Charles Wells Moulton. The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors.
Buffalo, NY: Moulton Publishing Co., 1904. Vol. VIII (1891-1904), pages 43-49.

"Edward Robert Bulwer Earl Lytton (Owen Meredith), 1831-1891"

Born, in London, 8 Nov. 1831. To Harrow, June 1846. Removed after a short time; afterwards was educated at Bonn. To Washington, as Sec. to Lord Dalling, Oct. 1849; Attaché to Embassy at Florence, Feb. 1852; at Paris, Aug. 1854; at the Hague, 1856; at St. Petersburg, April 1858; at Constantinople, June 1858; at Vienna, Jan. 1859; Second Sec., Vienna Oct. 1862; Sec. of Legation at Copenhagen, Jan. 1863; at Athens, May 1864. Married Edith Villiers, 4 Oct. 1864. Sec. of Legation at Lisbon, April 1865; at Madrid, Feb. 1868; at Vienna, Sept. 1868; Sec. to Embassy at Paris, Oct. 1872. Succeeded to title of Baron Lytton at his father's death, Jan. 1873. British Ambassador at Lisbon, Dec. 1874. Viceroy of India, 1876-80. G. C. B., 1 Jan. 1876; G. C. S. I., 12 April  876. Created Earl of Lytton, April 1880. British Ambassador at Paris, 1887-91. Privy Councillor, 29 June 1888. Died suddenly in Paris, 24 Nov. 1891. Buried at Knebworth.

Works: “Clytemnestra" (under pseud.: "Owen Meredith"), 1855; "The Wanderer" (by "Owen Meredith"), 1859; "Lucile" (by "Owen Meredith"), 1860; "Tannhauser" (with Julian Fane; under pseudo. of "Neville Temple and Edward Trevor"), 1861; "Serbski Pesme" (by “Owen Meredith"), 1861; "The Ring of Amasis" (by "Owen Meredith"), 1863; "The Poetical Works of Owen Meredith" (2 vols.), 1867; "Chronicles and Characters," 1868 [1867]; "Orval," 1869; "Julian Fane," 1871; "Fables in Song," 1874; "Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of his father," 1883; "Glenaveril," 1885; "After Paradise," 1887. Posthumous: "Marah," ed. by Lady Lytton, 1892; "King Poppy," 1892 (priv. ptd., 1875). He translated: Edler's "Baldine," 1886. -- SHARP, R. FARQUHARSON, 1897, A Dictionary of English Authors, p. 177.


I haven't seen Owen Meredith, and don't feel the least curiosity about him. --ROSETTI, DANTE GABRIEL, 1855, Letters to William Allingham, p. 141.

Among other persons there was Lytton, the son of Sir E. B. Lytton. I met him afterwards the same evening, and he made a formal speech about the D. R., saying it was a great privilege to know the author, etc. He is a handsome young man, and very clever, having published some poems, which are good, under the nom de plume of "Owen Meredith." --MOTLEY, JOHN LOTHROP, 1858 To his Wife, July 4; Correspondence, ed. Curtis, vol. I., p. 285.

I think, for example, you speak rather too well of young Lytton, whom I regard both as an impostor and an Antinomian heretic. -- LOWELL, JAMES RUSSELL, 1866, Letter to E. C. Stedman, Letters, ed. Norton, I, p. 365.

My dear Lytton,-- Lord Northbrook has  resigned the Viceroyalty of India, for purely domestic reasons, and will return to England in the spring. If you be willing, I will submit your name to the Queen as his successor. The critical state of affairs in Central Asia demands a statesman, and I believe if you will accept this high post you will have an opportunity, not only of serving your country, but of obtaining an enduring fame. --DISRAELI, BENJAMIN (LORD BEACONSFIELD), 1875, Letter to Lord Lytton, Nov. 23; Lord Lytton's Indian Administration, ed. Balfour, p. 2.

As a diplomatist he occupied a great many posts and mastered a great many languages. He also acquired the highest art of which modem diplomacy is capable. He learned to cook. . . . Lord Lytton excels in so many arts that he is superlatively good in none. He is one of the most amiable, witty, and fair-minded of Englishmen. Had he been forced to make his own way, he might have been acclaimed as Lord Beaconsfield's successor. As it is, he does little to beseem the promise of his youth. His career has been purposeless, invertebrate. -- SETON, R., 1881, Lord Lytton, The Critic, vol. 1, p. 254.

