The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Vol. 5
Edited by E. V. Lucas
Part 9 out of 14
desks, were the refinements of this old torturer a thousand years after,
under pretence of Commerce allying distant shores, promoting and
diffusing knowledge, good, &c.--
A FAREWELL TO TOBACCO
May the Babylonish curse
Strait confound my stammering verse,
If I can a passage see
In this word-perplexity,
Or a fit expression find,
Or a language to my mind,
(Still the phrase is wide an acre)
To take leave of thee, Tobacco;
Or in any terms relate
Half my Love, or half my Hate,
For I hate yet love thee so,
That, whichever Thing I shew,
The plain truth will seem to be
A constrain'd hyperbole,
And the passion to proceed
More from a Mistress than a Weed.
Sooty retainer to the vine,
Bacchus' black servant, negro fine,
Sorcerer that mak'st us doat upon
Thy begrim'd complexion,
And, for thy pernicious sake
More and greater oaths to break
Than reclaimed Lovers take
'Gainst women: Thou thy siege dost lay
Much too in the female way,
While thou suck'st the labouring breath
Faster than kisses; or than Death.
Thou in such a cloud dost bind us,
That our worst foes cannot find us,
And Ill Fortune (that would thwart us)
Shoots at rovers, shooting at us;
While each man thro' thy heightening steam,
Does like a smoking Etna seem,
And all about us does express
(Fancy and Wit in richest dress)
A Sicilian Fruitfulness.
Thou through such a mist does shew us,
That our best friends do not know us;
And, for those allowed features,
Due to reasonable creatures,
Liken'st us to fell Chimeras,
Monsters, that, who see us, fear us,
Worse than Cerberus, or Geryon,
Or, who first loved a cloud, Ixion.
Bacchus we know, and we allow
His tipsy rites. But what art thou?
That but by reflex canst shew
What his deity can do,
As the false Egyptian spell
Aped the true Hebrew miracle--
Some few vapours thou may'st raise,
The weak brain may serve to amaze,
But to the reins and nobler heart
Canst nor life nor heat impart.
Brother of Bacchus, later born,
The old world was sure forlorn,
Wanting thee; that aidest more
The God's victories than before
All his panthers, and the brawls
Of his piping Bacchanals;
These, as stale, we disallow,
Or judge of _thee meant_: only thou
His true Indian Conquest art;
And, for Ivy round his dart,
The reformed God now weaves
A finer Thyrsus of thy leaves.
Scent to match thy rich perfume
Chymic art did ne'er presume
Through her quaint alembic strain;
None so sovran to the brain.
Nature, that did in thee excell,
Framed again no second smell.
Roses, violets, but toys
For the smaller sort of boys,
Or for greener damsels meant,
Thou'rt the only manly scent.
Stinking'st of the stinking kind,
Filth of the mouth and fog of the mind,
Africa that brags her foyson,
Breeds no such prodigious poison,
Henbane, nightshade, both together,
Plant divine, of rarest virtue,
Blisters on the tongue would hurt you;
'Twas but in a sort I blamed thee,
None e'er prosper'd who defamed thee:
Irony all, and feign'd abuse,
Such as perplext Lovers use
At a need, when in despair
To paint forth their fairest fair,
Or in part but to express
That exceeding comeliness
Which their fancies does so strike,
They borrow language of Dislike,
And instead of Dearest Miss,
Honey, Jewel, Sweetheart, Bliss,
And, those forms of old admiring,
Call her Cockatrice and Syren,
Basilisk and all that's evil,
Witch, Hyena, Mermaid, Devil,
Ethiop wench, and Blackamoor,
Monkey, Ape, and twenty more,
Friendly Traitress, Loving Foe:
Not that she is truly so,
But no other way they know
A contentment to express,
Borders so upon excess,
That they do not rightly wot,
Whether it be pain or not.
Or, as men, constrain'd to part
With what's nearest to their heart,
While their sorrow's at the height,
Lose discrimination quite,
And their hasty wrath let fall,
To appease their frantic gall,
On the darling thing whatever,
Whence they feel it death to sever,
Though it be, as they, perforce,
Guiltless of the sad divorce,
For I must (nor let it grieve thee,
Friendliest of plants, that I must) leave thee--
For thy sake, _TOBACCO_, I
Would do anything but die;
And but seek to extend my days
Long enough to sing thy praise.
But, as She, who once has been
A King's consort, is a Queen
Ever after; nor will bate
Any tittle of her state,
Though a widow, or divorced,
So I, from thy converse forced,
The old name and style retain,
(A right Katherine of Spain;)
And a seat too 'mongst the joys
Of the blest Tobacco Boys:
Where, though I by sour physician
Am debarr'd the full fruition
Of thy favours, I may catch
Some collateral sweets, and snatch
Sidelong odours, that give life
Like glances from a neighbour's wife;
And still dwell in the by-places,
And the suburbs of thy graces,
And in thy borders take delight,
An unconquer'd Canaanite.
I wish you may think this a handsome farewell to my "Friendly
Traitress." Tobacco has been my evening comfort and my morning curse for
these five years: and you know how difficult it is from refraining to
pick one's lips even, when it has become a habit. This Poem is the only
one which I have finished since so long as when I wrote "Hester Savory."
I have had it in my head to do it these two years, but Tobacco stood in
its own light when it gave me head aches that prevented my singing its
praises. Now you have got it, you have got all my store, for I have
absolutely not another line. No more has Mary. We have nobody about us
that cares for Poetry, and who will rear grapes when he shall be the
sole eater? Perhaps if you encourage us to shew you what we may write,
we may do something now and then before we absolutely forget the
quantity of an English line for want of practice. The "Tobacco," being a
little in the way of Withers (whom Southey so much likes) perhaps you
will somehow convey it to him with my kind remembrances. Then, everybody
will have seen it that I wish to see it: I have sent it to Malta.
I remain Dear W. and D--yours truly,
28th Sep., 1805.
["Hang Work." This paragraph is the germ of the sonnet entitled "Work"
which Lamb wrote fourteen years later (see the letter to Bernard Barton,
Sept. 11, 1822). He seems always to have kept his thoughts in sight.
The "Farewell to Tobacco" was printed in the _Reflector_, No. IV., 1811
or 1812, and then in the Works, 1818 (see Notes to Vol. IV. of this
edition). Lamb's farewell was frequently repeated; but it is a question
whether he ever entirely left off smoking. Talfourd says that he did;
but the late Mrs. Coe, who remembered Lamb at Widford about 1827-1830,
credited him with the company of a black clay pipe. It was Lamb who,
when Dr. Parr asked him how he managed to emit so much smoke, replied
that he had toiled after it as other men after virtue. And Macready
relates that he remarked in his presence that he wished to draw his last
breath through a pipe and exhale it in a pun. Coleridge writing to
Rickman (see _The Life and Letters of John Rickman_, 1912) says of Lamb
and smoking: "Were it possible to win C.L. from the pipe, other things
would follow with comparative ease, for till he gets a pipe I have
regularly observed that he is contented with porter--and that the
unconquerable appetite for spirit comes in with the tobacco--the oil of
which, especially in the gluttonous manner in which he _volcanizes_ it,
acts as an instant poison on his stomach or lungs".
"Hestor Savory." See above.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[Early November, 1805.]
My dear Sarah,--Certainly you are the best letter-writer (besides
writing the best hand) in the world. I have just been reading over again
your two long letters, and I perceive they make me very envious. I have
taken a brand new pen, and put on my _spectacles_, and am peering with
all my might to see the lines in the paper, which the sight of your even
lines had well nigh tempted me to rule: and I have moreover taken two
pinches of snuff extraordinary, to clear my head, which feels more
cloudy than common this fine, chearful morning.
All I can gather from your clear and, I have no doubt, faithful history
of Maltese politics is, that the good Doctor, though a firm friend, an
excellent fancier of brooches, a good husband, an upright Advocate, and,
in short, all that they say upon tomb stones (for I do not recollect
that they celebrate any fraternal virtues there) yet is but a _moody_
brother, that your sister in law is pretty much like what all sisters in
law have been since the first happy invention of the happy marriage
state; that friend Coleridge has undergone no alteration by crossing the
Atlantic,--for his friendliness to you, as well as all the oddities you
mention, are just what one ought to look for from him; and that you, my
dear Sarah, have proved yourself just as unfit to flourish in a little,
proud Garrison Town as I did shrewdly suspect you were before you went
If I possibly can, I will prevail upon Charles to write to your brother
by the conveyance you mention; but he is so unwell, I almost fear the
fortnight will slip away before I can get him in the right vein. Indeed,
it has been sad and heavy times with us lately: when I am pretty well,
his low spirits throws me back again; and when he begins to get a little
chearful, then I do the same kind office for him. I heartily wish for
the arrival of Coleridge; a few such evenings as we have sometimes
passed with him would wind us up, and set us a going again.
Do not say any thing, when you write, of our low spirits--it will vex
Charles. You would laugh, or you would cry, perhaps both, to see us sit
together, looking at each other with long and rueful faces, and saying,
"how do you do?" and "how do you do?" and then we fall a-crying, and say
we will be better on the morrow. He says we are like toothach and his
friend gum bile--which, though a kind of ease, is but an uneasy kind of
ease, a comfort of rather an uncomfortable sort.
I rejoice to hear of your Mother's amendment; when you can leave her
with any satisfaction to yourself--which, as her sister, I think I
understand by your letters, is with her, I hope you may soon be able to
do--let me know upon what plan you mean to come to Town. Your brother
proposed your being six months in Town, and six with your Mother; but he
did not then know of your poor Mother's illness. By his desire, I
enquired for a respectable family for you, to board with; and from
Capt'n. Burney I heard of one I thought would suit you at that time. He
particularly desires I would not think of your being with us, not
thinking, I conjecture, the home of a single man _respectable_ enough.
Your brother gave me most unlimited orders to domineer over you, to be
the inspector of all your actions, and to direct and govern you with a
stern voice and a high hand, to be, in short, a very elder brother over
you--does not the hearing of this, my meek pupil, make you long to come
to London? I am making all the proper enquiries against the time of the
newest and most approved modes (being myself mainly ignorant in these
points) of etiquette, and nicely correct maidenly manners.
But to speak seriously. I mean, when we mean [? meet], that we will lay
our heads together, and consult and contrive the best way of making the
best girl in the world the fine Lady her brother wishes to see her; and
believe me, Sarah, it is not so difficult a matter as one is sometimes
apt to imagine. I have observed many a demure Lady, who passes muster
admirably well, who, I think, we could easily learn to imitate in a week
or two. We will talk of these things when we meet. In the mean time, I
give you free license to be happy and merry at Salisbury in any way you
can. Has the partridge-season opened any communication between you and
William--as I allow you to be imprudent till I see you, I shall expect
to hear you have invited him to taste his own birds. Have you scratched
him out of your will yet? Rickman is married, and that is all the news I
have to send you.
