Henry Robinson, and many other friends that you made here, enquire continually after you. The Spanish lady is gone, and now poor Robinson is left quite forlorn.
The streets remind me so much of you that I wish for you every showy shop I pass by. I hope we had many pleasant fireside hours together, but I almost fear the stupid dispirited state I was in made me seem a very flat companion; but I know I listened with great pleasure to many interesting conversations. I thank you for what you have done for Phillips, his fate will be decided in about a week. He has lately breakfasted with Sir Joseph Banks, who received him with great civility but made him no promise of support. Sir Joseph told him a new candidate had started up who it was expected would be favoured by the council. I am afraid Phillips stands a very poor chance.
I am doing nothing, I wish I was, for if I were once more busily employed at work, I should be more satisfied with myself. I should not feel so helpless, & so useless.
I hope you will write soon, your letters give me great pleasure; you have made me so well acquainted with all your household, that I must hope for frequent accounts how you are all going on. Remember us affectionately to your brother & sister. I hope the little Katherine continues mending. God bless you all & every one.
Your affectionate friend
Nov'r. 13, 1810.
CHARLES LAMB TO Miss WORDSWORTH
(Added to same letter)
Mary has left a little space for me to fill up with nonsense, as the Geographers used to cram monsters in the voids of their maps & call it Terra Incognita. She has told you how she has taken to water, like a hungry otter. I too limp after her in lame imitation, but it goes against me a little at first. I have been aquavorous now for full four days, and it seems a moon. I am full of cramps & rheumatisms, and cold internally so that fire won't warm me, yet I bear all for virtues sake. Must I then leave you, Gin, Rum, Brandy, Aqua Vitae—pleasant jolly fellows—Damn Temperance and them that first invented it, some Anti Noahite. Coleridge has powdered his head, and looks like Bacchus, Bacchus ever sleek and young. He is going to turn sober, but his Clock has not struck yet, meantime he pours down goblet after goblet, the 2d to see where the 1st is gone, the 3d to see no harm happens to the second, a fourth to say there's another coming, and a 5th to say he's not sure he's the last. William Henshaw is dead. He died yesterday, aged 56. It was but a twelvemonth or so back that his Father, an ancient Gunsmith & my Godfather, sounded me as to my willingness to be guardian to this William in case of his (the old man's) death. William had three times broke in business, twice in England, once in t'other Hemisphere. He returned from America a sot & hath liquidated all debts. What a hopeful ward I am rid of. AEtatis 56. I must have taken care of his morals, seen that he did not form imprudent connections, given my consent before he could have married &c. From all which the stroke of death hath relieved me. Mrs. Reynolds is the name of the Lady to whom I will remember you to-morrow. Farewell. Wish me strength to continue. I've been eating jugg'd Hare. The toast & water makes me quite sick.
[After the preceding letter Mary Lamb had been taken ill—but not, I think, mentally—and Dorothy Wordsworth's visit was put off.
Coleridge, The Friend having ceased, had come to London with the Montagus on October 26 to stay with them indefinitely at 55 Frith Street, Soho. But a few days after his arrival Montagu had inadvisedly repeated what he unjustifiably called a warning phrase of Wordsworth's concerning Coleridge's difficult habits as a guest—the word "nuisance" being mentioned—and this had so plunged Coleridge in grief that he left Soho for Hammersmith, where his friends the Morgans were living. Montagu's indiscretion led to a quarrel between Coleridge and Wordsworth which was long of healing. This is no place in which to tell the story, which has small part in Lamb's life; but it led to one of the few letters from Coleridge to Lamb that have been preserved (see Mr. E.H. Coleridge's edition of Coleridge's Letters, page 586).
Carlisle was Sir Anthony Carlisle (1768-1840), the surgeon and a friend of Lamb.
"The Spanish lady"—Madam Lavaggi. See Robinson's Diary, 1869, Vol. I., page 303.
"Phillips." This would be Ned Phillips, I presume, not the Colonel. I have not discovered for what post he was trying.
"The little Katherine." Catherine Wordsworth, born September 6, 1808, lived only until June 4, 1812.
"I have been aquavorous." Writing to Dorothy Wordsworth on December 23 Crabb Robinson says that Lamb has abstained from alcohol and tobacco since Lord Mayor's Day (November 9).
"William Henshaw." I know nothing more of this unfortunate man.]
MARY LAMB TO MISS WORDSWORTH
[P.M. Nov. 23, 1810.]
My dear Friend, Miss Monkhouse left town yesterday, but I think I am able to answer all your enquiries. I saw her on Sunday evening at Mrs. Montagu's. She looked very well & said her health was greatly improved. She promised to call on me before she left town but the weather having been very bad I suppose has prevented her. She received the letter which came through my brother's hands and I have learned from Mrs. Montagu that all your commissions are executed. It was Carlisle that she consulted, and she is to continue taking his prescriptions in the country. Mr. Monkhouse & Mr. Addison drank tea with us one evening last week. Miss Monkhouse is a very pleasing girl, she reminds me, a little, of Miss Hutchinson. I have not seen Henry Robinson for some days past, but I remember he told me he had received a letter from you, and he talked of Spanish papers which he should send to Mr. Southey. I wonder he does not write, for I have always understood him to be a very regular correspondent, and he seemed very proud of your letter. I am tolerably well, but I still affect the invalid—take medicines, and keep at home as much as I possibly can. Water-drinking, though I confess it to be a flat thing, is become very easy to me. Charles perseveres in it most manfully.
Coleridge is just in the same state as when I wrote last—I have not seen him since Sunday, he was then at Mr. Morgan's but talked of taking a lodging.
Phillips feels a certainty that he shall lose his election, for the new candidate is himself a Fellow of the Royal Society, and [it] is thought Sir Joseph Banks will favour him. It will now be soon decided.
My new maid is now sick in bed. Am I not unlucky? She would have suited me very well if she had been healthy, but I must send her away if she is not better tomorrow.
Charles promised to add a few lines, I will therefore leave him plenty of room, for he may perhaps think of something to entertain you. I am sure I cannot.
I hope you will not return to Grasmere till all fear of the Scarlet Fever is over, I rejoice to hear so good an account of the children and hope you will write often. When I write next I will endeavour to get a frank. This I cannot do but when the parliament is sitting, and as you seemed anxious about Miss Monkhouse I would not defer sending this, though otherwise it is not worth paying one penny for.
God bless you all.
CHARLES LAMB TO Miss WORDSWORTH
(Added to same letter)
We are in a pickle. Mary from her affectation of physiognomy has hired a stupid big country wench who looked honest, as she thought, and has been doing her work some days but without eating—eats no butter nor meat, but prefers cheese with her tea for breakfast—and now it comes out that she was ill when she came with lifting her mother about (who is now with God) when she was dying, and with riding up from Norfolk 4 days and nights in the waggon. She got advice yesterday and took something which has made her bring up a quart of blood, and she now lies, a dead weight upon our humanity, in her bed, incapable of getting up, refusing to go into an hospital, having no body in town but a poor asthmatic dying Uncle, whose son lately married a drab who fills his house, and there is no where she can go, and she seems to have made up her mind to take her flight to heaven from our bed.—O God! O God!—for the little wheelbarrow which trundled the Hunchback from door to door to try the various charities of different professions of Mankind!
Here's her Uncle just crawled up, he is far liker Death than He. O the Parish, the Parish, the hospital, the infirmary, the charnel house, these are places meet for such guests, not our quiet mansion where nothing but affluent plenty and literary ease should abound.—Howard's House, Howard's House, or where the Parylitic descended thro' the sky-light (what a God's Gift) to get at our Savior. In this perplexity such topics as Spanish papers and Monkhouses sink into comparative insignificance. What shall we do?—If she died, it were something: gladly would I pay the coffin maker and the bellman and searchers—O Christ. C. L.
[Miss Monkhouse was the daughter of the Wordsworths' and Lambs' friend, Thomas Monkhouse.
"Mr. Addison." I have not traced this gentleman.
Miss Hutchinson was Sarah Hutchinson, sister of Mrs. Wordsworth.
"The Hunchback." In the Arabian Nights.
"Howard's House." This would be Cold-Bath Fields Prison, erected in 1794 upon some humane suggestions of Howard the Philanthropist.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM HAZLITT
Wednesday, November 28, 1810.
