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Letter CXCVII. ] Tuesday [October 29, 1822].

Dear H. — I have written a very respectful letter to
Sir W. S. Godwin did not write, because he leaves all
to his Committee, as I will explain to you. If this
rascally weather holds you will see but one of us on that

Yours, with many thanks, Charles Lamb.


Letter CXCVIIL] Thursday, November 1822.

"Ali Pacha" will do. I sent my sister the first
night, not having been able to go myself, and her report
of its effect was most favourable. I saw it last night —
the third night — and it was most satisfactorily received.
I have been sadly disappointed in Talfourd, who does the
critiques in the " Times," and who promised his strenuous
services ; but by some damn'd arrangement he was sent
to the wrong house, and a most iniquitous account of
" Ali " substituted for his, which I am sure would have
been a kind one. The " Morning Herald " did it ample
justice, without appearing to puff it. It is an abominable
misrepresentation of the " Times," that Farren played
Ali like Lord Ogilby. He acted infirmity of body, but
not of voice or purpose. His manner was even grand.
A grand old gentleman. His falling to the earth when
his son's death was announced was fine as anything I
ever saw. It was as if he had been blasted. Miss Foote
looked helpless and beautiful, and greatly helped the
piece. It is going on steadily, I am sure, for many
nights. Marry, I was a little disappointed with Hassau,
who tells us he subsists by cracking court jests before
Hali ; but he made none. In all the rest, scenery and
machinery, it was faultless. I hope it will bring you
here. I should be most glad of that. I have a room
for you, and you shall order your own dinner three days

VOL. II. k


in the week. I must retain my own authority for the
rest. As far as magazines go, I can answer for Talfourd
in the " New Monthly." He cannot be put out there.
But it is established as a favourite, and can do without
these expletives. I long to talk over with you the
Shakspeare Picture. My doubts of its being a forgery
mainly rest upon the goodness of the picture. The
bellows might be trumped up, but where did the painter
spring from 1 Is Ireland a consummate artist — or any of
Ireland's accomplices 1 — but we shall confer upon it, I
hope. The " New Times," I understand was favorable to
" Ali," but I have not seen it. I am sensible of the want
of method in this letter, but I have been deprived of the
connecting organ by a practice I have fallen into since I
left Paris, of taking too much strong spirits of a night.
I must return to the Hotel de l'Europe and Macon.

How is Kenney 1 Have you seen my friend White 1
What is Poole about, etc. 1 Do not write, but come and
answer me.

The weather is charming, and there is a mermaid to
be seen in London. You may not have the opportunity
of inspecting such a Poissarde once again in ten centuries.

My sister joins me in the hope of seeing you.

Yours truly, C. Lamb.

Letter CXCIX.] Wednesday, November 13, '22.

Dear P. — Owing to the inconvenience of having two
lodgings, I did not get your letter quite so soon as I
should. The India House is my proper address, where
I am sure for the fore part of every day. The instant I
got it, I addressed a letter, for Kemble to see, to my
friend Henry Robertson, the Treasurer of Covent Garden
Theatre. He had a conference with Kemble, and the
result is, that Robertson, in the name of the management,
recognised to me the full ratifying of your bargain : £250
for Ali, the " Slaves," and another piece which they had


not received. He assures me the whole will be paid you,
or the proportion for the two former, as soon as ever the
Treasury will permit it. He offered to write the same
to you, if I pleased. He thinks in a month or so they
will be able to liquidate it. He is positive no trick
could be meant you, as Mr. Planches alterations, which
were trifling, were not at all considered as affecting your
bargain. With respect to the copyright of "Ali," he
was of opinion no money would be given for it, as " Ali "
is quite laid aside. This explanation being given, you
would not think of -printing the two copies together by
way of recrimination. He told me the secret of the two
"Galley Slaves" at Drury Lane. Elliston, if he is
informed right, engaged Poole to translate it, but before
Poole's translation arrived, finding it coming out at Cov.
Gar., he procured copies of two several translations of
it in London. So you see here are four translations,
reckoning yours. I fear no copyright would be got for
it, for anybody may print it and anybody has. Yours
has run seven nights, and R. is of opinion it will not
exceed in number of nights the nights of " Ali" — about
thirteen. But your full right to your bargain with the
management is in the fullest manner recognised by him
officially. He gave me every hope the money will be
spared as soon as they can spare it. He said a month or
two, but seemed to me to mean about a month. A new
lady is coming out in Juliet, to whom they look very
confidently for replenishing their treasury. Kobertson is
a very good fellow and I can rely upon his statement.
Should you have any more pieces, and want to get a
copyright for them, I am the worst person to negotiate
with any bookseller, having been cheated by all I have
had to do with (except Taylor and Hessey, — but they do
not publish theatrical pieces), and I know not how to go
about it, or who to apply to. But if you had no better
negotiator, I should know the minimum you expect, for
I should not like to make a bargain out of my own head,
being (after the Duke of Wellington) the worst of all


