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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning, [3 November 1800]

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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[p.m. Nov. 3, 1800.]

ECQUID meditatur Archimedes? What is Euclid doing? What has happened to learned Trismegist?—Doth he take it in ill part, that his humble friend did not comply with his courteous invitation? Let it suffice, I could not come—are impossibilities nothing—be they abstractions of the intellects or not (rather) most sharp and mortifying realities? nuts in the Will’s mouth too hard for her to crack? brick’ and stone walls in her way, which she can by no means eat through? sore lets, impedimenta viarum, no thoroughfares? racemi nimium alte pendentes? Is the phrase classic? I allude to the grapes in Æsop, which cost the fox a strain, and gained the world an aphorism. Observe the superscription of this letter. In adapting the size of the letters, which constitute your name and Mr. Crisp’s name respectively, I had an eye to your different stations in life. ’Tis really curious, and must be soothing to an aristocrat. I wonder it has never been hit on before my time. I have made an acquisition latterly of a pleasant hand, one Rickman, to whom I was introduced by George Dyer, not the most flattering auspices under which one man can be introduced to another. George brings all sorts of people together, setting up a sort of agrarian
law, or common property, in matter of society; but for once he has done me a great pleasure, while he was only pursuing a principle, as ignes fatui may light you home. This Rickman lives in our Buildings, immediately opposite our house; the finest fellow to drop in a’ nights, about nine or ten o’clock—cold bread-and-cheese time—just in the wishing time of the night, when you wish for somebody to come in, without a distinct idea of a probable anybody. Just in the nick, neither too early to be tedious, nor too late to sit a reasonable time. He is a most pleasant hand: a fine rattling fellow, has gone through life laughing at solemn apes; himself hugely literate, oppressively full of information in all stuff” of conversation, from matter of fact to
Xenophon and Plato—can talk Greek with Porson, politics with Thelwall, conjecture with George Dyer, nonsense with me, and anything with anybody: a great farmer, somewhat concerned in an agricultural magazine—reads no poetry but Shakspeare, very intimate with Southey, but never reads his poetry: relishes George Dyer, thoroughly penetrates into the ridiculous wherever found, understands the first time (a great desideratum in common minds)—you need never twice speak to him; does not want explanations, translations, limitations, as Professor Godwin does when you make an assertion: up to anything, down to everything—whatever sapit hominem. A perfect man. All this farrago, which must perplex you to read, and has put me to a little trouble to select, only proves how impossible it is to describe a pleasant hand. You must see Rickman to know him, for he is a species in one. A new class. An exotic, any slip of which I am proud to put in my garden-pot. The clearest-headed fellow. Fullest of matter with least verbosity. If there be any alloy in my fortune to have met with such a man, it is that he commonly divides his time between town and country, having some foolish family ties at Christchurch, by which means he can only gladden our London hemisphere with returns of light. He is now going for six weeks.

At last I have written to Kemble, to know the event of my play, which was presented last Christmas. As I suspected, came an answer back that the copy was lost, and could not be found—no hint that anybody had to this day ever looked into it—with a courteous (reasonable!) request of another copy (if I had one by me,) and a promise of a definitive answer in a week. I could not resist so facile and moderate a demand, so scribbled out another, omitting sundry things, such as the witch story, about half of the forest scene (which is too leisurely for story), and transposing that damn’d soliloquy about England getting drunk, which, like its reciter, stupidly stood alone, nothing prevenient or antevenient, and cleared away a good deal besides; and sent this copy, written
all out (with alterations, &c., requiring judgment) in one day and a half! I sent it last night, and am in weekly expectation of the tolling-bell and death-warrant.

This is all my Lunnon news. Send me some from the banks of Cam, as the poets delight to speak, especially George Dyer, who has no other name, nor idea, nor definition of Cambridge: namely, its being a market-town, sending members to Parliament, never entered into his definition: it was and is, simply, the banks of the Cam or the fair Cam, as Oxford is the banks of the Isis or the fair Isis. Yours in all humility, most illustrious Trismegist,

C. Lamb.

(Read on; there’s more at the bottom.)

You ask me about the “Farmer’s Boy”—don’t you think the fellow who wrote it (who is a shoemaker) has a poor mind? Don’t you find he is always silly about poor Giles, and those abject kind of phrases, which mark a man that looks up to wealth? None of Burns’s poet-dignity. What do you think? I have just opened him; but he makes me sick. Dyer knows the shoemaker (a damn’d stupid hound in company); but George promises to introduce him indiscriminately to all friends and all combinations.