Part 8 out of 14
you again? Not I fear for a very long time, you are too happy ever to
wish to come to London. When you write tell me how poor Mrs. Clarkson
God bless you and yours.
I am your affectionate friend,
[Wordsworth's eldest child, John, was born on June 18, 1803. Southey's
little girl was Edith, born in September of the preceding year. It was
Southey who made the charming remark that no house was complete unless
it had in it a child rising six years, and a kitten rising six months.
Coleridge had been ill for some weeks after his visit to London. He was
about to visit Scotland with the Wordsworths.
Mary of Buttermere was Mary Robinson, the Beauty of Buttermere, whom the
swindler John Hatfield had married in October, 1802, under the false
name of Hope. Mary was the daughter of the landlord of the Fish Inn at
Buttermere, and was famous in the Lake Country for her charm. Coleridge
sent to the _Morning Post_ in October some letters on the imposture, and
Mary's name became a household word. Hatfield was hanged in September,
1803. Funds were meanwhile raised for Mary, and she ultimately married a
farmer, after being the subject of dramas, ballads and novels.
The play which the Lambs saw was by Charles Dibdin the Younger, produced
on April 11, 1803. Its title was "Edward and Susan; or, The Beauty of
Buttermere." A benefit performance for the real Beauty of Buttermere was
promised. Both Grimaldi and Belzoni were among the evening's
Stoddart was the King's and the Admiralty's Advocate at Malta from 1803
to 1807. He married Isabella Moncrieff in 1803. His sister was Sarah
Stoddart, of whom we are about to hear much.
According to the next letter the Lambs went not to Margate, but to the
Isle of Wight--to Cowes, with the Burneys.
Molly was an old cottager at Grasmere whom the Lambs had been friendly
with on their northern visit.
Mrs. Clarkson, the wife of Thomas Clarkson, was Catherine Buck. She
survived her husband, who died in 1846.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN RICKMAN
Saturday Morning, July 16th, 1803.
Dear Rickman,--I enclose you a wonder, a letter from the shades. A dead
body wants to return, and be inrolled _inter vivos_. 'Tis a gentle
ghost, and in this Galvanic age it may have a chance.
Mary and I are setting out for the Isle of Wight. We make but a short
stay, and shall pass the time betwixt that place and Portsmouth, where
Fenwick is. I sadly wanted to explore the Peak this Summer; but Mary is
against steering without card or compass, and we should be at large in
We shall be at home this night and to-morrow, if you can come and take a
I regularly transmitted your Notices to the "Morning Post," but they
have not been duly honoured. The fault lay not in me.--
[I cannot explain the reference to the dead body. Mr. Bertram Dobell
considers it to apply to an article which he believes Lamb to have
written, called "An Appeal from the Shades," printed in the _London
Magazine_, New Series, Vol. V. (see _Sidelights on Charles Lamb_, 1903,
pages 140-152). I cannot, however, think that Lamb could write in 1803
in the deliberate manner of that essay; that the "Appeal" is by him; or
that the reference in the letter is to an essay at all. I have no real
theory to put forward; but it once occurred to me that the letter from
the shades was from George Burnett, who had quarrelled with Rickman, may
reasonably be believed to have threatened suicide, and had now possibly
appealed to his mercy through Lamb. Later, Burnett entered the militia
as a surgeon, and at the beginning of 1804 he left for Poland.
Following this should come a letter from Lamb to Rickman, dated July 27,
1803. It is part of one from Captain Burney describing the adventures of
the Burneys and Lambs at Cowes. Lamb, says the Captain, on their way to
Newport "very ingeniously and unconsciously cast loose the fastenings of
the mast, so that mast, sprit, sails, and all the rest tumbled overboard
with a crash." Lamb on his part is amusing about the Captain and Martin
Burney, and says he longs for Holborn scenery again.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[Dated at end: September 21, 1803.]
My dear Sarah, I returned home from my visit yesterday, and was much
pleased to find your letter; for I have been very anxious to hear how
you are going on. I could hardly help expecting to see you when I came
in; yet, though I should have rejoiced to have seen your merry face
again, I believe it was better as it was--upon the whole; and, all
things considered, it is certainly better you should go to Malta. The
terms you are upon with your Lover does (as you say it will) appear
wondrous strange to me; however, as I cannot enter into your feelings, I
certainly can have nothing to say to it, only that I sincerely wish you
happy in your own way, however odd that way may appear to me to be. I
would begin now to advise you to drop all correspondence with William;
but, as I said before, as I cannot enter into your feelings and views of
things, _your ways not being my ways_, why should I tell you what I
would do in your situation? So, child, take thy own ways, and God
prosper thee in them!
One thing my advising spirit must say--use as little _Secrecy_ as
possible; and, as much as possible, make a friend of your
sister-in-law--you know I was not struck with her at first sight; but,
upon your account, I have watched and marked her very attentively; and,
while she was eating a bit of cold mutton in our kitchen, we had a
serious conversation. From the frankness of her manner, I am convinced
she is a person I could make a friend of; why should not you? We talked
freely about you: she seems to have a just notion of your character, and
will be fond of you, if you will let her.
My father had a sister lived with us--of course, lived with my Mother,
her sister-in-law; they were, in their different ways, the best
creatures in the world--but they set out wrong at first. They made each
other miserable for full twenty years of their lives--my Mother was a
perfect gentlewoman, my Aunty as unlike a gentlewoman as you can
possibly imagine a good old woman to be; so that my dear Mother (who,
though you do not know it, is always in my poor head and heart) used to
distress and weary her with incessant and unceasing attention and
politeness, to gain her affection. The old woman could not return this
in kind, and did not know what to make of it--thought it all deceit, and
used to hate my Mother with a bitter hatred; which, of course, was soon
returned with interest. A little frankness, and looking into each
other's characters at first, would have spared all this, and they would
have lived, as they died, fond of each other for the last few years of
their life. When we grew up, and harmonised them a little, they
sincerely loved each other.
My Aunt and my Mother were wholly unlike you and your sister, yet in
some degree theirs is the secret history I believe of all
sisters-in-law--and you will smile when I tell you I think myself the
only woman in the world who could live with a brother's wife, and make a
real friend of her, partly from early observation of the unhappy example
I have just given you, and partly from a knack I know I have of looking
into people's real characters, and never expecting them to act out of
it--never expecting another to do as I would in the same case. When you
leave your Mother, and say, if you never shall see her again, you shall
feel no remorse, and when you make a _jewish_ bargain with your _Lover_,
all this gives me no offence, because it is your nature, and your
temper, and I do not expect or want you to be otherwise than you are. I
love you for the good that is in you, and look for no change. _But_,
certainly, you ought to struggle with the evil that does most easily
beset you--a total want of politeness in behaviour, I would say modesty
of behaviour, but that I should not convey to you my idea of the word
modesty; for I certainly do not mean that you want _real modesty_; and
what is usually called false, or mock, modesty is [a quality] I
certainly do not wish you to possess; yet I trust you know what I mean
_Secrecy_, though you appear all frankness, is certainly a grand failing
of yours; it is likewise your _brother's_, and, therefore, a family
failing--by secrecy, I mean you both want the habit of telling each
other at the moment every thing that happens--where you go,--and what
you do,--the free communication of letters and opinions just as they
arrive, as Charles and I do,--and which is, after all, the only
groundwork of friendship. Your brother, I will answer for [it,] will
never tell his wife or his sister all that [is in] his mind--he will
receive letters, and not [mention it]. This is a fault Mrs. Stoddart can
never [tell him of;] but she can, and will, feel it: though, [on] the
whole, and in every other respect, she is [very] happy with him. Begin,
for God's sake, at the first, and tell her every thing that passes. At
first she may hear you with indifference; but in time this will gain her
affection and confidence; show her all your letters (no matter if she
does not show hers)--it is a pleasant thing for a friend to put into
one's hand a letter just fresh from the post. I would even say, begin
with showing her this, but that it is written freely and loosely, and
some apology ought to be made for it--which I know not how to make, for
I must write freely or not at all.
If you do this, she will tell your brother, you will say; and what then,
quotha? It will beget a freer communication amongst you, which is a
thing devoutly to be wished--
God bless you, and grant you may preserve your integrity, and remain
unmarried and penniless, and make William a good and a happy wife.
Your affectionate friend,
Charles is very unwell, and my head aches. He sends his love: mine, with
my best wishes, to your brother and sister.
I hope I shall get another letter from you.
Wednesday, 21st September, 1803.
[Sarah Stoddart was the sister of Dr. John Stoddart, who had just been
appointed the King's and the Admiralty's Advocate at Malta, whither Miss
Stoddart followed him. Her lover of that moment was a Mr. Turner, and
William was an earlier lover still. Her sister-in-law was Mrs. John
Stoddart, _nee_ Isabella Moncrieff, whom her brother had only just
"My Mother." This is the only reference to her mother in any of Mary
Lamb's letters. The sister was Sarah Lamb, usually known as Aunt Hetty.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM GODWIN
Nov. 8, 1803.
My dear Sir,--I have been sitting down for three or four days
successively to the review, which I so much wished to do well, and to
your satisfaction. But I can produce nothing but absolute flatness and
nonsense. My health and spirits are so bad, and my nerves so irritable,
that I am sure, if I persist, I shall teaze myself into a fever. You do
not know how sore and weak a brain I have, or you would allow for many
things in me which you set down for whims. I solemnly assure you that I
never more wished to prove to you the value which I have for you than at
this moment; but although in so seemingly trifling a service I cannot
get through with it, I pray you to impute it to this one sole cause, ill
health. I hope I am above subterfuge, and that you will do me this
justice to think so.
