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Laid. But perhaps the volume is not quite Quakerish
enough, or exclusively so, for it. Your own " Vigils " is
perhaps the best. While I have space, let me congratu-
late with you the return of Spring : what a summery
Spring too ! all those qualms about the dog and cray-fish
melt before it. I am going to be happy and vain again.
A hasty farewell, C. Lamb.

Letter CCXLII.] May 15, 1824.

Dear B. B. — I am oppressed with business all day,
and Company all night. But I will snatch a quarter of
an hour. Your recent acquisitions of the Picture and
the Letter are greatly to be congratulated. I too have
a picture of my father and the copy of his first love
verses ; but they have been mine long. Blake is a real
name, I assure you, and a most extraordinary man, if
he be still living. He is the Robert Blake, whose
wild designs accompany a splendid folio edition of the
"Night Thoughts," which you may have seen, in one of
which he pictures the parting of soul and body by a solid


mass of human form floating off, God knows how, from a
lumpish mass (fac Simile to itself) left behind on the
dying bed. He paints in water colours marvellous strange
pictures, visions of his brain, which he asserts that he
has seen. They have great merit. He has seen the old
Welsh bards on Snowdon — he has seen the Beautifullest,
the strongest, and the Ugliest Man, left alone from the
Massacre of the Britons by the Romans, and has painted
them from memory (I have seen his paintings), and
asserts them to be as good as the figures of Raphael and
Angelo, but not better, as they had precisely the same
retro-visions and prophetic visions with themself [himself].
The painters in oil (which he will have it that neither of
them practised) he affirms to have been the ruin of art,
and affirms that all the while he was engaged in his
Water paintings, Titian was disturbing him, Titian the
111 Genius of Oil Painting. His Pictures — one in par-
ticular, the Canterbury Pilgrims (far above Stothard's) —
have great merit, but hard, dry, yet with grace. He has
written a Catalogue of them with a most spirited criti-
cism on Chaucer, but mystical and full of Vision. His
poems have been sold hitherto only in Manuscript. I
never read them ; but a friend at my desire procured the
" Sweep Song." There is one to a tiger, which I have
heard recited, beginning —

" Tiger, Tiger, burning bright,
Thro' the desarts of the night,"

which is glorious, but, alas ! I have not the book ; for
the man is flown, whither I know not — to Hades or a
Mad House. But I must look on him as one of the
most extraordinary persons of the age. Montgomery's
book I have not much hope from. The Society, with
the affected name, has been labouring at it for these
20 years, and made few converts. I think it was
injudicious to mix stories avowedly colour'd by fiction
with the sad true statements from the parliamentary
records, etc., but I wish the little Negroes all the good


that can come from it. I batter'd my brains (not butter'd
them — bnt it is a bad a) for a few verses for them, but
I could make nothing of it. You have been luckier.
But Blake's are the flower of the set, you will, I am sure,
agree, tho' some of Montgomery's at the end are pretty ;
but the Dream awkwardly paraphras'd from B.

With the exception of an Epilogue for a Private
Theatrical, I have written nothing now for near 6
months. It is in vain to spur me on. I must wait. I
cannot write without a genial impulse, and I have none.
Tis barren all and dearth. No matter ; life is something
without scribbling. I have got rid of my bad spirits,
and hold up pretty well this rain-damn'd May.

So we have lost another Poet. I never much relished
his Lordship's mind, and shall be sorry if the Greeks
have cause to miss him. He was to me offensive, and I
never can make out his great power, which his admirers
talk of. Why, a line of Wordsworth's is a lever to lift
the immortal spirit ! Byron can only move the Spleen.
He was at best a Satyrist, — in any other way, he was
mean enough. I daresay I do him injustice ; but I
cannot love him, nor squeeze a tear to his memory. He
did not like the world, and he has left it, as Alderman
Curtis advised the Radicals, " If they don't like their
Country, damn 'em, let 'em leave it," they possessing no
rood of ground in England, and he 10,000 acres. Byron
was better than many Curtises.

Farewell, and accept this apology for a letter from
one who owes you so much in that kind.

Yours ever truly, C. L.

B. Barton, Esq., Woodbridge, Suffolk.

Letter CCXLIIL] July 7, 1824.

