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He assures me everybody wears velvet collars now. Some are born
fashionable, some achieve fashion, and others, like your humble servant,
have fashion thrust upon them. The rogue has been making inroads
hitherto by modest degrees, foisting upon me an additional button,
recommending gaiters; but to come upon me thus in a full tide of luxury,
neither becomes him as a tailor or the ninth of a man. My meek gentleman
was robbed the other day, coming with his wife and family in a one-horse
shay from Hampstead; the villains rifled him of four guineas, some
shillings and halfpence, and a bundle of customers' measures, which they
swore were bank-notes. They did not shoot him, and when they rode off he
addressed them with profound gratitude, making a congee: "Gentlemen, I
wish you good-night; and we are very much obliged to you that you have
not used us ill!" And this is the cuckoo that has the audacity to foist
upon me ten buttons on a side and a black velvet collar, - a cursed ninth
of a scoundrel!

When you write to Lloyd, he wishes his Jacobin correspondents to address
him as _Mr._ C. L. Love and respects to Edith. I hope she is well.

Yours sincerely,


[1] This quaint scholar, a marvel of simplicity and universal optimism,
is a constantly recurring and delightfully humorous character in the
Letters. Lamb and Dyer had been schoolfellows at Christ's Hospital.

[2] John Woodvil.

[3] Coleridge and Wordsworth, who started for Germany together.



_March_ 20, 1799,

I am hugely pleased with your "Spider," "your old freemason," as you
call him. The three first stanzas are delicious; they seem to me a
compound of Burns and. Old Quarles, those kind of home-strokes, where
more is felt than strikes the ear, - a terseness, a jocular pathos which
makes one feel in laughter. The measure, too, is novel and pleasing. I
could almost wonder Rob Burns in his lifetime never stumbled upon it.
The fourth stanza is less striking, as being less original. The fifth
falls off. It has no felicity of phrase, no old-fashioned phrase
or feeling.

"Young hopes, and love's delightful dreams,"

savor neither of Burns nor Quarles; they seem more like shreds of many a
modern sentimental sonnet. The last stanza hath nothing striking in it,
if I except the two concluding lines, which are Burns all over. I wish,
if you concur with me, these things could be looked to. I am sure this
is a kind of writing which comes tenfold better recommended to the
heart, comes there more like a neighbor or familiar, than thousands of
Hamnels and Zillahs and Madelons. I beg you will send me the
"Holly-tree," if it at all resemble this, for it must please me. I have
never seen it. I love this sort of poems, that open a new intercourse
with the most despised of the animal and insect race. I think this vein
may be further opened; Peter Pindar hath very prettily apostrophized a
fly; Burns hath his mouse and his louse; Coleridge, less successfully,
hath made overtures of intimacy to a jackass, - therein only following at
unresembling distance Sterne and greater Cervantes. Besides these, I
know of no other examples of breaking down the partition between us and
our "poor earth-born companions." It is sometimes revolting to be put in
a track of feeling by other people, not one's own immediate thoughts,
else I would persuade you, if I could (I am in earnest), to commence a
series of these animal poems, which might have a tendency to rescue some
poor creatures from the antipathy of mankind. Some thoughts come across
me: for instance, to a rat, to a toad, to a cockchafer, to a
mole, - people bake moles alive by a slow oven-fire to cure consumption.
Rats are, indeed, the most despised and contemptible parts of God's
earth, I killed a rat the other day by punching him to pieces, and feel
a weight of blood upon me to this hour. Toads, you know, are made to
fly, and tumble down and crush all to pieces. Cockchafers are old sport;
then again to a worm, with an apostrophe to anglers, - those patient
tyrants, meek inflictors of pangs intolerable, cool devils; [1] to an
owl; to all snakes, with an apology for their poison; to a cat in boots
or bladders. Your own fancy, if it takes a fancy to these hints, will
suggest many more. A series of such poems, suppose them accompanied with
plates descriptive of animal torments, - cooks roasting lobsters,
fishmongers crimping skates, etc., - would take excessively, I will
willingly enter into a partnership in the plan with you; I think my
heart and soul would go with it too, - at least, give it a thought. My
plan is but this minute come into my head; but it strikes me
instantaneously as something new, good, and useful, full of pleasure and
full of moral. If old Quarles and Wither could live again, we would
invite them into our firm. Burns hath done his part.