You will give me great satisfaction by sealing my pardon and oblivion in
a line or two, before I come to see you, or I shall be ashamed to
come.--Your, with great truth,
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM GODWIN
Nov. 10, 1803.
Dear Godwin,--You never made a more unlucky and perverse mistake than to
suppose that the reason of my not writing that cursed thing was to be
found in your book. I assure you most sincerely that I have been greatly
delighted with Chaucer. I may be wrong, but I think there is one
considerable error runs through it, which is a conjecturing spirit, a
fondness for filling out the picture by supposing what Chaucer did and
how he felt, where the materials are scanty. So far from meaning to
withhold from you (out of mistaken tenderness) this opinion of mine, I
plainly told Mrs. Godwin that I did find a _fault_, which I should
reserve naming until I should see you and talk it over. This she may
very well remember, and also that I declined naming this fault until she
drew it from me by asking me if there was not too much fancy in the
work. I then confessed generally what I felt, but refused to go into
particulars until I had seen you. I am never very fond of saying things
before third persons, because in the relation (such is human nature)
something is sure to be dropped. If Mrs. Godwin has been the cause of
your misconstruction, I am very angry, tell her; yet it is not an anger
unto death. I remember also telling Mrs. G. (which she may have _dropt_)
that I was by turns considerably more delighted than I expected. But I
wished to reserve all this until I saw you. I even had conceived an
expression to meet you with, which was thanking you for some of the most
exquisite pieces of criticism I had ever read in my life. In particular,
I should have brought forward that on "Troilus and Cressida" and
Shakespear which, it is little to say, delighted me, and instructed me
(if not absolutely _instructed_ me, yet put into _full-grown sense_ many
conceptions which had arisen in me before in my most discriminating
moods). All these things I was preparing to say, and bottling them up
till I came, thinking to please my friend and host, the author! when lo!
this deadly blight intervened.
I certainly ought to make great allowances for your misunderstanding me.
You, by long habits of composition and a greater command gained over
your own powers, cannot conceive of the desultory and uncertain way in
which I (an author by fits) sometimes cannot put the thoughts of a
common letter into sane prose. Any work which I take upon myself as an
engagement will act upon me to torment, _e.g._, when I have undertaken,
as three or four times I have, a school-boy copy of verses for Merchant
Taylors' boys, at a guinea a copy, I have fretted over them, in perfect
inability to do them, and have made my sister wretched with my
wretchedness for a week together. The same, till by habit I have
acquired a mechanical command, I have felt in making paragraphs. As to
reviewing, in particular, my head is so whimsical a head, that I cannot,
after reading another man's book, let it have been never so pleasing,
give any account of it in any methodical way. I cannot follow his train.
Something like this you must have perceived of me in conversation. Ten
thousand times I have confessed to you, talking of my talents, my utter
inability to remember in any comprehensive way what I read. I can
vehemently applaud, or perversely stickle, at _parts_; but I cannot
grasp at a whole. This infirmity (which is nothing to brag of) may be
seen in my two little compositions, the tale and my play, in both which
no reader, however partial, can find any story. I wrote such stuff about
Chaucer, and got into such digressions, quite irreducible into 1-1/5
column of a paper, that I was perfectly ashamed to show it you. However,
it is become a serious matter that I should convince you I neither slunk
from the task through a wilful deserting neglect, or through any (most
imaginary on your part) distaste of Chaucer; and I will try my hand
again, I hope with better luck. My health is bad and my time taken up,
but all I can spare between this and Sunday shall be employed for you,
since you desire it: and if I bring you a crude, wretched paper on
Sunday, you must burn it, and forgive me; if it proves anything better
than I predict, may it be a peace-offering of sweet incense between us.
[Lamb's review of Godwin's _Life of Chaucer_, issued in October, 1803,
has not been identified. Perhaps it was never completed. Writing to
Wordsworth, December 28, 1814, he says that his review of _The
Excursion_ is the first he ever did.
Lamb's early Merchant Taylors' verses have been lost, but two epigrams
that he wrote many years later for the sons of Hessey, the publisher,
have been preserved (see the letter to Southey, May 10, 1830).]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS POOLE
[Dated at end: Feb. 14, 1804.]
Dear Sir--I am sorry we have not been able to hear of lodgings to suit
young F. but we will not desist in the enquiry. In a day or two
something may turn up. Boarding houses are common enough, but to find a
family where he would be safe from impositions within & impositions
without is not so easy.--
I take this opportunity of thanking you for your kind attentions to the
Lad I took the liberty of recommending. _His_ mother was disposed to
have taken in young F. but could not possibly make room.
Your obliged &c
Temple, 14 Feb., 1804.
[I do not know to what lads the note refers, but probably young F. was
young Fricker, the brother of Mrs. Coleridge and Mrs. Southey. The note
is interesting only as giving another instance of Lamb's willing
helpfulness to others.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[P.M. March 10, 1804.]
Dr C. I blunderd open this letter, its weight making me conjecture it
held an inclosure; but finding it poetry (which is no man's ground, but
waste and common) I perused it. Do you remember that you are to come to
To Mr. Coleridge,
Barnards Inn, Holborn.
[This is written on the back of a paper addressed (to save postage) to
Mr. Lamb, India House, containing a long extract from "Madoc" in
Coleridge, having been invited by Stoddart to Malta, was now in London
on his way thither. Tobin was probably James Webbe Tobin, brother of
John Tobin, the solicitor and dramatist.
Between this letter and the next comes a letter from Lamb to Robert
Lloyd, dated at the end March 13, 1804, in which Lamb congratulates
Robert Lloyd on his approaching marriage to Hannah Hart. The wedding was
celebrated on August 2, 1804.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[No date. ? March, 1804.]
My dearest Sarah,--I will just write a few hasty lines to say Coleridge
is setting off sooner than we expected; and I every moment expect him to
call in one of his great hurrys for this. Charles intended to write by
him, but has not: most likely he will send a letter after him to
Portsmouth: if he does, you will certainly hear from him soon. We
rejoiced with exceeding joy to hear of your safe arrival: I hope your
brother will return home in a few years a very rich man. Seventy pounds
in one fortnight is a pretty beginning--
I envy your brother the pleasure of seeing Coleridge drop in
unexpectedly upon him; we talk--but it is but wild and idle talk--of
following him: he is to get my brother some little snug place of a
thousand a year, and we are to leave all, and come and live among ye.
What a pretty dream.
Coleridge is very ill. I dread the thought of his long voyage--write as
soon as he arrives, whether he does or not, and tell me how he is.
Jamaica bodies... [_words illegible_].
He has got letters of recommendation to Governor Ball, and God knows
who; and he will talk and talk, and be universally admired. But I wish
to write for him a _letter of recommendation_ to Mrs. Stoddart, and to
yourself, to take upon ye, on his first arrival, to be kind affectionate
nurses; and mind, now, that you perform this duty faithfully, and write
me a good account of yourself. Behave to him as you would to me, or to
Charles, if we came sick and unhappy to you.
I have no news to send you; Coleridge will tell you how we are going on.
Charles has lost the newspaper; but what we dreaded as an evil has
proved a great blessing, for we have both strangely recovered our health
and spirits since this has happened; and I hope, when I write next, I
shall be able to tell you Charles has begun something which will produce
a little money; for it is not well to be _very poor_--which we certainly
are at this present writing.
I sit writing here, and thinking almost you will see it tomorrow; and
what a long, long time it will be ere you receive this--When I saw your
letter, I fancy'd you were even just then in the first bustle of a new
reception, every moment seeing new faces, and staring at new objects,
when, at that time, every thing had become familiar to you; and the
strangers, your new dancing partners, had perhaps become gossiping
fireside friends. You tell me of your gay, splendid doings; tell me,
likewise, what manner of home-life you lead--Is a quiet evening in a
Maltese drawing room as pleasant as those we have passed in Mitre Court
and Bell yard?--Tell me all about it, every thing pleasant, and every
thing unpleasant, that befalls you.
I want you to say a great deal about yourself. _Are you happy? and do
you not repent going out?_ I wish I could see you for one hour only.
Remember me affectionately to your sister and brother; and tell me, when
you write, if Mrs. Stoddart likes Malta, and how the climate agrees with
her and with thee.
We heard you were taken prisoners, and for several days believed the
How did the pearls, and the fine court finery, bear the fatigues of the
voyage, and how often have they been worn and admired?
Rickman wants to know if you are going to be married yet--satisfy him in
that little particular when you write.
The Fenwicks send their love, and Mrs. Reynolds her love, and the little
old lady her best respects.
Mrs. Jefferies, who I see now and then, talks of you with tears in her
eyes, and, when she heard you was taken prisoner, Lord! how frightened
she was. She has heard, she tells me, that Mr. Stoddart is to have a
pension of two thousand a year, whenever he chuses to return to England.
God bless you, and send you all manner of comforts and happinesses.
Your most affectionate friend,
How-do? how-do? No time to write. S.T.C. going off in a great hurry. CH.
[Miss Stoddart was now in Malta. Governor Ball was Sir Alexander Ball,
to whom Coleridge was to act as private secretary and of whom he wrote
some years later in _The Friend_.
"Charles has lost the newspaper"--his work on the _Morning Post_. Lamb's
principal period on this paper had begun after Stuart sold it in
September, 1803, and it lasted until February, 1804 (see notes in Vol.
II. of this edition).
"We heard you were taken prisoners"--by the French.
"Mrs. Reynolds"--Lamb's old schoolmistress and pensioner. Mrs. Jefferies
I do not know.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[P.M. April 4, 1804.]
Mary would send her best love, but I write at office.
Thursday [April 5].
The L1 came safe.
