The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Vol. 5
Edited by E. V. Lucas

Part 13 out of 14

you of the Nativity?--'tis our rosy-cheeked, homestalled divines, whose
faces shine to the tune of _unto us a child_; faces fragrant with the
mince-pies of half a century, that alone can authenticate the cheerful
mystery--I feel.

I feel my bowels refreshed with the holy tide--my zeal is great against
the unedified heathen. Down with the Pagodas--down with the idols--
Ching-chong-fo--and his foolish priesthood! Come out of Babylon, O my
friend! for her time is come, and the child that is native, and the
Proselyte of her gates, shall kindle and smoke together! And in sober
sense what makes you so long from among us, Manning? You must not expect
to see the same England again which you left.

Empires have been overturned, crowns trodden into dust, the face of the
western world quite changed: your friends have all got old--those you
left blooming--myself (who am one of the few that remember you) those
golden hairs which you recollect my taking a pride in, turned to silvery
and grey. Mary has been dead and buried many years--she desired to be
buried in the silk gown you sent her. Rickman, that you remember active
and strong, now walks out supported by a servant-maid and a stick.
Martin Burney is a very old man. The other day an aged woman knocked at
my door, and pretended to my acquaintance; it was long before I had the
most distant cognition of her; but at last together we made her out to
be Louisa, the daughter of Mrs. Topham, formerly Mrs. Morton, who had
been Mrs. Reynolds, formerly Mrs. Kenney, whose first husband was
Holcroft, the dramatic writer of the last century. St. Paul's Church is
a heap of ruins; the Monument isn't half so high as you knew it, divers
parts being successively taken down which the ravages of time had
rendered dangerous; the horse at Charing Cross is gone, no one knows
whither,--and all this has taken place while you have been settling
whether Ho-hing-tong should be spelt with a ---- or a ----. For aught I
see you had almost as well remain where you are, and not come like a
Struldbug into a world where few were born when you went away. Scarce
here and there one will be able to make out your face; all your opinions
will be out of date, your jokes obsolete, your puns rejected with
fastidiousness as wit of the last age. Your way of mathematics has
already given way to a new method, which after all is I believe the old
doctrine of Maclaurin, new-vamped up with what he borrowed of the
negative quantity of fluxions from Euler.

Poor Godwin! I was passing his tomb the other day in Cripplegate
churchyard. There are some verses upon it written by Miss Hayes, which
if I thought good enough I would send you. He was one of those who would
have hailed your return, not with boisterous shouts and clamours, but
with the complacent gratulations of a philosopher anxious to promote
knowledge as leading to happiness--but his systems and his theories are
ten feet deep in Cripplegate mould. Coleridge is just dead, having lived
just long enough to close the eyes of Wordsworth, who paid the debt to
nature but a week or two before. Poor Col., but two days before he died
he wrote to a bookseller proposing an epic poem on the "Wanderings of
Cain," in twenty-four books. It is said he has left behind him more than
forty thousand treatises in criticism and metaphysics, but few of them
in a state of completion. They are now destined, perhaps, to wrap up
spices. You see what mutations the busy hand of Time has produced, while
you have consumed in foolish voluntary exile that time which might have
gladdened your friends--benefited your country; but reproaches are
useless. Gather up the wretched reliques, my friend, as fast as you can,
and come to your old home. I will rub my eyes and try to recognise you.
We will shake withered hands together, and talk of old things--of St.
Mary's Church and the barber's opposite, where the young students in
mathematics used to assemble. Poor Crisp, that kept it afterwards, set
up a fruiterer's shop in Trumpington-street, and for aught I know,
resides there still, for I saw the name up in the last journey I took
there with my sister just before she died. I suppose you heard that I
had left the India House, and gone into the Fishmongers' Almshouses over
the bridge. I have a little cabin there, small and homely; but you shall
be welcome to it. You like oysters, and to open them yourself; I'll get
you some if you come in oyster time. Marshall, Godwin's old friend, is
still alive, and talks of the faces you used to make.

Come as soon as you can. C. LAMB.

[Since Lamb's last letter Manning had entered Lhassa, the sacred city of
Thibet, being the first Englishman to do so. He remained there until
April, 1812, when he returned to Calcutta. Then he took up his abode
once more in Canton, and, in 1816, moved to Peking as interpreter to
Lord Amherst's embassy, returning to England the following year.

"Norfolcian." Manning was a Norfolk man.

"Maclaurin." Here Lamb surprises the reader by a reasonable remark.
Colin Maclaurin, the mathematician, was the author of _A Treatise of

Coleridge actually had begun many years before an epic on the subject of
the "Wanderings of Cain."]


Dec. 26th, 1815.

Dear Manning,--Following your brother's example, I have just ventured
one letter to Canton, and am now hazarding another (not exactly a
duplicate) to St. Helena. The first was full of unprobable romantic
fictions, fitting the remoteness of the mission it goes upon; in the
present I mean to confine myself nearer to truth as you come nearer
home. A correspondence with the uttermost parts of the earth necessarily
involves in it some heat of fancy; it sets the brain agoing; but I can
think on the half-way house tranquilly. Your friends, then, are not all
dead or grown forgetful of you through old age, as that lying letter
asserted, anticipating rather what must happen if you kept tarrying on
for ever on the skirts of creation, as there seemed a danger of your
doing--but they are all tolerably well and in full and perfect
comprehension of what is meant by Manning's coming home again. Mrs.
Kenney (ci-devant Holcroft) never let her tongue run riot more than in
remembrances of you. Fanny expends herself in phrases that can only be
justified by her romantic nature. Mary reserves a portion of your silk,
not to be buried in (as the false nuncio asserts), but to make up spick
and span into a new bran gown to wear when you come. I am the same as
when you knew me, almost to a surfeiting identity. This very night I am
going to _leave off tobacco_! Surely there must be some other world in
which this unconquerable purpose shall be realised. The soul hath not
her generous aspirings implanted in her in vain. One that you knew, and
I think the only one of those friends we knew much of in common, has
died in earnest. Poor Priscilla, wife of Kit Wordsworth! Her brother
Robert is also dead, and several of the grown-up brothers and sisters,
in the compass of a very few years. Death has not otherwise meddled much
in families that I know. Not but he has his damn'd eye upon us, and is
w[h]etting his infernal feathered dart every instant, as you see him
truly pictured in that impressive moral picture, "The good man at the
hour of death." I have in trust to put in the post four letters from
Diss, and one from Lynn, to St. Helena, which I hope will accompany this
safe, and one from Lynn, and the one before spoken of from me, to
Canton. But we all hope that these latter may be waste paper. I don't
know why I have forborne writing so long. But it is such a forlorn hope
to send a scrap of paper straggling over wide oceans. And yet I know
when you come home, I shall have you sitting before me at our fireside
just as if you had never been away. In such an instant does the return
of a person dissipate all the weight of imaginary perplexity from
distance of time and space! I'll promise you good oysters. Cory is dead,
that kept the shop opposite St. Dunstan's, but the tougher materials of
the shop survive the perishing frame of its keeper. Oysters continue to
flourish there under as good auspices. Poor Cory! But if you will absent
yourself twenty years together, you must not expect numerically the same
population to congratulate your return which wetted the sea-beach with
their tears when you went away. Have you recovered the breathless
stone-staring astonishment into which you must have been thrown upon
learning at landing that an Emperor of France was living in St. Helena?
What an event in the solitude of the seas! like finding a fish's bone at
the top of Plinlimmon; but these things are nothing in our western
world. Novelties cease to affect. Come and try what your presence can.

God bless you.--Your old friend, C. LAMB.

[Robert Lloyd had died in 1811, and within a few days one of his
brothers and one of his sisters.

"The good man at the hour of death." I have not found the picture to
which Lamb refers. Probably a popular print of the day, or he may have
been incorrectly remembering Blake's "Death of the Good Old Man" in
Blair's _Grave_.

Manning, by changing his plans, did not reach St. Helena when he
expected to; not, indeed, until July, 1817, when he met Napoleon.]


[Dated at end: April 9, 1816.]

Dear Wordsworth--Thanks for the books you have given me and for all the
Books you mean to give me. I will bind up the Political Sonnets and Ode
according to your Suggestion. I have not bound the poems yet. I wait
till People have done borrowing them. I think I shall get a chain, and
chain them to my shelves More Bodleiano, and People may come and read
them at chain's length. For of those who borrow, some read slow, some
mean to read but don't read, and some neither read nor meant to read,
but borrow to leave you an opinion of their sagacity. I must do my
money-borrowing friends the justice to say that there is nothing of this
caprice or wantonness of alienation in them. When they borrow my money,
they never fail to make use of it. Coleridge has been here about a
fortnight. His health is tolerable at present, though beset with
temptations. In the first place, the Cov. Card. Manager has declined
accepting his Tragedy, tho' (having read it) I see no reason upon earth
why it might not have run a very fair chance, tho' it certainly wants a
prominent part for a Miss O Neil or a Mr. Kean. However he is going to
day to write to Lord Byron to get it to Drury. Should you see Mrs. C.,
who has just written to C. a letter which I have given him, it will be
as well to say nothing about its fate till some answer is shaped from
Drury. He has two volumes printing together at Bristol, both finished as
far as the composition goes; the latter containing his fugitive Poems,
the former his Literary Life. Nature, who conducts every creature by
instinct to its best end, has skilfully directed C. to take up his abode
at a Chemist's Laboratory in Norfolk Street. She might as well have sent
a Helluo Librorum for cure to the Vatican. God keep him inviolate among
the traps and pitfalls. He has done pretty well as yet.

Tell Miss H. my sister is every day wishing to be quietly sitting down
to answer her very kind Letter, but while C. stays she can hardly find a
quiet time, God bless him.

Tell Mrs. W. her Postscripts are always agreeable. They are so legible
too. Your manual graphy is terrible, dark as Lycophron. "Likelihood" for
instance is thus typified [_here Lamb makes an illegible scribble_].

I should not wonder if the constant making out of such Paragraphs is the
cause of that weakness in Mrs. W.'s Eyes as she is tenderly pleased to
express it. Dorothy I hear has mounted spectacles; so you have
deoculated two of your dearest relations in life. Well, God bless you
and continue to give you power to write with a finger of power upon our
hearts what you fail to impress in corresponding lucidness upon our
outward eyesight.

Mary's Love to all, She is quite well.

I am call'd off to do the deposits on Cotton Wool--but why do I relate
this to you who want faculties to comprehend the great mystery of
Deposits, of Interest, of Warehouse rent, and Contingent Fund--Adieu. C.

A longer Letter when C. is gone back into the Country, relating his
success, &c.--_my_ judgment of _your_ new Books &c. &c.--I am scarce
quiet enough while he stays.

Yours again
C. L.

Tuesday 9 Apr. 1816.