Your Wigs were sent by Mr. Varvell about five months ago; therefore, he
could have arrived when you came away.
I seem, upon looking over my letter again, to have written too lightly
of your distresses at Malta; but, however I may have written, believe
me, I enter very feelingly into all your troubles. I love you, and I
love your brother; and between you, both of whom I think have been to
blame, I know not what to say--only this I say, try to think as little
as possible of past miscarriages; it was, perhaps, so ordered by
Providence, that you might return home to be a comfort to your poor
Mother. And do not, I conjure you, let her unhappy malady afflict you
too deeply. I speak from experience, and from the opportunity I have had
of much observation in such cases, that insane people, in the fancy's
they take into their heads, do not feel as one in a sane state of mind
does under the real evil of poverty, the perception of having done
wrong, or any such thing that runs in their heads.
Think as little as you can, and let your whole care be to be certain
that she is treated with _tenderness_. I lay a stress upon this, because
it is a thing of which people in her state are uncommonly susceptible,
and which hardly any one is at all aware of: a hired nurse never, even
though in all other respects they are good kind of people. I do not
think your own presence necessary, unless she _takes to you very much_,
except for the purpose of seeing with your own eyes that she is very
I do so long to see you! God bless and comfort you!
[Miss Stoddart had now returned to England, to her mother at Salisbury,
who had been and was very ill. Coleridge meanwhile had had coolnesses
with Stoddart and had transferred himself to the roof of the Governor.
Rickman married, on October 30, 1805, Susanna Postlethwaite of Harting,
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM HAZLITT
November 10, 1805.
Dear Hazlitt,--I was very glad to hear from you, and that your journey
was so _picturesque_. We miss you, as we foretold we should. One or two
things have happened, which are beneath the dignity of epistolary
communication, but which, seated about our fire at night, (the winter
hands of pork have begun) gesture and emphasis might have talked into
some importance. Something about Rickman's wife, for instance: how tall
she is and that she visits prank'd out like a Queen of the May with
green streamers--a good-natured woman though, which is as much as you
can expect from a friend's wife, whom you got acquainted with a
bachelor. Some things too about MONKEY, which can't so well be
written--how it set up for a fine Lady, and thought it had got Lovers,
and was obliged to be convinc'd of its age from the parish register,
where it was proved to be only twelve; and an edict issued that it
should not give itself airs yet these four years; and how it got leave
to be called Miss, by grace;--these and such like Hows were in my head
to tell you, but who can write? Also how Manning's come to town in
spectacles, and studies physic; is melancholy and seems to have
something in his head, which he don't impart. Then, how I am going to
leave off smoking. O la! your Leonardos of Oxford made my mouth water. I
was hurried thro' the gallery, and they escaped me. What do I say? I was
a Goth then, and should not have noticed them. I had not settled my
notions of Beauty. I have now for ever!--the small head, the [_here is
drawn a long narrow eye_] long Eye,--that sort of peering curve, the
wicked Italian mischief! the stick-at-nothing, Herodias'-daughter kind
of grace. You understand me. But you disappoint me, in passing over in
absolute silence the Blenheim Leonardo. Didn't you see it? Excuse a
Lover's curiosity. I have seen no pictures of note since, except Mr.
Dawe's gallery. It is curious to see how differently two great men treat
the same subject, yet both excellent in their way: for instance, Milton
and Mr. Dawe. Mr. Dawe has chosen to illustrate the story of Sampson
exactly in the point of view in which Milton has been most happy: the
interview between the Jewish Hero, blind and captive, and Dalilah.
Milton has imagined his Locks grown again, strong as horse-hair or
porcupine's bristles; doubtless shaggy and black, as being hairs "which
of a nation armed contained the strength." I don't remember, he _says_
black: but could Milton imagine them to be yellow? Do you? Mr. Dawe with
striking originality of conception has crowned him with a thin yellow
wig, in colour precisely like Dyson's, in curl and quantity resembling
Mrs. Professor's, his Limbs rather stout, about such a man as my Brother
or Rickman--but no Atlas nor Hercules, nor yet so bony as Dubois, the
Clown of Sadler's Wells. This was judicious, taking the spirit of the
story rather than the fact: for doubtless God could communicate national
salvation to the trust of flax and tow as well as hemp and cordage, and
could draw down a Temple with a golden tress as soon as with all the
cables of the British Navy.--Miss Dawe is about a portrait of sulky
Fanny Imlay, alias Godwin: but Miss Dawe is of opinion that her subject
is neither reserved nor sullen, and doubtless she will persuade the
picture to be of the same opinion. However, the features are tolerably
like--Too much of Dawes! Wasn't you sorry for Lord Nelson? I have
followed him in fancy ever since I saw him walking in Pall Mall (I was
prejudiced against him before) looking just as a Hero should look; and I
have been very much cut about it indeed. He was the only pretence of a
Great Man we had. Nobody is left of any Name at all. His Secretary died
by his side. I imagined him, a Mr. Scott, to be the man you met at
Hume's; but I learn from Mrs. Hume that it is not the same. I met Mrs.
H. one day, and agreed to go on the Sunday to Tea, but the rain
prevented us, and the distance. I have been to apologise, and we are to
dine there the first fine Sunday. Strange perverseness! I never went
while you staid here, and now I _go to find you_! What other news is
there, Mary?--What puns have I made in the last fortnight? You never
remember them. You have no relish for the Comic. "O! tell Hazlitt not to
forget to send the American Farmer. I dare say it isn't so good as he
fancies; but a Book's a Book." I have not heard from Wordsworth or from
Malta since. Charles Kemble, it seems, enters into possession to-morrow.
We sup at 109 Russell St. this evening. I wish your brother wouldn't
drink. It's a blemish in the greatest characters. You send me a modern
quotation poetical. How do you like this in an old play? Vittoria
Corombona, a spunky Italian Lady, a Leonardo one, nick-named the White
Devil, being on her trial for murder, &c.--and questioned about seducing
a Duke from his wife and the State, makes answer:
"Condemn you me for that the Duke did love me?
So may you blame some fair and chrystal river,
For that some melancholic distracted man
Hath drown'd himself in it."--
Our ticket was a L20. Alas!! are both yours blanks?
P.S.--Godwin has asked after you several times.
N.B.--I shall expect a Line from you, if but a bare Line, whenever you
write to Russell St., and a Letter often when you do not. I pay no
postage; but I will have consideration for you until parliament time and
franks. Luck to Ned Search and the new art of colouring. Monkey sends
her Love, and Mary especially.
[Addressed to Hazlitt at Wem. This is the first letter from Lamb to
Hazlitt that has been preserved. The two men first met at Godwin's.
Holcroft and Coleridge were disputing which was best--man as he is, or
man as he ought to be. Lamb broke in with, "Give me man as he ought
_not_ to be."
Hazlitt at this date was twenty-six, some three years younger than Lamb.
He had just abandoned his project of being a painter and was settling
down to literary work.
"Rickman's wife." This passage holds the germ of Lamb's essay on "The
Behaviour of Married Persons," first printed in the _Reflector_, No.
IV., in 1811 or 1812, and afterwards included with the _Elia_ essays.
"Monkey" was Louisa Martin, a little girl of whom Lamb was fond and whom
he knew to the end of his life.
Manning studied medicine at the Westminster Hospital for six months
previous to May, 1806.
"The Oxford Leonardos ... the Blenheim Leonardo." The only Leonardos at
Oxford are the drawings at Christ Church. The Blenheim Leonardo was
probably Boltraffio's "Virgin and Child" which used to be ascribed to Da
Vinci, as indeed were many pictures he never painted. Hazlitt
subsequently wrote a work on the Picture Galleries of England, but he
mentions none of these works.
"Mr. Dawe's gallery." George Dawe (1781-1829), afterwards R.A., of whom
Lamb wrote his essay "Recollections of a Late Royal Academician," where
he alludes again to the picture of Samson (see Vol. I. of this edition).
"Dyson's." Dyson was a friend of Godwin. Mrs. Professor was Mrs. Godwin.
"Miss Dawe." I know nothing further of George Dawe's sister. Fanny Imlay
was the unfortunate daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (by Gilbert
Imlay the author). She committed suicide in 1816.
Nelson was killed on October 21, 1805. Scott was his chaplain, and he
was not killed.
Hume was Joseph Hume, an official at Somerset House, whom we shall meet
The _American Farmer_ was very likely Gilbert Imlay's novel _The
Emigrants_, 1793, or possibly his _Topographical Description of the
Western Territory of North America_, 1792.
Charles Kemble, brother of John Philip Kemble and father of Fanny
John Hazlitt, the miniature painter, lived at 109 Russell Street. Lamb's
quotation, afterwards included in his _Dramatic Specimens_, 1808, is
from Webster's "The White Devil," Act III., Scene I.
The L20 ticket was presumably in the Lottery. Lamb's essay "The
Illustrious Defunct" (see Vol. I.) shows him to have been interested in
Lotteries; and in Letter No. 184 Mary Lamb states that he wrote Lottery
"Ned Search." Hazlitt was engaged on an abridgment of _The Light of
Nature Pursued_, in seven volumes, 1768-1778, nominally by Edward
Search, but really by Abraham Tucker.
"The new art of colouring" is a reference, I fancy, to Tingry, mentioned
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[November 9 and 14, 1805.]
My dear Sarah,--After a very feverish night, I writ a letter to you; and
I have been distressed about it ever since. In the first place, I have
thought I treated too lightly your differences with your brother--which
I freely enter into and feel for, but which I rather wished to defer
saying much about till we meet. But that which gives me most concern is
the way in which I talked about your Mother's illness, and which I have
since feared you might construe into my having a doubt of your showing
her proper attention without my impertinent interference. God knows,
nothing of this kind was ever in my thoughts; but I have entered very
deeply into your affliction with regard to your Mother; and while I was
wishing, the many poor souls in the kind of desponding way she is in,
whom I have seen, came afresh into my mind; and all the mismanagement
with which I have seen them treated was strong in my mind, and I wrote
under a forcible impulse, which I could not at that time resist, but I
have fretted so much about it since, that I think it is the last time I
will ever let my pen run away with me.
Your kind heart will, I know, even if you have been a little displeased,
forgive me, when I assure you my spirits have been so much hurt by my
last illness, that at times I hardly know what I do. I do not mean to
alarm you about myself, or to plead an excuse; but I am very much
otherwise than you have always known me. I do not think any one
perceives me altered, but I have lost all self-confidence in my own
actions, and one cause of my low spirits is, that I never feel satisfied
with any thing I do--a perception of not being in a sane state
perpetually haunts me. I am ashamed to confess this weakness to you;
which, as I am so sensible of, I ought to strive to conquer. But I tell
you, that you may excuse any part of my letter that has given offence:
for your not answering it, when you are such a punctual correspondent,
has made me very uneasy.