Dear Hazlitt—I sent you on Saturday a Cobbett, containing your reply to the Edinburgh Review, which I thought you would be glad to receive as an example of attention on the part of Mr. Cobbett to insert it so speedily. Did you get it? We have received your pig, and return you thanks; it will be dressed in due form, with appropriate sauce, this day. Mary has been very ill indeed since you saw her; that is, as ill as she can be to remain at home. But she is a good deal better now, owing to a very careful regimen. She drinks nothing but water, and never goes out; she does not even go to the Captain's. Her indisposition has been ever since that night you left town; the night Miss W[ordsworth] came. Her coming, and that d——d Mrs. Godwin coming and staying so late that night, so overset her that she lay broad awake all that night, and it was by a miracle that she escaped a very bad illness, which I thoroughly expected. I have made up my mind that she shall never have any one in the house again with her, and that no one shall sleep with her, not even for a night; for it is a very serious thing to be always living with a kind of fever upon her; and therefore I am sure you will take it in good part if I say that if Mrs. Hazlitt comes to town at any time, however glad we shall be to see her in the daytime, I cannot ask her to spend a night under our roof. Some decision we must come to, for the harassing fever that we have both been in, owing to Miss Wordsworth's coming, is not to be borne; and I would rather be dead than so alive. However, at present, owing to a regimen and medicines which Tuthill has given her, who very kindly volunteer'd the care of her, she is a great deal quieter, though too much harassed by company, who cannot or will not see how late hours and society teaze her.
Poor Phillips had the cup dash'd out of his lips as it were. He had every prospect of the situation, when about ten days since one of the council of the R. Society started for the place himself, being a rich merchant who lately failed, and he will certainly be elected on Friday next. P. is very sore and miserable about it.
Coleridge is in town, or at least at Hammersmith. He is writing or going to write in the Courier against Cobbett, and in favour of paper money.
No news. Remember me kindly to Sarah. I write from the office.
Yours ever, C. LAMB.
I just open'd it to say the pig, upon proof, hath turned out as good as I predicted. My fauces yet retain the sweet porcine odour. I find you have received the Cobbett. I think your paper complete.
Mrs. Reynolds, who is a sage woman, approves of the pig.
["A Cobbett." This was Cobbett's Political Register for November 24, 1810, containing Hazlitt's letter upon "Mr. Malthus and the Edinburgh Reviewers," signed "The Author of a Reply to the Essay on Population." Hazlitt's reply had been criticised in the Edinburgh for August, probably only just published.
The postscript contains Lamb's first passage in praise of roast pig.
I place next the following undated letter to Godwin from Mr. Kegan Paul's William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries, as it seems to be connected with the decision concerning visitors expressed in the letter to Hazlitt.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM GODWIN
Dear Godwin,—I have found it for several reasons indispensable to my comfort, and to my sister's, to have no visitors in the forenoon. If I cannot accomplish this I am determined to leave town.
I am extremely sorry to do anything in the slightest degree that may seem offensive to you or to Mrs. Godwin, but when a general rule is fixed on, you know how odious in a case of this sort it is to make exceptions; I assure you I have given up more than one friendship in stickling for this point. It would be unfair to those from whom I have parted with regret to make exceptions, which I would not do for them. Let me request you not to be offended, and to request Mrs. G. not to be offended, if I beg both your compliances with this wish. Your friendship is as dear to me as that of any person on earth, and if it were not for the necessity of keeping tranquillity at home, I would not seem so unreasonable.
If you were to see the agitation that my sister is in, between the fear of offending you and Mrs. G. and the difficulty of maintaining a system which she feels we must do to live without wretchedness, you would excuse this seeming strange request, which I send you with a trembling anxiety as to its reception with you, whom I would never offend. I rely on your goodness.
MARY LAMB TO SARAH HAZLITT
[? End of 1810 or early 1811.]
My dear Sarah,—I have taken a large sheet of paper, as if I were going to write a long letter; but that is by no means my intention, for I only have time to write three lines to notify what I ought to have done the moment I received your welcome letter. Namely, that I shall be very much joyed to see you. Every morning lately I have been expecting to see you drop in, even before your letter came; and I have been setting my wits to work to think how to make you as comfortable as the nature of our inhospitable habits will admit. I must work while you are here; and I have been slaving very hard to get through with something before you come, that I may be quite in the way of it, and not teize you with complaints all day that I do not know what to do.
I am very sorry to hear of your mischance. Mrs. Rickman has just buried her youngest child. I am glad I am an old maid; for, you see, there is nothing but misfortunes in the marriage state.
Charles was drunk last night, and drunk the night before; which night before was at Godwin's, where we went, at a short summons from Mr. G., to play a solitary rubber, which was interrupted by the entrance of Mr. and little Mrs. Liston; and after them came Henry Robinson, who is now domesticated at Mr. Godwin's fireside, and likely to become a formidable rival to Tommy Turner. We finished there at twelve o'clock (Charles and Liston brim-full of gin and water and snuff): after which Henry Robinson spent a long evening by our fireside at home; and there was much gin and water drunk, albeit only one of the party partook of it. And H.R. professed himself highly indebted to Charles for the useful information he gave him on sundry matters of taste and imagination, even after Charles could not speak plain for tipsiness. But still he swallowed the flattery and the spirits as savourily as Robinson did his cold water.
Last night was to be a night, but it was not. There was a certain son of one of Martin's employers, one young Mr. Blake; to do whom honour, Mrs. Burney brought forth, first rum, then a single bottle of champaine, long kept in her secret hoard; then two bottles of her best currant wine, which she keeps for Mrs. Rickman, came out; and Charles partook liberally of all these beverages, while Mr. Young Blake and Mr. Ireton talked of high matters, such as the merits of the Whip Club, and the merits of red and white champaine. Do I spell that last word right? Rickman was not there, so Ireton had it all his own way.
The alternating Wednesdays will chop off one day in the week from your jolly days, and I do not know how we shall make it up to you; but I will contrive the best I can. Phillips comes again pretty regularly, to the great joy of Mrs. Reynolds. Once more she hears the well-loved sounds of, 'How do you do, Mrs. Reynolds? How does Miss Chambers do?'
I have spun out my three lines amazingly. Now for family news. Your brother's little twins are not dead, but Mrs. John Hazlitt and her baby may be, for any thing I know to the contrary, for I have not been there for a prodigious long time. Mrs. Holcroft still goes about from Nicholson to Tuthil, and from Tuthil to Godwin, and from Godwin to Tuthil, and from Tuthil to Godwin, and from Godwin to Tuthil, and from Tuthil to Nicholson, to consult on the publication, or no publication, of the life of the good man, her husband. It is called the Life Everlasting. How does that same Life go on in your parts? Good bye, God bless you. I shall be glad to see you when you come this way.
Yours most affectionately,
I am going in great haste to see Mrs. Clarkson, for I must get back to dinner, which I have hardly time to do. I wish that dear, good, amiable woman would go out of town. I thought she was clean gone; and yesterday there was a consultation of physicians held at her house, to see if they could keep her among them here a few weeks longer.
[This letter is dated by Mr. Hazlitt November 30, 1810, but I doubt if that can be right. See extract from Crabb Robinson above, testifying to Lamb's sobriety between November 9 and December 23.
Liston was John Liston (1776?-1846), the actor, whose mock biography Lamb wrote some years later (see Vol. I. of this edition). His wife was a diminutive comedienne, famous as Queen Dollalolla in "Tom Thumb." Lamb may have known Liston through the Burneys, for he is said to have been an usher in Dr. Burney's school—Dr. Charles Burney, Captain Burney's brother.
"Henry Robinson." Crabb Robinson's Diary shows us that his domestication by Godwin's fireside was not of long duration. I do not know who Tommy Turner was. Mr. Ireton was probably William Ayrton, the musical critic, a friend and neighbour of the Burneys, and later a friend of the Lambs, as we shall see.
"The alternating Wednesdays." The Lambs seem to have given up their weekly Wednesday evening, which now became fortnightly. Later it was: changed to Thursday and made monthly.
Mrs. Reynolds had been a Miss Chambers.]
MARY LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM
[No date. Feb., 1811.]
My dear Matilda,—Coleridge has given me a very chearful promise that he will wait on Lady Jerningham any day you will be pleased to appoint; he offered to write to you; but I found it was to be done tomorrow, and as I am pretty well acquainted with his tomorrows, I thought good to let you know his determination today. He is in town today, but as he is often going to Hammersmith for a night or two, you had better perhaps send the invitation through me, and I will manage it for you as well as I can. You had better let him have four or five days' previous notice, and you had better send the invitation as soon as you can; for he seems tolerably well just now. I mention all these betters, because I wish to do the best I can for you, perceiving, as I do, it is a thing you have set your heart upon. He dined one [d]ay in company with Catilana (is that the way you spell her Italian name?—I am reading Sallust, and had like to have written Catiline). How I should have liked, and how you would have liked, to have seen Coleridge and Catilana together!
You have been very good of late to let me come and see you so seldom, and you are a little goodish to come so seldom here, because you stay away from a kind motive. But if you stay away always, as I fear you mean to do, I would not give one pin for your good intentions. In plain words, come and see me very soon; for though I be not sensitive as some people, I begin to feel strange qualms for having driven you from me.
Alas! Wednesday shines no more to me now.
Miss Duncan played famously in the new comedy, which went off as famously. By the way, she put in a spiteful piece of wit, I verily believe of her own head; and methought she stared me full in the face. The words were "As silent as an author in company." Her hair and herself looked remarkably well.
[Angelica Catalani (1782-1849) was the great singer. I find no record of Coleridge's meeting with her.
