CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [P.M. partly illegible. April 7, 1815.]
The conclusion of this epistle getting gloomy, I have chosen this part to desire our kindest Loves to Mrs. Wordsworth and to Dorothea. Will none of you ever be in London again?
Dear Wordsw'th, you have made me very proud with your successive book presents. I have been carefully through the two volumes to see that nothing was omitted which used to be there. I think I miss nothing but a Character in Antithet. manner which I do not know why you left out; the moral to the boys building the giant, the omission whereof leaves it in my mind less complete; and one admirable line gone (or something come in stead of it) "the stone-chat and the glancing sand-piper," which was a line quite alive. I demand these at your hand. I am glad that you have not sacrificed a verse to those scoundrels. I would not have had you offer up the poorest rag that lingered upon the stript shoulders of little Alice Fell, to have atoned all their malice. I would not have given 'em a red cloak to save their souls. I am afraid lest that substitution of a shell (a flat falsification of the history) for the household implement as it stood at first, was a kind of tub thrown out to the beast, or rather thrown out for him. The tub was a good honest tub in its place, and nothing could fairly be said against it. You say you made the alteration for the "friendly reader," but the malicious will take it to himself. Damn 'em; if you give 'em an inch &c. The preface is noble and such as you should write: I wish I could set my name to it—Imprimatur—but you have set it there yourself, and I thank you. I had rather be a door-keeper in your margin, than have their proudest text swelling with my eulogies. The poems in the volumes which are new to me are so much in the old tone that I hardly received them as novelties. Of those, of which I had no previous knowlege, the four yew trees and the mysterious company which you have assembled there, most struck me—"Death the Skeleton and Time the Shadow—" It is a sight not for every youthful poet to dream of—it is one of the last results he must have gone thinking-on for years for. Laodamia is a very original poem; I mean original with reference to your own manner. You have nothing like it. I should have seen it in a strange place, and greatly admired it, but not suspected its derivation. Let me in this place, for I have writ you several letters without naming it, mention that my brother, who is a picture collector, has picked up an undoubtable picture of Milton. He gave a few shillings for it, and could get no history with it, but that some old lady had had it for a great many years. Its age is ascertainable from the state of the canvas, and you need only see it to be sure that it is the original of the heads in the Tonson Editions, with which we are all so well familiar. Since I saw you I have had a treat in the reading way which comes not every day. The Latin Poems of V. Bourne, which were quite new to me. What a heart that man had, all laid out upon town scenes, a proper counterpoise to some people's rural extravaganzas. Why I mention him is that your Power of Music reminded me of his poem of the balad singer in the Seven Dials. Do you remember his epigram on the old woman who taught Newton the A. B. C., which after all, he says, he hesitates not to call Newton's Principia. I was lately fatiguing myself with going thro' a volume of fine words by L'd. Thurlow—excellent words, and if the heart could live by words alone, it could desire no better regale—but what an aching vacuum of matter; I don't stick at the madness of it, for that is only a consequence of shutting his eyes and thinking he is in the age of the old Elisabeth poets; from thence I turned to V. Bourne—what a sweet unpretending pretty-mannered matter-ful creature, sucking from every flower, making a flower of every thing, his diction all Latin and his thoughts all English. Bless him, Latin wasn't good enough for him, why wasn't he content with the language which Gay and Prior wrote in.
I am almost sorry that you printed Extracts from those first Poems, or that you did not print them at length. They do not read to me as they do all together. Besides they have diminished the value of the original (which I possess) as a curiosity. I have hitherto kept them distinct in my mind as referring to a particular period of your life. All the rest of your poems are so much of a piece, they might have been written in the same week—these decidedly speak of an earlier period. They tell more of what you had been reading.
We were glad to see the poems by a female friend. The one of the wind is masterly, but not new to us. Being only three, perhaps you might have clapt a D. at the corner and let it have past as a printer's mark to the uninitiated, as a delightful hint to the better-instructed. As it is, Expect a formal criticism on the Poems of your female friend, and she must expect it.
I should have written before, but I am cruelly engaged and like to be. On Friday I was at office from 10 in the morning (two hours dinner except) to 11 at night, last night till 9. My business and office business in general has increased so. I don't mean I am there every night, but I must expect a great deal of it. I never leave till 4—and do not keep a holyday now once in ten times, where I used to keep all red letter days, and some fine days besides which I used to dub Nature's holydays. I have had my day. I had formerly little to do. So of the little that is left of life I may reckon two thirds as dead, for Time that a man may call his own is his Life, and hard work and thinking about it taints even the leisure hours, stains Sunday with workday contemplations—this is Sunday, and the headache I have is part late hours at work the 2 preceding nights and part later hours over a consoling pipe afterw'ds. But I find stupid acquiescence coming over me. I bend to the yoke, and it is almost with me and my household as with the man and his consort—
To them each evening had its glittering star And every Sabbath day its golden sun—
To such straits am I driven for the Life of life, Time—O that from that superfluity of Holyday leisure my youth wasted "Age might but take some hours youth wanted not.—" N.B. I have left off spirituous liquors for 4 or more months, with a moral certainty of its lasting. Farewell, dear Wordsworth.
[Wordsworth had just brought out, with Longmans, his Poems ... including Lyrical Ballads and the Miscellaneous Pieces of the Author, 1815, in two volumes. The "Character in the Antithetical Manner" was omitted from all editions of Wordsworth's poems between 1800 and 1836. In the 1800 version of "Rural Architecture" there had been these last lines, expunged in the editions of 1805 and 1815, but restored with a slight alteration in later editions:—
—Some little I've seen of blind boisterous works In Paris and London, 'mong Christians or Turks, Spirits busy to do and undo: At remembrance whereof my blood sometimes will flag, —Then, light-hearted Boys, to the top of the Crag; And I'll build up a Giant with you.
In the original form of the "Lines Left upon a Seat in a Yew Tree" there had been these lines:—
His only visitants a straggling sheep, The stone-chat, or the glancing sand-piper.
Wordsworth had altered them to:—
His only visitants a straggling sheep, The stone-chat, or the sand-lark, restless Bird, Piping along the margin of the lake.
In the 1820 edition Wordsworth put back the original form.
"Those scoundrels." Principally the critic of the Edinburgh, Jeffrey, but Wordsworth's assailants generally.
"That substitution of a shell." In the original draft of "The Blind Highland Boy" the adventurous voyage was made in
A Household Tub, like one of those Which women use to wash their clothes.
In the new version the vessel was a turtle's shell.
"The preface." Wordsworth quotes from Lamb's essay in The Reflector on the genius of Hogarth, referring to the passage as "the language of one of my most esteemed Friends." It is Lamb's description of Imagination as that which "draws all things to one, which makes things animate or inanimate, beings with their attributes, subjects with their accessories, take one colour and serve to one effect."
"The four yew trees." The poem is called "Yew Trees." This is the passage in question:—
But worthier still of note Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale, Joined in one solemn and capacious grove; Huge trunks! and each particular trunk a growth Of intertwisted fibres serpentine Up-coiling, and inveterately convolved; Nor uninformed with Phantasy, and looks That threaten the profane;—a pillared shade, Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue, By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged Perennially—beneath whose sable roof Of boughs, as if for festal purpose, decked With unrejoicing berries—ghostly Shapes May meet at noontide; Fear and trembling Hope, Silence and Foresight; Death the Skeleton And Time the Shadow; there to celebrate, As in a natural temple scattered o'er With altars undisturbed of mossy stone, United worship; or in mute repose To lie, and listen to the mountain flood Murmuring from Giaramara's inmost caves.
"Picture of Milton." This portrait, a reproduction of which I give in my large edition, is now in America, the property of the New York Public Library.
"V. Bourne." Lamb afterwards translated some of Bourne's Poemata and wrote critically of them in the Englishman's Magazine in 1831 (see Vols. I. and IV.).
"Lord Thurlow." But see Letter to Bernard Barton of December 5, 1828, and note.
"Extracts from those first Poems." Wordsworth included extracts from juvenile pieces, which had been first published in his Descriptive Sketches, 1793.
"A female friend"—Dorothy Wordsworth. The three poems were "Address to a Child" (beginning, "What way does the Wind come from?"), "The Mother's Return" and "The Cottager to Her Infant."
"To them each evening had its glittering star ... "—The Excursion, Book V.
"Age might but take some hours ..." From Wordsworth's "Small Celandine":—
Age might but take the things Youth needed not.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [P.M. April 28, 1815.]