Lord Lytton inhabits at Paris the splendid mansion in the Faubourg Saint Honoré, which once belonged to the beautiful Pauline Borghèse, sister of Napoleon I. Its spacious apartments and large garden running back to the Champs-Elysees are admirably adapted for fêtes, and if the Ambassador cannot repeat the gorgeous ceremonies he so well organized in the Orient, he will at least be able to dispense a hospitality worthy of the country he represents. He has brought back from the Indias a collection of curiosities that he has placed in the Ambassadorial palace, and as soon as the visitor puts foot in the large entry-way, he can, with a very slight stretch of the imagination believe that he has been transported to the Orient. Every room, besides, contains souvenirs of the most notable period of the Ambassador's official life. Socially speaking, Lord Lytton is well equipped for his high position. Of fine appearance, in the force of age and health, rich, surrounded by a charming family and counting among his friends all the members of the best French society, he will be able to do all that personal prestige can do to remove the prejudices existing between the two countries.  LELAND, FRANCIS, 1888, The Earl of Lytton, The Epoch, Nov. 16.

Lord Lytton's death came very suddenly, but it was perhaps a crowning mercy which spared him great suffering. Much is said of him in public, not entirely in accord with the opinion which prevailed in private life. I have heard him called a brilliant failure, which does not seem a kindly estimate. Brilliant he certainly was. Fail, in some high matters, he certainly did; but it was not a failure that destroyed the confidence of those who knew him. He knew how to win the confidence of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury. When Lord Beaconsfield made him Viceroy of India, it was against the judgment of his party, and his Viceroyalty justified the hostility to his appointment. Lord Salisbury sent him as Ambassador to France, almost as great a post, and what he said of his nominee yesterday implies that he was satisfied with his work. Yet I fear the truth is that Lord Lytton's removal had been more than once very seriously discussed, if not determined. The English Ambassador was liked personally. He was not liked as an ambassador. He gave offence to the French sense of decorum by his Bohemian habits and his neglect of those conventionalities which are the most precious in French eyes. He held the Foreign Office in alarm. One of the most accomplished men in that office was sent over to keep things straight, and did keep them as straight as circumstances would allow; but as Lord Lytton left India after having embittered and endangered the relations of England with natives and neighbors, so he leaves France more jealous and hostile than he found her. India was his fault. France is not; but viceroys and ambassadors are commonly judged by results. He had gifts of many kinds. He had literature, he had poetry, neither of the first order. He had delightful social qualities. He was one of those men whom Arnold used to call attaching.  There was a touch of the feminine nature in him, and his caprices were innumerable. The French liked him because they knew he liked them and for his fame as a writer and the son of a writer, which the English hardly understand. Perhaps to his own countrymen his title was more than his books or his father's books. When all is said, an amiable and gifted man, original, self-centred, free from Philistinism, free from cant, free from the commonplace, is gone. -- SMALLEY, GEORGE W., 1891, London Letter, New York Tribune.                             .

He, of all English poets, is the one who since the days of Byron, has had the largest experience of life. . . . Now, whilst few of our modern poets have excelled him in devotion to his art, none have come near him in point of mundane experience. Let the reader consider his career, the outlines of which are known to everybody; and the fullness of what I mean will be apparent. . . . Few mm have ever combined as he did mundane, humour, fastidiousness, shrewdness, and savoir faire, with ultra-sensitive sympathy and grave, meditative philosophy. In most men these latter qualities tend to withdraw them from life. In Lord Lytton their effect was different. They made his experiences richer and more vivid, fixing their colours in his imagination, and deepening their significance in his mind. No one who knew him well would fail to be struck with this. He had inherited from his father something of a taste in dress a little suggesting that of the traditional poet; but his whole bearing and manner showed, the first moment he spoke, the sanity, the suavity, and the polish of the complete man of the world. No one on suitable occasions could discuss literature and poetry with more enthusiasm, more judgment, more feeling, and more knowledge than he: but life at first hand he discussed with equal mastery, and in ordinary society he discussed little else. -- MALLOCK, WILLIAM HURREL, 1892, Poetry and Lord Lytton, Fortnightly Review, vol. 57, p. 805.

Lytton's position among the public men of his day was unique. It recalled the life the Elizabethan noble, little concerned with the arts that influence deliberate 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 he strongest must largely rely. -- GARNETT, RICHARD, 1893, Dictionary of National Biography, vol. XXXIV, p. 391.

