The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Volume 2
Charles Lamb

Part 5 out of 11

reckon Court Calendars, Directories, Pocket Books, Draught Boards
bound and lettered at the back, Scientific Treatises, Almanacks,
Statutes at Large; the works of Hume, Gibbon, Robertson, Beattie,
Soame Jenyns, and, generally, all those volumes which "no gentleman's
library should be without:" the Histories of Flavins Josephus (that
learned Jew), and Paley's Moral Philosophy. With these exceptions, I
can read almost any thing. I bless my stars for a taste so catholic,
so unexcluding.

I confess that it moves my spleen to see these _things in books'
clothing_ perched upon shelves, like false saints, usurpers of true
shrines, intruders into the sanctuary, thrusting out the legitimate
occupants. To reach down a well-bound semblance of a volume, and
hope it is some kind-hearted play-book, then, opening what "seem its
leaves," to come bolt upon a withering Population Essay. To expect a
Steele, or a Farquhar, and find--Adam Smith. To view a well-arranged
assortment of blockheaded Encyclopaedias (Anglicanas or Metropolitanas)
set out in an array of Russia, or Morocco, when a tithe of that
good leather would comfortably re-clothe my shivering folios; would
renovate Paracelsus himself, and enable old Raymund Lully to look like
himself again in the world. I never see these impostors, but I long to
strip them, to warm my ragged veterans in their spoils.

To be strong-backed and neat-bound is the desideratum of a volume.
Magnificence comes after. This, when it can be afforded, is not to be
lavished upon all kinds of books indiscriminately. I would not dress
a set of Magazines, for instance, in full suit. The dishabille, or
half-binding (with Russia backs ever) is _our_ costume. A Shakespeare,
or a Milton (unless the first editions), it were mere foppery to trick
out in gay apparel. The possession of them confers no distinction. The
exterior of them (the things themselves being so common), strange to
say, raises no sweet emotions, no tickling sense of property in the
owner. Thomson's Seasons, again, looks best (I maintain it) a little
torn, and dog's-eared. How beautiful to a genuine lover of reading
are the sullied leaves, and worn out appearance, nay, the very
odour (beyond Russia), if we would not forget kind feelings in
fastidiousness, of an old "Circulating Library" Tom Jones, or Vicar
of Wakefield! How they speak of the thousand thumbs, that have turned
over their pages with delight!--of the lone sempstress, whom they may
have cheered (milliner, or harder-working mantua-maker) after her long
day's needle-toil, running far into midnight, when she has snatched an
hour, ill spared from sleep, to steep her cares, as in some Lethean
cup, in spelling out their enchanting contents! Who would have them a
whit less soiled? What better condition could we desire to see them

In some respects the better a book is, the less it demands from
binding. Fielding, Smollet, Sterne, and all that class of perpetually
self-reproductive volumes--Great Nature's Stereotypes--we see them
individually perish with less regret, because we know the copies
of them to be "eterne." But where a book is at once both good and
rare--where the individual is almost the species, and when _that_

We know not where is that Promethean torch
That can its light relumine--

such a book, for instance, as the Life of the Duke of Newcastle, by
his Duchess--no casket is rich enough, no casing sufficiently durable,
to honour and keep safe such a jewel.

Not only rare volumes of this description, which seem hopeless ever to
be reprinted; but old editions of writers, such as Sir Philip Sydney,
Bishop Taylor, Milton in his prose-works, Fuller--of whom we _have_
reprints, yet the books themselves, though they go about, and are
talked of here and there, we know, have not endenizened themselves
(nor possibly ever will) in the national heart, so as to become stock
books--it is good to possess these in durable and costly covers. I do
not care for a First Folio of Shakspeare. I rather prefer the common
editions of Rowe and Tonson, without notes, and with _plates_, which,
being so execrably bad, serve as maps, or modest remembrancers, to the
text; and without pretending to any supposable emulation with it, are
so much better than the Shakspeare gallery _engravings_, which _did_.
I have a community of feeling with my countrymen about his Plays, and
I like those editions of him best, which have been oftenest tumbled
about and handled.--On the contrary, I cannot read Beaumont and
Fletcher but in Folio. The Octavo editions are painful to look at. I
have no sympathy with them. If they were as much read as the current
editions of the other poet, I should prefer them in that shape to the
older one. I do not know a more heartless sight than the reprint of
the Anatomy of Melancholy. What need was there of unearthing the bones
of that fantastic old great man, to expose them in a winding-sheet of
the newest fashion to modern censure? what hapless stationer could
dream of Burton ever becoming popular?--The wretched Malone could not
do worse, when he bribed the sexton of Stratford church to let him
white-wash the painted effigy of old Shakspeare, which stood there,
in rude but lively fashion depicted, to the very colour of the cheek,
the eye, the eye-brow, hair, the very dress he used to wear--the only
authentic testimony we had, however imperfect, of these curious parts
and parcels of him. They covered him over with a coat of white paint.
By ----, if I had been a justice of peace for Warwickshire, I would
have clapt both commentator and sexton fast in the stocks, for a pair
of meddling sacrilegious varlets.

I think I see them at their work--these sapient trouble-tombs.

Shall I be thought fantastical, if I confess, that the names of some
of our poets sound sweeter, and have a finer relish to the ear--to
mine, at least--than that of Milton or of Shakspeare? It may be, that
the latter are more staled and rung upon in common discourse. The
sweetest names, and which carry a perfume in the mention, are, Kit
Marlowe, Drayton, Drummond of Hawthornden, and Cowley.

Much depends upon _when_ and _where_ you read a book. In the five or
six impatient minutes, before the dinner is quite ready, who would
think of taking up the Fairy Queen for a stop-gap, or a volume of
Bishop Andrewes' sermons?

Milton almost requires a solemn service of music to be played before
you enter upon him. But he brings his music, to which, who listens,
had need bring docile thoughts, and purged ears.

Winter evenings--the world shut out--with less of ceremony the gentle
Shakspeare enters. At such a season, the Tempest, or his own Winter's

These two poets you cannot avoid reading aloud--to yourself, or (as
it chances) to some single person listening. More than one--and it
degenerates into an audience.

Books of quick interest, that hurry on for incidents, are for the eye
to glide over only. It will not do to read them out. I could never
listen to even the better kind of modern novels without extreme

A newspaper, read out, is intolerable. In some of the Bank offices
it is the custom (to save so much individual time) for one of the
clerks--who is the best scholar--to commence upon the Times, or the
Chronicle, and recite its entire contents aloud _pro bono publico_.
With every advantage of lungs and elocution, the effect is singularly
vapid. In barbers' shops and public-houses a fellow will get up,
and spell out a paragraph, which he communicates as some discovery.
Another follows with _his_ selection. So the entire journal transpires
at length by piece-meal. Seldom-readers are slow readers, and, without
this expedient no one in the company would probably ever travel
through the contents of a whole paper.

Newspapers always excite curiosity. No one ever lays one down without
a feeling of disappointment.

What an eternal time that gentleman in black, at Nando's, keeps the
paper! I am sick of hearing the waiter bawling out incessantly, "the
Chronicle is in hand, Sir."

Coming in to an inn at night--having ordered your supper--what can be
more delightful than to find lying in the window-seat, left there time
out of mind by the carelessness of some former guest--two or three
numbers of the old Town and Country Magazine, with its amusing
_tete-a-tete_ pictures--"The Royal Lover and Lady G----;" "The Melting
Platonic and the old Beau,"--and such like antiquated scandal? Would
you exchange it--at that time, and in that place--for a better book?

Poor Tobin, who latterly fell blind, did not regret it so much for the
weightier kinds of reading--the Paradise Lost, or Comus, he could have
_read_ to him--but he missed the pleasure of skimming over with his
own eye a magazine, or a light pamphlet.

I should not care to be caught in the serious avenues of some
cathedral alone, and reading _Candide_.

I do not remember a more whimsical surprise than having been once
detected--by a familiar damsel--reclined at my ease upon the grass, on
Primrose Hill (her Cythera), reading--_Pamela_. There was nothing in
the book to make a man seriously ashamed at the exposure; but as she
seated herself down by me, and seemed determined to read in company,
I could have wished it had been--any other book. We read on very
sociably for a few pages; and, not finding the author much to her
taste, she got up, and--went away. Gentle casuist, I leave it to thee
to conjecture, whether the blush (for there was one between us) was
the property of the nymph or the swain in this dilemma. From me you
shall never get the secret.

I am not much a friend to out-of-doors reading. I cannot settle my
spirits to it. I knew a Unitarian minister, who was generally to be
seen upon Snow-hill (as yet Skinner's-street _was not_), between the
hours of ten and eleven in the morning, studying a volume of Lardner.
I own this to have been a strain of abstraction beyond my reach. I
used to admire how he sidled along, keeping clear of secular contacts.
An illiterate encounter with a porter's knot, or a bread basket, would
have quickly put to flight all the theology I am master of, and have
left me worse than indifferent to the five points.

There is a class of street-readers, whom I can never contemplate
without affection--the poor gentry, who, not having wherewithal to buy
or hire a book, filch a little learning at the open stalls--the owner,
with his hard eye, casting envious looks at them all the while, and
thinking when they will have done. Venturing tenderly, page after
page, expecting every moment when he shall interpose his interdict,
and yet unable to deny themselves the gratification, they "snatch
a fearful joy." Martin B----, in this way, by daily fragments,
got through two volumes of Clarissa, when the stall-keeper damped
his laudable ambition, by asking him (it was in his younger days)
whether he meant to purchase the work. M. declares, that under no
circumstances of his life did he ever peruse a book with half the
satisfaction which he took in those uneasy snatches. A quaint poetess
of our day has moralised upon this subject in two very touching but
homely stanzas.

I saw a boy with eager eye
Open a book upon a stall,
And read, as he'd devour it all;
Which when the stall-man did espy,
Soon to the boy I heard him call,
"You, Sir, you never buy a book,
Therefore in one you shall not look."
The boy pass'd slowly on, and with a sigh
He wish'd he never had been taught to read,
Then of the old churl's books he should have had no need.

Of sufferings the poor have many,
Which never can the rich annoy:
I soon perceiv'd another boy,
Who look'd as if he'd not had any
Food, for that day at least--enjoy
The sight of cold meat in a tavern larder.
This boy's case, then thought I, is surely harder,
Thus hungry, longing, thus without a penny,
Beholding choice of dainty-dressed meat:
No wonder if he wish he ne'er had learn'd to eat.


I am fond of passing my vacations (I believe I have said so before) at
one or other of the Universities. Next to these my choice would fix
me at some woody spot, such as the neighbourhood of Henley affords in
abundance, upon the banks of my beloved Thames. But somehow or other
my cousin contrives to wheedle me once in three or four seasons to a
watering place. Old attachments cling to her in spite of experience.
We have been dull at Worthing one summer, duller at Brighton another,
dullest at Eastbourn a third, and are at this moment doing dreary
penance at--Hastings!--and all because we were happy many years ago
for a brief week at--Margate. That was our first sea-side experiment,
and many circumstances combined to make it the most agreeable holyday
of my life. We had neither of us seen the sea, and we had never been
from home so long together in company.

Can I forget thee, thou old Margate Hoy, with thy weather-beaten,
sun-burnt captain, and his rough accommodations--ill exchanged for the
foppery and fresh-water niceness of the modern steam-packet? To the
winds and waves thou committedst thy goodly freightage, and didst
ask no aid of magic fumes, and spells, and boiling cauldrons. With
the gales of heaven thou wentest swimmingly; or, when it was their
pleasure, stoodest still with sailor-like patience. Thy course was
natural, not forced, as in a hot-bed; nor didst thou go poisoning
the breath of ocean with sulphureous smoke--a great sea-chimaera,
chimneying and furnacing the deep; or liker to that fire-god parching
up Scamander.

