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"Likelihood," for instance, is thus typified.... I should not wonder if
the constant making out of such paragraphs is the cause of that weakness
in Mrs. W.'s eyes, as she is tenderly pleased to express it. Dorothy, I
hear, has mounted spectacles; so you have deoculated two of your dearest
relations in life. Well, God bless you, and continue to give you power
to write with a finger of power upon our hearts what you fail to
impress, in corresponding lucidness, upon our outward eyesight!

Mary's love to all; she is quite well.

I am called off to do the deposits on Cotton Wool. But why do I relate
this to you, who want faculties to comprehend the great mystery of
deposits, of interest, of warehouse rent, and contingent fund? Adieu!


[1] Zapolya.

[2] Lamb alludes, of course, to Coleridge's opium habit.



_April_ 26, 1816.

Dear W., - I have just finished the pleasing task of correcting the
revise of the poems and letter. [1] I hope they will come out faultless.
One blunder I saw and shuddered at. The hallucinating rascal had printed
_battered_ for _battened_, this last not conveying any distinct sense to
his gaping soul. The Reader (as they call 'em) had discovered it, and
given it the marginal brand; but the substitutory _n_ had not yet
appeared. I accompanied his notice with a most pathetic address to the
printer not to neglect the correction. I know how such a blunder would
"batter at your peace." With regard to the works, the Letter I read with
unabated satisfaction. Such a thing was wanted, called for. The parallel
of Cotton with Burns I heartily approve, Iz. Walton hallows any page in
which his reverend name appears. "Duty archly bending to purposes of
general benevolence" is exquisite. The poems I endeavored not to
understand, but to read them with my eye alone; and I think I succeeded,
(Some people will do that when they come out, you'll say.) As if I were
to luxuriate to-morrow at some picture-gallery I was never at before,
and, going by to-day by chance, found the door open, and having but five
minutes to look about me, peeped in, - just such a _chastised_ peep I
took with my mind at the lines my luxuriating eye was coursing over
unrestrained, riot to anticipate another day's fuller satisfaction.
Coleridge is printing "Christabel," by Lord Byron's recommendation to
Murray, with what he calls a vision, "Kubla Khan," which said vision he
repeats so enchantingly that it irradiates and brings heaven and elysian
bowers into my parlor while he sings or says it; but there is an
observation, "Never tell thy dreams," and I am almost afraid that "Kubla
Khan" is an owl that won't bear daylight. I fear lest it should be
discovered, by the lantern of typography and clear reducting to letters,
no better than nonsense or no sense. When I was young, I used to chant
with ecstasy "MILD ARCADIANS EVER BLOOMING," till somebody told me it
was meant to be nonsense. Even yet I have a lingering attachment to it,
and I think it better than "Windsor Forest," "Dying Christian's
Address," etc. Coleridge has sent his tragedy to D.L.T.; it cannot be
acted this season, and by their manner of receiving I hope he will be
able to alter it to make them accept it for next. He is at present under
the medical care of a Mr. Gilman (Killman?) at Highgate, where he plays
at leaving off laud - -m. I think his essentials not touched; he is very
bad, but then he wonderfully picks up another day, and his face, when he
repeats his verses, hath its ancient glory, - an archangel a little
damaged. Will Miss H. pardon our not replying at length to her kind
letter? We are not quiet enough; Morgan is with us every day, going
betwixt Highgate and the Temple. Coleridge is absent but four miles; and
the neighborhood of such a man is as exciting as the presence of fifty
ordinary persons. 'Tis enough to be within the whiff and wind of his
genius for us not to possess our souls in quiet. If I lived with him or
the _Author of the "Excursion,"_ I should, in a very little time, lose
my own identity, and be dragged along in the current of other people's
thoughts, hampered in a net. How cool I sit in this office, with no
possible interruption further than what I may term _material!_ There is
not as much metaphysics in thirty-six of the people here as there is in
the first page of Locke's "Treatise on the Human Understanding," or as
much poetry as in any ten lines of the "Pleasures of Hope," or more
natural "Beggar's Petition." I never entangle myself in any of their
speculations. Interruptions, if I try to write a letter even, I have
dreadful. Just now, within four lines, I was called off for ten minutes
to consult dusty old books for the settlement of obsolete errors. I hold
you a guinea you don't find the chasm where I left off, so excellently
the wounded sense closed again and was healed.

