Monday, December 08, 2014
The Greatest of All Earthly Calamities
The letter of January 1809, in which he told Southey that he had a private bill coming up before parliament, replied likewise to an invitation from his friend to the Lakes [....] 'I wish I had settled in your country. I could live without Bath. As to London, its bricks and tiles and trades and fogs make it odious and intolerable. I am about to do what no man has ever done in England, plant a wood of cedar of Lebanon. These trees will look magnificent on the mountains of Llananthony unmixt with others; and perhaps there is not a spot on the earth where eight or ten thousand are to be seen together.'Id., p. 143:
He had matters greatly troubling him at the same date. Though hardly yet in complete possession of the abbey [Llananthony], his 'uninterrupted series of vexations and disappointments in connection with it' had already begun. Not only his Welsh neighbours had been doing him some mischief, but one of his own servants had cut down about sixty fine trees, lopping others; and this, which he considered as the greatest of all earthly calamities, as he told Southey in a letter from Bath, had confined him to the house for several days. 'We recover from illness, we build palaces, we retain or change the features of the earth at pleasure—excepting that only! The whole of human life can never replace one bough.'Malcolm Elwin, Savage Landor (New York: MacMillan, 1941) p. 385:
They [Thomas De Quincey's daughters] "found him delightful company," and related of him a characteristic Boythornism. When he remarked on some trees in the garden, their aunt replied that they were now less beautiful than they had been, having been recently lopped.Among Landor's last works are Last Fruit off an Old Tree (1853) and Dry Sticks, fagoted by Walter Savage Landor (1858).
On this Mr. Landor immediately said "Ah! I would not lop a tree; if I had to cut a branch, I would cut it down to the ground. If I needed to have my finger cut off, I would cut off my whole arm!" lifting up that member decisively as he spoke.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.