[Wordsworth had sent Lamb, presumably in proof (see next letter),
_Thanksgiving Ode_, 18 _Jan_. 1816, _with other short pieces chiefly
referring to recent events_, 1816--the subject of the ode being the
peace that had come upon Europe with the downfall of Napoleon. It
follows in the collected works the sonnets to liberty.

"More Bodleiano." According to Macray's _Annals of the Bodleian Library_
(second edition, 1890, page 121), books seem to have been chained in the
Bodleian Library up to 1751. The process of removing the chains seems to
have begun in 1757. In 1761 as many as 1,448 books were unchained at a
cost of a 1/2d. a piece. A dozen years later discarded chains were sold at
the rate of 2d. for a long chain, 11/2d. for a short one, and if one
hankered after a hundred-weight of them, the wish could be gratified on
payment of 14s. Many loose chains are still preserved in the library as

"For of those who borrow." Lamb's _Elia_ essay, "The Two Races of Men,"
may have had its germ in this passage.

Coleridge came to London from Calne in March bringing with him the
manuscript of "Zapolya." He had already had correspondence with Lord
Byron concerning a tragedy for Drury Lane, on whose committee Byron had
a seat, but he had done nothing towards writing it. "Zapolya" was never
acted. It was published in 1817. Coleridge's lodgings were at 43 Norfolk
Street, Strand. See next letter for further news of Coleridge at this


[April 26, 1816.]


Please to state the Weights and Amounts of the following Lots of sold
Sale, 181 for Your obedient Servant,

_Accountant's Office_,
26 Apr. 1816

Dear W. I have just finished the pleasing task of correcting the Revise
of the Poems and letter. I hope they will come out faultless. One
blunder I saw and shuddered at. The hallucinating rascal had printed
_battered_ for _battened_, this last not conveying any distinct sense to
his gaping soul. The Reader (as they call 'em) had discovered it and
given it the marginal brand, but the substitutory _n_ had not yet
appeared. I accompanied his notice with a most pathetic address to the
Printer not to neglect the Correction. I know how such a blunder would
"batter at your Peace." [_Batter is written batten and corrected to
batter in the margin_.] With regard to the works, the Letter I read with
unabated satisfaction. Such a thing was wanted, called for. The parallel
of Cotton with Burns I heartily approve; Iz. Walton hallows any page in
which his reverend name appears. "Duty archly bending to purposes of
general benevolence" is exquisite. The Poems I endeavored not to
understand, but to read them with my eye alone, and I think I succeeded.
(Some people will do that when they come out, you'll say.) As if I were
to luxuriate to-morrow at some Picture Gallery I was never at before,
and going by to day by chance, found the door open, had but 5 minutes to
look about me, peeped in, just such a _chastised_ peep I took with my
mind at the lines my luxuriating eye was coursing over unrestrained,--
not to anticipate another day's fuller satisfaction. Coleridge is
printing Xtabel, by L'd Byron's recommendation to Murray, with what he
calls a vision, Kubla Khan--which said vision he repeats so enchantingly
that it irradiates and brings heaven and Elysian bowers into my parlour
while he sings or says it, but there is an observation "Never tell thy
dreams," and I am almost afraid that Kubla Khan is an owl that won't
bear day light, I fear lest it should be discovered by the lantern of
typography and clear redacting to letters, no better than nonsense or no
sense. When I was young I used to chant with extacy _Mild Arcadians ever
blooming_, till somebody told me it was meant to be nonsense. Even yet I
have a lingering attachment to it, and think it better than Windsor
Forest, Dying Xtian's address &c.--C. has sent his Tragedy to D.L.T.--it
cannot be acted this season, and by their manner of receiving it, I hope
he will be able to alter it to make them accept it for next. He is at
present under the medical care of a Mr. Gilman (Killman?) a Highgate
Apothecary, where he plays at leaving off Laud----m. I think his
essentials not touched: he is very bad, but then he wonderfully picks up
another day, and his face when he repeats his verses hath its ancient
glory, an Archangel a little damaged.

Will Miss H. pardon our not replying at length to her kind Letter? We
are not quiet enough. Morgan is with us every day, going betwixt
Highgate and the Temple. Coleridge is absent but 4 miles, and the
neighborhood of such a man is as exciting as the presence of 50 ordinary
Persons. 'Tis enough to be within the whiff and wind of his genius, for
us not to possess our souls in quiet. If I lived with him or the _author
of the Excursion_, I should in a very little time lose my own identity,
and be dragged along in the current of other people's thoughts, hampered
in a net. How cool I sit in this office, with no possible interruption
further than what I may term _material_; there is not as much
metaphysics in 36 of the people here as there is in the first page of
Locke's treatise on the Human understanding, or as much poetry as in any
ten lines of the Pleasures of Hope or more natural Beggar's Petition. I
never entangle myself in any of their speculations. Interruptions, if I
try to write a letter even, I have dreadful. Just now within 4 lines I
was call'd off for ten minutes to consult dusty old books for the
settlement of obsolete Errors. I hold you a guinea you don't find the
Chasm where I left off, so excellently the wounded sense closed again
and was healed.

N.B. Nothing said above to the contrary but that I hold the personal
presence of the two mentioned potent spirits at a rate as high as any,
but I pay dearer, what amuses others robs me of myself, my mind is
positively discharged into their greater currents, but flows with a
willing violence. As to your question about work, it is far less
oppressive to me than it was, from circumstances; it takes all the
golden part of the day away, a solid lump from ten to four, but it does
not kill my peace as before. Some day or other I shall be in a taking
again. My head akes and you have had enough. God bless you.


[Lamb had been correcting the proofs of Wordsworth's _Letter to a Friend
of Burns_ and his _Thanksgiving Ode, with other short Pieces_, both
published in 1816. In the _Letter to a Friend of Robert Burns_, which
was called forth by the intended republication of Burns' life by Dr.
Currie, Wordsworth incidentally compares Burns and Cotton. The phrase
which Lamb commends is in the description of "Tam o' Shanter" (page
22)--"This reprobate sits down to his cups, while the storm is roaring,
and heaven and earth are in confusion;--the night is driven on by song
and tumultuous noise--laughter and jest thicken as the beverage improves
upon the palate--conjugal fidelity archly bends to the service of
general benevolence--selfishness is not absent, but wearing the mask of
social cordiality...."

Coleridge's _Christabel_ (with _Kubla Khan_ and _The Pains of Sleep_)
was published by Murray in 1816. It ran into a second edition quickly,
but was not too well received. The _Edinburgh_ indeed described it as
destitute of one ray of genius. In a letter from Fanny Godwin to Mary
Shelley, July 20, 1816, in Dowden's _Life of Shelley_, we read that
"Lamb says _Christabel_ ought never to have been published; and that no
one understood it, and _Kubla Khan_ is nonsense." But this was probably
idle gossip. Lamb had admired _Christabel_ to the full, but he may have
thought its publication in an incomplete state an error.

Coleridge was introduced to Mr. James Gillman of the Grove, Highgate, by
Dr. Adams of Hatton Garden, to whom he had applied for medical aid.
Adams suggested that Gillman should take Coleridge into his house.
Gillman arranged on April 11 that Adams should bring Coleridge on the
following day. Coleridge went alone and conquered. He promised to begin
domestication on the next day, and "I looked with impatience," wrote
Gillman in his _Life of Coleridge_, "for the morrow ... I felt indeed
almost spellbound, without the desire of release." Coleridge did not
come on the morrow, but two days later. He remained with the Gillmans
for the rest of his life.

_The Pleasures of Hope_, by Thomas Campbell; _The Beggar's
Petition_--"Pity the sorrows of a poor old man"--by Thomas Moss
(1740-1808), a ditty in all the recitation books. Lamb alluded to it in
the _London Magazine_ version of his _Elia_ essay, "A Complaint of the
Decay of Beggars."

Here should come a brief note from Lamb to Leigh Hunt, dated May 13,
1816, accompanying _Falstaff's Letters_, etc., and a gift of "John
Woodvil." This is Lamb's first letter to James Henry Leigh Hunt
(1784-1859) that has been preserved. He had known Hunt (an old Christ's
Hospitaller, but later than Lamb's day) for some years. To his
_Reflector_ he contributed a number of essays and humorous letters in
1810-1811; and he had written also for _The Examiner_ in 1812 and during
Hunt's imprisonment in 1813-1815. The Lambs visited him regularly at the
Surrey Jail. One of Lamb's most charming poems is inscribed "To T. L.
H."--Thornton Leigh Hunt, whom he called his "favourite child."]


[Dated at end: June 1, 1816.]

Dear Miss Betham,--I have sent your _very pretty lines_ to Southey in a
frank as you requested. Poor S. what a grievous loss he must have had!
Mary and I rejoice in the prospect of seeing you soon in town. Let _us_
be among the very first persons you come to see. Believe me that you can
have no friends who respect and love you more than ourselves. Pray
present our kind remembrances to Barbara, and to all to whom you may
think they will be acceptable.

Yours very sincerely,

Have you seen _Christabel_ since its publication?
E. I. H. June 1 1816.

[Southey's eldest son, Herbert, had died in April of this year. Here
should come a letter from Lamb to H. Dodwell, of the India House, dated
August, 1816, not available for this edition. Lamb writes from Calne, in
Wiltshire, where he and his sister were making holiday, staying with the
Morgans. He states that he has lost all sense of time, and recollected
that he must return to work some day only through the accident of
playing _Commerce_ instead of whist.]


[P.M. September 23, 1816.]

