The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Vol. 5
Edited by E. V. Lucas
Part 3 out of 14
Infancy woman or man," &c., "affection's tottering troop"--are prominent
beauties. Another time, when my mind were more at ease, I could be more
particular in my remarks, and I would postpone them now, only I want
some diversion of mind. The _Melancholy Man_ is a charming piece of
poetry, only the "whys" (with submission) are too many. Yet the
questions are too good to be any of 'em omitted. For those lines of
yours, page 18, omitted in magazine, I think the 3 first better
retain'd--the 3 last, which are somewhat simple in the most affronting
sense of the word, better omitted: to this my taste directs me--I have
no claim to prescribe to you. "Their slothful loves and dainty
sympathies" is an exquisite line, but you knew _that_ when you wrote
'em, and I trifle in pointing such out. Tis altogether the sweetest
thing to me you ever wrote--tis all honey. "No wish profaned my
overwhelmed heart, Blest hour, it was a Luxury to be"--I recognise
feelings, which I may taste again, if tranquility has not taken his
flight for ever, and I will not believe but I shall be happy, very happy
again. The next poem to your friend is very beautiful: need I instance
the pretty fancy of "the rock's collected tears"--or that original line
"pour'd all its healthful greenness on the soul"?--let it be, since you
asked me, "as neighbouring fountains each reflect the whole"--tho' that
is somewhat harsh; indeed the ending is not so finish'd as the rest,
which if you omit in your forthcoming edition, you will do the volume
wrong, and the very binding will cry out. Neither shall you omit the 2
following poems. "The hour when we shall meet again," is fine fancy, tis
true, but fancy catering in the Service of the feeling--fetching from
her stores most splendid banquets to satisfy her. Do not, do not omit
it. Your sonnet to the _River Otter_ excludes those equally beautiful
lines, which deserve not to be lost, "as the tired savage," &c., and I
prefer that copy in your _Watchman_. I plead for its preference.
Another time, I may notice more particularly Lloyd's, Southey's,
Dermody's Sonnets. I shrink from them now: my teazing lot makes me too
confused for a clear judgment of things, too selfish for sympathy; and
these ill-digested, meaningless remarks I have imposed on myself as a
task, to lull reflection, as well as to show you I did not neglect
reading your valuable present. Return my acknowledgments to Lloyd; you
two appear to be about realising an Elysium upon earth, and, no doubt, I
shall be happier. Take my best wishes. Remember me most affectionately
to Mrs. C., and give little David Hartley--God bless its little
heart!--a kiss for me. Bring him up to know the meaning of his Christian
name, and what that name (imposed upon him) will demand of him.
God love you!
I write, for one thing, to say that I shall write no more till you send
me word where you are, for you are so soon to move.
My sister is pretty well, thank God. We think of you very often. God
bless you: continue to be my correspondent, and I will strive to fancy
that this world is _not_ "all barrenness."
[The poetical present, as the late Mr. Dykes Campbell pointed out in
_The Atheneum_, June 13, 1891, consisted of Lloyd's _Poems on the Death
of Priscilla Farmer_, to which Lamb had contributed "The Grandame," and
of a little privately-printed collection of poems by Coleridge and
Lloyd, which they had intended to publish, but did not. The pamphlet has
completely vanished. In addition to these two works the poetical present
also comprised another privately-printed collection, a little pamphlet
of twenty-eight sonnets which Coleridge had arranged for the purpose of
binding up with those of Bowles. It included three of Bowles', four of
Coleridge's, four of Lamb's, four of Southey's, and the remainder by
Dermody, Lloyd, Charlotte Smith, and others. A copy of this pamphlet is
preserved in the South Kensington Museum.
"The poems you sent me." This would be Lloyd's _Poems on the Death of
Priscilla Farmer_. When Lamb reprinted "The Grandame" in Coleridge's
second edition, 1797, he put back the original text.
I now take up Mr. Dykes Campbell's comments on the letter, where it
branches off from the _Priscilla Farmer_ volume to the vanished pamphlet
of poems by Coleridge and Lloyd:--
Beginning with Lloyd's "Melancholy Man" (first printed in the Carlisle
volume of 1795), he [Lamb] passes to Coleridge's poem on leaving the
honeymoon-cottage at Clevedon, "altogether the sweetest thing to me,"
says Lamb, "you ever wrote." The verses had appeared in the _Monthly
Magazine_ two months before.... That Lamb's counsel was followed to some
extent may be gathered from a comparison between the text of the
magazine and that of 1797:--
"Once I saw
(Hallowing his sabbath-day by quietness)
A wealthy son of Commerce saunter by,
Bristowa's citizen: he paus'd, and look'd,
With a pleas'd sadness, and gazed all around,
Then ey'd our Cottage, and gaz'd round again,
And said, _it was a blessed little place!_
And we _were_ blessed!"
"Once I saw
(Hallowing his Sabbath-day by quietness)
A wealthy son of Commerce saunter by,
Bristowa's citizen. Methought it calm'd
His thirst of idle gold, and made him muse
With wiser feelings: for he paus'd, and look'd
With a pleas'd sadness, and gaz'd all around,
Then ey'd our cottage, and gaz'd round again,
And sigh'd and said, _it was a blessed place._
And we _were_ blessed."
It will be observed that Coleridge in 1797 inserted some lines which
were not in the magazine. They were probably restored from a MS. copy
Lamb had previously seen, and if Coleridge did not cancel all that Lamb
wisely counselled, he certainly drew the sting of the "affronting
simplicity" by removing the word "little." The comical ambiguity of the
Bristol man's exclamation as first reported could hardly have failed to
drive Lamb's dull care away for a moment or two.
[In] "the next poem to your friend," ... [Lamb is] speaking of
Coleridge's lines "To Charles Lloyd"--those beginning
"A mount, not wearisome and bare and steep."
In the "forthcoming edition" the poet improved a little the barely
tolerated line, making it read,--
"As neighb'ring fountains image, each the whole,"
but did not take Lamb's hint to omit the five which closed the poem.
Lamb, however, got his way--perhaps took it--when the verses were
reprinted in 1803, in the volume he saw through the press for Coleridge.
"Neither shall you omit the 2 following poems. 'The hour when we shall
meet again' is [only?] a fine fancy, 'tis true, but fancy catering in
the service of the feeling--fetching from her stores most splendid
banquets to satisfy her. Do not, do not, omit it."
So wrote Lamb of these somewhat slender verses, but his friend had
composed them "during illness and in absence," and Lamb in his own
heart-sickness and loneliness detected the reality which underlay the
conventionality of expression. The critic slept, and even when he was
awake again in 1803 was fain to let the lines be reprinted with only the
concession of their worst couplet:--
"While finely-flushing float her kisses meek,
Like melted rubies, o'er my pallid cheek."
The second of the "2 following poems" was Coleridge's "Sonnet to the
River Otter." The version then before him "excludes," complains Lamb,
"those equally beautiful lines which deserve not to be lost, 'as the
tir'd savage,' &c., and I prefer the copy in your _Watchman_. I plead
for its preference." This pleading ... was not responded to in the way
Lamb wanted, but in the appendix to the 1797 volume Coleridge printed
the whole of the poem on an "Autumnal Evening," to which the "tir'd
savage" properly belonged....
"Lloyd's, Southey's, Dermody's Sonnets." Lamb here refers to the third
portion of the poetical present--the twenty-eight sonnets to be bound up
with those of Bowles. Thomas Dermody (1775-1802) was an Irish poet of
squalidly dissolute life. A collection of his verses appeared in 1792.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Dec. 10th, 1796.
I had put my letter into the post rather hastily, not expecting to have
to acknowledge another from you so soon. This morning's present has made
me alive again: my last night's epistle was childishly querulous; but
you have put a little life into me, and I will thank you for your
remembrance of me, while my sense of it is yet warm; for if I linger a
day or two I may use the same phrase of acknowledgment, or similar; but
the feeling that dictates it now will be gone. I shall send you a _caput
mortuum_, not a _cor vivens_. Thy Watchman's, thy bellman's, verses, I
do retort upon thee, thou libellous varlet,--why, you cried the hours
yourself, and who made you so proud? But I submit, to show my humility,
most implicitly to your dogmas. I reject entirely the copy of verses you
reject. With regard to my leaving off versifying, you have said so many
pretty things, so many fine compliments, ingeniously decked out in the
garb of sincerity, and undoubtedly springing from a present feeling
somewhat like sincerity, that you might melt the most un-muse-ical
soul,--did you not (now for a Rowland compliment for your profusion of
Olivers)--did you not in your very epistle, by the many pretty fancies
and profusion of heart displayed in it, dissuade and discourage me from
attempting anything after you. At present I have not leisure to make
verses, nor anything approaching to a fondness for the exercise. In the
ignorant present time, who can answer for the future man? "At lovers'
perjuries Jove laughs"--and poets have sometimes a disingenuous way of
forswearing their occupation. This though is not my case. The tender
cast of soul, sombred with melancholy and subsiding recollections, is
favourable to the Sonnet or the Elegy; but from
"The sainted growing woof,
The teasing troubles keep aloof."
The music of poesy may charm for a while the importunate teasing cares
of life; but the teased and troubled man is not in a disposition to make
You sent me some very sweet lines relative to Burns, but it was at a
time when, in my highly agitated and perhaps distorted state of mind, I
thought it a duty to read 'em hastily and burn 'em. I burned all my own
verses, all my book of extracts from Beaumont and Fletcher and a
thousand sources: I burned a little journal of my foolish passion which
I had a long time kept--
"Noting ere they past away
The little lines of yesterday."
I almost burned all your letters,--I did as bad, I lent 'em to a friend
to keep out of my brother's sight, should he come and make inquisition
into our papers, for, much as he dwelt upon your conversation while you
were among us, and delighted to be with you, it has been his fashion
ever since to depreciate and cry you down,--you were the cause of my
madness--you and your damned foolish sensibility and melancholy--and he
lamented with a true brotherly feeling that we ever met, even as the
sober citizen, when his son went astray upon the mountains of Parnassus,
is said to have "cursed wit and Poetry and Pope." I quote wrong, but no
matter. These letters I lent to a friend to be out of the way for a
season; but I have claimed them in vain, and shall not cease to regret
their loss. Your packets, posterior to the date of my misfortunes,
commencing with that valuable consolatory epistle, are every day
accumulating--they are sacred things with me.
Publish your _Burns_ when and how you like, it will be new to me,--my
memory of it is very confused, and tainted with unpleasant associations.
Burns was the god of my idolatry, as Bowles of yours. I am jealous of
your fraternising with Bowles, when I think you relish him more than
Burns or my old favourite, Cowper. But you conciliate matters when you
talk of the "divine chit-chat" of the latter: by the expression I see
you thoroughly relish him. I love Mrs. Coleridge for her excuses an
hundredfold more dearly than if she heaped "line upon line,"
out-Hannah-ing Hannah More, and had rather hear you sing "Did a very
little baby" by your family fire-side, than listen to you when you were
repeating one of Bowles's sweetest sonnets in your sweet manner, while
we two were indulging sympathy, a solitary luxury, by the fireside at
the Salutation. Yet have I no higher ideas of heaven. Your company was
one "cordial in this melancholy vale"--the remembrance of it is a
blessing partly, and partly a curse.
