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great and good. Books are to me instead of friends, I wish they did not
resemble the latter in their scarceness.

And how does little David Hartley? "Ecquid in antiquam virtutem?" Does
his mighty name work wonders yet upon his little frame and opening mind?
I did not distinctly understand you, - you don't mean to make an actual
ploughman of him? Is Lloyd with you yet? Are you intimate with Southey?
What poems is he about to publish? He hath a most prolific brain, and is
indeed a most sweet poet. But how can you answer all the various mass of
interrogation I have put to you in the course of the sheet? Write back
just what you like, only write something, however brief. I have now nigh
finished my page, and got to the end of another evening (Monday
evening), and my eyes are heavy and sleepy, and my brain unsuggestive. I
have just heart enough awake to say good night once more, and God love
you, my dear friend; God love us all! Mary bears an affectionate
remembrance of you.

CHARLES LAMB.

[1] A well-known conjuror of the time.


XIII.


TO COLERIDGE.

_February_ 13, 1797.

Your poem is altogether admirable - parts of it are even exquisite; in
particular your personal account of the Maid far surpasses anything of
the sort in Southey. [1] I perceived all its excellences, on a first
reading, as readily as now you have been removing a supposed film from
my eyes. I was only struck with a certain faulty disproportion in the
matter and the _style_, which I still think I perceive, between these
lines and the former ones. I had an end in view, - I wished to make you
reject the poem, only as being discordant with the other; and, in
subservience to that end, it was politically done in me to over-pass,
and make no mention of, merit which, could you think me capable of
_overlooking_, might reasonably damn forever in your judgment all
pretensions in me to be critical. There, I will be judged by Lloyd
whether I have not made a very handsome recantation. I was in the case
of a man whose friend has asked him his opinion of a certain young lady;
the deluded wight gives judgment against her _in toto_, - don't like her
face, her walk, her manners; finds fault with her eyebrows; can see no
wit in her. His friend looks blank; he begins to smell a rat; wind veers
about; he acknowledges her good sense, her judgment in dress, a certain
simplicity of manners and honesty of heart, something too in her manners
which gains upon you after a short acquaintance; - and then her accurate
pronunciation of the French language, and a pretty, uncultivated taste
in drawing. The reconciled gentleman smiles applause, squeezes him by
the hand, and hopes he will do him the honor of taking a bit of dinner
with Mrs. - - and him - a plain family dinner - some day next week; "for,
I suppose, you never heard we were married. I'm glad to see you like my
wife, however; you 'll come and see her, ha?" Now am I too proud to
retract entirely? Yet I do perceive I am in some sort straitened; you
are manifestly wedded, to this poem, and what fancy has joined, let no
man separate, I turn me to the "Joan of Arc," second book.

The solemn openings of it are with sounds which, Lloyd would say, "are
silence to the mind." The deep preluding strains are fitted to initiate
the mind, with a pleasing awe, into the sublimest mysteries of theory
concerning man's nature and his noblest destination, - the philosophy of
a first cause; of subordinate agents in creation superior to man; the
subserviency of pagan worship and pagan faith to the introduction of a
purer and more perfect religion, which you so elegantly describe as
winning, with gradual steps, her difficult way northward from Bethabara.
After all this cometh Joan, a _publican's_ daughter, sitting on an
ale-house _bench_, and marking the _swingings_ of the _signboard_,
finding a poor man, his wife and six children, starved to death with
cold, and thence roused into a state of mind proper to receive visions
emblematical of equality, - which, what the devil Joan had to do with, I
don't know, or indeed with the French and American revolutions; though
that needs no pardon, it is executed so nobly. After all, if you
perceive no disproportion, all argument is vain; I do not so much object
to parts. Again, when you talk of building your fame on these lines in
preference to the "Religious Musings," I cannot help conceiving of you
and of the author of that as two different persons, and I think you a
very vain man.