Dear B. B. — I have been suffering under a severe
inflammation of the eyes, notwithstanding which I reso-
lutely went through your very pretty volume at once,


which I dare pronounce in no ways inferior to former
lucubrations. "Abroad" and "lord" are vile rhymes
notwithstanding, and if you count you will wonder how
many times you have repeated the word unearthly;
thrice in one poem. It is become a slang word with the
bards ; avoid it in future lustily. " Time " is fine ; but
there are better a good deal, I think. The volume does
not lie by me ; and after a long day's smarting fatigue,
which has almost put out my eyes (not blind however to
your merits), I dare not trust myself with long writing.
The verses to Bloomfield are the sweetest in the collection.
Religion is sometimes lugged in, as if it did not come
naturally. I will go over carefully when I get my seeing,
and exemplify. You have also too much of singing
metre, such as requires no deep ear to make ; lilting
measure, in which you have done Woolman injustice.
Strike at less superficial melodies. The piece on Nayler
is more to my fancy.

My eye runs waters. But I will give you a fuller
account some day. The book is a very pretty one in
more than one sense. The decorative harp, perhaps, too
ostentatious ; a simple pipe preferable.

Farewell, and many thanks. C. Lamb.


Letter CCXLIV.] July 28, 1824.

My dear Sir — I must appear negligent in not having
thanked you for the very pleasant books you sent me.
Arthur, and the Novel, we have both of us read with
unmixed satisfaction. They are full of quaint conceits,
and running over with good-humour and good-nature. I
naturally take little interest in story, but in these the
manner and not the end is the interest; it is such
pleasant travelling one scarce cares whither it leads us.


Pray express our pleasure to your father with my best

I am involved in a routine of visiting among the
family of Barron Field, just returned from Botany Bay.
I shall hardly have an open evening before Tuesday next.
Will you come to us then 1

Yours truly, C. Lamb.

To the Rev. H. F. OARY.

East India House,
Letter CCXLV.] August 19, 1824.

Dear Sir — I shall have much pleasure in dining with
you on Wednesday next, with much shame that I have
not noticed your kind present of the Birds, which I
found very chirping and whimsical. I believe at the time
I was daily thinking of paying you a visit, and put it off
— till I should come. Somehow it slipt, and I must
crave your pardon.

Yours truly, 0. Lamb.


Letter CCXLVI.] August 1824.

Dear B. B. — I congratulate you on getting a house
over your head. I find the comfort of it I am sure. At
my town lodgings the mistress was always quarrelling
with our maid, and at my place of rustication the whole
family were always beating one another, brothers beating
sisters (one, a most beautiful girl, lamed for life), father
beating sons and daughters, and son again beating his
father, knocking him fairly down, a scene I never before
witnessed, but was called out of bed by the unnatural


blows, the parricidal colour of which, though my morals
could not but condemn, yet my reason did heartily
approve, and in the issue the house was quieter for a day
or so than I had ever known. I am now all harmony
and quiet, even to the sometimes wishing back again
some of the old rufilings. There is something stirring in
these civil broils.

The album shall be attended to. If I can light upon
a few appropriate rhymas (but rhymes come with difficulty
from me now) I shall beg a place in the neat margin of
your young housekeeper.

The " Prometheus," unbound, is a capital story. The
literal rogue ! What if you had ordered " Elfrida " in
sheets t she'd have been sent up I warrant you. Or bid
him clasp his Bible {i.e. to his bosom), he'd have clapt
on a brass clasp, no doubt.

I can no more understand Shelley than you can. His
poetry is " thin sown with profit or delight." Yet I
must point to your notice a sonnet conceived and expressed
with a witty delicacy. It is that addressed to one who
hated him, but who could not persuade him to hate him
again. His coyness to the other's passion — (for hate
demands a return as much as love, and starves without
it) — is most arch and pleasant. Pray, like it very much.
For his theories and nostrums, they are oracular enough ;
but I either comprehend 'em not, or there is " miching
malice" and mischief in 'em, but, for the most part,
ringing with their own emptiness. Hazlitt said well of
'em — " Many are the wiser and better for reading Shak-
speare, but nobody was ever wiser or better for reading
Shelley." I wonder you will sow your correspondence
on so barren a ground as I am, that make such poor
returns. But my head aches at the bare thought of
letter-writing. I wish all the ink in the ocean dried up,
and would listen to the quills shivering up in the candle
flame, like parching martyrs. The same indisposition to
write has stopped my " Elias " ; but you will see a futile
effort in the next Number, " wrung from me with slow


pain." The fact is, my head is seldom cool enough. I
am dreadfully indolent. To have to do anything — to
order me a new coat, for instance, though my old buttons
are shelled like beans — is an effort. My pen stammers
like my tongue. What cool craniums those old inditers
of folios must have had ! — what a mortified pulse ! Well ;
once more I throw myself on your mercy. Wishing peace
in thy new dwelling, C. Lamb.

