Copyright
Charles Lamb.

The letters of Charles Lamb (Volume 2) online

. (page 20 of 31)
Online LibraryCharles LambThe letters of Charles Lamb (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


from Isola Bella (Fair Island) in the kingdom of Naples.
She has never changed her name and rather mournfully
adds that she has no prospect at present of doing so.
She is literally I. SOLA, or single, at present. Therefore
she begs that the obnoxious monosyllable may be omitted
on future Phials, — an innocent syllable enough, you'll say,
but she has no claim to it. It is the bitterest pill of the
seven you have sent her. When a lady loses her good
name, what is to become of her 1 Well she must swallow
it as well as she can, but begs the dose may not be repeated.
Yours faithfully, Chakles Lamb (not Isola).



To Mr. NOVELLO.

Letter CCCLXX.] Friday, May 14, 1830.

Dear Novello — Mary hopes you have not forgot you
are to spend a day with us on Wednesday. That it may
be a long one, cannot you secure places now for Mrs.
Novello, yourself, and the Clarkes 1 We have just table-
room for four. Five make my good landlady fidgetty ;
six, to begin to fret ; seven, to approximate to fever-point.
But, seriously, we shall prefer four to two or three. We
shall have from half-past ten to six, when the coach goes
oft', to scent the country. And pray write now, to say
you do so come, for dear Mrs. Westwood else will be on
the tenters of incertitude. C. L.

Vincent Novello, Esq.,

66, Great Queen Street, Lincoln's-Inn Fields.



TO HONE. 257



To Mr. HONE.

Letter CCCLXXL] May 21, 1830.

Dear Hone — I thought you would be pleased to see
this letter. Pray if you have time to call ou Novello,
No. 66, Great Queen St. I am anxious to learn whether
he received his album I sent on Friday by our nine o'clock
morning stage. If not, beg him inquire at the Old Bell,
Holborn. Charles Lamb.

Southey will see in the Times all we proposed omitting
is omitted.



To Mrs. HAZLITT.

Letter CCCLXXIL] May 24, 1830.

Mary's love 1 Yes. Mary Lamb is quite well.

Enfield, Saturday.

Dear Sarah — I found my way to Northaw on Thurs-
day, and saw a very good woman behind a counter, who
says also that you are a very good lady. I did not accept
her offered glass of wine (home-made, I take it), but
craved a cup of ale, with which I seasoned a slice of cold
lamb, from a sandwich box, which I ate in her back
parlour, and proceeded for Berkhampstead, etc. ; lost my-
self over a heath, and had a day's pleasure. I wish you
could walk as I do, and as you used to do. I am sorry
to find you are so poorly ; and, now I have found my way,
I wish you back at Goody Tomlinson's. What a pretty
village 'tis ! I should have come sooner, but was waiting
a summons to Bury. Well, it came ; and I found the
good parson's lady (he was from home) exceedingly
hospitable.

VOL. II. s



258 LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB.

Poor Emma, the first moment we were alone, took me
into a corner, and said, " Now, pray, don't drink ; do check
yourself after dinner, for my sake, and when we get home
to Enfield you shall drink as much as ever you please,
and I won't say a word about it." How I behaved, you
may guess, when I tell you that Mrs. Williams and I
have written acrostics on each other, and she hoped that
she should have " no reason to regret Miss Isola's recovery,
by its depriving her of our begun correspondence." Emma
stayed a month with us, and has gone back (in tolerable
health) to her long home, for she comes not again for a
twelvemonth. I amused Mrs. Williams with an occur-
rence on our road to Enfield. We travelled with one of
those troublesome fellow-passengers in a stage coach, that
is called a well-inform'd man. For twenty miles we
discoursed about the properties of steam, probabilities of
carriage by ditto, till all my science, and more than all,
was exhausted, and I was thinking of escaping my torment
by getting up on the outside, when, getting into Bishops
Stortford, my gentleman, spying some farming land, put
an unlucky question to me : " What sort of a crop of
turnips do you think we shall have this year?" Emma's
eyes turned to me, to know what in the world I could
have to say ; and she burst into a violent fit of laughter,
maugre her pale, serious cheeks, when, with the greatest
gravity, I replied, that " it depends, I believe, upon boiled
legs of mutton." This clenched our conversation; and
my gentleman, with a face half wise, half in scorn, troubled
us with no more conversation, scientific or philosophical,
for the remainder of our journey. Ayrton was here yes-
terday, and as learned to the full as my fellow-traveller.
What a pity that he will spoil a wit and a devilish pleasant
fellow (as he is) by wisdom. He talked on music, and
by having read Hawkins and Burney recently, I was
enabled to talk of names, and show more knowledge than
he had suspected I possessed ; and in the end he begged
me to shape my thoughts upon paper, which I did after
he was gone, and sent him



TO MRS. HAZLITT. 259

FREE THOUGHTS ON SOME EMINENT COMPOSERS.