Poor Sam Le Grice! I am afraid the world and the camp and the university
have spoiled him among them. 'Tis certain he had at one time a strong
capacity of turning out something better. I knew him, and that not long
since, when he had a most warm heart. I am ashamed of the indifference I
have sometimes felt towards him. I think the devil is in one's heart. I
am under obligations to that man for the warmest friendship and
heartiest sympathy, [2] even for an agony of sympathy expressed both by
word and deed, and tears for me when I was in my greatest distress. But
I have forgot that, - as, I fear, he has nigh forgot the awful scenes
which were before his eyes when he served the office of a comforter to
me. No service was too mean or troublesome for him to perform. I can't
think what but the devil, "that old spider," could have suck'd my heart
so dry of its sense of all gratitude. If he does come in your way,
Southey, fail not to tell him that I retain a most affectionate
remembrance of his old friendliness, and an earnest wish to resume our
intercourse. In this I am serious. I cannot recommend him to your
society, because I am afraid whether he be quite worthy of it. But I
have no right to dismiss him from _my_ regard. He was at one time, and
in the worst of times, my own familiar friend, and great comfort to me
then. I have known him to play at cards with my father, meal-times
excepted, literally all day long, in long days too, to save me from
being teased by the old man when I was not able to bear it.

God bless him for it, and God bless you, Southey!

C. L.

[1] Leigh Hunt says: "Walton says that an angler does no hurt but to
fish; and this he counts as nothing.... Now, fancy a Genius fishing for
us. Fancy him baiting a great hook with pickled salmon, and, twitching
up old Izaac Walton from the banks of the River Lee, with the hook
through his ear. How he would go up, roaring and screaming, and thinking
the devil had got him!

"'Other joys
Are but toys.'


[2] See Letter VI.



_March_ 1, 1800.

I hope by this time you are prepared to say the "Falstaff's Letters" are
a bundle of the sharpest, queerest, profoundest humors of any these
juice-drained latter times have spawned. I should have advertised you
that the meaning is frequently hard to be got at, - and so are the future
guineas that now lie ripening and aurifying in the womb of some
undiscovered Potosi; but dig, dig, dig, dig, Manning! I set to with an
unconquerable propulsion to write, with a lamentable want of what to
write. My private goings on are orderly as the movements of the spheres,
and stale as their music to angels' ears. Public affairs, except as they
touch upon me, and so turn into private, I cannot whip up my mind to
feel any interest in, I grieve, indeed, that War and Nature and Mr.
Pitt, that hangs up in Lloyd's best parlour, should have conspired to
call up three necessaries, simple commoners as our fathers knew them,
into the upper house of luxuries, - bread and beer and coals, Manning.
But as to France and Frenchmen, and the Abbé Siéyès and his
constitutions, I cannot make these present times present to me. I read
histories of the past, and I live in them; although, to abstract senses,
they are far less momentous than the noises which keep Europe awake. I
am reading Burnet's "Own Times." Did you ever read that garrulous,
pleasant history? He tells his story like an old man, past political
service, bragging to his sons on winter evenings of the part he took in
public transactions when "his old cap was new." Full of scandal, which
all true history is. No palliatives; but all the stark wickedness that
actually gives the _momentum_ to national actors. Quite the prattle of
age and outlived importance. Truth and sincerity staring out upon you
perpetually in _alto relievo_. Himself a party man, he makes you a party
man. None of the cursed philosophical Humeian indifference, so cold and
unnatural and inhuman! None of the cursed Gibbonian fine writing, so
fine and composite. None of Dr. Robertson's periods with three members.
None of Mr. Roscoe's sage remarks, all so apposite, and coming in so
clever, lest the reader should have had the trouble of drawing an
inference. Burnet's good old prattle I can bring present to my mind; I
can make the Revolution present to me: the French Revolution, by a
converse perversity in my nature, I fling as far _from_ me. To quit this
tiresome subject, and to relieve you from two or three dismal yawns,
which I hear in spirit, I here conclude my more than commonly obtuse
letter, - dull up to the dulness of a Dutch commentator on Shakspeare. My
love to Lloyd and Sophia.

C. L.

[1] To this remarkable person we are largely indebted for some of the
best of Lamb's letters. He was mathematical tutor at Caius College,
Cambridge, and in later years became somewhat famous as an explorer of
the remoter parts of China and Thibet. Lamb had been introduced to him,
during a Cambridge visit, by Charles Lloyd, and afterwards told Crabb
Robinson that he was the most "wonderful man" he ever met. An account of
Manning will be found in the memoir prefixed to his "Journey to Lhasa,"
in 1811-12. (George Bogle and Thomas Manning's Journey to Thibet and
Lhasa, by C.R. Markham, 1876.)



