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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 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
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[p.m. illegible. ? Early Jan., 1815.]

DEAR Wordsworth, I told you my Review was a very imperfect one. But what you will see in the Quarterly is a spurious one which Mr. Baviad Gifford has palm’d upon it for mine. I never felt more vexd in my life than when I read it. I cannot give you an idea of what he has done to it out of spite at me because he once sufferd me to be called a lunatic in his Thing. The language he has alterd throughout. Whatever inadequateness it had to its subject, it was in point of composition the prettiest piece of prose I ever writ, and so my sister (to whom alone I read the MS.) said. That charm if it had any is all gone: more than a third of the substance is cut away, and that not all from one place, but passim, so as to make utter nonsense. Every warm expression is changed for a nasty cold one. I have not the cursed alteration by me, I shall never look at it again, but for a specimen I remember I had said the Poet of the Excursn. “walks thro’ common forests as thro’ some Dodona or enchanted wood, and every casual bird that flits upon the boughs, like that miraculous one in Tasso, but in language more piercing than any articulate sounds, reveals to him far higher lovelays.” It is now (besides half a dozen alterations in the same half dozen lines) “but in language more intelligent reveals to him”—that is one I remember. But that would have been little, putting his damnd Shoemaker phraseology (for he was a shoemaker) in stead of mine, which has been tinctured with better authors than his ignorance can comprehend—for I reckon myself a dab at Prose—verse I leave to my betters—God help them, if they are to be so reviewed by friend and foe as you have been this quarter. I have read “It won’t do.” But worse than altering words, he has kept a few members only of the part I had done best, which was to explain all I could of your “scheme
of harmonies,” as I had ventured to call it, between the external universe and what within us answers to it. To do this I had accumulated a good many short passages, rising in length to the end, weaving in the Extracts as if they came in as a part of the text, naturally, not obtruding them as specimens. Of this part a little is left, but so as without conjuration no man could tell what I was driving it [? at]. A proof of it you may see (tho’ not judge of the whole of the injustice) by these words: I had spoken something about “natural methodism—”and after follows “and therefore the tale of Margaret shd. have been postponed” (I forget my words, or his words): now the reasons for postponing it are as deducible from what goes before, as they are from the 104th psalm. The passage whence I deduced it has vanished, but clapping a colon before a therefore is always reason enough for Mr. Baviad Gifford to allow to a reviewer that is not himself. I assure you my complaints are founded. I know how sore a word alterd makes one, but indeed of this Review the whole complexion is gone. I regret only that I did not keep a copy. I am sure you would have been pleased with it, because I have been feeding my fancy for some months with the notion of pleasing you. Its imperfection or inadequateness in size and method I knew, but for the writing part of it, I was fully satisfied. I hoped it would make more than atonement. Ten or twelve distinct passages come to my mind, which are gone, and what is left is of course the worse for their having been there, the eyes are pulld out and the bleeding sockets are left. I read it at
Arch’s shop with my face burning with vexation secretly, with just such a feeling as if it had been a review written against myself, making false quotations from me. But I am ashamd to say so much about a short piece. How are you served! and the labors of years turn’d into contempt by scoundrels.

But I could not but protest against your taking that thing as mine. Every pretty expression, (I know there were many) every warm expression, there was nothing else, is vulgarised and frozen—but if they catch me in their camps again let them spitchcock me. They had a right to do it, as no name appears to it, and Mr. Shoemaker Gifford I suppose never wa[i]ved a right he had since he commencd author. God confound him and all caitiffs.

C. L.

[For the full understanding of this letter it is necessary to read Lamb’s review (see Vol. I. of this edition, page 160).

William Gifford (1756-1826), editor of the Quarterly, had been a shoemaker’s apprentice. Lamb calls him Mr. Baviad Gifford on account of his satires, The Mæviad and The Baviad, against the
Della Cruscan school of poetry, of which
Robert Merry had been the principal member. Some of Lamb’s grudge against Gifford, which was of old standing (see notes to Lamb’s review, Vol. I., page 446), was repaid in his sonnet “St. Crispin to Mr. Gifford” (see Vol. V. of this edition, page 104). Gifford’s connection with Canning, in the Anti-Jacobin, could not have improved his position with Lamb.

“I have read ‘It won’t do.’” A reference to the review of The Excursion in the Edinburgh for November, by Jeffrey, beginning “This will never do.”]

[Dated at end: Feb. 23, 1815.]

DR Sargus—This is to give you notice that I have parted with the Cottage to Mr. Grig Junr. to whom you will pay rent from Michaelmas last. The rent that was due at Michaelmas I do not wish you to pay me. I forgive it you as you may have been at some expences in repairs.

Ch. Lamb.
Inner Temple Lane, London,
23 Feb., 1815.

[In 1812 Lamb inherited, through his godfather, Francis Fielde, who is mentioned in the Elia essay “My First Play,” a property called Button Snap, near Puckeridge, in Hertfordshire, consisting of a small cottage and about an acre of ground. In 1815 he sold it for £50, and the foregoing letter is an intimation of the transaction to his tenant. The purchaser, however, was not a Mr. Grig, but a Mr. Greg (see notes to “My First Play” in Vol. II. of this edition, page 372). I give there also a picture of the cottage.

I append here an undated letter to Joseph Hume which belongs to a time posterior to the sale of the cottage. It refers to Tuthill’s candidature for the post of physician to St. Luke’s Hospital.

The letter is printed in Mr. Kegan Paul’s William Godwin: His Friends and Acquaintances, as though it were written to Godwin, and all Lamb’s editors follow in assuming the Philosopher to be the recipient, but internal evidence practically proves that Hume was addressed; for there is the reference to Mrs. Hume and her daughters, and Godwin lived not in Kensington but in Skinner Street.]

“Bis dat qui dat cito.”

I HATE the pedantry of expressing that in another language which we have sufficient terms for in our own. So in plain English I very much wish you to give your vote to-morrow at Clerkenwell, instead of Saturday. It would clear up the brows of my favourite candidate, and stagger the hands of the opposite party. It commences at nine. How easy, as you come from Kensington (à propos, how is your excellent family?) to turn down Bloomsbury, through Leather Lane (avoiding Lay Stall St. for the disagreeableness of the name). Why, it brings you in four minutes and a half to the spot renowned on northern milestones, “where Hicks’ Hall formerly stood.” There will be good cheer ready for every independent freeholder; where you see a green flag hang out go boldly in, call for ham, or beef, or what you please, and a mug of Meux’s Best. How much more gentleman-like to come in the front of the battle, openly avowing one’s sentiments, than to lag in on the last day, when the adversary is dejected, spiritless, laid low. Have the first cut at them. By Saturday you’ll cut into the mutton. I’d go cheerfully myself, but I am no freeholder (Fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium), but I sold it for £50. If they’d accept a copyholder, we clerks are naturally copy-holders.

By the way, get Mrs. Hume, or that agreeable Amelia or Caroline, to stick a bit of green in your hat. Nothing daunts the adversary more than to wear the colours of your party. Stick it in cockade-like. It has a martial, and by no means disagreeable effect.

Go, my dear freeholder, and if any chance calls you out of this transitory scene earlier than expected, the coroner shall sit lightly on your corpse. He shall not too anxiously enquire into the circumstances of blood found upon your razor. That might happen to any gentleman in shaving. Nor into your having been heard to express a contempt of life, or for scolding Louisa for what Julia did, and other trifling incoherencies.

Yours sincerely,

C. Lamb.

[“Bis dat . . .”—“He who gives quickly gives twice.” “Lay Stall St.” This street, which is still found in Clerkenwell, was of course named from one of the laystalls or public middens which were a feature of London when sanitation was in its infancy.


