THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics.
VOL. XVII. — APRIL, 1866—NO. CII.
WHEN, in October, 1864, the European steamer brought us the intelligence of Walter Savage Landor’s death, which occurred the month previous at Florence, newspaper readers asked, “Who is Landor?” The few who remember him remotely through the medium of Mr. Hillard’s selections from his writings exclaimed, “ What! Did he not die long ago?” The halfdozen Americans really familiar with this author knew that the fire of a genius unequalled in its way had gone out. Two or three, who were acquainted with the man even better than with his books, sighed, and thanked God ! They thanked God that the old man’s prayer had at last been answered, and that the curtain had been drawn on a life which in reality terminated ten years before when old age became more than ripe! But Landor’s walk into the dark valley was slow and majestic. Death fought long and desperately before he could claim his victim ; and it was not until the last three years that body and mind grew thoroughly apathetic. " I have lost my intellect,” said Landor, nearly two years ago: “for this I care not; but alas ! I have lost my teeth and cannot eat ! ” Was It not time for him to go ?
“ Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” The glory ol old age ceases when second childishness and oblivion begin ; therefore we thanked God for His goodness in taking the lonely old man home.
Long as was Landor’s life and literary career, little is known of him personally. There are glimpses of him in Lady Blessington’s Memoirs ; and Emerson, in his “English Traits,” describes two interviews with him in 1843 at his Florentine villa. “ I found him noble and courteous, living in a cloud of pictures.
. . . . I had inferred from his books, or magnified from some anecdotes, an impression of Achillean wrath, — an untamable petulance. I do not know whether the imputation were just or not, but certainly on this May-day his courtesy veiled that haughty mind, and he was the most patient and gentle of hosts.” According to the world’s opinion, it was not always “ May-day ” with Landor, for the world neither preaches nor practises that rarity, human charity. Its instinct is a species of divining-rod, the virtue of which seems to be limited to a fatal facility in discovering frailty. Great men and women live in glass houses, and what passer-by can resist the temptation to throw stones ? Is it generous, or even just, in scoffers who are safely hidden behind bricks and mortar, to take advantage of the glass ? Could they show a nobler record if subjected to equally close scrutiny ? Worshippers, too, at the shrines of inspiration are prone to look for ideal lives in their elect, forgetting that the divine afflatus is, after all, a gift, — that great thoughts are not the daily food of even the finest intellects. It is a necessity of nature for valleys to lie beneath the lofty mountain peaks that daringly pierce the sky ; and it would seem as though the artist - temperament, after rising to sublime heights of ecstasy, plunged into corresponding depths, showing thereby the supremacy of the man over the god. Then is there much sighing and shaking ol heads at the failings of genius, whereas genius in its depths sinks no lower than the ordinary level of mankind. It simply proves its title-deeds to mortality. Humanity at best is weak, and can only be divine by flashes. The Pythia was a stupid old woman, saving when she sat upon the tripod. Seeing genius to the best advantage in its work,—not always, but most frequently,—they are wisest who love the artist without demanding personal perfection. It is rational to conclude that the loftiest possible genius should be allied to the most perfect specimen of man, heart holding equal sway with head. A great man, however, need not be a great artist, — that is, of course, understood ; but time ought to prove that the highest form of art can only emanate from the noblest type of humanity. The most glorious inspirations must flow through the purest channels. But this is the genius of the future, as far removed from what is best known as order is removed from chaos. The genius most familiar is not often founded on common sense ; the plus ot one faculty denotes the minus ot another ; and matter-of-fact people, who rule the world, — as they should, — and who have never dreamed of an inclination from the perpendicular, bestow little patience and less sympathy on vagaries, moral and mental, that, partly natural, are aggravated by that “ capacity for joy” which “admits temptation.”