negotiators. I find from Robertson you have written to
Bishop on the subject. Have you named anything of
the copyright of the " Slaves." R. thinks no publisher
would pay for it, and you would not risk it on your
own account. This is a mere business letter, so I will
just send my love to my little wife at Versailles, to her
dear mother, etc.

Believe me, yours truly, C. L.


Letter CC] December 7, 1822.

Dear Sir — I should like the enclosed Dedication to be
printed, unless you dislike it. I like it. It is in the
olden style. But if you object to it, put forth the book
as it is ; only pray don't let the printer mistake the word
curt for curst. C. L.



who will take these Papers, as they were meant ; not
understanding everything perversely in its absolute and
literal sense, but giving fair construction, as to an
after-dinner conversation ; allowing for the rashness and
necessary incompleteness of first thoughts; and not
remembering, for the purpose of an after taunt, words
spoken peradventure after the fourth glass, the Author
wishes (what he would will for himself) plenty of good
friends to stand by him, good books to solace him,
prosperous events to all his honest undertakings, and a
candid interpretation to his most hasty words and actions.
The other sort (and he hopes many of them will purchase
his book too) he greets with the curt invitation of Timon,
"Uncover, dogs, and lap:" or he dismisses them with
the confident security of the philosopher, — "you beat
but on the case of Elia." On better consideration, pray


omit that Dedication. The Essays want no Preface : they
are all Preface. A Preface is nothing but a talk with
the reader ; and they do nothing else. Pray omit it.

There will be a sort of Preface in the next Magazine,
which may act as an advertisement, but not proper for
the volume.

Let Elia come forth bare as he was born.

Messrs. Taylor and Hessey,

Booksellers, Fleet Street.

No Preface.

0. L.


Letter CCL] E. I. H., December 16, 1822.

Dear Wilson — Lightning I was going to call you.
You must have thought me negligent in not answering
your letter sooner. But I have a habit of never writing
letters but at the office ; 'tis so much time cribbed out
of the Company ; and I am just got out of the thick of
a tea-sale, in which most of the entry of notes, deposits,
etc., usually falls to my share.

I have nothing of De Foe's but two or three novels
and the " Plague History." I can give you no informa-
tion about him. As a slight general character of what I
remember of them (for I have not looked into them
latterly), I would say that in the appearance of truth, in
all the incidents and conversations that occur in them,
they exceed any works of fiction I am acquainted with.
It is perfect illusion. The author never appears in these
self-narratives (for so they ought to be called, or rather
autobiographies), but the narrator chains us down to an
implicit belief in everything he says. There is all the
minute detail of a log-book in it. Dates are painfully
pressed upon the memory. Facts are repeated over and
over in varying phases, till you cannot choose but believe