Can I forget thy honest, yet slender crew, with their coy reluctant
responses (yet to the suppression of anything like contempt, to the
raw questions, which we of the great city would be ever and anon
putting to them, as to the uses of this or that strange naval
implement?) 'Specially can I forget thee, thou happy medium, thou shade
of refuge between us and them, conciliating interpreter of their skill
to our simplicity, comfortable ambassador between sea and land!--whose
sailor-trowsers did not more convincingly assure thee to be an adopted
denizen of the former, than thy white cap, and whiter apron over them,
with thy neat-fingered practice in thy culinary vocation, bespoke thee
to have been of inland nurture heretofore--a master cook of Eastcheap?
How busily didst thou ply thy multifarious occupation, cook, mariner,
attendant, chamberlain; here, there, like another Ariel, flaming at
once about all parts of the deck, yet with kindlier ministrations--not
to assist the tempest, but, as if touched with a kindred sense of our
infirmities, to soothe the qualms which that untried motion might
haply raise in our crude land-fancies. And when the o'er-washing
billows drove us below deck (for it was far gone in October, and we
had stiff and blowing weather) how did thy officious ministerings,
still catering for our comfort, with cards, and cordials, and thy more
cordial conversation, alleviate the closeness and the confinement of
thy else (truth to say) not very savoury, nor very inviting, little

With these additaments to boot, we had on board a fellow-passenger,
whose discourse in verity might have beguiled a longer voyage than we
meditated, and have made mirth and wonder abound as far as the Azores.
He was a dark, Spanish complexioned young man, remarkably handsome,
with an officer-like assurance, and an insuppressible volubility of
assertion. He was, in fact, the greatest liar I had met with then,
or since. He was none of your hesitating, half story-tellers (a most
painful description of mortals) who go on sounding your belief, and
only giving you as much as they see you can swallow at a time--the
nibbling pickpockets of your patience--but one who committed
downright, daylight depredations upon his neighbour's faith. He did
not stand shivering upon the brink, but was a hearty thoroughpaced
liar, and plunged at once into the depths of your credulity. I partly
believe, he made pretty sure of his company. Not many rich, not
many wise, or learned, composed at that time the common stowage
of a Margate packet. We were, I am afraid, a set of as unseasoned
Londoners (let our enemies give it a worse name) as Aldermanbury, or
Watling-street, at that time of day could have supplied. There might
be an exception or two among us, but I scorn to make any invidious
distinctions among such a jolly, companionable ship's company, as
those were whom I sailed with. Something too must be conceded to the
_Genius Loci_. Had the confident fellow told us half the legends on
land, which he favoured us with on the other element, I flatter myself
the good sense of most of us would have revolted. But we were in a new
world, with everything unfamiliar about us, and the time and place
disposed us to the reception of any prodigious marvel whatsoever. Time
has obliterated from my memory much of his wild fablings; and the
rest would appear but dull, as written, and to be read on shore. He
had been Aid-de-camp (among other rare accidents and fortunes) to
a Persian prince, and at one blow had stricken off the head of the
King of Carimania on horseback. He, of course, married the Prince's
daughter. I forget what unlucky turn in the politics of that court,
combining with the loss of his consort, was the reason of his quitting
Persia; but with the rapidity of a magician he transported himself,
along with his hearers, back to England, where we still found
him in the confidence of great ladies. There was some story of a
Princess--Elizabeth, if I remember--having intrusted to his care an
extraordinary casket of jewels, upon some extraordinary occasion--but
as I am not certain of the name or circumstance at this distance of
time, I must leave it to the Royal daughters of England to settle the
honour among themselves in private. I cannot call to mind half his
pleasant wonders; but I perfectly remember, that in the course of his
travels he had seen a phoenix; and he obligingly undeceived us of
the vulgar error, that there is but one of that species at a time,
assuring us that they were not uncommon in some parts of Upper Egypt.
Hitherto he had found the most implicit listeners. His dreaming
fancies had transported us beyond the "ignorant present." But when
(still hardying more and more in his triumphs over our simplicity) he
went on to affirm that he had actually sailed through the legs of the
Colossus at Rhodes, it really became necessary to make a stand. And
here I must do justice to the good sense and intrepidity of one of our
party, a youth, that had hitherto been one of his most deferential
auditors, who, from his recent reading, made bold to assure the
gentleman, that there must be some mistake, as "the Colossus in
question had been destroyed long since;" to whose opinion, delivered
with all modesty, our hero was obliging enough to concede thus much,
that "the figure was indeed a little damaged." This was the only
opposition he met with, and it did not at all seem to stagger him, for
he proceeded with his fables, which the same youth appeared to swallow
with still more complacency than ever,--confirmed, as it were, by the
extreme candour of that concession. With these prodigies he wheedled
us on till we came in sight of the Reculvers, which one of our own
company (having been the vogage before) immediately recognising, and
pointing out to us, was considered by us as no ordinary seaman.

All this time sat upon the edge of the deck quite a different
character. It was a lad, apparently very poor, very infirm, and very
patient. His eye was ever on the sea, with a smile: and, if he caught
now and then some snatches of these wild legends, it was by accident,
and they seemed not to concern him. The waves to him whispered more
pleasant stories. He was as one, being with us, but not of us. He
heard the bell of dinner ring without stirring; and when some of
us pulled out our private stores--our cold meat and our salads--he
produced none, and seemed to want none. Only a solitary biscuit he had
laid in; provision for the one or two days and nights, to which these
vessels then were oftentimes obliged to prolong their voyage Upon a
nearer acquaintance with him, which he seemed neither to court nor
decline, we learned that he was going to Margate, with the hope of
being admitted into the Infirmary there for sea-bathing. His disease
was a scrofula, which appeared to have eaten all over him. He
expressed great hopes of a cure; and when we asked him, whether he had
any friends where he was going, he replied, "he _had_ no friends."

These pleasant, and some mournful passages, with the first sight
of the sea, co-operating with youth, and a sense of holydays, and
out-of-door adventure, to me that had been pent up in populous cities
for many months before,--have left upon my mind the fragrance as of
summer days gone by, bequeathing nothing but their remembrance for
cold and wintry hours to chew upon.

Will it be thought a digression (it may spare some unwelcome
comparisons), if I endeavour to account for the _dissatisfaction_
which I have heard so many persons confess to have felt (as I did
myself feel in part on this occasion), _at the sight of the sea for
the first time?_ I think the reason usually given--referring to the
incapacity of actual objects for satisfying our preconceptions of
them--scarcely goes deep enough into the question. Let the same person
see a lion, an elephant, a mountain, for the first time in his life,
and he shall perhaps feel himself a little mortified. The things do
not fill up that space, which the idea of them seemed to take up in
his mind. But they have still a correspondency to his first notion,
and in time grow up to it, so as to produce a very similar impression:
enlarging themselves (if I may say so) upon familiarity. But the sea
remains a disappointment.--Is it not, that in _the latter_ we had
expected to behold (absurdly, I grant, but, I am afraid, by the law of
imagination unavoidably) not a definite object, as those wild beasts,
or that mountain compassable by the eye, but _all the sea at once_,
ourselves so much, but the craving of the mind is to be satisfied with
nothing less. I will suppose the case of a young person of fifteen
(as I then was) knowing nothing of the sea, but from description. He
comes to it for the first time--all that he has been reading of it all
his life, and _that_ the most enthusiastic part of life,--all he has
gathered from narratives of wandering seamen; what he has gained from
true voyages, and what he cherishes as credulously from romance and
poetry; crowding their images, and exacting strange tributes from
expectation.--He thinks of the great deep, and of those who go down
unto it; of its thousand isles, and of the vast continents it washes;
of its receiving the mighty Plata, or Orellana, into its bosom,
without disturbance, or sense of augmentation; of Biscay swells, and
the mariner

For many a day, and many a dreadful night,
Incessant labouring round the stormy Cape;

of fatal rocks, and the "still-vexed Bermoothes;" of great whirlpools,
and the water-spout; of sunken ships, and sumless treasures swallowed
up in the unrestoring depths: of fishes and quaint monsters, to which
all that is terrible on earth--

Be but as buggs to frighten babes withal,
Compared with the creatures in the sea's entral;

of naked savages, and Juan Fernandez; of pearls, and shells; of coral
beds, and of enchanted isles; of mermaids' grots--

I do not assert that in sober earnest he expects to be shown all these
wonders at once, but he is under the tyranny of a mighty faculty,
which haunts him with confused hints and shadows of all these; and
when the actual object opens first upon him, seen (in tame weather too
most likely) from our unromantic coasts--a speck, a slip of sea-water,
as it shows to him--what can it prove but a very unsatisfying and
even diminutive entertainment? Or if he has come to it from the mouth
of a river, was it much more than the river widening? and, even out
of sight of land, what had he but a flat watery horizon about him,
nothing comparable to the vast o'er-curtaining sky, his familiar
object, seen daily without dread or amazement?--Who, in similar
circumstances, has not been tempted to exclaim with Charoba, in the
poem of Gebir,--

Is this the mighty ocean?--is this _all_?

I love town, or country; but this detestable Cinque Port is neither. I
hate these scrubbed shoots, thrusting out their starved foliage from
between the horrid fissures of dusty innutritious rocks; which the
amateur calls "verdure to the edge of the sea." I require woods, and
they show me stunted coppices. I cry out for the water-brooks, and
pant for fresh streams, and inland murmurs. I cannot stand all day on
the naked beach, watching the capricious hues of the sea, shifting
like the colours of a dying mullet. I am tired of looking out at the
windows of this island-prison. I would fain retire into the interior
of my cage. While I gaze upon the sea, I want to be on it, over it,
across it. It binds me in with chains, as of iron. My thoughts are
abroad. I should not so feel in Staffordshire. There is no home for me
here. There is no sense of home at Hastings. It is a place of fugitive
resort, an heterogeneous assemblage of sea-mews and stock-brokers,
Amphitrites of the town, and misses that coquet with the Ocean. If
it were what it was in its primitive shape, and what it ought to
have remained, a fair honest fishing town, and no more, it were
something--with a few straggling fishermen's huts scattered about,
artless as its cliffs, and with their materials filched from them, it
were something. I could abide to dwell with Meschek; to assort with
fisher-swains, and smugglers. There are, or I dream there are, many
of this latter occupation here. Their faces become the place. I like
a smuggler. He is the only honest thief. He robs nothing but the
revenue,--an abstraction I never greatly cared about. I could go out
with them in their mackarel boats, or about their less ostensible
business, with some satisfaction. I can even tolerate those poor
victims to monotony, who from day to day pace along the beach,
in endless progress and recurrence, to watch their illicit
countrymen--townsfolk or brethren perchance--whistling to the
sheathing and unsheathing of their cutlasses (their only solace), who
under the mild name of preventive service, keep up a legitimated civil
warfare in the deplorable absence of a foreign one, to show their
detestation of run hollands, and zeal for old England. But it is the
visitants from town, that come here to _say_ that they have been here,
with no more relish of the sea than a pond perch, or a dace might be
supposed to have, that are my aversion. I feel like a foolish dace
in these regions, and have as little toleration for myself here, as
for them. What can they want here? if they had a true relish of the
ocean, why have they brought all this land luggage with them? or why
pitch their civilised tents in the desert? What mean these scanty
book-rooms--marine libraries as they entitle them--if the sea were, as
they would have us believe, a book "to read strange matter in?" what
are their foolish concert-rooms, if they come, as they would fain be
thought to do, to listen to the music of the waves? All is false and
hollow pretention. They come, because it is the fashion, and to
spoil the nature of the place. They are mostly, as I have said,
stockbrokers; but I have watched the better sort of them--now and
then, an honest citizen (of the old stamp), in the simplicity of his
heart, shall bring down his wife and daughters, to taste the sea
breezes. I always know the date of their arrival. It is easy to see it
in their countenance. A day or two they go wandering on the shingles,
picking up cockleshells, and thinking them great things; but, in a
poor week, imagination slackens: they begin to discover that cockles
produce no pearls, and then--O then!--if I could interpret for the
pretty creatures (I know they have not the courage to confess it
themselves) how gladly would they exchange their sea-side rambles
for a Sunday walk on the green-sward of their accustomed Twickenham

I would ask of one of these sea-charmed emigrants, who think they
truly love the sea, with its wild usages, what would their feelings
be, if some of the unsophisticated aborigines of this place,
encouraged by their courteous questionings here, should venture, on
the faith of such assured sympathy between them, to return the visit,
and come up to see--London. I must imagine them with their fishing
tackle on their back, as we carry our town necessaries. What a
sensation would it cause in Lothbury? What vehement laughter would it
not excite among

The daughters of Cheapside, and wives of Lombard-street.

