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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 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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? Jan. 23, 1800.

DEAR Coleridge,—Now I write, I cannot miss this opportunity of acknowledging the obligations myself, and the readers in general of that luminous paper, the “Morning Post,” are under to you for the very novel and exquisite manner in which you combined political with grammatical science, in your yesterday’s dissertation on Mr. Wyndham’s unhappy composition. It must have been the death-blow to that ministry. I expect Pitt and Grenville to resign. More especially the delicate and Cottrellian grace with which you officiated, with a ferula for a white wand, as gentleman usher to the word “also,” which it seems did not know its place.

I expect Manning of Cambridge in town to-night—will you fulfil your promise of meeting him at my house? He is a man of a thousand. Give me a line to say what day, whether Saturday, Sunday, Monday, &c., and if Sara and the Philosopher can come. I am afraid if I did not at intervals call upon you, I should never see you. But I forget, the affairs of the nation engross your time and your mind.


C. L.

[The first letter that has been preserved of the second period of Lamb’s correspondence with Coleridge, which was to last until the end.

In the Morning Post of January 7, 1800, had appeared the correspondence between Buonaparte and Lord Grenville, in which Buonaparte made an offer of peace. Lord Grenville’s Note, it was pointed out in the Morning Post for January 16, was really written by William Windham, Secretary for War, and on January 22 appeared an article closely criticising its grammar.

Here is the passage concerning “also,” to which Lamb particularly alludes a little later in the letter:—

. . . “The same system, to the prevalence of which France justly ascribes all her present miseries, is that which has also involved the rest of Europe in a long and destructive warfare, of a nature long since unknown to the practice of civilized nations.” Here the connective word “also” should have followed the word “Europe.” As it at present stands, the sentence implies that France, miserable as she may be, has, however, not been involved in a warfare. The word “same” is absolutely expletive; and by appearing to refer the reader to some foregoing clause, it not only loads the sentence, but renders it obscure. The word “to” is absurdly
used for the word “in.” A thing may be unknown to practitioners, as humanity and sincerity may be unknown to the practitioners of State-craft, and foresight, science, and harmony may have been unknown to the planners and practitioners of Continental Expeditions; but even “cheese-parings and candle-ends” cannot be known or unknown “to” a practice!!

Windham was destined to be attacked by another stalwart in Lamb’s circle, for it was his speech in opposition to Lord Erskine’s Cruelty to Animals Bill in 1809 that inspired John Lamb to write his fierce pamphlet (see page 412).

“Cottrellian grace.” The Cotterells were Masters of the Ceremonies from 1641 to 1808.

The Philosopher was Hartley Coleridge, aged three, so called after his great namesake, David Hartley. The Coleridges were now, as we have seen, living at 21 Buckingham Street, Strand.]

[p.m. Feb. 13, 1800.]

DEAR Manning,—Olivia is a good girl, and if you turn to my letter, you will find that this very plea you set up to vindicate Lloyd I had made use of as a reason why he should never have employed Olivia to make a copy of such a letter—a letter I could not have sent to my enemy’s b——h, if she had thought fit to seek me in the way of marriage. But you see it in one view, I in another. Rest you merry in your opinion! Opinion is a species of property; and though I am always desirous to share with my friend to a certain extent, I shall ever like to keep some tenets and some property properly my own. Some day, Manning, when we meet, substituting Corydon and fair Amaryllis, for Charles Lloyd and Mary Hayes, we will discuss together this question of moral feeling, “In what cases and how far sincerity is a virtue?” I do not mean Truth—a good Olivia-like creature—God bless her, who, meaning no offence, is always ready to give an answer when she is asked why she did so and so; but a certain forward-talking half-brother of hers, Sincerity, that amphibious gentleman, who is so ready to perk up his obnoxious sentiments unasked into your notice, as Midas would his ears into your face uncalled for. But I despair of doing anything by a letter in the way of explaining or coming to explanations. A good wish, or a pun, or a piece of secret history, may be well enough that way conveyed; nay, it has been known that intelligence of a turkey hath been conveyed by that medium
without much ambiguity.
Godwin I am a good deal pleased with. He is a very well-behaved, decent man, nothing very brilliant about him, or imposing, as you may suppose; quite another guess sort of gentleman from what your Anti-Jacobin Christians imagine him. I was well pleased to find he has neither horns nor claws; quite a tame creature, I assure you. A middle-sized man, both in stature and in understanding; whereas, from his noisy fame, you would expect to find a Briareus Centimanus, or a Tityus tall enough to pull Jupiter from his heavens.

I begin to think you Atheists not quite so tall a species. Coleridge inquires after you pretty often. I wish to be the Pandar to bring you together again once before I die. When we die, you and I must part; the sheep, you know, take the right hand, and the goats the left. Stripped of its allegory, you must know, the sheep are I and the Apostles, and the Martyrs, and the Popes, and Bishop Taylor, and Bishop Horsley, and Coleridge, &c., &c.; the goats are the Atheists and the Adulterers, and dumb dogs, and Godwin and M.....g, and that Thyestaean crew—yaw! how my saintship sickens at the idea!

You shall have my play and the Falstaff letters in a day or two. I will write to Lloyd by this day’s post.

Pray, is it a part of your sincerity to show my letters to Lloyd? for really, gentlemen ought to explain their virtues upon a first acquaintance, to prevent mistakes.

God bless you, Manning. Take my trifling as trifling; and believe me, seriously and deeply,

Your well-wisher and friend,
C. L.

[Mary Hayes was a friend of Mary Wollstonecraft, and also of Southey and Coleridge. She wrote a novel, Memoirs of Emma Courtney, which Lloyd says contained her own love letters to Godwin and Froud, and also Female Biography, or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women. Lloyd and she had been very intimate. A passage from a letter of Coleridge to Southey, dated January 25, 1800, bears upon the present situation: “Miss Hayes I have seen. Charles Lloyd’s conduct has been atrocious beyond what you stated. Lamb himself confessed to me that during the time in which he kept up his ranting, sentimental correspondence with Miss Hayes, he frequently read her letters in company, as a subject for laughter, and then sate down and answered them quite à la Rousseau! Poor Lloyd! Every hour new-creates him; he is his own posterity in a perpetually flowing series, and his body unfortunately retaining an external identity, their mutual
contradictions and disagreeings are united under one name, and of course are called lies, treachery, and rascality!” See a further note in Appendix II., page 966.

“My enemy’s b——h.” A recollection, I fear, of King Lear’s remark (IV., 7, 36).

Lamb had just met William Godwin (1756-1836), probably having been introduced to him by Coleridge. Godwin, known chiefly by his Political Justice, 1793; Caleb Williams, 1794, and St. Leon, 1799, stood at that time for everything that was advanced in thought and conduct. We shall meet with him often in the correspondence of the next few years.

Briareus Centimanus, the giant with a hundred hands, who defended Jupiter against Juno, Neptune and Minerva. Tityus covered nine acres of ground when he slept.

Bishop Horsley (then of Rochester, afterwards St Asaph’s) was probably included ironically, on account of his hostility to Priestley.]

[p.m. March 1, 1800.]

I HOPE by this time you are prepared to say the “Falstaff’s letters” are a bundle of the sharpest, queerest, profoundest humours, of any these juice-drained latter times have spawned. I should have advertised you, that the meaning is frequently hard to be got at; and so are the future guineas, that now lie ripening and aurifying in the womb of some undiscovered Potosi; but dig, dig, dig, dig, Manning! I set to with an unconquerable propulsion to write, with a lamentable want of what to write. My private goings on are orderly as the movements of the spheres, and stale as their music to angels’ ears. Public affairs—except as they touch upon me, and so turn into private, I cannot whip up my mind to feel any interest in. I grieve, indeed, that War and Nature, and Mr. Pitt, that hangs up in Lloyd’s best parlour, should have conspired to call up three necessaries, simple commoners as our fathers knew them, into the upper house of Luxuries; Bread, and Beer, and Coals, Manning. But as to France and Frenchmen, and the Abbé Sièyes and his constitutions, I cannot make these present times present to me. I read histories of the past, and I live in them; although, to abstract senses, they are far less momentous than the noises which keep Europe awake. I am reading Burnet’s Own Times. Did you
ever read that garrulous, pleasant history? He tells his story like an old man past political service, bragging to his sons on winter evenings of the part he took in public transactions, when his “old cap was new.” Full of scandal, which all true history is. No palliatives, but all the stark wickedness, that actually gives the momentum to national actors. Quite the prattle of age and out-lived importance. Truth and sincerity staring out upon you perpetually in alto relievo. Himself a party man—he makes you a party man. None of the Damned philosophical
Humeian indifference, so cold, and unnatural, and inhuman! None of the damned Gibbonian fine writing, so fine and composite. None of Mr. Robertson’s periods with three members. None of Mr. Roscoe’s sage remarks, all so apposite, and coming in so clever, lest the reader should have had the trouble of drawing an inference. Burnet’s good old prattle I can bring present to my mind—I can make the revolution present to me; the French Revolution, by a converse perversity in my nature, I fling as far from me. To quit this damn’d subject, and to relieve you from two or three dismal yawns, which I hear in spirit, I here conclude my more than commonly obtuse letter; dull up to the dulness of a Dutch commentator on Shakspeare.

My love to Lloyd and Sophia.

C. L.

[“War and Nature, and Mr. Pitt.” The war had sent up taxation to an almost unbearable height Pitt was Chancellor of Exchequer, as well as Prime Minister.

Bishop Burnet’s History of His Own Times was published in 1723, 1734, after his death. His times were 1643-1715.

“When this ‘old cap was new’” is the first line of a quaint old ballad called “Time’s Alteration; or, The Old Man’s Rehearsal, What brave days he knew, A great while agone, When his Old Cap was new.” It is by Martin Parker (d. 1656) and is reprinted in the British Anthology (ed. Arber, published by Frowde), Vol. V., from the original broadside in the British Museum. It consists of thirteen stanzas of eight lines each, every stanza ending with the line “When this old cap was new.”

Hume, Gibbon and Robertson were among the books which, in the Elia essay “Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading,” Lamb described as biblia-a-biblia. William Roscoe’s principal work was his Life of Lorenzo dé Medici, 1795.]

[p.m. March 17, 1800.]

DEAR Manning,—I am living in a continuous feast. Coleridge has been with me now for nigh three weeks, and the more I see of him in the quotidian undress and relaxation of his mind, the more cause I see to love him, and believe him a very good man, and all those foolish impressions to the contrary fly off like morning slumbers. He is engaged in translations, which I hope will keep him this month to come. He is uncommonly kind and friendly to me. He ferrets me day and night to do something. He tends me, amidst all his own worrying and heart-oppressing occupations, as a gardener tends his young tulip. Marry come up! what a pretty similitude, and how like your humble servant! He has lugged me to the brink of engaging to a newspaper, and has suggested to me for a first plan the forgery of a supposed manuscript of Burton the anatomist of melancholy. I have even written the introductory letter; and, if I can pick up a few guineas this way, I feel they will be most refreshing, bread being so dear. If I go on with it, I will apprise you of it, as you may like to see my things! and the tulip, of all flowers, loves to be admired most.

Pray pardon me, if my letters do not come very thick. I am so taken up with one thing or other, that I cannot pick out (I will not say time, but) fitting times to write to you. My dear love to Lloyd and Sophia, and pray split this thin letter into three parts, and present them with the two biggest in my name.

They are my oldest friends; but ever the new friend driveth out the old, as the ballad sings! God bless you all three! I would hear from Lloyd, if I could.

C. L.

Flour has just fallen nine shillings a sack! we shall be all too rich.

Tell Charles I have seen his Mamma, and am almost fallen in love with her, since I mayn’t with Olivia. She is so fine and graceful, a complete Matron-Lady-Quaker. She has given me two little books. Olivia grows a charming girl—full of feeling, and thinner than she was.

But I have not time to fall in love.

Mary presents her general compliments. She keeps in fine health!

Huzza! boys,

and down with the Atheists.


[Coleridge, having sent his wife and Hartley into the country, had, for a while, taken up his abode with Lamb at Pentonville, and given up the Morning Post in order to proceed with his translation of Schiller’s Wallenstein. Lamb’s forgery of Burton, together with those mentioned in the next letter, which were never printed by Stuart, for whom they were written, was included in the John Woodvil volume, 1802, among the “Curious Fragments, extracted from a commonplace book, which belonged to Robert Burton, the famous Author of The Anatomy of Melancholy.” See the Miscellaneous Prose, Vol. I. of this edition.

“They are my oldest friends.” Coleridge and Southey were, of course, older. The ballad I have not found.

Mrs. Charles Lloyd, sen., née Mary Farmer, and Olivia, her second daughter, had been staying in London. Lamb had breakfasted with them.

