The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Volume 2
Part 8 out of 11
admirable editor, and all was going exceedingly well until he plunged
into a feud with _Blackwood's Magazine_ in general, and John Gibson
Lockhart in particular, the story of which in full may be read in
Mr. Lang's _Life and Letters of Lockhart_, 1896. In the duel which
resulted Scott was shot above the hip. The wound was at first thought
lightly of, but Scott died on February 27, 1821--an able man much
The magazine did not at first show signs of Scott's loss; it continued
to bear the imprint of its original publishers and its quality
remained very high. With Lamb and Hazlitt writing regularly this
could hardly be otherwise. But four months after the death of Scott
and eighteen months after its establishment the _London Magazine_
passed into the hands of the publishers Taylor & Hessey, the first
number with their imprint being dated August, 1821. Although for a
while no diminution of merit was perceptible and rather an access
of gaiety--for Taylor brought Hood with him and John Hamilton
Reynolds--yet the high editorial standards of Scott ceased to be
applied. Thenceforward the decline of the magazine was steady.
John Taylor (1781-1864), senior partner in the firm of Taylor &
Hessey, was known as the identifier of Sir Philip Francis with the
author of "Junius," on which subject he had issued three books.
Although unfitted for the post, he acted as editor of the _London
Magazine_ until it was again sold in 1825.
With the beginning of 1825 Taylor made a change in the magazine. He
started a new series, and increased the size and the price. But the
experiment did not answer; the spirit had evaporated; and in the
autumn he sold it to Henry Southern (1799-1853), who had founded
the _Retrospective Review_ in 1820. The last number of the _London
Magazine_ to bear Taylor & Hessey's name, and (in my opinion) to
contain anything by Lamb, was August, 1825. We have no definite
information on the matter, but there is every indication in Lamb's
_Letters_ that Taylor was penurious and not clever in his relations
with contributors. Scott Lamb seems to have admired and liked; but
even in Scott's day payment does not seem to have been prompt. Lamb
was paid, according to Barry Cornwall, two or three times the amount
of other writers, who received for prose a pound a page. But Lamb
himself says that the rate for him was twenty guineas a sheet, a sheet
being sixteen pages; and he told Moore that he had received L170 for
two years' Elia. In a letter to Barton in January, 1823, Lamb remarks:
"B---- [Baldwin] who first engaged me as 'Elia' has not paid me up yet
(nor any of us without repeated mortifying appeals)."
The following references to the _London_ in Lamb's letters to Barton
tell the story of its decadence quite clearly enough. In May,
1823:--"I cannot but think _the London_ drags heavily. I miss Janus
[Wainewright]. And O how it misses Hazlitt--Procter, too, is affronted
(as Janus has been) with their abominable curtailment of his things."
Again, a little later, in September:--"The 'London' I fear falls
off.--I linger among its creaking rafters, like the last rat. It will
topple down, if they don't get some Buttresses. They have pulled down
three, W. Hazlitt, Procter, and their best stay, kind light-hearted
Wainwright, their Janus."
In January, 1824, at the beginning of his eight months' silence:--"The
London must do without me for a time, a time, and half a time, for I
have lost all interest about it."
Again, in December, 1824:--"Taylor & Hessey finding their magazine
goes off very heavily at 2s. 6d., are prudently going to raise their
price another shilling; and having already more authors than they
want, intend to increase the number of them. If they set up against
the New Monthly, they must change their present hands. It is not tying
the dead carcase of a Review to a half-dead Magazine will do their
In January, 1825 (to Sarah Hutchinson):--"You ask about the editor of
the Lond. I know of none. This first specimen [of a new series] is
flat and pert enough to justify subscribers, who grudge at t'other
Next month Lamb writes, again to Barton:--"Our second Number [of the
new series] is all trash. What are T. & H. about? It is whip syllabub,
'thin sown with aught of profit or delight'. Thin sown! not a germ of
fruit or corn. Why did poor Scott die! There was comfort in writing
with such associates as were his little band of scribblers, some gone
away, some affronted away, and I am left as the solitary widow [in one
of Barton's poems] looking for watercresses."
Finally, in August, 1825:--"Taylor has dropt the 'London'. It was
indeed a dead weight. It was Job in the Slough of Despond. I shuffle
off my part of the pack, and stand like Christian with light and merry
In addition to Lamb and Hazlitt the _London Magazine_ had more or
less regular contributions, in its best days, from De Quincey, Allan
Cunningham (Nalla), T.G. Wainewright, afterwards the poisoner, but
in those days an amusing weaver of gay artificial prose, John Clare,
Bernard Barton, H.F. Cary, Richard Ayton, George Darley, Thomas Hood,
John Hamilton Reynolds, Sir John Bowring, John Poole, B.W. Procter;
while among occasional writers for it were Thomas Carlyle, Landor and
The essay, "Stage Illusion," in the number for August, 1825, was,
I believe, the last that Lamb contributed. (In this connection see
Mr. Bertram Dobell's _Sidelights on Charles Lamb_, 1903.) Lamb then
passed over to Colburn's _New Monthly Magazine_, where the "Popular
Fallacies" appeared, together with certain other of his later essays.
His last contribution to that magazine was dated September, 1826. In
1827 he was chiefly occupied in selecting Garrick play extracts for
Hone's _Table Book_, at the British Museum, and for a while after that
he seems to have been more interested in writing acrostics and album
verses than prose. In 1831, however, Moxon's _Englishman's Magazine_
offered harbourage for anything Lamb cared to give it, and a brief
revival of Elia (under the name of Peter) resulted. With its death in
October, 1831, Lamb's writing career practically ceased.
* * * * *
Page 1. THE SOUTH-SEA HOUSE.
_London Magazine_, August, 1820.
Although the "Bachelor's Complaint of the Behaviour of Married
People," "Valentine's Day," and "On the Acting of Munden," were all
written before this essay, it is none the less the first of the
essays of Elia. I have remarked, in the notes to a small edition of
_Elia_, that it is probably unique in literature for an author to
find himself, as Lamb did, in his forty-fourth year, by recording
impressions gathered in his seventeenth; but I think now that Lamb
probably visited his brother at the South-Sea House from time to time
in later years, and gathered other impressions then. I am led to this
conclusion partly by the fact that Thomas Tame was not appointed
Deputy-Accountant until four or five years after Lamb had left.
We do not know exactly what Lamb's duties were at the South-Sea
House or how long he was there: probably only for the twenty-three
weeks--from September, 1791--mentioned in the receipt below,
discovered by Mr. J.A. Rutter in a little exhibition of documents
illustrative of the South Sea Bubble in the Albert Museum at Exeter:--
Rec'd 8th feby 1792 of the Honble South Sea Company by the hands
of their Secretary Twelve pounds 1s. 6d. for 23 weeks attendance
in the Examiners Office.
L12 1 6. CHAS. LAMB.
This shows that Lamb's salary was half a guinea weekly, paid
half-yearly. His brother John was already in the service of the
Company, where he remained till his death, rising to Accountant. It
has been conjectured that it was through his influence that Charles
was admitted, with the view of picking up book-keeping; but the real
patron and introducer was Joseph Pake, one of the directors, whom we
meet on page 92. Whether Lamb had ideas of remaining, or whether he
merely filled a temporary gap in the Examiners' Office, we cannot
tell. He passed to the East India House in the spring of 1792.
The South Sea Company was incorporated in 1710. The year of the Bubble
was 1720. The South-Sea House, remodelled, is now a congeries of
Page 2, line 11. _Forty years ago_. To be accurate, twenty-eight to
Page 3, line 1. _Accounts ... puzzle me_. Here Elia begins his
"matter-of-lie" career. Lamb was at this time in the Accountants'
Office of the India House, living among figures all day.
Page 3, line 7 from foot. _Evans_. William Evans. The Directories of
those days printed lists of the chief officials in some of the public
offices, and it is possible to trace the careers of the clerks whom
Lamb names. All are genuine. Evans, whose name is given one year as
Evan Evans, was appointed cashier (or deputy-cashier) in 1792.
Page 4, line 4. _Ready to imagine himself one_. Lamb was fond of this
conceit. See his little essay "The Last Peach" (Vol. I.), and the
mischievous letter to Bernard Barton, after Fauntleroy's trial,
warning him against peculation.
Page 4, line 7. _Anderton's_. Either the coffee-shop in Fleet Street,
now Anderton's Hotel, or a city offshoot of it. The portrait, if it
ever was in existence, is no longer known there.
Page 5, line 17. _John Tipp_. John Lamb succeeded Tipp as Accountant
somewhen about 1806.
Page 5, line 27. _I know not, etc._ This parenthesis was not in the
_London Magazine_, but the following footnote was appended to the
"I have since been informed, that the present tenant of them is
a Mr. Lamb, a gentleman who is happy in the possession of some
choice pictures, and among them a rare portrait of Milton, which
I mean to do myself the pleasure of going to see, and at the same
time to refresh my memory with the sight of old scenes. Mr.
Lamb has the character of a right courteous and communicative
Mr. Lamb was, of course, John Lamb, or James Elia (see the essay "My
Relations"), then (in 1820) Accountant of the South-Sea House. He left
the Milton to his brother. It is now in America.
Page 6, line 5 from foot. _Henry Man_. This was Henry Man (1747-1790),
deputy-secretary of the South-Sea House from 1776, and an author
of light trifles in the papers, and of one or two books. The
_Miscellaneous Works in Verse and Prose of the late Henry Man_ was
published in 1802, among the subscribers being three of the officials
named in this essay--John Evans, R. Plumer, and Mr. Tipp, and also
Thomas Maynard, who, though assigned to the Stock Exchange, is
probably the "childlike, pastoral M----" of a later paragraph. Small
politics are for the most part kept out of Man's volumes, which are
high-spirited rather than witty, but this punning epigram (of which
Lamb was an admirer) on Lord Spencer and Lord Sandwich may be
Two Lords whose names if I should quote,
Some folks might call me sinner:
The one invented _half a coat_,
The other _half a dinner_.
Such lords as these are useful men,
Heaven sends them to console one;
Because there's now not one in ten,
That can procure a _whole one_.
Page 7, line 13. _Plumer_. Richard Plumer (spelled Plomer in the
directories), deputy-secretary after Man. Lamb was peculiarly
interested in the Plumers from the fact that his grandmother, Mrs.
Field, had been housekeeper of their mansion at Blakesware, near Ware
(see notes to "Dream-Children" and "Blakesmoor in H----shire"). The
fine old Whig was William Plumer, who had been her employer, and was
now living at Gilston. He died in 1821.
The following passage from the memoir of Edward Cave (1691-1754),
which Dr. Johnson wrote for the _Gentleman's Magazine_ (which Cave
established) in 1754, shows that Lamb was mistaken about Plumer:--
He [Cave] was afterwards raised to the office of clerk of the
franks, in which he acted with great spirit and firmness; and
often stopped franks which were given by members of parliament to
their friends; because he thought such extension of a peculiar
right illegal. This raised many complaints, and having stopped,
among others, a frank given to the old dutchess of _Marlborough_
by Mr. _Walter Plummer_, he was cited before the house, as for
breach of privilege, and accused, I suppose very unjustly,
of opening letters to detect them. He was treated with great
harshness and severity, but declining their questions by pleading
his oath of secrecy, was at last dismissed. And it must be
recorded to his honour, that when he was ejected from his office,
he did not think himself discharged from his trust, but continued
to refuse to his nearest friends any information about the
management of the office.
