Somers Town, 17th Sept., 1801.
[The point of signing this letter with Godwin's name and adding his address (Lamb, it will be noticed, was then at Margate) is not clear.
I place here the following letter, not having any clue as to date, which is immaterial:—]
CHARLES LAMB TO MRS. WILLIAM GODWIN
Dear Mrs. G.,—Having observed with some concern that Mr. Godwin is a little fastidious in what he eats for supper, I herewith beg to present his palate with a piece of dried salmon. I am assured it is the best that swims in Trent. If you do not know how to dress it, allow me to add that it should be cut in thin slices and boiled in paper previously prepared in butter. Wishing it exquisite, I remain,—Much as before, yours sincerely,
Some add mashed potatoes.
[Following this letter should come a letter from Lamb to John Rickman, describing the state of their two George friends: George the First (George Dyer) and George the Second (George Burnett). Burnett, he says, as ill becomes adversity as Dyer would prosperity. He tells also of another poor acquaintance of Rickman's—one Simonds with a slit lip, who has been to Lamb to borrow money. "Saving his dirty shirt and his physiognomy and his 'bacco box, together with a certain kiddy air in his walk, a man w'd have gone near to have mistaken him for a gentleman. He has a sort of ambition to be so misunderstood."]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN RICKMAN
To John Rickman, Esqr., Dublin Castle.
[No date. ? November, 1801.]
A letter from G. Dyer will probably accompany this. I wish I could convey to you any notion of the whimsical scenes I have been witness to in this fortnight past. 'Twas on Tuesday week the poor heathen scrambled up to my door about breakfast time. He came thro' a violent rain with no neckcloth on, and a beard that made him a spectacle to men and angels, and tap'd at the door. Mary open'd it, and he stood stark still and held a paper in his hand importing that he had been ill with a fever. He either wouldn't or couldn't speak except by signs. When you went to comfort him he put his hand upon his heart and shook his head and told us his complaint lay where no medicines could reach it. I was dispatch'd for Dr. Dale, Mr. Phillips of St. Paul's Church yard, and Mr. Frend, who is to be his executor. George solemnly delivered into Mr. Frend's hands and mine an old burnt preface that had been in the fire, with injunctions which we solemnly vow'd to obey that it should be printed after his death with his last corrections, and that some account should be given to the world why he had not fulfill'd his engagement with subscribers. Having done this and borrow'd two guineas of his bookseller (to whom he imparted in confidence that he should leave a great many loose papers behind him which would only want methodizing and arranging to prove very lucrative to any bookseller after his death), he laid himself down on my bed in a mood of complacent resignation. By the aid of meat and drink put into him (for I all along suspected a vacuum) he was enabled to sit up in the evening, but he had not got the better of his intolerable fear of dying; he expressed such philosophic indifference in his speech and such frightened apprehensions in his physiognomy that if he had truly been dying, and I had known it, I could not have kept my countenance. In particular, when the doctor came and ordered him to take little white powders (I suppose of chalk or alum, to humour him), he ey'd him with a suspicion which I could not account for; he has since explain'd that he took it for granted Dr. Dale knew his situation and had ordered him these powders to hasten his departure that he might suffer as little pain as possible. Think what an aspect the heathen put on with these fears upon a dirty face. To recount all his freaks for two or three days while he thought he was going, and how the fit operated, and sometimes the man got uppermost and sometimes the author, and he had this excellent person to serve, and he must correct some proof sheets for Phillips, and he could not bear to leave his subscribers unsatisfy'd, but he must not think of these things now, he was going to a place where he should satisfy all his debts—and when he got a little better he began to discourse what a happy thing it would be if there was a place where all the good men and women in the world might meet, meaning heav'n, and I really believe for a time he had doubts about his soul, for he was very near, if not quite, light-headed. The fact was he had not had a good meal for some days and his little dirty Niece (whom he sent for with a still dirtier Nephew, and hugg'd him, and bid them farewell) told us that unless he dines out he subsists on tea and gruels. And he corroborated this tale by ever and anon complaining of sensations of gnawing which he felt about his heart, which he mistook his stomach to be, and sure enough these gnawings were dissipated after a meal or two, and he surely thinks that he has been rescued from the jaws of death by Dr. Dale's white powders. He is got quite well again by nursing, and chirps of odes and lyric poetry the day long—he is to go out of town on Monday, and with him goes the dirty train of his papers and books which follow'd him to our house. I shall not be sorry when he takes his nipt carcase out of my bed, which it has occupied, and vanishes with all his Lyric lumber, but I will endeavour to bring him in future into a method of dining at least once a day. I have proposed to him to dine with me (and he has nearly come into it) whenever he does not go out; and pay me. I will take his money beforehand and he shall eat it out. If I don't it will go all over the world. Some worthless relations, of which the dirty little devil that looks after him and a still more dirty nephew are component particles, I have reason to think divide all his gains with some lazy worthless authors that are his constant satellites. The Literary Fund has voted him seasonably L20 and if I can help it he shall spend it on his own carcase. I have assisted him in arranging the remainder of what he calls Poems and he will get rid of 'em I hope in another. [Here three lines are torn away at the foot of the page, wherein Lamb makes the transition from George Dyer to another poor author, George Burnett.]
I promised Burnet to write when his parcel went. He wants me to certify that he is more awake than you think him. I believe he may be by this time, but he is so full of self-opinion that I fear whether he and Phillips will ever do together. What he is to do for Phillips he whimsically seems to consider more as a favor done to P. than a job from P. He still persists to call employment dependence, and prates about the insolence of booksellers and the tax upon geniuses. Poor devil! he is not launched upon the ocean and is sea-sick with aforethought. I write plainly about him, and he would stare and frown finely if he read this treacherous epistle, but I really am anxious about him, and that [? it] nettles me to see him so proud and so helpless. If he is not serv'd he will never serve himself. I read his long letter to Southey, which I suppose you have seen. He had better have been furnishing copy for Phillips than luxuriating in tracing the causes of his imbecillity. I believe he is a little wrong in not ascribing more to the structure of his own mind. He had his yawns from nature, his pride from education.
I hope to see Southey soon, so I need only send my remembrance to him now. Doubtless I need not tell him that Burnett is not to be foster'd in self-opinion. His eyes want opening, to see himself a man of middling stature. I am not oculist enough to do this. The booksellers may one day remove the film. I am all this time on the most cordial supping terms of amity with G. Burnett and really love him at times: but I must speak freely of people behind their backs and not think it back-biting. It is better than Godwin's way of telling a man he is a fool to his face.
I think if you could do any thing for George in the way of an office (God knows whether you can in any haste [? case], but you did talk of it) it is my firm belief that it would be his only chance of settlement; he will never live by his literary exertions, as he calls them—he is too proud to go the usual way to work and he has no talents to make that way unnecessary. I know he talks big in his letter to Southey that his mind is undergoing an alteration and that the die is now casting that shall consign him to honor or dishonour, but these expressions are the convulsions of a fever, not the sober workings of health. Translated into plain English, he now and then perceives he must work or starve, and then he thinks he'll work; but when he goes about it there's a lion in the way. He came dawdling to me for an Encyclopaedia yesterday. I recommended him to Norris' library and he said if he could not get it there, Phillips was bound to furnish him with one; it was Phillips' interest to do so, and all that. This was true with some restrictions—but as to Phillips' interests to oblige G.B.! Lord help his simple head! P. could by a whistle call together a host of such authors as G. B. like Robin Hood's merry men in green. P. has regular regiments in pay. Poor writers are his crab-lice and suck at him for nutriment. His round pudding chops are their idea of plenty when in their idle fancies they aspire to be rich.
What do you think of a life of G. Dyer? I can scarcely conceive a more amusing novel. He has been connected with all sects in the world and he will faithfully tell all he knows. Every body will read it; and if it is not done according to my fancy I promise to put him in a novel when he dies. Nothing shall escape me. If you think it feasible, whenever you write you may encourage him. Since he has been so close with me I have perceiv'd the workings of his inordinate vanity, his gigantic attention to particles and to prevent open vowels in his odes, his solicitude that the public may not lose any tittle of his poems by his death, and all the while his utter ignorance that the world don't care a pin about his odes and his criticisms, a fact which every body knows but himself—he is a rum genius.
[Dr. Dale would probably be Thomas Dale of Devonshire Square, Bishopsgate, who had a large city practice in those days. He died in 1816.
"An old burnt preface." See note on page 210.
George Burnett we have already met. He was born probably in 1776. He went to Balliol, met Southey and Coleridge and became a Pantisocratist. Subsequently he became a dissenting minister at Yarmouth, and then a medical student at Edinburgh; and later he succeeded George Dyer as tutor in the family of Lord Stanhope. He became one of Phillips' hacks, as Lamb's letter tells us. His principal work was the Specimens of English Prose Writers, 1807, in three volumes, in which it has been stated that Lamb had a hand. He died in want in 1811.
The reference to Southey being in Dublin is explained by the fact that, through Rickman, he had been appointed private secretary to Mr. Corry, Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland, at a salary of L400. He did not long retain the post, as it was vexatious and the duties very irregular.
Lamb's next letter to Rickman, dated November 24, 1801, contains better news of Dyer and returns to the subject of John Woodvil. "Dyer regularly dines with me when he does not go a visiting, and brings his shilling." Also, says Lamb, he talks of marrying. "He has not forgiven me for betraying to you his purpose of writing his own Life. He says, that if it once spreads, so many people will expect and wish to have a place in it, that he is sure he shall disoblige all his friends."
Another, undated, letter to Rickman should probably come here-abouts, saying that Dyer has been lent a house at Enfield full of books, where he is at work on his Poems.
