Saturday, November 10, 2012

November 10, 1845 Landor to Browning

Walter Savage Landor, one of Browning's literary heroes, mentor and friend responded to Browning's presentation copy of his Dramatic Romances and Lyrics:
"My dear kind friend,

Before I have half read thro your Dramatic Romances, I must acknowledge the delight I am receiving,—in no small doubt however, whether with all my haste I shall be in time for the post. What a profusion of imagery, covering what a depth of thought! You may stand quite alone if you will—and I think you will. I confess to you I do not greatly like our Sub-Shakesperian poets. It is only now and then that a breath of fresh air breaks in among them, sitting (as they all do) in the tavern, and smelling of ale and cheese. We have better poetry from the living. Even the despised and ridiculed Annuals confirm it. This very year there is in the Book of Beauty a poem by my friend Theodosia Garrow, on Italy, far surpassing those of M. Angelo and Filicaia. Sappho is far less intense. Pindar is far less animated. We never had so many good poets as at the present time, or lately. Campbell’s Hohenlinden, Hemanses Ivan and Casa-bianca, are unequalled since—ay, since when? But there is a stanza too much in each of those last.

Æquam memento rebus in arduis Servare mentem [Remember, when life’s path is steep, to keep an even mind]—is a difficult rule to keep in poetry, where it is as much wanted as anywhere.

If ever you receive my collected Works, pray do not say a single word about the poetry. I might have been a poet if I had given up my mind to it. In prose I found more room. We had no prose-writer interesting in his subject and graceful in his style. We had none who could stand with Pascal, De Sevign̩, Bossuet, and Le Sage; nor do I think the Romans had, or even the Greeks. I detest the subjects of Bossuet, but what eloquence! I threw out both artists to their full length, and made room for myself beyond their sphereРAllow me this little glass of rosoglio from my private cup-board, and believe me

Your very sincere and obliged

W S Landor"

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