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much for two days running. I find my moral sense in the last stage of a
consumption, and my religion getting faint. This is disheartening, but I
trust the devil will not overpower me. In the midst of this infernal
torture Conscience is barking and yelping as loud as any of them. I have
sat down to read over again, and I think I do begin to spy out something
with beauty and design in it. I perfectly accede to all your
alterations, and only desire that you had cut deeper, when your hand
was in.

* * * * *

Now I am on the subject of poetry, I must announce to you, who,
doubtless, in your remote part of the island, have not heard tidings of
so great a blessing, that George Dyer hath prepared two ponderous
volumes full of poetry and criticism. They impend over the town, and are
threatened to fall in the winter. The first volume contains every sort
of poetry except personal satire, which George, in his truly original
prospectus, renounceth forever, whimsically foisting the intention in
between the price of his book and the proposed number of subscribers.
(If I can, I will get you a copy of his _handbill_.) He has tried his
_vein_ in every species besides, - the Spenserian, Thomsonian, Masonic,
and Akensidish more especially. The second volume is all criticism;
wherein he demonstrates to the entire satisfaction of the literary
world, in a way that must silence all reply forever, that the pastoral
was introduced by Theocritus and polished by Virgil and Pope; that Gray
and Mason (who always hunt in couples in George's brain) have a good
deal of poetical fire and true lyric genius; that Cowley was ruined by
excess of wit (a warning to all moderns); that Charles Lloyd, Charles
Lamb, and William Wordsworth, in later days, have struck the true chords
of poesy. Oh, George, George, with a head uniformly wrong and a heart
uniformly right, that I had power and might equal to my wishes; then
would I call the gentry of thy native island, and they should come in
troops, flocking at the sound of thy prospectus-trumpet, and crowding
who shall be first to stand in thy list of subscribers! I can only put
twelve shillings into thy pocket (which, I will answer for them, will
not stick there long) out of a pocket almost as bare as thine. Is it not
a pity so much fine writing should be erased? But, to tell the truth, I
began to scent that I was getting into that sort of style which Longinus
and Dionysius Halicarnassus fitly call "the affected."

C. L.


XXVI.


TO MANNING.

_August_ 22, 1800.

Dear Manning, - You need not imagine any apology necessary. Your fine
hare and fine birds (which just now are dangling by our kitchen blaze)
discourse most eloquent music in your justification. You just nicked my
palate; for, with all due decorum and leave may it be spoken, my worship
hath taken physic to-day, and being low and puling, requireth to be
pampered. Fob! how beautiful and strong those buttered onions come to my
nose! For you must know we extract a divine spirit of gravy from those
materials which, duly compounded with a consistence of bread and cream
(yclept bread-sauce), each to each giving double grace, do mutually
illustrate and set off (as skilful gold-foils to rare jewels) your
partridge, pheasant, woodcock, snipe, teal, widgeon, and the other
lesser daughters of the ark. My friendship, struggling with my carnal
and fleshly prudence (which suggests that a bird a man is the proper
allotment in such cases), yearneth sometimes to have thee here to pick a
wing or so. I question if your Norfolk sauces match our London
culinarie.

George Dyer has introduced me to the table of an agreeable old
gentleman, Dr. Anderson, who gives hot legs of mutton and grape pies at
his sylvan lodge at Isleworth, where, in the middle of a street, he has
shot up a wall most preposterously before his small dwelling, which,
with the circumstance of his taking several panes of glass out of
bedroom windows (for air), causeth his neighbors to speculate strangely
on the state of the good man's pericranicks. Plainly, he lives under the
reputation of being deranged. George does not mind this circumstance; he
rather likes him the better for it. The Doctor, in his pursuits, joins
agricultural to poetical science, and has set George's brains mad about
the old Scotch writers, Barbour, Douglas's √Жneid, Blind Harry, etc. We
returned home in a return postchaise (having dined with the Doctor); and
George kept wondering and wondering, for eight or nine turnpike miles,
what was the name, and striving to recollect the name, of a poet
anterior to Barbour. I begged to know what was remaining of his works.
"There is nothing _extant_ of his works, sir; but by all accounts he
seems to have been a fine genius!" This fine genius, without anything to
show for it or any title beyond George's courtesy, without even a name,
and Barbour and Douglas and Blind Harry now are the predominant sounds
in George's pia mater, and their buzzings exclude politics, criticism,
and algebra, - the late lords of that illustrious lumber-room. Mark, he
has never read any of these bucks, but is impatient till he reads them
_all_, at the Doctor's suggestion. Poor Dyer! his friends should be
careful what sparks they let fall into such inflammable matter.