I have been re-reading your letter. Much of it I _could_ dispute; but
with the latter part of it, in which you compare the two Joans with
respect to their predispositions for fanaticism, I _toto corde_
coincide; only I think that Southey's strength rather lies in the
description of the emotions of the Maid under the weight of inspiration.
These (I see no mighty difference between _her_ describing them or _you_
describing them), - these if you only equal, the previous admirers of his
poem, as is natural, will prefer his; if you surpass, prejudice will
scarcely allow it, and I scarce think you will surpass, though your
specimen at the conclusion (I am in earnest) I think very nigh equals
them. And in an account of a fanatic or of a prophet the description of
her _emotions_ is expected to be most highly finished. By the way, I
spoke far too disparagingly of your lines, and, I am ashamed to say.
purposely, I should like you to specify or particularize; the story of
the "Tottering Eld," of "his eventful years all come and gone," is too
general; why not make him a soldier, or some character, however, in
which he has been witness to frequency of "cruel wrong and strange
distress"? I think I should, When I laughed at the "miserable man
crawling from beneath the coverture," I wonder I did not perceive it was
a laugh of horror, - such as I have laughed at Dante's picture of the
famished Ugolino. Without falsehood, I perceive an hundred, beauties in
your narrative. Yet I wonder you do not perceive something
out-of-the-way, something unsimple and artificial, in the expression,
"voiced a sad tale." I hate made-dishes at the muses' banquet, I believe
I was wrong in most of my other objections. But surely "hailed him
immortal" adds nothing to the terror of the man's death, which it was
your business to heighten, not diminish by a phrase which takes away all
terror from it, I like that line, "They closed their eyes in sleep, nor
knew 'twas death," Indeed, there is scarce a line I do not like,
"_Turbid_ ecstasy" is surely not so good as what you had
written, - "troublous." "Turbid" rather suits the muddy kind of
inspiration which London porter confers. The versification is
throughout, to my ears, unexceptionable, with no disparagement to the
measure of the "Religious Musings," which is exactly fitted to
the thoughts.

You were building your house on a rock when you rested your fame on that
poem. I can scarce bring myself to believe that I am admitted to a
familiar correspondence, and all the license of friendship, with a man
who writes blank verse like Milton. Now, this is delicate flattery,
_indirect_ flattery. Go on with your "Maid of Orleans," and be content
to be second to yourself. I shall become a convert to it, when
'tis finished.

This afternoon I attend the funeral of my poor old aunt, who died on
Thursday. I own I am thankful that the good creature has ended all her
days of suffering and infirmity. She was to me the "cherisher of
infancy;" and one must fall on these occasions into reflections, which
it would be commonplace to enumerate, concerning death, "of chance and
change, and fate in human life." Good God, who could have foreseen all
this but four months back! I had reckoned, in particular, on my aunt's
living many years; she was a very hearty old woman. But she was a mere
skeleton before she died; looked more like a corpse that had lain weeks
in the grave, than one fresh dead. "Truly the light is sweet, and a
pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: but let a man live
many days, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of
darkness, for they shall be many." Coleridge, why are we to live on
after all the strength and beauty of existence are gone, when all the
life of life is fled, as poor Burns expresses it? Tell Lloyd I have had
thoughts of turning Quaker, and have been reading, or am rather just
beginning to read, a most capital book, good thoughts in good language,
William Penn's "No Cross, no Crown;" I like it immensely. Unluckily I
went to one of his meetings, tell hire, in St. John Street, yesterday,
and saw a man under all the agitations and workings of a fanatic, who
believed himself under the influence of some "inevitable presence." This
cured me of Quakerism: I love it in the books of Penn and Woolman, but I
detest the vanity of a man thinking he speaks by the Spirit, when what
he says an ordinary man might say without all that quaking and
trembling. In the midst of his inspiration, - and the effects of it were
most noisy, - was handed into the midst of the meeting a most terrible
blackguard Wapping sailor; the poor man, I believe, had rather have been
in the hottest part of an engagement, for the congregation of
broad-brims, together with the ravings of the prophet, were too much for
his gravity, though I saw even he had delicacy enough not to laugh out.
And the inspired gentleman, though his manner was so supernatural, yet
neither talked, nor professed to talk anything more than good sober
sense, common morality, with, now and then a declaration of not speaking
from himself. Among other things, looking back to this childhood and
early youth, he told the meeting what a graceless young dog he had been,
that in his youth he had a good share of wit. Reader, if thou hadst seen
the gentleman, thou wouldst have sworn that it must indeed have been
many years ago, for his rueful physiognomy would have scared away the
playful goddess from the meeting, where he presided, forever, A wit! a
wit! what could he mean? Lloyd, it minded me of Falkland in the
"Rivals," "Am I full of wit and humor? No, indeed, you are not. Am I the
life and soul of every company I come into? No, it cannot be said you
are." That hard-faced gentleman a wit! Why, Nature wrote on his fanatic
forehead fifty years ago, "Wit never comes, that comes to all." I should
be as scandalized at a _bon-mot_ issuing from his oracle-looking mouth
as to see Cato go down a country-dance. God love you all! You are very
good to submit to be pleased with reading my nothings. 'T is the
privilege of friendship to talk nonsense and to have her nonsense
respected. Yours ever,

C. LAMB.

[1] See Letter VIII.


