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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 1803

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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[Dated at end: Feb. 19th, 1803.]

MY dear Manning,—The general scope of your letter afforded no indications of insanity, but some particular points raised a scruple. For God’s sake don’t think any more of “Independent Tartary.” What have you to do among such Ethiopians? Is there no lineal descendant of Prester John?

Is the chair empty? Is the sword unswayed?—depend upon’t they’ll never make you their king, as long as any branch of that great stock is remaining. I tremble for your Christianity. They’ll certainly circumcise you. Read Sir John Maundevil’s travels to cure you, or come over to England. There is a Tartar-man now exhibiting at Exeter Change. Come and talk with him, and hear what he says first. Indeed, he is no very favorable specimen of his Countrymen! But perhaps the best thing you can do, is to try to get the idea out of your head. For this purpose repeat to yourself every night, after you have said your prayers, the words Independent Tartary, Independent Tartary, two or three times, and associate with them the idea of oblivion (’tis Hartley’s method with obstinate memories), or say, Independent, Independent, have I not already got an Independence? That was a clever way of the old puritans—pun-divinity. My dear friend, think what a sad pity it would be to bury such parts in heathen countries, among nasty, unconversable, horse-belching, Tartar people! Some say, they are Cannibals; and then conceive a Tartar-fellow eating my friend, and adding the cool malignity of mustard and vinegar! I am afraid ’tis the reading of Chaucer has misled you; his foolish
stories about Cambuscan and the ring, and the horse of brass. Believe me, there’s no such things, ’tis all the poet’s invention; but if there were such darling things as old Chaucer sings, I would up behind you on the Horse of Brass, and frisk off for Prester John’s Country. But these are all tales; a Horse of Brass never flew, and a King’s daughter never talked with Birds! The Tartars, really, are a cold, insipid, smouchey set. You’ll be sadly moped (if you are not eaten) among them. Pray try and cure yourself. Take Hellebore (the counsel is
Horace’s, ’twas none of my thought originally). Shave yourself oftener. Eat no saffron, for saffron-eaters contract a terrible Tartar-like yellow. Pray, to avoid the fiend. Eat nothing that gives the heart-burn. Shave the upper lip. Go about like an European. Read no books of voyages (they’re nothing but lies): only now and then a Romance, to keep the fancy under. Above all, don’t go to any sights of wild beasts. That has been your ruin. Accustom yourself to write familiar letters on common subjects to your friends in England, such as are of a moderate understanding. And think about common things more. There’s your friend Holcroft now, has written a play. You used to be fond of the drama. Nobody went to see it. Notwithstanding this, with an audacity perfectly original, he faces the town down in a preface, that they did like it very much. I have heard a waspish punster say, “Sir, why did you not laugh at my jest?” But for a man boldly to face me out with, “Sir, I maintain it, you did laugh at my jest,” is a little too much. I have seen H. but once. He spoke of you to me in honorable terms. H. seems to me to be drearily dull. Godwin is dull, but then he has a dash of affectation, which smacks of the coxcomb, and your coxcombs are always agreeable. I supped last night with Rickman, and met a merry natural captain, who pleases himself vastly with once having made a Pun at Otaheite in the O. language. ’Tis the same man who said Shakspeare he liked, because he was so much of the Gentleman. Rickman is a man “absolute in all numbers.” I think I may one day bring you acquainted, if you do not go to Tartary first; for you’ll never come back. Have a care, my dear friend, of Anthropophagi! their stomachs are always craving. But if you do go among [them] pray contrive to stink as soon as you can that you may [?not] hang a [?on] hand at the Butcher’s. ’Tis terrible to be weighed out for 5d. a-pound. To sit at table (the reverse of fishes in Holland), not as a guest, but as a meat.

God bless you: do come to England. Air and exercise may do great things. Talk with some Minister. Why not your father?

God dispose all for the best. I have discharged my duty.

Your sincere frd,

C. Lamb.
19th Feb., 1803, London.

[Manning’s letter producing this reply is endorsed by Lamb, “Received February 19, 1803,” so that he lost no time. Manning wrote: “I am actually thinking of Independent Tartary as I write this, but you go out and skate—you go out and walk some times? Very true, that’s a distraction—but the moment I set myself down quietly to any-thing, in comes Independent Tartary—for example I attend chemical lectures but every drug that Mr. Vauquelin presents to me tastes of Cream of Tartar—in short I am become good for nothing for a time, and as I said before, I should not have written now, but to assure you of my friendly and affectionate remembrance, but as you are not in the same unhappy circumstances, I expect you’ll write to me and not measure page for page. This is the first letter I have begun for England for three months except one I sent to my Father yesterday.” Manning returned to London before leaving for China. He did not sail until 1806.

Prester John, the name given by old writers to the King of Ethiopia in Abyssinia. A corruption of Belul Gian, precious stone; in Latin first Johanus preciosus, then Presbyter Johannes and then Prester John. In Sir John Mandeville’s Voiage and Travails, 1356, Prester John is said to be a lineal descendant of Ogier the Dane.—“Is the chair empty?” see “Richard III.,” IV., 4, 470.—Hartley would be David Hartley, the metaphysician, after whom Coleridge’s son was named.—The reader must go to Chaucer’sSquire’s Tale” for Cambuscan, King of Sarra, in Tartary; his horse of brass which conveyed him in a day wherever he would go; and the ring which enabled his daughter Canace to understand the language of birds.

Holcroft’s play was “A Tale of Mystery.”

Rickman had returned from Ireland some months previously. The merry natural captain was James Burney (1750-1821), with whom the Lambs soon became very friendly. He was the centre of their whist-playing circle. Burney, who was brother of Madame D’Arblay, had sailed with Captain Cook.

“Absolute in all numbers.” In the address to readers prefixed to the first folio of Shakespeare is the phrase “Absolute in their numbers.”

“The reverse of fishes in Holland.” An allusion to Andrew Marvell’s whimsical satire against the Dutch:—
The fish ofttimes the burgher dispossessed
And sat not as a meat but as a guest.

