
study you must ; and don't you understand the old principle upon 
which the whole of this nonsensical science hangs? I assure you, 
without jest, we all deeply feel the insult thus offered to you and 
tin party, and I cannot believe it will ever be carried through. My 
hope is in Peel more than all the rest. Oh, for one dash of poor 
Londonderry! Ever yours faithfully, Pat. Robertson." 

"Board of Trade, 15th June, 1825. 

" Sir : — I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 8th 
instant, stating the grounds on which you conceive that the erec- 
tion of a new professorship in the University of Edinburgh, for the 
purpose of lecturing on Political Economy, would be an unfair in- 
terference with the rights, and consequent duties, which belong to 
the Chair of Moral Philosophy. 

" Without feeling it necessary to go into the question how far 
the mode of lecturing on political economy which has hitherto pre- 
vailed in the University of Edinburgh is the most desirable, and 
exactly that in which I should concur, if the whole distribution of 
instruction in that University were to be recast, I have no difficulty 
in stating that every attention ought to be paid, in looking at the 
present application, to the circumstances and consideration which 
you have stated. 

"The state of this case, as far as I know, is this : — An applica- 
tion has been made by memorial, from certain individuals, to the 
Government, for the sanction of the Crown to establish a profes- 
sor-hip of Political Economy in the University, the subscribers 
offering to provide a permanent fund for founding the new Chair, 
in like manner as has been done by a private gentleman (Mr. Drum- 
mond) in the University of Oxford. 

"This memorial has been referred by Lord Liverpool to the 
University of Edinburgh for their opinion, and no final decision 
will be taken by the Government until that opinion shall be re- 
i. Should the Senatus Academicus not recommend a compli 
ance with the prayer of the Memorial, I have every reason to be 
*hat it will not receive the sanction of Government, and I 
sonveyed that impression to the person who had put the me- 
morial into my hands. 


" I must therefore refer you, as one of that Senatus Acaderuicus, 
to your colleagues, who will, I have no doubt, give that opinion 
which shall appear to them most conducive to the furtherance of 
the important duties of the University, without prejudice to the 
individual right of any member of that learned body. I have the 
honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant, 

"\Y Huskissox." 

"Foreign Office, June 21, 1825. 
" Dear Sir : — The alarm under which your letter of the 8th was 
written, has, I think, subsided long ago, in consequence of the an- 
swers which your representations received from other quarters. I 
only write lest you should think that I had neglected your letter, 
or felt no interest in your concerns. I am, dear sir, your obedient 
and faithful servant, Geo. Canning. 

"Mr. Professor "Wilson." 

[Private.'] " Whitehall, June 21, 1825. 

" Sir : — The project of establishing a new and separate Profes- 
sorship of Political Economy in the University of Edinburgh did 
not receive any encouragement from me. I understand that it is 
altogether abandoned; and I have only, therefore, to assure you, 
that before I would have given my assent to it under any circum- 
stances, I should have considered it my duty to ascertain that the 
institution of a new Chair was absolutely necessary lor the pur- 
poses for which it professed to be instituted, and that the just privi- 
leges of other professors were not affected by it. I have the honor 
to be, sir, your obedient servant, Robert Peel. 

" Professor Wilboh, etc., etc., Edinburgh." 

Ee did qoI "leave his charming cottage," but very soon found 

more interesting work than political ecoi y to occupy his t houghts. 

Mr. Blackwood soon after writes of his "going <>n with another 
volume,'' and also says, " I rejoice, too, thai you are preparing your 
Outline-."* Of the "other volume" nothing more was heard. 
Some small portion of its intended contents was probably con- 

• In December, l 325, I (1ml advertised to be published, In one vol ,• tiu 

of u Oourn /"ii'i. by John Wilson, Professor of Moral Philosophy in u.k- Timor 

sity of Edinburgh ;' this book, however, ni -. 1 1 spp ur< d, 


tributed to a work presently to be spoken of; but from tbe letters 
in reference to that subject, il may be conjectured that some tales 
were written by him, which, if they ever appeared in print, are not 
hitherto identified with his name. Besides t lie three tales which 
hail already been published, Lights and Shadows, Margaret Tiynd- 
say, ami The Foresters, and two volumes of poems, no separate 
works of his appeared until the Recreations of Christopher North, 
in 1843. That he did not carry out his intention of preparing his 
Outlines is cause of regret. 

The next letter from Mr. Lockhart contains some reference to a 
literary project, of which the first idea appears to have originated 
with him. The name of Janus will doubtless be entirely new to 
the readers of this generation, and there are not many now living 
who are aware of the fact that the volume published under that 
name, in November, 1825, was chiefly the composition of Wilson 
and Lockhart. The fact that the publication was intrusted to any 
other hands than those of Mr. Blackwood I can only attribute to 
the fact — apparent, from some allusions in Mr. Lockhart' s letters — 
that he had by this time become rather impatient of Mr. Black- 
wood's independent style of treating his contributions. But for 
him the book would never have appeared, and as certainly my 
father would never have contributed. The plan was suggested ap- 
parently by the popularity of a class of books that began to appear 
in London in the preceding year, under the title of Annuals, such 
as the Forget Me Not, the Amulet, and Friendship's Offering. 
Tiny were adorned with engravings, and contained contributions 
from the pens of distinguished writers. The projectors of Janus 
thought it most prudent to make the success of their Annual de- 
pend on its literary merits alone, but it turned out that they were 
mistaken. Lockhart and Wilson undertook the editorship, and 
contributed the great bulk of the articles.* The following is a let- 
ter from Mr. Lockhart bearing on this subject. He was on the eve 
tarting for Ireland with Sir Walter Scott: — 

"Edinburgh, July Sth — (Starting). 
"My dear Wilson: — I am exceedingly sorry to find myself 

iave been Bent me, through the kindness of John Boyd, Esq., 
ma of Oliver & Boyd, the publishers of Janus, which show the interest and zeal with 
wMcb the work woe ough. 


leaving Edinburgh without having seen again or heard from you. 
I have no time to write at length, so take business in form. 

" 1st. I have seen Dr. Graham and David Ritchie to-day. They 
both are in spirits about the affair of the P. E.* chair. Peel has writ- 
ten to the Principal most favorably for you, and they both think 
the matter is settled. However, it is still possible a Senatus Academ- 
icus may be called, in which case you will of course come down. 

_'/. I have seen Boyd. He is in high glee, and has got many 
subscriptions already for Janus. I have settled that I shall, on 
reaching Chiefswood by the 12th of August, be in condition to 
keep Janus at work regularly, and therefore you must let me have, 
then and there, a quantity of your best MS. If you think of any 
engravings, the sooner you communicate with Boyd as to that mat- 
ter the better, as he will send to London for designs, and grudge 
no expense ; but this is a thing which does require timely notice. 

"I confess I regard all that as a very secondary concern. In the 
mean time I have plenty of things ready for Janus ; and the mo- 
ment I have from you a line poem or essay, or any thing to begin 
with (for I absolutely demand that you should lead), I am ready to 
see the work go to pr< 

"I therefore expect, when I reach home, to find there lying for 
me a copious packet from Elleray. 

"3'/. about to publish a Popular Encyclopaedia, in 

4 vols. 8vo, and lie has been able to get Scott, Jeffrey, Macken- 
zie to contribute. The articles are on an average one page and a 
half each, but each contributor, having undertaken a number of ar- 
ticles, is at liberty to divide the space among them as he pleases. I 
have undertaken a few heraldic and biographical things, and he is 
very anxious thai you should do the same. 

" For example, Locke, Hbbbes, Dr. Jieid: Would you take in 
hand f'> give him two or three pages each (double columns), con- 
densing the mosl wanted popular information as to these men? 
[f so, he would gladly jump, and 1 should certainly be much grati- 
fied, because 1 perceive in him the mosl sincere desire to have con- 
■ :i literary with your honor. 

^ Pray address to me, care of Captain Scott, 15th Hussars, Dublin, 
if you wish to write to me immediately ; if not, my motions are sc 
uncertain thai you had much better write to Constable himself, or 



to me when I return. As to the articles, nine of them are wanted 

t/iis l/">r. 

"I beg my best respects to Mrs. Wilson, and to all the bairns, 
greeting. Yours affectionately, J. G. Lockhart. 

About that time there was no small excitement at Elleray in the 
anticipation of a visit from Sir Walter Scott. Mr. Canning was 
also in the neighborhood, and there was a desire to do honor to 
both by some grand demonstration. On the 17th August, Lock- 
hart writes to Wilson, " On board the steamboat 'Harlequin,' half- 
way from Dublin to Holyhead:" — 

" My dear Wilsox : — Here we are, alive and hearty. Sir Wal- 
ter Scott, Anne Scott, and myself; and I write you at the desire of 
the worthy Baronet to say, that there has been some sort of nego- 
tiation about meeting Mr. Canning at your friend Bolton's. He 
fears Mr. Canning will be gone ere now, but is resolved still to take 
Windermere en route. We shall, therefore, sleep at Lancaster on 
Friday night, and breakfast at Kendal, Saturday morning. Sir W. 
leaves it to you to dispose of him for the rest of that day. You 
can, if Mr. Canning is at Storrs, let Col. Bolton know the move- 
ments of Sir W., and so forth ; or you can sport us a dinner your- 
self; or you can, if there is any inconvenience, order one and beds 
for us at Admiral LTllock's. We mean to remain over the Sunday 
to visit you, at any rate ; so do about the Saturday as you like. I 
believe Sir W. expects to call both on Wordsworth and Southey in 
going northwards; but I suppose if Canning is with you, they are 
with you also. Canning in his letter to Scott calls you 'Lord High 
Admiral of the Lakes.' 

"I am delighted to find that there is this likelihood of seeing you, 
and trust Mrs. Wilson is thoroughly restored. I have heard from 
nobody in Scotland but my wife, who gives no news but strictly 
domestic. Perhaps this will not reach you in time to let us find a 
Unft at Kendal informing us of your arrangements. Yours always, 

"J. G. Lockhart.'' 

Sir Walter, with his daughter, Miss Scott, and Mr. Lockhart, 
visited Elleray, as was promised, and remained therefor three days. 
Of this meeting Mr. Lockhart writes: — "On the banks of Winder- 


mere we were received with the warmth of old friendship by Mr. 
Wilson and one whose grace and gentle goodness could have found 
no lovelier or fitter home than Elleray, except where she now is."* 

All honor was done to the illustrious guest, and my father ar- 
ringed that he should be entertained by a beautiful aquatic specta- 
cle. It was a scene worthy a royal progress, and resembled some 
of those rare pageants prepared for the reception of regal brides 
beneath tlie dazzling sunshine of southern skies. "There were 
brilliant cavalcades through the woods in the mornings, and deli- 
cious boatings on the lake by moonlight, and the last day 'The Ad- 
miral of the Lake' presided over one of the most splendid regattas 
that ever enlivened Windermere. Perhaps there were not fewer 
than fifty barges following in the Professor's radiant procession 
when it paused at the Point of Storrs, to admit into the place of 
honor the vessel that carried kind and happy Mr. Bolton and his 
guest. The three Bards of the Lakes led the cheers that hailed 
Scott and Canning; and the music and sunshine, flags, streamers, 
and gay dresses, the merry hum of voices, and the rapid splashing 
of innumerable oars, made up a dazzling mixture of sensations, as 
the flotilla wound its way among richly-foliaged islands, and along 
bays and promontories peopled with enthusiastic spectators."! 

My father invited various friends from Scotland at this gay and 
notable time, to join in the general welcome given to Scott ; among 
others, he asked his old and esteemed friend the Professor of 
Natural History, Mr. Jameson,J who was reluctantly detained by 
his duties as editor of The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal : his 
letter is of sufficient interest to be given here: — 

"My dear Sib: — I have delayed from day to day answering 
your kind letter, in expectation of being able to make such arrange- 
ments as would allow me the pleasure of visiting you, but in vain ; 
and now I 6nd, from unforeseen circumstances, that I must forego 
the happiness of a ramble with you jhis season. My sister, or 
rather Bisters, who were to accompany me, and who beg their best 
wishes and kindest thanks to you for your polite invitation, wish 
all printers, and printers' devils, at the bottom of the Red Sea. 
They have been in a state of semi insurrection against me for some 

• /.< t Ibid. 


time, owing to the putting off of the expedition, but are now re- 
l to their fate. 

•• Edinburgh is at present very dull, and very stupid, and we are 
onl) kept alive by the visits of interesting strangers. 

"The adventures of the regatta have reached this, and my sisters 
expecl to hear from Miss Wilson, who, they presume, acted a dis- 
tinguished part in the naval conflict, an animated account of all that 
befell the admirals. Some German philosophers say that a man — 
that 1 presume does not exclude a professor — may be in many places 
at the same time. I was rather inclined to doubt the accuracy of 
this notion, but now it seems to be confirmed in yourself, for, on 
the same day, you were buried at Edinburgh, and alive and merry 
at Elleray* 

•• All here join in best wishes to your family and Mrs. Wilson, 
and believe me to remain yours faithfully and sincerely, 

"Rob. Jameson. 

" My dear sir, I hope you will not forget your promise of a paper 
for The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal. The effects of the 
scenery of a country on its population would form a very interest- 
ing topic, and one which affords an ample field for interesting ob- 

Soon after returning to Scotland, Lockhart writes, not in the best 
of spirits. What the opening allusion is to, I do not know : — 

" Chiefswood, Wednesday, 1825. 
'• My dear Wilson : — I have received your letter, and shall not 
more in regard to one part of its contents than that I ara 
heartily sensible to your kindness, and shall in all time coming re- 

* This refers to a practical joke of Mr. Lockhart's, but not known at the time to have origin- 
witb him; a joke which might have ended in painful results had it come untimeously to 
any one nearly connected with its object. It was no less than a formal announcement 
..: i i Men death in the leading columns of Tlie Weekly Journal, along with a 

gyric upon his character, written in the usual style adopted when noting the death of cele- 
bra!- [have not been able to find the paper, but I believe 't was only inferted in a 

very few copies. On a later occasion Mr. Lockhart amused himself in a similar manner, by ap- 
pending to a paper on Lord Robertson's poems in The Quarterly Review, the following distich: 

" Here lies the peerless paper lord, Lord Peter, 
Who broke the laws of God, and man, and metre." 

These lines were, however, only in one copy, which was sent to the senator; but the joke lay la 
: bcrtson's imagining that it was in the whole edition. 


6pect most religiously the feelings which I cannot but honor in you 
as to that matter. I hope I maybe as brief in my words about 
Mrs. Wilson. I trust the cool weather, and quiet of a few weeks, 
will have all the good effects you look forward to, and that I shall 
have the pleasure of seeing you all well and gladsome, in spite of 
all that hath been in the mouth of November. As for you, I do 
think it is likely we may meet earlier. All I know of Canning's 
motions is, that Sir W. Scott expects him at Abbotsford very early 
in October; the day not fixed that I know of. I cannot help think- 
ing that you would be much out of your duty, both to others and 
to yourself, if you did not come down ; for there is to be at least 
one public dinner in C.'s offer — I mean from the Pitt Club — and I 
think he can't refuse. You must come down and show that we 
have one speaker among us — for certes we have but one — unless 
the President himself should come forth on the occasion, which I 
take to be rather out of the dice. I know Sir W. also will be par- 
ticularly gratified in seeing you come out on such a field-day. I 
wish you would just put yourself into the mail and come to me 
here when C. leaves Storrs, and then you would see him at Abbots- 
ford, and at Edinburgh also, without trouble of any kind. The 
little trip would shake your spirits up, and do you service every 
way. I assure you it would do me a vast deal of good too. I have 
been far from well either in health or spirits for some time back, 
and indeed exist merely by dint of forcing myself to do something. 
I have spent five or six hours on Shakspere regularly, and have 
found that soii of work of great use to me, it being one that can 
be grappled with without that full flow of vigor necessary for any 
thing like writing ; and I wish you had some similar job by you to 
take up when the spirit is not exactly in its highest status. I heard 
grand accounts of you the Other day from the young Duke of Buc- 
cleuch and hie governor, Blakeney — a very superior man, by the 
way. It wouM make nu happy indeed to see you here, and 1 may 

say the same ofnol a few round about me. 

"I shall not 1'ail to Write J on again, if I hear any thing worth 
telling as to < '. ; but I think it more likely you should than 1, and I 
hope you will write m> if that be the case. 

••One word as to Ebony.* It 18 clear he mu-t go down now. 

Maginn, you have heard, I Buppose, is universally considered as the 

• Ti. ■ by which Mr. Blackwood «:i- known '■■)■ !ii^ oontrlbnton a 


Bole man of the John Bull Magazine ; a most infamous concern, 
and in general displaying a marvellous lack of every thing but the 
supremest impudence. I foresee sore rubs between Ebony and 

him. is exceedingly insolent when he has nobody near 

him, as is the case at present — cuts and maims — keeps back, etc* 
etc. ; in short, is utterly disgusting. 

" You will have perceived that I have done very little this sum- 
mer. How could I ? I am totally sick of all that sort of concern, 
and would most gladly say, ' farewell forever.' 

" Yours affectionately always, J. G. Lockhart." 

It appears that Mr. Canning did not visit Abbotsford, and the 
anticipated opportunity of showing that there was "one speaker" in 
Scotland did not therefore occur. 

The brilliant and versatile, but somewhat dangerous pen of Ma- 
ginn,* was at this time in full employment for the Magazine. In 

* William Maginn, alias Ensign O'Doherty, alias Luctus, alias Dr. Olinthus Petre, Trinity- 
College, Dublin, Ac., «fcc, was born at Cork in 1794, and died in London in 1842. This versatile 
writer and singular man of genius began to contribute to Blackwood in November, 1S19. Dr. 
Molr says that his first article was a translation into Latin of the ballad of "Chevy Chase," 
which was followed by numerous articles containing both wit and sarcasm, which Mr. Black- 
wood had to pay for in the case of Leslie v. Hebrew. Although he continued to write for Black- 
wood, the publisher was not acquainted with his real name, and the account of their first inter- 
view is amusingly told by Dr. Moir:* — 

" 1 remember having afterwards been informed by Mr. Blackwood that the Doctor arrived \u 
Edinburgh on Sunday evening, and found his way out to Newington, where he then resided 
It so happened that the whole family had gone to the country a few days before, and in fact the 
premises, except the front gate, were locked up. This the Doctor managed, after vainly ringing 
and knocking, to open, and made a circuit of the building, peeping first into one window and 
then another, where every thing looked snug and comfortable, though tenantless. He took oc- 
casion afterwards to remark, that no such temptations were allowed to prowlers in Ireland. 

"On the forenoon of Monday he presented himself in Princes street, at that time Mr. Black- 
p uee of business, and formally asked for an interview with that gentleman. The Doctor 
was previously well aware that his quizzes on Dowden, Jennings, and Cody of Cork (perfectly 
harmless as they were), had produced a ferment in that quarter, which now exploded in sending 
fierce and fiery letters to the proprietor of the Magazine, demanding the name of the writer, is 
he had received sundry notes from Mr. Blackwood, telling him the circumstances; and on Mi. 
Blackwood appearing, the stranger apprised him of his wish to have a private conversation with 
him. and this in the strongest Irish accent he could assume. 

"On being closeted together, Mr. Blackwood thought to himself— as Mr. Blackwood after- 
wards informed me — ' Here, at last, is one of the wild Irishmen, and come for no good purpose, 

"' Yon are Mr. Blackwood, I presume,' said the stranger. 

" ' I am," answered that gentleman. 

"•1 have rather an unpleasant business, then, with you,' he added, 'regarding some things 
which appeared in your Magazine. They are so and so, would you be so kind as to give me 
the name of the author?' 

• Dublin Unitertity Magatint, January, 1S44, which contains the fullest account of Maguin's life and writing* I h£T« 


the N~octes in particular, where the character of the composition 
allowed most freedom of expression, he took his full swing, and 
laid about him in true Donnybrook style. Whether the "sore 
rubs" anticipated by Lockhart occurred, I have no means of 
knowing; probably they did. That he sometimes caused consider- 
able annoyance to the judicious editor will appear from the follow- 
ing brief note to Wilson about this very time. The reference in 
the conclusion is to Mr. Blackwood's candidature for the office of 
Lord Provost, in which he was unsuccessful. 

" Edinburgh, August 22, 1825 
"My dear Sir: — I received your packet in time, and I hope 
you will find the whole correctly printed, though I was obliged to 
put to press in a great hurry. I only got Maginu's Song on Satur- 
day night, after I had put the sheets to press. 

" On Thursday I received from him some more of the Nodes, 
but I did not like them, as he attacked Moore again with great 
bitterness for his scmibs upon the King, and charged the Marquis 
of Hastings as a hoary courtier, who had provoked Moore with his 
libels upon the King. I have written him that it really will not do 
to run a-muck in this kind of way. I hope you will, on the whole, 

" ■itiat requires consideration,' said Mr. Blackwood ; 'and I must first be satisfied that — ' 
"' Your correspondent resides in Cork, doesn't he f You need not make any mystery about 
that. - 

•" I decline at present.' said Mr. B., 'giving any information on that head, before I know more 
of this business — of your purpose — ami who you are.' 

"Vol are very shy, sir,' said the stranger; 'I thought you corresponded with Mr. Scott, of 

Cork,' mentioning the assumed name under which the Doctor had hitherto communicated with 

thi Magazine, 

■• ■ I Ip.l' to decline giving any Information on that subject,' was the response of Mr. Blackwood. 

■••If you don't know him. then,' tputten •( oul tin- Btranger, 'perhaps, perhapB you con/// know 

four own handwriting, 1 at the same m nt producing a packet of letters from his side-pocket. 

i'on i I not deny your eo i with that gentleman; 1 am thai •_< utleman.' 

a :! -. tbewhimslcaj Introduction ol Dr Maginn to Mr. Blackwood; and after a cordial 

. the band and a hearty laugh, tin- pair were in a few minutes up to the elbows In 


From this time. 1820, till 18S i aed bis contributions more or less frequently. In 1S24, 

m Mr. Lockhart writes of aim, be was appointed foreign correspondent of Tlie Rep- 

this newspaper y nng lived, be was again thrown upon his resources. 

bj writing for the periodicals. Be assisted, as Mr, Lockhart 

Hook, In the • ohreputa is a polll leal writer, that 

menl < ( the Standard, I e was appointed joint editor of the latter. Be was nl- 

ted with the foundation ol Fraser's " 1880, and along with Fathor 

Mr. Hugh Eraser, and others gave that periodical bis heartiest support Be was then 

i ourted; but In 1884 be « i spondlng wltb 

;hiscontribul >. Strand, and from this time 

till his death ills condition was one Of •■ 



like this number, and that you will be in good spirits to do some 
thing very soon for next one. I fully expected to have had the 
pleasure of a letter from you either yesterday or to-day. 

" A letter from you, however short, is always a treat. The can- 
vass for the Provostship is as hot as ever, but the result does not 
now appear so certain as when I last wrote you ; still, I do not de- 
spair, and I trust we shall be successful. 

" I am, my dear sir, yours truly, W. Blackwood." 

Mr . Lockhart's temporary disgust at magazine writing did not 
affect his productive activity. Very soon after writing the foregoing 
letter, he was hard at work writing articles for Janus, which began 
to be printed early in September, and was published about the close 
of November, 1825. The various letters which passed between the 
editors and the publisher on the subject are entirely occupied with 
the details of " MS.", " slips," " proofs," and "forms." They con- 
tain, however, the materials for ascertaining the contributions of the 
two principal writers, a list of which will be found in the Appendix. 
The following letter from my father to Delta is given, as being the 
first communication between them which I have found, and as illus- 
trating his mode of discharging the delicate duty of telling a friend 
that his MS. is not " suitable." It is also his first letter dated from 
Gloucester Place : — 

" Gloucester Place, No. 8, Friday. 

" My dear Sir : — On my arrival here, a few days ago, I found 
in the hands of Messrs. Oliver and Boyd, an extract from a tale in- 
tended for Janus. As I take an interest in that volume, I trouble 
you with a few lines, as I know your handwriting. 

" I had intended writing to you to request a contribution to Ja- 
nus, but delayed it from time to time, uncertain of the progress that 
double-faced gentleman was making towards publicity. 

" ("py for 350 pages is already in the printer's hands, and I have 
about 120 pages of my own MS., and of a friend, to send in a few 
days, which, owing to peculiar circumstances, must make part of the 
volume, so that 470 pages may be supposed to be contributed. A 
number of small pieces too are floating about, which it is not easy 
to know how to dispose of. 

"I am, however, anxious that something of yours should be in 
this volume, and if it be possible, fhpre shall be, if you wish it. 


" The funeral scene is certainly good, natural, and true, and as 
part of a tale, I have no doubt it will be effective. Standing by it- 
self it does not strike me as one of your best things (many of which 
are most beautiful and most lively), and I should wish to have in 
Janus one that Zat least like better. 

" I had in my possession, some time ago, a MS. volume of yours 
containing several prose tales, one of which,* about a minister, a 
bachelor, I think, or widower, loving or being made to love his 
housekeeper, or somebody else, I thought admirable. Another tale, 
too, there was, of a lively character that I liked much, but I forget 
its name.f I generally forget, or at least retain an indistinct re- 
membrance of what gives me most pleasure. Had I that volume I 
would select a ta!-e from it for Janus. The worst of Janus is, that 
a page holds so little in comparison with a magazine page, that even 
a short story takes up necessarily great room. 

'•Should the volume prove an annual, I hope you will contribute. 

'•This is not a confidential communication. Mr. Lockhart and I 
have no objections to be spoken of as friends and contributors to 
Janus, but, on the contrary, wish to be. But let all contributors 
keep their own counsel. I am, my dear sir, yours with much re- 
gard, John Wilson." 

On her way to Edinburgh from Elleray, my mother was taken 
alarmingly ill, and was for some time in a very precarious state. 
This, combined with the labors of the opening University session, 
lefl little leisure for literary work; MS. for Janus was therefore in 
great demand, and proof-sheets had to be revised after the class 
hour in the Professor's "retiring-room." Some contributions had 
also been expected from Mr. De Quincey, which, however, did not 
make their appearance. The work at last came out in the form of 
a very finely-printed small octavo volume of 542 pages, which was 

sold at the prii f 12s. There were no embellishments beyond a 

vignette representation of the two-faced god, and do names were 
given on the title-page or in the table of contents. The preface an- 
nounces thai the volume is intended to lie t he firsl of a series, to be 
published annually early in November. It never went, however, 
1 its first number, not having received encouragement enough 

• TIim appeared in the volume under the title, "Saturdaj (Tight In the Manse. 11 
t Proboblj ■ 1 1 alei" 


to warrant the risk of a second trial. As the publisher dealt lib 
orally with the authors, we may inter that the book did not pay so 
well as it might have done with poorer matter and a lower price. 
There was, in fact, too much good writing in this now little-known 
volume: such a crop could not be "annual," and so it came up but 
once. Its name suggests the character of the subjects contained in 
its pages, which vary in range between the seriousness of philoso- 
phy and the facetiousness of genuine humor; as free from dulness 
in the one kind as from flippancy in the other. Among the shorter 
and lighter papers, there is one from the French, but not a transla- 
tion, that gives the history of a dog, " Moustache," whose charac- 
teristic individuality is as skilfully portrayed as if it had come from 
the hand of a literary " Landseer."* From the list of contents it 
will be seen that nearly the whole was produced by the editors. 
Of the few contributions by other hands, are Miss Edgeworth's 
witty "Thoughts on Bores," and one or two pleasant sketches by 

Mr. Lockhart left Chiefswood for London in December, 1825, to 
assume the editorship of the Quarterly Review. The following let- 
ter appears to have been written the day after he had taken posses- 
sion of the editorial chair : — 

" 25 Pall Mall, 23tf December, 1825. 

" My dear Wilson : — It was only yesterday that we got our- 
selves at length established under a roof of our own, otherwise 
you should have heard from me, and, as it is, I must entreat that 
whatever you do as to the rest of my letter, you will write imme- 
diately, to say how Mrs. Wilson is. I have often thought with 
pain of the state in which we left her, and, through her, you, and I 
shad not think pleasantly of any thing connected with you, until I 
hear better tidings. 

" Murray, from what he said to me, would answer Boyd's letter 
in the affirmative. I did not choose to press him, but said what T 
could with decency. f 

"As I feared and hinted, you are rather in a scrape about the 

* Of such is Dr. John Brown, who, in Our Dogs, has unravelled the instinctive beauties and 
ty of the canine race, with a delicacy of perception and cunning workmanship of 
truly admirable. "Eab'and " Moustache," in their devotion of purpose, would per- 
fectly have appreciated each other; but, alas! the faithful companion of " Ailie." and the bravo 
.ust remain for ever the heroes of their own tales. These are not dogs to he met 
I ry day: they come', like epic poems, after a lapse of ages, and like them are immortal, 

t frobubly refers to Murray becoming the London publisher of Janua. 


Uranus poem, the proprietor of it being some old Don, who for these 
seven years had dunned Murray constantly, the bookseller in the 
mean time writing, he says, to Blackwood, equally in vain. 

" One thing remains; that the whole MS. he forthwith transmit- 
ted to Murray ; in that case the old gent, may probably never know 
of the printing of any part. I fear the volume is heavy on the whole ; 
but T know the deepness of my own prejudice against metaphysical 
essays, and would fain hope it is not largely partaken. 

" Maginn is otf for Pari-;, where I hope he will behave himself. 
He has an opportunity of retrieving much, if he will use it. I 
think there can be nothing in his removal to injure his writings in 
-Blackwood, but au contraire, and certainly nothing to diminish 
their quantity. 

" Mr. has yesterday transferred to me the treasures of 

the Review ; and I must say, my dear Wilson, that his whole stock 
is not worth five shillings. Thank God, other and better hands are 
'at work for my first number, or I should be in a pretty hobble. 
My belief is that he has been living on the stock bequeathed by 
Gifford, and the contributions of a set of d — d idiots of Oriel. 
But. mind now, Wilson, I am sure to have a most hard struggle to 
get up a very good first Number, and, if I do not, it will be the 
Devil. I entreat you to cast about for a serious and important 
subject ; give your mind full scope, and me the benefit of a week's 
Christmas leisure. 

'•Murray's newspaper concerns seem to go on flourishingly. 
The title, I am rather of belief, will be 'The Representative,'* but 
he has not yet fixed. 

"I shall write you in due time, and at length, as to thai busi- 

■As for me personally, every thing goes on smoothly. 1 have 
tin- kindesl letters from Southey, and indeed from •/// the real sup- 

• Hurray's n< wspaper coni i rnj >ii'i n »l ■.' i on " flourishingly," as mi r. be gathered from U 
lowing iM»t > •:— " v. I for editor, and witty Dr. Maginn for P 

r. /v., liepn ontnlivi (price 7d.), began its lnnuspictons 
I I buried dis- 

irl Bod unhappy career of six months, / expired of debility 

[juent 20th of July. The Thames was not on Are, and Prln 
calm L When, In 

John lent opening for a new daily paper, ho of Albi wonld shake 

his head, and with rather a mclanchol; . countenance, pointing to -i thin folio on lus 

slifch' burled there." 1 -'-' n rl ■ : Publishing 


porters of the Review. Give my love to Cay, and do now write, 
write, write to yours affectly., J. G. Lockhart." 

During the following year my father contributed no less "than 
twenty-seven articles, or portions of articles, to the Magazine, in- 
eluding the following, afterwards republished, in the collected works 
by Professor Ferrier :—" Cottages," "Streams," "Meg Dods," 
'• Gymnastics." The only month in which nothing of his appeared 
was May; the month of April, which closed the session, being his 
busiest at the College, except November. During the autumn of 
this year, business of some importarce obliged him to go into 
Westmoreland. He was accompanied by his daughter Margaret 
and his son Blair, and during his absence wrote regularly to his 
wife, giving pleasant local gossip and descriptions of the improve- 
ments at Elleray. The dinner at Kendal, of which he speaks, was 
one of political interest connected with the Lowther family, at 
which he, as a matter of course, was desirous to be present. Mrs. 
"Wilson's brother-in-law, Mr. James Penny Machell of Penny Bridge, 
was High Sheriff that year at the Lancaster Assizes, which accounts 
for the allusions to the trials, besides that some of them excited un- 
usual interest. 

"Kendal, 22d August, 1826, 
Tuesday Morning, Half-past Tliree. 

"My dearest Jane: — I wrote you a few lines from Carlisle, 
stating our successful progress thus far, and we arrived here same 
night at half-past eleven. Not a bed in the house, nor any supper 
to be got, the cook having gone to bed. I however got Maggie 
and Blair a very nice bed in a private house, and saw them into it. 
I slept, or tried to do so, on a sofa, but quite in vain. In a quarter 
of an hour we set off for Elleray in a chaise, which we shall reach 
to breakfast about half-past ten. We are all a good deal disgusted 
with our reception last night in this bad and stupid inn. 

" It is a very fine day, and Elleray will be beautiful ; I should 
think of you every hour I am there, but to-morrow you know I am 
to be in Kendal again, and shall write to you before the dinner. I 
have seen nobody in the town whatever, and, of course, heard 
nothing about the intended meeting. The Mackeands were hanged 
yesterday (Monday), and I have just been assured that the brother 
Wakefield, who was to have been tried on Saturday, has forfeited 


his bail, and is off, fearing from the judge's manner that be would 
be imprisoned — if be stood trial — five years.* So there will be no 
trial at all at Lancaster. I hope, therefore, yet to be at Hollow 

" Think of my bad luck in losing seven sovereigns from there 
being a hole in my lecturing pantaloons. All the silver fell out of 
the one pocket, which Blair picked up, but the sovereigns bad 
dropped forever through the other. 

