LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Recollections of Writers
Charles Lamb

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX
John Keats
‣ Charles Lamb
Mary Lamb
Leigh Hunt
Douglas Jerrold
Charles Dickens
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Reminiscences of Himself awakened thereby.

The other day, in looking over some long-hoarded papers, I came across the following letters, which struck me as being too intrinsically delightful to be any longer withheld from general enjoyment. The time when they were written—while they had all the warm life of affectionate intercourse that refers to current personal events, inspiring the wish to treasure them in privacy—has faded into the shadow of the past. Some of the persons addressed or referred to have left this earth; others have survived to look back upon their young former selves with the same kindliness of consideration with which Charles Lamb himself confessed to looking back upon “the child. Elia—that ‘other me,’ there, in the background,” and cherishing its remembrance. Even the girl, then known among her friends by the second of her baptismal names, before and not long after she had exchanged her maiden name of Mary Victoria Novello for the married one with which she signs her present communication, can feel willing to share with her more recent friends and readers the pleasure derived from dear
and honoured Charles Lamb’s sometimes playful, sometimes earnest allusions to her identity.

The first letter is, according to his frequent wont, undated; and the post-mark is so much blurred as to be undecipherable; but it is addressed “V. Novello, Esqre., for C. C. Clarke, Esqre.:”—

My dear Sir,—Your letter has lain in a drawer of my desk, upbraiding me every time I open the said drawer, but it is almost impossible to answer such a letter in such a place, and I am out of the habit of replying to epistles otherwhere than at office. You express yourself concerning H. like a true friend, and have made me feel that I have somehow neglected him, but without knowing very well how to rectify it. I live so remote from him—by Hackney—that he is almost out of the pale of visitation at Hampstead. And I come but seldom to Covt Gardn this summer time—and when I do, am sure to pay for the late hours and pleasant Novello suppers which I incur. I also am an invalid. But I will hit upon some way, that you shall not have cause for your reproof in future. But do not think I take the hint unkindly. When I shall be brought low by any sickness or untoward circumstance, write just such a letter to some tardy friend of mine—or come up yourself with your friendly Henshaw face—and that will be better. I shall not forget in haste our casual day at Margate. May we have many such there or elsewhere! God bless you for your kindness to H., which I will remember. But do not show N. this, for the flouting infidel doth mock when Christians cry God bless us. Yours and his, too, and all our little circle’s most affecte

C. Lamb.

Mary’s love included.

“H.” in the above letter refers to Leigh Hunt; but the initials and abbreviated forms of words used by Charles Lamb in these letters are here preserved verbatim.

The second letter is addressed “C. C. Clarke, Esqre.,” and has for post-mark “Fe. 26, 1828:”—

Enfield, 25 Feb.

My dear Clarke,—You have been accumulating on me such a heap of pleasant obligations that I feel uneasy in writing as to a Benefactor. Your smaller contributions, the little weekly rills, are refreshments in the Desart, but your large books were feasts. I hope Mrs. Hazlitt, to whom I encharged it, has taken Hunt’s Lord B. to the Novellos. His picture of Literary Lordship is as pleasant as a disagreeable subject can be made, his own poor man’s Education at dear Christ’s is as good and hearty as the subject. Hazlitt’s speculative episodes are capital; I skip the Battles. But how did I deserve to have the Book? The Companion has too much of Madam Pasta. Theatricals have ceased to be popular attractions. His walk home after the Play is as good as the best of the old Indicators. The watchmen are emboxed in a niche of fame, save the skaiting one that must be still fugitive. I wish I could send a scrap for good will. But I have been most seriously unwell and nervous a long long time. I have scarce mustered courage to begin this short note, but conscience duns me.

I had a pleasant letter from your sister, greatly over acknowledging my poor sonnet. I think I should have replied to it, but tell her I think so. Alas for sonnetting, ’tis as the nerves are; all the summer I was dawdling among green lanes, and verses came as thick as fancies. I am sunk winterly below prose and zero.

