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off five hundred impressions of his Poems, which were ready for delivery
to subscribers, and the Preface must all be expunged. There were eighty
pages of Preface, and not till that morning had he discovered that in
the very first page of said Preface he had set out with a principle of
criticism fundamentally wrong, which vitiated all his following
reasoning. The Preface must be expunged, although it cost him £30, - the
lowest calculation, taking in paper and printing! In vain have his real
friends remonstrated against this Midsummer madness; George is as
obstinate as a Primitive Christian, and wards and parries off all our
thrusts with one unanswerable fence, - "Sir, it's of great consequence
that the _world_ is not _misled!_"

* * * * *

Man of many snipes, I will sup with thee, _Deo volente ei diabolo
nolente_, on Monday night the 5th of January, in the new year, and crush
a cup to the infant century.

A word or two of my progress. Embark at six o'clock in the morning, with
a fresh gale, on a Cambridge one-decker; very cold till eight at night;
land at St. Mary's lighthouse, muffins and coffee upon table (or any
other curious production of Turkey or both Indies), snipes exactly at
nine, punch to commence at ten, with _argument_; difference of opinion
is expected to take place about eleven; perfect unanimity, with some
haziness and dimness, before twelve. N. B. - My single affection is not
so singly wedded to snipes; but the curious and epicurean eye would also
take a pleasure in beholding a delicate and well-chosen assortment of
teals, ortolans, the unctuous and palate-soothing flesh, of geese wild
and tame, nightingales' brains, the sensorium of a young sucking-pig, or
any other Christmas dish, which I leave to the judgment of you and the
cook of Gonville.

C. LAMB.


XXXIII.


TO COLERIDGE.

(End of 1800)

I send you, in this parcel, my play, which I beg you to present in my
name, with my respect and love, to Wordsworth and his sister. You blame
us for giving your direction to Miss Wesley; the woman has been ten
times after us about it, and we gave it her at last, under the idea that
no further harm would ensue, but she would _once_ write to you, and you
would bite your lips and forget to answer it, and so it would end. You
read us a dismal homily upon "Realities." We know quite as well as you
do what are shadows and what are realities. You, for instance, when you
are over your fourth or fifth jorum, chirping about old school
occurrences, are the best of realities. Shadows are cold, thin things,
that have no warmth or grasp in them. Miss Wesley and her friend, and a
tribe of authoresses, that come after you here daily, and, in defect of
you, hive and cluster upon us, are the shadows. You encouraged that
mopsey, Miss Wesley, to dance after you, in the hope of having her
nonsense put into a nonsensical Anthology. We have pretty well shaken
her off, by that simple expedient of referring her to you; but there are
more burrs in the wind. I came home t'other day from business, hungry as
a hunter, to dinner, with nothing, I am sure, of _the author but hunger_
about me, and whom found I closeted with Mary but a friend of this Miss
Wesley, one Miss Benje, or Bengey, [1] - I don't know how she spells her
name, I just came is time enough, I believe, luckily, to prevent them
from exchanging vows of eternal friendship. It seems she is one of your
authoresses, that you first foster, and then upbraid us with. But I
forgive you. "The rogue has given me potions to make me love him." Well;
go she would not, nor step a step over our threshold, till we had
promised to come and drink tea with her next night, I had never seen her
before, and could not tell who the devil it was that was so familiar. We
went, however, not to be impolite. Her lodgings are up two pairs of
stairs in East Street, Tea and coffee and macaroons - a kind of cake - I
much love. We sat down. Presently Miss Benje broke the silence by
declaring herself quite of a different opinion from D'lsraeli, who
supposes the differences of human intellect to be the mere effect of
organization. She begged to know my opinion. I attempted to carry it off
with a pun upon organ; but that went off very flat. She immediately
conceived a very low opinion of my metaphysics; and turning round to
Mary, put some question to her in French, - possibly having heard that
neither Mary nor I understood French. The explanation that took place
occasioned some embarrassment and much wondering. She then fell into an
insulting conversation about the comparative genius and merits of all
modern languages, and concluded with asserting that the Saxon was
esteemed the purest dialect in Germany. From thence she passed into the
subject of poetry, where I, who had hitherto sat mute and a hearer only,
humbly hoped I might now put in a word to some advantage, seeing that it
was my own trade in a manner. But I was stopped by a round assertion
that no good poetry had appeared since Dr. Johnson's time. It seems the
Doctor had suppressed many hopeful geniuses that way by the severity of
his critical strictures in his "Lives of the Poets." I here ventured to
question the fact, and was beginning to appeal to _names_; but I was
assured "it was certainly the case." Then we discussed Miss More's book
on education, which I had never read. It seems Dr. Gregory, another of
Miss Bengey's friends, has found fault with one of Miss More's
metaphors. Miss More has been at some pains to vindicate herself, - in
the opinion of Miss Bengey, not without success. It seems the Doctor is
invariably against the use of broken or mixed metaphor, which he
reprobates against the authority of Shakspeare himself. We next
discussed the question whether Pope was a poet. I find Dr. Gregory is of
opinion he was not, though Miss Seward does not at all concur with him
in this. We then sat upon the comparative merits of the ten translations
of "Pizarro," and Miss Bengey, or Benje, advised Mary to take two of
them home; she thought it might afford her some pleasure to compare them
_verbatim_; which we declined. It being now nine o'clock, wine and
macaroons were again served round, and we parted, with a promise to go
again next week, and meet the Miss Porters, who, it seems, have heard
much of Mr. Coleridge, and wish to meet _us_, because we are _his_
friends. I have been preparing for the occasion. I crowd cotton in my
ears. I read all the reviews and magazines of the past month against the
dreadful meeting, and I hope by these means to cut a tolerable
second-rate figure.

