Miscellaneous Prose Writer of Romanticism

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      1. Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850), one of the founders of The Edinburgh Review, was born at Edinburgh, educated at the high School and university of his native city, and was called to the Scottish Bar. Though for many years an industrious writer for his journal, he maintained a considerable legal practice, and distinguished himself in politics as an ardent Whig. When his party came into office he was rewarded by being appointed Lord Advocate, and played a considerable part in the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832. This meant the abandonment of his position on the Review, though he always kept a paternal eye on its progress. He was finally appointed to the Bench, with the title of Lord Jeffrey. The Edinburgh Review was at first a joint production of a group of young and zealous Whigs, including Sydney Smith and Henry Brougham. Within a year of its foundation Jeffrey was responsible editor, and he drew around him a band of distinguished contributors, including at one time Sir Walter Scott. The journal led the way among the larger reviews, and was noted for its briskness. It was not above prejudice, as was shown in its opposition to the Lake School, but it did much to raise the standard of criticism, and it succeeded in bringing much talent to light, including the early efforts of Macaulay.

Miscellaneous prose writer of romanticism
Prose Writer of Romanticism

      2. Sydney Smith (1771-1845) was for a time a colleague of Jeffrey. He was born in Essex, was educated at Winchester and Oxford, and became a clergyman. He settled for a time at Edinburgh as a tutor, and assisted in the launching of The Edinburgh Review (1802). He took a large share in the political squabbles of the time, and wrote much on behalf of the Whig party. His works consist of many miscellaneous pieces, most of them of a political character. The most noteworthy of them is a collection called Letters on the Subject of the Catholics, to my Brother Abraham, who Lives in the Country, by Peter Plymley (1807-08), which deals with Catholic Emancipation. A more general selection from his writings was published in 1855, and his Wit and Wisdom in 1860. Nowadays it is somewhat difficult to account for his great influence, for he has left so little of real merit; but to his own contemporaries he was a very important person. He was admired and feared as a wit, and some of his best witticisms have been preserved. He was always a gentlemanly opponent, always easy but deadly in the shafts he levelled against his political foes. He wrote the prose of an educated man, and is clear and forcible.

      3. John Wilson (1784-1854), who appears in literature as Christopher North, was born at Paisley, the son of a wealthy manufacturer. He was educated at Glasgow and Oxford, wrote poetry, and for a time settled in the Lake District. He lost most of his money, tried practice as a barrister, and then joined the staff of Blackwood's Magazine. He was appointed in 1820 Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University. His early poems, The Isle of Palms (1812) and The City of the Plague (1816), are passable verse of the romantic type. His novels for example, The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay (1823) - are sentimental pictures of Scottish life. Wilson's longest work, and the one that perpetuates his name, is his Noctes Ambrosianae (beginning in 1822), which had a long and popular run in Blackwood's until 1835. This is an immensely long series of dialogues on many kinds of subjects. The characters are the members of a small club who meet regularly, consume great quantities of meat and drink, and frequently indulge in immoderate clowning. The talk is endless, and is often tedious in the extreme. At times Wilson rises into striking descriptive passages, more florid and less impressive than De Quincey's, but beautiful in a sentimental fashion. His taste, however, cannot be trusted, and his humour is too often crude and boisterous. Here, as in his other writing for Blackwood's Magazine, we have the product of a boisterous, high-spirited critic, to whose temperament, restraint, whether in praise, blame, or humour, was alien.

