Part 14 out of 14
St.--but too much addicted to turn in at a red lattice--came wandering
into his and my common scene of business--you have seen the orderly
place--reeling drunk at nine o Clock-with his face of a deep blue,
contracted by a filthy dowlas muckinger which had given up its dye to
his poor oozy visnomy--and short to tell, after playing various pranks,
laughing loud laughters three mad explosions they were--in the following
morning the "tear stood in his eye"--for he found his abused income of
clear L600 inexorably reduced to L100--he was my dear gossip--alas!
I will never write another letter with alternate inks. You cannot
imagine how it cramps the flow of the style. I can conceive Pindar (I do
not mean to compare myself [to] _him_) by the command of Hiero, the
Sicilian tyrant (was not he the tyrant of some place? fie on my neglect
of history--) conceive him by command of Hiero, or Perillus, set down to
pen an a Isthmian or Nemean Panegyre in lines alternate red and black. I
maintain he couldn't have done it--it would have been a strait laced
torture to his muse, he would have call'd for the Bull for a relief.
Neither could Lycidas, or the Chorics (how do you like the word?) of
Samson Agonistes, have been written with two inks. Your couplets with
points, Epilogues to Mr. H.'s, &c. might be even benefited by the
twyfount. Where one line (the second) is for point, and the first for
rhime, I think the alternation would assist, like a mould. I maintain
it, you could not have written your stanzas on pre existence with 2
inks. Try another, and Rogers the Banker, with his silver standish
having one ink only, I will bet my Ode on Tobacco, against the Pleasures
of Memory--and Hope too--shall put more fervor of enthusiasm into the
same subject than you can with your two--he shall do it stans pede in
uno as it were.
The Waggoner is very ill put up in boards, at least it seems to me
always to open at the dedication--but that is a mechanical fault.
I re-read the White Doe of Rylston--the title should be always written
at length--as Mary Sabilla Novello, a very nice woman of our
acquaintance, always signs hers at the bottom of the shortest note. Mary
told her, if her name had been Mary Ann, she would have signed M.A.
Novello, or M. only, dropping the A--which makes me think, with some
other triflings, that she understands something of human nature. My pen
goes galloping on most rhapsodically, glad to have escaped the bondage
of Two Inks.
Manning had just sent it home and it came as fresh to me as the immortal
creature it speaks of. M. sent it home with a note, having this passage
in it, "I cannot help writing to you while I am reading Wordsw'ths poem.
I am got into the 3rd Canto, and say that it raises my opinion of him
very much indeed.[*] 'Tis broad; noble; poetical; with a masterly
scanning of human actions, absolutely above common readers. What a manly
(implied) interpretation of (bad) party-actions, as trampling the bible,
&c."--and so he goes on.
[Footnote *: N.B. M---- from his peregrinations is 12 or 14 years
_behind_ in his knowledge of who has or has not written good verse of
I do not know which I like best, the prologue (the latter part
specially) to P. Bell, or the Epilogue to Benjamin. Yes, I tell stories,
I do know. I like the last best, and the Waggoner altogether as a
pleasanter remembrance to me than the Itinerant. If it were not, the
page before the first page would and ought to make it so.
The sonnets are not all new to me. Of what are, the 9th I like best.
Thank you for that to Walton. I take it as a favor done to me, that,
being so old a darling of mine, you should bear testimony to his worth
in a book containing a DEDI----
I cannot write the vain word at full length any longer.
If as you say, the Waggoner in some sort came at my call, O for a potent
voice to call forth the Recluse from his profound Dormitory, where he
sleeps forgetful of his foolish charge The World.
Had I three inks I would invoke him!
Talfourd has written a most kind Review of J. Woodvil, &c., in the
Champion. He is your most zealous admirer, in solitude and in crowds. H.
Crabbe Robinson gives me any dear Prints that I happen to admire, and I
love him for it and for other things. Alsager shall have his copy, but
at present I have lent it _for a day only_, not chusing to part with my
own. Mary's love. How do you all do, amanuenses both--marital and
[Wordsworth had just put forth _The Waggoner_, which was dedicated to
Lamb in the following terms:--
My dear friend--When I sent you, a few weeks ago, "The Tale of Peter
Bell," you asked "Why 'The Waggoner' was not added?" To say the truth,
from the higher tone of imagination, and the deeper touches of passion
aimed at in the former, I apprehended this little piece could not
accompany it without disadvantage. In the year 1806, if I am not
mistaken, "The Waggoner" was read to you in manuscript, and as you have
remembered it for so long a time, I am the more encouraged to hope that,
since the localities on which the poem partly depends did not prevent
its being interesting to you, it may prove acceptable to others. Being,
therefore, in some measure the cause of its present appearance, you must
allow me the gratification of inscribing it to you, in acknowledgment of
the pleasure I have derived from your writings, and of the high esteem
I am very truly yours,
The poem, which had been written many years before, tells the story of
Benjamin, a waggoner in the Lake county, who one stormy night,
succumbing to the temptations of the Cherry Tree Inn, fell from good
estate. Lamb's asterisks stand, of course, for Charles Lamb.
"Your stanzas on pre existence"--the "Ode on Intimations of
_The Pleasures of Hope_ was Campbell's poem.
Mary Sabilla Novello was the wife of Vincent Novello, the organist, and
_The White Doe of Rylstone_ had been published in 1815.
The 9th sonnet. Certain sonnets had been published with _The Waggoner_.
The 9th was that beginning:--
Grief, thou hast lost an ever ready Friend.
Wordsworth's sonnet upon Walton begins:--
While flowing rivers yield a blameless sport.
_The Recluse_ was not published until 1888, and then only Book I.
_The Champion_, in which Talfourd reviewed Lamb's _Works_, had now
become the property of John Thelwall.]
CHARLES LAMB TO FANNY KELLY
20 July, 1819.
Dear Miss Kelly,--We had the pleasure, _pain_ I might better call it, of
seeing you last night in the new Play. It was a most consummate piece of
Acting, but what a task for you to undergo! at a time when your heart is
sore from real sorrow! it has given rise to a train of thinking, which I
Would to God you were released from this way of life; that you could
bring your mind to consent to take your lot with us, and throw off for
ever the whole burden of your Profession. I neither expect or wish you
to take notice of this which I am writing, in your present over occupied
& hurried state.--But to think of it at your leisure. I have quite
income enough, if that were all, to justify for me making such a
proposal, with what I may call even a handsome provision for my
survivor. What you possess of your own would naturally be appropriated
to those, for whose sakes chiefly you have made so many hard sacrifices.
I am not so foolish as not to know that I am a most unworthy match for
such a one as you, but you have for years been a principal object in my
mind. In many a sweet assumed character I have learned to love you, but
simply as F.M. Kelly I love you better than them all. Can you quit these
shadows of existence, & come & be a reality to us? can you leave off
harassing yourself to please a thankless multitude, who know nothing of
you, & begin at last to live to yourself & your friends?
As plainly & frankly as I have seen you give or refuse assent in some
feigned scene, so frankly do me the justice to answer me. It is
impossible I should feel injured or aggrieved by your telling me at
once, that the proposal does not suit you. It is impossible that I
should ever think of molesting you with idle importunity and persecution
after your mind [was] once firmly spoken--but happier, far happier,
could I have leave to hope a time might come, when our friends might be
your friends; our interests yours; our book-knowledge, if in that
inconsiderable particular we have any little advantage, might impart
something to you, which you would every day have it in your power ten
thousand fold to repay by the added cheerfulness and joy which you could
not fail to bring as a dowry into whatever family should have the honor
and happiness of receiving _you_, the most welcome accession that could
be made to it.
In haste, but with entire respect & deepest affection, I subscribe
[It was known, on the authority of the late Mr. Charles Kent, that Fanny
Kelly, the actress, had received an offer of marriage from Lamb; but my
own impression was that it was made much later in life than this letter,
first printed in 1903 by Mr. John Hollingshead, indicates. Miss Kelly,
who at this time was engaged at the Lyceum, would be twenty-nine on
October 15; Lamb was forty-four in February. His salary was now L600 a
Lamb had long admired Miss Kelly as an actress. In his _Works_,
published in 1818, was this sonnet:--
To Miss Kelly
You are not, Kelly, of the common strain,
That stoop their pride and female honour down
To please that many-headed beast _the town_,
And vend their lavish smiles and tricks for gain;
By fortune thrown amid the actors' train,
You keep your native dignity of thought;
The plaudits that attend you come unsought,
As tributes due unto your natural vein.
