Charles Lamb.

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none such. There was an incipient lie strangled in the
birth. Some people's conscience is so tender ! But, in
plain truth, I thank you very much for the verses. I
have a very kind letter from the Laureate, with a self-
invitation to come and shake hands with me. This is
truly handsome and noble. 'Tis worthy of my old idea of
Southey. Shall not I, think you, be covered with a red
suffusion 1

You are too much apprehensive of your complaint : I
know many that are always ailing of it, and live on to a
good old age. I know a merry fellow (you partly know
him) who, when his medical adviser told him he had
drunk away all that ])art, congratulated himself (now his
liver was gone) that he should be the longest liver of
the two.

The best way in these cases is to keep yourself as
ignorant as you can, as ignorant as the world was before
Galen, of the entire inner construction of the animal man ;
not to be conscious of a midriff ; to hold kidneys (save of
sheep and swine) to be an agreeable fiction ; not to know
whereabout the gall grows ; to account the circulation of
the blood an idle whimsey of Harvey's ; to acknowledge
no mechanism not visible. For, once fix the seat of your
disorder, and your fancies flux into it like bad humours.
Those medical gentries choose each his favourite part ;
one takes the lungs, another the aforesaid liver, and refer
to that whatever in the animal economy is amiss. Above


all, use exercise, take a little more spirituous liquors, learn
to smoke, continue to keep a good conscience, and avoid
tampering with hard terms of art — viscosity, scirrhosity,
and those bugbears by which simple patients are scared
into their graves. Believe the general sense of the mer-
cantile world, which holds that desks are not deadly. It
is the mind, good B. B., and not the limbs, that taints
by long sitting. Think of the patience of tailors ! Think
how long the Lord Chancellor sits ! Think of the brood-
ing hen ! I protest I cannot answer thy sister's kind
inquiry ; but I judge, I shall put forth no second volume.
More praise than buy ; and T. and H. are not particularly
disposed for martyrs. Thou wilt see a funny passage, and
yet a true history, of George Dyer's aquatic incursion in
the next London. Beware his fate, when thou comest to
see me at my Colebrook Cottage. I have filled my little
space with my little thoughts. I wish thee ease on thy
sofa ; but not too much indulgence on it. From my poor
desk, thy fellow-sufferer, this bright November,

C. L.


Letter CCXXXIIL] [November 1823.]

Dear Mrs. H. — Sitting down to write a letter is such
a painful operation to Mary, that you must accept me as
her proxy. You have seen our house. What I now tell
you is literally true. Yesterday week George Dyer called
upon us, at one o'clock {bright noonday), on his way to
dine with Mrs. Barbauld at Newington. He sat with
Mary about half an hour, and took leave. The maid saw
him go out, from her kitchen window, but suddenly losing
sight of him, ran up in a fright to Mary. G. D., instead
of keeping the slip that leads to the gate, had deliberately,
staff in hand, in broad open day, marched into the New
Kiver. He had not his spectacles on, and you know his
absence. Who helped him out they can hardly tell, but


between 'em they got him out, drenched thro' and thro'.
A mob collected by that time, and accompanied him in.
" Send for the Doctor," they said : and a one-eyed fellow,
dirty and drunk, was fetched from the public-house at
the end, where it seems he lurks, for the sake of picking
up water practice ; having formerly had a medal from the
Humane Society for some rescue. By his advice the patient
was put between blankets ; aud when I came home at 4
to dinner, I found G. D. a-bed, and raving, light-headed,
with the brandy and water which the doctor had adminis-
tered. He sang, laughed, whimpered, screamed, babbled
of guardian angels, would get up and go home ; but we
kept him there by force ; and by next morning he departed
sober, and seems to have received no injury. All my
friends are open-mouth'd about having paling before the
river j but I cannot see, that because a lunatic chooses to
walk into a river with his eyes open at midday, I am
any the more likely to be drowned in it, coming home at

I had the honour of dining at the Mansion House on
Thursday last by special card from the Lord Mayor, who
never saw my face, nor I his ; and all from being a writer
in a magazine. The dinner costly, served on massy plate ;
champagne, pines, etc. ; 47 present, among whom the
Chairman and two other directors of the India Company.

There's for you ! and got away pretty sober. Quite
saved my credit.

We continue to like our house prodigiously.