But I trust the vital principle is only as under snow. That I shall yet laugh again.

I suppose the great change of place affects me, but I could not have lived in Town, I could not bear company.

I see Novello flourishes in the Del Capo line, and dedications are not forgotten. I read the Atlas, When I pitched on the Dedn I looked for the Broom of “Cowden knows” to be harmonized, but ’twas summat of Rossini’s.

I want to hear about Hone, does he stand above water, how is his son? I have delayed writing to him, till it seems impossible. Break the ice for me.

The wet ground here is intolerable, the sky above clear and delusive, but under foot quagmires from night showers,
and I am cold-footed and moisture-abhorring as a cat; nevertheless I yesterday tramped to Waltham Cross; perhaps the poor bit of exertion necessary to scribble this was owing to that unusual bracing.

If I get out, I shall get stout, and then something will out—I mean for the Companion—you see I rhyme insensibly.

Traditions are rife here of one Clarke a schoolmaster, and a runaway pickle named Holmes, but much obscurity hangs over it. Is it possible they can be any relations?

’Tis worth the research, when you can find a sunny day, with ground firm, &c. Master Sexton is intelligent, and for half-a-crown he’ll pick you up a Father.

In truth we shall be most glad to see any of the Novellian circle, middle of the week such as can come, or Sunday, as can’t. But Spring will burgeon out quickly, and then, we’ll talk more.

You’d like to see the improvements on the Chase, the new Cross in the market-place, the Chandler’s shop from whence the rods were fetch’d. They are raised a farthing since the spread of Education. But perhaps you don’t care to be reminded of the Holofernes’ days, and nothing remains of the old laudable profession, but the clear, firm, impossible-to-be-mistaken schoolmaster text hand with which is subscribed the ever-welcome name of Chas. Cowden C. Let me crowd in both our loves to all.—C. L. [Added on the fold-down of the letter:] Let me never be forgotten to include in my remembces my good friend and whilom correspondent Master Stephen.

How, especially, is Victoria?

I try to remember all I used to meet at Shacklewell. The little household, cake-producing, wine-bringing out Emma—the old servant, that didn’t stay, and ought to have staid, and was always very dirty and friendly, and Miss H., the countertenor with a fine voice, whose sister married Thurtell. They all live in my mind’s eye, and Mr. N.’s and Holmes’s walks with us half back after supper. Troja fuit!

His hearty yet modestly-rendered thanks for lent and
given books; his ever-affectionate mention of Christ’s Hospital; his enjoyment of
Hazlitt’sLife of Napoleon,” minus “the battles;” his cordial commendation of Leigh Hunt’s periodical, the Companion (with the witty play on the word “fugitive”), and his wish that he could send the work a contribution from his own pen; his touching reference to the susceptibility of his nervous system; the sportive misuse of musical terms when alluding to his musician friend Vincent Novello, immortalized in Elia’s celebrated “Chapter on Ears;” his excellent pun in the word “insensibly;” his humorous mode of touching upon the professional avocation of his clerkly correspondent’s father and self—the latter having been usher in the school kept some years previously at Enfield by the former—while conveying a genuine compliment to the handwriting which at eighty-five is still the “clear, firm, impossible-to-be-mistaken schoolmaster text hand” that it was at forty-one, when Lamb wrote these words; the genial mention of the hospitable children; the whimsically wrong-circumstanced recollection of the “counter-tenor” lady; the allusion to the night walks “half back” home; and the classically-quoted words of regret—are all wonderfully characteristic of beautiful-minded Charles Lamb. In connexion with the juvenile hospitality may be recorded an incident that illustrates his words. When William Etty returned as a young artist student from Rome, and called at the Novellos’ house, it chanced that the parents were from home; but the children, who were busily employed in fabricating a treat of home-made hard-bake (or toffy), made the visitor welcome by offering him a piece of their just-finished sweetmeat, as an appropriate refection after his long walk; and he declared that it was the most veritable piece of spontaneous hospitality he had ever
met with, since the children gave him what they thought most delicious and best worthy of acceptance. Charles Lamb so heartily shared this opinion of the subsequently renowned painter that he brought a choice condiment in the shape of a jar of preserved ginger for the little Novellos’ delectation; and when some officious elder suggested that it was lost upon children, therefore had better be reserved for the grown up people, Lamb would not hear of the transfer, but insisted that children were excellent judges of good things, and that they must and should have the cate in question. He was right, for long did the remembrance remain in the family of that delicious rarity, and of the mode in which “Mr. Lamb” stalked up and down the passage with a mysterious harberingering look and stride, muttering something that sounded like conjuration, holding the precious jar under his arm, and feigning to have found it stowed away in a dark chimney somewhere near.