N.B. - Nothing said above to the contrary, but that I hold the personal
presence of the two mentioned potent spirits at a rate as high as any:
but I pay dearer: what amuses others robs me of myself; my mind is
positively discharged into their greater currents, but flows with a
willing violence. As to your question about work, it is far less
oppressive to me than it was, from circumstances; it takes all the
golden part of the day away, a solid lump, from ten to four; but it does
not kill my peace, as before. Some day or other I shall be in a taking
again. My head aches, and you have had enough, God bless you!


[1] Wordsworth's "Letter to a Friend of Burns" (London, 1816).

"Wordsworth had been consulted by a friend of Burns as to the best mode
of vindicating the reputation of the poet, which, it was alleged, had
been much injured by the publication of Dr. Carrie's 'Life and
Correspondence of Burns.'" - AINGER.



_July_, 1816.

My dear Fellow, - I have been in a lethargy this long while, and
forgotten London, Westminster, Marybone, Paddington, - they all went
clean out of my head, till happening to go to a neighbor's in this good
borough of Calne, for want of whist-players we fell upon _Commerce:_ the
word awoke me to a remembrance of my professional avocations and the
long-continued strife which I have been these twenty-four years
endeavoring to compose between those grand Irreconcilables, Cash and
Commerce; I instantly called for an almanac, which with some difficulty
was procured at a fortune-teller's in the vicinity (for happy holiday
people here, having nothing to do, keep no account of time), and found
that by dint of duty I must attend in Leadenhall on Wednesy morning
next; and shall attend accordingly. Does Master Hannah give maccaroons
still, and does he fetch the Cobbetts from my attic? Perhaps it wouldn't
be too much trouble for him to drop the enclosed up at my aforesaid
chamber, and any letters, etc., with it; but the enclosed should go
without delay. N.B. - He isn't to fetch Monday's Cobbett, but it is to
wait my reading when I come back. Heigh-ho! Lord have mercy upon me, how
many does two and two make? I am afraid I shall make a poor clerk in
future, I am spoiled with rambling among haycocks and cows and pigs.
Bless me! I had like to have forgot (the air is so temperate and
oblivious here) to say I have seen your brother, and hope he is doing
well in the finest spot of the world. More of these things when I
return. Remember me to the gentlemen, - I forget names. Shall I find all
my letters at my rooms on Tuesday? If you forget to send 'em never mind,
for I don't much care for reading and writing now; I shall come back
again by degrees, I suppose, into my former habits. How is Bruce de
Ponthieu, and Porcher and Co.? - the tears come into my eyes when I think
how long I have neglected - .

Adieu! ye fields, ye shepherds and - herdesses, and dairies and
cream-pots, and fairies and dances upon the green.

I come, I come. Don't drag me so hard by the hair of my head, Genius of
British India! I know my hour is come, Faustus must give up his soul, O
Lucifer, O Mephistopheles! Can you make out what all this letter is
about? I am afraid to look it over.


[1] A fellow-clerk in the India House. This charming letter, written
evidently during a vacation trip, was first published entire in Canon
Ainger's edition (1887) of Lamb's Letters.



_February_ 18, 1818.