"Miss Duncan." Praise of this lady in Miss Hardcastle and other parts will be found in Leigh Hunt's Critical Essays on the Performers of the London Theatres, 1807. At this time she was playing with the Drury Lane Company at the Lyceum. They produced several new plays.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN MORGAN
[Dated at end: March 8, 1811.]
There—don't read any further, because the Letter is not intended for you but for Coleridge, who might perhaps not have opened it directed to him suo nomine. It is to invite C. to Lady Jerningham's on Sunday. Her address is to be found within. We come to Hammersmith notwithstanding on Sunday, and hope Mrs. M. will not think of getting us Green Peas or any such expensive luxuries. A plate of plain Turtle, another of Turbot, with good roast Beef in the rear, and, as Alderman Curtis says, whoever can't make a dinner of that ought to be damn'd. C. LAMB.
Friday night, 8 Mar., 1811.
[This is Lamb's only existing letter to Coleridge's friend, John Morgan.
Coleridge had not found a lodging and was still with the Morgans at 7 Portland Place, Hammersmith.
Alderman Sir William Curtis, M.P., afterwards Lord Mayor of London, was the subject of much ridicule by the Whigs and Radicals, and the hero of Peter Pindar's satire "The Fat Knight and the Petition." It was he who first gave the toast of the three R.'s—"reading, riting and rithmetic."]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH HAZLITT
2 Oct., 1811.
My dear Sarah,—I have been a long time anxiously expecting the happy news that I have just received. I address you because, as the letter has been lying some days at the India House, I hope you are able to sit up and read my congratulations on the little live boy you have been so many years wishing for. As we old women say, 'May he live to be a great comfort to you!' I never knew an event of the kind that gave me so much pleasure as the little long-looked-for-come-at-last's arrival; and I rejoiced to hear his honour has begun to suck—the word was not distinctly written and I was a long time making out the solemn fact. I hope to hear from you soon, for I am desirous to know if your nursing labours are attended with any difficulties. I wish you a happy getting-up, and a merry christening.
Charles sends his love, perhaps though he will write a scrap to Hazlitt at the end. He is now looking over me, he is always in my way, for he has had a month's holydays at home, but I am happy to say they end on Monday—when mine begin, for I am going to pass a week at Richmond with Mrs. Burney. She has been dying, but she went to the Isle of Wight and recovered once more, and she is finishing her recovery at Richmond. When there I intend to read Novels and play at Piquet all day long.
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM HAZLITT
(Added to same letter)
I cannot help accompanying my sister's congratulations to Sarah with some of my own to you on this happy occasion of a man child being born—
Delighted Fancy already sees him some future rich alderman or opulent merchant; painting perhaps a little in his leisure hours for amusement like the late H. Bunbury, Esq.
Pray, are the Winterslow Estates entailed? I am afraid lest the young dog when he grows up should cut down the woods, and leave no groves for widows to take their lonesome solace in. The Wem Estate of course can only devolve on him, in case of your brother leaving no male issue.
Well, my blessing and heaven's be upon him, and make him like his father, with something a better temper and a smoother head of hair, and then all the men and women must love him.
Martin and the Card-boys join in congratulations. Love to Sarah. Sorry we are not within Caudle-shot. C. LAMB.
If the widow be assistant on this notable occasion, give our due respects and kind remembrances to her.
[William Hazlitt's son, William Hazlitt, afterwards the Registrar, was born on September 26, 1811, He had been preceded by another boy, in 1809, who lived, however, only a few months.
"H. Bunbury." Henry William Bunbury, the caricaturist and painter, and the husband of Goldsmith's friend, Catherine Horneck, the "Jessamy Bride." He died in 1811.
The Card-boys would be Lamb's Wednesday visitors.
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Charles Lloyd, Senior, dated September 8, 1812. It is printed in Charles Lamb and the Lloyds: a letter of criticism of Mr. Lloyd's translation of the Epistles of Horace.
A letter from Lamb to Charles Lloyd, Junior, belonging to this period, is now no more, in common with all but two of his letters, the remainder of which were destroyed by Lloyd's son, Charles Grosvenor Lloyd. Writing to Daniel Stuart on October 13, 1812, Wordsworth says. "Lamb writes to Lloyd that C.'s play [Coleridge's "Remorse"] is accepted."
We now come to a period of three years in Lamb's life which is represented in the correspondence by only two or three letters. Not until August 9, 1814, does he return to his old manner. During this time Lamb is known to have written his first essay on Christ's Hospital, his "Confessions of a Drunkard," the little but excellent series of Table-Talk in The Examiner and some verses in the same paper. Possibly he wrote many letters too, but they have disappeared. We know from Crabb Robinson's Diary that it was a social period with the Lambs; the India House work also becoming more exacting than before.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN DYER COLLIER
[No date. Probably 1812.]
Dear Sir—Mrs. Collier has been kind enough to say that you would endeavour to procure a reporter's situation for W. Hazlitt. I went to consult him upon it last night, and he acceded very eagerly to the proposal, and requests me to say how very much obliged he feels to your kindness, and how glad he should be for its success. He is, indeed, at his wits' end for a livelihood; and, I should think, especially qualified for such an employment, from his singular facility in retaining all conversations at which he has been ever present. I think you may recommend him with confidence. I am sure I shall myself be obliged to you for your exertions, having a great regard for him.
[John Payne Collier, who prints this in his Old Man's Diary, adds: "The result was that my father procured for Hazlitt the situation of a parliamentary reporter on the Morning Chronicle; but he did not retain it long, and as his talents were undoubted, Mr. Perry transferred to him the office of theatrical critic, a position which was subsequently held for several years by a person of much inferior talents."
Crabb Robinson mentions in his Diary under the date December 24, 1812, that Hazlitt is in high spirits from his engagement with Perry as parliamentary reporter at four guineas a week.
I place here, not having any definite date, a letter on a kindred subject from Mary Lamb:—]
MARY LAMB TO MRS. JOHN DYER COLLIER [No date.]
Dear Mrs. C.—This note will be given to you by a young friend of mine, whom I wish you would employ: she has commenced business as a mantua-maker, and, if you and my girls would try her, I think she could fit you all three, and it will be doing her an essential service. She is, I think, very deserving, and if you procure work for her among your friends and acquaintances, so much the better. My best love to you and my girls. We are both well.
Yours affectionately, MARY LAMB.
[John Payne Collier remarks: "Southey and Coleridge, as is well known, married two sisters of the name of Fricker. I never saw either of them, but a third sister settled as a mantua-maker in London, and for some years she worked for my mother and her daughters. She was an intelligent woman, but by no means above her business, though she was fond of talking of her two poet-married relations. She was introduced to my mother by the following note from Mary Lamb, who always spoke of my sisters as her girls."
Mary Lamb had herself worked as a mantua-maker for some years previous to the autumn of 1796.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN SCOTT [P.M. (? Feb.), 1814.]
Sir—Your explanation is perfectly pleasant to me, and I accede to your proposal most willingly.
As I began with the beginning of this month, I will if you please call upon you for your part of the engagement (supposing I shall have performed mine) on the 1st of March next, and thence forward if it suit you quarterly.—You will occasionally wink at BRISKETS & VEINY PIECES.
Your hble. Svt. C. LAMB. Saturday.
[John Scott (1783-1821) we shall meet later, in 1820, in connection with the London Magazine, which he edited until the fatal termination of his quarrel with Blackwood's. Scott had just become editor of The Champion.
Lamb's only contribution to The Champion under Scott, which can be identified, is the essay "On the Melancholy of Tailors," but there is little doubt that he supplied many of the extracts from old authors which were printed from time to time, and possibly one or two comic letters also. See the letter of Dec. 12, 1814.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [Dated at end: August 9, 1814.]
Dear Wordsworth, I cannot tell you how pleased I was at the receit of the great Armful of Poetry which you have sent me, and to get it before the rest of the world too! I have gone quite through with it, and was thinking to have accomplishd that pleasure a second time before I wrote to thank you, but M. Burney came in the night (while we were out) and made holy theft of it, but we expect restitution in a day or two. It is the noblest conversational poem I ever read. A day in heaven. The part (or rather main body) which has left the sweetest odour on my memory (a bad term for the remains of an impression so recent) is the Tales of the Church yard. The only girl among seven brethren, born out of due time and not duly taken away again—the deaf man and the blind man—the Jacobite and the Hanoverian whom antipathies reconcile—the Scarron-entry of the rusticating parson upon his solitude—these were all new to me too. My having known the story of Margaret (at the beginning), a very old acquaintance, even as long back as I saw you first at Stowey, did not make her reappearance less fresh. I don't know what to pick out of this Best of Books upon the best subjects for partial naming.
That gorgeous Sunset is famous, I think it must have been the identical one we saw on Salisbury plain five years ago, that drew Phillips from the card table where he had sat from rise of that luminary to its unequall'd set, but neither he nor I had gifted eyes to see those symbols of common things glorified such as the prophets saw them, in that sunset—the wheel—the potter's clay—the wash pot—the wine press—the almond tree rod—the baskets of figs—the fourfold visaged head, the throne and him that sat thereon.
