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she writes such a pimping, mean, detestable hand, that
she is ashamed of the formation of her letters. There is
an essential poverty and abjectness in the frame of them.
They look like begging letters. And then she is sure to
omit a most substantial word in the second draught (for
she never ventures an epistle without a foul copy first),
which is obliged to be interlined ; which spoils the neatest


epistle, you know. Her figures, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., where
she has occasion to express numerals, as in the date (25th
April 1823), are not figures, but figurantes; and the
combined posse go staggering up and down shameless, as
drunkards in the day-time. It is no better when she
rules her paper. Her lines " are not less erring " than
her words. A sort of unnatural parallel lines, that are
perpetually threatening to meet ; which, you know, is quite
contrary to Euclid. Her very blots are not bold like this
[here a large blot is inserted], but poor smears, half left
in and half scratched out, with another smear left in their
place. I like a clear letter ; a bold free hand, and a fearless
ilourish. Then she has always to go through them (a
second operation) to dot her i's and cross her fs. I don't
think she can make a corkscrew if she tried, which has such
a fine effect at the end or middle of an epistle, and fills up.
There is a corkscrew ! — one of the best I ever drew.
By the way, what incomparable whisky that was of Monk-
house's ! But if I am to write a letter, let me begin, and
not stand flourishing, like a fencer at a fair.

April 25, 1823.

Dear Miss H. — It gives me great pleasure (the letter
now begins) to hear that you got down so smoothly, and
that Mrs. Monkhouse's spirits are so good and enterpris-
ing. It shows, whatever her posture may be, that her
mind at least is not supine. I hope the excursion will
enable the former to keep pace with its outstripping
neighbour. Pray present our kindest wishes to her and
all (that sentence should properly have come into the
Postscript, but we airy mercurial spirits, there is no keep-
ing us in). " Time " (as was said of one of us) " toils
after us in vain." I am afraid our co-visit with Coleridge
was a dream. I shall not get away before the end (or
middle) of June, and then you will be frog-hopping at
Boulogne ; and besides, I think the Gillmans would scarce
trust him with us ; I have a malicious knack at cutting


of apron-strings. The Saints' days you speak of have
long since fled to heaven, with Astrsea, and the cold piety
of the age lacks fervour to recall them; only Peter left
his key — the iron one of the two that " shuts amain " —
and that is the reason I am locked up. Meanwhile of
afternoons we pick up primroses at Dalston, and Mary
corrects me when I call 'em cow-slips. God bless you
all ; and pray remember me euphoniously to Mr. Gruvel-
legan. That Lee Priory must be a dainty bower. Is it
built of flints'? — and does it stand at Kingsgate?


Letter CCXVIII.] May 3, 1823.

Dear Sir — I am vexed to be two letters in your debt,
but I have been quite out of the vein lately. A philo-
sophical treatise is wanting, of the causes of the back-
wardness with which persons after a certain time of life
set about writing a letter. I always feel as if I had
nothing to say, and the performance generally justifies
the presentiment. Taylor and Hessey did foolishly in
not admitting the sonnet. Surely it might have followed
the B. B. I agree with you in thinking Bowring's paper
better than the former. I will inquire about my letter
to the old gentleman, but I expect it to go in, after those
to the young gentleman are completed.

I do not exactly see why the goose and little goslings
should emblematise a Quaker poet that has no children.
But, after all, perhaps it is a pelican. The " Mene, Mene,
Tekel, Upharsin" around it I cannot decipher. The
songster of the night pouring out her effusions amid a
silent meeting of madge- owlets, would be at least
intelligible. A full pause here comes upon me, as if I
had not a word more left. I will shake my brain, Once !
Twice !— nothing comes up. George Fox recommends
waiting on these occasions. I wait. Nothing comes.


G. Fox — that sets me off again. I have finished the
"Journal," and 400 more pages of the " Doctrinals,"
which I picked up for 7s. 6d. If I get on at this rate,
the society will be in danger of having two Quaker poets
to patronise. I am at Dalston now ; but if when I go
back to Covent Garden I find thy friend has not called
for the "Journal," thee must put me in the way of send-
ing it ; and if it should happen the lender of it, knowing
that volume has not the other, I shall be most happy in
his accepting the " Doctrinals," which I shall read but
once certainly. It is not a splendid copy, but perfect,
save a leaf of Index.

I cannot but think that the London drags heavily.
I miss Janus. And oh how it misses Hazlitt ! Procter
too is affronted.

