Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/61

This page has been validated.

Here he improved his Greek, and practised English and Latin verse-writing, though his tutor's scholarship was scarcely superior to his own. In 1793 he entered Trinity College, Oxford, as a commoner. He still declined to compete for prizes, though his Latin Verses were by his own account the best in the university. He maintained his intimacy with an old school friend, Walter Birch, afterwards a country clergyman, and always an affectionate friend, and made a favourable impression upon his tutor, William Benwell [q. v.] He pronounced himself a republican, wrote satires and an ode to Washington, went to hall with his hair unpowdered, and was regarded as a 'mad Jacobin.' In the Autumn of 1794 he fired a gun at the windows of an obnoxious tory, who was moreover giving a party of 'servitors and other raffs.' The shutters of the windows were closed, and no harm was done; but Landor refused to give any explanations, and was consequently rusticated for a year. The authorities respected his abilities, and desired his return. The affair, however, led to an angry dispute with his father. Landor went off to London, declaring that he had left his father's house 'for ever.' He consoled himself by bringing out a volume of English and Latin poems.

Meanwhile his friends tried to make peace. Dorothea, a niece of Philip Lyttelton of Studley Castle, Warwickshire, where she lived with two rich uncles, was admired by all the Landor brothers, and carried on a correspondence which was sisterly, if not more than sisterly,with Walter, her junior by a year or two. She persuaded him to give up a plan for retiring to Italy, and finally induced him to accept the mediation of her uncle with his father. As Walter had no taste for a profession, it was decided that he should receive an allowance of 160l. a year, with leave to live as much as he pleased at his father's house. It seems that he might have had 400l., a year if he would have studied law (see Madden, Lady Blessington, ii. 346). A proposal was made a little later that he should take a commission in the militia; but the other officers objected to the offer, on the ground of his violent opinions. The needs of the younger brothers and sisters account for the small amount of his allowance.

Landor left London for Wales, and for the next three years spent his time, when away from home, at Tenby and Swansea. Here he made friends with the family of Lord Aylmer. Rose Aylmer, commemorated in the most popular of his short poems, lent him a story by Clara Reeve, which suggested to him the composition of 'Gebir.' The style shows traces of the study of Pindar and Milton, to which he had devoted himself in Wales. 'Gebir,' published in 1798, had a fate characteristic of Lander's work. It was little read, but attracted the warm admiration of some of the best judges. Southey became an enthusiastic admirer, and praised it in the 'Critical Review' for September 1799. Coleridge, to whom Southey showed it, shared Southey's opinion. Henry Francis Cary [q. v.], the translator of Dante and a schoolfellow of Landor, was an early admirer. Heber, Dean Shipley, Frere, Canning, and Bolus Smith are also claimed as admirers by Landor; and Shelley, when at Oxford in 1811, bored Hogg by his absorption in it. Landor had thus some grounds for refuting De Quincey's statement that he and Southey had been for years the sole purchasers of 'Gebir.' Still, De Quincey's exaggeration was pardonable (Forster, pp. 57-62, and Archdeacon Hare and Landor in Imaginary Conversations). Landor led an unsettled life for some years. He formed a friendship with Dr. Parr, who had been resident at Hatton, near Warwick, since 1783, and was one of the few persons qualified to appreciate his latinity. In spite of Parr's vanity and warmth of temper, he never quarrelled with Landor, left his after-dinner pipe and company to visit his young friend, and maintained with him a correspondence, which began during Landor's stay at Oxford, and continued till Parr's death in 1825. Parr introduced Landor to Sir Robert Adair [q. v.], the friend of Fox, who took great pains, and with some success, to enlist Landor as a writer in the press sgainst the ministry. Other friends were Isaac Mocatta, who persuaded him to suppress a reply (Forster publishes some interesting extracts from the manuscript, pp. 69-72) to an attack upon 'Gebir' in the 'Monthly Review,' and Sergeant Hough, who had published an imitation of 'Gebir,' called 'The Conspiracy of Gowrie.' Mocatta died in 1801, and Rough had a quarrel with Landor at Parr's house, which ended their intimacy. In 1802 Landor took advantage of the peace to visit Paris, and came back with prejudices, never afterwards softened, against the French and their ruler. On returning Landor visited Oxford, where his brother was superintending the publication of a new edition of 'Gebir,' with 'arguments' to each book to explain its obscurity, and of a Latin version, 'Gebirus.' He continued to write poetry, lived in Bath, Bristol, and Wales, with occasional visits to London, and managing to anticipate his income. His father had lo sell property in order to meet the son's debts, who under-