Pray let us have no more complaints about shadows. We are in a fair way,
_through you_, to surfeit sick upon them.

Our loves and respects to your host and hostess. Our dearest love to
Coleridge.

Take no thought about your proof-sheets; they shall be done as if
Woodfall himself did them. Pray send us word of Mrs. Coleridge and
little David Hartley, your little reality.

Farewell, dear Substance. Take no umbrage at anything I have written.

C. LAMB, _Umbra_.

[1] Miss Elizabeth Benger. See "Dictionary of Nationai Biography,"
iv. 221.


XXXIV.


TO WORDSWORTH.

_January_, 1801.

Thanks for your letter and present. I had already borrowed your second
volume. [1] What pleases one most is "The Song of Lucy.". _Simon's sickly
Daughter_, in "The Sexton," made me _cry_. Next to these are the
description of these continuous echoes in the story of "Joanna's Laugh,"
where the mountains and all the scenery absolutely seem alive; and that
fine Shakspearian character of the "happy man" in the "Brothers," -

"That creeps about the fields,
Following his fancies by the hour, to bring
Tears down his cheek, or solitary smiles
Into his face, until the setting sun
Write Fool upon his forehead!"

I will mention one more, - the delicate and curious feeling in the wish
for the "Cumberland Beggar" that he may have about him the melody of
birds, although he hear them not. Here the mind knowingly passes a
fiction upon herself, first substituting her own feeling for the
Beggar's, and in the same breath detecting the fallacy, will not part
with the wish. The "Poet's Epitaph" is disfigured, to my taste, by the
common satire upon parsons and lawyers in the beginning, and the coarse
epithet of "pin-point," in the sixth stanza. All the rest is eminently
good, and your own. I will just add that it appears to me a fault in the
"Beggar" that the instructions conveyed in it are too direct, and like a
lecture: they don't slide into the mind of the reader while he is
imagining no such matter. An intelligent reader finds a sort of insult
in being told, "I will teach you how to think upon this subject." This
fault, if I am right, is in a ten-thousandth worse degree to be found in
Sterne, and in many novelists and modern poets, who continually put a
sign-post up to show where you are to feel. They set out with assuming
their readers to be stupid, - very different from "Robinson Crusoe," the
"Vicar of Wakefield," "Roderick Random," and other beautiful, bare
narratives. There is implied, an unwritten compact between author and
reader: "I will tell you a story, and I suppose you will understand it."
Modern novels, "St. Leons" and the like, are full of such flowers as
these, - "Let not my reader suppose;" "Imagine, if you can, modest," etc,
I will here have done with praise and blame, I have written so much only
that you may not think I have passed over your book without
observation.... I am sorry that Coleridge has christened his "Ancient
Marinere," a "Poet's Reverie;" it is as bad as Bottom the Weaver's
declaration that he is not a lion, but only the scenical representation
of a lion. What new idea is gained by this title but one subversive of
all credit - which the tale should force upon us - of its truth!

