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

Part 7 out of 11

drop; after hunting and winding it through all the possible ambages of
similar sounds; after squeezing, and hauling, and tugging at it, till
the very milk of it will not yield a drop further,--suddenly some
obscure, unthought-of fellow in a corner, who was never 'prentice
to the trade, whom the company for very pity passed over, as we
do by a known poor man when a money-subscription is going round,
no one calling upon him for his quota--has all at once come out
with something so whimsical, yet so pertinent; so brazen in its
pretensions, yet so impossible to be denied; so exquisitely good,
and so deplorably bad, at the same time,--that it has proved a Robin
Hood's shot; any thing ulterior to that is despaired of; and the party
breaks up, unanimously voting it to be the very worst (that is, best)
pun of the evening. This species of wit is the better for not being
perfect in all its parts. What it gains in completeness, it loses in
naturalness. The more exactly it satisfies the critical, the less hold
it has upon some other faculties. The puns which are most entertaining
are those which will least bear an analysis. Of this kind is the
following, recorded, with a sort of stigma, in one of Swift's

An Oxford scholar, meeting a porter who was carrying a hare through
the streets, accosts him with this extraordinary question: "Prithee,
friend, is that thy own hare, or a wig?"

There is no excusing this, and no resisting it. A man might blur ten
sides of paper in attempting a defence of it against a critic who
should be laughter-proof. The quibble in itself is not considerable.
It is only a new turn given, by a little false pronunciation, to a
very common, though not very courteous inquiry. Put by one gentleman
to another at a dinner-party, it would have been vapid; to the
mistress of the house, it would have shown much less wit than
rudeness. We must take in the totality of time, place, and person;
the pert look of the inquiring scholar, the desponding looks of the
puzzled porter; the one stopping at leisure, the other hurrying on
with his burthen; the innocent though rather abrupt tendency of
the first member of the question, with the utter and inextricable
irrelevancy of the second; the place--a public street, not favourable
to frivolous investigations; the affrontive quality of the primitive
inquiry (the common question) invidiously transferred to the
derivative (the new turn given to it) in the implied satire; namely,
that few of that tribe are expected to eat of the good things which
they carry, they being in most countries considered rather as the
temporary trustees than owners of such dainties,--which the fellow was
beginning to understand; but then the _wig_ again comes in, and he can
make nothing of it: all put together constitute a picture: Hogarth
could have made it intelligible on canvass.

Yet nine out of ten critics will pronounce this a very bad pun,
because of the defectiveness in the concluding member, which is its
very beauty, and constitutes the surprise. The same persons shall
cry up for admirable the cold quibble from Virgil about the broken
Cremona;[1] because it is made out in all its parts, and leaves
nothing to the imagination. We venture to call it cold; because of
thousands who have admired it, it would be difficult to find one who
has heartily chuckled at it. As appealing to the judgment merely
(setting the risible faculty aside,) we must pronounce it a monument
of curious felicity. But as some stories are said to be too good to be
true, it may with equal truth be asserted of this bi-verbal allusion,
that it is too good to be natural. One cannot help suspecting that the
incident was invented to fit the line. It would have been better had
it been less perfect. Like some Virgilian hemistichs, it has suffered
by filling up. The _nimium Vicina_ was enough in conscience; the
_Cremonae_ afterwards loads it. It is in fact a double pun; and we
have always observed that a superfoetation in this sort of wit is
dangerous. When a man has said a good thing, it is seldom politic to
follow it up. We do not care to be cheated a second time; or, perhaps,
the mind of man (with reverence be it spoken) is not capacious enough
to lodge two puns at a time. The impression, to be forcible, must be
simultaneous and undivided.

[Footnote 1: Swift.]


Those who use this proverb can never have seen Mrs. Conrady.

The soul, if we may believe Plotinus, is a ray from the celestial
beauty. As she partakes more or less of this heavenly light, she
informs, with corresponding characters, the fleshly tenement which she
chooses, and frames to herself a suitable mansion.

All which only proves that the soul of Mrs. Conrady, in her
pre-existent state, was no great judge of architecture.

To the same effect, in a Hymn in honour of Beauty, divine Spenser,
_platonizing_, sings:--

--"Every spirit as it is more pure,
And hath in it the more of heavenly light,
So it the fairer body doth procure
To habit in, and it more fairly dight
With cheerful grace and amiable sight.
For of the soul the body form doth take:
For soul is form, and doth the body make."

But Spenser, it is clear, never saw Mrs. Conrady.

These poets, we find, are no safe guides in philosophy; for here, in
his very next stanza but one, is a saving clause, which throws us all
out again, and leaves us as much to seek as ever:--

"Yet oft it falls, that many a gentle mind
Dwells in deformed tabernacle drown'd,
Either by chance, against the course of kind,
Or through unaptness in the substance found,
Which it assumed of some stubborn ground,
That will not yield unto her form's direction,
But is perform'd with some foul imperfection."

From which it would follow, that Spenser had seen somebody like Mrs.

The spirit of this good lady--her previous _anima_--must have stumbled
upon one of these untoward tabernacles which he speaks of. A more
rebellious commodity of clay for a ground, as the poet calls it, no
gentle mind--and sure hers is one of the gentlest--ever had to deal

Pondering upon her inexplicable visage--inexplicable, we mean, but by
this modification of the theory--we have come to a conclusion that,
if one must be plain, it is better to be plain all over, than, amidst
a tolerable residue of features, to hang out one that shall be
exceptionable. No one can say of Mrs. Conrady's countenance, that it
would be better if she had but a nose. It is impossible to pull her to
pieces in this manner. We have seen the most malicious beauties of her
own sex baffled in the attempt at a selection. The _tout ensemble_
defies particularising. It is too complete--too consistent, as we may
say--to admit of these invidious reservations. It is not as if some
Apelles had picked out here a lip--and there a chin--out of the
collected ugliness of Greece, to frame a model by. It is a symmetrical
whole. We challenge the minutest connoisseur to cavil at any part or
parcel of the countenance in question; to say that this, or that, is
improperly placed. We are convinced that true ugliness, no less than
is affirmed of true beauty, is the result of harmony. Like that too
it reigns without a competitor. No one ever saw Mrs. Conrady, without
pronouncing her to be the plainest woman that he ever met with in the
course of his life. The first time that you are indulged with a sight
of her face, is an era in your existence ever after. You are glad to
have seen it--like Stonehenge. No one can pretend to forget it. No one
ever apologised to her for meeting her in the street on such a day and
not knowing her: the pretext would be too bare. Nobody can mistake her
for another. Nobody can say of her, "I think I have seen that face
somewhere, but I cannot call to mind where." You must remember that in
such a parlour it first struck you--like a bust. You wondered where
the owner of the house had picked it up. You wondered more when it
began to move its lips--so mildly too! No one ever thought of asking
her to sit for her picture. Lockets are for remembrance; and it would
be clearly superfluous to hang an image at your heart, which, once
seen, can never be out of it. It is not a mean face either; its entire
originality precludes that. Neither is it of that order of plain faces
which improve upon acquaintance. Some very good but ordinary people,
by an unwearied perseverance in good offices, put a cheat upon our
eyes: juggle our senses out of their natural impressions; and set us
upon discovering good indications in a countenance, which at first
sight promised nothing less. We detect gentleness, which had escaped
us, lurking about an under lip. But when Mrs. Conrady has done you a
service, her face remains the same; when she has done you a thousand,
and you know that she is ready to double the number, still it is that
individual face. Neither can you say of it, that it would be a good
face if it was not marked by the small pox--a compliment which is
always more admissive than excusatory--for either Mrs. Conrady never
had the small pox; or, as we say, took it kindly. No, it stands upon
its own merits fairly. There it is. It is her mark, her token; that
which she is known by.


Nor a lady's age in the parish register. We hope we have more delicacy
than to do either: but some faces spare us the trouble of these
_dental_ inquiries. And what if the beast, which my friend would force
upon my acceptance, prove, upon the face of it, a sorry Rozinante, a
lean, ill-favoured jade, whom no gentleman could think of setting up
in his stables? Must I, rather than not be obliged to my friend, make
her a companion to Eclipse or Lightfoot? A horse-giver, no more than
a horse-seller, has a right to palm his spavined article upon us for
good ware. An equivalent is expected in either case; and, with my own
good will, I would no more be cheated out of my thanks, than out of my
money. Some people have a knack of putting upon you gifts of no real
value, to engage you to substantial gratitude. We thank them for
nothing. Our friend Mitis carries this humour of never refusing a
present, to the very point of absurdity--if it were possible to couple
the ridiculous with so much mistaken delicacy, and real good-nature.
Not an apartment in his fine house (and he has a true taste in
household decorations), but is stuffed up with some preposterous print
or mirror--the worst adapted to his pannels that may be--the presents
of his friends that know his weakness; while his noble Vandykes are
displaced, to make room for a set of daubs, the work of some wretched
artist of his acquaintance, who, having had them returned upon his
hands for bad likenesses, finds his account in bestowing them here
gratis. The good creature has not the heart to mortify the painter
at the expense of an honest refusal. It is pleasant (if it did not
vex one at the same time) to see him sitting in his dining parlour,
surrounded with obscure aunts and cousins to God knows whom, while
the true Lady Marys and Lady Bettys of his own honourable family, in
favour to these adopted frights, are consigned to the staircase and
the lumber-room. In like manner his goodly shelves are one by one
stript of his favourite old authors, to give place to a collection
of presentation copies--the flower and bran of modern poetry. A
presentation copy, reader--if haply you are yet innocent of such
favours--is a copy of a book which does not sell, sent you by the
author, with his foolish autograph at the beginning of it; for which,
if a stranger, he only demands your friendship; if a brother author,
he expects from you a book of yours which does sell, in return. We
can speak to experience, having by us a tolerable assortment of these
gift-horses. Not to ride a metaphor to death--we are willing to
acknowledge, that in some gifts there is sense. A duplicate out of a
friend's library (where he has more than one copy of a rare author) is
intelligible. There are favours, short of the pecuniary--a thing not
fit to be hinted at among gentlemen--which confer as much grace upon
the acceptor as the offerer: the kind, we confess, which is most to
our palate, is of those little conciliatory missives, which for their
vehicle generally choose a hamper--little odd presents of game, fruit,
perhaps wine--though it is essential to the delicacy of the latter
that it be home-made. We love to have our friend in the country
sitting thus at our table by proxy; to apprehend his presence (though
a hundred miles may be between us) by a turkey, whose goodly aspect
reflects to us his "plump corpusculum;" to taste him in grouse or
woodcock; to feel him gliding down in the toast peculiar to the
latter; to concorporate him in a slice of Canterbury brawn. This is
indeed to have him within ourselves; to know him intimately: such
participation is methinks unitive, as the old theologians phrase it.
For these considerations we should be sorry if certain restrictive
regulations, which are thought to bear hard upon the peasantry of this
country, were entirely done away with. A hare, as the law now stands,
makes many friends. Caius conciliates Titius (knowing his _gout_) with
a leash of partridges. Titius (suspecting his partiality for them)
passes them to Lucius; who in his turn, preferring his friend's relish
to his own, makes them over to Marcius; till in their ever widening
progress, and round of unconscious circum-migration, they distribute
the seeds of harmony over half a parish. We are well disposed to
this kind of sensible remembrances; and are the less apt to be taken
by those little airy tokens--inpalpable to the palate--which, under
the names of rings, lockets, keep-sakes, amuse some people's fancy
mightily. We could never away with these indigestible trifles. They
are the very kickshaws and foppery of friendship.


