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The life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) online

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V. ^







List of Portraits xii


Gut Faux I

Biographical Memoir of Mr. Liston 12

Autobiography of Mr. Munden 22

Unitarian Protests 26

Letter to an Old Gentleman 32

The Last Peach 40

Reflections in the Pillory 43

A Vision of Horns 48

On The Ambiguities arising from Proper Names .... 55

On the Custom of Hissing at the Theatres 57

Ella to His Correspondents 66

Letter of Elia to R S Esq 6«,

The Good Clerk, a Character 87


Captain Starket 95

In re Squirrels 100

The Ass 102

The Months 106

Sir Jeffery Donstan 112

The Humble Petition of an Unfortunate Day 115

Remarkable Correspondent 117

Mrs. Gilpin Riding to Edmonton . . . i 119

The Beadle m

a 2



The Illustrious Defunct -, 123

Reminiscences of Juke Judkjns, Esq 13a

A Popular Fallacy 141

The Religion of Actors 144

Charles Lamb's Autobiography' 148

The Death of Munden 150

Table Talk 153

Thoughts on Presents of Game, &c 162

Recollections of a Late Royal Academician 165

Saturday Night . ^ 174

Original Letter of James Thomson 177

Criticism on a Friend's MS 182

Appeal for Godwin 1 84

RiTsoN 'versus John Scott the Quaker 185

Fragments 196


Olympic Theatre 203

Miss Kelly at Bath 206

" The Jovial Crew "' 209

" The Hypocrite " 211

New Pieces at the Lyceum 214


Falstaff's Letters 217

NuG« Canor.'e 223

First Fruits of Australian Poetry 225

Review of Wordsworth's " Excursion " 228

On the 'Secondary Novels of Di;roE 239

The Reynolds Gallery 243



Dedication to Samuel Taylor Coler:dce 150



The Wife's Trial 253

The Witch ^^5


To Miss Kelly 288

On Sight of Swans in Kensington Gardens 289

The Family Name . : 291

To John Lamb, Esq 293

Harmony in Unlikeness 294

Written at Cambridge 295

To a Celebrated Female Performer in the "Blind

Boy" 296

Work 296

Leisure 297

To Samuel Rogers, Esq 298

The Gipsy's Malison 29^

To Martin Charles Burney 299

To Mrs. Siddons 3°°

To Mary Lamb 3°°


Childhood 3°^

The Grandame 3°^

The Sabbath Bells 3°3

Fancy Employed on Divine Subjects 303

Composed at Midnight 3°4

On His Mother 3°^

Written on the Day of My Aunt's Funeral 307

Written a Twelvemonth after the Events 308

Written on Christmas Day, 1797 3^°

After a Visit to Lloyd 3 ' ^

To the Poet Cowper, 1796 3'*

LiviNj without God in the World 3'3




Dedication 315


In the Autograph or Mrs. Sergeant W 316

To Dora W ^ 317

In the Album of a Clergyman's Ladt 317

„ Edith S 318

,. Rotha Q ,... ^18

„ Catherine Orkney 319

„ Lucy Barton 320

„ Mrs. Jane Towers 321

„ Miss 322

In My Own Album 322

For the Album of Miss , French Teacher at

Mrs. Gibson's School, Enfielo 323

Lines Written in a Copy of "John Woodvil," 1802. 324

To M. I F 325

For the " Table Book " 326

In the Album of a Very Young Lady 326

,, ,, Miss Daubeny ,.. 327

To Emma Isola 328

On Beung asked to write in Miss Westwood's Album.. 328


To Caroline Marla Api'lebee 330

To Cecilia Catherine Lawton 331

To A Lady who desired Me to write her Epitaph .. . 332

To Her Youngest Daughter 332

To M. L 333

To S. L , 333

To Mrs F., on Her Return from Gibraltar 334

To E. F 334




To J. S. Knowles, Esq 335

To THE Author of Poems 336

To THE Editor of the " Every-Day Book" 337

To T. Stothard, Esq 338

To My Friend the Indicator 339


The Ballad Singers 340

To David Cook 342

On a Sepulchral Statue of an Infant Sleeping .... 344

Epitaph on a Dog 344

The Rival Bells 346

Newton's Principia 346

The Housekeeper 347

On a Deaf and Dumb Artist 347

The Female Orators 348

Existence, Considered in Itself no Blessing 349

The Parting Speech of the Celestial Messenger to

the Poet 351

Hercules Pacificatus 352


Hester 357

The Three Friends 358

To A River in which a Child was Drowned 365

To Old Famillar Faces 365

A Vision of Repentance 367

Helen 370

Dialogue Between a Mother and Child 371

Queen Oriana's Dream 371

A Ballad 373

Hypochondriacus 374

A Farewell to Tobacco 376



To T. L. H 380

Ballad * 3 ^ ^

David in the Cave of Adullam 383

Salome 3^4

Lines Suggested bt a Picture by Lionardo da Vinci.. 386

Lines on the same Picture removed 387

Liwes on the celebrated Picture bv Lionardo da

Vinci, called the Virgin of the Rocks 387

On the Same 388

Pindaric Ode to the Tread-Mill 389

Going or Gone 392

Angel Help 395

On an Infant DyiNC as soon as Born 396

The Christening 398

The Young Cateciust 400

To a Young Friend 401

To the Same 402

She is Going 4°2

To a Friend on His Marriage 403

The Tomb of Douglas 405

