The Mysterious L.E.L
Today is the birthday of the English poet and novelist Letitia Elizabeth Landon - and when she first started out, she signed her poems with her initials - L.E.L.
“I will look on the stars and look on thee, and read the page of thy destiny.”
Letitia’s destiny was set in motion as she explored the woods and overgrown gardens near her home. Spending time in nature actually inspired Letitia to write poetry.
By the time she was 18, her governess shared her poems with a neighbor, William Jerdan, who was the editor of the Literary Gazette. Married and twice her age, Jerdan nonetheless began a relationship with Letitia.
Lucasta Miller’s book, L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon tells Letitia's tragic life story - how Jerdan fathered children with Letitia but then forced her to give them all up as infants, how he stole the income from her published works and then dumped her for another younger woman.
Letitia’s story ended at the age of 36 in Africa. She committed suicide shortly after she married the Governor of Ghana.
One of Leticia’s first poems was an ode to the Michaelmas daisy (Aster amellus) in the genus Aster of the family Asteraceae. Also known as Autumn Asters, the plant has narrow green leaves covered by clouds of daisy-like purple-petaled flowers with yellow centers.
The name of this Aster is from the Latin word for star which is a reference to the shape of its showy flower heads that are just coming into bloom now in mid-August.
Last smile of the departing year,
Thy sister sweets are flown;
Thy pensive wreath is far more dear,
From blooming thus alone.
Thy tender blush, thy simple frame,
Unnoticed might have past;
But now thou contest with softer claim,
The loveliest and the last.
Sweet are the charms in thee we find,
Emblem of hope's gay wing;
‘Tis thine to call past bloom to mind,
To promise future spring.
— Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L.E.L.), The Michaelmas Daisy.
Letitia’s poetry was romantic and she is often referred to as the female Byron.
Here’s a verse Letitia wrote about April:
Of all the months that fill the year,
Give April's month to me,
For earth and sky are then so filled
With sweet variety!
— Letitia Elizabeth Landon, April