The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Vol. 5
Edited by E. V. Lucas
Part 5 out of 14
Here is the passage concerning "also," to which Lamb particularly
alludes a little later in the letter:--
... "The _same_ system, to the prevalence of which France justly
ascribes all her present miseries, is that which has _also_ involved the
rest of Europe in a long and destructive warfare, of a nature long since
unknown _to_ the practice of civilized nations." Here the connective
word "also" should have followed the word "Europe." As it at present
stands, the sentence implies that France, miserable as she may be, has,
however, not been involved in a warfare. The word "same" is absolutely
expletive; and by appearing to refer the reader to some foregoing
clause, it not only loads the sentence, but renders it obscure. The word
"to" is absurdly used for the word "in." A thing may be unknown _to_
practitioners, as humanity and sincerity may be unknown to the
practitioners of State-craft, and foresight, science, and harmony may
have been unknown to the planners and practitioners of Continental
Expeditions; but even "cheese-parings and candle-ends" cannot be known
or unknown "_to_" a practice!!
Windham was destined to be attacked by another stalwart in Lamb's
circle, for it was his speech in opposition to Lord Erskine's Cruelty to
Animals Bill in 1809 that inspired John Lamb to write his fierce
pamphlet (see page 434).
"Cottrellian grace." The Cotterells were Masters of the Ceremonies from
1641 to 1808.
The Philosopher was Hartley Coleridge, aged three, so called after his
great namesake, David Hartley. The Coleridges were now, as we have seen,
living at 21 Buckingham Street, Strand.]
Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning
[P.M. Feb. 13, 1800.]
Dear Manning,--Olivia is a good girl, and if you turn to my letter, you
will find that this very plea you set up to vindicate Lloyd I had made
use of as a reason why he should never have employed Olivia to make a
copy of such a letter--a letter I could not have sent to my enemy's
b----h, if she had thought fit to seek me in the way of marriage. But
you see it in one view, I in another. Rest you merry in your opinion!
Opinion is a species of property; and though I am always desirous to
share with my friend to a certain extent, I shall ever like to keep some
tenets and some property properly my own. Some day, Manning, when we
meet, substituting Corydon and fair Amaryllis, for Charles Lloyd and
Mary Hayes, we will discuss together this question of moral feeling, "In
what cases and how far sincerity is a virtue?" I do not mean Truth--a
good Olivia-like creature--God bless her, who, meaning no offence, is
always ready to give an answer when she is asked why she did so and so;
but a certain forward-talking half-brother of hers, Sincerity, that
amphibious gentleman, who is so ready to perk up his obnoxious
sentiments unasked into your notice, as Midas would his ears into your
face uncalled for. But I despair of doing anything by a letter in the
way of explaining or coming to explanations. A good wish, or a pun, or a
piece of secret history, may be well enough that way conveyed; nay, it
has been known that intelligence of a turkey hath been conveyed by that
medium without much ambiguity. Godwin I am a good deal pleased with. He
is a very well-behaved, decent man, nothing very brilliant about him, or
imposing, as you may suppose; quite another guess sort of gentleman from
what your Anti-Jacobin Christians imagine him. I was well pleased to
find he has neither horns nor claws; quite a tame creature, I assure
you. A middle-sized man, both in stature and in understanding; whereas,
from his noisy fame, you would expect to find a Briareus Centimanus, or
a Tityus tall enough to pull Jupiter from his heavens.
I begin to think you Atheists not quite so tall a species. Coleridge
inquires after you pretty often. I wish to be the Pandar to bring you
together again once before I die. When we die, you and I must part; the
sheep, you know, take the right hand, and the goats the left. Stripped
of its allegory, you must know, the sheep are _I_ and the Apostles, and
the Martyrs, and the Popes, and Bishop Taylor, and Bishop Horsley, and
Coleridge, &c., &c.; the goats are the Atheists and the Adulterers, and
dumb dogs, and Godwin and M-----g, and that Thyestaean crew--yaw! how my
saintship sickens at the idea!
You shall have my play and the Falstaff letters in a day or two. I will
write to Lloyd by this day's post.
Pray, is it a part of your sincerity to show my letters to Lloyd? for
really, gentlemen ought to explain their virtues upon a first
acquaintance, to prevent mistakes.
God bless you, Manning. Take my trifling _as trifling_; and believe me,
seriously and deeply,
Your well-wisher and friend,
[Mary Hayes was a friend of Mary Wollstonecraft, and also of Southey and
Coleridge. She wrote a novel, _Memoirs of Emma Courtney_, which Lloyd
says contained her own love letters to Godwin and Frend, and also
_Female Biography, or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women_.
Lloyd and she had been very intimate. A passage from a letter of
Coleridge to Southey, dated January 25, 1800, bears upon the present
situation: "Miss Hayes I have seen. Charles Lloyd's conduct has been
atrocious beyond what you stated. Lamb himself confessed to me that
during the time in which he kept up his ranting, sentimental
correspondence with Miss Hayes, he frequently read her letters in
company, as a subject for _laughter_, and then sate down and answered
them quite _a la Rousseau_! Poor Lloyd! Every hour new-creates him; he
is his own posterity in a perpetually flowing series, and his body
unfortunately retaining an external identity, _their_ mutual
contradictions and disagreeings are united under one name, and of course
are called lies, treachery, and rascality!"
Another letter from Lamb to Manning at this time tells the story of the
Charles Lloyd and Mary Hayes imbroglio. Lloyd had written to Miss Hayes
a very odd letter concerning her Godwinite creed, in which he refers to
her belief that she was in love with him and repeats old stories that
she had been in love both with Godwin and Frend. Here is one sentence:
"In the confounding medley of ordinary conversation, I have interwoven
my abhorrence of your principles with a glanced contempt for your
personal character." This letter Lloyd had given to his sister Olivia to
copy--"An ignorant Quaker girl," says Lamb, "I mean ignorant in the best
sense, who ought not to know, that such a thing was possible or in rerum
naturae that a woman should court a man." Later: "As long as Lloyd or I
have known Col. [Coleridge] so long have we known him in the daily and
hourly habit of quizzing the world by lyes, most unaccountable and most
disinterested fictions." And here is one more passage: "To sum up my
inferences from the above facts, I am determined to live a merry Life in
the midst of Sinners. I try to consider all men as such, and to pitch
any expectations from human nature as low as possible. In this view, all
unexpected Virtues are Godsends and beautiful exceptions."
Lamb had just met William Godwin (1756-1836), probably having been
introduced to him by Coleridge. Godwin, known chiefly by his _Political
Justice_, 1793; _Caleb Williams_, 1794, and _St. Leon_, 1799, stood at
that time for everything that was advanced in thought and conduct. We
shall meet with him often in the correspondence of the next few years.
Bishop Horsley (then of Rochester, afterwards St. Asaph's) was probably
included ironically, on account of his hostility to Priestley.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. March 1, 1800.]
I hope by this time you are prepared to say the "Falstaf's letters" are
a bundle of the sharpest, queerest, profoundest humours, of any these
juice-drained latter times have spawned. I should have advertised you,
that the meaning is frequently hard to be got at; and so are the future
guineas, that now lie ripening and aurifying in the womb of some
undiscovered Potosi; but dig, dig, dig, dig, Manning! I set to with an
unconquerable propulsion to write, with a lamentable want of what to
write. My private goings on are orderly as the movements of the spheres,
and stale as their music to angels' ears. Public affairs--except as they
touch upon me, and so turn into private, I cannot whip up my mind to
feel any interest in. I grieve, indeed, that War and Nature, and Mr.
Pitt, that hangs up in Lloyd's best parlour, should have conspired to
call up three necessaries, simple commoners as our fathers knew them,
into the upper house of Luxuries; Bread, and Beer, and Coals, Manning.
But as to France and Frenchmen, and the Abbe Sieyes and his
constitutions, I cannot make these present times present to me. I read
histories of the past, and I live in them; although, to abstract senses,
they are far less momentous than the noises which keep Europe awake. I
am reading Burnet's Own Times. Did you ever read that garrulous,
pleasant history? He tells his story like an old man past political
service, bragging to his sons on winter evenings of the part he took in
public transactions, when his "old cap was new." Full of scandal, which
all true history is. No palliatives, but all the stark wickedness, that
actually gives the _momentum_ to national actors. Quite the prattle of
age and out-lived importance. Truth and sincerity staring out upon you
perpetually in _alto relievo_. Himself a party man--he makes you a party
man. None of the Damned philosophical Humeian indifference, so cold, and
unnatural, and inhuman! None of the damned Gibbonian fine writing, so
fine and composite. None of Mr. Robertson's periods with three members.
None of Mr. Roscoe's sage remarks, all so apposite, and coming in so
clever, lest the reader should have had the trouble of drawing an
inference. Burnet's good old prattle I can bring present to my mind--I
can make the revolution present to me; the French Revolution, by a
converse perversity in my nature, I fling as far _from_ me. To quit this
damn'd subject, and to relieve you from two or three dismal yawns, which
I hear in spirit, I here conclude my more than commonly obtuse letter;
dull up to the dulness of a Dutch commentator on Shakspeare.
My love to Lloyd and Sophia. C. L.
["War and Nature, and Mr. Pitt." The war had sent up taxation to an
almost unbearable height. Pitt was Chancellor of Exchequer, as well as
Hume, Gibbon and Robertson were among the books which, in the Elia essay
"Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading," Lamb described as
_biblia-a-biblia_. William Roscoe's principal work was his _Life of
Lorenzo de' Medici_, 1795.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. March 17, 1800.]
Dear Manning,--I am living in a continuous feast. Coleridge has been
with me now for nigh three weeks, and the more I see of him in the
quotidian undress and relaxation of his mind, the more cause I see to
love him, and believe him a _very good man_, and all those foolish
impressions to the contrary fly off like morning slumbers. He is engaged
in translations, which I hope will keep him this month to come. He is
uncommonly kind and friendly to me. He ferrets me day and night to _do
something_. He tends me, amidst all his own worrying and
heart-oppressing occupations, as a gardener tends his young _tulip_.
Marry come up! what a pretty similitude, and how like your humble
servant! He has lugged me to the brink of engaging to a newspaper, and
has suggested to me for a first plan the forgery of a supposed
manuscript of Burton the anatomist of melancholy. I have even written
the introductory letter; and, if I can pick up a few guineas this way, I
feel they will be most _refreshing_, bread being so dear. If I go on
with it, I will apprise you of it, as you may like to see my thing's!
and the _tulip_, of all flowers, loves to be admired most.
