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Wheathampstead would say.

I have not had such a quiet half hour to sit down to a quiet letter for
many years. I have not been interrupted above four times. I wrote a
letter the other day in alternate lines, black ink and red, and you
cannot think how it chilled the flow of ideas. Next Monday is
Whit-Monday. What a reflection! Twelve years ago, and I should have kept
that and the following holiday in the fields a-maying. All of those
pretty pastoral delights are over. This dead, everlasting dead
desk, - how it weighs the spirit of a gentleman down! This dead wood of
the desk instead of your living trees! But then, again, I hate the
joskins, _a name for Hertfordshire bumpkins_. Each state of life has its
inconvenience; but then, again, mine has more than one. Not that I
repine, or grudge, or murmur at my destiny. I have meat and drink, and
decent apparel, - I shall, at least, when I get a new hat,

A red-haired man just interrupted me. He has broke the current of my
thoughts, I haven't a word to add, I don't know why I send this letter,
but I have had a hankering to hear about you some days. Perhaps it will
go off before your reply comes. If it don't, I assure you no letter was
ever welcomer from, you, from Paris or Macao.

C. LAMB.

[1] See the Elia essay, "Mackery End, in H - -shire."


LXVI.


TO MISS WORDSWORTH.

_November_ 25, 1819.

Dear Miss Wordsworth, - You will think me negligent, but I wanted to see
more of Willy [1] before I ventured to express a prediction, Till
yesterday I had barely seen him, - _Virgilium tantum vidi_; but yesterday
he gave us his small company to a bullock's heart, and I can pronounce
him a lad of promise. He is no pedant nor bookworm; so far I can answer.
Perhaps he has hitherto paid too little attention to other men's
inventions, preferring, like Lord Foppington, the "natural sprouts of
his own." But he has observation, and seems thoroughly awake. I am ill
at remembering other people's _bon mots_, but the following are a few.
Being taken over Waterloo Bridge, he remarked that if we had no
mountains, we had a fine river, at least, - which was a touch of the
comparative; but then he added in a strain which augured less for his
future abilities as a political economist, that he supposed they must
take at least a pound a week toll. Like a curious naturalist, he
inquired if the tide did not come up a little salty. This being
satisfactorily answered, he put another question, as to the flux and
reflux; which being rather cunningly evaded than artfully solved by that
she-Aristotle Mary, who muttered something about its getting up an hour
sooner and sooner every day, he sagely replied, "Then it must come to
the same thing at last," - which was a speech worthy of an infant Halley!
The lion in the 'Change by no means came up to his ideal standard, - so
impossible is it for Nature, in any of her works, to come up to the
standard of a child's imagination! The whelps (lionets) he was sorry to
find were dead; and on particular inquiry, his old friend the
orang-outang had gone the way of all flesh also. The grand tiger was
also sick, and expected in no short time to exchange this transitory
world for another or none. But, again, there was a golden eagle (I do
not mean that of Charing) which did much arride and console him.
William's genius, I take it, leans a little to the figurative; for being
at play at tricktrack (a kind of minor billiard-table which we keep for
smaller wights, and sometimes refresh our own mature fatigues with
taking a hand at), not being able to hit a ball he had iterate aimed at,
he cried out, "I cannot hit that beast." Now, the balls are usually
called men, but he felicitously hit upon a middle term, - a term of
approximation and imaginative reconciliation; a something where the two
ends of the brute matter (ivory) and their human and rather violent
personification into men might meet, as I take it, - illustrative of that
excellent remark in a certain preface about imagination, explaining
"Like a sea-beast that had crawled forth to sun himself!" Not that I
accuse William Minor of hereditary plagiary, or conceive the image to
have come _ex traduce_. Rather he seemeth to keep aloof from any source
of imitation, and purposely to remain ignorant of what mighty poets have
done in this kind before him; for being asked if his father had ever
been on Westminster Bridge, [2] he answered that he did not know!

