The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Vol. 5
Edited by E. V. Lucas
Part 4 out of 14
volume which Lamb and Lloyd issued in 1798.
Coleridge had written to Lloyd, we know, as late as July, because he
sent him a version of the poem "This Lime-tree Bower, my Prison;" but a
coolness that was to ripen into positive hostility had already begun. Of
this we shall see more later.
The passage from Beaumont and Fletcher is in "The Maid's Tragedy" (Act
II., Scene I), where Aspatia says to Amintor:--
Thus I wind myself
Into this willow garland, and am prouder
That I was once your love (though now refus'd)
Than to have had another true to me.
The scene is in Lamb's _Dramatic Specimens_.
The reference to Manchineel is explained by a passage in Coleridge's
dedication of his 1797 volume, then just published, to his brother, the
Rev. George Coleridge, where, speaking of the friends he had known, he
and some most false,
False and fair-foliag'd as the Manchineel,
Have tempted me to slumber in their shade
--the manchineel being a poisonous West Indian tree.
Between this and the next letter probably came correspondence that has
now been lost.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
January 28th, 1798.
You have writ me many kind letters, and I have answered none of them. I
don't deserve your attentions. An unnatural indifference has been
creeping on me since my last misfortunes, or I should have seized the
first opening of a correspondence with _you_. To you I owe much under
God. In my brief acquaintance with you in London, your conversations won
me to the better cause, and rescued me from the polluting spirit of the
world. I might have been a worthless character without you; as it is, I
do possess a certain improvable portion of devotional feelings, tho'
when I view myself in the light of divine truth, and not according to
the common measures of human judgment, I am altogether corrupt and
sinful. This is no cant. I am very sincere.
These last afflictions, Coleridge, have failed to soften and bend my
will. They found me unprepared. My former calamities produced in me a
spirit of humility and a spirit of prayer. I thought they had
sufficiently disciplined me; but the event ought to humble me. If God's
judgments now fail to take away from me the heart of stone, what more
grievous trials ought I not to expect? I have been very querulous,
impatient under the rod--full of little jealousies and heartburnings.--I
had well nigh quarrelled with Charles Lloyd; and for no other reason, I
believe, than that the good creature did all he could to make me happy.
The truth is, I thought he tried to force my mind from its natural and
proper bent; he continually wished me to be from home; he was drawing me
_from_ the consideration of my poor dear Mary's situation, rather than
assisting me to gain a proper view of it with religious consolations. I
wanted to be left to the tendency of my own mind in a solitary state
which, in times past, I knew had led to quietness and a patient bearing
of the yoke. He was hurt that I was not more constantly with him; but he
was living with White, a man to whom I had never been accustomed to
impart my _dearest feelings_, tho' from long habits of friendliness, and
many a social and good quality, I loved him very much. I met company
there sometimes--indiscriminate company. Any society almost, when I am
in affliction, is sorely painful to me. I seem to breathe more freely,
to think more collectedly, to feel more properly and calmly, when alone.
All these things the good creature did with the kindest intentions in
the world, but they produced in me nothing but soreness and discontent.
I became, as he complained, "jaundiced" towards him ... but he has
forgiven me--and his smile, I hope, will draw all such humours from me.
I am recovering, God be praised for it, a healthiness of mind, something
like calmness--but I want more religion--I am jealous of human helps and
leaning-places. I rejoice in your good fortunes. May God at the last
settle you!--You have had many and painful trials; humanly speaking they
are going to end; but we should rather pray that discipline may attend
us thro' the whole of our lives ... A careless and a dissolute spirit
has advanced upon _me_ with large strides--pray God that my present
afflictions may be sanctified to me! Mary is recovering, but I see no
opening yet of a situation for her; your invitation went to my very
heart, but you have a power of exciting interest, of leading all hearts
captive, too forcible to admit of Mary's being with you.
I consider her as perpetually on the brink of madness. I think you would
almost make her dance within an inch of the precipice: she must be with
duller fancies and cooler intellects. I know a young man of this
description, who has suited her these twenty years, and may live to do
so still, if we are one day restored to each other. In answer to your
suggestions of occupation for me, I must say that I do not think my
capacity altogether suited for disquisitions of that kind.... I have
read little, I have a very weak memory, and retain little of what I
read; am unused to composition in which any methodising is required; but
I thank you sincerely for the hint, and shall receive it as far as I am
able: that is, endeavour to engage my mind in some constant and innocent
pursuit. I know my capacities better than you do.
Accept my kindest love, and believe me yours, as ever.
[The first letter that has been preserved since September of the
previous year. In the meantime Lamb had begun to work on _Rosamund
Gray_, probably upon an impulse gained from the visit to Stowey, and was
also arranging to join Lloyd, who was living in London with White, in
the volume of poems to be called _Blank Verse_. Southey, writing many
years later to Edward Moxon, said of Lloyd and White: "No two men could
be imagined more unlike each other; Lloyd had no drollery in his nature;
White seemed to have nothing else. You will easily understand how Lamb
could sympathise with both."
The new calamity to which Lamb refers in this letter was probably a
relapse in Mary Lamb's condition. When he last mentioned her she was so
far better as to be able to be moved into lodgings at Hackney: all that
good was now undone. Coleridge seems to have suggested that she should
It was about this time that Lamb wrote the poem "The Old Familiar
Faces," which I quote below in its original form, afterwards changed by
the omission of the first four lines:--
THE OLD FAMILIAR FACES
Where are they gone, the old familiar faces?
I had a mother, but she died, and left me,
Died prematurely in a day of horrors--
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I have had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days--
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I have been laughing, I have been carousing,
Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies--
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I loved a love once, fairest among women.
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her--
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man.
Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly;
Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.
Ghost-like, I paced round the haunts of my childhood.
Earth seem'd a desert I was bound to traverse,
Seeking to find the old familiar faces.
Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother!
Why wert not thou born in my father's dwelling?
So might we talk of the old familiar faces.
For some they have died, and some they have left me,
_And some are taken from me_; all are departed;
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
It is conjectured by Mr. J. A. Rutter, and there is much reason to
believe it a right theory, especially when taken into connection with
the present letter, that Lloyd was the friend of the fifth stanza and
Coleridge the friend of the seventh. The italicised half line might
refer to "Anna," but, since she is mentioned in the fourth stanza, it
more probably, I think, refers to Mary Lamb, who, as we have seen, had
been so ill as to necessitate removal from Hackney into more special
The letter was addressed to Coleridge at the Reverend A. Rowe's,
Shrewsbury. Coleridge had been offered the Unitarian pulpit at
Shrewsbury and was on the point of accepting when he received news of
the annuity of L150 which Josiah and Thomas Wedgwood had settled upon
Between this letter and the next certainly came other letters to
Coleridge, now lost, one of which is referred to by Coleridge in the
letter to Lamb quoted below.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[No date. Early Summer, 1798.]
THESES QUAEDAM THEOLOGICAE
1. Whether God loves a lying Angel better than a true Man?
2. Whether the Archangel Uriel _could_ affirm an untruth? and if he
_could_ whether he _would_?
3. Whether Honesty be an angelic virtue? or not rather to be reckoned
among those qualities which the Schoolmen term '_Virtutes minus
splendidoe et terrae et hominis participes_'?
4. Whether the higher order of Seraphim Illuminati ever sneer?
5. Whether pure intelligences can love?
6. Whether the Seraphim Ardentes do not manifest their virtues by the
way of vision and theory? and whether practice be not a sub-celestial
and merely human virtue?
7. Whether the Vision Beatific be anything more or less than a perpetual
representment to each individual Angel of his own present attainments
and future capabilities, somehow in the manner of mortal
looking-glasses, reflecting a perpetual complacency and
8 and last. Whether an immortal and amenable soul may not come to be
damned at last, and the man never suspect it beforehand?
_Learned Sir, my Friend_,
Presuming on our long habits of friendship and emboldened further by
your late liberal permission to avail myself of your correspondence, in
case I want any knowledge, (which I intend to do when I have no
Encyclopaedia or Lady's Magazine at hand to refer to in any matter of
science,) I now submit to your enquiries the above Theological
Propositions, to be by you defended, or oppugned, or both, in the
Schools of Germany, whither I am told you are departing, to the utter
dissatisfaction of your native Devonshire and regret of universal
England; but to my own individual consolation if thro' the channel of
your wished return, Learned Sir, my Friend, may be transmitted to this
our Island, from those famous Theological Wits of Leipsic and Gottingen,
any rays of illumination, in vain to be derived from the home growth of
our English Halls and Colleges. Finally, wishing, Learned Sir, that you
may see Schiller and swing in a wood (_vide_ Poems) and sit upon a Tun,
and eat fat hams of Westphalia,
Your friend and docile Pupil to instruct
To S. T. Coleridge.
[Lamb's last letter to Coleridge for two years. See note to the next
Lamb's reading of Thomas Aquinas probably was at the base of his theses.
William Godwin, in his "History of Knowledge, Learning and Taste in
Great Britain," which had run through some years of the _New Annual
Register_, cited, in 1786, a number of the more grotesque queries of the
old Schoolmen. Mr. Kegan Paul suggested that Lamb went to Godwin for his
examination paper; but I should think this very unlikely. Some of the
questions hit Coleridge very hard.
This letter was first printed by Joseph Cottle in his _Early
Recollections_, 1837, with the remark: "Mr. Coleridge gave me this
letter, saying, 'These young visionaries will do each other no good.'"