The Earl of Lytton was often cruelly misrepresented and misunderstood. I should like to give my humble testimony that, knowing him intimately for many years, having spent long hours in his society, having received from him many letters, having conversed with him on all conceivable topics, literary and religious, and having heard him in public as well as in private, he left on my mind the conviction that he was a man of brilliant ability, of generous instincts, of kindliest nature, and one whose sincere desire it was to do his duty faithfully and strenuously in the world. -- FARRAR, FREDERIC WILLIAM, 1897, Men I have Known, p. 262.

LUCILE (1860)

"Lucile," with all its lightness, remains his best poem, as well as the most popular; a really interesting, though sentimental, parlor-novel, written in fluent verse,-- a kind of production exactly suited to his gift and limitations. -- STEDMAN, EDMUND CLARENCE, 1875-87, Victorian Poets, p. 268.

"Lucile," in its day, was a literary sensation. It was given to the world at a time when the romantic fever was at its height, and when Englishwomen were sighing for a native school of fiction which should follow the footsteps of George Sand and Octave Feuillet. At what distance "Lucile" followed them has never been exactly determined. There appeared in a literary paper of the period a very circumstantial accusation that it was a close version, in plot, characters, and sometimes in language, of one of the earlier novels which the author of "Consuelo" had anonymously published. The charge was not pressed. It was rumoured that the new poet would make a terrible slaughter of his traducers after the manner of "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," and he seems to have published a denial in some obscure publication. But there the matter dropped. It had little interest for Owen Meredith's readers, who for the most part were very young. It had no great interest for his critics, who discerned in him an extraordinary facility, an almost Byronic flow of fiction, and none of the marks of poetic greatness. His lines went cantering on their way unchecked. -- SETON, R., 1881, Lord Lytton, The Critic, Vol. 1, p. 254.

I, for one, should not think of expecting a serious critic to wax enthusiastic over "Lucile." As far as I am acquainted with the writings of Owen Meredith, everything he has done is well done. As the phrase is, it is good of its sort. But I do not think one can rate the "sort" in this case very highly. "Lucile" seems to stand mid-way between the vernal charm of "The Wanderer," and the rich autumn tints and autumn fruits to be met with in the riper writings of the Earl of Lytton. Like summer, "Lucile" is luscious, but its colour is uniform; it is neither blossom nor harvest. -- AUSTIN, ALFRED, 1887, Owen Meredith, Earl of Lytton, National Review, Vol. 8, p.687.

Whatever rank as poetry we may assign to this work, there runs through it a complete but unconscious familiarity with life, which gives to every tone, sentiment, or epigram, a propriety, a precision, and point often absent in poems of a far more ambitious character. -- MALLOCK, WILLIAM HURREL, 1892, Poetry and Lord Lytton, Fortnightly Review, vol. 57, p. 806.


A form of literature so very innocent and primitive, looks a little over-written in Lord Lytton's conscious and highly-coloured style. It may be bad taste, but sometimes we should prefer a few sentences of plain prose narration, and a little Bewick by way of tail-piece. So that it is not among those fables that conform most nearly to the old model, but one had nearly said among those that most widely differ from it, that we find the most satisfactory examples of the author's manner. . . . And now for a last word, about the style. This is not easy to criticise. It is impossible to deny to it rapidity, spirit, and a full sound; the lines are never lame, and the sense is carried forward with an uninterrupted, impetuous rush. But it is not equal. After passages of really admirable versification, the author falls back upon a sort of loose, cavalry manner, not unlike the style of some of Mr. Browning's minor pieces, and almost inseparable from wordiness, and an easy acceptation of a somewhat cheap finish. -- STEVENSON, ROBERT LOUIS, 1874, Lord Lytton's Fables in Song, Fortnightly Review, vol. 21, pp. 819, 822.

He has, to our thinking, achieved so much towards the resuscitation of a neglected phase of poetry, by bringing into play a curious and refined observation, a poet's insight into nature, large gifts of felicitous expression, cultivated to a degree very unusual in these rough and ready days, and withal a deep human tenderness struggling out of an external crust of cynicism, that it is worth while to examine the secret of his success, and to trace the causes of his adventuring a path over which he was not so sure of a literary public to follow him, as if he had chosen to lead off on a classical, romantic, or even homely track. These latter are to be gleaned from casual expressions in the course of his two volumes of "Fables in Song." -- DAVIES, JAMES, 1874, Fables in Song, Contemporary Review, vol. 24, p. 94.

