Charles Lamb.

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

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grace for their progenitors ?— or doth
it derogate from the great Walter of
our name, who received the sword
of knighthood in Cressy field, that

one of his descendants once sate * *

ift * * * * * * * * p

Can an honour, fairly achieved in
quinto Edwardi Tertii, be reversed
by a slip in quinquagesinio Georgii
Tertii ? — how stands the law ? —
what dictum doth the college deliver ?
— O Clarencieux ! O Norroy !

Can a reputation, gained by hard
watchings on the cold ground, in a
suit of mail, be impeached by hard
watchings on the cold ground in
other circumstances — was the en-
durance equal ? — why is the guerdon
so disproportionate .'*

A priest mediated the ransom of

• £Ua t — Chaptef on Ears.


A Quakers Meeting.


the too valorous Reginald, of our
houw, captived in Lord Talbot's
battles. It was a clergyman, who
by his intercession abridged the pe-
riod of my durance.

Have you touched at my wrongs
yet, Mr. Editor ?— or must I be ex-
plicit as to my grievance ?

Hush, my heedless tongue.

Something bids me— " Delamore,
be ingenuous."

Once then, and only once

Star of my nativity, hide beneath
a cloud, while I reveal it !

Ancestors of Delamore, lie low
in your wormy beds, that no posthu-
mous hearing catch a sound !

Let no eye look over thee, while
thou shalt peruse it, reader I

Once - ■ ' ^

these legs, with Kent in the play,
though for far less ennobling consi-
derations, did wear *' cruel garters."

Yet I protest it was but for a
thing of nought — a fault of yovith,
and warmer blood — a calendary in-
advertence I may call it — or rather a
temporary obliviousness of the day
of the week — timhig my Saturnalia
amiss. —

Streets of Bamet, infamous for
civil broils, ye saw my shame .'—did
not your Red Rose rise again to dye
my burning cheek ?

It was but for a pair of minutes,
or so— yet I feel, I feel, that the
gentry of the Delamores is extiii-«
guished for ever. —

Try to forget it, reader.—


Henry Francis Vere Harrington Delamork,


Still-born Silence ! thou that art

Flood-gate of the deeper heart !

Offspring of a heavenly kind X

Frost o' the mouth, and thaw of the mind !

Secrecy's confident, and he

Who makes religion mystery !

Admiration's speaking'st tongue !

Leave, thy desert shades among,

Reverend hermits' hallowed cells.

Where retired devotion dwells {

With thy enthusiasms come,

Seize our tongues, and strike us dumb ! ♦

Reader, would'st thou know what
true peace and quiet mean ; would'st
thou find a refuge from the noises
and clamours of the multitude;
would'st thou enjoy at once solitude
and society ; would'st thou possess
the depth of thy own spirit in still-
ness, without being shut out from
the consolatory faces of thy species ;
would'st thou be alone, and yet ac-
companied; solitary, yet not deso-
late ; singular, yet not without some
to keep thee in countenance ; a unit
in aggregate ; a simple in compo-
site : — come with me into a Quaker's

Dost thou love silence deep as
that " before the winds were made ? "
go not out into the wilderness, de-

scend not into the profundities of the
earth ; shut not up thy casements ;
nor pour wax into the little cells of
thy ears, with little- faith'd self-mis-
trusting Ulysses- — Retire with me
into a Quaker's Meeting,

For a man to refrain even from
good words, and to hold his peace, it
is commendable ; but for a multitude,
it is great mastery.

What is the stillness of the desert,
compared with this place } what the
uncommunicating muteness of fishes }
— here the goddess reigns and revels.
— " Boreas, and Cesias, and Arges-
tes loud," do not with their inter-
confounding uproars more augment
the brawl — nor the waves of th^
blown Baltic with their clubbed

• From " Poems of all sorts " by Richard Fleckno, 1653.


sounds — than their opposite (Silence
her sacred self) is multiplied and
rendered more hitense by numbers,
and by sympathy. She too hath her
deeps, that call unto deeps. Nega-
tion itself hath a positive more and
less; and closed eyes would seem to
obscure the great obscurity of mid

There are wounds, which an im-
perfect solitude cannot heal. By
imperfect I mean that which a man
enjoy eth by himself. The perfect is
that which he can sometimes attain
in crowds, but no where so abso-
lutely as in a Quaker's Meeting. —
Those first hermits did certainly un-
derstand this principle, when they re-
tired into Egyptian solitudes, not
singly, but in shoals, to enjoy one
another's want of conversation. The
Carthusian is bound to his brethren
by this agreeing spirit of incommu-
nicativeness. In secular occasions,
what so pleasant as to be reading a
book through a long winter evening,
with a friend sitting by— say, a wife
— he, or she, too, (if that be proba-
ble), readhig another, without inter-
ruption, or oral communication? —
can there be no sympathy without
the gabble of words ? — away with
this inhuman, shy, single, shade-and-
cavem -haunting solitariness. Give
me. Master Zimmerman, a sympa-
thetic solitude.

