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be found in the wide world of poetry. Yet the poem, on the whole, seems
condemned to leave behind it a melancholy of imperfect satisfaction, as
if you had wronged the feeling with which, in what preceded it, you had
resolved never to visit it, and as if the Muse had determined, in the
most delicate manner, to make you, and _scarce make you_, feel it. Else,
it is far superior to the other, which has but one exquisite verse in
it, - the last but one, or the last two: this is all fine, except,
perhaps, that _that_ of "studious ease and generous cares" has a little
tinge of the _less romantic_ about it. "The Farmer of Tilsbury Vale" is
a charming counterpart to "Poor Susan," with the addition, of that
delicacy towards aberrations from the strict path which is so fine in
the "Old Thief and the Boy by his side," which always brings water
into my eyes.

Perhaps it is the worse for being a repetition; "Susan" stood for the
representative of poor _Rus in Urbe_. There was quite enough to stamp
the moral of the thing never to be forgotten, - "bright volumes of
vapor," etc. The last verse of Susan was to be got rid of, at all
events. It threw a kind of dubiety upon Susan's moral conduct. Susan is
a servant-maid. I see her trundling her mop, and contemplating the
whirling phenomenon through blurred optics; but to term her "a poor
outcast" seems as much as to say that poor Susan was no better than she
should be, - which I trust was not what you meant to express. Robin
Goodfellow supports himself without that _stick_ of a moral which you
have thrown away; but how I can be brought in _felo de omittendo_ for
that ending to the Boy-builders [2] is a mystery. I can't say positively
now, I only know that no line oftener or readier occurs than that
"Light-hearted boys, I will build up a Giant with you." It comes
naturally with a warm holiday and the freshness of the blood. It is a
perfect summer amulet, that I tie round my legs to quicken their motion
when I go out a-maying. (N. B.) I don't often go out a-maying; _must_ is
the tense with me now. Do you take the pun? _Young Romilly_ is divine,
the reasons of his mother's grief being remediless, - I never saw
parental love carried up so high, towering above the other
loves, - Shakspeare had done something for the filial in Cordelia, and,
by implication, for the fatherly too in Lear's resentment; he left it
for you to explore the depths of the maternal heart.

I get stupid and flat, and flattering; what's the use of telling you
what good things you have written, or - I hope I may add - that I know
them to be good? _A propos_, when I first opened upon the just-mentioned
poem, in a careless tone I said to Mary, as if putting a riddle, "What
is good for a bootless bene?" [3] To which, with infinite presence of
mind (as the jest-book has it) she answered, "A shoeless pea." It was
the first joke she ever made. Joke the second I make. You distinguish
well, in your old preface, between the verses of Dr. Johnson, of the
"Man in the Strand," and that from "The Babes in the Wood," I was
thinking whether, taking your own glorious lines, -

"And from the love which was in her soul
For her youthful Romilly,"

which, by the love I bear my own soul, I think have no parallel in any
of the best old ballads, and just altering it to, -

"And from the great respect she felt
For Sir Samuel Romilly,"

would not nave explained the boundaries of prose expression and poetic
feeling nearly as well. Excuse my levity on such an occasion. I never
felt deeply in my life if that poem did not make me, both lately, and
when I read it in MS. No alderman ever longed after a haunch of buck
venison more than I for a spiritual taste of that "White Doe" you
promise. I am sure it is superlative, or will be when _dressed_, i. e.,
printed. All things read raw to me in MS.; to compare _magna parvis_, I
cannot endure my own writings in that state. The only one which I think
would not very much win upon me in print is "Peter Bell;" but I am not
certain. You ask me about your preface. I like both that and the
supplement, without an exception. The account of what you mean by
imagination is very valuable to me. It will help me to like some things
in poetry better, which is a little humiliating in me to confess. I
thought I could not be instructed in that science (I mean the critical),
as I once heard old obscene, beastly Peter Pindar, in a dispute on
Milton, say he thought that if he had reason to value himself upon one
thing more than another, it was in knowing what good verse was. Who
looked over your proof-sheets and left _ordebo_ in that line of Virgil?