I borrow from Canon Ainger an interesting note on Walter Plumer,
written in the eighteen-eighties, showing that Lamb was mistaken on
other matters too:--
The present Mr. Plumer, of Allerton, Totness, a grandson of
Richard Plumer of the South-Sea House, by no means acquiesces in
the tradition here recorded as to his grandfather's origin. He
believes that though the links are missing, Richard Plumer was
descended in regular line from the Baronet, Sir Walter Plumer,
who died at the end of the seventeenth century. Lamb's memory
has failed him here in one respect. The "Bachelor Uncle," Walter
Plumer, uncle of William Plumer of Blakesware, was most certainly
not a bachelor (see the pedigree of the family in Cussans'
Page 7, line 10 from foot. M----. According to the Key to the initials
and blanks in some of the essays, which Lamb filled in for a curious
correspondent, M---- stood for one Maynard. "Maynard, hang'd himself"
is Lamb's entry. He was chief clerk in the Old Annuities and Three Per
* * * * *
Page 8. OXFORD IN THE VACATION.
_London Magazine_, October, 1820, where it is dated at the end,
"August 5, 1820. From my rooms facing the Bodleian." My own belief
is that Lamb wrote the essay at Cambridge, under the influence of
Cambridge, where he spent a few weeks in the summers of 1819 and 1820,
and transferred the scene to Oxford by way of mystification. He knew
Oxford, of course, but he had not been there for some years, and it
was at Cambridge that he met Dyer and saw the Milton MSS.
Concerning a visit to Oxford (in 1810), Hazlitt had written, in his
_Table Talk_ essay "On the Conversation of Authors," in the preceding
(the September) number of the _London Magazine_:--
L---- [that is, Lamb] once came down into the country to see us.
He was "like the most capricious poet Ovid among the Goths." The
country people thought him an oddity, and did not understand his
jokes. It would be strange if they had; for he did not make any
while he staid. But when we crossed the country to Oxford, then he
spoke a little. He and the old colleges were hail-fellow well-met;
and in the quadrangles, he "walked gowned."
The quotation is a reference to Lamb's sonnet, "I was not Trained in
Academic Bowers," written at Cambridge in 1819:--
Yet can I fancy, wandering 'mid thy towers,
Myself a nursling, Granta, of thy lap;
My brow seems tightening with the Doctor's cap,
And I walk _gowned_.
Page 8, line 6 from foot. _Agnize_. Lamb was fond of this word. I
have seen it stated ingeniously that it was of his own coinage--from
_agnus_, a lamb--but the derivation is _ad gnoscere_, to acknowledge,
to recognise, and the word is to be found in other places--in
"Othello," for example (Act I., Scene 3, line 232):--
I do agnise
A natural and prompt alacrity.
Page 9, middle. _Red-letter days_. See note on page 351. The holidays
at the India House, which are given in the London directories of
Lamb's early time there, make a considerable list. But in 1820 the
Accountants' Office, where Lamb was, kept only five days in the year.
Page 10, line 11. _I can here ... enact the student._ Lamb had
distilled the matter of this paragraph into his sonnet, "I was not
Trained in Academic Bowers," written at Cambridge in August of the
preceding year (see above and Vol. IV.).
Page 11, line 12 from foot. _Unsettle my faith._ At this point, in the
_London Magazine_, Lamb appended the footnote:--
"There is something to me repugnant, at any time, in written hand.
The text never seems determinate. Print settles it. I had thought
of the Lycidas as of a full-grown beauty--as springing up with all
its parts absolute--till, in evil hour, I was shown the original
written copy of it, together with the other minor poems of its
author, in the Library of Trinity, kept like some treasure to be
proud of. I wish they had thrown them in the Cam, or sent them,
after the latter cantos of Spenser, into the Irish Channel. How
it staggered me to see the fine things in their ore! interlined,
corrected! as if their words were mortal, alterable, displaceable
at pleasure! as if they might have been otherwise, and just
as good! as if inspirations were made up of parts, and those
fluctuating, successive, indifferent! I will never go into the
work-shop of any great artist again, nor desire a sight of his
picture, till it is fairly off the easel; no, not if Raphael were
to be alive again, and painting another Galatea."
In the Appendix to Vol. I., page 428, I have printed a passage from
the original MS. of _Comus_, which there is reason to believe was
contributed to the _London Magazine_ by Lamb.
Page 11, line 9 from foot. _G.D._ George Dyer (1755-1841), Lamb's
friend for many years. This is the first mention of him in the essays;
but we shall meet him again, particularly in "Amicus Redivivus."
George Dyer was educated at Christ's Hospital long before Lamb's
time there, and, becoming a Grecian, had entered Emmanuel College,
Cambridge. He became at first an usher in Essex, then a private tutor
to the children of Robert Robinson, the Unitarian, whose life he
afterwards excellently wrote, then an usher again, at Northampton, one
of his colleagues being John Clarke, father of Lamb's friend, Charles
Cowden Clarke. In 1792 he settled in Clifford's Inn as a hack; wrote
poems, made indexes, examined libraries for a great bibliographical
work (never published), and contributed "all that was original" to
Valpy's classics in 141 volumes. Under this work his sight gave way;
and he once showed Hazlitt two fingers the use of which he had lost
in copying out MSS. of Procrus and Plotinus in a fine Greek hand.
Fortunately a good woman took him under her wing; they were married in
1825; and Dyer's last days were happy. His best books were his _Life
of Robert Robinson_ and his _History of the University and Colleges
of Cambridge_. Lamb and his friends laughed at him and loved him. In
addition to the stories told by Lamb in his letters and essays, there
are amusing characteristics of Dyer in Crabb Robinson's diary, in
Leigh Hunt, in Hazlitt, in Talfourd, and in other places. All bear
upon his gentleness, his untidiness and his want of humour. One of
the most famous stories tells of Dyer's criticism of Williams, the
terrible Ratcliffe Highway murderer. Dyer, who would never say an ill
word of any one, was asked his opinion of this cold-blooded assassin
of two families. "He must," he replied after due thought, "be rather
an eccentric character."
Page 12, line 10. _Injustice to him._ In the _London Magazine_ the
following footnote came here, almost certainly by Lamb:--
"Violence or injustice certainly none, Mr. Elia. But you will
acknowledge that the charming unsuspectingness of our friend has
sometimes laid him open to attacks, which, though savouring (we
hope) more of waggery than malice--such is our unfeigned respect
for G.D.--might, we think, much better have been omitted. Such was
that silly joke of L[amb], who, at the time the question of the
Scotch Novels was first agitated, gravely assured our friend--who
as gravely went about repeating it in all companies--that Lord
Castlereagh had acknowledged himself to be the author of Waverly!
_Note--not by Elia."_
Page 12, line 11. _"Strike an abstract idea."_ I do not find this
quotation--if it be one; but when John Lamb once knocked Hazlitt down,
during an argument on pigments, Hazlitt refrained from striking back,
remarking that he was a metaphysician and dealt not in blows but in
ideas. Lamb may be slyly remembering this.
Page 12, line 15. C----. Cambridge. Dyer added a work on _Privileges
of the University if Cambridge_ to his _History_.
Page 12, line 8 from foot. _Our friend M.'s._ Basil Montagu, Q.C.
(1770-1851), legal writer, philanthropist, editor of Bacon, and the
friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge. The Mrs. M. here referred to was
Montagu's third wife, a Mrs. Skepper. It was she who was called by
Edward Irving "the noble lady," and to whom Carlyle addressed some
early letters. A.S. was Anne Skepper, afterwards Mrs. Bryan Waller
Procter, a fascinating lady who lived to a great age and died as
recently as 1888. The Montagus then lived at 25 Bedford Square.
Page 13, line 17. _Starts like a thing surprised._ Here we have an
interesting example of Lamb's gift of fused quotation. Wordsworth's
line in the "Ode on Intimations of Immortality,"
Tremble like a guilty thing surprised,
and Shakespeare's phrase in "Hamlet" (Act I., Scene 1, line 148),
Started like a guilty thing,
were probably both in his mind as he wrote.
Page 13, line 24. _Obtruded personal presence._ In the _London
Magazine_ the following passage came here:--
"D. commenced life, after a course of hard study in the 'House of
pure Emanuel,' as usher to a knavish fanatic schoolmaster at ***,
at a salary of eight pounds per annum, with board and lodging.
Of this poor stipend, he never received above half in all the
laborious years he served this man. He tells a pleasant anecdote,
that when poverty, staring out at his ragged knees, has sometimes
compelled him, against the modesty of his nature, to hint at
arrears, Dr. *** would take no immediate notice, but, after
supper, when the school was called together to even-song, he would
never fail to introduce some instructive homily against riches,
and the corruption of the heart occasioned through the desire
of them--ending with 'Lord, keep thy servants, above all things
from the heinous sin of avarice. Having food and raiment,
us therewithal be content. Give me Agar's wish,'--and the
like;--which to the little auditory, sounded like a doctrine
full of Christian prudence and simplicity,--but to poor D. was a
receipt in full for that quarter's demands at least.
"And D. has been under-working for himself ever since;--drudging
at low rates for unappreciating booksellers,--wasting his fine
erudition in silent corrections of the classics, and in those
unostentatious but solid services to learning, which commonly fall
to the lot of laborious scholars, who have not the art to sell
themselves to the best advantage. He has published poems, which
do not sell, because their character is inobtrusive like his
own,--and because he has been too much absorbed in ancient
literature, to know what the popular mark in poetry is, even if he
could have hit it. And, therefore, his verses are properly, what
he terms them, _crotchets;_ voluntaries; odes to Liberty, and
Spring; effusions; little tributes, and offerings, left behind
him, upon tables and window-seats, at parting from friends'
houses; and from all the inns of hospitality, where he has been
courteously (or but tolerably) received in his pilgrimage. If his
muse of kindness halt a little behind the strong lines, in fashion
in this excitement-craving age, his prose is the best of the
sort in the world, and exhibits a faithful transcript of his own
healthy natural mind, and cheerful innocent tone of conversation."
The foregoing passage called forth a protest from one W.K.
necessitating the following reply from Lamb, which was printed in the
_London Magazine_, under the "Lion's Head," for December, 1820:--
"Elia requests the Editor to inform W.K. that in his article on
Oxford, under the initials G.D., it is his ambition to make more
familiar to the public, a character, which, for integrity and
single-heartedness, he has long been accustomed to rank among the
best patterns of his species. That, if he has failed in the end
which he proposed, it was an error of judgment merely. That, if
in pursuance of his purpose, he has drawn forth some personal
peculiarities of his friend into notice, it was only from the
conviction that the public, in living subjects especially, do not
endure pure panegyric. That the anecdotes, which he produced,
were no more than he conceived necessary to awaken attention to
character, and were meant solely to illustrate it. That it is an
entire mistake to suppose, that he undertook the character to
set off his own wit or ingenuity. That, he conceives, a candid
interpreter might find something intended, beyond a heartless
jest. That G.D., however, having thought it necessary to disclaim
the anecdote respecting Dr. ----, it becomes him, who never for
a moment can doubt the veracity of his friend, to account for
it from an imperfect remembrance of some story he heard long
ago, and which, happening to tally with his argument, he set
too hastily to the account of G.D. That, from G.D.'s strong
affirmations and proofs to the contrary, he is bound to believe
it belongs to no part of G.D.'s biography. That the transaction,
supposing it true, must have taken place more than forty years
ago. That, in consequence, it is not likely to 'meet the eye of
many who might be justly offended.'
