Open main menu

LOCKER-LAMPSON, FREDERICK (1821–1895), poet, more commonly known as Frederick Locker, was born on 29 May 1821 at Greenwich Hospital, where his father, Edward Hawke Locker [q. v.], held the office of civil commissioner. His mother, Eleanor Mary Elizabeth Boucher, was the daughter of the Rev. Jonathan Boucher [q. v.], vicar of Epsom, a book collector and a former friend of George Washington. Frederick Locker was the second son of his parents, a younger brother being Arthur Locker [q. v. Suppl.] After an education at various schools — at Clapham, at Yateley in Hampshire, at Clapham again, and elsewhere —he became, in September 1837, a junior clerk in a colonial broker's office in Mincing Lane. This uncongenial calling he followed for little more than ayear. Then, in March 1841, he obtained from Lord Minto, first lord of the admiralty and son of the governor-general of India, a temporary clerkship in Somerset House, and in November 1842 he was transferred to the admiralty, where he was placed as a junior in Lord Haddington's private office, and subsequently became deputy reader and précis writer. In his posthumous recollections ('My Confidences,' 1896, pp. 135-50) he gives an account of his official life, the tedium of which he had already begun to enliven, apparently with the approval of his chief, by the practice of poetry. A rhyming version of a petition from an importunate lieutenant seems to have sent Lord Haddington into ecstasies (ib. p. 136). Locker's experiences as an admiralty clerk were prolonged under Sir James Graham and Sir Charles Wood. In 1849 his health, never good, broke down, and he obtained a long leave of absence. In July 1850 he married Lady Charlotte Bruce, a daughter of Thomas Bruce, seventh earl of Elgin [q.v.], who brought the famous Elgin marbles to England. Not long afterwards he quitted the government service. In 1857 he published, with Chapman & Hall, his first collection of verse, 'London Lyrics,' a small volume of ninety pages, and the germ of all his subsequent work. Extended or rearranged in successive editions, the last of which is dated 1893, this constitutes his poetical legacy. In 1867 he published the well-known anthology entitled 'Lyra Elegantiarum,' being 'some of the best specimens of vers de société and vers d'occasion in the English language,' and in 1879 'Patchwork,' justly described by Mr. Augustine Birrell as 'a little book of extracts of unrivalled merit.' During all this time he was assiduously cultivating his tastes as a virtuoso and book lover, of which latter pursuit the 'Rowfant Library,' 1886, is the record. Chronic ill-health and dyspepsia made it impossible for him to follow any active calling. But he went much into society, was a member of several clubs, and enjoyed the friendship of many distinguished persons of all classes. He knew Lord Tennyson, Thackeray, Lord Houghton, Lord Lytton, George Eliot, Dickens, Trollope, Dean Stanley (his brother-in-law), Hayward, Kinglake, Cruikshank, Du Maurier, and others, and he had seen or spoken to almost every contemporary of any note in his own day. In April 1872 Lady Charlotte Locker died, and was buried at Kensal Green. Two years later (6 July 1874) he married Hannah Jane Lampson, only daughter of Sir Curtis Miranda Lampson, bart. [q.v.], of Rowfant, Sussex, and in 1885 took the name of Lampson. At Rowfant, subsequent to his second marriage, he mainly resided, and he died there on 30 May 1895. Locker's general characteristics are well summed up by his son-in-law, Mr. Augustine Birrell, in the Appendix to the Rowfant Library, 1900. He was 'essentially a man of the world ; he devoted his leisure hours to studying the various sides of human nature, and drawing the good that he could out of all sorts and conditions of men. His delicate health prevented him from taking any very active share in stirring events ; but he was content, unembittered, to look on, and his energies were continually directed towards gathering about him those friends and acquaintances who, with their intellectual acquirements, combined the charms of good manners, culture, and refinement.' As a poet he belonged to the school of Prior, Praed, and Hood, and he greatly admired the metrical dexterity of Barham. His chief endeavour, he said, was to avoid flatness and tedium, to cultivate directness and simplicity both in language and idea, and to preserve individuality without oddity or affectation. In this he achieved success. His work is always neat and clear ; restrained in its art, and refined in its tone ; while to a wit which rivals Praed's, and a lightness worthy of Prior, he not unfrequently joins a touch of pathos which recalls the voice of Hood. His work mellowed as he grew older, and departed further from his first models — those rhymes galamment composés which had been his youthful ambition ; but the majority of his pieces, at all times, by their distinctive character and personal note, rise far above the level of the mere vers d'occasion or vers de société with which it was once the practice to class them.