My brother's picture of Milton is very finely painted, - that is, it
might have been done by a hand next to Vandyke's. It is the genuine
Milton, and an object of quiet gaze for the half-hour at a time. Yet
though I am confident there is no better one of him, the face does not
quite answer to Milton. There is a tinge of _petit_ (or _petite_, how do
you spell it?) querulousness about it; yet, hang it! now I remember
better, there is not, - it is calm, melancholy, and poetical. _One_ of
the copies of the poems you sent has precisely the same pleasant
blending of a sheet of second volume with a sheet of first, I think it
was page 245; but I sent it and had it rectified, It gave me, in the
first impetus of cutting the leaves, just such a cold squelch as going
down a plausible turning and suddenly reading "No thoroughfare."
Robinson's is entire; I wish you would write more criticism about
Spencer, etc. I think I could say something about him myself; but, Lord
bless me! these "merchants and their spicy drugs," which are so
harmonious to sing of, they lime-twig up my poor soul and body till I
shall forget I ever thought myself a bit of a genius! I can't even put a
few thoughts on paper for a newspaper, I engross when I should pen a
paragraph. Confusion blast all mercantile transactions, all traffic,
exchange of commodities, intercourse between nations, all the consequent
civilization, and wealth, and amity, and link of society, and getting
rid of prejudices, and knowledge of the face of the globe; and rot the
very firs of the forest that look so romantic alive, and die into
desks: _Vale_.

Yours, dear W., and all yours,

C. LAMB.

[1] "But thou, that didst appear so fair
To fond imagination,
Dost rival in the light of day
Her dilicate Creation"

[2] Better known as "Rural Architecture."

[3] The first line of the poem on Bolton Abbey: -

"'What is good for a bootless bene?'
With these dark words begins my fate;
And their meaning is, whence can comfort spring
When Prayer is of no avail?"


LVI.


TO SOUTHEY.

_May_ 6, 1815.

Dear Southey, - I have received from Longman a copy of "Roderick," with
the author's compliments, for which I much thank you. I don't know where
I shall put all the noble presents I have lately received in that way;
the "Excursion," Wordsworth's two last volumes, and now "Roderick," have
come pouring in upon me like some irruption from Helicon. The story of
the brave Maccabee was already, you may be sure, familiar to me in all
its parts. I have, since the receipt of your present, read it quite
through again, and with no diminished pleasure. I don't know whether I
ought to say that it has given me more pleasure than any of your long
poems. "Kehama" is doubtless more powerful, but I don't feel that firm
footing in it that I do in "Roderick;" my imagination goes sinking and
floundering in the vast spaces of unopened-before systems and faiths; I
am put out of the pale of my old sympathies; my moral sense is almost
outraged; I can't believe, or with horror am made to believe, such
desperate chances against omnipotences, such disturbances of faith to
the centre. The more potent, the more painful the spell. Jove and his
brotherhood of gods, tottering with the giant assailings, I can bear,
for the soul's hopes are not struck at in such contests; but your
Oriental almighties are too much types of the intangible prototype to be
meddled with without shuddering. One never connects what are called the
"attributes" with Jupiter. I mention only what diminishes my delight at
the wonder-workings of "Kehama," not what impeaches its power, which I
confess with trembling.

But "Roderick" is a comfortable poem. It reminds me of the delight I
took in the first reading of the "Joan of Arc." It is maturer and better
than _that_, though not better to me now than that was then. It suits me
better than "Madoc." I am at home in Spain and Christendom. I have a
timid imagination, I am afraid; I do not willingly admit of strange
beliefs or out-of-the-way creeds or places. I never read books of
travel, at least not farther than Paris or Rome. I can just endure
Moors, because of their connection as foes with Christians; but
Abyssinians, Ethiops, Esquimaux, Dervises, and all that tribe, I hate; I
believe I fear them in some manner. A Mahometan turban on the stage,
though enveloping some well-known face (Mr. Cook or Mr. Maddox, whom I
see another day good Christian and English waiters, innkeepers, etc.),
does not give me pleasure unalloyed. I am a Christian, Englishman,
Londoner, _Templar_, God help me when I come to put off these snug
relations, and to get abroad into the world to come! I shall be like
_the crow on the sand_, as Wordsworth has it; but I won't think on
it, - no need, I hope, yet.

The parts I have been most pleased with, both on first and second
readings, perhaps, are Florinda's palliation of Roderick's crime,
confessed to him in his disguise; the retreat of Pelayo's family first
discovered; his being made king, - "For acclamation one form must serve,
_more solemn for_ the _breach_ of _old observances_." Roderick's vow is
extremely fine, and his blessing on the vow of Alphonso, -

"Towards the troop be spread his arms,
As if the expanded soul diffused itself,
And carried to all spirits, _with the act_,
Its affluent inspiration."

