Scott, John (1783-1821) (DNB00)

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SCOTT, JOHN (1783–1821), editor of the ‘London Magazine,’ born at Aberdeen in 1783, and educated at the Marischal College, Aberdeen, was probably the John Scott, ‘filius Alexandri Mercatoris,’ who matriculated from that institution in 1797. His father is elsewhere described as an upholsterer. Byron was his schoolfellow, and on meeting at Venice in 1819 they compared notes on their schooldays. At a very early date in life he went to London and was employed in the war office; but the love of politics and literature soon led him into journalism.

Scott at first started a weekly paper called ‘The Censor.’ He then became the editor of the ‘Statesman,’ an evening paper, and not long afterwards was engaged by John Drakard [q. v.] as editor of the ‘Stamford News.’ Under his editorial care there appeared, on 10 Jan. 1813, the first number of ‘Drakard's Newspaper,’ a folio sheet of political and general news. With the new year its name was changed to ‘The Champion,’ and under the altered title the first number came out on Sunday, 2 Jan. 1814, it still remaining under Scott's editorship. A letter written to him by Charles Lamb in 1814 on some articles for its columns is reproduced in Dr. G. B. Hill's ‘Talks on Autographs’ (pp. 24–25). According to Horace Smith, this paper was sold in 1816 to J. Clayton Jennings, an ex-official at Demerara, who had a quarrel with Downing Street, and it belonged afterwards to John Thelwall. Between 1814 and 1819 Scott passed much time on the continent and published in 1815 ‘A Visit to Paris in 1814,’ London (4th edit. 1816), and in 1816 ‘Paris revisited in 1815 by way of Brussels, including a walk over the Field of Battle at Waterloo’ (3rd edit. 1816). On Scott and these volumes Bishop Heber wrote in 1816: ‘Who is Scott? What is his breeding and history? He is so decidedly the ablest of the weekly journalists, and has so much excelled his illustrious namesake as a French tourist, that I feel considerable curiosity about him’ (Life, i. 432). Thackeray described these books as ‘famous good reading’ (The Newcomes, ch. xxii.). Wordsworth wrote of the second of them, ‘Every one of your words tells.’

Scott made further collections for books of travel on the commission of the publishing firm of Longman, but returned to London to edit the newly established ‘London Magazine,’ the first number of which appeared in January 1820. An account of the magazine and of its contributors is given in Talfourd's ‘Final Memorials of Charles Lamb’ (ii. 1–9). Talfourd styles the editor ‘a critic of remarkable candour, eloquence, and discrimination,’ who acted with the authority which the position demanded. Many illustrious writers contributed to its columns, the most famous of the articles during Scott's lifetime being the early ‘Essays of Elia.’ A long letter from Scott to the publishers of the magazine on Hazlitt's contributions is printed in Mr. W. C. Hazlitt's ‘Four Generations of a Literary Family’ (i. 135–8).

In May 1820 the editor, in an article on ‘Newspapers and the Magazines,’ sharply attacked the criticisms of ‘Z.’ that had appeared in ‘Blackwood's Magazine,’ and he followed up the attack by more elaborate articles in later numbers (i.e. in November 1820, pp. 509–21, ‘Blackwood's Magazine;’ December 1820, pp. 666–85, ‘The Mohock Magazine;’ January 1821, pp. 76–7, ‘The Mohocks’). Lockhart, the chief object of Scott's assault, was provoked into communicating with Scott with the intention of extracting from him an apology or a hostile meeting. Some fruitless negotiations followed, and the matter went off for the time with Lockhart's statement that he considered Scott ‘a liar and a scoundrel.’ But embittered statements continued to emanate from both parties and their friends, and a communication from Jonathan Henry Christie, an eminent conveyancer and an intimate friend of Lockhart, led to a duel between Christie and Scott. They met by moonlight at nine o'clock at Chalk Farm, near London, on 16 Feb. 1821, James Traill acting as Christie's second, and Peter George Patmore [q. v.] assisting Scott. Christie did not fire on the first occasion; but the second time he fired in self-defence, and the ball struck Scott ‘just above the hip on the right side, and, passing through the intestines, lodged in the left side.’ It seemed for some time that the wounded man would live; but he died, on 27 Feb. 1821, in his rooms in York Street, Covent Garden, and was buried in the vaults of the church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London. At the inquest a verdict of wilful murder was brought in by the jury. Christie and Traill were tried at the Old Bailey on 13 April 1821, and were found not guilty. Patmore did not appear at the trial. Christie survived till 15 April 1876, aged 84.

Byron wrote: ‘Scott died like a brave man, and he lived an able one. A man of very considerable talents and of great acquirements, he had made his way as a literary character with high success and in a few years.’ The testimony of Horace Smith ran: ‘He was invariably pleasing. In manner, appearance, deportment, mind, he was a perfect gentleman. He abounded in solid information, which he communicated with an easy, lucid, and unpremeditated eloquence.’

Scott married Caroline, daughter of the printseller, Paul Colnaghi [q. v.] She was a beauty and a woman of superior talents. Their eldest boy, Paul Scott, died at Paris on 8 Nov. 1816, aged eight years and a half, as his parents were travelling to Italy. He was buried at Père-Lachaise, where a pillar with an inscription was erected to his memory, and Scott wrote a pathetic poem on his loss, entitled ‘The House of Mourning,’ which was published in 1817. Two infant children survived at the time of his death, and the family was left penniless. A subscription was raised for their benefit, and Sir James Mackintosh, Chantrey, Horace Smith, and John Murray were on the committee (London Mag. April 1821, p. 359). Murray wrote to Byron, asking if he would give 10l. The response was a contribution of 30l. as from ‘N. N.’

Besides the works mentioned, Scott was author of: 1. ‘Picturesque Views of Paris and its Environs. Drawings by Frederick Nash. Letterpress by John Scott and M. P. B. de la Brossiére,’ 1820–23; English and French; and 2. ‘Sketches of Manners, Scenery in the French Provinces, Switzerland, and Italy,’ 1821 (posthumous).

[Gent. Mag. 1821, i. 271–2, 369–70; New Monthly Mag. 1847, lxxxi. 415–18, by Horace Smith; Byron's Second Letter on Bowles, Works, vi. 394–5; Patmore's My Friends and Acquaintance, ii. 283–7; Knight's Life of Wordsworth, ii. 261–72, iii. 234; Sharp's Joseph Severn, pp. 74, 88, 98; Sir W. Scott's Letters, ii. 109–16; Lamb's Letters, ed. Ainger, i. 279, ii. 200; Moore's Byron, ii. 207, iii. 81, v. 143; Smiles's J. Murray, i. 389, 420; Wainewright's Works, ed. Hazlitt; Blackwood's Mag. xix. preface, pp. xvi–xviii; Lang's Life of Lockhart, i. 250–282; Drakard's Stamford, p. 431; information from Mr. J. M. Bulloch.]

W. P. C.