"I will write as often as possible, and tell you all that I hear 
about the various places and people. Kindest love to Johnny and 
Mary, who will have their turn some day, and also to the lovely 
girl and George "Watson. 

" The chaise is at the gate, and is an open carriage. 

" I am, my dearest Jane, ever your affectionate husband, 

" John Wilson." 

"Kexdal, August 23, 1826, 
Wednesday Night, Twelve o'clock. 

" My beloved Jane : — The dinner is over, and all went well. 
Your letter I have just received, of which more anon. Why did 
you not write on Monday night ? but thank God it is come now. 
We are all well, and my next, which will be a post between, shall 
be a long, descriptive, full and particular account of every one 
thing in the country. It is your own fault that this is not a long 
letter, for my misery all day has been dreadful. Mr. Fleming was 
with me all day, and was the kindest of friends; and George Wat 
son will, I am sure, write for you. 

" I shall see the Machells, who have returned borne, and well, I 
band. Once more, God bless and protect you | and gel your 
spectacles ready for next letter, which I shall have time to write at 
Lei gth. Hitherto I have not had an hour. 

"To-morrow, at Elleray, I shall write an admirable epistle. 
"Your affectionate husband, 

"John Wilson. 

"Love to Johnny, Mary, dmbs, and George Watson." 

• dswere brothers, who had committed an atrocious murder on the Inhabit 

yttaofan The "brother Wo >n than Edward 

G Wakefield, whoae ahameful deception wore a strange romanos around the Ufa of Helen 

Turner, n-vl furnished to tfiu annals of law one of the most peculiar oases has over been 



"ELLEBA.Y, August, 1826, 
Thursday Forenoon. 

" My dearest Jane: — I shall give you a sort of precis of oui 
movements. On Tuesday morning, at nine o'clock, we left Kendal 
in an open carriage, and reached Elleray before eleven. The day 
was goodish, indeed excellent at that time, and the place looked 
beautiful as of old. A handsome new rail runs along from the junc- 
tion of the new avenue, all along to front of the new house, and has 
a parkish appearance — painted of a slate color. The house we found 
Btanding furnished and in all respects just as we left it, so that, I 
suppose, the family have just walked out. The<plants in the entrance 
reach near the roof, one and all of them, but have few flowers, and 
must be pruned, I fear, being enormously lank in proportion to their 
thickness, but all in good health. The little myrtles are about a 
yard high, and in high feather. The trees and shrubs have not 
grown very much — it seems a bad year for them ; but the roses and 
smaller flowers have flourished, and those sent from Edinburgh were 
much admired. The walks in the garden are all gravelled neatly; 
the bower is as green as the sea, and really looks well. The hedge 
lately planted round the upper part is most thriving, and straw- 
berry-beds luxuriant; in short, the garden looks pretty. The crops 
in the fields are bad, as all in the country are. 

" In an hour or two after our arrival it began to rain and blow 
and bluster like Brougham, so I left the house. Dinner was served 
in good style at six ; fowls, fish, and mutton. In the evening Wil- 
liam Garnet came up, and was, as you may suppose, in a state of 
The boy is well, and I am to be his godfather by proxy. On 
Wednesday morning, I never doubted but there would be a letter 
from you, as I made you promise to write every night at six; but I 
never make myself understood. It gave me great pain to find there 
was none; but this I alluded to before, so say no more now, but 
will give you a viva voce scold for it. Fleming went with me in the 
chaise to Kendal, and at half-past three we sat down to dinner: 
Lord Lowther and Portarlington (pronounced Polington), Colonel 
Lowther, Henry Lowther, Howard of Levens, Colonel Wilson, Noel 
of CTnderlay, Bolton, the little Captain, and fifty-six others. It went 
oil' with eclat, and I speechified a little, but not too much, and gave 
satisfaction. Barber came over on purpose, and is evidently in the 
clouds about what I said of his cottage, although he made no allusion 


to it. The ball iu the evening was apparently a pleasant one, but 
thin, as it was only fixed that morning that there was to be one. 
At twelve o'clock the mail came in, and I went down myself to the 
Post-Office, and got the postmaster to open the bag, and, lo and be- 
hold, your letter of Tuesday, which took a load of needless anxiety 
off my soul. God bless you ! I returned to the inn, and Barbel 
took me immediately in his chaise to Elleray, which we reached 
about two, and had a little supper ; he then went on, and I to bed. 
"I am now preparing, after sound sleep, to call at the Wood and 
Calgarth. We shall dine at the Wood. The children were to have 
dined there yesterday, but the rain prevented them. Mrs. Barlow 
came up in the evening, they tell me, with Miss North. Gale was 
found guilty of two assaults at Lancaster, but the anti-Catholic doc- 
tor allowed him to get off without fine. How absurd altogether the 
quarrel originating in Catholic Emancipation. I shall probably go 
to Penny Bridge on Saturday, but will write again to-morrow, so 
send to the Post-Office on Saturday evening, and on Sunday too, 
fur letters are not delivered till Monday. But be sure you, or Mary, 
or Johnny, or George Watson, write every night, till farther orders. 
The little pony, Tickler, and Nanny, the cow, are all well, so is Star; 
( iolonsay is sold for four pounds. The last year's calf is as large as 
any cow, and there is another calf and two pigs. I shall give you 
any news I hear in my next. I will write to Johnny soon. Your 
affectionate and loving husband, John Wilson." 

The " Colonsay" mentioned here as sold " for four pounds," had 
bc.-n at one time a pony of remarkable strength and sagacity. A 
few summera previously, my lather became acquainted with a Mr. 
Douglas, who, vrith his family, was then residing near Ambleside. 
Tiii- gentleman possessed a handsome and prepossessing appear- 
ance; beyond that he had not much to recommend him, being nothing 
but a sporting character, and was after a time discovered not to he 
sans /'<"/■ and sans t<></,,. Eowever, he visited in all directions, 
frequently coming t<> Elleray. < me day he appeared, mounted ow a 

very fine animal, which he said was thorough-bred, and an unrival- 

[ed trotter. Thie Btatemenl gave rise to Rome discussion on the sub- 
jecl of trotting, d propos of which, Wilson brought forward the 
merits of a certain gray cob in his possession, half jestingly propos- 
ing a match between it and the above-mentioned "tl ughbred." 


Mr. Douglas was delighted to meet with an adventure so entirely 
to his taste, so then and there the day and hour was fixed for the 
mat eli to come off" — a fortnight from that time. 

It is a long-ago story, but I well remember the excitement it ere 
ated in the manage at Elleray, and the unusual care bestowed upon 
the cob, — Low his feet were kept in cold cloths, and how he was 
fed, and gently exercised daily. In short, the mystery about all the 
ongoings at the stable was most interesting, and we began to regard 
with something akin to awe the hitherto not more than commonly 
cared for animal. 

At last the day anxiously looked for arrived. Full of glee and 
excitement we ran — sisters and brothers — down the sloping fields, 
to take a seat upon the top of a wall that separated us from the road, 
and where we could see the starting-point. " Colonsay" Mas led in 
triumph to meet his fashionable rival, whose "get-up" was certainly 
excellent. Both rider and horse wore an air of the turf, while my 
father, in common riding dress, mounted his somewhat ordinary- 
looking steed, just as a gentleman would do going to take his morn- 
ing ride. At last, after many manoeuvres of a knowing sort, Mr. 
Douglas declared himself ready to start, and off they set, in pace 
very fairly matched, — at least so it seemed to us from the Elleray 

To Lowood, as far as I remember, was the distance for this trial. 
Umpires were stationed at their respective points on the road, and 
Billy Balmer kept a steady eye from his station upon "Colonsay," 
whose propensity for dashing in at open gates was feared might ruin 
his chance of winning. Meantime, the juvenile band on the wall, 
along with Mrs. Wilson, were keeping eager watch for the messen- 
ger who was to bring intelligence of the conquering hero; and how 
great was their delight when in due time they heard that " Colonsay" 
had won the day; Mr. Douglas's much boasted of trotter having 
broken into a canter. 

This trotting match with the handsome adventurer, was the origin 
of "Christopher on Colonsay" in the pages of Blackwood, which 
did not appear, however, till ten years afterwards. 





O-ve who knew my father well, said, "That in the multiform 
nature of the man, his mastery over the hearts of ingeneous youth 
was one of his finest characteristics. An essay or poem is submitted 
to him by some worthy young man, he does not like it, and says so 
in general terms. The youth is not satisfied, and, in the tone of one 
rather injured, begs to know specific faults. The generous aristarch, 
never dealing haughtily with young worth, instantly sits down, and 
begins by conveying, in the most fearless terms of praise, his sense 
of that worth ; but, this done, woe be to the luckless piece of prose 
or numerous verse ! Down goes the scalpel with the most minute 
savagery of dissection, and the whole tissues and ramifications of 
fault are laid naked and bare. Thf young man is astonished, but 
his nature is of the right sort ; he Lever forgets the lesson, and, with 
bands of filial affection stronger than hooks of steel, he is knit for 
life to the man who has dealt, with him thus. Many a young heart 
will recognize the peculiar style of the great nature I speak of. This 
service was once done to Delta ; he was the young man to profit by 
it, and the friendship was all the firmer."* Mr. Aird probably 
alludes to the following letter, written by Professor Wilson in Jan- 
uary, 1827, to his friend Dr. Moir: — 

"My drab Sir:— Allow me to write you a kind letter, sug. 

ted l>v the uon-insertion of your Christmas verses in the last 

number a Letter occasioned rather than caused by that 

circumstance — for i have often wished to tell you my mind about 

yourself and your |>oetry. 

•• I think jou— and I have no doubl about the soundness of my 
opinion one of the most delightful poets of this age. Fou have 
not, it is true, written any one great work, and, perhaps, like my- 

■ never will; hut you have written very many exquisitely beau- 
tiful poem* which, as time rolls on, will be finding their way into 

* Thouins Alrd's Memoir qf O. M. Motr, 


the mindful hearts of thousands, and becoming embodied with the 
corpus of t rue English poetry. The character and the fame of many 
of our finest writers are of this kind. For myself, I should desire no 
other — in some manner I hope they are mine ; yours they certainly 
are, and will be more and more as the days and years proceed. 

"Hitherto, I have not said as much as this of you publicly, and 
for several good reasons. First. It is best and kindest to confer 
praise after it is unquestionably due. Secondly. You, like myself, 
are too much connected with the Magazine to be praised in it, ex- 
cept when the occasion either demands it or entirely justifies it. 
Thirdly. Genevieve is not my favorite poem, because the subject is 
essentially non-tragic to my imagination, finely as it is written. 
Fourthly. I shall, and that, too, right early, speak of you as you 
ought to be spoken of, because the time has come when that can be 
done rightfully and gracefully. Fifthly. I will do so when I feel 
the proper time has come ; and, lastly, As often as I feel inclined, 
which may be not unfrequent. I love to see genius getting its due ; 
and, although your volume has not sold extensively, you are not- 
withstanding a popular and an admired writer. 

" Having said this much conscientiously, and from the heart, I 
now beg leave to revert to a matter of little importance, surely, in 
itself, but of some importance to me and my feelings, since, un- 
luckily, it has rather hurt yours, and that too, not unnaturally or 
unreasonably, for I, too, have been a rejected contributor. In one 
respect you have altogether misconceived Mr. Blackwood's letter, or 
he has altogether misconceived the very few words I said about the 
article. I made no comparison whatever between it and any other 
article of the kind in 'Maga,' either written by you or by any one 
else. But I said that the Beppo or Whistlecraft measure had be- 
come so common, that its sound was to me intolerable, unless it was 
executed in a transcendent style, like many of Mr. Lockhart's stan- 
zas in the Mad Banker of Amsterdam, which, in my opinion, are 
equal to any thing in Byron himself. Your composition, I frankly 
and freely say now, will not, in my opinion, bear comparison, for 
strength and variety, with that alluded to. I said further, that 
there had been poems, and good ones too, without end, and also in 
magazines, in that measure ; that it had, for a year or so, been al- 
lowed to cease, and that I wished not to see its revival, except in 
some most potent form indeed. That is all I said to Mr. Black- 


wood. I will now say, further, in defence or explanation of the ad- 
vice I gave him, that the composition is not, in my opinion, pecu- 
liarly and characteristically Christopherish, and therefore, with all 
its merit, would not have greatly delighted the readers of k Maga' 
at the beginning of a new year. Secondly. The topics are not such 
as Christopher, on looking back for two or three years, could have 
selected, and many important ones are not alluded to at all. That 
to me is a fatal objection. Thirdly. There are occasional allusions 
that are rather out of time and place, and seem to have been — as I 
believe they were — written, not lately, but a good while ago. So 
that I do not now, as I did not then, think it a composition that 
would have graced and dignified a new year's number, preceding 
all other articles, as a sort of manifesto from the pen of C. N., and 
this, partly from its not being very like him in style, but chiefly 
from its being very unlike him in topics. 

"Having said so much, I will venture to say a little more, well 
knowing that my criticism will not offend, even although it may not 
convince.* Of the first four stanzas, the first is to me beautiful, the 
second moderately good, the third, absolutely bad, and the fourth, 
not very happy, Irving and Rowland Hill being better out of 
North's mind altogether on a Christmas occasion. The nineteenth 
stanza is. T think, very had indeed, no meaning being intended, and 
the expression being cumbrous and far from ingenious. Twentieth 
stanza I Bee no merit in at all, nor do I understand it, I hope, for I 
trust there is more meaning in it than meets my ear. Jeffrey's ago 
was a had joke at the first, worse when repeated in a Christmas 
Carol for 1827-28. The v. hole stanza displeases me much. Twen- 
ty-four is pretty well, but by no means equal to what would have 
been the view-holloa of old C. X. on first tally-hoing a Whig. The 
last line of it does not tell, or point to any one person ; if so, not 
distinctly. Twenty-fifth contains a repetition of what has been 
many thousand times repeated in 'Maga,' usqrM ad nauseam, by 
thai eternal Londoner from Yorkshire, and wants the tree freshness 
with which C. N. would have breathed out himself on such a topic, 
if at all. Perhaps I dislike twenty-eighth stanza, because I am by 
do means political economy, and never can join in the cry 

* Ti ra follow e (fiveo entta 

us express*-'] in /. | .in, Wilson. 


in the Magazine against free trade. Tweuty-ninth stanza is neither 
id nor bad perhaps, but it leans towards the latter. Thirty-third 
is written, I fear, in the same vein with much of our enemies' abuse 
against us. Thirty-fourth opens inefficiently with Eldon. He is a 
tine old fellow, but in some things a bigot, and getting very old ; 
yet 1 love and respect him, as you do. Still this, and stanzas thir- 
ty-liith, thirty-sixth, and thirty-seventh are not glorious, and free, 
and exulting, but the contrary, and the list of our friends is too 
scanty. Thirty-sixth is unworthy of Sir Walter, and A, and C. N., 
and J. W. Pardon me for saying so. In stanza fortieth I did not 
expect any thing more about Time, and be damned to him ! All 
the stanzas that follow to forty-sixth, inclusive, are excellent, and in 
themselves worthy of A. But what if there be no snow and no 
skating at Christmas? No appearance of it at present. Besides, 
in such an address, they are too numerous. Forty-seventh, forty- 
eighth, and forty-ninth are feeble in the extreme ; and the recipe 
for hot-pint, although correct, especially so. 

'•Finally, the composition, as a whole, is of a very mediocre 
character, in the opinion of your kind friend and most sincere 
admirer, Professor Wilson. 

"I have never, in the whole course of my life, given an opinion 
in writing more than three lines long, of any composition of any 
man, whom I did not know to be a man of genius and talents. 
I have given you this long, scrawling, imperfectly expressed opinion 
of your verses, because I had already let you know that it was 
unfavorable, and therefore there is no impertinence in giving some 
of the reasons of my belief. 

" That you should agree with me wholly is not to be expected ; 
but that you will agree with me partly, I have no do-abt, by and 
by. I say so from experience, for I have often and often seen, all 
al once, compositions of my own to be good for little or nothing, 
which 1 had at the time of writing them thought well of, and even 

"One thing I know you are wrong in, and that is in your pre- 
ferring thi- composition to all you ever wrote for 'Maga.' You 
have written for 'Maga' many of the most delightful verses that are 
in the English language, and as for ' Mansie Waugh,'* it is inimitable, 

* Tht r ' " "'■'/■''. Ta <ilor in Dalkeith. 12mo. Edinburgh, 182S. A work fill 

•f humor, and abounding in faithful sketches of Scottish life an<' manners. 


and better than Gait's very best. That it should have stopped — if the 
fault of Mr. Blackwood — is to me inexplicable and very displeasing, 
:;nd I have more than once said so to him, for nothing better ever 
was in ' Maga' since she was born. Mr. Blackwood certainly 
thought the rejected composition a good one, and it was owing to 
me that it was rejected. I take that on my own head. But that 
'Mansie Waugh' should be stopped, is to me disgusting, because 
it was stopped in my teeth, and in yours who have the glory of it. 

" Let me conclude with the assurance of my esteem for you, my 
dear sir, no less as a man than an author. I am happy to know (hat 
you are universally esteemed where you would wish to be, in your 
profession, and in your private character, and that your poetical 
faculty has done you no harm, but on the contrary great good. 

"I wish you would dine with us on Saturday <it six o'clock. I 
expect De Quincey, and one or two other friends, and there is a 
bed for you, otherwise I would not ask you at so late an hour. 

" I am yours affectionately, John Wilson." 

With the above exception, the memorials of this year are con- 
fined to the pages of Blackwood, to which he contributed in one 
month (June), when a double number was published, six of the 
principal articles. How little he thought of knocking off a Xoctes 
when in the humor, may be judged from a note to Mr. Ballantyne, 
the printer, in which lie says: — "I think of trying to-day and 
to-morrow to write a 'Noctes.* Would you have any objec- 
tion to be introduced as a member? Would your brother? Of 

( "se I need not say, that, with a little fun, I shall represent you 

both in the kindesl feeling. Pray let me know. 

" Yours very truly, John Wilson - . 

"Subject: — A party are to assemble in the JVeio Shop to dinner." 

The following note to the same gentleman may come in as a 
minor illustration of the "calamities < f authors:" — 

"Lasl night about < /< r, ,, o'clock, I '_■■"! two proofs to oorrect, 
whidi took me nearly t/,r>> hours. I ordered the boy, therefore, 
to go away, and come early in the morning. It is exactly half-past 
eight, and I have had the luxurj of three hourR' work after supper 
for no end whatever, instead of indulging in it before breakfast. 


Yet to gel <ni is, I understand, of great importance. Here, then, 
are hours on hours lost, not by me assuredly; then by whom ? 

•• Why the devil does not the devil hasten himself of an August 
morning? What right can any devil, red-hot from Tartarus, have 
to disturb me, who never injured him, for three long hours including 
midnight, all fur no purpose buttomake me miserable? 

; I am, my dear sir, very wroth ; therefore, see henceforth, that 
delays of this kind do not occur, for though I am willing to work 
when necessary, I am not willing to sacrifice sleep, and sometimes 
suffer, which is worse, from want of arrangement or idleness in the 
infernal regions. Yours sincerely, 

" John Wilson". 

" Thursday morning. — With two corrected proofs lying before 
me for several hours needlessly at a time when they are most wanted 
in the Shades." 

In the month of July of this year, my mother writes to her 
sister : — 

" We are all quite well, and looking forward to a few weeks' stay 
on the banks of the Tweed with great pleasure. I forget whether 
I mentioned when I last wrote to you that Mr. Wilson had taken 
lodgings at Innerleithen (about six miles from Peebles). We go 
on the 2d of August, the day after the boys' vacation commences. 

" Mr. and Mrs. Lockhart and their two children are come here 
this summer, I am sorry to say the latter in search of health. Mr. 
L. is looking well, and not a bit changed in any respect. 

" Ebony has presented me with the Life of Napoleon, 9 vols. ; 
everybody is now devouring it, but what is thought of it I have 
not heard; it will last me some years to get through it if I live; 
at b'ast, if I read at my customary pace." 

The three autumnal months were spent at Innerleithen, the Pro- 
f BBOr visiting Edinburgh from time to time, to attend to his literary 
affairs, finding on his return relaxation in his favorite amusement 
of fishing, or rambling over the hills to St. Mary's Loch, and not 
{infrequently spending a day at Altrive with the Ettrick Shepherd. 
He bad intended, in the following year, to let Elleray ; but not 
having found a suitable tenant, he spent the autumn there himself 
With his family. 

Prom a letter to his friend, the Rev. Mr. Fleming of Rayrig, 


written in the spring of 1828, it will be seen how fondly he clung 
to the place, after having made up his mind as a matter of duty to 
sacrifice the pleasure of spending his summers there. Referring in 

this letter to the Magazine, he says: — 

" Of BlaclacoocT s Magazine I am not the editor, although, I be- 
lieve, I very generally get both the credit and discredit of being 
Christopher North. I am one of the chief writers, perhaps the 
chief, and have all along been so, but never received one shilling 
from the proprietor, except for my own compositions. Being gen- 
erally on the spot, I am always willing to give him my advice, and 
to supply such articles as may lie most wanted when I have leisure 
to do so. But I held myself answerable to the public only for my 
own articles, although I have never chosen to say, nor shall I ever, 
that I am not editor, as that might appear to be shying responsi- 
bilitv, or disclaiming my real share in the work. To you, however, 
I make the avowal, which is to the letter correct, of Christopher 
North*^ ideal character. I am in a great measure the parent never- 
theless, nor am I ashamed of the old gentleman, who is, though 
rather perverse, a thriving bairn. 

"I shall beat Elleray, with my daughters Margaret and Mary, 
about the 18th or 20th of April, and hope to stay a month. I in- 
tend to let Elleray, if I can get a suitable tenant, for three years. 
My children are all just growing up, and I cannot remove them 
from Edinburgh, nor can 1 leave them, even if the expense of hav- 
ing two houses were such as 1 could prudently encounter. I have 
therefore broughl my mind to make the sacrifice of my summers, 
nowhere else so bappy as on the banks of beautiful and beloved 
Windermere. My visit is chiefly to make arrangements for letting 
Elleray during the period now mentioned. 

•• I feel greal delicacy in asking any questions of a friend relative 

to concerns of his friends. Bui I hope you will not think me 

Ity of indelicacy in writing to know on whal terms Bellfield was 

let to Mr. Thomson. I ;im Wholly at a loss to know whal to :isk 

for Elleray, and Belifield would he :i rule to go by in fixing the 

rent. I am anxious you will do me the justice i" think that I am 
mi" <,f the lasl men in the world t" aeek t<> know any thing of the 
land, except in the ea e like the present, where it would he of ad- 
vantage to my interests and that of my family; or if there We any 


objection to your informing me of the point, perhaps you would 
have the goodness to give me your opinion of what might be the 
annual rent of the house, garden, and outhouses of Elleray. Who- 
ever takes i! must keep the place in order, and therefore must keep 
on my gardener on his present wages. The land I could either keep 
myself, or let it along with the house, the whole or in part. 

"Mr. would act for me, I know, but , like other idle 

people, is too free of his tongue about my intentions, of which he 
knows nothing, and has been busy telling all people that I am never 
again to return to Elleray, and that Elleray is to be sold. This 

rather displeases me. Mr. would oblige me in any thing, but 

is not very skilled in character, and might, I fear, be imposed upon 
if he met with people wishing to impose. The idea of making Mr. 
Fleming useful to me has something in it abhorrent to my nature. 
Do, however, my dear sir, forgive my natural anxiety on this point, 
for if I should let Elleray to a family that would injure it, it would 
make me truly unhappy. I love it as I love life itself; and, in case 
I leave Elleray unlet, in your hands I would feel that it was as safe 
as in my own. I am, however, I repeat it, duly sensible of the deli- 
cacj of making such a request to such a friend; and one word will 
be sufficient. My intention is to keep the cottage in my own hands, 
with the privilege to inhabit it myself if I choose for a month or 
two, which will be the utmost in my power; although that privi- 
lege I will u'ive up if necessary. 

" Mrs. Wilson is much better in her general health than she has 
been since her first unhappy illness ; but is still far from being well, 
and my anxieties are still great. I am, however, relieved from the 
most dreadful of all fears, and I trust in God that the fits wift not 
again return. Her constitution would seem to have outlived them, 
hut they have been of a most heart-breaking kind, and I look on all 
- under the darkness of a shadow. John, my eldest boy, is 
five feet ten inches tall, and goes to College next winter. My 
daughters you will, I hope, see soon, and yours must come "up to 
Elleray and stay a day or two with them, while they will be but 
too happy to be again at sweet Rayrig. I hear of a house having 
been built below Elleray by Mr. Gardiner. I hope it is not an eye- 
sore. If it be, my eyes, I am sorry to state, will not be often 
offended by it for some years to come. A curious enough book on 
transplanting trees has been published here lately, which I will 


bring yon a copy of. Sir Henry Stewart, the author, has male a 
place well wooded and thriving out of a desert, and lias removed 
hundreds of trees of all kinds, from twenty to fifty years old, with 
underwood, all of which have for years been in a most flourishing 

"I think you will get this letter on Sunday morning. I shall 
think of you all in church. Your affectionate friend, 

"John Wilson." 

As soon as his college duties were over, he set out for Elleray. 
He writes from Bowness to my mother, May 10, 1828 : — 

' ; My dear Turkess : — Ihave this morning received your long and 
kind letter ; and though I wrote to you yesterday, 1 do so again. 
First, then, I enclose a twelve-pound note, which, I hope, will set- 
tle the accounts, though you don't mention the amount of the ren- 
dering one. I will thank you to write to Robert as follows: — 
'Dear Robert, be so good as send to me the ten-pound receipt to 
sign, if convenient, and I will return it by post. Jane is to tell you 
to do so, to save you a postage. If you can give her the money 
first it will be convenient; if not, she will wait till I return the pa- 
per. Yours, J. W.' Your taste in furniture is excellent, being the 
same as my own; so choose a paper of a bluish sort, and don't 
doubt that I will like the room the better for its being entirely 
your taste, carpet and all. Johnny may go to the fishing whenever 
von think it safe; but remember wet feet are dangerous to him at 
present. If he goes, tell him to go and come by the coach, and 
give liim Btockinga to put on dry. To fish there with dry *eet is 
n<.t possible; and he is nol strong yet. Send him to school, with a 
note saying it was but an eruption, for I cannot think it was the 
small-pox. If it was, he is cured now. I hope tiny arc good hoys. 
bless them both, Umbs, and their good mother! 

"Yesterday, we rode to Ambleside -Mary on Blair's pony, v. bich 
is in high health and very quiet, and spirited too, Maggie on the 
Dondesoript. We called <m the Lutwidges, whom we saw. They 
are all well — she looking very beautiful, and in the family-way of 
On the Edmunds, too. We called on the Norths, and 
mos1 kindly received. I lefl the girls there, and proceeded 
-mere, along the new road by the lake-side, which is beauti- 
ful, found Hartley Coleridge, a little tipsy,] fear, but not \ . ry 


much : went with him to Sammy Barber's. Sammy was delighted 
to see me. He 1ms unroofed his house, and is raising it several 
feet. lie has built a bed-room for himself, thirty feet long, by 
twenty wide, with two fireplaces, and one enormous window com- 
m an ding a view of the whole lake. It is the most beautiful riotn I 
ever saw. All the rest of the house is equally good, and stdl tho 
external look improved. 

k ' Wordsworth is in London. I called for the nymphs at eight 
o'clock, and wo reached Elleray about ten o'clock — all well. Both 
nymphs are recovered, though Mary has still a little sore-throat 
left. To-day, we have wa'ked to Bowness, and made some calls. 
We visited the Island, and Miss Curwen comes to Elleray next 
Wednesday to stay all night. She is a sweet girl, modest, sensible, 
amiable, and English. They are a worthy family. The girls are 
just now gone on to Rayrig with Miss Taylor, and I shall join them 
there. I wait behind to write to the Turkess. The country now 
is in perfect beauty ; and I think of one who has been a kind, and 
affectionate, and good wife to me at all hours. If I do not, may the 
beamy of nature pass away from my eyes ! To-morrow we dine at 
Calgarth. On Tuesday next, Sammy Barber and H. Coleridge 
dine with us. Neither Wellock nor M'Neil has appeared, and" I 
shall wait for them no more. Captain Hope and his lady and a 
piccaninny have just driven up to the door of the inn ; he is a son of 
the Lord President's, and brother of the Solicitor-General, and a 
friend of mine. They are just off" again. Write as soon as you can 
or choose, and tell Johnny or Blair to write too— a conjoint letter. 
Once more, love to you all. Your affectionate husband, 

"John Wilson." 

The following letters show how well he knew to adapt his com 
munications to the taste of his correspondents: — 


"Elleray, Friday Afternoon, May 23, 1828. 
' My dkvkest Blair:— Your very entertaining and witty letter 
came in due course at the breakfast hour, and made us all laugh till 
we were like to hurst our sides; and Mary had very nearly broken 
a tea-cup. It was. however, rather impertinent. Your pony is in 
capital health and spirits, and Mary rides him very gently and not 


too fast. Maggy rides a chestnut cow, which George declares is a 
horse, and it certainly is rather like one sometimes. There are two 
cats, both very tame — a black, and a white one with a red tail. I 
fear the latter kills small birds. The young thrushes have flown, 
and so have a nest of linnets in the front of the house. The thrush 
is building again in another place. "We had a gooseberry-tart yes- 
terday, which you would have liked very much. On Saturday, we 
dined at Calgarth, and found all the people there exceedingly well 
and happy. On Sunday we went to church, and dined at home. 
On Monday we also dined at home ; and on Tuesday, Hartley Cole- 
ridge came to dine with us, without Mrs. Barlow, who was ill. On 
Wednesday we all dined at home; and yesterday Fletcher Flem- 
ing and Mr. Harrison from Ambleside dined with us. To-day we 
are all going to drink tea with Miss Taylor at Bowness, and to go 
to a children's ball in the evening. Hartley Coleridge is still with 
us, and sends his love to your mamma and all yourselves. To-mor- 
row we are going down to Penny Bridge, and will return on Mon- 
day or Tuesday. On Wednesday, which is Ambleside Fair, I am 
going there. On Thursday, there is to be wrestling there. On 
Friday, Mr. Garnet gives us a dinner; and alter that we shall be 
thinking of coming home again pretty soon. 1 am happy to hear 
you and Johnny are good boys. Tell Johnny 1 am very angry 
with him for not writing. Tell mamma that I like the paper; and 
got her last letter this morning. God bless her, and you, and 
Johnny, and Dmbs, and keep you all Well and happy till we return. 
Love, too, to .Miss Penny, that is, Aunt Mary; ami kind compli- 
ments to Mrs. Alison. I will write to mamma from Pennj Bridge. 
I am, my dear little boy, your most loving and affectionate father, 

"The Old Man." 


'• El ii SAY, '■' 'ay l ''I'll, June 2, 1828. 
■ My deab .Johnny: — I received your letter this morning, from 

which I find you are well, and in g I spirits. I am satisfied with 

your place iii the Academy, which I hope you will keep lill the end, 
or lather steal up a little. I presume Mr. (iiiiin intends going on 
tie' stage. We hi'i Penny Bridge on Tuesday, and dined at the 

[gland with a large party. On Wednesday, I went to Amhlesidu 
fair, ami settled a lew bills. Richard Sowden dined with me at 


Elleray on that day, and kept furnishing me with his talk till one 
o'clock in the morning — the girls being at the Miss Bartons'. On 
Thursday, I wont again to Ambleside, with William and George 
Fleming, to see the wrestling. It was very good. A man from 
Cumberland, with a white hat and brown shirt, threatened to fling 
everybody, and 'foight' them afterwards. The 'foighting' I put a 
flop to. He stood till the last, but was thrown by a schoolmaster 
of the name of Robinson, cousin to the imp who used to be at Elle- 
ray, who won the belt with a handsome inscription — 'From Profes- 
sor Wilson.' We had then a number of single matches, the best of 
three throws; and Collinson of Bowness threw Robinson easily, he 
himself having been previously thrown by the Cumbrian for the 
belt. One Drunky, who had also been thrown for the belt, then 
threw Collinson, and a tailor called Holmes threw Cumberland. A 
little fellow about the size of Blair, or less, threw a man about six 
feet high, and fell upon him with all his weight. Holmes, the 
tailor, threw Rowland Long. The wrestling, on the whole, 'gave 
the family great delight.' On Friday, Ave all sailed with Captain 
Stamp in the 'Emma,' and ran aground at the water-head, but got 
off in about an hour Avithout damage. The 'Emma' is an excellent, 
safe, roomy boat, and draws more water than the 'Endeavor.' On 
the same Friday, we dined with William Garnet, and at tea met, 
some young ladies, the Miss Winyards, and Lady Pasley. We 
rode home in the dark and the wet. On Saturday Ave gave a party 
in the evening to the Flemings, Bellasses, and Miss A. Taylor from 
Ambleside. We had the band, and danced, and the party was 
pleasant. On Sunday we stayed at home, the day being bloAA r y ; 
and ]\h.--s A. Taylor is still with us. To-day some gentlemen dined 
at EWray ; so you see we are very gay. To-morrow Ave are all 
goinji a pic-nicking on the Lake. God bless you, my dear Johnny ! 
Mind all your dear mother says, and be kind in all things, and at- 
tentive to her till we return. Love to Blair and TJmbfl. Your 
atl'e<tionate father, John Wilson. 

" The cross lines are for your mamma." 

