The Landor Association is named after the poet, Walter Savage Landor. Born January 30, 1775 - in Warwick, behind what is now the familiar blue door of King’s High School, Walter Savage Landor was the most celebrated poet of his time. Although the family did not own the house (they rented it from a family called Johnson), Landor loved the light, airy house at the top of Smith Street, which was the Landor family home for over 80 years. ‘Never without a pang do I leave the house where I was born,’ he wrote.
Talking, laughing or snoring, Landor’s lungs made the beams of the house shake,’
Charles dickens wrote fondly.
Charles Dickens loved Landor (he named his second son after him), and made him a character in Bleak House.
Landor lived life at full tilt. He was expelled from Rugby School, after he took exception to a report the Headmaster wrote about him. He was sent down from Oxford, for firing a gun through a fellow student’s window. At home, he was so outspoken, he was often asked to make himself scarce when guests were expected. Landor’s best-known verse starts: ‘I strove with none, for none was worth my strife’. Lofty words, but misleading, since Landor strove with absolutely everybody. He rampaged through life, leaving a trail of lawsuits and messy love affairs, but he also inspired great loyalty, and poured his huge energy into writing.
Landor sought inspiration for his poetry while sitting underneath the Ilex tree which used to stand where the gym is now. It was about 600 years old when it fell down in 1949, and many of the older Old Girls remember it well. When it finally did fall down, the wood was chopped up, taken away to be treated, and then made in to wooden artefacts like bowls and cups which were sold to the King’s High community.
His output is unimaginable to us today. He wrote poems, epics, lyrics, classical epigrams, prose, historical novels and plays. When his vast, experimental poem Gebir had a lukewarm reception from critics, he responded by writing it again – in Latin. His greatly admired Collected Works ran to sixteen volumes, and that was only a fraction of his output. He wrote even more in Latin. His best-known work is Imaginary Conversations – witty, thoughtful dialogues between historical figures - which established him as one of the great English men of letters.
The school is the keeper of the Landor archive including his works, his dog’s tail, and his glasses amongst other things and the School commemorates Landor in variety of ways; The Landor Dining Society, Landor Poetry Prize, Landor Library and Landor Archive: therefore it was apt that we named our school community ‘The Landor Association’.
Written by Deirdre Shields, Marketing Assistant, KHS
*Should you be interested to read more about Landor, the late Jean Field (nee Box), an Old Girl 1949 - 1956 wrote Landor's biography.