Another characteristic point is recalled by a concluding sentence of this letter. On one occasion—when Charles Lamb and his admirable sister Mary Lamb had been accompanied “half back after supper” by Mr. and Mrs. Novello, Edward Holmes, and Charles Cowden Clarke, between Shacklewell Green and Colebrooke Cottage, beside the New River at Islington, where the Lambs then lived, the whole party interchanging lively, brightest talk as they passed along the road that they had all to themselves at that late hour—he, as usual, was the noblest of the talkers. Arrived at the usual parting-place, Lamb and his sister walked on a few steps; then, suddenly turning, he shouted out after his late companions in a tone that startled the midnight silence, “You’re very nice people!” sending them on their way home in happy laughter at his friendly oddity.


The third is addressed to “C. C. Clarke. Esqre.,” without date; but it must have been written in 1828:—

Dear Clarke,—We did expect to see you with Victoria and the Novellos before this, and do not quite understand why we have not. Mrs. N. and V. [Vincent] promised us after the York expedition; a day being named before, which fail’d. ’Tis not too late. The autumn leaves drop gold, and Enfield is beautifuller—to a common eye—than when you lurked at the Greyhound. Benedicks are close, but how I so totally missed you at that time, going for my morning cup of ale duly, is a mystery. ’Twas stealing a match before one’s face in earnest. But certainly we had not a dream of your appropinquity. I instantly prepared an Epithalamium, in the form of a Sonata—which I was sending to Novello to compose—but Mary forbid it me, as too light for the occasion—as if the subject required anything heavy——so in a tiff with her, I sent no congratulation at all. Tho’ I promise you the wedding was very pleasant news to me indeed. Let your reply name a day this next week, when you will come as many as a coach will hold; such a day as we had at Dulwich. My very kindest love and Mary’s to Victoria and the Novellos. The enclosed is from a friend nameless, but highish in office, and a man whose accuracy of statement may be relied on with implicit confidence. He wants the exposé to appear in a newspaper as the “greatest piece of legal and Parliamentary villainy he ever remembd,” and he has had experience in both; and thinks it would answer afterwards in a cheap pamphlet printed at Lambeth in 8o sheet, as 16,000 families in that parish are interested. I know not whether the present Examiner keeps up the character of exposing abuses, for I scarce see a paper now. If so, you may ascertain Mr. Hunt of the strictest truth of the statement, at the peril of my head. But if this won’t do, transmit it me back, I beg, per coach, or better, bring it with you. Yours unaltered,

C. Lamb.

This letter quaintly rebukes, yet, at the same time, most affectionately congratulates, the friend addressed for
silently making honeymoon quarters of the spot where
Charles Lamb then resided. But lovely Enfield—a very beau-ideal of an English village—was the birthplace of Charles Cowden Clarke; and the Greyhound was a simple hostelry kept by an old man and his daughter, where there was a pretty white-curtained, quiet room, with a window made green by bowering vine leaves; combining much that was tempting as an unpretending retirement for a town-dweller to take his young new-made wife to. The invitation to “name a day this next week” was cordially responded to by a speedy visit; and very likely it was on that occasion Charles Lamb told the wedded pair of another bridal couple who, he said, when they arrived at the first stage of their marriage tour, found each other’s company so tedious that they called the landlord upstairs to enliven them by his conversation. The “Epithalamium,” here called a “Sonata,” is the “Serenata” contained in the next letter, addressed to “Vincent Novello, Esqre.:”—

