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The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Vol. 5
Edited by E. V. Lucas
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Yours affectionately M. LAMB.

[Charles Lamb adds at the head:—]

Mary has barely left me room to say How d'ye. I have received back the Examiner containing the delicate enquiry into certain infirm parts of S. T. C.'s character. What is the general opinion of it? Farewell. My love to all.

C. LAMB.

["Miss Brent." Mrs. Morgan's sister.

Crabb Robinson had been in the Lake Country in September and October.

"To a shop near the Temple." Possibly to Mr. A—— of Flower-de-Luce Court, mentioned by Lamb in the footnote to his essay "On the Melancholy of Tailors" (see Vol. I.).

"Our good old King"—George III., then in retirement. Carlton House was the home of the Regent, whom Lamb (and probably his sister) detested—as his "Triumph of the Whale" and other squibs (see Vol. IV.) show.

Here should come a letter to Rickman, dated December 30, 1816. The chief news in it is that George Dyer has been made one of Lord Stanhope's ten Residuary Legatees. This, says Lamb, will settle Dyer's fate: he will have to throw his dirty glove at some one and marry.]



LETTER 234

MARY LAMB TO SARAH HUTCHINSON [No date. ? Late 1816.]

My dear Miss Hutchinson, I had intended to write you a long letter, but as my frank is dated I must send it off with a bare acknowledgment of the receipt of your kind letter. One question I must hastily ask you. Do you think Mr. Wordsworth would have any reluctance to write (strongly recommending to their patronage) to any of his rich friends in London to solicit employment for Miss Betham as a Miniature Painter? If you give me hopes that he will not be averse to do this, I will write to you more fully stating the infinite good he would do by performing so irksome a task as I know asking favours to be. In brief, she has contracted debts for printing her beautiful poem of "Marie," which like all things of original excellence does not sell at all.

These debts have led to little accidents unbecoming a woman and a poetess to suffer. Retirement with such should be voluntary.

[Charles Lamb adds:—]

The Bell rings. I just snatch the Pen out of my sister's hand to finish rapidly. Wordsw'th. may tell De Q that Miss B's price for a Virgin and Child is three guineas.

Yours (all of you) ever C. L.

["De Q"—Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), the "opium-eater," then living at Grasmere. Lamb and De Quincey had first met in 1804; but it was not until 1821 that they became really intimate, when Lamb introduced him to the London Magazine.

Miss Betham painted miniature portraits, among others, of Mrs. S. T. Coleridge and Sara Coleridge.

Here should come a note to William Ayrton dated April 18, 1817, thanking him for much pleasure at "Don Giovanni" (see note to next letter).

Somewhen in 1816 should come a letter from Lamb to Leigh Hunt on the publication of The Story of Rimini, mentioned in Leigh Hunt's Correspondence, of which this is the only sentence that is preserved: "The third Canto is in particular my favourite: we congratulate you most sincerely on the trait [? taste] of your prison fruit."]



LETTER 235

CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM AYRTON EPISTLE TO WILL'M. AYRTON ESQ'RE.

Temple, May 12, 1817.

My dear friend, Before I end,— Have you any More orders for Don Giovanni To give Him that doth live Your faithful Zany? Without raillery I mean Gallery Ones: For I am a person that shuns All ostentation And being at the top of the fashion; And seldom go to operas But in forma pauperis.

I go to the play In a very economical sort of a way, Rather to see Than be seen. Though I'm no ill sight Neither, By candle-light, And in some kinds of weather. You might pit me For height Against Kean; But in a grand tragic scene I'm nothing:— It would create a kind of loathing To see me act Hamlet; There'd be many a damn let Fly At my presumption If I should try, Being a fellow of no gumption.

By the way, tell me candidly how you relish This, which they call The lapidary style? Opinions vary. The late Mr. Mellish Could never abide it. He thought it vile, And coxcombical. My friend the Poet Laureat, Who is a great lawyer at Anything comical, Was the first who tried it; But Mellish could never abide it. But it signifies very little what Mellish said, Because he is dead. For who can confute A body that's mute?— Or who would fight With a senseless sprite?— Or think of troubling An impenetrable old goblin That's dead and gone, And stiff as stone, To convince him with arguments pro and con, As if some live logician, Bred up at Merton, Or Mr. Hazlitt, the Metaphysician— Hey, Mr. Ayrton! With all your rare tone.

For tell me how should an apparition List to your call, Though you talk'd for ever,— Ever so clever, When his ear itself, By which he must hear, or not hear at all, Is laid on the shelf? Or put the case (For more grace) It were a female spectre— Now could you expect her To take much gust In long speeches, With her tongue as dry as dust, In a sandy place, Where no peaches, Nor lemons, nor limes, nor oranges hang, To drop on the drought of an arid harangue, Or quench, With their sweet drench, The fiery pangs which the worms inflict, With their endless nibblings, Like quibblings, Which the corpse may dislike, but can ne'er contradict— Hey, Mr. Ayrton? With all your rare tone— I am. C. LAMB.

[The text is from Ayrton's transcript in a private volume lately in the possession of Mr. Edward Ayrton, lettered Lamb's Works, Vol. III., uniform with the 1818 edition.

William Ayrton (1777-1858), a friend and neighbour of the Burneys, and a member of Lamb's whist-playing set, was a musical critic, and at this time director of the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, where he had just produced Mozart's "Don Giovanni." His wife was Marianne Arnold, sister of Samuel James Arnold, manager of the Lyceum Theatre.

"You might pit me for height against Kean." This was so. Edmund Kean was small in stature, though not so "immaterially" built as Lamb is said to have been.

"Mr. Mellish." Possibly the Joseph Charles Mellish who translated Schiller.

The Laureate, Southey, had first tried the lapidary style in "Gooseberry Pie"; later, without rhymes, in "Thalaba."

Some time in the intervening three months before the next letter the Lambs went to Brighton for their holiday.]



LETTER 236

CHARLES LAMB TO BARRON FIELD Aug. 31st, 1817.

My dear Barren,—The bearer of this letter so far across the seas is Mr. Lawrey, who comes out to you as a missionary, and whom I have been strongly importuned to recommend to you as a most worthy creature by Mr. Fenwick, a very old, honest friend of mine, of whom, if my memory does not deceive me, you have had some knowledge heretofore as editor of the "Statesman"—a man of talent, and patriotic. If you can show him any facilities in his arduous undertaking, you will oblige us much. Well, and how does the land of thieves use you? and how do you pass your time in your extra-judicial intervals? Going about the streets with a lantern, like Diogenes, looking for an honest man? You may look long enough, I fancy. Do give me some notion of the manners of the inhabitants where you are. They don't thieve all day long, do they? No human property could stand such continuous battery. And what do they do when they an't stealing?

Have you got a theatre? What pieces are performed? Shakespear's, I suppose—not so much for the poetry, as for his having once been in danger of leaving his country on account of certain "small deer."

Have you poets among you? Cursed plagiarists, I fancy, if you have any. I would not trust an idea or a pocket-handkerchief of mine among 'em. You are almost competent to answer Lord Bacon's problem, whether a nation of atheists can subsist together. You are practically in one:—

"So thievish 'tis, that the eighth commandment itself Scarce seemeth there to be."

Our old honest world goes on with little perceptible variation. Of course you have heard of poor Mitchell's death, and that G. Dyer is one of Lord Stanhope's residuaries. I am afraid he has not touched much of the residue yet. He is positively as lean as Cassius. Barnes is going to Demerara or Essequibo, I am not quite certain which. A[lsager] is turned actor. He came out in genteel comedy at Cheltenham this season, and has hopes of a London engagement.

For my own history, I am just in the same spot, doing the same thing (videlicet, little or nothing,) as when you left me; only I have positive hopes that I shall be able to conquer that inveterate habit of smoking which you may remember I indulged in. I think of making a beginning this evening, viz., Sunday 31st August, 1817, not Wednesday, 2nd Feb., 1818, as it will be perhaps when you read this for the first time. There is the difficulty of writing from one end of the globe (hemispheres I call 'em) to another! Why, half the truths I have sent you in this letter will become lies before they reach you, and some of the lies (which I have mixed for variety's sake, and to exercise your judgment in the finding of them out) may be turned into sad realities before you shall be called upon to detect them. Such are the defects of going by different chronologies. Your now is not my now; and again, your then is not my then; but my now may be your then, and vice versa. Whose head is competent to these things?

How does Mrs. Field get on in her geography? Does she know where she is by this time? I am not sure sometimes you are not in another planet; but then I don't like to ask Capt. Burney, or any of those that know anything about it, for fear of exposing my ignorance.

Our kindest remembrances, however, to Mrs. F., if she will accept of reminiscences from another planet, or at least another hemisphere.

C. L.

[This is Lamb's first letter that has been preserved to Barron Field. Barron Field (1786-1846) was a lawyer, a son of Henry Field, apothecary to Christ's Hospital, and brother of a fellow-clerk of Lamb's in the India House. He had also been a contributor to Leigh Hunt's Reflector in 1810-1812. Field was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, whither he sailed in 1816, reaching Sydney in February, 1817. His wife was a Miss Jane Carncroft.

This letter forms the groundwork of Lamb's Elia essay on "Distant Correspondents" (see Vol. II.), which may be read with it as an example of the difference in richness between Lamb's epistolary and finished literary style.

"So thievish 'tis ..." A perversion of Coleridge's lines, in The Ancient Mariner:

So lonely 'twas, that God himself Scarce seemed there to be.

"Poor Mitchell's death." This may have been one of the lies referred to a little lower. If so, Thomas Mitchell (1783-1845) was probably intended, as he had been at Christ's Hospital, and was a friend of Leigh Hunt's, and might thus have known Lamb and Field. He translated Aristophanes. The only Mitchell of any importance who died in 1817 was Colonel Mitchell, who commanded a brigade at Waterloo; but Lamb would hardly know anything of him.

