Charles Lamb.

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Brinsley brought his first wife on
her elopement with him from a
hoarding-school at Bath — the beau-
tiful Maria Linley. My parents were
present (over a quadrille table) when
he arrived in the evening with his
harmonious charge. — From either of
these connexions it may be inferred
that my godfather could command
an order for the then Drury-lane '
theatre at pleasure — and, indeed, a
pretty liberal issue of those cheap
billets, in Brinsley 's easy autograph,
I have heard him say was the sole
remuneration which he had received
for many years' nightly illumination
of the orchestra and various avenues
of that theatre — and he was content
it should be so. The honour of She-
ridan's familiarity — or supposed fa-
miliarity — was better to my god-
father than money.

F. was the most gentlemanly of
oilmen; grandiloquent, yet courte-
ous. His delivery of the commonest
matters of fact was Ciceronian. He
had two Latin words almost con-
stantly in his mouth (how odd sounds
Latin from an oilman's lips !), which
my better knowledge since has en-
abled me to correct. In strict pro-
nunciation they should have been
sounded vice versa — but in those
young years they impressed me with
more awe than they would now do
read aright from Seneca or Varro —
in his own peculiar pronunciation,
monosyllabically elaborated, or An-
glicized, into something like verse
verse. By an imposing manner, and
the help of these distorted syllables,
he climbed (but that was little) to
the highest parochial honours which
St. Andrew's has to bestow.

He is dead — and thus much I
thought due to his memory, both
for my first orders (little wondrous
talismans ! — slight keys, and insignifi-
cant to outward sight, but opening to
me more than Arabian paradises !)
and moreover, that by his testamen-
tary beneficence I came into posses-
sion of the only landed property
which I could ever call my own —
situate near the road- way village of
pleasant Puckeridge, hi Hertford-
shire. When I journeyed down to
take possession, and planted foot on
my own ground, the stately habits
of the donor descended upon me.

and I strode T shall I confess the va-
nity?) with larger paces over my
allotment of three quarters of an acre,
with its commodious mansion in the
midst, with the feeling of an English
freeholder that all betwixt sky and
centre was my own. The estate
has passed into more prudent hands,
and nothing but an Agrarian can re-
store it.

In those days were pit orders. Be- -
shrew the uncomfortable manager
who abolished them ! — with one of
these we went. I remember the
waiting at the door — not that which
is left — but between that and an in-
ner door in shelter — O when shall I
be such an expectant again ! — with
the cry of nonpareils, an indispen-
sible play-house accompaniment in
those days. As near as I can recol-
lect, the fashionable pronunciation
of the theatrical fruiteresses then
was, " Chase some oranges, chase
some numparels, chase a bill of the
play ;" — chase jjro chuse. But when
we got in, and I beheld the green
curtain that veiled a heaven to my
imagination, which was soon to be
disclosed the breathless anticipa-
tions I endured ! I had seen some-
thing like it in the plate prefixed
to Troilus and Cressida, in Rowe's
Shakspeare — the tent scene with Di-
omede — and a sight of that plate can
always bring back in a measure the
feeling of that evening. — The boxes
at that time, full of well-dressed
women of quality, projected over the
pit; and the pilasters reaching down
were adorned with a glistering sub-
stance (I know not what) under glass
(as it seemed), resembling — a home-
ly fancy — but I judged it to be sugar-
candy — yet, to my raised imaghia-
tion, divested of its homelier qualities,
it appeared a glorified candy ! — Th«»
orchestra lights at length arose,
those 'Mair Auroras!" Once the
bell sounded. It was to ring out
yet once again — and, incapable of
the anticipation, I reposed my shut
eyes in a sort of resignation upon the
maternal lap. It rang the second
time. The curtain drew up— I was
not past six years old — and the play
was Artaxerxes !

I had dabbled a little in the Uni-
versal History— the ancient part of
it— and here was the court of Persia.
It was being admitted to a sight of


My First Play,


the past. I took no proper interest
in the action going on, for I under-
stood not its import — but I heard the
word Darius, and I was hi the midst
of Daniel. AH feeling was absorbed
in vision. Gorgeous vests, gardens,
palaces, princesses, passed before me.
I knew not players. I was in Persepo-
lis forthe time ; and the burnhig idol
of their devotions was as if the sun it-
self should have been brought down
to minister at the sacrificial altar.
I took those significations to be
something more than elemental fires.
Harlequhi's Invasion followed; where,
I remember, the transformation of
the magistrates into reverend bel-
dams seemed to me a piece of grave
historic justice, and the taylor carry-
ing his own head, to be as sober a
verity as the legend of St. Denys.