To Charles Lloyd 407

The Self-Enchanted 408

To Louisa M 409

Epitaph upon a Young Lady 409

To Bernard Barton 410

Fragment 411

To Clara N 412

To Margaret W 41 S

In tabulum eximh fictoris R. B. Haydoni 414

Translation of the above 414

To C. Aders, Esq 415


Prologue tc "Antonio" 417



Prologue to Coleridge's TRAGhDv on Remor>e 419

Epilogue to " The Wife 4^1


To Sir James Mackintosh 4^5

Written in a Copy of " Coslebs '' 425

CuiQUE SuuM 426

The Triumph of the Wr.\le 426

To William Ayrton, Esq 4-^

The Three Graves 43 ^

The Godlike .- 4J*

On a Projected Journey 433

On a Late Empiric of " Balmy " Memory 433

The Unbej.oved 433

Epigram 434

Sonnet to Matthew Wood, Esq 434

Song for the C n 435

Lines on Waltham Cross 435

Saint Crispin to Mr. Gifford 43^

Nonsense Verses 3^4

To the Editor 437

The Ape 43^

" One Dip" 439

Satan in Search of a Wife 44^


S0N,\ ET 45 5

A Birthday Thought 455

To Sarah and Her Samuel 45 ^




Lamb, after Gary frontispiece

„ „ Maclise face pa^e 148

Mrs. SiDDONS „ „ 3°°





A VERY ingenious and subtle writer, whom there is
good reason for suspecting to be an Ex-Jesuit, not
unknown at Douay some five-and-twenty years since,

(he will not obtrude himself at M th again in a

hurry,) about a twelvemonth back set himself to prove
the character of the Powder Plot conspirators to have
been that of heroic self-devotedness and true Christian
martyrdom. Under the mask of Protestant candour
he actually gained admission for his treatise into a
London weekly paper, not particularly distinguished
for its zeal towards either religion. But, admitting
Catholic principles, his arguments are shrewd and
incontrovertible. He says —

Guy Faux was a fanatic, but he wts ho hypocrite. He ranks amcuig

2 GUY Faux.

good haters. He was cruel, bloody-minded, reckless of all considera-
tions but those of an infuriated and bigoted faith ; but he was a true
son of the Catholic Church, a martyr and a confessor, for all that. He
who can prevail upon himself to devote his life for a cause, however
we may condemn his opinions or abhor his actions, vouches at least for
the honesty of his principles and the disinterestedness of his motives.
He may be guilty of the worst practices, but he is capable of the
greatest. He is no longer a slare, but free. The contempt of death
is the beginning of virtue. The hero of the Gunpowder Plot was, if
you will, a fool, a madman, an assassin ; call him what names you
please ; still he was neither knave nor coward. He did not propose to
ilow up the Parliament and come off, scot-free, himself; he showed
that he valued his own life no more than theirs in such a cause — where
the integrity of the Catholic faith and the salvation of perhaps millions
of souls was at stake. He did not call it a murder, but a sacrifice
which he was about to achieve : he was armed with the Holy Spirit
and with fire : he was the Church's chosen servant and her blessed
martyr. He comforted himself as " the best of cut-throats." How
many wretches are there that would have undertaken to do what he
intended for a sum of money, if they could have got off with impunity !
How few are there who would have put themselves in Guy Faux's
situation to save the universe ! Yet in the latter case we affect to be
thrown into greater consternation than at the most unredeemed acts of
villainy, as if the absolute disinterestedness of the motive doubled the
horror of the deed ! The cowardice and selfishness of mankind are in
fact shocked at the consequences to themselves, (if such examples are
held up for imitation,) and they make a fearful outcry against the
violation of every principle of morality, lest they too should be called
on for any such tremendous sacrifices, lest they in their turn should
have to go on the forlorn hope of extra-official duty. Chanty begins
at home, is a maxim that prevails as well in the courts of conscience
as in those of prudence. We would be thought to shudder at the con-
sequences of crime to others, while we tremble for them to ourselves.
We talk of the dark and cowardly assassin ; and this is well, when an
individual shrinks from the face of an enemy, and purchases his own
safety by striking a blow in the dark : but how the charge of cowardly
can be applied to the public assassin, who, in the very act of destroying
another, lays down his life as the pledge and forfeit of his sincerity and
boldness, I am at a loss to devise. There may be barbarous prejudice,
rooted hatred, unprincipled treachery, in such an act ; but he who
resolves to take all the danger and odium upon himself, can no more be