I am sure that no town-bred, or inland-born subjects, can feel their
true and natural nourishment at these sea-places. Nature, where she
does not mean us for mariners and vagabonds, bids us stay at home. The
salt foam seems to nourish a spleen. I am not half so good-natured
as by the milder waters of my natural river. I would exchange these
sea-gulls for swans, and scud a swallow for ever about the banks of


A pretty severe fit of indisposition which, under the name of a
nervous fever, has made a prisoner of me for some weeks past, and is
but slowly leaving me, has reduced me to an incapacity of reflecting
upon any topic foreign to itself. Expect no healthy conclusions from
me this month, reader; I can offer you only sick men's dreams.

And truly the whole state of sickness is such; for what else is it
but a magnificent dream for a man to lie a-bed, and draw day-light
curtains about him; and, shutting out the sun, to induce a total
oblivion of all the works which are going on under it? To become
insensible to all the operations of life, except the beatings of one
feeble pulse?

If there be a regal solitude, it is a sick bed. How the patient lords
it there! what caprices he acts without controul! how kinglike he
sways his pillow--tumbling, and tossing, and shifting, and lowering,
and thumping, and flatting, and moulding it, to the ever varying
requisitions of his throbbing temples.

He changes _sides_ oftener than a politician. Now he lies full length,
then half-length, obliquely, transversely, head and feet quite across
the bed; and none accuses him of tergiversation. Within the four
curtains he is absolute. They are his Mare Clausum.

How sickness enlarges the dimensions of a man's self to himself! he
is his own exclusive object. Supreme selfishness is inculcated upon
him as his only duty. 'Tis the Two Tables of the Law to him. He has
nothing to think of but how to get well. What passes out of doors, or
within them, so he hear not the jarring of them, affects him not.

A little while ago he was greatly concerned in the event of a
law-suit, which was to be the making or the marring of his dearest
friend. He was to be seen trudging about upon this man's errand to
fifty quarters of the town at once, jogging this witness, refreshing
that solicitor. The cause was to come on yesterday. He is absolutely
as indifferent to the decision, as if it were a question to be tried
at Pekin. Peradventure from some whispering, going on about the
house, not intended for his hearing, he picks up enough to make him
understand, that things went cross-grained in the Court yesterday,
and his friend is ruined. But the word "friend," and the word "ruin,"
disturb him no more than so much jargon. He is not to think of any
thing but how to get better.

What a world of foreign cares are merged in that absorbing

He has put on the strong armour of sickness, he is wrapped in the
callous hide of suffering; he keeps his sympathy, like some curious
vintage, under trusty lock and key, for his own use only.

He lies pitying himself, honing and moaning to himself; he yearneth
over himself; his bowels are even melted within him, to think what he
suffers; he is not ashamed to weep over himself.

He is for ever plotting how to do some good to himself; studying
little stratagems and artificial alleviations.

He makes the most of himself; dividing himself, by an allowable
fiction, into as many distinct individuals, as he hath sore and
sorrowing members. Sometimes he meditates--as of a thing apart from
him--upon his poor aching head, and that dull pain which, dozing or
waking, lay in it all the past night like a log, or palpable substance
of pain, not to be removed without opening the very scull, as it
seemed, to take it thence. Or he pities his long, clammy, attenuated
fingers. He compassionates himself all over; and his bed is a very
discipline of humanity, and tender heart.

He is his own sympathiser; and instinctively feels that none can so
well perform that office for him. He cares for few spectators to his
tragedy. Only that punctual face of the old nurse pleases him, that
announces his broths, and his cordials. He likes it because it is
so unmoved, and because he can pour forth his feverish ejaculations
before it as unreservedly as to his bed-post.

To the world's business he is dead. He understands not what the
callings and occupations of mortals are; only he has a glimmering
conceit of some such thing, when the doctor makes his daily call:
and even in the lines of that busy face he reads no multiplicity of
patients, but solely conceives of himself as _the sick man_. To what
other uneasy couch the good man is hastening, when he slips out of
his chamber, folding up his thin douceur so carefully for fear of
rustling--is no speculation which he can at present entertain. He
thinks only of the regular return of the same phenomenon at the same
hour to-morrow.

Household rumours touch him not. Some faint murmur, indicative of life
going on within the house, soothes him, while he knows not distinctly
what it is. He is not to know any thing, not to think of any thing.
Servants gliding up or down the distant staircase, treading as
upon velvet, gently keep his ear awake, so long as he troubles not
himself further than with some feeble guess at their errands. Exacter
knowledge would be a burthen to him: he can just endure the pressure
of conjecture. He opens his eye faintly at the dull stroke of the
muffled knocker, and closes it again without asking "who was it?" He
is flattered by a general notion that inquiries are making after him,
but he cares not to know the name of the inquirer. In the general
stillness, and awful hush of the house, he lies in state, and feels
his sovereignty.

To be sick is to enjoy monarchal prerogatives. Compare the silent
tread, and quiet ministry, almost by the eye only, with which he is
served--with the careless demeanour, the unceremonious goings in
and out (slapping of doors, or leaving them open) of the very same
attendants, when he is getting a little better--and you will confess,
that from the bed of sickness (throne let me rather call it) to the
elbow chair of convalescence, is a fall from dignity, amounting to a

How convalescence shrinks a man back to his pristine stature! where
is now the space, which he occupied so lately, in his own, in the
family's eye? The scene of his regalities, his sick room, which was
his presence chamber, where he lay and acted his despotic fancies--how
is it reduced to a common bedroom! The trimness of the very bed has
something petty and unmeaning about it. It is _made_ every day.
How unlike to that wavy, many-furrowed, oceanic surface, which it
presented so short a time since, when to _make_ it was a service not
to be thought of at oftener than three or four day revolutions, when
the patient was with pain and grief to be lifted for a little while
out of it, to submit to the encroachments of unwelcome neatness, and
decencies which his shaken frame deprecated; then to be lifted into it
again, for another three or four days' respite, to flounder it out of
shape again, while every fresh furrow was a historical record of some
shifting posture, some uneasy turning, some seeking for a little ease;
and the shrunken skin scarce told a truer story than the crumpled

Hushed are those mysterious sighs--those groans--so much more awful,
while we knew not from what caverns of vast hidden suffering they
proceeded. The Lernean pangs are quenched. The riddle of sickness is
solved; and Philoctetes is become an ordinary personage.

Perhaps some relic of the sick man's dream of greatness survives in
the still lingering visitations of the medical attendant. But how
is he too changed with everything else! Can this be he--this man of
news--of chat--of anecdote--of every thing but physic--can this be he,
who so lately came between the patient and his cruel enemy, as on some
solemn embassy from Nature, erecting herself into a high mediating
party? Pshaw!'tis some old woman.

Farewell with him all that made sickness pompous--the spell that
hushed the household--the desart-like stillness, felt throughout
its inmost chambers--the mute attendance--the inquiry by looks--the
still softer delicacies of self-attention--the sole and single eye of
distemper alonely fixed upon itself--world-thoughts excluded--the man
a world unto himself--his own theatre--

What a speck is he dwindled into!

In this flat swamp of convalescence, left by the ebb of sickness, yet
far enough from the terra firma of established health, your note,
dear Editor, reached me, requesting--an article. In Articulo Mortis,
thought I; but it is something hard--and the quibble, wretched as it
was, relieved me. The summons, unseasonable as it appeared, seemed to
link me on again to the petty businesses of life, which I had lost
sight of; a gentle call to activity, however trivial; a wholesome
weaning from that preposterous dream of self-absorption--the puffy
state of sickness--in which I confess to have lain so long, insensible
to the magazines and monarchies, of the world alike; to its laws, and
to its literature. The hypochondriac flatus is subsiding; the acres,
which in imagination I had spread over--for the sick man swells in
the sole contemplation of his single sufferings, till he becomes
a Tityus to himself--are wasting to a span; and for the giant of
self-importance, which I was so lately, you have me once again in my
natural pretensions--the lean and meagre figure of your insignificant


So far from the position holding true, that great wit (or genius, in
our modern way of speaking), has a necessary alliance with insanity,
the greatest wits, on the contrary, will ever be found to be the
sanest writers. It is impossible for the mind to conceive of a mad
Shakspeare. The greatness of wit, by which the poetic talent is here
chiefly to be understood, manifests itself in the admirable balance of
all the faculties. Madness is the disproportionate straining or excess
of any one of them. "So strong a wit," says Cowley, speaking of a
poetical friend,

"--did Nature to him frame,
As all things but his judgment overcame,
His judgment like the heavenly moon did show,
Tempering that mighty sea below."

