Yours sincerely C. LAMB.
4th question was, was Capt. W. standing near the shrouds or any place of safety at the moment of sinking?
Comet, Northfleet, March 3131, 1805.
Sir—I did not receive yours of 16th ins't, till this day, or sh'd. have answered it sooner. To your first Question, I answer after the Ship had sunk. To your second, my answer is, I was in the Starboard Mizen Rigging—I thought I see the Capt'n hanging by a Rope that was fast to the Mizen Mast. I came down and haild him as loud as I could, he was about 10 feet distant from me. I threw a rope which fell close to him, he seem'd quite Motionless and insensible (it was excessive cold), and was soon after sweep'd away, and I see him no more. It was near about five minutes after the Ship went down. With respect to the Capt'n and Webber being on the same Hencoop, I can give no answer, all I can say, I did not see them. Your fourth Question, I cannot answer, as I did not see Capt. Wordsworth at the moment the Ship was going down, tho I was then on the Poop less than one minute before I see the Capt'n there. The Statement in the printed Pamphlet is by no means correct. I have sprained my Wrist, most violently, and am now in great pain, which will, I hope, be an apology for the shortness of this Letter.
believe me truly yours [*] THOS. GILPIN.
This Letter as been detained till April 5th.
[Footnote: This is merely a kind way of expressing himself, for I have no acquaintance with him, nor ever saw him but that once I got introduced to him.
I think I did not mention in my last, that I sent yours to T. Evans, Richmond. I hope you have got an answer.]
MARY LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH [P.M. May 7, 1805.]
My dear Miss Wordsworth—I thank you, my kind friend, for your most comfortable letter. Till I saw your own handwriting, I could not persuade myself that I should do well to write to you, though I have often attempted it, but I always left off dissatisfied with what I had written, and feeling that I was doing an improper thing to intrude upon your sorrow. I wished to tell you, that you would one day feel the kind of peaceful state of mind, and sweet memory of the dead which you so happily describe as now almost begun, but I felt that it was improper, and most grating to the feelings of the afflicted, to say to them that the memory of their affliction would in time become a constant part not only of their "dream, but of their most wakeful sense of happiness." That you would see every object with, and through your lost brother, and that that would at last become a real and everlasting source of comfort to you, I felt, and well knew from my own experience in sorrow, but till you yourself began to feel this I did not dare tell you so, but I send you some poor lines which I wrote under this conviction of mind, and before I heard Coleridge was returning home. I will transcribe them now before I finish my letter, lest a false shame prevent me then, for I know they are much worse than they ought to be, written as they were with strong feeling and on such a subject. Every line seems to me to be borrowed, but I had no better way of expressing my thoughts, and I never have the power of altering or amending anything I have once laid aside with dissatisfaction.
Why is he wandering on the sea? Coleridge should now with Wordsworth be. By slow degrees he'd steal away Their woe, and gently bring a ray (So happily he'd time relief) Of comfort from their very grief. He'd tell them that their brother dead When years have passed o'er their head, Will be remember'd with such holy, True, and perfect melancholy That ever this lost brother John Will be their heart's companion. His voice they'll always hear, his face they'll always see, There's nought in life so sweet as such a memory.
Mr. and Mrs. Clarkson came to see us last week, I find it was at your request they sought us out; you cannot think how glad we were to see them, so little as we have ever seen of them, yet they seem to us like very old friends. Poor Mrs. Clarkson looks very ill indeed, she walked near a mile, and came up our high stairs, which fatigued her very much, but when she had sat a while her own natural countenance with which she cheared us in your little cottage seemed to return to her, and then I began to have hopes she would get the better of her complaint. Charles does not think she is so much altered as I do. I wish he may be the better judge. We talked of nothing but you. She means to try to get leave of Dr. Beddoes to come and see you—her heart is with you, and I do not think it would hurt her so much to come to you, as it would distress you to see her so ill.
She read me a part of your letter wherein you so kindly express your wishes that we would come and see you this summer. I wish we could, for I am sure it would be a blessed thing for you and for us to be a few weeks together—I fear it must not be. Mrs. Clarkson is to be in town again in a fortnight and then they have promised we shall see more of them.
I am very sorry for the poor little Dorothy's illness—I hope soon to hear she is perfectly recovered. Remember me with affection to your brother, and your good sister. What a providence it is that your brother and you have this kind friend, and these dear little ones—I rejoice with her and with you that your brother is employed upon his poem again.
Pray remember us to Old Molly. Mrs. Clarkson says her house is a pattern of neatness to all her neighbours—such good ways she learnt of "Mistress." How well I remember the shining ornaments of her kitchen, and her old friendly face, not [the] least ornamental part of it.
Excuse the haste I write in. I am unexpectedly to go out to dinner, else I think I have much more to say, but I will not put it off till next post, because you so kindly say I must not write if I feel unwilling— you do not know what very great joy I have in being again writing to you. Thank you for sending the letter of Mr. Evans, it was a very kind one. Have you received one from a Cornet Burgoine? My brother wrote to him and desires he would direct his answer to your brother.
God bless you and yours my dear friend. I am yours affectionately M. LAMB.
[Dr. Beddoes, who was attending Mrs. Clarkson, would be, I suppose, Thomas Beddoes of Clifton (1760-1808), the father of Thomas Lovell Beddoes and a friend of Coleridge and Southey.
In a letter from Dorothy Wordsworth to Mrs. Clarkson, dated April 19, 1805 (recently printed by Mr. Hale White in the Athenaeum), we read:—
I have great pleasure in thinking that you may see Miss Lamb; do not miss it if you can possibly go without injury to yourself—they are the best good creatures—blessings be with them! they have sympathised in our sorrow as tenderly as if they had grown up in the same [town?] with us and known our beloved John from his childhood. Charles has written to us the most consolatory letters, the result of diligent and painful inquiry of the survivors of the wreck,—for this we must love him as long as we have breath. I think of him and his sister every day of my life, and many times in the day with thankfulness and blessings. Talk to dear Miss Lamb about coming into this country and let us hear what she says of it. I cannot express how much we all wish to see her and her brother while we are at Grasmere. We look forward to Coleridge's return with fear and painful hope—but indeed I dare not look to it—I think as little as I can of him.]
CHARLES LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[Slightly torn. The conjectures in square brackets are Talfourd's.]
Friday, 14th June, 1805.
My dear Miss Wordsworth, Your long kind letter has not been thrown away (for it has given me great pleasure to find you are all resuming your old occupations, and are better) but poor Mary to whom it is addrest cannot yet relish it. She has been attacked by one of her severe illnesses, and is at present from home. Last Monday week was the day she left me; and I hope I may calculate upon having her again in a month, or little more. I am rather afraid late hours have in this case contributed to her indisposition. But when she begins to discover symptoms of approaching illness, it is not easy to say what is best to do. Being by ourselves is bad, and going out is bad. I get so irritable and wretched with fear, that I constantly hasten on the disorder. You cannot conceive the misery of such a foresight. I am sure that for the week before she left me, I was little better than light-headed. I now am calm, but sadly taken down, and flat. I have every reason to suppose that this illness, like all her former ones, will be but temporary; but I cannot always feel so. Meantime she is dead to me, and I miss a prop. All my strength is gone, and I am like a [fool, ber]eft of her co-operation. I dare not think, lest I [should think] wrong; so used am I to look up to her [in the least] and the biggest perplexity. To say all that [I know of her] would be more than I think any body could [believe or even under]stand; and when I hope to have her well [again with me] it would be sinning against her feelings to go about to praise her: for I can conceal nothing that I do from her. She is older, and wiser, and better, than me, and all my wretched imperfections I cover to myself by resolutely thinking on her goodness. She would share life and death, heaven and hell, with me. She lives but for me. And I know I have been wasting and teazing her life for five years past incessantly with my cursed drinking and ways of going on. But even in this up-braiding of myself I am offending against her, for I know that she has cleaved to me for better, for worse; and if the balance has been against her hitherto, it was a noble trade.
I am stupid and lose myself in what I write. I write rather what answers to my feelings (which are sometimes sharp enough) than express my present ones, for I am only flat and stupid.
Poor Miss Stoddart! she is coming to England under the notion of passing her time between her mother and Mary, between London and Salisbury. Since she talk'd of coming, word has been sent to Malta that her Mother is gone out of her mind. This Letter, with mine to Stoddart with an account of Allen's death, &c., has miscarried (taken by the French) [word missing]. She is coming home, with no soul to receive [words missing]. She has not a woman-friend in London.
I am sure you will excuse my writing [any more, I] am very poorly. I cannot resist tra[nscribing] three or four Lines which poor Mary made upon a Picture (a Holy Family) which we saw at an Auction only one week before she left home. She was then beginning to show signs of ill boding. They are sweet Lines, and upon a sweet Picture. But I send them, only as the last memorial of her.
VIRGIN AND CHILD. L. DA VINCI Maternal Lady with the Virgin-grace, Heaven-born thy Jesus seemeth sure, And thou a virgin pure. Lady most perfect, when thy angel face Men look upon, they wish to be A Catholic, Madona fair, to worship thee.
You had her lines about the "Lady Blanch." You have not had some which she wrote upon a copy of a girl from Titian, which I had hung up where that print of Blanch and the Abbess (as she beautifully interpreted two female figures from L. da Vinci) had hung, in our room. 'Tis light and pretty.