“Why not your father?” Manning’s father was the Rev. William Manning, rector of Diss, in Norfolk, who died in 1810.]

1803 “HESTER” 261
March, 1803.

DEAR Manning, I send you some verses I have made on the death of a young Quaker you may have heard me speak of as being in love with for some years while I lived at Pentonville, though I had never spoken to her in my life. She died about a month since. If you have interest with the Abbé de Lisle, you may get ’em translated: he has done as much for the Georgics.

When maidens such as Hester die,
Their place ye may not well supply,
Though ye among a thousand try,
With vain endeavour.
A month or more hath she been dead,
Yet cannot I by force be led
To think upon the wormy bed,
And her together.
A springy motion in her gait,
A rising step, did indicate
Of pride and joy no common rate,
That flush’d her spirit.
I know not by what name beside
I shall it call:—if ’twas not pride,
It was a joy to that allied,
She did inherit.
Her parents held the Quaker rule,
Which doth the human feeling cool,
But she was train’d in Nature’s school,
Nature had blest her.
A waking eye, a prying mind,
A heart that stirs, is hard to bind,
A hawk’s keen sight ye cannot blind,
Ye could not Hester.
My sprightly neighbour, gone before
To that unknown and silent shore,
Shall we not meet, as heretofore,
Some summer morning,
When from thy cheerful eyes a ray
Hath struck a bliss upon the day,
A bliss that would not go away,
A sweet forewarning?

[This letter is possibly only a fragment. I have supplied “Hester” from the 1818 text.

The young Quaker was Hester Savory, the daughter of Joseph Savory, a goldsmith of the Strand. She was married July 1, 1802, and died a few months after. In Vol. V. of the present edition her portrait will be found.

“The Abbe de Lisle.” L’Abbe Jacques Delille (1738-1813) known by his Géorgiques, 1770, a translation into French of Virgil’s Georgics.]

[Dated at end: March 5, 1803.]

DEAR Wordsworth, having a Guinea of your sister’s left in hand, after all your commissions, and as it does not seem likely that you will trouble us, as the phrase is, for some time to come, I send you a pound note, and with it the best things in the verse way I have lit upon for many a day. I believe they will be new to you. You know Cotton, who wrote a 2d part to Walton’s Angler. A volume of his miscellaneous poems is scarce. Take what follows from a poem call’d Winter. I omit 20 verses, in which a storm is described, to hasten to the best:—

Louder, and louder, still they1 come,
Nile’s Cataracts to these are dumb,
The Cyclops to these Blades are still,
Whose anvils shake the burning hill.
Were all the stars-enlighten’d skies
As full of ears, as sparkling eyes,
This rattle in the crystal hall
Would be enough to deaf them all.
What monstrous Race is hither tost,
Thus to alarm our British Coast,
With outcries such as never yet
War, or confusion, could beget?
Oh! now I know them, let us home,
Our mortal Enemy is come,
Winter, and all his blustring train
Have made a voyage o’er the main.

1 The winds.

1803 COTTON’S “WINTER” 263
With bleak, and with congealing winds,
The earth in shining chain he binds;
And still as he doth further pass,
Quarries his way with liquid glass.
Hark! how the Blusterers of the Bear
Their gibbous Cheeks in triumph bear,
And with continued shouts do ring
The entry of their palsied king!
The squadron, nearest to your eye,
Is his forlorn of Infantry,
Bowmen of unrelenting minds,
Whose shafts are feather’d with the winds.
Now you may see his vanguard rise
Above the earthy precipice,
Bold Horse, on bleakest mountains bred,
With hail, instead of provend, fed.
Their lances are the pointed locks,
Torn from the brows of frozen rocks,
Their shields are chrystal as their swords,
The steel the rusted rock affords.
See, the Main Body now appears!
And hark! th’ Æolian Trumpeters.
By their hoarse levets do declare,
That the bold General rides there.
And look where mantled up in white
He sleds it, like the Muscovite.
I know him by the port he bears,
And his lifeguard of mountaineers.
Their caps are furr’d with hoary frosts,
The bravery their cold kingdom boasts;
Their spungy plads are milk-white frieze,
Spun from the snowy mountain’s fleece.
Their partizans are fine carv’d glass,
Fring’d with the morning’s spangled grass;
And pendant by their brawny thighs
Hang cimetars of burnish’d ice.
Fly, fly, the foe advances fast,
Into our fortress let us haste,
Where all the roarers of the north
Can neither storm, nor starve, us forth.
There under ground a magazine
Of sovran juice is cellar’d in,
Liquor that will the siege maintain,
Should Phoebus ne’er return again.
’Tis that, that gives the poet rage,
And thaws the gelly’d blood of age,
Matures the young, restores the old,
And makes the fainting coward bold.
It lays the careful head to rest,
Calms palpitations in the breast,
Renders our live’s misfortunes sweet,
And Venus frolic in the sheet.
Then let the chill Scirocco blow,
And gird us round with hills of snow,
Or else go whistle to the shore,
And make the hollow mountains roar.
Whilst we together jovial sit,
Careless, and crown’d with mirth and wit,
Where tho’ bleak winds confine us home,
Our fancies thro’ the world shall roam.
We’ll think of all the friends we know,
And drink to all, worth drinking to;
When, having drunk all thine and mine,
We rather shall want health than wine!
But, where friends fail us, we’ll supply
Our friendships with our Charity.
Men that remote in sorrows live,
Shall by our lusty bumpers thrive.
We’ll drink the wanting into wealth,
And those that languish into health,
Th’ afflicted into joy, th’ opprest
Into security & rest.
The worthy in disgrace shall find
Favour return again more kind,
And in restraint who stifled lye,
Shall taste the air of liberty.
The brave shall triumph in success,
The lovers shall have mistresses,
Poor unregarded virtue praise,
And the neglected Poet bays.
Thus shall our healths do others good,
While we ourselves do all we wou’d,
For freed from envy, and from care.
What would we be, but what we are?
’Tis the plump Grape’s immortal juice,
That does this happiness produce,
And will preserve us free together,
Maugre mischance, or wind, & weather.
Then let old winter take his course,
And roar abroad till he be hoarse,
And his lungs crack with ruthless ire,
It shall but serve to blow our fire.
Let him our little castle ply
With all his loud artillery,
Whilst sack and claret man the fort,
His fury shall become our sport.
Or let him Scotland take, and there
Confine the plotting Presbyter;
His zeal may freeze, whilst we kept warm
With love and wine can know no harm.