The reference to Atheists is explained by a passage from Manning’s letter to Lamb in March, 1800: “One thing tho’ I must beg of you—that is not to call me Atheist in your letters—for though it may be mere raillery in you, and not meant as a serious imputation on my Faith, yet, if the Catholic or any other intolerant religion should [illegible] and become established in England, (which [illegible] if the Bishop of R——r may be the case) and if the post-people should happen to open and read your letters, (which, considering the sometimes quaintness of their form, they may possibly be incited to do) such names might send me to Smithfield on a hurdle,—and nothing upon earth is more discordant to my wishes, than to become one of the Smithfield Illuminati.”]

[p.m. April 5, 1800.]

C. L.’s moral sense presents her compliments to Doctor Manning, is very thankful for his medical advice, but is happy to add that her disorder has died of itself.

Dr. Manning, Coleridge has left us, to go into the north, on a visit to his god Wordsworth. With him have flown all my splendid prospects of engagement with the “Morning Post,” all my visionary guineas, the deceitful wages of unborn scandal. In truth, I wonder
you took it up so seriously. All my intention was but to make a little sport with such public and fair game as
Mr. Pitt, Mr. Wilberforce, Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Devil, &c.—gentry dipped in Styx all over, whom no paper javelin-lings can touch. To have made free with these cattle, where was the harm? ’twould have been but giving a polish to lampblack, not nigrifying a negro primarily. After all, I cannot but regret my involuntary virtue. Damn virtue that’s thrust upon us; it behaves itself with such constraint, till conscience opens the window and lets out the goose.

I had struck off two imitations of Burton, quite abstracted from any modern allusions, which it was my intent only to lug in from time to time to make ’em popular. Stuart has got these, with an introductory letter; but, not hearing from him, I have ceased from my labours, but I write to him to-day to get a final answer. I am afraid they won’t do for a paper. Burton is a scarce gentleman, not much known; else I had done ’em pretty well.

I have also hit off a few lines in the name of Burton, being a conceit of “Diabolic Possession.” Burton was a man often assoiled by deepest melancholy, and at other times much given to laughing and jesting, as is the way with melancholy men. I will send them you: they were almost extempore, and no great things; but you will indulge them. Robert Lloyd is come to town. He is a good fellow, with the best heart, but his feelings are shockingly unsane. Priscilla meditates going to see Pizarro at Drury Lane to-night (from her uncle’s) under cover of coming to dine with me . . . heu! tempora! heu! mores!—I have barely time to finish, as I expect her and Robin every minute.—Yours as usual.

C. L.

[For Coleridge’s movements see note to the next letter.—“Pizarro” was Sheridan’s drama. It was acted this season, 1799-1800, sixty-seven times.—“Heu tempora! heu mores!”—a reference to the new Quaker and the old. See Appendix II., page 966, for Lamb’s next letter to Manning.]

[Probably April 16 or 17, 1800.]

I SEND you, in this parcel, my play, which I beg you to present in my name, with my respect and love, to Wordsworth and his sister. You blame us for giving your direction to Miss Wesley;
the woman has been ten times after us about it, and we gave it her at last, under the idea that no further harm would ensue, but she would once write to you, and you would bite your lips and forget to answer it, and so it would end. You read us a dismal homily upon “Realities.” We know, quite as well as you do, what are shadows and what are realities. You, for instance, when you are over your fourth or fifth jorum, chirping about old school occurrences, are the best of realities. Shadows are cold, thin things, that have no warmth or grasp in them. Miss Wesley and her friend, and a tribe of authoresses that come after you here daily, and, in defect of you, hive and cluster upon us, are the shadows. You encouraged that mopsey, Miss Wesley, to dance after you, in the hope of having her nonsense put into a nonsensical Anthology. We have pretty well shaken her off, by that simple expedient of referring her to you; but there are more burrs in the wind. I came home t’other day from business, hungry as a hunter, to dinner, with nothing, I am sure, of the author but hunger about me, and whom found I closeted with
Mary but a friend of this Miss Wesley, one Miss Benje, or Benjey—I don’t know how she spells her name. I just came in time enough, I believe, luckily to prevent them from exchanging vows of eternal friendship. It seems she is one of your authoresses, that you first foster, and then upbraid us with. But I forgive you. “The rogue has given me potions to make me love him.” Well; go she would not, nor step a step over our threshold, till we had promised to come and drink tea with her next night. I had never seen her before, and could not tell who the devil it was that was so familiar. We went, however, not to be impolite. Her lodgings are up two pairs of stairs in East Street. Tea and coffee, and macaroons—a kind of cake I much love. We sat down. Presently Miss Benje broke the silence, by declaring herself quite of a different opinion from D’Israeli, who supposes the differences of human intellect to be the mere effect of organization. She begged to know my opinion. I attempted to carry it off with a pun upon organ; but that went off very flat. She immediately conceived a very low opinion of my metaphysics; and, turning round to Mary, put some question to her in French,—possibly having heard that neither Mary nor I understood French. The explanation that took place occasioned some embarrassment and much wondering. She then fell into an insulting conversation about the comparative genius and merits of all modern languages, and concluded with asserting that the Saxon was esteemed the purest dialect in Germany. From thence she passed into the subject of poetry; where I, who had hitherto sat mute and a hearer only, humbly hoped I might now put in a word to some advantage, seeing that
it was my own trade in a manner. But I was stopped by a round assertion, that no good poetry had appeared since
Dr. Johnson’s time. It seems the Doctor has suppressed many hopeful geniuses that way by the severity of his critical strictures in his “Lives of the Poets.” I here ventured to question the fact, and was beginning to appeal to names, but I was assured “it was certainly the case.” Then we discussed Miss More’s book on education, which I had never read. It seems Dr. Gregory, another of Miss Benjey’s friends, has found fault with one of Miss More’s metaphors. Miss More has been at some pains to vindicate herself—in the opinion of Miss Benjey, not without success. It seems the Doctor is invariably against the use of broken or mixed metaphor, which he reprobates against the authority of Shakspeare himself. We next discussed the question, whether Pope was a poet? I find Dr. Gregory is of opinion he was not, though Miss Seward does not at all concur with him in this. We then sat upon the comparative merits of the ten translations of “Pizarro,” and Miss Benjey or Benje advised Mary to take two of them home; she thought it might afford her some pleasure to compare them verbatim; which we declined. It being now nine o’clock, wine and macaroons were again served round, and we parted, with a promise to go again next week, and meet the Miss Porters, who, it seems, have heard much of Mr. Coleridge, and wish to meet us, because we are his friends. I have been preparing for the occasion. I crowd cotton in my ears. I read all the reviews and magazines of the past month against the dreadful meeting, and I hope by these means to cut a tolerable second-rate figure.

Pray let us have no more complaints about shadows. We are in a fair way, through you, to surfeit sick upon them.

Our loves and respects to your host and hostess. Our dearest love to Coleridge.

Take no thought about your proof-sheets; they shall be done as if Woodfall himself did them. Pray send us word of Mrs. Coleridge and little David Hartley, your little reality.

Farewell, dear Substance. Take no umbrage at any thing I have written.

C. Lamb, Umbra.
Land of Shadows,
Shadow-month the 16th or 17th, 1800.

Coleridge, I find loose among your papers a copy of “Christabel.” It wants about thirty lines; you will very much oblige me by sending me the beginning as far as that line,—
“And the spring comes slowly up this way;”
and the intermediate lines between—
“The lady leaps up suddenly,
The lovely Lady Christabel;”
and the lines,—
“She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak.”
The trouble to you will be small, and the benefit to us very great! A pretty antithesis! A figure in speech I much applaud.

Godwin has called upon us. He spent one evening here. Was very friendly. Kept us up till midnight. Drank punch, and talked about you. He seems, above all men, mortified at your going away. Suppose you were to write to that good-natured heathen—“or is he a shadow?” If I do not write, impute it to the long postage, of which you have so much cause to complain. I have scribbled over a queer letter, as I find by perusal; but it means no mischief.

I am, and will be, yours ever, in sober sadness,

C. L.

Write your German as plain as sunshine, for that must correct itself. You know I am homo unius linguæ: in English, illiterate, a dunce, a ninny.


[Having left Lamb Coleridge went to Grasmere, where he stayed at Dove Cottage with Wordsworth and finished his translation, which was ready for the printer on April 22. To what Lamb alludes in his reference to the homily on “Realities” I cannot say, but presumably Coleridge had written a metaphysical letter on this subject. Lamb returns to the matter at the end of the first part of his reply.

Miss Wesley was Sarah Wesley (1760-1828), the daughter of Charles Wesley and, therefore, niece of the great John and Samuel. She moved much in literary society. Miss Benjay, or Benjé, was in reality Elizabeth Ogilvy Benger (1778-1827), a friend of Mrs. Inchbald, Mrs. Barbauld and the Aikins, and other literary people. Madame de Stael called her the most interesting woman she had met in England. She wrote novels and poems and biographies. In those days there were two East Streets, one leading from Red Lion Square to Lamb’s Conduit Street, and one in the neighbourhood of Clare Market.

“The rogue has given me potions . . .” Falstaff. “If the rascal have not given me medicines to make me love him, I’ll be hanged” (1 “Henry IV.,” II., 2, 18, etc.).

D’Israeli was Isaac Disraeli, the author of The Curiosities of Literature and other books about books and authors; Miss
More was
Hannah More, and her book, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, 1799; Dr. Gregory I have not traced; Miss Seward was Anna Seward, the Swan of Lichfield; and the Miss Porters were Jane and Anna Maria, authors (later) respectively of The Scottish Chiefs and Thaddeus of Warsaw, and The Hungarian Brothers.

The proof-sheets were those of Wallenstein. Henry Sampson Woodfall was the famous printer of the Letters of Junius.

Christabel, Coleridge’s poem, had been begun in 1797; it was finished, in so far as it was finished, later in the year 1800. It was published first in 1816.

Homo unius linguæ.Lamb exaggerated here. He had much Latin, a little Greek and apparently (see page 29) a little French (see, however, also page 243). The sentence is in the manner of Burton, whom Lamb had been imitating.]

[? Spring, 1800.]

BY some fatality, unusual with me, I have mislaid the list of books which you want. Can you, from memory, easily supply me with another?

I confess to Statius, and I detained him wilfully, out of a reverent regard to your style. Statius, they tell me, is turgid. As to that other Latin book, since you know neither its name nor subject, your wants (I crave leave to apprehend) cannot be very urgent. Meanwhile, dream that it is one of the lost Decades of Livy.

Your partiality to me has led you to form an erroneous opinion as to the measure of delight you suppose me to take in obliging. Pray, be careful that it spread no further. ’Tis one of those heresies that is very pregnant. Pray, rest more satisfied with the portion of learning which you have got, and disturb my peaceful ignorance as little as possible with such sort of commissions.

Did you never observe an appearance well known by the name of the man in the moon? Some scandalous old maids have set on foot a report that it is Endymion. Dr. Stoddart talks of going out King’s Advocate to Malta. He has studied the Civil and Canon Law just three canon months, to my knowledge. Fiat justitia, ruat cælum.

Your theory about the first awkward step a man makes being the consequence of learning to dance, is not universal. We have known many youths bred up at Christ’s, who never learned to dance, yet the
world imputes to them no very graceful motions. I remember there was little
Hudson, the immortal precentor of St. Paul’s, to teach us our quavers: but, to the best of my recollection, there was no master of motions when we were at Christ’s.

Farewell, in haste.

C. L.

[Talfourd does not date this letter, merely remarking that it belongs to the present period. Canon Ainger dated it June 22, 1800; but this I think cannot be right when we take into consideration Letter 60 and what it says about Lamb’s last letter to Coleridge (clearly that of May 12), and the time that has since elapsed. The birth of Charles Lloyd’s first child, July 31, gives us the latest date to which Letter 60 could belong.

Statius, the Latin poet, was the author of the Thebais and Sylvæ. Livy’s works have been divided in fourteen decades, of which many are lost.

Fiat justitia.” Let justice be done though the heavens fall.

“Your theory . . .” This may have been contained in one of Coleridge’s letters, now lost; I do not find it in any of the known Morning Post articles.]

Monday, May 12th, 1800.

MY dear Coleridge—I don’t know why I write, except from the propensity misery has to tell her griefs. Hetty died on Friday night, about eleven o’clock, after eight days’ illness; Mary, in consequence of fatigue and anxiety, is fallen ill again, and I was obliged to remove her yesterday. I am left alone in a house with nothing but Hetty’s dead body to keep me company. To-morrow I bury her, and then I shall be quite alone, with nothing but a cat to remind me that the house has been full of living beings like myself. My heart is quite sunk, and I don’t know where to look for relief. Mary will get better again; but her constantly being liable to such relapses is dreadful; nor is it the least of our evils that her case and all our story is so well known around us. We are in a manner marked. Excuse my troubling you; but I have nobody by me to speak to me. I slept out last night, not being able to endure the change and the stillness. But I did not sleep well, and I must come back to my own bed. I am going to try and get a friend to come and be with me to-morrow. I
am completely shipwrecked. My head is quite bad. I almost wish that Mary were dead.—God bless you! Love to
Sara and Hartley.