My dear Wordsworth, It seems an age since we have corresponded, but
indeed the interim has been stuffd out with more variety than usually
checquers my same-seeming existence.--Mercy on me, what a traveller have
I been since I wrote you last! what foreign wonders have been explored!
I have seen Bath, King Bladud's ancient well, fair Bristol, seed-plot of
suicidal Chatterton, Marlbro', Chippenham, Calne, famous for nothing in
particular that I know of--but such a vertigo of locomotion has not
seized us for years. We spent a month with the Morgans at the last named
Borough--August--and such a change has the change wrought in us that we
could not stomach wholesome Temple air, but are absolutely rusticating
(O the gentility of it) at Dalston, about one mischievous boy's stone's
throw off Kingsland Turnpike, one mile from Shoreditch church,--thence
we emanate in various directions to Hackney, Clapton, Totnam, and such
like romantic country. That my lungs should ever prove so dainty as to
fancy they perceive differences of air! but so it is, tho' I am almost
ashamed of it, like Milton's devil (turn'd truant to his old Brimstone)
I am purging off the foul air of my once darling tobacco in this Eden,
absolutely snuffing up pure gales, like old worn out Sin playing at
being innocent, which never comes again, for in spite of good books and
good thoughts there is something in a Pipe that virtue cannot give tho'
she give her unendowed person for a dowry. Have you read the review of
Coleridge's character, person, physiognomy &c. in the Examiner--his
features even to his _nose_--O horrible license beyond the old Comedy.
He is himself gone to the sea side with his favorite Apothecary, having
left for publication as I hear a prodigious mass of composition for a
Sermon to the middling ranks of people to persuade them they are not so
distressed as is commonly supposed. Methinks he should recite it to a
congregation of Bilston Colliers,--the fate of Cinna the Poet would
instantaneously be his. God bless him, but certain that rogue Examiner
has beset him in most unmannerly strains. Yet there is a kind of respect
shines thro' the disrespect that to those who know the rare compound
(that is the subject of it) almost balances the reproof, but then those
who know him but partially or at a distance are so extremely apt to drop
the qualifying part thro' their fingers. The "after all, Mr. Wordsworth
is a man of great talents, if he did not abuse them" comes so dim upon
the eyes of an Edinbro' review reader, that have been gloating-open
chuckle-wide upon the preceding detail of abuses, it scarce strikes the
pupil with any consciousness of the letters being there, like letters
writ in lemon. There was a cut at me a few months back by the same hand,
but my agnomen or agni-nomen not being calculated to strike the popular
ear, it dropt anonymous, but it was a pretty compendium of observation,
which the author has collected in my disparagement, from some hundreds
of social evenings which we had spent together,--however in spite of
all, there is something tough in my attachment to H---- which these
violent strainings cannot quite dislocate or sever asunder. I get no
conversation in London that is absolutely worth attending to but his.
There is monstrous little sense in the world, or I am monstrous clever,
or squeamish or something, but there is nobody to talk to--to talk
_with_ I should say--and to go talking to one's self all day long is too
much of a good thing, besides subjecting one to the imputation of being
out of one's senses, which does no good to one's temporal interest at
all. By the way, I have seen Coler'ge but once this 3 or 4 months. He is
an odd person, when he first comes to town he is quite hot upon
visiting, and then he turns off and absolutely never comes at all, but
seems to forget there are any such people in the world. I made one
attempt to visit him (a morning call) at Highgate, but there was
something in him or his apothecary which I found so
unattractively-repulsing-from any temptation to call again, that I stay
away as naturally as a Lover visits. The rogue gives you Love Powders,
and then a strong horse drench to bring 'em off your stomach that they
mayn't hurt you. I was very sorry the printing of your Letter was not
quite to your mind, but I surely did not think but you had arranged the
manner of breaking the paragraphs from some principle known to your own
mind, and for some of the Errors, I am confident that Note of Admiration
in the middle of two words did not stand so when I had it, it must have
dropt out and been replaced wrong, so odious a blotch could not have
escaped me. Gifford (whom God curse) has persuaded squinting Murray
(whom may God not bless) not to accede to an offer Field made for me to
print 2 vols. of Essays, to include the one on Hog'rth and 1 or 2 more,
but most of the matter to be new, but I dare say I should never have
found time to make them; M. would have had 'em, but shewed specimens
from the Reflector to G---, as he acknowleged to Field, and Crispin did
for me. "Not on his soal but on his soul, damn'd Jew" may the
malediction of my eternal antipathy light--We desire much to hear from
you, and of you all, including Miss Hutchinson, for not writing to whom
Mary feels a weekly (and did for a long time feel a daily) Pang. How is
Southey?--I hope his pen will continue to move many years smoothly and
continuously for all the rubs of the rogue Examiner. A pertinacious
foul-mouthed villain it is!

This is written for a rarity at the seat of business: it is but little
time I can generally command from secular calligraphy--the pen seems to
know as much and makes letters like figures--an obstinate clerkish
thing. It shall make a couplet in spite of its nib before I have done
with it,

"and so I end
Commending me to your love, my dearest friend."
from Leaden Hall, Septem'r something, 1816

[The Lambs had taken summer lodgings--at 14 Kingsland Row,
Dalston--which they retained for some years.

Hazlitt's article on Coleridge was in _The Examiner_ for September 8.
Among other things Hazlitt said: "Mr. Shandy would have settled the
question at once: 'You have little or no nose, Sir.'"

One passage in the article gives colour to the theory that Hazlitt
occasionally borrowed from Lamb's conversation. In Lamb's letter to
Wordsworth of April 20, 1816, he has the celebrated description of
Coleridge, "an archangel a little damaged." Hazlitt in this article
writes: "If he had had but common moral principle, that is, sincerity,
he would have been a great man; nor hardly, as it is, appears to us--

"'Less than arch-angel ruined, and the excess
Of glory obscur'd.'"

Hazlitt may have heard Lamb's epithet, backed probably by the same
passage from_ Paradise Lost_.

Crabb Robinson tells us, in his _Diary_, that Coleridge was less hurt by
the article than he anticipated. "He denies H., however, originality,
and ascribes to L. [Lamb] the best ideas in H.'s articles. He was not
displeased to hear of his being knocked down by John Lamb lately."

Coleridge's new work was _The Statesman's Manual; or, the Bible the best
Guide to Political Skill and Foresight: A Lay Sermon_, 1816. It had been
first announced as "A Lay Sermon on the Distresses of the Country,
addressed to the Middle and Higher Orders," and Hazlitt's article had
been in the nature of an anticipatory review.

I do not find anywhere the "cut" at Lamb from Hazlitt's hand, or indeed
any one's hand, to which Lamb refers. Hazlitt at this time was living at
No. 19 York Street, Westminster, in Milton's old house.

"Agni-nomen." From _agnus_, a lamb.

"After all, Mr. Wordsworth ..."--the _Edinburgh Review_ article on _The
Excursion_, in November, 1814, beginning, "This will never do," had at
least two lapses into fairness: "But the truth is, that Mr. Wordsworth,
with all his perversities, is a person of great powers"; and "Nobody can
be more disposed to do justice to the great powers of Mr. Wordsworth
than we are."

"The printing of your Letter." _The Letter to a Friend of Burns_ (see

"2 vols. of Essays." These were printed with poems as _The Works of
Charles Lamb_ by the Olliers in 1818 (see later).

"Crispin"--Gifford (see note to the letter to Wordsworth, early January,

"Southey." Hazlitt's attacks on the Laureate were continuous.]



[No date. Middle of November, 1816.]
Inner Temple.

My dear friend, I have procured a frank for this day, and having been
hindered all the morning have no time left to frame excuses for my long
and inexcusable silence, and can only thank you for the very kind way in
which you overlook it. I should certainly have written on the receipt of
yours but I had not a frank, and also I wished to date my letter from my
own home where you expressed so cordial a wish to hear we had arrived.
We have passed ten, I may call them very good weeks, at Dalston, for
they completely answered the purpose for which we went. Reckoning our
happy month at Calne, we have had quite a rural summer, and have
obtained a very clear idea of the great benefit of quiet--of early hours
and time intirely at one's own disposal, and no small advantages these
things are; but the return to old friends--the sight of old familiar
faces round me has almost reconciled me to occasional headachs and fits
of peevish weariness--even London streets, which I sometimes used to
think it hard to be eternally doomed to walk through before I could see
a green field, seem quite delightful.

Charles smoked but one pipe while we were at Dalston and he has not
transgressed much since his return. I hope he will only smoke now with
his fellow-smokers, which will give him five or six clear days in the
week. Shame on me, I did not even write to thank you for the bacon, upon
which, and some excellent eggs your sister added to her kind present, we
had so many nice feasts. I have seen Henry Robinson, who speaks in
raptures of the days he passed with you. He says he never saw a man so
happy in _three wives_ as Mr. Wordsworth is. I long to join you and make
a fourth, and we cannot help talking of the possibility in some future
fortunate summer of venturing to come so far, but we generally end in
thinking the possibility impossible, for I dare not come but by post
chaises, and the expence would be enormous, yet it was very pleasing to
read Mrs. Wordsworth's kind invitation and to feel a kind of latent hope
of what might one day happen.

You ask how Coleridge maintains himself. I know no more than you do.
Strange to say, I have seen him but once since he has been at Highgate,
and then I met him in the street. I have just been reading your kind
letter over again and find you had some doubt whether we had left the
Temple entirely. It was merely a lodging we took to recruit our health
and spirits. From the time we left Calne Charles drooped sadly, company
became quite irksome, and his anxious desire to leave off smoking, and
his utter inability to perform his daily resolutions against it, became
quite a torment to him, so I prevailed with him to try the experiment of
change of scene, and set out in one of the short stage coaches from
Bishopsgate Street, Miss Brent and I, and we looked over all the little
places within three miles and fixed on one quite countrified and not two
miles from Shoreditch Church, and entered upon it the next day. I
thought if we stayed but a week it would be a little rest and respite
from our troubles, and we made a ten weeks stay, and very comfortable we
were, so much so that if ever Charles is superannuated on a small
pension, which is the great object of his ambition, and we felt our
income straitened, I do think I could live in the country entirely--at
least I thought so while I was there but since I have been at home I
wish to live and die in the Temple where I was born. We left the trees
so green it looked like early autumn, and can see but one leaf "The last
of its clan" on our poor old Hare Court trees. What a rainy summer!--and
yet I have been so much out of town and have made so much use of every
fine day that I can hardly help thinking it has been a fine summer. We
calculated we walked three hundred and fifty miles while we were in our
country lodging. One thing I must tell you, Charles came round every
morning to a shop near the Temple to get shaved. Last Sunday we had such
a pleasant day, I must tell you of it. We went to Kew and saw the old
Palace where the King was brought up, it was the pleasantest sight I
ever saw, I can scarcely tell you why, but a charming old woman shewed
it to us. She had lived twenty six years there and spoke with such a
hearty love of our good old King, whom all the world seems to have
forgotten, that it did me good to hear her. She was as proud in pointing
out the plain furniture (and I am sure you are now sitting in a larger
and better furnished room) of a small room in which the King always
dined, nay more proud of the simplicity of her royal master's taste,
than any shower of Carlton House can be in showing the fine things
there, and so she was when she made us remark the smallness of one of
the Princesses' bedrooms, and said she slept and also dressed in that
little room. There are a great many good pictures but I was most pleased
with one of the King when he was about two years old, such a pretty
little white-headed boy.

I cannot express how much pleasure a letter from you gives us. If I
could promise my self I should be always as well as I am now, I would
say I will be a better correspondent in future. If Charles has time to
add a line I shall be less ashamed to send this hasty scrawl. Love to
all and every one. How much I should like once more to see Miss
Wordsworth's handwriting, if she would but write a postscript to your
next, which I look to receive in a few days.

Yours affectionately

[_Charles Lamb adds at the head:_--]

Mary has barely left me room to say How d'ye. I have received back the
Examiner containing the delicate enquiry into certain infirm parts of S.
T. C.'s character. What is the general opinion of it? Farewell. My love
to all.


["Miss Brent." Mrs. Morgan's sister.

Crabb Robinson had been in the Lake Country in September and October.