Landor’s characteristic fault, in fact his vice, was that of a temper so undisciplined and impulsive as to be somewhat hurricanic in its consequences, though, not unlike the Australian boomerang, it frequently returned whence it came, and injured no one but the possessor. Circumstances aggravated, rather than diminished, this Landorian idiosyncrasy. Born in prosperity, heir to a large landed estate, and educated in aristocratic traditions, Walter Savage Landor began life without a struggle, and throughout a long career remained master of the situation, independent of the world and its favors. Perhaps too much freedom is as unfortunate in its results upon character as too much dependence. A nature to be properly developed should receive as well as give ; otherwise it must be an angelic disposition that does not become tyrannical. All animated nature is despotic, the strong preying upon the weak. If men and women do not devour one another, it is merely because they dare not. The law of self-preservation prevents them from becoming anthropophagi. A knowledge that the eater may in his turn be eaten, is not appetizing. Materially and professionally successful, possessed of a physique that did honor to his ancestors and Nature, no shadows fell on Landor’s path to chasten his spirit. Trials he endured of a private nature grievous in the extreme, yet calculated to harden rather than soften the heart, — trials ot which others were partially the cause, and which probably need not have been had his character been understood and rightly dealt with. There is a soothing system for men as well as horses, — even for human Cruisers, — and the Rarey who reduces it to a science will deserve the world’s everlasting gratitude. Powerful natures are likely to be as strong in their weaknesses as in their virtues ; this, however, is a reckoning entirely too rational to be largely indulged in by the packed jury that holds inquest over the bodies, rather than the souls, of men. In his old age at least, Landor’s irascibility amounted to temporary madness, for which he was no more responsible than is the sick man for the feverish ravings of delirium. That miserable law-suit at Bath, which has done so much to drag the name of Landor into the mire, would never have been prosecuted had its instigators had any respect for themselves or any decent appreciation of their victim.
But Landor in his best moods was chivalry incarnate. His courtly manners toward ladies were particularly noticeable from the rarity of so much external polish in the new school of AngloSaxon gallantry. It was a pleasure to receive compliments from him ; for they generally lay imbedded in the sauce piquante of a bon mot. Having one day dropped his spectacles, which were picked up and presented to him by an American girl, Landor quickly exclaimed, with a grace not to be translated into words, “ Ah, this is not the first time you have caught my eyes!”
It was to the same young lady that he addressed this heretofore unpublished poem : —
“TO K. F.
Which, I confess it, raised my spleen ;
They were contrived by Love to mock
The battledoor and shuttlecock.
Given, returned, —how strange a play,
Where neither loses all the day,
And both are, even when night sets in,
Again as ready to begin !
I am not sure I have not played
This very game with some fair maid,
Perhaps it was a dream : but this
I know was not; I know a kiss
Was given me in the sight of more
Than ever saw me kissed before.
Modest as wing&d angels are,
And no less brave and no less fair,
She came across, nor greatly feared,
The horrid brake of wintry beard.
“ WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR. “ Siena, July, 1860.”
The following papers, in so far as they relate to Landor personally, are not reminiscences of him in the zenith of fame. They contain glimpses of the old man of Florence in the years 1859, 1860, and 1861, just before the intellectual light began to flicker and go out. Even then Landor was cleverer, and, provided he was properly approached, more interesting than many younger men of genius. I shall ever esteem it one of the great privileges of my life that I was permitted to know him well, and call him friend. These papers are given to the public with the hope that they may be of more than ordinary interest to the intelligent reader, and that they may delineate Landor in more truthful colors than those in which he has heretofore been painted. In repeating conversations, I have endeavored to stand in the background, where I very properly belong. For the inevitable egotism of the personal pronoun, I hope to be pardoned by all charitable souls. That Landor, the octogenarian, has not been photographed by a more competent person, is certainly not my fault. Having had the good fortune to enjoy opportunities beyond my deserts, I should have shown a great want of appreciation had I not availed myself ot them. If, in referring to Landor, I avoid the prefix “Mr.,” it is because I feel, with Lady Blessington, that there are some people, and he is of those, whom one cannot designate as ‘ Mr.’ I should as soon think of adding the word to his name, as, in talking of some of the great writers of old, to prefix it to theirs.”