Here perhaps should come a letter from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, returning to Jeremy Taylor, and deprecating a selection from his works, which Robert Lloyd had suggested that Lamb should make. (In 1805 Basil Montagu, afterwards, if not now, a friend of Lamb's, published a volume of Selections from the Works of Taylor, Etc.) Lamb says that Manning and Coleridge are in town, and he is making a thorough alteration in the structure of his play (John Woodvil) for publication.
Here perhaps should come a further undated letter to Rickman in which Lamb says that the receipt of L50 for an old debt has made it possible to print John Woodvil. Dyer, he says, is "the most unmanageable of God's creatures." Burnett is in a very bad way again. Fenwick's paper The Plough has become a weekly. Godwin is not yet married. Fell, Godwin's shadow, is writing a comedy: "An Owl making a Pun would be no bad emblem of the unnatural attempt." In a postscript Lamb says that he has since read the play and it is not bad: "Who knows, but Owls do make Puns when they hoot by moonshine." The best news is that Lamb hopes to be a theatrical critic for the Morning Post.
Here should come a letter to Rickman dated January 9, 1802, the principal news in which is that George Dyer is consorting with the Earl of Buchan, the "eccentric biographer of Fletcher of Saltoun," and has brought him to see Lamb. "I wan't at home, but Mary was washing—a pretty pickle to receive an Earl in! Lord have mercy upon us! a Lord in my garret! My utmost ambition was some time or other to receive a Secretary. Well, I am to breakfast with this mad Lord on Sunday." Lamb refers to his article in the Post on Cooke's "Richard III."
Here should come a letter to Rickman dated January 14, 1802, in which Lamb confesses to the authorship of "Dick Strype" in the Morning Post of January 6 (see Vol. IV.); also of a whimsical account of the Lord Mayor's State Bed (see Vol. I.); and of some of the Twelfth Night Epigrams (see Vol. IV.). He includes two epigrams which the editor rejected.
Here should come a note to Rickman dated January 18, 1802, relating to a joint subscription with Rickman's father for certain newspapers.
Here should come a letter to Rickman dated February 1, 1802, giving the first draft of the epitaph for Mary Druitt (see Vol. IV.). He also says that George Burnett, who had just been appointed tutor to the sons of Lord ("Citizen") Stanhope, is perplexed because his pupils have run away.
Here should come a note to Rickman, dated February 4, 1802, accompanying three copies of John Woodvil and saying that an annuity is to be bought for George Dyer by certain friends.
Here should come a letter to Rickman, dated February 14, 1802, which contains the news that Lamb has given up the Post. He feels much relieved in consequence, in spite of the loss of money. George Dyer's dinner money is now paid from his friends' fund, and Burnett is happy in doing nothing for Lord Stanhope's salary. Mary Lamb does not want Rickman to know that "Helen," in the John Woodvil volume, is of her writing.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[No date. ? Feb. 15, 1802.]
Not a sentence, not a syllable of Trismegistus, shall be lost through my neglect. I am his word-banker, his storekeeper of puns and syllogisms. You cannot conceive (and if Trismegistus cannot, no man can) the strange joy which I felt at the receipt of a letter from Paris. It seemed to give me a learned importance, which placed me above all who had not Parisian correspondents. Believe that I shall carefully husband every scrap, which will save you the trouble of memory, when you come back. You cannot write things so trifling, let them only be about Paris, which I shall not treasure. In particular, I must have parallels of actors and actresses. I must be told if any building in Paris is at all comparable to St. Paul's, which, contrary to the usual mode of that part of our nature called admiration, I have looked up to with unfading wonder every morning at ten o'clock, ever since it has lain in my way to business. At noon I casually glance upon it, being hungry; and hunger has not much taste for the fine arts. Is any night-walk comparable to a walk from St. Paul's to Charing Cross, for lighting and paving, crowds going and coming without respite, the rattle of coaches and the cheerfulness of shops? Have you seen a man guillotined yet? is it as good as hanging? are the women all painted, and the men all monkeys? or are there not a few that look like rational of both sexes? Are you and the First Consul thick? All this expense of ink I may fairly put you to, as your letters will not be solely for my proper pleasure, but are to serve as memoranda and notices, helps for short memory, a kind of Rumfordising recollection, for yourself on your return. Your letter was just what a letter should be, crammed and very funny. Every part of it pleased me till you came to Paris; and your damn'd philosophical indolence or indifference stung me. You cannot stir from your rooms till you know the language! What the devil!—are men nothing but word-trumpets? are men all tongue and ear? have these creatures, that you and I profess to know something about, no faces, gestures, gabble: no folly, no absurdity, no induction of French education upon the abstract idea of men and women, no similitude nor dis-similitude to English! Why! thou damn'd Smell-fungus! your account of your landing and reception, and Bullen (I forget how you spell it—it was spelt my way in Harry the Eighth's time,) was exactly in that minute style which strong impressions INSPIRE (writing to a Frenchman, I write as a Frenchman would). It appears to me as if I should die with joy at the first landing in a foreign country. It is the nearest pleasure, which a grown man can substitute for that unknown one, which he can never know—the pleasure of the first entrance into life from the womb. I dare say, in a short time, my habits would come back like a "stronger man" armed, and drive out that new pleasure; and I should soon sicken for known objects. Nothing has transpired here that seems to me of sufficient importance to send dry-shod over the water: but I suppose you will want to be told some news. The best and the worst to me is, that I have given up two guineas a week at the "Post," and regained my health and spirits, which were upon the wane. I grew sick, and Stuart unsatisfied. Ludisti satis, tempus abire est; I must cut closer, that's all.
In all this time I have done but one thing, which I reckon tolerable, and that I will transcribe, because it may give you pleasure, being a picture of my humours. You will find it in my last page. It absurdly is a first Number of a series, thus strangled in its birth.
More news! The Professor's Rib has come out to be a damn'd disagreeable woman, so much so as to drive me and some more old cronies from his house. If a man will keep snakes in his house, he must not wonder if people are shy of coming to see him because of the snakes.
Mister Fell—or as you, with your usual facetiousness and drollery, call him, Mr. F + II—has stopped short in the middle of his play. Some friend has told him that it has not the least merit in it. Oh! that I had the rectifying of the Litany! I would put in a libera nos (Scriptores videlicet) ab amicis! That's all the news. A propos (is it pedantry, writing to a Frenchman, to express myself sometimes by a French word, when an English one would not do as well? methinks, my thoughts fall naturally into it).
Apropos, I think you wrong about my play. All the omissions are right. And the supplementary scene, in which Sandford narrates the manner in which his master is affected, is the best in the book. It stands where a hodge-podge of German puerilities used to stand. I insist upon it that you like that scene. Love me, love that scene.
I will now transcribe the "Londoner" (No. 1), and wind up all with affection and humble servant at the end.
THE LONDONER. No. 1.
In compliance with my own particular humour, no less than with thy laudable curiosity, Reader, I proceed to give thee some account of my history and habits. I was born under the nose of St. Dunstan's steeple, just where the conflux of the eastern and western inhabitants of this twofold city meet and justle in friendly opposition at Temple-bar. The same day which gave me to the world saw London happy in the celebration of her great annual feast. This I cannot help looking upon as a lively type or omen of the future great goodwill which I was destined to bear toward the City, resembling in kind that solicitude which every Chief Magistrate is supposed to feel for whatever concerns her interests and well-being. Indeed, I consider myself in some sort a speculative Lord Mayor of London: for, though circumstances unhappily preclude me from the hope of ever arriving at the dignity of a gold chain and spital sermon, yet thus much will I say of myself, in truth, that Whittington himself with his Cat (just emblem of vigilance and a furred gown), never went beyond me in affection, which I bear to the citizens. Shut out from serving them in the most honourable mode, I aspire to do them benefit in another, scarcely less honourable; and if I cannot, by virtue of office, commit vice and irregularity to the material Counter, I will, at least, erect a spiritual one, where they shall be laid fast by the heels. In plain words, I will do my best endeavour to write them down.
To return to myself (from whence my zeal for the Public good is perpetually causing me to digress), I will let thee, Reader, into certain more of my peculiarities. I was born (as you have heard), bred, and have passed most of my time, in a crowd. This has begot in me an entire affection for that way of life, amounting to an almost insurmountable aversion from solitude and rural scenes. This aversion was never interrupted or suspended, except for a few years in the younger part of my life, during a period in which I had fixed my affections upon a charming young woman. Every man, while the passion is upon him, is for a time at least addicted to groves and meadows, and purling streams. During this short period of my existence, I contracted just enough familiarity with rural objects to understand tolerably well ever after the Poets, when they declaim in such passionate terms in favour of a country life.
For my own part, now the fit is long past, I have no hesitation in declaring, that a mob of happy faces crowding up at the pit door of Drury-Lane Theatre just at the hour of five, give me ten thousand finer pleasures, than I ever received from all the flocks of silly sheep, that have whitened the plains of Arcadia or Epsom Downs.
This passion for crowds is no where feasted so full as in London. The man must have a rare recipe for melancholy, who can be dull in Fleet-street. I am naturally inclined to hypochondria, but in London it vanishes, like all other ills. Often when I have felt a weariness or distaste at home, have I rushed out into her crowded Strand, and fed my humour, till tears have wetted my cheek for inutterable sympathies with the multitudinous moving picture, which she never fails to present at all hours, like the shifting scenes of a skilful Pantomime.