Homes there are, we are sure, that are no homes: the home of the very
poor man, and another which we shall speak to presently. Crowded
places of cheap entertainment, and the benches of ale-houses, if they
could speak, might bear mournful testimony to the first. To them the
very poor man resorts for an image of the home, which he cannot find
at home. For a starved grate, and a scanty firing, that is not enough
to keep alive the natural heat in the fingers of so many shivering
children with their mother, he finds in the depth of winter always a
blazing hearth, and a hob to warm his pittance of beer by. Instead
of the clamours of a wife, made gaunt by famishing, he meets with
a cheerful attendance beyond the merits of the trifle which he can
afford to spend. He has companions which his home denies him, for the
very poor man has no visiters. He can look into the goings on of the
world, and speak a little to politics. At home there are no politics
stirring, but the domestic. All interests, real or imaginary, all
topics that should expand the mind of man, and connect him to a
sympathy with general existence, are crushed in the absorbing
consideration of food to be obtained for the family. Beyond the price
of bread, news is senseless and impertinent. At home there is no
larder. Here there is at least a show of plenty; and while he cooks
his lean scrap of butcher's meat before the common bars, or munches
his humbler cold viands, his relishing bread and cheese with an onion,
in a corner, where no one reflects upon his poverty, he has sight of
the substantial joint providing for the landlord and his family. He
takes an interest in the dressing of it; and while he assists in
removing the trivet from the fire, he feels that there is such a thing
as beef and cabbage, which he was beginning to forget at home. All
this while he deserts his wife and children. But what wife, and what
children? Prosperous men, who object to this desertion, image to
themselves some clean contented family like that which they go home
to. But look at the countenance of the poor wives who follow and
persecute their good man to the door of the public house, which he
is about to enter, when something like shame would restrain him, if
stronger misery did not induce him to pass the threshold. That face,
ground by want, in which every cheerful, every conversable lineament
has been long effaced by misery,--is that a face to stay at home with?
is it more a woman, or a wild cat? alas! it is the face of the wife
of his youth, that once smiled upon him. It can smile no longer. What
comforts can it share? what burthens can it lighten? Oh, 'tis a fine
thing to talk of the humble meal shared together! But what if there be
no bread in the cupboard? The innocent prattle of his children takes
out the sting of a man's poverty. But the children of the very poor
do not prattle. It is none of the least frightful features in that
condition, that there is no childishness in its dwellings. Poor
people, said a sensible old nurse to us once, do not bring up their
children; they drag them up. The little careless darling of the
wealthier nursery, in their hovel is transformed betimes into a
premature reflecting person. No one has time to dandle it, no one
thinks it worth while to coax it, to soothe it, to toss it up and
down, to humour it. There is none to kiss away its tears. If it cries,
it can only be beaten. It has been prettily said that "a babe is fed
with milk and praise." But the aliment of this poor babe was thin,
unnourishing; the return to its little baby-tricks, and efforts to
engage attention, bitter ceaseless objurgation. It never had a toy,
or knew what a coral meant. It grew up without the lullaby of nurses,
it was a stranger to the patient fondle, the hushing caress, the
attracting novelty, the costlier plaything, or the cheaper off-hand
contrivance to divert the child; the prattled nonsense (best sense
to it), the wise impertinences, the wholesome lies, the apt story
interposed, that puts a stop to present sufferings, and awakens the
passion of young wonder. It was never sung to--no one ever told to
it a tale of the nursery. It was dragged up, to live or to die as
it happened. It had no young dreams. It broke at once into the iron
realities of life. A child exists not for the very poor as any object
of dalliance; it is only another mouth to be fed, a pair of little
hands to be betimes inured to labour. It is the rival, till it can be
the co-operator, for food with the parent. It is never his mirth, his
diversion, his solace; it never makes him young again, with recalling
his young times. The children of the very poor have no young times.
It makes the very heart to bleed to overhear the casual street-talk
between a poor woman and her little girl, a woman of the better sort
of poor, in a condition rather above the squalid beings which we have
been contemplating. It is not of toys, of nursery books, of summer
holidays (fitting that age); of the promised sight, or play; of
praised sufficiency at school. It is of mangling and clear-starching,
of the price of coals, or of potatoes. The questions of the child,
that should be the very outpourings of curiosity in idleness, are
marked with forecast and melancholy providence. It has come to be
a woman, before it was a child. It has learned to go to market; it
chaffers, it haggles, it envies, it murmurs; it is knowing, acute,
sharpened; it never prattles. Had we not reason to say, that the home
of the very poor is no home?

There is yet another home, which we are constrained to deny to be one.
It has a larder, which the home of the poor man wants; its fireside
conveniences, of which the poor dream not. But with all this, it is no
home. It is--the house of the man that is infested with many visiters.
May we be branded for the veriest churl, if we deny our heart to the
many noble-hearted friends that at times exchange their dwelling for
our poor roof! It is not of guests that we complain, but of endless,
purposeless visitants; droppers in, as they are called. We sometimes
wonder from what sky they fall. It is the very error of the position
of our lodging; its horoscopy was ill calculated, being just situate
in a medium--a plaguy suburban mid-space--fitted to catch idlers from
town or country. We are older than we were, and age is easily put out
of its way. We have fewer sands in our glass to reckon upon, and we
cannot brook to see them drop in endlessly succeeding impertinences.
At our time of life, to be alone sometimes is as needful as sleep. It
is the refreshing sleep of the day. The growing infirmities of age
manifest themselves in nothing more strongly, than in an inveterate
dislike of interruption. The thing which we are doing, we wish to be
permitted to do. We have neither much knowledge nor devices; but there
are fewer in the place to which we hasten. We are not willingly put
out of our way, even at a game of nine-pins. While youth was, we had
vast reversions in time future; we are reduced to a present pittance,
and obliged to economise in that article. We bleed away our moments
now as hardly as our ducats. We cannot bear to have our thin wardrobe
eaten and fretted into by moths. We are willing to barter our good
time with a friend, who gives us in exchange his own. Herein is the
distinction between the genuine guest and the visitant. This latter
takes your good time, and gives you his bad in exchange. The guest
is domestic to you as your good cat, or household bird; the visitant
is your fly, that flaps in at your window, and out again, leaving
nothing but a sense of disturbance, and victuals spoiled. The inferior
functions of life begin to move heavily. We cannot concoct our food
with interruptions. Our chief meal, to be nutritive, must be solitary.
With difficulty we can eat before a guest; and never understood
what the relish of public feasting meant. Meats have no sapor, nor
digestion fair play, in a crowd. The unexpected coming in of a
visitant stops the machine. There is a punctual generation who time
their calls to the precise commencement of your dining-hour--not to
eat--but to see you eat. Our knife and fork drop instinctively, and we
feel that we have swallowed our latest morsel. Others again show their
genius, as we have said, in knocking the moment you have just sat down
to a book. They have a peculiar compassionating sneer, with which they
"hope that they do not interrupt your studies." Though they flutter
off the next moment, to carry their impertinences to the nearest
student that they can call their friend, the tone of the book is
spoiled; we shut the leaves, and, with Dante's lovers, read no
more that day. It were well if the effect of intrusion were simply
co-extensive with its presence; but it mars all the good hours
afterwards. These scratches in appearance leave an orifice that closes
not hastily. "It is a prostitution of the bravery of friendship," says
worthy Bishop Taylor, "to spend it upon impertinent people, who are,
it may be, loads to their families, but can never ease my loads." This
is the secret of their gaddings, their visits, and morning calls. They
too have homes, which are--no homes.


"Good sir, or madam, as it may be--we most willingly embrace the offer
of your friendship. We long have known your excellent qualities. We
have wished to have you nearer to us; to hold you within the very
innermost fold of our heart. We can have no reserve towards a person
of your open and noble nature. The frankness of your humour suits
us exactly. We have been long looking for such a friend. Quick--let
us disburthen our troubles into each other's bosom--let us make our
single joys shine by reduplication--But _yap, yap, yap!_--what is
this confounded cur? he has fastened his tooth, which is none of the
bluntest, just in the fleshy part of my leg."

"It is my dog, sir. You must love him for my sake. Here,

"But he has bitten me."

"Ay, that he is apt to do, till you are better acquainted with him. I
have had him three years. He never bites me."

_Yap, yap, yap!_--"He is at it again."

"Oh, sir, you must not kick him. He does not like to be kicked. I
expect my dog to be treated with all the respect due to myself."

"But do you always take him out with you, when you go a

"Invariably. 'Tis the sweetest, prettiest, best-conditioned animal. I
call him my _test_--the touchstone by which I try a friend. No one can
properly be said to love me, who does not love him."

"Excuse us, dear sir--or madam aforesaid--if upon further
consideration we are obliged to decline the otherwise invaluable offer
of your friendship. We do not like dogs."

"Mighty well, sir--you know the conditions--you may have worse offers.
Come along, Test."

The above dialogue is not so imaginary, but that, in the intercourse
of life, we have had frequent occasions of breaking off an agreeable
intimacy by reason of these canine appendages. They do not always
come in the shape of dogs; they sometimes wear the more plausible and
human character of kinsfolk, near acquaintances, my friend's friend,
his partner, his wife, or his children. We could never yet form a
friendship--not to speak of more delicate correspondences--however
much to our taste, without the intervention of some third anomaly,
some impertinent clog affixed to the relation--the understood _dog_
in the proverb. The good things of life are not to be had singly, but
come to us with a mixture; like a schoolboy's holiday, with a task
affixed to the tail of it. What a delightful companion is ****, if he
did not always bring his tall cousin with him! He seems to grow with
him; like some of those double births, which we remember to have read
of with such wonder and delight in the old "Athenian Oracle," where
Swift commenced author by writing Pindaric Odes (what a beginning for
him!) upon Sir William Temple. There is the picture of the brother,
with the little brother peeping out at his shoulder; a species of
fraternity, which we have no name of kin close enough to comprehend.
When **** comes, poking in his head and shoulders into your room,
as if to feel his entry, you think, surely you have now got him to
yourself--what a three hours' chat we shall have!--but, ever in the
haunch of him, and before his diffident body is well disclosed in your
apartment, appears the haunting shadow of the cousin, over-peering his
modest kinsman, and sure to over-lay the expected good talk with his
insufferable procerity of stature, and uncorresponding dwarfishness of
observation. Misfortunes seldom come alone. 'Tis hard when a blessing
comes accompanied. Cannot we like Sempronia, without sitting down to
chess with her eternal brother? or know Sulpicia, without knowing all
the round of her card-playing relations? must my friend's brethren
of necessity be mine also? must we be hand and glove with Dick Selby
the parson, or Jack Selby the calico printer, because W.S., who is
neither, but a ripe wit and a critic, has the misfortune to claim a
common parentage with them? Let him lay down his brothers; and 'tis
odds but we will cast him in a pair of ours (we have a superflux) to
balance the concession. Let F.H. lay down his garrulous uncle; and
Honorius dismiss his vapid wife, and superfluous establishment of six
boys--things between boy and manhood--too ripe for play, too raw for
conversation--that come in, impudently staring their father's old
friend out of countenance; and will neither aid, nor let alone, the
conference: that we may once more meet upon equal terms, as we were
wont to do in the disengaged state of bachelorhood.

It is well if your friend, or mistress, be content with these
canicular probations. Few young ladies but in this sense keep a dog.
But when Rutilia hounds at you her tiger aunt; or Ruspina expects you
to cherish and fondle her viper sister, whom she has preposterously
taken into her bosom, to try stinging conclusions upon your constancy;
they must not complain if the house be rather thin of suitors. Scylla
must have broken off many excellent matches in her time, if she
insisted upon all, that loved her, loving her dogs also.

An excellent story to this moral is told of Merry, of Della Cruscan
memory. In tender youth, he loved and courted a modest appanage to
the Opera, in truth a dancer, who had won him by the artless contrast
between her manners and situation. She seemed to him a native violet,
that had been transplanted by some rude accident into that exotic and
artificial hotbed. Nor, in truth, was she less genuine and sincere
than she appeared to him. He wooed and won this flower. Only for
appearance' sake, and for due honour to the bride's relations, she
craved that she might have the attendance of her friends and kindred
at the approaching solemnity. The request was too amiable not to be
conceded; and in this solicitude for conciliating the good will of
mere relations, he found a presage of her superior attentions to
himself, when the golden shaft should have "killed the flock of all
affections else." The morning came; and at the Star and Garter,
Richmond--the place appointed for the breakfasting--accompanied with
one English friend, he impatiently awaited what reinforcements the
bride should bring to grace the ceremony. A rich muster she had made.
They came in six coaches--the whole corps du ballet--French, Italian,
men and women. Monsieur de B., the famous _pirouetter_ of the day, led
his fair spouse, but craggy, from the banks of the Seine. The Prima
Donna had sent her excuse. But the first and second Buffa were there;
and Signor Sc----, and Signora Ch----, and Madame V----, with a
countless cavalcade besides of chorusers, figurantes, at the sight
of whom Merry afterwards declared, that "then for the first time it
struck him seriously, that he was about to marry--a dancer." But there
was no help for it. Besides, it was her day; these were, in fact, her
friends and kinsfolk. The assemblage, though whimsical, was all very
natural. But when the bride--handing out of the last coach a still
more extraordinary figure than the rest--presented to him as her
_father_--the gentleman that was to _give her away_--no less a person
than Signor Delpini himself--with a sort of pride, as much as to
say, See what I have brought to do us honour!--the thought of so
extraordinary a paternity quite overcame him; and slipping away under
some pretence from the bride and her motley adherents, poor Merry
took horse from the back yard to the nearest sea-coast, from which,
shipping himself to America, he shortly after consoled himself with a
more congenial match in the person of Miss Brunton; relieved from his
intended clown father, and a bevy of painted Buffas for bridemaids.