"Finally, that what he has said of the Booksellers, referred to a
period of many years, in which he has had the happiness of G.D.'s
acquaintance; and can have nothing to do with any present or
prospective engagements of G.D., with those gentlemen, to the
nature of which he professes himself an entire stranger."
The result of the protest was that Lamb omitted the passage objected
to when he collected _Elia_ in 1823. It might well be restored now;
but I have preferred to print everything in the body of this edition
as Lamb arranged it for press.
* * * * *
Page 14. CHRIST'S HOSPITAL FIVE AND THIRTY YEARS AGO.
_London Magazine_, November, 1820.
This essay, which is based upon the "Recollections of Christ's
Hospital" in Vol. I., is a curious blend of Lamb's own experiences at
school with those of Coleridge. Both boys entered at the same time--on
July 17, 1782: Coleridge was then nearly ten, Lamb was seven and a
half. Coleridge was "clothed" on July 18 and went to Hertford for
a while; Lamb was clothed on October 9. Lamb left the school in
November, 1789, Coleridge in September, 1791.
The school which Lamb knew is now no more. The boys are now all in new
buildings in the midst of green fields near Horsham, many miles from
Lamb's city and its roar.
Page 14, line 15. _The worthy sub-treasurer._ Randal Norris (see note
to "A Death-Bed"). I have not been able to discover the cause of his
Page 14, lines 18, 19. _Crug ... piggins._ Crug is still current
slang. In the school museum one of these piggins is preserved.
Page 14, line 25. _Three banyan days._ Three vegetarian days.
Coleridge complains (in a letter to Poole) that he was never
sufficiently fed except on Wednesdays. He gives the following table of
Our diet was very scanty. Every morning a bit of dry bread and
some bad small beer. Every evening a larger piece of bread, and
cheese or butter, whichever we liked. For dinner,--on Sunday,
boiled beef and broth; Monday, bread and butter, and milk and
water; Tuesday, roast mutton; Wednesday, bread and butter, and
rice milk; Thursday, boiled beef and broth; Friday, boiled mutton
and broth; Saturday, bread and butter, and pease-porridge. Our
food was portioned; and, excepting on Wednesdays, I never had a
bellyfull. Our appetites were damped, never satisfied; and we had
Page 14, line 8 from foot. _Caro equina._ Horseflesh. Mr. Pearce's
chapter on food at the school in his excellent _Annals of Christ's
Hospital_ is very interesting, and records great changes.
Rotten-roasted or rare, _i.e._, over-roasted or under-done.
Page 15, line 3. _The good old relative._ Aunt Hetty, or more
properly, Sarah Lamb. Compare the "Lines written on the Day of my
Aunt's Funeral," Vol. IV.:--
I have not forgot
How thou didst love thy Charles, when he was yet
A prating schoolboy: I have not forgot
The busy joy on that important day,
When, childlike, the poor wanderer was content
To leave the bosom of parental love,
His childhood's play-place, and his early home,
For the rude fosterings of a stranger's hand,
Hard, uncouth tasks, and schoolboys' scanty fare.
How did thine eyes peruse him round and round
And hardly knew him in his yellow coats,
Red leathern belt, and gown of russet blue.
Page 15, line 13. _I was a poor friendless boy._ Here Lamb speaks as
Coleridge, who came all the way from Ottery St. Mary, in Devonshire
(not Calne, in Wiltshire), and had no London friends. In _John
Woodvil_ Lamb borrowed St. Mary Ottery again (see Vol. IV.). Coleridge
has recorded how unhappy he was in his early days at school.
Page 15, line 12 from foot. _Whole-day-leaves._ In this connection
the following passage from Trollope's _History of Christ's Hospital_,
1834, is interesting:--
Those days, on which _leave_ is given to be absent from the Hospital
during the whole day, are called _whole-day leaves_.... A _ticket_ is
a small oval medal attached to the button-hole, without which, except
on leaves, no boy is allowed to pass the gates. Subjoined is a list of
the holidays, which have been hitherto kept at Christ's Hospital; but
it is in contemplation to abridge them materially. Of the policy of
such a measure great doubts may fairly be entertained, inasmuch as the
vacations are so short as to give sufficient respite neither to master
nor scholar; and these occasional breaks, in the arduous duties of the
former more especially, enable him to repair the exhausted energies of
body and mind by necessary relaxation. If those days, which are marked
with an asterisk, fall on a Sunday, they are kept on the Monday
following; and likewise the state holidays.
HOLIDAYS KEPT AT CHRIST'S HOSPITAL
Jan. 25. St. Paul's conversion.
*30. King Charles's martyrdom.
Feb. 2. Candlemas Day.
24. St. Matthias.
March 25. Lady Day.
April 23. St. George.
25. St. Mark.
May 1. St. Philip and St. James.
*29. Restoration of King
June 11. St. Barnabas.
24. St. John Baptist.
29. St. Peter.
July 25. St. James.
Thursday after St.
James. (Nurses' Holiday.)
Aug. 24. St. Bartholomew.
Sept. *2. London burnt.
*21. St. Matthew.
29. St. Michael.
Oct. 18. St. Luke.
*23. King Edward VI. born.
28. St. Simon and St. Jude.
Nov. 1. All Saints.
*5. Gunpowder Plot.
*9. Lord Mayor's Day.
*17. Queen Elizabeth's birthday.
30. St. Andrew.
Dec. 21. St. Thomas.
Also the birthdays of the King and Queen, and the Prince and Princess
of Wales: and the King's accession, proclamation, and coronation.
In addition to the generous allowance of holidays above given the boys
had every alternate Wednesday for a whole day; eleven days at Easter,
four weeks in the summer, and fifteen days at Christmas. In 1837 the
holiday system was remodelled. Compare Lamb's other remarks on his
whole-day rambles in "Recollections of Christ's Hospital" (Vol. I.)
and in the essays in the present volume entitled "Amicus Redivivus"
Page 16, line 14. _The Tower_. Blue-coat boys still have this right
of free entrance to the Tower; but the lions are no more. They were
transferred to the Zoological Gardens in 1831.
Page 16, line 16. _L.'s governor_. Meaning Samuel Salt, M.P.; but it
was actually his friend Mr. Timothy Yeats who signed Lamb's paper.
More accurately, Lamb's father lived under Salt's roof.
Page 16, line 7 from foot. _H----_. According to Lamb's Key this was
Hodges; but in the British Museum copy of _Elia_, first edition, some
one has written Huggins. It is immaterial. Nevis and St. Kitt's (St.
Christopher's) are islands in the British West Indies. Tobin would
be James Webbe Tobin, of Nevis, who died in 1814, the brother of the
playwright John Tobin, author of "The Honeymoon."
Page 17, line 2. _A young ass_. The general opinion at Christ's
Hospital is that Lamb invented this incident; and yet it has the air
of being true.
Page 17, line 18. _L.'s admired Perry_. John Perry, steward from 1761
to 1785, mentioned in Lamb's earlier essay.
Page 17, foot. _Gags_. Still current slang.
Page 17, foot. ----. No name in the Key. The quotation is an
It is reported thou didst eat strange flesh
Which some did die to look on.
"Antony and Cleopatra," Act I., Scene 4, lines 67-68.
It is perhaps worth remarking that in _David Copperfield_ Dickens has
a school incident of a similar character.
Page 18, line 14 from foot. _Mr. Hathaway_. Matthias Hathaway, steward
from 1790 to 1813.
Page 19, line 8. _I was a hypochondriac lad_. Here Lamb drops the
Coleridge mask and speaks as himself.
Page 20, line 15. _Bamber Gascoigne, and Peter Aubert_. Bamber
Gascoigne, M.P. (1725-1791), of Bifrons, in Essex. Of Peter Aubert
I can find nothing, except that the assistant secretary of the East
India Company at the time Lamb wrote this essay was Peter Auber,
afterwards full secretary. His name here may be a joke.
Page 20, line 6 from foot. _Matthew Field_. The Rev. Matthew Feilde,
also vicar of Ugley and curate of Berden. For the Rev. James Boyer see
Page 21, line 18. _"Peter Wilkins," etc. The Adventures of Peter
Wilkins_, by Robert Paltock, 1751, is still read; but _The Voyages and
Adventures of Captain Robert Boyle_, 1736, has had its day. It was a
blend of unconvincing travel and some rather free narrative: a piece
of sheer hackwork to meet a certain market. See Lamb's sonnet to
Stothard, Vol. IV. _The Fortunate Blue-Coat Boy_ I have not seen.
Canon Ainger describes it as a rather foolish romance, showing how a
Blue-coat boy marries a rich lady of rank. The sub-title is "Memoirs
of the Life and Happy Adventures of Mr. Benjamin Templeman; formerly a
Scholar in Christ's Hospital. By an Orphanotropian," 1770.
Page 22, footnote. I have not discovered a copy of Matthew Feilde's
Page 23, line 17 from foot. _Squinting W----_. Not identifiable.
Page 23, line 7 from foot. _Coleridge, in his literary life_.
Coleridge speaks in the _Biographia Literaria_ of having had the
"inestimable advantage of a very sensible, though at the same time a
very severe master, the Reverend James Bowyer [Boyer]," and goes on to
attribute to that master's discrimination and thoroughness much of his
own classical knowledge and early interest in poetry and criticism.
Coleridge gives this example of Boyer's impatient humour:--
In our own English compositions (at least for the last three years
of our school education), he showed no mercy to phrase, metaphor,
or image, unsupported by a sound sense, or where the same sense
might have been conveyed with equal force and dignity in plainer
words. _Lute, harp_ and _lyre, Muse, Muses_ and _inspirations,
Pegasus, Parnassus_ and _Hippocrene_, were all an abomination to
him. In fancy I can almost hear him now exclaiming, "Harp? Harp?
Lyre? Pen and ink, boy, you mean! Muse, boy, muse? Your nurse's
daughter, you mean! Pierian spring? Oh, aye! the cloister pump, I
Touching Boyer's cruelty, Coleridge adds that his "severities, even
now, not seldom furnish the dreams by which the blind fancy would fain
interpret to the mind the painful sensations of distempered sleep."
In _Table Talk_ Coleridge tells another story of Boyer. "The
discipline at Christ's Hospital in my time," he says, "was
ultra-Spartan; all domestic ties were to be put aside. 'Boy!' I
remember Bowyer saying to me once when I was crying the first day of
my return after the holidays, 'Boy! the school is your father! Boy!
the school is your mother! Boy! the school is your brother! the school
is your sister! the school is your first cousin, and your second
cousin, and all the rest of your relations! Let's have no more
Leigh Hunt in his autobiography also has reminiscences of Boyer and
James Boyer or Bowyer was born in 1736, was admitted to the school in
1744, and passed to Balliol. He resigned his Upper Grammar Mastership
in 1799, and probably retired to the rectory of Gainscolne to which
he had been appointed by the school committee six years earlier. They
also gave him L500 and a staff.
Page 23, line 6 from foot. _Author of the Country Spectator_. Thomas
Fanshaw Middleton (1769-1822), afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, who was
at school with Lamb and Coleridge. In the little statuette group which
is called the Coleridge Memorial, subscribed for in 1872, on the
centenary of Coleridge's birth, and held in rotation by the ward in
which most prizes have been gained in the year, Middleton is the
tallest figure. It is reproduced in my large edition. The story which
it celebrates is to the effect that Middleton found Coleridge reading
Virgil in the playground and asked him if he were learning a lesson.