The very deformities of London, which give distaste to others, from habit do not displease me. The endless succession of shops, where Fancy (miscalled Folly) is supplied with perpetual new gauds and toys, excite in me no puritanical aversion. I gladly behold every appetite supplied with its proper food. The obliging customer, and the obliged tradesmen— things which live by bowing, and things which exist but for homage, do not affect me with disgust; from habit I perceive nothing but urbanity, where other men, more refined, discover meanness. I love the very smoke of London, because it has been the medium most familiar to my vision. I see grand principles of honour at work in the dirty ring which encompasses two combatants with fists, and principles of no less eternal justice in the tumultuous detectors of a pickpocket. The salutary astonishment with which an execution is surveyed, convinces me more forcibly than an hundred volumes of abstract polity, that the universal instinct of man, in all ages, has leaned to order and good government. Thus an art of extracting morality, from the commonest incidents of a town life, is attained by the same well-natured alchemy, with which the Foresters of Arden in a beautiful country
Found tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in every thing—
Where has spleen her food but in London—humour, interest, curiosity, suck at her measureless breasts without a possibility of being satiated. Nursed amid her noise, her crowds, her beloved smoke—what have I been doing all my life, if I have not lent out my heart with usury to such scenes?
Reader, in the course of my peregrinations about the great city, it is hard, if I have not picked up matter, which may serve to amuse thee, as it has done me, a winter evening long. When next we meet, I purpose opening my budget—Till when, farewell.
* * * * *
"What is all this about?" said Mrs. Shandy. "A story of a cock and a bull," said Yorick: and so it is; but Manning will take good-naturedly what God will send him across the water: only I hope he won't shut his eyes, and open his mouth, as the children say, for that is the way to gape, and not to read. Manning, continue your laudable purpose of making me your register. I will render back all your remarks; and I, not you, shall have received usury by having read them. In the mean time, may the great Spirit have you in his keeping, and preserve our Englishmen from the inoculation of frivolity and sin upon French earth.
Allons—or what is it you say, instead of good-bye?
Mary sends her kind remembrance, and covets the remarks equally with me.
[The reference to the "word-banker" and "register" is explained by Manning's first letter to Lamb from Paris, in which he says: "I ... beg you to keep all my letters. I hope to send you many—and I may in the course of time, make some observations that I shall wish to recall to my memory when I return to England."
"Are you and the First Consul thick?"—Napoleon, with whom Manning was destined one day to be on terms. In 1803, on the declaration of war, when he wished to return to England, Manning's was the only passport that Napoleon signed; again, in 1817, on returning from China, Manning was wrecked near St. Helena, and, waiting on the island for a ship, conversed there with the great exile.
"Rumfordising." A word coined by Lamb from Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count von Rumford, the founder of the Royal Institution, the deviser of the Rumford stove, and a tireless scientific and philosophical experimentalist.
"Smellfungus." An allusion to Sterne's attack on Smollett, in The Sentimental Journey: "The lamented Smelfungus travelled from Boulogne to Paris, from Paris to Rome, and so on; but he set out with the spleen and jaundice, and every object he passed by was discoloured or distorted."
"The Post." Lamb had been writing criticisms of plays; but Stuart, as we have seen, wanted them on the same night as the performance and Lamb found this impossible.
"I have done but one thing"—"The Londoner," referred to later.
"The Professor's Rib"—Godwin's second wife, the widow Clairmont (mother of Jane Clairmont), whom he had married in December, 1801.
"Fell"—R. Fell, author of a Tour through the Batavian Republic, 1801. Later he compiled a Life of Charles James Fox, 1808. Lamb knew him, as well as Fenwick, through Godwin.
"Apropos, I think you wrong about my play." John Woodvil had just been published and Lamb had sent Manning a copy. Manning, in return, had written from Paris early in February: "I showed your Tragedy to Holcroft, who had taste enough to discover that 'tis full of poetry—but the plot he condemns in toto. Tell me how it succeeds. I think you were ill advised to retrench so much. I miss the beautiful Branches you have lopped off and regret them. In some of the pages the sprinkling of words is so thin as to be quite outre. There you were wrong again."
"The Londoner" was published in the Morning Post, February 1, 1802. I have quoted the article from that paper, as Lamb's copy for Manning has disappeared. Concerning it Manning wrote, in his next letter—April 6, 1802—"I like your 'Londoner' very much, there is a deal of happy fancy in it, but it is not strong enough to be seen by the generality of readers, yet if you were to write a volume of essays in the same stile you might be sure of its succeeding."]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN RICKMAN
16, Mitre Court Buildings, Inner Temple, April 10, 1802.
Dear Rickman,—The enclosed letter explains itself. It will save me the danger of a corporal interview with the man-eater who, if very sharp-set, may take a fancy to me, if you will give me a short note, declaratory of probabilities. These from him who hopes to see you once or twice more before he goes hence, to be no more seen: for there is no tipple nor tobacco in the grave, whereunto he hasteneth.
How clearly the Goul writes, and like a gentleman!
[A friend of Burnett, named Simonds, is meant. Lamb calls him a "Goul" in another letter, and elsewhere says he eats strange flesh. See note on page 232.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[No date. ?End of April, 1802.]
My dear Manning,—Although something of the latest, and after two months' waiting, your letter was highly gratifying. Some parts want a little explication; for example, "the god-like face of the First Consul." What god does he most resemble? Mars, Bacchus, or Apollo? or the god Serapis who, flying (as Egyptian chronicles deliver) from the fury of the dog Anubis (the hieroglyph of an English mastiff), lighted on Monomotapa (or the land of apes), by some thought to be Old France, and there set up a tyranny, &c. Our London prints of him represent him gloomy and sulky, like an angry Jupiter. I hear that he is very small, even less than me, who am "less than the least of the Apostles," at least than they are painted in the Vatican. I envy you your access to this great man, much more than your seances and conversaziones, which I have a shrewd suspicion must be something dull. What you assert concerning the actors of Paris, that they exceed our comedians, "bad as ours are," is impossible. In one sense it may be true, that their fine gentlemen, in what is called genteel comedy, may possibly be more brisk and degage than Mr. Caulfield or Mr. Whitfield; but have any of them the power to move laughter in excess? or can a Frenchman laugh? Can they batter at your judicious ribs till they shake, nothing both to be so shaken? This is John Bull's criterion, and it shall be mine. You are Frenchified. Both your tastes and morals are corrupt and perverted. By-and-by you will come to assert, that Buonaparte is as great a general as the old Duke of Cumberland, and deny that one Englishman can beat three Frenchmen. Read "Henry the Fifth" to restore your orthodoxy. All things continue at a stay-still in London. I cannot repay your new novelties with my stale reminiscences. Like the prodigal, I have spent my patrimony, and feed upon the superannuated chaff and dry husks of repentance; yet sometimes I remember with pleasure the hounds and horses, which I kept in the days of my prodigality. I find nothing new, nor anything that has so much of the gloss and dazzle of novelty, as may rebound in narrative, and cast a reflective glimmer across the channel. Something I will say about people that you and I know. Fenwick is still in debt, and the Professor has not done making love to his new spouse. I think he never looks into an almanack, or he would have found by the calendar that the honeymoon was extinct a moon ago. Lloyd has written to me and names you. I think a letter from Maison Magnan (is that a person or a thing?) would gratify him. G. Dyer is in love with an Ideot who loves a Doctor, who is incapable of loving anything but himself. A puzzling circle of perverse Providences! A maze as un-get-out-again-able as the House which Jack built. Southey is Secretary to the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer; L400 a year. Stoddart is turned Doctor of Civil Law, and dwells in Doctors' Commons. I fear his commons are short, as they say. Did I send you an epitaph I scribbled upon a poor girl who died at nineteen, a good girl and a pretty girl, and a clever girl, but strangely neglected by all her friends and kin?
"Under this cold marble stone Sleep the sad remains of one Who, when alive, by few or none Was loved, as loved she might have been, If she prosperous days had seen, Or had thriving been, I ween. Only this cold funeral stone Tells she was beloved by one, Who on the marble graves his moan."
Brief, and pretty, and tender, is it not? I send you this, being the only piece of poetry I have done, since the muses all went with T. M. to Paris. I have neither stuff in my brain, nor paper in my drawer, to write you a longer letter. Liquor and company and wicked tobacco a'nights, have quite dispericraniated me, as one may say; but you who spiritualise upon Champagne may continue to write long letters, and stuff 'em with amusement to the end. Too long they cannot be, any more than a codicil to a will which leaves me sundry parks and manors not specified in the deed. But don't be two months before you write again. These from merry old England, on the day of her valiant patron St. George.
[This letter is usually dated 1803, but I feel sure it should be 1802. Southey had given up his Irish appointment in that year, and Godwin's honeymoon began in December, 1801.
"Even less than me." Mr. W. C. Hazlitt gives in Mary and Charles Lamb a vivid impression of Lamb's spare figure. A farmer at Widford, Mr. Charles Tween, himself not a big man, told Mr. Hazlitt that when walking out with Lamb he would place his hands under his arm and lift him over the stiles as if it were nothing. Napoleon's height was 5 feet 6 or 7 inches.
Thomas Caulfield, a brother of the antiquary and print-seller, James Caulfield, was a comedian and mimic at Drury Lane; Whitfield was an actor at Drury Lane, who later moved to Covent Garden.
"An epitaph." These lines were written upon a friend of Rickman's, Mary Druitt of Wimborne. They were printed in the Morning Post for February 7, 1804, signed C. L. See later.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Sept. 8th, 1802.
Dear Coleridge,—I thought of not writing till we had performed some of our commissions; but we have been hindered from setting about them, which yet shall be done to a tittle. We got home very pleasantly on Sunday. Mary is a good deal fatigued, and finds the difference of going to a place, and coming from it. I feel that I shall remember your mountains to the last day I live. They haunt me perpetually. I am like a man who has been falling in love unknown to himself, which he finds out when he leaves the lady. I do not remember any very strong impression while they were present; but, being gone, their mementos are shelved in my brain. We passed a very pleasant little time with the Clarksons. The Wordsworths are at Montagu's rooms, near neighbours to us. They dined with us yesterday, and I was their guide to Bartlemy Fair!