"To a shop near the Temple." Possibly to Mr. A---- of Flower-de-Luce
Court, mentioned by Lamb in the footnote to his essay "On the Melancholy
of Tailors" (see Vol. I.).

"Our good old King"--George III., then in retirement. Carlton House was
the home of the Regent, whom Lamb (and probably his sister) detested--as
his "Triumph of the Whale" and other squibs (see Vol. IV.) show.

Here should come a letter to Rickman, dated December 30, 1816. The chief
news in it is that George Dyer has been made one of Lord Stanhope's ten
Residuary Legatees. This, says Lamb, will settle Dyer's fate: he will
have to throw his dirty glove at some one and marry.]


[No date. ? Late 1816.]

My dear Miss Hutchinson, I had intended to write you a long letter, but
as my frank is dated I must send it off with a bare acknowledgment of
the receipt of your kind letter. One question I must hastily ask you. Do
you think Mr. Wordsworth would have any reluctance to write (strongly
recommending to their patronage) to any of his rich friends in London to
solicit employment for Miss Betham as a Miniature Painter? If you give
me hopes that he will not be averse to do this, I will write to you more
fully stating the infinite good he would do by performing so irksome a
task as I know asking favours to be. In brief, she has contracted debts
for printing her beautiful poem of "Marie," which like all things of
original excellence does not sell at all.

These debts have led to little accidents unbecoming a woman and a
poetess to suffer. Retirement with such should be voluntary.

[_Charles Lamb adds:_--]

The Bell rings. I just snatch the Pen out of my sister's hand to finish
rapidly. Wordsw'th. may tell De Q that Miss B's price for a Virgin and
Child is three guineas.

Yours (all of you) ever
C. L.

["De Q"--Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), the "opium-eater," then living
at Grasmere. Lamb and De Quincey had first met in 1804; but it was not
until 1821 that they became really intimate, when Lamb introduced him to
the _London Magazine_.

Miss Betham painted miniature portraits, among others, of Mrs. S. T.
Coleridge and Sara Coleridge.

Here should come a note to William Ayrton dated April 18, 1817, thanking
him for much pleasure at "Don Giovanni" (see note to next letter).

Somewhen in 1816 should come a letter from Lamb to Leigh Hunt on the
publication of _The Story of Rimini_, mentioned in _Leigh Hunt's
Correspondence_, of which this is the only sentence that is preserved:
"The third Canto is in particular my favourite: we congratulate you most
sincerely on the trait [? taste] of your prison fruit."]



Temple, May 12, 1817.

My dear friend,
Before I end,--
Have you any
More orders for Don Giovanni
To give
Him that doth live
Your faithful Zany?
Without raillery
I mean Gallery
For I am a person that shuns
All ostentation
And being at the top of the fashion;
And seldom go to operas
But in forma pauperis.

I go to the play
In a very economical sort of a way,
Rather to see
Than be seen.
Though I'm no ill sight
By candle-light,
And in some kinds of weather.
You might pit me
For height
Against Kean;
But in a grand tragic scene
I'm nothing:--
It would create a kind of loathing
To see me act Hamlet;
There'd be many a damn let
At my presumption
If I should try,
Being a fellow of no gumption.

By the way, tell me candidly how you relish
This, which they call
The lapidary style?
Opinions vary.
The late Mr. Mellish
Could never abide it.
He thought it vile,
And coxcombical.
My friend the Poet Laureat,
Who is a great lawyer at
Anything comical,
Was the first who tried it;
But Mellish could never abide it.
But it signifies very little what Mellish said,
Because he is dead.
For who can confute
A body that's mute?--
Or who would fight
With a senseless sprite?--
Or think of troubling
An impenetrable old goblin
That's dead and gone,
And stiff as stone,
To convince him with arguments pro and con,
As if some live logician,
Bred up at Merton,
Or Mr. Hazlitt, the Metaphysician--
Hey, Mr. Ayrton!
With all your rare tone.

For tell me how should an apparition
List to your call,
Though you talk'd for ever,--
Ever so clever,
When his ear itself,
By which he must hear, or not hear at all,
Is laid on the shelf?
Or put the case
(For more grace)
It were a female spectre--
Now could you expect her
To take much gust
In long speeches,
With her tongue as dry as dust,
In a sandy place,
Where no peaches,
Nor lemons, nor limes, nor oranges hang,
To drop on the drought of an arid harangue,
Or quench,
With their sweet drench,
The fiery pangs which the worms inflict,
With their endless nibblings,
Like quibblings,
Which the corpse may dislike, but can ne'er contradict--
Hey, Mr. Ayrton?
With all your rare tone--
I am.

[The text is from Ayrton's transcript in a private volume lately in the
possession of Mr. Edward Ayrton, lettered _Lamb's Works_, Vol. III.,
uniform with the 1818 edition.

William Ayrton (1777-1858), a friend and neighbour of the Burneys, and a
member of Lamb's whist-playing set, was a musical critic, and at this
time director of the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, where he had just
produced Mozart's "Don Giovanni." His wife was Marianne Arnold, sister
of Samuel James Arnold, manager of the Lyceum Theatre.

"You might pit me for height against Kean." This was so. Edmund Kean was
small in stature, though not so "immaterially" built as Lamb is said to
have been.

"Mr. Mellish." Possibly the Joseph Charles Mellish who translated

The Laureate, Southey, had first tried the lapidary style in "Gooseberry
Pie"; later, without rhymes, in "Thalaba."

Some time in the intervening three months before the next letter the
Lambs went to Brighton for their holiday.]


Aug. 31st, 1817.

My dear Barren,--The bearer of this letter so far across the seas is Mr.
Lawrey, who comes out to you as a missionary, and whom I have been
strongly importuned to recommend to you as a most worthy creature by Mr.
Fenwick, a very old, honest friend of mine, of whom, if my memory does
not deceive me, you have had some knowledge heretofore as editor of the
"Statesman"--a man of talent, and patriotic. If you can show him any
facilities in his arduous undertaking, you will oblige us much. Well,
and how does the land of thieves use you? and how do you pass your time
in your extra-judicial intervals? Going about the streets with a
lantern, like Diogenes, looking for an honest man? You may look long
enough, I fancy. Do give me some notion of the manners of the
inhabitants where you are. They don't thieve all day long, do they? No
human property could stand such continuous battery. And what do they do
when they an't stealing?

Have you got a theatre? What pieces are performed? Shakespear's, I
suppose--not so much for the poetry, as for his having once been in
danger of leaving his country on account of certain "small deer."

Have you poets among you? Cursed plagiarists, I fancy, if you have any.
I would not trust an idea or a pocket-handkerchief of mine among 'em.
You are almost competent to answer Lord Bacon's problem, whether a
nation of atheists can subsist together. You are practically in one:--

"So thievish 'tis, that the eighth commandment itself
Scarce seemeth there to be."

Our old honest world goes on with little perceptible variation. Of
course you have heard of poor Mitchell's death, and that G. Dyer is one
of Lord Stanhope's residuaries. I am afraid he has not touched much of
the residue yet. He is positively as lean as Cassius. Barnes is going to
Demerara or Essequibo, I am not quite certain which. A[lsager] is turned
actor. He came out in genteel comedy at Cheltenham this season, and has
hopes of a London engagement.

For my own history, I am just in the same spot, doing the same thing
(videlicet, little or nothing,) as when you left me; only I have
positive hopes that I shall be able to conquer that inveterate habit of
smoking which you may remember I indulged in. I think of making a
beginning this evening, viz., Sunday 31st August, 1817, not Wednesday,
2nd Feb., 1818, as it will be perhaps when you read this for the first
time. There is the difficulty of writing from one end of the globe
(hemispheres I call 'em) to another! Why, half the truths I have sent
you in this letter will become lies before they reach you, and some of
the lies (which I have mixed for variety's sake, and to exercise your
judgment in the finding of them out) may be turned into sad realities
before you shall be called upon to detect them. Such are the defects of
going by different chronologies. Your now is not my now; and again, your
then is not my then; but my now may be your then, and _vice versa_.
Whose head is competent to these things?

How does Mrs. Field get on in her geography? Does she know where she is
by this time? I am not sure sometimes you are not in another planet; but
then I don't like to ask Capt. Burney, or any of those that know
anything about it, for fear of exposing my ignorance.

Our kindest remembrances, however, to Mrs. F., if she will accept of
reminiscences from another planet, or at least another hemisphere.

C. L.

[This is Lamb's first letter that has been preserved to Barron Field.
Barron Field (1786-1846) was a lawyer, a son of Henry Field, apothecary
to Christ's Hospital, and brother of a fellow-clerk of Lamb's in the
India House. He had also been a contributor to Leigh Hunt's _Reflector_
in 1810-1812. Field was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of New
South Wales, whither he sailed in 1816, reaching Sydney in February,
1817. His wife was a Miss Jane Carncroft.

This letter forms the groundwork of Lamb's _Elia_ essay on "Distant
Correspondents" (see Vol. II.), which may be read with it as an example
of the difference in richness between Lamb's epistolary and finished
literary style.

"So thievish 'tis ..." A perversion of Coleridge's lines, in _The
Ancient Mariner:_--

So lonely 'twas, that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be.

"Poor Mitchell's death." This may have been one of the lies referred to
a little lower. If so, Thomas Mitchell (1783-1845) was probably
intended, as he had been at Christ's Hospital, and was a friend of Leigh
Hunt's, and might thus have known Lamb and Field. He translated
Aristophanes. The only Mitchell of any importance who died in 1817 was
Colonel Mitchell, who commanded a brigade at Waterloo; but Lamb would
hardly know anything of him.

George Dyer, who had been tutor in the family of the third Earl of
Stanhope (Citizen Stanhope), was one of the ten executors to whom that
peer's estate was left, after paying a few legacies. Among them was
another of Lamb's acquaintances, Joseph Jekyll, mentioned in the _Elia_
essay on the Old Benchers. Dyer repudiated the office, but the heir
persuaded him to accept an annuity.

Thomas Barnes (1785-1841), another old Christ's Hospitaller, and a
contributor to _The Reflector_, became editor of _The Times_ in 1817.
His projected journey was one of the "lies"; nor did Alsager, another
_Times_ man, whom we have already met, turn actor.]


Londres, October, [1817].