Write immediately, my dear Sarah, but do not notice this letter, nor do
not mention any thing I said relative to your poor Mother. Your
handwriting will convince me you are friends with me; and if Charles,
who must see my letter, was to know I had first written foolishly, and
then fretted about the event of my folly, he would both ways be angry
I would desire you to direct to me at home, but your hand is so well
known to Charles, that that would not do. Therefore, take no notice of
my megrums till we meet, which I most ardently long to do. An hour spent
in your company would be a cordial to my drooping heart.
Pray write directly, and believe me, ever
Your affectionate friend,
Nov. l4.--I have kept this by me till to-day, hoping every day to hear
from you. If you found the seal a clumsy one, it is because I opened the
Write, I beg, by the return of the post; and as I am very anxious to
hear whether you are, as I fear, dissatisfied with me, you shall, if you
please, direct my letter to Nurse. Her direction is, Mrs. Grant, at Mr.
Smith's, _Maidenhead_, Ram Court, Fleet Street.
I was not able, you know, to notice, when I writ to Malta, your letter
concerning an insult you received from a vile wretch there; and as I
mostly show my letters to Charles, I have never named it since. Did it
ever come to your brother's knowledge? Charles and I were very uneasy at
your account of it. I wish I could see you.
I do not mean to continue a secret correspondence, but you must oblige
me with this one letter. In future I will always show my letters before
they go, which will be a proper check upon my wayward pen.
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
[P.M. Nov. 15, 1805.]
Dear Manning,--Certainly you could not have called at all hours from two
till ten, for we have been only out of an evening Monday and Tuesday in
this week. But if you think you have, your thought shall go for the
deed. We did pray for you on Wednesday night. Oysters unusually
luscious--pearls of extraordinary magnitude found in them. I have made
bracelets of them--given them in clusters to ladies. Last night we went
out in despite, because you were not come at your hour.
This night we shall be at home, so shall we certainly both Sunday,
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Take your choice, mind I don't say of
one, but choose which evening you will not, and come the other four.
Doors open at five o'clock. Shells forced about nine. Every gentleman
smokes or not as he pleases. O! I forgot, bring the L10, for fear you
should lose it.
[Here should come a letter from Mary Lamb to Mrs. Clarkson, dated
December 25, 1805, printed by Mr. Macdonald. It states that Lamb has
been latterly in indifferent health, and is unimportant.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM HAZLITT
Thursday, 15th Jan., 1806.
Dear Hazlitt,--Godwin went to Johnson's yesterday about your business.
Johnson would not come down, or give any answer, but has promised to
open the manuscript, and to give you an answer in one month. Godwin will
punctually go again (Wednesday is Johnson's open day) yesterday four
weeks next: i.e. in one lunar month from this time. Till when Johnson
positively declines giving any answer. I wish you joy on ending your
Search. Mrs. H. was naming something about a Life of Fawcett, to be by
you undertaken: the great Fawcett, as she explain'd to Manning, when he
ask'd, _What Fawcett_? He innocently thought _Fawcett the player_. But
Fawcett the Divine is known to many people, albeit unknown to the
Chinese Enquirer. I should think, if you liked it, and Johnson declined
it, that Phillips is the man. He is perpetually bringing out
Biographies, Richardson, Wilkes, Foot, Lee Lewis, without number: little
trim things in two easy volumes price 12s. the two, made up of letters
to and from, scraps, posthumous trifles, anecdotes, and about forty
pages of hard biography. You might dish up a Fawcetiad in 3 months, and
ask 60 or 80 Pounds for it. I should dare say that Phillips would catch
at it--I wrote to you the other day in a great hurry. Did you get it?
This is merely a Letter of business at Godwin's request.
Lord Nelson is quiet at last. His ghost only keeps a slight fluttering
in odes and elegies in newspapers, and impromptus, which could not be
got ready before the funeral.
As for news--We have Miss Stoddart in our house, she has been with us a
fortnight and will stay a week or so longer. She is one of the few
people who are not in the way when they are with you. No tidings of
Coleridge. Fenwick is coming to town on Monday (if no kind angel
intervene) to surrender himself to prison. He hopes to get the Rules of
the Fleet. On the same, or nearly the same, day, Fell, my other quondam
co-friend and drinker, will go to Newgate, and his wife and 4 children,
I suppose, to the Parish. Plenty of reflection and motives of gratitude
to the wise disposer of all things in us, whose prudent conduct has
hitherto ensured us a warm fire and snug roof over our heads. _Nullum
numen abest si sit Prudentia_.
Alas! Prudentia is in the last quarter of her tutelary shining over me.
A little time and I--
But may be I may, at last, hit upon some mode of collecting some of the
vast superfluities of this money-voiding town. Much is to be got, and I
don't want much. All I ask is time and leisure; and I am cruelly off for
When you have the inclination, I shall be very glad to have a letter
from you.--Your brother and Mrs. H., I am afraid, think hardly of us for
not coming oftener to see them, but we are distracted beyond what they
can conceive with visitors and visitings. I never have an hour for my
head to work quietly its own workings; which you know is as necessary to
the human system as sleep.
Sleep, too, I can't get for these damn'd winds of a night: and without
sleep and rest what should ensue? Lunacy. But I trust it won't.
Yours, dear H., mad or sober,
[Hazlitt's business was finding a publisher for his abridgment of Search
(see page 340). Johnson was Priestley's publisher. A letter to Godwin
from Coleridge in June, 1803 (see Kegan Paul's _Life of Godwin_, ii.,
96), had suggested such an abridgment, Coleridge adding that a friend of
his would make it, and that he would write a preface and see the proofs
through the press. Hence Godwin's share in the matter. Coleridge's part
of the transaction was not carried out.
Hazlitt's Life of Joseph Fawcett (?1758-1804), the poet and dissenting
preacher of Walthamstow and Old Jewry, whom he had known intimately, was
not written. The Fawcett of whom Manning, the Chinese Enquirer, was
thinking was John Fawcett, famous as Dr. Pangloss and Caleb Quotem.
"The Fleet"--the prison for debtors in Farringdon Street. Closed in
1844. The Rules of the Fleet were the limits within which prisoners for
debt were under certain conditions permitted to live: the north side of
Ludgate Hill, the Old Bailey up to Fleet Lane, Fleet Lane to Fleet
Market, and then back to Ludgate Hill. The Rules cost money: L10 for the
first L100 of the debt and for every additional L100, L4. Later, Fenwick
seems to have settled in America.
Here should come an undated letter to Hazlitt, accompanied by Tingry's
_Painter's and Varnisher's Guide_, 1804. Hazlitt, who was then painting,
seems to have wanted prints of trees, probably for a background. Lamb
says that he has been hunting in shop windows for him. He adds: "To
supply poetry and wildness, you may read the _American Farmer_ over
again." The postscript runs, "Johnson shall not be forgot at his month's
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN RICKMAN
Jan. 25th, 1806.
Dear Rickman,--You do not happen to have any place at your disposal
which would suit a decayed Literatus? I do not much expect that you
have, or that you will go much out of the way to serve the object, when
you hear it is Fenwick. But the case is, by a _mistaking_ of his _turn_,
as they call it, he is reduced, I am afraid, to extremities, and would
be extremely glad of a place in an office. Now it does sometimes happen,
that just as a man wants a place, a place wants him; and though this is
a lottery to which none but G.B. would choose to trust his all, there is
no harm just to call in at Despair's office for a friend, and see if
_his_ number is come up (B.'s further case I enclose by way of episode).
Now, if you should happen, or anybody you know, to want a _hand_, here
is a young man of solid but not brilliant genius, who would turn his
hand to the making out dockets, penning a manifesto, or scoring a tally,
not the worse (I hope) for knowing Latin and Greek, and having in youth
conversed with the philosophers. But from these follies I believe he is
thoroughly awakened, and would bind himself by a terrible oath never to
imagine himself an extraordinary genius again.
[Mr. Hazlitt's text, which I follow here, makes Lamb appeal for Fenwick;
but other editors say Fell--except Talfourd, who says F. If, as Lamb
says in his previous letter, Fell was bound for Newgate and Fenwick only
for the Fleet, probably it was Fenwick. But the matter is not very
important. Fenwick and Fell both came into Lamb's life through Godwin
and at this point they drop out. The enclosure concerning George Burnett
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[Dated at end: February 1st, 1806.]
Dear Wordsworth--I have seen the Books which you ordered, booked at the
White Horse Inn, Cripplegate, by the Kendal waggon this day 1st Feb'y.
1806; you will not fail to see after them in time. They are directed to
you at Grasmere. We have made some alteration in the Editions since your
sister's directions. The handsome quarto Spencer which she authorized
Mary to buy for L2. 12. 6, when she brought it home in triumph proved to
be _only the Fairy Queen_: so we got them to take it again and I have
procured instead a Folio, which luckily contains, besides all the Poems,
the view of the State of Ireland, which is difficult to meet with. The
Spencer, and the Chaucer, being noble old books, we did not think
Stockdale's modern volumes would look so well beside them; added to
which I don't know whether you are aware that the Print is _excessive_
small, same as Eleg. Extracts, or smaller, not calculated for eyes in
age; and Shakespear is one of the last books one should like to give up,
perhaps the one just before the Dying Service in a large Prayer book. So
we have used our own discretion in purchasing Pope's fine Quarto in six
volumes, which may be read ad ultimam horam vitae. It is bound like Law
Books (rather, half bound) and the Law Robe I have ever thought as
comely and gentlemanly a garb as a Book would wish to wear. The state of
the purchase then stands thus,
Urry's Chaucer L1. 16 --
Pope's Shakespeare 2. 2 --
Spenser 14 --
Milton 1. 5 --
Packing Case &c. 3. 6
6. --. 6
Which your Brother immediately repaid us. He has the Bills for all (by
his desire) except the Spenser, which we took no bill with (not looking
to have our accounts audited): so for that and the Case he took a
separate receipt for 17/6. N.B. there is writing in the Shakespear: but
it is only variae lectiones which some careful gentleman, the former
owner, was at the pains to insert in a very neat hand from 5
Commentators. It is no defacement. The fault of Pope's edition is, that
he has comically and coxcombically marked the Beauties: which is vile,
as if you were to chalk up the cheek and across the nose of a handsome
woman in red chalk to shew where the comeliest parts lay. But I hope the
noble type and Library-appearance of the Books will atone for that. With
the Books come certain Books and Pamphlets of G. Dyer, Presents or
rather Decoy-ducks of the Poet to take in his thus-far obliged friends
to buy his other works; as he takes care to inform them in M.S. notes to
the Title Pages, "G. Dyer, Author of other Books printed for Longman
&c." The books have lain at your dispatchful brother's a 12 months, to
the great staling of most of the subjects. The three Letters and what is
else written at the beginning of the respective _Presents_ will
ascertain the division of the Property. If not, none of the Donees, I
dare say, will grudge a community of property in this case. We were
constrained to pack 'em how we could, for room. Also there comes W.
