Charles Lamb.

Charles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 online

. (page 21 of 33)
Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 21 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of ten, at least, this is the case. Her
garb is something between a gentle-
woman and a beggar, yet the former
evidently predominates. She is most
provokingly humble, and ostenta-
tiously sensible to her inferiority.
He may . require to be repressed
sometimes —aliquando sufflaminandus
erat — but there is no raising her.
You send her soup at dinner, and
she begs to be helped— after the gen-
tlemen. Mr. requests the ho-
nour of taking wine with her ; she
hesitates between Port and Madeira,
and chooses the former — because he
does. She calls the servant Sir;
and insists on not troubling him to
hold her plate. The housekeeper
patronizes her. The children's go-
verness takes upon her to correct
her, when she has mistaken the piano
for a harpsichord.

Richard Amlet, Esq. in the play,
is a notable instance of the disadvan-
tages, to which this chimerical no-
tion of affinity constituting a claim to
acquaintance, may subject the spirit
of a gentleman. A little foolish blood
is all that is betwixt him and a lady
with a great estate. His stars are
perpetually crossed by the malig-
nant maternity of an old woman,
who persists in calling him ^^ her sou
Dick." But she has wherewithal in
the end to recompense his indignities,
and float him again upon the brilli-
ant surface, under which it had been
her seeming business and pleasure
all along to sink him. All men, be-
sides, are not of Dick's temperament.
I knew an Amlet in real life, who,
wanting Dick's buoyancy, sank in-
deed. Poor W was of my

own standing at Christ's, a fine clas-
sic, and a youth of promise. If he
had a blemish, it was too much pride ;
but its quality was inoffensive; it


Poor Relations.


was not of til at sort which hardens
the heart, and serves to keep infe-
riors at a distance ; it only sought
to ward off derogation from itself.
It was the principle of self-respect
carried as far as it could go, without
infringing upon that respect, which
he would have every one else equally
mahitain for himself. He would
have you to think alike with him on
this topic. Many a quarrel have I
had with him, when we were rather
older boys, and our tallness made us
more obnoxious to observation in thfe
blue clothes, because I would not
thrid the alleys and blind ways of
the town with him, to elude notice,
when we have been out together on
a holiday in the streets of this sneer-
ing and prying metropolis. W

went, sore with these notions, to
Oxfortl, where the dignity and sweet-
ness of a scholar's life, meeting with
the alloy of a humble introduction,
wrought in him a passionate devo-
tion to the place, with a profound
aversion from the society. The ser-
vitor's gown (worse than his school
array) clung to him with Nes-
sian venom. He thought himself
ridiculous in a garb, under which
Latimer must have walked erect ;
and in which Hooker, in his young
days, possibly flaunted in a vein of
no discommendable vanity. In the
depth of college shades, or in his
lonely chamber, the poor student
slunk from observation. He found
shelter among books, which insult
not ; and studies, that ask no ques-
tions of a youth's finances. He was
lord of his library, and seldom cared
for looking out beyond his domains.
The healing influence of studious
pursuits was upon him, to soothe
and to abstract. He was almost a
healthy man ; when the wayward-
ness of his fate broke out against
him with a second and worse malig-
nity. The father of W had

hitherto exercised the humble pro-
fession of house painter at N •,

near Oxford. A supposed interest
with some of the heads of colleges
had now induced him to take up his
abode in that city, with the hope of
being employed upon some public
works which wete talked of. From
that moment I read in the counte-
nance of the young man, the deter-
mination which at length tore him
from academical pursuits for ever.

To a person unacquainted with our
Universities, the distance between
the gownsmen and the townsmen, as
they are called — the trading part of
the latter especially — is carried to
an excess that would appear harsh
and incredible. The temperament

ofW 's father was diametrically

the reverse of his own. Old \v

was a little, busy, cringing trades-
man, who, with his son upon his
arm, would stand bowhig and scrap-
ing, cap in hand, to any thing that
wore the semblance of a gown — in-
sensible to the winks, and opener
remonstrances of the young man, to
whose chamber-fellow, or equal in
standing perhaps, he was thus obse-
quiously and gratuitously ducking.
Such a state of things could not last.

