Charles Lamb.

The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 6 Letters 1821-1842 online

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With respects to Mrs. C., yours truly, C. LAMB.



[No date. ?Oct., 1823.]

Dear Sir - Mary has got a cold, and the nights are dreadful; but at the
first indication of Spring (_alias_ the first dry weather in Nov'r
early) it is our intention to surprise you early some even'g.

Believe me, most truly yours,


The Cottage, Saturday night.

Mary regrets very much Mrs. Allsop's fruitless visit. It made her swear!
She was gone to visit Miss Hutchins'n, whom she found OUT.



[P.M. October 28, 1823.]

My dear Sir - Your Pig was a _picture_ of a pig, and your Picture a _pig_
of a picture. The former was delicious but evanescent, like a hearty fit
of mirth, or the crackling of thorns under a pot; but the latter is an
_idea_, and abideth. I never before saw swine upon sattin. And then that
pretty strawy canopy about him! he seems to purr (rather than grunt) his
satisfaction. Such a gentlemanlike porker too! Morland's are absolutely
clowns to it. Who the deuce painted it?

I have ordered a little gilt shrine for it, and mean to wear it for a
locket; a shirt-pig.

I admire the petty-toes shrouded in a veil of something, not _mud_, but
that warm soft consistency with [? which] the dust takes in Elysium
after a spring shower - it perfectly engloves them.

I cannot enough thank you and your country friend for the delicate
double present - the Utile et Decorum - three times have I attempted to
write this sentence and failed; which shows that I am not cut out for a


(as I say to Southey) will you come and see us at our poor cottage of
Colebrook to tea tomorrow evening, as early as six? I have some friends
coming at that hour -

The panoply which covered your material pig shall be forthcoming - The
pig pictorial, with its trappings, domesticate with me.

Your greatly obliged



["_Sir_ (as I say to Southey)." Elia's Letter to Southey in the London
Magazine began thus.]



[No date. Early November, 1823.]

Dear Mrs. H., - Sitting down to write a letter is such a painful
operation to Mary, that you must accept me as her proxy. You have seen
our house. What I now tell you is literally true. Yesterday week George
Dyer called upon us, at one o'clock (_bright noon day_) on his way to
dine with Mrs. Barbauld at Newington. He sat with Mary about half an
hour, and took leave. The maid saw him go out from her kitchen window;
but suddenly losing sight of him, ran up in a fright to Mary. G.D.,
instead of keeping the slip that leads to the gate, had deliberately,
staff in hand, in broad open day, marched into the New River. He had not
his spectacles on, and you know his absence. Who helped him out, they
can hardly tell; but between 'em they got him out, drenched thro' and
thro'. A mob collected by that time and accompanied him in. "Send for
the Doctor!" they said: and a one-eyed fellow, dirty and drunk, was
fetched from the Public House at the end, where it seems he lurks, for
the sake of picking up water practice, having formerly had a medal from
the Humane Society for some rescue. By his advice, the patient was put
between blankets; and when I came home at four to dinner, I found G.D.
a-bed, and raving, light-headed with the brandy-and-water which the
doctor had administered. He sung, laughed, whimpered, screamed, babbled
of guardian angels, would get up and go home; but we kept him there by
force; and by next morning he departed sobered, and seems to have
received no injury. All my friends are open-mouthed about having paling
before the river, but I cannot see that, because a.. lunatic chooses to
walk into a river with his eyes open at midday, I am any the more likely
to be drowned in it, coming home at midnight.

I had the honour of dining at the Mansion House on Thursday last, by
special card from the Lord Mayor, who never saw my face, nor I his; and
all from being a writer in a magazine! The dinner costly, served on
massy plate, champagne, pines, &c.; forty-seven present, among whom the
Chairman and two other directors of the India Company. There's for you!
and got away pretty sober! Quite saved my credit!

We continue to like our house prodigiously. Does Mary Hazlitt go on with
her novel, or has she begun another? I would not discourage her, tho' we
continue to think it (so far) in its present state not saleable.

Our kind remembrances to her and hers and you and yours. -

Yours truly, C. LAMB.

I am pleased that H. liked my letter to the Laureate.