Hazlitt's book about Human Action, for Coleridge; a little song book for
Sarah Coleridge; a Box for Hartley which your Brother was to have sent,
but now devolved on us--I don't know from whom it came, but the things
altogether were too much for Mr. (I've forgot his name) to take charge
of; a Paraphrase on the King and Queen of Hearts, of which I being the
Author beg Mr. Johnny Wordsworth's acceptance and opinion. _Liberal
Criticism_, as G. Dyer declares, I am always ready to attend to!--And
that's all, I believe. N.B. I must remain Debtor to Dorothy for 200
pens: but really Miss Stoddart (women are great gulfs of Stationery),
who is going home to Salisbury and has been with us some weeks, has
drained us to the very last pen: by the time S.T.C. passes thro' London
I reckon I shall be in full feather. No more news has transpired of that
Wanderer. I suppose he has found his way to some of his German friends.
A propos of Spencer (you will find him mentioned a page or two before,
near enough for an a propos), I was discoursing on Poetry (as one's apt
to deceive onesself, and when a person is willing to _talk_ of what one
likes, to believe that he also likes the same: as Lovers do) with a
Young Gentleman of my office who is deep read in Anacreon Moore, Lord
Strangford, and the principal Modern Poets, and I happen'd to mention
Epithalamiums and that I could shew him a very fine one of Spencer's. At
the mention of this, my Gentleman, who is a very fine Gentleman, and is
brother to the Miss Evans who Coleridge so narrowly escaped marrying,
pricked up his ears and exprest great pleasure, and begged that I would
give him leave to copy it: he did not care how long it was (for I
objected the length), he should be very happy to see _any thing by him_.
Then pausing, and looking sad, he ejaculated POOR SPENCER! I begged to
know the reason of his ejaculation, thinking that Time had by this time
softened down any calamities which the Bard might have endured--"Why,
poor fellow!" said he "he has lost his Wife!" "Lost his Wife?" said I,
"Who are you talking of?" "Why, Spencer," said he. "I've read the Monody
he wrote on the occasion, and _a very pretty thing it is_." This led to
an explanation (it could be delay'd no longer) that the sound Spencer,
which when Poetry is talk'd of generally excites an image of an old Bard
in a Ruff, and sometimes with it dim notions of Sir P. Sydney and
perhaps Lord Burleigh, had raised in my Gentleman a quite contrary image
of The Honourable William Spencer, who has translated some things from
the German very prettily, which are publish'd with Lady Di. Beauclerk's
Nothing like defining of Terms when we talk. What blunders might I have
fallen into of quite inapplicable Criticism, but for this timely
N.B. At the beginning of _Edm._ Spencer (to prevent mistakes) I have
copied from my own copy, and primarily from a book of Chalmers on
Shakspear, a Sonnet of Spenser's never printed among his poems. It is
curious as being manly and rather Miltonic, and as a Sonnet of Spenser's
with nothing in it about Love or Knighthood. I have no room for
remembrances; but I hope our doing your commission will prove we do not
quite forget you.
1 Feb., 1806.
["Hazlitt's book about Human Action for Coleridge"--_An Essay on the
Principles of Human Action_, 1805.
"A Paraphrase of the King and Queen of Hearts." This was a little book
for children by Lamb, illustrated by Mulready and published by T.
Hodgkins (for the Godwins) in 1806. It was discovered through this
passage in this letter and is reprinted in facsimile in Vol. III. of my
large edition. The title ran _The King and Queen of Hearts, with the
Rogueries of the Knave who stole away the Queen's Pies_.
Coleridge had left Malta on September 21, 1805. He went to Naples, and
from there to Rome in January, 1806, where he stayed until May 18.
"A propos of Spencer." This portion of the letter, owing to a mistake of
Talfourd's, is usually tacked on to one dated June, 1806. "Miss Evans."
See note to Letter 3.
"Poor Spencer." William Robert Spencer (1769-1834) was the author of
_jeux d'esprit_ and poems. He is now known, if at all, by his ballad of
"Bed Gellert." He married the widow of Count Spreti, and in 1804
published a book of elegies entitled "The Year of Sorrow." Spencer was
among the translators of Buerger's "Leonore," his version being
illustrated by Lady Diana Beauclerk (his great-aunt) in 1796. Lamb used
this anecdote as a little article in the _Reflector_, No. II., 1811,
entitled "On the Ambiguities arising from Proper Names" (see Vol. I. of
this edition). Lamb, however, by always spelling the real poet with a
"c," did nothing towards avoiding the ambiguity!
This is the sonnet which Lamb copied into Wordsworth's Spenser from
George Chalmers' _Supplemental Apology for the Believers in the
Shakespeare-Papers_ (1799), page 94:--
To the Right worshipful, my singular good _friend_, Mr. Gabriel Harvey,
Doctor of the Laws:--
"Harvey, the happy above happiest men
I read: that sitting like a looker on
Of this world's stage, doest note with critique pen
The sharp dislikes of each condition:
And as one careless of suspition,
Ne fawnest for the favour of the great:
Ne fearest foolish reprehension
Of faulty men, which danger to thee threat.
But freely doest, of what thee list, entreat,
Like a great Lord of peerless liberty:
Lifting the good up to high honours seat,
And the Evil damning ever more to dy.
For life, _and_ death is [are] in thy doomful writing:
So thy renowne lives ever by endighting."
Dublin: this xviij of July, 1586;
Your devoted _friend_, during life,
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM HAZLITT
[Dated at end: Feb. 19, 1806.]
Dear H.--Godwin has just been here in his way from Johnson's. Johnson
has had a fire in his house; this happened about five weeks ago; it was
in the daytime, so it did not burn the house down, but did so much
damage that the house must come down, to be repaired: his nephew that we
met on Hampstead Hill put it out: well, this fire has put him so back,
that he craves one more month before he gives you an answer.
I will certainly goad Godwin (if necessary) to go again this very day
four weeks; but I am confident he will want no goading.
Three or four most capital auctions of Pictures advertised. In May,
Welbore Ellis Agar's, the first private collection in England, so
Holcroft says. In March, Sir George Young's in Stratford-place (where
Cosway lives), and a Mr. Hulse's at Blackheath, both very capital
collections, and have been announc'd for some months. Also the Marquis
of Lansdowne's Pictures in March; and though inferior to mention,
lastly, the Tructhsessian gallery. Don't your mouth water to be here?
T'other night Loftus called, whom we have not seen since you went
before. We meditate a stroll next Wednesday, Fast-day. He happened to
light upon Mr. Holcroft's Wife, and Daughter, their first visit at our
Your brother called last night. We keep up our intimacy. He is going to
begin a large Madona and child from Mrs. H. and baby, I fear he goes
astray after ignes fatui. He is a clever man. By the bye, I saw a
miniature of his as far excelling any in his shew cupboard (that of your
sister not excepted) as that shew cupboard excells the shew things you
see in windows--an old woman--damn her name--but most superlative; he
has it to clean--I'll ask him the name--but the best miniature I ever
saw, equal to Cooper and them fellows. But for oil pictures!--what has
he [to] do with Madonas? if the Virgin Mary were alive and visitable, he
would not hazard himself in a Covent-Garden-pit-door crowd to see her.
It ain't his style of beauty, is it?--But he will go on painting things
he ought not to paint, and not painting things he ought to paint.
Manning is not gone to China, but talks of going this Spring. God
Coleridge not heard of.
I, going to leave off smoke. In mean time am so smoky with last night's
10 Pipes, that I must leave off.
Mary begs her kind remembrances.
Pray write to us--
This is no Letter, but I supposed you grew anxious about Johnson.
N.B.--Have taken a room at 3/- a week, to be in between 5 & 8 at night,
to avoid my _nocturnal_ alias _knock-eternal_ visitors. The first-fruits
of my retirement has been a farce which goes to manager tomorrow. _Wish
my ticket luck._ God bless you, and do write,--Yours, _fumosissimus_,
Wednesday, 19 Feb., 1806.
[Johnson was the publisher whom we have already seen considering
Hazlitt's abridgment of the _Light of Nature Revealed_.
Lamb was always interested in sales of pictures: the on-view days gave
him some of his best opportunities of seeing good painting. The
Truchsessian Picture Gallery was in New Road, opposite Portland Place.
Exhibitions were held annually, the pictures being for sale.
Loftus was Tom Loftus of Wisbech, a cousin of Hazlitt.
Holcroft's wife at that time, his fourth, was Louisa Mercier, who
afterwards married Lamb's friend, James Kenney, the dramatist. The
daughter referred to was probably Fanny Holcroft, who subsequently wrote
novels and translations.
Cooper, the miniature painter, was Samuel Cooper (1609-1672), a
connection by marriage of Pope's mother, and the painter of Cromwell and
other interesting men.
Lamb's _N.B._ contains his first mention of his farce "Mr. H." We are
not told where the 3s. room was situated. Possibly in the Temple.]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[? Feb. 20, 21 and 22, 1806.]
My dear Sarah,--I have heard that Coleridge was lately going through
Sicily to Rome with a party, but that, being unwell, he returned back to
Naples. We think there is some mistake in this account, and that his
intended journey to Rome was in his former jaunt to Naples. If you know
that at that time he had any such intention, will you write instantly?
for I do not know whether I ought to write to Mrs. Coleridge or not.
I am going to make a sort of promise to myself and to you, that I will
write you kind of journal-like letters of the daily what-we-do matters,
as they occur. This day seems to me a kind of new era in our time. It is
not a birthday, nor a new-year's day, nor a leave-off-smoking day; but
it is about an hour after the time of leaving you, our poor Phoenix, in
the Salisbury Stage; and Charles has just left me for the first time to
go to his lodgings; and I am holding a solitary consultation with myself
as to the how I shall employ myself.
Writing plays, novels, poems, and all manner of such-like vapouring and
vapourish schemes are floating in my head, which at the same time aches
with the thought of parting from you, and is perplext at the idea of
I-cannot-tell-what-about notion that I have not made you half so
comfortable as I ought to have done, and a melancholy sense of the dull
prospect you have before you on your return home. Then I think I will
make my new gown; and now I consider the white petticoat will be better
candle-light worth; and then I look at the fire, and think, if the irons
was but down, I would iron my Gowns--you having put me out of conceit of
So much for an account of my own confused head; and now for yours.