W must change the air of Oxford,

or be suffocated. He chose the former;
and let the sturdy moralist, who
strains the point of the filial duties as
high as they can bear, censure the
dereliction ; he cannot estimate the
struggle. 1 stood with W — — , the
last afternoon I ever saw him, under
the eaves of his paternal dwelling.
It was in the fine lane leading from
the High-street to the back of*****

college, where W kept his rooms.

He seemed thoughtful, and more re-
conciled. I ventured to rally him—
finding him in a better mood — upon
a representation of the Artist Evan-
gelist, which the old man, whose
affairs were beginning to flourish,
had caused to be set up in a splendid
sort of frame over his really hand-
some shop, either as a token of pros-
perity, or badge of gratitude to his

sahit. W • looked up at the

Luke, and like Satan, " knew his
mounted sign — and fled." A letter
on his father's table the next morn-
ing announced, that he had accepted
a commission in a regiment about
to embark for Portugal. He was
among the first who perished before
the walls of St. Sebastian.

I do not know how, upon a sub-
ject which I began with treating half
seriously, I should have fallen upon
a recital so eminently painful; but
this theme of poor relationship is re-
plete with so much matter for tragic
as well as comic associations, that it
is diflicult to keep the account dis-
thict without blending. The earliest
impressions which I received on thife
matter, are certainly not attended


with any thing painful, or very hu-
miliating, in the recalling. At my
father's table (no very splendid one)
was to be found, every Saturday, the
mysterious figure of an aged gentle-
man, clothed in neat black, of a sad
yet comely appearance. His de-
portment was of the essence of gra-
vity ; his words few or none ; and I
was not to make a noise in his pre-
sence. I had little inclination to
have done so — for my cue was to ad-
mire in silence. A particular elbow
chair was appropriated to him, which
was in no case to be violated. A pe-
culiar sort of sweet pudding, which
appeared on no other occasion, dis-
tinguished the days of his coming. I
used to think him a prodigiously rich
man. All I could make out of him
was, that he and my father had been
schoolfellows a world ago at Lincoln,
and that he came from the Mint.
The Mint I knew to be a place where
all the money was coined — and I
thought he was the owner of all that
money. Awful ideas of the Tower
twined themselves about his pre-
sence. He seemed above human in-
firmities and passions. A sort of
melancholy grandeur invested him.
From some inexplicable doom I fan-
cied him obliged to go about in an
eternal suit of mourning. A captive
— a stately being, let out of the
Tower on Saturdays. Often have I
wondered at the temerity of my fa-
ther, who, in spite of an habitual ge-
neral respect, which we all in com-
mon manifested towards him, would
venture now and then to stand up
against him in some argument, touch-
ing their youthful days. The houses
of the ancient city of Lincoln are
divided (as most of my readers know)
between the dwellers on the hill, and
in the valley. This marked distinc-
tion formed an obvious division be-
tween the boys who lived above
(however brought together in a com-
mon school), and the boys w^hose pa-
ternal residence was on the plain; a
sufficient cause of hostility in the
code of these young Grotiuses. My
father had been a leading Moun-
taineer ; and would still maintain
the general superiority, in skill and
hardihood, of the Above Boys (his
own faction), over the Below Boys (so
were they called), of which party his
contemporary had been a chieftain.

Toor Relations, C^ay,

Many and hot were the skirmishes
on this topic — the only one upon
which the old gentleman was ever
brought out — and bad blood bred;
even sometimes almost to the recom-
mencement (so I expected) of actual
hostilities. But my father, who
scorned to insist upon advantages,
generally contrived to turn the con-
versation upon some adroit by-com-
mendation of the old Minster ; in the
general preference of which, before
all other cathedrals in the island, the
dweller on the hill, and the plain-
born, could meet on a conciliating
level, and lay down their less impor-
tant differences. Once only I saw
the old gentleman really ruffled, and
I remember with anguish the thought
that came over me : " Perhaps he
will never come here again." He
had been pressed to take another
plate of the viand, which I have al-
ready mentioned as the indispensa-
ble concomitant of his visits. He
had refused, with a resistance a-
mounting to rigour — when my aunt,
an old Lincolnian, but who had some-
thing of this, in common with my cou-
sin Bridget, that she would sometimes
press civility out of season — uttered
the following memorable application
— " Do take another slice, Mr. Billet,
for you do not get pudding every
day." The old gentleman said no-
thing at the time — but he took occa-
sion in the course of the evening,
when some argument had intervened
between them, to utter with an em-
phasis which chilled the company,
and which chills me now as I write
it — " Woman, you are superannuat-
ed." John Billet did not survive
long, after the digesting of this
affront ; but he survived long enough
to assure me that peace was actually
restored ; and, if I remember aright,
another pudding was discreetly sub-
stituted in the place of that which
had occasioned the offence. He died
at the Mint (Anno 1781) where he
had long held, what he accounted, a
comfortable independence ; and with
five pounds, fourteen shillings, and a
penny, which were found in his es-
crutoire after his decease, left the
world, blessing God that he had
enough to bury him, and that he had
never been obliged to any man for
a sixpence. This was —a Poor Rela-
tion. Elia^