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

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

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

Yours ever, C. Lamb.

London, May 24, 1830.
Mrs. Hazlitt,

Mr. Broomhead's,

St. Anne's Square, Buxton.



260 LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB.

Letter CCCLXXIII.] June 3, 1830.

Dear Sarah — I named your thought about William
to his father, who expressed such horror and aversion to
the idea of his singing in public, that I cannot meddle in
it directly or indirectly. Ayrton is a kind fellow ; and if
you chuse to consult him by letter, or otherwise, he will
give you the best advice, I am sure, very readily. I have
no doubt that M. Burners objection to interfering ivas
the same with mine.. With thanks for your pleasant long
letter, which is not that of an invalid, and sympathy for
your sad sufferings,

I remain, in haste, Yours truly.

[No Signature.]

Mary's kindest love.

Mrs. Hazlitt, at Mr. Broomhead's,

St. Anne's Square, Buxton.



To WILLIAM HONE.

Letter CCCLXXIV.] Enfield, June 17, 1830.

I hereby impower Matilda Hone to superintend daily
the putting into the twopenny post the Times newspaper
of the day before, directed " Mr. Lamb, Enfield," which
shall be held a full and sufficient direction; the said
insertion to commence on Monday morning next. And I
do engage to pay to William Hone, Coffee and Hotel Man,
the quarterly sum of £1, to be paid at the ordinary Quarter
days, or thereabout, for the reversion of the said paper,
commencing with the 24th inst., or Feast of John the
Baptist ; the intervening days to be held and considered
as nothing. C. Lamb.

Vivant Coffee, Coffee-potque !

Mr. Hone,

Coffee-house and Hotel,

13, Gracechurch Street, London.



TO BARTON. 261

To BERNARD BARTON.

Letter CCCLXXV.] June 28, 1830.

Dear B. B. — Could you dream of my publishing
without sending a copy to you 1 You will find something
new to you in the volume, particularly the translations.
Moxon will send to you the moment it is out. He is the
young poet of Christmas, whom the Author of the " Plea-
sures of Memory " has set up in the book-vending business
with a volunteer'd loan of £500. Such munificence is
rare to an almost stranger ; but Rogers, I am told, has
done many good-natured things of this kind.

I need not say how glad to see A. K. and Lucy we
should have been, — and still shall be, if it be practicable.
Our direction is Mr. Westwood's, Chase Side, Enfield ;
but alas I know not theirs. We can give them a bed.
Coaches come daily from the Bell, Holborn.

You will see that I am worn to the poetical dregs,
condescending to acrostics, which are nine fathom beneath
album verses ; but they were written at the request of
the lady where our Emma is, to whom I paid a visit in
April to bring home Emma for a change of air after
a severe illness, in which she had been treated like a
daughter by the good Parson and his whole family. She
has since returned to her occupation. I thought on you in
Suffolk, but was forty miles from Woodbridge. I heard
of you the other day from Mr. Pulham of the India House.

Long live King William the IVth !

S. T. C. says we have had wicked kings, foolish kings,
wise kings, good kings (but few,) but never till now have
we had a blackguard king.

Charles the Second was profligate, but a gentleman.

I have nineteen letters to dispatch this leisure Sabbath
for Moxon to send with copies ; so you will forgive me
short measure, and believe me,

Yours ever, C. L.

Pray do let us see your Quakeresses if possible.



262 LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB.



To WILLIAM HONE.

Letter CCCLXXVL] July 1, 1830.

Pray let Matilda keep my newspapers till you hear
from me, as we are meditating a town residence.

C. Lamb.

Let her keep them as the apple of her eye.

Mr. Hone,

13 Gracechurch Street.



To BERNARD BARTON.

Letter CCCLXXVIL] August 30, 1830.

Dear B. B. — My address is 34, Southampton Build-
ings, Holborn. For God's sake do not let me be pester'd
with Annuals. They are all rogues who edit them, and
something else who write in them. I am still alone, and
very much out of sorts, and cannot spur up my mind to
writing. The sight of one of those year books makes me
sick. I get nothing by any of 'em, not even a copy.

