LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Laman Blanchard VII

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

It is something like a set-off—a sorry one, it is true—to the friends of Laman Blanchard, against his premature loss, that, during the last two or three years of his life, the weak points of his character were gaining a sad ascendancy over the fair, for I must not call them the strong ones, and would inevitably have conquered them at last, if he had lived for a few years longer. The truth is, he was fast lapsing, in his writings, from the sweetest and wisest of moralists into a mere satirist—a gentle and tolerant one, but still a satirist; and qualify this latter phrase by what softening epithets we may, there is at best a dreary difference between them.

All that Sir Bulwer Lytton says of Blanchard, in the delightful little memoir prefixed to the reprint of his selected “Essays,” is true to the letter, both in a personal and a
literary point of view. But it is not all; or rather, it is true of him up to within a very few years of the premature close of his career, but not of those last few years, probably owing to the writer not having had occasion to watch the object of his remarks during that period.

Certain it is, that for those whose friendship or admiration, or even the two combined, cannot blind them to the faults or failings of their friends, there was latterly an ominous change gradually going on in the mind and spirit of Blanchard, which showed itself in the growing irritability of his temper, and the corresponding acerbity of his writings. The rich and sparkling wine of his spirit was slowly but surely undergoing that “acidulous fermentation” to which all wine is liable under certain predisposing conditions.

Those of Blanchard’s mere reading friends and admirers who doubt this, have only to turn to those of his Essays in the New Monthly Magazine that were written during the last three years of his life, many of which are nothing else but satires, more or less bitter or biting, not merely on those social
vices which are always legitimate objects of satire, but on those human weaknesses, and personal humours and habits, which were never yet cured by the caustic of satire, and are not seldom aggravated, by its application, into incurable sores or mortifying wounds. Whether or not some of the trenchant personal passages in the Essays to which I allude were intended to point at some of his acquaintance I have no means of knowing; but there can be little doubt that many of them were so applied and accepted.

This change was, no doubt, superinduced by the circumstances of Blanchard’s life, upon that original softness and sweetness of temperament which, even in a man, while they maintain their normal character, may fairly and fitly be described as feminine, without in the smallest degree impeaching the strength or dignity of the intellect they at once elevate and adorn; but which, it must be confessed, are sadly apt, under adverse circumstances, to degenerate into qualities that, in ceasing to be feminine, become effeminate.

The truth is, that, during the last three or four years of his life, Blanchard had grown,
in his temper and feelings, as touchy under any supposed slight or neglect as a jealous woman—as peevish and fretful, under any “small misery,” as an ailing child—as much “put out” by any temporary difficulty in his social position or family circumstances, as a May Fair exquisite. And the result of all these on the tone and colour of his writings is impossible to be overlooked by those of his friends who do not wilfully shut their eyes to it.

The explanation of this sinister change is probably to be sought in the physical consequences of nearly twenty years of incessant and wearing literary labour, coupled with the fact of finding himself no better off, in a worldly point of view, than when he began.

It is true that he suddenly and unexpectedly found himself, at the end of this period, the most popular essayist and magazine writer of the day, and, consequently, the most sought after by publishers. But this only increased the evil instead of curing it, since it did not enable, or, at all events, induce him to relax from that mere literary drudgery from which he derived the chief
portion of his income. During the last three or four years of his life, while torn to pieces for those short and terse prose essays, and those light and sparkling verses on the topics of the hour, in which latterly he had no rival, he was at the same time the working editor of three different periodicals—one of them a
weekly newspaper, which, on account of its high political and literary reputation, as well as the incessant watchfulness and fastidious taste of its proprietor and chief editor, required the utmost care and skill in the getting-up of its subordinate features. And these increased strains upon Blanchard’s intellect, and calls upon his time, increased in an equal proportion that crowd of satellites and hangers-on, among minor artists, players, playwrights, &c., who, while they no doubt liked his society for itself, sought it only for the benefit his good word might do them in a professional point of view.

Thus, with constantly increasing calls upon his thoughts and pen, and constantly diminishing time to answer them, Blanchard became the enfant gaté of the periodical press; and his temper and tone of mind
suffered the ordinary consequences of that perilous distinction—even more perilous to “children of a larger growth” than to the smaller; for in the latter the ill consequences often wear out—in the former never.

