Copyright
Charles Lamb.

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

. (page 25 of 33)
Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 25 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


I have in my eye : — but a feeling \
more dignified than envy sometime^.,
excites a sigh, when I think how the
posterity of Guido's Legion of Ho-
nour (among whom you or I might
have been) might have rolled down
^' dulcified," as Burke expresses \%\
^'hj an exposure to the influence oj
heaven in a long flow of generations,
from the hard, acidulous, metalliyG,,
tincture of the spring."f What ne\f i
orders of merit, think you, this E^Jt.,
glish Napoleon would have chosen?,
Knights of the Barrel, or Lords of
the Tub, Grand Almoners of th^,
Cellar, or Ministers of Explosiouyv
We should have given the Trains
coudmnty and the Fire ramjuint in our
arms; we should have quartered th^.
dozen white matches in our coats ;-nti
the Shallows W;9uJd have bee|^ nqt,^
thing to ui^(fj^,v.ol ^ f\hn'>yx\



♦ IfM^ame"^ 1 presume, upon whom the clergyman in the song of the Vicar an^^

Mosesy hot without judgment, passes this memorable censure — .

Here, Moses, the King ;—. .ii'onf

'Tis a scandalous thing .tano i-
That this Baskett should print for the Crown.
+ Letter t;? a Noble Ivord.



18«^3



Gvy Faux.



48i



Turning away from these iTiiOrtify-
ing reflections, let us contemplate its
effects upon the other house, for they
were all to have gone together, —
King, Lords, Commons

To assist our imagination, let us
take leave to suppose, — and we do
it in the harmless wantoimess of
fancy, — to suppose that the tremend-
ous explosion had taken place in our
days ; — we better know what a House
of Commons is in our days, and can
better estimate our loss; — let us
imagine, then, to ourselves, the United
Members sitting in full conclave
above — Faux just ready with his
train and matches below ; in his
hand a "reed tipt with fire" — he
applies the fatal engine

To assist our notions still further^
let us suppose some lucky dog of a
reporter, who had escaped by mira-
cle upon some plank of St. Stephen's
benches, and came plump uptm the
roof of the adjacent Abbey, from
whence descending, at some ncigh-
bourini



.J, coffee-house, first wiping his
clothes and calling for a glass of
lemonade, he sits down and reports
what he had heard and seen (quorum
pars magna fuit) for the Morning
Post or the Courier, — we can scarce-
ly imagine him describhig the event
in any other words but some such as
these : —

'* A Motion was put and carried.
That this House do acljmirn : That
the Speaker do (jnit ike Chair. The
House ROSE amid clamours for Or-

a^rv.u. .i, ,; .,; . ^ .

Ih "itsita^' stich wajf thfe event tnight
most technically have been conveyed
to the public. But a poetical mind,
not content with this dry method of
narration, cannot help pursuing the
effects of this tremendous blowing
up, this adjournment in the air sine
die. It sees the benches mount, —the
Chair first, and then the benches,
and first the Treasury Bench, hur-
ried up in this nitrous explosion ;
the Members, as it were, pairing
off; Whigs and Tories takhig their
friendly apotheosis together, (as they
did their sandwiches below in Bel-
lamy's room). Fancy, in her flight,
keeps pace with the aspiring legisla-
tors, she sees the awful seat of order
mounting till it becomes finally fixed
a constellation, next to Cassiopeia 3 , , c, -u



chair, — the wig of Wm that sat in it
taking its place near Berenice's curls.
St. Peter, at Heaven's wicket, — no,
not St. Peter,— St. Stephen, with

open arms, receives his own

While Fancy beholds these celes-
tial appropriations, Reason, no less
pleased, discerns the mighty benefit
which so complete a renovation must
produce below. Let the most de-
termined foe to corruption, the most
thorough-paced , redresser of abuses,
try to conceive a more absolute pu-
rification of the House than this was
calculated to produce; — why, Pride's
Purge was nothing to it ; — the whole
borough-mongering system would
have been got rid of, fairly exyJockd;
— with it, the senseless distinctions
of party n^^i st have disappeared;
faction must have vanished ; cor-
ruption have expired in air. From
Hundred, Tything, and Wapentake,
some new Alfred would have con-
vened, in all its purity, the primitive
Wittenagemot, — fixed upon a basis,
of property or population, perma-
nent as the poles-



