LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
R. Plumer Ward XXI

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
‣ R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII
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In giving to the world the letters which follow, and one other which has preceded them, containing detailed as well as general references to a work of my own, since published, entitled “Chatsworth; or, the Romance of a Week,” I feel myself called upon to explain my reasons for doing so, which are as follows:—1st. Up to the period at which the present pages come before the public, “Chatsworth” has been almost universally attributed to Mr. Plumer Ward, though his name stands in its title-page as editor only. It was even spoken of as “his latest work,” in at least three of the biographical notices of him that appeared in as many respectable quarters shortly after death. 2dly. It seems imperative upon me to show, that Mr. Ward’s formal denial, in the ‘Literary Gazette,’ of having written a single line
of “Chatsworth”—which denial he felt to be called for on finding himself treated by that and by all the other periodicals of the day who criticised the work, as its author—by no means warranted the injurious inference that was drawn from it, that he had merely “lent his name” to the work, without fulfilling the duties implied by the phrase “edited by,” &c. The truth is, that every page of it passed through Mr. Ward’s hands in MS., as well as in its after passage through the press; that no chapter—scarcely a page—of the work but derived benefit from his valuable advice and suggestions; and that nothing but his willingly-accorded consent to “stand sponsor” to the work (the phrase is his own), and his repeated urging of its publication, induced me to risk the step of calling attention to a series of compositions, the severely simple and almost antique character of which seemed to render their reception more than doubtful, if put forth anonymously, or with a name little known to the reading public.*

* Even with the advantage of Mr. Ward’s name as editor, I felt that these “Tales of the Olden Time” would run the risk of falling stillborn from the press,


Interesting to the reading world as anything from Mr. Ward’s pen must be, and especially anything relating to the art of which he was so consummate and successful a master, I should certainly have withheld these letters, and others of a similar character, but that, for the foregoing reasons, they clearly belong to the literary history of the time.

R. Plumer Ward to P. G. Patmore.*
“Okeover, June 18, 1841.

Dear Patmore,—I shall be glad if I am able to accomplish a letter to you to-day, even a short one; but as there is no post to-morrow, though I am more worried by very different matters than I can explain to you, I do not like to lose another day in telling you how much I have been struck with Evadne.

lacking a framework constructed after those “fashionable” models which even such writers as the Bulwers, D’Israelis, and the author of “Tremaine” himself, felt themselves at that day called upon to adopt, in order to secure attention to their lucubrations.

* The high panegyrics in this letter apply almost exclusively to the original scenes of “The Maid’s Tragedy,” of which the story is only a prose version.


“By the way, it has occurred to me that that would be a more terse and striking title than the ‘Faithful and Faithless;’ and the superior interests and wonders that belong to the lady seem to demand it. But this for your better judgment.

“Well, but the lady herself! She is really superb; heroically wicked, absorbing, commanding! One of the very best drawn characters, and placed in almost the situation of most burning interest, I ever encountered in play or story.

“The meeting in the bridal chamber; the terrific announcements; its effects; the contests it produces; the dreadful state of her husband; his partial and temporary recovery in a delicious scene of nature and innocence, so deliriously painted; the consequent interview and struggle with Melantius; the communication of the dreadful secret, and the vengeful resolve that follows; all this, I do assure you, fixed me as much as anything I ever read, and would rank with anything short of the very best parts of Shakspeare.

“Can I say more? Yes! that it gives me
the highest idea of your imaginative powers, while the forcible and pathetic language, which never fails, whether for pity, or rage, or excitement of any kind, shows a dramatic power which, perhaps, I may affront you by saying I did not know belonged to you. It certainly made me wish, scene after scene, and line after line, that the tale had been a drama. How well would it have acted! As it is, I think it must charm, having so much of the three requisites, grandeur, novelty, and beauty.

“Aspasia is, what she is meant to be, interesting, though thrown into shade by Evadne. She is, however, necessary for the action; and I would wish to canvass her, as she at present stands, chiefly on account of the bursts of blank verse which with her first appear. The lines are in themselves so touching, that here again you show a new instance of your qualifications for stage writing.* I would, therefore, wish to preserve

* The lines of verse above referred to are adopted literally from the original drama by Beaumont and Fletcher. Mr. Ward did not know this at the time he wrote the above and what immediately follows.

them; and if we can by any means justify the mingling of them in a prose composition, I hope they may stand.

