Francis Jeffrey, Lord Jeffrey

From Wikiquote
(Redirected from Francis Jeffrey)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
An 1820 portrait of Lord Jeffrey by Andrew Geddes

Francis Jeffrey (October 23 1773June 26 1850) was a Scottish critic, political writer, judge and lawyer. He was for some twenty-six years editor of the Edinburgh Review. He is sometimes referred to as Lord Jeffrey or as Francis, Lord Jeffrey, having been made a Lord of Session in 1834.


  • Poetry has this much, at least, in common with religion, that its standards were fixed long ago, by certain inspired writers, whose authority it is no longer lawful to call in question; and that many profess to be entirely devoted to it, who have no good works to produce in support of their pretensions. The catholic poetical church, too, has worked but few miracles since the first ages of its establishment; and has been more prolific, for a long time, of doctors than of saints: It has had its corruptions, and reformation also, and has given birth to an infinite variety of heresies and errors, the followers of which have hated and persecuted each other as cordially as other bigots.
    • Review of Robert Southey's Thalaba the Destroyer, in the Edinburgh Review (October 1802)
  • He will always see the most beauty whose affections are the warmest and most exercised, whose imagination is the most powerful, and who has most accustomed himself to attend to the objects by which he is surrounded.
    • Review of Archibald Alison's Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste, in the Edinburgh Review (May 1811)
  • This will never do.
    • The opening of his review of Wordsworth's The Excursion, in the Edinburgh Review (1814).
  • Since the beginning of our critical career, we have seen a vast deal of beautiful poetry pass into oblivion, in spite of our feeble efforts to recall or retain it in remembrance...The rich melodies of Keats and Shelley,—and the fantastical emphasis of Wordsworth,—and the plebeian pathos of Crabbe, are melting fast from the fields of our vision. The novels of Scott have put out his poetry. Even the splendid strains of Moore are fading into distance and dimness, except where they have been married to immortal music; and the blazing star of Byron himself is receding from its place of pride....The two who have the longest withstood this rapid withering of the laurel, and with the least marks of decay on their branches, are Rogers and Campbell.
    • Edinburgh Review (1829). He goes on to promise "enduring fame" to Felicia Hemans.


  • Damn the Solar System. Bad light; planets too distant; pestered with comets; feeble contrivance; could make a better one myself.
    • Sydney Smith, in a letter to Jeffrey, claimed this as his own parody of him: "If you could be alarmed into the semblance of modesty, you would charm everybody; but remember my joke against you about the Moon and the Solar System;— 'Damn the solar system! bad light—planets too distant—pestered with comets—feeble contriviance;—could make a better with great ease.'" (The Review of English Studies New Series, vol. 44, pp. 430-432).

Quotes about Lord Jeffrey

  • [T]he variety and versatility of Jeffrey's mind seems to me more extraordinary than ever... I do not think that any one man except Jeffrey, nay that any three men, could have produced such diversified excellence. When I compare him with Sydney and myself, I feel, with humility perfectly sincere, that his range is immeasurably wider than ours. And this is only as a writer; but he is not only a writer; he has been a great advocate, and he is a great Judge. Take him all in all, I think him more nearly an universal genius than any man of our time.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay to Mr. Napier (13 December 1843), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Vol. II (1876), pp. 149-150