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nothing at all of it. What was it to you if that half-
reality, the husband, was over- reached by the pup-


petry or the thin thing (Lady Teazle's reputation)
was persuaded it was dying of a plethory? The
fortunes of Othello and Desdemona were not con-
cerned in it. Poor Jack has past from the stage in
good time, that he did not live to this our age ot
seriousness. The pleasant old Teazle King, too, is
gone in good time. His manner would scarce have
past current in our day. We must love or hate
acquit or condemn censure or pity exert our
detestable coxcombry of moral judgment upon every
thing. Joseph Surface, to go down now, must be a
downright revolting villain no compromise his
first appearance must shock and give horror his
specious plausibilities, which the pleasurable faculties
of our fathers welcomed with such hearty greetings,
knowing that no harm (dramatic harm even) could
come, or was meant to come of them, must inspire
a cold and killing aversion. Charles (the real cant-
ing person of the scene for the hypocrisy of Joseph
has its ulterior legitimate ends, but his brother's pro-
fessions of a good heart centre in downright self-
satisfaction) must be loved, and Joseph hated. To
balance one disagreeable reality with another, Sir
Peter Teazle must be no longer the comic idea of a
fretful old bachelor bridegroom, whose teasings
(while King acted it) were evidently as much
played off at you, as they were meant to concern any
body on the stage, he must be a real person, ca-


pable in law of sustaining an injury a person
towards whom duties are to be acknowledged the
genuine crim-con antagonist of the villanous seducer
Joseph. To realise him more, his sufferings under
his unfortunate match must have the downright pun-
gency of life must (or should) make you not
mirthful but uncomfortable, just as the same pre-
dicament would move you in a neighbour or old
friend. The delicious scenes which give the play
its name and zest, must affect you in the same se-
rious manner as if you heard the reputation of a
dear female friend attacked in your real presence.
Crabtree, and Sir Benjamin those poor snakes that
live but in the sunshine of your mirth must be
ripened by this hot-bed process of realization into
asps or amphisbaenas ; and Mrs. Candour O !
frightful ! become a hooded serpent. Oh who that
remembers Parsons and Dodd the wasp and butter-
fly of the School for Scandal in those two char-
acters; and charming natural Miss Pope, the per-
fect gentlewoman as distinguished from the fine lady
of comedy, in this latter part would forego the
true scenic delight the escape from life the ob-
livion of consequences the holiday barring out of
the pedant Reflection those Saturnalia of two or
three brief hours, well won from the world to sit
instead at one of our modern plays to have his
coward conscience (that forsooth must not be left for


a moment) stimulated with perpetual appeals dulled
rather, and blunted, as a faculty without repose must
be and his moral vanity pampered with images of
notional justice, notional beneficence, lives saved
without the spectators' risk, and fortunes given away
that cost the author nothing?

No piece was, perhaps, ever so completely cast in
all its parts as this manager's comedy. Miss Farren
had succeeded to Mrs. Abingdon in Lady Teazle;
and Smith, the original Charles, had retired, when
I first saw it. The rest of the characters, with very
slight exceptions, remained. I remember it was
then the fashion to cry down John Kemble, who
took the part of Charles after Smith ; but, I thought,
very unjustly. Smith, I fancy, was more airy, and
took the eye with a certain gaiety of person. He
brought with him no sombre recollections of tragedy.
He had not to expiate the fault of having pleased
beforehand in lofty declamation. He had no sins
of Hamlet or of Richard to atone for. His failure
in these parts was a passport to success in one of so
opposite a tendency. But, as far as I could judge,
the weighty sense of Kemble made up for more per-
sonal incapacity than he had to answer for. His
harshest tones in this part came steeped and dulci-
fied in good humour. He made his defects a grace.
His exact declamatory manner, as he managed it,
only served to convey the points of his dialogue with


