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ment ; even to the eternizing of a cast of the eye in
the latter, his own self-mocked and good-humouredly-
borne deformity on earth, but supposed to aggravate



72 THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY.

the uncouth and hideous expression of his pangs in
the other place. That one man can presume so far,
and that another would with shuddering disclaim con-
fidences, is, I believe, an effect of the nerves purely.

If, in either of these papers, or elsewhere, I have
been betrayed into some levities — not affronting the
sanctuary, but glancing perhaps at some of the out-
skirts and extreme edges, the debateable land between
the holy and profane regions — (for the admixture of
man's inventions, twisting themselves with the name
of religion itself has artfully made it difficult to touch
even the alloy, without, in some men's estimation,
soiling the fine gold) — if I have sported within the
purlieux of serious matter — it was, I dare say, a
humour — be not startled, sir, — which I have unwit-
tingly derived from yourself. You have all your life
been making a jest of the devil. Not of the scriptural
meaning of that dark essence — personal or allegorical ;
for the nature is nowhere plainly delivered. I acquit
you of intentional irreverence. But indeed you have
made wonderfully free with, and been mighty pleasant
upon, the popular idea and attributes of him. A Noble
Lord, your brother Visionary, has scarcely taken
greater liberties with the material keys, and merely
Catholic notion of St. Peter. You have flattered him
in prose ; you have chanted him in goodly odes. You
have been his Jester ; volunteer Laureate, and self-
elected Court Poet to Beelzebub.

You have never ridiculed, I believe, what you
thought to be religion, but you are always girding at
what some pious, but perhaps mistaken folks, think
to be so. For this reason, I am sorry to hear that you
are engaged upon a life of George Fox. I know you
will fall into the error of intermixing some comic stuff



THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY. 73

with your seriousness. The Quakers tremble at the
subject in your hands. The Methodists are as shy of
you, upon account of their founder. But, above all,
our Popish brethren are most in your debt. The errors
of that Church have proved a fruitful source to your
scoffing vein. Their Legend has been £t Golden one
to you. And here your friends, sir, have noticed a
notable inconsistency. To the imposing rites, the
solemn penances, devout austerities of that com-
munion ; the affecting though erring piety of their
hermits ; the silence and solitude of the Chartreux —
their crossings, their holy waters — their Virgin, and
their saints — to these, they say, you have been indebted
for the best feelings, and the richest imagery, of your
epic poetry. You have drawn copious drafts upon
Loretto. We thought at one time you were going
post to Rome — but that in the facetious commentaries,
which It is your custom to append so plentifully, and
(some say) injudiciously, to your loftiest performances
in this kind, you spurn the uplifted toe, which you but
just now seemed to court ; leave his holiness in the
lurch ; and show him a fair pair of Protestant heels
under your Romish vestment. When we think you
already at the wicket, suddenly a violent cross wind
blows you transverse —

"Ten thousand leagues awry



Then might we see

Cowls, hoods, and habits, with their wearers, lost
And flutter' d into rags; then reliques, beads.
Indulgences, dispenses, pardons, bulls.
The sport of winds."

You pick up pence by showing the hallowed bones,
shrine, and crucifix; and you take money a second
time by exposing the trick of them afterwards. You



74



THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY.



carry your verse to Castle Angelo for sale in a niorning;
and, swifter than a pedlar can transmute his pack, you
are at Canterbury with your prose ware before night.

Sir, is it that I dislike you in this merry vein ? The
very reverse. No countenance becomes an intelligent
jest better than your own. It is your grave aspect,
when you look awful upon your poor friends, which I
would deprecate.

In more than one place, if I mistake not, you have
been pleased to compliment me at the expense of my
companions. I cannot accept your compliment at
such a price. The upbraiding a man's poverty natu-
rally makes him look about him to see whether he be so
poor indeed as he is presumed to be. You have put
me upon counting my riches. Really, sir, I did not
know I was so wealthy in the article of friendships.