Who art thou, fair one, who usurp'st the place Of Blanch, the Lady of the matchless grace? Come, fair and pretty, tell to me Who in thy lifetime thou mightst be? Thou pretty art and fair, But with the Lady Blanch thou never must compare. No need for Blanch her history to tell, Whoever saw her face, they there did read it well. But when I look on thee, I only know There liv'd a pretty maid some hundred years ago.
This is a little unfair, to tell so much about ourselves, and to advert so little to your letter, so full of comfortable tidings of you all. But my own cares press pretty close upon me, and you can make allowance. That you may go on gathering strength and peace is the next wish to Mary's recovery.
I had almost forgot your repeated invitation. Supposing that Mary will be well and able, there is another ability which you may guess at, which I cannot promise myself. In prudence we ought not to come. This illness will make it still more prudential to wait. It is not a balance of this way of spending our money against another way, but an absolute question of whether we shall stop now, or go on wasting away the little we have got beforehand, which my wise conduct has already incroach'd upon one half. My best Love, however, to you all; and to that most friendly creature, Mrs. Clarkson, and better health to her, when you see or write to her.
[The reference to Miss Stoddart is explained later, in the next letter but one.
Mary Lamb's two poems were included in the Works, 1818. "Lady Blanch" is the poem quoted on page 300.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[Dated by Mr. Hazlitt: July 27, 1805.]
Dear Archimedes,—Things have gone on badly with thy ungeometrical friend; but they are on the turn. My old housekeeper has shown signs of convalescence, and will shortly resume the power of the keys, so I shan't be cheated of my tea and liquors. Wind in the west, which promotes tranquillity. Have leisure now to anticipate seeing thee again. Have been taking leave of tobacco in a rhyming address. Had thought that vein had long since closed up. [A sentence omitted here.] Find I can rhyme and reason too. Think of studying mathematics, to restrain the fire of my genius, which G.D. recommends. Have frequent bleedings at the nose, which shows plethoric. Maybe shall try the sea myself, that great scene of wonders. Got incredibly sober and regular; shave oftener, and hum a tune, to signify cheerfulness and gallantry.
Suddenly disposed to sleep, having taken a quart of pease with bacon and stout. Will not refuse Nature, who has done such things for me!
Nurse! don't call me unless Mr. Manning comes.—What! the gentleman in spectacles?—Yes.
Dormit. C. L.
Saturday, Hot Noon.
["Have been taking leave of tobacco." On August 10, 1824, Lamb tells Hood that he designs to give up smoking.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART [? Sept. 18, 1805.]
My dear Sarah,—I have made many attempts at writing to you, but it has always brought your troubles and my own so strongly into my mind, that I have been obliged to leave off, and make Charles write for me. I am resolved now, however few lines I write, this shall go; for I know, my kind friend, you will like once more to see my own handwriting.
I have been for these few days past in rather better spirits, so that I begin almost to feel myself once more a living creature, and to hope for happier times; and in that hope I include the prospect of once more seeing my dear Sarah in peace and comfort in our old garret. How did I wish for your presence to cheer my drooping heart when I returned home from banishment.
Is your being with, or near, your poor dear Mother necessary to her comfort? does she take any notice of you? and is there any prospect of her recovery? How I grieve for her and for you....
I went to the Admiralty about your Mother's pension; from thence I was directed to an office in Lincoln's Inn, where they are paid. They informed me at the office that it could not be paid to any person except Mr. Wray, without a letter of attorney from your Mother; and as the stamp for that will cost one pound, it will, perhaps, be better to leave it till Mr. Wray comes to town, if he does come before Christmas; they tell me it can be received any Thursday between this and Christmas, If you send up a letter of Attorney, let it be in my name. If you think, notwithstanding their positive assurance to the contrary, that you can put me in any way of getting it without, let me know. Are you acquainted with Mr. Pearce, and will my taking another letter from you to him be of any service? or will a letter from Mr. Wray be of any use?—though I fear not, for they said at the office they had orders to pay no pension without a letter of Attorney. The attestation you sent up, they said, was sufficient, and that the same must be sent every year. Do not let us neglect this business; and make use of me in any way you can.
I have much to thank you and your kind brother for; I kept the dark silk, as you may suppose: you have made me very fine; the broche is very beautiful. Mrs. Jeffries wept for gratitude when she saw your present; she desires all manner of thanks and good wishes. Your maid's sister was gone to live a few miles from town; Charles, however, found her out, and gave her the handkerchief.
I want to know if you have seen William, and if there is any prospect in future there. All you said in your letter from Portsmouth that related to him was burnt so in the fumigating, that we could only make out that it was unfavourable, but not the particulars; tell us again how you go on, and if you have seen him: I conceit affairs will some how be made up between you at last.
I want to know how your brother goes on. Is he likely to make a very good fortune, and in how long a time? And how is he, in the way of home comforts?—I mean, is he very happy with Mrs. Stoddart? This was a question I could not ask while you were there, and perhaps is not a fair one now; but I want to know how you all went on—and, in short, twenty little foolish questions that one ought, perhaps, rather to ask when we meet, than to write about. But do make me a little acquainted with the inside of the good Doctor's house, and what passes therein.
Was Coleridge often with you? or did your brother and Col. argue long arguments, till between the two great arguers there grew a little coolness?—or perchance the mighty friendship between Coleridge and your Sovereign Governor, Sir Alexander Ball, might create a kind of jealousy, for we fancy something of a coldness did exist, from the little mention ever made of C. in your brother's letters.
Write us, my good girl, a long, gossiping letter, answering all these foolish questions—and tell me any silly thing you can recollect—any, the least particular, will be interesting to us, and we will never tell tales out of school: but we used to wonder and wonder, how you all went on; and when you was coming home we said, "Now we shall hear all from Sarah."
God bless you, my dear friend. I am ever your affectionate
If you have sent Charles any commissions he has not executed, write me word—he says he has lost or mislaid a letter desiring him to inquire about a wig.
Write two letters—one of business and pensions, and one all about Sarah Stoddart and Malta. Is Mr. Moncrief doing well there?
We have got a picture of Charles; do you think your brother would like to have it? If you do, can you put us in a way how to send it?
[Mrs. Stoddart was the widow of a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Mr. Wray and Mr. Pearce were presumably gentlemen connected with the Admiralty or in some way concerned with the pension. "William" is still the early William—not William Hazlitt, whom Sarah was destined to marry. Mr. Moncrieff was Mrs. John Stoddart's eldest brother, who was a King's Advocate in the Admiralty Court at Malta. The picture of Charles might be some kind of reproduction of Hazlitt's portrait of him, painted in the preceding year; but more probably, I think, a few copies of Hancock's drawing, made in 1798 for Cottle, had been struck off.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM AND DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[P.M. September 28, 1805.]
My dear Wordsworth (or Dorothy rather, for to you appertains the biggest part of this answer by right.)—I will not again deserve reproach by so long a silence. I have kept deluding myself with the idea that Mary would write to you, but she is so lazy, or, I believe the true state of the case, so diffident, that it must revert to me as usual. Though she writes a pretty good style, and has some notion of the force of words, she is not always so certain of the true orthography of them, and that and a poor handwriting (in this age of female calligraphy) often deter her where no other reason does. We have neither of us been very well for some weeks past. I am very nervous, and she most so at those times when I am: so that a merry friend, adverting to the noble consolation we were able to afford each other, denominated us not unaptly Gum Boil and Tooth Ache: for they use to say that a Gum Boil is a great relief to a Tooth Ache. We have been two tiny excursions this summer, for three or four days each: to a place near Harrow, and to Egham, where Cooper's Hill is: and that is the total history of our Rustications this year. Alas! how poor a sound to Skiddaw, and Helvellyn, and Borrodaile, and the magnificent sesquipedalia of the year 1802. Poor old Molly! to have lost her pride, that "last infirmity of Noble Mind," and her Cow—Providence need not have set her wits to such an old Molly. I am heartily sorry for her. Remember us lovingly to her. And in particular remember us to Mrs. Clarkson in the most kind manner. I hope by southwards you mean that she will be at or near London, for she is a great favorite of both of us, and we feel for her health as much as is possible for any one to do. She is one of the friendliest, comfortablest women we know, and made our little stay at your cottage one of the pleasantest times we ever past. We were quite strangers to her. Mr. C. is with you too?—our kindest separate remembrances to him.
As to our special affairs, I am looking about me. I have done nothing since the beginning of last year, when I lost my newspaper job, and having had a long idleness, I must do something, or we shall get very poor. Sometimes I think of a farce—but hitherto all schemes have gone off,—an idle brag or two of an evening vaporing out of a pipe, and going off in the morning; but now I have bid farewell to my "Sweet Enemy" Tobacco, as you will see in my next page, I perhaps shall set soberly to work. Hang Work! I wish that all the year were holyday. I am sure that Indolence indefeazible Indolence is the true state of man, and business the invention of the Old Teazer who persuaded Adam's Master to give him an apron and set him a houghing. Pen and Ink, and Clerks, and desks, were the refinements of this old torturer a thousand years after, under pretence of Commerce allying distant shores, promoting and diffusing knowledge, good, &c.—
A FAREWELL TO TOBACCO
May the Babylonish curse Strait confound my stammering verse, If I can a passage see In this word-perplexity, Or a fit expression find, Or a language to my mind, (Still the phrase is wide an acre) To take leave of thee, Tobacco; Or in any terms relate Half my Love, or half my Hate, For I hate yet love thee so, That, whichever Thing I shew, The plain truth will seem to be A constrain'd hyperbole, And the passion to proceed More from a Mistress than a Weed.
