LANDOR has frequently been ridiculed for insisting upon an orthography peculiar at present to himself, and this ridicule has been bestowed most mercilessly, because of the supposition that he was bent upon revolutionizing the English language merely for the sake of singularity. But Landor has logic on his side, and it would be wise to heed authoritative protests against senseless innovations that bid fair to destroy the symmetry of words, and which, fifty years hence, will render the tracing of their derivation an Herculean task, unless Trenches multiply in proportion to the necessities of the times. If I ever wished the old lion to put forth all the majesty of his indignation. I had only to whisper the cabalistic words. “Phonetic spelling ! ” Yet Landor was not very exacting. In the “ Last Fruit off an Old Tree,” he says, through his medium, Pericles, who is giving advice to Alcibiades : “ Every time we pronounce a word different from another, we show our disapprobation of his manner, and accuse him of rusticity. In all common things we must do as others do. It is more barbarous to undermine the stability of a language than of an edifice that hath stood as long. This is done by the introduction of changes. Write as others do, but only as the best of others ; and, if one eloquent man forty or fifty years ago spoke and wrote differently from the generality of the present, follow him, though alone, rather than the many. But in pronunciation we are not indulged in this latitude of choice; we must pronounce as those do who favor us with their audience.” Landor only claimed to write as the best of others do, and in his own name protests to Southey against misconstruction. “ One would represent me as attempting to undermine our native tongue; another, as modernizing; a third, as antiquating it. Wheras” (Landor’s spelling) “ I am trying to underprop, not to undermine; I am trying to stop the man-milliner at his ungainly work of trimming and flouncing; I am trying to show how graceful is our English, not in its stiff" decrepitude, not in its riotous luxuriance, but in its hale mid-life. I would make bad writers follow good ones, and good ones accord with themselves. If all cannot be reduced into order, is that any reason why nothing should be done toward it ? If languages and men too are imperfect, must we never make an effort to bring them a few steps nearer to what is preferable ? ”
It is my great good fortune to possess a copy of Landor’s works made curious and peculiarly valuable by the author's own revisions and corrections, and it is most interesting to wander through these volumes, wherein almost every page is a battle-field between the writer and his arch-enemy, the printer. The final l in still and till is ignominiously blotted out ; exclaim is written exclame; a d is put over the obliterated a in steady ; t is substituted for the second s in confessed and kindred words ; straightway is shorn of gh; pontiff is allowed but one f Landor spells honor in what we call the modern way, without the u; and the r and e in sceptre change places. A dash of the pen cancels the s in isle and the final e in wherefore, therefore, &c. Simile is terminated with a y ; the imperfect of the verbs to milk, to ask, etc., is spelled with a ; whereat loses its second e, and although is deprived of its last three letters. To his poem of " Guidone and Lucia ” has been added this final verse: —
And led him home : at home he died in peace.
His soul was with Lucia, and he praid
To meet again soon, soon, that happier maid.
This wish was granted, for the Powers above
Abound in mercy and delight in love.”
And to this verse is appended the following note ; " I f the pret. and partic. of lay is laid, of say, said, that of pray must be praid. We want a lexiconomist.”
In his lines entitled “ New Style,” which are a burlesque on Wordsworth, Landor introduces a new verse : —
Has given her a locket;
I, more considerate, brought her two
Potatoes in each pocket."
Landor has been accused of an unwarrantable dislike to the manufacture of words ; but so far from true is this, that I have known him to indulge with great felicity in words of his own coining, when conversation chanced to take a humorous turn. He makes Sam. Johnson say that “ all words are good which come when they are wanted ; all which come when they are not wanted should be dismissed.” Tooke, in the same conversation, cites Cicero as one who, not contented with new spellings, created new words ; but Tooke further declares, that " only one valuable word has been received into our language since my birth, or perhaps since yours.
I have lately heard appreciate for estimate." To which Johnson replies:
“ Words taken from the French should be amenable, in their spelling, to English laws and regulations. Appreciate is a good and useful one ; it signifies more than estimate or value; it implies 'to value justly.’ ”
Taking up one day Dean Trench’s excellent little book on “ The Study of Words,” which lay on my table, Landor expressed a desire to read it. Lie brought it back not long afterward, enriched with notes, and declared himself to have been much pleased with the manner in which the Dean had treated a subject so deeply interesting to himself. I have singled out a few of these notes, that students of etymology may read the criticisms of so able a man. Dean Trench is taken to task for a misuse of every where in making two words of it. Landor puts the question, “ Is the Dean ignorant that everywhere is one word, and that where is no substantive ? ” Trench asserts that caprice is from capra, “ a goat,” whereupon his critic says, " No, — then it would be capricious. It is from caper — capere." To retract, writes Trench, means properly, as its derivation declares, no more than to handle over again, to reconsider ; Landor declares that "it means more. Retrahere is to draw back.” But he very vehemently approves of the Dean’s remarks on the use of the word talents. We should say “a man of talents,” not “of talent,” for that is nonsense, though ”of a talent ” would be allowable.
“ Kóσμоς is both 'world' and 'ornament,’ hence ‘cosmetic,’” writes Landor in answer to a doubt expressed by Trench whether the well-known quotation from St. James, " The tongue is a world of iniquity,” could not also be translated, as some maintain, “the ornament of iniquity.” Making use of the expression “redolent of scorn ” in connection with words that formerly expressed sacred functions and offices, Landor adds: “Gray is highly poetical in his ' redolent of joy and youth.’ The word is now vilely misused daily.” “ By and bye,” writes the Dean. “ Why write bye ? ” asks his commentator. Once or twice Landor credits Horne Tooke with what the Dean gives as his own, and occasionally scores an observation as old. “ Why won’t people say messager? he demands. “By what right is messenger made out of message ? ”
“ Have you nothing else for the old man to read ? have you nothing American ? ” Landor inquired upon returning Trench. Desiring to obtain the verdict of one so high in authority, I gave him Drake’s “ Culprit Fay,” and some fugitive verses by M. C. Field, whose poems have never been collected in book form. Of the latter’s “Indian Hunting the Buffaloes,” “Night on the Prairie,” “ Les Très Marias,” and others, known to but few readers now, Landor spoke in high commendation, and this praise will be welcome to those friends of “Phazma” still living, and still loving the memory of him who died early, and found, as he wished, an ocean grave. With “ The Culprit Fay ” came a scrap of paper on which was written : “ The Culprit Fay is rich in imagination,— few poems more so. Drake is among the noblest of names, and this poem throws a fresh lustre on it.” Observing in this poem a misuse of the exclamation “ Oh ! ” Landor remarked, “‘Oh!’ properly is an expression of grief or pain. ‘ O ! ’ without the aspirate may express pleasure or hope.” Current literature rarely makes any distinction between the two, and even good writers stumble through carelessness.
Style in writing was one of Landor’s favorite topics, and his ire was rarely more quickly excited than by placing before him a specimen of high-flown sentimentality. He would put on his spectacles, exclaim, “What is this?” and, having read a few lines, would throw the book down, saying, “I have not the patience to read such stuff. It may be very fine, but I cannot understand it. It is beyond me.” He had little mercy to bestow upon transcendentalists, though he praised Emerson one day, — a marvellous proof of high regard when it is considered how he detested the school to which Emerson belongs. “ Emerson called on me when he was in Florence many years ago, and a very agreeable visit I had from him. He is a very clever man, and might be cleverer if he were less sublimated. But then you Americans, practical as you are, are fond of soaring in high latitudes.” Carlyle in his last manner had the same effect upon Landor’s nerves as a discord in music produces upon a sensitive ear. “Ah,” said he with a quizzical smile, “' Frederick the Great’ convinces me that I write two dead languages,— Latin and English ! ”
English hexameter was still another pet detestation which Landor nursed with great volubility. In 1860 all Anglo-Saxon Florence was reading with no little interest a poem in this metre, which had recently appeared, and which of course passed under the critical eye of the old Grecian. “ Well, Mr. Landor, what do you think of the new poem ? ”
I asked during its nine days’ reign. “ Think of it ? I don’t think of it. I don’t want to be bothered with it. The book has driven all the breath out of my body. I am lame with galloping.
I’ve been on a gallop from the beginning to the end. Never did I have so hard and long a ride. But what else to expect when mounted on a nightmare! It may be very fine. I dare say it is, but Giallo and I prefer our ease to being battered. I am too old to hop, skip, and jump, and he is too sensible. It may be very bad taste, but we prefer verse that stands on two feet to verse that limps about on none. Now-a-days it is better to stumble than to walk erect. Giallo and I, however, have registered an oath not to encourage so base a fashion. We have consulted old Homer, and he quite approves our indignation.”
