LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Laman Blanchard VI

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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It was beautiful to see, in a man of first-rate ability like Blanchard, that almost religious reverence and admiration for nigh intellectual faculties in other living men, which (there is no denying it) is a very rare accompaniment of such faculties. It is usually left for ordinary mortals to pay that homage to living genius which is its only appropriate extrinsic reward, but which is almost always withheld from it by those at whose hands it is alone acceptable, until time or death has rendered the tribute of no avail. If, now-a-days, the man of high genius wants the unqualified and undisparaging admiration of those who approach or equal him in intellectual endowments, he must die for it. In the mean time, they look with an eye of preternatural keenness at his errors and deficiencies; and if, from motives
of worldly policy, they do not note his shortcomings to the world, they lay them as a “flattering unction” to their own souls.

Sometimes, indeed (as in the case of Wordsworth), men of high genius, if they duly tutor, direct, and employ their genius, and live long enough, come to see the living world stand to them in the light of a Posterity. But what avails it then? Does anybody suppose that Wordsworth feels anything but contempt for that species of fame which is now accorded to him so profusely by the very same public, and the same organs of it, that poured contempt and ridicule on him and his pretensions for the first half of his literary life?* And Wordsworth is the one exception to the rule that (in England at least) no great poet, or indeed great writer of any kind, was ever duly appreciated during his life-time, and least of all by those who would be best qualified for the office, and would most fitly and willingly perform it, if they were but his posterity instead of his contemporaries.

* These Recollections were written before Wordsworth’s death.


Laman Blanchard, so far from yielding to that vulgar superstition, and that still more vulgar jealousy, which will see no exalted intellectual distinction, and no saving virtue, in any but the dead, suffered his ardent, sympathising, and sincere nature to carry him to the other extreme. Where he found high genius in the living, he not only had a tendency to exaggerate it beyond the legitimate bounds which his own fine critical faculty never failed to detect, but he could scarcely be brought to admit that it was disfigured by any faults, or coupled with any deficiencies. In fact, this was one of the many “amiable weaknesses” of his intellectual character—a weakness, however, which clearly had its root in that intense perception and passionate appreciation of intellectual beauty which was one of his chief points of strength.

Blanchard’s literary career commenced at the period when Byron was in his glory, and Wordsworth was slowly advancing towards his; and his own little volume was evidently an unconscious and involuntary tribute to his almost idolatrous admiration of these two
rival poets. And Blanchard was not the man to fall from his allegiance because others did so. Accordingly, he was true to the last to his early worship of Byron; and if latterly he shrank a little from his loyalty to the rival shrine, it was because nine-tenths of the former worshippers of the other had gone over to it. It was during the last few years of his life a service of danger to even hint anything against Byron’s pretensions, in the presence of Blanchard. He even seemed almost unconscious of that reaction which has for the moment sunk that poet as much below his true place in our poetical literature as the enthusiasm of his admirers had lifted him above it while living.

But this somewhat exaggerated admiration of Blanchard for intellectual distinction of any kind, was especially conspicuous where personal friendship or liking quickened his eye to the admirable qualities of intellectual character, and blinded it to the accompanying defects. Consequently the sphere of Blanchard’s living hero-worship extended very wide—wider, I suspect, than that of any other man with similar powers of intellect
and discrimination; but the idols who enjoyed, out of sight, the greatest share of that worship were among his personal friends; and as it so happens that they stand almost as high in the public favour as they did in his, it may be not invidious to name them: they were
Sir Bulwer Lytton and Mr. Charles Dickens. Next to these, in prose literature, stood the late Mr. Plumer Ward, and in some particulars even above them. With Mr. Plumer Ward, however, Blanchard was not personally acquainted until about three years before his death, when I had the pleasure of introducing them to each other, to the great satisfaction of both.

I do not believe that Blanchard had paid much attention to Walter Scott—probably from the absorbing nature of his literary occupations at the time that great writer was at the zenith of his fame, and from that vast previous accumulation and rapid subsequent succession of his works which made it impossible for an occupied man to undertake them as a whole. Certain it is that he did not bestow much enthusiasm on that greatest of our modern prose writers.


To Carlyle, Blanchard would have nothing to say, except now and then a pleasant because good-natured joke, at the vagaries of that remarkable writer’s remarkable style. And no wonder that such a style was a stumbling-block in the way of one whose own style (especially during the last five or six years of his life) was the perfection of ease and clearness, blended with an elegance and grace that, in him, always contributed to these rather than counteracted them.

Among living poets the only two to whom Blanchard attributed the highest and purest species of poetical power were Wordsworth and Tennyson; though he considered that the author of “Orion” had written separate passages that were at least equal to anything produced by the two poets above-named.

Among the deceased writers of our own day, the only two, with the exception of Byron, in whose personal character Blanchard felt a strong interest, and for whose powers he entertained a high admiration, were Charles Lamb and Hazlitt. Without overlooking the faults of the latter, Blanchard
thought him the greatest critic our literature has ever produced; and for everything that Lamb did he felt that sort of personal fondness which those who knew that exquisite writer intimately were accustomed to transfer to his intellectual and personal character; for, I think, it must have been observed by the friends of Lamb, that, when once they came thoroughly to know himself, they cared but little for his writings, which were but poor and diluted droppings of the rich and rare essence of which his mind was composed.

I believe these two exquisite writers never met more than once or twice, and then under circumstances not calculated to lead to a personal intimacy. Nor do I believe that such an intimacy would have been permanently agreeable to either party, if only from the remarkable resemblances between them that I have referred to; for men who have little or no egotism, in the ill sense of the phrase, do not like to find themselves admiring or loving in others qualities which they know and feel themselves to possess: it seems too much like admiring and loving themselves,
which none but the merest egotists, in the poorest and meanest sense of the term, ever do.

If Blanchard’s eloquent expression of that unbounded and unmingled admiration which he felt for the above-named writers was calculated to engender the feelings it interpreted, exactly the opposite result was produced when, as was not seldom the case in his conversation on literary and personal topics, he found himself hampered between his fine and strong perception of the truth, and that friendly partiality which prompted him to “see Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.” The late unfortunate Miss Landon was one of those friends whom he insisted upon “monstering” in this way; and in her case there was considerable foundation for the fantastic superstructure that he delighted to build up. On other occasions, when he was holding up to admiration, or defending from attack, the intellectual pretensions of some friend or intimate associate, after abandoning, one by one, every position he took up, and smilingly admitting that they were not tenable, he would end by a half-unconscious,
half-intended, touch of satire. Thus, I remember, after discussing the alleged literary pretensions of one of his personal friends, who had attained great popularity, and abandoning, with a sort of sly half-acquiescence, every one of his grounds of admiration, he finished the controversy by exclaiming, “Well, what I chiefly admire about —— is, that physical energy which carries him through everything. And this I will say, he grows the most delicious cauliflowers and summer-cabbages I ever tasted!”