Sooty retainer to the vine, Bacchus' black servant, negro fine, Sorcerer that mak'st us doat upon Thy begrim'd complexion, And, for thy pernicious sake More and greater oaths to break Than reclaimed Lovers take 'Gainst women: Thou thy siege dost lay Much too in the female way, While thou suck'st the labouring breath Faster than kisses; or than Death.
Thou in such a cloud dost bind us, That our worst foes cannot find us, And Ill Fortune (that would thwart us) Shoots at rovers, shooting at us; While each man thro' thy heightening steam, Does like a smoking Etna seem, And all about us does express (Fancy and Wit in richest dress) A Sicilian Fruitfulness.
Thou through such a mist does shew us, That our best friends do not know us; And, for those allowed features, Due to reasonable creatures, Liken'st us to fell Chimeras, Monsters, that, who see us, fear us, Worse than Cerberus, or Geryon, Or, who first loved a cloud, Ixion.
Bacchus we know, and we allow His tipsy rites. But what art thou? That but by reflex canst shew What his deity can do, As the false Egyptian spell Aped the true Hebrew miracle— Some few vapours thou may'st raise, The weak brain may serve to amaze, But to the reins and nobler heart Canst nor life nor heat impart.
Brother of Bacchus, later born, The old world was sure forlorn, Wanting thee; that aidest more The God's victories than before All his panthers, and the brawls Of his piping Bacchanals; These, as stale, we disallow, Or judge of thee meant: only thou His true Indian Conquest art; And, for Ivy round his dart, The reformed God now weaves A finer Thyrsus of thy leaves.
Scent to match thy rich perfume Chymic art did ne'er presume Through her quaint alembic strain; None so sovran to the brain. Nature, that did in thee excell, Framed again no second smell. Roses, violets, but toys For the smaller sort of boys, Or for greener damsels meant, Thou'rt the only manly scent.
Stinking'st of the stinking kind, Filth of the mouth and fog of the mind, Africa that brags her foyson, Breeds no such prodigious poison, Henbane, nightshade, both together, Hemlock, aconite————
Nay rather, Plant divine, of rarest virtue, Blisters on the tongue would hurt you; 'Twas but in a sort I blamed thee, None e'er prosper'd who defamed thee: Irony all, and feign'd abuse, Such as perplext Lovers use At a need, when in despair To paint forth their fairest fair, Or in part but to express That exceeding comeliness Which their fancies does so strike, They borrow language of Dislike, And instead of Dearest Miss, Honey, Jewel, Sweetheart, Bliss, And, those forms of old admiring, Call her Cockatrice and Syren, Basilisk and all that's evil, Witch, Hyena, Mermaid, Devil, Ethiop wench, and Blackamoor, Monkey, Ape, and twenty more, Friendly Traitress, Loving Foe: Not that she is truly so, But no other way they know A contentment to express, Borders so upon excess, That they do not rightly wot, Whether it be pain or not.
Or, as men, constrain'd to part With what's nearest to their heart, While their sorrow's at the height, Lose discrimination quite, And their hasty wrath let fall, To appease their frantic gall, On the darling thing whatever, Whence they feel it death to sever, Though it be, as they, perforce, Guiltless of the sad divorce,
For I must (nor let it grieve thee, Friendliest of plants, that I must) leave thee— For thy sake, TOBACCO, I Would do anything but die; And but seek to extend my days Long enough to sing thy praise.
But, as She, who once has been A King's consort, is a Queen Ever after; nor will bate Any tittle of her state, Though a widow, or divorced, So I, from thy converse forced, The old name and style retain, (A right Katherine of Spain;) And a seat too 'mongst the joys Of the blest Tobacco Boys: Where, though I by sour physician Am debarr'd the full fruition Of thy favours, I may catch Some collateral sweets, and snatch Sidelong odours, that give life Like glances from a neighbour's wife; And still dwell in the by-places, And the suburbs of thy graces, And in thy borders take delight, An unconquer'd Canaanite.
I wish you may think this a handsome farewell to my "Friendly Traitress." Tobacco has been my evening comfort and my morning curse for these five years: and you know how difficult it is from refraining to pick one's lips even, when it has become a habit. This Poem is the only one which I have finished since so long as when I wrote "Hester Savory." I have had it in my head to do it these two years, but Tobacco stood in its own light when it gave me head aches that prevented my singing its praises. Now you have got it, you have got all my store, for I have absolutely not another line. No more has Mary. We have nobody about us that cares for Poetry, and who will rear grapes when he shall be the sole eater? Perhaps if you encourage us to shew you what we may write, we may do something now and then before we absolutely forget the quantity of an English line for want of practice. The "Tobacco," being a little in the way of Withers (whom Southey so much likes) perhaps you will somehow convey it to him with my kind remembrances. Then, everybody will have seen it that I wish to see it: I have sent it to Malta.
I remain Dear W. and D—yours truly, C. LAMB.
28th Sep., 1805.
["Hang Work." This paragraph is the germ of the sonnet entitled "Work" which Lamb wrote fourteen years later (see the letter to Bernard Barton, Sept. 11, 1822). He seems always to have kept his thoughts in sight.
The "Farewell to Tobacco" was printed in the Reflector, No. IV., 1811 or 1812, and then in the Works, 1818 (see Notes to Vol. IV. of this edition). Lamb's farewell was frequently repeated; but it is a question whether he ever entirely left off smoking. Talfourd says that he did; but the late Mrs. Coe, who remembered Lamb at Widford about 1827-1830, credited him with the company of a black clay pipe. It was Lamb who, when Dr. Parr asked him how he managed to emit so much smoke, replied that he had toiled after it as other men after virtue. And Macready relates that he remarked in his presence that he wished to draw his last breath through a pipe and exhale it in a pun. Coleridge writing to Rickman (see The Life and Letters of John Rickman, 1912) says of Lamb and smoking: "Were it possible to win C.L. from the pipe, other things would follow with comparative ease, for till he gets a pipe I have regularly observed that he is contented with porter—and that the unconquerable appetite for spirit comes in with the tobacco—the oil of which, especially in the gluttonous manner in which he volcanizes it, acts as an instant poison on his stomach or lungs".
"Hestor Savory." See above.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[Early November, 1805.]
My dear Sarah,—Certainly you are the best letter-writer (besides writing the best hand) in the world. I have just been reading over again your two long letters, and I perceive they make me very envious. I have taken a brand new pen, and put on my spectacles, and am peering with all my might to see the lines in the paper, which the sight of your even lines had well nigh tempted me to rule: and I have moreover taken two pinches of snuff extraordinary, to clear my head, which feels more cloudy than common this fine, chearful morning.
All I can gather from your clear and, I have no doubt, faithful history of Maltese politics is, that the good Doctor, though a firm friend, an excellent fancier of brooches, a good husband, an upright Advocate, and, in short, all that they say upon tomb stones (for I do not recollect that they celebrate any fraternal virtues there) yet is but a moody brother, that your sister in law is pretty much like what all sisters in law have been since the first happy invention of the happy marriage state; that friend Coleridge has undergone no alteration by crossing the Atlantic,—for his friendliness to you, as well as all the oddities you mention, are just what one ought to look for from him; and that you, my dear Sarah, have proved yourself just as unfit to flourish in a little, proud Garrison Town as I did shrewdly suspect you were before you went there.
If I possibly can, I will prevail upon Charles to write to your brother by the conveyance you mention; but he is so unwell, I almost fear the fortnight will slip away before I can get him in the right vein. Indeed, it has been sad and heavy times with us lately: when I am pretty well, his low spirits throws me back again; and when he begins to get a little chearful, then I do the same kind office for him. I heartily wish for the arrival of Coleridge; a few such evenings as we have sometimes passed with him would wind us up, and set us a going again.
Do not say any thing, when you write, of our low spirits—it will vex Charles. You would laugh, or you would cry, perhaps both, to see us sit together, looking at each other with long and rueful faces, and saying, "how do you do?" and "how do you do?" and then we fall a-crying, and say we will be better on the morrow. He says we are like toothach and his friend gum bile—which, though a kind of ease, is but an uneasy kind of ease, a comfort of rather an uncomfortable sort.
I rejoice to hear of your Mother's amendment; when you can leave her with any satisfaction to yourself—which, as her sister, I think I understand by your letters, is with her, I hope you may soon be able to do—let me know upon what plan you mean to come to Town. Your brother proposed your being six months in Town, and six with your Mother; but he did not then know of your poor Mother's illness. By his desire, I enquired for a respectable family for you, to board with; and from Capt'n. Burney I heard of one I thought would suit you at that time. He particularly desires I would not think of your being with us, not thinking, I conjecture, the home of a single man respectable enough. Your brother gave me most unlimited orders to domineer over you, to be the inspector of all your actions, and to direct and govern you with a stern voice and a high hand, to be, in short, a very elder brother over you—does not the hearing of this, my meek pupil, make you long to come to London? I am making all the proper enquiries against the time of the newest and most approved modes (being myself mainly ignorant in these points) of etiquette, and nicely correct maidenly manners.
