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COLUMBUS, Miss. -- In the reading rooms of the National Library of Scotland, located in the heart of Old Town Edinburgh, Dr. Thomas Richardson is poring over spidery handwritten letters and manuscripts dating from the 1800s. It’s part of his continuing research into lesser known Scottish literary figures that scholarship has until recently neglected.


Eudora Welty Chair in the Humanities and Professor of English, Richardson also serves as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Mississippi University for Women. His career-long research interest has been early 19th century Scottish literature, earning him an international reputation.

His focus during his current studies is continuing his original research for a critical biography of John Gibson Lockhart, the son-in-law of Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott and a prominent contributor to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine and, later, London’s Quarterly Review. Lockhart also was a novelist and biographer.

“My work on the critical biography assesses Lockhart’s work in the literary culture of the early 19th century,” Richardson said. Lockhart studied at the University of Glasgow, Oxford University, and the University of Edinburgh before becoming involved with Blackwood’s Magazine. In 1825, he moved to London, where the remainder of his career was spent at The Quarterly Review. He died in Scotland at Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, and is buried at Scott’s feet.

During his career, in addition to his work with Blackwood’s and The Quarterly Review, Lockhart published four novels, as well as a 10-volume biography of Scott and biographies of Robert Burns and Napoleon. “He had a hand in a 17-volume edition of Byron’s work, as well as a hand in expanding John Wilson Croker’s edition of Boswell’s Life of Johnson,” Richardson said.

“The National Library has archives of Blackwood’s publishing firm; materials on the Quarterly’s publisher, John Murray; and correspondence between Lockhart and Scott, as well as letters between Lockhart and his wife Sophia. There are letters from Wordsworth, Coleridge, and a variety of political figures,” Richardson said.

One of the results of this scholarship will be a paper Richardson presents July 1 during a two-day conference for the Association for Scottish Literary Studies. Held this year at the University of Glasgow, the conference will examine Literature and Religion in Scotland. Richardson’s paper will deal with religion in Lockhart’s four published novels, especially Lockhart’s contributions to the Covenanting debate, a Scottish Presbyterian movement, taking place in the 17th century.

“Lockhart doesn’t take on the Covenanting theme directly, but does the same thing metaphorically,” Richardson said. The National Library holds the manuscript for one of the novels, Adam Blair, and has parts of others.

“Lockhart was an important literary figure in his time, although he tried to stay behind the scenes,” Richardson said, noting that he often wrote anonymously. “Part of the fun of this project is discovering what he wrote—through letters, publishers’ records and other sources. I hope this leads to an edition of his selected letters.”

In addition to Lockhart, Richardson has also published about Scottish novelist, poet and essayist James Hogg, also a contributor to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine.

June 15, 2016
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