[Addressed to "Mrs. Hazlitt, Alphington, near Exeter." This letter is
the first draft of the _Elia_ essay "Amicus Redivivus," which was
printed in the _London Magazine_ in December, 1823. George Dyer, who was
then sixty-eight, had been getting blind steadily for some years. A
visit to Lamb's cottage to-day, bearing in mind that the ribbon of green
between iron railings that extends along Colebrooke Row was at that time
an open stream, will make the nature of G.D.'s misadventure quite

"Mary Hazlitt"-the daughter of John Hazlitt, the essayist's brother.

"I am pleased that H. liked my letter to the Laureate." Hazlitt wrote,
in the essay "On the Pleasures of Hating," "I think I must be friends
with Lamb again, since he has written that magnanimous Letter to
Southey, and told him a piece of his mind!" Coleridge also approved of
it, and Crabb Robinson's praise was excessive.

Here should come a note from Lamb to Mrs. Shelley dated Nov. 12, 1823,
saying that Dyer walked into the New River on Sunday week at one o'clock
with his eyes open.]



E.I.H., 21st November, 1823.

DEAR Southey,-The kindness of your note has melted away the mist which
was upon me. I have been fighting against a shadow. That accursed
"Quarterly Review" had vexed me by a gratuitous speaking, of its own
knowledge, that the "Confessions of a Drunkard" was a genuine
description of the state of the writer. Little things, that are not ill
meant, may produce much ill. _That_ might have injured me alive and
dead. I am in a public office, and my life is insured. I was prepared
for anger, and I thought I saw, in a few obnoxious words, a hard case of
repetition directed against me. I wished both magazine and review at the
bottom of the sea. I shall be ashamed to see you, and my sister (though
innocent) will be still more so; for the folly was done without her
knowledge, and has made her uneasy ever since. My guardian angel was
absent at that time.

I will muster up courage to see you, however, any day next week
(Wednesday excepted). We shall hope that you will bring Edith with you.
That will be a second mortification. She will hate to see us; but come
and heap embers. We deserve it, I for what I've done, and she for being
my sister.

Do come early in the day, by sun-light, that you may see my _Milton_.

I am at Colebrook Cottage, Colebrook Row, Islington. A detached whitish
house, close to the New River, end of Colebrook Terrace, left hand from
Sadler's Wells.

Will you let me know the day before?

Your penitent C. LAMB.

P.S. - I do not think your handwriting at all like Hunt's. I do not think
many things I did think.

[For the right appreciation of this letter Elia's Letter to Southey must
be read (see Vol. I. of the present edition). It was hard hitting, and
though Lamb would perhaps have been wiser had he held his hand, yet
Southey had taken an offensive line of moral superiority and rebuke, and
much that was said by Lamb was justified.

Southey's reply ran thus: -

My Dear Lamb - On Monday I saw your letter in the _London Magazine_,
which I had not before had an opportunity of seeing, and I now take
the first interval of leisure for replying to it.

Nothing could be further from my mind than any intention or
apprehension of any way offending or injuring a man concerning whom
I have never spoken, thought, or felt otherwise than with affection,
esteem, and admiration.

If you had let me know in any private or friendly manner that you
felt wounded by a sentence in which nothing but kindness was
intended - or that you found it might injure the sale of your book - I
would most readily and gladly have inserted a note in the next
Review to qualify and explain what had hurt you.

You have made this impossible, and I am sorry for it. But I will not
engage in controversy with you to make sport for the Philistines.

The provocation must be strong indeed that can rouse me to do this,
even with an enemy. And if you can forgive an unintended offence as
heartily as I do the way in which you have resented it, there will
be nothing to prevent our meeting as we have heretofore done, and
feeling towards each other as we have always been wont to do.

Only signify a correspondent willingness on your part, and send me
your address, and my first business next week shall be to reach your
door, and shake hands with you and your sister. Remember me to her
most kindly and believe me - . Yours, with unabated esteem and
regards, Robert Southey.

The matter closed with this exchange of letters, and no hostility
remained on either side.

Lamb's quarrel with the _Quarterly_ began in 1811, when in a review of
Weber's edition of Ford Lamb was described as a "poor maniac." It was
renewed in 1814, when his article on Wordsworth's _Excursion_ was
mutilated. It broke out again in 1822, as Lamb says here, when a
reviewer of Reid's treatise on _Hypochondriasis and other Nervous
Affections_ (supposed to be Dr. Gooch, a friend of Dr. Henry Southey's)
referred to Lamb's "Confessions of a Drunkard" (see Vol. I.) as being,
from his own knowledge, true. Thus Lamb's patience was naturally at
breaking point when his own friend Southey attacked _Elia_ a few numbers

"I do not think your handwriting at all like Hunt's." Lamb had said, in
the Letter, of Leigh Hunt: "His hand-writing 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."]