Does Mary Hazlitt go on with her novel 1 or has she
begun another 1 I would not discourage her, though we
continue to think it (so far) in its present state not sale-
able. Oar kind remembrances to her and hers, and you
and yours.

Yours truly, C. Lamb.

I am pleased that H. liked my letter to the Laureate

Mrs. Hazlitt,

Alphingtoi), near Exeter.



Letter CCXXXIA*.] India House, December 9, 1823.

Dear Sir — I should have thanked you for your books
and compliments sooner, but have been waiting for a
revise to be sent, which does not come, though I returned
the proof on the receipt of your letter. I have read
Warner with great pleasure. What an elaborate piece
of alliteration and antithesis ! why it must have been a
labour far above the most difficult versification. There
is a fine simile or picture of Semiramis arming to repel a
siege. I do not mean to keep the book, for I suspect
you are forming a curious collection, and I do not pretend
to anything of the kind. I have not a black-letter book
among mine, old Chaucer excepted, and am not biblio-
manist enough to like black-letter. It is painful to read ;
therefore I must insist on returning it at opportunity, not
from contumacy and reluctance to be obliged, but because
it must suit you better than me. The loss of a present
from should never exceed the gain of a preseut to. I
hold this maxim infallible in the accepting line. I
read your magazines with satisfaction. I thoroughly
agree with you as to "The German Faust," as far as I
can do justice to it from an English translation. 'Tis a
disagreeable canting tale of seduction, which has nothing
to do with the spirit of Faustus — Curiosity. Was the
dark secret to be explored to end in the seducing of a
weak girl, which might have been accomplished by earthly
agency 1 When Marlow gives his Faustus a mistress, he
flies him at Helen, flower of Greece, to be sure, and not
at Miss Betsy, or Miss Sally Thoughtless.

" Cut is the branch that bore the goodly fruit,
And wither'd is Apollo's laurel tree :
Faustus is dead."

What a noble natural transition from metaphor to plaiu


speaking ! as if the figurative had flagged in description
of such a loss, and was reduced to tell the fact simply.

I must now thank you for your very kind invitation.
It is not out of prospect that I may see Manchester some
day, and then I will avail myself of your kindness. But
holidays are scarce things with me, and the laws of
attendance are getting stronger and stronger at Leaden-
hall. But I shall bear it in mind. Meantime something
may (more probably) bring you to town, where I shall be
happy to see you. I am always to be found (alas !) at
my desk in the fore part of the clay.

I wonder why they do not send the revise. I leave
late at office, and my abode lies out of the way, or I
should have seen about it. If you are impatient, perhaps
a line to the printer, directing him to send it me, at
Accountant's Office, may answer. You will see by the
scrawl that I only snatch a few minutes from intermitting

Your obliged servant, C. Lamb.

(If I had time I would go over this letter again, and
dot all my i's.)

Letter CCXXXV.] I. H., December 29, 1823.

My dear Sir — You talk of months at a time, and I
know not what inducements to visit Manchester, Heaven
knows how gratifying ! but I have had my little month
of 1823 already. It is all over; and without incurring
a disagreeable favour I cannot so much as get a single
holiday till the season returns with the next year. Even
our half- hour's absences from office are set down in a
book ! Next year, if I can spare a day or two of it, I
will come to Manchester; but I have reasons at home
against longer absences.

I am so ill just at present (an illness of my own pro-


curing last night ; who is perfect?) that nothing but your
very great kindness could make me write. I will bear in
mind the letter to W. W., and you shall have it quite in
time, before the 12th.

My aching and confused head warns me to leave off.
With a muddled sense of gratefulness, which I shall
apprehend more clearly to-morrow, I remain, your friend
unseen, C. L.

Will your occasions or inclination bring you to London?
It will give me great pleasure to show you everything
that Islington can boast, if you know the meaning of that
very Cockney sound. We have the New River ! I am
ashamed of this scrawl ; but I beg you to accept it for
the present. I am full of qualms.

" A fool at fifty is a fool indeed."





Letter CCXXXVL] January 9, 1824.

