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The life and letters of Alfred Ainger online

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it. I am getting on fast now with the arrangement of the letters,
but it is difficult work — in which I do not receive much help from
my predecessors. — Yours always sincerely, Alfred Ainger.'

' Dec. nth, 1886.
' . . . I, too, have to report Treasure Trove. Would you be
surprised to hear that I have at this moment in my possession
the MSS. of all Lamb's letters to Manning, and at least tfvo that
have never been printed, and are full of interest, one of the year
1834, the last year of Lamb's life .'' I will tell you more when we
meet. — Yours always, Alfred Ainger.'

'Dec. nth, 1886,
' 1 have a long engagement to go into Hertfordshire to-morrow
for a night, to preach for the Rector of JVidford. I must not run

the actual volume indicated by Lamb came to light. It proved to be a copy
of Byron's English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, profusely illustrated with
engravings and drawings of the various poets and other literary characters
occurring in the famous satire. My attention was called to the copy by its
containing as its solitary water-colour drawing a hitherto unknown portrait
of Charles Lamb, by Mr. Joseph, A. R. A. : but on examining the book further,
I found that it contained also a pencil-drawing of Joseph Cottle, evidently copied
from a miniature. The date of the compilation, as given on a special title-page,
was 1819, and the person by whom it was compiled, one William Evans. By
inquiring from the latest possessor of the volume, I discovered that this Mr. Evans
was Lamb's old friend of that name, a colleague in the India House, to whom
Lamb owed his first introduction to Talfourd. Here, then, was beyond doubt
the " particular friend " who was making a selection of the " Likenesses of Living
Bards." That Lamb was perfectly well aware of the use Mr. Evans proposed
to make of the portraits in question we cannot doubt ; and we can imagine with
what characteristic equanimity he was allowing his own portrait to appear in
illustration of lines by Byron quite as scornful as those in which poor Cottle was
described. As Joseph Cottle, however, might not have received the intelligence
with the same philosophic calm. Lamb did not think it necessary to inform his
old friend of the ]3recise destination of his portrait. Since I made known these
facts in the columns of the Athemeuni, Mr. Evans's volume has passed into the
keeping of the British Museum.'


any risks. You will not need my assurance that I did not lightly
break an engagement, the effect of which was not only to deprive
me of much pleasant converse with you and Mrs. Campbell — but
to deprive me also of Mrs. Procter in the flesh, and her stepfather,
Basil Montagu, in the spirit (or rather in the Pi-otest against Spirit !)
Please tell Mrs. Procter this. When may I come and make it
up — Friday } or Monday .'' — Yours, deeply grieving,

'Alfred Ainger.'

' April Uth, 1887.

' . . . But I have another Coleridgian Crux for you. In Lamb's
Latin letter to Coleridge of October 9, 1802, dealing chiefly with
Coleridge's then recent contributions to the Morning Post, there
occurs a sentence of which the following is as near a translation
as is possible, without understanding the allusions in it. The
" Ludus " referred to may be one of many things, for it has several
meanings in Latin. At pi*esent I think it might mean something
like " jeu d'esprit." If so, we read as follows: —

'"The American Ludus (jeu d'esprit) of which you prattle so
much, Coleridge, I pass by — as utterly abhorrent from a 'jeu
d'esprit ' (as such things go). For tell me, what ' spree ' is there
in wickedly alienating from us, for the sake of a joke, the good-
will of the whole Columbian nation ? I ask for subject matter for
a ' bit of fun ' ; and you offer me * bloody wars ' ! " ^

'You see, this paraphrase may be very wide of the mark, for
all depends upon Avhat Lamb meant by the Ludus. The most
probable interpretation seems to me to be that Lamb, who wrote
occasionally epigrams and such trifles for the Post, had asked
Coleridge to suggest him some subjects, and that the latter had
rather flippantly suggested the relations of England and America,
which were then (as you know) once more becoming strained, in
consequence of the Anglo-French troubles. Have you, in the
"great heap of your knowledge" (de Coleridgio et multis aliis),
any probable or possible explanations of the passage .''

