Opere Brunetto Latino || Dante vivo || White Silence
WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR WEBSITE: Essay 'Walter Savage Landor' in New Spirit of the Age || Jean Field, 'Walter Savage Landor's Warwick' || 'Black and Red Letter Chaucer' || Kate Field, Atlantic Montly, 'The Last Days of Walter Savage Landor' || Mark Roberts, 'The Inscription on the Grave of Walter Savage Landor' || Alison Levy, 'The Widow of Walter Savage Landor' || Kristin Bragadottir, 'William Morris and Daniel Willard Fiske' (Villa Landor) || Piero Fusi, 'A. Henry Savage Landor'.




'Never without a pang do I leave the house where I was born', so wrote Walter Savage Landor to his friend Robert Southey in later life. Like all members of the extended Landor family, Walter Savage loved the rambling old house in the centre of the historic town of Warwick.

Eastgate House, as it was called until the King's High School for Girls took over the property in 1879, had originally been built in the late 15th century, or rather the two dwellings which occupied the site had been built then. Considerably altered and refurbished in 1692 by a wealthy physician Dr William Johnson, from 1733 onwards the house and garden of around one and a half acres was rented out to support Ann Johnson's Charity. Having come to Warwick in 1760, Dr Walter Landor suffered great sadness when his first wife and four of their daughters died, but in 1744 he married again, this time heiress Elizabeth Savage of Bishop's Tachbrook, and the couple took up residence in Eastgate House, renting it from the charity. Walter Savage Landor and his three brothers and three sisters were all born in the house between 1775 and 1782. After Dr Landor's death in 1805, first his widow and then Elizabeth, the eldest of the sisters, rented the house, the family only surrendering the tenancy in 1854 when Elizabeth died.

The house has a main staircase of oak, constructed in 1692, still with the magificent banisters constructed, like the other rebuilding, by Roger Hurlbut, a master carpenter who had completed work in Warwick Castle. In the time of the Landors the house had seven or eight bedrooms of varying sizes, some in the oldest part of the house adjoining Chapel Street, little altered from the 1500s. The Landors used what had once been the main bedroom as an upstairs drawing room, this room above the hall being of a good size and position.

It seems likely that Walter Savage Landor was born in one of the bedrooms fronting onto Smith Street, probably in the room on the corner of Chapel Street. Later it would appear that the small panelled room adjoining this became Walter Savage's own bedroom and it was possibily in this room, largely unaltered for centuries, that many of his early poems were written.

At one time the garden area housed a brewhouse, hen house and dairy, but later in the tenancy of the Landors, the garden was redesigned, becoming a magnificent affair with grass plots, gravel walks and numerous flower borders, yet retaining a number of fine old trees including chestnuts, elms and mulberries. There was also an octagonal summer house in a secluded area near Chapel Street and nightingales regularly serenaded the inhabitants of the house.

Lord Leycester's Hospital, Warwick

For the first four and a half years of his life Walter Savage did not travel far from the home, but in 1779 he was sent to boarding school of Knowles, around eight miles away and from that time onwards, an increasing amount of his time was spent away from Warwick, either at school, Univesity or abroad.

When writing to Robert Southey in 1811, Landor recalled some of his earliest return visits to his childhood home, when he paid special attention to his favourite plants and bushes.

They always meet one in the same place, at the same seaon; and years have no more effect on their placid countenances than on so many of the favoured gods. I remember a little privet which I planted when I was about six years old, and which I considered the next of kin to me after my mother and elder sister. Whenever I returned from school or college. - for the attachment was not stifled in that sink, - I felt something like uneasiness till I had seen and measured it.

This sensitivity towards trees and plants carried on throughout Landor's life and when decades later he was visiting his eldest sister who still lived in the family house, he complained about the 'incessant mowing and weeding' which went on in the garden. He preferred to let nature take its course, as expressed in this extract from a poem entitled 'Faesulan Idyl', published in 1831. There describing his garden at the Villa Landor in San Domenico, Fiesole.