The next play to which I was taken
was the Lady of the Manor, of which,
with the exception of some scenery,
very faint traces are left in my me-
mory. It was followed by a panto-
mime, called Lun's Ghost — a satiric
touch, I apprehend, upon Rich, not
long since dead — but to my appre-
hension (too sincere for satire), Lun
was as remote a piece of antiquity as
Lud— the father of a line of Harle-
quins — transmitting his dagger of
lath ^the wooden sceptre) through
countless ages. I saw the primeval
Motley come from his silent tomb in
a ghastly vest of white patch- work,
like the apparition of a dead rainbow.
So Harlequins (thought I) look when
they are dead.

IVIy third play followed in quick suc-
cession. It was the Way of the World.
I think I must have sat at it as grave
as a judge ; for, I remember, the hys-
teric affectations of good Lady Wish-
fort affected me like some solemn tra-
gic passion. Robinson Crusoe fol-
lowed; in which Crusoe, man Friday,
and the parrot, were as good and au-
thentic as in the story. — The clown-
ery and pantaloonery of these panto-
mimes have clean passed out of my
head. I believe, I no more laughed
at them, than at the same age I
should have been disposed to laugh
at the grotesque Gothic heads (seem-
ing to me then replete with devout
meaning) that gape, and grin, in
stone around the inside of the old
Round Church (my church) of the

I saw these plays in the season
1781-2, when I was from six to
seven years old. After the hiterven-
tion of six or seven other years (for
at school all play-going was inhi-
bited) I again entered the doors of a
theatre. That old Artaxerxes even-
ing had never done ringing hi my
fancy. I expected the same feelings
to come again with the same occa-
sion. But we differ from ourselves
less at sixty and sixteen, than the
latter does from six. In that inter-
val what had I not lost ! At the
first period I knew nothing, under-
stood nothhig, discriminated notliing.
1 felt all, loved all, wondered all—

"\Vas nourished, I could not tell how— .

I had left the temple a devotee, and
was returned a rationalist. The
same things were there materially ;
but the emblem, the reference, was
gone ! — The green curtain was no
longer a veil, dr.awn between two
worlds, the unfolding of which was
to brhig back past ages, to present
" a royal ghost," — but a certain
quantity of green baize, which was
to separate the audience for a given
time from certain of their fellow-men
who were to come forward and pre-
tend those parts. The lights — the
orchestra lights— came up a clumsy
machinery. The first ring, and the
second ring, was now but a trick of
the prompter's bell — which had been,
like the note of the cuckoo, a phantom
of a voice, no hand seen or guessed
at which ministered to its warning.
The actors were men and women
painted. I 'i ought the fault was in
them ; but ii was hi myself, and the
alteration which those many centu-
ries — of six short twelvemonths —
had wrought in me. — Perhaps it was
fortunate for me that the play of the
evening was but an indifferent co-
medy, as it gave me time to crop
some unreasonable expectations,
which might have interfered with
the genuine emotions with which
(with unmixed perception) I was
soon after enabled to enter upon the
first appearance to me of Mrs. Sid-
dons hi Isabella. Comparison and
retrospection soon yielded to the pre-
sent attraction of the scene ; and the
theatre became to me, upon a new
stock, the most delightful of recrea-
tions. Elia.
2 Y 2





Dramatic Fragment.



Fie iipon^t.
All 7nen arc false^ I think. The date of love
Js outj expired^ its stories all grown stale,
Ohr-pasty forgotten, like an antique tale
Of Hero and Leander. John Woodvil.

All are not false. I knew a youth who died

For grief, because his Love proved so.

And married with another.

I saw him on the wedding day.

For he was present in the church that day.

In festive bravery deck'd.

As one that came to grace the ceremony.

I mark'd him when the ring was given.

His countenance never changed ;

And when the priest pronounced the marriage blessing.

He put a silent prayer up for the bride.

For so his moving lip hiterpreted.

He came invited to the marriage feast

With the bride's friends.

And was the merriest of them all that day :

But they, who knew him best, call'd it feign'd mirth ;

And others said.