Speaking of certain Americanisms and of our ridiculous squeamishness in the use of certain honest words, Landor remarked: “You Americans are very proper people ; you have difficulties, but not diseases. Legs are unknown,— you have limbs ; and under no consideration do you go to bed, — you retire.” Much of this I could not gainsay, for only a few days previously I had been severely frowned upon for making inquiries about a broken leg. “ My dear,” said Landor to a young American girl who had been speaking of the city of New Orleens, — such being the ordinary Southern pronunciation, — “ that pretty mouth of yours should not be distorted by vulgar dialect. You should say Or'leans.” But he was never pedantic in his language. He used the simplest and most emphatic words.
There are those who accuse Landor of having sacrificed all things to style : it were as wise to assert that Beethoven sacrificed harmony to time. If his accusers would but read Landor before criticising, a proper regard for their own reputations would prevent them from hazarding such an opinion. “Style,” writes Landor, “ I consider as nothing, if what it covers be unsound : wisdom in union with harmony is oracular. On this idea, the wiser of ancient days venerated in the same person the deity of oracles and of music ; and it must have been the most malicious and the most ingenious of satirists who transferred the gift of eloquence to the god of thieves.” Those who by the actual sweat of their brows have got at the deep, hidden meaning of the most recent geniuses, will honor and thank Landor for having practically enforced his own refreshing theory. There are certain modern books of positive value which the reader closes with a sense of utter exhaustion. The meaning is discovered, but at too great an outlay of vitality. To render simple things complex, is to fly in the face of Nature ; and after such mental “ gymnastics,” we turn with relief to Landor. “ The greater part of those who are most ambitious of style are unaware of all its value. Thought does not separate man from the brutes ; for the brutes think : but man alone thinks beyond the moment and beyond himself. Speech does not separate them ; for speech is common to all, perhaps more or less articulate, and conveyed and received through different organs in the lower and more inert. Man’s thought, which seems imperishable, loses its form, and runs along from proprietor to impropriator, like any other transitory thing, unless it is invested so becomingly and nobly that no successor can improve upon it by any new fashion or combination. For want of dignity or beauty, many good things are passed and forgotten ; and much ancient wisdom is overrun and hidden by a rampant verdure, succulent, but unsubstantial.
Let those who look upon style as unworthy of much attention ask themselves how many, in proportion to men of genius, have excelled in it. In all languages, ancient and modern, are there ten prose-writers at once harmonious, correct, and energetic?”
Popular as is the belief that Landor’s gifts were the offspring of profound study, he himself says : “ Only four years of my life were given up much to study ; and I regret that I spent so many so ill. Even these debarred me from no pleasure ; for I seldom read or wrote within doors, excepting a few hours at night. The learning of those who are called the learned is learning at second hand ; the primary and most important must be acquired by reading in our own bosoms; the rest by a deep insight into other men's. What is written is mostly an imperfect and unfaithful copy.” This confession emanates from one who is claimed as a university rather than a universal man. Landor remained but two years at Oxford, and, though deeply interested in the classics, never contended for a Latin prize. Speaking of this one day, he said : “I once wrote some Latin verses for a fellow of my college who, being in great trouble, came to me for aid. What was hard work to him was pastime to me, and it ended in my composing the entire poem. At the time the fellow was very grateful, but it happened that these verses excited attention and were much eulogized. The supposed author accepted the praise as due to himself. This of course I expected, as he knew full well I would never betray him ; but the amusing part of the matter was that the fellow never afterwards spoke to me, never came near me, — in fact, treated me as though I had done him a grievous wrong. It was of no consequence to me that he strutted about in my feathers. If they became him, he was welcome to them, — but of such is the kingdom of cowards.”
“Poetry,” writes Landor, “was always my amusement, prose my study and business.” In his thirtieth year he lived in the woods, “ did not exchange twelve sentences with men,” and wrote “ Gebir,” his most elaborate and ambitious poem, which Southey took as a model in blank verse, and which a Boston critic wonders whether anyone ever read through. “ Pericles and Aspasia,” and the finest of his “Imaginary Conversations,” were the flowering of half a century of thought. There are few readers who do not prefer Landor's prose to his verse, for in the former he does not aim at the dramatic : the passion peculiar to verse is not congenial to his genius. He sympathizes most fully with men and women in repose, when intellect, not the heart, rules. His prose has all the purity of outline and harmony of Greek plastic art. He could not wield the painter's brush, but the great sculptor had yet power to depict the grief of a “ Niobe,” the agony of the “ Laocoön,” or the majesty of a “ Moses.” Like a sculptor, he rarely groups more than two figures.
It is satisfactory then to know that in the zenith of physical strength Landor was at his noblest and best, for his example is a forcible protest against the feverish enthusiasm of young American authors, who wear out their lives in the struggle to be famous at the age of Keats, never remembering that “ there must be a good deal of movement and shuffling before there is any rising from the ground ; and those who have the longest wings have the most difficulty in the first mounting. In literature, as at football, strength and agility are insufficient of themselves ; you must have your side, or you may run till you are out of breath, and kick till you are out of shoes, and never win the game. There must be some to keep others off you, and some to prolong for you the ball's rebound.Do not, however, be ambitious of an early fame : such is apt to shrivel and to drop under the tree.” The poetical dictum, “ Whom the gods love, die young,” has worked untold mischief, having created a morbid dislike to a fine physique, on the theory that great minds are antagonistic to noble bodies. There never was error so fatal: the larger the brain, the larger should be the reservoir from which to draw vitality. Were Seneca alive now, he would write no such letter as he once wrote to Lucilius, protesting against the ridiculous devotion of his countrymen to physical gymnastics. “To be wise is to be well,” was the gospel he went about preaching. “ To be well is to be wise,” would answer much better as the modern article of faith. The utmost that a persistent brain-worker of this century can do is to keep himself bodily up to mental requirements. Landor, however, was an extraordinary exception. He could boast of never having worn an overcoat since boyhood, and of not having been ill more than three times in his life. Even at eighty-six his hand had none of the wavering of age ; and it was with no little satisfaction that, grasping an imaginary pistol, he showed me how steady an aim he could still take, and told of how famous a shot he used to be. “ But my sister was more skilful than I,” he added.
One clay conversation chanced upon Aubrey De Vere, the beautiful Catholic poet of Ireland, whose name is scarcely known on this side of the Atlantic. This is our loss, though De Vere can never be a popular poet, for his muse lives in the past and breathes ether rather than air. “DeVere is charming both as man and as poet,” said Landor enthusiastically, rising as he spoke and leaving the room to return immediately with a small volume of De Vere’s poems published at Oxford in 1843. “Here are his poems given to me by himself. Such a modest, unassuming man as he is ! Now listen to this from the ‘ Ode on the Ascent of the Alps.’ Is it not magnificent ?
Like a great Angel missioned to bestow
Some boon on men beneath in sadness lying :
The waves are murmuring silver murmurs low :
Those feeble lights which, ere the eyes of Morn
Are lifted, through her lids and lashes flow.
Green through the shades the waters rush and roll,
(Or whitened only by the unfrequent shoal,)
Till two dark hills, with darker yet behind,
Confront them, — purple mountains almost black,
Each behind each self-folded and withdrawn,
Beneath the umbrage of yon cloudy rack. —
That orange-gleam ! ’t is dawn !
Onward! the swan’s flight with the eagle's blending,
On, wingèd Muse ! still forward and ascending !’
“This sonnet on ‘Sunrise,’” continued Landor, “ is the noblest that ever was written : —
High in his fiery car, himself more bright,
An Archer of immeasurable might.
Spurned by his steeds, the eastern mountain glowed ;
He bent; and while both hands that arch embowed,
Shaft after shaft pursued the flying Night.
No wings profaned that godlike form : around
His polished neck an ever-moving crowd
Of locks hung glistening ; while each perfect sound
Fell from his bow-string, that th' ethereal dome
Thrilled as a dew-drop ; while each passing cloud
Expanded, whitening like the ocean foam.’
“ Is not this line grand ? —
And how incomparable is the termination of this song ! —
Showering on Vesta’s fane its sheen :
Of some stone Dian at thirteen.
A sweet Impossibility !’
Here are two beautiful lines from the Grecian Ode : —
Through labyrinthine oleander.’
