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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to John Rickman, [November? 1801]

Contents vol. VI
Letters: 1796
Letters: 1797
Letters: 1798
Letters: 1799
Letters: 1800
Letters: 1801
Letters: 1802
Letters: 1803
Letters: 1804
Letters: 1805
Letters: 1806
Letters: 1807
Letters: 1808
Letters: 1809
Letters: 1810
Letters: 1811
Letters: 1812
Letters: 1814
Letters: 1815
Letters: 1816
Letters: 1817
Letters: 1818
Letters: 1819
Letters: 1820
Letters: 1821
Contents vol. VII
Letters: 1821
Letters: 1822
Letters: 1823
Letters: 1824
Letters: 1825
Letters: 1826
Letters: 1827
Letters: 1828
Letters: 1829
Letters: 1830
Letters: 1831
Letters: 1832
Letters: 1833
Letters: 1834
Appendix I
Appendix II
Appendix III
List of Letters
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Produced by CATH
John Rickman, Esqr.,
Dublin Castle.
[No date. ? November, 1801.]

A LETTER from G. Dyer will probably accompany this. I wish I could convey to you any notion of the whimsical scenes I have been witness to in this fortnight past. ’Twas on Tuesday week the poor heathen scrambled up to my door about breakfast time. He came thro’ a violent rain with no neckcloth on, and a beard that made him a spectacle to men and angels, and tap’d at the door. Mary open’d it, and he stood stark still and held a paper in his hand importing that he had been ill with a fever. He either wouldn’t or couldn’t speak except by signs. When you went to comfort him he put his hand upon his heart and shook is head and told us his complaint lay where no medicines could reach it. I was dispatch’d for Dr. Dale, Mr. Phillips of St Paul’s Church yard, and Mr. Frend, who is to be his executor. George solemnly delivered into Mr. Frend’s hands and mine an old burnt preface that had been in the fire, with injunctions which we solemnly vow’d to obey that it should be printed after his death with his last corrections, and that some account should be given to the world why he had not fulfill’d his engagement with subscribers. Having done this and borrowed two guineas of his bookseller (to whom he imparted in confidence that he should leave a great many loose papers behind him which would only want methodizing and arranging to prove very lucrative to any bookseller after his death), he laid himself down on my bed in a mood of complacent resignation. By the aid of meat and drink put into him (for I all along suspected a vacuum) he was enabled to sit up in the evening, but he had not got the better of his intolerable fear of dying; he expressed such philosophic indifference in his speech and such frightened apprehensions in his physiognomy that if he had truly been dying, and I had known it, I could not have kept my countenance. In particular, when the doctor came and ordered him to take little white powders (I suppose of chalk or alum, to humour him), he ey’d him with a suspicion which I could not account for; he has since explain’d that he took it for granted Dr. Dale knew his situation and had ordered him these powders to hasten his departure that he might suffer as little pain as possible. Think what an aspect the heathen put on with these fears upon a dirty face.
To recount all his freaks for two or three days while he thought he was going, and how the fit operated, and sometimes the man got uppermost and sometimes the author, and he had this excellent person to serve, and he must correct some proof sheets for Phillips, and he could not bear to leave his subscribers unsatisfy’d, but he must not think of these things now, he was going to a place where he should satisfy all his debts—and when he got a little better he began to discourse what a happy thing it would be if there was a place where all the good men and women in the world might meet, meaning heav’n, and I really believe for a time he had doubts about his soul, for he was very near, if not quite, light-headed. The fact was he had not had a good meal for some days and his little dirty Neice (whom he sent for with a still dirtier Nephew, and hugg’d him, and bid them farewell) told us that unless he dines out he subsists on tea and gruels. And he corroborated this tale by ever and anon complaining of sensations of gnawing which he felt about his heart, which he mistook his stomach to be, and sure enough these gnawings were dissipated after a meal or two, and he surely thinks that he has been rescued from the jaws of death by Dr. Dale’s white powders. He is got quite well again by nursing, and chirps of odes and lyric poetry the day long—he is to go out of town on Monday, and with him goes the dirty train of his papers and books which follow’d him to our house. I shall not be sorry when he takes his nipt carcase out of my bed, which it has occupied, and vanishes with all his Lyric lumber, but I will endeavour to bring him in future into a method of dining at least once a day. I have proposed to him to dine with me (and he has nearly come into it) whenever he does not go out; and pay me. I will take his money beforehand and he shall eat it out. If I don’t it will go all over the world. Some worthless relations, of which the dirty little devil that looks after him and a still more dirty nephew are component particles, I have reason to think divide all his gains with some lazy worthless authors that are his constant satellites. The Literary Fund has voted him seasonably £20 and if I can help it he shall spend it on his own carcase. I have assisted him in arranging the remainder of what he calls Poems and he will get rid of ’em I hope in another [Here three lines are torn away at the foot of the page, wherein
Lamb makes the transition from George Dyer to another poor author, George Burnett].