My dear C.--I but just received your commission-abounding letter. All
shall be done. Make your European heart easy in Malta, all shall be
performed. You say I am to transcribe off part of your letters and send
to X somebody (but the name is lost under the wafer, so you must give it
me)--I suppose Wordsw'th.
I have been out of town since Saturday, the reason I had not your letter
before. N.B. N.B. Knowing I had 2 or 3 Easter holydays, it was my
intention to have ask'd you if my accompanying you to Portsm'th would
have been pleasant. But you were not visible, except just at the
critical moment of going off from the Inn, at which time I could not get
at you. So Deus aliter disposuit, and I went down into Hertfordshire.
I write in great bustle indeed--God bless you again. Attend to what I
have written mark'd X above, and don't merge any part of your Orders
under seal again.
[Addressed to "S. T. Coleridge, Esq'r., J. C. Mottley's, Esq'r.,
Coleridge had left London for Portsmouth on March 27; he sailed for
Malta on April 9.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS POOLE
[Dated at end: Temple, 4th May, 1804.]
Dear Sir--I have no sort of connexion with the Morning Post at present,
nor acquaintance with its late Editor (the present Editor of the
Courier) to ask a favour of him with propriety; but if it will be of any
use, I believe I could get the insertions into the British Press (a
Morning Paper) through a friend.--
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS POOLE
[Dated at end: Temple, 5 May, 1804.]
Dear Sir--I can get the insertions into the British Press without any
difficulty at all. I am only sorry that I have no interest in the M.
Post, having so much greater circulation. If your friend chuses it, you
will be so good as to return me the Critique, of which I forgot to take
a copy, and I suppose on Monday or Tuesday it will be in. The sooner I
have it, the better.
I did formerly assist in the Post, but have no longer any engagement.--
[Stuart, having sold the _Morning Post_, was now developing the
_Courier_. The notes are interesting only as showing Lamb's attitude to
Stuart. Writing to the _Gentleman's Magazine_ in June, 1838, concerning
his association as editor with Coleridge, Stuart said: "But as for good
Charles Lamb, I never could make any-thing of his writings. Coleridge
often and repeatedly pressed me to settle him on a salary, and often and
repeatedly did I try; but it would not do. Of politics he knew nothing;
they were out of his line of reading and thought; and his drollery was
vapid, when given in short paragraphs fit for a newspaper: yet he has
produced some agreeable books, possessing a tone of humour and kind
feeling, in a quaint style, which it is amusing to read, and cheering to
CHARLES LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[Dated at end: June 2, 1804.]
Dear Miss Wordsworth, the task of letter-writing in my family falls to
me; you are the organ of correspondence in yours, so I address you
rather than your brother. We are all sensibly obliged to you for the
little scraps (Arthur's Bower and his brethren) which you sent up; the
bookseller has got them and paid Mrs. Fenwick for them. So while some
are authors for fame, some for money, you have commenced author for
charity. The least we can do, is to see your commissions fulfilled;
accordingly I have booked this 2d June 1804 from the Waggon Inn in
Cripplegate the watch and books which I got from your brother Richard,
together with Purchas's Pilgrimage and Brown's Religio Medici which I
desire your brother's acceptance of, with some _pens_, of which I
observed no great frequency when I tarried at Grasmere. (I suppose you
have got Coleridge's letter)--These things I have put up in a deal box
directed to Mr. Wordsworth, Grasmere, near Ambleside, Kendal, by the
Kendal waggon. At the same time I have sent off a parcel by C.'s desire
to Mr. T. Hutchinson to the care of Mr. "T. Monkhouse, or T. Markhouse"
(for C.'s writing is not very plain) Penrith, by the Penrith waggon this
day; which I beg you to apprize them of, lest my direction fail. In your
box, you will find a little parcel for Mrs. Coleridge, which she wants
as soon as possible; also for yourselves the Cotton, Magnesia, bark and
Oil, which come to L2. 3. 4. thus.
Thread and needles 17
bark 9. 8
Oil 8. 8
2. 3. 4
packing case 2. 6
deduct a guinea I owe you,
which C. was to pay, 1. 1. -
but did not
leaves you indebted 1. 4.10
whereby you may see how punctual I am.
I conclude with our kindest remembrances to your brother and Mrs. W.
We hear, the young John is a Giant.
And should you see Charles Lloyd, pray _forget_ to give my love to him.
Yours truly, D'r Miss W.
June 2, 1804.
I send you two little copies of verses by Mary L--b:--
DIALOGUE BETWEEN A MOTHER AND CHILD
"O Lady, lay your costly robes aside,
No longer may you glory in your pride."
Wherefore to day art singing in mine ear
Sad songs were made so long ago, my dear?
This day I am to be a bride, you know.
Why sing sad songs were made so long ago?
"O Mother lay your costly robes aside,"
_For you may never be another's bride_:
That line I learnt not in the old sad song.
I pray thee, pretty one, now hold thy tongue;
Play with the bride maids, and be glad, my boy,
For thou shall be a second father's joy.
One father fondled me upon his knee:
One father is enough alone for me.
Suggested by a print of 2 females after Leo[nardo da] Vinci, called
Prudence & Beauty, which hangs up in our ro[om].
O! that you could see the print!!
The Lady Blanch, regardless of all her lovers' fears,
To the Urseline Convent hastens, and long the Abbess hears:
"O Blanch, my child, repent thee of the courtly life ye lead."
Blanch looked on a rose-bud, and little seem'd to heed;
She looked on the rose-bud, she looked round, and thought
On all her heart had whisper'd, and all the Nun had taught.
"I am worshipped by lovers, and brightly shines my fame,
All Christendom resoundeth the noble Blanch's name;
Nor shall I quickly wither like the rose-bud from the tree,
My Queen-like graces shining when my beauty's gone from me.
But when the sculptur'd marble is raised o'er my head,
And the matchless Blanch lies lifeless among the noble dead,
This saintly Lady Abbess has made me justly fear.
It nothing will avail me that I were worshipt here."
I wish they may please you: we in these parts are not a little proud of
["The little scraps." Professor Knight informed me that the scraps were
not written but only copied by Miss Wordsworth. Arthur's Bower ran
Arthur's bower has broke his band,
He comes riding up the land,
The King of Scots with all his power
Cannot build up Arthur's bower.
"Your brother Richard"--Wordsworth's eldest brother.
"Purchas's Pilgrimage." Samuel Purchas (1575?-1626) was the author of
_Purchas His Pilgrimage_, 1613; _Purchas His Pilgrim_, 1619; and
_Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes_, 1625. This last is
Purchas's best work, and is probably that which Lamb sent to Grasmere.
Mary Lamb's two poems, her earliest that we know, with the exception of
"Helen," were printed in the _Works_, 1818.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[Late July, 1804.]
My dearest Sarah,--Your letter, which contained the news of Coleridge's
arrival, was a most welcome one; for we had begun to entertain very
unpleasant apprehensions for his safety; and your kind reception of the
forlorn wanderer gave me the greatest pleasure, and I thank you for it
in my own and my brother's name. I shall depend upon you for hearing of
his welfare; for he does not write himself; but, as long as we know he
is safe, and in such kind friends' hands, we do not mind. Your letters,
my dear Sarah, are to me very, very precious ones. They are the kindest,
best, most natural ones I ever received. The one containing the news of
the arrival of Coleridge perhaps the best I ever saw; and your old
friend Charles is of my opinion. We sent it off to Mrs. Coleridge and
the Wordsworths--as well because we thought it our duty to give them the
first notice we had of our dear friend's safety, as that we were proud
of shewing our Sarah's pretty letter.
The letters we received a few days after from you and your brother were
far less welcome ones. I rejoiced to hear your sister is well; but I
grieved for the loss of the dear baby; and I am sorry to find your
brother is not so successful as he at first expected to be; and yet I am
almost tempted to wish his ill fortune may send him over [to] us again.
He has a friend, I understand, who is now at the head of the Admiralty;
why may he not return, and make a fortune here?
I cannot condole with you very sincerely upon your little failure in the
fortune-making way. If you regret it, so do I. But I hope to see you a
comfortable English wife; and the forsaken, forgotten William, of
English-partridge memory, I have still a hankering after. However, I
thank you for your frank communication, and I beg you will continue it
in future; and if I do not agree with a good grace to your having a
Maltese husband, I will wish you happy, provided you make it a part of
your marriage articles that your husband shall allow you to come over
sea and make me one visit; else may neglect and overlookedness be your
portion while you stay there.
I would condole with you when the misfortune has fallen your poor leg;
but such is the blessed distance we are at from each other, that I hope,
before you receive this, that you forgot it ever happened.
Our compliments [to] the high ton at the Maltese court. Your brother is
so profuse of them to me, that being, as you know, so unused to them,
they perplex me sadly; in future, I beg they may be discontinued. They
always remind me of the free, and, I believe, very improper, letter I
wrote to you while you were at the Isle of Wight. The more kindly you
and your brother and sister took the impertinent advice contained in it,
the more certain I feel that it was unnecessary, and therefore highly
improper. Do not let your brother compliment me into the memory of it
My brother has had a letter from your Mother, which has distressed him
sadly--about the postage of some letters being paid by my brother. Your
silly brother, it seems, has informed your Mother (I did not think your
brother could have been so silly) that Charles had grumbled at paying
the said postage. The fact was, just at that time we were very poor,
having lost the Morning Post, and we were beginning to practise a strict
economy. My brother, who never makes up his mind whether he will be a
Miser or a Spendthrift, is at all times a strange mixture of both: of
this failing, the even economy of your correct brother's temper makes
him an ill judge. The miserly part of Charles, at that time smarting
under his recent loss, then happened to reign triumphant; and he would
not write, or let me write, so often as he wished, because the postage
cost two and four pence. Then came two or three of your poor Mother's
letters nearly together; and the two and four pences he wished, but
grudged, to pay for his own, he was forced to pay for hers. In this
dismal distress, he applied to Fenwick to get his friend Motley to send
them free from Portsmouth. This Mr. Fenwick could have done for half a
word's speaking; but this he did not do. Then Charles foolishly and
unthinkingly complained to your brother in a half serious, half joking
way; and your brother has wickedly, and with malice afore thought, told
your Mother. O fye upon him! what will your Mother think of us?
