Charles Lamb.

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

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have made in Paradise Park venison, before she separated the two
substances, the dry & the oleaginous, to punish sinful mankind; Adam ate
them entire & inseparate, and this little taste of Eden in the knuckle
bone of a fried... seems the only relique of a Paradisaical state. When
I die, an exact description of its topography shall be left in a
cupboard with a key, inscribed on which these words, "C. Lamb dying
imparts this to C. Chambers as the only worthy depository of such a
secret." You'll drop a tear....


[Charles Chambers was the brother of John Chambers (see above). He had
been at Christ's Hospital with Lamb and subsequently became a surgeon in
the Navy. He retired to Leamington and practised there until his death,
somewhen about 1857, says Mr. Hazlitt. He seems to have inherited some
of the epicure's tastes of his father, the "sensible clergyman in
Warwickshire" who, Lamb tells us in "Thoughts on Presents of Game,"
"used to allow a pound of Epping to every hare."

This letter adds one more to the list of Lamb's gustatory raptures, and
it is remarkable as being his only eulogy of fish. Mr. Hazlitt says that
the date September 1, 1817, has been added by another hand; but if the
remark about Dr. Parr is true (he died March 6, 1825) the time is as I
have stated. Fortunately the date in this particular case is
unimportant. Mr. Hazlitt suggests that the stupid person in the Tea
Warehouse was Bye, whom we met recently.

Of Truss we know nothing. The name may be a misreading of Twiss (Horace
Twiss, 1787-1849, politician, buffoon, and Mrs. Siddons' nephew), who
was quite a likely person to be lied about in joke at that time.

Here should come a note to Allsop dated May 29, 1825, changing an
appointment: "I am as mad as the devil." Given in the Boston Bibliophile
edition.]



LETTER 374

CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE

[? June, 1825.]

My dear Coleridge, - With pain and grief, I must entreat you to excuse us
on Thursday. My head, though externally correct, has had a severe
concussion in my long illness, and the very idea of an engagement
hanging over for a day or two, forbids my rest; and I get up miserable.
I am not well enough for company. I do assure you, no other thing
prevents my coming. I expect Field and his brothers this or to-morrow
evening, and it worries me to death that I am not ostensibly ill enough
to put 'em off. I will get better, when I shall hope to see your nephew.
He will come again. Mary joins in best love to the Gillmans. Do, I
earnestly entreat you, excuse me. I assure you, again, that I am not fit
to go out yet.

Yours (though shattered), C. LAMB.
Tuesday.


[This letter has previously been dated 1829, but I think wrongly. Lamb
had no long illness then, and Field was then in Gibraltar, where he was
Chief-Justice. Lamb's long illness was in 1825, when Coleridge's
Thursday evenings at Highgate were regular. Coleridge's nephew may have
been one of several. I fancy it was the Rev. Edward Coleridge. Henry
Nelson Coleridge had already left, I think, for the West Indies.]



LETTER 375

CHARLES LAMB TO HENRY COLBURN (?)

[Dated at end: June 14 (? 1825).]

Dear Sir,

I am quite ashamed, after your kind letter, of having expressed any
disappointment about my remuneration. It is quite equivalent to the
value of any thing I have yet sent you. I had Twenty Guineas a sheet
from the London; and what I did for them was more worth that sum, than
any thing, I am afraid, I can now produce, would be worth the lesser
sum. I used up all my best thoughts in that publication, and I do not
like to go on writing worse & worse, & feeling that I do so. I want to
try something else. However, if any subject turns up, which I think will
do your Magazine no discredit, you shall have it at _your_ price, or
something between _that_ and my old price. I prefer writing to seeing
you just now, for after such a letter as I have received from you, in
truth I am ashamed to see you. We will never mention the thing again.

Your obliged friend & Serv't

C. LAMB.

June 14.


[In the absence of any wrapper I have assumed this note to be addressed
to Colburn, the publisher of the _New Monthly Magazine_. Lamb's first
contribution to that periodical was "The Illustrious Defunct" (see Vol.
I. of this edition) in January, 1825. A year later he began the "Popular
Fallacies," and continued regularly for some months.]



LETTER 376

CHARLES LAMB TO S.T. COLERIDGE

[P.M. July 2, 1825.]