Dear Friends,--It is with infinite regret I inform you that the pleasing
privilege of receiving letters, by which I have for these twenty years
gratified my friends and abused the liberality of the Company trading to
the Orient, is now at an end. A cruel edict of the Directors has swept
it away altogether. The devil sweep away their patronage also. Rascals
who think nothing of sponging upon their employers for their Venison and
Turtle and Burgundy five days in a week, to the tune of five thousand
pounds in a year, now find out that the profits of trade will not allow
the innocent communication of thought between their underlings and their
friends in distant provinces to proceed untaxed, thus withering up the
heart of friendship and making the news of a friend's good health worse
than indifferent, as tidings to be deprecated as bringing with it
ungracious expenses. Adieu, gentle correspondence, kindly conveyance of
soul, interchange of love, of opinions, of puns and what not! Henceforth
a friend that does not stand in visible or palpable distance to me, is
nothing to me. They have not left to the bosom of friendship even that
cheap intercourse of sentiment the twopenny medium. The upshot is, you
must not direct any more letters through me. To me you may annually, or
biennially, transmit a brief account of your goings on [on] a single
sheet, from which after I have deducted as much as the postage comes to,
the remainder will be pure pleasure. But no more of those pretty
commission and counter commissions, orders and revoking of orders,
obscure messages and obscurer explanations, by which the intellects of
Marshall and Fanny used to be kept in a pleasing perplexity, at the
moderate rate of six or seven shillings a week. In short, you must use
me no longer as a go-between. Henceforth I write up NO THOROUGHFARE.

Well, and how far is Saint Valery from Paris; and do you get wine and
walnuts tolerable; and the vintage, does it suffer from the wet? I take
it, the wine of this season will be all wine and water; and have you any
plays and green rooms, and Fanny Kellies to chat with of an evening; and
is the air purer than the old gravel pits, and the bread so much whiter,
as they say? Lord, what things you see that travel! I dare say the
people are all French wherever you go. What an overwhelming effect that
must have! I have stood one of 'em at a time, but two I generally found
overpowering, I used to cut and run; but, then, in their own vineyards
may be they are endurable enough. They say marmosets in Senegambia are
so pleasant as the day's long, jumping and chattering in the orange
twigs; but transport 'em, one by one, over here into England, they turn
into monkeys, some with tails, some without, and are obliged to be kept
in cages.

I suppose you know we've left the Temple _pro tempore_. By the way, this
conduct has caused strange surmises in a good lady of our acquaintance.
She lately sent for a young gentleman of the India House, who lives
opposite her, at Monroe's, the flute shop in Skinner Street, Snow
Hill,--I mention no name, you shall never get out of me what lady I
mean,--on purpose to ask all he knew about us. I had previously
introduced him to her whist-table. Her inquiries embraced every possible
thing that could be known of me, how I stood in the India house, what
was the amount of my salary, what it was likely to be hereafter, whether
I was thought to be clever in business, why I had taken country
lodgings, why at Kingsland in particular, had I friends in that road,
was anybody expected to visit me, did I wish for visitors, would an
unexpected call be gratifying or not, would it be better if she sent
beforehand, did anybody come to see me, wasn't there a gentleman of the
name of Morgan, did he know him, didn't he come to see me, did he know
how Mr. Morgan lived, she never could make out how they were maintained,
was it true that he lived out of the profits of a linendraper's shop in
Bishopsgate Street (there she was a little right, and a little wrong--M.
is a gentleman tobacconist); in short, she multiplied demands upon him
till my friend, who is neither over-modest nor nervous, declared he
quite shuddered. After laying as bare to her curiosity as an anatomy he
trembled to think what she would ask next. My pursuits, inclinations,
aversions, attachments (some, my dear friends, of a most delicate
nature), she lugged 'em out of him, or would, had he been privy to them,
as you pluck a horse-bean from its iron stem, not as such tender
rosebuds should be pulled. The fact is I am come to Kingsland, and that
is the real truth of the matter, and nobody but yourselves should have
extorted such a confession from me. I suppose you have seen by the
Papers that Manning is arrived in England. He expressed some
mortifications at not finding Mrs. Kenney in England. He looks a good
deal sunburnt, and is got a little reserved, but I hope it will wear
off. You will see by the Papers also that Dawe is knighted. He has been
painting the Princess of Coborg and her husband. This is all the news I
could think of. Write _to_ us, but not _by_ us, for I have near ten
correspondents of this latter description, and one or other comes
pouring in every day, till my purse strings and heart strings crack. Bad
habits are not broken at once. I am sure you will excuse the apparent
indelicacy of mentioning this, but dear is my shirt, but dearer is my
skin, and it's too late when the steed is stole, to shut the
door.--Well, and does Louisa grow a fine girl, is she likely to have her
mother's complexion, and does Tom polish in French air--Henry I
mean--and Kenney is not so fidgety, and YOU sit down sometimes for a
quiet half-hour or so, and all is comfortable, no bills (that you call
writs) nor anything else (that you are equally sure to miscall) to annoy
you? Vive la gaite de coeur et la bell pastime, vive la beau France et
revive ma cher Empreur.


[James Kenney and his wife were now living at St. Valery. Marshall was
Godwin's old friend, whom we have already seen, and Fanny was Fanny

Lamb's friend Fanny Kelly is first mentioned by Lamb in this letter.
Frances Maria Kelly (1790-1882), to give her her full name, was then
playing at the Lyceum. We shall soon see much of her.

"We've left the Temple _pro tempore_"--referring to the Dalston

"What lady I mean." Mrs. Godwin lived in Skinner Street.

Manning, on his return from China, was wrecked near Sunda on February
17, 1817. The passengers were taken to St. Helena, and he did not reach
England until the summer. This must give us the date of the present
letter, previously attributed to October, 1816.

George Dawe was not knighted. Probably it was rumoured that he was to
be. His portrait of Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Coburg (who died in 1817
so soon after her marriage) was very popular.

Louisa would be Louisa Holcroft. In Tom Holcroft, Lamb later took some


[P.M. November 21, 1817.]

My dear Miss Wordsworth, Your kind letter has given us very great
pleasure,--the sight of your hand writing was a most welcome surprize to
us. We have heard good tidings of you by all our friends who were so
fortunate as to visit you this summer, and rejoice to see it confirmed
by yourself. You have quite the advantage in volunteering a letter.
There is no merit in replying to so welcome a stranger.

We have left the Temple. I think you will be sorry to hear this. I know
I have never been so well satisfied with thinking of you at Rydal Mount
as when I could connect the idea of you with your own Grasmere Cottage.
Our rooms were dirty and out of repair, and the inconveniences of living
in chambers became every year more irksome, and so at last we mustered
up resolution enough to leave the good old place that so long had
sheltered us--and here we are, living at a Brazier's shop, No. 20, in
Russell Street, Covent Garden, a place all alive with noise and bustle,
Drury Lane Theatre in sight from our front and Covent Garden from our
back windows. The hubbub of the carriages returning from the play does
not annoy me in the least--strange that it does not, for it is quite
tremendous. I quite enjoy looking out of the window and listening to the
calling up of the carriages and the squabbles of the coachmen and
linkboys. It is the oddest scene to look down upon, I am sure you would
be amused with it. It is well I am in a chearful place or I should have
many misgivings about leaving the Temple. I look forward with great
pleasure to the prospect of seeing my good friend Miss Hutchinson. I
wish Rydal Mount with all its inhabitants enclosed were to be
transplanted with her and to remain stationary in the midst of Covent
Garden. I passed through the street lately where Mr. and Mrs. Wordsworth
lodged; several fine new houses, which were then just rising out of the
ground, are quite finished and a noble entrance made that way into
Portland Place.

I am very sorry for Mr. De Quincey--what a blunder the poor man made
when he took up his dwelling among the mountains. I long to see my
friend Py pos. Coleridge is still at Little Hampton with Mrs. Gillman,
he has been so ill as to be confined to his room almost the whole time
he has been there.

Charles has had all his Hogarths bound in a book, they were sent home
yesterday, and now that I have them all together and perceive the
advantage of peeping close at them through my spectacles I am reconciled
to the loss of them hanging round the room, which has been a great
mortification to me--in vain I tried to console myself with looking at
our new chairs and carpets, for we have got new chairs, and carpets
covering all over our two sitting rooms, I missed my old friends and
could not be comforted--then I would resolve to learn to look out of the
window, a habit I never could attain in my life, and I have given it up
as a thing quite impracticable--yet when I was at Brighton last summer,
the first week I never took my eyes off from the sea, not even to look
in a book. I had not seen the sea for sixteen years. Mrs. Morgan, who
was with us, kept her liking, and continued her seat in the window till
the very last, while Charles and I played truant and wandered among the
hills, which we magnified into little mountains and _almost as good as_
Westmoreland scenery. Certainly we made discoveries of many pleasant
walks which few of the Brighton visitors have ever dreamed of--for like
as is the case in the neighbourhood of London, after the first two or
three miles we were sure to find ourselves in a perfect solitude. I hope
we shall meet before the walking faculties of either of us fail. You say
you can walk fifteen miles with ease,--that is exactly my stint, and
more fatigues me; four or five miles every third or fourth day, keeping
very quiet between, was all Mrs. Morgan could accomplish.

God bless you and yours. Love to all and each one.

I am ever yours most affectionately M. LAMB.


(_Same letter._)

Dear Miss Wordsworth, Here we are, transplanted from our native soil. I
thought we never could have been torn up from the Temple. Indeed it was
an ugly wrench, but like a tooth, now 'tis out and I am easy. We never
can strike root so deep in any other ground. This, where we are, is a
light bit of gardener's mold, and if they take us up from it, it will
cost no blood and groans like mandrakes pull'd up. We are in the
individual spot I like best in all this great city. The theatres with
all [_a few words cut away: Talfourd has "their noises. Convent
Garden"_] dearer to me than any gardens of Alcinous, where we are
morally sure of the earliest peas and 'sparagus. Bow Street, where the
thieves are examined, within a few yards of us. Mary had not been here
four and twenty hours before she saw a Thief. She sits at the window
working, and casually throwing out her eyes, she sees a concourse of
people coming this way, with a constable to conduct the solemnity. These
little incidents agreeably diversify a female life. It is a delicate
subject, but is Mr. * * * really married? and has he found a gargle to
his mind? O how funny he did talk to me about her, in terms of such mild
quiet whispering speculative profligacy. But did the animalcule and she
crawl over the rubric together, or did they not? Mary has brought her
part of this letter to an orthodox and loving conclusion, which is very
well, for I have no room for pansies and remembrances. What a nice
holyday I got on Wednesday by favor of a princess dying. [_A line and
signature cut away_.]

[The Lambs' house in Russell Street is now (1912) a fruiterer's: it has
been rebuilt. Russell Street, Covent Garden, in those days was divided
into Great Russell Street (from the Market to Brydges Street, now
Catherine Street) and Little Russell Street, (from Brydges Street to
Drury Lane). The brazier, or ironmonger, was Mr. Owen, Nos. 20 and 21.

The Wordsworths had moved to Rydal Mount in 1813.

"I am very sorry for Mr. De Quincey." Probably a reference to one of the
opium-eater's illnesses.

It was at Littlehampton that Coleridge met Henry Francis Cary, the
translator of Dante, afterwards one of Lamb's friends.