They are full of thought -- sometimes overburdened with it; but they have a graceful facility of versification which entitles their author to rank with many of our cultivated poets. -- SMITH, GEORGE BARNE'IT, 1875, English Fugitive Poets, Poets and Novelists, p. 421.

His "Fables in Song" are probably the portion of his compositions which will last the longest. Some of them are fine, visionary, and poetical, the "Blue Mountains" in particular, rising to our recollection as a charming rendering of the poetic wistfulness and strain towards a distant good, which recedes as the pilgrim advances, and is never fulfilled. These poems are of a higher class altogether than the volumes of verse produced by the elder Lord Lytton. -- OLIPHANT, MARGARET O. W., 1892, The Victorian Age of English Literature, p. 454.


To judge from this first instalment, his lordship, though qualified to do good service as a pioneer, is too one-sided, and not quite powerful enough to show the very age and body of the time its form and pressure. But we must wait for the finished work. Thus far at least it is a very interesting production, full of life and character. The root-incident in the story, the starting-point of future complications, has never, so far as I know, appeared in such an exalted literary position before. It is one of the common-places of the circus-clown and the low comedian to jest about children getting mixed up in the washing, to the subsequent confusion of their respective identities. In Lord Lytton's story this accident happens to the infant sons of an English peer and a German Lutheran parson, and it has evidently given him no little trouble to tell with becoming dignity And delicacy how the mischance happened. A slight discrepancy between the first stanza and the seventeenth -- a discrepancy which recalls the famous description of a battle-field as resounding with "the shrieks of the dying and the groans of the dead" -- is indicative of the poet's difficulties, and probably means that he recast the opening more than once. It is not an easy matter to show in short compass the weaving of the knot of circumstances that brought such an extraordinary exchange of personalities within the range of possibility, and we read on for some time with a certain feeling of perplexity as to what the poet would be at. The meaning is conveyed with such indirectness that many readers are certain to miss it altogether; and it is not till we reach the thirty-seventh stanza that dim and wondering suspicion of the poet's daring humour changes into the full light of conviction. . . . In the third canto, a propos of young Lord Glenaveril's entrance into the House of Lords, he takes opportunity also for more personal criticism of his friends and opponents. This political episode will doubtless attract more general notice than any other portion of the present instalment of the poem. Looked at from a purely literary point of view and without reference to their party spirit, these sketches must be pronounced to be the best of the kind that have been done in verse since the late Lord Lytton published “St. Stephen's." The son, however, is not quite equal to the father; the father was at least as brilliant, and his judgment was much more evenly balanced. -- MINTO, WILLIAM, 1885, Literature, The Academy, vol. pp. 285, 286.

In "Glenaveril" there is complete unity in the plot itself. Every book in every canto contributes to the solution of the main problem, which is always before the mind of the poet. Lord Lytton has rightly felt that it was incumbent on him to relieve the excessive strain on the reader's attention, and he has done this by the agreeable variety of his characters, and by the introuction of episodes of great beauty and animation, such as the legend of Marietta's Needle, and the Fable of King Usinara. The poem is also enlivened by sketches of social life in England, and with portraits of contemporary statesmen so admirably vivid that many readers must have wished that the poet had been tempted more frequently to stray from the severer lines he had prescribed for himself into the by-ways of satire and description. . . . There is plenty of variety, too, in the reflections and  arguments interspersed through the narrative, and Lord Lytton's muse is never more felicitous than in political epigram. . . . Whatever may be the judgment of the critic on this poem, no one can rise from it without a sense of the extraordinary intellectual power that has been spent on its production. It is, as I have already said, bold and original experiment in art. Lord Lytton has completely emerged from the semi-lyrical atmosphere of sentiment and reflection in which the poet has been long moving, and has once more carried metrical composition into the sphere of external action. In "Glenaveril" the plot is everything; the moral problem is solved by means of it; the characters owe their existence to it; the diction adapts itself to its requirements. -- COURTHOPE, WILLIAM JOHN, 1886, Glenaveril, National Review, vol. 6, pp. 854, 855.

