Charles Lamb.

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hold. It woidd do you no hurt to
give that the perusal also.

From the other gentleman I nei-
ther expect nor desire (as he is well
assured) any such concessions as
L. H. made to C. What hath soured
him, and made him to suspect his
friends of infidelity towards him,
when there was no such matter, I
know not. I stood well with him
for fifteen years (the proudest of my
; life), and have ever spoke my full
mind of him to some, to whom his
panegyric must naturally be least
tasteful. I never in thought swerved
from him, I never betrayed him, 1
never slackened in my admiration of
him, I was the same to him (neither
better nor worse) though he coidd
not see it, as in the days when he
thought fit to trust me. At this
instant, he may be preparing for me
some compliment, above my deserts,
as he has sprinkled many such among
his admirable books, for which I
rest his debtor ; or, for any thing I
! know, or can guess to the contrary,
he may be about to read a lecture
on my weaknesses. He is welcome
i- to them (as he was to my humble
!- hearth), if they can divert a spleen,
11 or ventilate a fit of sidlenness. I
7.. wish he would not quarrel with the
world at the rate he does ; but the
reconciliation must be effected by
himself^ and I despair of livhig to
see that day. But, protesting against
much that he has written, and some
thhigs which he chooses to do ; judg-
ing him by his conversation which
i I enjoyed so long, and relished so
deeply; or by his books, in those
places where no clouding passion in-
ter^'enes — I should belie my own
; conscience, if I said less, than that
I think W. H. to be, in his natural
and healthy state, one of the wisest
and finest spirits breathing. So far
from being ashamed of that inti-
macy, which was betwixt us, it is
my boast that I was able for so
many years to have preserved it en-
tire ; and I think I shall go to my
: grave without iindhig, or expecting
; to find, such another companion.
ir But I forget my manners — you will
rt; pardon me. Sir — lyif^m-ato tlie cor-

Sir, you were pleased (you know
where) to invite me to a compliance
with the wholesome forms and doc-
trines of the Church of England. I
take your advice with as much kind-
ness, as it was meant. But I must
think the invitation rather more kind
than seasonable. I am a Dissenter.
The last sect, with which you can
remember me to have made common
profession, were the Unitarians. You
would think it not very pertinent, if
(fearing that all was not well with
you), 1 were gravely to invite you
(for a remedy) to attend with me a
course of Mr. Belsham's Lectures at
Hackney. Perhaps I have scruples
to some of your forms and doctrines.
But if I come, am I secure of civil
treatment ? — The last time I was in
any of your places of worship was
on Easter Sunday last. I had the
satisfaction of listening to a very-
sensible sermon of an argumentative
turn, delivered with great propriety,
by one of your bishops. The place
was Westminster Abbey. As such
religion, as I have, has always acted
on me more by way of sentiment
than argumentative process, I was
not unwilluig, after sermon ended,
by no unbecomuig transition, to pass
over to some serious feelings, impos-
sible to be disconnected from the
sight of those old tombs, &:c. But,
by whose order I know not, I was
debarred that privilege even for so
short a space as a few minutes; and
turned, like a dog or some profane
person, out into the common street ;
with feelhigs, which I could not
help, but not very genial to the day
or the discourse. I do not know
that I shall ever venture myself
again into one of your Churches.

You had your education at West-
minster ; and doubtless among those
dim aisles and cloisters, you must
have gathered much of that devo-
tional feeling in those young years,
on which your purest mind feeds
still — and may it feed ! The anti-
quarian spirit, strong in you, and
gracefully blending ever with the re-
ligious, may have been sown in you
among those wrecks of splendid
mortality. You owe it to the place
of your education ; you owe it to
your learned fondness for the archi-
tecture of your ancestors ; you owe
it to the venerablencss of your eccle-
siastical establishment, vvhicli ii> daily


Letter of Elia to Robert Southey, Esquire.