^ Mr. E. V. Lucas has furnished us with the explanation in his edition of
Lamb^ s Letters (Letter xcvii. vol. i. p. 249). He gives us Mr. Stephen Gwynn's
translation of the Latin paragraph in question. ' As for your Ludus (Lloyd),'
it runs, 'whom you talk of as an "American," I pass him by as no sportsman
(as sport goes) : what kind of sport is it, to alienate utterly the good will of the
whole Columbian people, our own kin, sprung of the same stock, for the sake
of one Ludd (Lloyd)? I seek the material for diversion : you heap on war.'

To which Mr. Lucas adds this note : —

' Ludus is Lloyd. Lamb means by " American " what we should mean by
pro- American.' Compare Lady Sarah Lennox {Letters, i. 277).


' You will see fi-om this letter of Lamb's how I was set inquiring
as to the identity of Wordsworth with " Edmund." ^ I have had
great trouble with this letter^ and two of the best Latinists con-
nected with Shrewsbury School have been helping me. All the
other allusions in the letter are clear enough, including a charming
one to little Derwent Coleridge.

' If you will kindly answer this, please address to the Athenaeum
Club till after Wednesday. — Yours always, Alfred Ainger.

'As to the change fi'om "Edmund" to the "Lady" — this
even the discreet knight has not yet fathomed. Have you any
theories .'' '

'Callander House,

' Clifton, July 18, 1887.

'My dear Campbell, — You are the "Inexhaustible Bottle" of
the conjurei*, and can produce any wine or vintage for which the
company call. Thank you sincerely for so promptly sending the
1815 Wordsworth, from which I have just noAV constructed a
tolerably complete note (I trust) on two of Lamb's letters to the
Poet. It is a most interesting edition in all sorts of ways. . . .

' When do you actually leave town } You will let me know
your address. I shall soon, I hope, have some more proofs for
you (not, I fear, proofs oi friendship). — Ever yours,

'Alfred Ainger.'

'Callander House,
' Clifton, Bristol, Friday, Sept. 2, 1887.

' My dear Campbell, — All your strictures and suggestions were
most acceptable. Especially was I grateful for pointing out that
a note on the first occurrence of the name of Talfourd would be
acceptable, and I have amended the defect. Your latest note
about the " Flocci-nauci," ^ etc., etc., is very curious. I knew that

1 In the ode on ' Dejection' where Wordsworth is invoked as 'Edmund,' a
mode of address which was changed in later editions to ' Lady.'

2 Letter xx., Lamli's Letters, vol. i. p. 62. 'Well may the "ragged
oUowers of the Nine" set up for flocci-nauci-what-do-you-call-'em-ists.' In his

note to this letter, vol. i. p. 31S, Ainger says: "■ Flocci-naxici-%i<hat-do-you-caU-
em-ists may be deemed worthy of a note. Flocci, nauci is the beginning of a
rule in the old Latin grammars, containing a list of words signifying of no
account, floccus being a lock of wool and naucus a trifle. Lamb was recalling
a sentence in one of Shenst one's letters : "I loved him for nothing so much as
his flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of money." '


Lamb was a great reader of Shenstone and it was from that quarter
it came, I have no doubt. I have only this day had the pleasure of
giving the stanza from that poet from Avhich Lamb fabricated his
exquisite, '' If he bring but a relict away." ^ . . .

'A friendly correspondent from the India Office sends me a
transcript from the old E. I. House Records of the Minute fixing
and awarding Lamb's pension — Tuesday 29th of March 1825.
Lamb's salary at the time was, it appears, £730.

