Part 12 out of 14
happier being than the sleek well combed oily-pated Secretary that has
succeeded. The gift is, however, clogged with one stipulation, that the
Secretary is to remain a Single Man. Here I smell Rickman. Thus are gone
at once all Phillips' matrimonial dreams. Those verses which he wrote
himself, and those which a superior pen (with modesty let me speak as I
name no names) endited for him to Elisa, Amelia &c.--for Phillips was a
wife-hunting, probably from the circumstance of his having formed an
extreme rash connection in early life which paved the way to all his
after misfortunes, but there is an obstinacy in human nature which such
accidents only serve to whet on to try again. Pleasure thus at two
entrances quite shut out--I hardly know how to determine of Phillips's
result of happiness. He appears satisfyd, but never those bursts of
gaiety, those moment-rules from the Cave of Despondency, that used to
make his face shine and shew the lines which care had marked in it. I
would bet an even wager he marries secretly, the Speaker finds it out,
and he is reverted to his old Liberty and a hundred pounds a year--these
are but speculations--I can think of no other news. I am going to eat
Turbot, Turtle, Venison, marrow pudding--cold punch, claret, madeira,--
at our annual feast at half-past four this day. Mary has ordered the
bolt to my bedroom door inside to be taken off, and a practicable latch
to be put on, that I may not bar myself in and be suffocated by my
neckcloth, so we have taken all precautions, three watchmen are engaged
to carry the body up-stairs--Pray for me. They keep bothering me, (I'm
at office,) and my ideas are confused. Let me know if I can be of any
service as to books. God forbid the Architectonicon should be sacrificed
to a foolish scruple of some Book-proprietor, as if books did not belong
with the highest propriety to those that understand 'em best.
[Since Lamb's last letter to him (October 30, 1809) Coleridge had done
very little. _The Friend_ had been given up; he had made his London home
with the Morgans; had delivered the pictures on Shakespeare and
contributed to _The Courier_; "Remorse" had been produced with Lamb's
prologue, January 23, 1813; the quarrel with Wordsworth had been to some
extent healed; he had sold his German books; and the opium-habit was
growing on him. He was now at Bristol, living with Joseph Wade, and
meditating a great work on Christianity which Cottle was to print, and
which ultimately became the _Biographia Literaria_.
The term "Resuscitate" may refer to one of Coleridge's frequent threats
Dr. Henry Herbert Southey (1783-1865) was brother of the poet. He had
just settled in London.
"Mylne" was William Milns, author of the _Well-Bred Scholar_, 1794.
Crabb Robinson does not mention Coleridge's letter, nor make any
reference to it, in his _Diary_. He went to France in August after
circuit. It was at this time (August 23) that Coleridge wrote to John
Murray concerning a translation of Goethe's _Faust_, which Murray
contemplated (see _Letters_, E. H. Coleridge, page 624). The suggestion
that Coleridge should translate _Faust_ for Murray came _via_ Crabb
Robinson _via_ Lamb.
The "life of the German conjuror." There were several Colerus'. John
Colerus of Amsterdam wrote a Life of Spinoza. Lamb may have meant this,
John Colerus of Berlin invented a perpetual calendar and John Jacob
Colerus examined Platonic doctrine. There are still others.
The Morgans had moved to Ashley, near Box. Miss Brent was Mrs. Morgan's
"Our annual feast"--the annual dinner of the India House clerks.
"The Architectonicon." Lamb refers possibly to some great projected work
of Coleridge's. The term is applied to metaphysicians. Possibly Goethe
is referred to.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
26th August, 1814.
Let the hungry soul rejoice: there is corn in Egypt. Whatever thou hast
been told to the contrary by designing friends, who perhaps inquired
carelessly, or did not inquire at all, in hope of saving their money,
there is a stock of "Remorse" on hand, enough, as Pople conjectures, for
seven years' consumption; judging from experience of the last two years.
Methinks it makes for the benefit of sound literature, that the best
books do not always go off best. Inquire in seven years' time for the
"Rokebys" and the "Laras," and where shall they be found?--fluttering
fragmentally in some thread-paper--whereas thy "Wallenstein" and thy
"Remorse" are safe on Longman's or Pople's shelves, as in some Bodleian;
there they shall remain; no need of a chain to hold them fast--perhaps
for ages--tall copies--and people shan't run about hunting for them as
in old Ezra's shrievalty they did for a Bible, almost without effect
till the great-great-grand-niece (by the mother's side) of Jeremiah or
Ezekiel (which was it?) remembered something of a book, with odd reading
in it, that used to lie in the green closet in her aunt Judith's
Thy caterer Price was at Hamburgh when last Pople heard of him, laying
up for thee, like some miserly old father for his generous-hearted son
Mr. Charles Aders, whose books also pant for that free circulation which
thy custody is sure to give them, is to be heard of at his kinsmen,
Messrs. Jameson and Aders, No. 7, Laurence-Pountney-Lane, London,
according to the information which Crabius with his parting breath left
me. Crabius is gone to Paris. I prophesy he and the Parisians will part
with mutual contempt. His head has a twist Alemagne, like thine, dear
I have been reading Madame Stael on Germany. An impudent clever woman.
But if "Faust" be no better than in her abstract of it, I counsel thee
to let it alone. How canst thou translate the language of cat-monkeys?
Fie on such fantasies! But I will not forget to look for Proclus. It is
a kind of book which when one meets with it one shuts the lid faster
than one opened it. Yet I have some bastard kind of recollection that
somewhere, some time ago, upon some stall or other, I saw it. It was
either that or Plotinus, 205-270 A.D., Neoplatonist, or Saint
Augustine's "City of God." So little do some folks value, what to
others, _sc_. to you, "well used," had been the "Pledge of Immortality."
Bishop Bruno I never touched upon. Stuffing too good for the brains of
such "a Hare" as thou describest. May it burst his pericranium, as the
gobbets of fat and turpentine (a nasty thought of the seer) did that old
dragon in the Apocrypha! May he go mad in trying to understand his
author! May he lend the third volume of him before he has quite
translated the second, to a friend who shall lose it, and so spoil the
publication; and may his friend find it and send it him just as thou or
some such less dilatory spirit shall have announced the whole for the
press; lastly, may he be hunted by Reviewers, and the devil jug him! So
I think I have answered all the questions except about Morgan's
cos-lettuces. The first personal peculiarity I ever observed of him (all
worthy souls are subject to 'em) was a particular kind of rabbit-like
delight in munching salads with oil without vinegar after dinner--a
steady contemplative browsing on them--didst never take note of it?
Canst think of any other queries in the solution of which I can give
thee satisfaction? Do you want any books that I can procure for you? Old
Jimmy Boyer is dead at last. Trollope has got his living, worth L1000
a-year net. See, thou sluggard, thou heretic-sluggard, what mightest
thou not have arrived at! Lay thy animosity against Jimmy in the grave.
Do not _entail_ it on thy posterity.
[Coleridge's play "Remorse" had been published by Pople in 1813. A copy
of the first edition now brings about thirty shillings; but this is
largely owing to the presence in the volume of Lamb's prologue. But
_Rokeby_ and _Lara_ bring their pounds too.
"Thy caterer Price." I do not identify.
Charles Aders we shall meet. Crabius was, of course, Crabb Robinson.
"Such 'a Hare.'" Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855), who afterwards knew
Coleridge, was then at Cambridge, after living at Weimar. I find no
record of his translating Bruno; but this possibly was he.
"Jimmy Boyer." The Rev. James Boyer, Headmaster of Christ's Hospital in
Lamb and Coleridge's day, died in 1814. His living, the richest in the
Hospital's gift, was that of Colne Engaine, which passed to the Rev.
Arthur William Trollope, Headmaster of Christ's Hospital until 1826.
Boyer had been a Spartan, and Coleridge and he had had passages, but in
the main Coleridge's testimony to him is favourable and kindly (see
Lamb's Christ's Hospital essay, Vol. II. of this edition).]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. illegible. Sept. 19, 1814.]
My dear W. I have scarce time or quiet to explain my present situation,
how unquiet and distracted it is.... Owing to the absence of some of my
compeers, and to the deficient state of payments at E. I. H. owing to
bad peace speculations in the Calico market (I write this to W. W., Esq.
Collector of Stamp duties for the conjoint northern counties, not to W.
W. Poet) I go back, and have for this many days past, to evening work,
generally at the rate of nine hours a day. The nature of my work too,
puzzling and hurrying, has so shaken my spirits, that my sleep is
nothing but a succession of dreams of business I cannot do, of
assistants that give me no assistance, of terrible responsibilities. I
reclaimed your book, which Hazlit has uncivilly kept, only 2 days ago,
and have made shift to read it again with shatterd brain. It does not
lose--rather some parts have come out with a prominence I did not
perceive before--but such was my aching head yesterday (Sunday) that the
book was like a Mount'n. Landscape to one that should walk on the edge
of a precipice. I perceived beauty dizzily. Now what I would say is,
that I see no prospect of a quiet half day or hour even till this week
and the next are past. I then hope to get 4 weeks absence, and if _then_
is time enough to begin I will most gladly do what you require, tho' I
feel my inability, for my brain is always desultory and snatches off
hints from things, but can seldom follow a "work" methodically. But that
shall be no excuse. What I beg you to do is to let me know from Southey,
if that will be time enough for the "Quarterly," i.e. suppose it done in
3 weeks from this date (19 Sept.): if not it is my bounden duty to
express my regret, and decline it. Mary thanks you and feels highly
grateful for your Patent of Nobility, and acknowleges the author of
Excursion as the legitimate Fountain of Honor. We both agree, that to
our feeling Ellen is best as she is. To us there would have been
something repugnant in her challenging her Penance as a Dowry! the fact
is explicable, but how few to whom it could have been renderd explicit!
The unlucky reason of the detention of Excursion was, Hazlit and we
having a misunderstanding. He blowed us up about 6 months ago, since
which the union hath snapt, but M. Burney borrowd it for him and after
reiterated messages I only got it on Friday. His remarks had some vigor
in them, particularly something about an old ruin being _too modern for
your Primeval Nature, and about a lichen_, but I forget the Passage, but
the whole wore a slovenly air of dispatch and disrespect. That objection
which M. Burney had imbibed from him about Voltaire, I explaind to M. B.
(or tried) exactly on your principle of its being a characteristic
speech. That it was no settled comparative estimate of Voltaire with any
of his own tribe of buffoons--no injustice, even _you_ spoke it, for I
dared say you never could relish Candide. I know I tried to get thro' it
about a twelvemonth since, and couldn't for the Dullness. Now, I think I
have a wider range in buffoonery than you. Too much toleration perhaps.
I finish this after a raw ill bakd dinner, fast gobbled up, to set me
off to office again after working there till near four. O Christ! how I
wish I were a rich man, even tho' I were squeezed camel-fashion at
getting thro' that Needles eye that is spoken of in the _Written Word_.
