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Biographical Essays by Thomas de Quincey

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three days, which Dr. Arbuthnot declares to have been "the most
precipitate" he ever knew. But in fact Gay had long been decaying,
from the ignoble vice of too much and too luxurious eating. Six
months after this loss, which greatly affected Pope, came the last
deadly wound which this life could inflict, in the death of his
mother. She had for some time been in her dotage, and recognized no
face but that of her son, so that her death was not unexpected; but
that circumstance did not soften the blow of separation to Pope.
She died on the 7th of June, 1733, being then ninety-three years
old. Three days after, writing to Richardson the painter, for the
purpose of urging him to come down and take her portrait before the
coffin was closed, he says, "I thank God, her death was as easy as
her life was innocent; and as it cost her not a groan, nor even a
sigh, there is yet upon her countenance such an expression of
tranquillity," that "it would afford the finest image of a saint
expired that ever painting drew. Adieu, may you die as happily."
The funeral took place on the 11th; Pope then quitted the house,
unable to support the silence of her chamber, and did not return
for months, nor in fact ever reconciled himself to the sight of her
vacant apartment.

Swift also he had virtually lost for ever. In April, 1727, this
unhappy man had visited Pope for the last time. During this visit
occurred the death of George I. Great expectations arose from that
event amongst the Tories, in which, of course,' Swift shared. It
was reckoned upon as a thing of course that Walpole would be
dismissed. But this bright gleam of hope proved as treacherous as
all before; and the anguish of this final disappointment perhaps it
was which brought on a violent attack of Swift's constitutional
malady. On the last of August he quitted Pope's house abruptly,
concealed himself in London, and finally quitted it, as stealthily
as he had before quitted Twickenham, for Ireland, never more to
return. He left a most affectionate letter for Pope; but his
affliction, and his gloomy anticipations of insanity, were too
oppressive to allow of his seeking a personal interview.

Pope might now describe himself pretty nearly as _ultimus
suorum_; and if he would have friends in future, he must seek
them, as he complains bitterly, almost amongst strangers and
another generation. This sense of desolation may account for the
acrimony which too much disfigures his writings henceforward.
Between 1732 and 1740, he was chiefly engaged in satires, which
uniformly speak a high moral tone in the midst of personal
invective; or in poems directly philosophical, which almost as
uniformly speak the bitter tone of satire in the midst of
dispassionate ethics. His Essay on Man was but one link in a
general course which he had projected of moral philosophy, here and
there pursuing his themes into the fields of metaphysics, but no
farther in either field of morals or metaphysics than he could make
compatible with a poetical treatment. These works, however,
naturally entangled him in feuds of various complexions with people
of very various pretensions; and to admirers of Pope so fervent as
we profess ourselves, it is painful to acknowledge that the dignity
of his latter years, and the becoming tranquillity of increasing
age, are sadly disturbed by the petulance and the tone of
irritation which, alike to those in the wrong and in the right,
inevitably besiege all personal disputes. He was agitated, besides,
by a piratical publication of his correspondence. This emanated of
course from the den of Curll, the universal robber and "_blatant
beast_" of those days; and, besides the injury offered to his
feelings by exposing some youthful sallies which he wished to have
suppressed, it drew upon him a far more disgraceful imputation,
most assuredly unfounded, but accredited by Dr. Johnson, and
consequently in full currency to this day, of having acted
collusively with Curll, or at least through Curll, for the
publication of what he wished the world to see, but could not else
have devised any decent pretext for exhibiting. The disturbance of
his mind on this occasion led to a circular request, dispersed
amongst his friends, that they would return his letters. All
complied except Swift. He only delayed, and in fact shuffled. But
it is easy to read in his evasions, and Pope, in spite of his
vexation, read the same tale, viz., that, in consequence of his
recurring attacks and increasing misery, he was himself the victim
of artifices amongst those who surrounded him. What Pope
apprehended happened.

The letters were all published in Dublin and in London, the
originals being then only returned when they had done their work of

Such a tenor of life, so constantly fretted by petty wrongs, or by
leaden insults, to which only the celebrity of their object lent
force or wings, allowed little opportunity to Pope for recalling
his powers from angry themes, and converging them upon others of
more catholic philosophy. To the last he continued to conceal
vipers beneath his flowers; or rather, speaking proportionately to
the case, he continued to sheath amongst the gleaming but innocuous
lightnings of his departing splendors, the thunderbolts which
blasted for ever. His last appearance was his greatest. In 1742 he
published the fourth book of the Dunciad; to which it has with much
reason been objected, that it stands in no obvious relation to the
other three, but which, taken as a separate whole, is by far the
most brilliant and the weightiest of his works. Pope was aware of
the _hiatus_ between this last book and the rest, on which
account he sometimes called it the greater Dunciad; and it would
have been easy for him, with a shallow Warburtonian ingenuity, to
invent links that might have satisfied a mere _verbal_ sense
of connection. But he disdained this puerile expedient. The fact
was, and could not be disguised from any penetrating eye, that the
poem was not a pursuit of the former subjects; it had arisen
spontaneously at various times, by looking at the same general
theme of dulness (which, in Pope's sense, includes all aberrations
of the intellect, nay, even any defective equilibrium amongst the
faculties) under a different angle of observation, and from a
different centre. In this closing book, not only bad authors, as in
the other three, but all abuses of science or antiquarian
knowledge, or connoisseurship in the arts, are attacked. Virtuosi,
medalists, butterfly-hunters, florists, erring metaphysicians, &c.,
are all pierced through and through as with the shafts of Apollo.
But the imperfect plan of the work as to its internal economy, no
less than its exterior relations, is evident in many places; and in
particular the whole catastrophe of the poem, if it can be so
called, is linked to the rest by a most insufficient incident. To
give a closing grandeur to his work, Pope had conceived the idea of
representing the earth as lying universally under the incubation of
one mighty spirit of dulness; a sort of millennium, as we may call
it, for ignorance, error, and stupidity. This would take leave of
the reader with effect; but how was it to be introduced? at what
era? under what exciting cause? As to the eras, Pope could not
settle that; unless it were a _future_ era, the description of
it could not be delivered as a prophecy; and, not being prophetic,
it would want much of its grandeur. Yet, _as_ a part of
futurity, how is it connected with our present times? Do they and
their pursuits lead to it as a possibility, or as a contingency
upon certain habits which we have it in our power to eradicate, (in
which case this vision of dulness has a _practical_ warning,)
or is it a mere necessity, one amongst the many changes attached to
the cycles of human destiny, or which chance brings round with the
revolutions of its wheel? All this Pope could not determine; but
the exciting cause he has determined, and it is preposterously
below the effect. The goddess of dulness yawns; and her yawn,
which, after all, should rather express the fact and state of
universal dulness than its cause, produces a change over all
nations tantamount to a long eclipse. Meantime, with all its
defects of plan, the poem, as to execution, is superior to all
which Pope has done; the composition is much superior to that of
the Essay on Man, and more profoundly poetic. The parodies drawn
from Milton, as also in the former books, have a beauty and effect
which cannot be expressed; and, if a young lady wished to cull for
her album a passage from all Pope's writings, which, without a
trace of irritation or acrimony, should yet present an exquisite
gem of independent beauty, she could not find another passage equal
to the little story of the florist and the butterfly-hunter. They
plead their cause separately before the throne of dulness; the
florist telling how he had reared a superb carnation, which, in
honor of the queen, he called Caroline, when his enemy, pursuing a
butterfly which settled on the carnation, in securing his own
object, had destroyed that of the plaintiff. The defendant replies
with equal beauty; and it may certainly be affirmed, that, for
brilliancy of coloring and the art of poetical narration, the tale
is not surpassed by any in the language.

This was the last effort of Pope worthy of separate notice. He was
now decaying rapidly, and sensible of his own decay. His complaint
was a dropsy of the chest, and he knew it to be incurable. Under
these circumstances, his behavior was admirably philosophical. He
employed himself in revising and burnishing all his later works, as
those upon which he wisely relied for his reputation with future
generations. In this task he was assisted by Dr. Warburton, a new
literary friend, who had introduced himself to the favorable notice
of Pope about four years before, by a defence of the Essay on Man,
which Crousaz had attacked, but in general indirectly and
ineffectually, by attacking it through the blunders of a very
faulty translation. This poem, however, still labors, to religious
readers, under two capital defects. If man, according to Pope, is
now so admirably placed in the universal system of things, that
evil only could result from any change, then it seems to follow,
either that a fall of man is inadmissible; or at least, that, by
placing him in his true centre, it had been a blessing universally.
The other objection lies in this, that if all is right already, and
in this earthly station, then one argument for a future state, as
the scene in which evil is to be redressed, seems weakened or

As the weakness of Pope increased, his nearest friends, Lord
Bolingbroke, and a few others, gathered around him. The last scenes
were passed almost with ease and tranquillity. He dined in company
two days before he died: and on the very day preceding his death he
took an airing on Blackheath. A few mornings before he died, he was
found very early in his library writing on the immortality of the
soul. This was an effort of delirium; and he suffered otherwise
from this affection of the brain, and from inability to think in
his closing hours. But his humanity and goodness, it was remarked,
had survived his intellectual faculties. He died on the 30th of
May, 1744; and so quietly, that the attendants could not
distinguish the exact moment of his dissolution.

We had prepared an account of Pope's quarrels, in which we had
shown that, generally, he was not the aggressor; and often was
atrociously ill used before he retorted. This service to Pope's
memory we had judged important, because it is upon these quarrels
chiefly that the erroneous opinion has built itself of Pope's
fretfulness and irritability. And this unamiable feature of his
nature, together with a proneness to petty manoeuvring, are the
main foibles that malice has been able to charge upon Pope's moral
character. Yet, with no better foundation for their malignity than
these doubtful propensities, of which the first perhaps was a
constitutional defect, a defect of his temperament rather than his
will, and the second has been much exaggerated, many writers have
taken upon themselves to treat Pope as a man, if not absolutely
unprincipled and without moral sensibility, yet as mean,
little-minded, indirect, splenetic, vindictive, and morose. Now the
difference between ourselves and these writers is fundamental. They
fancy that in Pope's character a basis of ignoble qualities was
here and there slightly relieved by a few shining spots; we, on the
contrary, believe that in Pope lay a disposition radically noble
and generous, clouded and overshadowed by superficial foibles, or,
to adopt the distinction of Shakspeare, they see nothing but "dust
a little gilt," and we "gold a little dusted." A very rapid glance
we will throw over the general outline of his character.

As a friend, it is noticed emphatically by Martha Blount and other
contemporaries, who must have had the best means of judging, that
no man was so warm-hearted, or so much sacrificed himself for
others, as Pope; and in fact many of his quarrels grew out of this
trait in his character. For once that he levelled his spear in his
own quarrel, at least twice he did so on behalf of his insulted
parents or his friends. Pope was also noticeable for the duration
of his friendships; [Endnote: 11] some dropped him,--but he never
any throughout his life. And let it be remembered, that amongst
Pope's friends were the men of most eminent talents in those days;
so that envy at least, or jealousy of rival power, was assuredly no
foible of his. In that respect how different from Addison, whose
petty manoeuvring against Pope proceeded entirely from malignant
jealousy. That Addison was more in the wrong even than has
generally been supposed, and Pope more thoroughly innocent as well
as more generous, we have the means at a proper opportunity of
showing decisively. As a son, we need not insist on Pope's
preeminent goodness. Dean Swift, who had lived for months together
at Twickenham, declares that he had not only never witnessed, but
had never heard of anything like it. As a Christian, Pope appears
in a truly estimable light. He found himself a Roman Catholic by
accident of birth; so was his mother; but his father was so upon
personal conviction and conversion, yet not without extensive study
of the questions at issue. It would have laid open the road to
preferment, and preferment was otherwise abundantly before him, if
Pope would have gone over to the Protestant faith. And in his
conscience he found no obstacle to that change; he was a
philosophical Christian, intolerant of nothing but intolerance, a
bigot only against bigots. But he remained true to his baptismal
profession, partly on a general principle of honor in adhering to a
distressed and dishonored party, but chiefly out of reverence and
affection to his mother. In his relation to women, Pope was amiable
and gentlemanly; and accordingly was the object of affectionate
regard and admiration to many of the most accomplished in that sex.
This we mention especially because we would wish to express our
full assent to the manly scorn with which Mr. Roscoe repels the
libellous insinuations against Pope and Miss Martha Blount. A more
innocent connection we do not believe ever existed. As an author,
Warburton has recorded that no man ever displayed more candor or
more docility to criticisms offered in a friendly spirit. Finally,
we sum up all in saying, that Pope retained to the last a true and
diffusive benignity; that this was the quality which survived all
others, notwithstanding the bitter trial which his benignity must
have stood through life, and the excitement to a spiteful reaction
of feeling which was continually pressed upon him by the scorn and
insult which his deformity drew upon him from the unworthy.

