Part 10 out of 14
Wordsworth and Mr. Southey to endeavour to bring Mrs. C. to consent to a
separation, and to day I think of the letter I received from Mrs.
Coleridge, telling me, as joyful news, that her husband is arrived, and
I feel it very wrong in me even in the remotest degree to do anything to
prevent her seeing that husband--she and her husband being the only
people who ought to be concerned in the affair.
All that I have said, or meant to say, you will perfectly understand, it
being nothing more than to beg you will consider both my letter to day
and yesterday as if you had not read either, they being both equally the
effect of low spirits, brought on by the fatigue of Coleridge's
conversation and the anxious care even to misery which I have felt since
he has been here, that something could be done to make such an admirable
creature happy. Nor has, I assure you, Mrs. Coleridge been without her
full share in adding to my uneasiness. They say she grows fat and is
very happy--and people say I grow fat and look happy--
It is foolish to teize you about my anxieties, you will feel quite
enough on the subject yourself, and your little ones are all ill, and no
doubt you are fatigued with nursing, but I could not help writing to
day, to tell you how what I said yesterday has vext and worried me. Burn
both these foolish letters and do not name the subject of them, because
Charles will either blame me for having written something improper or he
will laugh at me for my foolish fears about nothing.
Though I wish you not to take notice of what I have said, yet I shall
rejoice to see a letter from you, and I hope, when you have half an
hour's leisure, to see a line from you. We have not heard from Coleridge
since he went out of town, but I dare say you have heard either from him
or Mrs. Clarkson.
I remain my dear friend
Yours most affectionately
Friday [August 29].
[For the full understanding of Mary Lamb's letter it is necessary to
read Coleridge's Life and his Letters. Coleridge on his return from
abroad reached London August 17, 1806, and took up his quarters with the
Lambs on the following day. He once more joined Stuart, then editing the
_Courier_, but much of his old enthusiasm had gone. In Mr. Dykes
"Almost his first words to Stuart were: 'I am literally afraid, even to
cowardice, to ask for any person, or of any person.' Spite of the
friendliest and most unquestioning welcome from all most dear to him, it
was the saddest of home-comings, for the very sympathy held out with
both hands induced only a bitter, hopeless feeling of remorse--a
"'Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain;--
And genius given, and knowledge won in vain;--'
"of broken promises,--promises to friends and promises to himself; and
above all, sense of a will paralysed--dead perhaps, killed by his own
Coleridge remained at Lamb's at any rate until August 29, afterwards
taking rooms in the _Courier_ office at 348 Strand. Meanwhile his
reluctance to meet or communicate with his wife was causing his friends
much concern, none more so than Mary Lamb, who wrote at least two
letters filled with anxious sympathy to Dorothy Wordsworth on the
subject, asking for the mediation of Wordsworth or Southey. Her earlier
letter is missing.
To quote Mr. Dykes Campbell again:--
"On September 16--just a month after his landing--he wrote his first
letter to his wife, to say that he might be expected at Greta Hall on
"Before this, Wordsworth had informed Sir George Beaumont that Coleridge
'dare not go home, he recoils so much from the thought of domesticating
with Mrs. Coleridge, with whom, though on many accounts he much respects
her, he is so miserable that he dare not encounter it. What a deplorable
thing! I have written to him to say that if he does not come down
immediately I must insist upon seeing him some-where. If he appoints
London I shall go.
"'I believe if anything good is to be done for him it must be done by
"It was this letter of Wordsworth, doubtless, which drew Coleridge to
the North. Dorothy's letter to Lady Beaumont, written on receipt of the
announcement of Coleridge's home-coming, goes copiously and minutely
into the reasons for the estrangement between the poet and his wife.
Miss Wordsworth still had hopes of an improvement. 'Poor soul!' she
writes, 'he had a struggle of many years, striving to bring Mrs. C. to a
change of temper, and something like communion with him in his
enjoyments. He is now, I trust, effectually convinced that he has no
power of that sort,' and may, she thinks, if he will be 'reconciled to
that one great want, want of sympathy,' live at home in peace and quiet.
'Mrs. C. has many excellent properties, as you observe; she is
unremitting in her attention as a nurse to her children, and, indeed, I
believe she would have made an excellent wife to many persons. Coleridge
is as little fitted for her as she for him, and I am truly sorry for
It might perhaps be stated here that the separation was agreed upon in
December. At the end of that month Coleridge visited the Wordsworths at
Coleorton with Hartley, and in a few days began to be "more like his old
self"--in Dorothy Wordsworth's phrase.
I append an undated letter which may belong to this period:--]
MARY LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Dear Coleridge--I have read your silly, very silly, letter, and between
laughing and crying I hardly know how to answer it. You are too serious
and too kind a vast deal, for we are not much used to either seriousness
or kindness from our present friends, and therefore your letter has put
me into a greater hurry of spirits that [? than] your pleasant segar did
last night, for believe me your two odd faces amused me much more than
the mighty transgression vexed me. If Charles had not smoked last night
his virtue would not have lasted longer than tonight, and now perhaps
with a little of your good counsel he will refrain. Be not too serious
if he smokes all the time you are with us--a few chearful evenings spent
with you serves to bear up our spirits many a long and weary year--and
the very being led into the crime by your segar that you thought so
harmless, will serve for our amusement many a dreary time when we can
get no letter nor hear no tidings of you.
You must positively must write to Mrs. Coleridge this day, and you must
write here, that I may know you write, or you must come and dictate a
letter for me to write to her. I know all that you would say in defence
of not writing and I allow in full force everything that [you] can say
or think, but yet a letter from me or you _shall go today_.
I wanted to tell you, but feared to begin the subject, how well your
children are, how Pypos thrives and what a nice child Sara is, and above
all I hear such favourable accounts from Southey, from Wordsworth and
Hazlitt, of Hartley.
I have got Wordsworth's letters out for you to look at, but you shall
not see them or talk of them without you like--Only come here as soon as
you receive this, and I will not teize you about writing, but will
manage a few lines, Charles and I between us. But something like a
letter shall go today.
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[P.M. October 23, 1806.]
My dear Sarah--I thank you a thousand times for the beautiful work you
have sent me, I received the parcel from a strange gentleman yesterday.
I like the patterns very much, you have quite set me up in finery, but
you should have sent the silk handkerchief too. Will you make a parcel
of that and send it by the Salisbury coach--I should like to have it in
a few days because we have not yet been to Mr. Babbs and that
handkerchief would suit this time of year nicely.
I have received a long letter from your brother on the subject of your
intended marriage. I have no doubt but you also have one on this
business, therefore it is needless to repeat what he says. I am well
pleased to find that upon the whole he does not seem to see it in an
unfavorable light. He says that, if Mr. D. is a worthy man he shall have
no objection to become the brother of a farmer, and he makes an odd
request to me that I shall set out to Salisbury to look at and examine
into the merits of the said Mr. D., and speaks very confidently as if
you would abide by my determination. A pretty sort of an office
truly.--Shall I come?
The objections he starts are only such as you and I have already talked
over, such as the difference in age, education, habits of life, &c.
You have gone too far in this affair for any interference to be at all
desirable, and if you had not, I really do not know what my wishes would
be. When you bring Mr. Dowling at Christmas I suppose it will be quite
time enough for me to sit in judgement upon him, but my examination will
not be a very severe one. If you fancy a very young man, and he likes an
elderly gentlewoman; if he likes a learned and accomplished lady, and
you like a not very learned youth, who may need a little polishing,
which probably he will never acquire; it is all very well, and God bless
you both together and may you be both very long in the same mind.
I am to assist you too, your brother says, in drawing up the marriage
settlements--another thankful office! I am not, it seems, to suffer you
to keep too much money in your own power, and yet I am to take care of
you in case of bankruptcy &c., and I am to recommend to you, for the
better management of this point, the serious perusal of _Jeremy Taylor_
his opinion on the marriage state, especially his advice against
_separate interests_ in that happy state, and I am also to tell you how
desirable it is that the husband should have the intire direction of all
money concerns, except, as your good brother adds, in the case of his
own family, where the money, he observes, is very properly deposited in
Mrs. Stoddart's hands, she being better suited to enjoy such a trust
than any other woman, and therefore it is fit that the general rule
should not be extended to her.
We will talk over these things when you come to town, and as to
settlements, which are matters of which, I never having had a penny in
my own disposal, I never in my life thought of--and if I had been
blessed with a good fortune, and that marvellous blessing to boot, a
husband, I verily believe I should have crammed it all uncounted into
his pocket--But thou hast a cooler head of thy own, and I dare say will
do exactly what is expedient and proper, but your brother's opinion
seems somewhat like Mr. Barwis's and I dare say you will take it into
due consideration, yet perhaps an offer of your own money to take a farm
may make _uncle_ do less for his nephew, and in that case Mr. D. might
be a loser by your generosity. Weigh all these things well, and if you
can so contrive it, let your brother _settle_ the _settlements_ himself
when he returns, which will most probably be long before you want them.
You are settled, it seems, in the very house which your brother most
dislikes. If you find this house very inconvenient, get out of it as
fast as you can, for your brother says he sent you the fifty pound to
make you comfortable, and by the general tone of his letter I am sure he
wishes to make you easy in money matters: therefore why straiten
yourself to pay the debt you owe him, which I am well assured he never
means to take? Thank you for the letter and for the picture of pretty
little chubby nephew John.
I have been busy making waistcoats and plotting new work to succeed the
Tales. As yet I have not hit upon any thing to my mind.
Charles took an emendated copy of his farce to Mr. Wroughton the Manager
yesterday. Mr. Wroughton was very friendly to him, and expressed high
approbation of the farce, but there are two, he tells him, to come out
before it, yet he gave him hopes that it will come out this season, but
I am afraid you will not see it by Christmas. It will do for another
jaunt for you in the spring. We are pretty well and in fresh spirits
about this farce. Charles has been very good lately in the matter of
When you come bring the gown you wish to sell. Mrs. Coleridge will be in
town then, and if she happens not to fancy it, perhaps some other person
Coleridge I believe is gone home; he left us with that design but we
have not heard from him this fortnight.
Louisa sends her love; she has been very unwell lately.
My respects to Coridon, Mother, and Aunty.
Farewel, my best wishes are with you.
When I saw what a prodigious quantity of work you had put into the
finery I was quite ashamed of my unreasonable request, I will never
serve you so again, but I do dearly love worked muslin.