lessened and called in question
through these practices — to speak
aloud your sense of them ; never to
desist raising your voice against
them, till they be totally done away
with and abolished ; till the doors of
Westminster Abbey be no longer
closed against the decent, though
low-in-purse, enthusiast, or blame-
less devotee, who must commit an
injury against his family economy, if
he would be indulged with a bare
admission within its walls. You
owe it to the decencies, which you
wish to see maintained in its impres-
sive services, that our Cathedral be
no longer an object of inspection to
the poor at those times only, in
w^hich they must rob from their at-
tendance on the worship every mi-
nute which they can bestow upon
the fabrick. lu vain the public
prints have taken up this subject, in
vain such poor nameless writers as
myself express their indignation. A
word from you. Sir — a hint in your
Journal — would be sufficient to flhig
open the doors of the Beautiful
Temple again, as we can remember
them when we were boys. At that
time of life, what would the imagi-
native faculty (such as it is) in both
of us, have suffered, if the entrance
to so much reflection had been ob-
structed by the demand of so much
silver ! — If we had scraped it up to
gain an occasional admission (as we
certainly should have done) would
the sight of those old tombs have
been as impressive to us (while we
had been weighing anxiously pru-
dence against sentiment) as when
the gates stood open, as those of
the adjacent Park ; when we could
walk in at any time, as the mood
brought us, for a shorter or longer
time, as that lasted .f* Is the being
shown over a place the same as si-
lently for ourselves detecthig the
genius of it } In no part of our be-
loved Abbey now can a person find
entrance (out of service time) under
the sum of two shillings. The rich
and the great will smile at the anti-
climax, presumed to lie in these two
short words. But you can tell them.
Sir, how much quiet worth, how
much capacity for enlarged feeling,
how much taste and genius, may co-
exist, especially in youth, with a
purse incompetent to this demand. —
A respected friend of ours, during his

late visit to the metropolis, presented
himself for admission to Saint Paul's.
At the same time a decently clothed
man, wiih as decent a wife, and
child, were bargaining for the same
indulgence. The price was only
two-pence each person. The poor
but decent man hesitated, desirous
to go in ; but there were three of
them, and he turned away reluct-
antly. Perhaps he wished to have
seen the tomb of Nelson. Perhaps
the Interior of the Cathedral was his
object. But in the state of his fi-
nances, even sixpence might rea-
sonably seem too much. Tell the
Aristocracy of the country (no man
can do it more impressively) ; in-
struct them of what value these in-
significant pieces of money, these
minims to their sight, may be to
their humbler brethren. Shame these
Sellers out of the Temple. Show
the poor, that you can sometimes
think of them in some other light
than as mutineers and mal-contents.
Conciliate them by such kind me-
thods to their superiors, civil and ec-
clesiastical. Stop the mouths of the
railers ; and suffer your old friends,
upon the old terms, again to honour
and admire you. Stifle not the sug-
gestions of your better nature with
the stale evasion, that an indiscri-
minate admission would expose the
Tombs to violation. Remember your
boy-days. Did you ever see, or hear,
of a mob in the Abbey, while it was
free to all.'' Do the rabble come
there, or trouble their heads about
such speculations ? It is all that you
can do to drive them into your
churches ; they do not voluntarily
offer themselves. They have, alas !
no passion for antiquities ; for tomb
of king or prelate, sage or poet. If
they had, they would be no longer
the rabble.

For forty years that I have known
the Fabrick, the only well-attested
charge of violation adduced, has
been — a ridiculous dismemberment
committed upon the effigy of that
amiable spy. Major Andre. And is
it for this — the wanton mischief of
some school-boy, fired perhaps with
raw notions of Transatlantic Free-
dom — or the remote possibility of
such a mischief occurring again, so
easily to be prevented by stationing
a constable within the walls, if the
vergers are incompetent to the duty

th Letter to tht Dramatists of f/ie Day.

— ^is it vipon such wretched pre-
tences, that the people of England
are made to pay a new Peter's
Pence, so long abrogated ; or must
content themselves with contem-
plating the ragged Exterior of their
Cathedral ? The mischief was done
about the time that you were a
scholar there. Do you know any
thing about the unfortunate relic ? —

can you help us in this emergency to
find the nose? — or can you give
Chantry a notion (from memory) of
its pristine life and vigour ? 1 am
willing for peace' sake to subscribe
my guinea towards a restoration of
the lamented feature.