The ground of the mistake is, that men, finding in the raptures of
the higher poetry a condition of exaltation, to which they have no
parallel in their own experience, besides the spurious resemblance of
it in dreams and fevers, impute a state of dreaminess and fever to the
poet. But the true poet dreams being awake. He is not possessed by
his subject, but has dominion over it. In the groves of Eden he walks
familiar as in his native paths. He ascends the empyrean heaven, and
is not intoxicated. He treads the burning marl without dismay; he wins
his flight without self-loss through realms of chaos "and old night."
Or if, abandoning himself to that severer chaos of a "human mind
untuned," he is content awhile to be mad with Lear, or to hate mankind
(a sort of madness) with Timon, neither is that madness, nor this
misanthropy, so unchecked, but that,--never letting the reins of
reason wholly go, while most he seems to do so,--he has his better
genius still whispering at his ear, with the good servant Kent
suggesting saner counsels, or with the honest steward Flavius
recommending kindlier resolutions. Where he seems most to recede from
humanity, he will be found the truest to it. From beyond the scope of
Nature if he summon possible existences, he subjugates them to the
law of her consistency. He is beautifully loyal to that sovereign
directress, even when he appears most to betray and desert her. His
ideal tribes submit to policy; his very monsters are tamed to his
hand, even as that wild sea-brood, shepherded by Proteus. He tames,
and he clothes them with attributes of flesh and blood, till they
wonder at themselves, like Indian Islanders forced to submit to
European vesture. Caliban, the Witches, are as true to the laws of
their own nature (ours with a difference), as Othello, Hamlet, and
Macbeth. Herein the great and the little wits are differenced; that if
the latter wander ever so little from nature or actual existence, they
lose themselves, and their readers. Their phantoms are lawless; their
visions nightmares. They do not create, which implies shaping and
consistency. Their imaginations are not active--for to be active is to
call something into act and form--but passive, as men in sick dreams.
For the super-natural, or something super-added to what we know of
nature, they give you the plainly non-natural. And if this were all,
and that these mental hallucinations were discoverable only in the
treatment of subjects out of nature, or transcending it, the judgment
might with some plea be pardoned if it ran riot, and a little
wantonized: but even in the describing of real and every day life,
that which is before their eyes, one of these lesser wits shall more
deviate from nature--show more of that inconsequence, which has a
natural alliance with frenzy,--than a great genius in his "maddest
fits," as Withers somewhere calls them. We appeal to any one that is
acquainted with the common run of Lane's novels,--as they existed some
twenty or thirty years back,--those scanty intellectual viands of the
whole female reading public, till a happier genius arose, and expelled
for ever the innutritious phantoms,--whether he has not found his
brain more "betossed," his memory more puzzled, his sense of when and
where more confounded, among the improbable events, the incoherent
incidents, the inconsistent characters, or no-characters, of some
third-rate love intrigue--where the persons shall be a Lord Glendamour
and a Miss Rivers, and the scene only alternate between Bath and
Bond-street--a more bewildering dreaminess induced upon him, than
he has felt wandering over all the fairy grounds of Spenser. In the
productions we refer to, nothing but names and places is familiar; the
persons are neither of this world nor of any other conceivable one; an
endless string of activities without purpose, of purposes destitute
of motive:--we meet phantoms in our known walks; _fantasques_ only
christened. In the poet we have names which announce fiction; and we
have absolutely no place at all, for the things and persons of the
Fairy Queen prate not of their "whereabout." But in their inner
nature, and the law of their speech and actions, we are at home and
upon acquainted ground. The one turns life into a dream; the other to
the wildest dreams gives the sobrieties of every day occurrences. By
what subtile art of tracing the mental processes it is effected, we
are not philosophers enough to explain, but in that wonderful episode
of the cave of Mammon, in which the Money God appears first in the
lowest form of a miser, is then a worker of metals, and becomes the
god of all the treasures of the world; and has a daughter, Ambition,
before whom all the world kneels for favours--with the Hesperian
fruit, the waters of Tantalus, with Pilate washing his hands vainly,
but not impertinently, in the same stream--that we should be at one
moment in the cave of an old hoarder of treasures, at the next at the
forge of the Cyclops, in a palace and yet in hell, all at once, with
the shifting mutations of the most rambling dream, and our judgment
yet all the time awake, and neither able nor willing to detect the
fallacy,--is a proof of that hidden sanity which still guides the poet
in his widest seeming-aberrations.

It is not enough to say that the whole episode is a copy of the mind's
conceptions in sleep; it is, in some sort--but what a copy! Let the
most romantic of us, that has been entertained all night with the
spectacle of some wild and magnificent vision, recombine it in the
morning, and try it by his waking judgment. That which appeared so
shifting, and yet so coherent, while that faculty was passive, when
it comes under cool examination, shall appear so reasonless and so
unlinked, that we are ashamed to have been so deluded; and to have
taken, though but in sleep, a monster for a god. But the transitions
in this episode are every whit as violent as in the most extravagant
dream, and yet the waking judgment ratifies them.


Among the deaths in our obituary for this month, I observe with
concern "At his cottage on the Bath road, Captain Jackson." The
name and attribution are common enough; but a feeling like reproach
persuades me, that this could have been no other in fact than my dear
old friend, who some five-and-twenty years ago rented a tenement,
which he was pleased to dignify with the appellation here used, about
a mile from Westbourn Green. Alack, how good men, and the good turns
they do us, slide out of memory, and are recalled but by the surprise
of some such sad memento as that which now lies before us!

He whom I mean was a retired half-pay officer, with a wife and two
grown-up daughters, whom he maintained with the port and notions of
gentlewomen upon that slender professional allowance. Comely girls
they were too.

And was I in danger of forgetting this man?--his cheerful suppers--the
noble tone of hospitality, when first you set your foot in the
_cottage_--the anxious ministerings about you, where little or
nothing (God knows) was to be ministered.--Althea's horn in a poor
platter--the power of self-enchantment, by which, in his magnificent
wishes to entertain you, he multiplied his means to bounties.

You saw with your bodily eyes indeed what seemed a bare scrag--cold
savings from the foregone meal--remnant hardly sufficient to send
a mendicant from the door contented. But in the copious will--the
revelling imagination of your host--the "mind, the mind, Master
Shallow," whole beeves were spread before you--hecatombs--no end
appeared to the profusion.

It was the widow's cruse--the loaves and fishes; carving could not
lessen nor helping diminish it--the stamina were left--the elemental
bone still flourished, divested of its accidents.

"Let us live while we can," methinks I hear the open-handed creature
exclaim; "while we have, let us not want," "here is plenty left;"
"want for nothing"--with many more such hospitable sayings, the
spurs of appetite, and old concomitants of smoaking boards, and
feast-oppressed chargers. Then sliding a slender ratio of Single
Gloucester upon his wife's plate, or the daughter's, he would convey
the remanent rind into his own, with a merry quirk of "the nearer the
bone," &c., and declaring that he universally preferred the outside.
For we had our table distinctions, you are to know, and some of us in
a manner sate above the salt. None but his guest or guests dreamed of
tasting flesh luxuries at night, the fragments were _vere hospilibus
sacra_. But of one thing or another there was always enough, and
leavings: only he would sometimes finish the remainder crust, to show
that he wished no savings.

Wine he had none; nor, except on very rare occasions, spirits;
but the sensation of wine was there. Some thin kind of ale I
remember--"British beverage," he would say! "Push about, my boys;"
"Drink to your sweethearts, girls." At every meagre draught a toast
must ensue, or a song. All the forms of good liquor were there, with
none of the effects wanting. Shut your eyes, and you would swear
a capacious bowl of punch was foaming in the centre, with beams of
generous Port or Madeira radiating to it from each of the table
corners. You got flustered, without knowing whence; tipsy upon
words; and reeled under the potency of his unperforming Bacchanalian

We had our songs--"Why, Soldiers, Why"--and the "British
Grenadiers"--in which last we were all obliged to bear chorus. Both
the daughters sang. Their proficiency was a nightly theme--the masters
he had given them--the "no-expence" which he spared to accomplish them
in a science "so necessary to young women." But then--they could not
sing "without the instrument."

Sacred, and by me, never-to-be violated, Secrets of Poverty! Should
I disclose your honest aims at grandeur, your make-shift efforts
of magnificence? Sleep, sleep, with all thy broken keys, if one of
the bunch be extant; thrummed by a thousand ancestral thumbs; dear,
cracked spinnet of dearer Louisa! Without mention of mine, be dumb,
thou thin accompanier of her thinner warble! A veil be spread over
the dear delighted face of the well-deluded father, who now haply
listening to cherubic notes, scarce feels sincerer pleasure than when
she awakened thy time-shaken chords responsive to the twitterings of
that slender image of a voice.

We were not without our literary talk either. It did not extend far,
but as far as it went, it was good. It was bottomed well; had good
grounds to go upon. In _the cottage_ was a room, which tradition
authenticated to have been the same in which Glover, in his occasional
retirements, had penned the greater part of his Leonidas. This
circumstance was nightly quoted, though none of the present inmates,
that I could discover, appeared ever to have met with the poem in
question. But that was no matter. Glover had written there, and the
anecdote was pressed into the account of the family importance. It
diffused a learned air through the apartment, the little side casement
of which (the poet's study window), opening upon a superb view as far
as to the pretty spire of Harrow, over domains and patrimonial acres,
not a rood nor square yard whereof our host could call his own, yet
gave occasion to an immoderate expansion of--vanity shall I call
it?--in his bosom, as he showed them in a glowing summer evening. It
was all his, he took it all in, and communicated rich portions of it
to his guests. It was a part of his largess, his hospitality; it was
going over his grounds; he was lord for the time of showing them, and
you the implicit lookers-up to his magnificence.

He was a juggler, who threw mists before your eyes--you had no time
to detect his fallacies. He would say "hand me the _silver_ sugar
tongs;" and, before you could discover it was a single spoon, and
that _plated_, he would disturb and captivate your imagination by a
misnomer of "the urn" for a tea kettle; or by calling a homely bench
a sofa. Rich men direct you to their furniture, poor ones divert you
from it; he neither did one nor the other, but by simply assuming that
everything was handsome about him, you were positively at a demur what
you did, or did not see, at _the cottage_. With nothing to live on, he
seemed to live on everything. He had a stock of wealth in his mind;
not that which is properly termed _Content_, for in truth he was not
to be _contained_ at all, but overflowed all bounds by the force of a
magnificent self-delusion.

Enthusiasm is catching; and even his wife, a sober native of North
Britain, who generally saw things more as they were, was not proof
against the continual collision of his credulity. Her daughters
were rational and discreet young women; in the main, perhaps, not
insensible to their true circumstances. I have seen them assume a
thoughtful air at times. But such was the preponderating opulence of
his fancy, that I am persuaded, not for any half hour together, did
they ever look their own prospects fairly in the face. There was no
resisting the vortex of his temperament. His riotous imagination
conjured up handsome settlements before their eyes, which kept them
up in the eye of the world too, and seem at last to have realised
themselves; for they both have married since, I am told, more than

It is long since, and my memory waxes dim on some subjects, or I
should wish to convey some notion of the manner in which the pleasant
creature described the circumstances of his own wedding-day. I faintly
remember something of a chaise and four, in which he made his entry
into Glasgow on that morning to fetch the bride home, or carry her
thither, I forget which. It so completely made out the stanza of the
old ballad--

When we came down through Glasgow town,
We were a comely sight to see;
My love was clad in black velve,
And I myself in cramasie.

I suppose it was the only occasion, upon which his own actual
splendour at all corresponded with the world's notions on that
subject. In homely cart, or travelling caravan, by whatever humble
vehicle they chanced to be transported in less prosperous days, the
ride through Glasgow came back upon his fancy, not as a humiliating
contrast, but as a fair occasion for reverting to that one day's
state. It seemed an "equipage etern" from which no power of fate or
fortune, once mounted, had power thereafter to dislodge him.

There is some merit in putting a handsome face upon indigent
circumstances. To bully and swagger away the sense of them, before
strangers, may be not always discommendable. Tibbs, and Bobadil, even
when detected, have more of our admiration than contempt. But for a
man to put the cheat upon himself; to play the Bobadil at home; and,
steeped in poverty up to the lips, to fancy himself all the while
chin-deep in riches, is a strain of constitutional philosophy, and a
mastery over fortune, which was reserved for my old friend Captain


Sera tamen respexit


A Clerk I was in London gay.


If peradventure, Reader, it has been thy lot to waste the golden years
of thy life--thy shining youth--in the irksome confinement of an
office; to have thy prison days prolonged through middle age down to
decrepitude and silver hairs, without hope of release or respite; to
have lived to forget that there are such things as holidays, or to
remember them but as the prerogatives of childhood; then, and then
only, will you be able to appreciate my deliverance.

It is now six and thirty years since I took my seat at the desk in
Mincing-lane. Melancholy was the transition at fourteen from the
abundant play-time, and the frequently-intervening vacations of school
days, to the eight, nine, and sometimes ten hours' a-day attendance
at a counting-house. But time partially reconciles us to anything.
I gradually became content--doggedly contented, as wild animals in

It is true I had my Sundays to myself; but Sundays, admirable as the
institution of them is for purposes of worship, are for that very
reason the very worst adapted for days of unbending and recreation. In
particular, there is a gloom for me attendant upon a city Sunday, a
weight in the air. I miss the cheerful cries of London, the music, and
the ballad-singers--the buzz and stirring murmur of the streets. Those
eternal bells depress me. The closed shops repel me. Prints, pictures,
all the glittering and endless succession of knacks and gewgaws,
and ostentatiously displayed wares of tradesmen, which make a
week-day saunter through the less busy parts of the metropolis so
delightful--are shut out. No book-stalls deliciously to idle over--No
busy faces to recreate the idle man who contemplates them ever passing
by--the very face of business a charm by contrast to his temporary
relaxation from it. Nothing to be seen but unhappy countenances--or
half-happy at best--of emancipated 'prentices and little trades-folks,
with here and there a servant maid that has got leave to go out, who,
slaving all the week, with the habit has lost almost the capacity of
enjoying a free hour; and livelily expressing the hollowness of a
day's pleasuring. The very strollers in the fields on that day look
anything but comfortable.

