Page images

he made extensive improvements, giving employment daily, for many years, to between twenty and thirty labourers in building and planting. He made a road at his own expense, of eight miles long, and planted and fenced half a million of trees. The infamous behaviour of some tenants caused him to leave the country. At this time he had a million more trees ready to plant, which, as he observed,' were lost to the country, by driving me from it. I may speak of their utility, if I must not of my own.' The two chief otienders were brothers, who rented farms of Mr. Landor to the amount of 1,500l. per annum, and were to introduce an improved system of Suffolk husbandry. Mr. Landor got no rent from them, but all manner of atrocious annoyances. They even rooted up his trees, and destroyed whole plantations. They paid nobody. When neighbours and work-people applied for money, Mr. Landor says, “they were referred to the devil, with their wives and families, while these brothers had their two bottles of wine upon the table. As for the Suffolk system of agriculture, wheat was sown upon the last of May, and cabbage, for winter food, were planted in August or September.' Mr. Landor eventually remained master of the field, and drove his tormentors across the seas ; but so great was his disgust at these circumstances that he resolved to leave England.” Some years afterwards he caused his house, which had cost him about 8,0001., to be taken down, that his son might never have the chance of similar vexations in that place.

To this there want a few additional facts. It was not only the Suffolk farmers, but the general spirit and brutality of the people of the country which wearied and disgusted him beyond endurance. In the verses we have recently quoted he vents unmitigated hatred of the Welsh, as a “churlish nation," and a "reptile race.” He seems to have been subjected to a system of universal plunder and imposition. None but they who have lived amongst such a rude, thievish, and unattractive crew can conceive the astonishment and exasperation of it to an intelligent and generous mind. He used to have twenty watchers on his moorland hills night and day to protect his grouse. He had 12,000 acres of land, and never used to see a grouse upon his table. He says the protection of game that he never ate or benefited by, cost him more than he now lives at. Disgusted by all these circumstances, he left the place, and resolved never to return to it. But it was not, as Mr. Horne asserts, before he left England, that he ordered the destruction of his new and splendid house, in which he only resided six months. He ordered his steward to let it. Years went on, and it still remained unlet. Twelve or fifteen years afterwards he chanced to meet with Lord Dillon in Italy, who had once applied to him for occupation. "How was it,” he asked, “ that you did not take my house at Lantony ?"

“How? why, it was not to be let.” “ It has been to let these dozen years."

“ You amaze me.

I was most anxious to take it, but your steward assured me it was not to be let on any account."

landor immediately wrote to England to make particular inquiries, and found that the steward was keeping the house to accommodate his own friends, who came down there in parties to shoot his master's grouse. With characteristic indignation, Mr. Landor at once ordered the steward to quit his service and estate, and that the house should be levelled to the ground.

The steward had distrained on the Bethunes, the tenants, to the amount of 1,000l. “The money,” says Mr. Landor, in a letter to me," he permitted to remain in the hands of the sheriff ; and what became of it, wholly or partly, he knows best, I never received one shilling of it, but I received a long bill from him, which was immediately paid out of several thousands that I borrowed at exorbitant interest, my estates being all entailed.” Such are a few of the pleasures of property.

In 1811 Mr. Landor married Julia, the daughter of J. Thuillier de Malaperte, descendant and representative of the Baron de Neuve ville, first gentleman of the bed-chamber to Charles the Eighth. He went to reside in Italy, and during several years occupied the Palazzo Medici, in Florence. The proprietor dying, and the palace being to be sold, he looked out for a fresh residence, and found that the villa Gherardesca, at Fiesole, with its gardens and farm of about 100 acres, was to be sold, and he purchased it. The villa Gherardesca lies only two miles from Florence, on the banks of the Affrico. It was built by Michael Angelo, and is one of the most delightful residences in the world. Here Landor lived many years, and here, I believe, his family still resides. In both poetry and prose, he frequently refers to this beloved spot with deep feeling and regret, as in the verses commencing

“ Let me sit here and muse by thee

Awhile, aëria! Fiesole !
Thy sheltered walks and cooler grots,
Villas, and vines, and olive plots,
Catch me, entangle me, detain me,

And laugh to hear that aught can pain me."-Vol. II. p. 625
And the

“ I leave thee, beauteous Italy; no more

From thy high terraces at even-tide
To look supine into thy depths of sky,
Thy golden moon between the cliff and me,
On thy dark spires of fretted cypresses,
Bordering the channel of the milky way.
Fiesole and Valdarno must be dreams
Hereaster, and my own lost Affrico
Murmur to me but in the poet's song.
I did believe,--what have I not believed 1-
Weary with age, but unoppressed by pain,
To close in thy soft clime my quiet day,
And rest my bones in the Mimosa shade.
Hope! hope! few ever cherished thee so little;
Few are the heads thou hast so rarely raised;
But thou didst promise this, and all was well.
For we are fond of thinking where to lie
When every pulse hath ceased, when the lone heart
Can lift no aspiration .... reasoning
As if the sight were unimpaired by death,
Were unobstructed by the coffin lid,
And the sun cheered corruption. Over all
The smiles of nature shed a potent charm,
And ligbt us to our chamber at the grave."-Vol. II. p. 647.