Excuse this maddish letter: I am too tired to write in formal—
Dear Wordsw'th. The more I read of your two last volumes, the more I feel it necessary to make my acknowledgm'ts for them in more than one short letter. The Night Piece to which you refer me I meant fully to have noticed, but the fact is I come so fluttering and languid from business, tired with thoughts of it, frightened with fears of it, that when I get a few minutes to sit down to scribble (an action of the hand now seldom natural to me—I mean voluntary pen-work) I lose all presential memory of what I had intended to say, and say what I can,—talk about Vincent Bourne or any casual image instead of that which I had meditated—by the way, I must look out V. B. for you.—So I had meant to have mentioned Yarrow Visited, with that stanza, "But thou that didst appear so fair—" than which I think no lovelier stanza can be found in the wide world of poetry—yet the poem on the whole seems condemned to leave behind it a melancholy of imperfect satisfaction, as if you had wronged the feeling with which in what preceded it you had resolved never to visit it, and as if the Muse had determined in the most delicate manner to make you, and scarce make you, feel it. Else, it is far superior to the other, which has but one exquisite verse in it, the last but one, or the two last—this has all fine, except perhaps that that of "studious ease and generous cares" has a little tinge of the less romantic about it. The farmer of Tilsbury vale is a charming counter part to poor Susan, with the addition of that delicacy towards aberrations from the strict path which is so fine in the Old Thief and the boy by his side, which always brings water into my eyes. Perhaps it is the worse for being a repetition. Susan stood for the representative of poor Rus in Urbe. There was quite enough to stamp the moral of the thing never to be forgotten. "Fast volumes of vapour" &c. The last verse of Susan was to be got rid of at all events. It threw a kind of dubiety upon Susan's moral conduct. Susan is a servant maid. I see her trundling her mop and contemplating the whirling phenomenon thro' blurred optics; but to term her a poor outcast seems as much as to say that poor Susan was no better than she should be, which I trust was not what you meant to express. Robin Goodfellow supports himself without that stick of a moral which you have thrown away,—but how I can be brought in felo de omittendo for that Ending to the boy builders is a mystery. I can't say positively now—I only know that no line oftener or readier occurs than that "Light hearted boys, I will build up a giant with you." It comes naturally with a warm holyday and the freshness of the blood. It is a perfect summer Amulet that I tye round my legs to quicken their motion when I go out a Maying. (N.B.) I don't often go out a maying.—Must is the tense with me now. Do you take the Pun? Young Romilly is divine, the reasons of his mother's grief being remediless. I never saw parental love carried up so high, towering above the other Loves. Shakspeare had done something for the filial in Cordelia, and by implication for the fatherly too in Lear's resentment—he left it for you to explore the depths of the maternal heart. I get stupid, and flat and flattering— what's the use of telling you what good things you have written, or—I hope I may add—that I know them to be good. Apropos—when I first opened upon the just mentioned poem, in a careless tone I said to Mary as if putting a riddle "What is good for a bootless bean?" to which with infinite presence of mind (as the jest book has it) she answered, a "shoeless pea." It was the first joke she ever made. Joke the 2d I make you distinguish well in your old preface between the verses of Dr. Johnson of the man in the Strand, and that from the babes of the wood. I was thinking whether taking your own glorious lines—
And for the love was in her soul For the youthful Romilly—
which, by the love I bear my own soul, I think have no parallel in any of the best old Balads, and just altering it to—
And from the great respect she felt For Sir Samuel Romilly—
would not have explained the boundaries of prose expression and poetic feeling nearly as well. Excuse my levity on such an occasion. I never felt deeply in my life, if that poem did not make me, both lately and when I read it in MS. No alderman ever longed after a haunch of buck venison more than I for a Spiritual taste of that White Doe you promise. I am sure it is superlative, or will be when drest, i.e. printed. All things read raw tome in MS.—to compare magna parvis, I cannot endure my own writings in that state. The only one which I think would not very much win upon me in print is Peter Bell. But I am not certain. You ask me about your preface. I like both that and the Supplement without an exception. The account of what you mean by Imagination is very valuable to me. It will help me to like some things in poetry better, which is a little humiliating in me to confess. I thought I could not be instructed in that science (I mean the critical), as I once heard old obscene beastly Peter Pindar in a dispute on Milton say he thought that if he had reason to value himself upon one thing more than another it was in knowing what good verse was. Who lookd over your proof sheets, and left ordebo in that line of Virgil?
My brothers picture of Milton is very finely painted, that is, it might have been done by a hand next to Vandyke's. It is the genuine Milton, and an object of quiet gaze for the half hour at a time. Yet tho' I am confident there is no better one of him, the face does not quite answer to Milton. There is a tinge of petit (or petite, how do you spell it) querulousness about. Yet hang it, now I remember better, there is not—it is calm, melancholy, and poetical.
One of the copies you sent had precisely the same pleasant blending of a sheet of 2d vol. with a sheet of 1st. I think it was page 245; but I sent it and had it rectifyd. It gave me in the first impetus of cutting the leaves just such a cold squelch as going down a plausible turning and suddenly reading "no thoroughfare." Robinson's is entire; he is gone to Bury his father.
I wish you would write more criticism, about Spenser &c. I think I could say something about him myself—but Lord bless me—these "merchants and their spicy drugs" which are so harmonious to sing of, they lime-twig up my poor soul and body, till I shall forget I ever thought myself a bit of a genius! I can't even put a few thoughts on paper for a newspaper. I "engross," when I should pen a paragraph. Confusion blast all mercantile transactions, all traffick, exchange of commodities, intercourse between nations, all the consequent civilization and wealth and amity and link of society, and getting rid of prejudices, and knowlege of the face of the globe—and rot the very firs of the forest that look so romantic alive, and die into desks. Vale.
Yours dear W. and all yours'. C. LAMB.
[Added at foot of the first page:] N.B. Don't read that Q. Review—I will never look into another.
[Lamb continues his criticism of the 1815 edition of Wordsworth's Poems. The "Night Piece" begins—
The sky is overcast.
The stanza from "Yarrow Visited" is quoted on page 557. The poem followed "Yarrow Unvisited" in the volume. The one exquisite verse in "Yarrow Unvisited" first ran:—
Your cottage seems a bower of bliss, It promises protection To studious ease and generous cares And every chaste affection.
Wordsworth altered to—
A covert for protection Of tender thoughts that nestle there, The brood of chaste affection.
"Poor Susan" had in the 1800 version ended thus:—
Poor Outcast! return—to receive thee once more The house of thy Father will open its door, And thou once again, in thy plain russet gown, May'st hear the thrush sing from a tree of its own.
Wordsworth expunged this stanza in the 1815 edition. "Fast volumes of vapour" should be "Bright volumes of vapour." For the Old Thief see "The Two Thieves."
"Felo de omittendo." See the preceding letter, where Lamb remonstrated with Wordsworth for omitting the last lines from "Rural Architecture." Wordsworth seems to have charged Lamb with the criticism that decided their removal.
"The Pun." Canon Ainger pointed out that Hood, in his "Ode to Melancholy," makes the same pun very happily:—
Even as the blossoms of the May, Whose fragrance ends in must.
"Young Romilly." In "The Force of Prayer," which opens with the question—
What is good for a bootless bene?
Later Mary Lamb made another joke, when at Munden's farewell performance she said, "Sic transit gloria Munden!"
The stanzas from which Lamb quotes run:—
"What is good for a bootless bene?" The Falconer to the Lady said; And she made answer "Endless sorrow!" In that she knew that her Son was dead.
She knew it by the Falconer's words, And from the look of the Falconer's eye; And from the love which was in her soul For her youthful Romilly.
Sir Samuel Romilly (1757-1818), the lawyer and law reformer, was the great opponent of capital punishment for small offences.
In the preface to the 1802 edition of Lyrical Ballads, etc., Wordsworth had quoted Dr. Johnson's prosaic lines:—
I put my hat upon my head And walked into the Strand, And there I met another man Whose hat was in his hand.
—contrasting them with these lines from the "Babes in the Wood":—
These pretty Babes with hand in hand Went wandering up and down; But never more they saw the Man Approaching from the Town.
"Peter Pindar." John Wolcot (1738-1819), whom Lamb had met at Henry Rogers', brother of the poet.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
London, May 6th, 1815.
Dear Southey,—I have received from Longman a copy of "Roderick," with the author's compliments, for which I much thank you. I don't know where I shall put all the noble presents I have lately received in that way; the "Excursion," Wordsworth's two last vols., and now "Roderick," have come pouring in upon me like some irruption from Helicon. The story of the brave Maccabee was already, you may be sure, familiar to me in all its parts. I have, since the receipt of your present, read it quite through again, and with no diminished pleasure. I don't know whether I ought to say that it has given me more pleasure than any of your long poems. "Kehama" is doubtless more powerful, but I don't feel that firm footing in it that I do in "Roderick;" my imagination goes sinking and floundering in the vast spaces of unopened-before systems and faiths; I am put out of the pale of my old sympathies; my moral sense is almost outraged; I can't believe, or with horror am made to believe, such desperate chances against omnipotences, such disturbances of faith to the centre. The more potent the more painful the spell. Jove and his brotherhood of gods, tottering with the giant assailings, I can bear, for the soul's hopes are not struck at in such contests; but your Oriental almighties are too much types of the intangible prototype to be meddled with without shuddering. One never connects what are called the attributes with Jupiter. I mention only what diminishes my delight at the wonder-workings of "Kehama," not what impeaches its power, which I confess with trembling.
But "Roderick" is a comfortable poem. It reminds me of the delight I took in the first reading of the "Joan of Arc." It is maturer and better than that, though not better to me now than that was then. It suits me better than "Madoc." I am at home in Spain and Christendom. I have a timid imagination, I am afraid. I do not willingly admit of strange beliefs or out-of-the-way creeds or places. I never read books of travel, at least not farther than Paris or Rome. I can just endure Moors, because of their connection as foes with Christians; but Abyssinians, Ethiops, Esquimaux, Dervises, and all that tribe, I hate. I believe I fear them in some manner. A Mahometan turban on the stage, though enveloping some well known face (Mr. Cook or Mr. Maddox, whom I see another day good Christian and English waiters, innkeepers, &c.), does not give me pleasure unalloyed. I am a Christian, Englishman, Londoner, Templar. God help me when I come to put off these snug relations, and to get abroad into the world to come! I shall be like the crow on the sand, as Wordsworth has it; but I won't think on it—no need, I hope, yet.
The parts I have been most pleased with, both on 1st and 2nd readings, perhaps, are Florinda's palliation of Roderick's crime, confessed to him in his disguise—the retreat of Palayo's family first discovered,—his being made king—"For acclamation one form must serve, more solemn for the breach of old observances." Roderick's vow is extremely fine, and his blessing on the vow of Alphonso:
"Towards the troop he spread his arms, As if the expanded soul diffused itself, And carried to all spirits with the act Its affluent inspiration."
It struck me forcibly that the feeling of these last lines might have been suggested to you by the Cartoon of Paul at Athens. Certain it is that a better motto or guide to that famous attitude can no where be found. I shall adopt it as explanatory of that violent, but dignified motion.
I must read again Landor's "Julian." I have not read it some time. I think he must have failed in Roderick, for I remember nothing of him, nor of any distinct character as a character—only fine-sounding passages. I remember thinking also he had chosen a point of time after the event, as it were, for Roderick survives to no use; but my memory is weak, and I will not wrong a fine Poem by trusting to it.
