7 Weigh the vessel up! Once dreaded by our foes! And mingle with the cup The tear that England owes.
8 Her timbers yet are sound, And she may float again, Full charg'd with England's thunder, And plow the distant main.
9 But Kempenfelt is gone, His victories are o'er; And he, and his eight hundred, Shall plow the wave no more.
In your obscure part of the world, which I take to be Ultima Thule, I thought these verses out of Books which cannot be accessible would not be unwelcome. Having room, I will put in an Epitaph I writ for a real occasion, a year or two back.
ON MARY DRUIT WHO DIED AGED 19
Under this cold marble stone Sleep the sad remains of One, Who, when alive, by few or none
2 Was lov'd, as lov'd she might have been, If she prosp'rous days had seen, Or had thriving been, I ween.
3 Only this cold funeral stone Tells, she was belov'd by One, Who on the marble graves his moan.
I conclude with Love to your Sister and Mrs. W.
Yours affect'y, C. LAMB. Mary sends Love, &c. 5th March, 1803.
On consulting Mary, I find it will be foolish inserting the Note as I intended, being so small, and as it is possible you may have to trouble us again e'er long; so it shall remain to be settled hereafter. However, the verses shan't be lost.
N.B.—All orders executed with fidelity and punctuality by C. & M. Lamb.
[On the outside is written:] I beg to open this for a minute to add my remembrances to you all, and to assure you I shall ever be happy to hear from or see, much more to be useful to any of my old friends at Grasmere.
A lean paragraph of the Doctor's.
[Charles Cotton (1630-1687). Wordsworth praises the poem on Winter in his preface to the 1815 edition of his works, and elsewhere sets up a comparison between the character of Cotton and that of Burns.
Hayley's Life of Cowper appeared first in 1803.
Lamb's epitaph was written at the request of Rickman. See also the letter to Manning of April, 1802. Rickman seems to have supplied Lamb with a prose epitaph and asked for a poetical version. Canon Ainger prints an earlier version in a letter to Rickman, dated February 1, 1802. Lamb printed the epitaph in the Morning Post for February 7, 1804, over his initials (see Vol. IV. of this edition). Mary Druit, or Druitt, lived at Wimborne, and according to John Payne Collier, in An Old Man's Diary, died of small-pox at the age of nineteen. He says that Lamb's lines were cut on her tomb, but correspondence in Notes and Queries has proved this to be incorrect.
"The Doctor." Stoddart, having taken his D.C.L. in 1801, was now called Dr. Stoddart.
Soon after this letter Mary Lamb was taken ill again.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
April 13th, 1803.
My dear Coleridge,—Things have gone on better with me since you left me. I expect to have my old housekeeper home again in a week or two. She has mended most rapidly. My health too has been better since you took away that Montero cap. I have left off cayenned eggs and such bolsters to discomfort. There was death in that cap. I mischievously wished that by some inauspicious jolt the whole contents might be shaken, and the coach set on fire. For you said they had that property. How the old Gentleman, who joined you at Grantham, would have clappt his hands to his knees, and not knowing but it was an immediate visitation of God that burnt him, how pious it would have made him; him, I mean, that brought the Influenza with him, and only took places for one—a damn'd old sinner, he must have known what he had got with him! However, I wish the cap no harm for the sake of the head it fits, and could be content to see it disfigure my healthy sideboard again. [Here is a paragraph erased.]
What do you think of smoking? I want your sober, average noon opinion of it. I generally am eating my dinner about the time I should determine it. [Another small erasure.]
Morning is a Girl, and can't smoke—she's no evidence one way or other; and Night is so evidently bought over, that he can't be a very upright Judge. May be the truth is, that one pipe is wholesome, two pipes toothsome, three pipes noisome, four pipes fulsome, five pipes quarrelsome; and that's the sum on't. But that is deciding rather upon rhyme than reason.... After all, our instincts may be best. Wine, I am sure, good, mellow, generous Port, can hurt nobody, unless they take it to excess, which they may easily avoid if they observe the rules of temperance.
Bless you, old Sophist, who next to Human Nature taught me all the corruption I was capable of knowing—And bless your Montero Cap, and your trail (which shall come after you whenever you appoint), and your wife and children—Pi-pos especially.
When shall we two smoke again? Last night I had been in a sad quandary of spirits, in what they call the evening; but a pipe and some generous Port, and King Lear (being alone), had its effects as a remonstrance. I went to bed pot-valiant. By the way, may not the Ogles of Somersetshire be remotely descended from King Lear?
Love to Sara, and ask her what gown she means that Mary has got of hers. I know of none but what went with Miss Wordsworth's things to Wordsworth, and was paid for out of their money. I allude to a part which I may have read imperfectly in a letter of hers to you.
[Coleridge had been in London early in April and had stayed with Lamb in the Temple. From the following letter to his wife, dated April 4, we get light on Lamb's allusion to his "old housekeeper," i.e., Mary Lamb, and her rapid mending:—
"I had purposed not to speak of Mary Lamb, but I had better write it than tell it. The Thursday before last she met at Rickman's a Mr. Babb, an old friend and admirer of her mother. The next day she smiled in an ominous way; on Sunday she told her brother that she was getting bad, with great agony. On Tuesday morning she laid hold of me with violent agitation and talked wildly about George Dyer. I told Charles there was not a moment to lose; and I did not lose a moment, but went for a hackney-coach and took her to the private mad-house at Hugsden. She was quite calm, and said it was the best to do so. But she wept bitterly two or three times, yet all in a calm way. Charles is cut to the heart."
Lamb's first articulate doubts as to smoking are expressed in this letter. One may perhaps take in this connection the passage on tobacco and alcohol in the "Confessions of a Drunkard" (see Vol. I.).
"Montero cap"—a recollection of Tristram Shandy.
The Ogles and King Lear (i.e., leer)—merely a pun.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[No date. May, 1803.]
Mary sends love from home.
DR. C.,—I do confess that I have not sent your books as I ought to be [have] done; but you know how the human freewill is tethered, and that we perform promises to ourselves no better than to our friends. A watch is come for you. Do you want it soon, or shall I wait till some one travels your way? You, like me, I suppose, reckon the lapse of time from the waste thereof, as boys let a cock run to waste: too idle to stop it, and rather amused with seeing it dribble. Your poems have begun printing; Longman sent to me to arrange them, the old and the new together. It seems you have left it to him. So I classed them, as nearly as I could, according to dates. First, after the Dedication, (which must march first) and which I have transplanted from before the Preface (which stood like a dead wall of prose between) to be the first poem—then comes "The Pixies," and the things most juvenile—then on "To Chatterton," &c.—on, lastly, to the "Ode on the Departing Year," and "Musings,"—which finish. Longman wanted the Ode first; but the arrangement I have made is precisely that marked out in the dedication, following the order of time. I told Longman I was sure that you would omit a good portion of the first edition. I instanced in several sonnets, &c.—but that was not his plan, and, as you have done nothing in it, all I could do was to arrange 'em on the supposition that all were to be retained. A few I positively rejected; such as that of "The Thimble," and that of "Flicker and Flicker's wife," and that not in the manner of Spenser, which you yourself had stigmatised—and the "Man of Ross,"—I doubt whether I should this last. It is not too late to save it. The first proof is only just come. I have been forced to call that Cupid's Elixir "Kisses." It stands in your first volume as an Effusion, so that, instead of prefixing The Kiss to that of "One Kiss, dear Maid," &c., I have ventured to entitle it "To Sara." I am aware of the nicety of changing even so mere a trifle as a title to so short a piece, and subverting old associations; but two called "Kisses" would have been absolutely ludicrous, and "Effusion" is no name; and these poems come close together. I promise you not to alter one word in any poem whatever, but to take your last text, where two are. Can you send any wishes about the book? Longman, I think, should have settled with you. But it seems you have left it to him. Write as soon as you possibly can; for, without making myself responsible, I feel myself in some sort accessory to the selection which I am to proof-correct. But I decidedly said to Biggs that I was sure you would omit more. Those I have positively rubbed off I can swear to individually, (except the "Man of Ross," which is too familiar in Pope,) but no others—you have your cue. For my part, I had rather all the Juvenilia were kept—memories causa.
Rob Lloyd has written me a masterly letter, containing a character of his father;—see, how different from Charles he views the old man! Literatim "My father smokes, repeats Homer in Greek, and Virgil, and is learning, when from business, with all the vigour of a young man Italian. He is really a wonderful man. He mixes public and private business, the intricacies of discording life with his religion and devotion. No one more rationally enjoys the romantic scenes of nature, and the chit-chat and little vagaries of his children; and, though surrounded with an ocean of affairs, the very neatness of his most obscure cupboard in the house passes not unnoticed. I never knew any one view with such clearness, nor so well satisfied with things as they are, and make such allowance for things which must appear perfect Syriac to him." By the last he means the Lloydisms of the younger branches. His portrait of Charles (exact as far as he has had opportunities of noting him) is most exquisite. "Charles is become steady as a church, and as straightforward as a Roman road. It would distract him to mention anything that was not as plain as sense; he seems to have run the whole scenery of life, AND NOW RESTS AS THE FORMAL PRECISIAN OF NON-EXISTENCE." Here is genius I think, and 'tis seldom a young man, a Lloyd, looks at a father (so differing) with such good nature while he is alive. Write—
I am in post-haste, C. LAMB.
Love, &c., to Sara, P., and H.
[The date is usually given as March 20, but is May 20; certainly after Coleridge's visit to town (see preceding letter).