It was a modest house in a modest street that Landor inhabited during the last six years of his life. Tourists can have no recollection of the Via Nunziatina, directly back of the “ Carmine ” in the old part of Florence ; but there is NO loving lounger about those picturesque streets that does not remember how, strolling up the Via dci Seragli, one encounters the old shrine to the Madonna, which marks the entrance to that street made historical henceforth fur having sheltered a great English writer. There, half-way down the via, in that little two-story casa, No. 2671, dwelt Walter Savage Landor, with his English housekeeper and cameriera. Sitting-room, bed-room, and diningroom opened into each other ; and in the former he was always found, in a large arm-chair, surrounded by paintings ; for he declared he could not live without them. His snowy hair and beard of patriarchal proportions, clear, keen, gray eyes, and grand head, made the old poet greatly resemble Michel Angelo’s world-renowned masterpiece of “Moses”; nor was the formation of Landor’s forehead unlike that of Shakespeare. “ If, as you declare, " said he, jokingly, one day, “ I look like that meekest of men, Moses, anti Shakespeare, I ought to be exceedingly good and somewhat clever.”
At Landor’s feet was always crouched a beautiful Pomeranian dog, the gift ot his kind American friend, William W. Story. The affection existing between “Gaillo” and his master was really touching. Gaillo s eyes were always turned towards Landor s ; and upon the least encouragement, the dog would jump into his lap, lay his head most lovingly upon his master’s neck, and generally deport himsell in a very human manner. “ Gaillo is such a dear dog ! ” said Landor, one day, while patting him. “ We are very fond of each other, and always have a game of play after dinner ; sometimes, when he is very good, we have two. I am sure I could not live, if he died ; and I know that, when I am gone, he will grieve for me.” Thereupon Gaillo wagged his tail, and looked piteously into padrone's tace, as much as to say he would be grieved indeed. Upon being asked if be thought dogs would be admitted into heaven, Landor answered: “ And, pray, why not ? They have all of the good and none of the bad qualities of man.” No matter upon what subject conversation turned, Gaillo’s feelings were consulted. He was the only and chosen companion of Landor in his walks ; but few of the Florentines who stopped to remark the vecchio con quel bel canino, knew how great was the man upon whom they thus commented.
It is seldom that England gives birth to so rampant a republican as Landor. Born on the 30th of January, two years before our Declaration of Independence, it is probable that the volcanic action of those troublous times had no little influence in permeating the mind of the embryo poet with that enthusiasm for and love of liberty for which he was distinguished in maturer years. From early youth, Landor was a poor respecter of royalty and rank per se. He often related, with great good-humor, an incident of his boyhood which brought his democratic ideas into domestic disgrace. An influential bishop of the Church of England, happening to dine with young Landor’s father one day, assailed Porson, and, with self-assumed superiority, thinking to annihilate the old Grecian, exclaimed, “ We have no opinion of his scholarship.” Irate at this stupid pronunciamento against so renowned a man, young Landor looked up, and, with a sarcasm the point of which was not in the least blunted by age, retorted, “We, my Lord?” Ot course such unheard of audacity and contempt of my Lord Bishop’s capacity for criticism was severely reprobated by Landor Senior ; but no amount of reproof could force his son into a confession of sorrow.
“At Oxford,” said Landor, “I was about the first student who wore his hair without powder. ‘ Take care,’ said my tutor. ‘They will stone you for a republican.’ The Whigs (not the wigs) were then unpopular ; but I stuck to my plain hair and queue tied with black ribbon.”
Of Landor’s mature opinion of republics in general we glean much from a passage of the “ Pentameron,” in which the author adorns Petrarca with his own fine thoughts.
“When the familiars of absolute princes taunt us, as they are wont to do, with the only apothegm they ever learnt by heart, — namely, that it is better to be ruled by one master than by many,— I quite agree with them ; unity of power being the principle of republicanism, while the principle of despotism is division and delegation. In the one system, every man conducts his own affairs, either personally or through the agency of some trustworthy representative, which is essentially the same : in the other system, no man, in quality Of citizen, has any affairs of his own to conduct ; but a tutor has been as much set over him as over a lunatic, as little with his option or consent, and without any provision, as there is in the case of the lunatic, for returning reason. Meanwhile, the spirit of republics is omnipresent in them, as active in the particles as in the mass, in the circumference as in the centre. Eternal it must be, as truth and justice are, although not stationary.”
