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Francis Jeffrey


(Lord Jeffrey)

1773 - 1850

Lawyer, critic and co-founder of the Edinburgh Review. Born in Charles Street, Edinburgh, the son of a Depute-Clerk of the Court of Session, Jeffrey was educated at the High School in the city, followed by the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Oxford. He was admitted to the Bar in 1794.

Jeffrey's first wife died in 1805. While in the USA to marry his second, Charlotte Wilkes, he dined with President Madison during the British-American War of 1812.

In 1802, Jeffrey established the Edinburgh Review, a quarterly magazine, along with Henry Brougham (1778 - 1868), Francis Horner (1778 - 1817) and Sydney Smith (1771 - 1845). The magazine was founded in Jeffrey's flat at No.18 Buccleuch Place. It was immediately popular, setting the standard for all the literary magazines which followed. Sydney Smith edited the first few issues then Jeffrey took over in 1803 continuing until 1829. Under his editorship, the circulation of the Review grew to a remarkable 13,500 in 1818. Despite his undoubted brilliance, Jeffrey was renowned as a ruthless and considerably biased editor. He did not endear himself to the likes of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats and Byron by panning their work. The latter responded with a satirical poem entitled "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers". The magazine supported political reform, liberalism and the Whig party and this brought conflicts; Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832), an early contributor, refused to submit further articles because he disagreed with its politics.

Jeffrey was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow (1820 and 1823) and Dean of the Faculty of Advocates in 1829. The return of the Whigs to power brought its rewards for Jeffrey. He was elected Member of Parliament for Perth and appointed Lord Advocate in 1830. He served as MP for Edinburgh between 1832 and 1834, when he was appointed a Law Lord in the Court of Session.

He was buried in Dean Cemetery. The Edinburgh Review ceased publication in 1929.


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