' By the way, what is the meaning of the paragraph in the
Athencvum, p. 140, about a second performance of ''Mr. H." at
the Lyceum, playbill written by Lamb. Surely the Lyceum was
not built till after Lamb's day, was it ? I expect it will turn out
to be the performance got up by Charles Mathews, junior, when
a very young man.' ^

'The AxHENiEUM Club, Tuesday Afternoon, Nov. 29.

'My dear Campbell, — My best thanks for the fragment of the
Quarterly containing Lamb's Wordsworth Paper, which I am very
glad indeed to have. I found a curious thing. The paper that
follows Lamb's is a Review of Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic
Literature. The Reviewer summarises Schlegel's remarks on the
various dramatic authors of the world. Among these occurs
Euripides, and the Reviewer points out how Euripides sacrificed
everything to the drawing tears from the eyes of his audience.
There is the Sacerdos Cojnniiserationis we have been looking for —
there, beyond all doubt, while Lamb pored over these pages, he
found the passage and remembered it.^ I have just returned to

^ Letter cccxxxiii., Lavib's Letters, Macmillan, vol. ii. p. 172. 'She'd
make a good match for any body (by she, I mean the widow) —

' If he bring but a relict away,
He is happy, nor heard to complain.' — Shenstone.

Note to this letter, p. 352 : See Shenstone, Pastoral Ballad, * "Absence "' —

' " The pilgrim that journeys all day
To visit some far distant shrine,
If he bear but a relique away
Is happy, nor heard to repine." '

"^ ' It was played at an amateur performance by the late C. J. Mathews in
1822, as recorded in the actor's memoirs.' — Ainger's note on 'Mr. H.,' Poems,
Playsy and Essays. Macmillan, 1895.

3 This may perhaps refer to two letters written by Lamb in his own particular
Latin. The first (Letter CCCCXXVII., Lamb's Letters, Macmillan, vol. ii. p. 281)


the printers the corrected first proofs of my Introduction. When
I get the revise I will send it you, that you may " correct the
more obvious blunders ! " as Thompson said of Whewell. — Ever
yours, Alfred Ainger.

' I have just read the Coleorton Letters (lent me by George
Macmillan), most interesting. How one loves Wordsworth and his
sister more and more ! '

'2 Upper Terrace,
' Hampstead, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 1887.

' My dear Campbell. — I must send you a few lines to thank you
for your kind letter. All your suggestions in the matter of
correction were worthy of notice, and I have polished several of
my sentences in accordance therewith. And now the proofs are
out of my hands (Index alone excepted) and I await calmly the
issue. I suppose the volume can't be ready before the end of
January, if so soon, but I quite hope they will be in time to find
you still in the same mind about the Roast Pig and Hare (Roasted,
if you love me, not jugged. It tastes so " crips," ^ the former
way !) to which I look forward with a thankful longing. It is a
beautiful and a friendly thought of yours. . . .

* I also met poor Charles Kent yesterday at the Athenaeum. No
editorial jealousy about him ! Nothing but genuine and kindly

is to Bernard Barton, and commends to his notice certain proverbs to ' recall you
to the recovery of my lost Latinity.' Among these is the following :

' Tom, Tom of Islington, married a wife on Sunday. lie brought her home
on Monday ; Bought a stick on Tuesday ; Beat her well on Wednesday ; Sick
was she on Thursday ; Dead was she on Friday ; Glad was Tom on Saturday
night, to bury his wife on Sunday.'

We use Ainger's translation in this and in the second letter (Letter ccccxxix.,
p. 282), which is to the Rev. H. F. Gary : ' . . . We must sometimes exchange
He ! He ! He ! for Heu ! Heu ! Heu ! That the Tragic Muse is not wholly
repugnant to me, witness this song of Disaster, originally written by some
unknown author in the vernacular, but lately turned by me into Latin — I mean,
"Tom of Islington." Do you take? . . . And finally Tom is filled with joy
that on the following day (Sunday, to wit) his spouse must be carried out to
burial. Lo ! a domestic iliad ! a cycle of calamity ! a seven days' tragedy !