For me, I was never so affected with any human tale. After first reading
it, I was totally possessed with it for many days. I dislike all the
miraculous part of it; but the feelings of the man under the operation
of such scenery, dragged me along like Tom Pipe's magic whistle. I
totally differ from your idea that the "Marinere" should have had a
character and a profession. This is a beauty in "Gulliver's Travels,"
where the mind is kept in a placid state of little wonderments; but the
"Ancient Marinere" undergoes such trials as overwhelm and bury all
individuality or memory of what he was, - like the state of a man in a
bad dream, one terrible peculiarity of which is, that all consciousness
of personality is gone. Your other observation is, I think as well, a
little unfounded: the "Marinere," from being conversant in supernatural
events, _has_ acquired a supernatural and strange cast of _phrase_, eye,
appearance, etc., which frighten the "wedding guest." You will excuse my
remarks, because I am hurt and vexed that you should think it necessary,
with a prose apology, to open the eyes of dead men that cannot see.

To sum up a general opinion of the second volume, I do not feel any one
poem in it so forcibly as the "Ancient Marinere" and "The Mad Mother,"
and the "Lines at Tintern Abbey" in the first.

C. L.

[1] Of the "Lyrical Ballads" then just published. For certain results of
Lamb's strictures in this letter, see Letter xxxvii.


XXXV.


TO WORDSWORTH.

_January_ 30, 1801.

I ought before this to have replied to your very kind invitation into
Cumberland. With you and your sister I could gang anywhere; but I am
afraid whether I shall ever be able to afford so desperate a journey.
Separate from the pleasure of your company, I don't much care if I never
see a mountain in my life. I have passed all my days in London, until I
have formed as many and intense local attachments as any of you
mountaineers can have done with dead nature. The lighted shops of the
Strand and Fleet Street; the innumerable trades, tradesmen, and
customers; coaches, wagons, playhouses; all the bustle and wickedness
round about Covent Garden; the very women of the town; the watchmen,
drunken scenes, rattles; life awake, if you awake, at all hours of the
night; the impossibility of being dull in Fleet Street; the crowds, the
very dirt and mud, the sun shining upon houses and pavements; the
print-shops, the old-book stalls, parsons cheapening books;
coffee-houses, steams of soups from kitchens; the pantomimes, London
itself a pantomime and a masquerade, - all these things work themselves
into my mind, and feed me without a power of satiating me. The wonder of
these sights impels me into night-walks about her crowded streets, and I
often shed tears in the motley Strand from fulness of joy at so much
life. All these emotions must be strange to you; so are your rural
emotions to me. But consider what must I have been doing all my life,
not to have lent great portions of my heart with usury to such scenes?

My attachments are all local, purely local, - I have no passion (or have
had none since I was in love, and then it was the spurious engendering
of poetry and books) to groves and valleys. The rooms where I was bom,
the furniture which has been before my eyes all my life, a bookcase
which has followed me about like a faithful dog (only exceeding him in
knowledge), wherever I have moved; old chairs, old tables; streets,
squares, where I have sunned myself; my old school, - these are my
mistresses. Have I not enough without your mountains? I do not envy you.
I should pity you, did I not know that the mind will make friends with
anything. Your sun and moon, and skies and hills and lakes, affect me no
more or scarcely come to be in more venerable characters, than as a
gilded room with tapestry and tapers, where I might live with handsome
visible objects. I consider the clouds above me but as a roof
beautifully painted, but unable to satisfy the mind, and at last, like
the pictures of the apartment of a connoisseur, unable to afford him any
longer a pleasure. So fading upon me, from disuse, have been the
beauties of Nature, as they have been confidently called; so ever fresh
and green and warm are all the inventions of men and assemblies of men
In this great city. I should certainly have laughed with dear Joanna.

Give my kindest love _and my sister's_ to D. and yourself. And a kiss
from me to little Barbara Lewthwaite. [1] Thank you for liking my play!

C.L.


XXXVI.


TO MANNING.

_February_, 1801.