“Where Hicks’ Hall formerly stood.” Hicks’ Hall, the old Sessions House of the County of Middlesex, stood in St. John Street, Clerkenwell, until its demolition in 1782, when the justices removed to the new Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green. The milestones on the Great North Road, which had long been measured from Hicks’ Hall were reinscribed “—— Miles from the spot where Hicks’ Hall formerly stood.” Thus Hicks’ Hall remained a household word long after it had ceased to exist. The adventures of Jedediah Jones in search of “the spot where Hicks’ Hall formerly stood” are amusingly set forth in Knight’s London, Vol. I., pages 242-244.

“Fuimus Troes . . .” (Æneid, II., 325)—“We once were Trojans; Troy once stood.”

We meet Hume’s daughters again in Letter 517.]

[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


[Wordsworth had just brought out, with Longmans, his Poems . . . including Lyrical Ballads and the Miscellaneous Pieces of the Author, 1815, in two volumes. The “Character in the Antithetical Manner” was omitted from all editions of Wordsworth’s poems between 1800 and 1836. In the 1800 version of “Rural Architecture” there had been these last lines, expunged
in the editions of 1805 and 1815, but restored with a slight alteration in later editions:—
—Some little I’ve seen of blind boisterous works
In Paris and London, ’mong Christians or Turks,
Spirits busy to do and undo:
At remembrance whereof my blood sometimes will flag,
—Then, light-hearted Boys, to the top of the Crag;
And I’ll build up a Giant with you.

In the original form of the “Lines Left upon a Seat in a Yew Tree” there had been these lines:—
His only visitants a straggling sheep,
The stone-chat, or the glancing sand-piper.
Wordsworth had altered them to:—
His only visitants a straggling sheep,
The stone-chat, or the sand-lark, restless Bird,
Piping along the margin of the lake.
In the 1820 edition Wordsworth put back the original form.

“Those scoundrels.” Principally the critic of the Edinburgh, Jeffrey, but Wordsworth’s assailants generally.

“That substitution of a shell.” In the original draft of “The Blind Highland Boy” the adventurous voyage was made in
A Household Tub, like one of those
Which women use to wash their clothes.
In the new version the vessel was a turtle’s shell.

“The preface.” Wordsworth quotes from Lamb’s essay in The Reflector on the genius of Hogarth, referring to the passage as “the language of one of my most esteemed Friends.” It is Lamb’s description of Imagination as that which “draws all things to one, which makes things animate or inanimate, beings with their attributes, subjects with their accessories, take one colour and serve to one effect.”

“The four yew trees.” The poem is called “Yew Trees.” This is the passage in question:—

But worthier still of note
Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
Huge trunks! and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and inveterately convolved;
Nor uninformed with Phantasy, and looks
That threaten the profane;—a pillared shade,
Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
Perennially—beneath whose sable roof
Of boughs, as if for festal purpose, decked
With unrejoicing berries—ghostly Shapes
May meet at noontide: Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight; Death the Skeleton
And Time the Shadow; there to celebrate,
As in a natural temple scattered o’er
With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
United worship; or in mute repose
To lie, and listen to the mountain flood
Murmuring from Glaramara’s inmost caves.

“Picture of Milton.” This portrait, a reproduction of which I give on the opposite page, is now in America, the property of the New York Public Library, by whose permission the reproduction has been made.

“V. Bourne.” Lamb afterwards translated some of Bourne’s Poemata and wrote critically of them in the Englishman’s Magazine in 1831 (see Vol. v., page 61, and Vol. I., page 337).

Lord Thurlow.” But see Letter No. 445 and note.

“Extracts from those first Poems.” Wordsworth included extracts from juvenile pieces, which had been first published in his Descriptive Sketches, 1793.

“A female friend”—Dorothy Wordsworth. The three poems were “Address to a Child” (beginning, “What way does the Wind come from?”), “The Mother’s Return” and “The Cottager to Her Infant.”

“To them each evening had its glittering star . . .”—The Excursion, Book V.

“Age might but take some hours . . .” From Wordsworth’sSmall Celandine”:—
Age might but take the things Youth needed not.]

[p.m. April 28, 1815.J

Excuse this maddish letter: I am too tired to write in forma—

DEAR Wordswth. The more I read of your two last volumes, the more I feel it necessary to make my acknowledgmts for them in more than one short letter. The Night Piece to which you refer me I meant fully to have noticed, but the fact is I come so fluttering and languid from business, tired with thoughts of it, frightened with fears of it, that when I get a few minutes to sit down to scribble (an action of the hand now seldom natural to me
—I mean voluntary pen-work) I lose all presential memory of what I had intended to say, and say what I can,—talk about
Vincent Bourne or any casual image instead of that which I had meditated—by the way, I must look out V. B. for you.—So I had meant to have mentioned Yarrow Visited, with that stanza, “But thou that didst appear so fair—” than which I think no lovelier stanza can be found in the wide world of poetry—yet the poem on the whole seems condemned to leave behind it a melancholy of imperfect satisfaction, as if you had wronged the feeling with which in what preceded it you had resolved never to visit it, and as if the Muse had determined in the most delicate manner to make you, and scarce make you, feel it. Else, it is far superior to the other, which has but one exquisite verse in it, the last but one, or the two last—this has all fine, except perhaps that that of “studious ease and generous cares” has a little tinge of the less romantic about it. The farmer of Tilsbury vale is a charming counter part to poor Susan, with the addition of that delicacy towards aberrations from the strict path which is so fine in the Old Thief and the boy by his side, which always brings water into my eyes. Perhaps it is the worse for being a repetition. Susan stood for the representative of poor Rus in Urbe. There was quite enough to stamp the moral of the thing never to be forgotten. “Fast volumes of vapour” &c. The last verse of Susan was to be got rid of at all events. It threw a kind of dubiety upon Susan’s moral conduct. Susan is a servant maid. I see her trundling her mop and contemplating the whirling phenomenon thro’ blurred optics; but to term her a poor outcast seems as much as to say that poor Susan was no better than she should be, which I trust was not what you meant to express. Robin Goodfellow supports himself without that stick of a moral which you have thrown away,—but how I can be brought in felo de omittendo for that Ending to the boy builders is a mystery. I can’t say positively now—I only know that no line oftener or readier occurs than that “Light hearted boys, I will build up a giant with you.” It comes naturally with a warm holyday and the freshness of the blood. It is a perfect summer Amulet that I tye round my legs to quicken their motion when I go out a Maying. (N.B.) I don’t often go out a maying.—Must is the tense with me now. Do you take the Pun? Young Romilly is divine, the reasons of his mother’s grief being remediless. I never saw parental love carried up so high, towering above the other Loves. Shakspeare had done something for the filial in Cordelia, and by implication for the fatherly too in Lear’s resentment—he left it for you to explore the depths of the maternal heart. I get stupid, and flat and flattering—what’s the use of telling you what good things you have written, or—I hope I may add—that
I know them to be good. Apropos—when I first opened upon the just mentioned poem, in a careless tone I said to
Mary as if putting a riddle “What is good for a bootless bean?” to which with infinite presence of mind (as the jest book has it) she answered, a “shoeless pea.” It was the first joke she ever made. Joke the 2d I make—you distinguish well in your old preface between the verses of Dr. Johnson of the man in the Strand, and that from the babes of the wood. I was thinking whether taking your own glorious lines—
And for the love was in her soul
For the youthful Romilly—
which, by the love I bear my own soul, I think have no parallel in any of the best old Balads, and just altering it to—
And from the great respect she felt
would not have explained the boundaries of prose expression and poetic feeling nearly as well. Excuse my levity on such an occasion, never felt deeply in my life, if that poem did not make me, both lately and when I read it in MS. No alderman ever longed after a haunch of buck venison more than I for a Spiritual taste of that
White Doe you promise. I am sure it is superlative, or will be when drest, i.e. printed. All things read raw tome in MS.—to compare magna parvis, I cannot endure my own writings in that state. The only one which I think would not very much win upon me in print is Peter Bell. But I am not certain. You ask me about your preface. I like both that and the Supplement without an exception. The account of what you mean by Imagination is very valuable to me. It will help me to like some things in poetry better, which is a little humiliating in me to confess. I thought I could not be instructed in that science (I mean the critical), as I once heard old obscene beastly Peter Pindar in a dispute on Milton say he thought that if he had reason to value himself upon one thing more than another it was in knowing what good verse was. Who lookd over your proof sheets, and left ordebo in that line of Virgil?