[In the summer of 1802 the Lambs paid a sudden visit to Coleridge at Keswick. Afterwards they went to Grasmere, although the Wordsworths were away from home; but they saw Thomas Clarkson, the philanthropist, then living at Ullswater (see the next letter). They had reached London again on September 5. Procter records that on being asked how he felt when among the lakes and mountains, Lamb replied that in order to bring down his thoughts from their almost painful elevation to the sober regions of life, he was obliged to think of the ham and beef shop near St. Martin's Lane. Lamb says that after such a holiday he finds his office work very strange. "I feel debased; but I shall soon break in my mountain spirit." The last two words were a recollection of his own poem "The Grandame"—
hers was else A mountain spirit....
This letter, the original of which is I know not where, is here, for dismal copyright reasons, very imperfectly given. Mr. Macdonald prints it apparently in full, although Mrs. Gilchrist in her memoir of Mary Lamb supplies another passage, as follows:—"Lloyd has written me a fine letter of friendship all about himself and Sophia and love and cant which I have not answered. I have not given up the idea of writing to him but it will be done very plainly and sincerely, without acrimony."
Lamb also says that Pi-pos (as Coleridge's second child Derwent was called) was the only one, except a beggar's brat, that he had ever wanted to steal from its parents.
He says also: "I was pleased to recognise your blank-verse poem (the Picture) in the Morn. Post of Monday. It reads very well, and I feel some dignity in the notion of being able to understand it better than most Southern readers."
Coleridge's poem "The Picture; or, The Lover's Resolution," was printed in the Morning Post for September 6. Its scenery was probably pointed out to Lamb by Coleridge at Keswick.
Basil Montagu, the lawyer, an old friend of Wordsworth's. It is his son Edward who figures in the "Anecdote for Fathers."
Bartholomew Fair, held at Smithfield, continued until 1855, but its glories had been decreasing for some years.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
24th Sept., 1802, London.
My dear Manning,—Since the date of my last letter, I have been a traveller. A strong desire seized me of visiting remote regions. My first impulse was to go and see Paris. It was a trivial objection to my aspiring mind, that I did not understand a word of the language, since I certainly intend some time in my life to see Paris, and equally certainly never intend to learn the language; therefore that could be no objection. However, I am very glad I did not go, because you had left Paris (I see) before I could have set out. I believe, Stoddart promising to go with me another year prevented that plan. My next scheme, (for to my restless, ambitious mind London was become a bed of thorns) was to visit the far-famed Peak in Derbyshire, where the Devil sits, they say, without breeches. This my purer mind rejected as indelicate. And my final resolve was a tour to the Lakes. I set out with Mary to Keswick, without giving Coleridge any notice; for my time being precious did not admit of it. He received us with all the hospitality in the world, and gave up his time to show us all the wonders of the country. He dwells upon a small hill by the side of Keswick, in a comfortable house, quite enveloped on all sides by a net of mountains: great floundering bears and monsters they seemed, all couchant and asleep. We got in in the evening, travelling in a post-chaise from Penrith, in the midst of a gorgeous sunshine, which transmuted all the mountains into colours, purple, &c. &c. We thought we had got into fairyland. But that went off (as it never came again—while we stayed we had no more fine sunsets); and we entered Coleridge's comfortable study just in the dusk, when the mountains were all dark with clouds upon their heads. Such an impression I never received from objects of sight before, nor do I suppose 1 can ever again.
Glorious creatures, fine old fellows, Skiddaw, &c. I never shall forget ye, how ye lay about that night, like an intrenchment; gone to bed, as it seemed for the night, but promising that ye were to be seen in the morning. Coleridge had got a blazing fire in his study; which is a large, antique, ill-shaped room, with an old-fashioned organ, never played upon, big enough for a church, shelves of scattered folios, an AEolian harp, and an old sofa, half-bed, &c. And all looking out upon the last fading view of Skiddaw and his broad-breasted brethren: what a night! Here we stayed three full weeks, in which time I visited Wordsworth's cottage, where we stayed a day or two with the Clarksons (good people and most hospitable, at whose house we tarried one day and night), and saw Lloyd. The Wordsworths were gone to Calais. They have since been in London and past much time with us: he is now gone into Yorkshire to be married to a girl of small fortune, but he is in expectation of augmenting his own in consequence of the death of Lord Lonsdale, who kept him out of his own in conformity with a plan my lord had taken up in early life of making everybody unhappy. So we have seen Keswick, Grasmere, Ambleside, Ulswater (where the Clarksons live), and a place at the other end of Ulswater—I forget the name—to which we travelled on a very sultry day, over the middle of Helvellyn. We have clambered up to the top of Skiddaw, and I have waded up the bed of Lodore. In fine, I have satisfied myself, that there is such a thing as that which tourists call romantic, which I very much suspected before: they make such a spluttering about it, and toss their splendid epithets around them, till they give as dim a light as at four o'clock next morning the lamps do after an illumination. Mary was excessively tired, when she got about half-way up Skiddaw, but we came to a cold rill (than which nothing can be imagined more cold, running over cold stones), and with the reinforcement of a draught of cold water she surmounted it most manfully. Oh, its fine black head, and the bleak air atop of it, with a prospect of mountains all about, and about, making you giddy; and then Scotland afar off, and the border countries so famous in song and ballad! It was a day that will stand out, like a mountain, I am sure, in my life. But I am returned (I have now been come home near three weeks—I was a month out), and you cannot conceive the degradation I felt at first, from being accustomed to wander free as air among mountains, and bathe in rivers without being controlled by any one, to come home and work. I felt very little. I had been dreaming I was a very great man. But that is going off, and I find I shall conform in time to that state of life to which it has pleased God to call me. Besides, after all, Fleet-Street and the Strand are better places to live in for good and all than among Skiddaw. Still, I turn back to those great places where I wandered about, participating in their greatness. After all, I could not live in Skiddaw. I could spend a year—two, three years—among them, but I must have a prospect of seeing Fleet-Street at the end of that time, or I should mope and pine away, I know. Still, Skiddaw is a fine creature. My habits are changing, I think: i.e. from drunk to sober. Whether I shall be happier or not remains to be proved. I shall certainly be more happy in a morning; but whether I shall not sacrifice the fat, and the marrow, and the kidneys, i.e. the night, the glorious care-drowning night, that heals all our wrongs, pours wine into our mortifications, changes the scene from indifferent and flat to bright and brilliant!—O Manning, if I should have formed a diabolical resolution, by the time you come to England, of not admitting any spirituous liquors into my house, will you be my guest on such shameworthy terms? Is life, with such limitations, worth trying? The truth is, that my liquors bring a nest of friendly harpies about my house, who consume me. This is a pitiful tale to be read at St. Gothard; but it is just now nearest my heart. Fenwick is a ruined man. He is hiding himself from his creditors, and has sent his wife and children into the country. Fell, my other drunken companion (that has been: nam hic caestus artemque repono), is turned editor of a "Naval Chronicle." Godwin (with a pitiful artificial wife) continues a steady friend, though the same facility does not remain of visiting him often. That Bitch has detached Marshall from his house, Marshall the man who went to sleep when the "Ancient Mariner" was reading: the old, steady, unalterable friend of the Professor. Holcroft is not yet come to town. I expect to see him, and will deliver your message. How I hate this part of a letter. Things come crowding in to say, and no room for 'em. Some things are too little to be told, i.e. to have a preference; some are too big and circumstantial. Thanks for yours, which was most delicious. Would I had been with you, benighted &c. I fear my head is turned with wandering. I shall never be the same acquiescent being. Farewell; write again quickly, for I shall not like to hazard a letter, not knowing where the fates have carried you. Farewell, my dear fellow.
[Lamb suggests in Letter 54 that he knew some French. Marshall we met in the letters to Godwin of December 14,1800, and to Manning, December 16, 1800.
"Holcroft"—Thomas Holcroft (1745-1809), a miscellaneous writer, who is best known by his play "The Road to Ruin." Lamb says of him in his "Letter to Southey" (see Vol. I. of this edition) that he was "one of the most candid, most upright, and single-meaning men" that he had ever met.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE October 9, 1802.
CAROLUS AGNUS COLERIDGIO SUO S.
Carissime—Scribis, ut nummos scilicet epistolarios solvam et postremo in Tartara abeam: immo tu potius Tartaricum (ut aiunt) deprehendisti, qui me vernacula mea lingua pro scriba conductitio per tot annos satis eleganter usum ad Latine impure et canino fere ore latrandum per tuasmet epistolas bene compositas et concinnatas percellere studueris. Conabor tamen: Attamen vereor, ut AEdes istas nostri Christi, inter quas tanta diligentia magistri improba [?improbi] bonis literulis, quasi per clysterem quendam injectis, infra supraque olim penitus imbutus fui, Barnesii et Marklandii doctissimorum virorum nominibus adhuc gaudentes, barbarismis meis peregrinis et aliunde quaesitis valde dehonestavero [sic]. Sed pergere quocunque placet. Adeste igitur, quotquot estis, conjugationum declinationumve turmae, terribilia spectra, et tu imprimis ades, Umbra et Imago maxima obsoletas (Diis gratiae) Virgae, qua novissime in mentem recepta, horrescunt subito natales [nates], et parum deest quo minus braccas meas ultro usque ad crura demittam, et ipse puer pueriliter ejulem.
Ista tua Carmina Chamouniana satis grandia esse mihi constat; sed hoc mihi nonnihil displicet, quod in iis illae montium Grisosonum inter se responsiones totidem reboant anglice, God, God, haud aliter atque temet audivi tuas monies Cumbrianas resonare docentes, Tod, Tod, nempe Doctorem infelicem: vocem certe haud Deum Sonantem. Pro caeteris plaudo.