--.My dearest Jaxe: — I intend riding into Kendal on Wednes- 
day, to meet our Edinburgh friends, as it will be satisfactory to 
hear how you all are. I shall be kept here a feAV days longer than 
I intended, because of the Avant of the needful, Avhich I Avant to 


sponge out of Ebony. I shall also send to Robert for the £10, in 
case you have not got it. I will write to you on Thursday, fixing 
the day for our return, The girls are both well, and everybody is 
kind to them. They are just gone to call at Calgarth, with Alicia 
Taylor on horseback, with John Alexander with them on foot. 
Owen Loyd, and Joseph Harding, and some others, are to dine 
with us to-day. Summer is come, and really the most beautiful 
time of the year is past. Write to me on Sunday evening, for we 
shall not leave this till Tuesday, at the earliest. If you write Jie 
day you get this, too, or bid Blair do so, so much the better, for 
that day is always a happy one on which I hear from you. You 
are a most unaccountable niggard. Direct Mr. Hood's letter to me 
here, and send it to me by post. Tell Johnny to call and inquire 
l'"r Captain Watson, or do -<> yourself, my dear Jane, first good 
day. I am -lad to hear such good accounts of him. Keep sending 
me the Observer and Evening Post. My expectations of my room 
are very high. I intend to get John "Watson to give me a head of 
you, to hang up over the chimney-piece. What think you of that? 
The little man dors not sleep well here by himself. I do not fear 
that I shall find you well and happy. Yours till death. 

" John Wilson." 

The allusions to Hartley Coleridge awaken mingled feelings of 
pain and pleasure in remembrance of his frequent visits to Elleray, 
where he was ever a welcome guest. The gentle, humble-hearted, 
highly gifted man, "Dear Hartley," as my lather called him, 
dreamed through a life of error, loving the good and hating the 
evil, yet unable to resist it. His companionship was always delight- 
ful to the Professor, and many hours of converse they held; his 

.-id happiesl moments were those spent at Elleray. My father 
had a great power over him, and exerted it with kind but firm de- 
termination. On one occasion he was kept imprisoned for some 

a under his surveillance, in order that he might finish some 
literary work he had promised to have ready by a certain time. He 
Completed his task, and when the day of release fame, it was not in- 
tended that he Bbould Leave Elleray. Bui Hartley's evil demon was 
at hand; without one word of adieu to the friends in whose pres- 

ence he stood, off he ran at roll speed down the avenue, losl to 
light amid tip- trees. Been again in the open highway still running) 


until the sound of his far-off footsteps gradually died away in the 
distance, and he himself was hidden, not in the groves of the valley 
but in some obscure den, where, drinking among low companions, 
his mind was soon brought to a level with theirs. Then these 
clouds would after a time pass away, and he again returned to ihe 
soci iy of those who could appreciate him, and who never ceased 
to love him. 

Every one loved Hartley Coleridge; there was something in his 
appearance that evoked kindliness. Extremely boyish in aspect, 
his juvenile air was aided not a little by his general mode of dress — 
a dark blue cloth round jacket, white trousers, black silk handker- 
chief tied loosely round his throat ; sometimes a straw hat covered 
his head, but more frequently it was bare, showing his black, thick, 
sh. >rt, curling hair. His eyes were large, dark, and expressive, and a 
countenance almost sad in expression, was relieved by the beautiful 
smile which lighted it up from time to time. The tone of his voice 
was musically soft. He excelled in reading, and very often read 
aloud to my mother. The contrast between him and the Professor, 
as they walked up and down the drawing rooms at Elleray, was 
■^ ei-v striking. Both were earnest in manner and peculiar in expres- 
sion. My father's rapid sweeping steps "would soon have distanced 
poor Hartley, if he had not kept up to him by a sort of short trot; 
then, standing still for a moment, excited by some question of phil- 
osophical interest — perhaps the madness of Hamlet, or whether or 
not he was a perfect gentleman — they would pour forth such tor- 
rents of eloquence that those present would have wished them to 
speak forever. . After a pause, oif again through the rooms, back- 
wards and forwards, for an hour at a time would they walk ; the 
- athletic form, stately and free in action, and his clear 
blue eyes and flowing hair, contrasting singularly with Hartley's 
diminutive stature and dark complexion, as he followed like some 
familiar spirit, one moment looking vengeance, the next humble, 
obeisant. Is it not true that the sins of the fathers are visited upon 
the children? Certain it is that the light of genius he inherited 
was dimmed from its original source. He found no repose upon 
earth, but wandered like a breeze, until he was laid down in the 
quiet churchyard of Grasmere, close beside the resting-place of 
William Wordsworth.* 

• Hartley Coleridge, boo of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, bcrn 1796, died 185L 


My father's contributions to the Magazine this year were very 
extensive, and several of them of enduring interest. They include 
" Christopher in his Sporting Jacket," " Old North and Young 
North," ''Christmas Dreams," "Health and Longevity," " Salmo- 
nia," and "Sacred Poetry." My mother, writing to her sister in 
September, asks her: — "Have you read Blackwood's last number? 
I mean any of it. ' Christopher in his Sporting Jacket' is thought 
very good ; and Mr. \Y. expressed a sort of wish our nephew John 
might like it. The Dean of Chester thinks it about one of the best 
things the author has produced." 

Another of her letters about this time contains some pleasant 
home gossip. A baby niece is of course a principal topic: — " Mr. 
Wilson feels a great interest in her, poor little thing, and is never 
annoyed by any of her infantine screams or noises, which is more 
than I can say of him towards his own when of that age. This is 
a comfort to me, because I shall have true delight in having the 
little darling here as often as she is allowed to come ; and you may 
well suppose that I am always anxious, when the pen is, as it must 
be, in Mr. "Wilson's hand often, that he has nothing to disturb him." 
The mother's heart is shown in the following lines : — " Johnny is 
preparing for the University. As Mr. Wilson only expects and 
exacts common diligence from him, I do not fear he will do well." 
After mentioning the classes, she says: — "The three last-mentioned 
accomplishments (drawing, fencing, and dancing) are only recrea- 
tions, but there is no harm in them; and I believe a greater blessing 
cannot befall a young man than to have every hour harmlessly if 
not usefully employed. Son cannot think how much pleased 1 was 
with a letter Mr. W. received from Miss Watson the other day, 
speaking of the boys. I dare say it was flattering, but she has a 
way of Baying things that appears as if they were not flattering. 
1 would copy it now for you, but that I think you must be tired of 

the old mother's egotism. I have not mentioned the girls, but 

they are well. M has two pupils, Jane and M. De Quincey, to 
whom -he gives daily lessons in reading, writing, geography, gram- 
mar, and Bpelling; this occupies good part of the forenoon, and 
practising, mending old Btockings, millinery, and such like, till up 

some of the remaining hours of the day." 

The lour following letters from Allan Cunningham tell their own 

Story; — 



" 27 Lower Belgrade Plage, 
llth September, 1828. 

"My dear Friend: — I have cut and cleared away right and 
left, :in<l opened :i space for your very beautiful poem, and now it 
will appear at lull length, as it rightly deserves. Will you have 
the goodness to say your will to the proof as quickly as possible, 
and lei me have it again, for the printer pushes me sorely. 

"You have indeed done me a great and lasting kindness; you 
have aided me, I trust effectually, in establishing my Annual Book,* 
and enabled me to create a little income for my family. My life 
has been one continued struggle to maintain my independence and 
support wife and children, and I have, -when the labor of the day 
(•lord, endeavored to use the little talent which my country allows 
me to possess as easily and as profitably as I can. The pen thus 
adds a little to the profit of the chisel, and I keep head above water, 
and on occasion take the middle of the causeway with an inde- 
pendent step. 

" There is another matter about which I know not how to speak ; 
and now I think on't, I had better speak out bluntly at once. My 
means are but moderate ; and having engaged to produce the liter- 
ature of the volume for a certain sum, the variety of the articles has 
caused no small expenditure. I cannot, therefore, say that I can 
pay you for Edderline's Dream ; but I beg you will allow me to lay 
twenty pounds aside by way of token or remembrance, to be paid 
in any way you may desire, into some friend's hand here, or remit- 
ted by post to Edinburgh. I am ashamed to oifer so small a sum 
for a work which I admire so much; but what Burns said to the 
Muse, I may with equal propriety say to you : — 

" ' Ye ken — ye ken 
That strong necessity supreme is 
'Mang sons of men.' 

"Now, may I venture to look to you for eight or ten pages for 
my next volume on the same kind of terms? I shall, with half-a- 
dozen assurances of the aid of the leading men of genius, be able to 
iate more effectually with the proprietor; for, when he sees 
that Sir Walter Scott, Professor Wilson, Mr. Southey, Mr. Lock- 
hart, and one or t wo more, are resolved to support me, he will com- 
prehend that the speculation will be profitable, and close with me 

* The Anniversary. 


accordingly. Do, I beg and entreat of you, agree to this, and say 
so when you write. 

"Forgive all this forwardness and earnestness, and believe me to 
be your faithful servant and admirer, 

"Allan Cunningham." 

"27 Lower Belgrave Place, 
November 7, 1828. 

" My dear Friend : — My little Annual — thanks to your ex- 
quisite Etfderliue, and your kind and seasonable words — has been 
very successful. It is not yet published, and cannot appear these 
eight days, yet we have sold 0,000 copies. The booksellers all look 
kindly upon it ; the proprietor is very much pleased with his suc- 
cess ; and it is generally looked upon here as a work fairly rooted 
in public favor. The first large paper proof-copy ready shall be on 
its way to Gloucester Place before it is an hour finished. It is in- 
deed outwardly a most splendid book. 

" I must now speak of the future. The Keepsake people last sea- 
son bought up some of my friends, and imagined, because they had 
succeeded with one or two eminent ones, that my book was crushed, 
and would not be any tiling like a rival. They were too wily for me ; 
and though I shall never be able to meet them in their own way, 
still I must endeavor to gather all the friends round me that I can. 
I have been with our mutual friend Lockhart this morning, and wc 
have made the following arrangement, which he permits me to men- 
tion to you, in the hope yon will aid me on the same conditions. 
He has promised nic a poem, and a piece of prose to the extent of 
from twenty to thirty pages, for 650, and engaged to write for no 
other annual. Now if you would help me on the same terms, and 
to (lie -.line extent, I shall consider myself fortunate. It is true 
von kindly promised to aid me with whatever 1 liked for next year, 
and desired me not to talk of money. My dear friend, we make 
money of you, and why nol make some return? I beg yon will, 
therefore, letting bygonee be bygones in money matters, join with 
Mr. Lockhart in this. I could give yon many reasons for doing it, 
all of which would influence yon. It is enough to say, that my 
rivals will come next year into the field, in all the strength of talent, 

and rank, and fashion, a n< I Btrive to bear me down. The ant ho!' ,,f 

'Edderline,' and man} other thin-- equally delightful, can prevent 
this, and to him 1 look for help. 


" I shall try Wordsworth in the same way. I am sure of Southey 
and of Ed. Irving. 1 shall limit my list of contributors, and make 
a better book generally than I have done. I am to have a painting 
from Wilkie, and one from Newton, and they will be more carefully 
engraved too. 

• 1 am glad that your poem has met with such applause here. I 
Lave n<>\\ Been all the other Annuals, and I assure you that in the 
best of them there is nothing that approaches in beauty to 'Edder- 
line.' This seems to be the general opinion, and proud*I am of it. 
I remain, my dear friend, yours ever faithfully, 

"Allan Cunningham." 

"27 Belgrave Place Lower, 
November 19, 1828. 

'• My dear Friend : — I send for your acceptance a large-paper 
copy of my Annual, with proofs of the plates, and I send it by the 
mail that you may have it on your table a few days before publica- 
tion. You will be glad to hear that the book has been favorably 
received, and the general impression seems to be, that while the 
Keepsake is a little below expectation, the Anniversary is a little 
abo\ e it. I am told by one in whose judgment. I can fully confide, 
that our poetry is superior, and ' Edderline's Dream' the noblest 
poem in any of the annuals,. This makes me happy ; it puts us at 
the head of these publications. 

" I took the liberty of writing a letter to you lately, and ven- 
tured to make you an offer, which I wish, in justice to my admira- 
tion of your talents, had been worthier of your merits. I hope and 
entreat you an ill think favorably of my request, and give me your 
aid, as powerfully as you can. If you but knew the opposition 
which I have to encounter, and could hear the high words of those 
who, with their exclusive poets, and their bands of bards, seek to 
bear me down, your own proud spirit and chivalrous feelings would 
send you [quickly] to my aid, and secure me from being put to 
shame by the highest of the island. One great poet, not a Scotch 
one, kindly advised me last season, to think no more of literary 
competition with the Keepsake, inasmuch as he dipt his pen exclu- 
sively for that publication. I know his poetic contributions, and 
tear them not when I think on ' Edderline.' 

"I hope you will not think me vain, or a dreamer of unattainable 
things, when I express my hope of being able, through the aid of 


my friends, to maintain the reputation of my book against the fame 
of others, though they be aided by some who might have aided me. 
Should you decline — which I hope in God you will not — the offer 
which I lately made, I shall still depend upon your assistance, which 
you had the goodness to promise. Another such poem as ' Edder- 
line' would make my fortune, and if I could obtain it by May or 
June it would be in excellent time. 

"If you would wish a copy or two of the book to give away, I 
shall be happy to place them at your disposal. I remain, my dear 
friend, your faithful servant, 

" Allan Cunningham." 

" 27 Lower Belgrave Place, 
12th December, 1S28. 

" My dear Friend : — I enclose you some lines for your friend's 
paper, and am truly glad of any opportunity of obliging you. I like 
Mr. Bell's Journal* much. He understands, I see, what poetry is ; 
a thing not common among critics. If there is any thing else you 
wish me to do, say so. I have not the heart to refuse you any thing. 

"I was much pleased with your kind assurances respecting' ray 
next year's volume. Mr. Lockhart said he would write to you, and I 
hope you will unite with him and Irving in contributing for me alone. 
As 1 have been disappointed in Wordsworth, 1 hope you will allow 
me to add £25 of hie 650 to the £50 1 already promised. The other 
I intend for Mr. Lockhart. This, after all, looks like pic-king your 
pocket, for such is the rage for Annuals at present, that a poet so 
eminent a- you are may command terms. I ought, perhaps, to be 
satisfied with the kind assurances you have given, and not be over 
■\\ . 

"One word about Wordsworth. In his last letter to me, he said 
that Alaric Watts had a prior claim, 'Only, 1 quoth lie. 'Watts says 
1 <j<> about depreciating other Annuals out of regard for the Keep 
sake. This is untrue. I only said, as the Keepsakt paid poets besl 
it would be the besl work.' This is not depreciating ! He advised 
in'', before he knew who were i" be my contributors, nol to think 
of rivalry in literature with the Keepsake. Enough of a little man 

and a greal poet. Hi 1 - | lie sympathies arc warm, Kilt liis heart, 

tut' any manly purpose, a- cold a- a December -nail. I had to-day 
* Tht Edinburgh IMtraru G'tzeUa. 


a very pleasant, witty contribution, from Theodore Hook. I remain, 
in\ dear friend, yours faithfully, 

" Allan Cunningham. 

" P. S. — 1 have got Mr. Bell's letter and Journals, and shall thank 
him tor his good opinion by sending him a trifle some time soon for 
the paper. If you think my name will do the least good to the 
good cause, pray insert it at either end of the poem you like. A. C 

i ■>■> 

The Anniversary, of which the editor wrote so anxiously, was 
not the only literary work this year that had requested the Profes- 
sors's powerful aid. "Edderline's Dream," unfortunately, a frag- 
ment, some cantos having been lost in MS., was followed in the 
month of December by two beautiful little poems, one called "The 
Yale of Peace," the other " The Hare-Bells," written for The Edin- 
burgh Literary Gazette, then edited by Mr. Henry Glassford Bell, 
whose abilities as a student in the Moral Philosophy class had attract- 
ed Professor Wilson's notice. He frequently visited at his house in 
Gloucester Place, and very soon evinced qualities more worthy of 
regard than a cultivated mind and a refined poetical taste. This 
acquaintanceship ripened into a friendship warm and sincere. Sup- 
port in affairs of literature was not long a binding link ; letters were 
forsaken for law, and, after a few years' practice in Edinburgh, Mr. 
Bell removed to Glasgow, having obtained a Sheriffship in that 
important city, where he has long enjoyed the respect due to an 
admirable judge, and an accomplished man of letters. 

It has already been mentioned that my father had prepared 
sketches for the composition of various poems ; why he did not fol- 
low further his original impulses in this direction has been matter 
of surprise. So strong a genius as his can hardly be supposed to 
have quite missed its proper direction. Yet from the date of the 
publication of the. " City of the Plague," up to 1829, there is no in- 
dication of his having seriously bent his mind to poetical composi- 
tion. In the autumn of that year, at Elleray, he was again visited 
by the muse, and my mother thus mentions the fact to her sister: — 

••Mr. \V. has been in rather a poetical vein of late, and I rather 
think there will be a pretty long poem of his in the next number of 
Blackwood, entitled, 'An Evening in Furness Abbey,' or some- 
thing of that kind. It will be too long for you to read, but perhapb 
Aim will do so, and tell you what it is about." From the publica- 


tion of this beautiful poem, the tender domestic allusions in which 
would alone make it of peculiar interest and value in the eyes 
of the present writer,* down to 1837, when he composed his last 
poem, " Unimore," he did not again exercise his poetic faculty in 
the form of verse. Late in life, he thought much of a subject which 
he wished to shape into verse, "The Covenanters," but he said that 
he found in it insuperable difficulties.! "The Manse" was another 
subject he used to speak of, adding jocularly, "he was obliged to 
leave that, owing to the Disruption ."J 

How far we have got beyond the days when criticism of the 
Ettrick Shepherd required remonstrance to subdue it, may be gath- 
ered from the next letter, received during this holiday time at 
Elleray :— 

"Mount Bexger, August 11, 1829. 

" My deab axd noxoRED John : — I never thought you had been 
so unconscionable as to desire a sportsman on the 11th or even the 
13th of August to leave Ettrick Forest for the bare scraggy hills of 
Westmoreland !— Ettrick Forest, where the black cocks and white 
cocks, brown cocks and gray cocks, ducks, plovers, and peaseweeps 
and whilly-whaups are as thick as the flocks that cover her moun- 
tains, and come to the hills of Westmoreland that can nourish nothing 
better than a castril or stonechat ! To leave the great yellow-fin ot 
Yarrow, or the still larger gray-locher for the degenerate fry of 
Troutbeck, Esthwaite, or even Wasl water ! No, no, the request will 
not do; it is an unreasonable one. and therefore not unlike your- 
self: for besides, what would become of Old North and Blackwood, 
and all our friends for game, were I to come to Elleray just now? 
J know of no home of man where I could be so happy within doors, 
with so many lovely and joyous fares around me; but this is not 
the season for in-door enjoyments; they must be reaped on the 

• Contrasting his present experience with his early poetic dreams, he says: 
"T! o gone, 

Ami It has pleased liiL'h II o ■• l to crown my life 
With such a load of happiness, thai al I 

My very soul is faint with bearing up the blessed burden." . . . 
t lie oorreaponded with Mr. Add a good deal on this subject lli^ letters are too length 
Insertion, but It Is refreshing to And In thorn an occasional hearty outburst of Indignation at the 

i other! Pi I how tat the] 

I believe not Bar, Besides, under such accursed tyranny, bold 
were not wrong." 
pllt h> the Church of Scotland In 1848. 


wastes among the blooming heath, by the silver spring, or swathed 
in t he delicious breeze of the wilderness. Elleray, with all its sweets, 
could never have been my choice for a habitation, and perhaps you 
are the only Scottish gentleman who ever made such a choice, and 
still persists in maintaining it, in spite of every disadvantage. Happy 
days to you, and a safe return! Yours most respectfully, 

"James Hogg." 

The following letter, written about the same time, from my father 
to.his friend Mr. Fleming, is unfortunately torn at the conclusion, 
but what remains of it is sufficiently interesting to be given : — 

" My de.vr Fleming : — I much fear that it will not be possible 
for me to join your party on Tuesday, which I should regret under 
any circumstances, and more especially under the present, when you 
are kind enough to wish my presence more than usual. I have tried 
to arrange my proceedings, in twenty different ways, with the view 
of returning on Tuesday, but see not how I can effect my object. 
Mr. Benjamin Penny and his wife come to us to-morrow, and leave 
us on Friday. I cannot therefore go to Keswick till Saturday, and 
from Keswick I have to go to Buttermere and Cromack, and, if 
possible, Ennerdale and Wast water. The artist who accompanies 
me, or rather whom I accompany, is unfortunately the most helpless 
of human beings, and incapable of finding his way alone among 
mountains for one single hour. I am, therefore, under the absolute 
necessity of guiding him every mile of the way, and were I to leave 
him he might as well be lying in his bed. His stay here is limited 
by hi- engagements in Edinburgh, and we shall have to return to 
Elleray on Thursday, without having an opportunity of going again 
into Cumberland. Were I therefore to leave him on Tuesday, great 
pari of my object in bringing him here would be defeated, and, in- 
deed, even as it is, I have little hope of his achieving my purpose, 
lb' can neither walk nor ride, nor remember the name of the lake, 
village, vale, or house, and yet he is an excellent artist, though a 
most incapable man. I returned from a three days' tour with him 
on Saturday night, and would have immediately written to you, but 
expected t<> have railed on you on Sunday evening, to tell you how 
matters stood. Mr>. Wilson, John, and one of the girls, or indeed 
any part of the family you choose, will be with you on Tuesday ; and 


if Tuesday be a bad day, so that Mr. Gibb cannot draw, and the 
distance be such as I can accomplish, I will exert some of my activ- 
ity, a little impaired now, though not to any melancholy extent, and 
appear at Rayrig at rive o'clock. 

•■ It would have been pleasant had the three friends met, in a 
quiet way, at Rayrig ; and I do not doubt that, in spite of all, we 
might have been even happy. But our meeting was prevented. 
Watson, I am sure, regretted it ; and as for myself, I trust you 
will believe in the warmth and sincerity of my affection. 

"With regard to the conversation of Calgarth about the Edin- 
burgh murderers,* I had quite forgotten it, till the allusion to it in 
your kind letter recalled it to my memory. I do not believe that 
there is any difference of opinion in our minds respecting those 
hideous transactions, that might not be reconciled in three minutes' 
uninterrupted conversation. But I never yet recollect a single con- 
versation in a mixed company, on any subject on which some differ- 
ence of opinion between two parties had been expressed or inti- 
mated, where it was not rendered impossible to reconcile it by the 
interposition of a third or fourth party taking up some point con- 
nected with, perhaps, but not essentially belonging to the point at 
issue. The argument, if there has been one, is thus broken in 
upon, new topics introduced, and, without tedious explanations, it 
i< scarcely possible to get back to the real question. Something of 
tlii-^ kind occurred, I remember, at Calgarth. Watson and Lord 
I). Tabley joined in with certain remarks — right enough, perhaps, 
in their way — but such as involved and entangled the thread of our 
discourse. And thus you and 1 appeared, I am disposed to think, 
to have adopted different views of t he matter; whereas, had we 
been lefl to ourselves, we should either have agreed, or a1 least had 
an opportunity of letting each other clearly understand what the 
point was on which we disagreed, and the grounds of that disagree- 
ment. In early life I fear thai my studies were not such as habitu- 
ated my mind to the very Btrictesl and closest reasonings; nor 
perhaps is it t be aal oral bent . . . ." 

The artist, Mr. Gibb, whose incapacity in travelling is thus hu- 

• Hari .'..-'.■ i tried In Edinburgh, In 1629, for a aeries of murders perpetrated 

: mieal subject*, — Sm Wocttt Ambr<h 


morously described, was taken to "Westmoreland by Professor Wil- 
son, in order to make drawings for an intended work descriptive of 
lake Bcenery ; a design, however, that came to an end, owing tc 
an untimely disaster that overtook the numerous illustrations that 
had been made. 

A letter from so celebrated a man as Thomas Carlyle naturally 
awakens interest, to know how he and Professor Wilson regarded 
cadi other. The terms of affection expressed in this epistle would 
lead to a supposition that there had been an intimate intercourse 
between them. But either want of opportunity or other circum- 
Btances prevented the continuance of personal friendship. It seems 
that these two gifted men never met, at least not more than once 
again after their first introduction, which took place in the house 
of Mr. John Gordon, at one time a favorite pupil, and ever after a 
dearly-loved friend of my father. 

" Craigenputtock, Dumfries, 
19th December, 1829. 

" Mi jdear Sir : — Your kind promise of a Christmas visit has 
not been forgotten here ; and though we are not without misgiv- 
ings as to its fulfilment, some hope also still lingers ; at all events, 
if we must go unserved, it shall not be for want of wishing and 
audible asking. Come, then, if you would do us a high favor, that 
warm hearts may welcome in the cold New-Year, and the voice of 
poetry and philosophy, numerls lege solutls, may for once be heard 
in these deserts, where, since Noah's deluge, little but the whirring 
of heath-cocks and the lowing of oxen has broken the stillness. 
You shall have a warm fire, and a warm welcome ; and we will 
talk in all dialects, concerning all things, climb to hill-tops, and see 
ccit ain of the kingdoms of this world, and at night gather round 
a clear hearth, and forget that winter and the devil are so busy in 
our planet. There are seasons when one seems as if emancipated 
from the ' prison called life,' as if its bolts were broken, and the 
Russian ice-palace were changed into an open sunny Tempe, and 
man might love his brother without fraud or fear ! A few such 
hoars are scattered over our existence, otherwise it were too hard, 
and would make us too hard. 

"But now descending to prose arrangements, or capabilities of 
arrangement, let me remind you how easy it is to be conveyed 
hither. There is a mail-coach nightly to Dumfries, and two stage- 


coaches every alternate day to Thornhill ; from each of which places 
we are but fifteen miles distant, with a fair road, and plenty of 
vehicles from both. Could we have warning, we would send you 
down two horses ; of wheel carriages (except carts and barrows) 
we are still unhappily destitute. Nay, in any case, the distance, 
for a stout Scottish man, is but a morning walk, and this is the love- 
liest December weather I can recollect of seeing. But we are at 
the Dumfries post-office every Wednesday and Saturday, and 
should rejoice to have the quadrupeds waiting for you either there 
or at Thornhill, on any specified day. To Gordon, I purpose 
writing on Wednesday ; but any way I know he will follow you, 
as Hesperus does the sun. 

" 1 have not seen one Blackwood, or even an Edinburgh news- 
paper since I returned hither ; so what you are doing in that un- 
paralleled city is altogether a mystery to me. Scarcely have tidings 
of the Scotsman-Mercury duel reached me, and how the worthies 
tailed to shoot each other, and the one lias lost his editorship, and 
the other still continues' to edit.* Sir William Hamilton's paper 
on Cousin's Metaphysics I read last night; but, like Hogg's Fife 
warlock, 'my head whirled roun', and ane thing I conldna mind.' 
O euros homimim ! I have some thoughts of beginning to j!?ro- 
phesy next year, if I prosper ; that seems the best style, could one 
strike into it rightly. 

"Now, tell me if you will come, or if you absolutely refuse. At 
all events, remember me as long as you can in good- will and affec- 
tion, as I will ever remember yon. My wife semis you her kindest 
regards, and still hopes against hope thai she shall wear her Goethe 
brooch this Christmas, a thing only done when there is a man of 
genius in the company. 

•I must break off, for there is an Oxonian gig man coming to 
risil me in an hour, and 1 have many things to do. I heard him 
say the other nighl that in literary Scotland there was no1 one such 
other man as- ! — a thing in which, if would do him- 
self any justice, I cordially agree. Believe me always, my dear 
oir, yours with affectionate esteem, Thomas Carlyle." 

* One of the 

um and the ( ' ■ ■ dorUa i M Indicate 

Mr. ' ii irl< " : .■ 

luck in the morning, on the L2I h 


About this time T find another letter from Mr. Lockhart, referring 
to the contesl for the University of Oxford in 1829, when Sir Robert 
Peel was unseated : — 

" London, 24 Sussex Place, Regent's Park, 

'Mr DBAS Wilson: — lam exceedingly anxious to hear from 
you, firstly about Landor, what you have done, or what I really 
may expert to count on, and when? You will see Blanco White's 
re\ iew ere this reaches you. I think it won't do, being full of cox- 
combry, and barren of information, and in all the lighter parts 
mauvais genre. It's, however, supported by all the Coplestons, 

Malthuses, etc. ; and to satisfy , I must make an exertion, in 

which, as you love me, give me your effectual aid — for you can. I 
know you will. 

"I take it for granted you have been applied to both for Peel 
and [nglis. What do you say on that score? I am as well pleased 
I don't happen to have a vote. To have one, would cost me near 
£100 ; more than I care for Peel, Inglis, and the Catholic Question, 
Iriajuncta in uno. The Duke now counts on forty majority in the 
Lords, but his cronies hint he begins to be sorry the opposition out 
of doors is so weak, as he had calculated on forcing, through the 
No Popery row, the Catholics to swallow a bill seasoned originally 
lbi- the gusto of the Defender of the Faith. 

" How are you all at home ? Ever yours, 

" J. G. Lockhart. 

" P. S. — If you go to Oxon, come hither imprimis, and I will go 
with you." 

The next letter is addressed to Mr. De Quincey, dated June, 
and alludes to the "sketch of the Professor," of which I have 
partial use in a previous chapter: — 

"Sunday Evening, June, 1829. 
' My i. ear De Quincey : — I had intended calling at the Nab to- 
morrow, to know whether or not you had left Edinburgh ; but 
from the Literary Gazette, received this morning, I perceive you 
air -nil iii the Modern Athens. I wish, when you have determined 
"ii coming hitherwards, that you would let me have intimation 
thereof, as an excursion or two among the mountains, ere summer 
talis, would be pleasant, if practicable. 


" Tour sketch of the Professor has given us pleasure at Elleray. 
It has occurred to me that you may possibly allude, in the part 
which is to follow, to the circumstance of my having lost a great 
part of my original patrimony, as an antithesis to the word ' rich.' 
Were you to do so, I know it would be with your natural delicacy, 
and in a way flattering to my character. But the man to whom I 
owed that favor died about a fortnight ago, , and any allu- 
sion to it might seem to have been prompted by myself, and would 
excite angry and painful feelings. On that account I trouble you 
with this perhaps needless hint, that it would be better to pass it 
over sub silentio. Otherwise, I should have liked some allusion to 
it, as the loss, grievous to many minds, never hurt essentially the 
peace of mine, nor embittered my happiness. 

"If you think the Isle of Palms and the City of the Plague 
original poems (in design), and unborrowed and unsuggested, I 
hope you will s a y so. The Plague has been often touched on and 
alluded to, but never, that I know of, was made the subject of a poem, 
old Withers (the City Remembrancer) excepted, and some drivel- 
ling of Taylor the Water-Poet. Defoe's fit-til ions prose narrative \ 
had never read, except an extract or two in Britton's Beauties of 
England. If you think me a good private character, do say so \ 
and if in my house there be one who sheds a quiet light, perhaps a 
beautiful niche maybe given to that clear luminary. Base brutes 
have libelled my personal character. Coming from you, the truth 
told, without reference to their malignity, will make me and others 
more happy than any kind expression yon may use regarding my 
genius or talent-. In the Lights and Shadows, Margaret Lynd- 
say, Tin Foresters, and many articles in Blackwood (such as Selby's 
'Ornithology'*), I have wished to speak of humble life, and the 
elemcntan feelings of the human soul in isolation, under the light 
of a veil of poetry. Have I done so? Pathos, a Bense ><i' the 
beautiful, and humor, I think [possess. Do [? In the City of 
tin Plague there oughl to be something of the sublime. Is there? 
That you think too well of me, is mosl probably the case. So do 
not fear to speab whatever you think less flattering, for the opinion 
of such a man, being formed in kindness and affection, will gratify 
me far beyond the mosl boundless panegyric from anybody else. [ 
foe! thai I am totally free from all jealousy, spite, envy, and on* 

♦ Nil,. 


charitableness. I am not so passionate in temper as you think. In 
comparison with yourself, I am the Prince of Peacefulness, for you 
are a nature of dreadful passions subdued by reason. I wish you 
would praise me as a lecturer on Moral Philosophy. That would 
do me good ; and say that I am thoroughly logical and argumenta- 
tive — for it is true; not a rhetorician, as fools aver. I think, with 
practice and opportunities, I would have been an orator. Am I a 
good critic? We are all well. I have been very ill with rheuma- 
tism. God bless you, my dear friend, and believe me ever yours 
aihvtionately, J- W." 