Apropos, are you a Xtian? or is it the Pedlar and the Priest that are?
I find I miscalld that celestial splendor of the mist going off, a
_sunset_. That only shews my inaccuracy of head.
Do pray indulge me by writing an answer to the point of time mentioned
above, or _let Southey_. I am asham'd to go bargaining in this way, but
indeed I have no time I can reckon on till the 1st week in Octo'r. God
send I may not be disappointed in that!
Coleridge swore in letter to me he would review Exc'n. in the Quarterly.
Therefore, tho' _that_ shall not stop me, yet if I can do anything,
_when_ done, I must know of him if he has anything ready, or I shall
fill the world with loud exclaims.
I keep writing on, knowing the Postage is no more for much writing, else
so faggd & disjointed I am with damnd India house work, I scarce know
what I do. My left arm reposes on "Excursion." I feel what it would be
in quiet. It is now a sealed Book.
O happy Paris, seat of idleness and pleasure! From some return'd English
I hear that not such a thing as a counting house is to be seen in her
streets, scarce a desk--Earthquakes swallow up this mercantile city and
its gripple merchants, as Drayton hath it, "born to be the curse of this
brave isle." I invoke this not on account of any parsimonious habits the
mercantile interest may have, but, to confess truth, because I am not
fit for an office.
Farewell, in haste, from a head that is ill to methodize, a stomach to
digest, and all out of Tune. Better harmonies await you.
[Wordsworth had been appointed in 1813 Distributor of Stamps for the
county of Westmoreland. Lamb is writing again about _The Excursion_,
which at the instigation of Southey, to whom Wordsworth had made the
suggestion, he is to review for the _Quarterly_.
"Hazlitt and we having a misunderstanding." The precise cause of the
trouble we do not know, but in Crabb Robinson's _Diary_, in 1811, it is
said that a slight coolness had begun between the two men on account of
money which Lamb did not feel justified in lending to Hazlitt. Between
1811 and 1814, however, they were friendly again. It was Hazlitt's
hostile attitude to Wordsworth that brought about Robinson's split with
him, although that also was mended: literary men are short haters.
Hazlitt reviewed _The Excursion_--from Lamb's copy, which in itself was
a cause of grievance--in _The Examiner_, in three numbers, August 21, 28
and October 2. Wordsworth had described _Candide_, in Book II., as the
"dull product of a scoffer's pen." Hazlitt wrote thus:--
... We cannot however agree with Mr. Wordsworth that _Candide_ is
_dull_. It is, if our author pleases, "the production of a scoffer's
pen," or it is any thing, but dull. _Rasselas_ indeed is dull; but then
it is privileged dulness. It may not be proper in a grave, discreet,
orthodox, promising young divine, who studies his opinions in the
contraction or distension of his patron's brow, to allow any merit to a
work like _Candide_; but we conceive that it would have been more in
character, that is, more manly, in Mr. Wordsworth, nor do we think it
would have hurt the cause he espouses, if he had blotted out the
epithet, after it had peevishly escaped him. Whatsoever savours of a
little, narrow, inquisitorial spirit, does not sit well on a poet and a
man of genius. The prejudices of a philosopher are not natural....
Lamb himself made the same criticism, three years later, at Haydon's
Hazlitt had also said of _The Excursion_ that--
Such is the severe simplicity of Mr. Wordsworth's taste, that we doubt
whether he would not reject a druidical temple, or time-hallowed ruin,
as too modern and artificial for his purpose. He only familiarises
himself or his readers with a stone, covered with lichens, which has
slept in the same spot of ground from the creation of the world, or with
the rocky fissure between two mountains, caused by thunder, or with a
cavern scooped out by the sea. His mind is, as it were, coeval with the
primary forms of things, holds immediately from nature; and his
imagination "owes no allegiance" but "to the elements."
"Are you a Xtian?"--referring to the sentiments of Wanderer and the
Pastor--two characters of _The Excursion_.
"A _sunset_." See preceding letter to Wordsworth.
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Southey, dated October 20, 1814,
stating that Lamb has deposited with Mr. Grosvenor Bedford, Southey's
friend and correspondent, his review of _The Excursion_. "Who can cram
into a strait coop of a review any serious idea of such a vast and
MARY LAMB TO BARBARA BETHAM (Aged 14)
Nov'r. 2, 1814.
It is very long since I have met with such an agreeable surprise as the
sight of your letter, my kind young friend, afforded me. Such a nice
letter as it is too. And what a pretty hand you write. I congratulate
you on this attainment with great pleasure, because I have so often felt
the disadvantage of my own wretched handwriting.
You wish for London news. I rely upon your sister Ann for gratifying you
in this respect, yet I have been endeavouring to recollect whom you
might have seen here, and what may have happened to them since, and this
effort has only brought the image of little Barbara Betham, unconnected
with any other person, so strongly before my eyes that I seem as if I
had no other subject to write upon. Now I think I see you with your feet
propped upon the fender, your two hands spread out upon your knees--an
attitude you always chose when we were in familiar confidential
conversation together--telling me long stories of your own home, where
now you say you are "Moping on with the same thing every day," and which
then presented nothing but pleasant recollections to your mind. How well
I remember your quiet steady face bent over your book. One day,
conscience struck at having wasted so much of your precious time in
reading, and feeling yourself, as you prettily said, "quite useless to
me," you went to my drawers and hunted out some unhemmed
pocket-handkerchiefs, and by no means could I prevail upon you to resume
your story books till you had hemmed them all. I remember, too, your
teaching my little maid to read--your sitting with her a whole evening
to console her for the death of her sister; and that she in her turn
endeavoured to become a comforter to you, the next evening, when you
wept at the sight of Mrs. Holcroft, from whose school you had recently
eloped because you were not partial to sitting in the stocks. Those
tears, and a few you once dropped when my brother teased you about your
supposed fondness for an apple dumpling, were the only interruptions to
the calm contentedness of your unclouded brow. We still remain the same
as you left us, neither taller nor wiser, or perceptibly older, but
three years must have made a great alteration in you. How very much,
dear Barbara, I should like to see you!
We still live in Temple Lane, but I am now sitting in a room you never
saw. Soon after you left us we we[re] distressed by the cries of a cat,
which seemed to proceed from the garrets adjoining to ours, and only
separated from ours by a locked door on the farther side of my brother's
bedroom, which you know was the little room at the top of the kitchen
stairs. We had the lock forced and let poor puss out from behind a
pannel of the wainscot, and she lived with us from that time, for we
were in gratitude bound to keep her, as she had introduced us to four
untenanted, unowned rooms, and by degrees we have taken possession of
these unclaimed apartments--First putting up lines to dry our clothes,
then moving my brother's bed into one of these, more commodious than his
own room. And last winter, my brother being unable to pursue a work he
had begun, owing to the kind interruptions of friends who were more at
leisure than himself, I persuaded him that he might write at his ease in
one of these rooms, as he could not then hear the door knock, or hear
himself denied to be at home, which was sure to make him call out and
convict the poor maid in a fib. Here, I said, he might be almost really
not at home. So I put in an old grate, and made him a fire in the
largest of these garrets, and carried in one table, and one chair, and
bid him write away, and consider himself as much alone as if he were in
a new lodging in the midst of Salisbury Plain, or any other wide
unfrequented place where he could expect few visitors to break in upon
his solitude. I left him quite delighted with his new acquisition, but
in a few hours he came down again with a sadly dismal face. He could do
nothing, he said, with those bare whitewashed walls before his eyes. He
could not write in that dull unfurnished prison.
The next day, before he came home from his office, I had gathered up
various bits of old carpetting to cover the floor; and, to a little
break the blank look of the bare walls, I hung up a few old prints that
used to ornament the kitchen, and after dinner, with great boast of what
an improvement I had made, I took Charles once more into his new study.
A week of busy labours followed, in which I think you would not have
disliked to have been our assistant. My brother and I almost covered the
wall with prints, for which purpose he cut out every print from every
book in his old library, coming in every now and then to ask my leave to
strip a fresh poor author--which he might not do, you know, without my
permission, as I am elder sister. There was such pasting, such
consultation where their portraits, and where the series of pictures
from Ovid, Milton, and Shakespear would show to most advantage, and in
what obscure corner authors of humbler note might be allowed to tell
their stories. All the books gave up their stores but one, a translation
from Ariosto, a delicious set of four and twenty prints, and for which I
had marked out a conspicuous place; when lo! we found at the moment the
scissars were going to work that a part of the poem was printed at the
back of every picture. What a cruel disappointment! To conclude this
long story about nothing, the poor despised garret is now called the
print room, and is become our most favorite sitting room.
Your sister Ann will tell you that your friend Louisa is going to
France. Miss Skepper is out of town, Mrs. Reynolds desires to be
remembered to you, and so does my neighbour Mrs. Norris, who was your
doctress when you were unwell, her three little children are grown three
big children. The Lions still live in Exeter Change. Returning home
through the Strand, I often hear them roar about twelve oclock at night.
I never hear them without thinking of you, because you seemed so pleased
with the sight of them, and said your young companions would stare when
you told them you had seen a Lion.
And now my dear Barbara fare well, I have not written such a long letter
a long time, but I am very sorry I had nothing amusing to write about.
Wishing you may pass happily through the rest of your school days, and
every future day of your life.
I remain, your affectionate Friend,
My brother sends his love to you, with the kind remembrance your letter
shewed you have of us as I was. He joins with me in respects to your
good father and mother, and to your brother John, who, if I do not
mistake his name, is your tall young brother who was in search of a fair
lady with a large fortune. Ask him if he has found her yet. You say you
are not so tall as Louisa--you must be, you cannot so degenerate from
the rest of your family. Now you have begun, I shall hope to have the
pleasure of hearing from [you] again. I shall always receive a letter
from you with very great delight.
[This charming letter is to a younger sister of Matilda Betham. What the
work was which in 1814 drove Lamb into an empty room I do not know. It
may have been something which came to nought. Beyond the essay on
Tailors (see Vol. I.) and a few brief scraps for _The Champion_ he did
practically nothing that has survived until some verses in 1818, a few
criticisms in 1819, and in 1820 the first of the _Elia_ essays for the
_London Magazine_. Louisa was Louisa Holcroft, about to go to France
with her mother and stepfather, James Kenney. Miss Skepper was Basil
Montagu's stepdaughter, afterwards the wife of B. W. Procter (Barry
Cornwall). Exeter Change, where there was a menagerie, was in the Strand
(see note above). There is a further reference to the tallness of John
Betham in Lamb's letter to Landor in 1832.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN SCOTT
[Dated at end: Dec. 12, 1814.]
Sir, I am sorry to seem to go off my agreement, but very particular
circumstances have happened to hinder my fulfillment of it at present.
If any single Essays ever occur to me in future, you shall have the
refusal of them. Meantime I beg you to consider the thing as at an end.
with thanks & acknowlg'nt
Monday ev: 12 Dec., 1814.