I am, Sir,
Yoiur humble servant,


A VERY ingenious and subtle wri-
ter, whom there is good reason for
suspecting to be an Ex- Jesuit, not un-
known at Douay some five-and-twen-
ty years since (he will not obtrude

himself at M th again in a hurry),

about a twelvemonth back, set him-
self to prove the character of the
Powder Plot conspirators to have been
that of heroic self-devotedness and
true Christian martyrdom. Under
the mask of Protestant candour, he
actually gained admission for his
treatise into a London weekly pape?,
not particularly distinguished for its
zeal towards either religion. But,
admitting Catholic principles, his ar-
guments are shrewd and incontro-
vertible. He says —

Guy Faux was a fanatic, but he was no
hypocrite. He ranks among good liaters.
He was cruel, bloody-minded, reckless of
all considerations but those of an infuriated
and bigoted faith ; but he was a true son of
the Catholic Church, a martyr and a con-

Nov. 1823. ,..„...._,,


fessor, for all that. He who can prevau
upon himself to devote his life for a causey
however we may condemn his opinions o^
abhor his actions, vouches at least for tli^
honesty of lus principles and the disinterest-
edness of his motives. He may be guilty
of the worst practices, but he is capable o^'
the greatest. He is no longer a slave, bu^ \
hee. The contempt of death is the begini
ning of virtue. The hero of the Gunpow-'
der-Plot was, if you will, a fool, a mad-
man, an assassin ; call him what names
you please : still he was neither knave nor
coward. He did not propose to blow up.
the Parliament and come off, scot-free,
himself; he showed that he valued his own
hfe no more than theirs in such a cause-
where the integrity of the Catholic faith
and the salvation of perhaps millions of
souls was at stake. He did not call it a
murder, but a sacrifice which he was about
to achieve : he was armed with the Holy
Spirit and with fire: he was the Church's
chosen servant and her blessed martyr. He
comforted himself as "• the best of cut-
throats." How many wretches are there
that would have undertaken to do what he
2 1 -


Qu^ Favjjc,


intended for a «um of money, if they could
have got off with impunity I How few are
there who would have put themselves in
Guy Faux's situation to save the universe !
Yet in the latter case we affect to be thrown
into greater consternation than at the most
unredeemed acts of villainy, as if the abso-
lute disinterestedness of the motive doubled
the horror of the deed ! The cowardice and
selfishness of mankind are in fact shocked
at the consequences to themselves (if such
examples are held up for imitation), and
they make a fearful outcry against the vio-
lation of every principle of morality, lest
they too should be called on for any such
tremendous sacrifices— lest they in their turn
should have to go on the forlorn hope of
extra-official duty. Charity begins at
home, is a maxun that prevails as well in
the courts of conscience as in those of pru-
dence. We would be thought to shudder
at the consequences of crime to others, while
we tremble for them to ourselves. We talk
of the dark and cowardly assassin ; and
this is well, when an individual shrinks
from the face of an enemy, and purchases
his own safety by striking a blow in the
dark : but how the charge of cowardly can
be applied to the public assassin, who, in
the very act of destroying another, lays
down his life as the pledge and forfeit of
his sincerity and boldness, I am at a less to
devise. There may be barbarous prejudice,
rooted hatred, unprmcipled treachery, in
such an act ; but he who resolves to take
all the danger and odium upon himself,
can no more be branded with cowardice,
than Regulus devoting himself for his coun-
try, or Codrus leaping into the fiery gulf.
A wily Father Inquisitor, coolly and with
plenary authority condemning hundreds of
helpless, unoffending victims, to the flames
or to the horrors of a living tomb, whUe he
himself would not suffer a hair of his head
to be hurt, is to me a character without any
qualifying trait in it. Again ; the Spanish
conqueror and hero, the favourite of his
monarch, who enticed thirty thousand poor
Mexicans into a large open building, under
promise of strict faith and cordial good-
will, and then set fire to it, making sport of
the cries and agonies of these deluded crea-
tures, is an instance of uniting the most
hardened cruelty with the most heartless
selfishness. His plea was keeping no faith
with heretics : this was Guy Faux's too ;
but I am sure at least that the latter kept
faith with himself: he was in earnest in
his professions. His was not gay, wanton,
unfeeling depravity; he did not murder in
sport; it was serious work that he had
taken in hand. To see this arch -bigot,
this heart-whole traitor, this pale miner in
the infernal regions, skulking in his retreat
with his cloalc and dark lanthorn, moving
eautiously about among his barrels of gun-
powder loaded with death, but not yet ripe

for destruction, regardless erf the lives of
others, and more than indifiprent to his
own, presents a picture of the strange in-
fatuation of the human understanding, but
not of the depravity of the human will,
without an equal. There were thousands
of pious Papists privy to and ready to ap-
plaud the deed when done : — there was no
one but our old fifth-of-November friend,
who still flutters in rags and straw on the
occasion, that had the courage to attempt
it. In him stern duty and unshaken faith
prevailed over natural frailty.

