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virtues saving us from a revolution, etc.? Why, none that think can
utter it now. It must stink. And the "Vision" is as to himward such a
tolerant, good-humored thing! What a wretched thing a Lord Chief Justice
is, always was, and will be!

Keep your good spirits up, dear B. B., mine will return; they are at
present in abeyance, but I am rather lethargic than miserable. I don't
know but a good horsewhip would be more beneficial to me than physic. My
head, without aching, will teach yours to ache. It is well I am getting
to the conclusion. I will send a better letter when I am a better man.
Let me thank you for your kind concern for me (which I trust will have
reason soon to be dissipated), and assure you that it gives me pleasure
to hear from you.

Yours truly,

C. L.

[1] Letter LXXIX.



_April_, 1824.

Dear B.B., - I am sure I cannot fill a letter, though I should disfurnish
my skull to fill it; but you expect something, and shall have a notelet.
Is Sunday, not divinely speaking, but humanly and holiday-sically, a
blessing? Without its institution, would our rugged taskmasters have
given us a leisure day so often, think you, as once in a month? or, if
it had not been instituted, might they not have given us every sixth
day? Solve me this problem. If we are to go three times a-day to church,
why has Sunday slipped into the notion of a _holi_day? A HOLY-day, I
grant it. The Puritans, I have read in Southey's book, knew the
distinction. They made people observe Sunday rigorously, would not let a
nurserymaid walk out in the fields with children for recreation on that
day. But _then_ they gave the people a holiday from all sorts of work
every second Tuesday. This was giving to the two Cæsars that which was
_his_ respective. Wise, beautiful, thoughtful, generous legislators!
Would Wilberforce give us our Tuesdays? No; he would turn the six days
into sevenths, -

"And those three smiling seasons of the year
Into a Russian winter."

I am sitting opposite a person who is making strange distortions with
the gout, which is not unpleasant pleasant, - to me, at least. What is
the reason we do not sympathize with pain, short of some terrible
surgical operation? Hazlitt, who boldly says all he feels, avows that
not only he does not pity sick people, but he hates them. I obscurely
recognize his meaning. Pain is probably too selfish a consideration, too
simply a consideration of self-attention. We pity poverty, loss of
friends, etc., - more complex things, in which the sufferer's feelings
are associated with others. This is a rough thought suggested by the
presence of gout; I want head to extricate it and plane it. What is all
this to your letter? I felt it to be a good one, but my turn, when I
write at all, is perversely to travel out of the record, so that my
letters are anything but answers. So you still want a motto? You must
not take my ironical one, because your book, I take it, is too serious
for it. Bickerstaff might have used it for _his_ lucubrations. What do
you think of (for a title) Religio Tremuli? or Tremebundi? There is
Religio Medici and Laici. But perhaps the volume is not quite Quakerish
enough, or exclusively so, for it. Your own "Vigils" is perhaps the
best. While I have space, let me congratulate with you the return of
spring, - what a summery spring too! All those qualms about the dog and
cray-fish [1] melt before it. I am going to be happy and _vain_ again.

A hasty farewell,


[1] Lamb had confessed, in a previous letter to Barton, to having once
wantonly set a dog upon a cray-fish.



_May_ 15, 1824.

Dear B. B., - I am oppressed with business all day, and company all
night. But I will snatch a quarter of an hour. Your recent acquisitions
of the picture and the letter are greatly to be congratulated. I too
have a picture of my father and the copy of his first love-verses; but
they have been mine long. Blake is a real name, I assure you, and a most
extraordinary man, if he is still living. He is the Robert [William]
Blake whose wild designs accompany a splendid folio edition of the
"Night Thoughts," which you may have seen, in one of which he pictures
the parting of soul and body by a solid mass of human form floating off,
God knows how, from a lumpish mass (fac-simile to itself) left behind on
the dying bed. He paints in water-colors marvellous strange pictures,
visions of his brain, which he asserts that he has seen; they have great
merit. He has _seen_ the old Welsh bards on Snowdon, - he has seen the
beautifullest, the strongest, and the ugliest man, left alone from the
massacre of the Britons by the Romans, and has painted them from memory
(I have seen his paintings), and asserts them to be as good as the
figures of Raphael and Angelo, but not better, as they had precisely the
same retro-visions and prophetic visions with themself [himself]. The
painters in oil (which he will have it that neither of them practised)
he affirms to have been the ruin of art, and affirms that all the while
he was engaged in his Welsh paintings, Titian was disturbing him, -
Titian the Ill Genius of Oil Painting. His pictures - one in particular,
the Canterbury Pilgrims, far above Stothard - have great merit, but hard,
dry, yet with grace. He has written a Catalogue of them, with a most
spirited criticism on Chaucer, but mystical and full of vision. His
poems have been sold hitherto only in manuscript. I never read them; but
a friend at my desire procured the "Sweep Song." There is one to a
tiger, which I have heard recited, beginning, -