I promised Burnet to write when his parcel went. He wants me to certify that he is more awake than you think him. I believe he may be by this time, but he is so full of self-opinion that I fear whether he and Phillips will ever do together. What he is to do for Phillips he whimsically seems to consider more as a favor done to P. than a job from P. He still persists to call employ-
ment dependence, and prates about the insolence of booksellers and the tax upon geniuses. Poor devil! he is not launched upon the ocean and is sea-sick with aforethought. I write plainly about him, and he would stare and frown finely if he read this treacherous epistle, but I really am anxious about him, and that [?it] nettles me to see him so proud and so helpless. If he is not serv’d he will never serve himself. I read his long letter to
Southey, which I suppose you have seen. He had better have been furnishing copy for Phillips than luxuriating in tracing the causes of his imbecillity. I believe he is a little wrong in not ascribing more to the structure of his own mind. He had his yawns from nature, his pride from education.

I hope to see Southey soon, so I need only send my remembrance to him now. Doubtless I need not tell him that Burnett is not to be foster’d in self-opinion. His eyes want opening, to see himself a man of middling stature. I am not oculist enough to do this. The booksellers may one day remove the film. I am all this time on the most cordial supping terms of amity with G. Burnett and really love him at times: but I must speak freely of people behind their backs and not think it back-biting. It is better than Godwin’s way of telling a man he is a fool to his face.

I think if you could do any thing for George in the way of an office (God knows whether you can in any haste [?case], but you did talk of it) it is my firm belief that it would be his only chance of settlement; he will never live by his literary exertions, as he calls them—he is too proud to go the usual way to work and he has no talents to make that way unnecessary. I know he talks big in his letter to Southey that his mind is undergoing an alteration and that the die is now casting that shall consign him to honor or dishonour, but these expressions are the convulsions of a fever, not the sober workings of health. Translated into plain English, he now and then perceives he must work or starve, and then he thinks he’ll work; but when he goes about it there’s a lion in the way. He came dawdling to me for an Encyclopædia yesterday. I recommended him to Norris’ library and he said if he could not get it there; Phillips was bound to furnish him with one; it was Phillips’ interest to do so, and all that. This was true with some restrictions—but as to Phillips’ interests to oblige G. B.! Lord help his simple head! P. could by a whistle call together a host of such authors as G. B. like Robin Hood’s merry men in green. P. has regular regiments in pay. Poor writers are his crab-lice and suck at him for nutriment. His round pudding chops are their idea of plenty when in their idle fancies they aspire to be rich.

What do you think of a life of G. Dyer? I can scarcely conceive a more amusing novel. He has been connected with all sects
in the world and he will faithfully tell all he knows. Every body will read it; and if it is not done according to my fancy I promise to put him in a novel when he dies. Nothing shall escape me. If you think it feasible, whenever you write you may encourage him. Since he has been so close with me I have perceiv’d the workings of his inordinate vanity, his gigantic attention to particles and to prevent open vowels in his odes, his solicitude that the public may not lose any tittle of his poems by his death, and all the while his utter ignorance that the world don’t care a pin about his odes and his criticisms, a fact which every body knows but himself—he is a rum genius.

C. L.