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Sketches." But would not a poem be more consecutive than a string of
sonnets? You have no martyrs _quite to the fire,_ I think, among you,
but plenty of heroic confessors, spirit-martyrs, lamb-lions. Think of
it; it would be better than a series of sonnets on "Eminent Bankers." I
like a hit at our way of life, though it does well for me, - better than
anything short of _all one's time to one's self;_ for which alone I
rankle with envy at the rich. Books are good, and pictures are good, and
money to buy them therefore good; but to buy _time,_ - in other
words, life!

The "compliments of the time" to you, should end my letter; to a Friend,
I suppose, I must say the "sincerity of the season:" I hope they both
mean the same. With excuses for this hastily penned note, believe me,
with great respect,

C. LAMB.


LXXIII.


TO MISS WORDSWORTH.

Mary perfectly approves of the appropriation of the _feathers,_ and
wishes them peacock's for your fair niece's sake.

_Christmas_, 1822.

Dear Miss Wordsworth, - I had just written the above endearing words when
Monkhouse tapped me on the shoulder with an invitation to cold goose
pie, which I was not bird of that sort enough to decline. Mrs. Monkhouse,
I am most happy to say, is better Mary has been tormented with a
rheumatism, which is leaving her, I am suffering from the festivities of
the season. I wonder how my misused carcase holds it out. I have played
the experimental philosopher on it, that's certain. Willy shall be
welcome to a mince-pie and a bout at commerce whenever he comes. He was
in our eye. I am glad you liked my new year's speculations; everybody
likes them, except the author of the "Pleasures of Hope." Disappointment
attend him! How I like to be liked, and _what I do_ to be liked! They
flatter me in magazines, newspapers, and all the minor reviews; the
Quarterlies hold aloof. But they must come into it in time, or their
leaves be waste paper. Salute Trinity Library in my name. Two special
things are worth seeing at Cambridge, - a portrait of Cromwell at Sidney,
and a better of Dr. Harvey (who found out that blood was red) at Dr.
Davy's; you should see them. Coleridge is pretty well; I have not seen,
him, but hear often of him, from Allsop, who sends me hares and
pheasants twice a week; I can hardly take so fast as he gives. I have
almost forgotten butcher's meat as plebeian. Are you not glad the cold
is gone? I find winters not so agreeable as they used to be "when winter
bleak had charms forme," I cannot conjure up a kind similitude for those
snowy flakes. Let them keep to twelfth-cakes!

Mrs. Paris, our Cambridge friend, has been in town. You do not know the
Watfords in Trampington Street. They are capital people. Ask anybody you
meet, who is the biggest woman in Cambridge, and I 'll hold you a wager
they'll say Mrs. Smith; she broke down two benches in Trinity
Gardens, - one on the confines of St. John's, which occasioned a
litigation between the Societies as to repairing it. In warm weather,
she retires into an ice-cellar (literally!), and dates the returns of
the years from a hot Thursday some twenty years back. She sits in a room
with opposite doors and windows, to let in a thorough draught, which
gives her slenderer friends tooth-aches. She is to be seen in the market
every morning at ten cheapening fowls, which I observe the Cambridge
poulterers are not sufficiently careful to stump.

Having now answered most of the points contained in your letter, let me
end with assuring you of our very best kindness, and excuse Mary for not
handling the pen on this occasion, especially as it has fallen into so
much better hands! Will Dr. W. accept of my respects at the end of a
foolish letter?

C. L.


LXXIV.


TO MR. AND MRS. BRUTON. [1]

_January_ 6, 1823.

The pig was above my feeble praise. It was a dear pigmy. There was some
contention as to who should have the ears; but in spite of his obstinacy
(deaf as these little creatures are to advice), I contrived to get at
one of them.

It came in boots, too, which I took as a favor. Generally these
petty-toes, pretty toes I are missing: but I suppose he wore them to
look taller.

He must have been the least of his race. His little foots would have
gone into the silver slipper. I take him to have beec a Chinese and
a female.

If Evelyn could have seen him, he would never have farrowed two such
prodigious volumes, seeing how much good can be contained in - how small
a compass!

He crackled delicately.

I left a blank at the top of my letter, not being determined which to
address it to j so farmer and farmer's wife will please to divide our
thanks. May your granaries be full, and your rats empty, and your
chickens plump, and your envious neighbors lean, and your laborers busy,
and you as idle and as happy as the day is long!

VIVE L'AGRICULTURE!