Coleridge replied that he was "reading for pleasure," an answer which
Middleton reported to Boyer, and which led to Boyer taking special
notice of him. The _Country Spectator_ was a magazine conducted by
Middleton in 1792-1793.
Page 23, line 3 from foot. _C----_. Coleridge again.
Page 24, line 4. _Lancelot Pepys Stevens_. Rightly spelled Stephens,
afterwards Under Grammar Master at the school.
Page 24, line 6. _Dr. T----e_. Arthur William Trollope (1768-1827),
who succeeded Boyer as Upper Grammar Master. He resigned in 1826.
Page 24, line 21. _Th----_. Sir Edward Thornton (1766-1852),
diplomatist, who was sent as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
Plenipotentiary to Lower Saxony, to Sweden, to Denmark and other
courts, afterwards becoming minister to Portugal.
Page 24, line 23. _Middleton_. See note above. The treatise was _The
Doctrine of the Greek Article as applied to the Criticism and the
Illustration of the New Testament_, 1808. It was directed chiefly
against Granville Sharpe. Middleton was the first Bishop of Calcutta.
Page 24, line 8 from foot. _Richards_. This was George Richards
(1767-1837). His poem on "Aboriginal Britons," which won a prize
given in 1791 by Earl Harcourt, is mentioned favourably in Byron's
_English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_. Richards became vicar of St.
Martin's-in-the-Fields and a Governor of Christ's Hospital. He founded
a gold medal for Latin hexameters.
Page 24, foot. _S---- ... M----_. According to the Key "Scott, died in
Bedlam," and "Maunde, dismiss'd school."
Page 24, foot. "_Finding some of Edward's race._" From Prior's Carmen
Seculare for 1700:--
Finding some of Stuart's race
Unhappy, pass their annals by.
Lamb alters Stuart to Edward because Edward VI. founded Christ's
Page 25, line 12. _C.V. Le G----_. Charles Valentine Le Grice
(1773-1858), whom we meet also in the essay on "Grace Before Meat."
Le Grice, in his description of Lamb as a schoolboy in Talfourd's
_Memorials_, remarked: "I never heard his name mentioned without
the addition of Charles, although, as there was no other boy of the
name of Lamb, the addition was unnecessary; but there was an implied
kindness in it, and it was a proof that his gentle manners excited
Page 25, line 20. _Allen_. Robert Allen, whom we meet again in the
essay on "Newspapers." After a varied and not fortunate career he died
of apoplexy in 1805.
Page 25, line 8 from foot. _The junior Le G----_. Samuel Le Grice
became a soldier and died in the West Indies. Lamb wrote of him to
Coleridge in 1796, after the tragedy at his home, at a time when
friends were badly needed, "Sam Le Grice who was then in town was with
me the first 3 or 4 days, and was as a brother to me, gave up every
hour of his time to the very hurting of his health and spirits, in
constant attendance and humouring my poor father."
Page 25, line 8 from foot. _F----_. Joseph Favell, afterwards Captain,
who had a commission from the Duke of York--as had Sam Le Grice--and
was killed in the Peninsula, at Salamanca, 1812. Lamb states in the
essay on "Poor Relations," where Favell figures as "W.," that he met
his death at St. Sebastian. Both Sam Le Grice and Favell were to have
accompanied Coleridge and Southey to the Susquehanna as Pantisocrats.
Page 26, line 1. _Fr----_. Frederick William Franklin, master of the
Hertford branch of the school from 1801 to 1827. He died in 1836.
Page 26, line 2. _Marmaduke T----_. Marmaduke Thompson, to whom Lamb
dedicated _Rosamund Gray_ in 1798.
Page 26, line 3. _Catalogue of Grecians_. Lamb was at Christ's
Hospital from 1782 to 1789, and his list is not quite complete.
He himself never was a Grecian; that is to say, one of the picked
scholars on the grammar side of the school, two of whom were sent
up to Cambridge with a hospital exhibition every year, on the
understanding that they should take orders. Lamb was one of the
Deputy-Grecians from whom the Grecians were chosen, but his stammer
standing in his way and a Church career being out of the question, he
never became a full Grecian. Writing to George Dyer, who had been a
Grecian, in 1831, Lamb says: "I don't know how it is, but I keep my
rank in fancy still since school days. I can never forget I was a
deputy Grecian!... Alas! what am I now? What is a Leadenhall clerk, or
India pensioner, to a deputy Grecian? How art thou fallen, O Lucifer!"
Lamb's memory is preserved at Christ's Hospital by a medal which is
given for the best English essays. It was first struck in 1875, the
centenary of his birth.
* * * * *
Page 26. THE TWO RACES OF MEN.
_London Magazine_, December, 1820.
Writing to Wordsworth in April of 1816, Lamb says:--"I have not bound
the poems yet. I wait till people have done borrowing them. I think
I shall get a chain and chain them to my shelves, _more Bodleiano_,
and people may come and read them at chain's length. For of those who
borrow, some read slow; some mean to read but don't read; and some
neither read nor meant to read, but borrow to leave you an opinion of
their sagacity. I must do my money-borrowing friends the justice to
say that there is nothing of this caprice or wantonness of alienation
in them. When they borrow my money they never fail to make use of it."
Probably the germ of the essay is to be found in this passage, as Lamb
never forgot his thoughts.
Page 26, line 17 of essay. _Brinsley_. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the
dramatist and a great spendthrift. He died in 1816. Lamb knew him
Page 26, line 9 from foot. _Beyond Tooke_. That is, beyond the
philological theories of _The Diversions of Purley_ by John Home Tooke
Page 27, line 22. _Ralph Bigod_. John Fenwick, an unlucky friend of
the Lambs, an anticipatory Micawber, of whom we know too little,
and seem likely to find out little more. Lamb mentions him again in
the essay on "Chimney Sweepers," and in that on "Newspapers," in
his capacity as editor of _The Albion_, for which Lamb wrote its
extinguishing epigram in the summer of 1801. There are references to
the Fenwicks in Mary Lamb's letters to Sarah Stoddart and in Lamb's
letters; but nothing very informing. After financial embarrassments in
England they emigrated to America.
Page 29, line 12. _Comberbatch_. Coleridge, who had enlisted as a
young man in the 15th Light Dragoons as Silas Titus Comberback.
Page 29, line 16. _Bloomsbury_. Lamb was then in rooms at 20 Great
Russell Street (now Russell Street), Covent Garden, which is not in
Page 29, line 27. _Should he go on acting_. The _Letters_ contain
references to this habit of Coleridge's. Writing to him in 1809 Lamb
says, referring among other loans to the volume of Dodsley with
Vittoria Corombona ("The White Devil," by John Webster) in it:--"While
I think on it, Coleridge, I fetch'd away my books which you had at the
_Courier_ Office, and found all but a third volume of the old plays,
containing the 'White Devil, 'Green's 'Tu Quoque,' and the 'Honest
Whore,' perhaps the most valuable volume of them all--_that_ I could
not find. Pray, if you can, remember what you did with it, or where
you took it out with you a walking perhaps; send me word, for, to use
the old plea, it spoils a set. I found two other volumes (you had
three), the _Arcadia_ and _Daniel_, enriched with manuscript notes. I
wish every book I have were so noted. They have thoroughly converted
me to relish _Daniel_, or to say I relish him, for after all, I
believe I did relish him."
And several years later (probably in 1820) we find him addressing
Coleridge with reference to Luther's _Table Talk:_--"Why will you make
your visits, which should give pleasure, matter of regret to your
friends? You never come but you take away some folio, that is part of
my existence. With a great deal of difficulty I was made to comprehend
the extent of my loss. My maid, Becky, brought me a dirty bit of
paper, which contained her description of some book which Mr.
Coleridge had taken away. It was _Luster's Tables_, which, for some
time, I could not make out. 'What! has he carried away any of the
_tables_, Becky?' 'No, it wasn't any tables, but it was a book that he
called _Luster's Tables_.' I was obliged to search personally among my
shelves, and a huge fissure suddenly disclosed to me the true nature
of the damage I had sustained."
Allsop tells us that Lamb once said of Coleridge: "He sets his mark
upon whatever he reads; it is henceforth sacred. His spirit seems to
have breathed upon it; and, if not for its author, yet for his sake,
we admire it."
Page 30, line 1. _John Buncle_. Most of Lamb's books are in America;
Lamb's copy of _John Buncle_, with an introductory note written in by
Coleridge, was sold, with other books from his library, in New York
in 1848. _The Life of John Buncle, Esq_., a book highly praised by
Hazlitt, was by Thomas Amory (1691?-1788), published, Part I. in 1756
and Part II. in 1766. A condensed reprint was issued in 1823 entitled
_The Spirit of Buncle_, in which, Mr. W.C. Hazlitt suggests, Lamb may
have had a hand with William Hazlitt.
Page 30, line 19. _Spiteful K._ James Kenney (1780-1849), the
dramatist, then resident at Versailles, where Lamb and his sister
visited him in 1822. He married Louisa Mercier, daughter of Louis
Sebastian Mercier, the French critic, and widow of Lamb's earlier
friend, Thomas Holcroft. One of their two sons was named Charles Lamb
Kenney (1821-1881). Lamb recovered Margaret of Newcastle's _Letters_
(folio, 1664), which is among the books in America, as is also the
Fulke Greville (small folio, 1633).
Page 31, line 4. _S.T.C.... annotations_. Lamb's copy of Daniel's
_Poetical Works_, two volumes, 1718, and of Browne's _Enquiries
into Vulgar and Common Errors_, folio, 1658, both with marginalia
by himself and Coleridge, are in existence, but I cannot say where:
probably in America. Lamb's copy of Beaumont and Fletcher, with
Coleridge's notes (see "Old China"), is, however, safe in the British
Museum. His Fulke Greville, as I have said, is in America, but I
fancy it has nothing of Coleridge in it, nor has his Burton--quarto,
1621--which still exists.
Coleridge's notes in the Beaumont and Fletcher folio are not numerous,
but usually ample and seriously critical. At the foot of a page of the
"Siege of Corinth," on which he had written two notes (one, "O flat!
flat! flat! Sole! Flounder! Place! all stinking! stinkingly flat!"),
_N.B._--I shall not be long here, Charles!--I gone, you will not
mind my having spoiled a book in order to leave a Relic.
Underneath the initials S.T.C. are the initials W.W. which suggest
that Wordsworth was present.
The Museum also has Lamb's Milton, with annotations by himself and
In the _Descriptive Catalogue of the Library of Charles Lamb_,
privately issued by the New York Dibdin Club in 1897, is a list
of five of Lamb's books now in America containing valuable and
unpublished marginalia by Coleridge: _The Life of John Buncle_,
Donne's _Poems_ ("I shall die soon, my dear Charles Lamb, and then you
will not be vexed that I have scribbled your book. S.T.C., 2d May,
1811"), Reynolds' _God's Revenge against ... Murder_, 1651 ("O what
a beautiful _concordia discordantium_ is an unthinking good man's
soul!"), _The History of Philip de Commines_ in English, and Petwin's
_Letters Concerning the Mind_.
* * * * *
Page 31. NEW YEAR'S EVE.
_London Magazine_, January, 1821.