Pray pardon me, if my letters do not come very thick. I am so taken up
with one thing or other, that I cannot pick out (I will not say time,
but) fitting times to write to you. My dear love to Lloyd and Sophia,
and pray split this thin letter into three parts, and present them with
the _two biggest_ in my name.
They are my oldest friends; but ever the new friend driveth out the old,
as the ballad sings! God bless you all three! I would hear from Lloyd,
if I could.
Flour has just fallen nine shillings a sack! we shall be all too rich.
Tell Charles I have seen his Mamma, and have almost fallen in love with
_her_, since I mayn't with Olivia. She is so fine and graceful, a
complete Matron-Lady-Quaker. She has given me two little books. Olivia
grows a charming girl--full of feeling, and thinner than she was.
But I have not time to fall in love.
Mary presents her _general compliments_. She keeps in fine health!
Huzza! boys, and down with the Atheists.
[Coleridge, having sent his wife and Hartley into the country, had, for
a while, taken up his abode with Lamb at Pentonville, and given up the
_Morning Post_ in order to proceed with his translation of Schiller's
_Wallenstein_. Lamb's forgery of Burton, together with those mentioned
in the next letter, which were never printed by Stuart, for whom they
were written, was included in the _John Woodvil_ volume, 1802, among the
"Curious Fragments, extracted from a commonplace book, which belonged to
Robert Burton, the famous Author of The Anatomy of Melancholy." See the
_Miscellaneous Prose_, Vol. I. of this edition.
"They are my oldest friends." Coleridge and Southey were, of course,
older. The ballad I have not found.
Mrs. Charles Lloyd, sen., _nee_ Mary Farmer, and Olivia, her second
daughter, had been staying in London. Lamb had breakfasted with them.
The reference to Atheists is explained by a passage from Manning's
letter to Lamb in March, 1800: "One thing tho' I must beg of you--that
is not to call me Atheist in your letters--for though it may be mere
raillery in you, and not meant as a serious imputation on my Faith, yet,
if the Catholic or any other intolerant religion should [illegible] and
become established in England, (which [illegible] if the Bishop of
R----r may be the case) and if the post-people should happen to open and
read your letters, (which, considering the sometimes quaintness of their
form, they may possibly be incited to do) such names might send me to
Smithfield on a hurdle,--and nothing _upon earth_ is more discordant to
my wishes, than to become one of the Smithfield Illuminati."]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. April 5, 1800.]
C.L.'s moral sense presents her compliments to Doctor Manning, is very
thankful for his medical advice, but is happy to add that her disorder
has died of itself.
Dr. Manning, Coleridge has left us, to go into the north, on a visit to
his god Wordsworth. With him have flown all my splendid prospects of
engagement with the "Morning Post," all my visionary guineas, the
deceitful wages of unborn scandal. In truth, I wonder you took it up so
seriously. All my intention was but to make a little sport with such
public and fair game as Mr. Pitt, Mr. Wilberforce, Mrs. Fitzherbert, the
Devil, &c.--gentry dipped in Styx all over, whom no paper javelin-lings
can touch. To have made free with these cattle, where was the harm?
'twould have been but giving a polish to lampblack, not nigrifying a
negro primarily. After all, I cannot but regret my involuntary virtue.
Damn virtue that's thrust upon us; it behaves itself with such
constraint, till conscience opens the window and lets out the goose.
I had struck off two imitations of Burton, quite abstracted from any
modern allusions, which it was my intent only to lug in from time to
time to make 'em popular. Stuart has got these, with an introductory
letter; but, not hearing from him, I have ceased from my labours, but I
write to him today to get a final answer. I am afraid they won't do for
a paper. Burton is a scarce gentleman, not much known; else I had done
'em pretty well.
I have also hit off a few lines in the name of Burton, being a conceit
of "Diabolic Possession." Burton was a man often assailed by deepest
melancholy, and at other times much given to laughing and jesting, as is
the way with melancholy men. I will send them you: they were almost
extempore, and no great things; but you will indulge them. Robert Lloyd
is come to town. He is a good fellow, with the best heart, but his
feelings are shockingly _un_sane. Priscilla meditates going to see
Pizarro at Drury Lane to-night (from her uncle's) under cover of coming
to dine with me... _heu! tempora! heu! mores!_--I have barely time to
finish, as I expect her and Robin every minute.--Yours as usual.
[For Coleridge's movements see note to the next letter.--"Pizarro" was
Sheridan's drama. It was acted this season, 1799-1800, sixty-seven
times. Lamb's next letter to Manning, which is not available for this
edition, contained the promised copy of the "Conceit of Diabolical
Possession." It also contained a copy of Thekla's song in "Wallenstein,"
in Lamb's translation (see Vol. IV.), which he says is better than the
original "a huge deal". Finally Lamb copies the old ballad "Edward,
Edward" and calls it "the very first dramatic poem in the English
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
[Probably April 16 or 17, 1800.]
I send you, in this parcel, my play, which I beg you to present in my
name, with my respect and love, to Wordsworth and his sister. You blame
us for giving your direction to Miss Wesley; the woman has been ten
times after us about it, and we gave it her at last, under the idea that
no further harm would ensue, but she would once write to you, and you
would bite your lips and forget to answer it, and so it would end. You
read us a dismal homily upon "Realities." We know, quite as well as you
do, what are shadows and what are realities. You, for instance, when you
are over your fourth or fifth jorum, chirping about old school
occurrences, are the best of realities. Shadows are cold, thin things,
that have no warmth or grasp in them. Miss Wesley and her friend, and a
tribe of authoresses that come after you here daily, and, in defect of
you, hive and cluster upon us, are the shadows. You encouraged that
mopsey, Miss Wesley, to dance after you, in the hope of having her
nonsense put into a nonsensical Anthology. We have pretty well shaken
her off, by that simple expedient of referring her to you; but there are
more burrs in the wind. I came home t'other day from business, hungry as
a hunter, to dinner, with nothing, I am sure, of _the author but hunger_
about me, and whom found I closeted with Mary but a friend of this Miss
Wesley, one Miss Benje, or Benjey--I don't know how she spells her name.
I just came in time enough, I believe, luckily to prevent them from
exchanging vows of eternal friendship. It seems she is one of your
authoresses, that you first foster, and then upbraid us with. But I
forgive you. "The rogue has given me potions to make me love him." Well;
go she would not, nor step a step over our threshold, till we had
promised to come and drink tea with her next night. I had never seen her
before, and could not tell who the devil it was that was so familiar. We
went, however, not to be impolite. Her lodgings are up two pairs of
stairs in East Street. Tea and coffee, and macaroons--a kind of cake I
much love. We sat down. Presently Miss Benje broke the silence, by
declaring herself quite of a different opinion from D'Israeli, who
supposes the differences of human intellect to be the mere effect of
organization. She begged to know my opinion. I attempted to carry it off
with a pun upon organ; but that went off very flat. She immediately
conceived a very low opinion of my metaphysics; and, turning round to
Mary, put some question to her in French,--possibly having heard that
neither Mary nor I understood French. The explanation that took place
occasioned some embarrassment and much wondering. She then fell into an
insulting conversation about the comparative genius and merits of all
modern languages, and concluded with asserting that the Saxon was
esteemed the purest dialect in Germany. From thence she passed into the
subject of poetry; where I, who had hitherto sat mute and a hearer only,
humbly hoped I might now put in a word to some advantage, seeing that it
was my own trade in a manner. But I was stopped by a round assertion,
that no good poetry had appeared since Dr. Johnson's time. It seems the
Doctor has suppressed many hopeful geniuses that way by the severity of
his critical strictures in his "Lives of the Poets." I here ventured to
question the fact, and was beginning to appeal to names, but I was
assured "it was certainly the case." Then we discussed Miss More's book
on education, which I had never read. It seems Dr. Gregory, another of
Miss Benjey's friends, has found fault with one of Miss More's
metaphors. Miss More has been at some pains to vindicate herself--in the
opinion of Miss Benjey, not without success. It seems the Doctor is
invariably against the use of broken or mixed metaphor, which he
reprobates against the authority of Shakspeare himself. We next
discussed the question, whether Pope was a poet? I find Dr. Gregory is
of opinion he was not, though Miss Seward does not at all concur with
him in this. We then sat upon the comparative merits of the ten
translations of "Pizarro," and Miss Benjey or Benje advised Mary to take
two of them home; she thought it might afford her some pleasure to
compare them _verbatim_; which we declined. It being now nine o'clock,
wine and macaroons were again served round, and we parted, with a
promise to go again next week, and meet the Miss Porters, who, it seems,
have heard much of Mr. Coleridge, and wish to meet _us_, because we are
_his_ friends. I have been preparing for the occasion. I crowd cotton in
my ears. I read all the reviews and magazines of the past month against
the dreadful meeting, and I hope by these means to cut a tolerable
Pray let us have no more complaints about shadows. We are in a fair way,
_through you_, to surfeit sick upon them.
Our loves and respects to your host and hostess. Our dearest love to
Take no thought about your proof-sheets; they shall be done as if
Woodfall himself did them. Pray send us word of Mrs. Coleridge and
little David Hartley, your little reality.
Farewell, dear Substance. Take no umbrage at any thing I have written.
C. LAMB, _Umbra_.
Land of Shadows,
Shadow-month the 16th or 17th, 1800.
Coleridge, I find loose among your papers a copy of "_Christabel_." It
wants about thirty lines; you will very much oblige me by sending me the
beginning as far as that line,--
"And the spring comes slowly up this way;"
and the intermediate lines between--
"The lady leaps up suddenly.
The lovely Lady Christabel;"
and the lines,--
"She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak."
The trouble to you _will be small_, and the benefit to us _very great_!
A pretty antithesis! A figure in speech I much applaud.
Godwin has called upon us. He spent one evening here. Was very friendly.
Kept us up till midnight. Drank punch, and talked about you. He seems,
above all men, mortified at your going away. Suppose you were to write
to that good-natured heathen--"or is he a _shadow_?" If I do not
_write_, impute it to the long postage, of which you have so much cause
to complain. I have scribbled over a _queer letter_, as I find by
perusal; but it means no mischief.
I am, and will be, yours ever, in sober sadness,
Write your _German_ as plain as sunshine, for that must correct itself.
You know I am homo unius linguae: in English, illiterate, a dunce, a
[Having left Lamb, Coleridge went to Grasmere, where he stayed at Dove
Cottage with Wordsworth and finished his translation, which was ready
for the printer on April 22. To what Lamb alludes in his reference to
the homily on "Realities" I cannot say, but presumably Coleridge had
written a metaphysical letter on this subject. Lamb returns to the
matter at the end of the first part of his reply.