How do you make your pigs so little?
They are vastly engaging at the age.
I was so myself.
Now I am a disagreeable old hog,
A middle-aged gentleman-and-a-half;
My faculties (thank God!) are not much impaired.

I have my sight, hearing, taste, pretty perfect, and can read the Lord's
Prayer in common type, by the help of a candle, without making many
mistakes....

Many happy returns, not of the pig, but of the New Year, to both. Mary,
for her share of the pig and the memoirs, desires to send the same.

Yours truly,

C. LAMB.

[1] Hertfordshire connections of the Lambs.


LXXV.


TO BERNARD BARTON. [1]

_January_ 9, 1823.

Throw yourself on the world without any rational plan of support beyond
what the chance employ of booksellers would afford you!

Throw yourself, rather, my dear sir, from the steep Tarpeian rock
slap-dash headlong upon iron spikes. If you had but five consolatory
minutes between the desk and the bed, make much of them, and live a
century in them, rather than turn slave to the booksellers. They are
Turks and Tartars when they have poor authors at their beck. Hitherto
you have been at arm's length from them. Come not within their grasp. I
have known many authors want for bread, some repining, others envying
the blessed security of a counting-house, all agreeing they had rather
have been tailors, weavers, - what not, - rather than the things they
were. I have known some starved, some to go mad, one dear friend
literally dying in a workhouse. You know not what a rapacious, dishonest
set these booksellers are. Ask even Southey, who (a single case almost)
has made a fortune by book-drudgery, what he has found them. Oh, you
know not - may you never know! - the miseries of subsisting by authorship.
'Tis a pretty appendage to a situation like yours or mine, but a
slavery, worse than all slavery, to be a bookseller's dependant, to
drudge your brains for pots of ale and breasts of mutton, to change your
free thoughts and voluntary numbers for ungracious task-work. Those
fellows hate _us_. The reason I take to be that, contrary to other
trades, in which the master gets all the credit (a Jeweller or
silversmith for instance), and the journeyman, who really does the fine
work, is in the background, in _our_ work the world gives all the credit
to us, whom _they_ consider as _their_ journeymen, and therefore do they
hate us, and cheat us, and oppress us, and would wring the blood of as
out, to put another sixpence in their mechanic pouches! I contend that a
bookseller has a _relative honesty_ towards authors, not like his
honesty to the rest of the world. Baldwin, who first engaged me as Elia,
has not paid me up yet (nor any of us without repeated mortifying
appeals). Yet how the knave fawned when I was of service to him! Yet I
daresay the fellow is punctual in settling his milk-score, etc.

Keep to your bank, and the bank will keep you. Trust not to the public;
you may hang, starve, drown yourself, for anything that worthy
_personage_ cares. I bless every star that Providence, not seeing good
to make me independent, has seen it next good to settle me upon the
stable foundation of Leadenhall. Sit down, good B.B., in the
banking-office; what! is there not from six to eleven P.M. six days in
the week, and is there not all Sunday? Fie! what a superfluity of man's
time, if you could think so, - enough for relaxation, mirth, converse,
poetry, good thoughts, quiet thoughts. Oh, the corroding, torturing,
tormenting thoughts that disturb the brain of the unlucky wight who must
draw upon it for daily sustenance! Henceforth I retract all my foul
complaints of mercantile employment; look upon them as lovers' quarrels.
I was but half in earnest. Welcome, dead timber of a desk, that makes me
live! A little grumbling is a wholesome medicine for the spleen, but in
my inner heart do I approve and embrace this our close, but unharassing,
way of life. I am quite serious. If you can send me Fox, I will not keep
it _six weeks_, and will return it, with warm thanks to yourself and
friend, without blot or dog's-ear. You will much oblige me by
this kindness.

Yours truly,

C. LAMB.

[1] The Quaker poet. Mr. Barton was a clerk in the bank of the Messrs.
Alexander, of Woodbridge, in Suffolk. Encouraged by his literary
success, he thought of throwing up his clerkship and trusting to his pen
for a livelihood, - a design from which he was happily diverted by his
friends.


LXXVI.


TO MISS HUTCHINSON.

_April_ 25, 1823.

