British Fiction, 18001829

LOCKHART, John Gibson. Some Passages in the Life of Mr Adam Blair Minister of the Gospel at Cross-Meikle (1822)

Anecdotal Records

Letter from unknown correspondent to Lady Charlotte Bury.
4 Nov 1817.
The greater wonder of the day, I think, is that ‘Adam Blair’ should be the author of ‘Valerius’—two works so totally different in every respect. What prodigious versatility of power the writer of them must possess! Of course you know it is Mr Lockhart, the son-in-law of Scott.
Source: Lady Charlotte Bury, The Diary of a Lady-In-Waiting, ed. by A. F. Steuart, 2 vols (London: Lane, 1908), II, 115.
Notes: Date given is said to be that of the diary entry in which the letter is quoted, but it is obviously incorrect. Lockhart’s Valerius is EN2 1821: 56.

Letter from John Gibson Lockhart to Lawrence Lockhart.
[?Feb 1822].
By-the-bye, you must know that I have since I was with you converted a story the doctor told us after dinner one day, into a very elegant little volume, under the name of ‘Some Passages in the Life of Mr. Adam Blair.’ You will receive a copy one of these days. I am afraid the doctor may disapprove of some things: so take care you warn him to hold his tongue, i.e. in case he suspects me (which he will do). I took it to Ebony [i.e. Blackwood] when it was done, and he thought so highly of it that he offered me £300 at present, and £200 more […].
Source: Andrew Lang, The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart, 2 vols (London: Nimmo, 1897), I, 295.
Notes: Date is conjectured from the printed source.

Letter from John Gibson Lockhart to Jonathan Christie.
20 Mar 1822.
‘Adam Blair,’ which I am glad you liked, and which I wish had been more worthy your liking, has created a good deal of rumpus, and some of the low cattle here are saying, and printing, that it is fit for the same shelf with ‘Faublas,’ […] If it be immoral I did not write it with an immoral intention, or in a culpable spirit, but quite the reverse. The story is a true, and I think, a tragic and moral one, and old Henry Mackenzie, on one side, and Sir Harry Moncreiff on the other, laud it highly. The former has sent Ebony [Blackwood] a review of it, which I hope he will insert.
Source: Andrew Lang, The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart, 2 vols (London: Nimmo, 1897), I, 302.
Notes: Henry Mackenzie’s review appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine 11 (Mar 1822): 349–58. Lockhart may have liked the review, but John Wilson complained to Blackwood that it ‘did the book no good, but much harm with dull stupid people’. See Oliphant, I, 270.

Letter from Henry Mackenzie to William Blackwood.
24 May 1822.
I am happy at the success of Adam Blair, which you will remember my predicting. Are you ready for a 2d Edition?
Source: Literature and Literati: The Literary Correspondence and Notebooks of Henry Mackenzie. Volume I: Letters 1766–1827, ed. by Horst W. Drescher (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1989), p. 320.

Letter from John Wilson to William Blackwood.
[May 1822].
I consider old M[ackenzie] to be the greatest nuisance that ever infested any Magazine. His review of Galt’s ‘Annals’ was poor and worthless; that of ‘Adam Blair’ still worse: and this of ‘Lights and Shadows’ the most despicable and foolish of all. His remarks on ‘Adam Blair’ did the book no good, but much harm with dull stupid people, and this wretched article cannot fail to do the same to a greater degree.
Source: Oliphant, I, 270.
Notes: ‘Old M’ is Henry Mackenzie. Annals of the Parish is EN2 1821: 36 and John Wilson’s Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life is EN2 1822: 82.

Letter from Sydney Smith to Georgiana Meynell.
Nov 1822.
I think Adam Blair beautifully done—quite beautifully. It is not every lady who confesses she reads it; but if you had been silent upon the subject, or even if you had denied it, you would have done yourself very little good with me.
Source: The Letters of Sydney Smith, ed. by Nowell C. Smith, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), I, 393.

Letter from Susan Ferrier to Mrs Connell.
‘Adam Blair’ is powerfully written, but painful and disagreeable to the greatest degree, and in other respects not fit to be mentioned.
Source: Memoir and Correspondence of Susan Ferrier. 1782–1854. Collected by her Grand-Nephew John Ferrier, ed. by John A. Doyle (London: Murray, 1898; rpt. London: Eveleigh, 1929), p. 157.
Notes: Dated from contents; letter has only ‘Saturday’ and the editor of the printed source has suggested 1820, which cannot be correct.

Letter from Walter Scott to Anne Jane Gore Hamilton, Marchioness of Abercorn.
4 June [1824].
Lockhart […] wrote one or two tales of fiction uncommonly powerful in incident and language. His first was called the Confessions of Adam Blair a Scotch clergyman who succumbs to strong temptation and according to the rigorous morality of the Presbyterian church suffers degradation. There is I think a want of taste in printing some part of the story something too broadly but perhaps that was unavoidable in telling such a tale. It is [293/294] written with prodigious power. A gayer book which he wrote some time ago entitled ‘Reginald Dalton’ had great success and he very lately wrote a little volume called ‘Matthew Wald’ which is a painful tale very forcibly told—the worst is that there is no resting-place—nothing but misery from the title-page to the finis.
Source: Grierson, VIII, 293–94; also see Millgate #2329.
Notes: Year is from the docket. Reginald Dalton is EN2 1823: 57; Matthew Wald is EN2 1824: 60.

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