Villa Landor, San Domenico

Fiesole, May Flowers

And t'is and ever was my wish and way
To let all flowers live freely, and all die,
When'er their Genius bids their souls depart,
Among their kindred in their native place.
I never pluck the rose; the violet's head
Hath shaken with my breath upon its bank
And not reproacht me: the ever-sacred cup
Of the pure lily between my hands
Felt safe, unsoil'd, not lost one grain of gold.

East Gate, Warwick

One of the most important of Landor's visits to Warwick was in 1798 when his first long poem was published by Henry Sharp, who possessed printing and publishing premises in High Street, near the corner of Swan Street, on a site now occupied by an antique shop. Landor was staying at Ipsley Court, the family property near Redditch, with his parents and the rest of the family. However, on several occasions in May 1798 he needed to visit Warwick in order to sort out the page proofs, for his writing was notoriously difficult to read and he kept changing his mind, so his manuscript was full of blots and crossings out. Doubtless each time he came he would revisit Eastgate House to refresh his horse, or perhaps stay the night, for the five servants were always in residence in Warwick.

Although the first publication attracted attention from Southey who reviewed it for the Critical Review in 1799, later writers such as Charles Lamb, De Quincy and Shelley discovered it. It was said the Gebir remained Shelley's favourite poem throughout his life and his biographer Thomas Jefferson Hogg used to relate how Shelley refused to be parted from the book when he was a student at Oxford. Even today Gebir remains Landor's most popular long work.

This passage where the sea-nymph first appears has always been one of the most loved.

'Twas evening, though no sun-set, and spring-tide
Level with these green meadows, seem'd still higher;
'Twas pleasant: and I loosen'd from my neck
The pipe you gave me, and began to play.
O that I ne'er had learnt the tuneful art!
It always brings us enemies or love!
Well, I was playing - when above the waves
Some swimmer's head methought I saw ascend;
I, sitting still, survey'd it, with my pipe
Awkwardly held before my lips half-clos'd.
Gebir! it was a nymph! a nymph divine!
I cannot wait describing how she came,
How I was sitting, how she first assum'd
The sailor: of what happened, there remains
Enough to say, and too much to forget.
The sweet deceiver stept upon this bank
Before I was aware; for, which suprize
Moments fly rapid as with love itself.
Stooping to tune afresh the hoarsen'd reed,
I hear a rustling; and where that arose
My glance first lighted on her nimble feet.
He feet resembled those long shells explore
By him who to befriend his steeds' dim sight
Would blow the pungent powder in their eye. -
Her eyes too! O immortal Gods! her eyes
Resembled - what could they resemble - what
Ever resemble those! E'en her attire
Was not of wonted woof nor vulgar art:
Her mantle shew'd the yellow samphire pod,
Her girdle, the dove-color'd wave serene.
'Shepherd', said she, 'and will you wrestle now,
And with the sailor's hardier race engage?'
I was rejoiced to hear it, and contrived
How to keep up contention; - could I fail
By pressing not too strongly, still to press,
'Whether a shepherd, as indeed you seem,
Or whether of the hardier race you boast,
I am not daunted, no: I will engage.'
'But first', said she, 'what wager will you lay?'
'A sheep', I answered, 'add whate'er you will'.
I cannot', she replied, 'make that return:
Our hided vessels, in their pitchy round,
Seldom, unless from rapine, hold a sheep.
But I have sinuous shells, of pearly hue
Within, and they that lustre have imbibed
In the sun's palace porch . . .

After Tamar has lost the wrestling match and the nymph has triumphed, she watches her return to the sea with her prize of a sheep.

She went away: I, on the wicker gate
Lean'd, and could follow with my eyes alone.
The sheep she carried easy as a cloak.
But when I heard its bleating, as I did
And saw, she hastening on, its hinder feet
Struggle, and from her snowy shoulder slip,
(One shoulder its poor efforts had unveil'd,)
Then, all my passions mingling fell in tears!
Restless then ran I to the highest ground
To watch her; she was gone; gone down the tide;
And the long moon-beam on the hard wet sand
Lay like a jasper column half uprear'd.