When I can abstract myself from things present, I can enjoy it with a
freshness of relish; but it more constantly operates to an unfavourable
comparison with the uninteresting; converse I always and _only_ can
partake in. Not a soul loves Bowles here; scarce one has heard of Burns;
few but laugh at me for reading my Testament--they talk a language I
understand not: I conceal sentiments that would be a puzzle to them. I
can only converse with you by letter and with the dead in their books.
My sister, indeed, is all I can wish in a companion; but our spirits are
alike poorly, our reading and knowledge from the self-same sources, our
communication with the scenes of the world alike narrow: never having
kept separate company, or any "company" "_together_"--never having read
separate books, and few books _together_--what knowledge have we to
convey to each other? In our little range of duties and connexions, how
few sentiments can take place, without friends, with few books, with a
taste for religion rather than a strong religious habit! We need some
support, some leading-strings to cheer and direct us. You talk very
wisely, and be not sparing of _your advice_. Continue to remember us,
and to show us you do remember us: we will take as lively an interest in
what concerns you and yours. All I can add to your happiness, will be
sympathy. You can add to mine _more_; you can teach me wisdom. I am
indeed an unreasonable correspondent; but I was unwilling to let my last
night's letter go off without this qualifier: you will perceive by this
my mind is easier, and you will rejoice. I do not expect or wish you to
write, till you are moved; and of course shall not, till you announce to
me that event, think of writing myself. Love to Mrs. Coleridge and David
Hartley, and my kind remembrance to Lloyd, if he is with you.
I will get "Nature and Art,"--have not seen it yet--nor any of Jeremy
[The reference to the bellman's verses (the bellman, or watchman, used
to leave verses at the houses on his beat at Easter as a reminder of his
deserts) is not quite clear. Lamb evidently had submitted for the new
volume some lines which Coleridge would not pass--possibly the poem in
Letter No. 16.
Coleridge some time before had sent to Lamb the very sweet lines
relative to Burns, under the title, "To a Friend who had Declared His
Intention of Writing no more Poetry."
"Did a very little baby." In the Appendix to Vol. I. of the 1847 edition
of the _Biog. Lit._, Sara Coleridge writes, concerning children and
domestic evenings, "'Did a very little babby make a very great noise?'
is the first line of a nursery song, in which Mr. Coleridge recorded
some of his experience on this recondite subject." The song has
_Nature and Art_ was Mrs. Inchbald's story, published in 1796. Lamb
later became an enthusiast for Jeremy Taylor.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[Dated outside: Jan. 2, 1797.]
Your success in the higher species of the Ode is such, as bespeaks you
born for atchievements of loftier enterprize than to linger in the lowly
train of songsters and sonneteurs. Sincerely I think your Ode one of the
finest I have read. The opening is in the spirit of the sublimest
allegory. The idea of the "skirts of the departing year, seen far
onwards, waving on the wind" is one of those noble Hints at which the
Reader's imagination is apt to kindle into grand conceptions. Do the
words "impetuous" and "solemnize" harmonize well in the same line? Think
and judge. In the 2d strophe, there seems to be too much play of fancy
to be consistent with that continued elevation we are taught to expect
from the strain of the foregoing. The parenthized line (by the way I
abominate parentheses in this kind of poetry) at the beginning of 7th
page, and indeed all that gradual description of the throes and pangs of
nature in childbirth, I do not much like, and those 4 first lines,--I
mean "tomb gloom anguish and languish"--rise not above mediocrity. In
the Epode, your mighty genius comes again: "I marked ambition" &c. Thro'
the whole Epod indeed you carry along our souls in a full spring tide of
feeling and imaginat'n. Here is the "Storm of Music," as Cowper
expresses it. Would it not be more abrupt "Why does the northern
Conqueress stay" or "where does the northern Conqueress stay"?--this
change of measure, rather than the feebler "Ah! whither", "Foul her life
and dark her tomb, mighty army of the dead, dance like deathflies" &c.:
here is genius, here is poetry, rapid, irresistible. The concluding
line, is it not a personif: without use? "Nec deus intersit"--except
indeed for rhyme sake. Would the laws of Strophe and antistrophe, which,
if they are as unchangeable, I suppose are about as wise, [as] the Mede
and Persian laws, admit of expunging that line altogether, and changing
the preceding one to "and he, poor madman, deemd it quenchd in endless
night?"--_fond_ madman or _proud_ madman if you will, but poor is more
contemptuous. If I offer alterations of my own to your poetry, and admit
not yours in mine, it is upon the principle of a present to a rich man
being graciously accepted, and the same present to a poor man being
considered as in insult. To return--The Antistrophe that follows is not
inferior in grandeur or original: but is I think not faultless--e: g:
How is Memory _alone_, when all the etherial multitude are there?
Reflect. Again "storiedst thy sad hours" is harsh, I need not tell you,
but you have gained your point in expressing much meaning in few words:
"Purple locks and snow white glories" "mild Arcadians ever blooming"
"seas of milk and ships of amber" these are things the Muse talks about
when, to borrow H. Walpole's witty phrase, she is not finely-phrenzied,
only a little light-headed, that's all. "Purple locks." They may manage
things differently in fairy land, but your "golden tresses" are more to
my fancy. The spirit of the Earth is a most happy conceit, and the last
line is one of the luckiest I ever heard--"_and stood up beautiful_
before the cloudy seat." I cannot enough admire it. 'Tis somehow
picturesque in the very sound. The 2d Antistrophe (what is the meaning
of these things?) is fine and faultless (or to vary the alliteration and
not diminish the affectation) beautiful and blameless. I only except to
the last line as meaningless after the preceding, and useless
entirely--besides, why disjoin "nature and the world" here, when you had
confounded both in their pregnancy: "the common earth and nature,"
recollect, a little before--And there is a dismal superfluity in the
unmeaning vocable "unhurld"--the worse, as it is so evidently a
rhyme-fetch.--"Death like he dozes" is a prosaic conceit--indeed all the
Epode as far as "brother's corse" I most heartily commend to
annihilation. The enthusiast of the lyre should not be so feebly, so
tediously, delineative of his own feelings; 'tis not the way to become
"Master of our affections." The address to Albion is very agreeable, and
concludes even beautifully: "speaks safety to his island
child"--"Sworded"--epithet _I_ would change for "cruel."
The immediately succeeding lines are prosaic: "mad avarice" is an
unhappy combination; and "the coward distance yet with kindling pride"
is not only reprehensible for the antithetical turn, but as it is a
quotation: "safe distance" and "coward distance" you have more than once
had recourse to before--And the Lyric Muse, in her enthusiasm, should
talk the language of her country, something removed from common use,
something "recent," unborrowed. The dreams of destruction "soothing her
fierce solitude," are vastly grand and terrific: still you weaken the
effect by that superfluous and easily-conceived parenthesis that
finishes the page. The foregoing image, few minds _could_ have
conceived, few tongues could have so cloath'd; "muttring destempered
triumph" &c. is vastly fine. I hate imperfect beginnings and endings.
Now your concluding stanza is worthy of so fine an ode. The beginning
was awakening and striking; the ending is soothing and solemn--Are you
serious when you ask whether you shall admit this ode? it would be
strange infatuation to leave out your Chatterton; mere insanity to
reject this. Unless you are fearful that the splendid thing may be a
means of "eclipsing many a softer satellite" that twinkles thro' the
volume. Neither omit the annex'd little poem. For my part, detesting
alliterations, I should make the 1st line "Away, with this fantastic
pride of woe." Well may you relish Bowles's allegory. I need only tell
you, I have read, and will only add, that I dislike ambition's name
_gilded_ on his helmet-cap, and that I think, among the more striking
personages you notice, you omitted the _most_ striking, Remorse! "He saw
the trees--the sun--then hied him to his cave again"!!! The 2d stanza of
mania is superfl: the 1st was never exceeded. The 2d is too methodic:
for _her_. With all its load of beauties, I am more _affected_ with the
6 first stanzas of the Elegiac poem written during sickness. Tell me
your feelings. If the fraternal sentiment conveyed in the following
lines will atone for the total want of anything like merit or genius in
it, I desire you will print it next after my other sonnet to my sister.
Friend of my earliest years, & childish days,
My joys, my sorrows, thou with me hast shared
Companion dear; & we alike have fared
Poor pilgrims we, thro' life's unequal ways
It were unwisely done, should we refuse
To cheer our path, as featly as we may,
Our lonely path to cheer, as travellers use
With merry song, quaint tale, or roundelay.
And we will sometimes talk past troubles o'er,
Of mercies shewn, & all our sickness heal'd,
And in his judgments God remembring love;
And we will learn to praise God evermore
For those "Glad tidings of great joy" reveal'd
By that sooth messenger, sent from above.
If you think the epithet "sooth" quaint, substitute "blest messenger." I
hope you are printing my sonnets, as I directed you--particularly the
2d. "Methinks" &c. with my last added 6 lines at ye end: and all of 'em
as I last made 'em.
This has been a sad long letter of business, with no room in it for what
honest Bunyan terms heart-work. I have just room left to congratulate
you on your removal to Stowey; to wish success to all your projects; to
"bid fair peace" be to that house; to send my love and best wishes,
breathed warmly, after your dear Sara, and her little David Hartley. If
Lloyd be with you, bid him write to me: I feel to whom I am obliged
primarily for two very friendly letters I have received already from
him. A dainty sweet book that "Art and Nature" is. I am at present
re-re-reading Priestley's examinat of the Scotch Drs: how the Rogue
strings 'em up! three together! You have no doubt read that clear,
strong, humorous, most entertaining piece of reasoning. If not, procure
it, and be exquisitely amused. I wish I could get more of Priestley's
works. Can you recommend me to any more books, easy of access, such as
circulating shops afford? God bless you and yours.
Poor Mary is very unwell with a sore throat and a slight species of
scarlet fever. God bless her too.
Monday Morning, at Office.
[Coleridge had just published in quarto his _Ode on the Departing Year_.
In order that Lamb's letter may be intelligible it is necessary, I
think, to give the text of this edition in full. It will be found in the
Appendix to this volume. Lamb returns to his criticism in the next
The "annexed little poem" was that "Addressed to a Young Man of
Fortune," which began, and still begins, "Hence that fantastic
wantonness of woe."
Bowies' allegory was the poem, "Hope, An Allegorical Sketch," recently
The poem was not included in the 1797 volume, but was printed in the
_Monthly Magazine_, October, 1797. Coleridge had moved to his cottage at
Nether Stowey on the last day of 1796.
Priestley's book would be _An Examination of Dr. Reid's Inquiry into the
Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, Dr. Beattie's Essay on the
Nature and Immutability of Truth, and Dr. Oswald's Appeal to Common
Sense in Behalf of Religion_, 1774.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[P.M. Jan. 10, 1797.]