[Sarah Stoddart now had a new lover, Mr. Dowling, to whom she seems
actually to have become engaged. Mr. Barwis, I presume, was Mr.
Dowling's uncle. Coridon would, I imagine, be Mr. Dowling.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
5th Dec., 1806.
Tuthill is at Crabtree's who has married Tuthill's sister.
Manning, your letter dated Hottentots, August the what-was-it? came to
hand. I can scarce hope that mine will have the same luck. China--
Canton--bless us--how it strains the imagination and makes it ache! I
write under another uncertainty, whether it can go to-morrow by a ship
which I have just learned is going off direct to your part of the world,
or whether the despatches may not be sealed up and this have to wait,
for if it is detained here, it will grow staler in a fortnight than in a
five months' voyage coming to you. It will be a point of conscience to
send you none but brand-new news (the latest edition), which will but
grow the better, like oranges, for a sea voyage. Oh, that you should be
so many hemispheres off--if I speak incorrectly you can correct me--why,
the simplest death or marriage that takes place here must be important
to you as news in the old Bastile. There's your friend Tuthill has got
away from France--you remember France? and Tuthill?--ten-to-one but he
writes by this post, if he don't get my note in time, apprising him of
the vessel sailing. Know then that he has found means to obtain leave
from Bonaparte without making use of any _incredible romantic pretences_
as some have done, who never meant to fulfil them, to come home; and I
have seen him here and at Holcroft's. I have likewise seen his wife,
this elegant little French woman whose hair reaches to her heels--by the
same token that Tom (Tommy H.) took the comb out of her head, not
expecting the issue, and it fell down to the ground to his utter
consternation, two ells long. An't you glad about Tuthill? Now then be
sorry for Holcroft, whose new play, called "The Vindictive Man," was
damned about a fortnight since. It died in part of its own weakness, and
in part for being choked up with bad actors. The two principal parts
were destined to Mrs. Jordan and Mr. Bannister, but Mrs. J. has not come
to terms with the managers, they have had some squabble, and Bannister
shot some of his fingers off by the going off of a gun. So Miss Duncan
had her part, and Mr. de Camp, a vulgar brother of Miss De Camp, took
his. He is a fellow with the make of a jockey, and the air of a
lamplighter. His part, the principal comic hope of the play, was most
unluckily Goldfinch, taken out of the "Road to Ruin," not only the same
character, but the identical Goldfinch--the same as Falstaff is in two
plays of Shakspeare. As the devil of ill-luck would have it, half the
audience did not know that H. had written it, but were displeased at his
stealing from the "Road to Ruin;" and those who might have borne a
gentlemanly coxcomb with his "That's your sort," "Go it"--such as Lewis
is--did not relish the intolerable vulgarity and inanity of the idea
stript of his manner. De Camp was hooted, more than hist, hooted and
bellowed off the stage before the second act was finished, so that the
remainder of his part was forced to be, with some violence to the play,
omitted. In addition to this, a whore was another principal character--a
most unfortunate choice in this moral day. The audience were as
scandalised as if you were to introduce such a personage to their
private tea-tables. Besides, her action in the play was gross--wheedling
an old man into marriage. But the mortal blunder of the play was that
which, oddly enough, H. took pride in, and exultingly told me of the
night before it came out, that there were no less than eleven principal
characters in it, and I believe he meant of the men only, for the
play-bill exprest as much, not reckoning one woman and one whore; and
true it was, for Mr. Powell, Mr. Raymond, Mr. Bartlett, Mr. H. Siddons,
Mr. Barrymore, &c. &c.,--to the number of eleven, had all parts equally
prominent, and there was as much of them in quantity and rank as of the
hero and heroine--and most of them gentlemen who seldom appear but as
the hero's friend in a farce--for a minute or two--and here they all had
their ten-minute speeches, and one of them gave the audience a serious
account how he was now a lawyer but had been a poet, and then a long
enumeration of the inconveniences of authorship, rascally booksellers,
reviewers, &c.; which first set the audience a-gaping; but I have said
enough. You will be so sorry, that you will not think the best of me for
my detail; but news is news at Canton. Poor H. I fear will feel the
disappointment very seriously in a pecuniary light. From what I can
learn he has saved nothing. You and I were hoping one day that he had;
but I fear he has nothing but his pictures and books, and a no very
flourishing business, and to be obliged to part with his long-necked
Guido that hangs opposite as you enter, and the game-piece that hangs in
the back drawing-room, and all those Vandykes, &c.! God should temper
the wind to the shorn connoisseur. I hope I need not say to you, that I
feel for the weather-beaten author and for all his household. I assure
you his fate has soured a good deal the pleasure I should have otherwise
taken in my own little farce being accepted, and I hope about to be
acted--it is in rehearsal actually, and I expect it to come out next
week. It is kept a sort of secret, and the rehearsals have gone on
privately, lest by many folks knowing it, the story should come out,
which would infallibly damn it. You remember I had sent it before you
went. Wroughton read it, and was much pleased with it. I speedily got an
answer. I took it to make alterations, and lazily kept it some months,
then took courage and furbished it up in a day or two and took it. In
less than a fortnight I heard the principal part was given to Elliston,
who liked it, and only wanted a prologue, which I have since done and
sent; and I had a note the day before yesterday from the manager,
Wroughton (bless his fat face--he is not a bad actor in some things), to
say that I should be summoned to the rehearsal after the next, which
next was to be yesterday. I had no idea it was so forward. I have had no
trouble, attended no reading or rehearsal, made no interest; what a
contrast to the usual parade of authors! But it is peculiar to modesty
to do all things without noise or pomp! I have some suspicion it will
appear in public on Wednesday next, for W. says in his note, it is so
forward that if wanted it may come out next week, and a new melo-drama
is announced for every day till then: and "a new farce is in rehearsal,"
is put up in the bills. Now you'd like to know the subject. The title is
"Mr. H.," no more; how simple, how taking! A great H. sprawling over the
play-bill and attracting eyes at every corner. The story is a coxcomb
appearing at Bath, vastly rich--all the ladies dying for him--all
bursting to know who he is--but he goes by no other name than Mr. H.--a
curiosity like that of the dames of Strasburg about the man with the
great nose. But I won't tell you any more about it. Yes, I will; but I
can't give you an idea how I have done it. I'll just tell you that after
much vehement admiration, when his true name comes out, "Hogsflesh," all
the women shun him, avoid him, and not one can be found to change their
name for him--that's the idea--how flat it is here!--but how whimsical
in the farce! and only think how hard upon me it is that the ship is
despatched to-morrow, and my triumph cannot be ascertained till the
Wednesday after--but all China will ring of it by and by. N.B. (But this
is a secret). The Professor has got a tragedy coming out with the young
Roscius in it in January next, as we say--January last it will be with
you--and though it is a profound secret now, as all his affairs are, it
cannot be much of one by the time you read this. However, don't let it
go any further. I understand there are dramatic exhibitions in China.
One would not like to be forestalled. Do you find in all this stuff I
have written anything like those feelings which one should send my old
adventuring friend, that is gone to wander among Tartars and may never
come again? I don't--but your going away, and all about you, is a
threadbare topic. I have worn it out with thinking--it has come to me
when I have been dull with anything, till my sadness has seemed more to
have come from it than to have introduced it. I want you, you don't know
how much--but if I had you here in my European garret, we should but
talk over such stuff as I have written--so--. Those "Tales from
Shakespear" are near coming out, and Mary has begun a new work. Mr. Dawe
is turned author: he has been in such a way lately--Dawe the painter, I
mean--he sits and stands about at Holcroft's and says nothing--then
sighs and leans his head on his hand. I took him to be in love--but it
seems he was only meditating a work,--"The Life of Morland,"--the young
man is not used to composition. Rickman and Captain Burney are well;
they assemble at my house pretty regularly of a Wednesday--a new
institution. Like other great men I have a public day, cribbage and
pipes, with Phillips and noisy Martin.
Good Heaven! what a bit only I've got left! How shall I squeeze all I
know into this morsel! Coleridge is come home, and is going to turn
lecturer on taste at the Royal Institution. I shall get L200 from the
theatre if "Mr. H." has a good run, and I hope L100 for the copyright.
Nothing if it fails; and there never was a more ticklish thing. The
whole depends on the manner in which the name is brought out, which I
value myself on, as a _chef-d'oeuvre_. How the paper grows less and
less! In less than two minutes I shall cease to talk to you, and you may
rave to the Great Wall of China. N.B. Is there such a wall! Is it as big
as Old London Wall by Bedlam? Have you met with a friend of mine, named
Ball, at Canton?--if you are acquainted, remember me kindly to him.
Amongst many queer cattle I have and do meet with at the India Ho. I
always liked his behaviour. Tell him his friend Evans &c. are well.
Woodruff not dead yet. May-be, you'll think I have not said enough of
Tuthill and the Holcrofts. Tuthill is a noble fellow, as far as I can
judge. The Holcrofts bear their disappointment pretty well, but indeed
they are sadly mortified. Mrs. H. is cast down. It was well, if it were
but on this account, that Tuthill is come home. N.B. If my little thing
don't succeed, I shall easily survive, having, as it were, compared to
H.'s venture, but a sixteenth in the lottery. Mary and I are to sit next
the orchestra in the pit, next the tweedledees. She remembers you. You
are more to us than five hundred farces, clappings, &c.
Come back one day. C. LAMB.
[The letter is addressed to T. Manning, Esq., Canton. At the end Lamb
"Holcroft has just writ to me as follows:--
"'DEAR SIR, Miss L. has informed us you are writing to Manning. Will you
be kind enough to inform him directly from me that I and my family are
most truly anxious for his safety; that if praying could bring down
blessings on him we should pray morning noon and night; that his and our
good friends the Tuthills are once more happily safe in England, and
that I earnestly entreat not only a single letter but a correspondence
with him whenever the thing [is] practicable, with such an address as
may make letters from me likely to find him. In short, dear sir, if you
will be kind enough to speak of me to Manning, you cannot speak with
greater friendship and respect than I feel.
"'Yours with true friendship and kindness.'"
In the beginning of this letter we see the first germ of an idea
afterwards developed in the letter to Barren Field of August 31, 1817,
and again, more fully, in the _Elia_ essay "Distant Correspondents."
