LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Laman Blanchard II

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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This early stage of my Recollections of Laman Blanchard seems the proper place for what I have to remark, on the striking constitutional and superficial resemblances that existed between Blanchard and his only rival as a popular Essayist, Charles Lamb; resemblances, however, which were worn, like Ophelia’s flowers, with such a marked “difference,” that they led to results, both personal and intellectual, as apparently unlike as possible. There was about an equal amount of oriental blood in the veins of each, and it produced the same physical characters—namely, coal-black curling hair, jet black eyes, a dark colourless complexion, and a slightly Jewish contour and expression of features. But while one of these remarkable men, Blanchard, was always gay, brilliant, fluent, and facile, the happy and happy-
making equal, and as it were echo, of all with whom he came in contact, and consequently the favourite of all; the other was habitually grave, taciturn, self-absorbed, abrupt yet hesitating of speech, and not seldom, to strangers, harsh in manner to a pitch of repulsiveness.

This difference of mere manner between Blanchard and Lamb was perhaps to be accounted for by the habits and incidents of their early lives respectively; the boyhood of the one—Charles Lamb—having been spent in the almost monastic seclusion of the severest and most temper-trying of our public schools—that of Christ’s Church; his early youth, and all the rest of his life, being nailed for eight hours a day to the desk of a public office; while Blanchard was thrown absolutely on his own resources from early boyhood, and had to win or fight his way through the battle of life, with no better weapon than a self-taught pen, and no richer wealth than “his own good spirits, to feed and clothe him.”

The moral and intellectual resemblances of these two men were equally striking, and
were equally worn with marked and almost strange differences. There was a benign humanity, a truly Christian spirit and temper, about both, which I have never seen equalled, or even approached, in any other men—a universal loving-kindness and toleration, which scarcely allowed them to see, and absolutely forbad them to feel, any essential difference, morally and humanly speaking, between the vilest of mankind and the purest, between the wisest and the weakest. And yet this universal and almost divine sympathy and toleration, so far from deadening their sense of superior moral claims and intellectual endowments in individual instances, seemed to act in precisely an opposite direction; and this was especially the case with
Blanchard, who felt an almost worshipful and religious admiration for superiority of intellectual or moral pretensions, of whatever kind they might be. Still, with this marked difference—that Lamb’s admiration was confined almost exclusively to the dead, while Blanchard’s was offered chiefly to the living.

There were other personal resemblances between Blanchard and Lamb that are worth
a passing mention. For both of them there was but one place in the world worth living in, or absent from which (I verily believe) either of them could have lived—London. To them, “the country” was not merely a desert, a privation, a blank; there was something in it positively unpleasant and even hateful to them; not merely in its stocks and stones, but in its flowers and plants and trees, its uplands and meadows and rivers, its forests and skies; even the song of its birds and the sights and sounds of its daily life were empty and unmeaning impertinences to them, when put in competition with the pregnant converse of books, the living interchange of intellectual table-talk, or the active movements of their own minds while scattering about them the wisdom and wit that flowed as it were involuntarily from their pens, like the pearls and diamonds from the lips of the fairy.

Another propensity which Blanchard and Lamb had in common—and it was the only really questionable one of their blameless lives—was their fondness for being surrounded by a little coterie of friends and
admirers who were inferior in intellectual pretensions to themselves—as all coteries must necessarily be to the leader round whom they naturally revolve by the force of a moral gravitation.

Yet the motives to this propensity were anything but those vulgar ones which are the usual leaders to the like result—namely, a desire for admiration and a love of observance. It was, in fact, of a precisely opposite character—an emanation of that universal loving-kindness which was the motive-principle of both their characters—added to a perhaps secret desire—secret, I mean, from themselves—to show that all distinctions founded on purely intellectual differences are false and mischievous ones, and ought to be discouraged by the few who can afford or can dare to take the just and natural course in such matters. In fact, though the nightly meetings at Blanchard’s and Lamb’s houses were occasionally illustrated by the presence of some of the finest spirits of the time, they furnished (even on those occasions) an admirable lesson and discipline to the pride of place and of intellect—all being equally cared
for and distinguished by the common host of all.

These marked general resemblances between Blanchard and Lamb rendered still more notable than it would otherwise have been the striking difference, or rather the positive dissimilarity, in the habitual expression of their countenances; the one, as I have said, at all times and on all occasions, wearing the mask of an almost angelic smile; the other apparently incapable of receiving any such expression—so grave and contemplative was it, so free from all traces of human passion—so purely and entirely intellectual.

It may illustrate this point to observe that Lamb’s face resembled one of Titian’s finest portraits; not what we may fancy the original to have been, but the portrait itself; one of those quintessences of intellect which have never proceeded from any other pencil, and which probably had no perfect prototypes in actual nature, any more than had those corresponding female portraits of Lawrence, in respect of that peculiar look (not susceptible of verbal description) which marks, and in some respect mars, all those
of Lawrence’s finest works which represent young and beautiful women.

Finally, the writings of Blanchard and Lamb were marked by precisely the same generic resemblances and differences as were their temperaments, their intellects, and their dispositions. There was in both that entire originality, which is not merely the test, but the substance of all genius; genius being nothing else but an idiosyncrasy peculiar to the individual; the faculties which bring out, mould, modify, and colour its intellectual results, being common to the species.

There was, also, in both these charming writers that exquisite clearness of perception, that acute penetration, and that refined and delicate tact, which together constitute the critical faculty in its highest and purest form, and which faculty, when it attains to that highest form (I will venture to add), never fails to usurp some portion of the creative power with which it is busying itself. There never was a truly great critic who did not see more in a great work of art than really exists in it. In Blanchard this
habit was best illustrated in his brilliant and rapid table-talk on any one of his literary idols, but particularly on the chief of them,
Shakspeare. In Lamb it is sufficiently shown in his “Specimens,”—those crude and indigested amusements of a few idle hours, which have created an era in English criticism, not to say in English literature.

Perhaps there never existed two critics who more precisely coincided in the general nature and tone of their critical tastes and awards than did Blanchard and Lamb; the only difference being, that Lamb confined himself almost exclusively to Shakspeare and the early dramatists, whereas the Catholic taste and all-embracing spirit of Blanchard ranged over the whole (English) world of poetry—not loving Wordsworth less, because he idolised Shakspeare, nor dwelling the less fondly upon Tennyson, because he had the whole of Pope by heart.

I should, perhaps, apologise for instituting the foregoing crude and hasty parallel (if such it can be called) between these two remarkable men. But as it is always more or less present to my own mind, when it
dwells on the personal recollection of either of them, I have thought it likely to assist in strengthening and fixing the respective impressions of them, which I wish to convey to the reader.