English Bards and Grecian Marbles: The Relationship between Sculpture and Poetry Especially in the Romantic Period

By Stephen A. Larrabee | Go to book overview
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X. LANDOR AND HUNT

LANDOR AND GREECE

WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR was the most consciously "classical" artist among poets of the Romantic period in England: he frequently strove to write as "a Grecian would have written." Exceeding most of his contemporaries in his admiration of Greek art, he was nevertheless, like them, an eclectic. If he was regarded as anything else, he was offended; moreover, on several occasions he went out of his way to defend his eclecticism. Severely criticized for neglecting the living in his preference for the illustrious dead, Landor calmly replied,

but let me ask in turn
Whether, whene'er Corinthian urn
With ivied Faun upon the rim
Invites, I may not gaze on him?
I love all beauty. ( "Apology for Gebir," ll. 53-57.)

At other times he took great pains to correct the impression that he was entirely classical in taste. He was particularly irritated when Emerson reported his tastes in English Traits ( 1856) as follows: "In art he loves the Greeks, and in sculpture them only. He prefers the Venus to everything else, and after that, the head of Alexander in the gallery [at Florence]."1 Replying in his "Letter to Emerson," Landor remonstrated, "I share with [ Horatio Greenough, the American sculptor and a mutual friend] my enthusiastic love of ancient art; but I am no exclusive, as you seem to hint I am."

For a lover of old Greece, too, Landor was remarkably sympathetic toward the classicistic sculptors of his own day. Like Byron he could praise both Canova and Phidias; he surpassed Coleridge and Blake in praising Flaxman with the enthusiasm reserved for his greatest

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