LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 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
1799 “JOHN WOODVIL” 139
Jan. 21st, 1799.

I AM requested by Lloyd to excuse his not replying to a kind letter received from you. He is at present situated in most distressful family perplexities, which I am not at liberty to explain; but they are such as to demand all the strength of his mind, and quite exclude any attention to foreign objects. His brother Robert (the flower of his family) hath eloped from the persecutions of his father, and has taken shelter with me. What the issue of his adventure will be, I know not. He hath the sweetness of an angel in his heart, combined with admirable firmness of purpose: an uncultivated, but very original, and, I think, superior genius. But this step of his is but a small part of their family troubles.

I am to blame for not writing to you before on my own account; but I know you can dispense with the expressions of gratitude, or I should have thanked you before for all May’s kindness. He has liberally supplied the person I spoke to you of with money, and had procured him a situation just after himself had lighted upon a similar one and engaged too far to recede. But May’s kindness was the same, and my thanks to you and him are the same. May went about on this business as if it had been his own. But you knew John May before this: so I will be silent.

I shall be very glad to hear from you when convenient. I do not know how your Calendar and other affairs thrive; but, above all, I have not heard a great while of your “Madoc”—the opus magnum. I would willingly send you something to give a value to this letter; but I have only one slight passage to send you, scarce worth the sending, which I want to edge in somewhere into my play, which, by the way, hath not received the addition of ten lines, besides, since I saw you. A father, old Walter Woodvil, (the witch’s Protégé) relates this of his son John, who “fought in adverse armies,” being a royalist, and his father a parliamentary man:—

“I saw him in the day of Worcester fight,
Whither he came at twice seven years,
Under the discipline of the Lord Falkland
(His uncle by the mother’s side,
Who gave his youthful politics a bent
Quite from the principles of his father’s house;)
There did I see this valiant Lamb of Mars,
This sprig of honour, this unbearded John,
This veteran in green years, this sprout, this Woodvil,
(With dreadless ease guiding a fire-hot steed,
Which seem’d to scorn the manage of a boy),
Prick forth with such a mirth into the field,
To mingle rivalship and acts of war
Even with the sinewy masters of the art,—
You would have thought the work of blood had been
A play-game merely, and the rabid Mars
Had put his harmful hostile nature off,
To instruct raw youth in images of war,
And practice of the unedged players’ foils.
The rough fanatic and blood-practised soldiery
Seeing such hope and virtue in the boy,
Disclosed their ranks to let him pass unhurt,
Checking their swords’ uncivil injuries,
As loth to mar that curious workmanship
Of Valour’s beauty pourtray’d in his face.”

Lloyd objects to “pourtrayed in his face,”—do you? I like the line.

I shall clap this in somewhere. I think there is a spirit through the lines; perhaps the 7th, 8th, and 9th owe their origin to Shakspeare, though no image is borrowed.

He says in “Henry the Fourth”—
“This infant Hotspur,
Mars in swathing clothes.”
[See Pt. I., III., 2, 111, 112.]
But pray did
Lord Falkland die before Worcester fight? In that case I must make bold to unclify some other nobleman.

Kind love and respects to Edith.

C. Lamb.

[Charles Lloyd’s perplexities turned probably once again on the question of his marriage. How long Robert Lloyd was with Lamb we do not know; nor of what nature were the “persecutions” to which he was subjected. According to the evidence at our disposal, Charles Lloyd, sen., was a good father.

Southey’s Madoc was not published until 1805.

The passage from the play was not printed in John Woodvil. This, together with “The Dying Lover” on page 131, are to be found only in the discarded version, printed in the Notes to Poems and Plays, Vol. V. of the present edition of Lamb’s works. Lord Falkland had been killed at Newbury eight years before Worcester fight. Lamb altered the names to Ashley and Naseby, although Sir Anthony Cooper was not made Lord Ashley until sixteen years after Naseby was fought.]

[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.


[Writing in June, 1799, to Robert Lloyd, Priscilla, his sister, says: “Lamb would not I think by any means be a person to take up your abode with. He is too much like yourself—he would encourage those feelings which it certainly is your duty to suppress. Your station in life—the duties which are pointed out by that
rank in society which you are destined to fill—differ widely from his.” When next we hear of Robert Lloyd he has returned to Birmingham, where his father soon afterwards bought him a partnership in a bookselling and printing business.