It struck me forcibly that the feeling of these last lines might have
been suggested to you by the Cartoon of Paul at Athens. Certain it is
that a better motto or guide to that famous attitude can nowhere be
found. I shall adopt it as explanatory of that violent but
dignified motion.

I must read again Landor's "Julian;" I have not read it some time. I
think he must have failed in Roderick, for I remember nothing of him,
nor of any distinct character as a character, - only fine-sounding
passages. I remember thinking also he had chosen a point of time after
the event, as it were, for Roderick survives to no use; but my memory is
weak, and I will not wrong a fine poem by trusting to it.

The notes to your poem I have not read again; but it will be a
take-downable book on my shelf, and they will serve sometimes at
breakfast, or times too light for the text to be duly appreciated, -
though some of 'em, one of the serpent Penance, is serious enough, now I
think on't.

Of Coleridge I hear nothing, nor of the Morgans. I hope to have him like
a reappearing star, standing up before me some time when least expected
in London, as has been the case whilere.

I am _doing_ nothing (as the phrase is) but reading presents, and walk
away what of the day-hours I can get from hard occupation. Pray accept
once more my hearty thanks and expression of pleasure for your
remembrance of me. My sister desires her kind respects to Mrs. S. and to
all at Keswick.

Yours truly,

C. LAMB.


LVII.


TO MISS HUTCHINSON. [1]

_October_ 19, 1815.

Dear Miss H., - I am forced to be the replier to your letter, for Mary
has been ill, and gone from home these five weeks yesterday. She has
left me very lonely and very miserable. I stroll about, but there is no
rest but at one's own fireside; and there is no rest for me there now. I
look forward to the worse half being past, and keep up as well as I can.
She has begun to show some favorable symptoms. The return of her
disorder has been frightfully soon this time, with scarce a six-months'
interval. I am almost afraid my worry of spirits about the E. I. House
was partly the cause of her illness: but one always imputes it to the
cause next at hand, - more probably it conies from some cause we have no
control over or conjecture of. It cuts sad great slices out of the time,
the little time, we shall have to live together. I don't know but the
recurrence of these illnesses might help me to sustain her death, better
than if we had had no partial separations. But I won't talk of death. I
will imagine us immortal, or forget that we are otherwise. By God's
blessing, in a few weeks we may be making our meal together, or sitting
in the front row of the pit at Drury Lane, or taking our evening walk
past the theatres, to look at the outside of them, at least, if not to
be tempted in. Then we forget we are assailable; we are strong for the
time as rocks, - "the wind is tempered to the shorn Lambs." Poor C. Lloyd
and poor Priscilla! I feel I hardly feel enough for him; my own
calamities press about me, and involve me in a thick integument not to
be reached at by other folks' misfortunes. But I feel all I can, all the
kindness I can, towards you all. God bless you! I hear nothing from
Coleridge.

Yours truly,

C. LAMB.

[1] Mrs. Wordsworth's sister.


LVIII.


TO MANNING.

_December_ 25, 1815.

Dear Old Friend and Absentee, - This is Christmas Day, 1815, with us;
what it may be with you I don't know, - the 12th of June next year,
perhaps; and if it should be the consecrated season with you, I don't
see how you can keep it. You have no turkeys; you would not desecrate
the festival by offering up a withered Chinese bantam, instead of the
savoury grand Norfolcian holocaust, that smokes all around my nostrils
at this moment from a thousand firesides. Then what puddings have you?
Where will you get holly to stick in your churches, or churches to stick
your dried tea-leaves (that must be the substitute) in? What memorials
you can have of the holy time, I see not. A chopped missionary or two
may keep up the thin idea of Lent and the wilderness; but what standing
evidence have you of the Nativity? 'Tis our rosy-cheeked, homestalled
divines, whose faces shine to the tune of _unto us a child was
born_, - faces fragrant with the mince-pies of half a century, that alone
can authenticate the cheerful mystery. I feel, I feel my bowels
refreshed with the holy tide; my zeal is great against the unedified
heathen. Down with the Pagodas; down with the idols, - Ching-chong-fo and
his foolish priesthood! Come out of Babylon, oh my friend, for her time
is come, and the child that is native, and the Proselyte of her gates,
shall kindle and smoke together! And in sober sense what makes you so
long from among us, Manning? You must not expect to see the same England
again which you left.

