The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Volume 2
Part 9 out of 11
the Gladmans of Wheathampstead, and farmer Bruton? Mrs. Bruton is a
"Hail, Mackery End!
"This is a fragment of a blank verse poem which I once meditated, but
got no further."
Page 89, verse. "_But thou, that didst appear so fair ..._" From
Wordsworth's "Yarrow Visited," Stanza 6. Writing to Wordsworth in
1815, Lamb said of this stanza that he thought "no lovelier" could be
found in "the wide world of poetry." From a letter to Taylor, of the
_London Magazine_, belonging to the summer of 1821, we gather that the
proof-reader had altered the last word of the third line to "air" to
make it rhyme to "fair." Lamb says: "_Day_ is the right reading, and
_I implore you to restore it_."
Page 90, line 4. _B.F._ Barron Field (see note to "Distant
Correspondents"), then living in Sydney, where he composed, and had
printed for private circulation in 1819, a volume of poems reviewed by
Lamb (see Vol. I.), in 1819, one of which was entitled "The Kangaroo."
It was the first book printed in Australia. Field edited Heywood for
the old Shakespeare Society. Although a Field, he was no kinsman of
* * * * *
Page 90. MODERN GALLANTRY.
_London Magazine_, November, 1822.
De Quincey writes in "London Reminiscences" concerning the present
Among the prominent characteristics of Lamb, I know not how it is
that I have omitted to notice the peculiar emphasis and depth of
his courtesy. This quality was in him a really chivalrous feeling,
springing from his heart, and cherished with the sanctity of a
duty. He says somewhere in speaking of himself[?] under the mask
of a third person, whose character he is describing, that, in
passing a servant girl, even at a street-crossing, he used to take
off his hat. Now, the _spirit_ of Lamb's gallantry would have
prompted some such expression of homage, though the customs of
the country would not allow it to be _literally_ fulfilled, for
the very reason that would prompt it--_viz_., in order to pay
respect--since the girl would, in such a case, suppose a man
laughing at her. But the instinct of his heart was to think
highly of female nature, and to pay a real homage (not the hollow
demonstration of outward honour which a Frenchman calls his
"homage," and which is really a mask for contempt) to the sacred
_idea_ of pure and virtuous womanhood.
Barry Cornwall has the following story in his Memoir of Lamb:--
Lamb, one day, encountered a small urchin loaded with a too heavy
package of grocery. It caused him to tremble and stop. Charles
inquired where he was going, took (although weak) the load upon
his own shoulder, and managed to carry it to Islington, the place
of destination. Finding that the purchaser of the grocery was a
female, he went with the urchin before her, and expressed a hope
that she would intercede with the poor boy's master, in order to
prevent his being over-weighted in future. "Sir," said the dame,
after the manner of Tisiphone, frowning upon him, "I buy my sugar
and have nothing to do with the man's manner of sending it." Lamb
at once perceived the character of the purchaser, and taking off
his hat, said, humbly, "Then I hope, ma'am, you'll give me a drink
of small beer." This was of course refused. He afterwards called
upon the grocer, on the boy's behalf. With what effect I do not
Page 90, line 2 of essay. _Upon the point of gallantry_. Here, in the
_London Magazine_, came the words:--
"as upon a thing altogether unknown to the old classic ages.
This has been defined to consist in a certain obsequiousness, or
deferential respect, paid to females, as females."
Page 92, line 3. _Joseph Paice_. Joseph Paice was, as Lamb pointed out
to Barton in a letter in January, 1830, a real person, and all that
Lamb records. According to Miss Anne Manning's _Family Pictures_,
1860, Joseph Paice, who was a friend of Thomas Coventry, took Lamb
into his office at 27 Bread Street Hill somewhere in 1789 or 1790
to learn book-keeping and business habits. He passed thence to the
South-Sea House and thence to the East India House. Miss Manning (who
was the author of _Flemish Interiors_) helps to fill out Lamb's sketch
into a full-length portrait. She tells us that Mr. Paice's life was
one long series of gentle altruisms and the truest Christianities.
Charles Lamb speaks of his holding an umbrella over a
market-woman's fruit-basket, lest her store should be spoilt by a
sudden shower; and his uncovering his head to a servant-girl who
was requesting him to direct her on her way. These traits are
quite in keeping with many that can still be authenticated:--his
carrying presents of game _himself_, for instance, to humble
friends, who might ill have spared a shilling to a servant; and
his offering a seat in his hackney-coach to some poor, forlorn,
draggled beings, who were picking their way along on a rainy
day. Sometimes these chance guests have proved such uncongenial
companions, that the kind old man has himself faced the bad
weather rather than prolong the acquaintance, paying the
hackney-coachman for setting down the stranger at the end of his
fare. At lottery times, he used to be troubled with begging visits
from certain improvident hangers-on, who had risked their all in
buying shares of an unlucky number. About the time the numbers
were being drawn, there would be a ring at the gate-bell, perhaps
at dinner time. His spectacles would be elevated, an anxious
expression would steal over his face, as he half raised himself
from his seat, to obtain a glance at the intruder--"Ah, I thought
so, I expected as much," he would gently say. "I expected I should
soon have a visit from poor Mrs. ---- or Mrs. ----. Will you
excuse me, my dear madam," (to my grandmother) "for a moment,
while I just tell her it is quite out of my power to help her?"
counting silver into his hand all the time. Then, a parley would
ensue at the hall-door--complainant telling her tale in a doleful
voice: "My good woman, I really cannot," etc.; and at last the
hall-door would be shut. "Well, sir," my grandmother used to say,
as Mr. Paice returned to his seat, "I do not think you have sent
Mrs. ---- away quite penniless." "Merely enough for a joint of
meat, my good madam--just a trifle to buy her a joint of meat."
_Family Pictures_ should be consulted by any one who would know more
of this gentleman and of Susan Winstanly.
Page 92, line 5. _Edwards_. Thomas Edwards (1699-1757), author of
_Canons of Criticism_, 1748. The sonnet in question, which was
modelled on that addressed by Milton to Cyriack Skinner, was addressed
to Paice, as the author's nephew, bidding him carry on the family
line. Paice, however, as Lamb tells us, did not marry.
* * * * *
Page 94. THE OLD BENCHERS OF THE INNER TEMPLE.
_London Magazine_, September, 1821.
Lamb's connection with the Temple was fairly continuous until 1817,
when he was thirty-eight. He was born at No. 2 Crown Office Row in
1775, and he did not leave it, except for visits to Hertfordshire,
until 1782, when he entered Christ's Hospital. There he remained, save
for holidays, until 1789, returning then to Crown Office Row for the
brief period between leaving school and the death of Samuel Salt,
under whose roof the Lambs dwelt, in February, 1792. The 7 Little
Queen Street, the 45 and 36 Chapel Street, Pentonville, and the first
34 Southampton Buildings (with Gutch) periods, followed; but in 1801
Lamb and his sister were back in the Temple again, at 16 Mitre Court
Buildings, since rebuilt. They moved from there, after a brief return
to 34 Southampton Buildings, to 4 Inner Temple Lane (since rebuilt and
now called Johnson's Buildings) in 1809, where they remained until the
move to 20 Great Russell Street in 1817. With each change after that
(except for another and briefer sojourn in Southampton Buildings
in 1830), Lamb's home became less urban. His last link with the
Temple may be said to have snapped with the death of Randal Morris,
sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple, in 1827 (see "A Death-Bed"),
although now and then he slept at Crabb Robinson's chambers.
The Worshipful Masters of the Bench of the Hon. Society of the Inner
Temple--to give the Benchers their full title--have the government of
the Inner Temple in their hands.
Page 97, line 12 from foot, _J----ll_. Joseph Jekyll, great-nephew of
Joseph Jekyll, Master of the Rolls, well known as a wit and diner-out.
He became a Bencher in 1795, and was made a Master in Chancery in
1815, through the influence of the Prince Regent. Under his direction
the hall of the Inner Temple and the Temple Church were restored, and
he compiled a little book entitled _Facts and Observations relating to
the Temple Church and the Monuments contained in it_, 1811. He became
a K.C. in 1805, and died in 1837, aged eighty-five. Jekyll was a
friend of George Dyer, and was interested in Lamb's other friends, the
Norrises. & letter from him, thanking Lamb for a copy of the _Last
Essays of Elia_, is printed in Mr. W.C. Hazlitt's _The Lambs_. He had
another link of a kind with Lamb in being M.P. for "sweet Calne in
Wiltshire." Jekyll's chambers were at 6 King's Bench Walk. On the same
staircase lived for a while George Colman the Younger.
Page 97, line 9 from foot. _Thomas Coventry_. Thomas Coventry became a
Bencher in 1766. He was the nephew of William, fifth Earl of Coventry,
and resided at North Cray Place, near Bexley, in Kent, and in
Serjeant's Inn, where he died in 1797, in his eighty-fifth year. He
is buried in the Temple Church. Coventry was a sub-governor of the
South-Sea House, and it was he who presented Lamb's friend, James
White, to Christ's Hospital. He was M.P. for Bridport from 1754 to
1780. As an illustration of Coventry's larger benefactions it may
be remarked that he presented L10,000 worth of South Sea stock to
Christ's Hospital in 1782.
Page 98, line 9. _Samuel Salt_. Samuel Salt was the son of the Rev.
John Salt, of Audley, in Staffordshire; and he married a daughter of
Lord Coventry, thus being connected with Thomas Coventry by marriage.
He was M.P. for Liskeard for some years, and a governor of the
South-Sea House. Samuel Salt, who became a Bencher in 1782, rented
at No. 2 Crown Office Row two sets of chambers, in one of which the
Lamb family dwelt. John Lamb, Lamb's father, who is described as a
scrivener in Charles's Christ's Hospital application form, was Salt's
right-hand man, not only in business, but privately, while Mrs. Lamb
acted as housekeeper and possibly as cook. Samuel Salt played the part
of tutelary genius to John Lamb's two sons. It was he who arranged
for Charles to be nominated for Christ's Hospital (by Timothy Yeats);
probably he was instrumental also in getting him into the East India
House; and in all likelihood it was he who paved the way for the
younger John Lamb's position in the South-Sea House. It was also
Samuel Salt who gave to Charles and Mary the freedom of his library
(see the reference in the essay on "Mackery End"): a privilege which,
to ourselves, is the most important of all. Salt died in February,
1792, and is buried in the vault of the Temple Church. He left to John
Lamb L500 in South Sea stock and a small annual sum, and to Elizabeth
Lamb L200 in money; but with his death the prosperity of the family
Page 98, line 21. _Lovel_. See below.
Page 98, line 9 from foot. _Miss Blandy_. Mary Blandy was the daughter
of Francis Blandy, a lawyer at Henley-on-Thames. The statement that
she was to inherit L10,000 induced an officer in the marines, named
Cranstoun, a son of Lord Cranstoun, to woo her, although he already
had a wife living. Her father proving hostile, Cranstoun supplied her
with arsenic to bring about his removal. Mr. Blandy died on August
14, 1751. Mary Blandy was arrested, and hanged on April 6 in the next
year, after a trial which caused immense excitement. The defence was
that Miss Blandy was ignorant of the nature of the powder, and thought
it a means of persuading her father to her point of view. In this
belief the father, who knew he was being tampered with, also shared.
Cranstoun avoided the law, but died in the same year. Lamb had made
use of Salt's _faux pas_, many years earlier, in "Mr. H." (see Vol.