"Tiger, Tiger, burning bright,
Thro' the deserts of the night,"

which is glorious, but, alas! I have not the book; for the man is flown,
whither I know not, - to Hades or a madhouse. But I must look on him as
one of the most extraordinary persons of the age. Montgomery's book [1] I
have not much hope from, and the society with the affected name [2] has
been laboring at it for these twenty years, and made few converts. I
think it was injudicious to mix stories, avowedly colored by fiction,
with the sad, true statements from the parliamentary records, etc. But I
wish the little negroes all the good that can come from it. I battered
my brains (not buttered them, - but it is a bad _a_) for a few verses
for them, but I could make nothing of it. You have been luckier. But
Blake's are the flower of the set, you will, I am sure, agree; though
some of Montgomery's at the end are pretty, but the Dream awkwardly
paraphrased from B.

With the exception of an Epilogue for a Private Theatrical, I have
written nothing new for near six months. It is in vain to spur me on. I
must wait. I cannot write without a genial impulse, and I have none. 'T
is barren all and dearth. No matter; life is something without
scribbling. I have got rid of my bad spirits, and hold up pretty well
this rain-damned May.

So we have lost another poet. [3] I never much relished his Lordship's
mind, and shall be sorry if the Greeks have cause to miss him. He was to
me offensive, and I never can make out his real _power_, which his
admirers talk of. Why, a, line of Wordsworth's is a lever to lift the
immortal spirit; Byron can only move the spleen. He was at best a
satirist. In any other way, he was mean enough. I daresay I do him
injustice; but I cannot love him, nor squeeze a tear to his memory. He
did not like the world, and he has left it, as Alderman Curtis advised
the Radicals, "if they don't like their country, damn 'em, let 'em leave
it," they possessing no rood of ground in England, and he ten thousand
acres. Byron was better than many Curtises.

Farewell, and accept this apology for a letter from one who owes you so
much in that kind.

Yours ever truly, C. L.

[1] "The Chimney-Sweeper's Friend, and Climbing-Boy's Album," - a book,
by James Montgomery, setting forth the wrongs of the little
chimney-sweepers, for whose relief a society had been started.

[2] The Society for Ameliorating the Condition of Infant

[3] Byron had died on April 19.



_August_, 1824.

I can no more understand Shelley than you can; his poetry is "thin sown
with profit or delight." Yet I must point to your notice a sonnet
conceived and expressed with a witty delicacy. It is that addressed to
one who hated him, but who could not persuade him to hate _him_ again.
His coyness to the other's passion - for hate demands a return as much as
love, and starves without it - is most arch and pleasant. Pray, like it
very much. For his theories and nostrums, they are oracular enough, but
I either comprehend 'em not, or there is "miching malice" and mischief
in 'em, but, for the most part, ringing with their own emptiness.
Hazlitt said well of 'em: "Many are the wiser and better for reading
Shakspeare, but nobody was ever wiser or better for reading Shelley." I
wonder you will sow your correspondence on so barren a ground as I am,
that make such poor returns. But my head aches at the bare thought of
letter-writing. I wish all the ink in the ocean dried up, and would
listen to the quills shivering up in the candle flame, like parching
martyrs. The same indisposition to write it is has stopped my "Elias;"
but you will see a futile effort in the next number, [1] "wrung from me
with slow pain." The fact is, my head is seldom cool enough. I am
dreadfully indolent. To have to do anything - to order me a new coat, for
instance, though my old buttons are shelled like beans - is an effort. My
pen stammers like my tongue. What cool craniums those old inditers of
folios must have had, what a mortified pulse! Well, once more I throw
myself on your mercy. Wishing peace in thy new dwelling,


[1] The essay "Blakesmoor in Hertfordshire," in the "London Magazine"
for September, 1824.