The melancholy pessimism of this essay led to some remonstrance from
robuster readers of the _London Magazine_. In addition to the letter
from "A Father" referred to below, the essay produced, seven months
later, in the August number of the _London Magazine_, a long poetical
"Epistle to Elia," signed "Olen," in which very simply and touchingly
Lamb was reminded that the grave is not the end, was asked to consider
the promises of the Christian faith, and finally was offered a glimpse
of some of the friends he would meet in heaven--among them Ulysses,
Shakespeare and Alice W----n. Taylor, the publisher and editor of the
magazine, sent Lamb a copy. He replied, acknowledging the kindness of
the author, and adding:--"Poor Elia ... does not pretend to so very
clear revelations of a future state of being as 'Olen' seems gifted
with. He stumbles about dark mountains at best; but he knows at least
how to be thankful for this life, and is too thankful, indeed, for
certain relationships lent him here, not to tremble for a possible
resumption of the gift. He is too apt to express himself lightly, and
cannot be sorry for the present occasion, as it has called forth a
reproof so Christian-like."
Lamb thought the poet to be James Montgomery, but it was in reality
Charles Abraham Elton. The poem was reprinted in a volume entitled
_Boyhood and other Poems_, in 1835.
It is conceivable that Lamb was reasoned with privately upon the
sentiments expressed in this essay; and perhaps we may take the
following sonnet which he contributed over his own name to, the
_London Magazine_ for April, 1821, as a kind of defiant postscript
thereto, a further challenge to those who reproached him for his
remarks concerning death, and who suggested that he did not really
They talk of time, and of time's galling yoke,
That like a millstone on man's mind doth press,
Which only works and business can redress:
Of divine Leisure such foul lies are spoke,
Wounding her fair gifts with calumnious stroke.
But might I, fed with silent meditation,
Assoiled live from that fiend Occupation--
_Improbus labor_, which my spirits hath broke--
I'd drink of time's rich cup, and never surfeit--
Fling in more days than went to make the gem
That crowned the white top of Methusalem--
Yea on my weak neck take, and never forfeit,
Like Atlas bearing up the dainty sky,
The heaven-sweet burthen of eternity.
It was also probably the present essay which led to Lamb's difference
with Southey and the famous letter of remonstrance. Southey accused
_Elia_ of wanting "a sounder religious feeling," and Lamb suggests in
his reply that "New Year's Eve" was the chief offender. See Vol. I.
for Lamb's amplification of one of its passages.
It may be interesting here to quote Coleridge's description of Lamb
as "one hovering between heaven and earth, neither hoping much nor
Page 31, line 10 from foot. _Bells_. The music of bells seems always
to have exerted fascination over Lamb. See the reference in the story
of the "First Going to Church," in _Mrs. Leicester's School_, Vol.
III.; in his poem "Sabbath Bells," Vol. IV.; and his "John Woodvil,"
Page 31, foot. "_I saw the skirts of the departing Year_." From
Coleridge's "Ode to the Departing Year," as printed in 1796 and
1797. Lamb was greatly taken by this line. He wrote to Coleridge on
January 2, 1797, in a letter of which only a small portion has been
printed:--"The opening [of the Ode] is in the spirit of the sublimest
allegory. The idea of the 'skirts of the departing year, seen far
onwards, waving in the wind,' is one of those noble Hints at which
the Reader's imagination is apt to kindle into grand conceptions."
Afterwards Coleridge altered "skirts" to "train."
Page 32, line 21. _Seven.... years_. See note to "Dream-Children."
Alice W--n is identified with Ann Simmons, who lived near Blakesware
when Lamb was a youth, and of whom he wrote his love sonnets.
According to the Key the name is "feigned."
Page 32, line 25. _Old Dorrell_. See the poem "Going or Gone,"
Vol. IV. There seems really to have been such an enemy of the Lamb
fortunes. He was one of the witnesses to the will of John Lamb, the
Page 33, line 5. _Small-pox at five_. There is no other evidence than
this casual mention that Lamb ever suffered from this complaint.
Possibly he did not. He went to Christ's Hospital at the age of seven.
Page 33, line 13. _From what have I not fallen_. Lamb had had this
idea many years before. In 1796 he wrote this sonnet (text of 1818):--
We were two pretty babes, the youngest she,
The youngest, and the loveliest far, I ween,
And Innocence her name. The time has been
We two did love each other's company;
Time was, we two had wept to have been apart:
But when by show of seeming good beguil'd,
I left the garb and manners of a child,
And my first love for man's society,
Defiling with the world my virgin heart--
My loved companion dropp'd a tear, and fled,
And hid in deepest shades her awful head.
Beloved, who shall tell me where thou art--
In what delicious Eden to be found--
That I may seek thee the wide world around?
Page 33, line 27. _Phantom cloud of Elia_. The speculations in the
paragraph that ends with these words were fantastical at any rate to
one reader, who, under the signature "A Father," contributed to the
March number of the _London Magazine_ a eulogy of paternity, in which
Elia was reasoned with and rebuked. "Ah! Elia! hadst thou possessed
'offspring of thine own to dally with,' thou wouldst never have made
the melancholy avowal that thou hast 'almost ceased to hope!'" Lamb
did not reply.
Page 33, line 7 from foot. _Not childhood alone ..._ The passage
between these words and "freezing days of December" was taken by
Charles Lloyd, Lamb's early friend, as the motto of a poem, in his
_Poems_, 1823, entitled "Stanzas on the Difficulty with which, in
Youth, we Bring Home to our Habitual Consciousness the Idea of Death."
Page 34, line 15 from foot. _Midnight darlings_. Leigh Hunt
records, in his essay "My Books," that he once saw Lamb kiss an old
Page 34, line 8 from foot. "_Sweet assurance of a look_." A favourite
quotation of Lamb's (here adapted) from Matthew Roydon's elegy on Sir
A sweet attractive kind of grace,
A full assurance given by looks.
A portion of the poem is quoted in the Elia essay on "Some Sonnets of
Sir Philip Sidney."
* * * * *
Page 37. MRS. BATTLE'S OPINIONS ON WHIST.
_London Magazine_, February, 1821.
Mrs. Battle was probably, in real life, to a large extent Sarah
Burney, the wife of Rear-Admiral James Burney, Lamb's friend, and the
centre of the whist-playing set to which he belonged. The theory that
Lamb's grandmother, Mrs. Field, was the original Mrs. Battle, does
not, I think, commend itself, although that lady may have lent a trait
or two. It has possibly arisen from the relation of the passage in the
essay on Blakesware, where Mrs. Battle is said to have died in the
haunted room, to that in "Dream-Children," where Lamb says that Mrs.
Field occupied this room.
The fact that Mrs. Battle and Mrs. Burney were both Sarahs is a small
piece of evidence towards their fusion, but there is something more
conclusive in the correspondence. Writing in March, 1830, concerning
the old whist days, to William Ayrton, one of the old whist-playing
company, and the neighbour of the Burneys in Little James Street,
Pimlico, Lamb makes use of an elision which, I think, may be taken as
more than support of the theory that Mrs. Battle and Mrs. Burney were
largely the same--practically proof. "Your letter, which was only
not so pleasant as your appearance would have been, has revived some
old images; Phillips (not the Colonel), with his few hairs bristling
up at the charge of a revoke, which he declares impossible; the old
Captain's significant nod over the right shoulder (was it not?);
Mrs. B----'s determined questioning of the score, after the game was
absolutely gone to the d----l." Lamb, I think, would have written out
Mrs. Burney in full had he not wished to suggest Mrs. Battle too.
This conjecture is borne out by the testimony of the late Mrs.
Lefroy, in her youth a friend of the Burneys and the Lambs, who
told Canon Ainger that though Mrs. Battle had many differing points
she was undoubtedly Mrs. Burney. But of course there are the usual
cross-trails--the reference to the pictures at Sandham; to Walter
Plumer; to the legacy to Lamb; and so forth. Perhaps among the
Blakesware portraits was one which Lamb chose as Mrs. Battle's
presentment; perhaps Mrs. Field had told him of an ancient dame who
had certain of Mrs. Battle's characteristics, and he superimposed Mrs.
Burney upon this foundation.
For further particulars concerning the Burney whist parties see the
notes to the "Letter to Southey," Vol. I.
Admiral Burney (1750-1821), a son of Dr. Burney, the historian of
music, and friend of Johnson and Reynolds, was the brother of Fanny
Burney, afterwards Madame d'Arblay. See also "The Wedding," page 275
of this volume, for another glimpse of Lamb's old friend. Admiral
Burney wrote _An Essay on the Game of Whist_, which was published in
1821. As he lived until November, 1821, he probably read the present
essay. Writing to Wordsworth, March 20, 1822, Lamb says: "There's
Capt. Burney gone!--what fun has whist now; what matters it what you
lead, if you can no longer fancy him looking over you?"
Page 37, line 1 of essay. "_A clean hearth_." To this, in the _London
Magazine_, Lamb put the footnote:--
"This was before the introduction of rugs, reader. You must remember
the intolerable crash of the unswept cinder, betwixt your foot and the
Page 37, line 8 of essay. _Win one game, and lose another_. To this,
in the _London Magazine_, Lamb put the note:--
"As if a sportsman should tell you he liked to kill a fox one day,
and lose him the next."
Page 38, line 26. _Mr. Bowles_. The Rev. William Lisle Bowles
(1762-1850), whose sonnets had so influenced Coleridge's early
poetical career. His edition of Pope was published in 1806. I have
tried in vain to discover if Mr. Bowles' MS. and notes for this
edition are still in existence. If so, they might contain Lamb's
contribution. But it is rather more likely, I fear, that Lamb invented
the story. The game of ombre is in Canto III. of _The Rape of the
The only writing on cards which we know Lamb to have done, apart from
this essay, is the elementary rules of whist which he made out for
Mrs. Badams quite late in his life as a kind of introduction to the
reading of Admiral Burney's treatise. This letter is in America and
has never been printed except privately; nor, if its owner can help
it, will it.
Page 40, line 26. _Old Walter Plumer_. See the essay on "The South-Sea
Page 42, line 18 from foot. _Bad passions_. Here came in the _London
Magazine_, in parenthesis, "(dropping for a while the speaking mask of
old Sarah Battle)."
Page 43, line 2. _Bridget Elia_. This is Lamb's first reference in
the essays to Mary Lamb under this name. See "Mackery End" and "Old
A little essay on card playing in the _Every-Day Book_, the authorship
of which is unknown, but which may be Hone's, ends with the following
Cousin Bridget and the gentle Elia seem beings of that age wherein
lived Pamela, whom, with "old Sarah Battle," we may imagine
entering their room, and sitting down with them to a _square_
game. Yet Bridget and Elia live in our own times: she, full of
kindness to all, and of soothings to Elia especially;--he, no less
kind and consoling to Bridget, in all simplicity holding converse
with the world, and, ever and anon, giving us scenes that Metzu
and De Foe would admire, and portraits that Deuner and Hogarth
would rise from their graves to paint.
* * * * *
Page 43. A CHAPTER ON EARS.
_London Magazine_, March, 1821.
Lamb was not so utterly without ear as he states. Crabb Robinson in
his diary records more than once that Lamb hummed tunes, and Barron
Field, in the memoir of Lamb contributed by him to the _Annual
Biography and Obituary_ for 1836, mentions his love for certain
beautiful airs, among them Kent's "O that I had wings like a dove"
(mentioned in this essay), and Handel's "From mighty kings." Lamb says
that it was Braham who awakened a love of music in him. Compare Lamb's
lines to Clara Novello, Vol. IV., page 101, and also Mary Lamb's
postscript to his "Free Thoughts on Eminent Composers," same volume.