Believe me cordially yours, C. Lamb.


Letter CCXIX.] May 6, 1823.

Dear Sir — Your verses were very pleasant, and I
shall like to see more of them — I do not mean addressed
to me.

I do not know whether you live in town or country,
but if it suits your convenience I shall be glad to see you
some evening — say Thursday — at 20 Great Russell Street,
Covent Garden. If you can come do not trouble your-
self to write. We are old-fashioned people who drink tea
at six, or not much later, and give cold mutton and pickle
at nine, the good old hour. I assure you (if it suit you)
we shall be glad to see you.

Yours, etc. C. Lamb.

My love to Mr. Railton, the same to Mr. Rankin, to
the whole Firm indeed.

E.I.H., Tuesday,

Some day of May 1823.
Not official.



Letter CCXX.] E. I. H., May 19, '23.

Dear Sir — I have been very agreeably entertained
with your present, which I found very curious and
amusing. What wiseacres our forefathers appear to
have been ! It should make us thankful, who are grown
so rational and polite. I should call to thank you for
the book, but go home to Dalston at present. I shall
beg your acceptance (when I see you) of my little book.
I have Ray's Collections of English Words not generally
Used, 1691 ; and in page 60 ("North Country words")
occurs " Rynt ye" — "by your leave," "stand hand-
somely." As, "Rynt you, witch," quoth Besse Locket to
her mother; Proverb, Cheshire. — Doubtless this is the
" Aroint " of Shakspeare.

In the same collection I find several Shakspearisms.
" Rooky " wood : a Northern word for " reeky," " misty,"
etc. "Shandy," a north country word for "wild."
Sterne was York.

Yours obliged, C. Lamb.

I am at 14, Kingsland Row, Dalston. Will you take
a walk over on Sunday? We dine exactly at 4, and
shall be most glad to see you. If I don't hear from you
(by note to E. I. Ho.) I will expect you.

Mr. Hone, 45, Ludgate Hill.


Letter CCXXL] 1823.

Your lines are not to be understood reading on one
leg. They are sinuous, and to be won with wrestling.


I do assure you in sincerity that nothing you have done
has given me greater satisfaction. Your obscurity, where
you are dark, which is seldom, is that of too much mean-
ing, not the painful obscurity which no toil of the reader
can dissipate ; not the dead vacuum and floundering place
in which imagination finds no footing : it is not the dim-
ness of positive darkness, but of distance ; and he that
reads and not discerns must get a better pair of spectacles.
I admire every piece in the collection. I cannot say the
first is best : when I do so, the last read rises up in
judgment. To your Mother, to your Sister, to Mary
dead, they are all weighty with thought and tender with
sentiment. Your poetry is like no other. Those cursed
dryads and pagan trumperies of modern verse have put
me out of conceit of the very name of poetry. Your
verses are as good and as wholesome as prose, and I have
made a sad blunder if I do not leave you with an impres-
sion that your present is rarely valued.

Charles Lamb.


Letter CCXXIL] July 10, 1823.

Dear Sir — I shall be happy to read the MS. and to
forward it; but T [ay lor] and H[essey] must judge for
themselves of publication. If it prove interesting (as I
doubt not) I shall not spare to say so, you may depend
upon it. Suppose you direct it to Accountant's Office,
India House. I am glad you have met with some
sweetening circumstances to your unpalatable draught.
I have just returned from Hastings, where are exquisite
views and walks, and where I have given up my soul to
walking, and I am now suffering sedentary contrasts. I
am a long time reconciling to town after one of these
excursions. Home is become strange, and will remain so
yet a while ; home is the most unforgiving of friends, and


always reseuts absence ; I know its old cordial looks will
return, but they are slow in clearing up. That is one of
the features of this our galley slavery ; that peregrination
ended makes things worse. I felt out of water (with all
the sea about me) at Hastings ; and just as I had learned
to domiciliate there, I must come back to find a home
which is no home. I abused Hastings, but learned its
value. There are spots, inland bays, etc., which realise
the notions of Juan Fernandez. The best thing I lit
upon by accident was a small country church (by whom
or when built unknown), standing bare and single in the
midst of a grove, with no house or appearance of habita-
tion within a quarter of a mile, only passages diverging
from it through beautiful woods to so many farmhouses.
There it stands like the first idea of a church, before
parishioners were thought of, nothing but birds for its
congregation ; or like a hermit's oratory (the hermit dead),
or a mausoleum ; its effect singularly impressive, like a
church found in a desert isle to startle Crusoe with a
home image. You must make out a vicar and a congre-
gation from fancy, for surely none come there; yet it
wants not its pulpit, and its font, and all the seemly
additaments of our worship.

