Edith Helen Sichel.

The life and letters of Alfred Ainger online

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which, after tea, there ensued a modest repast of sandwiches —
which, in his jocund letters, he calls " brencheese." This must
have been about the days of the London Magazine, but after the un-
fortunate duel," which was (perhaps) the cause of the failure of this
once promising periodical. Some of the contributors — Hamilton
Reynolds, James Weathercock (Wainewright), who, if he escaped
it, deserved hanging, and others; the brothers Charles and
Edwin Landseer, and other young painters and members of the
Corps dramaiique — enlivened the assembly occasionally. In all
the doings there the influence of C. L. was constantly perceived.
Without any remarkable flashes of wit, he shed around a spirit of
mirth — threw in gleams of irresistible drollery — pulled away the
mask of all seriousness, and evoked the spirit of fun out of the
most unpromising subjects.

' All these diversions, however, came to an end. I had to
descend from my air-built abode and to engage in more
serious labours. I became married, and was called to the Bar
early in 1827, and had, of necessity, to occupy chambers on the

1 1890, after receiving Canon Ainger's edition of the Letters.

' Between Scott, the editor, and Christie ; Scott was killed (1821).


ground floor for the access of possible clients, and to engage in
pursuits which, for the next sixty and more years of my existence,
occupied all my thoughts and commanded all my exertions, and
so I lost or relinquished many of my earlier acquaintances.

'Your most pleasant books have called up the remembrance of
former days and departed friends. " I cannot but remember such
things were," and were most precious to me.

'The letters are not only delightful in themselves, grave, gay,
severe, pathetic, and all redolent of the rare spirit which has
made £/m a joy for ever; but because they give a most faithful
portrait of the writer "as he lived" — not a photograph which
draws only a momentary glimpse of the object — but a durable
presentment, which displays it in its various moods and in its true
colours, and speaks its very words.

' I congratulate you upon the care, and skill, and good taste,
with which you have shown the world how well C. L. deserves the
admiration you feel for him — and which is the best reward you
can desire for the labour of love you have bestowed upon your

'I beg you to believe that I am sincerely and faithfully yours. —

'James Bacon.'

* That quotation from MacdiifF's lament over his children,
" I cannot but remember such things were," moved me more
than I can tell,' was Ainger's comment on this letter in one of
his own to Dykes Campbell. Another among his correspon-
dents might have made the same quotation — one Miss Sarah
Ann Hunter, who, in her youth, had lived near Elia, at
Enfield, and wrote thus about him to Canon Ainger —

' . . . I have some little scruples about sending the lines
written by Charles Lamb on me to a stranger. It seems foolishly
egotistical ! Yet I am not quite sure that it is ; for at seventy-
one, the Self of sixteen or seventeen has so long passed away, I
may as well think of it as an old friend of former times, who
had much girlish enjoyment in the Poet's company, and com-
plimentary lines.

'It was at Enfield we met; as my grandmother resided near
Charles Lamb and his sister, and there was social intercourse
between the inmates of the two houses.

I was still a schoolgirl and on a holiday visit, and I had some


very pleasant walks with Charles Lamb and Emma Isola, when
one day he left an envelope addressed : —

" Miss Hunter,
"With C. L.'s respects.
" May be opened by any one."
" Inside was a half-sheet of paper with : —


" Old bards have rehears'd how with quiver and bow
The bright virgin goddess a-hunting would go ;
All day thro' the forests her shafts she let fly ;
And at eve chased her brother, the Sun, down the sky.
But a mortal we boast of, that rival her can ;
'Tis the Hunter of Hunters — the fair Sarah Ann.

No need has our Cynthia of hounds, or of horns,
And the troublesome load of a quiver she scorns ;
Soft looks are her arrows, whenever she speeds.
And the victim, that feels them, contentedly bleeds.
Soft looks are her arrows — escape her who can —
This Hunter of Hunters, this fair Sarah Ann.

Diana, besides, was a bit of a Prude,
And turn'd folks into stags, that presum'd to be rude,
Ou-r Dian, less cruel, all rudeness defies,
^ And the boldest turn modest, subdued by her eyes.

Then fill uji a bumper — refuse it who can —
To this Hunter of Hunters, this fair Sarah Ann.

(Signed) Chs. Lamb."

