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Observe who have been the great-
est borrowers of all ages — Alcibiades
— FalstafF — Sir Richard Steele — our
late incomparable Brinsley — what a
family likeness in all four .'

What a careless even deportment
hath your borrower ! what rosy gills !
what a beautiful reliance on Provi-
dence doth he manifest, — taking no
more thought than lilies ! What con-
tempt for money, — accounting it
(yours and mine especially) no bet-
ter than dross ! What a liberal con-
founding of those pedantic distinc-
tions of vieum and tuum ! or rather,
what a noble simplification of lan-
guage (beyond Tooke), resolving
these supposed opposites into one
clear intelligible pronoun adjective ! —
What near approaches doth he make
to the primitive community, — to the
extent of one half of the principle at
least ! —

He is the true taxer who " calleth
all the world up to be taxed ;" and
the distance is as vast between him
and one of us, as subsisted betwixt
the Augustan Majesty, and the poor-
est obolary Jew that paid it tribute-
pittance at Jerusalem ! — His exac-
tions too have such a cheerful, volun-
tary air ! So far removed from your
sour parochial or st^te-gatherers, —
those ink-horn varlets, who carry



their want of welcome in their faces !
He cometh to you with a smile, and
troubleth you with no receipt ; con-
fining himself to no set season. Eve-
ry day is his Candlemas, or his Feast
of Holy Michael. He applieth the
lene tormentum of a pleasant look to
your purse,— rwhich to that gentle
warmth expands her silken leaves, as
naturally as the cloak of the traveller,
for which sun and wind contended !
He is the true Propontic which n^ver
ebbeth ! The sea which taketh hand-
somely at each man's hand. In vain
the victim, whom he delighteth to
honour, struggles with destiny ; he is
in the net. Lend therefore cheerful-
ly, O man ordained to lend — that thou
lose not in the end, with thy worldly
penny, the reversion promised. Com-
bine not preposterously in thine own
person the penalties of Lazarus and
of Dives ! — but, when thou seest the
proper authority coming, meet it smi-
lingly, as it were half-way. Come, a
handsome sacrifice ! See how light he
makes of it! Strain not courtesies
with a noble enemy.

Reflections like the foregoing were
forced upon my mind by the death of
my old friend Ralph Bigod, Esq.,
who departed this life on Wednesday
evening; dying, as he had lived,
without much trouble. He boasted
himself a descendant from mighty an-
cestors of that name, who heretofore
held ducal dignities in this realm. In
his actions and sentiments he belied
not the stock to which he pretended.
Early in life he found himself invest-
ed with ample revenues ; which, with
that noble disinterestedness which I
have noticed aS inherent in men of
the great race, he took almost imme-
diate measures entirely to dissipate
and bring to nothing; for there is
something revolting in the idea of a
king holding a private purse ; and the
thoughts of Bigod were all regal.
Thus furnished, by the very act of
disfurnishment ; getting rid of the
cumbersome luggage of riches,, more
apt (as one sings)

TO SLACKEN VIRTUE, AND ABATE HER

EDGE,
THAN PROMPT HER TO DO AUGHT

MAY MERIT PRAISE,



62^



The Two Races of Men,



CDec.



he set forth, like some Alexander,
upon his great enterprise, " borrow-
ing, and to borrow !"

In his periegesis, or triumphant
progress throughout this island, it has
been calculated that he laid a tythe
part of the inhabitants under contri-
bution. I reject this estimate as
greatly exaggerated : — but having
had the honour of accompanying my
friend, divers times, in his perambu-
lations about this vast city, I own I
was greatly struck at first with the
prodigious number of faces we met,
who claimed a sort of respectful ac-
quaintance with us. He was one day
so obliging as to explain the pheno-
menon. It seems, these were his tri-
butaries ; feeders of his exchequer ;
gentlemen, his good friends (as he
was pleased to express himself), to
whom he had occasionally been be-
holden for a loan. Their multitudes
did no way disconcert him. He ra-
ther took a pride in numbering them;
and, with Comus, seemed pleased to
be '^ stocked with so fair a herd."

