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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters

‣ Preface
Contents vol. VI
Letters: 1796
Letters: 1797
Letters: 1798
Letters: 1799
Letters: 1800
Letters: 1801
Letters: 1802
Letters: 1803
Letters: 1804
Letters: 1805
Letters: 1806
Letters: 1807
Letters: 1808
Letters: 1809
Letters: 1810
Letters: 1811
Letters: 1812
Letters: 1814
Letters: 1815
Letters: 1816
Letters: 1817
Letters: 1818
Letters: 1819
Letters: 1820
Letters: 1821
Contents vol. VII
Letters: 1821
Letters: 1822
Letters: 1823
Letters: 1824
Letters: 1825
Letters: 1826
Letters: 1827
Letters: 1828
Letters: 1829
Letters: 1830
Letters: 1831
Letters: 1832
Letters: 1833
Letters: 1834
Appendix I
Appendix II
Appendix III
List of Letters
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IN this edition of the correspondence of Charles Lamb, that of his sister, Mary Lamb, is for the first time included. In it also appear for the first time between seventy and eighty letters, many of them of the highest importance; and it is the first edition to take note in chronological order of those letters printed by other editors that are not available for the present volumes: a step which should, I think, add to the biographical value of the work.

In these two volumes I have, after much consideration, placed my notes at the end of each letter, rather than, as in the five preceding volumes, at the end of the book. My reason for doing so was twofold: in the first place, to serve the convenience of the reader, to whom annotation or the correspondence is often a necessity, and not, as in the case of the other writings, a luxury; and in the second place, because by joining the letters with a few words of commentary they can be made practically into a consecutive Life. The self-conscious deliberate construction of Lamb’s essays and poems, each a work of art, forbade the introduction of footnotes that might distract the attention from the true matter of the text: hence, in the preceding five volumes, such remarks as the editor had to make will be found sharply separated from the author’s part of the book. But here, where Lamb is often writing without premeditation, with a running pen, and writing moreover for a single reader, it seemed to me that the impropriety of interrupting the correspondence by elucidatory comments was so slight as to be almost non-existent. (I say “running pen,” but there is, however, I think very little doubt that Lamb also now
and then made a rough draft of a letter first, afterwards polishing it and adding to it from time to time before he made a fair copy for his correspondent. It is unlikely, as the late
Mr. Dykes Campbell has pointed out, that he could have written some of these letters off-hand as neatly and cleanly as in their existing state.) Many of my notes, I am greatly afraid, will be thought a superfluity. But having begun this edition with the determination to make it as complete and illustrative as I could, I have continued, in the Letters, to trace the sources of quotations, and to attend to other minutiæ.

Owing to the curious operations of the law of copyright, it will not for at least forty-two years be possible for any one edition of Lamb’s correspondence to contain all the letters. To-day, in order to possess a set complete down to the present time, one must purchase at least nine, and possibly more, works, amounting to many volumes—among them Charles Lamb and the Lloyds, of which I was the editor, but which I am debarred from using. It is in order, to some extent, to meet the difficulty thus set up, and to cover the whole ground of the correspondence, that I have in the notes drawn attention to every important letter distributed over these many other volumes. I am, however, perfectly aware that only for a brief period will this list be exhaustive, since new letters continually come to light, while there are, I understand, at this moment in private collections in America many letters that have not yet been printed, forty-two years’ copyright in which may date from the day they are published—for the benefit not of any descendants of the Lambs (for they left none) but of those who happen to possess them.

That we have the Lamb correspondence in a very imperfect state will be patent to any one who looks at the dates in the Table of Contents to this book. It is incredible that Lamb wrote only seventy letters between the years 1807 and 1820, and only four in 1811-13. It is incredible also that he wrote altogether only three letters to Leigh Hunt, and only four to Hood. The many letters that he must have written to other friends—Martin Burney, for example—have entirely vanished. At any minute, however, others may be discovered; and there is no call for despair, especially when we recollect that the two letters of July 20, 1819, to Miss Kelly,
in some ways the most interesting of the whole correspondence, came to light only last year. That Lamb’s correspondence should be incomplete is but natural: the wonder rather is that it is so full as we have it; for we are only gradually coming to understand how great a national treasure Lamb is, and how valuable is almost every sentence that he penned.

Private owners of Lamb MSS. in this country have been cheerfully willing that copies should be made; but I regret to say that my request for co-operation printed in the American literary papers met with no response. The view that the temporary owner of an original document of an author so peculiarly the world’s friend as Lamb is rather a steward of the property than absolute possessor, seems as yet not to have obtained any great measure of popularity across the Atlantic. Since almost without exception the best MSS. that now come into the market are bought for America, future editions, by conscientious editors, of the correspondence of great Englishmen promise to be arduous enterprises.