The notes to your poem I have not read again; but it will be a take-downable book on my shelf, and they will serve sometimes at breakfast, or times too light for the text to be duly appreciated. Though some of 'em, one of the serpent Penance, is serious enough, now I think on't.
Of Coleridge I hear nothing, nor of the Morgans. I hope to have him like a re-appearing star, standing up before me some time when least expected in London, as has been the case whylear.
I am doing nothing (as the phrase is) but reading presents, and walk away what of the day-hours I can get from hard occupation. Pray accept once more my hearty thanks, and expression of pleasure for your remembrance of me. My sister desires her kind respects to Mrs. S. and to all at Keswick.
Yours truly, C. LAMB.
The next Present I look for is the "White Doe." Have you seen Mat. Betham's "Lay of Marie?" I think it very delicately pretty as to sentiment, &c.
[Southey's Roderick, the Last of the Goths, was published in 1814. Driven from his throne by the Moors, Roderick had disguised himself as a monk under the name of Father Maccabee. The Curse of Kehama had been published in 1810; Madoc in 1805; Joan of Arc (see Letter 3, &c.) in 1796. Southey was now Poet Laureate.
"I never read books of travels." Writing to Dilke, of The Athenaeum, for books, some years later, Lamb makes a point of "no natural history or useful learning" being sent—such as Giraffes, Pyramids and Adventures in Central Africa. None the less, as a boy, he tells us, he had read Bruce and applied his Abyssinian methods to the New River (see the Elia essay on Newspapers).
"The crow on the sand." In "The Farmer of Tilsbury Vale":—
As lonely he stood as a crow on the sands. Verse xii., line 4
Florinda's palliation of Roderick's crime is in Book X.; the retreat of Pelayo's family discovered, in Book XVI.; Pelayo made king, in Book XVIII. Landor's Count Julian, published in 1812, dealt with the same story, Florinda, whom Roderick violated, having been the daughter of the Count, a Spanish Goth. Julian devoted himself to Roderick's ruin, even turning traitor for the purpose. Southey's notes are tremendous— sometimes filling all but a line or two of the page.
"The White Doe." Wordsworth's poem The White Doe of Rylstone, to be published this year, 1815.
"Matilda Betham's Lay of Marie." We shall come to this shortly. The poem was still in MS.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY Aug. 9th, 1815.
Dear Southey,—Robinson is not on the circuit, as I erroneously stated in a letter to W. W., which travels with this, but is gone to Brussels, Ostend, Ghent, etc. But his friends the Colliers, whom I consulted respecting your friend's fate, remember to have heard him say, that Father Pardo had effected his escape (the cunning greasy rogue), and to the best of their belief is at present in Paris. To my thinking, it is a small matter whether there be one fat friar more or less in the world. I have rather a taste for clerical executions, imbibed from early recollections of the fate of the excellent Dodd. I hear Buonaparte has sued his habeas corpus, and the twelve judges are now sitting upon it at the Rolls.
Your boute-feu (bonfire) must be excellent of its kind. Poet Settle presided at the last great thing of the kind in London, when the pope was burnt in form. Do you provide any verses on this occasion? Your fear for Hartley's intellectuals is just and rational. Could not the Chancellor be petitioned to remove him? His lordship took Mr. Betty from under the paternal wing. I think at least he should go through a course of matter-of-fact with some sober man after the mysteries. Could not he spend a week at Poole's before he goes back to Oxford? Tobin is dead. But there is a man in my office, a Mr. Hedges, who proses it away from morning to night, and never gets beyond corporal and material verities. He'd get these crack-brain metaphysics out of the young gentleman's head as soon as any one I know. When I can't sleep o' nights, I imagine a dialogue with Mr. H. upon any given subject, and go prosing on in fancy with him, till I either laugh or fall asleep. I have literally found it answer. I am going to stand godfather; I don't like the business; I cannot muster up decorum for these occasions; I shall certainly disgrace the font. I was at Hazlitt's marriage, and had like to have been turned out several times during the ceremony. Any thing awful makes me laugh. I misbehaved once at a funeral. Yet I can read about these ceremonies with pious and proper feelings. The realities of life only seem the mockeries. I fear I must get cured along with Hartley, if not too inveterate. Don't you think Louis the Desirable is in a sort of quandary?
After all, Bonaparte is a fine fellow, as my barber says, and I should not mind standing bareheaded at his table to do him service in his fall. They should have given him Hampton Court or Kensington, with a tether extending forty miles round London. Qu. Would not the people have ejected the Brunswicks some day in his favour? Well, we shall see.
["Father Pardo." I have not traced this fat friar.
"The excellent Dodd." The Rev. William Dodd (1729-1777), compiler of The Beauties of Shakespeare, was hanged for forgery in 1777, when Lamb was two years old. The case caused immense public interest.
"Buonaparte." Waterloo had been fought on June 18.
"Your boute-feu." The bonfire in honour of Waterloo flamed on Skiddaw on August 21. See Southey's description in his letter to his brother, August 23, 1815 (Life and Correspondence, Vol. IV., page 120).
"Poet Settle." Elkanah Settle (1648-1724) was chief organiser of the procession on the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's birthday in 1680, when the Pope was burned in effigy.
Hartley Coleridge, now almost nineteen, after having been to school at Ambleside, had been sent to Oxford through the instrumentality of his uncle, Southey. At the time of Lamb's letter he was staying at Calne with his father. Mr. Betty was the Young Roscius, whom we have already seen, who, after retiring from the Phenomenon stage of his career in 1808, had since been to school and to Cambridge upon his earnings, and had now become an adult actor. Poole was Thomas Poole of Nether Stowey, whom we have seen: Coleridge's old and very sensible friend. Tobin would probably be James Webbe Tobin, the brother of the dramatist. He had died in 1814.
"I am going to stand godfather." To what child I do not know.
"Louis the Desirable"—Louis XVIII., styled by the Royalists "Le Desire."]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [P.M. August 9, 1815.] 9th Aug. 1815.
Dear Wordsworth, We acknowlege with pride the receit of both your hand writings, and desire to be ever had in kindly remembrance by you both and by Dorothy. Miss Hutchinson has just transmitted us a letter containing, among other chearful matter, the annunciation of a child born. Nothing of consequence has turned up in our parts since your departure. Mary and I felt quite queer after your taking leave (you W. W.) of us in St. Giles's. We wishd we had seen more of you, but felt we had scarce been sufficiently acknowleging for the share we had enjoyed of your company. We felt as if we had been not enough expressive of our pleasure. But our manners both are a little too much on this side of too-much-cordiality. We want presence of mind and presence of heart. What we feel comes too late, like an after thought impromptu. But perhaps you observed nothing of that which we have been painfully conscious of, and are, every day, in our intercourse with those we stand affected to through all the degrees of love. Robinson is on the Circuit. Our Panegyrist I thought had forgotten one of the objects of his youthful admiration, but I was agreeably removed from that scruple by the laundress knocking at my door this morning almost before I was up, with a present of fruit from my young friend, &c.—There is something inexpressibly pleasant to me in these presents. Be it fruit, or fowl, or brawn, or what not. Books are a legitimate cause of acceptance. If presents be not the soul of friendship, undoubtedly they are the most spiritual part of the body of that intercourse. There is too much narrowness of thinking in this point. The punctilio of acceptance methinks is too confined and straitlaced. I could be content to receive money, or clothes, or a joint of meat from a friend; why should he not send me a dinner as well as a dessert? I would taste him in the beasts of the field, and thro' all creation. Therefore did the basket of fruit of the juvenile Talfourd not displease me. Not that I have any thoughts of bartering or reciprocating these things. To send him any thing in return would be to reflect suspicion of mercenariness upon what I know he meant a freewill offering. Let him overcome me in bounty. In this strife a generous nature loves to be overcome. Alsager (whom you call Alsinger—and indeed he is rather singer than sager, no reflection upon his naturals neither) is well and in harmony with himself and the world. I don't know how he and those of his constitution keep their nerves so nicely balanced as they do. Or have they any? or are they made of packthread? He is proof against weather, ingratitude, meat under done, every weapon of fate. I have just now a jagged end of a tooth pricking against my tongue, which meets it half way in a wantonness of provocation, and there they go at it, the tongue pricking itself like the viper against the file, and the tooth galling all the gum inside and out to torture, tongue and tooth, tooth and tongue, hard at it, and I to pay the reckoning, till all my mouth is as hot as brimstone, and I'd venture the roof of my mouth that at this moment, at which I conjecture my full-happinessed friend is picking his crackers, not one of the double rows of ivory in his privileged mouth has as much as a flaw in it, but all perform their functions, and having performed it, expect to be picked (luxurious steeds!) and rubbed down. I don't think he could be robbed, or could have his house set on fire, or ever want money. I have heard him express a similar opinion of his own impassibility. I keep acting here Heautontimorumenos. M. Burney has been to Calais and has come home a travelld Monsieur. He speaks nothing but the Gallic Idiom. Field is on circuit. So now I believe I have given account of most that you saw at our Cabin. Have you seen a curious letter in Morn. Chron., by C. Ll., the genius of absurdity, respecting Bonaparte's suing out his Habeas Corpus. That man is his own moon. He has no need of ascending into that gentle planet for mild influences. You wish me some of your leisure. I have a glimmering aspect, a chink-light of liberty before me, which I pray God may prove not fallacious. My remonstrances have stirred up others to remonstrate, and altogether, there is a plan for separating certain parts of business from our department, which if it take place will produce me more time, i.e. my evenings free. It may be a means of placing me in a more conspicuous situation which will knock at my nerves another way, but I wait the issue in submission. If I can but begin my own day at 4 o Clock in the afternoon, I shall think myself to have Eden days of peace and liberty to what I have had. As you say, how a man can fill 3 volumes up with an Essay on the Drama is wonderful. I am sure a very few sheets would hold all I had to say on the subject, and yet I dare say —— as Von Slagel. Did you ever read Charron on Wisdom? or Patrick's Pilgrim? if neither, you have two great pleasures to come. I mean some day to attack Caryl on Job, six Folios. What any man can write, surely I may read. If I do but get rid of auditing Warehousekeepers Acc'ts. and get no worse-harassing task in the place of it, what a Lord of Liberty I shall be. I shall dance and skip and make mouths at the invisible event, and pick the thorns out of my pillow and throw 'em at rich men's night caps, and talk blank verse, hoity toity, and sing "A Clerk I was in London Gay," ban, ban, CaCaliban, like the emancipated monster, and go where I like, up this street or down that ally. Adieu, and pray that it may be my luck. Good be to you all.