My brothers picture of Milton is very finely painted, that is, it might have been done by a hand next to Vandyke’s. It is the genuine Milton, and an object of quiet gaze for the half hour at a time. Yet tho’ I am confident there is no better one of him, the face does not quite answer to Milton. There is a tinge of petit (or petite, how do you spell it) querulousness about. Yet hang it, now I remember better, there is not—it is calm, melancholy, and poetical.


One of the copies you sent had precisely the same pleasant blending of a sheet of 2d vol. with a sheet of 1st. I think it was page 245; but I sent it and had it rectifyd. It gave me in the first impetus of cutting the leaves just such a cold squelch as going down a plausible turning and suddenly reading “no thoroughfare.” Robinson’s is entire; he is gone to Bury his father.

I wish you would write more criticism, about Spenser &c. I think I could say something about him myself—but Lord bless me—these “merchants and their spicy drugs” which are so harmonious to sing of, they lime-twig up my poor soul and body, till I shall forget I ever thought myself a bit of a genius! I can’t even put a few thoughts on paper for a newspaper. I “engross,” when I should pen a paragraph. Confusion blast all mercantile transactions, all traffick, exchange of commodities, intercourse between nations, all the consequent civilization and wealth and amity and link of society, and getting rid of prejudices, and knowlege of the face of the globe—and rot the very firs of the forest that look so romantic alive, and die into desks. Vale.

Yours dear W. and all yours’
C. Lamb.

[Added at foot of the first page:] N.B. Dont read that Q. Review—I will never look into another.


[Lamb continues his criticism of the 1815 edition of Wordsworth’s Poems. The “Night Piece” begins—
The sky is overcast.

The stanza from “Yarrow Visited” is quoted on page 557. The poem followed “Yarrow Unvisited” in the volume. The one exquisite verse in “Yarrow Unvisited” first ran:—
Your cottage seems a bower of bliss,
It promises protection
To studious ease and generous cares
And every chaste affection.

Wordsworth altered to—
A covert for protection
Of tender thoughts that nestle there,
The brood of chaste affection.

Poor Susan” had in the 1800 version ended thus:—
Poor Outcast! return—to receive thee once more
The house of thy Father will open its door,
And thou once again, in thy plain russet gown,
May’st hear the thrush sing from a tree of its own.
Wordsworth expunged this stanza in the 1815 edition. “Fast volumes of vapour” should be “Bright volumes of vapour.” For the Old Thief see “The Two Thieves.”


Felo de omittendo.” See the preceding letter, where Lamb remonstrated with Wordsworth for omitting the last lines from “Rural Architecture.” Wordsworth seems to have charged Lamb with the criticism that decided their removal.

“The Pun.” Canon Ainger pointed out that Hood, in his “Ode to Melancholy,” makes the same pun very happily:—
Even as the blossoms of the May,
Whose fragrance ends in must.

“Young Romilly.” In “The Force of Prayer,” which opens with the question—
What is good for a bootless bene?
Mary Lamb made another joke, when at Munden’s farewell performance she said, “Sic transit gloria Munden!”

The stanzas from which Lamb quotes run:—
“What is good for a bootless bene?”
The Falconer to the Lady said;
And she made answer “Endless sorrow!”
In that she knew that her Son was dead.
She knew it by the Falconer’s words,
And from the look of the Falconer’s eye;
And from the love which was in her soul
For her youthful Romilly.
Sir Samuel Romilly (1757-1818), the lawyer and law reformer, was the great opponent of capital punishment for small offences.

In the preface to the 1802 edition of Lyrical Ballads, etc., Wordsworth had quoted Dr. Johnson’s prosaic lines:—
I put my hat upon my head
And walked into the Strand,
And there I met another man
Whose hat was in his hand.
—contrasting them with these lines from the “Babes in the Wood”:—
These pretty Babes with hand in hand
Went wandering up and down;
But never more they saw the Man
Approaching from the Town.

“Peter Pindar.” John Wolcot (1738-1819), whom Lamb had met at Henry Rogers’, brother of the poet.

Ordebo.” Wordsworth quoted Virgil’s lines (Eclogue I., 75, 76).—
Non ego vos posthac, viridi projectus in antro,
Dumosa pendere procul de rupe ordebo [videbo].

“Merchants and their spicy drugs,” See Paradise Lost, II., 639, 640.]

London, May 6th, 1815.

DEAR Southey,—I have received from Longman a copy of “Roderick,” with the author’s compliments, for which I much thank you. I don’t know where I shall put all the noble presents I have lately received in that way; the “Excursion,” Wordsworth’s two last vols., and now “Roderick,” have come pouring in upon me like some irruption from Helicon. The story of the brave Maccabee was already, you may be sure, familiar to me in all its parts. I have, since the receipt of your present, read it quite through again, and with no diminished pleasure. I don’t know whether I ought to say that it has given me more pleasure than any of your long poems. “Kehama” is doubtless more powerful, but I don’t feel that firm footing in it that I do in “Roderick;” my imagination goes sinking and floundering in the vast spaces of unopened-before systems and faiths; I am put out of the pale of my old sympathies; my moral sense is almost outraged; I can’t believe, or with horror am made to believe, such desperate chances against omnipotences, such disturbances of faith to the centre. The more potent the more painful the spell. Jove and his brotherhood of gods, tottering with the giant assailings, I can bear, for the soul’s hopes are not struck at in such contests; but your Oriental almighties are too much types of the intangible prototype to be meddled with without shuddering. One never connects what are called the attributes with Jupiter. I mention only what diminishes my delight at the wonder-workings of “Kehama,” not what impeaches its power, which I confess with trembling.

But “Roderick” is a comfortable poem. It reminds me of the delight I took in the first reading of the “Joan of Arc.” It is maturer and better than that, though not better to me now than that was then. It suits me better than “Madoc.” I am at home in Spain and Christendom. I have a timid imagination, I am afraid. I do not willingly admit of strange beliefs or out-of-the-way creeds or places. I never read books of travel, at least not farther than Paris or Rome. I can just endure Moors, because of their connection as foes with Christians; but Abyssinians, Ethiops, Esquimaux, Dervises, and all that tribe, I hate. I believe I fear them in some manner. A Mahometan turban on the stage, though enveloping some well known face (Mr. Cook or Mr. Maddox, whom I see another day good Christian and English waiters, innkeepers, &c.), does not give me pleasure unalloyed. I am a Christian, Englishman, Londoner, Templar. God help me when I come
to put off these snug relations, and to get abroad into the world to come! I shall be like the crow on the sand, as
Wordsworth has it; but I won’t think on it—no need, I hope, yet.