It is hard to discern the oak in the acorn, or a temple like St. Paul's
in the first stone which is laid; nor can I quite prefigure what
destination the genius of William Minor hath to take. Some few hints I
have set down, to guide my future observations. He hath the power of
calculation in no ordinary degree for a chit. He combineth figures,
after the first boggle, rapidly; as in the tricktrack board, where the
hits are figured, at first he did not perceive that 15 and 7 made 22;
but by a little use he could combine 8 with 25, and 33 again with
16, - which approacheth something in kind (far let me be from flattering
him by saying in degree) to that of the famous American boy. I am
sometimes inclined to think I perceive the future satirist in him, for
he hath a sub-sardonic smile which bursteth out upon occasion, - as when
he was asked if London were as big as Ambleside; and indeed no other
answer was given, or proper to be given, to so ensnaring and provoking a
question. In the contour of skull certainly I discern something
paternal; but whether in all respects the future man shall transcend his
father's fame, Time, the trier of Geniuses, must decide. Be it
pronounced peremptorily at present that Willy is a well-mannered child,
and though no great student, hath yet a lively eye for things that lie
before him.

Given in haste from my desk at Leadenhall. Yours, and yours most
sincerely,

C. LAMB.

[1] Wordsworth's third son. He was at the Charter-house School in
London, and the Lambs had invited him to spend a half holiday with them.

[2] "William Minor" was evidently forgetful of the exquisite sonnet,
"Composed Upon Westminster Bridge."


LXVII.


TO COLERIDGE.

_March_ 9, 1822.

Dear C., - It gives me great satisfaction to hear that the pig turned out
so well, [1] - they are interesting creatures at a certain age; what a
pity such buds should blow out into the maturity of rank bacon! You had
all some of the crackling - and brain sauce; did you remember to rub it
with butter, and gently dredge it a little just before the crisis? Did
the eyes come away kindly, with no Oedipean avulsion? Was the crackling
the color of the ripe pomegranate? Had you no cursed complement of
boiled neck of mutton before it, to blunt the edge of delicate desire?
Did you flesh maiden teeth in it? Not that I sent the pig, or can form
the remotest guess what part Owen could play in the business. I never
knew him give anything away in my life. He would not begin with
strangers. I suspect the pig, after all, was meant for me; but at the
unlucky juncture of time being absent, the present somehow went round to
Highgate. To confess an honest truth, a pig is one of those things I
could never think of sending away. Teals, widgeons, snipes, barn-door
fowl, ducks, geese, - your tame villatic things, - Welsh mutton collars
of brawn, sturgeon, fresh or pickled, your potted char, Swiss cheeses,
French pies, early grapes, muscadines, I impart as freely unto my
friends as to myself. They are but self-extended; but pardon me if I
stop somewhere. Where the fine feeling of benevolence giveth a higher
smack than the sensual rarity, there my friends (or any good man) may
command me; but pigs are pigs, and I myself therein am nearest to
myself. Nay, I should think it an, affront, an undervaluing done to
Nature, who bestowed such a boon upon me, if in a churlish mood I parted
with the precious gift. One of the bitterest pangs I ever felt of
remorse was when a child. My kind old aunt [2] had strained her
pocket-strings to bestow a sixpenny whole plum cake upon me. In my way
home through the Borough, I met a venerable old man, not a mendicant,
but thereabouts, - a look-beggar, not a verbal petitionist; and in the
coxcombry of taught-charity, I gave away the cake to him. I walked on a
little in all the pride of an Evangelical peacock, when of a sudden my
old aunt's kindness crossed me, - the sum it was to her; the pleasure she
had a right to expect that I - not the old impostor - should take in
eating her cake; the cursed ingratitude by which, under the color of a
Christian virtue, I had frustrated her cherished purpose. I sobbed,
wept, and took it to heart so grievously that I think I never suffered
the like; and I was right. It was a piece of unfeeling hypocrisy, and
proved a lesson to me ever after. The cake has long been masticated,
consigned to dunghill with the ashes of that unseasonable pauper.

But when Providence, who is better to us all than our aunts, gives me a
pig, remembering my temptation and my fall, I shall endeavor to act
towards it more in the spirit of the donor's purpose.

Yours (short of pig) to command in everything,

C. L.

[1] Some one had sent Coleridge a pig, and the gift was erroneously
credited to Lamb.

[2] Elia: "Christ's Hospital Five-and-Thirty Years Ago."


LXVIII.


TO WORDSWORTH.

_March_ 20, 1822.

