Charles Lamb.

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

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would cog the die upon us ; you would, you would. Sir. But I will
forestall you. Sir. You would be deriving me from William the Con-
queror, with a murrain to you. It is no such thing. Sir. The town
shall know better. Sir. They begin to smoke your flams. Sir. Mr.
Liston may be born where he pleases. Sir : but I will not be born at
Lnp — Lupton Magna, for any body's pleasure. Sir. My son and I
have looked over the great map of Kent together, and we can find no
such place as you would palm upon us. Sir ; palm upon us, I say. Nei-
ther Magna nor Parva, as my son says, and he knows I^atin, Sir ; Latin.
If you write my life true. Sir, you must set down, that I, Joseph
Munden, comedian, came into the world upon AUhallows' day. Anno
Domini 1759 — 1759; no sooner nor later. Sir: and I saw the first
light — the first light, remember. Sir, at Stoke Pogis — Stoke Pogis,
comitatu Bucks, and not at Lup — Lup Magna, which I believe to be
no better than moonshine — moonshine ; do you mark me. Sir ? I wonder
you can put such Aim flams upon us. Sir ; I do, I do. It does not become
you. Sir ; I say it — I say it. And my father was an honest tradesman.
Sir : he dealt in malt and hops. Sir, and was a Corporation man, Sir,
and of the Church of England, Sir, and no Presbyterian ; nor Ana —
Anabaptist, Sir, however you may be disposed to make honest people
believe to the contrary. Sir. Your bams are found out. Sir. The town
will be your stale puts no longer. Sir ; and you must not send us jolly
fellows. Sir — we that are comedians. Sir, — you must not send us into
groves and Cham — Charnwoods, a moping. Sir. Neither Chams, nor
charnel houses. Sir. It is not our constitutions. Sir. I tell it you — I
tell it you. I was a droll dog from my cradle. I came into the world
tittering, and the midwife tittered, and the gossips spilt their caudle with
tittering. And when I was brought to the font, the parson could not
christen me for tittering. So I was never more than half baptized. And
when I was little Joey, I made 'em all titter ; — there was not a melan-
choly face to be seen in Pogis. Pure nature. Sir. I was bom a come-
dian. Old Screwup, the undertaker, could tell you. Sir, if he were
living. Why, I was obliged to be locked up every time there was to
be a funeral at Pogis. I was — I was, Sir. I used to grimace at the
mutes, a:? he called it, and put 'em out with my mops and my mows.



till they could'nt stand at a door for me. And when 1 was locked up,
with nothing but a cat in my company, I followed my bent with tr3dng to
make her laugh, and sometimes she would, and sometimes she would not.
And my schoolmaster could make nothing of me : I had only to thrust my
tongue in my cheek — in my cheek. Sir, and the rod dropped from his
fingers : and so my education was limited. Sir. And I grew up a
young fellow, and it was thought convenient to enter me upon some
course of life that should make me serious ; but it would'nt do. Sir.
And I was articled to a drysalter. My father gave forty pounds premium
with me. Sir. I can show the indent — dent — dentures. Sir. But I
was bom to be a comedian. Sir r so I ran away, and listed with the
players. Sir ; and I topt my parts at Amersham and Gerrard's Cross, and
played my own father to his face, in his own town of Pogis, in the part
of Gripe, when I was not full seventeen years of age, and he did not
know me again, but he knew me afterwards ; and then he laughed, and
I laughed, and, what is better, the drysalter laughed, and gave me up
my articles for the joke's sake : so that I came into court afterwards with
clean hands — with clean hands — do you see. Sir ?

[[Here the manuscript becomes illegible for two or three sheets onwards,
which we presume to be occasioned by the absence of Mr. Munden, jun.
who clearly transcribed it for the press thus far. The rest (with the
exception of the concluding paragraph, which seemingly is resumed in
the first hand writing) appears to contain a confused account of some law-
suit, in which the elder Munden was engaged ; with a circumstantial
history of the proceedings on a case of Breach of Promise of Marriage,
made to or by (we cannot pick out which) Jemima Munden, spinster,
probably the comedian's cousin, for it does not appear he had any sister ;
with a few dates, rather better preserved, of this great actor's engage-
ments^as "Cheltenham (spelt Cheltnam) 1776;" "Bath, 1779;'*
"London, 1789;" together with stage anecdotes of Messrs. Edwin,
Wilson, Lee Lewis, &c. over which we have strained our eyes" to no
purpose, in the hope of presenting something amusing to the public.
Towards the end the manuscript brightens up a little, as we have said,
and concludes in the following manner.]