The Child Angel ;— a Dream,



I CHANCED Upon the prettiest, odd-
est, fantastical, thing of a dream the
other night, that you shall hear of.
I had been reading the " Loves of
the Angels," and went to bed with
my head full of speculations, sug-
gested by that extraordinary legend.
It had given birth to innumerable
conjectures ; and, I remember, the
last waking thought, which I gave
expression to on my pillow, was a
sort of wonder, '^ what could come
of it."

I was suddenly transported, how or
whither I could scarcely make out —
but to some celestial region. It was
not the real heavens neither — not the
downright Bible heaven — but a kind
of fairy-land heaven, about which
a poor human fancy may have leave
to sport and air itself, I will hope,
without presumption.

Methought — what wild things
dreams are ! — I was present — at
what would you imagine?— at an
angel's gossiping.

Whence it came, or how it came,
or who bid it come, or whether it
came purely of its own head, neither
you nor I know — but there lay, sure
enough, wrapt in its little cloudy
swaddling bands — a Child Angel.

Sun-threads — filmy beams — ran
through the celestial napery of what
seemed its princely cradle. All the
winged orders hovered round, watch-
ing when the new-born should open
its yet closed eyes : which, when it
did, first one, and then the other —
with a solicitude and apprehension,
yet not such as, stained with fear,
dims the expandhig eye-lids of mortal
infants — but as if to explore its path
in those its unhereditary palaces —
what an inextinguishable titter that
time spared not celestial visages !
Nor wanted there to my seeming — O
the inexplicable simpleness of dreams!
— bowls of that cheering nectar,

— which mortals caudle call below —

Nor were wanting faces of female
ministrants, — stricken in years, as it
might seem — so dextrous were those
heavenly attendants to counterfeit
kindly similitudes of earth, to greet
with terrestrial child-rites the young
Present, which earth had made to

Then were celestial harpings heart
not in full symphony as those
which the spheres are tutored ; but
as lovidest instruments on earth spej
oftentimes, muflfled ; so to accommo*!
date their sound the better to the
weak ears of the imperfect-born.
And, with the noise of those sub-
dued soundings, the Angelet sprang
forth, flutterhig its rudiments of pi-
nions — but forthwith flagged and was
recovered into the arms of those full-
winged angels. And a wonder it
was to see how, as years went round
in heaven — a year in dreams is as a
day — continually its white shoulders
put forth buds of wings, but, want-
ing the perfect angelic nutriment,
anon was shorn of its aspiring, and
fell fluttering— still caught by angel
hands — for ever to put forth shoots,
and to fall fluttering, because its
birth was not of the unmixed vigour
of heaven.

And a name was given to the Babe
Angel, and it was to be called
Ge-Urania^ because its production
was of earth and heaven.

And it could not taste of death, by
reason of its adoption into immortal
palaces ; but it was to know weak-
ness, and reliance, and the shadow
of human imbecility; and it went
with a lame gait ; but in its goings
it exceeded all mortal children in
grace and swiftness. Then pity first
sprang up in angelic bosoms ; and
yearnings (like the human) touched
them at the sight of the immortal
lame one.

And with pain did then first those
Intuitive Essences, with pain and
strife to their natures (not grief ), put
back their bright hitelligences, and
reduce their etherial minds, school-
ing them to degrees and slower pro-
cesses, so to adapt their lessons to
the gradual illumination (as must
needs be) of the half-earth-born ; and
what intuitive notices they could not
repel (by reason that their nature is
to know all things at once), the half-
heavenly novice, by the better part
of its nature, aspired to receive into
its understanding ; so that Humility
and Aspiration went on even-paced
in the instruction of the glorious Am-

But, by reason that Mature Hu-



The Fairy Miller of Croga.

maiiity is too gross to breathe the air
of that super- subtile region^, its portion
was, and is, to be a child for ever.