C. Lamb.

[Hetty was the Lambs’ aged servant.

Here should come a letter from Lamb to Thomas Manning clearly written on May 12, 1800, the same day as that to Coleridge, stating that Lamb has given up his house, and is looking for lodgings,—White (with whom he had stayed) having “all kindness but not sympathy”.]

[p.m. May 20, 1800.]

DEAR Manning,—I feel myself unable to thank you sufficiently for your kind letter. It was doubly acceptable to me, both for the choice poetry and the kind honest prose which it contained. It was just such a letter as I should have expected from Manning.

I am in much better spirits than when I wrote last. I have had a very eligible offer to lodge with a friend in town. He will have rooms to let at midsummer, by which time I hope my sister will be well enough to join me. It is a great object to me to live in town, where we shall be much more private, and to quit a house and neighbourhood where poor Mary’s disorder, so frequently recurring, has made us a sort of marked people. We can be nowhere private except in the midst of London. We shall be in a family where we visit very frequently; only my landlord and I have not yet come to a conclusion. He has a partner to consult. I am still on the tremble, for I do not know where we could go into lodgings that would not be, in many respects, highly exceptionable. Only God send Mary well again, and I hope all will be well! The prospect, such as it is, has made me quite happy. I have just time to tell you of it, as I know it will give you pleasure.—Farewell.

C. Lamb.

[Manning’s letter containing the choice poetry has not been preserved.

The friend in town was John Mathew Gutch (1776-1861), with whom Lamb had been at school at Christ’s Hospital, who was now a law stationer, in partnership with one Anderson, at 27 Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane, since demolished.]

[No date. ? May 25, 1800.]

DEAR Manning, I am a letter in your debt, but I am scarcely rich enough (in spirits) to pay you.—I am writing at an inn on the Ware road, in the neighbourhood of which I am going to pass two days, being Whitsuntide.—Excuse the pen, tis the best I can get.—Poor Mary is very bad yet. I went yesterday hoping I should see her getting well, then I might have come into the country more chearful, but I could not get to see her. This has been a sad damp. Indeed I never in my life have been more wretched than I was all day yesterday. I am glad I am going away from business for a little while, for my head has been hot and ill. I shall be very much alone where I am going, which always revives me. I hope you will accept of this worthless memento, which I merely send as a token that I am in your debt. I will write upon my return, on Thursday at farthest. I return on Wednesday.—

God bless you.

I was afraid you would think me forgetful, and that made me scribble this jumble.


[Here probably also should come an unpublished letter (in the possession of Mr. Dobell) from Lamb to Manning, in which Lamb remarks that his goddess is Pecunia.

Mr. Dobell also has another letter to Manning belonging to the same period, in which Lamb returns to the subject of poverty:—

“You dropt a word whether in jest or earnest, as if you would join me in some work, such as a review or series of papers, essays, or anything.—Were you serious? I want home occupation, & I more want money. Had you any scheme, or was it, as G. Dyer says, en passant? If I don’t have a Legacy left me shortly I must get into pay with some newspaper for small gains. Mutton is twelvepence a pound.”

Here should come a letter from Lamb to Robert Lloyd, in which he describes a visit to Gutch’s family at Oxford, and mentions his admiration for a fine head of Bishop Taylor in All Souls’ Library, which was an inducement to the Oxford visit. He refers to Charles Lloyd’s settlement in the Lakes, and suggests that it may be the means of again uniting him and Coleridge; adding that such men as Coleridge and Wordsworth would exclude solitude in the Hebrides or Thule.

1800 A “BITE” 169

The following undated letter, which may be placed a little too soon in its present position, comes with a certain fitness here:—]

[No date. 1800.]

DEAR Gutch, Anderson is not come home, and I am almost afraid to tell you what has happen’d, lest it should seem to have happend by my fault in not writing for you home sooner.—

This morning Henry, the eldest lad, was missing. We supposed he was only gone out on a morning’s stroll, and that he would return, but he did not return & we discovered that he had opened your desk before he went, & I suppose taken all the money he could find, for on diligent search I could find none, and on opening your Letter to Anderson, which I thought necessary to get at the key, I learn that you had a good deal of money there.

Several people have been here after you to-day, & the boys seem quite frightened, and do not know what to do. In particular, one gentleman wants to have some writings finished by Tuesday—For God’s sake set out by the first coach. Mary has been crying all day about it, and I am now just going to some law stationer in the neighbourhood, that the eldest boy has recommended, to get him to come and be in the house for a day or so, to manage. I cannot think what detains Anderson. His sister is quite frightend about him. I am very sorry I did not write yesterday, but Henry persuaded me to wait till he could ascertain when some job must be done (at the furthest) for Mr. Foulkes, and as nothing had occurrd besides I did not like to disturb your pleasures. I now see my error, and shall be heartily ashamed to see you.

[That is as far as the letter goes on the first page. We then turn over, and find (as Gutch, to his immense relief, found before us) written right across both pages:]

A Bite!!!

Anderson is come home, and the wheels of thy business are going on as ever. The boy is honest, and I am thy friend.

And how does the coach-maker’s daughter? Thou art her Phaeton, her Gig, and her Sociable. Commend me to Rob.

C. Lamb.

[This letter is the first example extant of Lamb’s tendency to hoaxing. Gutch was at that time courting a Miss Wheeley, the
daughter of a Birmingham coachbuilder. It was while he was in Birmingham that
Lamb wrote the letter. Anderson was his partner in business. Rob would be Robert Lloyd, then at Birmingham again. This, and one other, are the only letters of Lamb to Gutch that escaped destruction.]

[? Late July, 1800.]

DEAR Coleridge,—Soon after I wrote to you last, an offer was made me by Gutch (you must remember him? at Christ’s—you saw him, slightly, one day with Thomson at our house)—to come and lodge with him at his house in Southampton Buildings, Chancery-Lane. This was a very comfortable offer to me, the rooms being at a reasonable rent, and including the use of an old servant, besides being infinitely preferable to ordinary lodgings in our case, as you must perceive. As Gutch knew all our story and the perpetual liability to a recurrence in my sister’s disorder, probably to the end of her life, I certainly think the offer very generous and very friendly. I have got three rooms (including servant) under £34 a year. Here I soon found myself at home; and here, in six weeks after, Mary was well enough to join me. So we are once more settled. I am afraid we are not placed out of the reach of future interruptions. But I am determined to take what snatches of pleasure we can between the acts of our distressful drama. . . . I have passed two days at Oxford on a visit, which I have long put off, to Gutch’s family. The sight of the Bodleian Library and, above all, a fine bust of Bishop Taylor at All Souls’, were particularly gratifying to me; unluckily, it was not a family where I could take Mary with me, and I am afraid there is something of dishonesty in any pleasures I take without her. She never goes anywhere. I do not know what I can add to this letter. I hope you are better by this time; and I desire to be affectionately remembered to Sara and Hartley.

I expected before this to have had tidings of another little philosopher. Lloyd’s wife is on the point of favouring the world.

Have you seen the new edition of Burns? his posthumous works and letters? I have only been able to procure the first volume, which contains his life—very confusedly and badly written, and interspersed with dull pathological and medical discussions. It
is written by a
Dr. Currie. Do you know the well-meaning doctor? Alas, ne sutor ultra crepitum! [A few words omitted here.]

I hope to hear again from you very soon. Godwin is gone to Ireland on a visit to Grattan. Before he went I passed much time with him, and he has showed me particular attentions: N.B. A thing I much like. Your books are all safe: only I have not thought it necessary to fetch away your last batch, which I understand are at Johnson’s the bookseller, who has got quite as much room, and will take as much care of them as myself—and you can send for them immediately from him.

I wish you would advert to a letter I sent you at Grasmere about “Christabel,” and comply with my request contained therein.

Love to all friends round Skiddaw.

C. Lamb.

[The Coleridges had recently moved into Greta Hall, Keswick.

Thomson would, I think, be Marmaduke Thompson, an old Christ’s Hospitaller, to whom Lamb dedicated Rosamund Gray. He became a missionary.

“Another little philosopher.” Derwent Coleridge was born September 14, 1800. Lloyd’s eldest son, Charles Grosvenor Lloyd, was born July 31, 1800.

Dr. James Currie’s Life of Burns was prefixed to an edition of his poems in 1800. Dugald Stewart called it “a strong and faithful picture.” It was written to raise funds for Burns’ widow and family.

Ne sutor ultra crepidam” is a phrase in Pliny, Valerius Maximus, and possibly other Latin writers. “Let the cobbler stick to his last.” The translation of Lamb’s version has to be omitted.

Godwin had gone to stay with Curran: he saw much of Grattan also.

Johnson, the publisher and bookseller, lived at 72 St. Paul’s Churchyard. He published Priestley’s works.]

Aug. 6th, 1800.

DEAR Coleridge,—I have taken to-day, and delivered to Longman and Co., Imprimis: your books, viz., three ponderous German dictionaries, one volume (I can find no more) of German and French ditto, sundry other German books unbound, as you left
Percy’s Ancient Poetry, and one volume of Anderson’s Poets. I specify them, that you may not lose any. Secundo: a dressing-gown (value, fivepence), in which you used to sit and look like a conjuror, when you were translating “Wallenstein.” A case of two razors and a shaving-box and strap. This it has cost me a severe struggle to part with. They are in a brown-paper parcel, which also contains sundry papers and poems, sermons, some few Epic Poems,—one about Cain and Abel, which came from Poole, &c, &c., and also your tragedy; with one or two small German books, and that drama in which Got-fader performs. Tertio: a small oblong box containing all your letters, collected from all your waste papers, and which fill the said little box. All other waste papers, which I judged worth sending, are in the paper parcel aforesaid. But you will find all your letters in the box by themselves. Thus have I discharged my conscience and my lumber-room of all your property, save and except a folio entitled Tyrrell’s Bibliotheca Politica, which you used to learn your politics out of when you wrote for the Post, mutatis mutandis, i.e., applying past inferences to modern data. I retain that, because I am sensible I am very deficient in the politics myself; and I have torn up—don’t be angry, waste paper has risen forty per cent., and I can’t afford to buy it—all Buonaparte’s Letters, Arthur Young’s Treatise on Corn, and one or two more light-armed infantry, which I thought better suited the flippancy of London discussion than the dignity of Keswick thinking. Mary says you will be in a damned passion about them when you come to miss them; but you must study philosophy. Read Albertus Magnus de Chartis Amissis five times over after phlebotomising,—’tis Burton’s recipe—and then be angry with an absent friend if you can. I have just heard that Mrs. Lloyd is delivered of a fine boy, and mother and boy are doing well. Fie on sluggards, what is thy Sara doing? Sara is obscure. Am I to understand by her letter, that she sends a kiss to Eliza Buckingham? Pray tell your wife that a note of interrogation on the superscription of a letter is highly ungrammatical—she proposes writing my name Lamb? Lambe is quite enough. I have had the Anthology, and like only one thing in it, Lewti; but of that the last stanza is detestable, the rest most exquisite!—the epithet enviable would dash the finest poem. For God’s sake (I never was more serious), don’t make me ridiculous any more by terming me gentle-hearted in print, or do it in better verses. It did well enough five years ago when I came to see you, and was moral coxcomb enough at the time you wrote the lines, to feed upon such epithets; but, besides that, the meaning of gentle is equivocal at best, and almost always means poor-spirited, the very quality of gentleness is abhorrent to such vile trumpetings. My sentiment is long since vanished. I hope my virtues have done sucking. I can scarce think but
you meant it in joke. I hope you did, for I should be ashamed to think that you could think to gratify me by such praise, fit only to be a cordial to some green-sick sonneteer.

I have hit off the following in imitation of old English poetry, which, I imagine, I am a dab at. The measure is unmeasureable; but it most resembles that beautiful ballad of the “Old and Young Courtier;” and in its feature of taking the extremes of two situations for just parallel, it resembles the old poetry certainly. If I could but stretch out the circumstances to twelve more verses, i.e., if I had as much genius as the writer of that old song, I think it would be excellent. It was to follow an imitation of Burton in prose, which you have not seen. But fate “and wisest Stewart” say No.