He wore a smile like death Tipon his face.

His presence dash'd all the beholders' mirth.

And he went away in tears.

What followed then ?

Oh! then

He did not, as neglected suitors use,

Affect a life of solitude in shades.

But lived.

In free discourse and sweet society.

Among his friends who knew his gentle nature best.

Yet ever when he smiled.

There was a mystery legible in his face.

That whoso saw him said he was a man

Not long for thi* world.

And true it was, for even then

The silent love was feeding at his heart

Of which he died :

Nor ever spake word of reproach.

Only he wish' d in death that his remains

Might find a poor grave hi some spot, not far

From his mistress' family vault, " behig the place

Where one day Anna should herself be laid."


Children love to listen to stories
about their elders, when they were
children ; to stretch their imagniation
to the conception of a traditionary
great-uncle, or grandame, whom they
never saw. It was in this spirit that
my little ones crept about me the

Vol. V.

other evening to hear about their
great-grandmother Field, who lived
in a great house in Norfolk (a hun-
dred times bigger than that in vvhich
.they and Papa lived) which had been
the scene — so at least it was gene-
rally believed in that part of the

Dream-Children ; a Reverie.


country — of the tragic incidents which
they had lately become familiar with
from the ballad of the Children in
the Wood. Certain it is that the
whole story of the children and their
cruel uncle was to be seen fairly carv-
ed out in wood upon the chimney-
piece of the great hall, the whole
story down to the Robin Redbreasts,
till a foolish rich person pulled it
down to set up a marble one of mo-
dern invention in its stead, with no
story upon it. Here Alice put out
one of her dear mother's looks, too
tender to be called upbraiding-. Then
I went on to say, how religious and
how good their great-grandmother
Field was, how beloved and respect-
ed by every body, though she was
not indeed the mistress of this great
house, but had only the charge of it
(and yet in some respects she might
be said to be the mistress of it too)
committed to her by the owner, who
preferred living hi a newer and more
fashionable mansion which he had
purchased somewhere in the adjoin-
ing county ; but still she lived in it
in a manner as if it had been her
own, and kept up the dignity of the
great house in a sort while she lived,
which afterwards came to decay, and
was nearly pulled down, and all its
old ornaments stripped and carried
away to the owner's other house,
where they were set up, and looked
as awkward as if some one were to
carry away the old tombs they had
seen lately at the Abbey, and stick
them up in Lady C.'s tawdry gilt
drawing-room. Here John sm.iled,
as much as to say ^^ that would be
foolish indeed." And. then I told
how, when she came to die, her fu-
neral was attended by a concourse of
all the poor, and some of the gentry
too, of the neighbourhood for many
miles round, to show their respect for
her memory, because she had been
such a good and religious woman ; so
good indeed that she knew all the
Psaltery by heart, aye, and a great
part of the Testament besides. Here
little Alice spread her hands. Then
I told what a tall, upright, graceful
person their great-grandmother Field
once was ; and how in her youth she
was esteemed the best dancer — here
Alice's little right foot played an in-
voluntary movement, till, upon my
looking grave, it desisted — the best

dancer, 1 was saying, in the county,
till a cruel disease, called a cancer,
came, and bowed her down with
pahi ; but it could never bend her
good spirits, or make them stoop,
but they were still upright, because
she was so good and religious. Then
I told how she was used to sleep by
herself in a lone chamber of the great
lone house ; and how she believed
that an apparition of two infants was
to be seen at midnight gliding up
and down the great staircase near
where she slept, but she said " those
innocents would do her no harm ; "
and how frightened I used to be,
though in those days I had my maid
to sleep with me, because I was ne-
ver half so good or religious as she —
and yet I never saw the infants.
Here John expanded all his eye-
brows, and' tried to look courageous.
Then I told how good she was to all
her grand-children, having us to the
great house in the holydays, where I
in particular used to spend many
hours by myself, in gazing upon the
old busts of the Twelve Caesars, that
had been Emperors of Rome, till the
old marble heads would seem to live
again, or 1 to be turned into marble
with them ; how I never could be
tired with roaming about that huge
mansion, with its vast empty rooms,
with their worn-out hangings, flut-
tering tapestry, and carved oaken
pannels, with the gilding almost
rubbed out — sometimes in the spa-
cious old-fashioned gardens, which I
had almost to myself, unless when
now and then a solitary gardening
man would cress me — and how the
nectarines and peaches hung upon
the walls, without my ever offering to
pluck them, because they were for-
bidden fruit, unless now and then, —
and because I had more pleasure in
strolling about among the old melan-
choly-looking yew trees, or the firs,
and picking up the red berries, and
the fir apples, which were good for
nothing but to look at — or hi lying
about upon the fresh grass, with all
the fine garden smells around me —
or basking in the orangery, till I
could almost fancy myself ripening
too along with the oranges and the
limes in that grateful warmth— or in
watching the dace that darted to and
fro in the fish pond, at the bottom of
the garden, with here and there a