[_See Letter to Scott above._]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. Dec. 28, 1814.]
Dear W. your experience about tailors seems to be in point blank
opposition to Burton, as much as the author of the Excursion does toto
coelo differ in his notion of a country life from the picture which W.H.
has exhibited of the same. But with a little explanation you and B. may
be reconciled. It is evident that he confined his observations to the
genuine native London tailor. What freaks Tailor-nature may take in the
country is not for him to give account of. And certainly some of the
freaks recorded do give an idea of the persons in question being beside
themselves, rather than in harmony with the common moderate self
enjoym't of the rest mankind. A flying tailor, I venture to say, is no
more in rerum natura than a flying horse or a Gryphon. His wheeling his
airy flight from the precipice you mention had a parallel in the
melancholy Jew who toppled from the monument. Were his limbs ever found?
Then, the man who cures diseases by words is evidently an inspired
tailor. Burton never affirmed that the act of sewing disqualified the
practiser of it from being a fit organ for supernatural revelation. He
never enters into such subjects. 'Tis the common uninspired tailor which
he speaks of. Again the person who makes his smiles to be _heard_, is
evidently a man under possession; a demoniac taylor. A greater hell than
his own must have a hand in this. I am not certain that the cause which
you advocate has much reason for triumph. You seem to me to substitute
light headedness for light heartedness by a trick, or not to know the
difference. I confess, a grinning tailor would shock me.--Enough of
The "'scapes" of the great god Pan who appeared among your mountains
some dozen years since, and his narrow chance of being submerged by the
swains, afforded me much pleasure. I can conceive the water nymphs
pulling for him. He would have been another Hylas. W. Hylas. In a mad
letter which Capel Loft wrote to M.M. Phillips (now S'r. Rich'd.) I
remember his noticing a metaphysical article by Pan, signed H. and
adding "I take your correspondent to be the same with Hylas." Hylas has
[? had] put forth a pastoral just before. How near the unfounded
conjecture of the certainly inspired Loft (unfounded as we thought it)
was to being realized! I can conceive him being "good to all that wander
in that perilous flood." One J. Scott (I know no more) is edit'r of
Where is Coleridge?
That Review you speak of, I am only sorry it did not appear last month.
The circumstances of haste and peculiar bad spirits under which it was
written, would have excused its slightness and inadequacy, the full load
of which I shall suffer from its lying by so long as it will seem to
have done from its postponement. I write with great difficulty and can
scarce command my own resolution to sit at writing an hour together. I
am a poor creature, but I am leaving off Gin. I hope you will see good
will in the thing. I had a difficulty to perform not to make it all
Panegyrick; I have attempted to personate a mere stranger to you;
perhaps with too much strangeness. But you must bear that in mind when
you read it, and not think that I am in mind distant from you or your
Poem, but that both are close to me among the nearest of persons and
things. I do but act the stranger in the Review. Then, I was puzzled
about extracts and determined upon not giving one that had been in the
Examiner, for Extracts repeated give an idea that there is a meagre
allow'ce, of good things. By this way, I deprived myself of Sr. W.
Irthing and the reflections that conclude his story, which are the
flower of the Poem. H. had given the reflections before me. _Then_ it is
the first Review I ever did, and I did not know how long I might make
it. But it must speak for itself, if Giffard and his crew do not put
words in its mouth, which I expect. Farewell. Love to all. Mary keeps
[Lamb seems to have sent Wordsworth a copy of _The Champion_ containing
his essay, signed Burton, Junior, "On the Melancholy of Tailors."
Wordsworth's letter of reply, containing the examples of other tailors,
is no longer in existence. "A greater hell" is a pun: the receptacle
into which tailors throw scraps is called a hell. See Lamb's "Satan in
Search of a Wife" and notes (Vol. IV.) for more on this topic.
"W. H."--Hazlitt: referring again to his review of _The Excursion_ in
"The melancholy Jew"--Mr. Lyon Levy, a diamond merchant, who jumped off
the Monument commemorating the Fire of London, on January 18, 1810.
"The ''scapes' of the great god Pan." A reference to Hazlitt's
flirtation with a farmer's daughter in the Lake country, ending almost
in immersion (see above). Hylas, seeking for water with a pitcher, so
enraptured the nymphs of the river with his beauty that they drew him
Capell Lofft (1751-1824) was a lawyer and philanthropist of independent
means who threw himself into many popular discussions and knew many
literary men. He was the patron of Robert Bloomfield. Lamb was amused by
him, but annoyed that his initials were also C. L. "M. M. Phillips"--for
_Monthly Magazine_, which Phillips published.
"One J. Scott." See note above.
"Where is Coleridge?" Coleridge was now at Calne, in Wiltshire, with the
Morgans. He was being treated for the drug habit by a Dr. Page.
"That Review." Lamb's review of _The Excursion_, which, although the
_Quarterly_ that contains it is dated October, 1814, must have been
delayed until the end of the year. The episode of Sir W. Irthing (really
Sir Alfred Irthing) is in Book VII. Lamb's foreboding as to Clifford's
action was only too well justified, as we shall see.
"Mary keeps very bad." Mary Lamb, we learn from Crabb Robinson's
_Diary_, had been taken ill some time between December 11 and December
24, having tired herself by writing an article on needlework for the
_British Lady's Magazine_ (see Vol. I. of this edition). She did not
recover until February, 1815.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. illegible. ?Early Jan., 1815.]
Dear Wordsworth, I told you my Review was a very imperfect one. But what
you will see in the Quarterly is a spurious one which Mr. Baviad Gifford
has palm'd upon it for mine. I never felt more vexd in my life than when
I read it. I cannot give you an idea of what he has done to it out of
spite at me because he once sufferd me to be called a lunatic in his
Thing. The _language_ he has alterd throughout. Whatever inadequateness
it had to its subject, it was in point of composition the prettiest
piece of prose I ever writ, and so my sister (to whom alone I read the
MS.) said. That charm if it had any is all gone: more than a third of
the substance is cut away, and that not all from one place, but
_passim_, so as to make utter nonsense. Every warm expression is changed
for a nasty cold one. I have not the cursed alteration by me, I shall
never look at it again, but for a specimen I remember I had said the
Poet of the Excurs'n "walks thro' common forests as thro' some Dodona or
enchanted wood, and every casual bird that flits upon the boughs, like
that miraculous one in Tasso, but in language more piercing than any
articulate sounds, reveals to him far higher lovelays." It is now
(besides half a dozen alterations in the same half dozen lines) "but in
language more _intelligent_ reveals to him"--that is one I remember. But
that would have been little, putting his damnd Shoemaker phraseology
(for he was a shoemaker) in stead of mine, which has been tinctured with
better authors than his ignorance can comprehend--for I reckon myself a
dab at _Prose_--verse I leave to my betters--God help them, if they are
to be so reviewed by friend and foe as you have been this quarter. I
have read "It won't do." But worse than altering words, he has kept a
few members only of the part I had done best, which was to explain all I
could of your "scheme of harmonies," as I had ventured to call it,
between the external universe and what within us answers to it. To do
this I had accumulated a good many short passages, rising in length to
the end, weaving in the Extracts as if they came in as a part of the
text, naturally, not obtruding them as specimens. Of this part a little
is left, but so as without conjuration no man could tell what I was
driving it [? at]. A proof of it you may see (tho' not judge of the
whole of the injustice) by these words: I had spoken something about
"natural methodism--" and after follows "and therefore the tale of
Margaret sh'd have been postponed" (I forget my words, or his words):
now the reasons for postponing it are as deducible from what goes
before, as they are from the 104th psalm. The passage whence I deduced
it has vanished, but clapping a colon before a _therefore_ is always
reason enough for Mr. Baviad Gifford to allow to a reviewer that is not
himself. I assure you my complaints are founded. I know how sore a word
alterd makes one, but indeed of this Review the whole complexion is
gone. I regret only that I did not keep a copy. I am sure you would have
been pleased with it, because I have been feeding my fancy for some
months with the notion of pleasing you. Its imperfection or
inadequateness in size and method I knew, but for the _writing part_ of
it, I was fully satisfied. I hoped it would make more than atonement.
Ten or twelve distinct passages come to my mind, which are gone, and
what is left is of course the worse for their having been there, the
eyes are pulld out and the bleeding sockets are left. I read it at
Arch's shop with my face burning with vexation secretly, with just such
a feeling as if it had been a review written against myself, making
false quotations from me. But I am ashamd to say so much about a short
piece. How are _you_ served! and the labors of years turn'd into
contempt by scoundrels.
But I could not but protest against your taking that thing as mine.
Every _pretty_ expression, (I know there were many) every warm
expression, there was nothing else, is vulgarised and frozen--but if
they catch me in their camps again let them spitchcock me. They had a
right to do it, as no name appears to it, and Mr. Shoemaker Gifford I
suppose never wa[i]ved a right he had since he commencd author. God
confound him and all caitiffs.
[For the full understanding of this letter it is necessary to read
Lamb's review (see Vol. I. of this edition).
William Gifford (1756-1826), editor of the _Quarterly_, had been a
shoemaker's apprentice. Lamb calls him Mr. Baviad Gifford on account of
his satires, _The Moeviad_ and _The Baviad_, against the Delia Cruscan
school of poetry, of which Robert Merry had been the principal member.
Some of Lamb's grudge against Gifford, which was of old standing (see
notes to Lamb's review, Vol. I.), was repaid in his sonnet "St. Crispin
to Mr. Gifford" (see Vol. IV. of this edition). Gifford's connection
with Canning, in the _Anti-Jacobin_, could not have improved his
position with Lamb.
"I have read 'It won't do.'" A reference to the review of _The
Excursion_ in the _Edinburgh_ for November, by Jeffrey, beginning "This
will never do."]
CHARLES LAMB TO MR. SARGUS
[Dated at end: Feb. 23, 1815.]
Dr Sargus--This is to give you notice that I have parted with the
Cottage to Mr. Grig Jun'r. to whom you will pay rent from Michaelmas
last. The rent that was due at Michaelmas I do not wish you to pay me. I
forgive it you as you may have been at some expences in repairs.
Inner Temple Lane, London,
23 Feb., 1815.
[In 1812 Lamb inherited, through his godfather, Francis Fielde, who is
mentioned in the _Elia_ essay "My First Play," a property called Button
Snap, near Puckeridge, in Hertfordshire, consisting of a small cottage
and about an acre of ground. In 1815 he sold it for L50, and the
foregoing letter is an intimation of the transaction to his tenant. The
purchaser, however, was not a Mr. Grig, but a Mr. Greg (see notes to "My
First Play" in Vol. II. of this edition). In my large edition I give a
picture of the cottage.
I append here an undated letter to Joseph Hume which belongs to a time
posterior to the sale of the cottage. It refers to Tuthill's candidature
for the post of physician to St. Luke's Hospital.