“Col. Despard.” I have not found the verses. Colonel Edward Marcus Despard, after a career that began brilliantly, was imprisoned in the spring of 1798 and executed for High Treason in 1803.

The rhymed passage from John Woodvil is that which is best known. Hazlitt relates that Godwin was so taken with it when he first read it that he asked every one he met to tell him the author and play, and at last applied to Lamb himself.

The quotation from Southey (“Rosamund to Henry”) is not correctly given. It should run (lines 67, 68):—
The modest eye
That met the glance, or turn’d, it knew not why.]

March 15th, 1799.

DEAR Southey,—I have received your little volume, for which I thank you, though I do not entirely approve of this sort of intercourse, where the presents are all one side. I have read the last Eclogue again with great pleasure. It hath gained considerably by abridgment, and now I think it wants nothing but enlargement. You will call this one of tyrant Procrustes’ criticisms, to cut and pull so to his own standard; but the old lady is so great a favourite with me, I want to hear more of her; and of “Joanna” you have given us still less. But the picture of the rustics leaning over the bridge, and the old lady travelling abroad on a summer evening to see her garden watered, are images so new and true, that I decidedly prefer this “Ruin’d Cottage” to any poem in the book. Indeed I think it the only one that will bear comparison with your “Hymn to the Penates” in a former volume.

I compare dissimilar things, as one would a rose and a star for the pleasure they give us, or as a child soon learns to choose between a cake and a rattle; for dissimilars have mostly some points of comparison. The next best poem, I think, is the First Eclogue; ’tis very complete, and abounding in little pictures and realities. The remainder Eclogues, excepting only the “Funeral,” I do not greatly admire. I miss one, which had at least as good a title to
publication as the “
Witch,” or the “Sailor’s Mother.” You call’d it the “Last of the Family.” The “Old Woman of Berkeley” comes next; in some humours I would give it the preference above any. But who the devil is Matthew of Westminster? You are as familiar with these antiquated monastics, as Swedenborg, or, as his followers affect to call him, the Baron, with his invisibles. But you have raised a very comic effect out of the true narrative of Matthew of Westminster. ’Tis surprising with how little addition you have been able to convert with so little alteration his incidents, meant for terror, into circumstances and food for the spleen. The Parody is not so successful; it has one famous line indeed, which conveys the finest death-bed image I ever met with:
“The doctor whisper’d the nurse, and the surgeon knew what he said.”
But the offering the bride three times bears not the slightest analogy or proportion to the fiendish noises three times heard! In “
Jaspar,” the circumstance of the great light is very affecting. But I had heard you mention it before. The “Rose” is the only insipid piece in the volume; it hath neither thorns nor sweetness, and, besides, sets all chronology and probability at defiance.

Cousin Margaret,” you know, I like. The allusions to the “Pilgrim’s Progress” are particularly happy, and harmonise tacitly and delicately with old cousins and aunts. To familiar faces we do associate familiar scenes and accustomed objects; but what hath Apollidon and his sea-nymphs to do in these affairs? Apollyon I could have borne, though he stands for the devil; but who is Apollidon? I think you are too apt to conclude faintly, with some cold moral, as in the end of the poem called “The Victory”—
“Be thou her comforter, who art the widow’s friend;”
a single common-place line of comfort, which bears no proportion in weight or number to the many lines which describe suffering. This is to convert religion into mediocre feelings, which should burn, and glow, and tremble. A moral should be wrought into the body and soul, the matter and tendency, of a poem, not tagged to the end, like a “God send the good ship into harbour,” at the conclusion of our bills of lading. The finishing of the “
Sailor” is also imperfect. Any dissenting minister may say and do as much.

These remarks, I know, are crude and unwrought; but I do not lay claim to much accurate thinking. I never judge system-wise of things, but fasten upon particulars. After all, there is a great deal in the book that I must, for time, leave unmentioned, to deserve my thanks for its own sake, as well as for the friendly
remembrances implied in the gift. I again return you my thanks.

Pray present my love to Edith.

