The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb IV
Charles and Mary Lamb

Part 8 out of 11

Now, by our loves,
And by my hopes of happier wedlocks, some day
To be accomplish'd, give me his name!

'Tis no such serious matter. It was--Huntingdon.

How have three little syllables pluck'd from me
A world of countless hopes!--
Evasive Widow.

How, Sir! I like not this.

No, no, I meant
Nothing but good to thee. That other woman,
How shall I call her but evasive, false,
And treacherous?--by the trust I place in thee,
Tell me, and tell me truly, was the name
As you pronounced it?

Huntingdon--the name,
Which his paternal grandfather assumed,
Together with the estates, of a remote
Kinsman; but our high-spirited youth--


For sordid pelf to truck the family honours,
At risk of the lost estates, resumed the old style,
And answer'd only to the name of--


Of Halford--

A Huntingdon to Halford changed so soon!
Why, then I see, a witch hath her good spells,
As well as bad, and can by a backward charm
Unruffle the foul storm she has just been raising.
[_He makes the signal._]

My frank, fair spoken Widow! let this kiss,
Which yet aspires no higher, speak my thanks,
Till I can think on greater.

_Enter_ LUCY _and_ KATHERINE.


My sister here! and see, where with her comes
My serpent gliding in an angel's form,
To taint the new-born Eden of our joys.
Why should we fear them? We'll not stir a foot,
Nor coy it for their pleasures.
[_He courts the Widow_.]

LUCY (_to Katherine_.)

This your free,
And sweet ingenuous confession, binds me
For ever to you; and it shall go hard,
But it shall fetch you back your husband's heart,
That now seems blindly straying; or at worst,
In me you have still a sister.--Some wives, brother,
Would think it strange to catch their husbands thus
Alone with a trim widow; but your Katherine
Is arm'd, I think, with patience.

I am fortified
With knowledge of self-faults to endure worse wrongs,
If they be wrongs, than he can lay upon me;
Even to look on, and see him sue in earnest,
As now I think he does it but in seeming,
To that ill woman.

Good words, gentle Kate,
And not a thought irreverent of our Widow.
Why, 'twere unmannerly at any time,
But most uncourteous on our wedding day,
When we should shew most hospitable.--Some wine.
[_Wine is brought_.]

I am for sports. And now I do remember,
The old Egyptians at their banquets placed
A charnel sight of dead men's skulls before them,
With images of cold mortality,
To temper their fierce joys when they grew rampant.
I like the custom well: and ere we crown
With freer mirth the day, I shall propose,
In calmest recollection of our spirits,
We drink the solemn "Memory of the dead."

Or the supposed dead.
[_Aside to him_.]

Pledge me, good wife.
[_She fills_.]
Nay, higher yet, till the brimm'd cup swell o'er.

I catch the awful import of your words;
And, though I could accuse you of unkindness,
Yet as your lawful and obedient wife,
While that name lasts (as I perceive it fading,
Nor I much longer may have leave to use it)
I calmly take the office you impose;
And on my knees, imploring their forgiveness,
Whom I in heav'n or earth may have offended,
Exempt from starting tears, and woman's weakness,
I pledge you, Sir--the Memory of the Dead!
[_She drinks kneeling_.]

'Tis gently and discreetly said, and like
My former loving Kate.

Does he relent?

That ceremony past, we give the day
To unabated sport. And, in requital
Of certain stories, and quaint allegories,
Which my rare Widow hath been telling to me
To raise my morning mirth, if she will lend
Her patient hearing, I will here recite
A Parable; and, the more to suit her taste,
The scene is laid in the East.

I long to hear it.
Some tale, to fit his wife.

Now, comes my TRIAL.

The hour of your deliverance is at hand,
If I presage right. Bear up, gentlest sister.

"The Sultan Haroun"--Stay--O now I have it--
"The Caliph Haroun in his orchards had
A fruit-tree, bearing such delicious fruits,
That he reserved them for his proper gust;
And through the Palace it was Death proclaim'd
To any one that should purloin the same."

A heavy penance for so light a fault--

Pray you, be silent, else you put me out.
"A crafty page, that for advantage watch'd,
Detected in the act a brother page,
Of his own years, that was his bosom friend;
And thenceforth he became that other's lord,
And like a tyrant he demean'd himself,
Laid forced exactions on his fellow's purse;
And when that poor means fail'd, held o'er his head
Threats of impending death in hideous forms;
Till the small culprit on his nightly couch
Dream'd of strange pains, and felt his body writhe
In tortuous pangs around the impaling stake."

I like not this beginning--

Pray you, attend.
"The Secret, like a night-hag, rid his sleeps,
And took the youthful pleasures from his days,
And chased the youthful smoothness from his brow,
That from a rose-cheek'd boy he waned and waned
To a pale skeleton of what he was;
And would have died, but for one lucky chance."


Your wife--she faints--some cordial--smell to this.

Stand off. My sister best will do that office.

Are all his tempting speeches come to this?

What ail'd my wife?

A warning faintness, sir,
Seized on my spirits, when you came to where
You said "a lucky chance." I am better now,
Please you go on.

The sequel shall be brief.

But brief or long, I feel my fate hangs on it.

"One morn the Caliph, in a covert hid,
Close by an arbour where the two boys talk'd
(As oft, we read, that Eastern sovereigns
Would play the eaves-dropper, to learn the truth,
Imperfectly received from mouths of slaves,)
O'erheard their dialogue; and heard enough
To judge aright the cause, and know his cue.
The following day a Cadi was dispatched
To summon both before the judgment-seat:
The lickerish culprit, almost dead with fear,
And the informing friend, who readily,
Fired with fair promises of large reward,
And Caliph's love, the hateful truth disclosed."

What did the Caliph to the offending boy,
That had so grossly err'd?

His sceptred hand
He forth in token of forgiveness stretch'd,
And clapp'd his cheeks, and courted him with gifts,
And he became once more his favourite page.

But for that other--

He dismiss'd him straight,
From dreams of grandeur and of Caliph's love,
To the bare cottage on the withering moor,
Where friends, turn'd fiends, and hollow confidants,
And widows, hide, who, in a husband's ear,
Pour baneful truths, but tell not all the truth;
And told him not that Robert Halford died
Some moons before _his_ marriage-bells were rung.
Too near dishonour hast thou trod, dear wife,
And on a dangerous cast our fates were set;
But Heav'n, that will'd our wedlock to be blest,
Hath interposed to save it gracious too.
Your penance is--to dress your cheek in smiles,
And to be once again my merry Kate.--

Sister, your hand.
Your wager won makes me a happy man,
Though poorer, Heav'n knows, by a thousand pounds.
The sky clears up after a dubious day.
Widow, your hand. I read a penitence
In this dejected brow; and in this shame
Your fault is buried. You shall in with us,
And, if it please you, taste our nuptial fare:
For, till this moment, I can joyful say,
Was never truly Selby's Wedding Day.




In 1818, when Lamb wrote these words, he was forty-three and Coleridge
forty-six. The _Works_, in the first volume of which this dedication
appeared, were divided into two volumes, the second, containing prose,
being dedicated to Martin Burney, in the sonnet which I have placed on
page 45. The publishers of the _Works_ were Charles and James Ollier,
who, starting business about 1816, had already published for Leigh Hunt,
Keats, and Shelley.

For the allusion to the threefold cord, in the second paragraph, see the
note on page 313.

The ****** Inn was the Salutation and Cat, in Newgate
Street, since rebuilt, where Coleridge used to stay on his London
visits when he was at Cambridge, and where the landlord is said
to have asked him to continue as a free guest--if only he would
talk and talk. Writing to Coleridge in 1796 Lamb recalls "the
little smoky room at the Salutation and Cat, where we have sat
together through the winter nights, beguiling the cares of life with
Poesy;" and again, "I have been drinking egg-hot and smoking
Oronooko (associated circumstances, which ever forcibly recall to
my mind our evenings and nights at the Salutation)." Later he
added to these concomitants of a Salutation evening, "Egg-hot,
Welsh-rabbit, and metaphysics," and gave as his highest idea of
heaven, listening to Coleridge "repeating one of Bowles's sweetest
sonnets, in your sweet manner, while we two were indulging
sympathy, a solitary luxury, by the fire side at the Salutation."

The line--

Of summer days and of delightful years

is from Bowles--"Sonnet written at Ostend."

* * * * *

Page 3. Lamb's Earliest Poem. _Mille Vice Mortis._

In a MS. book that had belonged to James Boyer of Christ's Hospital, in
which his best scholars inscribed compositions, are these lines signed
Charles Lamb, 1789. All Lamb's Grecians are there too. The book was
described by the late Dykes Campbell, Lamb's most accomplished and
enthusiastic student, in the _Illustrated London News_, December 26,

* * * * *


This book was published by Cottle, of Bristol, in 1796. Lamb contributed
four poems, which were thus referred to by Coleridge in the Preface:
"The Effusions signed C.L. were written by Mr. CHARLES LAMB, of the
India House--independently of the signature their superior merit would
have sufficiently distinguished them." Lamb reprinted the first only
once, in 1797, in the second edition of Coleridge's _Poems_, the
remaining three again in his _Works_ in 1818. I have followed in the
body of this volume the text of these later appearances, the original
form of the sonnets being relegated to the notes.