Page 99, line 13. _His eye lacked lustre_. At these words, in the
_London Magazine_, came this passage:--
"Lady Mary Wortley Montague was an exception to her sex: she says,
in one of her letters, 'I wonder what the women see in S. I do not
think him by any means handsome. To me he appears an extraordinary
dull fellow, and to want common sense. Yet the fools are all
sighing for him.'"
I have not found the passage.
Page 99, line 14. _Susan P----_. This is Susannah Peirson, sister of
the Peter Peirson to whom we shall come directly. Samuel Salt left her
a choice of books in his library, together with a money legacy and a
silver inkstand, hoping that reading and reflection would make her
life "more comfortable." B----d Row would be Bedford Row.
Page 99, line 12 from foot, _F., the counsel_. I cannot be sure who
this was. The Law Directory of that day does not help.
Page 99, foot. _Elwes_. John Elwes, the miser (1714-1789), whose
_Life_ was published in 1790 after running through _The World_--the
work of Topham, that paper's editor, who is mentioned in Lamb's essay
Page 100, line 15. _Lovel_. Lovel was the name by which Lamb refers to
his father, John Lamb. We know nothing of him in his prime beyond what
is told in this essay, but after the great tragedy, there are in the
_Letters_ glimpses of him as a broken, querulous old man. He died in
1799. Of John Lamb's early days all our information is contained in
this essay, in his own _Poetical Pieces_, where he describes his life
as a footman, and in the essay on "Poor Relations," where his boyish
memories of Lincoln are mentioned. Of his verses it was perhaps too
much (though prettily filial) to say they were "next to Swift and
Prior;" but they have much good humour and spirit. John Lamb's poems
were printed in a thin quarto under the title _Poetical Pieces on
Several Occasions_. The dedication was to "The Forty-Nine Members of
the Friendly Society for the Benefit of their Widows, of whom I have
the honour of making the Number Fifty," and in the dedicatory epistle
it is stated that the Society was in some degree the cause of Number
Fifty's commencing author, on account of its approving and printing
certain lines which were spoken by him at an annual meeting it the
Devil Tavern. The first two poetical pieces are apologues on marriage
and the happiness that it should bring, the characters being drawn
from bird life. Then follow verses written for the meetings of the
Society, and miscellaneous compositions. Of these the description
of a lady's footman's daily life, from within, has a good deal of
sprightliness, and displays quite a little mastery of the mock-heroic
couplet. The last poem is a long rhymed version of the story of
Joseph. With this exception, for which Lamb's character-sketch does
not quite prepare us, it is very natural to think of the author as
Lovel. One of the pieces, a familiar letter to a doctor, begins
My good friend,
For favours to my son and wife,
I shall love you whilst I've life,
Your clysters, potions, help'd to save,
Our infant lambkin from the grave.
The infant lambkin was probably John Lamb, but of course it might have
been Charles. The expression, however, proves that punning ran in the
family. Lamb's library contained his father's copy of _Hudibras_.
Lamb's phrase, descriptive of his father's decline, is taken with a
variation from his own poems--from the "Lines written on the Day of my
Aunt's Funeral" (_Blank Verse_, 1798):--
One parent yet is left,--a wretched thing,
A sad survivor of his buried wife
A palsy-smitten, childish, old, old man,
A semblance most forlorn of what he was--
A merry cheerful man.
Page 100, line 17. "_Flapper_." This is probably an allusion to the
flappers in _Gulliver's Travels_--the servants who, in Laputa, carried
bladders with which every now and then they flapped the mouths and
ears of their employers, to recall them to themselves and disperse
Page 100, line 9 from foot. _Better was not concerned_. At these
words, in the _London Magazine_, came:--
"He pleaded the cause of a delinquent in the treasury of the Temple so
effectually with S. the then treasurer--that the man was allowed
to keep his place. L. had the offer to succeed him. It had been a
lucrative promotion. But L. chose to forego the advantage, because the
man had a wife and family."
Page 101, line 10. _Bayes_. Mr. Bayes is the author and stage manager
in Buckingham's "Rehearsal." This phrase is not in the play and must
have been John Lamb's own, in reference to Garrick.
Page 101, line 23. _Peter Pierson_. Peter Peirson (as his name was
rightly spelled) was the son of Peter Peirson of the parish of St.
Andrew's, Holborn, who lived probably in Bedford Row. He became a
Bencher in 1800, died in 1808, and is buried in the Temple Church.
When Charles Lamb entered the East India House in April, 1792, Peter
Peirson and his brother, John Lamb, were his sureties.
Page 101, line 11 from foot. _Our great philanthropist_. Probably John
Howard, whom, as we have seen in the essay on "Christ's Hospital,"
Lamb did not love. He was of singular sallowness.
Page 101, line 9 from foot. _Daines Barrington_. Daines Barrington
(1727-1800), the correspondent of Gilbert White, many of whose letters
in _The Natural History of Selborne_ are addressed to him. Indeed it
was Barrington who inspired that work:--a circumstance which must
atone for his exterminatory raid on the Temple sparrows. His Chambers
were at 5 King's Bench Walk. Barrington became a Bencher in 1777 and
died in 1800. He is buried in the Temple Church. His Episcopal brother
was Shute Barrington (1734-1826), Bishop successively of Llandaff,
Salisbury and Durham.
Page 102, line 1. _Old Barton_. Thomas Barton, who became a Bencher in
1775 and died in 1791. His chambers were in King's Bench Walk. He is
buried in the vault of the Temple Church.
Page 102, line 6. _Read_. John Reade, who became a Bencher in 1792 and
died in 1804. His rooms were in Mitre Court Buildings.
Page 102, line 6. _Twopenny_. Richard, Twopenny was not a Bencher, but
merely a resident in the Temple. He was strikingly thin. Twopenny was
stockbroker to the Bank of England, and died in 1809.
Page 102, line 8. _Wharry_. John Wharry, who became a Bencher in 1801,
died in 1812, and was buried in the Temple Church.
Page 102, line 22. _Jackson_. This was Richard Jackson, some time M.P.
for New Romney, to whom Johnson, Boswell tells us, refused the epithet
"Omniscient" as blasphemous, changing it to "all knowing." He was made
a Bencher in 1770 and died in 1787.
Page 102, foot. _Mingay_. James Mingay, who was made a Bencher in
1785, died in 1812. He was M.P. for Thetford and senior King's
Counsel. He was also Recorder of Aldborough, Crabbe's town. He lived
at 4 King's Bench Walk.
Page 103, line 1. _Baron Maseres_. This was Francis Maseres
(1731-1824), mathematician, reformer and Cursiter Baron of the
Exchequer. He lived at 5 King's Bench Walk, and at Reigate, and wore a
three-cornered hat and ruffles to the end. In April, 1801, Lamb wrote
to Manning:--"I live at No. 16 Mitre-court Buildings, a pistol-shot
off Baron Maseres'. You must introduce me to the Baron. I think we
should suit one another mainly. He Jives on the ground floor, for
convenience of the gout; I prefer the attic story, for the air. He
keeps three footmen and two maids; I have neither maid nor laundress,
not caring to be troubled with them! His forte, I understand, is the
higher mathematics; my turn, I confess, is more to poetry and the
belles lettres. The very antithesis of our characters would make up a
harmony. You must bring the Baron and me together."
Baron Maseres, who was made a Bencher in 1774, died in 1824.
Page 104, line 13. _Hookers and Seldens_. Richard Hooker (1554?-1600),
the "judicious," was Master of the Temple. John Selden (1584-1654),
the jurist, who lived in Paper Buildings and practised law in the
Temple, was buried in the Temple Church with much pomp.
* * * * *
Page 104. GRACE BEFORE MEAT.
_London Magazine_, November, 1821.
This was the essay, Lamb suggested, which Southey may have had in mind
when in an article in the _Quarterly Review_ he condemned _Elia_ as
wanting "a sounder religious feeling." In his "Letter to Southey"
(Vol. I.), which contained Lamb's protest against Southey's
strictures, he wrote:--"I am at a loss what particular essay you had
in view (if my poor ramblings amount to that appellation) when you
were in such a hurry to thrust in your objection, like bad news,
foremost.--Perhaps the Paper on 'Saying Graces' was the obnoxious
feature. I have endeavoured there to rescue a voluntary duty--good in
place, but never, as I remember, literally commanded--from the charge
of an undecent formality. Rightly taken, sir, that paper was not
against graces, but want of grace; not against the ceremony, but the
carelessness and slovenliness so often observed in the performance of
Page 108, line 12 from foot. _C----_. Coleridge; but Lamb may really
have said it.
Page 108, foot. _The author of the Rambler_. Veal pie with prunes in
it was perhaps Dr. Johnson's favourite dish.
Page 109, line 10. _Dagon_. The fish god worshipped by the
Philistines. See Judges xvi. 23 and I Samuel v. for the full
significance of Lamb's reference.
Page 110, line 16. _C.V.L._ Charles Valentine le Grice. Later in life,
in 1798, Le Grice himself became a clergyman.
Page 110, line 19. _Our old form at school_. The Christ's Hospital
graces in Lamb's day were worded thus:--
GRACE BEFORE MEAT
Give us thankful hearts, O Lord God, for the Table which thou hast
spread for us. Bless thy good Creatures to our use, and us to thy
service, for Jesus Christ his sake. _Amen_.
GRACE AFTER MEAT
Blessed Lord, we yield thee hearty praise and thanksgiving for our
Founders and Benefactors, by whose Charitable Benevolence thou
hast refreshed our Bodies at this time. So season and refresh our
Souls with thy Heavenly Spirit, that we may live to thy Honour and
Glory. Protect thy Church, the King, and all the Royal Family. And
preserve us in peace and truth through Christ our Saviour. _Amen_.
* * * * *
Page 110. MY FIRST PLAY.
_London Magazine_, December, 1821.
Lamb had already sketched out this essay in the "Table Talk" in Leigh
Hunt's _Examiner_, December 9, 1813, under the title "Playhouse
Memoranda" (see Vol. I.). Leigh Hunt reprinted it in _The Indicator_,
December 13, 1820.
Page 111, line 1. _Garrick's Drury_. Garrick's Drury Lane was
condemned in 1791, and superseded in 1794 by the new theatre, the
burning of which in 1809 led to the _Rejected Addresses_. It has
recently come to light that Lamb was among the competitors who sent in
to the management the real addresses. The present Drury Lane Theatre
dates from 1812.
Page 111, line 11. _My godfather F._ Lamb's godfather was Francis
Fielde. _The British Directory_ for 1793 gives him as Francis
Field, oilman, 62 High Holborn. Whether or no he played the part in
Sheridan's matrimonial comedy that is attributed to him, I do not know
(Moore makes the friend a Mr. Ewart); but it does not sound like an
invented story. Richard Brinsley Sheridan carried Miss Linley, the
oratorio singer, from Bath and the persecutions of Major Mathews,
in March, 1772, and placed her in France. They were married near
Calais, and married again in England in April, 1773. Sheridan became
manager of Drury Lane, in succession to Garrick, in 1776, the first
performance under his control being on September 21. Lamb is supposed
to have had some personal acquaintance with Sheridan. Mary Lamb speaks
of him as helping the Sheridans, father and son, with a pantomime;
but of the work we know nothing definite. I do not consider the play
printed in part in the late Charles Kent's edition of Lamb, on the
authority of P.G. Patmore, either to be by Lamb or to correspond to
Mary Lamb's description.
Page 118, line 8. _His testamentary beneficence_. Lamb was not joking.