Could I have my will of the heathen, I would lock him up from all access
of new ideas; I would exclude all critics that would not swear me first
(upon their Virgil) that they would feed him with nothing but the old,
safe, familiar notions and sounds (the rightful aborigines of his
brain), - Gray, Akenside, and Mason. In these sounds, reiterated as often
as possible, there could be nothing painful, nothing distracting.

God bless me, here are the birds, smoking hot!

All that is gross and unspiritual in me rises at the sight!

Avaunt friendship and all memory of absent friends!

C. LAMB.


XXVII.


TO COLERIDGE.

_August_ 26, 1800.

George Dyer is the only literary character I am happily acquainted with.
The oftener I see him, the more deeply I admire him. He is goodness
itself. If I could but calculate the precise date of his death, I would
write a novel on purpose to make George the hero. I could hit him off
to a hair.

George brought a Dr. Anderson [1] to see me. The Doctor is a very
pleasant old man, a great genius for agriculture, one that ties his
breeches-knees with packthread, and boasts of having had disappointments
from ministers. The Doctor happened to mention an epic poem by one
Wilkie, called the "Epigoniad," in which he assured us there is not one
tolerable line from beginning to end, but all the characters, incidents,
etc., verbally copied from _Homer_. George, who had been sitting quite
inattentive to the Doctor's criticism, no sooner heard the sound of
_Homer_ strike his pericraniks, than up he gets, and declares he must
see that poem immediately: where was it to be had? An epic poem of eight
thousand lines, and _he_ not hear of it! There must be some things good
in it, and it was necessary he should see it, for he had touched pretty
deeply upon that subject in his criticisms on the Epic. George had
touched pretty deeply upon the Lyric, I find; he has also prepared a
dissertation on the Drama, and the comparison of the English and German
theatres. As I rather doubted his competency to do the latter, knowing
that his peculiar _turn_ lies in the lyric species of composition, I
questioned George what English plays he had read. I found that he _had_
read Shakspeare (whom he calls an original, but irregular, genius), but
it was a good while ago; and he has dipped into Rowe and Otway, I
suppose having found their names in Johnson's Lives at full length; and
upon this slender ground he has undertaken the task. He never seemed
even to have heard of Fletcher, Ford, Marlowe, Massinger, and the
worthies of Dodsley's Collection; but he is to read all these, to
prepare him for bringing out his "Parallel" in the winter. I find he is
also determined to vindicate poetry from the shackles which Aristotle
and some others have imposed upon it, - which is very good-natured of
him, and very necessary just now! Now I am _touching_ so _deeply_ upon
poetry, can I forget that I have just received from Cottle a magnificent
copy of his Guinea Epic. [2] Four-and-twenty books to read in the dog
days! I got as far as the Mad Monk the first day, and fainted. Mr,
Cottle's genius strongly points him to the _Pastoral_, but his
inclinations divert him perpetually from his calling. He imitates
Southey, as Rowe did Shakspeare, with his "Good morrow to ye, good
master Lieutenant," Instead of _a_ man, _a_ woman, _a_ daughter, he
constantly writes "one a man," "one a woman," "one his daughter."
Instead of _the_ king, _the_ hero, he constantly writes, "he the king,"
"he the hero," - two flowers of rhetoric palpably from the "Joan." But
Mr, Cottle soars a higher pitch; and when he _is_ original, it is in a
most original way indeed. His terrific scenes are indefatigable.
Serpents, asps, spiders, ghosts, dead bodies, staircases made of
nothing, with adders' tongues for bannisters, - Good Heaven, what a brain
he must have! He puts as many plums in his pudding as my grandmother
used to do; and, then his emerging from Hell's horrors into light, and
treading on pure flats of this earth - for twenty-three books together!

C. L.

[1] See preceding Letter.

[2] Alfred.


XXVIII.


TO COLERIDGE.

_October_ 9, 1800.