From this dream of universal res-
titution. Reason and Fancy with dif-
ficulty awake to view tl:e real state
of things. But, blessed be Heaven,
St. Stephen's walls are yet standing,
all her seats firmly secured ; nay,
some have doubted (since the Sep-
tennial Act) whether gunpowder it-
self, or any thing short of a Com-
mittee above stairs, would be able to
shake any one member from his
seat ; — that great and final improve-
ment to the Abbey, which is all that'
seems wanting, — the removing West-
minster-hall and its appendages, and"
letting in the view of the Thames, —
must not be expected in our days.
Dismissing, therefore, all such spe-
culations as mere tales of a tub, it
is the duty of every honest English-
man to endeavour, by means less
wholesale than Guido's, to amelio-
rate, without extinguishing. Parlia-
ments ; to hold the lantern to the
dark places of corruption ; to apply
the match to the rotten parts of the
system only ; and to wrap himself
up, not in the muffling mantle of
conspiracy, but in the warm, honest
cloak of integrity and patriotic in-
tention.

EUA.



Intf^I 3idr>>*



■>o.\



■J^-^^



";fii^





t



ON A PASSAGE IN THE TEMPEST.



lS long as I can remember the
play of the Tempest^ one passage in
it has always set me upon wondering.
It has puzzled me beyond measure.
In vain I strove to find the meaning
of it. I seemed doomed to cherish
infinite hopeless curiosity.

It is where Prospero, relating the
banishment of Sycorax from Argier,
adds —

For one thing that she did

They would not take her Hfe —
how have I pondered over this, when
a boy I how have I longed for some
authentic memoir of the witch to
clear up the obscurity ! — Was the
story extant in the Chronicles of Al-
giers? Could I get at it by some for-
tunate introduction to the Algerine
ambassador } Was a voyage thither
practicable? The Spectator (I knew)
went to Grand Cairo, only to mea-
sure a pyramid. Was not the object
of my quest of at least as much im-
portance ? — The blue-eyed hag —
could she have done any thhig good
or meritorious ? might that Succubus
relent ? then might tliere be hope for
the devil. I have often admired since,
that none of the commentators hai'^e
boggled at this passage — how they
could swallow this camel — such a
tantalishig piece of obscurity, such an
abortion of an anecdote.

At length I think I have lighted
upon a clue, which may lead to



show what was passing in the mind
of Shakspeare, when he dropped this'
imperfect rumour. In the '^ accurate'
description of Africa, by John Ogilby^
(Folio) 1670," page 230, I find:
written, as follows. The marginal
title to the narrative is — . f^

Charles the Fifth besieges Algier. '
In the last place, we will briefly give an»
account of the Emperour Charles the Fifth,:^
when he besieg'd tliis city ; and of the'
great loss he suffer 'd therein.

This Prince in the year one thousand
five hundred forty one, having embarr[ued
upon the sea an army of twenty two thou-!
sand men aboard eighteen gallies, and sxi
hundred tall ships, not counting the
barques and shallops, and other small,
boats, in which he had engaged the princi-
pal of the Spanish and Italian nobility,
with a good number of the knights of
Maltha; he was to land on the coast of
Barbary, at a cape call'd iMatifou. From
this place unto the city of Algier a flat
shore or strand extends itself for about four
leagues, the which is exceeding favourable
to gallies. There he put ashore with his
army, and in a few days caused a fortress
to be built, which unto this day is call'd
the Castle of the Emperor.

In the mean time the city of Algier took
the alarm, having in it at that time but
eight hundred Turks, and six thousand
Moors, poor-spirited men, and unexercised
in martial affairs ; besides it was at that
time fortifi'd onely with walls, and had no
out-works : insomuch that b3'' reason of it*
weakness, and the great forces of ihe Bai-




-V* *''^ug&^€HiiaE,



4d^



perour, it could not in appearance escape
taking. In fine, it was attaqued with such
order, that the army carae up to the very
gates, where the Chevaher 4e Sauignac, a
Frenchman by nation, made himself re-
markable above all the rest, by the miracles
of his valour. For having repulsed the
Turks, who having made a sally at the
gate caU'd Babason, and there desiring to
enter along with them, when he saw that
they shut the gate upon him, he ran his
ponyard into the same, and left it sticking
deep therein. They next fell to battering
the city by the force of cannon ; which the
assailants so weakened, that in that great
extremity the defendants lost their courage,
and resolved to surrender.

