1854 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Robert Shelton Mackenzie, Note in Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:466-67n.



Odoherty very much flattered L. E. L. when he allowed North to describe her as "very handsome," and "a perfect beauty." She narrowly escaped being a dowdy. Her figure was petite, her manner natural and impulsive, her voice sweet and low, ("an excellent thing in women," if they would only recollect it!) and her whole bearing was that of a child-woman, (she was twenty-two in 1824, and looked seventeen,) delighted with society, and feeling bound to please. Graceful in motion — charming in repose, — yet by no means handsome, — Miss Landon was about the last person on earth whom, meeting in a drawing-room, you would suspect of authorship. Yet she composed poetry rapidly as her own Improvisatrice — writing her verses, scarcely ever with an emendation, in her small, neat, upright, old-fashioned hand. Quick, lively, and epigrammatic in conversation as she was, I never saw any woman, save one, — and she is the loveliest, in mind or person, whom I have ever known, — who was so solicitous to avoid scandal and mere gossip. "Letty Landon," as she used to like to be called, was the safest person in the world to whom a young author might speak of what he had in his mind to do, for her human sympathies were large, her judgment far riper than her years, and her grasp of mind vigorous and extended. Tell her the plot of a story, or the idea of a poem, and, at once, she would suggest how one might be better evolved in action, how the other might be exalted by particular treatment. [On going over this note again, at the last moment, with the press — which, like time and tide, waits for no man — rattling in my ears, I am conscious that I have not done full justice to L. E. Landon. Said I that she was not beautiful? "C'est vrai" — but there is a beauty far beyond and far above mere loveliness of feature. There is the beauty of Expression, and if ever mortal possessed it, Letitia Landon did. It is mournful to think of her as she was when first I saw her, in 1828, and know that, in ten year's from that time, she was lying, far away, in a grave in Africa. In 1828, when she was "the life, grace, and ornament of society," one would scarcely have been extravagant in anticipating that one so gifted and so courted would have worn a coronet, and been the mother of a line of nobles, whose ancestral glories would have been illumined by her wonderful genius.]