Imágenes de páginas

this great object was uppermost in her mind. On her marriage, she proposed to herself to go on writing still, with the prospect of being thus enabled to devote the whole of her literary profits to the comufort of her mother and the promotion of the fortunes of her brother, In all social and domestic relations no one was ever more amiable or more beloved.

With occasional visits to different parts of the kingdom, and once to Paris, Miss Landon continued living in Hans-place till 1837. The Misses Lance had given up the school, I believe, about 1830, but she continued still to reside there with Mrs. Sheldon, their successor. In 1837 Mrs. Sheldon quitted Hans-place, for 28, Upper Berkelere street West, whither Miss Landon accompanied her. Here sho resided only a few months, when, at the request of some much attached friends, she took up her abode with them in Hyde Parke street. On the 7th of June, 1838, she was married to Mr. Maclean, Governor of Cape Coast Castle, and almost immediately left this country, never to return.

Of the abode where the greater part of Miss Landon's life was spent, and where almost every one of her works was written, the reader will naturally wish to have some description. The following particulars are given by Laman Blanchard, as from the pen of a female friend. “Genius," says our accomplished informant, “hallows every place where it pours forth its inspirations. Yet how strongly contrasted, sometimes, is the outward reality around the poet with the visions of his inward being. Is it not D'Israeli, in his Curiosities of Literature, referring to this frequent incongruity, who mentiona, among other facts, that Moore composed his Lalla Rookh in a large barn? L. E. L. remarks on this subject, 'A history of the hot and where works of imagination have been produced, would often be more extraordinary than the works themselves.' Her own case was in some degree, an illustration of independence of mind over all external circumstances. Perhaps to the L. E. L. of whom so mans nonsensical things were said-as that she should write with $ crystal pen, dipped in dew, upon silver paper, and use for pounce the dust of a butterfly's wing;' a dilettante of literature would ascii, for the scene of her authorship, a fairy-like boudoir, with rasecoloured and silver hangings, fitted with all the luxuries of a fastidious taste. How did the reality agree with this fairy sketch? Miss Landon's drawing-room, indeed, was prettily furnished, but it was her invariable habit to write in her bed-room. I see it now, that homely-looking, almost uncomfortable room, fronting the streyt, and barely furnished; with a simple white bed, at the foot of which was a small, old, oblong-shaped sort of dressing-table, quite covered with a common, worn writing-desk, heaped with papers, while some strewed the ground, the table being too small for aught beside the desk; a high-backed cane chair, which gave you any idea rather than that of comfort. A few books scattered about completed the author's paraphernalia.”

Certainly one would have imagined a girl's school in London just the last place that a poet would have fixed upon to live and work in. But as London was the city of cities to Miss Landon, so, no doubt, Hans-place, from early associations, was to her the place of places ; and, when she was shut in her little bedroom, was just as poetical as any other place in the world. I recollect there was a little garden behind the house, which, if I remember right, you saw into through a glass door from the hall. At all events, a person full of poetic admiration once calling upon her, saw a young girl skipping very actively in this court or garden, and was no little astonished to see the servant go up to her, and announce the caller, whereupon she left her skipping, and turned out to be no other than Miss Landon herself.

Of her person, Mr. Blanchard gives this description :-“ Nobody who might happen to see her for the first time, enjoying the little quiet dance, of which she was fond, or the snug corner of the room where the little lively discussion, which she liked still better, was going on, could possibly have traced in her one feature of the sentimentalist which popular error reported her to be. The listener might only hear her running on from subject to subject, and lighting up each with a wit never ill-natured, and often brilliant ; scattering quotations as thick as hail, opinions as wild as the winds ; defying fair argument to keep pace with her, and fairly talking herself out of breath. He would most probably hear from her lips many a pointed and sparkling aphorism, the wittiest things of the night, let who Inight be around her,-he would be surprised, pleased; but his heroine of song, as painted by anticipation, he would be unable to discover. He would see her looking younger than she really was ; and perhaps, struck by her animated air, her expressive face, her ught but elegant figure, his impression would at once find utterance in the exclamation which escaped from the lips of the Ettrick Shepberd on being presented to her, whose romantic fancies had often charmed him in the wild mountains, “Hey! but I did not think ye'd bin sae bonnie!'