One feeling I was particularly struck with as what I recognised so very lately at Harrow Church on entering in it after a hot and secular day's pleasure,—the instantaneous coolness and calming, almost transforming, properties of a country church just entered—a certain fragrance which it has—either from its holiness, or being kept shut all the week, or the air that is let in being pure country—exactly what you have reduced into words but I am feeling I cannot. The reading your lines about it fixed me for a time, a monument, in Harrow Church, (do you know it?) with its fine long Spire white as washd marble, to be seen by vantage of its high scite as far as Salisbury spire itself almost—
I shall select a day or two very shortly when I am coolest in brain to have a steady second reading, which I feel will lead to many more, for it will be a stock book with me while eyes or spectacles shall be lent me.
There is a deal of noble matter about mountain scenery, yet not so much as to overpower and discountenance a poor Londoner or South country man entirely, though Mary seems to have felt it occasionally a little too powerfully, for it was her remark during reading it that by your system it was doubtful whether a Liver in Towns had a Soul to be Saved. She almost trembled for that invisible part of us in her.
Save for a late excursion to Harrow and a day or two on the banks of the Thames this Summer, rural images were fast fading from my mind, and by the wise provision of the Regent all that was countryfy'd in the Parks is all but obliterated. The very colour of green is vanishd, the whole surface of Hyde Park is dry crumbling sand (Arabia Arenosa), not a vestige or hint of grass ever having grown there, booths and drinking places go all round it for a mile and half I am confident—I might say two miles in circuit—the stench of liquors, bad tobacco, dirty people and provisions, conquers the air and we are stifled and suffocated in Hyde Park.
Order after Order has been issued by L'd. Sidmouth in the name of the Regent (acting in behalf of his Royal father) for the dispersion of the varlets, but in vain. The vis unita of all the Publicans in London, Westm'r., Marybone, and miles round is too powerful a force to put down. The Regent has rais'd a phantom which he cannot lay. There they'll stay probably for ever. The whole beauty of the Place is gone—that lake—look of the Serpentine—it has got foolish ships upon it—but something whispers to have confidence in nature and its revival—
at the coming of the milder day These monuments shall all be overgrown.
Meantime I confess to have smoked one delicious Pipe in one of the cleanliest and goodliest of the booths—a tent rather, "O call it not a booth!"—erected by the public Spirit of Watson, who keeps the Adam and Eve at Pancras (the ale houses have all emigrated with their train of bottles, mugs, corkscrews, waiters, into Hyde Park—whole Ale houses with all their Ale!) in company with some of the guards that had been in France and a fine French girl (habited like a Princess of Banditti) which one of the dogs had transported from the Garonne to the Serpentine. The unusual scene, in H. Park, by Candlelight in open air, good tobacco, bottled stout, made it look like an interval in a campaign, a repose after battle, I almost fancied scars smarting and was ready to club a story with my comrades of some of my lying deeds.
After all, the fireworks were splendent—the Rockets in clusters, in trees and all shapes, spreading about like young stars in the making, floundering about in Space (like unbroke horses) till some of Newton's calculations should fix them, but then they went out. Any one who could see 'em and the still finer showers of gloomy rain fire that fell sulkily and angrily from 'em, and could go to bed without dreaming of the Last Day, must be as hardened an Atheist as * * * * * *.
Again let me thank you for your present and assure you that fireworks and triumphs have not distracted me from receiving a calm and noble enjoyment from it (which I trust I shall often), and I sincerely congratulate you on its appearance.
With kindest remembrances to you & household, we remain—yours sincerely
C. LAMB and sister.
9 Aug., 1814.
[With this letter Lamb's second epistolary period may be said to begin.
Wordsworth had sent Lamb a copy of The Excursion, which had been published in July, 1814. In connection with this letter Lamb's review of the poem in the Quarterly (see Vol. I. of this edition) should be read. The tales of the churchyard are in Books VI. and VII. The story of Margaret had been written in 1795.
The "sunset scene" (see letter of September 19, 1814) is at the end of Book II. Lamb refers to his visit to Hazlitt at Winterslow, near Salisbury, in 1809, with Mary Lamb, Colonel Phillips and Martin Burney. Wordsworth was not with them. This is the passage:—
So was he lifted gently from the ground, And with their freight homeward the shepherds moved Through the dull mist, I following—when a step, A single step, that freed me from the skirts Of the blind vapour, opened to my view Glory beyond all glory ever seen By waking sense or by the dreaming soul! The appearance, instantaneously disclosed, Was of a mighty city—boldly say A wilderness of building, sinking far And self-withdrawn into a boundless depth, Far sinking into splendour—without end! Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold, With alabaster domes, and silver spires, And blazing terrace upon terrace, high Uplifted; here, serene pavilions bright, In avenues disposed; there, towers begirt With battlements that on their restless fronts Bore stars—illumination of all gems! By earthly nature had the effect been wrought Upon the dark materials of the storm Now pacified; on them, and on the coves And mountain-steeps and summits, whereunto The vapours had receded, taking there Their station under a cerulean sky. Oh, 'twas an unimaginable sight! Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald turf, Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky, Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed, Molten together, and composing thus, Each lost in each, that marvellous array Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge Fantastic pomp of structure without name, In fleecy folds voluminous, enwrapped. Right in the midst, where interspace appeared Of open court, an object like a throne Under a shining canopy of state Stood fixed; and fixed resemblances were seen To implements of ordinary use, But vast in size, in substance glorified; Such as by Hebrew Prophets were beheld In vision—forms uncouth of mightiest power For admiration and mysterious awe.
In August, 1814, London was in a state of jubilation over the declaration of peace between England and France. Lord Sidmouth, late Mr. Addington, the Home Secretary, known as "The Doctor," was one of Lamb's butts in his political epigrams.
"* * * * * *." I assume these stars to stand for Godwin.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
13 August, 1814.
Dear Resuscitate,—there comes to you by the vehicle from Lad Lane this day a volume of German; what it is I cannot justly say, the characters of those northern nations having been always singularly harsh and unpleasant to me. It is a contribution of Dr. Southey towards your wants, and you would have had it sooner but for an odd accident. I wrote for it three days ago, and the Dr., as he thought, sent it me. A book of like exterior he did send, but being disclosed, how far unlike. It was the Well-bred Scholar,—a book with which it seems the Dr. laudably fills up those hours which he can steal from his medical avocations. Chesterfield, Blair, Beattie, portions from "The Life of Savage," make up a prettyish system of morality and the Belles Lettres, which Mr. Mylne, a Schoolmaster, has properly brought together, and calls the collection by the denomination above mentioned. The Doctor had no sooner discovered his error than he despatched man and horse to rectify the mistake, and with a pretty kind of ingenuous modesty in his note seemeth to deny any knowledge of the Well-bred Scholar; false modesty surely and a blush misplaced; for, what more pleasing than the consideration of professional austerity thus relaxing, thus improving; but so, when a child I remember blushing, being caught on my knees to my maker, or doing otherwise some pious and praiseworthy action; now I rather love such things to be seen. Henry Crabb Robinson is out upon his circuit, and his books are inaccessible without his leave and key. He is attending the Midland Circuit,—a short term, but to him, as to many young Lawyers, a long vacation sufficiently dreary. I thought I could do no better than transmit to him, not extracts, but your very letter itself, than which I think I never read any thing more moving, more pathetic, or more conducive to the purpose of persuasion. The Crab is a sour Crab if it does not sweeten him. I think it would draw another third volume of Dodsley out of me; but you say you don't want any English books? Perhaps, after all, that's as well; one's romantic credulity is for ever misleading one into misplaced acts of foolery. Crab might have answered by this time: his juices take a long time supplying, but they'll run at last,—I know they will,—pure golden pippin. His address is at T. Robinson's, Bury, and if on Circuit, to be forwarded immediately—such my peremptory superscription. A fearful rumour has since reached me that the Crab is on the eve of setting out for France. If he is in England, your letter will reach him, and I flatter myself a touch of the persuasive of my own, which accompanies it, will not be thrown away; if it be, he is a Sloe, and no true-hearted crab, and there's an end. For that life of the German Conjuror which you speak of, "Colerus de Vita Doctoris vix-Intelligibilis," I perfectly remember the last evening we spent with Mrs. Morgan and Miss Brent, in London-Street,—(by that token we had raw rabbits for supper, and Miss Brent prevailed upon me to take a glass of brandy and water after supper, which is not my habit,)—I perfectly remember reading portions of that life in their parlour, and I think it must be among their Packages. It was the very last evening we were at that house. What is gone of that frank-hearted circle, Morgan and his cos-lettuces? He ate walnuts better than any man I ever knew. Friendships in these parts stagnate. One piece of news I know will give you pleasure—Rickman is made a Clerk to the House of Commons, L2000 a year with greater expectat'us—but that is not the news—but it is that poor card-playing Phillips, that has felt himself for so many years the outcast of Fortune, which feeling pervaded his very intellect, till it made the destiny it feared, withering his hopes in the great and little games of life—by favor of the single star that ever shone upon him since his birth, has strangely stept into Rickman's Secretaryship—sword, bag, House and all—from a hopeless L100 a year eaten up beforehand with desperate debts, to a clear L400 or L500—it almost reconciles me to the belief of a moral government of the world—the man stares and gapes and seems to be always wondering at what has befaln him—he tries to be eager at Cribbage, but alas! the source of that Interest is dried up for ever, he no longer plays for his next day's meal, or to determine whether he shall have a half dinner or a whole dinner, whether he shall buy a pair of black silk stockings, or wax his old ones a week or two longer, the poor man's relish of a Trump, the Four Honors, is gone—and I do not know whether if we could get at the bottom of things whether poor star-doomed Phillips with his hair staring with despair was not a happier being than the sleek well combed oily-pated Secretary that has succeeded. The gift is, however, clogged with one stipulation, that the Secretary is to remain a Single Man. Here I smell Rickman. Thus are gone at once all Phillips' matrimonial dreams. Those verses which he wrote himself, and those which a superior pen (with modesty let me speak as I name no names) endited for him to Elisa, Amelia &c.—for Phillips was a wife-hunting, probably from the circumstance of his having formed an extreme rash connection in early life which paved the way to all his after misfortunes, but there is an obstinacy in human nature which such accidents only serve to whet on to try again. Pleasure thus at two entrances quite shut out—I hardly know how to determine of Phillips's result of happiness. He appears satisfyd, but never those bursts of gaiety, those moment-rules from the Cave of Despondency, that used to make his face shine and shew the lines which care had marked in it. I would bet an even wager he marries secretly, the Speaker finds it out, and he is reverted to his old Liberty and a hundred pounds a year—these are but speculations—I can think of no other news. I am going to eat Turbot, Turtle, Venison, marrow pudding—cold punch, claret, madeira,— at our annual feast at half-past four this day. Mary has ordered the bolt to my bedroom door inside to be taken off, and a practicable latch to be put on, that I may not bar myself in and be suffocated by my neckcloth, so we have taken all precautions, three watchmen are engaged to carry the body up-stairs—Pray for me. They keep bothering me, (I'm at office,) and my ideas are confused. Let me know if I can be of any service as to books. God forbid the Architectonicon should be sacrificed to a foolish scruple of some Book-proprietor, as if books did not belong with the highest propriety to those that understand 'em best.