Poems, by S. T. Coleridge, third edition, was now in preparation by Longman & Rees. Lamb saw the volume through the press. The 1797 second edition was followed, except that Lloyd's and Lamb's contributions were omitted, together with the following poems by Coleridge: "To the Rev. W. J. H.," "Sonnet to Koskiusko," "Written after a Walk" (which Lamb inaccurately called "Flicker and Flicker's Wife"), "From a Young Lady" ("The Silver Thimble"), "On the Christening of a Friend's Child," "Introductory Sonnet to Lloyd's 'Poems on the Death of Priscilla Farmer.'" "The Man of Ross" (whom Pope also celebrates in the Moral Essays, III., lines 250-290) was retained, and also the "Lines in the Manner of Spenser." The piece rechristened "Kisses" had been called "The Composition of a Kiss." Biggs was the printer. See also the next letter.
Of Robert Lloyd's father we hear more later.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE 27th May, 1803.
My dear Coleridge,—The date of my last was one day prior to the receipt of your letter, full of foul omens. I explain, lest you should have thought mine too light a reply to such sad matter. I seriously hope by this time you have given up all thoughts of journeying to the green islands of the Blest—voyages in time of war are very precarious—or at least, that you will take them in your way to the Azores. Pray be careful of this letter till it has done its duty, for it is to inform you that I have booked off your watch (laid in cotton like an untimely fruit), and with it Condillac and all other books of yours which were left here. These will set out on Monday next, the 29th May, by Kendal waggon, from White Horse, Cripplegate. You will make seasonable inquiries, for a watch mayn't come your way again in a hurry. I have been repeatedly after Tobin, and now hear that he is in the country, not to return till middle of June. I will take care and see him with the earliest. But cannot you write pathetically to him, enforcing a speedy mission of your books for literary purposes? He is too good a retainer to Literature, to let her interests suffer through his default. And why, in the name of Beelzebub, are your books to travel from Barnard's Inn to the Temple, and then circuitously to Cripplegate, when their business is to take a short cut down Holborn-hill, up Snow do., on to Woodstreet, &c.? The former mode seems a sad superstitious subdivision of labour. Well! the "Man of Ross" is to stand; Longman begs for it; the printer stands with a wet sheet in one hand and a useless Pica in the other, in tears, pleading for it; I relent. Besides, it was a Salutation poem, and has the mark of the beast "Tobacco" upon it. Thus much I have done; I have swept off the lines about widows and orphans in second edition, which (if you remember) you most awkwardly and illogically caused to be inserted between two Ifs, to the great breach and disunion of said Ifs, which now meet again (as in first edition), like two clever lawyers arguing a case. Another reason for subtracting the pathos was, that the "Man of Ross" is too familiar to need telling what he did, especially in worse lines than Pope told it; and it now stands simply as "Reflections at an Inn about a known Character," and sucking an old story into an accommodation with present feelings. Here is no breaking spears with Pope, but a new, independent, and really a very pretty poem. In fact, 'tis as I used to admire it in the first volume, and I have even dared to restore
"If 'neath this roof thy wine-cheer'd moments pass,"
"Beneath this roof if thy cheer'd moments pass."
"Cheer'd" is a sad general word; "wine-cheer'd" I'm sure you'd give me, if I had a speaking-trumpet to sound to you 300 miles. But I am your factotum, and that (save in this instance, which is a single case, and I can't get at you) shall be next to a fac-nihil—at most, a fac-simile. I have ordered "Imitation of Spenser" to be restored on Wordsworth's authority; and now, all that you will miss will be "Flicker and Flicker's Wife," "The Thimble," "Breathe, dear harmonist" and, I believe, "The Child that was fed with Manna." Another volume will clear off all your Anthologic Morning-Postian Epistolary Miscellanies; but pray don't put "Christabel" therein; don't let that sweet maid come forth attended with Lady Holland's mob at her heels. Let there be a separate volume of Tales, Choice Tales, "Ancient Mariners," &c.
[Coleridge, who was getting more and more nervous about his health, had long been on the point of starting on some southern travels with Thomas Wedgwood, but Wedgwood had gone alone; his friend James Webbe Tobin, mentioned later in the letter, lived at Nevis, in the West Indies: possibly Coleridge had thoughts of returning with him. The Malta experiment, of which we are to hear later, had not, I think, yet been mooted.
"The Man of Ross." In the 1797 edition the poem had run thus, partly by Lamb's advice (see the letters of June 10, 1796, and February 5, 1797):—
LINES WRITTEN AT THE KING'S-ARMS, ROSS, FORMERLY THE HOUSE OF THE "MAN OF ROSS"
Richer than MISER o'er his countless hoards, Nobler than KINGS, or king-polluted LORDS, Here dwelt the MAN OF ROSS! O Trav'ller, hear! Departed Merit claims a reverent tear. Friend to the friendless, to the sick man health, With generous joy he view'd his modest wealth; He hears the widow's heaven-breath'd prayer of praise, He marks the shelter'd orphan's tearful gaze, Or where the sorrow-shrivel'd captive lay, Pours the bright blaze of Freedom's noon-tide ray. Beneath this roof if thy cheer'd moments pass, Fill to the good man's name one grateful glass; To higher zest shall MEM'RY wake thy soul, And VIRTUE mingle in th' ennobled bowl. But if, like me, thro' life's distressful scene Lonely and sad thy pilgrimage hath been; And if, thy breast with heart-sick anguish fraught, Thou journeyest onward tempest-tost in thought; Here cheat thy cares! in generous visions melt, And dream of Goodness, thou hast never felt!
Lamb changed it by omitting lines 9 to 14, Coleridge agreeing. The poet would not, however, restore "wine-cheer'd" as in his earliest version, 1794. In the edition of 1828 the six lines were put back. "Breathe, dear Harmonist" was the poem "To the Rev. W. J. H.," and "The Child that was fed with Manna" was "On the Christening of a Friend's Child."
"Lady Holland's mob." Elizabeth Vassall Fox, third Lady Holland (1770-1845), was beginning her reign as a Muse. Lamb by his phrase means occasional and political verse generally. The reference to "Christabel" helps to controvert Fanny Godwin's remark in a letter to Mrs. Shelley, on July 20, 1816, that Lamb "says Christabel ought never to have been published; that no one understood it."
Canon Ainger's transcript adds: "A word of your health will be richly acceptable."]
MARY LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[Dated at end: July 9. P.M. July 11, 1803.]
My dear Miss Wordsworth—We rejoice with exceeding great joy to hear the delightful tidings you were so very kind to remember to send us—I hope your dear sister is perfectly well, and makes an excellent nurse. Are you not now the happiest family in the world?
I have been in better health and spirits this week past than since my last illness—I continued so long so very weak & dejected I began to fear I should never be at all comfortable again. I strive against low spirits all I can, but it is a very hard thing to get the better of.
I am very uneasy about poor Coleridge, his last letters are very melancholy ones. Remember me affectionately to him and Sara. I hope you often see him.
Southey is in town. He seems as proud of his little girl as I suppose your brother is of his boy; he says his home is now quite a different place to what it used to be. I was glad to hear him say this—it used to look rather chearless.
We went last week with Southey and Rickman and his sister to Sadlers Wells, the lowest and most London-like of all our London amusements—the entertainments were Goody Two Shoes, Jack the Giant Killer, and Mary of Buttermere! Poor Mary was very happily married at the end of the piece, to a sailor her former sweetheart. We had a prodigious fine view of her father's house in the vale of Buttermere—mountains very like large haycocks, and a lake like nothing at all. If you had been with us, would you have laughed the whole time like Charles and Miss Rickman or gone to sleep as Southey and Rickman did?
Stoddart is in expectation of going soon to Malta as Judge Advocate; it is likely to be a profitable situation, fifteen hundred a year or more. If he goes he takes with him his sister, and, as I hear from her as a very great secret, a wife; you must not mention this because if he stays in England he may not be rich enough to marry for some years. I do not know why I should trouble you with a secret which it seems I am unable to keep myself and which is of no importance to you to hear; if he succeeds in this appointment he will be in a great bustle, for he must set out to Malta in a month. In the mean time he must go to Scotland to marry and fetch his wife, and it is a match against her parents' consent, and they as yet know nothing of the Malta expedition; so that he expects many difficulties, but the young lady and he are determined to conquer them. He then must go to Salisbury to take leave of his father and mother, who I pity very much, for they are old people and therefore are not very likely ever to see their children again.
Charles is very well and very good—I mean very sober, but he is very good in every sense of the word, for he has been very kind and patient with me and I have been a sad trouble to him lately. He has shut out all his friends because he thought company hurt me, and done every thing in his power to comfort and amuse me. We are to go out of town soon for a few weeks, when I hope I shall get quite stout and lively.
You saw Fenwick when you was with us—perhaps you remember his wife and children were with his brother, a tradesman at Penzance. He (the brother), who was supposed to be in a great way of business, has become a bankrupt; they are now at Penzance without a home and without money; and poor Fenwick, who has been Editor of a country newspaper lately, is likely soon to be quite out of employ; I am distressed for them, for I have a great affection for Mrs. Fenwick.
How pleasant your little house and orchard must be now. I almost wish I had never seen it. I am always wishing to be with you. I could sit upon that little bench in idleness day long. When you have a leisure hour, a letter from [you], kind friend, will give me the greatest pleasure.
We have money of yours and I want you to send me some commission to lay it out. Are you not in want of anything? I believe when we go out of town it will be to Margate—I love the seaside and expect much benefit from it, but your mountain scenery has spoiled us. We shall find the flat country of the Isle of Thanet very dull.