Page 43, foot. _I was never ... in the pillory_. This sentence led
to an amusing article in the _London Magazine_ for the next month,
April, 1821, entitled "The Confessions of H.F.V.H. Delamore, Esq.,"
unmistakably, I think, by Lamb, which will be found in Vol. I. of this
edition, wherein Lamb confesses to a brief sojourn in the stocks at
Barnet for brawling on Sunday, an incident for the broad truth of
which we have the testimony of his friend Brook Pulham.
Page 44, lines 6 and 7. "_Water parted from the sea_," "_In Infancy_."
Songs by Arne in "Artaxerxes," Lamb's "First Play" (see page 113).
Page 44, line 11. _Mrs. S----_. The Key gives "Mrs. Spinkes." We meet
a Will Weatherall in "Distant Correspondents," page 120; but I have
not been able to discover more concerning either.
Page 44, line 17. _Alice W----n_. See note to "Dream Children."
Page 44, line 26. _My friend A._ Probably William Ayrton (1777-1818),
the musical critic, one of the Burneys' whist-playing set, and a
friend and correspondent of Lamb's. See the musical rhyming letter to
him from Lamb, May 17, 1817.
Page 47, line 5. _My friend, Nov----_. Vincent Novello (1781-1861),
the organist, the father of Mrs. Cowden Clarke, and a great friend of
Page 47, footnote. Another friend of Vincent Novello's uses the same
couplet (from Watt's _Divine Songs for Children_, Song XXVIII.,
"For the Lord's Day, Evening") in the description of glees by the
old cricketers at the Bat and Ball on Broad Halfpenny Down, near
Hambledon--I refer to John Nyren, author of _The Young Cricketer's
Tutor_, 1833. There is no evidence that Lamb and Nyren ever met, but
one feels that they ought to have done so, in Novello's hospitable
Page 48, line 3. _Lutheran beer_. Edmund Ollier, the son of Charles
Ollier, the publisher of Lamb's _Works_, 1818, in his reminiscences of
Lamb, prefixed to one edition of _Elia_, tells this story: "Once at a
musical party at Leigh Hunt's, being oppressed with what to him was
nothing but a prolonged noise ... he said--'If one only had a pot of
porter, one might get through this.' It was procured for him and he
weathered the Mozartian storm."
In the _London Magazine_ this essay had the following postscript:--
"P.S.--A writer, whose real name, it seems, is _Boldero_, but who
has been entertaining the town for the last twelve months, with
some very pleasant lucubrations, under the assumed signature of
_Leigh Hunt_, in his Indicator, of the 31st January last, has
thought fit to insinuate, that I _Elia_ do not write the little
sketches which bear my signature, in this Magazine; but that the
true author of them is a Mr. L----b. Observe the critical period
at which he has chosen to impute the calumny!--on the very
eve of the publication of our last number--affording no scope
for explanation for a full month--during which time, I must
needs lie writhing and tossing, under the cruel imputation of
nonentity.--Good heavens! that a plain man must not be allowed
"They call this an age of personality: but surely this spirit of
anti-personality (if I may so express it) is something worse.
"Take away my moral reputation: I may live to discredit that
"Injure my literary fame,--I may write that up again--
"But when a gentleman is robbed of his identity, where is he?
"Other murderers stab but at our existence, a frail and perishing
trifle at the best. But here is an assassin who aims at our very
essence; who not only forbids us _to be_ any longer, but _to have
been_ at all. Let our ancestors look to it--
"Is the parish register nothing? Is the house in Princes-street,
Cavendish-square, where we saw the light six-and-forty years
ago, nothing? Were our progenitors from stately Genoa, where we
flourished four centuries back, before the barbarous name of
Boldero was known to a European mouth, nothing? Was the goodly
scion of our name, transplanted into England, in the reign of the
seventh Henry, nothing? Are the archives of the steel yard, in
succeeding reigns (if haply they survive the fury of our envious
enemies) showing that we flourished in prime repute, as merchants,
down to the period of the commonwealth, nothing?
"Why then the world, and all that's in't is nothing--
The covering sky is nothing, Bohemia is nothing.--
"I am ashamed that this trifling writer should have power to move
Leigh Hunt, in _The Indicator_, January 31 and February 7, 1821, had
reprinted from _The Examiner_ a review of Lamb's _Works_, with a few
prefatory remarks in which it was stated: "We believe we are taking no
greater liberty with him [Charles Lamb] than our motives will warrant,
when we add that he sometimes writes in the _London Magazine_ under
the signature of Elia."
In _The Indicator_ of March 7, 1821, Leigh Hunt replied to Elia. Leigh
Hunt was no match for Lamb in this kind of raillery, and the first
portion of the reply is rather cumbersome. At the end, however, he
says: "There _was_, by the bye, a family of the name of Elia who came
from Italy,--Jews; which may account for this boast about Genoa. See
also in his last article in the London Magazine [the essay on "Ears"]
some remarkable fancies of conscience in reference to the Papal
religion. They further corroborate what we have heard; _viz._ that the
family were obliged to fly from Genoa for saying that the Pope was
the author of Rabelais; and that Elia is not an anagram, as some have
thought it, but the Judaico-Christian name of the writer before us,
whose surname, we find, is not Lamb, but Lomb;--Elia Lomb! What a
name! He told a friend of ours so in company, and would have palmed
himself upon him for a Scotchman, but that his countenance betrayed
It is amusing to note that Maginn, writing the text to accompany the
Maclise portrait of Lamb in _Fraser's Magazine_ in 1835, gravely
states that Lamb's name was really Lomb, and that he was of Jewish
The subject of Lamb's birth reopened a little while later. In
the "Lion's Head," which was the title of the pages given to
correspondence in the _London Magazine_, in the number for November,
1821, was the following short article from Lamb's pen:--
"ELIA TO HIS CORRESPONDENTS.--A Correspondent, who writes himself
Peter Ball, or Bell,--for his hand-writing is as ragged as his
manners--admonishes me of the old saying, that some people (under
a courteous periphrasis I slur his less ceremonious epithet) had
need have good memories. In my 'Old Benchers of the Inner Temple,'
I have delivered myself, and truly, a Templar born. Bell clamours
upon this, and thinketh that he hath caught a fox. It seems that
in a former paper, retorting upon a weekly scribbler who had
called my good identity in question, (see P.S. to my 'Chapter on
Ears,') I profess myself a native of some spot near Cavendish
Square, deducing my remoter origin from Italy. But who does not
see, except this tinkling cymbal, that in that idle fiction
of Genoese ancestry I was answering a fool according to his
folly--that Elia there expresseth himself ironically, as to an
approved slanderer, who hath no right to the truth, and can be
no fit recipient of it? Such a one it is usual to leave to his
delusions; or, leading him from error still to contradictory
error, to plunge him (as we say) deeper in the mire, and give
him line till he suspend himself. No understanding reader could
be imposed upon by such obvious rhodomontade to suspect me
for an alien, or believe me other than English.--To a second
Correspondent, who signs himself 'a Wiltshire man,' and claims me
for a countryman upon the strength of an equivocal phrase in my
'Christ's Hospital,' a more mannerly reply is due. Passing over
the Genoese fable, which Bell makes such a ring about, he nicely
detects a more subtle discrepancy, which Bell was too obtuse to
strike upon. Referring to the passage (in page 484 of our second
volume), I must confess, that the term 'native town,' applied
to Calne, _prima facie_ seems to bear out the construction which
my friendly Correspondent is willing to put upon it. The context
too, I am afraid, a little favours it. But where the words of
an author, taken literally, compared with some other passage
in his writings, admitted to be authentic, involve a palpable
contradiction, it hath been the custom of the ingenuous
commentator to smooth the difficulty by the supposition, that
in the one case an allegorical or tropical sense was chiefly
intended. So by the word 'native,' I may be supposed to mean a
town where I might have been born; or where it might be desirable
that I should have been born, as being situate in wholesome air,
upon a dry chalky soil, in which I delight; or a town, with the
inhabitants of which I passed some weeks, a summer or two ago,
so agreeably, that they and it became in a manner native to me.
Without some such latitude of interpretation in the present case,
I see not how we can avoid falling into a gross error in physics,
as to conceive that a gentleman may be born in two places, from
which all modern and ancient testimony is alike abhorrent. Bacchus
cometh the nearest to it, whom I remember Ovid to have honoured
with the epithet 'Twice born.' But not to mention that he is so
called (we conceive) in reference to the places _whence_ rather
than the places _where_ he was delivered,--for by either birth
he may probably be challenged for a Theban--in a strict way of
speaking, he was a _filius femoris_ by no means in the same sense
as he had been before a _filius alvi_, for that latter was but
a secondary and tralatitious way of being born, and he but a
denizen of the second house of his geniture. Thus much by way of
explanation was thought due to the courteous 'Wiltshire man.'--To
'Indagator,' 'Investigator,' 'Incertus,' and the rest of the pack,
that are so importunate about the true localities of his birth--as
if, forsooth, Elia were presently about to be passed to his
parish--to all such churchwarden critics he answereth, that, any
explanation here given notwithstanding, he hath not so fixed his
nativity (like a rusty vane) to one dull spot, but that, if he
seeth occasion, or the argument shall demand it, he will be born
again, in future papers, in whatever place, and at whatever
period, shall seem good unto him.
"Modo me Thebis--modo Athenis.
[Footnote 1: "Clearly a fictitious appellation; for if we admit the
latter of these names to be in a manner English, what is _Leigh_?
Christian nomenclature knows no such."]
[Footnote 2: "It is clearly of transatlantic origin."]
[Footnote 3: See page 15 of this volume.]
"Imperfectus adhuc infans genetricis ab alvo
Eripitur, patrioque tener (si credere dignum est)
Tutaque bis geniti sunt incunabula Bacchi.
"_Metamorph._ lib. iii., 310."]
* * * * *
Page 48. ALL FOOLS' DAY.
_London Magazine_, April, 1821.
Page 49, line 1. _Empedocles_. Lamb appended this footnote in the
He who, to be deem'd
A god, leap'd fondly into Etna's flames.
_Paradise Lost_, III., lines 470-471 [should be 469-470].
Page 49, line 5. _Cleombrotus_. Lamb's _London Magazine_ footnote:--
He who, to enjoy
Plato's Elysium, leap'd into the sea.
_Paradise Lost_, III., lines 471-472.
Page 49, line 8. _Plasterers at Babel_. Lamb's _London Magazine_
The builders next of Babel on the plain
_Paradise Lost_, III., lines 466-467.
Page 49, line 10. _My right hand_. Lamb, it is probably unnecessary to
remind the reader, stammered too.
Page 49, line 13 from foot. _Duns_, Duns Scotus (1265?-1308?),
metaphysician, author of _De modis significandi sive Grammatica
Speculativa_ and other philosophic works. Known as Doctor Subtilis.
There was nothing of Duns in the _London Magazine_; the sentence ran:
"Mr. Hazlitt, I cannot indulge you in your definitions." This was at a
time when Lamb and Hazlitt were not on good terms.