Dear Miss H., - Mary has such an invincible reluctance to any epistolary
exertion that I am sparing her a mortification by taking the pen from
her. The plain truth is, she writes such a mean, detestable hand that
she is ashamed of the formation of her letters. There is an essential
poverty and abjectness in the frame of them. They look like begging
letters. And then she is sure to omit a most substantial word in the
second draught (for she never ventures an epistle without a foul copy
first), which is obliged to be interlined, - which spoils the neatest
epistle, you know. Her figures, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., where she has occasion
to express numerals, as in the date (25th April, 1823), are not figures,
but figurantes; and the combined posse go staggering up and down
shameless, as drunkards in the daytime. It is no better when she rules
her paper. Her lines "are not less erring" than her words; a sort of
unnatural parallel lines, that are perpetually threatening to
meet, - which, you know, is quite contrary to Euclid. Her very blots are
not bold, like this [_here a large blot is inserted_], but poor smears,
half left in and half scratched out, with another smear left in their
place. I like a clear letter; a bold, free hand and a fearless flourish.
Then she has always to go through them (a second operation) to dot her
_i_'s and cross her _t_'s. I don't think she could make a corkscrew if
she tried, - which has such a fine effect at the end or middle of an
epistle, and fills up.

There is a corkscrew! One of the best I ever drew. [1] By the way, what
incomparable whiskey that was of Monkhouse's! But if I am to write a
letter, let me begin, and not stand flourishing like a fencer at a fair.

_April_ 25, 1823.

Dear Miss H., - It gives me great pleasure [the letter now begins] to
hear that you got down so smoothly, and that Mrs. Monkhouse's spirits
are so good and enterprising. [2] It shows, whatever her posture may be,
that her mind at least is not supine. I hope the excursion will enable
the former to keep pace with its outstripping neighbor. Pray present our
kindest wishes to her and all (that sentence should properly have come
into the postscript; but we airy, mercurial spirits, there is no keeping
us in). "Time" (as was said of one of us) "toils after us in vain." I am
afraid our co-visit with Coleridge was a dream. I shall not get away
before the end or middle of June, and then you will be frog-hopping at
Boulogne. And besides, I think the Gilmans would scarce trust him with
us; I have a malicious knack at cutting of apron-strings. The saints'
days you speak of have long since fled to heaven with Astræa, and the
cold piety of the age lacks fervor to recall them; only Peter left his
key, - the iron one of the two that "shuts amain," - and that is the
reason I am locked up. Meanwhile, of afternoons we pick up primroses at
Dalston, and Mary corrects me when I call 'em cowslips. God bless you
all, and pray remember me euphoniously to Mr. Gruvellegan. That Lee
Priory must be a dainty bower. Is it built of flints? and does it stand
at Kingsgate?

[1] Lamb was fond of this flourish, and it is frequently found in his
letters.

[2] Miss Hutchinson's invalid relative.


LXXVII.


TO BERNARD BARTON.

_September_ 2, 1823.

Dear B.B., - What will you not say to my not writing? You cannot say I do
not write now. Hessey has not used your kind sonnet, nor have I seen it.
Pray send me a copy. Neither have I heard any more of your friend's MS.,
which I will reclaim whenever you please. When you come Londonward, you
will find me no longer in Covent Garden: I have a cottage in Colebrook
Row, Islington, - a cottage, for it is detached; a white house, with six
good rooms, The New River (rather elderly by this time) runs (if a
moderate walking pace can be so termed) close to the foot of the house;
and behind is a spacious garden with vines (I assure you), pears,
strawberries, parsnips, leeks, carrots, cabbages, to delight the heart
of old Alcinous. You enter without passage into a cheerful dining-room,
all studded over and rough with old books; and above is a lightsome
drawing-room, three windows, full of choice prints. I feel like a great
lord, never having had a house before.

The "London," I fear, falls off. I linger among its creaking rafters,
like the last rat; it will topple down if they don't get some
buttresses. They have pulled down three, - Hazlitt, Procter, and their
best stay, kind, light-hearted Wainewright, their Janus. [1] The best is,
neither of our fortunes is concerned in it.

I heard of you from Mr. Pulham this morning, and that gave a fillip to
my laziness, which has been intolerable; but I am so taken up with
pruning and gardening, - quite a new sort of occupation to me. I have
gathered my jargonels; but my Windsor pears are backward. The former
were of exquisite raciness. I do now sit under my own vine, and
contemplate the growth of vegetable nature. I can now understand in what
sense they speak of father Adam. I recognize the paternity while I watch
my tulips. I almost fell with him, for the first day I turned a drunken
gardener (as he let in the serpent) into my Eden; and he laid about him,
lopping off some choice boughs, etc., which hung over from a neighbor's
garden, and in his blind zeal laid waste a shade which had sheltered
their window from the gaze of passers-by. The old gentlewoman (fury made
her not handsome) could scarcely be reconciled by all my fine words.
There was no buttering her parsnips. She talked of the law. What a lapse
to commit on the first day of my happy "garden state"!