But the moral character of Pope is of secondary interest. We are
concerned with it only as connected with his great intellectual
power. There are three errors which seem current upon this subject.
_First_, that Pope drew his impulses from French literature;
_secondly_, that he was a poet of inferior rank;
_thirdly_, that his merit lies in superior "correctness." With
respect to the first notion, it has prevailed by turns in every
literature. One stage of society, in every nation, brings men of
impassioned minds to the contemplation of manners, and of the
social affections of man as exhibited in manners. With this
propensity cooperates, no doubt, some degree of despondency when
looking at the great models of the literature who have usually
preoccupied the grander passions, and displayed their movements in
the earlier periods of literature. Now it happens that the French,
from an extraordinary defect in the higher qualities of passion,
have attracted the notice of foreign nations chiefly to that field
of their literature, in which the taste and the unimpassioned
understanding preside. But in all nations such literature is a
natural growth of the mind, and would arise equally if the French
literature had never existed. The wits of Queen Anne's reign, or
even of Charles II.'s, were not French by their taste or their
imitation. Butler and Dryden were surely not French; and of Milton
we need not speak; as little was Pope French, either by his
institution or by his models. Boileau he certainly admired too
much; and, for the sake of a poor parallelism with a passage about
Greece in Horace, he has falsified history in the most ludicrous
manner, without a shadow of countenance from facts, in order to
make out that we, like the Romans, received laws of taste from
those whom we had conquered. But these are insulated cases and
accidents, not to insist on his known and most profound admiration,
often expressed, for both Chaucer, and Shakspeare, and Milton.
Secondly, that Pope is to be classed as an inferior poet, has
arisen purely from a confusion between the departments of poetry
which he cultivated and the merit of his culture. The first place
must undoubtedly be given for ever,--it cannot be refused,--to the
impassioned movements of the tragic, and to the majestic movements
of the epic muse. We cannot alter the relations of things out of
favor to an individual. But in his own department, whether higher
or lower, that man is supreme who has not yet been surpassed; and
such a man is Pope. As to the final notion, first started by Walsh,
and propagated by Warton, it is the most absurd of all the three;
it is not from superior correctness that Pope is esteemed more
correct, but because the compass and sweep of his performances lies
more within the range of ordinary judgments. Many questions that
have been raised upon Milton or Shakspeare, questions relating to
so subtile a subject as the flux and reflux of human passion, lie
far above the region of ordinary capacities; and the
indeterminateness or even carelessness of the judgment is
transferred by a common confusion to its objects. But waiving this,
let us ask, what is meant by "correctness?" Correctness in what? In
developing the thought? In connecting it, or effecting the
transitions? In the use of words? In the grammar? In the metre?
Under every one of these limitations of the idea, we maintain that
Pope is _not_ distinguished by correctness; nay, that, as
compared with Shakspeare, he is eminently incorrect. Produce us
from any drama of Shakspeare one of those leading passages that all
men have by heart, and show us any eminent defect in the very
sinews of the thought. It is impossible; defects there may be, but
they will always be found irrelevant to the main central thought,
or to its expression. Now turn to Pope; the first striking passage
which offers itself to our memory, is the famous character of
Addison, ending thus:

"Who would not laugh, if such a man there be,
Who but must weep if Atticus were he?"

Why must we laugh? Because we find a grotesque assembly of noble
and ignoble qualities. Very well; but why then must we weep?
Because this assemblage is found actually existing in an eminent
man of genius. Well, that is a good reason for weeping; we weep for
the degradation of human nature. But then revolves the question,
why must we laugh? Because, if the belonging to a man of genius
were a sufficient reason for weeping, so much we know from the very
first. The very first line says, "Peace to all such. But were there
one whose fires _true genius kindles_ and fair fame inspires."
Thus falls to the ground the whole antithesis of this famous
character. We are to change our mood from laughter to tears upon a
sudden discovery that the character belonged to a man of genius;
and this we had already known from the beginning. Match us this
prodigious oversight in Shakspeare. Again, take the Essay on
Criticism. It is a collection of independent maxims, tied together
into a fasciculus by the printer, but having no natural order or
logical dependency; generally so vague as to mean nothing. Like the
general rules of justice, &c., in ethics, to which every man
assents; but when the question comes about any practical case,
_is_ it just? The opinions fly asunder far as the poles. And,
what is remarkable, many of the rules are violated by no man so
often as by Pope, and by Pope nowhere so often as in this very
poem. As a single instance, he proscribes monosyllabic lines; and
in no English poem of any pretensions are there so many lines of
that class as in this. We have counted above a score, and the last
line of all is monosyllabic.

Not, therefore, for superior correctness, but for qualities the
very same as belong to his most distinguished brethren, is Pope to
be considered a great poet; for impassioned thinking, powerful
description, pathetic reflection, brilliant narration. His
characteristic difference is simply that he carried these powers
into a different field, and moved chiefly amongst the social paths
of men, and viewed their characters as operating through their
manners. And our obligations to him arise chiefly on this ground,
that having already, in the persons of earlier poets, carried off
the palm in all the grander trials of intellectual strength, for
the majesty of the epopee and the impassioned vehemence of the
tragic drama, to Pope we owe it that we can now claim an equal
preeminence in the sportive and aerial graces of the mock heroic
and satiric muse; that in the Dunciad we possess a peculiar form of
satire, in which (according to a plan unattempted by any other
nation) we see alternately her festive smile and her gloomiest
scowl; that the grave good sense of the nation has here found its
brightest mirror; and, finally, that through Pope the cycle of our
poetry is perfected and made orbicular, that from that day we might
claim the laurel equally, whether for dignity or grace.



Dr. Johnson, however, and Joseph Warton, for reasons not stated,
have placed his birth on the 22d. To this statement, as opposed to
that which comes from the personal friends of Pope, little
attention is due. Ruffhead and Spence, upon such questions, must
always be of higher authority than Johnson and Warton, and _a
fortiori_ than Bowles. But it ought not to be concealed, though
hitherto unnoticed by any person, that some doubt after all remains
whether any of the biographers is right. An anonymous writer,
contemporary with Pope, and evidently familiar with his personal
history, declares that he was born on the 8th of June; and he
connects it with an event that, having a public and a partisan
interest, (the birth of that Prince of Wales, who was known
twenty-seven years afterwards as the Pretender,) would serve to
check his own recollections, and give them a collateral voucher. It
is true he wrote for an ill-natured purpose; but no purpose
whatever could have been promoted by falsifying this particular
date. What is still more noticeable, however, Pope himself puts a
most emphatic negative upon all these statements. In a pathetic
letter to a friend, when his attention could not have been
wandering, for he is expressly insisting upon a sentiment which
will find an echo in many a human heart, viz., that a birthday,
though from habit usually celebrated as a festal day, too often is
secretly a memorial of disappointment, and an anniversary of
sorrowful meaning, he speaks of the very day on which he is then
writing as his own birthday; and indeed what else could give any
propriety to the passage? Now the date of this letter is January 1,
1733. Surely Pope knew his own birthday better than those who have
adopted a random rumor without investigation.

But, whilst we are upon this subject, we must caution the readers
of Pope against too much reliance upon the chronological accuracy
of his editors. _All_ are scandalously careless; and generally
they are faithless. Many allusions are left unnoticed, which a very
little research would have illustrated; many facts are omitted,
even yet recoverable, which are essential to the just appreciation
of Pope's satirical blows; and dates are constantly misstated. Mr.
Roscoe is the most careful of Pope's editors; but even he is often
wrong. For instance, he has taken the trouble to write a note upon
Pope's humorous report to Lord Burlington of his Oxford journey on
horseback with Lintot; and this note involves a sheer
impossibility. The letter is undated, except as to the month; and
Mr. Roscoe directs the reader to supply 1714 as the true date,
which is a gross anachronism. For a ludicrous anecdote is there put
into Lintot's mouth, representing some angry critic, who had been
turning over Pope's Homer, with frequent _pshaws_, as having
been propitiated, by Mr. Lintot's dinner, into a gentler feeling
towards Pope, and, finally, by the mere effect of good cheer,
without an effort on the publisher's part, as coming to a
confession, that what he ate and what he had been reading were
equally excellent. But in the year 1714, _no part_ of Pope's
Homer was printed; June, 1715, was the month in which even the
subscribers first received the four earliest books of the Iliad;
and the public generally not until July. This we notice by way of
specimen; in itself, or as an error of mere negligence, it would be
of little importance; but it is a case to which Mr. Roscoe has
expressly applied his own conjectural skill, and solicited the
attention of his reader. We may judge, therefore, of his accuracy
in other cases which he did not think worthy of examination.

There is another instance, presenting itself in every page, of
ignorance concurring with laziness, on the part of all Pope's
editors, and with the effect not so properly of misleading as of
perplexing the general reader. Until Lord Macclesfield's bill for
altering the style in the very middle of the eighteenth century,
six years, therefore, after the death of Pope, there was a custom,
arising from the collision between the civil and ecclesiastical
year, of dating the whole period that lies between December 31st
and March 25th, (both days _exclusively,_) as belonging
indifferently to the past or the current year. This peculiarity had
nothing to do with the old and new style, but was, we believe,
redressed by the same act of Parliament. Now in Pope's time it was
absolutely necessary that a man should use this double date,
because else he was liable to be seriously misunderstood. For
instance, it was then always said that Charles I had suffered on
the 30th of January 1648/9, and why? Because, had the historian
fixed the date to what it really was, 1649, in that case all those
(a very numerous class) who supposed the year 1649 to commence on
Ladyday, or March 25, would have understood him to mean that this
event happened in what we _now_ call 1650, for not until 1650
was there any January which _they_ would have acknowledged as
belonging to 1649, since _they_ added to the year 1648 all the
days from January 1 to March 24. On the other hand, if he had said
simply that Charles suffered in 1648, he would have been truly
understood by the class we have just mentioned; but by another
class, who began the year from the 1st of January, he would have
been understood to mean what we _now_ mean by the year 1648.
There would have been a sheer difference, not of one, as the reader
might think at first sight, but of _two_ entire years in the
chronology of the two parties; which difference, and all
possibility of doubt, is met and remedied by the fractional date
1648/1649 for that date says in effect it was 1648 to you who do
not open the new year till Ladyday; it was 1649 to you who open it
from January 1. Thus much to explain the real sense of the case,
and it follows from this explanation, that no part of the year ever
_can_ have the fractional or double date except the interval
from January 1 to March 24 inclusively. And hence arises a
practical inference, viz, that the very same reason, and no other,
which formerly enjoined the use of the compound or fractional date,
viz, the prevention of a capital ambiguity or dilemma, now enjoins
its omission. For in our day, when the double opening of the year
is abolished, what sense is there in perplexing a reader by using a
fraction which offers him a choice without directing him how to
choose? In fact, it is the _denominator_ of the fraction, if
one may so style the lower figure, which expresses to a modern eye
the true year. Yet the editors of Pope, as well as many other
writers, have confused their readers by this double date; and why?
Simply because they were confused themselves. (period omitted
in original; but there is a double space following, suggesting one
should have been there) Many errors in literature of large extent
have arisen from this confusion. Thus it was said properly enough
in the contemporary accounts, for instance, in Lord Monmouth's
Memoirs that Queen Elizabeth died on the last day of the year 1602,
for she died on the 24th of March, and by a careful writer this
event would have been dated as March 24, 1602/1603. But many
writers, misled by the phrase above cited, have asserted that James
I. was proclaimed on the 1st of January, 1603. Heber, Bishop of
Calcutta, again, has ruined the entire chronology of the Life of
Jeremy Taylor, and unconsciously vitiated the facts, by not
understanding this fractional date. Mr Roscoe even too often leaves
his readers to collect the true year as they can. Thus, e. g. at p.
509, of his Life, he quotes from Pope's letter to Warburton, in
great vexation for the surreptitious publication of his letters in
Ireland, under date of February 4, 174-0/1. But why not have
printed it intelligibly as 1741? Incidents there are in most men's
lives, which are susceptible of a totally different moral value,
according as the are dated in one year or another That might be a
kind and honorable liberality in 1740, which would be a fraud upon
creditors in 1741. Exile to a distance of ten miles from London in
January, 1744 might argue, that a man was a turbulent citizen, and
suspected of treason, whilst the same exile in January, 1745, would
simply argue that, as a Papist, he had been included amongst his
whole body in a general measure of precaution to meet the public
dangers of that year. This explanation we have thought it right to
make both for its extensive application to all editions of Pope,
and on account of the serious blunders which have arisen from the
case when ill understood, and because, in a work upon education,
written jointly by Messrs Lant Carpenter and Shephard though
generally men of ability and learning, this whole point is
erroneously explained.