more precision. It seemed to head the shafts to
carry them deeper. Not one of his sparkling sen-
tences was lost. I remember minutely how he de-
livered each in succession, and cannot by any effort
imagine how any of them could be altered for the
better. No man could deliver brilliant dialogue
the dialogue of Congreve or of Wycherley .because
none understood it half so well as John Kemble.
His Valentine, in Love for Love, was, to my recol-
lection, faultless. He flagged sometimes in the in-
tervals of tragic passion. He would slumber over
the level parts of an heroic character. His Mac-
beth has been known to nod. But he always seemed
to me to be particularly alive to pointed and witty
dialogue. The relaxing levities of tragedy have not
been touched by any since him the playful court-
bred spirit in which he condescended to the players
in Hamlet the sportive relief which he threw into
the darker shades of Richard disappeared with
him. He had his sluggish moods, his torpors but
they were the halting- stones and resting-places of
his tragedy politic savings, and fetches of the
breath husbandry of the lungs, where nature
pointed him to be an economist rather, I think,
than errors of the judgment. They were, at worst,
less painful than the eternal tormenting unappeas-
able vigilance, the " lidless dragon eyes," of present
fashionable tragedy.


NOT many nights ago I had come home from seeing
this extraordinary performer in Cockletop ; and when
I retired to my pillow, his whimsical image still stuck
by me, in a manner as to threaten sleep. In vain I
tried to divest myself of it, by conjuring up the most
opposite associations. I resolved to be serious. I
raised up the gravest topics of life; private misery,
public calamity. All would not do.

There the antic sate

Mocking our state

his queer visnomy his bewildering costume all
the strange things which he had raked together
his serpentine rod, swagging about in his pocket
Cleopatra's tear, and the rest of his relics O'Keefe's
wild farce, and his wilder commentary till the
passion of laughter, like grief in excess, relieved itself
by its own weight, inviting the sleep which in the
first instance it had driven away.


But I was not to escape so easily. No sooner did
I fall into slumbers, than the same image, only more
perplexing, assailed me in the shape of dreams. Not
one Munden, but five hundred, were dancing before
me, like the faces which, whether you will or no,
come when you have been taking opium all the
strange combinations, which this strangest of all strange
mortals ever shot his proper countenance into, from
the day he came commissioned to dry up the tears of
the town for the loss of the now almost forgotten
Edwin. O for the power of the pencil to have fixed
them when I awoke ! A season or two since there
was exhibited a Hogarth gallery. I do not see why
there should not be a Munden gallery. In richness
and variety the latter would not fall far short of the

There is one face of Farley, one face of Knight,
one (but what a one it is !) of Listen ; but Munden
has none that you can properly pin down, and call
his. When you think he has exhausted his battery of
looks, in unaccountable warfare with your gravity,
suddenly he sprouts out an entirely new set of features,
like Hydra. He is not one, but legion. Not so
much a comedian, as a company. If his name could
be multiplied like his countenance, it might fill a play-
bill. He, and he alone, literally makes faces : applied
to any other person, the phrase is a mere figure, de-
noting certain modifications of the human counte-


nance. Out of some invisible wardrobe he dips for
faces, as his friend Suett used for wigs, and fetches
them out as easily. I should not be surprised to see
him some day put out the head of a river horse ; or
come forth a pewitt, or lapwing, some feathered meta-

I have seen this gifted actor in Sir Christopher
Curry in Old Dornton diffuse a glow of senti-
ment which has made the pulse of a crowded theatre
beat like that of one man ; when he has come in aid
of the pulpit, doing good to the moral heart of a
people. I have seen some faint approaches to this
sort of excellence in other players. But in the grand
grotesque of farce, Munden stands out as single and
unaccompanied as Hogarth. Hogarth, strange to tell,
had no followers. The school of Munden began, and
must end with himself.