Thank you for your warm interest about my little
volume, for the critics on which I care the five hundred
thousandth part of the tythe of a half-farthing. I am
too old a Militant for that. How noble, tho', in Robert
Southey to come forward for an old friend, who had
treated him so unworthily !

Moxon has a shop without customers, I a book without
readers. But what a clamour against a poor collection
of Album verses, as if we had put forth an Epic ! I
cannot scribble a long letter : I am, when not on foot,
very desolate, and take no interest in anything, scarce
hate anything but Annuals. I am in an interregnum of
thought and feeling. What a beautiful Autumn morning
this is, if it was but with me as in times past when the



TO NOVELLO. 263

candle of the Lord shined round me ! I cannot even
muster enthusiasm to admire the French heroism. In
better times I hope we may some day meet, and discuss
an old poem or two. But if you'd have me not sick, no
more of Annuals. C L., Ex-Elia.

Love to Lucy and A. K. always.

To VINCENT NOVELLO.

Letter CCCLXXVIII.] November 8, 1830.

Tears are for lighter griefs. Man weeps the doom

That seals a single victim to the tomb.

But when Death riots, when with whelming sway

Destruction sweeps a family away ;

When Infancy and Youth, a huddled mass.

All in an instant to oblivion pass,

And Parent hopes are crush'd : what lamentation

Can reach the depth of such a desolation %

Look upward, Feeble Ones ! look up, and trust,

That He, who lays this mortal frame in dust,

Still hath the immortal Spirit in His keeping.

In Jesus' sight they are not dead, but sleeping.

Dear N., will these lines do 1 ? I despair of better.
Poor Mary is in a deplorable state here at Enfield.
Love to all. C. Lamb.

To Me. MOXON.
Letter CCCLXXIX.] November 12, 1830.

Dear Moxon — I have brought my sister to Enfield,
being sure that she had no hope of recovery in London.
Her state of mind is deplorable beyond any example. I
almost fear whether she has strength at her time of life
ever to get out of it. Here she must be nursed, and
neither see nor hear of anything in the world out of her
sick chamber. The mere hearing that Southey had



264 LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB.

called at our lodgings totally upset her. Pray see him,
or hear of him at Mr. Rickman's, and excuse my not
writing to him. I dare not write or receive a letter in
her presence ; every little talk so agitates her. Westwood
will receive any letter for me, and give it me privately.

Pray assure Southey of my kindliest feelings towards
him ; and if you do not see him, send this to him.

Kindest remembrances to your sister, and believe me
ever yours, 0- Lamb.

Remember me kindly to the Allsops.



To GEORGE DYER.

Letter CCCLXXX.] December 20, 1830.

Dear Dyer — I should have written before to thank
you for your kind letter, written with your own hand.
It glads us to see your writing. It will give you pleasure
to hear that after so much illness we are in tolerable
health and spirits once more. Poor Enfield, that has
been so peaceable hitherto, has caught the inflammatory
fever; the tokens are upon her; and a great fire was
blazing last night in the barns and haystacks of a farmer,
about half a mile from us. Where will these things end 1
There is no doubt of its being the work of some ill-dis-
posed rustic ; but how is he to be discovered 1 They go
to work in the dark with strange chemical preparations,
unknown to our forefathers. There is not even a dark
lantern, to have a chance of detecting these Gux Fauxes.
We are past the iron age, and are got into the fiery age,
undreamed of by Ovid. You are lucky in Clifford's Inn,
where I think you have few ricks or stacks worth the
burning. Pray, keep as little corn by you as you can for
fear of the worst. It was never good times in England
since the poor began to speculate upon their condition.
Formerly they jogged on with as little reflection as horses.
The whistling ploughman went cheek by jowl with his



