LAMB, HAZLITT, AND OTHERS.
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES by Chorley, Planche, and Young.
ANECDOTE BIOGRAPHIES OF THACKERAY AND DICKENS.
PROSPER MERIMEE'S LETTERS TO AN INCOGNITA; with
Recollections by Lamartine and George Sand.
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES by Barham, Harness, and Hod-
THE GREVILLE MEMOIRS.
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES by Moore and Jerdan.
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES by Cornelia Knight and Thomas
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES by Michael Kelly John O'Keeffe,
and John Taylor.
PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS of Lamb, Hazlitt, and others.
Each i vol. sq. i2mo. Per vol. $1.50.
Sent, post-paid, on receipt of price by the Publishers.
"7 â– â– â€¢'â– 4 2^Â£^/ â–
Scratched on Copper from Life in i6l5 by his friend Brook Pulham.
LAMB, HAZLITT, AND OTHERS
RICHARD HENRY STODDARD
SCRIBNER, ARMSTRONG, AND COMPANY
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, by
Scribner, Armstrong, and Company,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
STEREOTYPED AND PRINTED BY
H. O. HOUGHTON AND COMPANY.
I CHARLES LAMB.
Patmore's First Acquaintance with Lamb
At Home, Abroad, and Among his Books
The Lambs' Domestic Arrangements
Lamb's Sympathies and Self-sacrifices
Odd Correspondent of Lamb
Lamb, Hazlitt, and Southey
V WILLIAM HAZLITT.
Patmore's First Introduction to Hazlitt
Hazlitt's Residence ....
In the Streets
Dinner with Hazlitt at John Scott's
Personal Bearing and its Causes
Hazlitt as a Politician
Hazlitt's Friends and Acquaintance
Dislike of Writing
Conversational and Social Powers .
Hazlitt at a Prize-fight
At Fonthill and Burleigh House
Evenings at the Southampton
A Visit with Hazlitt to John Hunt
Opinions and Critical Estimates .
Origin of the " Liber Amoris " .
Hazlitt's Marriage 190
Removal to London x 93
Hazlitt as a Reporter J 95
Full of Work . . . . . . . *97
Hazlitt and Haydon . . .â€¢ . . . .198
Hazlitt's Housekeeping 201
Hazlitt's Married Life 203
Sarah Walker 207
The Hazlitt Divorce 215
Hazlitt's Last Days 237
The "New Monthly Magazine" . . . .251
Hazlitt and Northcote 259
Incapacity for Friendship 265
Campbell and Lord and Lady Byron .... 269
Personal Character 271
Appearance of Campbell and Rogers .... 276
COUNTESS OF BLESSING TON.
At the Royal Academy 283
In Italy 288
At Paris 294
Hyde Park 296
Letters to Patmore 298
The Habitues of Seamore Place and Gore House 307
MONG the motives which impel to the writing of
books, there may be singled out from the num-
ber, the belief that the writer has something to
say which the world will be willing to hear, the intention
of making money, and the desire for fame. The con-
sciousness of a literary mission is an agreeable one, for
however delusive it may be, it raises its possessor for
the time being above his fellows, and places him in his
own estimation among the benefactors of his race. Not
less agreeable is the hope of deriving profit from one's
pleasure, for though it is seldom fulfilled, it is never per-
haps entirely abandoned ; most men, I fancy, â€” most
authors, I am sure, â€” would rather become rich by Lit-
erature than by Trade. We respect the mercantile mind,
as we should, but something tells us that it is inferior
to pure Intellect. We reverence genius more than gun-
ny-bags, and would rather witch the world with noble
horsemanship on the back of Pegasus than be carried
more comfortably to oblivion in a palace-car. But
Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise,
(That last infirmity of noble minds,)
To scorn delights and live laborious days."