C. L.

[Southey’s little volume was Vol. II. of the second edition of his Poems, published in 1799. The last of the English Eclogues included in it was “The Ruined Cottage,” slightly altered from the version referred to in the letter on page 129. The “Hymn to the Penates” brought the first volume of this edition to a close. The first Eclogue was “The Old Mansion House.” “The Old Woman of Berkeley” was called “A Ballad showing how an Old Woman rode double and who rode before her.” It was preceded by a long quotation in Latin from Matthew of Westminster. Matthew of Westminster is the imaginary name given to the unknown authors of a chronicle called Flores Historiarum, belonging probably to the fifteenth century. The Parody was “The Surgeon’s Warning,” which begins with the two lines that Lamb prints as one:—
The Doctor whisper’d to the Nurse,
And the Surgeon knew what he said.
The Rose” was blank verse, addressed to Edith Southey. “Cousin Margaret” was a “Metrical Letter Written from London,” in which there are allusions to Bunyan. The reference to Apollidon is explained by these lines:—
The Sylphs should waft us to some goodly isle,
Like that where whilome old Apollidon
Built up his blameless spell.]

March 20th, 1799.

I AM hugely pleased with your “Spider,” “your old freemason,” as you call him. The three first stanzas are delicious; they seem to me a compound of Burns and Old Quarles, those kind of home-strokes, where more is felt than strikes the ear; a terseness, a jocular pathos, which makes one feel in laughter. The measure, too, is novel and pleasing. I could almost wonder Rob. Burns in his lifetime never stumbled upon it. The fourth stanza is less
striking, as being less original. The fifth falls off. It has no felicity of phrase, no old-fashioned phrase or feeling.
“Young hopes, and love’s delightful dreams,”
savour neither of Burns nor Quarles; they seem more like shreds of many a modern sentimental sonnet. The last stanza hath nothing striking in it, if I except the two concluding lines, which are Burns all over. I wish, if you concur with me, these things could be looked to. I am sure this is a kind of writing, which comes tenfold better recommended to the heart, comes there more like a neighbour or familiar, than thousands of Hamuels and Zillahs and Madelons. I beg you will send me the “
Holly-tree,” if it at all resemble this, for it must please me. I have never seen it. I love this sort of poems, that open a new intercourse with the most despised of the animal and insect race. I think this vein may be further opened; Peter Pindar hath very prettily apostrophised a fly; Burns hath his mouse and his louse; Coleridge, less successfully, hath made overtures of intimacy to a jackass, therein only following at unresembling distance Sterne and greater Cervantes. Besides these, I know of no other examples of breaking down the partition between us and our “poor earthborn companions.” It is sometimes revolting to be put in a track of feeling by other people, not one’s own immediate thoughts, else I would persuade you, if I could (I am in earnest), to commence a series of these animal poems, which might have a tendency to rescue some poor creatures from the antipathy of mankind. Some thoughts come across me;—for instance—to a rat, to a toad, to a cockchafer, to a mole—People bake moles alive by a slow oven-fire to cure consumption. Rats are, indeed, the most despised and contemptible parts of God’s earth. I killed a rat the other day by punching him to pieces, and feel a weight of blood upon me to this hour. Toads you know are made to fly, and tumble down and crush all to pieces. Cockchafers are old sport; then again to a worm, with an apostrophe to anglers, those patient tyrants, meek inflictors of pangs intolerable, cool devils; to an owl; to all snakes, with an apology for their poison; to a cat in boots or bladders. Your own fancy, if it takes a fancy to these hints, will suggest many more. A series of such poems, suppose them accompanied with plates descriptive of animal torments, cooks roasting lobsters, fishmongers crimping skates, &c., &c., would take excessively. I will willingly enter into a partnership in the plan with you: I think my heart and soul would go with it too—at least, give it a thought. My plan is but this minute come into my head; but it strikes me instantaneously as something new, good and useful, full of pleasure and full of moral. If old Quarles
1799SAM. LE GRICE147
Wither could live again, we would invite them into our firm. Burns hath done his part. [See Appendix II., page 965.]