them. It is like reading evidence given in a court of
justice. So anxious the story-teller seems that the truth
should be clearly comprehended, that when he has told
us a matter of fact or a motive, in a line or two farther
down he repeats it, with his favourite figure of speech,
"I say," so and so, though he had made it abundantly
plain before. This is in imitation of the common people's
way of speaking, or rather of the way in which they are
addressed by a master or mistress, who wishes to impress
something upon their memories, and has a wonderful
effect upon matter-of-fact readers. Indeed it is to such
principally that he writes. His style is everywhere
beautiful, but plain and homely. Robinson Crusoe is
delightful to all ranks and classes, but it is easy to see
that it is written in phraseology peculiarly adapted to
the lower conditions of readers ; hence it is an especial
favourite with seafaring men, poor boys, servant-maids,
etc. His novels are capital kitchen-reading, while they
are worthy, from their deep interest, to find a shelf in
the libraries of the wealthiest and the most learned. His
passion for matter-of-fact narrative sometimes betrayed
him into a long relation of common incidents, which
might happen to any man, and have no interest but the
intense appearance of truth in them, to recommend them.
The whole latter half or two-thirds of " Colonel Jack "
is of this description. The beginning of " Colonel Jack"
is the most affecting natural picture of a young thief that
was ever drawn. His losing the stolen money in the
hollow of a tree, and finding it again when he was in
despair, and then being in equal distress at not knowing
how to dispose of it, and several similar touches in the
early history of the Colonel, evince a deep knowledge of
human nature ; and putting out of question the superior
romantic interest of the latter, in my mind very much
exceed Crusoe. "Roxana" (first edition) is the next in
interest, though he left out the best part of it in subse-
quent editions from a foolish hypercriticism of his friend
Southerne. But "Moll Flanders," the "Account of the


Plague," etc., are all of one family, and have the same
stamp of character.

Believe me, with friendly recollections, Brother (as I
used to call you), yours, C. Lamb.


Letter CCIL] December 23, 1822.

Dear Sir — I have been so distracted with business
and one thing or other, I have not had a quiet quarter
of an hour for epistolary purposes. Christmas, too, is
come, which always put a rattle into my morning skull.
It is a visiting, unquiet, unquakerish season. I get
more and more in love with solitude, and proportionately
hampered with company. I hope you have some holidays
at this period. I have one clay — Christmas Day ; alas !
too few to commemorate the season. All work and no
play dulls me. Company is not play, but many times
hard work. To play, is for a man to do what he pleases,
or to do nothing — to go about soothing his particular
fancies. I have lived to a time of life to have outlived
the good hours, the nine o'clock suppers, with a bright
hour or two to clear up in afterwards. Now you cannot
get tea before that hour, and then sit gaping, music-
bothered perhaps, till half- past twelve brings up the
tray ; and what you steal of convivial enjoyment after, is
heavily paid for in the disquiet of to-morrow's head.

I am pleased with your liking John Woodvil, and
amused with your knowledge of our drama being confined
to Shakspeare and Miss Baillie. What a world of fine
territory between Land's End and Johnny Groat's have
you missed traversing ! I could almost envy you to have
so much to read. I feel as if I had read all the books I
want to read. to forget Fielding, Steele, etc., and
read 'em new !

Can you tell me a likely place where I could pick up,


cheap, Fox's journal 1 There are no Quaker circulating
libraries 1 Elwood, too, I must have. I rather grudge
that Southey has taken up the history of your people :
I am afraid he will put in some levity. I am afraid I
am not quite exempt from that fault in certain magazine
articles, where I have introduced mention of them.
Were they to do again, I would reform them. Why
should not you write a poetical account of your old
worthies, deducing them from Fox to Woolman ? But I
remember you did talk of something in that kind, as a
counterpart to the " Ecclesiastical Sketches." But would
not a poem be more consecutive than a string of sonnets 1
You have no martyrs quite to the fire, I think, among
you ; but plenty of heroic confessors, spirit-martyrs, lamb-
lions. Think of it ; it would be better than a series of
sonnets on " Eminent Bankers." I like a hit at our way
of life, though it does well for me, better than anything
short of all one's time to one's self; for which alone I
rankle with envy at the rich. Books are good, and
pictures are good, and money to buy them therefore good ;
but to buy time ! in other words, life !

The " compliments of the time " to you should end
my letter ; to a Friend, I suppose, I must say the
"sincerity of the season;" I hope they both mean the
same. With excuses for this hastily-penned note, believe
me, with great respect, 0. Lamb.


Letter CCIIL] [Thursday, May 25, 1820.]

Dear Miss W. — I have volunteered to reply to your
note because of a mistake I am desirous of rectifying on the
spot. There can be none to whom the last volume of W.
W. has come more welcome than to me. I have traced
the Duddon in thought and with repetition along the
banks (alas!) of the Lea — (unpoetical name) : it is always
flowing and murmuring in my ears. The story of Dion


is divine — the genius of Plato falling on him like moon-
light — the finest thing ever expressed.