My Dear Mrs. Wordsworth, - I have repeatedly taken pen in hand to answer
your kind letter. My sister should more properly have done it; but she
having failed, I consider myself answerable for her debts. I am now
trying to do it in the midst of commercial noises, and with a quill
which seems more ready to glide into arithmetical figures and names of
gourds, cassia, cardamoms, aloes, ginger, or tea, than into kindly
responses and friendly recollections. The reason why I cannot write
letters at home is that I am never alone. Plato's - (I write to W.W.
now) - Plato's double-animal parted never longed more to be reciprocally
re-united in the system of its first creation than I sometimes do to be
but for a moment single and separate. Except my morning's walk to the
office, which is like treading on sands of gold for that reason, I am
never so. I cannot walk home from office, but some officious friend
offers his unwelcome courtesies to accompany me. All the morning I am
pestered. I could sit and gravely cast up sums in great books, or
compare sum with sum, and write "paid" against this, and "unpaid"
against t'other, and yet reserve in some corner of my mind "some darling
thoughts all my own," - faint memory of some passage in a book, or the
tone of an absent friend's voice, - a snatch of Miss Burrell's singing,
or a gleam of Fanny Kelly's divine plain face. The two operations might
be going on at the same time without thwarting, as the sun's two motions
(earth's I mean); or as I sometimes turn round till I am giddy, in my
back parlor, while my sister is walking longitudinally in the front; or
as the shoulder of veal twists round with the spit, while the smoke
wreathes up the chimney. But there are a set of amateurs of the Belies
Lettres, - the gay science, - who come to me as a sort of rendezvous,
putting questions of criticism, of British Institutions, Lalla Rookhs,
etc., - what Coleridge said at the lecture last night, - who have the form
of reading men, but, for any possible use reading can be to them but to
talk of, might as well have been Ante-Cadmeans born, or have lain
sucking out the sense of an Egyptian hieroglyph as long as the pyramids
will last, before they should find it. These pests worrit me at business
and in all its intervals, perplexing my accounts, poisoning my little
salutary warming-time at the fire, puzzling my paragraphs if I take a
newspaper, cramming in between my own free thoughts and a column of
figures, which had come to an amicable compromise but for them. Their
noise ended, one of them, as I said, accompanies me home, lest I should
be solitary for a moment. He at length takes his welcome leave at the
door; up I go, mutton on table, hungry as hunter, hope to forget my
cares and bury them in the agreeable abstraction of mastication: knock
at the door! In comes Mr. Hazlitt, or Martin Burney, or Morgan
Demi-gorgon, [1] or my brother, or somebody, to prevent my eating
alone, - a process absolutely necessary to my poor wretched digestion.
Oh, the pleasure of eating alone! Eating my dinner alone, - let me think
of it! But in they come, and make it absolutely necessary that I should
open a bottle of orange; for my meat turns into stone when any one dines
with me, if I have not wine. Wine can mollify stones; then that wine
turns into acidity, acerbity, misanthropy, a hatred of my interrupters
(God bless 'em! I love some of 'em dearly); and with the hatred, a still
greater aversion to their going away. Bad is the dead sea they bring
upon me, choking and deadening; but worse is the deader dry sand they
leave me on, if they go before bedtime. Come never, I would say to these
spoilers of my dinner; but if you come, never go! The fact is, this
interruption does not happen very often; but every time it comes by
surprise, that present bane of my life, orange wine, with all its dreary
stifling consequences, follows. Evening company I should always like,
had I any mornings; but I am saturated with human faces (_divine_
forsooth!) and voices all the golden morning; and five evenings in a
week would be as much as I should covet to be in company; but I assure
you that is a wonderful week in which I can get two, or one, to myself.
I am never C.L., but always C.L. & Co. He who thought it not good for
man to be alone, preserve me from the more prodigious monstrosity of
being never by myself! I forget bed-time; but even there these sociable
frogs clamber up to annoy me. Once a week, generally some singular
evening that, being alone, I go to bed at the hour I ought always to be
a-bed, just close to my bed-room window is the club-room of a
public-house, where a set of singers - I take them to be chorus-singers
of the two theatres (it must be _both of them_) - begin their orgies.
They are a set of fellows (as I conceive) who, being limited by their
talents to the burden of the song at the playhouses, in revenge have got
the common popular airs by Bishop or some cheap composer, arranged for
choruses, that is, to be sang all in chorus, - at least, I never can
catch any of the text of the plain song, nothing but the Babylonish
choral howl at the tail on't, "That fury being quenched,' - the howl I
mean, - a burden succeeds of shouts and clapping and knocking of the
table. At length over-tasked nature drops under it, and escapes for a
few hours into the society of the sweet silent creatures of dreams,
which go away with mocks and mows at cockcrow. And then I think of the
words Christabel's father used (bless me! I have dipt in the wrong ink)
to say every morning by way of variety when he awoke, -

"Every knell, the Baron saith,
Wakes us up to a world of death," -

or something like it. All I mean by this senseless interrupted tale is,
that by my central situation I am a little over-companied. Not that I
have any animosity against the good creatures that are so anxious to
drive away the harpy Solitude from me. I like 'em, and cards, and a
cheerful glass; but I mean merely to give you an idea, between office
confinement and after-office society, how little time I can call my own.
I mean only to draw a picture, not to make an inference. I would not,
that I know of, have it otherwise. I only wish sometimes I could
exchange some of my faces and voices for the faces and voices which a
late visitation brought most welcome, and carried away, leaving regret,
but more pleasure, - even a kind of gratitude, - at being so often favored
with that kind northern visitation. My London faces and noises don't
hear me, - I mean no disrespect, or I should explain myself, that instead
of their return 220 times a year, and the return of W. W., etc., seven
times in 104 weeks, some more equal distribution might be found. I have
scarce room to put in Mary's kind love and my poor name.