_December_ 1, 1824.

Taylor and Hessey, finding their magazine [1] goes off very heavily at
2_s_. 6_d_., are prudently going to raise their price another shilling;
and having already more authors than they want, intend to increase the
number of them. If they set up against the "New Monthly," they must
change their present hands. It is not tying the dead carcase of a review
to a half-dead magazine will do their business. It is like George Dyer
multiplying his volumes to make 'em sell better. When he finds one will
not go off, he publishes two; two stick, he tries three; three hang
fire, he is confident that four will have a better chance.

And now, my dear sir, trifling apart, the gloomy catastrophe of
yesterday morning prompts a sadder vein. The fate of the unfortunate
Fauntleroy [2] makes me, whether I will or no, to cast reflecting eyes
around on such of my friends as, by a parity of situation, are exposed
to a similarity of temptation. My very style seems to myself to become
more impressive than usual, with the change of theme. Who, that
standeth, knoweth but he may yet fall? Your hands as yet, I am most
willing to believe, have never deviated, into others' property; you
think it impossible that you could ever commit so heinous an offence.
But so thought Fauntleroy once; so have thought many besides him, who at
last have expiated as he hath done. You are as yet upright; but you are
a banker, - at least, the next thing to it. I feel the delicacy of the
subject; but cash must pass through your hands, sometimes to a great
amount. If in an unguarded hour - But I will hope better. Consider the
scandal it will bring upon those of your persuasion. Thousands would go
to see a Quaker hanged, that would be indifferent to the fate of a
Presbyterian or an Anabaptist. Think of the effect it would have on the
sale of your poems alone, not to mention higher considerations! I
tremble, I am sure, at myself, when I think that so many poor victims of
the law, at one time of their life, made as sure of never being hanged
as I, in my presumption, am too ready to do myself. What are we better
than they? Do we come into the world with different necks? Is there any
distinctive mark under our left ears? Are we unstrangulable, I ask you?
Think of these things. I am shocked sometimes at the shape of my own
fingers, not for their resemblance to the ape tribe (which is
something), but for the exquisite adaptation of them to the purposes of
picking fingering, etc. No one that is so framed, I maintain it, but
should tremble.

C. L.

[1] Taylor and Hessey succeeded John Scott as editors of the "London
Magazine" (of which they were also publishers), and it was to this
periodical that most of Lamb's Elia Essays were contributed.

[2] The forger, hanged Nov. 30, 1824. This was the last execution for
this offence.



_March_ 23, 1825.

Dear B. B., - I have had no impulse to write, or attend to any single
object but myself for weeks past, - my single self, I by myself, I. I am
sick of hope deferred. The grand wheel is in agitation that is to turn
up my fortune; but round it rolls, and will turn up nothing. I have a
glimpse of freedom, of becoming a gentleman at large; but I am put off
from day to day. I have offered my resignation, and it is neither
accepted nor rejected. Eight weeks am I kept in this fearful suspense.
Guess what an absorbing stake I feel it. I am not conscious of the
existence of friends present or absent. The East India Directors alone
can be that thing to me or not. I have just learned that nothing will be
decided this week. Why the next? Why any week? It has fretted me into an
itch of the fingers; I rub 'em against paper, and write to you, rather
than not allay this scorbuta.

While I can write, let me adjure you to have no doubts of Irving. Let
Mr. Mitford drop his disrespect. Irving has prefixed a dedication (of a
missionary subject, first part) to Coleridge, the most beautiful,
cordial, and sincere. He there acknowledges his obligation to S. T. C.
for his knowledge of Gospel truths, the nature of a Christian Church,
etc., - to the talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (at whose Gamaliel feet he
sits weekly), rather than to that of all the men living. This from him,
the great dandled and petted sectarian, to a religious character so
equivocal in the world's eye as that of S. T. C., so foreign to the
Kirk's estimate, - can this man be a quack? The language is as affecting
as the spirit of the dedication. Some friend told him, "This dedication
will do you no good," - _i. e._, not in the world's repute, or with your
own people. "That is a reason for doing it," quoth Irving.

I am thoroughly pleased with him. He is firm, out-speaking, intrepid,
and docile as a pupil of Pythagoras. You must like him.

