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outsides it to town in severest season; and o' winter nights tells old
stories not tending to literature (how comfortable to author-rid
folks!), and has _one ancedote_, upon which and about forty pounds a
year he seems to have retired in green old age. It was how he was a
rider in his youth, travelling for shops, and once (not to balk his
employer's bargain) on a sweltering day in August, rode foaming into
Dunstable [1] upon a mad horse, to the dismay and expostulatory
wonderment of inn-keepers, ostlers, etc., who declared they would not
have bestrid the beast to win the Derby. Understand the creature galled
to death and desperation by gad-flies, cormorant-winged, worse than
beset Inachus's daughter. This he tells, this he brindles and burnishes,
on a winter's eve; 't is his star of set glory, his rejuvenescence to
descant upon, Far from me be it (_dá avertant!_) to look a gift-story in
the mouth, or cruelly to surmise (as those who doubt the plunge of
Curtius) that the inseparate conjuncture of man and beast, the
centaur-phenomenon that staggered all Dunstable, might have been the
effect of unromantic necessity; that the horse-part carried the
reasoning willy-nilly; that needs must when such a devil drove; that
certain spiral configurations in the frame of Thomas Westwood,
unfriendly to alighting, made the alliance more forcible than voluntary.
Let him enjoy his fame for me, nor let me hint a whisper that shall
dismount Bellerophon. But in case he was an involuntary martyr, yet if
in the fiery conflict he buckled the soul of a constant haberdasher to
him, and adopted his flames, let accident and him share the glory. You
would all like Thomas Westwood. [2]

How weak is painting to describe a man! Say that he stands four
feet and a nail high by his own yard-measure, which, like the sceptre of
Agamemnon, shall never sprout again, still, you have no adequate idea;
nor when I tell you that his dear hump, which I have favored in the
picture, seems to me of the buffalo, - indicative and repository of mild
qualities, a budget of kindnesses, - still, you have not the man. Knew
you old Norris of the Temple, sixty years ours and our father's friend?
He was not more natural to us than this old Westwood, the acquaintance
of scarce more weeks. Under his roof now ought I to take my rest, but
that back-looking ambition tells me I might yet be a Londoner! Well, if
we ever do move, we have encumbrances the less to impede us; all our
furniture has faded under the auctioneer's hammer, going for nothing,
like the tarnished frippery of the prodigal, and we have only a spoon or
two left to bless us. Clothed we came into Enfield, and naked we must go
out of it. I would live in London shirtless, bookless. Henry Crabb is at
Rome; advices to that effect have reached Bury. But by solemn legacy he
bequeathed at parting (whether he should live or die) a turkey of
Suffolk to be sent every succeeding Christmas to us and divers other
friends. What a genuine old bachelor's action! I fear he will find the
air of Italy too classic. His station is in the Hartz forest; his soul
is be-Goethed. Miss Kelly we never see, - Talfourd not this half year;
the latter flourishes, but the exact number of his children, God forgive
me, I have utterly forgotten: we single people are often out in our
count there. Shall I say two? We see scarce anybody. Can I cram loves
enough to you all in this little O? Excuse particularizing.

C.L.

[1] See preceding letter.

[2] Here was inserted a sketch answering to the description.


CIII.


TO MRS. HAZLITT.

_May_ 24, 1830.

Mary's love? Yes. Mary Lamb quite well.

Dear Sarah, - I found my way to Northaw on Thursday and a very good woman
behind a counter, who says also that you are a very good lady, but that
the woman who was with you was naught. We travelled with one of those
troublesome fellow-passengers in a stage-coach that is called a
well-informed man. For twenty miles we discoursed about the properties
of steam, probabilities of carriages by ditto, till all my science, and
more than all, was exhausted, and I was thinking of escaping my torment
by getting up on the outside, when, getting into Bishops Stortford, my
gentleman, spying some farming land, put an unlucky question to
me, - What sort of a crop of turnips I thought we should have this year?
Emma's eyes turned to me to know what in the world I could have to say;
and she burst into a violent fit of laughter, maugre her pale, serious
cheeks, when, with the greatest gravity, I replied that it depended, I
believed, upon boiled legs of mutton. This clenched our conversation;
and my gentleman, with a face half wise, half in scorn, troubled us with
no more conversation, scientific or philosophical, for the remainder of
the journey.