George Dyer, who had been tutor in the family of the third Earl of Stanhope (Citizen Stanhope), was one of the ten executors to whom that peer's estate was left, after paying a few legacies. Among them was another of Lamb's acquaintances, Joseph Jekyll, mentioned in the Elia essay on the Old Benchers. Dyer repudiated the office, but the heir persuaded him to accept an annuity.

Thomas Barnes (1785-1841), another old Christ's Hospitaller, and a contributor to The Reflector, became editor of The Times in 1817. His projected journey was one of the "lies"; nor did Alsager, another Times man, whom we have already met, turn actor.]



LETTER 237

CHARLES LAMB TO JAMES AND LOUISA KENNEY Londres, October, [1817].

Dear Friends,—It is with infinite regret I inform you that the pleasing privilege of receiving letters, by which I have for these twenty years gratified my friends and abused the liberality of the Company trading to the Orient, is now at an end. A cruel edict of the Directors has swept it away altogether. The devil sweep away their patronage also. Rascals who think nothing of sponging upon their employers for their Venison and Turtle and Burgundy five days in a week, to the tune of five thousand pounds in a year, now find out that the profits of trade will not allow the innocent communication of thought between their underlings and their friends in distant provinces to proceed untaxed, thus withering up the heart of friendship and making the news of a friend's good health worse than indifferent, as tidings to be deprecated as bringing with it ungracious expenses. Adieu, gentle correspondence, kindly conveyance of soul, interchange of love, of opinions, of puns and what not! Henceforth a friend that does not stand in visible or palpable distance to me, is nothing to me. They have not left to the bosom of friendship even that cheap intercourse of sentiment the twopenny medium. The upshot is, you must not direct any more letters through me. To me you may annually, or biennially, transmit a brief account of your goings on [on] a single sheet, from which after I have deducted as much as the postage comes to, the remainder will be pure pleasure. But no more of those pretty commission and counter commissions, orders and revoking of orders, obscure messages and obscurer explanations, by which the intellects of Marshall and Fanny used to be kept in a pleasing perplexity, at the moderate rate of six or seven shillings a week. In short, you must use me no longer as a go-between. Henceforth I write up NO THOROUGHFARE.

Well, and how far is Saint Valery from Paris; and do you get wine and walnuts tolerable; and the vintage, does it suffer from the wet? I take it, the wine of this season will be all wine and water; and have you any plays and green rooms, and Fanny Kellies to chat with of an evening; and is the air purer than the old gravel pits, and the bread so much whiter, as they say? Lord, what things you see that travel! I dare say the people are all French wherever you go. What an overwhelming effect that must have! I have stood one of 'em at a time, but two I generally found overpowering, I used to cut and run; but, then, in their own vineyards may be they are endurable enough. They say marmosets in Senegambia are so pleasant as the day's long, jumping and chattering in the orange twigs; but transport 'em, one by one, over here into England, they turn into monkeys, some with tails, some without, and are obliged to be kept in cages.

I suppose you know we've left the Temple pro tempore. By the way, this conduct has caused strange surmises in a good lady of our acquaintance. She lately sent for a young gentleman of the India House, who lives opposite her, at Monroe's, the flute shop in Skinner Street, Snow Hill,—I mention no name, you shall never get out of me what lady I mean,—on purpose to ask all he knew about us. I had previously introduced him to her whist-table. Her inquiries embraced every possible thing that could be known of me, how I stood in the India house, what was the amount of my salary, what it was likely to be hereafter, whether I was thought to be clever in business, why I had taken country lodgings, why at Kingsland in particular, had I friends in that road, was anybody expected to visit me, did I wish for visitors, would an unexpected call be gratifying or not, would it be better if she sent beforehand, did anybody come to see me, wasn't there a gentleman of the name of Morgan, did he know him, didn't he come to see me, did he know how Mr. Morgan lived, she never could make out how they were maintained, was it true that he lived out of the profits of a linendraper's shop in Bishopsgate Street (there she was a little right, and a little wrong—M. is a gentleman tobacconist); in short, she multiplied demands upon him till my friend, who is neither over-modest nor nervous, declared he quite shuddered. After laying as bare to her curiosity as an anatomy he trembled to think what she would ask next. My pursuits, inclinations, aversions, attachments (some, my dear friends, of a most delicate nature), she lugged 'em out of him, or would, had he been privy to them, as you pluck a horse-bean from its iron stem, not as such tender rosebuds should be pulled. The fact is I am come to Kingsland, and that is the real truth of the matter, and nobody but yourselves should have extorted such a confession from me. I suppose you have seen by the Papers that Manning is arrived in England. He expressed some mortifications at not finding Mrs. Kenney in England. He looks a good deal sunburnt, and is got a little reserved, but I hope it will wear off. You will see by the Papers also that Dawe is knighted. He has been painting the Princess of Coborg and her husband. This is all the news I could think of. Write to us, but not by us, for I have near ten correspondents of this latter description, and one or other comes pouring in every day, till my purse strings and heart strings crack. Bad habits are not broken at once. I am sure you will excuse the apparent indelicacy of mentioning this, but dear is my shirt, but dearer is my skin, and it's too late when the steed is stole, to shut the door.—Well, and does Louisa grow a fine girl, is she likely to have her mother's complexion, and does Tom polish in French air—Henry I mean—and Kenney is not so fidgety, and YOU sit down sometimes for a quiet half-hour or so, and all is comfortable, no bills (that you call writs) nor anything else (that you are equally sure to miscall) to annoy you? Vive la gaite de coeur et la bell pastime, vive la beau France et revive ma cher Empreur.

C. LAMB.

[James Kenney and his wife were now living at St. Valery. Marshall was Godwin's old friend, whom we have already seen, and Fanny was Fanny Holcroft.

Lamb's friend Fanny Kelly is first mentioned by Lamb in this letter. Frances Maria Kelly (1790-1882), to give her her full name, was then playing at the Lyceum. We shall soon see much of her.

"We've left the Temple pro tempore"—referring to the Dalston lodgings.

"What lady I mean." Mrs. Godwin lived in Skinner Street.

Manning, on his return from China, was wrecked near Sunda on February 17, 1817. The passengers were taken to St. Helena, and he did not reach England until the summer. This must give us the date of the present letter, previously attributed to October, 1816.

George Dawe was not knighted. Probably it was rumoured that he was to be. His portrait of Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Coburg (who died in 1817 so soon after her marriage) was very popular.

Louisa would be Louisa Holcroft. In Tom Holcroft, Lamb later took some interest.]



LETTER 238

MARY LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH [P.M. November 21, 1817.]

My dear Miss Wordsworth, Your kind letter has given us very great pleasure,—the sight of your hand writing was a most welcome surprize to us. We have heard good tidings of you by all our friends who were so fortunate as to visit you this summer, and rejoice to see it confirmed by yourself. You have quite the advantage in volunteering a letter. There is no merit in replying to so welcome a stranger.

We have left the Temple. I think you will be sorry to hear this. I know I have never been so well satisfied with thinking of you at Rydal Mount as when I could connect the idea of you with your own Grasmere Cottage. Our rooms were dirty and out of repair, and the inconveniences of living in chambers became every year more irksome, and so at last we mustered up resolution enough to leave the good old place that so long had sheltered us—and here we are, living at a Brazier's shop, No. 20, in Russell Street, Covent Garden, a place all alive with noise and bustle, Drury Lane Theatre in sight from our front and Covent Garden from our back windows. The hubbub of the carriages returning from the play does not annoy me in the least—strange that it does not, for it is quite tremendous. I quite enjoy looking out of the window and listening to the calling up of the carriages and the squabbles of the coachmen and linkboys. It is the oddest scene to look down upon, I am sure you would be amused with it. It is well I am in a chearful place or I should have many misgivings about leaving the Temple. I look forward with great pleasure to the prospect of seeing my good friend Miss Hutchinson. I wish Rydal Mount with all its inhabitants enclosed were to be transplanted with her and to remain stationary in the midst of Covent Garden. I passed through the street lately where Mr. and Mrs. Wordsworth lodged; several fine new houses, which were then just rising out of the ground, are quite finished and a noble entrance made that way into Portland Place.

I am very sorry for Mr. De Quincey—what a blunder the poor man made when he took up his dwelling among the mountains. I long to see my friend Py pos. Coleridge is still at Little Hampton with Mrs. Gillman, he has been so ill as to be confined to his room almost the whole time he has been there.

Charles has had all his Hogarths bound in a book, they were sent home yesterday, and now that I have them all together and perceive the advantage of peeping close at them through my spectacles I am reconciled to the loss of them hanging round the room, which has been a great mortification to me—in vain I tried to console myself with looking at our new chairs and carpets, for we have got new chairs, and carpets covering all over our two sitting rooms, I missed my old friends and could not be comforted—then I would resolve to learn to look out of the window, a habit I never could attain in my life, and I have given it up as a thing quite impracticable—yet when I was at Brighton last summer, the first week I never took my eyes off from the sea, not even to look in a book. I had not seen the sea for sixteen years. Mrs. Morgan, who was with us, kept her liking, and continued her seat in the window till the very last, while Charles and I played truant and wandered among the hills, which we magnified into little mountains and almost as good as Westmoreland scenery. Certainly we made discoveries of many pleasant walks which few of the Brighton visitors have ever dreamed of—for like as is the case in the neighbourhood of London, after the first two or three miles we were sure to find ourselves in a perfect solitude. I hope we shall meet before the walking faculties of either of us fail. You say you can walk fifteen miles with ease,—that is exactly my stint, and more fatigues me; four or five miles every third or fourth day, keeping very quiet between, was all Mrs. Morgan could accomplish.

God bless you and yours. Love to all and each one.

I am ever yours most affectionately M. LAMB.



LETTER 239

CHARLES LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH (Same letter.)