_May_ 12, 1800,

My Dear Coleridge, - I don't know why I write, except from the propensity
misery has to tell her griefs. Hetty [1] died on Friday night, about
eleven o'clock, after eight days' illness; Mary, in consequence of
fatigue and anxiety, is fallen ill again, and I was obliged to remove
her yesterday. I am left alone in a house with nothing but Hetty's dead
body to keep me company. To-morrow I bury her, and then I shall be quite
alone, with nothing but a cat to remind me that the house has been full
of living beings like myself. My heart is quite sunk, and I don't know
where to look for relief. Mary will get better again; but her constantly
being liable to such relapses is dreadful; nor is it the least of our
evils that her case and all our story is so well known around us. We are
in a manner _marked_. Excuse my troubling you; but I have nobody by me
to speak to me. I slept out last night, not being able to endure the
change and the stillness. But I did not sleep well, and I must come back
to my own bed. I am going to try and get a friend to come and be with me
to-morrow. I am completely shipwrecked. My head is quite bad. I almost
wish that Mary were dead. God bless you. Love to Sara and Hartley.


[1] The Lambs' old servant.



Before _June_, 1800.

Dear Manning, - I feel myself unable to thank you sufficiently for your
kind letter. It was doubly acceptable to me, both for the choice poetry
and the kind, honest prose which it contained. It was just such a letter
as I should have expected from Manning.

I am in much better spirits than when I wrote last. I have had a very
eligible offer to lodge with a friend in town. He will have rooms to let
at midsummer, by which time I hope my sister will be well enough to join
me. It is a great object to me to live in town, where we shall be much
more _private_, and to quit a house and neighborhood where poor Mary's
disorder, so frequently recurring, has made us a sort of marked people.
We can be nowhere private except in the midst of London. We shall be in
a family where we visit very frequently; only my landlord and I have not
yet come to a conclusion. He has a partner to consult. I am still on the
tremble, for I do not know where we could go into lodgings that would
not be, in many respects, highly exceptionable. Only God send Mary well
again, and I hope all will be well! The prospect, such as it is, has
made me quite happy. I have just time to tell you of it, as I know it
will give you pleasure. Farewell.




_August_, 6, 1800.

Dear Coleridge, - I have taken to-day and delivered to Longman and Co.,
_Imprimis_: your books, viz., three ponderous German dictionaries, one
volume (I can find no more) of German and French ditto, sundry other
German books unbound, as you left them, Percy's Ancient Poetry, and one
volume of Anderson's Poets. I specify them, that you may not lose any.
_Secundo_: a dressing-gown (value, fivepence), in which you used to sit
and look like a conjuror when you were translating "Wallenstein." A case
of two razors and a shaving-box and strap. This it has cost me a severe
struggle to part with. They are in a brown-paper parcel, which also
contains sundry papers and poems, sermons, _some few Epic_ poems, - one
about Cain and Abel, which came from Poole, etc., and also your tragedy;
with one or two small German books, and that drama in which Got-fader
performs. _Tertio_: a small oblong box containing _all your letters_,
collected from all your waste papers, and which fill the said little
box. All other waste papers, which I judged worth sending, are in the
paper parcel aforesaid. But you will find _all_ your letters in the box
by themselves. Thus have I discharged my conscience and my lumber-room
of all your property, save and except a folio entitled Tyrrell's
"Bibliotheca Politica," which you used to learn your politics out of
when you wrote for the Post, - _mutatis mutandis, i. e._, applying past
inferences to modern _data_. I retain that, because I am sensible I am
very deficient in the politics myself; and I have torn up - don't be
angry; waste paper has risen forty per cent, and I can't afford to buy
it - all Bonaparte's Letters, Arthur Young's Treatise on Corn, and one or
two more light-armed infantry, which I thought better suited the
flippancy of London discussion than the dignity of Keswick thinking.
Mary says you will be in a passion about them when you come to miss
them; but you must study philosophy. Read Albertus Magnus de Chartis
Amissis five times over after phlebotomizing, - 't is Burton's
recipe, - and then be angry with an absent friend if you can. Sara is
obscure. Am I to understand by her letter that she sends a _kiss_ to
Eliza Buckingham? Pray tell your wife that a note of interrogation on
the superscription of a letter is highly ungrammatical! She proposes
writing my name _Lambe? Lamb_ is quite enough. I have had the
Anthology, and like only one thing in it, - _Lewti_; but of that the
last stanza is detestable, the rest most exquisite! The epithet
_enviable_ would dash the finest poem. For God's sake (I never was more
serious), don't make me ridiculous any more by terming me gentle-hearted
in print, or do it in better verses. [1] It did well enough five years
ago, when I came to see you, and was moral coxcomb enough at the time
you wrote the lines, to feed upon such epithets: but, besides that, the
meaning of "gentle" is equivocal at best, and almost always means
"poor-spirited;" the very quality of gentleness is abhorrent to such
vile trumpetings. My _sentiment_ is long since vanished. I hope my
_virtues_ have done _sucking_. I can scarce think but you meant it in
joke. I hope you did, for I should be ashamed to think you could think
to gratify me by such praise, fit only to be a cordial to some
green-sick sonneteer.