But as they were thus intending, there
was a witch of the town, whom the history
doth not name, which went to seek out
Assam Aga, that commanded within, and
pray'd him to make it good yet nine days
longer, v^ith assurance, that within that
time he should infallibly see Algier deliver-
ed from that siege, and the whole army of
the enemy dispersed, so that Christians
should be as cheap as Birds- In a word,
the thing did happen in the manner as fore-
told ; for upon the twenty.first day of Oc-
tober in the same year, there fell a con-
tinual rain upon the land, and so furious a
storm at sea, that one might have seen
ships hoistetl into the clouds, and in one
instant again precipitated into tlie bottom
of the water: insomuch that that same
dreadful tempest was followed with the loss
of fifteen gallies, and above an hundred
other vessels ; which was tlie cause why
the Emperour, seeing his army wasted by
the bad weather, pursued by a famine, oc-
casioned by wrack of his ships, in which
■was the greatest part of his victuals and
ammunition, he was constrain'd to raise
the siege, and set sail for Sicily, whither he
retreated with the miserable reliques of liis
fleet.

In the mean time that witch being ac-
knowledged the deliverer of Algier, was
richly remunerated, and the credit of her



charms authorized. So that ever since
witchcraft hath been very freely toleratecj ;
of which the Chief of the town, and even
those who are estcem'd to be of greatest
sanctity among them, such as are the Ma-
rabou's, a religious order of their sect, "do
for the most part make profession of it,
under a goodly pretext of certain revelations
which they say they have had from their
prophet Mahomet.

And hereupon those of Algier, to pal-
liate the shame and the reproaches that are
thrown upon them for making use of a
witch in the danger of this siege, clo say
that the loss of the forces of Charles V,
was caused by a prayer of one of their
Marabou's, named Cidy Utica, which was
at that time in great credit, not under the
notion of a magitian , but for a person of a
holy life. Afterwards in remembrance of
their success, they have erected unto him a
small mosque without the Babason gate,
where he is buried, and in which they keep
sundry lamps burning in honour of him s
nay they sometimes repair thither to make
their saUi^ for a testimony of greater vene*
ration.

Can it be doubted for a momept,
that the dramatist had come fresh
from reading some older narrative of
this deliverance of Algier by a witch,'
and transferred the merit of the deed
to his Sycorax, exchanging only the
'^ rich remimeration," which did not
suit his purpose, to the simple par-
don of her life? Ogilby wrote in
1670; but the authorities to which
he refers for his Account of Barbary
are — Johannes de Leo, or Africanus
— Louis Marmol— Diego de Haedo—
Johannes Gramaye — Brseves — CeV^
Curio — and Diego de Torres — ^namea
totally unknown to me — and to whicb
I beg leave to refer the curious re^
der for his fuller satisfaction. ' -^



^mk



AMICUS REDIVIVUS.



ooasi xm .-



Where were ye, Nymphs, when the remorseless deep
Closed o'er the heaid of your loved Lycidas ?



I DO not know when I have expe-
rienced a stranger sensation, than on
seeing my old friend G. D., who had
rbeen paying me a morning visit a
few Sundays back, at my cottage,
near Islington, upon taking leave,
instead of turning down the right
hand path by which he had entered
— with staff in hand, and at noon
day, deliberately march right for-
wards into the midst of the stream
that runs by us, and totally disap-
pear.

A spectacle like this at dusk would
have been appalling enough; but,
in the broad open daylight, to wit-
ness such an unreserved motion to-
wards self-destruction in a valued
friend, took from me all power of
speculation.

How I found my feet, I know not.
Consciousness was quite gone. Some



spirit, not my own, whirled me to
the spot. I remember nothing but
the silvery apparition of a good white
head emerging ; nigh which a stafiT
(the hand unseen that wielded it)
pointed upwards, as feeling for the
skies. In a moment (if time was in
that time) he was on my shoulders,
and I — freighted with a load more
precious than his who bore Anchises.
And here I cannot but do justice
to tlie officious zeal of sundry passers
by, who, albeit arriving a little too
late to participate in the honours of
the rescue,* in philanthropic shoals
came thronging to communicate their
advice as to the recovery ; pre-
scribing variously the application, or
non-application, of salt, &c. to the
person of the patient. Life mean-
time was ebbing fast away, amidst
the stifle of conflicting judgments.



♦ The topography of my cottage, and its relation to the river, will explain this ; as I
have been at some cost to have the whole engraved (in time, I hope, few our next number),
as well fpr the satisfaction of the reader, as ta commemorate so signal a deliverance.



614



Amicus Jtedivivus,




I



when one, more sagacious than the
rest, by a bright thought, proposed
sending for the Doctor. Trite as the
counsel was, and impossible, as one
should think, to be missed on, — shall
I confess ? — in this emergency, it was
to me as if an Angel had spoken.
Great previous exertions— and mine
had not been inconsiderable— are
commonly followed by a debility of
purpose. This was a moment of ir-
resolution.