With such sources, it was a won-
der how he contrived to keep his trea-
sury always empty. He did it by force
of an aphorism, which he had often in
his mouth, that ^' money kept longer
than three days stinks." So he made
use of it while it was fresh. A good
part he drank away (for he was an
excellent toss-pot), some he gave
away, the rest he threw away, li-
terally tossing and hurling it vio-
lently from him, — as boys do burrs,
or as if it had been infectious, — into
ponds, or ditches, or deep holes, — in-
scrutable cavities of the earth; — or
he would bury it, (where he would
never seek it again) by a river's side
under some bank, which (he would
facetiously observe) paid no interest
— but out away from him it must go
peremptorily, as Hagar's offspring in-
to the wilderness, while it was sweet.
He never missed it. The streams were
perennial which fed his fisc. When
new supplies became necessary, the
first person that had the felicity to
fall in with him, friend or stranger,
was sure to contribute to the defi-
ciency. For Bigod had an undeniable
way with him. He had a cheerful,
open exterior, a quick jovial eye, a
bald forehead, just touched with grey
{cana fides). He anticipated no ex-
cuse, and found none. And, waiving



for a while my theory as to the great
race, I would put it to the most un-
theorising reader, who may at times
have disposeable coin in his pocket,
whether it is not more repugnant
to the kindliness of his nature, to
refuse such a one as I am describing,
than to say no to a poor petitionary
rogue (your bastard borrower), who
by his mumping visnomy tells you,
that he expects nothing better ; and,
therefore, whose preconceived notions
and expectations you do in reality so
much less shock in the refusal.

When I think of this man ; his fiery
glow of heart ; his swell of feeling ;
how magnificent, how ideal he was ;
how great at the midnight hour; and
when I compare \<?ith him the compa-
nions, with whom I have associated
since ; I grudge the saving of a few
idle ducats, and think that I am fallen
into the society of lenders^ and little
men.

To one like Elia, whose treasures
are rather cased in leather covers,
than closed in iron coffers, there is a
class of alienators more formidable
than that which I have touched upon;
I mean, your borrowers of books —
those mutilators of collections, spoil-
ers of the symmetry of shelves, and
creators of odd volumes. There is
Comberbatch, matchless in his de-
predations !

That foul gap in the bottom shelf
facing you, like a great eye-tooth
knocked out — (you are now with me
in my little back study in Blooms-
bury, reader!) v/ith the huge

Switzer-like tomes on each side (like
the Guildhall giants, in their reform-
ed posture, guarding of nothing (once
held the tallest of my folios) Opera
Bonaventura, choice and massy divi-
nity), to which its two supporters
(school divinity also, but of a lesser
calibre, — ^Bellarmine, and Holy Tho-
mas), showed but as dwarfs, — itself
an Ascapart! — that Comberbatch ab-
stracted upon the faith of a theory he
holds, which is more easy, I confess,
for me to suffer by than to refute,
namely, that " the title to property
in a book, (my Bonaventure, for in-
stance), is in exact ratio to a per-
son's powers of understanding and
appreciating the same." Should he
go on acting upon this theory, which
of our shelves is safe }

That slight vacuum in the left hand



1820.;]



The Two Races of Men.



625



case — two shelves from the ceiling —
scarcely distinguishable but by the

quick eye of a loser was whilom

the commodious resting place of
Browne on Urn Burial. C. will hard-
ly allege that he knows more about
that treatise than I do, who intro-
duced it to him, and was indeed the
first (of the moderns) to discover its
beauties — but so have I known a
foolish lover to praise his mistress in
the presence of a rival more qualified
to carry her off" than himself. — Just
below, Dodsley^s dramas want their
fourth volume, where Vittoria Co-
rombona is ! The remainder nine are
as distasteful as Priam's refuse sons,
when the Fates borrowed Hector.
Here stood the Anatomy of Melan-
choly, in sober state. — There loitered
the Complete Angler ; quietly as in
life, by some stream side. — In yonder
nook, John Buncle, a widower-vo-
lume, with " eyes closed," mourns
his ravished mate.

One justice I must do my friend,
that if he sometimes, like the sea,
sweeps away a treasure ; at another
time, sea-like, he throws up as rich
an equivalent to match it. I have a
small under-collection of this nature
(my friend's gatherings in his various
calls), picked up, he has forgotten at
what odd places; and deposited, with
as little memory at mine. I take in
these orphans, the twice-deserted.
These proselytes of the gate are wel-
come as the true Hebrews. There
they stand in conjunction; natives,
and naturalized. The latter seem as
little disposed to hiquire out their
true lineage, as I am. — I charge no
warehouse-room for these deodands,
nor shall ever put myself to the un-
gentlemanly trouble of advertising a
sale of them to pay expenses.

