Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Annals of a Publishing House
William Blackwood and His Sons: Their Magazine and Friends by Mrs. Oliphant.


This is a review I found in The Scottish Review and thought I'd include it here for you to read. This is a story of a major Scottish publishing and the authors they dealt with.

This review is of the two volume publication but a third volume was added later and I have made them available in pdf format at the foot of this article should you wish to read them.

THE history of a great publishing house is practically a part of the history of literature. The two bulky volumes before us, therefore, though containing only a part of the history of the publishing house of Messrs. William Blackwood & Sons, have not only a commercial and a biographical interest, they have also a measure of that larger and more permanent interest which belongs to literature as the reflection of the thoughts, sentiments, and opinions of the human mind which constitutes its chief value for the history of a nation or of the race. In this latter respect these two volumes are specially important. Almost from the first the history of the house whose transactions they record, has been bound up with the history of a great and popular Magazine which during a long series of years has been conducted with remarkable success, and has had for its contributors some of the most brilliant writers of the period, who, while seeking in its pages to gratify the tastes of its numerous readers, have done much to shape their opinions. As indices to the thoughts and sentiments of a nation there is perhaps none surer than that which is afforded by the magazines it reads. With few exceptions, they are first, if not chiefly, commercial undertakings ; they may aim at a high standard of literary excellence; but their success and their existence are measured precisely by the extent to which they meet and satisfy the tastes and literary requirements of the public for which they cater; and perhaps there is no surer guide to the literary history of the English speaking race during the greater part of the present century than the pages of Maga when read in the light thrown upon them by the two volumes to which we are now referring.

There is another and pathetic interest attaching to these volumes. They were begun with enthusiasm and in hope, but unfortunately the accomplished authoress, who for so long a time occupied an honoured and conspicuous place in English letters and for forty years had worked incessantly for the Magazine whose story she was recording, was not permitted to complete the work she had in hand, or even to put the necessary finishing touches to what she had written. While still in the act of revising, and before the revision could be carried beyond the first volume, death arrested her hand and closed a 'long and strenuous literary life' to which there have been few equals. From the first she seems to have been drawn towards the Blackwoods by feelings of affectionate regard, and there are few passages more touching or beautiful than the one in which she records her interview with the heads of the firm when her own fortunes had reached a crisis. It is one of the last she wrote, and goes back to the winter of 1860, when she had just buried her husband in Italy and temporarily settled in Edinburgh with her little family of three fatherless children.' 'I was poor,' she says, 'having only my own exertions to depend on, though always possessing an absolute-foolish courage (so long as the children were well, my one formula) in life and providence. But I had not been doing well.' The contributions to the magazine which she had kept on sending from Italy were not always inserted. They had been, ' as I can see through the revelations of the Blackwood letters, pushed about from pillar to post, these kind-hearted men not willing to reject what they knew to be so important to me, yet caring but little for them, using them when there happened to be a scarcity of material, and after my return things were little better.' And then, after remarking ' several of my articles were rejected and affairs began to look very dark for me,' she continues—

'Why I should have formed the idea that in these circumstances, when there was every appearance that my literary gift, such as it was, was failing me, they would be likely to entertain a proposal from me for a serial story, I can now scarcely tell ; but I was rash and in need. At the time I was living in Fettes Row, in a little house consisting of the ground-floor and the basement below, a rather forlorn locality, but commanding a wide prospect — only, it is true, of houses and waste land, but also of a great deal of sky and air, always particularly agreeable to me. I walked up to George Street, up the steep hill, with my heart beating, not knowing (though I might very well have divined) what they would say to me. There was, indeed, only one thing they could say. They shook their heads : they were very kind, very unwilling to hurt the feelings of the poor young woman, with the heavy widow's veil hanging about her like a cloud. No ; they did not think it was possible. I remember very well how they stood against the light, the Major tall and straight, John Blackwood with his shoulders hunched up in his more careless bearing, embarrassed and troubled by what they saw and no doubt guessed in my face, while on ray part every faculty was absorbed in the desperate pride of a woman not to let them see me cry, to keep in until I could get out of their sight. I remember, also, the walk down the hill, and a horrible organ that played " Charlie is my darling," and how one line of the song came into my mind, 'The wind was at his back." The wind, alas ! was not at my back, I reflected, but strong in my face, both really and metaphorically, the keen north-east that hurries up these slopes as if it would blow every fragile thing away.

'I went home to find my little ones all gay and sweet, and was occupied by them for the rest of the day in a sort of cheerful despair—distraught, yet as able to play as ever (which they say is a part of a woman's natural duplicity and dissimulation). But when they had all gone to bed, and the house was quiet, I sat down—and I don't know when, or if at all, I went to bed that night; but next day (I think) I had finished and sent up to the dread tribunal in George Street a short story, which was the beginning of a series of stories called the Chronicles of Carlingford.'

These stories, she adds, ' set me up at once, and established my footing in the world.' To the present generation of readers they are probably not so well known as they deserve to be. They may not in all points be equal to George Eliot's Scenes of a Clerical Life; but they have excellences of their own, aud in their own way are unsurpassed. The present writer very well remembers the sensation their first appearance created and the eagerness with which succeeding numbers were looked for. They did indeed ' establish' her ' footing in the world,' a footing which she never lost, and began a career to which the Annals of the Publishing House, to whose chiefs she owed so much and was so gratefully attached, would, had she been permitted to finish them, have formed, as she herself felt, a fitting completion, while, as they stand, with all the melancholy interest attaching to a posthumous work about them, they show that up to the last her hand had not lost its cunning nor her heart its fervour.

William Blackwood, the founder of the firm of William Blackwood & Sons, a shrewd man of business, a genial friend, a good letter writer, intensely interested in whatever he took in hand, proud of ' ma Maga,' Ebony, as both he and his Magazine were frequently and indifferently called, was the son of an Edinburgh burgess, and was born on the 26th November, 1776. In 1790 he was apprenticed to Messrs. Bell & Bradfute, a firm of Booksellers in Parliament Square, Edinburgh, beside the Law Courts, where he had frequent opportunities of coming in contact with the judges and advocates and with the professors of the College in the immediate neighbourhood, who seem to have been in the habit of dropping into the shop to turn over the new books and to discuss them. He made no heroic attempts at self-culture by attending classes in the University during his apprenticeship, but gave his attention wholly to business. Constable was then at the head of ' the Trade ' in Edinburgh, and combined with his publishing business that of a dealer in books old and new. Bibliomania was then in the air, and young Blackwood was soon smitten with it. Messrs. Bell & Bradfute's was a favourable place for its development, and by keeping his eyes and wits about him, noting what was said and done by the more important customers, over which volumes the great men of the College pored, and which the general public in their lighter examination tossed aside, he soon learned to know what was really curious and valuable, and to make that astute distinction between what is likely to be popular and what is not—a rare and invaluable gift, which in after life formed one of his chief characteristics, and has descended to his sons—a gift that does not, as Mrs. Oliphant observes, ' depend on mere literary perception and taste, for sometimes the public will prefer the best and sometimes the worst, and very frequently, indeed, picks up something between the two, by some fantastic rule of selection which lever has been fathomed by any man but a heaven-born publisher.'