The desire for fame is one of the highest by which man
is actuated. I can conceive of nothing grander than the
love of fame by which so many are governed, and noth-
ing sadder than the disappointment to which they are
doomed. It is confined to no station, and no sex. The
smallest have felt it equally with the greatest, and the
greatest have not felt it all. That Shakespeare was with-
out it appears as certain as that it was, after duty, the
chief incentive to the literary life of Milton. The rickety
little papist Pope construing his Tully at Binfield ; the stu-
dious scholar Gray annotating his books in the cloisters
of Cambridge ; the marvelous boy, Chatterton, poring
over old parchments in the muniment room at St. Mary
Redclyffe's ; the stalwart Scottish peasant at Mossgiel,
" Behind his plough along the mountain side ; "
the irascible young lord, carrying war into the enemy's
camp over his claret ; who does not recall them, and
their struggles and triumphs ? But the Kirke Whites, the
Bloomfields, the Dermodys, the Clares, and the crowd of
nameless singers, whose pursuit of fame was as eager as
that of their masters, â€” whoever thinks of them, and of
their aspirations and failures ? They followed a Will-o'-
the-wisp, which so far from guiding them to
" The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar,"
went out in darkness, and left them to die in poverty
and neglect. Clearly, it is as true of Literature, as of
a weightier matter, that many are called, but few chosen.
The life of an author is about the last life which any
sensible man would choose, and the life of Charles Lamb
is certainly the first from which he would turn with aver-
sion. It was not Life in the full sense, but endurance
of existence, â€” a period of denial and disappointment.
There was no enjoyment in it ; nothing in which a vigor-
ous nature could sun itself; only the twilight of creat-
ure comforts. His happiest days were perhaps those
which he spent in Christ's Hospital, where he became ac-
quainted with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a blue coat boy
like himself, and where he picked up his " small Latin
and less Greek," being, in the language of the school,
in Greek, but not a Deputy Grecian. He left Christ's
Hospital in his fifteenth year, and entered the South
Sea House, under his elder brother John, a cold-hearted,
selfish man, who cared nothing for his family. His par-
ents were poor, his father, John Lamb, being the clerk of
Mr. Salt, one of the benchers of the Inner Temple. A
duller home than that of the Lambs cannot well be imag-
ined, for as the years went on the father fell into dotage,
the mother became bedridden, and the daughter Mary
shattered her health by needle-work all day, and incessant
watches throughout the night. Hours of happiness were
occasionally vouchsafed to the young clerk, the best of
which were spent in the society of Coleridge at the Salu-
tation and Cat, a little public-house in the neighborhood
of Smithfield, where the whilom charity boys used to sup,
and smoke and talk, long after they heard the chimes of
midnight, beguiling the cares of life with poetry. For
Charles was a poet, a sonneteer in a small way, who
was, or thought he was, in love with a fair-haired maid,
whom he christened Anna, and whom his biographers con-
jecture to have been one Miss Alice Winterton, or Winn,
they are not certain which. In the autumn of 1796, his
twenty-second year, his life was darkened by a tragedy,
the shadow of which surrounded all his after days. His
sister, who had been deranged, became insane, and seiz-
ing a case knife one day, while the family was preparing
for dinner, she plunged it into the heart of her mother.
It was a dreadful picture which met the eyes of the land-
lord, who came hurrying into the room ; the mother life-
less in her chair, the daughter standing wildly over her
with the fatal knife, and the old man, her father, weeping
by her side, bleeding at the forehead, from the effects of
a blow from one of the forks which she had been hurling
madly about. Charles snatched the knife from his poor
demented sister, who was carried to a mad-house, where
she remained until she had recovered her reason, and
where, a few months later, he followed her.
Lamb's father soon died, and an old aunt who had
lived with them, and he and Mary were alone. His
brother was still living, but he might as well have been
dead, for all the help he afforded them in their trouble.
They lived for each other, or rather Charles lived for
Mary, who henceforth was the sole object of his anxiety.
What had been might have been forgotten (she at least
ceased to grieve over it) but for the cloud which brooded
above them, and was ready at any moment to burst upon
their devoted heads. There was no security in the house-
hold, for Mary was out of her head again and again ; the
only consolation they had was that she knew when it was
going to happen, and could be prepared for it. When
the hour approached they used to go to the Asylum at
Foxton together, weeping bitterly along the way. The
burden would have crushed him, one would think, but
strength was given him, and he rose and bore it manfully.