I can send you 200 pens and six quires of paper immediately, if they will answer the carriage by coach. It would be foolish to pack ’em up cum multia libris et cæteris,—they would all spoil. I only wait your commands to coach them. I would pay five-and-forty thousand carriages to read W.’s tragedy, of which I have heard so much and seen so little—only what I saw at Stowey. Pray give me an order in writing on Longman for “Lyrical Ballads.” I have the first volume, and, truth to tell, six shillings is a broad shot. I cram all I can in, to save a multiplying of letters—those pretty comets with swingeing tails.

I’ll just crowd in God bless you!

C. Lamb.
Wednesday night.

[The epic about Cain and Abel was “The Wanderings of Cain,” which Coleridge projected but never finished. The drama in which Got-fader performs would be perhaps “Faust”—“Der Herr” in the Prologue—or some old miracle play.

“’Tis Burton’s recipe.” Lamb was just now steeped in the Anatomy; but there is no need to see if Burton says this.

“Eliza Buckingham.” Sara Coleridge’s message was probably intended for Eliza, a servant at the Buckingham Street lodgings.

Lambe was The Anti-Jacobin’s idea of Lamb’s name; and indeed many persons adhered to it to the end. Mrs. Coleridge, when writing to her husband under care of Lamb at the India House, added “e” to Lamb’s name to signify that the letter was for Coleridge. Wordsworth later also had some of his letters addressed in the same way.

Coleridge’s “Lewti” was reprinted, with alterations, from the Morning Post, in the Annual Anthology, Vol. II. Line 69 ran—
Had I the enviable power;
Coleridge changed this to—
Voice of the Night! had I the power.


This Lime-tree Bower my Prison; a Poem, addressed to Charles Lamb of the India House, London,” was also in the Annual Anthology. Lamb objected to the phrase “My gentle-hearted Charles” (see page 98; see also Lamb’s letter of August 14, page 177). Lamb says “five years ago”; he means three. Coleridge did not alter the phrase. It was against this poem that he wrote in pencil on his deathbed in 1834: “Ch. and Mary Lamb—dear to my heart, yea, as it were, my heart.— S. T. C. Aet. 63, 1834. 1797-1884 = 37 years!”

“I have hit off the following”—“A Ballad Denoting the Difference between the Rich and the Poor,” first printed among the Imitations of Burton in the John Woodvil volume, 1802:—

To the tune of the “Old and Young Courtier”
In a costly palace Youth goes clad in gold;
In a wretched workhouse Age’s limbs are cold:
There they sit, the old men, by a shivering fire,
Still close and closer cowering, warmth is their desire.
In a costly palace, when the brave gallants dine,
They have store of good venison, with old Canary wine,
With singing and music to heighten the cheer;
Coarse bits, with grudging, are the pauper’s best fare.
In a costly palace Youth is still carest
By a train of attendants which laugh at my young Lord’s jest;
In a wretched workhouse the contrary prevails:
Does Age begin to prattle? No man heark’neth to his tales.
In a costly palace, if the child with a pin
Do but chance to prick a finger, straight the Doctor is called in;
In a wretched workhouse, men are left to perish
For want of proper cordials, which their old age might cherish.
In a costly palace Youth enjoys his lust;
In a wretched workhouse Age, in corners thrust,
Thinks upon the former days, when he was well to do.
Had children to stand by him, both friends and kinsmen too.
In a costly palace Youth his temples hides
With a new devised peruke that reaches to his sides;
In a wretched workhouse Age’s crown is bare,
With a few thin locks, just to fence out the cold air.
In peace, as in war, ’tis our young gallants’ pride
To walk, each one i’ the streets, with a rapier at his side,
That none to do them injury may have pretence;
Wretched Age, in poverty, must brook offence.

“And wisest Stewart”—Stuart of the Morning Post. Adapted from Milton’sHymn on the Nativity”—
But wisest Fate says no.

“W.’s [Wordsworth’s] tragedy” was “The Borderers.” The second edition of Lyrical Ballads was just ready.]

[p.m. August 9, 1800.]

DEAR Manning,—I suppose you have heard of Sophia Lloyd’s good fortune, and paid the customary compliments to the parents. Heaven keep the new-born infant from star-blasting and moon-blasting, from epilepsy, marasmus, and the devil! May he live to see many days, and they good ones; some friends, and they pretty regular correspondents, with as much wit as wisdom as will eat their bread and cheese together under a poor roof without quarrelling; as much goodness as will earn heaven! Here I must leave off, my benedictory powers failing me. I could curse the sheet full; so much stronger is corruption than grace in the Natural Man.

And now, when shall I catch a glimpse of your honest face-to-face countenance again—your fine dogmatical sceptical face, by punch-light? O! one glimpse of the human face, and shake of the human hand, is better than whole reams of this cold, thin correspondence—yea, of more worth than all the letters that have sweated the fingers of sensibility from Madame Sévigné and Balzac (observe my Larning!) to Sterne and Shenstone.

Coleridge is settled with his wife and the young philosopher at Keswick with the Wordsworths. They have contrived to spawn a new volume of lyrical ballads, which is to see the light in about a month, and causes no little excitement in the literary world. George Dyer too, that good-natured heathen, is more than nine months gone with his twin volumes of ode, pastoral, sonnet, elegy, Spenserian, Horatian, Akensidish, and Masonic verse—Clio prosper the birth! it will be twelve shillings out of somebody’s pocket. I find he means to exclude “personal satire,” so it appears by his truly original advertisement. Well, God put it into the hearts of the English gentry to come in shoals and subscribe to his poems, for He never put a kinder heart into flesh of man than George Dyer’s!

Now farewell: for dinner is at hand.

C. L.

[Southey’s letters contain a glimpse (as Mr. J. A. Rutter has pointed out) of Lamb and Manning by punch-light. Writing in 1824, describing a certain expression of Mrs. Coleridge’s face, Southey says:—

First, then, it was an expression of dolorous alarm, such as Le Brun ought to have painted: but such as Manning never could have equalled, when, while Mrs.
Lloyd was keeping her room in child-bed, he and Charles Lamb sate drinking punch in the room below till three in the morning—Manning acting Le Brun’s passions (punchified at the time), and Charles Lamb (punchified also) roaring aloud and swearing, while the tears ran down his cheeks, that it required more genius than even Shakespeare possessed to personate them so well; Charles Lloyd the while (not punchified) praying and entreating them to go to bed, and not disturb his wife by the uproar they were making.

Southey’s reminiscence, though interesting, is very confusing. Lamb does not seem to have visited Cambridge between the end of 1799 and January 5, 1800. At the latter date the Lloyds were in the north. Possibly Southey refers to an earlier illness of Mrs. Lloyd, which, writing after a long interval, he confused with confinement.

“Balzac.” Not, of course, the novelist; but Jean Louis Guez de Balzac (1594-1654) the letter-writer.

Two or three lines have been omitted from this letter.]

[p.m. August 11, 1800.]

MY dear fellow (N.B. mighty familiar of late!) for me to come to Cambridge now is one of God Almighty’s impossibilities. Metaphysicians tell us, even He can work nothing which implies a contradiction. I can explain this by telling you that I am engaged to do double duty (this hot weather!) for a man who has taken advantage of this very weather to go and cool himself in “green retreats all the month of August.

But for you to come to London instead!—muse upon it, revolve it, cast it about in your mind. I have a bed at your command. You shall drink rum, brandy, gin, aqua-vitæ, usquebaugh, or whiskey a’ nights; and for the after-dinner trick I have eight bottles of genuine port, which, if mathematically divided, gives 1/7 for every day you stay, provided you stay a week. Hear John Milton sing,
“Let Euclid rest and Archimedes pause.”
Twenty-first Sonnet.
And elsewhere,—
“What neat repast shall feast us, light1 and choice,
Of Attic taste, with wine,2 whence we may rise
To hear the lute well touch’d, or artful voice
Warble immortal notes and Tuscan air?”
Indeed, the poets are full of this pleasing morality—
“Veni cito, Domine Manning!”
Think upon it. Excuse the paper: it is all I have.

N.B.—I lives at No. 27 Southampton Buildings, Holborn.

C. Lamb.

1 We poets generally give light dinners.

2 No doubt the poet here alludes to port wine at 38s. the dozen.


[“Green retreats.” Pope twice uses the phrase “green retreats”: in “Windsor Forest,” line 1, and in his second Pastoral, “Summer,” line 72:—
The mossy fountains, and the green retreats.

“Let Euclid rest . . .” From Milton’s sonnet to Cyriack Skinner. The second passage is from his sonnet to Mr. Lawrence.]

Aug. 14, 1800.

READ on and you’ll come to the Pens. My head is playing all the tunes in the world, ringing such peals. It has just finished the “Merry Christ Church Bells,” and absolutely is beginning “Turn again, Whittington.” Buz, buz, buz: bum, bum, bum: wheeze, wheeze, wheeze: feu, feu, feu: tinky, tinky, tinky: craunch. I shall certainly come to be damned at last. I have been getting drunk for two days running. I find my moral sense in the last stage of a consumption, and my religion burning as blue and faint as the tops of burning bricks. Hell gapes and the Devil’s great guts cry cupboard for me. In the midst of this infernal torture, Conscience (and be damn’d to her), is barking and yelping as loud as any of them. I have sat down to read over again, and I think I do begin to spy out something with beauty and design in it. I perfectly accede to all your alterations, and only desire that you had cut deeper, when your hand was in.

In the next edition of the “Anthology” (which Phœbus avert and those nine other wandering maids also!) please to blot out gentle-hearted, and substitute drunken: dog, ragged-head, seld-shaven, odd-eyed, stuttering, or any other epithet which truly and properly belongs to the gentleman in question. And for Charles read Tom, or Bob, or Richard for more delicacy. Damn you, I was beginning to forgive you and believe in earnest that the lugging in of my proper name was purely unintentional on your part, when looking back for further conviction, stares me in the face Charles Lamb of the India House. Now I am convinced it was all done in malice, heaped sack-upon-sack, congregated, studied malice. You Dog! your 141st page shall not save you. I own I was just ready
to acknowledge that there is a something not unlike good poetry in that page, if you had not run into the unintelligible abstraction-fit about the manner of the Deity’s making spirits perceive his presence. God, nor created thing alive, can receive any honour from such thin show-box attributes. By-the-by, where did you pick up that scandalous piece of
private history about the angel and the Duchess of Devonshire? If it is a fiction of your own, why truly it is a very modest one for you. (Now I do affirm that “Lewti” is a very beautiful poem. I was in earnest when I praised it. It describes a silly species of one not the wisest of passions. Therefore it cannot deeply affect a disenthralled mind. But such imagery, such novelty, such delicacy, and such versification never got into an “Anthology” before,) I am only sorry that the cause of all the passionate complaint is not greater than the trifling circumstance of Lewti being out of temper one day. In sober truth, I cannot see any great merit in the little Dialogue called “Blenheim.” It is rather novel and pretty; but the thought is very obvious and children’s poor prattle, a thing of easy imitation. Pauper vult videri et est. “Gualberto” certainly has considerable originality, but sadly wants finishing. It is, as it is, one of the very best in the book. Next to “Lewti” I like the “Raven,” which has a good deal of humour. I was pleased to see it again, for you once sent it me, and I have lost the letter which contained it. Now I am on the subject of Anthologies, I must say I am sorry the old Pastoral way has fallen into disrepute. The Gentry which now indite Sonnets are certainly the legitimate descendants of the ancient shepherds. The same simpering face of description, the old family face, is visibly continued in the line. Some of their ancestors’ labours are yet to be found in Allan Ramsay’s and Jacob Tonson’s Miscellanies. But, miscellanies decaying and the old Pastoral way dying of mere want, their successors (driven from their paternal acres) now-a-days settle and hive upon Magazines and Anthologies. This Race of men are uncommonly addicted to superstition. Some of them are Idolators and worship the Moon. Others deify qualities, as love, friendship, sensibility, or bare accidents, as Solitude. Grief and Melancholy have their respective altars and temples among them, as the heathens builded theirs to Mors, Febris, Palloris. They all agree in ascribing a peculiar sanctity to the number fourteen. One of their own legislators affirmeth, that whatever exceeds that number “encroacheth upon the province of the Elegy”—vice versa, whatever “cometh short of that number abutteth upon the premises of the Epigram.” I have been able to discover but few Images in their temples, which, like the Caves of Delphos of old, are famous for giving Echoes. They impute a religious importance to the
letter O, whether because by its roundness it is thought to typify the moon, their principal goddess, or for its analogies to their own labours, all ending where they began; or whatever other high and mystical reference, I have never been able to discover, but I observe they never begin their invocations to their gods without it, except indeed one insignificant sect among them, who use the Doric A, pronounced like Ah! broad, instead. These boast to have restored the old Dorian mood.