To lose a volume to C. carries some
sense and meaning in it. You are
sure that he will make one hearty
meal on your viands, if he can give
no account of the platter after it. But
what moved thee, wayward, spiteful
* * to be so importunate to carry off'
with thee, in spite of tears and adju-
rations to thee to forbear, the letters



of that princely woman, the thrice
noble Margaret Newcastle ? — know-
ing at the time, and knowing that I
knew also, thou most assuredly
would'st never turn over one leaf of
the illustrious folio: — what but the
mere spirit of contradiction, and child-
ish love of getting the better of thy
friend ? — Then, worst cut of all ! to
transport it with thee to the Galilean
land —

Unwordiy land to harbour such a sweetness,
A virtue in which all ennobling thoughts

dwelt,
Pure thoughts, kind thoughts,high tho ughts,

her sex's wonder !

hadst thou not thy play-books,

and books of jests and fancies, about
thee, to keep thee merry, even as thou
keepest all companies with thy quips,
and mirthful tales? — Child of the
Green Room, it was unkindly done of
thee. Thy wife too, that part- French,
better-part-Englishwoman .' - that sfte
could fix upon no other treatise to
bear away, in kindly token of remem-
bering us, than the works of Fulke
Greville, Lord Brook — of which no
Frenchman, nor woman of France,
Italy, or England, was ever by na-
ture constituted to comprehend a tit-
tle ! — Was there not Zimmerman on
Solitude ?

Reader, if haply thou art blessed
with a moderate collection, be shy of
showing it ; or if thy heart overflow-
eth to lend them, lend thy books ;
but let it be to such a one as S. T. C.
— he will return them (generally an-
ticipating the time appointed) with
usury; enriched with annotations,
tripling their value. I have had ex-
perience. Many are these precious
MSS. of his — (in matter oftentimes,
and almost in quantity, not unfre-
quently, vying with the originals)~in
no very clerkly hand — legible in my
Daniel; in old Burton ; in Sir Thomas
Browne ; and those abstruser cogita-*
tions of the Greville, now, alas ! wan-
dering in Pagan lands. 1 counsel

thee, shut not thy heart, nor thy
library, from S. T. C.

Elia.



THE



iontion iflaga^me.



N° XIII.



JANUARY, 1821



Vol. III.



NEW YEAR'S EVE.



Every man hath two birth-days :
two days, at least, in every year,
which set him upon revolving the
lapse of time, as it affects his mortal
duration. The one is that which
in an especial manner he termeth his.
In the gradual desuetude of old ob-
servances, this custom of solemnizing
our proper birth-day hath nearly
passed away ; or is left to children,
who reflect nothing at all about the
matter, nor understand any thing in
it beyond cake and orange. But the
birth of a New Year is of an interest
too wide to be pretermitted by king
or cobbler. No one ever regarded
the First of January with indiffer-
ence. It is that from which all date
their time, and count upon what is
left. It is the nativity of our com-
mon Adam.

Of all sound of all bells~(bells, the
music most bordering upon heaven)
— ^most solemn and touching is the
peal which rings out the Old Year. I
never hear it without a gathering-up
of my mind to a concentration of all
the images that have been diffused
over the past twelvemonth ; all I
have done, or suffered ; performed,
or neglected ; in that regretted time.
I begin to know its wortli, as when a
person dies. It takes a personal co-
lour ; nor was it a poetical flight in
a contemporary, when he exclaimed

I saw the skhrts of the departing Year.

It is no more than what in sober
sadness every one of us seems to be
conscious of in that awful leave-tak-
ing. I am sure I felt it, and all felt
it with me, last night ; though some
Vol. III.



of my companions affected rather to
manifest an exhilaration at the birth
of the coming year, than any very
tender regrets for the decease of its
predecessor. But I am none of those
who —

Welcome the coming, speed the parting
guest.

I am naturally, beforehand, shy of
novelties ; new books, new faces, new
years, — from some mental twist
which makes it difficult in me to face
the prospective. I have almost
ceased to hope; and am sanguine
only in the prospects of other (for-
mer) years. I plunge into fore-
gone visions and conclusions. I en-
counter pell-mell with past disap-
pointments. [ am armour-proof
against old discouragements. I for-
give, or overcome in fancy, old ad-
versaries. I play over again for love,
as the gamesters phrase it, games,
for which I once paid so dear. I
would scarce now have any of those
untoward accidents and events of
my life reversed. I would no more
alter them than the incidents of some
well-contrived novel. Methinks, it
is better that I should have pined
away seven of my goldenest years,
when I was thrall to the fair hair,

and fairer eyes, of Alice W n^

than that so passionate a love-ad-
venture should be lost. It was bet-
ter that our family should have
missed that legacy, which old Dor-
rell cheated us of, than that I should
have at this moment two thousand
pounds in banco, and be without the
jdea of that specious old rogue.



m



i i i i 'i iii Ti i in«i ^



JVew Year's Eve.