stoo'd before them for six and thirty years, [[we suspect that

Mr. Munden is here speaking of his final leave-taking of the stage]] and
to be dismissed at last. But I was heart-whole, heart-whole to the last.
Sir. What though a few drops did course themselves down the old
vetejiah's cheeks ; who could help it. Sir ? I was a giant that night.
Sir ; and could have played fifty parts, each as arduous as Dozy. My
faculties were never better. Sir. But I was to be laid upon the shelf.
It did not suit the public to laugh with their old servant any longer. Sir.
[[Flere some moisture has blotted a sentence or two.[3 But I can play
Pclonius still. Sir ; I can, I can.

Your servant. Sir,

Joseph MtrNDEN.


S66 gray's latin ode on the grande chartreuse. (^March,



Times have consumed his works, saving some few excerptions.


gray's latin ode


In a new Translation.

O Tu severi religio loci. Some people have sadly puzzled themselves
about this term religio. '' It must be the vow of the order," say these
good folks : *' aye, and there we have the severity of their rules." So
that Gray, whose Christianity does not seem to have sat particularly
tight about him, (unless we suppose that in his letters to Walpole, he
thought it gave him more of the air of a bel esprit and an esprit fort
to affect scepticism,) is smitten, according to these " word-catchers who
live on syllables," with the love of a monastic life ; and intends in good
hearty earnest to shave his head, sew up his mouth, or only open it for
the purpose of braying canticles and masticating parsneps, which^ like
Diocletian's cabbages, were to have been planted with his own fingers.
Of this right apostolical resolution, I believe Gray never dreamed :
no — not even in a make-believe trance of Parnassian inspiration. What
would Dr. Keate say to a lad who should render this first line, " O thou !
the religion of this place of austerities ? " But, " is not the monastery
there } " Beyond the possibility of contradiction. " Like Scotland,"
it ^' stands where it did." But as regards Gray's poem, its standing
where it did was a mere accidental circumstance : he has not a thought —
no, not even a glancing association — connected with its grey walls, or
the Latin graces before and after pulse, droned out by the cowled
faquirs within them. It is the aspect of nature, in the surrounding
vastness of her most rugged and most gloomy solitudes, that awakens
the enthusiasm of Gray. Take the sketch of the scenery from the first
pocket volume which chance may throw in your way. *' On one hand
is the rock with woods of pine-trees hanging over-head, and on the
other a prodigious precipice, almost perpendicular, at the bottom of
which rolls a deep torrent." Here we have the i-eligio and here the severi,
I suspect, notwithstanding that Gray is unauthorized in his use of the
term religio. He certainly means a sort of genius loci : a power in-^
visible and inaccessible, like Lucan's unknown demon of the Druidical.
forest ■ of Marseilles : or rather its spirit ; the influence by which it
makes its presence felt. But religio is employed to describe the im-
pression of awe and reverence produced in the mind by some object of
its solemn contemplation. Gray, therefore, substitutes an active for

1825.]] gray's latin ode on the grandb chartreuse. 367

the passive significance of the word, and transfers the religious awe
from the mind to the object : making the effect to be the cause. But
though it is easy to perceive his meaning, it is not so easy to convey it
with the requisite fulness, and conciseness, and precision. Some trans-
lators have rendered religio by ge?iius. They agree with me, therefore,
in their general notion : but their expression of it is too definite in one
sense, and too undefined in another. It is too definite, because it clothes
an obscure abstraction with a gross and palpable form : we use, indeed,
the words genius and spirit for the essence or energy of things ; but
where they are apostrophized they become personifications. It is too un-
defined, because it fails to communicate the impression of sacred horror
excited by the original. There is no absolute prosopopoeia : it is a
nescio quid which the poet invocates : but it is a something which com-
pels the instantaneous and involuntary sympathy and homage of the
religious instincts. That there is a great difiiculty in embodying this
idea, must be evident from the fact, that Gray could only effect it by
violating the philosophy of grammar. All the versions which have met
my eye are too much in the nature of paraphrases. They slur the
diction of Gray, and sophisticate his sentiment. I think the Latin Ode
of Gray should be done in the same number of lines, and in the metre
which he himself loved when he versified in English. Tentanda via.