My dear Novello,—I am afraid I shall appear rather tardy in offering my congratulations, however sincere, upon your daughter’s marriage.1 The truth is, I had put together a little Serenata upon the occasion, but was prevented from sending it by my sister, to whose judgment I am apt to defer too much in these kind of things; so that, now I have her consent, the offering, I am afraid, will have lost the grace of seasonableness. Such as it is, I send it. She thinks it a little too old-fashioned in the manner, too much like what they wrote a century back. But I cannot write in the modern style, if I try ever so hard. I have attended to the proper divisions for the music, and you will have little difficulty in composing it. If I may advise, make Pepusch your model, or Blow. It will be necessary to have a good second voice, as the stress of the melody lies there:—

1 Which marriage took place 5th July, 1828.

On the Marriage of Charles Cowden Clarke, Esqre, to Victoria, eldest daughter of Vincent Novello, Esqre.
Wake th’ harmonious voice and string,
Love and Hymen’s triumph sing,
Sounds with secret charms combining,
In melodious union joining,
Best the wondrous joys can tell,
That in hearts united dwell.
First Voice. To young Victoria’s happy fame
Well may the Arts a trophy raise,
Music grows sweeter in her praise.
And, own’d by her, with rapture speaks her name.
To touch the brave Cowdenio’s heart,
The Graces all in her conspire;
Love arms her with his surest dart,
Apollo with his lyre.
The list’ning Muses all around her
Think ’tis Phœbus’ strain they hear;
And Cupid, drawing near to wound her,
Drops his bow, and stands to hear.
Second Voice. While crowds of rivals with despair
Silent admire, or vainly court the Fair,
Behold the happy conquest of her eyes,
A Hero is the glorious prize!
In courts, in camps, thro’ distant realms renown’d,
Cowdenio comes!—Victoria, see,
He comes with British honour crown’d,
Love leads his eager steps to thee.
In tender sighs he silence breaks,
The Fair his flame approves,
Consenting blushes warm her cheeks,
She smiles, she yields, she loves.
First Voice. Now Hymen at the altar stands,
And while he joins their faithful hands,
Behold! by ardent vows brought down,
Immortal Concord, heavenly bright,
Array’d in robes of purest light,
Descends, th’ auspicious rites to crown.
Her golden harp the goddess brings;
Its magic sound
Commands a sudden silence all around,
And strains prophetic thus attune the strings.
First Voice. The Swain his Nymph possessing,
Second Voice. The Nymph her swain caressing,
First & Second. Shall still improve the blessing,
For ever kind and true.
Both. While rolling years are flying
Love, Hymen’s lamp supplying,
With fuel never dying,
Shall still the flame renew.

To so great a master as yourself I have no need to suggest that the peculiar tone of the composition demands sprightliness, occasionally checked by tenderness, as in the second air,—

She smiles,—she yields,—she loves.

Again, you need not be told that each fifth line of the two first recitatives requires a crescendo.

And your exquisite taste will prevent your falling into the error of Purcell, who at a passage similar to that in my first air,
Drops his bow, and stands to hear,
directed the first violin thus:—

Here the first violin must drop his bow.

But, besides the absurdity of disarming his principal performer of so necessary an adjunct to his instrument, in such an emphatic part of the composition too, which must have had a droll effect at the time, all such minutiae of adaptation are at this time of day very properly exploded, and Jackson of Exeter very fairly ranks them under the head of puns.

Should you succeed in the setting of it, we propose having it performed (we have one very tolerable second voice here, and Mr. Holmes, I dare say, would supply the minor parts) at the Greyhound. But it must be a secret to the young couple till we can get the band in readiness.

Believe me, dear Novello,
Yours truly,
Enfield, 6 Nov., ’29.

