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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning, [15 February 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
Feb. 15, 1801.

I HAD need be cautious henceforward what opinion I give of the “Lyrical Ballads.” All the North of England are in a turmoil. Cumberland and Westmoreland have already declared a state of war. I lately received from Wordsworth a copy of the second volume, accompanied by an acknowledgement of having received from me many months since a copy of a certain Tragedy, with excuses for not having made any acknowledgement sooner, it being owing to an “almost insurmountable aversion from Letter
writing.” This letter I answered in due form and time, and enumerated several of the passages which had most affected me, adding, unfortunately, that no single piece had moved me so forcibly as the “
Ancient Mariner,” “The Mad Mother,” or the “Lines at Tintern Abbey.” The Post did not sleep a moment. I received almost instantaneously a long letter of four sweating pages from my Reluctant Letter-Writer, the purport of which was, that he was sorry his 2d vol. had not given me more pleasure (Devil a hint did I give that it had not pleased me), and “was compelled to wish that my range of sensibility was more extended, being obliged to believe that I should receive large influxes of happiness and happy Thoughts” (I suppose from the L. B.)—With a deal of stuff about a certain Union of Tenderness and Imagination, which in the sense he used Imagination was not the characteristic of Shakspeare, but which Milton possessed in a degree far exceeding other Poets: which Union, as the highest species of Poetry, and chiefly deserving that name, “He was most proud to aspire to;” then illustrating the said Union by two quotations from his own 2d vol. (which I had been so unfortunate as to miss). 1st Specimen—a father addresses his son:—
“When thou
First camest into the World, as it befalls
To new-born Infants, thou didst sleep away
Two days: and Blessings from thy father’s Tongue
Then fell upon thee.”
The lines were thus undermarked, and then followed “This Passage, as combining in an extraordinary degree that Union of Imagination and Tenderness which I am speaking of, I consider as one of the Best I ever wrote!”

2d Specimen.—A youth, after years of absence, revisits his native place, and thinks (as most people do) that there has been strange alteration in his absence:—
“And that the rocks
And everlasting Hills themselves were changed.”
You see both these are good Poetry: but after one has been reading
Shakspeare twenty of the best years of one’s life, to have a fellow start up, and prate about some unknown quality, which Shakspeare possessed in a degree inferior to Milton and somebody else!! This was not to be all my castigation. Coleridge, who had not written to me some months before, starts up from his bed of sickness to reprove me for my hardy presumption: four long pages, equally sweaty and more tedious, came from him; assuring me that, when the works of a man of true genius such as W. undoubtedly was, do not please me at first sight, I should suspect the
fault to lie “in me and not in them,” etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. What am I to do with such people? I certainly shall write them a very merry Letter. Writing to you, I may say that the 2d vol. has no such pieces as the three I enumerated. It is full of original thinking and an observing mind, but it does not often make you laugh or cry.—It too artfully aims at simplicity of expression. And you sometimes doubt if Simplicity be not a cover for Poverty. The
best Piece in it I will send you, being short. I have grievously offended my friends in the North by declaring my undue preference; but I need not fear you:—

“She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the Springs of Dove,
A maid whom there were few (sic) to praise
And very few to love.
“A violet, by a mossy stone,
Half hidden from the eye.
Fair as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky.
“She lived unknown; and few could know.
When Lucy ceased to be.
But she is in the grave, and oh!
The difference to me.”

This is choice and genuine, and so are many, many more. But one does not like to have ’em rammed down one’s throat. “Pray, take it—it’s very good—let me help you—eat faster.”