Dear Miss Wordsworth, Here we are, transplanted from our native soil. I thought we never could have been torn up from the Temple. Indeed it was an ugly wrench, but like a tooth, now 'tis out and I am easy. We never can strike root so deep in any other ground. This, where we are, is a light bit of gardener's mold, and if they take us up from it, it will cost no blood and groans like mandrakes pull'd up. We are in the individual spot I like best in all this great city. The theatres with all [a few words cut away: Talfourd has "their noises. Convent Garden"] dearer to me than any gardens of Alcinous, where we are morally sure of the earliest peas and 'sparagus. Bow Street, where the thieves are examined, within a few yards of us. Mary had not been here four and twenty hours before she saw a Thief. She sits at the window working, and casually throwing out her eyes, she sees a concourse of people coming this way, with a constable to conduct the solemnity. These little incidents agreeably diversify a female life. It is a delicate subject, but is Mr. * * * really married? and has he found a gargle to his mind? O how funny he did talk to me about her, in terms of such mild quiet whispering speculative profligacy. But did the animalcule and she crawl over the rubric together, or did they not? Mary has brought her part of this letter to an orthodox and loving conclusion, which is very well, for I have no room for pansies and remembrances. What a nice holyday I got on Wednesday by favor of a princess dying. [A line and signature cut away.]

[The Lambs' house in Russell Street is now (1912) a fruiterer's: it has been rebuilt. Russell Street, Covent Garden, in those days was divided into Great Russell Street (from the Market to Brydges Street, now Catherine Street) and Little Russell Street, (from Brydges Street to Drury Lane). The brazier, or ironmonger, was Mr. Owen, Nos. 20 and 21.

The Wordsworths had moved to Rydal Mount in 1813.

"I am very sorry for Mr. De Quincey." Probably a reference to one of the opium-eater's illnesses.

It was at Littlehampton that Coleridge met Henry Francis Cary, the translator of Dante, afterwards one of Lamb's friends.

"Spot I like best in all this great city." See Vol. I. of this edition, for a little essay by Lamb on places of residence in London.

"Mr. * * *." One can but conjecture as to these asterisks. De Quincey, who was very small, married at the close of 1816.

"A princess dying"—Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Coburg. She was buried, amid national lamentation, on November 19, 1817.

Here should come a letter from Lamb to Ayrton dated November 25, 1817, which Lamb holds is peculiarly neatly worded.]



LETTER 240

CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN PAYNE COLLIER The Garden of England, December 10, 1817.

Dear J. P. C.,—I know how zealously you feel for our friend S. T. Coleridge; and I know that you and your family attended his lectures four or five years ago. He is in bad health and worse mind: and unless something is done to lighten his mind he will soon be reduced to his extremities; and even these are not in the best condition. I am sure that you will do for him what you can; but at present he seems in a mood to do for himself. He projects a new course, not of physic, nor of metaphysic, nor a new course of life, but a new course of lectures on Shakspear and Poetry. There is no man better qualified (always excepting number one); but I am pre-engaged for a series of dissertations on India and India-pendence, to be completed at the expense of the Company, in I know not (yet) how many volumes foolscap folio. I am busy getting up my Hindoo mythology; and for the purpose I am once more enduring Southey's Curse. To be serious, Coleridge's state and affairs make me so; and there are particular reasons just now, and have been any time for the last twenty years, why he should succeed. He will do so with a little encouragement. I have not seen him lately; and he does not know that I am writing.

Yours (for Coleridge's sake) in haste, C. LAMB.

[The "Garden of England" of the address stands, of course, for Covent Garden.

This is the first letter to Collier that has been preserved. John Payne Collier (1789-1883), known as a Shakespearian critic and editor of old plays and poems, was then a reporter on The Times. He had recently married. Wordsworth also wrote to Collier on this subject, Coleridge's lectures were delivered in 1818, beginning on January 27, in Flower-de-Luce Court. Their preservation we owe to Collier's shorthand notes.

"My Hindoo mythology ... Southey's Curse"—The Curse of Kehama.]



LETTER 241

CHARLES LAMB TO BENJAMIN ROBERT HAYDON December [26], 1817.

My dear Haydon,—I will come with pleasure to 22, Lisson Grove North, at Rossi's, half-way up, right-hand side—if I can find it.

Yours, C. LAMB.

20, Russell Court, Covent Garden East, half-way up, next the corner, left hand side.

[The first letter that has been preserved to Haydon, the painter. Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) was then principally known by his "Judgment of Solomon": he was at this time at work upon his most famous picture, "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem." Lamb's note is in acceptance of the invitation to the famous dinner which Haydon gave on December 28,1817, to Wordsworth, Keats, Monkhouse and others, with the Comptroller of Stamps thrown in. Haydon's Diary describes the evening with much humour. See Appendix.]



LETTER 242

CHARLES LAMB TO MRS. WILLIAM WORDSWORTH 18 Feb. 1818. East India House.

(Mary shall send you all the news, which I find I have left out.)

My dear Mrs. Wordsworth, I have repeatedly taken pen in hand to answer your kind letter. My sister should more properly have done it, but she having failed, I consider myself answerable for her debts. I am now trying to do it in the midst of Commercial noises, and with a quill which seems more ready to glide into arithmetical figures and names of Goods, Cassia, Cardemoms, Aloes, Ginger, Tea, than into kindly responses and friendly recollections.

The reason why I cannot write letters at home is, that I am never alone. Plato's (I write to W. W. now) Plato's double animal parted never longed [? more] to be reciprocally reunited in the system of its first creation, than I sometimes do to be but for a moment single and separate. Except my morning's walk to the office, which is like treading on sands of gold for that reason, I am never so. I cannot walk home from office but some officious friend offers his damn'd unwelcome courtesies to accompany me. All the morning I am pestered. I could sit and gravely cast up sums in great Books, or compare sum with sum, and write PAID against this and UNP'D against t'other, and yet reserve in some "corner of my mind" some darling thoughts all my own—faint memory of some passage in a Book—or the tone of an absent friend's Voice—a snatch of Miss Burrell's singing—a gleam of Fanny Kelly's divine plain face—The two operations might be going on at the same time without thwarting, as the sun's two motions (earth's I mean), or as I sometimes turn round till I am giddy, in my back parlour, while my sister is walking longitudinally in the front—or as the shoulder of veal twists round with the spit, while the smoke wreathes up the chimney—but there are a set of amateurs of the Belle Lettres—the gay science—who come to me as a sort of rendezvous, putting questions of criticism, of British Institutions, Lalla Rooks &c., what Coleridge said at the Lecture last night—who have the form of reading men, but, for any possible use Reading can be to them but to talk of, might as well have been Ante-Cadmeans born, or have lain sucking out the sense of an Egypt'n. hieroglyph as long as the Pyramids will last before they should find it. These pests worrit me at business and in all its intervals, perplexing my accounts, poisoning my little salutary warming-time at the fire, puzzling my paragraphs if I take a newspaper, cramming in between my own free thoughts and a column of figures which had come to an amicable compromise but for them. Their noise ended, one of them, as I said, accompanys me home lest I should be solitary for a moment; he at length takes his welcome leave at the door, up I go, mutton on table, hungry as hunter, hope to forget my cares and bury them in the agreeable abstraction of mastication, knock at the door, in comes Mrs. Hazlitt, or M. Burney, or Morgan, or Demogorgon, or my brother, or somebody, to prevent my eating alone, a Process absolutely necessary to my poor wretched digestion. O the pleasure of eating alone!—eating my dinner alone! let me think of it. But in they come, and make it absolutely necessary that I should open a bottle of orange—for my meat turns into stone when any one dines with me, if I have not wine—wine can mollify stones. Then that wine turns into acidity, acerbity, misanthropy, a hatred of my interrupters (God bless 'em! I love some of 'em dearly), and with the hatred a still greater aversion to their going away. Bad is the dead sea they bring upon me, choaking and death-doing, but worse is the deader dry sand they leave me on if they go before bed time. Come never, I would say to these spoilers of my dinner, but if you come, never go. The fact is, this interruption does not happen very often, but every time it comes by surprise that present bane of my life, orange wine, with all its dreary stifling consequences, follows. Evening Company I should always like had I any mornings, but I am saturated with human faces (divine forsooth) and voices all the golden morning, and five evenings in a week would be as much as I should covet to be in company, but I assure you that is a wonderful week in which I can get two, or one, to myself. I am never C. L. but always C. L. and Co.

He, who thought it not good for man to be alone, preserve me from the more prodigious monstrosity of being never by myself. I forget bed time, but even there these sociable frogs clamber up to annoy me. Once a week, generally some singular evening that, being alone, I go to bed at the hour I ought always to be abed, just close to my bedroom window, is the club room of a public house, where a set of singers, I take them to be chorus-singers of the two theatres (it must be both of them), begin their orgies. They are a set of fellows (as I conceive) who being limited by their talents to the burthen of the song at the play houses, in revenge have got the common popular airs by Bishop or some cheap composer arranged for choruses, that is, to be sung all in chorus. At least I never can catch any of the text of the plain song, nothing but the Babylonish choral howl at the tail on't. "That fury being quenchd"—the howl I mean—a curseder burden succeeds, of shouts and clapping and knocking of the table. At length over tasked nature drops under it and escapes for a few hours into the society of the sweet silent creatures of Dreams, which go away with mocks and mows at cockcrow. And then I think of the words Christobel's father used (bless me, I have dipt in the wrong ink) to say every morning by way of variety when he awoke—"Every knell, the Baron saith, Wakes us up to a world of death," or something like it. All I mean by this senseless interrupted tale is, that by my central situation I am a little over companied. Not that I have any animosity against the good creatures that are so anxious to drive away the Harpy solitude from me. I like 'em, and cards, and a chearful glass, but I mean merely to give you an idea between office confinement and after office society, how little time I can call my own. I mean only to draw a picture, not to make an inference. I would not that I know of have it otherwise. I only wish sometimes I could exchange some of my faces and voices for the faces and voices which a late visitation brought most welcome and carried away leaving regret, but more pleasure, even a kind of gratitude, at being so often favored with that kind northern visitation. My London faces and noises don't hear me—I mean no disrespect—or I should explain myself that instead of their return 220 times a year and the return of W. W. &c. 7 times in 104 weeks, some more equal distribution might be found. I have scarce room to put in Mary's kind love and my poor name.

CH. LAMB.

This to be read last.