At the conclusion of his apprenticeship, young Blackwood was sent to Glasgow to act as the agent of Messrs. Mundell & Co., an Edinburgh publishing firm which is now forgotten, though its failure, in after years, created almost a panic in ' the Trade,' and brought down with it several smaller houses. Incidentally we learn that Messrs. Mundell & Co. were the publishers of Campbell's Pleasures of Hope, and that the price Campbell received for it was fifty copies of the printed work ! While in Glasgow, young Blackwood is supposed to have attended classes in the University, which he may have done, since'the premises of Messrs. Mundell & Co. were within the precincts of the Old College ; but whether he did or not, while attending to the business of his agency, he seems to have been doing a little on his own account. In the first of his known letters—a letter addressed to Mr. Constable—he assures his correspondent that it is not a trouble, but a pleasure, ' to pick up books,' and sends him a list of some he has managed ' to pick up.' They are all more or less curious, and, with some exceptions, are priced. Among them is Sir David Lyndesay's Ane Dialog betioix Experience and ane Coarteour, Imprentet at the Command and Expensis of Dr. Machabeus in Copenhagen, of which he says, ' It is a small quarto black-letter. It is certainly a great curiosity, and though I was not sure of its value, 1 paid pretty high for it.' The last in his list is Gildae de Excidio et Conquesta Britanniae, etc., Epistola, 18mo, J. Daius, Loud. 1568, to which he adds the note : 'This, I believe, is a scarce little book, but I cannot see it in any catalogue, so I leave the price to yourself.' Constable was still buying and selling libraries, and undertaking their arrangement and regulation, when he began the publication of the Waverley Novels.

After a year's stay in Glasgow, young Blackwood returned to Edinburgh. At first he went back to his old employers, but was soon in partnership with a certain Robert Ross, ' a bookseller and bookseller's auctioneer' — a description, as Mrs. Oliphant observes, which explains some of the early catalogues he put forth. This partnership lasted only a year, at the end of which he went up to London and joined the establishment of Mr. Cuthill, who was famous for his catalogues, and remained there three years, probably assisting Cuthill in the compilation of his catalogues, and doubtless extending his own knowledge. Probably, as Mrs. Oliphant remarks, ' he had dreams already of publishing, of finding some man of great genius to attach himself to, and of making the welkin ring with the name of Blackwood, then so humble and so little known.' If he had, we suppose he was not unlike other aspirants in the publishing business, whether ancient or modern.

In 1604 he returned to Edinburgh for good, and started business on his own account on the South Bridge, a situation which, being not far from either the College or Parliament House, was not badly chosen. He both bought and sold books, and undertook commissions to arrange and classify and value gentlemen's libraries. Constable, as we have seen, was doing the same, and had been for many years. Apparently it was regarded as one of the shortest cuts to fortune. The book-hunter was then abroad both in Scotland and in England, ' often,' as Mrs. Oliphant phrases it, ' in the most unlikely places, hungry for his prey.' Heber was prowling about Edinburgh in any place that promised discovery of a forgotten volume, and Dibdin in England was busy with his work on the purchase of old books and their value and classification.'

On his marriage in 1805 to Miss Janet Steuart, the daughter of Mr. Steuart of Carfin in Lanarkshire, Mr. Blackwood set up house in one of the streets on the South-side of Edinburgh, but within a year removed to a house of his own, ' in one of the leafy roads of Newington, with a wide view from the windows over the surrounding country, a pleasant garden, and those large rooms and airy passages which are the charm of Edinburgh houses.' Here his children were born. The pleasantness of the home over which he here presided is proved, Mrs. Oliphant remarks, ' with a very tender pathos by the many pilgrimages made to it still (1895) by the last survivor, Miss Isabella Blackwood, to whom the image of "my Father" still seems to smile benignant over the mists of eighty years.'

As for business in these early years, it was quiet. Book-hunters and others, and among them no less an individual than Sir Walter, began to gather around the young bookseller in increasing numbers; but there was no great rush of success. Still there was steady progress and hopeful prospects. Rivals there were in plenty, all of whom were 'somewhat rash in the rush of new energy which had revolutionised " the Trade,' bold in their ventures, and entertaining a faith in literature which has been much subdued since then.'

'In those days there was a certain spirit of daring and romance in "the Trade." The Revival of Literature was like the opening of a new mine ; it was more than that, a sort of manufactory out of nothing, to which there seemed no limit. You had but to set a man of genius spinning at that shining thread which came from nowhere, which required no purchase of materials or "plant " of machinery, and your fortune was made. We remember that, later, Constable went gravely to the Bank of England to negotiate a loan upon the sole security of the unwritten books to be drawn from the brain of the author of "Waverley." This confidence had seemed justified by long experience, and it was the very breath of the eager booksellers, on tiptoe to find in the first young gentleman who came into their shop with a manuscript in his pocket another Scott, or perhaps a Byron, ready to take the "world by storm. " Abandoning the old timid and grudging system, he stood out as the general patron and payer of all promising publications, and confounded not only his rivals in trade, but his very authors by his unheard-of prices/' says Lord Cockburn, speaking of Constable. "Ten, even twenty guineas a sheet for a review, 2000 or 3000 for a single poem, and 1000 for two philosophical dissertations, drew authors out of their dens, and made Edinburgh a literary mart famous with strangers, and the pride of its own citizens." It was in one great case a sort of madness while it lasted, and brought its natural catastrophe : but the result in others was much prosperity and success, and in the first stage it stimulated every brain, and half convinced the world that Poetry, Romance, Philosophy, and even Criticism, were the first crafts, and the most profitable in the world."

In the midst of this excitement Blackwood alone of the Edinburgh booksellers kept a comparatively cool head. No doubt he had his hopes and expectations, and was always looking for the ' man of great genius ' to turn up ; but he was not rash like Ballantyne or Constable, and was the only man ' who may be said to have permanently mastered fortune.' One of the first of his publications to call attention to his name was a catalogue of which he was himself the author. It contained some 15,000 volumes, and was so admirably arranged that it brought not only orders, but a number of the most friendly letters. Sir Walter Scott wrote from Abbotsford, " I am greatly obliged to you for your attention in forwarding your curious and interesting catalogue. I am here ruining myself with plumbing and building; so that adding to my library is in fact burning the candle at both ends. But I am somewhat comforted by observing that the increased value of books has nearly doubled the prime cost of my little collection and proved me a wise man when I had much reason to account myself a fool.' Dibdiu also wrote, and, like Sir Walter, enclosed an order, while from Mr. John Murray there came a letter in which he said : ' Your Catalogue I hear incessantly praised by Heber as the head of many others; it does great credit to you in many respects.'