Writing to _The Athenaeum_, January 5, 1901, Mr. Thomas Greg says:--
Three-quarters of a century after it passed out of Lamb's
possession I am happy to tell the world--or that small portion of
it to whom any fact about his life is precious--exactly where and
what this landed property is. By indentures of lease and release
dated March 23 and 24, 1779, George Merchant and Thomas Wyman, two
yeomen of Braughing in the county of Hertford, conveyed to Francis
Fielde, of the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn, in the county
of Middlesex, oilman, for the consideration of L20., all that
messuage or tenement, with the orchard, gardens, yards, barns,
edifices, and buildings, and all and singular the appurtenances
therewithal used or occupied, situate, lying, and being at West
Mill Green in the parish of Buntingford West Mill in the said
county of Hertford, etc. On March 5, 1804, Francis Fielde, of New
Cavendish Street, Esq., made his will, and, with the exception of
two, annuities to female relatives, left all his residuary estate,
real and personal, to his wife Sarah Fielde.
This will was proved on November 5, 1809. By indentures of lease
and release dated August 20 and 21, 1812, Sarah Fielde conveyed
the said property to Charles Lamb, of Inner Temple Lane,
gentleman. By an indenture of feoffment dated February 15, 1815,
made between the said Charles Lamb of the first part, the said
Sarah Fielde of the second part, and Thomas Greg the younger,
of Broad Street Buildings, London, Esq., the said property was
conveyed to the said Thomas Greg the younger for L50.
The said Thomas Greg the younger died in 1839, and left the said
property to his nephew, Robert Philips Greg, now of Coles Park, West
Mill, in the same county; and the said Robert Philips Greg in 1884
conveyed it to his nephew, Thomas Tylston Greg, of 15 Clifford's
Inn, London, in whose possession it now is in substantially the same
condition as it was in 1815.
The evidence that the Charles Lamb who conveyed the property in 1815
is Elia himself is overwhelming.
1. The essay itself gives the locality correctly: it is about two and
a half miles from Puckeridge.
2. The plot of land contains as near as possible three-quarters of an
acre, with an old thatched cottage and small barn standing upon it.
The barn, specially mentioned in all the deeds, is a most unusual
adjunct of so small a cottage. The property, the deeds of which go
back to 1708, appears to have been isolated and held by small men, and
consists of a long narrow tongue of land jutting into the property now
of the Savile family (Earls of Mexborough), but formerly of the Earls
3. The witness to Charles Lamb's signature on the deed of 1815 is
William Hazlitt, of 19, York Street, Westminster.
4. Lamb was living in Inner Temple Lane in 1815, and did not leave the
Temple till 1817.
5. The essay was printed in the _London Magazine_ for December, 1821,
six years after "the estate has passed into more prudent hands."
6. And lastly, the following letter in Charles Lamb's own handwriting,
found with the deeds which are in my possession, clinches the
"MR. SARGUS,--This is to give you notice that I have parted with
the Cottage to Mr. Grig Junr. to whom you will pay rent from
Michaelmas last. The rent that was due at Michaelmas I do not
wish you to pay me. I forgive it you as you may have been at some
expences in repairs.
"Inner Temple Lane, London,
"_23 Feb., 1815._"
It is certainly not the fact that Lamb acquired the property, as he
states, by the will of his godfather, for it was conveyed to him
some three years after the latter's death by Mrs. Fielde. But strict
accuracy of fact in Lamb's '_Essays_' we neither look for nor desire.
In all probability Mrs. Fielde conveyed him the property in accordance
with an expressed wish of her husband in his lifetime. Reading also
between the lines of the essay, it is interesting to notice that
Francis Fielde, the Holborn oilman of 1779, in 1809 has become Francis
Fielde, Esq., of New Cavendish Street. In the letter quoted above
Lamb speaks of his purchaser as "Mr. Grig Junr.," more, I am inclined
to think, from his desire to have his little joke than from mere
inaccuracy, for he must have known the correct name of his purchaser.
But Mr. Greg, Jun., was only just twenty-one when he bought the
property, and the expression "as merry as a grig" running in Lamb's
mind might have proved irresistible to him. Lastly, the property is
now called, and has been so far back as I can trace, "Button Snap." No
such name is found in any of the title-deeds, and it was impossible
before to understand whence it arose. Now it is not: Lamb must have so
christened his little property in jest, and the name has stuck.
Page 113, line 1. _The maternal lap_. With the exception of a brief
mention on page 33--"the gentle posture of maternal tenderness"--this
is Lamb's only reference to his mother in all the essays--probably
from the wish not to wound his sister, who would naturally read all he
wrote; although we are told by Talfourd that she spoke of her mother
with composure. But it is possible to be more sensitive for others
than they are for themselves.
Page 113, line 3. _The play was Artaxerxes_. The opera, by Thomas
Augustine Arne (1710-1778), produced in 1762, founded on Metastasio's
"Artaserse." The date of the performance was in all probability
December 1, 1780, although Lamb suggests that it was later; for that
was the only occasion in 1780-81-82 on which "Artaxerxes" was followed
by "Harlequin's Invasion," a pantomime dating from 1759, the work of
Garrick. It shows Harlequin invading the territory of Shakespeare;
Harlequin is defeated and Shakespeare restored.
Page 113, line 20. _The Lady of the Manor_. Here Lamb's memory, I
fancy, betrayed him. This play (a comic opera by William Kenrick) was
not performed at Drury Lane or Covent Garden in the period mentioned.
Lamb's pen probably meant to write "The Lord of the Manor," General
Burgoyne's opera, with music by William Jackson, of Exeter, which was
produced in 1780. It was frequently followed in the bill by "Robinson
Crusoe," but never by "Lun's Ghost," whereas Wycherley's "Way of the
World" was followed by "Lun's Ghost" at Drury Lane on January 9, 1782.
We may therefore assume that Lamb's second visit to the theatre was to
see "The Lord of the Manor," followed by "Robinson Crusoe," some time
in 1781, and his third to see "The Way of the World," followed by
"Lun's Ghost" on January 9, 1782. "Lun's Ghost" was produced on
January 3, 1782. Lun was the name under which John Rich (1682?-1761),
the pantomimist and theatrical manager, had played in pantomime.
Page 113, last line. _Round Church ... of the Templars_. This allusion
to the Temple Church and its Gothic heads was used before by Lamb in
his story "First Going to Church" in _Mrs. Leicester's School_ (see
Vol. III.). In that volume Mary Lamb had told the story of what we
may take to be her first play (see "Visit to the Cousins"), the piece
being Congreve's "Mourning Bride."
Page 114, line 1. _The season 1781-2_. Lamb was six on February 10,
1781. He says, in his "Play-house Memoranda," of the same occasion,
"Oh when shall I forget first seeing a play, at the age of five or
Page 114, line 3. _At school_. Lamb was at Christ's Hospital from 1782
Page 114, end. _Mrs. Siddons in "Isabella."_ Mrs. Siddons first played
this part at Drury Lane on October 10, 1782. The play was "Isabella,"
a version by Garrick of Southerne's "Fatal Marriage." Mrs. Siddons
also appeared frequently as Isabella in "Measure for Measure;" but
Lamb clearly says "in" Isabella, meaning the play. Lamb's sonnet,
in which he collaborated with Coleridge, on Mrs. Siddons, which was
printed in the _Morning Chronicle_ in December, 1794 (see Vol. IV.),
was written when he was nineteen. It runs (text of 1797):--
As when a child on some long winter's night
Affrighted clinging to its Grandam's knees
With eager wond'ring and perturb'd delight
Listens strange tales of fearful dark decrees
Mutter'd to wretch by necromantic spell;
Or of those hags, who at the witching time
Of murky midnight ride the air sublime,
And mingle foul embrace with fiends of Hell:
Cold Horror drinks its blood! Anon the tear
More gentle starts, to hear the Beldame tell
Of pretty babes, that lov'd each other dear,
Murder'd by cruel Uncle's mandate fell:
Ev'n such the shiv'ring joys thy tones impart,
Ev'n so thou, SIDDONS! meltest my sad heart!
* * * * *
Page 115. DREAM-CHILDREN.
_London Magazine_, January, 1822.
John Lamb died on October 26, 1821, leaving all his property to his
brother. Charles was greatly upset by his loss. Writing to Wordsworth
in March, 1822, he said: "We are pretty well save colds and
rheumatics, and a certain deadness to every thing, which I think I may
date from poor John's Loss.... Deaths over-set one, and put one out
long after the recent grief." (His friend Captain Burney died in the
same month.) Lamb probably began "Dream-Children,"--in some ways,
I think, his most perfect prose work--almost immediately upon his
brother's death. The essay "My Relations" may be taken in connection
with this as completing the picture of John Lamb. His lameness was
caused by the fall of a stone in 1796, but I doubt if the leg were
The description in this essay of Blakesware, the seat of the Plumers,
is supplemented by the essay entitled "Blakesmoor in H----shire."
Except that Lamb substitutes Norfolk for the nearer county, the
description is accurate; it is even true that there is a legend in the
Plumer family concerning the mysterious death of two children and the
loss of the baronetcy thereby--Sir Walter Plumer, who died in the
seventeenth century, being the last to hold the title. In his poem
"The Grandame" (see Vol. IV.), Lamb refers to Mrs. Field's garrulous
tongue and her joy in recounting the oft-told tale; and it may be to
his early associations with the old story that his great affection
for Morton's play, "The Children in the Wood," which he so often
commended--particularly with Miss Kelly in the caste--was due. The
actual legend of the children in the wood belongs, however, to
William Plumer's newer and more fashionable mansion was at Gilston,
which is not in the adjoining county, but also in Hertfordshire, near
Harlow, only a few miles distant from Blakesware. Mrs. Field died
of cancer in the breast in August, 1792, and was buried in Widford
churchyard, hard by Blakesware.
According to Lamb's Key the name Alice W----n was "feigned." If by
Alice W----n Lamb, as has been suggested, means Ann Simmons, of
Blenheims, near Blakesware, he was romancing when he said that he had
courted her for seven long years, although the same statement is made
in the essay on "New Year's Eve." We know that in 1796 he abandoned
all ideas of marriage. Writing to Coleridge in November of that year,
in reference to his love sonnets, he says: "It is a passion of which I
retain nothing.... Thank God, the folly has left me for ever. Not even
a review of my love verses renews one wayward wish in me." This was
1796. Therefore, as he was born in 1775, he must have begun the wooing
of Alice W----n when he was fourteen in order to complete the seven
long years of courtship. My own feeling, as I have stated in the notes
to the love sonnets in Vol. IV., is that Lamb was never a very serious
wooer, and that Alice W----n was more an abstraction around which now
and then to group tender imaginings of what might have been than any
A proof that Ann Simmons and Alice W----n are one has been found
in the circumstance that Miss Simmons did marry a Mr. Bartrum, or
Bartram, mentioned by Lamb in this essay as being the father of
Alice's real children. Bartrum was a pawnbroker in Princes Street,
Coventry Street. Mr. W.C. Hazlitt says that Hazlitt had seen Lamb
wandering up and down before the shop trying to get a glimpse of his
* * * * *
Page 118. DISTANT CORRESPONDENTS.
_London Magazine_, March, 1822.
The germ of this essay will be found in a letter to Barron Field, to
whom the essay is addressed, of August 31, 1817. Barron Field was a
son of Henry Field, apothecary to Christ's Hospital. His brother,
Francis John Field, through whom Lamb probably came to know Barron,
was a clerk in the India House.
Barron Field was associated with Lamb on Leigh Hunt's _Reflector_ in
1810-1812. He also was dramatic critic for _The Times_ for a while. In
1816 he was appointed judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales,
where he remained until 1824. For other information see the note, in
Vol. I., to his _First-Fruits of Australian Poetry_, reviewed by Lamb.