Dear C. - We are going off to Enfield, to Allsop's, for a day or 2, with
some intention of succeeding them in their lodging for a time, for this
damn'd nervous Fever (vide Lond. Mag. for July) indisposes me for seeing
any friends, and never any poor devil was so befriended as I am. Do you
know any poor solitary human that wants that cordial to life a - true
friend? I can spare him twenty, he shall have 'em good cheap. I have
gallipots of 'em - genuine balm of cares - a going - a going - a going.
Little plagues plague me a 1000 times more than ever. I am like a
disembodied soul - in this my eternity. I feel every thing entirely, all
in all and all in etc. This price I pay for liberty, but am richly
content to pay it. The Odes are 4-5ths done by Hood, a silentish young
man you met at Islinton one day, an invalid. The rest are Reynolds's,
whose sister H. has recently married. I have not had a broken finger in
them.

They are hearty good-natured things, and I would put my name to 'em
chearfully, if I could as honestly. I complimented them in a Newspaper,
with an abatement for those puns you laud so. They are generally an
excess. A Pun is a thing of too much consequence to be thrown in as a
make-weight. You shall read one of the addresses over, and miss the
puns, and it shall be quite as good and better than when you discover
'em. A Pun is a Noble Thing per se: O never lug it in as an accessory. A
Pun is a sole object for reflection (vide _my_ aids to that recessment
from a savage state) - it is entire, it fills the mind: it is perfect as
a Sonnet, better. It limps asham'd in the train and retinue of Humour:
it knows it should have an establishment of its own. The one, for
instance, I made the other day, I forget what it was.

Hood will be gratify'd, as much as I am, by your mistake. I liked
'Grimaldi' the best; it is true painting, of abstract Clownery, and that
precious concrete of a Clown: and the rich succession of images, and
words almost such, in the first half of the Mag. Ignotum. Your picture
of the Camel, that would not or could not thread your nice needle-eye of
Subtilisms, was confirm'd by Elton, who perfectly appreciated his abrupt
departure. Elton borrowed the "Aids" from Hessey (by the way what is
your Enigma about Cupid? I am Cytherea's son, if I understand a tittle
of it), and returnd it next day saying that 20 years ago, when he was
pure, he _thought_ as you do now, but that he now thinks as you did 20
years ago. But E. seems a very honest fellow. Hood has just come in; his
sick eyes sparkled into health when he read your approbation. They had
meditated a copy for you, but postponed it till a neater 2d Edition,
which is at hand.

Have you heard _the Creature_ at the Opera House - Signor Non-vir sed
VELUTI Vir?

Like Orpheus, he is said to draw storks &c, _after_ him. A picked raisin
for a sweet banquet of sounds; but I affect not these exotics. Nos DURUM
genus, as mellifluous Ovid hath it.

Fanny Holcroft is just come in, with her paternal severity of aspect.
She has frozen a bright thought which should have follow'd. She makes us
marble, with too little conceiving. Twas respecting the Signor, whom I
honour on this side idolatry. Well, more of this anon.

We are setting out to walk to Enfield after our Beans and Bacon, which
are just smoking.

Kindest remembrances to the G.'s ever.

From Islinton,

2d day, 3d month of my Hegira or Flight from Leadenhall.

C.L. Olim Clericus.


["To Allsop's." Allsop says in his _Letters... of Coleridge_ that he and
the Lambs were housemates for a long time.

"Vide Lond. Mag. for July" - where the _Elia_ essay "The Convalescent"
was printed.

"The Odes" - _Odes and Addresses to Great People, 1825._ Coleridge after
reading the book had written to Lamb as follows (the letter is printed
by Hood): -

MY DEAR CHARLES, - This afternoon, a little, thin, mean-looking sort of a
foolscap, sub-octavo of poems, printed on very dingy outsides, lay on
the table, which the cover informed me was circulating in our book-club,
so very Grub-Streetish in all its appearance, internal as well as
external, that I cannot explain by what accident of impulse (assuredly
there was no _motive_ in play) I came to look into it. Least of all, the
title, Odes and Addresses to Great Men, which connected itself in my
head with Rejected Addresses, and all the Smith and Theodore Hook squad.
But, my dear Charles, it was certainly written by you, or under you, or
_una eum_ you. I know none of your frequent visitors capacious and
assimilative enough of your converse to have reproduced you so honestly,
supposing you had left yourself in pledge in his lock-up house. Gillman,
to whom I read the spirited parody on the introduction to Peter Bell,
the Ode to the Great Unknown, and to Mrs. Fry; he speaks doubtfully of
Reynolds and Hood. But here come Irving and Basil Montagu.