Tuthill, afterwards Sir George Leman Tuthill (1772-1835), was the
physician who, on a visit to Paris, was included among the English
_detenus_ and held a captive for several years. He was released only
after his wife had made a personal appeal to Napoleon on his return from
hunting. The words "incredible romantic pretences" refer chaffingly to
Manning's application to Napoleon for liberty to return to England two
or three years previously. Holcroft's "Vindictive Man" was produced at
Drury Lane on November 20, 1806. It was a complete failure. His "Road to
Ruin," produced in 1792 at Covent Garden, with "Gentleman" Lewis as
Goldfinch, had been a great success and is still occasionally played.
Holcroft was also a very voluminous author and translator, and the
partner of his brother-in-law, Mercier, in a printing business, which,
however, was unprofitable. Tommy was Holcroft's son.
"The dames of Strasburg"--in _Tristram Shandy_, Vol. IV.
"The Professor has a tragedy." This was "Faulkener," for which Lamb
wrote the prologue. Owing to the capriciousness of Master Betty, the
Young Roscius, it was not produced until December 16, 1807, and then
with Elliston in the principal part. It was only partially successful, a
result for which Godwin blamed Holcroft, who had revised the play.
Mary Lamb's new work was Mrs. Leicester's School.
"Mr. Dawe is turned author." The Life of George Morland, by George Dawe,
was published in 1807.
Coleridge's intended series of lectures on Taste was abandoned. He did
not actually deliver any until January 12, 1808.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[Dated at end: December 11, 1806.]
Mary's Love to all of you--I wouldn't let her write--
Dear Wordsworth, Mr. H. came out last night and failed.
I had many fears; the subject was not substantial enough. John Bull must
have solider fare than a _Letter_. We are pretty stout about it, have
had plenty of condoling friends, but after all, we had rather it should
have succeeded. You will see the Prologue in most of the Morning Papers.
It was received with such shouts as I never witness'd to a Prologue. It
was attempted to be encored. How hard! a thing I did merely as a task,
because it was wanted--and set no great store by; and Mr. H.----!!
The quantity of friends we had in the house, my brother and I being in
Public Offices &c., was astonishing--but they yielded at length to a few
hisses. A hundred hisses--damn the word, I write it like kisses--how
different--a hundred hisses outweigh a 1000 Claps. The former come more
directly from the Heart--Well, 'tis withdrawn and there is an end.
Better Luck to us--
11 Dec.--(turn over).
P.S. Pray when any of you write to the Clarksons, give our kind Loves,
and say we shall not be able to come and see them at Xmas--as I shall
have but a day or two,--and tell them we bear our mortification pretty
["Mr. H." was produced at Drury Lane on December 10, with Elliston in
the title-role. Lamb's account of the evening is supplemented by Hazlitt
in his essay "On Great and Little Things" and by Crabb Robinson, a new
friend whom he had just made, in his _Diary_. See Vol. IV. of this
edition. The curious thing is that the management of Drury Lane
advertised the farce as a success and announced it for the next night.
But Lamb apparently interfered and it was not played again. Some few
years later "Mr. H." was performed acceptably in America.]
CHARLES LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
December 11 .
Don't mind this being a queer letter. I am in haste, and taken up by
visitors, condolers, &c. God bless you!
Dear Sarah,--Mary is a little cut at the ill success of "Mr. H.," which
came out last night and _failed_. I know you'll be sorry, but never
mind. We are determined not to be cast down. I am going to leave off
tobacco, and then we must thrive. A smoking man must write smoky farces.
Mary is pretty well, but I persuaded her to let me write. We did not
apprise you of the coming out of "Mr. H." for fear of ill-luck. You were
much better out of the house. If it had taken, your partaking of our
good luck would have been one of our greatest joys. As it is, we shall
expect you at the time you mentioned. But whenever you come you shall be
God bless you, dear Sarah,
Yours most truly, C. L.
Mary is by no means unwell, but I made her let me write.
[Following this should come a letter from Mary Lamb to Mrs. Thomas
Clarkson, dated December 23, 1806. It again describes the ill success of
"Mr. H." "The blame rested chiefly with Charles and yet it should not be
called blame for it was mere ignorance of stage effect ... he seems
perfectly aware why and for what cause it failed. He intends to write
one more with all his dearly bought experience in his head, and should
that share same fate he will then turn his mind to some other pursuit."
Lamb did not write another farce for many years. When he did--"The
Pawnbroker's Daughter" (see Vol. IV.)--it deservedly was not acted.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM GODWIN
[No date. ? 1806.]
I repent. Can that God whom thy votaries say that thou hast demolished
expect more? I did indite a splenetic letter, but did the black
Hypocondria never gripe _thy_ heart, till them hast taken a friend for
an enemy? The foul fiend Flibbertigibbet leads me over four inched
bridges, to course my own shadow for a traitor. There are certain
positions of the moon, under which I counsel thee not to take anything
written from this domicile as serious.
_I_ rank thee with Alves, Latine Helvetius, or any of his cursed crew?
Thou art my friend, and henceforth my philosopher--thou shall teach
Distinction to the junior branches of my household, and Deception to the
greyhaired Janitress at my door.
What! Are these atonements? Can Arcadians be brought upon knees,
creeping and crouching?
Come, as Macbeth's drunken porter says, knock, knock, knock, knock,
knock, knock, knock--seven times in a day shall thou batter at my peace,
and if I shut aught against thee, save the Temple of Janus, may
Briareus, with his hundred hands, in each a brass knocker, lead me such
[I cannot account for this letter in the absence of its predecessor and
that from Godwin to which it replies.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[Dated at end: January 29, 1807.]
We have book'd off from Swan and Two Necks, Lad Lane, this day (per
Coach) the Tales from Shakespear. You will forgive the plates, when I
tell you they were left to the direction of Godwin, who left the choice
of subjects to the bad baby, who from mischief (I suppose) has chosen
one from damn'd beastly vulgarity (vide Merch. Venice) where no atom of
authority was in the tale to justify it--to another has given a name
which exists not in the tale, Nic Bottom, and which she thought would be
funny, though in this I suspect _his_ hand, for I guess her reading does
not reach far enough to know Bottom's Xtian name--and one of Hamlet, and
Grave digging, a scene which is not hinted at in the story, and you
might as well have put King Canute the Great reproving his courtiers--
the rest are Giants and Giantesses. Suffice it, to save our taste and
damn our folly, that we left it all to a friend W. G.--who in the first
place cheated me into putting a name to them, which I did not mean, but
do not repent, and then wrote a puff about their _simplicity_, &c., to
go with the advertisement as in my name! Enough of this egregious
dupery.--I will try to abstract the load of teazing circumstances from
the Stories and tell you that I am answerable for Lear, Macbeth, Timon,
Romeo, Hamlet, Othello, for occasionally a tail piece or correction of
grammar, for none of the cuts and all of the spelling. The rest is my
Sister's.--We think Pericles of hers the best, and Othello of mine--but
I hope all have some good. As You Like It we like least.
So much, only begging you to tear out the cuts and give them to Johnny,
as "Mrs. Godwin's fancy."
29 Jan., 1807.
Our Love to all.
I had almost forgot,
My part of the Preface begins in the middle of a sentence, in last but
one page after a colon thus
:--_which if they be happily so done &c_.
the former part hath a more feminine turn and does hold me up something
as an instructor to young Ladies: but upon my modesty's honour I wrote
Godwin told My Sister that the Baby chose the Subjects. A fact in Taste.
[Lamb has run his pen lightly through "God bless me," at the beginning
of the postscript.
The plates to the _Tales from Shakespear_ will be found reproduced in
facsimile in Vol. III. of my large edition. They were designed probably
An interval of nine months occurs before we come to another letter of
the date of which we can be certain. Of what happened in this time, we
know little or nothing, but I think it probable that the following
hitherto unpublished letter from Charles Lamb to the Clarksons explains
part of the long silence. The postmark gives no year, but it must be
either 1807 or 1808, and since the _Dramatic Specimens_ herein referred
to as in preparation were published in 1808, we may confidently assume
it to be 1807. The letter tells its own story only too clearly: the
Lambs had been on a visit to the Clarksons at Bury St. Edmunds; Mary
Lamb had again fallen ill while there; and her brother had just left her
once more at her Hoxton Asylum.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS AND CATHERINE CLARKSON
[P.M. June (1807).]
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Clarkson, you will wish to know how we performed our
journey. My sister was tolerably quiet until we got to Chelmsford, where
she began to be very bad indeed, as your friends William Knight and his
family can tell you when you see them. What I should have done without
their kindness I don't know, but among other acts of great attention,
they provided me with a waistcoat to confine her arms, by the help of
which we went through the rest of our journey. But sadly tired and
miserably depressed she was before we arrived at Hoxton. We got there
about half past eight; and now 'tis all over, I have great satisfaction
that she is among people who have been used to her. In all probability a
few months or even weeks will restore her (her last illness confined her
ten weeks) but if she does recover I shall be very careful how I take
her so far from home again. I am so fatigued, for she talked in the most
wretched desponding way conceivable, particularly the last three stages,
she talked all the way,--so that you won't expect me to say much, or
even to express myself as I should do in thanks for your kindnesses. My
sister will acknowledge them when she can.--
I shall not have heard how she is to day until too late for the Post,
but if any great change takes place for better or worse, I shall
certainly let you know.
She tells me something about having given away one of my coats to your
servant. It is a new one, and perhaps may be of small use to him. If you
can get it me again, I shall very willingly give him a compensation. I
shall also be much obliged by your sending in a parcel all the
manuscripts, books &c. she left behind. I want in particular the
Dramatic Extracts, as my purpose is to make use of the remainder of my
holydays in completing them at the British Museum, which will be
employment & money in the end.
I am exceedingly harrassed with the journey, but that will go off in a
day or two, and I will set to work. I know you will grieve for us, but I
hope my sister's illness is not worse than many she has got through
before. Only I am afraid the fatigue of the journey may affect her
general health. You shall have notice how she goes on. In the mean time,
accept our kindest thanks.
[_Signature cut off_.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[No date. Endorsed Oct., 1807.]
My dear Sarah,--I am two letters in your debt; but it has not been so
much from idleness, as a wish first to see how your comical love affair
would turn out. You know, I make a pretence not to interfere; but like
all old maids I feel a mighty solicitude about the event of love
stories. I learn from the Lover that he has not been so remiss in his
duty as you supposed. His Effusion, and your complaints of his
inconstancy, crossed each other on the road. He tells me his was a very
strange letter, and that probably it has affronted you. That it was a
strange letter I can readily believe; but that you were affronted by a
strange letter is not so easy for me to conceive, that not being your
way of taking things. But however it be, let some answer come, either to
him, or else to me, showing cause why you do not answer him. And pray,
by all means, preserve the said letter, that I may one day have the
pleasure of seeing how Mr. Hazlitt treats of love.