TO DYER. 265

brother that neighed. Now the biped carries a box of
phosphorus in his leather breeches, and in the dead of
night the half-illuminated beast steals his magic potion
into a cleft in a barn, and half the country is grinning
with new fires. Farmer Graystock said something to the
touchy rustic, that he did not relish, and he writes his
distaste in flames. What a power to intoxicate his crude
brains, just muddlingly awake to perceive that something
is wrong in the social system, — what a hellish faculty
above gunpowder ! Now the rich and poor are fairly
pitted. We shall see who can hang or burn fastest. It
is not always revenge that stimulates these kindlings.
There is a love of exerting mischief. Think of a disre-
spected clod that was trod into earth, that was nothing,
on a sudden by damned arts refined into an exterminating
angel, devouring the fruits of the earth and their growers
in a mass of fire ; what a new existence ! What a tempta-
tion above Lucifer's ! Would Clod be anything but a
clod if he could resist it 1 ? Why, here was a spectacle
last night for a whole country, a bonfire visible to London,
alarming her guilty towers, and shaking the Monument
with an ague fit, all done by a little vial of phosphor in
a clown's fob. How he must grin, and shake his empty
noddle in clouds ! The Vulcauian epicure ! Alas ! can
we ring the bells backward 1 Can we unlearn the arts
that pretend to civilise, and then burn the world 1 There
is a march of science ; but who shall beat the drums for
its retreat 1 Who shall persuade the boor that phosphor
will not ignite 1 Seven goodly stacks of hay, with corn-
barns proportionable, lie smoking ashes and chaff, which
man and beast would sputter out and reject like those
apples of asphaltes and bitumen. The food for the in-
habitants of earth will quickly disappear. Hot rolls may
say, " Fuimus panes, fuit quartern-loaf, et ingens gloria
apple-pasty-oram." That the good old munching system
may last thy time and mine, good un-incendiary George,
is the devout prayer of thine,

To the last crust, C. Lamb.



266 LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB.

Letter CCCLXXXI.] February 22, 1831.

Dear Dyer — Mr. Rogers, and Mr. Rogers's friends,
are perfectly assured that you never intended any harm
by an innoeent couplet, and that in the revivification of it
by blundering Barker you had no hand whatever. To
imagine that at this time of day Rogers broods over a
fantastic expression of more than thirty years' standing,
would be to suppose him indulging his " Pleasures of
Memory " with a vengeance. You never penned a line
which for its own sake you need, dying, wish to blot.
You mistake your heart if you think you can write a
lampoon. Your whips are rods of roses. Your spleen
has ever had for its object vices, not the vicious ; abstract
offences, not the concrete sinner. But you are sensitive,
and wince as much at the consciousness of having com-
mitted a compliment, as another man would at the
perpetration of an affront. But do not lug me into the
same soreness of conscience with yourself. I maintain,
and will to the last hour, that I never writ of you but
con amove ; that if any allusion was made to your near-
sightedness, it was not for the purpose of mocking an
infirmity, but of conuecting it with scholar-like habits :
for is it not erudite and scholarly to be somewhat near of
sight before age naturally brings on the malady ? You
could not then plead the obrepens senectus. Did I not
moreover make it an apology for a certain absence, which
some of our friends may have experienced, when you have
not on a sudden made recognition of them in a casual
street-meeting 1 And did I not strengthen your excuse
for this slowness of recognition, by further accounting
morally for the present engagement of your mind in
worthy objects? Did I not, in your person, make the
handsomest apology for absent-of-mind people that was
ever made? If these things be not so, I never knew
what I wrote, or meant by my writing, and have been
penning libels all my life without being aware of it.
Does it follow that I should have exprest myself exactly



TO DYER. 2G7

in the same way of those dear old eyes of yours now, now
that Father Time has conspired with a hard task-master
to put a last extinguisher upon them 1 I should as soon
have insulted the Answerer of Salmasius when he awoke
up from his ended task and saw no more with mortal
vision. But you are many films removed yet from
Milton's calamity. You write perfectly intelligibly.
Marry, the letters are not all of the same size or tallness ;
but that only shows your proficiency in the hands, text,
german-hand, court-hand, sometimes law-hand, and affords
variety. You pen better than you did a twelvemonth
ago ; and if you continue to improve, you bid fair to win
the golden pen which is the prize at your young gentle-
men's academy. But you must be aware of Valpy, and
his printing-house, that hazy cave of Trophonius, out of
which it was a mercy that you escaped with a glimmer.
Beware of MSS. and Variae Lectiones. Settle the text
for once in your mind, and stick to it. You have some
years' good sight in you yet, if you do not tamper with
it. It is not for you (for us I should say) to go poring
into Greek contractions, and star-gazing upon slim Hebrew
points. We have yet the sight

Of sun, and moon, and star, throughout the year,
And man and woman.