At what precise minute that little airy musician doffs his night
gear, and prepares to tune up his unseasonable matins, we are not
naturalists enough to determine. But for a mere human gentleman--that
has no orchestra business to call him from his warm bed to such
preposterous exercises--We take ten, or half after ten (eleven, of
course, during this Christmas solstice), to be the very earliest hour,
at which he can begin to think of abandoning his pillow. To think of
it, we say; for to do it in earnest, requires another half hour's good
consideration. Not but there are pretty sun-risings, as we are told,
and such like gawds, abroad in the world, in summer time especially,
some hours before what we have assigned; which a gentleman may see,
as they say, only for getting up. But, having been tempted once or
twice, in earlier life, to assist at those ceremonies, we confess
our curiosity abated. We are no longer ambitious of being the sun's
courtiers, to attend at his morning levees. We hold the good hours of
the dawn too sacred to waste them upon such observances; which have
in them, besides, something Pagan and Persic. To say truth, we never
anticipated our usual hour, or got up with the sun (as 'tis called),
to go a journey, or upon a foolish whole day's pleasuring, but we
suffered for it all the long hours after in listlessness and headachs;
Nature herself sufficiently declaring her sense of our presumption,
in aspiring to regulate our frail waking courses by the measures of
that celestial and sleepless traveller. We deny not that there is
something sprightly and vigorous, at the outset especially, in these
break-of-day excursions. It is flattering to get the start of a lazy
world; to conquer death by proxy in his image. But the seeds of sleep
and mortality are in us; and we pay usually in strange qualms, before
night falls, the penalty of the unnatural inversion. Therefore, while
the busy part of mankind are fast huddling on their clothes, are
already up and about their occupations, content to have swallowed
their sleep by wholesale; we chose to linger a-bed, and digest our
dreams. It is the very time to recombine the wandering images, which
night in a confused mass presented; to snatch them from forgetfulness;
to shape, and mould them. Some people have no good of their dreams.
Like fast feeders, they gulp them too grossly, to taste them
curiously. We love to chew the cud of a foregone vision: to collect
the scattered rays of a brighter phantasm, or act over again, with
firmer nerves, the sadder nocturnal tragedies; to drag into day-light
a struggling and half-vanishing night-mare; to handle and examine
the terrors, or the airy solaces. We have too much respect for these
spiritual communications, to let them go so lightly. We are not so
stupid, or so careless, as that Imperial forgetter of his dreams, that
we should need a seer to remind us of the form of them. They seem to
us to have as much significance as our waking concerns; or rather to
import us more nearly, as more nearly we approach by years to the
shadowy world, whither we are hastening. We have shaken hands with the
world's business; we have done with it; we have discharged ourself
of it. Why should we get up? we have neither suit to solicit, nor
affairs to manage. The drama has shut in upon us at the fourth act.
We have nothing here to expect, but in a short time a sick bed, and
a dismissal. We delight to anticipate death by such shadows as night
affords. We are already half acquainted with ghosts. We were never
much in the world. Disappointment early struck a dark veil between us
and its dazzling illusions. Our spirits showed grey before our hairs.
The mighty changes of the world already appear as but the vain stuff
out of which dramas are composed. We have asked no more of life than
what the mimic images in play-houses present us with. Even those
types have waxed fainter. Our clock appears to have struck. We are
SUPERANNUATED. In this dearth of mundane satisfaction, we contract
politic alliances with shadows. It is good to have friends at court.
The abstracted media of dreams seem no ill introduction to that
spiritual presence, upon which, in no long time, we expect to be
thrown. We are trying to know a little of the usages of that colony;
to learn the language, and the faces we shall meet with there, that we
may be the less awkward at our first coming among them. We willingly
call a phantom our fellow, as knowing we shall soon be of their dark
companionship. Therefore, we cherish dreams. We try to spell in them
the alphabet of the invisible world; and think we know already, how it
shall be with us. Those uncouth shapes, which, while we clung to flesh
and blood, affrighted us, have become familiar. We feel attenuated
into their meagre essences, and have given the hand of half-way
approach to incorporeal being. We once thought life to be something;
but it has unaccountably fallen from us before its time. Therefore we
choose to dally with visions. The sun has no purposes of ours to light
us to. Why should we get up?


We could never quite understand the philosophy of this arrangement,
or the wisdom of our ancestors in sending us for instruction to
these woolly bedfellows. A sheep, when it is dark, has nothing to do
but to shut his silly eyes, and sleep if he can. Man found out long
sixes.--Hail candle-light! without disparagement to sun or moon, the
kindliest luminary of the three--if we may not rather style thee their
radiant deputy, mild viceroy of the moon!--We love to read, talk, sit
silent, eat, drink, sleep, by candle-light. They are every body's sun
and moon. This is our peculiar and household planet. Wanting it, what
savage unsocial nights must our ancestors have spent, wintering in
caves and unillumined fastnesses! They must have lain about and
grumbled at one another in the dark. What repartees could have passed,
when you must have felt about for a smile, and handled a neighbour's
cheek to be sure that he understood it? This accounts for the
seriousness of the elder poetry. It has a sombre cast (try Hesiod or
Ossian), derived from the tradition of those unlantern'd nights. Jokes
came in with candles. We wonder how they saw to pick up a pin, if they
had any. How did they sup? what a melange of chance carving they must
have made of it!--here one had got a leg of a goat, when he wanted
a horse's shoulder--there another had dipt his scooped palm in a
kid-skin of wild honey, when he meditated right mare's milk. There
is neither good eating nor drinking in fresco. Who, even in these
civilised times, has never experienced this, when at some economic
table he has commenced dining after dusk, and waited for the
flavour till the lights came? The senses absolutely give and take
reciprocally. Can you tell pork from veal in the dark? or distinguish
Sherris from pure Malaga? Take away the candle from the smoking
man; by the glimmering of the left ashes, he knows that he is still
smoking, but he knows it only by an inference; till the restored
light, coming in aid of the olfactories, reveals to both senses the
full aroma. Then how he redoubles his puffs! how he burnishes!--There
is absolutely no such thing as reading, but by a candle. We have
tried the affectation of a book at noon-day in gardens, and in sultry
arbours; but it was labour thrown away. Those gay motes in the beam
come about you, hovering and teazing, like so many coquets, that will
have you all to their self, and are jealous of your abstractions. By
the midnight taper, the writer digests his meditations. By the same
light, we must approach to their perusal, if we would catch the flame,
the odour. It is a mockery, all that is reported of the influential
Phoebus. No true poem ever owed its birth to the sun's light. They are
abstracted works--

"Things that were born, when none but the still night,
And his dumb candle, saw his pinching throes."

Marry, daylight--daylight might furnish the images, the crude
material; but for the fine shapings, the true turning and filing (as
mine author hath it), they must be content to hold their inspiration
of the candle. The mild internal light, that reveals them, like fires
on the domestic hearth, goes out in the sunshine. Night and silence
call out the starry fancies, Milton's Morning Hymn on Paradise, we
would hold a good wager, was penned at midnight; and Taylor's richer
description of a sun-rise smells decidedly of the taper. Even ourself,
in these our humbler lucubrations, tune our best measured cadences
(Prose has her cadences) not unfrequently to the charm of the drowsier
watchman, "blessing the doors;" or the wild sweep of winds at
midnight. Even now a loftier speculation than we have yet attempted,
courts our endeavours. We would indite something about the Solar
System.--_Betty, bring the candles_.


We grant that it is, and a very serious one--to a man's friends, and
to all that have to do with him; but whether the condition of the man
himself is so much to be deplored, may admit of a question. We can
speak a little to it, being ourself but lately recovered--we whisper
it in confidence, reader--out of a long and desperate fit of the
sullens. Was the cure a blessing? The conviction which wrought it,
came too clearly to leave a scruple of the fanciful injuries--for
they were mere fancies--which had provoked the humour. But the humour
itself was too self-pleasing, while it lasted--we know how bare we
lay ourself in the confession--to be abandoned all at once with the
grounds of it. We still brood over wrongs which we know to have been
imaginary; and for our old acquaintance, N----, whom we find to
have been a truer friend than we took him for, we substitute some
phantom--a Caius or a Titius--as like him as we dare to form it, to
wreak our yet unsatisfied resentments on. It is mortifying to fall at
once from the pinnacle of neglect; to forego the idea of having been
ill-used and contumaciously treated by an old friend. The first thing
to aggrandise a man in his own conceit, is to conceive of himself as
neglected. There let him fix if he can. To undeceive him is to deprive
him of the most tickling morsel within the range of self-complacency.
No flattery can come near it. Happy is he who suspects his friend of
an injustice; but supremely blest, who thinks all his friends in a
conspiracy to depress and undervalue him. There is a pleasure (we
sing not to the profane) far beyond the reach of all that the world
counts joy--a deep, enduring satisfaction in the depths, where the
superficial seek it not, of discontent. Were we to recite one half of
this mystery, which we were let into by our late dissatisfaction, all
the world would be in love with disrespect; we should wear a slight
for a bracelet, and neglects and contumacies would be the only matter
for courtship. Unlike to that mysterious book in the Apocalypse, the
study of this mystery is unpalatable only in the commencement. The
first sting of a suspicion is grievous; but wait--out of that wound,
which to flesh and blood seemed so difficult, there is balm and honey
to be extracted. Your friend passed you on such or such a day,--having
in his company one that you conceived worse than ambiguously disposed
towards you,--passed you in the street without notice. To be sure he
is something shortsighted; and it was in your power to have accosted
_him_. But facts and sane inferences are trifles to a true adept in
the science of dissatisfaction. He must have seen you; and S----,
who was with him, must have been the cause of the contempt. It galls
you, and well it may. But have patience. Go home, and make the worst
of it, and you are a made man from this time. Shut yourself up,
and--rejecting, as an enemy to your peace, every whispering suggestion
that but insinuates there may be a mistake--reflect seriously upon the
many lesser instances which you had begun to perceive, in proof of
your friend's disaffection towards you. None of them singly was much
to the purpose, but the aggregate weight is positive; and you have
this last affront to clench them. Thus far the process is any thing
but agreeable. But now to your relief comes in the comparative
faculty. You conjure up all the kind feelings you have had for your
friend; what you have been to him, and what you would have been to
him, if he would have suffered you; how you defended him in this
or that place; and his good name--his literary reputation, and so
forth, was always dearer to you than your own! Your heart, spite of
itself, yearns towards him. You could weep tears of blood but for a
restraining pride. How say you? do you not yet begin to apprehend a
comfort? some allay of sweetness in the bitter waters? Stop not here,
nor penuriously cheat yourself of your reversions. You are on vantage
ground. Enlarge your speculations, and take in the rest of your
friends, as a spark kindles more sparks. Was there one among them, who
has not to you proved hollow, false, slippery as water? Begin to think
that the relation itself is inconsistent with mortality. That the very
idea of friendship, with its component parts, as honour, fidelity,
steadiness, exists but in your single bosom. Image yourself to
yourself, as the only possible friend in a world incapable of that
communion. Now the gloom thickens. The little star of self-love
twinkles, that is to encourage you through deeper glooms than this.
You are not yet at the half point of your elevation. You are not yet,
believe me, half sulky enough. Adverting to the world in general, (as
these circles in the mind will spread to infinity) reflect with what
strange injustice you have been treated in quarters where, (setting
gratitude and the expectation of friendly returns aside as chimeras,)
you pretended no claim beyond justice, the naked due of all men. Think
the very idea of right and fit fled from the earth, or your breast
the solitary receptacle of it, till you have swelled yourself into at
least one hemisphere; the other being the vast Arabia Stony of your
friends and the world aforesaid. To grow bigger every moment in your
own conceit, and the world to lessen: to deify yourself at the expense
of your species; to judge the world--this is the acme and supreme
point of your mystery--these the true PLEASURES of SULKINESS. We
profess no more of this grand secret than what ourself experimented
on one rainy afternoon in the last week, sulking in our study. We had
proceeded to the penultimate point, at which the true adept seldom
stops, where the consideration of benefit forgot is about to merge
in the meditation of general injustice--when a knock at the door was
followed by the entrance of the very friend, whose not seeing of us in
the morning, (for we will now confess the case our own), an accidental
oversight, had given rise to so much agreeable generalization!
To mortify us still more, and take down the whole flattering
superstructure which pride had piled upon neglect, he had brought in
his hand the identical S----, in whose favour we had suspected him of
the contumacy. Asseverations were needless, where the frank manner of
them both was convictive of the injurious nature of the suspicion. We
fancied that they perceived our embarrassment; but were too proud, or
something else, to confess to the secret of it. We had been but too
lately in the condition of the noble patient in Argos:

Qui se credebat miros audire tragoedos.
In vacuo laetus sessor plausorque theatro--

and could have exclaimed with equal reason against the friendly hands
that cured us--

Pol me occidistis, amici,
Non servastis, ait; cui sic extorta voluptas,
Et demptus per vim mentis gratissimus error.




