Copyright
Charles Lamb.

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

. (page 15 of 29)
Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 15 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


We did not know Mrs. Chatterly's merits before ;
she plays, with downright sterling good acting, a



CRITICISMS. 215

prude who is to be convinced out of her prudery by
Miss Kelly's (we did not catch her stage name)
assumption of the dress and character of a brother of
seventeen, who makes the prettiest unalarming pla-
tonic approaches ; and in the shyest mark of moral
battery, no one step of which you can detect, or say
this is decidedly going too far, vanquishes at last the
ice of her scruples, brings her into an infinite scrape,
and then with her own infinite good humour sets all
to right, and brings her safe out of it again with an
explanation. Mrs. Chatterly's embarrassments were
masterly. Miss Stevenson her maid's start at sur-
prising a youth in her mistress's closet at midnight,
was quite as good. Miss Kelly we do not care to say
anything about, because we have been accused of
flattering her. The truth is, this lady puts so much
intelligence and good sense into every part which she
plays, that there is no expressing an honest sense of
her merits, without incurring a suspicion of that sort.
But what have we to gain by praising Miss Kelly ?

Altogether, this little feminine republic, this pro-
voking experiment, went off most smoothly. What a
nice world it would be, we sometimes think, all women !
but then we are afraid, we slip in a fallacy unawares
intcf the hypothesis ; we somehow edge in the idea
of ourselves as spectators or something among them.

We saw Wilkinson after it in Walk for a Wager.
What a picture of forlorn hope ! of abject orphan
destitution ! he seems to have no friends in the world
but his legs, and he plies them accordingly. He goes
walking on like a perpetual motion. His continual
ambulatory presence performs the part of a Greek
chorus. He is the walking gentleman of the piece ;
a peripatetic that would make a stoic laugh. He



ai6 CRITICISMS.

made us cry. His Muffincap in Amateurs and Actors
is just such another piece of acting. We have seen
charity boys, both of St. Clement's and Farringdon
Without, looking just as old, ground down out of all
semblance of youth, by abject and hopeless neglect —
you cannot guess their age between fifteen and fifty.
If Mr, Peake is the author of these pieces, he has no
reason to be piqued at their reception.

We must apologise for an oversight in our last
week's article. The allusion made to Mr. Kean's
acting of Luke in the City Madatn was totally in-
applicable to the part and to the play. We were
thinking of his performance of the concluding scenes
of The New Way to Pay Old Debts. We confounded
one of Massinger's strange heroes with the other. It
was Sir Giles Overreach we meant ; nor are we sure
that our remark was just, even with this explanation.
When we consider the intense tone in which Mr. Kean
thinks it proper (and he is quite as likely to be in the
right as his blundering critic) to pitch the tempera-
ment of that monstrous character from the beginning,
it follows but logically and naturally, that where the
wild uncontrollable man comes to be baffled of his
purpose, his passion should assume a frenzied manner,
which it was altogether absurd to expect should be the
same with the manner of the cautious and self-re-
straining Cantwell, even when he breaks loose from
all bonds in the agony of his final exposure. We
never felt more strongly the good sense of the saying
— comparisons are odious. They betray us not seldom
into bitter errors of judgment ; and sometimes, as
in the present instance, into absolute matter-of-fact
blunders. But we have recanted.

yiug. 1819.



REVIEWS



1.— FALSTAFF'S LETTERS.

" Original Letters, S'C, of Sir John Falstaff and
his Friends ; now first made public by a Gentleman, a
descendant of Dame Quickly, from genuine MSS. which
have been in the possession of the Quickly Family near
four hundred years." London, Robinsons, 1796.

A COPY of this work sold at the Roxburgh Sale, for
five guineas. We have both before and since that
time picked it up at stalls for eighteen pence. Reader,
if you shall ever light upon a copy in the same way,
we counsel you to buy it. We are deceived if there
be not in it much of the true Shakspearean stuff. We
present you with a few of the Letters, which may
speak for themselves : —

FALSTAFF TO THE PRINCE.