And because the human part of it
might not press into the heart and
inwards of the palace of its adoption,
those fuU-natured angels tended it
by turns in the purlieus of the pa-
lace, where were shady groves and
rivulets, like this green earth from
which it came : so Love, with Volun-
tary Humility, waited upon the en-
tertainment of the new-adopted.

And myriads of years rolled round
(in dreams Time is nothing), and
still it kept, and is to keep, perpetual
childhood, and is the Tutelar Genius
of Childhood upon earthy and still
goes lame and lovely.

By the banks of the river Pison is
seen, lone-sitting by the grave of the
terrestrial Mirzah, whom the angel
Nadir loved, a Child; but not the
same which I saw in heaven. A
pensive hue overcasts its lineaments;


nevertheless, a correspondency is be-
tween the child by the grave, and
that celestial orphan, whom I saw
above; and the dimness of the grief
upon the heavenly, is as a shadow
or emblem of that which stains the
beauty of the terrestrial. And this
correspondency is not to be unde^"-
stood but by dreams.

And in the archives of heaven I
had grace to read, how that once the
angel Nadir, being exiled from his
place for mortal passion, upspringing
on the wings of parental love (such
power had parental love for a mo-
ment to suspend the else irrevocable
law) appeared for a brief instant in
his station ; and, depositing a won-
drous Birth, straightway disappeared,
and the palaces knew him no more.
And this charge was the self-same
Babe, who goeth lame and lovely —
but Mirzah sleepeth by the river
Pison, Elia.


Nugeo Criticco.




No. I.


Sydney's Sonnets — I speak of the
best of them — are among the very-
best of their sort. They fall below
the plain moral dignity, the sanctity,
and high yet modest spirit of self-
approval, of Milton, in his compo-
sitions of a similar structure. They
are in truth what Milton, censuring
the Arcadia, says of that work (to
which they are a sort of after-tune or
application), *^ vain and amatorious "
enough, yet the things in their kind
(as he confesses to be true of the ro-
mance) may be " full of worth and
wit." They savour of the Courtier,
it must be allowed, and not of the
Commmonwealthsman. But Milton
was a Courtier when he wrote the
Masque at Ludlow Castle, and still
more a Courtier when he composed
the Arcades. When the national
struggle was to begin, he becomingly
cast these vanities behind him ; and
if the order of time had thrown Sir
Philip upon the crisis which preceded
the Revolution, there is no reason
why he should not have acted the
same part in that emergency, which
has glorified the name of a later
Sydney. He did not want for plain-
ness or boldness of spirit. His letter
on the French match may testify, he
could speak his mind freely to
Princes. The times did not call him
to the scaffold.

The Sonnets which we oftenest
call to m.ind of Milton were the com-
positions of his maturest years.
Those of Sydney, which I am about
to produce, were written in the very
hey-day of his blood. They are
stuck full of amorous fancies — far-
fetched conceits, befitting his occupa-
tion ; for True Love thinks no labour
to send out Thoughts upon vast, and
more than Indian voyages, to bring
home rich pearls, outlandish wealth,
gums, jewels, spicery, to sacrifice in
self-depreciating similitudes, as sha-
dows of true amiabilities in the Be-
loved. We must be Lovers — or at
least the cooling touch of time, the
circum prwcordia frigus, must not
have so damped our faculties, as to
take away our recollection that we

were once so — before we can duly
appreciate the glorious vanities, and
graceful hyperboles, of the passion.
The images which lie before our
feet (though by some accounted the
only natural) are least natural for
the high Sydnean love to express its
fancies by. They may serve for the
loves of Catullus or the dear Author
of the Schoolmistress ; for passions
that creep and whine in Elegies and
Pastoral Ballads. I am sure Milton
never loved at this rate. I am afraid
some of his addresses {ad Leonoram
I mean) have rather erred on the
farther side ; and that the poet came
not much short of a religious inde-
corum, when he could thus apos-
trophise a singing-girl :
Angelus unicuique suus {sic credite gentes)

Ohttg'it oetheriis ales ah ordinibus.
Quid mirum, Leonora^ tibi si gloria ma'

