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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Robert Southey, 28 November 1798

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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Produced by CATH
Nov. 28th, 1798.

I CAN have no objection to your printing “Mystery of God” with my name and all due acknowledgments for the honour and favour of the communication; indeed, ’tis a poem that can dishonour no name. Now, that is in the true strain of modern modesto-vanitas. . . . But for the sonnet, I heartily wish it, as I thought it was, dead and forgotten. If the exact circumstances under which I wrote could be known or told, it would be an interesting sonnet; but to an indifferent and stranger reader it must appear a very bald thing, certainly inadmissible in a compilation. I wish you could affix a different name to the volume; there is a contemptible book, a wretched assortment of vapid feelings, entitled “Pratt’s Gleanings,” which hath damned and impropriated the title for ever. Pray think of some other. The gentleman is better known (better had he remained unknown) by an Ode to Benevolence, written and spoken for and at the annual dinner of the Humane Society, who walk in procession once a-year, with all the objects of their charity before them, to return God thanks for giving them such benevolent hearts.

I like “Bishop Bruno;” but not so abundantly as your “Witch Ballad,” which is an exquisite thing of its kind.

I showed my “Witch” and “Dying Lover” to Dyer last night; but George could not comprehend how that could be poetry which did not go upon ten feet, as George and his predecessors had taught it to do; so George read me some lectures on the distinguishing qualities of the Ode, the Epigram, and the Epic, and went home to illustrate his doctrine by correcting a proof sheet of his own Lyrics. George writes odes where the rhymes, like fashionable man and wife, keep a comfortable distance of six or eight lines apart, and calls that “observing the laws of verse.” George tells you, before he recites, that you must listen with great attention,
or you’ll miss the rhymes. I did so, and found them pretty exact. George, speaking of the dead
Ossian, exclaimeth, “Dark are the poet’s eyes.” I humbly represented to him that his own eyes were dark [?light], and many a living bard’s besides, and recommended “Clos’d are the poet’s eyes.” But that would not do. I found there was an antithesis between the darkness of his eyes and the splendour of his genius; and I acquiesced.

Your recipe for a Turk’s poison is invaluable and truly Marlowish. . . . Lloyd objects to “shutting up the womb of his purse” in my Curse (which for a Christian witch in a Christian country is not too mild, I hope); do you object? I think there is a strangeness in the idea, as well as “shaking the poor like snakes from his door,” which suits the speaker. Witches illustrate, as fine ladies do, from their own familiar objects, and snakes and the shutting up of wombs are in their way. I don’t know that this last charge has been before brought against ’em, nor either the sour milk or the mandrake babe; but I affirm these be things a witch would do if she could.

My Tragedy will be a medley (as [? and] I intend it to be a medley) of laughter and tears, prose and verse, and in some places rhyme, songs, wit, pathos, humour, and, if possible, sublimity; at least, it is not a fault in my intention, if it does not comprehend most of these discordant colours. Heaven send they dance not the “Dance of Death!” I hear that the Two Noble Englishmen have parted no sooner than they set foot on German earth, but I have not heard the reason—possibly, to give novelists an handle to exclaim, “Ah me! what things are perfect?” I think I shall adopt your emendation in the “Dying Lover,” though I do not myself feel the objection against “Silent Prayer.”

My tailor has brought me home a new coat lapelled, with a velvet collar. He assures me everybody wears velvet collars now. Some are born fashionable, some achieve fashion, and others, like your humble servant, have fashion thrust upon them. The rogue has been making inroads hitherto by modest degrees, foisting upon me an additional button, recommending gaiters; but to come upon me thus in a full tide of luxury, neither becomes him as a tailor nor the ninth of a man. My meek gentleman was robbed the other day, coming with his wife and family in a one-horse shay from Hampstead; the villains rifled him of four guineas, some shillings and half-pence, and a bundle of customers’ measures, which they swore were bank-notes. They did not shoot him, and when they rode off he addrest them with profound gratitude, making a congee: “Gentlemen, I wish you good night, and we are very much obliged to you that you have not used us ill!” And this is the cuckoo that has had the audacity to foist upon me ten
buttons on a side and a black velvet collar—A damn’d ninth of a scoundrel!

When you write to Lloyd, he wishes his Jacobin correspondents to address him as Mr. C. L. Love and respects to Edith. I hope she is well.

Yours sincerely,
C. Lamb.