Dear B. B. — Do you know what it is to succumb
under an unsurmoun table day -mare, — "a whoreson
lethargy," Falstaff calls it, — an indisposition to do any-
thing, or to be anything, — a total deadness and distaste,
a suspension of vitality, — an indifference to locality, — a
numb, soporofical, good-for-nothingness, — an ossification
all over, — an oyster -like insensibility to the passing
events, — a mind-stupor, — a brawny defiance to the needles
of a thrusting-in conscience 1 Did you ever have a very
bad cold, with a total irresolution to submit to water-
gruel processes. This has been for many weeks my lot
and my excuse. My fingers drag heavily over this paper,
and to my thinking it is three-and-twenty furlongs from
here to the end of this demi-sheet. I have not a thing
to say ; nothing is of more importance than another ; I
am flatter than a denial or a pancake ; emptier than
Judge Park's wig when the head is in it ; duller than a
country stage when the actors are off it ; a cipher, an !
I acknowledge life at all, only by an occasional convul-


sional cough, and a permanent phlegmatic pain in the
chest. I am weary of the world ; life is weary of me.
My day is gone into twilight, and I don't think it worth
the expense of candles. My wick hath a thief in it, but
I can't muster courage to snuff it. I inhale suffocation ;
I can't distinguish veal from mutton ; nothing interests
me. Tis twelve o'clock, and Thurtell is just now coming
out upon the New Drop, Jack Ketch alertly tucking up
his greasy sleeves to do the last office of mortality ; yet
cannot I elicit a groan or a moral reflection. If you told
me the world will be at an end to-morrow, I should
just say, "Will it?" I have not volition enough to dot
my i's, much less to comb my eyebrows ; my eyes are set
in my head ; my brains are gone out to see a poor rela-
tion in Moorfields, and they did not say when they'd come
back again ; my skull is a Grub Street attic, to let —
not so much as a joint-stool or a crack'd Jordan left in it :
my hand writes, not I, from habit, as chickens run about
a little when their heads are off. for a vigorous fit of
gout, cholic, toothache, — an earwig in my auditory, a fly
in my visual organs ! Pain is life — the sharper, the more
evidence of life ; but this apathy, this death ! Did you
ever have an obstinate cold, — a six or seven weeks' unin-
termitting chill and suspension of hope, fear, conscience,
and everything 1 Yet do I try all I can to cure it ; I try
wine, and spirits, and smoking, and snuff in unsparing
quantities ; but they all only seem to make me worse,
instead of better. I sleep in a damp room, but it does
me no good ; I come home late o' nights, but do not find
any visible amendment ! Who shall deliver me from the
body of this death ?

It is just fifteen minutes after twelve. Thurtell is by
this time a good way on his journey, baiting at Scorpion
perhaps ; Ketch is bargaining for his cast coat and waist-
coat. The Jew demurs at first at three half-crowns ;
but, on consideration that he may get somewhat by show-
ing 'em in the town, finally closes. 0. L.



Letter CCXXXVII.] January 23, 1824.

My dear Sir — That peevish letter of mine, which was
meant to convey an apology for my incapacity to write,
seems to have been taken by you in too serious a light ;
it was only my way of telling you I had a severe cold.
The fact is, I have been insuperably dull and lethargic
for many weeks, and cannot rise to the vigour of a letter,
much less an essay. The London must do without me
for a time, for I have lost all interest about it ; and
whether I shall recover it again I know not. I will
bridle my pen another time, and not teaze and puzzle you
with my aridities. I shall begin to feel a little more
alive with the Spring. Winter is to me (mild or harsh)
always a great trial of the spirits. I am ashamed not to
have noticed your tribute to Woolman, whom we love so
much. It is done in your good manner. Your friend
Taylor called upon me some time since, and seems a very
amiable man. His last story is painfully fine. His
book I like ; it is only too stuffed with Scripture, too
parsonish. The best thing in it is the boy's own story.
When I say it is too full of Scripture, I mean it is too
full of direct quotations. No book can have too much
of silent Scripture in it ; but the natural power of a story
is diminished when the uppermost purpose in the writer
seems to be to recommend something else, viz. Religion.
You know what Horace says of the Deus intersit. I am
not able to explain myself, — you must do it for me. My
sister's part in the " Leicester School " (about two-thirds)
was purely her own ; as it was (to the same quantity) in
the " Shakspeare Tales " which bear my name. I wrote
only the "Witch Aunt"; the "First Going to Church";
and the final story, about "A little Indian Girl" in a
ship. Your account of my black-balling amused me. I
think, as Quakers, they did right. There are some
things hard to be understood. The more I think, the
more I am vexed at having puzzled vou with that


letter ; but I have been so out of letter-writing of late
years, that it is a sore effort to sit clown to it ; and I felt
in your debt, and sat down waywardly to pay you in bad
money. Never mind my dulness; I am used to long
intervals of it. The heavens seem brass to me; then
again comes the refreshing shower —

" I have been merry once or twice ere now."