Poor Sam. Le Grice! I am afraid the world, and the camp, and the university, have spoilt him among them. ’Tis certain he had at one time a strong capacity of turning out something better. I knew him, and that not long since, when he had a most warm heart. I am ashamed of the indifference I have sometimes felt towards him. I think the devil is in one’s heart. I am under obligations to that man for the warmest friendship and heartiest sympathy, even for an agony of sympathy exprest both by word and deed, and tears for me, when I was in my greatest distress. But I have forgot that! as, I fear, he has nigh forgot the awful scenes which were before his eyes when he served the office of a comforter to me. No service was too mean or troublesome for him to perform. I can’t think what but the devil, “that old spider,” could have suck’d my heart so dry of its sense of all gratitude. If he does come in your way, Southey, fail not to tell him that I retain a most affectionate remembrance of his old friendliness, and an earnest wish to resume our intercourse. In this I am serious. I cannot recommend him to your society, because I am afraid whether he be quite worthy of it. But I have no right to dismiss him from my regard. He was at one time, and in the worst of times, my own familiar friend, and great comfort to me then. I have known him to play at cards with my father, meal-times excepted, literally all day long, in long days too, to save me from being teased by the old man, when I was not able to bear it.

God bless him for it, and God bless you, Southey.

C. L.

[Southey’s poem “The Spider” begins thus:—

Spider! thou need’st not run in fear about
To shun my curious eyes;
I won’t humanely crush thy bowels out
Lest thou should’st eat the flies;
Nor will I roast thee with a damn’d delight
Thy strange instinctive fortitude to see,
For there is One who might
One day roast me.
Thou art welcome to a Rhymer sore perplext,
The subject of his verse;
There’s many a one who on a better text
Perhaps might comment worse.
Then shrink not, old Free-Mason, from my view,
But quietly like me spin out the line;
Do thou thy work pursue
As I will mine.
Weaver of snares, thou emblemest the ways
Of Satan, Sire of lies;
Hell’s huge black Spider, for mankind he lays
His toils, as thou for flies.
When Betty’s busy eye runs round the room,
Woe to that nice geometry, if seen!
But where is He whose broom
The earth shall clean?

“Hamuels and Zillahs . . .” Names in “The Rose.”

Southey’sHolly Tree” begins—
O reader! hast thou ever stood to see
The Holly Tree?
The eye that contemplates it well perceives
Its glossy leaves
Order’d by an intelligence so wise
As might confound the Atheist’s sophistries.

Peter Pindar (Dr. John Wolcot) has an ode “To a Fly, taken out of a Bowl of Punch.” He also wrote “The Lousiad.”

“Poor earth-born companions.” From Burns’Lines to a Mouse,” 2nd Stanza, line 5.

“Toads are made to fly.” Filliping the toad was an old pastime. A toad was placed on one end of a piece of wood, laid crosswise over a stone. The other end was struck with a beetle (i.e., a mallet), and the toad flew into the air. Falstaff says: “Fillip me with a three-man beetle.” As to worms and fishermen, the late Mrs. Coe, who as a girl had known Lamb at Widford, told me that he could rarely, if ever, be tempted to join the anglers. Affixing the worm was too much for him. “Barbarous, barbarous,” he used to say.

Lamb’s project for a series of animal poems has to some extent been carried out by a living poet, Mr. A. C. Benson. Neither Lamb nor Southey pursued it.

We met Sam Le Grice in the letter of October 3, 1796 (see page 4S). To what escapade Lamb refers I do not know, but he was addicted to folly. It was Sam Le Grice of whom Leigh Hunt in his Autobiography tells the excellent tale that he excused himself to his master for not having performed a task, by the remark that he had had a “lethargy.”

In April of this year died John Lamb, the father. Charles Lamb probably at once moved from 45 Chapel Street to No. 36, where Mary Lamb joined him.

Between this and the next letter should probably come two letters from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, not available for this edition. One, which is undated, seems to follow upon Robert Lloyd’s departure from Lamb’s house. The letter remarks that Lamb knows but one being that he could ever consent to live perpetually with,
and that is Robert—but Robert must go whither prudence and paternal regulations dictate. Lamb also refers to a poem of an intimate character by
Charles Lloyd in the Annual Anthology (“Lines to a Brother and Sister”), remarking that, in his opinion, these domestic addresses should not always be made public. There is also a reference to Charles Lloyd’s novel, which Lamb says he wants to read if he may be permitted a sight of it. This would be Isabel.

The other letter, which may be earlier in date, treats of obedience to parental wish. Robert Lloyd seems to have objected to attend the meetings of the Society of Friends, of which he was a birthright member. Lamb bids him go; adding that, if his own parents were to live again, he would do more things to please them than merely sitting still a few hours in a week.

See Appendix II., page 965, for rest of the Letter 45.]

Oct. 31st, 1799.

