LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
R. Plumer Ward IX
Robert Plumer Ward to Peter George Patmore, [January? 1827]

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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“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.”