But besides Sundays I had a day at Easter, and a day at Christmas,
with a full week in the summer to go and air myself in my native
fields of Hertfordshire. This last was a great indulgence; and the
prospect of its recurrence, I believe, alone kept me up through the
year, and made my durance tolerable. But when the week came round, did
the glittering phantom of the distance keep touch with me? or rather
was it not a series of seven uneasy days, spent in restless pursuit
of pleasure, and a wearisome anxiety to find out how to make the most
of them? Where was the quiet, where the promised rest? Before I had a
taste of it, it was vanished. I was at the desk again, counting upon
the fifty-one tedious weeks that must intervene before such another
snatch would come. Still the prospect of its coming threw something of
an illumination upon the darker side of my captivity. Without it, as I
have said, I could scarcely have sustained my thraldom.

Independently of the rigours of attendance, I have ever been haunted
with a sense (perhaps a mere caprice) of incapacity for business.
This, during my latter years, had increased to such a degree, that it
was visible in all the lines of my countenance. My health and my good
spirits flagged. I had perpetually a dread of some crisis, to which I
should be found unequal. Besides my daylight servitude, I served over
again all night in my sleep, and would awake with terrors of imaginary
false entries, errors in my accounts, and the like. I was fifty years
of age, and no prospect of emancipation presented itself. I had grown
to my desk, as it were; and the wood had entered into my soul.

My fellows in the office would sometimes rally me upon the trouble
legible in my countenance; but I did not know that it had raised the
suspicions of any of my employers, when, on the 5th of last month,
a day ever to be remembered by me, L----, the junior partner in the
firm, calling me on one side, directly taxed me with my bad looks,
and frankly inquired the cause of them. So taxed, I honestly made
confession of my infirmity, and added that I was afraid I should
eventually be obliged to resign his service. He spoke some words of
course to hearten me, and there the matter rested. A whole week I
remained labouring under the impression that I had acted imprudently
in my disclosure; that I had foolishly given a handle against myself,
and had been anticipating my own dismissal. A week passed in this
manner, the most anxious one, I verily believe, in my whole life, when
on the evening of the 12th of April, just as I was about quitting my
desk to go home (it might be about eight o'clock) I received an awful
summons to attend the presence of the whole assembled firm in the
formidable back parlour. I thought, now my time is surely come, I
have done for myself, I am going to be told that they have no longer
occasion for me. L----, I could see, smiled at the terror I was in,
which was a little relief to me,--when to my utter astonishment B----,
the eldest partner, began a formal harangue to me on the length of
my services, my very meritorious conduct during the whole of the time
(the deuce, thought I, how did he find out that? I protest I never
had the confidence to think as much). He went on to descant on the
expediency of retiring at a certain time of life (how my heart
panted!) and asking me a few questions as to the amount of my own
property, of which I have a little, ended with a proposal, to which
his three partners nodded a grave assent, that I should accept from
the house, which I had served so well, a pension for life to the
amount of two-thirds of my accustomed salary--a magnificent offer! I
do not know what I answered between surprise and gratitude, but it was
understood that I accepted their proposal, and I was told that I was
free from that hour to leave their service. I stammered out a bow,
and at just ten minutes after eight I went home--for ever. This noble
benefit--gratitude forbids me to conceal their names--I owe to the
kindness of the most munificent firm in the world--the house of
Boldero, Merryweather, Bosanquet, and Lacy.

_Esto perpetua!_

For the first day or two I felt stunned, overwhelmed. I could only
apprehend my felicity; I was too confused to taste it sincerely. I
wandered about, thinking I was happy, and knowing that I was not. I
was in the condition of a prisoner in the old Bastile, suddenly let
loose after a forty years' confinement. I could scarce trust myself
with myself. It was like passing out of Time into Eternity--for it
is a sort of Eternity for a man to have his Time all to himself.
It seemed to me that I had more time on my hands than I could ever
manage. From a poor man, poor in Time, I was suddenly lifted up into
a vast revenue; I could see no end of my possessions; I wanted some
steward, or judicious bailiff, to manage my estates in Time for me.
And here let me caution persons grown old in active business, not
lightly, nor without weighing their own resources, to forego their
customary employment all at once, for there may be danger in it. I
feel it by myself, but I know that my resources are sufficient; and
now that those first giddy raptures have subsided, I have a quiet
home-feeling of the blessedness of my condition. I am in no hurry.
Having all holidays, I am as though I had none. If Time hung heavy
upon me, I could walk it away; but I do _not_ walk all day long, as
I used to do in those old transient holidays, thirty miles a day, to
make the most of them. If Time were troublesome, I could read it away,
but I do _not_ read in that violent measure, with which, having no
Time my own but candlelight Time, I used to weary out my head and
eyesight in by-gone winters. I walk, read or scribble (as now) just
when the fit seizes me. I no longer hunt after pleasure; I let it come
to me. I am like the man

--That's born, and has his years come to him,
In some green desart.

"Years," you will say! "what is this superannuated simpleton
calculating upon? He has already told us, he is past fifty."

I have indeed lived nominally fifty years, but deduct out of them the
hours which I have lived to other people, and not to myself, and you
will find me still a young fellow. For _that_ is the only true Time,
which a man can properly call his own, that which he has all to
himself; the rest, though in some sense he may be said to live it, is
other people's time, not his. The remnant of my poor days, long or
short, is at least multiplied for me three-fold. My ten next years, if
I stretch so far, will be as long as any preceding thirty. 'Tis a fair
rule-of-three sum.

Among the strange fantasies which beset me at the commencement of my
freedom, and of which all traces are not yet gone, one was, that a
vast tract of time had intervened since I quitted the Counting House.
I could not conceive of it as an affair of yesterday. The partners,
and the clerks, with whom I had for so many years, and for so many
hours in each day of the year, been closely associated--being suddenly
removed from them--they seemed as dead to me. There is a fine passage,
which may serve to illustrate this fancy, in a Tragedy by Sir Robert
Howard, speaking of a friend's death:

--'Twas but just now he went away;
I have not since had time to shed a tear;
And yet the distance does the same appear
As if he had been a thousand years from me.
Time takes no measure in Eternity.

To dissipate this awkward feeling, I have been fain to go among them
once or twice since; to visit my old desk-fellows--my co-brethren of
the quill--that I had left below in the state militant. Not all the
kindness with which they received me could quite restore to me that
pleasant familiarity, which I had heretofore enjoyed among them.
We cracked some of our old jokes, but methought they went off but
faintly. My old desk; the peg where I hung my hat, were appropriated
to another. I knew it must be, but I could not take it kindly. D----l
take me, if I did not feel some remorse--beast, if I had not,--at
quitting my old compeers, the faithful partners of my toils for six
and thirty years, that smoothed for me with their jokes and conundrums
the ruggedness of my professional road. Had it been so rugged then
after all? or was I a coward simply? Well, it is too late to repent;
and I also know, that these suggestions are a common fallacy of the
mind on such occasions. But my heart smote me. I had violently broken
the bands betwixt us. It was at least not courteous. I shall be some
time before I get quite reconciled to the separation. Farewell, old
cronies, yet not for long, for again and again I will come among
ye, if I shall have your leave. Farewell Ch----, dry, sarcastic,
and friendly! Do----, mild, slow to move, and gentlemanly! Pl----,
officious to do, and to volunteer, good services!--and thou, thou
dreary pile, fit mansion for a Gresham or a Whittington of old,
stately House of Merchants; with thy labyrinthine passages, and
light-excluding, pent-up offices, where candles for one half the year
supplied the place of the sun's light; unhealthy contributor to my
weal, stern fosterer of my living, farewell! In thee remain, and not
in the obscure collection of some wandering bookseller, my "works!"
There let them rest, as I do from my labours, piled on thy massy
shelves, more MSS. in folio than ever Aquinas left, and full as
useful! My mantle I bequeath among ye.

A fortnight has passed since the date of my first communication. At
that period I was approaching to tranquillity, but had not reached it.
I boasted of a calm indeed, but it was comparative only. Something of
the first flutter was left; an unsettling sense of novelty; the dazzle
to weak eyes of unaccustomed light. I missed my old chains, forsooth,
as if they had been some necessary part of my apparel. I was a
poor Carthusian, from strict cellular discipline suddenly by some
revolution returned upon the world. I am now as if I had never been
other than my own master. It is natural to me to go where I please,
to do what I please. I find myself at eleven o'clock in the day in
Bond-street, and it seems to me that I have been sauntering there
at that very hour for years past. I digress into Soho, to explore a
book-stall. Methinks I have been thirty years a collector. There is
nothing strange nor new in it. I find myself before a fine picture
in a morning. Was it ever otherwise? What is become of Fish-street
Hill? Where is Fenchurch-street? Stones of old Mincing-lane, which I
have worn with my daily pilgrimage for six and thirty years, to the
footsteps of what toil-worn clerk are your everlasting flints now
vocal? I indent the gayer flags of Pall Mall. It is Change time, and
I am strangely among the Elgin marbles. It was no hyperbole when I
ventured to compare the change in my condition to a passing into
another world. Time stands still in a manner to me. I have lost all
distinction of season. I do not know the day of the week, or of the
month. Each day used to be individually felt by me in its reference
to the foreign post days; in its distance from, or propinquity to,
the next Sunday. I had my Wednesday feelings, my Saturday nights'
sensations. The genius of each day was upon me distinctly during the
whole of it, affecting my appetite, spirits, &c. The phantom of the
next day, with the dreary five to follow, sate as a load upon my poor
Sabbath recreations. What charm has washed that Ethiop white? What
is gone of Black Monday? All days are the same. Sunday itself--that
unfortunate failure of a holyday as it too often proved, what with my
sense of its fugitiveness, and over-care to get the greatest quantity
of pleasure out of it--is melted down into a week day. I can spare
to go to church now, without grudging the huge cantle which it used
to seem to cut out of the holyday. I have Time for everything. I
can visit a sick friend. I can interrupt the man of much occupation
when he is busiest. I can insult over him with an invitation to take
a day's pleasure with me to Windsor this fine May-morning. It is
Lucretian pleasure to behold the poor drudges, whom I have left behind
in the world, carking and caring; like horses in a mill, drudging on
in the same eternal round--and what is it all for? A man can never
have too much Time to himself, nor too little to do. Had I a little
son, I would christen him NOTHING-TO-DO; he should do nothing. Man, I
verily believe, is out of his element as long as he is operative. I am
altogether for the life contemplative. Will no kindly earthquake come
and swallow up those accursed cotton mills? Take me that lumber of a
desk there, and bowl it down

As low as to the fiends.

I am no longer ******, clerk to the Firm of &c. I am Retired Leisure.
I am to be met with in trim gardens. I am already come to be known by
my vacant face and careless gesture, perambulating at no fixed pace,
nor with any settled purpose. I walk about; not to and from. They tell
me, a certain _cum dignitate_ air, that has been buried so long with
my other good parts, has begun to shoot forth in my person. I grow
into gentility perceptibly. When I take up a newspaper, it is to read
the state of the opera. _Opus operatum est_. I have done all that I
came into this world to do. I have worked task work, and have the rest
of the day to myself.