How could Burns miss the series of lines from 42 to 49?

There is also a long poem from the Latin on the inconveniences of old age. I can’t set down the whole, tho’ right worthy, having dedicated the remainder of my sheet to something else. I just excerp here and there, to convince you, if after this you need it, that Cotton was a first rate. Tis old Gallus speaks of himself, once the delight of the Ladies and Gallants of Rome:—

The beauty of my shape & face are fled,
And my revolted form bespeaks me dead,
For fair, and shining age, has now put on
A bloodless, funeral complexion.
My skin’s dry’d up, my nerves unpliant are,
And my poor limbs my nails plow up and tear.
My chearful eyes now with a constant spring
Of tears bewail their own sad suffering;
And those soft lids, that once secured my eye
Now rude, and bristled grown, do drooping lie,
Bolting mine eyes, as in a gloomy cave,
Which there on furies, and grim objects, rave.
’Twould fright the full-blown Gallant to behold
The dying object of a man so old.
And can you think, that once a man he was,
Of human reason who no portion has.
The letters split, when I consult my book,
And every leaf I turn does broader look.
In darkness do I dream I see the light,
When light is darkness to my perishd sight.
* * * * * * * * *
Is it not hard we may not from men’s eyes
Cloak and conceal Age’s indecencies.
Unseeming spruceness th’ old man discommends,
And in old men, only to live, offends.
* * * * * * * * *
How can I him a living man believe,
Whom light, and air, by whom he panteth, grieve;
The gentle sleeps, which other mortals ease,
Scarce in a winter’s night my eyelids seize.
* * * * * * * * *
The boys, and girls, deride me now forlorn,
And but to call me, Sir, now think it scorn,
They jeer my countnance, and my feeble pace,
And scoff that nodding head, that awful was.
* * * * * * * * *

A song written by Cowper, which in stile is much above his usual, and emulates in noble plainness any old balad I have seen. Hayley has just published it &c. with a Life. I did not think Cowper up to it:—

Toll for the Brave!
The Brave, that are no more!
All sunk beneath the wave,
Fast by their native shore.—
Eight hundred of the Brave,
Whose courage well was tried,
Had made the vessel heel,
And laid her on her side.
A Land breeze shook the shrouds,
And she was over set;
Down went the Royal George,
With all her sails complete.
Toll for the Brave!
Brave Kempenfelt is gone:
His last sea-fight is fought;
His work of glory done.
It was not in the battle,
No tempest gave the shock;
She sprang no fatal leak;
She ran upon no rock.
His sword was in its sheath;
His fingers held the pen,
When Kempenfelt went down,
With twice four hundred men.
Weigh the vessel up!
Once dreaded by our foes!
And mingle with the cup
The tear that England owes.
Her timbers yet are sound,
And she may float again,
Full charg’d with England’s thunder,
And plow the distant main.
But Kempenfelt is gone,
His victories are o’er;
And he, and his eight hundred,
Shall plow the wave no more.

In your obscure part of the world, which I take to be Ultima Thule, I thought these verses out of Books which cannot be accessible would not be unwelcome. Having room, I will put in an Epitaph I writ for a real occasion, a year or two back.

Under this cold marble stone
Sleep the sad remains of One,
Who, when alive, by few or none
Was lov’d, as lov’d she might have been,
If she prosp’rous days had seen,
Or had thriving been, I ween.
Only this cold funeral stone
Tells, she was belov’d by One,
Who on the marble graves his moan.

I conclude with Love to your Sister and Mrs. W.

Yours affecty,
C. Lamb.

Mary sends Love, &c.

5th March, 1803.

On consulting Mary, I find it will be foolish inserting the Note as I intended, being so small, and as it is possible you may have to trouble us again e’er long; so it shall remain to be settled hereafter. However, the verses shan’t be lost.

N.B.—All orders executed with fidelity and punctuality by C. & M. Lamb.

[On the outside is written:] I beg to open this for a minute to add my remembrances to you all, and to assure you I shall ever be
happy to hear from or see, much more to be useful to any of my old friends at Grasmere.

J. Stoddart.

A lean paragraph of the Doctor’s.

C. Lamb.

[Charles Cotton (1630-1687). Wordsworth praises the poem on Winter in his preface to the 1815 edition of his works, and elsewhere sets up a comparison between the character of Cotton and that of Burns.

Hayley’s Life of Cowper appeared first in 1803.

Lamb’s epitaph was written at the request of Rickman. See also the letter to Manning of April (or thereabouts), 1802, page 241. Rickman seems to have supplied Lamb with a prose epitaph and asked for a poetical version. Canon Ainger prints what I take to be an earlier version from an unpublished letter to Rickman, dated February 1, 1802. Lamb printed the epitaph in the Morning Post for February 7, 1804, over his initials (see Vol. V. of this edition, pages 80 and 322). Mary Druit, or Druitt, lived at Wimborne, and according to John Payne Collier, in An Old Man’s Diary, died of small-pox at the age of nineteen. He says that Lamb’s lines were cut on her tomb, but correspondence in Notes and Queries has proved this to be incorrect.

“The Doctor.” Stoddart, having taken his D.C.L in 1801, was now called Dr. Stoddart.

Soon after this letter Mary Lamb was taken ill again.]

April 13th, 1803.