Some months before that, however, Blackwood had received a letter from the great publishing magnate in London of a much more important nature. In it he was appointed Murray's Edinburgh agent in room of Ballantyne, with whose mode of doing business Murray, after a short trial, had become thoroughly dissatisfied. In Edinburgh the appointment was regarded as one of the prizes of 'the Trade,' and its acquisition by Blackwood may be said to have formed one of the critical moments in his business. The relations between the two firms did not always work smoothly; considering the characters of the two men it was scarcely to be expected that they should ; still the association at once raised the young bookseller—for such was the name by which publishers were then known—to the first rank and, as the saying is, was 'good for his business.' He had already begun to publish cautiously on his own pount, the most conspicuous of his early publications being McCrie's Life of John Knox, a work which, chiefly on account of the new point of view from which Queen Mary was represented, caused at first much commotion, and though somewhat one-sided and antiquated and not always to be trusted, is not yet entirely superseded. To the London agency was soon added another, the news of which Blackwood communicated to Murray in the following letter :—

'John Ballantyne has transferred to me all his retail customers, and makes me his retail publisher here. This will be of very great use to me, as it interests Walter Scott deeply in all my concerns. I have, of course, a stock of all their books, and will therefore be able to supply you with any new book of theirs 5 per cent, below sale. If you want any 8vo "Rokeby" when ready, please write me. They have just published a very pretty poem, "Triermain," which Jeffrey talks of in the highest terms, and is to review in the next number of the "Edinburgh." I have sent you 20 copies by yesterday's smack, and enclosed "Widow's Lodgings," a novel which they have also just published. I have not been able to hear who he [the author] is, nor yet who is the author of "Triermain." . . . You maybe sure it is not Mr. Terry.'

It was three years—to Murray as well as to Blackwood three long and impatient years—before this connection with Ballantyne bore any of the desired fruit. Waverley and Guy Mannering had appeared, the first being brought out by Constable and the other by Longman, and both Blackwood and Murray were as eager as any others in ' the Trade ' to secure the publishing of any further work which the Anonymous Author might produce. Both of them made some wild guesses as to who he was, and both of them had a suspicion that he was no other than Sir Walter—' either Walter Scott or the Devil' wrote one of them—while it would appear from the above letter that Blackwood was not without hopes that 'Walter Scott' might turn out the 'man of great genius' for whom he was waiting. However, Ballantyne at last, after many hints and promises, offered to Blackwood 'by instructions from the author,' a work in four volumes to be called ' The Tales of My Landlord ;' each volume was to contain a separate tale, an arrangement which was afterwards altered, and the work was thus to be of more than usual importance, as including a succession of books. The terms were curious, and involved the taking over of 600 of John Ballantyne's not very saleable stock; but curious and hard as they were, they were eagerly accepted by Blackwood— Murray taking a share in the business—and after many delays and much vexation of spirit to the two publishers, they issued the Black Dwarf the first of the 4 Tales.' Two editions were sold, and a third was moving off, though much more slowly than was expected, when Blackwood was unexpectedly informed by Ballantyne that he had a fourth ready. Some angry letters were written, and some very plausible excuses were made, but the matter was finally arranged by Blackwood and Murray taking the edition over. So far good, but there was worse to come. While Blackwood had 1200 copies of the fourth edition, and Murray some hundreds more on hand, an advertisement suddenly appeared that a fifth edition was about to be published by Constable. This came upon the two publishers as a bolt from the blue. They expostulated, and even talked of law, but it was of no use ; the thing was definitely settled, they were told that no change would be made, and no change was made.

This curious and painful episode has never been explained, nor does Mrs. Oliphant contribute much towards its explanation. It may be, however, that Scott had taken offence at some plain spoken criticisms and suggestions as to the winding up of the story which Blackwood had sent to him, through Ballantyne, after reading the manuscript when first put into his hands. At a later period Sir Walter himself criticised the tale, and, according to Lockhart, ' completely adopted honest Blackwood's opinion,' 1 but at the moment he was in no mood to listen to criticism. Immediately on receipt of Blackwood's letter, he wrote to James Ballantyne :—

'Dear James,—I have received Blackwood's impudent letter, God - his soul! Tell him and his coadjutor that I belong to the Black Hussars of Literature, who neither give nor receive criticism. I'll be cursed but this is the most impudent proposal that ever was made.—W.S.

This certainly betrays very considerable irritation, and if, as Mrs. Oliphant suggests, and not without good reason, this was not the only note, and there were suspicions that the work had been shown to others, the irritation would not be merely passing : and it may be, that Scott at once resolved to cease dealing with Blackwood at the earliest moment. But even this does not account for Constable's unexpected advertisement and the way in which the connection was severed. Mrs. Oliphant concludes her narrative of the incident as follows :—

'As for Scott, for whose spotless reputation everybody is concerned, my own opinion is that his venture with these two new publishers [Blackwood and Murray] was tentative, and it was quite on the cards that they might have secured him, but for this irritating check: while on the other hand it was also quite natural that he should have found the burden of James Ballantyne's mediatorship unbearable, and felt that, without an additional disclosure of his secret, which, whether wisely or foolishly, he was determined not to make, his simplest method was to return to the man who did already know, and with whom he could arrange at first hand, without any interference of a fussy, though bland, go-between. Neither Murray nor Blackwood throw any individual blame upon him, and he was, strictly speaking, within his rights in transferring the book, as he had expressly limited the arrangement to certain editions. The offensive announcement of a fifth edition before the fourth was exhausted was no doubt due to Constable, who thus celebrated his triumph over his rivals.'

The conjecture which is here made, is quite possible, but it is only a conjecture. Lockhart gives a fairly long account of or, as he was called, Signor Aldiborontophoscophornio. On October 4th, 1816, he sent the following:—'Our application to the author of Tales of My Landlord has been anything but successful, and in order to explain to you the reason why I must decline to address him in this way in future, I shall copy his letter verbatim :—My respects to our friends the Booksellers. I belong to the Death-head Hussars of Literature, who neither take nor give criticism. I am extremely sorry they showed my work to Gifford, nor would I cancel a leaf to please all the critics of Edinburgh and London ; and so let that be as it is. They are mistaken if they think I don't know when I am writing ill, as well as Gifford can tell me. I beg there be no more communications with critics." Observe—that I shall at all times be ready to convey anything from you to the author in a written form, but I do not feel warranted to interfere further.' The reference to Gifford may, as Mrs. Oliphant suggests, be due to the above being probably an amalgamation of two notes.

the affair, which on M or two points .Mrs. Oliphant correct but as to the transfer of the publication of the book, all he says is, ' Circumstances ere long occurred which carried the publication of the work into the hands of Messrs. Constable.'* What these ' circumstances ' were he does not say, nor do the numerous letters cited by Mrs. Oliphant throw sufficient light upon them. Mr. Andrew Lang, in his Life of Lock-hart, has nothing of importance to say about them, while in the Murray Memoirs the affair is passed over as if there had never been any trouble about it, though when replying to some query addressed to him ou the subject by Lockhart, Murray speaks of having 'a vague notion that I owed the dropping of my connexion with the Great Novelist to some trashy disputes between Blackwood and the BalIantynes.' But as Mrs. Oliphant has presumably had all the existing documents, which bear up the affair, in her hands, the probability is that no explanation can now be given.