Yours, in tremors of painful hope,




_April_ 6, 1825

Dear Wordsworth, - I have been several times meditating a letter to you
concerning the good thing which has befallen me; but the thought of poor
Monkhouse [1] came across me. He was one that I had exulted in the
prospect of congratulating me. He and you were to have been the first
participators; for indeed it has been ten weeks since the first motion
of it. Here am I then, after thirty-three years' slavery, sitting in my
own room at eleven o'clock this finest of all April mornings, a freed
man, with £441 a year for the remainder of my life, live I as long as
John Dennis, who outlived his annuity and starved at ninety: £441;
_i.e., £450_, with a deduction of £9 for a provision secured to my
sister, she being survivor, the pension guaranteed by Act Georgii
Tertii, etc.

I came home FOREVER on Tuesday in last week. The incomprehensibleness of
my condition overwhelmed me; it was like passing from life into
eternity. Every year to be as long as three, _i.e._, to have three times
as much real time - time that is my own - in it! I wandered about thinking
I was happy, but feeling I was not. But that tumultuousness is passing
off, and I begin to understand the nature of the gift. Holidays, even
the annual month, were always uneasy joys, - their conscious
fugitiveness; the craving after making the most of them. Now, when all
is holiday, there are no holidays. I can sit at home, in rain or shine,
without a restless impulse for walkings. I am daily steadying, and shall
soon find it as natural to me to be my own master as it has been irksome
to have had a master. Mary wakes every morning with an obscure feeling
that some good has happened to us.

Leigh Hunt and Montgomery, after their releasements, describe the shock
of their emancipation much as I feel mine. But it hurt their frames. I
eat, drink, and sleep sound as ever, I lay no anxious schemes for going
hither and thither, but take things as they occur. Yesterday I
excursioned twenty miles; to-day I write a few letters. Pleasuring was
for fugitive play-days: mine are fugitive only in the sense that life is
fugitive. Freedom and life co-existent!

At the foot of such a call upon you for gratulation, I am ashamed to
advert to that melancholy event. Monkhouse was a character I learned to
love slowly; but it grew upon me yearly, monthly, daily. What a chasm
has it made in our pleasant parties! His noble, friendly face was always
coming before me, till this hurrying event in my life came, and for the
time has absorbed all interest; in fact, it has shaken me a little. My
old desk companions, with whom I have had such merry hours, seem to
reproach me for removing my lot from among them. They were pleasant
creatures; but to the anxieties of business, and a weight of possible
worse ever impending, I was not equal. Tuthill and Gilman gave me my
certificates; I laughed at the friendly lie implied in them. But my
sister shook her head, and said it was all true. Indeed, this last
winter I was jaded out; winters were always worse than other parts of
the year, because the spirits are worse, and I had no daylight. In
summer I had daylight evenings. The relief was hinted to me from a
superior power when I, poor slave, had not a hope but that I must wait
another seven years with Jacob; and lo! the Rachel which I coveted is
brought to me.

[1] Wordsworth's cousin, who was ill of consumption in Devonshire. He
died the following year.



_April_ 6, 1825.

Dear B.B., - My spirits are so tumultuary with the novelty of my recent
emancipation that I have scarce steadiness of hand, much more mind, to
compose a letter. I am free, B.B., - free as air!

"The little bird that wings the sky
Knows no such liberty." [1]
I was set free on Tuesday in last week at four
o'clock. I came home forever!

I have been describing my feelings as well as I can to Wordsworth in a
long letter, and don't care to repeat. Take it, briefly, that for a few
days I was painfully oppressed by so mighty a change; but it is becoming
daily more natural to me. I went and sat among 'em all at my old
thirty-three-years' desk yester-morning; and, deuce take me, if I had
not yearnings at leaving all my old pen-and-ink fellows, merry, sociable
lads, - at leaving them in the lurch, fag, fag, fag! The comparison of my
own superior felicity gave me anything but pleasure.

B.B., I would not serve another seven years for seven hundred thousand
pounds! I have got £441 net for life, sanctioned by Act of Parliament,
with a provision for Mary if she survives me. I will live another fifty
years; or if I live but ten, they will be thirty, reckoning the quantity
of real time in them, - _i.e._, the time that is a man's own, Tell me how
you like "Barbara S.;" [2] will it be received in atonement for the
foolish "Vision" - I mean by the lady? _A propos_, I never saw Mrs.
Crawford in my life; nevertheless, it's all true of somebody.