This is like Shakespeare : —
Was caught, — no doubt in Bacchic wreaths, — for Bacchus
Such puissance hath, that he old oaks will twine
Into true-lovers’ knots, and laughing Stand
Until the sun goes down.’
And an admirable passage is this, too, from the same poem,— 'The Search after Proserpine ’: —
Resemble those of slaves, reluctant, cumbered,
By outward force compelled ; not like our billows,
Springing elastic in impetuous joy.
Or indolently swayed.'
“ There ! ” exclaimed Landor, closing the book, “ I want you to have this. It will be none the less valuable because I have scribbled in it,” he added with a smile.
“ But, Mr. Landor — ”
“ Now don’t say a word. I am an old man, and if both my legs are not in the grave, they ought to be. I cannot lay up such treasures in heaven, you know, —saving of course in my memory,— and De Vere had rather you should have it than the rats. There ’s a compliment for you ! so put the book in your pocket.”
This little volume is marked throughout by Landor with notes of admiration, and if I here transcribe a few of his favorite poems, it will be with the hope of benefiting many readers to whom De Vere is a sealed book.
“Greece never produced anything so exquisite,” wrote Landor beneath the following song : —
To you as yet’t is worth but little.
Half beguiler, half beguiled,
Be you warned ; your own is brittle.
I know it by your redd'ning cheeks, —
I know it by those two black streaks
Arching up your pearly brows
In a momentary laughter,
Stretched in long and dark repose
With a sigh the moment after.
Lost it, and you cannot find it,’ —
You have bound and must unbind it.
Set it free then from your net,
We will love, sweet, —but not yet !
Fling it from you : — we are strong :
Love is trouble, love is folly :
Love, that makes an old heart young,
Makes a young heart melancholy.”
And for this Landor claimed that it was “ finer than the best in Horace ” :—
On me she levelled her bright eyes.
My whole heart brightened as the sea
When midnight clouds part suddenly : —
Through all my spirit went the lustre,
Like starlight poured through purple skies.
Yet louder as aloft it clomb :
Soft when her curving lips it left ;
Then rising till the heavens were cleft,
As though each strain, on high expanding,
Were echoed in a silver dome.
She loves to say she ne’er can love.
To me her beauty she denies, —
Bending the while on me those eyes,
Whose beams might charm the mountain leopard,
Or lure Jove’s herald from above ! ”
Below the following exquisite bit of melody is written, “ Never was any sonnet so beautiful.”
(This heart in happy bondage held so long)
Began to sing. At first a gentle fear
Rosied her countenance, for she is young,
And he who loves her most of all was near :
But when at last her voice grew full and strong,
O, from their ambush sweet, how rich and clear
Bubbled the notes abroad, — a rapturous throng !
Her little hands were sometimes flung apart,
And sometimes palm to palm together prest;
While wave-like blushes rising from her breast
Kept time with that aerial melody,
As music to the sight !— I standing nigh
Received the falling fountain in my heart.”
“ What sonnet of Petrarca equals this ? ” he says of the following : —
Parting the hair upon thy forehead white ;
For them the sky is bluer and more bright,
And purer their thanksgivings rise to Heaven.
Happy are they to whom thy songs are given ;
Happy are they on whom thy hands alight;
And happiest they for whom thy prayers at night
1 tr tender piety so oft have striven.
Away with vain regrets and selfish sighs !
Even I, dear friend, am lonely, not unblest:
Permitted sometimes on that form to gaze,
Or feel the light of those consoling eyes, —
If but a moment on my cheek It stays,
I know that gentle beam from all the rest ! ”
“ Like Shakespeare’s, but better, is this allegory: —
Ah, give it not, but lend it me ; and say
That you will ofttimes ask me to repay,
But never to restore it : so shall we,
Retaining, still bestow perpetually :
So shall I ask thee for it every day,
Securely as for daily bread we pray :
So all of favor, naught of right shall be.
The joy which now is mine shall leave me never.
Indeed, I have deserved it not; and yet
No painful blush is mine, —so soon my face
Blushing is hid in that beloved embrace.
Remembering thee alone, and thee forever ! ”
“ Worthy of Raleigh and like him,” is Landor’s preface to the following sonnet: —
And music, if the Muse were dear to thee ;
(For loving these would make thee love the bearer.)
But sweetest songs forget their melody,
And loveliest flowers would but conceal the
A rose I marked, and might have plucked; but
Blushed as she bent, imploring me to spare her,
Nor spoil her beauty by such rivalry.
Alas ! and with what gifts shall I pursue thee,
What offerings bring, what treasures lay before
When earth with all her floral train doth woo thee,
And all old poets and old songs adore thee.
And love to thee is naught, from passionate mood
Secured by joy’s complacent plenitude ! ”
Occasionally Landor indulges in a little humorous indignation, particularly in his remarks on the poem of which Coleridge is the hero. De Vere’s lines end thus : —
“And let me nap on,” wrote the august critic, who had no desire to meet Coleridge, even as a celestial being.
Now and then there is a dash of the pencil across some final verse, with the remark, “ Better without these.” Twice or thrice Landor finds fault with a word. He objects to the expression, “eyes so fair,” sayingfair is a bad word for eyes.
The subject of Latin being one day mentioned, Landor very eagerly proposed that I should study this language with him.
The thought was awful, and I expostulated. “ But, Mr. Landor, you who are so noble a Latinist can never have the patience to instruct such a stumbling scholar.”
“ I insist upon it. You shall be my first pupil,” he said, laughing at the idea of beginning to teach in his extreme old age. “It will give the old man something to do.”
“But you will get very tired of me, Mr. Landor.”
“Well, well, I 'll tell you when I am tired. You say you have a grammar ; then I 'll bring along with me to-morrow something to read.”
True to his promise, the “old pedagogue,” for so he was wont to call himself, made his appearance with a timeworn Virgil under his arm,—a Virgil that in 1809 was the property, according to much pen and ink scribbling, of one “John Prince, ætat. 12. College School, Hereford.”
“ Now, then, for our lesson,” Landor exclaimed, in a cheery voice. “ Giallo knows all about it, and quite approves of the arrangement. Don’t you, Giallo ? ” And the wise dog wagged his sympathetic tail, jumped up on his master’s knees, and put his fore paws around Landor’s neck. “ There, you see, he gives consent ; for this is the way Giallo expresses approbation,”
The kindness and amiability of my teacher made me forget his greatness, and I soon found myself reciting with as much ease as if there had been nothing strange in the affair. He was very patient, and never found fault with me, but his criticisms on my Latin grammar were frequent and severe. “It is strange,” he would mutter, “that men cannot do things properly. There is no necessity for this rule ; it only confuses the pupil. That note is absurd ; this, unintelligible. Grammars should be made more comprehensible.”
Expressing a preference for the Italian method of pronunciation, I dared to say that it seemed to be the most correct, inasmuch as the Italian language was but bastard Latin. The master, however, would not listen to such heresy, and declared that, with the exception of the French, the Italian was the worst possible pronunciation to adopt; that the German method was the most correct, and after that came the English.
It was only a few hours after the termination of our first lesson that Landor’s little maid entered the room laden with old folios, which she deposited with the following pleasant note:—“As my young friend is willing to become a grammarian, an old fellow sends her for her gracious acceptance these books tending to that purpose.” I was made rich, indeed, by this generous donation, for there were a ponderous Latin Dictionary interspersed with Greek notes in Landor’s handwriting, a curious old Italian and French Dictionary of 1692, — published at Paris, “per uso del Serenissimo Delfino,”—-a Greek Grammar, and a delightfully rare and musty old Latin Grammar by Emmanuel Alvarus, the Jesuit, carefully annotated by Landor. Then, too, there was a valuable edition, in two volumes, of Annibal Caro’s Italian translation of the Æneid, published at Paris in 1760, by permission of “ Louis, par le grace de Dieu Roi de France et de Navarre,” and very copiously illustrated by Zocchi. Two noble coats of-arms adorn its fly-leaves, those of the Right Honorable Lady Mary Louther and of George, Earl of Macartney, Knight of the Order of the White Eagle and of the Bath.
The lessons, as pleasant as they were profitable, were given several times a week for many weeks, and would have been continued still longer had not a change of residence on our part rendered frepuent meetings impossible. On each appointed day Landor entered the room with a bouquet of camellias or roses, — the products of his little garden, in which he took great pride, — and, after presenting it with a graceful speech, turned to the Latin books with infinite gusto, as though they reflected upon him the light of other days. No voice could be better adapted to the reading of Latin than that of Landor, who uttered the words with a certain majestic flow, and sounding, cataract-like falls and plunges of music. Occasionally he would touch upon the subject of Greek.