There was something heroic in the determination with
which he gave his life to his sister, and it is to be hoped
that it sustained him, for there was little else to sustain
him. He made no great professions of religion â€” his
friends were a little doubtful about his orthodoxy ; but if
Christianity consists in a life-long performance of duty,
he was certainly a Christian. He solaced himself with
old books â€” Burton, and Fuller, and Walton, and her
Grace, the eccentric Duchess of Newcastle, and indulged
in the dream of one day making a name as a poet. His
friend Coleridge patronized and altered his verse, and
published a sample of it in a collection of his own poems,
together with a sample of the verse of their common
friend, Charles Lloyd. A year later the two friends sal-
lied from behind the shield of the greater Ajax, and chal-
lenged fame on their own account. It was accorded to
neither. Lamb now changed his " 'prentice han'," and
brought out the little prose story of " Rosamond Gray,"
which was too artless for the time, if not for any time.
The life of Lamb during the next twenty years was
uneventful. It may be traced in outline in his letters to
his correspondents, who were the most prominent mem-
bers of the Lake school of poets, Coleridge, Southey,
and Wordsworth, and others of less note, Manning, Mon-
tague, etc., and in the little volumes upon which he em-
ployed his leisure hours. The influence of the old books
which he read so ardently is evident in his writings,
and nowhere so much as in " John Woodvil," which is
the most faithful reproduction of the Elizabethan Drama,
so called, that we possess ; a reproduction as perfect in
its way as the strange dramas of Beddoes, and the dra-
matic fragments of Barry Cornwall. " John Woodvil "
might have been written by a post-Shakespearean dram-
atist, and had it been published as by one, I question
whether any critic known to us could have successfully
disputed its authenticity. " Hang the age," Lamb wrote
after one of his failures, " I will write for antiquity."
" John Woodvil " was written for antiquity, and only
failed to reach its address because it was written two
centuries too late. It is affecting, in a primitive fashion,
but as artless as the babbling of a child. That Lamb
should ever have supposed that it could be acted suc-
cessfully is a striking evidence of his inability to under-
stand modern literature, dramatic or otherwise. He was
born out of his time, and had to pay a penalty for the
tardiness of nature. " John Woodvil " failed to make
a mark, even among Lamb's friends, upon whom its most
poetical passages were lost. He had no motive to write,
except the necessity of diverting his mind, and the possi-
bility of adding to his income, but he wrote, nevertheless,
his sister assisting him, or he assisting her, it is not easy
to say which. They produced together, " Tales from
Shakespeare " (1807), and " Mrs. Leicester's School "
(1809). Between these he had published " The Ad-
ventures of Ulysses" (1808), of which he was the sole
author, and, in conjunction with his sister, two little vol-
umes of " Original Poetry for Children " (1809), which
is only known to us through extracts in a later publica-
tion, the whole original edition having disappeared, ap-
parently beyond recovery. More important than either
of these works was his " Specimens of English Dramatic
Poets " (1808), a collection of extracts, which was the
fruit of his devotion to old English literature, and which
ought to have placed him at the head of the critics of his
time. It must have been a revelation to its readers, who
for the most part were unacquainted with the early poets
whom it laid under contribution, and whom it introduced
to their notice. His critical comments, brief as they are,
have never been excelled, and never approached, except
perhaps by Coleridge, whose knowledge of the old dram-
atists was not so extensive as Lamb's, and whose appre-
ciation is chiefly confined to their master, Shakespeare.
The " Specimens " is a book which scholars love ; one of
the " books which are books," and which will never be
out of date.
Lamb had no inducements to continue to write. He
had made no money, or at least but yeoman's wages, and
fame was as far from sounding his praises as when he sat
and talked o' nights with Coleridge, in the little smoky
room at the Salutation and Cat. Did he care for fame ?
I am inclined to think not. It was not that which he
sought, but recreation and forgetfulness, â€” compensation
for his daily drudgery at the India House, and distrac-
tion from the anxieties which filled his household. The
authors in whom he most delighted were not the most
famous ones, â€” his prime favorites were not famous at
all. If they had missed fame, who was he that he should
achieve it ? He was obscure, no doubt, but he was in
good company â€” there could be no better, â€” and he was
content. What did his masters think of fame? What
did well-languaged Daniel, for example, think of it ?
" Alas, poor Fame ! in what a narrow room,
As an encaged parrot, as thou pent
Here amongst us ? when even as good be dumb
As speak, and to be heard with no attent :
How can you promise of the time to come,
When as the present is so negligent ? "
Or Lord Brooke, in whom, as he well says, the under-
standing must have held a mystical predominance ?