Miss Wesley was Sarah Wesley (1760-1828), the daughter of Charles Wesley
and, therefore, niece of the great John and Samuel. She moved much in
literary society. Miss Benjay, or Benje, was in reality Elizabeth Ogilvy
Benger (1778-1827), a friend of Mrs. Inchbald, Mrs. Barbauld and the
Aikins, and other literary people. Madame de Stael called her the most
interesting woman she had met in England. She wrote novels and poems and
biographies. In those days there were two East Streets, one leading from
Red Lion Square to Lamb's Conduit Street, and one in the neighbourhood
of Clare Market.
D'Israeli was Isaac Disraeli, the author of _The Curiosities of
Literature_ and other books about books and authors; Miss More was
Hannah More, and her book, _Strictures on the Modern System of Female
Education, 1799_; Dr. Gregory I have not traced; Miss Seward was Anna
Seward, the Swan of Lichfield; and the Miss Porters were Jane and Anna
Maria, authors (later) respectively of _The Scottish Chiefs_ and
_Thaddeus of Warsaw_, and _The Hungarian Brothers_.
The proof-sheets were those of _Wallenstein_. Henry Sampson Woodfall was
the famous printer of the _Letters of Junius_.
_Christabel_, Coleridge's poem, had been begun in 1797; it was finished,
in so far as it was finished, later in the year 1800. It was published
first in 1816.
"_Homo unius linguae_." Lamb exaggerated here. He had much Latin, a
little Greek and apparently a little French. The sentence is in the
manner of Burton, whom Lamb had been imitating.
Here should come a letter dated April 23, 1800, to Robert Lloyd, which
treats of obedience to parental wish. Lloyd seems to have objected to
attend the meetings of the Society of Friends, of which he was a
birthright member. Lamb bids him go; adding that, if his own parents
were to live again, he would do more things to please them than merely
sitting still a few hours in a week.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE
[? Spring, 1800.]
By some fatality, unusual with me, I have mislaid the list of books
which you want. Can you, from memory, easily supply me with another?
I confess to Statius, and I detained him wilfully, out of a reverent
regard to your style. Statius, they tell me, is turgid. As to that other
Latin book, since you know neither its name nor subject, your wants (I
crave leave to apprehend) cannot be very urgent. Meanwhile, dream that
it is one of the lost Decades of Livy.
Your partiality to me has led you to form an erroneous opinion as to the
measure of delight you suppose me to take in obliging. Pray, be careful
that it spread no further. 'Tis one of those heresies that is very
pregnant. Pray, rest more satisfied with the portion of learning which
you have got, and disturb my peaceful ignorance as little as possible
with such sort of commissions.
Did you never observe an appearance well known by the name of the man in
the moon? Some scandalous old maids have set on foot a report that it is
Endymion. Dr. Stoddart talks of going out King's Advocate to Malta. He
has studied the Civil and Canon Law just three canon months, to my
knowledge. _Fiat justitia, ruat caelum._
Your theory about the first awkward step a man makes being the
consequence of learning to dance, is not universal. We have known many
youths bred up at Christ's, who never learned to dance, yet the world
imputes to them no very graceful motions. I remember there was little
Hudson, the immortal precentor of St. Paul's, to teach us our quavers:
but, to the best of my recollection, there was no master of motions when
we were at Christ's.
Farewell, in haste.
[Talfourd does not date this letter, merely remarking that it belongs to
the present period. Canon Ainger dated it June 22, 1800; but this I
think cannot be right when we take into consideration Letter 60 and what
it says about Lamb's last letter to Coleridge (clearly that of May 12),
and the time that has since elapsed. The birth of Charles Lloyd's first
child, July 31, gives us the latest date to which Letter 60 could
"Your theory ..." This may have been contained in one of Coleridge's
letters, now lost; I do not find it in any of the known _Morning Post_
CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE
Monday, May 12th, 1800.
My dear Coleridge--I don't know why I write, except from the propensity
misery has to tell her griefs. Hetty died on Friday night, about eleven
o'clock, after eight days' illness; Mary, in consequence of fatigue and
anxiety, is fallen ill again, and I was obliged to remove her yesterday.
I am left alone in a house with nothing but Hetty's dead body to keep me
company. To-morrow I bury her, and then I shall be quite alone, with
nothing but a cat to remind me that the house has been full of living
beings like myself. My heart is quite sunk, and I don't know where to
look for relief. Mary will get better again; but her constantly being
liable to such relapses is dreadful; nor is it the least of our evils
that her case and all our story is so well known around us. We are in a
manner _marked_. Excuse my troubling you; but I have nobody by me to
speak to me. I slept out last night, not being able to endure the change
and the stillness. But I did not sleep well, and I must come back to my
own bed. I am going to try and get a friend to come and be with me
to-morrow. I am completely shipwrecked. My head is quite bad. I almost
wish that Mary were dead.--God bless you! Love to Sara and Hartley.
[Hetty was the Lambs' aged servant.
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Thomas Manning clearly written on
May 12, 1800, the same day as that to Coleridge, stating that Lamb has
given up his house, and is looking for lodgings,--White (with whom he
had stayed) having "all kindness but not sympathy".]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. May 20, 1800.]
Dear Manning,--I feel myself unable to thank you sufficiently for your
kind letter. It was doubly acceptable to me, both for the choice poetry
and the kind honest prose which it contained. It was just such a letter
as I should have expected from Manning.
I am in much better spirits than when I wrote last. I have had a very
eligible offer to lodge with a friend in town. He will have rooms to let
at midsummer, by which time I hope my sister will be well enough to join
me. It is a great object to me to live in town, where we shall be much
more _private_, and to quit a house and neighbourhood where poor Mary's
disorder, so frequently recurring, has made us a sort of marked people.
We can be nowhere private except in the midst of London. We shall be in
a family where we visit very frequently; only my landlord and I have not
yet come to a conclusion. He has a partner to consult. I am still on the
tremble, for I do not know where we could go into lodgings that would
not be, in many respects, highly exceptionable. Only God send Mary well
again, and I hope all will be well! The prospect, such as it is, has
made me quite happy. I have just time to tell you of it, as I know it
will give you pleasure.--Farewell.
[Manning's letter containing the choice poetry has not been preserved.
The friend in town was John Mathew Gutch (1776-1861), with whom Lamb had
been at school at Christ's Hospital, who was now a law stationer, in
partnership with one Anderson, at 27 Southampton Buildings, Chancery
Lane, since demolished.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[No date. ? May 25, 1800.]
Dear Manning, I am a letter in your debt, but I am scarcely rich enough
(in spirits) to pay you.--I am writing at an inn on the Ware road, in
the neighbourhood of which I am going to pass two days, being
Whitsuntide.--Excuse the pen, tis the best I can get.--Poor Mary is very
bad yet. I went yesterday hoping I should see her getting well, then I
might have come into the country more chearful, but I could not get to
see her. This has been a sad damp. Indeed I never in my life have been
more wretched than I was all day yesterday. I am glad I am going away
from business for a little while, for my head has been hot and ill. I
shall be very much alone where I am going, which always revives me. I
hope you will accept of this worthless memento, which I merely send as a
token that I am in your debt. I will write upon my return, on Thursday
at farthest. I return on Wednesday.--
God bless you.
I was afraid you would think me forgetful, and that made me scribble
[Here probably also should come an unpublished letter from Lamb to
Manning, in which Lamb remarks that his goddess is Pecunia.
In another letter to Manning belonging to the same period, Lamb returns
to the subject of poverty:--"You dropt a word whether in jest or
earnest, as if you would join me in some work, such as a review or
series of papers, essays, or anything.--Were you serious? I want home
occupation, & I more want money. Had you any scheme, or was it, as G.
Dyer says, en passant? If I don't have a Legacy left me shortly I must
get into pay with some newspaper for small gains. Mutton is twelvepence
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, in which he
describes a visit to Gutch's family at Oxford, and mentions his
admiration for a fine head of Bishop Taylor in All Souls' Library, which
was an inducement to the Oxford visit. He refers to Charles Lloyd's
settlement in the Lakes, and suggests that it may be the means of again
uniting him and Coleridge; adding that such men as Coleridge and
Wordsworth would exclude solitude in the Hebrides or Thule.
The following undated letter, which may be placed a little too soon in
its present position, comes with a certain fitness here:--]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN MATHEW GUTCH
[No date. 1800.]
Dear Gutch, Anderson is not come home, and I am almost afraid to tell
you what has happen'd, lest it should seem to have happened by my fault
in not writing for you home sooner.--
This morning Henry, the eldest lad, was missing. We supposd he was only
gone out on a morning's stroll, and that he would return, but he did not
return & we discovered that he had opened your desk before he went, & I
suppose taken all the money he could find, for on diligent search I
could find none, and on opening your Letter to Anderson, which I thought
necessary to get at the key, I learn that you had a good deal of money
Several people have been here after you to-day, & the boys seem quite
frightened, and do not know what to do. In particular, one gentleman
wants to have some writings finished by Tuesday--For God's sake set out
by the first coach. Mary has been crying all day about it, and I am now
just going to some law stationer in the neighbourhood, that the eldest
boy has recommended, to get him to come and be in the house for a day or
so, to manage. I cannot think what detains Anderson. His sister is quite
frightend about him. I am very sorry I did not write yesterday, but
Henry persuaded me to wait till he could ascertain when some job must be
done (at the furthest) for Mr. Foulkes, and as nothing had occurrd
besides I did not like to disturb your pleasures. I now see my error,
and shall be heartily ashamed to see you.
[_That is as far as the letter goes on the first page. We then turn
over, and find (as Gutch, to his immense relief, found before us)
written right across both pages:_]
Anderson is come home, and the wheels of thy business are going on as
ever. The boy is honest, and I am thy friend. And how does the
coach-maker's daughter? Thou art her Phaeton, her Gig, and her Sociable.
Commend me to Rob.
[This letter is the first example extant of Lamb's tendency to hoaxing.
Gutch was at that time courting a Miss Wheeley, the daughter of a
Birmingham coachbuilder. It was while he was in Birmingham that Lamb
wrote the letter. Anderson was his partner in business. Rob would be
Robert Lloyd, then at Birmingham again. This, and one other, are the
only letters of Lamb to Gutch that escaped destruction.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE
[? Late July, 1800.]