I am completely reconciled to that second strophe, and wa[i]ve all
objection. In spite of the Grecian Lyrists, I persist on [in] thinking
your brief personification of Madness useless; reverence forbids me to
say, impertinent. Golden locks and snow white glories are as incongruous
as your former, and if the great Italian painters, of whom my friend
knows about as much as the man in the moon, if these great gentlemen be
on your side, I see no harm in retaining the purple--the glories that I
have observed to encircle the heads of saints and madonnas in those old
paintings have been mostly of a dirty drab-color'd yellow--a dull
gambogium. Keep your old line: it will excite a confused kind of
pleasurable idea in the reader's mind, not clear enough to be called a
conception, nor just enough, I think, to reduce to painting. It is a
rich line, you say, and riches hide a many faults. I maintain, that in
the 2d antist: you _do_ disjoin Nature and the world, and contrary to
your conduct in the 2d strophe. "Nature joins her groans"--joins with
_whom_, a God's name, but the world or earth in line preceding? But this
is being over curious, I acknowledge. Nor _did_ I call the _last_ line
useless, I only objected to "unhurld." I cannot be made to like the
former part of that 2d Epode; I cannot be made to feel it, as I do the
parallel places in Isaiah, Jeremy and Daniel. Whether it is that in the
present case the rhyme impairs the efficacy; or that the circumstances
are feigned, and we are conscious of a made up lye in the case, and the
narrative is too long winded to preserve the semblance of truth; or that
lines 8. 9. 10. 14 in partic: 17 and 18 are mean and unenthusiastic; or
that lines 5 to 8 in their change of rhyme shew like art--I don't know,
but it strikes me as something meant to affect, and failing in its
purpose. Remember my waywardness of feeling is single, and singly stands
opposed to all your friends, and what is one among many! This I know,
that your quotations from the prophets have never escaped me, and never
fail'd to affect me strongly. I hate that simile. I am glad you have
amended that parenthesis in the account of Destruction. I like it well
now. Only utter [? omit] that history of child-bearing, and all will do
well. Let the obnoxious Epode remain, to terrify such of your friends as
are willing to be terrified. I think I would omit the Notes, not as not
good per se, but as uncongenial with the dignity of the Ode. I need not
repeat my wishes to have my little sonnets printed verbatim my last way.
In particular, I fear lest you should prefer printing my first sonnet,
as you have done more than once, "did the wand of Merlin wave"? It looks
so like _Mr._ Merlin, the ingenious successor of the immortal Merlin,
now living in good health and spirits, and nourishing in magical
reputation in Oxford Street; and on my life, one half who read it would
understand it so. Do put 'em forth finally as I have, in various
letters, settled it; for first a man's self is to be pleased, and then
his friends,--and, of course the greater number of his friends, if they
differ inter se. Thus taste may safely be put to the vote. I do long to
see our names together--not for vanity's sake, and naughty pride of
heart altogether, for not a living soul, I know or am intimate with,
will scarce read the book--so I shall gain nothing quoad famam,--and yet
there is a little vanity mixes in it, I cannot help denying. I am aware
of the unpoetical cast of the 6 last lines of my last sonnet, and think
myself unwarranted in smuggling so tame a thing into the book; only the
sentiments of those 6 lines are thoroughly congenial to me in my state
of mind, and I wish to accumulate perpetuating tokens of my affection to
poor Mary; that it has no originality in its cast, nor anything in the
feelings, but what is common and natural to thousands, nor aught
properly called poetry, I see; still it will tend to keep present to my
mind a view of things which I ought to indulge. These 6 lines, too, have
not, to a reader, a connectedness with the foregoing. Omit it, if you
like.--What a treasure it is to my poor indolent and unemployed mind,
thus to lay hold on a subject to talk about, tho' 'tis but a sonnet and
that of the lowest order. How mournfully inactive I am!--'Tis night:
My sister, I thank God, is nigh recovered. She was seriously ill. Do, in
your next letter, and that right soon, give me some satisfaction
respecting your present situation at Stowey. Is it a farm you have got?
and what does your worship know about farming? Coleridge, I want you to
write an Epic poem. Nothing short of it can satisfy the vast capacity of
true poetic genius. Having one great End to direct all your poetical
faculties to, and on which to lay out your hopes, your ambition, will
shew you to what you are equal. By the sacred energies of Milton, by the
dainty sweet and soothing phantasies of honeytongued Spenser, I adjure
you to attempt the Epic. Or do something more ample than writing an
occasional brief ode or sonnet; something "to make yourself for ever
known,--to make the age to come your own". But I prate; doubtless you
meditate something. When you are exalted among the Lords of Epic fame, I
shall recall with pleasure, and exultingly, the days of your humility,
when you disdained not to put forth in the same volume with mine, your
religious musings, and that other poem from the Joan of Arc, those
promising first fruits of high renown to come. You have learning, you
have fancy, you have enthusiasm--you have strength and amplitude of wing
enow for flights like those I recommend. In the vast and unexplored
regions of fairyland, there is ground enough unfound and uncultivated;
search there, and realize your favourite Susquehanah scheme. In all our
comparisons of taste, I do not know whether I have ever heard your
opinion of a poet, very dear to me, the now out of fashion Cowley--favor
me with your judgment of him, and tell me if his prose essays, in
particular, as well as no inconsiderable part of his verse, be not
delicious. I prefer the graceful rambling of his essays, even to the
courtly elegance and ease of Addison--abstracting from this the latter's
exquisite humour. Why is not your poem on Burns in the Monthly Magazine?
I was much disappointed. I have a pleasurable but confused remembrance
When the little volume is printed, send me 3 or 4, at all events not
more than 6 copies, and tell me if I put you to any additional expence,
by printing with you. I have no thought of the kind, and in that case,
must reimburse you. My epistle is a model of unconnectedness, but I have
no partic: subject to write on, and must proportion my scribble in some
degree to the increase of postage. It is not quite fair, considering how
burdensome your correspondence from different quarters must be, to add
to it with so little shew of reason. I will make an end for this
evening. Sunday Even:--Farewell.
Priestly, whom I sin in almost adoring, speaks of "such a choice of
company, as tends to keep up that right bent, and firmness of mind,
which a necessary intercourse with the world would otherwise warp and
relax. Such fellowship is the true balsam of life, its cement is
infinitely more durable than that of the friendships of the world, and
it looks for its proper fruit, and complete gratification, to the life
beyond the Grave." Is there a possible chance for such an one as me to
realize in this world, such friendships? Where am I to look for 'em?
What testimonials shall I bring of my being worthy of such friendship?
Alas! the great and good go together in separate Herds, and leave such
as me to lag far far behind in all intellectual, and far more grievous
to say, in all moral, accomplishments. Coleridge, I have not one truly
elevated character among my acquaintance: not one Christian: not one but
undervalues Christianity. Singly what am I to do? Wesley (have you read
his life? was _he_ not an elevated character?) Wesley has said,
"Religion is not a solitary thing." Alas! it necessarily is so with me,
or next to solitary. 'Tis true, you write to me. But correspondence by
letter, and personal intimacy, are very widely different. Do, do write
to me, and do some good to my mind, already how much "warped and
relaxed" by the world!--'Tis the conclusion of another evening. Good
night. God have us all in his keeping. If you are sufficiently at
leisure, oblige me with an account of your plan of life at Stowey--your
literary occupations and prospects--in short make me acquainted with
every circumstance, which, as relating to you, can be interesting to me.
Are you yet a Berkleyan? Make me one. I rejoice in being, speculatively,
a necessarian. Would to God, I were habitually a practical one. Confirm
me in the faith of that great and glorious doctrine, and keep me steady
in the contemplation of it. You sometime since exprest an intention you
had of finishing some extensive work on the Evidences of Natural and
Revealed Religion. Have you let that intention go? Or are you doing any
thing towards it? Make to yourself other ten talents. My letter is full
of nothingness. I talk of nothing. But I must talk. I love to write to
you. I take a pride in it. It makes me think less meanly of myself. It
makes me think myself not totally disconnected from the better part of
Mankind. I know, I am too dissatisfied with the beings around me,--but I
cannot help occasionally exclaiming "Woe is me, that I am constrained to
dwell with Meshech, and to have my habitation among the tents of
Kedar"--I know I am no ways better in practice than my neighbours--but I
have a taste for religion, an occasional earnest aspiration after
perfection, which they have not. I gain nothing by being with such as
myself--we encourage one another in mediocrity--I am always longing to
be with men more excellent than myself. All this must sound odd to you;
but these are my predominant feelings, when I sit down to write to you,
and I should put force upon my mind, were I to reject them. Yet I
rejoyce, and feel my privilege with gratitude, when I have been reading
some wise book, such as I have just been reading--Priestley on
Philosophical necessity--in the thought that I enjoy a kind of
communion, a kind of friendship even, with the great and good. Books are
to me instead of friends. I wish they did not resemble the latter in
their scarceness.--And how does little David Hartley? "Ecquid in
antiquam virtutem?"--does his mighty name work wonders yet upon his
little frame, and opening mind? I did not distinctly understand
you,--you don't mean to make an actual ploughman of him? Mrs. C---- is
no doubt well,--give my kindest respects to her. Is Lloyd with you
yet?--are you intimate with Southey? What poems is he about to
publish--he hath a most prolific brain, and is indeed a most sweet poet.
But how can you answer all the various mass of interrogation I have put
to you in the course of this sheet. Write back just what you like, only
write something, however brief. I have now nigh finished my page, and
got to the end of another evening (Monday evening)--and my eyes are
heavy and sleepy, and my brain unsuggestive. I have just heart enough
awake to say Good night once more, and God love you my dear friend, God
love us all. Mary bears an affectionate remembrance of you.
[The criticisms contained in the first paragraph bear upon Coleridge's
"Ode on the Departing Year," which had already appeared twice, in the
_Cambridge Intelligencer_ and in a quarto issued by Cottle, and was now
being revised for the second edition of the _Poems_.
The personification of Madness was contained in the line, afterwards
For still does Madness roam on Guilt's black dizzy height.
Lamb's objection to this line, considering his home circumstances at the
time, was very natural. In Antistrophe I. Coleridge originally said of
the ethereal multitude in Heaven--
Whose purple Locks with snow-white Glories shone.
In the 1797 _Poems_ the line ran--
Whose wreathed Locks with snow-white Glories shone;
and in the final version--
Whose locks with wreaths, whose wreaths with glories shone.
Coleridge must have supported his case, in the letter which Lamb is
answering, by a reference to the Italian painters.
Coleridge in the 1797 edition of his Poems made no alteration to meet
Lamb's strictures. The simile that Lamb hated is, I imagine, that of the
soldier on the war field. "The history of child-bearing" referred to is
the passage at the end of Strophe II. To the quarto Coleridge had
appended various notes. In 1797 he had only three, and added an
The reference to Merlin will be explained by a glance at the parallel
sonnets above. Merlin was entirely Coleridge's idea. A conjuror of that
name was just then among London's attractions.