W. H. goes on lecturing against W. W. and making copious use of quotations from said W. W. to give a zest to said lectures. S. T. C. is lecturing with success. I have not heard either him or H. but I dined with S. T. C. at Gilman's a Sunday or 2 since and he was well and in good spirits. I mean to hear some of the course, but lectures are not much to my taste, whatever the Lecturer may be. If read, they are dismal flat, and you can't think why you are brought together to hear a man read his works which you could read so much better at leisure yourself; if delivered extempore, I am always in pain lest the gift of utterance should suddenly fail the orator in the middle, as it did me at the dinner given in honor of me at the London Tavern. "Gentlemen" said I, and there I stoppt,—the rest my feelings were under the necessity of supplying. Mrs. Wordsworth will go on, kindly haunting us with visions of seeing the lakes once more which never can be realized. Between us there is a great gulf—not of inexplicable moral antipathies and distances, I hope (as there seemd to be between me and that Gentleman concern'd in the Stamp office that I so strangely coiled up from at Haydons). I think I had an instinct that he was the head of an office. I hate all such people—Accountants, Deputy Accountants. The dear abstract notion of the East India Company, as long as she is unseen, is pretty, rather Poetical; but as SHE makes herself manifest by the persons of such Beasts, I loathe and detest her as the Scarlet what-do-you-call-her of Babylon. I thought, after abridging us of all our red letter days, they had done their worst, but I was deceived in the length to which Heads of offices, those true Liberty haters, can go. They are the tyrants, not Ferdinand, nor Nero—by a decree past this week, they have abridged us of the immemorially observed custom of going at one o'clock of a Saturday, the little shadow of a holiday left us. Blast them. I speak it soberly. Dear W. W., be thankful for your Liberty.

We have spent two very pleasant Evenings lately with Mr. Monkhouse.

[Mary Lamb's letter of news either was not written or has not been preserved.

Lamb returned to the subject of this essay for his Popular Fallacy "That Home is Home" in 1826 (see Vol. II. of this edition). A little previously to that essay he had written an article in the New Times on unwelcome callers (see Vol. I.).

"Miss Burrell"—Fanny Burrell, afterwards Mrs. Gould. Lamb wrote in praise of her performance in "Don Giovanni in London" (see Vol. I. of this edition).

"Fanny Kelly's divine plain face." Only seventeen months later Lamb proposed to Miss Kelly.

"What Coleridge said." Coleridge was still lecturing on Shakespeare and poetry in Flower-de-Luce Court.

"The two theatres"—Drury Lane and Covent Garden.

"Bishop"—Sir Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855), composer of "Home, Sweet Home."

"Christabel's father."

Each matin bell, the Baron saith, Knells us back to a world of death. Part II., lines 1 and 2.

"W. H. goes on lecturing." Hazlitt was delivering a course of lectures on the English poets at the Surrey Institution.

"'Gentleman' said I." On another occasion Lamb, asked to give a toast, gave the best he knew—woodcock on toast. See also his toasts at Haydon's dinner. I do not know when or why the dinner was given to him; perhaps after the failure of "Mr. H."

"Gentleman concern'd in the Stamp office." See note to the preceding letter.

"Our red letter days." Lamb repeats the complaint in his Elia essay "Oxford in the Vacation." In 1820, I see from the Directory, the Accountant's Office, where Lamb had his desk, kept sacred only five red-letter days, where, ten years earlier, it had observed many.

"Mr. Monkhouse," Thomas Monkhouse, a friend of the Wordsworths and of Lamb. He was at Haydon's dinner.

Here should come a note from Lamb to Charles and James Ollier, dated May 28, 1818, which apparently accompanied final proofs of Lamb's Works. Lamb remarks, "There is a Sonnet to come in by way of dedication." This would be that to Martin Burney at the beginning of Vol. II. The Works were published in two volumes with a beautiful dedication to Coleridge (see Vol. IV. of the present edition). Charles Ollier (1788-1859) was a friend of Leigh Hunt's, for whom he published, as well as for Shelley. He also brought out Keats' first volume. The Olliers' address was The Library, Vere Street, Oxford Street.]



LETTER 243

CHARLES LAMB TO CHARLES AND JAMES OLLIER [P.M. June 18, 1818.]

Dear Sir (whichever opens it)

I am going off to Birmingh'm. I find my books, whatever faculty of selling they may have (I wish they had more for {your/my} sake), are admirably adapted for giving away. You have been bounteous. SIX more and I shall have satisfied all just claims. Am I taking too great a liberty in begging you to send 4 as follows, and reserve 2 for me when I come home? That will make 31. Thirty-one times 12 is 372 shillings, Eighteen pounds twelve Shillings!!!—but here are my friends, to whom, if you could transmit them, as I shall be away a month, you will greatly oblige the obliged

C. LAMB.

Mr. Ayrton, James Street, Buckingham Gate Mr. Alsager, Suffolk Street East, Southwark, by Horsemonger Lane and in one parcel directed to R. Southey, Esq., Keswick, Cumberland one for R. S.; and one for W'm. Wordsworth, Esq'r.

If you will be kind enough simply to write "from the Author" in all 4—you will still further etc.—

Either Longman or Murray is in the frequent habit of sending books to Southey and will take charge of the Parcel. It will be as well to write in at the beginning thus

R. Southey Esq. from the Author. W. Wordsworth Esq. from the Author.

Then, if I can find the remaining 2, left for me at Russell St when I return, rather than encroach any more on the heap, I will engage to make no more new friends ad infinitum, YOURSELVES being the last.

Yours truly C. L.

I think Southey will give us a lift in that damn'd Quarterly. I meditate an attack upon that Cobler Gifford, which shall appear immediately after any favourable mention which S. may make in the Quarterly. It can't in decent gratitude appear before.

[We know nothing of Lamb's visit to Birmingham. He is hardly likely to have stayed with any of the Lloyd family. The attack on Gifford was probably the following sonnet, printed in The Examiner for October 3 and 4, 1819:—

ST. CRISPIN TO MR. GIFFORD All unadvised, and in an evil hour, Lured by aspiring thoughts, my son, you daft The lowly labours of the Gentle Craft For learned toils, which blood and spirits sour. All things, dear pledge, are not in all men's power; The wiser sort of shrub affects the ground; And sweet content of mind is oftener found In cobbler's parlour, than in critic's bower. The sorest work is what doth cross the grain; And better to this hour you had been plying The obsequious awl with well-waxed finger flying, Than ceaseless thus to till a thankless vein; Still teazing Muses, which are still denying; Making a stretching-leather of your brain.]



LETTER 244

CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY

Monday, Oct. 26th, 1818.

Dear Southey,—I am pleased with your friendly remembrances of my little things. I do not know whether I have done a silly thing or a wise one; but it is of no great consequence. I run no risk, and care for no censures. My bread and cheese is stable as the foundations of Leadenhall Street, and if it hold out as long as the "foundations of our empire in the East," I shall do pretty well. You and W.W. should have had your presentation copies more ceremoniously sent; but I had no copies when I was leaving town for my holidays, and rather than delay, commissioned my bookseller to send them thus nakedly. By not hearing from W.W. or you, I began to be afraid Murray had not sent them. I do not see S.T.C. so often as I could wish. He never comes to me; and though his host and hostess are very friendly, it puts me out of my way to go see one person at another person's house. It was the same when he resided at Morgan's. Not but they also were more than civil; but after all one feels so welcome at one's own house. Have you seen poor Miss Betham's "Vignettes"? Some of them, the second particularly, "To Lucy," are sweet and good as herself, while she was herself. She is in some measure abroad again. I am better than I deserve to be. The hot weather has been such a treat! Mary joins in this little corner in kindest remembrances to you all.

C.L.

[The letter treats of Lamb's Works, just published. Matilda Betham followed up The Lay of Marie with a volume entitled Vignettes.

"I am better than I deserve." Why Lamb underlined these words I do not know, but it may have been a quotation from Coleridge. Carlyle in his account of his visit to Coleridge at Highgate (in the Life of John Sterling) puts it into Coleridge's mouth in connection with a lukewarm cup of tea. Although lukewarm it was better, he said, than he deserved. That was later, but it may have been a saying of which Coleridge was fond.]



LETTER 245

CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE Dec. 24th, 1818.

My dear Coleridge,—I have been in a state of incessant hurry ever since the receipt of your ticket. It found me incapable of attending you, it being the night of Kenney's new comedy[1] ... You know my local aptitudes at such a time; I have been a thorough rendezvous for all consultations. My head begins to clear up a little; but it has had bells in it. Thank you kindly for your ticket, though the mournful prognostic which accompanies it certainly renders its permanent pretensions less marketable; but I trust to hear many a course yet. You excepted Christmas week, by which I understood next week; I thought Christmas week was that which Christmas Sunday ushered in. We are sorry it never lies in your way to come to us; but, dear Mahomet, we will come to you. Will it be convenient to all the good people at Highgate, if we take a stage up, not next Sunday, but the following, viz., 3rd January, 1819—shall we be too late to catch a skirt of the old out-goer;—how the years crumble from under us! We shall hope to see you before then; but, if not, let us know if then will be convenient. Can we secure a coach home?

Believe me ever yours, C. LAMB.

I have but one holiday, which is Christmas-day itself nakedly: no pretty garnish and fringes of St. John's day, Holy Innocents &c., that used to bestud it all around in the calendar. Improbe labor! I write six hours every day in this candle-light fog-den at Leadheall.

[Footnote 1: Canon Ainger supplies the four missing words: "which has utterly failed."]

[The ticket was for a new course of lectures, either on the History of Philosophy, or Six Plays of Shakespeare, both of which began in December, 1818, and continued into 1819.

Kenney's new farce was "A Word for the Ladies," produced at Covent Garden on December 17.

"To catch a skirt of the old out-goer." A reference to Coleridge's line—

I saw the skirts of the departing year.