Dream-Children ; a Reverie.


great sulky pike hanging midway
down the water in silent state, as if
it mocked at their impertinent frisk-
ings, — I had more pleasure in these
busy-idle diversions, than in all the
sweet flavours of peaches, nectarines,
oranges, and such like common baits
of children. Here John slyly depo-
sited back upon the plate a bunch of
grapes, which, not unobserved by
Alice, he had meditated dividing
with her, and both seemed willing to
relinquish them for the present as ir-
relevant. Then in somewhat a more
heightened tone, I told how, though
their great-grandmother Field loved
all her grand-children, yet in an es-
pecial manner she might be said to

love their uncle, John L , because

he was so handsome and spirited a
youth, and a khig to the rest of us ;
and, instead of moping about in so-
litary corners, like some of us, he
would mount the most mettlesome
horse he could get, when but an imp
no bigger than themselves, and make
it carry him half over the county in
a morning, and join the hunters
when there were any out — and yet
he loved the old great house and gar-
dens too, but had too much spirit to
be always pent up within their
boundaries— and how their uncle
grew up to man's estate as brave as
he was handsome, to the admiration
of every body, but of their great-
grandmother Field most especially ;
and how he used to carry me upon
his back when I was a lame-footed
boy — for he was a good bit older
than me — many a mile when I could
not walk for pain; — and how in after
life he became lame-footed too, and
i did not always (I fear) make al-
lowances enough for him when he
was impatient, and in pain, nor re-
member sufficiently how considerate
he had been to me when I was lame-
footed ; and how when he died,
though he had not been dead an
hour, it seemed as if he had died a
great while ago, such a distance there
is betwixt life and death ; and how I
bore his death as I thought pretty
well at first, but afterwards it haunt-

ed and haunted me ; and though I
did riot cry or take it to heart as
some do, and as I think he would
liave done if I had died, yet I missed
him all day long, and knew not till
then how much I had loved him. I
missed his kindness, and I missed his
crossness, and wished him to be alive
again, to be quarreling with him
(for we quarreled sometimes), rather
than not have him again, and was as
uneasy without him, as he their poor
uncle must have been when the doc-
tor took off liis limb. Here the chil-
dren fell a crying, and asked if their
little mourning which they had on
was not for imcle John, and they
looked up, and prayed me not to go
on about their uncle, but to tell them
some stories about their pretty dead
mother. Then I told how for Seven
long years, in hope sometimes, some-
times in despair, yet persisting ever,
I courted the fair Alice W— n; and,
as much as children could under-
stand, I explained to them what coy-
ness, and difficulty, and denial meant
in maidens — when suddenly, turning
to Alice, the soul of the first Alice
looked out at her eyes with such a
reality of re-presentment, that I be-
came in doubt which of them stood
there before me, or whose that bright
hair was, — and while I stood gazing,
both the children gradually grew
fainter to my view, receding, and
still receding, till nothing at last but
two mournful features were seen in
the uttermost distance, which, with-
out speech, strangely impressed upon
me the efTects of speech ; *^ We are
not of Alice, nor of thee, nor are we
children at all. The children of Alice
caU Bartrum father. We are nothing ;
less than nothing, and dreams. We
are only what might have been, and
must wait upon the tedious shores of
Lethe millions of ages before we

have existence, and a name " and

immediately awaking, I found myself
quietly seated in my bachelor arm-
chair, where I had fallen asleep, with
the faithful Bridget unchanged by
my side — but John L. (or James
Elia) was gone for ever. Elia.