The "last sonnet," which was not the last in the 1797 volume, but the
6th, was that beginning "If from my lips" (see first letter).
In connection with Lamb's question on the Stowey husbandry, the
following quotation from a letter from Coleridge to the Rev. J. P.
Estlin, belonging to this period, is interesting;--
Our house is better than we expected--there is a comfortable bedroom and
sitting-room for C. Lloyd, and another for us, a room for Nanny, a
kitchen, and out-house. Before our door a clear brook runs of very soft
water; and in the back yard is a nice _well_ of fine spring water. We
have a very pretty garden, and large enough to find us vegetables and
employment, and I am already an expert gardener, and both my hands can
exhibit a callum as testimonials of their industry. We have likewise a
Writing a little before this to Charles Lloyd, senior, Coleridge had
said: "My days I shall devote to the acquirement of practical husbandry
The poem on Burns was that "To a Friend [Lamb] who had Declared His
Intention of Writing no more Poetry." It was printed first in a Bristol
paper and then in the _Annual Anthology_, 1800.
Priestley's remark is in the Dedication to John Lee, Esq., of Lincoln's
Inn, of "A Free Discussion of the Doctrines of Materialism and
Philosophical Necessity in a Correspondence between Dr. Price and Dr.
Priestley," etc., included in _Disquisitions Relating to Matter and
Spirit_, Vol. III., 1778. The discussion arose from the publication by
Priestley of _The Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity Illustrated_,
which itself is an appendage to _Disquisitions Relating to Matter and
Three lives at least of John Wesley were published in the two years
following his death in 1791. Coleridge later studied Wesley closely, for
he added valuable notes to Southey's life (see the 1846 edition).
"A Berkleyan," _i.e._, a follower of Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753), who in
his _New Theory of Vision_ and later works maintained that "what we call
matter has no actual existence, and that the impressions which we
believe ourselves to receive from it are not, in fact, derived from
anything external to ourselves, but are produced within us by a certain
disposition of the mind, the immediate operation of God" (Benham's
_Dictionary of Religion_).
Coleridge when sending Southey one version of his poem to Charles Lamb,
entitled "This Lime-tree Bower my Prison" (to which we shall come
later), in July, 1797, appended to the following passage the note, "You
remember I am a _Berkleian_":--
Struck with joy's deepest calm, and gazing round
On the wide view, may gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily; a living thing
That acts upon the mind, and with such hues
As clothe the Almighty Spirit, when He makes
Spirits perceive His presence!
"A Necessarian." We should now say a fatalist.
Coleridge's work on the "Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion,"
which has before been mentioned, was, if ever begun, never completed.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[Dated at end: January 18, 1797.]
Dear Col,--You have learnd by this time, with surprise, no doubt, that
Lloyd is with me in town. The emotions I felt on his coming so unlooked
for are not ill expressed in what follows, & what, if you do not object
to them as too personal, & to the world obscure, or otherwise wanting in
worth, I should wish to make a part of our little volume.
I shall be sorry if that vol comes out, as it necessarily must do,
unless you print those very schoolboyish verses I sent you on not
getting leave to come down to Bristol last Summer. I say I shall be
sorry that I have addrest you in nothing which can appear in our joint
So frequently, so habitually as you dwell on my thoughts, 'tis some
wonder those thoughts came never yet in Contact with a poetical
mood--But you dwell in my heart of hearts, and I love you in all the
naked honesty of prose. God bless you, and all your little domestic
circle--my tenderest remembrances to your Beloved Sara, & a smile and a
kiss from me to your dear dear little David Hartley--The verses I refer
to above, slightly amended, I have sent (forgetting to ask your leave,
tho' indeed I gave them only your initials) to the Month: Mag: where
they may possibly appear next month, and where I hope to recognise your
Poem on Burns.
TO CHARLES LLOYD, AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
Alone, obscure, without a friend,
A cheerless, solitary thing,
Why seeks my Lloyd the stranger out?
What offring can the stranger bring
Of social scenes, home-bred delights,
That him in aught compensate may
For Stowey's pleasant winter nights,
For loves & friendships far away?
In brief oblivion to forego
Friends, such as thine, so justly dear,
And be awhile with me content
To stay, a kindly loiterer, here--
For this a gleam of random joy,
Hath flush'd my unaccustom'd cheek,
And, with an o'er-charg'd bursting heart,
I feel the thanks, I cannot speak.
O! sweet are all the Muses' lays,
And sweet the charm of matin bird--
'Twas long, since these estranged ears
The sweeter voice of friend had heard.
The voice hath spoke: the pleasant sounds
In memory's ear, in after time
Shall live, to sometimes rouse a tear,
And sometimes prompt an honest rhyme.
For when the transient charm is fled,
And when the little week is o'er,
To cheerless, friendless solitude
When I return, as heretofore--
Long, long, within my aching heart,
The grateful sense shall cherishd be;
I'll think less meanly of myself,
That Lloyd will sometimes think on me.
O Col: would to God you were in London with us, or we two at Stowey with
you all. Lloyd takes up his abode at the Bull & Mouth Inn,--the Cat &
Salutation would have had a charm more forcible for me. _O noctes
caenaeque Deum!_ Anglice--Welch rabbits, punch, & poesy.
Should you be induced to publish those very schoolboyish verses, print
'em as they will occur, if at all, in the Month: Mag: yet I should feel
ashamed that to you I wrote nothing better. But they are too personal, &
almost trifling and obscure withal. Some lines of mine to Cowper were in
last Month: Mag: they have not body of thought enough to plead for the
retaining of 'em.
My sister's kind love to you all.
[The verses to Lloyd were included in Coleridge's 1797 volume; but the
verses concerning the frustrated Bristol holiday were omitted.
Concerning this visit to London Charles Lloyd wrote to his brother
Robert: "I left Charles Lamb very warmly interested in his favour, and
have kept up a regular correspondence with him ever since; he is a most
interesting young man." Only two letters from Lamb to Charles Lloyd have
"We two"--Lamb and Lloyd. Not Lamb and his sister.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[Begun Sunday, February 5, 1797.
Dated on address by mistake: January 5, 1797.]
Sunday Morning.--You cannot surely mean to degrade the Joan of Arc into
a pot girl. You are not going, I hope, to annex to that most splendid
ornament of Southey's poem all this cock and a bull story of Joan the
publican's daughter of Neufchatel, with the lamentable episode of a
waggoner, his wife, and six children; the texture will be most
lamentably disproportionate. The first forty or fifty lines of these
addenda are, no doubt, in their way, admirable, too; but many would
prefer the Joan of Southey.
"On mightiest deeds to brood Of shadowy vastness, such as made my heart
Throb fast. Anon I paused, and in a state Of half expectance listen'd to
the wind;" "They wonder'd at me, who had known me once A chearful
careless damsel;" "The eye, That of the circling throng and of the
visible world Unseeing, saw the shapes of holy phantasy;" I see nothing
in your description of the Maid equal to these. There is a fine
originality certainly in those lines--"For she had lived in this bad
world as in a place of tombs, And touch'd not the pollutions of the
Dead"--but your "fierce vivacity" is a faint copy of the "fierce &
terrible benevolence" of Southey. Added to this, that it will look like
rivalship in you, & extort a comparison with S,--I think to your
disadvantage. And the lines, consider'd in themselves as an addition to
what you had before written (strains of a far higher mood), are but such
as Madame Fancy loves in some of her more familiar moods, at such times
as she has met Noll Goldsmith, & walk'd and talk'd with him, calling him
old acquaintance. Southey certainly has no pretensions to vie with you
in the sublime of poetry; but he tells a plain tale better than you. I
will enumerate some woeful blemishes, some of 'em sad deviations from
that simplicity which was your aim. "Hail'd who might be near" (the
canvas-coverture moving, by the by, is laughable); "a woman & six
children" (by the way,--why not nine children, it would have been just
half as pathetic again): "statues of sleep they seem'd." "Frost-mangled
wretch:" "green putridity:" "hail'd him immortal" (rather ludicrous
again): "voiced a sad and simple tale" (abominable!): "unprovender'd:"
"such his tale:" "Ah! suffering to the height of what was suffer'd" (a
most _insufferable line_): "amazements of affright:" "the hot sore brain
attributes its own hues of ghastliness and torture" (what shocking
confusion of ideas!). In these delineations of common & natural
feelings, in the familiar walks of poetry, you seem to resemble
Montauban dancing with Roubigne's tenants, "much of his native loftiness
remained in the execution." I was reading your Religious Musings the
other day, & sincerely I think it the noblest poem in the language, next
after the Paradise lost; & even that was not made the vehicle of such
grand truths. "There is one mind," &c., down to "Almighty's Throne," are
without a rival in the whole compass of my poetical reading. "Stands in
the sun, & with no partial gaze Views all creation"--I wish I could have
written those lines. I rejoyce that I am able to relish them. The
loftier walks of Pindus are your proper region. There you have no
compeer in modern times. Leave the lowlands, unenvied, in possession of
such men as Cowper & Southey. Thus am I pouring balsam into the wounds I
may have been inflicting on my poor friend's vanity. In your notice of
Southey's new volume you omit to mention the most pleasing of all, the
Miniature "There were Who form'd high hopes and flattering ones of thee,
Young Robert. Spirit of Spenser!--was the wanderer wrong?" Fairfax I
have been in quest of a long time. Johnson in his life of Waller gives a
most delicious specimen of him, & adds, in the true manner of that
delicate critic, as well as amiable man, "it may be presumed that this
old version will not be much read after the elegant translation of my
friend, Mr. Hoole." I endeavour'd--I wish'd to gain some idea of Tasso
from this Mr. Hoole, the great boast and ornament of the India House,
but soon desisted. I found him more vapid than smallest small beer
sun-vinegared. Your dream, down to that exquisite line--"I can't tell
half his adventures," is a most happy resemblance of Chaucer. The
remainder is so so. The best line, I think, is, "He belong'd, I believe,
to the witch Melancholy." By the way, when will our volume come out?
Don't delay it till you have written a new Joan of Arc. Send what
letters you please by me, & in any way you choose, single or double. The
India Co. is better adapted to answer the cost than the generality of my
friend's correspondents,--such poor & honest dogs as John Thelwall,
particularly. I cannot say I know Colson, at least intimately. I once
supped with him & Allen. I think his manners very pleasing. I will not
tell you what I think of Lloyd, for he may by chance come to see this
letter, and that thought puts a restraint on me. I cannot think what
subject would suit your epic genius; some philosophical subject, I
conjecture, in which shall be blended the Sublime of Poetry & of
Science. Your proposed Hymns will be a fit preparatory study wherewith
"to discipline your young noviciate soul." I grow dull; I'll go walk
myself out of my dulness.