You said something about Mr. Mitford in a late
letter, which I believe I did not advert to. I shall be
happy to show him my Milton (it is all the show things
I have) at any time he will take the trouble of a jaunt
to Islington. I do also hope to see Mr. Taylor there
some day. Pray say so to both. Coleridge's book is
in good part printed, but sticks a little for more copy.
It bears an unsaleable title, " Extracts from Bishop
Leighton " ; but I am confident there will be plenty of
good notes in it, more of Bishop Coleridge than Leighton,
I hope ; for what is Leighton 1 Do you trouble yourself
about libel cases? The decision against Hunt for the
"Vision of Judgment" made me sick. What is to
become of the good old talk about our good old King 1 —
his personal virtues saving us from a revolution, etc. etc. !
Why, none that think can utter it now. It must stink.
And the "vision" is really, as to him -ward, such a
tolerant, good-humoured thing. What a wretched thing
a Lord Chief Justice is, always was, and will be !

Keep your good spirits up, dear B. B. ; mine will
return ; they are at present in abeyance ; but I am rather
lethargic than miserable. I don't know but a good
horsewhip would be more beneficial to me than physic.
My head, without aching, will teach yours to ache. It
is well I am getting to the conclusion. I will send a
better letter when I am a better man. Let me thank
you for your kind concern for me (which I trust will have
reason soon to be dissipated), and assure you that it gives
me pleasure to hear from you.

Yours truly, C. L.



Letter CCXXXVIIL] [January 27, 1824.]

Dear Oilier — Many thanks from both of us for Inesilla.
I wished myself younger, that I might have more enjoyed
the terror of that desolate city, and the damned palace.
I think it as fine as anything in its way, and wish you
joy of success, etc.

With better weather, I shall hope to see you at

Meantime, believe me, yours truly, C. Lamb.

Scribbled midst official flurry.


Letter CCXXXIX.] February 25, 1824.

My dear Sir — Your title of " Poetic Vigils " arrides
me much more than a volume of verse, which is no
meaning. The motto says nothing, but I cannot suggest
a better. I do not like mottoes but where they are singu-
larly felicitous ; there is foppery in them. They are
unplain, un-Quakerish. They are good only where they
flow from the title, and are a kind of justification of it.
There is nothing about watchings or lucubrations in the
one you suggest ; no commentary on vigils. By the
way, a wag would recommend you to the line of Pope,

" Sleepless himself — to give his readers sleep."

I by no means wish it ; but it may explain what I mean,
— that a neat motto is child of the title. I think


" Poetic Vigils " as short and sweet as can be desired ;
only have an eye on the proof, that the printer do not
substitute Virgils, which would ill accord with your
modesty or meaning. Your suggested motto is antique
enough in spelling, and modern enough in phrases, — a
good modern antique ; but the matter of it is germane to
the purpose, only supposing the title proposed a vindica-
tion of yourself from the presumption of authorship. The
first title was liable to this objection — that if you were
disposed to enlarge ir, and the bookseller insisted on its
appearance in two touies, how oddly it would sound, " A
Volume of Verse in Two Volumes, Second Edition," etc.
You see through my wicked intention of curtailing this
epistolet by the above device of large margin. But in
truth the idea of letterising has been oppressive to me of
late above your candour to give me credit for. There is
Southey, whom I ought to have thanked a fortnight ago
for a present of the "Church Book": I have never had
courage to buckle myself in earnest even to acknowledge
it by six words ; and yet I am accounted by some people
a good man ! How cheap that character is acquired !
Pay your debts, don't borrow money, nor twist your
kitten's neck off, nor disturb a congregation, etc., your
business is done. I know things (thoughts or things,
thoughts are things) of myself, which would make every
friend I have fly me as a plague patient. I once * * *,
and set a dog upon a crab's leg that was shoved out
under a mass of sea-weeds, — a pretty little feeler. Oh
pah ! how sick I am of that ! and a lie, a mean one, I
once told ! — I stink in the midst of respect. I am much
hypt. The fact is, my head is heavy, but there is hope j
or if not, I am better than a poor shell-fish ; not morally,
when I set the whelp upon it, but have more blood and
spirits. Things may turn up, and I may creep again
into a decent opinion of myself. Vanity will return with
sunshine. Till then, pardon my neglects, and impute it
to the wintry solstice. C. Lamb.