I was at your brother's on Thursday. Mrs. S. tells me she has not
written, because she does not like to put you to the expense of postage.
They are very well. Little Missy thrives amazingly. Mrs. Stoddart
conjectures she is in the family way again; and those kind of
conjectures generally prove too true. Your other sister-in-law, Mrs.
Hazlitt, was brought to bed last week of a boy: so that you are likely
to have plenty of nephews and nieces.
Yesterday evening we were at Rickman's; and who should we find there but
Hazlitt; though, if you do not know it was his first invitation there,
it will not surprise you as much as it did us. We were very much
pleased, because we dearly love our friends to be respected by our
The most remarkable events of the evening were, that we had a very fine
pine-apple; that Mr. Phillips, Mr. Lamb, and Mr. Hazlitt played at
Cribbage in the most polite and gentlemanly manner possible--and that I
won two rubbers at whist.
I am glad Aunty left you some business to do. Our compliments to her and
your Mother. Is it as cold at Winterslow as it is here? How do the Lions
go on? I am better, and Charles is tolerably well. Godwin's new Tragedy
will probably be damned the latter end of next week. Charles has written
the Prologue. Prologues and Epilogues will be his death. If you know the
extent of Mrs. Reynolds' poverty, you will be glad to hear Mr. Norris
has got ten pounds a year for her from the Temple Society. She will be
able to make out pretty well now.
Farewell--Determine as wisely as you can in regard to Hazlitt; and, if
your determination is to have him, Heaven send you many happy years
together. If I am not mistaken, I have concluded letters on the Corydon
Courtship with this same wish. I hope it is not ominous of change; for
if I were sure you would not be quite starved to death, nor beaten to a
mummy, I should like to see Hazlitt and you come together, if (as
Charles observes) it were only for the joke sake.
Write instantly to me.
Yours most affectionately,
[The reference to Godwin's tragedy, "Faulkener," which was produced on
December 16, 1807, would indicate a later date, except that that play
was so frequently postponed.
The Lover this time is, at last, William Hazlitt. Miss Stoddart was not
his first love; some time before he had wished to marry a Miss Railton
of Liverpool; then, in the Lakes, he had had passages with a farmer's
daughter involving a ducking at the hands of jealous rivals; while De
Quincey would have us believe that Hazlitt proposed to Dorothy
Wordsworth. But it was Sarah Stoddart whom he was destined to marry. A
specimen of Hazlitt's love letters (which Mary Lamb wished to see) will
be found in Mr. W. C. Hazlitt's _Memoirs of William Hazlitt_, Vol. I.,
page 153. The marriage turned out anything but a joke.
Mrs. Reynolds' poverty was in later years further relieved by an annuity
of L30 from Charles Lamb.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
Dec. 21, 1807.
My dear Sarah,--I have deferred answering your last letter, in hopes of
being able to give you some intelligence that might be useful to you;
for I every day expected that Hazlitt or you would communicate the
affair to your brother; but, as the Doctor is silent upon the subject, I
conclude he yet knows nothing of the matter. You desire my advice; and
therefore I tell you I think you ought to tell your brother as soon as
possible; for, at present, he is on very friendly visiting terms with
Hazlitt, and, if he is not offended by a too long concealment, will do
every thing in his power to serve you. If you chuse that I should tell
him, I will; but I think it would come better from you. If you can
persuade Hazlitt to mention it, that would be still better; for I know
your brother would be unwilling to give credit to you, because you
deceived yourself in regard to Corydon. Hazlitt, I know, is shy of
speaking first; but I think it of such great importance to you to have
your brother friendly in the business, that, if you can overcome his
reluctance, it would be a great point gained. For you must begin the
world with ready money--at least an hundred pound; for, if you once go
into furnished lodgings, you will never be able to lay by money to buy
If you obtain your brother's approbation, he might assist you, either by
lending or otherwise. I have a great opinion of his generosity, where he
thinks it would be useful.
Hazlitt's brother is mightily pleased with the match; but he says you
must have furniture, and be clear in the world at first setting out, or
you will be always behindhand. He also said he would give you what
furniture he could spare. I am afraid you can bring but few things away
from your house. What a pity that you have laid out so much money on
your cottage!--that money would have just done. I most heartily
congratulate you on having so well got over your first difficulties;
and, now that it is quite settled, let us have no more fears. I now mean
not only to hope and wish, but to persuade myself, that you will be very
Endeavour to keep your mind as easy as you can. You ought to begin the
world with a good stock of health and spirits: it is quite as necessary
as ready money at first setting out. Do not teize yourself about coming
to town. When your brother learns how things are going on, we shall
consult him about meetings and so forth; but, at present, any hasty step
of that kind would not answer, I know. If Hazlitt were to go down to
Salisbury, or you were to come up here, without consulting your brother,
you know it would never do.
Charles is just come in to dinner; he desires his love and best wishes.
[Our next letter shows that when Dr. Stoddart was at length told of the
engagement he resented it.
We now come to two curious letters from Charles Lamb to Joseph Hume, not
available for this edition, which are printed by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt in
_Lamb and Hazlitt_. The first, dated December 29, 1807, contains the
beginning of an elaborate hoax maintained by Lamb and Hume (who was
Joseph Hume, a clerk in the Victualling Office at Somerset House, and
the author of a translation of Tasso), in which Hazlitt, although the
victim, played his part. Lamb asserts that Hazlitt has cut his throat.
He also incidentally regrets that he cannot accept an invitation to dine
with Hume: "Cold bones of mutton and leather-roasted potatoes at Pimlico
at ten must carry it away from a certain Turkey and contingent
plumb-pudding at Montpelier at four (I always spell plumb-pudding with a
_b_, p-l-u-m-_b_--) I think it reads fatter and more suetty."
In reply to this letter came one from Hume, dated January 11, 1808,
referring to a humble petition and remonstrance by Hazlitt, dated
January 10, 1808, showing that he is not dead. The petition will be
found in full in _Lamb and Hazlitt_. It ends thus:--
"With all the sincerity of a man doubtful between life and death, the
petitioner declares that he looks upon the said Charles Lamb as the
ring-leader in this unjust conspiracy against him, and as the sole cause
and author of the jeopardy he is in: but that as losers have leave to
speak, he must say, that, if it were not for a poem he wrote on Tobacco
about two years ago, a farce called Mr. H----- he brought out last
winter with more wit than discretion in it, some prologues and epilogues
he has since written with good success, and some lively notes he is at
present writing on dead authors, he sees no reason why he should not be
considered as much a dead man as himself, and the undertaker spoken to
The next letter, dated January 12, 1808, carrying on the joke, consists
of speculations as to Hazlitt's reappearance. Lamb remarks that the
commonest reason for the return of the spirits of the dead is the desire
to reveal hidden treasures which they had hoarded in their lifetime. He
destroys this theory in the case of Hazlitt in the following passage:--
"I for my part always looked upon our dear friend as a man rich rather
in the gifts of his mind than in earthly treasures. He had few rents or
comings in, that I was ever aware of, small (if any) landed property,
and by all that I could witness he subsisted more upon the well-timed
contributions of a few chosen friends who knew his worth, than upon any
Estate which could properly be called his own. I myself have contributed
my part. God knows, I speak not this in reproach. I have never taken,
nor indeed did the Deceased offer, any _written acknowledgments_ of the
various sums which he has had of me, by which I could make the fact
manifest to the legal eye of an Executor or Administrator. He was not a
Man to affect these niceties in his transactions with his friends. He
would often say, Money was nothing between intimate acquaintances, that
Golden Streams had no Ebb, that a Purse mouth never regorged, that God
loved a chearful giver but the Devil hated a free taker, that a paid
Loan makes angels groan, with many such like sayings: he had always free
and generous notions about money. His nearest friends know this best."
Continuing the subject of the return of Spirits, Lamb decides that it
must be with the wish to establish some speculative point in religion.
"But whatever the cause of this re-appearance may prove to be, we may
now with truth assert that our deceased friend has attained to one
object of his pursuits, one hour's separate existence gives a dead man
clearer notions of metaphysics than all the treatises which in his state
of casual entanglement the least immersed spirit can out-spin. It is
good to leave such subjects to that period when we shall have no Heads
to ache, no brains to distort, no faces to lengthen, no clothes to
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[P.M. February 12, 1808.]
My dear Sarah,--I have sent your letter and drawing off to Wm. Hazlitt's
father's in Shropshire, where I conjecture Hazlitt is. He left town on
Saturday afternoon, without telling us where he was going. He seemed
very impatient at not hearing from you. He was very ill and I suppose is
gone home to his father's to be nursed.
I find Hazlitt has mentioned to you an intention which we had of asking
you up to town, which we were bent on doing, but having named it since
to your brother, the Doctor expressed a strong desire that you should
not come to town to be at any other house than his own, for he said that
it would have a very strange appearance. His wife's father is coming to
be with them till near the end of April, after which time he shall have
full room for you. And if you are to be married, he wishes that you
should be married with all the proper decorums, _from his house_. Now
though we should be willing to run any hazards of disobliging him, if
there were no other means of your and Hazlitt's meeting, yet as he seems
so friendly to the match, it would not be worth while to alienate him
from you and ourselves too, for the slight accommodation which the
difference of a few weeks would make, provided always, and be it
understood, that if you, and H. make up your minds to be married before
the time in which you can be at your brother's, our house stands open
and most ready at a moment's notice to receive you. Only we would not
quarrel unnecessarily with your brother. Let there be a clear necessity
shewn, and we will quarrel with any body's brother. Now though I have
written to the above effect, I hope you will not conceive, but that both
my brother & I had looked forward to your coming with unmixed pleasure,
and we are really disappointed at your brother's declaration, for next
to the pleasure of being married, is the pleasure of making, or helping
We wish to hear from you, that you do not take the _seeming change_ of
purpose in ill part; for it is but seeming on our part; for it was my
brother's suggestion, by him first mentioned to Hazlitt, and cordially
approved by me; but your brother has set his face against it, and it is
better to take him along with us, in our plans, if he will
good-naturedly go along with us, than not.
The reason I have not written lately has been that I thought it better
to leave you all to the workings of your own minds in this momentous
affair, in which the inclinations of a bye-stander have a right to form
a wish, but not to give a vote.
Being, with the help of wide lines, at the end of my last page, I
conclude with our kind wishes, and prayers for the best.