The letter is printed in Mr. Kegan Paul's _William Godwin: His Friends
and Acquaintances_, as though it were written to Godwin, and all Lamb's
editors follow in assuming the Philosopher to be the recipient, but
internal evidence practically proves that Hume was addressed; for there
is the reference to Mrs. Hume and her daughters, and Godwin lived not in
Kensington but in Skinner Street.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOSEPH HUME
"Bis dat qui dat cito."
I hate the pedantry of expressing that in another language which we have
sufficient terms for in our own. So in plain English I very much wish
you to give your vote to-morrow at Clerkenwell, instead of Saturday. It
would clear up the brows of my favourite candidate, and stagger the
hands of the opposite party. It commences at nine. How easy, as you come
from Kensington (_a propos_, how is your excellent family?) to turn down
Bloomsbury, through Leather Lane (avoiding Lay Stall St. for the
disagreeableness of the name). Why, it brings you in four minutes and a
half to the spot renowned on northern milestones, "where Hicks' Hall
formerly stood." There will be good cheer ready for every independent
freeholder; where you see a green flag hang out go boldly in, call for
ham, or beef, or what you please, and a mug of Meux's Best. How much
more gentleman-like to come in the front of the battle, openly avowing
one's sentiments, than to lag in on the last day, when the adversary is
dejected, spiritless, laid low. Have the first cut at them. By Saturday
you'll cut into the mutton. I'd go cheerfully myself, but I am no
freeholder (Fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium), but I sold it for L50. If they'd
accept a copy-holder, we clerks are naturally _copy_-holders.
By the way, get Mrs. Hume, or that agreeable Amelia or Caroline, to
stick a bit of green in your hat. Nothing daunts the adversary more than
to wear the colours of your party. Stick it in cockade-like. It has a
martial, and by no means disagreeable effect.
Go, my dear freeholder, and if any chance calls you out of this
transitory scene earlier than expected, the coroner shall sit lightly on
your corpse. He shall not too anxiously enquire into the circumstances
of blood found upon your razor. That might happen to any gentleman in
shaving. Nor into your having been heard to express a contempt of life,
or for scolding Louisa for what Julia did, and other trifling
["Lay Stall St." This street, which is still found in Clerkenwell, was
of course named from one of the laystalls or public middens which were a
feature of London when sanitation was in its infancy.
"Where Hicks' Hall formerly stood." Hicks' Hall, the old Sessions House
of the County of Middlesex, stood in St. John Street, Clerkenwell, until
its demolition in 1782, when the justices removed to the new Sessions
House on Clerkenwell Green. The milestones on the Great North Road,
which had long been measured from Hicks' Hall, were reinscribed "----
Miles from the spot where Hicks' Hall formerly stood." Thus Hicks' Hall
remained a household word long after it had ceased to exist. The
adventures of Jedediah Jones in search of "the spot where Hicks' Hall
formerly stood" are amusingly set forth in Knight's _London_, Vol. I.,
We meet Hume's daughters again in Letter 540. I append a letter with no
date, which may come here:--]
CHARLES LAMB TO [MRS. HUME?]
Dear Mrs. H.: Sally who brings this with herself back has given every
possible satisfaction in doing her work, etc., but the fact is the poor
girl is oppressed with a ladylike melancholy, and cannot bear to be so
much alone, as she necessarily must be in our kitchen, which to say the
truth is damn'd solitary, where she can see nothing and converse with
nothing and not even look out of window. The consequence is she has been
caught shedding tears all day long, and her own comfort has made it
indispensable to send her home. Your cheerful noisy children-crowded
house has made her feel the change so much the more.
Our late servant always complained of the _want of children_, which she
had been used to in her last place. One man's meat is another man's
poison, as they say. However, we are eternally obliged to you, as much
as if Sally could have staid. We have got an old woman coming, who is
too stupid to know when she is alone and when she is not.
C. LAMB, for self and sister.
Have you heard from ......
[I take it that Mrs. H. is Mrs. Hume, because Hume had a large family.
It was of him, in his paternal light, that Lamb said, "one fool makes
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. partly illegible. April 7, 1815.]
The conclusion of this epistle getting gloomy, I have chosen this part
to desire our kindest Loves to Mrs. Wordsworth and to _Dorothea_. Will
none of you ever be in London again?
Dear Wordsw'th, you have made me very proud with your successive book
presents. I have been carefully through the two volumes to see that
nothing was omitted which used to be there. I think I miss nothing but a
Character in Antithet. manner which I do not know why you left out; the
moral to the boys building the giant, the omission whereof leaves it in
my mind less complete; and one admirable line gone (or something come in
stead of it) "the stone-chat and the glancing sand-piper," which was a
line quite alive. I demand these at your hand. I am glad that you have
not sacrificed a verse to those scoundrels. I would not have had you
offer up the poorest rag that lingered upon the stript shoulders of
little Alice Fell, to have atoned all their malice. I would not have
given 'em a red cloak to save their souls. I am afraid lest that
substitution of a shell (a flat falsification of the history) for the
household implement as it stood at first, was a kind of tub thrown out
to the beast, or rather thrown out for him. The tub was a good honest
tub in its place, and nothing could fairly be said against it. You say
you made the alteration for the "friendly reader," but the malicious
will take it to himself. Damn 'em; if you give 'em an inch &c. The
preface is noble and such as you should write: I wish I could set my
name to it--Imprimatur--but you have set it there yourself, and I thank
you. I had rather be a door-keeper in your margin, than have their
proudest text swelling with my eulogies. The poems in the volumes which
are new to me are so much in the old tone that I hardly received them as
novelties. Of those, of which I had no previous knowlege, the four yew
trees and the mysterious company which you have assembled there, most
struck me--"Death the Skeleton and Time the Shadow--" It is a sight not
for every youthful poet to dream of--it is one of the last results he
must have gone thinking-on for years for. Laodamia is a very original
poem; I mean original with reference to your own manner. You have
nothing like it. I should have seen it in a strange place, and greatly
admired it, but not suspected its derivation. Let me in this place, for
I have writ you several letters without naming it, mention that my
brother, who is a picture collector, has picked up an undoubtable
picture of Milton. He gave a few shillings for it, and could get no
history with it, but that some old lady had had it for a great many
years. Its age is ascertainable from the state of the canvas, and you
need only see it to be sure that it is the original of the heads in the
Tonson Editions, with which we are all so well familiar. Since I saw you
I have had a treat in the reading way which comes not every day. The
Latin Poems of V. Bourne, which were quite new to me. What a heart that
man had, all laid out upon town scenes, a proper counterpoise to _some
people's_ rural extravaganzas. Why I mention him is that your Power of
Music reminded me of his poem of the balad singer in the Seven Dials. Do
you remember his epigram on the old woman who taught Newton the A. B.
C., which after all, he says, he hesitates not to call Newton's
_Principia_. I was lately fatiguing myself with going thro' a volume of
fine words by _L'd. Thurlow_--excellent words, and if the heart could
live by words alone, it could desire no better regale--but what an
aching vacuum of matter; I don't stick at the madness of it, for that is
only a consequence of shutting his eyes and thinking he is in the age of
the old Elisabeth poets; from thence I turned to V. Bourne--what a sweet
unpretending pretty-mannered _matter-ful_ creature, sucking from every
flower, making a flower of every thing, his diction all Latin and his
thoughts all English. Bless him, Latin wasn't good enough for him, why
wasn't he content with the language which Gay and Prior wrote in.
I am almost sorry that you printed Extracts from those first Poems, or
that you did not print them at length. They do not read to me as they do
all together. Besides they have diminished the value of the original
(which I possess) as a curiosity. I have hitherto kept them distinct in
my mind as referring to a particular period of your life. All the rest
of your poems are so much of a piece, they might have been written in
the same week--these decidedly speak of an earlier period. They tell
more of what you had been reading.
We were glad to see the poems by a female friend. The one of the wind is
masterly, but not new to us. Being only three, perhaps you might have
clapt a D. at the corner and let it have past as a printer's mark to the
uninitiated, as a delightful hint to the better-instructed. As it is,
Expect a formal criticism on the Poems of your female friend, and she
must expect it.
I should have written before, but I am cruelly engaged and like to be.
On Friday I was at office from 10 in the morning (two hours dinner
except) to 11 at night, last night till 9. My business and office
business in general has increased so. I don't mean I am there every
night, but I must expect a great deal of it. I never leave till 4--and
do not keep a holyday now once in ten times, where I used to keep all
red letter days, and some fine days besides which I used to dub Nature's
holydays. I have had my day. I had formerly little to do. So of the
little that is left of life I may reckon two thirds as dead, for Time
that a man may call his own is his Life, and hard work and thinking
about it taints even the leisure hours, stains Sunday with workday
contemplations--this is Sunday, and the headache I have is part late
hours at work the 2 preceding nights and part later hours over a
consoling pipe afterw'ds. But I find stupid acquiescence coming over me.
I bend to the yoke, and it is almost with me and my household as with
the man and his consort--
To them each evening had its glittering star
And every Sabbath day its golden sun--
To such straits am I driven for the Life of life, Time--O that from that
superfluity of Holyday leisure my youth wasted "Age might but take some
hours youth wanted not.--" N.B. I have left off spirituous liquors for 4
or more months, with a moral certainty of its lasting. Farewell, dear
[Wordsworth had just brought out, with Longmans, his _Poems_ ...
_including Lyrical Ballads and the Miscellaneous Pieces of the Author_,
1815, in two volumes. The "Character in the Antithetical Manner" was
omitted from all editions of Wordsworth's poems between 1800 and 1836.
In the 1800 version of "Rural Architecture" there had been these last
lines, expunged in the editions of 1805 and 1815, but restored with a
slight alteration in later editions:--
--Some little I've seen of blind boisterous works
In Paris and London, 'mong Christians or Turks,
Spirits busy to do and undo:
At remembrance whereof my blood sometimes will flag,
--Then, light-hearted Boys, to the top of the Crag;
And I'll build up a Giant with you.
In the original form of the "Lines Left upon a Seat in a Yew Tree" there
had been these lines:--
His only visitants a straggling sheep,
The stone-chat, or the glancing sand-piper.
Wordsworth had altered them to:--
His only visitants a straggling sheep,
The stone-chat, or the sand-lark, restless Bird,
Piping along the margin of the lake.
In the 1820 edition Wordsworth put back the original form.
"Those scoundrels." Principally the critic of the _Edinburgh_, Jeffrey,
but Wordsworth's assailants generally.
"That substitution of a shell." In the original draft of "The Blind
Highland Boy" the adventurous voyage was made in
A Household Tub, like one of those
Which women use to wash their clothes.
In the new version the vessel was a turtle's shell.
"The preface." Wordsworth quotes from Lamb's essay in _The Reflector_ on
the genius of Hogarth, referring to the passage as "the language of one
of my most esteemed Friends." It is Lamb's description of Imagination as
that which "draws all things to one, which makes things animate or
inanimate, beings with their attributes, subjects with their
accessories, take one colour and serve to one effect."
