Obituary of Lord Lytton (1831-1891)
The Athenaeum (London) #3344 (November 28, 1891), p724.
The late Lord Lytton has not achieved such a position in literature as his father attained, and yet he came much nearer to being a poet. He possessed more vigour of conception, more warmth of fancy, and greater command of metre and language. But he lacked his father’s persevering industry and resolute determination to make the most of what powers he possessed; literature to him was not an end in itself, but a recreation, and there was always something amateurish about the best of his verse. His reputation reached its height thirty years ago when he published ‘Lucile.’ ‘Glenaveril’ was undoubtedly a stronger work, an advance in every respect on its predecessor, yet it failed to secure public attention. The truth is that with all his brilliant gifts, the Earl of Lytton drew his inspiration rather from books than from actual observation of men and things. He was unable to impress on his poetry the stamp of his own individuality; in spite of his wealth of words and facility of expression there was nothing characteristic about his diction, nothing to distinguish it from the writings of other men of ability and accomplishments.
His biography of his father is left incomplete. It was begun on a very large scale, and, with a lack of discretion singular in a man versed in affairs, he entered into the unfortunate quarrel between his father and mother, a quarrel which the son would have been easily excused for passing over with the fewest possible words. His handling of this theme naturally provoked controversy, and the controversy not unnaturally aroused in him a distaste for the task that induced him to leave the life unfinished.
At the time of his sudden decease Lord Lytton was, we believe, contemplating a new and uniform edition of his poems. A selection from them made by Miss Betham-Edwards appeared last year.
Last revised: 26 August 2010