[Since Lamb's last letter to him (October 30, 1809) Coleridge had done very little. The Friend had been given up; he had made his London home with the Morgans; had delivered the pictures on Shakespeare and contributed to The Courier; "Remorse" had been produced with Lamb's prologue, January 23, 1813; the quarrel with Wordsworth had been to some extent healed; he had sold his German books; and the opium-habit was growing on him. He was now at Bristol, living with Joseph Wade, and meditating a great work on Christianity which Cottle was to print, and which ultimately became the Biographia Literaria.
The term "Resuscitate" may refer to one of Coleridge's frequent threats of dying.
Dr. Henry Herbert Southey (1783-1865) was brother of the poet. He had just settled in London.
"Mylne" was William Milns, author of the Well-Bred Scholar, 1794.
Crabb Robinson does not mention Coleridge's letter, nor make any reference to it, in his Diary. He went to France in August after circuit. It was at this time (August 23) that Coleridge wrote to John Murray concerning a translation of Goethe's Faust, which Murray contemplated (see Letters, E. H. Coleridge, page 624). The suggestion that Coleridge should translate Faust for Murray came via Crabb Robinson via Lamb.
The "life of the German conjuror." There were several Colerus'. John Colerus of Amsterdam wrote a Life of Spinoza. Lamb may have meant this, John Colerus of Berlin invented a perpetual calendar and John Jacob Colerus examined Platonic doctrine. There are still others.
The Morgans had moved to Ashley, near Box. Miss Brent was Mrs. Morgan's sister.
"Our annual feast"—the annual dinner of the India House clerks.
"The Architectonicon." Lamb refers possibly to some great projected work of Coleridge's. The term is applied to metaphysicians. Possibly Goethe is referred to.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
26th August, 1814.
Let the hungry soul rejoice: there is corn in Egypt. Whatever thou hast been told to the contrary by designing friends, who perhaps inquired carelessly, or did not inquire at all, in hope of saving their money, there is a stock of "Remorse" on hand, enough, as Pople conjectures, for seven years' consumption; judging from experience of the last two years. Methinks it makes for the benefit of sound literature, that the best books do not always go off best. Inquire in seven years' time for the "Rokebys" and the "Laras," and where shall they be found?—fluttering fragmentally in some thread-paper—whereas thy "Wallenstein" and thy "Remorse" are safe on Longman's or Pople's shelves, as in some Bodleian; there they shall remain; no need of a chain to hold them fast—perhaps for ages—tall copies—and people shan't run about hunting for them as in old Ezra's shrievalty they did for a Bible, almost without effect till the great-great-grand-niece (by the mother's side) of Jeremiah or Ezekiel (which was it?) remembered something of a book, with odd reading in it, that used to lie in the green closet in her aunt Judith's bedchamber.
Thy caterer Price was at Hamburgh when last Pople heard of him, laying up for thee, like some miserly old father for his generous-hearted son to squander.
Mr. Charles Aders, whose books also pant for that free circulation which thy custody is sure to give them, is to be heard of at his kinsmen, Messrs. Jameson and Aders, No. 7, Laurence-Pountney-Lane, London, according to the information which Crabius with his parting breath left me. Crabius is gone to Paris. I prophesy he and the Parisians will part with mutual contempt. His head has a twist Alemagne, like thine, dear mystic.
I have been reading Madame Stael on Germany. An impudent clever woman. But if "Faust" be no better than in her abstract of it, I counsel thee to let it alone. How canst thou translate the language of cat-monkeys? Fie on such fantasies! But I will not forget to look for Proclus. It is a kind of book which when one meets with it one shuts the lid faster than one opened it. Yet I have some bastard kind of recollection that somewhere, some time ago, upon some stall or other, I saw it. It was either that or Plotinus, 205-270 A.D., Neoplatonist, or Saint Augustine's "City of God." So little do some folks value, what to others, sc. to you, "well used," had been the "Pledge of Immortality." Bishop Bruno I never touched upon. Stuffing too good for the brains of such "a Hare" as thou describest. May it burst his pericranium, as the gobbets of fat and turpentine (a nasty thought of the seer) did that old dragon in the Apocrypha! May he go mad in trying to understand his author! May he lend the third volume of him before he has quite translated the second, to a friend who shall lose it, and so spoil the publication; and may his friend find it and send it him just as thou or some such less dilatory spirit shall have announced the whole for the press; lastly, may he be hunted by Reviewers, and the devil jug him! So I think I have answered all the questions except about Morgan's cos-lettuces. The first personal peculiarity I ever observed of him (all worthy souls are subject to 'em) was a particular kind of rabbit-like delight in munching salads with oil without vinegar after dinner—a steady contemplative browsing on them—didst never take note of it? Canst think of any other queries in the solution of which I can give thee satisfaction? Do you want any books that I can procure for you? Old Jimmy Boyer is dead at last. Trollope has got his living, worth L1000 a-year net. See, thou sluggard, thou heretic-sluggard, what mightest thou not have arrived at! Lay thy animosity against Jimmy in the grave. Do not entail it on thy posterity.
[Coleridge's play "Remorse" had been published by Pople in 1813. A copy of the first edition now brings about thirty shillings; but this is largely owing to the presence in the volume of Lamb's prologue. But Rokeby and Lara bring their pounds too.
"Thy caterer Price." I do not identify.
Charles Aders we shall meet. Crabius was, of course, Crabb Robinson.
"Such 'a Hare.'" Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855), who afterwards knew Coleridge, was then at Cambridge, after living at Weimar. I find no record of his translating Bruno; but this possibly was he.
"Jimmy Boyer." The Rev. James Boyer, Headmaster of Christ's Hospital in Lamb and Coleridge's day, died in 1814. His living, the richest in the Hospital's gift, was that of Colne Engaine, which passed to the Rev. Arthur William Trollope, Headmaster of Christ's Hospital until 1826. Boyer had been a Spartan, and Coleridge and he had had passages, but in the main Coleridge's testimony to him is favourable and kindly (see Lamb's Christ's Hospital essay, Vol. II. of this edition).]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. illegible. Sept. 19, 1814.]