MoNocuLus — for so, in default of
catching his true name, I choose to
designate the medical gentleman who
now appeared — is a grave middle-
aged person, who, without having
studied at the college, or truckled to
the pedantry of a diploma, hath em-
ployed a great portion of his valuable
time in experimental processes upon
the bodies of unfortunate fellow-
creatures, in whom the vital spark,
to mere vulgar thinking, would seem
extinct, and lost for ever. He omit-
teth no occasion of obtruding his ser-
vices, from a case of common sur-
feit-suffocation to the ignobler ob-
structions, sometimes induced by a
too wilful application of the plant
Cannabis outwardly. But though he
declineth not altogether these drier
extinctions, his occupation tendeth
for the most part to water-practice ;
for the convenience of which, he
hath judiciously fixed his quarters
near the grand repository of the
stream mentioned, where, day and
night, from his little watch-tower, at
the Middleton's Head, he listeneth to
detect the wrecks of drowned mor-
tality—partly, as he saith, to be
upon the spot — and partly, because
the liquids which he useth to pre-
scribe to himself and his patients, on
these distressing occasions, are ordi-
narily more conveniently to be found
at these common hostelries, than in
the shops and phials of the apothe-
caries. His ear hath arrived to such
finesse by practice, that it is report-
ed, he can distinguish a plunge at a
furlong and a half distance ; and can
tell, if it be casual or deliberate. He
weareth a medal, suspended over a
suit, originally of a sad brown, but
vvjhich, by time, and frequency of
nightly divings, has been dinged into
a true professional sable. He passeth
by the name of Doctor, and is re-
markable for wanting his left eye.
His remedy — after a sufficient appli-



cation of warm blankets, friction,
&c. is a simple tumbler, or more, of
the purest Cogniac, with water, made
as hot as the convalescent can bear
it. Where he findeth, as in the case
of my friend, a squeamish subject,
he condescendeth to be the taster ;
and showeth, by his own example,
the innocuous nature of the pre-
scription. Nothing can be more kind
or encouraging than this procedure.
It addeth confidence to the patient,
to see his medical adviser go hand in
hand with himself in the remedy.
When the doctor swalloweth his own
draught, what peevish invalid can
refuse to pledge him in the potion ?
In fine, Monoculus is a humane,
sensible man, who, for a slender pit-
tance, scarce enough to sustain life,
is content to wear it out in the en-
deavour to save the lives of others —
his pretensions so moderate, that
with difficulty I could press a crown
upon him, for the price of restoring
the existence of such an invaluable
creature to society as G. D.

It was pleasant to observe the ef-it
feet of the subsiding alarm upon the
nerves of the dear absentee. It seem-
ed to have given a shake to memory,
calling up notice after notice, of all
the providential deliverances he had
experienced in the course of his long
and innocent life. Sitting up in
my couch — my couch which, naked
and void of furniture hitherto, for
the salutary repose which it ad-
ministered, shall be honoured with
costly valance, at some price, and
henceforth be a state-bed at Cole-
brook, — he discoursed of marvellous
escapes — by carelessness of nurses— ->,
by pails of gelid, and kettles of thejj
boiling element, in infancy— by or -
chard pranks, and snapping twigs,
in schoolboy frolics — by descent of
tiles at Trumpington, and heavier
tomes at Pembroke — ^by studious,,
watchings, inducing frightful vig><;r
lance — by want, and the fear of wantf '
and all the sore throbbings of the
learned head. — Anon, he would burst
out into little fragments of chaunt-.
ing — of songs long ago — ends of de-ij-
liverance-hymns, not remembered
before since childhood, but coming
up now, when his heart was made
tender as a child's — for the tremor
cordis, in the retrospect of a recentji
deliverance, as in a case of impend^^r
ing danger, acting upon an innocent



163^

heart, will produce a eelf-tendemess^
which we should do ill to christen
cowardice; and Shakspeare, in the
latter crisis, has made his good Sir
Hugh to remember the sitting by-
Babylon, and to mutter of shallow
rivers.

Waters of Sir Hugh Middleton, —
what a spark you were like to have
exthiguished for ever ! Your salu-
brious streams to this City, for now
near two centuries, would hardly
have atoned for what you were in
a moment washing away. Mockery
of a river — liquid artifice — wretched
conduit! henceforth rank with ca-
nals, and sluggish aqueducts. Was
it for this, that, smit in boyhood
with the explorations of that Abys-
sinian traveller, I paced the vales of
Amwell to explore your tributary
springs, to trace your salutary waters
through green Hertfordshire, and
cultured Enfield parks ? — Ye have no
swans — no naiads — no river God — or
did the benevolent hoary aspect of
my friend tempt ye to suck him in,
that ye also might have the tutelary
genius of your waters ?