Dear Coleridge,--Soon after I wrote to you last, an offer was made me by
Gutch (you must remember him? at Christ's--you saw him, slightly, one
day with Thomson at our house)--to come and lodge with him at his house
in Southampton Buildings, Chancery-Lane. This was a very comfortable
offer to me, the rooms being at a reasonable rent, and including the use
of an old servant, besides being infinitely preferable to ordinary
lodgings _in our case_, as you must perceive. As Gutch knew all our
story and the perpetual liability to a recurrence in my sister's
disorder, probably to the end of her life, I certainly think the offer
very generous and very friendly. I have got three rooms (including
servant) under L34 a year. Here I soon found myself at home; and here,
in six weeks after, Mary was well enough to join me. So we are once more
settled. I am afraid we are not placed out of the reach of future
interruptions. But I am determined to take what snatches of pleasure we
can between the acts of our distressful drama.... I have passed two days
at Oxford on a visit, which I have long put off, to Gutch's family. The
sight of the Bodleian Library and, above all, a fine bust of Bishop
Taylor at All Souls', were particularly gratifying to me; unluckily, it
was not a family where I could take Mary with me, and I am afraid there
is something of dishonesty in any pleasures I take without _her_. She
never goes anywhere. I do not know what I can add to this letter. I hope
you are better by this time; and I desire to be affectionately
remembered to Sara and Hartley.
I expected before this to have had tidings of another little
philosopher. Lloyd's wife is on the point of favouring the world.
Have you seen the new edition of Burns? his posthumous works and
letters? I have only been able to procure the first volume, which
contains his life--very confusedly and badly written, and interspersed
with dull pathological and _medical_ discussions. It is written by a Dr.
Currie. Do you know the well-meaning doctor? Alas, _ne sutor ultra
crepitum_! [_A few words omitted here_.]
I hope to hear again from you very soon. Godwin is gone to Ireland on a
visit to Grattan. Before he went I passed much time with him, and he has
showed me particular attentions: N.B. A thing I much like. Your books
are all safe: only I have not thought it necessary to fetch away your
last batch, which I understand are at Johnson's the bookseller, who has
got quite as much room, and will take as much care of them as
myself--and you can send for them immediately from him.
I wish you would advert to a letter I sent you at Grasmere about
"Christabel," and comply with my request contained therein.
Love to all friends round Skiddaw.
[The Coleridges had recently moved into Greta Hall, Keswick.
Thomson would, I think, be Marmaduke Thompson, an old Christ's
Hospitaller, to whom Lamb dedicated _Rosamund Gray_. He became a
"Another little philosopher." Derwent Coleridge was born September 14,
1800. Lloyd's eldest son, Charles Grosvenor Lloyd, was born July 31,
Dr. James Currie's Life of Burns was prefixed to an edition of his poems
in 1800. Dugald Stewart called it "a strong and faithful picture." It
was written to raise funds for Burns' widow and family.
Godwin had gone to stay with Curran: he saw much of Grattan also.
Johnson, the publisher and bookseller, lived at 72 St. Paul's
Churchyard. He published Priestley's works.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Aug. 6th, 1800.
Dear Coleridge,--I have taken to-day, and delivered to Longman and Co.,
_Imprimis_: your books, viz., three ponderous German dictionaries, one
volume (I can find no more) of German and French ditto, sundry other
German books unbound, as you left them, Percy's Ancient Poetry, and one
volume of Anderson's Poets. I specify them, that you may not lose any.
_Secundo_: a dressing-gown (value, fivepence), in which you used to sit
and look like a conjuror, when you were translating "Wallenstein." A
case of two razors and a shaving-box and strap. This it has cost me a
severe struggle to part with. They are in a brown-paper parcel, which
also contains sundry papers and poems, sermons, _some few Epic_
Poems,--one about Cain and Abel, which came from Poole, &c., &c., and
also your tragedy; with one or two small German books, and that drama in
which Gotfader performs. _Tertio_: a small oblong box containing _all
your letters_, collected from all your waste papers, and which fill the
said little box. All other waste papers, which I judged worth sending,
are in the paper parcel aforesaid. But you will find _all_ your letters
in the box by themselves. Thus have I discharged my conscience and my
lumber-room of all your property, save and except a folio entitled
Tyrrell's Bibliotheca Politica, which you used to learn your politics
out of when you wrote for the Post, _mutatis mutandis, i.e._, applying
past inferences to modern _data_. I retain that, because I am sensible I
am very deficient in the politics myself; and I have torn up--don't be
angry, waste paper has risen forty per cent., and I can't afford to buy
it--all Buonaparte's Letters, Arthur Young's Treatise on Corn, and one
or two more light-armed infantry, which I thought better suited the
flippancy of London discussion than the dignity of Keswick thinking.
Mary says you will be in a damned passion about them when you come to
miss them; but you must study philosophy. Read Albertus Magnus de
Chartis Amissis five times over after phlebotomising,--'tis Burton's
recipe--and then be angry with an absent friend if you can. I have just
heard that Mrs. Lloyd is delivered of a fine boy, and mother and boy are
doing well. Fie on sluggards, what is thy Sara doing? Sara is obscure.
Am I to understand by her letter, that she sends a _kiss_ to Eliza
Buckingham? Pray tell your wife that a note of interrogation on the
superscription of a letter is highly ungrammatical--she proposes writing
my name _Lamb_? Lambe is quite enough. I have had the Anthology, and
like only one thing in it, _Lewti_; but of that the last stanza is
detestable, the rest most exquisite!--the epithet _enviable_ would dash
the finest poem. For God's sake (I never was more serious), don't make
me ridiculous any more by terming me gentle-hearted in print, or do it
in better verses. It did well enough five years ago when I came to see
you, and was moral coxcomb enough at the time you wrote the lines, to
feed upon such epithets; but, besides that, the meaning of gentle is
equivocal at best, and almost always means poor-spirited, the very
quality of gentleness is abhorrent to such vile trumpetings. My
_sentiment_ is long since vanished. I hope my _virtues_ have done
_sucking_. I can scarce think but you meant it in joke. I hope you did,
for I should be ashamed to think that you could think to gratify me by
such praise, fit only to be a cordial to some green-sick sonneteer.
I have hit off the following in imitation of old English poetry, which,
I imagine, I am a dab at. The measure is unmeasureable; but it most
resembles that beautiful ballad of the "Old and Young Courtier;" and in
its feature of taking the extremes of two situations for just parallel,
it resembles the old poetry certainly. If I could but stretch out the
circumstances to twelve more verses, i.e., if I had as much genius as
the writer of that old song, I think it would be excellent. It was to
follow an imitation of Burton in prose, which you have not seen. But
fate "and wisest Stewart" say No.
I can send you 200 pens and six quires of paper _immediately_, if they
will answer the carriage by coach. It would be foolish to pack 'em up
_cum multis libris et caeteris_,--they would all spoil. I only wait your
commands to coach them. I would pay five-and-forty thousand carriages to
read W.'s tragedy, of which I have heard so much and seen so
little--only what I saw at Stowey. Pray give me an order in writing on
Longman for "Lyrical Ballads." I have the first volume, and, truth to
tell, six shillings is a broad shot. I cram all I can in, to save a
multiplying of letters--those pretty comets with swingeing tails.
I'll just crowd in God bless you!
[The epic about Cain and Abel was "The Wanderings of Cain," which
Coleridge projected but never finished. The drama in which Got-fader
performs would be perhaps "Faust"--"Der Herr" in the Prologue--or some
old miracle play.
"'Tis Burton's recipe." Lamb was just now steeped in the _Anatomy_; but
there is no need to see if Burton says this.
"Eliza Buckingham." Sara Coleridge's message was probably intended for
Eliza, a servant at the Buckingham Street lodgings.
Lambe was _The Anti-Jacobin's_ idea of Lamb's name; and indeed many
persons adhered to it to the end. Mrs. Coleridge, when writing to her
husband under care of Lamb at the India House, added "e" to Lamb's name
to signify that the letter was for Coleridge. Wordsworth later also had
some of his letters addressed in the same way--for the same economical
Coleridge's "Lewti" was reprinted, with alterations, from the _Morning
Post_, in the _Annual Anthology_, Vol. II. Line 69 ran--
"Had I the enviable power;"
Coleridge changed this to--
"Voice of the Night! had I the power."
"This Lime-tree Bower my Prison; a Poem, addressed to Charles Lamb of
the India House, London," was also in the _Annual Anthology_. Lamb
objected to the phrase "My gentle-hearted Charles" (see above). Lamb
says "five years ago"; he means three. Coleridge did not alter the
phrase. It was against this poem that he wrote in pencil on his deathbed
in 1834: "Ch. and Mary Lamb--dear to my heart, yea, as it were, my
heart.--S. T. C. Aet. 63, 1834. 1797-1834 = 37 years!"
"I have hit off the following"--"A Ballad Denoting the Difference
between the Rich and the Poor," first printed among the Imitations of
Burton in the _John Woodvil_ volume, 1802, see Vol. IV.
"And wisest Stewart"--Stuart of the _Morning Post_. Adapted from
Milton's "Hymn on the Nativity"--
"But wisest Fate says no."
"W.'s (Wordsworth's) tragedy" was "The Borderers." The second edition of
_Lyrical Ballads_ was just ready.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. August 9, 1800.]
Dear Manning,--I suppose you have heard of Sophia Lloyd's good fortune,
and paid the customary compliments to the parents. Heaven keep the
new-born infant from star-blasting and moon-blasting, from epilepsy,
marasmus, and the devil! May he live to see many days, and they good
ones; some friends, and they pretty regular correspondents, with as much
wit as wisdom as will eat their bread and cheese together under a poor
roof without quarrelling; as much goodness as will earn heaven! Here I
must leave off, my benedictory powers failing me. I could _curse_ the
sheet full; so much stronger is corruption than grace in the Natural
And now, when shall I catch a glimpse of your honest face-to-face
countenance again--your fine _dogmatical sceptical_ face, by
punch-light? O! one glimpse of the human face, and shake of the human
hand, is better than whole reams of this cold, thin correspondence--yea,
of more worth than all the letters that have sweated the fingers of
sensibility from Madame Sevigne and Balzac (observe my Larning!) to
Sterne and Shenstone.
Coleridge is settled with his wife and the young philosopher at Keswick
with the Wordsworths. They have contrived to spawn a new volume of
lyrical ballads, which is to see the light in about a month, and causes
no little excitement in the _literary world_. George Dyer too, that
good-natured heathen, is more than nine months gone with his twin
volumes of ode, pastoral, sonnet, elegy, Spenserian, Horatian,
Akensidish, and Masonic verse--Clio prosper the birth! it will be twelve
shillings out of somebody's pocket. I find he means to exclude "personal
satire," so it appears by his truly original advertisement. Well, God
put it into the hearts of the English gentry to come in shoals and
subscribe to his poems, for He never put a kinder heart into flesh of
man than George Dyer's!