In the same number of the _London Magazine_ which included the present
essay was Field's account of his outward voyage to New South Wales.
Page 119, line 24. _Our mutual friend P._ Not identifiable: probably
no one in particular. The Bench would be the King's Bench Prison. A
little later one of Lamb's friends, William Hone, was confined there
for three years.
Page 121, line 8. _The late Lord C._ This was Thomas Pitt, second
Baron Camelford (1775-1804), who after a quarrelsome life, first in
the navy and afterwards as a man about town, was killed in a duel at
Kensington, just where Melbury Road now is. The spot chosen by him
for his grave was on the borders of the Lake of Lampierre, near three
trees; but there is a doubt if his body ever rested there, for it lay
for years in the crypt of St. Anne's, Soho. Its ultimate fate was the
subject of a story by Charles Reade.
Page 123, line 11. _Bleach_. Illegitimacy, according to some old
authors, wears out in the third generation, enabling a natural son's
descendant to resume the ancient coat-of-arms. Lamb refers to this
Page 123, line 20. _Hare-court_. The Lambs lived at 4 Inner Temple
Lane (now rebuilt as Johnson's Buildings) from 1809 to 1817. Writing
to Coleridge in June, 1809, Lamb says:--"The rooms are delicious, and
the best look backwards into Hare Court, where there is a pump always
going. Hare Court trees come in at the window, so that it's like
living in a garden."
Barron Field was entered on the books of the Inner Temple in 1809 and
was called to the Bar in 1814.
Page 123, last paragraph. _Sally W----r_. Lamb's Key gives "Sally
Winter;" but as to who she was we have no knowledge.
Page 123, end. _J.W._ James White. See next essay.
* * * * *
Page 124. THE PRAISE OF CHIMNEY-SWEEPERS.
_London Magazine_, May, 1822, where it has a sub-title, "A May-Day
This was not Lamb's only literary association with chimney-sweepers.
In Vol. I. of this edition will be found the description of a sweep
in the country which there is good reason to believe is Lamb's work.
Again, in 1824, James Montgomery, the poet, edited a book--_The
Chimney-Sweepers' Friend and Climbing Boys' Album_--with the
benevolent purpose of interesting people in the hardships of the
climbing boys' life and producing legislation to alleviate it. The
first half of the book is practical: reports of committees, and so
forth; the second is sentimental; verses by Bernard Barton, William
Lisle Bowles, and many others; short stories of kidnapped children
forced to the horrid business; and kindred themes. Among the
"favourite poets of the day" to whom Montgomery applied were Scott,
Wordsworth, Rogers, Moore, Joanna Baillie and Lamb. Lamb replied
by copying out (with the alteration of Toddy for Dacre) "The
Chimney-Sweeper" from Blake's _Songs of Innocence_, described by
Montgomery as "a very rare and curious little work." In that poem it
will be remembered the little sweep cries "weep, weep, weep." Lamb
compares the cry more prettily to the "peep, peep" of the sparrow.
Page 125, line 6. _Shop ..._ Mr. Thomas Read's Saloop Coffee House was
at No. 102 Fleet Street. The following lines were painted on a board
in Read's establishment:--
Come, all degrees now passing by,
My charming liquor taste and try;
To Lockyer come, and drink your fill;
Mount Pleasant has no kind of ill.
The fumes of wine, punch, drams and beer,
It will expell; your spirits cheer;
From drowsiness your spirits free.
Sweet as a rose your breath will be,
Come taste and try, and speak your mind;
Such rare ingredients here are joined,
Mount Pleasant pleases all mankind.
Page 127, line 12 from foot. _The young Montagu_. Edward Wortley
Montagu (1713-1776), the traveller, ran away from Westminster School
more than once, becoming, among other things, a chimney-sweeper.
Page 127, line 9 from foot. _Arundel Castle_. The Sussex seat of the
Dukes of Norfolk. The "late duke" was Charles Howard, eleventh duke,
who died in 1815, and who spent enormous sums of money on curiosities.
I can find no record of the story of the sweep. Perhaps Lamb invented
it, or applied it to Arundel.
Page 128, line 14 from foot. _Jem White_. James White (1775-1820),
who was at Christ's Hospital with Lamb, and who wrote _Falstaff's
Letters_, 1796, in his company (see Vol. I.). "There never was his
like," Lamb told another old schoolfellow, Valentine Le Grice, in
1833; "we shall never see such days as those in which he flourished."
See the essay "On Some of the Old Actors," for an anecdote of White.
Page 128, line 8 from foot. _The fair of St. Bartholomew_. Held
on September 3 at Smithfield, until 1855. George Daniel, in his
recollections of Lamb, records a visit they paid together to the Fair.
Lamb took Wordsworth through its noisy mazes in 1802.
Page 129, line 14. _Bigod_. John Fenwick (see note to "The Two Races
Leigh Hunt, in _The Examiner_ for May 5, 1822, quoted some of the best
sentences of this essay. On May 12 a correspondent (L.E.) wrote a very
agreeable letter supporting Lamb's plea for generosity to sweeps and
remarking thus upon Lamb himself:--
I read the modicum on "Chimney-Sweepers," which your last paper
contained, with pleasure. It appears to be the production of that
sort of mind which you justly denominate "gifted;" but which is
greatly undervalued by the majority of men, because they have no
sympathies in common with it. Many who might partially appreciate
such a spirit, do nevertheless object to it, from the snap-dragon
nature of its coruscations, which shine themselves, but shew every
thing around them to disadvantage. Your deep philosophers also,
and all the laborious professors of the art of sinking, may
elevate their nasal projections, and demand "cui bono"? For my
part I prefer a little enjoyment to a great deal of philosophy. It
is these gifted minds that enliven our habitations, and contribute
so largely to those _every-day_ delights, which constitute, after
all, the chief part of mortal happiness. Such minds are ever
active--their light, like the vestal lamp, is ever burning--and in
my opinion the man who refines the common intercourse of life, and
wreaths the altars of our household gods with flowers, is more
deserving of respect and gratitude than all the sages who waste
their lives in elaborate speculations, which tend to nothing, and
which _we_ cannot comprehend--nor they neither.
On June 2, however, "J.C.H." intervened to correct what he considered
the "dangerous spirit" of Lamb's essay, which said so little of the
hardships of the sweeps, but rather suggested that they were a happy
class. J.C.H. then put the case of the unhappy sweep with some
eloquence, urging upon all householders the claims of the mechanical
* * * * *
Page 130. A COMPLAINT OF THE DECAY OF BEGGARS IN THE METROPOLIS.
_London Magazine_, June, 1822.
The origin of this essay was the activity at that time of the Society
for the Suppression of Mendicity, founded in 1818, of which a Mr. W.H.
Bodkin was the Hon. Secretary. The Society's motto was "Benefacta male
collocata, malefacta existima;" and it attempted much the same work
now performed by the Charity Organisation Society. Perhaps the delight
expressed in its annual reports in the exposure of impostors was a
shade too hearty--at any rate one can see therein cause sufficient for
Lamb's counter-blast. Lamb was not the only critic of Mr. Bodkin's
zeal. Hood, in the _Odes and Addresses_, published in 1825, included a
remonstrance to Mr. Bodkin.
The Society's activity led to a special commission of the House
of Commons in 1821 to inquire into the laws relating to vagrants,
concerning which Lamb speaks, the clergyman alluded to being Dr.
Henry Butts Owen, of Highgate. The result of the commission was an
additional stringency, brought about by Mr. George Chetwynd's bill.
It was this essay, says Hood, which led to his acquaintance with
Charles Lamb. After its appearance in the _London Magazine_, of which
Hood was then sub-editor, he wrote Lamb a letter on coarse paper
purporting to come from a grateful beggar; Lamb did not admit the
discovery of the perpetrator of the joke, but soon afterwards Lamb
called on Hood when he was ill, and a friendship followed to which we
owe Hood's charming recollections of Lamb--among the best that were
written of him by any one.
Page 131, line 14. _The Blind Beggar_. The reference is to the ballad
of "The Beggar's Daughter of Bednall Green." The version in the _Percy
Reliques_ relates the adventures of Henry, Earl of Leicester, the son
of Simon de Montfort, who was blinded at the battle of Evesham and
left for dead, and thereafter begged his way with his pretty Bessee.
In the _London Magazine_ Lamb had written "Earl of Flanders," which
he altered to "Earl of Cornwall" in _Elia_. The ballad says Earl of
Page 131, line 28. _Dear Margaret Newcastle_. One of Lamb's recurring
themes of praise (see "The Two Races of Men," "Mackery End in
Hertfordshire," and "Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading").
"Romancical," according to the _New English Dictionary_, is Lamb's own
word. This is the only reference given for it.
Page 133, line 7. _Spital sermons_. On Monday of Easter week it was
the custom for the Christ's Hospital boys to walk in procession to the
Royal Exchange, and on Tuesday to the Mansion House; on each occasion
returning with the Lord Mayor to hear a special sermon--a spital
sermon, as it was called--and an anthem. The sermon is now preached
only on Easter Tuesday.
Page 133, line 24. _Overseers of St. L----_. Lamb's Key states that
both the overseers and the mild rector were inventions. In the _London
Magazine_ the rector's parish is "P----."
Page 133, line 27. _Vincent Bourne_. See Lamb's essay on Vincent
Bourne, Vol. I. This poem was translated by Lamb himself, and was
first published in _The Indicator_ for May 3, 1820. See Vol. IV. for
Lamb's other translations from Bourne.
Page 135, line 2. _A well-known figure_. This beggar I take to be
Samuel Horsey. He is stated to have been known as the King of the
Beggars, and a very prominent figure in London. His mutilation is
ascribed to the falling of a piece of timber in Bow Lane, Cheapside,
some nineteen years before; but it may have been, as Lamb says, in the
Gordon Riots of 1780.
There is the figure of Horsey on his little carriage, with several
other of the more notable beggars of the day plying their calling,
in an etching of old houses at the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet
Street, made by J.T. Smith in 1789 for his _Ancient Topography of
London_, 1815. I give it in my large edition.
Page 137, end of essay. _Feigned or not._ In the _London Magazine_ the
essay did not end here. It continued thus:--
"'Pray God your honour relieve me,' said a poor beadswoman to my
friend L---- one day; 'I have seen better days.' 'So have I, my
good woman,' retorted he, looking up at the welkin which was just
then threatening a storm--and the jest (he will have it) was as
good to the beggar as a tester.
"It was at all events kinder than consigning her to the stocks, or
the parish beadle--
"But L. has a way of viewing things in rather a paradoxical light
on some occasions.
"P.S.--My friend Hume (not MP.) has a curious manuscript in his
possession, the original draught of the celebrated 'Beggar's
Petition' (who cannot say by heart the 'Beggar's Petition?') as it
was written by some school usher (as I remember) with corrections
interlined from the pen of Oliver Goldsmith. As a specimen of the
doctor's improvement, I recollect one most judicious alteration--
"_A pamper'd menial drove me from the door._
"It stood originally--
"_A livery servant drove me, &c._
"Here is an instance of poetical or artificial language properly
substituted for the phrase of common conversation; against
"I think I must get H. to send it to the LONDON, as a corollary to
The foregoing passage needs some commentary. Lamb's friend L---- was
Lamb himself. He tells the story to Manning in the letter of January
2,1810.--Lamb's friend Hume was Joseph Hume of the victualling office,
Somerset House, to whom letters from Lamb will be found in Mr. W.C.