Page 4. _As when a child on some long winter's night._

Some mystery attaches to the authorship of this sonnet. On December 1,
1794, Coleridge wrote to the editor of the _Morning Chronicle_ saying
that he proposed to send a series of sonnets ("as it is the fashion to
call them") addressed to eminent contemporaries; and he enclosed one to
Mr. Erskine. The editor, with almost Chinese politeness, inserted
beneath the sonnet this note: "Our elegant Correspondent will highly
gratify every reader of taste by the continuance of his exquisitely
beautiful productions." The series continued with Burke, Priestley,
Lafayette, Kosciusko, Chatham, Bowles, and, on December 29, 1794, Mrs.
Siddons--the sonnet here printed--all signed S.T.C.

But the next appearance of the sonnet was as an effusion by Lamb in
Coleridge's _Poems on Various Subjects_, 1796, signed C.L.; and its next
in the _Poems_, 1797, among Lamb's contributions. In 1803, however, we
find it in Coleridge's _Poems_, third edition, with no reference to Lamb
whatever. This probably means that Lamb and Coleridge had written it
together, that Coleridge's original share had been the greater, and that
Lamb and he had come to an arrangement by which Coleridge was to be
considered the sole author; for Lamb did not reprint it in 1818 with his
other early verse. Writing in 1796 to Coleridge concerning his treatment
of other of Lamb's sonnets, Lamb says: "That to Mrs. Siddons, now, you
were welcome to improve, if it had been worth it; but I say unto you
again, Coleridge, spare my ewe lambs." Such a distinction drawn between
the sonnet to Mrs. Siddons and the others supports the belief that Lamb
had not for it a deeply parental feeling.

This was not the only occasion on which Lamb and Coleridge wrote a
sonnet in partnership. Writing to Southey in December, 1794, Coleridge
says: "Of the following sonnet, the four _last_ lines were written by
Lamb, a man of uncommon genius...."


O gentle look, that didst my soul beguile,
Why hast thou left me? Still in some fond dream
Revisit my sad heart, auspicious smile!
As falls on closing flowers the lunar beam;
What time in sickly mood, at parting day
I lay me down and think of happier years;
Of joys, that glimmered in Hope's twilight ray,
Then left me darkling in a vale of tears.
O pleasant days of Hope--for ever flown!
Could I recall one!--But that thought is vain,
Availeth not Persuasion's sweetest tone
To lure the fleet-winged travellers back again:
Anon, they haste to everlasting night,
Nor can a giant's arm arrest them in their flight.

Subsequently Coleridge rewrote the final couplet.

The same letter to Southey informs us that the sonnet to Mrs. Siddons
was not Lamb's earliest poem, although it stands first in his poetical
works; for Coleridge remarks: "Have you seen his [Lamb's] divine sonnet,
'O! I could laugh to hear the winter wind'?" (see page 5).

Lamb printed the sonnet to Mrs. Siddons twice--in 1796 and 1797.

Page 4. _Was it some sweet device of Faery._

This sonnet passed through various vicissitudes. Lamb had sent it to
Coleridge for his _Poems on Various Subjects_ in 1796, and Coleridge
proceeded to re-model it more in accordance with his own views. The
following version, representing his modifications, was the one that
found its way into print as Lamb's:--

Was it some sweet device of faery land
That mock'd my steps with many a lonely glade,
And fancied wand'rings with a fair-hair'd maid?
Have these things been? Or did the wizard wand
Of Merlin wave, impregning vacant air,
And kindle up the vision of a smile
In those blue eyes, that seem'd to speak the while
Such tender things, as might enforce Despair
To drop the murth'ring knife, and let go by
His fell resolve? Ah me! the lonely glade
Still courts the footsteps of the fair-hair'd maid,
Among whose locks the west-winds love to sigh;
But I forlorn do wander, reckless where,
And mid my wand'rings find no ANNA there!

Lamb naturally protested when the result came under his eyes. "I love my
own feelings: they are dear to memory," he says in a letter in 1796,
"though they now and then wake a sigh or a tear. 'Thinking on divers
things foredone,' I charge you, Coleridge, spare my ewe lambs." Later,
when Coleridge's second edition was in preparation, Lamb wrote again
(January 10, 1797): "I need not repeat my wishes to have my little
sonnets printed _verbatim_ my last way. In particular, I fear lest you
should prefer printing my first sonnet [this one] as you have done more
than once, 'Did the wand of Merlin wave?' It looks so like _Mr_. Merlin,
the ingenious successor of the immortal Merlin, now living in good
health and spirits, and flourishing in magical reputation in Oxford
Street." The phrase "more than once" in the foregoing passage needs
explanation. It refers to the little pamphlet of sonnets, entitled
_Sonnets from Various Authors_, which Coleridge issued privately in
1796, and of which only one copy is now known to exist--that preserved
in the Dyce and Forster collection at South Kensington. The little
pamphlet contains twenty-eight sonnets in all, of which three are by
Bowles, four by Southey, four by Charles Lloyd, four by Coleridge, four
by Lamb, and others by various writers: all of which were chosen for
their suitability to be bound up with the sonnets of Bowles. Lamb's
sonnets were: "We were two pretty babes" (see page 9), "Was it some
sweet device" (printed with Coleridge's alterations), "When last I
roved" (see page 8), and "O! I could laugh" (see page 5).

The present sonnet belongs to the series of four love sonnets which is
completed by the one that follows, "Methinks, how dainty sweet it were,"
and those on page 8 beginning, "When last I roved" and "A timid grace."
Anna is believed to have been Ann Simmons, who lived at Blenheims, a
group of cottages near Blakesware, the house where Mrs. Field, Lamb's
grandmother, was housekeeper. Mrs. Field died in 1792, after which time
Lamb's long visits to that part of the country probably ceased. He was
then seventeen. Nothing is known of Lamb's attachment beyond these
sonnets, the fact that when he lost his reason for a short time in
1795-1796 he attributed the cause to some person unmentioned who is
conjectured to have been Anna, and the occasional references in the Ella
essays to "Alice W----" and to his old passion for her (see "Dream
Children" in particular, in Vol. II). The death of Mrs. Lamb in
September, 1796, and the duty of caring for and nursing his sister Mary,
which then devolved upon Charles, put an end to any dreams of private
happiness that he may have been indulging; and his little romance was
over. How deep his passion was we are not likely ever to know; but Lamb
thenceforward made very light of it, except in the pensive recollections
in the essays twenty-five years later. In November, 1796, when sending
Coleridge poems for his second edition, he says: "Do not entitle any of
my _things_ Love Sonnets, as I told you to call 'em; 'twill only make me
look little in my own eyes; for it is a passion of which I retain
nothing.... Thank God, the folly has left me for ever. Not even a review
of my love verses renews one wayward wish in me...." Again, in November,
1796, in another letter to Coleridge, about his poems in the 1797
edition, Lamb says: "Oh, my friend! I think sometimes, could I recall
the days that are past, which among them should I choose? not those
'merrier days,' not the 'pleasant days of hope,' not 'those wanderings
with a fair-hair'd maid,' which I have so often and so feelingly
regretted, but the days, Coleridge, of a _mother's_ fondness for her
_school-boy_." Lamb printed this sonnet three times--in 1796, 1797 and

* * * * *

Page 5. _Methinks how dainty sweet it were, reclin'd._

When this sonnet was printed by Coleridge in 1796 the sestet
was made to run thus:--

But ah! sweet scenes of fancied bliss, adieu!
On rose-leaf beds amid your faery bowers
I all too long have lost the dreamy hours!
Beseems it now the sterner Muse to woo,
If haply she her golden meed impart,
To realise the vision of the heart.

Lamb remonstrated: "I had rather have seen what I wrote myself, though
they bear no comparison with your exquisite lines--

"On rose-leaf'd beds, amid your faery bowers, etc.

I love my sonnets because they are the reflected images of my Own
feelings at different times." This sonnet was printed by Lamb three
times--in 1796, 1797 and 1798.

Page 5. _O! I could laugh to hear the midnight wind,_

This sonnet, written probably at Margate, was entitled, in 1796,
"Written at Midnight, by the Seaside, after a Voyage." The last
lines then ran:--

And almost wish'd it were no crime to die!
How Reason reel'd! What gloomy transports rose!
Till the rude dashings rock'd them to repose.

The couplet was Coleridge's, and Lamb protested (June 10, 1796),
describing them as good lines, but adding that they "must spoil
the whole with me who know it is only a fiction of yours and that
the rude dashings did in fact not rock me to repose."

When reprinted in 1797, the final couplet was omitted, asterisks
standing instead. The present sonnet was probably the earliest of Lamb's
printed poems. In the Elia essay "The Old Margate Hoy," Lamb states that
the first time he saw the sea was on a visit to Margate as a boy, by
water--probably the voyage that suggested this sonnet. Lamb printed the
sonnet three times--in 1796, 1797 and 1818.

* * * * *


Charles Lloyd (1775-1839), the son of Charles Lloyd, of Birmingham (a
cultured and philanthropical Quaker banker), joined Coleridge at Bristol
late in 1796 as his private pupil, and moved with the family to Nether
Stowey. Priscilla Farmer was Lloyd's maternal grandmother, to whom he
was much attached, and on her death he composed the sonnets that form
this costly quarto, published for Lloyd by Coleridge's friend, Joseph
Cottle, of Bristol, in the winter of 1796.