Your tears have passion in them, and a grace
Of genuine freshness, which our hearts avow;
Your smiles are winds whose ways we cannot trace,
That vanish and return we know not how--
And please the better from a pensive face,
And thoughtful eye, and a reflecting brow.
That Lamb had been pondering his offer for some little time is
suggested, Mr. Macdonald remarks, by a passage in one of his articles on
Miss Kelly in _The Examiner_ earlier in this month, where he says of her
as Rachel, in "The Jovial Crew," probably with full knowledge that it
would meet her eye and be understood (a truly Elian method of
love-lettering), "'What a lass that were,' said a stranger who sate
beside us ... 'to go a gipseying through the world with.'"
This was Miss Kelly's reply:--
Henrietta Street, July 20th, 1819.
An early & deeply rooted attachment has fixed my heart on one from whom
no worldly prospect can well induce me to withdraw it, but while I thus
_frankly_ & decidedly decline your proposal, believe me, I am not
insensible to the high honour which the preference of such a mind as
yours confers upon me--let me, however, hope that all thought upon this
subject will end with this letter, & that you will henceforth encourage
no other sentiment towards me than esteem in my private character and a
continuance of that approbation of my humble talents which you have
already expressed so much & so often to my advantage and gratification.
Believe me I feel proud to acknowledge myself
Your obliged friend
F. M. Kelly.
Lamb at once wrote again as follows:--]
Charles Lamb to Fanny Kelly
July 20th, 1819.
Dear Miss Kelly,--_Your injunctions shall be obeyed to a tittle_. I feel
myself in a lackadaisacal no-how-ish kind of a humour. I believe it is
the rain, or something. I had thought to have written seriously, but I
fancy I succeed best in epistles of mere fun; puns & _that_ nonsense.
You will be good friends with us, will you not? let what has past "break
no bones" between us. You will not refuse us them next time we send for
Yours very truly, C. L.
Do you observe the delicacy of not signing my full name?
N.B. Do not paste that last letter of mine into your Book.
[Writing again of Miss Kelly, in the "Hypocrite," in _The Examiner_ of
August 1 and 2, Lamb says: "She is in truth not framed to tease or
torment even in jest, but to utter a hearty _Yes_ or _No_; to yield or
refuse assent with a noble sincerity. We have not the pleasure of being
acquainted with her, but we have been told that she carries the same
cordial manners into private life."
Miss Kelly died unmarried at the age of ninety-two.
"Break no bones." Here Lamb makes one of his puns. By "bones" he meant
also the little ivory discs which were given to friends of the
management, entitling them to free entry to the theatre. With this
explanation the next sentence of the letter becomes clear.]
Charles Lamb to Thomas Noon Talefourd(?)
Dear T. We are at Mr. Bays's, Hatter, Trumpington Street, Cambridge. Can
you come down? You will be with us, all but Bed, which you can get at an
Inn. We shall be most glad to see you. Be so good as send me Hazlit's
volume, just published at Hone's, directed as above. Or, much better,
bring it. Yours, hic et ubique,
[The little note printed above (by permission of the Master of
Magdalene) proves that Lamb was in Cambridge in 1819. The evidence is
that the only book by Hazlitt which Hone published was _Political
Essays, with Sketches by Public Characters_, printed for William Hone,
45 Ludgate Hill, 1819. If then Hazlitt's book determines the year, we
may take the testimony of the sonnet "Written at Cambridge, August 15,
1819" as to the month, especially as Lamb at that time always took his
holidays in the summer; and this gives us August: a peculiarly
satisfactory conclusion for Cambridge men, because it shows that it was
to Cambridge that he went for comfort and solace after Miss Kelly's
The letter has still further value in adding another Lamb domicile to
the list, Mr. Bays's house being still in existence although no longer
in Trumpington Street, but King's Parade.
"T." may easily have been Talfourd, who had just been writing an
enthusiastic review of Lamb's _John Woodvil_ in _The Champion_ and was
only too happy to serve his hero in any way. But it might be Tom
Charles Lamb to S. T. Coleridge
[No date. ? Summer, 1819.]
Dr C. Your sonnet is capital. The Paper ingenious, only that it split
into 4 parts (besides a side splinter) in the carriage. I have
transferred it to the common English Paper, _manufactured of rags_, for
better preservation. I never knew before how the Iliad and Odyssey were
written. Tis strikingly corroborated by observations on Cats. These
domestic animals, put 'em on a rug before the fire, wink their eyes up
and listen to the Kettle, and then PURR, which is their Poetry.
On Sunday week we kiss your hands (if they are clean). This next Sunday
I have been engaged for some time.
With remembces to your good Host and Hostess
Yours ever C. Lamb.
[The sonnet was Coleridge's "Fancy in Nubibus; or, The Poet in the
Clouds," printed in _Blackwood_, November, 1819, but now sent to Lamb in
manuscript, apparently on some curious kind of paper.
This is the sonnet:--
O! it is pleasant, with a heart at ease,
Just after sunset, or by moonlight skies,
To make the shifting clouds be what you please,
Or let the easily persuaded eyes
Own each quaint likeness issuing from the mould
Of a friend's fancy; or with head bent low
And cheek aslant see rivers flow of gold
'Twixt crimson banks; and then, a traveller, go
From mount to mount through Cloudland, gorgeous land!
Or, list'ning to the tide, with closed sight,
Be that blind bard, who on the Chian strand
By those deep sounds possessed with inward light,
Beheld the Iliad and the Odyssee
Rise to the swelling of the voiceful sea.
See next letter to Coleridge.
Possibly it is to this summer that an undated note to Crabb Robinson
belongs (in the Dr. Williams' Library) in which Lamb says they are
setting out to see Lord Braybrooke's house at Audley End.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS HOLCROFT, JR.
[No date. Autumn, 1819.]
Dear Tom, Do not come to us on Thursday, for we are moved into country
lodgings, tho' I am still at the India house in the mornings. See
Marshall and Captain Betham _as soon as ever you can_. I fear leave
cannot be obtained at the India house for your going to India. If you go
it must be as captain's clerk, if such a thing could be obtain'd.
For God's sake keep your present place and do not give it up, or neglect
it; as you perhaps will not be able to go to India, and you see how
difficult of attainment situations are.
[Thomas Holcroft was the son of Lamb's friend, the dramatist. Apparently
he did not take Lamb's advice, for he lost his place, which was some
small Parliamentary post under John Rickman, in November, 1819. Crabb
Robinson, Anthony Robinson and Lamb took up the matter and subscribed
money, and Holcroft went out to India.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOSEPH COTTLE
[Dated at end: Nov. 5, 1819.]
Dear Sir--It is so long since I have seen or heard from you, that I fear
that you will consider a request I have to make as impertinent. About
three years since, when I was one day at Bristol, I made an effort to
see you, but you were from home. The request I have to make is, that you
would very much oblige me, if you have any small portrait of yourself,
by allowing me to have it copied, to accompany a selection of
"Likenesses of Living Bards" which a most particular friend of mine is
making. If you have no objections, and could oblige me by transmitting
such portrait to me at No. 44 Russell Street, Covent Garden, I will
answer for taking the greatest care of it, and returning it safely the
instant the Copier has done with it. I hope you will pardon the liberty
From an old friend
London 5th Nov. 1819.
[Lamb's visit to Bristol was made probably when he was staying at Calne
with the Morgans in 1816. The present letter refers to an extra
illustrated copy of Byron's _English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_, which
was being made by William Evans, of _The Pamphleteer_, and which is now
in the British Museum. Owing to Cottle's hostility to Byron, and Byron's
scorn of Cottle, Lamb could hardly explain the nature of the book more
fully. See note to the following letter.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOSEPH COTTLE
[Not dated. ? Late 1819.]
Dear Sir--My friend whom you have obliged by the loan of your picture,
having had it very exactly copied (and a very spirited Drawing it is, as
every one thinks that has seen it--the copy is not much inferior, done
by a daughter of Josephs, R.A.)--he purposes sending you back the
original, which I must accompany with my warm thanks, both for that, and
your better favor, the "Messiah," which, I assure you, I have read thro'
with great pleasure; the verses have great sweetness and a New
Testament-plainness about them which affected me very much.