Southey has attacked " Elia " on the score of infidelity,
in the Quarterly article, " Progress of Infidelity." I had
not, nor have seen the Monthly. He might have spared
an old friend such a construction of a few careless flights,
that meant no harm to religion. If all his unguarded

expressions on the subject were to be collected ! But

I love and respect Southey, and will not retort. I hate
his review, and his being a reviewer. The hint he has
dropped will knock the sale of the book on the head,
which was almost at a stop before. Let it stop, — there
is corn in Egypt, while there is cash at Leadenhall. You
and I are something besides being writers, thank God !

Yours truly, C. L.

vol. 11. G



Letter CCXXIII.] E. I. House, August 9, 1823.

My dear A. — I am going to ask you to do me the
greatest favour which a man can do for another. I want
to make my will, and to leave my property in trust for
my Sister. N.B. — I am not therefore going to die. —
Would it be unpleasant for you to be named for one?
The other two I shall beg the same favour of are Talfourd
and Procter. If you feel reluctant, tell me, and it shan't
abate one jot of my friendly feeling toward you.

Yours ever, 0. Lamb.


Letter CCXXIV.] September 2, 1823.

Dear B. B. — What will you say to my not writing 1
You cannot say I do not write now. Hessey has not
used your kind sonnet, nor have I seen it. Pray send
me a copy. Neither have I heard any more of your
friend's MS., which I will reclaim whenever you please.
When you come London-ward you will find me no longer
in Covent Garden. I have a cottage in Colebrook Row,
Islington ; a cottage, for it is detached ; a white house,
with six good rooms ; the New River (rather elderly by
this time) runs (if a moderate walking pace may be so
termed) close to the foot of the house ; and behind is a
spacious garden with vines (I assure you), pears, straw-
berries, parsnips, leeks, carrots, cabbages, to delight the
heart of old Alcinous. You enter without passage into


a cheerful dining-room, all studded over and rough with
old books : and above is a lightsome drawing-room, three
windows, full of choice prints. I feel like a great lord,
never having had a house before.

The London, I fear, falls off. I linger among its
creaking rafters, like the last rat ; it will topple down if
they don't get some buttresses. They have pulled down
three : Hazlitt, Procter, and their best stay, kind, light-
hearted Wainwright, their Janus. The best is, neither of
our fortunes is concerned in it.

I heard of you from Mr. Pulham this morning, and
that gave a fillip to my laziness, which has been intoler-
able ; but I am so taken up with pruning and gardening,
quite a new sort of occupation to me. I have gathered
my jargonels, but my Windsor pears are backward. The
former were of exquisite raciness. I do now sit under
my own vine, and contemplate the growth of vegetable
nature. I can now understand in what sense they speak
of father Adam. I recognise the paternity while I watch
my tulips. I almost fell with him, for the first day I
turned a drunken gardener (as he let in the serpent) into
my Eden, and he laid about him, lopping off some choice
boughs, etc., which hung over from a neighbour's garden,
and in his blind zeal laid waste a shade, which had
sheltered their window from the gaze of passers-by. The
old gentlewoman (fury made her not handsome) could
scarcely be reconciled by all my fine words. There was
no buttering her parsnips. She talked of the law.
What a lapse to commit on the first day of my happy
"garden-state !"

I hope you transmitted the Fox-Journal to its owner,
with suitable thanks. Mr. Cary, the Dante-man, dines
with me to-day. He is a model of a country parson, lean
(as a curate ought to be), modest, sensible, no obtruder
of church dogmas, quite a different man from Southey.
You would like him. Pray accept this for a letter, and
believe me, with sincere regards,

Yours, 0. L.



Letter CCXXV.] [Late in 1823.]

And what dost thou at the Priory? Cucullus non
facit Monachum. English me that, and challenge old
Lignum Janua to make a better.