Page 6. _The Grandame._

Lamb sent these lines in their first state to Coleridge in June, 1796,
at, which time they were, I conjecture, part of a long blank-verse poem
which he was then meditating, and of which "Childhood," "Fancy Employed
on Divine Subjects," and "The Sabbath Bells" (see pages 9 and 10) were
probably other portions. The poem was never finished. On June 13, 1796,
he writes to Coleridge:--

"Of the blank verses I spoke of, the following lines are the only
tolerably complete ones I have writ out of not more than one hundred and
fifty. That I get on slowly you may fairly impute to want of practice in
composition, when I declare to you that (the few verses which you have
seen excepted) I have not writ fifty lines since I left school. It may
not be amiss to remark that my grandmother (on whom the verses are
written) lived housekeeper in a family the fifty or sixty last years of
her life--that she was a woman of exemplary piety and goodness--and for
many years before her death was terribly afflicted with a cancer in her
breast, which she bore with true Christian patience. You may think that
I have not kept enough apart the ideas of her heavenly and her earthly
master; but recollect I have designedly given into her own way of
feeling; and if she had a failing 'twas that she respected her master's
family too much, not reverenced her Maker too little. The lines begin
imperfectly, as I may probably connect 'em if I finish at all: and if I
do, Biggs shall print 'em (in a more economical way than you yours),
for, Sonnets and all, they won't make a thousand lines as I propose
completing 'em, and the substance must be wire-drawn."

When Charles Lloyd joined Coleridge later in the year, and was preparing
his _Poems in Memory of Priscilla Farmer_, Coleridge obtained Lamb's
permission for "The Grandame" to be included with them. The lines were
introduced by Lloyd in these words: "The following beautiful fragment
was written by CHARLES LAMB, of the India-House.--Its subject being the
same with that of my Poems, I was solicitous to have it printed with
them: and I am indebted to a Friend of the Author's for the permission."

The poem differed then very slightly from its present form. When the
book was sent to Lamb he remarked (in December, 1796) on "the odd
coincidence of two young men, in one age, carolling their
grandmothers.... I cannot but smile to see my Granny so gayly deck'd
forth [the book was expensively produced by Lloyd], tho', I think,
whoever altered 'thy' praises to 'her' praises--'thy' honoured memory to
'her' honoured memory [lines 27 and 28], did wrong--they best exprest my
feelings. There is a pensive state of recollection, in which the mind is
disposed to apostrophise the departed objects of its attachment; and,
breaking loose from grammatical precision, changes from the 1st to the
3rd, and from the 3rd to the 1st person, just as the random fancy or
feeling directs."

Mrs. Mary Field, _nee_ Bruton, Lamb's maternal grandmother, was
housekeeper at Blakesware house, near Widford, the seat of the Plumer
family for very many years, during the latter part of her life being
left in sole charge, for William Plumer had moved to his other seat,
Gilston, a few miles distant (see "Blakesmoor in H---- shire," and
notes, Vol. II). Lamb and his brother and sister visited their
grandmother at Blakesware as though in her own house. Mrs. Field died of
cancer in the breast, July 31, 1792, aged seventy-nine, and was buried
in Widford churchyard.

Approached from the east the churchyard seems to be anything but on the
hilltop, for one descends to it; but it stands on a ridge, and seen from
the north, or, as at the old Blakesware house, from the west, it appears
to crown an eminence. The present spire, though slender and tapering, is
not that which Lamb used to see. Mrs. Field's plain stone, whose
legibility was not long since threatened by overhanging branches, has
now been saved from danger and may still be read. It merely records the
name "Mary Feild" (a mistake of the stone-cutter) and the bare dates.

This poem was printed by Lamb three times--in 1796 (in Lloyd's book), in
1797 (with Coleridge) and in 1818.

* * * * *

Page 8. COLERIDGE'S _POEMS_, 1797.

Coleridge's _Poems on Various Subjects_, 1796, went into a second
edition in 1797 under the title, _Poems by S.T. Coleridge, Second
Edition, to which are now added Poems by Charles Lamb and Charles
Lloyd_. Coleridge invented a motto from Groscollius for the title-page,
bearing upon this poetical partnership: "Duplex nobis vinculum, et
amicitiae et similium junctarumque Camoenarum; quod utinam neque mors
solvat, neque temporis longinquitas!" "Double is the bond which binds
us--friendship, and a kindred taste in poetry. Would that neither death
nor lapse of time could dissolve it!"

Lamb's contributions were thus referred to by Coleridge in the Preface:
"There were inserted in my former Edition, a few Sonnets of my Friend
and old School-fellow, CHARLES LAMB. He has now communicated to me a
complete Collection of all his Poems; quae qui non prorsus amet, illum
omnes et Virtutes et Veneres odore." (Which things, whoever is not
unreservedly in love with, is detested by all the Virtues and the
Graces.) Lamb's poems came last in the book, an arrangement insisted
upon in a letter from him to Coleridge in November, 1796:--"Do you
publish with Lloyd, or without him? In either case my little portion may
come last; and after the fashion of orders to a country correspondent, I
will give directions how I should like to have 'em done. The title-page
to stand thus:--




Under this leaf the following motto, which, for want of room, I put over
leaf, I desire you to insert, whether you like it or no. May not a
gentleman choose what arms, mottoes, or armorial bearings the Herald
will give him leave, without consulting his republican friend, who might
advise none? May not a publican put up the sign of the _Saracen's Head_,
even though his undiscerning neighbour should prefer, as more genteel,
the _Cat and Gridiron_?


"This Beauty, in the blossom of my Youth,
When my first fire knew no adulterate incense,
Nor I no way to flatter but my fondness,
In the best language my true tongue could tell me,
And all the broken sighs my sick heart lend me,
I sued and served. Long did I love this Lady.



The dedication was printed as Lamb wished, in the form I have followed
above, and the book appeared.

Page 8. _When last I roved these winding wood-walks green,_

This was sent to Coleridge on June 1, 1796, in a letter containing also
the sonnets, "The Lord of Life," page 16; "A timid grace," page 8; and
"We were two pretty babes," page 9. It was written, said Lamb, "on
revisiting a spot, where the scene was laid of my 1st sonnet"--"Was it
some sweet device," page 4. Lamb printed this sonnet twice--in 1797 and
1818. Page 8. _A timid grace sits trembling in her eye._

This, the last of the four love sonnets (see note on page 310), seems to
be a survival of a discarded effort, for Lamb tells Coleridge, in the
letter referred to in the preceding note, that it "retains a few lines
from a sonnet of mine, which you once remarked had no 'body of thought'
in it." Lamb printed this sonnet twice--in 1797 and 1818.

Page 9. _If from my lips some angry accents fell,_

Lamb sent this sonnet, which is addressed to his sister, to Coleridge in
May, 1796. "The Sonnet I send you has small merit as poetry, but you
will be curious to read it when I tell you it was written in my
prison-house [an asylum] in one of my lucid Intervals." It is dated 1795
in Coleridge's _Poems_. Lamb printed the sonnet twice--in 1797 and 1818.

Page 9. _We were two pretty babes, the youngest she._

First printed in the _Monthly Magazine_, July, 1796. "The next and last
[wrote Lamb in the letter to Coleridge referred to in the notes on page
310] I value most of all. 'Twas composed close upon the heels of the
last ['A timid grace,' page 8], in that very wood I had in mind when I
wrote 'Methinks how dainty sweet' [page 5]." It is dated 1795 in
Coleridge's _Poems_. In the same letter Lamb adds:--"Since writing it, I
have found in a poem by Hamilton of Bangour [William Hamilton,
1704-1754, the Scotch poet, of Bangour, Linlithgowshire] these 2 lines
to happiness:--

"Nun sober and devout, where art thou fled,
To hide in shades thy meek contented head.

Lines eminently beautiful, but I do not remember having re'd 'em
previously, for the credit of my 10th and 11th lines. Parnell [Thomas
Parnell, 1679-1718] has 2 lines (which probably suggested the _above_)
to Contentment

"Whither ah whither art Thou fled,
To hide thy meek contented head.

"Cowley's exquisite Elegy on the death of his friend Harvey suggested
the phrase of 'we two'

"Was there a tree [about] that did not know
The love betwixt us two?--"

When Coleridge printed the sonnet in the pamphlet described on page 310,
he appended to the eleventh line the following note:--

Innocence, which, while we possess it, is playful as a babe, becomes
AWFUL when it has departed from us. This is the sentiment of the line
--a fine sentiment and nobly expressed.

Lamb printed this sonnet twice--in 1797 and 1818.

Page 9. _Childhood._

See note to "The Grandame," page 312. The "turf-clad slope" in line 4
was probably at Blakesware. It is difficult to re-create the scene, for
the new house stands a quarter of a mile west of the old one, the site
of which is hidden by grass and trees. Where once were gardens is now
meadow land.

Lamb printed this poem twice--in 1797 and 1818.

* * * * *

Page 10. _The Sabbath Bells_.

Lamb printed this poem twice--in 1797 and 1818. Church bells seem always
to have had charms for him (see the reference in _John Woodvil_, page
197, and in Susan Yates' story in _Mrs. Leicester's School_ in Vol.
III.). See note to "The Grandame."

Page 10. _Fancy Employed on Divine Subjects._

In the letter of December 5, 1796, quoted below, Lamb remarks concerning
this poem: "I beg you to alter the words 'pain and want,' to 'pain and
grief' (line 10), this last being a more familiar and ear-satisfying
combination. Do it, I beg of you." But the alteration either was not
made, or was cancelled later. The reference in lines 6, 7 and 8 is to
Revelation xxii. 1, 2. See note to "The Grandame." Lamb printed this
poem twice--in 1797 and 1818.

