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WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR. This gentleman, the representative of an ancient family, was born at Ipsley Court, Warwickshire, on the 30th of January 1775. He was educated at Rugby School, whence he was transferred to Trinity College, Oxford. His first publication was a small volume of poems, dated as far back as 1795. The poet was intended for the army, but, like Southey, he imbibed republican sentiments, and for that cause declined engaging in the profession of arms. His father then offered him an allowance of £400 per annum, on condition, that he should study the law, with this alternative, if he refused, that his income should be restricted to one-third of the sum. The independent poet preferred the smaller income with literature as his companion. He must soon, however, have succeeded to the family estates, for in 1806, exasperated by the bad conduct of some of his tenants, he is said to have sold possessions in Warwickshire and Staffordshire, and pulled down a handsome house he had built. This rash impulsiveness will be found pervading his literature as well as his life.
In 1808, Mr. Landor joined the Spaniards in their first insurrectionary movement, raising a troop at his own expense, and contributing 20,000 reals to aid in the struggle. In 1815, he took up his residence in Italy, having purchased a villa near Florence. There he lived for many years, cultivating art and literature, but he again returned to England and settled in Bath. The early poetical works of Landor were collected and republished in 1831. They consist of Gebir,' a sort of epic poem, originally written in Latin ("Gebirus,' 1802), which De Quincey said had for some time “the sublime distinction of having enjoyed only two readers—Southey and himself 'Count Juían,' a tragedy, highly praised by Southey; and various miscellaneous poems, to which he continued almost every year to make additions. He also 'cultivated private renown,' as Byron said, in the shape of Latin verses and essays, for which the noble poet styled him the 'deep-mouthed Bæotian, Savage Landor.' This satire, howSver, was pointless; for as a ripe scholar, imbued with the spirit of antiquity, Mr. Landor transcended most of his contemporaries. His acquirements and genius were afterwards fully displayed in his
Imaginary Conversations,' a series of dialogues published at intervals between 1824 and 1846, by which time they had amounted to one hundred and twenty-five in number, ranging over all history, all times, and almost all subjects. Mr. Landor's poetry is inferior to his prose. In 'Gebir' there is a fine passage, amplified by Wordsworth in his Excursion,' which describes the sound which sea-shells seem to make when placed close to the ear:
But I have sinuous shells of pearly hue
Shake one and it awakens, then apply
In Count Julian,” Mr Landor adduces the following beautiful illustration of grief:
Wakeful he sits, and lonely and unmoved,
In the cold light. His smaller poems are mostly of the same meditative and intellectual character. An English scene is thus described:
Clifton, in vain thy varied scenes invite
My cheeks are moistened by the dews of eve. The Maid's Lament’ is a short lyrical flow of picturesque expres sion and pathos, resembling the effusions of Barry Cornwall:
I loved him not; and yet, now he is gone,
I feel I am alone.
Alas! I would not check.
And wearied all my thought
My love could he but live
'Twas vain, in holy ground
I waste for him my breath.
And this lone bosom burns
And waking me to weep
Wept he as bitter tears !
These may she never share!'
Than daisies in the mould,
Where children spell athwart the churchyard gate
His name and life's brief date.
And oh ! pray, too, for me!
Lucilla asks me what I see,
Enough for me?
Have I not called as sweet before?
I still deplore.
Where pleasure beams with heaven's own light,
And not less bright.
Whose chain of flowers no force can sever,
Is gone for ever. Mr. Landor continued to write far beyond his eightieth year. In 1851, he published a pamphlet entitled Popery, British and Foreign,' and about this time he contributed largely to the columns of the ' Examiner' weekly journal. Though living the life of a recluse, he was an accurate observer of public events, and an eager though inconsistent and impracticable politician. In 1853, he issued a volume of essays and poetical pieces, entitled 'The Last Fruit off an Old Tree;' and in 1858, another volume of the same kind, called Dry Sticks fagoted by Walter Savage Landor. For certain grossly indecent verses and slanders in this work, directed against a lady in Bath, the author underwent the indignity of a trial for defamation, was convicted, and amerced in damages to the amount of £1000.
Shortly before this, Mr. Landor had published a declaration that of his fortune he had but a small sum left, with which he proposed to endow the widow of any person who would assassinate the Emperor of the French! Thus poor, old, and dishonoured, Mr. Landor again left England—a spectacle more pitiable, considering his high intellectual - endowments, his early friendships, and his once noble aspirations, than any other calamity recorded in our literary annals, ‘After some months of wretchedness at Fiesole,' says a memoir of Landor in the *English Cyclopædia,' ' his friends came to his rescue. A plain but comfortable lodging was found for him at Florence, his surviving brothers undertook to supply an annuity of £200, which Robert Browning generously saw duly employed as long as he remained in Florence. And thus one more gleam of sunshine seemed to settle on the “old man eloquent.”. Though deaf and ailing, he continued to find solace in his pen. He wrote and published occasional verses, and
two or three more "Imaginary Conversations,” in which the old fire burned not dimly; collected some earlier scraps, which appeared as “Heroic Idylls," and was still working in his 90th year at new Con. versations, when, on the 17th of September 1864, death ended his labours and sorrows." A biography of Landor by John Forster, was published in 1868.