To pace alone in the cloisters, or
side aisles of some Cathedral, time-
ptricken ;

Or under hanging mountains,
Or by the fall of fountains ;

is but a vulgar luxury, compared
with that which those enjoy, who
come together for the purposes of
more complete, abstracted solitude.
This is the loneliness " to be felt." —
The Abbey Church of Westminster
hath nothing so solemn, so spirit-
goothing, as the naked walls and
benches of a Quaker's Meeting,
Here are no tombs, no inscriptions,

.- sands, ignoble things,

A Quaker's Meeting. 385

but arrived by a violent, and, as we
may say, unnatural progression.

Dropt from the ruined sides of kings —

but here is something, which throws
Antiquity herself into the fore-
ground — Silence — eldest of things
— ^language of old Night — primitive
Discourser — to which the insolent
decays of mouldering grandeur have

How reverend is the view of these hushed

Looking tranquillity !

Nothing-plotting, nought-caball-
^"* ing, unmiscliievous synod ! convoca-
tion without intrigue ! parliament
without debate ! what a lesson dost
thou read to council, and to consis-
tory ! — if my pen treat of you light-
ly — as haply it will wander — yet my
spirit hath gravely felt the wisdom of
your custom, when sitting among
you in deepest peace, which some
out-welling tears would rather con-
firm than disturb, I have reverted to
the times of your beginnings, and the
sowings of the seed by Fox and
Dewesbury. — I have witnessed that,
which brought before my eyes your
heroic tranquillity, inflexible to the
rude jests^ and serious violences of
the insolent soldiery, republican or
royalist, sent to molest you — for ye
sate betwixt the fires of two perse-
cutions, the out-cast and ofF-scowring
of church and presbytery — I have
seen the reeling sea-ruffian, who had
wandered into your receptacle, with
the avowed intention of disturbing
your quiet, from the very spirit of
the place receive in a moment a new
heart, and presently sit among ye as
a lamb amidst lambs. And I re-
membered Penn before his accusers,
and Fox in the ])ail-dock, where he
was lifted up in spirit, as he tells us,
and " the Judge and the Jury be-
came as dead men under his feet."

Reader, if you are not acquainted
with it, I would recommend to you,
above all church-narratives, to read
Sewel's History of the Quakers. It
is in folio, and is the abstract of the
journals of Fox, and the primitive
Friends. It is far more edifying and
affecting than any thing you will
read of Wesley and his colleagues.
Here is nothing to stagger you, no-
thing to make you mistrust, no sus-
picion of alloy, no drop or dreg of
the worldly or ambitious spirit. You
will here read the true story of that
much-injured, ridicided man (who
perhaps hath been a by- word in your
mouth,) — James Naylor : whatdread-
ful sufferings, with what patience, he
endured even to the boring through
of his tongue with red-hot iron?

A Quakers Meeting,


without a murmur; and with what
strength of mind, when the delusion
he had fallen into, which they stig-
matized for blasphemy, had given
way to clearer thoughts, he could re-
nounce his error, in a strain of the
beautifullest humility, yet keep his
first grounds, and be a Quaker still !
— so different from the practice of
your common converts from enthu-
siasm, who when they apostatize,
apostatize all, and think they can
never get far enough from the society
of their former errors, even to the
renunciation of some saving truths,
with which they had been mingled^
not implicated.