Peculiarly Elian is the humour throughout this last letter. The advice to “make Pepusch your model, or Blow;” the affected “divisions” or “Duetto,” “Recitative,” “Air,” “First Voice,” “Second Voice,” “First and Second,” “Both,” &c.; the antiquated stiffness of the lines themselves, the burlesque “Love and Hymen’s triumph sing;” the grotesque stiltedness of “the brave Cowdenio’s heart,” and “a Hero is the glorious prize;” the ludicrous absurdity of hailing a peaceful man of letters (who, by the way, adopted as his crest and motto an oak-branch with Algernon Sydney’s words, “Placidam sub libertate quietem”) by “In courts, in camps, thro’ distant realms renown’d, Cowdenio comes!”; the adulatory pomp of styling a young girl, nowise distinguished for anything but homeliest simplicity, as “the Fair,” “the Nymph,” in whom “the Graces all conspire;” the droll, illustrative instructions, suggesting “sprightliness,
occasionally checked by tenderness,” in setting lines purposedly dull and heavy with old-fashioned mythological trappings; the grave assumption of technicality in the introduction of the word “crescendo;” the pretended citation of “
Purcell” and “Jackson of Exeter;” the comic prohibition as to the too literal “minutiæ of adaptation” in such passages as “Drops his bow, and stands to hear;” the pleasant play on the word in “the minor parts;” the mock earnestness as to keeping the proposed performance “a secret to the young couple;” are all in the very spirit of fun that swayed Elia when a sportive vein ran through his Essays.

The next letter is to Charles Cowden Clarke; though it has neither address, signature, date, nor postmark:—

My dear Three C’s,—The way from Southgate to Colney Hatch thro’ the unfrequentedest Blackberry paths that ever concealed their coy bunches from a truant Citizen, we have accidentally fallen upon—the giant Tree by Cheshunt we have missed, but keep your chart to go by, unless you will be our conduct—at present I am disabled from further flights than just to skirt round Clay Hill, with a peep at the fine back woods, by strained tendons, got by skipping a skipping-rope at 53—hei m hi non sum qualis—but do you know, now you come to talk of walks, a ramble of four hours or so—there and back—to the willow and lavender plantations at the south corner of Northaw Church by a well dedicated to Saint Claridge, with the clumps of finest moss rising hillock fashion, which I counted to the number of two hundred and sixty, and are called “Claridge’s covers”—the tradition being that that saint entertained so many angels or hermits there, upon occasion of blessing the waters? The legends have set down the fruits spread upon that occasion, and in the Black Book of St. Alban’s some are named which are not supposed to have been introduced into this island till a century later. But waiving the miracle, a sweeter spot is not in ten counties round;
you are knee deep in clover, that is to say, if you are not above a middling man’s height—from this paradise, making a day of it, you go to see the ruins of an old convent at March Hall, where some of the painted glass is yet whole and fresh.

If you do not know this, you do not know the capabilities of this country, you may be said to be a stranger to Enfield. I found it out one morning in October, and so delighted was I that I did not get home before dark, well a-paid.

I shall long to show you the clump meadows, as they are called; we might do that, without reaching March Hall— when the days are longer, we might take both, and come home by Forest Cross, so skirt over Pennington and the cheerful little village of Churchley to Forty Hill.

But these are dreams till summer; meanwhile we should be most glad to see you for a lesser excursion—say, Sunday next, you and another, or if more, best on a weekday with a notice, but o’ Sundays, as far as a leg of mutton goes, most welcome. We can squeeze out a bed. Edmonton coaches run every hour, and my pen has run out its quarter. Heartily farewell.

Charles Lamb’s enjoyment of a long ramble, and his (usually) excellent powers of walking are here denoted. He was so proud of his pedestrian feats and indefatigability, that he once told the Cowden Clarkes a story of a dog possessed by a pertinacious determination to follow him day by day when he went forth to wander in the Enfield lanes and fields; until, unendurably teased by the pertinacity of this obtrusive animal, he determined to get rid of him by fairly tiring him out! So he took him a circuit of many miles, including several of the loveliest spots round Enfield, coming at last to a by-road with an interminable vista of up-hill distance, where the dog turned tail, gave the matter up, and laid down beneath a hedge, panting, exhausted, thoroughly worn out and dead beat; while his defeater walked freshly home, smiling and triumphant.