W. H[azlitt]. goes on lecturing against W.W., and making copious use of
quotations from said W.W. to give a zest to said lectures. S.T.C. is
lecturing with success. I have not heard either him or H.; but I dined
with S.T.C. at Oilman's a Sunday or two since; and he was well and in
good spirits. I mean to hear some of the course; but lectures are not
much to my taste, whatever the lecturer may be. If _read_, they are
dismal flat, and you can't think why you are brought together to hear a
man read his works, which you could read so much better at leisure
yourself; if delivered extempore, I am always in pain lest the gift of
utterance should suddenly fail the orator in the middle, as it did me at
the dinner given in honor of me at the London Tavern. "Gentlemen," said
I, and there I stopped; the rest my feelings were under the necessity of
supplying. Mrs. Wordsworth _will/_ go on, kindly haunting us with
visions of seeing the lakes once more, which never can be realized.
Between us there is a great gulf, not of inexplicable moral antipathies
and distances, I hope, as there seemed to be between me and that
gentleman concerned in the stamp-office that I so strangely recoiled
from at Haydon's. I think I had an instinct that he was the head of an
office, I hate all such people, - accountants' deputy accountants. The
mere abstract notion of the East India Company, as long as she is
unseen, is pretty, rather poetical; but as she makes herself manifest by
the persons of such beasts, I loathe and detest her as the scarlet
what-do-you-call-her of Babylon. I thought, after abridging us of all
our red-letter days, they had done their worst; but I was deceived in
the length to which heads of offices, those true liberty-haters, can
go, - they are the tyrants, not Ferdinand, nor Nero. By a decree passed
this week, they have abridged us of the immemorially observed custom of
going at one o'clock of a Saturday, - the little shadow of a holiday left
us. Dear W.W., be thankful for liberty.

[1] John Morgan



May, 1819.

Dear Wordsworth. - I received a copy of "Peter Bell" [1] a week ago, and I
hope the author will not be offended if I say I do not much relish it.
The humor, if it is meant for humor, is forced; and then the
price, - sixpence would have been dear for it. Mind, I do not mean _your_
"Peter Bell," but a "Peter Bell," which preceded it about a week, and is
in every bookseller's shop-window in London, the type and paper nothing
differing from the true one, the preface signed W. W., and the
supplementary preface quoting as the author's words an extract from the
supplementary preface to the "Lyrical Ballads." Is there no law against
these rascals? I would have this Lambert Simnel whipped at the cart's
tail. Who started the spurious "P.B." I have not heard. I should guess,
one of the sneering brothers, the vile Smiths; but I have heard no name
mentioned. "Peter Bell" (not the mock one) is excellent, - for its
matter, I mean. I cannot say the style of it quite satisfies me. It is
too lyrical. The auditors, to whom it is feigned to be told, do not
_arride me_. I had rather it had been told me, the reader, at once.
"Hart-leap Well" is the tale for me; in matter as good as this, in
manner infinitely before it, in my poor judgment. Why did you not add
"The Wagoner"? Have I thanked you, though, yet for "Peter Bell"? I would
not _not have it_ for a good deal of money. Coleridge is very foolish to
scribble about books.

