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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 1820

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
Jan. 10th, 1820.

DEAR Coleridge,—A Letter written in the blood of your poor friend would indeed be of a nature to startle you; but this is nought but harmless red ink, or, as the witty mercantile phrase hath it, Clerk’s Blood. Damn ’em! my brain, guts, skin, flesh, bone, carcase, soul, Time, is all theirs. The Royal Exchange, Gresham’s Folly, hath me body and spirit. I admire some of Lloyd’s lines on you, and I admire your postponing reading them. He is a sad Tattler, but this is under the rose. Twenty years ago he estranged one friend from me quite, whom I have been regretting, but never could regain since; he almost alienated you (also) from me, or me from you, I don’t know which. But that breach is closed. The dreary sea is filled up. He has lately been at work “telling again,” as they call it, a most gratuitous piece of mischief, and has caused a coolness betwixt me and (not a friend exactly, but) [an] intimate acquaintance. I suspect, also, he saps Manning’s faith in me, who am to Manning more than an acquaintance. Still I like his writing verses about you. Will your kind host and hostess give us a dinner next Sunday, and better still, not expect us if the weather is very bad. Why you should refuse twenty guineas per sheet for Blackwood’s or any other magazine passes my poor comprehension. But, as Strap says, you know best. I have no
quarrel with you about præprandial avocations—so don’t imagine one. That Manchester sonnet I think very likely is
Capel Lofft’s. Another sonnet appeared with the same initials in the same paper, which turned out to be Procter’s. What do the rascals mean? Am I to have the fathering of what idle rhymes every beggarly Poetaster pours forth! Who put your marine sonnet and about Browne into “Blackwood”? I did not. So no more, till we meet.

Ever yours,
C. L.

[Charles Lloyd, returned to health, had written Desultory Thoughts in London, in which both Coleridge and Lamb appeared, Coleridge as *** and Lamb as **. The poem was published in 1821. Lloyd probably had sent it in manuscript or proof to Lamb and Coleridge. Some of Lloyd’s lines on Coleridge run thus:—

How shall I fitly speak on such a theme?
He is a treasure by the world neglected,
Because he hath not, with a prescience dim,
Like those whose every aim is self-reflected,
Pil’d up some fastuous trophy, that of him
Might tell, what mighty powers the age rejected,
But taught his lips the office of a pen—
By fools he’s deem’d a being lost to men.
. . . . . . . . . .
No! with magnanimous self-sacrifice,
And lofty inadvertency of fame,
He felt there is a bliss in being wise,
Quite independent of the wise man’s name.
Who now can say how many a soul may rise
To a nobility of moral aim
It ne’er had known, but for that spirit brave,
Which, being freely gifted, freely gave?
Sometimes I think that I’m a blossom blighted;
But this I ken, that should it not prove so,
If I am not inexorably spited
Of all that dignities mankind below;
By him I speak of, I was so excited,
While reason’s scale was poising to and fro,
“To the better cause;” that him I have to bless
For that which it is comfort to possess.
. . . . . . . . . .
No! Those who most have seen me, since the hour
When thou and I, in former happier days,
Frank converse held, though many an adverse power
Have sought the memory of those times to raze,
Can vouch that more it stirs me (thus a tower,
Sole remnant of vast castle, still betrays
Haply its former splendour) to have prov’d
Thy love, than by fresh friends to have been lov’d.

The story of one of Lloyd’s former indiscretions is told in the earlier letters of this collection. I cannot say what friend he quite
alienated, unless it was
James White (see Letter No. 32). The nature of the later offence of which Lamb accuses Lloyd is now unknown.

“Dreary sea.” From Christabel:
A dreary sea now flows between.
Line 423.

“As Strap says.” In Roderick Random.

“That Manchester sonnet.” A sonnet entitled “Manchester,” referring to the Luddites, and signed C. L., by Capel Lofft. Procter’s “C. L.” sonnet was upon Macready.

The marine sonnet was “Fancy in Nubibus” (see page 530). “About Browne” refers to a note by Coleridge on Sir Thomas Browne in the same number, signed G. J.—possibly James Gillman’s initials reversed.

We learn from a letter from Coleridge to J. H. Green (January 14, 1820) that the visit to Highgate which Lamb mentions was a New Year visit of annual occurrence. Lamb’s reference to præprandial avocations touches upon Coleridge’s habit of coming down to see his guests only when dinner was ready.]

Newington, Monday.
[Spring of 1820.]