I too feel my share of blame in this vexatious business; for I saw the
unlucky paragraph in my brother's letter; and I had a kind of foreboding
that it would come to your Mother's ears--although I had a higher
opinion of your brother's good sense than I find he deserved. By
entreaties and prayers, I might have prevailed on my brother to say
nothing about it. But I make a point of conscience never to interfere or
cross my brother in the humour he happens to be in. It always appears to
me to be a vexatious kind of Tyranny, that women have no business to
exercise over men, which, merely because _they having a better
judgement_, they have the power to do. Let _men_ alone, and at last we
find they come round to the right way, which _we_, by a kind of
intuition, perceive at once. But better, far better, that we should let
them often do wrong, than that they should have the torment of a Monitor
always at their elbows.
Charles is sadly fretted now, I know, at what to say to your Mother. I
have made this long preamble about it to induce [you,] if possible, to
reinstate us in your Mother's good graces. Say to her it was a jest
misunderstood; tell her Charles Lamb is not the shabby fellow she and
her son took him for; but that he is now and then a trifle whimsical or
so. I do not ask your brother to do this, for I am offended with him for
the mischief he has made.
I feel that I have too lightly passed over the interesting account you
sent me of your late disappointment. It was not because I did not feel
and compl[ete]ly enter into the affair with you. You surprise and please
me with the frank and generous way in which you deal with your Lovers,
taking a refusal from their so prudential hearts with a better grace and
more good humour than other women accept a suitor's service. Continue
this open artless conduct, and I trust you will at last find some man
who has sense enough to know you are well worth risking a peaceable life
of poverty for. I shall yet live to see you a poor, but happy, English
Remember me most affectionately to Coleridge; and I thank you again and
again for all your kindness to him. To dear Mrs. Stoddart and your
brother, I beg my best love; and to you all I wish health and happiness,
and a _soon_ return to Old England.
I have sent to Mr. Burrel's for your kind present; but unfortunately he
is not in town. I am impatient to see my fine silk handkerchiefs; and I
thank you for them, not as a present, for I do not love presents, but as
a [_word illegible_] remembrance of your old friend. Farewell.
I am, my best Sarah,
Your most affectionate friend,
Good wishes, and all proper remembrances, from old nurse, Mrs. Jeffries,
Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Rickman, &c. &c. &c.
Long live Queen Hoop-oop-oop-oo, and all the old merry phantoms!
CHARLES LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
My dear Miss Stoddart,--Mary has written so fully to you, that I have
nothing to add but that, in all the kindness she has exprest, and loving
desire to see you again, I bear my full part. You will, perhaps, like to
tear this half from the sheet, and give your brother only his strict
due, the remainder. So I will just repay your late kind letter with this
short postscript to hers. Come over here, and let us all be merry again.
[Coleridge reached Valetta on May 18, 1804; but no opportunity to send
letters home occurred until June 5. Miss Stoddart seems to have given up
all her lovers at home in the hope of finding one in Malta.
"The blessed distance." Here Mary Lamb throws out an idea afterwards
developed by her brother in the Elia essay on "Distant Correspondents."
Lamb's letter to Stoddart containing the complaint as to postage no
longer exists. Mrs. Stoddart, Sarah's mother, had remained in England,
Of Mr. Burrel I know nothing: he was probably an agent; nor can I
explain Queen Hoop-oop-oop-oo.
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, dated September 13,
1804, not available for this edition, in which Lamb expresses his
inability to accept an invitation, having had a month's holiday at
Richmond. After alluding to Priscilla Lloyd's approaching marriage (to
Christopher Wordsworth) he says that these new nuptials do not make him
the less satisfied with his bachelor state.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. October 13, 1804.]
(Turn over leaf for more letters.)
Dear Wordsworth--I have not forgot your commissions.
But the truth is, and why should I not confess it? I am not
plethorically abounding in Cash at this present. Merit, God knows, is
very little rewarded; but it does not become me to speak of myself. My
motto is "Contented with little, yet wishing for more." Now the books
you wish for would require some pounds, which I am sorry to say I have
not by me: so I will say at once, if you will give me a draft upon your
town-banker for any sum you propose to lay out, I will dispose of [it]
to the very best of my skill in choice old books, such as my own soul
loveth. In fact, I have been waiting for the liquidation of a debt to
enable myself to set about your commission handsomely, for it is a
scurvy thing to cry Give me the money first, and I am the first of the
family of the Lambs that have done it for many centuries: but the debt
remains as it was, and my old friend that I accommodated has generously
The books which you want I calculate at about L8.
Ben Jonson is a Guinea Book. Beaumont & Fletcher in folio, the right
folio, not now to be met with; the octavos are about L3. As to any other
old dramatists, I do not know where to find them except what are in
Dodsley's old plays, which are about L3 also: Massinger I never saw but
at one shop, but it is now gone, but one of the editions of Dodsley
contains about a fourth (the best) of his plays. Congreve and the rest
of King Charles's moralists are cheap and accessible. The works on
Ireland I will enquire after, but I fear, Spenser's is not to be had
apart from his poems; I never saw it. But you may depend upon my sparing
no pains to furnish you as complete a library of old Poets & Dramatists
as will be prudent to buy; for I suppose you do not include the L20
edition of Hamlet, single play, which Kemble has. Marlow's plays and
poems are totally vanished; only one edition of Dodsley retains one, and
the other two, of his plays: but John Ford is the man after Shakespear.
Let me know your will and pleasure soon: for I have observed, next to
the pleasure of buying a bargain for one's self is the pleasure of
persuading a friend to buy it. It tickles one with the image of an
imprudency without the penalty usually annex'd.
MARY LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[P.M. October 13, 1804.]
My dear Miss Wordsworth--I writ a letter immediately upon the receipt of
yours, to thank you for sending me the welcome tidings of your little
niece's birth, and Mrs. Wordsworth's safety, & waited till I could get a
frank to send it in. Not being able to procure one, I will defer my
thanks no longer for fear Mrs. Wordsworth should add another little baby
to your family, before my congratulations on the birth of the little
I hope Mrs. Wordsworth, & the pretty baby, & the young philosopher, are
well: they are three strangers to me whom I have a longing desire to be
My brother desires me not to send such a long gossiping letter as that I
had intended for you, because he wishes to fill a large share of the
paper with his acknowledgments to Mr. Wordsworth for his letters, which
he considers as a very uncommon favor, your brother seldom writing
letters. I must beg my brother will tell Mr. Wordsworth how very proud
he has made me also by praising my poor verses. Will you be so kind as
to forward the opposite page to Mrs. Coleridge. This sheet of paper is
quite a partnership affair. When the parliament meets you shall have a
letter for your sole use.
My brother and I have been this summer to Richmond; we had a lodging
there for a month, we passed the whole time there in wandering about, &
comparing the views from the banks of the Thames with your mountain
scenery, & tried, & wished, to persuade ourselves that it was almost as
beautiful. Charles was quite a Mr. Clarkson in his admiration and his
frequent exclamations, for though we had often been at Richmond for a
few hours we had no idea it was so beautiful a place as we found it on a
month's intimate acquaintance.
We rejoice to hear of the good fortune of your brave sailor-brother, I
should have liked to have been with you when the news first arrived.
Your very friendly invitations have made us long to be with you, and we
promise ourselves to spend the first money my brother earns by writing
certain books (Charles often plans but never begins) in a journey to
When your eyes (which I am sorry to find continue unwell) will permit
you to make use of your pen again I shall be very happy to see a letter
in your own hand writing.
I beg to be affectionately remembered to your brother & sister & remain
ever your affectionate friend
Compliments to old Molly.
MARY LAMB TO MRS. S. T. COLERIDGE
[P.M. October 13, 1804.]
My dear Mrs. Coleridge--I have had a letter written ready to send to
you, which I kept, hoping to get a frank, and now I find I must write
one entirely anew, for that consisted of matter not now in season, such
as condolence on the illness of your children, who I hope are now quite
well, & comfortings on your uncertainty of the safety of Coleridge, with
wise reasons for the delay of the letters from Malta, which must now be
changed for pleasant congratulations. Coleridge has not written to us,
but we have had two letters from the Stoddarts since the one I sent to
you, containing good accounts of him, but as I find you have had letters
from himself I need not tell you the particulars.
My brother sent your letters to Mr. Motley according to Coleridge's
direction, & I have no doubt but he forwarded them.
One thing only in my poor letter the time makes no alteration in, which
is that I have half a bed ready for you, & I shall rejoice with
exceeding great joy to have you with me. Pray do not change your mind
for I shall be sadly disappointed if you do. Will Hartley be with you? I
hope he will, for you say he goes with you to Liverpool, and I conclude
you come from thence to London.
I have seen your brother lately, and I find he entertains good hopes
from Mr. Sake, and his present employment I hear is likely to continue a
considerable time longer, so that I hope you may consider him as good as
provided for. He seems very steady, and is very well spoken of at his
I have lately been often talking of you with Mrs. Hazlitt. William
Hazlitt is painting my brother's picture, which has brought us
acquainted with the whole family. I like William Hazlitt and his sister
very much indeed, & I think Mrs. Hazlitt a pretty good-humoured woman.