My old New River has presented no extraordinary
novelties lately ; but there Hope sits every day, specu-
lating upon traditionary gudgeons. I think she has taken
the fisheries. I now know the reason why our forefathers
were denominated East and West Angles. Yet is there
no lack of spawn ; for I wash my hands in fishets that
come through the pump every morning thick as motelings,
— little things that perish untimely, and never taste the
brook. You do not tell me of those romantic land bays
that be as thou goest to Lover's Seat : neither of that
little churchling in the midst of a wood (in the opposite
direction, nine furlongs from the town), that seems
dropped by the Angel that was tired of carrying two
packages ; marry, with the other he made shift to pick
his flight to Loretto. Inquire out, and see my little
Protestant Loretto. It stands apart from trace of human
habitation ; yet hath it pulpit, reading-desk, and trim
front of massiest marble, as if Robinson Crusoe had
reared it to soothe himself with old church-going images.
I forget its Christian name, and what she-saint was its

You should also go to No. 13, Standgate Street, — a
baker, who has the finest collection of marine monsters
in ten sea counties, — sea dragons, polypi, mer-people,
most fantastic. You have only to name the old gentle-
man in black (not the Devil) that lodged with him a
week (he'll remember) last July, and he will show
courtesy. He is by far the foremost of the savans. His
wife is the funniest thwarting little animal ! They are
decidedly the Lions of green Hastings. Well, I have


made an end of my say. My epistolary time is gone by
when I could have scribbled as long (I will not say as
agreeable) as thine was to both of us. I am dwindled to
notes and letterets. But, in good earnest, I shall be most
happy to hail thy return to the waters of Old Sir Hugh.
There is nothing like inland murmurs, fresh ripples, and
our native minnows.

" He sang in meads how sweet the brooklets ran,
To the rough ocean and red restless sands."

I design to give up smoking ; but I have not yet fixed
upon the equivalent vice. I must have quid pro quo ;
or quo pro quid, as Tom Woodgate would correct me.
My service to him. C. L.


Letter CCXX VI.] September 10, 1823.

My dear A. — Your kindness in accepting my request
no words of mine can repay. It has made you overflow
into some romance which I should have check'd at
another time. I hope it may be in the scheme of
Providence that my sister may go first (if ever so little
a precedence), myself next, and my good Executors sur-
vive to remember us with kindness many years. God
bless you.

I will set Procter about the will forthwith.

C. Lamb.


Letter CCXXVII.] September 17, 1823.

Dear Sir — I have again been reading your " Stanzas
on Bloomfield," which are the most appropriate that can
be imagined, — sweet with Doric delicacy. I like that, —


" Our own more chaste Theocritus " —

just hinting at the fault of the Grecian. I love that
stanza ending with,

" Words, phrases, fashions, pass away ;
But truth and nature live through all. "

But I shall omit in my own copy the one stanza which
alludes to Lord B. I suppose. It spoils the sweetness
and oneness of the feeling. Cannot we think of Burns,
or Thomson, without sullying the thought with a reflection
out of place upon Lord Rochester ? These verses might
have been inscribed upon a tomb ; are in fact an epitaph ;
satire does not look pretty upon a tombstone. Besides,
there is a quotation in it, always bad in verse, seldom
advisable in prose. I doubt if their having been in a
paper will not prevent T. and H. from insertion ; but I
shall have a thing to send in a day or two, and shall try
them. Omitting that stanza, a very little alteration is
wanting in the beginning of the next. You see, I use
freedom. How happily (I flatter not) you have brought
in his subjects ; and (I suppose) his favourite measure,
though I am not acquainted with any of his writings but
the Farmer's Boy. He dined with me once, and his
manners took me exceedingly.

I rejoice that you forgive my long silence. I continue
to estimate my own-roof comforts highly. How coidd I
remain all my life a lodger ! My garden thrives (I am
told), though I have yet reaped nothing but some tiny
salad and withered carrots. But a garden's a garden
anywhere, and twice a garden in London.

Somehow I cannot relish that word " Horkey." Can-
not you supply it by circumlocution, and direct the reader
by a note to explain that it means the Horkey. But
Horkey chokes me in the text. It raises crowds of

mean associations, hawking and sp g, gawky, stalky,

mawkin ! The sound is everything, in such dulcet
modulations 'specially. I like

" Gilbert Meldrum's sterner tones,"


without knowing who Gilbert Meldrum is. You have
slipt in your rhymes as if they grew there, so natural-
artifically, or artificial-naturally. There's a vile phrase !

Do you go on with your " Quaker Sonnets 1" Have
'em ready with Southey's "Book of the Church." I
meditate a letter to S. in the London, which perhaps will
meet the fate of the Sonnet.