It marks an epoch in Lamb's life, since it brought about, or, at any
rate, clinched, the only quarrel that ever subsisted between Coleridge
The story is told in _Charles Lamb and the Lloyds_. Briefly, Lloyd had
left Coleridge in the spring of 1797; a little later, in a state of much
perplexity, he had carried his troubles to Lamb, and to Southey, between
whom and Coleridge no very cordial feeling had existed for some time,
rather than to Coleridge himself, his late mentor. That probably fanned
the flame. The next move came from Coleridge. He printed in the _Monthly
Magazine_ for November, 1797, three sonnets signed Nehemiah
Higginbottom, burlesquing instances of "affectation of unaffectedness,"
and "puny pathos" in the poems of himself, of Lamb, and of Lloyd, the
humour of which Lamb probably did not much appreciate, since he believed
in the feelings expressed in his verse, while Lloyd was certainly
unfitted to esteem it. Coleridge effected even more than he had
contemplated, for Southey took the sonnet upon Simplicity as an attack
upon himself, which did not, however, prevent him, a little later, from
a similar exercise in ponderous humour under the too similar name of
In March, 1798, when a new edition of Coleridge's 1797 _Poems_ was in
contemplation, Lloyd wrote to Cottle, the publisher, asking that he
would persuade Coleridge to omit his (Lloyd's) portion, a request which
Coleridge probably resented, but which gave him the opportunity of
replying that no persuasion was needed for the omission of verses
published at the earnest request of the author.
Meanwhile a worse offence than all against Coleridge was perpetrated by
Lloyd. In the spring of 1798 was published at Bristol his novel, Edmund
Oliver, dedicated to Lamb, in which Coleridge's experiences in the army,
under the alias of Silas Tomkyn Comberback, in 1793-1794, and certain of
Coleridge's peculiarities, including his drug habit, were utilised.
Added to this, Lloyd seems to have repeated both to Lamb and Southey, in
distorted form, certain things which Coleridge had said of them, either
in confidence, or, at any rate, with no wish that they should be
repeated; with the result that Lamb actually went so far as to take
sides with Lloyd against his older friend. The following extracts from a
letter from Coleridge to Lamb, which I am permitted by Mr. Ernest
Hartley Coleridge to print, carries the story a little farther:--
[Spring of 1798.]
Dear Lamb,--Lloyd has informed me through Miss Wordsworth that you
intend no longer to correspond with me. This has given me little pain;
not that I do not love and esteem you, but on the contrary because I am
confident that your intentions are pure. You are performing what you
deem a duty, and humanly speaking have that merit which can be derived
from the performance of a painful duty. Painful, for you would not
without struggles abandon me in behalf of a man [Lloyd] who, wholly
ignorant of all but your name, became attached to you in consequence of
my attachment, caught _his_ from _my_ enthusiasm, and learned to love
you at my fireside, when often while I have been sitting and talking of
your sorrows and afflictions I have stopped my conversations and lifted
up wet eyes and prayed for you. No! I am confident that although you do
not think as a wise man, you feel as a good man.
From you I have received little pain, because for you I suffer little
alarm. I cannot say this for your friend; it appears to me evident that
his feelings are vitiated, and that his ideas are in their combination
merely the creatures of those feelings. I have received letters from
him, and the best and kindest wish which, as a Christian, I can offer in
return is that he may feel remorse....
When I wrote to you that my Sonnet to Simplicity was not composed with
reference to Southey, you answered me (I believe these were the words):
"It was a lie too gross for the grossest ignorance to believe;" and I
was not angry with you, because the assertion which the grossest
ignorance would believe a lie the Omniscient knew to be truth. This,
however, makes me cautious not too hastily to affirm the falsehood of an
assertion of Lloyd's that in Edmund Oliver's love-fit, leaving college,
and going into the army he had no sort of allusion to or recollection of
my love-fit, leaving college, and going into the army, and that he never
thought of my person in the description of Oliver's person in the first
letter of the second volume. This cannot appear stranger to me than my
assertion did to you, and therefore I will suspend my absolute faith....
I have been unfortunate in my connections. Both you and Lloyd became
acquainted with me when your minds were far from being in a composed or
natural state, and you clothed my image with a suit of notions and
feelings which could belong to nothing human. You are restored to
comparative saneness, and are merely wondering what is become of the
Coleridge with whom you were so passionately in love; _Charles Lloyd's_
mind has only changed his disease, and he is now arraying his ci-devant
Angel in a flaming San Benito--the whole ground of the garment a dark
brimstone and plenty of little devils flourished out in black. Oh, me!
Lamb, "even in laughter the heart is sad!"...
God bless you
S. T. COLERIDGE.
One other passage. In a letter from Lloyd at Birmingham to Cottle, dated
June, 1798, Lloyd says, in response to Cottle's suggestion that he
should visit Coleridge, "I love Coleridge, and can forget all that has
happened. At present I could not well go to Stowey.... Lamb quitted me
yesterday, after a fortnight's visit. I have been much interested in his
society. I never knew him so happy in my life. I shall write to
Coleridge to-day." Coleridge left for Germany in September.
"Schiller and swing in a wood." An allusion to Coleridge's sonnet to
Ah! Bard tremendous in sublimity!
Could I behold thee in thy loftier mood
Wand'ring at eve with finely-frenzied eye
Beneath some vast old tempest-swinging wood!
Here should perhaps come Lamb's first letter to Robert Lloyd, not
available for this edition, but printed by Canon Ainger, and in _Charles
Lamb and the Lloyds_, where it is dated October. Lamb's first letter is
one of advice, apparently in reply to some complaints of his position
addressed to him by Lloyd. A second and longer letter which, though
belonging to August, 1798, may be mentioned here, also counsels,
commending the use of patience and humility. Lamb is here seen in the
character of a spiritual adviser. The letter is unique in his
Robert Lloyd was a younger brother of Charles Lloyd, and Lamb had
probably met him when on his visit to Birmingham in the summer. The boy,
then not quite twenty, was apprenticed to a Quaker draper at Saffron
Walden in Essex.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
Saturday, July 28th, 1798.
I am ashamed that I have not thanked you before this for the "Joan of
Arc," but I did not know your address, and it did not occur to me to
write through Cottle. The poem delighted me, and the notes amused me,
but methinks she of Neufchatel, in the print, holds her sword too "like
a dancer." I sent your _notice_ to Phillips, particularly requesting an
immediate insertion, but I suppose it came too late. I am sometimes
curious to know what progress you make in that same "Calendar:" whether
you insert the nine worthies and Whittington? what you do or how you can
manage when two Saints meet and quarrel for precedency? Martlemas, and
Candlemas, and Christmas, are glorious themes for a writer like you,
antiquity-bitten, smit with the love of boars' heads and rosemary; but
how you can ennoble the 1st of April I know not. By the way I had a
thing to say, but a certain false modesty has hitherto prevented me:
perhaps I can best communicate my wish by a hint,--my birthday is on the
10th of February, New Style; but if it interferes with any remarkable
event, why rather than my country should lose her fame, I care not if I
put my nativity back eleven days. Fine family patronage for your
"Calendar," if that old lady of prolific memory were living, who lies
(or lyes) in some church in London (saints forgive me, but I have forgot
_what_ church), attesting that enormous legend of as many children as
days in the year. I marvel her impudence did not grasp at a leap-year.
Three hundred and sixty-five dedications, and all in a family--you might
spit in spirit on the oneness of Maecenas' patronage!
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to the eternal regret of his native Devonshire,
emigrates to Westphalia--"Poor Lamb (these were his last words), if he
wants any _knowledge_, he may apply to me,"--in ordinary cases, I
thanked him, I have an "Encyclopaedia" at hand, but on such an occasion
as going over to a German university, I could not refrain from sending
him the following propositions, to be by him defended or oppugned (or
both) at Leipsic or Gottingen.
THESES QUAEDAM THEOLOGICAE
"Whether God loves a lying angel better than a true man?"
"Whether the archangel Uriel _could_ knowingly affirm an untruth, and
whether, if he _could_, he _would_?"
"Whether honesty be an angelic virtue, or not rather belonging to that
class of qualities which the schoolmen term 'virtutes minus splendidae et
hominis et terrae nimis participes?'"
"Whether the seraphim ardentes do not manifest their goodness by the way
of vision and theory? and whether practice be not a sub-celestial, and
merely human virtue?"
"Whether the higher order of seraphim illuminati ever _sneer_?"
"Whether pure intelligences can _love_, or whether they love anything
besides pure intellect?"
"Whether the beatific vision be anything more or less than a perpetual
representment to each individual angel of his own present attainments,
and future capabilities, something in the manner of mortal
"Whether an 'immortal and amenable soul' may not come _to be damned at
last, and the man never suspect it beforehand_?"
Samuel Taylor C. had not deigned an answer; was it impertinent of me to
avail myself of that offered source of knowledge? Lloyd is returned to
town from Ipswich where he has been with his brother. He has brought
home three acts of a Play which I have not yet read. The scene for the
most part laid in a Brothel. O tempora, O mores! but as friend Coleridge
said when he was talking bawdy to Miss ---- "to the pure all things are
Wishing "Madoc" may be born into the world with as splendid promise as
the second birth or purification of the Maid of Neufchatel,--I remain
I hope Edith is better; my kindest remembrances to her. You have a good
deal of trifling to forgive in this letter.
[This is Lamb's first letter to Southey that has been preserved.
Probably others came before it. Southey now becomes Lamb's chief
correspondent for some months. In Canon Ainger's transcript the letter
ends with "Love and remembrances to Cottle."
Southey's _Joan of Arc_, second edition, had been published by Cottle in
1798. It has no frontispiece: the print of Joan of Arc must have come
Phillips was Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840), editor of the _Monthly
Magazine_ and the publisher satirised in Sorrow's _Lavengro_.
The Calendar ultimately became the _Annual Anthology_. Southey had at
first an idea of making it a poetical calendar or almanac.