" Who worship fame commit idolatry ;
Make men their god, fortune and time their worth ;
Form, but reform not, mere hypocrisy :
By shadows, only shadows bringing forth :
Which must, as blossoms, fade e'er true fruit springs,
Like voice and echo joined, yet diverse things."
Or Middleton, for whom he had a generous sympathy, as
is shown by his comparison of his witches with the weird
sisters in Macbeth : â€”
" The fame that a man wins himself is best :
That he may call his own : honors put to him,
Make him no more a man than his clothes do,
And are as soon ta'en off : for in the warmth,
The heat comes from the body, not the weeds :
So man's true fame must strike from his own deeds."
In a graver and sadder mood he may have exclaimed,
with Davenant : â€”
" For fame (whose custom is to have a care
Only of those who her familiars are)
Does with a proud neglect o'er strangers fly,
As if unworthy of her voice or eye :
She seldom is acquainted with the young,
And weary is of those who Hve too long"
The books of Lamb, though they did not make him
known to the world, made him known to his friends, the
circle of which was gradually enlarging. He lost none
of the old ones, and the new which gathered around him,
when he had once taken them into his confidence, clung
to him to the last. They were mostly men of letters, like
himself, and were not popular favorites. He was the
centre of a little set, who believed in themselves, and
in each other, and who looked askance at their more for-
tunate and famous brothers. What Holland House was
to the latter, they imagined they found in the chambers
of Lamb, whose Wednesday suppers surpassed, they
were sure, the rarest breakfasts of Rogers. They vis-
ited him and Mary, played whist, talked books, punned,
ate cold meat, drank porter, and made merry generally.
One of the earliest of the new brood was Hazlitt, who
made Lamb's acquaintance in 1805, an d who paid him
the dubious honor of painting his portrait. Another was
Leigh Hunt, a slashing theatrical critic, who was soon
to be incarcerated for calling the Prince Regent a fat
Adonis of fifty. Coleridge sometimes came, and Words-
worth, when he was in town, but the great names whom
the world delighted to honor held aloof. They would
not have been at home with Lamb, and Lamb would not
have been at home with them, so there was no loss on
either side. They had their enjoyments, which if brill-
iant were frivolous, as the reader may satisfy himself
by running over the pages of Moore's Diary â€¢ and Lamb
had his enjoyments, the choicest of which came to him
in midnight hours as he pored over his beloved folios.
He read and read, and when he was thirsty sipped his
tumbler of brandy and water. He had a decanter of
brandy on his table, and, the story goes, that it ebbed
before he went to bed. He had given up smoking years
before, but not for good, for, in spite of his " Farewell
to Tobacco,'* he resumed the habit in moderation, treat-
ing the resolution that had enabled him to overcome it.
Of Lamb's personal appearance we have the following
description from the pen of Barry Cornwall, whose
memory appears to date from the first year of his ac-
quaintance, 1817. " Persons who had been in the habit
of traversing Covent Garden at that time, might, by ex-
tending their walk a few yards into Russell Street, have
noticed a small, square man, clothed in black, who went
every morning, and returned every afternoon as the
hands of the clock moved towards certain hours. You
could not mistake him. He was somewhat stiff in man-
ner, and almost clerical in dress, which indicated much
wear. He had a long, melancholy face, with keen, pene-
trating eyes, and he walked with a short, resolute step city-
wards. He looked no one in the face for more than a
moment, yet contrived to see everything as he went on.
No one who ever studied the human features could pass
him by without recollecting his countenance ; it was full
of sensibility, and it came upon you like a new thought,
which you could not help dwelling upon afterwards ; it
gave rise to meditation, and did you good. This small
half-clerical man was Charles Lamb." Hazlitt pro-
nounced Lamb's head to be " worthy of Aristotle," and
Hunt called him " a compound of the Jew, the gentle-
man, and the angel."