It is apparently with allusion to this part of his history, which
he would often have heard from the lips of his own father, that
Pope glances at his uncle's memory somewhat disrespectfully in his
prose letter to Lord Harvey.


Some accounts, however, say to Flanders, in which case, perhaps,
Antwerp or Brussels would have the honor of his conversion.


This however was not Twyford, according to an anonymous pamphleteer
of the times but a Catholic seminary in Devonshire Street that is,
in the Bloomsbury district of London, and the same author asserts,
that the scene of his disgrace as indeed seems probable beforehand,
was not the first but the last of his arenas as a schoolboy Which
indeed was first, and which last, is very unimportant; but with a
view to another point, which is not without interest, namely, as to
the motive of Pope for so bitter a lampoon as we must suppose it to
have been, as well as with regard to the topics which he used to
season it, this anonymous letter throws the only light which has
been offered; and strange it is, that no biographer of Pope should
have hunted upon the traces indicated by him. Any solution of
Pope's virulence, and of the master's bitter retaliation, even
_as_ a solution, is so far entitled to attention; apart from
which the mere straightforwardness of this man's story, and its
minute circumstantiality, weigh greatly in its favor. To our
thinking, he unfolds the whole affair in the simple explanation,
nowhere else to be found, that the master of the school, the mean
avenger of a childish insult by a bestial punishment, was a Mr.
Bromley, one of James II.'s Popish apostates; whilst the particular
statements which he makes with respect to himself and the young
Duke of Norfolk of 1700, as two schoolfellows of Pope at that time
and place, together with his voluntary promise to come forward in
person, and verify his account if it should happen to be
challenged,--are all, we repeat, so many presumptions in favor of
his veracity. "Mr. Alexander Pope," says he, "before he had been
four months at this school, or was able to construe Tully's
Offices, employed his muse in satirizing his master. It was a libel
of at least one hundred verses, which (a fellow-student having
given information of it) was found in his pocket; and the young
satirist was soundly whipped, and kept a prisoner to his room for
seven days; whereupon his father fetched him away, and I have been
told he never went to school more." This Bromley, it has been
ascertained, was the son of a country gentleman in Worcestershire,
and must have had considerable prospects at one time, since it
appears that he had been a gentleman-commoner at Christ's Church,
Oxford. There is an error in the punctuation of the letter we have
just quoted, which affects the sense in a way very important to the
question before us. Bromley is described as "one of King James's
converts in Oxford, some years _after_ that prince's
abdication;" but, if this were really so, he must have been a
conscientious convert. The latter clause should be connected with
what follows:" _Some years after that prince's abdication he kept
a little seminary_; "that is, when his mercenary views in
quitting his religion were effectually defeated, when the Boyne had
sealed his despair, he humbled himself into a petty schoolmaster.
These facts are interesting, because they suggest at once the
motive for the merciless punishment inflicted upon Pope. His own
father was a Papist like Bromley, but a sincere and honest Papist,
who had borne double taxes, legal stigmas, and public hatred for
conscience' sake. His contempt was habitually pointed at those who
tampered with religion for interested purposes. His son inherited
these upright feelings. And we may easily guess what would be the
bitter sting of any satire he would write on Bromley. Such a topic
was too true to be forgiven, and too keenly barbed by Bromley's
conscience. By the way, this writer, like ourselves, reads in this
juvenile adventure a prefiguration of Pope's satirical destiny.


That is, Sheffield, and, legally speaking, of Buckingham
_shire_. For he would not take the title of Buckingham, under
a fear that there was lurking somewhere or other a claim to that
title amongst the connections of the Villiers family. He was a
pompous grandee, who lived in uneasy splendor, and, as a writer,
most extravagantly overrated; accordingly, he is now forgotten.
Such was his vanity, and his ridiculous mania for allying himself
with royalty, that he first of all had the presumption to court the
Princess (afterwards Queen) Anne. Being rejected, he then offered
himself to the illegitimate daughter of James II., by the daughter
of Sir Charles Sedley. She was as ostentatious as himself, and
accepted him.


Meantime, the felicities of this translation are at times perfectly
astonishing; and it would be scarcely possible to express more
nervously or amply the words,

--"_jurisque secundi_
_Ambitus impatiens_, et summo dulcius unum
Stare loco,"----

than this child of fourteen has done in the following couplet,
which, most judiciously, by reversing the two clauses, gains the
power of fusing them into connection.

"And impotent desire to reign alone,
_That scorns the dull reversion of a throne_."

But the passage for which beyond all others we must make room, is a
series of eight lines, corresponding to six in the original; and
this for two reasons: First, Because Dr. Joseph Warton has
deliberately asserted, that in our whole literature, "we have
scarcely eight more beautiful lines than these;" and though few
readers will subscribe to so sweeping a judgment, yet certainly
these must be wonderful lines for a boy, which could challenge such
commendation from an experienced _polyhistor_ of infinite
reading. Secondly, Because the lines contain a night-scene. Now it
must be well known to many readers, that the famous night scene in
the Iliad, so familiar to every schoolboy, has been made the
subject, for the last thirty years, of severe, and, in many
respects, of just criticisms. This description will therefore have
a double interest by comparison, whilst, whatever may be thought of
either taken separately for itself, considered as a translation,
this which we now quote is as true to Statius as the other is
undoubtedly faithless to Homer

"_Jamque per emeriti surgens confima Phoebi
Titanis, late mundo subvecta silenti
Rorifera gelidum tenuaverat aera biga
Jam pecudes volucresque tacent. jam somnus avaris
Inserpit curis, pronusque per aera nutat,
Grata laboratae referens oblivia vitae_"
Theb I 336-341.

"'Twas now the time when Phoebus yields to night,
And rising Cynthia sheds her silver light,
Wide o'er the world in solemn pomp she drew
Her airy chariot hung with pearly dew
All birds and beasts he hush'd. Sleep steals away
The wild desires of men and toils of day,
And brings, descending through the silent air,
A sweet forgetfulness of human care."


One writer of that age says, in Cheapside, but probably this
difference arose from contemplating Lombard Street as a
prolongation of Cheapside.


Dr Johnson said, that all he could discover about Mr Cromwell, was
the fact of his going a hunting in a tie wig, but Gay has added
another fact to Dr Johnson's, by calling him "Honest _hatless_
Cromwell with red breeches" This epithet has puzzled the
commentators, but its import is obvious enough Cromwell, as we
learn from more than one person, was anxious to be considered a
fine gentleman, and devoted to women. Now it was long the custom in
that age for such persons, when walking with ladies, to carry their
hats in their hand. Louis XV. used to ride by the side of Madame de
Pompadour hat in hand.


It is strange indeed to find, not only that Pope had so frequently
kept rough copies of his own letters, and that he thought so well
of them as to repeat the same letter to different persons, as in
the case of the two lovers killed by lightning, or even to two
sisters, Martha and Therese Blount (who were sure to communicate
their letters,) but that even Swift had retained copies of _his.

NOTE 10.

The word _undertake_ had not yet lost the meaning of
Shakspeare's age, in which it was understood to describe those
cases where, the labor being of a miscellaneous kind, some person
in chief offered to overlook and conduct the whole, whether with or
without personal labor. The modern _undertaker,_ limited to
the care of funerals, was then but one of numerous cases to which
the term was applied.

NOTE 11.

We may illustrate this feature in the behavior of Pope to Savage.
When all else forsook him, when all beside pleaded the insults of
Savage for withdrawing their subscriptions, Pope sent his in
advance. And when Savage had insulted _him_ also, arrogantly
commanding him never "to presume to interfere or meddle in his
affairs," dignity and self-respect made Pope obedient to these
orders, except when there was an occasion of serving Savage. On his
second visit to Bristol (when he returned from Glamorganshire,)
Savage had been thrown into the jail of the city. One person only
interested himself for this hopeless profligate, and was causing an
inquiry to be made about his debts at the time Savage died. So much
Dr. Johnson admits; but he _forgets_ to mention the name of
this long suffering friend. It was Pope. Meantime, let us not be
supposed to believe the lying legend of Savage; he was doubtless no
son of Lady Macclesfield's, but an impostor, who would not be sent
to the tread-mill.


It sounds paradoxical, but is not so in a bad sense, to say, that
in every literature of large compass some authors will be found to
rest much of the interest which surrounds them on their essential
_non_-popularity. They are good for the very reason that they
are not in conformity to the current taste. They interest because
to the world they are _not_ interesting. They attract by means
of their repulsion. Not as though it could separately furnish a
reason for loving a book, that the majority of men had found it
repulsive. _Prima facie_, it must suggest some presumption
_against_ a book, that it has failed to gain public attention.
To have roused hostility indeed, to have kindled a feud against its
own principles or its temper, may happen to be a good sign.
_That_ argues power. Hatred may be promising. The deepest
revolutions of mind sometimes begin in hatred. But simply to have
left a reader unimpressed, is in itself a neutral result, from
which the inference is doubtful. Yet even _that_, even simple
failure to impress, may happen at times to be a result from
positive powers in a writer, from special originalities, such as
rarely reflect themselves in the mirror of the ordinary
understanding. It seems little to be perceived, how much the great
scriptural [Endnote: 1] idea of the _worldly_ and the
_unworldly_ is found to emerge in literature as well as in
life. In reality the very same combinations of moral qualities,
infinitely varied, which compose the harsh physiognomy of what we
call worldliness in the living groups of life, must unavoidably
present themselves in books. A library divides into sections of
worldly and unworldly, even as a crowd of men divides into that
same majority and minority. The world has an instinct for
recognizing its own; and recoils from certain qualities when
exemplified in books, with the same disgust or defective sympathy
as would have governed it in real life. From qualities for instance
of childlike simplicity, of shy profundity, or of inspired
self-communion, the world does and must turn away its face towards
grosser, bolder, more determined, or more intelligible expressions
of character and intellect; and not otherwise in literature, nor at
all less in literature, than it does in the realities of life.

Charles Lamb, if any ever _was_ is amongst the class here
contemplated; he, if any ever _has_, ranks amongst writers
whose works are destined to be forever unpopular, and yet forever
interesting; interesting, moreover, by means of those very
qualities which guarantee their non-popularity. The same qualities
which will be found forbidding to the worldly and the thoughtless,
which will be found insipid to many even amongst robust and
powerful minds, are exactly those which will continue to command a
select audience in every generation. The prose essays, under the
signature of _Elia_, form the most delightful section amongst
Lamb's works. They traverse a peculiar field of observation,
sequestered from general interest; and they are composed in a
spirit too delicate and unobtrusive to catch the ear of the noisy
crowd, clamoring for strong sensations. But this retiring delicacy
itself, the pensiveness chequered by gleams of the fanciful, and
the humor that is touched with cross-lights of pathos, together
with the picturesque quaintness of the objects casually described,
whether men, or things, or usages, and, in the rear of all this,
the constant recurrence to ancient recollections and to decaying
forms of household life, as things retiring before the tumult of
new and revolutionary generations; these traits in combination
communicate to the papers a grace and strength of originality which
nothing in any literature approaches, whether for degree or kind of
excellence, except the most felicitous papers of Addison, such as
those on Sir Roger de Coverly, and some others in the same vein of
composition. They resemble Addison's papers also in the diction,
which is natural and idiomatic, even to carelessness. They are
equally faithful to the truth of nature; and in this only they
differ remarkably--that the sketches of Elia reflect the stamp and
impress of the writer's own character, whereas in all those of
Addison the personal peculiarities of the delineator (though known
to the reader from the beginning through the account of the club)
are nearly quiescent. Now and then they are recalled into a
momentary notice, but they do not act, or at all modify his
pictures of Sir Roger or Will Wimble. _They_ are slightly and
amiably eccentric; but the Spectator him-self, in describing them,
takes the station of an ordinary observer.

