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Art. I.-1. The · Edinburgh Review' (1802–1902). 2. On the Authorship of the First Hundred Numbers of the
'Edinburgh Review. By W. A. COPINGER. Privately
printed. Manchester : 1895. 3. The First Edinburgh Reviewers. Literary Studies, vol. 1.
By WALTER BAGEHOT. Second edition. London: Long
* By A. 1879.... Smith's Minburgh RevieLord COCKBU
4. The Rev. Sydney Smith's Miscellaneous Works, including
his Contributions to the · Edinburgh Review. Longmans. 5. The Life and Letters of Lord Jeffrey. By Lord COCKBURN.
Edinburgh: A. and C. Black. 1852. 6. Selected Correspondence of the late Macvey Napier. London:
Macmillan. 1879. 7. Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay. By Sir GEORGE
TREVELYAN, Bart. London: Longmans. 1876. 8. Memoirs of the Life of Henry Reeve. By John Knox
LAUGHTON. Second edition. London: Longmans. 1898. On May 24, 1802, Francis Jeffrey wrote to a friend that
U the publication of the first number of our Review has • been postponed till September, and I am afraid it will not • go on with much spirit even then. Perhaps we have * omitted the tide that was in our favour. We are bound
for a year to the booksellers, and shall drag through that, 'I suppose, for our own indemnification. A month later he writes that the Review will certainly appear in October. Jeffrey does not doubt that it will make a respectable " appearance' as long as it lasts, but he contemplates the early dispersion of that brilliant set of young men by whom
VOL. CXCVI. NO. CCCCII.
He with the Revietes.
Jared himsele und him ins well
it was being launched, and he makes the consolatory reflection that he himself is at least only bound by his engagements to the first four numbers, and he 'hardly expects the • Review itself to have a much longer life.'
In October, 1802, the ““ Edinburgh Review or Critical « « Journal ”-to be continued quarterly'-was published by Constable, of Edinburgh, and Longman & Rees, of London. As is well known, Sydney Smith, the original projector of the Review, edited the first number; after which Jeffrey took up and retained the Editorship till 1829, when, on being unanimously elected by his brethren of the Scottish Bar (amongst whom a large proportion were Tories) their Dean of Faculty, he resigned the position he had held for twenty-seven years, rightly thinking that it was hardly fitting that the official head of a great law corporation should continue to conduct an aggressively Whig journal. He withdrew accordingly completely from the direct management of the Review, and even ceased to be a regular contributor to its pages.
Lord Jeffrey often declared himself “a pessimist,' to the no small astonishment of many who found him in social intercourse the most cheerful and high-spirited as well as the most brilliant of men. But his real intimates knew his habitual tendency to augur unfavourably of the outcome of events in which he was deeply interested; a tendency which certainly coloured, sometimes too strongly, the political outlook of the Review
On this occasion all fears and doubts as to the success of the new venture were quickly at an end. The effect of the • first number,' we are told, 'was electrical, and instead of • expiring, as many wished, in their first effort, the force of
the shock was increased by each subsequent discharge. It is impossible for those who did not live at the time, and in the heart of the scene, to feel or almost to understand the 'impression made by the new luminary or the anxieties
with which its motions were observed. So wrote Lord Cockburn in 1852, from personal recollection of events then half a century old.
Another half-century has now passed, and it is permitted to us to look back in this October, 1902, over the hundred years' career of the journal started in Edinburgh with so much misgiving by Francis Jeffrey and his friends. As to its spirit, its vitality, its power, there could be no dispute. The · Edinburgh Review' was the pioneer in a region of literature then almost unexplored but since abundantly
Cockburn in 1859, motions were Juminary or therstand the "ks the metimes fail quick-wit
cultivated. In a whole century of political and literary criticism, it would be foolish for its most extravagant admirers to pretend that its judgement was infallible or that its opinions have always been affirmed by posterity. Jeffrey himself would have been the last to claim inspired authority for the Review, and nothing less than inspiration could have made it always right. He and his associates were able, energetic, widely read, quick-witted men of the world, who, if they sometimes failed to appreciate the merits of the works they discussed, understood very thoroughly the average mass of men who read them. Under the guidance of men such as these the 'Edinburgh Review' attained a position of eminence never before reached by a literary and political journal. It is impossible to look back without pride to the rare ability, the lofty standards, the patriotic motives, and the absolute independence of the · Edinburgh Review, and not to rejoice that, on the whole, its weight throughout the greater controversies of a century has been thrown on that side which the wisdom that comes after the event has declared to be the right one.