Hazlitt's _Lamb and Hazlitt_, 1900. Hume translated _The Inferno_ of
Dante into blank verse, 1812.--The "Beggar's Petition," a stock piece
for infant recitation a hundred years ago, was a poem beginning
Pity the sorrows of a poor old man
Whose trembling limbs have borne him to your door,
Whose days are dwindled to the shortest span;
Oh give relief, and Heaven will bless your store.
In the reference to Wordsworth Lamb pokes fun at the statement, in his
friend's preface to the second edition of _Lyrical Ballads_, that
the purpose of that book was to relate or describe incidents and
situations from common life as far as possible in a selection of
language really used by men.
Lamb's _P.S._ concerning the "Beggar's Petition" was followed in the
_London Magazine_ by this _N.B._:--
"N.B. I am glad to see JANUS veering about to the old quarter. I
feared he had been rust-bound.
"C. being asked why he did not like Gold's 'London' as well as
ours--it was in poor S.'s time--replied--
"_--Because there is no WEATHERCOCK
And that's the reason why._"
The explanation of this note is that "Janus Weathercock"--one of the
pseudonyms of Thomas Griffiths Wainewright--after a long absence from
its pages, had sent to the previous month's _London Magazine_, May,
1822, an amusing letter of criticism of that periodical, commenting on
some of its regular contributors. Therein he said: "Clap Elia on the
back for such a series of good behaviour."--Who C. is cannot be said;
possibly Lamb, as a joke, intends Coleridge to be indicated; but poor
S. would be John Scott, the first editor of the _London Magazine_,
who was killed in a duel. C.'s reply consisted of the last lines
of Wordsworth's "Anecdote for Fathers; or, Falsehood Corrected."
Accurately they run:--
At Kelve there was no weather-cock
And that's the reason why.
The hero of this poem was a son of Lamb's friend Basil Montagu.
Gold's _London Magazine_ was a contemporary of the better known London
magazine of the same name. In Vol. III. appeared an article entitled
"The Literary Ovation," describing an imaginary dinner-party given by
Messrs. Baldwin, Cradock & Joy in February, 1821, at which Lamb was
supposed to be present and to sing a song by Webster, one of his old
dramatists. Mr. Bertram Dobell conjectures that Wainewright may have
written this squib.
* * * * *
Page 137. A DISSERTATION UPON ROAST PIG.
_London Magazine_, September, 1822.
There has been some discussion as to the origin of the central idea of
this essay. A resemblance is found in a passage in _The Turkish Spy_,
where, after describing the annual burnt-offering of a bull by the
Athenians, _The Spy_ continues:--
In process of time a certain priest, in the midst of his bloody
sacrifice, taking up a piece of the broiled flesh which had fallen
from the altar on the ground, and burning his fingers therewith,
suddenly clapt them to his mouth to mitigate the pain. But, when
he had once tasted the sweetness of the fat, not only longed for
more of it, but gave a piece to his assistant; and he to others;
who, all pleased with the new-found dainties, fell to eating of
flesh greedily. And hence this species of gluttony was taught to
"Este," a contributor to _Notes and Queries_, June 21, 1884, wrote:--
A quarto volume of forty-six pages, once in "Charles Lamb's
library" (according to a pencilled note in the volume) is before
me, entitled: _Gli Elogi del Porco, Capitoli Berneschi di Tigrinto
Bistonio P.A., E. Accademico Ducale de' Dissonanti di Modena.
In Modena per gli Eredi di Bartolmeo Soliani Stampatori Ducali
MDCCLXI. Con Licenza de' Superiori_, [wherein] some former owner
of the volume has copied out Lamb's prose with many exact verbal
resemblances from the poem.
It has also been suggested that Porphyry's tract on _Abstinence from
Animal Food_, translated by William Taylor, bears a likeness to the
passage. Taylor's translation, however, was not published till 1823,
some time after Lamb's essay.
These parallels merely go to show that the idea was a commonplace; at
the same time it is not Lamb, but Manning, who told him the story,
that must declare its origin. Not only in the essay, but in a letter
to Barton in March, 1823, does Lamb express his indebtedness to his
traveller friend. Allsop, indeed, in his _Letters of Coleridge_,
claims to give the Chinese story which Manning lent to Lamb and which
produced the "Dissertation." It runs thus:--
A child, in the early ages, was left alone by its mother in a
house in which was a pig. A fire took place; the child escaped,
the pig was burned. The child scratched and pottered among the
ashes for its pig, which at last it found. All the provisions
being burnt, the child was very hungry, and not yet having any
artificial aids, such as golden ewers and damask napkins, began to
lick or suck its fingers to free them from the ashes. A piece of
fat adhered to one of his thumbs, which, being very savoury alike
in taste and odour, he rightly judged to belong to the pig. Liking
it much, he took it to his mother, just then appearing, who also
tasted it, and both agreed that it was better than fruit or
They rebuilt the house, and the woman, after the fashion of good
wives, who, says the chronicle, are now very scarce, put a pig
into it, and was about to set it on fire, when an old man, one
whom observation and reflection had made a philosopher, suggested
that a pile of wood would do as well. (This must have been the
father of economists.) The next pig was killed before it was
roasted, and thus
"From low beginnings,
We date our winnings."
Manning, by the way, contributed articles on Chinese jests to the _New
Monthly Magazine_ in 1826.
A preliminary sketch of the second portion of this essay will be found
in the letter to Coleridge dated March 9, 1822. See also the letters
to Mr. and Mrs. Bruton, January 6, 1823, to Mrs. Collier, November 2,
1824, and to H. Dodwell, October 7, 1827, all in acknowledgment of
pigs sent to Lamb probably from an impulse found in this essay.
Later, Lamb abandoned the extreme position here taken. In the little
essay entitled "Thoughts on Presents of Game," 1833 (see Vol. I.), he
says: "Time was, when Elia ... preferred to all a roasted pig. But he
disclaims all such green-sickness appetites in future."
Page 141, verse. "Ere sin could blight ..." From Coleridge's "Epitaph
on an Infant."
Page 142, line 7 from foot. _My good old aunt_. Probably Aunt Hetty.
See the essay on "Christ's Hospital," for another story of her. The
phrase, "Over London Bridge," unless an invention, suggests that
before this aunt went to live with the Lambs--probably not until they
left the Temple in 1792--she was living on the Surrey side. But it was
possibly an Elian mystification. Lamb had another aunt, but of her we
Page 143, line 11 from foot. _St. Omer's_. The French Jesuit College.
Lamb, it is unnecessary to say, was never there.
* * * * *
Page 144. A BACHELOR'S COMPLAINT OF THE BEHAVIOUR OF MARRIED PEOPLE.
This is, by many years, the earliest of these essays. It was printed
first in _The Reflector_, No. IV., in 1811 or 1812. When Lamb brought
his _Works_ together, in 1818, he omitted it. In September, 1822, it
appeared in the _London Magazine_ as one of the reprints of Lamb's
earlier writings, of which the "Confessions of a Drunkard" (see Vol.
I.)was the first. In that number also appeared the "Dissertation upon
Roast Pig," thereby offering the reader an opportunity of comparing
Lamb's style in 1811 with his riper and richer style of 1822. The
germ of the essay must have been long in Lamb's mind, for we find him
writing to Hazlitt in 1805 concerning Mrs. Rickman: "A good-natured
woman though, which is as much as you can expect from a friend's wife,
whom you got acquainted with as a bachelor."
Page 147, line 6. "_Love me, love my dog_." See "Popular Fallacies,"
page 302, for an expansion of this paragraph.
* * * * *
Page 150. ON SOME OF THE OLD ACTORS.
In February, 1822, Lamb began a series of three articles in the
_London Magazine_ on "The Old Actors." The second was printed in April
and the third in October of the same year. Afterwards, in reprinting
them in _Elia_, he rearranged them into the essays, "On Some of the
Old Actors," "On the Artificial Comedy of the Last Century," and "On
the Acting of Munden," omitting a considerable portion altogether. The
essay in its original tripart form will be found in the Appendix to
In one of his theatrical notices in _The Examiner_ (see Vol. I.) Lamb
remarks, "Defunct merit comes out upon us strangely," and certain
critics believe that he praised some of the old actors beyond their
deserts. But no one can regret any such excesses.
Page 150, beginning. _Twelfth Night_. When recalling early playgoing
days in "Old China," Lamb refers again to this play--Viola in Illyria.
Page 150, foot. _Whitfield, Packer, Benson, Burton, Phillimore_ and
_Barrymore_. Whitfield, who made his London debut as Trueman in
"George Barnwell" about 1776, was a useful man at Covent Garden and
Drury Lane.--John Hayman Packer (1730-1806), known in Lamb's time for
his old men. He acted at Drury Lane until 1805.--Benson, who married a
sister of Mrs. Stephen Kemble, wrote one or two plays, and was a good
substitute in emergencies. He committed suicide during brain fever
in 1796.--Burton was a creditable utility actor at Covent Garden and
Drury Lane.--Phillimore filled small parts at Drury Lane.--Barrymore
was of higher quality, a favourite character actor both at Drury Lane
and the Haymarket.
Page 151, line 6. _Mrs. Jordan_. Mrs. Jordan, born in 1762, ceased to
act in England in 1814 and died in 1816. Nell was her famous part, in
Coffey's "The Devil to Pay." Miss Hoyden is in Vanbrugh's "Relapse."
Lamb is referring to Viola in Act I., Scene 5, and Act II., Scene 4,
of "Twelfth Night."
Page 151, line 8 from foot. _Mrs. Powel_. Mrs. Powel, previously known
as Mrs. Farmer, and afterwards Mrs. Renaud, was at Drury Lane from
1788 to 1811. She ended her London career in 1816 and died in 1829.
Page 152, line 8. _Of all the actors_. The _London Magazine_ article
began at this point. Robert Bensley (1738?-1817?) was at Drury
Lane from 1775 to 1796, when he retired (alternating it with the
Haymarket). G.H. Boaden and George Colman both bear out Lamb's eulogy
of Bensley as Malvolio; but otherwise he is not the subject of much
Page 152, line 15. _Venetian incendiary_. Pierre in Otway's "Venice
Preserved." Lamb appended the passage in a footnote in the _London
Page 153, line 12. _Baddeley ... Parsons ... John Kemble_. Robert
Baddeley (1733-1794), the husband of Mrs. Baddeley, and the original
Moses in the "School for Scandal." William Parsons (1736-1795), the
original Crabtree in the "School for Scandal," and a favourite actor
of Lamb's. John Philip Kemble (1757-1823), who managed Drury Lane from
1788 to 1801.
Page 153, line 11 from foot. _Of birth and feeling_. In the _London
Magazine_ a footnote came here (see page 316).
Page 153, line 6 from foot. _Length of service_. In the _London
Magazine_ a footnote came here (see page 316).
Page 154, line 24. _House of misrule_. A long passage came here in the
_London Magazine_ (see page 317).
Page 154, line 8 from foot. _Hero of La Mancha_. Compare a similar
analysis of Don Quixote's character on page 264.
Page 155, line 23. _Dodd_. James William Dodd (1740?-1796).
Page 155, line 24. _Lovegrove_. William Lovegrove (1778-1816), famous
in old comedy parts and as Peter Fidget in "The Boarding House."
Page 155, foot. _The gardens of Gray's Inn._ These gardens are said to
have been laid out under the supervision of Bacon, who retained his
chambers in the Inn until his death. As Dodd died in 1796 and Lamb
wrote in 1822, it would be fully twenty-six years and perhaps more
since Lamb met him.
