Reviews, notes and Comments about Edward Lytton in the New York Times


New York Times; Feb 6, 1881; p.8. LORD LYTTON'S PLAGIARISM.


I have received the following very interesting letter, apropos of Lord Lytton's plagiarism:

Sir: In "What the World Says" of the 10th inst., you mention that a writer in the Atlantic Monthly has discovered that a novel, by George Sand, entitled "Lavinia," is the original of Lord Lytton's "Lucile," that "even the situations, with few exceptions, are copied, and whole pages of the most animated epigrammatic dialogue are plagiarized, word for word, except where the exigencies of rhyme and metre require a deviation from the French." You also mention that the writer of the article has, since his discovery, been informed that he had been anticipated by some one in England several years ago. He was anticipated by some one at Madras early in 1861. My dear and lamented friend, R. S. Ellis, afterward a member of the Legislative Council at Calcutta and of the Indian Council in London — one of the ablest of Indian civilians, and better read in French novels than any one at that time in India, except, perhaps, Lord Canning — made the discovery, and handed the matter over to me. I wrote I an article on the subject, which was sent home to the care of Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co., who were Ellis's agents at home, with a request that a place might be found for it in some weekly publication. The article appeared In the Literary Gazette, then edited by the late Shirley Brooks, on the 2d of March, 1861. The editor was responsible for the very strong expressions — such as "a plagiarism astounding for its impudence, for its persistency, and for the position of the writer who has been so dishonest and imprudent as to venture upon it," "a shameful fraud" — which occur in the introductory paragraph; but the rest of the article I wrote. One of the most striking points in the plagiarism was that in the preface the author, or rather translator, declared that he had "endeavored to follow a path on which he could discover no footsteps before him either to guide or to warn;" when, in fact, as the review proceeded to point out by long comparative extracts, "Lucile," in so far as regards Part I. of that poem, is nothing more than "Lavania," by George Sand, carefully and neatly paraphrased to a great extent literally translated." The review concluded with these words: "We see that Mr. Owen Meredith is preparing for publication a volume, to be called 'The Songs of Servia.' Will the [sic] prove to be a translation from Béranger?" Well, the volume was published under the title --said by a Servian scholar to be ungrammatical — of "Serbski Pesme," and it actually proved to be a translation from a French version!


New York Times; Nov 25, 1891; p. 4. THE LAST OF THE BULWERS.

The death of the second Lord Lytton and first Earl of Lytton closes a career of political and literary dilettanteism such as is scarcely possible to be run outside of the British Islands. His father was un­doubtedly a professional and hard-work­ing man of letters. His uncle, Sir Henry, was a professional diplomatist and politi­cian of serious consequence, whose name is commemorated to Americans by the title of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, negotiated when he was Minister at Washington in the Presidency of Fillmore. Sir Edward made excursions into politics, as beseemed a man who all his life was more anxious about his position in English society than in English literature. The excursions were not very important, although he did make some clover speeches, and attained the dignity of Colonial Secretary in one of Lord Derby's Ministries and the Barony of Lytton, which was a recognition of political rather than  of  literary services, as indeed the baronetcy had been which was conferred upon him nearly thirty years be­fore, and which Thackeray made such a burden to him. He had, indeed, a singular faculty for exciting the animosity of eminent men, as is shown not only by Thack­eray's pitiless satires, but by Tennyson's equally pitiless versos upon 'The New Timon." Sir Henry's literary career, however, was at least as important as his brother's political career, although nobody now remembers his solid and thoughtful but unreadable works.

A professional politician and amateur author seems somehow a more substantial character than a professional author and amateur politician. The "literary feller" has been the object of a secular distrust among English-speaking politicians, quite as much in England itself as in this country, and this feeling now operates as the most tangible objection to the choice of Mr. John Morley for the reversion of the Liberal leadership, to which he appears to be clearly entitled upon grounds of purely political ability and purely political services. The latest Lord Lytton divided his attentions and his ambitions so equally between the career of his father and the career of his uncle that he did not seem to have any profession, but to be a dilettante and an amateur both in letters and in politics. Nevertheless, he surpassed both in their respective lines of more serious effort. Although he is not to be compared with his father as an author, he is very much better known in this country as "Owen Meredith" than as Lord Lytton, and there is still a demand for "Lucile," while no publisher would consider a proposition to bring out a new edition of Bulwer's novels. "Lucile," indeed, is one of a considerable class of works that seem to appeal with success to the sentiments of the pubescent human being, and which, as he outgrows, he leaves the appetite for to a succeeding generation, though, of course, a liking for this literature may linger on to middle age like a taste for sweets. On the political side, his success was even more marked, for no such preferment ever came to Sir Henry Bulwer in his long and important diplomatic career as was bestowed upon the nephew who began that career as an attaché to his legation at Washington in 1849. The Viceroyalty of India and the Embassy of Paris were posts of a rank which the elder diplomatist never reached, while the honors of the family were raised to the highest point by the creation for the nephew of the Earldom of Lytton in 1880.