H.'s direction is (if he is there) at Wem in Shropshire. I suppose as
letters must come to London first, you had better inclose them, while he
is there, for my brother in London.
[The drawing referred to, says Mr. W.C. Hazlitt, was a sketch of
Middleton Cottage, Miss Stoddart's house at Winterslow (see next
CHARLES LAMB TO THE REV. W. HAZLITT
Temple, 18th February, 1808.
Sir,--I am truly concerned that any mistake of mine should have caused
you uneasiness, but I hope we have got a clue to William's absence,
which may clear up all apprehensions. The people where he lodges in town
have received direction from him to forward one or two of his shirts to
a place called Winterslow, in the county of Hants [Wilts] (not far from
Salisbury), where the lady lives whose Cottage, pictured upon a card, if
you opened my letter you have doubtless seen, and though we have had no
explanation of the mystery since, we shrewdly suspect that at the time
of writing that Letter which has given you all this trouble, a certain
son of yours (who is both Painter and Author) was at her elbow, and did
assist in framing that very Cartoon which was sent to amuse and mislead
us in town, as to the real place of his destination.
And some words at the back of the said Cartoon, which we had not marked
so narrowly before, by the similarity of the handwriting to William's,
do very much confirm the suspicion. If our theory be right, they have
had the pleasure of their jest, and I am afraid you have paid for it in
anxiety. But I hope your uneasiness will now be removed, and you will
pardon a suspense occasioned by LOVE, who does so many worse mischiefs
The letter to the people where William lodges says, moreover, that he
shall be in town in a fortnight.
My sister joins in respects to you and Mrs. Hazlitt, and in our kindest
remembrances and wishes for the restoration of Peggy's health.
I am, Sir, your humble serv't.,
[The Rev. William Hazlitt, Hazlitt's father (1737-1820), was a Unitarian
minister at Wem, in Shropshire, the son of an Irish Protestant.
Hazlitt's mother was Grace Loftus of Wisbech, a farmer's daughter.
Sarah Stoddart's letter containing the drawing referred to had been sent
by the Lambs to William Hazlitt at Wem, whereas Hazlitt, instead of
seeking his father's roof as arranged, had sought his betrothed's, and
had himself helped in the mystification.
Peggy was Hazlitt's only sister.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[Dated at end: 26 February, 1808.]
Dear Missionary,--Your letters from the farthest ends of the world have
arrived safe. Mary is very thankful for your remembrance of her, and
with the less suspicion of mercenariness, as the silk, the _symbolum
materiale_ of your friendship, has not yet appeared. I think Horace says
somewhere, _nox longa_. I would not impute negligence or unhandsome
delays to a person whom you have honoured with your confidence; but I
have not heard of the silk, or of Mr. Knox, save by your letter. Maybe
he expects the first advances! or it may be that he has not succeeded in
getting the article on shore, for it is among the _res prohibitae et non
nisi smuggle-ationis via fruendae_. But so it is, in the friendships
between _wicked men_, the very expressions of their good-will cannot but
be sinful. _Splendida vitia_ at best. Stay, while I remember it--Mrs.
Holcroft was safely delivered of a girl some day in last week. Mother
and child doing well. Mr. Holcroft has been attack'd with severe
rheumatism. They have moved to Clipstone Street. I suppose you know my
farce was damned. The noise still rings in my ears. Was you ever in the
pillory?--being damned is something like that. Godwin keeps a shop in
Skinner Street, Snow Hill, he is turned children's bookseller, and sells
penny, twopenny, threepenny, and fourpenny books. Sometimes he gets an
order for the dearer sort of Books. (Mind, all that I tell you in this
letter is true.) A treaty of marriage is on foot between William Hazlitt
and Miss Stoddart. Something about settlements only retards it. She has
somewhere about L80 a year, to be L120 when her mother dies. He has no
settlement except what he can claim from the Parish. _Pauper est Cinna,
sed amat_. The thing is therefore in abeyance. But there is love o' both
sides. Little Fenwick (you don't see the connexion of ideas here, how
the devil should you?) is in the rules of the Fleet. Cruel creditors!
operation of iniquitous laws! is Magna Charta then a mockery? Why, in
general (here I suppose you to ask a question) my spirits are pretty
good, but I have my depressions, black as a smith's beard, Vulcanic,
Stygian. At such times I have recourse to a pipe, which is like not
being at home to a dun; he comes again with tenfold bitterness the next
day.--(Mind, I am not in debt, I only borrow a similitude from others;
it shows imagination.) I have done two books since the failure of my
farce; they will both be out this summer. The one is a juvenile
book--"The Adventures of Ulysses," intended to be an introduction to the
reading of Telemachus! It is done out of the Odyssey, not from the
Greek: I would not mislead you; nor yet from Pope's Odyssey, but from an
older translation of one Chapman. The "Shakespear Tales" suggested the
doing it. Godwin is in both those cases my bookseller. The other is done
for Longman, and is "Specimens of English Dramatic Poets contemporary
with Shakespear." Specimens are becoming fashionable. We have--
"Specimens of Ancient English Poets," "Specimens of Modern English
Poets," "Specimens of Ancient English Prose Writers," without end. They
used to be called "Beauties." You have seen "Beauties of Shakespear?" so
have many people that never saw any beauties in Shakespear. Longman is
to print it, and be at all the expense and risk; and I am to share the
profits after all deductions; _i.e._ a year or two hence I must pocket
what they please to tell me is due to me. But the book is such as I am
glad there should be. It is done out of old plays at the Museum and out
of Dodsley's collection, &c. It is to have notes. So I go creeping on
since I was lamed with that cursed fall from off the top of Drury-Lane
Theatre into the pit, something more than a year ago. However, I have
been free of the house ever since, and the house was pretty free with me
upon that occasion. Damn 'em, how they hissed! It was not a hiss
neither, but a sort of a frantic yell, like a congregation of mad geese,
with roaring something like bears, mows and mops like apes, sometimes
snakes, that hiss'd me into madness. 'Twas like St. Anthony's
temptations. Mercy on us, that God should give his favourite children,
men, mouths to speak with, to discourse rationally, to promise smoothly,
to flatter agreeably, to encourage warmly, to counsel wisely: to sing
with, to drink with, and to kiss with: and that they should turn them
into mouths of adders, bears, wolves, hyenas, and whistle like tempests,
and emit breath through them like distillations of aspic poison, to
asperse and vilify the innocent labours of their fellow-creatures who
are desirous to please them! God be pleased to make the breath stink and
the teeth rot out of them all therefore! Make them a reproach, and all
that pass by them to loll out their tongue at them! Blind mouths! as
Milton somewhere calls them. Do you like Braham's singing? The little
Jew has bewitched me. I follow him like as the boys followed Tom the
Piper. He cured me of melancholy, as David cured Saul; but I don't throw
stones at him, as Saul did at David in payment. I was insensible to
music till he gave me a new sense. O, that you could go to the new opera
of "Kais" to-night! 'Tis all about Eastern manners; it would just suit
you. It describes the wild Arabs, wandering Egyptians, lying dervishes,
and all that sort of people, to a hair. You needn't ha' gone so far to
see what you see, if you saw it as I do every night at Drury-lane
Theatre. Braham's singing, when it is impassioned, is finer than Mrs.
Siddons's or Mr. Kemble's acting; and when it is not impassioned, it is
as good as hearing a person of fine sense talking. The brave little Jew!
Old Sergeant Hill is dead. Mrs. Rickman is in the family way. It is
thought that Hazlitt will have children, if he marries Miss Stoddart. I
made a pun the other day, and palmed it upon Holcroft, who grinned like
a Cheshire cat. (Why do cats grin in Cheshire?--Because it was once a
county palatine and the cats cannot help laughing whenever they think of
it, though I see no great joke in it.) I said that Holcroft said, being
asked who were the best dramatic writers of the day, "HOOK AND I." Mr.
Hook is author of several pieces, "Tekeli," &c. You know what _hooks and
eyes_ are, don't you? They are what little boys do up their breeches
with. Your letter had many things in it hard to be understood: the puns
were ready and Swift-like; but don't you begin to be melancholy in the
midst of Eastern customs! "The mind does not easily conform to foreign
usages, even in trifles: it requires something that it has been familiar
with." That begins one of Dr. Hawkesworth's papers in the "Adventurer,"
and is, I think, as sensible a remark as ever fell from the Doctor's
mouth. Do you know Watford in Hertfordshire? it is a pretty village.
Louisa goes to school there. They say the governess is a very
intelligent managing person, takes care of the morals of the pupils,
teaches them something beyond exteriors. Poor Mrs. Beaumont! Rickman's
aunt, she might have been a governess (as both her nieces ate) if she
had any ability or any education, but I never thought she was good for
anything; she is dead and so is her nephew. He was shot in half at Monte
Video, that is, not exactly in half, but as you have seen a 3 quarter
picture. Stoddart is in England. White is at Christ's Hospital, a wit of
the first magnitude, but had rather be thought a gentleman, like
Congreve. You know Congreve's repulse which he gave to Voltaire, when he
came to visit him as a _literary man_, that he wished to be considered
only in the light of a private gentleman. I think the impertinent
Frenchman was properly answered. I should just serve any member of the
French institute in the same manner, that wished to be introduced to me.
Bonaparte has voted 5,000 livres to Davy, the great young English
chemist; but it has not arrived. Coleridge has delivered two lectures at
the Royal Institution; two more were attended, but he did not come. It
is thought he has gone sick upon them. He a'n't well, that's certain.
Wordsworth is coming to see him. He sits up in a two pair of stairs room
at the "Courier" Office, and receives visitors on his close stool. How
is Mr. Ball? He has sent for a prospectus of the London Library.
Does any one read at Canton? Lord Moira is President of the Westminster
Library. I suppose you might have interest with Sir Joseph Banks to get
to be president of any similiar institution that should be set up at
Canton. I think public reading-rooms the best mode of educating young
men. Solitary reading is apt to give the headache. Besides, who knows
that you _do_ read? There are ten thousand institutions similar to the
Royal Institution, which have sprung up from it. There is the London
Institution, the Southwark Institution, the Russell Square Rooms
Institution, &c.--_College quasi Conlege_, a place where people read
together. Wordsworth, the great poet, is coming to town; he is to have
apartments in the Mansion House. He says he does not see much difficulty
in writing like Shakspeare, if he had a mind to try it. It is clear then
nothing is wanting but the mind. Even Coleridge a little checked at this
hardihood of assertion. Jones of Trinity, I suppose you know he is dead.