Ayrton was here yesterday, and as _learned_ to the full as my
fellow-traveller. What a pity that he will spoil a wit and a devilish
pleasant fellow (as he is) by wisdom! He talked on Music; and by having
read Hawkins and Burney recently I was enabled to talk of names, and
show more knowledge than he had suspected I possessed; and in the end he
begged me to shape my thoughts upon paper, which I did after he was
gone, and sent him "Free Thoughts on Some Eminent Composers."

"Some cry up Haydn, some Mozart,
Just as the whim bites. For my part,
I do not care a farthing candle
For either of them, or for Handel," etc.

Martin Burney [1] is as odd as ever. We had a dispute about the word
"heir," which I contended was pronounced like "air." He said that might
be in common parlance, or that we might so use it speaking of the
"Heir-at-Law," a comedy; but that in the law-courts it was necessary to
give it a full aspiration, and to say _Hayer_; he thought it might even
vitiate a cause if a counsel pronounced it otherwise. In conclusion, he
"would consult Serjeant Wilde," who gave it against him. Sometimes he
falleth into the water, sometimes into the fire. He came down here, and
insisted on reading Virgil's "Æneid" all through with me (which he did),
because a counsel must know Latin. Another time he read out all the
Gospel of St. John, because Biblical quotations are very emphatic in a
court of justice. A third time he would carve a fowl, which he did very
ill favoredly, because we did not know how indispensable it was for a
barrister to do all those sort of things well. Those little things were
of more consequence than we supposed. So he goes on, harassing about the
way to prosperity, and losing it. With a long head, but somewhat a wrong
one, - harum-scarum. Why does not his guardian angel look to him? He
deserves one, - maybe he has tired him out.

I am tired with this long scrawl; but I thought in your exile you might
like a letter. Commend me to all the wonders in Derbyshire, and tell the
devil I humbly kiss my hand to him.

Yours ever,

C. LAMB.

[1] Martin Burney, originally a solicitor, had lately been called to the
Bar.


CIV.


TO GEORGE DYER.

_December_ 20, 1830.

Dear Dyer, - I would have written before to thank you for your kind
letter, written with your own hand. It glads us to see your writing. It
will give you pleasure to hear that, after so much illness, we are in
tolerable health and spirits once more. Miss Isola intended to call upon
you after her night's lodging at Miss Buffam's, but found she was too
late for the stage. If she comes to town before she goes home, she will
not miss paying her respects to Mrs. Dyer and you, to whom she desires
best love. Poor Enfield, that has been so peaceable hitherto, that has
caught an inflammatory fever, the tokens are upon her; and a great fire
was blazing last night in the barns and haystacks of a fanner about half
a mile from us. Where will these things end? There is no doubt of its
being the work of some ill-disposed rustic; but how is he to be
discovered? They go to work in the dark with strange chemical
preparations unknown to our forefathers. There is not even a dark
lantern to have a chance of detecting these Guy Fauxes. We are past the
iron age, and are got into the fiery age, undream'd of by Ovid. You are
lucky in Clifford's Inn, where, I think, you have few ricks or stacks
worth the burning. Pray keep as little corn by you as you can, for fear
of the worst.

It was never good times in England since the poor began to speculate
upon their condition. Formerly they jogged on with as little reflection
as horses; the whistling ploughman went cheek by jowl with his brother
that neighed. Now the biped carries a box of phosphorus in his leather
breeches; and in the dead of night the half-illuminated beast steals his
magic potion into a cleft in a barn, and half the country is grinning
with new fires. Farmer Graystock said something to the touchy rustic
that he did not relish, and he writes his distaste in flames. What a
power to intoxicate his crude brains, just muddlingly awake, to perceive
that something is wrong in the social system; what a hellish faculty
above gunpowder!

Now the rich and poor are fairly pitted, we shall see who can hang or
burn fastest. It is not always revenge that stimulates these kindlings.
There is a love of exerting mischief. Think of a disrespected clod that
was trod into earth, that was nothing, on a sudden by damned arts
refined into an exterminating angel, devouring the fruits of the earth
and their growers in a mass of fire! What a new existence; what a
temptation above Lucifer's! Would clod be anything but a clod if he
could resist it? Why, here was a spectacle last night for a whole
country, - a bonfire visible to London, alarming her guilty towers, and
shaking the Monument with an ague fit: all done by a little vial of
phosphor in a clown's fob! How he must grin, and shake his empty noddle
in clouds, the Vulcanian epicure! Can we ring the bells backward? Can we
unlearn the arts that pretend to civilize, and then burn the world?
There is a march of Science; but who shall beat the drums for its
retreat? Who shall persuade the boor that phosphor will not ignite?