Everywhere, indeed, in the writings of Lamb, and not merely in his
_Elia_, the character of the writer cooperates in an under
current to the effect of the thing written. To understand in the
fullest sense either the gaiety or the tenderness of a particular
passage, you must have some insight into the peculiar bias of the
writer's mind, whether native and original, or impressed gradually
by the accidents of situation; whether simply developed out of
predispositions by the action of life, or violently scorched into
the constitution by some fierce fever of calamity. There is in
modern literature a whole class of writers, though not a large one,
standing within the same category; some marked originality of
character in the writer become a coefficient with what he says to a
common result; you must sympathize with this _personality_ in
the author before you can appreciate the most significant parts of
his views. In most books the writer figures as a mere abstraction,
without sex or age or local station, whom the reader banishes from
his thoughts. What is written seems to proceed from a blank
intellect, not from a man clothed with fleshly peculiarities and
differences. These peculiarities and differences neither do, nor
(generally speaking)_could_ intermingle with the texture of
the thoughts so as to modify their force or their direction. In
such books, and they form the vast majority, there is nothing to be
found or to be looked for beyond the direct objective. (_Sit
venia verbo_!) But, in a small section of books, the objective
in the thought becomes confluent with the subjective in the
thinker--the two forces unite for a joint product; and fully to
enjoy that product, or fully to apprehend either element, both must
be known. It is singular, and worth inquiring into, for the reason
that the Greek and Roman literature had no such books. Timon of
Athens, or Diogenes, one may conceive qualified for this mode of
authorship, had journalism existed to rouse them in those days;
their "articles" would no doubt have been fearfully caustic. But,
as _they_ failed to produce anything, and Lucian in an after
age is scarcely characteristic enough for the purpose, perhaps we
may pronounce Rabelais and Montaigne the earliest of writers in the
class described. In the century following _theirs_, came Sir
Thomas Brown, and immediately after _him_ La Fontaine. Then
came Swift, Sterne, with others less distinguished; in Germany,
Hippel, the friend of Kant, Harmann, the obscure; and the greatest
of the whole body--John Paul Fr. Richter. In _him_, from the
strength and determinateness of his nature as well as from the
great extent of his writing, the philosophy of this interaction
between the author as a human agency and his theme as an
intellectual reagency, might best be studied. From _him_ might
be derived the largest number of cases, illustrating boldly this
absorption of the universal into the concrete--of the pure
intellect into the human nature of the author. But nowhere could
illustrations be found more interesting--shy, delicate,
evanescent--shy as lightning, delicate and evanescent as the
colored pencillings on a frosty night from the northern lights,
than in the better parts of Lamb.

To appreciate Lamb, therefore, it is requisite that his character
and temperament should be understood in their coyest and most
wayward features. A capital defect it would be if these could not
be gathered silently from Lamb's works themselves. It would be a
fatal mode of dependency upon an alien and separable accident if
they needed an external commentary. But they do _not_. The
syllables lurk up and down the writings of Lamb which decipher his
eccentric nature. His character lies there dispersed in anagram;
and to any attentive reader the regathering and restoration of the
total word from its scattered parts is inevitable without an
effort. Still it is always a satisfaction in knowing a result, to
know also its _why_ and _how_; and in so far as every
character is likely to be modified by the particular experience,
sad or joyous, through which the life has travelled, it is a good
contribution towards the knowledge of that resulting character as a
whole to have a sketch of that particular experience. What trials
did it impose? What energies did it task? What temptations did it
unfold? These calls upon the moral powers, which in music so
stormy, many a life is doomed to hear, how were they faced? The
character in a capital degree moulds oftentimes the life, but the
life _always_ in a subordinate degree moulds the character.
And the character being in this case of Lamb so much of a key to
the writings, it becomes important that the life should be traced,
however briefly, as a key to the character.

That is _one_ reason for detaining the reader with some slight
record of Lamb's career. Such a record by preference and of right
belongs to a case where the intellectual display, which is the sole
ground of any public interest at all in the man, has been intensely
modified by the _humanities_ and moral _personalities_
distinguishing the subject. We read a Physiology, and need no
information as to the life and conversation of its author; a
meditative poem becomes far better understood by the light of such
information; but a work of genial and at the same time eccentric
sentiment, wandering upon untrodden paths, is barely intelligible
without it. There is a good reason for arresting judgment on the
writer, that the court may receive evidence on the life of the man.
But there is another reason, and, in any other place, a better;
which reason lies in the extraordinary value of the life considered
separately for itself. Logically, it is not allowable to say that
_here;_ and, considering the principal purpose of this paper,
any possible _independent_ value of the life must rank as a
better reason for reporting it. Since, in a case where the original
object is professedly to estimate the writings of a man, whatever
promises to further that object must, merely by that tendency,
have, in relation to that place, a momentary advantage which it
would lose if valued upon a more abstract scale. Liberated from
this casual office of throwing light upon a book--raised to its
grander station of a solemn deposition to the moral capacities of
man in conflict with calamity--viewed as a return made into the
chanceries of heaven--upon an issue directed from that court to try
the amount of power lodged in a poor desolate pair of human
creatures for facing the very anarchy of storms--this obscure life
of the two Lambs, brother and sister, (for the two lives were one
life,) rises into a grandeur that is not paralleled once in a

Rich, indeed, in moral instruction was the life of Charles Lamb;
and perhaps in one chief result it offers to the thoughtful
observer a lesson of consolation that is awful, and of hope that
ought to be immortal, viz., in the record which it furnishes, that
by meekness of submission, and by earnest conflict with evil, in
the spirit of cheerfulness, it is possible ultimately to disarm or
to blunt the very heaviest of curses--even the curse of lunacy. Had
it been whispered, in hours of infancy, to Lamb, by the angel who
stood by his cradle--"Thou, and the sister that walks by ten years
before thee, shall be through life, each to each, the solitary
fountain of comfort; and except it be from this fountain of mutual
love, except it be as brother and sister, ye shall not taste the
cup of peace on earth!"--here, if there was sorrow in reversion,
there was also consolation.

But what funeral swamps would have instantly ingulfed this
consolation, had some meddling fiend prolonged the revelation, and,
holding up the curtain from the sad future a little longer, had
said scornfully--"Peace on earth! Peace for you two, Charles and
Mary Lamb! What peace is possible under the curse which even now
is gathering against your heads? Is there peace on earth for the
lunatic--peace for the parenticide--peace for the girl that,
without warning, and without time granted for a penitential cry to
heaven, sends her mother to the last audit?" And then, without
treachery, speaking bare truth, this prophet of woe might have
added--"Thou also, thyself, Charles Lamb, thou in thy proper
person, shalt enter the skirts of this dreadful hail-storm; even
thou shalt taste the secrets of lunacy, and enter as a captive its
house of bondage; whilst over thy sister the accursed scorpion
shall hang suspended through life, like Death hanging over the beds
of hospitals, striking at times, but more often threatening to
strike; or withdrawing its instant menaces only to lay bare her
mind more bitterly to the persecutions of a haunted memory!"
Considering the nature of the calamity, in the first place;
considering, in the second place, its life-long duration; and, in
the last place, considering the quality of the resistance by which
it was met, and under what circumstances of humble resources in
money or friends--we have come to the deliberate judgment, that the
whole range of history scarcely presents a more affecting spectacle
of perpetual sorrow, humiliation, or conflict, and that was
supported to the end, (that is, through forty years,) with more
resignation, or with more absolute victory.

Charles Lamb was born in February of the year 1775. His immediate
descent was humble; for his father, though on one particular
occasion civilly described as a "scrivener," was in reality a
domestic servant to Mr. Salt--a bencher (and therefore a barrister
of some standing) in the Inner Temple. John Lamb the father
belonged by birth to Lincoln; from which city, being transferred to
London whilst yet a boy, he entered the service of Mr. Salt without
delay; and apparently from this period throughout his life
continued in this good man's household to support the honorable
relation of a Roman client to his _patronus_, much more than
that of a mercenary servant to a transient and capricious master.
The terms on which he seems to live with the family of the Lambs,
argue a kindness and a liberality of nature on both sides. John
Lamb recommended himself as an attendant by the versatility of his
accomplishments; and Mr. Salt, being a widower without children,
which means in effect an old bachelor, naturally valued that
encyclopaedic range of dexterity which made his house independent
of external aid for every mode of service. To kill one's own mutton
is but an operose way of arriving at a dinner, and often a more
costly way; whereas to combine one's own carpenter, locksmith,
hair-dresser, groom, &c., all in one man's person,--to have a
Robinson Crusoe, up to all emergencies of life, always in waiting,
--is a luxury of the highest class for one who values his ease.

A consultation is held more freely with a man familiar to one's
eye, and more profitably with a man aware of one's peculiar habits.
And another advantage from such an arrangement is, that one gets
any little alteration or repair executed on the spot. To hear is to
obey, and by an inversion of Pope's rule--

"One always _is_, and never _to be_, blest."

People of one sole accomplishment, like the _homo unius libri,
_ are usually within that narrow circle disagreeably perfect,
and therefore apt to be arrogant. People who can do all things,
usually do every one of them ill; and living in a constant effort
to deny this too palpable fact, they become irritably vain. But Mr.
Lamb the elder seems to have been bent on perfection. He did all
things; he did them all well; and yet was neither gloomily
arrogant, nor testily vain. And being conscious apparently that all
mechanic excellencies tend to illiberal results, unless
counteracted by perpetual sacrifices to the muses, he went so far
as to cultivate poetry; he even printed his poems, and were we
possessed of a copy, (which we are _not_, nor probably is the
Vatican,) it would give us pleasure at this point to digress for a
moment, and to cut them up, purely on considerations of respect to
the author's memory. It is hardly to be supposed that they did not
really merit castigation; and we should best show the sincerity of
our respect for Mr. Lamb, senior, in all those cases where we
_could_ conscientiously profess respect by an unlimited
application of the knout in the cases where we could _not_.

The whole family of the Lambs seem to have won from Mr. Salt the
consideration which is granted to humble friends; and from
acquaintances nearer to their own standing, to have won a
tenderness of esteem such as is granted to decayed gentry. Yet
naturally, the social rank of the parents, as people still living,
must have operated disadvantageously for the children. It is hard,
even for the practised philosopher, to distinguish aristocratic
graces of manner, and capacities of delicate feeling, in people
whose very hearth and dress bear witness to the servile humility of
their station. Yet such distinctions as wild gifts of nature,
timidly and half-unconsciously asserted themselves in the
unpretending Lambs. Already in _their_ favor there existed a
silent privilege analogous to the famous one of Lord Kinsale. He,
by special grant from the crown, is allowed, when standing before
the king, to forget that he is not himself a king; the bearer of
that peerage, through all generations, has the privilege of wearing
his hat in the royal presence. By a general though tacit concession
of the same nature, the rising generation of the Lambs, John and
Charles, the two sons, and Mary Lamb, the only daughter, were
permitted to forget that their grandmother had been a housekeeper
for sixty years, and that their father had worn a livery. Charles
Lamb, individually, was so entirely humble, and so careless of
social distinctions, that he has taken pleasure in recurring to
these very facts in the family records amongst the most genial of
his Elia recollections. He only continued to remember, without
shame, and with a peculiar tenderness, these badges of plebeian
rank, when everybody else, amongst the few survivors that could
have known of their existence, had long dismissed them from their

Probably, through Mr. Salt's interest, Charles Lamb, in the autumn
of 1782, when he wanted something more than four months of
completing his eighth year, received a presentation to the
magnificent school of Christ's Hospital. The late Dr. Arnold, when
contrasting the school of his own boyish experience, Winchester,
with Rugby, the school confided to his management, found nothing so
much to regret in the circumstances of the latter as its forlorn
condition with respect to historical traditions. Wherever these
were wanting, and supposing the school of sufficient magnitude, it
occurred to Dr. Arnold that something of a compensatory effect for
impressing the imagination might be obtained by connecting the
school with the nation through the link of annual prizes issuing
from the exchequer. An official basis of national patronage might
prove a substitute for an antiquarian or ancestral basis. Happily
for the great educational foundations of London, none of them is in
the naked condition of Rugby. Westminster, St. Paul's, Merchant
Tailors', the Charter-House, &c., are all crowned with historical
recollections; and Christ's Hospital, besides the original honors
of its foundation, so fitted to a consecrated place in a youthful
imagination--an asylum for boy-students, provided by a
boy-king--innocent, religious, prematurely wise, and prematurely
called away from earth--has also a mode of perpetual connection
with the state. It enjoys, therefore, _both_ of Dr. Arnold's
advantages. Indeed, all the great foundation schools of London,
bearing in their very codes of organization the impress of a double
function--viz., the conservation of sound learning and of pure
religion--wear something of a monastic or cloisteral character in
their aspect and usages, which is peculiarly impressive, and even
pathetic, amidst the uproars of a capital the most colossal and
tumultuous upon earth.