Somewhere at this point should come a delightful letter from Lamb to John Chambers. John Chambers was the brother of Charles Chambers. He was a colleague of Lamb's at the India House (see the Elia essay "The Superannuated Man"), and survived until 1872. It was to John Chambers that Lamb made the remark that he (Lamb) was probably the only man in England who had never worn boots and never ridden a horse. The letter, which is concerned with the peculiarities of India House clerks, is famous for the remark on Tommy Bye, a fellow-clerk at the India House, that "his sonnets are most like Petrarch of any foreign poet, or what we may suppose Petrarch would have written if Petrarch had been born a fool." We meet Bye again in the next letter but one to Wordsworth. I can find no trace of his sonnets in book form. Possibly they were never published.]



LETTER 246

CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

[This letter is written in black and red ink, changing with each line.]

[P.M. April 26, 1819.]

Dear Wordsworth, I received a copy of Peter Bell a week ago, and I hope the author will not be offended if I say I do not much relish it. The humour, if it is meant for humour, is forced, and then the price. Sixpence would have been dear for it. Mind, I do not mean your Peter Bell, but a Peter Bell which preceded it about a week, and is in every bookseller's shop window in London, the type and paper nothing differing from the true one, the preface signed W.W., and the supplementary preface quoting as the author's words an extract from supplementary preface to the Lyrical Balads. Is there no law against these rascals? I would have this Lambert Simnel whipt at the cart's tail. Then there is Rogers! he has been re-writing your Poem of the Stride, and publishing it at the end of his "Human Life." Tie him up to the Cart, hangman, while you are about it. Who started the spurious P.B. I have not heard. I should guess, one of the sneering brothers—the vile Smiths—but I have heard no name mentioned. Peter Bell (not the mock one) is excellent. For its matter, I mean. I cannot say that the style of it quite satisfies me. It is too lyrical. The auditors to whom it is feigned to be told, do not arride me. I had rather it had been told me, the reader, at once. Heartleap Well is the tale for me, in matter as good as this, in manner infinitely before it, in my poor judgment. Why did you not add the Waggoner? Have I thanked you, though, yet, for Peter Bell? I would not not have it for a good deal of money. C—— is very foolish to scribble about books. Neither his tongue nor fingers are very retentive. But I shall not say any thing to him about it. He would only begin a very long story, with a very long face, and I see him far too seldom to teaze him with affairs of business or conscience when I do see him. He never comes near our house, and when we go to see him, he is generally writing, or thinking he is writing, in his study till the dinner comes, and that is scarce over before the stage summons us away. The mock P. B. had only this effect on me, that after twice reading it over in hopes to find something diverting in it, I reach'd your two books off the shelf and set into a steady reading of them, till I had nearly finished both before I went to bed. The two of your last edition, of course, I mean. And in the morning I awoke determining to take down the Excursion. I wish the scoundrel imitator could know this. But why waste a wish on him? I do not believe that paddling about with a stick in a pond and fishing up a dead author whom his intolerable wrongs had driven to that deed of desperation, would turn the heart of one of these obtuse literary Bells. There is no Cock for such Peters. Damn 'em. I am glad this aspiration came upon the red ink line. It is more of a bloody curse. I have delivered over your other presents to Alsager and G. D.—A. I am sure will value it and be proud of the hand from which it came. To G. D. a poem is a poem. His own as good as any bodie's, and god bless him, any bodie's as good as his own, for I do not think he has the most distant guess of the possibility of one poem being better than another. The Gods by denying him the very faculty itself of discrimination have effectually cut off every seed of envy in his bosom. But with envy, they excided Curiosity also, and if you wish the copy again, which you destined for him, I think I shall be able to find it again for you—on his third shelf, where he stuffs his presentation copies, uncut, in shape and matter resembling a lump of dry dust, but on carefully removing that stratum, a thing like a Pamphlet will emerge. I have tried this with fifty different Poetical Works that have been given G. D. in return for as many of his own performances, and I confess I never had any scruple in taking my own again wherever I found it, shaking the adherencies off—and by this means one Copy of "my Works" served for G.D. and with a little dusting was made over to my good friend Dr. Stoddart, who little thought whose leavings he was taking when he made me that graceful bow. By the way, the Doctor is the only one of my acquaintance who bows gracefully, my Town acquaintance I mean. How do you like my way of writing with two Inks? I think it is pretty and mottley. Suppose Mrs. W. adopts it, the next time she holds the pen for you.

[The ink differs with every word of the following paragraph:—]

My dinner waits. I have no time to indulge any longer in these laborious curiosities. God bless you and cause to thrive and to burgeon whatsoever you write, and fear no inks of miserable poetasters.

Yours truly CHARLES LAMB. Mary's love.

[The Peter Bell to which Lamb refers was written by John Hamilton Reynolds (1796-1852), the friend of Keats, and later Hood's brother-in-law. The parody is a travesty of Wordsworth generally rather than of Peter Bell, which had not then been published.

James and Horace Smith, of the Rejected Addresses, which contained a parody of Wordsworth under the title "The Baby's Debut," had nothing to do with it. Lamb's indignation was shared by Coleridge, who wrote as follows to Taylor and Hessey, the publishers, on April 16, 1819, on the announcement of Reynolds' work:—

Dear Sirs, I hope, nay I feel confident, that you will interpret this note in th' real sense—namely, as a proof of the esteem and respect which I entertain toward you both. Looking in the Times this morning I was startled by an advertisement of PETER BELL—a Lyrical Ballad—with a very significant motto from one of our Comedies of Charles the IInd's reign, tho' what it signifies I wish to ascertain. Peter Bell is a Poem of Mr. Wordsworth's—and I have not heard, that it has been published by him.—If it have, and with his name (I have reason to believe, that he never published anonymously) and this now advertised be a ridicule on it—I have nothing to say—But if it have not, I have ventured to pledge myself for you, that you would not wittingly give the high respectability of your names to an attack on a Manuscript work, which no man could assail but by a base breach of trust.

It is stated in the article on Reynolds in the Dictionary of National Biography that Coleridge asserted positively that Lamb was the objectionable parodist; but this letter suggests that that was not so.

"Peter Bell (not the mock one)." Crabb Robinson's Diary, in the original MS., for June 6, 1812, contains this passage:—

With C. Lamb. Lent him Peter Bell. To my surprise he finds nothing in it good. He complains of the slowness of the narrative, as if that were not the art of the Poet. W. he says has great thoughts, but here are none of them. He has no interest in the Ass. These are to me inconceivable judgments from C. L. whose taste in general I acquiesce in and who is certainly an enthusiast for W.

Again, on May 11, 1819, after the poem was published, Robinson says:—

L. spoke of Peter Bell which he considers as one of the worst of Wordsworth's works. The lyric narrative L. has no taste for. He is disgusted by the introduction, which he deems puerile and the story he thinks ill told, though he allows the idea to be good.

"Rogers." At the end of Samuel Rogers' poem, Human Life, 1819, is a ballad, entitled "The Boy of Egremond," which has for subject the same incident as that in Wordsworth's "Force of Prayer"—beginning

What is good for a bootless bene?

—the death of the Young Romilly as he leapt across the Strid. In Wordsworth the answer to the question is "Endless sorrow." Rogers' poem begins:—

"Say what remains when hope is fled?" She answered "Endless weeping."

Wordsworth's Peter Bell was published a week after the mock one. To The Waggoner we shall come shortly.

The significance of the allusion to Coleridge is not perfectly clear; but I imagine it to refer to the elaborate examination of Wordsworth's poetry in the Biographia Literaria.

"These obtuse literary Bells." Peter Bell, in the poem, sounds the river with his staff, and draws forth the dead body of the ass's master. Lamb passes, in his curse, to a reference to St. Peter.

"Taking my own again." This, if, as one may suppose, adapted from Moliere's "Je reprendre mon bien partout ou je le trouve," is an indication that Lamb knew the Frenchman's comedies.

Here should come a business note to John Rickman dated May 21, 1819, given in the Boston Bibliophile edition.]



LETTER 247

CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING

May 28, 1819.

My dear M.,—I want to know how your brother is, if you have heard lately. I want to know about you. I wish you were nearer. How are my cousins, the Gladmans of Wheathamstead, and farmer Bruton? Mrs. Bruton is a glorious woman.

Hail, Mackeray End—

This is a fragment of a blank verse poem which I once meditated, but got no further. The E.I.H. has been thrown into a quandary by the strange phenomenon of poor Tommy Bye, whom I have known man and mad-man twenty-seven years, he being elder here than myself by nine years and more. He was always a pleasant, gossiping, half-headed, muzzy, dozing, dreaming, walk-about, inoffensive chap; a little too fond of the creature—who isn't at times? but Tommy had not brains to work off an over-night's surfeit by ten o'clock next morning, and unfortunately, in he wandered the other morning drunk with last night, and with a superfoetation of drink taken in since he set out from bed. He came staggering under his double burthen, like trees in Java, bearing at once blossom, fruit, and falling fruit, as I have heard you or some other traveller tell, with his face literally as blue as the bluest firmament; some wretched calico that he had mopped his poor oozy front with had rendered up its native dye, and the devil a bit would he consent to wash it, but swore it was characteristic, for he was going to the sale of indigo, and set up a laugh which I did not think the lungs of mortal man were competent to. It was like a thousand people laughing, or the Goblin Page. He imagined afterwards that the whole office had been laughing at him, so strange did his own sounds strike upon his nonsensorium. But Tommy has laughed his last laugh, and awoke the next day to find himself reduced from an abused income of L600 per annum to one-sixth of the sum, after thirty-six years' tolerably good service. The quality of mercy was not strained in his behalf; the gentle dews dropt not on him from heaven. It just came across me that I was writing to Canton. How is Ball? "Mr. B. is a P——." Will you drop in to-morrow night? Fanny Kelly is coming, if she does not cheat us. Mrs. Gold is well, but proves "uncoined," as the lovers about Wheathampstead would say.