The parts I have been most pleased with, both on 1st and 2nd readings, perhaps, are Florinda’s palliation of Roderick’s crime, confessed to him in his disguise—the retreat of Palayo’s family first discovered,—his being made king—“For acclamation one form must serve, more solemn for the breach of old observances.” Roderick’s vow is extremely fine, and his blessing on the vow of Alphonso:
“Towards the troop he spread his arms,
As if the expanded soul diffused itself,
And carried to all spirits with the act
Its affluent inspiration.”

It struck me forcibly that the feeling of these last lines might have been suggested to you by the Cartoon of Paul at Athens. Certain it is that a better motto or guide to that famous attitude can no where be found. I shall adopt it as explanatory of that violent, but dignified motion.

I must read again Landor’sJulian.” I have not read it some time. I think he must have failed in Roderick, for I remember nothing of him, nor of any distinct character as a character—only fine-sounding passages. I remember thinking also he had chosen a point of time after the event, as it were, for Roderick survives to no use; but my memory is weak, and I will not wrong a fine Poem by trusting to it.

The notes to your poem I have not read again; but it will be a take-downable book on my shelf, and they will serve sometimes at breakfast, or times too light for the text to be duly appreciated. Though some of ’em, one of the serpent Penance, is serious enough, now I think on’t.

Of Coleridge I hear nothing, nor of the Morgans. I hope to have him like a re-appearing star, standing up before me some time when least expected in London, as has been the case whylear.

I am doing nothing (as the phrase is) but reading presents, and walk away what of the day-hours I can get from hard occupation. Pray accept once more my hearty thanks, and expression of pleasure for your remembrance of me. My sister desires her kind respects to Mrs S. and to all at Keswick.

Yours truly,

C. Lamb.

The next Present I look for is the “White Doe.” Have you seen Mat. Betham’sLay of Marie?” I think it very delicately pretty as to sentiment, &c.


[Southey’s Roderick, the Last of the Goths, was published in 1814. Driven from his throne by the Moors, Roderick had dis-
guised himself as a monk under the name of Father Maccabee.
The Curse of Kehama had been published in 1810; Madoc in 1805; Joan of Arc (see Letter 3 &c.) in 1796. Southey was now Poet Laureate.

“I never read books of travels.” Writing to Dilke, of The Athenæum, for books, some years later, Lamb makes a point of “no natural history or useful learning” being sent—such as Giraffes, Pyramids and Adventures in Central Africa. None the less, as a boy, he tells us, he had read Bruce and applied his Abyssinian methods to the New River (see the Elia essay on Newspapers). “The crow on the sand.” In “The Farmer of Tilsbury Vale”:—
As lonely he stood as a crow on the sands.
Verse xii., line 4.

Florinda’s palliation of Roderick’s crime is in Book X.; the retreat of Pelayo’s family discovered, in Book XVI.; Pelayo made king, in Book XVIII. Landor’s Count Julian, published in 1812, dealt with the same story, Florinda, whom Roderick violated, having been the daughter of the Count, a Spanish Goth. Julian devoted himself to Roderick’s ruin, even turning traitor for the purpose. Southey’s notes are tremendous—sometimes filling all but a line or two of the page.

“The White Doe.” Wordsworth’s poem The White Doe of Rylstone, to be published this year, 1815.

Matilda Betham’s Lay of Marie.” See note on page 477.]

Aug. 9th, 1815.

DEAR Southey,—Robinson is not on the circuit, as I erroneously stated in a letter to W. W., which travels with this, but is gone to Brussels, Ostend, Ghent, &c. But his friends the Colliers, whom I consulted respecting your friend’s fate, remember to have heard him say, that Father Pardo had effected his escape (the cunning greasy rogue), and to the best of their belief is at present in Paris. To my thinking, it is a small matter whether there be one fat friar more or less in the world. I have rather a taste for clerical executions, imbibed from early recollections of the fate of the excellent Dodd. I hear Buonaparte has sued his habeas corpus, and the twelve judges are now sitting upon it at the Rolls.

Your boute-feu (bonfire) must be excellent of its kind. Poet Settle presided at the last great thing of the kind in London, when the pope was burnt in form. Do you provide any verses
on this occasion? Your fear for
Hartley’s intellectuals is just and rational. Could not the Chancellor be petitioned to remove him? His lordship took Mr. Betty from under the paternal wing. I think at least he should go through a course of matter-of-fact with some sober man after the mysteries. Could not he spend a week at Poole’s before he goes back to Oxford? Tobin is dead. But there is a man in my office, a Mr. Hedges, who proses it away from morning to night, and never gets beyond corporal and material verities. He’d get these crack-brain metaphysics out of the young gentleman’s head as soon as any one I know. When I can’t sleep o’ nights, I imagine a dialogue with Mr. H. upon any given subject, and go prosing on in fancy with him, till I either laugh or fall asleep. I have literally found it answer. I am going to stand godfather; I don’t like the business; I cannot muster up decorum for these occasions; I shall certainly disgrace the font. I was at Hazlitt’s marriage, and had like to have been turned out several times during the ceremony. Any thing awful makes me laugh. I misbehaved once at a funeral. Yet I can read about these ceremonies with pious and proper feelings. The realities of life only seem the mockeries. I fear I must get cured along with Hartley, if not too inveterate. Don’t you think Louis the Desirable is in a sort of quandary?

After all, Bonaparte is a fine fellow, as my barber says, and I should not mind standing bareheaded at his table to do him service in his fall. They should have given him Hampton Court or Kensington, with a tether extending forty miles round London. Qu. Would not the people have ejected the Brunswicks some day in his favour? Well, we shall see.

C. Lamb.

[“Father Pardo.” I have not traced this fat friar.

“The excellent Dodd.” The Rev. William Dodd (1729-1777), compiler of The Beauties of Shakespeare, was hanged for forgery in 1777, when Lamb was two years old. The case caused immense public interest.

Buonaparte.” Waterloo had been fought on June 18.

“Your boute-feu.” The bonfire in honour of Waterloo flamed on Skiddaw on August 21. See Southey’s description in his letter to his brother, August 23, 1815 (Life and Correspondence, Vol. IV., page 120).

“Poet Settle.” Elkanah Settle (1648-1724) was chief organiser of the procession on the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s birthday in 1680, when the Pope was burned in effigy.

Hartley Coleridge, now almost nineteen, after having been to school at Ambleside, had been sent to Oxford through the instru-
mentality of his uncle,
Southey. At the time of Lamb’s letter he was staying at Calne with his father. Mr. Betty was the Young Roscius, whom we have already seen, who, after retiring from the Phenomenon stage of his career in 1808, had since been to school and to Cambridge upon his earnings, and had now become an adult actor. Poole was Thomas Poole of Nether Stowey, whom we have seen: Coleridge’s old and very sensible friend. Tobin would probably be James Webbe Tobin, the brother of the dramatist. He had died in 1814 (see Letter No. 153).

“I am going to stand godfather.” To what child I do not know.

“Louis the Desirable”—Louis XVIII., styled by the Royalists “Le Desiré.”]

[p.m. August 9, 1815.] 9th Aug. 1815.

