LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
R. Plumer Ward IX

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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With the publication of “De Vere,” in 1827, commenced my direct communication with its author, and thenceforth I shall as much as possible allow his letters to explain themselves. As, however, Mr. Ward’s anonymous communications with me during the composition of “De Vere,” and its progress through the press, contained many passages which furnish matter that will be of much interest to the present and future admirers of his works, and which matters belong in some sort to the literary history of the time, I shall insert here such of them as may be given without impropriety.

The MS. of “De Vere” had, by its author’s express desire, been submitted to my examination volume by volume as it was composed, with a view to any suggestions or
observations I might choose to make, relative to the general conduct, as well as the details, of the story; and, in order to render intelligible the following extracts from the author’s letters, it is necessary I should previously insert a portion of the observations which gave rise to them. The correspondence was in both cases addressed to the author through his publisher: for up to this time the author and myself were entirely unknown to each other even by name, and I believe he was still unknown to his publisher.

Extract of a Letter from the Reviser of “De Vere” to the Author.
* * * * *

“There is, however, one defect, and to my thinking a very important one, with which I have of course not meddled, but shall point out for the reconsideration of the author; though I am aware that the remedying of it will involve considerable difficulty. I allude to his mode of commencing the tale, by the introduction of a character (Beauclerk), who has nothing whatever to do with the main story, or the per-
sons by whose agency it is subsequently worked out. The introduction of this character (to my mind, at least) produces a very awkward and unpleasant effect; not exactly at the opening of the story (for there it is of little consequence)—but the recollection of this person obtrudes itself upon the reader all through the volume at intervals, and interferes with that unity of feeling which should, and which otherwise would, prevail throughout.

“You are, of course, aware that I am speaking only of the effect produced on me throughout the first volume. What use, if any, may be made of Beauclerk afterwards is, of course, more than I can anticipate. But I feel certain that his introduction can at best only be got over skilfully as a difficulty, not turned to any good account in heightening the interest, or otherwise furthering the purposes, of the main story. * *

“Why should not the book begin in the natural way—namely, at the precise period when the story begins? Why should several years of De Vere’s life be anticipated, and then cut off again, without any counterba-
lancing advantage being gained (that I can perceive) by this artificial management of the narrative? Nothing can be more objectionable in its effects, as far as they extend, than thus bringing a hero to life before his time, and producing upon the mind of the reader certain specific impressions, both mental and personal, concerning him, and then expecting us to get rid of all these impressions at once, on transferring him to another period of his life; or (still worse) permitting or compelling us to keep those impressions, and letting them interfere at every step (as they most decidedly do in the case in question) with others which should be simple, distinct, and, above all, progressive.

“The author of ‘De Vere’ will not suppose me ignorant of the occasional good effect of plunging in medias res. But he will also recollect the Giant Molineau’s advice about ‘beginning at the beginning;’ and though he may very fairly say that each of these modes of commencing a story has its advantages, he will, I think, on consideration, admit that they cannot well be united.

“But we have, in fact, not merely one re-
trograde movement in the story, but two. First, there is the ‘Editor’s Preface,’ which dates back I know not how far. Then the ‘Introductory’ matter, bringing us up to the visit of Beauclerk to Talbois. And then the story recommences a third time. All this strikes me as being at best superfluous. But I am certain that the circumstance of our first impression of De Vere being given and studiously fixed upon us, when he is a man of thirty, interferes very mischievously with all the after impressions we are called upon to receive of him. And for anything I can at present see to the contrary, this injurious effect is likely to recur at intervals all through the work. * * *

“I will only add that if, for any reason connected with those subsequent portions of the story which I have not yet seen, the. author should still determine to retain the introductory ‘Tour’ of Beauclerk, it seems desirable that it should at least be disconnected from the main narrative, and come expressly as an ‘introductory’ chapter.” * * *

To these observations the following reply was transmitted.

Extract of a Letter from the Author of “De Vere.”
* * * * *

“The business part of the criticism has occupied much of my thoughts; but important, and unfavourable, as I may say, it appears to be, I have at least the pleasure of not feeling embarrassed by it, so as to occasion delay. I know precisely where I agree and where I disagree; and I hope I do not flatter myself in thinking that some of his censure (that is, where he remarks on a want of unity)* is owing to his not having read more than half the work. To judge of the keeping of a story, it seems surely as necessary to have the whole before you as in the keeping of a picture; and no one, perhaps, could pronounce upon the latter without seeing the whole at once. Still, for all this, your friend may be right, and myself wrong. This, however, only relates to the general action of the story, which, I told you myself, I thought not so

* It was not on a “want of unity” that I had remarked, but only on a breach of the “feeling of unity” in the reader.

interesting as
Tremaine. But I am sensible what I have most to consider is, his judgment of the ill tendency of the plan, which he thinks mischievously divides the interest.