Johnson blames the introduction of rhyming in Comus, in the midst of blank verse, and this is somewhat of that nature. But I know not that he was right; and if a fault, its beauty in Comus makes us forget it, and so we may here.

“You talk of some precedents in the old dramatists; but then, they were dramatists. Were this a play, and Aspasia actually mad (she is almost so), I should not have a scruple.

“Pray think about it. Perhaps, if in your arrangement the story is to be supposed to be recounted in very ancient times, it may be sooner admitted. As it is, I rather tremble for the keeping. If any one could talk blank verse in a prose tale, it would be Flora McIvor. But how would it have looked?

“After all, the tale would not suffer by disarranging the syllables, and making them return to prose, without losing much either of their force or sweetness, which, under your management, might, I think, be easily
done. All this applies also to the blank verse of Amintor. What say you to it?

“I am not here afraid of your answer, whatever it may be; I am as to another question of far more consequence. What will you say to me if I propose to you to alter the dénouement, and make the king die by the hand of Melantius, instead of Evadne? For, not to mention that Evadne’s sudden conversion and remorse—(the arguments producing which are not brought forward, and which, if they were, ought to fail, in order to be in keeping with her grand character)—not to say that this is not natural, what a noble scene might you work out, and in what noble language, by making Melantius put forth all his high energies, like Junius Brutus or Virginius of old, and produce revolt against a profligate king, the destroyer of his honour!

“It. seems to me that this would be far grander, and more in unison with the more exalted parts of his character, than to let him be the mere instigator of his sister to murder the man whom, with her whole soul, both from love and ambition, she idolized.

“The difficulty and improbability of this is
so great, that we do not believe in the facility with which Evadne is wrought upon to a thing seemingly so unnatural to her; no part of her previous character prepares you for it, and all we know of her absolutely forbids it. She glories in her love for, and being loved by, the king; and a great scene might, I think, be worked out between her and her brother, in which her scorn and his nobleness and pride of feeling might greatly show. She might, too, more characteristically sacrifice herself, on being thus thwarted in her ambition, and losing her lover, than, as she now does, for being scorned by a person whom she has always scorned, and who deserves little else at her hands.

“I assure you I am very serious in this, and long to see how you will manage such a revolt, and such a death for Evadne, with whom remorse and penitence, and, above all, love for Amintor, can have nothing to do. Like the high-souled Satan, she should be inexorable in her ambition.

“I know not what to say of the death of Aspasia. I would spare her if I could; and the higher interest of the tale, in all that
concerns Evadne and Melantius (if you make him the hero I wish), seems so absorbing, that we could dispense with her death as necessary to add to our feeling. Besides, I own I do not quite see the necessity for that death by Amintor’s hand, and still less the manner of it. She should die of a broken heart, or, like Ophelia, ‘chanting snatches of old tunes,’ and mad.

“I own her bold disguise and bold bearing in beating Amintor into a combat, in order that he may kill her, do not seem to accord with her soft and feminine character, however she might wish to die on his sword.

“There is also something in the management of the scene of her death, which wants correction. We know not why or how she can lie so long neglected after her mortal wound, even though Evadne’s entrance diverts Amintor from her. But if my hint as to Evadne and Melantius is taken, there will be no necessity for this, and at any rate it may be easily rectified, though I would rather the whole scene of the combat should be avoided by her dying, if she must die, in some other way.


“I see no reason, if you adopt my hint, why Amintor may not be made a strenuous ally of Melantius, in avenging his wrongs (which are almost still more Amintor’s wrongs) on the king. This, too, would give him some of the elevation of character he wants, and by making him more worthy of Aspasia than he is, dispose of them both with more poetical justice, and pleasanter feelings to the reader, than as at present arranged.

“The wind-up, however, in describing the fate and character of Amintor, is extremely fine; and there are touches of pathos in Aspasia which I would not, and, I think, need not, lose. ‘’Tis but my poor body, my heart died long ago’ absolutely electrified me. But this might be preserved, although her fate be changed.

“Such are the feelings inspired by your tale, which, as it is, is rich and glowing, but, I think, might be rendered still more so, if you approve and will work upon my hint. I really long for it, and till I hear how you take it, need say no more. So good bye.

“You shall hear again upon the other MS., and in answer to your important letters,
both of which I am sorry to postpone amid some very plaguing business that bothers and torments me.

“I am better, however, and my daughter too, your kind occupation with whose case I have never forgotten.

“Believe me, then, ever yours,
“R. P. W.”