It is an ordinary criticism, that my Lord Shaftesbury, and Sir William
Temple, are models of the genteel style in writing. We should prefer
saying--of the lordly, and the gentlemanly. Nothing can be more unlike
than the inflated finical rhapsodies of Shaftesbury, and the plain
natural chit-chat of Temple. The man of rank is discernible in both
writers; but in the one it is only insinuated gracefully, in the other
it stands out offensively. The peer seems to have written with his
coronet on, and his Earl's mantle before him; the commoner in his
elbow chair and undress.--What can be more pleasant than the way in
which the retired statesman peeps out in the essays, penned by the
latter in his delightful retreat at Shene? They scent of Nimeguen,
and the Hague. Scarce an authority is quoted under an ambassador.
Don Francisco de Melo, a "Portugal Envoy in England," tells him it
was frequent in his country for men, spent with age or other decays,
so as they could not hope for above a year or two of life, to ship
themselves away in a Brazil fleet, and after their arrival there to
go on a great length, sometimes of twenty or thirty years, or more,
by the force of that vigour they recovered with that remove. "Whether
such an effect (Temple beautifully adds) might grow from the air, or
the fruits of that climate, or by approaching nearer the sun, which
is the fountain of light and heat, when their natural heat was so
far decayed: or whether the piecing out of an old man's life were
worth the pains; I cannot tell: perhaps the play is not worth the
candle."--Monsieur Pompone, "French Ambassador in his (Sir William's)
time at the Hague," certifies him, that in his life he had never
heard of any man in France that arrived at a hundred years of age; a
limitation of life which the old gentleman imputes to the excellence
of their climate, giving them such a liveliness of temper and humour,
as disposes them to more pleasures of all kinds than in other
countries; and moralises upon the matter very sensibly. The "late
Robert Earl of Leicester" furnishes him with a story of a Countess of
Desmond, married out of England in Edward the Fourth's time, and who
lived far in King James's reign. The "same noble person" gives him
an account, how such a year, in the same reign, there went about the
country a set of morrice-dancers, composed of ten men who danced, a
Maid Marian, and a tabor and pipe; and how these twelve, one with
another, made up twelve hundred years. "It was not so much (says
Temple) that so many in one small county (Herefordshire) should live
to that age, as that they should be in vigour and in humour to travel
and to dance." Monsieur Zulichem, one of his "colleagues at the
Hague," informs him of a cure for the gout; which is confirmed by
another "Envoy," Monsieur Serinchamps, in that town, who had tried
it.--Old Prince Maurice of Nassau recommends to him the use of
hammocks in that complaint; having been allured to sleep, while
suffering under it himself, by the "constant motion or swinging of
those airy beds." Count Egmont, and the Rhinegrave who "was killed
last summer before Maestricht," impart to him their experiences.

But the rank of the writer is never more innocently disclosed, than
where he takes for granted the compliments paid by foreigners to his
fruit-trees. For the taste and perfection of what we esteem the best,
he can truly say, that the French, who have eaten his peaches and
grapes at Shene in no very ill year, have generally concluded that
the last are as good as any they have eaten in France on this side
Fontainebleau; and the first as good as any they have eat in Gascony.
Italians have agreed his white figs to be as good as any of that sort
in Italy, which is the earlier kind of white fig there; for in the
later kind and the blue, we cannot come near the warm climates, no
more than in the Frontignac or Muscat grape. His orange-trees too, are
as large as any he saw when he was young in France, except those of
Fontainebleau, or what he has seen since in the Low Countries; except
some very old ones of the Prince of Orange's. Of grapes he had the
honour of bringing over four sorts into England, which he enumerates,
and supposes that they are all by this time pretty common among some
gardeners in his neighbourhood, as well as several persons of quality;
for he ever thought all things of this kind "the commoner they are
made the better." The garden pedantry with which he asserts that 'tis
to little purpose to plant any of the best fruits, as peaches or
grapes, hardly, he doubts, beyond Northamptonshire at the furthest
northwards; and praises the "Bishop of Munster at Cosevelt," for
attempting nothing beyond cherries in that cold climate; is equally
pleasant and in character. "I may perhaps" (he thus ends his sweet
Garden Essay with a passage worthy of Cowley) "be allowed to know
something of this trade, since I have so long allowed myself to be
good for nothing else, which few men will do, or enjoy their gardens,
without often looking abroad to see how other matters play, what
motions in the state, and what invitations they may hope for into
other scenes. For my own part, as the country life, and this part of
it more particularly, were the inclination of my youth itself, so they
are the pleasure of my age; and I can truly say that, among many great
employments that have fallen to my share, I have never asked or sought
for any of them, but have often endeavoured to escape from them, into
the ease and freedom of a private scene, where a man may go his own
way and his own pace, in the common paths and circles of life. The
measure of choosing well is whether a man likes what he has chosen,
which I thank God has befallen me; and though among the follies of my
life, building and planting have not been the least, and have cost
me more than I have the confidence to own; yet they have been fully
recompensed by the sweetness and satisfaction of this retreat, where,
since my resolution taken of never entering again into any public
employments, I have passed five years without ever once going to town,
though I am almost in sight of it, and have a house there always ready
to receive me. Nor has this been any sort of affectation, as some have
thought it, but a mere want of desire or humour to make so small a
remove; for when I am in this corner, I can truly say with Horace, _Me
quoties reficit, &c._

"Me, when the cold Digentian stream revives,
What does my friend believe I think or ask?
Let me yet less possess, so I may live,
Whate'er of life remains, unto myself.
May I have books enough; and one year's store,
Not to depend upon each doubtful hour:
This is enough of mighty Jove to pray,
Who, as he pleases, gives and takes away."

The writings of Temple are, in general, after this easy copy. On one
occasion, indeed, his wit, which was mostly subordinate to nature and
tenderness, has seduced him into a string of felicitous antitheses;
which, it is obvious to remark, have been a model to Addison and
succeeding essayists. "Who would not be covetous, and with reason,"
he says, "if health could be purchased with gold? who not ambitious,
if it were at the command of power, or restored by honour? but, alas!
a white staff will not help gouty feet to walk better than a common
cane; nor a blue riband bind up a wound so well as a fillet. The
glitter of gold, or of diamonds, will but hurt sore eyes instead of
curing them; and an aching head will be no more eased by wearing a
crown, than a common night-cap." In a far better style, and more
accordant with his own humour of plainness, are the concluding
sentences of his "Discourse upon Poetry." Temple took a part in the
controversy about the ancient and the modern learning; and, with
that partiality so natural and so graceful in an old man, whose
state engagements had left him little leisure to look into modern
productions, while his retirement gave him occasion to look back upon
the classic studies of his youth--decided in favour of the latter.
"Certain it is," he says, "that, whether the fierceness of the Gothic
humours, or noise of their perpetual wars, frighted it away, or that
the unequal mixture of the modern languages would not bear it--the
great heights and excellency both of poetry and music fell with
the Roman learning and empire, and have never since recovered the
admiration and applauses that before attended them. Yet, such as they
are amongst us, they must be confessed to be the softest and sweetest,
the most general and most innocent amusements of common time and life.
They still find room in the courts of princes, and the cottages of
shepherds. They serve to revive and animate the dead calm of poor
and idle lives, and to allay or divert the violent passions and
perturbations of the greatest and the busiest men. And both these
effects are of equal use to human life; for the mind of man is like
the sea, which is neither agreeable to the beholder nor the voyager,
in a calm or in a storm, but is so to both when a little agitated by
gentle gales; and so the mind, when moved by soft and easy passions or
affections. I know very well that many who pretend to be wise by the
forms of being grave, are apt to despise both poetry and music, as
toys and trifles too light for the use or entertainment of serious
men. But whoever find themselves wholly insensible to their charms,
would, I think, do well to keep their own counsel, for fear of
reproaching their own temper, and bringing the goodness of their
natures, if not of their understandings, into question. While this
world lasts, I doubt not but the pleasure and request of these two
entertainments will do so too; and happy those that content themselves
with these, or any other so easy and so innocent, and do no trouble
the world or other men, because they cannot be quiet themselves,
though nobody hurts them." "When all is done (he concludes), human
life is at the greatest and the best but like a froward child, that
must be played with, and humoured a little, to keep it quiet, till it
falls asleep, and then the care is over."


On the noon of the 14th of November, 1743 or 4, I forget which it was,
just as the clock had struck one, Barbara S----, with her accustomed
punctuality ascended the long rambling staircase, with awkward
interposed landing-places, which led to the office, or rather a sort
of box with a desk in it, whereat sat the then Treasurer of (what few
of our readers may remember) the Old Bath Theatre. All over the island
it was the custom, and remains so I believe to this day, for the
players to receive their weekly stipend on the Saturday. It was not
much that Barbara had to claim.

This little maid had just entered her eleventh year; but her important
station at the theatre, as it seemed to her, with the benefits which
she felt to accrue from her pious application of her small earnings,
had given an air of womanhood to her steps and to her behaviour. You
would have taken her to have been at least five years older.

Till latterly she had merely been employed in choruses, or where
children were wanted to fill up the scene. But the manager, observing
a diligence and adroitness in her above her age, had for some few
months past intrusted to her the performance of whole parts. You may
guess the self-consequence of the promoted Barbara. She had already
drawn tears in young Arthur; had rallied Richard with infantine
petulance in the Duke of York; and in her turn had rebuked that
petulance when she was Prince of Wales. She would have done the elder
child in Morton's pathetic after-piece to the life; but as yet the
"Children in the Wood" was not.

Long after this little girl was grown an aged woman, I have seen some
of these small parts, each making two or three pages at most, copied
out in the rudest hand of the then prompter, who doubtless transcribed
a little more carefully and fairly for the grown-up tragedy ladies
of the establishment. But such as they were, blotted and scrawled,
as for a child's use, she kept them all; and in the zenith of her
after reputation it was a delightful sight to behold them bound up in
costliest Morocco, each single--each small part making a _book_--with
fine clasps, gilt-splashed, &c. She had conscientiously kept them
as they had been delivered to her; not a blot had been effaced
or tampered with. They were precious to her for their affecting
remembrancings. They were her principia, her rudiments; the elementary
atoms; the little steps by which she pressed forward to perfection.
"What," she would say, "could Indian rubber, or a pumice stone, have
done for these darlings?"

I am in no hurry to begin my story--indeed I have little or none to
tell--so I will just mention an observation of hers connected with
that interesting time.

Not long before she died I had been discoursing with her on the
quantity of real present emotion which a great tragic performer
experiences during acting. I ventured to think, that though in the
first instance such players must have possessed the feelings which
they so powerfully called up in others, yet by frequent repetition
those feelings must become deadened in great measure, and the
performer trust to the memory of past emotion, rather than express a
present one. She indignantly repelled the notion, that with a truly
great tragedian the operation, by which such effects were produced
upon an audience, could ever degrade itself into what was purely
mechanical. With much delicacy, avoiding to instance in her
_self_-experience, she told me, that so long ago as when she used to
play the part of the Little Son to Mrs. Porter's Isabella, (I think it
was) when that impressive actress has been bending over her in some
heart-rending colloquy, she has felt real hot tears come trickling
from her, which (to use her powerful expression) have perfectly
scalded her back.

I am not quite so sure that it was Mrs. Porter; but it was some great
actress of that day. The name is indifferent; but the fact of the
scalding tears I most distinctly remember.