By the kindness of Mr. Gordon Wordsworth I have been enabled to print for the first time a considerable number of letters from the Lambs to members of the Wordsworth family, and for the first time to give the true text of many that have been printed before. These, with the new Moxon correspondence, which Mr. Locker-Lampson has kindly allowed me to copy, constitute the finest body of new material in the present edition. But I have also obtained new copies of the many letters to Coleridge that are now in Mrs. Alfred Morrison’s possession; of the letters to J. B. Dibdin, by kind permission of Mr. R. W. Dibdin; of the letters preserved at Dr. Williams’ Library, several of which are now printed for the first time, by kind permission of the Trustees; of some new letters to Ayrton, by kind permission of the late W. S. Ayrton; and of several notes in the possession of Sir Charles Dilke. Other owners of originals who have kindly allowed copies to be made are Sir Edmund Elton, Mr. H. Yates-Thomson, Mr. A. M. S. Methuen, Mr. B. B. Macgeorge, Mr. Henry Poulton, Mr. R A. Potts, Mr. R. B. Adam of Buffalo, N.Y., and the Librarian of the Gluck Library. Mr. Gordon Wordsworth has allowed me to make reduced facsimiles of letters in his possession. The reproduction of the very interesting portrait of Milton, opposite page 460, is
made by permission of the Lenox Library, New York; and of the Bellows portrait of
Shakespeare by permission of Mr. B. B. Macgeorge.

The Barton letters and all other letters at the British Museum have been copied afresh, and so have those in the Dyce and Forster collection at South Kensington, at the Bodleian and National Portrait Gallery. But although great care has been taken, I am not prepared, in the face of the fatality that indissolubly associates editors of Lamb with inaccuracy, to guarantee a single line. In printing, from the original documents I have sometimes altered the punctuation—but only as little as might be to assist the sense at the first reading. In great part I have left the letters as Lamb wrote them, often retaining his peculiarities of spelling and punctuation, unexpected capitals and still more unexpected small initials. I trust that no one will resent this literalness. Now and then, very reluctantly, I have had to omit a sentence or paragraph on account of a freedom beyond modern taste, while on two or three occasions a reference of a personal character has been deleted as possibly hurtful to the susceptibilities of living people. But the total amount of omissions from the letters available for the present edition does not equal one quite short missive; and a number of round epithets and passages will be discovered in it that other editors, with more courage than I can muster, have suppressed.

The letters of which I have no new transcripts are printed in the present edition, by permission of Messrs. Bell & Sons, for the most part from the text of Mr. W. C. Hazlitt, in the Bohn Library edition of the correspondence, in Mary and Charles Lamb, and, by arrangement with Mr. Elkin Mathews, from the same editor’s text in The Lambs and Lamb and Hazlitt. Talfourd often omitted, without warning, many names and passages that Mr. Hazlitt has wisely restored: the reason for Talfourd’s caution in the thirties and forties having ceased to be operative in our day. Other old letters are reprinted from the Cowden ClarkesRecollections of Writers, by permission of the late Miss Mary Sabilla Novello; from Fraser’s Magazine, by permission of Miss M. Betham Edwards; from the Century Magazine, by permission of Messrs. Scribner; from William Godwin: His Friends and Ac-
quaintances, by permission of the late
Mr. Kegan Paul; from Rogers and His Contemporaries, by permission of the late Mr. P. W. Clayden; and one from the late Canon Ainger’s edition, by permission of Messrs. Macmillan. Others come from the sources indicated in the Table of Contents.

Certain notes to Hone concerning the Garrick Plays, and one to Novello concerning the setting of George Peele’s “Paris and Œnone” to music, will be found in Vol. IV. of this edition. A letter to Hone about Moxon’s hoax is in Vol. V.

The frontispiece to this volume is a reproduction from a new photograph of the portrait of Lamb by Henry Meyer, painted when Lamb was fifty-one, in 1826, and now preserved at the India Office, by whose permission it is given here. The portrait which serves as frontispiece to Vol. VII. is a reproduction from the original pencil drawing made by Thomas Wageman for Barron Field about 1825. It is reproduced by permission of Mr. Halsey of New York, in whose possession it remains.

At the end of Vol. VII. will be found certain Appendices containing a few letters and passages of letters omitted from the body of the book, and now supplied from various sources, principally the collections of the late Mr. Dykes Campbell; the text of various poems referred to in the letters; and a number of notes on the earlier volumes of this edition of the Lambs’ writings, together with some new material both authentic and conjectural.

E. V. L.
November 20, 1904