Address me, in future, Colebrooke Cottage, Islington, I am really
nervous (but that will wear off), so take this brief announcement.

Yours truly,


[1] "The birds that wanton in the air
Know no such liberty."

[2] The Elia essay. Fanny Kelly was the original of "Barbara S."



_July_ 2, 1825.

I am hardly able to appreciate your volume now; [1] but I liked the
dedication much, and the apology for your bald burying grounds. To
Shelley - but _that_ is not new, To the young Vesper-singer, Great
Bealings, Playford, and what not.

If there be a cavil, it is that the topics of religious consolation,
however beautiful, are repeated till a sort of triteness attends them.
It seems as if you were forever losing Friends' children by death, and
reminding their parents of the Resurrection. Do children die so often
and so good in your parts? The topic taken from the consideration that
they are snatched away from _possible vanities_ seems hardly sound; for
to an Omniscient eye their conditional failings must be one with their
actual. But I am too unwell for theology.

Such as I am,

I am yours and A.K.'s truly,


[1] "Barton's volume of Poems."



_August_ 10, 1825.

We shall be soon again at Colebrooke.

Dear B.B., - You must excuse my not writing before, when I tell you we
are on a visit at Enfield, where I do not feel it natural to sit down to
a letter. It is at all times an exertion. I had rather talk with you and
Anne Knight quietly at Colebrooke Lodge over the matter of your last.
You mistake me when you express misgivings about my relishing a series
of Scriptural poems. I wrote confusedly; what I meant to say was, that
one or two consolatory poems on deaths would have had a more condensed
effect than many. Scriptural, devotional topics, admit of infinite
variety. So far from poetry tiring me because religious, I can read, and
I say it seriously, the homely old version of the Psalms in our
Prayer-books for an hour or two together sometimes, without sense of

I did not express myself clearly about what I think a false topic,
insisted on so frequently in consolatory addresses on the death of
infants. I know something like it is in Scripture, but I think humanly
spoken. It is a natural thought, a sweet fallacy, to the survivors, but
still a fallacy. If it stands on the doctrine of this being a
probationary state, it is liable to this dilemma. Omniscience, to whom
possibility must be clear as act, must know of the child what it would
hereafter turn out: if good, then the topic is false to say it is
secured from falling into future wilfulness, vice, etc. If bad, I do not
see how its exemption from certain future overt acts by being snatched
away at all tells in its favor. You stop the arm of a murderer, or
arrest the finger of a pickpurse; but is not the guilt incurred as much
by the intent as if never so much acted? Why children are hurried off,
and old reprobates of a hundred left, whose trial humanly we may think
was complete at fifty, is among the obscurities of providence, The very
notion of a state of probation has darkness in it. The All-knower has no
need of satisfying his eyes by seeing what we will do, when he knows
before what we will do. Methinks we might be condemned before
commission. In these things we grope and flounder; and if we can pick up
a little human comfort that the child taken is snatched from vice (no
great compliment to it, by the by), let us take it. And as to where an
untried child goes, whether to join the assembly of its elders who have
borne the heat of the day, - fire-purified martyrs and torment-sifted
confessors, - what know we? We promise heaven, methinks, too cheaply, and
assign large revenues to minors incompetent to manage them. Epitaphs run
upon this topic of consolation till the very frequency induces a
cheapness. Tickets for admission into paradise are sculptured out a
penny a letter, twopence a syllable, etc. It is all a mystery; and the
more I try to express my meaning (having none that is clear), the more I
flounder. Finally, write what your own conscience, which to you is the
unerring judge, deems best, and be careless about the whimsies of such a
half-baked notionist as I am. We are here in a most pleasant country,
full of walks, and idle to our heart's desire. Taylor has dropped the
"London." It was indeed a dead weight. It had got in the Slough of
Despond. I shuffle off my part of the pack, and stand, like Christian,
with light and merry shoulders. It had got silly, indecorous, pert, and
everything that is bad. Both our kind _remembrances_ to Mrs. K. and
yourself, and strangers'-greeting to Lucy, - is it Lucy, or Ruth? - that
gathers wise sayings in a Book.




_August_ 19, 1825.

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