"HERE AT LAST WAS A GREAT CONVERSATIONALIST WRITING AS HE TALKED"
WILSON, John. The Works of Professor Wilson. London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1855-58. Twelve volumes. Octavo, early 20th-century three-quarter green close-grain morocco, elaborate gilt decorated spines in Art Nouveau floral motif, marbled boards and endpapers, top edges gilt. $1200.
First edition of Wilson’s collected works, including his famous series of 71 uninhibited, often scurrilous, conversations on people and books of his day— purported to be table-talk overheard in Ambrose’s Edinburgh tavern.
John Wilson was professor of moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, as well as the notorious "Christopher North" of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, where he developed a critical reputation as the author of slashing reviews, literary jokes, and a series of 71 uninhibited, often scurrilous and humorous conversations on people and books of the day, in the form of convivial table-talk overheard in Ambrose's Edinburgh tavern— hence the Noctes Ambrosianæ (Nights at Ambrose's). "The literary form, or rather absence of form, exactly suited Wilson. Here at last was a great conversationalist writing as he talked, and probably few books so well convey the impression of actual contact with a grand, primitive, and most opulent nature… Seldom has so great a sensation been produced by a periodical as that which attended their first number (October 1817), overflowing with boisterous humor and at the same time with party and personal malignity to a degree to which Edinburgh society was utterly unused… Blackwood's, now fairly launched, pursued a headlong and obstreperous but irresistible course for many years. Wilson's overpowering animal spirits and Lockhart's deadly sarcasm were its main supports, but 'The Leopard' and 'The Scorpion' were powerfully assisted by the 'Ettrick Shepherd' (James Hogg)… [Later] Wilson's more elaborate efforts in Blackwood's belonged to the department of prose fiction… The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay was published in 1823, and The Foresters in 1825" (DNB). This is the first collected edition of Wilson's works, edited by his son-in-law James Frederick Ferrier, and published a year after his death. It contains Noctes Ambrosianæ, Essays Critical and Imaginative, The Recreations of Christopher North, the Tales, and his Poetical Works.
A handsome set in fine condition.