I could just wish that in page 63 you had omitted the lines 71 and '2,
and had ended the period with
"The willowy brook was there, but that sweet sound--
_When_ to be heard again on Earthly ground?"--
two very sweet lines, and the sense perfect.
And in page 154, line 68, "I come _ordained a world to save_,"--these
words are hardly borne out by the story, and seem scarce accordant with
the modesty with which our Lord came to take his common portion among
the Baptismal Candidates. They also anticipate the beauty of John's
recognition of the Messiah, and the subsequent confirmation from the
voice and Dove.
You will excuse the remarks of an old brother bard, whose career, though
long since pretty well stopt, was coeval in its beginning with your own,
and who is sorry his lot has been always to be so distant from you. It
is not likely that C.L. will ever see Bristol again; but, if J.C. should
ever visit London, he will be a most welcome visitor to C.L.
My sister joins in cordial remembrances and I request the favor of
knowing, at your earliest opportunity, whether the Portrait arrives
safe, the glass unbroken &c. Your glass broke in its coming.
Morgan is a little better--can read a little, &c.; but cannot join Mrs.
M. till the Insolvent Act (or whatever it is called) takes place. Then,
I hope, he will stand clear of all debts. Meantime, he has a most
exemplary nurse and kind Companion in Miss Brent.
Once more, Dear Sir,
[Cottle sent Lamb a miniature of himself by Branwhite, which had been
copied in monochrome for Mr. Evans' book. G.J. Joseph, A.R.A., made a
coloured drawing of Lamb for the same work. It serves as frontispiece to
Vol. I. of the present edition. Byron's lines refer as a matter of fact
not to Joseph but to Amos Cottle:--
O, Amos Cottle!--Phoebus! what a name.
and so forth. Mr. Evans, however, dispensed with Amos. Another
grangerised edition of the same satire, also in the British Museum,
compiled by W.M. Tartt, has an engraving of Amos Cottle and two
portraits of Lamb--the Hancock drawing, and the Brook Pulham caricature.
Byron's lines touching Lamb ran thus:--
Yet let them not to vulgar Wordsworth stoop,
The meanest object of the lowly group,
Whose verse, of all but childish prattle void,
Seems blessed harmony to Lambe and Lloyd.
A footnote states that Lamb and Lloyd are the most ignoble followers of
Southey & Co.
Cottle's _Messiah_, of which the earlier portion had been published long
since, was completed in 1815. Canon Ainger says that lines 71 and 72 in
Lamb's copy (not that of 1815), following upon the couplet quoted,
(While sorrow gave th' involuntary tear)
Had ceased to vibrate on our listening ear.
Coleridge's friend Morgan had just come upon evil times. Subsequently
Lamb and Southey united in helping him to the extent of L10 a year
CHARLES LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[P.M. 25 Nov., 1819.]
Dear Miss Wordsworth, you will think me negligent, but I wanted to see
more of Willy, before I ventured to express a prediction. Till yesterday
I had barely seen him--Virgilium Tantum Vidi--but yesterday he gave us
his small company to a bullock's heart--and I can pronounce him a lad of
promise. He is no pedant nor bookworm, so far I can answer. Perhaps he
has hitherto paid too little attention to other men's inventions,
preferring, like Lord Foppington, the "natural sprouts of his own." But
he has observation, and seems thoroughly awake. I am ill at remembering
other people's bon mots, but the following are a few. Being taken over
Waterloo Bridge, he remarked that if we had no mountains, we had a fine
river at least, which was a Touch of the Comparative, but then he added,
in a strain which augured less for his future abilities as a Political
Economist, that he supposed they must take at least a pound a week Toll.
Like a curious naturalist he inquired if the tide did not come up a
little salty. This being satisfactorily answered, he put another
question as to the flux and reflux, which being rather cunningly evaded
than artfully solved by that she-Aristotle Mary, who muttered something
about its getting up an hour sooner and sooner every day, he sagely
replied, "Then it must come to the same thing at last" which was a
speech worthy of an infant Halley! The Lion in the 'Change by no means
came up to his ideal standard. So impossible it is for Nature in any of
her works to come up to the standard of a child's imagination. The
whelps (Lionets) he was sorry to find were dead, and on particular
enquiry his old friend the Ouran Outang had gone the way of all flesh
also. The grand Tiger was also sick, and expected in no short time to
exchange this transitory world for another--or none. But again, there
was a Golden Eagle (I do not mean that of Charing) which did much ARRIDE
and console him. William's genius, I take it, leans a little to the
figurative, for being at play at Tricktrack (a kind of minor
Billiard-table which we keep for smaller wights, and sometimes refresh
our own mature fatigues with taking a hand at), not being able to hit a
ball he had iterate aimed at, he cried out, "I cannot hit that beast."
Now the balls are usually called men, but he felicitously hit upon a
middle term, a term of approximation and imaginative reconciliation, a
something where the two ends, of the brute matter (ivory) and their
human and rather violent personification into _men_, might meet, as I
take it, illustrative of that Excellent remark in a certain Preface
about Imagination, explaining "like a sea-beast that had crawled forth
to sun himself." Not that I accuse William Minor of hereditary plagiary,
or conceive the image to have come ex traduce. Rather he seemeth to keep
aloof from any source of imitation, and purposely to remain ignorant of
what mighty poets have done in this kind before him. For being asked if
his father had ever been on Westminster Bridge, he answer'd that he did
It is hard to discern the Oak in the Acorn, or a Temple like St. Paul's
in the first stone which is laid, nor can I quite prefigure what
destination the genius of William Minor hath to take. Some few hints I
have set down, to guide my future observations. He hath the power of
calculation in no ordinary degree for a chit. He combineth figures,
after the first boggle, rapidly. As in the Tricktrack board, where the
hits are figured, at first he did not perceive that 15 and 7 made 22,
but by a little use he could combine 8 with 25--and 33 again with 16,
which approacheth something in kind (far let me be from flattering him
by saying in degree) to that of the famous American boy. I am sometimes
inclined to think I perceive the future satirist in him, for he hath a
sub-sardonic smile which bursteth out upon occasion, as when he was
asked if London were as big as Ambleside, and indeed no other answer was
given, or proper to be given, to so ensnaring and provoking a question.
In the contour of scull certainly I discern something paternal. But
whether in all respects the future man shall transcend his father's
fame, Time the trier of geniuses must decide. Be it pronounced
peremptorily at present, that Willy is a well-mannerd child, and though
no great student, hath yet a lively eye for things that lie before him.
Given in haste from my desk at Leadenhall. Your's and yours' most
[This letter, which refers to a visit paid to the Lambs in Great Russell
Street by Wordsworth's son, William, then nine years old, is remarkable,
apart from its charm and humour, for containing more of the absolute
method of certain of Lamb's _Elia_ passages than anything he had yet
"Lord Foppington"--in Vanbrugh's "Relapse." Lamb used this speech as the
motto of his _Elia_ essay "Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading."
"Like a sea-beast." Lamb alludes to the preface to the edition of 1815
of Wordsworth's poems, where he quotes illustratively from his
"Resolution and Independence":--
Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf
Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself.
"If his father had ever been on Westminster Bridge." An allusion to
Wordsworth's sonnet "Composed on Westminster Bridge":--
Earth has not anything to show more fair.
"The American boy." This was Zerah Colburn, the mathematical prodigy,
born in Vermont State in 1804 and exhibited in America and Europe by his
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Jan. 10th, 1820.
Dear Coleridge,--A Letter written in the blood of your poor friend would
indeed be of a nature to startle you; but this is nought but harmless
red ink, or, as the witty mercantile phrase hath it, Clerk's Blood. Damn
'em! my brain, guts, skin, flesh, bone, carcase, soul, TIME, is all
theirs. The Royal Exchange, Gresham's Folly, hath me body and spirit. I
admire some of Lloyd's lines on you, and I admire your postponing
reading them. He is a sad Tattler, but this is under the rose. Twenty
years ago he estranged one friend from me quite, whom I have been
regretting, but never could regain since; he almost alienated you (also)
from me, or me from you, I don't know which. But that breach is closed.
