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Recollections of Writers
Charles Lamb to Vincent Novello, [6 November 1828]

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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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,
C. Lamb.
Enfield, 6 Nov., ’29.