Nam tua proesentem vox sonat ipsa
Deum ?
Aut Deus, aut vacui cert^ mens tertia cceli

Per tua secretb guttura serpit agens ;
Serpit agens, facilisque docet mortalia
Sensim immx}rtali assuesscere posse sono.
Quod si cuncta quidem Deus est,
per cunctaque fusus,
In te una LoauiTUR, c-stera mu-


This is loving in a strange fashion ;
and it requires some candour of con-
struction (besides the slight dark-
ening of a dead language) to cast a
veil over the ugly appearance of
something very like blasphemy in
the last two verses. I think the
Lover would have been staggered, if
he had gone about to express the
same thought in English. I am sure,
Sydney has no flights like this. His
extravaganzas do not strike at the
sky, though he takes leave to adopt
the pale Dian into a fellowship with
his mortal passions.
With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st

the skies ;
How silently ; and with how wan a face !
What ! may it be, that even in heavenly

That busy Archer his sharp arrows tries ?


Defence of the Sonnets of Sir Philip Sydney »


Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's

case ;
I read it in thy looks ; thy languisht grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O ]>Ioon, tell me.
Is constant love deem'd there but want of

Are beauties there as proud of, here they be ?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn, whom that love doth

Do they call virtue there — ungrateftdness?
The last line of this poem is a little

obscured by transposition. He means.

Do they call ung-ratefulness there a

virtue .''


CJome, Sleep, O Sleep, the certain knot of

The baiting place of wit, the balm of woe,

The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's re-

The indifferent judge between the high and

With shield of proof shield me from out
the prease •

Of those fierce darts despair at me doth
tlirow ;

make in me those civil wars to cease :

1 will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take chou of me sweet pillows, sweetest

A chamber deaf to noise, and blind to light ;
A rosy garland, and a weary head.
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me.
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image

The curious wits, seeing dull pensiveness
Bewray itself in my long-settled eyes —
Whence those same fumes of melancholy

With idle pains, and missing aim, do guess.
Some, that know how my spring I did ad-
Deem that my Muse some fruit of know-

ledge plies ;
Others, because the Prince my service tries.
Think, that I think state-errors to redress :
But harder judges judge, ambition's rage.
Scourge of itself, still climbing slippery

Holds my young brain captiv'd in golden

O fools, or over-wise ! alas, the race
Of all my thoughts hath neither stop nor

But only Stella's eyes, and Stella's



Because I oft in dark abstracted guise
Seem most alone in greatest company,
With dearth of words, or answers quite

To them that would make speech cf speech

They deem, and of their doom the rumour

That poison foul of bubbling Pride doth

So in my swelling breast, that only I

Fawn on myself, and others do despise :

Yet Pride^ I think, doth not my Soul pos-

Which looks too oft in his unflattering
glass :

But one worse fault — Ambition — I confess,

That makes me oft my best friends over-

Unseen, unheard — while Thought to high-
est place

Bends all his powers, even unto Stella's


Having this day my horse, my hand, my

Guided so well, that I obtained the prize.
Both by the judgment of the English eyes,
And of some sent from that sweet enemy.,

— France ;
Horsemen my skill in horsemanship ad-
vance ;
Townfolks my strength; a daintier judge

His praise to sleight, which from good use

doth rise ;
Some lucky wits impute it but to chance ;
Others, because of both sides I do take
31y blood from them, who did excel in this.
Think Nature me a man of arms did make.
How far they shot awry ! the true cause is,
Stella look'd on, and from her heav'nly

Sent forth the beams which made so fair

my race.


In martial sports I had my cunning tried.

And yet to break more staves did me ad-

"While with the people's shouts (I must

Youth, luck, and praise, even fill'd my
veins with pride —

'Vl'^hen Cupid, having me ^his slave) de-

In Mars's livery, prancing in the press,

'•'■ What now. Sir Fool ! " said he ; "I
would no less :

Look here, I say." I look'd, and Stella

Who, hard by, made a window send forth

My heart then quak'd, then dazzled were
mine eyes ;

One hand forgat to mle, th'other te fight ;

Nor trumpet's sound I heard, nor friendly

My foe came on, and beat the air for me, —

Till that her blush made me my shame to



NugcD CrUkW'



No more, my dear, no more these counsels

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 21 of 33)