Decorated initial D

riven by the need to keep money coming in, both for her own and her mother's support, as well as the perennially needy Whittington, and more than likely having to contribute in whole or in part towards the three children she and William Jerdan had fostered on to others to care for, Landon’s next book of poetry, The Zenana appeared in Fisher’s Drawing-Room Scrapbook of 1834. She had been given sixteen engravings on which to compose poetic responses on Indian themes, and she also included footnotes providing commentary on her story.

She continued to review for the Literary Gazette, earning the vilification of Henry Fothergill Chorley, who had recently joined the editorial staff of the Athenaeum as music critic and literary reviewer. “It would not be easy to sum up the iniquities of criticism (the word is not too strong) perpetrated at the instance of publishers,” fulminated Chorley, “by a young woman writer who was in the grasp of Mr Jerdan, and who gilt or blackened all writers of the time as he ordained…It is hard to conceive anyone who by flimsiness and flippancy was made more distasteful to those who did not know her than was Miss Landon” (Chorley 81). Clearly, Landon had written something critical of Chorley’s work, and he was intent on getting his revenge.

Public taste in reading was changing rapidly. Musing on the 1830s from the perspective of fifty years later, Walter Besant noted in Fifty Years Ago a turning away from the glut of popular, and often poor, novels of the 1820s, when everyone wanted to be a second Walter Scott. Where publishers had printed two thousand copies, they sold only fifty, and at the same time “The drop in poetry was even more terrible than that of novels. Suddenly, and without any warning, the people of Great Britain left off reading poetry.” Dickens, Thackeray and Eliot redeemed the novel by their huge success, but otherwise the public turned to books of non-fiction: travel, exploration and science. Besant noted that for instance, James Holman’s ‘Round the World’ (1834) and Lamartine’s ‘Pilgrimage’, sold at least a thousand copies each. Landon had been just in time in producing her novels, although she was still churning out poetry for the annuals. Besant’s opinion was that “one of the causes of the decay of trade as regards poetry and fiction may have been the badness of the annuals.” Beautifully printed and bound, the engravings were interesting, but the literary content was of much lower quality.


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Last modified 16 July 2020