LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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My Friends and Acquaintance
R. Plumer Ward XIX

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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AsConingsby; or, the Engagement,” the work referred to in the two following letters, cannot have been forgotten by those who read it, Mr. Ward’s admirable criticisms on it would be worth preserving, even if they were of less general application than they for the most part are, to all works of the same class:—

R. Plumer Ward to P. G. Patmore.
“Okeover, March 8, 1841.
“Dear Patmore,—

C. has sent me ‘The Engagement,’ which engaged me too much yesterday, being but a heathenish employment for Sunday. Two hundred and fifty pages ought not to warrant an opinion; but I own the first two hundred gave me no notion of a perform-
ance which could so please you; and for an accomplished man of the world to be actually in love with, so as to wish to marry, from mere recollection, a child of six years old, seemed a marvellous illustration of the ‘incredulus odi.’

“Then I missed originality; and though Horatia promised to be charming, I felt a want of striking character in the persons introduced.

“Then I was astonished with certain strange phrases, such as the ‘folds of one’s thoughts,’ ‘a long line’s nobility,’ and ‘a rich one’s affluence.’ The very first sentence startled me, when I found that, on a door softly opening, a young and graceful form, instead of entering, tenanted a room. I feared the announcement of affectation of style, which, with me, kills the best performance in other respects.

“Shall I own, too (I am willing to believe it my own fault), that I find the phraseology often obscure, and that I cannot easily tell what the author is at in his characters. I do not yet understand why Lady Mornington, with all her loftiness, should, when her
beloved husband is brought home a corpse, feel all, but ask nothing. I do not make out De Grey, though intended to be a most principal personage; as little, Mr. Dudley, though I see he is to be one; and young Master Lovel, not at all.

“You will say that it is quite unfair to judge by two hundred and fifty pages, and I quite agree, on the question of general merits; but still I think the mere harbingers of a story, and particularly if they are to become the actors of it, ought to be introduced with some impression. Here, also, they are commended to us principally by what the author says of them, not what they say themselves. Witness Miss Belleisle; always confining myself to my first two hundred and fifty pages, which, however, is a very great proportion of the first volume.

“You will laugh at me if I add my discontent even at the uncouth title of the hero. Where the deuce was there ever an Earl of Haslingham, much less one whose dreams were haunted by a child six years old? I own, however, and am glad to do so, that his character begins to open a considerable
promise of interest, and the narrative of his feelings and conduct towards Coningsby makes us expect something to compensate for preceding platitudes. These also are much relieved by Mrs. Percival’s amusing romance, so well described as to be (to me) the best part of the book I have yet met with, considered as a work of attraction.

“Now, before you propose to cut my throat for all this, ‘consider,’ as Tinsel says, ‘I am but a coxcomb,’ and, like a coxcomb, am hazarding a plunge without having learned to swim. I certainly confess myself rash, and even unjust, by venturing to say so much, with so very little knowledge of what is to come. I shall, therefore, have the greatest pleasure hereafter in making an ample amende; particularly if Haslingham (still confound the name!) realises the expectation founded upon the peculiarities of his character and qualities, which have begun to be opened.

“If you are very angry, luckily for me you will perhaps be too busy to vent it, and this, perhaps, is what has made me so bold. With this consolation, believe me yours, à l’ordinaire,

R. P. W.

“By the way, is any similarity intended between Haslingham and Tremaine, or Horatia and Georgina?”

R. Plumer Ward to P. G. Patmore.
“Okeover, March 13, 1841.

Dear Patmore,—I thought I should set fire to a train. Pray heaven I do not get burnt by it. In truth, I was imprudent—perhaps unjust. Imprudent, because possibly you may make me pay for it when my turn comes with De C.; unjust, because it was not fair to hazard what I did, after only two hundred and fifty pages, before I could have fully possessed the mere carte du pays.

“You must have thought me prejudiced when I even quarrelled with the title of the hero. It was, I own, a very minor objection, yet ’tis one; though certainly not enough to be even cavilled at, where merit greatly preponderates, as I own it does here. So no more of that.