Returning home from the Inn, we took that to pieces, and ca[n]vassed
you, as you know is our usual custom. We agreed we should miss you
sadly, and that you had been, what you yourself discovered, _not at all
in our way_; and although, if the Post Master should happen to open
this, it would appear to him to be no great compliment, yet you, who
enter so warmly into the interior of our affairs, will understand and
value it, as well as what we likewise asserted, that since you have been
with us you have done but one foolish thing, _vide_ Pinckhorn (excuse my
bad Latin, if it should chance to mean exactly contrary to what I
intend). We praised you for the very friendly way in which you regarded
all our whimsies, and, to use a phrase of Coleridge's, _understood us_.
We had, in short, no drawback on our eulogy on your merit, except
lamenting the want of respect you have to yourself--the want of a
certain dignity of action, you know what I mean, which--though it only
broke out in the acceptance of the old Justice's book, and was, as it
were, smothered and almost extinct, while you were here--yet is so
native a feeling in your mind, that you will do whatever the present
moment prompts you to do, that I wish you would take that one slight
offence seriously to heart, and make it a part of your daily
consideration to drive this unlucky propensity, root and branch, out of
your character.--Then, mercy on us, what a perfect little gentlewoman
you will be!!!--
You are not yet arrived at the first stage of your journey; yet have I
the sense of your absence so strong upon me, that I was really thinking
what news I had to send you, and what had happened since you had left
us. Truly nothing, except that Martin Burney met us in
Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, and borrowed four-pence, of the repayment of which
sum I will send you due notice.
Friday [Feb. 21, 1806].--Last night I told Charles of your matrimonial
overtures from Mr. White, and of the cause of that business being at a
_stand-still_. Your generous conduct in acquainting Mr. White with the
vexatious affair at Malta highly pleased him. He entirely approves of
it. You would be quite comforted to hear what he said on the subject.
He wishes you success, and, when Coleridge comes, will consult with him
about what is best to be done. But I charge you, be most strictly
cautious how you proceed yourself. Do not give Mr. W. any reason to
think you indiscreet; let him return of his own accord, and keep the
probability of his doing so full in your mind; so, I mean, as to
regulate your whole conduct by that expectation. Do not allow yourself
to see, or in any way renew your acquaintance with, William, nor do not
do any other silly thing of that kind; for, you may depend upon it, he
will be a kind of spy upon you, and, if he observes nothing that he
disapproves of, you will certainly hear of him again in time.
Charles is gone to finish the farce, and I am to hear it read this
night. I am so uneasy between my hopes and fears of how I shall like it,
that I do not know what I am doing. I need not tell you so, for before I
send this I shall be able to tell you all about it. If I think it will
amuse you, I will send you a copy. _The bed was very cold last night._
Feb. 21 [?22]. I have received your letter, and am happy to hear that
your mother has been so well in your absence, which I wish had been
prolonged a little, for you have been wanted to copy out the Farce, in
the writing of which I made many an unlucky blunder.
The said Farce I carried (after many consultations of who was the most
proper person to perform so important an office) to Wroughton, the
Manager of Drury Lane. He was very civil to me; said it did not depend
upon himself, but that he would put it into the Proprietors' hands, and
that we should certainly have an answer from them.
I have been unable to finish this sheet before, for Charles has taken a
week's holidays [from his] lodging, to rest himself after his labour,
and we have talked to-night of nothing but the Farce night and day; but
yesterday [I carri]ed it to Wroughton; and since it has been out of the
[way, our] minds have been a little easier. I wish you had [been with]
us, to have given your opinion. I have half a mind to sc[ribble] another
copy, and send it you. I like it very much, and cannot help having great
hopes of its success.
I would say I was very sorry for the death of Mr. White's father; but
not knowing the good old gentleman, I cannot help being as well
satisfied that he is gone--for his son will feel rather lonely, and so
perhaps he may chance to visit again Winterslow. You so well describe
your brother's grave lecturing letter, that you make me ashamed of part
of mine. I would fain rewrite it, leaving out my '_sage advice_;' but if
I begin another letter, something may fall out to prevent me from
finishing it,--and, therefore, skip over it as well as you can; it shall
be the last I ever send you.
It is well enough, when one is talking to a friend, to hedge in an odd
word by way of counsel now and then; but there is something mighty
irksome in its staring upon one in a letter, where one ought only to see
kind words and friendly remembrances.
I have heard a vague report from the _Dawes_ (the pleasant-looking young
lady we called upon was Miss Daw), that Coleridge returned back to
Naples: they are to make further enquiries, and let me know the
particulars. We have seen little or nothing of Manning since you went.
Your friend [George] Burnett calls as usual, for Charles to _point out
something for him_. I miss you sadly, and but for the fidget I have been
in about the Farce, I should have missed you still more. I am sorry you
cannot get your money. Continue to tell us all your perplexities, and do
not mind being called Widow Blackacre.
Say all in your mind about your _Lover_, now Charles knows of it; he
will be as anxious to hear as me. All the time we can spare from talking
of the characters and plot of the Farce, we talk of you. I have got a
fresh bottle of Brandy to-day: if you were here, you should have a
glass, _three parts brandy_--so you should. I bought a pound of bacon
to-day, not so good as yours. I wish the little caps were finished. I am
glad the Medicines and the Cordials bore the fatigue of their journey so
well. I promise you I will write often, and _not mind the postage_. God
bless you. Charles does _not_ send his love, because he is not here.
_Write as often as ever you can_. Do not work too hard.
[Mr. Hazlitt dates this letter April, thinking that Mary Lamb's pen
slipped when she wrote February 21 half-way through. But I think
February must be right; because (1) Miss Stoddart has only just left,
and Lamb tells Hazlitt in January that she is staying a week or so
longer: April would make this time three months; and (2) Lamb has told
Hazlitt on February 19 that his farce is finished.
Coleridge left Malta for Rome on September 21, 1805. He was probably at
Naples from October, 1805, to the end of January, 1806, when he went to
Rome, remaining there until May 18. Writing to Mrs. Clarkson on March 2,
1806, Dorothy Wordsworth quotes from a letter written on February 25 by
Mary Lamb to Mrs. S.T. Coleridge and containing this passage: "My
Brother has received a letter from Stoddart dated December 26, in which
he tells him that Coleridge was then at Naples. We have also heard from
a Mr. Dawe that a friend of his had received a letter of the same date,
which mentioned Coleridge having been lately travelling towards Rome
with a party of gentlemen; but that he changed his mind and returned
back to Naples. Stoddart says nothing more than that he was driven to
Naples in consequence of the French having taken possession of Trieste."
(See the _Athenaeum_, January 23, 1904.)
"_Vide_ Pinckhorn." I cannot explain this, unless a Justice Pinckhorn
had ogled Sarah Stoddart and offered her a present of a book. Mary Lamb,
by the way, some years later taught Latin to William Hazlitt, Junior,
Martin Charles Burney, the son of Captain Burney, born in 1788, a
devoted admirer of the Lambs to the end. He was now only eighteen. We
shall often meet him again.
Mr. White was not Lamb's friend James White.
Winterslow, in Wiltshire, about six miles from Salisbury, was a small
property belonging to Sarah Stoddart.
"Widow Blackacre." In Wycherley's "Plain Dealer:" a busy-body and
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
My dear Sarah,--No intention of forfeiting my promise, but mere want of
time, has prevented me from continuing my _journal_. You seem pleased
with the long, stupid one I sent, and, therefore, I shall certainly
continue to write at every opportunity. The reason why I have not had
any time to spare, is because Charles has given himself some holidays
after the hard labour of finishing his farce, and, therefore, I have had
none of the evening leisure I promised myself. Next week he promises to
go to work again. I wish he may happen to hit upon some new plan, to his
mind, for another farce: when once begun, I do not fear his
perseverance, but the holidays he has allowed himself, I fear, will
unsettle him. I look forward to next week with the same kind of anxiety
I did to the first entrance at the new lodging. We have had, as you
know, so many teasing anxieties of late, that I have got a kind of habit
of foreboding that we shall never be comfortable, and that he will never
settle to work: which I know is wrong, and which I will try with all my
might to overcome--for certainly, if I could but see things as they
really are, our prospects are considerably improved since the memorable
day of Mrs. Fenwick's last visit. I have heard nothing of that good
lady, or of the Fells, since you left us.
We have been visiting a little--to Norris's, to Godwin's; and last night
we did not come home from Captain Burney's till two o'clock: the
_Saturday night_ was changed to _Friday_, because Rickman could not be
there to-night. We had the best _tea things_, and the litter all cleared
away, and every thing as handsome as possible--Mrs. Rickman being of the
party. Mrs. Rickman is much _increased in size_ since we saw her last,
and the alteration in her strait shape wonderfully improves her.
Phillips was there, and Charles had a long batch of Cribbage with him:
and, upon the whole, we had the most chearful evening I have known there
a long time. To-morrow, we dine at Holcroft's. These things rather
fatigue me; but I look for a quiet week next week, and hope for better
times. We have had Mrs. Brooks and all the Martins, and we have likewise
been there; so that I seem to have been in a continual bustle lately. I
do not think Charles cares so much for the Martins as he did, which is a
fact you will be glad to hear--though you must not name them when you
write: always remember, when I tell you any thing about them, not to
mention their names in return.
We have had a letter from your brother, by the same mail as yours, I
suppose; he says he does not mean to return till summer, and that is all
he says about himself; his letter being entirely filled with a long
story about Lord Nelson--but nothing more than what the newspapers have
been full of, such as his last words, &c. Why does he tease you with so
much _good advice_? is it merely to fill up his letters as he filled
ours with Lord Nelson's exploits? or has any new thing come out against
you? has he discovered Mr. Curse-a-rat's correspondence? I hope you will
not write to that _news-sending_ gentleman any more. I promised never
more to give my _advice_, but one may be allowed to _hope_ a little; and
I also hope you will have something to tell me soon about Mr. W[hite]:
have you seen him yet? I am sorry to hear your Mother is not better, but
I am in a hoping humour just now, and I cannot help hoping that we shall
all see happier days. The bells are just now ringing for the taking of
the _Cape of Good Hope_.
I have written to Mrs. Coleridge to tell her that her husband is at
Naples; your brother slightly named his being there, but he did not say
that he had heard from him himself. Charles is very busy at the Office;
he will be kept there to-day till seven or eight o'clock: and he came
home very _smoky and drinky_ last night; so that I am afraid a hard
day's work will not agree very well with him.
