mous in his praise. The disadvantage of imperfect sympathy with the political institutions of France was greatly overbalanced by his cordial attachment to the French nation, whose social tastes and manners he shared, with whose ideas and whose literature he was thoroughly conversant, and with whom he felt entirely at home. His literary and artistic tastes made him intimate with the best intellectual society of a capital where art and letters are not without weight in public affairs, and his house was valued by all political parties as the only place where all could meet on equal terms. The preservation and even the improvement of friendly relations with France during a period of great political irritation was a special service which perhaps could have been rendered by no other man. His novel popularity affected him almost with sadness. ‘I devoted my life to India,’ he said, ‘and everybody abused me. I come here, do nothing, and am praised to the skies.’ His part was, indeed, rather that of a pervading influence than of an active agent. The time it left him for literary pursuits was evinced by the rewriting of an early romance, ‘The Ring of Amasis,’ of which no industry could make very much, and of ‘King Poppy;’ and by the composition of the lyrics, more personal in sentiment than usual with him, published after his death under the title of ‘Marah.’ They vary greatly in merit, and in general reproduce much of the manner of Heine. ‘King Poppy,’ which remained unpublished until Christmas 1892, is, on the other hand, entirely original, and will probably be regarded as his best work; the more elevated parts couched in a high strain of poetry, the lighter full of lively, ironic humour.
Lytton died very suddenly at Paris, 24 Nov. 1891, from aneurism of the aorta. He had been composing poetry all day, and was writing as he died. His health had for some time been precarious, but his sudden death was entirely unexpected. In the universal burst of sorrow which it elicited some regret might perhaps be detected for the severity of the attacks made on his administration of India. He was buried at Knebworth.
Lytton's position among the public men of his day was unique. It recalled the life of the Elizabethan noble, little concerned with the arts that influence deliberative assemblies, but leading alternately the lives of a scholar, a diplomatist, a magistrate, a courtier, and a man of letters. Had he but been a soldier too, the parallel would have been perfect. Few have touched life at so many points, have enjoyed such variety of interesting experiences, or have so profoundly fascinated their intimates, whether relatives, friends, or official colleagues. The antipathies he also provoked had seldom a deeper root than some unintentional slight or misinterpreted oddity on his part, or were affected for political purposes. The one serious fault of his public career was the unwise disregard of conventions, which passed for whimsical caprice, and, thus suggesting infirmity of judgment, injured the prestige on which the strongest must largely rely. As a poet he has the merit of extreme brilliancy of idea, phrase, and description. His defect is that this brilliancy is unrelieved—his massed jewels glitter against no background, and the eye becomes confused and fatigued with their dazzle. Some, also, are unquestionably paste, and many are not his property. At the same time he was not a plagiarist in intention. An enthusiastic lover of the beautiful, he was impressed by literary no less than by natural beauty, and was for the time possessed by an admired style as another might be possessed by an overpowering emotion. When this is the case he is the best of imitators, but his strain is hardly his own. The vital and enduring part of his poetry is that inspired by his own experience of life and observation of manners, when the compound of imagination and refined irony produces something really original and peculiar to himself. This is especially the case with ‘Fables in Song’ and ‘King Poppy,’ which, with some felicitous ballads and lyrics, will preserve his name when the bulk of his poetry, considerable as it is both in merit and extent, will attract more notice from the historians of literature than from readers. As a prose writer Lytton takes high rank; his minutes and despatches were the admiration of the India office; he could recognise merit in an unknown writer, and his appreciation was equally generous and discriminating. His reputation as a critic of life and letters will probably be much enhanced when his extensive correspondence with John Forster and other men of letters sees the light, as it is understood that it shortly will.