      4. John G. Lockhart (1794-1854) was born at Cambusnethan, educated at Glasgow and Oxford, and became a member of the Scottish Bar. He soon (1817) became a regular contributor to Blackwood's Magazine, sharing in its strong Tory views and its still stronger expression of them. He, rather gloried in these literary and political fisticuffs, which in one case led to actual bloodshed, though he did not participate in it. In 1820 he married Scott's favourite daughter Sophia, and lived to be the biographer of his famous father-in-law. He was editor of The Quarterly Review from 1825 till 1853. Lockhart wrote four novels, the best of which are Valerius (1821) and Adam Blair (1822). They are painstaking endeavours, but they lack the fire of genius, and are now almost forgotten. His poetry is quite lively, and attractive, especially his Ancient Spanish Baliads (1823). Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk (1819) is a collection of brilliant sketches of Edinburgh and Glasgow society. Lockhart's fame, however, rests on Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott (1837-38), which was first published in seven volumes. This book ranks as one of the great biographies in the language. Though it is full of intimate and loving detail, it possesses a fine sense of perspective and coherence, and while it is influenced by a natural partiality for its subject, the story is judiciously told. In this book Lockhart casts aside his aggressiveness of manner. His descriptions, as, for example, that of the death of Scott, have a masterly touch,

      5. William Cobbett (1762-1835) was born at Farnham, Surrey, and was the son of a farm-labourer. He enlisted in the Army, rose o be sergeant-major, emigrated to America, where he took to Journalism, and returned to England, to become actively engaged in politics. In 1831 he was elected to Parliament, but was not a success as a public man. He was a man of violent opinions, boxed the political compas, and died an extreme Radical.

      He was an assiduous journalist, beginning with The Porcupine (1800-1801). His other journal was Cobbetr's Weekly Political Register, which he began in 1802 and carried on almost unaided until 1835. His literary reputation rests, however, on one of his few full-length books, his Rural Rides (1830), which gives an account of the English counties through which he wandered. A true son of the soil, Cobbett writes with insight and understanding of the agricultural conditions of his day. His close and honest observation of life and manners finds expression in a plain, homely style, which has none of the graces of fine writing, but all the vigour and simple directness of a Defoe. Instinctively right in his choice of language, he speaks straight to the heart of the reader, and, though his work is realistic rather than imaginative, the beauty of the English scene is impressed on many a page of the Rural Rides. He is shamelessly partisan in his opinions, but his writings betray an expansive and cordial generosity of spirit.

      6. The historians belonging to this period are both numerous and important, but we can mention only a few.
(a) Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868) was educated at Eton and Oxford, and afterward wrote some plays. including the tragedy Fazio (1815). His chief historical works are The History of the Jews (1829) and The History of Latin Christianity (1854-55). Milman is a solid and reliable historian, with a readable style.
(b) George Grote (1794-1871) was a London banker, and entered politics. His A History of Greece (1846-56) is based on German research, and is well informed and scholarly. The work, how ever, is sometimes considered to be too long and tedious in its detail.
(c) Henry Hallam (1777-1859) was a member of the Middle Temple, but he practised very little. He wrote on both literary and historical subjects, and contributed to The Edinburgh Review. His historical works include The Constitutional History of England from the Accession of Henry VII to the Death of George II (1827) and his Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39). Hallam acquired a great and deserved reputation for solid scholarship: Like Gibbon, he tried to attune his style to his subject, and wrote in a grave and impressive manner, but, lacking the genius of Gibbon, he succeeded only in making his style lifeless and frigid:

They give thy letter to me, even now:
I read and seem as if I heard thee speak.
The master of thy galley still unladen
Gift after gift; they block my court at last
And pile themselves along its portico
Royal with sunset, like a thought of thee:
And one white she-slave from the group dispersed
Of black and white slaves, (like the chequer-work
Paveient, at once my nation's work and gift,
Now covered with this settle-down of doves).
One lyric woman, in her:crocus vest
Woven of sea-wools, with her two white hands
Commends to me the strainer and the cup
Thy lip hath bettered ere it blesses mine.

(d) His Reputation, Recognition was slow in coming, but, like Wordsworth, he lived to see his name established high among his fellows. He wrote too freely, and often too carelessly and perversely, and much of his work will pass into oblivion. His fame now rests on those four volumes, published between 1842 and 1864, which contain his love lyrics and dramatic monologues. No more is needed to place him among the truly great.

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