* As I was a very practical girl, I do not think I duly appreciated
being a modern Cynthia; but I valued the poet's kindness, and
felt a very warm regard for the bright little old man who took
notice of me, and laughed at my fun as if he were but a school-
boy. My seniors, on the contrary, thought of the lines as they
deserved, particularly my mother, who was much pleased with

'I have written to Canada for some lines Mr. Lamb wrote on a
very beautiful girl connected with our family ; if I get them I
will send them to you. — Yours truly, Sarah Ann Hunter.

'Temple Villa, Orchard Road,
Kingston-on-Thames, Feb. IQth, 188G.'


Sometimes, too, we come upon some note, a question, a
statement, which conjures up spirits from the past. Most
readers of Lamb will remember William Ayrton, the friend of
the Burneys, the musical critic, to whom Lamb addressed his
brilliant verses beginning : —

' Oh Mr. Ayrtou !
For all your rare tone —

It is amusing to find his son writing in 1883 from Saltburn
to claim a joke for his father — a joke made some sixty years

' I enclose a note," he says, ' of my recollections of LamVs
eccentricity at a Wednesday evening at my father's. If you
have an opportunity, state that "Martin, if dirt were trumps""^
was not Lamb's, but my father's ; this, I have more than once
heard my father claim.'

This had come in answer to a note from Canon Ainger,
interesting merely because it shows the way he set to work. ' Of
course ' (it runs) ' there are in existence many letters of Lamb's
that are merely notes — accepting invitations, or making appoint-
ments for social gatherings, which contain few or no special
indications of Lamb's humour or character. Such as these are
hardly worth printing, but I am sure there must be many still
in existence that exhibit traits of his humour or eccentricity,
and throw light on his character or peculiarities. I will most
gladly leave to your critical judgment to select any of the
letters in your possession that may seem to you interesting for
the just-mentioned or any other reasons.'

Correspondents such as these, who had seen Elia in the
flesh, were necessarily few, and they also have now passed
away. But other sources of knowledge remain. With Lamb
it was — and is — ' Love me, love my friends ' ; and to such as
do so, the following letter about Thomas Manning," the

^ • Martin, if dirt were trumps, what a hand you 'd have. ' Reported to have
been said by Charles Lamb to Martin Burney at a game of whist on one of
Lamb's Wednesday evenings.

'•^ Thomas Manning was mathematical tutor at Caius College, Cambridge,
and it was in that town that he first met Charles Lamb, in 1799. ' After he
had lived at Cambridge for some years he began to brood over the mysterious


Chinese traveller, the recipient of some of LamVs best letters,
' the most wonderful man he ever knew,"" will perhaps be not
unwelcome. It was written by Mr. J. E. Davis, of the Middle
Temple, an Elian scholar and Canon Ainger's constant colleague
in his labours.

Of Manning he writes : —

' I am not aware of nor can I find any source of information
beyond what is disclosed by Procter and by Lamb's letters. I am
trying to trace Manning's doings in China from 1805 to 1815.
Procter says he understood his original intention when he set out
for China was to frame and publish a Chinese and English
dictionary, and that he brought over much material for the
purpose ; but there are indications, as you know, that this labour
was subsidiary of the missionary spirit (" you are gone to plant the
cross of Chi'ist "). I take it that Manning was acquiring know-
ledge of every kind likely, or rather inevitable, to be of use when
out. Lamb, writing to Hazlitt, Nov. 10, 1805, says '' Manning is
come to town in spectacles, and studies physic; is melancholy,
and seems to have something in his head, which he don't impart."

' Although the inference is that Manning kept his intentions to
himself, there are indications in Lamb's letter to him of July
17th in the same year, that he had disclosed an intention to take
a voyage.

'Manning was otf early in 1806, contemplating an absence of
four years. It is remarkable that Lamb, writing to him on May
1 0th, says " the four years you talk of may be ten." Ten years
was the time Manning was away. I have not as yet found any
trace of Manning's work in China, but it is odd if such a large-
hearted man, as he evidently was, did not leave his mark some-
where. I am myself so narrow-minded as not to expect from

empire of China,' and 'resolved to enter the Celestial Empire at all hazards.'
He studied Chinese in France as well as in England, and when he went home
in 1803, his passport was the only one that Napoleon signed for an Englishman
returning to his country after the war broke out — a fact entirely due ' to the
respect in which his undertaking was held by the learned men at Paris.' He
went to Lhasa in 181 1, and remained away for nearly twelve years, after which
he came back to Europe a disappointed man. He lived in Italy from 1827-1829,
and after that in England, first ' in strict retirement' at Bexley, then in a cottage
near Dartford. ' He led a very eccentric life. It is said that he never furnished
his cottage, but only had a few chairs, one carpet, and a large library of Chinese
books. He wore a milky white beard down to his waist.' He died at Bath,
in 1840.


a missionary of the ordinary type the capacity to enter with
zeal into the topics of the letter referred to, indeed, of much that
Lamb wrote.