Let Europeans who, having predicted the dismemberment of our Union, proclaimed death to democracy, and those thoughtless Americans who believe that liberty cannot survive the destruction of our Republic, think well of what great men have written. Though North America were submerged to-morrow, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans rushing over our buried hopes to a riotous embrace, republicanism would live as long as the elements endure, — borne on every wind, inhaled in every breath of air, abiding its opportunity to become an active principle. Absorbed in our own peculiar form of egotism, we believe that a Supreme Being has cast the cause of humanity upon one die. to prosper or perish by the chances of outgame. What belittling of the Almighty ! what magnifying of ourselves !
Though often urged, Landor never became a candidate for Parliamentary honors. Political wire-pulling was not to the taste of a man who, notwithstanding large landed interests, could say: “ I never was at a public dinner, at a club or hustings. I never influenced or attempted to influence a vote, and yet many, and not only my own tenants, have asked me to whom they should give theirs. ’ Nor was he ever presented at court, although a presentation would have been at the request of the (at that time) Regent. Landor would not countenance a system of courtfavor that opens its arms to every noodle wearing an officer’s uniform, and almost universally turns its back upon intellect. He put not his faith in princes, and of titles says : “ Formerly titles were inherited by men who could not write ; they now are conferred on men who will not let others. Theirs may have been the darker age ; ours is the duller. In theirs a high spirit was provoked ; in ours, proscribed. In theirs the bravest were pre-eminent ; in ours, the basest.”
Although a democrat, Landor was not indifferent to the good name of his own ancestors, not because of a long pedigree, but because many of these ancestors were historical personages and served their country long and well. That stock must be worthy of honorable mention which, extending with its ramifications over several centuries, gives to the world its finest fruit in its latest scion. It is a satisfaction to spring from hidalgo blood when the advantages of gentle rearing are demonstrated by being greater than one’s fathers. In Landor's most admirable “Citation and Examination of William Shakespeare,” the youngster whom Sir Silas Gough declares to be as “deep as the big tankard ’ says, “ out of his own head ": — “ Hardly any man is ashamed of being inferior to his ancestors, although it is the very thing at which the great should blush, if, indeed, the great in general descended from the worthy. I did expect to see the day, and, although I shall not see it, it must come at last, when he shall be treated as a madman or an impostor who dares to claim nobility or precedency, and cannot show his family name in the history of his country. Even he who can show it, and who cannot write his own under it in the same or as goodly characters, must submit to the imputation of degeneracy, from which the lowly and obscure are exempt." Good old Penn, too, is made a lay figure upon which Landor dressed his thoughts, when the Quaker tells Lord Peterborough : “ Of all pride, however, and all folly, the grossest is where a man who possesses no merit in himself shall pretend to an equality with one who docs possess it, and shall found this pretension on no better plea or title than that, although he hath it not, his grandfather had. I would use no violence or coercion with any rational creature ; but, rather than that such a bestiality in a human form should run about the streets uncured, I would shout like a stripling for the farrier at his furnace, and unthong the drenching horn from my stable-door." Landor could write his name under that of his family in as goodly characters, therefore he was not ashamed to relate anecdotes of his forefathers. It was with honest satisfaction that he perpetuated the memory of two of these worthies in the u Imaginary Conversations ” between King Henry IV. and Sir Arnold Savage, and Oliver Cromwell and Walter Noble. “ Sir Arnold, according to Elsynge, ‘ was the first who appears upon any record’ to have been appointed to the dignity of Speaker in the House of Commons, as now constituted. He was elected a second time, four years afterwards, a rare honor in earlier days ; and during this presidency he headed the Commons, and delivered their resolutions in the plain words recorded by Hakewell.” These “ plain words ” were, that no subsidy should be granted to Henry IV. until every cause of public grievance had been removed. Landor came rightly by his independence of thought. “ Walter Noble represented the city of Lichfield ; he lived familiarly with the best patriots of the age, remonstrated with Cromwell, and retired from public life on the punishment of Charles.”