My dear W. I have scarce time or quiet to explain my present situation, how unquiet and distracted it is.... Owing to the absence of some of my compeers, and to the deficient state of payments at E. I. H. owing to bad peace speculations in the Calico market (I write this to W. W., Esq. Collector of Stamp duties for the conjoint northern counties, not to W. W. Poet) I go back, and have for this many days past, to evening work, generally at the rate of nine hours a day. The nature of my work too, puzzling and hurrying, has so shaken my spirits, that my sleep is nothing but a succession of dreams of business I cannot do, of assistants that give me no assistance, of terrible responsibilities. I reclaimed your book, which Hazlit has uncivilly kept, only 2 days ago, and have made shift to read it again with shatterd brain. It does not lose—rather some parts have come out with a prominence I did not perceive before—but such was my aching head yesterday (Sunday) that the book was like a Mount'n. Landscape to one that should walk on the edge of a precipice. I perceived beauty dizzily. Now what I would say is, that I see no prospect of a quiet half day or hour even till this week and the next are past. I then hope to get 4 weeks absence, and if then is time enough to begin I will most gladly do what you require, tho' I feel my inability, for my brain is always desultory and snatches off hints from things, but can seldom follow a "work" methodically. But that shall be no excuse. What I beg you to do is to let me know from Southey, if that will be time enough for the "Quarterly," i.e. suppose it done in 3 weeks from this date (19 Sept.): if not it is my bounden duty to express my regret, and decline it. Mary thanks you and feels highly grateful for your Patent of Nobility, and acknowleges the author of Excursion as the legitimate Fountain of Honor. We both agree, that to our feeling Ellen is best as she is. To us there would have been something repugnant in her challenging her Penance as a Dowry! the fact is explicable, but how few to whom it could have been renderd explicit!
The unlucky reason of the detention of Excursion was, Hazlit and we having a misunderstanding. He blowed us up about 6 months ago, since which the union hath snapt, but M. Burney borrowd it for him and after reiterated messages I only got it on Friday. His remarks had some vigor in them, particularly something about an old ruin being too modern for your Primeval Nature, and about a lichen, but I forget the Passage, but the whole wore a slovenly air of dispatch and disrespect. That objection which M. Burney had imbibed from him about Voltaire, I explaind to M. B. (or tried) exactly on your principle of its being a characteristic speech. That it was no settled comparative estimate of Voltaire with any of his own tribe of buffoons—no injustice, even you spoke it, for I dared say you never could relish Candide. I know I tried to get thro' it about a twelvemonth since, and couldn't for the Dullness. Now, I think I have a wider range in buffoonery than you. Too much toleration perhaps.
I finish this after a raw ill bakd dinner, fast gobbled up, to set me off to office again after working there till near four. O Christ! how I wish I were a rich man, even tho' I were squeezed camel-fashion at getting thro' that Needles eye that is spoken of in the Written Word. Apropos, are you a Xtian? or is it the Pedlar and the Priest that are?
I find I miscalld that celestial splendor of the mist going off, a sunset. That only shews my inaccuracy of head.
Do pray indulge me by writing an answer to the point of time mentioned above, or let Southey. I am asham'd to go bargaining in this way, but indeed I have no time I can reckon on till the 1st week in Octo'r. God send I may not be disappointed in that!
Coleridge swore in letter to me he would review Exc'n. in the Quarterly. Therefore, tho' that shall not stop me, yet if I can do anything, when done, I must know of him if he has anything ready, or I shall fill the world with loud exclaims.
I keep writing on, knowing the Postage is no more for much writing, else so faggd & disjointed I am with damnd India house work, I scarce know what I do. My left arm reposes on "Excursion." I feel what it would be in quiet. It is now a sealed Book.
O happy Paris, seat of idleness and pleasure! From some return'd English I hear that not such a thing as a counting house is to be seen in her streets, scarce a desk—Earthquakes swallow up this mercantile city and its gripple merchants, as Drayton hath it, "born to be the curse of this brave isle." I invoke this not on account of any parsimonious habits the mercantile interest may have, but, to confess truth, because I am not fit for an office.
Farewell, in haste, from a head that is ill to methodize, a stomach to digest, and all out of Tune. Better harmonies await you.
[Wordsworth had been appointed in 1813 Distributor of Stamps for the county of Westmoreland. Lamb is writing again about The Excursion, which at the instigation of Southey, to whom Wordsworth had made the suggestion, he is to review for the Quarterly.
"Hazlitt and we having a misunderstanding." The precise cause of the trouble we do not know, but in Crabb Robinson's Diary, in 1811, it is said that a slight coolness had begun between the two men on account of money which Lamb did not feel justified in lending to Hazlitt. Between 1811 and 1814, however, they were friendly again. It was Hazlitt's hostile attitude to Wordsworth that brought about Robinson's split with him, although that also was mended: literary men are short haters. Hazlitt reviewed The Excursion—from Lamb's copy, which in itself was a cause of grievance—in The Examiner, in three numbers, August 21, 28 and October 2. Wordsworth had described Candide, in Book II., as the "dull product of a scoffer's pen." Hazlitt wrote thus:—
... We cannot however agree with Mr. Wordsworth that Candide is dull. It is, if our author pleases, "the production of a scoffer's pen," or it is any thing, but dull. Rasselas indeed is dull; but then it is privileged dulness. It may not be proper in a grave, discreet, orthodox, promising young divine, who studies his opinions in the contraction or distension of his patron's brow, to allow any merit to a work like Candide; but we conceive that it would have been more in character, that is, more manly, in Mr. Wordsworth, nor do we think it would have hurt the cause he espouses, if he had blotted out the epithet, after it had peevishly escaped him. Whatsoever savours of a little, narrow, inquisitorial spirit, does not sit well on a poet and a man of genius. The prejudices of a philosopher are not natural....
Lamb himself made the same criticism, three years later, at Haydon's dinner party.
Hazlitt had also said of The Excursion that—
Such is the severe simplicity of Mr. Wordsworth's taste, that we doubt whether he would not reject a druidical temple, or time-hallowed ruin, as too modern and artificial for his purpose. He only familiarises himself or his readers with a stone, covered with lichens, which has slept in the same spot of ground from the creation of the world, or with the rocky fissure between two mountains, caused by thunder, or with a cavern scooped out by the sea. His mind is, as it were, coeval with the primary forms of things, holds immediately from nature; and his imagination "owes no allegiance" but "to the elements."
"Are you a Xtian?"—referring to the sentiments of Wanderer and the Pastor—two characters of The Excursion.
"A sunset." See preceding letter to Wordsworth.
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Southey, dated October 20, 1814, stating that Lamb has deposited with Mr. Grosvenor Bedford, Southey's friend and correspondent, his review of The Excursion. "Who can cram into a strait coop of a review any serious idea of such a vast and magnificent poem?"]
MARY LAMB TO BARBARA BETHAM (Aged 14) Nov'r. 2, 1814.
It is very long since I have met with such an agreeable surprise as the sight of your letter, my kind young friend, afforded me. Such a nice letter as it is too. And what a pretty hand you write. I congratulate you on this attainment with great pleasure, because I have so often felt the disadvantage of my own wretched handwriting.
You wish for London news. I rely upon your sister Ann for gratifying you in this respect, yet I have been endeavouring to recollect whom you might have seen here, and what may have happened to them since, and this effort has only brought the image of little Barbara Betham, unconnected with any other person, so strongly before my eyes that I seem as if I had no other subject to write upon. Now I think I see you with your feet propped upon the fender, your two hands spread out upon your knees—an attitude you always chose when we were in familiar confidential conversation together—telling me long stories of your own home, where now you say you are "Moping on with the same thing every day," and which then presented nothing but pleasant recollections to your mind. How well I remember your quiet steady face bent over your book. One day, conscience struck at having wasted so much of your precious time in reading, and feeling yourself, as you prettily said, "quite useless to me," you went to my drawers and hunted out some unhemmed pocket-handkerchiefs, and by no means could I prevail upon you to resume your story books till you had hemmed them all. I remember, too, your teaching my little maid to read—your sitting with her a whole evening to console her for the death of her sister; and that she in her turn endeavoured to become a comforter to you, the next evening, when you wept at the sight of Mrs. Holcroft, from whose school you had recently eloped because you were not partial to sitting in the stocks. Those tears, and a few you once dropped when my brother teased you about your supposed fondness for an apple dumpling, were the only interruptions to the calm contentedness of your unclouded brow. We still remain the same as you left us, neither taller nor wiser, or perceptibly older, but three years must have made a great alteration in you. How very much, dear Barbara, I should like to see you!
We still live in Temple Lane, but I am now sitting in a room you never saw. Soon after you left us we we[re] distressed by the cries of a cat, which seemed to proceed from the garrets adjoining to ours, and only separated from ours by a locked door on the farther side of my brother's bedroom, which you know was the little room at the top of the kitchen stairs. We had the lock forced and let poor puss out from behind a pannel of the wainscot, and she lived with us from that time, for we were in gratitude bound to keep her, as she had introduced us to four untenanted, unowned rooms, and by degrees we have taken possession of these unclaimed apartments—First putting up lines to dry our clothes, then moving my brother's bed into one of these, more commodious than his own room. And last winter, my brother being unable to pursue a work he had begun, owing to the kind interruptions of friends who were more at leisure than himself, I persuaded him that he might write at his ease in one of these rooms, as he could not then hear the door knock, or hear himself denied to be at home, which was sure to make him call out and convict the poor maid in a fib. Here, I said, he might be almost really not at home. So I put in an old grate, and made him a fire in the largest of these garrets, and carried in one table, and one chair, and bid him write away, and consider himself as much alone as if he were in a new lodging in the midst of Salisbury Plain, or any other wide unfrequented place where he could expect few visitors to break in upon his solitude. I left him quite delighted with his new acquisition, but in a few hours he came down again with a sadly dismal face. He could do nothing, he said, with those bare whitewashed walls before his eyes. He could not write in that dull unfurnished prison.