' Go now and compare your vaunted Euripides with griefs like these ! Such
a death of wives as this! Where is your Alcestis now? your Hecuba? your
other Dolorous Heroines of Antiquity ? '

1 'And do it nice and crips (that's the cook's word).'— Letter from Lamb to
Dodwell, October 7, 1827.


interest in everything I have done for Lamb since his time. Fie
is a Lamb editor I really respect and feel affection for.

' Lathbury has sent me the Coleorton Letters. How interesting
they are ! I have just been writing the opening pages of a review
of them. Wordsworth and Dorothy are exquisite in their simple
pleasures, and happiness in one another. — Yours always,

'Alfred Ainger.'

'2 Upper Terrace,
' Hampstead, Friday, May 25, 1888.

* My dear Campbell, — Am I, or am I not, on the brink of a
discovery } You remember that letter of Lamb's to Taylor the
Publisher (July 30, 1821), in which he tells the origin of his
signature " Elia." He says that the Italian of that name, in the
South Sea House with him, was an author as well as a " Scrivener."
I find in Allibone the following entry : —

' " Ellia, Felix. Norman Banditti, or the Fortress of Constance : a
Tale. London, 1799. !2 vols. 12 mo."

' Was this the man ? The date corresponds precisely, and the
curious fact that Lamb, after writing the name Elia, takes the
precaution to add " call it Ell-ia," looks as if he remembered
the pronunciation and had forgotten the spelling !

' Some day when you are at the Bi'itish Museum, it might be
worth looking in the Catalogue if the name occurs in connection
with the novel above mentioned, or any others.

' I hope you found your way and your train last evening without
let and hindrance. What a day it was ! — Ever yours,

'Alfred Ainger,'

Note by Mr. Dykes Campbell.

'Neither book nor author's name in B. M. Catalogue. There
is an Elia — but he was really Fra Elias (of Cortona }).'

In the spring of 1888, the Letters were completed, and an
Elian revel seemed a fitting consummation of Ainger's labours.
His good friend and colleague, Dykes Campbell, who had
helped him not only with counsel but with his own collection
of Lamb's letters, proposed to give a banquet in his honour,
and he and Ainger determined that the bill of fare should
consist only of the dishes that Charles Lamb had mentioned —


with appropriate quotations for each, which Ainger undertook
to find. The plan was after his heart, and he threw himself
into it with youthful fervour — so much so, indeed, that the
memi as he first composed it was beyond the compass of
mortal cook, and Mrs. Campbell had to beg him to curtail it.

'2 Upper Terrace,
' Hampstead, Thursday Evening, March 15, 1888.

' My dear Campbell. — You are both of you very good to me.
I have amended the Bill of Fare, as suggested, putting in LAMB
Cutlets, with a motto that will, I hope, strike you as ingenious
when you see it. I have not thought it necessary to omit the
quotation about Apple Dumplings — though there will be none in
the mejiu — because it serves as a motto for child-like and innocent
tastes generally. Moreover, when it is complained that the
delicacy in question has no place on the Carte, you shall reply
that you could not with any decency place any guest in the
position of refusing to take any, with C.'s remark staring them in
the face. I have not otherwise altered the original scheme, and
am sending it off to-night to George Craik to see it carried out
for me. Alfred Ainger.'


29 Albert Hall Mansions,

Tuesday, March 20, 1888.

That enough is as good as a Feast. Not a man, woman, or
child in ten miles round Guildhall, who really believes this saying.
The inventor of it did not believe it himself. It was made in
revenge by somebody, who was disappointed of a regale. It is a
vile cold scrag-of-mutton sophism ; a lie palmed upon the palate
which knows better things. — Popular Fallacies.

When I have sat, a rarus hospcs, at rich men's tables, with the
savoury soup. . . . — Grace before Meat.