XIV.


TO COLERIDGE.

_January_ 28, 1798.

You have writ me many kind letters, and I have answered none of them. I
don't deserve your attentions. An unnatural indifference has been
creeping on me since my last misfortunes, or I should have seized the
first opening of a correspondence with _you_. To you I owe much under
God. In my brief acquaintance with you in London, your conversations won
me to the better cause, and rescued me from the polluting spirit of the
world. I might have been a worthless character without you; as it is, I
do possess a certain improvable portion of devotional feelings, though
when I view myself in the light of divine truth, and not according to
the common measures of human judgment. I am altogether corrupt and
sinful. This is no cant. I am very sincere.

These last afflictions, [1] Coleridge, have failed to soften and bend my
will. They found me unprepared. My former calamities produced in me a
spirit of humility and a spirit of prayer. I thought they had
sufficiently disciplined me; but the event ought to humble me. If God's
judgments now fail to take away from the the heart of stone, what more
grievous trials ought I not to expect? I have been very querulous,
impatient under the rod, full of little jealousies and heartburnings. I
had wellnigh quarrelled with Charles Lloyd, and for no other reason, I
believe, than that the good creature did all he could to make me happy.
The truth is, I thought he tried to force my mind from its natural and
proper bent: he continually wished me to be from home; he was drawing me
_from_ the consideration of my poor dear Mary's situation, rather than
assisting me to gain a proper view of it with religious consolations. I
wanted to be left to the tendency of my own mind in a solitary state
which, in times past, I knew had led to quietness and a patient bearing
of the yoke. He was hurt that I was not more constantly with him; but he
was living with White, - a man to whom I had never been accustomed to
impart my _dearest feelings_; though from long habits of
friendliness, and many a social and good quality, I loved him very much,
I met company there sometimes, - indiscriminate company. Any society
almost, when I am in affliction, is sorely painful to me. I seem to
breathe more freely, to think more collectedly, to feel more properly
and calmly, when alone. All these things the good creature did with the
kindest intentions in the world, but they produced in me nothing but
soreness and discontent. I became, as he complained, "jaundiced" towards
him.... But he has forgiven me; and his smile, I hope, will draw all
such humors from me. I am recovering, God be praised for it, a
healthiness of mind, something like calmness; but I want more religion,
I am jealous of human helps and leaning-places. I rejoice in your good
fortunes. May God at the last settle you! You have had many and painful
trials; humanly speaking, they are going to end; but we should rather
pray that discipline may attend us through the whole of our lives.... A
careless and a dissolute spirit has advanced upon _me_ with large
strides. Pray God that my present afflictions may be sanctified to me!
Mary is recovering; but I see no opening yet of a situation for her.
Your invitation went to my very heart; but you have a power of exciting
interest, of leading all hearts captive, too forcible to admit of Mary's
being with you. I consider her as perpetually on the brink of madness. I
think you would almost make her dance within an inch of the precipice;
she must be with duller fancies and cooler intellects. I know a young
man of this description who has suited her these twenty years, and may
live to do so still, if we are one day restored to each other. In answer
to your suggestions of occupation for me, I must say that I do not think
my capacity altogether suited for disquisitions of that kind.... I have
read little; I have a very weak memory, and retain little of what I
read; am unused to composition in which any methodizing is required. But
I thank you sincerely for the hint, and shall receive it as far as I am
able, - that is, endeavor to engage my mind in some constant and innocent
pursuit. I know my capacities better than you do.

Accept my kindest love, and believe me yours, as ever.

C. L.

[1] Mary Lamb had fallen ill again.


XV.


TO ROBERT SOUTHEY

(No month, 1798.)