Get the Writings of John Wool-
man by heart; and love the early

How far the followers of these
good men in our days have kept to
the primitive spirit, or in what pro-
portion they have substituted forma-
lity for it, the Judge of Spirits can
alone determine. I have seen faces
in their assemblies, upon which the
dove sate visibly brooding. Others
again I have watched, when my
thoughts should have been better en-
gaged, in which I could possibly de-
tect nothing but a blank inanity. But
quiet was in all, and the disposition
to unanimity, and the absence of the
fierce controversial workings. — If the
spiritual pretensions of the Quakers
have abated, at least they make few
pretences. Hypocrites they certainly
are not, in their preaching. It is sel-
dom indeed that you shall see one
get up amongst them to hold forth.
Only now and then a trembling,
female, generally ancient, voice is
heard — you cannot guess from what
part of the meeting it proceeds —
with a low, buzzing, musical sound,
laying out a few words which '^ she
thought might suit the condition of
some present," with a quaking diffi-
dence, which leaves no possibility of
supposing that any thing of female
vanity was mixed up, where the
tones were so full of tenderness, and
a restraining modesty. — The men,
for what I have observed, speak sel-

Once only, and it was some years
ago, I witnessed a sample of the old


Foxian orgasm. It was a man of
giant stature, who, as Wordsworth
phrases it, might have danced " from
head to foot equipt in iron mail."
His frame was of iron too. But he
was malleable. I saw him shake all
over with the spirit — I dare not say,
of delusion — the strivings of the
outer man were unutterable — -he
seemed not to speak, but to be
spoken from — I saw the strong man
bowed down, and his knees to fail —
his joints all seemed loosening — it
was a figure to set off against Paul
Preaching — the words he uttered
were few, and sound — he was evi-
dently resisting his will — keeping
down his own word-wisdom with
more mighty effort, than the world's
orators strain for theirs. '^ He was
a Wit in his youth," he told us,
with expressions of a sober remorse.
And it was not till long after the
impression had begun to wear away,
that I was enabled, with something
like a smile, to recall the striking in-
congruity of the confession — under-
standing the term in its worldly ac-
ceptation — with the frame and phy-
siognomy of the person before me.
His brow would have scared away
the Levities — the Joci Risus-que —
faster than the Loves fled the face of
Dis at Enna. — By wit, even in his
youth, I will be sworn he understood
something far within the limits of an
allowable liberty.

More frequently the Meeting is
broken up without a word having
been spoken. But the mind has
been fed. You go away with a ser-
mon, not made with hands. You
have been in the milder caverns of
Trophonius; or as in some den,
where that fiercest and savagest of
all wild creatures, the Tongue, that
unruly member, has strangely lain
tied up and captive. You have bathed
with stillness. — O when the spirit is
sore fretted, even tired to sickness of
the janglings, and nonsense-noises of
the world, what a balm and a solace
it is, to go and seat yourself, for a
quiet half hour, upon some undis-
puted corner of a bench, among the
gentle Quakers !

Their garb and stillness conjoined,
present a uniformity, tranquil, and

♦ Is._thi8 confined to Quaker Meetings ?— Et).

herd-like— as in the pasture—" forty-
feeding like one." —

The very garments of a Quaker
seem incapable of receiving a soil ;
and cleanliness in them to be some-
thing more than the absence of its
contrary. Every Quakeress is a lily ;



and when they come up in bands to
their Whitsun-oonferences, whiten-
ing the easterly streets of the me-
tropolis, from all parts of the United
Kingdom, they show like troops of
the Shhiing Ones. —



My reading has been lamentably
desultory and immethodical. Odd^
out of the way, old English plays,
and treatises, have supplied me with
most of my notions, and ways of
feeling. In every thing that relates
to science, I am a whole Encyclopaedia
behind the rest of the world. I
should have scarcely cut a figure
among the franklins, or country gen-
tlemen, in king John'g days. I know
less geography than a school-boy of
six weeks' standing. To me a map
of old Ortelius is as authentic as
Arrowsmith. I do not know where-
about Africa merges into Asia;
whether Ethiopia lie in one or other
of those great divisions; nor can
form the remotest conjecture of the
position of New South Wales, or Van

Pieman's Land. Yet do I hold a
correspondence with a very dear
friend in the first-named of these
two Terras Incognitae. I have no
astronomy. I do not know where to
look for the Bear, or Charles's Wain;
the place of any star ; or the name
of any of them at sight. I guess at
Venus only by her brightness — and
if- the sun on some portentous morn
were to make his first appearance
in the West, I verily believe, thatj-
while all the world were gasping in
apprehension about me, I alone should
stand unterrified, from sheer incu-
riosity and want of observation. Of
history and chronology I possess
some vague points, such as one can-
not help picking up in the course of
miscellaneous study ; but I never de-