"Spot I like best in all this great city." See Vol. I. of this edition,
for a little essay by Lamb on places of residence in London.

"Mr. * * *." One can but conjecture as to these asterisks. De Quincey,
who was very small, married at the close of 1816.

"A princess dying"--Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Coburg. She was buried,
amid national lamentation, on November 19, 1817.

Here should come a letter from Lamb to Ayrton dated November 25, 1817,
which Lamb holds is peculiarly neatly worded.]


The Garden of England,
December 10, 1817.

Dear J. P. C.,--I know how zealously you feel for our friend S. T.
Coleridge; and I know that you and your family attended his lectures
four or five years ago. He is in bad health and worse mind: and unless
something is done to lighten his mind he will soon be reduced to his
extremities; and even these are not in the best condition. I am sure
that you will do for him what you can; but at present he seems in a mood
to do for himself. He projects a new course, not of physic, nor of
metaphysic, nor a new course of life, but a new course of lectures on
Shakspear and Poetry. There is no man better qualified (always excepting
number one); but I am pre-engaged for a series of dissertations on India
and India-pendence, to be completed at the expense of the Company, in I
know not (yet) how many volumes foolscap folio. I am busy getting up my
Hindoo mythology; and for the purpose I am once more enduring Southey's
Curse. To be serious, Coleridge's state and affairs make me so; and
there are particular reasons just now, and have been any time for the
last twenty years, why he should succeed. He will do so with a little
encouragement. I have not seen him lately; and he does not know that I
am writing.

Yours (for Coleridge's sake) in haste, C. LAMB.

[The "Garden of England" of the address stands, of course, for Covent

This is the first letter to Collier that has been preserved. John Payne
Collier (1789-1883), known as a Shakespearian critic and editor of old
plays and poems, was then a reporter on _The Times_. He had recently
married. Wordsworth also wrote to Collier on this subject, Coleridge's
lectures were delivered in 1818, beginning on January 27, in
Flower-de-Luce Court. Their preservation we owe to Collier's shorthand

"My Hindoo mythology ... Southey's Curse"--_The Curse of Kehama_.]


December [26], 1817.

My dear Haydon,--I will come with pleasure to 22, Lisson Grove North, at
Rossi's, half-way up, right-hand side--if I can find it.


20, Russell Court, Covent Garden East,
half-way up, next the corner, left hand side.

[The first letter that has been preserved to Haydon, the painter.
Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) was then principally known by his
"Judgment of Solomon": he was at this time at work upon his most famous
picture, "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem." Lamb's note is in acceptance
of the invitation to the famous dinner which Haydon gave on December
28,1817, to Wordsworth, Keats, Monkhouse and others, with the
Comptroller of Stamps thrown in. Haydon's _Diary_ describes the evening
with much humour. See Appendix.]


18 Feb. 1818. East India House.

(Mary shall send you all the _news_, which I find I have left out.)

My dear Mrs. Wordsworth, I have repeatedly taken pen in hand to answer
your kind letter. My sister should more properly have done it, but she
having failed, I consider myself answerable for her debts. I am now
trying to do it in the midst of Commercial noises, and with a quill
which seems more ready to glide into arithmetical figures and names of
Goods, Cassia, Cardemoms, Aloes, Ginger, Tea, than into kindly responses
and friendly recollections.

The reason why I cannot write letters at home is, that I am never alone.
Plato's (I write to _W. W._ now) Plato's double animal parted never
longed [? more] to be reciprocally reunited in the system of its first
creation, than I sometimes do to be but for a moment single and
separate. Except my morning's walk to the office, which is like treading
on sands of gold for that reason, I am never so. I cannot walk home from
office but some officious friend offers his damn'd unwelcome courtesies
to accompany me. All the morning I am pestered. I could sit and gravely
cast up sums in great Books, or compare sum with sum, and write PAID
against this and UNP'D against t'other, and yet reserve in some "corner
of my mind" some darling thoughts all my own--faint memory of some
passage in a Book--or the tone of an absent friend's Voice--a snatch of
Miss Burrell's singing--a gleam of Fanny Kelly's divine plain face--The
two operations might be going on at the same time without thwarting, as
the sun's two motions (earth's I mean), or as I sometimes turn round
till I am giddy, in my back parlour, while my sister is walking
longitudinally in the front--or as the shoulder of veal twists round
with the spit, while the smoke wreathes up the chimney--but there are a
set of amateurs of the Belle Lettres--the gay science--who come to me as
a sort of rendezvous, putting questions of criticism, of British
Institutions, Lalla Rooks &c., what Coleridge said at the Lecture last
night--who have the form of reading men, but, for any possible use
Reading can be to them but to talk of, might as well have been
Ante-Cadmeans born, or have lain sucking out the sense of an Egypt'n.
hieroglyph as long as the Pyramids will last before they should find it.
These pests worrit me at business and in all its intervals, perplexing
my accounts, poisoning my little salutary warming-time at the fire,
puzzling my paragraphs if I take a newspaper, cramming in between my own
free thoughts and a column of figures which had come to an amicable
compromise but for them. Their noise ended, one of them, as I said,
accompanys me home lest I should be solitary for a moment; he at length
takes his welcome leave at the door, up I go, mutton on table, hungry as
hunter, hope to forget my cares and bury them in the agreeable
abstraction of mastication, knock at the door, in comes Mrs. Hazlitt, or
M. Burney, or Morgan, or Demogorgon, or my brother, or somebody, to
prevent my eating alone, a Process absolutely necessary to my poor
wretched digestion. O the pleasure of eating alone!--eating my dinner
alone! let me think of it. But in they come, and make it absolutely
necessary that I should open a bottle of orange--for my meat turns into
stone when any one dines with me, if I have not wine--wine can mollify
stones. Then _that_ wine turns into acidity, acerbity, misanthropy, a
hatred of my interrupters (God bless 'em! I love some of 'em dearly),
and with the hatred a still greater aversion to their going away. Bad is
the dead sea they bring upon me, choaking and death-doing, but worse is
the deader dry sand they leave me on if they go before bed time. Come
never, I would say to these spoilers of my dinner, but if you come,
never go. The fact is, this interruption does not happen very often, but
every time it comes by surprise that present bane of my life, orange
wine, with all its dreary stifling consequences, follows. Evening
Company I should always like had I any mornings, but I am saturated with
human faces (_divine_ forsooth) and voices all the golden morning, and
five evenings in a week would be as much as I should covet to be in
company, but I assure you that is a wonderful week in which I can get
two, or one, to myself. I am never C. L. but always C. L. and Co.

He, who thought it not good for man to be alone, preserve me from the
more prodigious monstrosity of being never by myself. I forget bed time,
but even there these sociable frogs clamber up to annoy me. Once a week,
generally some singular evening that, being alone, I go to bed at the
hour I ought always to be abed, just close to my bedroom window, is the
club room of a public house, where a set of singers, I take them to be
chorus-singers of the two theatres (it must be _both of them_), begin
their orgies. They are a set of fellows (as I conceive) who being
limited by their talents to the burthen of the song at the play houses,
in revenge have got the common popular airs by Bishop or some cheap
composer arranged for choruses, that is, to be sung all in chorus. At
least I never can catch any of the text of the plain song, nothing but
the Babylonish choral howl at the tail on't. "That fury being
quenchd"--the howl I mean--a curseder burden succeeds, of shouts and
clapping and knocking of the table. At length over tasked nature drops
under it and escapes for a few hours into the society of the sweet
silent creatures of Dreams, which go away with mocks and mows at
cockcrow. And then I think of the words Christobel's father used (bless
me, I have dipt in the wrong ink) to say every morning by way of variety
when he awoke--"Every knell, the Baron saith, Wakes us up to a world of
death," or something like it. All I mean by this senseless interrupted
tale is, that by my central situation I am a little over companied. Not
that I have any animosity against the good creatures that are so anxious
to drive away the Harpy solitude from me. I like 'em, and cards, and a
chearful glass, but I mean merely to give you an idea between office
confinement and after office society, how little time I can call my own.
I mean only to draw a picture, not to make an inference. I would not
that I know of have it otherwise. I only wish sometimes I could exchange
some of my faces and voices for the faces and voices which a late
visitation brought most welcome and carried away leaving regret, but
more pleasure, even a kind of gratitude, at being so often favored with
that kind northern visitation. My London faces and noises don't hear
me--I mean no disrespect--or I should explain myself that instead of
their return 220 times a year and the return of W. W. &c. 7 times in 104
weeks, some more equal distribution might be found. I have scarce room
to put in Mary's kind love and my poor name.


This to be read last.

W. H. goes on lecturing against W. W. and making copious use of
quotations from said W. W. to give a zest to said lectures. S. T. C. is
lecturing with success. I have not heard either him or H. but I dined
with S. T. C. at Gilman's a Sunday or 2 since and he was well and in
good spirits. I mean to hear some of the course, but lectures are not
much to my taste, whatever the Lecturer may be. If _read_, they are
dismal flat, and you can't think why you are brought together to hear a
man read his works which you could read so much better at leisure
yourself; if delivered extempore, I am always in pain lest the gift of
utterance should suddenly fail the orator in the middle, as it did me at
the dinner given in honor of me at the London Tavern. "Gentlemen" said
I, and there I stoppt,--the rest my feelings were under the necessity of
supplying. Mrs. Wordsworth _will_ go on, kindly haunting us with visions
of seeing the lakes once more which never can be realized. Between us
there is a great gulf--not of inexplicable moral antipathies and
distances, I hope (as there seemd to be between me and that Gentleman
concern'd in the Stamp office that I so strangely coiled up from at
Haydons). I think I had an instinct that he was the head of an office. I
hate all such people--Accountants, Deputy Accountants. The dear abstract
notion of the East India Company, as long as she is unseen, is pretty,
rather Poetical; but as SHE makes herself manifest by the persons of
such Beasts, I loathe and detest her as the Scarlet what-do-you-call-her
of Babylon. I thought, after abridging us of all our red letter days,
they had done their worst, but I was deceived in the length to which
Heads of offices, those true Liberty haters, can go. They are the
tyrants, not Ferdinand, nor Nero--by a decree past this week, they have
abridged us of the immemorially observed custom of going at one o'clock
of a Saturday, the little shadow of a holiday left us. Blast them. I
speak it soberly. Dear W. W., be thankful for your Liberty.

We have spent two very pleasant Evenings lately with Mr. Monkhouse.

[Mary Lamb's letter of news either was not written or has not been

Lamb returned to the subject of this essay for his Popular Fallacy "That
Home is Home" in 1826 (see Vol. II. of this edition). A little
previously to that essay he had written an article in the _New Times_ on
unwelcome callers (see Vol. I.).

"Miss Burrell"--Fanny Burrell, afterwards Mrs. Gould. Lamb wrote in
praise of her performance in "Don Giovanni in London" (see Vol. I. of
this edition).