DEAR Wordsworth, We acknowlege with pride the receit of both your hand writings, and desire to be ever had in kindly remembrance by you both and by Dorothy. Miss Hutchinson has just transmitted us a letter containing, among other chearful matter, the annunciation of a child born. Nothing of consequence has turned up in our parts since your departure. Mary and I felt quite queer after your taking leave (you W. W.) of us in St. Giles’s. We wishd we had seen more of you, but felt we had scarce been sufficiently acknowleging for the share we had enjoyed of your company. We felt as if we had been not enough expressive of our pleasure. But our manners both are a little too much on this side of too-much-cordiality. We want presence of mind and presence of heart. What we feel comes too late, like an after thought impromptu. But perhaps you observed nothing of that which we have been painfully conscious of, and are, every day, in our intercourse with those we stand affected to through all the degrees of love. Robinson is on the Circuit. Our Panegyrist I thought had forgotten one of the objects of his youthful admiration, but I was agreeably removed from that scruple by the laundress knocking at my door this morning almost before I was up, with a present of fruit from my young friend, &c.—There is something inexpressibly pleasant to me in these presents. Be it fruit, or fowl, or brawn, or what not. Books are a legitimate cause of acceptance. If presents be not the soul of friendship, undoubtedly they are the most spiritual part of the body of that intercourse. There is too
much narrowness of thinking in this point. The punctilio of acceptance methinks is too confined and straitlaced. I could be content to receive money, or clothes, or a joint of meat from a friend; why should he not send me a dinner as well as a dessert? I would taste him in the beasts of the field, and thro’ all creation. Therefore did the basket of fruit of the juvenile
Talfourd not displease me. Not that I have any thoughts of bartering or reciprocating these things. To send him any thing in return would be to reflect suspicion of mercenariness upon what I know he meant a freewill offering. Let him overcome me in bounty. In this strife a generous nature loves to be overcome. Alsager (whom you call Alsinger—and indeed he is rather singer than sager, no reflection upon his naturals neither) is well and in harmony with himself and the world. I don’t know how he and those of his constitution keep their nerves so nicely balanced as they do. Or have they any? or are they made of packthread? He is proof against weather, ingratitude, meat under done, every weapon of fate. I have just now a jagged end of a tooth pricking against my tongue, which meets it half way in a wantonness of provocation, and there they go at it, the tongue pricking itself like the viper against the file, and the tooth galling all the gum inside and out to torture, tongue and tooth, tooth and tongue, hard at it, and I to pay the reckoning, till all my mouth is as hot as brimstone, and I’d venture the roof of my mouth that at this moment, at which I conjecture my full-happinessed friend is picking his crackers, not one of the double rows of ivory in his privileged mouth has as much as a flaw in it, but all perform their functions, and having performed it expect to be picked (luxurious steeds!) and rubbed down. I don’t think he could be robbed, or could have his house set on fire, or ever want money. I have heard him express a similar opinion of his own impassibility. I keep acting here Heautontimorumenos. M. Burney has been to Calais and has come home a travelld Monsieur. He speaks nothing but the Gallic Idiom. Field is on circuit. So now I believe I have given account of most that you saw at our Cabin. Have you seen a curious letter in Morn. Chron., by C. Ll., the genius of absurdity, respecting Bonaparte’s suing out his Habeas Corpus. That man is his own moon. He has no need of ascending into that gentle planet for mild influences. You wish me some of your leisure. I have a glimmering aspect, a chink-light of liberty before me, which I pray God may prove not fallacious. My remonstrances have stirred up others to remonstrate, and altogether, there is a plan for separating certain parts of business from our department, which if it take place will produce me more time, i.e. my evenings free. It may be a means of placing me in a more conspicuous situation which will knock at my nerves another
way, but I wait the issue in submission. If I can but begin my own day at 4 o Clock in the afternoon, I shall think myself to have Eden days of peace and liberty to what I have had. As you say, how a man can fill 3 volumes up with an Essay on the Drama is wonderful. I am sure a very few sheets would hold all I had to say on the subject, and yet I dare say * * * * * * * * * * [*] as
Von Slagel * * * Did you ever read Charron on Wisdom? or Patrick’s Pilgrim? if neither, you have two great pleasures to come. I mean some day to attack Caryl on Job, six Folios. What any man can write, surely I may read. If I do but get rid of auditing Warehousekeepers Accts. and get no worse-harassing task in the place of it, what a Lord of Liberty I shall be. I shall dance and skip and make mouths at the invisible event, and pick the thorns out of my pillow and throw ’em at rich men’s night caps, and talk blank verse, hoity toity, and sing “A Clerk I was in London Gay,” ban, ban, Ca-Caliban, like the emancipated monster, and go where I like, up this street or down that ally. Adieu, and pray that it may be my luck. Good be to you all.

C. Lamb.

[“A child born.” This was George Hutchinson, Mrs. Wordsworth’s nephew.

“Our Panegyrist”—Thomas Noon Talfourd. This is Lamb’s first mention of his future biographer. Talfourd was then just twenty, had published some poems, and was reading law with Chitty, the special pleader. He had met Lamb at the beginning of 1815 through William Evans, owner of The Pamphleteer, had scoured London for a copy of Rosamund Gray, and had written of Lamb in The Pamphleteer as one of the chief of living poets. He then became an ardent supporter of Wordsworth, his principal criticism of whom was written later for the New Monthly Magazine.

“If presents be not the soul of friendship.” Lamb’sThoughts on Presents of Game,” written many years later for The Athenæum, carries on this theme (see Vol. I., page 343).

“Alsager.” Thomas Massa Alsager, a friend of Crabb Robinson, and through him of Lamb, was a strange blend of the financial and the musical critic. He controlled the departments of Money and Music for The Times for many years.

“Heautontimorumenos”—“The Self-Tormentor.” The name of a comedy by Terence.

“Field”—Barron Field (see note on page 502).

“C. Ll.”—Capell Lofft (see note on page 451). He wrote to the Morning Chronicle for August 2 and 3, 1815, as Lamb says. The gist of his argument was in this sentence:—


[7th para.] Bonaparte with the concurrence of the Admiralty, is within the limits of British local allegiance. He is a temporary, considered as private, though not a natural born subject, and as such within the limits of 31 Car. II. the Habeas Corpus Act, [etc.].

On August 10 he wrote again, quoting the lines from “The Tempest”:—
The nobler action is,
In virtue than in vengeance:—He being here
The sole drift of our purpose, wrath here ends;
Not a frown further.

“An Essay on the Drama.” This cryptic passage refers, I imagine, to a translation by John Black, afterwards the editor of the Morning Chronicle, of August Von Schlegel’s Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, 2 vols., 1815. Does Lamb mean—“And yet, I dare say, I know as much as Von Slagel did.”

“Charron on Wisdom” and “Patrick’s Pilgrim.” Pierre Charron’s De la Sagesse, and Bishop Patrick’s Parable of the Pilgrim, 1664, a curious independent anticipation of Bunyan. Lamb had written of both these books in a little essay contributed in 1813 to The Examiner, entitled “Books with One Idea in them” (see Vol. I., page 153).

“Caryl on Job”—Commentary on the Book of Job, 12 vols., 4o, 1651-1666, by Joseph Caryl.

“Make mouths at the invisible event” (“Hamlet,” IV., 4, 50).

“A Clerk I was in London Gay.” A song sung in Colman’sInkle and Yarico,” which Lamb actually did use as a motto for his Elia essay “The Superannuated Man,” dealing with his emancipation, ten years later.

“Ban, ban, Ca-Caliban.” See “The Tempest,” II., 2, 188.]

[Dated at end: August 20, 1815.]