Landor was very fond of selecting the grand old Roundheads for his conversations. In their society lie was most at home, and with them he was able to air his pet opinions. Good Andrew Marvell, a man after the author’s own heart, discourses upon this matter of family: “ Between the titled man of ancient and the titled man of recent date, the difference, if any, is in favor of the last. Suppose them both raised for merit, (here, indeed, we do come to theory!) the benefits that society has received from him are nearer us...... Some of us may look back six or seven centuries, and find a stout ruffian at the beginning.” In England, where the institutions are such that a title of nobility is considered by the majority to be the highest reward attainable by merit, it is not surprising that the great god of Rank should be worshipped at the family altar of Form. In England, too, it must be acknowledged that men of rank are men of education, frequently of culture, and are useful to the nation as patrons of art and of science ; therefore nobility frequently means absolute gentility. But in America what good can be said of those who, living upon the fortunes of fathers or grandfathers, amassed in honest trade,— residents of a particular street which is thereby rendered pluperfectly genteel,—with no recommendation but that derived from fashion and idleness, — draw the lines of social demarcation more closely than they are drawn in Europe, intellect and accomplishments being systematically snubbed where the possessors cannot show their family passes ? Is not this attempt to graft the foibles of an older and more corrupt civilization upon our institutions, a disgrace to republicanism ? Were the truth known, we should be able to report the existence of many advocates of monarchy, a privileged class, and an established church, among those into whose ancestry it would be unsafe to dig deeper than a second generation ; by digging deeper we might touch sugar or tumble into a vat of molasses, and then what blushes for false pride !
A very different idea of a great man from that of the vulgar do we get out of Landor’s writings. His Diogenes tells us, (and very like the original seeker after honesty do we take him to be,) that “ the great man is he who hath nothing to fear and nothing to hope from another. It is he who, while he demonstrates the iniquity of the laws and is able to correct them, obeys them peaceably. It is he who looks on the ambitious both as weak and fraudulent. It is he who hath no disposition or occasion for any kind of conceit, no reason for being or for appearing different from what he is. It is he who can call together the most select company when it pleases him.” And Petrarca says that “ Time the Sovran is first to discover the truly great.” Yet, though we put faith in the justice of posterity, even Time plays many a one false through misplaced favoritism. “ They, O Timotheus,” exclaims the imaginarv Lucian, “who survive the wreck of ages, are by no means, as a body, most worthy of our admiration. It is in these wrecks as in those at sea,-—the best things are not always saved. Hencoops and empty barrels bob upon the surface, under a serene and smiling sky, when the graven or depicted images of the gods are scattered on invisible rocks, and when those who most resembled them in knowledge and beneficence are devoured by cold monsters below.” We claim, however, that Lucian’s theory is good for this world only, as we believe that soul, though it may be temporarily wrecked, speeds on to the inevitable justice of eternity. And can we, now that the fever of military glory is upon us, remember that, great as may be the man who.conquers his country’s enemies upon the battle-field, he is far greater who conquers the prejudices of his age and instils into groping masses the doctrines of a more glorious civilization ?
Is fully developed Christianity.”
Every generation has two or three such men ; no age has enough moral courage to give birth to more. They live under protest,—thought alone is free, — and when these men, fifty years in advance of their times, proclaim God’s truth with the enthusiasm begotten of religion, grub-worms that rule the great statusquo sting the prophets with all the virus of their nature, and render each step forward as difficult as was once the passage of the Simplon. There is no stumbling-block like that of ignorance, and he who would remove it must wear the holy crown of thorns. We speak of the horrors of the Inquisition as things of the past. Are we so sure of this ? Has not prejudice invented most exquisite tortures for reformers of all ages ? America has her sins to answer for in this respect.
With a claim
To honor in the old world’s sight,
Yet do the fiend’s work perfectly
In strangling martyrs, —for this lie
This is the curse.”