“In part of this I agree with him, and will strive to remedy it. In toto I do not. Where I agree is, as to the introduction of too much machinery; and I will therefore strike out the whole of the editor’s preface, and all that concerns the personal history of the supposed relater, Beauclerk, which, however, is very short. What your friend says is quite true. He is an interloper, and has nothing to do with the story as it goes on.

“Where I disagree with your friend (and I do it questionably, only because of my deference to him, not from the least hesitation as to my own opinion), is, where he seems to hold it as a rule that you cannot introduce a matured character in the commencement of a history, and then go back to show how that character was produced. Your friend thinks that the knowledge at once of what a man is, precludes interest in tracing him from what he was. Or, as he
describes it, as the interest depends upon watching progressive acquisitions and changes, it is destroyed if we know before hand at what he has arrived.

“My story is this. De Vere, at a matured period of his age, is introduced with a certain character belonging to him. Having attempted at least to interest you as to this character, I go back to his childhood (which was a most remarkable one) to show you how he came by it. What is there unnatural, or even unusual in this? As it happens, it is the very plan of Tremaine, who is introduced to you with a very particular character, full formed, and grown inveterate, and also in a very different situation as to circumstances to what he had been; and to account for it we go back* full twenty years of his life, marking all its vicissitudes. All the difference is, that in De Vere I go rather

* This going back, and by that and other equally objectionable means complicating his machinery, is in fact the characteristic defect of Mr. Plumer Ward’s first two productions—“Tremaine” and “De Vere.” In his third, “De Clifford,” he has entirely avoided this defect, and the result is that, in point of construction at least, it is by far the best of his works.

more into the details of his childhood and his youth. All I however submit is entirely in keeping; for the child and the youth (if I have not failed, which I certainly may have done) are exactly what you would suppose the man of six and twenty (not as your friend, I think, supposes, six and thirty) to be, when introduced to the reader. I cannot help indeed supposing (as I certainly wish to believe), that your friend has made some little mistake as to this part. If he has, I fear it must be my fault. But whether so or not, he talks of what De Vere is at six and thirty, when in fact he is introduced only at six or seven and twenty, and the whole action of the story does not consume above six or eight months afterwards. But more than this, he talks of certain impressions which are made on the reader’s first acquaintance with De Vere, which he is expected either to get rid of at once on seeing him transferred to another period of existence, or if he retains them, he feels that they interfere with other impressions which ought to be distinct. Now, if this is so, I have most sadly failed indeed, as I had, to
myself at least, an entire unity of plan; and if I hope I have preserved it, it is not from any over confidence in myself (especially against such an opinion as your friend’s), but because the whole MS. has been submitted to several judgments which I entirely trust, and some of them even admire, and not one of them has complained of this want of keeping.* One of them (an excellent one) has so far agreed with the other part of your friend’s criticism, as to wish Beauclerk more out of sight, especially later, where he is once, and only once, personally introduced, (and this I can easily remedy;) but none complain of introducing De Vere as he is, and then giving a retrospect of his life.

“As you have not read the MS. yourself, I will just tell you that the action attending the introduction is this:—Beauclerk, a young man on a tour, meets De Vere, who interests him much, and invites him home

* Nor did I. What I chiefly wished and proposed, and what the author finally adopted, was simply that desired by the critic referred to in the next sentence,—viz. to have Beauclerk kept more out of sight.

with him, where he interests him more. At this home he meets De Vere’s mother, and two men of most opposite characters,—a world hater and a world lover,—formerly De Vere’s guardians, and still contending, as it were, to bring him over to their respective opinions. Beauclerk, struck with both, and admitted to their favour, in the course of time obtains from them all the preceding story of De Vere, and having given it up to the time of making De Vere’s acquaintance, he continues it till the book ends; and, from the beginning to the ending, De Vere continues the same character you would suppose him to be from the introductory description of him.

“I own myself not prepared, and even at a loss, to make out the disadvantages of such a plan. There may however be an unnecessary diversity of interest in the one or two pages respecting Beauclerk personally, and them I will omit; but unless I have misunderstood your friend, and he shows me that his objections are different from what I have represented them, he will not be angry with me if I cannot agree with him.”


The following extracts from a second letter on the same subject are necessary to explain the rejoinder of the author of “De Vere.”