Here Lamb remained until his fifteenth year, which year threw him
on the world, and brought him alongside the golden dawn of the
French Revolution. Here he learned a little elementary Greek, and
of Latin more than a little; for the Latin notes to Mr. Cary (of
Dante celebrity) though brief, are sufficient to reveal a true
sense of what is graceful and idiomatic in Latinity. _We_ say
this, who have studied that subject more than most men. It is not
that Lamb would have found it an easy task to compose a long paper
in Latin--nobody _can,_ find it easy to do what he has no
motive for habitually practising; but a single sentence of Latin
wearing the secret countersign of the "sweet Roman hand,"
ascertains sufficiently that, in reading Latin classics, a man
feels and comprehends their peculiar force or beauty. That is
enough. It is requisite to a man's expansion of mind that he should
make acquaintance with a literature so radically differing from all
modern literatures as is the Latin. It is _not_ requisite that
he should practise Latin composition. Here, therefore, Lamb
obtained in sufficient perfection one priceless accomplishment,
which even singly throws a graceful air of liberality over all the
rest of a man's attainments: having rarely any pecuniary value, it
challenges the more attention to its intellectual value. Here also
Lamb commenced the friendships of his life; and, of all which he
formed, he lost none. Here it was, as the consummation and crown of
his advantages from the time-honored hospital, that he came to know
"Poor S. T. C." [Greek text: ton thaumasiotaton.]

Until 1796, it is probable that he lost sight of Coleridge, who was
then occupied with Cambridge, having been transferred thither as a
"Grecian" from the house of Christ Church. That year, 1796, was a
year of change and fearful calamity for Charles Lamb. On that year
revolved the wheels of his after-life. During the three years
succeeding to his school days, he had held a clerkship in the South
Sea House. In 1795, he was transferred to the India House. As a
junior clerk, he could not receive more than a slender salary; but
even this was important to the support of his parents and sister.
They lived together in lodgings near Holborn; and in the spring of
1796, Miss Lamb, (having previously shown signs of lunacy at
intervals,) in a sudden paroxysm of her disease, seized a knife
from the dinner table, and stabbed her mother, who died upon the
spot. A coroner's inquest easily ascertained the nature of a case
which was transparent in all its circumstances, and never for a
moment indecisive as regarded the medical symptoms. The poor young
lady was transferred to the establishment for lunatics at Hoxton.
She soon recovered, we believe; but her relapses were as sudden as
her recoveries, and she continued through life to revisit, for
periods of uncertain seclusion, this house of woe. This calamity of
his fireside, followed soon after by the death of his father, who
had for some time been in a state of imbecility, determined the
future destiny of Lamb. Apprehending, with the perfect grief of
perfect love, that his sister's fate was sealed for life--viewing
her as his own greatest benefactress, which she really _had_
been through her advantage by ten years of age--yielding with
impassioned readiness to the depth of his fraternal affection, what
at any rate he would have yielded to the sanctities of duty as
interpreted by his own conscience--he resolved forever to resign
all thoughts of marriage with a young lady whom he loved, forever
to abandon all ambitious prospects that might have tempted him into
uncertainties, humbly to content himself with the
_certainties_ of his Indian clerkship, to dedicate himself for
the future to the care of his desolate and prostrate sister, and to
leave the rest to God. These sacrifices he made in no hurry or
tumult, but deliberately, and in religious tranquillity. These
sacrifices were accepted in heaven--and even on this earth they
_had_ their reward. She, for whom he gave up all, in turn gave
up all for _him_. She devoted herself to his comfort. Many
times she returned to the lunatic establishment, but many times she
was restored to illuminate the household hearth for _him_; and
of the happiness which for forty years and more he had, no hour
seemed true that was not derived from her. Hence forwards,
therefore, until he was emancipated by the noble generosity of the
East India Directors, Lamb's time, for nine-and-twenty years, was
given to the India House.

"_O fortunati nimium, sua si bona narint,_" is applicable to
more people than "_agricolae_." Clerks of the India House are
as blind to their own advantages as the blindest of ploughmen. Lamb
was summoned, it is true, through the larger and more genial
section of his life, to the drudgery of a copying clerk--making
confidential entries into mighty folios, on the subject of calicoes
and muslins. By this means, whether he would or not, he became
gradually the author of a great "serial" work, in a frightful
number of volumes, on as dry a department of literature as the
children of the great desert could have suggested. Nobody, he must
have felt, was ever likely to study this great work of his, not
even Dr. Dryasdust. He had written in vain, which is not pleasant
to know. There would be no second edition called for by a
discerning public in Leadenhall Street; not a chance of that. And
consequently the _opera omnia_ of Lamb, drawn up in a hideous
battalion, at the cost of labor so enormous, would be known only to
certain families of spiders in one generation, and of rats in the
next. Such a labor of Sysyphus,--the rolling up a ponderous stone
to the summit of a hill only that it might roll back again by the
gravitation of its own dulness,--seems a bad employment for a man
of genius in his meridian energies. And yet, perhaps not. Perhaps
the collective wisdom of Europe could not have devised for Lamb a
more favorable condition of toil than this very India House
clerkship. His works (his Leadenhall street works) were certainly
not read; popular they _could_ not be, for they were not read
by anybody; but then, to balance _that,_ they were not
reviewed. His folios were of that order, which (in Cowper's words)
"not even critics criticise." Is _that_ nothing? Is it no
happiness to escape the hands of scoundrel reviewers? Many of us
escape being _read;_ the worshipful reviewer does not find
time to read a line of us; but we do not for that reason escape
being criticised, "shown up," and martyred. The list of
_errata_ again, committed by Lamb, was probably of a magnitude
to alarm any possible compositor; and yet these _errata_ will
never be known to mankind. They are dead and buried. They have been
cut off prematurely; and for any effect upon their generation,
might as well never have existed. Then the returns, in a pecuniary
sense, from these folios--how important were _they!_ It is not
common, certainly, to write folios; but neither is it common to
draw a steady income of from 300 _l._ to 400 _l._ per
annum from volumes of any size. This will be admitted; but would it
not have been better to draw the income without the toil? Doubtless
it would always be more agreeable to have the rose without the
thorn. But in the case before us, taken with all its circumstances,
we deny that the toil is truly typified as a thorn; so far from
being a thorn in Lamb's daily life, on the contrary, it was a
second rose ingrafted upon the original rose of the income, that he
had to earn it by a moderate but continued exertion. Holidays, in a
national establishment so great as the India House, and in our too
fervid period, naturally could not be frequent; yet all great
English corporations are gracious masters, and indulgences of this
nature could be obtained on a special application. Not to count
upon these accidents of favor, we find that the regular toil of
those in Lamb's situation, began at ten in the morning and ended as
the clock struck four in the afternoon. Six hours composed the
daily contribution of labor, that is precisely one fourth part of
the total day. Only that, as Sunday was exempted, the rigorous
expression of the quota was one fourth of six-sevenths, which makes
sixty twenty-eighths and not six twenty-fourths of the total time.
Less toil than this would hardly have availed to deepen the sense
of value in that large part of the time still remaining disposable.
Had there been any resumption whatever of labor in the evening,
though but for half an hour, that one encroachment upon the broad
continuous area of the eighteen free hours would have killed the
tranquillity of the whole day, by _sowing_ it (so to speak)
with intermitting anxieties--anxieties that, like tides, would
still be rising and falling. Whereas now, at the early hour of
four, when daylight is yet lingering in the air, even at the dead
of winter, in the latitude of London, and when the _enjoying_
section of the day is barely commencing, everything is left which a
man would care to retain. A mere dilettante or amateur student,
having no mercenary interest concerned, would, upon a refinement of
luxury--would, upon choice, give up so much time to study, were it
only to sharpen the value of what remained for pleasure. And thus
the only difference between the scheme of the India House
distributing his time for Lamb, and the scheme of a wise voluptuary
distributing his time for himself, lay, not in the _amount_ of
time deducted from enjoyment, but in the particular mode of
appropriating that deduction. An _intellectual_ appropriation
of the time, though casually fatiguing, must have pleasures of its
own; pleasures denied to a task so mechanic and so monotonous as
that of reiterating endless records of sales or consignments not
_essentially_ varying from each other. True; it is pleasanter
to pursue an intellectual study than to make entries in a ledger.
But even an intellectual toil is toil; few people can support it
for more than six hours in a day. And the only question, therefore,
after all, is, at what period of the day a man would prefer taking
this pleasure of study. Now, upon that point, as regards the case
of Lamb, there is no opening for doubt. He, amongst his _Popular
Fallacies_, admirably illustrates the necessity of evening and
artificial lights to the prosperity of studies. After exposing,
with the perfection of fun, the savage unsociality of those elder
ancestors who lived (if life it was) before lamp-light was
invented, showing that "jokes came in with candles," since "what
repartees could have passed" when people were "grumbling at one
another in the dark," and "when you must have felt about for a
smile, and handled a neighbor's cheek to be sure that he understood
it?"--he goes on to say," This accounts for the seriousness of the
elder poetry, "viz., because they had no candle-light. Even eating
he objects to as a very imperfect thing in the dark; you are not
convinced that a dish tastes as it should do by the promise of its
name, if you dine in the twilight without candles. Seeing is
believing." The senses absolutely give and take reciprocally. "The
sight guarantees the taste. For instance," Can you tell pork from
veal in the dark, or distinguish Sherries from pure Malaga? "To all
enjoyments whatsoever candles are indispensable as an adjunct; but,
as to _reading_," there is, "says Lamb," absolutely no such
thing but by a candle. We have tried the affectation of a book at
noon-day in gardens, but it was labor thrown away. It is a mockery,
all that is reported of the influential Phoebus. No true poem ever
owed its birth to the sun's light. The mild internal light, that
reveals the fine shapings of poetry, like fires on the domestic
hearth, goes out in the sunshine. Milton's morning hymn in
Paradise, we would hold a good wager, was penned at midnight; and
Taylor's rich description of a sunrise smells decidedly of the
taper. "This view of evening and candle-light as involved in
literature may seem no more than a pleasant extravaganza; and no
doubt it is in the nature of such gayeties to travel a little into
exaggeration, but substantially it is certain that Lamb's feelings
pointed habitually in the direction here indicated. His literary
studies, whether taking the color of tasks or diversions, courted
the aid of evening, which, by means of physical weariness, produces
a more luxurious state of repose than belong to the labor hours of
day, and courted the aid of lamp-light, which, as Lord Bacon
remarked, gives a gorgeousness to human pomps and pleasures, such
as would be vainly sought from the homeliness of day-light. The
hours, therefore, which were withdrawn from his own control by the
India House, happened to be exactly that part of the day which Lamb
least valued, and could least have turned to account.