"That old lady of prolific memory." Lamb is thinking, I imagine, of the
story in Howell's _Familiar Letters_ (also in Evelyn's _Diary_) of the
"Wonder of Nature" near the Hague. "That Wonder of Nature is a
Church-monument, where an Earl and a Lady are engraven with 365 Children
about them, which were all deliver'd at one Birth." The story tells that
a beggar woman with twins asked alms of the Countess, who denying that
it was possible for two children to be born at once and vilifying the
beggar, that woman cursed her and called upon God to show His judgment
upon her by causing her to bear "at one birth as many Children as there
are days in the year, which she did before the same year's end, having
never born Child before." Howell seems to have been convinced of the
authenticity of the story by the spectacle of the christening basin used
by the family. The beggar, who spoke on the third day of the year, meant
as many days as had been in that year--three.
Edith was Southey's wife.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
Oct. 18th, 1798.
Dear Southey,--I have at last been so fortunate as to pick up Wither's
Emblems for you, that "old book and quaint," as the brief author of
"Rosamund Gray" hath it; it is in a most detestable state of
preservation, and the cuts are of a fainter impression than I have seen.
Some child, the curse of antiquaries and bane of bibliopolical rarities,
hath been dabbling in some of them with its paint and dirty fingers, and
in particular hath a little sullied the author's own portraiture, which
I think valuable, as the poem that accompanies it is no common one; this
last excepted, the Emblems are far inferior to old Quarles. I once told
you otherwise, but I had not then read old Q. with attention. I have
picked up, too, another copy of Quarles for ninepence!!! O tempora! O
lectores!--so that if you have lost or parted with your own copy, say
so, and I can furnish you, for you prize these things more than I do.
You will be amused, I think, with honest Wither's "Supersedeas to all
them whose custom it is, without any deserving, to importune authors to
give unto them their books." I am sorry 'tis imperfect, as the lottery
board annexed to it also is. Methinks you might modernise and elegantise
this Supersedeas, and place it in front of your "Joan of Arc," as a
gentle hint to Messrs. Park, &c. One of the happiest emblems and
comicalest cuts is the owl and little chirpers, page 63.
Wishing you all amusement, which your true emblem-fancier can scarce
fail to find in even bad emblems, I remain your caterer to command,
Love and respects to Edith. I hope she is well. How does your Calendar
[This letter contains Lamb's first reference to _Rosamund Gray_, his
only novel, which had been published a little earlier in the year.
"Wither's _Emblems_, an 'old book and quaint,'" was one of the few
volumes belonging to old Margaret, Rosamund's grandmother (Chapter I).
See next letter and note.
Wither's _Emblems_ was published in 1635; Quarles' in the same year. I
give Wither's "Supersedeas" in the Appendix to my large edition, vol.
vii., together with a reproduction of the owl and little chirpers from
the edition of 1635.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
[October 29, 1798.]
Dear Southey,--I thank you heartily for the Eclogue; it pleases me
mightily, being so full of picture-work and circumstances. I find no
fault in it, unless perhaps that Joanna's ruin is a catastrophe too
trite: and this is not the first or second time you have clothed your
indignation, in verse, in a tale of ruined innocence. The old lady,
spinning in the sun, I hope would not disdain to claim some kindred with
old Margaret. I could almost wish you to vary some circumstances in the
conclusion. A gentleman seducer has so often been described in prose and
verse; what if you had accomplished Joanna's ruin by the clumsy arts and
rustic gifts of some country-fellow? I am thinking, I believe, of the
"An old woman clothed in grey,
Whose daughter was charming and young,
And she was deluded away
By Roger's false nattering tongue."
A Roger-Lothario would be a novel character: I think you might paint him
very well. You may think this a very silly suggestion, and so, indeed,
it is; but, in good truth, nothing else but the first words of that
foolish ballad put me upon scribbling my "Rosamund." But I thank you
heartily for the poem. Not having anything of my own to send you in
return--though, to tell truth, I am at work upon something, which if I
were to cut away and garble, perhaps I might send you an extract or two
that might not displease you; but I will not do that; and whether it
will come to anything, I know not, for I am as slow as a Fleming painter
when I compose anything. I will crave leave to put down a few lines of
old Christopher Marlow's; I take them from his tragedy, "The Jew of
Malta." The Jew is a famous character, quite out of nature; but, when we
consider the terrible idea our simple ancestors had of a Jew, not more
to be discommended for a certain discolouring (I think Addison calls it)
than the witches and fairies of Marlow's mighty successor. The scene is
betwixt Barabas, the Jew, and Ithamora, a Turkish captive exposed to
sale for a slave.
(_A precious rascal_.)
"As for myself, I walk abroad a-nights,
And kill sick people groaning under walls:
Sometimes I go about, and poison wells;
And now and then, to cherish Christian thieves,
I am content to lose some of my crowns,
That I may, walking in my gallery,
See'm go pinioned along by my door.
Being young, I studied physic, and began
To practise first upon the Italian:
There I enriched the priests with burials,
And always kept the sexton's arms in ure
With digging graves and ringing dead men's knells;
And, after that, was I an engineer,
And in the wars 'twixt France and Germany,
Under pretence of serving [helping] Charles the Fifth,
Slew friend and enemy with my stratagems.
Then after that was I an usurer,
And with extorting, cozening, forfeiting,
And tricks belonging unto brokery,
I fill'd the jails with bankrupts in a year,
And with young orphans planted hospitals,
And every moon made some or other mad;
And now and then one hang'd himself for grief,
Pinning upon his breast a long great scroll.
How I with interest tormented him."
Now hear Ithamore, the other gentle nature, explain how he spent his
(_A comical dog_.)
"Faith, master, in setting Christian villages on fire,
Chaining of eunuchs, binding galley-slaves.
One time I was an hostler at [in] an inn,
And in the night-time secretly would I steal
To travellers' chambers, and there cut their throats.
Once at Jerusalem, where the pilgrims kneel'd,
I strowed powder on the marble stones,
And therewithal their knees would rankle so,
That I have laugh'd a-good to see the cripples
Go limping home to Christendom on stilts."
"Why, this is something"--
There is a mixture of the ludicrous and the terrible in these lines,
brimful of genius and antique invention, that at first reminded me of
your old description of cruelty in hell, which was in the true
Hogarthian style. I need not tell _you_ that Marlow was author of that
pretty madrigal, "Come live with me, and be my Love," and of the tragedy
of "Edward II.," in which are certain _lines_ unequalled in our English
tongue. Honest Walton mentions the said madrigal under the denomination
of "certain smooth verses made long since by Kit Marlow."
I am glad you have put me on the scent after old Quarles. If I do not
put up those eclogues, and that shortly, say I am no true-nosed hound. I
have had a letter from Lloyd; the young metaphysician of Caius is well,
and is busy recanting the new heresy, metaphysics, for the old dogma,
Greek. My sister, I thank you, is quite well. She had a slight attack
the other day, which frightened me a good deal; but it went off
unaccountably. Love and respects to Edith.
[The eclogue was "The Ruined Cottage," in which Joanna and her widowed
mother are at first as happy as Rosamund Gray and old blind Margaret. As
in Lamb's story so in Southey's poem, this state of felicity is
overturned by a seducer.
"An old woman clothed in gray." This ballad still eludes research. Lamb
says that the first line put him upon writing _Rosamund Gray_, but he is
generally supposed to have taken his heroine's name from a song by
Charles Lloyd, entitled "Rosamund Gray," published among his _Poems_ in
1795. At the end of the novel Matravis, the seducer, in his ravings,
sings the ballad.
The "something" upon which Lamb was then at work was his play "John
Woodvil," in those early days known as "Pride's Cure."
"Your old description of cruelty in hell." In "Joan of Arc." See Letter
"If I do not put up those eclogues." Lamb does not return to this
Lloyd had just gone to Cambridge, to Caius College.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
Nov. 3, 1798.
I have read your Eclogue ["The Wedding"] repeatedly, and cannot call it
bald, or without interest; the cast of it, and the design are completely
original, and may set people upon thinking: it is as poetical as the
subject requires, which asks no poetry; but it is defective in pathos.
The woman's own story is the tamest part of it--I should like you to
remould that--it too much resembles the young maid's history: both had
been in service. Even the omission would not injure the poem; after the
words "growing wants," you might, not unconnectedly, introduce "look at
that little chub" down to "welcome one." And, decidedly, I would have
you end it somehow thus,
"Give them at least this evening a good meal.
_Gives her money_.
Now, fare thee well; hereafter you have taught me
To give sad meaning to the village-bells," &c.,
which would leave a stronger impression (as well as more pleasingly
recall the beginning of the Eclogue), than the present common-place
reference to a better world, which the woman "must have heard at
church." I should like you, too, a good deal to enlarge the most
striking part, as it might have been, of the poem--"Is it idleness?"
&c., that affords a good field for dwelling on sickness and inabilities,
and old age. And you might also a good deal enrich the piece with a
picture of a country wedding: the woman might very well, in a transient
fit of oblivion, dwell upon the ceremony and circumstances of her own
nuptials six years ago, the smugness of the bride-groom, the feastings,
the cheap merriment, the welcomings, and the secret envyings of the
maidens--then dropping all this, recur to her present lot. I do not know
that I can suggest anything else, or that I have suggested anything new
I shall be very glad to see some more poetry, though I fear your trouble
in transcribing will be greater than the service my remarks may do them.
I cut my letter short because I am called off to business.
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
Nov. 8th, 1798.
I do not know that I much prefer this Eclogue [Lamb has received 'The
Last of the Flock'] to the last ['The Wedding']; both are inferior to
the former ['The Ruined Cottage'].
"And when he came to shake me by the hand,
And spake as kindly to me as he used,
I hardly knew his voice--"
is the only passage that affected me.
Servants speak, and their language ought to be plain, and not much
raised above the common, else I should find fault with the bathos of
"And when I heard the bell strike out,
I thought (what?) that I had never heard it toll
So dismally before."
