LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
R. Plumer Ward V

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 commencing the strictly chronological arrangement that I propose to observe throughout the remainder of this correspondence, relating to the literary life of Mr. Plumer Ward, it may be well to put down such other of my recollections of his personal and intellectual character, and his habits of thought and feeling, as may seem to point at and illustrate his published writings.

For those who looked at Mr. Plumer Ward as the author of “Tremaine” and “De Vere” (and few who knew him could help doing this after the publication of those works), there was something remarkably characteristic in his personal appearance, deportment, tone of voice, &c., at the time I have just referred to. Though considerably advanced in life (he was, I think, sixty-three
or four years of age), there was about his whole person and countenance a youthfulness of form, of deportment, of manner, and of intellectual expression, that was singularly pleasing and attractive; for there was a total absence of that discrepancy between the apparent and the actual age which is almost always present in those who look young without being so—a discrepancy that never fails to produce an unpleasant effect on the observer, often a painful or a ridiculous one.

As the present seems a fitting place to introduce all that I have to say further on this part of my subject, it must be understood that what follows applies, not merely to my first impressions, received on the occasion just alluded to, but generally to the whole of my intercourse with Mr. Plumer Ward, from the date of my first correspondence with him, in 1825, up to within a few days of his death, in 1846.

In Mr. Plumer Ward’s personal appearance and demeanour the dignity and gravity of age were so sweetly and happily blended with the freshness of youth, and the warmth and vivacity of boyhood—I might almost
add, with the playfulness and simplicity of childhood—that each in turn seemed to be the prevailing and absorbing expression, without, however, in any manner displacing or disturbing the others.

I have never seen so thoroughly happy a temperament—a man of such truly “blest condition;” and this, whether the mood of his mind happened to be grave or gay; whether he was discussing the political changes of the time (so little palatable to his old high Tory habits, principles, and associations) with some retired statesman of his own standing, or the revolutions of fashion with some court beauty or oracle of the new era; whether soberly and sagely discussing and enjoying the poetry of Shakspeare and Milton (the two gods of his literary idolatry), or laughing good-naturedly at what he deemed the new-fangled theories and fantastical practices of Wordsworth or Tennyson, neither of whom I could ever persuade him to read with sufficient care and attention to lay the grounds of a fair critical opinion, much less of a personal feeling. It was the same, I found, with Byron and Moore. He had read
only enough of the first to feel that, with great poetical powers, and deep natural sensibilities, he was “a bold bad man,” and of the second that he was a “pretty” poet; and he had no interest in going further. There was no room in his head (he declared) for new poets, without disturbing or displacing those who had been all in all to him through life in that capacity; and he was not disposed to risk the consequences of any change in his opinions and feelings in these respects.

Perhaps this determination may be regarded as one of the many happy results of that strong and clear good sense which was the marking and guiding feature of Mr. Plumer Ward’s singularly varied intellect, which included a greater number and amount of what are usually deemed incompatible qualities than any I have ever met with, either in life or in books—all of them being held in due order and subjection by that admirable “common sense” just alluded to. With the world-wisdom of a sage of the olden time he united the enthusiasm of a youthful poet; to the mental grasp and moral ken of a recluse philosopher he added the
delicate perception and refined tact of a man of the world, in the highest and most comprehensive sense of the phrase; with that power of steadfast thought and severe reasoning which is so rare in any but those who devote their lives to these as a duty or a profession, he alternated the impulsiveness of early youth, the softness and sensibility of girlhood, and the playfulness and animal spirits of a child.

The result of all this was, that there has rarely been a man so singularly fitted to please in society, and who did please so many different classes and grades of persons; none who ever displeased so few: for even those (and there are such) who were disposed to disparage, or at least to underrate, his writings, were invariably fascinated by his social converse.

The reason seems to have been that Plumer Ward was “all things to all men,” and to all women too, without for an instant compromising his own self-respect, or departing from the natural bent of his temper and tone of mind. So many-sided was his intellect, and so perfect the reflective power of
each separate and distinct phase of it, that no aspect of our human nature could be presented to it without recognising and greeting its representative, and sympathizing with it as with another self.