You have vision enough to discern Mrs. Dyer from the
other comely gentlewoman who lives up at staircase No.
5 ; or, if you should make a blunder in the twilight,
Mrs. Dyer has too much good sense to be jealous for a
mere effect of imperfect optics. But don't try to write
the Lord's Prayer, Creed, and Ten Commandments in
the compass of a half-penny ; nor run after a midge, or a
mote, to catch it ; and leave off hunting for needles in
bundles of hay, for all these things strain the eyes. The
snow is six feet deep in some parts here. I must put on
jack-boots to get at the Post-Office with this. It is not
good for weak eyes to pore upon snow too much. It lies
in drifts. I wonder what its drift is ; only that it makes



268 LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB.

good pancakes, remind Mrs. Dyer. It turns a pretty
green world into a white one. It glares too much for an
innocent colour methinks. I wonder why you think I
dislike gilt edges. They set off a letter marvellously.
Yours, for instance, looks for all the world like a tablet
of curious hieroglyphics in a gold frame. But don't go
and lay this to your eyes. You always wrote hiero-
glyphically, yet not to come up to the mystical notations
and conjuring characters of Dr. Parr. You never wrote
what I call a schoolmaster's hand, like Mrs. Clarke ; nor
a woman's hand, like Southey ; nor a missal hand, like
Porson ; nor an all-of-the-wrong-side sloping hand, like
Miss Hayes ; nor a dogmatic, Mede-and-Persian, peremp-
tory hand, like Rickman ; but you ever wrote what I call
a Grecian's hand ; what the Grecians write (or used) at
Christ's Hospital ; such as Whalley would have admired,
and Boyer have applauded, but Smith or Atwood (writing-
masters) would have horsed you for. Your boy-of-genius
hand and your mercantile hand are various. By your
flourishes, I should think you never learned to make
eagles or corkscrews, or flourish the governors' names in
the writing-school ; and by the tenour and cut of your
letters, I suspect you were never in it at all. By the
length of this scrawl you will think I have a design upon
your optics ; but I have writ as large as I could, out of
respect to them ; too large, indeed, for beauty. Mine is
a sort of deputy Grecian's hand ; a little better, and more
of a worldly hand, than a Grecian's, but still remote from
the mercantile. I don't know how it is, but I keep my
rank in fancy still since school-days. I can never forget
I was a deputy Grecian ! And writing to you, or to
Coleridge, besides affection, I feel a reverential deference
as to Grecians still. I keep my soaring way above the
Great Erasmians, yet far beneath the other. Alas ! what
am I now? What is a Leadenhall clerk, or India
pensioner, to a deputy Grecian? How art thou fallen,
Lucifer ! Just room for our loves to Mrs. D., etc.

C. Lamb.



TO CARY. 269



To Rev. H. F. CARY

Letter CCCLXXXIL] April 13, 1831.

Dear C. — I am daily for this week expecting Words-
worth, who will not name a day. I have been expecting
him by months and by weeks ; but he has reduced the
hope within the seven fractions hebdomadal of this heb-
doma. Therefore I am sorry I cannot see you on Thurs-
day. I think within a week or two I shall be able to
invite myself some day for a day, but we hermits with
difficulty poke out of our shells. Within that ostraceous
retirement I meditate not unfrequently on you. My
sister's kindest remembrances to you both. C. L.



To BERNARD BARTON.

Letter CCCLXXXIIL] April 30, 1831.

Vir Bone ! — Recepi literas tuas amicissimas, et in men-
tem venit responsuro mihi, vel raro, vel nunquam, inter
nos intercedisse Latinam linguam, organum rescribendi,
loquendive. Epistolee tuse, Plinianis elegantiis (supra
quod Tremulo deceat) refertse, tarn a verbis Plinianis
adeo abhorrent, ut ne vocem quamquam (Romanam
scilicet) habere videaris, quam " ad canem," ut aiunt,
"rejectare possis." Forsan desuetudo Latinissandi ad
vernaculam linguam usitandam, plusquam opus sit, coegit.
Per adagia qusedam nota, et in ore omnium pervulgata,
ad Latinitatis perditse recuperationem revocare te institui.

Felis in abaco est, et aegre videt.

Omne quod splendet nequaquam aurum putes.

Imponas equo mendicum, equitabit idem ad diabolum.

Fur commode a fure prenditur.

Maria, Maria, valde' contraria, quomodo crescit
hortulus tuus 1

Nunc majora canamus.



270 LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB.

Thomas, Thomas, de Islington, uxorem duxit die
nupera Dominica. Reduxit domum postera. Succedenti
baculum emit. Postridie ferit illam. iEgrescit ilia
subseqnenti. Proxima, (nempe Veneris) est mortua.



Online LibraryCharles LambThe letters of Charles Lamb (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 31)