[P.M. November 22, 1823.]

Dear B.B. - I am ashamed at not acknowledging your kind little poem,
which I must needs like much, but I protest I thought I had done it at
the moment. Is it possible a letter has miscarried? Did you get one in
which I sent you an extract from the poems of Lord Sterling? I should
wonder if you did, for I sent you none such. - There was an incipient lye
strangled in the birth. Some people's conscience is so tender! But in
plain truth I thank you very much for the verses. I have a very kind
letter from the Laureat, with a self-invitation to come and shake hands
with me. This is truly handsome and noble. 'Tis worthy of my old idea of
Southey. Shall not I, think you, be covered with a red suffusion?

You are too much apprehensive of your complaint. I know many that are
always ailing of it, and live on to a good old age. I know a merry
fellow (you partly know him) who when his Medical Adviser told him he
had drunk away all _that part_, congratulated himself (now his liver was
gone) that he should be the longest liver of the two. The best way in
these cases is to keep yourself as ignorant as you can - as ignorant as
the world was before Galen - of the entire inner construction of the
Animal Man - not to be conscious of a midriff - to hold kidneys (save of
sheep and swine) to be an agreeable fiction - not to know whereabout the
gall grows - to account the circulation of the blood an idle whimsey of
Harvey's - to acknowledge no mechanism not visible. For, once fix the
seat of your disorder, and your fancies flux into it like bad humours.
Those medical gentries chuse each his favourite part - one takes the
lungs - another the aforesaid liver - and refer to _that_ whatever in the
animal economy is amiss. Above all, use exercise, take a little more
spirituous liquors, learn to smoke, continue to keep a good conscience,
and avoid tampering with hard terms of art - viscosity, schirossity, and
those bugbears, by which simple patients are scared into their grave.
Believe the general sense of the mercantile world, which holds that
desks are not deadly. It is the mind, good B.B., and not the limbs,
that taints by long sitting. Think of the patience of taylors - think how
long the Chancellor sits - think of the Brooding Hen.

I protest I cannot answer thy Sister's kind enquiry, but I judge I shall
put forth no second volume. More praise than buy, and T. and H. are not
particularly disposed for Martyrs.

Thou wilt see a funny passage, and yet a true History, of George Dyer's
Aquatic Incursion, in the next "London." Beware his fate, when thou
comest to see me at my Colebrook Cottage. I have filled my little space
with my little thoughts. I wish thee ease on thy sofa, but not too much
indulgence on it. From my poor desk, thy fellow-sufferer this bright
November, C.L.

[Again I do not identify the kind little poem. It may have been a trifle
enclosed in a letter, which Barton did not print and Lamb destroyed.]



(If I had time I would go over this letter again, and dot all my i's.)

Dear Sir, - I should have thanked you for your Books and Compliments
sooner, but have been waiting for a revise to be sent, which does not
come, tho' I returned the proof on the receit of your letter. I have
read Warner with great pleasure. What an elaborate piece of alliteration
and antithesis! why it must have been a labour far above the most
difficult versification. There is a fine simile of or picture of
Semiramis arming to repel a siege. I do not mean to keep the Book, for I
suspect you are forming a curious collection, and I do not pretend to
any thing of the kind. I have not a Blackletter Book among mine, old
Chaucer excepted, and am not Bibliomanist enough to like Blackletter. It
is painful to read. Therefore I must insist on returning it at
opportunity, not from contumacity and reluctance to be oblig'd, but
because it must suit you better than me. The loss of a present _from_
should never exceed the gain of a present _to_. I hold this maxim
infallible in the accepting Line. I read your Magazines with
satisfaction. I throughly agree with you as to the German Faust, as far
[as] I can do justice to it from an English translation. 'Tis a
disagreeable canting tale of Seduction, which has nothing to do with the
Spirit of Faustus - Curiosity. Was the dark secret to be explored to end
in the seducing of a weak girl, which might have been accomplished by
earthly agency? When Marlow gives _his_ Faustus a mistress, he flies him
at Helen, flower of Greece, to be sure, and not at Miss Betsy, or Miss
Sally Thoughtless.