“ I wonder whether I ’ve forgotten all my Greek,” he said one day. “ It is so long since I have written a word of it that I doubt if I can remember the alphabet. Let me see.” He took up pen and paper, and from Alpha to Omega traced every letter with far more distinctness than he would have written the English alphabet. “Why, Landor,” he exclaimed, looking with no little satisfaction on the work before him, “ you have not grown as foolish as I thought. You know your letters,— which proves that you are in your second childhood, does it not?” he asked, smiling, and turning to me.
After my recitation he would lean back in the arm-chair and relate anecdotes of great men and women to a small, but deeply interested audience of three, including Giallo. A few welltimed questions were quite sufficient to open his inexhaustible reservoir of reminiscences. Nor had Landor reason to complain of his memory in so far as the dim past was concerned; for, one morning, reference having been made to Monk Lewis’s poem of “Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogene,” he recited it in cadences from beginning to end, without the slightest hesitation or the tripping of a word. “ W ell, this is indeed astonishing,” he said at its conclusion ; “ I have not thought of that poem for thirty years ! ”
Landor was often very brilliant. At Sienna, during the summer of 1860, an American lady having expressed a desire to meet him the following season, he replied, “Ah, by that time I shall have gone farther and fared worse ! " Sometimes, when we were all in a particularly merry mood, Landor would indulge in impromptu doggerel “ to please Giallo ” ! Absurd couplets would come thick and fast,—so fast that it was impossible to remember them.
Advising me with regard to certain rules in my Latin Grammar he exclaimed,
What you want not, leave behind.’'
Whereupon Giallo walked up to his master and caressed his hand. “ Why, Giallo,” added Landor, “your nose is hot, but
Dogs are ill that have hot noses ! "
Attention being directed to several letters received by Landor from wellmeaning but intensely orthodox friends, who were extremely anxious that he should join the Church in order to be saved from perdition, he said : “ They are very kind, but I cannot be redeemed in that way.
I will not call on you, friend Hoil ;
And I think that I shall do,
My good Tompkins, without you.
But I pray you, charming Kate,
You will come, but not too late.”
“ How wicked you are, Mr. Landor ! ”
I replied, laughingly. “ It is well that I am not orthodox.”
I should be in the wrong box ! ”
was the ready response.
Landor held orthodoxy in great horror, having no faith in creeds which set up the highly comfortable doctrine, “ I am holier than thou, for I am in the Church.” “Ah ! I have given dear, good friends great pain because of my obstinacy. They would have me believe as they do, which is utterly impossible.” By Church, Landor did not mean religion, nor did he pass judgment on those who in sincerity embraced any particular faith, but claimed for himself perfect freedom of opinion, and gave as much to others. In his paper on “Popery, British and Foreign,” Landor freely expresses himself. “ The people, by their own efforts, will sweep away the gross inequalities now obstructing the church-path, — will sweep away from amidst the habitations of the industrious the moral cemeteries, the noisome markets around the house of God, whatever be the selfish interests that
stubbornly resist the operation....
It would grieve me to foresee a day when our cathedrals and our churches shall be demolished or desecrated ; when the tones of the organ, when the symphonies of Handel, no longer swell and reverberate along the groined roof and dim windows. But let old superstitions crumble into dust ; let Faith, Hope, and Charity be simple in their attire ; let few and solemn words be spoken before Him ‘to whom all hearts are open, all desires known.’ Principalities and powers belong not to the service of the Crucified; and religion can never be pure, never ‘ of good report,’ among those who usurp or covet them.”
Landor was no exception to the generality of Protestants in Italy, who become imbued with a profound aversion to Romanism, while retaining great respect and regard for individual members of its clergy. He never passed one of the preti that he did not open his batteries, pouring grape and canister of sarcasm and indignation on the retreating enemy, — “ rascally beetles,” “ human vampires,” “ Satan’s imps.” “Italy never can be free as long as these locusts, worse than those of Egypt, infest the land. They are as plentiful as fleas, and as great a curse,” he exclaimed one day. “ They are fleas demoralized ” he added, with a laugh.
“It is reported that Pio Nono is not long for this world,” I said, on another occasion. “ Erysipelas is supposed to have settled in his legs.'
“ Ah, yes,” Landor replied, “ he has been on his last legs for some time, but depend upon it they are legs that will last. The Devil is always good to his own, you know ! ”
In Italy the advanced party will not allow virtue in the Pope even as a man. A story is told, that when, as the Cardinal Mastai Ferretti, he was made Pontiff, his sister threw up her hands and exclaimed, “ Guai a Roma ! ” (Woe to Rome !) “ Se non è vero è ben trovato.” And this is told in spite of Mrs. Kemble’s story of the conversation which took place between the Cardinals Micara and Lambruschini prior to this election, in which the former remarked: “If the powers of darkness preside over the election, you ’ll be Pope ; if the people had a voice, I ’m the man ; but if Heaven has a finger in the business, ’t will be Ferretti ! ” Apropos of Popes, Landor writes : “ If the Popes are the servants of God, it must be confessed that God has been very unlucky in the choice of his household. So many and so atrocious thieves, liars, and murderers are not to be found in any other trade ; much less would you look for them at the head of it.” And because of faithless servants Landor has wisely made Boccaccio say of Rome: “ She, I think, will be the last city to rise from the dead.”
“ How surprised St. Peter would be,” continued Landor, — resuming our conversation, which I have thus parenthetically interrupted, — “how surprised he would be to return to earth and find his apostolic successors living in such a grand house as the Vatican. Ah, they are jolly fishermen ! — Landor, Landor! how can you be so wicked ? ” he said, checking himself with mock seriousness ; “ Giallo does not approve of such levity. He tells me he is a good Catholic, for he always refuses meat on Friday, even when I offer him a tempting bit. He is a pious dog, and will intercede for his naughty old Padrone when he goes to heaven.”
A young friend of mine, Charles C. Coleman, an art-student in Italy, having visited Landor, was struck by the nobility of his head, and expressed a wish to make a study of it. To fulfil such a desire, however, was difficult, inasmuch as Landor had an inherent objection to having his likeness taken either by man or the sun. Not long before the artist’s visit, Mr. Browning had persuaded him to sit for his photograph, but no less a person could have induced the old man to mount the numberless steps which seem to be a necessary condition of photography. This sitting was most satisfactory ; and to Mr. Browning’s zealous friendship is due the likeness by which the octogenarian Landor will probably be known to the world. Finding him in unusually good spirits one day, I dubiously and gradually approached the subject.
“ Mr. Landor, do you remember the young artist who called on you one day ? ”
" Yes, and a nice fellow he seemed to be.”
“ He was greatly taken with your head.”
(Humorously.) “ You are quite sure he was not smitten with my face ? ”
“ No, I am not sure, for he expressed himself enthusiastically about your beard. He says you are a fine subject for a study.”
“ Would you allow him to make a sketch of you, Mr. Landor ? He is exceedingly anxious to do so.”
“No; I do not wish my face to be public property. I detest this publicity that men now-a-days seem to be so fond of. There is a painting of me in England. D’Orsay, too, made a drawing of me " (I think he said drawing) “once when I was visiting Gore House, — a very good thing it was too, — and there is a bust executed by Gibson when I was in Rome. These are quite sufficient. I have often been urged to allow my portrait to be inserted in my books, but never would I give my consent.” (Notwithstanding this assertion, it may be found in the “ Last Fruit.”) “ It is a custom that I detest.”
“ But, Mr. Landor, you had your photograph taken lately.”
“ That was to oblige my good friend Browning, who has been so exceedingly kind and attentive to me. I could not refuse him.”
“ But, Mr. Landor, this is entirely between ourselves. It does not concern the public in the least. My friend wants to make a study of your head, and I want the study.”
“ O, the painting is for you, is it ? ”
“ Yes. I want to have something of you in oil colors.”
“ Ah, to be sure! the old creature’s complexion is so fresh and fair. Well,
I ’ll tell you what I will do. Your friend may come, provided you come with him, — and act as chaperon ! ” This was said laughingly.
“ That I will do with pleasure.”
“ But stop ! ” added Landor after a pause. “ I must be taken without my beard ! ”
“ O no ! Mr. Landor. That cannot be. Why, you will spoil the picture. You won t look like a patriarch without a beard.”