I suppose you have heard of the death of Amos Cottle. I paid a solemn
visit of condolence to his brother, accompanied by George Dyer, of
burlesque memory. I went, trembling, to see poor Cottle so immediately
upon the event. He was in black, and his younger brother was also in
black. Everything wore an aspect suitable to the respect due to the
freshly dead. For some time after our entrance, nobody spake, till
George modestly put in a question, whether "Alfred" was likely to sell.
This was Lethe to Cottle, and his poor face wet with tears, and his kind
eye brightened up in a moment. Now I felt it was my cue to speak. I had
to thank him for a present of a magnificent copy, and had promised to
send him my remarks, - the least thing I could do; so I ventured to
suggest that I perceived a considerable improvement he had made in his
first book since the state in which he first read it to me. Joseph, who
till now had sat with his knees cowering in by the fireplace, wheeled
about, and with great difficulty of body shifted the same round to the
corner of a table where I was sitting, and first stationing one thigh
over the other, which is his sedentary mood, and placidly fixing his
benevolent face right against mine, waited my observations. At that
moment it came strongly into my mind that I had got Uncle Toby before
me, he looked so kind and so good. I could not say an unkind thing of
"Alfred." So I set my memory to work to recollect what was the name of
Alfred's queen, and with some adroitness recalled the well-known sound
to Cottle's ears of Alswitha. At that moment I could perceive that
Cottle had forgot his brother was so lately become a blessed spirit. In
the language of mathematicians, the author was as 9, the brother as 1. I
felt my cue, and strong pity working at the root, I went to work and
beslabber'd "Alfred" with most unqualified praise, or only qualifying my
praise by the occasional polite interposition of an exception taken
against trivial faults, slips, and human imperfections, which, by
removing the appearance of insincerity, did but in truth heighten the
relish. Perhaps I might have spared that refinement, for Joseph was in a
humor to hope and believe _all things_. What I said was beautifully
supported, corroborated, and confirmed by the stupidity of his brother
on my left hand, and by George on my right, who has an utter incapacity
of comprehending that there can be anything bad in poetry. All poems are
_good_ poems to George; all men are _fine geniuses_. So what with my
actual memory, of which I made the most, and Cottle's own helping me
out, for I _really_ had forgotten a good deal of "Alfred," I made shift
to discuss the most essential parts entirely to the satisfaction of its
author, who repeatedly declared that he loved nothing better than
_candid_ criticism. Was I a candid greyhound now for all this? or did I
do right? I believe I did. The effect was luscious to my conscience. For
all the rest of the evening Amos was no more heard of, till George
revived the subject by inquiring whether some account should not be
drawn up by the friends of the deceased to be inserted in "Phillips's
Monthly Obituary;" adding, that Amos was estimable both for his head and
heart, and would have made a fine poet if he had lived. To the
expediency of this measure Cottle fully assented, but could not help
adding that he always thought that the qualities of his brother's heart
exceeded those of his head. I believe his brother, when living, had
formed precisely the same idea of him; and I apprehend the world will
assent to both judgments. I rather guess that the brothers were poetical
rivals. I judged so when I saw them together. Poor Cottle, I must leave
him, after his short dream, to muse again upon his poor brother, for
whom I am sure in secret he will yet shed many a tear. Now send me in
return some Greta news.

C. L.


XXIX.


TO MANNING.

_October_ 16, 1800.