[1] An allusion to Coleridge's lines, "This Lime-Tree Bower my Prison,"
wherein he styles Lamb "my gentle-hearted Charles."



_August_, 1800.

Dear Manning, - I am going to ask a favor of you, and am at a loss how to
do it in the most delicate mariner. For this purpose I have been looking
into Pliny's Letters, who is noted to have had the best grace in begging
of all the ancients (I read him in the elegant translation of Mr.
Melmoth); but not finding any case there exactly similar with mine, I am
constrained to beg in my own barbarian way. To come to the point, then,
and hasten into the middle of things, have you a copy of your Algebra [1]
to give away? I do not ask it for myself; I have too much reverence for
the Black Arts ever to approach thy circle, illustrious Trismegist! But
that worthy man and excellent poet, George Dyer, made me a visit
yesternight on purpose to borrow one, supposing, rationally enough, I
must say, that you had made me a present of one before this; the
omission of which I take to have proceeded only from negligence: but it
is a fault. I could lend him no assistance. You must know he is just now
diverted from the pursuit of BELL LETTERS by a paradox, which he has
heard his friend Frend [2] (that learned mathematician) maintain, that
the negative quantities of mathematicians were _merae nugae_, - things
scarcely _in rerum naturâ_, and smacking too much of mystery for
gentlemen of Mr. Frend's clear Unitarian capacity. However, the dispute,
once set a-going, has seized violently on George's pericranick; and it
is necessary for his health that he should speedily come to a resolution
of his doubts. He goes about teasing his friends with his new
mathematics; he even frantically talks of purchasing Manning's Algebra,
which shows him far gone, for, to my knowledge, he has not been master
of seven shillings a good time. George's pockets and - - 's brains are
two things in nature which do not abhor a vacuum.... Now, if you could
step in, in this trembling suspense of his reason, and he should find on
Saturday morning, lying for him at the Porter's Lodge, Clifford's
Inn. - his safest address, - Manning's Algebra, with a neat manuscriptum
in the blank leaf, running thus, "FROM THE AUTHOR!" it might save his
wits and restore the unhappy author to those studies of poetry and
criticism which are at present suspended, to the infinite regret of the
whole literary world. N.B. - Dirty books, smeared leaves, and dogs' ears
will be rather a recommendation than otherwise. N.B. - He must have the
book as soon as possible, or nothing can withhold him from madly
purchasing the book on tick.... Then shall we see him sweetly restored
to the chair of Longinus, - to dictate in smooth and modest phrase the
laws of verse; to prove that Theocritus first introduced the Pastoral,
and Virgil and Pope brought it to its perfection; that Gray and Mason
(who always hunt in couples in George's brain) have shown a great deal
of poetical fire in their lyric poetry; that Aristotle's rules are not
to be servilely followed, which George has shown to have imposed great
shackles upon modern genius. His poems, I find, are to consist of two
vols., reasonable octavo; and a third book will exclusively contain
criticisms, in which he asserts he has gone _pretty deeply_ into the
laws of blank verse and rhyme, epic poetry, dramatic and pastoral
ditto, - all which is to come out before Christmas. But above all he has
_touched_ most _deeply_ upon the Drama, comparing the English with the
modern German stage, their merits and defects. Apprehending that his
_studies_ (not to mention his _turn_, which I take to be chiefly towards
the lyrical poetry) hardly qualified him for these disquisitions, I
modestly inquired what plays he had read. I found by George's reply that
he _had_ read Shakspeare, but that was a good while since: he calls him
a great but irregular genius, which I think to be an original and just
remark. (Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, Ben Jonson, Shirley, Marlowe,
Ford, and the worthies of Dodsley's Collection, - he confessed he had
read none of them, but professed his _intention_ of looking through them
all, so as to be able to _touch_ upon them in his book.) So Shakspeare,
Otway, and I believe Rowe, to whom he was naturally directed by
Johnson's Lives, and these not read lately, are to stand him in stead of
a general knowledge of the subject. God bless his dear absurd head!