MY dear Coleridge,—Things have gone on better with me since you left me. I expect to have my old housekeeper home again in a week or two. She has mended most rapidly. My health too has been better since you took away that Montero cap. I have left off cayenned eggs and such bolsters to discomfort. There was death in that cap. I mischievously wished that by some inauspicious jolt the whole contents might be shaken, and the coach set on fire. For you said they had that property. How the old Gentleman, who joined you at Grantham, would have clappt his hands to his knees, and not knowing but it was an immediate visitation of God that burnt him, how pious it would have made
him; him, I mean, that brought the Influenza with him, and only took places for one—a damn’d old sinner, he must have known what he had got with him! However, I wish the cap no harm for the sake of the head it fits, and could be content to see it disfigure my healthy sideboard again. [Here is a paragraph erased.]

What do you think of smoking? I want your sober, average noon opinion of it. I generally am eating my dinner about the time I should determine it. [Another small erasure.]

Morning is a Girl, and can’t smoke—she’s no evidence one way or other; and Night is so evidently bought over, that he can’t be a very upright Judge. May be the truth is, that one pipe is wholesome, two pipes toothsome, three pipes noisome, four pipes fulsome, five pipes quarrelsome; and that’s the sum on’t. But that is deciding rather upon rhyme than reason. . . . After all, our instincts may be best. Wine, I am sure, good, mellow, generous Port, can hurt nobody, unless they take it to excess, which they may easily avoid if they observe the rules of temperance.

Bless you, old Sophist, who next to Human Nature taught me all the corruption I was capable of knowing—And bless your Montero Cap, and your trail (which shall come after you whenever you appoint), and your wife and children—Pi pos especially.

When shall we two smoke again? Last night I had been in a sad quandary of spirits, in what they call the evening; but a pipe and some generous Port, and King Lear (being alone), had its effects as a remonstrance. I went to bed pot-valiant. By the way, may not the Ogles of Somersetshire be remotely descended from King Lear?

Love to Sara, and ask her what gown she means that Mary has got of hers. I know of none but what went with Miss Wordsworth’s things to Wordsworth, and was paid for out of their money. I allude to a part which I may have read imperfectly in a letter of hers to you.

C. L.

[Coleridge had been in London early in April and had stayed with Lamb in the Temple. From his letter to his wife, dated April 4, we get light on Lamb’s allusion to his “old housekeeper,” i.e., Mary Lamb, and her rapid mending:—

I had purposed not to speak of Mary Lamb, but I had better write it than tell it. The Thursday before last she met at Rickman’s a Mr. Babb, an old friend and admirer of her mother. The next day she smiled in an ominous way; on Sunday she told her brother that she was getting bad, with great agony. On Tuesday morning she laid hold of me with violent agitation and talked wildly about George Dyer. I told Charles there was not a moment to lose; and I did not lose a moment, but went for a hackney-coach and took her to the private mad-house at Hugsden. She was quite calm, and said it was the best to do so. But she wept bitterly two or three times, yet all in a calm way. Charles is cut to the heart.


Lamb’s first articulate doubts as to smoking are expressed in this letter. One may perhaps take in this connection the passage on tobacco and alcohol in the “Confessions of a Drunkard” (see Vol. I, page 135).

“Montero cap”—a recollection of Tristram Shandy.

The Ogles and King Lear—merely a pun.]

[No date. May, 1803.]

Mary sends love from home.

DC.,—I do confess that I have not sent your books as I ought to be [have] done; but you know how the human freewill is tethered, and that we perform promises to ourselves no better than to our friends. A watch is come for you. Do you want it soon, or shall I wait till some one travels your way? You, like me, I suppose, reckon the lapse of time from the waste thereof, as boys let a cock run to waste: too idle to stop it, and rather amused with seeing it dribble. Your poems have begun printing; Longman sent to me to arrange them, the old and the new together. It seems you have left it to him. So I classed them, as nearly as I could, according to dates. First, after the Dedication, (which must march first) and which I have transplanted from before the Preface (which stood like a dead wall of prose between) to be the first poem—then comes “The Pixies,” and the things most juvenile—then on “To Chatterton,” &c.—on, lastly, to the “Ode on the Departing Year,” and “Musings,”—which finish. Longman wanted the Ode first; but the arrangement I have made is precisely that marked out in the dedication, following the order of time. I told Longman I was sure that you would omit a good portion of the first edition. I instanced in several sonnets, &c.—but that was not his plan, and, as you have done nothing in it, all I could do was to arrange ’em on the supposition that all were to be retained. A few I positively rejected; such as that of “The Thimble,” and that of “Flicker and Flicker’s wife,” and that not in the manner of Spenser, which you yourself had stigmatised—and the “Man of Ross,”—I doubt whether I should this last. It is not too late to save it. The first proof is only just come. I have been forced to call that Cupid’s Elixir “Kisses.” It stands in your first volume as an Effusion, so that, instead of prefixing The Kiss to that of “One Kiss, dear Maid,” &c., I have ventured
to entitle it “To Sara.” I am aware of the nicety of changing even so mere a trifle as a title to so short a piece, and subverting old associations; but two called “Kisses” would have been absolutely ludicrous, and “Effusion” is no name; and these poems come close together. I promise you not to alter one word in any poem whatever, but to take your last text, where two are. Can you send any wishes about the book? Longman, I think, should have settled with you. But it seems you have left it to him. Write as soon as you possibly can; for, without making myself responsible, I feel myself in some sort accessory to the selection which I am to proof-correct. But I decidedly said to
Biggs that I was sure you would omit more. Those I have positively rubbed off I can swear to individually, (except the “Man of Ross,” which is too familiar in Pope,) but no others—you have your cue. For my part, I had rather all the Juvenilia were kept—memoriæ causa.

Rob Lloyd has written me a masterly letter, containing a character of his father;—see, how different from Charles he views the old man! Literatim, “My father smokes, repeats Homer in Greek, and Virgil, and is learning, when from business, with all the vigour of a young man Italian. He is really a wonderful man. He mixes public and private business, the intricacies of discording life with his religion and devotion. No one more rationally enjoys the romantic scenes of nature, and the chit-chat and little vagaries of his children; and, though surrounded with an ocean of affairs, the very neatness of his most obscure cupboard in the house passes not unnoticed. I never knew any one view with such clearness, nor so well satisfied with things as they are, and make such allowance for things which must appear perfect Syriac to him.” By the last he means the Lloydisms of the younger branches. His portrait of Charles (exact as far as he has had opportunities of noting him) is most exquisite. “Charles is become steady as a church, and as straightforward as a Roman road. It would distract him to mention anything that was not as plain as sense; he seems to have run the whole scenery of life, and now rests as the formal precisian of non-existence.” Here is genius I think, and ’tis seldom a young man, a Lloyd, looks at a father (so differing) with such good nature while he is alive. Write—

I am in post-haste,

C. Lamb.

Love, &c., to Sara, P., and H.