(_London Magazine_, Feb., 1822)

Of all the actors who flourished in my time--a melancholy phrase
if taken aright, reader--Bensley had most of the swell of soul,
was greatest in the delivery of heroic conceptions, the emotions
consequent upon the presentment of a great idea to the fancy. He had
the true poetical enthusiasm--the rarest faculty among players. None
that I remember possessed even a portion of that fine madness which
he threw out in Hotspur's famous rant about glory, or the transports
of the Venetian incendiary at the vision of the fired city.[1] His
voice had the dissonance, and at times the inspiriting effect of
the trumpet. His gait was uncouth and stiff, but no way embarrassed
by affectation; and the thorough-bred gentleman was uppermost in
every movement. He seized the moment of passion with the greatest
truth; like a faithful clock never striking before the time; never
anticipating or leading you to anticipate. He was totally destitute
of trick and artifice. He seemed come upon the stage to do the poet's
message simply, and he did it with as genuine fidelity as the nuncios
in Homer deliver the errands of the gods. He let the passion or the
sentiment do its own work without prop or bolstering. He would have
scorned to mountebank it; and betrayed none of that _cleverness_ which
is the bane of serious acting. For this reason, his Iago was the only
endurable one which I remember to have seen. No spectator from his
action could divine more of his artifice than Othello was supposed to
do. His confessions in soliloquy alone put you in possession of the
mystery. There were no bye-intimations to make the audience fancy
their own discernment so much greater than that of the Moor--who
commonly stands like a great helpless mark set up for mine Ancient,
and a quantity of barren spectators, to shoot their bolts at. The Iago
of Bensley did not go to work so grossly. There was a triumphant tone
about the character, natural to a general consciousness of power; but
none of that petty vanity which chuckles and cannot contain itself
upon any little successful stroke of its knavery--which is common with
your small villains, and green probationers in mischief. It did not
clap or crow before its time. It was not a man setting his wits at a
child, and winking all the while at other children who are mightily
pleased at being let into the secret; but a consummate villain
entrapping a noble nature into toils, against which no discernment was
available, where the manner was as fathomless as the purpose seemed
dark, and without motive. The part of Malvolio, in the Twelfth Night,
was performed by Bensley, with a richness and a dignity of which (to
judge from some recent castings of that character) the very tradition
must be worn out from the stage. No manager in those days would have
dreamed of giving it to Mr. Baddeley, or Mr. Parsons: when Bensley
was occasionally absent from the theatre, John Kemble thought it
no derogation to succeed to the part. Malvolio is not essentially
ludicrous. He becomes comic but by accident. He is cold, austere,
repelling; but dignified, consistent, and, for what appears, rather of
an over-stretched morality. Maria describes him as a sort of Puritan;
and he might have worn his gold chain with honour in one of our old
round-head families, in the service of a Lambert, or a Lady Fairfax.
But his morality and his manners are misplaced in Illyria. He is
opposed to the proper _levities_ of the piece, and falls in the
unequal contest. Still his pride, or his gravity, (call it which you
will) is inherent, and native to the man, not mock or affected, which
latter only are the fit objects to excite laughter. His quality is at
the best unlovely, but neither buffoon nor contemptible. His bearing
is lofty, a little above his station, but probably not much above
his deserts. We see no reason why he should not have been brave,
honourable, accomplished. His careless committal of the ring to the
ground (which he was commissioned to restore to Cesario), bespeaks a
generosity of birth and feeling.[2] His dialect on all occasions is
that of a gentleman, and a man of education. We must not confound him
with the eternal low steward of comedy. He is master of the household
to a great Princess, a dignity probably conferred upon him for other
respects than age or length of service.[3] Olivia, at the first
indication of his supposed madness, declares that she "would not
have him miscarry for half of her dowry." Does this look as if
the character was meant to appear little or insignificant? Once,
indeed, she accuses him to his face--of what?--of being "sick of
self-love,"--but with a gentleness and considerateness which could
not have been, if she had not thought that this particular infirmity
shaded some virtues. His rebuke to the knight, and his sottish
revellers, is sensible and spirited; and when we take into
consideration the unprotected condition of his mistress, and the
strict regard with which her state of real or dissembled mourning
would draw the eyes of the world upon her house-affairs, Malvolio
might feel the honour of the family in some sort in his keeping, as
it appears not that Olivia had any more brothers, or kinsmen, to look
to it--for Sir Toby had dropped all such nice respects at the buttery
hatch. That Malvolio was meant to be represented as possessing some
estimable qualities, the expression of the Duke in his anxiety to
have him reconciled, almost infers: "Pursue him, and intreat him to
a peace." Even in his abused state of chains and darkness, a sort of
greatness seems never to desert him. He argues highly and well with
the supposed Sir Topas,[4] and philosophizes gallantly upon his straw.
There must have been some shadow of worth about the man; he must have
been something more than a mere vapour--a thing of straw, or Jack in
office--before Fabian and Maria could have ventured sending him upon a
courting errand to Olivia. There was some consonancy (as he would say)
in the undertaking, or the jest would have been too bold even for that
house of misrule. There was "example for it," said Malvolio; "the lady
of the Strachy married the yeoman of the wardrobe." Possibly too he
might remember--for it must have happened about his time--an instance
of a Duchess of Malfy (a countrywoman of Olivia's, and her equal at
least) descending from her state to court her steward--

The misery of them that are born great!
They are forced to woo, because none dare woo them.

To be sure the lady was not very tenderly handled for it by her
brothers in the sequel, but their vengeance appears to have been
whetted rather by her presumption in re-marrying at all, (when they
had meditated the keeping of her fortune in their family) than by her
choice of an inferior, of Antonio's noble merits especially, for her
husband; and, besides, Olivia's brother was just dead. Malvolio was a
man of reading, and possibly reflected upon these lines, or something
like them in his own country poetry--

--Ceremony has made many fools.
It is as easy way unto a duchess
As to a hatted dame, if her love answer:
But that by timorous honours, pale respects,
Idle degrees of fear, men make their ways
Hard of themselves.

"'Tis but fortune, all is fortune. Maria once told me, she did affect
me; and I have heard herself come thus near, that, should she fancy,
it should be one of my complexion." If here was no encouragement, the
devil is in it. I wish we could get at the private history of all
this. Between the Countess herself, serious or dissembling--for one
hardly knows how to apprehend this fantastical great lady--and the
practices of that delicious little piece of mischief, Maria--

The lime twigs laid
By Machiavel the waiting maid--

the man might well be rapt into a fool's paradise.

Bensley threw over the part an air of Spanish loftiness. He looked,
spake, and moved like an old Castilian. He was starch, spruce,
opinionated, but his superstructure of pride seemed bottomed upon a
sense of worth. There was something in it beyond the coxcomb. It was
big and swelling, but you could not be sure that it was hollow. You
might wish to see it taken down, but you felt that it was upon an
elevation. He was magnificent from the outset; but when the decent
sobrieties of the character began to give way, and the poison of
self-love in his conceit of the Countess's affection gradually to
work, you would have thought that the hero of La Mancha in person
stood before you. How he went smiling to himself! with what ineffable
carelessness would he twirl his gold chain! what a dream it was! you
were infected with the illusion, and did not wish that it should be
removed! you had no room for laughter! if an unseasonable reflection
of morality obtruded itself, it was a deep sense of the pitiable
infirmity of man's nature, that can lay him open to such frenzies--but
in truth you rather admired than pitied the lunacy while it
lasted--you felt that an hour of such mistake was worth an age with
the eyes open. Who would not wish to live but for a day in the conceit
of such a lady's love as Olivia? Why, the Duke would have given his
principality but for a quarter of a minute, sleeping or waking, to
have been so deluded. The man seemed to tread upon air, to taste
manna, to walk with his head in the clouds, to mate Hyperion. O! shake
not the castles of his pride--endure yet for a season, bright moments
of confidence--"stand still ye watches of the element," that Malvolio
may be still in fancy fair Olivia's lord--but fate and retribution say
no--I hear the mischievous titter of Maria--the witty taunts of Sir
Toby--the still more insupportable triumph of the foolish knight--the
counterfeit Sir Topas is unmasked--and "thus the whirligig of time,"
as the true clown hath it, "brings in his revenges." I confess that I
never saw the catastrophe of this character while Bensley played it
without a kind of tragic interest. There was good foolery too. Few now
remember Dodd. What an Aguecheek the stage lost in him! Lovegrove,
who came nearest to the old actors, revived the character some few
seasons ago, and made it sufficiently grotesque; but Dodd was _it_,
as it came out of nature's hands. It might be said to remain _in
puris naturalibus_. In expressing slowness of apprehension this actor
surpassed all others. You could see the first dawn of an idea stealing
slowly over his countenance, climbing up by little and little, with
a painful process, till it cleared up at last to the fulness of a
twilight conception--its highest meridian. He seemed to keep back
his intellect, as some have had the power to retard their pulsation.
The balloon takes less time in filling, than it took to cover
the expansion of his broad moony face over all its quarters with
expression. A glimmer of understanding would appear in a corner of his
eye, and for lack of fuel go out again. A part of his forehead would
catch a little intelligence, and be a long time in communicating it to
the remainder.

