LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
R. Plumer Ward IV

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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Before finally taking leave of Gilston, I must refer to an interesting circumstance connected with that beautiful old place, which has never been publicly noticed—at least, in connexion with its ownership by the author of “Tremaine” and “De Vere” a circumstance, too, of which Plumer Ward himself was (I take it for granted) wholly ignorant, or he would certainly not have allowed himself to remain unacquainted (as I believe he was) with those exquisite writings which—it can scarcely be doubted—owed much of their character to the early associations arising out of that place of which he was (at least at the time I speak of) so fond.*

* The grievous domestic calamities which befel Mr. Ward during the latter part of his residence at Gilston (as alluded to in a subsequent page), caused him wisely to quit a spot suggestive of so many painful associations; and, after the death of his youngest and only remaining


The late Mr. Justice Talfourd, in his delightful Life and Letters of Charles Lamb, notices the fact of Lamb’s maternal grandmother having been “for many years the housekeeper to the old and wealthy family of the Plumers, of Hertfordshire, by whom she was held in true esteem;”* and further on he gives a letter of Lamb to Southey, in which the writer speaks of having recently revisited those scenes of his infancy,† But

daughter, he resided, till within a few months of his own death, at Okeover Hall, in Staffordshire, the fine old place of Mr. Charles Okeover, his step-son, then a minor; and it is from thence that the most pleasing and characteristic of the following letters were dated.

* Sir T. N. Talfourd goes on to say—“His visits to their ancient mansion, where he had the free range of every apartment, gallery, and terraced walk, gave him ‘a peep at the contrasting accidents of a great fortune,’ and an alliance with that gentility of soul which to appreciate is to share. He has beautifully recorded his own recollections of this place in the Essay entitled, ‘Blakesmoor in H——shire,’ in which he modestly vindicates his claims to partake in the associations of ancestry not his own, and shows the true value of high lineage by detecting the spirit of nobleness which breathes around it, for the enkindling of generous affections, not only in those who may boast of its possession, but in all who can feel its influences.”—Talfourd’s Life and Letters of Charles Lamb, p. 12.

† “I have but just got your letter, being returned

neither Lamb nor his biographer anywhere mentions the name of the place itself—Gilston Park; nor does either seem to have been aware that, at least six years before Lamb’s death, it had passed into the possession of one who, had he known Lamb and his writings, would have appreciated them both as fully and fondly as did the most earnest and enthusiastic of his friends and associates; and who, had he been aware of the associations connected in Lamb’s mind with Gilston, would never have rested till he had welcomed as an honoured guest within its halls the noble and truly “gentle” spirit that had mused and sported there on suffer-

from Herts, where I have passed a few red-letter days with much pleasure. I would describe the county to you, as you have done by Devonshire, but, alas! I am a poor pen at that same. I could tell you of an old house with a tapestried bedroom, the ‘Judgment of Solomon’ composing one panel, and ‘Action spying Diana naked’ the other. I could tell of an old marble hall, with Hogarth’s prints and the Roman Cæsars in marble. I could tell of a wilderness and of a village church, and where the bones of my honoured grandame lie. But there are feelings which refuse to be translated; sulky aborigines which will not be naturalized in another soil. Of this nature are old family faces and scenes of infancy.”—Talfourd’s Life and Letters, p. 81-2.

ance in childhood, in the poor garb of charity,* and (it may be) wept there, during a manhood that had become famous, over scenes and times the happiness of which was never to return.

The singular fact of all Lamb’s friends, (myself included) remaining ignorant till after his death, of associations that would certainly have excited an interest in every one of them, is probably to be accounted for by the strangely mystifying way in which he describes the supposed actual condition of the scenes in question, in his beautiful Elia-ism entitled, “Blakesmoor, in H——shire,” where he speaks of “the great old house” being lately “pulled down,” and that “a few bricks only lay as representatives of that which was so stately and so spacious.”†

* Lamb was brought up at Christ’s Hospital.

† “Journeying northward lately, I could not resist going some few miles out of my road to look upon the remains of an old great house with which I had been impressed in this way in infancy. I was apprised that the owner of it had lately pulled it down; still I had a vague notion that it could not all have perished; that so much solidity with magnificence could not have been crushed all at once into the mere dust and rubbish which I found it.

“The work of ruin had proceeded with a swift hand


In what condition the old mansion house of Gilston may have been at the date (1821) of Elia’s celebrated Essay, I know not; but when I first became acquainted with it (in 1831) nothing could be more perfect of its kind; and so it remains to the present day. In fact, on coming into possession of it, by

indeed, and the demolition of a few weeks had reduced it to—an antiquity.” * * *

“Had I seen these brick-and-mortar knaves at their process of destruction, at the plucking of every panel I should have felt the varlets at my heart. I should have cried out to them to spare a plank at least out of the cheerful store-room, in whose hot window-seat I used to sit and read Cowley, with the grass-plot before, and the hum and flappings of that one solitary wasp that ever haunted it about me—it is in mine ears now, as oft as summer returns: or a panel of the yellow-room.

