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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [13 June 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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[Begun] Monday Night [June 13, 1796].

UNFURNISHED at present with any sheet-filling subject, I shall continue my letter gradually and journal-wise. My second thoughts entirely coincide with your comments on “Joan of Arc,” and I can only wonder at my childish judgment which overlooked the 1st book and could prefer the 9th: not that I was insensible to the soberer beauties of the former, but the latter caught me with its glare of magic,—the former, however, left a more pleasing general recollection in my mind. Let me add, the 1st book was the favourite of my sister—and I now, with Joan, often “think on Domremi and the fields of Arc.” I must not pass over without acknowledging my obligations to your full and satisfactory account
1796MRS. FIELD27
of personifications. I have read it again and again, and it will be a guide to my future taste. Perhaps I had estimated
Southey’s merits too much by number, weight, and measure. I now agree completely and entirely in your opinion of the genius of Southey. Your own image of melancholy is illustrative of what you teach, and in itself masterly. I conjecture it is “disbranched” from one of your embryo “hymns.” When they are mature of birth (were I you) I should print ’em in one separate volume, with “Religious Musings” and your part of the “Joan of Arc.” Birds of the same soaring wing should hold on their flight in company. Once for all (and by renewing the subject you will only renew in me the condemnation of Tantalus), I hope to be able to pay you a visit (if you are then at Bristol) some time in the latter end of August or beginning of September for a week or fortnight; before that time, office business puts an absolute veto on my coming.
“And if a sigh that speaks regret of happier times appear,
A glimpse of joy that we have met shall shine and dry the tear.”
Of the blank verses I spoke of, the following lines are the only tolerably complete ones I have writ out of not more than one hundred and fifty. That I get on so slowly you may fairly impute to want of practice in composition, when I declare to you that (the few verses which you have seen excepted) I have not writ fifty lines since I left school. It may not be amiss to remark that my grandmother (on whom the
verses are written) lived housekeeper in a family the fifty or sixty last years of her life—that she was a woman of exemplary piety and goodness—and for many years before her death was terribly afflicted with a cancer in her breast which she bore with true Christian patience. You may think that I have not kept enough apart the ideas of her heavenly and her earthly master but recollect I have designedly given in to her own way of feeling—and if she had a failing, ’twas that she respected her master’s family too much, not reverenced her Maker too little. The lines begin imperfectly, as I may probably connect ’em if I finish at all,—and if I do, Biggs shall print ’em in a more economical way than you yours, for (Sonnets and all) they won’t make a thousand lines as I propose completing ’em, and the substance must be wire-drawn.

Tuesday Evening, June 14, 1796.