Knowing Lamb’s fashion of twisting facts to his own humorous view of them, those who heard the story well understood that it might easily have been wryed to represent the narrator’s real potency in walking, while serving to cover his equally real liking for animals under the semblance of vanquishing a dog in a contested footrace. Far more probable that he encouraged its volunteered companionship, amusing his imagination the while by picturing the wild impossibility of any human creature attempting to tire out a dog—of all animals! As an instance of Charles Lamb’s sympathy with dumb beasts, his two friends here named once saw him get up from table, while they were dining with him and his sister at Enfield, open the street-door, and give admittance to a stray donkey into the front strip of garden, where there was a glass-plot, which he said seemed to possess more attraction for the creature than the short turf of the common on Chase-side, opposite to the house where the Lambs then dwelt. This mixture of the humorous in manner and the sympathetic in feeling always more or less tinged the sayings and the doings of beloved Charles Lamb; there was a constant blending of the overtly whimsical expression or act with betrayed inner kindliness and even pathos of sentiment. Beneath this sudden opening of his gate to a stray donkey that it might feast on his garden grass while he himself ate his dinner, possibly lurked some stung sense of wanderers unable to get a meal they hungered for when others revelled in plenty,—a kind of pained fancy finding vent in playful deed or speech, that frequently might be traced by those who enjoyed his society.

The next letter is addressed “C. C. Clarke, Esqre.,” with the postmark (much defaced) “Edmonton, Fe. 2, 1829:”—


Dear Cowden,—Your books are as the gushing of streams in a desert. By the way, you have sent no autobiographies. Your letter seems to imply you had. Nor do I want any. Cowden, they are of the books which I give away. What damn’d Unitarian skewer-soul’d things the general biographies turn out. Rank and Talent you shall have when Mrs. May has done with ’em. Mary likes Mrs. Bedinfield much. For me I read nothing but Astrea—it has turn’d my brain—I go about with a switch turn’d up at the end for a crook; and Lambs being too old, the butcher tells me, my cat follows me in a green ribband. Becky and her cousin are getting pastoral dresses, and then we shall all four go about Arcadizing. O cruel Shepherdess! Inconstant yet fair, and more inconstant for being fair! Her gold ringlets fell in a disorder superior to order!

Come and join us.

I am called the Black Shepherd—you shall be Cowden with the Tuft.

Prosaically, we shall be glad to have you both,—or any two of you—drop in by surprise some Saturday night.

C. L.

The book he refers to as “Astrea” was one of those tall folio romances of the Sir Philip Sidney or Mdme. de Scudéry order, inspiring him with the amusing rhapsody that follows its mention; the ingeniously equivocal “Lambs being too old;” the familiar mingling of “Becky” (their maid) “and her cousin” with himself and sister in “pastoral dresses,” to “go about Arcadizing;” the abrupt bursting forth into the Philip-Sidneyan style of antithetical rapturizing and euphuism; the invented Arcadian titles of “the Black Shepherd” and “Cowden with the Tuft”—are all in the tone of mad-cap spirits which were occasionally Lamb’s. The latter name (“Cowden with the Tuft”) slyly implies the smooth
baldness with scant curly hair distinguishing the head of the friend addressed, and which seemed to strike Charles Lamb so forcibly, that one evening, after gazing at it for some time, he suddenly broke forth with the exclamation, “’Gad, Clarke! what whiskers you have behind your head!”