It is, perhaps, still more to the purpose of these pages to observe, that I have never seen so singular and marked a correspondence between a writer and his works, as in the case of Plumer Ward; not in a general sense (which in this case would be no sense at all), but in reference to the particular and marking personal features of his various productions. In this respect no man ever wrote more directly and distinctly from himself. And yet no man was ever less of an egotist, or had less of intellectual vanity, in the disparaging sense of those phrases.

So true is this latter fact, that the almost incredulous wonder he felt and expressed at the admiration his works excited in those who duly appreciated them, sometimes assumed the appearance of an affectation of humility and modesty; whereas so real was his diffidence as to his own powers and their results, that it has, even in my own case,
more than once led to a feeling of almost painful restraint in my correspondence with him, from finding that the simple and natural expression of my feelings (which his habit of always consulting me on his works, while they were in progress, rendered absolutely necessary) had led, on more than one occasion, to a half suspicion on his part of flattery and insincerity on mine, which almost threatened to disturb the cordiality of our friendship.

But I am in some degree departing from my design of pointing out the personal correspondence existing between Plumer Ward and the chief individual portraits that his writings have impressed upon their readers.

There was something in the face of Plumer Ward singularly indicative of those two leading but rarely combined features of his writings, the union of which distinguishes them from all others of their class, namely, the astonishing shrewdness and sagacity of their views and delineations of our common nature, as influenced and modified by the existing condition of society; and those contrasting views and delineations of that same
nature, as chiefly referable to individual habits, temperaments, and idiosyncrasies.

As these Recollections are specially addressed to those who are intimately acquainted with Plumer Ward’s writings, it would be superfluous to do more than allude in passing to such characters as Tremaine, De Vere, and De Clifford, on the one hand; and such as Herbert and Harclai, or Manners and Flowerdale, on the other.

And this remarkable contrast was depicted in the face of the writer, in a way that was almost startling. Its effect was increased, too, by the singular physical resemblance which the upper part of his face bore to that of Sir Walter Scott; a resemblance which (probably on account of its marked discrepancy with the lower part of the face) was rarely noticed by casual observers, but when once seen or pointed out, could never again be overlooked or forgotten.

With the almost preternatural shrewdness and penetration of the brows and eyes, however, the resemblance of Plumer Ward to Walter Scott ended. The steadfast firmness
of purpose indicated by the strong nose of the latter was wanting in the former; so also was that somewhat heavy, sluggish, yet worldly character which marked the lower part of the face of the author of “
Waverley;” and in place of these was (about the mouth especially) an almost boyish hilarity of expression, which seemed to preclude all idea of thought, care, or world-wisdom—least of all of authorship.

Pursuing this point a step further, it may be difficult to imagine beforehand how the cold and world-wearied, the fastidious and aristocratic, the proud and sensitive “Tremaine,” and the cordial, warm-souled, hearty, happy, headlong, hail-fellow-well-met Jack Careless, could have been, as it were, personally suggested and shadowed forth to the mind by one and the same living individual. Yet such was undoubtedly the case—so much so, that, with those who intimately knew the writer, and had looked at the characters in question with something more than a mere circulating-library ken, it was impossible not to feel that they were self-derived.

It was the same with the stately and
magnificent Lord Rochfort, and the simple and humble-minded Fowerdale, the “Man of Content,” in “
De Vere.” With his ordinary guests about him, at Gilston or in town, or in his set visits to his country neighbours, Mr. Plumer Ward was a model of the retired statesman, the lord of acres, and the “Fine Old English Gentleman;”—at his dinner-table as many attendants as guests; the entire service of silver; the fare recherché to the extreme of cost and fastidiousness; his equipages, on set occasions, in the old and lordly taste of the last century—four horses, with postilions in jockey caps, and mounted footmen.