branded with cowardice than Regulus devoting himself for his country,
or Codrus leaping into the fiery gulf. A wily Father Inquisitor, coolly
and with plenary authority condemning hundreds of helpless, unoffend-
ing victims, to the flames or to the horrors of a living tomb, while he
himself would not suffer a hair of his head to be hurt, is to me a
character without any qualifying trait in it. Again : the Spanish con-
queror and hero, the favourite of his monarch, who enticed thirty
thousand poor Mexicans into a large open building, under promise of
strict faith and cordial good-will, and then set fire to it, making sport
of the cries and agonies of these deluded creatures, is an instance of
uniting the most hardened cruelty with the most heartless selfishness.
His plea was keeping no faith with heretics: this was Guy Faux's too;
but I am sure at least that the latter kept faith with himself : he was
in earnest in his professions. His was not gay, wanton, unfeeling
depravity ; he did not murder in sport ; it was serious work that he
had taken in hand. To see this arch-bigot, this heart-whole traitor, this
pale miner in the infernal regions, skulking in his retreat with his cloak
and dark lantern, moving cautiously about among his barrels of gun-
powder loaded with death, but not yet ripe for destruction, regardless
of the lives of others, and more than indifferent to his own, presents
a picture of the strange infatuation of the human understanding, but
not of the depravity of the human will, without an equal. There
were thousands of pious Papists privy to and ready to applaud the
deed when done : there was no one but our old fifth-of-November
friend, who still flutters in rags and straw on the occasion, that had
the courage to attempt it. In him stern duty and unshaken faith pre-
vailed over natural frailty.

It is impossible, upon Catholic principles, not to
admit the force of this reasoning ; we can only not
help smiling (with the writer) at the simplicity of the
gulled editor, swallowing the dregs of Loyola for the
very quintessence of sublimated reason in England
at the commencement of the nineteenth century.
We will just, as a contrast, show what we Protest-
ants (who are a party concerned) thought upon the
same subject, at a period rather nearer to the heroic
project in question.

The Gunpowder Treason was the subject which


called forth the earliest specimen which is left us of
the pulpit eloquence of Jeremy Taylor. When he
preached the Sermon on that anniversary, which is
printed at the end of the folio edition of his Sermons,
he was' a young man just commencing his ministry,
under the auspices of Archbishop Laud. From the
learning, and maturest oratory, which it manifests,
one should rather have conjectured it to have pro-
ceeded from the same person after he was ripened by
time into a Bishop and Father of the Church. —
" And, really, these Romano-harbari could never pre-
tend to any precedent for an act so barbarous as
theirs. Adramelech, indeed, killed a king, but he
spared the people ; Haman would have killed the
people, but spared the king; but that both king and
people, princes and judges, branch and rush and root,
should die at once, (as if Caligula's wish were actuated,
and all England upon one head,) was never known
till now, that all the malice of the world met in this
as in a centre. The Sicilian even-song, the matins
of St. Bartholomew, known for the pitiless and
damned massacres, were but kclttvov aKLa<i ovap, the
dream of the shadow of smoke, if compared with
this great fire. In tarn occupato scecula fahulas
V7ilgares nequitia non invenit. This was a busy age ;
Herostratus must have invented a more sublimed
malice than the burning of one temple, or not have
been so much as spoke of since the discovery of the
powder treason. But I must make more haste, I
t.hall not else climb the sublimity of this impiety.
Nero was sometimes the populare odium, was popu-
larly hated, and deserved it too, for he slew his
master, and his wife, and all his family, once or twice
over, — opened his mother's womb, — fired the city.