He was fond of trying the dispositions of those with whom he associated by an odd speech such as this; and if they stood the test pleasantly, and took it in good part, he liked them the better ever after. One time that the Novellos and Cowden Clarkes went down to see the Lambs at Enfield, and he was standing by his bookshelves, talking with them in his usual delightful, cordial way, showing them some precious volume lately added to his store, a neighbour chancing to come in to remind Charles Lamb of an appointed ramble, he excused himself by saying, “You see I have some troublesome people just come down from town, and I must stay and entertain them; so we’ll take our walk together to-morrow.” Another time, when the Cowden Clarkes were staying a few days at Enfield with Charles Lamb and his sister, they, having accepted an invitation to spend the evening and have a game of whist at a lady-schoolmistress’s house there, took their guests with them. Charles Lamb, giving his arm to “Victoria,” left her husband to escort Mary Lamb, who walked rather more slowly than her brother. On arriving first at the house of the somewhat prim and formal hostess, Charles Lamb, bringing his young visitor into the room, introduced her by saying, “Mrs. ——, I’ve brought you the wife of the man who mortally hates your husband;” and when the lady replied by a polite inquiry after “Miss Lamb,” hoping she was quite well, Charles Lamb said, “She has a terrible fit o’ toothache,
and was obliged to stay at home this evening; so Mr. Cowden Clarke remained there to keep her company.” Then, the lingerers entering, he went on to say, “Mrs. Cowden Clarke has been telling me, as we came along, that she hopes you have sprats for supper thjs evening.” The bewildered glance of the lady of the house at Mary Lamb and her walking-companion, her politely stifled dismay at the mention of so vulgar a dish, contrasted with Victoria’s smile of enjoyment at his whimsical words, were precisely the kind of things that Charles Lamb liked and chuckled over. On another occasion he was charmed by the equanimity and even gratification with which the same guests and
Miss Fanny Kelly (the skilled actress whose combined artistic and feminine attractions inspired him with the beautiful sonnet beginning
You are not, Kelly, of the common strain,
and whose performance of “
The Blind Boy” caused him to address her in that other sonnet beginning
Rare artist! who with half thy tools or none
Canst execute with ease thy curious art,
And press thy powerful’st meanings on the heart
Unaided by the eye, expression’s throne!)
found themselves one sunny day, after a long walk through the green Enfield meadows, seated with Charles Lamb and his sister on a rustic bench in the shade, outside a small roadside inn, quaffing draughts of his favourite porter with him from the unsophisticated pewter, supremely indifferent to the strangeness of the situation; nay, heartily enjoying it with him. The umbrageous elm, the water-trough, the dip in the road where there was a ford and foot-bridge, the rough wooden table at which the little party were seated, the pleasant voices
of Charles and Mary Lamb and Fanny Kelly,—all are vividly present to the imagination of her who now writes these few memorial lines, inadequately describing the ineffaceable impression of that happy time, when Lamb so cordially-delighted in the responsive ease and enjoyment of his surrounders.

The last letter is addressed “V. Novello, Esqre.,” with post-mark “No. 8, 1830:”—

Tears are for lighter griefs. Man weeps the doom
That seals a single victim to the tomb.
But when Death riots, when with whelming sway
Destruction sweeps a family away;
When Infancy and Youth, a huddled mass,
All in an instant to oblivion pass,
And Parents’ hopes are crush’d; what lamentation
Can reach the depth of such a desolation?
Look upward, Feeble Ones! look up, and trust
That He, who lays this mortal frame in dust,
Still hath the immortal Spirit in His keeping.
In Jesus’ sight they are not dead, but sleeping.

Dear N., will these lines do? I despair of better. Poor Mary is in a deplorable state here at Enfield.

Love to all,

These tenderly pathetic elegiac lines were written at the request of Vincent Novello, in memory of four sons and two daughters of John and Ann Rigg, of York. All six—respectively aged 19, 18, 17, 16, 7, and 6—were drowned at once by their boat being run down on the river Ouse, near York, August 19, 1830. The unhappy surviving parents had begged to have lines for an epitaph from the best poetical hand; but, owing to some local authority’s interference, another than Charles Lamb’s verse was ultimately placed on the monument raised to the lost children.