' Crabb Robinson alludes to Manning three or four times.
Under the date of Dec. 30th, 1807, when he met Coleridge and
Wordsworth at Lamb's, C. R. says, " Coleridge was philosophising
in his rambling way to Monkhouse, who listened attentively — to
Manning, who sometimes smiled, as if he thought Coleridge had
no right to metaphysicise on chemistry without any knowledge of
the subject." '

Some of the pleasantest associations that Canon Ainger
had with Elia were the festive little journeys that he made in
connection with his work. One of these was to Woodbridge,
in Suffolk, whither he went to gather information about LamVs
friend, Bernard Barton. And Mr. Loder of that town has
kept his first impressions of him when he came there on this

' BuRKiTT House,
'Woodbridge, Jan. 3, 1905.

' . . . I had the very great pleasure of coming in contact with
Canon Ainger a few years ago when he was editing Lamb's
Letters and being desirous of learning some particulars of Lamb's
friend and correspondent Barton, the Quaker poet, who resided
here the major portion of his life.

'I fell in love with him "on sight." He walked in, telling me
that som friend in London had mentioned my name as a likely
person to give him information about Barton, adding "that he
always made it a point when he was writing about any one to
verify for himself by personally visiting the place where such
person resided." — (0 si sic omnes — we should have fewer lies in

' I of course gladly volunteered to act as cicerone, so I showed
him the Bank where Barton worked, the house where he resided,
and the burying-ground in the quiet Quaker Meeting House
Yard where he was laid.

' I found him the most perfect gentleman, a great scholar, with
the face of a saint.

'Now for a somewhat curious little episode. Some while after
his visit, in reading over again Lamb's correspondence with
Barton, I found reference to a letter from the Revd. J. Mitford


(Editor, as you know, of the Gentleman's Magazine for many years),
telling Barton he was wishing to get a quantity of china, and
asking Barton if he could recommend him any one who could
assist him in the matter. Barton pounced immediately on Lamb,
and for his reply I refer you to Letter 251 (Edn. 1888).^

' At Mitford's death his effects were all sold — and a friend of
mine bought a lot of the china — and, I remember, a jardi7iiere some
30 inches high which he had failed to dispose of. I rushed over
and secured, and sent it to the Canon with my etc., etc. He was
hugely pleased, and in return he sent me a volume of Lamb's
Essays, beautifully bound in morocco.'

But his favourite trips were to Lamb's own country — to
" Blakesmoor " (really Blakesware) in the village of Widford,
to the cottage, near by, of " Alice W. " and of " Rosamund
Gray" — and to Mackery End in Hertfordshire. He has
himself described the first of these expeditions in his charming
paper — " How I traced Charles Lamb in Hertfordshire."

' It was a lovely day,' he wrote, ' in June or July, that we
arrived in Ware, and, having ordered dinner on our return at the
inn, chartered a conveyance and drove through the rural Hertford-
shire landscape, so sweetly and characteristically English, and
were deposited at the gate of Widford rectory.' Later they
were guided to ' Lamb's Blakesmoor ' — happily guided, for ' old
roads have been diverted, and old landmarks removed, so that the
site of the old house, now marked by a young plantation, would
have escaped our search. But now that it was pointed out, we
could still trace by the undulations in the meadow behind that
site where the " ample pleasure-garden " once " rose backward
from the house in triple terraces," and yet further back, that
"firry wilderness, haunt of the squirrel and the day-long mur-
muring pigeon." '

1 "If Mr. Mitford will send me a full and circumstantial description of his
desired vases, I will transmit the same to a gentleman resident at Canton, whom
I think I have interest enough in to take the proper care for their execution.
But Mr. M. must have patience. China is a great way off, further perhaps than
he thinks ; and his next year's roses must be content to wither in a Wedgewood
pot." Ainger's Note upon this passage in his last edition of Lamb's Letters
(1904) runs: * One of Mr. Mitford's vases, which were actually made in China
and sent home, is now, through the friendly offices of Mr. John Loder of Wood-
bridge, in the Editor's possession.' Lamb's Letters, Macmillan, 1904, vol. ii.
(Notes), p. 343.


And the writer tells us how he found more than the site of
the old mansion, which enchanted Elia's childhood.