Now farewell: for dinner is at hand. C. L.
[Southey's letters contain a glimpse (as Mr. J.A. Rutter has pointed
out) of Lamb and Manning by punch-light. Writing in 1824, describing a
certain expression of Mrs. Coleridge's face, Southey says:--
First, then, it was an expression of dolorous alarm, such as Le Brun
ought to have painted: but such as Manning never could have equalled,
when, while Mrs. Lloyd was keeping her room in child-bed, he and Charles
Lamb sate drinking punch in the room below till three in the morning--
Manning acting Le Brun's passions (punchified at the time), and Charles
Lamb (punchified also) roaring aloud and swearing, while the tears ran
down his cheeks, that it required more genius than even Shakespeare
possessed to personate them so well; Charles Lloyd the while (not
punchified) praying and entreating them to go to bed, and not disturb
his wife by the uproar they were making.
Southey's reminiscence, though interesting, is very confusing. Lamb does
not seem to have visited Cambridge between the end of 1799 and January
5, 1800. At the latter date the Lloyds were in the north. Possibly
Southey refers to an earlier illness of Mrs. Lloyd, which, writing after
a long interval, he confused with confinement.
"Balzac." Not, of course, the novelist; but Jean Louis Guez de Balzac
(1594-1654) the letter-writer.
Two or three lines have been omitted from this letter which can be read
as written only in the Boston Bibliophile edition.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. August 11, 1800.]
My dear fellow (_N.B._ mighty familiar of late!) for me to come to
Cambridge now is one of God Almighty's impossibilities. Metaphysicians
tell us, even He can work nothing which implies a contradiction. I can
explain this by telling you that I am engaged to do double duty (this
hot weather!) for a man who has taken advantage of this very weather to
go and cool himself in "green retreats" all the month of August.
But for you to come to London instead!--muse upon it, revolve it, cast
it about in your mind. I have a bed at your command. You shall drink
rum, brandy, gin, aqua-vitae, usquebaugh, or whiskey a' nights; and for
the after-dinner trick I have eight bottles of genuine port, which, if
mathematically divided, gives 1-1/7 for every day you stay, provided you
stay a week. Hear John Milton sing,
"Let Euclid rest and Archimedes pause."
"What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,
Of Attic taste, with wine, whence we may rise
To hear the lute well touch'd, or artful voice
Warble immortal notes and Tuscan air?"
Indeed, the poets are full of this pleasing morality--
"Veni cito, Domine Manning!"
Think upon it. Excuse the paper: it is all I have.
_N.B._--I lives at No. 27 Southampton Buildings, Holborn.
[Footnote 1: We poets generally give _light_ dinners.]
[Footnote 2: No doubt the poet here alludes to port wine at 38s. the
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
Thursday, Aug. 14, 1800.
Read on and you'll come to the _Pens_.
My head is playing all the tunes in the world, ringing such peals. It
has just finished the "Merry Christ Church Bells," and absolutely is
beginning "Turn again, Whittington." Buz, buz, buz: bum, bum, bum:
wheeze, wheeze, wheeze: feu, feu, feu: tinky, tinky, tinky: _craunch_. I
shall certainly come to be damned at last. I have been getting drunk for
two days running. I find my moral sense in the last stage of a
consumption, and my religion burning as blue and faint as the tops of
evening bricks. Hell gapes and the Devil's great guts cry cupboard for
me. In the midst of this infernal torture, Conscience (and be damn'd to
her), is barking and yelping as loud as any of them.
I have sat down to read over again, and I think I do begin to spy out
something with beauty and design in it. I perfectly accede to all your
alterations, and only desire that you had cut deeper, when your hand was
In the next edition of the "Anthology" (which Phoebus avert and those
nine other wandering maids also!) please to blot out _gentle-hearted_,
and substitute drunken: dog, ragged-head, seld-shaven, odd-eyed,
stuttering, or any other epithet which truly and properly belongs to the
gentleman in question. And for Charles read Tom, or Bob, or Richard _for
more delicacy_. Damn you, I was beginning to forgive you and believe in
earnest that the lugging in of my proper name was purely unintentional
on your part, when looking back for further conviction, stares me in the
face _Charles Lamb of the India House. Now_ I am convinced it was all
done in malice, heaped sack-upon-sack, congregated, studied malice. You
Dog! your 141st page shall not save you. I own I was just ready to
acknowledge that there is a something not unlike good poetry in that
page, if you had not run into the unintelligible abstraction-fit about
the manner of the Deity's making spirits perceive his presence. God, nor
created thing alive, can receive any honour from such thin show-box
By-the-by, where did you pick up that scandalous piece of private
history about the angel and the Duchess of Devonshire? If it is a
fiction of your own, why truly it is a very modest one _for you_. Now I
do affirm that "Lewti" is a very beautiful poem. I _was_ in earnest when
I praised it. It describes a silly species of one not the wisest of
passions. _Therefore_ it cannot deeply affect a disenthralled mind. But
such imagery, such novelty, such delicacy, and such versification never
got into an "Anthology" before. I am only sorry that the cause of all
the passionate complaint is not greater than the trifling circumstance
of Lewti being out of temper one day. In sober truth, I cannot see any
great merit in the little Dialogue called "Blenheim." It is rather novel
and pretty; but the thought is very obvious and children's poor prattle,
a thing of easy imitation. _Pauper vult videri et_ EST.
"Gualberto" certainly has considerable originality, but sadly wants
finishing. It is, as it is, one of the very best in the book. Next to
"Lewti" I like the "Raven," which has a good deal of humour. I was
pleased to see it again, for you once sent it me, and I have lost the
letter which contained it. Now I am on the subject of Anthologies, I
must say I am sorry the old Pastoral way has fallen into disrepute. The
Gentry which now indite Sonnets are certainly the legitimate descendants
of the ancient shepherds. The same simpering face of description, the
old family face, is visibly continued in the line. Some of their
ancestors' labours are yet to be found in Allan Ramsay's and Jacob
But, miscellanies decaying and the old Pastoral way dying of mere want,
their successors (driven from their paternal acres) now-a-days settle
and hive upon Magazines and Anthologies. This Race of men are uncommonly
addicted to superstition. Some of them are Idolaters and worship the
Moon. Others deify qualities, as love, friendship, sensibility, or bare
accidents, as Solitude. Grief and Melancholy have their respective
altars and temples among them, as the heathens builded theirs to Mors,
Febris, Palloris. They all agree in ascribing a peculiar sanctity to the
number fourteen. One of their own legislators affirmeth, that whatever
exceeds that number "encroacheth upon the province of the Elegy"--_vice
versa_, whatever "cometh short of that number abutteth upon the premises
of the Epigram." I have been able to discover but few _Images_ in their
temples, which, like the Caves of Delphos of old, are famous for giving
_Echoes_. They impute a religious importance to the letter O, whether
because by its roundness it is thought to typify the moon, their
principal goddess, or for its analogies to their own labours, all ending
where they began; or whatever other high and mystical reference, I have
never been able to discover, but I observe they never begin their
invocations to their gods without it, except indeed one insignificant
sect among them, who use the Doric A, pronounced like Ah! broad,
instead. These boast to have restored the old Dorian mood.
Now I am on the subject of poetry, I must announce to you, who,
doubtless, in your remote part of the Island, have not heard tidings of
so great a blessing, that GEORGE DYER hath prepared two ponderous
volumes full of Poetry and Criticism. They impend over the town, and are
threatened to fall in the winter. The first volume contains every sort
of poetry except personal satire, which George, in his truly original
prospectus, renounceth for ever, whimsically foisting the intention in
between the price of his book and the proposed number of subscribers.
(If I can, I will get you a copy of his _handbill_.) He has tried his
_vein_ in every species besides--the Spenserian, Thomsonian, Masonic and
Akensidish more especially. The second volume is all criticism; wherein
he demonstrates to the entire satisfaction of the literary world, in a
way that must silence all reply for ever, that the pastoral was
introduced by Theocritus and polished by Virgil and Pope--that Gray and
Mason (who always hunt in couples in George's brain) have a good deal of
poetical fire and true lyric genius--that Cowley was ruined by excess of
wit (a warning to all moderns)--that Charles Lloyd, Charles Lamb, and
William Wordsworth, in later days, have struck the true chords of poesy.
O, George, George, with a head uniformly wrong and a heart uniformly
right, that I had power and might equal to my wishes!--then I would call
the Gentry of thy native Island, and they should come in troops,
flocking at the sound of thy Prospectus Trumpet, and crowding who shall
be first to stand in thy List of Subscribers. I can only put twelve
shillings into thy pocket (which, I will answer for them, will not stick
there long), out of a pocket almost as bare as thine. [_Lamb here erases
Is it not a pity so much fine writing should be erased? But, to tell the
truth, I began to scent that I was getting into that sort of style which
Longinus and Dionysius Halicarnassus aptly call "the affected." But I am
suffering from the combined effect of two days' drunkenness, and at such
times it is not very easy to think or express in a natural series. The
ONLY useful OBJECT of this Letter is to apprize you that on Saturday I
shall transmit the PENS by the same coach I sent the Parcel. So enquire
them out. You had better write to Godwin _here_, directing your letter
to be forwarded to him. I don't know his address. You know your letter
must at any rate come to London first. C. L.
["Your satire upon me"--"This Lime-tree Bower my Prison" (see above).
"Those nine other wandering maids"--the Muses. A recollection of _The
Anti-Jacobin's_ verses on Lamb and his friends (see above).
"Your 141st page." "This Lime-tree Bower" again. By "unintelligible
abstraction-fit" Lamb refers to the passage:--
Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet He makes
Spirits perceive His presence.
"That scandalous piece of private history." A reference to Coleridge's
"Ode to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire," reprinted in the _Annual
Anthology_ from the _Morning Post_.
"Blenheim"--Southey's ballad, "It was a summer's evening."
"Gualberto." The poem "St. Gualberto" by Southey, in the _Annual
"The Raven" was referred to in Lamb's letter of Feb. 5, 1797.
George Dyer's _Poems_, in two volumes, were published in 1800. See note
to Letter 80.
Upon the phrase "the tops of evening bricks" in this letter, editors
have been divided. The late Dr. Garnett, who annotated the Boston
Bibliophile edition, is convinced that "evening" is the word, and he
says that the bricks meant were probably briquettes of compressed coal
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. August 24, 1800.]
