Walter Savage Landor

English writer, poet, and activist (1775–1864)
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Walter Savage Landor (January 30 1775September 17 1864) was an English prose-writer on themes drawn from literary history, a verse-dramatist, and a poet.

We must not indulge in unfavourable views of mankind, since by doing it we make bad men believe that they are no worse than others, and we teach the good that they are good in vain.


  • But I have sinuous shells of pearly hue...
    Shake one, and it awakens; then apply
    Its polished lips to your attentive ear,
    And it remembers its august abodes,
    And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there.
    • Gebir, Book I (1798). Compare: "Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed/ Mysterious union with his native sea", William Wordsworth, The Excursion (1814), Book iv. Wordsworth's prompted Landor to comment, "Poor shell! that Wordsworth so pounded and flattened in his marsh it no longer had the hoarseness of a sea, but of a hospital", Walter Savage Landor, Letter to John Forster.
  • Past are three summers since she first beheld
    The ocean; all around the child await
    Some exclamation of amazement here.
    She coldly said, her long-lasht eyes abased,
    Is this the mighty ocean? is this all?
    That wondrous soul Charoba once possest,—
    Capacious, then, as earth or heaven could hold,
    Soul discontented with capacity,—
    Is gone (I fear) forever. Need I say
    She was enchanted by the wicked spells
    Of Gebir, whom with lust of power inflamed
    The western winds have landed on our coast?
    I since have watcht her in lone retreat,
    Have heard her sigh and soften out the name.
    • Gebir, Book I (1798). It is reported that "these lines were specially singled out for admiration by Shelley, Humphrey Davy, Scott, and many remarkable men"; Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919), citing Forster, Life of Landor, vol. i. p. 95.
  • Ah what avails the sceptered race,
    Ah what the form divine!
    • Rose Aylmer (1806).
  • Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes
    May weep, but never see,
    A night of memories and of sighs
    I consecrate to thee.
    • Rose Aylmer (1806).
  • 'Tis verse that gives
    Immortal youth to mortal maids.
    • Verse.
  • When we play the fool, how wide
    The theatre expands! beside,
    How long the audience sits before us!
    How many prompters! what a chorus!
    • Plays, st. 2 (1846).
  • There is delight in singing, though none hear
    Beside the singer.
    • To Robert Browning (1846).
  • Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world's,
    Therefore on him no speech! and brief for thee,
    Browning! Since Chaucer was alive and hale,
    No man hath walked along our roads with step
    So active, so inquiring eye, or tongue
    So varied in discourse.
    • To Robert Browning (1846). Compare: "Nor sequent centuries could hit/ Orbit and sum of Shakespeare's wit", Ralph Waldo Emerson, May-Day and Other Pieces, Solution.
  • The Siren waits thee, singing song for song.
    • To Robert Browning (1846).
  • I strove with none, for none was worth my strife;
    Nature I loved; and next to Nature, Art.
    I warmed both hands before the fire of life;
    It sinks, and I am ready to depart.
    • I Strove with None (1853). The work is identified in Bartlett's Quotations, 10th ed. (1919) as Dying Speech of an old Philosopher.
    • Quoted in W. Somerset Maugham: The Razor's Edge, The Blakiston Company, Philadelphia, 1944, p. 161.
  • Around the child bend all the three
    Sweet Graces: Faith, Hope, Charity.
    Around the man bend other faces;
    Pride, Envy, Malice, are his Graces.
    • Dry Sticks, Different Graces (1858).
  • The damps of autumn sink into the leaves and prepare them for the necessity of their fall; and thus insensibly are we, as years close around us, detached from our tenacity of life by the gentle pressure of recorded sorrow.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 8.
  • I am heartily glad to witness your veneration for a Book which to say nothing of its holiness or authority, contains more specimens of genius and taste than any other volume in existence.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 33.
  • Wearers of rings and chains!
    Pray do not take the pains
    To set me right.
    In vain my faults ye quote;
    I write as others wrote
    On Sunium’s hight.
    • The last Fruit of an old Tree, Epigram cvi, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Stand close around, ye Stygian set,
    with Dirce in the boat conveyed,
    Lest Charon, seeing her, forget,
    That he is old and she a shade.
    • Epitaph on Dirce. George Orwell called it 'one of the best epitaphs in English – If I were a woman it would be my favourite epitaph – it would be the one I should like to have for myself." Quoted in It is What I Think, p. 45. Orwell's text differs from that published by Landor in Gebir, Count Julian, and Other Poems (London: E. Moxon, 1831):
      Stand close around, ye Stygian set,
        With Dirce in one boat conveyed!
      Or Charon, seeing may forget
        That he is old and she a shade.

Imaginary Conversations (1824-1829)

  • There are no fields of amaranth on this side of the grave: there are no voices, O Rhodopè! that are not soon mute, however tuneful: there is no name, with whatever emphasis of passionate love repeated, of which the echo is not faint at last.
    • "Aesop and Rhodopè", I.
  • Of all failures, to fail in a witticism is the worst, and the mishap is the more calamitous in a drawn-out and detailed one.
    • "Chesterfield and Chatham".
  • We must not indulge in unfavourable views of mankind, since by doing it we make bad men believe that they are no worse than others, and we teach the good that they are good in vain.
    • "Barrow and Newton".
  • Men, like nails, lose their usefulness when they lose their direction and begin to bend: such nails are then thrown into the dust or into the furnace.
    • "Cromwell and Noble".
  • Ambition is but Avarice on stilts and masked.
    • "Lord Brooke and Sir Philip Sidney".

Quotes about

  • Upon the work of Walter Landor
    I am unfit to speak with candor.
    If you can read it, well and good;
    But as for me, I never could.
    • Dorothy Parker, "A Pig's-Eye View of Literature" from Sunset Gun (1927); reproduced in Not So Deep as a Well: Collected Poems (1937), p. 110.
  • We, hedge-hogged as Johnson or Borrow, strange to the yoke
    As Landor, surly as Cobbett (that badger), birdlike as Blake.
    • C. S. Lewis, "The Condemned" or "Under Sentence"
    • The Spectator (7 September 1945); revised in Poems (1964)
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