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and the dramatic excellence of the whole give an interest rarely realized save in the very highest forms of literary composition. And then there are to be found on almost every page gems of thought and of expression which merit the highest praise. The most striking attraction of the “Noctes” is the sunshiny heartiness and humor that pervade the whole, to be found in innumerable and indescribable bits, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs of the conversations between the main characters. Wilson's works have been collected in twelve volumes, and there is much in them that is readable, though the “Noctes" forms the main feature. His life was lovable, and as a teacher and lecturer he was highly honored. It was his habit to take his pupils out for a holiday excursion to the Scottish lakes, filling their young heads and hearts with a passionate love of nature and aspirations of beauty. Of all the men of his time he was the most thoroughly human, and had the most perfect sympathy with his fellows. Carlyle describes one meeting with him :
Last night I supped with John Wilson, a man of the most fervid temperament, fond of all stimulating things from tragic poetry down to whisky punch. He snuffed and smoked cigars and drank liquors and talked in the most indescribable style. Daylight came on us before we parted—indeed, it was towards three o'clock as the professor and I walked home, smoking as we went. He is a broad, sincere man of six feet, with long, disheveled, flax-colored hair, and two blue eyes keen as an eagle’s.”
Wilson wrote prose and poetry for many years. His poem, “The Isle of Palms,” has been classed with the best of Scott's. It is as well worth reading as “Marmion ” or “The Lay of the Last Minstrel.” The most of his other work was done in a hurry, and can hardly be said to belong to literature. He was a most rapid writer, and he is credited with having on one occasion actually written fifty-six pages of print for Blackwood in two days, and in the years of its double numbers he often contributed from one hundred to one hundred and fifty pages a month.
Necessarily such matter could not be of the highest order of literary merit, but even to-day the student of literature need not disdain it. Wilson was one of the kings among men, and his loving and loyal nature will always commend it
self to those who delight in literary biography.
scholar, HUMORIST, BohemiAN,
CHIEF among English magazinists and first of bohemians, from whom Thackeray drew the more salient characteristics of Fred Bayham, Warrington and Captain Shandon, stands William Maginn, LL.D., scholar, humorist, essayist and poet. The once famous “Doctor” is now nothing but a name, if even so much, but there was a time that he was looked upon as one whose name was “writ large" in the pantheon of English literature. No one seemed more assured of permanent fame, and certainly not any one, not Jeffrey nor Sidney Smith nor Wilson nor Lockhart, was more popular or more in demand as a writer. As a scholar he was ranked with Porson, as a humorist and satirist with Rabelais and Swift. Why, with all his learning and wit, his prodigious facility for acquiring lan
guages and his command of every literary device and art, he should have fallen into such neglect can hardly be explained upon any ordinary hypothesis, and must be attributed simply to that freak of fortune which awards favors blindly. He was careless in his habits and loved the bottle, but this does not account for it altogether. Byron committed greater excesses and Coleridge had less selfcontrol, yet on the score of native genius it is not so certain that either should be more assured of immortality than Maginn. It might be said, it has been said, that if he had been more steady he might have produced more lasting work, but this is at least questionable. His miscellaneous writings have been collected, and they are just as surely literature as any of the miscellaneous writings of De Quincey. It might be that if Maginn had devoted himself entirely to Shakespeare and the classics we might have had something that scholars would prize, but we never should have had “The Maxims of Odoherty" or the song of “The Irishman and the Lady.” Maginn was a man of his time, a literary bohemian in those good old days when a certain amount of scholarship and a capacity for drink were necessary qualifications for the profession. He was born in Cork in 1793, and was the son of
an Irish schoolmaster. His talents were so precocious that in his tenth year he was advanced enough to enter Trinity College, Dublin, and he graduated with distinction in the classics before he was fourteen. In addition to the regular studies he also acquired a knowledge of Hebrew, Sanscrit and Syriac. Through life he had an extraordinary aptitude for languages; and he knew and could converse fluently in nearly all the modern tongues. Maginn at first followed his father's profession, and became a school teacher, a vocation in which he was successful enough, but his true bent was toward letters. It was the fermenting period in magazine literature, and of the new magazines Blackwood was making the the greatest sensation. The political tone of this periodical suited exactly with Maginn's tastes, and to it he sent his contributions. His first article was a Latin translation of the ancient ballad of “Chevy Chase,” which was so complete in meter and sense as to attract universal attention. The following is the opening stanza :