Charles joins me in love to your brother and sister and the little John. I hope you are building more rooms. Charles said I was so long answering your letter Mrs. Wordsworth would have another little one before you received it. Our love and compliments to our kind Molly, I hope she grows younger and happier every day. When, and where, shall I ever see you again? Not I fear for a very long time, you are too happy ever to wish to come to London. When you write tell me how poor Mrs. Clarkson does.
God bless you and yours.
I am your affectionate friend,
[Wordsworth's eldest child, John, was born on June 18, 1803. Southey's little girl was Edith, born in September of the preceding year. It was Southey who made the charming remark that no house was complete unless it had in it a child rising six years, and a kitten rising six months.
Coleridge had been ill for some weeks after his visit to London. He was about to visit Scotland with the Wordsworths.
Mary of Buttermere was Mary Robinson, the Beauty of Buttermere, whom the swindler John Hatfield had married in October, 1802, under the false name of Hope. Mary was the daughter of the landlord of the Fish Inn at Buttermere, and was famous in the Lake Country for her charm. Coleridge sent to the Morning Post in October some letters on the imposture, and Mary's name became a household word. Hatfield was hanged in September, 1803. Funds were meanwhile raised for Mary, and she ultimately married a farmer, after being the subject of dramas, ballads and novels.
The play which the Lambs saw was by Charles Dibdin the Younger, produced on April 11, 1803. Its title was "Edward and Susan; or, The Beauty of Buttermere." A benefit performance for the real Beauty of Buttermere was promised. Both Grimaldi and Belzoni were among the evening's entertainers.
Stoddart was the King's and the Admiralty's Advocate at Malta from 1803 to 1807. He married Isabella Moncrieff in 1803. His sister was Sarah Stoddart, of whom we are about to hear much.
According to the next letter the Lambs went not to Margate, but to the Isle of Wight—to Cowes, with the Burneys.
Molly was an old cottager at Grasmere whom the Lambs had been friendly with on their northern visit.
Mrs. Clarkson, the wife of Thomas Clarkson, was Catherine Buck. She survived her husband, who died in 1846.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN RICKMAN
Saturday Morning, July 16th, 1803.
Dear Rickman,—I enclose you a wonder, a letter from the shades. A dead body wants to return, and be inrolled inter vivos. 'Tis a gentle ghost, and in this Galvanic age it may have a chance.
Mary and I are setting out for the Isle of Wight. We make but a short stay, and shall pass the time betwixt that place and Portsmouth, where Fenwick is. I sadly wanted to explore the Peak this Summer; but Mary is against steering without card or compass, and we should be at large in Darbyshire.
We shall be at home this night and to-morrow, if you can come and take a farewell pipe.
I regularly transmitted your Notices to the "Morning Post," but they have not been duly honoured. The fault lay not in me.—
[I cannot explain the reference to the dead body. Mr. Bertram Dobell considers it to apply to an article which he believes Lamb to have written, called "An Appeal from the Shades," printed in the London Magazine, New Series, Vol. V. (see Sidelights on Charles Lamb, 1903, pages 140-152). I cannot, however, think that Lamb could write in 1803 in the deliberate manner of that essay; that the "Appeal" is by him; or that the reference in the letter is to an essay at all. I have no real theory to put forward; but it once occurred to me that the letter from the shades was from George Burnett, who had quarrelled with Rickman, may reasonably be believed to have threatened suicide, and had now possibly appealed to his mercy through Lamb. Later, Burnett entered the militia as a surgeon, and at the beginning of 1804 he left for Poland.
Following this should come a letter from Lamb to Rickman, dated July 27, 1803. It is part of one from Captain Burney describing the adventures of the Burneys and Lambs at Cowes. Lamb, says the Captain, on their way to Newport "very ingeniously and unconsciously cast loose the fastenings of the mast, so that mast, sprit, sails, and all the rest tumbled overboard with a crash." Lamb on his part is amusing about the Captain and Martin Burney, and says he longs for Holborn scenery again.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[Dated at end: September 21, 1803.]
My dear Sarah, I returned home from my visit yesterday, and was much pleased to find your letter; for I have been very anxious to hear how you are going on. I could hardly help expecting to see you when I came in; yet, though I should have rejoiced to have seen your merry face again, I believe it was better as it was—upon the whole; and, all things considered, it is certainly better you should go to Malta. The terms you are upon with your Lover does (as you say it will) appear wondrous strange to me; however, as I cannot enter into your feelings, I certainly can have nothing to say to it, only that I sincerely wish you happy in your own way, however odd that way may appear to me to be. I would begin now to advise you to drop all correspondence with William; but, as I said before, as I cannot enter into your feelings and views of things, your ways not being my ways, why should I tell you what I would do in your situation? So, child, take thy own ways, and God prosper thee in them!
One thing my advising spirit must say—use as little Secrecy as possible; and, as much as possible, make a friend of your sister-in-law—you know I was not struck with her at first sight; but, upon your account, I have watched and marked her very attentively; and, while she was eating a bit of cold mutton in our kitchen, we had a serious conversation. From the frankness of her manner, I am convinced she is a person I could make a friend of; why should not you? We talked freely about you: she seems to have a just notion of your character, and will be fond of you, if you will let her.
My father had a sister lived with us—of course, lived with my Mother, her sister-in-law; they were, in their different ways, the best creatures in the world—but they set out wrong at first. They made each other miserable for full twenty years of their lives—my Mother was a perfect gentlewoman, my Aunty as unlike a gentlewoman as you can possibly imagine a good old woman to be; so that my dear Mother (who, though you do not know it, is always in my poor head and heart) used to distress and weary her with incessant and unceasing attention and politeness, to gain her affection. The old woman could not return this in kind, and did not know what to make of it—thought it all deceit, and used to hate my Mother with a bitter hatred; which, of course, was soon returned with interest. A little frankness, and looking into each other's characters at first, would have spared all this, and they would have lived, as they died, fond of each other for the last few years of their life. When we grew up, and harmonised them a little, they sincerely loved each other.
My Aunt and my Mother were wholly unlike you and your sister, yet in some degree theirs is the secret history I believe of all sisters-in-law—and you will smile when I tell you I think myself the only woman in the world who could live with a brother's wife, and make a real friend of her, partly from early observation of the unhappy example I have just given you, and partly from a knack I know I have of looking into people's real characters, and never expecting them to act out of it—never expecting another to do as I would in the same case. When you leave your Mother, and say, if you never shall see her again, you shall feel no remorse, and when you make a jewish bargain with your Lover, all this gives me no offence, because it is your nature, and your temper, and I do not expect or want you to be otherwise than you are. I love you for the good that is in you, and look for no change. But, certainly, you ought to struggle with the evil that does most easily beset you—a total want of politeness in behaviour, I would say modesty of behaviour, but that I should not convey to you my idea of the word modesty; for I certainly do not mean that you want real modesty; and what is usually called false, or mock, modesty is [a quality] I certainly do not wish you to possess; yet I trust you know what I mean well enough.
Secrecy, though you appear all frankness, is certainly a grand failing of yours; it is likewise your brother's, and, therefore, a family failing—by secrecy, I mean you both want the habit of telling each other at the moment every thing that happens—where you go,—and what you do,—the free communication of letters and opinions just as they arrive, as Charles and I do,—and which is, after all, the only groundwork of friendship. Your brother, I will answer for [it,] will never tell his wife or his sister all that [is in] his mind—he will receive letters, and not [mention it]. This is a fault Mrs. Stoddart can never [tell him of;] but she can, and will, feel it: though, [on] the whole, and in every other respect, she is [very] happy with him. Begin, for God's sake, at the first, and tell her every thing that passes. At first she may hear you with indifference; but in time this will gain her affection and confidence; show her all your letters (no matter if she does not show hers)—it is a pleasant thing for a friend to put into one's hand a letter just fresh from the post. I would even say, begin with showing her this, but that it is written freely and loosely, and some apology ought to be made for it—which I know not how to make, for I must write freely or not at all.
If you do this, she will tell your brother, you will say; and what then, quotha? It will beget a freer communication amongst you, which is a thing devoutly to be wished—
God bless you, and grant you may preserve your integrity, and remain unmarried and penniless, and make William a good and a happy wife.
Your affectionate friend,
Charles is very unwell, and my head aches. He sends his love: mine, with my best wishes, to your brother and sister.
I hope I shall get another letter from you.
Wednesday, 21st September, 1803.
[Sarah Stoddart was the sister of Dr. John Stoddart, who had just been appointed the King's and the Admiralty's Advocate at Malta, whither Miss Stoddart followed him. Her lover of that moment was a Mr. Turner, and William was an earlier lover still. Her sister-in-law was Mrs. John Stoddart, nee Isabella Moncrieff, whom her brother had only just married.
"My Mother." This is the only reference to her mother in any of Mary Lamb's letters. The sister was Sarah Lamb, usually known as Aunt Hetty.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM GODWIN
Nov. 8, 1803.
My dear Sir,—I have been sitting down for three or four days successively to the review, which I so much wished to do well, and to your satisfaction. But I can produce nothing but absolute flatness and nonsense. My health and spirits are so bad, and my nerves so irritable, that I am sure, if I persist, I shall teaze myself into a fever. You do not know how sore and weak a brain I have, or you would allow for many things in me which you set down for whims. I solemnly assure you that I never more wished to prove to you the value which I have for you than at this moment; but although in so seemingly trifling a service I cannot get through with it, I pray you to impute it to this one sole cause, ill health. I hope I am above subterfuge, and that you will do me this justice to think so.