Along with a considerable share of his father's talents the son seemed to inherit some of his faculty for raising animosities and for doing tactless or ridiculous things. The greatest social blunder of his life was undoubtedly the publication of the correspondence exhibiting the relations, always in a state of tension when they wore not in a state of rupture, between his father and his mother.  The effect of the publication was to justify their mutual aversion and to recall the witty comment upon the announcement that two very disagreeable brothers had quarreled and no longer spoke to each other: "Well, I wouldn't if I were they." Although the son who gave this amazing correspondence to the world was a partisan of one of his parents, he had remained upon good terms with both, and in holding both up to public odium he had not the slightest intention of committing a filial impiety.   Perhaps it was the same tactlessness which inspired this performance that made him a highly unsuccessful Viceroy of India.   How he was so, no foreigners, nor even Englishmen, unless they are Anglo-Indians, need hope to ascertain, since Indian politics are a sealed book except to those engaged in them. That he was a curiously bad Governor General, however, there seems to be no dispute among those who are entitled to have an opinion upon the subject. At the same time, the prosperity of his career was due to his own faculties, which included a very versatile intellectual curiosity, and which made his life very interesting to himself and in many respects very typical of the contemporary well-born Englishman of culture.     


New York Times, Jun 9, 1892; p. 10. Lord Lytton's Boyhood.


Lord Lytton's Boyhood.

From the Nineteenth Century.

He had an unhappy childhood, a Bohemian home, where bitter quarrels were rife, and poverty, or something very like it, stood often at the door.

Of his two parents, whom he equally tried to love, the great novelist, his father, with all his brilliancy of wit and literary sensibility, was a mere egotist in domestic life, and from first to last fulfilled almost no duty of a parent toward him, while his Irish mother was what the world has seen her and what she has herself published to the world.

Lord Lytton’s tenderness toward his fa­ther was a touching trait of his affectionate character, and in all his many talks I do not remember to have heard a single word of bitterness escape his lips about him. It Is pleasant to think that this filial piety was rewarded late in the unbounded love of his own children, for nothing really is lost to those who give freely, and their bread, cast on the waters returns to them always, though it may be after many days. His one absorbing affection, however, in childhood was for his sister, a year older than himself, whom he had the misery of losing when he was still a boy, and under circumstances which made her death most bitter to him. I do not think he ever quite forgot this early grief, and traces of it may be found, if I mistake not, throughout his writings.

He was launched early on the world. At seventeen his uncle, Sir Henry Bulwer, afterward Lord Dalling, obtained him his first nomination in diplomacy, and he was sent abroad to shift as he could for himself on a very insufficient allowance, which for a while even ceased entirely. Lord Lytton has told me that at the time he was writing "Lucile" he was without money resources of any kind, and I know that at another earlier period he was within a little of committing suicide as an escape from miseries greater than he could bear.

What saved him through all was his poetry.  His first volume, "Clytemnestra," published when he was twenty-four under the name of “Owen Meredith,” was a very clear success—as much so as Mr. Swinburne’s “Atalanta” – and the public praise it won gave him his first feeling of self-confidence, and so the courage needed by his timid and sensitive nature to fight out his life’s battle.     


New York Times. Apr 28, 1900, p. BR11. QUERIES AND ANSWERS.

Olive Paterson,100 Fifth  Avenue, New  York City: “Is  George Paston (author of 'A  Writer of Books”) a real name or a nom de plume? Please straighten out for me the tangle In the case of 'Owen Meredith's plagiarism. Did he convey outright or was he simply guilty of paraphrasing?”

“George Paston," whose first book, "A Modern Amazon,' was published in 1804, is Miss B. M. Symonds.

Lord Lytton's indebtedness to foreign works is clearly set forth in Volume 2 of Nicoll and Wise’s "Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century." The greater part of “Lucile," it is claimed, is nothing more nor less than a marvelously exact translation from George Sand's “Lavinia.” The curious may compare two parallel passages, the first from "Lavinia," Page 278, beginning "Des rideaux de basin bien blanc recevaient l’ombre monvante des sapins qui seconaient lears cheveleurs noires au vent de la nuit," &c., and  the  second  from "Lucile," Page 70, beginning "In the white curtains wavered the delicate shade," &c. Another accusation concerned his "National Songs Of Servia." "Whether they be weeds or wild flowers," said Owen Meredith, "“I have at least gathered them in their native soil amid  the solitude  of  the Carpathians, and along the shores of the Danube." It was shown, however, that they were translated from a French translation of selections from the Servian songs collected by Stephanowitsch in 1824, these selections, moreover, being translated avowedly not from the Servian originals, but from the German translations of the Fraulein Jacob. It was also shown that Lytton was so ignorant of Servian that he scarcely ever wrote a Servian word without misspelling it to an extent not possible to any one acquainted with the merest elements of the grammar of the Servian tongue.

Last revised: 25 August 2010