The account given of Lamb's friends, of those whom he endeavored to
love because he admired them, or to esteem intellectually because
he loved them personally, is too much colored for general
acquiescence by Sergeant Talfourd's own early prepossessions. It is
natural that an intellectual man like the Sergeant, personally made
known in youth to people, whom from childhood he had regarded as
powers in the ideal world, and in some instances as representing
the eternities of human speculation, since their names had perhaps
dawned upon his mind in concurrence with the very earliest
suggestion of topics which they had treated, should overrate their
intrinsic grandeur. Hazlitt accordingly is styled "The great
thinker." But had he been such potentially, there was an absolute
bar to his achievement of that station in act and consummation. No
man _can_ be a great thinker in our days upon large and
elaborate questions without being also a great student. To think
profoundly, it is indispensable that a man should have read down to
his own starting point, and have read as a collating student to the
particular stage at which he himself takes up the subject. At this
moment, for instance, how could geology be treated otherwise than
childishly by one who should rely upon the encyclopaedias of 1800?
or comparative physiology by the most ingenious of men unacquainted
with Marshall Hall, and with the apocalyptic glimpses of secrets
unfolding under the hands of Professor Owen? In such a condition of
undisciplined thinking, the ablest man thinks to no purpose. He
lingers upon parts of the inquiry that have lost the importance
which once they had, under imperfect charts of the subject; he
wastes his strength upon problems that have become obsolete; he
loses his way in paths that are not in the line of direction upon
which the improved speculation is moving; or he gives narrow
conjectural solutions of difficulties that have long since received
sure and comprehensive ones. It is as if a man should in these days
attempt to colonize, and yet, through inertia or through ignorance,
should leave behind him all modern resources of chemistry, of
chemical agriculture, or of steam-power. Hazlitt had read nothing.
Unacquainted with Grecian philosophy, with Scholastic philosophy,
and with the recomposition of these philosophies in the looms of
Germany during the last sixty and odd years, trusting merely to the
unrestrained instincts of keen mother-wit--whence should Hazlitt
have had the materials for great thinking? It is through the
collation of many abortive voyages to polar regions that a man
gains his first chance of entering the polar basin, or of running
ahead on the true line of approach to it. The very reason for
Hazlitt's defect in eloquence as a lecturer, is sufficient also as
a reason why he could not have been a comprehensive thinker. "He
was not eloquent," says the Sergeant, "in the true sense of the
term." But why? Because it seems "his thoughts were too weighty to
be moved along by the shallow stream of feeling which an evening's
excitement can rouse,"--an explanation which leaves us in doubt
whether Hazlitt forfeited his chance of eloquence by accommodating
himself to this evening's excitement, or by gloomily resisting it.
Our own explanation is different, Hazlitt was not eloquent, because
he was discontinuous. No man can he eloquent whose thoughts are
abrupt, insulated, capricious, and (to borrow an impressive word
from Coleridge) non-sequacious. Eloquence resides not in separate
or fractional ideas, but in the relations of manifold ideas, and in
the mode of their evolution from each other. It is not indeed
enough that the ideas should be many, and their relations coherent;
the main condition lies in the key of the evolution, in the
_law_ of the succession. The elements are nothing without the
atmosphere that moulds, and the dynamic forces that combine. Now
Hazlitt's brilliancy is seen chiefly in separate splinterings of
phrase or image which throw upon the eye a vitreous scintillation
for a moment, but spread no deep suffusions of color, and
distribute no masses of mighty shadow. A flash, a solitary flash,
and all is gone. Rhetoric, according to its quality, stands in many
degrees of relation to the permanencies of truth; and all rhetoric,
like all flesh, is partly unreal, and the glory of both is
fleeting. Even the mighty rhetoric of Sir Thomas Brown, or Jeremy
Taylor, to whom only it has been granted to open the trumpet-stop
on that great organ of passion, oftentimes leaves behind it the
sense of sadness which belongs to beautiful apparitions starting
out of darkness upon the morbid eye, only to be reclaimed by
darkness in the instant of their birth, or which belongs to
pageantries in the clouds. But if all rhetoric is a mode of
pyrotechny, and all pyrotechnics are by necessity fugacious, yet
even in these frail pomps, there are many degrees of frailty. Some
fireworks require an hour's duration for the expansion of their
glory; others, as if formed from fulminating powder, expire in the
very act of birth. Precisely on that scale of duration and of power
stand the glitterings of rhetoric that are not worked into the
texture, but washed on from the outside. Hazlitt's thoughts were of
the same fractured and discontinuous order as his illustrative
images--seldom or never self-diffusive; and _that_ is a
sufficient argument that he had never cultivated philosophic

Not, however, to conceal any part of the truth, we are bound to
acknowledge that Lamb thought otherwise on this point, manifesting
what seemed to us an extravagant admiration of Hazlitt, and perhaps
even in part for that very glitter which we are denouncing--at
least he did so in a conversation with ourselves. But, on the other
hand, as this conversation travelled a little into the tone of a
disputation, and _our_ frost on this point might seem to
justify some undue fervor by way of balance, it is very possible
that Lamb did not speak his absolute and most dispassionate
judgment. And yet again, if he _did_, may we, with all
reverence for Lamb's exquisite genius, have permission to say--that
his own constitution of intellect sinned by this very habit of
discontinuity. It was a habit of mind not unlikely to be cherished
by his habits of life. Amongst these habits was the excess of his
social kindness. He scorned so much to deny his company and his
redundant hospitality to any man who manifested a wish for either
by calling upon him, that he almost seemed to think it a
criminality in himself if, by accident, he really _was_ from
home on your visit, rather than by possibility a negligence in you,
that had not forewarned him of your intention. All his life, from
this and other causes, he must have read in the spirit of one
liable to sudden interruption; like a dragoon, in fact, reading
with one foot in the stirrup, when expecting momentarily a summons
to mount for action. In such situations, reading by snatches, and
by intervals of precarious leisure, people form the habit of
seeking and unduly valuing condensations of the meaning, where in
reality the truth suffers by this short-hand exhibition, or else
they demand too vivid illustrations of the meaning. Lord
Chesterfield himself, so brilliant a man by nature, already
therefore making a morbid estimate of brilliancy, and so hurried
throughout his life as a public man, read under this double
coercion for craving instantaneous effects. At one period, his only
time for reading was in the morning, whilst under the hands of his
hair-dresser; compelled to take the hastiest of flying shots at his
author, naturally he demanded a very conspicuous mark to fire at.
But the author could not, in so brief a space, be always sure to
crowd any very prominent objects on the eye, unless by being
audaciously oracular and peremptory as regarded the sentiment, or
flashy in excess as regarded its expression. "Come now, my friend,"
was Lord Chesterfield's morning adjuration to his author;" come
now, cut it short--don't prose--don't hum and haw. "The author had
doubtless no ambition to enter his name on the honorable and
ancient roll of gentlemen prosers; probably he conceived himself
not at all tainted with the asthmatic infirmity of humming and
hawing; but, as to "cutting it short," how could he be sure of
meeting his lordship's expectations in that point, unless by
dismissing the limitations that might be requisite to fit the idea
for use, or the adjuncts that might be requisite to integrate its
truth, or the final consequences that might involve some deep
_arriere pensee_, which, coming last in the succession, might
oftentimes be calculated to lie deepest on the mind. To be lawfully
and usefully brilliant after this rapid fashion, a man must come
forward as a refresher of old truths, where _his_ suppressions
are supplied by the reader's memory; not as an expounder of new
truths, where oftentimes a dislocated fraction of the true is more
dangerous than the false itself.

To read therefore habitually, by hurried instalments, has this bad
tendency--that it is likely to found a taste for modes of
composition too artificially irritating, and to disturb the
equilibrium of the judgment in relation to the colorings of style.
Lamb, however, whose constitution of mind was even ideally sound in
reference to the natural, the simple, the genuine, might seem of
all men least liable to a taint in this direction. And undoubtedly
he _was_ so, as regarded those modes of beauty which nature
had specially qualified him for apprehending. Else, and in relation
to other modes of beauty, where his sense of the true, and of its
distinction from the spurious, had been an acquired sense, it is
impossible for us to hide from ourselves--that not through habits
only, not through stress of injurious accidents only, but by
original structure and temperament of mind, Lamb had a bias towards
those very defects on which rested the startling characteristics of
style which we have been noticing. He himself, we fear, not bribed
by indulgent feelings to another, not moved by friendship, but by
native tendency, shrank from the continuous, from the sustained,
from the elaborate.

The elaborate, indeed, without which much truth and beauty must
perish in germ, was by name the object of his invectives. The
instances are many, in his own beautiful essays, where he literally
collapses, literally sinks away from openings suddenly offering
themselves to flights of pathos or solemnity in direct prosecution
of his own theme. On any such summons, where an ascending impulse,
and an untired pinion were required, he _refuses_ himself (to
use military language) invariably. The least observing reader of
_Elia_ cannot have failed to notice that the most felicitous
passages always accomplish their circuit in a few sentences. The
gyration within which his sentiment wheels, no matter of what kind
it may be, is always the shortest possible. It does not prolong
itself, and it does not repeat itself. But in fact, other features
in Lamb's mind would have argued this feature by analogy, had we by
accident been left unaware of it directly. It is not by chance, or
without a deep ground in his nature, _common_ to all his
qualities, both affirmative and negative, that Lamb had an
insensibility to music more absolute than can have been often
shared by any human creature, or perhaps than was ever before
acknowledged so candidly. The sense of music,--as a pleasurable
sense, or as any sense at all other than of certain unmeaning and
impertinent differences in respect to high and low, sharp or flat,
--was utterly obliterated as with a sponge by nature herself from
Lamb's organization. It was a corollary, from the same large
_substratum_ in his nature, that Lamb had no sense of the
rhythmical in prose composition. Rhythmus, or pomp of cadence, or
sonorous ascent of clauses, in the structure of sentences, were
effects of art as much thrown away upon him as the voice of the
charmer upon the deaf adder. We ourselves, occupying the very
station of polar opposition to that of Lamb, being as morbidly,
perhaps, in the one excess as he in the other, naturally detected
this omission in Lamb's nature at an early stage of our
acquaintance. Not the fabled Regulus, with his eyelids torn away,
and his uncurtained eye-balls exposed to the noon-tide glare of a
Carthaginian sun, could have shrieked with more anguish of recoil
from torture than we from certain sentences and periods in which
Lamb perceived no fault at all. _Pomp_, in our apprehension,
was an idea of two categories; the pompous might be spurious, but
it might also be genuine. It is well to love the simple--_we_
love it; nor is there any opposition at all between _that_ and
the very glory of pomp. But, as we once put the case to Lamb, if,
as a musician, as the leader of a mighty orchestra, you had this
theme offered to you--"Belshazzar the king gave a great feast to a
thousand of his lords"--or this," And on a certain day, Marcus
Cicero stood up, and in a set speech rendered solemn thanks to
Caius Caesar for Quintus Ligarius pardoned, and for Marcus
Marcellus restored "--surely no man would deny that, in such a
case, simplicity, though in a passive sense not lawfully absent,
must stand aside as totally insufficient for the positive part.
Simplicity might guide, even here, but could not furnish the power;
a rudder it might be, but not an oar or a sail. This, Lamb was
ready to allow; as an intellectual _quiddity_, he recognized
pomp in the character of a privileged thing; he was obliged to do
so; for take away from great ceremonial festivals, such as the
solemn rendering of thanks, the celebration of national
anniversaries, the commemoration of public benefactors, &c., the
element of pomp, and you take away their very meaning and life;
but, whilst allowing a place for it in the rubric of the logician,
it is certain that, _sensuously_, Lamb would not have
sympathized with it, nor have _felt_ its justification in any
concrete instance. We find a difficulty in pursuing this subject,
without greatly exceeding our limits. We pause, therefore, and add
only this one suggestion as partly explanatory of the case. Lamb
had the dramatic intellect and taste, perhaps in perfection; of the
Epic, he had none at all. Here, as happens sometimes to men of
genius preternaturally endowed in one direction, he might be
considered as almost starved. A favorite of nature, so eminent in
some directions, by what right could he complain that her bounties
were not indiscriminate? From this defect in his nature it arose,
that, except by culture and by reflection, Lamb had no genial
appreciation of Milton. The solemn planetary wheelings of the
Paradise Lost were not to his taste. What he _did_ comprehend,
were the motions like those of lightning, the fierce angular
coruscations of that wild agency which comes forward so vividly in
the sudden _peripetteia_, in the revolutionary catastrophe,
and in the tumultuous conflicts, through persons or through
situations, of the tragic drama.