_Sunday Night_.--You & Sara are very good to think so kindly & so
favourably of poor Mary. I would to God all did so too. But I very much
fear she must not think of coming home in my father's lifetime. It is
very hard upon her. But our circumstances are peculiar, & we must submit
to them. God be praised she is so well as she is. She bears her
situation as one who has no right to complain. My poor old aunt, whom
you have seen, the kindest, goodest creature to me when I was at school;
who used to toddle there to bring me fag, when I, school-boy like, only
despised her for it, & used to be ashamed to see her come & sit herself
down on the old coal hole steps as you went into the old grammar school,
& opend her apron & bring out her bason, with some nice thing she had
caused to be saved for me--the good old creature is now lying on her
death bed. I cannot bear to think on her deplorable state. To the shock
she received on that our evil day, from which she never completely
recovered, I impute her illness. She says, poor thing, she is glad she
is come home to die with me. I was always her favourite: "No after
friendship e'er can raise The endearments of our early days, Nor e'er
the heart such fondness prove, As when it first began to love." Lloyd
has kindly left me for a keep-sake, John Woolman. You have read it, he
says, & like it. Will you excuse one short extract? I think it could not
have escaped you:--"Small treasure to a resigned mind is sufficient. How
happy is it to be content with a little, to live in humility, & feel
that in us which breathes out this language--Abba! Father!"--I am almost
ashamed to patch up a letter in this miscellaneous sort; but I please
myself in the thought, that anything from me will be acceptable to you.
I am rather impatient, childishly so, to see our names affixed to the
same common volume. Send me two, when it does come out; 2 will be
enough--or indeed 1--but 2 better. I have a dim recollection that, when
in town, you were talking of the Origin of Evil as a most prolific
subject for a long poem. Why not adopt it, Coleridge? there would be
room for imagination. Or the description (from a Vision or Dream,
suppose) of an Utopia in one of the planets (the Moon, for instance). Or
a Five Days' Dream, which shall illustrate, in sensible imagery,
Hartley's 5 motives to conduct:--sensation (1), imagination (2),
ambition (3), sympathy (4), Theopathy (5). 1st banquets, music, etc.,
effeminacy,--and their insufficiency. 2d "beds of hyacinth & roses,
where young Adonis oft reposes;" "fortunate Isles;" "The pagan Elysium,"
etc., etc.; poetical pictures; antiquity as pleasing to the
fancy;--their emptiness, madness, etc. 3d warriors, poets; some famous,
yet more forgotten, their fame or oblivion now alike indifferent, pride,
vanity, etc. 4th all manner of pitiable stories, in Spenser-like
verse--love--friendship, relationship, &c. 5th Hermits--Christ and his
apostles--martyrs--heaven--&c., etc. An imagination like yours, from
these scanty hints, may expand into a thousand great Ideas--if indeed
you at all comprehend my scheme, which I scarce do myself.
_Monday Morn._--"A London letter. 9-1/2." Look you, master poet, I have
remorse as well as another man, & my bowels can sound upon occasion. But
I must put you to this charge, for I cannot keep back my protest,
however ineffectual, against the annexing your latter lines to those
former--this putting of new wine into old bottles. This my duty done, I
will cease from writing till you invent some more reasonable mode of
conveyance. Well may the "ragged followers of the nine" set up for
flocci-nauci-what-do-you-call-'em-ists! And I do not wonder that in
their splendid visions of Utopias in America they protest against the
admission of those _yellow_-complexioned, _copper_-color'd,
_white_-liver'd Gentlemen, who never proved themselves _their_ friends.
Don't you think your verses on a Young Ass too trivial a companion for
the Religious Musings? "Scoundrel monarch," alter _that_; and the Man of
Ross is scarce admissible as it now stands curtailed of its fairer half:
reclaim its property from the Chatterton, which it does but encumber, &
it will be a rich little poem. I hope you expunge great part of the old
notes in the new edition. That, in particular, most barefaced unfounded
impudent assertion, that Mr. Rogers is indebted for his story to Loch
Lomond, a poem by Bruce! I have read the latter. I scarce think you
have. Scarce anything is common to them both. The poor author of the
Pleasures of Memory was sorely hurt, Dyer says, by the accusation of
unoriginality. He never saw the Poem. I long to read your Poem on Burns;
I retain so indistinct a memory of it. In what shape and how does it
come into public? As you leave off writing poetry till you finish your
Hymns, I suppose you print now all you have got by you. You have scarce
enough unprinted to make a 2d volume with Lloyd. Tell me all about it.
What is become of Cowper? Lloyd told me of some verses on his mother. If
you have them by you, pray send 'em me. I do so love him! Never mind
their merit. May be _I_ may like 'em--as your taste and mine do not
always exactly _indentify_. Yours,
[Coleridge intended to print in his new edition the lines that he had
contributed to Southey's _Joan of Arc_, 1796, with certain additions,
under the title "The Progress of Liberty; or, The Visions of the Maid of
Orleans." Writing to Cottle Coleridge had said: "I much wish to send _My
Visions of the Maid of Arc_ and my corrections to Wordsworth ... and to
Lamb, whose taste and _judgment_ I see reason to think more correct and
philosophical than my own, which yet I place pretty high." Lamb's
criticisms are contained in this letter. Coleridge abandoned his idea of
including the poem in the 1797 edition, and the lines were not
separately published until 1817, in _Sibylline Leaves_, under the title
"The Destiny of Nations."
"Montauban ... Roubigne." An illustration from Henry Mackenzie's novel
_Julia de Roubigne_, 1777, from which Lamb took hints, a little later,
for the structure of part of his story _Rosamund Gray_.
This is the passage in "Religious Musings" that Lamb particularly
There is one Mind, one omnipresent Mind,
Omnific. His most holy name is Love.
Truth of subliming import! with the which
Who feeds and saturates his constant soul,
He from his small particular orbit flies
With blest outstarting! From himself he flies,
Stands in the sun, and with no partial gaze
Views all creation; and he loves it all,
And blesses it, and calls it very good!
This is indeed to dwell with the Most High!
Cherubs and rapture-trembling Seraphim
Can press no nearer to the Almighty's throne.
Southey's new volume, which Coleridge had noticed, was his _Poems_,
second edition, Vol. I., 1797. The poem in question was "On My Own
Miniature Picture taken at Two Years of Age."
Edward Fairfax's "Tasso" (_Godfrey of Bulloigne, or the Recoverie of
Jerusalem_) was published in 1600. John Hoole, a later translator,
became principal auditor at the India House, and resigned in 1786. He
died in 1803.
Coleridge's dream was the poem called "The Raven."
Citizen John Thelwall (1764-1834), to whom many of Coleridge's early
letters are written, was a Jacobin enthusiast who had gone to the Tower
with Thomas Hardy and Home Tooke in 1794, but was acquitted at his
trial. At this time he was writing and lecturing on political subjects.
When, in 1818, Thelwall acquired _The Champion_ Lamb wrote squibs for it
against the Regent and others.
Colson was perhaps Thomas Coulson, a friend of Sir Humphry Davy and the
father of Walter Coulson (born? 1794) who was called "The Walking
Encyclopaedia," and was afterwards a friend of Hazlitt.
"To discipline your young noviciate soul." A line from "Religious
I discipline my young noviciate thought.
"My poor old aunt." Lamb's lines on his Aunt Hetty repeat some of this
praise; as also does the _Elia_ essay on "Christ's Hospital."
John Woolman (1720-1772), an American Quaker. His _Works_ comprise _A
Journal of the Life, Gospel, Labours, and Christian Experiences of that
Faithful Minister of Jesus Christ, John Woolman_, and _His Last Epistle
and other Writings_. Lamb often praised the book.
"A London letter, 9-1/2." A word on the postal system of those days may
not be out of place. The cost of the letter when a frank had not been
procured was borne by the recipient. The rate varied with the distance.
The charge from London to Bridgewater in 1797 was sevenpence. Later it
was raised to ninepence and tenpence. No regular post was set up between
Bridgewater and Nether Stowey until 1808, when the cost of the carriage
of a letter for the intervening nine miles was twopence.
"Flocci." See note on page II.
"The Young Ass," early versions, ended thus:--
Soothe to rest
The tumult of some Scoundrel Monarch's breast.
Coleridge changed the last line to--
The aching of pale Fashion's vacant breast.
Coleridge had asserted, in a 1796 note, that Rogers had taken the story
of Florio in the _Pleasures of Memory_ from Michael Bruce's _Loch Leven_
(not _Loch Lomond_). In the 1797 edition another note made apology for
Cowper's "Lines on the Receipt of my Mother's Picture out of Norfolk"
had been written in the spring of 1790. It is interesting to find Lamb
reading them just now, for his own _Blank Verse_ poems, shortly to be
written, have much in common with Cowper's verses, not only in manner
but in matter.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Feb. 13th, 1797.
Your poem is altogether admirable--parts of it are even exquisite--in
particular your personal account of the Maid far surpasses any thing of
the sort in Southey. I perceived all its excellences, on a first
reading, as readily as now you have been removing a supposed film from
my eyes. I was only struck with [a] certain faulty disproportion in the
matter and the _style_, which I still think I perceive, between these
lines and the former ones. I had an end in view; I wished to make you
reject the poem, only as being discordant with the other; and, in
subservience to that end, it was politically done in me to over-pass,
and make no mention of merit which, could you think me capable of
_overlooking_, might reasonably damn for ever in your judgment all
pretensions in me to be critical. There, I will be judged by Lloyd,
whether I have not made a very handsome recantation. I was in the case
of a man whose friend has asked him his opinion of a certain young lady;
the deluded wight gives judgment against her _in toto_--don't like her
face, her walk, her manners--finds fault with her eyebrows--can see no
wit in her. His friend looks blank; he begins to smell a rat; wind veers
about; he acknowledges her good sense, her judgment in dress, a certain
simplicity of manners and honesty of heart, something too in her manners
which gains upon you after a short acquaintance,--and then her accurate
pronunciation of the French language and a pretty uncultivated taste in
drawing. The reconciled gentleman smiles applause, squeezes him by the
hand, and hopes he will do him the honour of taking a bit of dinner with
Mrs.--and him--a plain family dinner--some day next week. "For, I
suppose, you never heard we were married! I'm glad to see you like my
wife, however; you'll come and see her, ha?" Now am I too proud to
retract entirely. Yet I do perceive I am in some sort straitened; you
are manifestly wedded to this poem, and what fancy has joined let no man
separate. I turn me to the Joan of Arc, second book.
The solemn openings of it are with sounds which, Lloyd would say, "are
silence to the mind." The deep preluding strains are fitted to initiate
the mind, with a pleasing awe, into the sublimest mysteries of theory
concerning man's nature and his noblest destination--the philosophy of a
first cause--of subordinate agents in creation superior to man--the
subserviency of Pagan worship and Pagan faith to the introduction of a
purer and more perfect religion, which you so elegantly describe as
winning with gradual steps her difficult way northward from Bethabra.
