1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 2:449.



This lady, generally known as "L. E. L.," in consequence of having first published with her initials only, has attained an eminent place among the female poets of our age. Her earliest compositions were Poetical Sketches, which appeared in the Literary Gazette: afterwards (1824) she published the Improvisatrice, which was followed by two more volumes of poetry. She also contributed largely to magazines and annuals, and was the authoress of a novel entitled Romance and Reality. From a publication of her Life and Literary Remains, edited by Mr. L. Blanchard, it appears that her history was in the main a painful one; and yet it is also asserted that the melancholy of her verses was a complete contrast to the vivacity and playfulness of her manners in private life. She was born at Hans Place, Chelsea, in 1802, the daughter of Mr. Landon, a partner in the house of Adairs, army agents. Lively, susceptible, and romantic, she early commenced writing poetry. The friendship of Mr. Jerdan, of the Literary Gazette, facilitated her introduction to the world of letters, but it also gave rise to some reports injurious to her character, which caused her the most exquisite pain. Her father died, and she not only maintained herself, but assisted her relations by her literary labours, which she never relaxed for a moment. In 1838 she was married to Mr. George Maclean, governor of Cape-Coast castle, and shortly afterwards sailed for Cape-Coast with her husband. She landed there in August, and was resuming her literary engagements in her solitary African home, when one morning, after writing the previous night some cheerful and affectionate letters to her friends in England, she was (October 16) found dead in her room, lying close to the door, having in her hand a bottle which had contained prussic acid, a portion of which she had taken. From the investigation which took place into the circumstances of this melancholy event, it was conjectured that she had undesigningly taken an over-dose of the fatal medicine, as a relief from spasms in the stomach. Having surmounted her early difficulties, and achieved ail easy competence and a daily-extending reputation, much might have been expected from the genius of L. E. L., had not her life been prematurely terminated. Her latter works are more free, natural, and forcible than those by which she first attracted notice.