Empires have been overturned, crowns trodden into dust, the face of the
Western world quite changed; your friends have all got old, those you
left blooming, myself (who am one of the few that remember you) - those
golden hairs which you recollect my taking a pride in, turned to silvery
and gray. Mary has been dead and buried many years; she desired to be
buried in the silk gown you sent her. Rickman, that you remember active
and strong, now walks out supported by a servant-maid and a stick.
Martin Burney is a very old man. The other day an aged woman knocked at
my door and pretended to my acquaintance. It was long before I had the
most distant cognition of her; but at last together we made her out to
be Louisa, the daughter of Mrs. Topham, formerly Mrs. Morton, who had
been Mrs. Reynolds, formerly Mrs. Kenney, whose first husband was
Holcroft, the dramatic writer of the last century. St. Paul's church is
a heap of ruins; the Monument isn't half so high as you knew it, divers
parts being successively taken down which the ravages of time had
rendered dangerous; the horse at Charing Cross is gone, no one knows
whither, - and all this has taken place while you have been settling
whether Ho-hing-tong should be spelled with a - or a - . For aught I
see, you had almost as well remain where you are, and not come, like a
Struldbrug, into a world where few were born when you went away. Scarce
here and there one will be able to make out your face; all your opinions
will be out of date, your jokes obsolete, your puns rejected with
fastidiousness as wit of the last age. Your way of mathematics has
already given way to a new method which, after all, is, I believe, the
old doctrine of Maclaurin new-vamped up with what he borrowed of the
negative quantity of fluxions from Euler.

Poor Godwin! I was passing his tomb the other day in Cripplegate
churchyard. There are some verses upon it, written by Miss - , which if
I thought good enough I would send you. He was one of those who would
have hailed your return, not with boisterous shouts and clamors, but
with the complacent gratulations of a philosopher anxious to promote
knowledge, as leading to happiness; but his systems and his theories are
ten feet deep in Cripplegate mould. Coleridge is just dead, having lived
just long enough to close the eyes of Wordsworth, who paid the debt to
nature but a week or two before. Poor Col., but two days before he died
he wrote to a bookseller proposing an epic poem on the "Wandering of
Cain," in twenty-four books. It is said he has left behind him more than
forty thousand treatises in criticism, metaphysics, and divinity: but
few of them in a state of completion. They are now destined, perhaps, to
wrap up spices. You see what mutation the busy hand of Time has
produced, while you have consumed in foolish, voluntary exile that time
which might have gladdened your friends, benefited your country - But
reproaches are useless. Gather up the wretched relics, my friend, as
fast as you can, and come to your old home. I will rub my eyes and try
to recognize you. We will shake withered hands together, and talk of old
things, - of St. Mary's church and the barber's opposite, where the young
students in mathematics used to assemble. Poor Crisp, that kept it
afterwards, set up a fruiterer's shop in Trumpington Street, and for
aught I know resides there still; for I saw the name up in the last
journey I took there with my sister just before she died. I suppose you
heard that I had left the India House and gone into the Fishmongers'
Almshouses over the bridge. I have a little cabin there, small and
homely; but you shall be welcome to it. You like oysters, and to open
them yourself; I'll get you some if you come in oyster time. Marshall,
Godwin's old friend, is still alive, and talks of the faces you used
to make. [1]

Come as soon as you can.

C. LAMB.

[1] The reversal of this serio-humorous mingling of fiction and forecast
will be found in the next letter.


LIX.


TO MANNING.

_December_ 26, 1815.