I was always fond of the society of players, and am not sure that an
impediment in my speech (which certainly kept me out of the pulpit)
even more than certain personal disqualifications, which are often got
over in that profession, did not prevent me at one time of life from
adopting it. I have had the honour (I must ever call it) once to
have been admitted to the tea-table of Miss Kelly. I have played at
serious whist with Mr. Listen. I have chatted with ever good-humoured
Mrs. Charles Kemble. I have conversed as friend to friend with her
accomplished husband. I have been indulged with a classical conference
with Macready; and with a sight of the Player-picture gallery, at Mr.
Matthews's, when the kind owner, to remunerate me for my love of the
old actors (whom he loves so much) went over it with me, supplying
to his capital collection, what alone the artist could not give
them--voice; and their living motion. Old tones, half-faded, of Dodd
and Parsons, and Baddeley, have lived again for me at his bidding.
Only Edwin he could not restore to me. I have supped with ----; but I
am growing a coxcomb.

As I was about to say--at the desk of the then treasurer of the old
Bath theatre--not Diamond's--presented herself the little Barbara

The parents of Barbara had been in reputable circumstances. The father
had practised, I believe, as an apothecary in the town. But his
practice from causes which I feel my own infirmity too sensibly that
way to arraign--or perhaps from that pure infelicity which accompanies
some people in their walk through life, and which it is impossible to
lay at the door of imprudence--was now reduced to nothing. They were
in fact in the very teeth of starvation, when the manager, who knew
and respected them in better days, took the little Barbara into his

At the period I commenced with, her slender earnings were the sole
support of the family, including two younger sisters. I must throw
a veil over some mortifying circumstances. Enough to say, that her
Saturday's pittance was the only chance of a Sunday's (generally their
only) meal of meat.

One thing I will only mention, that in some child's part, where in
her theatrical character she was to sup off a roast fowl (O joy to
Barbara!) some comic actor, who was for the night caterer for this
dainty--in the misguided humour of his part, threw over the dish
such a quantity of salt (O grief and pain of heart to Barbara!) that
when he crammed a portion of it into her mouth, she was obliged
sputteringly to reject it; and what with shame of her ill-acted part,
and pain of real appetite at missing such a dainty, her little heart
sobbed almost to breaking, till a flood of tears, which the well-fed
spectators were totally unable to comprehend, mercifully relieved her.

This was the little starved, meritorious maid, who stood before old
Ravenscroft, the treasurer, for her Saturday's payment.

Ravenscroft was a man, I have heard many old theatrical people besides
herself say, of all men least calculated for a treasurer. He had no
head for accounts, paid away at random, kept scarce any books, and
summing up at the week's end, if he found himself a pound or so
deficient, blest himself that it was no worse.

Now Barbara's weekly stipend was a bare half guinea.--By mistake he
popped into her hand a--whole one.

Barbara tripped away.

She was entirely unconscious at first of the mistake: God knows,
Ravenscroft would never have discovered it.

But when she had got down to the first of those uncouth
landing-places, she became sensible of an unusual weight of metal
pressing her little hand.

Now mark the dilemma.

She was by nature a good child. From her parents and those about her
she had imbibed no contrary influence. But then they had taught her
nothing. Poor men's smoky cabins are not always porticoes of moral
philosophy. This little maid had no instinct to evil, but then she
might be said to have no fixed principle. She had heard honesty
commended, but never dreamed of its application to herself. She
thought of it as something which concerned grown-up people--men
and women. She had never known temptation, or thought of preparing
resistance against it.

Her first impulse was to go back to the old treasurer, and explain
to him his blunder. He was already so confused with age, besides a
natural want of punctuality, that she would have had some difficulty
in making him understand it. She saw _that_ in an instant. And then
it was such a bit of money! and then the image of a larger allowance
of butcher's meat on their table next day came across her, till
her little eyes glistened, and her mouth moistened. But then Mr.
Ravenscroft had always been so good-natured, had stood her friend
behind the scenes, and even recommended her promotion to some of her
little parts. But again the old man was reputed to be worth a world
of money. He was supposed to have fifty pounds a year clear of the
theatre. And then came staring upon her the figures of her little
stockingless and shoeless sisters. And when she looked at her own neat
white cotton stockings, which her situation at the theatre had made it
indispensable for her mother to provide for her, with hard straining
and pinching from the family stock, and thought how glad she should
be to cover their poor feet with the same--and how then they could
accompany her to rehearsals, which they had hitherto been precluded
from doing, by reason of their unfashionable attire--in these thoughts
she reached the second landing-place--the second, I mean from the
top--for there was still another left to traverse.

Now virtue support Barbara!

And that never-failing friend did step in--for at that moment a
strength not her own, I have heard her say, was revealed to her--a
reason above reasoning--and without her own agency, as it seemed (for
she never felt her feet to move) she found herself transported back to
the individual desk she had just quitted, and her hand in the old hand
of Ravenscroft, who in silence took back the refunded treasure, and
who had been sitting (good man) insensible to the lapse of minutes,
which to her were anxious ages; and from that moment a deep peace fell
upon her heart, and she knew the quality of honesty.

A year or two's unrepining application to her profession brightened
up the feet, and the prospects, of her little sisters, set the whole
family upon their legs again, and released her from the difficulty of
discussing moral dogmas upon a landing-place.

I have heard her say, that it was a surprise, not much short of
mortification to her, to see the coolness with which the old man
pocketed the difference, which had caused her such mortal throes.

This anecdote of herself I had in the year 1800, from the mouth of
the late Mrs. Crawford,[1] then sixty-seven years of age (she died
soon after); and to her struggles upon this childish occasion I have
sometimes ventured to think her indebted for that power of rending
the heart in the representation of conflicting emotions, for which in
after years she was considered as little inferior (if at all so in the
part of Lady Randolph) even to Mrs. Siddons.

[Footnote 1: The maiden name of this lady was Street, which she
changed, by successive marriages, for those of Dancer, Barry, and
Crawford. She was Mrs. Crawford, and a third time a widow, when I
knew her.]


IN A LETTER TO R---- S----, ESQ.

Though in some points of doctrine, and perhaps of discipline I am
diffident of lending a perfect assent to that church which you have
so worthily _historified_, yet may the ill time never come to me,
when with a chilled heart, or a portion of irreverent sentiment, I
shall enter her beautiful and time-hallowed Edifices. Judge then
of my mortification when, after attending the choral anthems of
last Wednesday at Westminster, and being desirous of renewing my
acquaintance, after lapsed years, with the tombs and antiquities
there, I found myself excluded; turned out like a dog, or some profane
person, into the common street, with feelings not very congenial to
the place, or to the solemn service which I had been listening to. It
was a jar after that music.

You had your education at Westminster; and doubtless among those dim
aisles and cloisters, you must have gathered much of that devotional
feeling in those young years, on which your purest mind feeds
still--and may it feed! The antiquarian spirit, strong in you, and
gracefully blending ever with the religious, may have been sown in
you among those wrecks of splendid mortality. You owe it to the
place of your education; you owe it to your learned fondness for the
architecture of your ancestors; you owe it to the venerableness of
your ecclesiastical establishment, which is daily lessened and called
in question through these practices--to speak aloud your sense of
them; never to desist raising your voice against them, till they be
totally done away with and abolished; till the doors of Westminster
Abbey be no longer closed against the decent, though low-in-purse,
enthusiast, or blameless devotee, who must commit an injury against
his family economy, if he would be indulged with a bare admission
within its walls. You owe it to the decencies, which you wish to see
maintained in its impressive services, that our Cathedral be no longer
an object of inspection to the poor at those times only, in which they
must rob from their Attendance on the worship every minute which they
can bestow upon the fabric. In vain the public prints have taken up
this subject, in vain such poor nameless writers as myself express
their indignation. A word from you, Sir--a hint in your Journal--would
be sufficient to fling open the doors of the Beautiful Temple again,
as we can remember them when we were boys. At that time of life, what
would the imaginative faculty (such as it is) in both of us, have
suffered, if the entrance to so much reflection had been obstructed
by the demand of so much silver!--If we had scraped it up to gain an
occasional admission (as we certainly should have done) would the
sight of those old tombs have been as impressive to us (while we had
been weighing anxiously prudence against sentiment) as when the gates
stood open, as those of the adjacent Park; when we could walk in at
any time, as the mood brought us, for a shorter or longer time, as
that lasted? Is the being shown over a place the same as silently for
ourselves detecting the genius of it? In no part of our beloved Abbey
now can a person find entrance (out of service time) under the sum of
_two shillings_. The rich and the great will smile at the anticlimax,
presumed to lie in these two short words. But you can tell them, Sir,
how much quiet worth, how much capacity for enlarged feeling, how
much taste and genius, may coexist, especially in youth, with a purse
incompetent to this demand.--A respected friend of ours, during his
late visit to the metropolis, presented himself for admission to Saint
Paul's. At the same time a decently clothed man, with as decent a
wife, and child, were bargaining for the same indulgence. The price
was only two-pence each person. The poor but decent man hesitated,
desirous to go in; but there were three of them, and he turned away
reluctantly. Perhaps he wished to have seen the tomb of Nelson.
Perhaps the Interior of the Cathedral was his object. But in the state
of his finances, even sixpence might reasonably seem too much. Tell
the Aristocracy of the country (no man can do it more impressively);
instruct them of what value these insignificant pieces of money, these
minims to their sight, may be to their humbler brethren. Shame these
Sellers out of the Temple. Stifle not the suggestions of your better
nature with the pretext, that an indiscriminate admission would expose
the Tombs to violation. Remember your boy-days. Did you ever see,
or hear, of a mob in the Abbey, while it was free to all? Do the
rabble come there, or trouble their heads about such speculations?
It is all that you can do to drive them into your churches; they do
not voluntarily offer themselves. They have, alas! no passion for
antiquities; for tomb of king or prelate, sage or poet. If they had,
they would be no longer the rabble.

For forty years that I have known the Fabric, the only well-attested
charge of violation adduced, has been--a ridiculous dismemberment
committed upon the effigy of that amiable spy, Major Andre. And is it
for this--the wanton mischief of some schoolboy, fired perhaps with
raw notions of Transatlantic Freedom--or the remote possibility
of such a mischief occurring again, so easily to be prevented
by stationing a constable within the walls, if the vergers are
incompetent to the duty--is it upon such wretched pretences, that
the people of England are made to pay a new Peter's Pence, so long
abrogated; or must content themselves with contemplating the ragged
Exterior of their Cathedral? The mischief was done about the time that
you were a scholar there. Do you know any thing about the unfortunate


Where were ye, Nymphs, when the remorseless deep
Clos'd o'er the head of your loved Lycidas?

I do not know when I have experienced a stranger sensation, than
on seeing my old friend G.D., who had been paying me a morning
visit a few Sundays back, at my cottage at Islington, upon taking
leave, instead of turning down the right hand path by which he had
entered--with staff in hand, and at noon day, deliberately march right
forwards into the midst of the stream that runs by us, and totally
disappear. A spectacle like this at dusk would have been appalling
enough; but, in the broad open daylight, to witness such an unreserved
motion towards self-destruction in a valued friend, took from me all
power of speculation.

How I found my feet, I know not. Consciousness was quite gone. Some
spirit, not my own, whirled me to the spot. I remember nothing but the
silvery apparition of a good white head emerging; nigh which a staff
(the hand unseen that wielded it) pointed upwards, as feeling for the
skies. In a moment (if time was in that time) he was on my shoulders,
and I--freighted with a load more precious than his who bore Anchises.