' I, too, never eat but one thing at dinner,' was his reply — then,
after a pause, 'reckoning fish as nothing.' — Ellistoniana.

Brawn was a noble thought. It is not every common gullet-
fancier that can properly esteem of it. As Wordsworth sings of a


modest poet, ' You must love him ere to you he will seem worthy
of your love ' ; so Bi'awn, you must taste it, ex*e to you it will seem
to have any taste at all. — Letter to Manning.

The cool malignity of mustard and vinegar. — Letter to Manning.


(with green peas).

' Perchance some shepherd, on Lincolnian plains,
In manners guileless as his own sweet flocks.
Received thee first amid the merry mocks
And arch allusions of his fellow swains ;

AVhate'er the fount whence thy beginnings came.
No deed of mine shall shame thee, gentle name.'

Lamb's Sonnet on ' The Family Name.'


Of all the delicacies in the whole mimdus edibilis, I will main-
tain it to be the most delicate — princeps ubsoniorum. — A Disserta-
tion upon Roast Pig.


'Tame villatic fowl.'

She was to sup off a roast fowl, — O joy to Barbara !

Barbara S.

C. holds that a man cannot have a pure mind who refuses apple
dumplings. I am not certain but he is right. — Grace before Meat.

Do take another slice, Mr. Billet, for you do not get pudding
every day. — Poor Relations.


Pineapple is great. She is, indeed, almost too transcendent — a
delight, if not sinful, yet so like to sinning that really a tender-
eonscienced person would do well to pause. — Dissertation on
Roast Pig.

He ate walnuts better than any man I know. — Letter to Rickman.

After all, our instincts may be best. Wine, I am sure, good
mellow generous Port, can hurt nobody. — Letter to Coleridge.


The dinner went off with brilliance, and Ainger brought a
little bust of Lamb that he possessed to preside in the middle
of the table.

That summer was enlivened by another kind of festivity —
one of those literary 'frisks'* of which Ainger w^as so fond.
This time it was to Nether Stowey and the Quantocks, the
country of Coleridge and Wordsworth in their early days,
haunted also by Charles and Mary Lamb, who visited the
Wordsworths at Alfoxden in 1797. The notes that follow
tell the story of Ainger''s plans, made in concert with Dykes
Campbell, who was this time to be his boon companion —
and what, indeed, could be fitter than that the biographers
of Coleridge and of Lamb should visit this region in com-
pany ? They were to start from Bristol, where Ainger was in
Residence, and whence the letters are dated.

' Richmond House,
'Clifton Hill, July 18, 1888.

* I am very glad you are collecting information about the Stowey
neighbourhood. Failing " Kilve's delightful shore " might not
VVatchet be our head-quarters ? According to Murray there is a
comfortable little Hotel there, and I confess that a good base of
operations is half the battle in such cases.

'Whatever we finally decide on, 1 think Ave should come to
terms with "mine Host" (as the country newspapers say) early —
for the Monday (the 6th) being a Bank Holiday, I fancy that
week, holiday-makers may be much about. . . .'

' July 30,

* I will have a small hamper of wine packed — two or three
bottles of claret — one of sherry, and perhaps a few extras — to
keep us up during our first week. (Fancy paying " Corkage " at
the Ship at Porlock Weir !)

' Oh ! that we may have decent weather next week ! Hitherto
it has been '\just redeck-lns." We have been here four weeks, and
I am sure have not had four days without rain — and that mostly
drenching and persistent in character. It made us pale with
envy to hear of the fine days at Hastings.

' . . . I can l)ack your story of the " H dropping," by one of my
dear predecessor in our Chapter, Canon Sydney Smith, who said of


a Quaker's meeting, the stillness was so complete, — "you might
have heard the Three-per-cents fall an eighth. "-^Yours always,

'Alfred Ainger.'

'Monday — Go to Dunster, driving about 15 miles, where sleep.

* Tuesday — Drive from Dunster to Porlock Weir, about 10 miles.
Sleep at Porlock.