MY dear friend, It is less fatigue to me to write upon lines, and I want to fill up as much of my paper as I can in gratitude for the pleasure your very kind letter has given me. I began to think I should not hear from you; knowing you were not fond of letter-writing I quite forgave you, but I was very sorry. Do not make a point of conscience of it, but if ever you feel an inclination you cannot think how much a few lines would delight me. I am happy to hear so good an account of your sister and child, and sincerely wish her a perfect recovery. I am glad you did not arrive sooner, you escaped much anxiety. I have just received
a very chearful letter from
Mrs. Morgan—the following I have picked out as I think it will interest you. “Hartley Coleridge has been with us for two months. Morgan invited him to pass the long vacation here in the hope that his father would be of great service to him in his studies: he seems to be extremely amiable. I believe he is to spend the next vacation at Lady Beaumont’s. Your old friend Coleridge is very hard at work at the preface to a new Edition which he is just going to publish in the same form as Mr. Wordsworth’s—at first the preface was not to exceed five or six pages, it has however grown into a work of great importance. I believe Morgan has already written nearly two hundred pages. The title of it is ‘Autobiographia Literaria:’ to which are added ‘Sybilline Leaves,’ a collection of Poems by the same author. Calne has lately been much enlivened by an excellent company of players—last week they performed the ‘Remorse’ to a very crowded and brilliant audience; two of the characters were admirably well supported; at the request of the actors Morgan was behind the scenes all the time and assisted in the music &c.”

Thanks to your kind interference we have had a very nice letter from Mr. Wordsworth. Of them and of you we think and talk quite with a painful regret that we did not see more of you, and that it may be so long before we meet again.

I am going to do a queer thing—I have wearied myself with writing a long letter to Mrs. Morgan, a part of which is an incoherent rambling account of a jaunt we have just been taking. I want to tell you all about it, for we so seldom do such things that it runs strangely in my head, and I feel too tired to give you other than the mere copy of the nonsense I have just been writing.

“Last Saturday was the grand feast day of the India House Clerks. I think you must have heard Charles talk of his yearly turtle feast. He has been lately much wearied with work, and, glad to get rid of all connected with it, he used Saturday, the feast day being a holiday, borrowed the Monday following, and we set off on the outside of the Cambridge Coach from Fetter Lane at eight o’clock, and were driven into Cambridge in great triumph by Hell Fire Dick five minutes before three. Richard is in high reputation, he is private tutor to the Whip Club. Journeys used to be tedious torments to me, but seated out in the open air I enjoyed every mile of the way—the first twenty miles was particularly pleasing to me, having been accustomed to go so far on that road in the Ware Stage Coach to visit my Grandmother in the days of other times.

“In my life I never spent so many pleasant hours together as I did at Cambridge. We were walking the whole time—out of one College into another. If you ask me which I like best I must
make the children’s traditionary unoffending reply to all curious enquirers—‘Both.’ I liked them all best. The little gloomy ones, because they were little gloomy ones. I felt as if I could live and die in them and never wish to speak again. And the fine grand Trinity College, Oh how fine it was! And King’s College Chapel, what a place! I heard the Cathedral service there, and having been no great church goer of late years, that and the painted windows and the general effect of the whole thing affected me wonderfully.

“I certainly like St. John’s College best. I had seen least of it, having only been over it once, so, on the morning we returned, I got up at six o’clock and wandered into it by myself—by myself indeed, for there was nothing alive to be seen but one cat, who followed me about like a dog. Then I went over Trinity, but nothing hailed me there, not even a cat.

“On the Sunday we met with a pleasant thing. We had been congratulating each other that we had come alone to enjoy, as the miser his feast, all our sights greedily to ourselves, but having seen all we began to grow flat and wish for this and tother body with us, when we were accosted by a young gownsman whose face we knew, but where or how we had seen him we could not tell, and were obliged to ask his name. He proved to be a young man we had seen twice at Alsager’s. He turned out a very pleasant fellow—shewed us the insides of places—we took him to our Inn to dinner, and drank tea with him in such a delicious college room, and then again he supped with us. We made our meals as short as possible, to lose no time, and walked our young conductor almost off his legs. Even when the fried eels were ready for supper and coming up, having a message from a man who we had bribed for the purpose, that then we might see Oliver Cromwell, who was not at home when we called to see him, we sallied out again and made him a visit by candlelight—and so ended our sights. When we were setting out in the morning our new friend came to bid us good bye, and rode with us as far as Trompington. I never saw a creature so happy as he was the whole time he was with us, he said we had put him in such good spirits that [he] should certainly pass an examination well that he is to go through in six weeks in order to qualify himself to obtain a fellowship.

“Returning home down old Fetter Lane I could hardly keep from crying to think it was all over. With what pleasure [Charles] shewed me Jesus College where Coleridge was—the barbe[r’s shop] where Manning was—the house where Lloyd lived—Franklin’s rooms, a young schoolfellow with whom Charles was the first time he went to Cambridge: I peeped in at his window, the room looked quite deserted—old chairs standing about in disorder that
seemed to have stood there ever since they had sate in them. I write sad nonsense about these things, but I wish you had heard Charles talk his nonsense over and over again about his visit to Franklin, and how he then first felt himself commencing gentleman and had eggs for his breakfast.” Charles Lamb commencing gentleman!

A lady who is sitting by me seeing what I am doing says I remind her of her husband, who acknowledged that the first love letter he wrote to her was a copy of one he had made use of on a former occasion.

This is no letter, but if you give me any encouragement to write again you shall have one entirely to yourself: a little encouragement will do, a few lines to say you are well and remember us. I will keep this tomorrow, maybe Charles will put a few lines to it—I always send off a humdrum letter of mine with great satisfaction if I can get him to freshen it up a little at the end. Let me beg my love to your sister Johanna with many thanks. I have much pleasure in looking forward to her nice bacon, the maker of which I long have had a great desire to see.

God bless you, my dear Miss Hutchinson, I remain ever

Your affectionate friend
M. Lamb.
Augst. 20.
LETTER 211 (continued)
[Charles Lamb adds:—]

Dear Miss Hutchinson, I subscribe most willingly to all my sister says of her Enjoyment at Cambridge. She was in silent raptures all the while there, and came home riding thro’ the air (her 1st long outside journey) triumphing as if she had been graduated. I remember one foolish-pretty expression she made use of, “Bless the little churches how pretty they are,” as those symbols of civilized life opened upon her view one after the other on this side Cambridge. You cannot proceed a mile without starting a steeple, with its little patch of villagery round it, enverduring the waste. I don’t know how you will pardon part of her letter being a transcript, but writing to another Lady first (probably as the easiest task*) it was unnatural not to give you an accot of what had so freshly delighted her, and would have been a piece of transcendant rhetorick (above her modesty) to have given two different accounts of a simple and univocal pleasure. Bless me how learned I write! but I always forget myself when I write to Ladies. One
cannot tame one’s erudition down to their merely English apprehensions. But this and all other faults you will excuse from yours truly

C. Lamb.

Our kindest loves to Joanna, if she will accept it from us who are merely nominal to her, and to the child and child’s parent. Yours again

C. L.
[Mary Lamb adds this footnote:—]

* “Easiest Task.” Not the true reason, but Charles had so connected Coleridge & Cambridge in my mind, by talking so much of him there, and a letter coming so fresh from him, in a manner that was the reason I wrote to them first. I make this apology perhaps quite unnecessarily, but I am of a very jealous temper myself, and more than once recollect having been offended at seeing kind expressions which had particularly pleased me in a friend’s letter repeated word for word to another—Farewell once more.


[I have no idea why this charming letter was held back when Talfourd copied the Lamb-Wordsworth correspondence. I am very glad to be able to print it now. The name of the young man who showed the Lambs such courtesy is not known.

Coleridge’s literary plans were destined to change. The Biographia Literaria was published alone in 1817, and Sibylline Leaves alone later in the same year.—“Remorse” had been acted at Calne in June for the second time, a previous visit having been paid in 1813. Coleridge gave the manager a “flaming testimonial.”—Lady Beaumont was the wife of Sir George Beaumont (see page 405).