Meantime Mr. Blackwood had removed from the South Bridge to 17 Princes Street, 'an address soon made memorable as the headquarters of a literary group unequalled in Edinburgh or within the limits of Great Britain.' Meantime, also, he had added to the Murray agency that of Cadell & Davies, London, ' and had shaken from his fingers for ever the dusty traces of old books.' As a publisher his business grew apace, and his disappointment over losing the connection with ' the man of great genius ' had hardly begun when he discovered a woman of genius, in the person of Miss Ferrier. At first her correspondence with him seems to have been under an assumed name. When returning her manuscript, Blackwood writes to her in the most enthusiastic way, telling her, in reply to her modest request for suggestions, that ' The whole construction and execution of the work appear to him so admirable that it would almost be presumption in any one to offer corrections to such a writer,' and ' begs to assure the author that unmeaning compliment is the furthest from his thoughts,' and that ' he flatters himself that at no distant period he will have the high delight of assuring the writer in person of the heartful sincerity of the opinion he has ventured to offer.' The work in question was Marriage, and on its completion Mr. Blackwood, notwithstanding the extremely high laudation he had passed upon it, offered and paid her only 150 for the copyright of the book, 'or rather, I think,' says Mrs. Oliphant, ' of the first edition.' For Inheritance, however, he paid her 1000; but Destiny, her third book, he apparently declined to publish. Cadell gave her 1700 for it. The account which Mrs. Oliphant gives of Miss Ferrier, though long, is worth quoting, inasmuch as it contains her opinion on Miss Austen as well as upon Miss Ferrier :—

'Everybody now knows something of the witty and delightful "Sister Shadow," to whom Sir Walter paid so beautiful a tribute. She came from the same original, genial, sagacious, and humourous race, that strata of Scottish gentry deposited in Edinburgh, and owing, perhaps, some readiness and flow of social gifts to the associations of the northern capital, and the constant intercourse and sharpening of its wits—which produced Sir Walter himself, and was his sister spirit in more than writing. She was afterwards connected with the circle of wits who inspired the magazine through her nephew, J. F. Ferrier, the well-known metaphysician, and his witty wife, the daughter of Professor Wilson : but these were all "unborn faces" at the time of Susan Ferrier's literary beginning. There was as yet no Magazine; and Wilson was an unknown young university man, known at least only for athletic feats, and an inclination towards poetry of the sentimental kind, "Marriage," came out of the cheerful and critical centre of Edinburgh society, as ''Sense and Sensibility" came from the serene levels of English country life, with no warning, floating upwards like the tiny balloons which were one of the wonders of that day, carrying each the little circle of a new undiscovered world to the bigger universe around. Miss Ferrier was as Scotch as Miss Austen was English ; but the Edinburgh lady had not that fine and pointed cynicism with which her contemporary touched the lines of the minute all-embracing picture. There was much fine sentiment and ideal portraiture mingled with the broader humour and larger laugh of the Scot, and perhaps her superfine Marys and Gertrudes took away a little of the unmingled effect of the other ; though Miss Girzy, on the other hand, is as amusing as Miss Bates, although she has a much sweeter attraction. The two writers may, however, be now said to occupy a very similar level, and there are very few names which can be placed beside them. We feel disposed to believe that part of the divine element which had gone to the making of Scott, being left over, had framed these other secondary yet not inferior souls. It was Mr. Blackwood, ever thoughtful of giving pleasure to his friends, who sent to Miss

Ferrier "The concluding sentence of the new 'Tales of My Landlord,' which are to be published to-morrow." This consisted, if the reader perchance may have forgotten, of the following words:—"If the present author, himself a phantom, may be permitted to distinguish a brother, or perhaps a sister, shadow, he would mention in particular the author of the very lively work entitled ' Marriage.' " '

At first ' Miss Ferrier, like her contemporary, Miss Austen, shrank with a horrified femininity from any betrayal of identity/ On one occasion her packets of proof 'are directed,' Mrs. Oliphant tell us, ' under cover to a friend, as if they had been clandestine love-letters.' Strange to say, ' in her old age she was so completely occupied with religious questions as to dislike and disapprove of the delightful works of her earlier days.' This, however, has not affected their popularity, or her position as a writer of fiction. There she still retains a high aud quite individual place as ' one of a baud of women who form a sort of representative group in their way of the three countries, which, it is to be hoped, no unpropitious fate will ever sunder or make to be other than one.'

After his disappointment in respect to the ' Tales of My Landlord,' Mr. Blackwood, we are told, became 'impatient of bookselling and of the moderate risks and rewards of a humdrum publishing business' and set all his faculties on the watch 'for an opportunity to step forth from the usual routine and make a distinct place for himself.' He seems to have corresponded on the subject with Murray, who, in one of his letters, gives him some good fatherly advice, and among other things suggests that, having laid the foundations of a solid retail business, he should go on to improve it, until it could be ' consigned to the care of attentive clerks,' and that he himself should gradually rise 'into the higher duties of cultivating the young men of genius of the day, whom your present situation and literary attractions and attentions of all kinds will indisputably draw around you.' Some parts of this letter Blackwood, in all likelihood, resented, but the suggestions just mentioned he adopted. Upon one of them, indeed—the latter —he had been acting for some time; for just as Murray had thrown open his drawing-rooms in Albemarle Street to the literary loungers of Loudon, so Blackwood, always on the Iook out for the ' man of great genius' whom he was to help to fame, and who was to help him to fortune, had had a room in his premises in Princes Street fitted up, where 'the young men of genius ' of Edinburgh were already wont to congregate. As to the way in which to cultivate and use them, he had a brilliant example before him in the Edinburgh which was then wildly careering in the first flush of its triumphant success. The Quarterly had been started in opposition to it, but although often brilliant enough and fierce enough, was usually grave, and was not answering the famous Whig Review in the way it was expected, or, at least, in the way in which Blackwood thought it might and ought to be answered. Accordingly, after much cogitation, though very little is known about its genesis, he set up the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine under the editorship of, and apparently in a sort of co-partnership with Messrs. Pringle & Cleghorn. Great things were expected from it, but from the first it appears to have been doomed to failure. Blackwood complained of the editors, and the editors complained of his interference, and with the sixth number it ceased, but only to appear in its seventh number under a changed name and under different guidance. While the necessary notice to Messrs. Pringle & Cleghorn was running out, Blackwood wrote to Messrs. Baldwin, Cradock & Co. in London : 'It is most vexatious stopping the magazine. ... I have, however, made arrangements with a gentleman of first-rate talents by which I will begin a new work of a far superior kiud.' Whether this 'gentleman of first-rate talents' was Wilson or Lockhart; whether the phrase was used for both of them; or whether it was used by Blackwood after the fashion he subsequently used 'the editor' or 'the gentleman who has charge of the department,' need not be inquired. As all the world knows, Blackwood had lighted upon two men of genius, and to them mainly Mag a owed its first success. Mrs. Oliphant gives a vivid description of them in their young days when they formed part of the company in 17 Princes Street:

'Among the frequenters of this lively company were two young men who would have been remarkable anywhere, if only for their appearance and talk, had nothing more remarkable ever been developed by them,— one a young man of grand form and mien, with the thews and sinews of a athlete, and a front like Jove, to threaten and command. Jove is not often portrayed with waving yellow locks and ruddy countenance, yet no smaller semblance would be a fit image for the northern demi-god with those brilliant blue eyes which are almost more effective in penetrating keenness than the dark ones with which that quality is more frequently associated. He was a genial giant, but not a mild one. Genius and fun and wit were no less a part of his nature than wrath and vehemence, and a power of swift and sudden slaughter, corrected in its turn by a large radiance of gaiety and good humour—sudden in all things, ready to fell an intruder to the earth or to welcome him as a brother, swift to slay, yet instant to relent.