_Thursday night 10 o'clock_. - No! Charles, it is _you_. I have read them
over again, and I understand why you have _anon'd_ the book. The puns
are nine in ten good - many excellent - the Newgatory transcendent. And
then the _exemplum sine exemplo_ of a volume of personalities, and
contemporaneities, without a single line that could inflict the
infinitesimal of an unpleasance on any man in his senses: saving and
except perhaps in the envy-addled brain of the despiser of your _Lays_.
If not a triumph over him, it is at least an _ovation_. Then, moreover,
and besides, to speak with becoming modesty, excepting my own self, who
is there but you who can write the musical lines and stanzas that are
intermixed?

Here, Gillman, come up to my Garret, and driven back by the guardian
spirits of four huge flower-holders of omnigenous roses and
honeysuckles - (Lord have mercy on his hysterical olfactories! What will
he do in Paradise? I must have a pair or two of nostril-plugs, or
nose-goggles laid in his coffin) - stands at the door, reading that to
M'Adam, and the washer-woman's letter, and he admits _the facts_. You
are found _in the manner_, as the lawyers say! so, Mr. Charles! hang
yourself up, and send me a line, by way of token and acknowledgment. My
dear love to Mary. God bless you and your Unshamabramizer.

S.T. COLERIDGE.

Reynolds was John Hamilton Reynolds. According to a marked copy in the
possession of Mr. Buxton Forman, Reynolds wrote only the odes to Mr.
M'Adam, Mr. Dymoke, Sylvanus Urban, Elliston and the Dean and Chapter of
Westminster.

The newspaper in which Lamb complimented the book was the _New Times_,
for April 12, 1825. See Vol. I. of the present edition for the review,
where the remarks on puns are repeated. The "Mag. Ignotum" was the ode
to the Great Unknown, the author of the Scotch novels. In the same paper
on January 8, 1825, Lamb had written an essay called "Many Friends" (see
Vol. I.) a little in the manner of this first paragraph.

"Your picture of the Camel." Probably the story of a caller told by
Coleridge to Lamb in a letter.

"Your Enigma about Cupid." Possibly referring to the following passage
in the _Aids to Reflection_, 1825, pages 277-278: -

From the remote East turn to the mythology of Minor Asia, to the
Descendants of Javan _who dwelt in the tents of Shem, and possessed
the Isles_. Here again, and in the usual form of an historic
Solution, we find the same _Fact_, and as characteristic of the
Human _Race_, stated in that earliest and most venerable Mythus (or
symbolic Parable) of Prometheus - that truly wonderful Fable, in
which the characters of the rebellious Spirit and of the Divine
Friend of Mankind ([Greek: Theos philanthropos]) are united in the
same Person: and thus in the most striking manner noting the forced
amalgamation of the Patriarchal Tradition with the incongruous
Scheme of Pantheism. This and the connected tale of Io, which is but
the sequel of the Prometheus, stand alone in the Greek Mythology, in
which elsewhere both Gods and Men are mere Powers and Products of
Nature. And most noticeable it is, that soon after the promulgation
and spread of the Gospel had awakened the moral sense, and had
opened the eyes even of its wiser Enemies to the necessity of
providing some solution of this great problem of the Moral World,
the beautiful Parable of Cupid and Psyche was brought forward as a
_rival_ FALL OF MAN: and the fact of a moral corruption connatural
with the human race was again recognized. In the assertion of
ORIGINAL SIN the Greek Mythology rose and set.

"Have you heard _the Creature?_" - Giovanni Battista Velluti (1781-1861),
an Italian soprano singer who first appeared in England on June 30,
1825, in Meyerbeer's "Il Crociato in Egitto." He received £2,500 for
five months' salary.]



LETTER 377

CHARLES LAMB TO BERNARD BARTON

[P.M. July 2, 1825.]

My dear B.B. - My nervous attack has so unfitted me, that I have not
courage to sit down to a Letter. My poor pittance in the London you will
see is drawn from my sickness. Your Book is very acceptable to me,
because most of it [is] new to me, but your Book itself we cannot thank
you for more sincerely than for the introduction you favoured us with to
Anne Knight. Now cannot I write _Mrs._ Anne Knight for the life of me.
She is a very pleas - , but I won't write all we have said of her so
often to ourselves, because I suspect you would read it to her. Only
give my sister's and my kindest rememb'ces to her, and how glad we are
we can say that word. If ever she come to Southwark again I count upon
another pleasant BRIDGE walk with her. Tell her, I got home, time for a
rubber; but poor Tryphena will not understand that phrase of the
worldlings.

I am hardly able to appreciate your volume now. But I liked the
dedicat'n much, and the apology for your bald burying grounds. To
Shelly, but _that_ is not new. To the young Vesper-singer, Great
Bealing's, Playford, and what not?