O hard hearted Burrell With teeth like a squirrel—

I have not had such a quiet half hour to sit down to a quiet letter for many years. I have not been interrupted above four times. I wrote a letter the other day in alternate lines, black ink and red, and you cannot think how it chilled the flow of ideas. Next Monday is Whit-Monday. What a reflection! Twelve years ago, and I should have kept that and the following holiday in the fields a-Maying. All of those pretty pastoral delights are over. This dead, everlasting dead desk—how it weighs the spirit of a gentleman down! This dead wood of the desk instead of your living trees! But then, again, I hate the Joskins, a name for Hertfordshire bumpkins. Each state of life has its inconvenience; but then, again, mine has more than one. Not that I repine, or grudge, or murmur at my destiny. I have meat and drink, and decent apparel; I shall, at least, when I get a new hat.

A red-haired man has just interrupted me. He has broke the current of my thoughts. I haven't a word to add. I don't know why I send this letter, but I have had a hankering to hear about you some days. Perhaps it will go off, before your reply comes. If it don't, I assure you no letter was ever welcomer from you, from Paris or Macao. C. LAMB.

[At the beginning of this letter is an unprinted passage saying that Charles Lloyd and his wife are in London and that such proximity is not too comfortable. "Would you like to see him?" or "isn't it better to lean over a stile in a sort of careless easy half astronomical position eyeing the blue expanse?"

Manning, who had now settled in England, but in retirement, was living in Hertfordshire, at Totteridge. The Gladmans and Brutons are mentioned in the Elia essay "Mackery End in Hertfordshire":—

"The oldest thing I remember is Mackery End; or Mackarel End, as it is spelt, perhaps more properly, in some old maps of Hertfordshire; a farm-house,—delightfully situated within a gentle walk from Wheathampstead. I can just remember having been there, on a visit to a great-aunt, when I was a child, under the care of Bridget; who, as I have said, is older than myself by some ten years. I wish that I could throw into a heap the remainder of our joint existences, that we might share them in equal division. But that is impossible. The house was at that time in the occupation of a substantial yeoman, who had married my grandmother's sister. His name was Gladman. My grandmother was a Bruton, married to a Field. The Gladmans and the Brutons are still flourishing in that part of the country, but the Fields are almost extinct."

The Goblin Page is in Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel.

"Mrs. Gold is well"—nee Fanny Burrell.

"This dead wood of the desk." Lamb used this figure more than once, in his letters and elsewhere. In the Elia essay "The Superannuated Man" he says: "I had grown to my desk, as it were; and the wood had entered into my soul."]



LETTER 248

CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

[P.M. June 7, 1819.]

My dear Wordsworth, you cannot imagine how proud we are here of the DEDICATION. We read it twice for once that we do the poem—I mean all through—yet Benjamin is no common favorite—there is a spirit of beautiful tolerance in it—it is as good as it was in 1806—and will be as good in 1829 if our dim eyes shall be awake to peruse it.

Methinks there is a kind of shadowing affinity between the subject of the narrative and the subject of the dedication—but I will not enter into personal themes—else, substituting ******* **** for Ben, and the Honble United Company of Merch'ts trading to the East Indies for the Master of the misused Team, it might seem by no far fetched analogy to point its dim warnings hitherward—but I reject the omen—especially as its import seems to have been diverted to another victim.

Poor Tommy Bye, whom I have known (as I express'd it in a letter to Manning), man and mad man 27 years—he was my gossip in Leadenhall St.—but too much addicted to turn in at a red lattice—came wandering into his and my common scene of business—you have seen the orderly place—reeling drunk at nine o Clock-with his face of a deep blue, contracted by a filthy dowlas muckinger which had given up its dye to his poor oozy visnomy—and short to tell, after playing various pranks, laughing loud laughters three mad explosions they were—in the following morning the "tear stood in his eye"—for he found his abused income of clear L600 inexorably reduced to L100—he was my dear gossip—alas! Benjamin!...

I will never write another letter with alternate inks. You cannot imagine how it cramps the flow of the style. I can conceive Pindar (I do not mean to compare myself [to] him) by the command of Hiero, the Sicilian tyrant (was not he the tyrant of some place? fie on my neglect of history—) conceive him by command of Hiero, or Perillus, set down to pen an a Isthmian or Nemean Panegyre in lines alternate red and black. I maintain he couldn't have done it—it would have been a strait laced torture to his muse, he would have call'd for the Bull for a relief. Neither could Lycidas, or the Chorics (how do you like the word?) of Samson Agonistes, have been written with two inks. Your couplets with points, Epilogues to Mr. H.'s, &c. might be even benefited by the twyfount. Where one line (the second) is for point, and the first for rhime, I think the alternation would assist, like a mould. I maintain it, you could not have written your stanzas on pre existence with 2 inks. Try another, and Rogers the Banker, with his silver standish having one ink only, I will bet my Ode on Tobacco, against the Pleasures of Memory—and Hope too—shall put more fervor of enthusiasm into the same subject than you can with your two—he shall do it stans pede in uno as it were.

The Waggoner is very ill put up in boards, at least it seems to me always to open at the dedication—but that is a mechanical fault.

I re-read the White Doe of Rylston—the title should be always written at length—as Mary Sabilla Novello, a very nice woman of our acquaintance, always signs hers at the bottom of the shortest note. Mary told her, if her name had been Mary Ann, she would have signed M.A. Novello, or M. only, dropping the A—which makes me think, with some other triflings, that she understands something of human nature. My pen goes galloping on most rhapsodically, glad to have escaped the bondage of Two Inks.

Manning had just sent it home and it came as fresh to me as the immortal creature it speaks of. M. sent it home with a note, having this passage in it, "I cannot help writing to you while I am reading Wordsw'ths poem. I am got into the 3rd Canto, and say that it raises my opinion of him very much indeed.[*] 'Tis broad; noble; poetical; with a masterly scanning of human actions, absolutely above common readers. What a manly (implied) interpretation of (bad) party-actions, as trampling the bible, &c."—and so he goes on.

[Footnote *: N.B. M—— from his peregrinations is 12 or 14 years behind in his knowledge of who has or has not written good verse of late.]

I do not know which I like best, the prologue (the latter part specially) to P. Bell, or the Epilogue to Benjamin. Yes, I tell stories, I do know. I like the last best, and the Waggoner altogether as a pleasanter remembrance to me than the Itinerant. If it were not, the page before the first page would and ought to make it so.

The sonnets are not all new to me. Of what are, the 9th I like best. Thank you for that to Walton. I take it as a favor done to me, that, being so old a darling of mine, you should bear testimony to his worth in a book containing a DEDI——

I cannot write the vain word at full length any longer.

If as you say, the Waggoner in some sort came at my call, O for a potent voice to call forth the Recluse from his profound Dormitory, where he sleeps forgetful of his foolish charge The World.

Had I three inks I would invoke him!

Talfourd has written a most kind Review of J. Woodvil, &c., in the Champion. He is your most zealous admirer, in solitude and in crowds. H. Crabbe Robinson gives me any dear Prints that I happen to admire, and I love him for it and for other things. Alsager shall have his copy, but at present I have lent it for a day only, not chusing to part with my own. Mary's love. How do you all do, amanuenses both—marital and sororal?

C. LAMB.

[Wordsworth had just put forth The Waggoner, which was dedicated to Lamb in the following terms:—

My dear friend—When I sent you, a few weeks ago, "The Tale of Peter Bell," you asked "Why 'The Waggoner' was not added?" To say the truth, from the higher tone of imagination, and the deeper touches of passion aimed at in the former, I apprehended this little piece could not accompany it without disadvantage. In the year 1806, if I am not mistaken, "The Waggoner" was read to you in manuscript, and as you have remembered it for so long a time, I am the more encouraged to hope that, since the localities on which the poem partly depends did not prevent its being interesting to you, it may prove acceptable to others. Being, therefore, in some measure the cause of its present appearance, you must allow me the gratification of inscribing it to you, in acknowledgment of the pleasure I have derived from your writings, and of the high esteem with which

I am very truly yours,

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.

The poem, which had been written many years before, tells the story of Benjamin, a waggoner in the Lake county, who one stormy night, succumbing to the temptations of the Cherry Tree Inn, fell from good estate. Lamb's asterisks stand, of course, for Charles Lamb.

"Your stanzas on pre existence"—the "Ode on Intimations of Immortality."

The Pleasures of Hope was Campbell's poem.

Mary Sabilla Novello was the wife of Vincent Novello, the organist, and Lamb's friend.

The White Doe of Rylstone had been published in 1815.

The 9th sonnet. Certain sonnets had been published with The Waggoner. The 9th was that beginning:—

Grief, thou hast lost an ever ready Friend.

Wordsworth's sonnet upon Walton begins:—

While flowing rivers yield a blameless sport.

The Recluse was not published until 1888, and then only Book I.

The Champion, in which Talfourd reviewed Lamb's Works, had now become the property of John Thelwall.]



LETTER 249

CHARLES LAMB TO FANNY KELLY

20 July, 1819.

Dear Miss Kelly,—We had the pleasure, pain I might better call it, of seeing you last night in the new Play. It was a most consummate piece of Acting, but what a task for you to undergo! at a time when your heart is sore from real sorrow! it has given rise to a train of thinking, which I cannot suppress.

Would to God you were released from this way of life; that you could bring your mind to consent to take your lot with us, and throw off for ever the whole burden of your Profession. I neither expect or wish you to take notice of this which I am writing, in your present over occupied & hurried state.—But to think of it at your leisure. I have quite income enough, if that were all, to justify for me making such a proposal, with what I may call even a handsome provision for my survivor. What you possess of your own would naturally be appropriated to those, for whose sakes chiefly you have made so many hard sacrifices. I am not so foolish as not to know that I am a most unworthy match for such a one as you, but you have for years been a principal object in my mind. In many a sweet assumed character I have learned to love you, but simply as F.M. Kelly I love you better than them all. Can you quit these shadows of existence, & come & be a reality to us? can you leave off harassing yourself to please a thankless multitude, who know nothing of you, & begin at last to live to yourself & your friends?