On the stubbornness of Status Quo none have written better than Landor. “ Unbendingness, in the moral as in the vegetable world, is an indication as frequently of unsoundness as of strength. Indeed, wise men, kings as well as others, have been free from it. Stiff necks are diseased ones.”
It was impossible to be in Landor’s society a half-hour and not reap advantage. His great learning, varied information, extensive acquaintance with the world’s celebrities, ready wit, and even readier repartee, rendered his conversation wonderfully entertaining. He would narrate anecdote after anecdote with surprising accuracy, being possessed of a singularly retentive memory, that could refer to a catalogue of notables far longer than Don Giovanni’s picture-gallery of conquests. Names, it is true, he was frequently unable to recall, and supplied their place with a “ God bless my soul, I forget everything ; but tacts were indelibly stamped upon his mind. Lie referred back to the year one with as much facility as a person ot the rising generation invokes the shade of some deed dead a few years. I looked with wonder upon a person who remembered Napoleon Bonaparte as a slender young man, and listened with delight to a voice from so dim a past. “ I was in Paris,” said Landor one day, “ at the time that Bonaparte made his entrance as First Consul. I was standing within a few feet of him when he passed, and had a capital good look at him. He was exceedingly handsome then, with a rich olive complexion and oval face, youthful as a girl's. Near him rode Murat, mounted upon a gold-clad charger, — and very handsome he was too, but coxcombical.”
Like the rest of human kind, Landor had his prejudices, — they were very many. Foremost among them was an antipathy to the Bonaparte family. It is not necessary to have known him personally to be aware of his detestation of the first Napoleon, as in the conversation between himself, an English and a Florentine visitor, he gives expression to a generous indignation, which may well be inserted here, as it contains the pith of what Landor repeated in many a social talk. “ This Holy Alliance will soon appear unholy to every nation in Europe. I despised Napoleon in the plenitude of his power no less than others despise him in the solitude of his exile : I thought him no less an impostor when he took the ermine, than when he took the emetic. I confess I do not love him the better, as some mercenaries in England and Scotland do, for having been the enemy of my country ; nor should I love him the less for it, had his enmity been principled and manly. In what manner did this cruel wretch treat his enthusiastic admirer and humble follower, Toussaint 1'Ouverture ? He was thrown into a subterranean cell, solitary, dark, damp, pestiferously unclean, where rheumatism racked his limbs, and where famine terminated his existence.” Again, in his written opinions of Cæsar, Cromwell, Milton, and Bonaparte, Landor criticises the career of the latter with no fondness, but with much truth, and justly says, that “ Napoleon, in the last years ot his sovereignty, fought without aim, vanquished without glory, and perished without defeat.”
Great as was Landor s dislike to the uncle, it paled before his detestation of the reigning Emperor, — a detestation too general to be designated an idiosyncrasy on the part of the poet. We always knew who was meant when a sentence was prefaced with “ that rascal ” or “that scoundrel,” — such were the epithets substituted for the name of Louis Napoleon. Believing the third Napoleon to be the worst enemy of his foster-mother, Italy, as well as of Franee, Landor bestowed upon him less love, if possible, than the majority of Englishmen. Having been personally acquainted with the Emperor when he lived in England as an exile, Landor, unlike many of Napoleon’s enemies, acknowledged the superiority of his intellect. “ I used to see a great deal of the Prince when he was in London. I met him very frequently of an evening at Lady Blessington’s, and had many conversations with him, as he always sought me and made himself particularly civil. He was a very clever man, well informed on most subjects. The fops used to laugh at him, and call him a bore. A coxcombical young lord came up to me one evening after the Prince had taken his leave, and said, ‘ Mr. Landor, how can you talk to that fool. Prince Napoleon?’ To which I replied, ‘ My Lord, it takes a fool to find out that he is not a wise man !’ His Lordship retired somewhat discomfited,” added Landor with a laugh. “The Prince presented me with his work on Artillery, and invited me to his house. He had a very handsome establishment. and was not at all the poor man he is often said to have been. Of this book Landor writes in an article to the “Quarterly Review ” (I think): “ If it is any honor, it has been conferred on me, to have received from Napoleon’s heir the literary work he composed in prison, well knowing, as he did, and expressing his regret for, my sentiments on his uncle. The explosion of the first cannon against Rome threw us apart forever.” I shall not soon forget Landor’s lively narration of Napoleon’s escape from the prison at Ham, given in the same language in which it was told to him by the Prince. I would feign repeat it here, were it not that an account of this wonderful escape found its way into print some years ago. Apropos of Napoleon, an old friend of Landor's told me that, while in London, the Prince was in the habit of calling upon him after dinner. He would sip café noir, smoke a cigar, ply his host with every conceivable question, but otherwise maintain a dignified reticence. It seems then that Louis Napoleon is indebted to nature, as well as to art. for his masterly ability in keeping his own counsel.