He himself, it seems, believed in the book; the more sacred band of his admirers believes in it; there are undoubtedly good things in it; and I recently found it easier to read it a second time than I did when it came out, to read it at first. But I am quite unable to regard it as anything on the whole but a huge and creditable mistake. -- SAINTSBURY, GEORGE, 1896, The Poetry of the Earl of Lytton, The Forum, vol. 22, p. 475.

MARAH (1891)

Is it because I am older and colder now, I wonder, that nothing in "Marah" moves me as did the linked sweetness and melancholy of those earlier strains? Or is it that William Morris has put me out of tune with Lord Lytton, as an hour under the white enchantment of the moon, among the wide spaces of the night, might unfit one for the electric lights of the ballroom? -- MOULTON, LOUISE CHANDLER, 1892, Three English Poets, The Arena, Vol. 6, p. 48.

The love portrayed in "Marah" is of the body rather than of the soul, it is founded on the "ruins of man's will," and its votaries are "zealous artisans," not artists. But, as of old, Lord Lytton's verses are fluent and musical. Mr. Wilfred Scawen Blunt has compared him to an improvisatore, and this volume contains the faults and merits peculiar to such a style, now free and vigorous, now tame and diffuse. -- JOHNSON, REGINALD BRIMLEY, 1892, Marah, The Academy, Vol. 41, p. 416.

"Marah" is the record of Lord Lytton's last deception in the world of sentiment, and it stands as such almost unique in English literature. Indeed, I know of nothing which can exactly be compared with it, for our passionate poets have seldom been long-lived, and Goethe's romance of old age has remained without an English imitator. On this account "Marah" will be found of supreme interest as well as inexpressibly touching by all who knew Lord Lytton either personally or as the young love-poet he was to readers in his days of "Owen Meredith." -- BLUNT, WILFRED SCAWEN, 1892, Lord Lytton's Rank in Literature, The Nineteenth Century, vol. 31, p. 571.


Mr. Lytton has published an excess of lyrical pieces. He is, I should say, an intellectual poet with a dramatic tendency, not lyrical. The design of the "Chronicles and Characters" would argue for him the possession of a mind contentus paucis lectoribus, but there is still a slight ad captandum flavor in some of the minor poems and their metres which detracts from the merit of the volumes as a whole. He conceived possibly that variety and lightness were wanted to relieve the severe intellectual pressure. He might have trusted to his natural strength without any fears of the sort. -- MEREDITH, GEORGE, 1868, Mr. Robert Lytton's Poems, Fortnightly Review, vol. 9, p. 661.

I have been reading Robert Lytton's "Chronicles and Characters." They belong to a generation in which there is a great deal of thinking for thinking's sake. They are not less. than wonderful in the display of intellectual and imaginative power. -- TAYLOR, SIR HENRY, 1869, To Mrs. Edward Villiers, Jan. 24; Correspondence, ed. Dowden, p. 287.

Lytton adds to an inherited talent for melodramatic tale-writing a poetical ear, good knowledge of effect, and a taste for social excitements. . . . Some of his early lyrics are tender, warm, and beautiful; but more are filled with hot-house passions, with the radiance, not of stars, but of chandeliers and gas-lights. -- STEDMAN, EDMUND CLARENCE, 1875-87, Victorian Poets, p.268.

Mr. Disraeli gave the country another little surprise. He appointed Lord Lytton Viceroy of India. Lord Lytton had been previously known chiefly as the writer of pretty and sensuous verse, and the author of one or two showy and feeble novels. In literary capacity he was at least as much inferior to his father as his father was to Scott or Goethe. --McCARTHY, JUSTIN, 1879, A History at our Own Times from the Accession of Queen Victoria to the Berlin Congress, ch. LXIV.

There is much in this book that recalls the author's striking and beautiful "Fables in Song." It does not, I think, on the whole, maintain so high a level; but it has the same special merit, the same mixture of romantic thought with piercing aperçus from life and experience, reminding one of the finer work of the elder Lord Lytton,-- the same defect, as I venture to think it, of mingling real poetry with a hard and gritty humor, a crackling of thorns under a pot. --MORSHEAD, E. D. A., 1887, After Paradise, The Academy, vol. 32, p. 195.