I like the destruction of the martens' old nests hugely, having just
such a circumstance in my memory. I should be very glad to see your
remaining Eclogue, if not too much trouble, as you give me reason to
expect it will be the second best.
I perfectly accord with your opinion of Old Wither. Quarles is a wittier
writer, but Wither lays more hold of the heart. Quarles thinks of his
audience when he lectures; Wither soliloquises in company with a full
heart. What wretched stuff are the "Divine Fancies" of Quarles! Religion
appears to him no longer valuable than it furnishes matter for quibbles
and riddles; he turns God's grace into wantonness. Wither is like an old
friend, whose warm-heartedness and estimable qualities make us wish he
possessed more genius, but at the same time make us willing to dispense
with that want. I always love W., and sometimes admire Q. Still that
portrait poem is a fine one; and the extract from "The Shepherds'
Hunting" places him in a starry height far above Quarles. If you wrote
that review in "Crit. Rev.," I am sorry you are so sparing of praise to
the "Ancient Marinere;"--so far from calling it, as you do, with some
wit, but more severity, "A Dutch Attempt," &c., I call it a right
English attempt, and a successful one, to dethrone German sublimity. You
have selected a passage fertile in unmeaning miracles, but have passed
by fifty passages as miraculous as the miracles they celebrate. I never
so deeply felt the pathetic as in that part,
"A spring of love gush'd from my heart,
And I bless'd them unaware--"
It stung me into high pleasure through sufferings. Lloyd does not like
it; his head is too metaphysical, and your taste too correct; at least I
must allege something against you both, to excuse my own dotage--
"So lonely 'twas, that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be!"--&c., &c.
But you allow some elaborate beauties--you should have extracted 'em.
"The Ancient Marinere" plays more tricks with the mind than that last
poem, which is yet one of the finest written. But I am getting too
dogmatical; and before I degenerate into abuse, I will conclude with
assuring you that I am
I am going to meet Lloyd at Ware on Saturday, to return on Sunday. Have
you any commands or commendations to the metaphysician? I shall be very
happy if you will dine or spend any time with me in your way through the
great ugly city; but I know you have other ties upon you in these parts.
Love and respects to Edith, and friendly remembrances to Cottle.
[Footnote 1: The destruction of the martens' nests, in "The Last of the
Family," runs thus:--
Eight months ago, when the young Squire began
To alter the old mansion, they destroy'd
The martins' nests, that had stood undisturb'd
Under that roof, ... ay! long before my memory.
I shook my head at seeing it, and thought
No good could follow.]
[Lamb's ripe judgment of Wither will be found in his essay "On the
Poetical Works of George Wither," in the _Works_, 1818 (see Vol. I. of
this edition). "The portrait poem" would be "The Author's Meditation
upon Sight of His Picture," prefixed to _Emblems_, 1635.
_Lyrical Ballads_, by Wordsworth and Coleridge, had just been published
by Cottle. "The Ancient Mariner" stood first. "That last poem" was
Wordsworth's "Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey." Southey
(?) reviewed the book in the _Critical Review_ for October, 1798. Of the
"Ancient Mariner" he said: "It is a Dutch attempt at German sublimity.
Genius has here been employed in producing a poem of little merit."
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, dated November 13,
1798, not available for this edition. Robert Lloyd seems to have said in
his last letter that the world was drained of all its sweets. Lamb sends
him a beautiful passage in praise of the world's good things--the first
foretaste in the correspondence of his later ecstatic manner.
Here also should come a letter from Lamb to Southey, which apparently
does not now exist, containing "The Dying Lover," an extract from Lamb's
play. I have taken the text from the version of the play sent to Manning
late in 1800.
THE DYING LOVER
_Margaret_. ... I knew a youth who died
For grief, because his Love proved so,
And married to another.
I saw him on the wedding day,
For he was present in the church that day,
And in his best apparel too,
As one that came to grace the ceremony.
I mark'd him when the ring was given,
His countenance never changed;
And when the priest pronounced the marriage blessing,
He put a silent prayer up for the bride,
_For they stood near who saw his lips move_.
He came invited to the marriage-feast
With the bride's friends,
And was the merriest of them all that day;
But they, who knew him best, call'd it feign'd mirth;
And others said,
He wore a smile like death's upon his face.
His presence dash'd all the beholders' mirth,
And he went away in tears.
_Simon_. What followed then?
_Marg_. Oh! then
He did not as neglected suitors use
Affect a life of solitude in shades,
In free discourse and sweet society,
Among his friends who knew his gentle nature best.
Yet ever when he smiled,
There was a mystery legible in his face,
That whoso saw him said he was a man
Not long for this world.--
And true it was, for even then
The silent love was feeding at his heart
Of which he died:
Nor ever spake word of reproach,
Only he wish'd in death that his remains
Might find a poor grave in some spot, not far
From his mistress' family vault, "being the place
Where one day Anna should herself be laid."
The line in italics Lamb crossed through in the Manning copy. The last
four lines he crossed through and marked "_very_ bad." I have reproduced
them here because of the autobiographical hint contained in the word
Anna, which was the name given by Lamb to his "fair-haired maid" in his
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
[Probably November, 1798.]
The following is a second Extract from my Tragedy _that is to be_,--'tis
narrated by an old Steward to Margaret, orphan ward of Sir Walter
Woodvil;--this, and the Dying Lover I gave you, are the only extracts I
can give without mutilation. I expect you to like the old woman's curse:
_Old Steward_.--One summer night, Sir Walter, as it chanc'd,
Was pacing to & fro in the avenue
That westward fronts our house,
Among those aged oaks, said to have been planted
Three hundred years ago
By a neighb'ring Prior of the Woodvil name,
But so it was,
Being overtask't in thought, he heeded not
The importune suitor who stood by the gate,
And beg'd an alms.
Some say he shov'd her rudely from the gate
With angry chiding; but I can never think
(Sir Walter's nature hath a sweetness in it)
That he would use a woman--an old woman--
With such discourtesy;
For old she was who beg'd an alms of him.
Well, he refus'd her;
Whether for importunity, I know not,
Or that she came between his meditations.
But better had he met a lion in the streets
Than this old woman that night;
For she was one who practis'd the black arts.
And served the devil--being since burn'd for witchcraft.
She look'd at him like one that meant to blast him,
And with a frightful noise
('Twas partly like a woman's voice,
And partly like the hissing of a snake)
She nothing said but this (Sir Walter told the words):
"A mischief, mischief, mischief,
And a nine-times killing curse,
By day and by night, to the caitive wight
Who shakes the poor like snakes from his door,
And shuts up the womb of his purse;
And a mischief, mischief, mischief,
And a nine-fold withering curse,--
For that shall come to thee, that will render thee
Both all that thou fear'st, and worse."
These words four times repeated, she departed,
Leaving Sir Walter like a man beneath
Whose feet a scaffolding had suddenly fal'n:
So he describ'd it.
_Margaret_.--A terrible curse!
_Old Steward_.--O Lady, such bad things are told of that old woman,
As, namely, that the milk she gave was sour,
And the babe who suck'd her shrivel'd like a mandrake;
And things besides, with a bigger horror in them,
Almost, I think, unlawful to be told!
_Margaret_.--Then must I never hear them. But proceed,
And say what follow'd on the witch's curse.
_Old Steward_.--Nothing immediate; but some nine months after,
Young Stephen Woodvil suddenly fell sick,
And none could tell what ail'd him: for he lay,
And pin'd, and pin'd, that all his hair came off;
And he, that was full-flesh'd, became as thin
As a two-months' babe that hath been starved in the nursing;--
And sure, I think,
He bore his illness like a little child,
With such rare sweetness of dumb melancholy
He strove to clothe his agony in smiles,
Which he would force up in his poor, pale cheeks,
Like ill-tim'd guests that had no proper business there;--
And when they ask'd him his complaint, he laid
His hand upon his heart to show the place
Where Satan came to him a nights, he said,
And prick'd him with a pin.--
And hereupon Sir Walter call'd to mind
The Beggar Witch that stood in the gateway,
And begg'd an alms--
_Margaret_.--I do not love to credit Tales of magic.
Heav'n's music, which is order, seems unstrung;
And this brave world,
Creation's beauteous work, unbeautified,
Disorder'd, marr'd, where such strange things are acted.
This is the extract I brag'd of, as superior to that I sent you from
Marlow. Perhaps you smile; but I should like your remarks on the above,
as you are deeper witch-read than I.
[The passage quoted in this letter, with certain alterations, became
afterwards "The Witch," a dramatic sketch independent of "John Woodvil."
By the phrase "without mutilation," Lamb possibly means to suggest that
Southey should print this sketch and "The Dying Lover" in the _Annual
Anthology_. That was not, however, done. "The Witch" was first printed
in the _Works_, 1818.
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, postmarked November
20, 1798, not available for this edition. In this letter Lamb sends
Lloyd the extract from "The Witch" that was sent to Southey.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
Nov. 28th, 1798.
I can have no objection to your printing "Mystery of God" with my name
and all due acknowledgments for the honour and favour of the
communication; indeed, 'tis a poem that can dishonour no name. Now, that
is in the true strain of modern modesto-vanitas ... But for the sonnet,
I heartily wish it, as I thought it was, dead and forgotten. If the
exact circumstances under which I wrote could be known or told, it would
be an interesting sonnet; but to an indifferent and stranger reader it
must appear a very bald thing, certainly inadmissible in a compilation.
I wish you could affix a different name to the volume; there is a
contemptible book, a wretched assortment of vapid feelings, entitled
"Pratt's Gleanings," which hath damned and impropriated the title for
ever. Pray think of some other. The gentleman is better known (better
had he remained unknown) by an Ode to Benevolence, written and spoken
for and at the annual dinner of the Humane Society, who walk in
procession once a-year, with all the objects of their charity before
them, to return God thanks for giving them such benevolent hearts.