On several occasions Landor was visited in Warwick by Dr Samuel Parr, the well-known Whig scholar and Curate of Hatton from 1785-1825. On one occasion around 1800 Landor returned to Warwick unexpectedly from London, travelling by stage coach. In the same coach was a guest of Dr Parr's who announced to his host over dinner that he had travelled with Landor. After the main part of dinner was done, Dr Parr left his guests and rode hastily to Warwick to speak with Landor. They may have conversed in the hall, but mindful of his guests, Parr would not partake of refreshment of any kind, leaving after half an hour or so to ride the two or three miles back home. In after years, Landor used to joke over the incident.

In 1804 Landor was reading a newspaper in Bath when he had the painful reminder of many happy visits he had made in the past to the house of Dr Parr and also to Dr William Lambe, the young physician who had taken over the medical practice of Dr Landor in 1790. The Lambe family had recently moved to London and the death of Mrs Lambe and her youngest child were reported in the paper

Dr Lambe's wife Harriet had been a great friend of Landor in his teenage years and when he read how after the death of two babies, her five year-old daughter had died of scarlet fever and how she herself had died just three days afterwards, Landor wrote a poem 'On Reading in a Newspaper the Death of a Mother and Three Children'. The following is a short extract.

. . . O Lambe, my early guide, my guardian friend
Must thus our pleasures, thus our prospects end!
All that could swell thy heart, thy soul elate,
Heaven gave; but pond'ring found one gift too great.
When marble-cold her meek Eliza lay,
Was this the hour to snatch they love away!
When the fond mother claspt her fever'd child,
Death hailed the omen, waved his dart and smiled . . .

In 1845, as had been his custom for several years, Landor visited Warwick for several weeks in the summer. In the course of his visit he dined with his friends the Percies at Guy's Cliffe House and later he wrote a poem for Miss Isabella Percy about her chapel and the legend that Guy of Warwick was buried under the floor.

To Miss Isabella Percy

If that old hermit laid to rest
  Beneath your chapel floor,
Could leave the regions of the blest
  And visit earth once more:
If human sympathies could warm
  His tranquil breast again,
Your innocence that breast could charm
  Perhaps your beauty pain.

Sometimes Landor's visits to Warwick led to his accompanying his sister Elizabeth on short trips to their youngest brother Robert, Rector of Birlingham, near Pershore. It was perhaps on one of these visits to Birlingham in the 1840s that Landor heard a local anecdote about a country lad and the new railway which gave rise to the amusing dialogue entitiled A Railroad Eclogue. The place names in the poem are all on the railway line to Cheltenha, Defford being less that two miles from Birlingham.

A Railroad Eclogue

Father. What brought thee back, lad?
Son.                           Father! the same feet
            As took me brought me back, I warrant ye.
Father.  Couldst thou not find the rail?
Son.                                           The deuce himself,
            Who can find most things, could not find the rail.
Father.  Plain as a pikestaff miles and miles it lies
Son.      So they all told me. Pike-staffs in your day
            Must have been hugely plainer than just now.
Father.  What dist thou ask for?
Son.                                       Ask for? Tewkesbury
            Thro Defford opposite to Breedon-hill.
Father.  Right; and they set ye wrong?
Son.                            Me wrong? not they;
            The best among 'em should not set me wrong,
            Nor right, nor anything; I'd tell 'em that. -
Father.  Herefordshire's short horns and shorter wits
            Are known in every quarter of the land,
            Those blunt, these blunter. Well! no help for it!
            Each might do harm if each had more of each . . .
            Yet even in Herefordshire there are some
            Not downright dolts . . before the cidar's broacht,
            When all are much alike . . yet most could tell
            A railroad from a parish or a pike.
            How thou couldst miss that railroad puzzles me,
            Seeing there lies none other round about. 
Son.      I found the rails along the whole brook-side
             Left of that old stone bridge across yon Avon.
Father.  That is the place.
Son.      There was a house hard-by,
             And past it ran a furnace upon wheels,
             Like a mad bull, tail up in air, and horns
             So low ye might not see 'em. On it bumpt,
             Roaring, as strait as any arrow flits,
             As strait, as fast too, ay, and faster went it,
             And, could it keep its wind up, and not crack,
             Then woe betide the eggs at Tewkesbury
             This market-day, and lambs, and sheep! a score
             Of pigs might be made flitches in a trice,
             Before they well could knuckle.
                                                Father! father!
             If they were ourn, thou wouldst not chuckle so,
             And shake thy sides, and wipe thy eyes, and rub
             Thy  breeches-knees, like Sunday shoes, at that rate.
             Hows'ever . . .
Father.                             'Twas the tain, lad, 'twas the tain.
Son.       May-be: I had no business with a train.
              'Go thee by rail, you told me; by the rail
              At Defford' . . . and didst make a fool of me.
Father.    Ay, lad, I did indeed: it was methinks
              Some twenty years agone last Martinmas.                