["A child born." This was George Hutchinson, Mrs. Wordsworth's nephew.
"Our Panegyrist"—Thomas Noon Talfourd. This is Lamb's first mention of his future biographer. Talfourd was then just twenty, had published some poems, and was reading law with Chitty, the special pleader. He had met Lamb at the beginning of 1815 through William Evans, owner of The Pamphleteer, had scoured London for a copy of Rosamund Gray, and had written of Lamb in The Pamphleteer as one of the chief of living poets. He then became an ardent supporter of Wordsworth, his principal criticism of whom was written later for the New Monthly Magazine.
"If presents be not the soul of friendship." Lamb's "Thoughts on Presents of Game," written many years later for The Athenaeum, carries on this theme (see Vol. I.).
"Alsager." Thomas Massa Alsager, a friend of Crabb Robinson, and through him of Lamb, was a strange blend of the financial and the musical critic. He controlled the departments of Money and Music for The Times for many years.
"Field"—Barron Field (see note later).
"C. Ll."—Capell Lofft (see note on page 475). He wrote to the Morning Chronicle for August 2 and 3, 1815, as Lamb says. The gist of his argument was in this sentence:—
[7th para.] Bonaparte with the concurrence of the Admiralty, is within the limits of British local allegiance. He is a temporary, considered as private, though not a natural born subject, and as such within the limits of 31 Car. II. the Habeas Corpus Act, [etc.].
On August 10 he wrote again, quoting the lines from "The Tempest":—
The nobler action is, In virtue than in vengeance:—He being here The sole drift of our purpose, wrath here ends; Not a frown further.
"An Essay on the Drama." This cryptic passage refers, I imagine, to a translation by John Black, afterwards the editor of the Morning Chronicle, of August Von Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, 2 vols., 1815. Does Lamb mean
"And yet, I dare say, I know as much as Von Slagel did"?
"Charron on Wisdom" and "Patrick's Pilgrim." Pierre Charron's De la Sagesse, and Bishop Patrick's Parable of the Pilgrim, 1664, a curious independent anticipation of Bunyan. Lamb had written of both these books in a little essay contributed in 1813 to The Examiner, entitled "Books with One Idea in them" (see Vol. I.).
"A Clerk I was in London Gay." A song sung in Colman's "Inkle and Yarico," which Lamb actually did use as a motto for his Elia essay "The Superannuated Man," dealing with his emancipation, ten years later.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH HUTCHINSON [Dated at end: August 20, 1815.]
My dear friend, It is less fatigue to me to write upon lines, and I want to fill up as much of my paper as I can in gratitude for the pleasure your very kind letter has given me. I began to think I should not hear from you; knowing you were not fond of letter-writing I quite forgave you, but I was very sorry. Do not make a point of conscience of it, but if ever you feel an inclination you cannot think how much a few lines would delight me. I am happy to hear so good an account of your sister and child, and sincerely wish her a perfect recovery. I am glad you did not arrive sooner, you escaped much anxiety. I have just received a very chearful letter from Mrs. Morgan—the following I have picked out as I think it will interest you. "Hartley Coleridge has been with us for two months. Morgan invited him to pass the long vacation here in the hope that his father would be of great service to him in his studies: he seems to be extremely amiable. I believe he is to spend the next vacation at Lady Beaumont's. Your old friend Coleridge is very hard at work at the preface to a new Edition which he is just going to publish in the same form as Mr. Wordsworth's—at first the preface was not to exceed five or six pages, it has however grown into a work of great importance. I believe Morgan has already written nearly two hundred pages. The title of it is 'Autobiographia Literaria' to which are added 'Sybilline Leaves,' a collection of Poems by the same author. Calne has lately been much enlivened by an excellent company of players—last week they performed the 'Remorse' to a very crowded and brilliant audience; two of the characters were admirably well supported; at the request of the actors Morgan was behind the scenes all the time and assisted in the music &c."
Thanks to your kind interference we have had a very nice letter from Mr. Wordsworth. Of them and of you we think and talk quite with a painful regret that we did not see more of you, and that it may be so long before we meet again.
I am going to do a queer thing—I have wearied myself with writing a long letter to Mrs. Morgan, a part of which is an incoherent rambling account of a jaunt we have just been taking. I want to tell you all about it, for we so seldom do such things that it runs strangely in my head, and I feel too tired to give you other than the mere copy of the nonsense I have just been writing.
"Last Saturday was the grand feast day of the India House Clerks. I think you must have heard Charles talk of his yearly turtle feast. He has been lately much wearied with work, and, glad to get rid of all connected with it, he used Saturday, the feast day being a holiday, borrowed the Monday following, and we set off on the outside of the Cambridge Coach from Fetter Lane at eight o'clock, and were driven into Cambridge in great triumph by Hell Fire Dick five minutes before three. Richard is in high reputation, he is private tutor to the Whip Club. Journeys used to be tedious torments to me, but seated out in the open air I enjoyed every mile of the way—the first twenty miles was particularly pleasing to me, having been accustomed to go so far on that road in the Ware Stage Coach to visit my Grandmother in the days of other times.
"In my life I never spent so many pleasant hours together as I did at Cambridge. We were walking the whole time—out of one College into another. If you ask me which I like best I must make the children's traditionary unoffending reply to all curious enquirers—'Both.' I liked them all best. The little gloomy ones, because they were little gloomy ones. I felt as if I could live and die in them and never wish to speak again. And the fine grand Trinity College, Oh how fine it was! And King's College Chapel, what a place! I heard the Cathedral service there, and having been no great church goer of late years, that and the painted windows and the general effect of the whole thing affected me wonderfully.
"I certainly like St. John's College best. I had seen least of it, having only been over it once, so, on the morning we returned, I got up at six o'clock and wandered into it by myself—by myself indeed, for there was nothing alive to be seen but one cat, who followed me about like a dog. Then I went over Trinity, but nothing hailed me there, not even a cat.
"On the Sunday we met with a pleasant thing. We had been congratulating each other that we had come alone to enjoy, as the miser his feast, all our sights greedily to ourselves, but having seen all we began to grow flat and wish for this and tother body with us, when we were accosted by a young gownsman whose face we knew, but where or how we had seen him we could not tell, and were obliged to ask his name. He proved to be a young man we had seen twice at Alsager's. He turned out a very pleasant fellow—shewed us the insides of places—we took him to our Inn to dinner, and drank tea with him in such a delicious college room, and then again he supped with us. We made our meals as short as possible, to lose no time, and walked our young conductor almost off his legs. Even when the fried eels were ready for supper and coming up, having a message from a man who we had bribed for the purpose, that then we might see Oliver Cromwell, who was not at home when we called to see him, we sallied out again and made him a visit by candlelight—and so ended our sights. When we were setting out in the morning our new friend came to bid us good bye, and rode with us as far as Trompington. I never saw a creature so happy as he was the whole time he was with us, he said we had put him in such good spirits that [he] should certainly pass an examination well that he is to go through in six weeks in order to qualify himself to obtain a fellowship.
"Returning home down old Fetter Lane I could hardly keep from crying to think it was all over. With what pleasure [Charles] shewed me Jesus College where Coleridge was—the barbe[r's shop] where Manning was—the house where Lloyd lived—Franklin's rooms, a young schoolfellow with whom Charles was the first time he went to Cambridge: I peeped in at his window, the room looked quite deserted—old chairs standing about in disorder that seemed to have stood there ever since they had sate in them. I write sad nonsense about these things, but I wish you had heard Charles talk his nonsense over and over again about his visit to Franklin, and how he then first felt himself commencing gentleman and had eggs for his breakfast." Charles Lamb commencing gentleman!
A lady who is sitting by me seeing what I am doing says I remind her of her husband, who acknowledged that the first love letter he wrote to her was a copy of one he had made use of on a former occasion.
This is no letter, but if you give me any encouragement to write again you shall have one entirely to yourself: a little encouragement will do, a few lines to say you are well and remember us. I will keep this tomorrow, maybe Charles will put a few lines to it—I always send off a humdrum letter of mine with great satisfaction if I can get him to freshen it up a little at the end. Let me beg my love to your sister Johanna with many thanks. I have much pleasure in looking forward to her nice bacon, the maker of which I long have had a great desire to see.
God bless you, my dear Miss Hutchinson, I remain ever Your affectionate friend M. LAMB. Aug'st. 20.