"Fanny Kelly's divine plain face." Only seventeen months later Lamb
proposed to Miss Kelly.

"What Coleridge said." Coleridge was still lecturing on Shakespeare and
poetry in Flower-de-Luce Court.

"The two theatres"--Drury Lane and Covent Garden.

"Bishop"--Sir Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855), composer of "Home, Sweet

"Christabel's father."

Each matin bell, the Baron saith,
Knells us back to a world of death.
Part II., lines 1 and 2.

"W. H. goes on lecturing." Hazlitt was delivering a course of lectures
on the English poets at the Surrey Institution.

"'Gentleman' said I." On another occasion Lamb, asked to give a toast,
gave the best he knew--woodcock on toast. See also his toasts at
Haydon's dinner. I do not know when or why the dinner was given to him;
perhaps after the failure of "Mr. H."

"Gentleman concern'd in the Stamp office." See note to the preceding

"Our red letter days." Lamb repeats the complaint in his _Elia_ essay
"Oxford in the Vacation." In 1820, I see from the Directory, the
Accountant's Office, where Lamb had his desk, kept sacred only five
red-letter days, where, ten years earlier, it had observed many.

"Mr. Monkhouse," Thomas Monkhouse, a friend of the Wordsworths and of
Lamb. He was at Haydon's dinner.

Here should come a note from Lamb to Charles and James Ollier, dated May
28, 1818, which apparently accompanied final proofs of Lamb's _Works_.
Lamb remarks, "There is a Sonnet to come in by way of dedication." This
would be that to Martin Burney at the beginning of Vol. II. The _Works_
were published in two volumes with a beautiful dedication to Coleridge
(see Vol. IV. of the present edition). Charles Ollier (1788-1859) was a
friend of Leigh Hunt's, for whom he published, as well as for Shelley.
He also brought out Keats' first volume. The Olliers' address was The
Library, Vere Street, Oxford Street.]


[P.M. June 18, 1818.]

Dear Sir (whichever opens it)

I am going off to Birmingh'm. I find my books, whatever faculty of
selling they may have (I wish they had more for {_your/my_} sake), are
admirably adapted for giving away. You have been bounteous. SIX more and
I shall have satisfied all just claims. Am I taking too great a liberty
in begging you to send 4 as follows, and reserve 2 for me when I come
home? That will make 31. Thirty-one times 12 is 372 shillings, Eighteen
pounds twelve Shillings!!!--but here are my friends, to whom, if you
_could_ transmit them, as I shall be away a month, you will greatly
oblige the obliged


Mr. Ayrton, James Street, Buckingham Gate
Mr. Alsager, Suffolk Street East, Southwark, by Horsemonger Lane
and in one parcel
directed to R. Southey, Esq., Keswick, Cumberland
one for R. S.;
and one for W'm. Wordsworth, Esq'r.

If you will be kind enough simply to write "from the Author" in all
4--you will still further etc.--

Either Longman or Murray is in the frequent habit of sending books to
Southey and will take charge of the Parcel. It will be as well to write
in at the beginning thus

R. Southey Esq. from the Author.
W. Wordsworth Esq. from the Author.

Then, if I can find the remaining 2, left for me at Russell St when I
return, rather than encroach any more on the heap, I will engage to make
no more new friends ad infinitum, YOURSELVES being the last.

Yours truly C. L.

I think Southey will give us a lift in that damn'd Quarterly. I meditate
an attack upon that Cobler Gifford, which shall appear immediately after
any favourable mention which S. may make in the Quarterly. It can't in
decent _gratitude_ appear _before_.

[We know nothing of Lamb's visit to Birmingham. He is hardly likely to
have stayed with any of the Lloyd family. The attack on Gifford was
probably the following sonnet, printed in _The Examiner_ for October 3
and 4, 1819:--

All unadvised, and in an evil hour,
Lured by aspiring thoughts, my son, you daft
The lowly labours of the Gentle Craft
For learned toils, which blood and spirits sour.
All things, dear pledge, are not in all men's power;
The wiser sort of shrub affects the ground;
And sweet content of mind is oftener found
In cobbler's parlour, than in critic's bower.
The sorest work is what doth cross the grain;
And better to this hour you had been plying
The obsequious awl with well-waxed finger flying,
Than ceaseless thus to till a thankless vein;
Still teazing Muses, which are still denying;
Making a stretching-leather of your brain.]



Monday, Oct. 26th, 1818.

Dear Southey,--I am pleased with your friendly remembrances of my little
things. I do not know whether I have done a silly thing or a wise one;
but it is of no great consequence. I run no risk, and care for no
censures. My bread and cheese is stable as the foundations of Leadenhall
Street, and if it hold out as long as the "foundations of our empire in
the East," I shall do pretty well. You and W.W. should have had your
presentation copies more ceremoniously sent; but I had no copies when I
was leaving town for my holidays, and rather than delay, commissioned my
bookseller to send them thus nakedly. By not hearing from W.W. or you, I
began to be afraid Murray had not sent them. I do not see S.T.C. so
often as I could wish. He never comes to me; and though his host and
hostess are very friendly, it puts me out of my way to go see one person
at another person's house. It was the same when he resided at Morgan's.
Not but they also were more than civil; but after all one feels so
welcome at one's own house. Have you seen poor Miss Betham's
"Vignettes"? Some of them, the second particularly, "To Lucy," are sweet
and good as herself, while she was herself. She is in some measure
abroad again. I am _better than I deserve_ to be. The hot weather has
been such a treat! Mary joins in this little corner in kindest
remembrances to you all.


[The letter treats of Lamb's _Works_, just published. Matilda Betham
followed up _The Lay of Marie_ with a volume entitled _Vignettes_.

"I am _better than I deserve_." Why Lamb underlined these words I do not
know, but it may have been a quotation from Coleridge. Carlyle in his
account of his visit to Coleridge at Highgate (in the _Life of John
Sterling_) puts it into Coleridge's mouth in connection with a lukewarm
cup of tea. Although lukewarm it was better, he said, than he deserved.
That was later, but it may have been a saying of which Coleridge was


Dec. 24th, 1818.

My dear Coleridge,--I have been in a state of incessant hurry ever since
the receipt of your ticket. It found me incapable of attending you, it
being the night of Kenney's new comedy[1] ... You know my local
aptitudes at such a time; I have been a thorough rendezvous for all
consultations. My head begins to clear up a little; but it has had bells
in it. Thank you kindly for your ticket, though the mournful prognostic
which accompanies it certainly renders its permanent pretensions less
marketable; but I trust to hear many a course yet. You excepted
Christmas week, by which I understood _next week_; I thought Christmas
week was that which Christmas Sunday ushered in. We are sorry it never
lies in your way to come to us; but, dear Mahomet, we will come to you.
Will it be convenient to all the good people at Highgate, if we take a
stage up, _not next Sunday_, but the following, viz., 3rd January,
1819--shall we be too late to catch a skirt of the old out-goer;--how
the years crumble from under us! We shall hope to see you before then;
but, if not, let us know if _then_ will be convenient. Can we secure a
coach home?

Believe me ever yours, C. LAMB.

I have but one holiday, which is Christmas-day itself nakedly: no pretty
garnish and fringes of St. John's day, Holy Innocents &c., that used to
bestud it all around in the calendar. _Improbe labor!_ I write six hours
every day in this candle-light fog-den at Leadheall.

[Footnote 1: Canon Ainger supplies the four missing words: "which has
utterly failed."]

[The ticket was for a new course of lectures, either on the History of
Philosophy, or Six Plays of Shakespeare, both of which began in
December, 1818, and continued into 1819.

Kenney's new farce was "A Word for the Ladies," produced at Covent
Garden on December 17.

"To catch a skirt of the old out-goer." A reference to Coleridge's

I saw the skirts of the departing year.

Somewhere at this point should come a delightful letter from Lamb to
John Chambers. John Chambers was the brother of Charles Chambers. He was
a colleague of Lamb's at the India House (see the _Elia_ essay "The
Superannuated Man"), and survived until 1872. It was to John Chambers
that Lamb made the remark that he (Lamb) was probably the only man in
England who had never worn boots and never ridden a horse. The letter,
which is concerned with the peculiarities of India House clerks, is
famous for the remark on Tommy Bye, a fellow-clerk at the India House,
that "his sonnets are most like Petrarch of any foreign poet, or what we
may suppose Petrarch would have written if Petrarch had been born a
fool." We meet Bye again in the next letter but one to Wordsworth. I can
find no trace of his sonnets in book form. Possibly they were never



[_This letter is written in black and red ink, changing with each

[P.M. April 26, 1819.]

Dear Wordsworth, I received a copy of Peter Bell a week ago, and I hope
the author will not be offended if I say I do not much relish it. The
humour, if it is meant for humour, is forced, and then the price.
Sixpence would have been dear for it. Mind, I do not mean _your_ Peter
Bell, but _a_ Peter Bell which preceded it about a week, and is in every
bookseller's shop window in London, the type and paper nothing differing
from the true one, the preface signed W.W., and the supplementary
preface quoting as the author's words an extract from supplementary
preface to the Lyrical Balads. Is there no law against these rascals? I
would have this Lambert Simnel whipt at the cart's tail. Then there is
Rogers! he has been re-writing your Poem of the Stride, and publishing
it at the end of his "Human Life." Tie him up to the Cart, hangman,
while you are about it. Who started the spurious P.B. I have not heard.
I should guess, one of the sneering brothers--the vile Smiths--but I
have heard no name mentioned. Peter Bell (not the mock one) is
excellent. For its matter, I mean. I cannot say that the style of it
quite satisfies me. It is too lyrical. The auditors to whom it is
feigned to be told, do not _arride me_. I had rather it had been told
me, the reader, at once. Heartleap Well is the tale for me, in matter as
good as this, in manner infinitely before it, in my poor judgment. Why
did you not add the Waggoner? Have I thanked you, though, yet, for Peter
Bell? I would not _not have it_ for a good deal of money. C---- is very
foolish to scribble about books. Neither his tongue nor fingers are very
retentive. But I shall not say any thing to him about it. He would only
begin a very long story, with a very long face, and I see him far too
seldom to teaze him with affairs of business or conscience when I do see
him. He never comes near our house, and when we go to see him, he is
generally writing, or thinking he is writing, in his study till the
dinner comes, and that is scarce over before the stage summons us away.
The mock P. B. had only this effect on me, that after twice reading it
over in hopes to find _some_thing diverting in it, I reach'd your two
books off the shelf and set into a steady reading of them, till I had
nearly finished both before I went to bed. The two of your last edition,
of course, I mean. And in the morning I awoke determining to take down
the Excursion. I wish the scoundrel imitator could know this. But why
waste a wish on him? I do not believe that paddling about with a stick
in a pond and fishing up a dead author whom _his_ intolerable wrongs had
driven to that deed of desperation, would turn the heart of one of these
obtuse literary Bells. There is no Cock for such Peters. Damn 'em. I am
glad this aspiration came upon the red ink line. It is more of a bloody
curse. I have delivered over your other presents to Alsager and G.
D.--A. I am sure will value it and be proud of the hand from which it
came. To G. D. a poem is a poem. His own as good as any bodie's, and god
bless him, any bodie's as good as his own, for I do not think he has the
most distant guess of the possibility of one poem being better than
another. The Gods by denying him the very faculty itself of
discrimination have effectually cut off every seed of envy in his bosom.
But with envy, they excided Curiosity also, and if you wish the copy
again, which you destined for him, I think I shall be able to find it
again for you--on his third shelf, where he stuffs his presentation
copies, uncut, in shape and matter resembling a lump of dry dust, but on
carefully removing that stratum, a thing like a Pamphlet will emerge. I
have tried this with fifty different Poetical Works that have been given
G. D. in return for as many of his own performances, and I confess I
never had any scruple in taking _my own_ again wherever I found it,
shaking the adherencies off--and by this means one Copy of "my Works"
served for G.D. and with a little dusting was made over to my good
friend Dr. Stoddart, who little thought whose leavings he was taking
when he made me that graceful bow. By the way, the Doctor is the only
one of my acquaintance who bows gracefully, my Town acquaintance I mean.
How do you like my way of writing with two Inks? I think it is pretty
and mottley. Suppose Mrs. W. adopts it, the next time she holds the pen
for you.