I am ill at dates, but I think it is now better than five and twenty
years ago that walking in the gardens of Gray's Inn--they were then
far finer than they are now--the accursed Verulam Buildings had not
encroached upon all the east side of them, cutting out delicate green
crankles, and shouldering away one of two of the stately alcoves
of the terrace--the survivor stands gaping and relationless as if
it remembered its brother--they are still the best gardens of any
of the Inns of Court, my beloved Temple not forgotten--have the
gravest character, their aspect being altogether reverend and
law-breathing--Bacon has left the impress of his foot upon their
gravel walks--taking my afternoon solace on a summer day upon the
aforesaid terrace, a comely sad personage came towards me, whom from
his grave air and deportment I judged to be one of the old Benchers
of the Inn. He had a serious thoughtful forehead, and seemed to be
in meditations of mortality. As I have an instinctive awe of old
Benchers, I was passing him with that sort of subindicative token of
respect which one is apt to demonstrate towards a venerable stranger,
and which rather denotes an inclination to greet him than any
positive motion of the body to that effect--a species of humility and
will-worship which I observe nine times out of ten rather puzzles
than pleases the person it is offered to--when the face turning full
upon me strangely identified itself with that of Dodd. Upon close
inspection I was not mistaken. But could this sad thoughtful
countenance be the same vacant face of folly which I had hailed so
often under circumstances of gaiety; which I had never seen without
a smile, or recognized but as the usher of mirth; that looked out
so formally flat in Foppington, so frothily pert in Tattle, so
impotently busy in Backbite; so blankly divested of all meaning, or
resolutely expressive of none, in Acres, in Fribble, and a thousand
agreeable impertinences? Was this the face--full of thought and
carefulness--that had so often divested itself at will of every trace
of either to give me diversion, to clear my cloudy face for two or
three hours at least of its furrows? Was this the face--manly, sober,
intelligent,--which I had so often despised, made mocks at, made merry
with? The remembrance of the freedoms which I had taken with it came
upon me with a reproach of insult. I could have asked it pardon. I
thought it looked upon me with a sense of injury. There is something
strange as well as sad in seeing actors--your pleasant fellows
particularly--subjected to and suffering the common lot--their
fortunes, their casualties, their deaths, seem to belong to the scene,
their actions to be amenable to poetic justice only. We can hardly
connect them with more awful responsibilities. The death of this fine
actor took place shortly after this meeting. He had quitted the stage
some months; and, as I learned afterwards, had been in the habit of
resorting daily to these gardens almost to the day of his decease. In
these serious walks probably he was divesting himself of many scenic
and some real vanities--weaning himself from the frivolities of the
lesser and the greater theatre--doing gentle penance for a life of no
very reprehensible fooleries,--taking off by degrees the buffoon mask
which he might feel he had worn too long--and rehearsing for a more
solemn cast of part. Dying he "put on the weeds of Dominic."[5]

The elder Palmer (of stage-treading celebrity) commonly played Sir
Toby in those days; but there is a solidity of wit in the jests of
that half-Falstaff which he did not quite fill out. He was as much too
showy as Moody (who sometimes took the part) was dry and sottish. In
sock or buskin there was an air of swaggering gentility about Jack
Palmer. He was a _gentleman_ with a slight infusion of _the footman_.
His brother Bob (of recenter memory) who was his shadow in every thing
while he lived, and dwindled into less than a shadow afterwards--was
a _gentleman_ with a little stronger infusion of the _latter
ingredient_; that was all. It is amazing how a little of the more or
less makes a difference in these things. When you saw Bobby in the
Duke's Servant,[6] you said, what a pity such a pretty fellow was only
a servant. When you saw Jack figuring in Captain Absolute, you thought
you could trace his promotion to some lady of quality who fancied the
handsome fellow in his top-knot, and had bought him a commission.
Therefore Jack in Dick Amlet was insuperable.

Jack had two voices,--both plausible, hypocritical, and insinuating;
but his secondary or supplemental voice still more decisively
histrionic than his common one. It was reserved for the spectator; and
the dramatis personae were supposed to know nothing at all about it.
The _lies_ of young Wilding, and the _sentiments_ in Joseph Surface,
were thus marked out in a sort of italics to the audience. This secret
correspondence with the company before the curtain (which is the
bane and death of tragedy) has an extremely happy effect in some
kinds of comedy, in the more highly artificial comedy of Congreve
or of Sheridan especially, where the absolute sense of reality (so
indispensable to scenes of interest) is not required, or would rather
interfere to diminish your pleasure. The fact is, you do not believe
in such characters as Surface--the villain of artificial comedy--even
while you read or see them. If you did, they would shock and not
divert you. When Ben, in Love for Love, returns from sea, the
following exquisite dialogue occurs at his first meeting with his

_Sir Sampson_. Thou hast been many a weary league, Ben, since I saw

_Ben_. Ey, ey, been! Been far enough, an that be all--Well father, and
how do all at home? how does brother Dick, and brother Val?

_Sir Sampson_. Dick! body o' me, Dick has been dead these two years. I
writ you word when you were at Leghorn.

_Ben_. Mess, that's true; Marry, I had forgot. Dick's dead, as you
say--Well, and how?--I have a many questions to ask you--

Here is an instance of insensibility which in real life would be
revolting, or rather in real life could not have co-existed with the
warm-hearted temperament of the character. But when you read it in the
spirit with which such playful selections and specious combinations
rather than strict _metaphrases_ of nature should be taken, or when
you saw Bannister play it, it neither did, nor does wound the moral
sense at all. For what is Ben--the pleasant sailor which Bannister
gave us--but a piece of a satire--a creation of Congreve's fancy--a
dreamy combination of all the accidents of a sailor's character--his
contempt of money--his credulity to women--with that necessary
estrangement from home which it is just within the verge of
credibility to suppose _might_ produce such an hallucination as is
here described. We never think the worse of Ben for it, or feel it
as a stain upon his character. But when an actor comes, and instead
of the delightful phantom--the creature dear to half-belief--which
Bannister exhibited--displays before our eyes a downright concretion
of a Wapping sailor--a jolly warm-hearted Jack Tar--and nothing
else--when instead of investing it with a delicious confusedness of
the head, and a veering undirected goodness of purpose--he gives to
it a downright daylight understanding, and a full consciousness of its
actions; thrusting forward the sensibilities of the character with a
pretence as if it stood upon nothing else, and was to be judged by
them alone--we feel the discord of the thing; the scene is disturbed;
a real man has got in among the dramatis personae, and puts them out.
We want the sailor turned out. We feel that his true place is not
behind the curtain, but in the first or second gallery.

(_To be resumed occasionally_.)


[Footnote 1:
How lovelily the Adriatic whore
Dress'd in her flames will shine--devouring flames--
Such as will burn her to her wat'ry bottom,
And hiss in her foundation.

_Pierre, in Venice Preserved._]

[Footnote 2: _Viola_. She took the ring from me; I'll none of it.

_Mal_. Come, Sir, you peevishly threw it to her; and her will is, it
should be so returned. If it be worth stooping for, there it lies in
your eye; if not, be it his that finds it.]

[Footnote 3: Mrs. Inchbald seems to have fallen into the common
mistake of the character in some sensible observations, otherwise,
upon this Comedy. "It might be asked," she says, "whether this
credulous steward was much deceived in imputing a degraded taste, in
the sentiments of love, to his fair lady Olivia, as she actually did
fall in love with a domestic; and one, who from his extreme youth,
was perhaps a greater reproach to her discretion, than had she cast a
tender regard upon her old and faithful servant." But where does she
gather the fact of his age? Neither Maria nor Fabian ever cast that
reproach upon him.]

[Footnote 4: _Clown._ What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning
wild fowl?

_Mal._ That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird.

_Clown._ What thinkest thou of his opinion?

_Mal._ I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve of his opinion.]

[Footnote 5: Dodd was a man of reading, and left at his death a choice
collection of old English literature. I should judge him to have been
a man of wit. I know one instance of an impromptu which no length of
study could have bettered. My merry friend, Jem White, had seen him
one evening in Aguecheek, and recognizing Dodd the next day in Fleet
Street, was irresistibly impelled to take off his hat and salute him
as the identical Knight of the preceding evening with a "Save you,
_Sir Andrew_." Dodd, not at all disconcerted at this unusual address
from a stranger, with a courteous half-rebuking wave of the hand, put
him off with an "Away, _Fool_."]

[Footnote 6: High Life Below Stairs.]


(_London Magazine_, April, 1822)

The artificial Comedy, or Comedy of manners, is quite extinct on our
stage. Congreve and Farquhar show their heads once in seven years only
to be exploded and put down instantly. The times cannot bear them. Is
it for a few wild speeches, an occasional licence of dialogue? I think
not altogether. The business of their dramatic characters will not
stand the moral test. We screw every thing up to that. Idle gallantry
in a fiction, a dream, the passing pageant of an evening, startles us
in the same way as the alarming indications of profligacy in a son or
ward in real life should startle a parent or guardian. We have no such
middle emotions as dramatic interests left. We see a stage libertine
playing his loose pranks of two hours' duration, and of no after
consequence, with the severe eyes which inspect real vices with their
bearings upon two worlds. We are spectators to a plot or intrigue (not
reducible in life to the point of strict morality) and take it all
for truth. We substitute a real for a dramatic person, and judge him
accordingly. We try him in our courts, from which there is no appeal
to the _dramatis personae_, his peers. We have been spoiled with--not
sentimental comedy--but a tyrant far more pernicious to our pleasures
which has succeeded to it, the exclusive and all-devouring drama of
common life; where the moral point is everything; where, instead of
the fictitious half-believed personages of the stage (the phantoms of
old comedy) we recognise ourselves, our brothers, aunts, kinsfolk,
allies, patrons, enemies,--the same as in life,--with an interest in
what is going on so hearty and substantial, that we cannot afford our
moral judgment, in its deepest and most vital results, to compromise
or slumber for a moment. What is _there_ transacting, by no
modification is made to affect us in any other manner than the same
events or characters would do in our relationships of life. We carry
our fire-side concerns to the theatre with us. We do not go thither,
like our ancestors, to escape from the pressure of reality, so much as
to confirm our experience of it; to make assurance double, and take a
bond of fate. We must live our toilsome lives twice over, as it was
the mournful privilege of Ulysses to descend twice to the shades. All
that neutral ground of character which stood between vice and virtue;
or which, in fact, was indifferent to neither, where neither properly
was called in question--that happy breathing-place from the burden
of a perpetual moral questioning--the sanctuary and quiet Alsatia
of hunted casuistry--is broken up and disfranchised as injurious to
the interests of society. The privileges of the place are taken away
by law. We dare not dally with images or names of wrong. We bark
like foolish dogs at shadows. We dread infection from the scenic
representation of disorder; and fear a painted pustule. In our anxiety
that our morality should not take cold, we wrap it up in a great
blanket surtout of precaution against the breeze and sunshine.

I confess for myself that (with no great delinquencies to answer for)
I am glad for a season to take an airing beyond the diocese of the
strict conscience,--not to live always in the precincts of the law
courts,--but now and then, for a dream-while or so, to imagine a world
with no meddling restrictions--to get into recesses, whither the
hunter cannot follow me--

--Secret shades
Of woody Ida's inmost grove,
While yet there was no fear of Jove--

I come back to my cage and my restraint the fresher and more healthy
for it. I wear my shackles more contentedly for having respired the
breath of an imaginary freedom. I do not know how it is with
others, but I feel the better always for the perusal of one of
Congreve's--nay, why should I not add even of Wycherley's--comedies. I
am the gayer at least for it; and I could never connect those sports
of a witty fancy in any shape with any result to be drawn from them to
imitation in real life. They are a world of themselves almost as much
as a fairyland. Take one of their characters, male or female (with
few exceptions they are alike), and place it in a modern play, and
my virtuous indignation shall rise against the profligate wretch as
warmly as the Catos of the pit could desire; because in a modern play
I am to judge of right and wrong, and the standard of _police_ is
the measure of _poetical justice_. The atmosphere will blight it.
It cannot thrive here. It is got into a moral world where it has
no business; from which it must needs fall head-long; as dizzy and
incapable of keeping its stand, as a Swedenborgian bad spirit that has
wandered unawares within the sphere of one of his good men or angels.
But in its own world do we feel the creature is so very bad?

The Fainalls and the Mirabels, the Dorimants, and Lady Touchwoods, in
their own sphere do not offend my moral sense--or, in fact, appeal
to it at all. They seem engaged in their proper element. They break
through no laws, or conscientious restraints. They know of none. They
have got out of Christendom into the land--what shall I call it?--of
cuckoldry--the Utopia of gallantry, where pleasure is duty, and the
manners perfect freedom. It is altogether a speculative scene of
things, which has no reference whatever to the world that is. No good
person can be justly offended as a spectator, because no good person
suffers on the stage. Judged morally, every character in these
plays--the few exceptions only are _mistakes_--is alike essentially
vain and worthless. The great art of Congreve is especially shown in
this, that he has entirely excluded from his scenes,--some little
generosities in the part of Angelica perhaps excepted,--not only any
thing like a faultless character, but any pretensions to goodness
or good feelings whatsoever. Whether he did this designedly, or
instinctively, the effect is as happy, as the design (if design) was
bold. I used to wonder at the strange power which his Way of the World
in particular possesses of interesting you all along in the pursuits
of characters, for whom you absolutely care nothing--for you neither
hate nor love his personages--and I think it is owing to this very
indifference for any, that you endure the whole. He has spread a
privation of moral light, I will call it, rather than by the ugly name
of palpable darkness, over his creations; and his shadows flit before
you without distinction or preference. Had he introduced a good
character, a single gush of moral feeling, a revulsion of the judgment
to actual life and actual duties, the impertinent Goshen would have
only lighted to the discovery of deformities, which now are none,
because we think them none.