You will give me great satisfaction by sealing my pardon and oblivion in a line or two, before I come to see you, or I shall be ashamed to come.—Your, with great truth,
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM GODWIN
Nov. 10, 1803.
Dear Godwin,—You never made a more unlucky and perverse mistake than to suppose that the reason of my not writing that cursed thing was to be found in your book. I assure you most sincerely that I have been greatly delighted with Chaucer. I may be wrong, but I think there is one considerable error runs through it, which is a conjecturing spirit, a fondness for filling out the picture by supposing what Chaucer did and how he felt, where the materials are scanty. So far from meaning to withhold from you (out of mistaken tenderness) this opinion of mine, I plainly told Mrs. Godwin that I did find a fault, which I should reserve naming until I should see you and talk it over. This she may very well remember, and also that I declined naming this fault until she drew it from me by asking me if there was not too much fancy in the work. I then confessed generally what I felt, but refused to go into particulars until I had seen you. I am never very fond of saying things before third persons, because in the relation (such is human nature) something is sure to be dropped. If Mrs. Godwin has been the cause of your misconstruction, I am very angry, tell her; yet it is not an anger unto death. I remember also telling Mrs. G. (which she may have dropt) that I was by turns considerably more delighted than I expected. But I wished to reserve all this until I saw you. I even had conceived an expression to meet you with, which was thanking you for some of the most exquisite pieces of criticism I had ever read in my life. In particular, I should have brought forward that on "Troilus and Cressida" and Shakespear which, it is little to say, delighted me, and instructed me (if not absolutely instructed me, yet put into full-grown sense many conceptions which had arisen in me before in my most discriminating moods). All these things I was preparing to say, and bottling them up till I came, thinking to please my friend and host, the author! when lo! this deadly blight intervened.
I certainly ought to make great allowances for your misunderstanding me. You, by long habits of composition and a greater command gained over your own powers, cannot conceive of the desultory and uncertain way in which I (an author by fits) sometimes cannot put the thoughts of a common letter into sane prose. Any work which I take upon myself as an engagement will act upon me to torment, e.g., when I have undertaken, as three or four times I have, a school-boy copy of verses for Merchant Taylors' boys, at a guinea a copy, I have fretted over them, in perfect inability to do them, and have made my sister wretched with my wretchedness for a week together. The same, till by habit I have acquired a mechanical command, I have felt in making paragraphs. As to reviewing, in particular, my head is so whimsical a head, that I cannot, after reading another man's book, let it have been never so pleasing, give any account of it in any methodical way. I cannot follow his train. Something like this you must have perceived of me in conversation. Ten thousand times I have confessed to you, talking of my talents, my utter inability to remember in any comprehensive way what I read. I can vehemently applaud, or perversely stickle, at parts; but I cannot grasp at a whole. This infirmity (which is nothing to brag of) may be seen in my two little compositions, the tale and my play, in both which no reader, however partial, can find any story. I wrote such stuff about Chaucer, and got into such digressions, quite irreducible into 1-1/5 column of a paper, that I was perfectly ashamed to show it you. However, it is become a serious matter that I should convince you I neither slunk from the task through a wilful deserting neglect, or through any (most imaginary on your part) distaste of Chaucer; and I will try my hand again, I hope with better luck. My health is bad and my time taken up, but all I can spare between this and Sunday shall be employed for you, since you desire it: and if I bring you a crude, wretched paper on Sunday, you must burn it, and forgive me; if it proves anything better than I predict, may it be a peace-offering of sweet incense between us.
[Lamb's review of Godwin's Life of Chaucer, issued in October, 1803, has not been identified. Perhaps it was never completed. Writing to Wordsworth, December 28, 1814, he says that his review of The Excursion is the first he ever did.
Lamb's early Merchant Taylors' verses have been lost, but two epigrams that he wrote many years later for the sons of Hessey, the publisher, have been preserved (see the letter to Southey, May 10, 1830).]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS POOLE
[Dated at end: Feb. 14, 1804.]
Dear Sir—I am sorry we have not been able to hear of lodgings to suit young F. but we will not desist in the enquiry. In a day or two something may turn up. Boarding houses are common enough, but to find a family where he would be safe from impositions within & impositions without is not so easy.—
I take this opportunity of thanking you for your kind attentions to the Lad I took the liberty of recommending. His mother was disposed to have taken in young F. but could not possibly make room.
Your obliged &c
Temple, 14 Feb., 1804.
[I do not know to what lads the note refers, but probably young F. was young Fricker, the brother of Mrs. Coleridge and Mrs. Southey. The note is interesting only as giving another instance of Lamb's willing helpfulness to others.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[P.M. March 10, 1804.]
Dr C. I blunderd open this letter, its weight making me conjecture it held an inclosure; but finding it poetry (which is no man's ground, but waste and common) I perused it. Do you remember that you are to come to us to-night?
To Mr. Coleridge, Mr. Tobin's, Barnards Inn, Holborn.
[This is written on the back of a paper addressed (to save postage) to Mr. Lamb, India House, containing a long extract from "Madoc" in Southey's hand.
Coleridge, having been invited by Stoddart to Malta, was now in London on his way thither. Tobin was probably James Webbe Tobin, brother of John Tobin, the solicitor and dramatist.
Between this letter and the next comes a letter from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, dated at the end March 13, 1804, in which Lamb congratulates Robert Lloyd on his approaching marriage to Hannah Hart. The wedding was celebrated on August 2, 1804.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[No date. ? March, 1804.]
My dearest Sarah,—I will just write a few hasty lines to say Coleridge is setting off sooner than we expected; and I every moment expect him to call in one of his great hurrys for this. Charles intended to write by him, but has not: most likely he will send a letter after him to Portsmouth: if he does, you will certainly hear from him soon. We rejoiced with exceeding joy to hear of your safe arrival: I hope your brother will return home in a few years a very rich man. Seventy pounds in one fortnight is a pretty beginning—
I envy your brother the pleasure of seeing Coleridge drop in unexpectedly upon him; we talk—but it is but wild and idle talk—of following him: he is to get my brother some little snug place of a thousand a year, and we are to leave all, and come and live among ye. What a pretty dream.
Coleridge is very ill. I dread the thought of his long voyage—write as soon as he arrives, whether he does or not, and tell me how he is.
Jamaica bodies... [words illegible].
He has got letters of recommendation to Governor Ball, and God knows who; and he will talk and talk, and be universally admired. But I wish to write for him a letter of recommendation to Mrs. Stoddart, and to yourself, to take upon ye, on his first arrival, to be kind affectionate nurses; and mind, now, that you perform this duty faithfully, and write me a good account of yourself. Behave to him as you would to me, or to Charles, if we came sick and unhappy to you.
I have no news to send you; Coleridge will tell you how we are going on. Charles has lost the newspaper; but what we dreaded as an evil has proved a great blessing, for we have both strangely recovered our health and spirits since this has happened; and I hope, when I write next, I shall be able to tell you Charles has begun something which will produce a little money; for it is not well to be very poor—which we certainly are at this present writing.
I sit writing here, and thinking almost you will see it tomorrow; and what a long, long time it will be ere you receive this—When I saw your letter, I fancy'd you were even just then in the first bustle of a new reception, every moment seeing new faces, and staring at new objects, when, at that time, every thing had become familiar to you; and the strangers, your new dancing partners, had perhaps become gossiping fireside friends. You tell me of your gay, splendid doings; tell me, likewise, what manner of home-life you lead—Is a quiet evening in a Maltese drawing room as pleasant as those we have passed in Mitre Court and Bell yard?—Tell me all about it, every thing pleasant, and every thing unpleasant, that befalls you.
I want you to say a great deal about yourself. Are you happy? and do you not repent going out? I wish I could see you for one hour only.
Remember me affectionately to your sister and brother; and tell me, when you write, if Mrs. Stoddart likes Malta, and how the climate agrees with her and with thee.
We heard you were taken prisoners, and for several days believed the tale.
How did the pearls, and the fine court finery, bear the fatigues of the voyage, and how often have they been worn and admired?
Rickman wants to know if you are going to be married yet—satisfy him in that little particular when you write.
The Fenwicks send their love, and Mrs. Reynolds her love, and the little old lady her best respects.
Mrs. Jefferies, who I see now and then, talks of you with tears in her eyes, and, when she heard you was taken prisoner, Lord! how frightened she was. She has heard, she tells me, that Mr. Stoddart is to have a pension of two thousand a year, whenever he chuses to return to England.
God bless you, and send you all manner of comforts and happinesses.
Your most affectionate friend, MARY LAMB.
How-do? how-do? No time to write. S.T.C. going off in a great hurry. CH. LAMB.
[Miss Stoddart was now in Malta. Governor Ball was Sir Alexander Ball, to whom Coleridge was to act as private secretary and of whom he wrote some years later in The Friend.
"Charles has lost the newspaper"—his work on the Morning Post. Lamb's principal period on this paper had begun after Stuart sold it in September, 1803, and it lasted until February, 1804 (see notes in Vol. II. of this edition).
"We heard you were taken prisoners"—by the French.
"Mrs. Reynolds"—Lamb's old schoolmistress and pensioner. Mrs. Jefferies I do not know.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[P.M. April 4, 1804.]
Mary would send her best love, but I write at office.
Thursday [April 5]. The L1 came safe.
My dear C.—I but just received your commission-abounding letter. All shall be done. Make your European heart easy in Malta, all shall be performed. You say I am to transcribe off part of your letters and send to X somebody (but the name is lost under the wafer, so you must give it me)—I suppose Wordsw'th.