Page 156, lines 26-29. _Foppington, etc._ Foppington in Vanbrugh's
"Relapse," Tattle in Congreve's "Love for Love," Backbite in
Sheridan's "School for Scandal," Acres in "The Rivals" by the same
author, and Fribble in Garrick's "Miss in her Teens."
Page 157, line 13. _If few can remember._ The praise of Suett that
follows is interpolated here from the third part of Lamb's original
essay (see page 332). Richard Suett, who had been a Westminster
chorister (not St. Paul's), left the stage in June, 1805, and died in
Page 157, footnote, _Jem White_. See note above.
Page 158, line 22. _His friend Mathews._ Charles Mathews (1776-1835),
whom Lamb knew.
Page 159, line 1. _Jack Bannister._ John Bannister retired from the
stage in 1815. He died in 1836.
Page 159, line 7. _Children in the Wood._ Morton's play, of which Lamb
was so fond. It is mentioned again in "Barbara S----" and "Old China."
Page 159, line 19. _The elder Palmer._ The first part of the essay is
here resumed again. The elder Palmer was John Palmer, who died on the
stage, in 1798, when playing in "The Stranger." Lamb's remarks tend
to confuse him with Gentleman Palmer, who died before Lamb was born.
Robert Palmer, John's brother, died about 1805.
Page 159, line 22. _Moody_. John Moody (1727?-1812), famous as Teague
in "The Committee."
Page 159, lines 31 to 36. _The Duke's Servant, etc._ The Duke's
servant in Garrick's "High Life below Stairs," Captain Absolute in
Sheridan's "Rivals," Dick Amlet in Vanbrugh's "Confederacy."
Page 160, line 1. _Young Wilding ... Joseph Surface._ In Foote's
"Liar" and Sheridan's "School for Scandal."
* * * * *
Page 161. ON THE ARTIFICIAL COMEDY OF THE LAST CENTURY.
See note to the essay "On Some of the Old Actors."
See also "A Vision of Horns" (Vol. I.) for, as it seems to me, a
whimsical extension to the point of absurdity of the theory expressed
in this essay--a theory which Lord Macaulay, in his review of Leigh
Hunt's edition of the Dramatic Works of Wycherley, Congreve, etc., in
1840, opposed with characteristic vigour.
Hartley Coleridge, in a letter to Edward Moxon concerning Leigh Hunt's
edition of Wycherley and Congreve, happily remarked: "Nothing more or
better can be said in defence of these writers than what Lamb has said
in his delightful essay ... which is, after all, rather an apology for
the audiences who applauded and himself who delighted in their plays,
than for the plays themselves.... But Lamb always took things by the
Page 163, line 16. _The Fainalls, etc_. Fainall in Congreve's "Way
of the World," Mirabel in Farquhar's "Inconstant," Dorimant in
Etheredge's "Man of Mode," and Lady Touchstone in Congreve's "Double
Page 163, line 12 from foot. _Angelica_. In "Love for Love."
Page 164, line 26, etc. _Sir Simon, etc_. All these characters are in
Wycherley's "Love in a Wood."
Page 166, line 21. _King_. Thomas King (1730-1805), at one time
manager of Drury Lane, the original Sir Peter Teazle, on May 8, 1777,
the first night of the "School for Scandal," and the most famous actor
in the part until he retired in 1802.
Page 167, line 14. _Miss Pope_. Jane Pope (1742-1818), the original
Mrs. Candour, left the stage in 1808.
Page 167, line 15 from foot. _Manager's comedy_. Sheridan was manager
of Drury Lane when the "School for Scandal" was produced.
Page 167, same line. _Miss Farren ... Mrs. Abingdon_. Elizabeth
Farren, afterwards Countess of Derby, played Lady Teazle for the last
time in 1797. Mrs. Abingdon had retired from Drury Lane in 1782.
Page 167, line 10 from foot. _Smith_. "Gentleman" Smith took his
farewell of the stage, as Charles Surface, in 1788.
Page 168, end of essay. _Fashionable tragedy_. See page 328, line 21,
for the continuation of this essay in the _London Magazine_.
* * * * *
Page 168. ON THE ACTING OF MUNDEN.
See note to the essay "On Some of the Old Actors" above. Lamb lifted
this essay into the _London Magazine_ from _The Examiner_, where it
had appeared on November 7 and 8, 1819, with slight changes.
Page 168, title. _Munden_. Joseph Shepherd Munden (1758-1832) acted at
Covent Garden practically continuously from 1790 to 1811. He moved
to Drury Lane in 1813, and remained there till the end. His farewell
performance was on May 31, 1824. We know Lamb to have met Munden from
Raymond's _Memoirs of Elliston_.
Page 168, line 2 of essay. _Cockletop_. In O'Keeffe's farce "Modern
Antiques." This farce is no longer played, although a skilful hand
might, I think, make it attractive to our audiences. Barry Cornwall in
his memoir of Lamb has a passage concerning Munden as Cockletop, which
helps to support Lamb's praise. Support is not necessary, but useful;
it is one of the misfortunes of the actor's calling that he can live
only in the praise of his critics.
In the Drama of "Modern Antiques," especially, space was allowed
him for his movements. The words were nothing. The prosperity of
the piece depended exclusively on the genius of the actor.
Munden enacted the part of an old man credulous beyond ordinary
credulity; and when he came upon the stage there was in him an
almost sublime look of wonder, passing over the scene and people
around him, and settling apparently somewhere beyond the moon.
What he believed in, improbable as it was to mere terrestrial
visions, you at once conceived to be quite possible,--to be true.
The sceptical idiots of the play pretend to give him a phial
nearly full of water. He is assured that this contains Cleopatra's
tear. Well; who can disprove it? Munden evidently recognised it.
"What a large tear!" he exclaimed. Then they place in his hands
a druidical harp, which to vulgar eyes might resemble a modern
gridiron. He touches the chords gently: "pipes to the spirit
ditties of no tone;" and you imagine AEolian strains. At last,
William Tell's cap is produced. The people who affect to cheat
him, apparently cut the rim from a modern hat, and place the
scull-cap in his hands; and then begins the almost finest piece of
acting that I ever witnessed. Munden accepts the accredited cap
of Tell, with confusion and reverence. He places it slowly and
solemnly on his head, growing taller in the act of crowning
himself. Soon he swells into the heroic size; a great archer; and
enters upon his dreadful task. He weighs the arrow carefully; he
tries the tension of the bow, the elasticity of the string; and
finally, after a most deliberate aim, he permits the arrow to fly,
and looks forward at the same time with intense anxiety. You hear
the twang, you see the hero's knitted forehead, his eagerness; you
tremble;--at last you mark his calmer brow, his relaxing smile,
and are satisfied that the son is saved!--It is difficult to paint
in words this extraordinary performance, which I have several
times seen; but you feel that it is transcendent. You think of
Sagittarius, in the broad circle of the Zodiac; you recollect that
archery is as old as Genesis; you are reminded that Ishmael, the
son of Hagar, wandered about the Judaean deserts and became an
Page 169, line 16. _Edwin_. This would probably be John Edwin the
Elder (1749-1790). But John Edwin the Younger (1768-1805) might have
been meant. He was well known in Nipperkin, one of Munden's parts.
Page 169, line 21. _Farley...Knight...Liston_. Charles Farley
(1771-1859), mainly known as the deviser of Covent Garden pantomimes;
Edward Knight (1774-1826), an eccentric little comedian; John Listen
(1776?-1846), whose mock biography Lamb wrote (see Vol. I.).
Page 169, line 7 from foot. _Sir Christopher Curry...Old Dornton_. Sir
Christopher in "Inkle and Yarico," by the younger Colman; Old Dornton
in Holcroft's "Road to Ruin."
Page 170, line 6. _The Cobbler of Preston_. A play, founded on "The
Taming of the Shrew," by Charles Johnson, written in 1716.
THE LAST ESSAYS OF ELIA
Page 171. PREFACE.
_London Magazine_, January, 1823, where it was entitled "A Character
of the late Elia. By a Friend." Signed Phil-Elia. Lamb did not reprint
it for ten years, and then with certain omissions.
In the _London Magazine_ the "Character" began thus:--
"A CHARACTER OF THE LATE ELIA
"BY A FRIEND
"This gentleman, who for some months past had been in a declining
way, hath at length paid his final tribute to nature. He just
lived long enough (it was what he wished) to see his papers
collected into a volume. The pages of the LONDON MAGAZINE will
henceforth know him no more.
"Exactly at twelve last night his queer spirit departed, and
the bells of Saint Bride's rang him out with the old year. The
mournful vibrations were caught in the dining-room of his friends
T. and H.; and the company, assembled there to welcome in another
First of January, checked their carousals in mid-mirth and were
silent. Janus wept. The gentle P----r, in a whisper, signified his
intention of devoting an Elegy; and Allan C----, nobly forgetful
of his countrymen's wrongs, vowed a Memoir to his _manes_, full
and friendly as a Tale of Lyddal-cross."
_Elia_ had just been published when this paper appeared, and it was
probably Lamb's serious intention to stop the series. He was, however,
prevailed to continue. T. and H. were Taylor & Hessey, the owners of
the _London Magazine_. Janus was Janus Weathercock, Thomas Griffiths
Wainewright; P----r was Bryan Waller Procter, or Barry Cornwall, who
afterwards wrote Lamb's life, and Allan C---- was Allan Cunningham,
who called himself "Nalla" in the _London Magazine_. "The Twelve Tales
of Lyddal Cross" ran serially in the magazine in 1822.
Page 171, line 9 from foot. _A former Essay_. In the _London Magazine_
"his third essay," referring to "Christ's Hospital Five and Thirty
Page 172, line 7. _My late friend_. The opening sentences of this
paragraph seem to have been deliberately modelled, as indeed is the
whole essay, upon Sterne's character of Yorick in _Tristram Shandy_,
Vol. I., Chapter XI.
Page 172, line 12 from foot. _It was hit or miss with him_. Canon
Ainger has pointed out that Lamb's description of himself in
company is corroborated by Hazlitt in his essay "On Coffee-House
I will, however, admit that the said Elia is the worst company in
the world in bad company, if it be granted me that in good company
he is nearly the best that can be. He is one of those of whom
it may be said, _Tell me your company, and I'll tell you your
manners_. He is the creature of sympathy, and makes good whatever
opinion you seem to entertain of him. He cannot outgo the
apprehensions of the circle; and invariably acts up or down to
the point of refinement or vulgarity at which they pitch him. He
appears to take a pleasure in exaggerating the prejudices of
strangers against him; a pride in confirming the prepossessions
of friends. In whatever scale of intellect he is placed, he is as
lively or as stupid as the rest can be for their lives. If you
think him odd and ridiculous, he becomes more and more so every
minute, _a la folie_, till he is a wonder gazed at by all--set him
against a good wit and a ready apprehension, and he brightens more
and more ...
P.G. Patmore's testimony is also corroborative:--
To those who did not know him, or, knowing, did not or could
not appreciate him, Lamb often passed for something between an
imbecile, a brute, and a buffoon; and the first impression he made
on ordinary people was always unfavourable--sometimes to a violent
and repulsive degree.
Page 174, line 3. _Some of his writings_. In the _London Magazine_ the
essay did not end here. It continued:--
"He left property behind him. Of course, the little that is left
(chiefly in India bonds) devolves upon his cousin Bridget. A few
critical dissertations were found in his escritoire, which have
been handed over to the Editor of this Magazine, in which it is
to be hoped they will shortly appear, retaining his accustomed
"He has himself not obscurely hinted that his employment lay in a
public office. The gentlemen in the Export department of the East
India House will forgive me, if I acknowledge the readiness with
which they assisted me in the retrieval of his few manuscripts.
