LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to William Wordsworth, [16 April 1815]

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
[p.m. partly illegible. April 7, 1815.]

The conclusion of this epistle getting gloomy, I have chosen this part to desire our kindest Loves to Mrs. Wordsworth and to Dorothea. Will none of you ever be in London again?

DEAR Wordswth. you have made me very proud with your successive book presents. I have been carefully through the two volumes to see that nothing was omitted which used to be there. I think I miss nothing but a Character in Antithet. manner which I do not know why you left out; the moral to the boys building the giant, the omission whereof leaves it in my mind less complete; and one admirable line gone (or something come in stead of it) “the stone-chat and the glancing sand-piper,” which was a line quite alive. I demand these at your hand. I am glad that you have not sacrificed a verse to those scoundrels. I would not have had you offer up the poorest rag that lingered upon the stript shoulders of little Alice Fell, to have atoned all their malice. I would not have given ’em a red cloak to save their souls. I am afraid lest that substitution of a shell (a flat falsification of the history) for the household implement as it stood at first, was a kind of tub thrown out to the beast, or rather thrown out for him. The tub was a good honest tub in its place, and nothing could fairly be said against it. You say you made the alteration for the “friendly reader,” but the malicious will take it to himself. Damn ’em; if
you give ’em an inch &c. The
preface is noble and such as you should write: I wish I could set my name to it—Imprimatur—but you have set it there yourself, and I thank you. I had rather be a door-keeper in your margin, than have their proudest text swelling with my eulogies. The poems in the volumes which are new to me are so much in the old tone that I hardly received them as novelties. Of those, of which I had no previous knowlege, the four yew trees and the mysterious company which you have assembled there, most struck me—“Death the Skeleton and Time the Shadow—” It is a sight not for every youthful poet to dream of—it is one of the last results he must have gone thinking-on for years for. Laodamia is a very original poem; I mean original with reference to your own manner. You have nothing like it. I should have seen it in a strange place, and greatly admired it, but not suspected its derivation. Let me in this place, for I have writ you several letters without naming it, mention that my brother, who is a picture collector, has picked up an undoubtable picture of Milton. He gave a few shillings for it, and could get no history with it, but that some old lady had had it for a great many years. Its age is ascertainable from the state of the canvas, and you need only see it to be sure that it is the original of the heads in the Tonson Editions, with which we are all so well familiar. Since I saw you I have had a treat in the reading way which comes not every day. The Latin Poems of V. Bourne, which were quite new to me. What a heart that man had, all laid out upon town scenes, a proper counterpoise to some people’s rural extravaganzas. Why I mention him is that your Power of Music reminded me of his poem of the balad singer in the Seven Dials. Do you remember his epigram on the old woman who taught Newton the A. B. C, which after all, he says, he hesitates not to call Newton’s Principia. I was lately fatiguing myself with going thro’ a volume of fine words by Ld. Thurlow—excellent words, and if the heart could live by words alone, it could desire no better regale—but what an aching vacuum of matter; I don’t stick at the madness of it, for that is only a consequence of shutting his eyes and thinking he is in the age of the old Elisabeth poets; from thence I turned to V. Bourne—what a sweet unpretending pretty-mannered matter-ful creature, sucking from every flower, malting a flower of every thing, his diction all Latin and his thoughts all English. Bless him, Latin wasn’t good enough for him, why wasn’t he content with the language which Gay and Prior wrote in.

I am almost sorry that you printed Extracts from those first Poems, or that you did not print them at length. They do not read to me as they do all together. Besides they have diminished the value of the original (which I possess) as a curiousity. I have
hitherto kept them distinct in my mind as referring to a particular period of your life. All the rest of your poems are so much of a piece, they might have been written in the same week—these decidedly speak of an earlier period. They tell more of what you had been reading.

We were glad to see the poems by a female friend. The one of the wind is masterly, but not new to us. Being only three, perhaps you might have clapt a D. at the corner and let it have past as a printer’s mark to the uninitiated, as a delightful hint to the better-instructed. As it is, Expect a formal criticism on the Poems of your female friend, and she must expect it.

I should have written before, but I am cruelly engaged and like to be. On Friday I was at office from 10 in the morning (two hours dinner except) to 11 at night, last night till 9. My business and office business in general has increased so. I don’t mean I am there every night, but I must expect a great deal of it. I never leave till 4—and do not keep a holyday now once in ten times, where I used to keep all red letter days, and some fine days besides which I used to dub Nature’s holydays. I have had my day. I had formerly little to do. So of the little that is left of life I may reckon two thirds as dead, for Time that a man may call his own is his Life, and hard work and thinking about it taints even the leisure hours, stains Sunday with workday contemplations—this is Sunday, and the headache I have is part late hours at work the 2 preceding nights and part later hours over a consoling pipe afterwds. But I find stupid acquiescence coming over me. I bend to the yoke, and it is almost with me and my household as with the man and his consort—
To them each evening had its glittering star
And every Sabbath day its golden sun—
To such straits am I driven for the Life of life, Time—O that from that superfluity of Holyday leisure my youth wasted “Age might but take some hours youth wanted not.—” N.B. I have left off spirituous liquors for 4 or more months, with a moral certainty of its lasting. Farewell, dear