But to speak seriously. I mean, when we mean [? meet], that we will lay our heads together, and consult and contrive the best way of making the best girl in the world the fine Lady her brother wishes to see her; and believe me, Sarah, it is not so difficult a matter as one is sometimes apt to imagine. I have observed many a demure Lady, who passes muster admirably well, who, I think, we could easily learn to imitate in a week or two. We will talk of these things when we meet. In the mean time, I give you free license to be happy and merry at Salisbury in any way you can. Has the partridge-season opened any communication between you and William—as I allow you to be imprudent till I see you, I shall expect to hear you have invited him to taste his own birds. Have you scratched him out of your will yet? Rickman is married, and that is all the news I have to send you.
Your Wigs were sent by Mr. Varvell about five months ago; therefore, he could have arrived when you came away.
I seem, upon looking over my letter again, to have written too lightly of your distresses at Malta; but, however I may have written, believe me, I enter very feelingly into all your troubles. I love you, and I love your brother; and between you, both of whom I think have been to blame, I know not what to say—only this I say, try to think as little as possible of past miscarriages; it was, perhaps, so ordered by Providence, that you might return home to be a comfort to your poor Mother. And do not, I conjure you, let her unhappy malady afflict you too deeply. I speak from experience, and from the opportunity I have had of much observation in such cases, that insane people, in the fancy's they take into their heads, do not feel as one in a sane state of mind does under the real evil of poverty, the perception of having done wrong, or any such thing that runs in their heads.
Think as little as you can, and let your whole care be to be certain that she is treated with tenderness. I lay a stress upon this, because it is a thing of which people in her state are uncommonly susceptible, and which hardly any one is at all aware of: a hired nurse never, even though in all other respects they are good kind of people. I do not think your own presence necessary, unless she takes to you very much, except for the purpose of seeing with your own eyes that she is very kindly treated.
I do so long to see you! God bless and comfort you! Yours affectionately, M. LAMB.
[Miss Stoddart had now returned to England, to her mother at Salisbury, who had been and was very ill. Coleridge meanwhile had had coolnesses with Stoddart and had transferred himself to the roof of the Governor.
Rickman married, on October 30, 1805, Susanna Postlethwaite of Harting, in Sussex.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM HAZLITT
November 10, 1805.
Dear Hazlitt,—I was very glad to hear from you, and that your journey was so picturesque. We miss you, as we foretold we should. One or two things have happened, which are beneath the dignity of epistolary communication, but which, seated about our fire at night, (the winter hands of pork have begun) gesture and emphasis might have talked into some importance. Something about Rickman's wife, for instance: how tall she is and that she visits prank'd out like a Queen of the May with green streamers—a good-natured woman though, which is as much as you can expect from a friend's wife, whom you got acquainted with a bachelor. Some things too about MONKEY, which can't so well be written—how it set up for a fine Lady, and thought it had got Lovers, and was obliged to be convinc'd of its age from the parish register, where it was proved to be only twelve; and an edict issued that it should not give itself airs yet these four years; and how it got leave to be called Miss, by grace;—these and such like Hows were in my head to tell you, but who can write? Also how Manning's come to town in spectacles, and studies physic; is melancholy and seems to have something in his head, which he don't impart. Then, how I am going to leave off smoking. O la! your Leonardos of Oxford made my mouth water. I was hurried thro' the gallery, and they escaped me. What do I say? I was a Goth then, and should not have noticed them. I had not settled my notions of Beauty. I have now for ever!—the small head, the [here is drawn a long narrow eye] long Eye,—that sort of peering curve, the wicked Italian mischief! the stick-at-nothing, Herodias'-daughter kind of grace. You understand me. But you disappoint me, in passing over in absolute silence the Blenheim Leonardo. Didn't you see it? Excuse a Lover's curiosity. I have seen no pictures of note since, except Mr. Dawe's gallery. It is curious to see how differently two great men treat the same subject, yet both excellent in their way: for instance, Milton and Mr. Dawe. Mr. Dawe has chosen to illustrate the story of Sampson exactly in the point of view in which Milton has been most happy: the interview between the Jewish Hero, blind and captive, and Dalilah. Milton has imagined his Locks grown again, strong as horse-hair or porcupine's bristles; doubtless shaggy and black, as being hairs "which of a nation armed contained the strength." I don't remember, he says black: but could Milton imagine them to be yellow? Do you? Mr. Dawe with striking originality of conception has crowned him with a thin yellow wig, in colour precisely like Dyson's, in curl and quantity resembling Mrs. Professor's, his Limbs rather stout, about such a man as my Brother or Rickman—but no Atlas nor Hercules, nor yet so bony as Dubois, the Clown of Sadler's Wells. This was judicious, taking the spirit of the story rather than the fact: for doubtless God could communicate national salvation to the trust of flax and tow as well as hemp and cordage, and could draw down a Temple with a golden tress as soon as with all the cables of the British Navy.—Miss Dawe is about a portrait of sulky Fanny Imlay, alias Godwin: but Miss Dawe is of opinion that her subject is neither reserved nor sullen, and doubtless she will persuade the picture to be of the same opinion. However, the features are tolerably like—Too much of Dawes! Wasn't you sorry for Lord Nelson? I have followed him in fancy ever since I saw him walking in Pall Mall (I was prejudiced against him before) looking just as a Hero should look; and I have been very much cut about it indeed. He was the only pretence of a Great Man we had. Nobody is left of any Name at all. His Secretary died by his side. I imagined him, a Mr. Scott, to be the man you met at Hume's; but I learn from Mrs. Hume that it is not the same. I met Mrs. H. one day, and agreed to go on the Sunday to Tea, but the rain prevented us, and the distance. I have been to apologise, and we are to dine there the first fine Sunday. Strange perverseness! I never went while you staid here, and now I go to find you! What other news is there, Mary?—What puns have I made in the last fortnight? You never remember them. You have no relish for the Comic. "O! tell Hazlitt not to forget to send the American Farmer. I dare say it isn't so good as he fancies; but a Book's a Book." I have not heard from Wordsworth or from Malta since. Charles Kemble, it seems, enters into possession to-morrow. We sup at 109 Russell St. this evening. I wish your brother wouldn't drink. It's a blemish in the greatest characters. You send me a modern quotation poetical. How do you like this in an old play? Vittoria Corombona, a spunky Italian Lady, a Leonardo one, nick-named the White Devil, being on her trial for murder, &c.—and questioned about seducing a Duke from his wife and the State, makes answer:
"Condemn you me for that the Duke did love me? So may you blame some fair and chrystal river, For that some melancholic distracted man Hath drown'd himself in it."—
Our ticket was a L20. Alas!! are both yours blanks?
P.S.—Godwin has asked after you several times.
N.B.—I shall expect a Line from you, if but a bare Line, whenever you write to Russell St., and a Letter often when you do not. I pay no postage; but I will have consideration for you until parliament time and franks. Luck to Ned Search and the new art of colouring. Monkey sends her Love, and Mary especially.
Yours truly, C. LAMB.
[Addressed to Hazlitt at Wem. This is the first letter from Lamb to Hazlitt that has been preserved. The two men first met at Godwin's. Holcroft and Coleridge were disputing which was best—man as he is, or man as he ought to be. Lamb broke in with, "Give me man as he ought not to be."
Hazlitt at this date was twenty-six, some three years younger than Lamb. He had just abandoned his project of being a painter and was settling down to literary work.
"Rickman's wife." This passage holds the germ of Lamb's essay on "The Behaviour of Married Persons," first printed in the Reflector, No. IV., in 1811 or 1812, and afterwards included with the Elia essays.
"Monkey" was Louisa Martin, a little girl of whom Lamb was fond and whom he knew to the end of his life.
Manning studied medicine at the Westminster Hospital for six months previous to May, 1806.
"The Oxford Leonardos ... the Blenheim Leonardo." The only Leonardos at Oxford are the drawings at Christ Church. The Blenheim Leonardo was probably Boltraffio's "Virgin and Child" which used to be ascribed to Da Vinci, as indeed were many pictures he never painted. Hazlitt subsequently wrote a work on the Picture Galleries of England, but he mentions none of these works.
"Mr. Dawe's gallery." George Dawe (1781-1829), afterwards R.A., of whom Lamb wrote his essay "Recollections of a Late Royal Academician," where he alludes again to the picture of Samson (see Vol. I. of this edition).
"Dyson's." Dyson was a friend of Godwin. Mrs. Professor was Mrs. Godwin.
"Miss Dawe." I know nothing further of George Dawe's sister. Fanny Imlay was the unfortunate daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (by Gilbert Imlay the author). She committed suicide in 1816.
Nelson was killed on October 21, 1805. Scott was his chaplain, and he was not killed.
Hume was Joseph Hume, an official at Somerset House, whom we shall meet again directly.
The American Farmer was very likely Gilbert Imlay's novel The Emigrants, 1793, or possibly his Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America, 1792.
Charles Kemble, brother of John Philip Kemble and father of Fanny Kemble.
John Hazlitt, the miniature painter, lived at 109 Russell Street. Lamb's quotation, afterwards included in his Dramatic Specimens, 1808, is from Webster's "The White Devil," Act III., Scene I.
The L20 ticket was presumably in the Lottery. Lamb's essay "The Illustrious Defunct" (see Vol. I.) shows him to have been interested in Lotteries; and in Letter No. 184 Mary Lamb states that he wrote Lottery puffs.