As plainly & frankly as I have seen you give or refuse assent in some feigned scene, so frankly do me the justice to answer me. It is impossible I should feel injured or aggrieved by your telling me at once, that the proposal does not suit you. It is impossible that I should ever think of molesting you with idle importunity and persecution after your mind [was] once firmly spoken—but happier, far happier, could I have leave to hope a time might come, when our friends might be your friends; our interests yours; our book-knowledge, if in that inconsiderable particular we have any little advantage, might impart something to you, which you would every day have it in your power ten thousand fold to repay by the added cheerfulness and joy which you could not fail to bring as a dowry into whatever family should have the honor and happiness of receiving you, the most welcome accession that could be made to it.

In haste, but with entire respect & deepest affection, I subscribe myself

C. LAMB.

[It was known, on the authority of the late Mr. Charles Kent, that Fanny Kelly, the actress, had received an offer of marriage from Lamb; but my own impression was that it was made much later in life than this letter, first printed in 1903 by Mr. John Hollingshead, indicates. Miss Kelly, who at this time was engaged at the Lyceum, would be twenty-nine on October 15; Lamb was forty-four in February. His salary was now L600 a year.

Lamb had long admired Miss Kelly as an actress. In his Works, published in 1818, was this sonnet:—

To Miss Kelly

You are not, Kelly, of the common strain, That stoop their pride and female honour down To please that many-headed beast the town, And vend their lavish smiles and tricks for gain; By fortune thrown amid the actors' train, You keep your native dignity of thought; The plaudits that attend you come unsought, As tributes due unto your natural vein. Your tears have passion in them, and a grace Of genuine freshness, which our hearts avow; Your smiles are winds whose ways we cannot trace, That vanish and return we know not how— And please the better from a pensive face, And thoughtful eye, and a reflecting brow.

That Lamb had been pondering his offer for some little time is suggested, Mr. Macdonald remarks, by a passage in one of his articles on Miss Kelly in The Examiner earlier in this month, where he says of her as Rachel, in "The Jovial Crew," probably with full knowledge that it would meet her eye and be understood (a truly Elian method of love-lettering), "'What a lass that were,' said a stranger who sate beside us ... 'to go a gipseying through the world with.'"

This was Miss Kelly's reply:—

Henrietta Street, July 20th, 1819.

An early & deeply rooted attachment has fixed my heart on one from whom no worldly prospect can well induce me to withdraw it, but while I thus frankly & decidedly decline your proposal, believe me, I am not insensible to the high honour which the preference of such a mind as yours confers upon me—let me, however, hope that all thought upon this subject will end with this letter, & that you will henceforth encourage no other sentiment towards me than esteem in my private character and a continuance of that approbation of my humble talents which you have already expressed so much & so often to my advantage and gratification.

Believe me I feel proud to acknowledge myself

Your obliged friend

F. M. Kelly.

Lamb at once wrote again as follows:—]



Letter 250

Charles Lamb to Fanny Kelly

July 20th, 1819.

Dear Miss Kelly,—Your injunctions shall be obeyed to a tittle. I feel myself in a lackadaisacal no-how-ish kind of a humour. I believe it is the rain, or something. I had thought to have written seriously, but I fancy I succeed best in epistles of mere fun; puns & that nonsense. You will be good friends with us, will you not? let what has past "break no bones" between us. You will not refuse us them next time we send for them?

Yours very truly, C. L.

Do you observe the delicacy of not signing my full name?

N.B. Do not paste that last letter of mine into your Book.

[Writing again of Miss Kelly, in the "Hypocrite," in The Examiner of August 1 and 2, Lamb says: "She is in truth not framed to tease or torment even in jest, but to utter a hearty Yes or No; to yield or refuse assent with a noble sincerity. We have not the pleasure of being acquainted with her, but we have been told that she carries the same cordial manners into private life."

Miss Kelly died unmarried at the age of ninety-two.

"Break no bones." Here Lamb makes one of his puns. By "bones" he meant also the little ivory discs which were given to friends of the management, entitling them to free entry to the theatre. With this explanation the next sentence of the letter becomes clear.]



Letter 251

Charles Lamb to Thomas Noon Talefourd(?)

[August, 1819.]

Dear T. We are at Mr. Bays's, Hatter, Trumpington Street, Cambridge. Can you come down? You will be with us, all but Bed, which you can get at an Inn. We shall be most glad to see you. Be so good as send me Hazlit's volume, just published at Hone's, directed as above. Or, much better, bring it. Yours, hic et ubique,

C. Lamb.

[The little note printed above (by permission of the Master of Magdalene) proves that Lamb was in Cambridge in 1819. The evidence is that the only book by Hazlitt which Hone published was Political Essays, with Sketches by Public Characters, printed for William Hone, 45 Ludgate Hill, 1819. If then Hazlitt's book determines the year, we may take the testimony of the sonnet "Written at Cambridge, August 15, 1819" as to the month, especially as Lamb at that time always took his holidays in the summer; and this gives us August: a peculiarly satisfactory conclusion for Cambridge men, because it shows that it was to Cambridge that he went for comfort and solace after Miss Kelly's refusal.

The letter has still further value in adding another Lamb domicile to the list, Mr. Bays's house being still in existence although no longer in Trumpington Street, but King's Parade.

"T." may easily have been Talfourd, who had just been writing an enthusiastic review of Lamb's John Woodvil in The Champion and was only too happy to serve his hero in any way. But it might be Tom Holcroft.]



Letter 252

Charles Lamb to S. T. Coleridge

[No date. ? Summer, 1819.]

Dr C. Your sonnet is capital. The Paper ingenious, only that it split into 4 parts (besides a side splinter) in the carriage. I have transferred it to the common English Paper, manufactured of rags, for better preservation. I never knew before how the Iliad and Odyssey were written. Tis strikingly corroborated by observations on Cats. These domestic animals, put 'em on a rug before the fire, wink their eyes up and listen to the Kettle, and then PURR, which is their Poetry.

On Sunday week we kiss your hands (if they are clean). This next Sunday I have been engaged for some time.

With remembces to your good Host and Hostess

Yours ever C. Lamb.

[The sonnet was Coleridge's "Fancy in Nubibus; or, The Poet in the Clouds," printed in Blackwood, November, 1819, but now sent to Lamb in manuscript, apparently on some curious kind of paper.

This is the sonnet:—

O! it is pleasant, with a heart at ease, Just after sunset, or by moonlight skies, To make the shifting clouds be what you please, Or let the easily persuaded eyes Own each quaint likeness issuing from the mould Of a friend's fancy; or with head bent low And cheek aslant see rivers flow of gold 'Twixt crimson banks; and then, a traveller, go From mount to mount through Cloudland, gorgeous land! Or, list'ning to the tide, with closed sight, Be that blind bard, who on the Chian strand By those deep sounds possessed with inward light, Beheld the Iliad and the Odyssee Rise to the swelling of the voiceful sea.

See next letter to Coleridge.

Possibly it is to this summer that an undated note to Crabb Robinson belongs (in the Dr. Williams' Library) in which Lamb says they are setting out to see Lord Braybrooke's house at Audley End.]



LETTER 253

CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS HOLCROFT, JR.

[No date. Autumn, 1819.]

Dear Tom, Do not come to us on Thursday, for we are moved into country lodgings, tho' I am still at the India house in the mornings. See Marshall and Captain Betham as soon as ever you can. I fear leave cannot be obtained at the India house for your going to India. If you go it must be as captain's clerk, if such a thing could be obtain'd.

For God's sake keep your present place and do not give it up, or neglect it; as you perhaps will not be able to go to India, and you see how difficult of attainment situations are.

Yours truly

C. LAMB.

[Thomas Holcroft was the son of Lamb's friend, the dramatist. Apparently he did not take Lamb's advice, for he lost his place, which was some small Parliamentary post under John Rickman, in November, 1819. Crabb Robinson, Anthony Robinson and Lamb took up the matter and subscribed money, and Holcroft went out to India.]



LETTER 254

CHARLES LAMB TO JOSEPH COTTLE

[Dated at end: Nov. 5, 1819.]

Dear Sir—It is so long since I have seen or heard from you, that I fear that you will consider a request I have to make as impertinent. About three years since, when I was one day at Bristol, I made an effort to see you, but you were from home. The request I have to make is, that you would very much oblige me, if you have any small portrait of yourself, by allowing me to have it copied, to accompany a selection of "Likenesses of Living Bards" which a most particular friend of mine is making. If you have no objections, and could oblige me by transmitting such portrait to me at No. 44 Russell Street, Covent Garden, I will answer for taking the greatest care of it, and returning it safely the instant the Copier has done with it. I hope you will pardon the liberty

From an old friend and well-wisher, CHARLES LAMB.

London 5th Nov. 1819.

[Lamb's visit to Bristol was made probably when he was staying at Calne with the Morgans in 1816. The present letter refers to an extra illustrated copy of Byron's English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, which was being made by William Evans, of The Pamphleteer, and which is now in the British Museum. Owing to Cottle's hostility to Byron, and Byron's scorn of Cottle, Lamb could hardly explain the nature of the book more fully. See note to the following letter.]



LETTER 255

CHARLES LAMB TO JOSEPH COTTLE

[Not dated. ? Late 1819.]

Dear Sir—My friend whom you have obliged by the loan of your picture, having had it very exactly copied (and a very spirited Drawing it is, as every one thinks that has seen it—the copy is not much inferior, done by a daughter of Josephs, R.A.)—he purposes sending you back the original, which I must accompany with my warm thanks, both for that, and your better favor, the "Messiah," which, I assure you, I have read thro' with great pleasure; the verses have great sweetness and a New Testament-plainness about them which affected me very much.

I could just wish that in page 63 you had omitted the lines 71 and '2, and had ended the period with

"The willowy brook was there, but that sweet sound— When to be heard again on Earthly ground?"—

two very sweet lines, and the sense perfect.

And in page 154, line 68, "I come ordained a world to save,"—these words are hardly borne out by the story, and seem scarce accordant with the modesty with which our Lord came to take his common portion among the Baptismal Candidates. They also anticipate the beauty of John's recognition of the Messiah, and the subsequent confirmation from the voice and Dove.

You will excuse the remarks of an old brother bard, whose career, though long since pretty well stopt, was coeval in its beginning with your own, and who is sorry his lot has been always to be so distant from you. It is not likely that C.L. will ever see Bristol again; but, if J.C. should ever visit London, he will be a most welcome visitor to C.L.