"The four yew trees." The poem is called "Yew Trees." This is the
passage in question:--
But worthier still of note
Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
Huge trunks! and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and inveterately convolved;
Nor uninformed with Phantasy, and looks
That threaten the profane;--a pillared shade,
Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
Perennially--beneath whose sable roof
Of boughs, as if for festal purpose, decked
With unrejoicing berries--ghostly Shapes
May meet at noontide; Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight; Death the Skeleton
And Time the Shadow; there to celebrate,
As in a natural temple scattered o'er
With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
United worship; or in mute repose
To lie, and listen to the mountain flood
Murmuring from Giaramara's inmost caves.
"Picture of Milton." This portrait, a reproduction of which I give in my
large edition, is now in America, the property of the New York Public
"V. Bourne." Lamb afterwards translated some of Bourne's _Poemata_ and
wrote critically of them in the _Englishman's Magazine_ in 1831 (see
Vols. I. and IV.).
"Lord Thurlow." But see Letter to Bernard Barton of December 5, 1828,
"Extracts from those first Poems." Wordsworth included extracts from
juvenile pieces, which had been first published in his _Descriptive
"A female friend"--Dorothy Wordsworth. The three poems were "Address to
a Child" (beginning, "What way does the Wind come from?"), "The Mother's
Return" and "The Cottager to Her Infant."
"To them each evening had its glittering star ... "--_The Excursion_,
"Age might but take some hours ..." From Wordsworth's "Small
Age might but take the things Youth needed not.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. April 28, 1815.]
Excuse this maddish letter: I am too tired to write in formal--
Dear Wordsw'th. The more I read of your two last volumes, the more I
feel it necessary to make my acknowledgm'ts for them in more than one
short letter. The Night Piece to which you refer me I meant fully to
have noticed, but the fact is I come so fluttering and languid from
business, tired with thoughts of it, frightened with fears of it, that
when I get a few minutes to sit down to scribble (an action of the hand
now seldom natural to me--I mean voluntary pen-work) I lose all
presential memory of what I had intended to say, and say what I
can,--talk about Vincent Bourne or any casual image instead of that
which I had meditated--by the way, I must look out V. B. for you.--So I
had meant to have mentioned Yarrow Visited, with that stanza, "But thou
that didst appear so fair--" than which I think no lovelier stanza can
be found in the wide world of poetry--yet the poem on the whole seems
condemned to leave behind it a melancholy of imperfect satisfaction, as
if you had wronged the feeling with which in what preceded it you had
resolved never to visit it, and as if the Muse had determined in the
most delicate manner to make you, and _scarce make you_, feel it. Else,
it is far superior to the other, which has but one exquisite verse in
it, the last but one, or the two last--this has all fine, except perhaps
that _that_ of "studious ease and generous cares" has a little tinge of
the _less romantic_ about it. The farmer of Tilsbury vale is a charming
counter part to poor Susan, with the addition of that delicacy towards
aberrations from the strict path which is so fine in the Old Thief and
the boy by his side, which always brings water into my eyes. Perhaps it
is the worse for being a repetition. Susan stood for the representative
of poor Rus in Urbe. There was quite enough to stamp the moral of the
thing never to be forgotten. "Fast volumes of vapour" &c. The last verse
of Susan was to be got rid of at all events. It threw a kind of dubiety
upon Susan's moral conduct. Susan is a servant maid. I see her trundling
her mop and contemplating the whirling phenomenon thro' blurred optics;
but to term her a poor outcast seems as much as to say that poor Susan
was no better than she should be, which I trust was not what you meant
to express. Robin Goodfellow supports himself without that _stick_ of a
moral which you have thrown away,--but how I can be brought in felo de
omittendo for that Ending to the boy builders is a mystery. I can't say
positively now--I only know that no line oftener or readier occurs than
that "Light hearted boys, I will build up a giant with you." It comes
naturally with a warm holyday and the freshness of the blood. It is a
perfect summer Amulet that I tye round my legs to quicken their motion
when I go out a Maying. (N.B.) I don't often go out a maying.--_Must_ is
the tense with me now. Do you take the Pun? Young Romilly is divine, the
reasons of his mother's grief being remediless. I never saw parental
love carried up so high, towering above the other Loves. Shakspeare had
done something for the filial in Cordelia, and by implication for the
fatherly too in Lear's resentment--he left it for you to explore the
depths of the maternal heart. I get stupid, and flat and flattering--
what's the use of telling you what good things you have written, or--I
hope I may add--that I know them to be good. Apropos--when I first
opened upon the just mentioned poem, in a careless tone I said to Mary
as if putting a riddle "What is good for a bootless bean?" to which with
infinite presence of mind (as the jest book has it) she answered, a
"shoeless pea." It was the first joke she ever made. Joke the 2d I make
you distinguish well in your old preface between the verses of Dr.
Johnson of the man in the Strand, and that from the babes of the wood. I
was thinking whether taking your own glorious lines--
And for the love was in her soul
For the youthful Romilly--
which, by the love I bear my own soul, I think have no parallel in any
of the best old Balads, and just altering it to--
And from the great respect she felt
For Sir Samuel Romilly--
would not have explained the boundaries of prose expression and poetic
feeling nearly as well. Excuse my levity on such an occasion. I never
felt deeply in my life, if that poem did not make me, both lately and
when I read it in MS. No alderman ever longed after a haunch of buck
venison more than I for a Spiritual taste of that White Doe you promise.
I am sure it is superlative, or will be when _drest_, i.e. printed. All
things read raw tome in MS.--to compare magna parvis, I cannot endure my
own writings in that state. The only one which I think would not very
much win upon me in print is Peter Bell. But I am not certain. You ask
me about your preface. I like both that and the Supplement without an
exception. The account of what you mean by Imagination is very valuable
to me. It will help me to like some things in poetry better, which is a
little humiliating in me to confess. I thought I could not be instructed
in that science (I mean the critical), as I once heard old obscene
beastly Peter Pindar in a dispute on Milton say he thought that if he
had reason to value himself upon one thing more than another it was in
knowing what good verse was. Who lookd over your proof sheets, and left
_ordebo_ in that line of Virgil?
My brothers picture of Milton is very finely painted, that is, it might
have been done by a hand next to Vandyke's. It is the genuine Milton,
and an object of quiet gaze for the half hour at a time. _Yet_ tho' I am
confident there is no better one of him, the face does not quite answer
to Milton. There is a tinge of petit (or petite, how do you spell it)
querulousness about. Yet hang it, now I remember better, there is
not--it is calm, melancholy, and poetical.
_One_ of the copies you sent had precisely the same pleasant blending of
a sheet of 2d vol. with a sheet of 1st. I think it was page 245; but I
sent it and had it rectifyd. It gave me in the first impetus of cutting
the leaves just such a cold squelch as going down a plausible turning
and suddenly reading "no thoroughfare." Robinson's is entire; he is gone
to Bury his father.
I wish you would write more criticism, about Spenser &c. I think I could
say something about him myself--but Lord bless me--these "merchants and
their spicy drugs" which are so harmonious to sing of, they lime-twig up
my poor soul and body, till I shall forget I ever thought myself a bit
of a genius! I can't even put a few thoughts on paper for a newspaper. I
"engross," when I should pen a paragraph. Confusion blast all mercantile
transactions, all traffick, exchange of commodities, intercourse between
nations, all the consequent civilization and wealth and amity and link
of society, and getting rid of prejudices, and knowlege of the face of
the globe--and rot the very firs of the forest that look so romantic
alive, and die into desks. Vale.
Yours dear W. and all yours'. C. LAMB.
[_Added at foot of the first page:_] N.B. Don't read that Q. Review--I
will never look into another.
[Lamb continues his criticism of the 1815 edition of Wordsworth's
_Poems_. The "Night Piece" begins--
The sky is overcast.
The stanza from "Yarrow Visited" is quoted on page 557. The poem
followed "Yarrow Unvisited" in the volume. The one exquisite verse in
"Yarrow Unvisited" first ran:--
Your cottage seems a bower of bliss,
It promises protection
To studious ease and generous cares
And every chaste affection.
Wordsworth altered to--
A covert for protection
Of tender thoughts that nestle there,
The brood of chaste affection.
"Poor Susan" had in the 1800 version ended thus:--
Poor Outcast! return--to receive thee once more
The house of thy Father will open its door,
And thou once again, in thy plain russet gown,
May'st hear the thrush sing from a tree of its own.
Wordsworth expunged this stanza in the 1815 edition. "Fast volumes of
vapour" should be "Bright volumes of vapour." For the Old Thief see "The
"_Felo de omittendo._" See the preceding letter, where Lamb remonstrated
with Wordsworth for omitting the last lines from "Rural Architecture."
Wordsworth seems to have charged Lamb with the criticism that decided
"The Pun." Canon Ainger pointed out that Hood, in his "Ode to
Melancholy," makes the same pun very happily:--
Even as the blossoms of the May,
Whose fragrance ends in must.
"Young Romilly." In "The Force of Prayer," which opens with the
What is good for a bootless bene?
Later Mary Lamb made another joke, when at Munden's farewell performance
she said, "Sic transit gloria Munden!"
The stanzas from which Lamb quotes run:--
"What is good for a bootless bene?"
The Falconer to the Lady said;
And she made answer "Endless sorrow!"
In that she knew that her Son was dead.
She knew it by the Falconer's words,
And from the look of the Falconer's eye;
And from the love which was in her soul
For her youthful Romilly.
Sir Samuel Romilly (1757-1818), the lawyer and law reformer, was the
great opponent of capital punishment for small offences.
In the preface to the 1802 edition of _Lyrical Ballads_, etc.,
Wordsworth had quoted Dr. Johnson's prosaic lines:--
I put my hat upon my head
And walked into the Strand,
And there I met another man
Whose hat was in his hand.
--contrasting them with these lines from the "Babes in the Wood":--
These pretty Babes with hand in hand
Went wandering up and down;
But never more they saw the Man
Approaching from the Town.
"Peter Pindar." John Wolcot (1738-1819), whom Lamb had met at Henry
Rogers', brother of the poet.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
London, May 6th, 1815.