Letter CCXLVIL] September 30, 1824.

Little book, surnamed of white,
Clean as yet, and fair to sight,
Keep thy attribution right.

Never disproportion^ scrawl,
Ugly blot (that's worse than all),
On thy maiden clearness fall !

In each letter here design'd,
Let the reader emblem'd find
Neatness of the owner's mind.

Gilded margins count a sin ;
Let thy leaves attraction win
By the golden rules within ;

Sayings fetch'd from sages old ;
Laws which Holy Writ unfold,
Worthy to be graved in gold :

Lighter fancies not excluding ;
Blameless wit, with nothing rude in,
Sometimes mildly interluding


Amid strains of graver measure :
Virtue's self hath oft her pleasure
Iu sweet Muses' groves of leisure.


Riddles dark, perplexing sense ;

Darker meanings of offence ;

What but shades — be banish'd hence !

Whitest thoughts, in whitest dress,
Candid meanings, best express
Mind of quiet Quakeress.

Dear B. B. — " I am ill at these numbers "; but if the
above be not too mean to have a place in thy daughter's
sanctum, take them with pleasure. I assume that
her name is Hannah, because it is a pretty scriptural

I began on another sheet of paper, and just as I had
penned the second line of stanza two, an ugly blot fell,
to illustrate my counsel. I am sadly given to blot, and
modern blotting-paper gives no redress ; it only smears,
and makes it worse. The only remedy is scratching out,
which gives it a clerkish look. The most innocent blots
are made with red ink, and are rather ornamental. Marry,
they are not always to be distinguished from the effusions
of a cut finger. Well, I hope and trust thy tick-doleru,
or however you spell it, is vanished, for I have frightful
impressions of that tick, and do altogether hate it, as an
unpaid score, or the tick of a death-watch. I take it to
be a species of Vitus's dance. (I omit the sanctity, writing
to " one of the men called friends.") I knew a yoimg
lady who could dance no other ; she danced it through
life, and very queer and fantastic were her steps.

Heaven bless thee from such measures, and keep thee
from the fold fiend, who delights to lead after false fires
in the night, Flibbertigibbet, that gives the web and the
pin, and I forget what else.

From my den, as Bunyan has it, 30th Sep. 1824.

C. L.



Letter CCXLVIII.] November 2, 1824.

Dear Mrs. Collier — We receive so much pig from your
kindness, that I really have not phrase enough to vary
successive acknowledgments.

I think I shall get a printed form to serve on all

To say it was young, crisp, short, luscious, dainty-
toed, is but to say what all its predecessors have been.
It was eaten on Sunday and Monday, and doubts only
exist as to which temperature it eat best, hot or cold.
I incline to the latter. The Petty -feet made a pretty
surprising proegustation for supper on Saturday night,
just as I was loathingly in expectation of brencheese. I
spell as I speak.

I do not know what news to send you. You will
have heard of Alsager's death, and your son John's
success in the Lottery. I say he is a wise man if he
leaves off while he is well. The weather is wet to
weariness ; but Mary goes puddling about a -shopping
after a gown for the winter. She wants it good and
cheap. Now I hold that no good things are cheap, pig-
presents always excepted. In this mournful weather I
sit moping, where I now write, in an office dark as
Erebus, jammed in between four walls, and writing by
Candle-Light, most melancholy. Never see the light of
the sun six hours in the day ; and am surprised to find
how pretty it shines on Sundays. I wish I were a
Caravan driver, or a Penny postman, to earn my bread
in air and sunshine. Such a pedestrian as I am, to be
tied by the legs, like a Fauntleroy, without the pleasure
of his Exactions ! I am interrupted here with an official
question which will take me up till it's time to go to
dinner. So with repeated thanks and both our kindest


remembrances to Mr. Collier and yourself, I conclude
in haste,

Yours and his sincerely, 0. Lamb.

On further enquiry Alsager is not dead ; but Mrs. A.
is bro* to bed.

From my Den in Leadenhall.