I like "Bishop Bruno;" but not so abundantly as your "Witch Ballad,"
which is an exquisite thing of its kind.
I showed my "Witch" and "Dying Lover" to Dyer last night; but George
could not comprehend how that could be poetry which did not go upon ten
feet, as George and his predecessors had taught it to do; so George read
me some lectures on the distinguishing qualities of the Ode, the
Epigram, and the Epic, and went home to illustrate his doctrine by
correcting a proof sheet of his own Lyrics. George writes odes where the
rhymes, like fashionable man and wife, keep a comfortable distance of
six or eight lines apart, and calls that "observing the laws of verse."
George tells you, before he recites, that you must listen with great
attention, or you'll miss the rhymes. I did so, and found them pretty
exact. George, speaking of the dead Ossian, exclaimeth, "Dark are the
poet's eyes." I humbly represented to him that his own eyes were dark [?
light], and many a living bard's besides, and recommended "Clos'd are
the poet's eyes." But that would not do. I found there was an antithesis
between the darkness of his eyes and the splendour of his genius; and I
Your recipe for a Turk's poison is invaluable and truly Marlowish....
Lloyd objects to "shutting-up the womb of his purse" in my Curse (which
for a Christian witch in a Christian country is not too mild, I hope);
do you object? 1 think there is a strangeness in the idea, as well as
"shaking the poor like snakes from his door," which suits the speaker.
Witches illustrate, as fine ladies do, from their own familiar objects,
and snakes and the shutting up of wombs are in their way. I don't know
that this last charge has been before brought against 'em, nor either
the sour milk or the mandrake babe; but I affirm these be things a witch
would do if she could.
My Tragedy will be a medley (as [? and] I intend it to be a medley) of
laughter and tears, prose and verse, and in some places rhyme, songs,
wit, pathos, humour, and, if possible, sublimity; at least, it is not a
fault in my intention, if it does not comprehend most of these
discordant colours. Heaven send they dance not the "Dance of Death!" I
hear that the Two Noble Englishmen have parted no sooner than they set
foot on German earth, but I have not heard the reason--possibly, to give
novelists an handle to exclaim, "Ah me! what things are perfect?" I
think I shall adopt your emendation in the "Dying Lover," though I do
not myself feel the objection against "Silent Prayer."
My tailor has brought me home a new coat lapelled, with a velvet collar.
He assures me everybody wears velvet collars now. Some are born
fashionable, some achieve fashion, and others, like your humble servant,
have fashion thrust upon them. The rogue has been making inroads
hitherto by modest degrees, foisting upon me an additional button,
recommending gaiters; but to come upon me thus in a full tide of luxury,
neither becomes him as a tailor nor the ninth of a man. My meek
gentleman was robbed the other day, coming with his wife and family in a
one-horse shay from Hampstead; the villains rifled him of four guineas,
some shillings and half-pence, and a bundle of customers' measures,
which they swore were bank-notes. They did not shoot him, and when they
rode off he addrest them with profound gratitude, making a congee:
"Gentlemen, I wish you good night, and we are very much obliged to you
that you have not used us ill!" And this is the cuckoo that has had the
audacity to foist upon me ten buttons on a side and a black velvet
collar--A damn'd ninth of a scoundrel!
When you write to Lloyd, he wishes his Jacobin correspondents to address
him as _Mr_. C. L. Love and respects to Edith. I hope she is well.
[The poem "Mystery of God" was, when printed in the _Annual Anthology_
for 1799, entitled "Living without God in the World." Lamb never
reprinted it. It is not clear to what sonnet Lamb refers, possibly that
to his sister, printed on page 78, which he himself never reprinted. It
was at that time intended to call Southey's collection _Gleanings_; Lamb
refers to the _Gleanings_ of Samuel Jackson Pratt (1749-1814), a very
busy maker of books, published in 1795-1799. His _Triumph of
Benevolence_ was published in 1786.
Southey's witch ballad was "The Old Woman of Berkeley."
George Dyer's principal works in verse are contained in his _Poems_,
1802, and _Poetics_, 1812. He retained the epithet "dark" for Ossian's
Southey's recipe for a Turk's poison I do not find. It may have existed
only in a letter.
A reference to the poem in Letter 39 will explain the remarks about
The Two Noble Englishmen (a sarcastic reference drawn, I imagine from
Palamon and Arcite) were Coleridge and Wordsworth, then in Germany.
Nothing definite is known, but they seem quite amicably to have decided
to take independent courses.
"Lloyd's Jacobin correspondents." This is Lamb's only allusion to the
attack which had been made by _The Anti-Jacobin_ upon himself, Lloyd and
their friends, particularly Coleridge and Southey. In "The New
Morality," in the last number of Canning's paper, they had been thus
And ye five other wandering Bards that move
In sweet accord of harmony and love,
C-----dge and S--tb--y, L--d, and L--be & Co.
Tune all your mystic harps to praise Lepaux!
--Lepaux being the high-priest of Theophilanthropy. When "The New
Morality" was reprinted in _The Beauties of "The AntiJacobin_" in 1799,
a savage footnote on Coleridge was appended, accusing him of hypocrisy
and the desertion of his wife and children, and adding "_Ex uno disce_
his associates Southey and Lamb." Again, in the first number of the
_Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine_, August, 1798, was a picture by
Gilray, representing the worshippers of Lepaux, wherein Lloyd and Lamb
appeared as a toad and a frog reading their own _Blank Verse_, and
Coleridge and Southey, as donkeys, flourish "Dactylics" and "Saphics."
In September the federated poets were again touched upon in a parody of
the "Ode to the Passions":--
See! faithful to their mighty dam,
C----dge, S--th--y, L--d, and L--b
In splay-foot madrigals of love,
Soft moaning like the widow'd dove,
Pour, side-by-side, their sympathetic notes;
Of equal rights, and civic feasts,
And tyrant kings, and knavish priests,
Swift through the land the tuneful mischief floats.
And now to softer strains they struck the lyre,
They sung the beetle or the mole,
The dying kid, or ass's foal,
By cruel man permitted to expire.
Lloyd took the caricature and the verses with his customary seriousness,
going so far as to indite a "Letter to _The Anti-Jacobin_ Reviewers,"
which was printed in Birmingham in 1799. Therein he defended Lamb with
some vigour: "The person you have thus leagued in a partnership of
infamy with me is Mr. Charles Lamb, a man who, so far from being a
democrat, would be the first person to assent to the opinions contained
in the foregoing pages: he is a man too much occupied with real and
painful duties--duties of high personal self-denial--to trouble himself
about speculative matters."]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
Dec. 27, 1798.
Dear Southey,--Your friend John May has formerly made kind offers to
Lloyd of serving me in the India house by the interest of his friend Sir
Francis Baring--It is not likely that I shall ever put his goodness to
the test on my own account, for my prospects are very comfortable. But I
know a man, a young man, whom he could serve thro' the same channel, and
I think would be disposed to serve if he were acquainted with his case.
This poor fellow (whom I know just enough of to vouch for his strict
integrity & worth) has lost two or three employments from illness, which
he cannot regain; he was once insane, & from the distressful uncertainty
of his livelihood has reason to apprehend a return of that malady--He
has been for some time dependant on a woman whose lodger he formerly
was, but who can ill afford to maintain him, and I know that on
Christmas night last he actually walk'd about the streets all night,
rather than accept of her Bed, which she offer'd him, and offer'd
herself to sleep in the kitchen, and that in consequence of that severe
cold he is labouring under a bilious disorder, besides a depression of
spirits, which incapacitates him from exertion when he most needs
it--For God's sake, Southey, if it does not go against you to ask
favors, do it now--ask it as for me--but do not do a violence to your
feelings, because he does not know of this application, and will suffer
no disappointment--What I meant to say was this--there are in the India
house what are called _Extra Clerks_, not on the Establishment, like me,
but employed in Extra business, by-jobs--these get about L50 a year, or
rather more, but never rise--a Director can put in at any time a young
man in this office, and it is by no means consider'd so great a favor as
making an established Clerk. He would think himself as rich as an
Emperor if he could get such a certain situation, and be relieved from
those disquietudes which I do fear may one day bring back his
You know John May better than I do, but I know enough to believe that he
is a good man--he did make me that offer I have mention'd, but you will
perceive that such an offer cannot authorize me in applying for another
But I cannot help writing to you on the subject, for the young man is
perpetually before my eyes, and I should feel it a crime not to strain
all my petty interest to do him service, tho' I put my own delicacy to
the question by so doing--I have made one other unsuccessful attempt
At all events I will thank you to write, for I am tormented with
I suppose you have somewhere heard that poor Mary Dollin has poisoned
herself, after some interviews with John Reid, the ci-devant Alphonso of
her days of hope.
How is Edith?
[John May was a friend and correspondent of Southey whom he had met at
Lisbon: not to be confounded with Coleridge's inn-keeping May.
Sir Francis Baring was a director of the East India Company. 1 have no
knowledge as to who the young man was; nor have I any regarding Mary
Dollin and John Reid.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
Jan. 21st, 1799.
I am requested by Lloyd to excuse his not replying to a kind letter
received from you. He is at present situated in most distressful family
perplexities, which I am not at liberty to explain; but they are such as
to demand all the strength of his mind, and quite exclude any attention
to foreign objects. His brother Robert (the flower of his family) hath
eloped from the persecutions of his father, and has taken shelter with
me. What the issue of his adventure will be, I know not. He hath the
sweetness of an angel in his heart, combined with admirable firmness of
purpose: an uncultivated, but very original, and, I think, superior
genius. But this step of his is but a small part of their family
I am to blame for not writing to you before on _my own account_; but I
know you can dispense with the expressions of gratitude, or I should
have thanked you before for all May's kindness. He has liberally
supplied the person I spoke to you of with money, and had procured him a
situation just after himself had lighted upon a similar one and engaged
too far to recede. But May's kindness was the same, and my thanks to you
and him are the same. May went about on this business as if it had been
his own. But you knew John May before this: so I will be silent.