CHARLES LAMB TO Miss HUTCHINSON (Added to same letter)
Dear Miss Hutchinson, I subscribe most willingly to all my sister says of her Enjoyment at Cambridge. She was in silent raptures all the while there and came home riding thro' the air (her 1st long outside journey) triumphing as if she had been graduated. I remember one foolish-pretty expression she made use of, "Bless the little churches how pretty they are," as those symbols of civilized life opened upon her view one after the other on this side Cambridge. You cannot proceed a mile without starting a steeple, with its little patch of villagery round it, enverduring the waste. I don't know how you will pardon part of her letter being a transcript, but writing to another Lady first (probably as the easiest task *) it was unnatural not to give you an acco't of what had so freshly delighted her, and would have been a piece of transcendant rhetorick (above her modesty) to have given two different accounts of a simple and univocal pleasure. Bless me how learned I write! but I always forget myself when I write to Ladies. One cannot tame one's erudition down to their merely English apprehensions. But this and all other faults you will excuse from yours truly
Our kindest loves to Joanna, if she will accept it from us who are merely NOMINAL to her, and to the child and child's parent. Yours again
[Mary Lamb adds this footnote:—]
* "Easiest Task." Not the true reason, but Charles had so connected Coleridge & Cambridge in my mind, by talking so much of him there, and a letter coming so fresh from him, in a manner that was the reason I wrote to them first. I make this apology perhaps quite unnecessarily, but I am of a very jealous temper myself, and more than once recollect having been offended at seeing kind expressions which had particularly pleased me in a friend's letter repeated word for word to another—Farewell once more.
[I have no idea why this charming letter was held back when Talfourd copied the Lamb-Wordsworth correspondence. The name of the young man who showed the Lambs such courtesy is not known.
Coleridge's literary plans were destined to change. The Biographia Literaria was published alone in 1817, and Sibylline Leaves alone later in the same year.—"Remorse" had been acted at Calne in June for the second time, a previous visit having been paid in 1813. Coleridge gave the manager a "flaming testimonial."—Lady Beaumont was the wife of Sir George Beaumont.
"Oliver Cromwell." The portrait by Cooper at Sidney Sussex College.
F.W. Franklin was with Lamb at Christ's Hospital. Afterwards he became Master of the Blue Coat School at Hertford. He is mentioned in the Elia essay on Christ's Hospital.]
MARY LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM
[No date. ? Late summer, 1815.]
My dear Miss Betham,—My brother and myself return you a thousand thanks for your kind communication. We have read your poem many times over with increased interest, and very much wish to see you to tell you how highly we have been pleased with it. May we beg one favour?—I keep the manuscript in the hope that you will grant it. It is that, either now or when the whole poem is completed, you will read it over with us. When I say with us, of course I mean Charles. I know that you have many judicious friends, but I have so often known my brother spy out errors in a manuscript which has passed through many judicious hands, that I shall not be easy if you do not permit him to look yours carefully through with you; and also you must allow him to correct the press for you.
If I knew where to find you I would call upon you. Should you feel nervous at the idea of meeting Charles in the capacity of a severe censor, give me a line, and I will come to you any where, and convince you in five minutes that he is even timid, stammers, and can scarcely speak for modesty and fear of giving pain when he finds himself placed in that kind of office. Shall I appoint a time to see you here when he is from home? I will send him out any time you will name; indeed, I am always naturally alone till four o'clock. If you are nervous about coming, remember I am equally so about the liberty I have taken, and shall be till we meet and laugh off our mutual fears.
Yours most affectionately M. LAMB.
CHARLES LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM [No date. 1815].
Dear Miss Betham,—That accursed word trill has vexed me excessively. I have referred to the MS. and certainly the printer is exonerated, it is much more like a tr than a k. But what shall I say of myself?
If you can trust me hereafter, I will be more careful. I will go thro' the Poem, unless you should feel more safe by doing it yourself. In fact a second person looking over a proof is liable to let pass anything that sounds plausible. The act of looking it over seeming to require only an attention to the words that they have the proper component letters, one scarce thinks then (or but half) of the sense.—You will find one line I have ventured to alter in 3'd sheet. You had made hope & yoke rhime, which is intolerable. Every body can see & carp at a bad rhime or no rhime. It strikes as slovenly, like bad spelling.
I found out another sung but I could not alter it, & I would not delay the time by writing to you. Besides it is not at all conspicuous—it comes in by the bye 'the strains I sung.' The other obnoxious word was in an eminent place, at the beginning of her Lay, when all ears are upon her.
I must conclude hastily, dear M. B. Yours C. L.
[These letters refer to The Lay of Marie. In Mr. Ernest Betham's A House of Letters will be found six other letters (see pp. 161, 163, 164, 166, 232) all bearing upon Matilda Betham's poem.]
CHARLES LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM
Dr Miss Betham,—All this while I have been tormenting myself with the thought of having been ungracious to you, and you have been all the while accusing yourself. Let us absolve one another & be quits. My head is in such a state from incapacity for business that I certainly know it to be my duty not to undertake the veriest trifle in addition. I hardly know how I can go on. I have tried to get some redress by explaining my health, but with no great success. No one can tell how ill I am, because it does not come out to the exterior of my face, but lies in my scull deep & invisible. I wish I was leprous & black jaundiced skin-over, and [? or] that all was as well within as my cursed looks. You must not think me worse than I am. I am determined not to be overset, but to give up business rather and get 'em to allow me a trifle for services past. O that I had been a shoe-maker or a baker, or a man of large independ't fortune. O darling Laziness! heaven of Epicurus! Saints Everlasting Rest! that I could drink vast potations of thee thro' unmeasured Eternity. Otium cum vel sine dignitate. Scandalous, dishonorable, any-kind-of-repose. I stand not upon the dignified sort. Accursed damned desks, trade, commerce, business—Inventions of that old original busybody brainworking Satan, Sabbathless restless Satan—
A curse relieves. Do you ever try it?
A strange Letter this to write to a Lady, but mere honey'd sentences will not distill. I dare not ask who revises in my stead. I have drawn you into a scrape. I am ashamed, but I know no remedy. My unwellness must be my apology. God bless you (tho' he curse the India House & fire it to the ground) and may no unkind Error creep into Marie, may all its readers like it as well as I do & everybody about you like its kind author no worse. Why the devil am I never to have a chance of scribbling my own free thoughts, verse or prose, again? Why must I write of Tea & Drugs & Price Goods & bales of Indigo—farewell.
[Written at head of Letter on margin the following:—]
Mary goes to her Place on Sunday—I mean your maid, foolish Mary. She wants a very little brains only to be an excellent Serv. She is excellently calculated for the country, where nobody has brains.
[Mr. Ernest Betham, in A House of Letters, dates the foregoing June 1, 1816; but I place it here none the less.
In the passage concerning work and leisure we see another hint of the sonnet on "Work" which Lamb was to write a little later.
Here should come two notes to William Ayrton, printed by Mr. Macdonald, referring to the musical use of the word "air."]
CHARLES LAMB TO SARAH HUTCHINSON
Thursday 19 Oct. 1815.
My brother is gone to Paris.
Dear Miss H.—I am forced to be the replier to your Letter, for Mary has been ill and gone from home these five weeks yesterday. She has left me very lonely and very miserable. I stroll about, but there is no rest but at one's own fireside, and there is no rest for me there now. I look forward to the worse half being past, and keep up as well as I can. She has begun to show some favorable symptoms. The return of her disorder has been frightfully soon this time, with scarce a six month's interval. I am almost afraid my worry of spirits about the E. I. House was partly the cause of her illness, but one always imputes it to the cause next at hand; more probably it comes from some cause we have no control over or conjecture of. It cuts sad great slices out of the time, the little time we shall have to live together. I don't know but the recurrence of these illnesses might help me to sustain her death better than if we had had no partial separations. But I won't talk of death. I will imagine us immortal, or forget that we are otherwise; by God's blessing in a few weeks we may be making our meal together, or sitting in the front row of the Pit at Drury Lane, or taking our evening walk past the theatres, to look at the outside of them at least, if not to be tempted in. Then we forget we are assailable, we are strong for the time as rocks, the wind is tempered to the shorn Lambs. Poor C. Lloyd, and poor Priscilla, I feel I hardly feel enough for him, my own calamities press about me and involve me in a thick integument not to be reached at by other folks' misfortunes. But I feel all I can, and all the kindness I can towards you all. God bless you. I hear nothing from Coleridge. Yours truly
[Mary Lamb had recovered from her preceding attack in February. She did not recover from the present illness until December.
"The wind is tempered to the shorn Lambs." "'But God tempers the wind,' said Maria, 'to the shorn lamb'" (Sterne's Sentimental Journey). Also in Henri Estienne (1594).
"Poor C. Lloyd, and poor Priscilla." Priscilla Wordsworth (nee Lloyd) died this month, aged thirty-three. Charles Lloyd having just completed his translation of the tragedies of Alfieri, published in 1815, had been prostrated by the most serious visitation of his malady that he had yet suffered.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING Dec. 25th, 1815.
Dear old friend and absentee,—This is Christmas-day 1815 with us; what it may be with you I don't know, the 12th of June next year perhaps; and if it should be the consecrated season with you, I don't see how you can keep it. You have no turkeys; you would not desecrate the festival by offering up a withered Chinese bantam, instead of the savoury grand Norfolcian holocaust, that smokes all around my nostrils at this moment from a thousand firesides. Then what puddings have you? Where will you get holly to stick in your churches, or churches to stick your dried tea-leaves (that must be the substitute) in? What memorials you can have of the holy time, I see not. A chopped missionary or two may keep up the thin idea of Lent and the wilderness; but what standing evidence have you of the Nativity?—'tis our rosy-cheeked, homestalled divines, whose faces shine to the tune of unto us a child; faces fragrant with the mince-pies of half a century, that alone can authenticate the cheerful mystery—I feel.
I feel my bowels refreshed with the holy tide—my zeal is great against the unedified heathen. Down with the Pagodas—down with the idols— Ching-chong-fo—and his foolish priesthood! Come out of Babylon, O my friend! for her time is come, and the child that is native, and the Proselyte of her gates, shall kindle and smoke together! And in sober sense what makes you so long from among us, Manning? You must not expect to see the same England again which you left.