Seven goodly stacks of hay, with corn-barns proportionable, lie smoking
ashes and chaff, which man and beast would sputter out and reject like
those apples of asphaltes and bitumen. The food for the inhabitants of
earth will quickly disappear. Hot rolls may say, "Fuimus panes, fuit
quartem-loaf, et ingens gloria Apple-pasty-orum." That the good old
munching system may last thy time and mine, good un-incendiary George,
is the devout prayer of thine, to the last crust,

CH. LAMB.


CV.


TO DYER.

_February_ 22, 1831.

Dear Dyer, - Mr. Rogers and Mr. Rogers's friends are perfectly assured
that you never intended any harm by an innocent couplet, and that in the
revivification of it by blundering Barker you had no hand whatever. To
imagine that, at this time of day, Rogers broods over a fantastic
expression of more than thirty years' standing, would be to suppose him
indulging his "Pleasures of Memory" with a vengeance. You never penned a
line which for its own sake you need, dying, wish to blot. You mistake
your heart if you think you _can_ write a lampoon. Your whips are rods
of roses. [1] Your spleen has ever had for its objects vices, not the
vicious, - abstract offences, not the concrete sinner. But you are
sensitive, and wince as much at the consciousness of having committed a
compliment as another man would at the perpetration of an affront. But
do not lug me into the same soreness of conscience with yourself. I
maintain, and will to the last hour, that I never writ of you but _con
amore_; that if any allusion was made to your near-sightedness, it was
not for the purpose of mocking an infirmity, but of connecting it with
scholar-like habits, - for is it not erudite and scholarly to be somewhat
near of sight before age naturally brings on the malady? You could not
then plead the _obrepens senectus_. Did I not, moreover, make it an
apology for a certain _absence_, which some of your friends may have
experienced, when you have not on a sudden made recognition of them in a
casual street-meeting; and did I not strengthen your excuse for this
slowness of recognition by further accounting morally for the present
engagement of your mind in worthy objects? Did I not, in your person,
make the handsomest apology for absent-of-mind people that was ever
made? If these things be not so, I never knew what I wrote or meant by
my writing, and have been penning libels all my life without being aware
of it. Does it follow that I should have expressed myself exactly in the
same way of those dear old eyes of yours _now_, - now that Father Time
has conspired with a hard taskmaster to put a last extinguisher upon
them? I should as soon have insulted the Answerer of Salmasius when he
awoke up from his ended task, and saw no more with mortal vision. But
you are many films removed yet from Milton's calamity. You write
perfectly intelligibly. Marry, the letters are not all of the same size
or tallness; but that only shows your proficiency in the _hands_ - text,
german-hand, court-hand, sometimes law-hand, and affords variety. You
pen better than you did a twelvemonth ago; and if you continue to
improve, you bid fair to win the golden pen which is the prize at your
young gentlemen's academy.

* * * * *

But don't go and lay this to your eyes. You always wrote
hieroglyphically, yet not to come up to the mystical notations and
conjuring characters of Dr. Parr. You never wrote what I call a
schoolmaster's hand, like Mrs. Clarke; nor a woman's hand, like Southey;
nor a missal hand, like Porson; nor an all-on-the-wrong-side sloping
hand, like Miss Hayes; nor a dogmatic, Mede-and-Persian, peremptory tory
hand, like Rickman: but you wrote what I call a Grecian's hand, - what
the Grecians write (or wrote) at Christ's Hospital; such as Whalley
would have admired, and Boyer [2] have applauded, but Smith or Atwood
[writing-masters] would have horsed you for. Your boy-of-genius hand and
your mercantile hand are various. By your flourishes, I should think you
never learned to make eagles or cork-screws, or flourish the governor's
names in the writing-school; and by the tenor and cut of your letters, I
suspect you were never in it at all. By the length of this scrawl you
will think I have a design upon your optics; but I have writ as large as
I could, out of respect to them, - too large, indeed, for beauty. Mine is
a sort of Deputy-Grecian's hand, - a little better, and more of a worldly
hand, than a Grecian's, but still remote from the mercantile. I don't
know how it is, but I keep my rank in fancy still since school-days; I
can never forget I was a Deputy-Grecian. And writing to you, or to
Coleridge, besides affection, I feel a reverential deference as to
Grecians still [3]. I keep my soaring way above the Great Erasmians, yet
far beneath the other. Alas! what am I now? What is a Leadenhall clerk
or India pensioner to a Deputy-Grecian? How art thou fallen, O Lucifer!
Just room for our loves to Mrs. D., etc.

