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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [30 May 1796]

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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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
[Probably begun either on Tuesday, May 24, or Tuesday,
May 31, 1796. Postmark? June 1.]

I AM in such violent pain with the head ach that I am fit for nothing but transcribing, scarce for that. When I get your poems, and the Joan of Arc, I will exercise my presumption in giving you my opinion of ’em. The mail does not come in before tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. The following sonnet was composed during a walk down into Hertfordshire early in last Summer.
* Drowsyhed I have met with I think in Spencer. Tis an old thing, but it rhymes with led & rhyming covers a multitude of licences.
The lord of light shakes off his drowsyhed.*
Fresh from his couch up springs the lusty Sun,
And girds himself his mighty race to run.
Meantime, by truant love of rambling led,
I turn my back on thy detested walls,
Proud City, and thy sons I leave behind,
A selfish, sordid, money-getting kind,
Who shut their ears when holy Freedom calls.
I pass not thee so lightly, humble spire,
That mindest me of many a pleasure gone,
Of merriest days, of love and Islington,
Kindling anew the flames of past desire;
And I shall muse on thee, slow journeying on,
To the green plains of pleasant Hertfordshire.
The last line is a copy of
Bowles’s, “to the green hamlet in the peaceful plain.” Your ears are not so very fastidious—many people would not like words so prosaic and familiar in a sonnet as Islington and Hertfordshire. The next was written within a day or two of the last, on revisiting a spot where the scene was laid of my 1st sonnet that “mock’d my step with many a lonely glade.”
When last I roved these winding wood-walks green,
Green winding walks, and pathways shady-sweet,
Oftimes would Anna seek the silent scene,
Shrouding her beauties in the lone retreat.
No more I hear her footsteps in the shade;
Her image only in these pleasant ways
Meets me self-wandring where in better days
I held free converse with my fair-hair’d maid.
I pass’d the little cottage, which she loved,
The cottage which did once my all contain:
It spake of days that ne’er must come again,
Spake to my heart and much my heart was moved.
“Now fair befall thee, gentle maid,” said I,
And from the cottage turn’d me, with a sigh.

The next retains a few lines from a sonnet of mine, which you once remarked had no “body of thought” in it. I agree with you, but have preserved a part or it, and it runs thus. I flatter myself you will like it.
A timid grace sits trembling in her Eye,
As loth to meet the rudeness of men’s sight,
Yet shedding a delicious lunar light,
That steeps in kind oblivious extacy
The care-craz’d mind, like some still melody;
Speaking most plain the thoughts which do possess
Her gentle sprite, peace and meek quietness,
* Cowley uses this phrase with a somewhat different meaning: I meant loves of relatives friends, &c.
And innocent loves,* and maiden purity.
A look whereof might heal the cruel smart
Of changed friends, or fortune’s wrongs unkind;
Might to sweet deeds of mercy move the heart
Of him, who hates his brethren of mankind.
Turned are those beams from me, who fondly yet
Past joys, vain loves, and buried hopes regret.


The next and last I value most of all. ’Twas composed close upon the heels of the last in that very wood I had in mind when I wrote “Methinks how dainty sweet.”
We were two pretty babes, the youngest she,
The youngest and the loveliest far, I ween,
And Innocence her name. The time has been,
We two did love each other’s company;
Time was, we two had wept to have been apart.
But when, with shew of seeming good beguil’d,
I left the garb and manners of a child,
And my first love for man’s society,
Defiling with the world my virgin heart,
My loved companion dropt a tear, and fled,
And hid in deepest shades her awful head.
Beloved, who can tell me where Thou art,
In what delicious Eden to be found,
That I may seek thee the wide world around.
Since writing it, I have found in a poem by
Hamilton of Bangour, these 2 lines to happiness
Nun sober and devout, where art thou fled
To hide in shades thy meek contented head.
Lines eminently beautiful, but I do not remember having re’d ’em previously, for the credit of my 10th and 11th lines.
Parnell has 2 lines (which probably suggested the above) to Contentment
Whither ah! whither art thou fled,
To hide thy meek contented head.*

Cowley’s exquisite Elegy on the death of his friend Harvey suggested the phrase of “we two”
“Was there a tree that did not know
The love betwixt us two?——”

So much for acknowledged plagiarisms, the confession of which I know not whether it has more of vanity or modesty in it. As to my blank verse I am so dismally slow and steril of ideas (I speak from my heart) that I much question if it will ever come to any issue. I have hitherto only hammered out a few indepen[den]t unconnected snatches, not in a capacity to be sent. I am very ill, and will rest till I have read your poems—for which I am very thankful. I have one more favour to beg of you, that you never mention Mr. May’s affair in any sort, much less think of repaying. Are we not flocci-nauci-what-d’ye-call-em-ists?

We have just learnd, that my poor brother has had a sad accident: a large stone blown down by yesterday’s high wind has bruised bis leg in a most shocking manner—he is under the care of Cruikshanks. Coleridge, there are 10,000 objections against my paying
you a visit at Bristol—it cannot be, else—but in this world ’tis better not to think too much of pleasant possibles, that we may not be out of humour with present insipids. Should any thing bring you to London, you will recollect No. 7, Little Queen St. Holborn.

I shall be too ill to call on Wordsworth myself but will take care to transmit him his poem, when I have read it. I saw Le Grice the day before his departure, and mentioned incidentally his “teaching the young idea how to shoot”—knowing him and the probability there is of people having a propensity to pun in his company you will not wonder that we both stumbled on the same pun at once, he eagerly anticipating me,—“he would teach him to shoot!”—Poor Le Grice! if wit alone could entitle a man to respect, &c. He has written a very witty little pamphlet lately, satirical upon college declamations; when I send White’s book, I will add that.