Empires have been overturned, crowns trodden into dust, the face of the western world quite changed: your friends have all got old—those you left blooming—myself (who am one of the few that remember you) those golden hairs which you recollect my taking a pride in, turned to silvery and grey. Mary has been dead and buried many years—she desired to be buried in the silk gown you sent her. Rickman, that you remember active and strong, now walks out supported by a servant-maid and a stick. Martin Burney is a very old man. The other day an aged woman knocked at my door, and pretended to my acquaintance; it was long before I had the most distant cognition of her; but at last together we made her out to be Louisa, the daughter of Mrs. Topham, formerly Mrs. Morton, who had been Mrs. Reynolds, formerly Mrs. Kenney, whose first husband was Holcroft, the dramatic writer of the last century. St. Paul's Church is a heap of ruins; the Monument isn't half so high as you knew it, divers parts being successively taken down which the ravages of time had rendered dangerous; the horse at Charing Cross is gone, no one knows whither,—and all this has taken place while you have been settling whether Ho-hing-tong should be spelt with a —— or a ——. For aught I see you had almost as well remain where you are, and not come like a Struldbug into a world where few were born when you went away. Scarce here and there one will be able to make out your face; all your opinions will be out of date, your jokes obsolete, your puns rejected with fastidiousness as wit of the last age. Your way of mathematics has already given way to a new method, which after all is I believe the old doctrine of Maclaurin, new-vamped up with what he borrowed of the negative quantity of fluxions from Euler.
Poor Godwin! I was passing his tomb the other day in Cripplegate churchyard. There are some verses upon it written by Miss Hayes, which if I thought good enough I would send you. He was one of those who would have hailed your return, not with boisterous shouts and clamours, but with the complacent gratulations of a philosopher anxious to promote knowledge as leading to happiness—but his systems and his theories are ten feet deep in Cripplegate mould. Coleridge is just dead, having lived just long enough to close the eyes of Wordsworth, who paid the debt to nature but a week or two before. Poor Col., but two days before he died he wrote to a bookseller proposing an epic poem on the "Wanderings of Cain," in twenty-four books. It is said he has left behind him more than forty thousand treatises in criticism and metaphysics, but few of them in a state of completion. They are now destined, perhaps, to wrap up spices. You see what mutations the busy hand of Time has produced, while you have consumed in foolish voluntary exile that time which might have gladdened your friends—benefited your country; but reproaches are useless. Gather up the wretched reliques, my friend, as fast as you can, and come to your old home. I will rub my eyes and try to recognise you. We will shake withered hands together, and talk of old things—of St. Mary's Church and the barber's opposite, where the young students in mathematics used to assemble. Poor Crisp, that kept it afterwards, set up a fruiterer's shop in Trumpington-street, and for aught I know, resides there still, for I saw the name up in the last journey I took there with my sister just before she died. I suppose you heard that I had left the India House, and gone into the Fishmongers' Almshouses over the bridge. I have a little cabin there, small and homely; but you shall be welcome to it. You like oysters, and to open them yourself; I'll get you some if you come in oyster time. Marshall, Godwin's old friend, is still alive, and talks of the faces you used to make.
Come as soon as you can. C. LAMB.
[Since Lamb's last letter Manning had entered Lhassa, the sacred city of Thibet, being the first Englishman to do so. He remained there until April, 1812, when he returned to Calcutta. Then he took up his abode once more in Canton, and, in 1816, moved to Peking as interpreter to Lord Amherst's embassy, returning to England the following year.
"Norfolcian." Manning was a Norfolk man.
"Maclaurin." Here Lamb surprises the reader by a reasonable remark. Colin Maclaurin, the mathematician, was the author of A Treatise of Fluxions.
Coleridge actually had begun many years before an epic on the subject of the "Wanderings of Cain."]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING Dec. 26th, 1815.
Dear Manning,—Following your brother's example, I have just ventured one letter to Canton, and am now hazarding another (not exactly a duplicate) to St. Helena. The first was full of unprobable romantic fictions, fitting the remoteness of the mission it goes upon; in the present I mean to confine myself nearer to truth as you come nearer home. A correspondence with the uttermost parts of the earth necessarily involves in it some heat of fancy; it sets the brain agoing; but I can think on the half-way house tranquilly. Your friends, then, are not all dead or grown forgetful of you through old age, as that lying letter asserted, anticipating rather what must happen if you kept tarrying on for ever on the skirts of creation, as there seemed a danger of your doing—but they are all tolerably well and in full and perfect comprehension of what is meant by Manning's coming home again. Mrs. Kenney (ci-devant Holcroft) never let her tongue run riot more than in remembrances of you. Fanny expends herself in phrases that can only be justified by her romantic nature. Mary reserves a portion of your silk, not to be buried in (as the false nuncio asserts), but to make up spick and span into a new bran gown to wear when you come. I am the same as when you knew me, almost to a surfeiting identity. This very night I am going to leave off tobacco! Surely there must be some other world in which this unconquerable purpose shall be realised. The soul hath not her generous aspirings implanted in her in vain. One that you knew, and I think the only one of those friends we knew much of in common, has died in earnest. Poor Priscilla, wife of Kit Wordsworth! Her brother Robert is also dead, and several of the grown-up brothers and sisters, in the compass of a very few years. Death has not otherwise meddled much in families that I know. Not but he has his damn'd eye upon us, and is w[h]etting his infernal feathered dart every instant, as you see him truly pictured in that impressive moral picture, "The good man at the hour of death." I have in trust to put in the post four letters from Diss, and one from Lynn, to St. Helena, which I hope will accompany this safe, and one from Lynn, and the one before spoken of from me, to Canton. But we all hope that these latter may be waste paper. I don't know why I have forborne writing so long. But it is such a forlorn hope to send a scrap of paper straggling over wide oceans. And yet I know when you come home, I shall have you sitting before me at our fireside just as if you had never been away. In such an instant does the return of a person dissipate all the weight of imaginary perplexity from distance of time and space! I'll promise you good oysters. Cory is dead, that kept the shop opposite St. Dunstan's, but the tougher materials of the shop survive the perishing frame of its keeper. Oysters continue to flourish there under as good auspices. Poor Cory! But if you will absent yourself twenty years together, you must not expect numerically the same population to congratulate your return which wetted the sea-beach with their tears when you went away. Have you recovered the breathless stone-staring astonishment into which you must have been thrown upon learning at landing that an Emperor of France was living in St. Helena? What an event in the solitude of the seas! like finding a fish's bone at the top of Plinlimmon; but these things are nothing in our western world. Novelties cease to affect. Come and try what your presence can.
God bless you.—Your old friend, C. LAMB.
[Robert Lloyd had died in 1811, and within a few days one of his brothers and one of his sisters.
"The good man at the hour of death." I have not found the picture to which Lamb refers. Probably a popular print of the day, or he may have been incorrectly remembering Blake's "Death of the Good Old Man" in Blair's Grave.
Manning, by changing his plans, did not reach St. Helena when he expected to; not, indeed, until July, 1817, when he met Napoleon.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [Dated at end: April 9, 1816.]
Dear Wordsworth—Thanks for the books you have given me and for all the Books you mean to give me. I will bind up the Political Sonnets and Ode according to your Suggestion. I have not bound the poems yet. I wait till People have done borrowing them. I think I shall get a chain, and chain them to my shelves More Bodleiano, and People may come and read them at chain's length. For of those who borrow, some read slow, some mean to read but don't read, and some neither read nor meant to read, but borrow to leave you an opinion of their sagacity. I must do my money-borrowing friends the justice to say that there is nothing of this caprice or wantonness of alienation in them. When they borrow my money, they never fail to make use of it. Coleridge has been here about a fortnight. His health is tolerable at present, though beset with temptations. In the first place, the Cov. Card. Manager has declined accepting his Tragedy, tho' (having read it) I see no reason upon earth why it might not have run a very fair chance, tho' it certainly wants a prominent part for a Miss O Neil or a Mr. Kean. However he is going to day to write to Lord Byron to get it to Drury. Should you see Mrs. C., who has just written to C. a letter which I have given him, it will be as well to say nothing about its fate till some answer is shaped from Drury. He has two volumes printing together at Bristol, both finished as far as the composition goes; the latter containing his fugitive Poems, the former his Literary Life. Nature, who conducts every creature by instinct to its best end, has skilfully directed C. to take up his abode at a Chemist's Laboratory in Norfolk Street. She might as well have sent a Helluo Librorum for cure to the Vatican. God keep him inviolate among the traps and pitfalls. He has done pretty well as yet.
Tell Miss H. my sister is every day wishing to be quietly sitting down to answer her very kind Letter, but while C. stays she can hardly find a quiet time, God bless him.
Tell Mrs. W. her Postscripts are always agreeable. They are so legible too. Your manual graphy is terrible, dark as Lycophron. "Likelihood" for instance is thus typified [here Lamb makes an illegible scribble].
I should not wonder if the constant making out of such Paragraphs is the cause of that weakness in Mrs. W.'s Eyes as she is tenderly pleased to express it. Dorothy I hear has mounted spectacles; so you have deoculated two of your dearest relations in life. Well, God bless you and continue to give you power to write with a finger of power upon our hearts what you fail to impress in corresponding lucidness upon our outward eyesight.
Mary's Love to all, She is quite well.
I am call'd off to do the deposits on Cotton Wool—but why do I relate this to you who want faculties to comprehend the great mystery of Deposits, of Interest, of Warehouse rent, and Contingent Fund—Adieu. C. LAMB.
A longer Letter when C. is gone back into the Country, relating his success, &c.—my judgment of your new Books &c. &c.—I am scarce quiet enough while he stays.
Yours again C. L.
Tuesday 9 Apr. 1816.
[Wordsworth had sent Lamb, presumably in proof (see next letter), Thanksgiving Ode, 18 Jan. 1816, with other short pieces chiefly referring to recent events, 1816—the subject of the ode being the peace that had come upon Europe with the downfall of Napoleon. It follows in the collected works the sonnets to liberty.