“ I ordered my barber to come and shear me to-morrow. The weather is getting to be very warm, and a heavy beard is exceedingly uncomfortable. I must be shaved to-morrow.”
“ Pray countermand the order, dear Mr. Landor. Do retain your beard until the picture is completed. You will not be obliged to wait long. We shall all be so disappointed if you don’t.”
“ Well, well, I suppose I must submit.”
And thus the matter was amicably arranged, to our infinite satisfaction.
Those sittings were very pleasant to the artist and his chaperon, and were not disagreeable, I think, to the model. Seated in his arm-chair, with his back to the window that the light might fall on the top of his head and form a sort of glory, Landor looked every inch a seer, and would entertain us with interesting though unseerlike recollections, while the artist was busy with his brush.
Putting out his foot one day, he said, “Who could suppose that that ugly old foot had ever been good-looking ? Yet they say it was once. When I was in Rome, an artist came to me, and asked to take a cast of my foot and leg.”
“Ah, Mr. Landor, you don’t know how good-looking you might be now, if you would get a new suit of clothes and a nice pair of boots.”
“ No, no. I never intend to buy anything more for myself. My old clothes are quite good enough. They are all-sufficient for this world, and in the next I sha’n’t need any ; that is, if we are to believe what we are told.”
“ But, indeed, Mr. Landor. you really ought to get a new cap.”
“No, the one I wear is quite grand enough. I may have it made over. Napier gave it to me, ’ (I think he said Napier.) “ and for that reason I value it.”
“ Mr. Landor, you do look like a lion,” I said at another time.
He smiled and replied, “ You are not the only person who has said so. One day, when Napier was dining with me, he threw himself back in his chair, exclaiming, with a hearty laugh, ‘Zounds ! Landor, I’ve just discovered a resemblance. You look like an old lion.' ”
“ That was a compliment, Mr. Landor. The lion is the king of beasts.”
“ Yes, but he’s only a beast after all,” was the quick retort.
Landor always spoke with enthusiasm of General Sir William Napier, and in fact lavished praise upon all the family. It was to General Napier that he dedicated his “ Hellenics,” published in 1859, wherein he pays the following chivalric tribute: “An illustrious man ordered it to be inscribed on his monument, that he was the friend of Sir Philip Sidney ; an obscurer one can but leave this brief memorial, that he was the friend of Sir William Napier.” Not long after the conversation last referred to, Landor said, very sadly, as he welcomed us, “ I have just heard of the death of my dear old friend Napier. Why could not I have been taken, and he left ? I have lived too long.”
The portrait was soon painted, for Landor, with great patience and goodnature, would pose for an hour and a half at a time. Then, rising, he would say by way of conclusion to the day’s work, “ Now it is time for a little refreshment.” After talking awhile longer, and partaking of cake and wine, we would leave to meet a few days later. This was the last time Landor sat for his picture.
Landor could never have .greatly admired Italian music, although he spoke in high praise of the singing of Catalani, a prima donna whom he knew and liked personally. He was always ready to point out the absurdity of many operatic situations and conventionalities, and often confessed that he had been rarely to the theatre. But that he was exceedingly fond of old English, Scotch, and German ballads, I had the best possible evidence. Frequently he entered our rooms, saying playfully, “ I wish to make a bargain with you. I will give you these flowers if you will give me a song! ” I was only too happy to comply, thinking the flowers very cheaply purchased. While I sang Italian cavatinas, Landor remained away from the piano, pleased, but not satisfied. At their conclusion he used to exclaim, “ Now for an English ballad! ” and would seat himself beside the piano, saying, “ I must get nearer to hear the words. These old deaf ears treat me shabbily ! ” “ Kathleen Mavourneen,” Schubert’s “ Ave Maria,” and “ Within a Mile of Edinboro’ Town,” were great favorites with him ; but “ Auld Robin Gray ” came first in his affections and was the ballad he always asked for. Upon first hearing it, the tears streamed down his face, and with a sigh he said : “ I have not heard that for many, many years. It takes me back to very happy days, when — used to sing to me. Ah, you did not know what thoughts you were recalling to the troublesome old man.” As I turned over the leaves he added, “ Ah, Landor ! when you were younger, you knew how to turn over the leaves : you’ve forgotten all your accomplishments ! ”
Apropos of old songs, Landor has laid his offering upon their neglected altar. I shall not forget that evening at Casa Guidi — I can forget no evening passed there —when, just as the tea was being placed upon the table, Robert Browning turned to Landor, who was that night’s honored guest, gracefully thanked him for his defence of old songs, and, opening the “ Last Fruit, read in his clear, manly voice the following passages from the Idyls of Theocritus : “ We often hear that such or such a thing ' is not worth an old song.’ Alas ! how very few things are ! What precious recollections do some of them awaken ! what pleasurable tears do they excite ! They purify the stream of life ; they can delay it on its shelves and rapids ; they can turn it back again to the soft moss amidst which its sources issue.”
"Ah, you are kind,” replied the gratified author. “ You always find out the best bits in my books.”
I have never seen anything of its kind so chivalric as the deference paid by Robert Browning to Walter Savage Landor. It was loyal homage rendered by a poet in all the glow of power and impulsive magnetism to an “old master.”
Landor often berated the custom of dinner-parties. " I dislike large dinners exceedingly. This herding together of men and women for the purpose of eating, this clatter of knives and forks, is barbarous. What can be more horrible than to see and hear a person talking with his mouth full ? But Landor has strange notions, has he not, Giallo ? In fact Padrone is a fool if we may believe what folks say. Once, while walking near my villa at Fiesole, I overheard quite a flattering remark about myself, made by one contadino to another. My beloved countrymen had evidently been the subject of conversation, and, as the two fellows approached my grounds, one of them pointed towards the villa and exclaimed : ' Tutti gli Inglesi sono pazzi, ma questo poi !’ (All the English are mad, — but this one !) Words were too feeble to express the extent of my lunacy, and so both men shrugged their shoulders as only Italians can. Yes, Giallo, those contadini pitied your old master, and I dare say they were quite right.”
While talking one day about Franklin, Landor said : “Ah, Franklin was a great man ; and I can tell you an anecdote of him that has never been in print, and which I had directly from a personal friend of Franklin’s, who was acting as private secretary to Lord Auckland, the English ambassador at Paris during Franklin’s visit to the French Court. On one occasion, when Franklin presented himself before Louis, he was most cavalierly treated by the king, whereupon Lord Auckland took it upon himself to make impertinent speeches, and, notwithstanding Franklin’s habitually courteous manners, sneered at his appearing in court dress. Upon Franklin’s return home, he was met by-, who, being much attached to him, — a bit of a republican, too,— was anxious to learn the issue of the visit. 'I was received badly enough,’ said Franklin. ' Your master, Lord Auckland, was very insolent. I am not quite sure that, among other things, he did not call me a rebel.’ Then, taking off his court coat, which, after carefully folding and laying upon the sofa, he stroked, he muttered, ' Lie there now; you ’ll see better days yet.’ ”
Being asked if he had ever seen Daniel Webster, Landor replied, "I once met Mr. Webster at a dinner-party. We sat next each other, and had a most agreeable conversation. Finally Mr. Webster asked me if I would have taken him for an American ; and I answered, ' Yes, for the best of Americans ! ’ ”
Landor had met Talma, " who spoke English most perfectly,” — had been in the society of Mrs. Siddons, " who was not at all clever in private,”—had conversed with Mrs. Jordan, " and a most handsome and agreeable woman she was ; but that scoundrel, William IV., treated her shamefully. He even went so far as to appropriate the money she received on her benefit nights.” Malibran, too, Landor described as being most fascinating off the stage.
"I never studied German,” he remarked at another time. "I was once in Germany four months, but conversed with the professors in Latin. Their Latin was grammatical, but very like dogLatin for all that. What an offence to dogs, if they only knew it!” Then, lowering his voice, he laughingly added, "I hope Giallo did not hear me. I would not offend him for the world. A German Baroness attempted to induce me to learn her language, and read aloud German poetry for my benefit; but the noise was intolerable to me.
It sounded like a great wagon banging over a pavement of boulders. It was very ungrateful in me not to learn, for my fair teacher paid me many pretty compliments. Yes, Giallo, Padrone has had pleasant things said to him in his day. But the greatest compliment I ever received was from Lord Dudley. Being confined to his bed by illness at Bologna, a friend read aloud to him my imaginary conversation between the two Ciceros. Upon its conclusion, the reader exclaimed, ' Is not that exactly what Cicero would have said ? ' ' Yes,
if he could!' was Lord Dudley’s answer. Now was not that a compliment worth having ?"
