LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
R. Plumer Ward XIX
Robert Plumer Ward to Peter George Patmore, 13 March 1841

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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“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.”