"Ned Search." Hazlitt was engaged on an abridgment of The Light of Nature Pursued, in seven volumes, 1768-1778, nominally by Edward Search, but really by Abraham Tucker.
"The new art of colouring" is a reference, I fancy, to Tingry, mentioned again below.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART [November 9 and 14, 1805.]
My dear Sarah,—After a very feverish night, I writ a letter to you; and I have been distressed about it ever since. In the first place, I have thought I treated too lightly your differences with your brother—which I freely enter into and feel for, but which I rather wished to defer saying much about till we meet. But that which gives me most concern is the way in which I talked about your Mother's illness, and which I have since feared you might construe into my having a doubt of your showing her proper attention without my impertinent interference. God knows, nothing of this kind was ever in my thoughts; but I have entered very deeply into your affliction with regard to your Mother; and while I was wishing, the many poor souls in the kind of desponding way she is in, whom I have seen, came afresh into my mind; and all the mismanagement with which I have seen them treated was strong in my mind, and I wrote under a forcible impulse, which I could not at that time resist, but I have fretted so much about it since, that I think it is the last time I will ever let my pen run away with me.
Your kind heart will, I know, even if you have been a little displeased, forgive me, when I assure you my spirits have been so much hurt by my last illness, that at times I hardly know what I do. I do not mean to alarm you about myself, or to plead an excuse; but I am very much otherwise than you have always known me. I do not think any one perceives me altered, but I have lost all self-confidence in my own actions, and one cause of my low spirits is, that I never feel satisfied with any thing I do—a perception of not being in a sane state perpetually haunts me. I am ashamed to confess this weakness to you; which, as I am so sensible of, I ought to strive to conquer. But I tell you, that you may excuse any part of my letter that has given offence: for your not answering it, when you are such a punctual correspondent, has made me very uneasy.
Write immediately, my dear Sarah, but do not notice this letter, nor do not mention any thing I said relative to your poor Mother. Your handwriting will convince me you are friends with me; and if Charles, who must see my letter, was to know I had first written foolishly, and then fretted about the event of my folly, he would both ways be angry with me.
I would desire you to direct to me at home, but your hand is so well known to Charles, that that would not do. Therefore, take no notice of my megrums till we meet, which I most ardently long to do. An hour spent in your company would be a cordial to my drooping heart.
Pray write directly, and believe me, ever Your affectionate friend, M. LAMB.
Nov. l4.—I have kept this by me till to-day, hoping every day to hear from you. If you found the seal a clumsy one, it is because I opened the wafer.
Write, I beg, by the return of the post; and as I am very anxious to hear whether you are, as I fear, dissatisfied with me, you shall, if you please, direct my letter to Nurse. Her direction is, Mrs. Grant, at Mr. Smith's, Maidenhead, Ram Court, Fleet Street.
I was not able, you know, to notice, when I writ to Malta, your letter concerning an insult you received from a vile wretch there; and as I mostly show my letters to Charles, I have never named it since. Did it ever come to your brother's knowledge? Charles and I were very uneasy at your account of it. I wish I could see you.
Yours ever, M. LAMB.
I do not mean to continue a secret correspondence, but you must oblige me with this one letter. In future I will always show my letters before they go, which will be a proper check upon my wayward pen.
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. Nov. 15, 1805.]
Dear Manning,—Certainly you could not have called at all hours from two till ten, for we have been only out of an evening Monday and Tuesday in this week. But if you think you have, your thought shall go for the deed. We did pray for you on Wednesday night. Oysters unusually luscious—pearls of extraordinary magnitude found in them. I have made bracelets of them—given them in clusters to ladies. Last night we went out in despite, because you were not come at your hour.
This night we shall be at home, so shall we certainly both Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Take your choice, mind I don't say of one, but choose which evening you will not, and come the other four. Doors open at five o'clock. Shells forced about nine. Every gentleman smokes or not as he pleases. O! I forgot, bring the L10, for fear you should lose it.
[Here should come a letter from Mary Lamb to Mrs. Clarkson, dated December 25, 1805, printed by Mr. Macdonald. It states that Lamb has been latterly in indifferent health, and is unimportant.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM HAZLITT
Thursday, 15th Jan., 1806.
Dear Hazlitt,—Godwin went to Johnson's yesterday about your business. Johnson would not come down, or give any answer, but has promised to open the manuscript, and to give you an answer in one month. Godwin will punctually go again (Wednesday is Johnson's open day) yesterday four weeks next: i.e. in one lunar month from this time. Till when Johnson positively declines giving any answer. I wish you joy on ending your Search. Mrs. H. was naming something about a Life of Fawcett, to be by you undertaken: the great Fawcett, as she explain'd to Manning, when he ask'd, What Fawcett? He innocently thought Fawcett the player. But Fawcett the Divine is known to many people, albeit unknown to the Chinese Enquirer. I should think, if you liked it, and Johnson declined it, that Phillips is the man. He is perpetually bringing out Biographies, Richardson, Wilkes, Foot, Lee Lewis, without number: little trim things in two easy volumes price 12s. the two, made up of letters to and from, scraps, posthumous trifles, anecdotes, and about forty pages of hard biography. You might dish up a Fawcetiad in 3 months, and ask 60 or 80 Pounds for it. I should dare say that Phillips would catch at it—I wrote to you the other day in a great hurry. Did you get it? This is merely a Letter of business at Godwin's request.
Lord Nelson is quiet at last. His ghost only keeps a slight fluttering in odes and elegies in newspapers, and impromptus, which could not be got ready before the funeral.
As for news—We have Miss Stoddart in our house, she has been with us a fortnight and will stay a week or so longer. She is one of the few people who are not in the way when they are with you. No tidings of Coleridge. Fenwick is coming to town on Monday (if no kind angel intervene) to surrender himself to prison. He hopes to get the Rules of the Fleet. On the same, or nearly the same, day, Fell, my other quondam co-friend and drinker, will go to Newgate, and his wife and 4 children, I suppose, to the Parish. Plenty of reflection and motives of gratitude to the wise disposer of all things in us, whose prudent conduct has hitherto ensured us a warm fire and snug roof over our heads. Nullum numen abest si sit Prudentia.
Alas! Prudentia is in the last quarter of her tutelary shining over me. A little time and I—
But may be I may, at last, hit upon some mode of collecting some of the vast superfluities of this money-voiding town. Much is to be got, and I don't want much. All I ask is time and leisure; and I am cruelly off for them.
When you have the inclination, I shall be very glad to have a letter from you.—Your brother and Mrs. H., I am afraid, think hardly of us for not coming oftener to see them, but we are distracted beyond what they can conceive with visitors and visitings. I never have an hour for my head to work quietly its own workings; which you know is as necessary to the human system as sleep.
Sleep, too, I can't get for these damn'd winds of a night: and without sleep and rest what should ensue? Lunacy. But I trust it won't.
Yours, dear H., mad or sober, C. LAMB.
[Hazlitt's business was finding a publisher for his abridgment of Search (see page 340). Johnson was Priestley's publisher. A letter to Godwin from Coleridge in June, 1803 (see Kegan Paul's Life of Godwin, ii., 96), had suggested such an abridgment, Coleridge adding that a friend of his would make it, and that he would write a preface and see the proofs through the press. Hence Godwin's share in the matter. Coleridge's part of the transaction was not carried out.
Hazlitt's Life of Joseph Fawcett (?1758-1804), the poet and dissenting preacher of Walthamstow and Old Jewry, whom he had known intimately, was not written. The Fawcett of whom Manning, the Chinese Enquirer, was thinking was John Fawcett, famous as Dr. Pangloss and Caleb Quotem.
"The Fleet"—the prison for debtors in Farringdon Street. Closed in 1844. The Rules of the Fleet were the limits within which prisoners for debt were under certain conditions permitted to live: the north side of Ludgate Hill, the Old Bailey up to Fleet Lane, Fleet Lane to Fleet Market, and then back to Ludgate Hill. The Rules cost money: L10 for the first L100 of the debt and for every additional L100, L4. Later, Fenwick seems to have settled in America.
Here should come an undated letter to Hazlitt, accompanied by Tingry's Painter's and Varnisher's Guide, 1804. Hazlitt, who was then painting, seems to have wanted prints of trees, probably for a background. Lamb says that he has been hunting in shop windows for him. He adds: "To supply poetry and wildness, you may read the American Farmer over again." The postscript runs, "Johnson shall not be forgot at his month's end."]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN RICKMAN
Jan. 25th, 1806.
Dear Rickman,—You do not happen to have any place at your disposal which would suit a decayed Literatus? I do not much expect that you have, or that you will go much out of the way to serve the object, when you hear it is Fenwick. But the case is, by a mistaking of his turn, as they call it, he is reduced, I am afraid, to extremities, and would be extremely glad of a place in an office. Now it does sometimes happen, that just as a man wants a place, a place wants him; and though this is a lottery to which none but G.B. would choose to trust his all, there is no harm just to call in at Despair's office for a friend, and see if his number is come up (B.'s further case I enclose by way of episode). Now, if you should happen, or anybody you know, to want a hand, here is a young man of solid but not brilliant genius, who would turn his hand to the making out dockets, penning a manifesto, or scoring a tally, not the worse (I hope) for knowing Latin and Greek, and having in youth conversed with the philosophers. But from these follies I believe he is thoroughly awakened, and would bind himself by a terrible oath never to imagine himself an extraordinary genius again.
