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The life and letters of Alfred Ainger online

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appeared that John Forster had long ago made the same state-
ment in confidence to some one, and both Ainger and I came at
last to the conclusion that Browning's memory, which in 1888
was not what it had been, was somewhat at fault, and that what
he recollected was an echo of this idea of Forster's.'

' 2 UppKR Terrace, Hampstead,
* Wednesday morning, March 13, 1889.

' Dear Mr. Gosse, — When I spoke to Austin Dobson on Monday
I had already sent off a ''note and query" to the Athemvum, my
only object being to get, if possible, at the foundation of this
strange report. I perfectly understood that it did not originate
with yo//. Charles Kent, whom I met last week at the Athenaeum,
was my informant ; and he told me, quite correctly, that the
story was traceable back through Browning to John Forster. If
those two great authorities knew the fact, it must certainly have
been known to many besides.

'Frankly, I confess that I think the story incredible. (1)
because Leigh Hunt in his autobiography says, in terms, that he
was himself the writer of the article (contrasting his own greater
responsibility with that of his brother, who was only guilty as
pub/is/ier) ; and (2) because the style of the article is so utterly
unlike any style that Lamb ever wrote in his life. Turn to the
long extract from the article given in Hunt's autobiography and I
feel sure you will agree with me.

' I had a hope (forlorn, I admit) of " di'awing " Bi'owning — but
if not, of eliciting confirmation, or the opposite, fi'om some other
of Hunt's surviving friends. — Yours very truly,

* Alfred Ainger.'

To Mr. Dykes Campbell.

'The Glade, Branch Hill,

'Hampstead, Nov. 4, 1889.

' Mv deah Campbell, — Many thanks — yes ! my copy of Fitz-
Gerald's Crabbc tallies closely with yours — no Title Page — only a
Half-Title. It has got Wordsworth's Brothers (on the last
page of preface) corrected in the margin in the old man's hand
to Borderers.

' As to Prince Doricus I know nothing — and even have not a
copy at hand, though it is in the 9.nd Poetry for Children (com-
plete work) by Shepherd. I think these child-books of Lamb
never engaged my attention much. I wish I could have helped


you. There has lately come into my hands The Fortunate Blue-
Coat Boy, the school classic mentioned by Lamb in his second
paper on Christ's Hospital, It is a queer book (a sort of romance
a la Fielding of a " Blue " who marries a rich young widow),
and as I have promised to write something short for a newspaper to
be published during the Glasgow University Bazaar, I am going to
make a little paper out of the odd little romance. It was pub-
lished anonymously in 1770. Who wrote it? I did not get
Lloyd's Poems to his Grandmamma. I bid up to 10s., but some
one else wanted it — and got it for 13s. or l-is.

' In very great haste. Yours ever, Alfred Ainger.'

' Poor gets it again hot (though his book is cold by this

time). In the Guardian, of all places. I originally asked L.
to let me review the book for him (this was before it appeared).
I was glad afterwards that my request was not granted. I hope
poor won't set this notice down to my account. It is a con-
temptible review, but managed to say that has no form or

method, and all the old, old truisms.'

* Dec. 12, 1889.

' I will send you my little paper on the Fortunate Blue-Coat
Boy when it appears next week in the Bazaar news (Glasgow).
The publication is really an advertisement sheet (designed to
bring in money), but it will contain each day, I believe, some
original contribution. Andrew Lang begged off, at first, but
afterwards kindly repented, and sent them a poem, I understand.
I hope the poor lads will have a great success, and that they have
laid aside the Battering Ram and washed their hands.'

' Richmond House, Clifton Hill,
' Bristol, August 26, 1890.

' Mv DEAR Campbell, — Your Budget did indeed rejoice me, and
you are the true and original Literary Samaritan, of which all others
are counterfeits. Last year Mrs. Sandford ^ wrote and told me of
the Lamb Letter, and undertook to try and get me a sight of it ;
but not hearing again on the subject, I naturally thought the Words-
worths did not care that it should be seen, and so I put the
matter from me. And so much greater is now the surprise. It is a

^ A descendant of Tom Poole's, the friend of Coleridge and Wordsworth.
Mrs. Sandford was the author of Thomas Poole and his Friends, a book much
loved l)y Canon Ainger.


marvellously funny letter. I read it (must I confess the truth ?)
before I had read more than a few lines of yours — and as I read
on and on, I said to myself, ''Hullo! there's something wrong
somewhere — this is George Dyer, not George Burnett." It was
perhaps natural of Gordon Wordsworth and Mrs. Sandford to
make the mistake, for they don't know the true and veritable
"George" as you and I know him. The beauty of it is that it
all falls in with and completes all the other accounts of George in
the Rickraan Letters, now in our possession. Unless I am much
mistaken, there is an allusion in one of those letters to George
Dyer coming to dinner every day, sparing his shilling, which con-
firms this new letter, and might have fixed the date, if your
sagacious point of Southey being with Rickman in Dublin at the
time had not also fixed it independently. I hope some day
that the Wordsworths will allow it to take its place with
the rest of the Rickman correspondence in some new Edition of
the Lettei's.