" I pr'ythee, Hal, lend me thy 'kerchief. An thy
unkindness have not started more salt gouts down my
poor old cheek, than my good rapier hath of blood
from foemen's gashes in five and thirty years' service,
then am I a very senseless mummy. I squander
away in drinkings monies belonging to the soldiery!
I do deny it — they have had part — the surplus is gone
in charity — accuse the parish officers — make them
restore — the whoreson warders do now put on the
cloak of supplication at the church doors, intercepting
gentlemen for charity, forsooth ! — 'Tis a robbery, a



2i8 falstaff's letters.

villainous robbery ! to come upon a gentleman reeking
with piety, God's book in his hand, brimfull of sacra-
ments ! Thou knowest, Hal, as I am but man, I
dare in some sort leer at the plate and pass, but as I
have the body and blood of Christ within me, could I
do it? An I did not make an oblation of a matter of
ten pound after the battle of Shrewsbury, in humble
gratitude for thy safety, Hal, then am I the veriest
transgressor denounced in God's code. But I'll see
them damned ere I'll be charitable again. Let 'em
coin the plate — let them coin the holy chalice."

THE SAME TO THE SAME.

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! And dost thou think I would not
offer up ten pound for thee ? yea, a hundred more —
but take heed of displeasing in thy sacrifice. Cain
did bring a kid, yea, a firstling upon the altar, and the
blaze ascended not. Abel did gather simple herbs,
penny-royal, Hal, and mustard, a fourpenny matter,
and the odour was grateful. I had ten pound for the
holy offertory — mine ancient Pistol doth know it — but
the angel did arrest my hand. Could I go beyond the
word ? — the angel which did stretch forth his finger,
lest the good patriarch should slay his son. — That
Ned Poins hath more colours than a jay, more abuse
than a taught pie, and for wit — the cuckow's dam may
be Fool of the Court to him. I lie down at Shrews-
bury out of base fear! I melt into roods, acres, and
poles! I tell thee what, Hal, there's not a subject in
the land hath half my temperance of valour. Did I
not see thee combating the man-queller, Hotspur :
yea, in peril of subduement ? Was it for me to lose
my sweet Hal without a thrust, having my rapier, my



FALSiTAFF'S LETTERS. 219

habergion, my good self about me ? I did lie down in
the hope of sherking him in the rib — four drummers
and a fifer did help me to the ground : — didst thou not
mark how I did leer upon thee from beneath my
buckler ? That Poins hath more scurrility than is in
an whole flock of disquieted geese.

" For the rebels I did conceal, thou should'st give
me laud. I did think thou wert already encompassed
with more enemies than the resources of men could
prevent overwhelming thee : yea, that thou wert the
dove on the waters of Ararat, and didst lack a resting-
place. Was it for me to heap to thy manifold dis-
quiets ? Was it for me to fret thee with the advice of
more enemies than thou didst already know of? I
could not take their lives, and therefore did I take
their monies. I did fine them, lest they should scape,
Hal, thou dost understand me, without chastisement;
yea, I fined them for a punishment. They did make
oath on the point of my sword to be true men : — and
the rogues forswore themselves, and joined the Welch-
man, let them look to it — 'tis no 'peachment of my
virtue."

AGAIN.

" Oh 1 I am setting on a nest of the most unfledged
cuckows that ever brooded under the wing of a hawk.
Thou must know, Hal, I had note of a good hale
recruit or two in this neighbourhood. In other shape
came I not ; look to it. Master Shallow, that in other
shape I depart not. But I know thou art ever all
desire to be admitted a Fellow Commoner in a jest.
Robert Shallow, Esq., judgeth the hamlet of Cotswold.
Doth not the name of judge horribly chill thee ? With
Aaron's rod in his hand he hath the white beard of



220 FALSIAFFS LETTERS.

Moses on his chin. In good sooth his perpetual
countenance is not unlike what thou wouldst conceit
of the momentary one of the lunatic Jew, when he
tumbled God's tables from the mount. He hath a
quick busy gait — more of his upright Judge (perpen-
dicular as a pikeman's weapon, Hal) anon. I would
dispatch with these Bardolph ; but the knave's hands
— (I cry thee mercy) his mouth is full in preventing
desertion among my recruits. An every liver among
them haven't stood me in three and forty shilling,
then am I a naughty escheator. I tell thee what,
Hal, I'd fight against my conscience for never a Prince
in Christendom but thee. — Oh ! this is a most damn-
able cause, and the rogues know it — they'll drink
nothing but sack of three and twopence a gallon ; and
I enlist me none but tall puissant fellows that would
quaff me up Fleet-ditch, were it filled with sack —
picked men, Hal — such as will shake my Lord of
York's mitre. I pray thee, sweet lad, make speed —
thou shalt see glorious deeds."