Some letters of Blanchard have been published by Mr. Ainsworth in the New Monthly Magazine, which, for those who knew the writer’s extreme sensitiveness and delicacy of feeling on the matters to which they refer, place in a very painful light the exigencies of a social position that compelled or induced such a man to submit to the literary subservience they imply, and which their publication (inadvertently no doubt) placards to the world. Blanchard was, at the date of these letters, and indeed up to the period of his death, sub-editor of Ainsworth’s Magazine, and was in the habit of supplying a certain number of pages to that publication every month; and the letters to which I allude evidently refer to some of his recent contributions, which had as evidently not been approved of by his literary chef, who appears to have taken him to task accordingly.


When it is recollected that these letters were written under the pressure of a fearful domestic affliction—which resulted, a few weeks afterwards, not only in the death of the wife who was so dear to him, but in the awful catastrophe of his own death also—there is something inexpressibly painful about them.*

After all, however, it must be confessed that there was in Blanchard’s natural temper a morbid sensitiveness to any apparent slight or neglect, which was quite inconsistent with the position he must have felt himself to hold in the estimation of those about whose estimation such a man should alone care. I had observed the existence of this defect from the commencement of my intimacy with him; and I believe it to have arisen (as such defects of temper almost always do), from a sort of half consciousness of, in some degree, meriting the treatment he so disliked.

This requires explanation, and is susceptible of it, so as to remove the smallest

* See New Monthly Magazine, vol. lxxvi. p. 139.

imputation from
Blanchard’s uniform and universal kindness and considerateness towards not merely his friends and intimates, but the most insignificant or casual of those mere acquaintance with whom his many engagements placed him in contact.

The chief way in which the over-sensitiveness I have alluded to showed itself was this: when he first became acquainted with any one whom he saw reason to like, and who liked him, and in consequence made one at those nightly meetings at his house at Lambeth, which exactly resembled those of Charles Lamb, many years before, at Islington,—if, after being present on two or three evenings during a week or fortnight, the new guest ceased for any noticeable space of time to appear there, Blanchard was hurt and piqued—wondered “what could be the matter,” and was almost offended; though in the meantime he had never even thought of seeking them, or at most only thought of it. And the man who, for reasons however valid (and there were valid reasons in the case of Blanchard), abstains from according to his friends something of that reciprocity
on which all social intercourse rests, must necessarily be liable in return, and is justly liable, if not to marked neglect, at least to that reserve which self-respect naturally engenders, and even commands, and does so the more surely and fitly in the case of comparatively inferior intellectual and social pretensions. Such men, for instance, as his friends
Bulwer and Dickens might have gone to Blanchard’s as often as their inclinations led them to seek the enjoyment of his sparkling wit, his gentle and genial wisdom, and his cordial good fellowship, without looking for any external testimony of reciprocal interest in return. But ordinary people could not afford to do this; and the consequence was, that the nightly meetings which took place at Blanchard’s house at the time I speak of were, with many occasional and a few habitual exceptions, for the most part composed of those two least agreeable and respectable attendants that wait on intellectual distinction and the power it confers—parasites and satellites.

The two following letters are without date, but were written shortly before Blanchard’s
melancholy death, the last of them after his wife’s death, and only two or three days before his own. The first, if I remember rightly, refers to an offer I had made him of the use of my house, in the anticipated event of his giving up his own. I quite forget what were the matters alluded to in the second.

“Union Place, Monday.

My dear Patmore,—Forgive my delay, occasioned by a cold settled on the lungs, and be sure that, although I was ill, I deeply regretted your going away without seeing me. I would not have permitted it on any account. Now for your note. The proposal is every way kind and generous, and I shall always remember with pleasure that you have made it in so friendly a spirit. But, in my particular case, there is a fatal obstacle. Not in the house, nor in any of the arrangements we might probably form, agreeably to your views, but in the next house. Some members of that family we are very intimate with still. With respect to others, the taking up our abode next door would be an impossibility; and though years have passed,
my wife would have an insuperable aversion to the thought, especially in her present state of mind. I cannot write on this subject. Give my kindest remembrances to your family.

“Yours ever,
“Laman Blanchard.”
“Sunday morning.

My dear Patmore,—As the enemy that has laid me so low has now hit at my eyes, the optic nerve being dreadfully affected, I write while I can—too ill I have felt before, but worse now—to say that your note grieved and surprised me. I keep it by me; but unless I soon get better, utter helplessness is all you can look for from the interest and attachment of your sick friend.

“Yours, my dear P., sincerely,
“L. B.”