' The other, who divided with him the honours of this witty meeting, was John Wilson's opposite in everything. He was slim and straight and self-contained, a man of elegance and refinement—words dear to the time —in mind as in person, dark of hair and fine of feature, more like a Spaniard than a Saxon, a perfect contrast to the Berserker hero by his side. They were both of that class which we flatter ourselves in Scotland produces many of the finest flowers of humanity, the mingled product of the double nation—pure Scot by birth and early training, with the additional polish and breadth of the highest English education : Glasgow College, as it was then usual to call that abode of learning, with Oxford University to complete and elaborate the strain. Wilson of Magdalen, Lockhart of Balliol, a Snell scholar, the best that Scotland could send to England. The career of both had been, perhaps, more brilliant than studious ; but both had left Oxford in all the glories of success, first-class men, the pride of dons and tutors.

' . . . . They were both newly fledged advocates, members of the numberless and jocular band who trod the courts of the Parliament House, waiting for the briefs which there, as elsewhere, are so slow to come. Little recked these young and laughing philosophers of the absence of fees and steady work. They were young enough to prefer their freedom and boundless opportunity of making fun of everybody to all that was serious and useful. Lockhart was a caricaturist of no small powers. Both of them were only too keen to see the ludicrous aspect of everything, and the age gave them an extraordinary licence in expressing it—a licence incomprehensible to us nowadays, and which is nowhere so tempting, as it is nowhere so dangerous, as in a small community where everybody knows everybody, and personal allusions are instantly taken up and understood. This pair of friends met almost daily at Mr. Blackwood's saloon in Princes Street, or came together arm in arm from Parliament House, in their high collars and resplendent shirt frills and Hessian boots. The boots form a splendid feature in the caricature-sketches, in which Lockhart represents himself stiff and straight, with the little tassels bobbing at his knees. Such was the costume of the day, and such were the heroes of Edinburgh youth, men of endless faculty and inextinguishable mirth, men neither ungenial nor ungenerous, yet unable to deny themselves a jest, and tempted to find in the outcries of their victims rather a relish the more to their sometimes cruel fun than an argument to give it up.'

The secret of the new magazine which was to take the place of the unfortunate Edinburgh Monthly and fight the Edinburgh Review leaked out. Blackwood blamed Pringle and Cleghorn, and believed they had disclosed it in revenge for their three months' warning. However the preparations went on and Mrs. Oliphant draws a lively picture of what may be imagined to have taken place in the saloon in Princes Street, 'the bustle and commotion,' 'the endless consultations and wild suggestions'—

Lockhart, pensive and serious, almost melancholy, in the fiery fever of satire and ridicule that possessed him, launching his javelin with a certain pleasure in the mischief as well as the most perfect self-abandonment to the impulse of the moment; Wilson, with Homeric roars of laughter, and a recklessness still less under control, not caring whom he attacked nor with what bitterness, apparently unconscious of the sting till it was inflicted, when he collapsed into ineffectual penitence ; Hogg bustling in, all flushed and heated with a new idea, in which the rustic daffing of the countryside gave a rougher force to the keen shafts of the gentlemen.'

Blackwood also was there admiring, enthusiastic and indomitable. As the time of publication drew near he was not without his bad moments. When he carried the new number home on the eve of its publication, he for once took no notice of the children, who rushed out of the nursery to meet him, but went straight to the drawing-room, Mrs. Oliphant tells us, ' where his wife, not excitable, sat in her household place, busy no doubt for her fine family; and coming in to the warm glow of the light, he threw down the precious magazine at her feet. There is that that will give you what is your due— what I always wished you to have," he said, with the half-sobbing laugh of the great crisis. She gave him a characteristic word, half-satirical, as was her way, not outwardly moved, with a shake of the head and a doubt.' ' He was always sanguine,' Mrs. Oliphant continues; ' but she had no bee in her bonnet. Sometimes he called her a wet blanket when she thus damped his ardour—but not, I think, that night.' Evidently all parties concerned in the venture were that night worked up to a high pitch of excitement.

The contents of the number and the effect they produced are matters of history, and need hardly detain us. As for the first the most memorable was the Chaldee MS., of which Mrs. Oliphant gives a good account, and which from the second edition of the number was withdrawn. The two other notable pieces in the number were a virulent attack, quite uncalled for, upon Coleridge and his Biographia Literaria, ' which,' as Mrs. Oliphant remarks, ' was of tenfold deeper guilt than the Chaldean vision;' and a ' still more virulent and most unpardonable assault upon what the writer dubbed The Cockney School of Poetry signed with the initial Z.' This Mrs. Oliphant characterises as ' the most offensive of all,' and adds, ' we are obliged to allow that it was an attack for which there is no word to be said, and which can only arouse our astonishment and dismay that the hand of a gentleman could have produced it, not to speak of a critic.' Of the editor who could admit it, nothing is said. There were, of course, other pieces in the number, but these were the more notable, and we have preferred to let the annalist herself describe them. In Edinburgh the Chaldee MS. alone seems to have attracted attention. There was enough in it to set the whole town by the ears. Describing its effect Mrs. Oliphant says : ' Edinburgh woke up next morning with a roar of laughter, with a shout of delight, with convulsions of rage and offence. ... It ran through every group of men and into every company like wild-fire.' Copies, we are told by Mr. R. P. Gilles, 'were handed about with manuscript notes identifying the principal characters.' The result, however, was much more serious than was probably anticipated. Actions were raised in the Court of Session, Baldwin and Cradock withdrew their names from the title page, and Blackwood, as Sir Walter Scott said, was 4 sent to Coventry by " the Trade." ' But in spite of all, the first number served its purpose, and for a time Maga kept on as it had begun, though there were no more Chaldee M.SS, prospering almost beyond the most sanguine expectations of its founder.

The question of responsibility has often been discussed, but it is here practically settled. According to Sir W. Scott, as cited by Kirkpatrick Sharpe in a letter to Constable, Blackwood averred that the Chaldee MS. had been inserted 'against his will,' and in a letter to Laidlaw Blackwood wrote, 'I anxiously hope you will not be displeased by the Chaldee MS. There were various opinions as to the propriety of publishing this. The editor took his own way, and I cannot interfere with him.' And again, when excusing the article on the ' Cockney School of Poetry,' he professes his want of ' control over the measures of my editor,' and says, ' my editor has written to the author, etc.' To Laidlaw he wrote on another occasion, referring again to the Chaldee MS.:—

'No one can regret more than I do that this article appeared. After I saw it in proof I did everything I could to prevent it, and at last succeeded in getting the editor to leave it out. In the course of a day, however, he changed his mind, and determined that it should be in. I was therefore placed in a terrible dilemma ; and as I must have stopped the magazine if I did not allow the editor to have his own way, I was obliged to submit.'

Excepting the mystification about ' the Editor,' there is no necessity for questioning the accuracy of this. Searchings of hearts there would certainly be : but it sounds strange beside the assertion of Lockhart: ' The history of it is this : Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, sent up an attack upon Constable the bookseller, respecting some private dealings of his with Blackwood. Wilson and I liked the idea of introducing the whole panorama of the town in that sort of dialect. We drank punch one night from eight till eight in the morning, Blackwood being by with anecdotes, and the result is before you.' 2 In a note to one of the above cited letters to Laidlaw in which ' The Editor' occurs Mrs. Oliphant says :—

' This title is often but vaguely given to some undiscoverable person in the early days of the Magazine, the convenient partner who was always responsible and ever regrettably inclined to take his own way. As a matter of fact the Magazine was, as might be said officially, in commission, with a governing body of three, no individual of which was supreme, though the publisher lamented the self-will of the editor, and the editor vituperated with much force the obstinacy of the publisher.' (Vol. I., 150).

