27 November -Elizabeth Laetitia Landon (1802-1838) Jul 14, 2008 22:11:06 GMT 2
Post by moira on Jul 14, 2008 22:11:06 GMT 2
Elizabeth Laetitia Landon (1802-1838)[/b]
Landon's reputation for melancholy poetry is so
fixed that I wish I had some satiric verse to
begin with. I don't, but I can offer a
correction about her life which I read in Adriana
Craciun's Fatal Women of Romanticism
(which I reviewed for the Keats-Shelley Journal:
A famous often-reprinted one:
The Power of Words
'Tis a strange mystery, the power of words!
Life is in them, and death. A word can send
The crimson colour hurrying to the cheek.
Hurrying with many meanings; or can turn
The current cold and deadly to the heart.
Anger and fear are in them; grief and joy
Are on their sound; yet slight, impalpable:--
A word is but a breath of passing air.
Two lesser known ones. The first, personal, and
it seems to me important to know that it's
possible or probable that Landon had given birth
to 3 children in secret and had to leave them for
this marriage which would take her out of
pariahdom, plus free their father (as I recall
probably William Jerdan, the Literary Gazette
editor and one of Landon's first promoters) from her presence.
The Polar Star
This star sinks below the horizon in certain latitudes.
I watched it sink lower and lower every night,
till at last it disappeared.
A star has left the kindling sky--
A lovely northern light--
How many planets are on high,
But that has left the night.
I miss its bright familiar face,
It was a friend to me,
Associate with my native place,
And those beyond the sea.
It rose upon our English sky,
Shone o'er our English land,
And brought back many a loving eye,
And many a gentle hand,
It seemed to answer to my thought,
It called the past to mind,
And with its welcome presence brought
All I had left behind.
The voyage it lights no longer, ends
Soon on a foreign shore;
How can I but recall the friends,
Who I may see no more?
Fresh from the pain it was to part--
How could I bear the pain?
Yet strong the omen in my heart
That says--We meet agin.
Meet with a deeper, dearer love,
For absence shows the worth
Of all from which we then remove,
Friends, home, and native earth.
Thou lovely polar star, mine eyes
Still turned the first on thee,
Till I have felt a sad surprise
That none looked up with me.
But thou hast sunk below the wave,
Thy radiant place unknown;
I seem to stand beside a grave,
And stand by it alone.
Farewell!--ah, would to me were given
A power upon thy light,
What words upon our English heaven
Thy loving rays should write!
Kind messages of love and hope
Upon thy rays should be;
Thy shining orbit would have scope
Scarcely enough for me.
Oh, fancy vain as it is fond,
And little needed too,
My friends! I need not look beyond
My heart to look for you! [/size]
This poem appeared with its companion piece,
"Night at Sea," in the January 1839 issue of
The New Monthly Magazine.
Landon died at Cape Coast Castle
on the west coast of Africa in 1838.
'Tis an accursed thing!--
There rests a shade above yon town,
A dark funereal shroud:
'Tis not the tempest hurrying down,
'Tis not a summer cloud.
The smoke that rises on the air
Is as a type and sign;
A shadow flung by the despair
Within those streets of thine.
That smoke shuts out the cheerful day,
The sunset's purple hues,
The moonlight's pure and tranquil ray,
The morning's pearly dews.
Such is the moral atmosphere
Around thy daily life;
Heavy with care, and pale with fear,
With future tumult rife.
There rises on the morning wind
A low appealing cry,
A thousand children are resigned
To sicken and to die!
We read of Moloch's sacrifice,
We sicken at the name,
And seem to hear the infant cries--
And yet we do the same;--
And worse--'twas but a moment's pain
The heathen altar gave,
But we give years,--our idol, Gain,
Demands a living grave!
How precious is the little one,
Before his mother's sight,
With bright hair dancing in the sun,
And eyes of azure light!
He sleeps as rosy as the south,
For summer days are long;
A prayer upon the little mouth,
Lull'd by his nurse's song.
Love is around him, and his hours
Are innocent and free;
His mind essays its early powers
Beside his mother's knee.
When after-years of trouble come,
Such as await man's prime,
How will he think of that dear home,
And childhood's lovely time!
And such should childhood ever be,
The fairy well; to bring
To life's worn, weary memory
The freshness of its spring.
But here the order is reversed,
And infancy, like age,
Knows of existence but its worst,
One dull and darkened page;--
Written with tears, and stamp'd with toil,
Crushed from the earliest hour,
Weeds darkening on the bitter soil
That never knew a flower.
Look on yon child, it droops the head,
Its knees are bow'd with pain;
It mutters from its wretched bed,
"Oh, let me sleep again!"