"More Bodleiano." According to Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library (second edition, 1890, page 121), books seem to have been chained in the Bodleian Library up to 1751. The process of removing the chains seems to have begun in 1757. In 1761 as many as 1,448 books were unchained at a cost of a 1/2d. a piece. A dozen years later discarded chains were sold at the rate of 2d. for a long chain, 11/2d. for a short one, and if one hankered after a hundred-weight of them, the wish could be gratified on payment of 14s. Many loose chains are still preserved in the library as relics.
"For of those who borrow." Lamb's Elia essay, "The Two Races of Men," may have had its germ in this passage.
Coleridge came to London from Calne in March bringing with him the manuscript of "Zapolya." He had already had correspondence with Lord Byron concerning a tragedy for Drury Lane, on whose committee Byron had a seat, but he had done nothing towards writing it. "Zapolya" was never acted. It was published in 1817. Coleridge's lodgings were at 43 Norfolk Street, Strand. See next letter for further news of Coleridge at this time.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [April 26, 1816.]
Please to state the Weights and Amounts of the following Lots of sold Sale, 181 for Your obedient Servant,
CHAS. LAMB. Accountant's Office, 26 Apr. 1816
Dear W. I have just finished the pleasing task of correcting the Revise of the Poems and letter. I hope they will come out faultless. One blunder I saw and shuddered at. The hallucinating rascal had printed battered for battened, this last not conveying any distinct sense to his gaping soul. The Reader (as they call 'em) had discovered it and given it the marginal brand, but the substitutory n had not yet appeared. I accompanied his notice with a most pathetic address to the Printer not to neglect the Correction. I know how such a blunder would "batter at your Peace." [Batter is written batten and corrected to batter in the margin.] With regard to the works, the Letter I read with unabated satisfaction. Such a thing was wanted, called for. The parallel of Cotton with Burns I heartily approve; Iz. Walton hallows any page in which his reverend name appears. "Duty archly bending to purposes of general benevolence" is exquisite. The Poems I endeavored not to understand, but to read them with my eye alone, and I think I succeeded. (Some people will do that when they come out, you'll say.) As if I were to luxuriate to-morrow at some Picture Gallery I was never at before, and going by to day by chance, found the door open, had but 5 minutes to look about me, peeped in, just such a chastised peep I took with my mind at the lines my luxuriating eye was coursing over unrestrained,— not to anticipate another day's fuller satisfaction. Coleridge is printing Xtabel, by L'd Byron's recommendation to Murray, with what he calls a vision, Kubla Khan—which said vision he repeats so enchantingly that it irradiates and brings heaven and Elysian bowers into my parlour while he sings or says it, but there is an observation "Never tell thy dreams," and I am almost afraid that Kubla Khan is an owl that won't bear day light, I fear lest it should be discovered by the lantern of typography and clear redacting to letters, no better than nonsense or no sense. When I was young I used to chant with extacy Mild Arcadians ever blooming, till somebody told me it was meant to be nonsense. Even yet I have a lingering attachment to it, and think it better than Windsor Forest, Dying Xtian's address &c.—C. has sent his Tragedy to D.L.T.—it cannot be acted this season, and by their manner of receiving it, I hope he will be able to alter it to make them accept it for next. He is at present under the medical care of a Mr. Gilman (Killman?) a Highgate Apothecary, where he plays at leaving off Laud——m. I think his essentials not touched: he is very bad, but then he wonderfully picks up another day, and his face when he repeats his verses hath its ancient glory, an Archangel a little damaged.
Will Miss H. pardon our not replying at length to her kind Letter? We are not quiet enough. Morgan is with us every day, going betwixt Highgate and the Temple. Coleridge is absent but 4 miles, and the neighborhood of such a man is as exciting as the presence of 50 ordinary Persons. 'Tis enough to be within the whiff and wind of his genius, for us not to possess our souls in quiet. If I lived with him or the author of the Excursion, I should in a very little time lose my own identity, and be dragged along in the current of other people's thoughts, hampered in a net. How cool I sit in this office, with no possible interruption further than what I may term material; there is not as much metaphysics in 36 of the people here as there is in the first page of Locke's treatise on the Human understanding, or as much poetry as in any ten lines of the Pleasures of Hope or more natural Beggar's Petition. I never entangle myself in any of their speculations. Interruptions, if I try to write a letter even, I have dreadful. Just now within 4 lines I was call'd off for ten minutes to consult dusty old books for the settlement of obsolete Errors. I hold you a guinea you don't find the Chasm where I left off, so excellently the wounded sense closed again and was healed.
N.B. Nothing said above to the contrary but that I hold the personal presence of the two mentioned potent spirits at a rate as high as any, but I pay dearer, what amuses others robs me of myself, my mind is positively discharged into their greater currents, but flows with a willing violence. As to your question about work, it is far less oppressive to me than it was, from circumstances; it takes all the golden part of the day away, a solid lump from ten to four, but it does not kill my peace as before. Some day or other I shall be in a taking again. My head akes and you have had enough. God bless you.
[Lamb had been correcting the proofs of Wordsworth's Letter to a Friend of Burns and his Thanksgiving Ode, with other short Pieces, both published in 1816. In the Letter to a Friend of Robert Burns, which was called forth by the intended republication of Burns' life by Dr. Currie, Wordsworth incidentally compares Burns and Cotton. The phrase which Lamb commends is in the description of "Tam o' Shanter" (page 22)—"This reprobate sits down to his cups, while the storm is roaring, and heaven and earth are in confusion;—the night is driven on by song and tumultuous noise—laughter and jest thicken as the beverage improves upon the palate—conjugal fidelity archly bends to the service of general benevolence—selfishness is not absent, but wearing the mask of social cordiality...."
Coleridge's Christabel (with Kubla Khan and The Pains of Sleep) was published by Murray in 1816. It ran into a second edition quickly, but was not too well received. The Edinburgh indeed described it as destitute of one ray of genius. In a letter from Fanny Godwin to Mary Shelley, July 20, 1816, in Dowden's Life of Shelley, we read that "Lamb says Christabel ought never to have been published; and that no one understood it, and Kubla Khan is nonsense." But this was probably idle gossip. Lamb had admired Christabel to the full, but he may have thought its publication in an incomplete state an error.
Coleridge was introduced to Mr. James Gillman of the Grove, Highgate, by Dr. Adams of Hatton Garden, to whom he had applied for medical aid. Adams suggested that Gillman should take Coleridge into his house. Gillman arranged on April 11 that Adams should bring Coleridge on the following day. Coleridge went alone and conquered. He promised to begin domestication on the next day, and "I looked with impatience," wrote Gillman in his Life of Coleridge, "for the morrow ... I felt indeed almost spellbound, without the desire of release." Coleridge did not come on the morrow, but two days later. He remained with the Gillmans for the rest of his life.
The Pleasures of Hope, by Thomas Campbell; The Beggar's Petition—"Pity the sorrows of a poor old man"—by Thomas Moss (1740-1808), a ditty in all the recitation books. Lamb alluded to it in the London Magazine version of his Elia essay, "A Complaint of the Decay of Beggars."
Here should come a brief note from Lamb to Leigh Hunt, dated May 13, 1816, accompanying Falstaff's Letters, etc., and a gift of "John Woodvil." This is Lamb's first letter to James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) that has been preserved. He had known Hunt (an old Christ's Hospitaller, but later than Lamb's day) for some years. To his Reflector he contributed a number of essays and humorous letters in 1810-1811; and he had written also for The Examiner in 1812 and during Hunt's imprisonment in 1813-1815. The Lambs visited him regularly at the Surrey Jail. One of Lamb's most charming poems is inscribed "To T. L. H."—Thornton Leigh Hunt, whom he called his "favourite child."]
CHARLES LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM [Dated at end: June 1, 1816.]
Dear Miss Betham,—I have sent your very pretty lines to Southey in a frank as you requested. Poor S. what a grievous loss he must have had! Mary and I rejoice in the prospect of seeing you soon in town. Let us be among the very first persons you come to see. Believe me that you can have no friends who respect and love you more than ourselves. Pray present our kind remembrances to Barbara, and to all to whom you may think they will be acceptable.
Yours very sincerely, C. LAMB.
Have you seen Christabel since its publication? E. I. H. June 1 1816.
[Southey's eldest son, Herbert, had died in April of this year. Here should come a letter from Lamb to H. Dodwell, of the India House, dated August, 1816, not available for this edition. Lamb writes from Calne, in Wiltshire, where he and his sister were making holiday, staying with the Morgans. He states that he has lost all sense of time, and recollected that he must return to work some day only through the accident of playing Commerce instead of whist.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [P.M. September 23, 1816.]