Locker left children by both his wives. Eleanor, his daughter by Lady Charlotte, married, first, in 1878, Lord Tennyson's younger son, Lionel, and secondly, in 1888, Mr. Augustine Birrell, K.C. By his second wife Locker had four children, the eldest of whom, Mr. Godfrey Locker-Lampson, is an attaché in the foreign office.

'London Lyrics,' Locker's solitary volume of original verse, has appeared in many forms since its first issue in 1857. A second edition followed in 1862, and in 1865 Messrs. Moxon included a selection from its pages in their 'Miniature Poets.' This was illustrated by Richard Doyle [q. v.] A second impression followed in 1868, and the Doyle illustrations were subsequently employed in an issue of 1874 prepared for presentation to the members of the Cosmopolitan Club. In 1868 an edition of 'London Lyrics' was privately printed for John Wilson of Great Russell Street, with a frontispiece by George Cruikshank, illustrating the poem called 'My Mistress's Boots.' To this succeeded editions in 1870, 1872, 1874, 1876, 1878, 1885 ('Elzevir Series'), 1891 and 1893. Besides these Locker prepared a privately printed selection in 1881, entitled 'London Lyrics,' and in 1882 a supplemental volume, also privately printed, entitled 'London Rhymes.' Of the former of these volumes a few large-paper copies were struck off, which contained a frontispiece ('Bramble-Rise') by Randolph Caldecott (sometimes found in two 'states'), and a tail-piece ('Little Dinky') by Kate Greenaway. In America 'London Lyrics' was printed in 1883 for the Book Fellows' Club of New York, with inter alia some fresh illustrations by Caldecott; and in 1895 the Rowfant Club of Cleveland, Ohio, a body which had borrowed its name, by permission, from Mr. Locker's Sussex home, put forth a rare little volume of his verse, chosen by himself shortly before his death, and entitled 'Rowfant Rhymes.' It includes a preface by the present writer and a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. Most of these books contain the author's portrait, either from an etching by Sir John Millais, which first saw the light in the Moxon selection of 1865, or a pen-and-ink full-length by George Du Maurier. There are other American editions, some of which are pirated.

'Lyra Elegantiarum,' as above stated, appeared in 1867. The first issue was almost immediately suppressed because it included certain poems by Landor which were found to be copyright, and a revised impression, which did not contain these pieces, speedily took its place. An American edition followed in 1884, and in 1891 an enlarged edition was added to Ward, Lock, & Co.'s 'Minerva Library.' In preparing this last, of which there was a large-paper issue, Locker had the assistance of Mr. Coulson Kernahan. 'Patchwork' was first printed privately in quarto for the Philpbiblon Society, and afterwards published in octavo in 1879. No later edition has been published. In 1886 Locker compiled the catalogue of his books known to collectors as the 'Rowfant Library.' It comprises, besides its record of rare Elizabethan and other volumes, many interesting memoranda, personal and bibliographical. Since Locker's death an appendix to the 'Rowfant Library' has been issued, under the title of 'A Catalogue of the Printed Books &c. collected since the printing of the first Catalogue in 1886 by the late Frederick Locker-Lampson,' 1900. It is inscribed to the members of the Rowfant Club, has a preface by Mr. Birrell, and memorial verses by various hands.

Locker's autobiographical reminiscences were published posthumously in 1896 under the title of 'My Confidences;' the volume was edited by Mr. Birrell.

[Century Mag. 1883 (by Brander Matthews); Miles's Poets and Poetry of the Century; Slater's Early Editions, 1894; Eowfant Ehymes, 1895; Nineteenth Century, October 1895 (by Coulson Kernahan); Scribner's Mag. January 1896 (by Augustine Birrell); My Confidences, 1896.]

A. D.