After all this cometh Joan, a _publican's_ daughter, sitting on an
ale-house _bench_, and marking the _swingings_ of the _signboard_,
finding a poor man, his wife and six children, starved to death with
cold, and thence roused into a state of mind proper to receive visions
emblematical of equality; which what the devil Joan had to do with, I
don't know, or indeed with the French and American revolutions; though
that needs no pardon, it is executed so nobly. After all, if you
perceive no disproportion, all argument is vain: I do not so much object
to parts. Again, when you talk of building your fame on these lines in
preference to the "Religious Musings," I cannot help conceiving of you
and of the author of that as two different persons, and I think you a
very vain man.
I have been re-reading your letter. Much of it I _could_ dispute; but
with the latter part of it, in which you compare the two Joans with
respect to their predispositions for fanaticism, I _toto corde_
coincide; only I think that Southey's strength rather lies in the
description of the emotions of the Maid under the weight of
inspiration,--these (I see no mighty difference between _her_ describing
them or _you_ describing them), these if you only equal, the previous
admirers of his poem, as is natural, will prefer his; if you surpass,
prejudice will scarcely allow it, and I scarce think you will surpass,
though your specimen at the conclusion (I am in earnest) I think very
nigh equals them. And in an account of a fanatic or of a prophet the
description of her _emotions_ is expected to be most highly finished. By
the way, I spoke far too disparagingly of your lines, and, I am ashamed
to say, purposely. I should like you to specify or particularise; the
story of the "Tottering Eld," of "his eventful years all come and gone,"
is too general; why not make him a soldier, or some character, however,
in which he has been witness to frequency of "cruel wrong and strange
distress!" I think I should. When I laughed at the "miserable man
crawling from beneath the coverture," I wonder I [? you] did not
perceive it was a laugh of horror--such as I have laughed at Dante's
picture of the famished Ugolino. Without falsehood, I perceive an
hundred beauties in your narrative. Yet I wonder you do not perceive
something out-of-the way, something unsimple and artificial, in the
expression, "voiced a sad tale." I hate made-dishes at the muses'
banquet. I believe I was wrong in most of my other objections. But
surely "hailed him immortal," adds nothing to the terror of the man's
death, which it was your business to heighten, not diminish by a phrase
which takes away all terror from it. I like that line, "They closed
their eyes in sleep, nor knew 'twas death." Indeed, there is scarce a
line I do not like. "_Turbid_ ecstacy," is surely not so good as what
you _had_ written, "troublous." Turbid rather suits the muddy kind of
inspiration which London porter confers. The versification is,
throughout, to my ears unexceptionable, with no disparagement to the
measure of the "Religious Musings," which is exactly fitted to the
You were building your house on a rock, when you rested your fame on
that poem. I can scarce bring myself to believe, that I am admitted to a
familiar correspondence, and all the licence of friendship, with a man
who writes blank verse like Milton. Now, this is delicate flattery,
_indirect_ flattery. Go on with your "Maid of Orleans," and be content
to be second to yourself. I shall become a convert to it, when 'tis
This afternoon I attend the funeral of my poor old aunt, who died on
Thursday. I own I am thankful that the good creature has ended all her
days of suffering and infirmity. She was to me the "cherisher of
infancy," and one must fall on these occasions into reflections which it
would be commonplace to enumerate, concerning death, "of chance and
change, and fate in human life." Good God, who could have foreseen all
this but four months back! I had reckoned, in particular, on my aunt's
living many years; she was a very hearty old woman. But she was a mere
skeleton before she died, looked more like a corpse that had lain weeks
in the grave, than one fresh dead. "Truly the light is sweet, and a
pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun; but let a man live
many days and rejoice in them all, yet let him remember the days of
darkness, for they shall be many." Coleridge, why are we to live on
after all the strength and beauty of existence are gone, when all the
life of life is fled, as poor Burns expresses it? Tell Lloyd I have had
thoughts of turning Quaker, and have been reading, or am rather just
beginning to read, a most capital book, good thoughts in good language,
William Penn's "No Cross, no Crown;" I like it immensely. Unluckily I
went to one of his meetings, tell him, in St. John Street, yesterday,
and saw a man under all the agitations and workings of a fanatic, who
believed himself under the influence of some "inevitable presence." This
cured me of Quakerism; I love it in the books of Penn and Woolman, but I
detest the vanity of a man thinking he speaks by the Spirit, when what
he says an ordinary man might say without all that quaking and
trembling. In the midst of his inspiration--and the effects of it were
most noisy--was handed into the midst of the meeting a most terrible
blackguard Wapping sailor; the poor man, I believe, had rather have been
in the hottest part of an engagement, for the congregation of
broad-brims, together with the ravings of the prophet, were too much for
his gravity, though I saw even he had delicacy enough not to laugh out.
And the inspired gentleman, though his manner was so supernatural, yet
neither talked nor professed to talk anything more than good sober
sense, common morality, with now and then a declaration of not speaking
from himself. Among other things, looking back to his childhood and
early youth, he told the meeting what a graceless young dog he had been,
that in his youth he had a good share of wit: reader, if thou hadst seen
the gentleman, thou wouldst have sworn that it must indeed have been
many years ago, for his rueful physiognomy would have scared away the
playful goddess from the meeting, where he presided, for ever. A wit! a
wit! what could he mean? Lloyd, it minded me of Falkland in the
"Rivals," "Am I full of wit and humour? No, indeed you are not. Am I the
life and soul of every company I come into? No, it cannot be said you
are." That hard-faced gentleman, a wit! Why, Nature wrote on his fanatic
forehead fifty years ago, "Wit never comes, that comes to all." I should
be as scandalised at a _bon mot_ issuing from his oracle-looking mouth,
as to see Cato go down a country-dance. God love you all. You are very
good to submit to be pleased with reading my nothings. 'Tis the
privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense
[Lamb's Aunt Hetty, Sarah Lamb, was buried at St. James's, Clerkenwell,
on February 13, 1797.
"As poor Burns expresses it." In the "Lament for James, Earl of
Glencairn," the Stanza:--
In weary being now I pine,
For a' the life of life is dead,
And hope has left my aged ken,
On forward wing for ever fled.
"Turning Quaker." Lamb refers to the Peel meeting-house in John Street,
Clerkenwell. Lamb afterwards used the story of the wit in the _Ella_
essay "A Quaker's Meeting." In his invocation to the reader he here
foreshadows his Elian manner.
"Falkland" is in Sheridan's comedy "The Rivals" (see Act II., Scene i).]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
April 7th, 1797.
Your last letter was dated the 10th February; in it you promised to
write again the next day. At least, I did not expect so long, so
unfriend-like, a silence. There was a time, Col., when a remissness of
this sort in a dear friend would have lain very heavy on my mind, but
latterly I have been too familiar with neglect to feel much from the
semblance of it. Yet, to suspect one's self overlooked and in the way to
oblivion, is a feeling rather humbling; perhaps, as tending to
self-mortification, not unfavourable to the spiritual state. Still, as
you meant to confer no benefit on the soul of your friend, you do not
stand quite clear from the imputation of unkindliness (a word by which I
mean the diminutive of unkindness). Lloyd tells me he has been very ill,
and was on the point of leaving you. I addressed a letter to him at
Birmingham: perhaps he got it not, and is still with you, I hope his
ill-health has not prevented his attending to a request I made in it,
that he would write again very soon to let me know how he was. I hope to
God poor Lloyd is not very bad, or in a very bad way. Pray satisfy me
about these things. And then David Hartley was unwell; and how is the
small philosopher, the minute philosopher? and David's mother?
Coleridge, I am not trifling, nor are these matter-of-fact [?course]
questions only. You are all very dear and precious to me; do what you
will, Col., you may hurt me and vex me by your silence, but you cannot
estrange my heart from you all. I cannot scatter friendship[s] like
chuck-farthings, nor let them drop from mine hand like hour-glass sand.
I have two or three people in the world to whom I am more than
indifferent, and I can't afford to whistle them off to the winds. By the
way, Lloyd may have told you about my sister. I told him. If not, I have
taken her out of her confinement, and taken a room for her at Hackney,
and spend my Sundays, holidays, etc., with her. She boards herself. In
one little half year's illness, and in such an illness of such a nature
and of such consequences! to get her out into the world again, with a
prospect of her never being so ill again--this is to be ranked not among
the common blessings of Providence. May that merciful God make tender my
heart, and make me as thankful, as in my distress I was earnest, in my
prayers. Congratulate me on an ever-present and never-alienable friend
like her. And do, do insert, if you have not _lost_, my dedication. It
will have lost half its value by coming so late. If you really are going
on with that volume, I shall be enabled in a day or two to send you a
short poem to insert. Now, do answer this. Friendship, and acts of
friendship, should be reciprocal, and free as the air; a friend should
never be reduced to beg an alms of his fellow. Yet I will beg an alms; I
entreat you to write, and tell me all about poor Lloyd, and all of you.
God love and preserve you all.
[Lloyd's domestication with Coleridge had been intermittent. It began in
September, 1796; in November Lloyd was very ill; in December Coleridge
told Mr. Lloyd that he would retain his son no longer as pupil but
merely as a lodger and friend; at Christmas Charles Lloyd was at
Birmingham; in January he was in London; in March he was ill again and
his experiment with Coleridge ended.
"The minute philosopher." A joking reference to Bishop Berkeley's
_Alciphron; or, The Minute Philosopher_.
For the dedication to which Lamb refers see above.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
April 15th, 1797.
A VISION OF REPENTANCE
I saw a famous fountain in my dream,
Where shady pathways to a valley led;
A weeping willow lay upon that stream,
And all around the fountain brink were spread
Wide branching trees, with dark green leaf rich clad,
Forming a doubtful twilight desolate and sad.
The place was such, that whoso enter'd in
Disrobed was of every earthly thought,
And straight became as one that knew not sin,
Or to the world's first innocence was brought;
Enseem'd it now, he stood on holy ground,
In sweet and tender melancholy wrapt around.
A most strange calm stole o'er my soothed sprite;
Long time I stood, and longer had I staid,
When lo! I saw, saw by the sweet moonlight,
Which came in silence o'er that silent shade,
Where near the fountain SOMETHING like DESPAIR
Made of that weeping willow garlands for her hair.
And eke with painful fingers she inwove
Many an uncouth stem of savage thorn--
"The willow garland, _that_ was for her Love,
And _these_ her bleeding temples would adorn."
With sighs her heart nigh burst--salt tears fast fell,
As mournfully she bended o'er that sacred well.
To whom when I addrest myself to speak,
She lifted up her eyes, and nothing said;
The delicate red came mantling o'er her cheek,
And gathering up her loose attire, she fled
To the dark covert of that woody shade
And in her goings seem'd a timid gentle maid.
Revolving in my mind what this should mean,
And why that lovely Lady plained so;
Perplex'd in thought at that mysterious scene,
And doubting if 'twere best to stay or go,
I cast mine eyes in wistful gaze around,
When from the shades came slow a small and plaintive sound
"Psyche am I, who love to dwell
In these brown shades, this woody dell,
Where never busy mortal came,
Till now, to pry upon my shame.