In Lord Lytton's case, I think, he has suffered doubly as a poet from his political attitude. He has incurred the resentment of the Liberal Press for being too strong a Tory, and at the same time his high public position has caused his political friends to treat his poetry as no more than that holiday flirtation with the Muse which statesmen are allowed. By neither side has he been treated according to his full literary deserts. Now, however, that the grave has closed over all contentious matters in his public career, I anticipate a wiser and less partial judgment of his poetic work. Each year as it goes by will withdraw him politically further from our gaze and bring him as a poet nearer to us. Then we may expect to see him take the high rank he deserves. My estimate of what this rank will be is that, as a lyric poet, the position given him will be next among his contemporaries after Tennyson, Swinburne, and Rossetti. He has neither Tennyson's full perfection of lyric style, nor Swinburne's wealth of musical rhetoric. Rossetti I personally should place before any of them as master of the purest English perhaps in our literature, but it is doubtful whether, his masterpieces being nearly all in sonnet form, the consensus of criticism will give him so high a place. Apart from these three I see no contemporary who is likely to be placed as Lytton's equal. -- BLUNT, WILLIAM SCAWEN, 1892, Lord Lytton's Rank in Literature, The Nineteenth Century, vol. 31, p. 574.

Lord Lytton has been accused of borrowing too freely from other writers, and the accusation has not been invariably groundless. In writing "Lucile" he owed more to George Sand than one writer should owe to another, and his lines frequently recall the work of greater masters. A number of his lyrics are palpable imitations of Browning's. But they are to Browning's verse as the footlights are to sunlight and as rosewater is to wine. They breathe not of the open air but of the dress-circle and the boudoir. In occasionally echoing the rhythm and mimicking the sentiment of other men, Lord Lytton has done wanton injustice to his talents. He had more than culture and wit and knowledge of the world and the command of an easy and finished style. He was more than a light-handed satirist and a masterly teller of a story. That he had a true vein of poetry, a strain and a message of his own, he has proved by the lofty imagery of his 'Legends" and by more than one love-lyric where the language and the rhythm are unborrowed, and the thought and the passion are beautiful and moving and sincere. -- WHYTE, WILLIAM, 1892, The Poets and the Poetry of the Century, Kingsley to Thomson, ed. Miles, p. 494.

All his books, from the early poems of Owen Meredith, to the posthumous volume, "Marah," were stamped with cleverness. They were rich in fancy: graceful, and sometimes almost perfect, in form; full of ease, eloquence, and charm. It would be difficult to say with precision what it was that they lacked; but something was absent from them, and perhaps it was that essential quality which Wordsworth defines as "the consecration and the poet's dream." Lord Lytton was himself apparently conscious of their insufficiency, for he flitted rapidly from one subject and one style to another, as though in quest of the unattained perfection; but it still remained unattained; and when "Marah," his last book, was found to be of the same character as its predecessors, Lord Lytton's place in literature seemed to have been finally determined. -- COTTERELL, GEORGE, 1893, King Poppy, The Academy, Vol. 43, p.299.

Owen Meredith wrote lines which, if they had been written by Tennyson, would have been reckoned among his sweetest, but they were Owen Meredith and not Tennyson. --  BENSON, ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER, 1894, Essays, p. 305.

The verse is often artificial and the sentiment false or strained. -- ROBERTSON, J. LOGIE, 1894, A History of English Literature, p. 333.

"Genseric" is one of the, alas! too rare instances in which the poet did not write a line or a word too much, and which therefore shows what, with less fluency, his muse might have frequently given. The whole design to exhibit the ideals of the successive ages was too ambitious; and, except in the hands of an almost unimaginably supreme poet, would have required more knowledge than is easily compatible with poetical felicity, and more power of suppressing knowledge than the knower usually has. But as a series of frescoes,-- as a sort of world-panorama dashed off freely and with mastery,-- it has high value, and as a book to read-- a quality of Lord Lytton's verse on which I always insist -- it is extremely recommendable. . . . His distressing laxity in the matter of rhyme -- which sometimes reminds one of, though it never equals, the enormities of Mrs. Browning -- may have been partly caused and must certainly have been encouraged by his almost constant exile from his native country; for an ear so receptive as his could hardly fail to be affected by the daily hearing of Italian and French, German and Portuguese. But it must have been partly congenital, and partly due, like his companion laxities of metre, to a more general impatience -- also congenital and increased by education and circumstance -- of the labor of the file. And I do not know that either peccadillo has done him so much harm as his extreme facility and fluency. -- SAINTSBURY, GEORGE, 1896, The Poetry of the Earl of Lytton, The Forum, vol. 22, pp. 473, 479.


Last revised: 26 August 2010