The friendship subsisting between Mr. De Quincey and my father 
has already been mentioned. From 1809, when he was his com- 
panion in pedestrian rambles and the sharer of his purse, till the 
hour of his death, that friendship remained unbroken, though some- 
times, in his strange career, months or years would elapse without 
my father either seeing or hearing of him. If this singular man's 
life were written truthfully, no one would believe it, so strange 
the tale would seem. It may well be cause of regret that, by his 
own fatal indulgence, he had warped the original beauty of his na- 
t are. For fine sentiment and much tender kindliness of disposition 
gleamed through the dark mists which had gathered around him, 
and imperfectly permitted him to feel the virtue he so eloquently 
described. For the most part his habit of sympathy was such that 
it elevated the dark passions of life, investing them with an awful 
grandeur, destructive to the moral sense. Those beautiful writings 
<.f hi- captivate the mind, and would fain invite the reader to be- 
lieve that the man they represent is De Quincey himself. But not 
even in the "Autobiography" is his personnel to be found. He in- 
deed knew how to analyze the human heart, through all its deep 
windings, but in return he offered no key of access to his own. In 
manner no man was more courteous and naturally dignified ; the 
rtrange vicissitudes of his life had given him a presence of mind 
which never deserted him, even in positions the most trying. It 
this quality that gave him, in combination with his remarkable 
powers of persuasion, command over all minds; the ignorant were 
Bilenced by awe, ami the refined fascinated as by the spell of a ser- 
pent. The same faults in common men would have excited con 
tempi ; the same irregularities of life in ordinary mortals would 


have destroyed interest and affection ; but with him patience was 
willing to be torn to tatters, and respect driven to the last verge. 
Still Thomas De Quineey held the place his intellectual greatness 
had at first taken possession of. Wilson loved him to the last, and 
better than any man he understood him. In the expansiveness of 
his own heart, he made allowances for faults which experience 
taught him were the growth of circumstance. It may seem strange 
that men so opposite in character were allied to each other by the 
bonds of friendship ; but I think that all experience shows that 
sympathy, not similarity, draws men to one another in that sacred 

I remember his coming to Gloucester Place one stormy night. 
He remained hour after hour, in vain expectation that the waters 
would assuage and the hurly-burly cease. There was nothing for it 
but that our visitor should remain all night. The Professor ordered 
a room to be prepared for him, and they found each other such good 
company that this accidental detention was prolonged, without fur- 
ther difficulty, for the greater part of a year. During this visit 
some of his eccentricities did not escape observation. For exam- 
ple, he rarely appeared at the family meals, preferring to dine in his 
own room at his own hour, not unfrequently turning night into day. 
Hi- tastes were very simple, though a little truublesome, at least to 

rvant who prepared his repast. Coffee, boiled rice and milk, 
and a piece of mutton from the loin, were the materials that invari- 
ably formed his dirt. The cook, who had an audience with him 
daily, received her instructions in silent awe, quite overpowered by 
his manner; lor, had he been add 1 I achess, he could scarcely 

spoken with more deference. lie would couch his request in 

terms as these: — "Owing to dyspepsia afflicting my system, 
and the possibility of any additional disarrangement of the stomach 
taking place, consequences incalculably distressing would arise, so 
much so indeed as to increase nervous irritation, and prevent mo 
from attending to matters of overwhelming importance, it' you do 
not remember to cui the mutton in a diagonal rather than in a lon- 
gitudinal form." The cook -a Scotchwoman — had great, rever 

for Mr. !>'• Quince) as a man of genius; but, after one of 

vs, her patience was pretty well exhausted, and Bhe 

would Bay, '*Weel, I never heard the like o' that in a' my days; 

the bodie has an awfu' sichl o' word--, [fit had been my ain mait- 


ter that was wanting his dinner, he would ha' ordered a hale tabltv 
t'u' wi' little mair than a waffo' his haun, and here's a' this claver 
aboot a bit mutton nae bigger than a prin. Mr. De Quinshey 
would mak' :i gran' preacher, though I'm thinking a hantle o' the 
folk wouldna ken what he was driving at." Betty's observations 
were made with considerable self-satisfaction, as she considered her 
insight of Mr. De Quincey's character by no means slight, and 
many was the quaint remark she made, sometimes hitting upon a 
truth that entitled her to that shrewd sort of discrimination by no 
means uncommon in the humble ranks of Scottish life. But these 
little meals were not the only indulgences that, when not properly 
attended to, brought trouble to Mr. De Quincey. Regularity in 
- of opium was even of greater consequence. An ounce of 
laudanum per diem prostrated animal life in the early part of the 
day. It was no unfrequent sight to find him in his room lying upon 
the rug in front of the fire, his head resting upon a book, with his 
arms crossed over his breast, plunged in profound slumber. For 
several hours he would lie in this state, until the effects of the tor- 
por had passed away. The time when he was most brilliant was 
generally towards the early morning hours; and then, more than 
once, in order to show him oil', my father arranged his supper par- 
ties so that, sitting till three or four in the morning, he brought Mr. 
De Quincey to that point at which in charm and power of conver- 
sation he was so truly wonderful.* 





In 1830, we get some glimpses of home life in Gloucester Place, 
from my mother's letters to Miss Penny. She says, in reply to an 
invitation for her sons to Penny Bridge : — "The boys are trans- 
ported with the idea of so much enjoyment, and I hope they will 

* Mr. Do Quincey <lied at Edinburgh, December 8, 1859. 


not be disappointed indeed. I do not think Mr. Professor can re- 
fuse them, but I have not yet had time to talk the matter over with 
him; for at the time the letter came he was particularly busy, aud 
the day before yesterday, he and Johnny left us for a week to 
visit an old friend, Mr. Findlay, in the neighborhood of Glasgow, 
from whose house they mean to go and perambulate all the old 
haunts in and about Paisley, where Mr. W. spent his boyhood, and 
particularly to see the old minister Dr. M'Latchie, whom I dare say 
you have heard him mention often ; he lived in his house for seve- 
ral years before he went to Glasgow College." My father really 
must have been " particularly busy" at this time, and his powers of 
working seem to me little short of miraculous; he had two articles 
in Blackwood in January ; four in February ; three in March ; one 
each in April and May ; four in June ; three in July ; seven in Au- 
gust (or 116 pages); one in September; two in October; and one 
in November and December: being thirty articles in the year, or 
1,200 columns. To give an idea of his versatility, I shall mention 
the titles of his articles in the Magazine for one month, viz., Au- 
gust:— "The Great Moray Floods ;" "The Lay of the Desert;" 
" The Wild Garland, aud Sacred Melodies ;" " Wild Fowl Shoot- 
ing ;" " Colman's Random Records;" "Clark on Climate;" "Noc- 
tes, Xo. 51." My motner, wn>!e all this literary work was going 
on, was too good a housewife to be able to spare time for more 
than the most notable works of the day. She, however, says jocu- 
larly to her correspondent: "I think I must give you a little litera- 
ture, a> I shine in that line prodigiously; I have read, with intense 
interest, as everybody must do, Moore's Life of Lord Byron. 
Mr, W. had a copy sent to him, fortunately; for strange as it may 
appear, it is not to be had in the booksellers' shops here, and I sup- 
pose will not be till the small edition comes out." 

In September and October, the Professor writes, from Penny 
Bridge and Elleray, the following letters to his wife: — 

"Texxy Bridge, Tuesday, September, 1830. 
•M, DEABE8T Jane: — We came here yotcnlay ; and my i ' 1 1 1 ti- 
ll- .ii was to take Maggy back to Elleray with me to day, and thence 
in a few days to Edinburgh. But 1 find thai thai arrangement 
would n<>t suit, aid therefore have altered it. Our plans now are 
as follows: — We return in a body to Elleray (that is, I and Maggy, 


ami James Ferrier) this forenoon. There is a ball at Mrs. Ed- 
mund's (the Gale !) to-night, where we shall be. On Thursday, 
there is a grand public ball at Ambleside, where we shall be ; and I 
shall keep Maggy at Elleray till Monday, when she and the boys 
will go in a body to Penny Bridge, and I return alone to Edin- 

" From your letters I see you are well ; and I cannot deny Mag- 
gj the pleasure of the two balls; so remain on her account, which 
1 hope will please you, and that you will be happy till and after my 
return. The session will begin soon, and I shall have enough to do 
before it comes on. Dearest Jane, be good and cheerful ; and I 
hope all good will attend us all during the winter. Such weather 
never was seen as here! Thursday last was fixed for a regatta at 
Lowood. It was a dreadful day, and nothing occurred but a din- 
ner-party of twenty-four, where I presided. On Friday, a sort of 
small regatta took place. A repast at three o'clock was attended 
by about seventy-five ladies and gentlemen, and the ball in the 
evening was, I believe, liked by the young people. The ' worstling' 
took place during two hours of rain and storm. The ring was a 
tarn. Robinson, the schoolmaster, threw Brunskil. and Irvine threw 
Robinson ; but the last fall was made up between them, and gave 
no satisfaction. The good people here are all well and kind. 
Maggy has stood her various excursions well, and is fat. I think 
her also grown tall. She is a quarter of an inch taller thau Mrs. 

Barlow. Colonel B lost his wife lately by elopement, buf is in 

high spirits, and all his conversation is about the fair sex. He is a 
pleasant man, 1 think, and I took a ride with him to Grasmere t'oth- 
er day. The old fool waltzes very well, and is in love with Maggy. 
He dined with us at Elleray on Sunday. I have not seen the Wat- 
sons for a long time, but shall call on them to-morrow. The weather 
and the uncertainty of my motions have stood in the way of many 
things. I have constant toothache and rheumatism, but am tolera- 
bly well notwithstanding. Give my love to Molly and Umbs. Tell 
them both to be ready on my arrival, to help me in arranging my 
books and papers in the garrets and elsewhere. My dearest Jane, 
God bless you always. Your affectionate husband, 

" J. Wilson." 

A few days later he writes;— 


" Ellerat, Monday Afternoon, 
October, 1830. 

"My dearest Jane : — The ball at Ambleside went oft" with great 
eclat, Maggy being the chief belle. The Major is gone, and proved 
empty in the long-run. We all dined at Calgarth on Saturday — a 
pleasant party. On Sunday, a Captain Alexander (who was in 
Persia) called on us, and Ave took him to the Hardens' to dinner. 
We were all there. To-day, Maggy and Johnny made calls on 
horseback, and we in the ' Gazelle.' We took farewell of the Wat- 
sons. Mr. Garnet dines with us at Elleray, and the boys at Lowood 
with the Cantabs. To-morrow they go to Penny Bridge, and J. 
Ferrier to Oxford, and I to Kendal. So expect me by the mail on 
Wednesday, to dinner, at five, if I get a place at Carlisle. I found 
the Penny Bridge people were anxious, so I let the bairns go to 
them till after the Hunt ball ; and no doubt they will be happy. 
Have all my newspapers from the 'Opossum' on Tuesday before I 
arrive. Tell Molly to get them in a heap. Have a fire in the front 
drawing-room and dining-room, and be a good girl on my arrival. 
Have a shirt, etc., aired fur me, for I am a rheumaticiau ; a fowl 
boiled. I got your kind letter yesterday. Love to Moll and Umbs. 
God bless you ! I am, your affectionate husband, 

" Johistnt Wilson." 
"Elleray, Monday, 1830. 

'* My dearest Jane : — I had a letter this morning from Maggy, 
dated Saturday, Bangor Ferry, all well / and I suppose that she 
would write to you some day. She told me not of her plans, but I 
understand from Belfield, that the party are expected there on 
Thursday. I think 1 shall stay till she arrives. We dined at 
Penny Bridge on Thursday, having called at Hollow Oak, and 
found all the family al both places well. 

"Miss Penny is looking very well. We returned that night to 
Elleray. On Friday, for the first time — no, for the second — we 
took a sail in the 'Gazelle,' the Thomsons' boat, for an hour or two, 
and then dined in a body at Lowood. <>n Saturday we rode (all 
five) i" Grasmere, walked up Easdale — fell in with a man and his 
wife, or love-lady— Englishers apparently, named Brodie, who were 
anxiou i i Langdale. We t<>M them to join us, and all seven 
rode to the head of it, across by Blea-Tarn, and down little Lang- 
dale to Ambleside. 


" It was a delightful day as to weather, and we enjoyed ourselves 

" At Ambleside, where we arrived about half-past six, we dined 
in great strength. The Carr surgeon, the Costelloe ditto, John 
Harden, Fletcher Fleming, another person, I think, and ourselves 
live. I got home about twelve, all steady. Sunday, that is yester- 
day, was one of the most complete things of the kind I remember 
to have seen ; and I presume the floods in Morayshire were in high 
health and spirits. We lay on sofas all day. To-day, Monday, is 
Stormy and showery, and I never left the dining-room great chair. 
Tell Mary to write to me the night she gets this, and that, I think, 
will be to-morrow, and I shall get it on Thursday. Write you on 
Thursday nighty and I shall get it on Saturday, on which day I 
shall probably leave Elleray, but I will fix the day as soon as Maggy 
comes. I shall, on my arrival, have plenty to do to get ready for 
November 4th ; so shall not most probably go to Chiefswood at 
all. Hartley Coleridge came here on Saturday, and is looking well 
and steady. He sends his kindest regards to you, Mary, and Umbs. 
Do you wish me to bring Maggy with me ? Yours, most affec- 
tionately, J. Wilson. 

" I got your kiud letter duly this morning." 

" Dearest Moll : — Write me a long letter, and on Wednesday 
night, if you have not time on Tuesday. Give my love to your 
Mamma and Umbs. Your affectionate father, J. W." 

Next year he paid another visit to Westmorelaud, from which he 
Avrites to his wife : — 

"Penny Bridge, Sunday, 26(h Sept., 1831. 

'■ My dear Jane : — I delayed visiting this place with Mary till I 
coiud leave Elleray, without interruption, for a couple of days. T. 
Hamilton stayed with us a fortnight, and, as he came a week later, 
t ancl stayed a week longer than he intended, so has my return to 
Edinburgh been inevitably prevented. Mary and I came here on 
Thursday, since which hour it has never ceased raining one minute, 
nor has one of the family been out of doors. They are all well, in- 
cluding .Mrs. and .Miss Hervey, who have been staying about a 
month. It now threatens to be fair, ami I purpose setting off by 
and by on foot to Elleray, a walk of fifteen miles, which perhaps 
may do me good ; but if 1 feel tired at Newby Bridge, I will take 


a boat or chaise. Mary I leave at Penny Bridge for another week. 
The boys will join her here next Thursday, and remain till the 
Monday following, when they will all return to Windermere. On 
that Monday, Mary will go to Rayrig for two days or three, and 
either on Thursday or Friday arrive together in Edinburgh. I and 
Gibb will most probably be in Edinburgh on Thursday first., unless 
I find any business to detain me at Elleray for another day, on my 
return there to-night. If so, you will hear from me on Wednesday. 
As Mary wrote a long letter on Tuesday last, full, I presume, of 
news, I have nothing to communicate in that line. Birkbeck has 
been at Elleray fur two or three days, and Johnny says he expects 
Stoddart, who perhaps may be there on my return to-night. We 
all went to the Kendal ball, which the young people seemed to en- 
joy. Twenty-six went from Bowness, forming the majority of the 
rank and beauty. I hope you have been all quite well since I saw 
you, as all letters seem to indicate, and that I shall find you all well 
on my return. A severe winter lies before me, for I must lecture 
on Political Economy this session, as well as Moral Philosophy; 
and that .Magazine will also weigh heavy on me. I certainly can- 
not work as I once could, and feel easily wearied and worn clown 
with long sitting; but what must be must, and toil I must, what- 
ever be the consequence. The month before the Session opens will 
be of unspeakable importance to me, to relieve if possible my miser- 
able appearance in College beginning of last Session. I wish to do 
my duty in that place at least, and change and exposure there are 
hard to bear, ami of infinite loss to my interests. 1 feel great uuea- 
siness ;|! ),1 pain very often from the complaint I spoke of; but how 
else can I do what is necessary for me to do? Whatever be the 
consequence, and however severe the toil, I must labor this winter 
like a galley-slave ; ami since it is for us all, in ///at at, least, I shall 
be doing what is at once light and difficult, and in itself deserving 
of commendation. If I fall through it, it shall only be with my life, 
or illness beyond my strength to bear up against. I hope .Maggy's 
playing the guitar and singing frequently, and that limbs is a good 
boy. Kindest love to them. I should like to have a few kind lines 
from you, written on Monday, the evening you receive this, and 
rem ('. post-office then. I may, or rather must miss them, but if 
any thing prevents it I shall conclude you are undoubtedly all well. 
You need ooj send any newspapers after recei, t of this, but please 


to keep them together. Do not say any thing about my motions to 
the Blaokwoods, as I wish to be at home a day or two incog. I 
shall get my room done up when I arrive, which will save me trou- 
ble perhaps afterwards in looking out for papers. Mary is getting 
fat, and looks well, and the boys are all right. I am, my dearest 
Jane, yours ever affectionately, John Wilson." 

Two days later he writes : — ■ 

V1 My dear Jane : — I expect to be at home on Friday per mail, 
or 'Peveril,' to dinner. I purpose riding over to Penrith with 
Garnet on the ponies on Wednesday, and thence on, which saves 
me Kenual, a place abhorred. The family leave Elleray that day 
for Penny Bridge. I was so knocked up with my walk therefrom 
as to be stiff and lame yet. My walking day is over. The shrubs 
in the entrance are all well, but too tall, and want to be cut over. 
The myrtle is in excellent health and beauty, though it seems less.* 
Charlief is in high glee and condition. The avenue is beautiful, and 
the gate pretty, the low walls being covered with ivy, and other 
odoriferous plants and parasites. The ponies and cows are all well- 
to-do, live of the former and two of the latter. Of the five former, 
one is an 'unter, and two are staigs. I called to-day at the Wood, 
and found all the Watsons well. I have frequently done so. I 
have not been in Ambleside since Hamilton left us ; and we have 
seen nobody for a long time, it being supposed that I am gone, 
whereas I am just going. I wish no dinner on Friday, but a foal, 
as F. calls it. Mary is to write to you on Friday next, so you will 
hear of the boys a day later than by the Professor. Weir must 
ha\ e been a bore. I like Otter ; Starky is in treaty for Brathay for 
nineteen years. He is seventy-two. Rover is pretty bobbish. 
Star is at Oldfield in high spirits, and neighs as often as we pass 
the farm. Love to Maggy and Umbs. I expect to find you all 
well, and if possible alone and in good humor on Friday, for I shall 
be very tired. Stoddart brought letters. I opened Mag's and 
yours, but not the other two, which being about eating had no 
charms. Yours affectionately, J. Wilson." 

That the Magazine did weigh heavily upon him I do no1 wonder, 

* The myrtle was my mother's favorite plant. 
t A spaniel belonging to my mother. 


as he had already written twenty articles during 1831, five of which 
were in the August number. 

During this year, too, he commenced those noble critical essays 
on " Homer and his Translators,"* which scholars have remarked 
" contain the most vivid and genial criticisms in our own or any 
other language."! I believe deep thought and careful philosophi- 
cal inquiry, combined with stirring vivacity, are nowhere more 
attractively displayed than in these essays of my father. But not 
to the learned alone do they give delight, for my humble admira- 
tion makes me turn to them again and again. 

The following letter from Mr. Sotheby, relating to these papers, 
may come in here : — 

" 13 Lower Grosven-or Place, October 8, 1831. 

'• My dear Sir : — One month, two months, three months' griev- 
ous disappointment, intolerable disappointment, Homer and his tail, 
Chapman, Pope, and Sotheby in dim eclipse. What becomes of 
the promise solemnly given to the public, that the vases of good 
and evil, impartially poured forth by your balancing hand, were ere 
Christmas to determine our fate? I long doubted whether I 
should trouble you with a letter, but the decided opinion of our 
friend Lockhart decided me. And now hear, I pray, in confidence, 
why I am peculiarly anxious for the completion of your admirable 

" I propose, ere long, to publish the Odyssey, and shall gratify 
myself by sending you, as a specimen of it, the eleventh book. It 
will contain, inter alia, a sop for the critirs. deeply soaked in the 
blood of a fair heifer and a sable ram, and among s« anus of spirits, 
the images of the heroes of the Iliad, completing the tale of Troy 
divine After the publication of the Odyssey, it is my intent, by 
tie- m most diligence and labor, to correct the Iliad, and to endeavor 
to render it less unworthy of the praise you have been pleased to 
confer on it. Of your praise I am justly proud ; yet for my future 
object, I am above measure desirous of the benefil of your cen- 
sures. The remarks (however nattering) with which I have been 
honored by others, are [ess valuable to me than your censures ; of 
this, the proof will be evident in the subsequent edition. 

'The firs! \ J >r J 1. followed by Numbers 'i and ■'<. in Miv anil .Inly. Ill Auu'ier. ii 

mi mnon ■ >! '■ m d again In 

tinned at Intervals from U oven papers. 

tOls'Ut'in. \je. 


"You must not, you cannot leave your work incomplete. How 
resist the nighl expedition of Diomede and Ulysses? — Hector 
bursting the rampart — Juno and the Cestus — Hector rushing on, 
like the stalled horse snapping the cord— The death of Sarpedoh — 

The consternation of the Trojans at the mere appearance of the 
armed Achilles — The Vulcanian armor — Achilles mourning over 
Patroclus — The conclusion of the twentieth hook — The lamenta- 
tions of Priam, and Hecuba, and, above all, of Andromache — Priam 
at the feet of Achilles — Andromache's lamentation, and Helen's 
(oh, that lovely Helen !) over the corse of Hector — can these and 
innumerable other passages be resisted by the poet of the 'City of 
the Plague ?' No, no, no. 

" In sooth, I must say, I had hope that at Christmas I might have 
collected, and printed for private distribution, or, far rather, pub- 
lished, for public delight and benefit, with your express permission, 
the several critiques in one body, and then presented to the world 
a work of criticism unparalleled. 

" I dine this day at Lockhart's, with my old and dear friend, Sir 
Walter. His health has improved since his arrival. Perhaps your 
cheeks may burn. I beg the favor of hearing from you. I remain, 
my dear sir, most sincerely yours, Wat Sotheby."* 

Miss "Watson, the writer of the following letter, was a lady whose 
name can scarcely be permitted to pass without some notice. She 
was eldest daughter of the Bishop of Llandaff, and a woman of high 
mental attainments. When my father resided as a young man in 
Westmoreland, she was then in the flower of her age, and in con- 
stant communion with the bright spirits who at that time made the 
Lake country so celebrated. Mr. De Quineey, in writing of Charles 
Lloyd, and mentioning 3ii^s Watson as his friend, says she " was an 
accomplished student in that very department of literature which 
he mosl cultivated, namely, all that class of works which deal in the 
analysis of human passions. That they corresponded in French, 
that the letters on both sides were full of spirit and originality.'* 
Miss Watson's life, with all the advantages which arise from a 
highly endowed nature, was but a sad one, for her temperament was 
habitually melancholy, and her health delicate. She has long since 
found repose. The speech which she alludes to in her letter, was 

♦ William Sotheby, born November 9, 1757; died December 30, 1S83. 


one made by Professor Wilson at a public meeting which had been 
projected by a number of individuals, to give vent to their senti- 
ments upon the effect of the reform measures in the contemplation 
of Government : 

"December 3, 1831. 

"My dear Professor: — I suppose it is to yourself I owe the 
Edinburgh papers containing your own eloquent and elegant speech. 
Many thanks ; I admire it much.' If you were not born a prince 
you deserve to be one. Mr. Bolton was here when I was reading 
it, and he said, ' I do assure you, Miss Watson, that Mr. Canning 
never made a finer speech, and I shall drink the Professor's health in 
a bumper to-day.' I really am not capable of understanding what 
Englishmen mean by all this nonsense. We are like the Bourbons, 
of whom it may be said, 'thai they had learnt nothing by the 
French Revolution.' Is it possible that the system of equality (at 
which a child of five years old might laugh) can still delude the 
minds of men now? I have no news worth sending ; all is quiet 
The cholera frightens no one. We laugh at it as a good joke. Go<*- 
help our merry hearts ! there is something ludicrous in it, I suppose, 
which I can't find out. Blackwood sent me Robert of Paris, etc., 
which I am very much pleased to have. I have not begun it yet; 
indeed, I am not well, nor would have sent you so dull a letter, but 
that I could not delay saying how much I was gratified by the papers. 
Ever believe me yours affectionately, D. Watson. 

"Kind remembrances to Mrs. Wilson and Margaret. It is bitter, 
bitter cold in this pretty house. As for you and the Shepherd (to 
whom I would send my thanks for the most gratifying letter I ever 
received, hut that it is rather too late in the day), I advise you both 
to -hut yourselves up in Ambrose's for a month to conic, ami keep 
• fall the nonsense that will be going on in the shape of Re- 
form : and every nighl put down your conversation, and let me see 
it iii Blackwood. You shall he i wo philosophers enchanted like 
Durandarte, and not to lie disenchanted till all is over. Truly I do 
think you eal too many oysters! How much I do like those 
-.' Write one, and lei it he a goodone. Wordsworth says 
'that the booksellers arc all aghasl ! and thai another dark age is 
coming on.' I think he is not tar wrong. lie is a wonderful crea- 
ture when he will deign to lie what nature made him, not artificial 
society, lie rea I one of his poems to me. The subjeel was some 

' 14* 

Mr.Mmi; <>|. .ui! I.N WILSON 

gold-fish, bul the latter stanzas were magnificent! Ob, what a pity 
it is to sec so noble a creature condescending to be the ass of La 
Fontaine's Fable! Allien! I have written beyond my power of 
hand. I would rather far listen to you than write to you. I can- 
n t now make up a letter, but my heart is still the same. It was 
the only talent I ever possessed in this world. Itm*<sibehidunder 
a bushel. How is Mrs. Hamilton ? I am ashamed to send such a 
scrawl, but indeed I am very poorly, as the old nurses say." 

The following- passages from the Professor's oration, which, on 
referring to the papers, I see was the speech of the day, are worth 
reproducing. He said, among other good things, that " Often have 
1 heard it said, and have my eyes loathed to see it written, that we 
of the great Conservative party are enemies of education, and have 
no love for what are called the lower orders — orders who, when 
their duties are nobly performed, are, in my humble estimation, as 
high as that in which any human being can stand. I repel the 
calumny. I myself belong to no high family. I had no patronage 
beyond what my own honorable character gave me. I have slept 
in the cottages of hundreds of the poor. I have sat by the cotter's 
ingle on the Saturday night, and seen the gray-haired patriarch with 
pleasure unfold the sacred page — the solace of his humble but hon- 
orable life. I have even faintly tried to shadow forth the lights and 
shades of their character; and it is said I belong to that class who 
hate and despise the people. . . . Must I allow my understand- 
■ be stormed by such arguments as that the chief business of 
poor men is to attend to politics, or their best happiness to be found 
in elections ? I know far better that he has duties imposed on him 
by nature, and, if his heart is right and his head clear, while he is not 
indifferent to such subjects, there are a hundred other duties he must 
perform far more important; he may be reading OjSTe book, which 
tells him in what happiness consists, but to which I have seen but 
few allusion, made by the reformers in modern times. In reading 
those weather-stained pages, on which, perhaps, the sun of heaven 
had looked brighl while they had been unfolded of old on the hill- 
side' In his forefathers of the Covenant ; when, environed with peril 
and death, he is taught at once religion towards his Maker, and not 
to forgel the love and duty he owes to mankind; to prefer deeper 
interests, because everlasting, to those little turbulences which now 


agitate the surface of society, but which, I hope, will soon subside 
into a calm, and leave the country peaceful as before."* 

I fear, however, his political opponents, in that time of madness, 
did not look upon his words witli the same loving eyes as his ami- 
able correspondent, as I see in a letter of my father's at this time a 
reference to a rhyming criticism of the Conservative proceedings any 
thing but flattering, from which I give two Hues as a specimen : — 

" The Professor got up and spoke of sobriety, 
Religion, the Bible, and moral propriety." 

" I need not point out to your disgust," parenthetically observes the 
Professor to a friend, " the insinuations conveyed in that wretched 
doggerel, nor express my own that they could have been published 
by a man who has frequently had the honor of sitting at my table, 
and of witnessing my character in the domestic circle." 

In this excited period I find ladies writing strongly on political 
matters. For example, even the gentle spirit of my mother is 
roused. She says to my aunt: — "I hope you are as much disgusted 
and grieved as we all are with the passing of this accursed Reform 
Bill. I never look into a newspaper now ; but we shall see what 
they will make of it by and by." 

Among my father's contributions to the Magazine this year, there 
appeared in the Maynumberan article which attracted considerable 
attention. It was a review of Mr. Tennyson's Poems, \ the first 
editioD of which had appeared two years previously. The critique 
was severe, yet kindly ami discriminating. The writer remarking 
good-humoredly at its close, "In correcting it for the pics-, we see 
that its whole merit, which is great, consists in the extracts, which 
are 'beautiful exceedingly.' Perhaps in the firsl part of our article 
we may have exaggerated Mr. Tennyson's not unfrequenl silliness, 
for we arc apt to be carried away by the whim of the moment, and, 
in our humorous moods, many things wear a queer look to our aged 
eyes which till young pupils with tears; but we feel assured thai in 
ill. second pari we have nol exaggerated his strength, and that we 
have done do more than justice to his fine faculties." li says much 
for the critic's discriminating power thai he truly foretold of the 
future Laureate, thai the day would come when, beneath sun and 

• BcUnburgh Advertiser, '- >v 19 I - U, 

t I'lirin*. chiefly hyrleti /. By Alfl-ed Tennyson. London: E, Wlleoa. 1S30. 

340 Memoir of John Wilson. 

Bhower, his genius would grow up and expand into a stately treej 
embowering a solemn shade within its wide circumference, and that 
millions would confirm his judgment "that Alfred Tennyson is a 
poet." The young poet, although evidently nettled,* received the 
oriticism in good part, and profited by it. On reading the paper 
Once more, I observe that, with scarcely a single exception, the 
verses condemned by the critic were omitted or altered in after 

In June, 1832, my mother writes : — "Mr. Wilson has long and 
earnestly wished to have a cruise with the experimental squadron, 
which I believe will sail by the end of this month ; but unfortunately 
he was late in applying to Sir P. Malcolm." 

In July he left home for the purpose of joining the squadron, and 
the result of his naval experience will be found in the following 
communications sent from time to time to Mrs. Wilson : 

" Uxiox Hotel, Charing Cross, 
Wednesday, July 11, 1832. 
" My dearest Jane : — I have received your favor of last Satur- 
day, and rejoice to find that you are all well, and in as good spirits 
as can be expected during my absence. Had I known what bustle 
and botheration I should be exposed to, I hardly think I should 
have left Edinburgh. Every day gives a different account of the 
movement of the squadron. The 'Vernon,' who is at Woolwich, 
was to have dropt down to-day to Sheerness, but it is put off till 
Friday, and even that is uncertain. She has then to get all her 
guns Mini powder on board, and her sails set, and other things, which 
will take some days, I guess; and this morning it is said the squad- 

* Ir. the edition of his poems, published in 1833, the following somewhat puerile lines appeared, 
"hioh I quote as a literary curiosity : — 


" You did late review my lays, 
Crusty Christopher; 
You did mingle blame with praise, 

Eusty Christopher: 
When I learned from whom it came, 
I forgave you all the blame, 

Musty Christopher; 
I could not forgive the praise, 
Fusty Christopher." 
t "The National Sons;" " English War Song;" "We aro Free; 1 ' " Love, Pride, and Forg.'tful- 
■ Shall the hag Evil." & .-. : ■ The ' How' and the 'Why;'" "The Kraken," icic, 
Deigned to oblivion, or to our acquisitive brethren on the other side, of the Atlantic, win 
uiLi have preserved these youthful effusions in the American editions. 


ron are to meet at Plymouth. All this keeps me in a quandary, 
and I have not been able to see Sir F. Collier, the captain of the 
'Vernon,' but possibly shall to-morrow. Since I wrote I have been 
again at Woolwich, and seen the officers of the 'Vernon.' They 
were at first rather alarmed at the idea of a professor, and wonder- 
ed what the deuce he wanted on board. I understand that they 
are now in better humor; but the truth is, that, pride is the leading- 
article in the character of all sailors on their own ship ; and I am 
told these dons are determined to take nobody else but myself. 
Captain Hope (not the President's son) and Andrew Hay were with 
me at Woolwich, and there we picked up Captain Gray* of the 
Marines (you will remember his singing), who dined with us at 
Greenwich. I see Blair every day, and pass my time chiefly with 
offis/ters, the United Service Club being close at hand. The literary 
people here seem cockneys. I called yesterday on Miss Landon, 
who is really a pleasant girl, and seemed much nattered by the old 
fellow's visit. To-day Blair and I, along with Edward Moxon, 
(bookseller), take coach for Enfield (at three o'clock), to visit Charles 
Lamb. We return at night, if there are coaches. On Thursday, I 
intend going to the Thomsons' down the river, and shall call again 
on my way on the ' Vernon,' to see what is doing. Meanwhile^ j ou 
will get this letter on Friday, and be sure it is answered that even- 
ing, and sent to the General Post- Office. I shall thus hear from 
you on Monday, and shall then (if not off) have to tell you all our 
future intentions. Meanwhile it is reported that the cholera is on 
board the ' Vernon? If so, I shall not go, but proceed to the Tyne. 
But Bay nothing of this to anybody. yesterday 1 visited Kensing- 
ton Gardens with Captain Hope, but saw nobody like Maggy, .Ma- 
ry, Umbs, and yourself. I met there Lord Haddington, and am to 
dine with him, if I can, before sailing ; but 1 hope we shall be at 
rendezvous by Monday night. Tell Maggy to give me all news, 
and if you have beard again from Johnny. 1 will send you in my 
next my direction when we set sail; and 1 am uol without hopes 
the squadron may land me In Scotland. Some say there will be 
fighting, and that the ' Vernon' will lead the van, being, though a 
powerful as a line-of battle ship. 1 will write to Ebony 
about money for the house after I hear from Maggy, and hope you 
will go on pretty well till I return. Tell Maggs to be civil to Bon, 

* ('liu: ' ■ Dp, UZ. 


and he will be my banker for small sums. I will also send a receipt, 
which you will get on the Gth of August, for £30 odd ; but I will 
explain how in my next. 

'•'Take good care of all yourselves, and be good boys and girls. 
Love to Mag, Moll, and Umbs. As for Blair, he cuts me so up 
that 1 fear to send him even my compliments. I am glad to hear 
of Moll's voice being high. Keep Mag to the guitar and new songs. 
Yours ever affectionately, John Wilson." 

The next is to his daughter Mary : — 

*' Union Hotel, Charing Cross, 
July 16, 1832. 
" My dear Mary : — I have received your kind epistle, and am 
rather pleased to find you all well. I write these few lines in a 
great hurry, to tell you to wrap up in a parcel, two silver soup- 
spoons, two teaspoons, and two silver forks, and direct them to me 
at Union Hotel, Charing Cross, per mail, without delay. See them 
booked at the Office. Young ladies take such things to school, and 
young gentlemen, it seems, to sea. See that the direction is dis- 
tinct. Write to me by the same post, or if any thing prevent, by 
the one following; but direct my letter, care of Captain Tatnal, 
No. 5 Park Terrace, Greenwich. I have just time to say God bless 
you all, but in a few days will write a long letter telling you of our 
intended motions, as we hope to be off by the 26th. Don't believe 
any thing about the 'Vernon' in any newspaper. Be good girls 
and boys till my return, and do not all forget your old Dad. Love 
to mamma, and tell me if you have heard farther from Johnny 
Thy affectionate father, J. Wilson." 


