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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 ex. ample of the spirit of literary Jacobinism-flying at all game, running a-muck at all opinions, and at continual cross-purposes with its own. This spirit admits neither of equal nor superior, follower nor precursor: “It 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 firearms, 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 pot always been of the same opinion, or, to use a better, truer, 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 jordship, 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 per
e 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.
CHESTERFIELD. But in the opinion of you graver men would not soine of his principles lead too far?
CHATHAM. The danger is, that few will be led by them far enough: most who begin with him stop short, and, pretending to find pebbles in their shoes, throw themselves down upon the ground, and complain of their guide.
CHESTERFIELD. What, then, can be the reason why Plato, so much less intelligible, is so much more quoted and applauded ?
CHATHAM. The difficulties we never try are no difficulties to us. Those who are upon the summit of a mountain know in some measure its altitude, by comparing it with all objects around: but those who stand at the bottom, and never mounted it, can compare it with few only, and with those imperfectly. Until a short time ago, I could have conversed more fluently about Plato that I can at present; I had read all the titles to his dialogues, and several scraps of commentary; these I have now forgotten, and am indebted to, long attacks of the gout for what I have acquired instead.
CHESTERFIELD. A very severe schoolmaster! I hope he allows a long vacation.
CHATHAM. Severe he is indeed, and although he sets no example of regularity, he exacts few observances, and teaches many things. Without him I should have had less patience, less learning, less reflection, less leisure; it short, less of everything but of sleep.
CHESTERFIELD. Locke, from a deficiency of fancy, is not likely to attract so many listeners as Plato.
CHATHAM. And yet occasionally his language is both metaphorical and rich in images. In fact all our great philosophers have also this property in a wonderful degree. Not to speak of the devotional, in whose writings one might expect it, we find it abundantly in Bacon, not sparingly in Hobbes, the next to him in range of inquiry and potency of intellect. And what would you think, my lord, if you discovered in the records of Newton a sentence in the spirit of Shakspeare?
CHESTERFIELD. I should look upon it as upon a wonder, not to say a miracle. Newton, like Barrow, had no feeling or respect for poetry.
CHATHAM. His words are these: 'I don't know what I may seem to the world; but as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of Truth lay all undiscovered before me.'
CHESTERFIELD. Surely nature, who had given him the volumes of her greater mysteries to unseal; who had bent over him and taken his hand, and tanght him to decipher the characters of her sacred language; who had lifted up before him her glorious veil, higher than ever yet for mortal, that she might impress her features and her fondness on his heart, threw it back wholly at these words, and gazed upon him with as much admiration as ever he had gazed upon her.
Conversation between William Penn and Lord Peterborough. PETERBOROUGH. The worst objection I myself could ever find against the theatre is, that I lose in it my original idea of such men as Cæsar and Coriolanus, and, where the loss affects me more deeply, of Juliet and Desdemona. Alexander was a fool to wish for a second world to conquer; but no man is a fool who wishes for the enjoyment of two; the real and the ideal; nor is it anything short of a misfortune, I had almost said of a calamity, to confound them. This is done by the stage: it is likewise done by engravings in books, which have a great effect in weakening the imagination, and are serviceable only to those who have none, and who read negligently and idly. I should be sorry if the most ingenious print in the world were to cover the first impression left on my mind of such characters as Don Quixote and Sancho: yet probably a very indifferent one might do it; for we cannot master Qur fancies, nor give them at will a greater or less tenacity, a greater or less promptitude in coming and recurring.
You Friends are no less adverse to representation by painting than by acting.
PENN. We do not educate our vouth to such professions and practices. Thou, I conceive, art unconcerned and disinterested in this matter.
PETERBOROUGH. Nearly, but not quite, I am ignorant of the art, and prefer that branch of it which to many seems the lowest; I mean portraiture. I can find flowers in my garden, landscapes in my rides, the works of saints in the Bible, of great statesmen and captains in the historians, and of those who with equal advantages had been the same, in the Newgate Calendar. The best representation of them can only give me a high opinion of the painter's abilities fixed on a point of time. But when I look on a family picture by Vandyke; when I contemplate the elegant and happy father in the midst of his blooming progeny, and the partner of his fortunes and his joy beside him, I am affected very differently, and much more. He who there stands meditating for them some delightful scheme of pleasure or aggrandisement, has bowed his head to calamity, perhaps even to the block. Those roses gathered from the parterre behind, those taper fingers negligently holding them, that hair, the softness of which seems unable to support the riot of its ringlets, are moved away from earth, amid the tears and aching hearts of the very boys and girls who again are looking at me with such unconcern.