Itidem comparationes istas tuas satis callidas et lepidas certe novi: sed quid hoc ad verum? cum illi Consulari viro et mentem irritabilem istam Julianam: et etiam astutias frigidulas quasdam Augusto propriores, nequaquam congruenter uno afflatu comparationis causa insedisse affirmaveris: necnon nescio quid similitudinis etiam cum Tiberio tertio in loco solicite produxetis. Quid tibi equidem cum uno vel altero Caesare, cum universi Duodecim ad comparationes tuas se ultro tulerint? Praeterea, vetustati adnutans, comparationes iniquas odi.
Istas Wordsworthianas nuptias (vel potius cujusdam Edmundii tui) te retulisse mirificum gaudeo. Valeas, Maria, fortunata nimium, et antiquae illae Mariae Virgini (comparatione plusquam Caesareana) forsitan comparanda, quoniam "beata inter mulieres:" et etiam fortasse Wordsworthium ipsum tuum maritum Angelo Salutatori aequare fas erit, quoniam e Coelo (ut ille) descendunt et Musae et ipsi Musicolae: at Wordsworthium Musarum observantissimum semper novi. Necnon te quoque affinitate hac nova, Dorothea, gratulor: et tu certe alterum donum Dei.
Istum Ludum, quem tu, Coleridgi, Americanum garris, a Ludo (ut Ludi sunt) maxime abhorrentem praetereo: nempe quid ad Ludum attinet, totius illae gentis Columbianae, a nostra gente, eadem stirpe orta, ludi singuli causa voluntatem perperam alienare? Quasso ego materiam ludi: tu Bella ingeris.
Denique valeas, et quid de Latinitate mea putes, dicas; facias ut opossum illum nostrum volantem vel (ut tu malis) quendam Piscem errabundum, a me salvum et pulcherrimum esse jubeas. Valeant uxor tua cum Hartleiio nostro. Soror mea salva est et ego: vos et ipsa salvere jubet. Ulterius progrediri [? progredi] non liquet: homo sum aeratus.
P.S.—Pene mihi exciderat, apud me esse Librorum a Johanno Miltono Latine scriptorum volumina duo, quae (Deo volente) cum caeteris tuis libris ocyus citius per Maria [?] ad te missura [sic] curabo; sed me in hoc tali genere rerum nullo modo festinantem novisti: habes confitentem reum. Hoc solum dici [sic] restat, praedicta volumina pulchra esse et omnia opera Latina J. M. in se continere. Circa defensionem istam Pro Pop deg.. Ang deg.. acerrimam in praesens ipse praeclaro gaudio moror.
Jussa tua Stuartina faciam ut diligenter colam. Iterum iterumque valeas: Et facias memor sis nostri.
[I append a translation from the pen of Mr. Stephen Gwynn:—
CHARLES LAMB TO HIS FRIEND COLERIDGE, GREETING.
DEAR FRIEND—You write that I am to pay my debt, to wit in coin of correspondence, and finally that I am to go to Tartarus: no but it is you have caught a Tartar (as the saying is), since after all these years employing my own vernacular tongue, and prettily enough for a hired penman, you have set about to drive me by means of your well composed and neatly turned epistles to gross and almost doggish barking in the Latin. Still, I will try: And yet I fear that the Hostel of our Christ,—wherein by the exceeding diligence of a relentless master I was in days gone by deeply imbued from top to bottom with polite learning, instilled as it were by a clyster—which still glories in the names of the erudite Barnes and Markland, will be vilely dishonoured by my outlandish and adscititious barbarisms. But I am determined to proceed, no matter whither. Be with me therefore all ye troops of conjugations and declensions, dread spectres, and approach thou chiefest, Shade and Phantom of the disused (thank Heaven) Birch, at whose entry to my imagination a sudden shiver takes my rump, and a trifle then more would make me begin to let down my breeches to my calves, and turning boy, howl boyishly.
That your Ode at Chamounix is a fine thing I am clear; but here is a thing offends me somewhat, that in the ode your answers of the Grison mountains to each other should so often echo in English God, God—in the very tone that I have heard your own lips teaching your Cumbrian mountains to resound Tod, Tod, meaning the unlucky doctor—a syllable assuredly of no Godlike sound. For the rest, I approve.
Moreover, I certainly recognise that your comparisons are acute and witty; but what has this to do with truth? since you have given to the great Consul at once that irritable mind of Julius, and also a kind of cold cunning, more proper to Augustus—attributing incongruous characteristics in one breath for the sake of your comparison: nay, you have even in the third instance laboriously drawn out some likeness to Tiberius. What had you to do with one Caesar, or a second, when the whole Twelve offered themselves to your comparison? Moreover, I agree with antiquity, and think comparisons odious.
Your Wordsworth nuptials (or rather the nuptials of a certain Edmund of yours) fill me with joy in your report. May you prosper, Mary, fortunate beyond compare, and perchance comparable to that ancient Virgin Mary (a comparison more than Caesarean) since "blessed art thou among women:" perhaps also it will be no impiety to compare Wordsworth himself your husband to the Angel of Salutation, since (like the angel) from heaven descend both Muses and the servants of the Muses: whose devoutest votary I always know Wordsworth to be. Congratulations to thee, Dorothea, in this new alliance: you also assuredly are another "gift of God."
As for your Ludus [Lloyd], whom you talk of as an "American," I pass him by as no sportsman (as sport goes): what kind of sport is it, to alienate utterly the good will of the whole Columbian people, our own kin, sprung of the same stock, for the sake of one Ludd [Lloyd]? I seek the material for diversion: you heap on War.
Finally, fare you well, and pray tell me what you think of my Latinity. Kindly wish health and beauty from me to our flying possum or (as you prefer to call it) roving Fish. Good health to your wife and my friend Hartley. My sister and I are well. She also sends you greeting. I do not see how to get on farther: I am a man in debt [or possibly in "fetters"].
P.S.—I had almost forgot, I have by me two volumes of the Latin writings of John Milton, which (D.V.) I will have sent you sooner or later by Mary: but you know me no way precipitate in this kind: the accused pleads guilty. This only remains to be said, that the aforesaid volumes are handsome and contain all the Latin works of J. M. At present I dwell with much delight on his vigorous defence of the English people.
I will be sure to observe diligently your Stuartial tidings.
Again and again farewell: and pray be mindful of me.
Coleridge's "Hymn before Sun-rise, in the Vale of Chamouni," was printed in the Morning Post for September 11, 1802. The poem contains this passage:—
God! let the torrents, like a shout of nations, Answer! and let the ice-plains echo, God! God! sing ye meadow-streams with gladsome voice! Ye pine-groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds! And they too have a voice, yon piles of snow, And in their perilous fall shall thunder, God!
Canon Ainger suggests that by Tod, the unlucky doctor, Lamb meant Dr. William Dodd (1729-1777), the compiler of the Beauties of Shakespeare and the forger, who was hanged at Tyburn.
"Your comparisons." Coleridge's "Comparison of the Present State of France with that of Rome under Julius and Augustus Caesar" was printed in the Morning Post, September 21, September 25, and October 2, 1802. See Essays on His Own Times, 1850, Vol. III., page 478.
Wordsworth's marriage to Mary Hutchinson, on October 4, 1802, had called forth from Coleridge his ode on "Dejection," printed in the Morning Post for the same day, in which Wordsworth was addressed as Edmund. In later editions Coleridge suppressed its personal character.
Ludus is Lloyd. Lamb means by "American" what we should mean by pro-American.
"Stuartial." Referring to Daniel Stuart of the Morning Post.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Oct. 11th, 1802.
Dear Coleridge,—Your offer about the German poems is exceedingly kind; but I do not think it a wise speculation, because the time it would take you to put them into prose would be nearly as great as if you versified them. Indeed, I am sure you could do the one nearly as soon as the other; so that, instead of a division of labour, it would be only a multiplication. But I will think of your offer in another light. I dare say I could find many things of a light nature to suit that paper, which you would not object to pass upon Stuart as your own, and I should come in for some light profits, and Stuart think the more highly of your assiduity. "Bishop Hall's Characters" I know nothing about, having never seen them. But I will reconsider your offer, which is very plausible; for as to the drudgery of going every day to an editor with my scraps, like a pedlar, for him to pick out, and tumble about my ribbons and posies, and to wait in his lobby, &c., no money could make up for the degradation. You are in too high request with him to have anything unpleasant of that sort to submit to.
It was quite a slip of my pen, in my Latin letter, when I told you I had Milton's Latin Works. I ought to have said his Prose Works, in two volumes, Birch's edition, containing all, both Latin and English, a fuller and better edition than Lloyd's of Toland. It is completely at your service, and you must accept it from me; at the same time, I shall be much obliged to you for your Latin Milton, which you think you have at Howitt's; it will leave me nothing to wish for but the "History of England," which I shall soon pick up for a trifle. But you must write me word whether the Miltons are worth paying carriage for. You have a Milton; but it is pleasanter to eat one's own peas out of one's own garden, than to buy them by the peck at Covent Garden; and a book reads the better, which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots and dog's-ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins, or over a pipe, which I think is the maximum. But, Coleridge, you must accept these little things, and not think of returning money for them, for I do not set up for a factor or general agent. As for the fantastic debt of 15L., I'll think you were dreaming, and not trouble myself seriously to attend to you. My bad Latin you properly correct; but natales for nates was an inadvertency: I knew better. Progrediri or progredi I thought indifferent, my authority being Ainsworth. However, as I have got a fit of Latin, you will now and then indulge me with an epistola. I pay the postage of this, and propose doing it by turns. In that case I can now and then write to you without remorse; not that you would mind the money, but you have not always ready cash to answer small demands—the epistolarii nummi.
Your "Epigram on the Sun and Moon in Germany" is admirable. Take 'em all together, they are as good as Harrington's. I will muster up all the conceits I can, and you shall have a packet some day. You and I together can answer all demands surely: you, mounted on a terrible charger (like Homer in the Battle of the Books) at the head of the cavalry: I will lead the light horse. I have just heard from Stoddart. Allen and he intend taking Keswick in their way home. Allen wished particularly to have it a secret that he is in Scotland, and wrote to me accordingly very urgently. As luck was, I had told not above three or four; but Mary had told Mrs. Green of Christ's Hospital! For the present, farewell: never forgetting love to Pi-pos and his friends.