“Why, every plank and panel of that house for me had magic in it. The tapestried bed-rooms—tapestry so much better than painting—not adorning merely, but peopling the wainscots—at which childhood ever and anon would steal a look, shifting its coverlid (replaced as quickly) to exercise its tender courage in a momentary eye-encounter with those stern bright visages, staring reciprocally—all Ovid on the walls, in colours vivider than his descriptions. Actæon in mid sprout, with the unappeasable prudery of Diana; and the still more provoking, and almost culinary coolness of Dan Phœbus, eel-fashion, deliberately divesting of Marsyas.

“Then, that haunted room—in which old Mrs. Battle died—whereinto I have crept, but always in the day-

his marriage with its widowed owner,
Mr. Plumer Ward had restored it in every part and particular, with a scrupulous attention to its pristine character, and at an enormous expense: I think he told me between six and seven thousand pounds.

The following anecdote of Gilston, dating

time, with a passion of fear; and a sneaking curiosity, terror-tainted, to hold communication with the past.—How shall they build it up again?

“It was an old deserted place, yet not so long deserted but that traces of the splendour of past inmates were everywhere apparent. Its furniture was still standing—even to the tarnished gilt leather battledores, and crumbling feathers of shuttlecocks in the nursery, which told that children had once played there. But I was a lonely child, and had the range at will of every apartment, knew every nook and corner, wondered and worshipped everywhere.

“The solitude of childhood is not so much the mother of thought, as it is the feeder of love, and silence, and admiration. So strange a passion for the place possessed me in those years, that, though there lay—I shame to say how few roods distant from the mansion—half hid by trees, what I judged some romantic lake, such was the spell which bound me to the house, and such my carefulness not to pass its strict and proper precincts, that the idle waters lay unexplored for me; and not till late in life, curiosity prevailing over elder devotion, I found, to my astonishment, a pretty brawling brook had been the Lacus Incognitus of my infancy. Variegated, views, extensive prospects—and those at no great dis-

about the period of Lamb’s boyish acquaintance with the place, was related to me by Mr. Plumer Ward on one of my visits there. The hero of it was “
the last of the Plumers,” who, at the time of his death, had been Member for the County for more

tance from the house—I was told of such—what were they to me, being out of the boundaries of my Eden?—So far from a wish to roam, I would have drawn, methought, still closer the fences of my chosen prison; and have been hemmed in by a yet securer cincture of those excluding garden walls.” * * *

“Mine was that gallery of good old family portraits, which as I have gone over, giving them in fancy my own family name, one—and then another—would seem to smile, reaching forward from the canvas, to recognise the new relationship; while the rest looked grave, as it seemed, at the vacancy in their dwelling, and thoughts of fled posterity.

“That Beauty with the cool blue pastoral drapery, and a lamb—that hung next the great bay window—with the bright yellow H——shire hair, and eye of watchet hue—so like my Alice!—I am persuaded she was a true Elia—Mildred Elia, I take it.

“Mine, too, Blakesmoor, was thy noble Marble Hall with its mosaic pavements, and its Twelve Cæsars—stately busts in marble—ranged round; of whose countenances, young reader of faces as I was, the frowning beauty of Nero, I remember, had most of my wonder; but the mild Galba had my love. There they stood in the coldness of death, yet freshness of immortality.”—The Last Essays of Elia, 240—244.

than forty successive years, and was doyen of the House of Commons.

Mr. Plumer was riding with a friend in the neighbourhood of Gilston, when they met a well-to-do-looking man in the garb of a butcher, who stopped and saluted “the Squire” very respectfully, and was noticed cordially in return, as follows:—

“Ah, Dick—how are you? Why, I never see you at Gilston now, Dick. Why don’t you come? You’re always welcome there. I’ve a great respect for you, Dick. You’re an excellent friend of mine (meaning in connexion with the election). Let’s see you at Gilston. The cellar’s always open to you.”

“Thank your honour, kindly,” said Dick, and rode away.

Meeting the Squire’s companion alone the next day, Dick addressed him thus—

“Why, Mister ——, Squire don’t seem to know much about what be going on at Gilston. Why, I ha’ got glorious drunk in servants’ hall every night this last week.”

This story was related to Mr. Ward by the gentleman who was the Squire’s companion on the occasion.