0 dear! what shall I say next? Why this I will say next, that I wish you
was with me; I have been eating a mutton chop all alone, and I have been
just looking in the pint porter pot, which I find quite empty, and yet I
am still very dry. If you was with me, we would have a glass of brandy
and water; but it is quite impossible to drink brandy and water by
oneself; therefore, I must wait with patience till the kettle boils. I
hate to drink tea alone, it is worse than dining alone, We have got a
fresh cargo of biscuits from Captain Burney's. I have--
_March l4._--Here I was interrupted; and a long, tedious interval has
intervened, during which I have had neither time nor inclination to
write a word. The Lodging--that pride and pleasure of your heart and
mine--is given up, _and here he is again_--Charles, I mean--as unsettled
and as undetermined as ever. When he went to the poor lodging, after the
hollidays I told you he had taken, he could not endure the solitariness
of them, and I had no rest for the sole of my foot till I promised to
believe his solemn protestations that he could and would write as well
at home as there. Do you believe this?
I have no power over Charles: he will do--what he will do. But I ought
to have some little influence over myself. And therefore I am most
manfully resolving to turn over a new leaf with my own mind. Your visit
to us, though not a very comfortable one to yourself, has been of great
use to me. I set you up in my fancy as a kind of _thing_ that takes an
interest in my concerns; and I hear you talking to me, and arguing the
matter very learnedly, when I give way to despondency. You shall hear a
good account of me, and the progress I make in altering my fretful
temper to a calm and quiet one. It is but being once thorowly convinced
one is wrong, to make one resolve to do so no more; and I know my dismal
faces have been almost as great a drawback upon Charles's comfort, as
his feverish, teazing ways have been upon mine. Our love for each other
has been the torment of our lives hitherto. I am most seriously
intending to bend the whole force of my mind to counteract this, and I
think I see some prospect of success.
Of Charles ever bringing any work to pass at home, I am very doubtful;
and of the farce succeeding, I have little or no hope; but if I could
once get into the way of being chearful myself, I should see an easy
remedy in leaving town and living cheaply, almost wholly alone; but till
I do find we really are comfortable alone, and by ourselves, it seems a
dangerous experiment. We shall certainly stay where we are till after
next Christmas; and in the mean time, as I told you before, all my whole
thoughts shall be to _change_ myself into just such a chearful soul as
you would be in a lone house, with no companion but your brother, if you
had nothing to vex you--nor no means of wandering after _Curse-a-rats_.
Do write soon: though I write all about myself, I am thinking all the
while of you, and I am uneasy at the length of time it seems since I
heard from you. Your Mother, and Mr. White, is running continually in my
head; and this _second winter_ makes me think how cold, damp, and
forlorn your solitary house will feel to you. I would your feet were
perched up again on our fender.
Manning is not yet gone. Mrs. Holcroft is brought to bed. Mrs. Reynolds
has been confined at home with illness, but is recovering. God bless
["Norris's"--Randal Norris, sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple, whose
wife, _nee_ Faint, came from Widford, where she had known Lamb's
grandmother, Mary Field.
Captain Burney's whist parties, in Little James Street, Pimlico, were,
as a rule, on Saturdays. Later Lamb established a Wednesday party.
Of Mrs. Brooks I have no knowledge; nor of him whom Mary Lamb called Mr.
"The _Cape of Good Hope_." The Cape of Good Hope, having been taken by
the English in 1795 from the Dutch, and restored to them at the Peace of
Amiens in 1802, had just been retaken by the English.
"Mrs. Holcroft is brought to bed." The child was Louisa, afterwards Mrs.
Badams, one of Lamb's correspondents late in life.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN RICKMAN
Dear Rickman,--I send you some papers about a salt-water soap, for which
the inventor is desirous of getting a parliamentary reward, like Dr.
Jenner. Whether such a project be feasible, I mainly doubt, taking for
granted the equal utility. I should suppose the usual way of paying such
projectors is by patents and contracts. The patent, you see, he has got.
A contract he is about with the Navy Board. Meantime, the projector is
hungry. Will you answer me two questions, and return them with the
papers as soon as you can? Imprimis, is there any chance of success in
application to Parliament for a reward? Did you ever hear of the
invention? You see its benefits and saving to the nation (always the
first motive with a true projector) are feelingly set forth: the last
paragraph but one of the estimate, in enumerating the shifts poor seamen
are put to, even approaches to the pathetic. But, agreeing to all he
says, is there the remotest chance of Parliament giving the projector
anything; and _when_ should application be made, now or after a report
(if he can get it) from the navy board? Secondly, let the infeasibility
be as great as you will, you will oblige me by telling me the way of
introducing such an application to Parliament, without buying over a
majority of members, which is totally out of projector's power. I vouch
nothing for the soap myself; for I always wash in _fresh water_, and
find it answer tolerably well for all purposes of cleanliness; nor do I
know the projector; but a relation of mine has put me on writing to you,
for whose parliamentary knowledge he has great veneration.
P.S. The Capt. and Mrs. Burney and Phillips take their chance at
cribbage here on Wednesday. Will you and Mrs. R. join the party? Mary
desires her compliments to Mrs. R., and joins in the invitation.
[Rickman now held the post of private secretary to the Speaker, Charles
Abbot, afterwards Lord Colchester.
Captain Burney we have already met. His wife, Sarah Burney, was, there
is good reason to suppose, in Lamb's mind when he wrote the Elia essay
"Mrs. Battle's Opinions on Whist." Phillips was either Colonel Phillips,
a retired officer of marines, who had sailed with Burney and Captain
Cook, had known Dr. Johnson, and had married Burney's sister; or Ned
Phillips (Rickman's Secretary).]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM HAZLITT
March 15, 1806.
Dear H.--I am a little surprised at no letter from you. This day week,
to wit, Saturday, the 8th of March, 1806, I booked off by the Wem coach,
Bull and Mouth Inn, directed to _you_, at the Rev. Mr. Hazlitt's, Wem,
Shropshire, a parcel containing, besides a book, &c., a rare print,
which I take to be a Titian; begging the said W.H. to acknowledge the
receipt thereof; which he not having done, I conclude the said parcel to
be lying at the inn, and may be lost; for which reason, lest you may be
a Wales-hunting at this instant, I have authorised any of your family,
whosoever first gets this, to open it, that so precious a parcel may not
moulder away for want of looking after. What do you in Shropshire when
so many fine pictures are a-going, a-going every day in London? Monday I
visit the Marquis of Lansdowne's, in Berkeley Square. Catalogue 2s. 6d.
Leonardos in plenty. Some other day this week I go to see Sir Wm.
Young's, in Stratford Place. Hulse's, of Blackheath, are also to be sold
this month; and in May, the first private collection in Europe, Welbore
Ellis Agar's. And there are you, perverting Nature in lying landscapes,
filched from old rusty Titians, such as I can scrape up here to send
you, with an additament from Shropshire Nature thrown in to make the
whole look unnatural. I am afraid of your mouth watering when I tell you
that Manning and I got into Angerstein's on Wednesday. _Mon Dieu_! Such
Claudes! Four Claudes bought for more than L10,000 (those who talk of
Wilson being equal to Claude are either mainly ignorant or stupid); one
of these was perfectly miraculous. What colours short of _bona fide_
sunbeams it could be painted in, I am not earthly colourman enough to
say; but I did not think it had been in the possibility of things. Then,
a music-piece by Titian--a thousand-pound picture--five figures standing
behind a piano, the sixth playing; none of the heads, as M. observed,
indicating great men, or affecting it, but so sweetly disposed; all
leaning separate ways, but so easy--like a flock of some divine
shepherd; the colouring, like the economy of the picture, so sweet and
harmonious--as good as Shakspeare's "Twelfth Night,"--_almost_, that is.
It will give you a love of order, and cure you of restless, fidgetty
passions for a week after--more musical than the music which it would,
but cannot, yet in a manner _does_, show. I have no room for the rest.
Let me say, Angerstein sits in a room--his study (only that and the
library are shown)--when he writes a common letter, as I am doing,
surrounded with twenty pictures worth L60,000. What a luxury! Apicius
and Heliogabalus, hide your diminished heads!
Yours, my dear painter,
[Angerstein's was the house of John Julius Angerstein (1735-1823) the
financier, in Pall Mall. He had a magnificent collection of pictures,
L60,000 worth of which were bought on his death by the nation, to form
the nucleus of our National Gallery. A portrait of Angerstein by
Lawrence hangs there. The Titian of which Lamb speaks is now attributed
to the School of Titian. It is called "A Concert." Angerstein's Claudes
are also in the National Gallery.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS MANNING
May 10, 1806.
My dear Manning--I didn't know what your going was till I shook a last
fist with you, and then 'twas just like having shaken hands with a
wretch on the fatal scaffold, and when you are down the ladder, you can
never stretch out to him again. Mary says you are dead, and there's
nothing to do but to leave it to time to do for us in the end what it
always does for those who mourn for people in such a case. But she'll
see by your letter you are not quite dead. A little kicking and agony,
and then--. Martin Burney _took me out_ a walking that evening, and we
talked of Mister Manning; and then I came home and smoked for you; and
at twelve o'Clock came home Mary and Monkey Louisa from the play, and
there was more talk and more smoking, and they all seemed first-rate
characters, because they knew a certain person. But what's the use of
talking about 'em? By the time you'll have made your escape from the
Kalmuks, you'll have staid so long I shall never be able to bring to
your mind who Mary was, who will have died about a year before, nor who
the Holcrofts were! Me perhaps you will mistake for Phillips, or
confound me with Mr. Daw, because you saw us together. Mary (whom you
seem to remember yet) is not quite easy that she had not a formal
parting from you. I wish it had so happened. But you must bring her a
token, a shawl or something, and remember a sprightly little Mandarin
for our mantle-piece, as a companion to the Child I am going to purchase
at the Museum. She says you saw her writings about the other day, and
she wishes you should know what they are. She is doing for Godwin's
bookseller twenty of Shakspear's plays, to be made into Children's
tales. Six are already done by her, to wit, 'The Tempest,' 'Winter's
Tale,' 'Midsummer Night,' 'Much Ado,' 'Two Gentlemen of Verona,' and
'Cymbeline:' 'The Merchant of Venice' is in forwardness. I have done
'Othello' and 'Macbeth,' and mean to do all the tragedies. I think it
will be popular among the little people. Besides money. It is to bring
in 60 guineas. Mary has done them capitally, I think you'd think. These
are the humble amusements we propose, while you are gone to plant the
cross of Christ among barbarous Pagan anthropophagi. Quam homo homini
praestat! but then, perhaps, you'll get murder'd, and we shall die in
our beds with a fair literary reputation. Be sure, if you see any of
those people whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders, that you make
a draught of them. It will be very curious. O Manning, I am serious to
sinking almost, when I think that all those evenings, which you have
made so pleasant, are gone perhaps for ever. Four years you talk of,
maybe ten, and you may come back and find such alterations! Some
circumstance may grow up to you or to me, that may be a bar to the
return of any such intimacy. I daresay all this is Hum, and that all
will come back; but indeed we die many deaths before we die, and I am
almost sick when I think that such a hold as I had of you is gone. I
have friends, but some of 'em are changed. Marriage, or some
circumstance, rises up to make them not the same. But I felt sure of
you. And that last token you gave me of expressing a wish to have my
name joined with yours, you know not how it affected me: like a legacy.