Oliver Cromwell.” The portrait by Cooper at Sidney Sussex College.

Marmaduke Franklin was with Lamb at Christ’s Hospital. Afterwards he became Master of the Blue Coat School at Hertford. He is mentioned in the Elia essay on Christ’s Hospital.]

[No date. ? Late summer, 1815.]

MY dear Miss Betham,—My brother and myself return you a thousand thanks for your kind communication. We have read your poem many times over with increased interest, and very
much wish to see you to tell you how highly we have been pleased with it. May we beg one favour?—I keep the manuscript in the hope that you will grant it. It is that, either now or when the whole poem is completed, you will read it over with us. When I say with us, of course I mean
Charles. I know that you have many judicious friends, but I have so often known my brother spy out errors in a manuscript which has passed through many judicious hands, that I shall not be easy if you do not permit him to look yours carefully through with you; and also you must allow him to correct the press for you.

If I knew where to find you I would call upon you. Should you feel nervous at the idea of meeting Charles in the capacity of a severe censor, give me a line, and I will come to you any where, and convince you in five minutes that he is even timid, stammers, and can scarcely speak for modesty and fear of giving pain when he finds himself placed in that kind of office. Shall I appoint a time to see you here when he is from home? I will send him out any time you will name; indeed, I am always naturally alone till four o’clock. If you are nervous about coming, remember I am equally so about the liberty I have taken, and shall be till we meet and laugh off our mutual fears.

Yours most affectionately
M. Lamb.

[The letter refers again to The Lay of Marie.

Here should come a letter from Lamb to Matilda Betham (franked by John Rickman, September 13, 1815), not available for this edition, in which Lamb apologises for delay in revising Miss Betham’s Lay of Marie. Mary Matilda Betham, whom we have already met, had written a very charming poem on the subject of Marie, a poetess who figured among the Anglo-Norman trouveurs of the thirteenth century. Both Lamb and Southey helped her with counsel. The poem was published in 1816.

In another undated letter on the same subject (printed by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt in The Lambs) Lamb expresses his willingness to finish the proofs of The Lay of Marie (he calls it just “Mary”), but says he cannot undertake anything else. Apparently he found the task impossible, and Mary Lamb had just been taken ill again. The next letter, which is undated, refers to the same matter.]


DR Miss Betham,—All this while I have been tormenting myself with the thought of having been ungracious to you, and you have been all the while accusing yourself. Let us absolve one another & be quits. My head is in such a state from incapacity for business that I certainly know it to be my duty not to undertake the veriest trifle in addition. I hardly know how I can go on. I have tried to get some redress by explaining my health, but with no great success. No one can tell how ill I am, because it does not come out to the exterior of my face, but lies in my scull deep & invisible. I wish I was leprous & black jaundiced skin-over, and [? or] that all was as well within as my cursed looks. You must not think me worse than I am. I am determined not to be overset, but to give up business rather and get ’em to allow me a trifle for services past. O that I had been a shoe-maker or a baker, or a man of large independt fortune. O darling Laziness! heaven of Epicurus! Saints Everlasting Rest! that I could drink vast potations of thee thro’ unmeasured Eternity. Otium cum vel sine dignitate. Scandalous, dishonerable, any-kind-of-repose. I stand not upon the dignified sort. Accursed damned desks, trade, commerce, business—Inventions of that old original busybody brainworking Satan, Sabbathless restless Satan—

A curse relieves. Do you ever try it?

A strange Letter this to write to a Lady, but mere honey’d sentences will not distill. I dare not ask who revises in my stead. I have drawn you into a scrape. I am ashamed, but I know no remedy. My unwellness must be my apology. God bless you (tho’ he curse the India House & fire it to the ground) and may no unkind Error creep into Marie, may all its readers like it as well as I do & everybody about you like its kind author no worse. Why the devil am I never to have a chance of scribbling my own free thoughts, verse or prose, again? Why must I write of Tea & Drugs & Price Goods & bales of Indigo—farewell.

C. Lamb.
[Written at head of Letter on margin the following:—]

Mary goes to her Place on Sunday—I mean your maid, foolish Mary. She wants a very little brains only to be an excellent Serv. She is excellently calculated for the country, where nobody has brains.


[In the passage concerning work and leisure we see another hint of the sonnet (printed on page 646) which Lamb was to write a little later.

Otium cum vel . . .”—“Ease either with or without dignity.” Here should come two notes to William Ayrton, printed by Mr. Macdonald, referring to the musical use of the word “air.”]

Thursday 19 Oct. 1815.

My brother is gone to Paris.

DEAR Miss H.—I am forced to be the replier to your Letter, for Mary has been ill and gone from home these five weeks yesterday. She has left me very lonely and very miserable. I stroll about, but there is no rest but at one’s own fireside, and there is no rest for me there now. I look forward to the worse half being past, and keep up as well as I can. She has begun to show some favorable symptoms. The return of her disorder has been frightfully soon this time, with scarce a six month’s interval. I am almost afraid my worry of spirits about the E I. House was partly the cause of her illness, but one always imputes it to the cause next at hand; more probably it comes from some cause we have no control over or conjecture of. It cuts sad great slices out of the time, the little time we shall have to live together. I don’t know but the recurrence of these illnesses might help me to sustain her death better than if we had had no partial separations. But I won’t talk of death. I will imagine us immortal, or forget that we are otherwise; by God’s blessing in a few weeks we may be making our meal together, or sitting in the front row of the Pit at Drury Lane, or taking our evening walk past the theatres, to look at the outside of them at least, if not to be tempted in. Then we forget we are assailable, we are strong for the time as rocks, the wind is tempered to the shorn Lambs. Poor C. Lloyd, and poor Priscilla, I feel I hardly feel enough for him, my own calamities press about me and involve me in a thick integument not to be reached at by other folks’ misfortunes. But I feel all I can, and all the kindness I can towards you all. God bless you. I hear nothing from Coleridge. Yours truly

C. Lamb.

[Mary Lamb had recovered from her preceding attack in February. She did not recover from the present illness until December.

“The wind is tempered to the shorn Lambs.” “‘But God tempers the wind,’ said Maria, ‘to the shorn lamb’” (Sterne’s Sentimental Journey). Also in Henri Estienne (1594).

“Poor C. Lloyd, and poor Priscilla.” Priscilla Wordsworth (née Lloyd) died this month, aged thirty-three. Charles Lloyd having just completed his translation of the tragedies of Alfieri, published in 1815, had been prostrated by the most serious visitation of his malady that he had yet suffered.]

Dec. 25th, 1815.

DEAR old friend and absentee,—This is Christmas-day 1815 with us; what it may be with you I don’t know, the 12th of June next year perhaps; and if it should be the consecrated season with you, I don’t see how you can keep it. You have no turkeys; you would not desecrate the festival by offering up a withered Chinese bantam, instead of the savoury grand Norfolcian holocaust, that smokes all around my nostrils at this moment from a thousand firesides. Then what puddings have you? Where will you get holly to stick in your churches, or churches to stick your dried tea-leaves (that must be the substitute) in? What memorials you can have of the holy time, I see not. A chopped missionary or two may keep up the thin idea of Lent and the wilderness; but what standing evidence have you of the Nativity?—’tis our rosy-cheeked, homestalled divines, whose faces shine to the tune of unto us a child; faces fragrant with the mince-pies of half a century, that alone can authenticate the cheerful mystery—I feel.