Dear Southey,--I have received from Longman a copy of "Roderick," with
the author's compliments, for which I much thank you. I don't know where
I shall put all the noble presents I have lately received in that way;
the "Excursion," Wordsworth's two last vols., and now "Roderick," have
come pouring in upon me like some irruption from Helicon. The story of
the brave Maccabee was already, you may be sure, familiar to me in all
its parts. I have, since the receipt of your present, read it quite
through again, and with no diminished pleasure. I don't know whether I
ought to say that it has given me more pleasure than any of your long
poems. "Kehama" is doubtless more powerful, but I don't feel that firm
footing in it that I do in "Roderick;" my imagination goes sinking and
floundering in the vast spaces of unopened-before systems and faiths; I
am put out of the pale of my old sympathies; my moral sense is almost
outraged; I can't believe, or with horror am made to believe, such
desperate chances against omnipotences, such disturbances of faith to
the centre. The more potent the more painful the spell. Jove and his
brotherhood of gods, tottering with the giant assailings, I can bear,
for the soul's hopes are not struck at in such contests; but your
Oriental almighties are too much types of the intangible prototype to be
meddled with without shuddering. One never connects what are called the
attributes with Jupiter. I mention only what diminishes my delight at
the wonder-workings of "Kehama," not what impeaches its power, which I
confess with trembling.
But "Roderick" is a comfortable poem. It reminds me of the delight I
took in the first reading of the "Joan of Arc." It is maturer and better
than _that_, though not better to me now than that was then. It suits me
better than "Madoc." I am at home in Spain and Christendom. I have a
timid imagination, I am afraid. I do not willingly admit of strange
beliefs or out-of-the-way creeds or places. I never read books of
travel, at least not farther than Paris or Rome. I can just endure
Moors, because of their connection as foes with Christians; but
Abyssinians, Ethiops, Esquimaux, Dervises, and all that tribe, I hate. I
believe I fear them in some manner. A Mahometan turban on the stage,
though enveloping some well known face (Mr. Cook or Mr. Maddox, whom I
see another day good Christian and English waiters, innkeepers, &c.),
does not give me pleasure unalloyed. I am a Christian, Englishman,
Londoner, _Templar_. God help me when I come to put off these snug
relations, and to get abroad into the world to come! I shall be like
_the crow on the sand_, as Wordsworth has it; but I won't think on
it--no need, I hope, yet.
The parts I have been most pleased with, both on 1st and 2nd readings,
perhaps, are Florinda's palliation of Roderick's crime, confessed to him
in his disguise--the retreat of Palayo's family first discovered,--his
being made king--"For acclamation one form must serve, _more solemn for
the breach of old observances_." Roderick's vow is extremely fine, and
his blessing on the vow of Alphonso:
"Towards the troop he spread his arms,
As if the expanded soul diffused itself,
And carried to all spirits _with the act_
Its affluent inspiration."
It struck me forcibly that the feeling of these last lines might have
been suggested to you by the Cartoon of Paul at Athens. Certain it is
that a better motto or guide to that famous attitude can no where be
found. I shall adopt it as explanatory of that violent, but dignified
I must read again Landor's "Julian." I have not read it some time. I
think he must have failed in Roderick, for I remember nothing of him,
nor of any distinct character as a character--only fine-sounding
passages. I remember thinking also he had chosen a point of time after
the event, as it were, for Roderick survives to no use; but my memory is
weak, and I will not wrong a fine Poem by trusting to it.
The notes to your poem I have not read again; but it will be a
take-downable book on my shelf, and they will serve sometimes at
breakfast, or times too light for the text to be duly appreciated.
Though some of 'em, one of the serpent Penance, is serious enough, now I
Of Coleridge I hear nothing, nor of the Morgans. I hope to have him like
a re-appearing star, standing up before me some time when least expected
in London, as has been the case whylear.
I am _doing_ nothing (as the phrase is) but reading presents, and walk
away what of the day-hours I can get from hard occupation. Pray accept
once more my hearty thanks, and expression of pleasure for your
remembrance of me. My sister desires her kind respects to Mrs. S. and to
all at Keswick.
The next Present I look for is the "White Doe." Have you seen Mat.
Betham's "Lay of Marie?" I think it very delicately pretty as to
[Southey's _Roderick, the Last of the Goths_, was published in 1814.
Driven from his throne by the Moors, Roderick had disguised himself as a
monk under the name of Father Maccabee. _The Curse of Kehama_ had been
published in 1810; Madoc in 1805; _Joan of Arc_ (see Letter 3, &c.) in
1796. Southey was now Poet Laureate.
"I never read books of travels." Writing to Dilke, of _The Athenaeum_,
for books, some years later, Lamb makes a point of "no natural history
or useful learning" being sent--such as Giraffes, Pyramids and
Adventures in Central Africa. None the less, as a boy, he tells us, he
had read Bruce and applied his Abyssinian methods to the New River (see
the _Elia_ essay on Newspapers).
"The crow on the sand." In "The Farmer of Tilsbury Vale":--
As lonely he stood as a crow on the sands.
Verse xii., line 4
Florinda's palliation of Roderick's crime is in Book X.; the retreat of
Pelayo's family discovered, in Book XVI.; Pelayo made king, in Book
XVIII. Landor's _Count Julian_, published in 1812, dealt with the same
story, Florinda, whom Roderick violated, having been the daughter of the
Count, a Spanish Goth. Julian devoted himself to Roderick's ruin, even
turning traitor for the purpose. Southey's notes are tremendous--
sometimes filling all but a line or two of the page.
"The _White Doe_." Wordsworth's poem _The White Doe of Rylstone_, to be
published this year, 1815.
"Matilda Betham's _Lay of Marie_." We shall come to this shortly. The
poem was still in MS.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
Aug. 9th, 1815.
Dear Southey,--Robinson is not on the circuit, as I erroneously stated
in a letter to W. W., which travels with this, but is gone to Brussels,
Ostend, Ghent, etc. But his friends the Colliers, whom I consulted
respecting your friend's fate, remember to have heard him say, that
Father Pardo had effected his escape (the cunning greasy rogue), and to
the best of their belief is at present in Paris. To my thinking, it is a
small matter whether there be one fat friar more or less in the world. I
have rather a taste for clerical executions, imbibed from early
recollections of the fate of the excellent Dodd. I hear Buonaparte has
sued his habeas corpus, and the twelve judges are now sitting upon it at
Your boute-feu (bonfire) must be excellent of its kind. Poet Settle
presided at the last great thing of the kind in London, when the pope
was burnt in form. Do you provide any verses on this occasion? Your fear
for Hartley's intellectuals is just and rational. Could not the
Chancellor be petitioned to remove him? His lordship took Mr. Betty from
under the paternal wing. I think at least he should go through a course
of matter-of-fact with some sober man after the mysteries. Could not he
spend a week at Poole's before he goes back to Oxford? Tobin is dead.
But there is a man in my office, a Mr. Hedges, who proses it away from
morning to night, and never gets beyond corporal and material verities.
He'd get these crack-brain metaphysics out of the young gentleman's head
as soon as any one I know. When I can't sleep o' nights, I imagine a
dialogue with Mr. H. upon any given subject, and go prosing on in fancy
with him, till I either laugh or fall asleep. I have literally found it
answer. I am going to stand godfather; I don't like the business; I
cannot muster up decorum for these occasions; I shall certainly disgrace
the font. I was at Hazlitt's marriage, and had like to have been turned
out several times during the ceremony. Any thing awful makes me laugh. I
misbehaved once at a funeral. Yet I can read about these ceremonies with
pious and proper feelings. The realities of life only seem the
mockeries. I fear I must get cured along with Hartley, if not too
inveterate. Don't you think Louis the Desirable is in a sort of
After all, Bonaparte is a fine fellow, as my barber says, and I should
not mind standing bareheaded at his table to do him service in his fall.
They should have given him Hampton Court or Kensington, with a tether
extending forty miles round London. Qu. Would not the people have
ejected the Brunswicks some day in his favour? Well, we shall see.
["Father Pardo." I have not traced this fat friar.
"The excellent Dodd." The Rev. William Dodd (1729-1777), compiler of
_The Beauties of Shakespeare_, was hanged for forgery in 1777, when Lamb
was two years old. The case caused immense public interest.
"Buonaparte." Waterloo had been fought on June 18.
"Your boute-feu." The bonfire in honour of Waterloo flamed on Skiddaw on
August 21. See Southey's description in his letter to his brother,
August 23, 1815 (_Life and Correspondence_, Vol. IV., page 120).
"Poet Settle." Elkanah Settle (1648-1724) was chief organiser of the
procession on the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's birthday in 1680,
when the Pope was burned in effigy.
Hartley Coleridge, now almost nineteen, after having been to school at
Ambleside, had been sent to Oxford through the instrumentality of his
uncle, Southey. At the time of Lamb's letter he was staying at Calne
with his father. Mr. Betty was the Young Roscius, whom we have already
seen, who, after retiring from the Phenomenon stage of his career in
1808, had since been to school and to Cambridge upon his earnings, and
had now become an adult actor. Poole was Thomas Poole of Nether Stowey,
whom we have seen: Coleridge's old and very sensible friend. Tobin would
probably be James Webbe Tobin, the brother of the dramatist. He had died
"I am going to stand godfather." To what child I do not know.
"Louis the Desirable"--Louis XVIII., styled by the Royalists "_Le
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. August 9, 1815.]
9th Aug. 1815.
Dear Wordsworth, We acknowlege with pride the receit of both your hand
writings, and desire to be ever had in kindly remembrance by you both
and by Dorothy. Miss Hutchinson has just transmitted us a letter
containing, among other chearful matter, the annunciation of a child
born. Nothing of consequence has turned up in our parts since your
departure. Mary and I felt quite queer after your taking leave (you W.
W.) of us in St. Giles's. We wishd we had seen more of you, but felt we
had scarce been sufficiently acknowleging for the share we had enjoyed
of your company. We felt as if we had been not enough _expressive_ of
our pleasure. But our manners _both_ are a little too much on this side
of too-much-cordiality. We want presence of mind and presence of heart.
What we feel comes too late, like an after thought impromptu. But
perhaps you observed nothing of that which we have been painfully
conscious of, and are, every day, in our intercourse with those we stand
affected to through all the degrees of love. Robinson is on the Circuit.
Our Panegyrist I thought had forgotten one of the objects of his
youthful admiration, but I was agreeably removed from that scruple by
the laundress knocking at my door this morning almost before I was up,
with a present of fruit from my young friend, &c.--There is something
inexpressibly pleasant to me in these _presents_. Be it fruit, or fowl,
or brawn, or _what not_. _Books_ are a legitimate cause of acceptance.