Among other persons of note encountered by Landor at Lady Blessington’s was Rachel. It was many years ago, before her star had attained its zenith. “ She took tea with her Ladyship, and was accompanied by a female attendant, her mother I think. Rachel had very little to say, and left early, as she had an engagement at the theatre. There was nothing particularly noticeable in her appearance, but she was very ladylike. I never met her again.”
Landor entertained a genuine affection for the memory of Lady Blessington. “Ah, there was a woman ! ” he exclaimed one day with a sigh. “ I never knew so brilliant and witty a person in conversation. She was most generous too, and kind - hearted. I never heard her make an ill - natured remark. It was my custom to visit her whenever the laurel was in bloom ; and as the season approached, she would write me a note, saying, ' Gore House expects you, for the laurel has begun to blossom.’ I never see laurel now, that it does not make me sad, for it recalls her to me so vividly. During these visits I never saw Lady Blessington until dinner-time. She always breakfasted in her own room, and wrote during the morning. She wrote very well, too ; her style was pure. In the evening her drawing-room was thrown open to her friends, except when she attended the opera. Her opera-box faced the Queen’s, and a formidable rival she was to her Majesty,” “ D’Orsay was an Apollo in beauty, very amiable, and had considerable talent for modelling.” Taking me into his little back sitting-room, Landor brought out a small album, and, passing over the likenesses of several old friends, among whom were Southey, Porson, Napier, and other celebrities, he held up an engraving of Lady Blessington. Upon my remarking its beauty, Landor replied : “ That was taken at the age of fifty, so you can imagine how beautiful she must have been in her youth. Her voice and laugh were very musical.” Then, turning to a young lady present, Landor made her an exceedingly neat compliment, by saying, " Your voice reminds me very vividly of Lady Blessington’s. Perhaps,” he continued with a smile, “ this is the reason why my old, deaf ears never lose a word when you are speaking.” Driving along the north side of the Arno, one summer’s day, Landor gazed sadly at a terrace overlooking the water, and said : “ Many a delightful evening have I spent on that terrace with Lord and Lady Blessington. There we used to take our tea. They once visited Florence for no other purpose than to see me. Was not that friendly ? They are both dead now, and I am doomed to live on. When Lady Blessington died, I was asked to write a Latin epitaph for her tomb, which I did; but some officious person thought to improve the Latin before it was engraved, and ruined it.”