God bless you in every way you can form a wish. May He give you health,
and safety, and the accomplishment of all your objects, and return you
again to us, to gladden some fireside or other (I suppose we shall be
moved from the Temple). I will nurse the remembrance of your steadiness
and quiet, which used to infuse something like itself into our nervous
minds. Mary called you our ventilator. Farewell, and take her best
wishes and mine.
One thing more. When you get to Canton, you will most likely see a young
friend of mine, Inspector of Teas, named Ball. He is a very good fellow
and I should like to have my name talked of in China. Give my kind
remembrances to the same Ball. Good bye.
I have made strict inquiries through my friend Thompson as to your
affairs with the Comp'y. If there had been a committee yesterday an
order would have been sent to the captain to draw on them for your
passage money, but there was no Committee. But in the secretary's orders
to receive you on board, it was specified that the Company would defray
your passage, all the orders about you to the supercargoes are certainly
in your ship. Here I will manage anything you may want done. What can I
add but take care of yourself. We drink tea with the Holcrofts
[Addressed to "Mr. Manning, Passenger on Board the _Thames_, East
Manning sailed for China this month. He did not return to England until
1817. His nominal purpose was to practise medicine there, not to spread
Christianity, as Lamb suggests--probably in fun.
This is Manning's reply to Lamb's letter:--
"Dear Lamb--As we are not sailed yet, and I have a few minutes, why
should not I give you a line to say that I received your kind letter
yesterday, and shall read it again before I have done with it. I am
sorry I had not time to call on Mary, but I did not even call on my own
Father, and he's 70 and loves me like a Father. I don't know that you
can do any thing for me at the India House: if you hear any thing there
about me, communicate it to Mr. Crabtree, 13, Newgate Street. I am not
dead, nor dying--some people go into Yorkshire for four [years], and I
have no currant jelly aboard. Tell Holcroft I received his kind letter."
"T. MANNING for ever."]
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[Mr. W.C. Hazlitt dates: June 2, 1806.]
My dear Sarah,--You say truly that I have sent you too many make-believe
letters. I do not mean to serve you so again, if I can help it. I have
been very ill for some days past with the toothache. Yesterday, I had it
drawn; and I feel myself greatly relieved, but far from easy, for my
head and my jaws still ache; and, being unable to do any business, I
would wish to write you a long letter, to atone for my former offences;
but I feel so languid, that I am afraid wishing is all I can do.
I am sorry you are so worried with business; and I am still more sorry
for your sprained ancle. You ought not to walk upon it. What is the
matter between you and your good-natured maid you used to boast of? and
what the devil is the matter with your Aunt? You say she is
discontented. You must bear with them as well as you can; for,
doubtless, it is you[r] poor Mother's teazing that puts you all out of
sorts. I pity you from my heart.
We cannot come to see you this summer, nor do I think it advisable to
come and incommode you, when you for the same expence could come to us.
Whenever you feel yourself disposed to run away from your troubles, come
up to us again. I wish it was not such a long, expensive journey, then
you could run backwards and forwards every month or two.
I am very sorry you still hear nothing from Mr. White. I am afraid that
is all at an end. What do you intend to do about Mr. Turner?
I believe Mr. Rickman is well again, but I have not been able to get out
lately to enquire, because of my toothache. Louisa Martin is quite well
William Hazlitt, the brother of him you know, is in town. I believe you
have heard us say we like him? He came in good time; for the loss of
Manning made Charles very dull, and he likes Hazlitt better than any
body, except Manning.
My toothache has moped Charles to death: you know how he hates to see
Mrs. Reynolds has been this month past at Deptford, so that I never know
when Monday comes. I am glad you have got your Mother's pension.
My _Tales_ are to be published in separate story-books; I mean, in
single stories, like the children's little shilling books. I cannot send
you them in Manuscript, because they are all in the Godwins' hands; but
one will be published very soon, and then you shall have it _all in
print_. I go on very well, and have no doubt but I shall always be able
to hit upon some such kind of job to keep going on. I think I shall get
fifty pounds a year at the lowest calculation; but as I have not yet
seen any _money_ of my own earning, for we do not expect to be paid till
Christmas, I do not feel the good fortune, that has so unexpectedly
befallen me, half so much as I ought to do. But another year, no doubt,
I shall perceive it.
When I write again, you will hear tidings of the farce, for Charles is
to go in a few days to the Managers to enquire about it. But that must
now be a next-year's business too, even if it does succeed; so it's all
looking forward, and no prospect of present gain. But that's better than
no hopes at all, either for present or future times.
Charles has written Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, and has begun Hamlet;
you would like to see us, as we often sit, writing on one table (but not
on one cushion sitting), like Hermia and Helena in the Midsummer's
Night's Dream; or, rather, like an old literary Darby and Joan: I taking
snuff, and he groaning all the while, and saying he can make nothing of
it, which he always says till he has finished, and then he finds out he
has made something of it.
If I tell you that you Widow-Blackacreise, you must tell me I Tale-ise,
for my _Tales_ seem to be all the subject matter I write about; and when
you see them, you will think them poor little baby-stories to make such
a talk about; but I have no news to send, nor nothing, in short, to say,
that is worth paying two pence for. I wish I could get franks, then I
should not care how short or stupidly I wrote.
Charles smokes still, and will smoke to the end of the chapter.
Martin [Burney] has just been here. My Tales (_again_) and Charles's
Farce has made the boy mad to turn Author; and he has written a Farce,
and he has made the Winter's Tale into a story; but what Charles says of
himself is really true of Martin, for _he can make nothing at all of
it_: and I have been talking very eloquently this morning, to convince
him that nobody can write farces, &c., under thirty years of age. And so
I suppose he will go home and new model his farce.
What is Mr. Turner? and what is likely to come of him? and how do you
like him? and what do you intend to do about it? I almost wish you to
remain single till your Mother dies, and then come and live with us; and
we would either get you a husband, or teach you how to live comfortably
without. I think I should like to have you always to the end of our
lives living with us; and I do not know any reason why that should not
be, except for the great fancy you seem to have for marrying, which
after all is but a hazardous kind of an affair: but, however, do as you
like; every man knows best what pleases himself best.
I have known many single men I should have liked in my life (_if it had
suited them_) for a husband: but very few husbands have I ever wished
was mine, which is rather against the state in general; but one never is
disposed to envy wives their good husbands. So much for marrying--but
however, get married, if you can.
I say we shall not come and see you, and I feel sure we shall not: but,
if some sudden freak was to come into our wayward heads, could you at
all manage?--Your Mother we should not mind, but I think still it would
be so vastly inconvenient.--I am certain we shall not come, and yet
_you_ may tell me, when you write, if it would be horribly inconvenient
if we did; and do not tell me any lies, but say truly whether you would
rather we did or not.
God bless you, my dearest Sarah! I wish, for your sake, I could have
written a very amusing letter; but do not scold, for my head aches
sadly. Don't mind my headach, for before you get this it will be well,
being only from the pains of my jaws and teeth. Farewell.
[This letter contains the first mention to Sarah Stoddart of William
Hazlitt, who was shortly to put an end to the claims both of Mr. White
and Mr. Turner.
The _Tales from Shakespear_, although mainly Mary Lamb's book, did not
bear her name for many years, not until after her brother's death. Her
connection with it was, however, made public in more than one literary
year-book of her day. Originally they were to be unsigned, but Godwin
"cheated" Lamb into putting a name to them (see letter of Jan. 29,
1807). The single stories, which Mrs. Godwin issued at sixpence each,
are now excessively rare. The ordinary first edition in two volumes is a
valuable possession, much desired by collectors.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
[P.M. June 26, 1806.]
Dear Wordsworth--We got the six pounds safe in your sister's
letters--are pleased, you may be sure, with the good news of Mrs.
W.--hope all is well over by this time. "A fine boy!--have you any more?
one more and a girl--poor copies of me" vide MR. H. a farce which the
Proprietors have done me the honor--but I will set down Mr. Wroughton's
own words. N.B. the ensuing letter was sent in answer to one which I
wrote begging to know if my piece had any chance, as I might make
alterations, &c. I writing on the Monday, there comes this letter on the
(_Copy of a Letter from Mr. R'd. Wroughton_)
Sir, Your Piece of Mr. H--I am desired to say, is accepted at Drury Lane
Theatre, by the Proprietors, and, if agreeable to you, will be brought
forwards when the proper opportunity serves--the Piece shall be sent to
you for your Alterations in the course of a few days, as the same is not
in my Hands but with the Proprietors.
(dated) I am Sir,
66 Gower St., Your obedient ser't.,
Wednesday R'd. WROUGHTON.
June 11, 1806.
On the following Sunday Mr. Tobin comes. The scent of a manager's letter
brought him. He would have gone further any day on such a business. I
read the letter to him. He deems it authentic and peremptory. Our
conversation naturally fell upon pieces--different sorts of pieces--what
is the best way of offering a piece--how far the caprice of managers is
an obstacle in the way of a piece--how to judge of the merits of a
piece--how long a piece may remain in the hands of the managers before
it is acted--and my piece--and your piece--and my poor brother's
piece--my poor brother was all his life endeavouring to get a piece
I am not sure that when _my poor Brother_ bequeathed the care of his
pieces to Mr. James Tobin he did not therein convey a legacy which in
some measure mollified the otherwise first stupefactions of grief. It
can't be expected that the present Earl Nelson passes all his time in
watering the laurels of the Admiral with Right Reverend Tears. Certainly
he steals a fine day now and then to plot how to lay out the grounds and
mansion at Burnham most suitably to the late Earl's taste, if he had
lived, and how to spend the hundred thousand pound parliament has given
him in erecting some little neat monument to his memory.
MR. H. I wrote that in mere wantonness of triumph. Have nothing more to
say about it. The Managers I thank my stars have decided its merits for
ever. They are the best judges of pieces, and it would be insensible in
me to affect a false modesty after the very flattering letter which I
have received and the ample--
I think this will be as good a pattern for Orders as I can think on. A
little thin flowery border round, neat not gaudy, and the Drury Lane
Apollo with the harp at the top. Or shall I have no Apollo?--simply
nothing? Or perhaps the Comic Muse?
The same form, only I think without the Apollo, will serve for the pit
and galleries. I think it will be best to write my name at full length;
but then if I give away a great many, that will be tedious. Perhaps _Ch.