' I wished, if possible,' he says, ' to find the actual name, if
nothing else, of the " Anna^" of the sonnets, the " Alice " of the
Essays . . . the fair-haired maid whom he had loved in these
youthful days — loved but failed to win.'

And luck or Elia's kindly spirit befriended him. He had
an introduction to the rector's family. " I think Mr. Ainger
might like to see Mrs. Tween," said one of them — and it was
explained that Mrs. Tween was an old lady who had known
Charles Lamb in her youth. She lived close by in a house in the
village street of AVidford, 'an old-fashioned farmhouse-looking
abode,' to which Ainger was forthwith taken. He ' passed
through the homely garden' full of 'stocks and sweet-william
and mignonette,' and found himself in the lady's presence.

'Our guide from the rectory soon struck a responsive chord
by telling that Mr. Ainger was connected with the Temple
Church. From the moment that the word Temple was pronounced,
the ice was broken, and " indifference was no more." Mrs. Tween
was herself, she said, a native of the Temple, and it was there
that her family's friendship with the Lambs had been cemented.
" Might I ask," I interrupted, " what was his name ? " " Randal
Norris." My friend and myself looked at one another, "like
bold Cortez and his men/' in a wild surmise. . . . The whole
pathetic story of the Lamb family and their great sorrow came
flooding on my memory. And that saddest of sad letters sent by
Charles to his school-friend, Coleridge, after the fatal day . . .
irresistibly prompted the quotation I uttered. " Mr. Norris has
been as a father to me ; Mrs. Norris as a mother" ; and as I spoke
the words I saw Mrs. Tween's eyes fill with tears, and I felt that
we were no longer strangers.'

For this was, indeed, the daughter of that Randal Norris,
the Librarian and Sub-Treasurer of the Temple, the staunch
friend of the Lamb family, the last person to die who had
still called Elia 'Charley'; and to her, Jane Norris, after-
wards Jane Tween, was addressed the last letter of Mary
Lamb's that we possess.


But the end of discoveries was not yet.

'Could Mrs. Tween tell me anything about the fair-haired
maid ? Did she actually live in Widford, and what was her
name ? Yes, she lived very near Blakesware, and cottages stood
on the site of her dwelling. . . . And her name ? "Oh ! her name
was Nancy Simmons." "Nancy/' I cried, for I felt I was losing
the one fact I had ascertained. " I had thought it was Ann."
" Certainly," replied my informant — " Ann, but she was always
called Nancy." Ann Simmons, then, had been the Anna, the
Alice with the watchet eyes and the '^ yellow Hertfoi-dshire hair."
But of her and her fortunes Mrs. Tween had little or nothing
else to tell.'

This visit was the beginning of a friendship between Ainger
and Mrs. Tween. She grew to love Ainger and to look upon
him as a link with old days and with her home at the Temple.
It was her relics of Charles Lamb that afterwards became his
— ' a little plaster head of Samuel Salt ' among them — and to
her he liked to take his friends in Elia, when he made his
holiday journeys. Among these friends Mr. Dykes Campbell
ranked first, and the notes in which Ainger planned these
jaunts to Hertfordshire make no unfitting epilogue to a
chapter on his editorial work.

' 2 Upper Terrace,
' Hampstead, Friday, May 18th, 1888.

' My dear Campbell (says the first), — I should like nothing
better than such a "frisk" (as Samuel Johnson called it) as you
propose. But I think Thuraday of next week would be the only
day that I could manage it. What say you to a ride by train to
Ware, and then take on a gig (thoroughly respectable), or other
conveyance to Widford and Blakesware — or, if you prefer it, to
Wheathampstead, walking on to Mackery End, and so home by
Harpenden or Hatfield. I am equally ready for either outing.
For further particulars, see " Small Bills." — Yours always,

'Alfred Ainger.'

' 2 Upper Terrace,
Hampstead, Saturday, May 19th.

' Mv dear Campbell, — Yours just received. Let us say Thursdmj,
and I will arrange details of tour. Widford and Blakesware shall


be our goal, and I will communicate with Mr. Lockwood, the
homely Vicar of Widford, as to seeing church and all else — and
we will call on old Mrs. Tween. Our route is to Ware by
Great Eastern. I will write in due course, and enclose list of
trains, etc.

'I have lost my voice — through sudden changes of weather;
bad for to-morrow — but I shall speak " as I was wont to speak," I
hope, long before Thursday. — Ever yours, Alfred Aingeh.'