Then there is Elidure and Kirhstone Pass — the last
not new to me — and let me add one of the sweetest of
all to me, The Longest Day. Loving all these as much
as I can love Poetry, new to me, what could I wish or
desire or extravagantly desiderate in a new volume ?
That I did not write to W. W. was simply that he was
to come so soon, and that flattens letters.

I admired your averted looks on Saturday. You did
not observe M. Burney's averted look also 1 You might
have been supposed two Antipathies, or quarrelled lovers.
The fact was, M. B. had a black eye he was desirous of
concealing — an artificial one I mean, not of nature's mak-
ing, but of art's reflecting, for nobody quarrels with the
black eyes the former gives — but it was curious to see
you both ashamed of such Panegyrical objects as black
eyes and white teeth have always been considered. . . .
Mary is not here to see the stuff I write, else she would
snatch the pen out of my hand and conclude with some
sober kind messages.

We sincerely wish your brother better.

Yours, both of us kindly, C. L. and M. L.

Letter CCIV.]

Mary perfectly approves of the appropriation of the
feathers, and wishes them peacock's for your fair niece's

Christmas 1822.

Dear Miss Wordsworth — I had just written the above
endearing words when Monkhouse tapped me on the
shoulder with an invitation to cold goose pie, which I

was not bird of that sort enough to decline. Mrs. M ,

I am most happy to say, is better. Mary has been tor-
mented with rheumatism, which is leaving her. I am
suffering from the festivities of the season. I wonder
how my misused carcass holds it out. I have played the


experimental philosopher on it, that's certain. Willy
shall be welcome to a mince-pie, and a bout at commerce
whenever he comes. He was in our eye. I am glad
you liked my new year's speculations : everybody likes
them, except the author of the Pleasures of Hope. Dis-
appointment attend him ! How I like to be liked, and
what I do to be liked ! They natter me in magazines,
newspapers, and all the minor reviews ; the Quarterlies
hold aloof. But they must come into it in time, or
their leaves be waste paper. Salute Trinity Library in
my name. Two special things are worth seeing at Cam-
bridge, a portrait of Cromwell, at Sydney, and a better
of Dr. Harvey (who found out that blood was red), at
Dr. Davy's ; you should see them. Coleridge is pretty
well. I have not seen him, but hear often of him from
Allsop, who sends me hares and pheasants twice a week ;
I can hardly take so fast as he gives. I have almost
forgotten butcher's meat, as plebeian. Are you not glad
the cold is gone 1 I find Winters not so agreeable as
they used to be " when Winter bleak had charms for me."
I cannot conjure up a kind similitude for those snowy
flakes. Let them keep to twelfth cakes !

Mrs. Paris, our Cambridge friend, has been in town.
You do not know the Watfords in Trumpington Street.
They are capital people. Ask anybody you meet who is
the biggest woman in Cambridge, and I'll hold you a
wager they'll say Mrs. Smith. She broke down two
benches in Trinity gardens, one on the confines of St.
John's, which occasioned a litigation between the Societies
as to repairing it. In warm weather she retires into an
ice-cellar (literally !) and dates the returns of the years
from a hot Thursday some twenty years back. She sits
in a room with opposite doors and windows, to let in a
thorough draught, which gives her slenderer friends
tooth -aches. She is to be seen in the market every
morning, at ten, cheapening fowls, which I observe the
Cambridge poulterers are not sufficiently careful to stump.

Having now answered most of the points contained


in your letter, let me end with assuring you of our very
best kindness, and excuse Mary from not handling the
pen on this occasion, especially as it has fallen into so
much better hands ! Will Dr. W. accept of my respects
at the end of a foolish letter 1 C. L.


Letter CCV.] 1822.

It is hard when a gentleman cannot remain concealed,
who affecteth obscurity with greater avidity than most
do seek to have their good deeds brought to light — to
have a prying inquisitive finger (to the danger of its own
scorching) busied in removing the little peck measure
(scripturally a bushel) under which one had hoped to bury
his small candle. The receipt of fern-seed, I think, in
this curious age, would scarce help a man to walk

Well, I am discovered — and thou thyself, who
thoughtest to shelter under the pease-cod of initiality (a
stale and shallow device), art no less dragged to light.

Thy slender anatomy — thy skeletonian D fleshed and

sinewed out to the plump expansion of six characters—
thy tuneful genealogy deduced.

By the way, what a name is Timothy ! Lay it down,
I beseech thee, and in its place take up the properer
sound of Timotheus.