And again, when discussing the matter formally she says :—

'I do not think that the reader, after the glimpses into the Blackwood correspondence, which I have been able to give, can have much doubt that the Magazine was, as I have said, in commission, the committee of three occupying intermittently the supreme chair—one number sometimes in one man's charge, sometimes in another's, now one judgment uppermost, but the veto always in Blackwood's hands.'

The present writer must own to very grave doubts indeed as to the correctness of this commission theory; and the last phrase just quoted—' the veto always in Blackwood's hands' —is conclusive evidence against it. Its real meaning is that Blackwood's judgment was always uppermost. He might listen, and did listen, like the shrewd man he was, to the opinions of others, but it was he who always gave the final and unappealable decision. It was he, too, who carried on the formal correspondence, and, so far as we can make out from the correspondence, discharged all the other duties of the editor. This, we take it, was Mrs. Oliphant's opinion when not theorising. Wilson and Lockhart, we know, were never the editors, either jointly or severally. It was always Blackwood who said what should and what should not be in. Amid the recklessness and rollicking mirth of Wilson and Lockhart he always kept a cool head and had a sharp eye to business. Even in this matter of the Chaldee MS., as. Mrs. Oliphant says, ' William Blackwood was too sagacious and too completely a man of the world not to know exactly what effect' it ' would produce. If the fun went to his head, as to the heads of others who produced it, it never did so sufficiently to make him unaware of the risk he was running. . . . We cannot doubt for a moment that he knew what he was about. He was not a man to be carried off his feet at such a critical moment—or rather he permitted himself to be carried off his feet, casting prudence to the winds by the inspiration of that other prudence which sometimes sees it the wisest thing to set every thing on the turn of a balance, and or, as it is put on a subsequent page, his ' keen eye saw the advantages to be reaped from the very disadvantages, the reckless imprudence and dash, which are instruments in a cool and steady hand as good as any. ... He withheld and subdued, when it was necessary, with great unconscious skill, with the constant steadiness and sense which always have their influence—and which were strengthened even by his enthusiasm, by the flow of wit and genius, the only things that ever went to his head.' On the whole it seems to the present writer that the theory of a commission is inadmissable, that the real editor was Blackwood, that the responsibility lay with him, and that his references to the Editor were mere attempts, doubtless justifiable, to conceal his identity. In Wilson and Lockhart, he had got his ' young men of genius,'" who were to lift him to fame, and having attached them to his chariot, he assumed the reins, and while listening to advice, would brook no interference in the actual management of the chariot. Wilson was his chief assistant and Lockhart his second, but longo intervallo, though more reliable.

The blame for the misdeeds of the Magazine fell, as every one knows, on Wilson and Lockhart, but chiefly on the latter ; and justly so, Mrs. Oliphant seems to think.

' "The scorpion which delighted to sting the faces of men," she remarks, ' was no undeserved nickname, but seems to describe his peculiar character with considerable insight. He was not a swashbuckler like Wilson, making his sword whistle round his head, and cutting men down on every side. His satire was mischievous, virulent, not so much from hate as from nature. It was as if he had a physical necessity for discharging that point of venom, which he emitted suddenly without warning, without passion or excitement, proceeding on his way gaily with perfect unconcern where the dart was flung. It is impossible to imagine anything more unlike the roaring choruses of conviviality which were supposed to distinguish Ambrose's than this reticent, sensitive, attractive, yet dangerous youth, by whose charm such a giant as Scott was immediately subjugated, and who slew his victims mostly by the midnight oil, not by any blaze of gaiety, or in the accumulated fervour of social sarcasm. From him came the most of those sharp things which the victims could not forget. Wilson hacked about him, distributing blows right and left, delivered sometimes for fun, though sometimes with the most extraordinary impulse of perversity, in the impetus of his career. Lockhart put in his string in a moment, inveterate, instantaneous, with the effect of a barbed dart—yet almost, as it seemed, with the mere intention of giving point to his sentences, and 110 particular feeling at all.'

This is the traditional view and we have no intention at present of challenging it, though, it seems to us, that while responsible for whatever he wrote, the responsibility for its appearance in the Magazine must be laid on other shoulders than his. On this point much might be said, but in reference to it, in fairness to Lockhart himself, and with reference chiefly to the remark made by Mrs. Oliphant, that the ' risk ' of publishing the Chaldee manuscript was Blackwood's ' alone ' and ' would not touch those dashing young men any more than any other excellent joke would do,'* the following words of Lockhart may be cited. They are given by Mr. Andrew Lang, who remarks, 'it was an ill day for Lockhart when he first put his pen at the service' of Maga, and occur in the letter Lockhart wrote in reply to one he had received from Haydon the painter, complaining of his early cruelties.

'I cannot be indifferent to your severe though generous reflections about my early literary escapades. You are willing to make allowances, but allow me to say, you have not understood the facts of the case. They were bad enough, but not so bad as you make them out. In the first place, I was a raw boy, who had never had the least connection either with politics or controversies of any kind, when, arriving in Edinburgh in October 1817, I found my friend John Wilson (ten years my senior) busied in helping Blackwood out of a scrape he had got into with some editors of his Magazine, and on Wilson's asking me to try my hand at some scribbleries in his aid, I sat down to do so with as little malice as if the assigned subject had been the Court of Pekin. But the row in Edinburgh, the lordly Whigs having considered persiflage as their own fee-simple, was really so extravagant that when I think of it now, the whole story seems wildly incredible. Wilson and 1 were singled out to bear the whole burden of sin, though there were abundance of other criminals in the concern ; and, by-and-by, Wilson passing for being a very eccentric fellow, and I for a cool one, even he was allowed to get off comparatively scot free, while I, by far the youngest and least experienced of the set, and who alone had 110 personal grudges against any of Blackwood's victims, remained under such an accumulation of wrath and contumely, as would have crushed me utterly, unless for the buoyancy of extreme youth. I now think with deep sadness of the pain my jibes and jokes inflicted on better men than myself, and I can say that I have omitted in my mature years no opportunity of trying to make reparation where I really had been the offender. But I was not the doer of half the deeds even you seem to set down to my account, nor can I, in the face of much evidence printed and unprinted, believe that, after all, our Ebony (as we used to call the man and his book) had half so much to answer for as the more regular artillery which the old Quarterly played incessantly, in these days, on the same parties, ... I believe the only individuals whom Blackwood ever really and essentially injured were myself and Wilson. Our feelings and happiness were disturbed and shattered in consequence of that connection. I was punished cruelly and irremediably in my worldly fortunes, for the outcry cut off all prospects of professional advancement from me. I soon saw that the Tory Ministers and law officers never would give me anything in that way. . . . Thus I lost an honourable profession, and had, after a few years of withering hopes, to make up my mind for embracing the precarious, and, in my opinion, intolerably grievous fate of the dependent on literature. It is true that I now regard this too with equanimity, but that is only because I have undergone so many disappointments of every kind, crowned by an irreparable bereavement, that I really have lost the power of feeling acutely on any subject connected with my own worldly position.'