* * * * *

Page 11. _The Tomb of Douglas._

The play on which this poem was founded was the tragedy of "Douglas" by
John Home (1722-1808), produced in 1756. Young Norval, or Douglas, the
hero, after killing the false Glenalvon, is slain by his stepfather,
Lord Randolph, unknowing who he is. On hearing of Norval's death his
mother, Lady Randolph, throws herself from a precipice. In the letter to
Coleridge of December 5, 1796, quoted above, Lamb also copied out "The
Tomb of Douglas," prefixing these remarks:--"I would also wish to retain
the following if only to perpetuate the memory of so exquisite a
pleasure as I have often received at the performance of the tragedy of
Douglas, when Mrs. Siddons has been the Lady Randolph.... To understand
the following, if you are not acquainted with the play, you should know
that on the death of Douglas his mother threw herself down a rock; and
that at that time Scotland was busy in repelling the Danes."

Coleridge told Southey that Lamb during his derangement at the end of
1795 and beginning of 1796 believed himself at one time to be Young

Lamb printed this poem, which differs curiously in character from all
his other poetical works, only once--in 1797.

* * * * *

Page 12. _To Charles Lloyd._

Lamb copied these lines in a letter to Coleridge on January 18, 1797,
remarking:--"You have learned by this time, with surprise, no doubt,
that Lloyd is with me in town. The emotions I felt on his coming so
unlooked for are not ill expressed in what follows, and what if you do
not object to them as too personal, and to the world obscure, or
otherwise wanting in worth I should wish to make a part of our little

It must be remembered, in reading the poem, that Lamb was still in the
shadow of the tragedy in which he lost his mother, and, for a while, his
sister, and which had ruined his home. For other lines to Charles Lloyd
see page 21. This poem was printed by Lamb twice--in 1797 and 1818.

* * * * *

Page 13. _A Vision of Repentance_.

Writing to Coleridge on June 13, 1797, Lamb says of this Spenserian
exercise:--"You speak slightingly. Surely the longer stanzas were pretty
tolerable; at least there was one good line in it [line 5]:

"Thick-shaded trees, with dark green leaf rich clad.

To adopt your own expression, I call this a 'rich' line, a fine full
line. And some others I thought even beautiful." Lamb printed the poem
twice--in 1797 and 1818.

* * * * *


Page 16. _Sonnet: The Lord of Life shakes off his drowsihed_.

The _Monthly Magazine_, December, 1797. Signed Charles Lamb.

Lamb sent the first draft of this sonnet to Coleridge in 1796, saying
that it was composed "during a walk down into Hertfordshire early in
last Summer." "The last line," he adds, "is a copy of Bowles's 'to the
green hamlet in the peaceful plain.' Your ears are not so very
fastidious--many people would not like words so prosaic and familiar in
a sonnet as Islington and Hertfordshire." We must take Lamb's word for
it; but the late W.J. Craig found for the last line a nearer parallel
than Bowles'. In William Vallans' "Tale of the Two Swannes" (1590),
which is quoted in Leland's Itinerary, Hearne's edition, is the phrase:
"The fruitful fields of pleasant Hertfordshire." Lamb quotes his own
line in the _Elia_ essay "My Relations."

This sonnet is perhaps the only occasion on which Lamb, even in play,
wrote anything against his beloved city.

It may be noted here that this was Lamb's last contribution to the
_Monthly Magazine_, which had printed in the preceding number, November,
1797, Coleridge's satirical sonnets, signed Nehemiah Higginbottom, in
which Lamb and Lloyd were ridiculed, and which had perhaps some bearing
on the coolness that for a while was to subsist between Coleridge and
Lamb (see _Charles Lamb and the Lloyds_, 1898, pages 44-47).

Page 16. _To the Poet Cowper_.

The _Monthly Magazine_, December, 1796. Signed C. Lamb.

Lamb wrote these lines certainly as early as July, 1796, for he sends
them to Coleridge on the 6th of that month, adding:--

"I fear you will not accord entirely with my sentiments of Cowper, as
_exprest_ above, (perhaps scarcely just), but the poor Gentleman has
just recovered from his Lunacies, and that begets pity, and pity love,
and love admiration, and then it goes hard with People but they lie!"

Lamb admired Cowper greatly in those days--particularly his "Crazy Kate"
("Task," Book I., 534-556). "I have been reading 'The Task' with fresh
delight," he says on December 5, 1796. "I am glad you love Cowper. I
could forgive a man for not enjoying Milton, but I would not call that
man my friend, who should be offended with the 'divine chit-chat of
Cowper.'" And again a little later, "I do so love him."

Page 17. _Lines addressed, from London, to Sara and S.T.C. at Bristol,
in the Summer of 1796._

_The Monthly Magazine,_ January, 1797. Signed Charles Lamb.

Lamb sent the lines in their original state to Coleridge in the letter
of July 5, 1796, immediately before the words "_Let us prose,_" at the
head of that document as it is now preserved.

"Another minstrel" was Coleridge. Chatterton was the mysterious youth of
line 16. Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) was baptised at St. Mary
Redcliffe, Bristol; he was the nephew of the sexton; he brooded for many
hours a day in the church; he copied his antique writing from the
parchment in its muniment room; one of his later dreams was to be able
to build a new spire; and a cenotaph to his memory was erected by public
subscription in 1840 near the north-east angle of the churchyard.
Chatterton went to London on April 24, 1770, aged seventeen and a half,
and died there by his own hand on August 25 of the same year.

The poem originated in an invitation to Lamb from the Coleridges at
Bristol, which he hoped to be able to accept; but to his request for the
necessary holiday from the India House came refusal. Lamb went to Nether
Stowey, however, in the following summer and met Wordsworth there.

Lamb at one time wished these lines to be included among his poems in
the second edition of Coleridge's _Poems_, 1797. Writing on January 18,
1797, Lamb says: "I shall be sorry if that volume comes out, as it
necessarily must do, unless you print those very school boyish verses I
sent you on not getting leave to come down to Bristol last summer." At
the end of the letter he adds: "Yet I should feel ashamed that to you I
wrote nothing better. But they are too personal, almost trifling and
obscure withal."

* * * * *

Page 18. _Sonnet to a Friend._

The _Monthly Magazine,_ October, 1797. Signed Charles Lamb.

Lamb sent this sonnet to Coleridge on January 2, 1797, remarking: "If
the fraternal sentiment conveyed in the following lines will atone for
the total want of any thing like merit or genius in it, I desire you
will print it next after my other Sonnet to my Sister." The other sonnet
was, "If from my lips some peevish accents fall," printed with
Coleridge's _Poems_ in 1797 (see page 9), concerning which book Lamb was
writing in the above letter. Coleridge apparently decided against the
present sonnet, for it was not printed in that book.

Writing to Coleridge again a week later concerning the present poem,
Lamb said:--

"I am aware of the unpoetical caste of the 6 last lines of my last
sonnet, and think myself unwarranted in smuggling so tame a thing into
the book; only the sentiments of those 6 lines are thoroughly congenial
to me in my state of mind, and I wish to accumulate perpetuating tokens
of my affection to poor Mary."

It has to be borne in mind that only three months had elapsed since the
death of Mrs. Lamb, and Mary was still in confinement.

Page 18. _To a Young Lady_. Signed C.L.

_Monthly Magazine_, March, 1797, afterwards copied into the _Poetical
Register_ for 1803, signed C.L. in both cases. We know these to be
Lamb's from a letter to Coleridge of December 5, 1796. The identity of
the young lady is not now known.

* * * * *

Page 19. _Living without God in the World._

The _Annual Anthology,_ Vol. I., 1799.

Vol. I. of the _Annual Anthology_, edited by Southey for Joseph Cottle,
was issued in September, 1799; and that was, I believe, this poem's
first appearance as a whole. Early in 1799, however, Charles Lloyd had
issued a pamphlet entitled _Lines suggested by the Fast appointed on
Wednesday, February 27, 1799_ (Birmingham, 1799), in which, in a note,
he quotes a passage from Lamb's poem, beginning, "some braver spirits"
(line 23), and ending, "prey on carcasses" (line 36), with the prefatory
remark: "I am happy in the opportunity afforded me of introducing the
following striking extract from some lines, intended as a satire on the
Godwinian jargon."

Writing to Southey concerning this poem, Lamb says:-"I can have no
objection to you printing 'Mystery of God' [afterwards called 'Living
without God in the World'] with my name, and all due acknowledgments for
the honour and favour of the communication: indeed, 'tis a poem that can
dishonour no name. Now, that is in the true strain of modern modesto

* * * * *


Charles Lloyd left Coleridge early in 1797, and was in the winter
1797-1798 living in London, sharing lodgings with James White (Lamb's
friend and the author of _Original Letters, etc., of Sir John Falstaff_,
1796). It was then that the joint production of this volume was entered
upon. Of the seven poems contributed by Lamb only "The Old Familiar
Faces" (shorn of one stanza) and the lines "Composed at Midnight" were
reprinted by him: on account, it may be assumed, of his wish not to
revive in his sister, who would naturally read all that he published,
any painful recollections. Not that she refused in after years to speak
of her mother, but Lamb was, I think, sensitive for her and for himself
and the family too. As a matter of fact the circumstances of Mrs. Lamb's
death were known only to a very few of the Lambs' friends until after
Charles' death. It must be remembered that when _Blank Verse_ was
originally published, in 1798, Mary Lamb was still living apart, nor was
it known that she, would ever be herself again.