Dread somewhat ! hallowing to thyself this spot
Of wildness, how to name thee ? (for I deem

Les» than a godhead presence haunteth not
This antique forest and this native stream :

And we behold more near the visible God

Midst these shagg'd cliffs, these rude hill-solitudes.

These rocks, which foot of man hath never trod.
This dash of waters and this night of woods,

Than if beneath a citron arch he shone

Fashion'd in molten gold by Phidias' hand — )

Hail ! — if invoked aright, look gracious on !
Here let my wearied youth glide calm to land.

Or should hard Fate's rebuff, e'en while I yearn
For these endear'd retreats, this holy reign ^ ,

Of silence, with the reflux swell return
Me to the tossing midmost waves again ;

Sire ! (shall I call thee ? ) be the boon allow'd

To share thy freedom in my drooping age ;
Then steal me from the cares that vex the crowd,
• And safe receive me from their restless rage.


[[About the year 18— , one R d, a respectable London mer-
chant (since dead), stood in the pillory for some alledged fraud upon
the Revenue. Among his papers were found the following " Re-
flections/' which we have obtained by favour of our friend Elia, who
knew him well, and had heard him describe the train of his feelings
upon that trying occasion almost in the words of the MS. Elia speaks
of him as a man (with the exception of the peccadillo aforesaid) of sin-
gular integrity in all his private dealings, possessing great suavity of
manner, with a certain turn for humour. As our object is to present
human nature under every possible circumstance, we do not think that
we shall sully our pages by inserting it. — Editor,'^


Scene^ opposite the Royal Exchange.
Time, Twelve to One, Noon.

Ketch, my good fellow, you have a neat hand. Prithee, adjust this
new collar to my neck gingerly. I am not used to these wooden
cravats. There, softly, softly. That seems the exact point between
ornament and strangulation. A thought looser on this side. Now it
wiU do. And have a care in turning me, that I present my aspect
due vertically. I now face the orient. In a quarter of an hour I shift
southward — do you mind } — and so on till I face the east again, travel-
ling vdth the sun. No half points, I beseech you ; N. N. by W. or
any such elaborate niceties. They become the shipman's card, but not
this mystery. Now leave me a little to my own reflections.

Bless us, what a company is assembled in honour of me ! How
grand I stand here ! I never felt so sensibly before the effect of solitude
in a crowd. I muse in solemn silence upon that vast miscellaneous rabble
in the pit there. From my private box I contemplate with mingled
pity and wonder the gaping curiosity of those underlings. There are
my Whitechapel supporters. Rosemary Lane has emptied herself of the'
very flower of her citizens to grace my show. Duke's place sits desolate.
What is there in my face, that strangers should come so far from the
east to gaze upon it ? \^Here an egg narrowly misses hirn}- That


offering was well meant, but not so cleanly executed. By the tricklings,
it should not be either myrrh or frankincence. Spare your presents, my
friends; I am no- ways mercenary. I desire no missive tokens of your
approbation. I am past those valentines. Bestow these coffins of
untimely chickens upon mouths that water for them. Comfort your
addle spouses with them at home, and stop the mouths of your brawling
brats with such Olla Podridas ; they have need of them. \^A brick is let
fiy2' Disease not, I pray you, nor dismantle your rent and ragged
tenements, to furnish me with architectural decorations, which I can
excuse. This fragment might have stopped a flaw against snow comes.
\l^A coal Jlies.'2 Cinders are dear, gentlemen. This hubbling might
have helped the pot boil, when your dirty cuttings from the shambles at
three ha'-pence a pound shall stand at a cold simmer. Now, south
about. Ketch. I would enjoy australian popularity.

What my friends from over the water ! Old benchers — ^flies of a day
— ephemeral Romans — welcome ! Doth the sight of me draw souls from
limbo ? can it dispeople purgatory — ha !

What am I, or what was my father's house, that I should thus be set
up a spectacle to gentlemen and others ? Why are all faces, like Per-
sians at the sun-rise, bent singly on mine alone ? It was wont to be
esteemed an ordinary visnomy, a quotidian merely. Doubtless, these
assembled myriads discern some traits of nobleness, gentility, breeding,
which hitherto have escaped the common observation — some intimations,
as it were, of wisdom, valour, piety, and so forth. My sight dazzles ;
and, if I am not deceived by the too familiar pressure of this strange
neckcloth that envelopes it, my countenance gives out lambent glories.
For some painter now to take me in the lucky point of expression ! — the
posture so convenient — the head never shifting, but standing quiescent
in a sort of natural frame. But these artizans require a westerly
aspect. Ketch, turn me.