The next day, before he came home from his office, I had gathered up various bits of old carpetting to cover the floor; and, to a little break the blank look of the bare walls, I hung up a few old prints that used to ornament the kitchen, and after dinner, with great boast of what an improvement I had made, I took Charles once more into his new study. A week of busy labours followed, in which I think you would not have disliked to have been our assistant. My brother and I almost covered the wall with prints, for which purpose he cut out every print from every book in his old library, coming in every now and then to ask my leave to strip a fresh poor author—which he might not do, you know, without my permission, as I am elder sister. There was such pasting, such consultation where their portraits, and where the series of pictures from Ovid, Milton, and Shakespear would show to most advantage, and in what obscure corner authors of humbler note might be allowed to tell their stories. All the books gave up their stores but one, a translation from Ariosto, a delicious set of four and twenty prints, and for which I had marked out a conspicuous place; when lo! we found at the moment the scissars were going to work that a part of the poem was printed at the back of every picture. What a cruel disappointment! To conclude this long story about nothing, the poor despised garret is now called the print room, and is become our most favorite sitting room.
Your sister Ann will tell you that your friend Louisa is going to France. Miss Skepper is out of town, Mrs. Reynolds desires to be remembered to you, and so does my neighbour Mrs. Norris, who was your doctress when you were unwell, her three little children are grown three big children. The Lions still live in Exeter Change. Returning home through the Strand, I often hear them roar about twelve oclock at night. I never hear them without thinking of you, because you seemed so pleased with the sight of them, and said your young companions would stare when you told them you had seen a Lion.
And now my dear Barbara fare well, I have not written such a long letter a long time, but I am very sorry I had nothing amusing to write about. Wishing you may pass happily through the rest of your school days, and every future day of your life.
I remain, your affectionate Friend, M. LAMB.
My brother sends his love to you, with the kind remembrance your letter shewed you have of us as I was. He joins with me in respects to your good father and mother, and to your brother John, who, if I do not mistake his name, is your tall young brother who was in search of a fair lady with a large fortune. Ask him if he has found her yet. You say you are not so tall as Louisa—you must be, you cannot so degenerate from the rest of your family. Now you have begun, I shall hope to have the pleasure of hearing from [you] again. I shall always receive a letter from you with very great delight.
[This charming letter is to a younger sister of Matilda Betham. What the work was which in 1814 drove Lamb into an empty room I do not know. It may have been something which came to nought. Beyond the essay on Tailors (see Vol. I.) and a few brief scraps for The Champion he did practically nothing that has survived until some verses in 1818, a few criticisms in 1819, and in 1820 the first of the Elia essays for the London Magazine. Louisa was Louisa Holcroft, about to go to France with her mother and stepfather, James Kenney. Miss Skepper was Basil Montagu's stepdaughter, afterwards the wife of B. W. Procter (Barry Cornwall). Exeter Change, where there was a menagerie, was in the Strand (see note above). There is a further reference to the tallness of John Betham in Lamb's letter to Landor in 1832.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN SCOTT [Dated at end: Dec. 12, 1814.]
Sir, I am sorry to seem to go off my agreement, but very particular circumstances have happened to hinder my fulfillment of it at present. If any single Essays ever occur to me in future, you shall have the refusal of them. Meantime I beg you to consider the thing as at an end.
Yours, with thanks & acknowlg'nt C. LAMB. Monday ev: 12 Dec., 1814.
[See Letter to Scott above.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [P.M. Dec. 28, 1814.]
Dear W. your experience about tailors seems to be in point blank opposition to Burton, as much as the author of the Excursion does toto coelo differ in his notion of a country life from the picture which W.H. has exhibited of the same. But with a little explanation you and B. may be reconciled. It is evident that he confined his observations to the genuine native London tailor. What freaks Tailor-nature may take in the country is not for him to give account of. And certainly some of the freaks recorded do give an idea of the persons in question being beside themselves, rather than in harmony with the common moderate self enjoym't of the rest mankind. A flying tailor, I venture to say, is no more in rerum natura than a flying horse or a Gryphon. His wheeling his airy flight from the precipice you mention had a parallel in the melancholy Jew who toppled from the monument. Were his limbs ever found? Then, the man who cures diseases by words is evidently an inspired tailor. Burton never affirmed that the act of sewing disqualified the practiser of it from being a fit organ for supernatural revelation. He never enters into such subjects. 'Tis the common uninspired tailor which he speaks of. Again the person who makes his smiles to be heard, is evidently a man under possession; a demoniac taylor. A greater hell than his own must have a hand in this. I am not certain that the cause which you advocate has much reason for triumph. You seem to me to substitute light headedness for light heartedness by a trick, or not to know the difference. I confess, a grinning tailor would shock me.—Enough of tailors.—
The "'scapes" of the great god Pan who appeared among your mountains some dozen years since, and his narrow chance of being submerged by the swains, afforded me much pleasure. I can conceive the water nymphs pulling for him. He would have been another Hylas. W. Hylas. In a mad letter which Capel Loft wrote to M.M. Phillips (now S'r. Rich'd.) I remember his noticing a metaphysical article by Pan, signed H. and adding "I take your correspondent to be the same with Hylas." Hylas has [? had] put forth a pastoral just before. How near the unfounded conjecture of the certainly inspired Loft (unfounded as we thought it) was to being realized! I can conceive him being "good to all that wander in that perilous flood." One J. Scott (I know no more) is edit'r of Champ.
Where is Coleridge?
That Review you speak of, I am only sorry it did not appear last month. The circumstances of haste and peculiar bad spirits under which it was written, would have excused its slightness and inadequacy, the full load of which I shall suffer from its lying by so long as it will seem to have done from its postponement. I write with great difficulty and can scarce command my own resolution to sit at writing an hour together. I am a poor creature, but I am leaving off Gin. I hope you will see good will in the thing. I had a difficulty to perform not to make it all Panegyrick; I have attempted to personate a mere stranger to you; perhaps with too much strangeness. But you must bear that in mind when you read it, and not think that I am in mind distant from you or your Poem, but that both are close to me among the nearest of persons and things. I do but act the stranger in the Review. Then, I was puzzled about extracts and determined upon not giving one that had been in the Examiner, for Extracts repeated give an idea that there is a meagre allow'ce, of good things. By this way, I deprived myself of Sr. W. Irthing and the reflections that conclude his story, which are the flower of the Poem. H. had given the reflections before me. Then it is the first Review I ever did, and I did not know how long I might make it. But it must speak for itself, if Giffard and his crew do not put words in its mouth, which I expect. Farewell. Love to all. Mary keeps very bad.
[Lamb seems to have sent Wordsworth a copy of The Champion containing his essay, signed Burton, Junior, "On the Melancholy of Tailors." Wordsworth's letter of reply, containing the examples of other tailors, is no longer in existence. "A greater hell" is a pun: the receptacle into which tailors throw scraps is called a hell. See Lamb's "Satan in Search of a Wife" and notes (Vol. IV.) for more on this topic.
"W. H."—Hazlitt: referring again to his review of The Excursion in The Examiner.
"The melancholy Jew"—Mr. Lyon Levy, a diamond merchant, who jumped off the Monument commemorating the Fire of London, on January 18, 1810.
"The ''scapes' of the great god Pan." A reference to Hazlitt's flirtation with a farmer's daughter in the Lake country, ending almost in immersion (see above). Hylas, seeking for water with a pitcher, so enraptured the nymphs of the river with his beauty that they drew him in.
Capell Lofft (1751-1824) was a lawyer and philanthropist of independent means who threw himself into many popular discussions and knew many literary men. He was the patron of Robert Bloomfield. Lamb was amused by him, but annoyed that his initials were also C. L. "M. M. Phillips"—for Monthly Magazine, which Phillips published.
"One J. Scott." See note above.
"Where is Coleridge?" Coleridge was now at Calne, in Wiltshire, with the Morgans. He was being treated for the drug habit by a Dr. Page.
"That Review." Lamb's review of The Excursion, which, although the Quarterly that contains it is dated October, 1814, must have been delayed until the end of the year. The episode of Sir W. Irthing (really Sir Alfred Irthing) is in Book VII. Lamb's foreboding as to Clifford's action was only too well justified, as we shall see.
"Mary keeps very bad." Mary Lamb, we learn from Crabb Robinson's Diary, had been taken ill some time between December 11 and December 24, having tired herself by writing an article on needlework for the British Lady's Magazine (see Vol. I. of this edition). She did not recover until February, 1815.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [P.M. illegible. ?Early Jan., 1815.]