I have been out of town since Saturday, the reason I had not your letter before. N.B. N.B. Knowing I had 2 or 3 Easter holydays, it was my intention to have ask'd you if my accompanying you to Portsm'th would have been pleasant. But you were not visible, except just at the critical moment of going off from the Inn, at which time I could not get at you. So Deus aliter disposuit, and I went down into Hertfordshire.
I write in great bustle indeed—God bless you again. Attend to what I have written mark'd X above, and don't merge any part of your Orders under seal again.
[Addressed to "S. T. Coleridge, Esq'r., J. C. Mottley's, Esq'r., Portsmouth, Hants."
Coleridge had left London for Portsmouth on March 27; he sailed for Malta on April 9.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS POOLE
[Dated at end: Temple, 4th May, 1804.]
Dear Sir—I have no sort of connexion with the Morning Post at present, nor acquaintance with its late Editor (the present Editor of the Courier) to ask a favour of him with propriety; but if it will be of any use, I believe I could get the insertions into the British Press (a Morning Paper) through a friend.—
Yours truly C. LAMB.
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS POOLE
[Dated at end: Temple, 5 May, 1804.]
Dear Sir—I can get the insertions into the British Press without any difficulty at all. I am only sorry that I have no interest in the M. Post, having so much greater circulation. If your friend chuses it, you will be so good as to return me the Critique, of which I forgot to take a copy, and I suppose on Monday or Tuesday it will be in. The sooner I have it, the better.
Yours &c. C. LAMB.
I did formerly assist in the Post, but have no longer any engagement.—
[Stuart, having sold the Morning Post, was now developing the Courier. The notes are interesting only as showing Lamb's attitude to Stuart. Writing to the Gentleman's Magazine in June, 1838, concerning his association as editor with Coleridge, Stuart said: "But as for good Charles Lamb, I never could make any-thing of his writings. Coleridge often and repeatedly pressed me to settle him on a salary, and often and repeatedly did I try; but it would not do. Of politics he knew nothing; they were out of his line of reading and thought; and his drollery was vapid, when given in short paragraphs fit for a newspaper: yet he has produced some agreeable books, possessing a tone of humour and kind feeling, in a quaint style, which it is amusing to read, and cheering to remember."]
CHARLES LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[Dated at end: June 2, 1804.]
Dear Miss Wordsworth, the task of letter-writing in my family falls to me; you are the organ of correspondence in yours, so I address you rather than your brother. We are all sensibly obliged to you for the little scraps (Arthur's Bower and his brethren) which you sent up; the bookseller has got them and paid Mrs. Fenwick for them. So while some are authors for fame, some for money, you have commenced author for charity. The least we can do, is to see your commissions fulfilled; accordingly I have booked this 2d June 1804 from the Waggon Inn in Cripplegate the watch and books which I got from your brother Richard, together with Purchas's Pilgrimage and Brown's Religio Medici which I desire your brother's acceptance of, with some pens, of which I observed no great frequency when I tarried at Grasmere. (I suppose you have got Coleridge's letter)—These things I have put up in a deal box directed to Mr. Wordsworth, Grasmere, near Ambleside, Kendal, by the Kendal waggon. At the same time I have sent off a parcel by C.'s desire to Mr. T. Hutchinson to the care of Mr. "T. Monkhouse, or T. Markhouse" (for C.'s writing is not very plain) Penrith, by the Penrith waggon this day; which I beg you to apprize them of, lest my direction fail. In your box, you will find a little parcel for Mrs. Coleridge, which she wants as soon as possible; also for yourselves the Cotton, Magnesia, bark and Oil, which come to L2. 3. 4. thus.
sh. Thread and needles 17 Magnesia 8 bark 9. 8 Oil 8. 8 ———— 2. 3. 4 packing case 2. 6 ——— 2. 5.10 deduct a guinea I owe you, which C. was to pay, 1. 1. - but did not ——— leaves you indebted 1. 4.10
whereby you may see how punctual I am.
I conclude with our kindest remembrances to your brother and Mrs. W.
We hear, the young John is a Giant.
And should you see Charles Lloyd, pray forget to give my love to him.
Yours truly, D'r Miss W. C. LAMB. June 2, 1804.
I send you two little copies of verses by Mary L—b:—
DIALOGUE BETWEEN A MOTHER AND CHILD
Child. (Sings) "O Lady, lay your costly robes aside, No longer may you glory in your pride."
Mother. Wherefore to day art singing in mine ear Sad songs were made so long ago, my dear? This day I am to be a bride, you know. Why sing sad songs were made so long ago?
Child. "O Mother lay your costly robes aside," For you may never be another's bride: That line I learnt not in the old sad song.
Mother. I pray thee, pretty one, now hold thy tongue; Play with the bride maids, and be glad, my boy, For thou shall be a second father's joy.
Child. One father fondled me upon his knee: One father is enough alone for me.
Suggested by a print of 2 females after Leo[nardo da] Vinci, called Prudence & Beauty, which hangs up in our ro[om].
O! that you could see the print!!
The Lady Blanch, regardless of all her lovers' fears, To the Urseline Convent hastens, and long the Abbess hears: "O Blanch, my child, repent thee of the courtly life ye lead." Blanch looked on a rose-bud, and little seem'd to heed; She looked on the rose-bud, she looked round, and thought On all her heart had whisper'd, and all the Nun had taught. "I am worshipped by lovers, and brightly shines my fame, All Christendom resoundeth the noble Blanch's name; Nor shall I quickly wither like the rose-bud from the tree, My Queen-like graces shining when my beauty's gone from me. But when the sculptur'd marble is raised o'er my head, And the matchless Blanch lies lifeless among the noble dead, This saintly Lady Abbess has made me justly fear. It nothing will avail me that I were worshipt here."
I wish they may please you: we in these parts are not a little proud of them.
["The little scraps." Professor Knight informed me that the scraps were not written but only copied by Miss Wordsworth. Arthur's Bower ran thus:—
Arthur's bower has broke his band, He comes riding up the land, The King of Scots with all his power Cannot build up Arthur's bower.
"Your brother Richard"—Wordsworth's eldest brother.
"Purchas's Pilgrimage." Samuel Purchas (1575?-1626) was the author of Purchas His Pilgrimage, 1613; Purchas His Pilgrim, 1619; and Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes, 1625. This last is Purchas's best work, and is probably that which Lamb sent to Grasmere.
Mary Lamb's two poems, her earliest that we know, with the exception of "Helen," were printed in the Works, 1818.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[Late July, 1804.]
My dearest Sarah,—Your letter, which contained the news of Coleridge's arrival, was a most welcome one; for we had begun to entertain very unpleasant apprehensions for his safety; and your kind reception of the forlorn wanderer gave me the greatest pleasure, and I thank you for it in my own and my brother's name. I shall depend upon you for hearing of his welfare; for he does not write himself; but, as long as we know he is safe, and in such kind friends' hands, we do not mind. Your letters, my dear Sarah, are to me very, very precious ones. They are the kindest, best, most natural ones I ever received. The one containing the news of the arrival of Coleridge perhaps the best I ever saw; and your old friend Charles is of my opinion. We sent it off to Mrs. Coleridge and the Wordsworths—as well because we thought it our duty to give them the first notice we had of our dear friend's safety, as that we were proud of shewing our Sarah's pretty letter.
The letters we received a few days after from you and your brother were far less welcome ones. I rejoiced to hear your sister is well; but I grieved for the loss of the dear baby; and I am sorry to find your brother is not so successful as he at first expected to be; and yet I am almost tempted to wish his ill fortune may send him over [to] us again. He has a friend, I understand, who is now at the head of the Admiralty; why may he not return, and make a fortune here?
I cannot condole with you very sincerely upon your little failure in the fortune-making way. If you regret it, so do I. But I hope to see you a comfortable English wife; and the forsaken, forgotten William, of English-partridge memory, I have still a hankering after. However, I thank you for your frank communication, and I beg you will continue it in future; and if I do not agree with a good grace to your having a Maltese husband, I will wish you happy, provided you make it a part of your marriage articles that your husband shall allow you to come over sea and make me one visit; else may neglect and overlookedness be your portion while you stay there.
I would condole with you when the misfortune has fallen your poor leg; but such is the blessed distance we are at from each other, that I hope, before you receive this, that you forgot it ever happened.
Our compliments [to] the high ton at the Maltese court. Your brother is so profuse of them to me, that being, as you know, so unused to them, they perplex me sadly; in future, I beg they may be discontinued. They always remind me of the free, and, I believe, very improper, letter I wrote to you while you were at the Isle of Wight. The more kindly you and your brother and sister took the impertinent advice contained in it, the more certain I feel that it was unnecessary, and therefore highly improper. Do not let your brother compliment me into the memory of it again.
My brother has had a letter from your Mother, which has distressed him sadly—about the postage of some letters being paid by my brother. Your silly brother, it seems, has informed your Mother (I did not think your brother could have been so silly) that Charles had grumbled at paying the said postage. The fact was, just at that time we were very poor, having lost the Morning Post, and we were beginning to practise a strict economy. My brother, who never makes up his mind whether he will be a Miser or a Spendthrift, is at all times a strange mixture of both: of this failing, the even economy of your correct brother's temper makes him an ill judge. The miserly part of Charles, at that time smarting under his recent loss, then happened to reign triumphant; and he would not write, or let me write, so often as he wished, because the postage cost two and four pence. Then came two or three of your poor Mother's letters nearly together; and the two and four pences he wished, but grudged, to pay for his own, he was forced to pay for hers. In this dismal distress, he applied to Fenwick to get his friend Motley to send them free from Portsmouth. This Mr. Fenwick could have done for half a word's speaking; but this he did not do. Then Charles foolishly and unthinkingly complained to your brother in a half serious, half joking way; and your brother has wickedly, and with malice afore thought, told your Mother. O fye upon him! what will your Mother think of us?