' You will be amused with the enclosed ^ — the latest from the
home of the setting-sun. I have written to tell Mr. Newton that
his " find " is not much of a " find," for the " Lines to a Quid of
Tobacco " are Southey's, and are to be found in any collected
edition of his poems. I can't remember whether they are in the
Annual anthology (and I am away from my books), but I rather
think not. I have told him that I would mention his letter to
you, who are well versed in Mr. Cosen's Manuscripts — now dis-
persed, I suppose.

' Still wet, cold, stormy weather. Indeed, I think the " spigot 's
oot a'thegither."

' Yes, is uneasy and miserable whenever he isn't Boss.

He would have "Boss locutus est" on the Title of all his books.
Have you read the replies to Besant in the last two Guardians }
Oh my ! / am giving them a taste this week.

' Best regards and thanks. — Ever yours, A. Ainger.'

' The Glade, Branch Hill,

'Hampstead, Feb. 11, 1891.

' My dear Campbell, — . , . Thanks for the Lamb verses which are
not very remarkable, but everything he writes has a touch of its
own. . . . What do you think, candkUii, of the Lamb memorial-

* The only interesting thing in Mr. Newton's enclosure is a statement that
Mr. E. D. North, of Scribner's, New York, is engaged on a Lamb bibliography.


window scheme ? I have suggested to Mr. Buncombe that the
church (in London) that has most right to any such memorial is
St. Andrew's, Holborn, where Lamb's father, mother, and aunt
lie buried ; and in which parish they were all living when the
disaster occurred. What do you think } I do not see that Lamb
touched St. Margaret's, Westminister, at any one point. — Yours
ever, ' Alfred Ainger.'

' The Glade, Branch Hill,

Hampstead, Feb. 19, 1891.

' My dear Campbell, — If you did but know the tortures I have
suffered for some weeks past from conscience (a sort of chronic
moral Dyspepsia) at my neglect of you — you would indeed be full
of pity ! I am now shedding tears for my past misconduct
("Pepper Caster again," as Mr. Swiveller used to write to his
indignant aunt). . . .

^ No ! I heard nothing about the feathers, except that I remember
the sign in Holborn. Featherstone Buildings was a familiar land-
mark to me in childhood. Passing from John Street, Bedford
Row, where I lived from about 1842 to 1849, one entered
Holborn, I remember, always by that narrow thoroughfare.

' I am pretty well in general health, but my ailment does not
go away. My voice keeps particularly strong, thank God — and
my Temple ministrations have been more successful to my own
thinking than usual of late. I have had little leisure for litera-
ture ; I have lectured once or twice to the young ladies at Newn-
ham — last Saturday, among others. I am to give one of the Friday
evening discourses at the Royal Institution in April. I have
chosen for my subject "Euphuism Past and Present" — which will
enable me to speak my mind very freely on some symptoms of
literature in our age.

' When are you coming to town ? — talking is so much sweeter

than writing, and so much easier. I shall perhaps offer myself to

you for a day or two by and by — may I .'' — Yours ever,

' Alfred Ainger.
' So Emma Isola is gone ! '

' The Glade, Branch Hill,

' Hampstead, Feb. 25, 1891.

' Mv dear Campbell, — Delighted to hear the news! Expect
me on Monday (life and health permitting) at 1.30. I have a variety
of things to do in town, later in the day, and it suits me perfectly.


So glad to know you are '' giving it hot" to Martin ("one Martin
does not make a summer" — but you '11 make it very "summery"
for Martin), though the Review is certain to be set down to me,
or Kent, or some other "malicious Rival"! All talk when we
meet. — Yours always, A. Aingeu.'

'Thk Glade, Branch Hill,

'Hampstead, Feh. 21, 1891.

' My dear Campbell, — Many thanks for the MSS. which I
have read with great interest. Your allusions to me are so
generous and over-appreciative (as you always are) that 1 hardly
like to make one discordant criticism ; but I do think you use
the " bludgeon " too much in your reviews of things you dis-
like. ...