My dear Wordsworth, It seems an age since we have corresponded, but indeed the interim has been stuffd out with more variety than usually checquers my same-seeming existence.—Mercy on me, what a traveller have I been since I wrote you last! what foreign wonders have been explored! I have seen Bath, King Bladud's ancient well, fair Bristol, seed-plot of suicidal Chatterton, Marlbro', Chippenham, Calne, famous for nothing in particular that I know of—but such a vertigo of locomotion has not seized us for years. We spent a month with the Morgans at the last named Borough—August—and such a change has the change wrought in us that we could not stomach wholesome Temple air, but are absolutely rusticating (O the gentility of it) at Dalston, about one mischievous boy's stone's throw off Kingsland Turnpike, one mile from Shoreditch church,—thence we emanate in various directions to Hackney, Clapton, Totnam, and such like romantic country. That my lungs should ever prove so dainty as to fancy they perceive differences of air! but so it is, tho' I am almost ashamed of it, like Milton's devil (turn'd truant to his old Brimstone) I am purging off the foul air of my once darling tobacco in this Eden, absolutely snuffing up pure gales, like old worn out Sin playing at being innocent, which never comes again, for in spite of good books and good thoughts there is something in a Pipe that virtue cannot give tho' she give her unendowed person for a dowry. Have you read the review of Coleridge's character, person, physiognomy &c. in the Examiner—his features even to his nose—O horrible license beyond the old Comedy. He is himself gone to the sea side with his favorite Apothecary, having left for publication as I hear a prodigious mass of composition for a Sermon to the middling ranks of people to persuade them they are not so distressed as is commonly supposed. Methinks he should recite it to a congregation of Bilston Colliers,—the fate of Cinna the Poet would instantaneously be his. God bless him, but certain that rogue Examiner has beset him in most unmannerly strains. Yet there is a kind of respect shines thro' the disrespect that to those who know the rare compound (that is the subject of it) almost balances the reproof, but then those who know him but partially or at a distance are so extremely apt to drop the qualifying part thro' their fingers. The "after all, Mr. Wordsworth is a man of great talents, if he did not abuse them" comes so dim upon the eyes of an Edinbro' review reader, that have been gloating-open chuckle-wide upon the preceding detail of abuses, it scarce strikes the pupil with any consciousness of the letters being there, like letters writ in lemon. There was a cut at me a few months back by the same hand, but my agnomen or agni-nomen not being calculated to strike the popular ear, it dropt anonymous, but it was a pretty compendium of observation, which the author has collected in my disparagement, from some hundreds of social evenings which we had spent together,—however in spite of all, there is something tough in my attachment to H—— which these violent strainings cannot quite dislocate or sever asunder. I get no conversation in London that is absolutely worth attending to but his. There is monstrous little sense in the world, or I am monstrous clever, or squeamish or something, but there is nobody to talk to—to talk with I should say—and to go talking to one's self all day long is too much of a good thing, besides subjecting one to the imputation of being out of one's senses, which does no good to one's temporal interest at all. By the way, I have seen Coler'ge but once this 3 or 4 months. He is an odd person, when he first comes to town he is quite hot upon visiting, and then he turns off and absolutely never comes at all, but seems to forget there are any such people in the world. I made one attempt to visit him (a morning call) at Highgate, but there was something in him or his apothecary which I found so unattractively-repulsing-from any temptation to call again, that I stay away as naturally as a Lover visits. The rogue gives you Love Powders, and then a strong horse drench to bring 'em off your stomach that they mayn't hurt you. I was very sorry the printing of your Letter was not quite to your mind, but I surely did not think but you had arranged the manner of breaking the paragraphs from some principle known to your own mind, and for some of the Errors, I am confident that Note of Admiration in the middle of two words did not stand so when I had it, it must have dropt out and been replaced wrong, so odious a blotch could not have escaped me. Gifford (whom God curse) has persuaded squinting Murray (whom may God not bless) not to accede to an offer Field made for me to print 2 vols. of Essays, to include the one on Hog'rth and 1 or 2 more, but most of the matter to be new, but I dare say I should never have found time to make them; M. would have had 'em, but shewed specimens from the Reflector to G—-, as he acknowleged to Field, and Crispin did for me. "Not on his soal but on his soul, damn'd Jew" may the malediction of my eternal antipathy light—We desire much to hear from you, and of you all, including Miss Hutchinson, for not writing to whom Mary feels a weekly (and did for a long time feel a daily) Pang. How is Southey?—I hope his pen will continue to move many years smoothly and continuously for all the rubs of the rogue Examiner. A pertinacious foul-mouthed villain it is!
This is written for a rarity at the seat of business: it is but little time I can generally command from secular calligraphy—the pen seems to know as much and makes letters like figures—an obstinate clerkish thing. It shall make a couplet in spite of its nib before I have done with it,
"and so I end Commending me to your love, my dearest friend." from Leaden Hall, Septem'r something, 1816 C. LAMB.
[The Lambs had taken summer lodgings—at 14 Kingsland Row, Dalston—which they retained for some years.
Hazlitt's article on Coleridge was in The Examiner for September 8. Among other things Hazlitt said: "Mr. Shandy would have settled the question at once: 'You have little or no nose, Sir.'"
One passage in the article gives colour to the theory that Hazlitt occasionally borrowed from Lamb's conversation. In Lamb's letter to Wordsworth of April 20, 1816, he has the celebrated description of Coleridge, "an archangel a little damaged." Hazlitt in this article writes: "If he had had but common moral principle, that is, sincerity, he would have been a great man; nor hardly, as it is, appears to us—
"'Less than arch-angel ruined, and the excess Of glory obscur'd.'"
Hazlitt may have heard Lamb's epithet, backed probably by the same passage from Paradise Lost.
Crabb Robinson tells us, in his Diary, that Coleridge was less hurt by the article than he anticipated. "He denies H., however, originality, and ascribes to L. [Lamb] the best ideas in H.'s articles. He was not displeased to hear of his being knocked down by John Lamb lately."
Coleridge's new work was The Statesman's Manual; or, the Bible the best Guide to Political Skill and Foresight: A Lay Sermon, 1816. It had been first announced as "A Lay Sermon on the Distresses of the Country, addressed to the Middle and Higher Orders," and Hazlitt's article had been in the nature of an anticipatory review.
I do not find anywhere the "cut" at Lamb from Hazlitt's hand, or indeed any one's hand, to which Lamb refers. Hazlitt at this time was living at No. 19 York Street, Westminster, in Milton's old house.
"Agni-nomen." From agnus, a lamb.
"After all, Mr. Wordsworth ..."—the Edinburgh Review article on The Excursion, in November, 1814, beginning, "This will never do," had at least two lapses into fairness: "But the truth is, that Mr. Wordsworth, with all his perversities, is a person of great powers"; and "Nobody can be more disposed to do justice to the great powers of Mr. Wordsworth than we are."
"The printing of your Letter." The Letter to a Friend of Burns (see above).
"2 vols. of Essays." These were printed with poems as The Works of Charles Lamb by the Olliers in 1818 (see later).
"Crispin"—Gifford (see note to the letter to Wordsworth, early January, 1815).
"Southey." Hazlitt's attacks on the Laureate were continuous.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH HUTCHINSON
[No date. Middle of November, 1816.] Inner Temple.
My dear friend, I have procured a frank for this day, and having been hindered all the morning have no time left to frame excuses for my long and inexcusable silence, and can only thank you for the very kind way in which you overlook it. I should certainly have written on the receipt of yours but I had not a frank, and also I wished to date my letter from my own home where you expressed so cordial a wish to hear we had arrived. We have passed ten, I may call them very good weeks, at Dalston, for they completely answered the purpose for which we went. Reckoning our happy month at Calne, we have had quite a rural summer, and have obtained a very clear idea of the great benefit of quiet—of early hours and time intirely at one's own disposal, and no small advantages these things are; but the return to old friends—the sight of old familiar faces round me has almost reconciled me to occasional headachs and fits of peevish weariness—even London streets, which I sometimes used to think it hard to be eternally doomed to walk through before I could see a green field, seem quite delightful.
Charles smoked but one pipe while we were at Dalston and he has not transgressed much since his return. I hope he will only smoke now with his fellow-smokers, which will give him five or six clear days in the week. Shame on me, I did not even write to thank you for the bacon, upon which, and some excellent eggs your sister added to her kind present, we had so many nice feasts. I have seen Henry Robinson, who speaks in raptures of the days he passed with you. He says he never saw a man so happy in three wives as Mr. Wordsworth is. I long to join you and make a fourth, and we cannot help talking of the possibility in some future fortunate summer of venturing to come so far, but we generally end in thinking the possibility impossible, for I dare not come but by post chaises, and the expence would be enormous, yet it was very pleasing to read Mrs. Wordsworth's kind invitation and to feel a kind of latent hope of what might one day happen.
You ask how Coleridge maintains himself. I know no more than you do. Strange to say, I have seen him but once since he has been at Highgate, and then I met him in the street. I have just been reading your kind letter over again and find you had some doubt whether we had left the Temple entirely. It was merely a lodging we took to recruit our health and spirits. From the time we left Calne Charles drooped sadly, company became quite irksome, and his anxious desire to leave off smoking, and his utter inability to perform his daily resolutions against it, became quite a torment to him, so I prevailed with him to try the experiment of change of scene, and set out in one of the short stage coaches from Bishopsgate Street, Miss Brent and I, and we looked over all the little places within three miles and fixed on one quite countrified and not two miles from Shoreditch Church, and entered upon it the next day. I thought if we stayed but a week it would be a little rest and respite from our troubles, and we made a ten weeks stay, and very comfortable we were, so much so that if ever Charles is superannuated on a small pension, which is the great object of his ambition, and we felt our income straitened, I do think I could live in the country entirely—at least I thought so while I was there but since I have been at home I wish to live and die in the Temple where I was born. We left the trees so green it looked like early autumn, and can see but one leaf "The last of its clan" on our poor old Hare Court trees. What a rainy summer!—and yet I have been so much out of town and have made so much use of every fine day that I can hardly help thinking it has been a fine summer. We calculated we walked three hundred and fifty miles while we were in our country lodging. One thing I must tell you, Charles came round every morning to a shop near the Temple to get shaved. Last Sunday we had such a pleasant day, I must tell you of it. We went to Kew and saw the old Palace where the King was brought up, it was the pleasantest sight I ever saw, I can scarcely tell you why, but a charming old woman shewed it to us. She had lived twenty six years there and spoke with such a hearty love of our good old King, whom all the world seems to have forgotten, that it did me good to hear her. She was as proud in pointing out the plain furniture (and I am sure you are now sitting in a larger and better furnished room) of a small room in which the King always dined, nay more proud of the simplicity of her royal master's taste, than any shower of Carlton House can be in showing the fine things there, and so she was when she made us remark the smallness of one of the Princesses' bedrooms, and said she slept and also dressed in that little room. There are a great many good pictures but I was most pleased with one of the King when he was about two years old, such a pretty little white-headed boy.
I cannot express how much pleasure a letter from you gives us. If I could promise my self I should be always as well as I am now, I would say I will be a better correspondent in future. If Charles has time to add a line I shall be less ashamed to send this hasty scrawl. Love to all and every one. How much I should like once more to see Miss Wordsworth's handwriting, if she would but write a postscript to your next, which I look to receive in a few days.