Yours, &., C. LAMB.
[Mr. Hazlitt's text, which I follow here, makes Lamb appeal for Fenwick; but other editors say Fell—except Talfourd, who says F. If, as Lamb says in his previous letter, Fell was bound for Newgate and Fenwick only for the Fleet, probably it was Fenwick. But the matter is not very important. Fenwick and Fell both came into Lamb's life through Godwin and at this point they drop out. The enclosure concerning George Burnett is missing.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH [Dated at end: February 1st, 1806.]
Dear Wordsworth—I have seen the Books which you ordered, booked at the White Horse Inn, Cripplegate, by the Kendal waggon this day 1st Feb'y. 1806; you will not fail to see after them in time. They are directed to you at Grasmere. We have made some alteration in the Editions since your sister's directions. The handsome quarto Spencer which she authorized Mary to buy for L2. 12. 6, when she brought it home in triumph proved to be only the Fairy Queen: so we got them to take it again and I have procured instead a Folio, which luckily contains, besides all the Poems, the view of the State of Ireland, which is difficult to meet with. The Spencer, and the Chaucer, being noble old books, we did not think Stockdale's modern volumes would look so well beside them; added to which I don't know whether you are aware that the Print is excessive small, same as Eleg. Extracts, or smaller, not calculated for eyes in age; and Shakespear is one of the last books one should like to give up, perhaps the one just before the Dying Service in a large Prayer book. So we have used our own discretion in purchasing Pope's fine Quarto in six volumes, which may be read ad ultimam horam vitae. It is bound like Law Books (rather, half bound) and the Law Robe I have ever thought as comely and gentlemanly a garb as a Book would wish to wear. The state of the purchase then stands thus,
Urry's Chaucer L1. 16 — Pope's Shakespeare 2. 2 — Spenser 14 — Milton 1. 5 — Packing Case &c. 3. 6 6. —. 6
Which your Brother immediately repaid us. He has the Bills for all (by his desire) except the Spenser, which we took no bill with (not looking to have our accounts audited): so for that and the Case he took a separate receipt for 17/6. N.B. there is writing in the Shakespear: but it is only variae lectiones which some careful gentleman, the former owner, was at the pains to insert in a very neat hand from 5 Commentators. It is no defacement. The fault of Pope's edition is, that he has comically and coxcombically marked the Beauties: which is vile, as if you were to chalk up the cheek and across the nose of a handsome woman in red chalk to shew where the comeliest parts lay. But I hope the noble type and Library-appearance of the Books will atone for that. With the Books come certain Books and Pamphlets of G. Dyer, Presents or rather Decoy-ducks of the Poet to take in his thus-far obliged friends to buy his other works; as he takes care to inform them in M.S. notes to the Title Pages, "G. Dyer, Author of other Books printed for Longman &c." The books have lain at your dispatchful brother's a 12 months, to the great staling of most of the subjects. The three Letters and what is else written at the beginning of the respective Presents will ascertain the division of the Property. If not, none of the Donees, I dare say, will grudge a community of property in this case. We were constrained to pack 'em how we could, for room. Also there comes W. Hazlitt's book about Human Action, for Coleridge; a little song book for Sarah Coleridge; a Box for Hartley which your Brother was to have sent, but now devolved on us—I don't know from whom it came, but the things altogether were too much for Mr. (I've forgot his name) to take charge of; a Paraphrase on the King and Queen of Hearts, of which I being the Author beg Mr. Johnny Wordsworth's acceptance and opinion. Liberal Criticism, as G. Dyer declares, I am always ready to attend to!—And that's all, I believe. N.B. I must remain Debtor to Dorothy for 200 pens: but really Miss Stoddart (women are great gulfs of Stationery), who is going home to Salisbury and has been with us some weeks, has drained us to the very last pen: by the time S.T.C. passes thro' London I reckon I shall be in full feather. No more news has transpired of that Wanderer. I suppose he has found his way to some of his German friends.
A propos of Spencer (you will find him mentioned a page or two before, near enough for an a propos), I was discoursing on Poetry (as one's apt to deceive onesself, and when a person is willing to talk of what one likes, to believe that he also likes the same: as Lovers do) with a Young Gentleman of my office who is deep read in Anacreon Moore, Lord Strangford, and the principal Modern Poets, and I happen'd to mention Epithalamiums and that I could shew him a very fine one of Spencer's. At the mention of this, my Gentleman, who is a very fine Gentleman, and is brother to the Miss Evans who Coleridge so narrowly escaped marrying, pricked up his ears and exprest great pleasure, and begged that I would give him leave to copy it: he did not care how long it was (for I objected the length), he should be very happy to see any thing by him. Then pausing, and looking sad, he ejaculated POOR SPENCER! I begged to know the reason of his ejaculation, thinking that Time had by this time softened down any calamities which the Bard might have endured—"Why, poor fellow!" said he "he has lost his Wife!" "Lost his Wife?" said I, "Who are you talking of?" "Why, Spencer," said he. "I've read the Monody he wrote on the occasion, and a very pretty thing it is." This led to an explanation (it could be delay'd no longer) that the sound Spencer, which when Poetry is talk'd of generally excites an image of an old Bard in a Ruff, and sometimes with it dim notions of Sir P. Sydney and perhaps Lord Burleigh, had raised in my Gentleman a quite contrary image of The Honourable William Spencer, who has translated some things from the German very prettily, which are publish'd with Lady Di. Beauclerk's Designs.
Nothing like defining of Terms when we talk. What blunders might I have fallen into of quite inapplicable Criticism, but for this timely explanation.
N.B. At the beginning of Edm. Spencer (to prevent mistakes) I have copied from my own copy, and primarily from a book of Chalmers on Shakspear, a Sonnet of Spenser's never printed among his poems. It is curious as being manly and rather Miltonic, and as a Sonnet of Spenser's with nothing in it about Love or Knighthood. I have no room for remembrances; but I hope our doing your commission will prove we do not quite forget you.
1 Feb., 1806.
["Hazlitt's book about Human Action for Coleridge"—An Essay on the Principles of Human Action, 1805.
"A Paraphrase of the King and Queen of Hearts." This was a little book for children by Lamb, illustrated by Mulready and published by T. Hodgkins (for the Godwins) in 1806. It was discovered through this passage in this letter and is reprinted in facsimile in Vol. III. of my large edition. The title ran The King and Queen of Hearts, with the Rogueries of the Knave who stole away the Queen's Pies.
Coleridge had left Malta on September 21, 1805. He went to Naples, and from there to Rome in January, 1806, where he stayed until May 18.
"A propos of Spencer." This portion of the letter, owing to a mistake of Talfourd's, is usually tacked on to one dated June, 1806. "Miss Evans." See note to Letter 3.
"Poor Spencer." William Robert Spencer (1769-1834) was the author of jeux d'esprit and poems. He is now known, if at all, by his ballad of "Bed Gellert." He married the widow of Count Spreti, and in 1804 published a book of elegies entitled "The Year of Sorrow." Spencer was among the translators of Buerger's "Leonore," his version being illustrated by Lady Diana Beauclerk (his great-aunt) in 1796. Lamb used this anecdote as a little article in the Reflector, No. II., 1811, entitled "On the Ambiguities arising from Proper Names" (see Vol. I. of this edition). Lamb, however, by always spelling the real poet with a "c," did nothing towards avoiding the ambiguity!
This is the sonnet which Lamb copied into Wordsworth's Spenser from George Chalmers' Supplemental Apology for the Believers in the Shakespeare-Papers (1799), page 94:—
To the Right worshipful, my singular good friend, Mr. Gabriel Harvey, Doctor of the Laws:—
"Harvey, the happy above happiest men I read: that sitting like a looker on Of this world's stage, doest note with critique pen The sharp dislikes of each condition: And as one careless of suspition, Ne fawnest for the favour of the great: Ne fearest foolish reprehension Of faulty men, which danger to thee threat. But freely doest, of what thee list, entreat, Like a great Lord of peerless liberty: Lifting the good up to high honours seat, And the Evil damning ever more to dy. For life, and death is [are] in thy doomful writing: So thy renowne lives ever by endighting."
Dublin: this xviij of July, 1586; Your devoted friend, during life, EDMUND SPENSER.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM HAZLITT [Dated at end: Feb. 19, 1806.]
Dear H.—Godwin has just been here in his way from Johnson's. Johnson has had a fire in his house; this happened about five weeks ago; it was in the daytime, so it did not burn the house down, but did so much damage that the house must come down, to be repaired: his nephew that we met on Hampstead Hill put it out: well, this fire has put him so back, that he craves one more month before he gives you an answer.
I will certainly goad Godwin (if necessary) to go again this very day four weeks; but I am confident he will want no goading.
Three or four most capital auctions of Pictures advertised. In May, Welbore Ellis Agar's, the first private collection in England, so Holcroft says. In March, Sir George Young's in Stratford-place (where Cosway lives), and a Mr. Hulse's at Blackheath, both very capital collections, and have been announc'd for some months. Also the Marquis of Lansdowne's Pictures in March; and though inferior to mention, lastly, the Tructhsessian gallery. Don't your mouth water to be here?
T'other night Loftus called, whom we have not seen since you went before. We meditate a stroll next Wednesday, Fast-day. He happened to light upon Mr. Holcroft's Wife, and Daughter, their first visit at our house.