I shall be very glad to hear from you when convenient. I do not know how
your Calendar and other affairs thrive; but, above all, I have not heard
a great while of your "Madoc"--the _opus magnum_. I would willingly send
you something to give a value to this letter; but I have only one slight
passage to send you, scarce worth the sending, which I want to edge in
somewhere into my play, which, by the way, hath not received the
addition of ten lines, besides, since I saw you. A father, old Walter
Woodvil (the witch's PROTEGE) relates this of his son John, who "fought
in adverse armies," being a royalist, and his father a parliamentary
"I saw him in the day of Worcester fight,
Whither he came at twice seven years,
Under the discipline of the Lord Falkland
(His uncle by the mother's side,
Who gave his youthful politics a bent
Quite _from_ the principles of his father's house;)
There did I see this valiant Lamb of Mars,
This sprig of honour, this unbearded John,
This veteran in green years, this sprout, this Woodvil,
(With dreadless ease guiding a fire-hot steed,
Which seem'd to scorn the manage of a boy),
Prick forth with such a _mirth_ into the field,
To mingle rivalship and acts of war
Even with the sinewy masters of the art,--
You would have thought the work of blood had been
A play-game merely, and the rabid Mars
Had put his harmful hostile nature off,
To instruct raw youth in images of war,
And practice of the unedged players' foils.
The rough fanatic and blood-practised soldiery
Seeing such hope and virtue in the boy,
Disclosed their ranks to let him pass unhurt,
Checking their swords' uncivil injuries,
As loth to mar that curious workmanship
Of Valour's beauty pourtray'd in his face."
Lloyd objects to "pourtray'd in his face,"--do you? I like the line.
I shall clap this in somewhere. I think there is a spirit through the
lines; perhaps the 7th, 8th, and 9th owe their origin to Shakspeare,
though no image is borrowed.
He says in "Henry the Fourth"--
"This infant Hotspur,
Mars in swathing clothes."
[See Pt. I., III., 2, 111, 112.]
But pray did Lord Falkland die before Worcester fight? In that case I
must make bold to unclify some other nobleman.
Kind love and respects to Edith.
[Charles Lloyd's perplexities turned probably once again on the question
of his marriage. How long Robert Lloyd was with Lamb we do not know; nor
of what nature were the "persecutions" to which he was subjected.
According to the evidence at our disposal, Charles Lloyd, sen., was a
Southey's _Madoc_ was not published until 1805.
The passage from the play was not printed in _John Woodvil_. This,
together with "The Dying Lover" are to be found only in the discarded
version, printed in the Notes to Vol. IV. of the present edition. Lord
Falkland had been killed at Newbury eight years before Worcester fight.
Lamb altered the names to Ashley and Naseby, although Sir Anthony Cooper
was not made Lord Ashley until sixteen years after Naseby was fought.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
[Late January or early February, 1799.]
Dr. Southey,--Lloyd will now be able to give you an account of himself,
so to him I leave you for satisfaction. Great part of his troubles are
lightened by the partial recovery of his sister, who had been alarmingly
ill with similar diseases to his own. The other part of the family
troubles sleeps for the present, but I fear will awake at some future
time to _confound_ and _disunite_. He will probably tell you all about
it. Robert still continues here with me, his father has proposed
nothing, but would willingly lure him back with fair professions. But
Robert is endowed with a wise fortitude, and in this business has acted
quite from himself, and wisely acted. His parents must come forward in
the End. I like reducing parents to a sense of undutifulness. I like
confounding the relations of life. Pray let me see you when you come to
town, and contrive to give me some of your company.
I thank you heartily for your intended presents, but do by no means see
the necessity you are under of burthening yourself thereby. You have
read old Wither's Supersedeas to small purpose. You object to my pauses
being at the end of my lines. I do not know any great difficulty I
should find in diversifying or changing my blank verse; but I go upon
the model of Shakspere in my Play, and endeavour after a colloquial ease
and spirit, something like him. I could so easily imitate Milton's
versification; but my ear & feeling would reject it, or any approaches
to it, in the _drama_. I do not know whether to be glad or sorry that
witches have been detected aforetimes in shutting up of wombs. I
certainly invented that conceit, and its coincidence with fact is
incidental [? accidental], for I never heard it. I have not seen those
verses on Col. Despard--I do not read any newspapers. Are they short, to
copy without much trouble? I should like to see them.
I just send you a few rhymes from my play, the only rhymes in it--a
forest-liver giving an account of his amusements:--
What sports have you in the forest?
Not many,--some few,--as thus.
To see the sun to bed, and see him rise,
Like some hot amourist with glowing eyes,
Bursting the lazy bands of sleep that bound him:
With all his fires and travelling glories round him:
Sometimes the moon on soft night-clouds to rest,
Like beauty nestling in a young man's breast,
And all the winking stars, her handmaids, keep
Admiring silence, while those lovers sleep:
Sometimes outstretch'd in very idleness,
Nought doing, saying little, thinking less,
To view the leaves, thin dancers upon air,
Go eddying round; and small birds how they fare,
When mother Autumn fills their beaks with corn,
Filch'd from the careless Amalthea's horn;
And how the woods berries and worms provide,
Without their pains, when earth hath nought beside
To answer their small wants;
To view the graceful deer come trooping by,
Then pause, and gaze, then turn they know not why,
Like bashful younkers in society;
To mark the structure of a plant or tree;
And all fair things of earth, how fair they be! &c. &c.
I love to anticipate charges of unoriginality: the first line is almost
"To have my love to bed & to arise."
_Midsummer Nights Dream_ [III., I, 174].
I think there is a sweetness in the versification not unlike some rhymes
in that exquisite play, and the last line but three is yours:
That met the gaze, or turn'd it knew not why."
I shall anticipate all my play, and have nothing to shew you. An idea
Commentators on Job have been puzzled to find out a meaning for
Leviathan,--'tis a whale, say some; a crocodile, say others. In my
simple conjecture, Leviathan is neither more nor less than the Lord
Mayor of London for the time being.
"Rosamund" sells well in London, maugre the non-reviewal of it.
I sincerely wish you better health, & better health to Edith, Kind
remembrances to her.
If you come to town by Ash Wednesday [February 6], you will certainly
see Lloyd here--I expect him by that time.
My sister Mary was never in better health or spirits than now.
[Writing in June, 1799, to Robert Lloyd, Priscilla, his sister, says:
"Lamb would not I think by any means be a person to take up your abode
with. He is too much like yourself--he would encourage those feelings
which it certainly is your duty to suppress. Your station in life--the
duties which are pointed out by that rank in society which you are
destined to fill--differ widely from his." When next we hear of Robert
Lloyd he has returned to Birmingham, where his father soon afterwards
bought him a partnership in a bookselling and printing business.
"Col. Despard." I have not found the verses. Colonel Edward Marcus
Despard, after a career that began brilliantly, was imprisoned in the
spring of 1798 and executed for High Treason in 1803.
The rhymed passage from _John Woodvil_ is that which is best known.
Hazlitt relates that Godwin was so taken with it when he first read it
that he asked every one he met to tell him the author and play, and at
last applied to Lamb himself.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
March 15th, 1799.
Dear Southey,--I have received your little volume, for which I thank
you, though I do not entirely approve of this sort of intercourse, where
the presents are all one side. I have read the last Eclogue again with
great pleasure. It hath gained considerably by abridgment, and now I
think it wants nothing but enlargement. You will call this one of tyrant
Procrustes' criticisms, to cut and pull so to his own standard; but the
old lady is so great a favourite with me, I want to hear more of her;
and of "Joanna" you have given us still less. But the picture of the
rustics leaning over the bridge, and the old lady travelling abroad on a
summer evening to see her garden watered, are images so new and true,
that I decidedly prefer this "Ruin'd Cottage" to any poem in the book.
Indeed I think it the only one that will bear comparison with your "Hymn
to the Penates" in a former volume.
I compare dissimilar things, as one would a rose and a star for the
pleasure they give us, or as a child soon learns to choose between a
cake and a rattle; for dissimilars have mostly some points of
comparison. The next best poem, I think, is the First Eclogue; 'tis very
complete, and abounding in little pictures and realities. The remainder
Eclogues, excepting only the "Funeral," I do not greatly admire. I miss
_one_, which had at least as good a title to publication as the "Witch,"
or the "Sailor's Mother." You call'd it the "Last of the Family." The
"Old Woman of Berkeley" comes next; in some humours I would give it the
preference above any. But who the devil is Matthew of Westminster? You
are as familiar with these antiquated monastics, as Swedenborg, or, as
his followers affect to call him, the Baron, with his invisibles. But
you have raised a very comic effect out of the true narrative of Matthew
of Westminster. 'Tis surprising with how little addition you have been
able to convert with so little alteration his incidents, meant for
terror, into circumstances and food for the spleen. The Parody is _not_
so successful; it has one famous line indeed, which conveys the finest
death-bed image I ever met with:
"The doctor whisper'd the nurse, and the surgeon knew what he said."
But the offering the bride three times bears not the slightest analogy
or proportion to the fiendish noises three times heard! In "Jaspar," the
circumstance of the great light is very affecting. But I had heard you
mention it before. The "Rose" is the only insipid piece in the volume;
it hath neither thorns nor sweetness, and, besides, sets all chronology
and probability at defiance.