Had he been drowned in Cam,
there would have been some conso-
nancy in it ; but what willows had
ye to wave and rustle over his moist
sepidture ? — or, having no name, be-
sides that unmeaning assumption of
eternal namtif, did ye think to get one
by the noble prize, and henceforth to
be termed the Stream Dyerian?
And could such spacious virtue find a grave
Beneath the imposthumed bubble of a
wave ?
I protest, George, you shall not
venture out again — no, not by day-
light — without a sufl[icient pair of
spectacles — in your musing moods
especially. Your absence of mind
we have borne, till your presence of
body came to be called in question
by it. You shall not go wandering
into Euripus with Aristotle, if we
can help it. Fie, man, to turn dip-
per at your years, after your many
tracts in favour of sprinkling only !

I have nothing but water in my
head o' nights since this frightful ac-
cident. Sometimes I am with Cla-
rence in his dream. At others, I be-
hold Christian beginning to sink, and
crying out to his good brother Hope-
ful (that is me), " I sink in deep
waters; the billows go over rtiy



Amiens Ridivivus.



615



Graium tantum vidit.



head, all the waves go over me. Se-
lah." Then I have before me Pali-A^
nurus, just letting go the steerage.
I Cry out too late to save. Next
follow — a mournful procession— 5?//-
cidal faces, saved against their wills
from drowning ; dolefully trailing a
length of reluctant gratefulness, with
ropy weeds pendant from locks of
watchet hue — constrained Lazari —
Pluto's half-subjects — stolen fees
from the grave — bilking Charon of
his fare. At their head Arioii —
— or is it G. D. ? — in his sing-
ing garments marcheth singly, with
harp hi hand, and votive garland,
which Machaon (or Doctor Hawes)
snatcheth straight, intending to sus-
jjend it to the stem God of Sea.
Then follow dismal streams of Lethe,
in which the half-drenched on earth
are constrained to drown downright,
by wharfs where Ophelia twice acts
her muddy death. —

And, doubtless, there is soriife no-
tice in that invisible world, when one
of us approacheth (as my friend did
so lately) to their inexorable pre-
cincts. When a soul knocks once,
twice, at death's door, the sensation
aroused within the palace must be
considerable ; and the grim Feature,
by modem science so often dispos-
sessed of his prey, must have learned
by this time to pity Tantalus.

A pulse assuredly was felt along
the line of the Elysian shades, when
the near arrival of G. D. was an-
nounced by no equivocal indications.
From their seats of Asphodel arose
the gentler and the graver ghosts-
poet, or historian — of Grecian or of
Roman lore — to crown with unfading
chaplets the half-finished love-la-
bours of their unwearied scholiast.'*
Him Markland expected — him Tyr-^*
whitt hoped to encounter — him th^'^
sweet lyrist of Peter House, whotn
he had barely seen upon earth,* with

newest airs prepared to greet '|'"

and, patron of the gentle Christ's-boy,
— who should have been his patron
through life — the mild Askew, with*'
longing aspirations, leaned foremost '•
from his venerable ^sculapian chair,-'
to welcome into that happy company '
the matured virtues of the man^J"*
whose tender scions in the boy he"*
himself upon earth had so prophe-
tically fed and watered.

Elia. ^

a



n



LONDON MAGAZINE.



m



DECEMBER, 1823.



" The following admirable letter seems to refer to the observations on Kant,
contained in the Opium Eater's Letters. Perhaps that acute logician may be
able to discover its meaning : or if not^ he may think it worth preserving as
an illustration of Shakspeare's profound knowledge of character displayed
in Ancient Pistol.

Can Neptune sleep ? — Is Willich dead ? — Him who wielded the trident of Albion ! Is
it thus you trample on the ashes of my friend ? All the dreadful energies of thought
-—all the sophistry of fiction and the triumphs of the human intellect are waving o'er
his peaceful grave. " He understood not Kant." Peace then to the harmless invincible,
I have long been thinking of presenting the world with a Metaphysical Dictionary — of
elucidating Locke's romance. — I await with impatience Kant in English. Give me
that ! Your letter has awakened me to a sense of your merits. Beware of squabbles ;
I know the literary infirmities of man. Scott rammed his nose against mortals— he
grasped at death for fame to chaunt the victory.

Thiste.

How is the Opium Eater ?



THE



Sotttion iWaga^me.



SEPTEMBER, 1824.



BLAKESMOOR IN H-



;hire.



I DO not know a pleasure more
affecting than to range at will over
the deserted apartments of some fine
old family mansion. The traces of
exthict grandeur admit of a better
passion than envy; and contempla-
tions on the great and good, whom
we fancy in succession to have



Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 25 of 33)