The dreary sea is filled up. He has lately been at work "telling again,"
as they call it, a most gratuitous piece of mischief, and has caused a
coolness betwixt me and (not a friend exactly, but) [an] intimate
acquaintance. I suspect, also, he saps Manning's faith in me, who am to
Manning more than an acquaintance. Still I like his writing verses about
you. Will your kind host and hostess give us a dinner next Sunday, and
better still, _not expect us_ if the weather is very bad. Why you should
refuse twenty guineas per sheet for Blackwood's or any other magazine
passes my poor comprehension. But, as Strap says, you know best. I have
no quarrel with you about praeprandial avocations--so don't imagine one.
That Manchester sonnet I think very likely is Capel Lofft's. Another
sonnet appeared with the same initials in the same paper, which turned
out to be Procter's. What do the rascals mean? Am I to have the
fathering of what idle rhymes every beggarly Poetaster pours forth! Who
put your marine sonnet and about Browne into "Blackwood"? I did not. So
no more, till we meet.
[Charles Lloyd, returned to health, had written _Desultory Thoughts in
London_, in which both Coleridge and Lamb appeared, Coleridge as *** and
Lamb as **. The poem was published in 1821. Lloyd probably had sent it
in manuscript or proof to Lamb and Coleridge. Some of Lloyd's lines on
Coleridge run thus:--
How shall I fitly speak on such a theme?
He is a treasure by the world neglected,
Because he hath not, with a prescience dim,
Like those whose every aim is self-reflected,
Pil'd up some fastuous trophy, that of him
Might tell, what mighty powers the age rejected,
But taught his lips the office of a _pen_--
By fools he's deem'd a being lost to men.
* * * * *
No! with magnanimous self-sacrifice,
And lofty inadvertency of fame,
He felt there is a bliss in _being_ wise,
Quite independent of the wise man's _name_.
Who now can say how many a soul may rise
To a nobility of moral aim
It ne'er had known, but for that spirit brave,
Which, being freely gifted, freely gave?
Sometimes I think that I'm a blossom blighted;
But this I ken, that should it not prove so,
If I am not inexorably spited
Of all that dignifies mankind below;
By him I speak of, I was so excited,
While reason's scale was poising to and fro,
"To the better cause;" that him I have to bless
For that which it is comfort to possess.
* * * * *
No! Those who most have seen me, since the hour
When thou and I, in former happier days,
Frank converse held, though many an adverse power
Have sought the memory of those times to raze,
Can vouch that more it stirs me (thus a tower,
Sole remnant of vast castle, still betrays
Haply its former splendour) to have prov'd
Thy love, than by fresh friends to have been lov'd.
The story of one of Lloyd's former indiscretions is told in the earlier
letters of this collection. I cannot say what friend he quite alienated,
unless it was James White. The nature of the later offence of which Lamb
accuses Lloyd is now unknown.
"That Manchester sonnet." A sonnet entitled "Manchester," referring to
the Luddites, and signed C. L., by Capel Lofft. Procter's "C.L." sonnet
was upon Macready.
The marine sonnet was "Fancy in Nubibus" (see page 559).
"About Browne" refers to a note by Coleridge on Sir Thomas Browne in the
same number, signed G.J.--possibly James Gillman's initials reversed.
We learn from a letter from Coleridge to J. H. Green (January 14, 1820)
that the visit to Highgate which Lamb mentions was a New Year visit of
annual occurrence. Lamb's reference to praeprandial avocations touches
upon Coleridge's habit of coming down to see his guests only when dinner
MARY LAMB TO MRS. VINCENT NOVELLO
[Spring of 1820.]
My dear Friend,--Since we heard of your sad sorrow, you have been
perpetually in our thoughts; therefore, you may well imagine how welcome
your kind remembrance of it must be. I know not how enough to thank you
for it. You bid me write a long letter; but my mind is so possessed with
the idea that you must be occupied with one only thought, that all
trivial matters seem impertinent. I have just been reading again Mr.
Hunt's delicious Essay; which I am sure must have come so home to your
hearts, I shall always love him for it. I feel that it is all that one
can think, but which none but he could have done so prettily. May he
lose the memory of his own babies in seeing them all grow old around
him! Together with the recollection of your dear baby, the image of a
little sister I once had comes as fresh into my mind as if I had seen
her as lately. A little cap with white satin ribbon, grown yellow with
long keeping, and a lock of light hair, were the only relics left of
her. The sight of them always brought her pretty, fair face to my view,
that to this day I seem to have a perfect recollection of her features.
I long to see you, and I hope to do so on Tuesday or Wednesday in next
week. Percy Street! I love to write the word; what comfortable ideas it
brings with it! We have been pleasing ourselves ever since we heard this
piece of unexpected good news with the anticipation of frequent drop-in
visits, and all the social comfort of what seems almost next-door
Our solitary confinement has answered its purpose even better than I
expected. It is so many years since I have been out of town in the
Spring, that I scarcely knew of the existence of such a season. I see
every day some new flower peeping out of the ground, and watch its
growth; so that I have a sort of an intimate friendship with each. I
know the effect of every change of weather upon them--have learned all
their names, the duration of their lives, and the whole progress of
their domestic economy. My landlady, a nice, active old soul that wants
but one year of eighty, and her daughter, a rather aged young
gentlewoman, are the only labourers in a pretty large garden; for it is
a double house, and two long strips of ground are laid into one, well
stored with fruit-trees, which will be in full blossom the week after I
am gone, and flowers, as many as can be crammed in, of all sorts and
kinds. But flowers are flowers still; and I must confess I would rather
live in Russell Street all my life, and never set my foot but on the
London pavement, than be doomed always to enjoy the silent pleasures I
now do. We go to bed at ten o'clock. Late hours are life-shortening
things; but I would rather run all risks, and sit every night--at some
places I could name--wishing in vain at eleven o'clock for the entrance
of the supper tray, than be always up and alive at eight o'clock
breakfast, as I am here. We have a scheme to reconcile these things. We
have an offer of a very low-rented lodging a mile nearer town than this.
Our notion is, to divide our time, in alternate weeks, between quiet
rest and dear London weariness. We give an answer to-morrow; but what
that will be, at this present writing, I am unable to say. In the
present state of our undecided opinion, a very heavy rain that is now
falling may turn the scale. "Dear rain, do go away," and let us have a
fine cheerful sunset to argue the matter fairly in. My brother walked
seventeen miles yesterday before dinner. And notwithstanding his long
walk to and from the office, we walk every evening; but I by no means
perform in this way so well as I used to do. A twelve-mile walk one hot
Sunday morning made my feet blister, and they are hardly well now.
Charles is not yet come home; but he bid me, with many thanks, to
present his _love_ to you and all yours, to all whom and to each
individually, and to Mr. Novello in particular, I beg to add mine. With
the sincerest wishes for the health and happiness of all, believe me,
ever, dear Mary Sabilla, your most affectionate friend,
MARY ANN LAMB.
[Leigh Hunt's essay "Deaths of Little Children" appeared in _The
Indicator_ for April 5, 1820; it was suggested by the same loss as that
which prompted Mary Lamb's letter.
The Lambs at this time were staying at Mrs. Bedford's, Church Street,
Stoke Newington, as we know from an unpublished letter from Mary Lamb to
Miss Kelly, dated March 27, 1820. To this letter I have referred in the
Preface. It states that Mary Lamb, who was teaching Miss Kelly Latin at
the time, has herself taken to French in the evenings.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOSEPH COTTLE
London, India House,
[? May 26th, 1820.]
My dear Sir,--I am quite ashamed of not having acknowledged your kind
present earlier, but that unknown something, which was never yet
discovered, though so often speculated upon, which stands in the way of
lazy folks answering letters, has presented its usual obstacle. It is
not forgetfulness, nor disrespect, nor incivility, but terribly like all
these bad things.
I have been in my time a great epistolary scribbler; but the passion,
and with it the facility, at length wears out; and it must be pumped up
again by the heavy machinery of duty or gratitude, when it should run
I have read your "Fall of Cambria" with as much pleasure as I did your
"Messiah." Your Cambrian poem I shall be tempted to repeat oftenest, as
Human poems take me in a mood more frequently congenial than Divine. The
character of Llewellyn pleases me more than any thing else, perhaps; and
then some of the Lyrical Pieces are fine varieties.