I feel my bowels refreshed with the holy tide—my zeal is great against the unedified heathen. Down with the Pagodas—down with the idols—Ching-chong-fo—and his foolish priesthood! Come out of Babylon, O my friend! for her time is come, and the child that is native, and the Proselyte of her gates, shall kindle and smoke together! And in sober sense what makes you so long from among us, Manning? You must not expect to see the same England again which you left.


Empires have been overturned, crowns trodden into dust, the face of the western world quite changed: your friends have all got old—those you left blooming—myself (who am one of the few that remember you) those golden hairs which you recollect my taking a pride in, turned to silvery and grey. Mary has been dead and buried many years—she desired to be buried in the silk gown you sent her. Rickman, that you remember active and strong, now walks out supported by a servant-maid and a stick. Martin Burney is a very old man. The other day an aged woman knocked at my door, and pretended to my acquaintance; it was long before I had the most distant cognition of her; but at last together we made her out to be Louisa, the daughter of Mrs. Topham, formerly Mrs. Morton, who had been Mrs. Reynolds, formerly Mrs. Kenney, whose first husband was Holcroft, the dramatic writer of the last century. St. Paul’s Church is a heap of ruins; the Monument isn’t half so high as you knew it, divers parts being successively taken down which the ravages of time had rendered dangerous; the horse at Charing Cross is gone, no one knows whither,—and all this has taken place while you have been settling whether Ho-hing-tong should be spelt with a —— or a ——. For aught I see you had almost as well remain where you are, and not come like a Struldbug into a world where few were born when you went away. Scarce here and there one will be able to make out your face; all your opinions will be out of date, your jokes obsolete, your puns rejected with fastidiousness as wit of the last age. Your way of mathematics has already given way to a new method, which after all is I believe the old doctrine of Maclaurin, new-vamped up with what he borrowed of the negative quantity of fluxions from Euler.

Poor Godwin! I was passing his tomb the other day in Cripplegate churchyard. There are some verses upon it written by Miss Hayes, which if I thought good enough I would send you. He was one of those who would have hailed your return, not with boisterous shouts and clamours, but with the complacent gratulations of a philosopher anxious to promote knowledge as leading to happiness—but his systems and his theories are ten feet deep in Cripplegate mould. Coleridge is just dead, having lived just long enough to close the eyes of Wordsworth, who paid the debt to nature but a week or two before. Poor Col., but two days before he died he wrote to a bookseller proposing an epic poem on the “Wanderings of Cain,” in twenty-tour books. It is said he has left behind him more than forty thousand treatises in criticism and metaphysics, but few of them in a state of completion. They are now destined, perhaps, to wrap up spices. You see what mutations the busy hand of Time has produced, while you
have consumed in foolish voluntary exile that time which might have gladdened your friends—benefited your country; but reproaches are useless. Gather up the wretched reliques, my friend, as fast as you can, and come to your old home. I will rub my eyes and try to recognise you. We will shake withered hands together, and talk of old things—of St. Mary’s Church and the barber’s opposite, where the young students in mathematics used to assemble. Poor Crisp, that kept it afterwards, set up a fruiterer’s shop in Trumpington-street, and for aught I know, resides there still, for I saw the name up in the last journey I took there with my sister just before she died. I suppose you heard that I had left the India House, and gone into the Fishmongers’ Almshouses over the bridge. I have a little cabin there, small and homely; but you shall be welcome to it. You like oysters, and to open them yourself; I’ll get you some if you come in oyster time.
Marshall, Godwin’s old friend, is still alive, and talks of the faces you used to make.

Come as soon as you can.

C. Lamb.

[Since Lamb’s last letter Manning had entered Lhassa, the sacred city of Thibet, being the first Englishman to do so. He remained there until April, 1812, when he returned to Calcutta. Then he took up his abode once more in Canton, and, in 1816, moved to Peking as interpreter to Lord Amherst’s embassy, returning to England the following year.

“Norfolcian.” Manning was a Norfolk man.

“Struldbug.” In Gulliver’s Travels. The Struldbrugs who lived in Luggnagg and never died.

“Maclaurin.” Here Lamb surprises the reader by a reasonable remark. Colin Maclaurin, the mathematician, was the author of A Treatise of Fluxions.

Coleridge actually had begun many years before an epic on the subject of the “Wanderings of Cain” (see note on page 173).]

Dec. 26th, 1815.

DEAR Manning,—Following your brother’s example, I have just ventured one letter to Canton, and am now hazarding another (not exactly a duplicate) to St. Helena. The first was full
of improbable romantic fictions, fitting the remoteness of the mission it goes upon; in the present I mean to confine myself nearer to truth as you come nearer home. A correspondence with the uttermost parts of the earth necessarily involves in it some heat of fancy; it sets the brain agoing; but I can think on the half-way house tranquilly. Your friends, then, are not all dead or grown forgetful of you through old age, as that lying letter asserted, anticipating rather what must happen if you kept tarrying on for ever on the skirts of creation, as there seemed a danger of your doing—but they are all tolerably well and in full and perfect comprehension of what is meant by Manning’s coming home again.
Mrs. Kenney (ci-devant Holcroft) never let her tongue run riot more than in remembrances of you. Fanny expends herself in phrases that can only be justified by her romantic nature. Mary reserves a portion of your silk, not to be buried in (as the false nuncio asserts), but to make up spick and span into a new bran gown to wear when you come. I am the same as when you knew me, almost to a surfeiting identity. This very night I am going to leave off tobacco! Surely there must be some other world in which this unconquerable purpose shall be realised. The soul hath not her generous aspirings implanted in her in vain. One that you knew, and I think the only one of those friends we knew much of in common, has died in earnest. Poor Priscilla, wife of Kit Wordsworth! Her brother Robert is also dead, and several of the grown-up brothers and sisters, in the compass of a very few years. Death has not otherwise meddled much in families that I know. Not but he has his damn’d eye upon us, and is w[h]etting his infernal feathered dart every instant, as you see him truly pictured in that impressive moral picture, “The good man at the hour of death.” I have in trust to put in the post four letters from Diss, and one from Lynn, to St. Helena, which I hope will accompany this safe, and one from Lynn, and the one before spoken of from me, to Canton. But we all hope that these latter may be waste paper. I don’t know why I have forborne writing so long. But it is such a forlorn hope to send a scrap of paper straggling over wide oceans. And yet I know when you come home, I shall have you sitting before me at our fire-side just as if you had never been away. In such an instant does the return of a person dissipate all the weight of imaginary perplexity from distance of time and space! I’ll promise you good oysters. Cory is dead, that kept the shop opposite St. Dunstan’s, but the tougher materials of the shop survive the perishing frame of its keeper. Oysters continue to flourish there under as good auspices. Poor Cory! But if you will absent yourself twenty years together, you must not expect numerically the same population to congratulate your return which wetted the sea-beach with their tears when you went away. Have you recovered the breathless
stone-staring astonishment into which you must have been thrown upon learning at landing that an
Emperor of France was living in St. Helena? What an event in the solitude of the seas! like finding a fish’s bone at the top of Plinlimmon; but these things are nothing in our western world. Novelties cease to affect. Come and try what your presence can.

God bless you.—Your old friend,

C. Lamb.

[Robert Lloyd had died in 1811, and within a few days one of his brothers and one of his sisters.

“The good man at the hour of death.” I have not found the picture to which Lamb refers. Probably a popular print of the day, or he may have been incorrectly remembering Blake’s “Death of the Good Old Man” in Blair’s Grave.

Manning, by changing his plans, did not reach St. Helena when he expected to; not, indeed, until July, 1817, when he met Napoleon.]