“In truth, if an intense interest, after it begins, continuing to the very end, can make a work meritorious, this is one of great merit, and exhibits, with some (to me cruel) faults,
from exuberance in style, the talents and power of a man of genius. Such I said to myself when I closed the book, and scored it all over with notes both of praise and blame; praise in nearly every one of the points which you have yourself commended, and in which I am free to say I agree with you; blame for some in which you probably will not agree with me.

“To begin, I think its first and chief merit as to execution is what you yourself have so warmly lauded, in what you say is ‘its masterly delineation of character, and the unsurpassed knowledge and appreciation of the results of an artificial state of society on the head as well as the heart.’

“To every word of this I fully assent. I never read anything in which the subordinate characters were so true to themselves, and were made so important. Mrs. Percival, I allowed before, seemed perfect, and she maintains her place to the last; but Lady Maldon seems even to exceed her, and exhibits still more skill, because quieter and less prominent, and therefore requiring more tact and subtlety of observation to draw her out. The amusement afforded from the impossibility of her
being amused is indescribable; and even the inferior oddities of Mansfield are in such keeping, that he alone would make us thank the author.

“Your hero is, I see, De Grey; nor am I surprised at it: and if he is not mine, that is, if I think him a less perfect exhibition than those I have mentioned, it is because he is too eccentric to be natural. His wit, talent, eagerness, and resources, conjoined with his warmth and honesty of heart, ought and do more than outweigh the effect of what you properly call ‘his brilliant extravagance.’ But still this extravagance is too great—at least for me. I am bewildered; and after admiring, and laughing, and loving, I feel that he is not to be found amongst our kind, and I sigh for something more natural.

“You mention his namesake Vivian, and I agree with you as to his superiority in the powerful delineation given of him; but I cannot give a thoroughly satisfactory vote to either; both are nondescript in the scale of being, and, I repeat, incredulus odi.

“His story, however, leads to another character in the work, which, little as there is of her (only one short scene), is to me
the perfection of interest in the whole; for as far as raising perfect love and approbation, so as to be in love with her one’s self, is interest, mine is absorbed by Lady Julia. Compared with her bearing when told of the rupture of her brother’s engagement, the dignified emotions of Eleanor, and even the agonies of the suffering but weak Horatia, are fade and flat. To tell you the truth, she is the only one in the book who really impressed me with tenderness, called up all my approving feeling, and made me wish ‘that heaven had made me such a one.’

* * * * * *

“Well, have I said enough by way of amende? No; for you want me to admire the honourable Coningsby. I should think more of his honour if, quite sensible of the wrong he was doing, he was not so fond of kissing the betrothed of his relation; and I should esteem and feel for that betrothed more if she was not quite so patient in being kissed. Werter kisses Charlotte when a wife; but not only it is not suffered by Charlotte, but it is a leave-taking by Werter, who is going out of the world.


“I own the weakness of this heroine derogates from what was intended to be an attractive character; and I am also disappointed in the hero. He never was meant to be very amiable, but he was meant to be very high; and he is so for a long time, so that the chief and, I own, a swelling interest attaches to his conduct on his return home, to find himself, as he will think it, dishonoured. We suppose the world will not be able to hide the delinquents from his vengeance—that he will kill them with a frown. Our opinion, too, of his doating love, and his unfailing constancy in his attachment, is so raised by what I almost think the most beautiful part of the book (certainly the best testimony of the power of describing affection hi the writer), that we commiserate and love him for it with unexpected sympathy.

“Indeed, from its effect upon Horatia, I was in hopes, as I read, of a very different termination—something like the charming change in the delightful Caroline de Lichfield, when she discovered the real character of her husband. Alas! no. The fondness, the real tenderness, and, still more, the manly self-
blame and apologies of a person who sacrifices all his haughtiness to intense affection, and lays his pride at her feet, has no effect upon the betrothed,who has downright jilted him; and she sighs and weeps on, not from remorse, but from fear of him, and regret that she is to lose her other lover.