It was quite a mistake that I could dislike anything you should write
against Lord Byron, for I have a thorough aversion to his character and
a very moderate admiration of his genius; he is great in so little a
way. To be a poet is to be the man--not a petty portion of occasional
low passion worked up into a permanent form of humanity. Shakespear has
thrust such rubbishy feelings into a corner-the dark, dusky heart of Don
John, in the _Much Ado about Nothing_. The fact is, I have not seen your
"Expostulatory Epistle" to him. I was not aware, till your question,
that it was out. I shall inquire, and get it forthwith.
Southey is in town, whom I have seen slightly; Wordsworth expected, whom
I hope to see much of. I write with accelerated motion; for I have two
or three bothering clerks and brokers about me, who always press in
proportion as you seem to be doing something that is not business. I
could exclaim a little profanely, but I think you do not like swearing.
I conclude, begging you to consider that I feel myself much obliged by
your kindness, and shall be most happy at any and at all times to hear
Dear Sir, yours truly,
[Joseph Cottle, the Bristol publisher, had apparently just sent Lamb a
copy of his _Fall of Cambria_, although it had been published some years
before. Perhaps Lamb had sent him his _Works_, and it was a return gift.
Cottle's very serious _Expostulatory Epistle to Lord Byron_ (who had
cast ridicule upon him and his brother in _English Bards and Scotch
Reviewers_) was issued in 1820, after the publication of _Don Juan_ had
Southey arrived in London on May Day, 1820. Wordsworth followed early in
CHARLES LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[May 25, 1820.]
Dear Miss W.--There can be none to whom the last volume of W. W. has
come more welcome than to me. I have traced the Duddon in thought and
with repetition along the banks (alas!) of the Lea--(unpoetical name);
it is always flowing and murmuring and dashing in my ears. The story of
_Dion_ is divine--the genius of Plato falling on him like moonlight--the
finest thing ever expressed. Then there is _Elidure_ and _Kirkstone
Pass_--the last not new to me--and let me add one of the sweetest of
them all to me, _The Longest Day_. Loving all these as much as I can
love poetry new to me, what could I wish or desire more or extravagantly
in a new volume? That I did not write to W. W. was simply that he was to
come so soon, and that flattens letters....
[I print from Professor Knight's text, in his _Life of Wordsworth_.
Canon Ainger supplies omissions--a reference to Martin Burney's black
The Wordsworths were in town this summer, to attend the wedding of
Thomas Monkhouse and Miss Horrocks. We know from Crabb Robinson's
_Diary_ that they were at Lamb's on June 2: "Not much was said about his
[W. W.'s] new volume of poems. But he himself spoke of the 'Brownie's
Cell' as his favourite." The new volume was _The River Duddon, a Series
of Sonnets_, ... 1820. "The Longest Day" begins:--
Let us quit the leafy arbour.
Between this letter and the next Lamb wrote and sent off his first
contribution to the _London Magazine_ over the signature Elia--"The
South-Sea House," which was printed in the number for August, 1820.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS ALLSOP
[P.M. July 13, 1820.]
Dear Sir, I do not know whose fault it is we have not met so long. We
are almost always out of town. You must come and beat up our quarters
there, when we return from Cambridge. It is not in our power to accept
your invitation. To-day we dine out; and set out for Cambridge on
Saturday morning. Friday of course will be past in packing, &c.,
moreover we go from Dalston. We return from Cam. in 4 weeks, and will
contrive an early meeting.
Meantime believe us,
C. L., &c.
[It was during this visit to Cambridge that Lamb wrote his _Elia_ essay
on "Oxford in the Vacation."]
CHARLES AND MARY LAMB TO SAMUEL JAMES ARNOLD
[No date. ? 1820.]
Dear Sir, We beg to convey our kindest acknowledgements to Mr. Arnold
for the very pleasant privilege he has favoured us with. My yearly
holidays end with next week, during which we shall be mostly in the
country, and afterwards avail ourselves fully of the privilege.
Sincerely wishing you crowded houses, etc.,
CH. & M. LAMB.
[Arnold, brother-in-law of Ayrton, was the lessee of the Lyceum, where
Miss Kelly was acting when Lamb proposed to her in 1819.]
CHARLES LAMB TO BARRON FIELD
London, 16 Aug., 1820.
Dear Field,--Captain Ogilvie, who conveys this note to you, and is now
paying for the first time a visit to your remote shores, is the brother
of a Gentleman intimately connected with the family of the _Whites_, I
mean of Bishopsgate Street--and you will much oblige them and myself by
any service or civilities you can shew him.
I do not mean this for an answer to your warm-hearted Epistle, which
demands and shall have a much fuller return. We receiped your Australian
First Fruits, of which I shall say nothing here, but refer you to ****
of the _Examiner_, who speaks our mind on all public subjects. I can
only assure you that both Coleridge and Wordsworth, and also C. Lloyd,
who has lately reappeared in the poetical horizon, were hugely taken
with your Kangaroo.
When do you come back full of riches and renown, with the regret of all
the honest, and all the other part of the colony? Mary swears she shall
live to see it.
Pray are you King's or Queen's men in Sidney? Or have thieves no
politics? Man, don't let this lie about your room for your bed sweeper
or Major Domo to see, he mayn't like the last paragraph.
This is a dull and lifeless scroll. You shall have soon a tissue of
truth and fiction impossible to be extricated, the interleavings shall
be so delicate, the partitions perfectly invisible, it shall puzzle you
till you return, & [then] I will not explain it. Till then a ... adieu,
with kind rem'brces of me both to you & ... [_Signature and a few words
[Barron Field, who was still in New South Wales, had published his poems
under the title _First-Fruits of Australian Poetry_, and Lamb had
reviewed them in _The Examiner_ for January 16, 1820, over his usual
signature in that paper, * * * *. "The Kangaroo" is quoted in that
review (see Vol. I. of the present edition).
Captain Ogilvie was the brother of a clerk at the India House, who gave
Mr. Joseph H. Twichell some reminiscences of Lamb, which were printed in
"King's or Queen's men"--supporters of George IV. or Caroline of
Brunswick. Lamb was very strongly in favour of the Queen, as his
_Champion_ epigrams show (see Vol. IV.).
"You shall soon see." Lamb's first reference to the _Elia_ essays,
alluding here to "The South-Sea House."
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Hazlitt. Lamb says that his
sister is ill again and that the last thing she read was Hazlitt's
"Thursday Nights" which gave her unmixed delight--the reference being to
the second part of the essay "On the Conversation of Authors," which was
printed in the _London Magazine_ for September, 1820, describing Lamb's
evenings. Stoddart, Hazlitt's brother-in-law, Lamb adds, says it is
better than Hogarth's "Modern Midnight Conversation."
Here should come a business note to John Scott, editor of the _London
Magazine_, dated August 24, 1820, given in the Boston Bibliophile
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[No date. ? Autumn, 1820.]
Dear C.,--Why will you make your visits, which should give pleasure,
matter of regret to your friends? You never come but you take away some
folio that is part of my existence. With a great deal of difficulty I
was made to comprehend the extent of my loss. My maid Becky brought me a
dirty bit of paper, which contained her description of some book which
Mr. Coleridge had taken away. It was "Luster's Tables," which, for some
time, I could not make out. "What! has he carried away any of the
_tables_, Becky?" "No, it wasn't any tables, but it was a book that he
called Luster's Tables." I was obliged to search personally among my
shelves, and a huge fissure suddenly disclosed to me the true nature of
the damage I had sustained. That book, C., you should not have taken
away, for it is not mine; it is the property of a friend, who does not
know its value, nor indeed have I been very sedulous in explaining to
him the estimate of it; but was rather contented in giving a sort of
corroboration to a hint that he let fall, as to its being suspected to
be not genuine, so that in all probability it would have fallen to me as
a deodand; not but I am as sure it is Luther's as I am sure that Jack
Bunyan wrote the "Pilgrim's Progress;" but it was not for me to
pronounce upon the validity of testimony that had been disputed by
learneder clerks than I. So I quietly let it occupy the place it had
usurped upon my shelves, and should never have thought of issuing an
ejectment against it; for why should I be so bigoted as to allow rites
of hospitality to none but my own books, children, &c.?--a species of
egotism I abhor from my heart. No; let 'em all snug together, Hebrews
and Proselytes of the gate; no selfish partiality of mine shall make
distinction between them; I charge no warehouse-room for my friends'
commodities; they are welcome to come and stay as long as they like,
without paying rent. I have several such strangers that I treat with
more than Arabian courtesy; there's a copy of More's fine poem, which is
none of mine; but I cherish it as my own; I am none of those churlish
landlords that advertise the goods to be taken away in ten days' time,
or then to be sold to pay expenses. So you see I had no right to lend
you that book; I may lend you my own books, because it is at my own
hazard, but it is not honest to hazard a friend's property; I always
make that distinction. I hope you will bring it with you, or send it by
Hartley; or he can bring that, and you the "Polemical Discourses," and
come and eat some atoning mutton with us one of these days shortly. We
are engaged two or three Sundays deep, but always dine at home on
week-days at half-past four. So come all four--men and books I mean--my
third shelf (northern compartment) from the top has two devilish gaps,
where you have knocked out its two eye-teeth.