One of the saddest visits that Landor ever paid to his sister and his birthplace was in July and August 1851. It was at Warwick that he received a letter telling him that the woman he had loved for years but had never been able to marry, in reality Sophia Jane Swifte, whom he called Ianthe, had died three days previously in Versailles. With his love of solitude and of nature, perhaps Landor took refuge in the garden, alone with his grief.

The second part of a poem entitled 'The Dreamer' published a few years later sums up the misery that Landor felt at Ianthe's death.

Sophia! whom I seldom call'd by name,
And trembled when I wrote it; O my friend
Severed so long from me! one morn I dreamt
That we were walking hand in hand thro' paths
Slippery with sunshine: after many years
Had flown away, and seas and realms been crost,
And much (alas how much!) by both endured
We joined our hands together and told our tale.
And now thy hand hath slipt away from mine,
And the cold marble cramps it; I dream one,
Dost thou dream too? and are our dreams the same?

The last visit Walter Savage Landor paid to the house where he was born was in the summer of 1853, but several mispaps happened to his luggage. The following is from a letter written by his sister to her niece.

About bedtime Walter discovered there was no appearance of a box or bag - he had some keys - he was sure (I was not) that he had started with a black trunk and saw it put on the train - we sent here and there and wrote to where he had changed trains, in vain. A nightcap I could furnish, but the under male garments were not resident here - we sent to Tachbrook and had some from thence. However the box did come on Wednesday afternoon uninjured.

During his visit to Warwick in 1853 Landor spent much of his time in the garden. The first few mulberries had fallen on the gravel paths and as he picked some up he recalled to his friend John Foster that he remembered doing the same thing 75 years previously. Landor wrote a poem 'To an Old Mulberry' which seemed to sum up his feelings of frailty at the age of 78.

Old mulberry! with all thy moss around,
Thy arms are shatter'd, but thy heart is sound:
So then remember one for whom of yore
Thy tenderest boughs the crimson berry bore:
Remember one who, trusting in thy strength,
Lay on the low and level branch full length.
No strength had he, alas! to climb it now,
Nor strength to bear him, if he had, hast thou.

It is interesting to note that this old mulberry (or a similar one) survived until around 1940 in the section of garden near to the parlour window. When the tree finally collapsed, a scion of it was planted near Chapel Street, where it survives until this day.

In retrospect, one of the happiest of Landor's visits to Warwick was in December 1841. Elizabeth Savage Landor used the old house for a great reunion of the Landor brothers - the excuse being that the youngest brother Robert Eyres had celebrated his sixtieth birthday some months before. By then the two youngest sisters were dead, but Walter, Charles and his family, Henry and Robert joined their sister Elizabeth who was then renting the house. By all accounts it was a very merry gathering and Walter stayed on till the New Year, visiting St Mary's Church during his stay.

St Mary's Church, Warwick

While in St Mary's he read a memorial in Latin to one of his childhood friends who died in 1780, when she was six and he five. The poem Walter Savage Landor wrote 'On the Dead' was published in the Examiner on 8 January 1842.

Thou in this wide cold church art laid
Close to the wall, my little maid!
My little Fanny Verchild! thou
Sole idol of an infant vow!
My playmate in life's break of day,
When all we had to do was play!
Even then, if any other girl
To kiss my forehead seiz'd a curl,
Thou wouldst with sad dismay run in,
And stamp and call it shame and sin.
And should some rough, intrusive boy
Bring thee an orange, flower, or toy,
My tiny fist was at his frill,
I bore my jealousy so ill,
And felt my bosom beat so bold,
Altho' he might be six years old.
Against the marble slab my eyes
Dwell fixt; and from below arise
Thoughts, not yet cold nor mute, of thee
It was their earliest joy to see.
One who had march't o'er Minden's pain,
In thy young smile grew young again.
That stern man melted into love,
That father traced the line above
His Roman soul used Roman speech,
And taught (ah, though too, thou didst teach!)
How, soon as in our course we start,
Death follows with uplifted dart.