If presents be not the soul of friendship, undoubtedly they are the most
spiritual part of the body of that intercourse. There is too much
narrowness of thinking in this point. The punctilio of acceptance
methinks is too confined and straitlaced. I could be content to receive
money, or clothes, or a joint of meat from a friend; why should he not
send me a dinner as well as a dessert? I would taste him in the beasts
of the field, and thro' all creation. Therefore did the basket of fruit
of the juvenile Talfourd not displease me. Not that I have any thoughts
of bartering or reciprocating these things. To send him any thing in
return would be to reflect suspicion of mercenariness upon what I know
he meant a freewill offering. Let him overcome me in bounty. In this
strife a generous nature loves to be overcome. Alsager (whom you call
Alsinger--and indeed he is rather _singer_ than _sager_, no reflection
upon his naturals neither) is well and in harmony with himself and the
world. I don't know how he and those of his constitution keep their
nerves so nicely balanced as they do. Or have they any? or are they made
of packthread? He is proof against weather, ingratitude, meat under
done, every weapon of fate. I have just now a jagged end of a tooth
pricking against my tongue, which meets it half way in a wantonness of
provocation, and there they go at it, the tongue pricking itself like
the viper against the file, and the tooth galling all the gum inside and
out to torture, tongue and tooth, tooth and tongue, hard at it, and I to
pay the reckoning, till all my mouth is as hot as brimstone, and I'd
venture the roof of my mouth that at this moment, at which I conjecture
my full-happinessed friend is picking his crackers, not one of the
double rows of ivory in his privileged mouth has as much as a flaw in
it, but all perform their functions, and having performed it, expect to
be picked (luxurious steeds!) and rubbed down. I don't think he could be
robbed, or could have his house set on fire, or ever want money. I have
heard him express a similar opinion of his own impassibility. I keep
acting here Heautontimorumenos. M. Burney has been to Calais and has
come home a travelld Monsieur. He speaks nothing but the Gallic Idiom.
Field is on circuit. So now I believe I have given account of most that
you saw at our Cabin. Have you seen a curious letter in Morn. Chron., by
C. Ll., the genius of absurdity, respecting Bonaparte's suing out his
Habeas Corpus. That man is his own moon. He has no need of ascending
into that gentle planet for mild influences. You wish me some of your
leisure. I have a glimmering aspect, a chink-light of liberty before me,
which I pray God may prove not fallacious. My remonstrances have stirred
up others to remonstrate, and altogether, there is a plan for separating
certain parts of business from our department, which if it take place
will produce me more time, i.e. my evenings free. It may be a means of
placing me in a more conspicuous situation which will knock at my nerves
another way, but I wait the issue in submission. If I can but begin my
own day at 4 o Clock in the afternoon, I shall think myself to have Eden
days of peace and liberty to what I have had. As you say, how a man can
fill 3 volumes up with an Essay on the Drama is wonderful. I am sure a
very few sheets would hold all I had to say on the subject, and yet I
dare say ---- as Von Slagel. Did you ever read Charron on Wisdom? or
Patrick's Pilgrim? if neither, you have two great pleasures to come. I
mean some day to attack Caryl on Job, six Folios. What any man can
write, surely I may read. If I do but get rid of auditing
Warehousekeepers Acc'ts. and get no worse-harassing task in the place of
it, what a Lord of Liberty I shall be. I shall dance and skip and make
mouths at the invisible event, and pick the thorns out of my pillow and
throw 'em at rich men's night caps, and talk blank verse, hoity toity,
and sing "A Clerk I was in London Gay," ban, ban, CaCaliban, like the
emancipated monster, and go where I like, up this street or down that
ally. Adieu, and pray that it may be my luck. Good be to you all.
["A child born." This was George Hutchinson, Mrs. Wordsworth's nephew.
"Our Panegyrist"--Thomas Noon Talfourd. This is Lamb's first mention of
his future biographer. Talfourd was then just twenty, had published some
poems, and was reading law with Chitty, the special pleader. He had met
Lamb at the beginning of 1815 through William Evans, owner of _The
Pamphleteer_, had scoured London for a copy of _Rosamund Gray_, and had
written of Lamb in _The Pamphleteer_ as one of the chief of living
poets. He then became an ardent supporter of Wordsworth, his principal
criticism of whom was written later for the _New Monthly Magazine_.
"If presents be not the soul of friendship." Lamb's "Thoughts on
Presents of Game," written many years later for _The Athenaeum_, carries
on this theme (see Vol. I.).
"Alsager." Thomas Massa Alsager, a friend of Crabb Robinson, and through
him of Lamb, was a strange blend of the financial and the musical
critic. He controlled the departments of Money and Music for _The Times_
for many years.
"Field"--Barron Field (see note later).
"C. Ll."--Capell Lofft (see note on page 475). He wrote to the Morning
Chronicle for August 2 and 3, 1815, as Lamb says. The gist of his
argument was in this sentence:--
[7th para.] Bonaparte with the concurrence of the _Admiralty_, is
_within_ the limits of British _local_ allegiance. He is a _temporary_,
considered as private, though not a natural born _subject_, and as
_such_ within the limits of 31 Car. II. the _Habeas Corpus_ Act, [etc.].
On August 10 he wrote again, quoting the lines from "The Tempest":--
The nobler action is,
In virtue than in vengeance:--He being here
The sole drift of our purpose, wrath here ends;
Not a frown further.
"An Essay on the Drama." This cryptic passage refers, I imagine, to a
translation by John Black, afterwards the editor of the _Morning
Chronicle_, of August Von Schlegel's _Lectures on Dramatic Art and
Literature_, 2 vols., 1815. Does Lamb mean
"And yet, I dare say, _I know as much_ as Von Slagel _did_"?
"Charron on Wisdom" and "Patrick's Pilgrim." Pierre Charron's _De la
Sagesse_, and Bishop Patrick's _Parable of the Pilgrim_, 1664, a curious
independent anticipation of Bunyan. Lamb had written of both these books
in a little essay contributed in 1813 to _The Examiner_, entitled "Books
with One Idea in them" (see Vol. I.).
"A Clerk I was in London Gay." A song sung in Colman's "Inkle and
Yarico," which Lamb actually did use as a motto for his _Elia_ essay
"The Superannuated Man," dealing with his emancipation, ten years
MARY LAMB TO SARAH HUTCHINSON
[Dated at end: August 20, 1815.]
My dear friend, It is less fatigue to me to write upon lines, and I want
to fill up as much of my paper as I can in gratitude for the pleasure
your very kind letter has given me. I began to think I should not hear
from you; knowing you were not fond of letter-writing I quite forgave
you, but I was very sorry. Do not make a point of conscience of it, but
if ever you feel an inclination you cannot think how much a few lines
would delight me. I am happy to hear so good an account of your sister
and child, and sincerely wish her a perfect recovery. I am glad you did
not arrive sooner, you escaped much anxiety. I have just received a very
chearful letter from Mrs. Morgan--the following I have picked out as I
think it will interest you. "Hartley Coleridge has been with us for two
months. Morgan invited him to pass the long vacation here in the hope
that his father would be of great service to him in his studies: he
seems to be extremely amiable. I believe he is to spend the next
vacation at Lady Beaumont's. Your old friend Coleridge is very hard at
work at the preface to a new Edition which he is just going to publish
in the same form as Mr. Wordsworth's--at first the preface was not to
exceed five or six pages, it has however grown into a work of great
importance. I believe Morgan has already written nearly two hundred
pages. The title of it is '_Autobiographia Literaria_' to which are
added '_Sybilline Leaves_,' a collection of Poems by the same author.
Calne has lately been much enlivened by an excellent company of
players--last week they performed the 'Remorse' to a very crowded and
brilliant audience; two of the characters were admirably well supported;
at the request of the actors Morgan was behind the scenes all the time
and assisted in the music &c."
Thanks to your kind interference we have had a very nice letter from Mr.
Wordsworth. Of them and of you we think and talk quite with a painful
regret that we did not see more of you, and that it may be so long
before we meet again.
I am going to do a queer thing--I have wearied myself with writing a
long letter to Mrs. Morgan, a part of which is an incoherent rambling
account of a jaunt we have just been taking. I want to tell you all
about it, for we so seldom do such things that it runs strangely in my
head, and I feel too tired to give you other than the mere copy of the
nonsense I have just been writing.
"Last Saturday was the grand feast day of the India House Clerks. I
think you must have heard Charles talk of his yearly turtle feast. He
has been lately much wearied with work, and, glad to get rid of all
connected with it, he _used_ Saturday, the feast day being a holiday,
_borrowed_ the Monday following, and we set off on the outside of the
Cambridge Coach from Fetter Lane at eight o'clock, and were driven into
Cambridge in great triumph by Hell Fire Dick five minutes before three.
Richard is in high reputation, he is private tutor to the Whip Club.
Journeys used to be tedious torments to me, but seated out in the open
air I enjoyed every mile of the way--the first twenty miles was
particularly pleasing to me, having been accustomed to go so far on that
road in the Ware Stage Coach to visit my Grandmother in the days of
"In my life I never spent so many pleasant hours together as I did at
Cambridge. We were walking the whole time--out of one College into
another. If you ask me which I like best I must make the children's
traditionary unoffending reply to all curious enquirers--'_Both_.' I
liked them all best. The little gloomy ones, because they were little
gloomy ones. I felt as if I could live and die in them and never wish to
speak again. And the fine grand Trinity College, Oh how fine it was! And
King's College Chapel, what a place! I heard the Cathedral service
there, and having been no great church goer of late years, _that_ and
the painted windows and the general effect of the whole thing affected
"I certainly like St. John's College best. I had seen least of it,
having only been over it once, so, on the morning we returned, I got up
at six o'clock and wandered into it by myself--by myself indeed, for
there was nothing alive to be seen but one cat, who followed me about
like a dog. Then I went over Trinity, but nothing hailed me there, not
even a cat.
"On the Sunday we met with a pleasant thing. We had been congratulating
each other that we had come alone to enjoy, as the miser his feast, all
our sights greedily to ourselves, but having seen all we began to grow
flat and wish for this and tother body with us, when we were accosted by
a young gownsman whose face we knew, but where or how we had seen him we
could not tell, and were obliged to ask his name. He proved to be a
young man we had seen twice at Alsager's. He turned out a very pleasant
fellow--shewed us the insides of places--we took him to our Inn to
dinner, and drank tea with him in such a delicious college room, and
then again he supped with us. We made our meals as short as possible, to
lose no time, and walked our young conductor almost off his legs. Even
when the fried eels were ready for supper and coming up, having a
message from a man who we had bribed for the purpose, that then we might
see Oliver Cromwell, who was not at home when we called to see him, we
sallied out again and made him a visit by candlelight--and so ended our
sights. When we were setting out in the morning our new friend came to
bid us good bye, and rode with us as far as Trompington. I never saw a
creature so happy as he was the whole time he was with us, he said we
had put him in such good spirits that [he] should certainly pass an
examination well that he is to go through in six weeks in order to
qualify himself to obtain a fellowship.
"Returning home down old Fetter Lane I could hardly keep from crying to
think it was all over. With what pleasure [Charles] shewed me Jesus
College where Coleridge was--the barbe[r's shop] where Manning was--the
house where Lloyd lived--Franklin's rooms, a young schoolfellow with
whom Charles was the first time he went to Cambridge: I peeped in at his
window, the room looked quite deserted--old chairs standing about in
disorder that seemed to have stood there ever since they had sate in
them. I write sad nonsense about these things, but I wish you had heard
Charles talk his nonsense over and over again about his visit to
Franklin, and how he then first felt himself commencing gentleman and
had eggs for his breakfast." Charles Lamb commencing gentleman!