Now I am on the subject of poetry, I must announce to you, who, doubtless, in your remote part of the Island, have not heard tidings of so great a blessing, that George Dyer hath prepared two ponderous volumes full of Poetry and Criticism. They impend over the town, and are threatened to fall in the winter. The first volume contains every sort of poetry except personal satire, which George, in his truly original prospectus, renounceth for ever, whimsically foisting the intention in between the price of his book and the proposed number of subscribers. (If I can, I will get you a copy of his handbill.) He has tried his vein in every species besides—the Spenserian, Thomsonian, Masonic and Akensidish more especially. The second volume is all criticism; wherein he demonstrates to the entire satisfaction of the literary world, in a way that must silence all reply for ever, that the pastoral was introduced by Theocritus and polished by Virgil and Pope—that Gray and Mason (who always hunt in couples in George’s brain) have a good deal of poetical fire and true lyric genius—that Cowley was ruined by excess of wit (a warning to all moderns)—that Charles Lloyd, Charles Lamb, and William Wordsworth, in later days, have struck the true chords of poesy. O, George, George, with a head uniformly wrong and a heart uniformly right, that I had power and might equal to my wishes!—then I would call the Gentry of thy native Island, and they should come in troops, flocking at the sound of thy Prospectus Trumpet, and crowding who shall be first to stand in thy List of Subscribers. I can only put twelve shillings into thy pocket (which, I will answer for them, will not stick there long), out of a pocket almost as bare as thine. [Lamb here erases six lines.] Is it not a pity so much fine writing should be erased? But, to tell the truth, I began to scent that I was getting into that sort of style which Longinus and Dionysius Halicarnassus aptly call “the affected.” But I am suffering from the combined effect of two days’ drunkenness, and at such times it is not very easy to think or express in a natural series. The Only useful Object of this Letter is to apprize you that on Saturday I shall transmit the Pens by the same coach I sent the Parcel. So enquire them out. You had better write to Godwin here, directing your letter to be forwarded to him. I
don’t know his address. You know your letter must at any rate come to London first.

C. L.

[“Your satire upon me”—“This Lime-tree Bower my Prison” (see pages 98 and 172).

“Those nine other wandering maids”—the Muses. A recollection of The Anti-Jacobin’s verses on Lamb and his friends (see page 136).

“Your 141st page.” “This Lime-tree Bower” again. By “unintelligible abstraction-fit” Lamb refers to the passage:—
Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet He makes
Spirits perceive His presence.

“That scandalous piece of private history.” A reference to Coleridge’sOde to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire,” reprinted in the Annual Anthology from the Morning Post.

“Blenheim”—Southey’s ballad, “It was a summer’s evening.”

Pauper vult videri et est.” He wants to seem bald, and he is.

“Gualberto.” The poem “St. Gualberto” by Southey, in the Annual Anthology.

The Raven” was referred to in Lamb’s letter on page 90.

George Dyer’s Poems, in two volumes, were published in 1800. See note to Letter 80 on page 208. See also Appendix I., page 951.]

[p.m. August 21, 1800.]

DEAR Manning,—I am going to ask a favour of you, and am at a loss how to do it in the most delicate manner. For this purpose I have been looking into Pliny’s Letters, who is
noted to have had the best grace in begging of all the ancients (I read him in the elegant
translation of Mr. Melmoth), but not finding any case there exactly similar with mine, I am constrained to beg in my own barbarian way. To come to the point then, and hasten into the middle of things, have you a copy of your Algebra to give away? I do not ask it for myself; I have too much reverence for the Black Arts ever to approach thy circle, illustrious Trismegist! But that worthy man and excellent Poet, George Dyer, made me a visit yesternight, on purpose to borrow one, supposing, rationally enough I must say, that you had made me a present of one before this; the omission of which I take to have proceeded only from negligence; but it is a fault. I could lend him no assistance. You must know he is just now diverted from the pursuit of Bell Letters by a paradox, which he has heard his friend Frend (that learned mathematician) maintain, that the negative quantities of mathematicians were meræ nugæ, things scarcely in rerum naturâ, and smacking too much of mystery for gentlemen of Mr. Frend’s clear Unitarian capacity. However, the dispute once set a-going has seized violently on George’s pericranick; and it is necessary for his health that he should speedily come to a resolution of his doubts. He goes about teasing his friends with his new mathematics; he even frantically talks of purchasing Manning’s Algebra, which shows him far gone, for, to my knowledge, he has not been master of seven shillings a good time. George’s pockets and . . .’s brains are two things in nature which do not abhor a vacuum. . . . Now, if you could step in, in this trembling suspense of his reason, and he should find on Saturday morning, lying for him at the Porter’s Lodge, Clifford’s Inn,—his safest address—Manning’s Algebra, with a neat manuscriptum in the blank leaf, running thus, From The Author! it might save his wits and restore the unhappy author to those studies of poetry and criticism, which are at present suspended, to the infinite regret of the whole literary world. N.B.—Dirty books [? backs], smeared leaves, and dogs’ ears, will be rather a recommendation than otherwise. N.B.—He must have the book as soon as possible, or nothing can withhold him from madly purchasing the book on tick. . . . Then shall we see him sweetly restored to the chair of Longinus—to dictate in smooth and modest phrase the laws of verse; to prove that Theocritus first introduced the Pastoral, and Virgil and Pope brought it to its perfection; that Gray and Mason (who always hunt in couples in George’s brain) have shown a great deal of poetical fire in their lyric poetry; that Aristotle’s rules are not to be servilely followed, which George has shown to have imposed great shackles upon modern genius. His poems, I find, are to consist of two vols.—reasonable octavo; and a third
book will exclusively contain criticisms, in which he asserts he has gone pretty deeply into the laws of blank verse and rhyme—epic poetry, dramatic and pastoral ditto—all which is to come out before Christmas. But above all he has touched most deeply upon the Drama, comparing the English with the modern German stage, their merits and defects. Apprehending that his studies (not to mention his turn, which I take to be chiefly towards the lyrical poetry) hardly qualified him for these disquisitions, I modestly inquired what plays he had read? I found by George’s reply that he had read
Shakspeare, but that was a good while since: he calls him a great but irregular genius, which I think to be an original and just remark. (Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, Ben Jonson, Shirley, Marlowe, Ford, and the worthies of Dodsley’s Collection—he confessed he had read none of them, but professed his intention of looking through them all, so as to be able to touch upon them in his book.) So Shakspeare, Otway, and I believe Rowe, to whom he was naturally directed by Johnson’s Lives, and these not read lately, are to stand him in stead of a general knowledge of the subject. God bless his dear absurd head!

By the by, did I not write you a letter with something about an invitation in it?—but let that pass; I suppose it is not agreeable.

N.B. It would not be amiss if you were to accompany your present with a dissertation on negative quantities.

C. L.

[Mr. Melmoth. A translation of the Letters of Pliny the Younger was made by William Melmoth in 1746.

Trismegistus—thrice greatest—was the term applied to Hermes, the Egyptian philosopher. Manning had written An Introduction to Arithmetic and Algebra, 1796, 1798.

William Frend (1757-1841), the mathematician and Unitarian, who had been prosecuted in the Vice-Chancellor’s Court at Cambridge for a tract entitled “Peace and Union Recommended to the Associated Bodies of Republicans and Anti-Republicans,” in which he attacked much of the Liturgy of the Church of England. He was found guilty and banished from the University of Cambridge. He had been a friend of Robert Robinson, whose life Dyer wrote, and remained a friend of Dyer to the end of his life. Coleridge had been among the undergraduates who supported Frend at his trial.

Meræ nugæ”—Sheer nonsense.

“. . .’s brain.” In a later letter (see page 633) Lamb uses Judge Park’s wig, when his head is in it, as a simile for emptiness.]

August 26th, 1800.

HOW do you like this little epigram? It is not my writing, nor had I any finger in it. If you concur with me in thinking it very elegant and very original, I shall be tempted to name the author to you. I will just hint that it is almost or quite a first attempt.

High-born Helen, round your dwelling
These twenty years I’ve paced in vain:
Haughty beauty, your lover’s duty
Has been to glory in his pain.
High-born Helen! proudly telling
Stories of your cold disdain;
I starve, I die, now you comply,
And I no longer can complain.
These twenty years I’ve lived on tears,
Dwelling for ever on a frown;
On sighs I’ve fed, your scorn my bread;
I perish now you kind are grown.
Can I, who loved my Beloved
But for the “scorn was in her eye,”
Can I be moved for my Beloved,
When she “returns me sigh for sigh?”
In stately pride, by my bed-side,
High-born Helen’s portrait’s hung;
Deaf to my praise; my mournful lays
Are nightly to the portrait sung.
To that I weep, nor ever sleep,
Complaining all night long to her!
Helen, grown old, no longer cold,
Said, ‘You to all men I prefer.”

Godwin returned from Wicklow the week before last, tho’ he did not reach home till the Sunday after. He might much better have spent that time with you.—But you see your invitation would have been too late. He greatly regrets the occasion he mist of visiting you, but he intends to revisit Ireland in the next summer, and then he will certainly take Keswick in his way. I dined with the Heathen on Sunday.


By-the-by, I have a sort of recollection that somebody, I think you, promised me a sight of Wordsworth’s Tragedy. I should be very glad of it just now; for I have got Manning with me, and should like to read it with him. But this, I confess, is a refinement. Under any circumstances, alone in Cold Bath Prison, or in the desert island, just when Prospero & his crew had set off, with Caliban in a cage, to Milan, it would be a treat to me to read that play. Manning has read it, so has Lloyd, and all Lloyd’s family; out I could not get him to betray his trust by giving me a sight of it. Lloyd is sadly deficient in some of those virtuous vices. I have just lit upon a most beautiful fiction of hell punishments, by the author of “Hurlothrumbo,” a mad farce. The inventor imagines that in hell there is a great caldron of hot water, in which a man can scarce hold his finger, and an immense sieve over it, into which the probationary souls are put.
“And all the little souls
Pop through the riddle holes.”

Mary’s love to Mrs. Coleridge—mine to all.

N.B.—I pays no Postage.—

George Dyer is the only literary character I am happily acquainted with. The oftener I see him, the more deeply I admire him. He is goodness itself. If I could but calculate the precise date of his death, I would write a novel on purpose to make George the hero. I could hit him off to a hair.

George brought a Dr. Anderson to see me. The Doctor is a very pleasant old man, a great genius for agriculture, one that ties his breeches-knees with Packthread, & boasts of having had disappointments from ministers. The Doctor happened to mention an Epic Poem by one Wilkie, called the “Epigoniad,” in which he assured us there is not one tolerable line from beginning to end, but all the characters, incidents, &c., are verbally copied from Homer. George, who had been sitting quite inattentive to the Doctor’s criticism, no sooner heard the sound of Homer strike his pericraniks, than up he gets, and declares he must see that poem immediately: where was it to be had? An epic poem of 800 [? 8,000] lines, and he not hear of it! There must be some things good in it, and it was necessary he should see it, for he had touched pretty deeply upon that subject in his criticisms on the Epic. George has touched pretty deeply upon the Lyric, I find; he has also prepared a dissertation on the Drama and the comparison of the English and German theatres. As I rather doubted his competency to do the latter, knowing that his peculiar turn lies in the lyric species of composition, I questioned George what English plays he had read.
I found that he had read
Shakspere (whom he calls an original, but irregular, genius), but it was a good while ago; and he has dipt into Rowe and Otway, I suppose having found their names in Johnson’s Lives at full length; and upon this slender ground he has undertaken the task. He never seem’d even to have heard of Fletcher, Ford, Marlow, Massinger, and the Worthies of Dodsley’s Collection; but he is to read all these, to prepare him for bringing out his “Parallel” in the winter. I find he is also determined to vindicate Poetry from the shackles which Aristotle & some others have imposed upon it, which is very good-natured of him, and very necessary just now! Now I am touching so deeply upon poetry, can I forget that I have just received from Cottle a magnificent copy of his Guinea Epic. Four-and-twenty Books to read in the dog-days! I got as far as the Mad Monk the first day, & fainted. Mr. Cottle’s genius strongly points him to the Pastoral, but his inclinations divert him perpetually from his calling. He imitates Southey, as Rowe did Shakspeare, with his “Good morrow to ye; good master Lieutt.” Instead of a man, a woman, a daughter, he constantly writes one a man, one a woman, one his daughter. Instead of the king, the hero, he constantly writes, he the king, he the hero—two flowers of rhetoric palpably from the “Joan.” But Mr. Cottle soars a higher pitch: and when he is original, it is in a most original way indeed. His terrific scenes are indefatigable. Serpents, asps, spiders, ghosts, dead bodies, staircases made of nothing, with adders’ tongues for bannisters—My God! what a brain he must have! He puts as many plums in his pudding as my Grandmother used to do; and then his emerging from Hell’s horrors into Light, and treading on pure flats of this earth for twenty-three Books together!