One day when I was sitting with Landor, and he, as usual, was discoursing of “lang syne,” he rose, saying, “ Stop a bit ; I 've something to show you,” — and, leaving the room for a moment, returned with a small writingdesk, looking as old as himself. " Now I want you to look at something I have here,” he continued, seating himself and opening the desk. “There, what do you think of that ?" he asked, handing me a miniature of a very lovely woman.
“ 1 think the original must have been exceedingly handsome.”
"Ah, yes, she was,” he replied, with a sigh, leaning back in his chair. "That is the ' Ianthe ' of my poems."
"I can well understand why she inspired your muse, Mr. Landor."
"Ah, she was far more beautiful than her picture, but much she cared for my poetry! It could n’t be said that she liked me for my books. She, too, has gone, — gone before me.”
It is to " Ianthe ” that the first seventy-five of his verses marked " Miscellaneous " are addressed, and it is of her he has written, —
That we may dream when we are dead,
But I am far from sure we do.
O that it were so ! then my rest
Would he indeed among the blest;
I should forever dream of you.”
In the " Heroic Idyls,” also, there are lines
“ON THE DEATH OF IANTHE.
It seems to feel a portion of my woe,
And makes me credulous that trees and stones
At mournful fates have uttered mournful tones.
While I look back again on days long past,
How gladly would I yours might be my last !
Sad Our first severance was, but sadder this,
When death forbids one hour of mutual bliss.”
"Ianthe’s portrait is not the only treasure this old desk contains, Landor said, as he replaced it and took up a small package, very carefully tied, which he undid with great precaution, as though the treasure had wings and might escape, if not well guarded. “ There !" he said, holding up a penwiper made of red and gold stuff in the shape of a bell with an ivory handle, —“that pen-wiper was given to me
by— Rose’s sister, forty years ago.
Would you believe it ? Have I not kept it well ?" The pen-wiper looked as though it had been made the day before, so fresh was it. " Now,” continued Landor, “ I intend to give that to you.”
“But, Mr. Landor—"
“ Tut ! tut ! there are to be no buts about it. My passage for another world is already engaged, and I know you 'll take good care of my keepsake. There, now, put it in your pocket, and only use it on grand occasions.”
Into my pocket the pen-wiper went, and, wrapped in the same old paper, it lies in another desk, as free from ink as it was four years ago.
Who Rose was no reader of Landor need be told, — she to whom “ Andrea of Hungary” was dedicated, and of whom Lady Blessington, in one of her letters to Landor, wrote : " The tuneful bird, inspired of old by the Persian rose, warbled not more harmoniously its praise than you do that of the English Rose, whom posterity will know through your beautiful verses.” Many and many a time the gray-bearded poet related incidents of which this English Rose was the heroine, and for the moment seemed to live over again an interesting episode of his mature years.
"Dear ! dear ! what is the old creature to do for reading-matter?” Landor exclaimed after having exhausted his own small stock and my still smaller one. “ Shakespeare and Milton are my daily food, but at times, you know, we require side-dishes,”
“Why not subscribe to Vieusseux’s Library, Mr. Landor?”
“Thatwould be the best thing to do, would it not ? Very well, you shall secure me a six months’ subscription tomorrow. And now what shall I read ? When Mr. Anthony Trollope was here, he called on me with his brother, and a clever man he appeared to be. I have never read anything of his. Suppose I begin with his novels ?”
And so it happened that Landor read all of Anthony Trollope's works with zest, admiring them for their unaffected honesty of purpose and truth to nature. He next read Hood's works, and when this writer’s poems were returned to me there came with them a scrap of paper on which were named the poems that had most pleased their reader.
“ Song of a Shirt.
“To my Daughter.
“A Chi Id embracing.
“ My Heart is sick.
“ False Poets and True.
“ The Forsaken.
“ The last stanza of Inez is beautiful.”
Of the poem which heads the list, he wrote: —
This shirt will never want a change,
Nor ever will wear out so long
As Britain has a heart or tongue.”
Hood commanded great love and respect from Landor. Soon the reign of G. P. R. James set in. and when I left Florence he was still in power. I cannot but think that a strong personal friendship had much to do with Landor’s enthusiasm for this novelist.
We took many drives with Landor during the spring and summer of 1861, and made very delightful jaunts into the country. Not forgetful in the least of things, the old man. in spite of his age, would always insist upon taking the front seat, and was more active than many a younger man in assisting us in and out of the carriage. “ You are the most genuinely polite man I know,” once wrote Lady Plessington to him. The verdict of 1840 could not have been overruled twenty-one years later. Once we drove up to “aerial Fiesole,” and never can I forget Landor’s manner while in the neighborhood of his former home. It had been proposed that we should turn back when only half-way up the hill. “ Ah, go a little farther,” Landor said nervously; “ I should like to see my villa.” Of course his wish was our pleasure, and so the drive was continued, Landor sat immovable, with head turned in the direction of the Villa Gherardesca. At first sight of it he gave a sudden start, and genuine tears filled his eyes and coursed down his cheeks. “There’s where I lived,” he said, breaking a long silence and pointing to his old estate. Still we mounted the hill, and when at a turn in the road the villa stood out before us clearly and distinctly, Landor said, “ Let us give the horses a rest here ! ” We stopped, and for several minutes Landor’s gaze was fixed upon the villa. “ There now, we can return to Florence, if you like,” he murmured, finally, with a deep sigh. “ I have seen it probably for the last time.” Hardly a word was spoken during the drive home. Landor seemed to be absentminded, A sadder, more pathetic picture than he made during this memorable drive is rarely seen. “With me life has been a failure,” was the expression of that wretched, worn face. Those who believe Landor to have been devoid of heart should have seen him then.
During another drive he stopped the horses at the corner of a dirty little old street, and, getting out of the carriage, hurriedly disappeared round a corner, leaving us without explanation and consequently in amazement. We had not long to wait, however, as he soon appeared carrying a large roll of canvas. “ There ! ” he exclaimed, as he again seated himself, “I ’ve made a capital bargain. I’ve long wanted these paintings, but the man asked more than I could give. To-day he relented. They are very clever, and I shall have them framed.” Alas ! they were not clever, and Landor in his last days had queer notions concerning art. That he was excessively fond of pictures is undoubtedly true ; he surrounded himself with them, but there was far more quantity than quality about them. He frequently attributed very bad paintings to very good masters ; and it by no means followed because he called a battle-piece a “ Salvator Rosa,” that it was painted by Salvator. But the old man was tenacious of his art opinions, and it was unwise to argue the point.
The notes which I possess in Landor's handwriting are numerous, but they are of too personal a character to interest the public. Sometimes he signs himself “ The Old Creature,” at another, “The Restless Old Man,” and once, “Your Beardless Old Friend.” This was after the painting of his portrait, when he had himself shorn of half his patriarchal grandeur. The day previous to the fatal deed, he entered our room saying, “ I’ve just made an arrangement with my barber to shear me to-morrow. I must have a clean face during the summer.”
“ I wish you had somewhat of the Oriental reverence for beards, Mr. Landor, for then there would be no shaving. Why, think of it ! if you’ve no beard, how can you swear?”
“ Ah, Padrone can swear tolerably well without it, can he not, Giallo ? he will have no difficulty on that score. Now I ’ll wager, were I a young man, you would ask me for a lock of my hair. See what it is to be old and gray.”
“ Why, Mr. Landor, I’ve long wanted just that same, but have not dared to ask for it. May I cut off a few stray hairs ? ” I asked, going toward him with a pair of scissors.
“ Ah no,” he replied, quizzically, “ there can be but one ‘ Rape of the Lock ! ’ Let me be my own barber.’ Taking the scissors, he cut off the longest curl of his snow-white beard, enclosed it in an envelope with a Greek superscription, and, presenting it, said, “ One of these days, when I have gone to my long sleep, this bit of an old pagan may interest some very good Christians.”
The following note is worthy to be transcribed, showing, as it does, the generosity of his nature at a time when he had nothing to give away but ideas.
“ MY DEAR FRIEND,—Will you think it worth your while to transcribe the enclosed ? These pages I have corrected and enlarged. Some of them you have never seen. They have occupied more of my time and trouble, and are now more complete, than anything you have favored me by reading. I hope you will be pleased. I care less about others. .... I hope you will get something for these articles, and keep it. I am richer by several crowns than you suspect, and I must scramble to the kingdom of Heaven, to which a full pocket, we learn, is an impediment.