They pointed out in a most obliging manner the desk at which he
had been planted for forty years; showed me ponderous tomes of
figures, in his own remarkably neat hand, which, more properly
than his few printed tracts, might be called his 'Works.' They
seemed affectionate to his memory, and universally commended his
expertness in book-keeping. It seems he was the inventor of some
ledger, which should combine the precision and certainty of the
Italian double entry (I think they called it) with the brevity
and facility of some newer German system--but I am not able to
appreciate the worth of the discovery. I have often heard him
express a warm regard for his associates in office, and how
fortunate he considered himself in having his lot thrown
in amongst them. There is more sense, more discourse, more
shrewdness, and even talent, among these clerks (he would say)
than in twice the number of authors by profession that I have
conversed with. He would brighten up sometimes upon the 'old
days of the India House,' when he consorted with Woodroffe, and
Wissett, and Peter Corbet (a descendant and worthy representative,
bating the point of sanctity, of old facetious Bishop Corbet), and
Hoole who translated Tasso, and Bartlemy Brown whose father (God
assoil him therefore) modernised Walton--and sly warm-hearted old
Jack Cole (King Cole they called him in those days), and Campe,
and Fombelle--and a world of choice spirits, more than I can
remember to name, who associated in those days with Jack Burrell
(the _bon vivant_ of the South Sea House), and little Eyton (said
to be a _facsimile_ of Pope--he was a miniature of a gentleman)
that was cashier under him, and Dan Voight of the Custom House
that left the famous library.
"Well, Elia is gone--for aught I know, to be reunited with
them--and these poor traces of his pen are all we have to show for
it. How little survives of the wordiest authors! Of all they said
or did in their lifetime, a few glittering words only! His Essays
found some favourers, as they appeared separately; they shuffled
their way in the crowd well enough singly; how they will _read_,
now they are brought together, is a question for the publishers,
who have thus ventured to draw out into one piece his 'weaved-up
This passage calls for some remark. Cousin Bridget was, of course,
Mary Lamb.--Lamb repeated the joke about his _Works_ in his
"Autobiography" (see Vol. I.) and in "The Superannuated Man."--Some
record of certain of the old clerks mentioned by Lamb still remains;
but I can find nothing of the others. Whether or not Peter Corbet
really derived from the Bishop we do not know, but the facetious
Bishop Corbet was Richard Corbet (1582-1635), Bishop of Oxford and
Norwich, whose conviviality was famous and who wrote the "Fairies'
Farewell." John Hoole (1727-1803), who translated Tasso and wrote the
life of Scott of Amwell and a number of other works, was principal
auditor at the end of his time at the India House. He retired about
1785, when Lamb was ten years old. Writing to Coleridge on January 5,
1797, Lamb speaks of Hoole as "the great boast and ornament of the
India House," and says that he found Tasso, in Hoole's translation,
"more vapid than smallest small beer sun-vinegared." The moderniser
of Walton would be Moses Browne (1704-1787), whose edition of _The
Complete Angler_, 1750, was undertaken at the suggestion of Dr.
* * * * *
Page 174. BLAKESMOOR IN H----SHIRE
_London Magazine_, September, 1824.
With this essay Lamb made his reappearance in the magazine, after
eight months' absence.
By Blakesmoor Lamb meant Blakesware, the manor-house near Widford, in
Hertfordshire, where his grandmother, Mary Field, had been housekeeper
for many years. Compare the essay "Dream-Children."
Blakesware, which was built by Sir Francis Leventhorpe about 1640,
became the property of the Plumers in 1683, being then purchased by
John Plumer, of New Windsor, who died in 1718. It descended to William
Plumer, M.P. for Yarmouth, in the Isle of Wight, and afterwards for
Hertfordshire, who died in 1767, and was presumably Mrs. Field's first
employer. His widow and the younger children remained at Blakesware
until Mrs. Plumer's death in 1778, but the eldest son, William Plumer,
moved at once to Gilston, a few miles east of Blakesware, a mansion
which for a long time was confused with Blakesware by commentators on
Lamb. This William Plumer, who was M.P. for Lewes, for Hertfordshire,
and finally for Higham Ferrers, and a governor of Christ's Hospital,
kept up Blakesware after his mother's death in 1778 (when Lamb was
three) exactly as before, but it remained empty save for Mrs. Field
and the servants under her. Mrs. Field became thus practically
mistress of it, as Lamb says in "Dream-Children." Hence the increased
happiness of her grandchildren when they visited her. Mrs. Field died
in 1792, when Lamb was seventeen. William Plumer died in 1822, aged
eighty-six, having apparently arranged with his widow, who continued
at Gilston, that Blakesware should be pulled down--a work of
demolition which at once was begun. This lady, _nee_ Jane Hamilton,
afterwards married a Mr. Lewin, and then, in 1828, Robert Ward
(1765-1846), author of _Tremaine_ and other novels, who took the name
of Plumer-Ward, and may be read of, together with curious details of
Gilston House, in P.G. Patmore's _My Friends and Acquaintances_.
Nothing now remains but a few mounds, beneath which are bricks and
rubble. The present house is a quarter of a mile behind the old
one, high on the hill. In Lamb's day this hillside was known as the
Wilderness, and where now is turf were formal walks with clipped yew
hedges and here and there a statue. The stream of which he speaks is
the Ashe, running close by the walls of the old house. Standing there
now, among the trees which mark its site, it is easy to reconstruct
the past as described in the essay.
The Twelve Caesars, the tapestry and other more notable possessions of
Blakesware, although moved to Gilston on the demolition of Blakesware,
are there no longer, and their present destination is a mystery.
Gilston was pulled down in 1853, following upon a sale by auction,
when all its treasures were dispersed. Some, I have discovered,
were bought by the enterprising tenant of the old Rye House Inn
at Broxbourne, but absolute identification of anything now seems
Blakesware is again described in _Mrs. Leicester's School_, in Mary
Lamb's story of "The Young Mahometan." There the Twelve Caesars are
spoken of as hanging on the wall, as if they were medallions; but Mr.
E.S. Bowlby tells me that he perfectly remembers the Twelve Caesars at
Gilston, about 1850, as busts, just as Lamb says. In "Rosamund Gray"
(see Vol. I.) Lamb describes the Blakesware wilderness. See also notes
to "The Last Peach," Vol. I., to "Dream-Children" in this volume, and
to "Going or Gone," Vol. IV.
Lamb has other references to Blakesware and the irrevocability of his
happiness there as a child, in his letters. Writing to Southey on
October 31, 1799, he says:--"Dear Southey,--I have but just got
your letter, being returned from Herts, where I have passed a few
red-letter days with much pleasure. I would describe the county to
you, as you have done by Devonshire; but alas! I am a poor pen at that
same. I could tell you of an old house with a tapestry bedroom, the
'Judgment of Solomon' composing one pannel, and 'Actaeon spying Diana
naked' the other. I could tell of an old marble hall, with Hogarth's
prints, and the Roman Caesars in marble hung round. I could tell of
a _wilderness_, and of a village church, and where the bones of my
honoured grandam lie; but there are feelings which refuse to be
translated, sulky aborigines, which will not be naturalised in another
soil. Of this nature are old family faces, and scenes of infancy."
And again, to Bernard Barton, in August, 1827:--"You have well
described your old-fashioned grand paternall Hall. Is it not odd that
every one's earliest recollections are of some such place. I had my
Blakesware (Blakesmoor in the 'London'). Nothing fills a child's mind
like a large old Mansion ... better if un- or partially-occupied;
peopled with the spirits of deceased members of the County and
Justices of the Quorum. Would I were buried in the peopled solitude of
one, with my feelings at 7 years old!
"Those marble busts of the Emperors, they seem'd as if they were to
stand for ever, as they had stood from the living days of Rome, in
that old Marble Hall, and I to partake of their permanency; Eternity
was, while I thought not of Time. But he thought of me, and they are
toppled down, and corn covers the spot of the noble old Dwelling and
its princely gardens. I feel like a grasshopper that chirping about
the grounds escaped his scythe only by my littleness. Ev'n now he is
whetting one of his smallest razors to clean wipe me out, perhaps.
Writing to Barton in August, 1824, concerning the present essay, Lamb
describes it as a "futile effort ... 'wrung from me with slow pain'."
Page 175, line 15 from foot. _Mrs. Battle_. There was a haunted room
at Blakesware, but the suggestion that the famous Mrs. Battle died
in it was probably due to a sudden whimsical impulse. Lamb states in
"Dream-Children" that Mrs. Field occupied this room.
Page 177, line 22. _The hills of Lincoln_. See Lamb's sonnet "On the
Family Name," Vol. IV. Lamb's father came from Lincoln.
Page 177, line 11 from foot. _Those old W----s_. Lamb thus disguised
the name of Plumer. He could not have meant Wards, for Robert Ward did
not marry William Plumer's widow till four years after this essay was
Page 178, line 2. _My Alice_. See notes to "Dream-Children."
Page 178, line 2. _Mildred Elia, I take it_. Alter these words, in the
_London Magazine_, came this passage:--
"From her, and from my passion for her--for I first learned love
from a picture--Bridget took the hint of those pretty whimsical
lines, which thou mayst see, if haply thou hast never seen them,
Reader, in the margin. But my Mildred grew not old, like the
This ballad, written in gentle ridicule of Lamb's affection for the
Blakesware portrait, and Mary Lamb's first known poem, was printed in
the _John Woodvil_ volume, 1802, and in the _Works_, 1818.
"High-born Helen, round your dwelling,
These twenty years I've paced in vain:
Haughty beauty, thy lover's duty
Hath been to glory in his pain.
"High-born Helen, proudly telling
Stories of thy cold disdain;
I starve, I die, now you comply,
And I no longer can complain.
"These twenty years I've lived on tears,
Dwelling for ever on a frown;
On sighs I've fed, your scorn my bread;
I perish now you kind are grown.
"Can I, who loved ray beloved
But for the scorn 'was in her eye,'
Can I be moved for my beloved,
When she returns me sigh for sigh?
"In stately pride, by my bedside,
High-born Helen's portrait hung;
Deaf to my praise, my mournful lays
Are nightly to the portrait sung.
"To that I weep, nor ever sleep,
Complaining all night long to her.--
Helen, grown old, no longer cold,
Said--'you to all men I prefer.'"]
* * * * *
Page 178. POOR RELATIONS.
_London Magazine_, May, 1823.
Page 179, line 10. _A pound of sweet._ After these words, in the
_London Magazine_, came one more descriptive clause--"the bore _par
Page 181, line 4, _Richard Amlet, Esq._ In "The Confederacy" by Sir
John Vanbrugh--a favourite part of John Palmer's (see the essay "On
Some of the Old Actors").
Page 181, line 16. _Poor W----_. In the Key Lamb identifies W---- with
Favell, who "left Cambridge because he was asham'd of his father, who
was a house-painter there." Favell has already been mentioned in the
essay on "Christ's Hospital."
Page 183, line 22. _At Lincoln._ The Lambs, as we have seen, came from
Lincolnshire. The old feud between the Above and Below Boys seems now
to have abated, but a social gulf between the two divisions of the
Page 184, line 11 from foot. _John Billet_. Probably not the real
name. Lamb gives the innkeeper at Widford, in "Rosamund Gray," the
name of Billet, when it was really Clemitson.