"No. 2 Park Terrace, Greenwich, 
"Ma bonne Citoyenne: — I am now fairly. established here in 
lodgings, that is, in a room looking into Greenwich Park, with 
liberty to take my meals in a parlor belonging to the fiunily. The 
master thereof is a Frenchman, and a Professor of Languages, and 
tne house swarms with frogs, that is, children. I pay fourteen 
shillings a week for lodging, which is a salutary change from the 
notel. I dine with Tatnal or Williams, or at a shilling ordinary, 


mid hope to be able to pay my bill to Monsieur Gallois when I take 
my departure. I walk to Woolwich daily (three miles), and board 
the 'Vernon,' who now assumes a seaward seeming. Her gun- 
carriages are on board, but not the guns themselves, which are to 
be taken in at Sheerness. I have seen Sir F. Collier, Avho behaves 
civilly, but he caunot comprehend what I want on board the 'Ver- 
non,' neither can I. Her destination is still unknown, but she is to 
have marines and artillerymen on board, which smells of fighting. 
But with whom are we to fight ? My own opinion is, that we are 
going to cruise off Ireland, and to land troops at Cork. Williams 
thinks we are going to Madeira, to look after an American frigate, 
and Tat rial talks of the Greek Islands. Meanwhile, Sir P. Malcolm, 
I hear, is enraged at being kept tossing about in the 'Donegal,' 
without knowing why or wherefore; and nobody knows where the 
'Orestes' has gone. The 'Tyne' sails to-morrow for Plymouth. 
The ' Vernon,' it is thought, cannot be off before the 27th, so that 
there will be time to write me again before I go to sea. You will 
gel this on Monday morning, and I hope some of you will answer 
it that night. Direct it to me at Captain Tatnal's, No. 5 Park 
Terrace, Greenwich, in case I should be off. If our destination be 
merely Ireland, there is every probability of our touching at some 
Scotch port. I have been several times at Sir Henry Blackwood's, 
in Regent Park; pleasant family, and fashionable. I forgot if I 
mentioned that I went to the Opera, singing and dancing, and tout- 
ensemble beautiful. A Miss Doyle (a Paddy about thirty-live), at 
Sir II. li/s, plays the harp ten time- better than Taylor. She is 
held to be the finest harpist we have. Miss Blackwood is very 
pretty, and clever. I go up to town to-day to dine with Mrs. 
Burke, and to-morrow a party of us eat white bait at the ' Crown 
and Sceptre' hen-. Besides the ' Vernon,' there are lying at Wool- 
wich two new gun-brigs, also built by Symonds, called the 'Snake' 
and the ' Serpent.' They go with as to compete with the ' Orestes.' 
The squadron, therefore, at first, will consist of the 'Donegal,' 84, 
the • Vernon,' 50, the 'Castor,' 44, the 'Tyne,' 28, the 'Orest* 3,' 
1 Serpent,' and "Snake,' 18; and we expect to be joined by the 
'Britannia' and 'Caledonia,' 120; but that is uncertain. The 
hatred fell for the ' Vernon' is \\ ide and deep, and all the old fogies 
predicl she will capsize in a -quail. This is all owing to her incom- 
parable beauty. Tow have just to imagine the 'Endeavor' magni 


Bed, and you see her hull, only she is sharper. She is very wide 
in proportion to her length, and also deep; so the devil himself 
will not be able to upset or sink her. She has the masts and spars 
of a 74, and yel they seem light as lady-fern. I am sorry, however, 
to say, that there have been twelve cases of cholera on board, and 
three deaths. The disease, however, is now over, and I have no 
doubt arose from the dreadful heat of the weather acting on the 
new paint. She is now dry as a whistle, and the crew is the finest 
«\ er seen. I hope you will get up a long letter among you in reply 
to this, and I shall be expecting it anxiously, as the last I can re- 
ceive for some time. I will write again before one o'clock, sending 
you my direction, and also a receipt, which will enable you to get 
some money, I think, on the 6th of August. Be sure to tell me of 
Johnny, and when he returns I hope he will write me an account 
of his route and his exploits. Blair, too, might write me a letter, I 
think. Kindest love to them all. Keep Maggie at her music, and 
tell me how Molly is getting on with Miss Paton. Perhaps Urnbs 
lias a voice! Tell her to try. Compliments to Rover.* God bless 
you all, and believe me, dearest Jane, yours ever most affectionately, 

" John Wilson." 

" Sheerness, Augusts, 1832. 

" My deakest Jane : — I have delayed writing to you from day 
to day, in hourly expectation of being able to tell you something 
decisive of our mysterious motions, but am still in ignorance. In a 
few days you may expect another and very long epistle; but I 
Avrite now just to say that we are weighing anchor from Sheerness 
for the Nore, and that to-morrow we set sail down the Channel, 
either for Cork or Madeira, or somewhere else, for nobody knows 
where. I never knew what noise was, till I got on board the 'Ver- 
non.' But all goes on well ; the particulars in my next. I enclose 
you a five-pound note just to pay the postage. I cannot get on 
shore, else I would send a stamp for some money due to me on the 
6th. But I will send it first port we touch on. Meanwhile Maggy 
must, when necessary, get a small supply from Bob. 

• Von will not think this short letter unkind, for we are ordered 
off in half an hour. You may depend on my next being rathei 

♦ One of the dogs. 


" I shall be most anxious to hear from you, and of you all, imme- 
diately. You are all at leisure, and must get up a long joint letter, 
telling me of every thing. Get a long sheet from Ebony, and cross 
it all over. Enclose it (directed to me in H. M. S. 'Vernon') to Mr. 
Barrow, Admiralty, and he will transmit it duly. Do not lose time. 
God bless you all, one and all, and believe me, my dearest Jane, ever 
yours affectionately, John Wilson." 

" , 1332. 

" My dearest Jane : — I wrote to you a few days ago from 
Sheerness, and now seize another hour to inform of our motions 
since I wrote from London. I found my lodgings at Greenwich 
very comfortable, but experienced almost as many interruptions 
there as in town. I dined with Charles Barney one day, and found 
the family the kindest of the kind, and pleasant. I forget if I told 
you that the Literary Union gave me a dinner, with T. Campbell in 
the chair. At last, after many a weary delay, the ' Vernon' left 
Woolwich on Sunday, 29th July, in tow of two steamboats, which 
took her to the Nore. On Monday, 30th, she was taken into dock 
at Shecrness, and then, after some repairs in her copper, anchored 
within cable-length of the 'Ocean,' of 100 guns. Some of us 
amused ourselves with walking about the place ; but it is somewhat 
dullish, though the docks, etc., are splendid. On Tuesday, Z\st, we 
took our guns on board, fifty 32-pounders, the method of doing 
which was interesting to me, who had never seen it before ; and 
then Lunched with the officers of the 'Ocean,' an 1 inspected that 
magnificent ship 'The Flag Ship' — Admiral Sir J. Beresford. I 
dined with the Admiral in his house on shore, and met a pleasant 
party of males and females. We had music and dancing, and the 
family proved agreeable and amiable. At midnight we readied the 
'Vernon,' all tolerably steady, that is to say, Mr. Massey, the first 
lieutenant, the captain, and myself. 

"On Wednesday, 1st of August, I breakfasted with the officers 
of the 'Ocean,' and Lieutenant Carey (brother of Lord Falkland) 
took me in bis cutter to Chatham, during which sail we saw about 
a hundred s 1 1 i j . ^ of war, of the line and frigates, all moored like 

models along both shores. The chaplain (Falls) and I then in- 
spected Chatham and Rochester, and walked to Maidstone, where 

were the Assises; so we proceeded to a village wayside inn, when' 


we slept comfortably. This walk gave us a view of the Vale oi 
Alesford and the richest parts of Kent. 

" On Tlmrsday, -2d, we returned to the 'Vernon,' through a woody 
and hedgy country, and the hottest of days, and in the afternoon 
saw the powder taken aboard. The officers of the 96th gave me a 
dinner at the barracks, and a jovial night we had of it. On rowing 
back to the ship, one of our lieutenants fell overboard, but we 
picked him up without loss of time, and had him resuscitated. On 
Friday, 3d, I called on the Admiral, and chatted with his three 
daughters, about the corresponding ages of your three — pretty, and 
well brought up, elegant, and without hauteur. They have no 
mother, but an aunt lives with the Admiral, who is a kind-hearted 
soul as ever lived. I also called on Captain Chambers, captain of 
the ' Ocean,' who lives on shore, and chatted with his daughters, 
three in number, and agreeable — eldest pretty and rather literary 
— good people all. I also called on Mr. Warden, surgeon, who used 
to live in Ann Street. I found him and his wife and family snugly 
situated in a good house, and civil to a degree. I dined on board 
the ' Ocean :' officers of that ship delightful fellows, and over- 
Avhelmed me with kindness. 

"Saturday, the 4th. — The ' Snake' gun-brig from Woolwich ap 
pea red in the offing going down the river, and the ' Ocean' saluted 
her with twelve guns. At midday the ' Vernon' manned her yards, 
a beautiful sight, while we received the Admiral. I lunched on 
board the ' Ocean,' and dined in the ' Vernon,' having inspected 
all the docks and the model-room, and seen Sheerness completely. 
In the evening we were towed out to the Nore. On Sunday, tht 
5th, we weighed anchor by daylight, and the 'Vernon' for the first 
time expanded her wings in flight. She was accompanied by the 
Duke of Portland's celebrated yacht the 'Clown,' whom she beat 
going before the wind, but we had no other kind of trial till we 
cast anchor off the Sark in the 'Swin' off Norwich. Monday, the 
Uh. — Weighed anchor at daylight with a fine breeze, and went into 
the Downs. Off Ramsgate, were joined by the ' Snake' and ' Pan- 
taloon' gun-brigs, the latter the best sailer of her size ever known. 
e on to blow fresh, and for several hours we tried it on upon 
a w ind, having been joined by a number of cutters. The ' Vernon' 
rather beat the rest, but in myopinion not very far, the 'Pantaloon' 
sticking to her like wax. But our sails are not yet stretched, and 


the opinion on board is, that she will, in another week or so, beat 
all opponents. The day was fine, and the sight beautiful, as we 
cruised along the white cliffs of Dover, and then well over towards 
the French coast. At sunset we returned before the wind tc the 
Downs, and the squadron (-Vernon,' 'Snake,' 'Pantaloon,' and 
4 Clown') cast anchor off Deal, surrounded by a great number of 

" Tuesday, the 1th. — The squadron left their anchorage before 
Deal about twelve o'clock, with a strong breeze; the 'Clown' and 
'Pantaloon' being to windward of the ' Vernon,' and the 'Snake" 
rather to leeward. This position was retained for nearly two hours, 
when the 'Snake' dropped considerably astern, and the 'Vernon' 
weathered the l Pantaloon,' the 'Clown' still keeping to windward 
and crossing our bows. At this juncture it blew hard, and I went 
down with Collier ami Symonds to dinner in their cabin. The ' Ver- 
non' was now left in charge of the first lieutenant, and in tacking 
missed stays. The * Snake' and 'Pantaloon' immediately went to 
windward, and we were last of all. It still blew very fresh, and in 
about two hours we again headed the squadron, all but the 'Clown,' 
who continued first all along. Toward- sunset the wind came off 
the land, where the 'Snake' and 'Pantaloon' were, and brought 
them to windward of us about two miles, and* so ended the day's 
trial, with alternate success. The 'Snake' and 'Pantaloon' then 
came down by signal under the 'Vernon's' stern, and we continued 
all nighl in company under easy sail, the wind having slackened, 
and the moon being clear and bright. 

•• Wednesday, 8th. — At seven o'clock found ourselves off Beachy 
Head, with the 'Clown' a long way to leeward, the ' Snake' to wind- 
ward, and the 'Pantaloon' in our wake. The wind had shifted 
during the night, and we had the advantage of it. But towards 
morning il hail fallen, and we made but two knots an hour. The 
calm continued during the day, and we made but little way. Early 
in the afternoon :i miserable accidenl occurred. The crew were up 
aloft lowering the main top-gallanl yard. It is a spar about seventy 
feet Ion-, and about sixty feet above the deck. As it was coming 
down, a man slid along it to release a rope from a block, when, by 
some mistake, the men above cut the rope he whs holding by, and 
in sight of us ail he descended with greal velocity, clinging to tin 
hpar till h'' came to the end of it, and then with outstretched arm.s 


fell about forty feet upon the deck, within three yards of where \ 
was standing. The crash was dreadful, and he was instantly carried 
below, affairs going on just as if he had been a spider. It was found 
that his right arm was shattered to pieces, and his whole frame shook 
fatally. He continued composed and sensible for three hours, when 
he began to moan wofully, and in half an hour expired. He was a 
S.ot sman of the name of Murray, one of the best men in the ship, 
and brother, it is said, of a clergyman. No doubt many felt for 
him, but the noise, laughter, swearing, and singing, went on during 
all the time he was dying. 

" Thursday ,9th. — The ship has been making considerable way 
during the night, and at eight o'clock we are off the Isle of Wight ; 
1 Snake' and ' Pantaloon' about two miles behind, all three going 
before the wind. The dead man is lying on the gun-deck, separated 
from where I now sit by a thin partition. The body is wrapped in 
flags, and the walls at his head and back are hung with cutlasses and 
the muskets of the marines. His weatherbeaten face is calm and 
smiling, and ' after life's fitful fever he sleeps well.' The night be- 
fore, he was one of the most active in a jig danced to the fifes. The 
wind is freshening, and we expect to be oif Plymouth (120 miles) by 
midnight, We have sprung one of our yards, and the fore-mast 
seems shaken, so we shall put into Plymouth to refit, and probably 
remain there three days. It is not unlikely that the Admiral (Mai 
colm) may join us there. If not, we shall Gail for Cork (distant 30C 
miles), and then, perhaps, the experimental squadron will begin its 
career. We have no more fear of fighting, neither do we know 
where we may be going, but my own opinion is that we shall cruise 
in the Channel. I do not see that I can be at home sooner than a 
month at the soonest, as all that I came to see remains yet to be 
seen. I am not without hopes of getting a letter from you before 
we leave Plymouth. I meet with all kindness from everybody, and 
am pleased with the on-goings of a sea-life, though the bustle and 
disturbance is greater than I had imagined, and the noise incessant 
and beyond all description. But my appetite is good, and I am 
never heard to utter a complaint. All day wind light, but towards 
evening it freshened, and at seven we committed the body of the 
poor sailor to the deep. The funeral ceremony was most impressive. 
Before nightfall the 'Snake' came up with afresh breeze, and we 
had another contest, in which the 'Vernon' was fairly beaten. In 


smooth water and moderate winds the 'Snake' is at present her 
master, much to my surprise; when it blows hard we are superior. 
Friday, 10th. — This morning at four we entered Plymouth. The 
country around is very beautiful, and young Captain Blackwood and 
I are proposing to go on shore. How long we remain here seems 
uncertain. I hope it may not be above a day or two. 

" Captain Blackwood and self have been perambulating Plymouth, 
and intend to dine at the hotel thereof. 

"I have written a tolerably long letter. God bless you all, aud 
true it is that I think of you every hour, and hope you now and then 
think of me too. Kindest love to all the progeny, John, Mag, Moll, 
Blair, and Umbs, and believe me yours most affectionately, 

"J. Wilson. 

" Write to me again on receipt of this, and enclose as before to 
Mr. Barrow of the Admiralty. The enclosed signature of my 
name, Johnny will give to Robert Blackwood, who will get my half- 
year's salary from the City Chamberlain, which you will get from 
the said Bob. Send £10 to Elleray, and account to me for the rest 
of the enormous sum.* I enclosed £5 in my last from Sheerness. 
Once more love to yourself and to children, aud farewell. I will 
write from Cork. Yours, J. W." 

" Plymouth, August 23d. 
"My DEAREST Jane: — 1 have, as you know, received your first 
long united epistle, aud answered it in a hurried letter, telling you 
to write to me dired to Plymouth. Before that I wrote a long 
journal letter enclosing my signature for a receipt, which no doubt 
you have received. To wait for the post of that era (the day after 
my long letter, August 10), I went up the Taraar with Captain 
Blackwood, and after an excursion of three days returned to Ply- 
mouth. On Tuesday the 14th I dined on board the 'Malta,' Cap- 
tain Clavell, with a large party, and that evening went aboard the 
'Campeadora' schooner, a pleasure-yacht belonging to Mr. Wil- 
liamsou, from Liverpool (nephew to old Shaw thereof, who, 1 un- 
derstand, was a rich and well-bred personage), and sailed with him 
to Portsmouth, distant from Plymouth 150 mile-. I passed two 
day- P tsmouth viewing all the greal works there ; and return- 
ed to Plymouth on Saturday, the 17th, by a steamer; :i most stormy 

• The Pro&Mor'a "iftlnry" was £72 Is, 11. per unuuin. 


passage. Saturday and Sunday I dined on board the 'Vernon;' 
and on the Sunday I wrote to yon the hurried letter above alluded 
to. On Monday, the 19th, I dined with Mr. Roberts, the master 
Bhip-builder of the docks, and met some naval and military officers. 
Tuesday the 20th was an a'-day's rain, and I kept all day in* a lodg- 
ing-room with Captain Williams, R. N., and his brother, the purser 
uf the 'Vernon.' Wednesday the 21st was a fine day, but I went 
nowhere, except on board a few ships ; and it being electioneering 
time here, I heard some speeches from Sir Edward Codrington and 
others. I dined with a party of offishers at the hotel. To-day 
(Thursday the 22d) I saw Sir F. Collier, who informed me that the 
squadron of Sir P. Malcolm, consisting of seven sail, were in the 
oiling, and that the ' Vernon' is to join them to-morrow at 12 a.m. 
We are consequently all in a bustle; and my next letter will be 
from the first port we put into. This is the night of the said Thurs- 
day ; I am on shore writing this. I hope that a letter from you will 
reach us to-morrow before we sail, though I fear not, because Mr. 
Barrow is at Portsmouth, and that may have delayed your letter. 
The letter which you were to write direct according to former in- 
structions, to Plymouth, will be sent after us ere long. On receiv- 
ing this please to write to me, directed to me under cover to Mr. 
Burrow, Admiralty, and it will be forwarded with the Admiral's 
letters. The cruise begins to-morrow, and two months have been 
spent, as you will see, in another way. I shall take two or three 
weeks of the cruise, as it would be stupid to return without seeing 
the experimental squadron. I shall write to you by the first steamer 
or tender that takes letters from the squadron. I do not think we 
are going very far. Several balls and concerts were about to be 
given to us, but our orders have come at last rather unexpectedly, 
and all the ladies are in tears. I forgot to say that on Monday, the 
13th, I dined, not on board the 'Vernon,' but in the Admiral's 
bouse, with a splendid party. The ' Vernon' has been much attack- 
ed in the newspapers, but my account of her in my long letter is 
•rrect one. I think in strong breezes she will beat the squadron. 
In lighl winds she may prove but an 'Endeavor.' I shall say no 
more of my hopes and fears about your letter to-morrow ; but this 
I will say, and truly, that I think of you all three or seven times a 
day, or haply twenty-one. I suppose the lads have gone to Elleray, 
according to my permission in my last, and with the means of doing 


so afforded by the stamp-receipt. I will write to you again before 
long ; I hope it will not be very long before I return. Tell the girls 
to be sensible and good gals. Love to them and the lads, if these 
latter be with you ; and do not doubt, my dearest Jane, that I am, 
«uid ever will be, your affectionate Johx ^Vilsox." 

" Campeadora Schooner, Plymouth, 
August 31, 1832. 

"My dearest Ja>~e: — After some anxiety from not hearing 
from you, your letter of the 23d, direct to Plymouth, reached me 
ihe day before yesterday, and informed me that all are well. I 
cannot conjecture what has become of your other letters, but I 
have received only one long one written conjunctly, and your own 
of the 23d. Any or all intermediate must still be with Mr. Barrow. 
I presume that Sym has told you within these few days that he has 
heard from me, and I now sit down to inform you further of my 
proceedings. The squadron are now collected, and we have been 
sailing with strong breezes. The first day there was no right trial ; 
the second, fromTorbay to near Plymouth and bach again, was also 
inconclusive. The chief struggle was between the ' Snake,' ' Cas- 
tor," and 'Vernon.' When going under full sail, in the same tack, 
close-hauled to the wind, the 'Vernon' was considerably ahead, the 
'Castor' next, and the 'Snake' trying to shoot across the 'Castor's' 
bow, but without success. The ' Castor' carried away her jib-boom, 
and signal was thereupon made by the Admiral for us \>< put about. 
The 'Castor' stood in, and we crossed her to windward only fifty 
yard<. Afl Bhe was more than fifty yards behind when we started, 
her people claimed the victory, but it was obviously no go. Tin* 
day grew very boisterous, and we got safe at sunset into Torbay. 
On Sunday (the day following), T visited the Admiral, as told in my 
letter to Sym. On Monday we lay at rest. I am sorry to say, that 
on entering Torbay, on Saturday night, a man fell overboard, and 
was drowned. On Wednesday morning, at four o'clock, the squad- 
ron got under weigh and left Torbay. I fad gone on board the 
'Campeadora' the nigh! before, and slepl thereon condition that a 
b >■ >k-- >:ii Bhould he kepi on the movements of the ' Vernon.' Judge 
~>f my feelings (mixed) when awakened at seven, and told all the 
tfhipe had been gone for several hours. At eight we weighed an- 
chor and followed the fleet. The tide favored us, and so did a 

MEM on; OS .I'Hi.s WTI.SON. 

strong breeze from the land, and in a few hours we discovered the 
squadron some leagues ahead, but to leeward, and they were all 
racing, and, as Ave neared, I had a beautiful view of all their mo- 
tions. The 'Snake' was two miles ahead of all the others; the 
1 Vernon' and 'Prince' were next, and close together. The 'Trin- 
culo' followed, then the 'Nimrod;' next came the ' Castor,' and, 
finally, the 'Donegal;' the ' Dryad' had been sent to Portsmouth, 
and the 'Tyne' to Plymouth the day before. It now came on to 
blow very hard, and the waves ran hillocks high ; frequent squalls 
darkened the sky, and shut out the ships, which ever and anon 
reappeared like phantoms. They seemed to retain their positions. 
Meanwhile we kept to windward, and ahead of them all, but with 
a pitching, and a tossing, and a rolling no mortal stomach cotdd 
withstand. Still, though occasionally sick, I enjoyed the storm. 
My hat flew overboard, and we were all as wet as if in the sea. 
There was no danger, and the vessel was admirably managed, but 
she was liker a fish than a bird. Between four and five in the 
afternoon the ' Campeadora' dropt anchor behind the breakwater 
in Plymouth Sound. In rather more than balf-an-hour the ' Snake' 
did the same; in another half hour in came the 'Prince;' in quarter 
of an hour more the ' Vernon ;' and shortly after the ' Trinculo' 
and the 'Nimrod;' the 'Castor' and 'Donegal' were obliged to lie 
off during the night. The race was fifty miles, beating to wind- 
ward, and in blowy weather. The ' Vernon' was, at the end, seven 
miles ahead of the ' Castor,' her chief competitor, they being the 
only two frigates, and built by rivals, Symonds and Jeffrys. As 
soon as I got myself dried, and my hunger appeased, I joined the 
' Vernon,' and joined the officers in the gun-room, crowing over the 
' Castor.' They had sold all my effects by auction, and had consid- 
ered me a deserter. The night was passed somewhat boisterously, 
but the name of the Campeadora never once mentioned ! ! ! ! She 
had beaten them all like sacks, and I therefore behaved as if I had 
come from Torbay in a balloon. Next clay (Thursday) we remain- 
ed all anchored behind the breakwater. Your welcome letter 1 re- 
I on board the 'Vernon,' the evening of the race. I asked one 
of the officers what he thought of the 'Campeadora,' who had left 
Torbay three hours after the squadron, and anchored in the Sound 
of Plymouth hal£an-hour before the 'Snake.' His answer was, 
1 That he had not seen her I that we had not sailed with the squad- 


ron at all : and had been brought in by the tide and the land 
breeze' ! ! ! The tide and land breeze had helped to bring us up 
with the squadron ; but for five hours we beat them all, as I said, 
like sacks into our anchorage. The whole officers joined with my 
antagonist in argument, and it has been settled among them that 
the ' Campeadora' did not sail with the squadron, and that she beat 
nobody ! Such, even at sea, is the littleness of men's souls ; it is 
worse even than on Windermere at a regatta. This is Friday (the 
31st), and I slept last night in the ' Campeadora.' I shall keep this 
letter open till I hear something of our intended motions, which I 
hope to do on boarding the 'Admiral.' The 'Vernon' is eaid to be 
wet, because when it blows hard, and she sails upon a wind, the 
Bpray spins over her main top-gallant mast. This it seems is reck- 
oned a great merit. As to the noise on board — for it consists of 
everlasting groaning, howling, yelling, cursing, and swearing, which 
is the language in which all orders are given and executed — never 
less than 200 men are prancing on her decks, and occasionally 500 ; 
windlasses are ever at work, and iron cables are letting out and 
taking in, which rumble like thunder. Gun-carriages (two ton and 
a half heavy) are perpetually rolled about to alter her trim, and ever 
and anon cannon tired close to your ears (32-pounders) which might 
waken the dead. Drums, too, are rolling frequently, and there are 
at all times the noise of heavy bodies falling, of winds whistling, 
and waves beating up to any degree. But all these noises are 
nothing compared to holy-stoning! This is the name given to 
scrubbing decks. A hundred men all fall at once upon their knees, 
and begin scrubbing the decks with large rough stones called holy- 

; this continues every morning from four o'clock to five, and 
is a noise thai beggars all description. I sleep in the cock-pit, a 

below both decks, in a swinging cot, which is very comforta- 
oon as the decks are done, down come a dozen Jacks, 
and holystone 'he floor of tin- cock-pit, without taking any notice 
of me, who am swinging over their beads. Thai being over, all 
th^ midshipmen whose chests are in tin- cock-pit, come in to wash, 
and shave, and dress. 5Tou had he! tn- not imagine the scene that 
then ensues. As soon a- the majority of them are gone I get up, 
and. at balf-pasl seven, Ca| tain Coryton of the Marines gives me 
hi- cabin to wash and dress in. I do so every morning, and the 
luxury of washing too became known to me for the first time; for 


you get covered with dust, and sand, and paint by day and night, 
to say nothing of tar and twine ; in short, every thing but feathers. 
The eating is excellent, and the drinking not bad, though some- 
times rather too much of it. 

" I have, since writing the above, seen Sir F. Collier, who informs 
me we start to-morrow forenoon (September 1st) for the coast of 
Ireland. I shall go ; and if the squadron does not return soon to 
Portsmouth, I shall sail from Cork to some northern port, and so 
home. I will write to you by the first opportunity, and I believe 
one will occur in a week. Love to the girls. I am happy to hear 
that Molly is getting on with her singing, and she may depend on 
my being pleased with her chanson. Meg is, no doubt, now a Son- 
tag; perhaps Umbs may also prove a songstress. The boys by 
this time have, I suppose, been a while at Elleray. Narcotic is a 
good word for the Opium-Eat er, but I read it hare-skin. I have 
just heard that another letter is lying for me on shore. I hope it 
is from some of you ; but I cannot get it, I fear, till the morning, 
an. I I am this hour again on board the 'Vernon,' and it is blowing 
so hard that no boats are going on shore. 

"I therefore conclude with warmest and sincerest affection for 
thyself and all our children. Give my kindest remembrances to 
my sister Jane, who, I devoutly trust, will continue to improve in 
health, and, ere long, be well. You are now but a family of four 
females, so be all good boys, and believe that I will be happy to be 
with you again, when I hope you will be happy to see again the old 
man. Once more, with love to you and the three Graces, I am, my 

dearest Jane, ever yours most affectionately, 

" John Wilson. 
" ' Vernok,' off Plymouth, August 31st." 

" Lakd's End, Tuesday Evening, 
September Ath. 

" About eight o'clock morning we were off the Scilly Isles, and 
observed a steamer. It contained the Admiralty and other 
grandees. Sir C. Paget, Sir F. Maitland, and Admiral Dundas, 
cnue on board at nine, and at ten signal was made for all ships to 
<lose upon the 'Vernon.' The wind was light but steady, and the 
day beautiful. We sailed till five o'clock (seven hours) in charming 
Style, but it would take a volume to narrate all our evolutions. 
F<»r the greater part of the time the ' Water witch' kept first, and 


tlion the 'Vernon,' the 'Snake' having outmanoeuvred herself by- 
passing too close to windward. The 'Castor' sailed well, but kept 
dropping to leeward. At half past four the 'Vernon' weathered 
the 'Waterwitch' and 'Snake,' and led the squadron. This was 
done by fair sailing, on which the Admiral made signal to shorten 
sail, which was done ; and the grandees left us aud went on board 
the steamer, which set off for Portsmouth. Sir Pulteney then came 
on board the ' Vernon,' and acknowledged we had beaten the squad- 
ron. The ' Castor' was four miles to leeward, the ' Stag' six, and 
the 'Donegal' eight: the'Ximrod' as far; but the ' Waterwitch' 
and -Snake' were only a quarter of a mile under our lee. The tri- 
umph of the 'Vernon' is declared complete, but, in my opinion, the 
'Waterwitch* and 'Snake' may beat her another day; the 'Castor' 
cannot, in any wind. The Admiral has just left us, and, if weather 
permit, Sir F. Collier and the Professor will dine to-morrow on 
board the ' Donegal.' We are now making sail back to the 'Lizard,' 
where, in the morning, a boat will come from shore for our letters. 
We will then put about for the coast of Ireland, as Sir Pulteney 
bimself has told me; and therefore, my dearest Jane, either your- 
self or the lasses, that is, the gals, must write to me, if possible, the 
evening you receive this — His Majesty's Ship '•Vernon,' Cork — 
without any reference to Barrow, and I shall get it probably before 
we leave that harbor. That will be the last time I shall hear from 
vou before I return; and from Cork I will write to Sym, who will 
probably send you my letter or part of it. Pray keep my letters 
for sake of the dates, for I have not been able to keep a journal. A 
good many things have occurred on board within these few days, 
but I have no room to narrate them. Warmesl love to the progeny, 
who, I hope, do uo1 forgel bim who tenderly loveth them. I ex- 
pect to fmd 1 1 ii-iii all grown on my return, and Catalani jealous of 
Sontag. 1 Bend them all ki-s.s and prayers lor their happiness, and 
for that of one- of the be>t of wives to her affectionate husband, 

"John A\ 'n> on." 

"Off the Lizard, September 5, 1832. 

"My dearest Jam:: -1 wrote a tolerably long lettei the day 

before we left Plymouth, whirl, was on Tuesday, the 4th. I had 

then received three letters from you, including our that bad been 

■enl to Cork. I therefore knew thai you were all well on the 23d 


August, and trust I believe you are so now. The squadron left 
port with a light leading wind, consisting of 'Donegal,' ' Vernon,' 
'Castor,' ' Stag' (a 46 frigate), 'Nimrod,' 'Snake,' and 'Water witch.' 
The 'Dryad' is paid off, being a bad sailer, and the 'Tyne' sails fur 
Smith America in a few days, and belongs no more to our flag. 
The 'Trinculo' has gone to Cork, and the 'Prince' is at Plymouth. 
In beating out, 'Vernon' missed stays, and drifted, stern foremost, 
aboard the 'Castor,' with no inconsiderable crash, staving her boat 
in the slings, and making much cordage spin. We got off, how- 
ever, without damage of any consequence, and towards night were 
off the Eddystone lighthouse. There was very little difference in 
the rate of going between 'Vernon' and 'Castor.' The 'Castor' 
rather beat us the first two hours, but at sunset (when sail is always 
token in) we w r ere to windward about 200 yards ; the ' Snake,' as 
usual, a mile at least ahead, and to windward of us all. All night 
we kept under easy sail in ' our Admiral's lee,' and on Monday 
morning at six o'clock, signal was made for us to spread all our 
canvas, and try it before the wind. We soon got into a cluster, the 
breeze being so light as to be almost a calm, and so we carried on 
in a pretty but tedious style for the greater part of the day, our 
prows being in the direction of Falmouth. The Lords of the Ad- 
miralty are there at present, and I suppose we shall touch in this 
evening. They were at Plymouth, and I was introduced to one of 
them, Admiral Dundas, who was very civil; so was Sir Ck Paget 
and Sir F. Maitland, the latter of whom invited me to see him at 
Portsmouth on our return, he being Admiral on that station. Sir 
J. Graham I did not see, as we were at dinner when he came on 
board the 'Vernon.' Sir Pulteney has been extremely kind, and is 
a good old man. I had not heard of poor Minna's death, and asked 
how she was, when he gave me the intelligence. She was a good 
woman, in my opinion. She died of dropsy, and had suffered much, 
but bore it like a Christian. We have just caught sight of an 
mormons lizard, so large that it is called 'The Lizard,' and we are 
all to lie under its shadow till morning, so good-night." 