Dear Manning, - Had you written one week before you did, I certainly
should have obeyed your injunction; you should have seen me before my
letter. I will explain to you my situation. There are six of us in one
department. Two of us (within these four days) are confined with severe
fevers: and two more, who belong to the Tower Militia, expect to have
marching orders on Friday. Now, six are absolutely necessary. I have
already asked and obtained two young hands to supply the loss of the
_feverites;_ and with the other prospect before me, you may believe I
cannot decently ask leave of absence for myself. All I can promise (and
I do promise with the sincerity of Saint Peter, and the contrition of
sinner Peter if I fail) [is] that I will come _the very first spare
week_, and go nowhere till I have been at Cambridge. No matter if you
are in a state of pupilage when I come; for I can employ myself in
Cambridge very pleasantly in the mornings. Are there not libraries,
halls, colleges, books, pictures, statues? I wish you had made London in
your way. There is an exhibition quite uncommon in Europe, which could
not have escaped _your genius_, - a live rattlesnake, ten feet in length,
and the thickness of a big leg. I went to see it last night by
candlelight. We were ushered into a room very little bigger than ours at
Pentonville. A man and woman and four boys live in this room, joint
tenants with nine snakes, most of them such as no remedy has been
discovered for their bite. We walked into the middle, which is formed by
a half-moon of wired boxes, all mansions of snakes, - whip-snakes,
thunder-snakes, pig-nose-snakes, American vipers, and _this monster_. He
lies curled up in folds; and immediately a stranger enters (for he is
used to the family, and sees them play at cards) he set up a rattle like
a watchman's in London, or near as loud, and reared up a head, from the
midst of these folds, like a toad, and shook his head, and showed every
sign a snake can show of irritation. I had the foolish curiosity to
strike the wires with my finger, and the devil flew at me with his
toad-mouth wide open: the inside of his mouth is quite white. I had got
my finger away, nor could he well have bit me with his big mouth, which
would have been certain death in five minutes. But it frightened me so
much that I did not recover my voice for a minute's space. I forgot, in
my fear, that he was secured. You would have forgot too, for 't is
incredible how such a monster can be confined in small gauzy-looking
wires. I dreamed of snakes in the night. I wish to Heaven you could see
it. He absolutely swelled with passion to the bigness of a large thigh.
I could not retreat without infringing on another box, and just behind,
a little devil, not an inch from my back, had got his nose out, with
some difficulty and pain, quite through the bars! He was soon taught
better manners. All the snakes were curious, and objects of terror; but
this monster, like Aaron's serpent, swallowed up the impression of the
rest. He opened his cursed mouth, when he made at me, as wide as his
head was broad. I hallooed out quite loud, and felt pains all over my
body with the fright.

I have had the felicity of hearing George Dyer read out one book of "The
Farmer's Boy." I thought it rather childish. No doubt, there is
originality in it (which, in your self-taught geniuses, is a most rare
quality, they generally getting hold of some bad models in a scarcity of
books, and forming their taste on them), but no _selection. All_ is,
described.

Mind, I have only heard read one book. Yours sincerely,

Philo-Snake, C. L.


XXX.


TO MANNING.

_November_ 3, 1800,

_Ecquid meditatur Archimedes?_ What is Euclid doing? What has happened
to learned Trismegist? Doth he take it in ill part that his humble
friend did not comply with his courteous invitation? Let it suffice, I
could not come. Are impossibilities nothing? - be they abstractions of
the intellects, or not (rather) most sharp and mortifying realities?
nuts in the Will's mouth too hard for her to crack? brick and stone
walls in her way, which she can by no means eat through? sore lets,
_impedimenta viarum_, no thoroughfares? _racemi nimium alte pendentes?_?
Is the phrase classic? I allude to the grapes in Aesop, which cost the
fox a strain, and gained the world an aphorism. Observe the
superscription of this letter. In adapting the size of the letters which
constitute _your_ name and Mr. _Crisp's_ name respectively, I had an eye
to your different stations in life. 'Tis really curious, and must be
soothing to an _aristocrat_ I wonder it has never been hit on before my
time. I have made an acquisition latterly of a _pleasant hand_, one
Rickman, [1] to whom I was introduced by George Dyer, - not the most
flattering auspices under which one man can be introduced to another.
George brings all sorts of people together, setting up a sort of
agrarian law, or common property, in matter of society; but for once he
has done me a great pleasure, while he was only pursuing a principle, as
_ignes fatui may_ light you home. This Rickman lives in our Buildings,
immediately opposite our house; the finest fellow to drop in a' nights,
about nine or ten o'clock, - cold bread-and-cheese time, - just in the
_wishing_ time of the night, when you _wish_ for somebody to come in,
without a distinct idea of a probable anybody. Just in the nick, neither
too early to be tedious, nor too late to sit a reasonable time. He is a
most pleasant hand, - a fine, rattling fellow, has gone through life
laughing at solemn apes; himself hugely literate, oppressively full of
information in all stuff of conversation, from matter of fact to
Xenophon and Plato; can talk Greek with Porson, politics with Thelwall,
conjecture with George Dyer, nonsense with me, and anything with
anybody; a great farmer, somewhat concerned in an agricultural magazine;
reads no poetry but Shakspeare, very intimate with Southey, but never
reads his poetry; relishes George Dyer, thoroughly penetrates into the
ridiculous wherever found, understands the _first time_ (a great
desideratum in common minds), - you need never twice speak to him; does
not want explanations, translations, limitations, as Professor Godwin
does when you make an assertion; _up_ to anything, _down_ to everything,
- whatever _sapit hominem_. A perfect _man_. All this farrago, which
must perplex you to read, and has put me to a little trouble to
_select_, only proves how impossible it is to describe a _pleasant
hand_. You must see Rickman to know him, for he is a species in one, - a
new class; an exotic, any slip of which I am proud to put in my
garden-pot. The clearest-headed fellow; fullest of matter, with least
verbosity. If there be any alloy in my fortune to have met with such a
man, it is that he commonly divides his time between town and country,
having some foolish family ties at Christchurch, by which means he can
only gladden our London hemisphere with returns of light. He is now
going for six weeks.

