The exhibition "The World of Letitia Elizabeth Landon: A Literary Celebrity of the 1830s" opens at the Grolier Club, in its second floor members gallery, 47 East 60th Street, New York, on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 and runs through Friday, May 27, 2011, with manuscripts, first editions, prints, photos, and other materials to illuminate the life and art of a leading British writer of the late Georgian and early Victorian period.
In her day, Letitia Landon was an international celebrity, whose works circulated throughout the British Isles, on the Continent, and in the United States. Writings by her were translated into French, German, and Dutch, and distributed from Paris to St. Petersburg. Her work was known by Poe, Whittier, Hawthorne, and many other prominent American authors. Renewed recognition of Landon's impressive achievement is long overdue.
Landon was born in London in 1802, and began publishing poetry at the age of 17 in an influential London periodical, The Literary Gazette. In 1824 her romantic narrative poem The Improvisatrice became a major best-seller. She also wrote reviews, articles, and stories for London journals, and contributed to popular literary annuals such as Forget Me Not, and The Keepsake. In 1831 Landon published her three-decker novel Romance and Reality, followed by successful historical novels, Francesca Carrara (1834), and Ethel Churchill (1837).
In June 1838 Landon married George Maclean, a colonial official, and sailed with him to Cape Coast, West Africa (in present-day Ghana), where she died suddenly at the age of 36. The official verdict was that she had taken an accidental overdose of medicine, but rumor attributed her death to suicide or murder. Other reports asserted that she had died from a heart attack brought on by the condition for which she was taking medication.
Landon's work remained in print into the 1890s, and in the 20th century she was remembered in a number of biographical studies. Her voluminous publications are now again in print, and she has attracted attention for her success as a young single woman carving out an independent career in the tough arena of literary London in the 1830s.
Landon's writing today exerts a powerful fascination in the vividness and musicality of her distinctive voice. Her typical themes are "Sorrow, Beauty, Love and Death." As suggested in the title of her best-known novel, she writes movingly of "romance," and incisively of "reality."
Location and time: The World of Letitia Elizabeth Landon will be on view at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York, from March 24 through May 27, 2011. The exhibit will be open to the public free of charge, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional information and directions are available under the "Exhibitions" tab of the club's website, www.grolierclub.org .
Catalogue: An illustrated catalogue of The World of Letitia Elizabeth Landon by F. J. Sypher (price $25) will be available at the Grolier Club.