"Without attempting an elaborate description of the person of 1. E. L., we cite this expression of surprise as some indication that sbe was far prettier than report allowed her to be, at the period we are speaking of. Her easy carriage and careless movements would keem to imply an insensibility to the feminine passion for dress; yet she had a proper sense of it, and never disdained the foreign aid of ornament, always provided it was simple, quiet, and becoming. Her hair was darkly brown, very soft and beautiful, and always tastefully urrauged; her figure, as before remarked, slight, but well-formed and graceful ; her feet small, but her hands especially so, and faultlesiy white, and finely shaped ; her fingers were fairy fingers ; her tars also were observably little. Her face, though not regular in any feature, became beautiful by expression; every flash of thought, every change and colour of feeling, lightened over it as she spoke, wtica she spoke earnestly. The forehead was not high, but broad and full; the eyes had no overpowering brilliancy, but their clear intellectual light penetrated by its exquisite softness ; her mouth was not less marked by character ; and, besides the glorious faculty of uttering the pearls and diamonds of fancy and wit, knew how to express scorn, or anger, or pride, as well as it knew how to smile winningly, or to pour forth those short, quick, ringing laughs, whick, not even excepting her bon-mots and aphorisms, were the most delightful things that issued from it.”

This may be considered a very fair portrait of Miss Landon Your first impressions of her were,—what a little, light, simple, merry-looking girl. If you had not been aware of her being s popular poetess, you would have suspected her of being nothing more than an agreeable, bright, and joyous young lady. This impression in her own house, or amongst a few congenial people, was quickly followed by a feeling of the kind-heartedness and goodness aboat her. You felt that you could not be long with her without loving her. There was a frankness and a generosity in her nature that won extremely upon you. On the other hand, in mixed companies, with and conversant as she was, you had a feeling that she was playing cele assumed part. Her manner and conversation were not only the rery reverse of the tone and sentiment of her poems, but she seemed to say things for the sake of astonishing you with the very contrast. You felt not only no confidence in the truth of what she was asserting, but a strong assurance that it was said merely for the sake of saying i what her hearers would least expect to hear her say, I racollect ! once meeting her in company, at a time when there was a strong report that she was actually though secretly married. Mrs. Hotland, on her entering the room, went up to her in her plain, straightforward way, and said, “Ah! my dear, what must I call you i-lis Landon, or who ?" After a well-feigned surprise at the question, Miss Landon began to talk in a tone of merry ridicule of this report, and ended by declaring that, as to love or marriage, they were things that she never thought of.

“What, then, have you been doing with yourself this last month?" i

“Oh, I have been puzzling my brain to invent a new sleeve; pray how do you like it ?" showing her arm.

“You never think of such a thing as love!” exclaimed & young sentimental man, "you, who have written so many volumes of poetry, upon it ?”

“Oh! that's all professional, you know;" exclaimed she, with ar air of merry scorn.

“Professional!" exclaimed a grave Quaker, who stood near-Why, dost thou make a difference between what is professional and what is real ? Dost thou write one thing and think another ? Does not that look very much like hypocrisy?"

To this the astonished poetess made no reply, but by a look ? genuine amazement. It was a mode of putting the matter to wich she had evidently never been accustomed.

And, in fact, there can be no question that much of her writing was professional. She had to win a golden harvest for the comfort of others as dear to her as herself ; and she felt, like all authors who have to cater for the public, that she must provide, not so much what she would of her free-will choice, but what they expected from

her. Still, working for profit, and for the age, the peculiar idiosyncrusy of her mind showed itself through all. Before we advance to the last melancholy home of L. E. L., let us take a review of her literary career; rapid, yet sufficiently full to point out some particulars in her writings, which I think too peculiar not to interest strongly the reader.

The subject of L. E. L.'s first volume was love ; a subject which, we might have supposed, in one so young, would have been clothed in all the gay and radiant colours of hope and happiness; but, on the contrary, it was exhibited as the most fatal and melancholy of buman passions. With the strange, wayward delight of the young heart, ere it has known actual sorrow, she seemed to riot and to revel aloid death and woe; laying prostrate life, hope, and affection. Of all the episodical tales introduced into the general design of the principal poem, not one but terminated fatally or sorrowfully ; the herome herself was the fading victim of crossed and wasted affections. The shorter poems which filled up the volume, and which were mostly of extreme beauty, were still based on the wrecks and agonies of humanity.