Excuse my brevity, for I write painfully at office,
liable to a hundred callings off; and I can never sit down
to an epistle elsewhere. I read or walk. If you return
this letter to the Post Office, I think they will return
fourpence, seeing it is but half a one. Believe me, though,

Entirely yours, C. L.


Letter CCXXVIIL] 1823.

Dear A. — Your Cheese is the best I ever tasted ; Mary
will tell you so hereafter. She is at home, but has dis-
appointed me. She has gone back rather than improved.
However, she has sense enough to value the present ; for
she is greatly fond of Stilton. Yours is the delicatest,
rainbow-hued, melting piece I ever flavoured. Believe
me, I took it the more kindly, following so great a

Depend upon't, yours shall be one of the first houses
we shall present ourselves at, when we have got our Bill
of Health.

Being both yours and Mrs. Allsop's truly.

C. L. and M. L.

To Rev. H. F. CARY.

Letter CCXXIX.] India Office, October 14, 1823.

Dear Sir — If convenient, will you give us house room
on Saturday next 1 I can sleep anywhere. If another


Sunday suit you better, pray let me know. We were
talking of Roast Shoulder of Mutton with onion sauce ;
but I scorn to prescribe to the hospitalities of mine host.
With respects to Mrs. C, yours truly,

0. Lamb.


Letter CCXXX.] October 28, 1823.

My dear Sir — Your Pig was a picture of a pig, and
your Picture a pig of a picture. The former was delicious
but evanescent, like a hearty fit of mirth, or the crackling
of thorns under a pot ; but the latter is an idea, and
abideth. I never before saw swine upon satin. And
then that pretty strawy canopy about him ! he seems to
purr (rather than grunt) his satisfaction. Such a gentle-
manlike porker too ! Morland's are absolutely clowns to it.
Who the deuce painted it 1 I have ordered a little gilt
shrine for it, and mean to wear it for a locket — a shirt-pig.

I admire the pretty toes shrouded in a veil of some-
thing, not mud but that warm soft consistency which
the dust takes in Elysium after a spring shower — it
perfectly engloves him.

I cannot enough thank you and your country friend
for the delicate double present — the utile et decorum.

(Three times have I attempted to write this sentence and
failed, which shows that I am not cut out for a pedant.)

Sir (as I say to Southey) — Will you come and see us at
our poor cottage of Colebrook to tea to-morrow evening, as
early as six 1 I have some friends coming at that hour.

The panoply which covered your material pig shall be
forthcoming. The pig pictorial with its trappings
domesticate with me.

Your greatly obliged Elia.

J. B. Dibdin, Esq.,
Messrs. Rankings,
113 Cheapside.



Letter CCXXXL] E. I. H., November 21, 1823.

Dear Southey — The kindness of your note has melted
away the mist which was upon me. I have been fighting
against a shadow. That accursed Q. R. had vexed me
by a gratuitous speaking, of its own knowledge, that the

Confessions of a D d was a genuine description of

the state of the writer. Little things, that are not ill-
meant, may produce much ill. That might have injured
me alive and dead. I am in a public office, and my life
is insured. I was prepared for anger, and I thought I
saw, in a few obnoxious words, a hard case of repetition
directed against me. I wished both magazine and review
at the bottom of the sea. I shall be ashamed to see you,
and my sister (though innocent) will be still more so ; for
the folly was done without her knowledge, and has made
her uneasy ever since. My guardian angel was absent at
that time.

I will muster up courage to see you, however, any day
next week (Wednesday excepted). We shall hope that
you will bring Edith with you. That will be a second
mortification. She will hate to see us; but come and
heap embers. We deserve it ; I for what I've done, and
she for being my sister.

Do come early in the day, by sun-light, that you may
see my Milton.

I am at Colebrook Cottage, Colebrook Row, Islington :
a detached whitish house, close to the New River end of
Colebrook Terrace, left hand from Sadler's Wells.

Will you let me know the day before 1

Your penitent, C. Lamb.

P.S. — I do not think your handwriting at all like
****'s. I do not think many things I did think.



Letter CCXXXIL] November 22, 1823.

Dear B. B. — I am ashamed at not acknowledging
your kind little poem, which I must needs like much ;
but I protest I thought I had done it at the moment.
Is it possible a letter has miscarried 1 Did you get one
in which I sent you an extract from the poems of Lord
Stirling? I should wonder if you did, for I sent you

Online LibraryCharles LambThe letters of Charles Lamb (Volume 2) → online text (page 7 of 31)