There is another vice in Mr. Hazlitt's mode of composition, viz.,
the habit of trite quotation, too common to have challenged much
notice, were it not for these reasons: 1st, That Sergeant Talfourd
speaks of it in equivocal terms, as a fault perhaps, but as a
"felicitous" fault, "trailing after it a line of golden
associations;" 2dly, because the practice involves a dishonesty. On
occasion of No. 1, we must profess our belief that a more ample
explanation from the Sergeant would have left him in substantial
harmony with ourselves. We cannot conceive the author of Ion, and
the friend of Wordsworth, seriously to countenance that paralytic
"mouth-diarrhoea," (to borrow a phrase of Coleridge's)--that
_fluxe de bouche_(to borrow an earlier phrase of Archbishop
Huet's) which places the reader at the mercy of a man's tritest
remembrances from his most school-boy reading. To have the verbal
memory infested with tags of verse and "cues" of rhyme is in
itself an infirmity as vulgar and as morbid as the stableboy's
habit of whistling slang airs upon the mere mechanical excitement
of a bar or two whistled by some other blockhead in some other
stable. The very stage has grown weary of ridiculing a folly, that
having been long since expelled from decent society has taken
refuge amongst the most imbecile of authors. Was Mr. Hazlitt then
of that class? No; he was a man of great talents, and of capacity
for greater things than he ever attempted, though without any
pretensions of the philosophic kind ascribed to him by the
Sergeant. Meantime the reason for resisting the example and
practice of Hazlitt lies in this--that essentially it is at war
with sincerity, the foundation of all good writing, to express
one's own thoughts by another man's words. This dilemma arises. The
thought is, or it is not, worthy of that emphasis which belongs to
a metrical expression of it. If it is _not_, then we shall be
guilty of a mere folly in pushing into strong relief that which
confessedly cannot support it. If it _is_, then how incredible
that a thought strongly conceived, and bearing about it the impress
of one's own individuality, should naturally, and without
dissimulation or falsehood, bend to another man's expression of it!
Simply to back one's own view by a similar view derived from
another, may be useful; a quotation that repeats one's own
sentiment, but in a varied form, has the grace which belongs to the
_idem in alio_, the same radical idea expressed with a
difference--similarity in dissimilarity; but to throw one's own
thoughts, matter, and form, through alien organs so absolutely as
to make another man one's interpreter for evil and good, is either
to confess a singular laxity of thinking that can so flexibly adapt
itself to any casual form of words, or else to confess that sort of
carelessness about the expression which draws its real origin from
a sense of indifference about the things to be expressed. Utterly
at war this distressing practice is with all simplicity and
earnestness of writing; it argues a state of indolent ease
inconsistent with the pressure and coercion of strong fermenting
thoughts, before we can be at leisure for idle or chance
quotations. But lastly, in reference to No. 2, we must add that the
practice is signally dishonest. It "trails after it a line of
golden associations." Yes, and the burglar, who leaves an
army-tailor's after a midnight visit, trails after him perhaps a
long roll of gold bullion epaulettes which may look pretty by
lamplight. But _that_, in the present condition of moral
philosophy amongst the police, is accounted robbery; and to benefit
too much by quotations is little less. At this moment we have in
our eye a work, at one time not without celebrity, which is one
continued _cento_ of splendid passages from other people. The
natural effect from so much fine writing is, that the reader rises
with the impression of having been engaged upon a most eloquent
work. Meantime the whole is a series of mosaics; a tessellation
made up from borrowed fragments: and first, when the reader's
attention is expressly directed upon the fact, he becomes aware
that the nominal author has contributed nothing more to the book
than a few passages of transition or brief clauses of connection.

In the year 1796, the main incident occurring of any importance for
English literature was the publication by Southey of an epic poem.
This poem, the _Joan of Arc_, was the earliest work of much
pretension amongst all that Southey wrote; and by many degrees it
was the worst. In the four great narrative poems of his later
years, there is a combination of two striking qualities, viz., a
peculiar command over the _visually_ splendid, connected with
a deep-toned grandeur of moral pathos. Especially we find this
union in the _Thalaba_ and the _Roderick_; but in the
_Joan of Arc_ we miss it. What splendor there is for the fancy
and the eye belongs chiefly to the Vision, contributed by
Coleridge, and this was subsequently withdrawn. The fault lay in
Southey's political relations at that era; his sympathy with the
French Revolution in its earlier stages had been boundless; in all
respects it was a noble sympathy, fading only as the gorgeous
coloring faded from the emblazonries of that awful event, drooping
only when the promises of that golden dawn sickened under
stationary eclipse. In 1796, Southey was yet under the tyranny of
his own earliest fascination: in _his_ eyes the Revolution had
suffered a momentary blight from refluxes of panic; but blight of
some kind is incident to every harvest on which human hopes are
suspended. Bad auguries were also ascending from the unchaining of
martial instincts. But that the Revolution, having ploughed its way
through unparalleled storms, was preparing to face other storms,
did but quicken the apprehensiveness of his love--did but quicken
the duty of giving utterance to this love. Hence came the rapid
composition of the poem, which cost less time in writing than in
printing. Hence, also, came the choice of his heroine. What he
needed in his central character was, a heart with a capacity for
the wrath of Hebrew prophets applied to ancient abuses, and for
evangelic pity applied to the sufferings of nations. This heart,
with this double capacity--where should he seek it? A French heart
it must be, or how should it follow with its sympathies a French
movement? _There_ lay Southey's reason for adopting the Maid
of Orleans as the depositary of hopes and aspirations on behalf of
France as fervid as his own. In choosing this heroine, so
inadequately known at that time, Southey testified at least his own
nobility of feeling; [Endnote: 3] but in executing his choice, he
and his friends overlooked two faults fatal to his purpose. One was
this: sympathy with the French Revolution meant sympathy with the
opening prospects of man--meant sympathy with the Pariah of every
clime--with all that suffered social wrong, or saddened in hopeless

That was the movement at work in the French Revolution. But the
movement of Joanne d'Arc took a different direction. In her day
also, it is true, the human heart had yearned after the same vast
enfranchisement for the children of labor as afterwards worked in
the great vision of the French Revolution. In her days also, and
shortly before them, the human hand had sought by bloody acts to
realize this dream of the heart. And in her childhood, Joanna had
not been insensible to these premature motions upon a path too
bloody and too dark to be safe. But this view of human misery had
been utterly absorbed to _her_ by the special misery then
desolating France. The lilies of France had been trampled under
foot by the conquering stranger. Within fifty years, in three
pitched battles that resounded to the ends of the earth, the
chivalry of France had been exterminated. Her oriflamme had been
dragged through the dust. The eldest son of Baptism had been
prostrated. The daughter of France had been surrendered on coercion
as a bride to her English conqueror. The child of that marriage, so
ignominious to the land, was King of France by the consent of
Christendom; that child's uncle domineered as regent of France; and
that child's armies were in military possession of the land. But
were they undisputed masters? No; and there precisely lay the
sorrow of the time. Under a perfect conquest there would have been
repose; whereas the presence of the English armies did but furnish
a plea, masking itself in patriotism, for gatherings everywhere of
lawless marauders; of soldiers that had deserted their banners; and
of robbers by profession. This was the woe of France more even than
the military dishonor. That dishonor had been palliated from the
first by the genealogical pretensions of the English royal family
to the French throne, and these pretensions were strengthened in
the person of the present claimant. But the military desolation of
France, this it was that woke the faith of Joanna in her own
heavenly mission of deliverance. It was the attitude of her
prostrate country, crying night and day for purification from
blood, and not from feudal oppression, that swallowed up the
thoughts of the impassioned girl. But _that_ was not the cry
that uttered itself afterwards in the French Revolution. In
Joanna's days, the first step towards rest for France was by
expulsion of the foreigner. Independence of a foreign yoke,
liberation as between people and people, was the one ransom to be
paid for French honor and peace. _That_ debt settled, there
might come a time for thinking of civil liberties. But this time
was not within the prospects of the poor shepherdess The field--the
area of her sympathies never coincided with that of the
Revolutionary period. It followed therefore, that Southey
_could_ not have raided Joanna (with her condition of feeling)
by any management, into the interpreter of his own. That was the
first error in his poem, and it was irremediable. The second
was--and strangely enough this also escaped notice--that the
heroine of Southey is made to close her career precisely at the
point when its grandeur commences. She believed herself to have a
mission for the deliverance of France; and the great instrument
which she was authorized to use towards this end, was the king,
Charles VII. Him she was to crown. With this coronation, her
triumph, in the plain historical sense, ended. And _there_
ends Southey's poem. But exactly at this point, the grander stage
of her mission commences, viz., the ransom which she, a solitary
girl, paid in her own person for the national deliverance. The
grander half of the story was thus sacrificed, as being irrelevant
to Southey's political object; and yet, after all, the half which
he retained did not at all symbolize that object. It is singular,
indeed, to find a long poem, on an ancient subject, adapting itself
hieroglyphically to a modern purpose; 2dly, to find it failing of
this purpose; and 3dly, if it had not failed, so planned that it
could have succeeded only by a sacrifice of all that was grandest
in the theme.

To these capital oversights, Southey, Coleridge, and Lamb, were all
joint parties; the two first as concerned in the composition, the
last as a frank though friendly reviewer of it in his private
correspondence with Coleridge. It is, however, some palliation of
these oversights, and a very singular fact in itself, that neither
from English authorities nor from French, though the two nations
were equally brought into close connection with the career of that
extraordinary girl, could any adequate view be obtained of her
character and acts. The official records of her trial, apart from
which nothing can be depended upon, were first in the course of
publication from the Paris press during the currency of last year.
First in 1847, about four hundred and sixteen years after her ashes
had been dispersed to the winds, could it be seen distinctly,
through the clouds of fierce partisanships and national prejudices,
what had been the frenzy of the persecution against her, and the
utter desolation of her position; what had been the grandeur of her
conscientious resistance.

Anxious that our readers should see Lamb from as many angles as
possible, we have obtained from an old friend of his a
memorial--slight, but such as the circumstances allowed--of an
evening spent with Charles and Mary Lamb, in the winter of 1821-22.
The record is of the most unambitious character; it pretends to
nothing, as the reader will see, not so much as to a pun, which it
really required some singularity of luck to have missed from
Charles Lamb, who often continued to fire puns, as minute guns, all
through the evening. But the more unpretending this record is, the
more appropriate it becomes by that very fact to the memory of
_him_ who, amongst all authors, was the humblest and least
pretending. We have often thought that the famous epitaph written
for his grave by Piron, the cynical author of _La Metromanie_,
might have come from Lamb, were it not for one objection; Lamb's
benign heart would have recoiled from a sarcasm, however effective,
inscribed upon a grave-stone; or from a jest, however playful, that
tended to a vindictive sneer amongst his own farewell words. We
once translated this Piron epitaph into a kind of rambling Drayton
couplet; and the only point needing explanation is, that, from the
accident of scientific men, Fellows of the Royal Society being
usually very solemn men, with an extra chance, therefore, for being
dull men in conversation, naturally it arose that some wit amongst
our great-grandfathers translated F. R. S. into a short-hand
expression for a Fellow Remarkably Stupid; to which version of the
three letters our English epitaph alludes. The French original of
Piron is this:

"Ci git Piron; qui ne fut rien;
Pas meme acadamicien."

The bitter arrow of the second line was feathered to hit the French
Acadamie, who had declined to elect him a member. Our translation
is this:

"Here lies Piron; who was--nothing; or, if _that_ could be,
was less:
How!--nothing? Yes, nothing; not so much as F. R. S."

But now to our friend's memorandum:

October 6, 1848.

MY DEAR X.--You ask me for some memorial, however trivial, of any
dinner party, supper party, water party, no matter what, that I can
circumstantially recall to recollection, by any features whatever,
puns or repartees, wisdom or wit, connecting it with Charles Lamb.
I grieve to say that my meetings of any sort with Lamb were few,
though spread through a score of years. That sounds odd for one
that loved Lamb so entirely, and so much venerated his character.
But the reason was, that I so seldom visited London, and Lamb so
seldom quitted it. Somewhere about 1810 and 1812 I must have met
Lamb repeatedly at the _Courier Office_ in the Strand; that
is, at Coleridge's, to whom, as an intimate friend, Mr. Stuart (a
proprietor of the paper) gave up for a time the use of some rooms
in the office. Thither, in the London season, (May especially and
June,) resorted Lamb, Godwin, Sir H. Davy, and, once or twice,
Wordsworth, who visited Sir George Beaumont's Leicestershire
residence of Coleorton early in the spring, and then travelled up
to Grosvenor Square with Sir George and Lady Beaumont; _spectatum
veniens, veniens spectetur ut ipse_.