"Cork, Friday, \Uh Sept., 1832. 
"My dearest Jane:— I wrote to you on the 5th, of the Lizard, 
and since then have enjoyed a week's capital cruising in all kinds of 
winds, except a positive storm. Your last letter received was the 2Qth 


of August; and lam In hopes of getting your answer to mine of the 
5th to-night. If I do not, I shall leave orders at the post-office to 
send it on to London, where I hope to be in a week from this day. 
But in case any accident should happen, I.wish one of you to write 
to me, the same day you get this, directed to me at ' Union Hotel, 
Charing Cross, London, to lie till called for? telling me that you are 
all well. I shall be at Portsmouth (necessarily) a day or two before I 
go to London, but shall not stay in the metropolis more than one 
day. I rather think I shall come down to Edinburgh by land, for a 
steamboat after the ' Vernon' will be rather dull, and at this season 
rolls most infernally. In that case I shall go by York ; for I do 
not wish to trouble Elleray at present, for sufficient reasons. As I 
shall travel outside, I shall probably stay a day at York : but I will 
write you a day before I leave London, communicating particulars, 
and you will see me before long. 

" On Tuesday, the 11th, Ave entered the Cove of Cork at sunset; 
the squadron at four o'clock. On Wednesday, the 12th, I set off on 
foot for the city of Cork, distant thirteen miles, a most beautiful 
walk. At nine o'clock, I took a seat in the mail-coach, and was off 
for Killarney. In the coach were a Captain and Airs. Baillie, young 
people who had been in India, and near relatives of the Major and 
Mis. Barlow. We became friends. 

"At Killarney found that Mis. Cashel* was not there/ ought to 
have known that before. Stormy night, so kept snug in a good 
inn. Thursday, 13th, left Killarney in a jingle at five o'clock in the 
morning, and arrived at Marino Lodge, on the Kenmare, distance 
twenty miles, before nine o'clock. Found the family all well, ex- 
eepl Mrs. Cashel, who has an asthmatic cough, which mention to 
nobody. I will amuse you when xoe meet with my account of my 
visit to that, quarter. Nothing could exceed their kindness, and 
she admires you beyond all. On Friday, the 1 4th, left Marino 
Lodge in a taxed cart at five o'clock, and went nearly twenty miles 
through mountains to a place on the Cork road, where the mail 
overtook us. (lot in -and afterwards out- after being twiceup- 
set, and three times half upset. More of thai an<>n; no bones 
broken. 1 bavejusl dined in the coffee-room with three very agree* 

alile Irishmen, whose names I do not know, but w ho asked me to 

drink wine a- ilir "Professor. I am just about to set off for tho 

• Hit) sister. 


' Vernon' in :i jingle ; and I hear that we sail to-morrow (Saturday, 
the 15th), at five o'clock a. m. Indeed, Sir F. Collier told me so 
before I left the ship. I thought it would or might seem unkind 
uot to see Grace when I was in Ireland, and therefore I travelled 
160 miles for that purpose, being with them just twenty hours. 
You must not be incensed with the shortness of this letter, for you 
must perceive that I have been in a dreadful racket. I intend 
writing another letter to Sym on our way up to Portsmouth; but 
do not say any thing about it. If your letter has come thus far, it 
will be lying for me to-night on board the ' Vernon.' Tenderest 
love to the Graces, and also to the lads at Elleray. I hope you will 
be kind to the old man on his return — all of you. Yours ever, most 
affectionately, John Wilson." 

" Union Hotel, Charing Cross, 
Tuesday Afternoon, September 25tt, 1832. 

"My dearest Jane: — The 'Vernon' anchored at Spithead this 
day week, and the day following I wrote to Sym, who would tell 
you of my welfare. I got your Cork letter on the Thursday, and 
on Friday I bade farewell to the ' Varmint' (as she is called), and 
dined on shore with the "William ses, who have a house at Ports- 
mouth. That night I took coach to London, where I arrived 
about six o'clock, and went to bed for some hours. I found your 
letter lying for me soon after breakfast, and was rejoiced to find 
you were all well. On Saturday, Dr. Maginn dined with me ; and 
on Sunday I called on Mrs. S. C. Hall and husband, Miss Landon, 
and Thomas Campbell, with the last, not least, of whom I passed 
the evening. There is a Captain Coryton (of the Marines) on board 
the ' Vernon,' whose wife and family live at Woolwich. I promised 
to call on them to tell them about him, and his mode of life, and 
did so on Monday, having walked thither and back (about twenty 
miles). He is to be absent for three years in. South America. I 
returned to London by seven, and dined with a German Baron, 
whose name I can neither spell nor pronounce, a Polish Patriot, 
(not Shirma), and a French royalist. On Tuesday, that is, this day, 
after some business connected with my cruise, I called on Mrs. 
Jamieson, author of King Charles's Beauties. She is very clever, 
middle-aged, red-haired, and agreeable, though I suspect you would 
call her a conceited muv. She is to send some Italian airs to 


the guitar for Maggie, to the hotel this evening. I am going to 
dine to-day at the Literary Union, with Campbell and some others. 
To-morrow I shall be busy all day, calling on naval officers, and at 
the Admiralty, nor could I have sooner done so. And on Thurs- 
day, I shall leave London for York in one of the morning coaches. 
This will enable me to stop some hours there to rest, and I shall be 
in Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon ; I do not know at what hour, 
but I believe two or three after the mail, unless I take my place in 
the mail from York. The gals can ask Bob at what hour any 
coach arrives in Edinburgh from York, besides the mail. I should 
think he will know. But should any thing detain me, it will only 
be ray not getting a place at York. The gals may take a look at the 
mail, perhaps on Saturday. I need say no more than that I shall 
be truly happy to find you all well and happy, as you deserve to be. 
God bless you all ! Yours ever affectionately, 

" John Wilson." 



The following letter will be read with interest : 

"London, November 30, 1832. 

'■ Sir: : — You have often, and ' on the Rialtd' too, twitted me with 
an addition to Sonnets, and 'such small deer' of poetry, sometimes 
in a npiril of good-humor, at others in that tone of raillery which is 
so awful to young gentlemen given to rhyming love and dove. Yet, 
notwithstanding the terrors of your frown, I think there is so much 
of the milk of human kindness blending up with that rough nature 
of yours, as would prevent you from willingly hurting the weak 
and the defenceless ; on the contrary, if Master Feeble acknowl- 
edged his failing in a becoming manner, I can believe thai you 
would put the timid gentleman on hie legs, pat his head, cocker his 
alarmed features into a complacent smile, and, giving him some- 


tiling nice, washing it down with a jorum of whiskey-toddy, send 
him home to his lodgings and landlady with your compliments, so 
that I, you will perceive, have no bad opinion of your lionship. 

"You can do me a great good ; and when I assure you, which I 
do seriously and in all sincerity, that I seek not your favor in the 
spirit of vanity, that I may plume myself with it hereafter ; and 
when I tell you that I have ventured on this publication not to ex- 
alt myself, but, if possible, to benefit some poor relations, weighed 
down by the pressure of our bad times, I am sure that I may rely 
on your appreciating my motive, whatever you may think of the 
means I have taken to work it out. 

" One thing more I would say ; these poems, such as they are, 
are the productions of a self-educated man, who, in his tenth year 
of childhood, with little more than a knowledge of his Reading 
Made Easy, was driven out into the world to seek his bread, and 
pick up such acquirements as he could meet with ; these are not 
many, for he was not lucky enough to meet with many. This is 
a fact which I do not care that the public should know, for what 
has that monster so well off for heads to do with it ; nor, perhaps, 
have you ; I have mentioned it merely because I could not conceal 
it at this moment, when the disadvantages it has surrounded me with 
return upon me like old grievances for a time forgotten, but come 
back again to ' sight and seeing,' as palpable as ever, and as pro- 

"Enough of myself. There are many errors in the book staring 
me out of countenance. While it was in the press I was danger- 
ously ill, and, therefore, paid but little and distracted attention to it. 
Think, then, as mercifully of me and mine as you can ; and though, 
when you are frolicsome, you love to spatter us poor cockneys, 
sometimes justly enough, at others not so, believe that I can can- 
didly appreciate the power and the beauty of some parts of Black- 
wood's Magazine, and that I am, all differences notwithstanding, 
your humble servant, ." * 

In my mother's letters during 1833 and 1834, the strong political 
feelings of the time are occasionally exhibited. In one she says : 

• The signature of this letter has been torn off, but the letter itself is indorsed "from Charles 
Lamb to Professor Wilson." I am, however, afraid that it is not the production of "Elia," and 
a> I am not familiar with the handwriting, I cannot say who is the writer, or wheO^r the appeal 
was responded to. 


" We are all terribly disgusted and annoyed at the result of the late 
elections. I never look into a newspaper now ; and my only com- 
fort is in reading the political papers in Blackwood, and remember 
ing that I have lived in the times of the Georges." Again she writes I 
" What do you think of Church and State affairs ? We are in a 
pretty way ; oh, for the good old times ! Thank Heaven, while Mr. 
Wilson can hold a pen, it will be wielded in defence of the right 
cause." His pen, indeed, was not allowed to lie idle at this time, 
as the reader will find by referring to his contributions. During 
1833-'34 he wrote no fewer than fifty-four articles for Blackxoood % 
or upwards of 2,400 closely printed columns on politics and generai 
literature. Among these were reviews of Ebenezer Elliot* and 
Audubon, the ornithologist, which called forth interesting and 
characteristic replies. 


"Sheffield, Bth May, 1834. 
" Mr. Professor : — I do not write merely to thank you for your 
almost fatherly criticism on my poetry, but to say, that when I sent 
that unhappy letter, addressed, I suppose, to the Editor of Black- 
wood's Magazine, I knew not that the Professor was the editor. I 
had been told that the famous rural articles were yours, and the 
' Xoctes.' This was all I knew of that terrible incarnation of the 
Scotch Thistle, Christopher North. I had judged from his portrait 
on the cover of the Magazine. I understand it is a true portrait of 
Mr. Blackwood, whose name even now involuntarily brings before 
my imagination a personage ready to flay poor Radicals alive. 
When at length I understood you was the editor, I still thought 
you was only the successor of C. North, the dreadful. The letter 
must have been the result of despair. The Monthly Review had 
Stricken in- on tlie heart with a band <>!' ice, but I hail failed to 
attract the attention of the critics generally ; 'and perhaps I then 
thought that even an unfavorable notice in Blackxcood would bo 
better than none. But when I was told, a few days ago, that I waa 
reviewed in 'Maga,' I expected I was done for, never to hold up 
my head again. Having no copy of the letter I know not what 

vileness it may contain, besides the sad vulgarity! unfortunately 

' . Rhymer, ni born In 1781 ; he died in 1849. 
t *ilt. Billot ira plea ed, .» good while ogo, in a letter, the reverse of llati*nng, uddrcseod u 


quoted, and for which I blush through my marrow; but on the 
word of a poet, whose fiction is truth, when I wrote it I was no 
more aware, than if you had never been born, that I was writing to 
Professor Wilson. I should hate myself if I could deliberately have 
sent a disrespectful letter to the author of those inimitable rural 
pictures, which, before God, I believe have lengthened my days on 

" After your almost saintly forbearance, I must not bother you 
about the Corn-Laws ; but I will just observe that in our Island of 
Jersey, where (perjury [sic] excepted) the trade in corn is free, 
land lets much higher than in England. But is it not a shame that 
wheat should be sent from Holland to Jersey, after incurring heavy 
charges, and the Dutchman's profit, and then be sent to England as 
the produce of Jersey ? Poor John Bull paying for all out of his 
workhouse wages, or the sixteen-pence which he receives for four- 
teen hours' factory labor in the climate of Jamaica. 

•■ What is to follow such legislation ? I am, with heartfelt respect 
and thankfulness, Ebenezer Elliot." 

I cannot resist giving a passage from an article which afforded the 
author of the Corn-Law Rhymes so much genuine pleasure: — 

'■ Ebenezer Elliot does — not only now and then, but often — ru- 
ralize ; with the intense passionateness of a fine spirit escaping from 
smoke and slavery into the fresh air of freedom — with the tender- 
ness of a gentle spirit communing with nature in Sabbath-rest. 
Greedily he gulps the dewy breath of morn, like a man who has 
been long suffering from thirst drinking at a wayside well. He feasts 
upon the flowers— with his eyes, with his lips ; he walks along the 
grass as if it were cooling to his feet. The slow typhus fever per- 
petual with townsmen is changed into a quick gladsome glow, like 
the life of life. A strong animal pleasure possesses the limbs and 
frame of the strong man released from labor, yet finding no leisure 
to loiter in the lanes — and away with him to the woods and rocks 
and heavt u-kissing hills. But that is not all his pleasure— though 
it might suffice, one would think, for a slave. Through all his 
it penel rates into his soul — and his soul gets wings and soars. 

us, and written with !.i> own hard hoof of a hand, to call us a 'big blue-bottle,' but we be-ar no 
resemblance t.. thai KUsect," &c.— From "Poetry of E. Elliot," in Blackwood's Maaaein«, 


Yes ; it has the wings of a dove, and flees away — and is at rest! 
Where are the heaven-kissing hills in Hallamshire? Here, and 
there, and everywhere — for the sky stoops down to kiss them — and 
the presence of a poet scares not away, but consecrates their em- 

' Under the opening eyelids of the morn.' 

Of Mich kind is the love of nature that breaks out in all the com- 
positions of this town-bred poet. Nature to him is a mistress whom 
he cannot visit when he will, and whom he woos, not stealthily, 
hut by snatche — snatches torn from time, and shortened by joy 
that * thinks down hours to moment-.' Even in her sweet com- 
panionship he seems scarcely ever altogether forgetful of the place 
from which he made his escape to rush into her arms, and clasp her 
to his breast. He knows thai his bliss must be brief, and that an 
iron voice, like a knell, is ringing him back to dust ami ashes. So he 
smothers her with kisses — and tearing himself away — again with 
bare arms he is beating at the anvil, and feels that man is born to 
trouble as the sparks fly upwards. For Ebenezer Elliot, gentle 
reader, is a worker in iron; that is — to use his own words — '« 
dealer in steel, working hard > very day; literally laboring with my 
head and hands, •hkI alas, tcith my heart too! If you think the 
steel-trade, in thes< profitless 'lays, is not a heavy, hard-working 
(/■■i ''■ . come and break a ton. 7 

" We have worked at manual labor for our amusement, but, it 
was BO ordered, never for bread ; for reeling and reeving can hardly 
be called manual labor— ii comes to be a- facile to the fingers as the 
brandishing of this present pen. We have ploughed, sowed, reaped, 
mowed, pitchforked, threshed ; and put heart and knee to the gave- 
lock hoisting rocks. Bui not l'or a day's darg, and not for bread. 
Xow here lies ' tal and vital distinction between the condi- 
tion of our poet and his critic — between the condition of Ebetie/.er 
Eiliot and that of all our other | ts, except Robert Burns."* 

The nexl letter i- from .Mr. Audubon ;f — 

M M v drab Friend: -The fust hour of this Dew year was ushered 
to me surrounded by my dear Hock, all comfortably seated around 

• /: i U 'i 1884, 

t i. .1. Audubon, i Hod In 1381. 


:i small table, in a middle-sized room, where I sincerely wished you 
had been also, to witness the flowing gladness of our senses, as from 
one of us 'Audubon's Ornithological Biography' was read from 
your ever valuable Journal. I wished this because I felt assured 
that your noble heart would have received our most grateful thanks 
with pleasure, the instant our simple ideas had conveyed to you the 
grant of happiness we experienced at your hands. You were not 
with us, alas ! but to make amends the best way we could, all of a 
common accord drank to the health, prosperity, and long life, 
of our generous, talented, and ever kind friend, Professor John 
Wilson, and all those amiable beings who cling around his heart! 
May those our sincerest wishes reach you soon, and may they be 
sealed by Him who granted us existence, and the joys heaped upon 
the 'American woodsman' and his family, in your hospitable land, 
and may we deserve all the benefits we have received in your ever 
dear country, although it may prove impossible to us to do more 
than to be ever grateful to her worthy sons. 

" Accept our respectful united regards, and offer them to your 
family, whilst I remain, with highest esteem, your truly thankful 
friend and most obedient servant, John J. Audubon." 

The next letter is from the Rev. James White :* — 

" Loxley, Stratfoed-on- Avon, 
ith November, 1834. 
" My dear Sib : — The last was an admirable ' Noctes,' and in 
my opinion, makes up for the one for July. After describing the 
party at Carnegie's, who did you mean by the ass that, after bray- 
ing loud enough to deafen Christopher, went braying all over the 

* The Rev. J. White, of Bonchurch, Isle of Wight, author of Sir Frizzle Pumpkin, Nights at 
Mess. <fcc, and other stories, died March 28, 1862, aged fifty-eight. "Mr. White, says the Edin- 
burgh Courant, who was a native of this country, where his family still possess considerable 
property, was born in the year 1804. After studying with success at Glasgow and Oxford, he tooK 
orders to the Church of England, and was presented by Lord Brougham to a living in Suffolk, 
which he afterwards gave up for another in Warwickshire. On ultimately succeeding to a con- 
liderable patrimony, he retired from the Church and removed with his family to the Isle of Wight, 

Irs. White had Inherited from her father. Colonel Hill, of St. Boniface, a portion of his 
estate, Bonchurch, so celebrated for its beauty and mild climate. His retirement enabled him tj 

l considerable share of his time to literary pursuits, which he prosecuted with much suc- 
cess. The pages at Blackwood were enlivened by many of his contributions of a light kind, too 
popular and well known to require to be enumerated ; and his later works, including the Eighti en 
(Jhristian Centuries and the History of France, showed that his industry and accuracy, as well 
*s his good sense and sound judgment, were not inferior to his other and more popular talents."— 
^tn tie-man's Magazine. 


Borders ? You unconscionable monster, did you mean me? Vicar 
of the consolidated livings ofLoxley and Bray! I console myself 
•with thinking it is something to be mentioned in the ' Noctes,' 
though in no hiarher character than an ass. 

"Have you ever thought of making Hogg a metempsychosist ? 
what a famous description he would give of his. feelings when he 
was a whale (the one that swallowed Jonah), or a tiger, or an ante- 
diluvian aligautor near the Falls of Niagara, his disgust after being 
shot as an eagle, to find himself a herd at the head of Ettrick !* 

"Do you think of coming to England next year? Remember, 
whenever you do, you have promised me a benefit. Has Blair 
come up to college yet ? If he has, I wish you would for once 
write me a letter with his address ; for, as I am only a day's drive 
from Oxford, I should be most happy to show him this part of the 
country in the short vacation. My wife desires to be very kindly 
remembered to you and Mrs. Wilson, not forgetting the young 
ladies. And I remain, ever yours very truly, 

" James White." 

Attention to the ordinary course of duties, and the numerous 
occupations which engrossed his daily life, never stood in the way 
of my father's endeavors to be useful to his fellow-men. An ex- 
ample of this may be seen in his correspondence with a mutual 
friend, in order to pacify and to restore Mr. Hogg to his former 
position with Mr. Blackwood. This labor, for such it was, ended 
ultimately to the satisfaction of all parties, and the correspondence 
which led to that result is truly honorable to the writers. 

" My dear Shepherd : — From the first blush of the business, I 
greatly disliked your quarrel with the Blackwoods, and often 
wished to be instrumental in putting an end to it, but I saw no 

opening, and did nol choose to be n Ilessly obtrusive. Hearing 

that you would rather it was made up, and not doubting that Mr 
Blackwood would me< t you for that purpose in an amicable spirit, 
1 volunteer my services —if you and he choose to accept of them— 
a- mediator. 

" I propose t his— t hat all mere differences on this, and that, and 

B who mi' Interested may road the 8h6t»- 
jj, ).\ ■ fd in the ' ."•"■ ' if Feb] nun . 



every subject, and all asperities of sentiment or language on either 
side, be al once forgotten, and never once alluded to — so that there 
shall be asked no explanation nor apology, but each of you con- 
tinue to think yourself in the right, without taking the trouble to 
say so. 

" But you have accused Mr. Blackwood in your correspondence 
with him, as I understand, of shabbiness, meanness, selfish motives, 
and almost dishonesty. In your Memoir there is an allusion to 
some transaction about a bill, which directly charges Mr. Black- 
wood with want of integrity. In that light it was received by a 
knave and fool in Fraser's Magazine, and on it was founded a pub- 
lic charge of downright dishonesty against a perfectly honorable 
and honest man. Now, my good sir, insinuations or accusations of 
this kind are quite ' another guess matter' from mere ebullitions of 
temper, and it is impossible that Mr. Blackwood can ever make up 
any quarrel with any man who doubts his integrity. It is your 
bounden duty, therefore, to make amends to him on this subject. 
But even here I would not counsel any apology. I would say that 
it is your duty as an honest man to say fully, and freely, and 
unequivocally that you know Mr. Blackwood to be one, and in all 
his dealings with you he has behaved as one. This avowal is no 
more than he is entitled to from you ; and, of course, it should be 
taken in lieu of an apology. As to writing henceforth in ' Maga,' I 
am sure it will give me the greatest pleasure to see the Shepherd 
adorning that work with his friends again; and, in that case, it 
would be graceful and becoming in you to address Mr. Blackwood 
in terms of esteem, such as would remove from all minds anv idea 
that you ever wished to accuse him of want of principle. I should 
think that would be agreeable to yourself, and that it would be 
agreeable to all who feel the kindest interest in your character and 
reputation. In this way you would both appear in your true colors, 
and to the best advantage. 

"As for the JVoctes Ambrosiance, that is a subject in which I am 
chiefly concerned ; and there shall never be another with you in it, 
if indet d that he disagreeable to you ! ! ! But all the idiots in ex- 
istence shall never persuade me that in those dialogues you are not 
respected and honored, and that they have not spread the fame of 
you,- genius and your virtues all over Europe, America, Asia, and 
Africa. If there be another man who has done more for your 


fame than 7" have done, let me know in what region of the moon he 
has taken up his abode. But let the ' Noctes' drop, or let us talk 
upon that subject, if you choose, that we may find out which of us 
is insane, perhaps both. 

" Show this letter to the Grays — our friends — and let them say 
whether or not it be reasonable, and if any good is likely to result 
from my services. I have written of my own accord, and without 
any authority from Mr. Blackwood, but entirely from believing that 
his kindness towards you would dispose him to make the matter up 
at once, on the one condition which, as an honest man, I would 
advise him to consider essential, and without which, indeed, he 
could not listen to any proposal. I am, my dear sir, your affec- 
tionate friend, John Wilson." 

" My dear Mb. Hogg : — Your letter in answer to mine is written 
as mine was, in a friendly spirit ; but on considering its various 
contents, I feel that I can be of no use at present in effecting a re- 
conciliation between you and Mr. Blackwood. I was induced to 
offer my services by my own sincere regard for you, and by the 
wishes of Mr-. Tzett and Mr. Grieve; but it rarely happens that an 
unaccredited mediator between offended friends in a somewhat 
complicated quarrel can effect any good. Should you, at any future 
time, wish me to give an opinion in this matter, or advice of any 
sort, you will find me ready to do so with the utmost sincerity. I 
will merely mention to Mr. Grieve, who was desirous of having 
you and Mr. Blackwood and myself to dinner, thai 1 wrote you, 
and had an answer from you; but I shall leave you to tell him or 
not. as you please, what passed between us. That I may not fall 
into any unintentional mis-statement, I will likewise tell Mr. Black- 
wood the same, and no more, that I may not do more harm than 
good by having taken any Btep in the affair. If you never have 
made any accusation of the kind I mentioned againsl Mr. 1 i 1 : i < • k - 
wood, then am I ignorant of the merits of the case altogether, and 
my interference is only an additional instance of the danger of vol- 
unteering counsel, with erroneous impressions of the relative situa- 
tion of the parties. I proposed a plan of reconciliation, which 
Beemed to me to make no anpleasanl demand on either party, and 
which was extremely simple ; but it would seem that 1 tool, for 
granted certain accusation or insinuations as linsl Mr. Blackwi od's 


character as a man of business, which you never made. I am, 
therefore, in the dark, and require to be instructed, instead of being 
privileged to counsel. With every kind sentiment, I am, my dear 
sir, yours most sincerely, Jonsr Wilson." 

In a long letter to Mr. Grieve, my father is at great pains to clear 
up the matter, and effect the much-desired reconciliation on terms 
honorable to both parties. He says : — 

"If Mr. Hogg puts his return as a writer to ' Maga,' on the 
ground that 'Maga' suffers greatly from his absence from her pages, 
and that Mr. B. must be very desirous of his re-assistance, that will 
at once be a stumbling-block in the way of settlement ; for Mr. B., 
whether rightly or wrongly, will not make the admission. No 
doubt Mr. H.'s articles were often excellent, and no doubt the 
' Noctes ' were very popular, but the Magazine, however much 
many readers must have missed Mr. Hogg and the 'Noctes,' has 
been gradually increasing in sale, and therefore Mr. B. will never 
give in to that view of the subject. 

" Mr. Hogg, in his letter to me, and in a long conversation I had 
with him in my own house yesterday after dinner, sticks to his 
proposal of having £100 settled on him, on condition of writing, 
and of becoming again the hero of the ' Noctes,' as before. I see 
many, many difficulties in the way of such an arrangement, and I 
know that Mr. Blackwood will never agree to it in that shape ; for 
it might eventually prove degrading and disgraceful to both par- 
ties, appearing to the public to be a bribe given and taken dishon- 

" But nothing can be more reasonable than for Mr. Hogg to make 
£100 or more by 'Maga,' and by the Agricultural Journal. If he 
writes again for both, Mr. B. is bound to pay him handsomely and 
generously, as an old friend and man of genius ; and no doubt he 
will do so, so that if Mr. Hogg exert himself to a degree you and 
/think reasonable, there can be no doubt that he will get £100 or 
more from Mr. Blackwood, without any positive bargain of the 
kind above mentioned, which might injure Mr. Hogg's reputation, 
and appear to the public in a degrading light. 

"To insure this, none of Mr. Hogg's articles should ever again 
be returned. If now and then any of them are inadmissible they 


should still be paid for, and Mr. Blackwood, I have no doubt, 
would at once agree to that, so that at the end of the year Mr. 
Hogg would have received his £100 or more, without any objec- 
tionable condition, and on reasonable exertions. 

"And now a few words about myself. The Shepherd, in his let- 
ter to me (which you have- seen, I believe), seems to say that 1 
ought to settle the £100 a year on him, and that he is willing to 
receive it from me, if I think it will be for my own benefit. I have 
said nothing about this to him, but to you I merely say that I never 
did and never will interfere in any way with the pecuniary concerns 
of the Magazine, that being the affair of Mr. Blackwood; secondly, 
that of all the writers in it, I have done most for the least remu- 
neration, though Mr. B. and I have never once had one word of 
disagreement on that subject; and thirdly, that it is a matter of 
the most perfect indifference to me, whether or not I ever again 
write another ' Xoetes,' for all that I write on any subject seems to 
be popular far above its deserts ; and considering the great num- 
ber of ' Xoetes 1 I have written, I feel very much indisposed ever 
to resume them.* My own personal gain or loss, therefore, must 
be put out of sight entire;)- in this question; as I can neither gain 
nor lose by any arrangement between Mr. B. and Mr. Hogg, though 
the Shepherd thinks otherwise. 

"This, likewise, must and will l»e considered by Mr. Blackwood, 
whether the ' Noctes' can be resumed, for if the public supposed 
that / were influenced by a regard to my own interests in resuming 
them, I most certainly never would ; and were I to resume them, 
and Mr. Hogg again to prove wilful, and order them to be discon- 
tinued, I should feel myself placed in a condition unworthy of me. 
I wrote the ' Noctes' to benefit and do honor to Mr. Hogg, much 
more than to benefit myself; and but for them, he with all his ex- 
traordinary powers would nut have been universally known as he 
now i> ; for poetical fame, you well know, is fleeting and precarious. 
After more than a dozen years' acquiescence and delight in the 
'Noctes,' the Shepherd, because be quarrelled with Mr. Blackwood 
(/// other grounds, puts an cud to them, which by the by he had no 
right to do. It is tor tie' to consider whether I can resume them; 
but if I do, it must be clearly understood that I am not influenced 
by Belf-interest, but merely by a desire to bring back things as they 

* \i another "Nm death, which took place In 1885, 


uiti' before, and to contribute my part to an amicable arrange- 


" I bit I will say to you what must not be said to anybody else, 
Ilia 1 , if it be necessary, owing to Mr. Hogg not writing a sufficient 
DUiaber of articles tit for insertion, to make up some considerable 
.Min towards £100 per annum being given to him, I will certainlj 
contribute half of it along with Mr. Blackwood. 

"There are various other points to be attended to. The Maga- 
zine now is the least personal periodical existing, and it will con- 
tinue so. Now Mr. Hogg may wish to insert articles about London 
.Hi'! so on. that may be extremely personal. Mr. Blackwood could 
not take such articles. He has himself reason to be offended with 
Mr. Hogg's writings about himself, and could not consistently in 
like manner offend others. Suppose that the Shepherd sent such 
MS. for the first year as could not be inserted at all, is Mr. Black- 
wood to be paying him £100 for nothing ? The kind, therefore, of 
his contributions must be considered by ' James,' though he may 
still be allowed considerable latitude. 

'• With respect to past quarrels, they should at once be forgotten 
by both parties, and not a word said about them, except if Mr. 
Hogg has published any thing reflecting on Mr. Blackwood's integ- 
rity. I think he has. That, therefore, must be done away with 
by the Shepherd in the Magazine itself, but not in the way of apol- 
ogy, hut in a manly manner, such as would do honor to himself, aud 
at once put down all the calumnies of others, to which Mr. Black- 
wood has been unjustly exposed, especially in Fraser's Magazine. 
All abuse of Mr. Blackwood in that w r ork, as founded on his be- 
havior to 3Ir. Hogg, must, by Mr. Hogg, be put a stop to ; for if 
he continues to write in Fraser, and to allow those people to put 
into his mouth whatever they choose (and they hold him up to ridi- 
cule every month after a very different fashion from the Noctes ! !), 
their abuse of Mr. Blackwood will seem to be sanctioned by Mr. 
Hogg, and neutralize whatever he may say in ' Maga.' This is plain. 

"Consider what I have said attentively, and I will call on you on 
'J', i, sday <it two o'clock, and will explain a few other matters perhaps 
tedious to write upon. After that, the sooner you see Mr. B. the 
better, and I think an arrangement may be made, in itself reasona- 
ble and beneficial to all parties, on the above basis. Yours ever 
affectionately, John Wilson." 


The result of these friendly negotiations may lie gathered from 
the "Noctes" of May 1834, in which there is a lively and most 
amusing description of the Shepherd's return to the bosom of his 
friends in the tent at the Fairy's Cleugh.* 

I make use of my mother's words to tell of the plans for the sum- 
mer of 1834 : — " Our own plans for the summer are, to spend four 
months of it at least, that is, from the 20th June till the 20th Octo- 
ber, in Ettrick Forest. The house we have taken, which is fur- 
nished, belongs to Lord Napier, who is at present in China, and he 
wished to get it let for the summer; but, from the retirement of the 
situation, hardly expected to meet with a tenant for that time. It 
is called Thirlstane Castle ; the country around is all interesting, be- 
ing pastoral, with no lack of wood and water, and a great lack of 
neighbors ; we all like retirement, young and old, and look forward, 
with great satisfaction, to spending a quiet summer." 

We accordingly took up our quarters at Thirlstane, and enjoyed 
Ettrick Forest vastly; the boys had their fishing and shooting; the 
very dogs were happy. " The dowgs," as James Hogg called them, 
shared in all our amusements; it was here that Rover had his ad- 
venture with the witdi transformed into a hare. "She was sitting 
in her ain kail-yaird, the preceese house I dinua choose to mention, 
when Giraffe, in louping ower the dyke, louped ower her, and she 
gied a spang intil the road, turning round her i'ud within a yard 
o* CI aver s, | — and then sic abrassle; a' three thegither up the brae, 
and then back again in a hairy whirlwind ; twa miles in Less than ae 
minute. She made for the mouth of the syver,J but Rover, wha 
had happened to be examining it in his inquisitive way, ami kent 
naething o' the course, was coming oul jusl as she was gaun in, an' 
atween the twa there ensued, unseen in the syver, a desperate bat- 
tle. Well dune witch ; well dune warlock : and al ae time 1 feared, 
fine hi- j elping and yowling, that Rover was getting the \\" 

* 'Hi.- whole dialogue, which will be found in ; I ly, 1884, [8 too long for qi 

w lines of tbe apology may I >■ given: — 
- I'll never breathe :i whisper even to my :ii:i heart, m the lnnellest hour o' midnight, except it 
be when I am saying my prayers, o' ony misunderstanding thai ever happened between us twa, 

r ony ither topic, as 1 

bid left in full possession ol I on : and I now dlcht aff the tablets <>' my memory ilka 

\ record tliat the Enemy, t:ikinu* the advantage o' the corruption o' our I 

|fy ili- re w i • pi ice. I now 

ill. hi ili- in a' afl I forgive ji 

i .Vc. 

• , -i, pberd's coUevs. $ A covered drain. 


and might lose his life. Auld poosies* cufl'sair wi' their fore-patr«, 
and theirs is a wicked bite. But the outlandish wolfiuess in Rover 
brak forth in extremity, and he cam rushing out o' the syver wi' her 
in his mouth, shaking her savagely, as if she had been but a ratton, 
and I had to choke him off. Forbye thrappling her, he had bit intil 
the jugular; and she had lost sae nieikle bluid, that you hae eaten 
her the noo roasted, instead o' her made intil soup." 