Letter CCXL.] Match 24, 1824.

Dear B. B. — I hasten to say that if my opinion can
strengthen you in your choice, it is decisive for your
acceptance of what has been so handsomely offered. I
can see nothing injurious to your most honourable sense.
Think that you are called to a poetical Ministry — nothing
worse : the Minister is worthy of the hire. The only
objection I feel is founded on a fear that the acceptance
may be a temptation to you to let fall the bone (hard as
it is) which is in your mouth, and must afford tolerable
pickings, for the shadow of independence. You cannot
propose to become independent on what the low state of
interest could afford you from such a principal as you
mention ; and the most graceful excuse for the acceptance
would be, that it left you free to your voluntary functions.
That is the less light part of the scruple. It has no
darker shade. I put in darker because of the ambiguity
of the word "light," which Donne, in his admirable poem
on the Metempsychosis, has so ingeniously illustrated in
his invocation —

12 1 2

. " Make my dark heavy poem, light and light,

where the two senses of light are opposed to different
opposites. A trifling criticism. I can see no reason for
any scruple then but what arises from your own interest ;
which is in your own power of course to solve. If you
still have doubts, read over Sanderson's Cases of Con-
science, and Jeremy Taylor's Ductor Dubitantium; the
first a moderate octavo, the latter a folio of 900 close
pages ; and when you have thoroughly digested the
admirable reasons pro and con which they give for every

possible case, you will be just as wise as when you

began. Every man is his own best casuist ; and after
all, as Ephraim Smooth, in the pleasant comedy of Wild
Oats, has it, " there is no harm in a Guinea." A fortiori
there is less in 2000.


I therefore most sincerely congratulate with you,
excepting so far as excepted above. If you have fair
prospects of adding to the principal, cut the Bank ; but
in either case do not refuse an honest service. Your
heart tells you it is not offered to bribe you from any
duty, but to a duty which you feel to be your vocation.
Farewell heartily. C. L.

Letter CCXLI.J April 1821.

Dear B. B. — I am sure I cannot fill a letter, though
I should disfumish my skull to fill it ; but you expect
something, and shall have a notelet. Is Sunday, not
divinely speaking, but humanly and holidaysically, a
blessing 1 Without its institution, would our rugged task-
masters have given us a leisure day, so often, think you,
as once in a month 1 or, if it had not been instituted,
might they not have given us every sixth day 1 Solve
me this problem. If we are to go three times a-day to
church, why has Sunday slipped into the notion of a
kollid&yl A HoLYday I grant it. The Puritans, I
have read in Southey's book, knew the distinction. They
made people observe Sunday rigorously, would not let a
nursery -maid walk out in the fields with children for
recreation on that day. But t/ien — they gave the people
a holiday from all sorts of work every second Tuesday.
This was giving to the two Caesars that which was his
respective. Wise, beautiful, thoughtful, generous legis-
lators ! Would Wilberforce give us our Tuesdays 1 No :
(d — n him !) — he would turn the six days into sevenths,

" And those three smiling seasons of the year
Into a Russian Winter." — Old Play.

I am sitting opposite a person who is making strange
distortions with the gout, which is not unpleasant — to me
at least. What is the reason we do not sympathise with
pain, short of some terrible surgical operation ! Hazlitt,


who boldly says all he feels, avows that not only he does
not pity sick people, but he hates them. I obscurely
recognise his meaning. Pain is probably too selfish a
consideration, too simply a consideration of self-attention.
We pity poverty, loss of friends, etc. — more complex
things, in which the sufferer's feelings are associated with
others. This is a rough thought suggested by the pre-
sence of gout ; I want head to extricate it and plane it.
What is all this to your letter 1 I felt it to be a good
one, but my turn, when I write at all, is perversely to
travel out of the record, so that my letters are anything
but answers. So you still want a motto ! You must
not take my ironical one, because your book, I take it, is
too serious for it. Bickerstaff might have used it for his
lucubrations. What do you think of (for a title) Religio
Tremuli ? or Tremebundi ? There is Religio-Medici and

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