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“Locksley Hall,” he treated in much the same way, and it was not until 1851, after Tennyson became laureate and had won his own public, that the Quarterly began to appreciate his poetry and speak of him with respect. Lockhart's last years were filled with sorrow. His eldest boy, the Hugh Littlejohn for whom Scott had written “The Tales of a Grandfather,” died in 1831. Scott died in 1832, and Anne Scott, the second daughter, in 1833, Mrs. Lockhart in 1837, and his son Walter in 1852. Only one daughter remained to him, the sole descendant of Sir Walter. Lockhart died in 1854 and is buried in Dryburgh Abbey, at the feet of Sir Walter Scott.
THE third great periodical of this time was Blackwood’s Magazine, that made its first appearance before an astonished world in October, 1817.
William Blackwood, the founder of the great publishing house, determined to start a rival publication to the Edinburgh Review, which would be “less ponderous, more nimble, more frequent, more familiar,” as well as being Tory in politics. He secured the services of John Wilson, John Gibson Lockhart, and several other bright young wits without much sense of responsibility, and the magazine appeared. A more lively shaking up the good and staid Scotchmen of the northern metropolis never received. The first number contained the famous “Chaldee Manuscript,” scandalizing, caricaturing, and libeling many of the notabilities and prominent citizens of Edinburgh. Church and society turned upon the daring magazine with such an outburst of wrath that the ob
noxious article had to be recalled and suppressed. It is rare that a full set of Blackwood can be found containing it. But the publisher persevered, and by 1820 the magazine had established its reputation for slashing criticism and overwhelming gayety. In that year Wilson began the series of papers known as “Noctes Ambrosianae,” which were kept up for a period of fifteen years to the delight of thousands and thousands of readers. Wilson was the principal author, but Maginn and Lockhart occasionally contributed an article. The scene of “The Noctes" purports to be Ambrose's tavern, a well-known resort in Edinburgh, where a select company meet to talk over the events, politics, and literature of the time. The chief interlocutor of these imaginary conversations is Christopher North, a gouty gentleman of almost three-score years and ten. How his earlier life had been spent we have no distinct account, although we get glimpses of it here and there, but when we meet him he is in affluent circumstances, and as the editor of Blackwood's Magazine, in possession of an inexhaustible mine of wealth. He complains occasionally of the gout and of other infirmities, but notwithstanding these, and his advanced age, he is always ready
for every sort of physical adventure. His crutch becomes a leaping pole, he hunts, fishes, and even “puts on the gloves" with all the energy of youth, and altogether he is a very remarkable septuagenarian. He and his friends consume an astonishing quantity of solids and fluids, outrivaling even Pantagruel. Sometimes it is in the shape of a regular dinner. One we recall, which was opened by a dozen kinds of soup, followed by a corresponding number of dishes in fish, flesh, and fowl, each a course by itself. More usually the refection is supper, where oysters are consumed by the hundred, not without more solid dishes, which are sometimes disposed of by each member of the party appropriating one; North the turkey, Hogg the round of beef, and Tickler a mighty pie. Whisky galore is introduced on every imaginable occasion before, at, and after the food, porter and ale are profusely swallowed, and gallons of toddy follow. Sometimes the heroes appear in a very questionable state of sobriety. And thus in jocund mirth with much good talk their nights were passed. Nothing like it has ever been seen except in fairyland. The conception of the idea of these papers has been claimed for each of the distinguished men who contributed to them—Lockhart, Maginn,
Hogg, and Wilson—but there is now but little question that the merit of them belongs almost altogether to Wilson. He is the Christopher North, a man far advanced in years, but still possessed of herculean strength, and with an omniscience that leaves no question unsettled. The principal figure and chief speaker is the Ettrick Shepherd, into whose mouth Wilson puts many of his best and most pungent sayings. The third principal figure was “Timothy Tickler,” whose original was Wilson's uncle, Robert Sym, a well-known citizen of Edinburgh. He holds a sort of common-sense position between the chief interlocutors, North and the Shepherd, and has a sturdy way of bringing them down from their altitudes which gives a rare interest to the dialogue. Other characters are brought in once in awhile, but these three are the chief, and they indulge in the finest conversation and the most Gargantuan eating and drinking ever known in the world. “Indeed,” said a humorous and indulgent lady correspondent of Wilson's, “indeed, I really think you eat too many oysters in the “Noctes.’” And there can be very little question but what they did. Yet they were but Barmecide feasts, and Wilson has said that in fact he never was in Ambrose's more than half a dozen times in all his life.