[The date is usually given as March 20, but is May 20; certainly after Coleridge’s visit to town (see preceding letter).


Poems, by S. T. Coleridge, third edition, was now in preparation by Longman & Rees. Lamb saw the volume through the press. The 1797 second edition was followed, except that Lloyd’s and Lamb’s contributions were omitted, together with the following poems by Coleridge: “To the Rev. W. J. H.,” “Sonnet to Koskiusko,” “Written after a Walk” (which Lamb inaccurately called “Flicker and Flicker’s Wife”), “From a Young Lady” (“The Silver Thimble”), “On the Christening of a Friend’s Child,” “Introductory Sonnet to Lloyd’s ‘Poems on the Death of Priscilla Farmer.’” “The Man of Ross” (whom Pope also celebrates in the Moral Essays, III., lines 250-290) was retained, and also the “Lines in the Manner of Spenser.” The piece rechristened “Kisses” had been called “The Composition of a Kiss.” Biggs was the printer. See also the next letter.

Of Robert Lloyd’s father we hear more later (see page 402).]

27th May, 1803.

MY dear Coleridge,—The date of my last was one day prior to the receipt of your letter, full of foul omens. I explain, lest you should have thought mine too light a reply to such sad matter. I seriously hope by this time you have given up all thoughts of journeying to the green islands of the Blest—voyages in time of war are very precarious—or at least, that you will take them in your way to the Azores. Pray be careful of this letter till it has done its duty, for it is to inform you that I have booked off your watch (laid in cotton like an untimely fruit), and with it Condillac and all other books of yours which were left here. These will set out on Monday next, the 29th May, by Kendal waggon, from White Horse, Cripplegate. You will make seasonable inquiries, for a watch mayn’t come your way again in a hurry. I have been repeatedly after Tobin, and now hear that he is in the country, not to return till middle of June. I will take care and see him with the earliest. But cannot you write pathetically to him, enforcing a speedy mission of your books for literary purposes? He is too good a retainer to Literature, to let her interests suffer through his default. And why, in the name of Beelzebub, are your books to travel from Barnard’s Inn to the Temple, and then circuitously to Cripplegate, when their business is to take a short cut down Holborn-hill, up Snow do., on to Wood-street,
1803“THE MAN OF ROSS”273
&c.? The former mode seems a sad superstitious subdivision of labour. Well! the “
Man of Ross” is to stand; Longman begs for it; the printer stands with a wet sheet in one hand and a useless Pica in the other, in tears, pleading for it; I relent. Besides, it was a Salutation poem, and has the mark of the beast “Tobacco” upon it. Thus much I have done; I have swept off the lines about widows and orphans in second edition, which (if you remember) you most awkwardly and illogically caused to be inserted between two Ifs, to the great breach and disunion of said Ifs, which now meet again (as in first edition), like two clever lawyers arguing a case. Another reason for subtracting the pathos was, that the “Man of Ross” is too familiar to need telling what he did, especially in worse lines than Pope told it; and it now stands simply as “Reflections at an Inn about a known Character,” and sucking an old story into an accommodation with present feelings. Here is no breaking spears with Pope, but a new, independent, and really a very pretty poem. In fact, ’tis as I used to admire it in the first volume, and I have even dared to restore
“If ’neath this roof thy wine-cheer’d moments pass,”
“Beneath this roof if thy cheer’d moments pass.”
“Cheer’d” is a sad general word; “wine-cheer’d” I’m sure you’d give me, if I had a speaking-trumpet to sound to you 300 miles. But I am your factotum, and that (save in this instance, which is a single case, and I can’t get at you) shall be next to a fac-nihil—at most, a fac-simile. I have ordered “
Imitation of Spenser” to be restored on Wordsworth’s authority; and now, all that you will miss will be “Flicker and Flicker’s Wife,” “The Thimble,” “Breathe, dear harmonist,” and, I believe, “The Child that was fed with Manna.” Another volume will clear off all your Anthologic Morning-Postian Epistolary Miscellanies; but pray don’t put “Christabel” therein; don’t let that sweet maid come forth attended with Lady Holland’s mob at her heels. Let there be a separate volume of Tales, Choice Tales, “Ancient Mariners,” &c.

C. Lamb.

[Coleridge, who was getting more and more nervous about his health, had long been on the point of starting on some southern travels with Thomas Wedgwood, but Wedgwood had gone alone; his friend James Webbe Tobin, mentioned later in the letter, lived at Nevis, in the West Indies: possibly Coleridge had thoughts of returning with him. The Malta experiment, of which we are to hear later, had not, I think, yet been mooted.


The Man of Ross.” In the 1797 edition the poem had run thus, partly by Lamb’s advice (see the letters of June 10, 1796, and February 5, 1797, pages 18 and 92):—

Richer than Miser o’er his countless hoards,
Nobler than Kings, or king-polluted Lords,
Here dwelt the Man Of Ross! O Trav’ller, hear!
Departed Merit claims a reverent tear.
Friend to the friendless, to the sick man health,
With generous joy he view’d his modest wealth;
He hears the widow’s heaven-breath’d prayer of praise,
He marks the shelter’d orphan’s tearful gaze,
Or where the sorrow-shrivel’d captive lay,
Pours the bright blaze of Freedom’s noon-tide ray.
Beneath this roof if thy cheer’d moments pass,
Fill to the good man’s name one grateful glass:
To higher zest shall Mem’ry wake thy soul,
And Virtue mingle in th’ ennobled bowl.
But if, like me, thro’ life’s distressful scene
Lonely and sad thy pilgrimage hath been;
And if, thy breast with heart-sick anguish fraught,
Thou journeyest onward tempest-tost in thought;
Here cheat thy cares! in generous visions melt,
And dream of Goodness, thou hast never felt!