She has a nice little girl of the Pypos kind, who is so fond of my
brother that she stops strangers in the street to tell them when _Mr.
Lamb is coming to see her_.
I hope Mr. Southey and your sister and the little Edith are well. I beg
my love to them.
God bless you, and your three little darlings, & their wandering father,
who I hope will soon return to you in high health & spirits.
I remain ever your affectionate friend
Compliments to Mr. Jackson and darling friend. I hope they are well.
[Charles Lamb adds:--]
C. Lamb particularly desires to be remembered to Southey and all the
Southeys, as well as to Mrs. C. and her little Coleridges. Mrs. C.'s
letters have all been sent as Coleridge left word, to Motley's,
[The Ben Jonson in Lamb's own library was the 1692 folio; his Beaumont
and Fletcher, which may be seen at the British Museum, was the folio
1647 or 1679.
Spenser's prose work, _View of the Present State of Ireland_, is that
"John Ford." Lamb says in the _Dramatic Specimens_, 1808, "Ford was of
the first order of poets."
Dorothy Wordsworth (afterwards the wife of Edward Quillinan) was born
August 16, 1804.
"Your brave sailor-brother"--John Wordsworth.
Mrs. Coleridge now had three children--Hartley, Derwent and Sara. We do
not know whether or no she stayed with the Lambs, as suggested. Her
brother was George Fricker.
William Hazlitt's sister was Peggy Hazlitt. His sister-in-law, Mrs.
Hazlitt, was the wife of John Hazlitt, the miniature painter.
Hazlitt's portrait of Lamb was the one in the dress of a Venetian
senator, reproduced as frontispiece to Vol. I. of this edition. It now
hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
7 Nov., 1804.
Dear Southey,--You were the last person from whom we heard of Dyer, and
if you know where to forward the news I now send to him, I shall be
obliged to you to lose no time. D.'s sister-in-law, who lives in St.
Dunstan's Court, wrote to him about three weeks ago, to the Hope Inn,
Cambridge, to inform him that Squire Houlbert, or some such name, of
Denmark Hill, has died, and left her husband a thousand pounds, and two
or three hundred to Dyer. Her letter got no answer, and she does not
know where to direct to him; so she came to me, who am equally in the
dark. Her story is, that Dyer's immediately coming to town now, and
signing some papers, will save him a considerable sum of money--how, I
don't understand; but it is very right he should hear of this. She has
left me barely time for the post; so I conclude with all Love, &c., to
all at Keswick.
Dyer's brother, who, by his wife's account, has got 1000_l_. left him,
is father of the little dirty girl, Dyer's niece and factotum.
If you send George this, cut off the last paragraph. D.'s laundress had
a letter a few days since; but George never dates.
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. February 18, 1805.]
My dear Wordsworth, the subject of your letter has never been out of our
thoughts since the day we first heard of it, and many have been our
impulses towards you, to write to you, or to write to enquire about you;
but it never seemed the time. We felt all your situation, and how much
you would want Coleridge at such a time, and we wanted somehow to make
up to you his absence, for we loved and honoured your Brother, and his
death always occurs to my mind with something like a feeling of
reproach, as if we ought to have been nearer acquainted, and as if there
had been some incivility shown him by us, or something short of that
respect which we now feel: but this is always a feeling when people die,
and I should not foolishly offer a piece of refinement, instead of
sympathy, if I knew any other way of making you feel how little like
indifferent his loss has been to us. I have been for some time
wretchedly ill and low, and your letter this morning has affected me so
with a pain in my inside and a confusion, that I hardly know what to
write or how. I have this morning seen Stewart, the 2'd mate, who was
saved: but he can give me no satisfactory account, having been in quite
another part of the ship when your brother went down. But I shall see
Gilpin tomorrow, and will communicate your thanks, and learn from him
all I can. All accounts agree that just before the vessel going down,
your brother seemed like one overwhelmed with the situation, and
careless of his own safety. Perhaps he might have saved himself; but a
Captain who in such circumstances does all he can for his ship and
nothing for himself, is the noblest idea. I can hardly express myself, I
am so really ill. But the universal sentiment is, that your brother did
all that duty required; and if he had been more alive to the feelings of
those distant ones whom he loved, he would have been at that time a less
admirable object; less to be exulted in by them: for his character is
high with all that I have heard speak of him, and no reproach can fix
upon him. Tomorrow I shall see Gilpin, I hope, if I can get at him, for
there is expected a complete investigation of the causes of the loss of
the ship, at the East India House, and all the Officers are to attend:
but I could not put off writing to you a moment. It is most likely I
shall have something to add tomorrow, in a second letter. If I do not
write, you may suppose I have not seen G. but you shall hear from me in
a day or two. We have done nothing but think of you, particularly of
Dorothy. Mary is crying by me while I with difficulty write this: but as
long as we remember any thing, we shall remember your Brother's noble
person, and his sensible manly modest voice, and how safe and
comfortable we all were together in our apartment, where I am now
writing. When he returned, having been one of the triumphant China
fleet, we thought of his pleasant exultation (which he exprest here one
night) in the wish that he might meet a Frenchman in the seas; and it
seem'd to be accomplished, all to his heart's desire. I will conclude
from utter inability to write any more, for I am seriously unwell: and
because I mean to gather something like intelligence to send to you
to-morrow: for as yet, I have but heard second hand, and seen one
narrative, which is but a transcript of what was common to all the
Papers. God bless you all, and reckon upon us as entering into all your
griefs. [_Signature cut away._]
[This is the first of a series of letters bearing upon the loss of the
East Indiaman _Earl of Abergavenny_, which was wrecked off Portland Bill
on February 6, 1805, 200 persons and the captain, John Wordsworth, being
lost. The character of Wordsworth's "Happy Warrior" is said to have been
largely drawn from his brother John. His age was only thirty-three.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. February 19, 1805.]
My dear Wordsworth, I yesterday wrote you a very unsatisfactory letter.
To day I have not much to add, but it may be some satisfaction to you
that I have seen Gilpin, and thanked him in all your names for the
assistance he tried to give: and that he has assured me that your
Brother did try to save himself, and was doing so when Gilpin called to
him, but he was then struggling with the waves and almost dead. G. heard
him give orders a very little before the vessel went down, with all
possible calmness, and it does not at all appear that your Brother in
any absence of mind neglected his own safety. But in such circumstances
the memory of those who escaped cannot be supposed to be very accurate;
and there appears to be about the Persons that I have seen a good deal
of reservedness and unwillingness to enter into detail, which is
natural, they being Officers of the Ship, and liable to be examined at
home about its loss. The examination is expected to day or to-morrow,
and if any thing should come out, that can interest you, I shall take an
early opportunity of sending it to you.
Mary wrote some few days since to Miss Stoddart, containing an account
of your Brother's death, which most likely Coleridge will have heard,
before the letter comes: we both wish it may hasten him back. We do not
know any thing of him, whether he is settled in any post (as there was
some talk) or not. We had another sad account to send him, of the death
of his schoolfellow Allen; tho' this, I am sure, will much less affect
him. I don't know whether you knew Allen; he died lately very suddenly
in an apoplexy. When you do and can write, particularly inform us of the
healths of you all. God bless you all. Mary will write to Dorothy as
soon as she thinks she will be able to bear it. It has been a sad
tidings to us, and has affected us more than we could have believed. I
think it has contributed to make me worse, who have been very unwell,
and have got leave for some few days to stay at home: but I am ashamed
to speak of myself, only in excuse for the unfeeling sort of huddle
which I now send. I could not delay it, having seen Gilpin, and I
thought his assurance might be some little ease to you.
We will talk about the Books, when you can better bear it. I have bought
none yet. But do not spare me any office you can put me on, now or when
you are at leisure for such things. Adopt me as one of your family in
this affliction; and use me without ceremony as such.
Mary's kindest Love to all.
Tuesday [Feb. 19].
[Mary Lamb's letter to Miss Stoddart, here referred to, is no longer
preserved. Coleridge a little later accepted the post of private
secretary to the Governor of Malta, Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander John
Ball. Allen was Bob Allen, whom we have already met.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
16 Mitre-court Buildings,
Saturday, 24th [_i.e._ 23rd] Feb., 1805.
Dear Manning,--I have been very unwell since I saw you. A sad depression
of spirits, a most unaccountable nervousness; from which I have been
partially relieved by an odd accident. You knew Dick Hopkins, the
swearing scullion of Caius? This fellow, by industry and agility, has
thrust himself into the important situations (no sinecures, believe me)
of cook to Trinity Hall and Caius College: and the generous creature has
contrived with the greatest delicacy imaginable, to send me a present of
Cambridge brawn. What makes it the more extraordinary is, that the man
never saw me in his life that I know of. I suppose he has _heard_ of me.
I did not immediately recognise the donor; but one of Richard's cards,
which had accidentally fallen into the straw, detected him in a moment.
Dick, you know, was always remarkable for flourishing. His card imports,
that "orders (to wit, for brawn), from any part of England, Scotland, or
Ireland, will be duly executed," &c. At first, I thought of declining
the present; but Richard knew my blind side when he pitched upon brawn.