Of all the actors who flourished
in my time — a melancholy phrase if
taken aright, reader— Bensley had
most of the swell of soul, was great-
est in the delivery of heroic concep-
tions, the emotions consequent upon
the presentment of a great idea to
the fancy. He had the true poetical
enthusiasm — the rarest faculty among
players. None that I remember pos-
sessed even a portion of that fine
madness which he threw out in Hot-
spur's famous rant about glory, or
the transports of the Venetian incen-
diary at the vision of the fired city.*
His voice had the dissonance, and at
times the inspiriting effect of the trum-
pet. His gait was uncouth and stiff,
but no way embarrassed by affecta-
tion ; and the thorough-bred gentle-
man was uppermost in every move-

ment. He seized the moment of
passion with the greatest truth ; like
a faithful clock never striking before
the time; never anticipating or lead-
ing you to anticipate. He was to-
tally destitute of trick and artifice.
He seemed come upon the stage to
do the poet's message simply, and he
did it with as genuine fidelity as the
nuncios in Homer deliver the errands
of the gods. He let the passion ot
the sentiment do its own work with-
out prop or bolstering. He would
have scorned to mountebank it ; and
betrayed none of that cleverness which
is the bane of serious acting. For
this reason, his lago was the only
endurable one which I remember to
have seen. No spectator from his
action could divine more of his arr
tifice than Othello was supposed to

* How lovelily the Adriatic whore
Dress'd in her flames will shine — devouring flames —
Such as will bum her to her wat'ry bottom.
And hiss in her foundation. Pkrre^ in Venice Preserved.


On Some of the Old Actors.


do. His confessions in soliloquy a-
^lone put you in possession of the
mystery. There were no bye-intima-
tions to make the audience fancy their
6wn discernment so much greater
than that of the Moor — who com-
monly stands like a great helpless
mark set up for mine Ancient^ and a
quantity of barren spectators, to
shoot their bolts at. The lago of
Bensley did not go to work so gross-
ly. There was a triumphant tone a-
bout the character^ natural to a ge-
neral consciousness of power; but
none of that petty vanity which
chuckles and cannot contain itself
upon any little successful stroke of
its knavery — which is common with
your small villains, and green proba-
tioners in mischief. It did not clap
or crow before its time. It was not
a man setting his wits at a child, and
winking all the while at other chil-
dren who are mightily pleased at
being let into the secret ; but a con-
summate villain entrapping a noble
nature into toils, against which no
discernment was available, where the
manner was as fathomless as the pur-
pose seemed dark, and without mo-
tive. The part of Malvolio, in the
Twelfth Night, was perfonned by
Bensley, with a richness and a dig-
nity of which (to judge from some
recent castings of that character) the
very tradition must be worn out from
the stage. No manager in those days
would have dreamed of giving it to
Mr. Baddeley, or Mr. Parsons :
when Bensley was occasionally ab-
sent from the theatre, John Kemble
thought it no derogation to succeed
to the part. Malvolio is not essen-
tially ludicrous. He becomes comic
but by accident. He is cold, aus-
tere, repelling ; but dignified, con-
sistent, and, for what appears, rather
of an over-stretched morality. jNIaria
describes him as a sort of Puritan :

and he might have worn his gold
chain with honour in one of our old
round-head families, in the service of
a Lambert, or a Lady Fairfax. But
his morality and his manners are
misplaced in Illyria. He is opposed
to the proper levities of the piece, and
falls in the unequal contest. Still his
pride, or his gravity, (call it which
you will) is inherent, and native to
the man, not mock or affected, which
latter only are the fit objects to excite
laughter. His quality is at the best
unlovely, but neither buffoon nor
contemptible. His bearing is lofty, ^
little above his station, but probably
not much above his deserts. We see
no reason why he should not have
been brave, honourable, accomplish-
ed. His careless committal of the
ring to the ground (which he was
connnissioned to restore to Cesario),
bespeaks a generosity of birth and
feeling.* His dialect on all occa-
sions is that of a gentleman, aix,d a
man of education. We must not
confound him with the eternal low
steward of comedy. He is master of
the household to a great Princess,
a dignity probably conferred upon
him for other respects than age or
length of service.f Olivia, at the
first indication of his supposed mad-
ness, declares that she " would not
have him miscarry for half of her
dowry." Does this look as if the
character was meant to appear little
or insignificant ? Once, indeed, she
accuses him to his face - of what ? —
of behig *' sick of self-love," — but

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