Dear Manning, - Following your brother's example, I have just ventured
one letter to Canton, and am now hazarding another (not exactly a
duplicate) to St. Helena. The first was full of unprobable romantic
fictions, fitting the remoteness of the mission it goes upon; in the
present I mean to confine myself nearer to truth as you come nearer
home. A correspondence with the uttermost parts of the earth necessarily
involves in it some heat of fancy; it sets the brain agoing; but I can
think on the half-way house tranquilly. Your friends, then, are not all
dead or grown forgetful of you through old age, - as that lying letter
asserted, anticipating rather what must happen if you keep tarrying on
forever on the skirts of creation, as there seemed a danger of your
doing, - but they are all tolerably well, and in full and perfect
comprehension of what is meant by Manning's coming home again. Mrs.
Kenney never let her tongue run riot more than in remembrances of you.
Fanny expends herself in phrases that can only be justified by her
romantic nature. Mary reserves a portion of your silk, not to be buried
in (as the false nuncio asserts), but to make up spick and span into a
bran-new gown to wear when you come. I am the same as when you knew me,
almost to a surfeiting identity. This very night I am going to _leave
off tobacco!_ Surely there must be some other world in which this
unconquerable purpose shall be realized. The soul hath not her generous
aspirings implanted in her in vain. One that you knew, and I think the
only one of those friends we knew much of in common, has died in
earnest. Poor Priscilla! Her brother Robert is also dead, and several of
the grown-up brothers and sisters, in the compass of a very few years.
Death has not otherwise meddled much in families that I know. Not but he
has his horrid eye upon us, and is whetting his infernal feathered dart
every instant, as you see him truly pictured in that impressive moral
picture, "The good man at the hour of death." I have in trust to put in
the post four letters from Diss, and one from Lynn, to St. Helena, which
I hope will accompany this safe, and one from Lynn, and the one before
spoken of from me, to Canton. But we all hope that these letters may be
waste paper. I don't know why I have foreborne writing so long; but it
is such a forlorn hope to send a scrap of paper straggling over wide
oceans. And yet I know when you come home, I shall have you sitting
before me at our fireside just as if you had never been away. In such an
instant does the return of a person dissipate all the weight of
imaginary perplexity from distance of time and space! I'll promise you
good oysters. Cory is dead, that kept the shop opposite St. Dunstan's,
but the tougher materials of the shop survive the perishing frame of its
keeper. Oysters continue to flourish there under as good auspices. Poor
Cory! But if you will absent yourself twenty years together, you must
not expect numerically the same population to congratulate your return
which wetted the sea-beach with their tears when you went away. Have you
recovered the breathless stone-staring astonishment into which you must
have been thrown upon learning at landing that an Emperor of France was
living at St. Helena? What an event in the solitude of the seas, - like
finding a fish's bone at the top of Plinlimmon; but these things are
nothing in our Western world. Novelties cease to affect. Come and try
what your presence can.

God bless you! Your old friend,

C. LAMB.


LX.


TO WORDSWORTH

_April_ 9, 1816.

Dear Wordsworth, - Thanks for the books you have given me, and for all
the books you mean to give me. I will bind up the "Political Sonnets"
and "Ode" according to your suggestion. I have not bound the poems yet;
I wait till people have done borrowing them. I think I shall get a chain
and chain them to my shelves, more _Bodleiano_, and people may come and
read them at chain's length. For of those who borrow, some read slow;
some mean to read but don't read; and some neither read nor meant to
read, but borrow to leave you an opinion of their sagacity. I must do my
money-borrowing friends the justice to say that there is nothing of this
caprice or wantonness of alienation in them; when they borrow my money
they never fail to make use of it, Coleridge has been here about a
fortnight. His health is tolerable at present, though beset with
temptations. In the first place, the Covent Garden Manager has declined
accepting his Tragedy, [1] though (having read it) I see no reason upon
earth why it might not have run a very fair chance, though it certainly
wants a prominent part for a Miss O'Neil or a Mr. Kean. However, he is
going to write to-day to Lord Byron to get it to Drury. Should you see
Mrs. C., who has just written to C. a letter, which I have given him, it
will be as well to say nothing about its fate till some answer is shaped
from Drury. He has two volumes printing together at Bristol, both
finished as far as the composition goes; the latter containing his
fugitive poems, the former his Literary Life. Nature, who conducts every
creature by instinct to its best end, has skilfully directed C. to take
up his abode at a Chemist's Laboratory in Norfolk Street. She might as
well have sent a _Helluo Librorum_ for cure to the Vatican. God keep him
inviolate among the traps and pitfalls! He has done pretty well
as yet. [2]

Tell Miss Hutchinson my sister is every day wishing to be quietly
sitting down to answer her very kind letter; but while C. stays she can
hardly find a quiet time. God bless him!

Tell Mrs. Wordsworth her postscripts are always agreeable. They are
legible too. Your manual-graphy is terrible, - dark as Lycophron.


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