Something of St. James's air in these my new friends. How my
prospects shift, and brighten ! Now if Sir Thomas Lawrence be any
where in that group, his fortune is made for ever. I think I tee some
one taking out a crayon. I will compose my whole face to a smile, which
yet shall not so predominate, but that gravity and gaiety shall contend
as it were — you understand me ? I will work up my thoughts to some
mild rapture — a gentle enthusiasm us — which the artist may transfer in
a manner warm to the canvass. I will inwardly apostrophize my taber-

Delectable mansion, hail ! House, not made of every wood ! Lodging,
that pays no rent ; airy and commodious ; which, owing no window tax,
4it yet all casement, out of which men have such pleasure in peering and
overlooking, that they will sometimes stand an hour together to enjoy thy
prospects ! Cell, recluse from the vulgar ! Quiet retirement from the
great Babel, yet affording sufficient glimpses into it ! Pulpit, that instructs


without note or sermon-book, into which the preacher is inducted with-
out tenth or first fruit ! Throne, unshared and single, that disdainest a
Brentford competitor ! Honour without co-rival ! Or hearest thou rather,
magnificent theatre in which the spectator comes to see and to be seen ?
From thy giddy heights I look down upon the common herd, who stand
with eyes upturned as if a winged messenger hovered over them ; and
mouths open, as if they expected manna. I feel, I feel, the true Epis-
copal yearnings. Behold in me, my flock, your true overseer! What
though I cannot lay hands, because my own are laid, yet I can mutter
benedictions. True otium cum dignitate ! Proud Pisgah eminence !
Pinnacle sublime ! O Pillory, 'tis thee I sing ! Thou younger brother to
the gallows, without his rough and Esau palms ; that with ineffable
contempt surveyest beneath thee the grovelling stocks, which claims pre-
sumptuously to be of thy great race. Let that low wood know, that
thou art far higher bom ! Let that domicile for groundling rogues and
base earth-kissing varlets envy thy preferment, not seldom fated to be
the wanton baiting-house, the temporary retreat, of poet and of patriot.
Shades of Bastwick and of Prynne hover over thee — Defoe is there,
and more greatly daring Shebbeare — from their (little more elevated)
stations they look down with recognitions. Ketch, turn me.

I now veer to the north. Open your widest gates, thou proud
Exchange of London, that I may look in as proudly ! Gresham's wonder,
hail ! I stand upon a level with all your kings. They, and I, from equal
heights, with equal superciliousness, o'er-look the plodding, money-
hunting tribe below; who, busied in their sordid speculations, scarce
elevate their eyes to notice your ancient, or my recent, grandeur. The
second Charles smiles on me from three pedestals } * He closed the Exche-
quer ; I cheated the Excise. Equal our darings, equal be our lot.

Are those the quarters } 'tis their fatal chime. That the ever- winged
hours would but stand still ! but I must descend, descend from this dream
of greatness. Stay, stay, a little while, importunate hour hand. A
moment or two, and I shall walk on foot with the undistinguished many.
The clock speaks one. I return to common life. Ketch, let me out.

* A statue of Charles II. by the elder Gibber, adorns the front of the Exchange.
He stands also on high, in the train of his crowned ancestors, in his proper order,
within that building. But the merchants of London, in a superfoetation of loyalty,
have, within a few years, caused to be erected another effigy of him on the ground in
the centre of the interior. We do not hear that a fourth is in contemplation. — Editor,


I AM tlie miserablest man living. Give me counsel, dear Editor. I
was bred up in the strictest principles of honesty, and have past my Kfe
in punctual adherence to them. Integrity might be said to be ingrained
in our family. Yet I live in constant fear of one day coming to the

Till the latter end of last autumn I never experienced these feelings
of self-mistrust which ever since have embittered my existence. From
the apprehension of that unfortunate man whose story began to make so
great an impression upon the public about that time, I date my horrors.
I never can get it out of my head that I shall some time or other commit
a forgery, or do some equally vile thing. To make matters worse I am
in a banking-house. I sit surrounded with a cluster of bank-notes. These
were formerly no more to me than meat to a butcher's dog. They are
now as toads and aspics I feel all day like one situated amidst gins
and pit-falls. Sovereigns, whiolr I Qnct took such pleai^ure in counting