There is , and , whom you never heard of,

but exemplary characters both, and excellent church-
goers ; and Norris, mine and my father's friend for
nearly half a century; and the enthusiast for Words-
worth's poetry, , a little tainted with Socinianism

it is to be feared, but constant in his attachments,

and a capital critic ; and , a sturdy old Atha-

nasian, so that sets all to rights again; andWain-
wright, the light, and warm-as-light-hearted, Janus of
the London ; and the translator of Dante, still a curate,
modest and amiable C. ; and Allen C, the large-
hearted Scot ; and P r, candid and affectionate as

his own poetry ; and A p, Coleridge's friend ; and

G n, his more than friend ; and Coleridge himself,

the same to me still, as in those old evenings, when
we used to sit and speculate (do you remember them,
sir?) at our old Salutation tavern, upon Pantisocracy
and golden days to come on earth ; and W th



•SHE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY. 75

(why, sir, I might drop my rent-roll here, such goodly
farms and manors have I reckoned up already. In
what possession has not this last name alone estated
me? — but I will go on) — and Monkhouse, the noble

minded kinsman, by wedlock, of W th ; and H.

C. R., unwearied in the offices of a friend ; and Clark-
son, almost above the narrowness of that relation, yet
condescending not seldom heretofore from the labours
of his world-embracing charity to bless my humble
roof; and the gall-less and single-minded Dyer; and
the high-minded associate of Cook, the veteran Colonel,
with his lusty heart still sending cartels of defiance to
old Time ; and, not least, W. A., the last and steadiest
left to me of that little knot of whist-players, that used
to assemble weekly, for so many years, at the Queen's
Gate (you remember them, sir?) and called Admiral
Burney friend.

I will come to the point at once. I believe you will
not make many exceptions to my associates so far.
But I have purposely omitted some intimacies, which
I do not yet repent of having contracted, with two
gentlemen diametrically opposed to yourself in prin-
ciples. You will understand me to allude to the
authors of " Rimini " and of the " Table Talk." And
first of the former.

It is an error more particularly incident to persons
of the correctest principles and habits, to seclude
themselves from the rest of mankind, as from another
species, and form into knots and clubs. The best
people herding thus exclusively are in danger of con-
tracting a narrowness. Heat and cold, dryness and
moisture, in the natural world do not fly asunder, to
split the globe into sectarian parts and separations ; but
mingling, as they best may, correct the malignity of



70 THE TOMBS .N 1 HE ABBEY.

any single predominance. The analogy holds, 1 sup-
pose, in the moral world. If all the good people were
to ship themselves off to Terra Incognita, what, in
humanity's name, is to become of the refuse ? If the
persons, whom I have chiefly in view, have not pushed
matters to this extremity yet, they carry them as far as
they can go. Instead of mixing with the infidel and
the freethinker — in the room of opening a negotiation,
to try at least to find out at which gate the error en-
tered — they huddle close together, in a weak fear of in-
fection, like that pusillanimous underling in Spenser —

" This is the wandering wood, this Error's den ;
A monster vile, whom God and man does hate :
Therefore, I rede, beware." Fly, fly, quoth then
The fearful Dwarf.

And, if they be writers in orthodox journals, address
mg themselves only to the irritable passions of the
unbeliever, they proceed in a safe system of strengthen -
ing the strong hands, and confirming the valiant
knees; of converting the already converted, and prose-
lyting their own party. I am the more convinced
of this from a passage in the very treatise which oc-
casioned this letter. It is where, having recommended
to the doubter the writings of Michaelis and Lardner,
you ride triumphantly over the necks of all infidels,
sceptics, and dissenters, from this time to the world's
end, upon the wheels of two unanswerable deductions.
I do not hold it meet to set down, in a miscellaneous
compilation like this, such religious words as you
have thought fit to introduce into the pages of a
petulant literary journal. I therefore beg leave to
substitute mimerals, and refer to the Quarterly Review
(for January) for filling of them up. " Here," say
you "as in the history of 7, if these books are au-



THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY. 77

thentic, the events which they relate must be true ;
if they were written by 8, g is lo and ii." Your first
deduction, if it means honesty, rests upon two iden-
tical propositions ; though I suspect an unfairness in
one of the terms, which this would not be quite the
proper place for explicating. At all events, jo^f have
no cause to triumph ; you have not been proving the
premises, but refer for satisfaction therein to very
long and laborious works, which may well employ the
sceptic a twelvemonth or two to digest, before he can
possibly be ripe for your conclusion. When he has
satisfied himself about the premises, he will concede
to you the inference, I dare say, most readily. But
your latter deduction, viz., that because 8 has written
a book concerning 9, therefore 10 and 11 was certainly
his meaning, is one of the most extraordinary conclu-
sions per saltum that I have had the good fortune to
meet with. As far as 10 is verbally asserted in the
writings, all sects must agree with you ; but you
cannot be ignorant of the many various ways in which
the doctrine of the * * * * has been understood, from
a low figurative expression (with the Unitarians) up
to the most mysterious actuality ; in which highest
sense alone you and your church take it. And for 11,
that there is no other possible conclusion — to hazard
this in the face of so many thousands of Arians and
Socinians, &c., who have drawn so opposite a one, is
such a piece of theological hardihood, as, I think,
warrants me in concluding that, when you sit down
to pen theology, you do not at all consider your op-
ponents, but have in your eye, merely and exclusively,
readers of the same way of thinking with yourself,
and therefore have no occasion to trouble yourself
with the quality of the logic to which you treat them.



78 THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY.

Neither can I think, if you had had the welfare of
the poor child — over whose hopeless condition you
whine so lamentably (and I must think) unseasonably
seriously at heart, that you could have taken the step
of sticking him up by name — T. H., is as good as
naming him — to perpetuate an outrage upon the
parental feelings, as long as the Quarterly Review
shall last. Was it necessary to specify an individual
case, and give to Christian compassion the appearance
of a personal attack? Is this the way to conciliate
unbelievers, or not rather to widen the breach
irreparably ?

I own I could never think so considerably of myself
as to decline the society of an agreeable or worthy
man upon difference of opinion only. The impedi-
ments and the facilitations to a sound belief are various
and inscrutable as the heart of man. Some believe
upon weak principles ; others cannot feel the efficacy
of the strongest. One of the most candid, most
upright, and single-meaning men I ever knew, was
the late Thomas Holcroft. I believe he never said
one thing, and meant another, in his life ; and, as near
as I can guess, he never acted otherwise than with
the most scrupulous attention to conscience. Ought
we to wish the character false, for the sake of a hollow
compliment to Christianity ?

Accident introduced me to the acquaintance of Mr.
L. H. — and the experience of his many friendly
qualities confirmed a friendship between us. You
who have been misrepresented yourself, I should
hope, have not lent an idle ear to the calumnies which
have been spread abroad respecting this gentleman.
I was admitted to his household for some years, and
do most solemnly aver that I believe him to be in his



THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY, yg

domestic relations as correct as any man. He chose
an ill-judged subject for a poem, the peccant humours
of which have been visited on him tenfold by the artful
use, which his adversaries have made, of an equivocal
term. The subject itself was started by Dante, but
better because brieflier treated of. But the crime of
the lovers, in the Italian and the English poet, with
its aggravated enormity of circumstance, is not of a
kind (as the critics of the latter well knew) with those
conjunctions, for which Nature herself has provided
no excuse, because no temptation. It has nothing in
common with the black horrors, sung by Ford and
Massinger. The familiarizing of it in the tale and
fable may be for that reason incidentally more con-
tagious. In spite of Rimini, I must look upon its
author as a man of taste and a poet. He is better
than so ; he is one of the most cordial-minded men I
ever knew, and matchless as a fireside companion. I
mean not to affront or wound your feelings when I say
that in his more genial moods he has often reminded
me of you. There is the same air of mild dogmatism —
the same condescending to a boyish sportiveness — in
both your conversations. His handwriting is so much
the same with your own, that I have opened more than
one letter of his, hoping, nay, not doubting, but it was
from you, and have been disappointed (he will bear
with my saying so) at the discovery of my error.
L. H. is unfortunate in holding some loose and not
very definite speculations (for at times I think he
hardly knows whither his premises would carry him)
on marriage — the tenets, I conceive, of the " Political
Justice" carried a little farther. For anything I
could discover in his practice, they have reference,
like those, to some future possible condition of



8o THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY.

society, and not to the present times. But neither
for these obliquities of thinking (upon which my own
conclusions are as distant as the poles asunder) — nor
for his political asperities and petulancies, which are
wearing out with the heats and vanities of youth —
did I select him for a friend ; but for qualities which
fitted him for that relation. I do not know whether
I flatter myself with being the occasion, but certain it
is, that, touched with some misgivings for sundry
harsh things which he had written aforetime against
our friend C, before he left this country he sought a
reconciliation with that gentleman (himself being his
own introducer), and found it.