Rover was a colley from the beautiful pastures of Westmoreland; 
he had succeeded Brontef in the Professor's affections. He had all 
the sagacity of his species ; he was generally admired, but strictly 
speaking he was not beautiful, as the Shepherd remarked that he 
had " a cross o' some outlandish blood" in his veins ; he, however, 
walked with a stately, defiant air, and w^as very "leesh ;" his coat 
was black and glossy, it gleamed in the light ; a white ring sur- 
rounded his neck, and melted away into the depths of his muscular 
chest ; he was very loving and affectionate, and as we children told 
him every thing that was going on, these communications quickly 
opened his mind, and Rover increased so much the more in intelli- 
gence. We never doubted in his humanity, and treated him ac- 
cordingly ; animation of spirit and activity of body combined to 
give him a more than usual share of enjoyment. Rover's com- 
panion in dog-life was Fang the terrier. Poor Fang was one of the 
victims in Hawthornden garden ; but at Thirlstane he, like Rover, 
and like us all, old and young, enjoyed himself vastly. Poor Rover 
fell sick in the spring of the following year, and struggled for many 
days with dumb madness. I remember that shortly before the 
poor cnature died, longing for the sympathy of his master's kind 
voice, he crawled up stairs to a room next the draw T ing-room ; my 
father stood beside him, trying to soothe and comfort the poor ani- 
mal. A very few minutes before death closed his fast-glazing eye, 
the Professor said : " Rover, my poor fellow, give me your paw." 
The dying animal made an effort to reach his master's hand ; and 
so thus parted my father with his favorite, as one man taking fare- 
well of another. My father loved " both man, and bird, and beast;" 
he could turn at any moment from the hardest w T ork, with playful 
tenderness, to some household pet, or any object colored by home 

• Tltrrs. t A favorite dog of iny father's, of whom more anon. 

; It I" worth observing how close in description two students of dog-life have approached e*ok 


"Wife, children, pets, idealized as they sometime? are, play through 
many of his most beautiful and imaginative essays. Memory re- 
vives in his soul matters trivial enough ; but to those familiar with 
his ways, these little touches, embalming the fancy or taste of sornt 
cherished friend, are deeply interesting. For example, my mother's 
favorite plant was the myrtle : we find it peeping out here and 
there in his writings, thus — 

North. — " These are mere myrtles." 

Shephwd. — " Mere myrtles 1 Pinna say that again o' them — mere ; an ungrate- 
fu' word, of a flowery plant, a' fu' o' bonny white starries ; and is that their scent 
that I smell?" 

North. — "The balm is from many breaths, my dear James. Nothing that grows 
is without fragrance." 

In a letter written by my mother this autumn she says : — " We like 
our residence exceedingly, notwithstanding its great retirement and 
moist climate : the latter we were prepared for before we came, and 
have certainly not been disappointed, for we have had rather more 
of rain than fair weather. The house is situated in a narrow valley 
in El trick, with high hills on every side, which attract the clouds. 
"We, however, contrive to amuse ourselves very well, with books and 
work, music and drawing; and when fair and fine, the boys and girls 
have their ponies, and the old people a safe low open carriage, 
yclept a drosky, in which they take the air. The walks are quite 
to my taste, and without number in the wood which surrounds the 

other. Every one remembers the celebrated contest in Rub and his Friends; here is my father's 
description of a dog-fight from the Nbetes. No one was mort the resemblance than 

the genial author of Bab, when the writer pointed out that he had been anticipated by lUo 
u Doun another close, and a battle o' dowgsl Abnll-dowgand a mastiff! The great big brow u 
monthin' the bnll-dowg by the verra haunches, as if to crunch his back, and the wu 
white bnll-dowg never seeming to fash his thoomb, but sticking by the regular set teeth o 1 his 
nnder-hang jaw to the throat o 1 the mastiff, close to the jugular, and has to be drawn off the grip 
by twa strong baker-boys puHn' at the tail o' the tane, and twa Btrong butcher-boys [.I'in'ai the 
tall o' the tither ; for the mastiff's o to fear that tl bis throat will kill him 

outright, and of! ind confess his dowg has losl owd wish 

; • fecht oui —and bai I the dowgs that are noo worrj Ing Ither v yowling — baitu 

n.'fit. . . snorting through th . i a kind o* guller in their gullets 

the crjwd harl tbcm out o' the midden, ontll the 'Better 

dune. Vesper! 1 'Amatchkln toagill on WhlteyP 'The mnckleane cam i 

wee bick is worrying htm i by a ■ ■■ ' Ho vvud rin awa' gin she wud 

let )<t in i • ike her in r Ah I beasts!' ' I •. 

tii.iii. Davie, but I wud ■ reed out ■>' her by the Bleach- 

field, that killed, ye ken, the Klluian I I Ip in twenty minutes at Kings well 1'" 

374 MKMorii of joun wilson. 

house, and there is one delightful walk, the avenue, which is the 
approach, and which, from one lodge to the other, is rather more 
than a mile of nice dry gravel, and quite level, or nearly so, which 
suits me vastly well ; there is a beautiful flower-garden close to the 
house and a very pretty brawling stream, which reminds one of 
Stockgill at Ambleside ; there is a very good waterfall likewise in 
the grounds, about a mile from the house, which I have not yet 
seen, the path being very steep, and, owing to the rains, very wet ; 
it is called the Black Spout. Thejboys have abundance of amuse- 
ment in fishing and shooting, there being plenty of game— hares 
and rabbits. John has the Duke of Buccleuch's permission to 

shoot, and therefore we expect to have plenty of grouse 

. . . Our neighbors, who are few and far between, consist of re- 
spectable farmers, who have showed us great attention, indeed, Mr. 
Wil>on was known to all the neighborhood long ago, in his pedes- 
trian perambulations. The church is about a mile and a half from 
us, a neat little building, with a comfortable manse attached. Mr. 
Smith, the minister, is a very favorable specimen of a Scotch cler 
gyman, with a modest, hospitable wife, and two children. 

"Mr. Wilson was obliged to go to Edinburgh last Saturday, but 
I hope he will be here again on Wednesday. He is staying at the 
Bank. Poor Mr. Blackwood is very ill ; indeed, I fear dangerously 
so. It is a surgical case, and though his general health has not as 
yet suffered, should that give way there is no chance for him. He 
would be an irreparable loss to his family, and a serious one to 
Edinburgh, being an excellent citizen, a magistrate, and highly 
respected even by his enemies." 

My father's spirits were at this time very much disturbed at the 
prospect of soon losing his kind and long-tried friend, the gradual 
increase of whose illness he writes of with much feeling to his 
wife : — 

" Gloucester Place, Thursday Night. 

"My dear Jane: — I found Mr. Blackwood apparently near his 
dissolution, but entirely sensible, and well aware of his state, which 
indeed he had been for a long time, though, till lately, he had never 
said so, not wishing to disturb his family. He was very cheerful, 
and we spoke cheerfully of various matters ; this was on Monday, 
on my arrival from Peebles in a chaise, the coach being full. Tuesday 
was a day of rain, and being very ill, T lay all the day in bed. I did 


not, therbfciv., see any of the Blackwoods, nor anybody else, but 
heard that he was keeping much the same. Ou Wednesday I saw- 
Alexander and Robert, and found there was no change. This morn- 
ing (Thursday) I called, and found him looking on the whole better 
than before, stronger in his speech and general appearance. I had 
much conversation with him, and found him quite prepared to die, 
pleased with the kindness of all around him, and grateful for all 
mercies. It is impossible, I think, that he can live many days, and 
yet the medical men all declared on Sunday that he could not hold 
out many hours. A good conscience is the best comforter on such 
a bed as his, and were his bed mine to-morrow, bless God I have a 
conscience that would support me as it supports him, and which 
will support me till then, while I strive to do my duty to my family, 
with weakened powers both of mind and body, but under circum- 
stances which more than ever demand exertion. I have been too 
ill to write one word since I came, and have seen nobody, nor shall 
I till I return to Thirlstane. Not one word of the Magazine is writ- 
ten. Last night I made an effort and walked to the Bank through 
a tremendous storm. 

" I was in bed to-day till after bank hours, and could not disturb 
the Blackwoods, of whom 1 have not heard since the morning. I 
have consulted Liston. Sedentary employments are bad for that 
complaint, but sedentary 1 must be, and will work till I can work 
no longer. It is neci ssary that I should do, and better men have 
done so, and will do so while the world lasts. Thank God, I in- 
jure nobody in thought, word, or deed. I am willing to die for 
my family, who, one and all, yourself included, deserve all thai is 
good at my hands. I believe that poor Mr. Blackwood's exertions 
have caused hi- Illness, and alt it his death my work must he inces- 
sant, till tin- night comes in which no man can work. I have been 
interrupted all summer, but winter must see another sight, and I 
will do my utmost. I will write again by Ebenezer Hogg, and 
shall not, indeed cannot, leave this before .Mr. Blackwood's death. 
II. • cannot survive many days, but I do not think the boys and Mr. 
Hay need come in. I will speak of that again in my letter. I am 
affectionately, John Wilson." 

>sk. Tliursday Svjht. 

"My deab Jane: -I arrived at the Bank at half-past twelve on 


Monday with a violent toothache; dined there alone; saw the 
Blackwoods, and went to bed at nine. On Tuesday called on Mr. 
Blackwood, and found him tolerably well. Lost all that day in be- 
ing unable to settle to any thing ; finding the bank-house most un- 
comfortable in all respects — no pillows to the beds, no sofas, no 
tables on which it was possible to write, from their being so low 
and the chairs so high. I did nothing. On Wednesday did a little, 
but not much ; and dined, perhaps injudiciously, with Listen,* to 
meet Schetky ;f stayed till one o'clock; and to-day had an open 
and confused head ; wrote in the back shop, but not very much. I 
sent for Nancy to the Bank, and found from her that she was pick- 
ing currants in Gloucester Place, and told her that I would be there 
to-morrow (Friday) at nine o'clock, and write in my room, which, 
she says, is open, and sleep at the Bank. I dine at Mr. Blackwood's. 
Mr. Hay called on me at the shop to-day, and is well, having been 
ill with cholera or colic. The Magazine is in a sad state, and en- 
tirely behind, and as yet I have done little to forward it. I am not 
quite incog., I fear, but have avoided seeing any of my old friends 
of the Parliament House. I will write by Sunday's mail, so you 
will hear from me on Tuesday, telling you when to send the gig to 
Innerleithen. I think it will be on Wednesday night, therefore keep 
it disengaged for that day ; but I will mention particulars in my 
next. My face is swelled, but not so bad as before nearly. The 
Whigs are all in again, or rather were never out, except Lord 
Grey, who remains out. Poor Blackwood looks as well as ever, and 
there seem to be hopes, but the disease is very, very bad, and I 
do not know what to say. Love to all. Yours ever affectionately 

" John Wilson." 

" Saturday Evening. 
"My bear Maggie : — Mr. Blackwood is in the same state, wear- 

* Robert Liston, the celebrated surgeon ; died in 1S4T. 

+ John Schetky, an artist, a friend of my father's. — " I have no conceit of those 'who are all 
Jl.iriL's to all men." Why, I have seen John Schetky himself in the sulks with sumphs, though he 
Is more tolerant of ninnies and noodles than almost any other man of genius I have ever known: 
tut clap him down among a choice crew of kindred spirits, and how his wild wit e"en yet. as in 
its prime, wantons! playing at will its virgin fancies, till Care herself comes from her cell, and 
eitti.'i.' by the side of Joy, loses her name, and forgets hei nature, and joins in glee or catch, be- 
neath the power of that magician, the merriest, in the halL"— Nbates, No. lxvi., 1S34. 

11 A gentleman who served with our army in the Spanish campaigns, and has painted several 
■wild seems of the Pyrenees in a most original manner. lie is, I imagine, the very llnoot painter 
of sky since Salvator K"a"- Letters on the Living Artiats of Scotl-xna. 


ing away gradually, but living longer than any of the medical peo 
pie thought possible. Last Sunday, it was thought he could not 
live many hours. , 

"I enclose £10 for present use, and shall write to your mamma 
on Monday, so that you will hear from me on Wednesday. 

"This goes by Ebenezcr Hogg, and two other letters; and 
Nancy, I understand, is sending clothes to Bonjeddard, from which 
I gather you are going to the ball, Which is right. Love to all. 
Use the gig as you choose, for I shall not want it for some time. 
Thiue aifectionately, John Wilson."' 

"Gloucester Place, Monday Evening. 
" Mt dear Jane: — I shall be in Innerleithen on Thursday per 
coach, so let the gig be there the night before. I have been writ- 
ing here since Friday, with but indifferent success, and am at thia 
hour worn out. Nancy has done what I asked her to do, and I 
have let the bell ring 10,000 times without minding it. 

"Billy called, with Captain Craigie, on Sunday, and, after view- 
ing them from the bedroom window, I let them in. I have seen 
nobody else, not even Sym, but intend to call to morrow night. I 
have slept here, and in utter desolation, as at Blackwood's it was 
too mournful to go there. 

" What is to become of next Magazine I do not know. If I come 
here again, I will bring Maggie with me. Five hours of writing 
give me a headache, and worse, and I become useless. I do not 
think Blackwood will recover, but Liston speaks still as if lie had 
hopes. Nobody writes for the Magazine, and tin- lads are in very 
low spirits, hut show much that is amiable. I believe Hogg and 
his wife and I will be in the coach on Thursday morning to Inner- 
leithen; so Bob told me. The printers arc waiting for MS., and I 
have none but a few pages to '_ r i\c them; but on Wednesday Dight 
all must be at press. I hope to find you all well and happy. Yours 
ever affectionately, John Wilson." 

Mr. Blackwood died on the icth of September, 1884. "Four 
months of suffering, in pari intense,, exhausted by slow degrees al^ 
his physical energies, hut left his temper calm and unruffled, and 
In- intellect entire ami vigorous even to tic ■ last, lb' had thus what 
no good man will consider as a slighl privilege, that of content* 



piating the approach of death with the clearness and full strength of 
his mind and faculties, and of instructing those around him, by 
solemn precept and memorable example, b,y what means alone 
humanity, conscious of its own frailty, can sustain that prospect 
with humble serenity."* This event made no change in my father's 
relations with the Magazine, but two years later a trial came that 
deadened his interest, aud the willingness of his hand to work. 

"What is to become of next Magazine ?" was the question on 
Monday evening, while the printers were waiting for MS., and he 
had but a few pages to give them. How he woidced that night and 
next two days may be seen by examining the number of the Maga- 
zine for October, of which he wrote with his own hand 56 out of the 
142 pages required. His articles were : " A Glance at the Noctes 
of Athenaeus ;" and a "Review of Coleridge's Poetical Works." 

For the remainder of this year, and for the two subsequent years, 
he gave the most unequivocal proofs of his regard for his friend's 
memory, and his interest in his family, by continuing his labors 
with unflagging industry. In glancing over his contributions for 
1835, I perceive that in January he had three; in February five; 
in March two ; in May two ; in July five ; in August four ; in Sep- 
tember three ; and in October and November one in each month, 
making a total of twenty-six articles during the twelve months. Of 
all these criticisms I have only space to allude to the very brilliant 
series of papers on Spenser, regarding which Mr. Hallam remarks, 
that "It has been justly observed by a living writer of the most 
ardent and enthusiastic genius, whose eloquence is as the rush of 
mighty waters, and has left it for others almost as invidious to 
praise in terms of less rapture, as to censure what he has borne 
along in the stream of unhesitating eulogy, that ' no poet has ever 
had a more exquisite sense of the beautiful than Spenser.' "f 

In 183G and 1837, he continued to contribute an article at least 
once a mouth until his own great loss paralyzed him. 

The following letters were written in the autumn of 1S35 from 
he banks of the Clyde : — 

" The Baths, Helensburgh, 
1835, Tuesday, 12 o'clock. 
• " My dear Jane : — I dined with Miss Sym on Sunday, and was 
kindly received by her and Mr. Andrew. 

Jilackicood, October, 1887, * literature of Europe, voL it, p. 180, 


"Dinner was over (half past four), but the Howtowdy and 
pigeon-pie brought back, and having cast the coat to it, much to 
the old lady's amusement, I made a feast. I left Glasgow at half- 
past six on Thursday morning, and reached Helensburgh about 
nine. I forgot to say that Blair was at the Mearns, so I did not 
see him. Monday (that is yesterday) was a broiling day without 
wind ; not a breath till about twelve, when some yachts started for 
a cup ; the heat was intense, though there was a canopy over the 
Orion, in which the party was gathered. "We had every thing good 
in the upper and lower jaw-most line ; and the champagne — a wine 
I like — flew like winking. This continued till six o'clock, and I had 
a mortal headache. Race won by the 'Clarence' (her seventh cup 
this summer), the 'Amethyst' (Smith's yacht) being beaten. At 
seven we sat down forty-five to dinner in the Baths, so the hotel is 
called, and we had a pleasant party enough, as far as the heat 
would suffer." 

"Largs, Sunday, August 2, 1835. 
" My dear Magg ! — I duly received the governess's letter, and 
write now to say that two gentlemen are to dine with us in 
Gloucester Place on Wednesday first, viz., Wednesday, August 
5th, at six o'clock. Get us a good dinner. It was my intention to 
write a long letter about us, but how can 1 1 We ha\ e all been at 
church, and the room is filled with people, and the post goes in an 
hour. Blair and Frank \\'ilson and Willy Sym came down per 
tmerlast night, and return to Glasgow to-morrow morning, but 
Blair has no intention, a- far a- I know, of returning to Edinburgh. 
I have jusl Been him, and no more. The Regatta is over, and 
Umbs was at the ball here; 200 people present. To-dayis a storm. 
To-morrow I hope to gel to Glasgow, and he home to dinner on 
Tuesday per mail — sooner not possible SO do try all of you to he 
contented till then withoul me. All are well. Your affectionate 
father, John Wu son, 

" Who Bends love to the lave, chickens and doga included." 

I,, August, 1836, the Professor, with his wife and two eldest 
daughters, visited Paisley, where a public dinner was given to 

him, to whirh he was .-,« mpanied by his friend 'Thomas Campbell, 

The meeting was nut attended, and wrenl off with fcfat. 



The following note to Mr. Fin. Hay accompanied a report of the 
speeches on this occasion : — 

"6 Gloucester Place, September 1. 
" My pear Friend:— The pen is idle ; not cold the heart ! I for- 
get not ever the friends of my heart. This report is a very imperfect 
one, but I thought you might not dislike to see it. I will write 
very soon, and at length. We are all well, and unite in kindest re- 
gards and remembrances. Ever yours most affectionately, 

" Johx Wilson." 

As an illustration of his humorous post-prandial speeches, I give 
an extract from the report:— "Mr. Campbell had been pleased to 
give them an animated character of his physical power ; all he would 
say was that nature had blessed him with a sound mind in a sound 
body, and lie had felt her kindness in this, that it had enabled him 
in his travels and wanderings to move with independence and free- 
dom from all the restraints that weakness of body might imply. He 
remembered seeing it mentioned in the public prints some years ago 
that he resembled the wild man of the wood, but little did he dream 
that at last he was to grow into a resemblance of their immortal 
Wallace." After some further observations, in which the learned 
Professor spoke warmly and eloquently of the genius of Mr. Camp- 
bell, he referred to the remarks of that gentleman about the circles 
of reputation that surrounded him, and his reception at the dinner 
of the Campbell Club. Perhaps, he observed, it was not so great 
an achievement for Mr. Campbell to come 400 miles to receive the 
honors awaiting him, as it was for him (Mr. W.) to go forty miles 
to see those honors bestowed upon him ; while the little discharge 
of applause with which his appearance was welcomed, was to be 
regarded only as a humble tribute due to Mr. Campbell's superior 
artillery. He gave Mr. Campbell willingly the possession of all the 
outer circles. He gave him London — undisputed possession of Lon- 
don—also of Edinburgh ; he did not ask for Glasgow ; but here in 
Paisley (tremendous cheering which drowned the rest of the sen- 
tence), they would agree with the justice of the sentiment, when he 
said that had he been born in the poorest village in the land, he 
would not have cause to be ashamed of his birthplace ; nor, he trusted, 
would his birthplace have cause to be ashamed of him (cheers). But 
when he considered where he was born— the town of Paisley— where 


he had that morning walked along the front of his father's house — ■ 
itself no insignificant mansion — a town of the very best size — not 
like the great unwieldy Glasgow, or Edinburgh, where (while fears 
were entertained of the failure of the crops in the country) a crop 
was going on in the streets of the city (cheers and laughter), but 
turned he to his native town, "Ah, seest'u! seest'u!"* (tremendous 
cheering and laughter). Politics were very properly excluded from 
that meeting, etc., etc. 

After the festivities at Paisley were over, they took a short exclu- 
sion to Loch Lomond, Glen Falloch, Killin, Loch Earn, Crieff, Com- 
rie, Perth, and homewards; nor was it then imagined that one of 
that happy party was so soon to be removed from the honored and 
loved place she held in her family. 

On Xew Year's day, 1837, my mother wrote her last letter to her 
dearly loved sister ; and the correspondence, which had continued 
without interruption for twenty-five years, was now to cease: — 

"My dear Mary: — With the exception of Mr. "Wilson, we aro 
nearly as well as usual. I cannot get Mr. W. to take proper care 
of himself; he would put you out of all patience, as he really does 
me, and neither scolding nor persuasion avail, and I am obliged to 
submit, and so must he; he consents to stay in the house, which is 
one comfort, and therefore I trust his cough will soon disappear. 

"Frank says the preparations in Glasgow lor the reception of Sir 
R. Peel will be splendid. Mr. Wilson and John will be both there. 
I believe there will be at least 2,000 at the dinner, and the demand 
for tickets is unprecedented. I will take care to send you a news- 
paper, with the best account of the meetingthal can be had. There 
b some anticipation, I hear, that the Radicals will try to make some 
disturbance, bat there is no fear but their attempts will be soon put 
a stop to. 

■■1 am just now reading a delightful book ; ifyouhavenol already 

seen it, pray try and gel it ; il is Prior's k Lift of Goldsmith? Do 

you remember how you used to like Goldsmith? ami 1 never read 

a line of this book without thinking of you, and wishing we were 

., m ._r it together. You will love him better than evi r after read' 


" A thousand thanks for your w elcoine letter, and for all the good 

• Ib la • Paisley expression peculiar to th« peopli u, eeeat thouf 


and kind wishes therein contained. In return, pray accept all our 
united and most cordial wishes, which are offered in all sincerity and 
affection to yourself and all our well-beloved friends at Penny Bridge, 
thai you may enjoy many, many happy returns of this blessed season. 
Your affectionate sister, J. Wilson." 

My mother's illness was not at first of a nature to alarm the family ; 
but my father was always nervous about her, when any thing more 
than usual disturbed her health; she had been for some years deli- 
cate, and took less exercise than was perhaps for her good. We 
thought that the little tour, made in the autumn of 1836, had been 
very beneficial, and hoped that this would in future tempt her to 
move more frequently from home. About the middle of March, lit- 
tle more than two months after sending an affectionate greeting at 
the beginning of a new year to the beloved friends at Penny Bridge, 
she was taken ill with a feverish cold, which, after a few days, turned 
to a malady beyond the aid of human skill. Water on the chest was 
the ultimate cause of her death, which sad event took place on the 
29th of March, and was communicated to her sister Mary in the fol- 
lowing touching letter by a relative, who could well understand the 
irreparable loss that had befallen husband and children by the pass 
ing away of this gentle spirit: — 

" My letter, written last night, will have prepared you to hear 
that our worst fears have been confirmed ; our dearest Jane expired 
last night at half-past twelve o'clock. Immediately after writing to 
you, I went, along with my husband, to Glo'ster Place, trusting 
1 hat she might once more know me. She had been sleeping heavily 
lor two or three hours, but when I went into her room, sh*. was 
breathing softer though shorter, and a kind of hope seized upon 
me. The physician had ordered a cordial to be given her every 
hour; for this purpose it was necessary to rouse her from her 
sleep, and it was at this time a trial was to be made whether she 
would know me; how anxiously I hoped to exchange one kind 
look witli her, to kiss her again, but it was not God's will it should 
be s< >. Her husband was just going to raise her head, that be might 
enable her to taste the draught, when she breathed three sighs, with 
short intervals, and all was over before we who were around her 
bed could believe it possible that her spirit had fled. We were 
stunned with the unexpected stroke, for none of us had anticipated 


any change last night. The Professor was seized with a sort of 
half delirium, and you can scarcely picture a more distressing scene 
than him lying on the floor, his son John weeping over him, and 
the poor girls in equal distress. His first words were those of 
prayer; after that he spoke incessantly the whole night, and seemed 
to recapitulate the events of many years in a few hours. They 
were all calmer this morning. Maggy tells me that she scarcely 
ever spoke except when addressed ; that she did not think herself 
in danger, and had even yesterday morning spoken of getting bet- 
ter. But she did not know any of them, at all times, for the last 
day or two, and I believe none of them yesterday. The funeral, I 
believe, will take place on Saturday. God bless you both ; — with 
kindest love to all." 

So passed away from this earth the spirit of his idolized wife, 
leaving the world thenceforth for him dark and dreary. This be- 
reavement overwhelmed him with grief, almost depriving him of 
reason, nor, when the excess of sorrow passed away, did mourning 
ever entirely leave his heart. When he resumed his duties next 
session, he met his class with a depressed and solemn spirit, unable 
at first to give utterance lo words, for he saw that he had with him 
the sympathy and tender respect of his students. After a short 
pause, hi- voice tremulous with emotion, he said, "Gentlemen, 
pardon me, but since we last met, I have been in the valley of the 
shadow of death." 



"Pictures and visions which fancy had drawn and happy love 
h.'v 1 inspired, came now in fierce torrent of recollection over the 
prostrate and afflicted soul. Though sorrow had no pari in them 
before, it possesses them n< w. Thus, one idea, and the pain which 
is now inseparable from it, reign over all clu thought — ■ 

though these thoughts in themselves have been fixed in their con- 


nection with one another, and image linked to image long before ; 
they rise up by those connections, but they are determined to arise 
and depart by that one fixed conception which holds its unshaken 
seat in the sorrow of the soul."* It is quite evident from these 
words, written a year after that great domestic affliction had befal- 
len him, that my father had not shut out from his heart the image 
of his wife. How he thought and felt at the moment when the 
shadow of death darkened his life, may be gathered from the fol- 
lowing touching lines copied from the public journals of the day: — 

" Last week a paragraph appeared describing the painful situation 
to which Professor Wilson had been reduced from deep mental 
affliction. The following extract from a letter to a friend, written 
by himself, is the best evidence of the error into which our contem- 
porary had fallen : — 

'"It pleased God on the 29th of March to visit me with the se- 
verest calamity that can befall one of his creatures, in the death of 
my wife, with whom I had lived in love for twenty-six years, and 
from that eA'ent till about a fortnight ago, I lived with my family, 
two sons and three daughters, dutiful and affectionate, in a secluded 
house near Roslin. I am now in Edinburgh, and early in Novem- 
ber hope to resume my daily duties in the University. I have 
many blessings for which I am humbly thankful to the Almighty, 
and though I have not borne my affliction so well, or better than I 
have done, yet I have borne it with submission and resignation, and 
feel that though this world is darkened, I may be able yet to exert 
such faculties, humble as they are, as God has given me, if not to 
the benefit, not to the detriment of my fellow-mortals.'" 

That letter leads one irresistibly back to one written in May, 
1811, when he stood on the threshold of a new life full of antioi 
pated happiness. Where was that solemn, calm spirit, now thai 
she — the best and gentlest of wives — was gone ? Did he say, 
"Comfort's in heaven, and we on earth?" True it was, he suffered 
as such a soul must suffer at such a loss, and it was for a long time 
a terrible storm of trouble. But he gave evidence in due time that 
he was not forever to be overcome with sadness. 

It is necessary, in order to relate some of the events of this sum 
mer, that we should follow him to the secluded house near Roslin, 
where he went immediately after my mother's death, Qjubtless 

* "-Our Two Vases," Blackwood, April, 1S38. 


hoping to find, as he had done of old, some comfort in communion 
with outward nature. It was Spring, too, his very love for which 
carried with it a vague presage of evil. 

"Tea! mournful thoughts like these even now ariso, 
While Spring, like Nature's smiling infancy, 
Sports round me, and all images of peace 
Seem native to this earth, nor other home 
Desire or know ; yet doth a mystic chain 
Link in our hearts foreboding fears of death, 
With every loveliest thing that seems to ua 
Most deeply fraught with life." 

Thus did he meet the fair season so loved of old, sighing — 

" the heavy change, now thou art gone ; 
Now thou art gone, and never must return 1" 

I may observe here, without any unfilial disrespect, that his deep sor 
row was not without its good influence on the sufferer. Those who 
had known him were well aware of the sincerity of his religious 
belief, and of his solemn and silent adoration of the Saviour ; but 
it was observed from this time that his faith exercised a more con- 
stant sway over his actions. The tone of his writings is higher, 
and they contain almost unceasing aspirations after the spiritual. 
The same humility, whieh in a singular degree now made him so 
mod ist and unobtrusive with the public, ordered all his ways in 
private life. The humble opinion he had of himself could have 
from qo other source than from reverence to God, whose ser- 
vant he felt himself to be, and debtor beyond all for the possession 
of those gifts which, in the diffidence of his soul, he hoped he had 
used, "if not for the benefit, not, for the detriment of his fellow- 
mortals." As a specimen of his thoughts, and as introductory to 
the life of peace and charity which he led in bis seclusion at Koslin, 
I refer my readers to a noble passage on Intellect ;* it forms a touch- 
ing contrast to the simplicity and tenderness of disposition which 
caused him to turn aside from these lofty communings to the com- 
mon humanities of nature. He was well known in the houses of 
the poor. No humble friend was ever casl aside if honest and up- 
right. During the summer, an old servanl of my mother's, who 
had formerly lived many years in her service, had fallen into bad 
health, and was ordered change of air. She was at once invited to 

• "Our Pocket Coo "\ vol. rllv., 1»84 



Roslin, and Jessie willingly availed herself of my father's kindness, 
and came to his house; but the change was of little service; con- 
sumption had taken firm hold, and soon the poor invalid was con- 
fined to bed never more to rise. That she was considerately at- 
tended and soothed during those long watches— the sad accompani- 
ment of this lingering disease — Avas only what was to have been 
expected, but it was no unfrequent sight to see my father, as early 
dawn streaked the sky, sitting by the bedside of the dying woman, 
arranging with gentle but awkward hand the pillow beneath her 
head, or cheering her with encouraging words, and reading, when 
she desired it, those portions of the Bible most suitable to her need. 
When she died, her master laid her head in the grave in Lasswade 

This whole season was burdened with one feeling which tinged all 
he wrote, and never quite left him.* In October, he returned to 
Edinburgh and resumed his college duties, how, we have already 
seen in Mr. Smith's reminiscences. About this time circumstances 
occurred that in a measure removed the gloom which had settled 
upon his mind. Two of his daughters were married,! and the pleas- 
ant interchange of social civilities, which generally takes place on 
these occasions, led him into a wider circle of friends than formerly. 

* " There is another incident of that period which brings out the profound emotion in a way too 
characteristically singular to be repeated, were it not known beyond the private circle : — how two 
pet dogs, special favorites of Mrs. Wilson's, having got astray within the preserve-grounds of an 
estate near which their owner was then staying in the country, were shot by the son of the pro- 
prietor, while engaged in field-sports with other gentlemen, and were afterwards ascertained, to 
their extreme regret, to belong to Professor Wilson, to whom they sent an immediate explana- 
tion, hastening to follow it up afterwards by apologies in person. His indignation, however, it is 
said, was uncontrollable, and we can conceive that leonine aspect in its priine — dilating, flaming, 
flushed with the sudden distraction of a grief that became rage, seeing nothing before it but the 
embodiment, as it were, of the great destroyer. The occasion, it was gravely argued by a me- 
diatur, was one for the display of magnanimity. 'Magnanimity!' was the emphatic reply,— 
• Why, sir, I showed the utmost magnanimity this morning when one. of the murderers was in 
this very room, and I did not pitch him out of the window V As murder he accordingly persisted 
in regarding it, with a sullen obstinate desire for justice, which required no small degree of man- 
agement on the part of friends, and of propitiation from the culprits, to prevent his making it a 
public matter. Untrained to calamity, like Lear, when all at once — 
" ' The king is mad ! how stiff is our vile sense 

That we stand up, and have ingenious feeling 

Of our huge sorrows I Better we were distract : 

So should our thoughts be severed from our griefs ; 

And woes, by wrong imaginations, lose 

The knowledge of themselves.'" 
—From Mr. Cupple'6 graceful "Memorial and Estimate of Professor Wilson, by a Student" 
4to. Edinburgh. 

+ The eldest, Margaret Anne, to her cousin, Mr. J. F. Ferrier, now Professor of Moral Philos- 
ophy, St. Andrews; the second, Mary, to Mr. J. T. Gordon, now Sheriff of Midlothian. 