"Cousin Margaret," you know, I like. The allusions to the "Pilgrim's
Progress" are particularly happy, and harmonise tacitly and delicately
with old cousins and aunts. To familiar faces we do associate familiar
scenes and accustomed objects; but what hath Apollidon and his
sea-nymphs to do in these affairs? Apollyon I could have borne, though
he stands for the devil; but who is Apollidon? I think you are too apt
to conclude faintly, with some cold moral, as in the end of the poem
called "The Victory"--
"Be thou her comforter, who art the widow's friend;"
a single common-place line of comfort, which bears no proportion in
weight or number to the many lines which describe suffering. This is to
convert religion into mediocre feelings, which should burn, and glow,
and tremble. A moral should be wrought into the body and soul, the
matter and tendency, of a poem, not tagged to the end, like a "God send
the good ship into harbour," at the conclusion of our bills of lading.
The finishing of the "Sailor" is also imperfect. Any dissenting minister
may say and do as much.
These remarks, I know, are crude and unwrought; but I do not lay claim
to much accurate thinking. I never judge system-wise of things, but
fasten upon particulars. After all, there is a great deal in the book
that I must, for time, leave _unmentioned_, to deserve my thanks for its
own sake, as well as for the friendly remembrances implied in the gift.
I again return you my thanks.
Pray present my love to Edith. C. L.
[Southey's little volume was Vol. II. of the second edition of his
_Poems_, published in 1799. The last of the English Eclogues included in
it was "The Ruined Cottage," slightly altered from the version referred
to in letter 38. The "Hymn to the Penates" brought the first volume of
this edition to a close. The first Eclogue was "The Old Mansion House."
"The Old Woman of Berkeley" was called "A Ballad showing how an Old
Woman rode double and who rode before her." It was preceded by a long
quotation in Latin from Matthew of Westminster. Matthew of Westminster
is the imaginary name given to the unknown authors of a chronicle called
_Flares Historiarum_, belonging probably to the fifteenth century. The
Parody was "The Surgeon's Warning," which begins with the two lines that
Lamb prints as one:--
The Doctor whisper'd to the Nurse,
And the Surgeon knew what he said.
"The Rose" was blank verse, addressed to Edith Southey. "Cousin
Margaret" was a "Metrical Letter Written from London," in which there
are allusions to Bunyan. The reference to Apollidon is explained by
The Sylphs should waft us to some goodly isle,
Like that where whilome old Apollidon
Built up his blameless spell.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
March 2Oth, 1799.
I am hugely pleased with your "Spider," "your old freemason," as you
call him. The three first stanzas are delicious; they seem to me a
compound of Burns and Old Quarles, those kind of home-strokes, where
more is felt than strikes the ear; a terseness, a jocular pathos, which
makes one feel in laughter. The measure, too, is novel and pleasing. I
could almost wonder Rob. Burns in his lifetime never stumbled upon it.
The fourth stanza is less striking, as being less original. The fifth
falls off. It has no felicity of phrase, no old-fashioned phrase or
"Young hopes, and love's delightful dreams,"
savour neither of Burns nor Quarles; they seem more like shreds of many
a modern sentimental sonnet. The last stanza hath nothing striking in
it, if I except the two concluding lines, which are Burns all over. I
wish, if you concur with me, these things could be looked to. I am sure
this is a kind of writing, which comes tenfold better recommended to the
heart, comes there more like a neighbour or familiar, than thousands of
Hamuels and Zillahs and Madelons. I beg you will send me the
"Holly-tree," if it at all resemble this, for it must please me. I have
never seen it. I love this sort of poems, that open a new intercourse
with the most despised of the animal and insect race. I think this vein
may be further opened; Peter Pindar hath very prettily apostrophised a
fly; Burns hath his mouse and his louse; Coleridge, less successfully,
hath made overtures of intimacy to a jackass, therein only following at
unresembling distance Sterne and greater Cervantes. Besides these, I
know of no other examples of breaking down the partition between us and
our "poor earth-born companions." It is sometimes revolting to be put in
a track of feeling by other people, not one's own immediate thoughts,
else I would persuade you, if I could (I am in earnest), to commence a
series of these animal poems, which might have a tendency to rescue some
poor creatures from the antipathy of mankind. Some thoughts come across
me;--for instance--to a rat, to a toad, to a cockchafer, to a
mole--People bake moles alive by a slow oven-fire to cure consumption.
Rats are, indeed, the most despised and contemptible parts of God's
earth. I killed a rat the other day by punching him to pieces, and feel
a weight of blood upon me to this hour. Toads you know are made to fly,
and tumble down and crush all to pieces. Cockchafers are old sport; then
again to a worm, with an apostrophe to anglers, those patient tyrants,
meek inflictors of pangs intolerable, cool devils; to an owl; to all
snakes, with an apology for their poison; to a cat in boots or bladders.
Your own fancy, if it takes a fancy to these hints, will suggest many
more. A series of such poems, suppose them accompanied with plates
descriptive of animal torments, cooks roasting lobsters, fishmongers
crimping skates, &c., &c., would take excessively. I will willingly
enter into a partnership in the plan with you: I think my heart and soul
would go with it too--at least, give it a thought. My plan is but this
minute come into my head; but it strikes me instantaneously as something
new, good and useful, full of pleasure and full of moral. If old Quarles
and Wither could live again, we would invite them into our firm. Burns
hath done his part. I the other day threw off an extempore epitaph on
Ensign Peacock of the 3rd Regt. of the Royal East India Volunteers, who
like other boys in this scarlet tainted age was ambitious of playing at
soldiers, but dying in the first flash of his valour was at the
particular instance of his relations buried with military honours! like
any veteran scarr'd or chopt from Blenheim or Ramilies. (He was buried
in sash and gorget.)
He lies a Volunteer so fine,
Who died of a decline,
As you or I, may do one day;
Reader, think of this, I pray;
And I numbly hope you'll drop a tear
For my poor Royal Volunteer.
He was as brave as brave could be,
Nobody was so brave as he;
He would have died in Honor's bed,
Only he died at home instead.
Well may the Royal Regiment swear,
They never had such a Volunteer.
But whatsoever they may say,
Death is a man that will have his way:
Tho' he was but an ensign in this world of pain;
In the next we hope he'll be a captain.
And without meaning to make any reflection on his mentals,
He begg'd to be buried in regimentals.
Sed hae sunt lamentabilis nugae--But 'tis as good as some epitaphs you and
I have read together in Christ-Church-yard.
Poor Sam. Le Grice! I am afraid the world, and the camp, and the
university, have spoilt him among them. 'Tis certain he had at one time
a strong capacity of turning out something better. I knew him, and that
not long since, when he had a most warm heart. I am ashamed of the
indifference I have sometimes felt towards him. I think the devil is in
one's heart. I am under obligations to that man for the warmest
friendship and heartiest sympathy, even for an agony of sympathy exprest
both by word and deed, and tears for me, when I was in my greatest
distress. But I have forgot that! as, I fear, he has nigh forgot the
awful scenes which were before his eyes when he served the office of a
comforter to me. No service was too mean or troublesome for him to
perform. I can't think what but the devil, "that old spider," could have
suck'd my heart so dry of its sense of all gratitude. If he does come in
your way, Southey, fail not to tell him that I retain a most
affectionate remembrance of his old friendliness, and an earnest wish to
resume our intercourse. In this I am serious. I cannot recommend him to
your society, because I am afraid whether he be quite worthy of it. But
I have no right to dismiss him from _my_ regard. He was at one time, and
in the worst of times, my own familiar friend, and great comfort to me
then. I have known him to play at cards with my father, meal-times
excepted, literally all day long, in long days too, to save me from
being teased by the old man, when I was not able to bear it.
God bless him for it, and God bless you, Southey.
[Peter Pindar (Dr. John Wolcot) has an ode "To a Fly, taken out of a
Bowl of Punch." He also wrote "The Lousiad."
"Poor earth-born companions." From Burns' "Lines to a Mouse," 2nd
Stanza, line 5.
"Toads are made to fly." Filliping the toad was an old pastime. A toad
was placed on one end of a piece of wood, laid crosswise over a stone.
The other end was struck with a beetle (_i.e._, a mallet), and the toad
flew into the air. Falstaff says: "Fillip me with a three-man beetle."
As to worms and fishermen, the late Mrs. Coe, who as a girl had known
Lamb at Widford, told me that he could rarely, if ever, be tempted to
join the anglers. Affixing the worm was too much for him. "Barbarous,
barbarous," he used to say.
Lamb's project for a series of animal poems has to some extent been
carried out by a living poet, Mr. A. C. Benson. Neither Lamb nor Southey
We met Sam Le Grice in the letter of October 3, 1796. To what escapade
Lamb refers I do not know, but he was addicted to folly. It was Sam Le
Grice of whom Leigh Hunt in his _Autobiography_ tells the excellent tale
that he excused himself to his master for not having performed a task,
by the remark that he had had a "lethargy."
In April of this year died John Lamb, the father. Charles Lamb probably
at once moved from 45 Chapel Street to No. 36, where Mary Lamb joined
Between this and the next letter should probably come a letter from Lamb
to Robert Lloyd, not available for this edition. It seems to follow upon
Robert Lloyd's departure from Lamb's house, and remarks that Lamb knows
but one being that he could ever consent to live perpetually with, and
that is Robert--but Robert must go whither prudence and paternal
regulations dictate. Lamb also refers to a poem of an intimate character
by Charles Lloyd in the _Annual Anthology_ ("Lines to a Brother and
Sister"), remarking that, in his opinion, these domestic addresses
should not always be made public. There is also a reference to Charles
Lloyd's novel, which Lamb says he wants to read if he may be permitted a
sight of it. This would be _Isabel_.]
CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY
Oct. 31st, 1799.