Dyer came to me the other evening at 11 o'clock, when there was a large
room full of company, which I usually get together on a Wednesday
evening (all great men have public days), to propose to me to have my
face done by a Miss Beetham (or Betham), a miniature painter, some
relation to Mrs. Beetham the Profilist or Pattern Mangle woman opposite
to St. Dunstan's, to put before my book of Extracts. I declined it.
Well, my dear Manning, talking cannot be infinite; I have said all I
have to say; the rest is but remembrances, which we shall bear in our
heads of you, while we have heads. Here is a packet of trifles nothing
worth; but it is a trifling part of the world where I live; emptiness
abounds. But, in fulness of affection, we remain yours,
[Manning had written in April, 1807, saying that a roll of silk was on
its way to Mary Lamb. It was, however, another letter, not preserved,
which mentioned Mr. Knox as the bearer.
Godwin sold books at 41 Skinner Street under his wife's name--M.J.
Godwin. At first when he began, in 1805, in Hanway Street, he had used
the name of Thomas Hodgkins, his manager.
"Damn 'em, how they hissed." This passage has in it the germ of Lamb's
essay in _The Reflector_ two or three years later, "On the Custom of
Hissing at the Theatres" (see Vol. I.).
John Braham (?1774-1856), the great tenor and the composer of "The Death
of Nelson." Lamb praised him again in his _Elia_ essay "Imperfect
Sympathies," and later wrote an amusing article on Braham's recantation
of Hebraism (see "The Religion of Actors," Vol. I.). "Kais," composed by
Braham and Reeve, was produced at Drury Lane, February 11, 1808.
"Old Sergeant Hill." George Hill (1716-1808), nicknamed Serjeant
Labyrinth, the hero of many stories of absence-of-mind. He would have
appealed to Manning on account of his mathematical abilities. He died on
"Hook and I." This pun is attributed also to others; who may very easily
have made it independently. Theodore Hook was then only nineteen, but
had already written "Tekeli," a melodrama, and several farces. Talfourd
omits the references to breeches.
"Dr. Hawkesworth." John Hawkesworth, LL.D. (?1715-1773), the editor of
Swift, a director of the East India Company, and the friend of Johnson
whom he imitated in _The Adventurer_. He also made one of the
translations of Fenelon's _Telemaque_, to which Lamb's _Adventures of
Ulysses_ was to serve as prologue.
James White, Lamb's friend and the author of _Falstaff's Letters_, was
for many years a clerk in the Treasurer's office at Christ's Hospital.
Later he founded an advertisement agency, which still exists.
"Congreve's repulse." The story is told by Johnson in the _Lives of the
Poets_. Congreve "disgusted him [Voltaire] by the despicable foppery of
desiring to be considered not as an author but a gentleman; to which the
Frenchman replied, 'that, if he had been only a gentleman, he should not
have come to visit him.'"
"Young Davy." Afterwards Sir Humphry Davy, and now one of Coleridge's
correspondents. He had been awarded the Napoleon prize of 3,000 francs
"for his discoveries announced in the _Philosophical Transactions_ for
the year 1807."
"Coleridge's lectures." Coleridge delivered the first on January 12,
1808, and the second on February 5. The third and fourth were eventually
delivered some time before April 3. The subject was not Taste but
Poetry. Coleridge's rooms over _The Courier_ office at No. 348 Strand
are described by De Quincey in his _Works_, Vol. II. (1863 edition),
It was Coleridge's illness that was bringing Wordsworth to town, to be
followed by Southey, largely by the instrumentality of Charles and Mary
Lamb. It is conjectured that Coleridge was just then more than usually
in the power of drugs.
Sir Joseph Banks, as President of the Royal Society, had written a
letter to the East India Company supporting Manning's wish to practise
as a doctor in Canton.
The similar institutions that sprang up in imitation of the Royal
Institution have all vanished, except the London Institution in Finsbury
"Writing like Shakspeare." This passage was omitted by Talfourd. He
seems to have shown it to Crabb Robinson, just after Lamb's death, as
one of the things that could not be published. Robinson (or Robinson's
editor, Dr. Sadler), in recording the event, substitutes a dash for
Miss Betham was Miss Mary Matilda Betham (1776-1852), afterwards a
correspondent of Lamb. We shall soon meet her again. She had written a
_Biographical Dictionary of the Celebrated Women of Every Age and
Country_, 1804, and some poems. Among her sitters were Coleridge and
Mrs. Coleridge. The Profilist opposite St. Dunstan's was, I take it, E.
Beetham, Patent Washing-Mill Maker at 27 Fleet Street. I find this in
the 1808 Directory. The shop was close to Inner Temple Lane.
[Two undated letters to Miss Betham follow, which may well belong to
this time. Mr. Ernest Betham allows me to take them from his book, _A
House of Letters_.]
CHARLES LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM
[No date. ?1808.]
Dear Miss B.--I send you three Tickets which will serve the first course
of C.'s Lectures, six in number, the first begins tomorrow. Excuse the
cover being not _or fa_, is not that french? I have no writing paper.
N.B. It is my present, not C.'s, id. est he gave 'em me, I you.
CHARLES LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM
Dear Miss Betham,--I am very sorry, but I was pre-engaged for this
evening when Eliza communicated the contents of your letter. She herself
also is gone to Walworth to pass some days with Miss Hays--
"G-d forbid I should
pass my days
with Miss H--ys"
but that is neither here nor there. We will both atone for this accident
by calling upon you as early as possible.
I am setting out to engage Mr. Dyer to your Party, but what the issue of
my adventure will be, cannot be known, till the wafer has closed up this
note for ever.
[We have already met Miss Hayes. Miss Betham was a friend of Dyer, as we
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM GODWIN
March 11, 1808.
Dear Godwin,--The giant's vomit was perfectly nauseous, and I am glad
you pointed it out. I have removed the objection. To the other passages
I can find no other objection but what you may bring to numberless
passages besides, such as of Scylla snatching up the six men, etc., that
is to say, they are lively images of _shocking_ things. If you want a
book, which is not occasionally to _shock_, you should not have thought
of a tale which was so full of anthropophagi and wonders. I cannot alter
these things without enervating the Book, and I will not alter them if
the penalty should be that you and all the London booksellers should
refuse it. But speaking as author to author, I must say that I think
_the terrible_ in those two passages seems to me so much to preponderate
over the nauseous, as to make them rather fine than disgusting. Who is
to read them, I don't know: who is it that reads Tales of Terror and
Mysteries of Udolpho? Such things sell. I only say that I will not
consent to alter such passages, which I know to be some of the best in
the book. As an author I say to you an author, Touch not my work. As to
a bookseller I say, Take the work such as it is, or refuse it. You are
as free to refuse it as when we first talked of it. As to a friend I
say, Don't plague yourself and me with nonsensical objections. I assure
you I will not alter one more word.
[This letter refers to the proofs of Lamb's _Adventures of Ulysses_, his
prose paraphrase for children of Chapman's translation of the _Odyssey_,
which Mrs. Godwin was publishing. Godwin had written the following
"Skinner St., March 10, 1808.
"DEAR LAMB,--I address you with all humility, because I know you to be
_tenax propositi_. Hear me, I entreat you, with patience.
"It is strange with what different feelings an author and a bookseller
looks at the same manuscript. I know this by experience: I was an
author, I am a bookseller. The author thinks what will conduce to his
honour: the bookseller what will cause his commodities to sell.
"_You_, or some other wise man, I have heard to say, It is children that
read children's books, when they are read, but it is parents that choose
them. The critical thought of the tradesman put itself therefore into
the place of the parent, and what the parent will condemn.
"We live in squeamish days. Amid the beauties of your manuscript, of
which no man can think more highly than I do, what will the squeamish
say to such expressions as these,--'devoured their limbs, yet warm and
trembling, lapping the blood,' p. 10. Or to the giant's vomit, p. 14; or
to the minute and shocking description of the extinguishing the giant's
eye in the page following. You, I daresay, have no formed plan of
excluding the female sex from among your readers, and I, as a
bookseller, must consider that if you have you exclude one half of the
"Nothing is more easy than to modify these things if you please, and
nothing, I think, is more indispensable.
"Give me, as soon as possible, your thoughts on the matter.
"I should also like a preface. Half our customers know not Homer, or
know him only as you and I know the lost authors of antiquity. What can
be more proper than to mention one or two of those obvious
recommendations of his works, which must lead every human creature to
desire a nearer acquaintance.--
"Believe me, ever faithfully yours,
As a glance at the _Adventures of Ulysses_ will show (see Vol. III.),
Lamb did not make the alteration on pages 10 or 15 (pages 244 and 246 of
Vol. III.), although the giant's vomit has disappeared. _The Tales of
Terror_, 1801, were by Matthew Gregory Lewis, "Monk Lewis," as he was
called, and the _Mysteries of Udolpho_, 1794, by Mrs. Radcliffe.]
CHARLES LAMB TO HENRY CRABB ROBINSON
[Dated at end: March 12, 1808.]
Dear Sir,--Wordsworth breakfasts with me on Tuesday morning next; he
goes to Mrs. Clarkson the next day, and will be glad to meet you before
he goes. Can you come to us before nine or at nine that morning? I am
afraid, _W_. is so engaged with Coleridge, who is ill, we cannot have
him in an evening. If I do not hear from you, I will expect you to
breakfast on Tuesday.
Saturday, 12 Mar., 1808.
[This is the first letter to Henry Crabb Robinson (1775-1867), whom Lamb
was destined to know very intimately, and to whose _Diary_ we are
indebted for much of our information concerning the Lambs. Robinson, who
was only a month younger than Lamb, had been connected with the _Times_
as foreign correspondent and foreign editor; in November, 1809, he gave
up journalism and began to keep his terms at the Middle Temple, rising
in time to be leader of the Norfolk Circuit. We shall see much more of
him. He knew Lamb well enough to accompany him, his sister and Hazlitt
to "Mr. H." in December, 1806.
Wordsworth left on April 3, by which time Coleridge was sufficiently
recovered to give two more lectures. The series closed in June.
Coleridge then went to Bury St. Edmunds to see the Clarksons, and then
to Grasmere, to the Wordsworths. His separation from Mrs. Coleridge had
already occurred, he and his wife remaining, however, on friendly
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[P.M. March 16, 1808.]