C. L.

[The little epigram was by Mary Lamb. It was printed first in the John Woodvil volume in 1802; and again, in a footnote to Lamb’s essay “Blakesmoor in H——shire,” 1824.

Godwin’s return was from his visit to Curran. Coleridge had asked him to break his journey at Keswick.

Wordsworth’s Tragedy”—“The Borderers.”

Hurlothrumbo,” an opera, was written by Samuel Johnson (1691-1773), a dancing master. It was produced at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in 1729 and afterwards published.

“I would write a novel.” Lamb returns to this idea in Letter 91 on page 232.

One of Dyer’s printed criticisms of Shakespeare, in his Poetics, some years later might be quoted: “Shakespeare had the inward
clothing of a fine mind; the outward covering of solid reading, of critical observation, and the richest eloquence; and compared with these, what are the trappings of the schools?”

“Cottle’s Guinea Epic.” This would be Alfred, an Epic Poem, by Joseph Cottle, the publisher.]

[p.m. August 28, 1800.]

GEORGE DYER is an Archimedes, and an Archimagus, and a Tycho Brahe, and a Copernicus; and thou art the darling of the Nine, and midwife to their wandering babe also! We take tea with that learned poet and critic on Tuesday night, at half-past five, in his neat library; the repast will be light and Attic, with criticism. If thou couldst contrive to wheel up thy dear carcase on the Monday, and after dining with us on tripe, calves’ kidneys, or whatever else the Cornucopia of St. Clare may be willing to pour out on the occasion, might we not adjourn together to the Heathen’s—thou with thy Black Backs and I with some innocent volume of the Bell Letters—Shenstone, or the like? It would make him wash his old flannel gown (that has not been washed to my knowledge since it has been his—Oh the long time!) with tears of joy. Thou shouldst settle his scruples and unravel his cobwebs, and sponge off the sad stuff that weighs upon his dear wounded pia mater; thou shouldst restore light to his eyes, and him to his friends and the public; Parnassus should shower her civic crowns upon thee for saving the wits of a citizen! I thought I saw a lucid interval in George the other night—he broke in upon my studies just at tea-time, and brought with him Dr. Anderson, an old gentleman who ties his breeches’ knees with packthread, and boasts that he has been disappointed by ministers. The Doctor wanted to see me; for, I being a Poet, he thought I might furnish him with a copy of verses to suit his “Agricultural Magazine.” The Doctor, in the course of the conversation, mentioned a poem called “Epigoniad” by one Wilkie, an epic poem, in which there is not one tolerable good line all through, but every incident and speech borrowed from Homer. George had been sitting inattentive seemingly to what was going on—hatching of negative quantities—when, suddenly, the name of his old friend Homer stung his pericranicks, and, jumping up, he begged to know where he could meet with Wilkie’s work. “It
was a curious fact that there should be such an epic poem and he not know of it; and he must get a copy of it, as he was going to touch pretty deeply upon the subject of the Epic—and he was sure there must be some things good in a poem of 1400 lines!” I was pleased with this transient return of his reason and recurrence to his old ways of thinking: it gave me great hopes of a recovery, which nothing but your book can completely insure. Pray come on Monday if you can, and stay your own time. I have a good large room, with two beds in it, in the handsomest of which thou shalt repose a-nights, and dream of Spheroides. I hope you will understand by the nonsense of this letter that I am not melancholy at the thoughts of thy coming: I thought it necessary to add this, because you love precision. Take notice that our stay at Dyer’s will not exceed eight o’clock, after which our pursuits will be our own. But indeed I think a little recreation among the Bell Letters and poetry will do you some service in the interval of severer studies. I hope we shall fully discuss with George Dyer what I have never yet heard done to my satisfaction, the reason of
Dr. Johnson’s malevolent strictures on the higher species of the Ode.


[Archimedes, the philosopher and mathematician of Syracuse; Archimagus, the title given to the High-Priest of the Persian Magi; Tycho Brahe, the Danish astronomer, born 1546, who discovered a new star in Cassiopeia; Copernicus, the German astronomer, born 1473, the founder of modern astronomy.

“Thy Black Back”—Manning’s Algebra.

Dr. Anderson was James Anderson (1739-1808), the editor, at that time, of Recreations in Agriculture, Natural History, Arts, and Miscellaneous History, published in monthly parts. Lamb gave him a copy of verses—three extracts from John Woodvil which were printed in the number for November, 1800, as being “from an unpublished drama by C. Lamb.” They were the “Description of a Forest Life,” “The General Lover” (“What is it you love?”) and “Fragment or Dialogue,” better known as “The Dying Lover” (see page 131). All have slight variations from other versions. The most striking is the epithet “lubbar bands of sleep,” instead of “lazy bands of sleep,” in the “Description of a Forest Life.”

Wilkie was William Wilkie (1721-1772), the “Scottish Homer,” whose Epigoniad in nine books, based on the fourth book of the Iliad, was published in 1757.]

[p.m. Sept. 22, 1800.]

DEAR Manning,—You needed not imagine any apology necessary. Your fine hare and fine birds (which just now are dangling by our kitchen blaze) discourse most eloquent music in your justification. You just nicked my palate. For, with all due decorum and leave may it be spoken, my worship hath taken physic for his body to-day, and being low and puling, requireth to be pampered. Foh! how beautiful and strong those buttered onions come to my nose! For you must know we extract a divine spirit of gravy from those materials which, duly compounded with a consistence of bread and cream (y’clept bread-sauce), each to each giving double grace, do mutually illustrate and set off (as skilful goldfoils to rare jewels) your partridge, pheasant, woodcock, snipe, teal, widgeon, and the other lesser daughters of the ark. My friendship, struggling with my carnal and fleshly prudence (which suggests that a bird a man is the proper allotment in such cases), yearneth sometimes to have thee here to pick a wing or so. I question if your Norfolk sauces match our London culinaric.

George Dyer has introduced me to the table of an agreeable old gentleman, Dr. Anderson, who gives hot legs of mutton and grape pies at his sylvan lodge at Isleworth, where, in the middle of a street, he has shot up a wall most preposterously before his small dwelling, which, with the circumstance of his taking several panes of glass out of bedroom windows (for air), causeth his neighbours to speculate strangely on the state of the good man’s pericranicks. Plainly, he lives under the reputation of being deranged. George does not mind this circumstance; he rather likes him the better for it. The Doctor, in his pursuits, joins agricultural to poetical science, and has set George’s brains mad about the old Scotch writers, Barbour, Douglas’s Æneid, Blind Harry, &c. We returned home in a return postchaise (having dined with the Doctor), and George kept wondering and wondering, for eight or nine turnpike miles, what was the name, and striving to recollect the name, of a poet anterior to Barbour. I begged to know what was remaining of his works. “There is nothing extant of his works, Sir, but by all accounts he seems to have been a fine genius!” This fine genius, without anything to show for it or any title beyond George’s courtesy, without even a name! and Barbour, and Douglas, and Blind Harry, now are the predominant sounds in George’s pia mater, and their buzzings exclude politics, criticism, and algebra—the late lords of that illustrious lumber-room. Mark, he has never read any of these bucks, but is impatient till he reads them all at the Doctor’s
suggestion. Poor Dyer! his friends should be careful what sparks they let fall into such inflammable matter.

Could I have my will of the heathen, I would lock him up from all access of new ideas; I would exclude all critics that would not swear me first (upon their Virgil) that they would feed him with nothing but the old, safe, familiar notions and sounds (the rightful aborigines of his brain)—Gray, Akenside and Mason. In these sounds, reiterated as often as possible, there could be nothing painful, nothing distracting.

God bless me, here are the birds, smoking hot!

All that is gross and unspiritual in me rises at the sight!

Avaunt friendship and all memory of absent friends!

C. Lamb.

[“Divine spirit of gravy.” This passage is the first of Lamb’s outbursts of gustatory ecstasy, afterwards to become frequent in his writings.

John Barbour (1316-1395), author of Bruce; Gavin Douglas, (?1474-1522), author of two allegories, “The Palace of Honour” and “King Hart,” and translator of the Æneid; and Henry the Minstrel, or Blind Harry (fl. 1470-1492), author of a poem on Wallace.

Here should come a letter, dated October 9, 1800, in the finest spirit of comedy describing to Coleridge an evening with George Dyer and the Cottles after the death of their brother Amos; and how Lamb, by praising Joseph Cottle’s poem, drew away that good man’s thoughts from his grief. “Joseph, who till now had sat with his knees cowering in by the fireplace, wheeled about, and with great difficulty of body shifted the same round to the corner of a table where I was sitting, and first stationing one thigh over the other, which is his sedentary mood, and placidly fixing his benevolent face right against mine, waited my observations. At that moment it came strongly into my mind, that I had got Uncle Toby before me, he looked so kind and so good.” The letter, printed in full in other editions, is unfortunately not available for this.]

[p.m. Oct. 16, 1800.]

DEAR Manning,—Had you written one week before you did, I certainly should have obeyed your injunction; you should have seen me before my letter. I will explain to you my situation.
There are six of us in one department. Two of us (within these four days) are confined with severe fevers; and two more, who belong to the Tower Militia, expect to have marching orders on Friday. Now six are absolutely necessary. I have already asked and obtained two young hands to supply the loss of the feverites; and, with the other prospect before me, you may believe I cannot decently ask leave of absence for myself. All I can promise (and I do promise with the sincerity of Saint Peter, and the contrition of sinner Peter if I fail) that I will come the very first spare week, and go nowhere till I have been at Cambridge. No matter if you are in a state of pupilage when I come; for I can employ myself in Cambridge very pleasantly in the mornings. Are there not libraries, halls, colleges, books, pictures, statues? I wish to God you had made London in your way. There is an exhibition quite uncommon in Europe, which could not have escaped your genius,—a live rattlesnake, ten feet in length, and the thickness of a big leg. I went to see it last night by candlelight. We were ushered into a room very little bigger than ours at Pentonville. A man and woman and four boys live in this room, joint tenants with nine snakes, most of them such as no remedy has been discovered for their bite. We walked into the middle, which is formed by a half-moon of wired boxes, all mansions of snakes,—whip-snakes, thunder-snakes, pig-nose-snakes, American vipers, and this monster. He lies curled up in folds; and immediately a stranger enters (for he is used to the family, and sees them play at cards,) he set up a rattle like a watchman’s in London, or near as loud, and reared up a head, from the midst of these folds, like a toad, and shook his head, and showed every sign a snake can show of irritation. I had the foolish curiosity to strike the wires with my finger, and the devil flew at me with his toad-mouth wide open: the inside of his mouth is quite white. I had got my finger away, nor could he well have bit me with his damn’d big mouth, which would have been certain death in five minutes. But it frightened me so much, that I did not recover my voice for a minute’s space. I forgot, in my fear, that he was secured. You would have forgot too, for ’tis incredible how such a monster can be confined in small gauzy-looking wires. I dreamed of snakes in the night. I wish to heaven you could see it. He absolutely swelled with passion to the bigness of a large thigh. I could not retreat without infringing on another box, and just behind, a little devil not an inch from my back, had got his nose out, with some difficulty and pain, quite through the bars! He was soon taught better manners. All the snakes were curious, and objects of terror: but this monster, like Aaron’s serpent, swallowed up the impression of the rest. He opened his damn’d mouth, when he made at me, as wide as his head
was broad. I hallooed out quite loud, and felt pains all over my body with the fright.

I have had the felicity of hearing George Dyer read out one book of “The Farmer’s Boy.” I thought it rather childish. No doubt, there is originality in it, (which, in your self-taught geniuses, is a most rare quality, they generally getting hold of some bad models in a scarcity of books, and forming their taste on them,) but no selection. All is described.

Mind, I have only heard read one book.

Yours sincerely,
C. L.

[The Farmers Boy, by Robert Bloomfield, was published in March, 1800, and was immensely popular. Other criticisms upon it by Lamb will be found on pages 193 and 621.

Lamb’s visit to Cambridge was deferred until January 5, 1801. See page 207.]

[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.


[The paragraph beginning “At last I have written,” has certain corrections taken from the late Mr. Dykes Campbell’s copy of it in The Athenæum, October 31, 1891.

Ecquid meditatur Archimedes?”—“What does Manning ‘intend’?” Possibly a half recollection of Milton’s sonnet on Cyriack Skinner, referred to in Letter 63.

Impedimenta viarum.Lamb here drops into Burtonese.

Racemi nimium alte pendentes.” Clusters hanging too high.

Mr. Crisp was Manning’s landlord, a barber in St. Mary’s Passage, Cambridge. In one letter at least Lamb spells his name Crips—a joke he was fond of. In Congreve’sWay of the World,” one of the servants says “crips” for “crisp”.

