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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning, [13 December 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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Produced by CATH
[p.m. Dec. 13, 1800.]

DON’T spill the cream upon this letter. I have received your letter this moment, not having been at the office. I have just time to scribble down the epilogue. To your epistle I will just reply, that I will certainly come to Cambridge before January is out: I’ll come when I can. You shall have an amended copy of my play early next week. Mary thanks you; but her handwriting is too feminine to be exposed to a Cambridge gentleman, though I endeavour to persuade her that you understand algebra, and must understand her hand. The play is the man’s you wot of; but for God’s sake (who would not like to have so pious a professor’s work damn’d) do not mention it—it is to come out in a feigned name, as one Tobin’s. I will omit the introductory lines which connect it with the play, and give you the concluding tale, which is the mass and bulk of the epilogue. The name is Jack Incident. It is about promise-breaking—you will see it all, if you read the papers.

“Jack, of dramatic genius justly vain,
Purchased a renter’s share at Drury-lane;
A prudent man in every other matter,
Known at his club-room for an honest hatter;
Humane and courteous, led a civil life,
And has been seldom known to beat his wife;
But Jack is now grown quite another man,
Frequents the green-room, knows the plot and plan
Of each new piece,
And has been seen to talk with Sheridan!
In at the play-house just at six he pops,
And never quits it till the curtain drops,
Is never absent on the author’s night,
Knows actresses and actors too by sight;
So humble, that with Suett he’ll confer,
Or take a pipe with plain Jack Bannister;
Nay, with an author has been known so free,
He once suggested a catastrophe—
In short, John dabbled till his head was turn’d;
His wife remonstrated, his neighbours mourn’d,
His customers were dropping off apace,
And Jack’s affairs began to wear a piteous face.
One night his wife began a curtain lecture;
“My dearest Johnny, husband, spouse, protector,
Take pity on your helpless babes and me,
Save us from ruin, you from bankruptcy—
Look to your business, leave these cursed plays,
And try again your old industrious ways.”
Jack who was always scared at the Gazette,
And had some bits of scull uninjured yet,
Promised amendment, vow’d his wife spake reason,
“He would not see another play that season—”
Three stubborn fortnights Jack his promise kept,
Was late and early in his shop, eat, slept,
And walk’d and talk’d, like ordinary men;
No wit, but John the hatter once again—
Visits his club: when lo! one fatal night
His wife with horror view’d the well-known sight—
John’s hat, wig, snuff-box—well she knew his tricks—
And Jack decamping at the hour of six,
Just at the counter’s edge a playbill lay,
Announcing that “Pizarro” was the play—
“O Johnny, Johnny, this is your old doing.”
Quoth Jack, “Why what the devil storm’s a-brewing?
About a harmless play why all this fright?
I’ll go and see it if it’s but for spite—
Zounds, woman! Nelson’s’1 to be there to-night.”

N.B.—This was intended for Jack Bannister to speak; but the sage managers have chosen Miss Heard,—except Miss Tidswell, the worst actress ever seen or heard. Now, I remember I have promised the loan of my play. I will lend it instantly, and you shall get it (’pon honour!) by this day week.

I must go and dress for the boxes! First night! Finding I have time, I transcribe the rest. Observe, you have read the last first; it begins thus:—the names I took from a little outline G. gave me. I have not read the play.

“Ladies, ye’ve seen how Guzman’s consort died,
Poor victim of a Spaniard brother’s pride,
When Spanish honour through the world was blown,
And Spanish beauty for the best was known.2
In that romantic, unenlighten’d time,
A breach of promise3 was a sort of crime—
Which of you handsome English ladies here,
But deems the penance bloody and severe?
A whimsical old Saragossa4 fashion,
That a dead father’s dying inclination,
Should live to thwart a living daughter’s passion,5
Unjustly on the sex we6 men exclaim,
Rail at your7 vices,—and commit the same;—
Man is a promise-breaker from the womb,
And goes a promise-breaker to the tomb—
What need we instance here the lover’s vow,
The sick man’s purpose, or the great man’s bow?8
The truth by few examples best is shown—
Instead of many which are better known,
Take poor Jack Incident, that’s dead and gone.
Jack,” &c. &c. &c.

Now you have it all—how do you like it? I am going to hear it recited!!!

C. L.

1 A good clap-trap. Nelson has exhibited two or three times at both theatres—and advertised himself.

2 Four easy lines. 3 For which the heroine died. 4 In Spain!!

5 Two neat lines. 6 Or you. 7 Or our, as they have altered it.

8 Antithesis