It is impossible, upon Catholic
principles, not to admit the force of
this reasoning; we can only not help
smilhig (with the writer) at the sim-
plicity of the gulled editor, swallow-
ing the dregs of Loyola for the very
quintessence of sublimated reason in
England at the comi-cencement of the
nineteenth century. We will just, as
a contrast, show what we Protestants
(who area party concerned) thought
upon the same subject, at a period
rather nearer to the heroic project in

The Gunpowder Treason was tlie
subject which called forth the earliest
specimen which is left us of the pul-
pit eloquence of Jeremy Taylor.
When he preached the Sermon on
that anniversary, which is printed at
the end of the folio edition of his Ser-
mons, he was a young man just com-
mencing his ministry, under the
auspices of Archbishop Laud. Frx)m
the learning, and maturest oratory,
which it manifests, one should rather
have conjectured it to have proceeded
from the same person after he was
ripened by time into a Bishop and
Father of the Church. — '^'^And, reallv,
these Romano-barbari could never
pretend to any precedent for an act
so barbarous as theirs. Ads-amelech,
indeed, killed a king, but he spared
the people ; Haman v/ould have
killed the people, but spared the king ;
but that both king and people, princes
and judges, branch and rush aiid
root, should die at once (as if Cali-
gula's wish were actuated, and all
England upon one head), was never
known till now, that all the malice
of the world met in this , as in a
centre. The Sicilian even-song, the
matins of St. Bartholomew, known
for the pitiless and damned massa-
cres, were but Kairvs ciciag ovap, the
dream of the shadow of smoke^ if
compared with this great fir^. /«


Guy Fi

■■M\rt4lh0^(*n -


'^otdm kxmupato tceeillo fahufas vnl^ares
'^■^^equliia nori invenit. 'This was a busy
''iige ; Herostratiis must have invent-
^jfed a more sublimed malice than the
'purning of one temple_, or not have
,)^een so much as spoke of since the
^ (discovery of the powder treason.
,\But I must make more haste, I shall
,,not else climb the sublimity of this
(jimpiety. Nero was sometimes the
'Sjmpulare odium, M^as popularly hated,
and deserved it too, for he slew his
master, and his wife, and all his fa-
mily, once or twice over,— opened
',]Jiis mother's womb, — fired the city,
laughed at it, slandered the Chris-
tians for it ; but yet all these were
but jrrincipia maloriivij the very first
^'^ rudiments of evil. Add, then, to
these, Herod's master-piece at Ramah,
as it was deciphered by the tears
,^pnd sad threnes of the matrons in
.SLU universal mourning for the loss
j 6f their pretty infants ; yet this of
Herod will prove but an infant
"wickedness, and that of Nero the evil
but of one city. I would wilUngly
have foiuid out an example, but see
J r cannot; should I put hito the scale
' the extract of all the old tyrants fa-
mous in antique stories, —
j.J^istonii stabulum regis, 3usiridLs aras,
.,'Antiphatac mensaji^j «t Taurica regna

Thoantis ;— '
,^ighould I take for true story the
j^^mghest cruelty as it was fancied by
^juie most hieroglyphical Egyptian,
*,7^is alone would weigh them down,
i, ijis if the Alps were put in scale
^^against the dust of a balance. For
j'y^ad this accursed treason prospered,
[^wc should have had the whole king-
!^,]^om mourn for the inestimable loss of
jj, Jts chiefest glory, its life, its present
djoy, and all its very hopes for the fu-
j.^ture. For such was their desthicd
'tnalice, that they would not only
/.have inflicted so cruel a blow, but
■ ;.have made it incurable, by cutting
J off our supplies of joy, the whole
jiSuccessiou of the Line Royal. Not
f- only the vine itself, but all'the gem-
mu/co, and the tender olive branches,
should either have been bent to their
intentions, and made to grow crooked,
,or else been broken.
J , " And now, after such a sublimity
_^'of malice, I will not instance in the
sacrilegious ruin of the neighbouring
temples, which needs must have pe-
rished in the flame, — nor in the dis-
turbing the ashes of our intombed

kings, devouring their dead ruhis like
sepulchral dogs, — these are but mi-
nutes, in respect of the ruin prepared
for the living temples : —

Stragem sed istam non tulit

Christus cadentura Principum

Impunc, ne forsan sui

Patris periret fabrica.
Ergo quae poterit lingua retexere
I^audes, Christe, tuas, qui domitum struis
Infidum populum cum Duce perfido 1 "