[_The ink differs with every word of the following paragraph_:--]

My dinner waits. I have no time to indulge any longer in these laborious
curiosities. God bless you and cause to thrive and to burgeon whatsoever
you write, and fear no inks of miserable poetasters.

Yours truly
Mary's love.

[The _Peter Bell_ to which Lamb refers was written by John Hamilton
Reynolds (1796-1852), the friend of Keats, and later Hood's
brother-in-law. The parody is a travesty of Wordsworth generally rather
than of _Peter Bell_, which had not then been published.

James and Horace Smith, of the _Rejected Addresses_, which contained a
parody of Wordsworth under the title "The Baby's Debut," had nothing to
do with it. Lamb's indignation was shared by Coleridge, who wrote as
follows to Taylor and Hessey, the publishers, on April 16, 1819, on the
announcement of Reynolds' work:--

Dear Sirs, I hope, nay I feel confident, that you will interpret this
note in th' real sense--namely, as a proof of the esteem and respect
which I entertain toward you both. Looking in the Times this morning I
was startled by an advertisement of PETER BELL--a Lyrical Ballad--with a
very significant motto from one of our Comedies of Charles the IInd's
reign, tho' what it signifies I wish to ascertain. Peter Bell is a Poem
of Mr. Wordsworth's--and I have not heard, that it has been published by
him.--If it have, and with his name (I have reason to believe, that he
never published anonymously) and this now advertised be a ridicule on
it--I have nothing to say--But if it have not, I have ventured to pledge
myself for you, that you would not wittingly give the high
respectability of your names to an attack on a _Manuscript_ work, which
no man could assail but by a base breach of trust.

It is stated in the article on Reynolds in the _Dictionary of National
Biography_ that Coleridge asserted positively that Lamb was the
objectionable parodist; but this letter suggests that that was not so.

"_Peter Bell_ (not the mock one)." Crabb Robinson's _Diary_, in the
original MS., for June 6, 1812, contains this passage:--

With C. Lamb. Lent him Peter Bell. To my surprise he finds nothing in it
good. He complains of the slowness of the narrative, as if that were not
the _art_ of the Poet. W. he says has great thoughts, but here are none
of them. He has no interest in the Ass. These are to me inconceivable
judgments from C. L. whose taste in general I acquiesce in and who is
certainly an enthusiast for W.

Again, on May 11, 1819, after the poem was published, Robinson says:--

L. spoke of Peter Bell which he considers as one of the worst of
Wordsworth's works. The lyric narrative L. has no taste for. He is
disgusted by the introduction, which he deems puerile and the story he
thinks ill told, though he allows the idea to be good.

"Rogers." At the end of Samuel Rogers' poem, _Human Life_, 1819, is a
ballad, entitled "The Boy of Egremond," which has for subject the same
incident as that in Wordsworth's "Force of Prayer"--beginning

What is good for a bootless bene?

--the death of the Young Romilly as he leapt across the Strid. In
Wordsworth the answer to the question is "Endless sorrow." Rogers' poem

"Say what remains when hope is fled?"
She answered "Endless weeping."

Wordsworth's _Peter Bell_ was published a week after the mock one. To
_The Waggoner_ we shall come shortly.

The significance of the allusion to Coleridge is not perfectly clear;
but I imagine it to refer to the elaborate examination of Wordsworth's
poetry in the _Biographia Literaria_.

"These obtuse literary Bells." Peter Bell, in the poem, sounds the river
with his staff, and draws forth the dead body of the ass's master. Lamb
passes, in his curse, to a reference to St. Peter.

"Taking my own again." This, if, as one may suppose, adapted from
Moliere's "Je reprendre mon bien partout ou je le trouve," is an
indication that Lamb knew the Frenchman's comedies.

Here should come a business note to John Rickman dated May 21, 1819,
given in the Boston Bibliophile edition.]



May 28, 1819.

My dear M.,--I want to know how your brother is, if you have heard
lately. I want to know about you. I wish you were nearer. How are my
cousins, the Gladmans of Wheathamstead, and farmer Bruton? Mrs. Bruton
is a glorious woman.

Hail, Mackeray End--

This is a fragment of a blank verse poem which I once meditated, but got
no further. The E.I.H. has been thrown into a quandary by the strange
phenomenon of poor Tommy Bye, whom I have known man and mad-man
twenty-seven years, he being elder here than myself by nine years and
more. He was always a pleasant, gossiping, half-headed, muzzy, dozing,
dreaming, walk-about, inoffensive chap; a little too fond of the
creature--who isn't at times? but Tommy had not brains to work off an
over-night's surfeit by ten o'clock next morning, and unfortunately, in
he wandered the other morning drunk with last night, and with a
superfoetation of drink taken in since he set out from bed. He came
staggering under his double burthen, like trees in Java, bearing at once
blossom, fruit, and falling fruit, as I have heard you or some other
traveller tell, with his face literally as blue as the bluest firmament;
some wretched calico that he had mopped his poor oozy front with had
rendered up its native dye, and the devil a bit would he consent to wash
it, but swore it was characteristic, for he was going to the sale of
indigo, and set up a laugh which I did not think the lungs of mortal man
were competent to. It was like a thousand people laughing, or the Goblin
Page. He imagined afterwards that the whole office had been laughing at
him, so strange did his own sounds strike upon his _non_sensorium. But
Tommy has laughed his last laugh, and awoke the next day to find himself
reduced from an abused income of L600 per annum to one-sixth of the sum,
after thirty-six years' tolerably good service. The quality of mercy was
not strained in his behalf; the gentle dews dropt not on him from
heaven. It just came across me that I was writing to Canton. How is
Ball? "Mr. B. is a P----." Will you drop in to-morrow night? Fanny Kelly
is coming, if she does not cheat us. Mrs. _Gold_ is well, but proves
"uncoined," as the lovers about Wheathampstead would say.

O hard hearted Burrell
With teeth like a squirrel--

I have not had such a quiet half hour to sit down to a quiet letter for
many years. I have not been interrupted above four times. I wrote a
letter the other day in alternate lines, black ink and red, and you
cannot think how it chilled the flow of ideas. Next Monday is
Whit-Monday. What a reflection! Twelve years ago, and I should have kept
that and the following holiday in the fields a-Maying. All of those
pretty pastoral delights are over. This dead, everlasting dead desk--how
it weighs the spirit of a gentleman down! This dead wood of the desk
instead of your living trees! But then, again, I hate the Joskins, _a
name for Hertfordshire bumpkins_. Each state of life has its
inconvenience; but then, again, mine has more than one. Not that I
repine, or grudge, or murmur at my destiny. I have meat and drink, and
decent apparel; I shall, at least, when I get a new hat.

A red-haired man has just interrupted me. He has broke the current of my
thoughts. I haven't a word to add. I don't know why I send this letter,
but I have had a hankering to hear about you some days. Perhaps it will
go off, before your reply comes. If it don't, I assure you no letter was
ever welcomer from you, from Paris or Macao. C. LAMB.

[At the beginning of this letter is an unprinted passage saying that
Charles Lloyd and his wife are in London and that such proximity is not
too comfortable. "Would you like to see him?" or "isn't it better to
lean over a stile in a sort of careless easy half astronomical position
eyeing the blue expanse?"

Manning, who had now settled in England, but in retirement, was living
in Hertfordshire, at Totteridge. The Gladmans and Brutons are mentioned
in the _Elia_ essay "Mackery End in Hertfordshire":--

"The oldest thing I remember is Mackery End; or Mackarel End, as it is
spelt, perhaps more properly, in some old maps of Hertfordshire; a
farm-house,--delightfully situated within a gentle walk from
Wheathampstead. I can just remember having been there, on a visit to a
great-aunt, when I was a child, under the care of Bridget; who, as I
have said, is older than myself by some ten years. I wish that I could
throw into a heap the remainder of our joint existences, that we might
share them in equal division. But that is impossible. The house was at
that time in the occupation of a substantial yeoman, who had married my
grandmother's sister. His name was Gladman. My grandmother was a Bruton,
married to a Field. The Gladmans and the Brutons are still flourishing
in that part of the country, but the Fields are almost extinct."

The Goblin Page is in Scott's _Lay of the Last Minstrel_.

"Mrs. _Gold_ is well"--_nee_ Fanny Burrell.

"This dead wood of the desk." Lamb used this figure more than once, in
his letters and elsewhere. In the _Elia_ essay "The Superannuated Man"
he says: "I had grown to my desk, as it were; and the wood had entered
into my soul."]



[P.M. June 7, 1819.]

My dear Wordsworth, you cannot imagine how proud we are here of the
DEDICATION. We read it twice for once that we do the poem--I mean all
through--yet Benjamin is no common favorite--there is a spirit of
beautiful tolerance in it--it is as good as it was in 1806--and will be
as good in 1829 if our dim eyes shall be awake to peruse it.

Methinks there is a kind of shadowing affinity between the subject of
the narrative and the subject of the dedication--but I will not enter
into personal themes--else, substituting ******* **** for Ben, and the
Honble United Company of Merch'ts trading to the East Indies for the
Master of the misused Team, it might seem by no far fetched analogy to
point its dim warnings hitherward--but I reject the omen--especially as
its import seems to have been diverted to another victim.

Poor Tommy Bye, whom I have known (as I express'd it in a letter to
Manning), man and mad man 27 years--he was my gossip in Leadenhall


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