I am going to change my lodgings, having received a hint that it would
be agreeable, at our Lady's next feast. I have partly fixed upon most
delectable rooms, which look out (when you stand a-tiptoe) over the
Thames and Surrey Hills, at the upper end of King's Bench Walks, in the
Temple. There I shall have all the privacy of a house without the
encumbrance; and shall be able to lock my friends out as often as I
desire to hold free converse with my immortal mind; for my present
lodgings resemble a minister's levee, I have so increased my
acquaintance (as they call 'em), since I have resided in town. Like the
country mouse, that had tasted a little of urban manners, I long to be
nibbling my own cheese by my dear self without mousetraps and
time-traps. By my new plan, I shall be as airy, up four pair of stairs,
as in the country; and in a garden, in the midst of enchanting, more
than Mahometan paradise, London, whose dirtiest drab-frequented alley,
and her lowest-bowing tradesman, I would not exchange for Skiddaw,
Helvellyn, James, Walter, and the parson into the bargain. Oh, her lamps
of a night; her rich goldsmiths, print-shops, toy-shops, mercers,
hardwaremen, pastrycooks; St. Paul's Churchyard; the Strand; Exeter
'Change; Charing Cross, with a man _upon_ a black horse! These are thy
gods, O London! Ain't you mightily moped on the banks of the Cam? Had
not you better come and set up here? You can't think what a difference.
All the streets and pavements are pure gold, I warrant you, - at least, I
know an alchemy that turns her mud into that metal: a mind that loves to
be at home in crowds.

'Tis half-past twelve o'clock, and all sober people ought to be a-bed.
Between you and me, the L. Ballads are but drowsy performances.

C. LAMB (as you may guess).

[1] The child in Wordsworth's "The Pet Lamb."


XXXVII.


TO MANNING.

_February_ 15, 1801.

I had need be cautious henceforward what opinion I give of the "Lyrical
Ballads." All the North of England are in a turmoil. Cumberland and
Westmoreland have already declared a state of war. I lately received
from Wordsworth a copy of the second volume, accompanied by an
acknowledgment of having received from me many months since a copy of a
certain tragedy, with excuses for not having made any acknowledgment
sooner, it being owing to an "almost insurmountable aversion from
letter-writing." This letter I answered in due form and time, and
enumerated several of the passages which had most affected me, adding,
unfortunately, that no single piece had moved me so forcibly as the
"Ancient Mariner," "The Mad Mother," or the "Lines at Tintern Abbey."
The Post did not sleep a moment. I received almost instantaneously a
long letter of four sweating pages from my Reluctant Letter-Writer, the
purport of which was that he was sorry his second volume had not given
me more pleasure (Devil a hint did I give that it had _not pleased me_),
and "was compelled to wish that my range of sensibility was more
extended, being obliged to believe that I should receive large influxes
of happiness and happy thoughts" (I suppose from the L. B.), - with a
deal of stuff about a certain Union of Tenderness and Imagination,
which, in the sense he used Imagination, was not the characteristic of
Shakspeare, but which Milton possessed in a degree far exceeding other
Poets; which union, as the highest species of poetry, and chiefly
deserving that name, "he was most proud to aspire to;" then illustrating
the said union by two quotations from his own second volume (which I had
been so unfortunate as to miss.) First specimen; A father addresses
his son: -

"When thou
First camest into the World, as it befalls
To new-born infants, thou didst sleep away
Two days; _and blessings from thy father's tongue
Then fell upon thee_."

The lines were thus undermarked, and then followed, "This passage, as
combining in an extraordinary degree that union of tenderness and
imagination which I am speaking of, I consider as one of the best I
ever wrote."

Second specimen: A youth, after years of absence, revisits his native
place, and thinks (as most people do) that there has been strange
alteration in his absence, -

"And that the rocks
And everlasting hills themselves were changed."

You see both these are good poetry; but after one has been reading
Shakspeare twenty of the best years of one's life, to have a fellow
start up and prate about some unknown quality which Shakspeare possessed
in a degree inferior to Milton and _somebody else_! This was not to be
_all_ my castigation. Coleridge, who had not written to me for some
months before, starts up from his bed of sickness to reprove me for my
tardy presumption; four long pages, equally sweaty and more tedious,
came from him, assuring me that when the works of a man of true genius,
such as W. undoubtedly was, do not please me at first sight, I should
expect the fault to lie "in me, and not in them," etc. What am I to do
with such people? I certainly shall write them a very merry letter.
Writing to _you_, I may say that the second volume has no such pieces as
the three I enumerated. It is full of original thinking and an observing
mind; but it does not often make you laugh or cry. It too artfully aims
at simplicity of expression. And you sometimes doubt if simplicity be
not a cover for poverty. The best piece in it I will send you, being
_short_. I have grievously offended my friends in the North by declaring
my undue preference; but I need not fear you.

