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Mr. E. Lytton Bulwer by L. Gaylord Clark

In looking over, not very long since, a long—neglected, thin portfolio of my twin-brother, the late Willis Gaylord Clark of Philadelphia, I came across a sealed parcel endorsed "London Correspondence." It contained letters to him from many literary persons of more or less eminence at that time in the British metropolis; among others, two from Miss Landon ("L.E.L."); two from Mrs. S. C. Hall, the versatile and clever author of Tales and Sketches of the Irish Peasantry, cordial, closely—written and recrossed to the remotest margin; one from her husband, Mr. S.C. Hall; three or four from Mr. Chorley; and lastly, five or six elaborate letters from Mr. E. Lytton Bulwer, sent through his American publishers, the Brothers Harper, by Washington Irving, then secretary of legation to the American embassy "near the court of St. James." Enclosed with these last-mentioned letters was a communication from Miss Fanny Kemble, to whom they had been sent for perusal, and who, in returning them, did not hesitate to say that she did Not share his young American correspondent's admiration for the author of Pelham. She had met him frequently in London society, and regarded his manners as affected and himself as a reflex of his own conceited model of a gentleman—a style which Thackeray perhaps did not too grossly caricature when he made Chawls Yellowplush announce, from his own lips, his sounding name and title to a distinguished London drawing-room as "Sa-wa-Edou-wah'd-à-Lyttod-à-Bulwig!"

The poems which my brother had written for two London journals at the time of their first appearance and sudden popularity, the London Literary Gazette and, I believe, the Athenæum, led to the correspondence I have mentioned; and from the letters of Mr. Bulwer I have extracted a few passages, as somewhat personal in their nature, besides being characteristic of his tone of thought and manner of expression at that period of his career:

"An author who has a just confidence in his attainments and powers, who knows that his mind is imperishable and capable of making daily additions to its own strength, is always more desirous of seeing the censures (if not mere abuse) than the praises of those who aspire to judge him; and any suggestions or admonitions thus bestowed are seldom disregarded. But if he is to profit by criticism, the motive must be known to him. It is by no means natural to take the advice of an enemy. When the critic enters his department of literature in the false guise of urbanity and candor merely to conceal an incapable and huckstering soul, he only awakens for himself the irrevocable contempt of the very mind that he would gall or subdue; since that mind, under such circumstances, invariably rises above its detractor, and leaves him exposed on the same creaking gibbet that he has prepared for the object of his fear or envy."

"Seldom indeed is it that injustice fails to be seen through, or that the policy of interested condemnation escapes undetected. They first produce the excitements, then furnish the triumphs, of genius."

"There is a charm in writing for the pure and intelligent young worth all the plaudits of sinister or hypocritical wisdom. At a certain age, and while the writings that please have a gloss of novelty about them, hiding the blemishes that may afterward be discovered as their characteristics,—then it is that the young convert their approbation into enthusiasm. An author benefits in a wide and most pleasing range of public opinion by this natural and common disposition in the young; and the only cloud thrown athwart the rays of pleasure thus saluting his spirit is flung from the thought that they who are thus moved by the movings of his own mind may come in a few years to look upon his pages with hearts less ardent in their sympathies, and with altered eyes, which have acquired additional keenness by looking longer upon the world."

"The competent American littérateur has a glorious career before him. So much is there in your magnificent country, hitherto undescribed and unexpressed, in scenery, manners, morals, that all may be wells from which he may be the first to drink. Yet it cannot be expected—for it has passed to a proverb that escape from persecution and detraction can never and nowhere be the lot of literature—that there will not be many instances, even in America, where every attempt on the part of gifted writers (and young writers especially, who are commonly regarded with eyes of invidious jaundice by the elders, whose waning reputations they may through industry either supplant or explode) will be rendered an uneasy struggle, and sometimes almost a curse, by the envy of those who deny approval while blind to success, and the affected disdain of those who exaggerate demerit. Yet these obstacles warm the spirit of honest ambition, and enhance its inevitable conquests."

"It is a sight of gratification and pride to behold a laborer in the vineyard of letters escaping from the envy, the jealousy, the rivalry, the leaven of all uncharitableness, with which literary intercourse is so often polluted. The writers of England have been tardy in their justice, not only to the progress, circumstances and customs of America, but to her intellectual offspring; and the time is not remote—nay, has already dawned—when, in this regard, the spirit of Change wields his wand and finds obedience to his prerogatives."