Dear Wordsworth, I told you my Review was a very imperfect one. But what you will see in the Quarterly is a spurious one which Mr. Baviad Gifford has palm'd upon it for mine. I never felt more vexd in my life than when I read it. I cannot give you an idea of what he has done to it out of spite at me because he once sufferd me to be called a lunatic in his Thing. The language he has alterd throughout. Whatever inadequateness it had to its subject, it was in point of composition the prettiest piece of prose I ever writ, and so my sister (to whom alone I read the MS.) said. That charm if it had any is all gone: more than a third of the substance is cut away, and that not all from one place, but passim, so as to make utter nonsense. Every warm expression is changed for a nasty cold one. I have not the cursed alteration by me, I shall never look at it again, but for a specimen I remember I had said the Poet of the Excurs'n "walks thro' common forests as thro' some Dodona or enchanted wood, and every casual bird that flits upon the boughs, like that miraculous one in Tasso, but in language more piercing than any articulate sounds, reveals to him far higher lovelays." It is now (besides half a dozen alterations in the same half dozen lines) "but in language more intelligent reveals to him"—that is one I remember. But that would have been little, putting his damnd Shoemaker phraseology (for he was a shoemaker) in stead of mine, which has been tinctured with better authors than his ignorance can comprehend—for I reckon myself a dab at Prose—verse I leave to my betters—God help them, if they are to be so reviewed by friend and foe as you have been this quarter. I have read "It won't do." But worse than altering words, he has kept a few members only of the part I had done best, which was to explain all I could of your "scheme of harmonies," as I had ventured to call it, between the external universe and what within us answers to it. To do this I had accumulated a good many short passages, rising in length to the end, weaving in the Extracts as if they came in as a part of the text, naturally, not obtruding them as specimens. Of this part a little is left, but so as without conjuration no man could tell what I was driving it [? at]. A proof of it you may see (tho' not judge of the whole of the injustice) by these words: I had spoken something about "natural methodism—" and after follows "and therefore the tale of Margaret sh'd have been postponed" (I forget my words, or his words): now the reasons for postponing it are as deducible from what goes before, as they are from the 104th psalm. The passage whence I deduced it has vanished, but clapping a colon before a therefore is always reason enough for Mr. Baviad Gifford to allow to a reviewer that is not himself. I assure you my complaints are founded. I know how sore a word alterd makes one, but indeed of this Review the whole complexion is gone. I regret only that I did not keep a copy. I am sure you would have been pleased with it, because I have been feeding my fancy for some months with the notion of pleasing you. Its imperfection or inadequateness in size and method I knew, but for the writing part of it, I was fully satisfied. I hoped it would make more than atonement. Ten or twelve distinct passages come to my mind, which are gone, and what is left is of course the worse for their having been there, the eyes are pulld out and the bleeding sockets are left. I read it at Arch's shop with my face burning with vexation secretly, with just such a feeling as if it had been a review written against myself, making false quotations from me. But I am ashamd to say so much about a short piece. How are you served! and the labors of years turn'd into contempt by scoundrels.
But I could not but protest against your taking that thing as mine. Every pretty expression, (I know there were many) every warm expression, there was nothing else, is vulgarised and frozen—but if they catch me in their camps again let them spitchcock me. They had a right to do it, as no name appears to it, and Mr. Shoemaker Gifford I suppose never wa[i]ved a right he had since he commencd author. God confound him and all caitiffs.
[For the full understanding of this letter it is necessary to read Lamb's review (see Vol. I. of this edition).
William Gifford (1756-1826), editor of the Quarterly, had been a shoemaker's apprentice. Lamb calls him Mr. Baviad Gifford on account of his satires, The Moeviad and The Baviad, against the Delia Cruscan school of poetry, of which Robert Merry had been the principal member. Some of Lamb's grudge against Gifford, which was of old standing (see notes to Lamb's review, Vol. I.), was repaid in his sonnet "St. Crispin to Mr. Gifford" (see Vol. IV. of this edition). Gifford's connection with Canning, in the Anti-Jacobin, could not have improved his position with Lamb.
"I have read 'It won't do.'" A reference to the review of The Excursion in the Edinburgh for November, by Jeffrey, beginning "This will never do."]
CHARLES LAMB TO MR. SARGUS [Dated at end: Feb. 23, 1815.]
Dr Sargus—This is to give you notice that I have parted with the Cottage to Mr. Grig Jun'r. to whom you will pay rent from Michaelmas last. The rent that was due at Michaelmas I do not wish you to pay me. I forgive it you as you may have been at some expences in repairs.
Yours CH. LAMB.
Inner Temple Lane, London, 23 Feb., 1815.
[In 1812 Lamb inherited, through his godfather, Francis Fielde, who is mentioned in the Elia essay "My First Play," a property called Button Snap, near Puckeridge, in Hertfordshire, consisting of a small cottage and about an acre of ground. In 1815 he sold it for L50, and the foregoing letter is an intimation of the transaction to his tenant. The purchaser, however, was not a Mr. Grig, but a Mr. Greg (see notes to "My First Play" in Vol. II. of this edition). In my large edition I give a picture of the cottage.
I append here an undated letter to Joseph Hume which belongs to a time posterior to the sale of the cottage. It refers to Tuthill's candidature for the post of physician to St. Luke's Hospital.
The letter is printed in Mr. Kegan Paul's William Godwin: His Friends and Acquaintances, as though it were written to Godwin, and all Lamb's editors follow in assuming the Philosopher to be the recipient, but internal evidence practically proves that Hume was addressed; for there is the reference to Mrs. Hume and her daughters, and Godwin lived not in Kensington but in Skinner Street.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOSEPH HUME
"Bis dat qui dat cito."
I hate the pedantry of expressing that in another language which we have sufficient terms for in our own. So in plain English I very much wish you to give your vote to-morrow at Clerkenwell, instead of Saturday. It would clear up the brows of my favourite candidate, and stagger the hands of the opposite party. It commences at nine. How easy, as you come from Kensington (a propos, how is your excellent family?) to turn down Bloomsbury, through Leather Lane (avoiding Lay Stall St. for the disagreeableness of the name). Why, it brings you in four minutes and a half to the spot renowned on northern milestones, "where Hicks' Hall formerly stood." There will be good cheer ready for every independent freeholder; where you see a green flag hang out go boldly in, call for ham, or beef, or what you please, and a mug of Meux's Best. How much more gentleman-like to come in the front of the battle, openly avowing one's sentiments, than to lag in on the last day, when the adversary is dejected, spiritless, laid low. Have the first cut at them. By Saturday you'll cut into the mutton. I'd go cheerfully myself, but I am no freeholder (Fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium), but I sold it for L50. If they'd accept a copy-holder, we clerks are naturally copy-holders.
By the way, get Mrs. Hume, or that agreeable Amelia or Caroline, to stick a bit of green in your hat. Nothing daunts the adversary more than to wear the colours of your party. Stick it in cockade-like. It has a martial, and by no means disagreeable effect.
Go, my dear freeholder, and if any chance calls you out of this transitory scene earlier than expected, the coroner shall sit lightly on your corpse. He shall not too anxiously enquire into the circumstances of blood found upon your razor. That might happen to any gentleman in shaving. Nor into your having been heard to express a contempt of life, or for scolding Louisa for what Julia did, and other trifling incoherencies.
Yours sincerely, C. LAMB.
["Lay Stall St." This street, which is still found in Clerkenwell, was of course named from one of the laystalls or public middens which were a feature of London when sanitation was in its infancy.
"Where Hicks' Hall formerly stood." Hicks' Hall, the old Sessions House of the County of Middlesex, stood in St. John Street, Clerkenwell, until its demolition in 1782, when the justices removed to the new Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green. The milestones on the Great North Road, which had long been measured from Hicks' Hall, were reinscribed "—— Miles from the spot where Hicks' Hall formerly stood." Thus Hicks' Hall remained a household word long after it had ceased to exist. The adventures of Jedediah Jones in search of "the spot where Hicks' Hall formerly stood" are amusingly set forth in Knight's London, Vol. I., pages 242-244.
We meet Hume's daughters again in Letter 540. I append a letter with no date, which may come here:—]
CHARLES LAMB TO [MRS. HUME?] [No date.]
Dear Mrs. H.: Sally who brings this with herself back has given every possible satisfaction in doing her work, etc., but the fact is the poor girl is oppressed with a ladylike melancholy, and cannot bear to be so much alone, as she necessarily must be in our kitchen, which to say the truth is damn'd solitary, where she can see nothing and converse with nothing and not even look out of window. The consequence is she has been caught shedding tears all day long, and her own comfort has made it indispensable to send her home. Your cheerful noisy children-crowded house has made her feel the change so much the more.
Our late servant always complained of the want of children, which she had been used to in her last place. One man's meat is another man's poison, as they say. However, we are eternally obliged to you, as much as if Sally could have staid. We have got an old woman coming, who is too stupid to know when she is alone and when she is not.
Yours truly, C. LAMB, for self and sister.
Have you heard from ......
[I take it that Mrs. H. is Mrs. Hume, because Hume had a large family. It was of him, in his paternal light, that Lamb said, "one fool makes many."]