How say you, reader, do not these inventions smack
of Eastcheap ? Are they not nimble, forgetive,
evasive ? Is not the humour of them elaborate,
cogitabund, fanciful ? Carry they not the true image
and superscription of the father which begat them ?
Are they not steeped all over in character — subtle,
profound, unctuous? Is not here the very efiigies of
tlie Knight ? Could a counterfeit Jack Falstaff come
by these conceits ? Or are you, reader, one who
delights to drench his mirth in tears ? You are, or
peradventure have been, a lover ; a " dismissed



FALSTAFF S LETTERS. 221

bachelor," perchance, one that is lass-lorn. Come,
then, and weep over the dying bed of such a one as
thyself. Weep with us the death of poor Abraham
Slender.

DAVY TO SHALLOW.

" Master Abram is dead, gone, your Worship,,
dead ! Master Abram ! Oh ! good your Worship,
a's gone. A' never throve, since a' came from
Windsor — 'twas his death. I called him rebel, your
Worship, but a' was all subject — a' was subject to any
babe, as much as a King — a' turned, like as it were
the latter end of a lover's lute — a' was all peace and
resignment — a' took delight in nothing but his Book
of Songs and Sonnets — a' would go to the Stroud side
under the large beech tree, and sing, 'till 'twas quite
pity of our lives to mark him ; for his chin grew as
long as a muscle. Oh ! a' sung his soul and body
quite away — a' was lank as any greyhound, and had
such a scent ! I hid his love-songs among your
Worship's law-books : for I thought, if a' could not
get at them, it might be to his quiet ; but a' snuffed
them out in a moment. Good, your Worship, have
the wise woman of Brentford secured — Master Abram
may have been conjured — Peter Simple says, a' never
looked up after a' sent for the wise woman. Marry,
a' was always given to look down afore his elders;
a' might do it, a' was given to it — your Worship
knows it ; but then 'twas peak and pert with him,
marry, in the turn of his heel. A' died, your Wor-
ship, just about one, at the crow of the cock. I
thought how it was with him ; for a' talked as quick,.
ay, marry, as glib as your Worship ; and a' smiled,.



222 FALSTAFFS LETTERS.

and looked at his own nose, and called ' Sweet Ann
Page.' I asked him if a' would eat — so a' bade us
commend him to his cousin Robert (a' never called
your Worship so before), and bade us get hot meat,
for a' would not say 'nay' to Ann again. But a'
never lived to touch it — a' began all in a f moment
to sing ' Lovers all, a Madrigall.' 'Twas the only
song Master Abram ever learnt out of book, and
clean by heart, your Worship — and so a' sung and
smiled, and looked askew at his own nose, and
sung, and sung on, till his breath waxed shorter,
and shorter, and shorter, and a' fell into a struggle
and died. Alice Shortcake craves she may make his
shroud.



Should these specimens fail to rouse your curiosity
to see the whole, it may be to your loss, gentle reader,
but it will give small pain to the spirit of him that
wrote this little book: my fine-tempered friend, J. W.
— for not in authorship, or the spirit of authorship,
but from the fulneate of a young soul, newly kindling
at the Shakspearean flame, and bursting to be
delivered of a rich exuberance of conceits, — I had
almost said kindred with those of the full Shak-
spearean genius itself — were these letters dictated.
We remember when the inspiration came upon him ;
when the plays of Henry the Fourth were first put
into his hands. We think at our recommendation he
read them, rather late in life, though still he was but
a youth. He may have forgotten, but we cannot, the
pleasant evenings which ensued at the Boar's Head
(as we called our tavern, though in reality the sign
was not that, nor the street Ea«tcheap ; for that



NUG^ CANORiE. 223

honoured place of resort has long since passed away),
when over our pottle of sherris he would talk you
nothing but pure Falstaff the long evenings through.
Like his, the wit of J. W. was deep, recondite, imagi-
native, full of goodly figures and fancies. Those
evenings have long since passed away, and nothing
comparable to them has come in their stead, or can
come. *' We have heard the chimes at midnight."



2.— NUG^ CANOR^. -POEMS BY CHARLES

LLOYD.

The reader who shall take up these poems in the
mere expectation of deriving amusement for an idle
hour, will have been grievously misled by the title.
Nugce they certainly are not, but full of weight ;
earnest, passionate communings of the spirit with
itself. He that reads them must come to them in a
serious mood ; he should be one that has descended
into his own bosom ; that has probed his own nature
even to shivering ; that has indulged the deepest
yearnings of affection, and has had them strangely
flung back upon him ; that has built to himself a
fortress of conscious weakness ; that has cleaved to
the rock of his early religion, and through hope in it
hath walked upon the uneasy waters.