"'No hostility between nations affects the arts:' so said the old maxim, but it has rarely been found a truism. They who feel it, feel also the virtue which dictated the aphorism. Men whose object is to enlighten the nations or exalt the judgment or (the least ambition) to refine the tastes of others—men who feel that this object is dearer to them than a petty and vain ambition—feel also that all who labor in the same cause are united with them in a friendship which exists in one climate as in another—in a I republic or in a despotism: these are the best cosmopolites, the truest citizens of the world."

The foregoing extracts will make it obvious that Mr. Bulwer was at that time sore at the treatment he had received at the hands of certain of his critics, who were by no means unanimous in their estimation of his genius. He was very sensitive at all times of adverse comment upon his writings. Thackeray wounded him woefully when he made "Chawls Yellowplush" review him characteristically in Punch. These most amusing papers ought to have been included in Thackeray's published miscellaneous writings, but they were not, although Bulwer is humorously travestied in Punch's "Prize Novelists," together with Lover, Ainsworth, and Disraeli. The subjoined will show the style of the "littery" footman, who, as a critic, "sumtimes gave kissis, sumtimes kix":

"One may objeck to an immence deal of your writings, witch, betwigst you and me, contain more sham sentiment, sham morallaty and sham potry than you'd like to own; but in spite of this, there's the stuf you; you've a kind and loyal heart in your buzm, bar'net—a trifle deboshed, praps: a keen i, igspecially for what is comick (as for your tragady, it's mighty flatchulent), and a ready pleasn't pen. The man who says you're an As, is an As himself. Dont b'lieve him, bar'net: not that I suppose you will; for, if I've formed a correck opinion of you from your wuck, you think your small beear as good as most men's. Every man does—and wy not? We brew, and we love our own tap—amen; but the pint betwigst us is this steupid, absudd way of crying out because the public don't like it too. Wy should they, my dear bar'net? You may vow that they are fools, or that the critix are your enemies, or that the world should judge your poams by your critikle rules, and not by their own. You may beat your brest, and vow that you are a martyr, but you won't mend the matter."

After these general remarks, the critic-footman takes up the subject of style, and argues with a good deal of ingenuity and force in favor of simplicity and terseness, especially in his performance of The Sea-Captain:

"Sea-captings should not be eternly spowting, and invoking gods, hevn, starz, and angels, and other silestial influences. We can all do it, bar'net: no-think in life is easier. I can compare my livery buttons to the stars, or the clouds of my backr pipe to the dark vollums that ishew from Mount Hetna; or I can say that angles are looking down from them, and the tobacco-silf, like a happy soil released, is circling round and upwards, and shaking sweetness down. All this is as easy as to drink; but it's not potry, bar'net, nor natral. Pipple, when their mothers reckonise them, don't howl about the suckumambient air, and paws to think of the happy leaves a-rustling—leastways, one mistrusts them if they do...Look at the neat grammaticle twist of Lady Arundel's spitch too, who in the cors of three lines has made her son a prince, a lion with a sword and coronal, and a star. Wy gauble, and sheak up metafers in this way, bar'net? One simile is quite enuff in the best of sentences; and I preshume I need not tell you that it's as well to have it like while you are about it. Take my advice, honrabble sir: listen to an umble footman: it's genrally best in potry to understand perffickly what you mean yourself, and to igspress your meaning clearly affterward: the simpler the words the better, praps. You may, for instans, call a coronet an 'ancestral coronal,' if you like, as you might call a hat a 'swart sombrero,' a glossy four-and-nine, a 'silken helm, to storm impermeable,' and 'lightsome as a breezy gossamer;' but in the long run it's as well to call it a hat. It is a hat, and that name is quite as poeticle as another."

The remarks of Mr. Yellowplush upon some of the segregated passages are amusing enough. Take the following, for example:

Girl, beware!

The love that trifles round the charm it gilds,

Oft ruins while it shines.

Igsplane this, men and angles! I've tried every way; backards, forards, and all sorts of trancepositions:

The love that ruins round the charm it shines

Gilds while it trifles oft,

or—

The charm that gilds around the love it ruins,

Oft trifles while it shines,

or—

The ruins that love gilds and shines around

Oft trifles while it charms,

or—

Love while it charms shines round and ruins oft

The trifles that it gilds,

or—

The love that trifles, gilds and ruins oft

While round the charm it shines.

 All witch are as sen sable as the ferst passadge. Sir Mr. Bullwig, ain't I right? Such, barring the style, was the tenor of many of the critiques upon Bulwer's writings which appeared about that period, and which, as is now well known, "wrought him much annoy," versatile and powerful as his genius has since proved itself.