“Rickman.” This was John Rickman (1771-1840), already a friend of Southey’s, whom he had met at Burton, near Christchurch, in Hampshire, where Rickman’s father lived. Rickman, a graduate of Lincoln College, Oxford, was at this time secretary to Charles Abbot, afterwards Lord Colchester. He had conducted the Commercial, Agricultural, and Manufacturer’s Magazine, and he was practically the originator of the census in England. We shall meet with him often in the correspondence.

“Wishing time.” A variation upon Hamlet’s “witching time of night” (III., 2, 406).


Kemble was John Philip Kemble, then manager of Drury Lane. The play was “John Woodvil.” For an account of the version which Lamb submitted, see the Notes to Poems and Plays, Vol. V. of the present edition.

George Dyer wrote a History of Cambridge University.

George Daniel, the antiquary and bookseller, tells us that many years later he took Bloomfield to dine with Lamb at Islington.]

[p.m. Nov. 28, 1800.]

DEAR Manning,—I have received a very kind invitation from Lloyd and Sophia to go and spend a month with them at the Lakes. Now it fortunately happens (which is so seldom the case!) that I have spare cash by me, enough to answer the expenses of so long a journey; and I am determined to get away from the office by some means. The purpose of this letter is to request of you (my dear friend) that you will not take it unkind if I decline my proposed visit to Cambridge for the present. Perhaps I shall be able to take Cambridge in my way, going or coming. I need not describe to you the expectations which such an one as myself, pent up all my life in a dirty city, have formed of a tour to the Lakes. Consider Grasmere! Ambleside! Wordsworth! Coleridge! I hope you will.* Hills, woods, lakes, and mountains, to the eternal devil. I will eat snipes with thee, Thomas Manning. Only confess, confess, a bite.

P.S. I think you named the 16th; but was it not modest of Lloyd to send such an invitation! It shows his knowledge of money and time. I would be loth to think he meant
“Ironic satire sidelong sklented
On my poor pursie.”—Burns.
For my part, with reference to my friends northward, I must confess that I am not romance-bit about Nature. The earth, and sea, and sky (when all is said) is but as a house to dwell in. If the inmates be courteous, and good liquors flow like the conduits at an old coronation; if they can talk sensibly and feel properly; I have no need to stand staring upon the gilded looking-glass (that strained my friend’s purse-strings in the purchase), nor his five-shilling print over the mantelpiece of old Nabbs the carrier (which only betrays his false taste). Just as important to me (in a sense) is all the furniture of my world—eye-pampering, but satisfies no heart. Streets, streets, streets, markets, theatres, churches, Covent Gardens, shops
sparkling with pretty faces of industrious milliners, neat sempstresses, ladies cheapening, gentlemen behind counters lying, authors in the street with spectacles,
George Dyers (you may know them by their gait), lamps lit at night, pastry-cooks’ and silver-smiths’ shops, beautiful Quakers of Pentonville, noise of coaches, drowsy cry of mechanic watchman at night, with bucks reeling home drunk; if you happen to wake at midnight, cries of Fire and Stop thief; inns of court, with their learned air, and halls, and butteries, just like Cambridge colleges; old book-stalls, Jeremy Taylors, Burtons on Melancholy, and Religio Medicis on every stall. These are thy pleasures, O London with-the-many-sins. O City abounding in whores, for these may Keswick and her giant brood go hang!

C. L.

[Charles Lloyd had just settled at Old Brathay, about three miles from Ambleside.

Manning’s reply to this letter indicates that Lamb’s story of the invitation to stay with Lloyd was a hoax. The first page ended where I have put the asterisk—as in Letter 59, to Gutch. Manning writes: “N.B. Your Lake story completely took me in till I got to the 2d page. I was pleased to think you were so rich, but I confess rather wondered how you should be able conveniently to take so long a journey this inside-fare time of the year.”

Manning also says: “I condole with you, Mr. Lamb, on the tragic fate of your tragedie—I wonder what fool it was that read it! By the bye, you would do me a very very great favour by letting me have a copy. If Beggars might be chusers, I should ask to have it transcribed partly by you and partly by your sister. I have a desire to possess some of Mary’s handwriting” (see Letter 79 from Lamb to Manning, on page 205).

Burns.” The lines are in the poem “To W. Simpson, Ochiltree,” verse 2:—
Ironic satire, sidetins sklented
On my poor Musie.

“Beautiful Quakers of Pentonville.” This is almost certainly a reference to Hester Savory, the original of Lamb’s poem “Hester” (see page 261). The whole passage is the first of three eulogies of London in the letters (see pages 210 and 212), all very similar. See also page 235 for “The Londoner,” which Lamb wrote for the Morning Post and which was printed there on February 1, 1802.

“You may know them by their gait” (see “Julius Cæsar,” I., 3, 132.]

[Dec. 4, 1800.]

DEAR Sir,—I send this speedily after the heels of Cooper (O! the dainty expression) to say that Mary is obliged to stay at home on Sunday to receive a female friend, from whom I am equally glad to escape. So that we shall be by ourselves. I write, because it may make some difference in your marketting, &c.

C. L.
Thursday Morning.

I am sorry to put you to the expense of twopence postage. But I calculate thus: if Mary comes she will

eat Beef 2 plates, 4d.    
Batter Pudding 1 do. 2d.    
Beer, a pint, 2d.    
Wine, 3 glasses, 11d.   I drink no wine!
Chesnuts, after dinner, 2d.    
Tea and supper at moderate calculation, 9d.    
  2s. 6d.    
From which deduct 2d.   postage
  2s. 4d.    

You are a clear gainer by her not coming.


[If the date be correct this becomes the first extant letter proper which Lamb sent to the author of Political Justice. Godwin was then forty-four years old, and had long been busy upon his tragedy “Antonio,” in which Lamb had been assisting with suggestions. In this connection I place here the following document, which belongs, however, naturally to an earlier date, but is not harmed by its present position:—

[No date. Autumn, 1800.]

Queries. Whether the best conclusion would not be a solemn judicial pleading, appointed by the king, before himself in
person of Antonio as proxy for Roderigo, and Guzman for himself—the forms and ordering of it to be highly solemn and grand. For this purpose, (allowing it,) the king must be reserved, and not have committed his royal dignity by descending to previous conference with Antonio, but must refer from the beginning to this settlement. He must sit in dignity as a high royal arbiter. Whether this would admit of spiritual interpositions, cardinals, &c.—appeals to the Pope, and haughty rejection of his interposition by Antonio—(this merely by the way).

The pleadings must be conducted by short speeches—replies, taunts, and bitter recriminations by Antonio, in his rough style. In the midst of the undecided cause, may not a messenger break up the proceedings by an account of Roderigo’s death (no improbable or far-fetch’d event), and the whole conclude with an affecting and awful invocation of Antonio upon Roderigo’s spirit, now no longer dependent upon earthly tribunals or a froward woman’s will, &c., &c.

Almanza’s daughter is now free, &c.

This might be made very affecting. Better nothing follow after; if anything, she must step forward and resolve to take the veil. In this case, the whole story of the former nunnery must be omitted. But, I think, better leave the final conclusion to the imagination of the spectator. Probably the violence of confining her in a convent is not necessary; Antonio’s own castle would be sufficient.

To relieve the former part of the Play, could not some sensible images, some work for the Eye, be introduced? A gallery of Pictures, Almanza’s ancestors, to which Antonio might affectingly point his sister, one by one, with anecdote, &c.

At all events, with the present want of action, the Play must not extend above four Acts, unless it is quite new modell’d. The proposed alterations might all be effected in a few weeks.

Solemn judicial pleadings always go off well, as in Henry the 8th, Merchant of Venice, and perhaps Othello.


Lamb, said Mr. Paul, writing of this critical Minute, was so genuinely kind and even affectionate in his criticism that Godwin id not perceive his real disapproval.

Mr. Swinburne, writing in The Athenæum for May 13, 1876, made an interesting comment upon one of Lamb’s suggestions in the foregoing document. It contains, he remarks, “a singular anticipation of one of the most famous passages in the work of the greatest master of our own age, the scene of the portraits in
Hernani:’ ‘To relieve the former part of the play, could not some sensible images, some work for the eye, be introduced? A gallery of pictures, Alexander’s ancestors, to which Antonio might affectingly point his sister, one by one, with anecdote, &c.’ I know of no coincidence more pleasantly and strangely notable than this between the gentle genius of the loveliest among English essayists and the tragic invention of the loftiest among French poets.”

After long negotiation “Antonio” was now actually in rehearsal at Drury Lane, to be produced on December 13. Lamb supplied the epilogue.

Cooper was Godwin’s servant.]

Dec. 10th, 1800. Wednesday Morning.

DEAR Sir,—I expected a good deal of pleasure from your company to-morrow, but I am sorry I must beg of you to excuse me. I have been confined ever since I saw you with one of the severest colds I ever experienced, occasioned by being in the night air on Sunday, and on the following day, very foolishly. I am neither in health nor spirits to meet company. I hope and trust I shall get out on Saturday night. You will add to your many favours, by transmitting to me as early as possible as many tickets as conveniently you can spare,—Yours truly,

C. L.

I have been plotting how to abridge the Epilogue. But I cannot see that any lines can be spared, retaining the connection, except these two, which are better out.
“Why should I instance, &c.,
The sick man’s purpose, &c.,”
and then the following line must run thus,
“The truth by an example best is shown.”

Excuse this important postscript.

[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


[“As one Tobin’s.” The rehearsals of “Antonio” were attended by Godwin’s friend, John Tobin, subsequently author of “The Honeymoon,” in the hope, on account of Godwin’s reputation for heterodoxy, of deceiving people as to the real authorship of the play. It was, however, avowed by Godwin on the title-page.

Jack Bannister, the comedian, was a favourite actor of Lamb’s. See the Elia essay “On some of the Old Actors.”

Miss Heard was a daughter of William Heard, the author of “The Snuff-Box,” a feeble comedy. Miss Tidswell, by the irony of fate, had a part in Lamb’s own play, “Mr. H.,” six years later.

“I have not read the play.” Meaning probably, “I have not read it in its final form.” Lamb must have read it in earlier versions. I quote Mr. Kegan Paul’s summary of the plot of “Antonio”:—

Helena was betrothed, with her father’s consent, to her brother Antonio’s friend, Roderigo. While Antonio and Roderigo were at the wars, Helena fell in love with, and married, Don Gusman. She was the king’s ward, who set aside the precontract. Antonio, returning, leaves his friend behind; he has had great sorrows, but all will be well when he comes to claim his bride. When Antonio finds his sister is married, the rage he exhibits is ferocious. He carries his sister off from her husband’s house, and demands that the king shall annul the marriage with Gusman. There is then talk of Helena’s entrance into a convent. At last the king, losing patience, gives judgment, as he had done before, that the pre-contract with Roderigo was invalid, and the marriage to Gusman valid. Whereupon Antonio bursts through the guards, and kills his sister.]

Dec. 14, 1800. Late o’ Sunday.

DEAR Sir,—I have performed my office in a slovenly way, but judge for me. I sat down at 6 o’clock, and never left reading (and I read out to Mary) your play till 10. In this sitting I noted down lines as they occurred, exactly as you will read my rough paper. Do not be frightened at the bulk of my remarks, for they are almost all upon single lines, which, put together, do not amount to a hundred, and many of them merely verbal. I had but one object in view, abridgement for compression sake. I have used a dogmatical language (which is truly ludicrous when the trivial nature of my remarks is considered), and, remember, my office was to hunt out faults. You may fairly abridge one half of them, as a fair deduction for the infirmities of Error, and a single reading, which
leaves only fifty objections, most of them merely against words, on no short play. Remember, you constituted me Executioner, and a hangman has been seldom seen to be ashamed of his profession before Master Sheriff. We’ll talk of the Beauties (of which I am more than ever sure) when we meet,—Yours truly,

C. L.

I will barely add, as you are on the very point of printing, that in my opinion neither prologue nor epilogue should accompany the play. It can only serve to remind your readers of its fate. Both suppose an audience, and, that jest being gone, must convert into burlesque. Nor would I (but therein custom and decorum must be a law) print the actors’ names. Some things must be kept out of sight.

I have done, and I have but a few square inches of paper to fill up. I am emboldened by a little jorum of punch (vastly good) to say that next to one man, I am the most hurt at our ill success. The breast of Hecuba, where she did suckle Hector, looked not to be more lovely than Marshal’s forehead when it spit forth sweat, at Critic-swords contending. I remember two honest lines by Marvel, (whose poems by the way I am just going to possess)
“Where every Mower’s wholesome heat
Smells like an Alexander’s sweat.”