' Wednesday —

* Thursday — Go to Lynton by trap or Coach. Sleep at Lynton.

* Friday — Coach 9-30 a.m. to Ilfracombe, thence to Bristol, or
Coach at noon to Barnstaple ; in either case, Bristol would be
reached at 6.45 p.m.'

' Richmond House,
'Clifton Hill, Bristol, Attgust 8, 1888.

' My DEAR Campbell, — You will see from the enclosed card that
an equipage will be in waiting at Bridgwater Station to convey
the distinguished Travellers to Over Stowey on Thursday after-

'(I have ordered, by the way, the Times to be posted to us daily
the first week of our tour, from my own newsagent at Hampstead.)
I shall take my Murray's Somersetshire ; a Lyrical Ballads, and
other comforts. Bring you, what you think additionally useful.
The weather is at last i-eally splendid and the glass high and
steady, so I cannot but be hopeful that we shall have a "fine
spell " in Somersetshire. . . .

* I shall write to-moiTow to Mrs. Morgan and order dinner at
7 o'clock at the Cottage — some good mutton of the country, and
fruit tart ! '

The trip was altogether successful. They 'took their ease'
at their cottage ; they saw for the first time haunts that had
long been familiar to them. And 'they visited the place
where Wordsworth read his tragedy to Coleridge and Charles
Lloyd, and voted, on Ainger's motion, unanimous approval of
ThelwalPs statement " that it was a spot to make one forget
all the jarrings of the world." "* ^

Canon Ainger''s correspondence about Lamb did not cease

with the appearance of his book. ' There is,' he wrote to one

of his readers, ' a great bond among all lovers of Lamb, more

than I think is felt in the case of any other writer of that

' Preface by Leslie Stephen to Dykes Campbell's Life of Coleridge.


class ; and one of the pleasantest results of my having under-
taken his life and works has been the communications it has
brought me from fellow-students like yourself.' Between 1888
and 1892, he received many letters containing emendations
and suggestions that might prove useful for fresh editions.
And as a few of his answers to these may be thought of general
interest, we give them here in order of time, from the end of
1888, onwards.

' Prospect House,
' Clifton Hill, Bristol, Dec. 18, 1888.

' . . . I am writing to to say that I am amazed — simply ! at

his criticisms — and that the complaint he is suffering from is not
colour-blindness but total cataract of both eyes ! Literally, I
am going to use these words, and if he likes to resent it, he may.

' Here is a nice Christian Spirit to be displayed by a Dignitaiy
of the Church on the very eve of Christmas ! But there are
certain vermin, as my dear and honoured Predecessor in this
Chapter used to say, for whom the small tooth-comb is the only

' No more — for anything else would be an anti-climax. — Yours
always, Alfred Ainger.'


The following letter needs the explanation which Mr. Gosse
has kindly supplied : —

'In 1888,' he says, 'in connection with a study on Leigh
Hunt which I was preparing, I was told by Robert Browning that
the famous letter in The Examiner, which described the Prince
Regent as a "fat Adonis of sixty," and for which Leigh Hunt
was imprisoned for two years (1813-15) in Surrey Gaol, was really
written by Charles Lamb, although Hunt took the responsibility.^
The curious thing was that Browning thought he remembered
that it was Leigh Hunt himself who had revealed this secret to
him, and he urged me to divulge it to the public, as the time
had come. But, under the pressure of cross-examination, the
evidence became vaguer, and I was prudent enough to state the
circumstances with reserve. Even so, however, it excited instant
protest, and Ainger, in particular, refused to believe it. He
wrote, as others did, to the Athe7uvum on the subject, but gently,
in order not to wound Browning's feelings. Curiously enough, it

^ See Life of Charles Lamb, by E. V. Lucas, vol. i. p. 322.

Online LibraryEdith Helen SichelThe life and letters of Alfred Ainger → online text (page 22 of 32)