L. H., is now in Italy; on his departure to which
land, with much regret I took my leave of him and
his little family — seven of them, sir, with their
mother — and as kind a set of little people (T. H. and
all), as affectionate children as ever blessed a parent.
Had you seen them, sir, I think you could not have
looked upon them as so many little Jonases — but
rather as pledges of the vessel's safety, that was to
bear such a freight of love.

I wish you would read Mr. H.'s lines to that same
T. H. " six years old, during a sickness :" —

" Sleep breaks at last from out thee.
My little patient boy '*

(they are to be found on the 47th page of " F'oliage ")
— and ask yourself how far they are out of the spirit
of Christianity. I have a letter from Italy, received
but the other day, into which L. H. has put as much
heart, and as many friendly yearnings after old
associates, and native country, as, I think, paper can



THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY. 8l

well hold. It would do you no hurt to give that the
perusal also.

From the other getitleman I neither expect nor
desire (as he is well assured) any such concessions as
L. H. made to C. What hath soured him, and made
him to suspect his friends of infidelity towards him,
when there was no such matter, I know not. I stood
well with him for fifteen years (the proudest of my
life), and have ever spoken my full mind of him to
some, to whom his panegyric must naturally be least
tasteful. I never in thought swerved from him, I
never betrayed him, I never slackened in my admira-
tion of him ; I was the same to him (neither better
nor worse), though he could not see it, as in the days
when he thought fit to trust me. At this instant he
may be preparing for me some compliment, above my
deserts, as he has sprinkled many such among his
acimirable books, for which I rest his debtor ; or, for
anything I know, or can guess to the contrary, he
may be about to read a lecture on my weaknesses.
He is welcome to them (as he was to my humble
hearth), if they can divert a spleen, or ventilate a fit
of sullenness. I wish he would not quarrel with the
world at the rate he does ; but the reconciliation must
be effected by himself, and I despair of living to see
that day. But protesting against much that he has
written, and some things which he chooses to do ;
judging him by his conversation which I enjoyed so
long, and relished so deeply ; or by his books, in
those places where no clouding passion intervenes —
I should belie my own conscience, if I said less, than
that I think W. H. to be, in his natural and healthy
state, one of the wisest and finest spirits breathing.
So far from being ashamed of that intimacy, which

VOL. VI. G



82 THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY.

was betwixt us, it is my boast that I was able for so
many years to have preserved it entire ; and I think
I shall go to my grave without finding or expecting
to find, such another companion. But I forget my
manners — you will pardon me, sir — I return to the
correspondence.

Sir, you were pleased (you know where) to invite
me to a compliance with the wholesome forms and
doctrines of the Church of England. I take your
advice with as much kindness as it was meant. But
I must think the invitation rather more kind than
seasonable. I am a Dissenter. The last sect, with
which you can remember me to have made common
profession, were the Unitarians. You would think it
not very pertinent, if (fearing that all was not well
with you) I were gravely to invite you (for a remedy)
to attend with me a course of Mr. Belsham's Lectures
at Hackney. Perhaps I have scruples to some of
your forms and doctrines. But if I come, am I
secure of civil treatment ? The last time I was in
any of your places of worship was on Easter Sunday
last. I had the satisfaction of listening to a verj
sensible sermon of an argumentative turn, delivered
with great propriety by one of your bishops. The
place was Westminster Abbey. As such religion as
I have, has always acted on me more by way of sen-
timent than argumentative process, I was not un-
willing, after sermon ended, by no unbecoming
transition, to pass over to some serious feelings,
impossible to be disconnected from the sight of those
old tombs, &c. But, by whose order I know not,
I was debarred that privilege even for so short a
space as a few minutes; and turned, like a dog, or
some profane person, out into the common street ;



THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY. 83

with feelings, which I could not help, but not very
congenial to the day or discourse. I do not know
that I shall ever venture myself again into one of
your churches.