Dear Southey, - I thank you heartily for the eclogue [1]; it pleases me
mightily, being so full of picture-work and circumstances. I find no
fault in it, unless perhaps that Joanna's ruin is a catastrophe too
trite; and this is not the first or second time you have clothed your
indignation, in verse, in a tale of ruined innocence. The old lady,
spinning in the sun, I hope would not disdain to claim some kindred with
old Margaret. I could almost wish you to vary some circumstances in the
conclusion. A gentleman seducer has so often been described in prose and
verse: what if you had accomplished Joanna's ruin by the clumsy arts and
rustic gifts of some country fellow? I am thinking, I believe, of
the song, -

"An old woman clothed in gray,
Whose daughter was charming and young,
And she was deluded away
By Roger's false, flattering tongue."

A Roger-Lothario would be a novel character; I think you might paint him
very well. You may think this a very silly suggestion, and so indeed it
is; but, in good truth, nothing else but the first words of that foolish
ballad put me upon scribbling my "Rosamund." [2] But I thank you heartily
for the poem. Not having anything of my own to send you in
return, - though, to tell truth, I am at work upon something which, if I
were to cut away and garble, perhaps I might send you an extract or two
that might not displease you; but I will not do that; and whether it
will come to anything, I know not, for I am as slow as a Fleming painter
when I compose anything. I will crave leave to put down a few lines of
old Christopher Marlowe's; I take them from his tragedy, "The Jew of
Malta." The Jew is a famous character, quite out of nature; but when we
consider the terrible idea our simple ancestors had of a Jew, not more
to be discommended for a certain discoloring (I think Addison calls it)
than the witches and fairies of Marlowe's mighty successor. The scene is
betwixt Barabas, the Jew, and Ithamore, a Turkish captive exposed to
sale for a slave.

BARABAS.

(_A precious rascal_.)

"As for myself, I walk abroad o' nights,
And kill sick people groaning under walls;
Sometimes I go about and poison wells;
And now and then, to cherish Christian thieves,
I am content to lose some of my crowns,
That I may, walking in my gallery,
See 'm go pinioned along by my door.
Being young, I studied physic, and began
To practise first upon the Italian;
There I enriched the priests with burials,
And always kept the sexton's arms in ure [3]
With digging graves and ringing dead men's knells.
And after that, was I an engineer,
And in the wars 'twixt France and Germany,
Under pretence of serving Charles the Fifth,
Slew friend and enemy with my stratagems.
Then after that was I an usurer,
And with extorting, cozening, forfeiting,
And tricks belonging unto brokery,
I fill'd the jails with bankrupts in a year,
And with young orphans planted hospitals,
And every moon made some or other mad;
And now and then one hang'd himself for grief,
Pinning upon his breast a long great scroll,
How I with interest tormented him."

Now hear Ithamore, the other gentle nature, explain how he has spent his
time: -

ITHAMORE

(_A Comical Dog_.)

"Faith, master, in setting Christian villages on fire,
Chaining of eunuchs, binding galley-slaves.
One time I was an hostler in an inn,
And in the night-time secret would I steal
To travellers' chambers, and there cut their throats.
Once at Jerusalem, where the pilgrims kneel'd,
I strewèd powder on the marble stones,
And therewithal their knees would rankle so,
That I have laugh'd a-good to see the cripples
Go limping home to Christendom on stilts."

BARABAS.

"Why, this is something."

There is a mixture of the ludicrous and the terrible in these lines,
brimful of genius and antique invention, that at first reminded me of
your old description of cruelty in hell, which was in the true
Hogarthian style. I need not tell _you_ that Marlowe was author of that
pretty madrigal, "Come live with me, and be my Love," and of the tragedy
of "Edward II.," in which are certain _lines_ unequalled in our English
tongue. Honest Walton mentions the said madrigal under the denomination
of "certain smooth verses made long since by Kit Marlowe."

I am glad you have put me on the scent after old Quarles. If I do not
put up those eclogues, and that shortly, say I am no true-nosed hound. I
have had a letter from Lloyd; the young metaphysician of Caius is well,
and is busy recanting the new heresy, metaphysics, for the old dogma
Greek. My sister, I thank you, is quite well. She had a slight attack
the other day, which frightened me a good deal; but it went off
unaccountably. Love and respects to Edith.

Yours sincerely,

C. LAMB.

[1] The eclogue was entitled "The Ruined Cottage."