We should be sorry to convey u false notion. Mr.
Lloyd's religion has little of pretence or sanctimonious
ness about it ; it is worn as an armour of self-defence,
not as a weapon of outward annoyance : the believing
may be drawn by it, and the unbelieving need not to



224 NUG^ CANOR^.

be deterred. The Religionist of Nature may find
some things to venerate in its mild Christianity, when
Jie shall discover in a volume, generally hostile tO'
new experiments in philosophy and morals, some of
its tenderest pages dedicated to the virtues of Mary
Wolstonecraft Godwin.

Mr. Lloyd's poetry has not much in it that is
narrative or dramatic. It is richer in natural descrip-
tion, but the imagery is for the most part embodied
with, and made subservient to the sentiment, as in
many of the sonnets, &c. His genius is metaphysical
and profound, his verses are made up of deep feeling,
accompanied with the perpetual running commentary
of his own deeper self-reflection. His affections
seem to run kindliest in domestic channels ; and
there are some strains commemorative of a dead
relative, which, while they do honour to the heart of
t4ie writer, are of too sacred a nature, we think, almost
to have been committed to print at all; much less
would they bear exposal among the miscellaneous
matter indispensable to a public journal. We prefer,
therefore, giving an extract from the fine blank verse
poem entitled Christmas. It is richly imbued with
the meditative, introspective cast of mind so peculiar
to tnis .'lUthor.



I



FIRST FRUITS OF AUSTRALIAN POETRY.

Sydney, New South Wales. Printgd for Private
Distribution.

BY BARRON FIELD.

I first adventure ; follow me who list ;
And be the second Austral harmonist.

Whoever thou art that hast transplanted the British
wood-notes to the far-off forests which the Kangaroo
haunts — whether thou art some involuntary exile that
solaces his sad estrangement with recurrence to his
native notes, with more wisdom than those captive
Hebrews of old refused to sing their Sion songs in a
strange land — or whether, as we rather suspect, thou
art that valued friend of ours, who, in thy young time
of life, together with thy faithful bride, thy newly
"wedded flower," didst, in obedience to the stern
voice of duty, quit thy friends, thy family, thy pleasing
avocations, the Muses with which thou wert as deeply
smitten as any, we believe, in our age and country,
to go and administer tedious justice in inauspicious
unliterary Thiefland,i we reclaim thee for our own,
and gladly would transport thee back to thy native
" fields," and studies congenial to thy habits.

' An elegant periphrasis for the Bay. Mr. Coleridge led us the
way — " Cloudland, georgeous land."

VOL. VI. Q



226 riRST FRUITS OF AUSTRALIAN POETRY.

VVe know a merry captain, and co-navigator with
Cook, who prides himself upon having planted the
first pun in Otaheite. It was in their own language,
and the islanders first looked at him, then stared at
one another, and all at once burst out into a genial
laugh. It was a stranger, and as a stranger they
gave it welcome. Many a quibble of their own
growth, we doubt not, has since sprung from that
well-timed exotic. Where puns flourish, there must
be no inconsiderable advance in civilization. The
same good results we are willing to augur from this
dawn of refinement at Sydney. They were beginning
to have something like a theatrical establishment
there, which we are sorry to hear has been suppressed;
for we are of opinion with those who think that a
taste for such kind of entertainments is one remove
at least from profligacy, and that Shakspeare and
Gay may be as safe teachers of morality as the
ordinary treatises which assume to instil that science.
We have seen one of their play-bills (while the thing
was permitted to last), and were affected by it in no
ordinary degree, particularly in the omission of the
titles of honour, which in this country are conde-
scendingly conceded to the players. In their Dramatis
Personse, jfobson was played by Smith ; Lady Love-
rule, Jones ; Nell, Wilkinson ; gentlemen and lady
performers alike curtailed of their fair proportions.
With a little patronage, we prophesy, that in a very
few years the histrionic establishment of Sydney
would have risen in respectability ; and the humble
performers would, by tacit leave, or open permission,
have been allowed to use the same encouraging affixes
to their names, which dignify their prouder brethren
and sisters in the mother country. What a moral



FIRST FRUITS OF AUSTRALIAN POETRY. 227

advancement, what a lift in the scale, to a Braham or
a Stephens of New South Wales, to write themselves
Mr. and Miss ! The King here has it not in his
power to do so much for a commoner, no, not though
he dub him a Duke.