Dear Manning,--I am going to ask a favour of you, and am at a loss how
to do it in the most delicate manner. For this purpose I have been
looking into Pliny's Letters, who is noted to have had the best grace in
begging of all the ancients (I read him in the elegant translation of
Mr. Melmoth), but not finding any case there exactly similar with mine,
I am constrained to beg in my own barbarian way. To come to the point
then, and hasten into the middle of things, have you a copy of your
Algebra to give away? I do not ask it for myself; I have too much
reverence for the Black Arts ever to approach thy circle, illustrious
Trismegist! But that worthy man and excellent Poet, George Dyer, made me
a visit yesternight, on purpose to borrow one, supposing, rationally
enough I must say, that you had made me a present of one before this;
the omission of which I take to have proceeded only from negligence; but
it is a fault. I could lend him no assistance. You must know he is just
now diverted from the pursuit of BELL LETTERS by a paradox, which he has
heard his friend Frend (that learned mathematician) maintain, that the
negative quantities of mathematicians were _merae nugae_, things
scarcely _in rerum natura_, and smacking too much of mystery for
gentlemen of Mr. Frend's clear Unitarian capacity. However, the dispute
once set a-going has seized violently on George's pericranick; and it is
necessary for his health that he should speedily come to a resolution of
his doubts. He goes about teasing his friends with his new mathematics;
he even frantically talks of purchasing Manning's Algebra, which shows
him far gone, for, to my knowledge, he has not been master of seven
shillings a good time. George's pockets and ----'s brains are two things
in nature which do not abhor a vacuum.... Now, if you could step in, in
this trembling suspense of his reason, and he should find on Saturday
morning, lying for him at the Porter's Lodge, Clifford's Inn,--his
safest address--Manning's Algebra, with a neat manuscriptum in the blank
leaf, running thus, FROM THE AUTHOR! it might save his wits and restore
the unhappy author to those studies of poetry and criticism, which are
at present suspended, to the infinite regret of the whole literary
N.B.--Dirty books [?backs], smeared leaves, and dogs' ears, will be
rather a recommendation than otherwise.
N.B.--He must have the book as soon as possible, or nothing can withhold
him from madly purchasing the book on tick.... Then shall we see him
sweetly restored to the chair of Longinus--to dictate in smooth and
modest phrase the laws of verse; to prove that Theocritus first
introduced the Pastoral, and Virgil and Pope brought it to its
perfection; that Gray and Mason (who always hunt in couples in George's
brain) have shown a great deal of poetical fire in their lyric poetry;
that Aristotle's rules are not to be servilely followed, which George
has shown to have imposed great shackles upon modern genius. His poems,
I find, are to consist of two vols.--reasonable octavo; and a third book
will exclusively contain criticisms, in which he asserts he has gone
_pretty deeply_ into the laws of blank verse and rhyme--epic poetry,
dramatic and pastoral ditto--all which is to come out before Christmas.
But above all he has _touched_ most _deeply_ upon the Drama, comparing
the English with the modern German stage, their merits and defects.
Apprehending that his _studies_ (not to mention his _turn_, which I take
to be chiefly towards the lyrical poetry) hardly qualified him for these
disquisitions, I modestly inquired what plays he had read? I found by
George's reply that he _had_ read Shakspeare, but that was a good while
since: he calls him a great but irregular genius, which I think to be an
original and just remark. (Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, Ben Jonson,
Shirley, Marlowe, Ford, and the worthies of Dodsley's Collection--he
confessed he had read none of them, but professed his intention of
looking through them all, so as to be able to touch upon them in his
So Shakspeare, Otway, and I believe Rowe, to whom he was naturally
directed by Johnson's Lives, and these not read lately, are to stand him
in stead of a general knowledge of the subject. God bless his dear
By the by, did I not write you a letter with something about an
invitation in it?--but let that pass; I suppose it is not agreeable.
N.B. It would not be amiss if you were to accompany your present with a
dissertation on negative quantities.
[Mr. Melmoth. A translation of the _Letters_ of Pliny the Younger was
made by William Melmoth in 1746.
Trismegistus--thrice greatest--was the term applied to Hermes, the
Egyptian philosopher. Manning had written _An Introduction to Arithmetic
and Algebra_, 1796, 1798.
William Frend (1757-1841), the mathematician and Unitarian, who had been
prosecuted in the Vice-Chancellor's Court at Cambridge for a tract
entitled "Peace and Union Recommended to the Associated Bodies of
Republicans and Anti-Republicans," in which he attacked much of the
Liturgy of the Church of England. He was found guilty and banished from
the University of Cambridge. He had been a friend of Robert Robinson,
whose life Dyer wrote, and remained a friend of Dyer to the end of his
life. Coleridge had been among the undergraduates who supported Frend at
"...'s brain." In a later letter Lamb uses Judge Park's wig, when his
head is in it, as a simile for emptiness.]
CHARLES LAMB TO S. T. COLERIDGE
August 26th, 1800.
How do you like this little epigram? It is not my writing, nor had I any
finger in it. If you concur with me in thinking it very elegant and very
original, I shall be tempted to name the author to you. I will just hint
that it is almost or quite a first attempt.
HELEN REPENTANT TOO LATE
High-born Helen, round your dwelling
These twenty years I've paced in vain:
Haughty beauty, your lover's duty
Has been to glory in his pain.
High-born Helen! proudly telling
Stories of your cold disdain;
I starve, I die, now you comply,
And I no longer can complain.
These twenty years I've lived on tears,
Dwelling for ever on a frown;
On sighs I've fed, your scorn my bread;
I perish now you kind are grown.
Can I, who loved my Beloved
But for the "scorn was in her eye,"
Can I be moved for my Beloved,
When she "returns me sigh for sigh?"
In stately pride, by my bed-side,
High-born Helen's portrait's hung;
Deaf to my praise; my mournful lays
Are nightly to the portrait sung.
To that I weep, nor ever sleep,
Complaining all night long to her!
_Helen, grown old, no longer cold,
Said_, "You to all men I prefer."
Godwin returned from Wicklow the week before last, tho' he did not reach
home till the Sunday after. He might much better have spent that time
with you.--But you see your invitation would have been too late. He
greatly regrets the occasion he mist of visiting you, but he intends to
revisit Ireland in the next summer, and then he will certainly take
Keswick in his way. I dined with the Heathen on Sunday.
By-the-by, I have a sort of recollection that somebody, I think _you_,
promised me a sight of Wordsworth's Tragedy. I should be very glad of it
just now; for I have got Manning with me, and should like to read it
_with him_. But this, I confess, is a refinement. Under any
circumstances, alone in Cold Bath Prison, or in the desert island, just
when Prospero & his crew had set off, with Caliban in a cage, to Milan,
it would be a treat to me to read that play. Manning has read it, so has
Lloyd, and all Lloyd's family; but I could not get him to betray his
trust by giving me a sight of it. Lloyd is sadly deficient in some of
those virtuous vices. I have just lit upon a most beautiful fiction of
hell punishments, by the author of "Hurlothrumbo," a mad farce. The
inventor imagines that in hell there is a great caldron of hot water, in
which a man can scarce hold his finger, and an immense sieve over it,
into which the probationary souls are put.
"And all the little souls
Pop through the riddle holes."
Mary's love to Mrs. Coleridge--mine to all.
N.B.--I pays no Postage.--
George Dyer is the only literary character I am happily acquainted with.
The oftener I see him, the more deeply I admire him. He is goodness
itself. If I could but calculate the precise date of his death, I would
write a novel on purpose to make George the hero. I could hit him off to
George brought a Dr. Anderson to see me. The Doctor is a very pleasant
old man, a great genius for agriculture, one that ties his
breeches-knees with Packthread, & boasts of having had disappointments
from ministers. The Doctor happened to mention an Epic Poem by one
Wilkie, called the "Epigoniad," in which he assured us there is not one
tolerable line from beginning to end, but all the characters, incidents,
&c., are verbally copied from _Homer_. George, who had been sitting
quite inattentive to the Doctor's criticism, no sooner heard the sound
of _Homer_ strike his pericraniks, than up he gets, and declares he must
see that poem immediately: where was it to be had? An epic poem of 800
[? 8,000] lines, and _he_ not hear of it! There must be some things good
in it, and it was necessary he should see it, for he had touched pretty
deeply upon that subject in his criticisms on the Epic. George has
touched pretty deeply upon the Lyric, I find; he has also prepared a
dissertation on the Drama and the comparison of the English and German
theatres. As I rather doubted his competency to do the latter, knowing
that his peculiar _turn_ lies in the lyric species of composition, I
questioned George what English plays he had read. I found that he _had_
read Shakspere (whom he calls an original, but irregular, genius), but
it was a good while ago; and he has dipt into Rowe and Otway, I suppose
having found their names in Johnson's Lives at full length; and upon
this slender ground he has undertaken the task. He never seem'd even to
have heard of Fletcher, Ford, Marlow, Massinger, and the Worthies of
Dodsley's Collection; but he is to read all these, to prepare him for
bringing out his "Parallel" in the winter. I find he is also determined
to vindicate Poetry from the shackles which Aristotle & some others have
imposed upon it, which is very good-natured of him, and very necessary
just now! Now I am _touching_ so deeply upon poetry, can I forget that I
have just received from Cottle a magnificent copy of his Guinea Epic.
Four-and-twenty Books to read in the dog-days! I got as far as the Mad
Monk the first day, & fainted. Mr. Cottle's genius strongly points him
to the _Pastoral_, but his inclinations divert him perpetually from his
calling. He imitates Southey, as Rowe did Shakspeare, with his "Good
morrow to ye; good master Lieut't." Instead of _a_ man, _a_ woman, _a_
daughter, he constantly writes one a man, one a woman, one his daughter.
Instead of _the_ king, _the_ hero, he constantly writes, he the king, he
the hero--two flowers of rhetoric palpably from the "Joan." But Mr.
Cottle soars a higher pitch: and when he _is_ original, it is in a most
original way indeed. His terrific scenes are indefatigable. Serpents,
asps, spiders, ghosts, dead bodies, staircases made of nothing, with
adders' tongues for bannisters--My God! what a brain he must have! He
puts as many plums in his pudding as my Grandmother used to do; and then
his emerging from Hell's horrors into Light, and treading on pure flats
of this earth for twenty-three Books together!
[The little epigram was by Mary Lamb. It was printed first in the _John
Woodvil_ volume in 1802; and again, in a footnote to Lamb's essay
"Blakesmoor in H----shire," 1824.
Godwin's return was from his visit to Curran. Coleridge had asked him to
break his journey at Keswick.
"Wordsworth's Tragedy"--"The Borderers."
"I would write a novel." Lamb returns to this idea in Letter 91.
One of Dyer's printed criticisms of Shakespeare, in his _Poetics_, some
years later might be quoted: "Shakespeare had the inward clothing of a
fine mind; the outward covering of solid reading, of critical
observation, and the richest eloquence; and compared with these, what
are the trappings of the schools?"