“Then, again, as to himself. With such exquisite fondness and admiration—such a deep sense of wounded honour—such dreadful mortifications, both to his love and self-estimation—that we are to suppose, after immolating both victims to his vengeance, he would almost fly man, and still more womankind—what are we to say when, in one little fortnight, in the midst of a breathless thirst for retribution, a five minutes’ information that an old mistress loves him, makes him forget all his injuries, recover from all his wounds, and feel as light-hearted and happy a lover, and also as stainless a cavalier, as if he was fresh and untouched both in his affections and his honour?*

* What we are to say is, that he has all along loved the “old mistress,” but has concealed the fact from himself, under the belief that she had never loved him.


“I own these things do not please me, and show that the author has, at least, not attended to one of the best rules of Horace, ‘Qualis ab incepto,’ &c.

“After this, it will be useless to descend to minor things, otherwise I would touch upon the total uselessness of the introduction of such a character as Dudley. He seems intended at first for something; but whatever it was, it is soon forgotten, and he shrinks into mute insignificance.

“Yet, with all this, I again say that this is no common book, and the author no common man. Perhaps he is a very young one. If so, I think the reading public will be very much obliged to him when his fancy is a little more disciplined. If you know him, I shall be glad and proud to know him too, through your good offices.

“As to another important point, I am really afraid to touch upon a style which is so outrageously florid, and so exuberantly full of strange as well as mixed metaphors, as unhappily often to disappoint the best-raised expectations of real and touching eloquence. Upon this I will not, however, enlarge,
hoping that it is only the effect of a young and warm imagination.

“There are, however, some faults in syntax (probably from mere inadvertence), which ought to be corrected. He more than twice writes ‘It was him’ for it was he; and in page 313, vol. iii., in a sentence of sixteen lines of print, no less than nine participles present are all languishing for a substantive or pronoun, to carry them to a verb which should do something by way of action. Yet neither substantive, pronoun, or verb is to be found, and the participles are all left—jealous, knowing, drawing back, teaching, losing, looking, stooping, gathering, &c, with no one consequence attending them.

“Pray don’t think me pedantic in all this. Your own style is so clear, chaste, and grammatical, that you cannot quarrel with these notices, especially as they are mentioned only with a view to enable a man of evident talents to prevent himself from forfeiting the full benefit of them from mere carelessness.

“There! You have my honest opinion, pour et contre, in which pour greatly predominates. Would we could say so of all
books! But, pray heaven, I have not roused a lion by it.

“Heartily yours,
“R. P. W.”
R. Plumer Ward to P. G. Patmore.
“Okeover, March 21, 1841.

Dear Patmore,— * * * I am fortunate, as well as honoured, in having escaped, upon the whole, so comfortably from the effects of an indignation which I felt pretty sure I had provoked.

“After all, I do not think the difference between us so very wide; for I yield to your favourite all the attributes you wish as to genius, and the power of seizing at least the ridicule of character, which he does, I think, quite as well, if not a great deal better, than perhaps all modern authors.

“But to the charge that my criticism is not conceived in a kindly spirit, I plead not guilty. Why should it be an unkindly one because I cannot admire either the hero or heroine, though I feel the wrongs of the gentleman as much as you would have me, and think the scene between him and
his guilty mistress full of real pathos, and more impressive than most I ever read, certainly the most so of any in the book?

“I shall be truly glad to hear of its success, though where to look for an account of it I don’t well know, seeing so little of the press in this retirement. I had hoped for it in the ‘Spectator’ to-day, but was disappointed.

“I am exceedingly amused with your account of the gossip in Mrs. ——’s boudoir. I have fancied her to myself a sort of Lady Hungerford. Is she so? I trust you pay proper court to her, en vrai De Clifford. If she is like the print of her in a former ‘New Monthly,’ she must be worth it, exclusive of her talents. * * *

“With this I must say farewell, for my letter is called for.

“Yours à l’ordinaire,
“R. P. W.”