Extract of a Letter from the Revisor to the Author of “De Vere.”

“ * * * * With respect to the ‘machinery’ which is used to introduce the story of ‘De Vere,’ the author and myself do not seem to differ materially; and I am most glad to find that he intends (for so I understand him) to get rid of Beauclerk altogether. If the author will only call to mind the period of momentous interest to all parties, except Beauclerk himself, at which this person is first introduced at Talbois, he (the author) will perceive how much worse than superfluous his presence there must be.

“The author, it appears, does not see any objection to the plan he has adopted, of introducing us to his hero at a matured period of his life, and of settling his character, and his habits of thought and feeling, in our minds, and then going back for many years, to show how those habits and that character
were acquired? Neither do I see any objection to this plan that might not be counterbalanced by advantages which might be made to grow out of it. But the question is—Do any advantages grow out of it in the case now in point? This is the question for consideration. For, if they do not, then the plan is objectionable, simply because it is not the natural one. Now, I do not see that any advantages grow out of the artificial plan in this instance, and, therefore, I object to it. It is true this plan has enabled the author to interest us at once in the fate and fortunes of his hero. But the question is—whether in so doing he has not unduly precipitated an interest that would have been more effective and agreeable in its natural place? * * *

Let me add, in reference to particular passages in the extract sent me, first, that I by no means intended to ‘hold it as a rule that you cannot introduce a matured character,’ &c. and then go back to show how that character ‘was produced,’ &c. What I meant to say was, that in the instance of De Vere this plan had been carried to a mischievous extent. I perfectly remembered that the same plan was adopted in the case of Tremaine. But I remembered also, that in that case, though the time which the reader was carried back might be many years, the retrospection was effected in a few pages, instead of (as in De Vere) three whole volumes out of four.”

The Author of “De Vere” in reply to the foregoing.
“Feb. 17, 1817.
* * * * *

“Notwithstanding the very handsome letter you have sent me from your able friend, I will confine this as much as possible to business, especially as, with the usual obstinacy of a strong first opinion, the more I think of the subject the more I am confirmed in it, and have framed my final alteration accordingly. At the same time I am really quite sorry not to have your friend’s opinion with me, as it shakes my confidence in my own, though it does not convince my judgment.

“What I have done is this (for as to this
point I entirely agree with your friend)—I have annihilated Beauclerk, the nephew, but not the uncle, who must be still the supposed author, who meets De Vere in the way he does. Without this I must lose perhaps one of the most interesting and forcible parts of the work—certainly that which creates the whole expectation and interest to be found in the outset, which, much as I fear I prefer ‘
Tremaine’ upon the whole, beats all the introductory part of ‘Tremaine’ twenty to one. However, Mr. Beauclerk himself is made to retire hors de page at about the 116th page of the first volume, and never appears again; so that everything then proceeds from a beginning to an end, without the least interruption or division of interest; and unity (which I so entirely agree with your friend in admiring) is quite preserved. It will then stand thus: Beauclerk brings you acquainted with De Vere, his mother, and two quondam mentors, and lays the foundation of an interest about them all, in certain scenes and conversations, which last through one hundred and sixteen pages, and no more; and he then says—Having
thus excited your curiosity about De Vere’s life, I will tell you its story, from his boyish days till the most interesting part of it is over. But in doing this, observe, I have nothing more to say of myself in it, because, previous to my knowing him, I of course had no share in it; and during the few months after our first meeting, which complete the story I mean to relate, I was absent from him. Henceforward, therefore, I am only his biographer, and you will hear no more of me in person.

“This, then, is all that Beauclerk has to do with it. He then begins with the childhood of De Vere, and pursues his career through various vicissitudes of ambition and love, till both are crowned: and this ends the book.

“With unfeigned deference, therefore, but yet with confidence, I ask your friend in what is this objectionable? or, if the earlier part of De Vere’s life (I mean that previous to the meeting between him and Beauclerk) consumed ten volumes instead of three, or composed the whole story one had to relate, how is the interest divided, or the plan mischievous to it? What numbers of books are
there wherein a man, at the zenith of his prosperity, writes his own life up to the moment of his telling the story. And what does Beauclerk do more than this by De Vere, after he has thoroughly introduced him to his readers? For you will please to observe, that Beauclerk is not writing in the first days of his acquaintance with De Vere, but in his old age, and in the way of reminiscence, long after all that composes the story is over.