It might be imagined that this morbid indulgence of so strong an apperite for grief, was but the first dipping of the playful foot in the sunny shallows of that flood of mortal experience through which all have to pass ; and but the dallying, yet desperate pleasure afforded gine mingled chill and glittering eddies of the waters, which might rearter swallow up the passer through ; and the first real pang of metal pain would scare her youthful fancy into the bosom of those es and fascinations with which the young mind is commonly only uch delighted to surround itself. But it is a singular fact, that, Wher own really cheerful disposition, and spite of all the I her most influential friends, she persisted in this tone from

to the last of her works, from that time to the time of her course of events

her poems, though laid in scenes and times capable of any

events, and though filled to overflowing with the splendours h-toned sentiments of chivalry; though enriched with all the we ornaments of a most fertile and sportive fancy,-were e heralds and delineations of melancholy, misfortune, and

he reader turn to any, or all, of her poetical volumes, her this be not so, with few, and in most of them, no he very words of her first heroine might have litorally

the first to the last of h death. Her poems, thoug

colours and orname still but the heralds and de death. Let the reader tur and say whether this be not exceptions. The very words of n been uttered as her own :

This is one singular pe poetry inust be confesse It had one prominent and

ad were my shades; methinks they had

Almost a tone of prophecy-
I ever had, from earliest youth,

A feeling what my fate would be."The Improvisatrice, p. 3. ingular peculiarity of the poetry of L, E. L., and her

e confessed to be peculiar. It was entirely her own. holly to topinent and fixed character, and that character belonged

i The rhythm, the feeling, the style, and phraseology

wore such, that you could immediately recognise ter's name was not mentioned. Love was still the

of L. E. L's poetry were 8 it, though the writer's nas

great theme, and misfortune the great doctrine. It was not the leremarkable, that, in almost all other respects, she retained to tu last the poetical tastes of her very earliest years. The heroes chivalry and romance, feudal pageants, and Eastern splendou delighted her imagination as much in the full growth, as in t. budding of her genius.

I should say, that it is the young and ardent who must alware the warmest admirers of the larger poems of L. E. L. They are in with the faith and the fancies of the young. The very scenery si ornaments are of that rich and showy kind which belongs to to youthful taste ;-the white rose, the jasmine, the summer garuti of deep grass and glades of greenest foliage ; festal gardens wie lamps and bowers; gay cavaliers, and jewelled dames, and all th glitters in young eyes and love-haunted fancies. But amongst this numbers of her smaller poems from the first dealt with subjects 1 sympathies of a more general kind, and gave glimpses of a nobil: of sentiment, and a bold expression of her feeling of the unequal i of humanity, of a far higher character. Such, in the Improvisatric are The Guerilla Chief, St. George's Hospital, The Deserter, Glute mure, The Covenanters, The Female Convict, The Soldier's Gras &c. Such are many that might be pointed out in every succeedi. volume. But it was in her few last years that her heart and tu 11 seemed every day to develop more strength, and to gather a wid. range of humanity into their embrace. In the latter volumes of #1 Drawing-room Scrap Book, many of the best poems of which hav been reprinted with the Zenana, nothing was more striking than to stcady development of growing intellectual power, and of dit generous, and truly philosophical sentiments, tone of thought, 8: serious experience.

But when L. E. L. had fixed her character as a poet, and the pub! looked only for poetical productions from her, she suddenly cau forth as a prose writer, and with still added proofs of intellectu vigour. Her prose stories have the leading characteristics of h: poetry. Their theme is love, and their demonstration that all les is fraught with destruction and desolation. But there are otta qualities manifested in the tales. The prose page was for her a wide tablet, on which she could, with more freedom and ampler display record her views of society. Of these, Francesca Carrara, and E: Churchill, are unquestionably the best works, the latter preeninen so. In these she has shown, under the characters of Guido ao Walter Maynard, her admiration of genius, and her opinion of ; fate; under those of Francesca and Ethel Churchill, the adver destiny of pure and high-souled woman.

These volumes abound with proofs of a shrewd observation society, with masterly sketches of character, and the most beautif snatches of scenery. But what surprise and delight more than a are the sound and true estimates of humanity, and the honest tro! ness with which her opinions are expressed. The clear perception a the fearful social condition of this country, and the fervent advanac of the poor, scattered through these works, but especially the last

« AnteriorContinuar »