Dear Southey,--I have but just got your letter, being returned from
Herts, where I have passed a few red-letter days with much pleasure. I
would describe the county to you, as you have done by Devonshire, but
alas! I am a poor pen at that same. I could tell you of an old house
with a tapestry bed-room, the "judgment of Solomon" composing one
pannel, and "Actaeon spying Diana naked" the other. I could tell of an
old marble hall, with Hogarth's prints and the Roman Caesars in marble
hung round. I could tell of a _wilderness_, and of a village church, and
where the bones of my honoured grandam lie; but there are feelings which
refuse to be translated, sulky aborigines, which will not be naturalised
in another soil. Of this nature are old family faces and scenes of
I have given your address, and the books you want, to the Arches; they
will send them as soon as they can get them, but they do not seem quite
familiar to [? with] their names. I have seen Gebor! Gebor aptly so
denominated from Geborish, _quasi_ Gibberish. But Gebor hath some lucid
intervals. I remember darkly one beautiful simile veiled in uncouth
phrases about the youngest daughter of the Ark. I shall have nothing to
communicate, I fear, to the Anthology. You shall have some fragments of
my play, if you desire them, but I think I would rather print it whole.
Have you seen it, or shall I lend you a copy? I want your opinion of it.
I must get to business, so farewell. My kind remembrances to Edith.
[Lamb had probably been staying at Widford. Many years later he
described his Hertfordshire days in more than one essay (see the _Elia_
essays "Mackery End" and "Blakesmoor in H-----shire" and
"Dream-Children"). The old house was, of course, Blakesware. The
wilderness, which lay at the back of the house, is, with Widford,
mentioned in _Rosamund Gray_.
The Arches were the brothers Arch, the booksellers of Ludgate Hill.
Gebor stands for _Gebir_, Landor's poem, published in 1798. The simile
in question would be this: from Book VII., lines 248-251:--
Never so eager, when the world was waves,
Stood the less daughter of the ark, and tried
(Innocent this temptation) to recall
With folded vest and casting arm the dove.
The reference to Southey's Anthology is to Vol. II., then in
preparation. The play was now finished: it circulated in manuscript
before being published in 1802.
In a letter to Robert Lloyd, dated December 17, 1799, Lamb thanks him
for a present of porter, adding that wine makes him hot, and brandy
drunk, but porter warms without intoxication.
Here should come an unpublished letter from Lamb to Charles Lloyd at
Cambridge, asking for the return of his play. Kemble, he says, had
offered to put it in the hands of the proprietor of Drury Lane, and
therefore Lamb wishes to have a second copy in the house. Kemble, as it
turned out, returned no answer for a year, and then he stated that he
had lost the copy.
Lamb mentions Coleridge's settlement with his family in lodgings in the
Adelphi. Coleridge, having returned from Germany and undertaken work for
the _Morning Post_, took lodgings at 21 Buckingham Street, Strand, close
to the Adelphi, in November, 1799.
The letter is interesting in containing the first mention of Manning,
whom we are now to meet.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
Dear Manning,--The particular kindness, even up to a degree of
attachment, which I have experienced from you, seems to claim some
distinct acknowledgment on my part. I could not content myself with a
bare remembrance to you, conveyed in some letter to Lloyd.
Will it be agreeable to you, if I occasionally recruit your memory of
me, which must else soon fade, if you consider the brief intercourse we
have had. I am not likely to prove a troublesome correspondent. My
scribbling days are past. I shall have no sentiments to communicate, but
as they spring up from some living and worthy occasion.
I look forward with great pleasure to the performance of your promise,
that we should meet in London early in the ensuing year. The century
must needs commence auspiciously for me, that brings with it Manning's
friendship as an earnest of its after gifts.
I should have written before, but for a troublesome inflammation in one
of my eyes, brought on by night travelling with the coach windows
What more I have to say shall be reserved for a letter to Lloyd. I must
not prove tedious to you in my first outset, lest I should affright you
by my ill-judged loquacity. I am, yours most sincerely, C. LAMB.
[This is the first letter that has been preserved in the correspondence
between Lamb and Manning. Lamb first met Manning at Cambridge, in the
autumn of 1799, when on a visit to Charles Lloyd. Much of Manning's
history will be unfolded as the letters proceed, but here it should be
stated that he was born on November 8, 1772, and was thus a little more
than two years older than Lamb. He was at this time acting as private
tutor in mathematics at Cambridge, among his pupils being Charles Lloyd,
of Caius, Manning's own college. Manning, however, did not take his
degree, owing to an objection to oaths and tests.
Lamb's reference to the beginning of the century shows that he shared
with many other non-mathematically-minded persons the belief that the
century begins with the hundredth, and not the hundred and first, year.
He says of Manning, in the _Elia_ essay "The Old and the New
Schoolmaster": "My friend M., with great painstaking, got me to think I
understood the first proposition in Euclid, but gave me over in despair
at the second."]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
Dec. 28th, 1799.
Dear Manning,--Having suspended my correspondence a decent interval, as
knowing that even good things may be taken to satiety, a wish cannot but
recur to learn whether you be still well and happy. Do all things
continue in the state I left them in Cambridge?
Do your night parties still flourish? and do you continue to bewilder
your company with your thousand faces running down through all the keys
of idiotism (like Lloyd over his perpetual harpsicord), from the smile
and the glimmer of half-sense and quarter-sense to the grin and hanging
lip of Betty Foy's own Johnny? And does the face-dissolving curfew sound
at twelve? How unlike the great originals were your petty terrors in the
postscript, not fearful enough to make a fairy shudder, or a Lilliputian
fine lady, eight months full of child, miscarry. Yet one of them, which
had more beast than the rest, I thought faintly resembled _one_ of your
brutifications. But, seriously, I long to see your own honest
Manning-face again. I did not mean a pun,--your _man's_ face, you will
be apt to say, I know your wicked will to pun. I cannot now write to
Lloyd and you too, so you must convey as much interesting intelligence
as this may contain, or be thought to contain, to him and Sophia, with
my dearest love and remembrances.
By the by, I think you and Sophia both incorrect with regard to the
_title_ of the _play_. Allowing your objection (which is not necessary,
as pride may be, and is in real life often, cured by misfortunes not
directly originating from its own acts, as Jeremy Taylor will tell you a
naughty desire is sometimes sent to cure it--I know you read these
_practical divines_). But allowing your objection, does not the
betraying of his father's secret directly spring from pride?--from the
pride of wine and a full heart, and a proud over-stepping of the
ordinary rules of morality, and contempt of the prejudices of mankind,
which are not to bind superior souls--"as _trust_ in _the matter_ of
_secret_ all _ties_ of _blood_, &c., &c., keeping of _promises_, the
feeble mind's religion, binding our _morning knowledge_ to the
performance of what _last night's ignorance_ spake"--does he not prate,
that "_Great Spirits_" must do more than die for their friend--does not
the pride of wine incite him to display some evidence of friendship,
which its own irregularity shall make great? This I know, that I meant
his punishment not alone to be a cure for his daily and habitual
_pride_, but the direct consequence and appropriate punishment of a
particular act of pride.
If you do not understand it so, it is my fault in not explaining my
I have not seen Coleridge since, and scarcely expect to see
him,--perhaps he has been at Cambridge. I dined with him in town and
breakfasted with him and Priscilla, who you may tell Charles has
promised to come and see me when she returns [to] Clapham. I will write
to Charles on Monday.
Need I turn over to blot a fresh clean half-sheet? merely to say, what I
hope you are sure of without my repeating it, that I would have you
consider me, dear Manning, Your sincere friend,
What is your proper address?
["Betty Foy's own Johnny"--"The Idiot Boy," in the _Lyrical Ballads_.
"In the postscript." A reference presumably to some drawings of faces in
one of Manning's letters.
"The title of the play." Writing to Lamb on December 15, 1799, Manning
had said: "I had some conversation the other day with Sophia concerning
your tragedy; and she made some very sensible observations (as I
thought) with respect to the unfitness of its title, 'The Folly,' whose
consequences humble the pride and ambition of John's heart, does not
originate in the workings of those passions, but from an underpart in
his character, and as it were accidentally, _viz_., from the ebullitions
of a drunken mind and from a rash confidence."
"You will understand what I mean, without my explaining myself any
further. God bless you, and keep you from all evil things, that walk
upon the face of the earth--I mean nightmares, hobgoblins and spectres."
Lamb refers in this letter particularly to Act III. of his play. "I have
not seen Coleridge since." Since when is not clear. Possibly Coleridge
had been at Cambridge when Lamb was there.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE
? Jan. 23, 1800.
Dear Coleridge,--Now I write, I cannot miss this opportunity of
acknowledging the obligations myself, and the readers in general of that
luminous paper, the "Morning Post," are under to you for the very novel
and exquisite manner in which you combined political with grammatical
science, in your yesterday's dissertation on Mr. Wyndham's unhappy
composition. It must have been the death-blow to that ministry. I expect
Pitt and Grenville to resign. More especially the delicate and
Cottrellian grace with which you officiated, with a ferula for a white
wand, as gentleman usher to the word "also," which it seems did not know
I expect Manning of Cambridge in town to-night--will you fulfil your
promise of meeting him at my house? He is a man of a thousand. Give me a
line to say what day, whether Saturday, Sunday, Monday, &c., and if Sara
and the Philosopher can come. I am afraid if I did not at intervals call
upon you, I should _never see you_. But I forget, the affairs of the
nation engross your time and your mind.
[The first letter that has been preserved of the second period of Lamb's
correspondence with Coleridge, which was to last until the end.
In the _Morning Post_ of January 7, 1800, had appeared the
correspondence between Buonaparte and Lord Grenville, in which
Buonaparte made an offer of peace. Lord Grenville's Note, it was pointed
out in the _Morning Post_ for January 16, was really written by William
Windham, Secretary for War, and on January 22 appeared an article
closely criticising its grammar.
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