My dear Sarah,--Do not be very angry that I have not written to you. I
have promised your brother to be at your wedding, and that favor you
must accept as an atonement for my offences--you have been in no want of
correspondence lately, and I wished to leave you both to your own
The border you are working for me I prize at a very high rate because I
consider it as the last work you can do for me, the time so fast
approaching when you must no longer work for your friends. Yet my old
fault of giving away presents has not left me, and I am desirous of even
giving away this your last gift. I had intended to have given it away
without your knowledge, but I have intrusted my secret to Hazlitt, and I
suppose it will not remain a secret long, so I condescend to consult
you. It is to Miss Hazlitt, to whose superior claim I wish to give up my
right to this precious worked border. Her brother William is her great
favorite, and she would be pleased to possess his bride's last work. Are
you not to give the fellow-border to one sister-in-law, and therefore
has she not a just claim to it?--I never heard in the annals of weddings
(since the days of Nausicaa, and she only washed her old gowns for that
purpose) that the brides ever furnished the apparel of their maids.
Besides, I can be completely clad in your work without it, for the
spotted muslin will serve both for cap and hat (Nota bene, my hat is the
same as yours) and the gown you sprigged for me has never been made up,
therefore I can wear that--Or, if you like better, I will make up a new
silk which Manning has sent me from China. Manning would like to hear I
wore it for the first time at your wedding. It is a very pretty light
colour, but there is an objection (besides not being your work and that
is a very serious objection) and that is, Mrs. Hazlitt tells me that all
Winterslow would be in an uproar if the bridemaid was to be dressed in
anything but white, and although it is a very light colour I confess we
cannot call it white, being a sort of a dead-whiteish-bloom colour; then
silk, perhaps, in a morning is not so proper, though the occasion, so
joyful, might justify a full dress. Determine for me in this perplexity
between the sprig and the China-Manning silk. But do not contradict my
whim about Miss Hazlitt having the border, for I have set my heart upon
the matter: if you agree with me in this I shall think you have forgiven
me for giving away your pin; and that was a _mad_ trick, but I had many
obligations and no money. I repent me of the deed, wishing I had it now
to send to Miss H. with the border, and I cannot, will not, give her the
Doctor's pin, for having never had any presents from gentlemen in my
young days, I highly prize all they now give me, thinking my latter days
are better than my former.
You must send this same border in your own name to Miss Hazlitt, which
will save me the disgrace of giving away your gift, and make it amount
merely to a civil refusal.
I shall have no present to give you on your marriage, nor do I expect
that I shall be rich enough to give anything to baby at the first
christening, but at the second, or third child's I hope to have a coral
or so to spare out of my own earnings. Do not ask me to be Godmother,
for I have an objection to that--but there is I believe, no serious
duties attached to a bride's maid, therefore I come with a willing mind,
bringing nothing with me but many wishes, and not a few hopes, and a
very little of fears of happy years to come.
I am dear Sarah
Yours ever most affectionately
What has Charles done that nobody invites him to the wedding?
[The wedding was on May 1, 1808. Originally it was intended to perform
the ceremony at Winterslow, but London was actually the place: St.
Andrew's, Holborn. Mary Lamb was a bridesmaid and Charles Lamb was
present. He told Southey in a letter some years after: "I was at
Hazlitt's marriage, and had like to have been turned out several times
during the ceremony. Anything awful makes me laugh."
The episode of Nausicaa, to which Mary Lamb refers, had just been
rewritten by Charles Lamb in the _Adventures of Ulysses_.]
CHARLES LAMB TO GEORGE DYER
From my Desk in Leadenhall Street,
Decr 5, 1808.
Dear Dyer,--Coleridge is not so bad as your fears have represented him;
it is true that he is Bury'd, altho' he is not dead; to understand this
quibble you must know that he is at Bury St. Edmunds, relaxing, after
the fatigues of lecturing and Londonizing. The little Rickmaness, whom
you enquire after so kindly, thrives and grows apace; she is already a
prattler, and 'tis thought that on some future day she may be a speaker.
[This was Mrs. Lefroy.] We hold our weekly meetings still at No. 16,
where altho' we are not so high as the top of Malvern, we are involved
in almost as much mist. Miss B[etham]'s merit "in every point of view,"
I am not disposed to question, altho' I have not been indulged with any
view of that lady, back, side, or front--_fie!_ Dyer, to praise a female
in such common market phrases--you who are held so courtly and so
attentive. My book is not yet out, that is not my "Extracts," my
"Ulysses" is, and waits your acceptance. When you shall come to town, I
hope to present you both together--never think of buying the
"Extracts"--half guinea books were never calculated for my friends.
Those poets have started up since your departure; William Hazlitt, your
friend and mine, is putting to press a collection of verses, chiefly
amatory, some of them pretty enough. How these painters encroach on our
province! There's Hoppner, Shee, Westall, and I don't know who besides,
and Tresham. It seems on confession, that they are not at the top of
their own art, when they seek to eke out their fame with the assistance
of another's; no large tea-dealer sells cheese; no great silversmith
sells razorstrops; it is only your petty dealers who mix commodities. If
Nero had been a great Emperor, he would never have played the
Violoncello! Who ever caught you, Dyer, designing a landscape, or taking
a likeness? I have no more to add, who am the friend of virtue, poetry,
painting, therefore in an especial manner,
MARY LAMB TO SARAH HAZLITT (LATE STODDART)
December 10th, 1808.
My dear Sarah,--I hear of you from your brother; but you do not write
yourself, nor does Hazlitt. I beg that one or both of you will amend
this fault as speedily as possible, for I am very anxious to hear of
your health. I hope, as you say nothing about your fall to your brother,
you are perfectly recovered from the effects of it.
You cannot think how very much we miss you and H. of a Wednesday
evening. All the glory of the night, I may say, is at an end. Phillips
makes his jokes, and there is no one to applaud him; Rickman argues, and
there is no one to oppose him.
The worst miss of all to me is, that, when we are in the dismals, there
is now no hope of relief from any quarter whatsoever. Hazlitt was most
brilliant, most ornamental, as a Wednesday-man; but he was a more useful
one on common days, when he dropt in after a quarrel or a fit of the
glooms. The Skeffington is quite out now, my brother having got drunk
with claret and Tom Sheridan. This visit, and the occasion of it, is a
profound secret, and therefore I tell it to nobody but you and Mrs.
Reynolds. Through the medium of Wroughton, there came an invitation and
proposal from T.S., that C.L. should write some scenes in a speaking
pantomime, the other parts of which Tom now, and his father formerly,
have manufactured between them. So, in the Christmas holydays, my
brother and his two great associates, we expect, will be all three
damned together: this is, I mean, if Charles's share, which is done and
sent in, is accepted.
I left this unfinished yesterday, in the hope that my brother would have
done it for me: his reason for refusing me was 'no exquisite reason;'
for it was, because he must write a letter to Manning in three or four
weeks, and therefore he could not be always writing letters, he said. I
wanted him to tell your husband about a great work which Godwin is going
to publish, to enlighten the world once more, and I shall not be able to
make out what it is. He (Godwin) took his usual walk one evening, a
fortnight since, to the end of Hatton Garden and back again. During that
walk, a thought came into his mind, which he instantly set down and
improved upon, till he brought it, in seven or eight days, into the
compass of a reasonable sized pamphlet. To propose a subscription to all
well disposed people, to raise a certain sum of money, to be expended in
the care of a cheap monument for the former and the future great dead
men,--the monument to be a white cross, with a wooden slab at the end,
telling their names and qualifications. This wooden slab and white cross
to be perpetuated to the end of time. To survive the fall of empires and
the destruction of cities by means of a map, which was, in case of an
insurrection among the people, or any other cause by which a city or
country may be destroyed, to be carefully preserved; and then, when
things got again into their usual order, the
white-cross-wooden-slab-makers were to go to work again, and set them in
their former places. This, as nearly as I can tell you, is the sum and
substance of it, but it is written remarkably well, in his very best
manner; for the proposal (which seems to me very like throwing salt on a
sparrow's tail to catch him) occupies but half a page, which is followed
by very fine writing on the benefits he conjectures would follow if it
were done. Very excellent thoughts on death, and on our feelings
concerning dead friends, and the advantages an old country has over a
new one, even in the slender memorials we have of great men who once
Charles is come home, and wants his dinner; and so the dead men must be
no more thought on: tell us how you go on, and how you like Winterslow
and winter evenings.
Noales [Knowles] has not got back again, but he is in better spirits.
John Hazlitt was here on Wednesday, very sober.
Our love to Hazlitt.
CHARLES LAMB TO MRS. HAZLITT
(_Added to same letter_)
There came this morning a printed prospectus from S.T. Coleridge,
Grasmere, of a weekly paper, to be called The Friend--a flaming
prospectus--I have no time to give the heads of it--to commence first
Saturday in January. There came also a notice of a Turkey from Mr.
Clarkson, which I am more sanguine in expecting the accomplishment of
than I am of Coleridge's prophecy.
["The Skeffington." Referring probably to some dramatic scheme in which
Sir Lumley Skeffington, an amateur playwright, had tried to engage
Lamb's pen. Lamb's share of the speaking pantomime for the Sheridans has
vanished. We do not even know if it were ever accepted.
The late Mr. Charles Kent, in his Centenary Edition of Lamb's works,
printed a comic opera, said, on the authority of P.G. Patmore, to be
Lamb's, and identified it with the experiment mentioned by Mary Lamb.
But an examination of the manuscript, which is in the British Museum,
convinces me that the writing is not Lamb's, while the matter has
nothing characteristic in it. Tom Sheridan, by the way, was just a month
younger than Lamb.
Noales was probably James Sheridan Knowles (1784-1862), the dramatist, a
protege of Hazlitt's father. We shall meet him again in the
correspondence. After serving as a soldier and practising medicine he
had gone on the stage. Several years later he became one of Lamb's
_The Friend_, which probably had been in Coleridge's thoughts for some
time, was announced to begin on the first Saturday in January. Lamb's
scepticism was justified; the first number came out on June 1.]
MARY LAMB TO MRS. THOMAS CLARKSON
[P.M. Dec. (10), 1808.]
My dear Mrs. Clarkson--I feel myself greatly indebted to Mr. Clarkson
for his care about our direction, since it has procured us the pleasure
of a line from you. Why are we all, my dear friend, so unwilling to sit
down and write a letter when we all so well know the great satisfaction
it is to hear of the welfare of an absent friend? I began to think that
you and all I connect in my mind with you were gone from us for
ever--Coleridge in a manner gave us up when he was in town, and we have
now lost all traces of him. At the time he was in town I received two
letters from Miss Wordsworth, which I never answered because I would not
complain to her of our old friend. As this has never been explained to
her it must seem very strange, more particularly so, as Miss Hutchinson
& Mrs. Wordsworth were in an ill state of health at the time. Will you
some day soon write a few words just to tell me how they all are and all
you know concerning them?