It was this little volume which gave Gillray an opportunity for
introducing Lamb and Lloyd into his cartoon "The New Morality,"
published in the first number of _The Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine_
(which succeeded Canning's _Anti-Jacobin_), August 1, 1798. Canning's
lines, "The New Morality," had been published in _The Anti-Jacobin_ on
July 9, 1798, containing the couplets:--

And ye five other wandering Bards that move
In sweet accord of harmony and love,
C----dge and S--th--y, L----d, and L----be and Co.,
Tune all your mystic harps to praise Lepaux!

In the picture Gillray introduced "Coleridge" as a donkey offering a
volume of "Dactylics," and Southey as another donkey, flourishing a
volume of "Saphics." Behind them, seated side by side, poring over a
manuscript entitled "Blank Verse, by Toad and Frog," are a toad and frog
which the Key states to be Lloyd and Lamb. It was in reference to this
picture that Godwin, on first meeting Lamb, asked him, "Pray, Mr. Lamb,
are you toad or frog?"

Page 21. _To Charles Lloyd._

_The Monthly Magazine_, October, 1797. Signed.

Lamb sent these lines to Coleridge in September, 1797, remarking: "The
following I wrote when I had returned from Charles Lloyd, leaving him
behind at Burton, with Southey. To understand some of it you must
remember that at that time he was very much perplexed in mind." Lloyd
throughout his life was given to religious speculations which now and
then disturbed his mind to an alarming extent, affecting him not unlike
the gloomy forebodings and fears that beset Cowper. On this particular
occasion he was in difficulty also as to his engagement with Sophia
Pemberton, with whom he was meditating elopement and a Scotch marriage.

Page 21. _Written on the Day of my Aunt's Funeral._

"This afternoon," Lamb wrote to Coleridge on February 13, 1797, "I
attend the funeral of my poor old aunt, who died on Thursday. I own I am
thankful that the good creature has ended all her days of suffering and
infirmity. She was to me the 'cherisher of infancy.' ..." Lamb's Aunt
Hetty was his father's sister. Her real name was Sarah Lamb. All that we
know of her is found in this poem, in the _Letters_, in the passages in
"Christ's Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago," and "My Relations;" in
the story of "The Witch Aunt," in _Mrs. Leicester's School_, and in a
reference in one of Mary Lamb's letters to Sarah Stoddart, where,
writing of her aunt and her mother,--"the best creatures in the
world,"--she speaks of Miss Lamb as being "as unlike a gentlewoman as
you can possibly imagine a good old woman to be;" contrasting her with
Mrs. Lamb, "a perfect gentlewoman." The description in "The Witch Aunt"
bears out Mary Lamb's letter.

After the tragedy of September, 1796, Aunt Hetty was taken into the
house of a rich relative. This lady, however, seems to have been of too
selfish and jealous a disposition (see Lamb's letter to Coleridge,
December 9, 1796) to exert any real effort to make her guest comfortable
or happy. Hence Aunt Hetty returned to her nephew.

"My poor old aunt [Lamb wrote to Coleridge on January 5, 1797], whom you
have seen, the kindest, goodest creature to me when I was at school; who
used to toddle there to bring me fag [food], when I, school-boy like,
only despised her for it, and used to be ashamed to see her come and sit
herself down on the old coal-hole steps as you went into the old
grammar-school, opend her apron, and bring out her bason with some nice
thing she had caused to be saved for me--the good old creature is now
lying on her death bed.... She says, poor thing, she is glad to come
home to die with me. I was always her favourite."

Line 24. _One parent yet is left_. John Lamb, who is described as he was
in his prime, as Lovel, in the _Elia_ essay on _"The Old Benchers of the
Inner Temple,"_ died in 1799.

Line 27. _A semblance most forlorn of what he was_. Lamb uses this line
as a quotation, slightly altered, in his account of Lovel.

* * * * *

Page 22. _Written a Year after the Events_.

Lamb sent this poem to Coleridge in September, 1797, entitling it
"Written a Twelvemonth after the Events," and adding, "Friday next,
Coleridge, is the day on which my Mother died." Mrs. Lamb's death, at
the hands of her daughter in a moment of frenzy, occurred on September
22, 1796. Lamb added that he wrote the poem at the office with "unusual
celerity." "I expect you to like it better than anything of mine; Lloyd
does, and I do myself." The version sent to Coleridge differs only in
minor and unimportant points from that in _Blank Verse_.

The second paragraph of the poem is very similar to a passage which Lamb
had written in a letter to Coleridge on November 14, 1796:--

"Oh, my friend! I think sometimes, could I recall the days that are
past, which among them should I choose? not those 'merrier days,' not
the 'pleasant days of hope,' not 'those wanderings with a fair-hair'd
maid,' which I have so often and so feelingly regretted, but the days,
Coleridge, of a _mother's_ fondness for her _school-boy_. What would I
give to call her back to earth for _one_ day!--on my knees to ask her
pardon for all those little asperities of temper which, from time to
time, have given her gentle spirit pain!--and the day, my friend, I
trust, will come. There will be 'time enough' for kind offices of love,
if 'Heaven's eternal year' be ours. Here-after, her meek spirit shall
not reproach me."

In the last paragraph of the poem is a hint of "The Old Familiar Faces,"
that was to follow it in the course of a few months.

Lines 52, 53. _And one, above the rest_. Probably Coleridge is meant.

Page 24. _Written soon after the Preceding Poem_.

The poem is addressed to Lamb's mother. Lamb seems to have sent a copy
to Southey, although the letter containing it has not been perserved,
for we find Southey passing it on to his friend C.W.W. Wynn on November
29, 1797, with a commendation: "I know that our tastes differ much in
poetry, and yet I think you must like these lines by Charles Lamb."

The following passage in Rosamund Gray, which Lamb was writing at this
time, is curiously like these poems in tone. It occurs in one of the
letters from Elinor Clare to her friend--letters in which Lamb seems to
describe sometimes his own feelings, and sometimes those of his sister,
on their great sorrow:--

"Maria! shall not the meeting of blessed spirits, think you, be
something like this?--I think, I could even now behold my mother without
dread--I would ask pardon of her for all my past omissions of duty, for
all the little asperities in my temper, which have so often grieved her
gentle spirit when living. Maria! I think she would not turn away from

"Oftentimes a feeling, more vivid than memory, brings her before me--I
see her sit in her old elbow chair--her arms folded upon her lap--a tear
upon her cheek, that seems to upbraid her unkind daughter for some
inattention--I wipe it away and kiss her honored lips.

"Maria! when I have been fancying all this, Allan will come in, with his
poor eyes red with weeping, and taking me by the hand, destroy the
vision in a moment.

"I am prating to you, my sweet cousin, but it is the prattle of the
heart, which Maria loves. Besides, whom have I to talk to of these
things but you--you have been my counsellor in times past, my companion,
and sweet familiar friend. Bear with me a little--I mourn the
'cherishers of my infancy.'"

* * * * *

Page 25. _Written on Christmas Day, 1797_.

Mary Lamb, to whom these lines were addressed, after seeming to be on
the road to perfect recovery, had suddenly had a relapse necessitating a
return to confinement from the lodging in which her brother had placed

Page 25. _The Old Familiar Faces_.

This, the best known of all Lamb's poems, was written in January, 1798,
following, it is suggested, upon a fit of resentment against Charles
Lloyd. Writing to Coleridge in that month Lamb tells of that little
difference, adding, "but he has forgiven me." Mr. J.A. Rutter, who,
through Canon Ainger, enunciated this theory, thinks that Lloyd may be
the "friend" of the fourth stanza, and Coleridge the "friend" of the
sixth. The old--but untenable--supposition was that it was Coleridge
whom Lamb had left abruptly. On the other hand it might possibly have
been James White, especially as he was of a resolutely high-spirited

In its 1798 form the poem began with this stanza:--

Where are they gone, the old familiar faces?
I had a mother, but she died, and left me,
Died prematurely in a day of horrors--
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

And the last stanza began with the word "For," and italicised the words

_And some are taken from me_.

I am inclined to think from this italicisation that it was Mary Lamb's
new seizure that was the real impulse of the poem.

The poem was dated January, 1798. Lamb printed it twice--in 1798 and

* * * * *

Page 26. _Composed at Midnight_.

On the appearance of Lamb's _Works_, 1818, Leigh Hunt printed in _The
Examiner_ (February 7 and 8, 1819) the passage beginning with line 32,
entitling it "A HINT to the GREATER CRIMINALS who are so fond of
declaiming against the crimes of the poor and uneducated, and in favour
of the torments of prisons and prison-ships in this world, and worse in
the next. Such a one, says the poet,

'on his couch
Lolling, &c.'"

* * * * *


The volume containing _John Woodvil_, 1802, which is placed in the
present edition among Lamb's plays, on page 149, included also the
"Fragments of Burton" (see Vol. I.) and two lyrics.

Page 28. _Helen_.

Lamb sent this poem to Coleridge on August 26, 1800, remarking:--"How do
you like this little epigram? It is not my writing, nor had I any finger
in it. If you concur with me in thinking it very elegant and very
original, I shall be tempted to name the author to you. I will just hint
that it is almost or quite a first attempt."