But in these miscellaneous gatherings, Lamb said little, except
when an opening arose for a pun. And how effectual that sort of
small shot was from _him_, I need not say to anybody who
remembers his infirmity of stammering, and his dexterous management
of it for purposes of light and shade. He was often able to train
the roll of stammers into settling upon the words immediately
preceding the effective one; by which means the key-note of the
jest or sarcasm, benefiting by the sudden liberation of his
embargoed voice, was delivered with the force of a pistol shot.
That stammer was worth an annuity to him as an ally of his wit.
Firing under cover of that advantage, he did triple execution; for,
in the first place, the distressing sympathy of the hearers with
_his_ distress of utterance won for him unavoidably the
silence of deep attention; and then, whilst he had us all hoaxed
into this attitude of mute suspense by an appearance of distress
that he perhaps did not really feel, down came a plunging shot into
the very thick of us, with ten times the effect it would else have
had. If his stammering, however, often did him true "yeoman's
service," sometimes it led him into scrapes. Coleridge told me of a
ludicrous embarrassment which it caused him at Hastings. Lamb had
been medically advised to a course of sea-bathing; and accordingly
at the door of his bathing machine, whilst he stood shivering with
cold, two stout fellows laid hold of him, one at each shoulder,
like heraldic supporters; they waited for the word of command from
their principal, who began the following oration to them: "Hear me,
men! Take notice of this--I am to be dipped." What more he would
have said is unknown to land or sea or bathing machines; for having
reached the word dipped, he commenced such a rolling fire of
Di--di--di--di, that when at length he descended _a plomb_
upon the full word _dipped_, the two men, rather tired of the
long suspense, became satisfied that they had reached what lawyers
call the "operative" clause of the sentence; and both exclaiming at
once, "Oh yes, Sir, we're quite aware of _that_," down they
plunged him into the sea. On emerging, Lamb sobbed so much from the
cold, that he found no voice suitable to his indignation; from
necessity he seemed tranquil; and again addressing the men, who
stood respectfully listening, he began thus: "Men! is it possible
to obtain your attention?" "Oh surely, Sir, by all means." "Then
listen: once more I tell you, I am to be di--di--di--"--and then,
with a burst of indignation," dipped, I tell you,"--"Oh decidedly,
Sir," rejoined the men, "decidedly," and down the stammerer went
for the second time. Petrified with cold and wrath, once more Lamb
made a feeble attempt at explanation--" Grant me pa--pa--patience;
is it mum--um--murder you me--me--mean? Again and a--ga--ga--gain,
I tell you, I'm to be di--di--di--dipped," now speaking furiously,
with the voice of an injured man. "Oh yes, Sir," the men replied,
"we know that, we fully understood it," and for the third time down
went Lamb into the sea." Oh limbs of Satan!" he said, on coming up
for the third time, "it's now too late; I tell you that I am--no,
that I _was_--to be di--di--di--dipped only _once_."

Since the rencontres with Lamb at Coleridge's, I had met him once
or twice at literary dinner parties. One of these occurred at the
house of Messrs. Taylor & Hessey, the publishers. I myself was
suffering too much from illness at the time to take any pleasure in
what passed, or to notice it with any vigilance of attention. Lamb,
I remember, as usual, was full of gayety; and as usual he rose too
rapidly to the zenith of his gayety; for he shot upwards like a
rocket, and, as usual, people said he was "tipsy." To me Lamb never
seemed intoxicated, but at most arborily elevated. He never talked
nonsense, which is a great point gained; nor polemically, which is
a greater; for it is a dreadful thing to find a drunken man bent
upon converting oneself; nor sentimentally, which is greatest of
all. You can stand a man's fraternizing with you; or if he swears
an eternal friendship, only once in an hour, you do not think of
calling the police; but once in every three minutes is too much
(period omitted here in original, but there is a double space
following for a new sentence) Lamb did none of these things; he was
always rational, quiet, and gentlemanly in his habits. Nothing
memorable, I am sure, passed upon this occasion, which was in
November of 1821; and yet the dinner was memorable by means of one
fact not discovered until many years later. Amongst the company,
all literary men, sate a murderer, and a murderer of a freezing
class; cool, calculating, wholesale in his operations, and moving
all along under the advantages of unsuspecting domestic confidence
and domestic opportunities. This was Mr. Wainwright, who was
subsequently brought to trial, but not for any of his murders, and
transported for life. The story has been told both by Sergeant
Talfourd, in the second volume of these "Final Memoirs," and
previously by Sir Edward B. Lytton. Both have been much blamed for
the use made of this extraordinary case; but we know not why. In
itself it is a most remarkable case for more reasons than one. It
is remarkable for the appalling revelation which it makes of power
spread through the hands of people not liable to suspicion, for
purposes the most dreadful. It is remarkable also by the contrast
which existed in this case between the murderer's appearance and
the terrific purposes with which he was always dallying. He was a
contributor to a journal in which I also had written several
papers. This formed a shadowy link between us; and, ill as I was, I
looked more attentively at _him_ than at anybody else. Yet
there were several men of wit and genius present, amongst whom Lamb
(as I have said) and Thomas Hood, Hamilton Reynolds, and Allan
Cunningham. But _them_ I already knew, whereas Mr. W. I now
saw for the first time and the last. What interested me about
_him_ was this, the papers which had been pointed out to me as
his, (signed _Janus Weathercock, Vinklooms_, &c.) were written
in a spirit of coxcombry that did not so much disgust as amuse. The
writer could not conceal the ostentatious pleasure which he took in
the luxurious fittings-up of his rooms, in the fancied splendor of
his _bijouterie_, &c. Yet it was easy for a man of any
experience to read two facts in all this idle _etalage_; one
being, that his finery was but of a second-rate order; the other,
that he was a parvenu, not at home even amongst his second-rate
splendor. So far there was nothing to distinguish Mr. W--'s papers
from the papers of other triflers. But in this point there was,
viz., that in his judgments upon the great Italian masters of
painting, Da Vinci, Titian, &c., there seemed a tone of sincerity
and of native sensibility, as in one who spoke from himself, and
was not merely a copier from books. This it was that interested me;
as also his reviews of the chief Italian engravers, Morghen,
Volpato, &c.; not for the manner, which overflowed with levities
and impertinence, but for the substance of his judgments in those
cases where I happened to have had an opportunity of judging for
myself. Here arose also a claim upon Lamb's attention; for Lamb and
his sister had a deep feeling for what was excellent in painting.
Accordingly Lamb paid him a great deal of attention, and continued
to speak of him for years with an interest that seemed
disproportioned to his pretensions. This might be owing in part to
an indirect compliment paid to Miss Lamb in one of W--'s papers;
else his appearance would rather have repelled Lamb; it was
commonplace, and better suited to express the dandyism which
overspread the surface of his manner, than the unaffected
sensibility which apparently lay in his nature. Dandy or not,
however, this man, on account of the schism in his papers, so much
amiable puppyism on one side, so much deep feeling on the other,
(feeling, applied to some of the grandest objects that earth has to
show,) did really move a trifle of interest in me, on a day when I
hated the face of man and woman. Yet again, if I had known this man
for the murderer that even then he was, what sudden loss of
interest, what sudden growth of another interest, would have
changed the face of that party! Trivial creature, that didst carry
thy dreadful eye kindling with perpetual treasons! Dreadful
creature, that didst carry thy trivial eye, mantling with eternal
levity, over the sleeping surfaces of confiding household life--oh,
what a revolution for man wouldst thou have accomplished had thy
deep wickedness prospered! What _was_ that wickedness? In a
few words I will say.

At this time (October, 1848) the whole British island is appalled
by a new chapter in the history of poisoning. Locusta in ancient
Rome, Madame Brinvilliers in Paris, were people of original genius:
not in any new artifice of toxicology, not in the mere management
of poisons, was the audacity of their genius displayed. No; but in
profiting by domestic openings for murder, unsuspected through
their very atrocity. Such an opening was made some years ago by
those who saw the possibility of founding purses for parents upon
the murder of their children. This was done upon a larger scale
than had been suspected, and upon a plausible pretence. To bury a
corpse is costly; but of a hundred children only a few, in the
ordinary course of mortality, will die within a given time. Five
shillings a-piece will produce 25L annually, and _that_ will
bury a considerable number. On this principle arose Infant Burial
Societies. For a few shillings annually, a parent could secure a
funeral for every child. If the child died, a few guineas fell due
to the parent, and the funeral was accomplished without cost of
_his_. But on this arose the suggestion--Why not execute an
insurance of this nature twenty times over? One single insurance
pays for the funeral--the other nineteen are so much clear gain, a
_lucro ponatur_, for the parents. Yes; but on the supposition
that the child died! twenty are no better than one, unless they are
gathered into the garner. Now, if the child died naturally, all was
right; but how, if the child did _not_ die? Why, clearly this,
--the child that _can_ die, and won't die, may be made to die.
There are many ways of doing that; and it is shocking to know,
that, according to recent discoveries, poison is comparatively a
very merciful mode of murder. Six years ago a dreadful
communication was made to the public by a medical man, viz., that
three thousand children were annually burned to death under
circumstances showing too clearly that they had been left by their
mothers with the means and the temptations to set themselves on
fire in her absence. But more shocking, because more lingering, are
the deaths by artificial appliances of wet, cold, hunger, bad diet,
and disturbed sleep, to the frail constitutions of children. By
that machinery it is, and not by poison, that the majority qualify
themselves for claiming the funeral allowances. Here, however,
there occur to any man, on reflection, two eventual restraints on
the extension of this domestic curse:--1st, as there is no pretext
for wanting more than one funeral on account of one child, any
insurances beyond one are in themselves a ground of suspicion. Now,
if any plan were devised for securing the _publication_ of
such insurances, the suspicions would travel as fast as the grounds
for them. 2dly, it occurs, that eventually the evil checks itself,
since a society established on the ordinary rates of mortality
would be ruined when a murderous stimulation was applied to that
rate too extensively. Still it is certain that, for a season, this
atrocity _has_ prospered in manufacturing districts for some
years, and more recently, as judicial investigations have shown, in
one agricultural district of Essex. Now, Mr. W--'s scheme of murder
was, in its outline, the very same, but not applied to the narrow
purpose of obtaining burials from a public fund He persuaded, for
instance, two beautiful young ladies, visitors in his family, to
insure their lives for a short period of two years. This insurance
was repeated in several different offices, until a sum of 18,000
pounds had been secured in the event of their deaths within the two
years. Mr. W--took care that they _should_ die, and very
suddenly, within that period; and then, having previously secured
from his victims an assignment to himself of this claim, he
endeavored to make this assignment available. But the offices,
which had vainly endeavored to extract from the young ladies any
satisfactory account of the reasons for this limited insurance, had
their suspicions at last strongly roused. One office had recently
experienced a case of the same nature, in which also the young lady
had been poisoned by the man in whose behalf she had effected the
insurance; all the offices declined to pay; actions at law arose;
in the course of the investigation which followed, Mr. W--'s
character was fully exposed. Finally, in the midst of the
embarrassments which ensued, he committed forgery, and was

From this Mr. W--, some few days afterwards, I received an
invitation to a dinner party, expressed in terms that were
obligingly earnest. He mentioned the names of his principal guests,
and amongst them rested most upon those of Lamb and Sir David
Wilkie. From an accident I was unable to attend, and greatly
regretted it. Sir David one might rarely happen to see, except at a
crowded party. But as regarded Lamb, I was sure to see him or to
hear of him again in some way or other within a short time. This
opportunity, in fact, offered itself within a month through the
kindness of the Lambs themselves. They had heard of my being in
solitary lodgings, and insisted on my coming to dine with them,
which more than once I did in the winter of 1821-22.

The mere reception by the Lambs was so full of goodness and
hospitable feeling, that it kindled animation in the most cheerless
or torpid of invalids. I cannot imagine that any _memorabilia_
occurred during the visit; but I will use the time that would else
be lost upon the settling of that point, in putting down any
triviality that occurs to my recollection. Both Lamb and myself had
a furious love for nonsense, headlong nonsense. Excepting Professor
Wilson, I have known nobody who had the same passion to the same
extent. And things of that nature better illustrate the

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