Charles Lamb.

The life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 1) online

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Of this Editiov in Croiun %vo, ivit/i proofs of t lie portraits
on Japan Vellum, only One htindred and thirty-Jive copies
are issued.



List of Portraits vii

Publishers' Note ix

Editor's Preface xi

Preface to Sketch of Life, &c xix

Lamb's Parentage, Schooldays, and Youth i

Insanity of Mary Lamb. — Early Poetic Effokts 22

Rosamund Gray. — John Woodvil, &c 40

"Mr. H." — Temple Lane. — The " Quautekly Review"

Attack 62

Lamb's Suppers 74

The " London Magazine." — WAiNWKiniir'b Story 89

Visit to Paris. — Elia's Letter to Soutiiey. — Islington 114

New Friends. — Lamb"s Emancipation. — Enfield. — Edmonton. 126

Lamb's Wednesday Nights. — His Companions. — Last Glimpses 149



Lamb's Friends and CoMrANioNS 165

Mart Lamb 2is

Lamb Fullt KNO^vN. — His Character 237



Charles Lamb, AFTER Hancock frontispiece

Mary Lamb face page 222

Coleridge „ „ 304


The present Edition is printed from the stereotype plates of that
originally known as ' Moxon's Edition,' with corrections, additional
letters, and a complete series of portraits of Lamb, from 1798 to l335,
together with that of his sister and of many friends.


In this edition will be found the Life, Letters and
Writings of Charles Lamb, in a fuller and more com-
plete shape than they have yet been presented to the

To write a Life of Lamb might fittingly engage the
most finished pen of our times, and would require
the most delicate touch and the finest critical appre-
ciation. Yet even were such forthcoming, the frag-
mentary Life written by Sir Thomas Talfourd would
still hold its place as the work of one who had been
Lamb's friend and companion, and was himself no
indifferent writer. Though in parts a little inflated,
its polished style will always please readers of taste
while the various painful episodes of Lamb's life
are treated in excellent taste and even with art. The
biographical realism, as it is called, of our time, — a
realism which so largely affects painting and poetry, —
seems to require as great a collection as possible of
interesting and detailed facts. Treated on such
principles the Life of Charles Lamb would leave a
painful impression. Talfourd, his contemporary, was
eminently suited for the task. In his hands all
vulgar associations disappear. His style, too, reflects
the literary tone of his day ; and there is introduced


a Strain of allusion to literary fashions and manners
quite in keeping with the subject of his story. His
carefully studied periods seem to harmonize with
Lamb's almost fastidious style. The Memoir having
thus become a sort of classic, it was essential to
retain it, but under certain conditions now to be ex-

As is well known, it was issued in two portions —
the first, in 1837, under the title of " Letters of
Charles Lamb, with a Sketch of his Life;" the
second, after an interval of eleven years, in 1848,
under that of "Final Memorials of Charles Lamb;
consisting chiefly of his Letters not before published,
with Sketches of some of his Companions.'' The reason
for this delay, it is explained in the Preface, was the
delicate motive of not entering on the tragic side ot
Lamb's life, so long as his sister was alive. Her
death removed the difficulty, while the scruples of
persons who objected to having the letters in their
possession published had given way. The author then
explained that he intended his second portion to be,
not so much a sequel, as a supplement, and that he
was careful not to go over any ground that had been
covered in the first part. He added that he had
wished to combine both parts into one whole, but
that he had forborne " out of consideration for the
purchasers of the early volumes." It will also be gath-
ered from his second Preface that he was not at all
content with the form of his work. Bearing this in
mind, it did not seem improper to do what Talfourd


himself was inclined to have done, viz., combine the
two portions of the Memoir in one, dismissing only
such short paragraphs as had been introduced to
form a framework, or introduction, for the letters.
That these were of no value or interest will be seen at
once ; the following being fairly selected specimens : —
" The next is a short but characteristic letter to
Manning ;" " Here is a specimen of Lamb's criticism
on Southey's poetical communications ;" or such a
passage as : " Lamb then gives an account of his visit
to an exhibition of snakes ; of a frightful vividness
and interesting, as all details of these fascinating
reptiles are, whom we at once loathe and long to look
upon, as the old enemies and tempters of our race."
Further, the letters themselves that were selected by
Talfourd, should in a properly arranged edition of the
works form a separate department, and be placed
with other letters that have since come to light.