liberately sat down to a chronicle,
even of my own country. I have
most dhn apprehensions of the four
great monarchies; and sometimes
the Assyrian, sometimes the Persian,
floats as Jirst in my fancy. I make
the widest conjectures concerning
Egypt, and her shepherd kings. My
friend 3f., with great pains-taking,
got me to think I understood the first
proposition in Euclid, but gave me
over in despair at the second. I am
entirely unacquainted with the mo-
dern languages; and, like a better
man than myself, have " small Latin
and less Greek." I am a stranger to
the shapes and textui-e of the com-
monest trees, herbs, flowers — not from
the circumstance of my being town-
born — for I should have brought the
same inobservant spirit into the
world with me, had 1 first seen it
in " on Devon's leafy shores," — and
am no less at a loss among purely
town-objects, tools, engines, mecha-
nic processes. — Not that 1 aflect ig-
norance-^but my head has not many
mansions, nor spacious ; and I have
been obliged to fill it with such ca-
binet curiosities, as it can hold with-
out aching. I sometimes wonder,
how I have passed my probation
with so little discredit in the world,
as I have done, upon so meagre a
stock. But the fact is, a man may
do very well with a very little know-
ledge, and scarce be found out, in
mixed company; every body is so
much more ready to produce his own,
than to call for a display of your ac-
quisitions. But in a tSte-d-iete there
is no shuffling. The truth will out.
There is nothing which I dread so
much, as the being left alone for a
quarter of an hour with a sensible,
well-informed man, that does not
know me. I lately got into a dilemma
of this sort. —

In one of my daily jaunts between
Bishopsgate and Shacklewell, the
coach stopped to take up a staid-
looking gentleman, about the wrong
side of thirty, who was giving his
parting directions (while the steps
were adjusting), in a tone of mild
authority, to a tall youth, who seem-
ed to be neither his clerk, his son,
nor his servant, but something par-
taking of all three. The youth was
dismissed, and we drove on. As we

The Old and the New Schoolmaster.

were the sole passengers, he naturally
enough addressed his conversation
to me ; and we disciissed the merits
of the fare, the civility and punc-
tuality of the driver; the circum-
stance of an opposition coach having
been lately set up, with the proba-
bilities of its success — to all which I
was enabled to return pretty satis-
factory answers, having been drilled
hito this kind of etiquette by some
years' daily practice of riding to and
fro in the stage aforesaid — when he
suddenly alarmed me by a startling
question, whether I had seen the show
of prize cattle that morning in Smith-
field : Now as I had not seen it, and
do not greatly care for such sort of
exhibitions, I was obliged to return a
cold negative. He seemed a little
mortified, as well as astonished, at
my declaration, as (it appeared) he
was just come fresh from the sight,
and doubtless had hoped to compare
notes on the subject. However he
assured me that I had lost a fine
treat, as it far exceeded the show of
last year. We were now approach-
ing Norton Falgate, when the sight
of some shop-goods ticketed freshen-
ed him up into a dissertation upon
the cheapness of cottons this spring.
1 was now a little in heart, as the
nature of my morning avocatioijs
had brought me into some sort of
familiarity with the raw material ;
and 1 was surprised to find how elo-
quent I was becoming on the state of
the India market — when, presently,
he dashed my incipient vanity to the
earth at once, by inquiring whether
I had ever made any calculation as
to the value of the rental of all the
retail shops in London. Had he
asked of me, what song the Sirens
sang, or what name Achilles as-
sumed when he hid himself among
women, I might, with Sir Thomas
Browne, have hazarded a " wide
solution."* My companion saw my
embarrassment, and, the almshouses
beyond Shoreditch just coming in
view, with great good-nature and
dexterity shifted his conversation to
the subject of public charities ; which
led to the comparative merits of pro-
vision for the poor in past and pre-
sent times, with observations on the
old monastic institutions, and cha-
ritable orders ; — but, finding me ra-«



Vol. in.

Urn Burial.


The Old and the Ntw Schoolmaster.


fher flimly impressed with some
glimmering notions from old poetic
associations, than strongly fortified
with any speculations reducible to
•calculation on the subject, he gave
the matter up ; and, the country
beginning to open more and more
upon us, as we approached the turn-
pike at Kingsland (the destined ter-
mination of his journey), he put a
home thurst upon me, in the most
unfortunate position he could have
chosen, by advancing some queries
relative to the North Pole expedition.
While I was muttering out something
• about the panorama of those strange
regions (which I had actually seen),
by way of parrying the question,
the coach stopping relieved me from
any further apprehensions. My com-
panion getting out, left me in the
comfortable possession of my igno-
rance ; and 1 heard him, as he went
olf, putting questions to an outside
passenger, who had alighted with
him, regarding an epidemic disorder,
that had been rife about Dalston ;
and which, my friend assured him,
-had gone through five or six schools
in that neighbourhood. The truth
now flashed upon me, that my com-
panion was a schoolmaster; and that
'the youth, whom he had parted from
at our first acquaintance, must have
been one of the bigger boys, or the