I too feel my share of blame in this vexatious business; for I saw the unlucky paragraph in my brother's letter; and I had a kind of foreboding that it would come to your Mother's ears—although I had a higher opinion of your brother's good sense than I find he deserved. By entreaties and prayers, I might have prevailed on my brother to say nothing about it. But I make a point of conscience never to interfere or cross my brother in the humour he happens to be in. It always appears to me to be a vexatious kind of Tyranny, that women have no business to exercise over men, which, merely because they having a better judgement, they have the power to do. Let men alone, and at last we find they come round to the right way, which we, by a kind of intuition, perceive at once. But better, far better, that we should let them often do wrong, than that they should have the torment of a Monitor always at their elbows.
Charles is sadly fretted now, I know, at what to say to your Mother. I have made this long preamble about it to induce [you,] if possible, to reinstate us in your Mother's good graces. Say to her it was a jest misunderstood; tell her Charles Lamb is not the shabby fellow she and her son took him for; but that he is now and then a trifle whimsical or so. I do not ask your brother to do this, for I am offended with him for the mischief he has made.
I feel that I have too lightly passed over the interesting account you sent me of your late disappointment. It was not because I did not feel and compl[ete]ly enter into the affair with you. You surprise and please me with the frank and generous way in which you deal with your Lovers, taking a refusal from their so prudential hearts with a better grace and more good humour than other women accept a suitor's service. Continue this open artless conduct, and I trust you will at last find some man who has sense enough to know you are well worth risking a peaceable life of poverty for. I shall yet live to see you a poor, but happy, English wife.
Remember me most affectionately to Coleridge; and I thank you again and again for all your kindness to him. To dear Mrs. Stoddart and your brother, I beg my best love; and to you all I wish health and happiness, and a soon return to Old England.
I have sent to Mr. Burrel's for your kind present; but unfortunately he is not in town. I am impatient to see my fine silk handkerchiefs; and I thank you for them, not as a present, for I do not love presents, but as a [word illegible] remembrance of your old friend. Farewell.
I am, my best Sarah, Your most affectionate friend, MARY LAMB.
Good wishes, and all proper remembrances, from old nurse, Mrs. Jeffries, Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Rickman, &c. &c. &c.
Long live Queen Hoop-oop-oop-oo, and all the old merry phantoms!
CHARLES LAMB TO SARAH STODDART (Same letter)
My dear Miss Stoddart,—Mary has written so fully to you, that I have nothing to add but that, in all the kindness she has exprest, and loving desire to see you again, I bear my full part. You will, perhaps, like to tear this half from the sheet, and give your brother only his strict due, the remainder. So I will just repay your late kind letter with this short postscript to hers. Come over here, and let us all be merry again.
[Coleridge reached Valetta on May 18, 1804; but no opportunity to send letters home occurred until June 5. Miss Stoddart seems to have given up all her lovers at home in the hope of finding one in Malta.
"The blessed distance." Here Mary Lamb throws out an idea afterwards developed by her brother in the Elia essay on "Distant Correspondents."
Lamb's letter to Stoddart containing the complaint as to postage no longer exists. Mrs. Stoddart, Sarah's mother, had remained in England, at Salisbury.
Of Mr. Burrel I know nothing: he was probably an agent; nor can I explain Queen Hoop-oop-oop-oo.
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, dated September 13, 1804, not available for this edition, in which Lamb expresses his inability to accept an invitation, having had a month's holiday at Richmond. After alluding to Priscilla Lloyd's approaching marriage (to Christopher Wordsworth) he says that these new nuptials do not make him the less satisfied with his bachelor state.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. October 13, 1804.]
(Turn over leaf for more letters.)
Dear Wordsworth—I have not forgot your commissions.
But the truth is, and why should I not confess it? I am not plethorically abounding in Cash at this present. Merit, God knows, is very little rewarded; but it does not become me to speak of myself. My motto is "Contented with little, yet wishing for more." Now the books you wish for would require some pounds, which I am sorry to say I have not by me: so I will say at once, if you will give me a draft upon your town-banker for any sum you propose to lay out, I will dispose of [it] to the very best of my skill in choice old books, such as my own soul loveth. In fact, I have been waiting for the liquidation of a debt to enable myself to set about your commission handsomely, for it is a scurvy thing to cry Give me the money first, and I am the first of the family of the Lambs that have done it for many centuries: but the debt remains as it was, and my old friend that I accommodated has generously forgot it!
The books which you want I calculate at about L8.
Ben Jonson is a Guinea Book. Beaumont & Fletcher in folio, the right folio, not now to be met with; the octavos are about L3. As to any other old dramatists, I do not know where to find them except what are in Dodsley's old plays, which are about L3 also: Massinger I never saw but at one shop, but it is now gone, but one of the editions of Dodsley contains about a fourth (the best) of his plays. Congreve and the rest of King Charles's moralists are cheap and accessible. The works on Ireland I will enquire after, but I fear, Spenser's is not to be had apart from his poems; I never saw it. But you may depend upon my sparing no pains to furnish you as complete a library of old Poets & Dramatists as will be prudent to buy; for I suppose you do not include the L20 edition of Hamlet, single play, which Kemble has. Marlow's plays and poems are totally vanished; only one edition of Dodsley retains one, and the other two, of his plays: but John Ford is the man after Shakespear. Let me know your will and pleasure soon: for I have observed, next to the pleasure of buying a bargain for one's self is the pleasure of persuading a friend to buy it. It tickles one with the image of an imprudency without the penalty usually annex'd.
MARY LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[P.M. October 13, 1804.]
My dear Miss Wordsworth—I writ a letter immediately upon the receipt of yours, to thank you for sending me the welcome tidings of your little niece's birth, and Mrs. Wordsworth's safety, & waited till I could get a frank to send it in. Not being able to procure one, I will defer my thanks no longer for fear Mrs. Wordsworth should add another little baby to your family, before my congratulations on the birth of the little Dorothy arrive.
I hope Mrs. Wordsworth, & the pretty baby, & the young philosopher, are well: they are three strangers to me whom I have a longing desire to be acquainted with.
My brother desires me not to send such a long gossiping letter as that I had intended for you, because he wishes to fill a large share of the paper with his acknowledgments to Mr. Wordsworth for his letters, which he considers as a very uncommon favor, your brother seldom writing letters. I must beg my brother will tell Mr. Wordsworth how very proud he has made me also by praising my poor verses. Will you be so kind as to forward the opposite page to Mrs. Coleridge. This sheet of paper is quite a partnership affair. When the parliament meets you shall have a letter for your sole use.
My brother and I have been this summer to Richmond; we had a lodging there for a month, we passed the whole time there in wandering about, & comparing the views from the banks of the Thames with your mountain scenery, & tried, & wished, to persuade ourselves that it was almost as beautiful. Charles was quite a Mr. Clarkson in his admiration and his frequent exclamations, for though we had often been at Richmond for a few hours we had no idea it was so beautiful a place as we found it on a month's intimate acquaintance.
We rejoice to hear of the good fortune of your brave sailor-brother, I should have liked to have been with you when the news first arrived.
Your very friendly invitations have made us long to be with you, and we promise ourselves to spend the first money my brother earns by writing certain books (Charles often plans but never begins) in a journey to Grasmere.
When your eyes (which I am sorry to find continue unwell) will permit you to make use of your pen again I shall be very happy to see a letter in your own hand writing.
I beg to be affectionately remembered to your brother & sister & remain ever your affectionate friend
Compliments to old Molly.
MARY LAMB TO MRS. S. T. COLERIDGE (Same letter)
[P.M. October 13, 1804.]
My dear Mrs. Coleridge—I have had a letter written ready to send to you, which I kept, hoping to get a frank, and now I find I must write one entirely anew, for that consisted of matter not now in season, such as condolence on the illness of your children, who I hope are now quite well, & comfortings on your uncertainty of the safety of Coleridge, with wise reasons for the delay of the letters from Malta, which must now be changed for pleasant congratulations. Coleridge has not written to us, but we have had two letters from the Stoddarts since the one I sent to you, containing good accounts of him, but as I find you have had letters from himself I need not tell you the particulars.
My brother sent your letters to Mr. Motley according to Coleridge's direction, & I have no doubt but he forwarded them.
One thing only in my poor letter the time makes no alteration in, which is that I have half a bed ready for you, & I shall rejoice with exceeding great joy to have you with me. Pray do not change your mind for I shall be sadly disappointed if you do. Will Hartley be with you? I hope he will, for you say he goes with you to Liverpool, and I conclude you come from thence to London.
I have seen your brother lately, and I find he entertains good hopes from Mr. Sake, and his present employment I hear is likely to continue a considerable time longer, so that I hope you may consider him as good as provided for. He seems very steady, and is very well spoken of at his office.
I have lately been often talking of you with Mrs. Hazlitt. William Hazlitt is painting my brother's picture, which has brought us acquainted with the whole family. I like William Hazlitt and his sister very much indeed, & I think Mrs. Hazlitt a pretty good-humoured woman. She has a nice little girl of the Pypos kind, who is so fond of my brother that she stops strangers in the street to tell them when Mr. Lamb is coming to see her.
I hope Mr. Southey and your sister and the little Edith are well. I beg my love to them.