* * * * *
Page 185. STAGE ILLUSION.
_London Magazine_, August, 1825, where it was entitled "Imperfect
This was, I think, Lamb's last contribution to the _London_, which had
been growing steadily heavier and less hospitable to gaiety. Some one,
however, contributed to it from time to time papers more or less in
the Elian manner. There had been one in July, 1825, on the Widow
Fairlop, a lady akin to "The Gentle Giantess." In September, 1825, was
an essay entitled "The Sorrows of ** ***" (an ass), which might,
both from style and sympathy, be almost Lamb's; but was, I think, by
another hand. And in January, 1826, there was an article on whist,
with quotations from Mrs. Battle, deliberately derived from her
creator. These and other essays are printed in Mr. Bertram Dobell's
_Sidelights on Charles Lamb_, 1903, with interesting comments.
The present essay to some extent continues the subject treated of in
"The Artificial Comedy," but it may be taken also as containing some
of the matter of the promised continuation of the essay "On the
Tragedies of Shakspeare," which was to deal with the comic characters
of that dramatist (see Vol. I.).
Page 185, line 15 from foot. _Jack Bannister_. See notes to the essay
on "The Old Actors." His greatest parts were not those of cowards; but
his Bob Acres was justly famous. Sir Anthony Absolute and Tony Lumpkin
were perhaps his chief triumphs. He left the stage in 1815.
Page 186, line 24. _Gatty_. Henry Gattie (1774-1844), famous for
old-man parts, notably Monsieur Morbleu in Moncrieffs "Monsieur
Tonson." He was also the best Dr. Caius, in "The Merry Wives of
Windsor," of his time. He left the stage in 1833, and settled down as
a tobacconist and raconteur at Oxford.
Page 186, line 30. _Mr. Emery._ John Emery (1777-1822), the best
impersonator of countrymen in his day. Zekiel Homespun in Colman's
"Heir at Law" was one of his great parts. Tyke was in Morton's "School
of Reform," produced in 1805, and no one has ever played it so well.
He also played Caliban with success.
Page 187, line 4 from foot. _A very judicious actor._ This actor
I have not identified. Benjamin Wrench (1778-1843) was a dashing
comedian, a Wyndham of his day. In "Free and Easy" he played Sir John
* * * * *
Page 188. To THE SHADE OF ELLISTON.
_Englishman's Magazine_, August, 1831, where it formed, with the
following essay, one article, under the title "Reminiscences of
Robert William Elliston (1774-1831), actor and manager, famous for his
stage lovers, both in comedy and tragedy. His Charles Surface was said
to be unequalled, and both in Hotspur and Hamlet he was great. His
last performance was in June, 1831, a very short time before his
Page 189, line 7. _Thin ghosts._ In the _London Magazine_ the passage
"Thin ghosts of Figurantes (never plump on earth) admire, while
with uplifted toe retributive you inflict vengeance incorporeal
upon the shadowy rear of obnoxious author, just arrived:--
"'what _seem'd_ his tail
The likeness of a kingly kick had on.
* * * * *
"'Yet soon he heals: for spirits, that live throughout
Vital in every part, not as frail man
In entrails, head, or heart, liver or veins,
Can in the liquid texture mortal wound
Receive no more, than can the liquid air,
All heart they live, all head, all eye.'"
Page 189, line 11 from foot. _A la Foppington_. In Vanbrugh's
In the _Englishman's Magazine_ the article ended, after "Plaudito, et
Valeto," with: "Thy friend upon Earth, though thou did'st connive at
The article was signed Mr. H., the point being that Elliston had
played Mr. H. at Drury Lane in Lamb's unlucky farce of that name in
* * * * *
Page 190. ELLISTONIANA.
See note at the head of "To the Shade of Elliston," above.
Page 190, line 3 of essay. _My first introduction._ This paragraph was
a footnote in the _Englishman's Magazine_. Elliston, according to
the _Memoirs_ of him by George Raymond, which have Lamb's phrase,
"Joyousest of once embodied spirits," for motto, opened a circulating
library at Leamington in the name of his sons William and Henry, and
served there himself at times.
Possibly Lamb was visiting Charles Chambers at Leamington when he saw
Elliston. That he did see him there we know from Raymond's book, where
an amusing occurrence is described, illustrating Munden's frugality.
It seems that Lamb, Elliston and Munden drove together to Warwick
Castle. On returning Munden stopped the carriage just outside
Leamington, on the pretext that he had to make a call on an old
friend--a regular device, as Elliston explained, to avoid being
present at the inn when the hire of the carriage was paid.
Page 191, line 11. _Wrench_. See notes to "The Old Actors." Wrench
succeeded Elliston at Bath, and played in the same parts, and with
something of the same manner.
Page 191, line 11 from foot. _Appelles ... G.D._ Apelles, painter to
Alexander the Great, was said to let no day pass without experimenting
with his pencil. G.D. was George Dyer, whom we first met in "Oxford in
Page 192, line 6. _Ranger_. In Hoadley's "Suspicious Husband," one of
Elliston's great parts.
Page 192, line 17 from foot. _Cibber_. Colley Cibber (1671-1757), the
actor, who was a very vain man, created the part of Foppington in
1697--his first great success.
Page 192, last line. _St. Dunstan's ... punctual giants._ Old St.
Dunstan Church, in Fleet Street, had huge figures which struck the
hours, and which disappeared with the church, pulled down to make room
for the present one some time before 1831. They are mentioned in Emily
Barton's story in _Mrs. Leicester's School_ (see Vol. III.). Moxon
records that Lamb shed tears when the figures were taken away.
Page 193, line 6. _Drury Lane_. Drury Lane opened, under Elliston's
management, on October 4, 1819, with "Wild Oats," in which he played
Rover. He left the theatre, a bankrupt, in 1826.
Page 193, line 19. _The ... Olympic._ Lamb is wrong in his dates.
Elliston's tenancy of the Olympic preceded his reign at Drury Lane.
It was to the Surrey that he retired after the Drury Lane period,
producing there Jerrold's "Black-Eyed Susan" in 1829.
Page 193, line 12 from foot. _Sir A---- C----_. Sir Anthony Carlisle
(see note to "A Quakers' Meeting").
Page 194, line 7. _A Vestris_. Madame Vestris (1797-1856), the great
comedienne, who was one of Elliston's stars at Drury Lane.
Page 195, line 6. _Latinity_. Elliston was buried in St. John's
Church, Waterloo Road, and a marble slab with a Latin inscription
by Nicholas Torre, his son-in-law, is on the wall. Elliston was the
nephew of Dr. Elliston, Master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge,
who sent him to St. Paul's School--not, however, that founded by
Colet--but to St. Paul's School, Covent Garden. He was intended for
* * * * *
Page 195. DETACHED THOUGHTS ON BOOKS AND READING.
_London Magazine_, July, 1822, where, at the end, were the words, "To
be continued;" but Lamb did not return to the topic.
For some curious reason Lamb passed over this essay when collecting
_Elia_ for the press. It was not republished till 1833, in the _Last
Page 195, motto. _The Relapse_. The comedy by Sir John Vanbrugh.
Lamb liked this quotation. He uses it in his letter about William
Wordsworth, junior, to Dorothy Wordsworth, November 25, 1819; and
again in his "Reminiscence of Sir Jeffery Dunstan" (see Vol. I.).
Page 195, foot. _I can read any thing which I call a book_. Writing to
Wordsworth in August, 1815, Lamb says: "What any man can write, surely
I may read."
Page 195, last line. _Pocket Books_. In the _London Magazine_ Lamb
added in parenthesis "the literary excepted," the reference being to
the _Literary Pocket Book_ which Leigh Hunt brought out annually from
1819 to 1822.
Page 196, line 2. _Hume ... Jenyns_. Hume would be David Hume
(1711-1776), the philosopher and historian of England; Edward Gibbon
(1737-1794), historian of Rome; William Robertson, D.D. (1721-1793),
historian of America, Charles V., Scotland and India; James Beattie
(1735-1803), author of "The Minstrel" and a number of essays, who
had, however, one recommendation to Lamb, of which Lamb may have been
unaware--he loved Vincent Bourne's poems and was one of the first
to praise them; and Soame Jenyns (1704-1787), author of _The Art
of Dancing_, and the _Inquiry into Evil_ which Johnson reviewed so
mercilessly. It is stated in Moore's _Diary_, according to Procter,
that Lamb "excluded from his library Robertson, Gibbon and Hume,
and made instead a collection of the works of the heroes of _The
Page 196, line 14. _Population Essay_. That was the day of population
essays. Malthus's _Essay on Population_, 1798, had led to a number of
Page 196, line 22. _My ragged veterans_. Crabb Robinson recorded in
his diary that Lamb had the "finest collection of shabby books" he
ever saw; "such a number of first-rate works in very bad condition is,
I think, nowhere to be found." Leigh Hunt stated in his essay on "My
Books" in _The Literary Examiner_, July 5, 1823, that Lamb's library
an handsome contempt for appearance. It looks like what it is, a
selection made at precious intervals from the book-stalls;--now
a Chaucer at nine and twopence; now a Montaigne or a Sir Thomas
Browne at two shillings; now a Jeremy Taylor, a Spinoza; an old
English Dramatist, Prior, and Sir Philip Sidney; and the books are
"neat as imported." The very perusal of the backs is a "discipline
of humanity." There Mr. Southey takes his place again with an old
Radical friend: there Jeremy Collier is at peace with Dryden:
there the lion, Martin Luther, lies down with the Quaker lamb,
Sewel: there Guzman d'Alfarache thinks himself fit company for Sir
Charles Grandison, and has his claims admitted. Even the "high
fantastical" Duchess of Newcastle, with her laurel on her head,
is received with grave honours, and not the less for declining to
trouble herself with the constitutions of her maids.
It is in the same essay that Leigh Hunt mentions that he once saw
Lamb kiss an old folio--Chapman's Homer--the work he paraphrased for
children under the title _The Adventures of Ulysses_.
Page 197, line 15. _Life of the Duke of Newcastle_. Lamb's copy, a
folio containing also the "Philosophical Letters," is in America.
Page 197, line 20. _Sydney, Bishop Taylor, Milton_... I cannot say
where are Lamb's copies of Sidney and Fuller; but the British Museum
has his Milton, rich in MS. notes, a two-volume edition, 1751. The
Taylor, which Lamb acquired in 1798, is the 1678 folio _Sermons_. I
cannot say where it now is.
Page 197, line 26. _Shakspeare_. Lamb's Shakespeare was not sold at
the sale of his library; only a copy of the _Poems_, 12mo, 1714.
His annotated copy of the _Poems_, 1640, is in America. There is a
reference to one of Rowe's plates in the essay "My First Play." The
Shakespeare gallery engravings were the costly series of illustrations
to Shakespeare commissioned by John Boydell (1719-1804), Lord Mayor of
London in 1790. The pictures were exhibited in the Shakespeare Gallery
in Pall Mall, and the engravings were published in 1802.
After the word "Shakespeare," in the _London Magazine_, came the
sentence: "You cannot make a _pet_ book of an author whom everybody
In a letter to Wordsworth, February 1, 1806, Lamb says: "Shakespear is
one of the last books one should like to give up, perhaps the one just
before the Dying Service in a large Prayer book." In the same letter
he says of binding: "The Law Robe I have ever thought as comely and
gentlemanly a garb as a Book would wish to wear."
Page 197, line 7 from foot. _Beaumont and Fletcher._ See note to "The
Two Races of Men" for an account of Lamb's copy, now in the British
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