' 2 Uppkr Terkace,
'Hasipstead, Monday, May 2\st, 1888.

' My dear Campbell, — I am venturing to change our pro-
gramme for Thursday. I have this morning from Mr. Lockwood
of Widford an earnest entreaty to us to postpone our visit there
for another week, as he will be away from home, and his rectory
is in the miseries of a spring cleaning. He thinks the Tweens
are also vernally cleaning themselves.

' I am therefore going to take you to Mackery End instead. . . .
We get to Wheathampstead by 12.40, in time for some bread and
cheese and beer at the village inn, and then we go on to Mackery
End ; and from there I think we will walk to Harpenden, have
some tea there, and return in rude health to London by dinner
time. How say you } — Yours always, Alfred Ainger.

* But we will do Widford another day ! '

We are tempted to insert at this point a letter from old
Mrs. Tween, because, though its date is two years later, it
finds its natural place here. It was written after a sermon
preached in Widford Parish Church on Charles Lamb by Canon
Ainger, and seems to belong by right to the memories of
visits to Blakesmoor : —

'GoDDARD House,
' "Widford, %th November 1890.

' My dear Friend, Rev. Canon Ainger, — Excuse my troubling
you with a few words of thanks, and to acknowledge the receipt
of the Daijs of Old, which I received this day by post at 8 a.m.
It has given me great pleasure, and I am sure you will rejoice
with me that I hear from all parties that old, middle-aged, and
young, the whole congregation, were xinanhnously gratified with all
they heard from you, and not only them, but the family at the


New Blakesware Mansion too. You are, and I hope will ever be,
a great favourite there.

'I fear I have trespassed on too much of your time, but I hope
the report of the proceedings will be as gratifying to you as to me.

' With kindest regards to all your family circle, I am, my dear
friend, your truly obliged, Jane Tween.'



Caxon Aingeh's correspondence during the seven years that

we have been reviewing is full of minutiae about Charles

Lamb. We have chosen a few of the letters that do not seem

over- technical as a record of the details of his work. They

are addressed to Mr. Dykes Campbell, and need no further

introduction : —

' 2 Upper Terrace,
' Hampstead, Sept. 27, 1886.

' Mv DEAR Mr. Campbell, — Thanks for your kind note. I saw
Mr. Thomas Bain yesterday — he was down here spending the
day — and I learned from him that you have seen the treasure with
the portrait of Lamb, and have heard of my delight at discovering,
just in the nick of time, the book I was in search of — mentioned
in Lamb's letter to Cottle. It was a curious coincidence indeed,
and I am preparing a little paper for the Athenoeian, telling the
story of the discovery.^ Tedder, the Librarian of the Athenjeum
Club, told me that Bain had something to show me, and I went

^ Canon Ainger has told the story fully in his Notes to Charles Lamb's Letters
(Macmillan, 1904, vol. ii. p. 325): —

' This letter to Lamb's old friend, Joseph Cottle, publisher and poet of Bristol,
has, I venture to think, an interesting history attached to it. This and the
following two letters were first printed by Cottle in his Early Recollections of
Coleridge, published in 1S37. Cottle gave the date of the first two correctly
(1819), but by some oversight dated the last of the three 1S29. Recent editors
have made the error complete by dating them all 1829. Accordingly, in the
autumn of 1886, when engaged in arranging the letters for the present edition,
I was perplexed by this confusion of dates, and could discover no internal
evidence in the letters themselves to resolve my doubts. A recent editor of
Lamb's Correspondence had confidently announced that the Collection of
Likenesses of British Bards was a certain work called Effigies Poelicae, being
a set of portraits of distinguished English poets, with short notices of their lives
and works, which was not in fact issued till the year 1824. This work (the
letterpress of which, issued anonymously, was by Barry Cornwall) only included
poets already deceased, and therefore did not contain any portrait or notice of
Joseph Cottle. When I had given up hope of finding any clue to the mystery,



over at once and found the very thing I had been in search of for
a month past. I have since got other important particulars which
connect the book, beyond all question, with Lamb. But what

a X. must be to go and assert, as a fact that he knew for

certain, that Lamb wanted the portrait for Procter's Effigies
Poeticce !

' By the way, could you find out for me the precise date of
Mr. and Mrs. Procter's marriage ? I don't want it out of idle
curiosity, but because the date of two letters of Lamb's hang upon

Online LibraryEdith Helen SichelThe life and letters of Alfred Ainger → online text (page 21 of 32)