God bless you, and your three little darlings, & their wandering father, who I hope will soon return to you in high health & spirits.
I remain ever your affectionate friend
Compliments to Mr. Jackson and darling friend. I hope they are well.
[Charles Lamb adds:—]
C. Lamb particularly desires to be remembered to Southey and all the Southeys, as well as to Mrs. C. and her little Coleridges. Mrs. C.'s letters have all been sent as Coleridge left word, to Motley's, Portsmouth.
[The Ben Jonson in Lamb's own library was the 1692 folio; his Beaumont and Fletcher, which may be seen at the British Museum, was the folio 1647 or 1679.
Spenser's prose work, View of the Present State of Ireland, is that referred to.
"John Ford." Lamb says in the Dramatic Specimens, 1808, "Ford was of the first order of poets."
Dorothy Wordsworth (afterwards the wife of Edward Quillinan) was born August 16, 1804.
"Your brave sailor-brother"—John Wordsworth.
Mrs. Coleridge now had three children—Hartley, Derwent and Sara. We do not know whether or no she stayed with the Lambs, as suggested. Her brother was George Fricker.
William Hazlitt's sister was Peggy Hazlitt. His sister-in-law, Mrs. Hazlitt, was the wife of John Hazlitt, the miniature painter.
Hazlitt's portrait of Lamb was the one in the dress of a Venetian senator, reproduced as frontispiece to Vol. I. of this edition. It now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY 7 Nov., 1804.
Dear Southey,—You were the last person from whom we heard of Dyer, and if you know where to forward the news I now send to him, I shall be obliged to you to lose no time. D.'s sister-in-law, who lives in St. Dunstan's Court, wrote to him about three weeks ago, to the Hope Inn, Cambridge, to inform him that Squire Houlbert, or some such name, of Denmark Hill, has died, and left her husband a thousand pounds, and two or three hundred to Dyer. Her letter got no answer, and she does not know where to direct to him; so she came to me, who am equally in the dark. Her story is, that Dyer's immediately coming to town now, and signing some papers, will save him a considerable sum of money—how, I don't understand; but it is very right he should hear of this. She has left me barely time for the post; so I conclude with all Love, &c., to all at Keswick.
Dyer's brother, who, by his wife's account, has got 1000l. left him, is father of the little dirty girl, Dyer's niece and factotum.
In haste, Yours truly, C. LAMB.
If you send George this, cut off the last paragraph. D.'s laundress had a letter a few days since; but George never dates.
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [P.M. February 18, 1805.]
My dear Wordsworth, the subject of your letter has never been out of our thoughts since the day we first heard of it, and many have been our impulses towards you, to write to you, or to write to enquire about you; but it never seemed the time. We felt all your situation, and how much you would want Coleridge at such a time, and we wanted somehow to make up to you his absence, for we loved and honoured your Brother, and his death always occurs to my mind with something like a feeling of reproach, as if we ought to have been nearer acquainted, and as if there had been some incivility shown him by us, or something short of that respect which we now feel: but this is always a feeling when people die, and I should not foolishly offer a piece of refinement, instead of sympathy, if I knew any other way of making you feel how little like indifferent his loss has been to us. I have been for some time wretchedly ill and low, and your letter this morning has affected me so with a pain in my inside and a confusion, that I hardly know what to write or how. I have this morning seen Stewart, the 2'd mate, who was saved: but he can give me no satisfactory account, having been in quite another part of the ship when your brother went down. But I shall see Gilpin tomorrow, and will communicate your thanks, and learn from him all I can. All accounts agree that just before the vessel going down, your brother seemed like one overwhelmed with the situation, and careless of his own safety. Perhaps he might have saved himself; but a Captain who in such circumstances does all he can for his ship and nothing for himself, is the noblest idea. I can hardly express myself, I am so really ill. But the universal sentiment is, that your brother did all that duty required; and if he had been more alive to the feelings of those distant ones whom he loved, he would have been at that time a less admirable object; less to be exulted in by them: for his character is high with all that I have heard speak of him, and no reproach can fix upon him. Tomorrow I shall see Gilpin, I hope, if I can get at him, for there is expected a complete investigation of the causes of the loss of the ship, at the East India House, and all the Officers are to attend: but I could not put off writing to you a moment. It is most likely I shall have something to add tomorrow, in a second letter. If I do not write, you may suppose I have not seen G. but you shall hear from me in a day or two. We have done nothing but think of you, particularly of Dorothy. Mary is crying by me while I with difficulty write this: but as long as we remember any thing, we shall remember your Brother's noble person, and his sensible manly modest voice, and how safe and comfortable we all were together in our apartment, where I am now writing. When he returned, having been one of the triumphant China fleet, we thought of his pleasant exultation (which he exprest here one night) in the wish that he might meet a Frenchman in the seas; and it seem'd to be accomplished, all to his heart's desire. I will conclude from utter inability to write any more, for I am seriously unwell: and because I mean to gather something like intelligence to send to you to-morrow: for as yet, I have but heard second hand, and seen one narrative, which is but a transcript of what was common to all the Papers. God bless you all, and reckon upon us as entering into all your griefs. [Signature cut away.]
[This is the first of a series of letters bearing upon the loss of the East Indiaman Earl of Abergavenny, which was wrecked off Portland Bill on February 6, 1805, 200 persons and the captain, John Wordsworth, being lost. The character of Wordsworth's "Happy Warrior" is said to have been largely drawn from his brother John. His age was only thirty-three.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [P.M. February 19, 1805.]
My dear Wordsworth, I yesterday wrote you a very unsatisfactory letter. To day I have not much to add, but it may be some satisfaction to you that I have seen Gilpin, and thanked him in all your names for the assistance he tried to give: and that he has assured me that your Brother did try to save himself, and was doing so when Gilpin called to him, but he was then struggling with the waves and almost dead. G. heard him give orders a very little before the vessel went down, with all possible calmness, and it does not at all appear that your Brother in any absence of mind neglected his own safety. But in such circumstances the memory of those who escaped cannot be supposed to be very accurate; and there appears to be about the Persons that I have seen a good deal of reservedness and unwillingness to enter into detail, which is natural, they being Officers of the Ship, and liable to be examined at home about its loss. The examination is expected to day or to-morrow, and if any thing should come out, that can interest you, I shall take an early opportunity of sending it to you.
Mary wrote some few days since to Miss Stoddart, containing an account of your Brother's death, which most likely Coleridge will have heard, before the letter comes: we both wish it may hasten him back. We do not know any thing of him, whether he is settled in any post (as there was some talk) or not. We had another sad account to send him, of the death of his schoolfellow Allen; tho' this, I am sure, will much less affect him. I don't know whether you knew Allen; he died lately very suddenly in an apoplexy. When you do and can write, particularly inform us of the healths of you all. God bless you all. Mary will write to Dorothy as soon as she thinks she will be able to bear it. It has been a sad tidings to us, and has affected us more than we could have believed. I think it has contributed to make me worse, who have been very unwell, and have got leave for some few days to stay at home: but I am ashamed to speak of myself, only in excuse for the unfeeling sort of huddle which I now send. I could not delay it, having seen Gilpin, and I thought his assurance might be some little ease to you.
We will talk about the Books, when you can better bear it. I have bought none yet. But do not spare me any office you can put me on, now or when you are at leisure for such things. Adopt me as one of your family in this affliction; and use me without ceremony as such.
Mary's kindest Love to all.
Tuesday [Feb. 19].
[Mary Lamb's letter to Miss Stoddart, here referred to, is no longer preserved. Coleridge a little later accepted the post of private secretary to the Governor of Malta, Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander John Ball. Allen was Bob Allen, whom we have already met.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
16 Mitre-court Buildings,
Saturday, 24th [i.e. 23rd] Feb., 1805.
Dear Manning,—I have been very unwell since I saw you. A sad depression of spirits, a most unaccountable nervousness; from which I have been partially relieved by an odd accident. You knew Dick Hopkins, the swearing scullion of Caius? This fellow, by industry and agility, has thrust himself into the important situations (no sinecures, believe me) of cook to Trinity Hall and Caius College: and the generous creature has contrived with the greatest delicacy imaginable, to send me a present of Cambridge brawn. What makes it the more extraordinary is, that the man never saw me in his life that I know of. I suppose he has heard of me. I did not immediately recognise the donor; but one of Richard's cards, which had accidentally fallen into the straw, detected him in a moment. Dick, you know, was always remarkable for flourishing. His card imports, that "orders (to wit, for brawn), from any part of England, Scotland, or Ireland, will be duly executed," &c. At first, I thought of declining the present; but Richard knew my blind side when he pitched upon brawn. 'Tis of all my hobbies the supreme in the eating way. He might have sent sops from the pan, skimmings, crumplets, chips, hog's lard, the tender brown judiciously scalped from a fillet of veal (dexterously replaced by a salamander), the tops of asparagus, fugitive livers, runaway gizzards of fowls, the eyes of martyred pigs, tender effusions of laxative woodcocks, the red spawn of lobsters, leverets' ears, and such pretty filchings common to cooks; but these had been ordinary presents, the everyday courtesies of dishwashers to their sweethearts. Brawn was a noble thought. It is not every common gullet-fancier that can properly esteem it. It is like a picture of one of the choice old Italian masters. Its gusto is of that hidden sort. As Wordsworth sings of a modest poet,—"you must love him, ere to you he will seem worthy of your love;" so brawn, you must taste it, ere to you it will seem to have any taste at all. But 'tis nuts to the adept: those that will send out their tongues and feelers to find it out. It will be wooed, and not unsought be won. Now, ham-essence, lobsters, turtle, such popular minions, absolutely court you, lay themselves out to strike you at first smack, like one of David's pictures (they call him Darveed), compared with the plain russet-coated wealth of a Titian or a Correggio, as I illustrated above. Such are the obvious glaring heathen virtues of a corporation dinner, compared with the reserved collegiate worth of brawn. Do me the favour to leave off the business which you may be at present upon, and go immediately to the kitchens of Trinity and Caius, and make my most respectful compliments to Mr. Richard Hopkins, and assure him that his brawn is most excellent; and that I am moreover obliged to him for his innuendo about salt water and bran, which I shall not fail to improve. I leave it to you whether you shall choose to pay him the civility of asking him to dinner while you stay in Cambridge, or in whatever other way you may best like to show your gratitude to my friend. Richard Hopkins, considered in many points of view, is a very extraordinary character. Adieu: I hope to see you to supper in London soon, where we will taste Richard's brawn, and drink his health in a cheerful but moderate cup. We have not many such men in any rank of life as Mr. R. Hopkins. Crisp the barber, of St. Mary's, was just such another. I wonder he never sent me any little token, some chestnuts, or a pufif, or two pound of hair just to remember him by; gifts are like nails.
