Other literary forms
The reputation of Walter Savage Landor (LAHN-dawr) rests primarily on his poetry, but he was a skilled writer of prose as well. His political writings are notable for their anger and his criticism for its insight into the mechanics of writing. All his prose is witty; it is frequently satirical. As with his poetry, Landor’s prose works are carefully phrased and sometimes more perfect in their parts than their wholes. Ranked as one of the most important practitioners of nonfiction prose in the nineteenth century, he is viewed by critics as one of the outstanding prose stylists of the English language.
Walter Savage Landor’s poetry has never had a wide readership. Much of its appeal is in its near-perfect phrasing and versification; such an appeal of skill almost inevitably attracts admirers among other poets, the fellow practitioners of a demanding art. Landor remains admired for the variety of poetic forms that he mastered and for the clarity of his phrasing; he is often faulted for the detached tone of his work—for the lack of emotional response to his subjects. His poetry often seems crystalline and fragile, as if unable to withstand the burden of a large audience. Fine prosody and marvelously apt phrasing when combined with the distant tone of much of his verse makes ranking him among poets a difficult task. Compounding the difficulty are his poetry’s classical characteristics, which seem in conflict with the Romantic and Victorian eras during which he wrote. His poetry lacks the emotional vigor of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s work but compares well with the beauty of John Keats’s odes and is superior to Lord Byron’s verse in ingenuity. He cannot match William Wordsworth in importance to the history of poetry, although many poets have valued his contributions to the understanding of prosody. Taken by itself, apart from its era and influence, Landor’s poetry is equal in melodic beauty and economy of phrasing to much of the best in English poetry. As a poet, Landor might fairly be ranked behind Wordsworth and Robert Browning in overall achievement and behind Keats in imagery; he is second to none in phrasing and prosody.
Dilworth, Ernest. Walter Savage Landor. New York: Twayne, 1974. An excellent critical introduction for those unfamiliar with Landor’s work. The author points out the poet’s aims and achievements as well as his shortcomings in style and substance. Frequent quotations support the text, and a chronology, notes, references, and an excellent select bibliography are included.
Field, Jean. Landor. Studley, Warwickshire, England: Brewin Books, 2000. A biography of Landor with a selection of his works. Includes bibliographical references and index.
Hanley, Keith. Introduction to Walter Savage Landor: Selected Poetry and Prose . Manchester, England: Carcanet Press, 1981. Discusses Landor’s role...
(The entire section is 685 words.)