“Having thus, I trust, satisfactorily explained myself, I cannot but again thank your friend for all the kind things he is pleased to say of the execution of the work, distinct from its plan, which very, very much encourages me. And as to the plan itself, I would adopt his suggestions if I could; but I think he will see that I could not make Beauclerk meet De Vere except in the precise time he did; certainly, not a few months before, as he proposes, for that would have been in the midst of the interest created by Lord Mowbray’s death, when he would have been more in the way; and, if you go farther back, De Vere was abroad.

“In short, it would delight me to have
your friend’s support as to the plan, if I could; but if I cannot, except against my own doctrines and decided judgment, his evident candour will excuse my pursuing the latter. I, however, quite agree with him in the general fault of all heroes and heroines, that they are paragons beyond their years; and certainly De Vere and Constance, from their matured judgments, ought to be near ten years older than they are. It is a fault, however, which, as he himself says, is necessary to all similar works, in order to combine mental with bodily perfection.”

* * * * *

Before concluding these notes and reminiscences of my anonymous communications with The Author of “Tremaine” and “De Vere,” I will give part of a letter from him relative to certain personal sketches in the latter work, which cannot fail to be read with strong interest by those who are acquainted with the admirable sketches referred to, and with curiosity by all. It will scarcely be said that this letter is of a private and confidential nature, since its express and avowed object was to avoid certain unjust imputa-
tions which were in point of fact subsequently put upon the author, relative to several of the personal sketches in question—imputations which were in the highest degree obnoxious and annoying to him. These extracts are also necessary to explain what follows in the next section.

“ * * * It is worth a little trouble to prevent a possible mistake, even though mistake might lead to no consequences.

“You know how glad I am that ‘De Vere’ in is the hands of such a man as your friend. What I wish to explain is in regard to the inscription on the old column at Talbois, in, I think, the second chapter of the first volume, and which is meant as a key to the story. It begins with—
‘Trust in thy own good sword,
Rather than prince’s word,’ &c.

“From what accompanies this, one would suppose that it was really (as stated) the composition of Edward, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford; and it has just occurred to me that a reviewer might think of (possibly mention) it as such. I feel it right therefore to say
that these are imaginary lines; though the device of the trunk of the oak making new shoots, and the motto of ‘Insperata floruit,’ are not.

“As I am writing I will just say a word about the possibility and the consequence of making applications of the characters to individuals of the present day. What I say in the preface is no more than true: I know not such people as Mowbray, Cleveland, or Clayton, or Oldcastle. I am not sure, however, that I could defend myself in regard to Wentworth. For though no individual answers to him exactly, it would be difficult to deny altogether that I had not distinct people in mind, in forming the different parts of his character. All the anecdotes regarding his administration, as found in the last chapter of the fourth volume, belong to Mr. Pitt; and it would not be easy to say that, in regard to the character of his eloquence, his love of letters, and all that distinguishes his conversation, in the chapter on posthumous fame, in the second volume, what is stated does not apply to Mr. Canning. Nor, if anybody finds out and marks this resemblance
in any piece of transitory criticism, do I think it would do me any credit in form to deny it,—as I could most safely all that regards Mowbray and Clayton and Cleveland, &c. Part of the Wentworth sketch, however, is formed upon the better parts of
Bolingbroke’s character.

“In the portrait of Lady Clanellan, on her introduction in the first volume, those who know her as well as I do may recognise the amiable Duchess of Buckingham. If they do, I cannot deny it.

“In Herbert I certainly confess my old and revered master Dr. Cyril Jackson, the former Dean of Christ Church; and many of the stories in the Man of Imagination, some perhaps also of the Man of Content (Mowerdale), may possibly be found in my own history.

“I think this is the extent of my confession; and I make it upon the same principle as a client or a patient would to his lawyer or physician, viz., the imprudence of not laying his case unreservedly before them. My extreme anxiety not to be exposed to accusations of meaning things and people which and
whom I do not mean, induces me thus to tell you, and your friend too, what may be safely denied and what not. Use it as, in your discretion, you may think fit; for it would seriously annoy me if any of the characters which, as I have said, are absolutely ideal, were applied to any particular persons.

“About those I have mentioned as prototypes I am indifferent, as they, at least, cannot feel either hurt or offended.

“The candour in which I write might make me allow that perhaps I had the old Duke of Newcastle, or part of him, in view, in Lord Mowbray; but I am not even sure of this myself. In the same manner I might mention Lord Waldegrave as Lord Clanellan; but no part of Cleveland, no part of Clayton.

“If you think this long explanation unnecessary, burn it; if not, use it with a view to my feeling upon it. I wish it, with the same view, to be shown to your cultivated friend.” * * *