The establishment of the " London Magazine," in
1820, was an epoch in the life of Lamb. It numbered
among its contributors most of the rising writers of the
time, Hazlitt, De Quincey, Carlyle, Allan Cunningham,
Keats, Hood, Darley, Landor, Julius Hare, and, great-
est of all, Lamb. He adopted a signature, which has
become immortal, â€” that of Elia, a former clerk in the
India House, and wrote upon whatever came uppermost
in his mind, with a humor and a pathos which have never
been excelled. There was a flavor of antiquity in his style,
as if he had caught the spirit of the old writers whom he
loved, and had made it his own. It was quaint, dramatic,
felicitous. There was no trace of imitation in it ; it sug-
gested no model ; it was original and individual. The
Essays of Elia are unlike any that preceded them, and any
that have succeeded them ; they are unique. Lamb had
found his true vocation ; the world which had turned a
deaf ear so long, listened to him now, or rather to his shadow
Elia, not divining at first that it was his veritable self.
The life of a man of letters is seldom, or never, depict-
ured accurately by his biographers. They write when it
is finished, gathering information concerning it and him
from his acquaintances, and tracing, as well as they can,
the history of his mind in his books. It is an interesting
task which they undertake, but is a task, nevertheless,
and one which generally baffles them before they are
done with it. They cannot put themselves in the place
of the men and women whom they are dissecting, for
what after all is biography but dissection, the post-mortem
examination of hearts that have ceased to beat, and brains
that have ceased to think ? The publication of the Essays
of Elia strikes us as an important event in the life of
Lamb, but if the truth were fully known, we should find,
I think, that it was really very little to him. It did not
enrich him, and it did not surround him with crowds of
new admirers. The world knew him not, and when he
came in contact with its favorites they considered him
a queer customer. Moore characterizes him in his Diary
as a clever fellow, but full of villainous and abortive
puns, which he miscarried of every moment, and flip-
pantly refers to his sister as the poor woman who went
mad with him in the diligence on the way to Paris. He
mentions Lamb's receiving ^170 (that, if I remember
'rightly, is the figure) for his two years' contributions to
the " London Magazine," of which he was then the hero,
and wonders, as he well might, at the smallness of the sum.
There was nothing in common between the fashionable
and petted author of " Lalla Rookh " and the old-fash-
ioned, black gaitered little man who was masquerading as
Elia, and it would have been strange if they had under-
stood each other. It was otherwise with Rogers, whom
Lamb knew later, and whose brother's death he cele-
brated in one of his best sonnets.
The last days of Lamb were passed in comparative
ease. He left the India House in 1825, after thirty-three
years' faithful service at his desk, and found that he had
made a mistake in so doing. His time hung heavily
on his hands ; he knew not what to do, and in conse-
quence increased his libations of porter. Mary perpetu-
ally charged him to refrain, but the public-houses that lay
in wait along the roads that he was accustomed to travel,
were too tempting to be avoided. He moved from place
to place, restless everywhere, and finally settled at Edmon-
ton, where he died in his sixtieth year. His last days
were clouded by insanity, as were also those of his sister,
who was out of her mind when he passed away. She
survived him over twelve years, falling asleep at last at
the age of eighty-two.
Such was the life of Charles Lamb, which was not
known in its entirety until after the death of his sister.
It was a tragedy, but it was manfully borne. To sacri-
fice himself, as he did, to the care of this poor demented
creature, was an act of life-long heroism, which has en-
deared his memory to the world. He is beloved, as few
writers have been, and his reputation is steadily increas-
ing. A literature has sprung up from his ashes. We
can trace his career from youth to age ; can read his
poems, his essays, and his letters ; can see the houses
in which he lived, and be present in imagination at his
midnight studies. If his gentle spirit knows this, we
may be sure that it compensates .it for all the ills it suf-
fered in the flesh.
The friendship of Lamb and Hazlitt, if we may dig-
nify their intimacy by that name, was intellectual rather
than personal. They differed in many things, notably
in politics, which Lamb detested, but at heart each re-
spected the sterling qualities of the other. " I should
belie my own conscience," Lamb wrote in 1823, " if I
said less than that I think W. H. to be, in his natural and
healthy state, one of the finest and rarest spirits breathing.
So far from being ashamed of that intimacy which was
betwixt us, it is my boast that I was able for so many
years to have preserved it entire, and I think I shall go
to my grave without finding, or expecting to find, such
another companion." When the intimacy of Lamb and
Hazlitt began we are not told, but probably in 1803.
There was a woman in it, a Miss Sarah Stoddart, the
daughter of Lieutenant John Stoddart, R. N., whose