And here I cannot but do justice to the officious zeal of sundry
passers by, who, albeit arriving a little too late to participate in
the honours of the rescue, in philanthropic shoals came thronging to
communicate their advice as to the recovery; prescribing variously
the application, or non-application, of salt, &c., to the person of
the patient. Life meantime was ebbing fast away, amidst the stifle of
conflicting judgments, when one, more sagacious than the rest, by a
bright thought, proposed sending for the Doctor. Trite as the counsel
was, and impossible, as one should think, to be missed on,--shall I
confess?--in this emergency, it was to me as if an Angel had spoken.
Great previous exertions--and mine had not been inconsiderable--are
commonly followed by a debility of purpose. This was a moment of

MONOCULUS--for so, in default of catching his true name, I choose
to designate the medical gentleman who now appeared--is a grave,
middle-aged person, who, without having studied at the college, or
truckled to the pedantry of a diploma, hath employed a great portion
of his valuable time in experimental processes upon the bodies of
unfortunate fellow-creatures, in whom the vital spark, to mere
vulgar thinking, would seem extinct, and lost for ever. He omitteth
no occasion of obtruding his services, from a case of common
surfeit-suffocation to the ignobler obstructions, sometimes induced by
a too wilful application of the plant _Cannabis_ outwardly. But though
he declineth not altogether these drier extinctions, his occupation
tendeth for the most part to water-practice; for the convenience
of which, he hath judiciously fixed his quarters near the grand
repository of the stream mentioned, where, day and night, from his
little watch-tower, at the Middleton's-Head, he listeneth to detect
the wrecks of drowned mortality--partly, as he saith, to be upon the
spot--and partly, because the liquids which he useth to prescribe
to himself and his patients, on these distressing occasions, are
ordinarily more conveniently to be found at these common hostelries,
than in the shops and phials of the apothecaries. His ear hath arrived
to such finesse by practice, that it is reported, he can distinguish
a plunge at a half furlong distance; and can tell, if it be casual or
deliberate. He weareth a medal, suspended over a suit, originally of a
sad brown, but which, by time, and frequency of nightly divings, has
been dinged into a true professional sable. He passeth by the name of
Doctor, and is remarkable for wanting his left eye. His remedy--after
a sufficient application of warm blankets, friction, &c., is a simple
tumbler, or more, of the purest Cognac, with water, made as hot as
the convalescent can bear it. Where he findeth, as in the case of my
friend, a squeamish subject, he condescendeth to be the taster; and
showeth, by his own example, the innocuous nature of the prescription.
Nothing can be more kind or encouraging than this procedure. It addeth
confidence to the patient, to see his medical adviser go hand in
hand with himself in the remedy. When the doctor swalloweth his own
draught, what peevish invalid can refuse to pledge him in the potion?
In fine, MONOCULUS is a humane, sensible man, who, for a slender
pittance, scarce enough to sustain life, is content to wear it out
in the endeavour to save the lives of others--his pretensions so
moderate, that with difficulty I could press a crown upon him, for the
price of restoring the existence of such an invaluable creature to
society as G.D.

It was pleasant to observe the effect of the subsiding alarm upon
the nerves of the dear absentee. It seemed to have given a shake
to memory, calling up notice after notice, of all the providential
deliverances he had experienced in the course of his long and innocent
life. Sitting up in my couch--my couch which, naked and void of
furniture hitherto, for the salutary repose which it administered,
shall be honoured with costly valance, at some price, and henceforth
be a state-bed at Colebrooke,--he discoursed of marvellous escapes--by
carelessness of nurses--by pails of gelid, and kettles of the
boiling element, in infancy--by orchard pranks, and snapping twigs,
in schoolboy frolics--by descent of tiles at Trumpington, and of
heavier tomes at Pembroke--by studious watchings, inducing frightful
vigilance--by want, and the fear of want, and all the sore throbbings
of the learned head.--Anon, he would burst out into little fragments
of chaunting--of songs long ago--ends of deliverance-hymns, not
remembered before since childhood, but coming up now, when his
heart was made tender as a child's--for the _tremor cordis_, in the
retrospect of a recent deliverance, as in a case of impending danger,
acting upon an innocent heart, will produce a self-tenderness, which
we should do ill to christen cowardice; and Shakspeare, in the latter
crisis, has made his good Sir Hugh to remember the sitting by Babylon,
and to mutter of shallow rivers.

Waters of Sir Hugh Middleton--what a spark you were like to have
extinguished for ever! Your salubrious streams to this City, for now
near two centuries, would hardly have atoned for what you were in a
moment washing away. Mockery of a river--liquid artifice--wretched
conduit! henceforth rank with canals, and sluggish aqueducts. Was
it for this, that, smit in boyhood with the explorations of that
Abyssinian traveller, I paced the vales of Amwell to explore your
tributary springs, to trace your salutary waters sparkling through
green Hertfordshire, and cultured Enfield parks?--Ye have no swans--no
Naiads--no river God--or did the benevolent hoary aspect of my friend
tempt ye to suck him in, that ye also might have the tutelary genius
of your waters?

Had he been drowned in Cam there would have been some consonancy
in it; but what willows had ye to wave and rustle over his moist
sepulture?--or, having no _name_, besides that unmeaning assumption
of _eternal novity_, did ye think to get one by the noble prize, and
henceforth to be termed the STREAM DYERIAN?

And could such spacious virtue find a grave
Beneath the imposthumed bubble of a wave?

I protest, George, you shall not venture out again--no, not by
daylight--without a sufficient pair of spectacles--in your musing
moods especially. Your absence of mind we have borne, till your
presence of body came to be called in question by it. You shall not go
wandering into Euripus with Aristotle, if we can help it. Fie, man,
to turn dipper at your years' after your many tracts in favour of
sprinkling only!

I have nothing but water in my head o' nights since this frightful
accident. Sometimes I am with Clarence in his dream. At others, I
behold Christian beginning to sink, and crying out to his good brother
Hopeful (that is to me), "I sink in deep waters; the billows go over
my head, all the waves go over me. Selah." Then I have before me
Palinurus, just letting go the steerage. I cry out too late to save.
Next follow--a mournful procession--_suicidal faces_, saved against
their wills from drowning; dolefully trailing a length of reluctant
gratefulness, with ropy weeds pendant from locks of watchet
hue-constrained Lazari--Pluto's half-subjects--stolen fees from the
grave-bilking Charon of his fare. At their head Arion--or is it
G.D.?--in his singing garments marcheth singly, with harp in hand,
and votive garland, which Machaon (or Dr. Hawes) snatcheth straight,
intending to suspend it to the stern God of Sea. Then follow dismal
streams of Lethe, in which the half-drenched on earth are constrained
to drown downright, by wharfs where Ophelia twice acts her muddy

And, doubtless, there is some notice in that invisible world, when one
of us approacheth (as my friend did so lately) to their inexorable
precincts. When a soul knocks once, twice, at death's door, the
sensation aroused within the palace must be considerable; and the grim
Feature, by modern science so often dispossessed of his prey, must
have learned by this time to pity Tantalus.

A pulse assuredly was felt along the line of the Elysian shades, when
the near arrival of G.D. was announced by no equivocal indications.
From their seats of Asphodel arose the gentler and the graver
ghosts-poet, or historian--of Grecian or of Roman lore--to crown with
unfading chaplets the half-finished love-labours of their unwearied
scholiast. Him Markland expected--him Tyrwhitt hoped to encounter--him
the sweet lyrist of Peter House, whom he had barely seen upon
earth[1], with newest airs prepared to greet ----; and, patron of
the gentle Christ's boy,--who should have been his patron through
life--the mild Askew, with longing aspirations, leaned foremost from
his venerable AEsculapian chair, to welcome into that happy company the
matured virtues of the man, whose tender scions in the boy he himself
upon earth had so prophetically fed and watered.

[Footnote 1: Graium _tantum vidit_.]


Sydney's Sonnets--I speak of the best of them--are among the very best
of their sort. They fall below the plain moral dignity, the sanctity,
and high yet modest spirit of self-approval, of Milton, in his
compositions of a similar structure. They are in truth what Milton,
censuring the Arcadia, says of that work (to which they are a sort
of after-tune or application), "vain and amatorious" enough, yet the
things in their kind (as he confesses to be true of the romance) may
be "full of worth and wit." They savour of the Courtier, it must be
allowed, and not of the Commonwealthsman. But Milton was a Courtier
when he wrote the Masque at Ludlow Castle, and still more a Courtier
when he composed the Arcades. When the national struggle was to begin,
he becomingly cast these vanities behind him; and if the order of time
had thrown Sir Philip upon the crisis which preceded the Revolution,
there is no reason why he should not have acted the same part in that
emergency, which has glorified the name of a later Sydney. He did not
want for plainness or boldness of spirit. His letter on the French
match may testify, he could speak his mind freely to Princes. The
times did not call him to the scaffold.

The Sonnets which we oftenest call to mind of Milton were the
compositions of his maturest years. Those of Sydney, which I am about
to produce, were written in the very hey-day of his blood. They are
stuck full of amorous fancies--far-fetched conceits, befitting his
occupation; for True Love thinks no labour to send out Thoughts
upon the vast, and more than Indian voyages, to bring home rich
pearls, outlandish wealth, gums, jewels, spicery, to sacrifice in
self-depreciating similitudes, as shadows of true amiabilities in the
Beloved. We must be Lovers--or at least the cooling touch of time,
the _circum praecordia frigus_, must not have so damped our faculties,
as to take away our recollection that we were once so--before we can
duly appreciate the glorious vanities, and graceful hyperboles, of
the passion. The images which lie before our feet (though by some
accounted the only natural) are least natural for the high Sydnean
love to express its fancies by. They may serve for the loves of
Tibullus, or the dear Author of the Schoolmistress; for passions that
creep and whine in Elegies and Pastoral Ballads. I am sure Milton
never loved at this rate. I am afraid some of his addresses (_ad
Leonoram_ I mean) have rather erred on the farther side; and that the
poet came not much short of a religious indecorum, when he could thus
apostrophise a singing-girl:--

Angelus unicuique suus (sic credite gentes)
Obtigit aetheriis ales ab ordinibus.
Quid mirum, Leonora, tibi si gloria major,
Nam tua praesentem vox sonat ipsa Deum?
Aut Deus, aut vacui certe mens tertia coeli,
Per tua secreto guttura serpit agens;
Serpit agens, facilisque docet mortalia corda
Sensim immortali assuescere posse sono.

This is loving in a strange fashion; and it requires some candour of
construction (besides the slight darkening of a dead language) to cast
a veil over the ugly appearance of something very like blasphemy in
the last two verses. I think the Lover would have been staggered, if
he had gone about to express the same thought in English. I am sure,
Sydney has no nights like this. His extravaganzas do not strike at the
sky, though he takes leave to adopt the pale Dian into a fellowship
with his mortal passions.


With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies;
How silently; and with how wan a face!
What! may it be, that even in heavenly place
That busy Archer his sharp arrows tries?
Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case;
I read it in thy looks; thy languish! grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn, whom that love doth possess?
Do they call _virtue_ there--_ungratefulness_!

The last line of this poem is a little obscured by transposition. He
means, Do they call ungratefulness there a virtue?


Come, Sleep, O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
The indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the prease[1]
Of those fierce darts despair at me doth throw;
O make in me those civil wars to cease:
I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take thou of me sweet pillows, sweetest bed;
A chamber deaf to noise, and blind to light;
A rosy garland, and a weary head.
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, STELLA'S image see.


The curious wits, seeing dull pensiveness
Bewray itself in my long-settled eyes,
Whence those same fumes of melancholy rise,
With idle pains, and missing aim, do guess.
Some, that know how my spring I did address,
Deem that my Muse some fruit of knowledge plies;
Others, because the Prince my service tries,
Think, that I think state errors to redress;
But harder judges judge, ambition's rage,
Scourge of itself, still climbing slippery place,
Holds my young brain captiv'd in golden cage.
O fools, or over-wise! alas, the race
Of all my thoughts hath neither stop nor start,
But only STELLA'S eyes, and STELLA'S heart.


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