Walter Savage Landor now resides at Bath. In his modest house in St. James's-square, he has surrounded himself with one of the most exquisite miniature collection of paintings in the world. Everything is select, from the highest masters, Raphael, Titian, Correggio, and older and more quaint hands, and everything perfect of its kind. These, including some by our own Wilson, he collected in Italy. His larger collection of larger pictures he gave to his son, on leaving Italy, and brought these only as more adapted to the house he proposed to inhabit. Peace, meditation, and the gradual resumption of simple tasks and habits, seem the leading objects of his present ola uge. “I have a pleasure," said he, “in renouncing one indulgence after another; in learning to live without so many wants. Why should I require so many more comforts than the bulk of my fellowcreatures can get ? We should set an example against the selfish self-indulgence of the age. We should discountenance its extravagant follies. The pride and pomp of funerals is monstrous. When I die I will spend but six pounds on mine. I have left orders for the very commonest coffin that is made for the commonest man ; and six of the stoutest and very poorest men to carry me to the grave, for which each shall receive one sovereign.”

“But don't you pine for your beautiful Fiesole and its beautiful climate ; don't you want your children, especially that daughter whose bust there opposite reminds one so of Queen Victoria ?”.

“ I could wish it, but it is better as it is. I cannot live there. They can, and are happy. I have their society in their letters; they are well off, and therefore-I am contented.”

With this he diverted the conversation to the decease of a mutual friend. “Ah! what a good, warm-hearted creature that was! There never was a woman so self-forgetting and full of affection. She lies in the churchyard just by here. We used to joke merrily on what is now half fulfilled. I shall be buried in

churchyard,' she ouce said. “Why, I mean to be buried there myself. My dear Mrs. Price, we'll visit! Being such near neighbours, we'll have a chair, and make calls on one another!'" And at this idea he burst forth into one of those hearty resounding laughs, that show in Landor how strangely fun and feeling can live side by side in the human mind.

Walter Savage Landor is one of those men who are sent into the world strong to teach. Strong in mind and body ; strong in the clear sense of the right and the true, they walk unencumbered by prejudices, unshackled by fears. They tread over the trim borders of artificial life, often oversetting its training glasses, and kicking over its tenderest nurslings. They break down the hedge of selfish monopoly, and carry along with them a stake from the gap, to have a blow at the first bull or bully they meet in the field. They stop to gaze at the idol of the day when they reach the city, and pronounce it but the scarecrow of last summer new dressed. They enter churches, and are oftener disgusted with the dreadful religion made for God, than delighted with the preaching of that divine benevolence sent down by God for man. They weep at some recolleceta sorrow; but remembering that this is but a contagious weakness, they laugh, to make their neighbours awake from sad thoughts, and are pronounced unfeeling. They attack old and bloody prejudices, and are asked if they are wiser than any one else. They know it: the divine instinct, the teaching faculty within them replies-“Yes.” They go on strong and unmoved, though fewer perceive their great mission than feel them poking them in the delicate sides of their interests ; fewer sympathise with their tenderest and purest feelings than are shocked by their ridicule of old and profitable humbugs. Misunderstood, misrepresented, and calumniated, they go on-nothing can alter them-for their burden and command are from above; yet every day the world is selecting some truth from the truths they have collected, admiring some flower in the bouquet of beauties they have gathered as they have gone through the wilderness, picking up some gem that they have let fall for the first comer after them, till eventually comparing, and placing all side by side, the world with a sudden flash of recognition perceives that all these truths, beauties, and precious things, belonged to the strange, rude man, who was actually wiser than anybody else. Long may Savage Landor live to see the fruit of his undaunted mind gradually absorbent into the substance of society!

[graphic][merged small]


Some forty years ago, three youths went forth, one fine summer's day, from the quiet town of Mansfield, to enjoy a long luxurious ramble in Sherwood forest. Their limbs were full of youth—their hearts of the ardour of life—their heads of dreams of beauty. The future lay before them, full of brilliant, but undefined achievements in the land of poetry and romance. The world lay around them, fair and musical as new paradise. They traversed long dales, dark with heather-gazed from hill-tops over still and immense landscapes—tracked the margins of the shining waters that hurry over the clear gravel of that ancient ground, and drank in the freshness of the air, the odours of the forest, the distant cry of the curlew, and the music of a whole choir of larks high above their heads. Beneath the hanging boughs of a wood-side they threw themselves down to lunch, and from their pockets came forth, with other good things, a book. It was a new book. A hasty peep into it had led them to believe that it would blend well in the perusal with the spirit of the region of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, and with the more tragical tale of that Scottish queen, the grey and distant towers of one of whose prison-houses, Hardwicke, could be descried from their resting-place, clad as with the solemn spirit of a sad antiquity. The book was The Story of Rimini. The author's

« PreviousContinue »