Your brother called last night. We keep up our intimacy. He is going to begin a large Madona and child from Mrs. H. and baby, I fear he goes astray after ignes fatui. He is a clever man. By the bye, I saw a miniature of his as far excelling any in his shew cupboard (that of your sister not excepted) as that shew cupboard excells the shew things you see in windows—an old woman—damn her name—but most superlative; he has it to clean—I'll ask him the name—but the best miniature I ever saw, equal to Cooper and them fellows. But for oil pictures!—what has he [to] do with Madonas? if the Virgin Mary were alive and visitable, he would not hazard himself in a Covent-Garden-pit-door crowd to see her. It ain't his style of beauty, is it?—But he will go on painting things he ought not to paint, and not painting things he ought to paint.
Manning is not gone to China, but talks of going this Spring. God forbid!
Coleridge not heard of.
I, going to leave off smoke. In mean time am so smoky with last night's 10 Pipes, that I must leave off.
Mary begs her kind remembrances.
Pray write to us—
This is no Letter, but I supposed you grew anxious about Johnson.
N.B.—Have taken a room at 3/- a week, to be in between 5 & 8 at night, to avoid my nocturnal alias knock-eternal visitors. The first-fruits of my retirement has been a farce which goes to manager tomorrow. Wish my ticket luck. God bless you, and do write,—Yours, fumosissimus,
Wednesday, 19 Feb., 1806.
[Johnson was the publisher whom we have already seen considering Hazlitt's abridgment of the Light of Nature Revealed.
Lamb was always interested in sales of pictures: the on-view days gave him some of his best opportunities of seeing good painting. The Truchsessian Picture Gallery was in New Road, opposite Portland Place. Exhibitions were held annually, the pictures being for sale.
Loftus was Tom Loftus of Wisbech, a cousin of Hazlitt.
Holcroft's wife at that time, his fourth, was Louisa Mercier, who afterwards married Lamb's friend, James Kenney, the dramatist. The daughter referred to was probably Fanny Holcroft, who subsequently wrote novels and translations.
Cooper, the miniature painter, was Samuel Cooper (1609-1672), a connection by marriage of Pope's mother, and the painter of Cromwell and other interesting men.
Lamb's N.B. contains his first mention of his farce "Mr. H." We are not told where the 3s. room was situated. Possibly in the Temple.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[? Feb. 20, 21 and 22, 1806.]
My dear Sarah,—I have heard that Coleridge was lately going through Sicily to Rome with a party, but that, being unwell, he returned back to Naples. We think there is some mistake in this account, and that his intended journey to Rome was in his former jaunt to Naples. If you know that at that time he had any such intention, will you write instantly? for I do not know whether I ought to write to Mrs. Coleridge or not.
I am going to make a sort of promise to myself and to you, that I will write you kind of journal-like letters of the daily what-we-do matters, as they occur. This day seems to me a kind of new era in our time. It is not a birthday, nor a new-year's day, nor a leave-off-smoking day; but it is about an hour after the time of leaving you, our poor Phoenix, in the Salisbury Stage; and Charles has just left me for the first time to go to his lodgings; and I am holding a solitary consultation with myself as to the how I shall employ myself.
Writing plays, novels, poems, and all manner of such-like vapouring and vapourish schemes are floating in my head, which at the same time aches with the thought of parting from you, and is perplext at the idea of I-cannot-tell-what-about notion that I have not made you half so comfortable as I ought to have done, and a melancholy sense of the dull prospect you have before you on your return home. Then I think I will make my new gown; and now I consider the white petticoat will be better candle-light worth; and then I look at the fire, and think, if the irons was but down, I would iron my Gowns—you having put me out of conceit of mangling.
So much for an account of my own confused head; and now for yours. Returning home from the Inn, we took that to pieces, and ca[n]vassed you, as you know is our usual custom. We agreed we should miss you sadly, and that you had been, what you yourself discovered, not at all in our way; and although, if the Post Master should happen to open this, it would appear to him to be no great compliment, yet you, who enter so warmly into the interior of our affairs, will understand and value it, as well as what we likewise asserted, that since you have been with us you have done but one foolish thing, vide Pinckhorn (excuse my bad Latin, if it should chance to mean exactly contrary to what I intend). We praised you for the very friendly way in which you regarded all our whimsies, and, to use a phrase of Coleridge's, understood us. We had, in short, no drawback on our eulogy on your merit, except lamenting the want of respect you have to yourself—the want of a certain dignity of action, you know what I mean, which—though it only broke out in the acceptance of the old Justice's book, and was, as it were, smothered and almost extinct, while you were here—yet is so native a feeling in your mind, that you will do whatever the present moment prompts you to do, that I wish you would take that one slight offence seriously to heart, and make it a part of your daily consideration to drive this unlucky propensity, root and branch, out of your character.—Then, mercy on us, what a perfect little gentlewoman you will be!!!—
You are not yet arrived at the first stage of your journey; yet have I the sense of your absence so strong upon me, that I was really thinking what news I had to send you, and what had happened since you had left us. Truly nothing, except that Martin Burney met us in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, and borrowed four-pence, of the repayment of which sum I will send you due notice.
Friday [Feb. 21, 1806].—Last night I told Charles of your matrimonial overtures from Mr. White, and of the cause of that business being at a stand-still. Your generous conduct in acquainting Mr. White with the vexatious affair at Malta highly pleased him. He entirely approves of it. You would be quite comforted to hear what he said on the subject.
He wishes you success, and, when Coleridge comes, will consult with him about what is best to be done. But I charge you, be most strictly cautious how you proceed yourself. Do not give Mr. W. any reason to think you indiscreet; let him return of his own accord, and keep the probability of his doing so full in your mind; so, I mean, as to regulate your whole conduct by that expectation. Do not allow yourself to see, or in any way renew your acquaintance with, William, nor do not do any other silly thing of that kind; for, you may depend upon it, he will be a kind of spy upon you, and, if he observes nothing that he disapproves of, you will certainly hear of him again in time.
Charles is gone to finish the farce, and I am to hear it read this night. I am so uneasy between my hopes and fears of how I shall like it, that I do not know what I am doing. I need not tell you so, for before I send this I shall be able to tell you all about it. If I think it will amuse you, I will send you a copy. The bed was very cold last night.
Feb. 21 [?22]. I have received your letter, and am happy to hear that your mother has been so well in your absence, which I wish had been prolonged a little, for you have been wanted to copy out the Farce, in the writing of which I made many an unlucky blunder.
The said Farce I carried (after many consultations of who was the most proper person to perform so important an office) to Wroughton, the Manager of Drury Lane. He was very civil to me; said it did not depend upon himself, but that he would put it into the Proprietors' hands, and that we should certainly have an answer from them.
I have been unable to finish this sheet before, for Charles has taken a week's holidays [from his] lodging, to rest himself after his labour, and we have talked to-night of nothing but the Farce night and day; but yesterday [I carri]ed it to Wroughton; and since it has been out of the [way, our] minds have been a little easier. I wish you had [been with] us, to have given your opinion. I have half a mind to sc[ribble] another copy, and send it you. I like it very much, and cannot help having great hopes of its success.
I would say I was very sorry for the death of Mr. White's father; but not knowing the good old gentleman, I cannot help being as well satisfied that he is gone—for his son will feel rather lonely, and so perhaps he may chance to visit again Winterslow. You so well describe your brother's grave lecturing letter, that you make me ashamed of part of mine. I would fain rewrite it, leaving out my 'sage advice;' but if I begin another letter, something may fall out to prevent me from finishing it,—and, therefore, skip over it as well as you can; it shall be the last I ever send you.
It is well enough, when one is talking to a friend, to hedge in an odd word by way of counsel now and then; but there is something mighty irksome in its staring upon one in a letter, where one ought only to see kind words and friendly remembrances.
I have heard a vague report from the Dawes (the pleasant-looking young lady we called upon was Miss Daw), that Coleridge returned back to Naples: they are to make further enquiries, and let me know the particulars. We have seen little or nothing of Manning since you went. Your friend [George] Burnett calls as usual, for Charles to point out something for him. I miss you sadly, and but for the fidget I have been in about the Farce, I should have missed you still more. I am sorry you cannot get your money. Continue to tell us all your perplexities, and do not mind being called Widow Blackacre.
Say all in your mind about your Lover, now Charles knows of it; he will be as anxious to hear as me. All the time we can spare from talking of the characters and plot of the Farce, we talk of you. I have got a fresh bottle of Brandy to-day: if you were here, you should have a glass, three parts brandy—so you should. I bought a pound of bacon to-day, not so good as yours. I wish the little caps were finished. I am glad the Medicines and the Cordials bore the fatigue of their journey so well. I promise you I will write often, and not mind the postage. God bless you. Charles does not send his love, because he is not here.
Yours affectionately, M. LAMB.
Write as often as ever you can. Do not work too hard.
[Mr. Hazlitt dates this letter April, thinking that Mary Lamb's pen slipped when she wrote February 21 half-way through. But I think February must be right; because (1) Miss Stoddart has only just left, and Lamb tells Hazlitt in January that she is staying a week or so longer: April would make this time three months; and (2) Lamb has told Hazlitt on February 19 that his farce is finished.