[1] John Rickman, clerk-assistant at the table of the House of Commons,
an eminent statistician, and the intimate friend of Lamb, Southey, and
others of their set.


XXXI.


TO MANNING.

_November_ 28, 1800

Dear Manning, - I have received a very kind invitation from Lloyd and
Sophia to go and spend a month with them at the Lakes. Now, it
fortunately happens (which is so seldom the case) that I have spare cash
by me enough to answer the expenses of so long a journey; and I am
determined to get away from the office by some means.

The purpose of this letter is to request of you (my dear friend) that
you will not take it unkind if I decline my proposed visit to Cambridge
_for the present_. Perhaps I shall be able to take Cambridge _in my
way_, going or coming. I need not describe to you the expectations which
such an one as myself, pent up all my life in a dirty city, have formed
of a tour to the Lakes. Consider Grasmere! Ambleside! Wordsworth!
Coleridge! Hills, woods, lakes, and mountains, to the devil! I will eat
snipes with thee, Thomas Manning. Only confess, confess, a _bite_.

P.S. - I think you named the 16th; but was it not modest of Lloyd to send
such an invitation! It shows his knowledge of _money_ and _time_. I
would be loth to think he meant

"Ironic satire sidelong sklented
On my poor pursie." [1]

For my part, with reference to my friends northward, I must confess that
I am not romance-bit about _Nature_. The earth and sea and sky (when all
is said) is but as a house to dwell in. If the inmates be courteous, and
good liquors flow like the conduits at an old coronation, if they can
talk sensibly and feel properly, I have no need to stand staring upon
the gilded looking-glass (that strained my friend's purse-strings in the
purchase), nor his five-shilling print over the mantelpiece of old Nabbs
the carrier (which only betrays his false taste). Just as important to
me (in a sense) is all the furniture of my world, - eye-pampering, but
satisfies no heart. Streets, streets, streets, markets, theatres,
churches, Covent Gardens, shops sparkling with pretty faces of
industrious milliners, neat sempstresses, ladles cheapening, gentlemen
behind counters lying, authors in the street with spectacles, George
Dyers (you may know them by their gait), lamps lit at night,
pastry-cooks' and silversmiths' shops, beautiful Quakers of Pentonville,
noise of coaches, drowsy cry of mechanic watchman at night, with bucks
reeling home drunk; if you happen to wake at midnight, cries of "Fire!"
and "Stop, thief!" inns of court, with their learned air, and halls, and
butteries, just like Cambridge colleges; old book-stalls, Jeremy
Taylors, Burtons on Melancholy, and Religio Medicis on every stall.
These are thy pleasures, O London with-the-many-sins! O City abounding
in - , for these may Keswick and her giant brood go hang!

C. L.

[1] Burns.


XXXII.


TO MANNING.

_December_ 27, 1800.

At length George Dyer's phrenitis has come to a crisis; he is raging and
furiously mad. I waited upon the Heathen, Thursday was a se'nnight; the
first symptom which struck my eye and gave me incontrovertible proof of
the fatal truth was a pair of nankeen pantaloons four times too big for
him, which the said Heathen did pertinaciously affirm to be new.

They were absolutely ingrained with the accumulated dirt of ages; but he
affirmed them to be clean. He was going to visit a lady that was nice
about those things, and that's the reason he wore nankeen that day. And
then he danced, and capered, and fidgeted, and pulled up his pantaloons,
and hugged his intolerable flannel vestment closer about his poetic
loins; anon he gave it loose to the zephyrs which plentifully insinuate
their tiny bodies through every crevice, door, window, or wainscot,
expressly formed for the exclusion of such impertinents. Then he caught
at a proof-sheet, and catched up a laundress's bill instead; made a dart
at Bloomfield's Poems, and threw them in agony aside. I could not bring
him to one direct reply; he could not maintain his jumping mind in a
right line for the tithe of a moment by Clifford's Inn clock. He must go
to the printer's immediately, - the most unlucky accident; he had struck


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