Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Letitia Elizabeth Landon (August 14, 1802 - October 15, 1838), English poet and novelist, better known by her initials L. E. L. than by Miss Landon or her married name, Mrs. Maclean, was descended from an old Herefordshire family, and was born in Chelsea, London in the United Kingdom.

She went to a school in Chelsea where Mary Russell Mitford also received her education. Her father, an army agent, amassed a large property, which he lost by speculation shortly before his death. About 1815, the Landons made the acquaintance of William Jerdan, and in the 1820s Landon began her contributions to the weekly Literary Gazette which Jerdan edited, and to various Christmas annuals.

She also published some volumes of verse, which soon won for her a wide literary fame. The gentle melancholy and romantic sentiment her writings embodied suited the taste of the period, and would in any case have secured her the sympathy and approval of a wide class of readers. She displays richness of fancy and aptness of language, but her work suffered from hasty production, and has not stood the test of time. The large sums she earned by her literary labors were expended on the support of her family. An engagement to John Forster, it is said, was broken off through the intervention of scandalmongers.

In June 1838, she married George Maclean, governor of the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Their brief and unhappy marriage was ended within a few months by her death. She died on 15 October 1838 at Cape Coast from an overdose of prussic acid (hydrocyanic acid), which, it is supposed, was taken accidentally.

For some time L. E. L. was joint editor of the Literary Gazette. Her first volume of poetry appeared in 1820 under the title The Fate of Adelaide, and was followed by other collections of verses with similar titles. She also wrote several novels, of which the best is Ethel Churchill (1837). Various editions of her Poetical Works have been published since her death, one in 1880 with an introductory memoir by William Bell Scott. The Life and Literary Remains of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, by Laman Blanchard, appeared in 1841, and a second edition in 1855. A more recent selection appeared from Broadview Press in 1997.


  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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