Having thus retained the old Memoir, it was easy
to see that in many points of view it was incomplete,
and passed over much that was important. These
defects I have tried to supply by an abundance of
notes, in which have been collected, with at least
diligence, everything important relating to Lamb.
A great deal of what I have added is new, and all I
hope will be found interesting.

Thus much for the Life. The Letters, as is well
known, were edited by Serjeant Talfourd in ac-
cordance with his peculiar views; being cut up,
altered, and dealt with in very summary fashion.


Many of the passages seem to have been suppressed,
for no apparent reason : as, for instance, " A word of
your healths will be richly acceptable ;" " Love and
respects to Edith." Others again are altered as
offending the editor's fastidious taste : such as Lamb's
humorous execrations — " damn him !" being always
changed to " hang him !" or such a sentence as
" gone sick and died and putrified," changed to " was
buried ;" while others, as the " Right Reverend tears
of Earl Nelson," or " Hurra, boys ! down with the
Atheists !" are cautiously omitted. So careful was
the editor, that where a name might be guessed from
the initial, he substituted another, so as not to sup-
press merely, but to send the reader ofif on a wrong
scent. Passages, too, where Lamb reproaches him-
self with little excesses in drink and extravagance,
are also suppressed, such as "wasting away the little
we have, which my wise conduct has already en-
croached on one-half;" and " Last Sunday, ... in-
spired with new rum, I tumbled down and broke my
nose." These are only a few specimens ; for the
whole was carried out in the most thorough fashion.

When some years ago a complete issue of the
Correspondence was prepared, the letters were com-
pared with the originals, and most of the suppressed
passages restored ; while the fragments of letters which
the editor had divided, were brought together. I
should have been glad to have collated them afresh ;
but, unfortunately, the originals have disappeared.

The present edition will be found the most com-


plete that has yet been offered to the public, and is
certainly the first that has claims to being styled
" edited." It contains forty new letters, besides some
twenty more that have been collected from various
sources. Many of these are of a very trifling kind —
mere notelets, as they are called ; but still all are
characteristic, and offer some little turn of thought
which the reader would not like to lose. I have been
able also to discover a number of new pieces —
dramatic criticisms from the Examiner ; unsigned
essays from Hone's Miscellanies ; some fragments,
and many pieces in verse. I must confess to a belief
that in collecting the works of a great writer, some
principle of selection should be observed ; but in
Lamb's case the public seems eager to possess every
scrap that he wrote ; and as the practice has steadily
been observed of printing all that could be obtained
of his work, the present edition might be thought
incomplete if anything were omitted.

To the Essays and other papers notes have been
added, explaining obscure allusions, and illustrating
his life; thus, it is hoped, making these favourites
more interesting still. Here, too, in the proper place,
will be found all those curious variations and sup-
pressed passages, which in some editions have been
arbitrarily " restored," as it is called, in defiance of
the author's wish. These notes are placed at the end
of the volume, so that the reader may consult or pass
them by as he is inclined. In every part I have tried
to work in as reverent a spirit as possible. For the

xvi THE editor's PREFACE.

notes marked F. the editor is responsible ; those un.
signed are by Sir T. Talfourd.

To my friend Mr. John Forster I am indebted for
the twenty-five letters and " notelets," which are now
first published in the Correspondence. To make
the collection of Lamb's Letters complete seems to
be impossible. A whole series addressed to Words-
worth remains unpublished. Each year brings to
light a fresh contribution ; and even, as I write, new
Memoirs are announced, containing new letters. By
the time, however, that this edition shall be com-
pleted, I hope to have arranged that nearly all the
letters in print shall be included. Should this be
found impossible, the locale of such letters will be
indicated, so that the reader may, at least, know
where to look for them.

