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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Robert Southey, 8 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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Nov. 8th, 1798.

I DO not know that I much prefer this Eclogue [Lamb has received ‘The Last of the Flock’] to the last [‘The Wedding’]; both are inferior to the former [‘The Ruined Cottage’].
“And when he came to shake me by the hand,
And spake as kindly to me as he used,
I hardly knew his voice—”
is the only passage that affected me.

Servants speak, and their language ought to be plain, and not much raised above the common, else I should find fault with the bathos of this passage:
“And when I heard the bell strike out,
I thought (what?) that I had never heard it toll
So dismally before.”

I like the destruction of the martens’ old nests hugely, having just such a circumstance in my memory.1 I should be very glad to see your remaining Eclogue, if not too much trouble, as you give me reason to expect it will be the second best.

I perfectly accord with your opinion of old Wither. Quarles is a wittier writer, but Wither lays more hold of the heart. Quarles thinks of his audience when he lectures; Wither soliloquises in company with a full heart. What wretched stuff are the “Divine Fancies” of Quarles! Religion appears to him no longer valuable than it furnishes matter for quibbles and riddles; he turns God’s grace into wantonness. Wither is like an old friend, whose warm-heartedness and estimable qualities make us wish he possessed more genius, but at the same time make us willing to dispense with that want. I always love W., and sometimes admire Q. Still that

1 [The destruction of the martens’ nests, in “The Last of the Family,” runs thus:—
I remember,
Eight months ago, when the young Squire began
To alter the old mansion, they destroy’d
The martins’ nests, that had stood undisturb’d
Under that roof, . . . ay! long before my memory,
I shook my head at seeing it, and thought
No good could follow.]

portrait poem is a fine one; and the extract from “The Shepherds’ Hunting” places him in a starry height far above Quarles. If you wrote that review in “Crit. Rev.,” I am sorry you are so sparing of praise to the “Ancient Marinere;”—so far from calling it, as you do, with some wit, but more severity, “A Dutch Attempt,” &c., I call it a right English attempt, and a successful one, to dethrone German sublimity. You have selected a passage fertile in unmeaning miracles, but have passed by fifty passages as miraculous as the miracles they celebrate. I never so deeply felt the pathetic as in that part,
“A spring of love gush’d from my heart,
And I bless’d them unaware—”
It stung me into high pleasure through sufferings.
Lloyd does not like it; his head is too metaphysical, and your taste too correct; at least I must allege something against you both, to excuse my own dotage—
“So lonely ’twas, that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be!”—&c., &c.
But you allow some elaborate beauties—you should have extracted ’em. “The Ancient Marinere” plays more tricks with the mind than that
last poem, which is yet one of the finest written. But I am getting too dogmatical; and before I degenerate into abuse, I will conclude with assuring you that I am

Sincerely yours,
C. Lamb.

I am going to meet Lloyd at Ware on Saturday, to return on Sunday. Have you any commands or commendations to the metaphysician? I shall be very happy if you will dine or spend any time with me in your way through the great ugly city; but I know you have other ties upon you in these parts.

Love and respects to Edith, and friendly remembrances to Cottle.