Walter Savage Landor : Literary Contribution

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      Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864) had a long life for he was born five years after Wordsworth, and lived to see the full yield of the Victorian era. Of an ancient family, he was born in Warwickshire, and was educated at Rugby and Oxford. Later he was fired with republican ideas and supported the revolutionaries in Spain. In temper he was impulsive to the point of mania; and his life is marked by a succession of violent quarrels with his friends and enemies. The middle years of his life were passed in Italy. He returned to England in 1835 and lived in Bath from 1838 to 1858. In this last year his pugnacity involved him in an action for libel in which, as defendant, he cut a lamentable figure. Poor and dishonoured, he forsook England, and settled again in Florence, where he died.

Landor is remembered chiefly as a prose writer, by far the greater part of his life was devoted to poetry. His Poems (1795) was a collection of miscellaneous works modelled on the classics, in which the influence of the Miltonic style is clearly to be seen.
Walter Savage Landor

      Though Landor is remembered chiefly as a prose writer, by far the greater part of his life was devoted to poetry. His Poems (1795) was a collection of miscellaneous works modelled on the classics, in which the influence of the Miltonic style is clearly to be seen. It was followed by his epic poem, Gebir (1798), Hellenics (1846, augmented 1847 and 1859), Last Fruits of an Old Tree (1853), and Heroic Idylls (1863). In these collections Landor tries many kinds of verse, all of which are, used with the greatest metrical accuracy. His longer poems, such as Gebir, are not without a certain stately, dignity of tone and passages of descriptive beauty, but too often they are frigid and unappealing, by reason of their lack of animation and the excessive compression of their imagery. Landor is seen at his best in his shorter works. The Hellenics, brief narratives based on (Greek mythology, are for the most part in blank verse. Many of them have a pleasing conciseness of style and lightness of touch, though some are marred by the weaknesses of Gebir. His lyrics have often a classical restraint and delicacy.

      His dramas, of which the best is Count Julian (1812), are all lacking in true dramatic qualities, though Landor shows some power as a creator of individual scenes.

      Landor's literary fame rests, however, on his Imaginary Conversations, published at intervals between 1824 and 1846. These dialogues between actual persons of the past, or of Landor's own day deal with a wide variety of topics - from literary criticism to politics, and the method of exposition varies almost as much as the subjects discussed. The quality of their thought is not particularly high, but some of the characters, especially the women, are very effectively portrayed. Imaginary Conversations is, however, of greatest interest as a specimen of the new poetic prose, which we have also seen in De Quincey. It is full of rich imagery and ornate diction, while in rhythmical effect it differs little from Landor's verse. In it are passages which show the epigrammatic brilliance of his shorter poems.

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