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RECENT CONVERSATIONS IN A STUDIO.
Belton. I forgot to bring you a am losing my mind; I am getting book which I had laid aside ex- old ;” and then the name or date or pressly.
passage would come in the midst Mallett. I thought you never of his vituperation of himself, and forgot anything
he would calmly go on Bel. I forget everything—that nothing had happened. He was is, everything that I wish to remem- the most impatient man I ever ber I forget, and what I wish to saw with himself. forget I remember.
Bel. And with others too, as I Mal. Would you give up what have heard. you remember for what
have Mal. Yes, he was very irritable, forgotten
but very good company when he Bel. I should know a great deal chose-- man of the most violent more, certainly; and yet I am íot impulses, and also of the most ready to agree to any such propo- generous ones.
He was one of sition. I should not like to lose the best Latin scholars of his day; what I have; and who knows and once when I was saying to what would come up in its stead him how admirable I thought his of rubbish and rottenness ?
Imaginary Conversations were, Mal. If I should confine my ques- he interrupted me, saying, "I know tion to literary memory, of know- how to write Latin-I am sure of ledge derived from books, I don't that; but I am not sure of my know that I should not gladly English.” To which all I could accept it. But perhaps it is better say was, that I should be satisfied as it is. Great memories often if I could write as good English. encumber the mind with a quan- As for his Latin, possibly Cicero tity of useless trash. Yet I should would have found more faults in like to have my library in my it than we in his English. memory rather than on my shelves. Bel. His style is wonderfully Walter Savage Landor told me clear, close, and transparent, but that after he had read a book, he perhaps a little cold. gave it away on principle-" for Mal. Perhaps; but it is very if I know I am to put it on my pure and solid English, almost shelf to refer to, I shall not fix like a crystal block; and his it in my memory; but if I know figures are cut in it like intaglios while I am reading it.that as soon in a gem. When he stayed with as it is read it will be taken
away, me, he used to get up at daybreak; I am sure to keep all that I want." and many a time I have seen him
Bel. Ah! but he must have had long before breakfast, when he was a remarkable memory to be able past eighty, writing Latin verses. to do that.
Bel. Latin is a language whose Mal. He had ; and in his old charm increases as we grow older. age he was furious if he did not Few relish it in youth. We want remember at once any passage of something with more fire and effera book, or any name, or date, and vescence in it. But its dignity, would immediately begin to abuse breadth, stateliness, and compreshimself, crying out in his sharp, sion suit the steadier and calmer high voice, “God bless my soul ! I tastes of old age.
Mal. Perhaps so.
I know it his wife and children turned him bored me enough when I was out of doors, with some 15 pauls young. But to go back to Landor. in his pocket, on the burning My friend X. had many amusing highway, and told him to be and some pathetic reminiscences of off, and never to come back. He him. He told me, among other was then past eighty; and he things, that Landor was very
fond wandered down to Florence, a of epigrams, and often vented in broken-down, poor, houseless old this form his particular spite man. There straying aimlessly against persons who offended him. about the hot streets, exhausted One day, he said, he came to him and ill, he had the fortune to meet with an odd smile, holding out a Mr Robert Browning, who was to paper, saying, “ Read that; it is him a good angel, and who took on my wife. Ha! ha!” It ran him under his protection, and did thus, if I remember rightly everything he could to make him
comfortable and happy. Shortly “ Out of his paradise an angel once after this Browning brought him
drove Adam ; : From mine a devil drove me
more piti. —thank
to me at Siena, and
the case of old Lear over again; Bel. A pleasant compliment to and when he descended from his one's wife.
carriage, with his sparse white Mal. That is just what I said, but hair streaming out, and tottered he answered—“Oh, but perhaps into my house, dazed in intellect she deserved it; at all events, with all he had suffered, I felt from his point of view, for, in as if he were really Lear come fact, she did drive him out of his back again, In a short time, paradise at Fiesole. It was a however, he recovered his spirits painful story. Landor had pub- and vigour, and was, during all the lished at Bath a bitter lampoon time he stayed with me, a most on a lady, who brought an action interesting and courteous guest. against him for libel; and he was Some time I will tell you more cast in it, and sentenced to pay about all this, but it is not the time £1000 damages. Being quite a His memory was nearly as child as far as regards business strong as ever, and his conversamatters and practical knowledge tion original, clever, and someof the world, he thought that he times very bitter.