DEAR Southey,—I have but just got your letter, being returned from Herts, where I have passed a few red-letter days with much pleasure. I would describe the county to you, as you have done by Devonshire, but alas! I am a poor pen at that same. I could tell you of an old house with a tapestry bed-room, the “judgment of Solomon” composing one pannel, and “Actæon spying Diana naked” the other. I could tell of an old marble hall, with Hogarth’s prints and the Roman Cæsars in marble hung round. I could tell of a wilderness, and of a village church, and where the bones of my honoured grandam lie; but there are feelings which refuse to be translated, sulky aborigines, which will not be naturalised in another soil. Of this nature are old family faces and scenes of infancy.

I have given your address, and the books you want, to the Arches; they will send them as soon as they can get them, but they do not seem quite familiar to [? with] their names. I have seen Gebor! Gebor aptly so denominated from Geborish, quasi Gibberish. But Gebor hath some lucid intervals. I remember darkly one beautiful simile veiled in uncouth phrases about the youngest daughter of the Ark. I shall have nothing to communicate, I fear, to the Anthology.
You shall have some fragments of my play, if you desire them, but I think I would rather print it whole. Have you seen it, or shall I lend you a copy? I want your opinion of it.

I must get to business, so farewell. My kind remembrances to Edith.

C. Lamb.

[Lamb had probably been staying at Widford. Many years later he described his Hertfordshire days in more than one essay

(see the Elia essays “Mackery End” and “Blakesmoor in H——shire” and “Dream-Children”). The old house was, of course, Blakesware (see note on page 746). The wilderness, which lay at the back of the house, is, with Widford, mentioned in Rosamund Gray.

The Arches were the brothers Arch, the booksellers of Ludgate Hill.

Gebor stands for Gebir, Landor’s poem, published in 1798. The simile in question would be this: from Book VII., lines 248-251:—
Never so eager, when the world was waves,
Stood the less daughter of the ark, and tried
(Innocent this temptation) to recall
With folded vest and casting arm the dove.
Lamb quoted from Gebir, many years later, in his
Elia essay “The Old Margate Hoy.”

The reference to Southey’s Anthology is to Vol. II., then in preparation. The play was now finished: it circulated in manuscript before being published in 1802.

In a letter to Robert Lloyd, dated December 17, 1799, Lamb thanks him for a present of porter, adding that wine makes him hot, and brandy drunk, but porter warms without intoxication.

Here should come an unpublished letter, in the possession of Mr. Bertram Dobell, from Lamb to Charles Lloyd at Cambridge, asking for the return of his play. Kemble, he says, had offered to put it in the hands of the proprietor of Drury Lane, and therefore Lamb wishes to have a second copy in the house. Kemble, as it turned out, returned no answer for a year, and then he stated that he had lost the copy.

Lamb mentions Coleridge’s settlement with his family in lodgings in the Adelphi. Coleridge, having returned from Germany and undertaken work for the Morning Post, took lodgings at 21 Buckingham Street, Strand, close to the Adelphi, in November, 1799.


The letter is interesting in containing the first mention of Manning, whom we are now to meet.]

Dec. 1799.

DEAR Manning,—The particular kindness, even up to a degree of attachment, which I have experienced from you, seems to claim some distinct acknowledgment on my part. I could not content myself with a bare remembrance to you, conveyed in some letter to Lloyd.

Will it be agreeable to you, if I occasionally recruit your memory of me, which must else soon fade, if you consider the brief intercourse we have had. I am not likely to prove a troublesome correspondent. My scribbling days are past. I shall have no sentiments to communicate, but as they spring up from some living and worthy occasion.

I look forward with great pleasure to the performance of your promise, that we should meet in London early in the ensuing year. The century must needs commence auspiciously for me, that brings with it Manning’s friendship as an earnest of its after gifts.

I should have written before, but for a troublesome inflammation in one of my eyes, brought on by night travelling with the coach windows sometimes up.

What more I have to say shall be reserved for a letter to Lloyd. I must not prove tedious to you in my first outset, lest I should affright you by my ill-judged loquacity.