A lady who is sitting by me seeing what I am doing says I remind her of
her husband, who acknowledged that the first love letter he wrote to her
was a copy of one he had made use of on a former occasion.
This is no letter, but if you give me any encouragement to write again
you shall have one entirely to yourself: a little encouragement will do,
a few lines to say you are well and remember us. I will keep this
tomorrow, maybe Charles will put a few lines to it--I always send off a
humdrum letter of mine with great satisfaction if I can get him to
freshen it up a little at the end. Let me beg my love to your sister
Johanna with many thanks. I have much pleasure in looking forward to her
nice bacon, the maker of which I long have had a great desire to see.
God bless you, my dear Miss Hutchinson, I remain ever
Your affectionate friend
CHARLES LAMB TO Miss HUTCHINSON
(_Added to same letter_)
Dear Miss Hutchinson, I subscribe most willingly to all my sister says
of her Enjoyment at Cambridge. She was in silent raptures all the while
_there_ and came home riding thro' the air (her 1st long outside
journey) triumphing as if she had been _graduated_. I remember one
foolish-pretty expression she made use of, "Bless the little churches
how pretty they are," as those symbols of civilized life opened upon her
view one after the other on this side Cambridge. You cannot proceed a
mile without starting a steeple, with its little patch of villagery
round it, enverduring the waste. I don't know how you will pardon part
of her letter being a transcript, but writing to another Lady first
(probably as the _easiest task_ *) it was unnatural not to give you an
acco't of what had so freshly delighted her, and would have been a piece
of transcendant rhetorick (above her modesty) to have given two
different accounts of a simple and univocal pleasure. Bless me how
learned I write! but I always forget myself when I write to Ladies. One
cannot tame one's erudition down to their merely English apprehensions.
But this and all other faults you will excuse from yours truly
Our kindest loves to Joanna, if she will accept it from us who are
merely NOMINAL to her, and to the child and child's parent. Yours again
[_Mary Lamb adds this footnote:_--]
* "_Easiest Task_." Not the true reason, but Charles had so connected
Coleridge & Cambridge in my mind, by talking so much of him there, and a
letter coming so fresh from _him_, in a manner _that was the reason_ I
wrote to them first. I make this apology perhaps quite unnecessarily,
but I am of a very jealous temper myself, and more than once recollect
having been offended at seeing kind expressions which had particularly
pleased me in a friend's letter repeated word for word to
another--Farewell once more.
[I have no idea why this charming letter was held back when Talfourd
copied the Lamb-Wordsworth correspondence. The name of the young man who
showed the Lambs such courtesy is not known.
Coleridge's literary plans were destined to change. The _Biographia
Literaria_ was published alone in 1817, and _Sibylline Leaves_ alone
later in the same year.--"Remorse" had been acted at Calne in June for
the second time, a previous visit having been paid in 1813. Coleridge
gave the manager a "flaming testimonial."--Lady Beaumont was the wife of
Sir George Beaumont.
"Oliver Cromwell." The portrait by Cooper at Sidney Sussex College.
F.W. Franklin was with Lamb at Christ's Hospital. Afterwards he became
Master of the Blue Coat School at Hertford. He is mentioned in the
_Elia_ essay on Christ's Hospital.]
MARY LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM
[No date. ? Late summer, 1815.]
My dear Miss Betham,--My brother and myself return you a thousand thanks
for your kind communication. We have read your poem many times over with
increased interest, and very much wish to see you to tell you how highly
we have been pleased with it. May we beg one favour?--I keep the
manuscript in the hope that you will grant it. It is that, either now or
when the whole poem is completed, you will read it over with us. When I
say with _us_, of course I mean Charles. I know that you have many
judicious friends, but I have so often known my brother spy out errors
in a manuscript which has passed through many judicious hands, that I
shall not be easy if you do not permit him to look yours carefully
through with you; and also you _must_ allow him to correct the press for
If I knew where to find you I would call upon you. Should you feel
nervous at the idea of meeting Charles in the capacity of a _severe
censor_, give me a line, and I will come to you any where, and convince
you in five minutes that he is even timid, stammers, and can scarcely
speak for modesty and fear of giving pain when he finds himself placed
in that kind of office. Shall I appoint a time to see you here when he
is from home? I will send him out any time you will name; indeed, I am
always naturally alone till four o'clock. If you are nervous about
coming, remember I am equally so about the liberty I have taken, and
shall be till we meet and laugh off our mutual fears.
Yours most affectionately
CHARLES LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM
[No date. 1815].
Dear Miss Betham,--That accursed word trill has vexed me excessively. I
have referred to the MS. and certainly the printer is exonerated, it is
much more like a _tr_ than a _k_. But what shall I say of myself?
If you can trust me hereafter, I will be more careful. I will go thro'
the Poem, unless you should feel more safe by doing it yourself. In fact
a second person looking over a proof is liable to let pass anything that
sounds plausible. The act of looking it over seeming to require only an
attention to the words that they have the proper component letters, one
scarce thinks then (or but half) of the sense.--You will find one line I
have ventured to alter in 3'd sheet. You had made hope & yoke rhime,
which is intolerable. Every body can see & carp at a bad rhime or no
rhime. It strikes as slovenly, like bad spelling.
I found out another _sung_ but I could not alter it, & I would not delay
the time by writing to you. Besides it is not at all conspicuous--it
comes in by the bye 'the strains I sung.' The other obnoxious word was
in an eminent place, at the beginning of her Lay, when all ears are upon
I must conclude hastily,
dear M. B.
[These letters refer to _The Lay of Marie_. In Mr. Ernest Betham's _A
House of Letters_ will be found six other letters (see pp. 161, 163,
164, 166, 232) all bearing upon Matilda Betham's poem.]
CHARLES LAMB TO MATILDA BETHAM
Dr Miss Betham,--All this while I have been tormenting myself with the
thought of having been ungracious to you, and you have been all the
while accusing yourself. Let us absolve one another & be quits. My head
is in such a state from incapacity for business that I certainly know it
to be my duty not to undertake the veriest trifle in addition. I hardly
know how I can go on. I have tried to get some redress by explaining my
health, but with no great success. No one can tell how ill I am, because
it does not come out to the exterior of my face, but lies in my scull
deep & invisible. I wish I was leprous & black jaundiced skin-over, and
[? or] that all was as well within as my cursed looks. You must not
think me worse than I am. I am determined not to be overset, but to give
up business rather and get 'em to allow me a trifle for services past. O
that I had been a shoe-maker or a baker, or a man of large independ't
fortune. O darling Laziness! heaven of Epicurus! Saints Everlasting
Rest! that I could drink vast potations of thee thro' unmeasured
Eternity. Otium _cum_ vel _sine_ dignitate. Scandalous, dishonorable,
any-kind-of-_repose_. I stand not upon the _dignified_ sort. Accursed
damned desks, trade, commerce, business--Inventions of that old original
busybody brainworking Satan, Sabbathless restless Satan--
A curse relieves. Do you ever try it?
A strange Letter this to write to a Lady, but mere honey'd sentences
will not distill. I dare not ask who revises in my stead. I have drawn
you into a scrape. I am ashamed, but I know no remedy. My unwellness
must be my apology. God bless you (tho' he curse the India House & fire
it to the ground) and may no unkind Error creep into Marie, may all its
readers like it as well as I do & everybody about you like its kind
author no worse. Why the devil am I never to have a chance of scribbling
my own free thoughts, verse or prose, again? Why must I write of Tea &
Drugs & Price Goods & bales of Indigo--farewell.
[_Written at head of Letter on margin the following_:--]
Mary goes to her Place on Sunday--I mean your maid, foolish Mary. She
wants a very little brains only to be an excellent Serv. She is
excellently calculated for the country, where nobody has brains.
[Mr. Ernest Betham, in _A House of Letters_, dates the foregoing June 1,
1816; but I place it here none the less.
In the passage concerning work and leisure we see another hint of the
sonnet on "Work" which Lamb was to write a little later.
Here should come two notes to William Ayrton, printed by Mr. Macdonald,
referring to the musical use of the word "air."]
CHARLES LAMB TO SARAH HUTCHINSON
Thursday 19 Oct. 1815.
My brother is gone to Paris.
Dear Miss H.--I am forced to be the replier to your Letter, for Mary has
been ill and gone from home these five weeks yesterday. She has left me
very lonely and very miserable. I stroll about, but there is no rest but
at one's own fireside, and there is no rest for me there now. I look
forward to the worse half being past, and keep up as well as I can. She
has begun to show some favorable symptoms. The return of her disorder
has been frightfully soon this time, with scarce a six month's interval.
I am almost afraid my worry of spirits about the E. I. House was partly
the cause of her illness, but one always imputes it to the cause next at
hand; more probably it comes from some cause we have no control over or
conjecture of. It cuts sad great slices out of the time, the little time
we shall have to live together. I don't know but the recurrence of these
illnesses might help me to sustain her death better than if we had had
no partial separations. But I won't talk of death. I will imagine us
immortal, or forget that we are otherwise; by God's blessing in a few
weeks we may be making our meal together, or sitting in the front row of
the Pit at Drury Lane, or taking our evening walk past the theatres, to
look at the outside of them at least, if not to be tempted in. Then we
forget we are assailable, we are strong for the time as rocks, the wind
is tempered to the shorn Lambs. Poor C. Lloyd, and poor Priscilla, I
feel I hardly feel enough for him, my own calamities press about me and
involve me in a thick integument not to be reached at by other folks'
misfortunes. But I feel all I can, and all the kindness I can towards
you all. God bless you. I hear nothing from Coleridge. Yours truly
[Mary Lamb had recovered from her preceding attack in February. She did
not recover from the present illness until December.
"The wind is tempered to the shorn Lambs." "'But God tempers the wind,'
said Maria, 'to the shorn lamb'" (Sterne's _Sentimental Journey_). Also
in Henri Estienne (1594).
"Poor C. Lloyd, and poor Priscilla." Priscilla Wordsworth (_nee_ Lloyd)
died this month, aged thirty-three. Charles Lloyd having just completed
his translation of the tragedies of Alfieri, published in 1815, had been
prostrated by the most serious visitation of his malady that he had yet
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
Dec. 25th, 1815.
Dear old friend and absentee,--This is Christmas-day 1815 with us; what
it may be with you I don't know, the 12th of June next year perhaps; and
if it should be the consecrated season with you, I don't see how you can
keep it. You have no turkeys; you would not desecrate the festival by
offering up a withered Chinese bantam, instead of the savoury grand
Norfolcian holocaust, that smokes all around my nostrils at this moment
from a thousand firesides. Then what puddings have you? Where will you
get holly to stick in your churches, or churches to stick your dried
tea-leaves (that must be the substitute) in? What memorials you can have
of the holy time, I see not. A chopped missionary or two may keep up the
thin idea of Lent and the wilderness; but what standing evidence have