My Dear Wordsworth, - A letter from you is very grateful; I have not seen
a Kendal postmark so long. We are pretty well, save colds and
rheumatics, and a certain deadness to everything, which I think I may
date from poor John's loss, and another accident or two at the same
time, that has made me almost bury myself at Dalston, where yet I see
more faces than I could wish. Deaths overset one and put one out long
after the recent grief. Two or three have died, within this last two
twelvemonths, and so many parts of me have been numbed. One sees a
picture, reads an anecdote, starts a casual fancy, and thinks to tell of
it to this person in preference to every other; the person is gone whom
it would have peculiarly suited. It won't do for another. Every
departure destroys a class of sympathies. There's Captain Burney gone!
What fun has whist now? What matters it what you lead, if you can no
longer fancy him looking over you? [1] One never hears anything, but the
image of the particular person occurs with whom alone almost you would
care to share the intelligence, - thus one distributes oneself about; and
now for so many parts of me I have lost the market. Common natures do
not suffice me. Good people, as they are called, won't serve; I want
individuals. I am made up of queer points, and I want so many answering
needles. The going-away of friends does not make the remainder more
precious. It takes so much from them, as there was a common link. A, B,
and C make a party. A dies. B not only loses A, but all A's part in C. C
loses A's part in B, and so the alphabet sickens by subtraction of
interchangeables. I express myself muddily, _capite dolente_. I have a
dulling cold. My theory is to enjoy life; but my practice is against it.
I grow ominously tired of official confinement. Thirty years have I
served the Philistines, and my neck is not subdued to the yoke. You
don't know how wearisome it is to breathe the air of four pent walls
without relief, day after day, all the golden hours of the day between
ten and four, without ease or interposition. _Tædet me harum
quotidianarum formarum_, these pestilential clerk-faces always in one's
dish. Oh for a few years between the grave and the desk! they are the
same, save that at the latter you are the outside machine. The foul
enchanter [Nick?], "letters four do form his name," - Busirane [2] is his
name in hell, - that has curtailed you of some domestic comforts, hath
laid a heavier hand on me, not in present infliction, but in the taking
away the hope of enfranchisement. I dare not whisper to myself a pension
on this side of absolute incapacitation and infirmity, till years have
sucked me dry, - _Otium cum indignitate_. I had thought in a green old
age (oh, green thought!) to have retired to Ponder's End, - emblematic
name, how beautiful!, - in the Ware Road, there to have made up my
accounts with Heaven and the Company, toddling about between it and
Cheshunt, anon stretching, on some fine Izaak Walton morning, to
Hoddesdon or Amwell, careless as a beggar; but walking, walking ever,
till I fairly walked myself off my legs, - dying walking! The hope is
gone. I sit like Philomel all day (but not singing), with my breast
against this thorn of a desk, with the only hope that some pulmonary
affliction may relieve me. _Vide_ Lord Palmerston's report of the clerks
in the War-office (Debates in this morning's "Times"), by which it
appears, in twenty years as many clerks have been coughed and catarrhed
out of it into their freer graves. Thank you for asking about the
pictures. Milton hangs over my fire-side in Covent Garden (when I am
there); the rest have been sold for an old song, wanting the eloquent
tongue that should have set them off! You have gratified me with liking
my meeting with Dodd. For the Malvolio story, - the thing is become in
verity a sad task, and I eke it out with anything. If I could slip out
of it I should be happy; but our chief-reputed assistants have forsaken
us. The Opium-Eater crossed us once with a dazzling path, and hath as
suddenly left us darkling; and, in short, I shall go on from dull to
worse, because I cannot resist the booksellers' importunity, - the old
plea, you know, of authors; but I believe on my part sincere. Hartley I
do not so often see, but I never see him in unwelcome hour. I thoroughly
love and honor him. I send you a frozen epistle; but it is winter and
dead time of the year with me. May Heaven keep something like spring and
summer up with you, strengthen your eyes, and make mine a little lighter
to encounter with them, as I hope they shall yet and again, before all
are closed!

Yours, with every kind remembrance,

C. L.

[1] Martin Burney was the grimy-fisted whist-player to whom Lamb once
observed, "Martin, if dirt was trumps, what hands you would hold!"

[2] The enchanter in "The Faerie Queene."


LXIX.


TO JOHN CLARE. [1]

_August_ 31, 1822.