I am, yours most sincerely,

C. Lamb.

[This is the first letter that has been preserved in the correspondence between Lamb and Manning. Lamb first met Manning at Cambridge, in the autumn of 1799, when on a visit to Charles Lloyd. Much of Manning’s history will be unfolded as the letters proceed, but here it should be stated that he was born on November 8, 1772, and was thus a little more than two years older than Lamb. He was at this time acting as private tutor in mathematics at Cambridge, among his pupils being Charles Lloyd, of Caius, Manning’s own college. Manning, however, did not take his degree, owing to an objection to oaths and tests.


Lamb’s reference to the beginning of the century shows that he shared with many other non-mathematically-minded persons the belief that the century begins with the hundredth, and not the hundred and first, year. He says of Manning, in the Elia essay “The Old and the New Schoolmaster”: “My friend M., with great painstaking, got me to think I understood the first proposition in Euclid, but gave me over in despair at the second.”]

Dec. 28th, 1799.

DEAR Manning,—Having suspended my correspondence a decent interval, as knowing that even good things may be taken to satiety, a wish cannot but recur to learn whether you be still well and happy. Do all things continue in the state I left them in Cambridge?

Do your night parties still flourish? and do you continue to bewilder your company with your thousand faces running down through all the keys of idiotism (like Lloyd over his perpetual harpsicord), from the smile and the glimmer of half-sense and quarter-sense to the grin and hanging lip of Betty Foy’s own Johnny? And does the face-dissolving curfew sound at twelve? How unlike the great originals were your petty terrors in the postscript, not fearful enough to make a fairy shudder, or a Lilliputian fine lady, eight months full of child, miscarry. Yet one of them, which had more beast than the rest, I thought faintly resembled one of your brutifications. But, seriously, I long to see your own honest Manning-face again. I did not mean a pun,—your man’s face, you will be apt to say, I know your wicked will to pun. I cannot now write to Lloyd and you too, so you must convey as much interesting intelligence as this may contain, or be thought to contain, to him and Sophia, with my dearest love and remembrances.

By the by, I think you and Sophia both incorrect with regard to the title of the play. Allowing your objection (which is not necessary, as pride may be, and is in real life often, cured by misfortunes not directly originating from its own acts, as Jeremy Taylor will tell you a naughty desire is sometimes sent to cure it—I know you read these practical divines). But allowing your objection, does not the betraying of his father’s secret directly spring from pride?—from the pride of wine and a full heart, and a proud over-stepping of the ordinary rules of morality, and con-
tempt of the prejudices of mankind, which are not to bind superior souls—“as trust in the matter of secret all ties of blood, &c., &c., keeping of promises, the feeble mind’s religion, binding our morning knowledge to the performance of what last night’s ignorance spake”—does he not prate, that “Great Spirits” must do more than die for their friend—does not the pride of wine incite him to display some evidence of friendship, which its own irregularity shall make great? This I know, that I meant his punishment not alone to be a cure for his daily and habitual pride, but the direct consequence and appropriate punishment of a particular act of pride.

If you do not understand it so, it is my fault in not explaining my meaning.

I have not seen Coleridge since, and scarcely expect to see him,—perhaps he has been at Cambridge. [See page 965.]

Need I turn over to blot a fresh clean half-sheet? merely to say, what I hope you are sure of without my repeating it, that I would have you consider me, dear Manning, Your sincere friend,

C. Lamb.

What is your proper address?


[“Betty Foy’s own Johnny”—“The Idiot Boy,” in the Lyrical Ballads.

“In the postscript” A reference presumably to some drawings of faces in one of Manning’s letters. For a reference to Manning’s own power of acting and grimacing see the note on page 175.

“The title of the play.” Writing to Lamb on December 15, 1799, Manning had said: “I had some conversation the other day with Sophia concerning your tragedy; and she made some very sensible observations (as I thought) with respect to the unfitness of its title, ‘The Folly,’ whose consequences humble the pride and ambition of John’s heart, does not originate in the workings of those passions, but from an underpart in his character, and as it were accidentally, viz., from the ebullitions of a drunken mind and from a rash confidence.

“You will understand what I mean, without my explaining myself any further. God bless you, and keep you from all evil things, that walk upon the face of the earth—I mean nightmares, hobgoblins and spectres.” I take this and other passages in Manning’s letters, from the originals, by permission of their present owner, Mr. Bertram Dobell.

Lamb refers in this letter particularly to Act III. of his play.

“I have not seen Coleridge since.” Since when is not clear. Possibly Coleridge had been at Cambridge when Lamb was there.]