If there be a cavil it is that the topics of religious consolation,
however beautiful, are repeated till a sort of triteness attends them.
It seems as if you were for ever losing friends' children by death, and
reminding their parents of the Resurrection. Do children die so often,
and so good, in your parts? The topic, taken from the considerat'n that
they are snatch'd away from _possible vanities_, seems hardly sound; for
to an omniscient eye their conditional failings must be one with their
actual; but I am too unwell for Theology. Such as I am, I am yours and
A.K.'s truly

C. LAMB.


["My poor pittance"-"The Convalescent."

"Your Book"-Barton's _Poems_, 4th edition, 1825. The dedication was to
Barton's sister, Maria Hack.

"Anne Knight." A Quaker lady, who kept a school at Woodbridge.]



LETTER 378

CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN AITKEN

Colebrooke Cottage, Islington, July 5, 1825.

DEAR Sir, - With thanks for your last No. of the Cabinet - as I cannot
arrange with a London publisher to reprint "Rosamund Gray" as a book, it
will be at your service to admit into the Cabinet as soon as you please.
Your h'ble serv't, CH's LAMB.

EMMA, eldest of your name,
Meekly trusting in her God
Midst the red-hot plough-shares trod,
And unscorch'd preserved her fame.
By that test if _you_ were tried,
Ugly names might be defied;
Though devouring fire's a glutton,
Through the trial you might go
'On the light fantastic toe,'
Nor for plough-shares care a BUTTON.


[Aitken was an Edinburgh bookseller who edited _The Cabinet; or, The
Selected Beauties of Literature_, 1824, 1825 and 1831. The particular
interest of the letter is that it shows Lamb to have wanted to publish
_Rosamund Gray_ a third time in his life. Hitherto we had only his
statement that Hessey said that the world would not bear it. Aitken
printed the story in _The Cabinet_ for 1831. Previously he had printed
"Dream Children" and "The Inconveniences of being Hanged."

I have been told (but have had no opportunity of verifying the
statement) that the Buttons, for one of whom the appended acrostic was
written, were cousins of the Lambs.

Here should come an unpublished letter to Miss Kelly thanking her for
tickets and saying that Liston is to produce Lamb's farce "The
Pawnbroker's Daughter," which "will take."

Here should come a letter from Lamb to Hone, dated Enfield, July 25,
1825. Lamb had written some quatrains to the editor of the _Every-Day
Book_, which were printed in the _London Magazine_ for May, 1825. Hone
copied them into his periodical, accompanied by a reply. Lamb began: -

I like you, and your book, ingenuous Hone!

Hone's reply contained the sentiment: -

I am "ingenuous": it is all I can
Pretend to; it is all I wish to be.

See the _Every-Day Book_, Vol. I., July 9. Hone at this time was
occupying Lamb's house at Colebrooke Row, while the Lambs were staying
at the Allsops' lodgings at Enfield.

Lamb again refers to "The Pawnbroker's Daughter." He says it is at the
theatre now and Harley is there too. This would be John Pritt Harley,
the actor. The play, as it happened, was never acted.

Here should come three notes to Thomas Allsop in July and August, 1825,
one of which damns the afternoon sun. Given in the Boston Bibliophile
edition.]



LETTER 379

CHARLES LAMB TO BERNARD BARTON

[P.M. August 10, 1825.]

We shall be soon again at Colebrook.

Dear B.B. - You must excuse my not writing before, when I tell you we are
on a visit at Enfield, where I do not feel it natural to sit down to a
Letter. It is at all times an exertion. I had rather talk with you, and
Ann Knight, quietly at Colebrook Lodge, over the matter of your last.
You mistake me when you express misgivings about my relishing a series
of scriptural poems. I wrote confusedly. What I meant to say was, that
one or two consolatory poems on deaths would have had a more condensed
effect than many. Scriptural - devotional topics - admit of infinite
variety. So far from poetry tiring me because religious, I can read, and
I say it seriously, the homely old version of the Psalms in our
Prayer-books for an hour or two together sometimes without sense of
weariness.