Alas! 'tis time, the mother's eyes
Turn mournfully away;
Alas! 'tis time, the child must rise,
And yet it is not day.
The lantern's lit--she hurries forth,
The spare cloak's scanty fold
Scarce screens her from the snowy north,
The child is pale and cold.
And wearily the little hands
Their task accustom'd ply;
While daily, some mid those pale bands,
Droop, sicken, pine, and die.
Good God! to think upon a child
That has no childish days,
No careless play, no frolics wild,
No words of prayer and praise!
Man from the cradle--'tis too soon
To earn their daily bread,
And heap the heat and toil of noon
Upon an infant's head.
To labour ere their strength be come,
Or starve,--is such the doom
That makes of many an English home
One long and living tomb?
Is there no pity from above,--
No mercy in those skies;
Hath then the heart of man no love,
To spare such sacrifice?
Oh, England! though thy tribute waves
Proclaim thee great and free,
While those small children pine like slaves,
There is a curse on thee!
From The Vow of the Peacock, and Other Poems (1835)
A brief life of the "facts" as usually presented:
Letitia Elizabeth Landon was born 1802 in Chelsea. She is said to have been an early reader and wrote poems almost as soon as she could write at all. Her first published poem, "Rome," appeared in the Literary Gazette in 1820, when Letitia was 17. Her first book followed the next year, titled The Fate of Adelaide, a Swiss Romantic Tale; and Other Poems (1821).
A second book, The Improvisatrice, followed in 1824 and found a wide readership, including US and German editions. In 1824, her father died, and Landon's writings supported not only herself, but her widowed mother, an "invalid" sister, and a brother at Oxford.
More titles followed quickly:
The Troubadour (1825);
The Golden Violet (1827);
The Venetian Bracelet (1829),
The Vow of the Peacock (1835).
She also wrote book reviews and other articles for the same Literary Gazette, but these were published anonymously. In 1831 she published her first novel, Romance and Reality; two more were to come, Francesca Carrara (1834) and Ethel Churchill (1837), both well-received. She also penned a children's book, Traits and Trials of Early Life (1836), and edited an annual (Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book).
She's often prompted by a picture, and she is more frequently satiric and wry (in the prose pieces) than is realized.
By 1836 as a result of controversies over her poetry (it's very disquieting, Craciun argues amoral and subversive in all sorts of ways, a woman's Byronic stance -- she creates a Melusine whom she invites us to identify with), attacks of various sorts (perhaps over her private life), in 1836, she became engaged to George MacLean, governor of "Cape Coast Castle," England's post in what is now Ghana, on Africa's west coast. They wed in June 1838, stayed to see the coronation of Victoria later that month, then left for Africa. She died there, suddenly, in October 1838, possibly from an overdose of medicine. Whether it was an accident, a murder, or a suicide was never determined.
She is said to have written 1,200 works in prose fictions, poetry, and criticism, at least 500 poems in various periodicals. She must've spent much of her waking life writing.
A very distorted picture of Landon emerged after her death, partly the result of the way she died. A interesting sidelight is how Landon's children were taken to Australia and are now "postcolonial." It's through the efforts of the the children's children that new documents have come to light for the first time.
Her novel Ethel Churchill as well as other prose pieces are online.
The novel is satiric, witty, urbane.
Germaine Greer has a good sympathetic account of Landon in her Slipshod Sybils.
See also the following where (among other things) she is vindicated as a poetess of sensibility:
McGann, Jerome, and Riess, Daniel, eds.,
Letitia Elizabeth Landon: Selected Writings
(Broadview Literary Texts, 1997).
Letitia Landon: The Woman behind L.E.L.
(Manchester University Press, 1995).
McGann, Jerome, "Waking from Adam's Dream:
L.E.L.'s Art of Disillusion," in The Poetics of Sensibility
(Oxford University Press, 1996): 143-49.
Blain, Virginia, "Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Eliza Mary Hamilton,
and the Genealogy of the Victorian Poetess,"
Victorian Poetry 33 (1995): 31-51.
Lawford, Cynthia, "Bijoux Beyond Possession:
The Prima Donnas of L. E. L.'s Album Poems,"
in Isobel Armstrong and Virginia Blain, eds.,
Women's Poetry, Late Romantic to Late Victorian:
Gender and Genre,1830-1900 (St. Martins 1999): 102-114.
Lootens, Tricia, "Receiving the Legend, Rethinking the Writer:
Letitia Landon and the Poetess Tradition,"
in Harriet Kramer Linkin and Stephen C. Behrendt, eds,
Romanticism and Women Poets:
Opening the Doors of Reception
(UP of Kentucky, 1999): 242-260.
Some online sites:
An important foremother poet,