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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
William Maginn (1794–1842)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
BLACKWOOD was astonished one day by the intrusion of a wild Irishman from Cork into the publishing house of the staid Scotch magazine. With much warmth and an exaggerated brogue the stranger demanded to know the identity of one Ralph Tuckett Scott, who had been printing things in the periodical. Of course he was not told, and was very coldly treated; but Mr. Blackwood was much delighted at last to find in the person of his guest the original of his valued and popular Irish contributor, who taking this odd method disclosed the personality and name of William Maginn, a young schoolmaster who had begun to write over the name of Crossman, and afterwards assumed several other pseudonyms before he settled upon the famous “Sir Morgan O’Doherty.”  1
  Born in the city of Cork, William Maginn may be said to have taken in learning with his mother’s milk. His father conducted an academy for boys in the Irish Athens, as Cork was then called; and the future editor of Fraser’s Magazine was prepared for and entered Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of ten. He was graduated at fourteen; and so extraordinary was his mind that he was master not only of the classics but of most of the languages of modern Europe, including of course his own ancestral Gaelic. When his father died, William, then twenty years of age, took charge of the academy in Marlborough Street, and in 1817 took his degree of LL. D. at Trinity College. In the following year he made his way into the field of letters. When he went to London in 1824, his reputation as a brilliant writer was well established and enduring. He had married in 1817 the daughter of the Rev. Mr. Bullen, rector of Kanturk.  2
  Immediately upon his removal to London, he was engaged by Theodore Hook as editor of John Bull. In 1827 he boldly published a broad and witty satire on Scott’s historical novels. He was assistant editor of the Evening Standard upon its institution, a position which he held for years at a salary of £400. These years he said afterwards were the happiest of his life. He was a sturdy Irishman, and proud of his country; and he had what is often an Irishman’s strongest weakness,—he was a spendthrift. His appreciation of his relations toward creditors was embodied in the phrase “They put something in a book.” Little wonder then that his last years were wretched and bailiff-haunted. The sketch of Captain Brandon in the debtors’ prison, in ‘Pendennis,’ is said to have been taken from this period of Maginn’s life.  3
  Before this sad time, though, came a long era of prosperity, and the days of the uncrowned sovereignty of letters as editor of Fraser’s Magazine. This periodical was started as a rival to Blackwood’s because Maginn had fallen out with the publishers of that magazine. The first number appeared February 1st, 1830; and before the year was out it was not only a great financial success, but had upon its staff the best of all the English writers. The attachment between Dr. Maginn and Letitia Elizabeth Landon began in this time; and was, though innocent enough, a sad experience for them both,—torturing Maginn through the jealousy of his wife, and sending “L. E. L.” to an uncongenial marriage, and death by prussic acid in the exile of the West Coast of Africa. Released from the Fleet by the Insolvency Act in 1842, broken in health and spirit, Maginn went to the village of Walton-on-Thames, where he died from consumption, penniless and almost starving, on the 21st of August of that year. Sir Robert Peel had procured for him from the Crown a gift of £100; but he died without knowledge of the scanty gratuity.  4
 
 
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