Praesens ut absens, that is, your present makes amends for your absence.
Yours, C. LAMB.
[This letter is, I take it, a joke: that is to say, the brawn was sent to Lamb by Manning, who seems to have returned to Cambridge for a while, and Lamb affects to believe that Hopkins, from whom it was bought, was the giver. I think this view is supported by the reference to Mr. Crisp, at the end,—Mr. Crisp being Manning's late landlord.
The following advertisement occurs in the Cambridge Chronicle for February 8, 1806. It is sent me by Dr. Wharry:—
"R. HOPKINS, Cook of Trinity Hall and Caius College, begs leave to inform the Nobility, Gentry, &c. that he has now ready for Sale, BRAWN, BRAWN HEADS & CHEEKS.
"All orders will be thankfully received, and forwarded to any part of the kingdom."
Lamb stayed at 3 St. Mary's Passage, now rebuilt and occupied by Messrs. Leach & Son (1911).
The letter contains Lamb's second expression of epicurean rapture: the first in praise of pig.
"As Wordsworth sings"—in the "Poet's Epitaph":—
He is retired as noontide dew, Or fountain in a noon-day grove; And you must love him, ere to you He will seem worthy of your love.
"Praesens ut absens." Lamb enlarged upon the topic of gifts and giving many years later, in the Popular Fallacy "That we must not look a Gift Horse in the Mouth," 1826, and in his "Thoughts on Presents of Game," 1833.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. March 5, 1805.]
My dear Wordsworth, if Gilpin's statement has afforded you any satisfaction, I can assure you that he was most explicit in giving it, and even seemed anxious (interrupting me) to do away any misconception. His statement is not contradicted by the last and fullest of the two Narratives which have been published (the former being a mere transcript of the newspapers), which I would send you if I did not suppose that you would receive more pain from the unfeeling canting way in which it is drawn up, than satisfaction from its contents; and what relates to your brother in particular is very short. It states that your brother was seen talking to the First Mate but a few minutes before the ship sank, with apparent cheerfulness, and it contradicts the newspaper account about his depression of spirits procrastinating his taking leave of the Court of Directors; which the drawer up of the Narrative (a man high in the India House) is likely to be well informed of. It confirms Gilpin's account of his seeing your brother striving to save himself, and adds that "Webber, a Joiner, was near the Captain, who was standing on the hencoop when the ship went down, whom he saw washed off by a sea, which also carried him (Webber) overboard;"—this is all which concerns your brother personally. But I will just transcribe from it, a Copy of Gilpin's account delivered in to the Court of Directors:—
"Memorandum respecting the Loss of the E. of A."
"At 10 A.M. being about 10 leagues to the westward of Portland, the Commodore made the signal to bear up—did so accordingly; at this time having maintop gallant mast struck, fore and mizen d deg.. on deck, and the jib boom in the wind about W.S.W. At 3 P.M. got on board a Pilot, being about 2 leagues to the westward of Portland; ranged and bitted both cables at about 1/2 past 3, called all hands and got out the jib boom at about 4. While crossing the east End of the Shambles, the wind suddenly died away, and a strong tide setting the ship to the westward, drifted her into the breakers, and a sea striking her on the larboard quarter, brought her to, with her head to the northward, when she instantly struck, it being about 5 P.M. Let out all the reefs, and hoisted the topsails up, in hopes to shoot the ship across the Shambles. About this time the wind shifted to the N.W. The surf driving us off, and the tide setting us on alternately, sometimes having 41/2 at others 9 fathoms, sand of the sea about 8 feet; continued in this situation till about 1/2 past 7, when she got off. During the time she was on the Shambles, had from 3 to 4 feet water; kept the water at this height about 15 minutes, during the whole time the pumps constantly going. Finding she gained on us, it was determined to run her on the nearest shore. About 8 the wind shifted to the eastward: the leak continuing to gain upon the pumps, having 10 or 11 feet water, found it expedient to bale at the forescuttles and hatchway. The ship would not bear up—kept the helm hard a starboard, she being water-logg'd: but still had a hope she could be kept up till we got her on Weymouth Sands. Cut the lashings of the boats—could not get the Long Boat out, without laying the main-top-sail aback, by which our progress would have been so delayed, that no hope would have been left us of running her aground, and there being several sloops in sight, one having sent a small skiff on board, took away 2 Ladies and 3 other passengers, and put them on board the sloop, at the same time promising to return and take away a hundred or more of the people: she finding much difficulty in getting back to the sloop, did not return. About this time the Third Mate and Purser were sent in the cutter to get assistance from the other ships. Continued pumping and baling till 11 P.M. when she sunk. Last cast of the lead 11 fathoms; having fired guns from the time she struck till she went down, about 2 A.M. boats came and took the people from the wreck about 70 in number. The troops, in particular the Dragoons, pumped very well.
"(Signed) THOS. GILPIN."
And now, my dear W.—I must apologize for having named my health. But indeed it was because, what with the ill news, your letter coming upon me in a most wretched state of ill spirits, I was scarce able to give it an answer, and I felt what it required. But we will say no more about it. I am getting better. And when I have persisted time enough in a course of regular living I shall be well. But I am now well enough; and have got to business afresh. Mary thanks you for your invitation. I have wished myself with you daily since the news. I have wished that I were Coleridge, to give you any consolation. You have not mourned without one to have a feeling of it. And we have not undervalued the intimation of your friendship. We shall one day prove it by intruding on your privacy, when these griefs shall be a little calmed. This year, I am afraid, it is impossible: but I shall store it up as among the good things to come, which keep us up when life and spirits are sinking.
If you have not seen, or wish to see, the wretched narrative I have mentioned, I will send it. But there is nothing more in it affecting you. I have hesitated to send it, because it is unfeelingly done, and in the hope of sending you something from some of the actual spectators; but I have been disappointed, and can add nothing yet. Whatever I pick up, I will store for you. It is perfectly understood at the E. I. House, that no blame whatever belongs to the Captn. or Officers.
I can add no more but Mary's warmest Love to all. When you can write without trouble, do it, for you are among the very chief of our interests.
C. LAMB. 4 March.
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [Dated at end: March 21, 1805.]
Dear Wordsworth, upon the receipt of your last letter before that which I have just received, I wrote myself to Gilpin putting your questions to him; but have yet had no answer. I at the same time got a person in the India House to write a much fuller enquiry to a relative of his who was saved, one Yates a midshipman. Both these officers (and indeed pretty nearly all that are left) have got appointed to other ships and have joined them. Gilpin is in the Comet, India man, now lying at Gravesend. Neither Yates nor Gilpin have yet answered, but I am in daily expectation. I have sent your letter of this morning also to Gilpin. The waiting for these answers has been my reason for not writing you. I have made very particular enquiries about Webber, but in vain. He was a common seaman (not the ship's carpenter) and no traces of him are at the I. House: it is most probable that he has entered in some Privateer, as most of the crew have done. I will keep the L1 note till you find out something I can do with it. I now write idly, having nothing to send: but I cannot bear that you should think I have quite neglected your commission. My letter to G. was such as I thought he could not but answer: but he may be busy. The letter to Yates I hope I can promise will be answered. One thing, namely why the other ships sent no assistance, I have learn'd from a person on board one of them: the firing was never once heard, owing to the very stormy night, and no tidings came to them till next morning. The sea was quite high enough to have thrown out the most expert swimmer, and might not your brother have received some blow in the shock, which disabled him? We are glad to hear poor Dorothy is a little better. None of you are able to bear such a stroke. To people oppressed with feeling, the loss of a good-humoured happy man that has been friendly with them, if he were no brother, is bad enough. But you must cultivate his spirits, as a legacy: and believe that such as he cannot be lost. He was a chearful soul! God bless you. Mary's love always.
C. LAMB. 21st March, 1805.
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [P.M. April 5, 1805.]
Dear Wordsworth, I have this moment received this letter from Gilpin in reply to 3 or 4 short questions I put to him in my letter before yours for him came. He does not notice having rec'd yours, which I sent immediately. Perhaps he has already answered it to you. You see that his hand is sprain'd, and your questions being more in number, may delay his answer to you. My first question was, when it was he called to your brother: the rest you will understand from the answers. I was beginning to have hard thoughts of G. from his delay, but now I am confirm'd in my first opinion that he is a rare good-hearted fellow. How is Dorothy? and all of you?