'Please forgive me. I have all the instinct of " bludgeoning"
myself, but I am certain it is impolitic : for it leaves the casual
reader under the impression that the reviewer is either a personal
enemy of the writer^ or else a i-ival writer on the subject (neither
of which, in this case, you are), and so he goes his way, and sets
no store by the Review — and so Martin gets off: —

"Judex damuatur quum noceus absolvitur." — Edinburgh Review


'Richmond House, Clifton Hill,
'Bristol, July 30, 1891.

'Mv DEAR Campbell, — Forgive me yet once more — so full of
letter-writing and of much else is this month of July at Bristol.
After this week everything will be quiet and dull. From Monday
next I have the inside of two weeks free from Cathedral work,
for we close for cleaning, and I wish we Avere once more going
to roam in the Quantocks. Very many thanks for the schoolboy
verses of Lamb, so interesting from their reminiscences of his
Horace, and also his Gray and his Collins. I think 1 never saw
them before, but I have surely read of their existence somewhere
— perhaps in that old volume. Lamb and his F/ietids, by P. Fitz-
gerald. They will at once go into the Lamb "Stock-pot" — my
Commonplace Book, which contains some very curious "odds
and ends." '

['Later Sunmier 1891.]

' . , . I have not told you that I have got some Charles Lamb
Relics from Mrs. Tween's Executors — the little plaster head of


Samuel Salt, and the Poems on Various Occasions, by John Lamb.
They did not go to Sotheby's with the books^ and I asked the
Executors to part with them to me privately. I am having the
little head mounted and framed by a very clever wood-carver
here, and with a little silver plate underneath with the quotation
from the account of "Lovel" in the Old Benchers of the Inner

'\ will indeed try to see you in your own not "detestable"
"Cinque Port " ^ before Christmas comes. . . .
' How gets on the one-volume Coleridge .-'
' In great haste, with best regards. — Yours always,

'Alfred Ainger.'

Among the elucidatory letters kept by Canon Ainger none
is more interesting than a note from Algernon Swinburne
concerning Elia's essay on George Wither^ and that on the
Tragedies of Shakespeare : —

'The Pines,
'Putney Hill, S.W., May 26.

' Dear Mr. Ainger, — ..." Nott ! it is not ! ! " does not occur
anywhere. At the close of Lamb's prefatory note to the section
of Wither's "Motto" headed «Nec euro," Nott has had the
impertinence to write " This should be re-written, with more
simplicity." To which Lamb has subjoined — "It should not,
Nott ! — C. L." ; afterwards adding (as above) in pencil, " Nott ! " 2

'The "improver of Shakespeare" mentioned on p. S^Q'^ was

^ ' I love town or country ; but this detestable Cinque Port is neither.' —
'The old Margate Hoy' — written from Hastings — Essays of Elia (Macmillan),
p. 243.

" Mr. Swinburne possesses 'an interleaved copy of Wither's Philarete and
other poems, edited and printed by Lamb's friend and old schoolfellow, John
Matthew Gutch, at his private press at Bristol. Lamb made comments and
criticisms on the blank leaves (which later * formed the matter of one of his
papers') and returned the volumes to Gutch, who sent them on to Dr. G. F.
Nott, the editor of Surrey and Wyatt's poems. Dr. Nott added his quota of
corrections and suggestions, and the volumes once more found their way into
the hands of Lamb, who proceeds {more sua) to criticise the last interloper with
the utmost freedom of language. . . . The necessity for continually differing
from this rival critic finds abundant scope for grim jest in connection with his
opponent's surname.' — Ainger's Notes on Poems, Plays, and Miscellaneous
Essays (Macmillan), p. 399-400.

3 • I now come,' wrote Lamb, ' to the London Acting Edition of Macbeth of
the same date, 1678, . . . from which I made a few rough extracts when I
visited the British Museum for the sake of selecting from the " Garrick Plays."


his self-styled bastard, Sir William Davenant. The monstrous
alteration of Macbeth there described by Lamb has been reprinted
in H. H. Furness's "Variorum" edition of Shakespeare's play —
Philadelphia, 1874. In common with all Lamb-lovers, I am very
much obliged to you for the rej^roduction of that most interesting
letter to the Spectator ^ — an exquisite novelty. Allow me, never-
theless — or rather all the more — on that account, to enter my
strongest protest against your making Lamb mis-spell the name
of Shakespeare — which, if I am not much mistaken, he always
spelt as its bearer did on the title-pages of both the books he
published, and at the foot of the dedication of either. If people
prefer to talk or write about Chaxpur and Meltun, let them ; but
let them abstain, in the name of accuracy, from representing
Lamb or Coleridge as the student of Chaxpur or Shakspere, or
Marvell as the friend and panegyrist of Meltun. — Yours very
truly, ■ Al. Swinburne.'