A very full Index will be found at the end of the
sixth volume. The characteristic Portrait, by Wm.
Hazlitt, was selected by Serjeant Talfourd for his
" Sketch of the Life, &c." It has, therefore, been
adopted for the present edition,

P. V.

London, 37, St. George's Roak.
hovemb'r, 1875.


OK i














Tliese Letters, the Memorials of many years which she spent with the
writer in undivided affection ; of the sorrows and the joys she
stared, of the genius which she cherished, and of the excellences
which she best knew ; are respectfully and affectionately dedicated,
Bv THE Editor.




These Final Memorials of one who cherished his friendship as a
comfort amidst griefs and a glory amidst depressions, are, with
affection and respect, inscribed by one whose pride is to have been
in old time his earnest admirer, and one of whose fondest wishes is
that he may be long spared to enjoy fame, rarely accorded to the



The share of the Editor in these volumes can scarcely
be regarded too slightly. The successive publications
of Lamb's works form almost the only events of his
life M'hich can be recorded ; and upon these criticism
has been nearly exhausted. Little, therefore, was
necessary to accompany the Letters, except such
thread of narrative as might connect them together;
and such explanations as might render their allusions
generally understood. The reader's gratitude for the
pleasure which he will derive from these memorials
of one of the most delightful of English writers is
wholly due to his correspondents, who have kindly
entrusted the precious relics to the care of the Editor,
and have permitted them to be given to the world ;
and to Mr. Moxon, by whose interest and zeal they
have been chiefly collected. He may be allowed to
express his personal sense of the honour he has re-
ceived in such a trust from men, some of whom are
among the greatest of England's living authors, — to
Wordsworth, Southey, Manning, Barton, Procter,
Oilman, Patmore, Walter Wilson, Field, Kobinson,
Dyer, Gary, Ainsworth, to Mr. Green, the executor of


Coleridge, and to the surviving relatives of Hazlitt.
He is also most grateful to Lamb's esteemed school-
fellow, Mr. Le Grice, for supplying an interesting part
of his history. Of the few additional facts of Lamb's
history, the chief have been supplied by Mr. Moxon,
in whose welfare he took a most affectionate interest
to the close of his life ; and who has devoted some
beautiful sonnets to his memory.

The recentness of the period of some of the letters
has rendered it necessary to omit many portions of
them, in which the humour and beauty are interwoven
with personal references, which, although wholly free
from anything which, rightly understood, could give
pain to any human being, touch on subjects too sacred
for public exposure. Some of the personal allusions
which have been retained, may seem, perhaps, too
free to a stranger ; but they have been retained only
in cases in which the Editor is well assured the parties
would be rather gratified than displeased at seeing
their names connected in life-like association with
one so dear to their memories.

The italics and the capitals are invariably those
indicated by the MSS. It is to be regretted that in
the printed letters the reader must lose the curious
varieties of writing with which the originals abound,
and which are scrupulously adapted to the subjects.

Many letters yet remain unpublished, which will
further illustrate the character of Mr, Lamb, but
which must be reserved for a future time, when the
Editor hopes to do more justice to his own sense of


the genius and the excellence of his friend, than it
has been possible for him to accomplish in these

Russell Square, iSth June, 1837.

Preface to "Final Memorials," Lottdon, jfuly, 1848.
— Nearly twelve years have elapsed since the Letters
of Charles Lamb, accompanied by such slight sketch
of his Life as might link them together, and explain
the circumstances to which they refer, were given to
the world. In the Preface to that work, reference was
made to letters yet remaining unpublished, and to a
period when a more complete estimate might be
formed of the singular and delightful character of the
writer than was there presented. That period has
arrived. Several of his friends, who might possibly
have felt a moment's pain at the publication of some
of those effusions of kindness, in which they are
sportively mentioned, have been removed by death ;
and the dismissal of the last, and to him the dearest
of all, his sister, while it has brought to her the re-
pose she sighed for ever since she lost him, has
released his biographer from a difficulty which has
hitherto prevented a due appreciation of some of his
noblest qualities. Her most lamentable, but most
innocent agency in the event which consigned her for
life to his protection, forbade the introduction of any
letter, or allusion to any incident, which might ever,
in the long and dismal twilight of consciousness