The author was, of course, Mary Lamb. In his _Elia_ essay "Blakesmoor in
H----shire" in the _London Magazine_, September, 1824, Lamb quoted the
poem, stating that "Bridget took the hint" of her "pretty whimsical
lines" from a portrait of one of the Plumers' ancestors. The portrait
was the cool pastoral beauty with a lamb, and it was partly to make fun
of her brother's passion for the picture that Mary wrote the lines.

The poem was reprinted in the _Works_, 1818.

* * * * *

Page 29. _Ballad from the German_.

This poem was written for Coleridge's translation of "The Piccolimini,"
the first part of Schiller's "Wallenstein," in 1800--Coleridge supplying
a prose paraphrase (for Lamb knew no German) for the purpose. The
original is Thekla's song in Act II., Scene 6:--

Der Eichwald brauset, die Wolken ziehn,
Das Maegdlein wandelt an Ufers Gruen,
Es bricht sich die Welle mit Macht, mit Macht,
Und sie singt hinaus in die finstre Nacht,
Das Auge von Weinen getruebet.
Das Herz ist gestorben, die Welt ist leer,
Und welter giebt sie dem Wunsche nichts mehr.
Du Heilige, rufe dein Kind zurueck,
Ich habe genossen das irdische Glueck,
Ich habe gelebt und geliebet.

Coleridge's own translation of Thekla's song, which was printed alone in
later editions of the play, ran thus:--

The cloud doth gather, the greenwood roar,
The damsel paces along the shore;
The billows they tumble with might, with might;
And she flings out her voice to the darksome night;
Her bosom is swelling with sorrow;
The world it is empty, the heart will die,
There's nothing to wish for beneath the sky:
Thou Holy One, call thy child away!
I've lived and loved, and that was to-day--
Make ready my grave-clothes to-morrow.

Barry Cornwall, in his memoir of Lamb, says: "Lamb used to boast that he
supplied one line to his friend in the fourth scene [Act IV., Scene i]
of that tragedy, where the description of the Pagan deities occurs. In
speaking of Saturn, he is figured as 'an old man melancholy.' 'That was
my line,' Lamb would say, exultingly." The line did not reach print in
this form.

Lamb printed his translation twice--in 1802 and 1818.

Page 29. _Hypochondriacus_.

* * * * *

Page 30. _A Ballad Noting the Difference of Rich and Poor_.

These two poems formed, in the _John Woodvil_ volume, 1802, portions of
the "Fragments of Burton," which will be found in Vol. I. Lamb
afterwards took out these poems and printed them separately in the
Works, 1818, in the form here given. Originally "Hypochondriacus" formed
Extract III. of the "Fragments," under the title "A Conceipt of
Diabolical Possession." The body of the verses differed very slightly
from the present state; but at the end the prayer ran: "_Jesu Mariae!
libera nos ab his tentationibus, oral, implorat, R.B. Peccator_"--R.B.
standing for Robert Burton, the anatomist of melancholy, the professed
author of the poem.

"The Old and Young Courtier" may be found in the _Percy Reliques_. Lamb
copied it into one of his Commonplace Books.

* * * * *


This book, in two volumes, was published by C. & J. Ollier in 1818: the
first volume containing the dedication to Coleridge that is here printed
on page 1, all of Lamb's poetry that he then wished to preserve, "John
Woodvil," "The Witch," the "Fragments of Burton," "Rosamund Gray" and
"Recollections of Christ's Hospital;" the second volume, dedicated to
Martin Charles Burney in the sonnet on page 45, containing criticisms,
essays and "Mr. H."

The scheme of the present volume makes it impossible to keep together
the poetical portion of Lamb's _Works_. In order, however, to present
clearly to the reader Lamb's mature selection, in 1818, of the poetry by
which he wished to be known, I have indicated the position in his
_Works_ of those poems that have already been printed on earlier pages.

Page 32. _Hester_.

Lamb sent this poem to Manning in March, 1803--"I send you some verses I
have made on the death of a young Quaker you may have heard me speak of
as being in love with for some years while I lived at Pentonville,
though I had never spoken to her in my life. She died about a month

Hester Savory was the daughter of Joseph Savory, a goldsmith in the
Strand. She was born in 1777 and was thus by two years Lamb's junior.
She married, in July, 1802, Charles Stoke Dudley, a merchant, and she
died in February of the following year, and was buried at Bunhill
Fields. Lamb was living in Pentonville from the end of 1796 until 1799.

* * * * *

Page 33. _Dialogue between a Mother and Child._ By Mary Lamb.

Charles Lamb, writing to Dorothy Wordsworth on June 2, 1804, says: "I
send you two little copies of verses by Mary L--b." Then follow this
"Dialogue" and the "Lady Blanch" verses on page 41. Lamb adds at the
end: "I wish they may please you: we in these parts are not a little
proud of them."

* * * * *

Page 34. _A Farewell to Tobacco._

First printed in _The Reflector_, No. IV., 1811.

Lamb had begun to think poetically of tobacco as early as 1803. Writing
to Coleridge in April 13 of that year, he says:--"What do you think of
smoking? I want your sober, _average, noon opinion_ of it. I generally
am eating my dinner about the time I should determine it. Morning is a
girl, and can't smoke--she's no evidence one way or the other; and Night
is so [? evidently] _bought over_, that he can't be a very upright
judge. May be the truth is, that _one_ pipe is wholesome; _two_ pipes
toothsome; _three_ pipes noisome; _four_ pipes fulsome; _five_ pipes
quarrelsome; and that's the _sum_ on't. But that is deciding rather upon
rhyme than reason."

Writing to William and Dorothy Wordsworth on September 28, 1805, Lamb
remarked regarding his literary plans:--"Sometimes I think of a
farce--but hitherto all schemes have gone off,--an idle brag or two of
an evening vaporing out of a pipe, and going off in the morning--but now
I have bid farewell to my 'Sweet Enemy' Tobacco, as you will see in my
next page, I perhaps shall set soberly to work. Hang work!"

On the next page Lamb copied the "Farewell to Tobacco," adding:--"I wish
you may think this a handsome farewell to my 'Friendly Traitress.'
Tobacco has been my evening comfort and my morning curse for these five
years: and you know how difficult it is from refraining to pick one's
lips even when it has become a habit. This Poem is the only one which I
have finished since so long as when I wrote 'Hester Savory' [in March,
1803].... The 'Tobacco,' being a little in the way of Withers (whom
Southey so much likes), perhaps you will somehow convey it to him with
my kind remembrances."

Mr. Bertram Dobell has a MS. copy of the poem, in Lamb's hand, inscribed
thus: "To his _quondam_ Brethren of the Pipe, Capt. B[urney], and J[ohn]
R[ickman], Esq., the Author dedicates this his last Farewell to
Tobacco." At the end is a rude drawing of a pipe broken--"My Emblem."

It is perhaps hardly needful to say that Lamb's farewell was not final.
He did not give up smoking for many years. When asked (Talfourd's
version of the story says by Dr. Parr) how he was able to emit such
volumes of smoke, he replied, "I toiled after it, sir, as some men toil
after virtue;" and Macready records having heard Lamb express the wish
to draw his last breath through a pipe and exhale it in a pun. Talfourd
says that in late life Lamb ceased to smoke except very occasionally.
But the late Mrs. Coe, who knew Lamb at Widford when she was a child,
told me that she remembered Lamb's black pipe and his devotion to it,
about 1830.

In his character sketch of the late Elia (see Vol. II.), written in
1822, Lamb describes the effect of tobacco upon himself. "He took it, he
would say, as a solvent of speech. Marry--as the friendly vapour
ascended, how his prattle would curl up sometimes with it! the
ligaments, which tongue-tied him, were loosened, and the stammerer
proceeded a statist!"

* * * * *

Page 38. _To T.L.H_.

First printed in _The Examiner_, January 1, 1815.

The lines are to Thornton Leigh Hunt, Leigh Hunt's little boy, who was
born in 1810, and, during his father's imprisonment for a libel on the
Regent from February, 1813, to February, 1815, was much in the Surrey
gaol. Lamb, who was among Hunt's constant visitors, probably first saw
him there. Lamb mentions him again in his _Elia_ essay "Witches and
other Night Fears." See also note to the "Letter to Southey," Vol. I.
Thornton Leigh Hunt became a journalist, and held an important post on
the _Daily Telegraph_. He died in 1873.

When printed in Leigh Hunt's _Examiner_, signed C.L., the poem had
these prefatory words by the editor:--

The following piece perhaps we had some personal reasons for not
admitting, but we found more for the contrary; and could not resist
the pleasure of contemplating together the author and the object of his
address,--to one of whom the Editor is owing for some of the lightest
hours of his captivity, and to the other for a main part of its continual

* * * * *

Page 41. _Lines Suggested by a Picture of Two Females by Lionardo da
Vinci_. By Mary Lamb.

This was the "Lady Blanch" poem which Lamb sent to Dorothy Wordsworth in
the letter of June 2, 1804 (see page 325). There it was entitled
"Suggested by a Print of 2 Females, after Lionardo da Vinci, called
Prudence and Beauty, which hangs up in our room." The usual title is
"Modesty and Vanity."

Page 41. _Lines on the Same Picture being Removed to make Place for a
Portrait of a Lady by Titian_. By Mary Lamb.