Then mayst thou with unblushing fingers handle the
lyre "familiar to the D n name."

With much difficulty have I traced thee to thy
lurking-place. Many a goodly name did I run over,
bewildered between Dorrien, and Doxat, and Dover, and
Dakin, and Daintry — a wilderness of D's — till at last I
thought I had hit it — my conjectures wandering upon a
melancholy Jew — you wot the Israelite upon 'Change —
Master Daniels, a contemplative Hebrew, to the which


guess I was the rather led by the consideration that most
of his nation are great readers.

Nothing is so common as to see them in the Jews'
Walk, with a bundle of scrip in one hand and the Man
of Feeling or a volume of Sterne in the other.

I am a rogue if I can collect what manner of face
thou earnest, though thou seemest so familiar with mine.
If I remember thou didst not dimly resemble the man
Daniels, whom at first I took thee for — a careworn,
mortified, economical, commercio- political countenance,
with an agreeable limp in thy gait, if Elia mistake thee
not. I think I should shake hands with thee, if I met

To Mr. and Mrs. BRUTON.

Letter CCVL] January 6, 1823.

The pig was above my feeble praise. It was a dear
pigmy. There was some contention as to who should
have the ears ; but, in spite of his obstinacy (deaf as
these little creatures are to advice), I contrived to get at
one of them.

It came in boots too, which I took as a favour.
Generally these pretty toes, pretty toes ! are missing ;
but I suppose he wore them to look taller.

He must have been the least of his race. His little
foots would have gone into the silver slipper. I take him
to have been a Chinese and a female.

If Evelyn could have seen him, he would never have
farrowed two such prodigious volumes ; seeing how much
good can be contained in — how small a compass !

He crackled delicately.

I left a blank at the top of my letter, not being deter-
mined which to address it to : so farmer and farmer's
wife will please to divide our thanks. May your granaries
be full, and your rats empty, and your chickens plump,


and your envious neighbours lean, and your labourers
busy, and you as idle and as happy as the day is long !

Vive L' Agriculture !

How do you make your pigs so little ?
They are vastly engaging at the age :

I was so myself.
Now I am a disagreeable old hog,
A middle-aged gentleman-and-a-half,
My faculties (thank God !) are not much impaired.

I have my sight, hearing, taste, pretty perfect ; and
can read the Lord's Prayer in common type, by the help
of a candle, without making many mistakes.

Believe me, that while my faculties last, I shall ever
cherish a proper appreciation of your many kindnesses in
this way, and that the last lingering relish of past favours
upon my dying memory will be the smack of that little
ear. It was the left ear, which is lucky. Many happy
returns, not of the pig, but of the New Year, to both !
Mary, for her share of the pig and the memoirs, desires
to send the same.

Yours truly, C. Lamb.


Letter CCVIL] January 9, 1823.

" Throw yourself on the world without any rational
plan of support, beyond what the chance employ of book-
sellers would afford you ! ! ! "

Throw yourself rather, my dear sir, from the steep
Tarpeian rock, slap-dash headlong upon iron spikes. If
you had but five consolatory minutes between the desk
and the bed, make much of them, and live a century in
them, rather than turn slave to the booksellers. They are
Turks and Tartars when they have poor authors at their


beck. Hitherto you have been at arm's length from
them. Come not within their grasp. I have known
many authors for bread, some repining, others envy-
ing the blessed security of a counting-house, all agreeing
they would rather have been tailors, weavers, — what not,
rather than the things they were. I have known some
starved, some to go mad, one dear friend literally dying
in a workhouse. You know not what a rapacious, dis-
honest set these booksellers are. Ask even Southey,
who (a single case almost) has made a fortune by book
drudgery, what he has found them. Oh, you know not
(may you never know !) the miseries of subsisting by
authorship. Tis a pretty appendage to a situation like
yours or mine ; but a slavery, worse than all slavery, to
be a bookseller's dependant, to drudge your brains for
pots of ale and breasts of mutton, to change your free
thoughts and voluntary numbers for ungracious task-work.
Those fellows hate us. The reason I take to be, that
contrary to other trades, in which the master gets all the
credit (a jeweller or silversmith for instance), and the

Online LibraryCharles LambThe letters of Charles Lamb (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 31)