[[Jan.



In a degree beneath manhood, it
is my infirmity to look back upon
those early days. Do I advance a
paradox, when I say, that, skipping
over the hitervention of forty years,
a man may have leave to love him-
self, without the imputation of self-
love?

If I know aught of myself, no one
whose mind is introspective — and
mine is painfully so — can have a less
respect for his present identity, than
I have for the man, Elia. I know him
to be light, and vain, and humour-
some ; a notorious * * * ; addicted to
* * * * : averse from counsel, neither
taking it, nor offering it ; — * * * be-
sides ; a stammering buffoon ; what
you will ; lay it on, and spare not ;
I subscribe to it all, and much more,
than thou canst be willing to lay at

his door but for the child

Elia — that " other me," there in the
back-groimd — I must take leave to
cherish the remembrance of that
young master — with as little refer-
ence, I protest, to this stupid change-
ling of five-and-forty, as if it had been
aTchild of some other house, and not
of my parents. I can cry over its
patient small-pox at fiv.e, and rougher
medicaments. I can lay its poor
fevered head upon the sick pillow at
Christ's, and wake with it in surprise
at the gentle posture of maternal ten-
derness hanging over it, that un-
known had watched its sleeps. I
know how it shrank from any the
least colour of falsehood. — -God help
thee, Elia, how art thou changed !
Thou art sophisticated. — I know
how honest, how courageous (for a
weakling) it was — how religious, how
imaginative, how hopeful ! From
what have I not fallen, if the child
I remember was indeed myself, — and
not some dissembling guardian, pre-
senting a false identity, to give the
rule to my unpractised steps, and re-
gulate the tone of my moral being !

That I am fond of indulging, be-
yond a hope of sympathy, in such
retrospection, may be the symptom
of some sickly idiosyncrasy ; or is it
owing to another cause; simply, that
being without wife or family, I have
not learned to project myself enough
out of myself; and having no off-
spring of my own to dally with, I
turn back upon memory, and adopt
my own early idea, as my heir and
favorite } If these speculations seem



fantastical to thee, reader — (a busy
man perchance) ; if I tread out of the
way of thy sympathy, and am singu-
larly-conceited only ; I retire, impe-
netrable to ridicule, under the phan-
tom cloud of Elia.

The elders, with whom I was
brought up, were of a character not
likely to let slip the sacred observ-
ance of any old institution ; and the
ringing out of the Old Year was
kept by them with circumstances of
peculiar ceremony. — In those days
the sound of those midnight chimes,
though it seemed to raise hilarity in
all around me, never failed to bring
a train of pensive imagery into my
fancy. Yet I then scarce conceived
what it meant, or thought of it as a
reckoning that concerned me. Not
childhood alone, but the young man
till thirty, never feels practically that
he is mortal. He knows it indeed,
and, if need were, he could preach a
homily on the fragility of life ; but he
brings it not home to himself, any
more than in a hot June we can ap-
propriate to our imagination the
freezing days of December. But
now — shall I confess a truth ? — I feel
these audits but too powerfully. I
begin to count the probabilities of
my duration; and to grudge at the
expenditure of moments and shortest
periods, like miser's farthings. In
proportion as the years both lessen
and shorten, I set more count upon
their periods ; and would fain lay my
ineffectual finger upon the spoke of
the great wheel. I am not content to
pass away " like a weaver's shuttle."
Those metaphors solace me not, nor
sweeten the unpalatable draught of
mortality. I care not to be carried
with the tide, that smoothly bears
human life to eternity; and reluct
at the inevitable course of destiny. I
am in love with this green earth;
the face of town and country; the
unspeakable rural solitudes, and the
sweet security of streets. I would
set up my tabernacle here. I am
content to stand still at the age to
which I am arrived; I, and my
friends. To be no younger, no richer,
no handsomer. I do not want to be
weaned by age ; or drop, like mellow
fruit, as they say, into the grave. —
Any alteration, on this earth of mine,
in diet, or in lodging, puzzles and
discomposes me. My household-
gods plant a terrible fixed foot, and



ISSl."] New Year's Ei

are not rooted up without blood.
They do not willmgly seek Lavinian
shores. A new state of being stag-
gers me.

Sun, and sky, and breeze, and so-
litary walks, and summer holydays,
and the greenness of fields, and the
delicious juices of meats and fishes,
and society, and the chearful glass,
and candle-light, and fireside conver-
sations, and innocent vanities, and
jests, and ironif itself— Ao these things
go out with life ?

Can a ghost laugh ; or shake his
gaunt sides, when you are pleasant
with him ?