which she endured, shock her by the recurrence of
long past and terrible sorrows ; and the same consi-
deration for her induced the suppression of every
passage which referred to the malady with which she
was through life at intervals afflicted. Although her
death had removed the objection to a reference to her
intermittent suffering, it still left a momentous ques-
tion, whether even then, when no relative remained to
be affected by the disclosure, it would be right to un-
veil the dreadful calamity which marked one of its
earliest visitations, and which, though known to most
of those who were intimate with the surviving suf-
ferers, had never been publicly associated with their
history. When, however, I reflected that the truth,
while in no wise affecting the gentle excellence of one
of them, casts new and solemn lights on the character
of the other; that while his frailties have received an
ample share of that indulgence which he extended to
all human weaknesses, their chief exciting cause has
been hidden ; that his moral strength and the extent
of his self-sacrifice have been hitherto unknown to the
world ; I felt that to develope all which is essential to
the just appreciation of his rare excellence, was due
both to him and to the public. While I still hesitated
as to the extent of disclosure needful for this purpose,
my lingering doubts were removed by the appearance
of a full statement of the melancholy event, with all
the details capable of being collected from the news-
papers of the time, in the British Quarterly Review,
and the diffusion of the passage, extracted thence,


through several other journals. After this publica-
tion, no doubt could remain as to the propriety of
publishingthe letters of Lamb on this event, eminently
exalting the characters of himself and his sister, and
enabling the reader to judge of the sacrifice wnich
followed it.

I have also availed myself of the opportunity of
introducing some letters, the objection to publishing
which has been obviated by the same great hea'ier,
Time; andof adding others which I deemed too trivial
for the public eye, when the whole wealth of his letters
lay before me, collected by Mr. Moxon from the dis-
tinguished correspondents of Lamb, who kindly
responded to his request for permission to make the
public sharers in their choice epistolary treasures.
The appreciation which the letters already published,
both in this country and in America — perhaps even
more remarkable in America than in England — have
attained, and the interest which the lightest fragments
of Lamb's correspondence, which have accidentally
appeared in other quarters, have excited, convince me
that some letters which I withheld, as doubting their
worthiness of the public eye, will not now be unwel-
come. There is, indeed, scarcely a note — a notelet —
(as he used to call his very little letters) Lamb ever
wrote, which has not some tinge of that quaint sweet-
ness, some hint of that peculiar union of kindness and
whim which distinguish him from all other poets and
humorists. I do not think the reader will complain
that. — with some very slight exceptions, which per-


sonal considerations still render necessary_I have
made him a partaker of all the epistolary treasures
which the generosity of Lamb's correspondents placed
at Mr. Moxon's disposal.

When I first considered the materials of this work,
I purposed to combine them with a new edition of the
former volumes; but the consideration that such a
course would be unjust to the possessors of those
volumes induced me to present them to the public in
a separate form. In accomplishing that object, I
have felt the difficulty of connecting the letters so as
to render their attendant circumstances intelligible,
without falling into repetition of passages in the pre-
vious biography. My attempt has been to make these
volumes subsidiary to the former, and yet complete in
themselves; but I fear its imperfection will require
much indulgence from the reader. The italics and
capitals used in printmg the letters are always those
of the writer; and the little passages sometimes pre-
fixed to letters, have been printed as in the originals.

In venturing to introduce some notices of Lamb's
deceased companions, I have been impelled partly by
a desire to explain any allusion in the letters which
might be misunderstood by those who are not familiar
with the fine vagaries of Lamb's affection, and partly
by the hope of giving some faint notion of the entire
circle with which Lamb is associated in the recollec-
tion of a few survivors.

T. N. T.



[1775 to 1796.]

Lamb's Parentage, School-days, and Youth.