I am not quite satisfied now with the Chatterton, and with your leave will try my hand at it again. A master joiner, you know, may leave a cabinet to be finished, when his own hands are full. To your list of illustrative personifications, into which a fine imagination enters, I will take leave to add the following from
Beaumont and Fletcher’sWife for a Month;” ’tis the conclusion of a description of a sea-fight;—“The game of death was never played so nobly; the meagre thief grew wanton in his mischiefs, and his shrunk hollow eyes smiled on his ruins.” There is fancy in these of a lower order from “Bonduca;”—“Then did I see these valiant men of Britain, like boding owls creep into tods of ivy, and hoot their fears to one another nightly.” Not that it is a personification; only it just caught my eye in a little extract book I keep, which is full of quotations from B. and F. in particular, in which authors I can’t help thinking there is a greater richness of poetical fancy than in any one, Shakspeare excepted. Are you acquainted with Massinger? At a hazard I will trouble you with a passage from a play of his called “A Very Woman.” The lines are spoken by a lover (disguised) to his faithless mistress. You will remark the fine effect of the double endings. You will by your ear distinguish the lines, for I write ’em as prose. “Not far from where my father lives, a lady, a neighbour by, blest with as great a beauty as nature durst bestow without undoing, dwelt, and most happily, as I thought then, and blest the house a thousand times she dwelt in. This beauty, in the blossom of my youth, when my first fire knew no adulterate incense, nor I no way to flatter but my fondness; in all the bravery my friends could show me, in all the faith my innocence could give me, in the best language my true tongue could tell me, and all the broken sighs my sick heart lend me, I sued and served; long did I serve this lady, long was my travail, long my trade to win her; with all the duty of my soul I served her.” “Then she must love.” “She did, but never me: she could not love me; she would not love, she hated,—more, she scorn’d me; and in so poor and base a way abused me for all my services, for all my bounties, so bold neglects flung on me”—“What out of love, and worthy love, I gave her (shame to her most unworthy mind,) to fools, to girls, to fiddlers and her boys she flung, all in disdain of me.” One more passage strikes my eye from B. and F.’s “Palamon and Arcite.” One of ’em complains in prison: “This is all our world; we shall know nothing here but one another, hear nothing but the clock that tells our woes; the vine shall grow, but we shall never see it,” &c. Is not the last circumstance exquisite? I mean not to lay myself open by saying they exceed Milton, and perhaps Collins, in sublimity. But don’t you conceive all poets after Shakspeare yield to ’em in variety of genius? Massinger treads close on their heels; but you are most probably as well acquainted with his writings as your humble servant. My quotations, in that case, will only serve to expose my barrenness of matter. Southey in simplicity and tenderness, is excelled decidedly only, I think, by Beaumont and F. in his [their]
Maid’s Tragedy” and some parts of “Philaster” in particular, and elsewhere occasionally; and perhaps by Cowper in his “Crazy Kate,” and in parts of his translation, such as the speeches of Hecuba and Andromache. I long to know your opinion of that translation. The Odyssey especially is surely very Homeric. What nobler than the appearance of Phœbus at the beginning of the Iliad—the lines ending with “Dread sounding, bounding on the silver bow!”

I beg you will give me your opinion of the translation; it afforded me high pleasure. As curious a specimen of translation as ever fell into my hands, is a young man’s in our office, of a French novel. What in the original was literally “amiable delusions of the fancy,” he proposed to render “the fair frauds of the imagination!” I had much trouble in licking the book into any meaning at all. Yet did the knave clear fifty or sixty pounds by subscription and selling the copyright. The book itself not a week’s work! To-day’s portion of my journalising epistle has been very dull and poverty-stricken. I will here end.

Tuesday Night.

I have been drinking egg-hot and smoking Oronooko (associated circumstances, which ever forcibly recall to my mind our evenings and nights at the Salutation); my eyes and brain are heavy and asleep, but my heart is awake; and if words came as ready as ideas, and ideas as feelings, I could say ten hundred kind things. Coleridge, you know not my supreme happiness at having one on earth (though counties separate us) whom I can call a friend. Remember you those tender lines of Logan?—
“Our broken friendships we deplore,
And loves of youth that are no more;
No after friendships e’er can raise
Th’ endearments of our early days,
And ne’er the heart such fondness prove,
As when we first began to love.”

I am writing at random, and half-tipsy, what you may not equally understand, as you will be sober when you read it; but my sober and my half-tipsy hours you are alike a sharer in. Good night.
“Then up rose our bard, like a prophet in drink,
Craigdoroch, thou’lt soar when creation shall sink.”

Thursday [June 16, 1796].

I am now in high hopes to be able to visit you, if perfectly convenient on your part, by the end of next month—perhaps the last week or fortnight in July. A change of scene and
a change of faces would do me good, even if that scene were not to be Bristol, and those faces
Coleridge’s and his friends. In the words of Terence, a little altered, “Tædet me hujus quotidiani mundi.” I am heartily sick of the every-day scenes of life. I shall half wish you unmarried (don’t show this to Mrs. C.) for one evening only, to have the pleasure of smoking with you, and drinking egg-hot in some little smoky room in a pot-house, for I know not yet how I shall like you in a decent room, and looking quite happy. My best love and respects to Sara notwithstanding.

Yours sincerely,
Charles Lamb.