He was evidently a kind-hearted
man, who did not seem so much
desirous of provoking discussion by
the questions which he put, as of
obtaining information at any rate.
It did not appear that he took any
interest, either, in such kind of in-
quiries, for their own sake ; but that
he was in some way bound to seek
for knowledge. A greenish coloured
coat, which he had on, forbade me
to surmise that he was a clergyman.
The adventure gave birth to some
reflections on the difference between
persons of his profession in past and
present times.

Rest to the souls of those fine old
Pedagogues; the breed, long since
^extinct, of the Lilys, and the Lin-
acres : who believing that all learning
was contained in the languages which
they . taught, and despising every
other acquirement as superficial and
■useless, came to their task as to a
sport. Passing from infancy to age,
they dreamed away all their days

as in a grammar school. Revolving
in a perpetual cycle of declensions,
conjugations, syntaxes, and prosodies ;
renewing constantly the occupations
which had charmed their studious
childhood; rehearsing continually the
part of the past ; life must have
slipped from them at last like one
day. They were always iu their first
garden, reaping harvests of their
golden time, among their Flori and
their Spici-legia; in Arcadia still, but
kings ; the ferule of their sway not
much harsher, but of like dignity
with that mild sceptre attributed to
king Basileus ; the Greek and Latin,
their stately Pamela and their Phi-
loclea ; with the occasional duncery
of some imtoward Tyro, serving for
a refreshing interlude of a Mopsa, or
a clown Damsetas !

^Fith what a savour doth tlie Pre-
face to Colet's, or (as it is sometimes
called) Paul's Accidence, set forth !
*' To exhort every man to the learn-
ing of grammar, that intendeth to
attain the understanding of the
tongues, wherein is contained a great
treasury of wisdom and knowledge,
it would seem but vain and lost la-
bour ; for so much as it is known,
that nothing can surely be ended,
whose beginning is either feeble or
faulty ; and no building be perfect,
whereas the foundation and ground-
work is ready to fall, and imable
to uphold the jjurden of the frame."
How well doth this stately preamble
(comparable to those which Milton
comraendeth as " having been the
usage to prefix to some solemn law,
then first promulgated by Solon, or
Lycurgus") correspond with and
illustrate that pious zeal for con-
formity, expressed in a succeeding
clause, which would fence about
grammar-rules with the severity of
laith-articles l—^' as for the diversity
of grammars, it is well profitably
taken away by the king majesties
wisdom, who foreseeing the incon-
venience, and favourably providing
the remedie, caused one kind of
grammar by sundry learned men to
be diligently drawn, and so to be set
out, only everywhere to be taught
for the use of learners, and for the
hurt in changing of schoolmaisters."
What a gusto in that which follows:
" wherein it is profitable that he
[[the pupil^ can orderly decline his
noun, ami his verb." His aouu !


Th^ Old and the Neiv Schoolmaster.


The fine dream is fading away
fast; and the least concern of a
teacher in the present day is to incul-
cate grammar rules.

The modern schoolmaster is ex-
pected to know a little of every
thing, because his pupil is required
not to be entirely ignorant of any
thing. He must be superficially, if
I may so say, omniscient. Ke is to
know something of pneumatics ; of
chemistry ; of whatever is curious,
or proper to excite the attention of
the youthful mind; an insight into
mechanics is desirable, with a touch
of statistics ; the quality of soils, &c.
botany, the constitution of his coun-
try, cum ?nuitis aliis. You may get a
notion of some part of his expected
duties by consulting the famous
Tractate on Education addressed to
Mr. Hartlib.

All these things — these, or the
desire of them — he is expected to
instil, not by set lessons from pro-
fessors, which he may charge in the
bill, but at school-intervals, as he
walks the streets, or saunters through
green fields ( those natural instructors),
with his pupils. The least part of
what is expected from him, is to be
done in school-hours. He must in-
sinuate knowledge at the lyioUia tern-
pora fandi. He must seize every
occasion — the season of the year — •
the time of the day — a passing cloud
—•a rainbow — a waggon of hay — a

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 6 of 33)