[In place of the foregoing, which was omitted from the Last Essays
of Elia, the opening paragraph of the paper, when reshaped as an
essay, ran as follows] : —

Though in some points of doctrine, and perhaps of
discipline, I am diffident of lending a perfect assent
to that church which you have so worthily historified,
yet may the ill time never come to me, when with a
chilled heart, or a portion of irreverent sentiment, I
shall enter her beautiful and time-hallowed edifices.
Judge then of my mortification when, after attendin ;
the choral anthems of last Wednesday at West-
minster, and being desirous of renewing my acquaint-
ance, after lapsed years, with the tombs and antiqui-
ties there, I found myself excluded ; turned out like
a dog, or some profane person, into the common
street, with feelings not very congenial to the place,
or to the solemn service which I had been listening
to. It was a jar after that music.

You had your education at Westminster; and
doubtless among those dim aisles and cloister^ you
must have gathered much of that devotional feeling
in those young years, on which your purest mind
feeds still — and may it feed ! The antiquarian spirit,
strong in you, and gracefully blending ever with the
religious, may have been sown in you among those
wrecks of splendid mortality. You owe it to the
place of your education ; you owe it to your learned
fondness for the architecture of your ancestors ; you
owe it to the venerableness of your ecclesiastical
establishment, which is daily lessened and called in

G 2



84 THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY.

question through these practices — to speak aloud
your sense of them ; never to desist raising your
voice against them, till they be totally done away
with and abolished ; till the doors of Westminster
Abbey be no longer closed against the decent,
though low-in-purse enthusiast, or blameless devotee,
who must commit an injury against his family
economy, if he would be indulged with a bare admis-
sion within its walls. You owe it to the decencies,
which you wish to see maintained in its impressive
services, that our Cathedral be no longer an object of
inspection to the poor at those times only, in which
they must rob from their attendance on the worship
every minute which they can bestow upon the fabric.
In vain the public prints have taken up this subject,
in vain such poor nameless writers as myself express
their indignation. A word from you, sir — a hint in
your Journal — would be sufficient to fling open the
doors of the Beautiful Temple again, as we can
remember them when we were boys. At that time of
life, what would the imaginative faculty (such as it
is) in both of us, have suffered, if the entrance to so
much reflection had been obstructed by the demand
of so much silver ! — If we had scraped it up to gain
an occasional admission (as we certainly should have
done) would the sight of those old tombs have been
as impressive to us (while we had been weighing
anxiously prudence against sentiment) as when the
gates stood open, as those of the adjacent Park ; when
we could walk in at any time, as the mood brought
us, for a shorter or longer time, as that lasted ? Is
the being shown over a place the same as silently
for ourselves detecting the genius of it ? In no part
of our beloved Abbey now can a person find entrance



THE TOMBS IN THE ABBEY. 85

(out of service time) under the sum of two shillings.
The rich and the great will smile at the anticlimax,
presumed to lie in those two short words. But you
can tell them, sir, how much quiet worth, how much
capacity for enlarged feeling, how much taste and
genius, may coexist, especially in youth, with a purse
incompetent to this demand. A respected friend of
ours, during his late visit to the metropolis, presented
himself for admission to Saint Paul's. At the same
time a decently clothed man, with as decent a wife*
and child, were bargaining for the same indulgence.
The price was only two-pence each person. The
poor but decent man hesitated, desirous to go in ;
but there were three of them, and he turned away
reluctantly. Perhaps he wished to have seen the
tomb of Nelson. Perhaps the Interior of the Cathe-
dral was his object. But in the state of his finances,
even sixpence might reasonably seem too much.
Tell the Aristocracy of the country (no man can do it
more impressively); instruct them of what value
these insignificant pieces of money, these minims to
their sight, may be to their humbler brethren. Shame
these Sellers out of the Temple. Stifle not the sug
gestions of your better nature with the pretext, that
an indiscriminate admission would expose the Tombs
to violation. Remember your boy-days. Did you
ever see or hear of a mob in the Abbey, while it was
free to all ? Did the rabble come there, or trouble



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