594i THE LAST PEACH. j^Aprilj

out, and scraping up with my little thin tin shovel (at which I was the
most expert in the banking-house), now scald my hands. When I go
to sign my name I set down that of another person, or write my own in
a counterfeit character. I am beset with temptations without motive.
I want no more wealth than I possess. A more contented being than
myself, as to money matters, exists not. What should I fear }

When a child I was once let loose, by favour of a Nobleman's gar-
dener, into his Lordship's magnificent fruit garden, with free leave to
pull the currants and the gooseberries ; only I was interdicted from
touching the wall fruit. Indeed, at that season (it was the end of
Autumn) there was little left. Only on the South wall (can I forget
the hot feel of the brick- work } ) lingered the one last peach. Now
peaches are a fruit which I always had, and still have, an almost utter
aversion to. There is something to my palate singularly harsh and
repulsive in the flavour of them. I know not by what demon of con-
tradiction inspired, but I was haunted with an irresistible desire to pluck
it. Tear myself as often as I would from the spot, I found myself still
recurring to it, till, maddening with desire (desire I cannot call it), with
wilfulness rather — without appetite — against appetite, I may call it —
in evil hour I reached out my hand, and plucked it. Some few rain
drops just then fell ; the sky (from a bright day) became overcast ; and
I was a type of our first parents, after the eating of that fatal fruit. I
felt myself naked and ashamed ; stripped of my virtue, spiritless. The
downy fruit, whose sight rather than savour had tempted me, dropt
from my hand, never to be tasted. All the commentators in the world
cannot persuade me but that the Hebrew word in the second chapter of
Genesis, translated apple, should be rendered peach. Only this way can
I reconcile that mysterious story.

Just such a child at thirty am I among the cash and valuables, longing
to pluck, without an idea of enjoyment further. I cannot reason myself
out of these fears : I dare not laugh at them. I was tenderly and
lovingly brought up. What then ? Who that in life's entrance had seen

the babe F , from the lap stretching out his little fond mouth to

catch the maternal kiss, could have predicted, or as much as imagined,
that life's very different exit ? The sight of my own fingers torments

me ; they seem so admirably constructed for pilfering. Then that

jugular vein, which I have in common ; in an emphatic sense

may I say with David, I am " fearfully made." All my mirth is
poisoned by these unhappy suggestions. If, to dissipate reflection, I
hum a tune, it changes to the " Lamentations of a Sipner." My very
dreams are tainted. I awake with a shocking feeling of my hand in
some pocket.

Advise with me, dear Editor, on this painful heart-malady. Tell
me, do you feel any thing allied to it in yourself ? do you never feel an
itching, as it weve^-'d daclJ/loniania — or am I alone? You have my
honest confession. My next may appear from Bow-street.


1825.]] BARBARAS . 511


On the noon of the 14th of November, 1743 or 4, I forget which it
was, just as the clock had struck one, Barbara S , with her ac-
customed punctuality, ascended the long rambling staircase, with awkward
interposed landing-places, which led to the office, or rather a sort of box
with a desk in it, whereat sat the then Treasurer of (what few of our
readers may remember) the Old Bath Theatre. All over the island it
was the custom, and remains so I believe to this day, for the players to
receive their weekly stipend on the Saturday. It was not much that
Barbara had to claim.

This little maid had but just entered her eleventh year ; but her im-
portant station at the theatre, as it seemed to her, with the benefits which
she felt to accrue from her pious application of her small earnings, had
giv^n an air of womanhood to her steps and to her behaviour. You
would have taken her to have been at least five years older.

Till latterly she had merely been employed in choruses, or where
children were wanted to fill up the scene. But the manager, observing
a diligence and adroitness in her above her age, had for some few months
past entrusted to her the performance of whole parts. You may guess
the self consequence of the promoted Barbara. She had already drawn
tears in young Arthur ; had rallied Richard with infantine petulance in
the Duke of York ; and in her turn had rebuked that petulance when
she was Prince of Wales. She would have done the elder child in
Morton's pathetic after-piece to the life, but as yet the " Children in the
Wood" was not.

Long after this little girl was grown an aged woman, I have seen
some of these small parts, each making two or three pages at most, copied
out in the rudest hand of the then prompter, who doubtless transcribed

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 29 of 33)