One would guess from the first line of the poem that Landor was not too keen on St Mary's Church, yet that is where his own memorial is sited. Paid for by his second son, Walter Savage Landor II, the memorial was dedicated 30 January, 1888, twenty four years after Landor's death and on the 113th anniversary of his birth. On that bleak day in January a number of dignatories visited Warwick especially for the unveiling and these included Kitty Landor, his niece from Bishop's Tachbrook and representatives from the Southey and Kingsley families. Landor House was visited too, for on that same day the sign Landor Born was erected over the front door.

In recent years, near Landor's bust has been fixed a copy of his most famous verse, written in 1849 on his 74th birthday.

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife:
  Nature I loved, and next to nature Art:
I warm'd both hands before the fire of Life
  It sinks; and I am ready to depart.

Taken from the 'Imaginary Conversation' between Aesop and Rhodope, this paragraph appears in most books of quotations.

Laodamia died; Helen died; Leda the beloved of Jupiter, went before. It is better to repose in the earth betimes than to sit up late; better, than to cling pertinaciously to what we feel crumbling under us and protract an inevitable fal. We may enjoy the present while we are insensible of infirmity and decay; but the present, like a note in music is nothing but as it it appertains to what is past and what is to come. There are no fields of amaranth on this side of the grave; there are not voices, O Rhodope, that are not too soon mute, however tuneful; there is no name, with whatever emphasis of passionate love repeated, of which the echo is not faint at last.

This tomb in Florence's 'English' Cemetery was in the greatest need of conservation, lichen having eaten into the marble and the lead letters becoming lost. The epitaph is by Algernon Charles Swinburne.

It is now restored, its leads letters also carefully replaced, a pomegranate planted by it, and we invite you to obey its inscription:

See also Piero Fusi, Henry Savage Landor

An Artist's Family in Warwick

Frederick Rothwell Bolton, Florence Bolton, Dorothy Joyce Bolton, John Robert Glorney Bolton, Eileen Mary Bolton in the garden of Quaker House, Warwick. Granny, a Cash from Coventry, the wife of the Irish painter, John Nunn Bolton, was widowed when my father, her oldest child, was seven, supporting her family with church embroidery and mending the tapestries in Warwick Castle for her friend, the Countess of Warwick. Her husband had painted many watercolours of Guy's Cliffe, Quaker House, Lord Leycester's Hospital, East Gate, and had worked with Napoleon Bonaparte on the Countess of Warwick's Pageant in the Castle. Derek went to Cambridge and became a Dean in the Church of Ireland, publishing a book on the Caroline Church in Ireland; Joyce became a professor of child growth and development and a fine painter with many exhibitions in America; my father, who had acted the 'Druid's Sacrifice' in the Countess' Pageant, sang solo as a boy in St Mary's Church, went to Ardingly and Oxford, working in the Bodleian Library at 15, and became friends with Gandhi and Pope John XXIII, publishing seven books; Eileen was a self-taught, brilliant scholar, publishing Lichens for Vegetable Dyeing. The engravings here of Warwick are by her.

WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR WEBSITE: Recordings of Gebir I, Gebir II || Essay 'Walter Savage Landor' in New Spirit of the Age || Jean Field, 'Walter Savage Landor's Warwick' || 'Black and Red Letter Chaucer' || Kate Field, Atlantic Montly, 'The Last Days of Walter Savage Landor' || Mark Roberts, 'The Inscription on the Grave of Walter Savage Landor' || Alison Levy, 'The Widow of Walter Savage Landor' || Kristin Bragadottir, 'William Morris and Daniel Willard Fiske' (Villa Landor) || Piero Fusi, 'A. Henry Savage Landor'.

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