'Tis of all my hobbies the supreme in the eating way. He might have sent
sops from the pan, skimmings, crumplets, chips, hog's lard, the tender
brown judiciously scalped from a fillet of veal (dexterously replaced by
a salamander), the tops of asparagus, fugitive livers, runaway gizzards
of fowls, the eyes of martyred pigs, tender effusions of laxative
woodcocks, the red spawn of lobsters, leverets' ears, and such pretty
filchings common to cooks; but these had been ordinary presents, the
everyday courtesies of dishwashers to their sweethearts. Brawn was a
noble thought. It is not every common gullet-fancier that can properly
esteem it. It is like a picture of one of the choice old Italian
masters. Its gusto is of that hidden sort. As Wordsworth sings of a
modest poet,--"you must love him, ere to you he will seem worthy of your
love;" so brawn, you must taste it, ere to you it will seem to have any
taste at all. But 'tis nuts to the adept: those that will send out their
tongues and feelers to find it out. It will be wooed, and not unsought
be won. Now, ham-essence, lobsters, turtle, such popular minions,
absolutely _court you_, lay themselves out to strike you at first smack,
like one of David's pictures (they call him _Darveed_), compared with
the plain russet-coated wealth of a Titian or a Correggio, as I
illustrated above. Such are the obvious glaring heathen virtues of a
corporation dinner, compared with the reserved collegiate worth of
brawn. Do me the favour to leave off the business which you may be at
present upon, and go immediately to the kitchens of Trinity and Caius,
and make my most respectful compliments to Mr. Richard Hopkins, and
assure him that his brawn is most excellent; and that I am moreover
obliged to him for his innuendo about salt water and bran, which I shall
not fail to improve. I leave it to you whether you shall choose to pay
him the civility of asking him to dinner while you stay in Cambridge, or
in whatever other way you may best like to show your gratitude to _my
friend_. Richard Hopkins, considered in many points of view, is a very
extraordinary character. Adieu: I hope to see you to supper in London
soon, where we will taste Richard's brawn, and drink his health in a
cheerful but moderate cup. We have not many such men in any rank of life
as Mr. R. Hopkins. Crisp the barber, of St. Mary's, was just such
another. I wonder _he_ never sent me any little token, some chestnuts,
or a pufif, or two pound of hair just to remember him by; gifts are like
_Praesens ut absens_, that is, your _present_ makes amends for your
[This letter is, I take it, a joke: that is to say, the brawn was sent
to Lamb by Manning, who seems to have returned to Cambridge for a while,
and Lamb affects to believe that Hopkins, from whom it was bought, was
the giver. I think this view is supported by the reference to Mr. Crisp,
at the end,--Mr. Crisp being Manning's late landlord.
The following advertisement occurs in the _Cambridge Chronicle_ for
February 8, 1806. It is sent me by Dr. Wharry:--
"R. HOPKINS, Cook of Trinity Hall and Caius College, begs leave to
inform the Nobility, Gentry, &c. that he has now ready for Sale, BRAWN,
BRAWN HEADS & CHEEKS.
"All orders will be thankfully received, and forwarded to any part of
Lamb stayed at 3 St. Mary's Passage, now rebuilt and occupied by Messrs.
Leach & Son (1911).
The letter contains Lamb's second expression of epicurean rapture: the
first in praise of pig.
"As Wordsworth sings"--in the "Poet's Epitaph":--
He is retired as noontide dew,
Or fountain in a noon-day grove;
And you must love him, ere to you
He will seem worthy of your love.
"_Praesens ut absens_." Lamb enlarged upon the topic of gifts and giving
many years later, in the Popular Fallacy "That we must not look a Gift
Horse in the Mouth," 1826, and in his "Thoughts on Presents of Game,"
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. March 5, 1805.]
My dear Wordsworth, if Gilpin's statement has afforded you any
satisfaction, I can assure you that he was most explicit in giving it,
and even seemed anxious (interrupting me) to do away any misconception.
His statement is not contradicted by the last and fullest of the two
Narratives which have been published (the former being a mere transcript
of the newspapers), which I would send you if I did not suppose that you
would receive more pain from the unfeeling canting way in which it is
drawn up, than satisfaction from its contents; and what relates to your
brother in particular is very short. It states that your brother was
seen talking to the First Mate but a few minutes before the ship sank,
with apparent cheerfulness, and it contradicts the newspaper account
about his depression of spirits procrastinating his taking leave of the
Court of Directors; which the drawer up of the Narrative (a man high in
the India House) is likely to be well informed of. It confirms Gilpin's
account of his seeing your brother striving to save himself, and adds
that "Webber, a Joiner, was near the Captain, who was standing on the
hencoop when the ship went down, whom he saw washed off by a sea, which
also carried him (Webber) overboard;"--this is all which concerns your
brother personally. But I will just transcribe from it, a Copy of
Gilpin's account delivered in to the Court of Directors:--
"Memorandum respecting the Loss of the E. of A."
"At 10 A.M. being about 10 leagues to the westward of Portland, the
Commodore made the signal to bear up--did so accordingly; at this time
having maintop gallant mast struck, fore and mizen d deg.. on deck, and the
jib boom in the wind about W.S.W. At 3 P.M. got on board a Pilot, being
about 2 leagues to the westward of Portland; ranged and bitted both
cables at about 1/2 past 3, called all hands and got out the jib boom at
about 4. While crossing the east End of the Shambles, the wind suddenly
died away, and a strong tide setting the ship to the westward, drifted
her into the breakers, and a sea striking her on the larboard quarter,
brought her to, with her head to the northward, when she instantly
struck, it being about 5 P.M. Let out all the reefs, and hoisted the
topsails up, in hopes to shoot the ship across the Shambles. About this
time the wind shifted to the N.W. The surf driving us off, and the tide
setting us on alternately, sometimes having 41/2 at others 9 fathoms, sand
of the sea about 8 feet; continued in this situation till about 1/2 past
7, when she got off. During the time she was on the Shambles, had from 3
to 4 feet water; kept the water at this height about 15 minutes, during
the whole time the pumps constantly going. Finding she gained on us, it
was determined to run her on the nearest shore. About 8 the wind shifted
to the eastward: the leak continuing to gain upon the pumps, having 10
or 11 feet water, found it expedient to bale at the forescuttles and
hatchway. The ship would not bear up--kept the helm hard a starboard,
she being water-logg'd: but still had a hope she could be kept up till
we got her on Weymouth Sands. Cut the lashings of the boats--could not
get the Long Boat out, without laying the main-top-sail aback, by which
our progress would have been so delayed, that no hope would have been
left us of running her aground, and there being several sloops in sight,
one having sent a small skiff on board, took away 2 Ladies and 3 other
passengers, and put them on board the sloop, at the same time promising
to return and take away a hundred or more of the people: she finding
much difficulty in getting back to the sloop, did not return. About this
time the Third Mate and Purser were sent in the cutter to get assistance
from the other ships. Continued pumping and baling till 11 P.M. when she
sunk. Last cast of the lead 11 fathoms; having fired guns from the time
she struck till she went down, about 2 A.M. boats came and took the
people from the wreck about 70 in number. The troops, in particular the
Dragoons, pumped very well.
"(Signed) THOS. GILPIN."
And now, my dear W.--I must apologize for having named my health. But
indeed it was because, what with the ill news, your letter coming upon
me in a most wretched state of ill spirits, I was scarce able to give it
an answer, and I felt what it required. But we will say no more about
it. I am getting better. And when I have persisted time enough in a
course of regular living I shall be well. But I am now well enough; and
have got to business afresh. Mary thanks you for your invitation. I have
wished myself with you daily since the news. I have wished that I were
Coleridge, to give you any consolation. You have not mourned without one
to have a feeling of it. And we have not undervalued the intimation of
your friendship. We shall one day prove it by intruding on your privacy,
when these griefs shall be a little calmed. This year, I am afraid, it
is impossible: but I shall store it up as among the good things to come,
which keep us up when life and spirits are sinking.
If you have not seen, or wish to see, the wretched narrative I have
mentioned, I will send it. But there is nothing more in it affecting
you. I have hesitated to send it, because it is unfeelingly done, and in
the hope of sending you something from some of the actual spectators;
but I have been disappointed, and can add nothing yet. Whatever I pick
up, I will store for you. It is perfectly understood at the E. I. House,
that no blame whatever belongs to the Captn. or Officers.
I can add no more but Mary's warmest Love to all. When you can write
without trouble, do it, for you are among the very chief of our
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[Dated at end: March 21, 1805.]
Dear Wordsworth, upon the receipt of your last letter before that which
I have just received, I wrote myself to Gilpin putting your questions to
him; but have yet had no answer. I at the same time got a person in the
India House to write a much fuller enquiry to a relative of his who was
saved, one Yates a midshipman. Both these officers (and indeed pretty
nearly all that are left) have got appointed to other ships and have
joined them. Gilpin is in the Comet, India man, now lying at Gravesend.
Neither Yates nor Gilpin have yet answered, but I am in daily
expectation. I have sent your letter of this morning also to Gilpin. The
waiting for these answers has been my reason for not writing you. I have
made very particular enquiries about Webber, but in vain. He was a
common seaman (not the ship's carpenter) and no traces of him are at the
I. House: it is most probable that he has entered in some Privateer, as
most of the crew have done. I will keep the L1 note till you find out
something I can do with it. I now write idly, having nothing to send:
but I cannot bear that you should think I have quite neglected your
commission. My letter to G. was such as I thought he could not but
answer: but he may be busy. The letter to Yates I hope I can promise
will be answered. One thing, namely why the other ships sent no
assistance, I have learn'd from a person on board one of them: the
firing was never once heard, owing to the very stormy night, and no
tidings came to them till next morning. The sea was quite high enough to
have thrown out the most expert swimmer, and might not your brother have
received some blow in the shock, which disabled him? We are glad to hear
poor Dorothy is a little better. None of you are able to bear such a
stroke. To people oppressed with feeling, the loss of a good-humoured
happy man that has been friendly with them, if he were no brother, is
bad enough. But you must cultivate his spirits, as a legacy: and believe
that such as he cannot be lost. He was a chearful soul! God bless you.
Mary's love always.
21st March, 1805.
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. April 5, 1805.]