Lamb changed it by omitting lines 9 to 14, Coleridge agreeing. The poet would not, however, restore “wine-cheer’d” as in his earliest version, 1794. In the edition of 1828 the six lines were put back. “Breathe, dear Harmonist” was the poem “To the Rev. W. J. H.,” and “The Child that was fed with Manna” was “On the Christening of a Friend’s Child.”

“Lady Holland’s mob.” Elizabeth Vassall Fox, third Lady Holland (1770-1845), was beginning her reign as a Muse. Lamb by his phrase means occasional and political verse generally. The reference to “Christabel” helps to controvert Fanny Godwin’s remark in a letter to Mrs. Shelley, on July 20, 1816, that Lamb “says Christabel ought never to have been published; that no one understood it.”

Ancient Mariners.Canon Ainger’s transcript adds: “A word of your health will be richly acceptable.”]

[Dated at end: July 9. p.m. July 11, 1803.]

MY dear Miss Wordsworth—We rejoice with exceeding great joy to hear the delightful tidings you were so very kind to remember to send us—I hope your dear sister is perfectly well,
and makes an excellent nurse. Are you not now the happiest family in the world?

I have been in better health and spirits this week past than since my last illness—I continued so long so very weak & dejected I began to fear I should never be at all comfortable again. I strive against low spirits all I can, but it is a very hard thing to get the better of.

I am very uneasy about poor Coleridge, his last letters are very melancholy ones. Remember me affectionately to him and Sara. I hope you often see him.

Southey is in town. He seems as proud of his little girl as I suppose your brother is of his boy; he says his home is now quite a different place to what it used to be. I was glad to hear him say this—it used to look rather chearless.

We went last week with Southey and Rickman and his sister to Sadlers Wells, the lowest and most London-like of all our London amusements—the entertainments were Goody Two Shoes, Jack the Giant Killer, and Mary of Buttermere! Poor Mary was very happily married at the end of the piece, to a sailor her former sweetheart. We had a prodigious fine view of her father’s house in the vale of Buttermere—mountains very like large haycocks, and a lake like nothing at all. If you had been with us, would you have laughed the whole time like Charles and Miss Rickman or gone to sleep as Southey and Rickman did?

Stoddart is in expectation of going soon to Malta as Judge Advocate; it is likely to be a profitable situation, fifteen hundred a year or more. If he goes he takes with him his sister, and, as I hear from her as a very great secret, a wife; you must not mention this because if he stays in England he may not be rich enough to marry for some years. I do not know why I should trouble you with a secret which it seems I am unable to keep myself and which is of no importance to you to hear; if he succeeds in this appointment he will be in a great bustle, for he must set out to Malta in a month. In the mean time he must go to Scotland to marry and fetch his wife, and it is a match against her parents’ consent, and they as yet know nothing of the Malta expedition; so that he expects many difficulties, but the young lady and he are determined to conquer them. He then must go to Salisbury to take leave of his father and mother, who I pity very much, for they are old people and therefore are not very likely ever to see their children again.

Charles is very well and very good—I mean very sober, but he is very good in every sense of the word, for he has been very kind and patient with me and I have been a sad trouble to him lately. He has shut out all his friends because he thought company hurt
me, and done every thing in his power to comfort and amuse me. We are to go out of town soon for a few weeks, when I hope I shall get quite stout and lively.

You saw Fenwick when you was with us—perhaps you remember his wife and children were with his brother, a tradesman at Penzance. He (the brother), who was supposed to be in a great way of business, has become a bankrupt; they are now at Penzance without a home and without money; and poor Fenwick, who has been Editor of a country newspaper lately, is likely soon to be quite out of employ; I am distressed for them, for I have a great affection for Mrs. Fenwick.

How pleasant your little house and orchard must be now. I almost wish I had never seen it. I am always wishing to be with you. I could sit upon that little bench in idleness day long. When you have a leisure hour, a letter from [you], kind friend, will give me the greatest pleasure.

We have money of yours and I want you to send me some commission to lay it out. Are you not in want of anything? I believe when we go out of town it will be to Margate—I love the seaside and expect much benefit from it, but your mountain scenery has spoiled us. We shall find the flat country of the Isle of Thanet very dull.

Charles joins me in love to your brother and sister and the little John. I nope you are building more rooms. Charles said I was so long answering your letter Mrs. Wordsworth would have another little one before you received it. Our love and compliments to our kind Molly, I hope she grows younger and happier every day. When, and where, shall I ever see you again? Not I fear for a very long time, you are too happy ever to wish to come to London. When you write tell me how poor Mrs. Clarkson does.

God bless you and yours.

I am your affectionate friend,
M. Lamb.
July 9th.

[Wordsworth’s eldest child, John, was born on June 18, 1803. Southey’s little girl was Edith, born in September of the preceding year. It was Southey who made the charming remark that no house was complete unless it had in it a child rising six years, and a kitten rising six months.

Coleridge had been ill for some weeks after his visit to London. He was about to visit Scotland with the Wordsworths.

Mary of Buttermere was Mary Robinson, the Beauty of Buttermere, whom the swindler John Hatfield had married in October, 1802, under the false name of Hope. Mary was the daughter of
the landlord of the Fish Inn at Buttermere, and was famous in the Lake Country for her charm.
Coleridge sent to the Morning Post in October some letters on the imposture, and Mary’s name became a household word. Hatfield was hanged in September, 1803. Funds were meanwhile raised for Mary, and she ultimately married a farmer, after being the subject of dramas, ballads and novels.

The play which the Lambs saw was by Charles Dibdin the Younger, produced on April 11, 1803. Its title was “Edward and Susan; or, The Beauty of Buttermere.” A benefit performance for the real Beauty of Buttermere was promised. Both Grimaldi and Belzoni were among the evening’s entertainers.