Can any man wonder, like him? can any man see
ghosts, like him ? or fight with his own shadow
" SESSA " as he does in that strangely-neglected
thing, the Cobbler of Preston where his alternations
from the Cobbler to the Magnifico, and from the
Magnifico to the Cobbler, keep the brain of the spec-
tator in as wild a ferment, as if some Arabian Night
were being acted before him. Who like him can
throw, or ever attempted to throw, a preternatural in-
terest over the commonest daily-life objects? A table,
or a joint stool, in his conception, rises into a dignity


equivalent to Cassiopeia's chair. It is invested with
constellatory importance. You could not speak of it
with more deference, if it were mounted into the
firmament. A beggar in the hands of Michael An-
gelo, says Fuseli, rose the Patriarch of Poverty. So
the gusto of Munden antiquates and ennobles what it
touches. His pots and his ladles are as grand and
primal as the seething-pots and hooks seen in old
prophetic vision. A tub of butter, contemplated by
him, amounts to a Platonic idea. He understands a
leg of mutton in its quiddity. He stands wondering,
amid the common-place materials of life, like primaeval
man with the sun and stars about him.





THIS poor gentleman, who for some months past had
been in a declining way, hath at length paid his final
tribute to nature.

To say truth, it is time he were gone. The humour
of the thing, if there was ever much in it, was pretty
well exhausted ; and a two years' and a half existence
has been a tolerable duration for a phantom.

I am now at liberty to confess, that much which I
have heard objected to my late friend's writings was
well-founded. Crude they are, I grant you a sort of
unlicked, incondite things villainously pranked in an
affected array of antique modes and phrases. They had
not been /its, if they had been other than such ; and
better it is, that a writer should be natural in a self-
pleasing quaintness, than to affect a naturalness (so
called) that should be strange to him. Egotistical they
have been pronounced by some who did not know, that
what he tells us, as of himself, was often true only (his-
torically) of another ; as in a former Essay (to save
many instances) where under the first person (his
favourite figure) he shadows forth the forlorn estate of a


country-boy placed at a London school, far from his
friends and connections in direct opposition to his
own early history. If it be egotism to imply and twine
with his own identity the griefs and affections of an-
other making himself many, or reducing many unto
himself then is the skilful novelist, who all along
brings in his hero, or heroine, speaking of themselves,
the greatest egotist of all ; who yet has never, there-
fore, been accused of that narrowness. And how shall
the intenser dramatist escape being faulty, who doubt-
less, under cover of passion uttered by another, often-
times gives blameless vent to his most inward feelings,
and expresses his own story modestly ?

My late friend was in many respects a singular char-
acter. Those who did not like him, hated him ; and
some, who once liked him, afterwards became his
bitterest haters. The truth is, he gave himself too little
concern what he uttered, and in whose presence. He
observed neither time nor place, and would e'en out
with what came uppermost. With the severe religion-
ist he would pass for a free-thinker ; while the other
faction set him down for a bigot, or persuaded them-
selves that he belied his sentiments. Few understood
him ; and I am not certain that at all times he quite
understood himself. He too much affected that danger-
ous figure irony. He sowed doubtful speeches, and
reaped plain, unequivocal hatred. He would interrupt
the gravest discussion with some light jest ; and yet, per-
haps, not quite irrelevant in ears that could understand
it. Your long and much talkers hated him. The in-
formal habit of his mind, joined to an inveterate im-


pediment of speech, forbade him to be an orator ;
and he seemed determined that no one else should
play that part when he was present. He was petit and
ordinary in his person and appearance. I have seen
him sometimes in what is called good company, but
where he has been a stranger, sit silent, and be suspected
for an odd fellow ; till some unlucky occasion provok-
ing it, he would stutter out some senseless pun (not alto-
gether senseless perhaps, if rightly taken), which has
stamped his character for the evening. It was hit or
miss with him ; but nine times out of ten, he con-
trived by this device to send away a whole company
his enemies. His conceptions rose kindlier than his
utterance, and his happiest impromptus had the ap-
pearance of effort. He has been accused of trying to
be witty, when in truth he was but struggling to give his
poor thoughts articulation. He chose his companions
for some individuality of character which they mani-
fested. Hence, not many persons of science, and
few professed literati, were of his councils. They were,
for the most part, persons of an uncertain fortune ;
and, as to such people commonly nothing is more ob-
noxious than a gentleman of settled (though moderate)
income, he passed with most of them for a great miser.
To my knowledge this was a mistake. His intimados,
to confess a truth, were in the world's eye a ragged
regiment. He found them floating on the surface of
society ; and the colour, or something else, in the
weed pleased him. The burrs stuck to him but
they were good and loving burrs for all that. He
never greatly cared for the society of what are called