[2] His romance. "Rosamund Gray."

[3] Use.


XVI.


TO SOUTHEY.

_November_ 8, 1798.

I perfectly accord with your opinion of old Wither. Quarles is a wittier
writer, but Wither lays more hold of the heart. Quarles thinks of his
audience when he lectures; Wither soliloquizes in company with a full
heart. What wretched stuff are the "Divine Fancies" of Quarles! Religion
appears to him no longer valuable than it furnishes matter for quibbles
and riddles; he turns God's grace into wantonness. Wither is like an old
friend, whose warm-heartedness and estimable qualities make us wish he
possessed more genius, but at the same time make us willing to dispense
with that want. I always love W., and sometimes admire Q. Still, that
portrait is a fine one; and the extract from "The Shepherds' Hunting"
places him in a starry height far above Quarles, If you wrote that
review in "Crit. Rev.," I am sorry you are so sparing of praise to the
"Ancient Marinere;" [1] so far from calling it, as you do, with some wit
but more severity, "A Dutch Attempt," etc., I call it a right English
attempt, and a successful one, to dethrone German sublimity. You have
selected a passage fertile in unmeaning miracles, but have passed by
fifty passages as miraculous as the miracles they celebrate. I never so
deeply felt the pathetic as in that part, -

"A spring of love gush'd from my heart,
And I bless'd them unaware."

It stung me into high pleasure through sufferings. Lloyd does not like
it; his head is too metaphysical, and your taste too correct, - at least
I must allege something against you both, to excuse my own dotage, -

But you allow some elaborate beauties; you should have extracted 'em.
"The Ancient Marinere" plays more tricks with the mind than that last
poem, which is yet one of the finest written. But I am getting too
dogmatical; and before I degenerate into abuse, I will conclude with
assuring you that I am,

Sincerely yours,

C. LAMB.

[1] The "Lyrical Ballads" of Wordsworth and Coleridge had just appeared.
The volume contained four pieces, including the "Ancient Mariner," by
Coleridge.


XVII.


TO SOUTHEY.

_November_ 28, 1798.

* * * * *
I showed my "Witch" and "Dying Lover" to
Dyer [1] last night; but George could not comprehend
how that could be poetry which did not go
upon ten feet, as George and his predecessors had
taught it to do; so George read me some lectures
on the distinguishing qualities of the Ode, the Epigram,
and the Epic, and went home to illustrate his
doctrine by correcting a proof-sheet of his own
Lyrics, George writes odes where the rhymes, like
fashionable man and wife, keep a comfortable distance
of six or eight lines apart, and calls that "observing
the laws of verse," George tells you, before
he recites, that you must listen with great attention,
or you 'll miss the rhymes. I did so, and found
them pretty exact, George, speaking of the dead
Ossian, exclaimeth, "Dark are the poet's eyes," I
humbly represented to him that his own eyes were
dark, and many a living bard's besides, and recommended
"Clos'd are the poet's eyes." But that
would not do, I found there was an antithesis between
the darkness of his eyes and the splendor of
his genius, and I acquiesced.

Your recipe for a Turk's poison is invaluable and truly Marlowish....
Lloyd objects to "shutting up the womb of his purse" in my Curse (which
for a Christian witch in a Christian country is not too mild, I hope):
do you object? I think there is a strangeness in the idea, as well as
"shaking the poor like snakes from his door," which suits the speaker.
Witches illustrate, as fine ladies do, from their own familiar objects,
and snakes and shutting up of wombs are in their way. I don't know that
this last charge has been before brought against 'em, nor either the
sour milk or the mandrake babe; but I affirm these be things a witch
would do if she could.

My tragedy [2] will be a medley (as I intend it to be a medley) of
laughter and tears, prose and verse, and in some places rhyme, songs,
wit, pathos, humor, and if possible, sublimity, - at least, it is not a
fault in my intention if it does not comprehend most of these discordant
colors. Heaven send they dance not the "Dance of Death!" I hear that the
Two Noble Englishmen [3] have parted no sooner than they set foot on
German earth; but I have not heard the reason, - possibly to give
novelists a handle to exclaim, "Ah me, what things are perfect!" I think
I shall adopt your emendation in the "Dying Lover," though I do not
myself feel the objection against "Silent Prayer."

My tailor has brought me home a new coat lapelled, with a velvet collar.


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