Dear Wordsworth, I have this moment received this letter from Gilpin in
reply to 3 or 4 short questions I put to him in my letter before yours
for him came. He does not notice having rec'd yours, which I sent
immediately. Perhaps he has already answered it to you. You see that his
hand is sprain'd, and your questions being more in number, may delay his
answer to you. My first question was, when it was he called to your
brother: the rest you will understand from the answers. I was beginning
to have hard thoughts of G. from his delay, but now I am confirm'd in my
first opinion that he is a rare good-hearted fellow. How is Dorothy? and
all of you?
4th question was, was Capt. W. standing near the shrouds or any place of
safety at the moment of sinking?
Northfleet, March 3131, 1805.
Sir--I did not receive yours of 16th ins't, till this day, or sh'd. have
answered it sooner. To your first Question, I answer after the Ship had
sunk. To your second, my answer is, I was in the Starboard Mizen
Rigging--I thought I see the Capt'n hanging by a Rope that was fast to
the Mizen Mast. I came down and haild him as loud as I could, he was
about 10 feet distant from me. I threw a rope which fell close to him,
he seem'd quite Motionless and insensible (it was excessive cold), and
was soon after sweep'd away, and I see him no more. It was near about
five minutes after the Ship went down. With respect to the Capt'n and
Webber being on the same Hencoop, I can give no answer, all I can say, I
did not see them. Your fourth Question, I cannot answer, as I did not
see Capt. Wordsworth at the moment the Ship was going down, tho I was
then on the Poop less than one minute before I see the Capt'n there. The
Statement in the printed Pamphlet is by no means correct. I have
sprained my Wrist, most violently, and am now in great pain, which will,
I hope, be an apology for the shortness of this Letter.
believe me truly yours [*]
This Letter as been detained till April 5th.
[Footnote: This is merely a kind way of expressing himself, for I have
no acquaintance with him, nor ever saw him but that once I got
introduced to him.
I think I did not mention in my last, that I sent yours to T. Evans,
Richmond. I hope you have got an answer.]
MARY LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[P.M. May 7, 1805.]
My dear Miss Wordsworth--I thank you, my kind friend, for your most
comfortable letter. Till I saw your own handwriting, I could not
persuade myself that I should do well to write to you, though I have
often attempted it, but I always left off dissatisfied with what I had
written, and feeling that I was doing an improper thing to intrude upon
your sorrow. I wished to tell you, that you would one day feel the kind
of peaceful state of mind, and sweet memory of the dead which you so
happily describe as now almost begun, but I felt that it was improper,
and most grating to the feelings of the afflicted, to say to them that
the memory of their affliction would in time become a constant part not
only of their "dream, but of their most wakeful sense of happiness."
That you would see every object with, and through your lost brother, and
that that would at last become a real and everlasting source of comfort
to you, I felt, and well knew from my own experience in sorrow, but till
you yourself began to feel this I did not dare tell you so, but I send
you some poor lines which I wrote under this conviction of mind, and
before I heard Coleridge was returning home. I will transcribe them now
before I finish my letter, lest a false shame prevent me then, for I
know they are much worse than they ought to be, written as they were
with strong feeling and on such a subject. Every line seems to me to be
borrowed, but I had no better way of expressing my thoughts, and I never
have the power of altering or amending anything I have once laid aside
Why is he wandering on the sea?
Coleridge should now with Wordsworth be.
By slow degrees he'd steal away
Their woe, and gently bring a ray
(So happily he'd time relief)
Of comfort from their very grief.
He'd tell them that their brother dead
When years have passed o'er their head,
Will be remember'd with such holy,
True, and perfect melancholy
That ever this lost brother John
Will be their heart's companion.
His voice they'll always hear, his face they'll always see,
There's nought in life so sweet as such a memory.
Mr. and Mrs. Clarkson came to see us last week, I find it was at your
request they sought us out; you cannot think how glad we were to see
them, so little as we have ever seen of them, yet they seem to us like
very old friends. Poor Mrs. Clarkson looks very ill indeed, she walked
near a mile, and came up our high stairs, which fatigued her very much,
but when she had sat a while her own natural countenance with which she
cheared us in your little cottage seemed to return to her, and then I
began to have hopes she would get the better of her complaint. Charles
does not think she is so much altered as I do. I wish he may be the
better judge. We talked of nothing but you. She means to try to get
leave of Dr. Beddoes to come and see you--her heart is with you, and I
do not think it would hurt her so much to come to you, as it would
distress you to see her so ill.
She read me a part of your letter wherein you so kindly express your
wishes that we would come and see you this summer. I wish we could, for
I am sure it would be a blessed thing for you and for us to be a few
weeks together--I fear it must not be. Mrs. Clarkson is to be in town
again in a fortnight and then they have promised we shall see more of
I am very sorry for the poor little Dorothy's illness--I hope soon to
hear she is perfectly recovered. Remember me with affection to your
brother, and your good sister. What a providence it is that your brother
and you have this kind friend, and these dear little ones--I rejoice
with her and with you that your brother is employed upon his poem again.
Pray remember us to Old Molly. Mrs. Clarkson says her house is a pattern
of neatness to all her neighbours--such good ways she learnt of
"Mistress." How well I remember the shining ornaments of her kitchen,
and her old friendly face, not [the] least ornamental part of it.
Excuse the haste I write in. I am unexpectedly to go out to dinner, else
I think I have much more to say, but I will not put it off till next
post, because you so kindly say I must not write if I feel unwilling--
you do not know what very great joy I have in being again writing to
you. Thank you for sending the letter of Mr. Evans, it was a very kind
one. Have you received one from a Cornet Burgoine? My brother wrote to
him and desires he would direct his answer to your brother.
God bless you and yours my dear friend.
I am yours affectionately
[Dr. Beddoes, who was attending Mrs. Clarkson, would be, I suppose,
Thomas Beddoes of Clifton (1760-1808), the father of Thomas Lovell
Beddoes and a friend of Coleridge and Southey.
In a letter from Dorothy Wordsworth to Mrs. Clarkson, dated April 19,
1805 (recently printed by Mr. Hale White in the _Athenaeum_), we read:--
I have great pleasure in thinking that you may see Miss Lamb; do not
miss it if you can possibly go without injury to yourself--they are the
best good creatures--blessings be with them! they have sympathised in
our sorrow as tenderly as if they had grown up in the same [town?] with
us and known our beloved John from his childhood. Charles has written to
us the most consolatory letters, the result of diligent and painful
inquiry of the survivors of the wreck,--for this we must love him as
long as we have breath. I think of him and his sister every day of my
life, and many times in the day with thankfulness and blessings. Talk to
dear Miss Lamb about coming into this country and let us hear what she
says of it. I cannot express how much we all wish to see her and her
brother while we are at Grasmere. We look forward to Coleridge's return
with fear and painful hope--but indeed I dare not look to it--I think as
little as I can of him.]
CHARLES LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[_Slightly torn. The conjectures in square brackets are
Friday, 14th June, 1805.
My dear Miss Wordsworth, Your long kind letter has not been thrown away
(for it has given me great pleasure to find you are all resuming your
old occupations, and are better) but poor Mary to whom it is addrest
cannot yet relish it. She has been attacked by one of her severe
illnesses, and is at present _from home_. Last Monday week was the day
she left me; and I hope I may calculate upon having her again in a
month, or little more. I am rather afraid late hours have in this case
contributed to her indisposition. But when she begins to discover
symptoms of approaching illness, it is not easy to say what is best to
do. Being by ourselves is bad, and going out is bad. I get so irritable
and wretched with fear, that I constantly hasten on the disorder. You
cannot conceive the misery of such a foresight. I am sure that for the
week before she left me, I was little better than light-headed. I now am
calm, but sadly taken down, and flat. I have every reason to suppose
that this illness, like all her former ones, will be but temporary; but
I cannot always feel so. Meantime she is dead to me, and I miss a prop.
All my strength is gone, and I am like a [fool, ber]eft of her
co-operation. I dare not think, lest I [should think] wrong; so used am
I to look up to her [in the least] and the biggest perplexity. To say
_all that_ [I know of her] would be more than I think any body could
[believe or even under]stand; and when I hope to have her well [again
with me] it would be sinning against her feelings to go about to praise
her: for I can conceal nothing that I do from her. She is older, and
wiser, and better, than me, and all my wretched imperfections I cover to
myself by resolutely thinking on her goodness. She would share life and
death, heaven and hell, with me. She lives but for me. And I know I have
been wasting and teazing her life for five years past incessantly with
my cursed drinking and ways of going on. But even in this up-braiding of
myself I am offending against her, for I know that she has cleaved to me
for better, for worse; and if the balance has been against her hitherto,
it was a noble trade.
I am stupid and lose myself in what I write. I write rather what answers
to my feelings (which are sometimes sharp enough) than express my
present ones, for I am only flat and stupid.
Poor Miss Stoddart! she is coming to England under the notion of passing
her time between her mother and Mary, between London and Salisbury.
Since she talk'd of coming, word has been sent to Malta that her Mother
is gone out of her mind. This Letter, with mine to Stoddart with an
account of Allen's death, &c., has miscarried (taken by the French)
[_word missing_]. She is coming home, with no soul to receive [_words
missing_]. She has not a woman-friend in London.
I am sure you will excuse my writing [any more, I] am very poorly. I
cannot resist tra[nscribing] three or four Lines which poor Mary made
upon a Picture (a Holy Family) which we saw at an Auction only one week
before she left home. She was then beginning to show signs of ill
boding. They are sweet Lines, and upon a sweet Picture. But I send them,
only as the last memorial of her.
VIRGIN AND CHILD. L. DA VINCI
Maternal Lady with the Virgin-grace,
Heaven-born thy Jesus seemeth sure,
And thou a virgin pure.