good people. If any of these were scandalised (and
offences were sure to arise), he could not help it.
When he has been remonstrated with for not making
more concessions to the feelings of good people, he
would retort by asking, what one point did these good
people ever concede to him? He was temperate in
his meals and diversions, but always kept a little on
this side of abstemiousness. Only in the use of the
Indian weed he might be thought a little excessive.
He took it, he would say, as a solvent of speech.
Marry as the friendly vapour ascended, how his
prattle would curl up sometimes with it ! the ligaments,
which tongue-tied him, were loosened, and the stam-
merer proceeded a statist !

I do not know whether I ought to bemoan or rejoice
that my old friend is departed. His jests were begin-
ning to grow obsolete, and his stories to be found out.
He felt the approaches of age ; and while he pre-
tended to cling to life, you saw how slender were the
ties left to bind him. Discoursing with him latterly on
this subject, he expressed himself with a pettishness,
which I thought unworthy of him. In our walks about
his suburban retreat (as he called it) at Shacklewell,
some children belonging to a school of industry had
met us, and bowed and curtseyed, as he thought, in an
especial manner to him. " They take me for a visiting
governor," he muttered earnestly. He had a horror,
which he carried to a foible, of looking like anything
important and parochial. He thought that he ap-
proached nearer to that stamp daily. He had a
general aversion from being treated like a grave or


respectable character, and kept a weary eye upon the
advances of age that should so entitle him. He
herded always, while it was possible, with people
younger than himself. He did not conform to the
march of time, but was dragged along in the proces-
sion. His manners lagged behind his years. He was
too much of the boy-man. The toga virilis never
sate gracefully on his shoulders. The impressions of
infancy had burnt into him, and he resented the
impertinence of manhood. These were weaknesses ;
but such as they were, they are a key to explicate
some of his writings.





























OLD CHINA . . 194


I. That a Bully is always a Coward .'... 204

II. That Ill-gotten Gain never Prospers .... 205

III. That a Man must not Laugh at his own Jest. . 206

IV. That such a one shows his Breeding. That it

is easy to perceive he is no Gentleman . . . 207

V. That the Poor copy the Vices of the Rich ... 208

VI. That Enough is as good as a Feast 211

VIL Of two Disputants, the Warmest is generally in

the Wrong 212

VIII. That Verbal Allusions are not Wit, because they

will not bear Translation 214

IX. That the Worst Puns are the Best 215

X. That Handsome Is that Handsome Does . . . 218

XI. That we must not Look a Gift-horse in the Mouth 222

XII. That Home is Home though it is never so Homely 225

XIII. That you must Love me, and Love my Dog . . 232

XIV. That we should Rise with the Lark 238

XV. That we should Lie Down with the Lamb ... 241

XVI. That a Sulky Temper is a Misfortune .... 244


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 extinct gran-
deur admit of a better passion than envy : and con-
templations on the great and good, whom we fancy
in succession to have been its inhabitants, weave for
us illusions, incompatible with the bustle of modern
occupancy, and vanities of foolish present aristocracy.
The same difference of feeling, I think, attends us be-
tween entering an empty and a crowded church. In
the latter it is chance but some present human frailty

an act of inattention on the part of some of the
auditory or a trait of affectation, or worse, vain-
glory, on that of the preacher puts us by our best
thoughts, disharmonising the place and the occasion.
But would'st thou know the beauty of holiness ? go
alone on some week-day, borrowing the keys of good
Master Sexton, traverse the cool aisles of some coun-
try church : think of the piety that has kneeled there

the congregations, old and young, that have found


consolation there the meek pastor the docile
parishioner. With no disturbing emotions, no cross
conflicting comparisons, drink in the tranquillity of
the place, till thou thyself become as fixed and motion-
less as the marble effigies that kneel and weep around

Journeying northward lately, I could not resist going
some few miles- out of my road to look upon the re-
mains of an old great house with which I had been
impressed in this way in infancy. I was apprised
that the owner of it had lately pulled it down ; still I
had a vague notion that it could not all have perished,
that so much solidity with magnificence could not
have been crushed all at once into the mere dust and
rubbish which I found it.