Stoddart was the King’s and the Admiralty’s Advocate at Malta from 1803 to 1807. He married Isabella Moncrieff in 1803. His sister was Sarah Stoddart, of whom we are about to hear much.

According to the next letter the Lambs went not to Margate, but to the Isle of Wight—to Cowes, with the Burneys.

Molly was an old cottager at Grasmere whom the Lambs had been friendly with on their northern visit.

Mrs. Clarkson, the wife of Thomas Clarkson, was Catherine Buck. She survived her husband, who died in 1846.]

Saturday Morning, July 16th, 1803.

DEAR Rickman,—I enclose you a wonder, a letter from the shades. A dead body wants to return, and be inrolled inter vivos. Tis a gentle ghost, and in this Galvanic age it may have a chance.

Mary and I are setting out for the Isle of Wight. We make but a short stay, and shall pass the time betwixt that place and Portsmouth, where Fenwick is. I sadly wanted to explore the Peak this Summer; but Mary is against steering without card or compass, and we should be at large in Darbyshire.

We shall be at home this night and to-morrow, if you can come and take a farewell pipe.

I regularly transmitted your Notices to the “Morning Post,” but they have not been duly honoured. The fault lay not in me.—

Yours truly,
C. Lamb.

[I cannot explain the reference to the dead body. Mr. Bertram Dobell considers it to apply to an article which he believes Lamb to have written, called “An Appeal from the Shades,” printed in the London Magazine, New Series, Vol. V. (see Sidelights on Charles Lamb, 1903, pages 140-152). I cannot, however, think that Lamb could write in 1803 in the deliberate manner of that essay; that the “Appeal “is by him; or that the reference in the letter is to an essay at all. I have no real theory to put forward; but it once occurred to me that the letter from the shades was from George Burnett, who had quarrelled with Rickman, and had now possibly appealed to his mercy through Lamb. Later, Burnett entered the militia as a surgeon, and at the beginning of 1804 he left for Poland. See Appendix II., page 969.]

[Dated at end: September 21, 1803.]

MY dear Sarah, I returned home from my visit yesterday, and was much pleased to find your letter; for I have been very anxious to hear how you are going on. I could hardly help expecting to see you when I came in; yet, though I should have rejoiced to have seen your merry face again, I believe it was better as it was—upon the whole; and, all things considered, it is certainly better you should go to Malta. The terms you are upon with your Lover does (as you say it will) appear wondrous strange to me; however, as I cannot enter into your feelings, I certainly can have nothing to say to it, only that I sincerely wish you happy in your own way, however odd that way may appear to me to be. I would begin now to advise you to drop all correspondence with William; but, as I said before, as I cannot enter into your feelings and views of things, your ways not being my ways, why should I tell you what I would do in your situation? So, child, take thy own ways, and God prosper thee in them!

One thing my advising spirit must say—use as little Secrecy as possible; and, as much as possible, make a friend of your sister-in-law—you know I was not struck with her at first sight; but, upon your account, I have watched and marked her very attentively; and, while she was eating a bit of cold mutton in our kitchen, we had a serious conversation. From the frankness of her manner, I
am convinced she is a person I could make a friend of; why should not you? We talked freely about you: she seems to have a just notion of your character, and will be fond of you, if you will let her.

My father had a sister lived with us—of course, lived with my Mother, her sister-in-law; they were, in their different ways, the best creatures in the world—but they set out wrong at first. They made each other miserable for full twenty years of their lives—my Mother was a perfect gentlewoman, my Aunty as unlike a gentlewoman as you can possibly imagine a good old woman to be; so that my dear Mother (who, though you do not know it, is always in my poor head and heart) used to distress and weary her with incessant and unceasing attention and politeness, to gain her affection. The old woman could not return this in kind, and did not know what to make of it—thought it all deceit, and used to hate my Mother with a bitter hatred; which, of course, was soon returned with interest. A little frankness, and looking into each other’s characters at first, would have spared all this, and they would have lived, as they died, fond of each other for the last few years of their life. When we grew up, and harmonised them a little, they sincerely loved each other.

My Aunt and my Mother were wholly unlike you and your sister, yet in some degree theirs is the secret history I believe of all sisters-in-law—and you will smile when I tell you I think myself the only woman in the world who could live with a brother’s wife, and make a real friend of her, partly from early observation of the unhappy example I have just given you, and partly from a knack I know I have of looking into people’s real characters, and never expecting them to act out of it—never expecting another to do as I would in the same case. When you leave your Mother, and say, if you never shall see her again, you shall feel no remorse, and when you make a jewish bargain with your Lover, all this gives me no offence, because it is your nature, and your temper, and I do not expect or want you to be otherwise than you are. I love you for the good that is in you, and look for no change.

But, certainly, you ought to struggle with the evil that does most easily beset you—a total want of politeness in behaviour, I would say modesty of behaviour, but that I should not convey to you my idea of the word modesty; for I certainly do not mean that you want real modesty; and what is usually called false, or mock, modesty is [a quality] I certainly do not wish you to possess; yet I trust you know what I mean well enough.

Secrecy, though you appear all frankness, is certainly a grand failing of yours; it is likewise your brother’s, and, therefore, a family failing—by secrecy, I mean you both want the habit of telling each
other at the moment every thing that happens—where you go,—and what you do,—the free communication of letters and opinions just as they arrive, as
Charles and I do,—and which is, after all, the only groundwork of friendship. Your brother, I will answer for [it,] will never tell his wife or his sister all that [is in] his mind—he will receive letters, and not [mention it]. This is a fault Mrs. Stoddart can never [tell him of;] but she can, and will, feel it: though, [on] the whole, and in every other respect, she is [very] happy with him. Begin, for God’s sake, at the first, and tell her every thing that passes. At first she may hear you with indifference; but in time this will gain her affection and confidence; show her all your letters (no matter if she does not show hers)—it is a pleasant thing for a friend to put into one’s hand a letter just fresh from the post. I would even say, begin with showing her this, but that it is written freely and loosely, and some apology ought to be made for it—which I know not how to make, for I must write freely or not at all.