[Coleridge, who seems to have been asked by Stuart of the Morning Post for translations of German verse, had suggested, I presume, that he should supply Lamb (who knew no German) with literal prose translations, and that Lamb should versify them, as he had in the case of "Thekla's Song" in Coleridge's translation of the first part of Wallenstein nearly three years before. Lamb's suggestion is that he should send to Stuart epigrams and paragraphs in Coleridge's name. Whether or not he did so, I cannot say.
Bishop Hall's Characters of Vices and Virtues was published in 1608. Coleridge may have suggested that Lamb should imitate them for the Morning Post. Lamb later came to know Hall's satires, for he quotes from them in his review of Barron Field's poems in 1820.
Milton's prose works were edited by Thomas Birch, and by John Toland in folio.
"My bad Latin"—in the letter of October 9, 1802. Ainsworth was Robert Ainsworth, compiler of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, 1736, for many years the best Latin dictionary.
"Your Epigram"—Coleridge's Epigram "On the Curious Circumstance that in the German Language the Sun is feminine and the Moon masculine." It appeared in the Morning Post on October 11, 1802. Coleridge had been sending epigrams and other verse to the Post for some time. Harrington was Sir John Harington (1561-1612), the author of many epigrams.
Stoddart and Allen we have met. I do not know anything of Mrs. Green.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE
Oct. 23rd, 1802.
Your kind offer I will not a second time refuse. You shall send me a packet and I will do them into English with great care. Is not there one about W'm. Tell, and would not that in the present state of discussions be likely to tell? The Epigrams I meant are to be found at the end of Harrington's Translation of Orlando Furioso: if you could get the book, they would some of them answer your purpose to modernize. If you can't, I fancy I can. Baxter's Holy Commonwealth I have luckily met with, and when I have sent it, you shall if you please consider yourself indebted to me 3s. 6d. the cost of it: especially as I purchased it after your solemn injunctions. The plain case with regard to my presents (which you seem so to shrink from) is that I have not at all affected the character of a DONOR, or thought of violating your sacred Law of Give and Take: but I have been taking and partaking the good things of your House (when I know you were not over-abounding) and I now give unto you of mine; and by the grace of God I happen to be myself a little super-abundant at present. I expect I shall be able to send you my final parcel in about a week: by that time I shall have gone thro' all Milton's Latin Works. There will come with it the Holy Commonwealth, and the identical North American Bible which you helped to dogs ear at Xt's.—I call'd at Howell's for your little Milton, and also to fetch away the White Cross Street Library Books, which I have not forgot: but your books were not in a state to be got at then, and Mrs. H. is to let me know when she packs up. They will be sent by sea; and my little praecursor will come to you by the Whitehaven waggon accompanied with pens, penknife &c.—Mrs. Howell was as usual very civil; and asked with great earnestness, if it were likely you would come to Town in the winter. She has a friendly eye upon you.
I read daily your political essays. I was particularly pleased with "Once a Jacobin:" though the argument is obvious enough, the style was less swelling than your things sometimes are, and it was plausible ad populum. A vessel has just arrived from Jamaica with the news of poor Sam Le Grice's death. He died at Jamaica of the yellow fever. His course was rapid and he had been very foolish; but I believe there was more of kindness and warmth in him than in almost any other of our schoolfellows. The annual meeting of the Blues is to-morrow, at the London Tavern, where poor Sammy dined with them two years ago, and attracted the notice of all by the singular foppishness of his dress. When men go off the stage so early, it scarce seems a noticeable thing in their epitaphs, whether they had been wise or silly in their lifetime.
I am glad the snuff and Pi-pos's Books please. "Goody Two Shoes" is almost out of print. Mrs. Barbauld's stuff has banished all the old classics of the nursery; and the shopman at Newbery's hardly deigned to reach them off an old exploded corner of a shelf, when Mary asked for them. Mrs. B.'s and Mrs. Trimmer's nonsense lay in piles about. Knowledge insignificant and vapid as Mrs. B.'s books convey, it seems, must come to a child in the shape of knowledge, and his empty noddle must be turned with conceit of his own powers when he has learnt that a Horse is an animal, and Billy is better than a Horse, and such like; instead of that beautiful Interest in wild tales which made the child a man, while all the time he suspected himself to be no bigger than a child. Science has succeeded to Poetry no less in the little walks of children than with men. Is there no possibility of averting this sore evil? Think what you would have been now, if instead of being fed with Tales and old wives' fables in childhood, you had been crammed with geography and natural history?
Damn them!—I mean the cursed Barbauld Crew, those Blights and Blasts of all that is Human in man and child.
As to the Translations, let me do two or three hundred lines, and then do you try the Nostrums upon Stuart in any way you please. If they go down I will bray more. In fact, if I got or could but get 50 l. a year only, in addition to what I have, I should live in affluence.
Have you anticipated it, or could not you give a Parallel of Bonaparte with Cromwell, particularly as to the contrast in their deeds affecting foreign states? Cromwell's interference for the Albigenses, B[uonaparte]'s against the Swiss. Then Religion would come in; and Milton and you could rant about our countrymen of that period. This is a hasty suggestion, the more hasty because I want my Supper. I have just finished Chapman's Homer. Did you ever read it?—it has most the continuous power of interesting you all along, like a rapid original, of any, and in the uncommon excellence of the more finished parts goes beyond Fairfax or any of 'em. The metre is fourteen syllables, and capable of all sweetness and grandeur. Cowper's damn'd blank verse detains you every step with some heavy Miltonism; Chapman gallops off with you his own free pace. Take a simile for an example. The council breaks up—
"Being abroad, the earth was overlaid With flockers to them, that came forth; as when of frequent bees Swarms rise out of a hollow rock, repairing the degrees Of their egression endlessly, with ever rising new From forth their sweet nest; as their store, still as it faded, grew, And never would cease sending forth her clusters to the spring, They still crowd out so: this flock here, that there, belabouring The loaded flowers. So," &c. &c.
[Iliad, Book II., 70-77.]
What endless egression of phrases the dog commands!
Take another: Agamemnon wounded, bearing his wound heroically for the sake of the army (look below) to a woman in labour.
"He, with his lance, sword, mighty stones, poured his heroic wreak On other squadrons of the foe, whiles yet warm blood did break Thro' his cleft veins: but when the wound was quite exhaust and crude, The eager anguish did approve his princely fortitude. As when most sharp and bitter pangs distract a labouring dame, Which the divine Ilithiae, that rule the painful frame Of human childbirth, pour on her; the Ilithiae that are The daughters of Saturnia; with whose extreme repair The woman in her travail strives to take the worst it gives; With thought, it must be, 'tis love's fruit, the end for which she lives; The mean to make herself new born, what comforts will redound: So," &c.
[Iliad, Book XI., 228-239.]
I will tell you more about Chapman and his peculiarities in my next. I am much interested in him.
Yours ever affectionately, and Pi-Pos's.
[Coleridge was just now contributing political essays as well as verse to the Morning Post. "Once a Jacobin always a Jacobin" appeared on October 21, 1802. These were afterwards reprinted in Essays on His Own Times. Ad populum is a reminder of Coleridge's first political essays, the Conciones ad Populum of 1795.
"Goody Two Shoes"—One of Newbery's most famous books for children, sometimes attributed to Goldsmith, though, I think, wrongly.
Mrs. Barbauld (1743-1825) was the author of Hymns in Prose for Children, and she contributed to her brother John Aikin's Evenings at Home, both very popular books. Lamb, who afterwards came to know Mrs. Barbauld, described her and Mrs. Inchbald as the two bald women. Mrs. Sarah Trimmer (1741-1810) was the author of many books for children; she lives by the Story of the Robins.
The translation for Stuart either was not made or not accepted; nor did Coleridge carry out the project of the parallel of Buonaparte with Cromwell. Hallam, however, did so in his Constitutional History of England, unfavourably to Cromwell.
George Chapman's Odyssey was paraphrased by Lamb in his Adventures of Ulysses, 1808. Lamb either did not return to the subject with Coleridge, or his "next letter" has been lost.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE
Nov. 4th, 1802.
Observe, there comes to you, by the Kendal waggon to-morrow, the illustrious 5th of November, a box, containing the Miltons, the strange American Bible, with White's brief note, to which you will attend; Baxter's "Holy Commonwealth," for which you stand indebted to me 3s. 6d.; an odd volume of Montaigne, being of no use to me, I having the whole; certain books belonging to Wordsworth, as do also the strange thick-hoofed shoes, which are very much admired at in London. All these sundries I commend to your most strenuous looking after. If you find the Miltons in certain parts dirtied and soiled with a crumb of right Gloucester blacked in the candle (my usual supper), or peradventure a stray ash of tobacco wafted into the crevices, look to that passage more especially: depend upon it, it contains good matter. I have got your little Milton which, as it contains Salmasius—and I make a rule of never hearing but one side of the question (why should I distract myself?)—I shall return to you when I pick up the Latina opera. The first Defence is the greatest work among them, because it is uniformly great, and such as is befitting the very mouth of a great nation speaking for itself. But the second Defence, which is but a succession of splendid episodes slightly tied together, has one passage which if you have not read, I conjure you to lose no time, but read it; it is his consolations in his blindness, which had been made a reproach to him. It begins whimsically, with poetical flourishes about Tiresias and other blind worthies (which still are mainly interesting as displaying his singular mind, and in what degree poetry entered into his daily soul, not by fits and impulses, but engrained and innate); but the concluding page, i.e. of this passage (not of the Defensio) which you will easily find, divested of all brags and flourishes, gives so rational, so true an enumeration of his comforts, so human, that it cannot be read without the deepest interest. Take one touch of the religious part:—"Et sane haud ultima Dei cura caeci—(we blind folks, I understand it not nos for ego;)—sumus; qui nos, quominus quicquam aliud praeter ipsum cernere valemus, eo clementius atque benignius respicere dignatur. Vae qui illudit nos, vae qui laedit, execratione publica devovendo; nos ab injuriis hominum non modo incolumes, sed pene sacros divina lex reddidit, divinus favor: nee tam oculorum hebetudine quam coelestium alarum umbra has nobis fecisse tenebras videtur, factas illustrare rursus interiore ac longe praestabiliore lumine haud raro solet. Huc refero, quod et amici officiosius nunc etiam quam solebant, colunt, observant, adsunt; quod et nonnulli sunt, quibuscum Pyladeas atque Theseas alternare voces verorum amicorum liceat.