The work of ruin had proceeded with a swift hand
indeed, and the demolition of a few weeks had re-
duced it to an antiquity.

I was astonished at the indistinction of everything.
Where had stood the great gates? What bounded
the court-yard ? Whereabout did the out-houses com-
mence? a few bricks only lay as representatives of
that which was so stately and so spacious.

Death does not shrink up his human victim at this
rate. The burnt ashes of a man weigh more in their

Had I seen these brick- and -mortar knaves at their
process of destruction, at the plucking of every pannel


I should have felt the varletc at my heart. I should
have cried out to them to spare a plank at least out of
the cheerful store-room, in whose hot window-seat I
used to sit and read Cowley, with the grass-plat be-
fore, and the hum and flappings of that one solitary
wasp that ever haunted it about me it is in mine
ears now, as oft as summer returns ; or a pannel of
the yellow room.

Why, every plank and pannel of that house for me
had magic in it. The tapestried bed-rooms tap-
estry so much better than painting not adorning
merely, but peopling the wainscots at which child-
hood ever and anon would steal a look, shifting its
coverlid (replaced as quickly) to exercise its tender
courage in a momentary eye- encounter with those
stern bright visages, staring reciprocally all Ovid on
the walls, in colours vivider than his descriptions.
Actaeon in mid sprout, with the unappeasable prudery
of Diana ; and the still more provoking, and almost
culinary coolness of Dan Phoebus, eel- fashion, delib-
erately divesting of Marsyas.

Then, that haunted room in which old Mrs.
Battle died whereinto I have crept, but always in
the day-time, with a passion of fear ; and a sneaking
curiosity, terror-tainted, to hold communication with
the past. How shall they build it up again ?

It was an old deserted place, yet not so long de-
serted but that traces of the splendour of past immates


were everywhere apparent. Its furniture was still
standing even to the tarnished gilt leather battle-
dores, and crumbling feathers of shuttlecocks in the
nursery, which told that children had once played
there. But I was a lonely child, and had the range
at will of every apartment, knew every nook and
corner, wondered and worshipped everywhere.

The solitude of childhood is not so much the
mother of thought, as it is the feeder of love, and
silence, and admiration. So strange a passion for the
place possessed me in those years, that, though there
lay I shame to say how few roods distant from the
mansion half hid by trees, what I judged some
romantic lake, such was the spell which bound me to
the house, and such my carefulness not to pass its
strict and proper precincts, that the idle waters lay
unexplored for me ; and not till late in life, curiosity
prevailing over elder devotion, I found, to my aston-
ishment, a pretty brawling brook had been the Lacus
Incognitus of my infancy. Variegated views, exten-
sive prospects and those at no great distance from
the house I was told of such what were they to
me, being out of the boundaries of my Eden ? So
far from a wish to roam, I would have drawn, me-
thought, still closer the fences of my chosen prison ;
and have been hemmed in by a yet securer cincture
of those excluding garden walls. I could have ex-
claimed with that garden-loving poet


Bind me, ye woodbines, in your twines;
Curl me about, ye gadding vines ;
And oh so close your circles lace,
That I may never leave this place ;
But, lest your fetters prove too weak,
Ere I your silken bondage break,
Do you, O brambles, chain me too,
And, courteous briars, nail me through.

I was here as in a lonely temple. Snug firesides
the low-built roof parlours ten feet by ten frugal
boards, and all the homeliness of home these were
the condition of my birth the wholesome soil which
I was planted in. Yet, without impeachment to their
tenderest lessons, I am not sorry to have had glances
of something beyond ; and to have taken, if but a
peep, in childhood, at the contrasting accidents of a
great fortune.

To have the feeling of gentility, it is not necessary

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 18 of 32)