Writing to Dorothy Wordsworth on June 14, 1805, Lamb says: "You had her
[Mary's] Lines about the 'Lady Blanch.' You have not had some which she
wrote upon a copy of a girl from Titian, which I had hung up where that
print of Blanch and the Abbess (as she beautifully interpreted two
female figures from L. da Vinci) had hung, in our room. 'Tis light and

* * * * *

Page 42. _Lines on the Celebrated Picture by Lionardo da Vinci, called
The Virgin of the Rocks_.

This was the picture, one version of which hangs in the National
Gallery, that was known to Lamb's friends as his "Beauty," and which led
to the Scotchman's mistake in the _Elia_ essay "Imperfect Sympathies."

Page 42. _On the Same_. By Mary Lamb.

In the letter to Dorothy Wordsworth of June 14, 1805, quoted just above,
Lamb says: "I cannot resist transcribing three or four Lines which poor
Mary [she was at this time away from home in one of her enforced
absences] made upon a Picture (a Holy Family) which we saw at an Auction
only one week before she left home.... They are sweet Lines, and upon a
sweet Picture."

Mary Lamb wrote little verse besides the _Poetry for Children_ (see
Vol. III. of this edition). To the pieces that are printed in the
present volume I would add the lines suggested by the death of Captain
John Wordsworth, the poet's brother, in the foundering of the
_Abergavenny_ in February, 1805, when Coleridge was in Malta, which were
sent by Mary Lamb to Dorothy Wordsworth, May 7, 1805:--

Why is he wandering on the sea?
Coleridge should now with Wordsworth be.
By slow degrees he'd steal away
Their woe, and gently bring a ray
(So happily he'd time relief)
Of comfort from their very grief.
He'd tell them that their brother dead,
When years have passed o'er their head,
Will be remember'd with such holy,
True, and perfect melancholy,
That ever this lost brother John
Will be their hearts' companion.
His voice they'll always hear, his face they'll always see;
There's nought in life so sweet as such a memory.

* * * * *


Page 43. _To Miss Kelly_.

Frances Maria Kelly (1790-1882)--or Fanny Kelly, as she was usually
called--was Lamb's favourite actress of his middle and later life and a
personal friend of himself and his sister: so close that Lamb proposed
marriage to her. See Lamb's criticisms of Miss Kelly's acting in Vol.
I., and notes. Another sonnet addressed by Lamb to Miss Kelly will be
found on page 59 of the present volume.

Page 43. _On the Sight of Swans in Kensington Garden_. This is, I think,
Lamb's only poem the inspiration of which was drawn from nature.

* * * * *

Page 44. _The Family Name_.

John Lamb, Charles's father, came from Lincoln. A recollection of his
boyhood there is given in the _Elia_ essay "Poor Relations." The
"stream" seems completely to have ended with Charles Lamb and his sister
Mary: at least, research has yielded no descendants.

Crabb Robinson visited Goethe in the summer of 1829. The _Diary_ has
this entry: "I inquired whether he knew the name of Lamb. 'Oh, yes! Did
he not write a pretty sonnet on his own name?' Charles Lamb, though he
always affected contempt for Goethe, yet was manifestly pleased that his
name was known to him."

In the little memoir of Lamb prefixed by M. Amedee Pichot to a French
edition of the _Tales from Shakespeare_ in 1842 the following
translation of this sonnet is given:--


Dis-moi, d'ou nous viens-tu, nom pacifique et doux,
Nom transmis sans reproche?... A qui te devons-nous,
Nom qui meurs avec moi? mon glason de poete
A l'aieul de mon pere obscurement s'arrete.
--Peut-etre nous viens-tu d'un timide pasteur,
Doux comme ses agneaux, raille pour sa douceur.
Mais peut-etre qu'aussi, moins commune origine,
Nous viens-tu d'un heros, d'un pieux paladin,
Qui croyant honorer ainsi l'Agneau divin,
Te prit en revenant des champs de Palestine.
Mais qu'importe apres tout ... qu'il soit illustre ou non,
Je ne ferai jamais une tache a ce nom.

Page 44. _To John Lamb, Esq._

John Lamb, Charles's brother, was born in 1763 and was thus by twelve
years his senior. At the time this poem appeared, in 1818, he was
accountant of the South-Sea House. He died on October 26, 1821 (see the
_Elia_ essays "My Relations" and "Dream Children").

* * * * *

Page 45. _To Martin Charles Burney, Esq._

Lamb prefixed this sonnet to Vol. II. of his _Works_, 1818. In Vol. I.
he had placed the dedication to Coleridge which we have already seen.
Martin Charles Burney was the son of Rear-Admiral James Burney, Lamb's
old friend, and nephew of Madame d'Arblay. He was a barrister by
profession; dabbled a little in authorship; was very quaint in some of
his ways and given to curiously intense and sudden enthusiasms; and was
devoted to Mary Lamb and her brother. When these two were at work on
their _Tales from Shakespear_ Martin Burney would sit with them and
attempt to write for children too. Lamb's letter of May 24, 1830, to
Sarah Hazlitt has some amusing stories of his friend, at whom (like
George Dyer) he could laugh as well as love. Lamb speaks of him on one
occasion as on the top round of his ladder of friendship. Writing to
Sarah Hazlitt, Lamb says:--"Martin Burney is as good, and as odd as
ever. We had a dispute about the word 'heir,' which I contended was
pronounced like 'air'; he said that might be in common parlance; or that
we might so use it, speaking of the 'Heir at Law,' a comedy; but that in
the law courts it was necessary to give it a full aspiration, and to say
_hayer_; he thought it might even vitiate a cause, if a counsel
pronounced it otherwise. In conclusion, he 'would consult Serjeant
Wilde,' who gave it against him. Sometimes he falleth into the water;
sometimes into the fire. He came down here, and insisted on reading
Virgil's 'Eneid' all through with me (which he did), because a Counsel
must know Latin. Another time he read out all the Gospel of St. John,
because Biblical quotations are very emphatic in a Court of Justice. A
third time, he would carve a fowl, which he did very ill-favouredly,
because 'we did not know how indispensable it was for a barrister to do
all those sort of things well? Those little things were of more
consequence than we supposed.' So he goes on, harassing about the way to
prosperity, and losing it. With a long head, but somewhat a wrong
one----harum-scarum. Why does not his guardian angel look to him? He
deserves one: may be, he has tired him out."

Martin Burney, of whom another glimpse is caught in the _Elia_ essay
"Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading," died in 1860. At Mary Lamb's
funeral he was inconsolable.

* * * * *


The publication of this volume, in 1830, was due more to Lamb's kindness
of heart than to any desire to come before the world again as a poet.
But Edward Moxon, Lamb's young friend, was just starting his publishing
business, with Samuel Rogers as a financial patron; and Lamb, who had
long been his chief literary adviser, could not well refuse the request
to help him with a new book. _Album Verses_ became thus the first of the
many notable books of poetry which Moxon was to issue between 1830 and
1858, the year of his death. Among them Tennyson's _Poems_, 1833 and
1842; _The Princess_, 1847; _In Memoriam_, 1850; _Maud_, 1855; and
Browning's _Sordello_, 1840, and _Bells and Pomegranates_, 1843-1846.

The dedication of _Album Verses_ tells the story of its being:--




"I do not know to whom a Dedication of these Trifles is more properly
due than to yourself. You suggested the printing of them. You were
desirous of exhibiting a specimen of the _manner_ in which Publications,
entrusted to your future care, would appear. With more propriety,
perhaps, the 'Christmas,' or some other of your own simple, unpretending
Compositions, might have served this purpose. But I forget--you have bid
a long adieu to the Muses. I had on my hands sundry Copies of Verses
written for _Albums_--

"Those Books kept by modern young Ladies for show,
Of which their plain grandmothers nothing did know--

"or otherwise floating about in Periodicals; which you have chosen in
this manner to embody. I feel little interest in their publication. They
are simply--_Advertisement Verses_.

"It is not for me, nor you, to allude in public to the kindness of our
honoured Friend, under whose auspices you are become a Bookseller. May
that fine-minded Veteran in Verse enjoy life long enough to see his
patronage justified! I venture to predict that your habits of industry,
and your cheerful spirit, will carry you through the world.

"I am, Dear Moxon,

"Your Friend and sincere Well-wisher, CHARLES LAMB.

"ENFIELD, _1st June, 1830_."

The reference to "Christmas" is to Moxon's poem of that name, published
in 1829, and dedicated to Lamb.--The couplet concerning Albums is from
one of Lamb's own pieces (see page 104).--The Veteran in Verse was
Samuel Rogers, who, then sixty-seven, lived yet another twenty-five
years. Moxon published the superb editions of his _Italy_ and his
_Poems_ illustrated by Turner and Stothard.

Lamb's motives in issuing _Album Verses_ were cruelly misunderstood by
the _Literary Gazette_ (edited by William Jerdan). In the number for
July 10, 1830, was printed a contemptuous review beginning with this

If any thing could prevent our laughing at the present collection of
absurdities, it would be a lamentable conviction of the blinding and
engrossing nature of vanity. We could forgive the folly of the original
composition, but cannot but marvel at the egotism which has preserved,
and the conceit which has published.

Lamb himself probably was not much disturbed by Jerdan's venom, but
Southey took it much to heart, and a few weeks later sent to _The Times_
(of August 6, 1830) the following lines in praise of his friend:--


On the Reviewal of his _Album Verses_ in the _Literary Gazette_.