laughed at it, slandered the Christians for it ; but yet
all these were but principia malorum, the very first
rudiments of evil. Add, then, to these, Herod's
master-piece at Ramah, as it was deciphered by the
tears and sad threnes of the matrons in an universal
mourning for the loss of their pretty infants ; yet this
of Herod will prove but an infant wickedness, and
that of Nero the evil but of one city. I would
willingly have found out an example, but see I
cannot ; should I put into the scale the extract of all
the old tyrants famous in antique stories, —

Bistonii stabulum regis, Busiridis aras,
Aiitiphatz mensas, et Taurica regna Thoantis ; —

should I take for true story the highest cruelty as it
was fancied by the most hieroglyphical Egyptian,
this alone would weigh them down, as if the Alps
were put in scale against the dust of a balance. For
had this accursed treason prospered, we should have
had the whole kingdom mourn for the inestimable
loss of its chiefest glory, its life, its present joy, and
all its very hopes for the future. For such was their
destined malice, that they would not only have in-
flicted so cruel a blow, but have made it incurable,
by cutting off our supplies of joy, the whole succes-
sion of the Line Royal. Not only the vine itself, but
all the gemnmlce, and the tender olive branches, should
either have been bent to their intentions, and made tc
grow crooked, or else been broken.

"And now, after such a sublimity of malice, I will
not instance in the sacrilegious ruin of the neigh-
bouring temples, which needs must have perished in
the flame, — nor in the disturbing the ashes of cur
intombed kings, devouring their dead ruins like sepul-


chral dogs, — these are but minutes, in respect of the
ruin prepared for the living temples : —

Stragem sed istam non tiilit

Christus cadentum Princiinim

Impune, ne forsan sui

Patris periret fabrica.
Ergo qu2 poterit lingua retexere
Laudes, Christe, tuas, qui domitum struts
Infidum populum cum Duce perfido!"

In such Strains of eloquent indignation did Jeremy
Taylor's young oratory inveigh against that stupen-
dous attempt, vv^hich he truly says had no parallel
in ancient or modern times. A century and a half of
European crimes has elapsed since he made the
assertion, and his position remains in its strength.
He wrote near the time in which the nefarious project
had like to have been completed. Men's minds still
were shuddering from the recentness of the escape.
It must have been within his memory, or have been
sounded in his ears so young by his parents, that he
would seem, in his maturer years, to have remem-
bered it. No wonder then that he describes it in
words that burn. But to us, to whom the tradition
has come slowly down, and has had time to cool, the
story of Guide Vaux, sounds rather like a tale, a fable,
and an invention, than true history. It supposes
such gigantic audacity of daring, combined with such
more than infantile stupidity in the motive, — such a
combination of the fiend and the monkey, — that
credulity is almost swallowed up in contemplating
the singularity of the attempt. It has accordingly,
in some degree, shared the fate of fiction. It is
familiarized to us in a kind of serio-ludicrous way,
like the story of Guy of Warwick, or Valenthie and


Orson. The way which we take to perpetuate the
memory of this deHverance is well adapted to keep
up this fabular notion. Boys go about the streets
annually with a beggarly scarecrow dressed up, which
is to be burnt, indeed, at night, with holy zeal ; but,
meantime, they beg a penny for poor Guy : this
periodical petition, which we have heard from our
infancy, — combined with the dress and appearance of
the effigy, so well calculated to move compassion, —
has the effect of quite removing from our fancy the
horrid circumstances of the story which is thus com-
memorated ; and in poor Guy vainly should we try to
recognize any of the features of that tremendous
madman in iniquity, Guido Vaux, with his horrid
crew of accomplices, that sought to emulate earth-
quakes and bursting volcanoes in their more than
mortal mischief.

Indeed, the whole ceremony of burning Guy Faux,
or the Pope, as he is indifferently called, is a sort of
Treason Travestle, and admirably adapted to lower
our feelings upon this memorable subject. The
printers of the little duodecimo Prayer Book, printed
by T. Baskett,^ in 1749, which has the effigy of his
sacred Majesty George II. piously prefixed, have
illustrated the service (a very fine one in itself) which
is appointed for the Anniversary of this Day, with a
print, which it is not very easy to describe, but the
contents appear to be these : — The scene is a room,

1 The same, I presume, upon whom the clergyman in the song of
rhe Vicar and Moses, not without judgment, passes this memorabla
censure —

Here, Moses, the King: —
'Tis a scandalous thing
That this Baskett should print for the Crown.