We know from Sydney Smith, Lord Cockburn, and others, everything about the birth and early years of the Review. In 1755 there had been started in the capital of Scotland an · Edinburgh Review 'which had only survived for a single year, its second number being also its last. Since then there had been no critical journal in Scotland at all, and in England, where there were, no doubt, reviews in existence, their general feebleness, and the fact that they abstained almost entirely from the discussion of matter not purely literary, left the field open to an organ largely occupied with the boldest enunciation of political views and the sharpest criticism of public measures. The set of young men who used to meet together in the sprinz of 1802 to discuss in Jeffrey's rooms in Buccleuch Fiace the great project of Sydney Smith, included Henry Brougham; Francis Horner; Thomas Brown, known in later life as the eminent and vigorous representative of the Scotch metaphysical school and the colleague of Dugald Stewart in the chair of Moral Philosophy in Edinburgh ; Alexander Hamilton, a distinguished Orientalist, afterwards Professor of Sanskrit at Haileybury; Dr. John Thomson, afterwards Professor of Pathology in the University of Edinburgh ; Lord Webb Seymour; John Allen; John A. Murray (afterwards Lord Murray); and one or two more.
Jeffrey has been described as a born critic. Certainly he
went to the endin, athirathness of profit waster days Jethrote youninted at the Oxonians, but, as onoured whenabing and
had trained himself in that line of literature from his earliest days, for not only had he been accustomed at the age of fifteen and sixteen to write essays on very various subjects, but he had gone further and had practised, whilst still a boy, his critical faculties on his own productions. Having spent two winter sessions at Glasgow College, he went to Oxford in October, 1791, remaining there, however, only to the end of the following June. The active-minded young Scotsman, athirst for knowledge, was bitterly disappointed at the slackness of professors and the dawdling indifferentism of Oxonian youth. It was a bad period in English university history; but, as in later days, Jeffrey's criticism was, no doubt, strongly coloured when he wrote to a Glasgow College friend that except praying and • drinking, I see nothing to be acquired in this place. If Oxford was then at its worst, Edinburgh was at its best; and the change to Edinburgh, where he read for the Bar, and became a member of the Speculative Society, and the intimate friend of the brilliant set of young men there congregated, at length opened to him a new world. For a time, however, Jeffrey, looking back regretfully to Glasgow, writes with almost as much severity of Edinburgh as he had done of Oxford. That he read much and wrote much and thought much is clear. He scribbled verse abundantly, and it was as a poet that he then thought he was most likely to win fame. He never published his poetry, wisely no doubt, since his very friendly biographer, Lord Cockburn, tells us that it would not have raised his reputation. His poetry • is less poetical than his prose. Viewed as a literary prac* tice it is rather respectable.' As regards his early political and unpublished writings, Lord Cockburn speaks with much greater appreciation, and it is interesting to find that from the very beginning to the end his outlook on politics remained the satire. A lengthy paper by Jeffrey, written when he was twenty years of age, survives. "His doctrines were ' those of a philosophical Whig; firm to the popular prin
ciples of our government, and, consequently, firm against 'any encroachment, whether from the monarchical or de
mocratical side,' and he condemns the war with France that had just been proclaimed. Except, however, occasional contributions to the Monthly Review,' it does not appear that Jeffrey had before the birth of the 'Edinburgh' ever published anything.
Jeffrey and his guests in Buccleuch Place were young men who had not as yet made a position in the world; but