Translated into real life, the characters of his, and his friend
Wycherley's dramas, are profligates and strumpets,--the business of
their brief existence, the undivided pursuit of lawless gallantry. No
other spring of action, or possible motive of conduct, is recognised;
principles which universally acted upon must reduce this frame of
things to a chaos. But we do them wrong in so translating them. No
such effects are produced in _their_ world. When we are among them, we
are amongst a chaotic people. We are not to judge them by our usages.
No reverend institutions are insulted by their proceedings,--for
they have none among them. No peace of families is violated,--for
no family ties exist among them. No purity of the marriage bed is
stained,--for none is supposed to have a being. No deep affections
are disquieted,--no holy wedlock bands are snapped asunder,--for
affection's depth and wedded faith are not of the growth of that soil.
There is neither right nor wrong,--gratitude or its opposite,--claim
or duty,--paternity or sonship. Of what consequence is it to virtue,
or how is she at all concerned about it, whether Sir Simon, or
Dapperwit, steal away Miss Martha; or who is the father of Lord
Froth's, or Sir Paul Pliant's children?

The whole is a passing pageant, where we should sit as unconcerned at
the issues, for life or death, as at a battle of the frogs and mice.
But like Don Quixote, we take part against the puppets, and quite as
impertinently. We dare not contemplate an Atlantis, a scheme, out of
which our coxcombical moral sense is for a little transitory ease
excluded. We have not the courage to imagine a state of things for
which there is neither reward nor punishment. We cling to the painful
necessities of shame and blame. We would indict our very dreams.

Amidst the mortifying circumstances attendant upon growing old, it
is something to have seen the School for Scandal in its glory. This
comedy grew out of Congreve and Wycherley, but gathered some allays of
the sentimental comedy which followed theirs. It is impossible that
it should be now acted, though it continues, at long intervals, to be
announced in the bills. Its hero, when Palmer played it at least, was
Joseph Surface. When I remember the gay boldness, the graceful solemn
plausibility, the measured step, the insinuating voice--to express it
in a word--the downright _acted_ villany of the part, so different
from the pressure of conscious actual wickedness,--the hypocritical
assumption of hypocrisy,--which made Jack so deservedly a favourite
in that character, I must needs conclude the present generation of
playgoers more virtuous than myself, or more dense. I freely confess
that he divided the palm with me with his better brother; that, in
fact, I liked him quite as well. Not but there are passages,--like
that, for instance, where Joseph is made to refuse a pittance to a
poor relation,--incongruities which Sheridan was forced upon by the
attempt to join the artificial with the sentimental comedy, either
of which must destroy the other--but over these obstructions Jack's
manner floated him so lightly, that a refusal from him no more shocked
you, than the easy compliance of Charles gave you in reality any
pleasure; you got over the paltry question as quickly as you could, to
get back into the regions of pure comedy, where no cold moral reigns.
The highly artificial manner of Palmer in this character counteracted
every disagreeable impression which you might have received from the
contrast, supposing them real, between the two brothers. You did
not believe in Joseph with the same faith with which you believed
in Charles. The latter was a pleasant reality, the former a no less
pleasant poetical foil to it. The comedy, I have said, is incongruous;
a mixture of Congreve with sentimental incompatibilities; the gaity
upon the whole is buoyant; but it required the consummate art of
Palmer to reconcile the discordant elements.

A player with Jack's talents, if we had one now, would not dare to do
the part in the same manner. He would instinctively avoid every
turn which might tend to unrealize, and so to make the character
fascinating. He must take his cue from his spectators, who would
expect a bad man and a good man as rigidly opposed to each other, as
the death-beds of those geniuses are contrasted in the prints, which
I am sorry to see have disappeared from the windows of my old friend
Carrington Bowles, of St. Paul's Churchyard memory--(an exhibition as
venerable as the adjacent cathedral, and almost coeval) of the bad
and good man at the hour of death; where the ghastly apprehensions
of the former,--and truly the grim phantom with his reality of a
toasting fork is not to be despised,--so finely contrast with the
meek complacent kissing of the rod,--taking it in like honey and
butter,--with which the latter submits to the scythe of the gentle
bleeder, Time, who wields his lancet with the apprehensive finger of
a popular young ladies' surgeon. What flesh, like loving grass, would
not covet to meet half-way the stroke of such a delicate mower?--John
Palmer was twice an actor in this exquisite part. He was playing to
you all the while that he was playing upon Sir Peter and his lady. You
had the first intimation of a sentiment before it was on his lips.
His altered voice was meant to you, and you were to suppose that his
fictitious co-flutterers on the stage perceived nothing at all of it.
What was it to you if that half-reality, the husband, was over-reached
by the puppetry--or the thin thing (Lady Teazle's reputation) was
persuaded it was dying of a plethory? The fortunes of Othello and
Desdemona were not concerned in it. Poor Jack has passed from
the stage--in good time, that he did not live to this our age of
seriousness. The fidgety pleasant old Teazle _King_ too is gone in
good time. His manner would scarce have passed current in our day.
We must love or hate--acquit or condemn--censure or pity--exert our
detestable coxcombry of moral judgment upon every thing. Joseph
Surface, to go down now, must be a downright revolting villain--no
compromise--his first appearance must shock and give horror--his
specious plausibilities, which the pleasurable faculties of our
fathers welcomed with such hearty greetings, knowing that no harm
(dramatic harm even) could come, or was meant to come of them, must
inspire a cold and killing aversion. Charles (the real canting person
of the scene--for the hypocrisy of Joseph has its ulterior legitimate
ends, but his brother's professions of a good heart centre in
down-right self-satisfaction) must be _loved_, and Joseph _hated_. To
balance one disagreeable reality with another, Sir Peter Teazle must
be no longer the comic idea of a fretful old bachelor bridegroom,
whose teazings (while King acted it) were evidently as much played off
at you, as they were meant to concern any body on the stage,--he must
be a real person, capable in law of sustaining an injury--a person
towards whom duties are to be acknowledged--the genuine crim-con
antagonist of the villainous seducer, Joseph. To realize him more,
his sufferings under his unfortunate match must have the downright
pungency of life--must (or should) make you not mirthful but
uncomfortable, just as the same predicament would move you in a
neighbour or old friend. The delicious scenes which give the play its
name and zest, must affect you in the same serious manner as if you
heard the reputation of a dear female friend attacked in your real
presence. Crabtree, and Sir Benjamin--those poor snakes that lived
but in the sunshine of your mirth--must be ripened by this hot-bed
process of realization into asps or amphisbaenas; and Mrs. Candour--O
frightful! become a hooded serpent. Oh who that remembers Parsons and
Dodd--the wasp and butterfly of the School for Scandal--in those two
characters; and charming natural Miss Pope, the perfect gentlewoman as
distinguished from the fine lady of comedy, in this latter part--would
forego the true scenic delight--the escape from life--the oblivion of
consequences--the holiday barring out of the pedant Reflection--those
Saturnalia of two or three brief hours, well won from the world--to
sit instead at one of our modern plays--to have his coward conscience
(that forsooth must not be left for a moment) stimulated with
perpetual appeals--dulled rather, and blunted, as a faculty without
repose must be--and his moral vanity pampered with images of notional
justice, notional beneficence, lives saved without the spectators'
risk, and fortunes given away that cost the author nothing?

No piece was, perhaps, ever so completely cast in all its parts as
this _manager's comedy_. Miss Farren had succeeded to Mrs. Abingdon
in Lady Teazle; and Smith, the original Charles, had retired, when I
first saw it. The rest of the characters, with very slight exceptions,
remained. I remember it was then the fashion to cry down John Kemble,
who took the part of Charles after Smith; but, I thought, very
unjustly. Smith, I fancy, was more airy, and took the eye with a
certain gaiety of person. He brought with him no sombre recollections
of tragedy. He had not to expiate the fault of having pleased
beforehand in lofty declamation. He had no sins of Hamlet or of
Richard to atone for. His failure in these parts was a passport to
success in one of so opposite a tendency. But as far as I could judge,
the weighty sense of Kemble made up for more personal incapacity than
he had to answer for. His harshest tones in this part came steeped
and dulcified in good humour. He made his defects a grace. His exact
declamatory manner, as he managed it, only served to convey the points
of his dialogue with more precision. It seemed to head the shafts to
carry them deeper. Not one of his sparkling sentences was lost. I
remember minutely how he delivered each in succession, and cannot by
any effort imagine how any of them could be altered for the better. No
man could deliver brilliant dialogue--the dialogue of Congreve or of
Wycherley--because none understood it--half so well as John Kemble.
His Valentine, in Love for Love, was, to my recollection, faultless.
He flagged sometimes in the intervals of tragic passion. He would
slumber over the level parts of an heroic character. His Macbeth has
been known to nod. But he always seemed to me to be particularly alive
to pointed and witty dialogue. The relaxing levities of tragedy have
not been touched by any since him--the playful court-bred spirit in
which he condescended to the players in Hamlet--the sportive relief,
which he threw into the darker shades of Richard--disappeared with
him. Tragedy is become a uniform dead weight. They have fastened lead
to her buskins. She never pulls them off for the ease of a moment.
To invert a commonplace from Niobe, she never forgets herself to
liquefaction. John had his sluggish moods, his torpors--but they were
the halting stones and resting places of his tragedy--politic savings,
and fetches of the breath--husbandry of the lungs, where nature
pointed him to be an economist--rather, I think, than errors of
the judgment. They were, at worst, less painful than the eternal
tormenting unappeasable vigilance, the "lidless dragon eyes," of
present fashionable tragedy. The story of his swallowing opium pills
to keep him lively upon the first night of a certain tragedy, we may
presume to be a piece of retaliatory pleasantry on the part of the
suffering author. But, indeed, John had the art of diffusing a
complacent equable dulness (which you knew not where to quarrel with)
over a piece which he did not like, beyond any of his contemporaries.
John Kemble had made up his mind early, that all the good tragedies,
which could be written, had been written; and he resented any new
attempt. His shelves were full. The old standards were scope enough
for his ambition. He ranged in them absolute--and "fair in Otway, full
in Shakspeare shone." He succeeded to the old lawful thrones, and did
not care to adventure bottomry with a Sir Edward Mortimer, or any
casual speculator that offered. I remember, too acutely for my peace,
the deadly extinguisher which he put upon my friend G.'s "Antonio."
G., satiate with visions of political justice (possibly not to be
realized in our time), or willing to let the sceptical worldlings see,
that his anticipations of the future did not preclude a warm sympathy
for men as they are and have been--wrote a tragedy. He chose a
story, affecting, romantic, Spanish--the plot simple, without being
naked--the incidents uncommon, without being overstrained. Antonio,
who gives the name to the piece, is a sensitive young Castilian, who,
in a fit of his country honour, immolates his sister--

But I must not anticipate the catastrophe--the play, reader, is
extant in choice English--and you will employ a spare half crown not
injudiciously in the quest of it.

The conception was bold, and the denouement--the time and place in
which the hero of it existed, considered--not much out of keeping; yet
it must be confessed, that it required a delicacy of handling both
from the author and the performer, so as not much to shock the
prejudices of a modern English audience. G., in my opinion, had done
his part.