I am sorry there should be any difference between you and Southey. “Between you two there should be peace,” tho’ I must say I have borne him no good will since he spirited you away from among us. What is become of Moschus? You sported some of his sublimities, I see, in your Watchman. Very decent things. So much for to night from your afflicted headachey sorethroatey, humble Servant C. Lamb——Tuesday night——.

Of your Watchmen, the Review of Burke was the best prose. I augurd great things from the 1st number. There is some exquisite poetry interspersed. I have re-read the extract from the Religious musings and retract whatever invidious there was in my censure of it as elaborate. There are times when one is not in a disposition thoroughly to relish good writing. I have re-read it in a more favourable moment and hesitate not to pronounce it sublime. If there be any thing in it approachgto tumidity (which I meant not to infer in elaborate: I meant simply labord) it is the Gigantic hyperbole by which you describe the Evils of existing society. Snakes, Lions, hyenas and behemoths, is carrying your resentment beyond bounds. The pictures of the Simoom, of frenzy and ruin, of the whore of Babylon and the cry of the foul spirits disherited of Earth and the strange beatitude which the good man shall recognise in heaven—as well as the particularizing of the children of wretchedness—(I have unconsciously included every part of it) form a variety of uniform excellence. I hunger and thirst to read the poem complete. That is a capital line in your 6th no.: “this dark freeze-coated, hoarse, teeth-chattering Month”—they are exactly such epithets as Burns would have stumbled on, whose poem on the ploughd up daisy you seem to have had in
mind. Your complaint that [of] your readers some thought there was too much, some too little, original matter in your Nos., reminds me of poor dead
Parsons in the Critic—“too little incident! Give me leave to tell you, Sir, there is too much incident.” I had like to have forgot thanking you for that exquisite little morsel the 1st Sclavonian Song. The expression in the 2d “more happy to be unhappy in hell”—is it not very quaint? Accept my thanks in common with those of all who love good poetry for the Braes of Yarrow. I congratulate you on the enemies you must have made by your splendid invective against the barterers in “human flesh and sinews.” Coleridge, you will rejoice to hear that Cowper is recovered from his lunacy, and is employ’d on his translation of the Italian &c. poems of Milton, for an edition where Fuseli presides as designer. Coleridge, to an idler like myself to write and receive letters are both very pleasant, but I wish not to break in upon your valuable time by expecting to hear very frequently from you. Reserve that obligation for your moments of lassitude, when you have nothing else to do; for your loco-restive and all your idle propensities of course have given way to the duties of providing for a family. The mail is come in but no parcel, yet this is Tuesday. Farewell then till to morrow, for a nich and a nook I must leave for criticisms. By the way I hope you do not send your own only copy of Joan of Arc; I will in that case return it immediately.

Your parcel is come, you have been lavish of your presents. Wordsworth’s poem I have hurried thro not without delight. Poor Lovell! my heart almost accuses me for the light manner I spoke of him above, not dreaming of his death. My heart bleeds for your accumulated troubles, God send you thro’ ’em with patience. I conjure you dream not that I will ever think of being repaid! the very word is galling to the ears. I have read all your Rel: Musings with uninterrupted feelings of profound admiration. You may safely rest your fame on it. The best remaing things are what I have before read, and they lose nothing by my recollection of your manner of reciting ’em, for I too bear in mind “the voice, the look” of absent friends, and can occasionally mimic their manner for the amusement of those who have seen ’em. Your impassioned manner of recitation I can recall at any time to mine own heart, and to the ears of the bystanders. I rather wish you had left the monody on C. concluding as it did abruptly. It had more of unity.—The conclusion of your R Musings I fear will entitle you to the reproof of your Beloved woman, who wisely will not suffer your fancy to run riot, but bids you walk humbly with your God. The very last words “I exercise my young noviciate thot in ministeries of heart-stirring song,” tho’ not now new to me, cannot be enough
admired. To speak politely, they are a well turnd compliment to Poetry. I hasten to read
Joan of Arc, &c. I have read your lines at the beging of 2d book, they are worthy of Milton, but in my mind yield to your Rel Musgs. I shall read the whole carefully and in some future letter take the liberty to particularize my opinions of it. Of what is new to me among your poems next to the Musings, that beginning “My Pensive Sara” gave me most pleasure: the lines in it I just alluded to are most exquisite—they made my sister and self smile, as conveying a pleasing picture of Mrs. C. chequing your wild wandrings, which we were so fond of hearing you indulge when among us. It has endeared us more than any thing to your good Lady; and your own self-reproof that follows delighted us. ’Tis a charming poem throughout. (You have well remarked that “charming, admirable, exquisite” are words expressive of feelings, more than conveying of ideas, else I might plead very well want of room in my paper as excuse for generalizing.) I want room to tell you how we are charmed with your verses in the manner of Spencer, &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. I am glad you resume the Watchman—change the name, leave out all articles of News, and whatever things are peculiar to News Papers, and confine yourself to Ethics, verse, criticism, or, rather do not confine yourself. Let your plan be as diffuse as the Spectator, and I’ll answer for it the work prospers. If I am vain enough to think I can be a contributor, rely on my inclinations. Coleridge, in reading your Rs Musings I felt a transient superiority over you: I have seen Priestly. I love to see his name repeated in your writings. I love and honor him almost profanely. You would be charmed with his sermons, if you never read ’em.—You have doubtless read his books, illustrative of the doctrine of Necessity. Prefixed to a late work of his, in answer to Paine, there is a preface, given [? giving] an account of the Man and his services to Men, written by Lindsey, his dearest friend,—well worth your reading.

Tuesday Eve.—Forgive my prolixity, which is yet too brief for all I could wish to say.—God give you comfort and all that are of your household.—Our loves and best good wishes to Mrs. C.

C. Lamb.