Charles Lamb, to those who know thee justly dear,
For rarest genius, and for sterling worth,
Unchanging friendship, warmth of heart sincere,
And wit that never gave an ill thought birth,
Nor ever in its sport infix'd a sting;
To us who have admired and loved thee long,
It is a proud as well as pleasant thing
To hear thy good report, now borne along
Upon the honest breath of public praise:
We know that with the elder sons of song,
In honouring whom thou hast delighted still,
Thy name shall keep its course to after days.
The empty pertness, and the vulgar wrong,
The flippant folly, the malicious will,
Which have assailed thee, now, or heretofore,
Find, soon or late, their proper meed of shame;
The more thy triumph, and our pride the more,
When witling critics to the world proclaim,
In lead, their own dolt incapacity.
Matter it is of mirthful memory
To think, when thou wert early in the field,
How doughtily small Jeffrey ran at thee
A-tilt, and broke a bulrush on thy shield.
And now, a veteran in the lists of fame,
I ween, old Friend! thou art not worse bested
When with a maudlin eye and drunken aim,
Dulness hath thrown a _jerdan_ at thy head.


This was, I think, Southey's first public utterance concerning Lamb
since Lamb's famous open letter to him of October, 1823 (see Vol. I.).

Lamb wrote to Bernard Barton in the same month: "How noble ... in R.S.
to come forward for an old friend who had treated him so unworthily,"
For the critics, Lamb said in the same letter, he did not care the "five
hundred thousandth part of a half-farthing;" and we can believe him. On
page 123 will be found, however, an epigram on the _Literary Gazette_.

* * * * *


Page 46. _In the Album of a Clergyman's Lady._

This lady was probably Mrs. Williams, of Fornham, in Suffolk, in whose
house Lamb's adopted daughter, Emma Isola, lived as a governess in
1829-1830. The epitaph on page 65 and the acrostic on page 107 were
written for the same lady.

Page 46. _In the Autograph Book of Mrs. Sergeant W----._

Mrs. Sergeant Wilde, _nee_ Wileman, was the first wife of Thomas Wilde,
afterwards Lord Truro (1782-1855), for whose election at Newark in 1831
Lamb is said to have written facetious verses (see my large edition).
The Wildes were Lamb's neighbours at Enfield.

* * * * *

Page 47. _In the Album of Lucy Barton._

These lines were sent by Lamb to Lucy Barton's father, Bernard Barton,
the Quaker poet, in the letter of September 30, 1824. Lucy Barton, who
afterwards became the wife of Edward FitzGerald, the translator of Omar
Khayyam, lived until November 27, 1898. She retained her faculties
almost to the end, and in 1892 kindly wrote out for me her memory of a
visit paid with her father to the Lambs at Colebrook Row about 1825--a
little reminiscence first printed in _Bernard Barton and His Friends,_

* * * * *

Page 48. _In the Album of Miss----._

This poem was first printed in _Blackwood's Magazine_, May, 1829,
entitled "For a Young Lady's Album." The identity of the young lady is
not now discoverable: probably a school friend of Emma Isola's.

Page 48. _In the Album of a very young Lady._

Josepha was a daughter of Mrs. Williams, of Fornham.

* * * * *

Page 49. _In the Album of a French Teacher._

First printed in _Blackwood's Magazine,_ June, 1829, entitled "For the
Album of: Miss----, French Teacher at Mrs. Gisborn's School, Enfield."
Page 49. _In the Album of Miss Daubeny._

Miss Daubeny was a schoolfellow of Emma Isola's, at Dulwich.

* * * * *

Page 50. _In the Album of Mrs. Jane Towers._

Charles Clarke--in line 7--was Charles Cowden Clarke (1787-1877), a
friend of the Lambs not only for his own sake, but for that of his wife,
Mary Victoria Novello, whom he married in 1828 and who died as recently
as 1898. Their _Recollections of Writers,_ 1878, have many interesting
reminiscences of Charles and Mary Lamb. Writing to Cowden Clarke on
February 25, 1828, Lamb says:--"I had a pleasant letter from your
sister, greatly over acknowledging my poor sonnet.... Alas for
sonnetting,'tis as the nerves are; all the summer I was dawdling among
green lanes, and verses came as thick as fancies. I am sunk winterly
below prose and zero."

Mrs. Towers lived at Standerwick, in Somersetshire, and was fairly well
known in her day as a writer of books for children, _The Children's
Fireside,_ etc.

* * * * *

Page 50. _In my own Album._

This poem was first printed in _The Bijou,_ 1828, edited by William
Fraser, under the title "Verses for an Album."

* * * * *


Page 51. _Angel Help._

This poem was first printed in the _New Monthly Magazine,_ 1827, with
trifling differences, and the addition, at the end, of this couplet:--

Virtuous Poor Ones, sleep, sleep on,
And, waking, find your labours done.

I am afraid that the "Nonsense Verses" on page 123 represent an attempt
to make fun of this beautiful poem.

Aders' house in Euston Square was hung with engravings principally of
the German school (see the poem on page 94 addressed to him).

* * * * *

Page 52. _The Christening._

These lines were first printed in _Blackwood's Magazine,_ May, 1829.

* * * * *

Page 53. _On an Infant Dying as soon as Born._

This poem was first printed in _The Gem,_ 1829. _The Gem_ was then
edited by Thomas Hood, whose child--his firstborn--it was thatinspired
the poem. Lamb sent the verses to Hood in May, 1827.

This is, I think, in many ways Lamb's most remarkable poem.

Hood's own poem on the same event, printed in _Memorials of Thomas
Hood_, by his daughter, 1860, has some of the grace and tenderness of
the Greek Anthology:--

Little eyes that scarce did see,
Little lips that never smiled;
Alas! my little dear dead child,
Death is thy father, and not me,
I but embraced thee, soon as he!

* * * * *

Page 55. _To Bernard Barton._

These lines were sent to Barton in 1827, together with the picture. On
June 11, Lamb wrote again:--


"One word more of the picture verses, and that for good and all; pray,
with a neat pen alter one line--

"His learning seems to lay small stress on--


"His learning lays no mighty stress on,

"to avoid the unseemly recurrence (ungrammatical also) of 'seems' in the
next line, besides the nonsense of 'but' there, as it now stands. And I
request you, as a personal favor to me, to erase the last line of all,
which I should never have written from myself. The fact is, it was a
silly joke of Hood's, who gave me the frame, (you judg'd rightly it was
not its own,) with the remark that you would like it because it was
b-----d b-----d [the last line in question was 'And broad brimmed, as
the owner's calling'] and I lugg'd it in: but I shall be quite hurt if
it stands, because tho' you and yours have too good sense to object to
it, I would not have a sentence of mine seen that to any foolish ear
might sound unrespectful to thee. Let it end at 'appalling.'"

Line 1. _Woodbridge_. Barton lived at Woodbridge, in Suffolk, where he
was a clerk in the old Quaker bank of Dykes & Alexander.

Line 15. _Ann Knight_. Ann Knight was a Quaker lady, also resident at
Woodbridge, who kept a small school there, and who had visited the Lambs
in London and greatly charmed them.

Line 16. _Classic Mitford_. The Rev. John Mitford (1781-1859) was rector
of Benhall, in Suffolk, near Woodbridge, and a friend of Barton's,
through whom Lamb's acquaintance with him was carried on. Mitford edited
many poets, among them Vincent Bourne. He was editor of the _Gentleman's
Magazine_ from 1834 to 1850.

Footnote. _Carrington Bowles_. Carington Bowles, 69 St. Paul's
Churchyard, was the publisher of this print, which was the work of the
elder Morland, and was engraved by Philip Dawe, father of Lamb's George
Dawe (see the essay "Recollections of a late Royal Academician," Vol.

Lines 26, 27, 28. _Obstinate ... Banyan_. It was not Obstinate, but
Christian, who put his fingers in his ears (see the first pages of _The
Pilgrim's Progress_). Lamb had the same slip of memory in his paper "On
the Custom of Hissing at the Theatre" (Vol. I.).

* * * * *

Page 56. _The Young Catechist_. Lamb sent this poem to Barton in a
letter in 1827, wherein he tells the story of its inception:--"An artist
who painted me lately, had painted a Blackamoor praying, and not filling
his canvas, stuff'd in his little girl aside of Blacky, gaping at him
unmeaningly; and then didn't know what to call it. Now for a picture to
be promoted to the Exhibition (Suffolk Street) as Historical, a subject
is requisite. What does me. I but christen it the 'Young Catechist,' and
furbishd it with Dialogue following, which dubb'd it an Historical
Painting. Nothing to a friend at need.... When I'd done it the Artist
(who had clapt in Miss merely as a fill-space) swore I exprest his full
meaning, and the damsel bridled up into a Missionary's vanity. I like
verses to explain Pictures: seldom Pictures to illustrate Poems."

The artist was Henry Meyer (1782?-1847), one of the foundation members
of the Society of British Artists in Suffolk Street, to the exhibition
of which in 1826 he sent his portrait of Lamb, now in the India Office.
This picture was in a shop in the Charing Cross Road in 1910.

* * * * *

Page 57. _She is Going_.

These lines were written for I know not what occasion, but the artist
Henry Meyer engraved a picture of G.J.L. Noble in 1837 and Lamb's lines
were placed below.

Page 57. _To a Young Friend_.

The young friend was Emma Isola, who lived with the Lambs for some years
as their adopted daughter. Emma Isola was the daughter of Charles Isola,
Esquire Bedell of the University of Cambridge, who died in 1823, leaving


Back to Full Books