"Cut is the branch that bore the goodly fruit,
And wither'd is Apollo's laurel tree:
Faustus is dead."

What a noble natural transition from metaphor to plain speaking! as if
the figurative had flagged in description of such a Loss, and was
reduced to tell the fact simply. -

I must now thank you for your very kind invitation. It is not out of
prospect that I may see Manchester some day, and then I will avail
myself of your kindness. But Holydays are scarce things with me, and the
Laws of attendance are getting stronger and stronger at Leadenhall. But
I shall bear it in mind. Meantime something may (more probably) bring
you to town, where I shall be happy to see you. I am always to be found
(alas!) at my desk in the forepart of the day.

I wonder why they do not send the revise. I leave late at office, and my
abode lies out of the way, or I should have seen about it. If you are
impatient, Perhaps a Line to the Printer, directing him to send it me,
at Accountant's Office, may answer. You will see by the scrawl that I
only snatch a few minutes from intermitting Business.

Your oblig. Ser., C. LAMB.

[William Harrison Ainsworth, afterwards to be known as a novelist, was
then a solicitor's pupil at Manchester, aged 18. He had sent Lamb
William Warner's _Syrinx; or, A Sevenfold History_, 1597. The book was a
gift, and is now in the Dyce and Foster library at South Kensington.

Goethe's _Faust_. Lamb, as we have seen, had read the account of the
play in Madame de Staël's _Germany_. He might also have read the
translation by Lord Francis Leveson-Gower, 1823. Hayward's translation
was not published till 1834. Goethe admired Lamb's sonnet on his family



[Dated at end: December 29 (1823).]

My dear Sir - You talk of months at a time and I know not what
inducements to visit Manchester, Heaven knows how gratifying! but I have
had my little month of 1823 already. It is all over, and without
incurring a disagreeable favor I cannot so much as get a single holyday
till the season returns with the next year. Even our half-hour's
absences from office are set down in a Book! Next year, if I can spare a
day or two of it, I will come to Manchester, but I have reasons at home
against longer absences. -

I am so ill just at present - (an illness of my own procuring last night;
who is Perfect?) - that nothing but your very great kindness could make
me write. I will bear in mind the letter to W.W., you shall have it
quite in time, before the 12.

My aking and confused Head warns me to leave off. - With a muddled sense
of gratefulness, which I shall apprehend more clearly to-morrow, I
remain, your friend unseen,


I.H. 29th.

Will your occasions or inclination bring _you_ to London? It will give
me great pleasure to show you every thing that Islington can boast, if
you know the meaning of that very Cockney sound. We have the New River!

I am asham'd of this scrawl: but I beg you to accept it for the present.
I am full of qualms.

A fool at 50 is a fool indeed.

[W.W. was Wordsworth.

"A fool at 50 is a fool indeed." "A fool at forty is a fool indeed" was
Young's line in Satire II. of the series on "Love of Fame." Lamb was
nearing forty-nine.]



[January 9, 1824.]

Dear B.B. - Do you know what it is to succumb under an insurmountable day
mare - a whoreson lethargy, Falstaff calls it - an indisposition to do any
thing, or to be any thing - a total deadness and distaste - a suspension
of vitality - an indifference to locality - a numb soporifical
goodfornothingness - an ossification all over - an oyster-like
insensibility to the passing events - a mind-stupor, - a brawny defiance
to the needles of a thrusting-in conscience - did you ever have a very
bad cold, with a total irresolution to submit to water gruel
processes? - this has been for many weeks my lot, and my excuse - my
fingers drag heavily over this paper, and to my thinking it is three and
twenty furlongs from here to the end of this demi-sheet - I have not a
thing to say - nothing is of more importance than another - I am flatter
than a denial or a pancake - emptier than Judge Park's wig when the head
is in it - duller than a country stage when the actors are off it - a
cypher - an O - I acknowledge life at all, only by an occasional
convulsional cough, and a permanent phlegmatic pain in the chest - I am
weary of the world - Life is weary of me - My day is gone into Twilight
and I don't think it worth the expence of candles - my wick hath a thief
in it, but I can't muster courage to snuff it - I inhale suffocation - I
can't distinguish veal from mutton - nothing interests me - 'tis 12
o'clock and Thurtell is just now coming out upon the New Drop - Jack
Ketch alertly tucking up his greasy sleeves to do the last office of
mortality, yet cannot I elicit a groan or a moral reflection - if you
told me the world will be at end tomorrow, I should just say, "will
it?" - I have not volition enough to dot my i's - much less to comb my
EYEBROWS - my eyes are set in my head - my brains are gone out to see a
poor relation in Moorfields, and they did not say when they'd come back
again - my scull is a Grub street Attic, to let - not so much as a joint
stool or a crackd jordan left in it - my hand writes, not I, from habit,
as chickens run about a little when their heads are off - O for a
vigorous fit of gout, cholic, tooth ache - an earwig in my auditory, a
fly in my visual organs - pain is life - the sharper, the more evidence of
life - but this apathy, this death - did you ever have an obstinate cold,
a six or seven weeks' unintermitting chill and suspension of hope, fear,
conscience, and every thing - yet do I try all I can to cure it, I try
wine, and spirits, and smoking, and snuff in unsparing quantities, but
they all only seem to make me worse, instead of better - I sleep in a
damp room, but it does me no good; I come home late o' nights, but do
not find any visible amendment.

Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

It is just 15 minutes after 12. Thurtell is by this time a good way on
his journey, baiting at Scorpion perhaps, Ketch is bargaining for his
cast coat and waistcoat, the Jew demurs at first at three half crowns,
but on consideration that he, may get somewhat by showing 'em in the
Town, finally closes. -


["Judge Park's wig." Sir James Alan Park, of the Bench of Common Pleas,
who tried Thurtell, the murderer of Mr. William Weare of Lyon's Inn, in
Gill's Hill Lane, Radlett, on October 24, 1823.]



[P.M. January 23, 1824.]

My dear Sir - That peevish letter of mine, which was meant to convey an
apology for my incapacity to write, seems to have been taken by you in
too serious a light. It was only my way of telling you I had a severe
cold. The fact is I have been insuperably dull and lethargic for many
weeks, and cannot rise to the vigour of a Letter, much less an Essay.
The London must do without me for a time, a time, and half a time, for I
have lost all interest about it, and whether I shall recover it again I
know not. I will bridle my pen another time, & not teaze and puzzle you
with my aridities. I shall begin to feel a little more alive with the
spring. Winter is to me (mild or harsh) always a great trial of the
spirits. I am ashamed not to have noticed your tribute to Woolman, whom
we love so much. It is done in your good manner. Your friend Taylor
called upon me some time since, and seems a very amiable man. His last
story is painfully fine. His Book I "like." It is only too stuft with
scripture, too Parsonish. The best thing in it is the Boy's own story.
When I say it is too full of Scripture, I mean it is too full of direct
quotations; no book can have too much of SILENT SCRIPTURE in it. But the
natural power of a story is diminished when the uppermost purpose in the
writer seems to be to recommend something else, viz Religion. You know
what Horace says of the DEUS INTERSIT. I am not able to explain myself,
you must do it for me. -

My Sister's part in the Leicester School (about two thirds) was purely
her own; as it was (to the same quantity) in the Shakspeare Tales which
bear my name. I wrote only the Witch Aunt, the first going to Church,
and the final Story about a little Indian girl in a Ship.

Your account of my Black Balling amused me. _I think, as Quakers, they
did right_. There are some things hard to be understood.

The more I think the more I am vexed at having puzzled you with that
Letter, but I have been so out of Letter writing of late years, that it
is a sore effort to sit down to it, & I felt in your debt, and sat down
waywardly to pay you in bad money. Never mind my dulness, I am used to
long intervals of it. The heavens seem brass to me - then again comes the
refreshing shower. "I have been merry once or twice ere now."

You said something about Mr. Mitford in a late letter, which I believe I
did not advert to. I shall be happy to show him my Milton (it is all the
show things I have) at any time he will take the trouble of a jaunt to
Islington. I do also hope to see Mr. Taylor there some day. Pray say so
to both.

Coleridge's book is good part printed, but sticks a little for _more
copy_. It bears an unsaleable Title - Extracts from Bishop Leighton - but
I am confident there will be plenty of good notes in it, more of Bishop

Online LibraryCharles LambThe Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 6 Letters 1821-1842 → online text (page 10 of 43)