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Letters from Lord Abinger, Bulwer and Landor-
THE novel called The Two Friends at which Lady Blessington had worked continually during the previous year, was published in January 1835. And now the excitement of producing the book began to subside, she like many another author, was beset by nervous fears for its fate at the hands of those sitting in judgment on her work. On this point many of her friends hastened to reassure her. One of the first to write to her concerning the novel was James Scarlett, who had been appointed Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, the previous year, and in this, 1835, was raised to the peerage as Baron Abinger.
He begins by replying to an invitation to dinner she had sent him: saying he could refuse her nothing.
THE MOST GORGEOUS LADY BLESSINGTON
'A very severe and lasting cold & cough almost unfit me for company, but if I do not get worse, I will surely join you on Friday, hoping that you will excuse my propensity to bark, as it does not arise from hydrophobia-on the contrary, I drink nothing but water.
'I have made acquaintance with The Two Friends, and relish them much. In truth. I have devoted two successive midnight hours to them. I like the book; the characters are well drawn, the incidents well imagined, the interest well kept up, the sentiments of a high moral cast, and the composition occasionally rises into great elegance, and is always marked by correct feeling, well expressed. After so much of commendation, you will, I know, receive as well one critical remark. Had I been at your elbow when you wrote, I wod not have allowed you to make use, of two or three words which I dislike; one is agreeability which, if English, is not agreeable, and therefore does not suit you. it is not English: agreeableness is the right word. Another is the word mentally, which, though a good word, has been so much abused by some indifferent writers, that I have taken a dislike to it, and wo banish it from the novels of my friends. I do not recollect any other.'
Bulwer also wrote her an interesting letter regarding the book in which he says:
I don't (pardon me) believe a word you say about The Two Friends. If it have no
passion it may be an admirable novel nevertheless. Miss Edgeworth has no passionand who in her line excels her?
'As to your own doubts they foretell your success. I have always found one is never so successful as when one is least sanguine. I fell into the deepest despondency about Pompeii and Eugene Aram; and was certain, nay most presumptuous about Devereux which is the least generally popular of my writings. Your feelings of distrust are presentiments to be read backward: they are the happiest omen. But I will tell you all about it-Brougham like-when I have read the book....
'Reflection in one's chamber and action in the world are the best critics. With them we can dispense with other teachers; without them all teachers are in vain. "Fool" says Sidney in the Arcadia, "Fool look in thy heart and write."
On the 19th of January he writes to her again saying: 'If I should be well enough the day after to-morrow, I should then be enchanted if you would let me accompany you in your drive for an hour, and revive me by your agreeable news of politics, literature, and the world.
'I have just landed from the three volume voyage of Peter Simple. The characters are exaggerated out of all truth, and the incidents, such as changing children, shutting up the true heir in a madhouse etc., are at once stale and impossible. But despite this Marryatt has a frank, dashing genius, and splashes about the
water in grand style. He writes like a man, and that is more than most of the other novelists do, who have neither the vigour of one sex, nor the refinement of the other.'
A few days after his drive with her, a wild report spread through the town, stating that Bulwer was dead, on which Lady Blessington immediately dispatched a messenger to ascertain if the news were true. In writing on the 24th of the month to thank her he says: The reports concerning me appear to "progress" in a regular climax. First I had not a shilling, and an execution was in my house; then I was bought by the Tories, and now I am dead. They have taken away fortune, honesty, and lastly life itself. Such are the pleasures of reputation.
'Just before you sent, Lady Charlotte Bury was also pleased to dispatch a message to know at what hour I had departed this world? Three other successive deputations arrived, and this morning on opening a Lincoln paper, I found that there too it had been reported "that their excellent representative was no more." I consider that I have paid the debt of nature that I am virtually dead-that I am born again with a new lease-and that the years I have hitherto lived are to be struck off the score of the fresh life I have this morning awakened to.
'I believe my dearest friend that you were shocked with the report, and would in your kind heart have grieved for its truth. So would four or five others; and the rest would have
been pleased at the excitement; it would have been something to talk about before the meeting of Parliament.
'I am now going to plunge into Histories of China, light my pipe, read a page, and muse an hour, and be very dull and melancholy for the rest of the evening, still it is some consolation to think one is not-dead.'
Although Lady Blessington had forwarded to Landor a copy of her Conversations on its publication, it did not, through delay in its transmission, reach his Tuscan home until March 1835.
Thereon he wrote to express his 'thanks upon thanks for making him think Byron a better and a wiser man than he had thought him' and in the same letter he goes on to say:
'Mr Robinson, the soundest man that ever stepped through the trammels of law, gave me, a few days ago, the sorrowful information that another of our great writers has joined Coleridge. Poor Charles Lamb, what a tender, good, joyous heart had he. What playfulness, what purity of style and thought. His sister is yet living, much older than himself. One of her tales in Mrs Leicester's School is, with the sole exception of the Bride of Lammermoor, the most beautiful tale in prose composition in any language, ancient or modern. A young girl has lost her mother, the father marries again, and marries a friend of his former wife. The child is ill reconciled to it, but being dressed in new clothes for the marriage, she runs up to her mother's chamber, filled with the idea how happy that dear mother