Your wronged friend,
[This letter is usually dated 1824, but I think it was written earlier.
For one reason, Hartley Coleridge was not in London in that year, and
for another, there are several phrases in the _Elia_ essay "Two Races of
Men" (printed in the _London Magazine_, December, 1820) that are so
similar to some in this letter that I imagine the letter to have
suggested the subject of the essay, the composition of which immediately
followed it. Thus, in the essay we read:--
"That foul gap in the bottom shelf facing you, like a great eye-tooth
knocked out--(you are now with me in my little back study in Bloomsbury,
reader!)--with the huge Switzer-like tomes on each side (like the
Guildhall giants, in their reformed posture, guardant of nothing) once
held the tallest of my folios, _Opera Bonaventurae_, choice and massy
divinity, to which its two supporters (school divinity also, but of a
lesser calibre,--Bellarmine, and Holy Thomas), showed but as dwarfs,--
itself an Ascapart!--_that_ Comberbatch abstracted upon the faith of a
theory he holds, which is more easy, I confess, for me to surfer by than
to refute, namely, that 'the title to property in a book (my
Bonaventure, for instance) is in exact ratio to the claimant's powers of
understanding and appreciating the same.' Should he go on acting upon
this theory, which of our shelves is safe?"
"Luster's Tables"--Luther's _Table Talk_.
"More's fine poem." The _Psychozoia Platonica_, 1642, of Henry More, the
Platonist. Lamb seems to have returned the book, for it was not among
his books that he left. Luther's _Table Talk_ seems also to have been
CONSISTING OF THE LONGER PASSAGES FROM BOOKS REFERRED TO BY LAMB IN HIS
COLERIDGE'S "ODE ON THE DEPARTING YEAR"
TEXT OF THE QUARTO, 1796
(_See Letter 19, page 75_)
_Spirit_, who sweepest the wild Harp of Time,
It is most hard with an untroubled Ear
Thy dark inwoven Harmonies to hear!
Yet, mine eye fixt on Heaven's unchanged clime,
Long had I listen'd, free from mortal fear,
With inward stillness and a bowed mind:
When lo! far onwards waving on the wind
I saw the skirts of the DEPARTING YEAR!
Starting from my silent sadness
Then with no unholy madness,
Ere yet the entered cloud forbade my sight,
I rais'd th' impetuous song, and solemnized his flight.
Hither from the recent Tomb;
From the Prison's direr gloom;
From Poverty's heart-wasting languish:
From Distemper's midnight anguish;
Or where his two bright torches blending
Love illumines Manhood's maze;
Or where o'er cradled Infants bending
Hope has fix'd her wishful gaze:
Hither, in perplexed dance,
Ye WOES, and young-eyed JOYS, advance!
By Time's wild harp, and by the Hand
Whose indefatigable Sweep
Forbids its fateful strings to sleep,
I bid you haste, a mixt tumultuous band!
From every private bower,
And each domestic hearth,
Haste for one solemn hour;
And with a loud and yet a louder voice
O'er the sore travail of the common earth
Weep and rejoice!
Seiz'd in sore travail and portentous birth
(Her eye-balls flashing a pernicious glare)
Sick NATURE struggles! Hark--her pangs increase!
Her groans are horrible! But O! most fair
The promis'd Twins, she bears--EQUALITY and PEACE!
I mark'd Ambition in his war-array:
I heard the mailed Monarch's troublous cry--
"Ah! whither [wherefore] does the Northern Conqueress stay?
Groans not her Chariot o'er its onward way?"
Fly, mailed Monarch, fly!
Stunn'd by Death's "twice mortal" mace
No more on MURDER'S lurid face
Th' insatiate Hag shall glote with drunken eye!
Manes of th' unnumbered Slain!
Ye that gasp'd on WARSAW'S plain!
Ye that erst at ISMAIL'S tower,
When human Ruin chok'd the streams,
Fell in Conquest's glutted hour
Mid Women's shrieks, and Infants' screams;
Whose shrieks, whose screams were vain to stir
Loud-laughing, red-eyed Massacre!
Spirits of th' uncoffin'd Slain,
Sudden blasts of Triumph swelling
Oft at night, in misty train
Rush around her narrow Dwelling!
Th' exterminating Fiend is fled--
(Foul her Life and dark her Doom!)
Mighty Army of the Dead,
Dance, like Death-fires, round her Tomb!
Then with prophetic song relate
Each some scepter'd Murderer's fate!
When shall scepter'd SLAUGHTER cease?
Awhile He crouch'd, O Victor France!
Beneath the light'ning of thy Lance,
With treacherous dalliance wooing PEACE.
But soon up-springing from his dastard trance
The boastful, bloody Son of Pride betray'd
His hatred of the blest and blessing Maid.
One cloud, O Freedom! cross'd thy orb of Light
And sure, he deem'd, that Orb was quench'd in night:
For still does MADNESS roam on GUILT'S bleak dizzy height!
DEPARTING YEAR! 'twas on no earthly shore
My Soul beheld thy Vision. Where, alone,
Voiceless and stern, before the Cloudy Throne
Aye MEMORY sits; there, garmented with gore,
With many an unimaginable groan
Thou storiedst thy sad Hours! Silence ensued:
Deep Silence o'er th' etherial Multitude,
Whose purple Locks with snow-white Glories shone.
Then, his eye wild ardors glancing,
From the choired Gods advancing,
the SPIRIT of the EARTH made reverence meet
And stood up beautiful before the Cloudy Seat!
On every Harp, on every Tongue
While the mute Enchantment hung;
Like Midnight from a thundercloud,
Spake the sudden SPIRIT loud--
"Thou in stormy blackness throning
"Love and uncreated Light,
"By the Earth's unsolac'd groaning
"Seize thy terrors, Arm of Might!
"By Belgium's corse-impeded flood!
"By Vendee steaming Brother's blood!
"By PEACE with proffer'd insult scar'd,
"Masked hate, and envying scorn!
"By Tears of Havoc yet unborn;
"And Hunger's bosom to the frost-winds bar'd!
"But chief by Afric's wrongs
"Strange, horrible, and foul!
"By what deep Guilt belongs
"To the deaf Synod, 'full of gifts and lies!'
"By Wealth's insensate Laugh! By Torture's Howl!
"For ever shall the bloody Island scowl?
"For aye unbroken, shall her cruel Bow
"Shoot Famine's arrows o'er thy ravag'd World?
"Hark! how wide NATURE joins her groans below--
"Rise, God of Nature, rise! Why sleep thy Bolts unhurl'd?"
The Voice had ceas'd, the Phantoms fled,
Yet still I gasp'd and reel'd with dread.
And even when the dream of night
Renews the vision to my sight,
Cold sweat-damps gather on my limbs,
My Ears throb hot, my eye-balls start,
My Brain with horrid tumult swims,
Wild is the Tempest of my Heart;
And my thick and struggling breath
Imitates the toil of Death!
No uglier agony confounds
The Soldier on the war-field spread,
When all foredone with toil and wounds
Death-like he dozes among heaps of Dead!
(The strife is o'er, the day-light fled,
And the Night-wind clamours hoarse;
See! the startful Wretch's head
Lies pillow'd on a Brother's Corse!)
O doom'd to fall, enslav'd and vile,
O ALBION! O my mother Isle!
Thy valleys, fair as Eden's bowers,
Glitter green with sunny showers;
Thy grassy Upland's gentle Swells
Echo to the Bleat of Flocks;
(Those grassy Hills, those glitt'ring Dells
Proudly ramparted with rocks)
And Ocean 'mid his uproar wild
Speaks safely to his Island-child.