"At thy feet what thou dost see
The Waters of Repentance be,
Which, night and day, I must augment
With tears, like a true penitent,
If haply so my day of grace
Be not yet past; and this lone place,
O'er-shadowy, dark, excludeth hence
All thoughts but grief and penitence."
"_Why dost thou weep, thou gentle maid!
And wherefore in this barren shade
Thy hidden thoughts with sorrow feed?
Can thing so fair repentance need?_"
"Oh! I have done a deed of shame,
And tainted is my virgin fame,
And stain'd the beauteous maiden white
In which my bridal robes were dight."
"_And who the promis'd spouse declare,
And what those bridal garments were_?"
"Severe and saintly righteousness
Compos'd the clear white bridal dress;
Jesus, the son of Heaven's high King
Bought with his blood the marriage ring.
"A wretched sinful creature, I
Deem'd lightly of that sacred tye,
Gave to a treacherous WORLD my heart,
And play'd the foolish wanton's part.
"Soon to these murky shades I came
To hide from the Sun's light my shame--
And still I haunt this woody dell,
And bathe me in that healing well,
Whose waters clear have influence
From sin's foul stains the soul to cleanse;
And night and day I them augment
With tears, like a true Penitent,
Until, due expiation made,
And fit atonement fully paid,
The Lord and Bridegroom me present
Where in sweet strains of high consent,
God's throne before, the Seraphim
Shall chaunt the extatic marriage hymn."
"_Now Christ restore thee soon_"--I said,
And thenceforth all my dream was fled.
The above you will please to print immediately before the blank verse
fragments. Tell me if you like it. I fear the latter half is unequal to
the former, in parts of which I think you will discover a delicacy of
pencilling not quite un-Spenser-like. The latter half aims at the
_measure_, but has failed to attain the _poetry_, of Milton in his
"Comus" and Fletcher in that exquisite thing ycleped the "Faithful
Shepherdess," where they both use eight-syllable lines. But this latter
half was finished in great haste, and as a task, not from that impulse
which affects the name of inspiration.
By the way, I have lit upon Fairfax's "Godfrey of Bullen" for
half-a-crown. Rejoice with me.
Poor dear Lloyd! I had a letter from him yesterday; his state of mind is
truly alarming. He has, by his own confession, kept a letter of mine
unopened three weeks, afraid, he says, to open it, lest I should speak
upbraidingly to him; and yet this very letter of mine was in answer to
one, wherein he informed me that an alarming illness had alone prevented
him from writing. You will pray with me, I know, for his recovery; for
surely, Coleridge, an exquisiteness of feeling like this must border on
derangement. But I love him more and more, and will not give up the hope
of his speedy recovery, as he tells me he is under Dr. Darwin's regimen.
God bless us all, and shield us from insanity, which is "the sorest
malady of all."
My kind love to your wife and child.
Pray write, now.
[I have placed the poem at the head from the text of Coleridge's
_Poems_, 1797; but the version of the letter very likely differed (see
next letter for at least one alteration).
Fairfax's _Godfrey of Bullen_ was his translation of Tasso, which is
Lloyd, who was undergoing one of those attacks of acute melancholia to
which he was subject all his life, had been sent to Lichfield where
Erasmus Darwin had established a sanatorium.
"The sorest malady of all." From Lamb's lines to Cowper.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE
[Tuesday,] June 13th, 1797.
I stared with wild wonderment to see thy well-known hand again. It
revived many a pleasing recollection of an epistolary intercourse, of
late strangely suspended, once the pride of my life. Before I even
opened thy letter, I figured to myself a sort of complacency which my
little hoard at home would feel at receiving the new-comer into the
little drawer where I keep my treasures of this kind. You have done well
in writing to me. The little room (was it not a little one?) at the
Salutation was already in the way of becoming a fading idea! it had
begun to be classed in my memory with those "wanderings with a fair
hair'd maid," in the recollection of which I feel I have no property.
You press me, very kindly do you press me, to come to Stowey; obstacles,
strong as death, prevent me at present; maybe I shall be able to come
before the year is out; believe me, I will come as soon as I can, but I
dread naming a probable time. It depends on fifty things, besides the
expense, which is not nothing. Lloyd wants me to come and see him; but,
besides that you have a prior claim on me, I should not feel myself so
much at home with him, till he gets a house of his own. As to
Richardson, caprice may grant what caprice only refused, and it is no
more hardship, rightly considered, to be dependent on him for pleasure,
than to lie at the mercy of the rain and sunshine for the enjoyment of a
holiday: in either case we are not to look for a suspension of the laws
of nature. "Grill will be Grill." Vide Spenser.
I could not but smile at the compromise you make with me for printing
Lloyd's poems first; but there is [are] in nature, I fear, too many
tendencies to envy and jealousy not to justify you in your apology. Yet,
if any one is welcome to pre-eminence from me, it is Lloyd, for he would
be the last to desire it. So pray, let his name _uniformly_ precede
mine, for it would be treating me like a child to suppose it could give
me pain. Yet, alas! I am not insusceptible of the bad passions. Thank
God, I have the ingenuousness to be ashamed of them. I am dearly fond of
Charles Lloyd; he is all goodness, and I have too much of the world in
my composition to feel myself thoroughly deserving of his friendship.
Lloyd tells me that Sheridan put you upon writing your tragedy. I hope
you are only Coleridgeizing when you talk of finishing it in a few days.
Shakspeare was a more modest man; but you best know your own power.
Of my last poem you speak slightingly; surely the longer stanzas were
pretty tolerable; at least there was one good line in it,
"Thick-shaded trees, with dark green leaf rich clad."
To adopt your own expression, I call this a "rich" line, a fine full
line. And some others I thought even beautiful. Believe me, my little
gentleman will feel some repugnance at riding behind in the basket;
though, I confess, in pretty good company. Your picture of idiocy, with
the sugar-loaf head, is exquisite; but are you not too severe upon our
more favoured brethren in fatuity? Lloyd tells me how ill your wife and
child have been. I rejoice that they are better. My kindest remembrances
and those of my sister. I send you a trifling letter; but you have only
to think that I have been skimming the superficies of my mind, and found
it only froth. Now, do write again; you cannot believe how I long and
love always to hear about you. Yours, most affectionately,
["Little drawer where I keep ..." Lamb soon lost the habit of keeping
any letters, except Manning's.
"Wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid." Lamb's own line. See sonnet quoted
Lamb's visit to Stowey was made in July, as we shall see.
"Grill will be Grill." See the _Faerie Queene_, Book II., Canto 12,
Stanzas 86 and 87. "Let Gryll be Gryll" is the right text.
Lloyd had joined the poetical partnership, and his poems were to precede
Lamb's in the 1797 volume. "Lloyd's connections," Coleridge had written
to Cottle, "will take off a great many [copies], more than a hundred."
Coleridge's tragedy was "Osorio," of which we hear first in March, 1797,
when Coleridge tells Cottle that Sheridan has asked him to write a play
for Drury Lane. It was finished in October, and rejected. In 1813, much
altered, it was performed under its new title, "Remorse," and published
in book form. Lamb wrote the Prologue.
The "last poem" of which Lamb speaks was "The Vision of Repentance." The
good line was altered to--
"Wide branching trees, with dark green leaf rich clad,"
when the poem appeared in the Appendix ("the basket," as Lamb calls it)
of the 1797 volume.
"Your picture of idiocy." Compare S. T. Coleridge to Thomas Poole, dated
"Greta Hall, Oct. 5, 1801" (_Thomas Poole and His Friends_): "We passed
a poor ideot boy, who exactly answered my description; he
"'Stood in the sun, rocking his sugar-loaf head,
And staring at a bough from morn to sunset,
See-sawed his voice in inarticulate noises.'"
See this passage, much altered, in "Remorse," II., I, 186-191. The lines
do not occur in "Osorio," yet they, or something like them, must have
been copied out by Coleridge for Lamb in June, 1797.]
(_Possibly only a fragment_)
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[Saturday,] June 24th, 1797.
Did you seize the grand opportunity of seeing Kosciusko while he was at
Bristol? I never saw a hero; I wonder how they look. I have been reading
a most curious romance-like work, called the "Life of John Buncle, Esq."
'Tis very interesting, and an extraordinary compound of all manner of
subjects, from the depth of the ludicrous to the heights of sublime
religious truth. There is much abstruse science in it above my cut and
an infinite fund of pleasantry. John Buncle is a famous fine man, formed
in nature's most eccentric hour. I am ashamed of what I write. But I
have no topic to talk of. I see nobody, and sit, and read or walk,
alone, and hear nothing. I am quite lost to conversation from disuse;
and out of the sphere of my little family, who, I am thankful, are
dearer and dearer to me every day, I see no face that brightens up at my
approach. My friends are at a distance; worldly hopes are at a low ebb
with me, and unworldly thoughts are not yet familiarised to me, though I
occasionally indulge in them. Still I feel a calm not unlike content. I
fear it is sometimes more akin to physical stupidity than to a
heaven-flowing serenity and peace. What right have I to obtrude all this
upon you? what is such a letter to you? and if I come to Stowey, what
conversation can I furnish to compensate my friend for those stores of
knowledge and of fancy, those delightful treasures of wisdom, which I
know he will open to me? But it is better to give than to receive; and I
was a very patient hearer and docile scholar in our winter evening
meetings at Mr. May's; was I not, Col.? What I have owed to thee, my
heart can ne'er forget.
God love you and yours. C. L.
[Thaddeus Kosciusko (1746-1817), the Polish patriot, to whom Coleridge
had a sonnet in his _Poems_, 1796, visited England and America after
being liberated from prison on the accession of Paul I., and settled in
France in 1798.
_The Life of John Buncle, Esq._, a book which Lamb (and also Hazlitt)
frequently praised, is a curious digressive novel, part religious, part
roystering, and wholly eccentric and individual, by Thomas Amory,
published, Vol. I., in 1756, and Vol. II., in 1766.
"Mr. May's." See note to the first letter.]
(_Possibly only a fragment_)
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[No date. ? June 29, 1797.]
I discern a possibility of my paying you a visit next week. May I, can
I, shall I, come so soon? Have you _room_ for me, _leisure_ for me, and
are you all pretty well? Tell me all this honestly--immediately. And by
what _day_--coach could I come soonest and nearest to Stowey? A few
months hence may suit you better; certainly me as well. If so, say so. I
long, I yearn, with all the longings of a child do I desire to see you,
to come among you--to see the young philosopher, to thank Sara for her
last year's invitation in person--to read your tragedy--to read over
together our little book--to breathe fresh air--to revive in me vivid
images of "Salutation scenery." There is a sort of sacrilege in my
letting such ideas slip out of my mind and memory. Still that knave
Richardson remaineth--a thorn in the side of Hope, when she would lean
towards Stowey. Here I will leave off, for I dislike to fill up this
paper, which involves a question so connected with my heart and soul,
with meaner matter or subjects to me less interesting. I can talk, as I
can think, nothing else.
["Our little book." Coleridge's _Poems_, second edition.
