Blanchard, Samuel Laman (DNB00)

BLANCHARD, SAMUEL LAMAN, commonly known as Laman Blanchard (1804–1845), author, born at Great Yarmouth on 15 May 1804, was the only son of Samuel Blanchard, by his wife Mary Laman, the widow of a Mr. Cowell. His father settled in Southwark in 1840 as a painter and glazier, and in 1809 young Blanchard entered St. Olave's School, where he made rapid progress. His parents declined the offer of the school trustees to send him to a university, and he became clerk to Mr. Charles Pearson, a proctor of Doctors' Commons. His tastes from an early period were literary, and the occupation proved distasteful to him. He made the acquaintance of Douglas Jerrold, then a youth of about his own age, and through Jerrold of Buckstone, the actor. After abandoning a notion of going to fight under Lord Byron in Greece, Blanchard resolved to devote himself to the stage. He contributed dramatic sketches, after Barry Cornwall's example, to a paper called the 'Drama,' and joined for a very short time a travelling troop of actors formed by the manager of the Margate theatre. Subsequently he became a proofreader in the printing office of Messrs. Bayliss, of Fleet Street, and contributed prose and verse to the 'Monthly Magazine.' In 1823 he married Miss Ann Gates. In 1827, through the influence of N. A. Vigors, M.P. for Carlow, a relation of his wife, he was appointed secretary to the Zoological Society. He held the post for three years, and in that interval largely increased his literary acquaintance and influence. In 1828 William Harrison Ainsworth, then a publisher in Old Bond Street, published for him his 'Lyric Offerings,' a collection of verse, which he dedicated to Charles Lamb. The volume was highly praised by Lamb and Allan Cunningham. In 1831 Blanchard became acting editor of the 'Monthly Magazine' under Dr. Croly, and during the next year he began to edit the 'True Sun,' a daily: liberal paper. But the 'True Sun' failed in 1836, and Blanchard was appointed editor of the 'Constitutional,' an advanced liberal organ, which soon died. During 1837 Blanchard edited the 'Court Journal,' and from 1837 to 1839 he edited the 'Courier,' a liberal evening newspaper, which under his management proved of service to his party. He retired from the paper in 1839 in consequence of a change in its proprietorship and politics, and a vain attempt was made by Sir Edward Bulwer and other friends to obtain for Blanchard a government clerkship or the editorship of the 'London Gazette.' From 1841 till his death he was closely connected with the 'Examiner.' In 1842 he edited a monthly magazine called 'George Cruikshank's Omnibus,' to which he contributed several poems. In February 1844 Mrs. Blanchard was seized with paralysis, and, after a painful illness, died on 15 Dec. following. Blanchard's health, long weakened by his uninterrupted journalistic work, gave way under the shock, and he died by his own hand in a fit of delirium on 15 Feb. 1845. He left three children, his eldest son being Sidney Laman Blanchard.

Blanchard's personal character was singularly attractive, and his friends were very numerous. Douglas Jerrold, J. B. Buckstone, E. Chatfield, and John Ogden he came to know in very early life, and in later years he was on terms of intimacy with Serjeant Talfourd, Charles Dickens, Leigh Hunt, John Forster, B. W. Procter, Robert Browning, George Cruikshank, and W. C. Macready. In 1831 he directed, at the father's request, the arrangements for the funeral of William Godwin's only son, who died of cholera. He was the firm friend of L. E. L.[andon] throughout her literary life, and published her 'Life and Literary Remains' in 1841. With William Harrison Ainsworth, the novelist, he was long in intimate relations, and he contributed a laudatory memoir of Ainsworth to the 'Mirror' in 1842, which has been frequently reprinted as a preface to Ainsworth's collected works. In 1832 he made the acquaintance of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, who had reviewed his 'Lyric Offerings' very favourably in the 'New Monthly Magazine,' and the friendship lasted till Blanchard's death.

Blanchard was in his own day a very popular writer of light literature, but he wrote nothing of lasting merit. His 'Sonnets' and his 'Lyric Offerings' show the influence of Wordsworth, but are commonplace in sentiment and versification. His vert de société run easily, but are less readable now than those of many of his contemporaries. His prose essays take an invariably cheerful view of life, but they are not to be classed in the same category as the 'Essays of Elia,' which Blanchard clearly took as his model, Bulwer-Lytton warned Blanchard in early life that 'periodical writing is the grave of true genius,' and Blanchard's literary career proves the wisdom of the warning.

Bulwer-Lytton collected many of Blanchard's prose essays in 1846 under the title of 'Sketches of Life' (3 vols.) His poetical works were collected in 1876 by Blanchard Jerrold. The former work contains a portrait after a drawing by Maclise, and wood engravings by George Cruikshank, Kenny Meadows, and Frank Stone. The latter contains a portrait from a miniature by Louisa Stuart Costello. A series of amusing essays by Blanchard entitled 'Corporation Characters,' illustrated by Kenny Meadows, was published in 1855.

[Bulwer-Lytton contributed a memoir of Blanchard to his edition of the 'Sketches from Life,' 1846, which embodies some interesting reminiscences by J. B. Buckstone. Blanchard Jerrold wrote a memoir in the Poetical Works, 1876, and printed a series of interesting letters from many well-known literary men to Blanchard. Thackeray contributed an article on Blanchard to Fraser's Magazine, March 1846, which is reprinted in vol. xxv. of the Standard edition of Thackeray's Works, pp. 103-19.]

S. L. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.29
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
194 i 22 Blanchard, Samuel L.: for 1840 read 1804
14 f.e. for M.P. read afterwards (from 1832) M.P.