The " First Fruits," consist of two poems. The
first celebrates the plant epacris grandijlora ; but we
are no botanists, and perhaps there is too much
matter mixed up in it from the Midsummer Night's
Dream to please some readers. The thefts are in-
deed so open and palpable, that we almost recur to our
first surmise, that the author must be some unfor-
tunate wight, sent on his travels for plagiarisms of
a more serious complexion. But the old matter and
the new blend kindly together ; and must, we hope,
have proved right acceptable to more than one

-Among the fair



Of that young land of Shakspeare's tongue.

We select for our readers the second poem ; and are
mistaken if it does not relish of the graceful hyper-
boles of our elder writers. We can conceive it to
have been written by Andrew Marvell, supposing him
to have been banished to Botany Bay, as he did, we
believe, once meditate a voluntary exile to Bermuda.
See his fine poem, "Where the remote Bermudas
ride."



Q 2



REVIEW OF WORDSWORTH'S "EX-
CURSION."

The volume before us, as we learn from the Preface,
is " a detached portion of an unfinished poem, con-
taining views of man, nature, and society;" to be
called the Recluse, as having for its principal subject
the " sensations and opinions of a poet living in
retirement ;" and to be preceded by a *' record in
verse of the origin and progress of the author's own
powers, with reference to the fitness which they may
be supposed to have conferred for the task." To the
completion of this plan we look forward with a con-
fidence which the execution of the finished part is
well calculated to inspire. Meanwhile, in what is
before us there is an ample matter for entertainment :
for the " Excursion " is not a branch (as might have
been suspected) prematurely plucked from the parent
tree to gratify an overhasty appetite for applause ;
but is, in itself, a complete and legitimate production.
It opens with the meeting of the poet with an aged
man whom he had known from his schooldays ; in
plain words, a Scottish pedlar ; a man who, though
of low origin, had received good learning and impres-
sions of the strictest piety from his stepfather, a
minister and village schoolmaster. Among the hills
of Athol, the child is described to have become
familiar with the appearances of nature in his oc-
cupation as a feeder of sheep ; and from her silent
influences to have derived a character, meditative,



WORDSWORTH S EXCURSION. 229

tender, and poetical. With an imagination and
feelings thus nourished — his intellect not unaided by
books, but those, few, and chiefly of a religious cast
— the necessity of seeking a maintenance in riper
years, had induced him to make choice of a profes-
sion, the appellation for which has been gradually
declining into contempt, but which formerly desig-
nated a class of men, who, journeying in country
places, when roads presented less facilities for
travelling, and the intercourse between towns and
villages was unfrequent and hazardous, became a
sort of link of neighbourhood to distant habitations ;
resembling, in some small measure, in the effects of
their periodical returns, the caravan which Thompson
so feelingly describes as blessing the cheerless
Siberian in its annual visitation, with " news of
human kind."

In the solitude incident to this rambling life, power
had been given him to keep alive that devotedness to
nature which he had imbibed in his childhood, to
gether with the opportunity of gaining such notices
of persons and things from his intercourse with
society, as qualified him to become a " teacher of
moral wisdom." With this man, then, in a hale old
age, released from the burthen of his occupation, yet
retaining much of its active habits, the poet meets,
and is by him introduced to a second character — a
sceptic — one who had been partially roused from an
overwhelming desolation, brought upon him by the
loss of wife and children, by the powerful incitement
of hope which the French Revolution in its com-
mencement put forth, but who, disgusted with the
failure of all its promises, had fallen back into a
laxity of faith and conduct which induced at length a



230 WORDSWORTH S EXCURSION.

total despondence as to the dignity and final destina-
tion of his species. In the language of the poet, he

broke faith with those whom he had laid



In earth's dark chambers.

Yet he describes himself as subject to compunc-
tious visitations from that silent quarter. The con-
versations with this person, in which the Wanderer
asserts the consolatory side of the question against
the darker views of human life maintained by his
friend, and finally calls to his assistance the experi-
ence of a village priest, the third, or rather fourth
interlocutor, (for the poet himself is one), form the
groundwork of the " Excursion."

It will be seen by this sketch that the poem is of a
didactic nature, and not a fable or story ; yet it is not
wanting in stories of the most interesting kind, —
such as the lovers of Cowper and Goldsmith will
recognize as something familiar and congenial to
them. We might instance the Ruined Cottage, and
the Solitary's own story, in the first half of the work ;
and the second half, as being almost a continued
cluster of narration. But the prevailing charm of
the poem is, perhaps, that conversational as it is in
its plan, the dialogue throughout is carried on in the
very heart of the most romantic scenery which the



Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 15 of 29)