This was written by Lockhart while he was still suffering under the blow that struck at his heart, the loss of his first wife. It does not exonerate him from all blame, but, as his biographer says, 'his pleas of youth, of association with an elder friend who should have set him a different example, and of freedom from personal malice, may be accepted even by severe judges.' At the same time it shows that in publishing the Chaldee manuscript, Blackwood, contrary to what is stated by Mrs. Oliphant, was not the only one who ran any risk, but that whatever the consequences of it were to him, to others, and especially to Lockhart, they were serous, more serious, we imagine, than either Wilson or Lockhart ever dreamed they might or could be.

After narrating the establishment of the Magazine, which, having sowed the wild oats of its youth, gradually assumed that air of gravity which it still maintains under the beard of Buchannan, one would naturally expect that the Annals would begin to lose their interest; and so they might, but for the extraordinary skill with which Mrs. Oliphant weaves into her canvas a remarkable portrait gallery of the principal contributors to Maga. This gallery contains bright and almost inimitable sketches of many of the chief literary men of the early part of the century. Wilson and Lockhart have of course the largest space. After them come Hogg and Maginn, the Captain Shandon of Thackeray; De Quincey, John Gait, of Annals of the Parish fame, and John Wilson Croker; Croly, author of Salathiel, now well nigh forgotten ; Gleig, the Chaplain-General, who published his novel The Subaltern in the pages of Maga in 1826, and was still a contributor sixty years later, and Thomas Doubleday, 'a Radical politician, poet, dramatist, biographer,' now forgotten ; Mrs. Remans, whose name is still remembered, and Miss Catherine Bowles, who afterwards married Southey; Mr. Alaric A. Watts also appears, as a chronicler, but chiefly of smaller beer. In what may be called a second series or section of the gallery, we have Warren, author of The Diary of a late Physician, Ten Thousand a Year, etc., afterwards a Commissioner in Lunacy, Michael Scott, the author of Tom Cringle's Log, John Sterling, the gentle Delta, the Rev. James White, Frederick Hardman, Bulwer Lytton, Sir Edward Hamley, George Henry Lewes, and his ' mysterious friend,' George Eliot : Sir Theodore Martin, Wytoun, and Laurence Oliphant. One of them, though by no means the most elaborate, we will venture to transcribe as a sort of specimen.

'The other contributor was the young naval officer who, both in his stirring fiction and in his letters, was a complete type of the dashing and dare-devil seaman familiar to the imagination of these times, Tom Cringle —in the world and among ordinary men, Michael Scott. He appeared in the Magazine, in two works, "Tom Cringle's Log" and the "Cruise of the Midge," full of spirit and humour and the genuine breath of the sea, but had a very brief literary existence, disappearing after these productions without further sign. His letters are full chiefly of revisions and corrections of detached portions of his stories as he sent them, and he seems to have made his publisher in many cases the medium of the corrections, denoting how a line is to be changed at the foot of page 30, or a new reading substituted for the end of a chapter, with a delightful indifference to the fact that he was writing to a man much more closely occupied than himself and whose business it certainly was not to correct proofs. " I never would have ventured to bother you thus, but you see you have spoilt me, old man," the careless sailor writes. Even the manuscript itself he seems to have sent in the most chaotic state, describing how he has " spun the within" (that is, written the enclosed) when on a visit, composing it "By fits and starts as I could steal time, but the pain of copying it out fair—I am such a bad penman—is too much for me to face." Thereupon he beseeches Mr. Blackwood "To select out of your pandemonium some champollion of a devil, skilful and patient enough to decypher my hieroglyphics." "Get some one," he adds, "to correct my French faults—I say, see that when the natives or me [sic] speak French that it be grammatical [sic] ; as for Bang's, let it stand as I write it." The confidence which this reckless young writer feels in the man who had at once divined his merit and superintended his work is touchingly and simply expressed : " Tom Cringle to W. Blackwood. Now, my dear sir, make some one write particularly how you come on. I am more distressed than I can tell you at your continued indisposition. When you were well and at the helm, I used to carry sail fearlessly, for I knew you would always keep me in 'the right course.'"

'Very few have been the editors, still fewer the publishers, thus addressed ; nothing could be more true than the benefits to which this simple acknowledgement bears witness.'

Interspersed between these lively and thoroughly enjoyable pictures are chapters biographical and publishing. Mr. William Blackwood died on the 16th of September, 1834, after a career as a publisher of almost unexampled prosperity. Though very nearly a 'heaven-born publisher,' there were some instances in which his judgment was at fault. Notwithstanding the enthusiasm with which he wrote about Miss Ferrier's first work, he does not seem to have had any conception of their enduring character, and, as we have seen, declined to publish her third book. Though continually on the look-out for ' young men of genius,' he was not always successful in their detection. When Thackeray offered him his ' Irish Sketch-book' he declined it. 'These sketches were not in these days,' Mrs. Oliphant remarks, ' considered good enough for the Magazine'! A similar blunder was made when the great ' Hoggarty Diamond ' was declined. Pen Owen, on the other hand, which he declared to be ' a very extraordinary work,' did not at all fulfil his expectations. He had sent one 500 for the work; and 'We think,' says Mrs. Oliphant, 'it was Mrs. Blackwood who was the more wise in this transaction, when, " as a good wife and the mother of eight children," she demurred to the despatch of the second 500 to follow the first before this anonymous book was ever published/ Acute man of business as he was, Blackwood was sometimes carried away by his enthusiasm. Nor did he always get his own way. His rule as Editor was gentle, but somewhat autocratic, and even Lockhart, though they always remained friendly, is known to have grumbled against it. In money matters they did not always see eye to eye, but those were the palmy days of magazine contributors. They were not then as plentiful as blackberries, and contributors like Lockhart were able to make their own terms. With Murray, as already hinted, Blackwood did not always get on well. They were always friendly, but there was always more or less of irritation or bickering between them. Blackwood refused to sell ' Don Juan;' Murray refused to take M'Crie's Life of Melville, because, forsooth, it had been published in Edinburgh before it had been published in London. Murray, who had invested 1000 in the Magazine, wanted a regularly appointed and responsible editor, Blackwood did not. While Blackwood was pleased with the Magazine, Murray was not, and, as remonstrances were of no avail, he withdrew his money. Altogether, the correspondence between the two publishers, while instructive, as it could scarcely fail to be, is entertaining.

Of Blackwood's seven sons, two went out to India, one, William—whom we shall hear of hereafter as the 'Major'— before his death, and the other, Archibald, after it. Six of them stood around his grave—the eldest twenty-eight, the youngest a child of eleven—and the business fell under the direction of Alexander and Robert. Of these, Alexander was 'the more literary,' and Robert, 'the more energetic and enterprising in all things connected with the trade.' It is of the first that we hear most. When nineteen, his father adopted the very sensible plan of sending him up to London to learn the minutiae of his business, and very conscientiously the young man seems to have devoted himself to it, ' collecting' ' with the blue bag on his shoulder,' and anxiously trying to keep |his Rounts square. Hisfcttefrs home are among the most interesting in the volume, full of trade and literary gossip, often amusing, and always full of anxiety about home and business. ' There will be a famous opportunity for publishing this season,' he writes, 'as both Constable and Murray are taken up about other matters, and I hope you will get something very good.' He hears that Lockhart is not happy about the contributors to the Quarterly, the Editorship of which he had just assumed, and 'is delighted to report,' says Mrs. Oliphant, ' that Mrs. Hughes had whispered in his ear, " You will be better without him."' He was the first to advise his father of the catastrophe which was about to fall upon the publishing trade both in Edinburgh and in London, and ' involved consequences more noteworthy than even the ruin of Constable—the catastrophe of Scott and the heroic struggle that followed.'