And you, my midnight darlings,
my Folios ! must I part with the in-
tense delight of having you, (huge
armfuls) in my embraces.'* Must
knowledge come to me, if it come at
all, by some awkward experiment of
intuition, and no longer by this fami-
liar process of reading ?

Shall I enjoy friendships there,
wanting the smiling indications
which point me to them here, — the
recognizable face — the " sweet as-
surance of a look " — ?

In winter this intolerable disincli-
nation to dying— to give it its niild-
est name — does more especially
haunt and beset me. In a genial
August noon, beneath a sweltering
sky, death is almost problematic. At
those times do such poor snakes as
myself enjoy an immortality. Then
we expand, and burgeon. Then are
we as strong again, as valiant again,
as wise again, and a great deal taller.
The blast that nips and shrinks me,
puts me in thoughts of death. All
things allied to the insubstantial,
wait upon that master feeling ; cold,
numbness, dreams, perplexity; moon-
light itself, with its shadowy and
spectral appearances, — that cold
ghost of the sun, or Phoebus' sickly
sister, like that innutritions one de-
nounced in the Canticles : — I am none
of her " minions" — I hold with the
Persian.

Whatsoever thwarts, or puts me
out of my way, brings death into my
mind. All partial evils, like humours,
run into that capital plague- sore. —
I have heard some profess an indif-
ference to life. Such hail the end of
their existence as a port of refuge ;
and speak of the grave as of some
soft arms, in which they may slum-
ber as on a pillow. Some have



wooed death ■ — but out upon

thee, I say, thou foul ugly phantom !
I detest, abhor, execrate, and (with
Friar John) give thee to six score
thousand devils, as in no instance to
be excused or tolerated, but shunned
as a universal viper ; to be branded,
proscribed, and spoken evil o^! In
no way can I be brought to dip:est
thee, thou thin, melancholy, Pr^ivor*
tion, or more frightful and confound-
ing Positive !

Those antidotes, prescribed against
the fear of thee, are altogether frigid
and insulting, like thyself. For what
satisfaction hath a man, that he shaU
" lie down with kings and emperors
in death," who in his life-time never
greatly coveted the society of such
bed-fellows ? — or, forsooth, that " so
shall the fairest face appear" — Why,

to comfort me, must Alice W n

be a goblin ? More than all, I con-
ceive disgust at those impertinent and
misbecoming familiarities, inscribed
upon your ordinary tomb-stones.
Every dead man must take upon
himself to be lecturing me with his
odious truism, that " such as he now
is, I must shortly be." Not so short-
ly, friend, perhaps, as thou imaginest.
In the meantime I am alive. I move
about. I am worth twenty of thee.
Know thy betters ! Thy New Years'
J>ays are past. I survive, a jolly
candidate for 1821. Another cup of
wine — and while that turn-coat bell,
that just now mournfully chanted the
obsequies of 1820 departed, with
changed notes lustily rings in a suc-
cessor, let us attune to its peal the
song made on a like occasion by
hearty chearful Mr. Cotton.—

THE NEW YEAR.

Hark, the cock crows, and yon bright star
Tells us, the day himseirs not far ;
And see where, breaking from the night.
He gilds the western hills with light.
With him old Janus doth appear,
Peeping into the future year.
With such a look as seems to say,
The prospect is not good that way.
Thus do we rise Ul sights to see.
And 'gainst ourselves to prophecy ;
When the prophetic fear of things
A more tormenting mischief brings,
More full of soul-tormenting gall.
Than direst mischiefs can befall.
But stay ! but stay ! methinks my sight.
Better inform'd by clearer light.
Discerns sereneness in that brow.
That all contracted seem*d but now.
C2



Poem, with a Lampefor mie Ladie Faire.



[[Jan.



His * revers'd face may show distaste,
And frown upon the ills are past;
But that which this way looks is clear,
And smiles upon the New-born year.
He looks too from a place so high,
The Year lies open to his eye ;
And all the moments open are
To the exact discoverer.
Yet more and more he smiles upon
The happy revolution.
Why should we then suspect or fear
The influences of a year,
So smiles upon us the first morn.
And speaks us good so soon as born ?
Plague on't ! the last was ill enough.
This cannot but make better proof;
Or, at the worst, as we brush'd thro*
The last, why so we may this too ;
And then the next in reason shou'd
Be superexcellently good :
For the worst ills (we daily see)
Have no more perpetuity.
Than the best fortunes that do fall;
Which also bring us wherewithal
Longer their being to support,
Than those do of the other sort ;



Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 4 of 33)