Lamb_ will do. BOXES now I think on it I'll have in Capitals. The rest
in a neat Italian hand. Or better perhaps, BOXES, in old English
character, like Madoc or Thalaba?
I suppose you know poor Mountague has lost his wife. That has been the
reason for my sending off all we have got of yours separately. I thought
it a bad time to trouble him. The Tea 25 lb. in 5 5 lb. Papers, two
sheets to each, with the chocolate which we were afraid Mrs. W. would
want, comes in one Box and the Hats in a small one. I booked them off
last night by the Kendal waggon. There comes with this letter (no, it
comes a day or two earlier) a Letter for you from the Doctor at Malta,
about Coleridge, just received. Nothing of certainty, you see, only that
he is not at Malta. We supt with the Clarksons one night--Mrs. Clarkson
pretty well. Mr. C. somewhat fidgety, but a good man. The Baby has been
on a visit to Mrs. Charlotte Smith, Novellist and morals-trainer, but is
returned. [_A short passage omitted here._]
Mary is just stuck fast in All's Well that Ends Well. She complains of
having to set forth so many female characters in boy's clothes. She
begins to think Shakspear must have wanted Imagination. I to encourage
her, for she often faints in the prosecution of her great work, flatter
her with telling her how well such a play and such a play is done. But
she is stuck fast and I have been obliged to promise to assist her. To
do this it will be necessary to leave off Tobacco. But I had some
thoughts of doing that before, for I sometimes think it does not agree
with me. W. Hazlitt is in Town. I took him to see a very pretty girl
professedly, where there were two young girls--the very head and sum of
the Girlery was two young girls--they neither laughed nor sneered nor
giggled nor whispered--but they were young girls--and he sat and frowned
blacker and blacker, indignant that there should be such a thing as
Youth and Beauty, till he tore me away before supper in perfect misery
and owned he could not bear young girls. They drove him mad. So I took
him home to my old Nurse, where he recover'd perfect tranquillity.
Independent of this, and as I am not a young girl myself, he is a great
acquisition to us. He is, rather imprudently, I think, printing a
political pamphlet on his own account, and will have to pay for the
paper, &c. The first duty of an Author, I take it, is never to pay
anything. But non cuivis attigit adire Corinthum. The Managers I thank
my stars have settled that question for me.
[Wordsworth's third child, Thomas, who did not grow up, was born June
"A fine boy!" The quotation is from Mr. H.'s soliloquy after the
discovery of his name:--"No son of mine shall exist, to bear my
ill-fated name. No nurse come chuckling, to tell me it is a boy. No
midwife, leering at me from under the lids of professional gravity. I
dreamed of caudle. (_Sings in a melancholy tone_) Lullaby, Lullaby,--
hush-a-by-baby--how like its papa it is!--(_makes motions as if he was
nursing_). And then, when grown up, 'Is this your son, sir?' 'Yes, sir,
a poor copy of me,--a sad young dog!--just what his father was at his
age,--I have four more at home.' Oh! oh! oh!"
Tobin was James Tobin, whom we have already met, brother of the late
dramatist, John Tobin.
Poor Mountague would be Basil Montagu, whose second wife had just died.
He married afterwards Anne Skepper, whom Lamb came to know well, and of
whom he speaks in his _Elia_ essay "Oxford in the Vacation."
The Doctor was Dr. Stoddart. Coleridge had left Malta some months
before, as we have seen. He had also left Rome and was in some foreign
town unknown, probably not far from Leghorn, whence he sailed for
England in the following month, reaching Portsmouth in August.
The Baby was Mrs. Godwin, and Charlotte Smith was the poetess (of great
fame in her day, but now forgotten), who was then living at Tilford,
near Farnham, in Surrey. She died in the following October. The passage
which I have, with extreme reluctance, omitted, refers to the physical
development of the two ladies. Lamb was writing just then less for
Wordsworth than Antiquity.
Hazlitt's political pamphlet was his _Free Thoughts on Public Affairs_,
MARY LAMB TO SARAH STODDART
[No date. ? Begun on Friday, July 4, 1806.]
Charles and Hazlitt are going to Sadler's Wells, and I am amusing myself
in their absence with reading a manuscript of Hazlitt's; but have laid
it down to write a few lines, to tell you how we are going on. Charles
has begged a month's hollidays, of which this is the first day, and they
are all to be spent at home. We thank you for your kind invitations, and
were half-inclined to come down to you; but after mature deliberation,
and many wise consultations, such as you know we often hold, we came to
the resolution of staying quietly at home: and during the hollidays we
are both of us to set stoutly to work and finish the Tales, six of them
being yet to do. We thought, if we went anywhere and left them undone,
they would lay upon our minds; and that when we returned, we should feel
unsettled, and our money all spent besides: and next summer we are to be
very rich, and then we can afford a long journey some where, I will not
say to Salisbury, because I really think it is better for you to come to
us; but of that we will talk another time.
The best news I have to send you is, that the Farce is accepted. That is
to say, the manager has written to say it shall be brought out when an
opportunity serves. I hope that it may come out by next Christmas: you
must come and see it the first night; for if it succeeds, it will be a
great pleasure to you, and if it should not, we shall want your
consolation. So you must come.
I shall soon have done my work, and know not what to begin next. Now,
will you set your brains to work and invent a story, either for a short
child's story, or a long one that would make a kind of Novel, or a Story
that would make a play. Charles wants me to write a play, but I am not
over anxious to set about it; but seriously will you draw me out a
skeleton of a story, either from memory of any thing that you have read,
or from your own invention, and I will fill it up in some way or other.
The reason I have not written so long is, that I worked, and worked, in
hopes to get through my task before the hollidays began; but at last I
was not able, for Charles was forced to get them now, or he could not
have had any at all: and having picked out the best stories first, these
latter ones take more time, being more perplext and unmanageable. But
however I hope soon to tell you that they are quite completed. I have
finished one to-day which teazed me more than all the rest put together.
The[y] sometimes plague me as bad as your _Lovers_ do you. How do you go
on, and how many new ones have you had lately?
I met Mrs. Fenwick at Mrs. Holcroft's the other day; she loo[ked very]
placid and smiling, but I was so disconcerted that I hardly knew how to
sit upon my chair. She invited us to come and see her, but we did not
invite her in return; and nothing at all was said in an explanatory
sort: so that matter rests at present.
Mrs. Rickman continues very ill--so ill, that there are no hopes of her
recovery--for which I am very sorry indeed.
I am sorry you are altogether so uncomfortable; I shall be glad to hear
you are settled at Salisbury: that must be better than living in a lone
house, companionless as you are. I wish you could afford to bring your
Mother up to London; but that is quite impossible.
Your brother wrote a letter a week ago (which passed through our hands)
to Wordsworth, to tell him all he knew of Coleridge; but as he had not
heard from C. for some time, there was nothing in the letter we did not
Thanks for your brother's letters. I preserve them very carefully, and
you shall have them (as the Manager says) when opportunity serves.
Mrs. Wordsworth is brought to bed; and I ought to write to Miss
Wordsworth to thank her for the information, but I suppose I shall defer
it till another child is coming. I do so hate writing letters. I wish
all my friends would come and live in town. Charles has been telling me
even it is better [than] two months that he ought to write to your
brother. [It is not] my dislike to writing letters that prevents my
[writing] to you, but sheer want of time, I assure you, because [I know]
you care not how stupidly I write, so as you do but [hear at the] time
what we are about.
Let me hear from you soon, and do let me hear some [good news,] and
don't let me hear of your walking with sprained ancles again; no
business is an excuse for making yourself lame.
I hope your poor Mother is better, and Aunty and Maid jog on pretty
well; remember me to them all in due form and order. Charles's love, and
our best wishes that all your little busy affairs may come to a
They (Hazlitt and Charles) came home from Sadler's Wells so dismal and
dreary dull on Friday, that I gave them both a good scolding--_quite a
setting to rights_; and I think it has done some good, for Charles has
been very chearful ever since. I begin to hope the _home hollidays_ will
go on very well. Mrs. Rickman is better. Rickman we saw at Captain
Burney's for the first time since her illness last night.
Write directly, for I am uneasy about your _Lovers_; I wish something
was settled. God bless you.
Once more, yours affectionately,
_Sunday morning [July 6, or more probably 13]_.--I did not put this in
the post, hoping to be able to write a less dull letter to you this
morning; but I have been prevented, so it shall go as it is. I am in
good spirits just at this present time, for Charles has been reading
over the _Tale_ I told you plagued me so much, and he thinks it one of
the very best: it is All's Well that Ends Well. You must not mind the
many wretchedly dull letters I have sent you; for, indeed, I cannot help
it, my mind is so _dry_ always after poring over my work all day. But it
will soon be over.
I am cooking a shoulder of Lamb (Hazlitt dines with us); it will be
ready at two o'Clock, if you can pop in and eat a bit with us.
[The programme at Sadler's Wells on July 4, 1806, was: "Aquatic Theatre,
Sadler's Wells. A new dance called Grist and Puff, or the Highland
Fling. The admired comic pantomime, Harlequin and the Water Kelpe. New
melodramatic Romance, The Invisible Ring; or, The Water Monstre and Fire
Spectre." The author of both was Mr. C. Dibdin, Jun. "Real water."
Mary Lamb's next work, after the _Tales from Shakespear_, was _Mrs.
Leicester's School_. Charles Lamb meanwhile was preparing his _Dramatic
Specimens_ and _Adventures of Ulysses_.
Mrs. Rickman did not die then, She lived until 1836.]
MARY LAMB TO DOROTHY WORDSWORTH
[P.M. August 29, 1806.]
My dear Miss Wordsworth--After I had put my letter in the post yesterday
I was uneasy all the night because of some few expressions relative to
poor Coleridge--I mean, in saying I wished your brother would come to
town and that I wished your brother would consult Mr. Southey. I am very
sure your brother will take no step in consequence of any foolish advice
that I can give him, so far I am easy, but the painful reflections I
have had during a sleepless night has induced me to write merely to
quiet myself, because I have felt ever since, that in the present
situation of Coleridge, returned after an absence of two years, and
feeling a reluctance to return to his family, I ought not to throw in
the weight of a hair in advising you or your Brother, and that I ought
not to have so much as named to you his reluctance to return to Keswick,
for so little is it in my power to calculate on his actions that perhaps
in a few days he may be on his return home.
You, my dear friend, will perfectly understand me that I do not mean
that I might not freely say to you anything that is upon my mind--but
[the] truth is, my poor mind is so weak that I never dare trust my own
judgement in anything: what I think one hour a fit of low spirits makes
me unthink the next. Yesterday I wrote, anxiously longing for Mr.
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