Lady most perfect, when thy angel face
Men look upon, they wish to be
A Catholic, Madona fair, to worship thee.
You had her lines about the "Lady Blanch." You have not had some which
she wrote upon a copy of a girl from Titian, which I had hung up where
that print of Blanch and the Abbess (as she beautifully interpreted two
female figures from L. da Vinci) had hung, in our room. 'Tis light and
Who art thou, fair one, who usurp'st the place
Of Blanch, the Lady of the matchless grace?
Come, fair and pretty, tell to me
Who in thy lifetime thou mightst be?
Thou pretty art and fair,
But with the Lady Blanch thou never must compare.
No need for Blanch her history to tell,
Whoever saw her face, they there did read it well.
But when I look on thee, I only know
There liv'd a pretty maid some hundred years ago.
This is a little unfair, to tell so much about ourselves, and to advert
so little to your letter, so full of comfortable tidings of you all. But
my own cares press pretty close upon me, and you can make allowance.
That you may go on gathering strength and peace is the next wish to
I had almost forgot your repeated invitation. Supposing that Mary will
be well and able, there is another _ability_ which you may guess at,
which I cannot promise myself. In prudence we ought not to come. This
illness will make it still more prudential to wait. It is not a balance
of this way of spending our money against another way, but an absolute
question of whether we shall stop now, or go on wasting away the little
we have got beforehand, which my wise conduct has already incroach'd
upon one half. My best Love, however, to you all; and to that most
friendly creature, Mrs. Clarkson, and better health to her, when you see
or write to her.
[The reference to Miss Stoddart is explained later, in the next letter
Mary Lamb's two poems were included in the _Works_, 1818. "Lady Blanch"
is the poem quoted on page 300.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[Dated by Mr. Hazlitt: July 27, 1805.]
Dear Archimedes,--Things have gone on badly with thy ungeometrical
friend; but they are on the turn. My old housekeeper has shown signs of
convalescence, and will shortly resume the power of the keys, so I
shan't be cheated of my tea and liquors. Wind in the west, which
promotes tranquillity. Have leisure now to anticipate seeing thee again.
Have been taking leave of tobacco in a rhyming address. Had thought
_that vein_ had long since closed up. [_A sentence omitted here._] Find
I can rhyme and reason too. Think of studying mathematics, to restrain
the fire of my genius, which G.D. recommends. Have frequent bleedings at
the nose, which shows plethoric. Maybe shall try the sea myself, that
great scene of wonders. Got incredibly sober and regular; shave oftener,
and hum a tune, to signify cheerfulness and gallantry.
Suddenly disposed to sleep, having taken a quart of pease with bacon and
stout. Will not refuse Nature, who has done such things for me!
Nurse! don't call me unless Mr. Manning comes.--What! the gentleman in
["Have been taking leave of tobacco." On August 10, 1824, Lamb tells
Hood that he designs to give up smoking.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[? Sept. 18, 1805.]
My dear Sarah,--I have made many attempts at writing to you, but it has
always brought your troubles and my own so strongly into my mind, that I
have been obliged to leave off, and make Charles write for me. I am
resolved now, however few lines I write, this shall go; for I know, my
kind friend, you will like once more to see my own handwriting.
I have been for these few days past in rather better spirits, so that I
begin almost to feel myself once more a living creature, and to hope for
happier times; and in that hope I include the prospect of once more
seeing my dear Sarah in peace and comfort in our old garret. How did I
wish for your presence to cheer my drooping heart when I returned home
Is your being with, or near, your poor dear Mother necessary to her
comfort? does she take any notice of you? and is there any prospect of
her recovery? How I grieve for her and for you....
I went to the Admiralty about your Mother's pension; from thence I was
directed to an office in Lincoln's Inn, where they are paid. They
informed me at the office that it could not be paid to any person except
Mr. Wray, without a letter of attorney from your Mother; and as the
stamp for that will cost one pound, it will, perhaps, be better to leave
it till Mr. Wray comes to town, if he does come before Christmas; they
tell me it can be received any Thursday between this and Christmas, If
you send up a letter of Attorney, let it be in my name. If you think,
notwithstanding their positive assurance to the contrary, that you can
put me in any way of getting it without, let me know. Are you acquainted
with Mr. Pearce, and will my taking another letter from you to him be of
any service? or will a letter from Mr. Wray be of any use?--though I
fear not, for they said at the office they had orders to pay no pension
without a letter of Attorney. The attestation you sent up, they said,
was sufficient, and that the same must be sent every year. Do not let us
neglect this business; and make use of me in any way you can.
I have much to thank you and your kind brother for; I kept the dark
silk, as you may suppose: you have made me very fine; the broche is very
beautiful. Mrs. Jeffries wept for gratitude when she saw your present;
she desires all manner of thanks and good wishes. Your maid's sister was
gone to live a few miles from town; Charles, however, found her out, and
gave her the handkerchief.
I want to know if you have seen William, and if there is any prospect in
future there. All you said in your letter from Portsmouth that related
to him was burnt so in the fumigating, that we could only make out that
it was unfavourable, but not the particulars; tell us again how you go
on, and if you have seen him: I conceit affairs will some how be made up
between you at last.
I want to know how your brother goes on. Is he likely to make a very
good fortune, and in how long a time? And how is he, in the way of home
comforts?--I mean, is he very happy with Mrs. Stoddart? This was a
question I could not ask while you were there, and perhaps is not a fair
one now; but I want to know how you all went on--and, in short, twenty
little foolish questions that one ought, perhaps, rather to ask when we
meet, than to write about. But do make me a little acquainted with the
inside of the good Doctor's house, and what passes therein.
Was Coleridge often with you? or did your brother and Col. argue long
arguments, till between the two great arguers there grew a little
coolness?--or perchance the mighty friendship between Coleridge and your
Sovereign Governor, Sir Alexander Ball, might create a kind of jealousy,
for we fancy something of a coldness did exist, from the little mention
ever made of C. in your brother's letters.
Write us, my good girl, a long, gossiping letter, answering all these
foolish questions--and tell me any silly thing you can recollect--any,
the least particular, will be interesting to us, and we will never tell
tales out of school: but we used to wonder and wonder, how you all went
on; and when you was coming home we said, "Now we shall hear all from
God bless you, my dear friend.
I am ever your affectionate
If you have sent Charles any commissions he has not executed, write me
word--he says he has lost or mislaid a letter desiring him to inquire
about a wig.
Write two letters--one of business and pensions, and one all about Sarah
Stoddart and Malta. Is Mr. Moncrief doing well there?
We have got a picture of Charles; do you think your brother would like
to have it? If you do, can you put us in a way how to send it?
[Mrs. Stoddart was the widow of a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Mr. Wray
and Mr. Pearce were presumably gentlemen connected with the Admiralty or
in some way concerned with the pension. "William" is still the early
William--not William Hazlitt, whom Sarah was destined to marry. Mr.
Moncrieff was Mrs. John Stoddart's eldest brother, who was a King's
Advocate in the Admiralty Court at Malta. The picture of Charles might
be some kind of reproduction of Hazlitt's portrait of him, painted in
the preceding year; but more probably, I think, a few copies of
Hancock's drawing, made in 1798 for Cottle, had been struck off.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM AND DOROTHY
[P.M. September 28, 1805.]
My dear Wordsworth (or Dorothy rather, for to you appertains the biggest
part of this answer by right.)--I will not again deserve reproach by so
long a silence. I have kept deluding myself with the idea that Mary
would write to you, but she is so lazy, or, I believe the true state of
the case, so diffident, that it must revert to me as usual. Though she
writes a pretty good style, and has some notion of the force of words,
she is not always so certain of the true orthography of them, and that
and a poor handwriting (in this age of female calligraphy) often deter
her where no other reason does. We have neither of us been very well for
some weeks past. I am very nervous, and she most so at those times when
I am: so that a merry friend, adverting to the noble consolation we were
able to afford each other, denominated us not unaptly Gum Boil and Tooth
Ache: for they use to say that a Gum Boil is a great relief to a Tooth
Ache. We have been two tiny excursions this summer, for three or four
days each: to a place near Harrow, and to Egham, where Cooper's Hill is:
and that is the total history of our Rustications this year. Alas! how
poor a sound to Skiddaw, and Helvellyn, and Borrodaile, and the
magnificent sesquipedalia of the year 1802. Poor old Molly! to have lost
her pride, that "last infirmity of Noble Mind," and her Cow--Providence
need not have set her wits to such an old Molly. I am heartily sorry for
her. Remember us lovingly to her. And in particular remember us to Mrs.
Clarkson in the most kind manner. I hope by southwards you mean that she
will be at or near London, for she is a great favorite of both of us,
and we feel for her health as much as is possible for any one to do. She
is one of the friendliest, comfortablest women we know, and made our
little stay at your cottage one of the pleasantest times we ever past.
We were quite strangers to her. Mr. C. is with you too?--our kindest
separate remembrances to him.
As to our special affairs, I am looking about me. I have done nothing
since the beginning of last year, when I lost my newspaper job, and
having had a long idleness, I must do something, or we shall get very
poor. Sometimes I think of a farce--but hitherto all schemes have gone
off,--an idle brag or two of an evening vaporing out of a pipe, and
going off in the morning; but now I have bid farewell to my "Sweet
Enemy" Tobacco, as you will see in my next page, I perhaps shall set
soberly to work. Hang Work! I wish that all the year were holyday. I am
sure that Indolence indefeazible Indolence is the true state of man, and
business the invention of the Old Teazer who persuaded Adam's Master to
give him an apron and set him a houghing. Pen and Ink, and Clerks, and