I hope you transmitted the Fox-Journal to its owner, with suitable
thanks. Mr. Cary, the Dante man, dines with me to-day. He is a mode of a
country parson, lean (as a curate ought to be), modest, sensible, no
obtruder of church dogmas, quite a different man from Southey. You would
like him. Pray accept this for a letter, and believe me, with sincere
regards, yours,

C.L.

[1] Wainewright, the notorious poisoner, who, under the name of "Janus
Weathercock," contributed various frothy papers on art and literature to
the "London Magazine."


LXXVIII.


TO MRS. HAZLITT.

_November_, 1823.

Dear Mrs. H., - Sitting down to write a letter is such a painful
operation to Mary that you must accept me as her proxy. You have seen
our house. What I now tell you is literally true. Yesterday week, George
Dyer called upon us, at one o'clock (_bright noonday_), on his way to
dine with Mrs. Barbauld at Newington. He sat with Mary about half an
hour, and took leave. The maid saw him go out from her kitchen window,
but suddenly losing sight of him, ran up in a fright to Mary. G.D.,
instead of keeping the slip that leads to the gate, had deliberately,
staff in hand, in broad, open day, marched into the New River. [1] He had
not his spectacles on, and you know his absence. Who helped him out,
they can hardly tell; but between 'em they got him out, drenched thro'
and thro'. A mob collected by that time, and accompanied him in. "Send
for the doctor!" they said; and a one-eyed fellow, dirty and drunk, was
fetched from the public-house at the end, where it seem he lurks for the
sake of picking up water-practice, having formerly had a medal from the
Humane Society for some rescue. By his advice the patient was put
between blankets; and when I came home at four to dinner, I found G.D.
a-bed, and raving, light-headed with the brandy-and-water which the
doctor had administered. He sang, laughed, whimpered, screamed, babbled
of guardian angels, would get up and go home; but we kept him there by
force; and by next morning he departed sobered, and seems to have
received no injury. [2] All my friends are open-mouthed about having
paling before the river; but I cannot see that because a ... lunatic
chooses to walk into a river, with his eyes open, at mid-day, I am any
the more likely to be drowned in it, coming home at midnight.

[1] See Elia-essay, "Amicus Redivivus."

[2] In the "Athenæum" for 1835 Procter says: "I happened to call at
Lamb's house about ten minutes after this accident; I saw before me a
train of water running from the door to the river. Lamb had gone for a
surgeon; the maid was running about distraught, with dry clothes on one
arm, and the dripping habiliments of the involuntary bather in the
other. Miss Lamb, agitated, and whimpering forth 'Poor Mr. Dyer!' in the
most forlorn voice, stood plunging her hands into the wet pockets of his
trousers, to fish up the wet coin. Dyer himself, an amiable little old
man, who took water _in_ternally and eschewed strong liquors, lay on his
host's bed, hidden by blankets; his head, on which was his short gray
hair, alone peered out; and this, having been rubbed dry by a resolute
hand, - by the maid's, I believe, who assisted at the rescue, - looked as
if bristling with a thousand needles. Lamb, moreover, in his anxiety,
had administered a formidable dose of cognac and water to the sufferer,
and _he_ (used only to the simple element) babbled without cessation."


LXXIX.


TO BERNARD BARTON.

_January_ 9, 1824.