"She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the Springs of Dove, -
A maid whom there were few (_sic_) to praise,
And very few to love.

"A violet, by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye,
Fair as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky.

"She lived unknown; and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in the grave, and oh,
The difference to me!"

This is choice and genuine, and so are many, many more. But one does
riot like to have 'em rammed down one's throat. "Pray take it, - it's
very good; let me help you, - eat faster."


XXXVIII.


TO MANNING,

_September_ 24, 1802

My Dear Manning, - Since the date of my last tetter, I have been a
traveller, A strong desire seized me of visiting remote regions. My
first impulse was to go aod see Paris. It was a trivial objection to my
aspiring mind that I did not understand a word of the language, since I
certainly intend some time in my life to see Paris, and equally
certainly never intend to learn the language; therefore that could be no
objection. However, I am very glad I did not go, because you had left
Paris (I see) before I could have set out. I believe Stoddart promising
to go with me another year prevented that plan. My next scheme (for to
my restless, ambitious mind London was become a bed of thorns) was to
visit the far-famed peak in Derbyshire, where the Devil sits, they say,
without breeches. _This_ my purer mind rejected as indelicate. And my
final resolve was a tour to the Lakes. I set out with Mary to Keswick,
without giving Coleridge any notice; for my time, being precious, did
not admit of it. He received us with all the hospitality tality in the
world, and gave up his time to show us all the wonders of the country.
He dwells upon a small hill by the side of Keswick, in a comfortable
house, quite enveloped on all sides by a net of mountains, - great
floundering bears and monsters they seemed, all couchant and asleep. We
got in in the evening, travelling in a post-chaise from Penrith, in the
midst of a gorgeous sunshine, which transmuted all the mountains into
colors, purple, etc. We thought we had got into fairy-land. But that
went off (as it never came again; while we stayed, we had no more fine
sunsets); and we entered Coleridge's comfortable study just in the dusk,
when the mountains were all dark, with clouds upon their heads. Such an
impression I never received from objects of sight before, nor do I
suppose that I can ever again. Glorious creatures, fine old fellows,
Skiddaw, etc. I never shall forget ye, how ye lay about that night, like
an intrenchment; gone to bed, as it seemed for the night, but promising
that ye were to be seen in the morning. Coleridge had got a blazing fire
in his study, which is a large, antique, ill-shaped room, with an
old-fashioned organ, never played upon, big enough for a church, shelves
of scattered folios, an Æolian harp, and an old sofa, half-bed, etc.;
and all looking out upon the last fading view of Skiddaw and his
broad-breasted brethren. What a night! Here we stayed three full weeks,
in which time I visited Wordsworth's cottage, where we stayed a day or
two with the Clarksons (good people and most hospitable, at whose house
we tarried one day and night), and saw Lloyd. The Wordsworths were gone
to Calais. They have since been in London, and passed much time with us;
he has now gone into Yorkshire to be married. So we have seen Keswick,
Grasmere, Ambleside, Ulswater (where the Clarksons live), and a place at
the other end of Ulswater, - I forget the name, [1] - to which we travelled
on a very sultry day, over the middle of Helvellyn. We have clambered up
to the top of Skiddaw, and I have waded up the bed of Lodore. In fine, I
have satisfied myself that there is such a thing as that which tourists
call _romantic_, which I very much suspected before; they make such a
spluttering about it, and toss their splendid epithets around them, till
they give as dim a light as at four o'clock next morning the lamps do
after an illumination. Mary was excessively tired when she got about
half way up Skiddaw; but we came to a cold rill (than which nothing can
be imagined more cold, running over cold stones), and with the
reinforcement of a draught of cold water she surmounted it most
manfully. Oh, its fine black head, and the bleak air atop of it, with a
prospect of mountains all about and about, making you giddy; and then
Scotland afar off, and the border countries so famous in song and
ballad! It was a day that will stand out like a mountain, I am sure, in
my life. But I am returned (I have now been come home near three weeks;


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