Landor, a Replevin

Landor, a Replevin

Landor, a Replevin

Landor, a Replevin


My quarry lies upon a high common a good way from the public road, and everybody takes out of it what he pleases "with privy paw, and nothing said" beyond " a curse on the old fellow! how hard his granite is, one can never make it fit ".

-- Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor (1853)

The English have always preferred mediocrity and the commonplace to magnanimity and genius. Comfort is the condition most to be desired--perhaps because, as Hazlitt said, "the English are certainly the most uncomfortable of all people in themselves"--and they glance askant at the disturber of their peace. Landor therefore can never be a popular writer, for his entire life and work present a protest and a reproach to complacency.

At fifty-three he wrote:

Had avarice or ambition guided me, remember I started with a larger hereditary estate than those of Pitt, Fox, Canning, and twenty more such, amounted to; and not scraped together in this, or the last, or the preceding century, in ages of stockjobbing and peculation, of cabinet-adventure and counterfeit nobility. My education, and that which education works upon or produces, was not below theirs: yet certain I am that, if I had applied to be made a tide-waiter on the Thames, the minister would have refused me.

There he states the case against himself. A man of the people like William Cobbett, who could not aspire to membership of White's and Crockford's or to an invitation from Holland House, might be expected to express dissatisfaction with a social system from which he had derived few advantages. But Landor was a product of public school and university, who became at thirty proprietor of a large estate as head of an old family of landed gentry; party leaders were willing to guide his step upon the ladder of preferment--if he would subscribe to the conventional code of behaviour, sacrificing principle . . .

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