Dear B.B., - Do you know what it is to succumb under an insurmountable
day-mare, - "a whoreson lethargy," Falstaff calls it, - an indisposition
to do anything or to be anything; a total deadness and distaste; a
suspension of vitality; an indifference to locality; a numb, soporifical
good-for-nothingness; an ossification all over; an oyster-like
insensibility to the passing events; a mind-stupor; a brawny defiance to
the needles of a thrusting-in conscience? Did you ever have a very bad
cold, with a total irresolution to submit to water-gruel processes? This
has been for many weeks my lot and my excuse. My fingers drag heavily
over this paper, and to my thinking it is three-and-twenty furlongs from
here to the end of this demi-sheet. I have not a thing to say; nothing
is of more importance than another. I am flatter than a denial or a
pancake; emptier than Judge Parke's wig when the head is in it; duller
than a country stage when the actors are off it, - a cipher, an o! I
acknowledge life at all only by an occasional convulsional cough and a
permanent phlegmatic pain in the chest. I am weary of the world; life is
weary of me, My day is gone into twilight, and I don't think it worth
the expense of candles. My wick hath a thief in it, but I can't muster
courage to snuff it. I inhale suffocation; I can't distinguish veal from
mutton; nothing interests me. 'T is twelve o'clock, and Thurtell [1] is
just now coming out upon the new drop, Jack Ketch alertly tucking up his
greasy sleeves to do the last office of mortality; yet cannot I elicit a
groan or a moral reflection. If you told me the world will be at an end
to-morrow, I should just say, "Will it?" I have not volition enough left
to dot my _i_'s, much less to comb my eyebrows; my eyes are set in my
head; my brains are gone out to see a poor relation in Moorfields, and
they did not say when they'd come back again; my skull is a Grub Street
attic to let, - not so much as a joint-stool left in it; my hand writes,
not I, from habit, as chickens run about a little when their heads are
off. Oh for a vigorous fit of gout, colic, toothache, - an earwig in my
auditory, a fly in my visual organs; pain is life, - the sharper the more
evidence of life; but this apathy, this death! Did you ever have an
obstinate cold, - a six or seven weeks' unintermitting chill and
suspension of hope, fear, conscience, and everything? Yet do I try all I
can to cure it. I try wine, and spirits, and smoking, and snuff in
unsparing quantities; but they all only seem to make me worse, instead
of better. I sleep in a damp room, but it does me no good; I come home
late o' nights, but do not find any visible amendment! Who shall deliver
me from the body of this death?

It is just fifteen minutes after twelve. Thurtell is by this time a good
way on his journey, baiting at Scorpion, perhaps. Ketch is bargaining
for his cast coat and waistcoat; and the Jew demurs at first at three
half-crowns, but on consideration that he may get somewhat by showing
'em in the town, finally closes.

C. L.

[1] Hanged that day for the murder of Weare.


LXXX.


TO BERNARD BARTON.

_January_ 23, 1824.

My dear sir, - That peevish letter of mine, [1] which was meant to convey
an apology for my incapacity to write, seems to have been taken by you
in too serious a light, - it was only my way of telling you I had a
severe cold. The fact is, I have been insuperably dull and lethargic for
many weeks, and cannot rise to the vigor of a letter, much less an
essay. The "London" must do without me for a time, for I have lost all
interest about it; and whether I shall recover it again I know not. I
will bridle my pen another time, and not tease and puzzle you with my
aridities. I shall begin to feel a little more alive with the spring.

Winter is to me (mild or harsh) always a great trial of the spirits. I
am ashamed not to have noticed your tribute to Woolman, whom we love so
much; it is done in your good manner. Your friend Tayler called upon me
some time since, and seems a very amiable man. His last story is
painfully fine. His book I "like;" it is only too stuffed with
Scripture, too parsonish. The best thing in it is the boy's own story.
When I say it is too full of Scripture, I mean it is too full of direct
quotations; no book can have too much of silent Scripture in it. But the
natural power of a story is diminished when the uppermost purpose in the
writer seems to be to recommend something else, - namely, Religion. You
know what Horace says of the _Deus intersit_? I am not able to explain
myself, - you must do it for me. My sister's part in the "Leicester
School" (about two thirds) was purely her own; as it was (to the same
quantity) in the "Shakspeare Tales" which bear my name. I wrote only the
"Witch Aunt," the "First Going to Church," and the final story about "A
little Indian girl" in a ship. Your account of my black-balling amused
me. _I think, as Quakers, they did right._ There are some things hard to
be understood. The more I think, the more I am vexed at having puzzled
you with that letter; but I have been so out of letter-writing of late
years that it is a sore effort to sit down to it; and I felt in your
debt, and sat down waywardly to pay you in bad money. Never mind my
dulness; I am used to long intervals of it. The heavens seem brass to
me; then again comes the refreshing shower, -

"I have been merry twice and once ere now."

You said something about Mr. Mitford in a late letter, which I believe I
did not advert to. I shall be happy to show him my Milton (it is all the
show things I have) at any time he will take the trouble of a jaunt to
Islington. I do also hope to see Mr. Tayler there some day. Pray say so
to both. Coleridge's book is in good part printed, but sticks a little
for _more copy_. It bears an unsalable title, - "Extracts from Bishop
Leighton;" but I am confident there will be plenty of good notes in
it, - more of Bishop Coleridge than Leighton in it, I hope; for what is
Leighton? Do you trouble yourself about libel cases? The decision
against Hunt for the "Vision of Judgment" made me sick. What is to
become of the good old talk about our good old king, - his personal


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