Saturday, June 8, 2013

Samuel Laman Blanchard

My final post in this series from that single column of The Carlisle Journal in 1845, is an obituary that is so dramatic and effusive that one begins to suspect the person described is just too good to be true until you reach the last comment and it makes you feel guilty for having such thoughts.

It is our most painful duty to announce the sudden death of Mr. Laman Blanchard. He died about half-past one'clock this (Saturday) morning and has left four orphan children to lament his loss. Mr. Blanchard is well known in periodical literature. His graceful verses, his lively stories, his wit that never had a touch of malice, are known to many readers. There, perhaps, never was a man who had a readier pen. A poem, an essay, a witty paragraph seemed to spring spontaneously from his brain. There was an amenity in everything he did; and, indeed, how could it be otherwise, seeing that he himself was the very impersonation of kindness and goodness of heart. Mr. Blanchard was long in the service of literature. He was a member of the press in various ways, for more than twenty years; beginning young, and fighting an upward fight throughout – bravely, independently, without envy or uncharitableness – until he reached the age of 42, when he died. We may fearlessly assert that no man ever ran the same career, in the same circumstances, who left so few enemies, and so many, many friends. These few facts are addressed to strangers. His independence, his perseverance, his untiring kindness, and his many sterling and admirable qualities need no demonstration to his acquaintance or his friends.- Examiner. [Mr. Blanchard committed suicide after his wife became insane.]

Samuel Laman Blanchard was born in 1803 and had started out as an actor but later became a poet, journalist and editor. When one reads a list of his friends that includes such famous individuals as Edward Bulwer-Lytton, William Harrison Ainsworth, Charles Dickens, Leigh Hunt, Robert Browning and William Makepeace Thackery, all of whom sprang to help his orphaned children, there is no doubt the fulsome obituary was genuine and he was much loved in literary circles. 
One of two images of Blanchard at National Portrait Gallery London

Depression was obviously the direct cause of his death, and here is the sad relevant extract from his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Biography:
In February 1844 Ann Blanchard was struck with what was described at the time as ‘paralysis’, and after a protracted period of suffering died on 16 December. Distracted by his wife's illness and death, by the pressures of periodical journalism, and by concern for his four children, Blanchard entered an acute depressive state during which symptoms of his wife's paralysis were repeated in him. On 14 February 1845 he committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor at his home at 11 Union Place, Lambeth Road, London. A coroner's inquest decreed that he was of unsound mind at the time. He was interred the following month at Norwood cemetery.
Unlike his more famous contemporaries, there is not much to be found on Blanchard's writing although here are a few links.

Wikipedia Quotes

Poems

Sonnets here 

Some personal memories of him by George Patmore