By the by, did I not write you a letter with something about an
invitation in it? - but let that pass; I suppose it is not agreeable.

N.B. It would not be amiss if you were to accompany your _present_ with
a dissertation on negative quantities.

C. L.

[1] Manning, while at Cambridge, published a work on Algebra.

[2] The Rev. William Frend, who was expelled from Cambridge for




George Dyer is an Archimedes and an Archimagus and a Tycho Brahé and a
Copernicus; and thou art the darling of the Nine, and midwife to their
wandering babe also! We take tea with that learned poet and critic on
Tuesday night, at half-past five, in his neat library; the repast will
be light and Attic, with criticism. If thou couldst contrive to wheel up
thy dear carcase on the Monday, and after dining with us on tripe,
calves' kidneys, or whatever else the Cornucopia of St. Clare may be
willing to pour out on the occasion, might we not adjourn together to
the Heathen's, thou with thy Black Backs, and I with some innocent
volume of the Bell Letters, - Shenstone, or the like; it would make him
wash his old flannel gown (that has not been washed, to my knowledge,
since it has been _his_, - Oh, the long time!) with tears of joy. Thou
shouldst settle his scruples, and unravel his cobwebs, and sponge off
the sad stuff that weighs upon his dear wounded pia mater; thou shouldst
restore light to his eyes, and him to his friends and the public;
Parnassus should shower her civic crowns upon thee for saving the wits
of a citizen! I thought I saw a lucid interval in George the other
night: he broke in upon my studies just at tea-time, and brought with
him Dr. Anderson, an old gentleman who ties his breeches' knees with
packthread, and boasts that he has been disappointed by ministers. The
Doctor wanted to see _me_; for, I being a poet, he thought I might
furnish him with a copy of verses to suit his "Agricultural Magazine."
The Doctor, in the course of the conversation, mentioned a poem, called
the "Epigoniad," by one Wilkie, an epic poem, in which there is not one
tolerable good line all through, but every incident and speech borrowed
from Homer.

George had been sitting inattentive seemingly to what was going
on, - hatching of negative quantities, - when, suddenly, the name of his
old friend Homer stung his pericranicks, and, jumping up, he begged to
know where he could meet with Wilkie's work. "It was a curious fact that
there should be such an epic poem and he not know of it; and he _must_
get a copy of it, as he was going to touch pretty deeply upon the
subject of the epic, - and he was sure there must be some things good in
a poem of eight thousand lines!" I was pleased with this transient
return of his reason and recurrence to his old ways of thinking; it gave
me great hopes of a recovery, which nothing but your book can completely
insure. Pray come on Monday if you _can_, and stay your own time. I have
a good large room, with two beds in it, in the handsomest of which thou
shalt repose a-nights, and dream of spheroides. I hope you will
understand by the nonsense of this letter that I am _not_ melancholy at
the thoughts of thy coming; I thought it necessary to add this, because
you love _precision_. Take notice that our stay at Dyer's will not
exceed eight o'clock, after which our pursuits will be our own. But
indeed I think a little recreation among the Bell Letters and poetry
will do you some service in the interval of severer studies. I hope we
shall fully discuss with George Dyer what I have never yet heard done to
my satisfaction, - the reason of Dr. Johnson's malevolent strictures on
the higher species of the Ode.




_August_ 14, 1800.

My head is playing all the tunes in the world, ringing such peals! It
has just finished the "Merry Christ Church Bells," and absolutely is
beginning "Turn again, Whittington." Buz, buz, buz; bum, bum, bum;
wheeze, wheeze, wheeze; fen, fen, fen; tinky, tinky, tinky; _cr'annch_.
I shall certainly come to be condemned at last. I have been drinking too

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