He told many could avoid the payment of this a good story, and gave many a sum. by making over all his pro- sharp slash at others. To me and perty of every kind to his wife mine he was ever most kind and and children. So he took this step, gentle." had all the necessary papers drawn Bel. It is a terrible story, as up, and signed, sealed, and de- you say. He was a remarkable livered, and off he went to his man, but born out of his century. family, who were living at his villa Literary and cultivated men will at Fiesole. Here he arrived and always value his writings, but they spent some months, not, I fear, will never be popular. making himself particularly agree Mal. I do not know that popaable, and forgetting that the villa larity is any true test of merit. was no longer his, since he had Bel. Perhaps not,-immediate conveyed it to his wife, when, one popularity certainly not. It is hot summer day toward noon, astonishing how many reputations
that flash up like rockets come
“ Put I have sinuous shells of pearly covn to carth mere sticks. Reeds
hue grow fast, and oaks slowly. An Within, and they that lustre have im
bibed author who catches the taste of
In the sun's palace-porch, where, when the day does not often catch the
unyoked, taste of the century. Landor was Its chariot-wheel stands midway in the bappy, too, in selecting the form of * Imaginary Conversations' be- Shake one, and it awakens !—then aptween distinguished men of dif- ply ferent ages and opinions. None Its polisht lips to your attentive car,
And it remembers its august abode, other would have so well suited
And murmurs as the ocean murmurs his mind, and brought into such
there." perfect play his wide knowledge Here Landor stops. of men and books.
His image His mind had
leads to no reflection beyond itself. a tendency, after a time, to run off any one direct track of thought But with Wordsworth it is only into paradox and contradiction; which follows it.
illustration to the thought and the form he selected gave
He says :
" I have seen scope to this peculiarity, without
A curious child, who dwelt upon a weakening the force of his views.
tract These Imaginary Conversations'
Of inland ground, applying to his ear abound with noble arguments and The convolutions of a smooth-lipped thoughts, worthy of the characters shell, of those into whose mouth they To which, in silence hushed, his very
soul are put, and I read them with
Listened intensely—and his counte. great pleasure as well as profit.
Mal. His poems are generally Brightened with joy; for marmurings cold and classical both in subject from within and style, and want the fire of Were heard
cadences ! passion and imagination. But whereby, some of the smaller ones To his belief, the monitor expressed most happy in their turns of
Mysterious union with its native sea.
Even such a shell the universe itself thought and expression,--as this,
Is to the car of Faith." for instance :
Mal. It may be that Landor's "I strove with none, for none were worth the strife ;
verses suggested the image to Nature I loved, and after Nature Wordsworth, but one should not Art.
be too sure even of this. Such I warmed both hands before the fire of coincidences are common, where Life :
neither is indebted to the other. It fades, and I am ready to depart.”
Bel. Landor had no question Bel. He always grudged the
on the subject, and he thought shell Wordsworth stole, he said, Wordsworth ought to have given from him.
him credit for it. It is difficult Mal. It is curious to compare
to believe that Wordsworth had these two passages, as showing not read “Gebir," and with care. the difference between the two Mal. Landor did not casily forminds. Do you remember them ? get nor forgive. He always owed Pray recall them to me if you
do. Wordsworth a little grudge for Bel
. Landor's are in his poem something or other that he had of “Gebir,” and run, if I recollect said or done ; and though he right, thus :
praised some of his poems highly,
I told sage.
there were others, especially the however,
before the book was long ones, which he decreed as brought back to her with no mesvery dulí.
She was naturally surWordsworth,” he said to me. prised ; and when, an hour or two
Bel. Ay; poets are generally later, he called upon her, she asked severe judges of other contempo- him if he had read it. “Oh, that rary poets. I am afraid there is book you sent me this morning! always a little jealousy which dis. Read it? Good God! who could torts their judgment of each other. read a book that begins with
Mal. Landor told me once that "but'? Not I-not I!” “But,” he had a discussion with Words- replied Mrs Browning, " that was worth about Byron. “ And what Lord Lytton's new book that you is your opinion of his poetry?” wished so to see. “God bless asked Wordsworth. “ A poet of me!” he exclaimed ; was it in not a large imagination," began Lan- deed? I had not the least idea dor. "But”. -"Oh!”interrupted of it. Pray send it to me again.” Wordsworth, “I knew you could She did so, and the result was not like him—and yet people will that the next time he saw her, he praise him. He is no poet. “Ah! said that "it was the finest thing but,” said Landor, “he has great he ever read in his life.” So, too, poetic energy, though perhaps not I remember, when he was staying much imagination." “ He has with me at Siena, I once lent neither imagination nor energy, him, at his earnest request, a retorted Wordsworth.