John, who was in familiar habits with the philosopher, had undertaken
to play Antonio. Great expectations were formed. A philosopher's first
play was a new era. The night arrived. I was favoured with a seat in
an advantageous box, between the author and his friend M----. G. sate
cheerful and confident. In his friend M.'s looks, who had perused the
manuscript, I read some terror. Antonio in the person of John Philip
Kemble at length appeared, starched out in a ruff which no one could
dispute, and in most irreproachable mustachios. John always dressed
most provokingly correct on these occasions. The first act swept
by, solemn and silent. It went off, as G. assured M., exactly as
the opening act of a piece--the protasis--should do. The cue of
the spectators was to be mute. The characters were but in their
introduction. The passions and the incidents would be developed
hereafter. Applause hitherto would be impertinent. Silent attention
was the effect all-desirable. Poor M. acquiesced--but in his honest
friendly face I could discern a working which told how much more
acceptable the plaudit of a single hand (however misplaced) would
have been than all this reasoning. The second act (as in duty bound)
rose a little in interest; but still John kept his forces under--in
policy, as G. would have it--and the audience were most complacently
attentive. The protasis, in fact, was scarcely unfolded. The
interest would warm in the next act, against which a special
incident was provided. M. wiped his cheek, flushed with a friendly
perspiration--'tis M.'s way of showing his zeal--"from every pore of
him a perfume falls--." I honour it above Alexander's. He had once or
twice during this act joined his palms in a feeble endeavour to elicit
a sound--they emitted a solitary noise without an echo--there was no
deep to answer to his deep. G. repeatedly begged him to be quiet.
The third act at length brought on the scene which was to warm the
piece progressively to the final flaming forth of the catastrophe. A
philosophic calm settled upon the clear brow of G. as it approached.
The lips of M. quivered. A challenge was held forth upon the stage,
and there was promise of a fight. The pit roused themselves on this
extraordinary occasion, and, as their manner is, seemed disposed to
make a ring,--when suddenly Antonio, who was the challenged, turning
the tables upon the hot challenger, Don Gusman (who by the way should
have had his sister) baulks his humour, and the pit's reasonable
expectation at the same time, with some speeches out of the
new philosophy against duelling. The audience were here fairly
caught--their courage was up, and on the alert--a few blows, _ding
dong_, as R----s the dramatist afterwards expressed it to me, might
have done the business--when their most exquisite moral sense was
suddenly called in to assist in the mortifying negation of their own
pleasure. They could not applaud, for disappointment; they would
not condemn, for morality's sake. The interest stood stone still;
and John's manner was not at all calculated to unpetrify it. It
was Christmas time, and the atmosphere furnished some pretext for
asthmatic affections. One began to cough--his neighbour sympathised
with him--till a cough became epidemical. But when, from being
half-artificial in the pit, the cough got frightfully naturalised
among the fictitious persons of the drama; and Antonio himself (albeit
it was not set down in the stage directions) seemed more intent
upon relieving his own lungs than the distresses of the author and
his friends,--then G. "first knew fear;" and mildly turning to M.,
intimated that he had not been aware that Mr. K. laboured under a
cold; and that the performance might possibly have been postponed
with advantage for some nights further--still keeping the same serene
countenance, while M. sweat like a bull. It would be invidious to
pursue the fates of this ill-starred evening. In vain did the plot
thicken in the scenes that followed, in vain the dialogue wax more
passionate and stirring, and the progress of the sentiment point more
and more clearly to the arduous developement which impended. In vain
the action was accelerated, while the acting stood still. From the
beginning, John had taken his stand; had wound himself up to an even
tenor of stately declamation, from which no exigence of dialogue or
person could make him swerve for an instant. To dream of his rising
with the scene (the common trick of tragedians) was preposterous;
for from the onset he had planted himself, as upon a terrace, on an
eminence vastly above the audience, and he kept that sublime level
to the end. He looked from his throne of elevated sentiment upon the
under-world of spectators with a most sovran and becoming contempt.
There was excellent pathos delivered out to them: an they would
receive it, so; an they would not receive it, so. There was no offence
against decorum in all this; nothing to condemn, to damn. Not an
irreverent symptom of a sound was to be heard. The procession of
verbiage stalked on through four and five acts, no one venturing to
predict what would come of it, when towards the winding up of the
latter, Antonio, with an irrelevancy that seemed to stagger Elvira
herself--for she had been coolly arguing the point of honour with
him--suddenly whips out a poniard, and stabs his sister to the heart.
The effect was, as if a murder had been committed in cold blood. The
whole house rose up in clamorous indignation demanding justice. The
feeling rose far above hisses. I believe at that instant, if they
could have got him, they would have torn the unfortunate author to
pieces. Not that the act itself was so exorbitant, or of a complexion
different from what they themselves would have applauded upon another
occasion in a Brutus, or an Appius--but for want of attending to
Antonio's _words_, which palpably led to the expectation of no less
dire an event, instead of being seduced by his _manner_, which
seemed to promise a sleep of a less alarming nature than it was his
cue to inflict upon Elvira, they found themselves betrayed into an
accompliceship of murder, a perfect misprision of parricide, while
they dreamed of nothing less. M., I believe, was the only person
who suffered acutely from the failure; for G. thenceforward, with
a serenity unattainable but by the true philosophy, abandoning a
precarious popularity, retired into his fast hold of speculation,--the
drama in which the world was to be his tiring room, and remote
posterity his applauding spectators at once, and actors.



(_London Magazine_, October, 1822)

I do not know a more mortifying thing than to be conscious of a
foregone delight, with a total oblivion of the person and manner
which conveyed it. In dreams I often stretch and strain after the
countenance of Edwin, whom I once saw in Peeping Tom. I cannot catch a
feature of him. He is no more to me than Nokes or Pinkethman. Parsons,
and still more Dodd, were near being lost to me, till I was refreshed
with their portraits (fine treat) the other day at Mr. Mathews's
gallery at Highgate; which, with the exception of the Hogarth
pictures, a few years since exhibited in Pall Mall, was the most
delightful collection I ever gained admission to. There hang the
players, in their single persons, and in grouped scenes, from the
Restoration--Bettertons, Booths, Garricks, justifying the prejudices
which we entertain for them--the Bracegirdles, the Mountforts, and the
Oldfields, fresh as Cibber has described them--the Woffington (a true
Hogarth) upon a couch, dallying and dangerous--the Screen Scene in
Brinsley's famous comedy, with Smith and Mrs. Abingdon, whom I have
not seen, and the rest, whom having seen, I see still there. There is
Henderson, unrivalled in Comus, whom I saw at second hand in the elder
Harley--Harley, the rival of Holman, in Horatio--Holman, with the
bright glittering teeth in Lothario, and the deep paviour's sighs in
Romeo--the jolliest person ("our son is fat") of any Hamlet I have
yet seen, with the most laudable attempts (for a personable man) at
looking melancholy--and Pope, the abdicated monarch of tragedy and
comedy, in Harry the Eighth and Lord Townley. There hang the two
Aickins, brethren in mediocrity--Wroughton, who in Kitely seemed to
have forgotten that in prouder days he had personated Alexander--the
specious form of John Palmer, with the special effrontery of
Bobby--Bensley, with the trumpet-tongue, and little Quick (the retired
Dioclesian of Islington) with his squeak like a Bart'lemew fiddle.
There are fixed, cold as in life, the immovable features of Moody,
who, afraid of o'erstepping nature, sometimes stopped short of
her--and the restless fidgetiness of Lewis, who, with no such fears,
not seldom leaped o' the other side. There hang Farren and Whitfield,
and Burton and Phillimore, names of small account in those times, but
which, remembered now, or casually recalled by the sight of an old
play-bill, with their associated recordations, can "drown an eye
unused to flow." There too hangs (not far removed from them in death)
the graceful plainness of the first Mrs. Pope, with a voice unstrung
by age, but which, in her better days, must have competed with the
silver tones of Barry himself, so enchanting in decay do I remember
it--of all her lady parts exceeding herself in the Lady Quakeress
(there earth touched heaven!) of O'Keefe, when she played it to
the "merry cousin" of Lewis--and Mrs. Mattocks, the sensiblest
of viragos--and Miss Pope, a gentlewoman ever, to the verge of
ungentility, with Churchill's compliment still burnishing upon her gay
Honeycomb lips. There are the two Bannisters, and Sedgwick, and Kelly,
and Dignum (Diggy), and the bygone features of Mrs. Ward, matchless in
Lady Loverule; and the collective majesty of the whole Kemble family,
and (Shakspeare's woman) Dora Jordan; and, by her, _two Antics_, who
in former and in latter days have chiefly beguiled us of our griefs;
whose portraits we shall strive to recall, for the sympathy of those
who may not have had the benefit of viewing the matchless Highgate


O for a "slip-shod muse," to celebrate in numbers, loose and shambling
as himself, the merits and the person of Mr. Richard Suett, comedian!

Richard, or rather Dicky Suett--for so in his lifetime he was best
pleased to be called, and time hath ratified the appellation--lieth
buried on the north side of the cemetery of Holy Paul, to whose
service his nonage and tender years were set apart and dedicated.
There are who do yet remember him at that period--his pipe clear and
harmonious. He would often speak of his chorister days, when he was
"cherub Dicky."

What clipped his wings, or made it expedient that he should exchange
the holy for the profane state; whether he had lost his good voice
(his best recommendation to that office), like Sir John, "with
hallooing and singing of anthems;" or whether he was adjudged to lack
something, even in those early years, of the gravity indispensable
to an occupation which professeth to "commerce with the skies"--I
could never rightly learn; but we find him, after the probation of a
twelvemonth or so, reverting to a secular condition, and become one of

I think he was not altogether of that timber, out of which cathedral
seats and sounding boards are hewed. But if a glad heart--kind and
therefore glad--be any part of sanctity, then might the robe of
Motley, with which he invested himself with so much humility after
his deprivation, and which he wore so long with so much blameless
satisfaction to himself and to the public, be accepted for a
surplice--his white stole, and _albe_.

The first fruits of his secularization was an engagement upon the
boards of Old Drury, at which theatre he commenced, as I have been
told, with adopting the manner of Parsons in old men's characters. At
the period in which most of us knew him, he was no more an imitator
than he was in any true sense himself imitable.

He was the Robin Good-Fellow of the stage. He came in to trouble all
things with a welcome perplexity, himself no whit troubled for the
matter. He was known, like Puck, by his note--_Ha! Ha! Ha!_--sometimes
deepening to _Ho! Ho! Ho!_ with an irresistible accession, derived
perhaps remotely from his ecclesiastical education, foreign to
his prototype, of--_O La!_ Thousands of hearts yet respond to the
chuckling _O La!_ of Dicky Suett, brought back to their remembrance by
the faithful transcript of his friend Mathews's mimicry. The "force of
nature could no further go." He drolled upon the stock of these two
syllables richer than the cuckoo.

Care, that troubles all the world, was forgotten in his composition.
Had he had but two grains (nay, half a grain) of it, he could never
have supported himself upon those two spider's strings, which served
him (in the latter part of his unmixed existence) as legs. A doubt or
a scruple must have made him totter, a sigh have puffed him down;
the weight of a frown had staggered him, a wrinkle made him lose his
balance. But on he went, scrambling upon those airy stilts of his,
with Robin Good-Fellow, "thorough brake, thorough briar," reckless of
a scratched face or a torn doublet.

Shakspeare foresaw him, when he framed his fools and jesters. They
have all the true Suett stamp, a loose gait, a slippery tongue, this
last the ready midwife to a without-pain-delivered jest; in words
light as air, venting truths deep as the centre; with idlest rhymes
tagging conceit when busiest, singing with Lear in the tempest, or Sir
Toby at the buttery hatch.

Jack Bannister and he had the fortune to be more of personal
favourites with the town than any actors before or after. The
difference, I take it, was this:--Jack was more _beloved_ for his
sweet, good-natured, moral, pretensions. Dicky was more _liked_ for
his sweet, good-natured, no pretensions at all. Your whole conscience
stirred with Bannister's performance of Walter in the Children in the
Wood--how dearly beautiful it was!--but Dicky seemed like a thing, as
Shakspeare says of Love, too young to know what conscience is. He put
us into Vesta's days. Evil fled before him--not as from Jack, as from
an antagonist,--but because it could not touch him, any more than a
cannon-ball a fly. He was delivered from the burthen of that death;
and, when Death came himself, not in metaphor, to fetch Dicky, it is
recorded of him by Robert Palmer, who kindly watched his exit, that he
received the last stroke, neither varying his accustomed tranquillity,
nor tune, with the simple exclamation, worthy to have been recorded in
his epitaph--_O La!--O La! Bobby!_


Not many nights ago we had come home from seeing this extraordinary
performer in Cockletop; and when we retired to our pillow, his
whimsical image still stuck by us, in a manner as to threaten sleep.
In vain we tried to divest ourselves of it by conjuring up the most
opposite associations. We resolved to be serious. We raised up the
gravest topics of life; private misery, public calamity. All would not

--There the antic sate
Mocking our state--

his queer visnomy--his bewildering costume--all the strange things
which he had raked together--his serpentine rod swagging about in his
pocket--Cleopatra's tear, and the rest of his relics--O'Keefe's wild
farce, and _his_ wilder commentary--till the passion of laughter, like
grief in excess, relieved itself by its own weight, inviting the sleep
which in the first instance it had driven away.