Neither his tongue nor fingers are very retentive. But I shall not say
anything to him about it. He would only begin a very long story with a
very long face, and I see him far too seldom to tease him with affairs
of business or conscience when I do see him. He never comes near our
house, and when we go to see him he is generally writing or thinking; he
is writing in his study till the dinner comes, and that is scarce over
before the stage summons us away. The mock "P.B." had only this effect
on me, that after twice reading it over in hopes to find something
diverting in it, I reached your two books off the shelf, and set into a
steady reading of them, till I had nearly finished both before I went to
bed, - the two of your last edition, of course, I mean, And in the
morning I awoke determined to take down the "Excursion." I wish the
scoundrel imitator could know this. But why waste a wish on him? I do
not believe that paddling about with a stick in a pond, and fishing up
a dead author, whom _his_ intolerable wrongs had driven to that deed of
desperation, would turn the heart of one of these obtuse literary BELLS.
There is no Cock for such Peters, damn 'em! I am glad this aspiration
came upon the red-ink line. [2] It is more of a bloody curse. I have
delivered over your other presents to Alsager and G. Dyer, A., I am
sure, will value it and be proud of the hand from which it came. To G.D.
a poem is a poem, - his own as good as anybody's, and, God bless him!
anybody's as good as his own; for I do not think he has the most distant
guess of the possibility of one poem being better than another. The
gods, by denying him the very faculty itself of discrimination, have
effectually cut off every seed of envy in his bosom. But with envy they
excited curiosity also; and if you wish the copy again, which you
destined for him, I think I shall be able to find it again for you on
his third shelf, where he stuffs his presentation copies, uncut, in
shape and matter resembling a lump of dry dust; but on carefully
removing that stratum, a thing like a pamphlet will emerge. I have tried
this with fifty different poetical works that have been given G.D. in
return for as many of his own performances; and I confess I never had
any scruple in taking _my own_ again, wherever I found it, shaking the
adherences off; and by this means one copy of 'my works' served for
G.D., - and, with a little dusting, was made over to my good friend Dr.
Geddes, who little thought whose leavings he was taking when he made me
that graceful bow. By the way, the Doctor is the only one of my
acquaintance who bows gracefully, - my town acquaintance, I mean. How do
you like my way of writing with two inks? I think it is pretty and
motley. Suppose Mrs. W, adopts it, the next time she holds the pen for
you. My dinner waits. I have no time to indulge any longer in these
laborious curiosities. God bless you, and cause to thrive and burgeon
whatsoever you write, and fear no inks of miserable poetasters.

Yours truly,


Mary's love.

[1] Lamb alludes to a parody, ridiculing Wordsworth, by J. Hamilton
Reynolds, The verses were entitled "Peter Bell: A Lyrical Ballad;" and
their drift and spirit may be inferred from the following lines from the
preface: "It is now a period of one-and-twenty years since I first wrote
some of the most perfect compositions (except certain pieces I have
written in my later days) that ever dropped from poetical pen. My heart
hath been right and powerful all its years. I never thought an evil or a
weak thought in my life. It has been my aim and my achievement to deduce
moral thunder from buttercups, daisies, celandines, and (as a poet
scarcely inferior to myself hath it) 'such small deer,'" etc.

[2] The original letter is actually written in to
inks, - alternate black and red.



_May_ 28, 1819,

My Dear M.. - I want to know how your brother is, if you have heard
lately. I want to know about you, I wish you were nearer. How are my
cousins, the Gladmans of Wheathampstead, and Farmer Bruton? Mrs. Bruton
is a glorious woman,

"Hail, Mackery End!" [1]

This is a fragment of a blank-verse poem which. I once meditated, but
got no farther. The E. I. H. has been thrown into a quandary by the
strange phenomenon of poor Tommy Bye, whom I have known, man and madman,
twenty-seven years, he being elder here than myself by nine years and
more. He was always a pleasant, gossiping, half-headed, muzzy, dozing,
dreaming, walk-about, inoffensive chap, a little too fond of the
creature, - who isn't at times? But Tommy had _not_ brains to work off an
overnight's surfeit by ten o'clock next morning, and unfortunately, in
he wandered the other morning drunk with last night and with a
superfoetation of drink taken in since he set out from bed. He came
staggering under his double burden, like trees in Java, bearing at once
blossom, fruit, and falling fruit, as I have heard you or some other
traveller tell, with his face literally as blue as the bluest firmament.
Some wretched calico that he had mopped his poor oozy front with, had
rendered up its native dye, and the devil a bit would he consent to wash
it, but swore it was characteristic, for he was going to the sale of
indigo; and set up a laugh which I did not think the lungs of mortal man
were competent to. It was like a thousand people laughing, or the Goblin
Page. He imagined afterwards that the whole office had been laughing at
him, so strange did his own sounds strike upon his _non_sensorium. But
Tommy has laughed his last laugh, and awoke the next day to find himself
reduced from an abused income of £600 per annum to one sixth of the sum,
after thirty-six years' tolerably good service. The quality of mercy was
not strained in his behalf; the gentle dews dropped not on him from
heaven. It just came across me that I was writing to Canton. Will you
drop in to-morrow night? Fanny Kelly is coming, if she does not cheat
us. Mrs. _Gold_ is well, but proves "uncoined," as the lovers about

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