Do not imagine that I am now _complaining_ to you of Coleridge. Perhaps
we are both in fault, we expect _too much_, and he gives _too little_.
We ought many years ago to have understood each other better. Nor is it
quite all over with us yet, for he will some day or other come in with
the same old face, and receive (after a few spiteful words from me) the
same warm welcome as ever. But we could not submit to sit as hearers at
his lectures and not be permitted to see our old friend when
_school-hours_ were over. I beg you will not let what I have said give
you a moment's thought, nor pray do not mention it to the Wordsworths
nor to Coleridge, for I know he thinks I am apt to speak unkindly of
him. I am not good tempered, and I have two or three times given him
proofs that I am not. You say you are all in your "better way," which is
a very chearful hearing, for I trust you mean to include that your
health is _bettering_ too. I look forward with great pleasure to the
near approach of Christmas and Mr. Clarkson. And now the turkey you are
so kind as to promise us comes into my head & tells me it is so very
near that if writing before then should happen to be the least irksome
to you, I will be content to wait for intelligence of our old friends
till I have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Clarkson in town. I ought to say
this because I know at times how dreadfully irksome writing a letter is
to me, even when I have no reason in the world to give why it is so, and
I remember I have heard you express something of the same kind of
I try to remember something to enquire after at Bury--The lady we
visited, the cherry tree Tom and I robbed, Tom my partner in the robbery
(Mr. Thomas C--- I suppose now), and your Cook maid that was so kind to
me, are all at present I can recollect. Of all the places I ever saw
Bury has made the liveliest impression on my memory. I have a very
indistinct recollection of the Lakes.
Charles joins with me in affectionate remembrances to you all, and he is
more warm in his expressions of gratitude for the turkey because he is
fonder of good eating than I am, though I am not amiss in that way.
God bless you my kind friends
I remain yours affectionately
Excuse this slovenly letter, if I were to write it over again I should
abridge it one half.
No. 16 Mitre Court Buildings
CHARLES LAMB TO MRS. CLARKSON
(_Added to same letter_)
We have this moment received a very chearful letter from Coleridge, who
is now at Grasmere. It contains a prospectus for a new weekly
publication to be called _The Friend_. He says they are well there, and
in good spirits & that he has not been so well for a long time.
The Prospectus is of a weekly paper of a miscellaneous nature to be
call'd the Friend & to come out, the first number, the first Saturday in
January. Those who remember _The Watchman_ will not be very sanguine in
expecting a regular fulfillment of this Prophecy. But C. writes in
delightful spirits, & _if ever_, he may _now_ do this thing. I suppose
he will send you a Prospectus. I had some thought of inclosing mine. But
I want to shew it about. My kindest remembrance to Mr. C. & thanks for
[Coleridge, after delivering his lectures, had gone to Bury on a visit
to the Clarksons. He then passed on to Grasmere, to Wordsworth's new
house, Allan Bank, and settled down to project _The Friend_.
Tom Clarkson, with whom Mary Lamb robbed a cherry tree, became a
metropolitan magistrate. He died in 1837.
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, dated February 25,
1809. It tells Lloyd where to look for Lamb when he reached town--at 16
Mitre Court Buildings, which he is leaving at Lady Day, or at 2 or 4
Inner Temple Lane. "Drury Lane Theatre is burnt to the ground." Robert
Lloyd spent a short while in London in the spring of 1809 and saw the
Lambs, Godwin, Captain Burney, James White and other persons. His
letters to his wife describing these experiences, printed in _Charles
Lamb and the Lloyds_, are amusingly fresh and enthusiastic.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
28th March, 1809.
Dear Manning,--I sent you a long letter by the ships which sailed the
beginning of last month, accompanied with books, &c. Since I last wrote,
Holcroft is dead. He died on Thursday last and is not yet buried. He has
been opened by Carlisle and his heart was found completely ossified. He
has had a long and severe illness. He seemed very willing to live, and
to the last acted on his favorite principle of the power of the will to
overcome disease. I believe his strong faith in that power kept him
alive long after another person would have given him up, and the
physicians all concurred in positively saying he would not live a week,
many weeks before he died. The family are as well as can be expected. I
told you something about Mrs. Holcroft's plans. Since her death there
has been a meeting of his friends and a subscription has been mentioned.
I have no doubt that she will be set agoing, and that she will be fully
competent to the scheme which she proposes. Fanny bears it much better
than I could have supposed. So there is one of your friends whom you
will never see again! Perhaps the next fleet may bring you a letter from
Martin Burney, to say that he writes by desire of Miss Lamb, who is not
well enough to write herself, to inform you that her brother died on
Thursday last, 14th June, &c. But I hope _not_. I should be sorry to
give occasion to open a correspondence between Martin and you. This
letter must be short, for I have driven it off to the very moment of
doing up the packets; and besides, that which I refer to above is a very
long one; and if you have received my books, you will have enough to do
to read them. While I think on it, let me tell you we are moved. Don't
come any more to Mitre Court Buildings. We are at 34, Southampton
Buildings, Chancery Lane, and shall be here till about the end of May:
then we remove to No. 4, Inner Temple Lane, where I mean to live and
die; for I have such horror of moving, that I would not take a benefice
from the King, if I was not indulged with non-residence. What a
dislocation of comfort is comprised in that word moving! Such a heap of
little nasty things, after you think all is got into the cart: old
dredging-boxes, worn-out brushes, gallipots, vials, things that it is
impossible the most necessitous person can ever want, but which the
women, who preside on these occasions, will not leave behind if it was
to save your soul; they'd keep the cart ten minutes to stow in dirty
pipes and broken matches, to show their economy. Then you can find
nothing you want for many days after you get into your new lodgings. You
must comb your hair with your fingers, wash your hands without soap, go
about in dirty gaiters. Was I Diogenes, I would not move out of a
kilderkin into a hogshead, though the first had had nothing but small
beer in it, and the second reeked claret. Our place of final
destination,--I don't mean the grave, but No. 2  Inner Temple
Lane,--looks out upon a gloomy churchyard-like court, called Hare Court,
with three trees and a pump in it. Do you know it? I was born near it,
and used to drink at that pump when I was a Rechabite of six years old.
If you see newspapers you will read about Mrs. Clarke. The sensation in
London about this nonsensical business is marvellous. I remember nothing
in my life like it. Thousands of ballads, caricatures, lives, of Mrs.
Clarke, in every blind alley. Yet in the midst of this stir, a sublime
abstracted dancing-master, who attends a family we know in Kensington,
being asked a question about the progress of the examination in the
House, inquired who Mrs. Clarke was? He had heard nothing of it. He had
evaded this omnipresence by utter insignificancy! The Duke should make
that man his confidential valet. I proposed locking him up, barring him
the use of his fiddle and red pumps, until he had minutely perused and
committed to memory the whole body of the examinations, which employed
the House of Commons a fortnight, to teach him to be more attentive to
what concerns the public. I think I told you of Godwin's little book,
and of Coleridge's prospectus, in my last; if I did not, remind me of
it, and I will send you them, or an account of them, next fleet. I have
no conveniency of doing it by this. Mrs.---- grows every day in
disfavour with God and man. I will be buried with this inscription over
me:--"Here lies C. L., the Woman-hater"--I mean that hated ONE WOMAN:
for the rest, God bless them, and when he makes any more, make 'em
prettier. How do you like the Mandarinesses? Are you on some little
footing with any of them? This is Wednesday. On Wednesdays is my levee.
The Captain, Martin, Phillips, (not the Sheriff,) Rickman, and some
more, are constant attendants, besides stray visitors. We play at whist,
eat cold meat and hot potatoes, and any gentleman that chooses smokes.
Why do you never drop in? You'll come some day, won't you?
C. LAMB, &c.
[Thomas Holcroft died on March 23, 1809, aged sixty-three. Mitre Court
Buildings, Southampton Buildings and Inner Temple Lane (Lamb's homes)
have all been rebuilt since Lamb's day.
"That word 'moving.'" Lamb later elaborated and condensed this passage,
in the _Elia_ essay "New Year's Eve": "Any alteration, on this earth of
mine, in diet or in lodging, puzzles and discomposes me. My
household-gods plant a terrible fixed foot, and are not rooted up
"Mrs. Clarke." Mary Anne Clarke (1776-1852), mistress of the Duke of
York, Commander-in-Chief, whose reception of money from officers as a
return for procuring them preferment or promising to, by her influence
with the Duke, had just been exposed in Parliament, and was causing
"Godwin's little book." Probably the _Essay on Sepulchres_. But Godwin's
Lives of Edward and John Phillips, Milton's nephews, appeared also at
"Mrs. ----." Most probably Mrs. Godwin once more.
"Not the Sheriff." Alluding to Sir Richard Phillips, the publisher, who
was elected Sheriff of London in 1807, and was knighted in 1808.
On the same day Lamb and his sister wrote a very charming joint letter
to Louisa Martin, which has not yet been published. See the Preface to
this volume, p. viii.]
CHARLES LAMB TO HENRY CRABB ROBINSON
[Dated by H. C. R.: May, 1809.]
Dear Sir,--Would you be so kind as, when you go to the Times office, to
see about an Advertisement which My Landlady's Daughter left for
insertion about ten days since and has not appeared, for a Governesses
Place? The references are to Thorpe & Graves 18 Lower Holborn, and to M.
B. 115 Oxford St. Though not anxious about attitudes, she pines for a
situation. I got home tolerably well, as I hear, the other evening. It
may be a warning to any one in future to ask me to a dinner party. I
always disgrace myself. I floated up stairs on the Coachman's back, like
Ariel; "On a bat's back I do fly, After sunset merrily."
[Lamb used the simile of Ariel at least twice afterwards: at the close
of the _Elia_ essay "Rejoicings on the New Year's Coming-of-Age," and in
a letter to J. V. Asbury of Enfield, the Lambs' doctor.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH HAZLITT
[June 2, 1809.]
You may write to Hazlitt, that I will _certainly_ go to Winterslough, as
my Father has agreed to give me 5l. to bear my expences, and has given
leave that I may stop till that is spent, leaving enough to defray my
Carriage on the 14th July.