The writings of Walter Savage Landor have been said to ‘bear the stamp of the old mocking paganism.' A moody egotistic nature, ill at ease with the common things of life, had flourished up in his case into a most portentous crop of crotchets and prejudices, which, regardless of the reprobation of his fellow-men, he issued forth in prodigious confusion, often in language offensive in the last degree to good taste. Eager to contradict whatever is generally received, he never stops to consider how far his own professed opinions may be consistent with each other: hence he contradicts himself almost as often as he does others. Jeffrey, in one of his most brilliant papers, has characterised in happy terms the class of minds to which Mr. Landor belongs. The work before us,' says he, ‘is an edifying example of the spirit of literary Jacobinismflying at all game, running a-muck at all opinions, and at continual cross-purposes with its
This spirit admits neither of equal nor superior, follower nor precursor: “İt travels in a road so narrow, where but one goes abreast.” It claims a monopoly of sense, wit, and wisdom. All their ambition, all their endeavour is, to seem wiser than the whole world besides. They hate whatever falls short of, whatever goes beyond, their favourite theories. In the one case, they hurry on before to get the start of you; in the other, they suddenly turn back to hinder you, and defeat themselves. An inordinate, restless, incorrigible self-love is the key to all their actions and opinions, extravagances and meannesses, servility and arrogance. Whatever soothes and pampers this, they applaud; whatever wounds or interferes with it, they utterly and vindictively abhor. A general is with them a hero, if he is unsuccessful or a traitor; if he is a conqueror in the cause of liberty, or a martyr to it, he is a poltroon. Whatever is doubtful, remote, visionary in philosophy or wild and dangerous in politics, they fasten upon eagerly, recommending and insisting on nothing less;" reduce the one to demonstration, the other to practice, and they turn their backs upon their own most darling schemes, and leave them in the lurch immediately.'
When the reader learns that Mr. Landor_ justifies Tiberius and Nero, speaks of Pitt as a poor creature, and Fox as a charlatan, declares Alfieri to have been the greatest man in Europe, and recommends the Greeks, in their struggles with the Turks, to discard fire arms, and return to the use of the bow, he will not deem this general description far from inapplicable in the case of Landor. And yet his * Imaginary Conversations' and other writings are amongst the most remarkable prose productions of our age, written in pure nervous
English, and full of thoughts which fasten themselves on the mind and are 'a joy forever.' It would require many specimens from these works to make good what is here said for and against their author; we subjoin a few passages affording both an example of his love of paradox, and of the extraordinary beauties of thought and , expression by which he leads us captive.
Conversation between Lords Chatham and Chesterfield. CHESTERFIELD. It is true, my lord, we have not always been of the same opinion, or, to use a better, trúer, and more significant expression, of the same side in politics; yet I never heard a sentence from your lordship which I did not listen to with deep attention. I understand that you have written some pieces of admonition and advice to a young relative; they are mentioned as being truly excellent; I wish I could have profited by them when I was composing mine on a similar occasion.
CHATHAM. My lord, you certainly would not have done it, even supposing they contained, which I am far from believing, any topics that could have escaped your penetrating view of manners and morals; for your lordship and I set out diversely from the very threshold. Let us, then, rather hope that what we have written, with an equally good intention, may produce its due effect; which indeed, I am afraid, may be almost as doubtful, if we consider how ineffectual were the cares and exhortations, and even the daily example and high renown, of the most zealous and prudent men on the life and conduct of their children and disciples. Let us, however, hope the best rather than fear the worst, and believe that there never was a right thing done or a wise one spoken in vain, although the fruit of them may not spring up in the place designated or at the time expected.
CHESTERFIELD. Pray, if I am not taking too great a freedom, give me the outline of your plan.
CHATHAM. Willingly, my lord; but since a greater man than either of us has laid down a more comprehensive one, containing all I could bring forward, would it not be preferable to consult it? I differ in nothing from Locke, unless it be that I would recommend the lighter as well as the graver part of the ancient classics, and the constant practice of imitating them in early youth. This is no change in the system, and no larger in addition than a woodbine to a sacred grove.
CHESTERFIELD. I do not admire Mr. Locke.
CHATHAM. Nor I-he is too simply grand for admiration-I contemplate and revere him. Equally deep and clear, he is both philosophically and grammatically the most elegant of English writers.
CHESTERFIELD. If I expressed by any motion of limb or feature my surprise at this remark, your 'ordship, I hope, will pardon me a slight and involuntary transgression of my own precept. I must entreat you, before we move a step further in our inquiry, to inform me whether I am really to consider him in style the most elegant of our prose authors.
CHATHAM. Your lordship is capable of forming an opinion on this point certainly no less correct than mine.
CHESTERFIELD. Pray assist me.
CHATHAM. Education and grammar are surely the two driest of all subjects on which a conversation can turn; yet if the ground is not promiscuously sown, if what ought to be clear is not covered, if what ought to be covered is not bare, and, above all, if the plants are choice ones, we may spend a few moments on it not unpleasantly. It appears then to me, that elegance in prose composition is mainly this: a just admission of topics and of words; neither too many nor too few of either; enough of sweetness in the sound to induce us to enter and sit still; enough of illustration and reflection to change the posture of our minds when they would tire; and enough of sound matter in the complex to repay us for our attendance. I could perhaps be more logical in my definition and more concise; but am I at all erroneous ?
CPESTERFIELD. I see not that you are.
CHATHAM. My ear is well satisfied with Locke: I find nothing idle or redundant in him,