Page 49, last line. _Honest R----_. Lamb's Key gives "Ramsay, London
Library, Ludgate Street; now extinct." I have tried in vain to find
out more about Ramsay. The London Library was established at 5 Ludgate
Street in 1785. Later, the books were lodged at Charles Taylor's house
in Hatton Garden, and were finally removed to the present London
Institute in Finsbury Circus.
Page 50, line 6. _Good Granville S----_. Lamb's Key gives Granville
Sharp. This was the eccentric Granville Sharp, the Quaker abolitionist
* * * * *
Page 51. A QUAKER'S MEETING.
_London Magazine_, April, 1821.
Lamb's connection with Quakers was somewhat intimate throughout
his life. In early days he was friendly with the Birmingham
Lloyds--Charles, Robert and Priscilla, of the younger generation,
and their father, Charles Lloyd, the banker and translator of Horace
and Homer (see _Charles Lamb and the Lloyds_, 1898); and later with
Bernard Barton, the Quaker poet of Woodbridge. Also he had loved from
afar Hester Savory, the subject of his poem "Hester" (see Vol. IV.). A
passage from a letter written in February, 1797, to Coleridge, bears
upon this essay:--"Tell Lloyd I have had thoughts of turning Quaker,
and have been reading, or am rather just beginning to read, a most
capital book, good thoughts in good language, William Penn's 'No
Cross, No Crown,' I like it immensely. Unluckily I went to one of his
meetings, tell him, in St. John Street [Clerkenwell] yesterday, and
saw a man under all the agitations and workings of a fanatic, who
believed himself under the influence of some 'inevitable presence.'
This cured me of Quakerism; I love it in the books of Penn and
Woolman, but I detest the vanity of a man thinking he speaks by the
Both Forster and Hood tell us that Lamb in outward appearance
resembled a Quaker.
Page 52, line 13. _The uncommunicating muteness of fishes_. Lamb had
in mind this thought on the silence of fishes when he was at work on
_John Woodvil_. Simon remarks, in the exquisite passage (Vol. IV.) in
reply to the question, "What is it you love?"
The fish in th' other element
That knows no touch of eloquence.
Page 53, second quotation. "_How reverend ..._" An adaptation of
Congreve's description of York Minster in "The Mourning Bride" (Mary
Lamb's "first play"), Act I., Scene 1:--
How reverend is the face of this tall pile ...
Page 53, middle. _Fox and Dewesbury_. George Fox (1624-1691) founded
the Society of Friends. William Dewesbury was one of Fox's first
colleagues, and a famous preacher. William Penn (1644-1718), the
founder of Pennsylvania, was the most illustrious of the early
converts to Quakerism. Lamb refers to him again, before his judges, in
the essay on "Imperfect Sympathies," page 73. George Fox's _Journal_
was lent to Lamb by a friend of Bernard Barton's in 1823. On returning
it, Lamb remarked (February 17, 1823):--"I have quoted G.F. in my
'Quaker's Meeting' as having said he was 'lifted up in spirit' (which
I felt at the time to be not a Quaker phrase),' and the Judge and Jury
were as dead men under his feet.' I find no such words in his Journal,
and I did not get them from Sewell, and the latter sentence I am sure
I did not mean to invent. I must have put some other Quaker's words
into his mouth."
Sewel was a Dutchman--William Sewel (1654-1720). His title runs:
_History of the Rise, Increase and Progress of the Christian People
called Quakers, written originally in Low Dutch by W. Sewel, and by
himself translated into English_, 1722. James Naylor (1617-1660) was
one of the early Quaker martyrs--"my favourite" Lamb calls him in a
letter. John Woolman (1720-1772) was an American Friend. His principal
writings are to be found in _A Journal of the Life, Gospel Labours,
and Christian Experiences of that faithful minister of Jesus Christ,
John Woolman, late of Mount Holly in the Province of Jersey, North
America_, 1795. Modern editions are obtainable.
* * * * *
Page 56. THE OLD AND THE NEW SCHOOLMASTER.
_London Magazine_, May, 1821.
Page 56, line 9. _Ortelius ... Arrowsmith_. Abraham Ortellius
(1527-1598), the Dutch geographer and the author of _Theatrum
Orbis Terrae_, 1570. Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823) was a well-known
cartographer at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Lamb would
perhaps have known something of his _Atlas of Southern India_, a very
useful work at the East India House.
Page 56, line 13. _A very dear friend_. Barren Field (see the essay on
Page 56, line 10 from foot. _My friend M_. Thomas Manning (1772-1840),
the mathematician and traveller, and Lamb's correspondent.
Page 56, last line. "_On Devon's leafy shores_." From Wordsworth's
Page 57, line 16. _Daily jaunts_. Though Lamb was then (1821) living
at 20 Great Russell Street, Covent Garden, he rented rooms at 14
Kingsland Row, Dalston, in which to take holidays and do his literary
work undisturbed. At that time Dalston, which adjoins Shackleton, was
the country and Kingsland Green an open space opposite Lamb's lodging.
Page 58, line 23. _The North Pole Expedition_. This would probably
be Sir John Franklin's expedition which set out in 1819 and ended in
disaster, the subject of Franklin's book, _Narrative of a Journey to
the Shores of the Polar Sea in the years 1819, 20, 21, 22_ (1823). Sir
John Ross made an expedition in 1818, and Sir William Edward Parry in
1819, and again in 1821-1823 with Lyon. The panorama was possibly
at Burford's Panorama in the Strand, afterwards moved to Leicester
Page 60, line 17. _Tractate on Education_. Milton's _Tractate on
Education_, addressed to his friend, Samuel Hartlib, was published in
1644. The quotation above is from that work. This paragraph of Lamb's
essay was afterwards humorously expanded in his "Letter to an Old
Gentleman whose Education has been Neglected" (see Vol. I.).
Page 60, last line. _Mr. Bartley's Orrery._ George Bartley
(1782?-1858), the comedian, lectured on astronomy and poetry at the
Lyceum during Lent at this time. An orrery is a working model of the
solar system. The Panopticon was, I assume, a forerunner of the famous
Panopticon in Leicester Square.
Page 61, line 8. "_Plaything for an hour_." A quotation, from Charles
and Mary Lamb's _Poetry for Children_--"Parental Recollections":--
A child's a plaything for an hour.
Page 63, end of essay. "_Can I reproach her for it_." After these
words, in the _London Magazine_, came:--
"These kind of complaints are not often drawn from me. I am aware
that I am a fortunate, I mean a prosperous man. My feelings
prevent me from transcribing any further."
* * * * *
Page 63. VALENTINE'S DAY.
This essay first appeared in _The Examiner_, February 14 and 15, 1819,
and again in _The Indicator_, February 14, 1821. Signed ***
Page 64, line 18. _Twopenny postman._ Hone computed, in his _Every-Day
Book_, Vol. I., 1825, that "two hundred thousand letters beyond the
usual daily average annually pass through the two-penny post-office in
London on Valentine's Day." The Bishop's vogue is now (1911) almost
Page 65, line 15 from foot. E.B. Lamb's Key gives "Edward Burney, half
brother of Miss Burney." This was Edward Francis Burney (1760-1848),
who illustrated many old authors, among them Richardson.
* * * * *
Page 66. IMPERFECT SYMPATHIES.
_London Magazine_, August, 1821, where the title ran: "Jews, Quakers,
Scotchmen, and other Imperfect Sympathies."
Page 69, line 18 from foot. _A print ... after Leonardo._ The Virgin
of the Rocks. See Vol. IV. for Lamb's and his sister's verses on this
picture. Crabb Robinson's MS. diary tells us that the Scotchman was
one Smith, a friend of Godwin. His exact reply to Lamb's remark about
"my beauty" was: "Why, sir, from all I have heard of you, as well
as from what I have myself seen, I certainly entertain a very high
opinion of your abilities, but I confess that I have not formed any
opinion concerning your personal pretensions."
Page 70, line 10. _The poetry of Burns._ "Burns was the god of my
idolatry," Lamb wrote to Coleridge in 1796. Coleridge's lines on
Burns, "To a Friend who had declared his intention of writing no more
poetry," were addressed to Lamb. Barry Cornwall records seeing Lamb
kiss his copy of the poet.
Page 70, line 17. _You can admire him_. In the _London Magazine_ Lamb
"I have a great mind to give up Burns. There is certainly
a bragging spirit of generosity, a swaggering assertion of
independence, and _all that_, in his writings."
Page 70, line 18. _Smollett_. Tobias George Smollett (1721-1771), the
novelist, came of a Dumbartonshire family. Rory was Roderick Random's
schoolboy name. His companion was Strap. See _Roderick Random_,
Chapter XIII., for the passage in question. Smollett continued the
_History of England_ of David Hume (1711-1776), also a Scotchman, and
one of the authors whom Lamb could not read (see "Detached Thoughts on
Books and Reading," page 196).
Lamb's criticism of Scotchmen did not pass without comment. The
pleasantest remark made upon it was that of Christopher North
(John Wilson) some dozen years later (after he had met Lamb), in a
_Blackwood_ paper entitled "Twaddle on Tweedside" (May, 1833), wherein
Charles Lamb ought really not to abuse Scotland in the pleasant
way he so often does in the sylvan shades of Enfield; for Scotland
loves Charles Lamb; but he is wayward and wilful in his wisdom,
and conceits that many a Cockney is a better man even than
Christopher North. But what will not Christopher forgive to Genius
and Goodness? Even Lamb bleating libels on his native land. Nay,
he learns lessons of humanity, even from the mild malice of Elia,
and breathes a blessing on him and his household in their Bower of
Coleridge was much pleased by this little reference to his friend. He
described it as "very sweet indeed" (see his _Table Talk_, May 14,
Page 70, line 14 from foot. _Hugh of Lincoln_. Hugh was a small
Lincoln boy who, tradition states, was tortured to death by the Jews.
His dead body being touched by a blind woman, she received sight.
Many years earlier Lamb had spoken of the Jew in English society with
equal frankness (see his note to the "Jew of Malta" in the _Dramatic
Page 71, line 18. _B----_. John Braham, _nee_ Abraham (1774?-1856),
the great tenor. Writing to Manning in 1808, Lamb says:--"Do you like
Braham's singing? The little Jew has bewitched me. I follow him like
as the boys followed Tom the Piper. He cures me of melancholy as
David cured Saul.... I was insensible to music till he gave me a new
sense.... Braham's singing, when it is impassioned, is finer than Mrs.
Siddons's or Mr. Kemble's acting! and when it is not impassioned it is
as good as hearing a person of fine sense talking. The brave little
Two years later Lamb tells Manning of Braham's absence from London,
adding: "He was a rare composition of the Jew, the gentleman, and the
angel; yet all these elements mixed up so kindly in him that you could
not tell which preponderated." In this essay Lamb refers to Braham's
singing in Handel's oratorio "Israel in Egypt." Concerning Braham's
abandonment of the Jewish faith see Lamb's sarcastic essay "The
Religion of Actors," Vol. I., page 338.
Page 73, line 17 from foot. _I was travelling_. Lamb did not really
take part in this story. It was told him by Sir Anthony Carlisle
(1768-1840), the surgeon, as he confessed to his Quaker friend,
Bernard Barton (March 11, 1823), who seemed to miss its point. Lamb
described Carlisle as "the best story-teller I ever heard."
* * * * *
Page 74. WITCHES, AND OTHER NIGHT-FEARS.
_London Magazine_, October, 1821.
Compare with this essay Maria Howe's story of "The Witch Aunt," in
_Mrs. Leicester's School_ (see Vol. III.), which Lamb had written
thirteen years earlier.