Dear Clare, - I thank you heartily for your present. I am an inveterate
old Londoner, but while I am among your choice collections I seem to be
native to them and free of the country. The quality of your observation
has astonished me. What have most pleased me have been "Recollections
after a Ramble," and those "Grongar Hill" kind of pieces in
eight-syllable lines, my favourite measure, such as "Cooper Hill" and
"Solitude." In some of your story-telling Ballads the provincial phrases
sometimes startle me. I think you are too profuse with them. In poetry
_slang_ of every kind is to be avoided. There is a rustic Cockneyism, as
little pleasing as ours of London. Transplant Arcadia to Helpstone. The
true rustic style I think is to be found in Shenstone. Would his
"School-mistress," the prettiest of poems, have been better if he had
used quite the Goody's own language? Now and then a home rusticism is
fresh and startling; but when nothing is gained in expression, it is out
of tenor. It may make folks smile and stare; but the ungenial coalition
of barbarous with refined phrases will prevent you in the end from being
so generally tasted as you desire to be. Excuse my freedom, and take the
same liberty with my _puns_.

I send you two little volumes of my spare hours. They are of all sorts;
there is a Methodist hymn for Sundays, and a farce for Saturday night.
Pray give them a place on your shelf. Pray accept a little volume, of
which I have a duplicate, that I may return in equal number to your
welcome presents. I think I am indebted to you for a sonnet in the
"London" for August.

Since I saw you I have been in France, and have eaten frogs. The nicest
little rabbity things you ever tasted. Do look about for them. Make Mrs.
Clare pick off the hind-quarters, boil them plain, with parsley and
butter. The fore-quarters are not so good. She may let them hop off by
themselves.

Yours sincerely,

CHAS. LAMB.

[1] The Northamptonshire peasant poet. He had sent Lamb his "The Village
Minstrel, and other Poems."


LXX.


TO MR. BARRON FIELD.

_September_ 22, 1822.

My Dear F., - I scribble hastily at office. Frank wants my letter
presently. I and sister are just returned from Paris! [1] We have eaten
frogs. It has been such a treat! You know our monotonous general tenor.
Frogs are the nicest little delicate things, - rabbity flavored. Imagine
a Lilliputian rabbit! They fricassee them; but in my mind, dressed
seethed, plain, with parsley and butter, would have been the decision of
Apicius.... Paris is a glorious, picturesque old city. London looks mean
and new to it, as the town of Washington would, seen after _it._ But
they have no St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey. The Seine, so much
despised by Cockneys, is exactly the size to run through a magnificent
street; palaces a mile long on one side, lofty Edinburgh stone (oh, the
glorious antiques!) houses on the other. The Thames disunites London and
Southwark. I had Talma to supper with me. He has picked up, as I
believe, an authentic portrait of Shakspeare. He paid a broker about £40
English for it. It is painted on the one half of a pair of bellows, - a
lovely picture, corresponding with the Folio head. The bellows has old
carved _wings_ round it and round the visnomy is inscribed, as near as I
remember, not divided into rhyme, - I found out the rhyme, -

"Whom have we here
Stuck on this bellows,
But the Prince of good fellows,
Willy Shakspere?"

At top, -

"O base and coward lack,
To be here stuck!"

POINS.

At bottom, -

"Nay! rather a glorious lot is to him assign'd,
Who, like the Almighty, rides upon the wind."

PISTOL,

This is all in old, carved wooden letters. The countenance smiling,
sweet, and intellectual beyond measure, even as he was immeasurable. It
may be a forgery. They laugh at me, and tell me Ireland is in Paris, and
has been putting off a portrait of the Black Prince. How far old wood
may be imitated I cannot say, Ireland was not found out by his
parchments, but by his poetry. I am confident no painter on either side
the Channel could have painted anything near like the face I saw. Again,
would such a painter and forger have taken £40 for a thing, if
authentic, worth £4000? Talma is not in the secret, for he had not even
found out the rhymes in the first inscription. He is coming over with
it, and my life to Southey's "Thalaba," it will gain universal faith.

The letter is wanted, and I am wanted. Imagine the blank filled up with
all kind things.

Our joint, hearty remembrances to both of you. Yours as ever,

C. LAMB.

[1] The Lambs had visited Paris on the invitation of James Kenney, the
dramatist, who had married a Frenchwoman, and was living at Versailles.


LXXI.


TO WALTER WILSON.

_December_ 16, 1822.

Dear Wilson, - _Lightning_ I was going to call you. You must have thought
me negligent in not answering your letter sooner. But I have a habit of
never writing letters but at the office; 'tis so much time cribbed out
of the Company; and I am but just got out of the thick of a tea-sale, in
which most of the entry of notes, deposits, etc., usually falls to
my share.