Hence for many a fearless age
Has social Quiet lov'd thy shore;
Nor ever sworded Foeman's rage
Or sack'd thy towers, or stain'd thy fields with gore.
Disclaim'd of Heaven! mad Av'rice at thy side,
At coward distance, yet with kindling pride--
Safe 'mid thy herds and corn-fields thou hast stood,
And join'd the yell of Famine and of Blood.
All nations curse thee: and with eager wond'ring
Shall hear DESTRUCTION like a vulture, scream!
Strange-eyed DESTRUCTION, who with many a dream
Of central flames thro' nether seas upthund'ring
Soothes her fierce solitude, yet (as she lies
Stretch'd on the marge of some fire-flashing fount
In the black chamber of a sulphur'd mount,)
If ever to her lidless dragon eyes,
O ALBION! thy predestin'd ruins rise,
The Fiend-hag on her perilous couch doth leap,
Mutt'ring distemper'd triumph in her charmed sleep.
Away, my soul, away!
In vain, in vain, the birds of warning sing--
And hark! I hear the famin'd brood of prey
Flap their lank pennons on the groaning wind!
Away, my Soul, away!
I unpartaking of the evil thing,
With daily prayer, and daily toil
Soliciting my scant and blameless soil,
Have wail'd my country with a loud lament.
Now I recenter my immortal mind
In the long sabbath of high self-content;
Cleans'd from the fleshly Passions that bedim
God's Image, Sister of the Seraphim.
WITHER'S "_SUPERSEDEAS_ TO ALL THEM, WHOSE CUSTOME IT IS, WITHOUT ANY
DESERVING, TO IMPORTUNE _AUTHORS_ TO GIVE UNTO THEM THEIR _BOOKES_"
FROM A COLLECTION OP EMBLEMS, 1635
(See _Letter_ 35, _page_ 123)
It merits not your Anger, nor my Blame,
That, thus I have inscrib'd this _Epigram_:
For, they who know me, know, that, _Bookes_ thus large,
And, fraught with _Emblems_, do augment the Charge
Too much above my _Fortunes_, to afford
A _Gift_ so costly, for an _Aierie-word_:
And, I have prov'd, your _Begging-Qualitie_,
So forward, to oppresse my _Modestie_;
That, for my future ease, it seemeth fit,
To take some Order, for preventing it.
And, peradventure, other Authors may,
Find Cause to thanke me for't, another day.
These many years, it hath your _Custom_ bin,
That, when in my possession, you have seene
A _Volume_, of mine owne, you did no more,
But, _Aske_ and _Take_; As if you thought my store
Encreast, without my Cost; And, that, by _Giving_,
(Both _Paines_ and Charges too) I got my living;
Or, that, I find the _Paper_ and the _Printing_,
As easie to me, as the _Bookes_ Inventing.
If, of my _Studies_, no esteeme you have,
You, then abuse the _Courtesies_ you crave;
And, are _Unthankfull_. If you prize them ought,
Why should my _Labour_, not enough be thought,
Unlesse, I adde _Expences_ to my paines?
The _Stationer_, affoords for little Gaines,
The _Bookes_ you crave: And, He, as well as I
Might give away, what you repine to buy:
For, what hee _Gives_, doth onely _Mony_ Cost,
In mine, both _Mony_, _Time_, and _Wit_ is lost.
What I shall Give, and what I have bestow'd
On Friends, to whom, I _Love_, or _Service_ ow'd,
I grudge not; And, I thinke it is from them,
Sufficient, that such _Gifts_ they do esteeme:
Yea, and, it is a _Favour_ too, when they
Will take these _Trifles_, my large _Dues_ to pay;
(Or, Aske them at my hands, when I forget,
That, I am to their _Love_, so much in debt.)
But, this inferres not, that, I should bestow
The like on all men, who my _Name_ do know;
Or, have the Face to aske: For, then, I might,
Of _Wit_ and _Mony_, soone be begger'd, quite.
So much, already, hath beene _Beg'd_ away,
(For which, I neither had, nor looke for pay)
As being valu'd at the common Rate,
Had rais'd, _Five hundred Crownes_, in my Estate.
Which, (if I may confesse it) signifies,
That, I was farre more _Liberall_, than _Wise_.
But, for the time to come, resolv'd I am,
That, till without denyall (or just blame)
I may of those, who _Cloth_ and _Clothes_ do make,
(As oft as I shall need them) _Aske_, and _Take_;
You shall no more befoole me. Therfore, _Pray_
_Be Answer'd_; And, henceforward, keepe away.
PASSAGE FROM GEORGE DYER'S "POETIC SYMPATHIES"
FROM _POEMS_, 1800
(_See Letter_ 83, _page_ 218)
Yet, Muse of Shakspeare, whither wouldst thou fly,
With hurried step, and dove-like trembling eye?
Thou, as from heav'n, that couldst each grace dispense,
Fancy's rich stream, and all the stores of sense;
Give to each virtue face and form divine,
Make dulness feel, and vulgar souls refine,
Wake all the passions into restless life,
Now calm to softness, and now rouze to strife?
Sick of misjudging, that no sense can hit,
Scar'd by the jargon of unmeaning wit,
The senseless splendour of the tawdry stage,
The loud long plaudits of a trifling age,
Where dost thou wander? Exil'd in disgrace,
Find'st thou in foreign realms some happier place?
Or dost thou still though banish'd from the town,
In Britain love to linger, though unknown?
Light Hymen's torch through ev'ry blooming grove,
And tinge each flow'ret with the blush of love?
Sing winter, summer-sweets, the vernal air,
Or the soft Sofa, to delight the fair?
Laugh, e'en at kings, and mock each prudish rule,
The merry motley priest of ridicule?
With modest pencil paint the vernal scene,
The rustic lovers, and the village green?
Bid Mem'ry, magic child, resume his toy,
And Hope's fond vot'ry seize the distant joy?
Or dost thou soar, in youthful ardour strong,
And bid some female hero live in song?
Teach fancy how through nature's walks to stray,
And wake, to simpler theme, the lyric lay?
Or steal from beauty's lip th' ambrosial kiss,
Paint the domestic grief, or social bliss?
With patient step now tread o'er rock and hill,
Gaze on rough ocean, track the babbling rill,
Then rapt in thought, with strong poetic eye,
Read the great movement of the mighty sky?
Or wilt thou spread the light of Leo's age,
And smooth, as woman's guide, Tansillo's page?
Till pleas'd, you make in fair translated song,
Odin descend, and rouse the fairy throng?
Recall, employment sweet, thy youthful day,
Then wake, at Mithra's call, the mystic lay?
Unfold the Paradise of ancient lore,
Or mark the shipwreck from the sounding shore?
Now love to linger in the daisied vale,
Then rise sublime in legendary tale?
Or, faithful still to nature's sober joy,
Smile on the labours of some Farmer's Boy?
Or e'en regardless of the poet's praise,
Deck the fair magazine with blooming lays?
Oh! sweetest muse, oh, haste thy wish'd return,
See genius droop, and bright-ey'd fancy mourn,
Recall to nature's charms an English stage,
The guard and glory of a nobler age.
[Footnote 1: It is not meant to say, that even Shakspeare followed
invariably a correct and chastized taste, or that he never purchased
public applause by offering incense at the shrine of public taste.
Voltaire, in his Essays on Dramatic Poetry, has carried the matter too
far; but in many respects his reflections are unquestionably just. In
delineating human characters and passions, and in the display of the
sublimer excellencies of poetry, Shakspeare was unrivalled.
There he our fancy of itself bereaving,
Did make us marble with too much conceiving.
MILTON'S SONNET TO SHAKSPEARE.]
[Footnote 2: Pomp and splendour a poor substitute for genius.]
[Footnote 3: The dramatic muse seems of late years to have taken her
residence in Germany. Schiller, Kotzebue, and Goethe, possess great
merit both for passion and sentiment, and the English nation have done
them justice. One or two principles which the French and English critics
had too implicitly followed from Aristotle, are indeed not adopted, but
have been, I hope, successfully, counteracted by these writers; yet are
these dramatists characterised by a wildness bordering on extravagance,
attendant on a state of half-civilization. Schiller and Kotzebue, amid
some faults, possess great excellencies.