"Vade gubernaculum mei pedis. Da manum ministro amico. Da collo manum tuam, ductor autem viae ero tibi ego."
All this, and much more, is highly pleasing to know. But you may easily find it;—and I don't know why I put down so many words about it, but for the pleasure of writing to you and the want of another topic.
Yours ever, C. LAMB.
To-morrow I expect with anxiety S.T.C.'s letter to Mr. Fox.
[Lamb refers to Milton's Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano contra Alexandrum Morum Ecclesiasten. The following is a translation of the Latin passage by Robert Fellowes:—
And indeed, in my blindness, I enjoy in no inconsiderable degree the favour of the Deity; who regards me with more tenderness and compassion in proportion as I am able to behold nothing but himself. Alas! for him who insults me, who maligns and merits public execration! For the divine law not only shields me from injury, but almost renders me too sacred to attack; not indeed so much from the privation of my sight, as from the overshadowing of those heavenly wings, which seem to have occasioned this obscurity; and which, when occasioned, he is wont to illuminate with an interior light, more precious and more pure. To this I ascribe the more tender assiduities of my friends, their soothing attentions, their kind visits, their reverential observances; among whom there are some with whom I may interchange the Pyladean and Thesean dialogue of inseparable friends.
Orest. Proceed, and be rudder of my feet, by showing me the most endearing love. [Eurip. in Orest.]
And in another place—
"Lend your hand to your devoted friend, Throw your arm round my neck, and I will conduct you on the way."
Coleridge's first letter to Charles James Fox was printed in the Morning Post for November 4, 1802, his second on November 9.]
Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning [November, 1802.]
My dear Manning,—I must positively write, or I shall miss you at Toulouse. I sit here like a decayed minute hand (I lie; that does not sit), and being myself the exponent of no time, take no heed how the clocks about me are going. You possibly by this time may have explored all Italy, and toppled, unawares, into Etna, while you went too near those rotten-jawed, gap-toothed, old worn-out chaps of hell,—while I am meditating a quiescent letter to the honest postmaster at Toulouse. But in case you should not have been felo de se, this is to tell you, that your letter was quite to my palate—in particular your just remarks upon Industry, damned Industry (though indeed you left me to explore the reason), were highly relishing.
I've often wished I lived in the Golden Age, when shepherds lay stretched upon flowers, and roused themselves at their leisure,—the genius there is in a man's natural idle face, that has not learned his multiplication table! before doubt, and propositions, and corollaries, got into the world! Now, as Joseph Cottle, a Bard of Nature, sings, going up Malvern Hills,
"How steep! how painful the ascent! It needs the evidence of close deduction To know that ever I shall gain the top."
You must know that Joe is lame, so that he had some reason for so singing. These two lines, I assure you, are taken totidem literis from a very popular poem. Joe is also an Epic Poet as well as a Descriptive, and has written a tragedy, though both his drama and epopoiea are strictly descriptive, and chiefly of the Beauties of Nature, for Joe thinks man with all his passions and frailties not a proper subject of the Drama. Joe's tragedy hath the following surpassing speech in it. Some king is told that his enemy has engaged twelve archers to come over in a boat from an enemy's country and way-lay him; he thereupon pathetically exclaims—
"Twelve, dost thou say? Where be those dozen villains!"
Cottle read two or three acts out to us, very gravely on both sides, till he came to this heroic touch,—and then he asked what we laughed at? I had no more muscles that day. A poet that chooses to read out his own verses has but a limited power over you. There is a bound where his authority ceases.
Apropos: if you should go to Florence or to Rome, inquire what works are extant in gold, silver, bronze, or marble, of Benvenuto Cellini, a Florentine artist, whose Life doubtless, you have read; or, if not, without controversy you must read: so hark ye, send for it immediately from Lane's circulating library. It is always put among the romances, very properly; but you have read it, I suppose. In particular, inquire at Florence for his colossal bronze statue (in the grand square or somewhere) of Perseus. You may read the story in Tooke's "Pantheon." Nothing material has transpired in these parts. Coleridge has indited a violent philippic against Mr. Fox in the "Morning Post," which is a compound of expressions of humility, gentlemen-ushering-in most arrogant charges. It will do Mr. Fox no real injury among those that know him.
[Manning's letter of September 10 had told Lamb he was on his way to Toulouse.
Cottle's epic was Alfred. The quoted lines were added in the twelfth edition. He had also written John the Baptist.
"Cellini's Life." Lamb would probably have read the translation by Nugent, 1771. Cellini's Perseus in bronze is in the Loggia de' Lanzi at Florence.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[Dated at end: Feb. 19th, 1803.]
My dear Manning,—The general scope of your letter afforded no indications of insanity, but some particular points raised a scruple. For God's sake don't think any more of "Independent Tartary." What have you to do among such Ethiopians? Is there no lineal descendant of Prester John?
Is the chair empty? Is the sword unswayed?—depend upon't they'll never make you their king, as long as any branch of that great stock is remaining. I tremble for your Christianity. They'll certainly circumcise you. Read Sir John Maundevil's travels to cure you, or come over to England.
There is a Tartar-man now exhibiting at Exeter Change. Come and talk with him, and hear what he says first. Indeed, he is no very favorable specimen of his Countrymen! But perhaps the best thing you can do, is to try to get the idea out of your head. For this purpose repeat to yourself every night, after you have said your prayers, the words Independent Tartary, Independent Tartary, two or three times, and associate with them the idea of oblivion ('tis Hartley's method with obstinate memories), or say, Independent, Independent, have I not already got an Independence? That was a clever way of the old puritans—pun-divinity. My dear friend, think what a sad pity it would be to bury such parts in heathen countries, among nasty, unconversable, horse-belching, Tartar people! Some say, they are Cannibals; and then conceive a Tartar-fellow eating my friend, and adding the cool malignity of mustard and vinegar! I am afraid 'tis the reading of Chaucer has misled you; his foolish stories about Cambuscan and the ring, and the horse of brass. Believe me, there's no such things, 'tis all the poet's invention; but if there were such darling things as old Chaucer sings, I would up behind you on the Horse of Brass, and frisk off for Prester John's Country. But these are all tales; a Horse of Brass never flew, and a King's daughter never talked with Birds! The Tartars, really, are a cold, insipid, smouchey set. You'll be sadly moped (if you are not eaten) among them. Pray try and cure yourself. Take Hellebore (the counsel is Horace's, 'twas none of my thought originally). Shave yourself oftener. Eat no saffron, for saffron-eaters contract a terrible Tartar-like yellow. Pray, to avoid the fiend. Eat nothing that gives the heart-burn. Shave the upper lip. Go about like an European. Read no books of voyages (they're nothing but lies): only now and then a Romance, to keep the fancy under. Above all, don't go to any sights of wild beasts. That has been your ruin. Accustom yourself to write familiar letters on common subjects to your friends in England, such as are of a moderate understanding. And think about common things more. There's your friend Holcroft now, has written a play. You used to be fond of the drama. Nobody went to see it. Notwithstanding this, with an audacity perfectly original, he faces the town down in a preface, that they did like it very much. I have heard a waspish punster say, "Sir, why did you not laugh at my jest?" But for a man boldly to face me out with, "Sir, I maintain it, you did laugh at my jest," is a little too much. I have seen H. but once. He spoke of you to me in honorable terms. H. seems to me to be drearily dull. Godwin is dull, but then he has a dash of affectation, which smacks of the coxcomb, and your coxcombs are always agreeable. I supped last night with Rickman, and met a merry natural captain, who pleases himself vastly with once having made a Pun at Otaheite in the O. language. 'Tis the same man who said Shakspeare he liked, because he was so much of the Gentleman. Rickman is a man "absolute in all numbers." I think I may one day bring you acquainted, if you do not go to Tartary first; for you'll never come back. Have a care, my dear friend, of Anthropophagi! their stomachs are always craving. But if you do go among [them] pray contrive to stink as soon as you can that you may [? not] hang a [? on] hand at the Butcher's. 'Tis terrible to be weighed out for 5d. a-pound. To sit at table (the reverse of fishes in Holland), not as a guest, but as a meat.
God bless you: do come to England. Air and exercise may do great things. Talk with some Minister. Why not your father?
God dispose all for the best. I have discharged my duty.
Your sincere fr'd, C. LAMB.
19th Feb., 1803, London.
[Manning's letter producing this reply is endorsed by Lamb, "Received February 19, 1803," so that he lost no time. Manning wrote: "I am actually thinking of Independent Tartary as I write this, but you go out and skate—you go out and walk some times? Very true, that's a distraction—but the moment I set myself down quietly to any-thing, in comes Independent Tartary—for example I attend chemical lectures but every drug that Mr. Vauquelin presents to me tastes of Cream of Tartar—in short I am become good for nothing for a time, and as I said before, I should not have written now, but to assure you of my friendly and affectionate remembrance, but as you are not in the same unhappy circumstances, I expect you'll write to me and not measure page for page. This is the first letter I have begun for England for three months except one I sent to my Father yesterday." Manning returned to London before leaving for China. He did not sail until 1806.