I have nothing of De Foe's but two or three novels and the "Plague
History." [1] I can give you no information about him. As a slight
general character of what I remember of them (for I have not looked into
them latterly), I would say that in the appearance of _truth,_ in all
the incidents and conversations that occur in them, they exceed any
works of fiction I am acquainted with. It is perfect illusion. The
_author_ never appears in these self-narratives (for so they ought to be
called, or rather auto-biographies), but the _narrator_ chains us down
to an implicit belief in everything he says. There is all the minute
detail of a log-book in it. Dates are painfully pressed upon the memory.
Facts are repeated over and over in varying phrases, till you cannot
choose but believe them. It is like reading evidence given in a court of
justice. So anxious the story-teller seems that the truth should be
clearly comprehended that when he has told us a matter of fact or a
motive, in a line or two farther down he _repeats_ it with his favorite
figure of speech, "I say" so and so, though he had made it abundantly
plain before. This is in imitation of the common people's way of
speaking, or rather of the way in which they are addressed by a master
or mistress who wishes to impress something upon their memories, and has
a wonderful effect upon matter-of-fact readers. Indeed, it is to such
principally that he writes. His style is everywhere beautiful, but plain
and _homely._ "Robinson Crusoe" is delightful to all ranks and classes;
but it is easy to see that it is written in phraseology peculiarly
adapted to the lower conditions of readers, - hence it is an especial
favorite with seafaring men, poor boys, servant-maids, etc. His novels
are capital kitchen-reading, while they are worthy, from their deep
interest, to find a shelf in the libraries of the wealthiest and the
most learned. His passion for _matter-of-fact narrative_ sometimes
betrayed him into a long relation of common incidents, which might
happen to any man, and have no interest but the intense appearance of
truth in them, to recommend them. The whole latter half or two-thirds of
"Colonel Jack" is of this description. The beginning of "Colonel Jack"
is the most affecting natural picture of a young thief that was ever
drawn. His losing the stolen money in the hollow of a tree, and finding
it again when he was in despair, and then being in equal distress at not
knowing how to dispose of it, and several similar touches in the early
history of the Colonel, evince a deep knowledge of human nature, and
putting out of question the superior _romantic_ interest of the latter,
in my mind very much exceed "Crusoe." "Roxana" (first edition) is the
next in interest, though he left out the best part of it in subsequent
editions from a foolish hypercriticism of his friend Southerne. But
"Moll Flanders," the "Account of the Plague," etc., are all of one
family, and have the same stamp of character. Believe me, with friendly
recollections - Brother (as I used to call you), Yours,

C. LAMB.

[1] Wilson was preparing a Life of De Foe, and had written to Lamb for
guidance.


LXXII.


TO BERNARD BARTON.

_December_ 23, 1822.

Dear Sir, - I have been so distracted with business and one thing or
other, I have not had a quiet quarter of an hour for epistolary
purposes. Christmas, too, is come, which always puts a rattle into my
morning skull. It is a visiting, unquiet, unquakerish season. I get more
and more in love with solitude, and proportionately hampered with
company. I hope you have some holidays at this period. I have one
day, - Christmas Day; alas! too few to commemorate the season. All work
and no play dulls me. Company is not play, but many times bard work. To
play, is for a man to do what he pleases, or to do nothing, - to go about
soothing his particular fancies. I have lived to a time of life to have
outlived the good hours, the nine-o'clock suppers, with a bright hour or
two to clear up in afterwards. Now you cannot get tea before that hour,
and then sit gaping, music bothered perhaps, till half-past twelve
brings up the tray; and what you steal of convivial enjoyment after, is
heavily paid for in the disquiet of to-morrow's head.

I am pleased with your liking "John Woodvil," and amused with your
knowledge of our drama being confined to Shakspeare and Miss Baillie.
What a world of fine territory between Land's End and Johnny Groat's
have you missed traversing! I could almost envy you to have so much to
read. I feel as if I had read all the books I want to read. Oh, to
forget Fielding, Steele, etc., and read 'em new!

Can you tell me a likely place where I could pick up cheap Fox's
Journal? There are no Quaker circulating libraries? Elwood, too, I must
have. I rather grudge that Southey has taken up the history of your
people; I am afraid he will put in some levity. I am afraid I am not
quite exempt from that fault in certain magazine articles, where I have
introduced mention of them. Were they to do again, I would reform them.
Why should not you write a poetical account of your old worthies,
deducing them from Fox to Woolman? But I remember you did talk of
something of that kind, as a counterpart to the "Ecclesiastical


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