Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Harriet Martineau

English sociologist and writer Harriet Martineau was born on June 12, 1810.  Martineau is remembered here for her bio of Walter Scott’s son-in-law, John Gibson Lockhart, which includes an account of Lockhart’s meeting Scott.

‘…After the Peace he went to Germany a not very common undertaking at that time and saw Göthe; and his account of this incident seems to have struck Scott, when they who were to become so closely related met for the first time in private society, in May, 1818. A few days after the dinner-party at which this happened, the Messrs. Ballantyne sent to Lockhart, to propose that he should undertake a task which Scott had delayed, and wished to surrender: the writing the historical portion of the "Edinburgh Annual Register" for 1816. When he called on Scott to talk it over, the great novelist, who was then receiving 10,000£ a year from the new vein he had opened, assigned a characteristic reason for giving up the Register. He said that if the war had gone on, he should have enjoyed writing the history of each year as it passed; but that he would not be the recorder of Radical riots, Corn Bills, Poor Bills, and the like. These things, he said, sickened him; and he thought it fair to devolve such work upon his juniors. Mr. Lockhart first saw Abbotsford the next October, when he was sent for from Elleray, with his friend John Wilson, to meet Lord Melville, and take the chance of some professional benefit arising from the interview with the First Lord of the Admiralty, if their sins in Blackwood could be overlooked by him. This shows that Blackwood's Magazine was already rising under the re-enforcement of Wilson's strength. The strength which raised it was not Lockhart's. His satire had, then and always, a quality of malice in it, where Wilson's had only fun; and he never had Wilson's geniality of spirit. Wilson's satire instructed the humble, and amused the proud who were the objects of it; but Lockhart's caused anguish in the one case, and excited mere wrath or contempt in the other, Scott confessed that it might be from complacency at Lockhart's account of this visit to Abbotsford that he judged so favorably of "Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk," which appeared a few months afterward. He called its satire lenient; but all the Edinburgh Whigs were up against it as a string of libels; and Lockhart himself tells us candidly that it was a book which none but a very young and a very thoughtless person would have written…’

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