'There is a dreadful scarcity of money in the city just now,' he writes, ' and I have heard it rumoured that Whittaker and Knight Stacey were both on the point of crashing. If Whittaker goes, Waugh & Innes must go ; therefore 1 hope you will not give him any accommodation, as you might just as well throw away your money at once. I have learned that Hurst & Robertson's bills have been returned to-day. Later he writes: ' Everybody seems to be distracted just now, and even Longman's people are said to be in great difficult}'.' Still later he writes, referring to the ruin of Constable : ' This business will make you the first bookseller in Scotland and I think the Whigs will feel this most dreadfully.'

When he and his brother Robert took charge of the business, though young, they were, as Lockhart said, 'men in mind and character.' They conducted the business on the old lines and worked together as one mind. Unfortunately Alexander was somewhat of an invalid, and had frequently to give up business in order to go in search of health. The next of the brothers to enter the business was John, whom Mrs. Oliphant describes as ' perhaps the most gifted of Mr. Blackwood's sons.' As a boy, he is said to have been ' idle and thoughtless,' and according to the family report was ' never so far up in school as he ought to have been.' His father described him as a very quick and thoughtless creature,' and says: 'His memory is capital, and he can give an account of whatever he reads,' ' even,' he adds, ' if it be some chapters of the Bible.' His brother Alexander calls him ' a perfect biographer,' ' a very idle scholar, but,' says he,' reads history from morning to night.' Like his older brother, John was sent to London to learn the business, and, like him, became acquainted with the mysteries of the blue bag. Afterwards he took charge of the London branch of the business, in Pall Mall, when it was first opened, and became acquainted with most of the literary men about London with some of whom he struck up an intimate acquaintance, as, for instance, Delane of The Times, and Thackeray, Hardman and Phillips, Warren, Lord Lyttoo, and G. H. Lewes. On the death of Alexander in 1845, after superintending the removal of the ' Branch' to Paternoster Row, he returned to Edinburgh, and took his brother's place as Editor of the Magazine. By this time the business had been greatly extended. Duriug the lifetime of William Blackwood it had already been removed to the more convenient premises, where it is now carried on, in George Street, and after his death, on the initiative of Robert, the firm added to the publishing business that of printing; and while John took in hand the Magazine and the general literary work, Robert superintended the other branch of the business. This arrangement, however, did not last long. Four years after Alexander's death, Robert succumbed, and the 'Major' was recalled from India to take his place. The head of the firm is now Mr. William Blackwood the second, the Major's son.

Scattered throughout the Annals are abundant notes of the works which from time to time were issued from this great publishing house in Edinburgh. Besides those already mentioned are many others, the bare enumeration of whose titles would make up a considerable catalogue. Among the earlier was Irving's Life of George Buchanan, which, Mrs. Oliphant remarks, ' came with special appropriateness from the publisher, who, as Hogg said, 'cared for nothing that did not come under the beard of Geordie Buchanan,' meaning the

Magazine, upon the front cover of which is the familiar face of the great Scottish humanist. Others were Scott's Malachi Malagroiother, the Highland Society's Gaelic Dictionary, Wilson's Isle of Palms, etc., and Hogg's Queen Hyncle, besides ' a phalanx of serial publications,' and Henry Stephen's Book of the Farm, ' which for a great many years was as a small but very sure landed estate to both author and publisher.' Pollok's Course of Time, a poem now we fear very little read, was an ' immense success.' It ' became one of the most popular of books, passing through edition after edition until it reached that desirable phase of becoming a prize book for the diligent -scholars of Sunday and other schools—than which nothing-could be more advantageous, from a material point of view.' The Statistical Account of Scotland was another great undertaking. But the great 'stand-by' of the house for many years was Alison's History of Europe. Its success was extraordinary. Edition after edition was issued. ' When everything else was languid, it continued to sell. " A number of people," says young John Blackwood, then just beginning to take an active share in the business, "seem to say to themselves every two or three days, 'Come let's have a set;'" and a set was no small matter, not lightly to be undertaken by those who had a limited purse or limited bookshelves. It became a work which no gentleman's library could do without.' Its fame has since considerably fallen, though it has still its readers. Among novels issued with the Blackwood imprint in these early days one of the most popular was Captain Hamilton's Cyril Thornton. Another was Gleig's Subaltern. But the fame of both was exceeded by Warren's Diary of a Late Physician and Ten Thousand a Year, etc. These seem to have taken the public by storm, and to have had an immense vogue—a circumstance extremely gratifying to Warren's complacency. In fashionable circles they are now almost forgotten, and their readers are few; but in some circles their popularity is still maintained. Only the other day we were shown a copy of Now and Then, belonging to a public library, which was simply worn to tatters, and had been set aside to be replaced, and were assured by the official in charge, that ' all Warren's are immensely popular.' Among other successes in the same line were Gait's Annals of a Parish, etc., and Lord Lytton's The Caxtons, My Novel, and Ernest Maltravers. A more important undertaking was Billings' Baronial Antiquities, the cost of production being estimated at the enormous sum of 10,450. Later than these came Hamley's Story of the Campaign, the campaign being the Crimean, and Kinglake's History of the Crimean War. The publication of this last, however, is here only hinted at.

Among the brightest chapters in the Annals are those which narrate George Eliot's connection with the publishers. Like Miss Ferrier and Miss Austen, she shrunk, at first, from discovering her identity, and her writings, as every one knows, were introduced to the Blackwoods by G. H. Lewes. Lewes described her ' as of a timid temper, one whom it was impossible to persuade that his production was of any value or importance, and quite unaccustomed to the mode of writing in which he now made his first essay.' After reading 'The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton,' Mr. John Blackwood was of opinion that it would 'do,' but desired to see more, and concludes one of his letters to Lewes by saying, ' I am glad to hear that your friend is, as I supposed, a clergyman. Such a subject is best in clerical hands, and some of the pleasantest and least prejudiced correspondents I have ever had are English clergymen.' He was anxious, of course, to break through the incognito. Major Blackwood paid a visit to the Lewes pair at Richmond, hoping to do so, but wrote, ' I saw, " a Mrs. Lewes,"' but ' G. E. did not show; he is such a timid fellow Lewes said.' The fictitious character, indeed, was kept up for three years, and was then only removed in consequence of the impostor Joseph Liggins claiming to be the author of Adam Bede. In George Eliot, however, the Blackwoods found an author of a somewhat different character from Miss Ferrier and Lord Lytton. She desired neither their corrections nor their criticism, but decidedly objected to them. Her letters exhibit a remarkable talent for business, and in one of them she roundly takes her publishers to task for not advertising one of her books as she thought it ought to have been. Her business letters, however, though written by herself, proceeded in reality from Lewes, who was always at hand to direct her, and in all matters of literary business, had few equals.

Here, with a word of praise to the compiler of the index to the volumes, we must reluctantly lay down our pen. The work is of enduring interest, and one cannot but regret that the hand which penned the two volumes now before us is not with us still to complete the work.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3

And as Blackwood's Magazine was so popular we've found a pdf of Volume 2 for you to read (129Mb)


Return to Scottish Historical Articles