If you do this, she will tell your brother, you will say; and what then, quotha? It will beget a freer communication amongst you, which is a thing devoutly to be wished—

God bless you, and grant you may preserve your integrity, and remain unmarried and penniless, and make William a good and a happy wife.

Your affectionate friend,
M. Lamb.

Charles is very unwell, and my head aches. He sends his love: mine, with my best wishes, to your brother and sister. I hope I shall get another letter from you.

Wednesday, 21st September, 1803.

[Sarah Stoddart was the sister of Dr. John Stoddart, who had just been appointed the King’s and the Admiralty’s Advocate at Malta, whither Miss Stoddart followed him. Her lover of that moment was a Mr. Turner, and William was an earlier lover still. Her sister-in-law was Mrs. John Stoddart, nee Isabella Moncrieff, whom her brother had only just married.

“My Mother.” This is the only reference to her mother in any of Mary Lamb’s letters. The sister was Sarah Lamb, usually known as Aunt Hetty.]

Nov. 8, 1803.

MY dear Sir,—I have been sitting down for three or four days successively to the review, which I so much wished to do well, and to your satisfaction. But I can produce nothing but absolute flatness and nonsense. My health and spirits are so bad, and my nerves so irritable, that I am sure, if I persist, I shall teaze myself into a fever. You do not know how sore and weak a brain I have, or you would allow for many things in me which you set down for whims. I solemnly assure you that I never more wished to prove to you the value which I have for you than at this moment; but although in so seemingly trifling a service I cannot get through with it, I pray you to impute it to this one sole cause, ill health. I hope I am above subterfuge, and that you will do me this justice to think so.

You will give me great satisfaction by sealing my pardon and oblivion in a line or two, before I come to see you, or I shall be ashamed to come.—Your, with great truth,

C. Lamb.
Nov. 10, 1803.

DEAR Godwin,—You never made a more unlucky and perverse mistake than to suppose that the reason of my not writing that cursed thing was to be found in your book. I assure you most sincerely that I have been greatly delighted with Chaucer. I may be wrong, but I think there is one considerable error runs through it, which is a conjecturing spirit, a fondness for filling out the picture by supposing what Chaucer did and how he felt, where the materials are scanty. So far from meaning to withhold from you (out of mistaken tenderness) this opinion of mine, I plainly told Mrs. Godwin that I did find a fault, which I should reserve naming until I should see you and talk it over. This she may very well remember, and also that I declined naming this fault until she drew it from me by asking me if there was not too much fancy in the work. I then confessed generally what I felt, but refused to go into particulars until I had seen you. I am never very fond of saying things before third persons, because in the relation (such is
human nature) something is sure to be dropped. If Mrs. Godwin has been the cause of your misconstruction, I am very angry, tell her; yet it is not an anger unto death. I remember also telling Mrs. G. (which she may have dropt) that I was by turns considerably more delighted than I expected. But I wished to reserve all this until I saw you. I even had conceived an expression to meet you with, which was thanking you for some of the most exquisite pieces of criticism I had ever read in my life. In particular, I should have brought forward that on “
Troilus and Cressida” and Shakespear which, it is little to say, delighted me, and instructed me (if not absolutely instructed me, yet put into full-grown sense many conceptions which had arisen in me before in my most discriminating moods). All these things I was preparing to say, and bottling them up till I came, thinking to please my friend and host, the author! when lo! this deadly blight intervened.

I certainly ought to make great allowances for your misunderstanding me. You, by long habits of composition and a greater command gained over your own powers, cannot conceive of the desultory and uncertain way in which I (an author by fits) sometimes cannot put the thoughts of a common letter into sane prose. Any work which I take upon myself as an engagement will act upon me to torment, e.g., when I have undertaken, as three or four times I have, a school-boy copy of verses for Merchant Taylors’ boys, at a guinea a copy, I have fretted over them, in perfect inability to do them, and have made my sister wretched with my wretchedness for a week together. The same, till by habit I have acquired a mechanical command, I have felt in making paragraphs. As to reviewing, in particular, my head is so whimsical a head, that I cannot, after reading another man’s book, let it have been never so pleasing, give any account of it in any methodical way. I cannot follow his train. Something like this you must have perceived of me in conversation. Ten thousand times I have confessed to you, talking of my talents, my utter inability to remember in any comprehensive way what I read. I can vehemently applaud, or perversely stickle, at parts; but I cannot grasp at a whole. This infirmity (which is nothing to brag of) may be seen in my two little compositions, the tale and my play, in both which no reader, however partial, can find any story. I wrote such stuff about Chaucer, and got into such digressions, quite irreducible into 1⅕ column of a paper, that I was perfectly ashamed to show it you. However, it is become a serious matter that I should convince you I neither slunk from the task through a wilful deserting neglect, or through any (most imaginary on your part) distaste of Chaucer; and I will try my hand again, I hope with better luck. My health is bad and my time taken up, but all I can spare between this and
Sunday shall be employed for you, since you desire it: and if I bring you a crude, wretched paper on Sunday, you must burn it, and forgive me; if it proves anything better than I predict, may it be a peace-offering of sweet incense between us.

C. Lamb.

[Lamb’s review of Godwin’s Life of Chaucer, issued in October, 1803, has not been identified. Perhaps it was never completed. See Letter 202. The criticism of “Troilus and Cressida” is in Chapter XVI.

Lamb’s early Merchant Taylors’ verses have been lost, but two epigrams that he wrote many years later for the sons of Hessey, the publisher, have been preserved (see Letter 491).

I place here the following letter, not having any clue as to date, which is immaterial:—]


DEAR Mrs. G.,—Having observed with some concern that Mr. Godwin is a little fastidious in what he eats for supper, I herewith beg to present his palate with a piece of dried salmon. I am assured it is the best that swims in Trent. If you do not know how to dress it, allow me to add that it should be cut in thin slices and boiled in paper previously prepared in butter. Wishing it exquisite, I remain,—Much as before, yours sincerely,

C. Lamb.

Some add mashed potatoes.