In 1891, Mr. Lee asked Canon Ainger to contribute articles
upon Charles and Mary Lamb to the Dictionary of National
Biography, and they were ready early in the new year. To
them the next note refers, while the fragment that follows it
belongs to a rather later date : —

'The Glade, Branch Hill,

'Hampstead, Jan. 26, 1892.

'Dear Mr. Lee, — I send you herewith (very tardily, I fear)
my life of Charles Lamb. I am of course a novice at dictionary
work, and may have erred, by excess or defect, in a hundred
ways. Please tell me what to amend, and I will endeavour to
succeed better. I have avoided criticism, almost entirely, as I
gather from the articles in the dictionary, generally is your
custom. I have also avoided, I trust, rhetoric or fine writing.
Perhaps after glancing at the article in MS. you will tell me
what you think about Mary Lamb. I feel that after referring
readers to the present article, a page or two more would amply
suffice for her, the two lives being so bound together, and having
so few incidents apart. — Yours truly, Alfred Ainger.'

As I can scarcely expect to be believed upon my own word as to what our
ancestors at that time were willing to accept for Shakspere, I refer the reader
to that collection to verify my report.' — Ainger's Notes on Poems, Plays, and
Miscellaneous Essays (Macmillan), p. 396.
^ Ainger's Notes in the same volume, pp. 394-39S'


To Mr. Sidney Lee.


'The letter is not very distinctly and unquestionably Lamb's;
but it may well be his. When he was reckless in his hiimoui',
and allowed himself to revel in sheer nonsense, his fun is so
protean that it is dangerous to say that any outburst is unlike

' In the writing of a serious letter, or quasi-serious, I think I
could safely undertake to detect the spurious Lamb from the
true. . . . — Yours most truly, Alfred Ainger.'

Here too belongs a letter to Mr. Gosse, written as late as
1900, but falling into due place here, since it concerns Lamb's
Letters. It forms no unfitting close to the correspondence
dealing with Canon Ainger's work on Elia.

To Mr. Gosse.

Master's House, Temple, E. C.
March 31, 1900.

' My work has largely consisted of transferring matter from the
Notes to the Text, as you quite rightly suggest. I have thus
removed any number of Letters and Notes which in the previous
edition had reached me too late to put in their proper place. . . .
So deal mercifully with me, my deal' Gosse, and do not, *^'as some
ungracious pastors do," quote my peccadillos as if they proved
my principle of action, instead of my temporary and accidental
departure from it. . . . Please read my short (new) Preface to
Vol. i.i Have you noticed two new Letters in which Lamb
romances to amuse or startle his correspondents } One to Gutch
(Law Stationer), telling how the office-boy had run off with the
cash-box. Another showing how he (Lamb) had been arrested at
Enfield on a charge of muriler.'

^ Edition de luxe.




After the autumn of 1892, Ainger's life again saw changes.
In that year he resigned the Readership at the Temple, the
post that he had held for six-and-twenty years. His bad
health, emphasised by a chronic catarrh, had for some time
past been leading him to think of such a step. ' I am," he
wrote in 1891, 'in great straits as to what to do. I must,
unless I get rid of this ailment, give up either my Canonry
07- the Readership of the Temple and get a long holiday.
And yet while my old Dean (at 91) lies an invalid, and does
not die, I don't want to give him a single fresh anxiety ! And
so I wait on, expecting, " till something shall turn up," or
some direction of affairs show me how to act. If I cotcld
but get a change of Canonry to some more bracing part
of England — but when a man's in possession q/" something,
no Dealers in Patronage imagine we can want anything

A few months later, after the decision was made, he gives
his reasons for it to Horace Smith.

'Dear old Vaughan/ he says, 'is very good, and I know he
loves me well — and we have been always very close friends. I
did not want to swvive him at the Temple, and yet it would have
seemed unmannerly to wait till he resigned, and then send in my
own resignation. I strongly feel that he will not be much longer
■with you. I am grieved to leave London, but hope to return
some day. What I much desire is a change of Canonry — and to
Westminster if it might be. There might be a vacancy there
any moment, but I haven't much influence with old Gladstone or
any of his crew.'