manuscript poem of my own—a Bel. And yet Byron carried the longish poem, dramatic in characwhole world away with him. ter. It was a delightful summer's
Mal. For a time the Byronic afternoon, and we were all sitting, fever raged fiercely; but was it more on our green terrace-some of us than an epidemic of the period ? painting, some reading, some sew
Bel. Most poets are only epi- ing—and Landor sat a little apart demics of the period, -and lucky reading this manuscript. Sudto be as much as that.
denly, when all were silent, he Mal. But to go back to Lan- slapped the manuscript down upon dor. I never knew a man whose his knee, and cried out in a high friendships and dislikes so inter- voice, “God bless my soul ! Shakefered with his literary judgment. speare never wrote anything half One curious instance of this I so fine as that." recall. He was a warm friend Bel. And what did
do of the present Lord Lytton; and and say? when one of his poems (I can- Mal. Do? Say? We all with not remember at the moment one accord burst into a fit of which it was) was first published laughter. What could one say? he was very anxious to see and I only tell you this story to show read it, and expressed this desire you how his friendships interfered one morning to Mrs Browning with his judgment “I have just received a copy,” laughed himself when we did. said she, “and I will send it over How could he help it? to you at once, before reading it Bel. I have always heard that myself.” He thanked her and Landor had a surprising memory. went home, and, in accordance Mal. He had. But great as it with her promise, she sent him was, it never clogged his original. the poem. Not a half-hour elapsed, ity. Though he carried his library
in his memory, his intellect was tell the number of seconds in 58 master of it all.
years almost before the question Bel. There are very few of whom could be repeated. that could be said. Think of carry- Bel. The story is told that Jedeing one's library in one's mind, as diah Buxton was once taken to the you say, and having no need to theatre to see Garrick, and that he refer to books.
was observed to pay an unremitted Mal. There was one person on
attention to the great actor throughrecord who literally did that, and out the play. When he went out, he was Charmidas the Greek, who, his friend, who accompanied him, according to Pliny, was able to re- asked him how he had been imlate by heart the contents of any pressed by the acting, and Jedebook in his library. But for my diah answered by stating the numown part, with all due deference ber of words and syllables that to Pliny, I don't believe it.
Garrick had spoken.
His mind Bel. Ay! but remember that had been interested solely in this libraries were not then what they enumeration. There were compara
Mal. I daresay it was a purely tively, few books to remember. mechanical operation of mind with
Mol. Were there? I know this him, and I rather think that with is the common notion, but it is, I all these great memories it is the think, a very mistaken ono. Their
As I have not a good memlibraries, on the contrary, were very ory, I wish to decry it, out of pure large, - not so large as ours, of envy. I wish I could say that great course, but large enough to make men never have great memories. such a statement as Pliny's almost Unfortunately, it is not true. The incredible, if taken literally. How- names of Pascal, Avicenna, Scaliever, there have been stupendous ger, who committed to memory the memories enough in ancient and whole of the Iliad and Odyssey in modern times to stagger belief, three weeks, old Dr Thomas Ful-such as those of Theodectes ler, whose memory was equally and Hortensius and Cineas, of remarkable, to say nothing of
, whom Cicero speaks; and in our Cyrus, Hortensius, Mithridates, later days, Pascal, who, it is are so terribly against me that I said, never forgot anything he give up such a proposition; and I had seen, heard, or thought; and have serious thoughts myself, deAvicenna, who repeated by rote spite its disgusting ingredients, of the entire Koran when he was ten resorting to the learned Grataroli years old ; and Francis Suarez, of Bergamo's recipe for improving who, Strada tells us, had the whole my own memory. of St Augustine in his memory- Bel. What is that? enough, one would think, to destroy Mal. He gives several, but one all his mental power of digestion; above all others as efficacious and and Justus Lipsius, who on one comforting to the memory. It is occasion offered to repeat all the this : to make a mixture of moles' History of Tacitus without a mis- fat, calcined human hair, cumin, take on forfeit of his life ; and in and bears' grease, and swallow a our own days, Jedediah Buxton pill of them of about the size of a and Zerah Oolburn among others, hazel-nut at bedtime. who had such a prodigious power
Bel. You haven't
bears' and rapidity of calculating in their grease with you, have you? That minds. Colburn, it is said, 'could might be effective rubbed on the