But we were not to escape so easily. No sooner did we fall into
slumbers, than the same image, only more perplexing, assailed us in
the shape of dreams. Not one Munden, but five hundred, were dancing
before us, like the faces which, whether you will or no, come when
you have been taking opium--all the strange combinations, which this
strangest of all strange mortals ever shot his proper countenance
into, from the day he came commissioned to dry up the tears of the
town for the loss of the now almost forgotten Edwin. O for the power
of the pencil to have fixed them when we awoke! A season or two since
there was exhibited a Hogarth gallery. We do not see why there should
not be a Munden gallery. In richness and variety the latter would not
fall far short of the former.

There is one face of Farley, one face of Knight, one face (but what a
one it is!) of Liston; but Munden has none that you can properly pin
down, and call _his_. When you think he has exhausted his battery of
looks, in unaccountable warfare with your gravity, suddenly he sprouts
out an entirely new set of features, like Hydra. He is not one, but
legion. Not so much a comedian, as a company. If his name could be
multiplied like his countenance, it might fill a play-bill. He, and
he alone, literally _makes faces_: applied to any other person, the
phrase is a mere figure, denoting certain modifications of the human
countenance. Out of some invisible wardrobe he dips for faces, as his
friend Suett used for wigs, and fetches them out as easily. We should
not be surprised to see him some day put out the head of a
river horse; or come forth a pewit, or lapwing, some feathered

We have seen this gifted actor in Sir Christopher Curry--in Old
Dornton--diffuse a glow of sentiment which has made the pulse of a
crowded theatre beat like that of one man; when he has come in aid of
the pulpit, doing good to the moral heart of a people. We have seen
some faint approaches to this sort of excellence in other players.
But in what has been truly denominated "the sublime of farce," Munden
stands out as single and unaccompanied as Hogarth. Hogarth, strange to
tell, had no followers. The school of Munden began, and must end, with

Can any man _wonder_, like him? can any man _see ghosts_, like
him? or _fight with his own shadow_--sessa--as he does in that
strangely-neglected thing, the Cobler of Preston--where his
alternations from the Cobler to the Magnifico, and from the Magnifico
to the Cobler, keep the brain of the spectator in as wild a ferment,
as if some Arabian Night were being acted before him, or as if Thalaba
were no tale! Who like him can throw, or ever attempted to throw, a
supernatural interest over the commonest daily-life objects? A table,
or a joint stool, in his conception, rises into a dignity equivalent
to Cassiopeia's chair. It is invested with constellatory importance.
You could not speak of it with more deference, if it were mounted into
the firmament. A beggar in the hands of Michael Angelo, says Fuseli,
rose the Patriarch of Poverty. So the gusto of Munden antiquates and
ennobles what it touches. His pots and his ladles are as grand and
primal as the seething-pots and hooks seen in old prophetic vision.
A tub of butter, contemplated by him, amounts to a Platonic idea. He
understands a leg of mutton in its quiddity. He stands wondering, amid
the commonplace materials of life, like primaeval man, with the sun and
stars about him.




Lamb took the name of Elia, which should, he said, be pronounced
Ellia, from an old clerk, an Italian, at the South-Sea House in Lamb's
time: that is, in 1791-1792. Writing to John Taylor in July, 1821,
just after he had taken over the magazine (see below), Lamb says,
referring to the South-Sea House essay, "having a brother now there,
and doubting how he might relish certain descriptions in it, I clapt
down the name of Elia to it, which passed off pretty well, for Elia
himself added the function of an author to that of a scrivener, like
myself. I went the other day (not having seen him [Elia] for a year)
to laugh over with him at my usurpation of his name, and found him,
alas! no more than a name, for he died of consumption eleven months
ago, and I knew not of it. So the name has fairly devolved to me, I
think; and 'tis all he has left me."

In the library at Welbeck is a copy of a pamphlet, in French, entitled
_Considerations sur l'etat actuel de la France au mois de Juin 1815,
par un Anglais_, which was presented to the Duke of Portland by the
author, F.A. Elia. This was probably Lamb's Elia. The pamphlet is
reprinted, together with other interesting matter remotely connected
with Lamb, in _Letters from the Originals at Welbeck Abbey_, privately
printed, 1909.

_Elia. Essays which have appeared under that signature in the London
Magazine_, was published early in 1823. Lamb's original intention was
to furnish the book with a whimsical preface, as we learn from the
following letter to John Taylor, dated December 7, 1822:--

"DEAR SIR,--I should like the enclosed Dedication to be printed,
unless you dislike it. I like it. It is in the olden style. But if
you object to it, put forth the book as it is; only pray don't let
the printer mistake the word _curt_ for _curst_.



who will take these Papers, as they were meant; not understanding
every thing perversely in its absolute and literal sense, but
giving fair construction, as to an after-dinner conversation;
allowing for the rashness and necessary incompleteness of first
thoughts; and not remembering, for the purpose of an after taunt,
words spoken peradventure after the fourth glass, the Author
wishes (what he would will for himself) plenty of good friends to
stand by him, good books to solace him, prosperous events to all
his honest undertakings, and a candid interpretation to his most
hasty words and actions. The other sort (and he hopes many of them
will purchase his book too) he greets with the curt invitation of
Timon, 'Uncover, dogs, and lap:' or he dismisses them with the
confident security of the philosopher,--'you beat but on the case
of Elia.'

"On better consideration, pray omit that Dedication. The Essays
want no Preface: they are _all Preface_. A Preface is nothing but
a talk with the reader; and they do nothing else. Pray omit it.

"There will be a sort of Preface in the next Magazine, which may
act as an advertisement, but not proper for the volume.

"Let ELIA come forth bare as he was born.


"N.B.--_No_ Preface."

The "sort of Preface in the next number" was the character sketch of
the late Elia on page 171.

_Elia_ did not reach a second edition in Lamb's lifetime--that is to
say, during a period of twelve years--although the editions into which
it has passed between his death and the present day are legion. Why,
considering the popularity of the essays as they appeared in the
_London Magazine_, the book should have found so few purchasers is a
problem difficult of solution. Lamb himself seems to have attributed
some of the cause to Southey's objection, in the _Quarterly Review_,
that _Elia_ "wanted a sounder religious feeling;" but more probably
the book was too dear: it was published at 9s. 6d.

Ordinary reviewers do not seem to have perceived at all that a rare
humorist, humanist and master of prose had arisen, although among the
finer intellects who had any inclination to search for excellence for
excellence's sake Lamb made his way. William Hazlitt, for example,
drew attention to the rich quality of _Elia_; as also did Leigh Hunt;
and William Hone, who cannot, however, as a critic be mentioned with
these, was tireless in advocating the book. Among strangers to Lamb
who from the first extolled his genius was Miss Mitford. But _Elia_
did not sell.

Ten years passed before Lamb collected his essays again, and then
in 1833 was published _The Last Essays of Elia_, with Edward
Moxon's imprint. The mass of minor essays in the _London Magazine_
and elsewhere, which Lamb disregarded when he compiled his two
collections, will be found in Vol. I. of the present edition. _The
Last Essays of Elia_ had little, if any, better reception than the
first; and Lamb had the mortification of being asked by the Norris
family to suppress the exquisite and kindly little memoir of Randal
Norris, entitled "A Death-Bed" (see page 279), which was held to be
too personal. When, in 1835, after Lamb's death, a new edition of
_Elia_ and _The Last Essays of Elia_ was issued, the "Confessions of
a Drunkard" took its place (see Vol. I.).

Meanwhile a Philadelphian firm had been beforehand with Lamb, and
had issued in 1828 a second series of _Elia_. The American edition
of _Elia_ had been the same as the English except for a slightly
different arrangement of the essays. But when in 1828 the American
second series was issued, it was found to contain three pieces not
by Lamb at all. A trick of writing superficially like Lamb had been
growing in the _London Magazine_ ever since the beginning; hence the
confusion of the American editor. The three articles not by Lamb, as
he pointed out to N.P. Willis (see _Pencillings by the Way_), are
"Twelfth Night," "The Nuns and Ale of Caverswell," and "Valentine's
Day." Of these Allan Cunningham wrote the second, and B.W. Procter
(Barry Cornwall) the other two. The volume contained only eleven
essays which Lamb himself selected for _The Last Essays of Elia_: it
was eked out with the three spurious pieces above referred to, with
several pieces never collected by Lamb, and with four of the humorous
articles in the _Works_, 1818. Bernard Barton's sonnet "To Elia" stood
as introduction. Altogether it was a very interesting book, as books
lacking authority often are.

In the notes that follow reference is often made to Lamb's Key. This
is a paper explaining certain initials and blanks in _Elia_, which
Lamb drew up for R.B. Pitman, a fellow clerk at the East India House.
I give it here in full, merely remarking that the first numerals refer
to the pages of the original edition of _Elia_ and those in brackets
to the present volume:--

M. . . . Page 13 [7] Maynard, hang'd himself.

G.D. . . " 21 [11] George Dyer, Poet.

H. . . . " 32 [16] Hodges.

W. . . . " 45 [23]

Dr. T----e . " 46 [24] Dr. Trollope.

Th. . . " 47 [24] Thornton.

S. . . " 47 [24] Scott, died in Bedlam.

M. . . " 47 [24] Maunde, dismiss'd school.

C.V. le G. . " 48 [25] Chs. Valentine le Grice.

F. . . . " 49 [25] Favell; left Camb'rg because he was
asham'd of his father, who was a
house-painter there.

Fr. . . " 50 [26] Franklin, Gramr. Mast., Hertford.

T. . . " 50 [26] Marmaduke Thompson.

K. . . " 59 [30] Kenney, Dramatist. Author of
_Raising Wind_, &c.

S.T.C. . . " 60 [31] Samuel Taylor Coleridge. [Not in
Lamb's autograph.]

Alice W----n . " 63 [32] Feigned (Winterton).

*** . . " 64 [32] No Meaning.

**** . . " 64 [32] No Meaning.

*** . . " 64 [32] No Meaning.

Mrs. S. . . " 87 [44] Mrs. Spinkes.

R. . . . " 98 [50] Ramsay, London Library, Ludg. St.;
now extinct.

Granville S. . " 98 [50] Granville Sharp. [Not in Lamb's

E.B. . . " 130 [65] Edward Burney, half-brother of Miss

B. . . . " 141 [71] Braham, now a Xtian.

*********** . " 170 [85] Distrest Sailors.

J----ll. . " 195 [97] Jekyll.

Susan P. . " 198 [99] Susan Peirson.

R.N. . . " 206 [103] Randal Norris, Subtreasr, Inner Temple.

C. . . . " 216 [108] Coleridge.

F. . . . " 222 [111] Field.

B.F. . . " 238 [118] Baron Field, brother of Frank.

Lord C. . " 243 [121] Lord Camelford.

Sally W----r . " 248 [123] Sally Winter.

J.W. . . " 248 [123] Jas. White, author of _Falstaff's

St. L. . . " 268 [133] No meaning.

B., Rector of ---- " 268 [133] No meaning.

The _London Magazine_, with John Scott (1783-1821) as its editor was
founded in 1820 by Baldwin, Cradock & Joy. Its first number was dated
January, 1820, and Lamb's first contribution was in the number for
August, 1820. Lamb had known Scott as editor of _The Champion_ in
1814, but, according to Talfourd, it was Hazlitt who introduced Lamb
to the _London Magazine_.

John Scott, who was the author of two interesting books of travel,
_A Visit to Paris in 1814_ and _Paris Re-visited_ in 1815, was an


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