Prester John, the name given by old writers to the King of Ethiopia in Abyssinia. A corruption of Belul Gian, precious stone; in Latin first Johanus preciosus, then Presbyter Johannes, and then Prester John. In Sir John Mandeville's Voiage and Travails, 1356, Prester John is said to be a lineal descendant of Ogier the Dane.—Hartley would be David Hartley, the metaphysician, after whom Coleridge's son was named.—The reader must go to Chaucer's "Squire's Tale" for Cambuscan, King of Sarra, in Tartary; his horse of brass which conveyed him in a day wherever he would go; and the ring which enabled his daughter Canace to understand the language of birds.
Holcroft's play was "A Tale of Mystery."
Rickman had returned from Ireland some months previously. The merry natural captain was James Burney (1750-1821), with whom the Lambs soon became very friendly. He was the centre of their whist-playing circle. Burney, who was brother of Madame D'Arblay, had sailed with Captain Cook.
"The reverse of fishes in Holland." An allusion to Andrew Marvell's whimsical satire against the Dutch:—
The fish ofttimes the burgher dispossessed And sat not as a meat but as a guest.
"Why not your father?" Manning's father was the Rev. William Manning, rector of Diss, in Norfolk, who died in 1810.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
Dear Manning, I send you some verses I have made on the death of a young Quaker you may have heard me speak of as being in love with for some years while I lived at Pentonville, though I had never spoken to her in my life. She died about a month since. If you have interest with the Abbe de Lisle, you may get 'em translated: he has done as much for the Georgics.
When maidens such as Hester die, Their place ye may not well supply, Though ye among a thousand try, With vain endeavour.
A month or more hath she been dead, Yet cannot I by force be led To think upon the wormy bed, And her together.
A springy motion in her gait, A rising step, did indicate Of pride and joy no common rate, That flush'd her spirit.
I know not by what name beside I shall it call:—if 'twas not pride, It was a joy to that allied, She did inherit.
Her parents held the Quaker rule, Which doth the human feeling cool, But she was train'd in Nature's school, Nature had blest her.
A waking eye, a prying mind, A heart that stirs, is hard to bind, A hawk's keen sight ye cannot blind, Ye could not Hester.
My sprightly neighbour, gone before To that unknown and silent shore, Shall we not meet, as heretofore, Some summer morning,
When from thy cheerful eyes a ray Hath struck a bliss upon the day, A bliss that would not go away, A sweet forewarning?
[This letter is possibly only a fragment. I have supplied "Hester" from the 1818 text.
The young Quaker was Hester Savory, the daughter of Joseph Savory, a goldsmith of the Strand. She was married July 1, 1802, and died a few months after.
"The Abbe de Lisle." L'Abbe Jacques Delille (1738-1813), known by his Georgiques, 1770, a translation into French of Virgil's Georgics.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[Dated at end: March 5, 1803.]
Dear Wordsworth, having a Guinea of your sister's left in hand, after all your commissions, and as it does not seem likely that you will trouble us, as the phrase is, for some time to come, I send you a pound note, and with it the best things in the verse way I have lit upon for many a day. I believe they will be new to you. You know Cotton, who wrote a 2d part to Walton's Angler. A volume of his miscellaneous poems is scarce. Take what follows from a poem call'd Winter. I omit 20 verses, in which a storm is described, to hasten to the best:—
21 Louder, and louder, still they come, Nile's Cataracts to these are dumb, The Cyclops to these Blades are still, Whose anvils shake the burning hill.
22 Were all the stars-enlighten'd skies As full of ears, as sparkling eyes, This rattle in the crystal hall Would be enough to deaf them all.
23 What monstrous Race is hither tost, Thus to alarm our British Coast, With outcries such as never yet War, or confusion, could beget?
24 Oh! now I know them, let us home, Our mortal Enemy is come, Winter, and all his blustring train Have made a voyage o'er the main.
27 With bleak, and with congealing winds, The earth in shining chain he binds; And still as he doth further pass, Quarries his way with liquid glass.
28 Hark! how the Blusterers of the Bear Their gibbous Cheeks in triumph bear, And with continued shouts do ring The entry of their palsied king!
29 The squadron, nearest to your eye, Is his forlorn of Infantry, Bowmen of unrelenting minds, Whose shafts are feather'd with the winds.
30 Now you may see his vanguard rise Above the earthy precipice, Bold Horse, on bleakest mountains bred, With hail, instead of provend, fed.
31 Their lances are the pointed locks, Torn from the brows of frozen rocks, Their shields are chrystal as their swords, The steel the rusted rock affords.
32 See, the Main Body now appears! And hark! th' Aeolian Trumpeters. By their hoarse levels do declare, That the bold General rides there.
33 And look where mantled up in white He sleds it, like the Muscovite. I know him by the port he bears, And his lifeguard of mountaineers.
34 Their caps are furr'd with hoary frosts, The bravery their cold kingdom boasts; Their spungy plads are milk-white frieze, Spun from the snowy mountain's fleece.
35 Their partizans are fine carv'd glass, Fring'd with the morning's spangled grass; And pendant by their brawny thighs Hang cimetars of burnish'd ice.
38 Fly, fly, the foe advances fast, Into our fortress let us haste, Where all the roarers of the north Can neither storm, nor starve, us forth.
39 There under ground a magazine Of sovran juice is cellar'd in, Liquor that will the siege maintain, Should Phoebus ne'er return again.
40 'Tis that, that gives the poet rage, And thaws the gelly'd blood of age, Matures the young, restores the old, And makes the fainting coward bold.
41 It lays the careful head to rest, Calms palpitations in the breast, Renders our live's misfortunes sweet, And Venus frolic in the sheet.
42 Then let the chill Scirocco blow, And gird us round with hills of snow, Or else go whistle to the shore, And make the hollow mountains roar.
43 Whilst we together jovial sit, Careless, and crown'd with mirth and wit, Where tho' bleak winds confine us home, Our fancies thro' the world shall roam.
44 We'll think of all the friends we know, And drink to all, worth drinking to; When, having drunk all thine and mine, We rather shall want health than wine!
45 But, where friends fail us, we'll supply Our friendships with our Charity. Men that remote in sorrows live, Shall by our lusty bumpers thrive.
46 We'll drink the wanting into wealth, And those that languish into health, Th' afflicted into joy, th' opprest Into security & rest.
47 The worthy in disgrace shall find Favour return again more kind, And in restraint who stifled lye, Shall taste the air of liberty.
48 The brave shall triumph in success, The lovers shall have mistresses, Poor unregarded virtue praise, And the neglected Poet bays.
49 Thus shall our healths do others good, While we ourselves do all we wou'd, For freed from envy, and from care, What would we be, but what we are?
50 'Tis the plump Grape's immortal juice, That does this happiness produce, And will preserve us free together, Maugre mischance, or wind, & weather.
51 Then let old winter take his course, And roar abroad till he be hoarse, And his lungs crack with ruthless ire, It shall but serve to blow our fire.
52 Let him our little castle ply With all his loud artillery, Whilst sack and claret man the fort, His fury shall become our sport.
53 Or let him Scotland take, and there Confine the plotting Presbyter; His zeal may freeze, whilst we kept warm With love and wine can know no harm.
[Footnote 1: The winds.]
How could Burns miss the series of lines from 42 to 49?
There is also a long poem from the Latin on the inconveniences of old age. I can't set down the whole, tho' right worthy, having dedicated the remainder of my sheet to something else. I just excerp here and there, to convince you, if after this you need it, that Cotton was a first rate. Tis old Callus speaks of himself, once the delight of the Ladies and Gallants of Rome:—
The beauty of my shape & face are fled, And my revolted form bespeaks me dead, For fair, and shining age, has now put on A bloodless, funeral complexion. My skin's dry'd up, my nerves unpliant are, And my poor limbs my nails plow up and tear. My chearful eyes now with a constant spring Of tears bewail their own sad suffering; And those soft lids, that once secured my eye Now rude, and bristled grown, do drooping lie, Bolting mine eyes, as in a gloomy cave, Which there on furies, and grim objects, rave. 'Twould fright the full-blown Gallant to behold The dying object of a man so old. And can you think, that once a man he was, Of human reason who no portion has. The letters split, when I consult my book, And every leaf I turn does broader look. In darkness do I dream I see the light, When light is darkness to my perishd sight.
* * * * *
Is it not hard we may not from men's eyes Cloak and conceal Age's indecencies. Unseeming spruceness th' old man discommends, And in old men, only to live, offends.
* * * * *
How can I him a living man believe, Whom light, and air, by whom he panteth, grieve; The gentle sleeps, which other mortals ease, Scarce in a winter's night my eyelids seize.
* * * * *
The boys, and girls, deride me now forlorn, And but to call me, Sir, now think it scorn, They jeer my countnance, and my feeble pace, And scoff that nodding head, that awful was.
* * * * *
A song written by Cowper, which in stile is much above his usual, and emulates in noble plainness any old balad I have seen. Hayley has just published it &c. with a Life. I did not think Cowper up to it:—
SONG ON THE LOSS OF THE ROYAL GEORGE
1 Toll for the Brave! The Brave, that are no more! All sunk beneath the wave, Fast by their native shore.—
2 Eight hundred of the Brave, Whose courage well was tried, Had made the vessel heel, And laid her on her side.
3 A Land breeze shook the shrouds, And she was over set; Down went the Royal George, With all her sails complete.
4 Toll for the Brave! Brave Kempenfelt is gone: His last sea-fight is fought; His work of glory done.
5 It was not in the battle, No tempest gave the shock; She sprang no fatal leak; She ran upon no rock.
6 His sword was in its sheath; His fingers held the pen, When Kempenfelt went down, With twice four hundred men.