Page 75, line 12 from foot. _History of the Bible, by Stackhouse_.
Thomas Stackhouse (1677-1752) was rector of Boldon, in Durham; his
_New History of the Holy Bible from the Beginning of the World to the
Establishment of Christianity_--the work in question--was published in
Page 75, line 6 from foot. _The Witch raising up Samuel_. This
paragraph was the third place in which Lamb recorded his terror of
this picture of the Witch of Endor in Stackhouse's _Bible_, but the
first occasion in which he took it to himself. In one draft of _John
Woodvil_ (see Vol. IV.), the hero says:--
I can remember when a child the maids
Would place me on their lap, as they undrest me,
As silly women use, and tell me stories
Of Witches--make me read "Glanvil on Witchcraft,"
And in conclusion show me in the Bible,
The old Family Bible, with the pictures in it,
The 'graving of the Witch raising up Samuel,
Which so possest my fancy, being a child,
That nightly in my dreams an old Hag came
And sat upon my pillow.
Then again, in _Mrs. Leicester's School_, in the story of Maria Howe,
called "The Witch Aunt," one of the three stories in that book which
Lamb wrote, Stackhouse's _Bible_ is found once more. In my large
edition I give a reproduction of the terrible picture. Page 77, foot.
_Dear little T.H._ This was the unlucky passage which gave Southey his
chief text in his criticism of _Elia_ as a book wanting "a sounder
religious feeling," and which led to Lamb's expostulatory "Letter"
(see Vol. I.). Southey commented thus:--
This poor child, instead of being trained up in the way in which
he should go, had been bred in the ways of modern philosophy; he
had systematically been prevented from knowing anything of that
Saviour who said, "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and
forbid them not; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven;" care had
been taken that he should not pray to God, nor lie down at night
in reliance upon His good Providence!
T.H. was Thornton Hunt, Leigh Hunt's eldest son and Lamb's "favourite
child" (see verses to him in Vol. IV.).
Page 79, line 18 from foot. _Barry Cornwall_. Bryan Waller Procter
(1787-1874), Lamb's friend. The reference is to "A Dream," a poem in
Barry Cornwall's _Dramatic Scenes_, 1819, which Lamb greatly admired.
See his sonnet to the poet in Vol. IV., where it is mentioned again.
Page 80, last paragraph of essay. In the original MS. of this essay
(now in the Dyce and Forster collection at South Kensington) the last
paragraph ran thus:--
"When I awoke I came to a determination to write prose all the
rest of my life; and with submission to some of our young writers,
who are yet diffident of their powers, and balancing perhaps
between verse and prose, they might not do unwisely to decide the
preference by the texture of their natural dreams. If these are
prosaic, they may depend upon it they have not much to expect in
a creative way from their artificial ones. What dreams must not
Spenser have had!"
* * * * *
Page 80. MY RELATIONS.
_London Magazine_, June, 1821.
Page 80, beginning. _At that point of life_. Lamb was forty-six on
February 10, 1821.
Page 80, line 12 of essay. _I had an aunt_. Aunt Hetty, who died in
1797 (see the essay on "Christ's Hospital").
Page 81, line 6. _The chapel in Essex-street_. The headquarters of
"that heresy," Unitarianism. Lamb was at first a Unitarian, but
afterwards dropped away from all sects.
Page 81, line 23. _Brother, or sister, I never had any--to know them_.
Lamb is writing strictly as the imagined Elia, Elia being Lamb in mind
rather than Lamb in fact. It amused him to present his brother John
and his sister Mary as his cousins James and Bridget Elia. We have
here an excellent example of his whimsical blending of truth and
invention: brothers and sisters he denies, yet admits one sister,
Elizabeth, who died in both their infancies. Lamb had in reality two
sisters named Elizabeth, the former of whom he never knew. She was
born in 1762. The second Elizabeth, his parents' fifth child, was born
in 1768, seven years before Charles. Altogether the Lambs had seven
children, of whom only John (born 1763), Mary Anne (born 1764) and
Charles (born 1775) grew up. Again Lamb confesses to several cousins
in Hertfordshire, and to two others. The two others were fictitious,
but it was true that he had Hertfordshire relations (see the essay
"Mackery End, in Hertfordshire").
John Lamb's character is perhaps sufficiently described in this essay
and in "Dream-Children." He was a well-to-do official in the South-Sea
House, succeeding John Tipp as accountant. Crabb Robinson found him
too bluff and noisy to be bearable; and he once knocked Hazlitt down
in a dispute about painting. He died on October 26, 1821, to his
brother's great grief, leaving Charles everything. He married late in
life a Mrs. Dowden. Probably she had her own money and needed none of
her second husband's. Hence the peculiarity of the will. Mrs. John
Lamb died in 1826.
John Lamb's sympathy with animals led him to write in 1810 a pamphlet
entitled _A Letter to the Right Hon. William Windham, on his
opposition to Lord Erskine's Bill for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals_--Mr. Windham having expressed it as his opinion that the
subject was not one for legislation. Lamb sent the pamphlet to Crabb
Robinson on February 7, 1810, saying:--"My Brother whom you have met
at my rooms (a plump good looking man of seven and forty!) has written
a book about humanity, which I transmit to you herewith. Wilson the
Publisher has put it in his head that you can get it Reviewed for him.
I dare say it is not in the scope of your Review--but if you could
put it into any likely train, he would rejoyce. For alas! our boasted
Humanity partakes of Vanity. As it is, he teazes me to death with
chusing to suppose that I could get it into all the Reviews at a
moment's notice.--I!! who have been set up as a mark for them to throw
at and would willingly consign them all to Hell flames and Megaera's
"But here's the Book--and don't shew it Mrs. Collier, for I remember
she makes excellent Eel soup, and the leading points of the Book are
directed against that very process."
This is the passage--one red-hot sentence--concerning eels:--
"If an eel had the wisdom of Solomon, he could not help himself in
the ill-usage that befalls him; but if he had, and were told, that
it was necessary for our subsistence that he should be eaten, that
he must be skinned first, and then broiled; if ignorant of man's
usual practice, he would conclude that the cook would so far use
her reason as to cut off his head first, which is not fit for
food, as then he might be skinned and broiled without harm; for
however the other parts of his body might be convulsed during the
culinary operations, there could be no feeling of consciousness
therein, the communication with the brain being cut off; but if
the woman were immediately to stick a fork into his eye, skin
him alive, coil him up in a skewer, head and all, so that in the
extremest agony he could not move, and forthwith broil him to
death: then were the same Almighty Power that formed man from the
dust, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, to call
the eel into a new existence, with a knowledge of the treatment he
had undergone, and he found that the instinctive disposition which
man has in common with other carnivorous animals, which inclines
him to cruelty, was not the sole cause of his torments; but that
men did not attend to consider whether the sufferings of such
insignificant creatures could be lessened: that eels were not the
only sufferers; that lobsters and other shell fish were put into
cold water and boiled to death by slow degrees in many parts of
the sea coast; that these, and many other such wanton atrocities,
were the consequence of carelessness occasioned by the pride of
mankind despising their low estate, and of the general opinion
that there is no punishable sin in the ill-treatment of animals
designed for our use; that, therefore, the woman did not bestow
so much thought on him as to cut his head off first, and that
she would have laughed at any considerate person who should have
desired such a thing; with what fearful indignation might he
inveigh against the unfeeling metaphysician that, like a cruel
spirit alarmed at the appearance of a dawning of mercy upon
animals, could not rest satisfied with opposing the Cruelty
Prevention Bill by the plea of possible inconvenience to mankind,
highly magnified and emblazoned, but had set forth to the vulgar
and unthinking of all ranks, in the jargon of proud learning, that
man's obligations of morality towards the creatures subjected to
his use are imperfect obligations!"
The poem "The Beggar-Man," in _Poetry for Children_, 1809 (see Vol.
III.), was also from John Lamb's pen.
Page 85, asterisks. _Society for the Relief of_--Distrest Sailors,
says Lamb's Key.
Page 86, last line of essay. "_Through the green plains of pleasant
Hertfordshire_." This line occurs in a sonnet of Lamb's written many
years before the essay (see Vol. IV.). Probably, however, Lamb did
not invent it, for (the late W.J. Craig pointed out) in Leland's
_Itinerary_, which Lamb must have known, if only on account of the
antiquary's remarks on Hertfordshire, is quoted a poem by William
Vallans (_fl._ 1578-1590), "The Tale of the Two Swans," containing
The fruitful fields of pleasant Hertfordshire--
which one can easily understand would have lingered in Lamb's mind
In the _London Magazine_ the essay ended with the words, "Till then,
* * * * *
Page 86. MACKERY END, IN HERTFORDSHIRE.
_London Magazine_, July, 1821. Reprinted in _Elia_, 1823, as written,
save for the omission of italics from many passages.
Bridget Elia, who is met also in "Mrs. Battle," in "My Relations," and
in "Old China," was, of course, Mary Lamb.
Page 86, line 11 from foot. _She must have a story_. Thomas Westwood,
in his reminiscences of the Lambs in later years, printed in _Notes
and Queries_, speaks of Mary Lamb's passion for novel-reading in the
Enfield days, when he was a boy.
Page 87, line 6. _Margaret Newcastle_. Lamb's devotion to this lady is
expressed again in the essay on "The Two Races of Men," in the essay
on Beggars, and in "Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading."
Page 87, line 8. _Free-thinkers_ ... William Godwin, perhaps alone
among Lamb's friends, quite answers to the description of leader
of novel philosophies and systems; but there had been also Thomas
Holcroft and John Thelwall among the Lambs' acquaintance. And Hazlitt
and Leigh Hunt would come within this description.
Page 87, foot. _Good old English reading_. The reference is to Samuel
Salt's library in the Temple (see note to "The Old Benchers of the
Page 88, line 14. _Mackery End_. The farmhouse still stands, although
new front rooms have been added. At the end of the present hall, one
passes through what was in Lamb's time the front door, and thereafter
the house is exactly as it used to be save that its south windows have
been filled in. By kind invitation of Mr. Dolphin Smith, the farmer,
who had been there over forty years, I spent in 1902 some time in the
same parlour in which the Lambs had been entertained. Harpenden, on
the north-west, has grown immensely since Lamb's day, and the houses
at the Folly, between Wheathampstead and the Cherry Trees, are new;
but Mackery End, or Mackrye End as the farmer's waggons have it,
remains unencroached upon. Near by is the fine old mansion which is
Mackery End house proper; Lamb's Mackery End was the farm.
Lamb's first visit there must have been when he was a very little
boy--somewhere about 1780. Probably we may see recollections of it in
Mary Lamb's story "The Farmhouse" in _Mrs. Leicester's School_ (see
Vol. III. of this edition).
Page 88, line 18. _A great-aunt_. Mary Field, Lamb's grandmother, was
Mary Bruton, whose sister married, as he says, a Gladman, and was the
great-aunt mentioned. The present occupier of the farm is neither
Gladman nor Bruton; but both names are still to be found in the
county. A Miss Sarah Bruton, a direct descendant of Lamb's great-aunt,
was living at Wheathampstead in 1902. She had on her walls two
charming oval portraits of ancestresses, possibly--for she was
uncertain as to their identity--two of the handsome sisters whom Lamb
Writing to Manning, May 28, 1819, Lamb says:--"How are my cousins,
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