“ Ever truly yours,
W. S. L.”
The manuscripts contained the two conversations between Homer and Laertes which two years ago were published in the “ Heroic Idyls.” I did not put them to the use desired by their author. Though my copies differ somewhat from the printed ones, it is natural to conclude that Landor most approved of what was last submitted to his inspection, and would not desire to be seen in any other guise. The publicity of a note prefixed to one of these conversations, however, is warranted.
“It will be thought audacious, and most so by those who know the least of Homer, to represent him as talking so familiarly. He must often have done it, as Milton and Shakespeare did. There is homely talk in the 'Odyssey.’
“ Fashion turns round like Fortune. Twenty years hence, perhaps, this conversation of Homer and Laertes, in which for the first time Greek domestic manners have been represented by any modern poet, may be recognized and approved.
“ Our sculptors and painters frequently take their subjects from antiquity; are our poets never to pass beyond the mediaeval ? At our own doors we listen to the affecting ‘ Song of the Shirt ’; but some few of us, at the end of it, turn back to catch the ' Song of the Sirens.’
“ Poetry is not tied to chronology. The Roman poet brings Dido and Æneas together, — the historian parts them far asunder. Homer may or may not have been the contemporary of Laertes. Nothing is idler or more dangerous than to enter a labyrinth without a clew.”
At last the time came when there were to be no more conversations, no more drives, with Walter Savage Landor. Summoned suddenly to America, we called upon him three or four days before our departure to say good by.
“What? going to America?” Landor exclaimed in a sorrowful voice. “ Is it really true ? Must the old creature lose his young friends as well as his old ? Ah me ! ah me ! what will become of Giallo and me ? And America in the condition that it is too ! But this is not the last time that I am to see you. Tut! tut! now no excuses. We must have one more drive, one more cup of tea together before you leave.”
Pressed as we were for time, it was still arranged that we should drive with Landor the evening previous to our departure. On the morning of this day came the following note : —
“ I am so stupid that everything puzzles me. Is not this the day I was to expect your visit ? At all events you will have the carriage at your door at six this evening.
To drive or not to drive,
That is the question.
You shall not be detained one halfhour,— but tea will be ready on your arrival.
“I fell asleep after the jolting, and felt no bad effect. See what it is to be so young.
“ Ever yours affectionately,
“ W. S. L.”
There was little to cheer any of us in that last drive, and few words were spoken. Stopping at his house on our way home, we sipped a final cup of tea in almost complete silence. I tried to say merry things and look forward a few years to another meeting, but the old man shook his head sadly, saying : “ I shall never see you again. I cannot live through another winter, nor do I desire to. Life to me is but a counterpart of Dead Sea fruit; and now that you are going away, there is one less link to the chain that binds me.”
Landor, in the flood-tide of intellect and fortune, could command attention ; Landor, tottering with an empty purse towards his ninth decade, could count his Florentine friends in one breath ; thus it happened that the loss of the least of these made the old man sad.
At last the hour of leave-taking arrived. Culling a flower from the little garden, taking a final turn through those three little rooms, patting Giallo on the head, who, sober through sympathy, looked as though he wondered what it all meant, we turned to Landor, who entered the front room dragging an immense alburn after him. It was the same that he had bought years before of Barker, the English artist, for fifty guineas, and about which previous mention has been made. “ You are not to get rid of me yet,” said Landor, bearing the album toward the stairs. “ I shall see you home, and bid you good by at your own door.”
“ But, dear Mr. Landor, what are you doing with that big book ? You will surely injure yourself by attempting to carry it.”
“ This album is intended for you, and you must take it with you tonight.”
Astonished at this munificent present, I hardly knew how to refuse it without offending the generous giver. Stopping him at the cloor, I endeavored to dissuade him from giving away so valuable an album ; and, finding him resolute in his determination, begged him to compromise by leaving it to me in his will.
"No, my dear,” he replied, “ I at least have lived long enough to know that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Whereupon he carried the book down stairs and deposited it in the carriage, deaf to our entreaties, and obstinately refusing assistance. “ Now I am sure that you will have the album,” he continued, after we were all seated in the carriage. “A will is an uncanny thing, and I ’d rather remember my friends out of one than in one.
I shall never see you again, and I want you to think of the foolish old creature occasionally.”
The carriage stopped at our door, and " the good by ” came. “ May God bless you ! ” murmured the lonely old man, and in a moment Walter Savage Landor was out of sight.
He was right. We were never to meet again. Distance did not entirely sever the friendly link, however, for soon there came to me, across the sea, the following letters : —
August 28, 1861.
“By this time, my dear friend, you will be far on your way over the Atlantic, and before you receive the scribble now before you, half your friends will have offered you their congratulations on your return home.
“ People, I hear, are flocking fast into Florence for the exhibition. This evening I received another kind note from the Countess, who tells me that she shall return to Florence on Saturday, and invites me to accompany her there. But I abhor all crowds, and am not fascinated by the eye of kings. I never saw him of Italy when he was here before, and shall not now.
“ I am about to remove my terrace, and to place it under the window of the small bedroom, substituting a glass door for the present window. On this terrace I shall spend all my October days, and — and —all my money! The landlord will not allow one shilling toward the expense, which will make his lower rooms lighter and healthier. To him the advantage will be permanent, — to me (God knows) it must be very temporary. In another summer I shall not sit so high, nor, indeed, sit anywhere, but take instead the easiest and laziest of all positions.
“ I am continuing to read the noble romances of my friend James. I find in them thoughts as profound as any in Charron, or Montaigne, or Bacon, — I had almost added, or Shakespeare himself,—the wisest of men, as the greatest of poets. On the morning after your departure I finished the 'Philip Augustus.’ In the thirty-eighth chapter is this sentence : ‘ O Isidore ! 't is not the present, I believe, that ever makes our misery ; 't is its contrast with the past; ’t is the loss of some hope, or the crushing of some joy ; the disappointment of expectation, or the regrets of memory. The present is nothing, nothing, nothing, but in its relation to the future or the past.’ James is inferior to Scott in wit and humor, but more than his equal in many other respects ; but then Scott wrote excellent poetry, in which James, when he attempted it, failed.
“ Let me hear how affairs are going on in America. I believe we have truer accounts from England than your papers are disposed to publish. Louis Napoleon is increasing his naval force to a degree it never reached before. We must have war with him before a twelvemonth is over. He will also make disturbances in Louisiana, claiming it on the dolorous cry of France for her lost children. They will invite him, as the poor Savoyards were invited by him to do. So long as this perfidious scoundrel exists there will be no peace or quiet in any quarter of the globe. The Tope is heartily sick of intervention ; but nothing can goad his fat sides into a move.
“ Are you not tired ? My wrist is. So adieu.
“ Ever affectionately,
“W. S. L.”
with this letter came a slip of paper, on which were these lines : —
Plainly I read it in thy face,
Thou wishest me to mount the stairs,
And leave behind me all my cares.
No : I shall never see again,
Her who now sails across the main,
Nor wilt thou ever as before
Rear two white feet against her door.”
“ Written opposite Palazzo Pitti,
“ February 15, 1862.
“. . . . The affairs of your country interest me painfully. The Northern States had acknowledged the right of the Southern to hold slaves, and had even been so iniquitous as to surrender a fugitive from his thraldom. I would propose an accommodation: —
“ 1. That every slave should be free after ten years’ labor.
“2. That none should be imported, or sold, or separated from wife and children.
“3. That an adequate portion of land should be granted in perpetuity to the liberated.
“ The proprietor would be fully indemnified for his purchase by ten years’ labor. France and England will not permit their commerce with the Southern States to be interrupted much longer. It has caused great discontent in Manchester and Leeds, where the artificers suffer grievously from want of employment.
“. . . . May you continue to improve in health as the warmer weather advances. Mine wili notallow me to hope for many more months of life, but I shall always remember you, and desire that you also will remember
“W. S. LANDOR.”
“ January, 1863.
“. . . . Your account of your improved health is very satisfactory and delightful to me. Hardly can I expect to receive many such. This month I enter on my eighty-ninth year, and am growing blind and deaf. .... I hope you may live long enough to see the
end of your disastrous civil war. Remember, the Southrons are fighting for their acknowledged rights, as established by the laws of the United States. Horrible is the idea that one man should be lord and master of another. But Washington had slaves, so had the President his successor. I f your government had been contented to decree that no slave henceforth should be imported, none sold, none disunited from his family, your Northern cause would be more popular in England and throughout Europe than it is. You are about to see detached from the Union a third of the white population. Is it not better that the blacks should be contented slaves than exasperated murderers or drunken vagabonds ? Your blacks were generally more happy than they were in Africa, or than they are likely to be in America. Your taxes will soon excite a general insurrection. In a war of five years they will be vastly heavier than their amount in all the continent of Europe. And what enormous armies must be kept stationary to keep down not only those who are now refractory, but also those whom (by courtesy and fiction) we call free.