By the marriage of his second daughter, who, along with her hus- 
band, found a home for eleven years in her father's house, a change 
was wrought in the feelings of some of the chief men of the Whig 
party towards him. It has already been shown to what an extent 
the bitterness of party spirit had separated good men and true from 
each other, not only in public matters but in private life. That 
spirit was now dying out, and the alienation which had for some 
years existed, more through force of habit than inclination, was 
soon to cease, as far as my father was concerned. 3Ir. Gordon was 
a Whig, and connected with Whig families ; he introduced to his 
father-indaw's house new visitors and new elements of thought; old 
prejudices disappeared, and " Christopher Xorth" was frequently 

in the midst of what once was to his own party the camp 
of the enemy. Many a pleasant day they spent in each other's 
houses ; and no observer, however dull, could fail to be struck e\ en 
by the aspect of the four men who thus again met together, Jeff- 
rey, Cockburn, Rutherfurd, and Wilson. I think I may venture, 
without partiality, to say that my father was the most remarkable 
of the four. There was a certain similarity of bearing and manner 
in the three great lawyers which was not shared by him: he was 
evidently not one of the family. I shall never forget his manly 
pleasantly contrasting with Jeffrey's sharp silvery tones, as 
they mingled sparkling wit with their more serious discourse, which 

enlivened by the quaint humor and Doric notes of Cockl mi n, 
thai type of the old Scottish gentleman, whose dignified yet homely 
manner and solemn beauty gave his aspect a peculiar grace— Ruth- 
erfurd also, to whose large mind, consummate ability, rich and ripe 
endowments, I most willingly pay a most sincere and affectionate 
tribute of true regard and respect.* It will not do for me to dv> ell 
on these things, however pleasant to myself would be a dig: 
into this fairy-land of reminiscence.f 

■ :iti»1 familiar friendship of Wilson and Rutherford was as instant a* question and answer to-day by telegraph ; ami I cannot now recall, without emotion, the fond 

North." [ have before me at this mi ■ after letter, written during 

ind from his uncle In London, in the din of thi .notona 

oi a bit ides « Ithoul some ipei lal 

da in honor of that am 
; Ived In the a 

hospitality. His heart and bis hearth wen I warmth of welcome, to all, 

old and yoong, big or little. None a he did the Joyous beneT- 

[ wish I couli I 


My father, since the days when he wrote in the Edinburgh, had 
achieved a position in letters not only different from Jeffrey's, hnt 
higher and more enduring. As a critic, he had worked in a deeper 
mine than the Edinburgh Reviewer, dealing less with mere forms, 
an 1 more with the true spirit of art. 

His great work, indeed, was that which to me seems the highest 
destiny of man, to teach ; and his lessons have spread far and near. 
In the limitations of his genius lay its excellence; it made him pat- 
riotic; and if, for example, his name is not linked with individual 
creations of character such as bind the name of Goethe with Faust 
or Werther or Wilhelm Meister, yet his immediate influence extends 
over a wider sphere of life. These creations of the great German, 
though quite accordant with nature, speak but to a high order of 
cultivation. They are works containing a spirit and action of life, 
the sympathies of which can never enter the hut of the peasant or 
the homes of the poor. On the other hand, Wilson is thoroughly 
patriotic ; there is not a class in the whole of Scotland incapable of 
enjoying his writings ; and I believe his influence in the habits and 
modes of thought on every subject, grave or gay, is felt throughout 
the country. Be it politics, literature, or sport, there is not one of 
these themes that has not taken color from him — a sure test of 
genius. In the " Noctes" alone is seen his creative power in indi« 
vidual character ; yet its most original conception is not a type, but 
a being of time and place. The Shepherd is not to be found every- 
where in Scotland, either sitting at feasts, or tending his flocks on 
the hill-side. We are not familiar with him as we are with the char- 
acters of Charles Dickens. We have to imagine the one ; we see 
and know the others. Christopher himself is typical of what has 
:i ; he presides at these meetings, when philosophy mounts high, 
with the dignity of a minister of blue-eyed Athene. The spirit of 
the Greek school is upon him, and we can fancy, that, before assem- 
bling his companions together, he invoked the gods for eloquence and 
wisdom. There he was great ; but in his tales, his Recreations, and 
his poetry, the true nature of the man, as he lived at home, is to be 
found. In the simple ways of his daily life, I see him as he some- 
times used to be, in his own room, surrounded by his family — the 

Jeffrey's house in his latter years, which, under the mellowed lustre of a simple domestic lire- 
side, rival ied the sprightliest fascinations of a Hotel Kambouillet. No friend went to them, or 
wait there greeted, with more cordial sympathy than Professor Wilson. 


prestige of greatness laid aside, and ihe very strength of his hand 
softened, that he might gently caress the infant on his knee, and play 
with the little ones at his feet. And many a game was played with 
fun and frolic; stories were told, barley-sugar was eaten, and feasts 
of various kinds given. "A party in grandpapa's room'' was 
ever hailed with delight. There was to be seen a tempting display 
of figs, raisins, cakes, and other good tilings, all laid out on a table 
eet and covered by himself; while he, acting on the occasion as 
waiter, was ordered about in the most unceremonious fashion. After 
a while, when childhood was passing away from the frolics of the 
nursery, and venturing to explore the mysteries of life, he would 
speak to his little friends as companions, and passing from gay to 
grave, led their young spirits on. and bound their hearts to his. 

In speaking of his kindness to human pets, I may mention a very 
delightful instance of his love to the inferior animals. I remember 
a hapless sparrow being found lying on the door-steps scarcely 
fledged, and quite unable to do for itself. It was brought into the 
house, and from that moment became a protege of my father's. It 
found a lodging in his room, and ere long was perfectly domestica- 
ted, leading a life of uninterrupted peace and prosperity for nearly 
eleven years. It seemed quite of opinion that it was the most im 
portant occupant of the apartment, and would peck and chirp where 
it liked, not untrequently nestling in the folds of its patron's waist, 
coat, attracted by the warmth it found there. Then with bolder 
Stroke of familiarity, it would hop upon his shoulder, and picking 
off some straggling hair from the long locks hanging about his neck, 
would jump away to its cage, and depositing the treasure with an 
air of triumph, return to fresh conquest, quite certain of welcome, 
The creature seemed positively influenced by constant association 
with \\< master. It grew in stature, and began to assume a noble 
and defiant look. It was alleged, in fact, that he was gradually be- 
ing an eagle. 

Of his dogs, their name was Legion. I remember Bronte, Rover 
Fang, Paris, Charlie, Fido, Tip, and Grog, besides outsiders with- 
out number. 

ite* comes first on the list. He came, 1 think, into the family 
in the year l J26, a soft, shapeless mass of pnppyhood, and grew up 
a beautiful Newfoundland dog. " Purple- black was he all over, 
except the star on his breast, as the raven's wing. Strength and 

390 Ml-.MOIR OF iOIIN WflLSOff. 

sagacity emboldened his bounding beauty, and a fierceness lay deep 
down within the quiet lustre o' his een that tauld you, even when 
he laid his head upon your knees, and smiled up to your face like a 
verra intellectual and moral creature — as he was — that had he been 
angered, he could have torn in pieces a lion."* He was brave and 
gentle in disposition, and we all loved him, but he was my father's 
peculiar property, of which he was, by the way, quite aware ; he 
evinced for him a constancy that gained in return the confidence 
and affection of his master. Every day for several years did Bronte 
walk by his side to and from the College, where he was soon as 
well known as the Professor himself. This fine dog came to an un- 
timely end. There was good reason to believe that he had been 
poisoned by some members of Dr. Knox's class, in revenge for the 
remarks made by my father on the Burke and Hare murders.f I 
remember the morning we missed Bronte from the breakfast-room, 
a half-formed presentiment told us that something was wrong ; we 
called, but no bounding step answered the summons. I went to 
look for him in the schoolroom, and there he lay lifeless. I could 
not believe it, and touched him gently with my foot; he did not 
move. I bent down and laid my hand on his head, but it was cold; 
poor Bronte was dead ! " No bark like his now belongs to the 
world of sound ;" and so passed Bronte "to the land of hereafter." 
It was some time ere be found a successor ; but there was no living 
without dogs, and the next was Rover, of whom I have already 

The house in Gloucester Place was a rendezvous for all kinds of 
dogs. My father's kindliness of nature made him open his house 
for his four-footed friends, who were too numerous to describe. 
There was Professor Jameson's Neptune, a Newfoundland dog, 
Mrs. Rutherford's Juba, a pet spaniel, and Wasp, a Dandy Din- 
mont, belonging to Lord Rutherfurd, who were constant visitors ; 
but the most notorious sorner of the whole party was Tory, brother 
to Fang, both sons of Mr. Blackwood's famous dog, Tickler. Tory 
paid his visits with the cool assurance of a man of the world, the 
agreeableness of whose society was not to be questioned for a mo- 
ment ; he remained as long as he wished, was civil and good-hu- 
mored to every one, but, as a matter of course, selected the master 
of the house as his chief companion, walked with him, and patron- 

* Jfoctee Amhro&iaime. t Ibid. 


ized him. I think he looked upon himself as the binding link 
between the bitter Tory of the old rtgime, and the moderate 
Conservative of the new. There Avas evidently a feeling of par- 
tisanship in his rnind as he took up his position at the door of Mr. 
Blackwood's shop, either to throw the Professor off or take him up, 
as the case might be. I never knew so eccentric a dog as Tory; 
he had many friends, but his ways were queer and wandering. 
There was no place of public amusement he did not attend ; his 
principles were decidedly those of a dog about town ; and though 
serious, grave, and composed in deportment, he preferred stir and 
excitement to rest and decorum. Tory was never known to go to 
church, but at the door of the theatre, or at the Assembly Rooms, 
he has been seen to linger for hours. He was a long-backed yellow 
terrier, with his front feet slightly turned out, and an expression of 
countenance full of mildness and wisdom. Tory continued his 
visits to Gloucester Place, and his friendship for the Professor, for 
several years, but he did not neglect other friends, for he exhibited 
his partiality for many individuals in the street, accompanying them 
in their walk, and perhaps going home with them. This erratic and 
independent mode of existence brought him much into notice. 
There must be many in Edinburgh who remember his knowing 
look and strange habits. 

One other such companion must be mentioned, the last my father 
ever had; he belonged to liis son Blair, and was originally the 
property of a cab-driver in Edinburgh. Grog was his name, and 
it argues the unpoetical position he held in early life. lie was the 
meekest and gentlest, and almost the smallest doggie I ever saw. 
Hi- color was a rich chestnut brown; his coat, smooth and short, 
might he compared to the wing of a pheasant ; and as he lay nest- 
ling in the sofa, he looked much more like a bird than a dog. I 
think h • never followed my father in the street, their intimacy be- 
ing confined entirely to domestic life; he was too petit to venture 
near Christopher as be strode along the street, but many a little 
snooze be took within the folds of his ample coat, or in the pocket 
of his jacket, or sometimes on the table among his papers. I can- 
not pretend to say of what breed Grog had come; be bad little, 
oomical, turned-out feet; he was a cosy, coaxing, mysterious, half- 
moose, half-bird-like dog; a fancy article, and mighl have been 
booghl very fitly from a bazaar of lady's work, made up for the 


occasion, and sold at a high price on account of his rarity. He died 
easily, being found one morning on his master's pillow lifeless; his 
little heart had ceased to beat during the night. The Professor 
was very sad when he died, and vowed he never would have any 
more dogs — and he kept his vow. 

In connection with this subject, there remains something to be 
said of his continued devotion to the birds mentioned in an earlier 
part of this Memoir. I think it was the love of the beautiful in all 
created things that made my father admire the glossy plumage, 
delicate snake-like head, and noble air of game birds — the aristoc- 
racy of their species. For many months he pampered and fed no 
fewer than sixty-two of these precious bipeds in the back-green of 
his house. The noise made by this fearful regiment of birds beg- 
gars all description, yet, be it said, for the honor of human patience 
and courtesy, not a single complaint ever came from friend or 
neighbor ; for months it went on, and still this 

" Bufera infernal" 

was listened to in silence.* 

Fearing lest any of his pets should expand their wings and take 
flight, their master sought to prevent this by clipping a wing of 
each. He chanced to fix upon a day for this operation when his 
son-in-law, Mr. Gordon, was occupied in his room with his clerk, 
the apartment adjoining which was the place of rendezvous. 
Chanticleer, at no time "most musical, most melancholy" of birds, 
on this occasion made noise enough to " create a soul under the 
ribs of death." Such an uproar ! sounds of fluttering of feathers, 
accompanied by low chucklings, half hysterical cackling, suppress- 
ed crowing, and every sign of agitation and rage that lungs not 
human could send forth. During the whole of this proceeding, 
extraordinary as it may have appeared to the uninitiated ear, not 
an observation escaped the lips of the clerk, who for more than an 
hour was subjected to "this lively din." 

If, however, the silence of neighbors did honor to their virtue, 
there were distresses and perplexities which domestic tongues 

* His medical attendant naively relates that one day when the Professor took him into his 
u aviary," and pointed out the varied beauties of his birds, the Doctor asked, " Do they never 
fight?" '■ Fight !" replied the Professor, " you little know the noble nature of the animal ; he will 
not fight unless he is incited; but," added he, with a humorous twinkle of the eye, "put a hen 

among them, and I won't answer for the peace being long observed; and so it hath bfc«n bine* 

the beginning of the world," added the old man eloquent 


found no difficulty in expressing. Two of the birds fell sick, and 
change of air was considered necessary for their restoration to 
health. A happy thought suggested to the Professor, that an hos- 
pital might be found for the invalids in a room of the attic story, 
where boxes and various unused articles of the menage were kept, 
in short, the lumber-room, not unfrequently, however, a repository 
for very valuable articles — so far belying its name. In this apart- 
ment, for more than a week, Avalked in undisturbed quiet the two 
invalids, tended, fed, and visited many times during each day by 
their watchful patron. Health by those means was restored, and 
nothing now remained but to remove the pets to their old abode in 
ihe back-green, where they crowed and strutted more insolently 
than ever. A few days after the lumber-room had been evacuated 
by its feathered tenants, the Professor's daughters ascended to the 
said apartment, happy in the possession there — secure in a well- 
papered trunk — of certain beautiful ball-dresses to be worn that 
very night in all the freshness of unsullied crape and ribbons. 
What sight met their eyes on opening the door of the room ! Hor- 
rible to say, the elegant dresses were lying on the floor in a corner, 
soiled, torn, and crumpled, in fact useless. The box in which they 
had been so carefully laid, had been, on account of its size, at once 
secured by the Professor as an eligible coop for his birds. The 
drosea were of no value in his eyes; probably he did not know 
what they were ; so tossing them ruthlessly out, he left them to 
their fate. It was quite evident, from the appearance they pre- 
sented, that along with the empty trunk — according to the caprice 
of the fowls — they had been used as a nest. To imagine the feel- 
f tin.- young ladies at the sight of their fair vanities, " all tat- 
tered and torn," is to call up a subject which, even at this distant 
date, causes a natural pang. It was a trial certainly not borne with 
much patience, and no doubt, in the hour of disappointment, called 
forth expressions of bitter and undisguised hatred towards -\ll ani- 
mated nature i" the shape of feathers. The aviary was ifter a 
time shut up, and all its inhabitants were scut off in varioua direc- 
tions. The following note to Dr. Moir will show how they were 
disposed of: — 

"6 Gloucester I': \< s, Monday. 
M M* dsab Sir: — I have a game-cook of greal value which I 
wi-h to walk (:w it is technically termed) for a few months. Cau 


you take him in? This will depend entirely on your setting any 
value on the bird you new may have, and who, I presume, is Dung- 
hill, it you do, on no account displace him from his own throne. 
If you do not, I will bring mine down on Thursday, and see him 
safely deposited in your back court. In that case, his present 
majesty must either be put to death or expatriated, as if put to- 
gether they will fall by mutual wounds. Yours affectionately, 

"J. Wilson." 

Apparently the only article from his pen during 1840 in Black- 
wood was a review of " A Legend of Florence," by Leigh Hunt. If 
he had not long ere that made the amende honorable for the unjust 
bitterness of the past, he certainly in this review used " the gracious 
tact, the Christian art," to heal all wounds, illustrating finely his 
own memorable words, " The animosities are mortal, but the human- 
ities live forever." 

Preparatory to beginning an essay upon Burns, which he had 
engaged to write for the Messrs. Blackie, he was desirous to seek 
the best domestic traces of him that could be found, and naturally 
turned to Dumfriesshire for such information. Two interesting let- 
ters to Mr. Thomas Aird, will, better than words of mine, show how 
earnestly he set about his work, although I cannot, at the same time, 
avoid drawing attention to certain expressions of anxious interest 
concerning the better part of the man. For example, his desire to 
hear " if Burns was a church-goer, regular or irregular, and to what 
church." All his inquiries show a tender sympathy, a Christian de- 
sire to place that erring spirit j ustly before men, for well did he 
know how in this world faults are judged. There is a touching 
simplicity, too, in the personal allusions in these words, '■'■Her eyes 
never having looked on the Nith." 

"May 3, 1840. 

" My dear Me. Aird :— I have been ill with rose in my head for 
more than a fortnight, and it is still among the roots of my hair, but 
in about a week or so, I think I shall be able to move in the open 
air without danger. I have a leaning towards Dumfriesshire, it being 
unhaimted by the past, or less haunted than almost any other place, 
her eyes never having looked on the Nith. Perhaps thereabouts I 
might move, and there find an hour of peace. Is Thornhill a pleasant 
village ? and is there an inn between it and Dumfries? Is there an 


inn in the pass of Dalvine ? Is Penpont habitable quietly for a few 
days, or any of the pretty village-inns in that district? Pray let me 
hear from you at your leisure how the land lies. Perhaps I may 
afterwards step down to your town for a day, but I wish, if I make 
out a week's visit to Xithsdale or neighborhood, to do so unknown 
but to yourself. Affectionately yours. John Wilson." 

Four months later we find him writing again to the same friend : — 

"Edinburgh, Sept. 24, 1840. 

'• My dear Mb. Aird : — I have at last set to work — if that be not 
too strong an assertion — on my paper about Burns, so long promised 
to the Messrs. Blackie of Glasgow, for The Land of Burns. They 
have in hand about fifty printed quarto pages, but some of it has not 
been returned to ine to correct for press. They expect, I believe, 
thirty or fifty more. 

" Can you find out from good authority in Dumfries (Jessie 
Lewars, they say, is yet alive, and is Mrs. Thomson) if Burns was 
a church-goer at Dumfries, regular or irregular, and to what church? 
2. If he was on habits of intimacy with any clergyman or clergymen 
in the town — as, for example, Dr. Burnside ? In 1803, 1 stayed two 
days with the Burnsides — all dear friends of mine then, and long 
afterwards, though now the survivors are to me like the dead. I 
then called with Mary Burnside,* now Mrs. Taylor, in Liverpool, on 
Mrs. Burns. Robert I remember at Glasgow College, but hardly 
knew him, and I dare say he does not remember me. 3. Did any 
clergyman visit him on his dying bed; and is it supposed that when 
dying the Bible was read by him more than formerly or not? 4. 
II •! Burns frequent, rare, or regular family worship at Dumfries ? 
At Ellisland I think he often had. Ef these questions can be answered 
affirmatively, in whole or in part, I shall say something about it; if 
not, I shall be silent, or nearly so. In either case I hope I shall say 
nothing wrong. 

- I have not left Edinburgh since I saw yon, but for a day or so, 
and I won't leave it till this contribution to The, Lift ofBurnaia 
finished. Then I intend going for a week to Kelso, and from the 
20th October to ditto April, if spared, be in this room, misnamed a 

• M tho friend and confidante of the "Orphan Maid," whose Image was so 

bard to tear fruoi his young heart 


study — it i6 a sort of library. 1 am alone with one daughter, my 
good Jane ; her mother's name, and much of her nature — but not 
. . . Yours affectionately, John Wilson." 

During this summer he went into Dumfries and Galloway, accom- 
panied by his two sons. I have an interesting account of a visit he 
paid to the Rev. George Murray of Balmaclellan, Glenkens, with a 
day's fishing in Lochinvar, but it is too long for insertion. 

In speaking of his room, which he calls " a sort of library," some- 
thing may be said of that careless habit which overtook him in his 
later years, and gave to his whole appearance an air of reckless free- 
•dom. His room was a strange mixture of what may be called order 
and untidiness, for there was not a scrap of paper, or a book, that 
his hand could not light upon in a moment, while to the casual eye, 
in search of discovery, it would appear chaos, without a chance of 
being cleared away. 

To any one whose delight lay in beauty of furniture, or quaint and 
delicate ornament, well-appointed arrangements, and all that inde- 
scribable fascination caught from nick-nacks and articles of vertu, 
that apartment must have appeared a mere lumber-room. The book- 
shelves were of unpainted wood, knocked up in the rudest fashion, 
and their volumes, though not wanting in number or excellence, 
wore but shabby habiliments, many of them being tattered and 
without backs. The chief pieces of furniture in this room were two 
cases : one containing specimens of foreign birds, a gift from an 
admirer of his genius across the Atlantic, which was used incongru- 
ously enough sometimes as a wardrobe ; the other was a book-case, 
but not entirely devoted to books ; its glass doors permitted a motley 
assortment of articles to be seen. The spirit, the tastes and habits 
of the possessor were all to be found there, side by side like a little 
community of domesticities. 

For example, resting upon the Wealth of Nations lay shining 
coils of gut, set off by pretty pink twinings. Peeping out from 
JBoxiana, in juxtaposition with the Faery Queen, were no end of 
delicately dressed flies; and pocket-books well filled with gear foi 
the " gentle craft" found company with Shakspere and Ben Jon 
son ; while fishing-rods, in pieces, stretched their elegant length 
along the shelves, embracing a whole set of poets. Nor was the 
gravest philosophy without its contrast, and Jeremy Taylor, too, 


found innocent repose in the neighborhood of a tin box of barley- 
sugar, excellent as when bought "at my old man's." Here and 
there, in the interstices between books, were stuffed what appeared 
to b^ dingy, crumpled bits of paper — these were bank-notes, his 
class fees — not unfrequently, fur want of a purse, thrust to the bot- 
tom of an old worsted stocking, when not honored by a place in 
the book-case. I am certain he very rarely counted over the fees 
taken from his students. He never looked at or touched money in 
the usual way ; he very often forgot where he put it ; saving when 
these stocking banks were his humor ; no one, for its own sake, or 
for his own purposes, ever regarded riches with such perfect indif- 
ference. He was like the old patriarch whose simple desires were 
comprehended in these words : — " If God will be with me, and keep 
me in the way I am to go, and give me bread to eat, and raiment 
to put on" — other thought of wealth he had not. And so there he 
sat, in the majesty of unaffected dignity, surrounded by a homeli- 
ness that still left him a type of the finest gentleman ; courteous to 
all, easy and unembarrassed in address, wearing his tieglige with as 
much grace as a courtier his lace and plumes, nor leaving other im- 
pression than that which goodness makes on minds ready to ac- 
knowledge superiority; seeing there "the elements so mixed in 
him, that nature might stand up and say to all the world, This was 
a man." 

" Writing for Blackwood" were words that bore no pleasant sig- 
nificance to my ears in the days of childhood. Well do I remember, 
when living long ago in Ann Street, going to school with my sister 
-Margaret, that, on our return from it, the first question eagerly put 
by us t<> the servanl a- she opened the door was, "Is papa busy 
to-day ; is lie writing for Blackwood ?" If the inquiry was answered 
in the affirmative, then off went our shoes, ami we crept up stairs 
like mice. I believe, generally speaking, there never was so quiet a 
nursery as our-. Thus "writing for Blackwood" found little favor 
in our eye-, and the grim "Id visage of Geordie Buchanan met with 
very rough treatment from our hands, if, as sometimes happened, 
a number of the Magazine found its way to the uursery, it never 
failed to he tossed from floor to ceiling, and back again, until tal 
tered to our heart-. 1 . -nut. ■nt. In clue time we came to appreciate 
hetter the value of these laboi , when we learned what, love and 
duty the in them; and a good Lesson of endurance and 


power the old man taught by the very manner of his work. How 
he set about it, d propos of his study, may claim a few words of 

His habit of composition, or rather I should say the execution of 
it, was not always ordered best for his comfort. The amazing ra- 
pidity with which he wrote, caused him too often to delay his work 
to the very last moment, so that he almost always wrote under 
compulsion, and every second of time was of consequence. Under 
such a mode of labor there was no hour left for relaxation. When 
regularly in for an article for Blackwood, his whole strength was 
put forth, and it may be said he struck into life what he had to do 
at a blow. He at these times began to write immediately after 
breakfast, that meal being dispatched with a swiftness commensu- 
rate with the necessity of the case before him. He then shut him- 
self into his study, with an express command that no one was to 
disturb him, and he never stirred from his writing-table until per- 
haps the greater part of a " Noctes" was written, or some paper of 
equal brilliancy and interest completed. The idea of breaking his 
labor by taking a constitutional walk never entered his thoughts for 
a moment. Whatever he had to write, even though a day or two 
were to keep him close at work, he never interrupted his pen, saving 
to take his night's rest, and a late dinner served to him in his study. 
The hour for that meal was on these occasions nine o'clock; his 
dinner then consisted invariably of a boiled fowl, potatoes, and a 
glass of water — he allowed himself no wine. After dinner he re- 
sumed his pen till midnight, when he retired to bed, not unfrequent- 
ly to be disturbed by an early printer's boy ; although sometimes, 
these familiars did not come often enough or early enough for their 
master's work,* as may be seen from the following note to Mr. 
Ballantyne : — 

* That these familiars were not always so dilatory, the following humorous description will tes- 
tify :— '' O these printers 1 devils 1 Like urchins on an ice-slide keeping the pie -warm, from cock- 
liii owl-hoot do they continue in unintermitting succession to pour from the far-off office 
down upon Moray Place or Buchanan Lodge, one imp almost on the very shoulders of another, 
wit!' devil-free, crying, 'Copy! copy !' in every variety of intonation possible in gruff 

or shrill; and should I chance to drop asleep over an article, worn down by protracted sufferings 
to mere skin and bone, as you see, till the wick of my caudle — one to the pound — hangs drooping 
down by the side of the melting mutton, the two sunk stories are swarming with them all a- 
hum ! Many, doubtless, die during the year, but from such immense numbers they are never 
missed any more than the midges you massacre on a sultry summer eve. Then the face and 
figure of one devil are so like another's — the people who have time to pay particular atten- 
tion to their personal appearance, which I have not, say they are as different as sheep. Thai 
tipsy Thamwuz is to me all one with Bowzy Beelzebub,' - &,c. — Nodes. 


"The boy was told to call this morning at seven, and said he 
would, but he has not come till .... I rose at five this morning 
nn purpose to have the sheets ready. I wish you could order the 
devils to be more punctual, as they never by any accident appear 
in this house at a proper time. The devil who broke his word is 
he who brought the first packet last night. The devil who brought 
the second, is in this blameless. I do not wish the first devil to get 
more than his due: but you must snub him for my sake. For a 
man who goes to bed at two, does not relish leaving it at five, ex- 
cept in case of life or death. Would you believe it, I am a little 
angry just now? J. W." 

I do not exaggerate his power of speed, when I say he wrote 
more in a few hours than most able writers do in a few days; ex- 
amples of it I have often seen in the very manuscript before him, 
which, disposed on the table, was soon transferred to the more 
roomy space of the floor at his feet, where it lay " thick as autum- 
nal leaves in Vallombrosa," only to be piled up again quickly as 
before. When I look back to the days when he sat in that con- 
fused, dusty study, working sometimes like a slave, it seems to me 
as if Hood's " Song of the Shirt," with a difference of burden, would 
apply in its touching words to him ; for it was 

" "Write, write, write, 
"While the cock is crowing aloof; 

And write, write, write, 
Till the stars shine through the roof;" 

And so was his literature made, that delightful periodical literature 
which, " aay <>f il what you will, gives light to the heads and heal 
to the hearts of millions of our race. The greatesl and besl men of 
the age have nol disdained to belong to the Brotherhood ; and thus 
the hovel holds what musl doI be missing in the hall -the furniture 
of the cot i-~ the Bame as that of the palace ; and duke and ditcher 
read their lessone from the same page." 

He never, even in very cold weather, had a fire in his room; noi 
did it at night, as most apartments lo, get heat from gas, which ho 
particularly disliked, remaining faithful to the primitive candle a 
l:ir e vulgar tallow, Bel in a Buitable candlestick composed of ordi- 
nal") tin, and made after the fashion of what i- called a kitchen < an- 


dlestick. What his fancy for this was I cannot say, but he never 
did, and would not, make use of any other. 

From 1840 to 1845 there were only two papers contributed by 
him to Blackwood, viz., the review of Leigh Hunt's Legend of 
Vh>r< nee, already spoken of, and a laudatory criticism of Macaulay's 
Lays of Ancient Home. The latter appeared in December, 1842. 
This cessation from labor arose in the first instance from a paralytic 
affection of his right hand, which attacked him in May, 1840, and 
disabled him for nearly a year. It was the first warning he received 
that his great strength and wonderful constitution lay under the 
same law as that which commands the weakest. Writing thence- 
forward became irksome, and the characters traced by his pen are 
almost undecipherable. This attack gradually wore away, but it 
was during its continuance, and for years after, that he imposed 
upon himself rules of total abstinence from wine and every kind of 
stimulant. Toast and water was the only beverage of which he 

I have nothing more to relate of this time, nor are there any other 
traces of literary occupation beyond that belonging directly to his 
College duties. The remaining portion of this year must be per- 
mitted to pass in silence ; and not again till the summer of 1841, is 
there a trace of any thing but what belongs to a retired and quiet fife. 

In June, 1841, he presided at a large public dinner given in honor 
of Mr. Charles Dickens,* and immediately afterwards started for 
the Highlands. The following letter to Mr. Findlay recalls recol- 
lections of that delightful tour. I was then with him at Rothesay, 
as his communication shows, on occasion of a melancholy nature, 
which, however, at that period did not result as was anticipated, 
and left the summer months free from any other sorrow than that 
of anxiety. Mrs. Gordon rallied for a time, and was well enough 
to bear removal to Edinburgh in the autumn, but the sad condition 
in which she was brought friends around her, of whom my father 
was one ; and on one of these visits to Rothesay, he made from 
thence a short detour by Inverary and Loch Awe, taking me with 
him, along with his eldest son John. 

"Rothesay, Thursday Night, 
July 1, 1841. 
" My dear Robert : — Gordon and I left Edinburgh suddenly by 

* Reported in Scotsman, June 26, 1S41 


the night mail on Monday, and arrived here on Tuesday forenoon. 
Dr. Hay and my daughter Mary followed in the afternoon, in con- 
sequence of the illness of Mrs. Gordon, senior, who, I fear, is dying. 
To-day, Mary and Gordon had nearly met a fatal accident, having 
been upset in a car, over a considerable depth among rocks on the 
shore-road, along with their friend Mr. Irvine, and his son. All 
were for a while insensible except Mary, and all have been a good 
deal hurt. Mary was brought home in Mrs. T. Douglas's carriage, 
and is going on well. In a day or two she will be quite well ; and 
Gordon is little the worse. It was near being a fatal accident, and 
had a frightful look. I was not of the party. Mrs. Gordon's con- 
dition and Mary's accident will keep me here a day or two, so my 
plans are changed for the present, and I shall not be at Easter Hill 
till next week. Be under no anxiety about Mary, for she has re- 
covered considerably, and will soon again be on her feet. My hand 
is not so well to-day, and I fear you will hardly be able to read this 
scrawl. Yours affectionately, John Wilson." 

At no time did my father ever appear so free from care as when 
communing with nature. With him it was indeed communion. He 
did not, as many do when living in the presence of fine scenery, 
show any impatience to leave one scene in order to seek another; 
no restless desire to be on the top of a mountain, or away into some 
distant valley; but he would linger in and about the place his heart 
had fixed to visit. All he desired was there before him; it was 
almost a lesson to look at his countenance at such moments. There 
was mi expression, as it were, of melancholy, awe and gratitude, a 
fervent inward emotion pictured outwardly. His tine blue eye 
Beemed as it', in and beyond nature, it saw some vision that beatified 
the sight of earth, and sent his spiril to the gates of heaven. 

I remember walking a whole day with him, rambling about the 
neighborhood ofdadich; scarcely a word was uttered. Now and 
then he would point out a spot, which sudden sun-gleams made for 
a moment what he called a "sight of divine beauty;" and then 
again, perhaps when some more extended and lengthened duration 
of light o\ erspread the whole landscape, making it a scene of match- 
less loveliness, gently touching my arm. he signified, by a motion 
of his hand, that I too .1 take in and admire what he 'lid nol ex- 
piree by words; -Heme at Buch moments was the kej to more iu- 

402 AiKMOiii of John wiLSott. 

tense enioyment. We sat down to rest on an eminence at the head 
of Loci i Awe, when the midday sun glittered over every island and 
promontory, streaking the green fields with lines of gold. Not 
a sound escaped his lips; but when, after a while, the softening 
shades of afternoon lent a less intense color to the scene, he spoke a 
few words, saying: "Long, long ag», I saw such a sight of beauty 
here, that if I were to tell it no one would believe it ; indeed, I am 
not sure whether I can describe what I saw ; it was truly divine 1 
I have written something very poor and feeble in attempt to de 
scribe that incomparable sight, which I cannot now read ; but to 
my dying day I shall not forget the vision." 

Did this vision suggest " Lays of Fairyland ?" — taking too, in 
after years, another form than verse. It appeared in one of the 
most beautiful morsels of prose composition he ever wrote, which 
so impressed Lord Jeffrey's mind, he never was tired of read- 
ing it. 

It is a description of a fairy's funeral, and rather than refer the 
reader to the volume and page where it is to be found, I give the 
extract, as in fitting association with Loch Awe and the unforgotten 
vision or poet's dream near the brow of Ben Cruachan: — 

" There it was, on a little river island, that once, whether sleep- 
ing or waking we know not, we saw celebrated a fairy's funeral 
First we heard small pipes playing, as if no bigger than hollow 
rushes that whisper to the night winds ; and more piteous than 
aught that trills from earthly instrument was the scarce audible 
dirge ! It seemed to float over the stream, every foam-bell emit- 
ting a plaintive note, till the fairy anthem came floating over our 
couch, and then alighting without footsteps among the heather. 
The pattering of little feet was then heard, as if living creatures 
were arranging themselves in order, and then there was nothing 
but a more ordered hymn. The harmony was like the melting of 
musical dewdrops, and sang, without words, of sorrow and death. 
We opened our eyes, or rather sight came to them when closed, 
and dream was vision. Hundreds of creatures, no taller than the 
crest of the lapwing, and all hanging down their veiled heads, stood 
in a circle on a green plat among the rocks ; and in the midst was 
a bier, framed as it seemed of flowers unknown to the Highland 
hills; and on the bier a fairy lying with u