Faithfulest recorder of domestic bliss, perpetuator of youth and beauty, vanquisher of time leading in triumph the Hours and Seasons, the painter here bestows on me the richest treasures of his enchanting art.
Grandiloquent Writing. Magnificent words, and the pomp and procession of stately sentences, may accompany genius, but are not always nor frequently called out by it. The voice onght not to be perpetually, nor much, elevated in the ethic and didactic, nor to roll sonorously, as if it issued from a mask in the theatre. The horses in the plain under Troy are not always kicking and neighing; nor is the dust always raised in whirlwinds on the banks of Simois and Scamander; nor are the rampirés always in a blaze. Hector has lowered hls helmet to the infant of Andromache, and Achilles to the embraces of Briseis. I do not blame the prose-writer who opens his bosom occasionally to a breath of poetry; neither, on the contrary, can I praise the gait of that pedestrian who lifts up his legs as high on a bare heath as in a corn-field.
Milton. As the needle turns away from the rising sun, from the meridian, from the occidental, from regions of fragrancy and gold and gems, and moves with unerring impulse to the frosts and deserts of the North, so Milton and some few others, in politics, philosophy, and religion, walk through the busy multitude, wave aside the importunate trader, and, after a momentary oscillation from external agency, are found in the twilight and in the storm, pointing with certain index to the pole-star of immntable truth. .... I have often been amused at thinking in what estimation the greatest of mankind were holden by their contemporaries. Not even the most sagacious and prudent one could discover much of them, or could prognosticate their future course in the infinity of space! Men like ourselves are permitted to stand near, and indeed in the very presence of Milton: what do they see? dark clothes, gray hair, and sightless eyes! Other men have better things: other men, therefore, are nobler! The stars themselves are only bright by distance; go close, and all is earthy. But vapours illuminate these; from the breath and from the countenance of God comes light on worlds higher than they; worlds to which he has given the forms and names of Shakespeare and Milton.
EDWIN ATHERSTONE. EDWIN ATHERSTONE (1788-1872) was author of "The Last Days of Herculaneum' (1821), and “The Fall of Nineveh’ (1828), both poems in blank verse, and remarkable for splendour of diction and copiousness of description. The first is founded on the well-known
* A very few of Mr. Landor's aphorisms and remarks may be added: He says of fame: • Fame, they tell you, is air; but without air there is no life for any; without fame there is none for the best.' The happy man,' he says, is he who distinguishes the bonndary between desire and delight, and stands firmly on the higher ground; he who knows that pleasure is not only not possession, but is often to be lost, and always to be endangered by it.' Of light wit or sarcasm, he observes: 'Quickness is amongst the least of the mind's properties. I would persuade you that banter, pun, and quibble are the properties of light men and shallow capacities; that genuine humour and true wit reguire a sound and capacious mind, which is always a grave one.
destruction of the city of Herculaneum by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the first year of the emperor Titus, or the 79th of the Christian era. Mr. Atherstone has followed the account of this awful occurrence given by the younger Pliny in his letters to Tacitus, and has drawn some powerful pictures of the desolating fire and its attendant circumstances. There is perhaps too much of terrible and gloomy painting, yet it enchains the attention of the reader, and impresses the imagination with something like dramatic force. Mr. Atherstone's second subject is of the same elevated cast: the downfall of an Asiatic empire afforded ample room for his love of strong and magnificent description, and he has availed himself of this license so fully as to border in many passages on extravagance and bombast.
The following passage, descriptive of the splendour of Sardanapalus's state, may be cited as a happy specimen of Mr. Atherstone's style:
Banquet in Sardanapalus's Palace.
Like a mountain stream,
Sylph-like girls, and blooming boys,
Through all the city sounds the voice of joy
Then went the king,