LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Robert Southey, [23 January 1799]

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
[Late January or early February, 1799.]

DR Southey,—Lloyd will now be able to give you an account of himself, so to him I leave you for satisfaction. Great part of his troubles are lightened by the partial recovery of his sister, who had been alarmingly ill with similar diseases to his own. The other part of the family troubles sleeps for the present, but I fear will awake at some future time to confound and disunite. He will probably tell you all about it. Robert still continues here with me, his father has proposed nothing, but would willingly lure him back with fair professions. But Robert is endowed with a wise fortitude, and in this business has acted quite from himself, and wisely acted. His parents must come forward in the End. I like reducing parents to a sense of undutifulness. I like confounding the relations of life. Pray let me see you when you come to town, and contrive to give me some of your company.

I thank you heartily for your intended presents, but do by no means see the necessity you are under of burthening yourself thereby. You have read old Wither’s Supersedeas to small purpose. You object to my pauses being at the end of my lines. I do not know any great difficulty I should find in diversifying or changing my blank verse; but I go upon the model of Shakspere in my Play, and endeavour after a colloquial ease and spirit, something like him. I could so easily imitate Milton’s versification; but my ear & feeling would reject it, or any approaches to it, in the drama. I do not know whether to be glad or sorry that witches have been detected aforetimes in shutting up of wombs. I certainly invented that conceit, and its coincidence with fact is incidental [?accidental], for I never heard it. I have not seen those verses on Col. Despard—I do not read any newspapers. Are they short, to copy without much trouble? I should like to see them.

I just send you a few rhymes from my play, the only rhymes in it—a forest-liver giving an account of his amusements:—

What sports have you in the forest?
Not many,—some few,—as thus,
To see the sun to bed, and see him rise,
Like some hot amourist with glowing eyes,
Bursting the lazy bands of sleep that bound him:
With all his fires and travelling glories round him:
Sometimes the moon on soft night-clouds to rest,
Like beauty nestling in a young man’s breast,
And all the winking stars, her handmaids, keep
Admiring silence, while those lovers sleep:
Sometimes outstretch’d in very idleness,
Nought doing, saying little, thinking less,
To view the leaves, thin dancers upon air,
Go eddying round; and small birds how they fare,
When mother Autumn fills their beaks with corn,
Filch’d from the careless Amalthea’s horn;
And how the woods berries and worms provide,
Without their pains, when earth hath nought beside
To answer their small wants;
To view the graceful deer come trooping by,
Then pause, and gaze, then turn they know not why,
Like bashful younkers in society;
To mark the structure of a plant or tree;
And all fair things of earth, how fair they be! &c. &c.

I love to anticipate charges of unoriginality: the first line is almost Shakspere’s:—
“To have my love to bed & to arise.”
Midsummer Night’s Dream [III., I, 174].

I think there is a sweetness in the versification not unlike some rhymes in that exquisite play, and the last line but three is yours:
“An eye
That met the gare, or turn’d it knew not why.”

I shall anticipate all my play, and have nothing to shew you.

An idea for Leviathan:—

Commentators on Job have been puzzled to find out a meaning for Leviathan,—’tis a whale, say some; a crocodile, say others. In my simple conjecture, Leviathan is neither more nor less than the Lord Mayor of London for the time being.

Rosamund “sells well in London, maugre the non-reviewal of it.

I sincerely wish you better health, & better health to Edith. Kind remembrances to her.

C. Lamb.

If you come to town by Ash Wensday [February 6], you will certainly see Lloyd here—I expect him by that time.

My sister Mary was never in better health or spirits than now.