C. LAMB.

[1] Talfourd relates an amusing instance of the universal charity of the
kindly Dyer. Lamb once suddenly asked him what he thought of the
murderer Williams, - a wretch who had destroyed two families in Ratcliff
Highway, and then cheated the gallows by committing suicide. "The
desperate attempt," says Talfourd, "to compel the gentle optimist to
speak ill of a mortal creature produced no happier success than the
answer, 'Why, I should think, Mr. Lamb, he must have been rather an
eccentric character.'"

[2] Whalley and Boyer were masters at Christ's Hospital.

[3] "Deputy-Grecian," "Grecian," etc., were of course forms, or grades,
at Christ's Hospital.


CVI.


TO MR. MOXON [1].

_February_, 1832.

Dear Moxon, - The snows are ankle-deep, slush, and mire, that 't is hard
to get to the post-office, and cruel to send the maid out. 'Tis a slough
of despair, or I should sooner have thanked you for your offer of the
"Life," which we shall very much like to have, and will return duly. I
do not know when I shall be in town, but in a week or two at farthest,
when I will come as far as you, if I can. We are moped to death with
confinement within doors, I send you a curiosity of G. Dyer's tender
conscience. Between thirty and forty years since, George published the
"Poet's Fate," in which were two very harmless lines about Mr. Rogers;
but Mr. R. not quite approving of them, they were left out in a
subsequent edition, 1801. But George has been worrying about them ever
since; if I have heard him once, I have heard him a hundred times
express a remorse proportioned to a consciousness of having been guilty
of an atrocious libel. As the devil would have it, a fool they call
Barker, in his "Parriana" has quoted the identical two lines as they
stood in some obscure edition anterior to 1801, and the withers of poor
George are again wrung, His letter is a gem: with his poor blind eyes it
has been labored out at six sittings. The history of the couplet is in
page 3 of this irregular production, in which every variety of shape and
size that letters can be twisted into is to be found. Do show _his_ part
of it to Mr. Rogers some day. If he has bowels, they must melt at the
contrition so queerly charactered of a contrite sinner. G. was born, I
verily think, without original sin, but chooses to have a conscience, as
every Christian gentleman should have; his dear old face is
insusceptible of the twist they call a sneer, yet he is apprehensive of
being suspected of that ugly appearance. When he makes a compliment, he
thinks he has given an affront, - a name is personality. But show (no
hurry) this unique recantation to Mr. Rogers: 't is like a dirty
pocket-handerchief mucked with tears of some indigent Magdalen. There is
the impress of sincerity in every pot-hook and hanger; and then the gilt
frame to such a pauper picture! It should go into the Museum.

[1] Lamb's future publisher. He afterwards became the husband
of Lamb's _protégée_, Emma Isola.


CVII.


TO MR. MOXON.

_July_ 24, 1833.

For God's sake give Emma no more watches; _one_ has turned her head. She
is arrogant and insulting. She said something very unpleasant to our old
clock in the passage, as if he did not keep time; and yet he had made
her no appointment. She takes it out every instant to look at the
moment-hand. She lugs us out into the fields, because there the
bird-boys ask you, "Pray, sir, can you tell us what's o'clock?" and she
answers them punctually. She loses all her time looking to see "what the
time is." I overheard her whispering, "Just so many hours, minutes,
etc., to Tuesday; I think St. George's goes too slow." This little
present of Time, - why, 't is Eternity to her!

What can make her so fond of a gingerbread watch?

She has spoiled some of the movements. Between ourselves, she has kissed
away "half-past twelve," which I suppose to be the canonical hour in
Hanover Square.

Well, if "love me, love my watch," answers, she will keep time to you.

It goes right by the Horse-Guards.

Dearest M., - Never mind opposite nonsense. She does not love you for the
watch, but the watch for you. I will be at the wedding, and keep the
30th July, as long as my poor months last me, as a festival gloriously.

Yours ever,

ELIA.


THE END.




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