This friendship was fully reciprocated by Lady Blessington, who, in her letters to Landor, refers no less than three times to those “calm nights on tire terrace of tire Casa Pelosi.” “ I send you,” she writes, “the engraving, and have only to wish that it may sometimes remind you of the original...... Five fleeting years have gone by since our delicious evenings on the lovely Arno, — evenings never to be forgotten, and the recollections of which ought to cement the friendships then formed. ’ Again, in her books of travel, — the “ Idler in France ” and “ Idler in Italy,” -— Lady Blessington pays the very highest tribute to Landor’s heart, as well as intellect, and declares his real conversations to be quite as delightful as his imaginary ones. She who will live long in history as the friend of great men now lies ‘•beneath the chestnut shade of Saint Germain”; and Landor, with tlie indignation of one who loved her, has turned to D’Orsay, asking
And swept away the bloom of health ? ”
Although a Latinist, Landor did not approve of making those who have passed away doubly dead to a majority of the living by Latin eulogy. In an interesting conversation he gives the following opinion: “Although I have written at various times a great number of such inscriptions ” (Latin), “ as parts of literature, yet I think nothing is so absurd, if you only inscribe them on a tomb. Why should extremely few persons, the least capable, perhaps, of sympathy, be invited to sympathize, while thousands are excluded from it by the iron grate of a dead language ? Those who read a Latin inscription are the most likely to know already the character of the defunct, and no new feelings are to be excited in them ; but the language of the country tells the ignorant who he was that lies under the turf before them ; and, if he was a stranger, it naturalizes him among them ; it gives him friends and relations ; it brings to him and detains about him some who may imitate, many who will lament him. We have no right to deprive any one of a tender sentiment, by talking in an unknown tongue to him, when his heart would listen and answer to his own ; we have no right to turn a chapel into a library, locking it with a key which the lawful proprietors cannot turn.”
I once asked Landor to describe Wordsworth's personal appearance. He laughed and replied: “The best description 1 can give you of Wordsworth is the one that Hazlitt gave me. Hazlitt’s voice was very deep and gruff, and he peppered his sentences very bountifully with ‘sirs.’ In speaking to me of Wordsworth, he said: ‘Well, s, did you ever see a horse, sir?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then, sir, you have seen Wordsworth, sir! He looks exactly like a horse, sir, and a very long-faced horse at that, sir ! ’ And he did look like a horse,” added Landor.
Those who have seen good likenesses of Wordsworth will readily remark tins resemblance. A greater length of ear would liken the Lake poet to an animal of less dignity.
Continuing the conversation thus begun, Landor said : “ I saw a great deal ot Hazlitt when he was in Florence. He called upon me frequently, and a funny fellow he was. He used to say to me : ‘ Mr. Landor, I like you, sir,— I like you very much, sir, — you ’re an honest man, sir ; but I don't approve, sir, of a great deal that you have written, sir. You must reform some of your opinions, sir.’ ” And again Landor laughed with great good-will.
“ I regret that I saw Charles Lamb but once,” replied Landor, in answer to many questions asked concerning this delightful man and writer. “ Lamb sent word by Southey” (I think it was Southey) “that he would be very happy to see me, whereupon we made him a visit. He had then retired from the India House, and lived at Enfield. He was most charming in conversation, and his smile impressed me as being particularly genial. His sister also was a veryagreeable person. During my visit, Lamb rose, went to a table in the centre of the room, and took up a book, out of which he read aloud. Soon shutting it, he turned to me, saying: ‘Is not what I have been reading exceedingly good ? ’ ‘ Very good,’ I replied. Thereupon Lamb burst out laughing, and exclaimed : ‘ Did one ever know so conceited a man as Mr. Landor ? He has actually praised his own ideas!’ It was now my turn to laugh, as I had not the slightest remembrance of having written what Lamb had read.”
Are there many to whom the following lines will not be better than new ?
Elia ! once only has thy tripping tongue
Run o’er my breast, yet never has been left
Impression on it stronger or more sweet.
Cordial old man ! what youth was in thy years,
What wisdom in thy levity! what truth
In every utterance of that purest soul!
Few are the spirits of the glorified
I’d spring to earlier at the gate of Heaven.”
Being asked if he had met Byron, Landor replied : “ I never saw Byron but once, and then accidentally. 1 went into a perfumery shop in London to purchase a pot of the ottar of roses, which at that time was very rare and expensive. As I entered the shop a handsome young man, with a slight limp in his walk, passed me and went out. The shopkeeper directed my attention to him, saying : ‘ Do you know who that is, sir?’ ‘No,’ 1 answered. ‘ That is the young Lord Byron.’ He had been purchasing some fancy soaps, and at that time was the fashion. I never desired to meet him.”
As all the world knows, there was little love lost between these two great writers ; but it was the man, not the poet, that Landor so cordially disliked.