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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Mary Lamb to Sarah Stoddart Hazlitt [November 1805]

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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[Early November, 1805.]

MY dear Sarah,—Certainly you are the best letter-writer (besides writing the best hand) in the world. I have just been reading over again your two long letters, and I perceive they make me very envious. I have taken a bran new pen, and put on my spectacles, and am peering with all my might to see the lines in the paper, which the sight of your even lines had well nigh tempted me to rule: and I have moreover taken two pinches of snuff extraordinary, to clear my head, which feels more cloudy than common this fine, chearful morning.

All I can gather from your clear and, I have no doubt, faithful history of Maltese politics is, that the good Doctor, though a firm friend, an excellent fancier of brooches, a good husband, an upright Advocate, and, in short, all that they say upon tomb stones (for I do not recollect that they celebrate any fraternal virtues there) yet is but a moody brother, that your sister in law is pretty much like what all sisters in law have been since the first happy invention of the happy marriage state; that friend Coleridge has undergone no alteration by crossing the Atlantic,—for his friendliness to you, as well as all the oddities you mention, are just what one ought to look for from him; and that you, my dear Sarah, have proved yourself just as unfit to flourish in a little, proud Garrison Town as I did shrewdly suspect you were before you went there.

If I possibly can, I will prevail upon Charles to write to your brother by the conveyance you mention; but he is so unwell, I almost fear the fortnight will slip away before I can get him in the right vein. Indeed, it has been sad and heavy times with us lately: when I am pretty well, his low spirits throws me back again; and when he begins to get a little chearful, then I do the same kind office for him. I heartily wish for the arrival of Coleridge; a few such evenings as we have sometimes passed with him would wind us up, and set us a going again.

Do not say any thing, when you write, of our low spirits—it will vex Charles. You would laugh, or you would cry, perhaps both, to see us sit together, looking at each other with long and rueful faces, and saying, “how do you do?” and “how do you do?” and then we fall a-crying, and say we will be better on the morrow. He says we are like tooth-ach and his friend gum bile—which,
though a kind of ease, is but an uneasy kind of ease, a comfort of rather an uncomfortable sort.

I rejoice to hear of your Mother’s amendment; when you can leave her with any satisfaction to yourself—which, as her sister, I think I understand by your letters, is with her, I hope you may soon be able to do—let me know upon what plan you mean to come to Town. Your brother proposed your being six months in Town, and six with your Mother; but he did not then know of your poor Mother’s illness. By his desire, I enquired for a respectable family for you, to board with; and from Captn. Burney I heard of one I thought would suit you at that time. He particularly desires I would not think of your being with us, not thinking, I conjecture, the home of a single man respectable enough. Your brother gave me most unlimited orders to domineer over you, to be the inspector of all your actions, and to direct and govern you with a stern voice and a high hand, to be, in short, a very elder brother over you—does not the hearing of this, my meek pupil, make you long to come to London? I am making all the proper enquiries against the time of the newest and most approved modes (being myself mainly ignorant in these points) of etiquette, and nicely correct maidenly manners.

But to speak seriously. I mean, when we mean [? meet], that we will lay our heads together, and consult and contrive the best way of making the best girl in the world the fine Lady her brother wishes to see her; and believe me, Sarah, it is not so difficult a matter as one is sometimes apt to imagine. I have observed many a demure Lady, who passes muster admirably well, who, I think, we could easily learn to imitate in a week or two. We will talk of these things when we meet. In the mean time, I give you free license to be happy and merry at Salisbury in any way you can. Has the partridge-season opened any communication between you and William—as I allow you to be imprudent till I see you, I shall expect to hear you have invited him to taste his own birds. Have you scratched him out of your will yet? Rickman is married, and that is all the news I have to send you.

Your Wigs were sent by Mr. Varvell about five months ago; therefore, he could have arrived when you came away.

I seem, upon looking over my letter again, to have written too lightly of your distresses at Malta; but, however I may have written, believe me, I enter very feelingly into all your troubles. I love you, and I love your brother; and between you, both of whom I think have been to blame, I know not what to say—only this I say, try to think as little as possible of past miscarriages; it was, perhaps, so ordered by Providence, that you might return home to be a comfort to your poor Mother, And do not, I con-
jure you, let her unhappy malady afflict you too deeply. I speak from experience, and from the opportunity I have had of much observation in such cases, that insane people, in the fancy’s they take into their heads, do not feel as one in a sane state of mind does under the real evil of poverty, the perception of having done wrong, or any such thing that runs in their heads.

Think as little as you can, and let your whole care be to be certain that she is treated with tenderness. I lay a stress upon this, because it is a thing of which people in her state are uncommonly susceptible, and which hardly any one is at all aware of: a hired nurse never, even though in all other respects they are good kind of people. I do not think your own presence necessary, unless she takes to you very much, except for the purpose of seeing with your own eyes that she is very kindly treated.

I do so long to see you! God bless and comfort you!

Yours affectionately,
M. Lamb.