And again in December, he writes to Archdeacon Bather :

' . . . I think I was quite right to leave the Temple. I had
been there long enough, and Vaughan, though at first genuinely
distressed, came round to see it and to approve. He feels that
he himself may not remain in office much longer — and he said
that I could not well stay on till he resigned, and then leave.
It would have looked too marked, and not been respectful or
kind to the Temple authorities. People are very kind in what
they say everywhere, and I have most charming letters from all
ranks from the Judges downward. ..."

He could not thus give up his post without some definite
plan for the future, and after much consideration he accepted,
on trial, the college living of St. Edward's, Cambridge. There
were many reasons for his choice — the congenial surroundings ;
the neighbourhood of old friends ; leisure for literary pursuits,
the parish being small and prosperous.

' I am coming,' he tells Mr. Loder, 'to be a nearer neighbour
of yours. I have accepted the little living of St. Edward's
in Cambridge (in the gift of my college, Trinity Hall) — and
Cambridge will be my home, if life is spared, for a few years at
least. Perhaps you will come over and see me some day, and
take a dinner and bed. And Aldis Wright shall come and meet

'My Canton Jar^ will accompany me wherever I go, and is one
of the most cherished of my possessions.

' I shall have many Lamb autographs and relics to show you.'

Meanwhile the wrench from the Temple was hard, nor could
he bear to speak of it. ' Enclosed,' he writes to a friend,
' please find (as the commercial gents say), two orders for the
Temple. . . . Odd and sad — it may be my last Sunday there
— but expect no Farewell Sermons from me. To begin with,
I should break down and could not face the ordeal.''

' I am very low and sad about leaving the Temple, as you may
guess,* he writes again to Horace Smith ; ' but Vaughan seems to
look forward with pleasure to making me his deputy sometimes
when he is away at Llandaff, and this comforts me very much —
for I have struck my roots very deep there, I find.'

' See chapter xiii. p. 232.


He had to begin work at Cambridge in some discomfort, for
he had as yet no home there. ' I have not,' he writes, ' found
a tenant for this house, and I cannot afford to take another
good house in Cambridge until I do. Nor do I mean to dis-
mantle this house for the present. I am taking a couple of
rooms over one of the shops in King's Parade, like a gay
undergraduate, and am going backwards and forwards for
Sundays. There are no Poor in the Parish, so that I am not
wronging any one very mucli. What I shall ultimately do, if
I fail to let this house here, I can't say. Between you and me,
great efforts will, I beheve, be made to get me a London
Canonry some day — but the prospect is of course chancy. If
the Conservatives were in, I think it would come all right.
But keep this to yourselves, please.'

The house at Cambridge was never taken, for the arrange-
ment there came to an end. In his considerations, he had
left out one great drawback to his appointment, that he was
not cut out to be a parish clergyman and would probably
not have settled down to it. But in this case matters were
taken out of his hands when he had only been six weeks at
St. Edward's ; for early in 1893, the doctors ordered him a
long holiday abroad as the only real cure for his complaint.
His letters alone show how frequently he suffered from bodily
distress — generally proceeding, as he said, ' from that trouble-
some organ, the liver — " To Greece (and all other countries)
the direful spring of woes unnumbered."' It happened that
a young Bristol friend of his, an invalid, Mr. Daniel Cave,
had been recommended to try a voyage to Egypt, and it was
speedily arranged that the two should join forces. Directly
the scheme was fixed, Ainger was as delighted as a boy. Mr.
Cave was already endeared to him by his sweetness and
courage in suffering, as well as by his love of books — a love
which Ainger had long fostered in him as a great resource
in illness. They were used to one another's company. They
were to have entire rest and to be a long time away. The
very few letters that remain have a holiday ring about


To Mr. du Maurier.

'Nile Steamer, "Rameses the Great,"
*0N THE Nile, five days from Cairo,
' February 26, 1893.

* My dear Kicky, — I am bold enough to think that you and
youi'S will not be displeased to have some tidings of me at first
hand. And first you will be glad to hear that everything has
prospered with my friend and myself thus far, and that we have
had fine weather, and first-rate sea-passages throughout. We
travelled straight through (sleeping-cars) from London to Naples,
by Paris, Mont Cenis, and Rome — and then rested in the beautiful
Bay, with Vesuvius all a-smoke, for four or five days, with Pompeii
and Baiae and other sacred spots engaging our attention all round.
Thence across the Peninsula to Brindisi, and so by Austrian-Lloyds'
Steamer to Alexandria and Cairo. Of all the delights and

Online LibraryEdith Helen SichelThe life and letters of Alfred Ainger → online text (page 23 of 32)