"Salutation scenery." See note to the first letter.
"Richardson." See note on page 34.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[No date. Probably July 19 or 26, 1797.]
I am scarcely yet so reconciled to the loss of you, or so subsided into
my wonted uniformity of feeling, as to sit calmly down to think of you
and write to you. But I reason myself into the belief that those few and
pleasant holidays shall not have been spent in vain. I feel improvement
in the recollection of many a casual conversation. The names of Tom
Poole, of Wordsworth and his good sister, with thine and Sara's, are
become "familiar in my mouth as household words." You would make me very
happy, if you think W. has no objection, by transcribing for me that
inscription of his. I have some scattered sentences ever floating on my
memory, teasing me that I cannot remember more of it. You may believe I
will make no improper use of it. Believe me I can think now of many
subjects on which I had planned gaining information from you; but I
forgot my "treasure's worth" while I possessed it. Your leg is now
become to me a matter of much more importance--and many a little thing,
which when I was present with you seemed scarce to _indent_ my notice,
now presses painfully on my remembrance. Is the Patriot come yet? Are
Wordsworth and his sister gone yet? I was looking out for John Thelwall
all the way from Bridgewater, and had I met him, I think it would have
moved almost me to tears. You will oblige me too by sending me my
great-coat, which I left behind in the oblivious state the mind is
thrown into at parting--is it not ridiculous that I sometimes envy that
great-coat lingering so cunningly behind?--at present I have none--so
send it me by a Stowey waggon, if there be such a thing, directing for
C. L., No. 45, Chapel-Street, Pentonville, near London. But above all,
_that Inscription!_--it will recall to me the tones of all your
voices--and with them many a remembered kindness to one who could and
can repay you all only by the silence of a grateful heart. I could not
talk much, while I was with you, but my silence was not sullenness, nor
I hope from any bad motive; but, in truth, disuse has made me awkward at
it. I know I behaved myself, particularly at Tom Poole's, and at
Cruikshank's, most like a sulky child; but company and converse are
strange to me. It was kind in you all to endure me as you did.
Are you and your dear Sara--to me also very dear, because very
kind--agreed yet about the management of little Hartley? and how go on
the little rogue's teeth? I will see White to-morrow, and he shall send
you information on that matter; but as perhaps I can do it as well after
talking with him, I will keep this letter open.
My love and thanks to you and all of you.
[Lamb spent a week at Nether Stowey in July, 1797. Coleridge tells
Southey of this visit in a letter written in that month: "Charles Lamb
has been with me for a week. He left me Friday morning. The second day
after Wordsworth [who had just left Racedown, near Crewkerne, for
Alfoxden, near Stowey] came to me, dear Sara accidentally emptied a
skillet of boiling milk on my foot, which confined me during the whole
time of C. Lamb's stay and still prevents me from all walks longer than
a furlong." This is the cause of Lamb's allusion to Coleridge's leg, and
it also produced Coleridge's poem beginning "This lime-tree bower my
prison," addressed to Lamb, which opens as follows, the friends in the
fourth line being Lamb, Wordsworth and Dorothy Wordsworth. (Wordsworth
was then twenty-seven. The _Lyrical Ballads_ were to be written in the
next few months.)
Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
Lam'd by the scathe of fire, lonely and faint,
This lime-tree bower my prison! They, meantime
My Friends, whom I may never meet again,
On springy heath, along the hill-top edge
Wander delighted, and look down, perchance,
On that same rifted Dell, where many an ash
Twists its wild limbs beside the ferny rock
Whose plumy ferns forever nod and drip,
Spray'd by the waterfall. But chiefly thou
My gentle-hearted _Charles!_ thou who had pin'd
And hunger'd after Nature many a year,
In the great City pent, winning thy way
With sad yet bowed soul, through evil and pain
And strange calamity!
Tom Poole was Thomas Poole (1765-1837), a wealthy tanner, and
Coleridge's friend, correspondent and patron, who lived at Stowey.
The Patriot and John Thelwall were one. See note on page 93.
"That inscription," The "Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew Tree," written
in 1795. Lamb refers to it again in 1815.
The address at Pentonville is the first indication given by Lamb that he
has left Little Queen Street. We last saw him there for certain in
Letter 17 on December 9. The removal had been made probably at the end
John Cruikshank, a neighbour of Coleridge, had married a Miss Bude on
the same day that Coleridge married Sara Flicker.
Of the business connected with White we know nothing.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[P.M. August 24, 1797.]
Poor Charles Lloyd came to me about a fortnight ago. He took the
opportunity of Mr. Hawkes coming to London, and I think at his request,
to come with him. It seemed to me, and he acknowledged it, that he had
come to gain a little time and a little peace, before he made up his
mind. He was a good deal perplexed what to do--wishing earnestly that he
had never entered into engagements which he felt himself unable to
fulfill, but which on Sophia's account he could not bring himself to
relinquish. I could give him little advice or comfort, and feeling my
own inability painfully, eagerly snatched at a proposal he made me to go
to Southey's with him for a day or two. He then meant to return with me,
who could stay only one night. While there, he at one time thought of
going to consult you, but changed his intention and stayed behind with
Southey, and wrote an explicit letter to Sophia. I came away on the
Tuesday, and on the Saturday following, _last Saturday_, receiv'd a
letter dated Bath, in which he said he was on his way to
Birmingham,--that Southey was accompanying him,--and that he went for
the purpose of persuading Sophia to a Scotch marriage--I greatly feared,
that she would never consent to this, from what Lloyd had told me of her
character. But waited most anxiously the result. Since then I have not
had one letter. For God's sake, if you get any intelligence of or from
Chas Lloyd, communicate it, for I am much alarmed.
I wrote to Burnett what I write now to you,--was it from him you heard,
He said if he _had_ come to you, he could never have brought himself to
leave you. In all his distress he was sweetly and exemplarily calm and
master of himself,--and seemed perfectly free from his disorder.--
How do you all at?
[This letter is unimportant, except in showing Lamb's power of sharing
his friends' troubles. Charles Lloyd was not married to Sophia
Pemberton, of Birmingham, until 1799; nothing rash being done, as Lamb
seems to think possible. The reference to Southey, who was at this time
living at Burton, in Hampshire, throws some light on De Quincey's
statement, in his "Autobiography," that owing to the objection of Miss
Pemberton's parents to the match, Lloyd secured the assistance of
Southey to carry the lady off.
Burnett was George Burnett (1776?-1811), one of Coleridge's fellow
Pantisocratists, whom we shall meet later.
The "he" of the second postscript is not Burnett, but Lloyd.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[About September 20, 1797.]
WRITTEN A TWELVEMONTH AFTER THE EVENTS
[_Friday next, Coleridge, is the day on which my mother died._]
Alas! how am I changed! where be the tears,
The sobs and forced suspensions of the breath,
And all the dull desertions of the heart
With which I hung o'er my dear mother's corse?
Where be the blest subsidings of the storm
Within; the sweet resignedness of hope
Drawn heavenward, and strength of filial love,
In which I bow'd me to my Father's will?
My God and my Redeemer, keep not thou
My heart in brute and sensual thanklessness
Seal'd up, oblivious ever of that dear grace,
And health restor'd to my long-loved friend.
Long loved, and worthy known! Thou didst not keep
Her soul in death. O keep not now, my Lord,
Thy servants in far worse--in spiritual death
And darkness--blacker than those feared shadows
O' the valley all must tread. Lend us thy balms,
Thou dear Physician of the sin-sick soul,
And heal our cleansed bosoms of the wounds
With which the world hath pierc'd us thro' and thro'!
Give us new flesh, new birth; Elect of heaven
May we become, in thine election sure
Contain'd, and to one purpose steadfast drawn--
Our souls' salvation.
Thou and I, dear friend,
With filial recognition sweet, shall know
One day the face of our dear mother in heaven,
And her remember'd looks of love shall greet
With answering looks of love, her placid smiles
Meet with a smile as placid, and her hand
With drops of fondness wet, nor fear repulse.
Be witness for me, Lord, I do not ask
Those days of vanity to return again,
(Nor fitting me to ask, nor thee to give),
Vain loves, and "wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid;"
(Child of the dust as I am), who so long
My foolish heart steep'd in idolatry,
And creature-loves. Forgive it, O my Maker!
If in a mood of grief, I sin almost
In sometimes brooding on the days long past,
(And from the grave of time wishing them back),
Days of a mother's fondness to her child--
Her little one! Oh, where be now those sports
And infant play-games? Where the joyous troops
Of children, and the haunts I did so love?
0 my companions! O ye loved names
Of friend, or playmate dear, gone are ye now.
Gone divers ways; to honour and credit some:
And some, I fear, to ignominy and shame!
I only am left, with unavailing grief
One parent dead to mourn, and see one live
Of all life's joys bereft, and desolate:
Am left, with a few friends, and one above
The rest, found faithful in a length of years,
Contented as I may, to bear me on,
T' the not unpeaceful evening of a day
Made black by morning storms.
The following I wrote when I had returned from C. Lloyd, leaving him
behind at Burton with Southey. To understand some of it, you must
remember that at that time he was very much perplexed in mind.
A stranger and alone, I past those scenes
We past so late together; and my heart
Felt something like desertion, as I look'd
Around me, and the pleasant voice of friend
Was absent, and the cordial look was there
No more, to smile on me. I thought on Lloyd--
All he had been to me! And now I go
Again to mingle with a world impure;
With men who make a mock of holy things,
Mistaken, and of man's best hope think scorn.
The world does much to warp the heart of man;
And I may sometimes join its idiot laugh:
Of this I now complain not. Deal with me,
Omniscient Father, as Thou judgest best,
And in _Thy_ season soften thou my heart.
I pray not for myself: I pray for him
Whose soul is sore perplexed. Shine thou on him,
Father of Lights! and in the difficult paths
Make plain his way before him: his own thoughts
May he not think--his own ends not pursue--
So shall he best perform Thy will on earth.
Greatest and Best, Thy will be ever ours!
The former of these poems I wrote with unusual celerity t'other morning
at office. I expect you to like it better than anything of mine; Lloyd
does, and I do myself.
You use Lloyd very ill, never writing to him. I tell you again that his
is not a mind with which you should play tricks. He deserves more
tenderness from you.
For myself, I must spoil a little passage of Beaumont and Fletcher to
adapt it to my feelings:--
"I am prouder
That I was once your friend, tho' now forgot,
Than to have had another true to me."
If you don't write to me now, as I told Lloyd, I shall get angry, and
call you hard names--Manchineel and I don't know what else. I wish you
would send me my great-coat. The snow and the rain season is at hand,
and I have but a wretched old coat, once my father's, to keep 'em off,
and that is transitory.
"When time drives flocks from field to fold,
When ways grow foul and blood gets cold,"
I shall remember where I left my coat. Meet emblem wilt thou be, old
Winter, of a friend's neglect--cold, cold, cold! Remembrance where
remembrance is due.
[The two poems included in this letter were printed in _Blank Verse_, a
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