“ I hope and trust that I shall leave the world before the end of this winter. My darling dog, Giallo, will find a fond
protectress in..Present my
respectful compliments to Mrs. F., and believe me to continue
“ Your faithful old friend,
“ W. S. LANDOR.”
“ September 11, 1863.
“ .. ., You must be grieved at the civil war. It might have been avoided. The North had no right to violate the Constitution. Slavery was lawful, execrable as it is.Congress might
have liberated them [the slaves] gradually at no expense to the nation at large.
“ 1. Every slave after fifteen years should be affranchised.
“2. None to be imported or sold.
“ 3. No husband and wife separated.
“4. No slave under twelve compelled to labor.
“ 5. Schools in every township ; and children of both sexes sent to them at six to ten.
“ A few days before I left England, five years ago, I had an opportunity of conversing with a gentleman who had visited the United States. He was an intelligent and zealous Abolitionist. Wishing to learn the real state of things, he went on board a vessel bound to New York. He was amazed at the opulence and splendor of that city, and at the inadequate civilization of the inhabitants. He dined at a public table, at a principal inn. The dinner was plenteous and sumptuous. On each side of him sat two gentlemen who spat like Frenchmen the moment a plate was removed. This prodigy deprived him of appetite. Dare I mention it, that the lady opposite cleared her throat in like manner ?
“The Englishman wished to see your capital, and hastened to Washington. There he met a member of Congress to whom he had been introduced in London by Webster. Most willingly he accepted his invitation to join him at Baltimore, his residence. He found it difficult to express the difference between the people of New York and those of Baltimore, whom he represented as higher-bred. He met there a slaveholder of New Orleans, with whom at first he was disinclined to converse, but whom presently he found liberal and humane, and who assured him that his slaves were contented, happy, and joyous. ‘There are some cruel masters,’ he said, ‘among us ; but come yourself, sir, and see whether we consider them fit for our society or our notice.’ He accepted the invitation, and remained at New Orleans until a vessel was about to sail for Bermuda, where he spent the winter.
“Your people, I am afraid, will resolve on war with England. Always aggressive, they already devour Canada. I hope Canada will soon be independent both of America and England. Your people should be satisfied with a civil war of ten or twelve years: they will soon have one of much longer duration about Mexico, God grant that you, my dear friend, may see the end of it. Believe me ever,
“ Your affectionate old friend,
“ W. S. LANDOR.”
It was sad to receive such letters from the old man, for they showed how a mind once great was tottering ere it fell. Blind, deaf, shut up within the narrow limits of his own four walls, dependent upon English newspapers for all tidings of America, — is it strange that during those last days Landor failed to appreciate the grandeur of our conflict, and stumbled as he attempted to follow the logic of events ? Well do I remember that in conversations he had reasoned far differently, his sympathy going out most unreservedly to the North. Living in the dark, he saw no more clearly than the majority of Europeans, and a not small minority of our own people. Interesting as is everything that so celebrated an author as Landor writes, these extracts, so unfavorable to our cause and to his intellect, would never have been published had not English reviewers thoroughly ventilated his opinions on the American war. Their insertion, consequently, in no way exposes Landor to severer comment than that to which the rashly unthinking have already subjected him, but, on the contrary, increases our regard for him, denoting, as they do, that, however erroneous his conclusions, the subject was one to which he devoted all the thought left him by old age. The record of a long life cannot be obliterated by the unsound theories of the octogenarian. It was only ten years before that he appealed to America in behalf of freedom in lines beginning thus : —
Do, prithee, take now in good part
Lines the first steamer shall waft o'er.
Sorry am I to hear the blacks
Still bear your ensign on their backs ;
The stripes they suffer make me sore,
Beware of wrong. The brave are true ;
The tree of Freedom never grew
Where Fraud and Falsehood sowed their salt.”
In his poem, also, addressed to Andrew Jackson, the “Atlantic Ruler” is apostrophized on the supposition of a prophecy that remained unfulfilled,
Ye worn and weary, hoist the sail,
For your own glebes and garners toil
With, easy plough and lightsome flail.
A father's home ye never knew,
A father’s home your sons shall have from you.
Enjoy your palmy groves, your cloudless day,
Your world that demons tore away.
Look up ! look up ! the flaming sword
Hath vanished ! and behold your Paradise re-
This is Landor in the full possession of his intellect.
For Landor’s own sake, I did not wish to drink the lees of that rich wine which Lady Blessington had prophesied would “flow on pure, bright, and sparkling to the last.” It is the strength, not the weakness, of our friends that we would remember, and therefore Landors letter of September, 1863, remained unanswered. It was better so. A year later he died of old age, and during this year he was but the wreck of himself. He became gradually more and more averse to going out, and to receiving visitors, — more indifferent, in fact, to all outward things. He used to sit and read, or, at all events, hold a book in his hand, and would sometimes write and sometimes give way to passion. “ It was the swell of the sea after the storm, before the final calm,” wrote a friend in Florence. Landor did not become physically deafer, but the mind grew more and more insensible to external impressions, and at last Ins housekeeper was forced to write down every question she was called upon to ask him. Few crossed the threshold of his door saving his sons, who went to see him regularly. At last he had a difficulty in swallowing, which produced a kind of cough. Had he been strong enough to expectorate or be sick, he might have lived a little longer; but the frame-work was worn out, and in a fit of coughing the great old man drew his last breath. He was confined to his bed but two or three days. I am told he looked very grand when dead,-—like a majestic marble statue. The funeral was hurried, and
none but his two sons followed his remains to the grave !
One touching anecdote remains to be told of him, as related by his housekeeper. On the night before the 1st of May, 1864, Landor became very restless, as sometimes happened during the last year. About two o’clock, A. M., he rang for Wilson, and insisted upon having the room lighted and the windows thrown open. He then asked for pen, ink, and paper, and the date of the day. Being told that it was the dawn of the 1st of May, he wrote a few lines of poetry upon it; then, leaning back, said, “ I shall never write again. Put out the lights and draw the curtains.” Very precious would those lines be now, had they been found. Wilson fancies that Landor must have destroyed them the next morning on rising.
The old man had his wish. Years before, when bidding, as he supposed, an eternal farewell to Italy, he wrote sadly of hopes which then seemed beyond the pale of possibility.
Weary with age, but unopprest by pain,
To close in thy soft clime my quiet day,
And rest my bones in the Mimosa’s shade.
Hope ! hope ! few ever cherisht thee so little :
Few are the heads thou hast so rarely raised ;
But thou didst promise this, and all was well.
For we are fond of thinking where to lie
When every pulse hath ceast, when the lone heart
Can lift no aspiration, .... reasoning
As if the sight were unimpaired by death,
Were unobstructed by the coffin-lid,
And the sun cheered corruption ! Over all
The smiles of Nature shed a potent charm,
And light us to our chamber at the grave.”
Italy recalled her aged yet impassioned lover, and there, beneath the cypresses of the English burying-ground at Florence, almost within sound of the murmur of his “own Affrico,” rest the weary bones of Walter Savage Landor. It is glorified dust with which his mingles. Near by, the birds sing their sweetest over the grave of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Not far off, an American pine watches vigilantly while Theodore Parker sleeps his long sleep ; and but a little distance beyond, Frances Trollope, the mother, and Theodosia Trollope, her more than devoted daughter, are united in death as they had been in life.
The Roman valor and Subalpine worth,”
sang Landor years ago of his protégée, who outlived her friend and critic but a few months. With the great and good about him, Landor sleeps well. His genius needs no eulogy: good wine needs no bush. Time, that hides the many in oblivion, can but add to the warmth and mellowness of his fame; and in the days to come no modern writer will be more faithfully studied or more largely quoted than Walter Savage Landor.
“ We upon earth
Have not our places and our distances
Assigned, for many years ; at last a tube,
Raised and adjusted by Intelligence,
Stands elevated to a cloudless sky,
And place and magnitude are ascertained.”
Landor “will dine late ; but the dining-room will be well lighted, the guests few and select.” He will reign among crowned heads.