"Cottle's Guinea Epic" would be _Alfred, an Epic Poem_, by Joseph
Cottle, the publisher.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. August 28, 1800.]
George Dyer is an Archimedes, and an Archimagus, and a Tycho Brahe, and
a Copernicus; and thou art the darling of the Nine, and midwife to their
wandering babe also! We take tea with that learned poet and critic on
Tuesday night, at half-past five, in his neat library; the repast will
be light and Attic, with criticism. If thou couldst contrive to wheel up
thy dear carcase on the Monday, and after dining with us on tripe,
calves' kidneys, or whatever else the Cornucopia of St. Clare may be
willing to pour out on the occasion, might we not adjourn together to
the Heathen's--thou with thy Black Backs and I with some innocent volume
of the Bell Letters--Shenstone, or the like? It would make him wash his
old flannel gown (that has not been washed to my knowledge since it has
been _his_--Oh the long time!) with tears of joy. Thou shouldst settle
his scruples and unravel his cobwebs, and sponge off the sad stuff that
weighs upon his dear wounded pia mater; thou shouldst restore light to
his eyes, and him to his friends and the public; Parnassus should shower
her civic crowns upon thee for saving the wits of a citizen! I thought I
saw a lucid interval in George the other night--he broke in upon my
studies just at tea-time, and brought with him Dr. Anderson, an old
gentleman who ties his breeches' knees with packthread, and boasts that
he has been disappointed by ministers. The Doctor wanted to see _me_;
for, I being a Poet, he thought I might furnish him with a copy of
verses to suit his "Agricultural Magazine." The Doctor, in the course of
the conversation, mentioned a poem called "Epigoniad" by one Wilkie, an
epic poem, in which there is not one tolerable good line all through,
but every incident and speech borrowed from Homer. George had been
sitting inattentive seemingly to what was going on--hatching of negative
quantities--when, suddenly, the name of his old friend Homer stung his
pericranicks, and, jumping up, he begged to know where he could meet
with Wilkie's work. "It was a curious fact that there should be such an
epic poem and he not know of it; and he _must_ get a copy of it, as he
was going to touch pretty deeply upon the subject of the Epic--and he
was sure there must be some things good in a poem of 1400 lines!" I was
pleased with this transient return of his reason and recurrence to his
old ways of thinking: it gave me great hopes of a recovery, which
nothing but your book can completely insure. Pray come on Monday if you
_can_, and stay your own time. I have a good large room, with two beds
in it, in the handsomest of which thou shalt repose a-nights, and dream
of Spheroides. I hope you will understand by the nonsense of this letter
that I am _not_ melancholy at the thoughts of thy coming: I thought it
necessary to add this, because you love _precision_. Take notice that
our stay at Dyer's will not exceed eight o'clock, after which our
pursuits will be our own. But indeed I think a little recreation among
the Bell Letters and poetry will do you some service in the interval of
severer studies. I hope we shall fully discuss with George Dyer what I
have never yet heard done to my satisfaction, the reason of Dr.
Johnson's malevolent strictures on the higher species of the Ode.
["Thy Black Back"--Manning's Algebra.
Dr. Anderson was James Anderson (1739-1808), the editor, at that time,
of _Recreations in Agriculture, Natural History, Arts, and Miscellaneous
History_, published in monthly parts. Lamb gave him a copy of
verses--three extracts from _John Woodvil_ which were printed in the
number for November, 1800, as being "from an unpublished drama by C.
Lamb." They were the "Description of a Forest Life," "The General Lover"
("What is it you love?") and "Fragment or Dialogue," better known as
"The Dying Lover." All have slight variations from other versions. The
most striking is the epithet "lubbar bands of sleep," instead of "lazy
bands of sleep," in the "Description of a Forest Life."
Wilkie was William Wilkie (1721-1772), the "Scottish Homer," whose
_Epigoniad_ in nine books, based on the fourth book of the _Iliad_, was
published in 1757.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. Sept. 22, 1800.]
Dear Manning,--You needed not imagine any apology necessary. Your fine
hare and fine birds (which just now are dangling by our kitchen blaze)
discourse most eloquent music in your justification. You just nicked my
palate. For, with all due decorum and leave may it be spoken, my worship
hath taken physic for his body to-day, and being low and puling,
requireth to be pampered. Foh! how beautiful and strong those buttered
onions come to my nose! For you must know we extract a divine spirit of
gravy from those materials which, duly compounded with a consistence of
bread and cream (y'clept bread-sauce), each to each giving double grace,
do mutually illustrate and set off (as skilful goldfoils to rare jewels)
your partridge, pheasant, woodcock, snipe, teal, widgeon, and the other
lesser daughters of the ark. My friendship, struggling with my carnal
and fleshly prudence (which suggests that a bird a man is the proper
allotment in such cases), yearneth sometimes to have thee here to pick a
wing or so. I question if your Norfolk sauces match our London
George Dyer has introduced me to the table of an agreeable old
gentleman, Dr. Anderson, who gives hot legs of mutton and grape pies at
his sylvan lodge at Isleworth, where, in the middle of a street, he has
shot up a wall most preposterously before his small dwelling, which,
with the circumstance of his taking several panes of glass out of
bedroom windows (for air), causeth his neighbours to speculate strangely
on the state of the good man's pericranicks. Plainly, he lives under the
reputation of being deranged. George does not mind this circumstance; he
rather likes him the better for it. The Doctor, in his pursuits, joins
agricultural to poetical science, and has set George's brains mad about
the old Scotch writers, Harbour, Douglas's Aeneid, Blind Harry, &c. We
returned home in a return postchaise (having dined with the Doctor), and
George kept wondering and wondering, for eight or nine turnpike miles,
what was the name, and striving to recollect the name, of a poet
anterior to Barbour. I begged to know what was remaining of his works.
"There is nothing _extant_ of his works, Sir, but by all accounts he
seems to have been a fine genius!" This fine genius, without anything to
show for it or any title beyond George's courtesy, without even a name!
and Barbour, and Douglas, and Blind Harry, now are the predominant
sounds in George's pia mater, and their buzzings exclude politics,
criticism, and algebra--the late lords of that illustrious lumber-room.
Mark, he has never read any of these bucks, but is impatient till he
reads them _all_ at the Doctor's suggestion. Poor Dyer! his friends
should be careful what sparks they let fall into such inflammable
Could I have my will of the heathen, I would lock him up from all access
of new ideas; I would exclude all critics that would not swear me first
(upon their Virgil) that they would feed him with nothing but the old,
safe, familiar notions and sounds (the rightful aborigines of his
brain)--Gray, Akenside and Mason. In these sounds, reiterated as often
as possible, there could be nothing painful, nothing distracting.
God bless me, here are the birds, smoking hot!
All that is gross and unspiritual in me rises at the sight!
Avaunt friendship and all memory of absent friends!
["Divine spirit of gravy." This passage is the first of Lamb's outbursts
of gustatory ecstasy, afterwards to become frequent in his writings.
Here should come a letter, dated October 9, 1800, in the richest spirit
of comedy, describing to Coleridge an evening with George Dyer and the
Cottles after the death of their brother Amos; and how Lamb, by praising
Joseph Cottle's poem, drew away that good man's thoughts from his grief.
"Joseph, who till now had sat with his knees cowering in by the
fireplace, wheeled about, and with great difficulty of body shifted the
same round to the corner of a table where I was sitting, and first
stationing one thigh over the other, which is his sedentary mood, and
placidly fixing his benevolent face right against mine, waited my
observations. At that moment it came strongly into my mind, that I had
got Uncle Toby before me, he looked so kind and so good." The letter,
printed in full in other editions, is, I am given to understand, not
available for this.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. Oct. 16, 1800.]
Dear Manning,--Had you written one week before you did, I certainly
should have obeyed your injunction; you should have seen me before my
letter. I will explain to you my situation. There are six of us in one
department. Two of us (within these four days) are confined with severe
fevers; and two more, who belong to the Tower Militia, expect to have
marching orders on Friday. Now six are absolutely necessary. I have
already asked and obtained two young hands to supply the loss of the
_feverites_; and, with the other prospect before me, you may believe I
cannot decently ask leave of absence for myself. All I can promise (and
I do promise with the sincerity of Saint Peter, and the contrition of
sinner Peter if I fail) that I will come _the very first spare week_,
and go nowhere till I have been at Cambridge. No matter if you are in a
state of pupilage when I come; for I can employ myself in Cambridge very
pleasantly in the mornings. Are there not libraries, halls, colleges,
books, pictures, statues? I wish to God you had made London in your way.
There is an exhibition quite uncommon in Europe, which could not have
escaped _your genius_,--a live rattlesnake, ten feet in length, and the
thickness of a big leg. I went to see it last night by candlelight. We
were ushered into a room very little bigger than ours at Pentonville. A
man and woman and four boys live in this room, joint tenants with nine
snakes, most of them such as no remedy has been discovered for their
bite. We walked into the middle, which is formed by a half-moon of wired
boxes, all mansions of _snakes_,--whip-snakes, thunder-snakes,
pig-nose-snakes, American vipers, and _this monster_. He lies curled up
in folds; and immediately a stranger enters (for he is used to the
family, and sees them play at cards,) he set up a rattle like a
watchman's in London, or near as loud, and reared up a head, from the
midst of these folds, like a toad, and shook his head, and showed every
sign a snake can show of irritation. I had the foolish curiosity to
strike the wires with my finger, and the devil flew at me with his
toad-mouth wide open: the inside of his mouth is quite white. I had got
my finger away, nor could he well have bit me with his damn'd big mouth,
which would have been certain death in five minutes. But it frightened
me so much, that I did not recover my voice for a minute's space. I
forgot, in my fear, that he was secured. You would have forgot too, for
'tis incredible how such a monster can be confined in small
gauzy-looking wires. I dreamed of snakes in the night. I wish to heaven
you could see it. He absolutely swelled with passion to the bigness of a
large thigh. I could not retreat without infringing on another box, and
just behind, a little devil not an inch from my back, had got his nose
out, with some difficulty and pain, quite through the bars! He was soon
taught better manners. All the snakes were curious, and objects of
terror: but this monster, like Aaron's serpent, swallowed up the
impression of the rest. He opened his damn'd mouth, when he made at me,
as wide as his head was broad. I hallooed out quite loud, and felt pains
all over my body with the fright.
I have had the felicity of hearing George Dyer read out one book of "The
Farmer's Boy." I thought it rather childish. No doubt, there is
originality in it, (which, in your self-taught geniuses, is a most rare
quality, they generally getting hold of some bad models in a scarcity of
books, and forming their taste on them,) but no _selection_. _All_ is
Mind, I have only heard read one book.