In such strains of eloquent indig-
nation did Jeremy Taylor's young
oratory inveigh against that stupen-
dous attempt, which he trvdy says
had no parallel hi ancient or modern
times. A century and a half of Eu-
ropean crunes has elapsed shice he
made the assertion, and his position
remahis hi its strength. He wrote
near the time in which the nefarious
project had like to have been com-
pleted. Men's mhids still were shud-
dering from the recentness of the
escape. It must have been within
his memory, or have been sounded
in his ears so young by his parents,
that he would 'seem, in his maturer
years, to have remembered it. ^ No
wonder then that he describes it in
words that bum. But to us, to
whom the tradition has come slowly
down, and has had tune to cool, the
story of Guido Vaux sounds rather
like a tale, a fable, and an invention,
than true history. It supposes such
gigantic audacity of daring, combined
with such more than infantile stupi-
dity hi the motive, — such a combina-
tion of the fiend and the monkey, —
that credidity is almost swallowed up
in contemplating the singularity of
the attempt. It has accordingly, in
some degree, shared the fate of fic-
tion. It is familiarized to us in a
kind of serio-ludicrous way, like the
story of Gu^f of Warwick, or Valentine
and Orson. The way which we take to
perpetuate the memory of this deli-
verance is well adapted to keep up this
fabular notion. Boys go about the
streets annually with abeggarly scare-
crow dressed up, which is to be burnt,
indeed, at night, with holy zeal ; but,
meantime, they beg a penny for fX)or
Guy : this periodical petition, which
we have heard from our infancy, —
combined with the dress and appear-
ance of the effigy, so well calculated
to move compassion, — has the effect
of quite removing from our fancy ilie
horrid circumstances of the story
2 12



Guy Faux.


which U thus commemorated; and
in -poor Guy vahily should we try to
recognize any of the features of that
tremendous madman in iniquity,
Guido Vaux, with his horrid crew of
accomplices, that sought to emulate
earthquakes and bursting volcanoes
in their more than mortal mischief.

Indeed, the whole ceremony of
burning Guy Faux, or the Foipe, as
he is indifferently called, is a sort of
Treason Travestie, and admirably
adapted to lower our feelings upon
this memorable subject. The prin-
ters of the little duodecimo Prayer
Book, printed by T. Baskett,* in
1749, which has the efligy of his
sacred Majesty George II. piously
prefixed, have illustrated the ser-
vice (a very fine one in itself) which
is appointed for the Anniversary of
this Day, with a print, which it is not
very easy to describe, but the con-
tents appear to be these : — The scene
is a room, I conjecture, in the king's
palace. Two persons, — one of whom
I take to be James himself, from his
wearing his hat while the other stands
bareheaded, — are intently surveying
a sort of speculum, or magic mirror,
which stands upon a pedestal in the
midst of the room, in which a little
figure of Guy Faux with his dark
lantern approaching the door of the
Parliament House is made discerni-
ble by the light proceeding from a
great eye which shines in from the
topmost corner of the apartment,
by which eye the pious artist no
doubt meant to designate Providence.
On the other side of the mirror, is a
figure doing something, which puz-
zled me when a child, and continues
to puzzle me now. The best I can
make of it is, that it is a conspirator
busy laying the train, — but then,
why is he represented in the king's
chamber? — Conjectuic upon so fan-
tastical a design is vain, and I only
notice the print as being one of the
earliest graphic representations which
woke my childhood into wonder, and
doubtless combined with the mum-
mery before-mentioned, to take off

the edge of that horror whifiU the
naked historical mention of Guido's
conspiracy could not have failed of

Now that so many years are past
since that abominable machination
was happily frustrated, it will not,
I hope, be considered a profane sport-
ing with the subject, if we take no
very serious survey of the conse-
quences that would have flowed from
this plot if it had had a successful
issue. The first thing that strikes us,
in a selfish point of view, is the ma-
terial change which it must have
produced in the course of the nobility.
All the ancient peerage being extin-
guished, as it was intended, at one
blow, the Red-Book must have been
closed for ever, or a new race of
peers must have been created to sup-
ply the deficiency ; as the first part
of this dilemma is a deal too shock-
ing to thhik of, what a fund of mouth-
watering reflections does this give.
rise to in the breast of us plebeians
of A. IX 1823. Why you or I,i
reader, might have been Duke of,

or Earl of

: I particu-

to avoid the least

larize no titles,
suspicion of intention to usurp th^,
dignities of the two noblemen whom.

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 24 of 33)