I did not express myself clearly about what I think a false topic
insisted on so frequently in consolatory addresses on the death of
Infants. I know something like it is in Scripture, but I think humanly
spoken. It is a natural thought, a sweet fallacy to the Survivors - but
still a fallacy. If it stands on the doctrine of this being a
probationary state, it is liable to this dilemma. Omniscience, to whom
possibility must be clear as act, must know of the child, what it would
hereafter turn out: if good, then the topic is false to say it is
secured from falling into future wilfulness, vice, &c. If bad, I do not
see how its exemption from certain future overt acts by being snatched
away at all tells in its favor. You stop the arm of a murderer, or
arrest the finger of a pickpurse, but is not the guilt incurred as much
by the intent as if never so much acted? Why children are hurried off,
and old reprobates of a hundred left, whose trial humanly we may think
was complete at fifty, is among the obscurities of providence. The very
notion of a state of probation has darkness in it. The all-knower has no
need of satisfying his eyes by seeing what we will do, when he knows
before what we will do. Methinks we might be condemn'd before
commission. In these things we grope and flounder, and if we can pick up
a little human comfort that the child taken is snatch'd from vice (no
great compliment to it, by the bye), let us take it. And as to where an
untried child goes, whether to join the assembly of its elders who have
borne the heat of the day - fire-purified martyrs, and torment-sifted
confessors - what know we? We promise heaven methinks too cheaply, and
assign large revenues to minors, incompetent to manage them. Epitaphs
run upon this topic of consolation, till the very frequency induces a
cheapness. Tickets for admission into Paradise are sculptured out at a
penny a letter, twopence a syllable, &c. It is all a mystery; and the
more I try to express my meaning (having none that is clear) the more I
flounder. Finally, write what your own conscience, which to you is the
unerring judge, seems best, and be careless about the whimsies of such a
half-baked notionist as I am. We are here in a most pleasant country,
full of walks, and idle to our hearts desire. Taylor has dropt the
London. It was indeed a dead weight. It has got in the Slough of
Despond. I shuffle off my part of the pack, and stand like Xtian with
light and merry shoulders. It had got silly, indecorous, pert, and every
thing that is bad. Both our kind _remembrances_ to Mrs. K. and yourself,
and stranger's-greeting to Lucy - is it Lucy or Ruth? - that gathers wise
sayings in a Book. C. LAMB.


[The London Magazine passed into the hands of Henry Southern in
September, 1825. Lamb's last article for it was in the August
number - "Imperfect Dramatic Illusion," reprinted in the _Last Essays of
Elia_ as "Stage Illusion."]



LETTER 380

CHARLES LAMB TO ROBERT SOUTHEY

August 10, 1825.

Dear Southey, - You'll know who this letter comes from by opening
slap-dash upon the text, as in the good old times. I never could come
into the custom of envelopes; 'tis a modern foppery; the Plinian
correspondence gives no hint of such. In singleness of sheet and meaning
then I thank you for your little book. I am ashamed to add a codicil of
thanks for your "Book of the Church." I scarce feel competent to give an
opinion of the latter; I have not reading enough of that kind to venture
at it. I can only say the fact, that I have read it with attention and
interest. Being, as you know, not quite a Churchman, I felt a jealousy
at the Church taking to herself the whole deserts of Christianity,
Catholic and Protestant, from Druid extirpation downwards. I call all
good Christians the Church, Capillarians and all. But I am in too light
a humour to touch these matters. May all our churches flourish! Two
things staggered me in the poem (and one of them staggered both of us).
I cannot away with a beautiful series of verses, as I protest they are,
commencing "Jenner." 'Tis like a choice banquet opened with a pill or an
electuary - physic stuff. T'other is, we cannot make out how Edith
should be no more than ten years old. By'r Lady, we had taken her to be
some sixteen or upwards. We suppose you have only chosen the round
number for the metre. Or poem and dedication may be both older than they
pretend to; but then some hint might have been given; for, as it stands,
it may only serve some day to puzzle the parish reckoning. But without
inquiring further (for 'tis ungracious to look into a lady's years), the
dedication is eminently pleasing and tender, and we wish Edith May
Southey joy of it. Something, too, struck us as if we had heard of the
death of John May. A John May's death was a few years since in the
papers. We think the tale one of the quietest, prettiest things we have
seen. You have been temperate in the use of localities, which generally
spoil poems laid in exotic regions. You mostly cannot stir out (in such
things) for humming-birds and fire-flies. A tree is a Magnolia, &c. - Can
I but like the truly Catholic spirit? "Blame as thou mayest the Papist's
erring creed" - which and other passages brought me back to the old
Anthology days and the admonitory lesson to "Dear George" on the "The
Vesper Bell," a little poem which retains its first hold upon me
strangely.

The compliment to the translatress is daintily conceived. Nothing is
choicer in that sort of writing than to bring in some remote, impossible
parallel, - as between a great empress and the inobtrusive quiet soul who
digged her noiseless way so perseveringly through that rugged Paraguay
mine. How she Dobrizhoffered it all out, it puzzles my slender Latinity
to conjecture. Why do you seem to sanction Lander's unfeeling
allegorising away of honest Quixote! He may as well say Strap is meant



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