Letter CCXLIX.] Leadenhall, November 11, '24.

My dear Procter — I do agnise a shame in not having
been to pay my congratulations to Mrs. Procter and your
happy self, but on Sunday (my only morning) I was
engaged to a country walk ; and in virtue of the hypo-
statical union between us, when Mary calls, it is understood
that I call too, we being univocal.

But indeed I am ill at these ceremonious inductions.
I fancy I was not born with a call on my head, though
I have brought one down upon it with a vengeance. I
love not to pluck that sort of fruit crude, but to stay its
ripening into visits. In probability Mary will be at
Southampton Row this morning, and something of that
kind be matured between you, but in any case not many
hours shall elapse before I shake you by the hand.

Meantime give my kindest felicitations to Mrs. Procter,
and assure her I look forward with the greatest delight
to our acquaintance. By the way, the deuce a bit of
cake has come to hand, which hath an inauspicious look
at first, but I comfort myself that that Mysterious Service
hath the property of Sacramental Bread, which mice
cannot nibble, nor time moulder.

I am married myself to a severe step -wife, who
keeps me, not at bed and board, but at desk and board,
and is jealous of my morning aberrations. I cannot slip



out to congratulate kinder unions. It is well she leaves

me alone o'nights, — the d d Day-hag Business. She

is even now peeping over me to see I am writing no
love letters. I come, my dear — Where is the Indigo
Sale Book 1

Twenty adieus, my dear friends, till we meet.

Yours most truly, 0. Lamb.


Letter CCL.] Desk, November 11, 1824.

My dear Miss Hutchinson — Mary bids me thank you
for your kind letter. We are a little puzzled about your
whereabouts. Miss Wordsworth writes Torkay, and you
have queerly made it Torquay. Now Tokay we have
heard of, and Torbay, which we take to be the true male
spelling of the place ; but somewhere we fancy it to be
on "Devon's leafy shores," where we heartily wish the
kindly breezes may restore all that is invalid among you.
Robinson is returned, and speaks much of you all. We
shall be most glad to hear good news from you from time
to time. The best is, Procter is at last married. We
have made sundry attempts to see the bride, but have
accidentally failed, she being gone out a-gadding. We
had promised our dear friends the Monkhouses — promised
ourselves rather — a visit to them at Eamsgate; but I
thought it best, and Mary seemed to have it at heart too,
not to go far from home these last holydays. It is con-
nected with a sense of unsettlement, and secretly I know
she hoped that such abstinence would be friendly to her
health. She certainly has escaped her sad yearly visita-
tion, whether in consequence of it, or of faith in it, and
we have to be thankful for a good 1824. To get such a
notion into our heads may go a great way another year.
Not that we quite confined ourselves ; but assuming


Islington to be headquarters, we made timid flights to
Ware, Watford, etc., to try how the trouts tasted, for a
night out or so, not long enough to make the sense of
change oppressive, but sufficient to scour the rust of home.
Coleridge is not returned from the sea. As a little scandal
may divert you recluses, we were in the Summer dining
at a clergyman of Southey's "Church of England," at
Hertford, the same who officiated to ThurtelFs last
moments, and indeed an old contemporary Blue of C.'s
and mine at school. After dinner we talked of C. ; and
F., who is a mighty good fellow in the main, but hath
his cassock prejudices, inveighed against the moral
character of C. I endeavoured to enlighten him on
the subject, till having driven him out of some of his
holds, he stopped my mouth at once by appearing to me
whether it was not very well known that C. "at that
very moment was living in a state of open adultery with
Mrs. ****** a t Highgate 1 " Nothing I could say,
serious or bantering, after that, could remove the deep
inrooted conviction of the whole company assembled that
such was the case ! Of course you will keep this quite
close, for I would not involve my poor blundering friend,
who I daresay believed it all thoroughly. My inter-
ference of course was imputed to the goodness of my
heart, that could imagine nothing wrong, etc. Such it
is if ladies will go gadding about with other people's
husbands at watering-places. How careful we should be
to avoid the appearance of evil !

I thought this anecdote might amuse you. It is not
worth resenting seriously ; only I give it as a specimen
of orthodox candour. Southey, Southey, how long
would it be before you would find one of us Unitarians
propagating such unwarrantable scandal ! Providence
keep you all from the foul fiend, scandal, and send you
back well and happy to dear Gloster Place ! C. L.