[“Antonio” was performed on December 13, with John Philip Kemble in the title-role, and was a complete failure. Lamb wrote an account of the unlucky evening many years later in the “Old Actors” series in the London Magazine (see Elia, Vol. II. of the present edition, page 292). He speaks there, as here, of Marshal’s forehead—Marshal being John Marshall, a friend of the Godwins. The lines from Andrew Marvell are from the poem “Upon Appleton House.” For the reference to Hecuba see “Coriolanus,” I., 3, 43-46.

After the play Godwin supped with Lamb, when it was decided to publish “Antonio” at once. Lamb retained the MS. for criticism. The present letter in the original contains his comments, the only one of which that Mr. Kegan Paul thought worth reproducing being the following:—

“‘Enviable’ is a very bad word. I allude to ‘Enviable right to bless us.’ For instance, Burns, comparing the ills of manhood with the state of infancy, says, ‘Oh! enviable early days;’ here ’tis good, because the passion lay in comparison. Excuse my insulting your judgment with an illustration. I believe I only wanted to beg in the name of a favourite Bardie, or at most to confirm my own judgment.”


Lamb, it will be remembered (see page 172), had refused to let Coleridge use “enviable” in “Lewti.” Burns’s poem to which Lamb alludes is “Despondency, an Ode,” Stanza 5, “Oh! enviable, early days.”

Godwin’s play was published in 1801 without Lamb’s epilogue.]

Dec. 16th, 1800.

WE are damn’d!

Not the facetious epilogue could save us. For, as the editor of the “Morning Post,” quick-sighted gentleman! hath this morning truly observed, (I beg pardon if I falsify his words, their profound sense I am sure I retain,) both prologue and epilogue were worthy of accompanying such a piece; and indeed (mark the profundity, Mister Manning) were received with proper indignation by such of the audience only as thought either worth attending to. Professor, thy glories wax dim! Again, the incomparable author of the “True Briton” declareth in his paper (bearing same date) that the epilogue was an indifferent attempt at humour and character, and failed in both. I forbear to mention the other papers, because I have not read them. O Professor, how different thy feelings now (quantum mutatus ab illo professore, qui in agris philosophiæ tantas victorias aquisivisti),—how different thy proud feelings but one little week ago,—thy anticipation of thy nine nights,—those visionary claps, which have soothed thy soul by day and thy dreams by night! Calling in accidentally on the Professor while he was out, I was ushered into the study; and my nose quickly (most sagacious always) pointed me to four tokens lying loose upon thy table, Professor, which indicated thy violent and satanical pride of heart. Imprimis, there caught mine eye a list of six persons, thy friends, whom thou didst meditate inviting to a sumptuous dinner on the Thursday, anticipating the profits of thy Saturday’s play to answer charges; I was in the honoured file! Next, a stronger evidence of thy violent and almost satanical pride, lay a list of all the morning papers (from the “Morning Chronicle” downwards to the “Porcupine,”) with the places of their respective offices, where thou wast meditating to insert, and didst insert, an elaborate sketch of the story of thy play—stones in thy enemy’s hand to bruise thee with; and severely wast thou bruised, O Professor! nor do I know what oil to pour into thy wounds. Next, which convinced me to a dead conviction of thy pride, violent and almost satanical pride—lay a list of books, which
thy un-tragedy-favoured pocket could never answer;
Dodsley’s Old Plays, Malone’s Shakspeare (still harping upon thy play, thy philosophy abandoned meanwhile to Christians and superstitious minds); nay, I believe (if I can believe my memory), that the ambitious Encyclopædia itself was part of thy meditated acquisitions; but many a playbook was there. All these visions are damned; and thou, Professor, must read Shakspere in future out of a common edition; and, hark ye, pray read him to a little better purpose! Last and strongest against thee (in colours manifest as the hand upon Belshazzar’s wall), lay a volume of poems by C. Lloyd and C. Lamb. Thy heart misgave thee, that thy assistant might possibly not have talent enough to furnish thee an epilogue! Manning, all these things came over my mind; all the gratulations that would have thickened upon him, and even some have glanced aside upon his humble friend; the vanity, and the fame, and the profits (the Professor is £500 ideal money out of pocket by this failure, besides £2OO he would have got for the copyright, and the Professor is never much beforehand with the world; what he gets is all by the sweat of his brow and dint of brain, for the Professor, though a sure man, is also a slow); and now to muse upon thy altered physiognomy, thy pale and squalid appearance (a kind of blue sickness about the eyelids), and thy crest fallen, and thy proud demand of £200 from thy bookseller changed to an uncertainty of his taking it at all, or giving thee full £50. The Professor has won my heart by this his mournful catastrophe. You remember Marshall, who dined with him at my house; I met him in the lobby immediately after the damnation of the Professor’s play, and he looked to me like an angel: his face was lengthened, and all over sweat; I never saw such a care-fraught visage; I could have hugged him, I loved him so intensely. “From every pore of him a perfume fell.” I have seen that man in many situations, and from my soul I think that a more god-like honest soul exists not in this world. The Professor’s poor nerves trembling with the recent shock, he hurried him away to my house to supper; and there we comforted him as well as we could. He came to consult me about a change of catastrophe; but alas! the piece was condemned long before that crisis. I at first humoured him with a specious proposition, but have since joined his true friends in advising him to give it up. He did it with a pang, and is to print it as his.


[The Professor was Lamb’s name for Godwin.

Quantum mutatus ab illo . . .”—“How changed from that Professor who in the fields of philosophy had achieved so many victories.” An adaptation of Virgil, Æneid, II., 274, etc.


The Porcupine was Cobbett’s paper.

“From every pore of him a perfume fell.” From Lee’sRival Queens,” I., 3, 44.]

[Middle December.]

I SEND you all of Coleridge’s letters to me, which I have preserved: some of them are upon the subject of my play. I also send you Kemble’s two letters, and the prompter’s courteous epistle, with a curious critique on “Pride’s Cure,” by a young physician from Edinbro’, who modestly suggests quite another kind of a plot. These are monuments of my disappointment which I like to preserve.

In Coleridge’s letters you will find a good deal of amusement, to see genuine talent struggling against a pompous display of it. I also send you the Professor’s letter to me (careful Professor! to conceal his name even from his correspondent), ere yet the Professor’s pride was cured. Oh monstrous and almost satanical pride!

You will carefully keep all (except the Scotch Doctor’s, which burn) in statu quo, till I come to claim mine own.

C. Lamb.

For Mister Manning, Teacher of Mathematics and the Black Arts. There is another letter in the inside cover of the book opposite the blank leaf that was.

Mind this goes for a letter. (Acknowledge it directly, if only in ten words.)

Dear Manning—(I shall want to hear this comes safe.) I have scratched out a good deal, as you will see. Generally, what I have rejected was either false in feeling, or a violation of character—mostly of the first sort. I will here just instance in the concluding few lines of the “Dying Lover’s Story,” which completely contradicted his character of silent and unreproachful. I hesitated a good deal what copy to send you, and at last resolved to send the worst, because you are familiar with it, and can make it out; and a stranger would find so much difficulty in doing it, that it would give him more pain than pleasure.

This is compounded precisely of the two persons’ hands you requested it should be.—Yours sincerely,

C. Lamb.

[These were the letters accompanying the copy of “Pride’s Cure” (or “John Woodvil”) which Charles and Mary Lamb together made for Manning, as requested in the note on page 195.

All the letters mentioned by Lamb have vanished; unless by an unlikely chance the bundle contained Coleridge’s letters on Mrs. Lamb’s death and on the quarrel with Lamb and Lloyd (see pages 42 and 120). Lamb, in later life, seldom kept letters; fortunately he preserved several of Manning’s.

The last lines of “The Dying Lover” will be found quoted on page 131.

Manning’s reply, dated December, 1800, gives a little information concerning the Edinburgh physician’s letter—“that gentleman whose fertile brain can, at a moment’s warning, furnish you with 10 Thousand models of a plot—‘The greatest variety of Rapes, Murders, Deathsheads, &c., &c., sold here.’” Manning thinks that the Scotch doctor understands Lamb’s tragedy better than Coleridge does. He adds: “P.S.—My verdict upon the Poet’s epitaph is ‘genuine.’” This probably applies to a question asked by Lamb concerning Wordsworth’s poem of that name.]

December 27th, 1800.

AT length George Dyer’s phrenesis has come to a crisis; he is raging and furiously mad. I waited upon the heathen, Thursday was a se’nnight; the first symptom which struck my eye and gave me incontrovertible proof of the fatal truth was a pair of nankeen pantaloons four times too big for him, which the said Heathen did pertinaciously affirm to be new.

They were absolutely ingrained with the accumulated dirt of ages; but he affirmed them to be clean. He was going to visit a lady that was nice about those things, and that’s the reason he wore nankeen that day. And then he danced, and capered, and fidgeted, and pulled up his pantaloons, and hugged his intolerable flannel vestment closer about his poetic loins; anon he gave it loose to the zephyrs which plentifully insinuate their tiny bodies through every crevice, door, window or wainscot, expressly formed for the exclusion of such impertinents. Then he caught at a proof sheet, and catched up a laundress’s bill instead—made a dart at Blom-
Poems, and threw them in agony aside. I could not bring him to one direct reply; he could not maintain his jumping mind in a right line for the tithe of a moment by Clifford’s Inn clock. He must go to the printer’s immediately—the most unlucky accident—he had struck off five hundred impressions of his Poems, which were ready for delivery to subscribers, and the Preface must all be expunged. There were eighty pages of Preface, and not till that morning had he discovered that in the very first page of said Preface he had set out with a principle of Criticism fundamentally wrong, which vitiated all his following reasoning. The Preface must be expunged, although it cost him £30—the lowest calculation, taking in paper and printing! In vain have his real friends remonstrated against this Midsummer madness. George is as obstinate as a Primitive Christian—and wards and parries off all our thrusts with one unanswerable fence;—“Sir, it’s of great consequence that the world is not misled!

As for the other Professor, he has actually begun to dive into Tavernier and Chardin’s Persian Travels for a story, to form a new drama for the sweet tooth of this fastidious age. Hath not Bethlehem College a fair action for non-residence against such professors? Are poets so few in this age, that He must write poetry? Is morals a subject so exhausted, that he must quit that line? Is the metaphysic well (without a bottom) drained dry?

If I can guess at the wicked pride of the Professor’s heart, I would take a shrewd wager that he disdains ever again to dip his pen in Prose. Adieu, ye splendid theories! Farewell, dreams of political justice! Lawsuits, where I was counsel for Archbishop Fenelon versus my own mother, in the famous fire cause!

Vanish from my mind, professors, one and all! I have metal more attractive on foot.

Man of many snipes,—I will sup with thee, Deo volente et diabolo nolente, on Monday night the 5th of January, in the new year, and crush a cup to the infant century.

A word or two of my progress. Embark at six o’clock in the morning, with a fresh gale, on a Cambridge one-decker; very cold till eight at night; land at St. Mary’s light-house, muffins and coffee upon table (or any other curious production of Turkey or both Indies), snipes exactly at nine, punch to commence at ten, with argument; difference of opinion is expected to take place about eleven; perfect unanimity, with some haziness and dimness, before twelve.—N.B. My single affection is not so singly wedded to snipes; but the curious and epicurean eye would also take a pleasure in beholding a delicate and well-chosen assortment of teals, ortolans, the unctuous and palate-soothing flesh of geese wild and tame, nightingales’ brains, the sensorium of a young sucking-pig,
or any other Christmas dish, which I leave to the judgment of you and the cook of Gonville.

C. Lamb.

[Lamb’s copy of George Dyer’s Poems is in the British Museum. It has the original withdrawn 1800 title-page and the cancelled preface bound up with it, and Lamb has written against the reference to the sacrifice, in the new 1801 preface: “One copy of this cancelled preface, snatch’d out of the fire, is prefaced to this volume.” See Letter 91, page 230. It runs to sixty-five pages, whereas the new one is but a few words. Southey tells Grosvener Bedford in one of his letters that Lamb gave Dyer the title of Cancellarius Magnus. Dyer reprinted in the 1802 edition of his Poems the greater part of the cancelled preface and all of the first page—so that it is difficult to say what the fallacy was. The original edition of his Poems was to be in three large volumes. In 1802 it had come down to two small ones.

Godwin’s Persian drama was “Abbas, King of Persia,” but he could not get it acted. The reference to Fenelon is to Godwin’s Political Justice (first edition, Vol. I., page 84) where he argues on the comparative worth of the persons of Fenelon, a chambermaid, and Godwin’s mother, supposing them to have been present at the famous fire at Cambrai and only one of them to be saved. (As a matter of fact Fenelon was not at the fire.)

We must suppose that Lamb carried out his intention of visiting Manning on January 5; but there is no confirmation.]