My sister joins in cordial remembrances and I request the favor of knowing, at your earliest opportunity, whether the Portrait arrives safe, the glass unbroken &c. Your glass broke in its coming.

Morgan is a little better—can read a little, &c.; but cannot join Mrs. M. till the Insolvent Act (or whatever it is called) takes place. Then, I hope, he will stand clear of all debts. Meantime, he has a most exemplary nurse and kind Companion in Miss Brent.

Once more, Dear Sir,

Yours truly

C. LAMB.

[Cottle sent Lamb a miniature of himself by Branwhite, which had been copied in monochrome for Mr. Evans' book. G.J. Joseph, A.R.A., made a coloured drawing of Lamb for the same work. It serves as frontispiece to Vol. I. of the present edition. Byron's lines refer as a matter of fact not to Joseph but to Amos Cottle:—

O, Amos Cottle!—Phoebus! what a name.

and so forth. Mr. Evans, however, dispensed with Amos. Another grangerised edition of the same satire, also in the British Museum, compiled by W.M. Tartt, has an engraving of Amos Cottle and two portraits of Lamb—the Hancock drawing, and the Brook Pulham caricature. Byron's lines touching Lamb ran thus:—

Yet let them not to vulgar Wordsworth stoop, The meanest object of the lowly group, Whose verse, of all but childish prattle void, Seems blessed harmony to Lambe and Lloyd.

A footnote states that Lamb and Lloyd are the most ignoble followers of Southey & Co.

Cottle's Messiah, of which the earlier portion had been published long since, was completed in 1815. Canon Ainger says that lines 71 and 72 in Lamb's copy (not that of 1815), following upon the couplet quoted, were:—

(While sorrow gave th' involuntary tear) Had ceased to vibrate on our listening ear.

Coleridge's friend Morgan had just come upon evil times. Subsequently Lamb and Southey united in helping him to the extent of L10 a year each.]



LETTER 256

CHARLES LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH

[P.M. 25 Nov., 1819.]

Dear Miss Wordsworth, you will think me negligent, but I wanted to see more of Willy, before I ventured to express a prediction. Till yesterday I had barely seen him—Virgilium Tantum Vidi—but yesterday he gave us his small company to a bullock's heart—and I can pronounce him a lad of promise. He is no pedant nor bookworm, so far I can answer. Perhaps he has hitherto paid too little attention to other men's inventions, preferring, like Lord Foppington, the "natural sprouts of his own." But he has observation, and seems thoroughly awake. I am ill at remembering other people's bon mots, but the following are a few. Being taken over Waterloo Bridge, he remarked that if we had no mountains, we had a fine river at least, which was a Touch of the Comparative, but then he added, in a strain which augured less for his future abilities as a Political Economist, that he supposed they must take at least a pound a week Toll. Like a curious naturalist he inquired if the tide did not come up a little salty. This being satisfactorily answered, he put another question as to the flux and reflux, which being rather cunningly evaded than artfully solved by that she-Aristotle Mary, who muttered something about its getting up an hour sooner and sooner every day, he sagely replied, "Then it must come to the same thing at last" which was a speech worthy of an infant Halley! The Lion in the 'Change by no means came up to his ideal standard. So impossible it is for Nature in any of her works to come up to the standard of a child's imagination. The whelps (Lionets) he was sorry to find were dead, and on particular enquiry his old friend the Ouran Outang had gone the way of all flesh also. The grand Tiger was also sick, and expected in no short time to exchange this transitory world for another—or none. But again, there was a Golden Eagle (I do not mean that of Charing) which did much ARRIDE and console him. William's genius, I take it, leans a little to the figurative, for being at play at Tricktrack (a kind of minor Billiard-table which we keep for smaller wights, and sometimes refresh our own mature fatigues with taking a hand at), not being able to hit a ball he had iterate aimed at, he cried out, "I cannot hit that beast." Now the balls are usually called men, but he felicitously hit upon a middle term, a term of approximation and imaginative reconciliation, a something where the two ends, of the brute matter (ivory) and their human and rather violent personification into men, might meet, as I take it, illustrative of that Excellent remark in a certain Preface about Imagination, explaining "like a sea-beast that had crawled forth to sun himself." Not that I accuse William Minor of hereditary plagiary, or conceive the image to have come ex traduce. Rather he seemeth to keep aloof from any source of imitation, and purposely to remain ignorant of what mighty poets have done in this kind before him. For being asked if his father had ever been on Westminster Bridge, he answer'd that he did not know.

It is hard to discern the Oak in the Acorn, or a Temple like St. Paul's in the first stone which is laid, nor can I quite prefigure what destination the genius of William Minor hath to take. Some few hints I have set down, to guide my future observations. He hath the power of calculation in no ordinary degree for a chit. He combineth figures, after the first boggle, rapidly. As in the Tricktrack board, where the hits are figured, at first he did not perceive that 15 and 7 made 22, but by a little use he could combine 8 with 25—and 33 again with 16, which approacheth something in kind (far let me be from flattering him by saying in degree) to that of the famous American boy. I am sometimes inclined to think I perceive the future satirist in him, for he hath a sub-sardonic smile which bursteth out upon occasion, as when he was asked if London were as big as Ambleside, and indeed no other answer was given, or proper to be given, to so ensnaring and provoking a question. In the contour of scull certainly I discern something paternal. But whether in all respects the future man shall transcend his father's fame, Time the trier of geniuses must decide. Be it pronounced peremptorily at present, that Willy is a well-mannerd child, and though no great student, hath yet a lively eye for things that lie before him. Given in haste from my desk at Leadenhall. Your's and yours' most sincerely

C. LAMB.

[This letter, which refers to a visit paid to the Lambs in Great Russell Street by Wordsworth's son, William, then nine years old, is remarkable, apart from its charm and humour, for containing more of the absolute method of certain of Lamb's Elia passages than anything he had yet written.

"Lord Foppington"—in Vanbrugh's "Relapse." Lamb used this speech as the motto of his Elia essay "Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading."

"Like a sea-beast." Lamb alludes to the preface to the edition of 1815 of Wordsworth's poems, where he quotes illustratively from his "Resolution and Independence":—

Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself.

"If his father had ever been on Westminster Bridge." An allusion to Wordsworth's sonnet "Composed on Westminster Bridge":—

Earth has not anything to show more fair.

"The American boy." This was Zerah Colburn, the mathematical prodigy, born in Vermont State in 1804 and exhibited in America and Europe by his father.]



LETTER 257

CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE

Jan. 10th, 1820.

Dear Coleridge,—A Letter written in the blood of your poor friend would indeed be of a nature to startle you; but this is nought but harmless red ink, or, as the witty mercantile phrase hath it, Clerk's Blood. Damn 'em! my brain, guts, skin, flesh, bone, carcase, soul, TIME, is all theirs. The Royal Exchange, Gresham's Folly, hath me body and spirit. I admire some of Lloyd's lines on you, and I admire your postponing reading them. He is a sad Tattler, but this is under the rose. Twenty years ago he estranged one friend from me quite, whom I have been regretting, but never could regain since; he almost alienated you (also) from me, or me from you, I don't know which. But that breach is closed. The dreary sea is filled up. He has lately been at work "telling again," as they call it, a most gratuitous piece of mischief, and has caused a coolness betwixt me and (not a friend exactly, but) [an] intimate acquaintance. I suspect, also, he saps Manning's faith in me, who am to Manning more than an acquaintance. Still I like his writing verses about you. Will your kind host and hostess give us a dinner next Sunday, and better still, not expect us if the weather is very bad. Why you should refuse twenty guineas per sheet for Blackwood's or any other magazine passes my poor comprehension. But, as Strap says, you know best. I have no quarrel with you about praeprandial avocations—so don't imagine one. That Manchester sonnet I think very likely is Capel Lofft's. Another sonnet appeared with the same initials in the same paper, which turned out to be Procter's. What do the rascals mean? Am I to have the fathering of what idle rhymes every beggarly Poetaster pours forth! Who put your marine sonnet and about Browne into "Blackwood"? I did not. So no more, till we meet.

Ever yours,

C. L.

[Charles Lloyd, returned to health, had written Desultory Thoughts in London, in which both Coleridge and Lamb appeared, Coleridge as *** and Lamb as **. The poem was published in 1821. Lloyd probably had sent it in manuscript or proof to Lamb and Coleridge. Some of Lloyd's lines on Coleridge run thus:—

How shall I fitly speak on such a theme? He is a treasure by the world neglected, Because he hath not, with a prescience dim, Like those whose every aim is self-reflected, Pil'd up some fastuous trophy, that of him Might tell, what mighty powers the age rejected, But taught his lips the office of a pen— By fools he's deem'd a being lost to men.

* * * * *

No! with magnanimous self-sacrifice, And lofty inadvertency of fame, He felt there is a bliss in being wise, Quite independent of the wise man's name. Who now can say how many a soul may rise To a nobility of moral aim It ne'er had known, but for that spirit brave, Which, being freely gifted, freely gave?

Sometimes I think that I'm a blossom blighted; But this I ken, that should it not prove so, If I am not inexorably spited Of all that dignifies mankind below; By him I speak of, I was so excited, While reason's scale was poising to and fro, "To the better cause;" that him I have to bless For that which it is comfort to possess.

* * * * *

No! Those who most have seen me, since the hour When thou and I, in former happier days, Frank converse held, though many an adverse power Have sought the memory of those times to raze, Can vouch that more it stirs me (thus a tower, Sole remnant of vast castle, still betrays Haply its former splendour) to have prov'd Thy love, than by fresh friends to have been lov'd.

The story of one of Lloyd's former indiscretions is told in the earlier letters of this collection. I cannot say what friend he quite alienated, unless it was James White. The nature of the later offence of which Lamb accuses Lloyd is now unknown.

"That Manchester sonnet." A sonnet entitled "Manchester," referring to the Luddites, and signed C. L., by Capel Lofft. Procter's "C.L." sonnet was upon Macready.

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