Charles Lamb was born on loth February,^ i775j in
Crown Office Row,^ in the Inner Temple, where he
spent the first seven years of his Hfe. His parents
were in a humble station, but they were endued with
sentiments and with manners which might well be-
come the gentlest blood ; and fortune, which had
denied them wealth, enabled them to bestow on their
children some of the happiest intellectual advantages
which wealth ever confers. His father, Mr. John
Lamb, who came up a little boy from Lincoln, for-
tunately both for himself and his master, entered into
the service of Mr. Salt, one of the benchers of the
Inner Temple, a widower, who, growing old within

1 In his first edition, Talfourd gives the date as February i8th. — F.

2 " On the ground floor, looking into Inner Temple Lane. ' —
Barron Field, Annual Obituary. — F.



its precincts, was enabled to appreciate and to reward
his devotedness and intelligence ; and to whom he
became, in the language of his son, " his clerk, his
good servant, his dresser, his friend, his flapper, his
guide, stop-watch, auditor, treasurer."^ Although
contented with his lot, and discharging its duties
with the most patient assiduity, he was not without
literary ambition ; and having written some occasional
verses to grace the festivities of a benefit society of
which he was a member, was encouraged by his bro-
ther members to publish, in a thin quarto, " Poetical
Pieces on several occasions." This volume contains
a lively picture of the life of a lady's footman of the
last century; the " History of Joseph," told in well-
measured heroic couplets ; and a pleasant piece, after
the manner of ** Gay's Fables," entitled the " Spar-
row's Wedding," which was the author's favourite,
and which, when he fell into the dotage of age, he
delighted to hear Charles read.^ His wife was a wo-
man of appearance so matronly and commanding,

1 Lamb has given characters of his father (under the name of Lovel),
and of Mr. Salt, in one of the most exquisite of all the Essays of Elia—
"The Old Benchers of the Inner Temple."

2 The following little poem, entitled "A Letter from a Child to its
Grandmother," written by Mr. John Lamb for his eldest son, though
possessing no merit beyond simplicity of expression, may show the
manner in which he endeavoured to discharge his parental duties : —

" Dear Grandam,

Pray to God to bless
Your grandson dear, with happiness;
That, as I do advance each year,
I may be taught my God to fear ;
My little frame from passion free,
To man's estate from infancy j


that, according to the recollection of one of Lamb's
dearest schoolmates, " she might be taken for a sister
of Mrs. Siddons." This excellent couple were blessed
with three children, John, Mary,' and Charles; John
being twelve and Mary ten years older than Charles.
John, who is vividly described in the essay of Elia
entitled " My Relations," under the name of James
Elia, rose to fill a lucrative office in the South Sea
House, and died a few years ago, having to the last
fulfilled the affectionate injunction of Charles, " to
keep the elder brother up in state." Mary (the
Bridget of the same essay) still survives,^ to mourn
the severance of a life-long association, as free from
every alloy of selfishness, as remarkable for moral
beauty, as this world ever witnessed in brother and

On the gth of October, 1782, when Charles Lamb
had attained the age of seven, he was presented to
the school of Christ's Hospital,^ by Timothy Yeates,

From vice, that turns a youth aside.
And to have wrisdom for my g^ide ;
That I may neither lie nor swear.
But in the path of virtue steer;
My actions generous, firm, and just,
Be always faithful to my trust;
And thee the Lord will ever bless.
Your grandson dear,

John L , the Less."

1 Mary-Anne was, properly speaking, her name. — F.

2 Written in 1837. — F.

3 Mr. Salt's interest was enough to secure this valuable privilege,
though, as Talfourd says, he was presented by Timothy Yeates, one of
the Governors of the Hospital. Lamb himselt says the " Governor" who
presented him resided " under the paternal roof," clearly pointing to
Mr. Salt. The latter probably exerted his interest with Yeates. He

B 2


Governor, as " the son of John Lamb, scrivener, and
Elizabeth his wife," and remained a scholar of that
noble establishment till he had entered into his fif-
teenth year.^

was admitted in a committee, on July 17th, 1782, " by a bond entered
into by Samuel Salt, of the Inner Temple, London, Esquire." A pe-
tition had been sent in from his fatlier, who set forth " that he had a

Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 33)