Miss Hutchinson,

T. Monkhouse, Esq.,

Strand, Torkay, Torbay, Devon.


Letter CCLI.] December 1, 1824.

Dear B. B. — If Mr. Mitford will send me a full and
circumstantial description of his desired vases, I will
transmit the same to a gentleman resident at Canton,
whom I think I have interest enough in to take the
proper care for their execution. But Mr. M. must have
patience. China is a great way off, further perhaps than
he thinks ; and his next year's roses must be content to
wither in a Wedgwood pot. He will please to say
whether he should like his Arms upon them, etc. I send
herewith some patterns which suggest themselves to me
at the first b'lush of the subject, but he will probably
consult his own taste after all.

The last pattern is obviously fitted for ranunculuses
only. The two former may indifferently hold daisies,
marjoram, sweet-williams, and that sort. My friend in
Canton is Inspector of Teas ; his name is Ball ; and I can
think of no better tunnel. I shall expect Mr. M.'s

Taylor and Hessey finding their magazine goes off very
heavily at 2s. 6d. are prudently going to raise their price
another shilling ; and having already more authors than
they want, intend to increase the number of them. If
they set up against the New Monthly they must change
their present hands. It is not tying the dead carcase
of a Review to a half- dead Magazine will do their
business. It is like George Dyer multiplying his volumes


to make 'em sell better. When he finds one will not go
off, he publishes two ; two stick, he tries three ; three hang
fire, he is confident that four will have a better chance.

And now, my dear sir, trifling apart, the gloomy
catastrophe of yesterday morning prompts a sadder
vein. The fate of the unfortunate Fauntleroy makes me,
whether I will or no, to cast reflecting eyes around on
such of my friends as, by a parity of situation, are exposed
to a similarity of temptation. My very style seems to
myself to become more impressive than usual, with the
change of theme. Who that standeth, knoweth but he
may yet fall ? Your hands as yet, I am most willing to
believe, have never deviated into other's property You
think it impossible that you could ever commit so heinous
an offence ; but so thought Fauntleroy once ; so have
thought many besides him, who at last have expiated as
he hath done. You are as yet upright ; but you are a
banker, at least the next thing to it. I feel the delicacy
of the subject ; but cash must pass through your hands,
sometimes to a great amount. If in an unguarded horn-

but I will hope better. Consider the scandal it will

bring upon those of your persuasion. Thousands would
go to see a Quaker hanged, that would be indifferent to
the fate of a Presbyterian or an Anabaptist. Think of
the effect it would have on the sale of your poems alone,
not to mention higher considerations ! I tremble, I am
sure, at myself, when I think that so many poor victims
of the law, at one time of their life, made as sure of never
being hanged, as I in my presumption am too ready to
do myself. What are we better than they 1 Do we come
into the world with different necks ? Is there any dis-
tinctive mark under our left ears 1 Are we unstrangulable,
I ask you? Think of these things. I am shocked
sometimes at the shape of my own fingers, not for their
resemblance to the ape tribe (which is something), but
for the exquisite adaptation of them to the purposes of
picking, fingering, etc. No one that is so framed, I
maintain it, but should tremble. C. L.



Letter CCLIL] 1824.

Dear Coleridge — Why will you make your visits,
which should give pleasure, matter of regret to your
friends 1 You never come but you take away some folio,
that is part of my existence. With a great deal of diffi-
culty I was made to comprehend the extent of my loss.
My maid, Becky, brought me a dirty bit of paper, which
contained her description of some book which Mr.
Coleridge had taken away. It was "Luster's Tables,"
which, for some time, I coidd not make out. " What !
has he carried away any of the tables, Becky V " No, it
wasn't any tables, but it was a book that he called
Luster's Tables." I was obliged to search personally
among my shelves, and a huge fissure suddenly disclosed
to me the true nature of the damage I had sustained.
That book, Coleridge, you should not have taken away,
for it is not mine ; it is the property of a friend, who
does not know its value, nor indeed have I been very
sedulous in explaining to him the estimate of it ; but was
rather contented in giving a sort of corroboration to a
hint that he let fall, as to its being suspected to be not
genuine, so that in all probability it would have fallen to
me as a deodand ; not but I am as sure it is Luther's as I
am sure that Jack Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim's Progress ;
but it was not for me to pronounce upon the validity of
testimony that had been disputed by learneder clerks

Online LibraryCharles LambThe letters of Charles Lamb (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 31)