I conjecture, in the king's palace. Two persons —
one of whom I take to be James himself, from his
wearing his hat while the other stands bareheaded —
are intently surveying a sort of speculum, or magic
mirror, which stands upon a pedestal in the midst of
the room, in which a little figure of Guy Faux with
his dark lantern approaching the door of the Parlia-
ment House is made discernible by the light proceed-
ing from a great eye which shines in from the topmost
corner of the apartment, by which eye the pious artist
no doubt meant to designate Providence. On the
other side of the mirror, is a figure doing something,
which puzzled me when a child, and continues to
puzzle me now. The best I can make of it is, that it
is a conspirator busy laying the train ; but then, why
is he represented in the king's chamber? — Conjecture
upon so fantastical a design is vain, and I only notice
the print as being one of the earliest graphic repre-
sentations which woke my childhood into wonder,
and doubtless combined with the mummery before
mentioned, to take off the edge of that horror which
the naked historical mention of Guido's conspiracy
could not have failed of exciting.

Now that so many years are past since that abomi-
nable machination was happily frustrated, it will not,
I hope, be considered a profane sporting with the
subject, if we take no very serious survey of the con-
sequences that would have flowed from this plot if it
had had a successful issue. The first thing that
strikes us, in a selfish point of view, is the material
change which it must have produced in the course of
the nobility. All the ancient peerage being extin-
guished, as it was intended, at one blow, the Red-
Book must have been closed for ever, or a new race


of peers must have been created to supply the defi-
ciency ; as the first part of this dilemma is a deal
too shocking to think of, what a fund of mouth-
watering reflections does this give rise to in the
breast of us plebeians of a.d, 1823. Why you or I,

reader, might have been Duke of , or Earl

of : I particularise no titles, to avoid the least

suspicion of intention to usurp the dignities of the
two noblemen whom I have in my eye: — but a feeling
more dignified than envy sometimes excites a sigh,
when I think how the posterity of Guido's Legion of
Honour (among whom you or I might have been)
might have rolled down " dulcified," as Burke ex-
presses it, " by an exposure to the influence of heaven
in a long flow of generations, from the hard, acidu-
lous, metallic tincture of the spring."^ What nev/
orders of merit, think you, this English Napoleon
would have chosen ? Knights of the Barrel, or Lords
of the Tub, Grand Almoners of the Cellar, or Ministers
of Explosion. We should have given the Train
couchant, and the Fire rampant in our arms ; we
should have quartered the dozen white matches in
our coats ; — the Shallows would have been nothing
to us.

Turning away from these mortifying reflections,
let us contemplate its effects upon the other house,
for they were all to have gone together, — King,
Lords, Commons

To assist our imagination, let us take leave to sup-
pose — and we do it in the harmless wantonness of
fancy — to suppose that the tremendous explosion
had taken place in our days ; — we better know what

^ Letter to a Noble Lord.


a House of Commons is in our days, and can better
estimate our loss ; — let us imagine, then, to ourselves,
the United Members sitting in full conclave above —
Faux just ready w^ith his train and matches below;
in his hand a " reed tipt w^ith fire" — he applies the
fatal engine

To assist our notions still further, let us suppose
some lucky dog of a reporter, who had escaped by
miracle upon some plank of St. Stephen's benches,
and came plump upon the roof of the adjacent Abbey,
from whence descending, at some neighbouring
coffee-house, first wiping his clothes and calling for
a glass of lemonade, he sits down and reports what
he had heard and seen (quorum pars magna fuit) for
the Morning Post or the Cotirier, — we can scarcely
imagine him describing the event in any other words
but some such as these : —

" A Motion was put and carried, That this House
do adjourn : That the Speaker do quit the Chair. The
House ROSE amid clamours for Order."

In some such way the event might most technically
have been conveyed to the public. But a poetical
mind, not content with this dry method of narration,
cannot help pursuing the effects of this tremendous
blowing up, this adjournment in the air sine die. It
sees the benches mount, — the Chair first, and then
the benches, and first the Treasury Bench, hurried
up in this nitrous explosion ; the Members, as it
were, pairing off ; Whigs and Tories taking their
friendly apotheosis together, (as they did their sand-
wiches below in Bellamy's room). Fancy, in her
flight, keeps pace with the aspiring legislators, she
sees the awful seat of order mounting till it becomes
finally fixed a constellation, next to Cassiopeia's


chair, — the wig of him that sat in it taking its place
near Berenice's curls. St. Peter, at Heaven's wicket,
— no, not St. Peter, — St. Stephen, with open arms,

Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 1 of 29)