On the other hand, in his daily intercourse with his neighbour tenants, or their wives and daughters, Mr. Ward was a very Sir Roger de Coverley in simplicity and bonhommie; and I never remember to have heard him describe the enjoyment of anything with half so much gusto as he did that of a “bacon and cabbage” dinner (all he could get) at a little public-house in a rural village near town (Walthamstow, I think), where he had gone alone to look at the house
in which he first went to school, sixty years before.*

This point might be pursued, with more or less of personal application, through a large number of the chief individual portraits which occur in Plumer Ward’s works. But I will close the speculation (such it will be deemed by some) by observing, that at least he himself would not have wholly repudiated the impeachment; on the contrary, he sometimes gave the clue to it, both in his conversation and his letters;—and it may be interesting to note here that the character in particular between which and his own he was the least unwilling that a resemblance should be discerned was that of Manners, in “De Clifford,” as the following extracts from two different letters will show. They were written to me at the time that “De Clifford”

* In relating to me this little adventure, he told me that he had introduced himself to the owner of the house (then a well-appointed gentleman’s mansion) in his own name, as the only legitimate means of attaining his object; had stated that object, and been received most courteously, and pressed to stay to dinner, but had preferred to take “pot luck” at the little wayside inn.

was passing through the press. I shall give the entire letters in their place; but these brief extracts seem, called for here, to excuse the personal nature of some of the foregoing remarks.

Speaking of his being left alone for the day on account of his family having gone “to leave all our duties with the Queen Dowager” (who was visiting in the neighbourhood of his then residence, Okeover-Hall, Staffordshire), he continues:—

“Thank Heaven, I myself have done with etiquette, and have reached that happy time when I have a legitimate right (which you have only usurped) to sit all the morning, and even to pace my garden, en robe de chambre. In short (except that I am far happier in a wife with whom I am absolutely every hour more and more in love, even in the admiring sense of the phrase), there is a certain Mr. Manners in the MS., between whom and myself I request and desire you will discover a considerable affinity. This I tell you, for your comfort, against the time when you shall be near seventy-six. It is really certain that, much
as I enjoyed myself in my youth, I am, I believe I may say, happier than ever I was in my life; and as this place,* though it may not be the cause, is certainly the scene of my happiness, you must not be surprised if your anticipations as to Mr. De Clifford are not realized, and that the winter will probably not see me among you. Though not so splendid, I love this abode, particularly the exterior, and I also love my society, better than those of Hertfordshire. I have not so fine a park, but I have Dovedale; I have not a house that covers an acre of ground, but neither does it cost above three hundred a year to keep it warm. On the other hand, I am not here one of a band of cockneys, whose hearts are all in the city, though their bodies affect groves and fields, (sprung up, too, like mushrooms), but, for a time at least,† feel the representative (though jure uxoris et vitrici) of a family nine hundred years old,

* Okeover Hall.

† During the minority of the young heir, Mr. Charles Okeover, son of Mrs. Plumer Ward by her first husband.

flourishing and fructifying all that time on the same spot.

“Prejudice and illusion, you will say. To which I reply—how much happier, in a thousand instances, than reality! In short, ever since I could read, I have felt that I would rather be Sir Roger de Coverley than Cæsar; and here, at least, I am more like him than at Gilston.”

Again, in the postscript to a subsequent letter, he says:—

“I am quite glad that I did not send off this before to-day’s letters came in, as it gives me an opportunity of adding my thanks (how due!) for all the kind and gratifying things you say about points and persons,* as to which I had some little anxiety. That you should speak of Manners and Lady Hungerford as you do, is, I assure you, not only most pleasant, but most encouraging, when, from my own doubts of the execution, I wanted encouragement. Lady A—— (an excellent judge, being herself one of the most sensible and best bred women in

* In “De Clifford,” then passing through the press.

England) allayed much of my fear, but you have converted it into confidence; and I own I grew so fond of Manners myself that, setting all author’s feelings aside, I am fonder of you for seeming fond of him.”