[_The Farmer's Boy_, by Robert Bloomfield, was published in March, 1800,
and was immensely popular. Other criticisms upon it by Lamb will be
found in this work.
Lamb's visit to Cambridge was deferred until January 5, 1801.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. Nov. 3, 1800.]
_Ecquid meditatur Archimedes?_ What is Euclid doing? What has happened
to learned Trismegist?--Doth he take it in ill part, that his humble
friend did not comply with his courteous invitation? Let it suffice, I
could not come--are impossibilities nothing--be they abstractions of the
intellects or not (rather) most sharp and mortifying realities? nuts in
the Will's mouth too hard for her to crack? brick and stone walls in her
way, which she can by no means eat through? sore lets, _impedimenta
viarum_, no thoroughfares? _racemi nimium alte pendentes_? Is the phrase
classic? I allude to the grapes in Aesop, which cost the fox a strain,
and gained the world an aphorism. Observe the superscription of this
letter. In adapting the size of the letters, which constitute _your_
name and Mr. _Crisp's_ name respectively, I had an eye to your different
stations, in life. 'Tis really curious, and must be soothing to an
_aristocrat_. I wonder it has never been hit on before my time. I have
made an acquisition latterly of a _pleasant hand_, one Rickman, to whom
I was introduced by George Dyer, not the most flattering auspices under
which one man can be introduced to another. George brings all sorts of
people together, setting up a sort of agrarian law, or common property,
in matter of society; but for once he has done me a great pleasure,
while he was only pursuing a principle, as _ignes fatui may_ light you
home. This Rickman lives in our Buildings, immediately opposite our
house; the finest fellow to drop in a' nights, about nine or ten
o'clock--cold bread-and-cheese time--just in the _wishing_ time of the
night, when you _wish_ for somebody to come in, without a distinct idea
of a probable anybody. Just in the nick, neither too early to be
tedious, nor too late to sit a reasonable time. He is a most pleasant
hand: a fine rattling fellow, has gone through life laughing at solemn
apes; himself hugely literate, oppressively full of information in all
stuff of conversation, from matter of fact to Xenophon and Plato--can
talk Greek with Porson, politics with Thelwall, conjecture with George
Dyer, nonsense with me, and anything with anybody: a great farmer,
somewhat concerned in an agricultural magazine--reads no poetry but
Shakspeare, very intimate with Southey, but never reads his poetry:
relishes George Dyer, thoroughly penetrates into the ridiculous wherever
found, understands the _first time_ (a great desideratum in common
minds)--you need never twice speak to him; does not want explanations,
translations, limitations, as Professor Godwin does when you make an
assertion: _up_ to anything, _down_ to everything--whatever _sapit
hominem_. A perfect _man_. All this farrago, which must perplex you to
read, and has put me to a little trouble to _select_, only proves how
impossible it is to describe a _pleasant hand_. You must see Rickman to
know him, for he is a species in one. A new class. An exotic, any slip
of which I am proud to put in my garden-pot. The clearest-headed fellow.
Fullest of matter with least verbosity. If there be any alloy in my
fortune to have met with such a man, it is that he commonly divides his
time between town and country, having some foolish family ties at
Christchurch, by which means he can only gladden our London hemisphere
with returns of light. He is now going for six weeks.
At last I have written to Kemble, to know the event of my play, which
was presented last Christmas. As I suspected, came an answer back that
the copy was lost, and could not be found--no hint that anybody had to
this day ever looked into it--with a courteous (reasonable!) request of
another copy (if I had one by me,) and a promise of a definite answer in
a week. I could not resist so facile and moderate a demand, so scribbled
out another, omitting sundry things, such as the witch story, about half
of the forest scene (which is too leisurely for story), and transposing
that damn'd soliloquy about England getting drunk, which, like its
reciter, stupidly stood alone, nothing prevenient or antevenient, and
cleared away a good deal besides; and sent this copy, written _all out_
(with alterations, &c., _requiring judgment_) in one day and a half! I
sent it last night, and am in weekly expectation of the tolling-bell and
This is all my Lunnon news. Send me some from the _banks of Cam_, as the
poets delight to speak, especially George Dyer, who has no other name,
nor idea, nor definition of Cambridge: namely, its being a market-town,
sending members to Parliament, never entered into his definition: it was
and is, simply, the banks of the Cam or the fair Cam, as Oxford is the
banks of the Isis or the fair Isis. Yours in all humility, most
(Read on; there's more at the bottom.)
You ask me about the "Farmer's Boy"--don't you think the fellow who
wrote it (who is a shoemaker) has a poor mind? Don't you find he is
always silly about _poor Giles_, and those abject kind of phrases, which
mark a man that looks up to wealth? None of Burns's poet-dignity. What
do you think? I have just opened him; but he makes me sick. Dyer knows
the shoemaker (a damn'd stupid hound in company); but George promises to
introduce him indiscriminately to all friends and all combinations.
[Mr. Crisp was Manning's landlord, a barber in St. Mary's Passage,
Cambridge. In one letter at least Lamb spells his name Crips--a joke he
was fond of.
"Rickman" was John Rickman (1771-1840), already a friend of Southey's,
whom he had met at Burton, near Christchurch, in Hampshire, where
Rickman's father lived. A graduate of Lincoln College, Oxford, he was at
this time secretary to Charles Abbot, afterwards Lord Colchester. He had
conducted the _Commercial, Agricultural_, and Manufacturer's Magazine,
and he was practically the originator of the census in England. We shall
meet with him often in the correspondence.
Kemble was John Philip Kemble, then manager of Drury Lane. The play was
"John Woodvil." For an account of the version which Lamb submitted, see
the Notes to Vol. IV.
George Dyer wrote a _History of Cambridge University_.
George Daniel, the antiquary and bookseller, tells us that many years
later he took Bloomfield to dine with Lamb at Islington.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. Nov. 28, 1800.]
Dear Manning,--I have received a very kind invitation from Lloyd and
Sophia to go and spend a month with them at the Lakes. Now it
fortunately happens (which is so seldom the case!) that I have spare
cash by me, enough to answer the expenses of so long a journey; and I am
determined to get away from the office by some means. The purpose of
this letter is to request of you (my dear friend) that you will not take
it unkind if I decline my proposed visit to Cambridge _for the present_.
Perhaps I shall be able to take Cambridge _in my way_, going or coming.
I need not describe to you the expectations which such an one as myself,
pent up all my life in a dirty city, have formed of a tour to the Lakes.
Consider Grasmere! Ambleside! Wordsworth! Coleridge! I hope you will.*
Hills, woods, lakes, and mountains, to the eternal devil. I will eat
snipes with thee, Thomas Manning. Only confess, confess, a _bite_.
_P.S._ I think you named the 16th; but was it not modest of Lloyd to
send such an invitation! It shows his knowledge of money and time. I
would be loth to think he meant
"Ironic satire sidelong sklented
On my poor pursie."--BURNS.
For my part, with reference to my friends northward, I must confess that
I am not romance-bit about _Nature_. The earth, and sea, and sky (when
all is said) is but as a house to dwell in. If the inmates be courteous,
and good liquors flow like the conduits at an old coronation; if they
can talk sensibly and feel properly; I have no need to stand staring
upon the gilded looking-glass (that strained my friend's purse-strings
in the purchase), nor his five-shilling print over the mantelpiece of
old Nabbs the carrier (which only betrays his false taste). Just as
important to me (in a sense) is all the furniture of my world--
eye-pampering, but satisfies no heart. Streets, streets, streets,
markets, theatres, churches, Covent Gardens, shops sparkling with pretty
faces of industrious milliners, neat sempstresses, ladies cheapening,
gentlemen behind counters lying, authors in the street with spectacles,
George Dyers (you may know them by their gait), lamps lit at night,
pastry-cooks' and silver-smiths' shops, beautiful Quakers of
Pentonville, noise of coaches, drowsy cry of mechanic watchman at night,
with bucks reeling home drunk; if you happen to wake at midnight, cries
of Fire and Stop thief; inns of court, with their learned air, and
halls, and butteries, just like Cambridge colleges; old book-stalls,
Jeremy Taylors, Burtons on Melancholy, and Religio Medicis on every
stall. These are thy pleasures, O London with-the-many-sins. O City
abounding in whores, for these may Keswick and her giant brood go hang!
[Charles Lloyd had just settled at Old Brathay, about three miles from
Manning's reply to this letter indicates that Lamb's story of the
invitation to stay with Lloyd was a hoax. The first page, ended where I
have put the *asterisk--as in the letter, to Gutch. Manning writes:
"N.B. Your lake story completely took me in till I got to the 2d page. I
was pleased to think you were so rich, but I confess rather wondered how
you should be able conveniently to take so long a journey this
inside-fare time of the year."
Manning also says: "I condole, with you, Mr. Lamb, on the tragic fate of
your tragedie--I wonder what fool it was that read it! By the bye, you
would do me a very very great favour by letting me have a copy. If
Beggars might be chusers, I should ask to have it transcribed partly by
you and partly by your sister. I have a desire to possess some of Mary's
handwriting" (see Letter 79).
"Beautiful Quakers of Pentonville." This is almost certainly a reference
to Hester Savory, the original of Lamb's poem "Hester." The whole
passage is the first of three eulogies of London in the letters, all
very similar. To "The Londoner" we come later.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM GODWIN
[Dec. 4, 1800.]
Dear Sir,--I send this speedily after the heels of Cooper (O! the dainty
expression) to say that Mary is obliged to stay at home on Sunday to
receive a female friend, from whom I am equally glad to escape. So that
we shall be by ourselves. I write, because it may make _some_ difference
in your marketting, &c.
I am sorry to put you to the expense of twopence postage. But I
calculate thus: if Mary comes she will
eat Beef 2 plates, 4d.
_Batter Pudding_ 1 do. 2d.
Beer, a pint, 2d.
Wine, 3 glasses, 11d. I drink no wine!
Chesnuts, after dinner, 2d.
Tea and supper at moderate
From which deduct 2d. postage
You are a clear gainer by her not coming.
[If the date be correct this becomes the first extant letter proper
which Lamb sent to the author of _Political Justice_. Godwin was then
forty-four years old, and had long been busy upon his tragedy "Antonio,"
in which Lamb had been assisting with suggestions. In this connection I
place here the following document, which belongs, however, naturally to
an earlier date, but is not harmed by its present position.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM GODWIN
[No date. Autumn, 1800.]
Queries. Whether the best conclusion would not be a solemn judicial
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