Coleridge left Malta for Rome on September 21, 1805. He was probably at Naples from October, 1805, to the end of January, 1806, when he went to Rome, remaining there until May 18. Writing to Mrs. Clarkson on March 2, 1806, Dorothy Wordsworth quotes from a letter written on February 25 by Mary Lamb to Mrs. S.T. Coleridge and containing this passage: "My Brother has received a letter from Stoddart dated December 26, in which he tells him that Coleridge was then at Naples. We have also heard from a Mr. Dawe that a friend of his had received a letter of the same date, which mentioned Coleridge having been lately travelling towards Rome with a party of gentlemen; but that he changed his mind and returned back to Naples. Stoddart says nothing more than that he was driven to Naples in consequence of the French having taken possession of Trieste." (See the Athenaeum, January 23, 1904.)
"Vide Pinckhorn." I cannot explain this, unless a Justice Pinckhorn had ogled Sarah Stoddart and offered her a present of a book. Mary Lamb, by the way, some years later taught Latin to William Hazlitt, Junior, Sarah's son.
Martin Charles Burney, the son of Captain Burney, born in 1788, a devoted admirer of the Lambs to the end. He was now only eighteen. We shall often meet him again.
Mr. White was not Lamb's friend James White.
Winterslow, in Wiltshire, about six miles from Salisbury, was a small property belonging to Sarah Stoddart.
"Widow Blackacre." In Wycherley's "Plain Dealer:" a busy-body and persistent litigant.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
My dear Sarah,—No intention of forfeiting my promise, but mere want of time, has prevented me from continuing my journal. You seem pleased with the long, stupid one I sent, and, therefore, I shall certainly continue to write at every opportunity. The reason why I have not had any time to spare, is because Charles has given himself some holidays after the hard labour of finishing his farce, and, therefore, I have had none of the evening leisure I promised myself. Next week he promises to go to work again. I wish he may happen to hit upon some new plan, to his mind, for another farce: when once begun, I do not fear his perseverance, but the holidays he has allowed himself, I fear, will unsettle him. I look forward to next week with the same kind of anxiety I did to the first entrance at the new lodging. We have had, as you know, so many teasing anxieties of late, that I have got a kind of habit of foreboding that we shall never be comfortable, and that he will never settle to work: which I know is wrong, and which I will try with all my might to overcome—for certainly, if I could but see things as they really are, our prospects are considerably improved since the memorable day of Mrs. Fenwick's last visit. I have heard nothing of that good lady, or of the Fells, since you left us.
We have been visiting a little—to Norris's, to Godwin's; and last night we did not come home from Captain Burney's till two o'clock: the Saturday night was changed to Friday, because Rickman could not be there to-night. We had the best tea things, and the litter all cleared away, and every thing as handsome as possible—Mrs. Rickman being of the party. Mrs. Rickman is much increased in size since we saw her last, and the alteration in her strait shape wonderfully improves her. Phillips was there, and Charles had a long batch of Cribbage with him: and, upon the whole, we had the most chearful evening I have known there a long time. To-morrow, we dine at Holcroft's. These things rather fatigue me; but I look for a quiet week next week, and hope for better times. We have had Mrs. Brooks and all the Martins, and we have likewise been there; so that I seem to have been in a continual bustle lately. I do not think Charles cares so much for the Martins as he did, which is a fact you will be glad to hear—though you must not name them when you write: always remember, when I tell you any thing about them, not to mention their names in return.
We have had a letter from your brother, by the same mail as yours, I suppose; he says he does not mean to return till summer, and that is all he says about himself; his letter being entirely filled with a long story about Lord Nelson—but nothing more than what the newspapers have been full of, such as his last words, &c. Why does he tease you with so much good advice? is it merely to fill up his letters as he filled ours with Lord Nelson's exploits? or has any new thing come out against you? has he discovered Mr. Curse-a-rat's correspondence? I hope you will not write to that news-sending gentleman any more. I promised never more to give my advice, but one may be allowed to hope a little; and I also hope you will have something to tell me soon about Mr. W[hite]: have you seen him yet? I am sorry to hear your Mother is not better, but I am in a hoping humour just now, and I cannot help hoping that we shall all see happier days. The bells are just now ringing for the taking of the Cape of Good Hope.
I have written to Mrs. Coleridge to tell her that her husband is at Naples; your brother slightly named his being there, but he did not say that he had heard from him himself. Charles is very busy at the Office; he will be kept there to-day till seven or eight o'clock: and he came home very smoky and drinky last night; so that I am afraid a hard day's work will not agree very well with him.
0 dear! what shall I say next? Why this I will say next, that I wish you was with me; I have been eating a mutton chop all alone, and I have been just looking in the pint porter pot, which I find quite empty, and yet I am still very dry. If you was with me, we would have a glass of brandy and water; but it is quite impossible to drink brandy and water by oneself; therefore, I must wait with patience till the kettle boils. I hate to drink tea alone, it is worse than dining alone, We have got a fresh cargo of biscuits from Captain Burney's. I have—
March l4.—Here I was interrupted; and a long, tedious interval has intervened, during which I have had neither time nor inclination to write a word. The Lodging—that pride and pleasure of your heart and mine—is given up, and here he is again—Charles, I mean—as unsettled and as undetermined as ever. When he went to the poor lodging, after the hollidays I told you he had taken, he could not endure the solitariness of them, and I had no rest for the sole of my foot till I promised to believe his solemn protestations that he could and would write as well at home as there. Do you believe this?
I have no power over Charles: he will do—what he will do. But I ought to have some little influence over myself. And therefore I am most manfully resolving to turn over a new leaf with my own mind. Your visit to us, though not a very comfortable one to yourself, has been of great use to me. I set you up in my fancy as a kind of thing that takes an interest in my concerns; and I hear you talking to me, and arguing the matter very learnedly, when I give way to despondency. You shall hear a good account of me, and the progress I make in altering my fretful temper to a calm and quiet one. It is but being once thorowly convinced one is wrong, to make one resolve to do so no more; and I know my dismal faces have been almost as great a drawback upon Charles's comfort, as his feverish, teazing ways have been upon mine. Our love for each other has been the torment of our lives hitherto. I am most seriously intending to bend the whole force of my mind to counteract this, and I think I see some prospect of success.
Of Charles ever bringing any work to pass at home, I am very doubtful; and of the farce succeeding, I have little or no hope; but if I could once get into the way of being chearful myself, I should see an easy remedy in leaving town and living cheaply, almost wholly alone; but till I do find we really are comfortable alone, and by ourselves, it seems a dangerous experiment. We shall certainly stay where we are till after next Christmas; and in the mean time, as I told you before, all my whole thoughts shall be to change myself into just such a chearful soul as you would be in a lone house, with no companion but your brother, if you had nothing to vex you—nor no means of wandering after Curse-a-rats.
Do write soon: though I write all about myself, I am thinking all the while of you, and I am uneasy at the length of time it seems since I heard from you. Your Mother, and Mr. White, is running continually in my head; and this second winter makes me think how cold, damp, and forlorn your solitary house will feel to you. I would your feet were perched up again on our fender.
Manning is not yet gone. Mrs. Holcroft is brought to bed. Mrs. Reynolds has been confined at home with illness, but is recovering. God bless you.
Yours affectionately, M. LAMB.
["Norris's"—Randal Norris, sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple, whose wife, nee Faint, came from Widford, where she had known Lamb's grandmother, Mary Field.
Captain Burney's whist parties, in Little James Street, Pimlico, were, as a rule, on Saturdays. Later Lamb established a Wednesday party.
Of Mrs. Brooks I have no knowledge; nor of him whom Mary Lamb called Mr. Curse-a-rat.
"The Cape of Good Hope." The Cape of Good Hope, having been taken by the English in 1795 from the Dutch, and restored to them at the Peace of Amiens in 1802, had just been retaken by the English.
"Mrs. Holcroft is brought to bed." The child was Louisa, afterwards Mrs. Badams, one of Lamb's correspondents late in life.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN RICKMAN
Dear Rickman,—I send you some papers about a salt-water soap, for which the inventor is desirous of getting a parliamentary reward, like Dr. Jenner. Whether such a project be feasible, I mainly doubt, taking for granted the equal utility. I should suppose the usual way of paying such projectors is by patents and contracts. The patent, you see, he has got. A contract he is about with the Navy Board. Meantime, the projector is hungry. Will you answer me two questions, and return them with the papers as soon as you can? Imprimis, is there any chance of success in application to Parliament for a reward? Did you ever hear of the invention? You see its benefits and saving to the nation (always the first motive with a true projector) are feelingly set forth: the last paragraph but one of the estimate, in enumerating the shifts poor seamen are put to, even approaches to the pathetic. But, agreeing to all he says, is there the remotest chance of Parliament giving the projector anything; and when should application be made, now or after a report (if he can get it) from the navy board? Secondly, let the infeasibility be as great as you will, you will oblige me by telling me the way of introducing such an application to Parliament, without buying over a majority of members, which is totally out of projector's power. I vouch nothing for the soap myself; for I always wash in fresh water, and find it answer tolerably well for all purposes of cleanliness; nor do I know the projector; but a relation of mine has put me on writing to you, for whose parliamentary knowledge he has great veneration.
P.S. The Capt. and Mrs. Burney and Phillips take their chance at cribbage here on Wednesday. Will you and Mrs. R. join the party? Mary desires her compliments to Mrs. R., and joins in the invitation.