With respect to England, it has long been noticed by very intelligent
observers, that the dramatic taste of the present age is vitiated. Pope,
who directed very powerful satire against the stage in his time, makes
Dulness say in general terms,
Contending theatres our empire raise,
Alike their censure, and alike their praise.
It would be the highest arrogance in me to make such an assertion, with
my slender knowledge in these matters; ready too, as I am, to admire
some excellent pieces that have fallen in my way; and to affirm, that
there is by no means a deficiency of poetic talent in England.
Aristotle observes, that all the parts of the Epic poet are to be found
in tragedy, and, consequently, that this species of writing is, of all
others, most interesting to men of talents. [Greek: Peri ooiaetikaes]
And baron Kotzebue thinks the theatre the best school of instruction,
both in morals and taste, even for children; and that better effects are
produced by a play, than by a sermon. See his life, written by himself,
just translated by Anne Plumptre.
How much then is it to be wished, that so admirable a mean of amusement
and instruction might be advanced to its true point of excellence! But
the principles laid down by Bishop HURD, though calculated to advance
the love of splendour, will not, I suspect, advance the TRUE PROVINCE OF
[Footnote 4: Loves of the Plants, by Dr. Darwin.]
[Footnote 5: The Task, by Cowper; written at the request of a lady. The
introductory poem is entitled, The Sofa.]
[Footnote 6: Dr. Walcot [Wolcot: Peter Pindar], whose poetry is of a
farcical and humorous character.]
[Footnote 7: The _Pleasures of Memory_, by Rogers; and the _Pleasures of
Hope_, by Campbell.]
[Footnote 8: Joan of Arc, by Southey;--a volume of poems with an
introductory sonnet to Mary Wolstonecraft, and a poem, on the praise of
woman, breathes the same spirit.]
[Footnote 9: Alludes to the character of a volume of poems, entitled
Lyrical Ballads. Under this head also should be mentioned Smythe's
[Footnote 10: Characteristic of a volume of poems, the joint production
of Coleridge, Lloyd, and Lamb.]
[Footnote 11: Descriptive Poems, such as Leusden hill, by Thomas Crowe;
and the Malvern hills, by Joseph Cottle.]
[Footnote 12: Roscoe's Reign of Leo de Medici is interspersed with
poetry. Roscoe has also translated, THE NURSE, a poem, from the Italian
of Luigi Tansillo.]
[Footnote 13: Icelandic poetry, or the Edda of Saemund, translated by
Amos Cottle; and the Oberon of Wieland, by Sotheby.]
[Footnote 14: Thomas Maurice, the author of the Indian Antiquities, is
republishing his poems; the Song to Mithra is in the third volume of
[Footnote 15: The Paradise of Taste, and Pictures of Poetry, by
[Footnote 16: There is a tale of this character by Dr. Aikin, and the
Hermit of Warkworth, by Bishop Percy. It will please the friends of
taste to hear, that Cartwright's Armine and Elvira, which has been long
out of print, is now republishing.]
[Footnote 17: The Farmer's Boy, a poem just published, on THE SEASONS,
by Robert Bloomfield.]
[Footnote 18: Many of the anonymous poetical pieces thrown into
magazines, possess poetical merit. Those of a young lady in the Monthly
Magazine, will, I hope, in time be more generally known. Those of
Rushton, of Liverpool, will also, I hope, be published by some judicious
friend:--this worthy man is a bookseller, who has been afflicted with
blindness from his youth.]
HAYDON'S PARTY FROM THE _LIFE OF BENJAMIN ROBERT HAYDON_, BY TOM TAYLOR
(_See Letter_ 241, _page_ 537)
On December 28th the immortal dinner came off in my painting-room, with
Jerusalem towering up behind us as a background. Wordsworth was in fine
cue, and we had a glorious set-to,--on Homer, Shakespeare, Milton and
Virgil. Lamb got exceedingly merry and exquisitely witty; and his fun in
the midst of Wordsworth's solemn intonations of oratory was like the
sarcasm and wit of the fool in the intervals of Lear's passion. He made
a speech and voted me absent, and made them drink my health. "Now," said
Lamb, "you old lake poet, you rascally poet, why do you call Voltaire
dull?" We all defended Wordsworth, and affirmed there was a state of
mind when Voltaire would be dull. "Well," said Lamb, "here's
Voltaire--the Messiah of the French nation, and a very proper one too."
He then, in a strain of humour beyond description, abused me for putting
Newton's head into my picture,--"a fellow," said he, "who believed
nothing unless it was as clear as the three sides of a triangle." And
then he and Keats agreed he had destroyed all the poetry of the rainbow
by reducing it to the prismatic colours. It was impossible to resist
him, and we all drank "Newton's health, and confusion to mathematics."
It was delightful to see the good-humour of Wordsworth in giving in to
all our frolics without affectation and laughing as heartily as the best
By this time other friends joined, amongst them poor Ritchie who was
going to penetrate by Fezzan to Timbuctoo. I introduced him to all as "a
gentleman going to Africa." Lamb seemed to take no notice; but all of a
sudden he roared out, "Which is the gentleman we are going to lose?" We
than drank the victim's health, in which Ritchie joined.
In the morning of this delightful day, a gentleman, a perfect stranger,
had called on me. He said he knew my friends, had an enthusiasm for
Wordsworth and begged I would procure him the happiness of an
introduction. He told me he was a comptroller of stamps, and often had
correspondence with the poet. I thought it a liberty; but still, as he
seemed a gentleman, I told him he might come.
When we retired to tea we found the comptroller. In introducing him to
Wordsworth I forgot to say who he was. After a little time the
comptroller looked down, looked up and said to Wordsworth, "Don't you
think, sir, Milton was a great genius?" Keats looked at me, Wordsworth
looked at the comptroller. Lamb who was dozing by the fire turned round
and said, "Pray, sir, did you say Milton was a great genius?" "No, sir;
I asked Mr. Wordsworth if he were not." "Oh," said Lamb, "then you are a
silly fellow." "Charles! my dear Charles!" said Wordsworth; but Lamb,
perfectly innocent of the confusion he had created, was off again by the
After an awful pause the comptroller said, "Don't you think Newton a
great genius?" I could not stand it any longer. Keats put his head into
my books. Ritchie squeezed in a laugh. Wordsworth seemed asking himself,
"Who is this?" Lamb got up, and taking a candle, said, "Sir, will you
allow me to look at your phrenological development?" He then turned his
back on the poor man, and at every question of the comptroller he
"Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John
Went to bed with his breeches on."
The man in office, finding Wordsworth did not know who he was, said in a
spasmodic and half-chuckling anticipation of assured victory, "I have
had the honour of some correspondence with you, Mr. Wordsworth." "With
me, sir?" said Wordsworth, "not that I remember." "Don't you, sir? I am
a comptroller of stamps." There was a dead silence;--the comptroller
evidently thinking that was enough. While we were waiting for
Wordsworth's reply, Lamb sung out
"Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle."
"My dear Charles!" said Wordsworth,--
"Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John,"
chaunted Lamb, and then rising, exclaimed, "Do let me have another look
at that gentleman's organs." Keats and I hurried Lamb into the
painting-room, shut the door and gave way to inextinguishable laughter.
Monkhouse followed and tried to get Lamb away. We went back, but the
comptroller was irreconcilable. We soothed and smiled and asked him to
supper. He stayed though his dignity was sorely affected. However, being
a good-natured man, we parted all in good-humour, and no ill effects
All the while, until Monkhouse succeeded, we could hear Lamb struggling
in the painting-room and calling at intervals, "Who is that fellow?
Allow me to see his organs once more."
It was indeed an immortal evening. Wordsworth's fine intonation as he
quoted Milton and Virgil, Keats' eager inspired look, Lamb's quaint
sparkle of lambent humour, so speeded the stream of conversation, that
in my life I never passed a more delightful time. All our fun was within
bounds. Not a word passed that an apostle might not have listened to. It
was a night worthy of the Elizabethan age, and my solemn Jerusalem
flashing up by the flame of the fire, with Christ hanging over us like a
vision, all made up a picture which will long glow upon--
"that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude."
Keats made Ritchie promise he would carry his Endymion to the great
desert of Sahara and fling it in the midst.
Poor Ritchie went to Africa, and died, as Lamb foresaw, in 1819. Keats
died in 1821, at Rome. C. Lamb is gone, joking to the last. Monkhouse is
dead, and Wordsworth and I are the only two now living (1841) of that