MY dear Friend,—Since we heard of your sad sorrow, you have been perpetually in our thoughts; therefore, you may well imagine how welcome your kind remembrance of it must be. I know not how enough to thank you for it. You bid me write a long letter; but my mind is so possessed with the idea that you must be occupied with one only thought, that all trivial matters seem impertinent. I have just been reading again Mr. Hunt’s delicious Essay; which I am sure must have come so home to your hearts, I shall always love him for it. I feel that it is all that one can think, but which none but he could have done so prettily. May he lose the memory of his own babies in seeing them all grow old around him! Together with the recollection of your dear baby, the image of a little sister I once had comes as fresh into my mind as if I had seen her as lately. A little cap with white satin ribbon, grown yellow with long keeping, and a lock of light hair, were the only relics left of her. The sight of them always brought her pretty, fair face to my view, that to this day I seem to have a
perfect recollection of her features. I long to see you, and I hope to do so on Tuesday or Wednesday in next week. Percy Street! I love to write the word; what comfortable ideas it brings with it! We have been pleasing ourselves ever since we heard this piece of unexpected good news with the anticipation of frequent drop-in visits, and all the social comfort of what seems almost next-door neighbourhood.

Our solitary confinement has answered its purpose even better than I expected. It is so many years since I have been out of town in the Spring, that I scarcely knew of the existence of such a season. I see every day some new flower peeping out of the ground, and watch its growth; so that I have a sort of an intimate friendship with each. I know the effect of every change of weather upon them—have learned all their names, the duration of their lives, and the whole progress of their domestic economy. My landlady, a nice, active old soul that wants but one year of eighty, and her daughter, a rather aged young gentlewoman, are the only labourers in a pretty large garden; for it is a double house, and two long strips of ground are laid into one, well stored with fruit-trees, which will be in full blossom the week after I am gone, and flowers, as many as can be crammed in, of all sorts and kinds. But flowers are flowers still; and I must confess I would rather live in Russell Street all my life, and never set my foot but on the London pavement, than be doomed always to enjoy the silent pleasures I now do. We go to bed at ten o’clock. Late hours are life-shortening things; but I would rather run all risks, and sit every night—at some places I could name—wishing in vain at eleven o’clock for the entrance of the supper tray, than be always up and alive at eight o’clock breakfast, as I am here. We have a scheme to reconcile these things. We have an offer of a very low-rented lodging a mile nearer town than this. Our notion is, to divide our time, in alternate weeks, between quiet rest and dear London weariness. We give an answer to-morrow; but what that will be, at this present writing, I am unable to say. In the present state of our undecided opinion, a very heavy rain that is now falling may turn the scale. “Dear rain, do go away,” and let us have a fine cheerful sunset to argue the matter fairly in. My brother walked seventeen miles yesterday before dinner. And notwithstanding his long walk to and from the office, we walk every evening; but I by no means perform in this way so well as I used to do. A twelve-mile walk one hot Sunday morning made my feet blister, and they are hardly well now. Charles is not yet come home; but he bid me, with many thanks, to present his love to you and all yours, to all whom and to each individually, and to Mr. Novello in particular, I beg to add mine. With the sincerest wishes for the health and
happiness of all, believe me, ever, dear
Mary Sabilla, your most affectionate friend,

Mary Ann Lamb.

[Leigh Hunt’s essay “Deaths of Little Children” appeared in The Indicator for April 5, 1820; it was suggested by the same loss as that which prompted Mary Lamb’s letter.

The address Newington is a little confusing. The Lambs, we know from Letter 220, on page 490, had taken summer lodgings at Dalston. Newington is a mile farther out rather than nearer London. As there is no doubt that the year of the letter is correct, we must suppose that the Lambs had left Dalston for a while for Newington, only to return to it, as we know from several later letters dated from 14 Kingsland Row.]

London, India House, [? May 26th, 1820.]

MY dear Sir,—I am quite ashamed of not having acknowledged your kind present earlier, but that unknown something, which was never yet discovered, though so often speculated upon, which stands in the way of lazy folks answering letters, has presented its usual obstacle. It is not forgetfulness, nor disrespect, nor incivility, but terribly like all these bad things.

I have been in my time a great epistolary scribbler; but the passion, and with it the facility, at length wears out; and it must be pumped up again by the heavy machinery of duty or gratitude, when it should run free.

I have read your “Fall of Cambria” with as much pleasure as I did your “Messiah.” Your Cambrian poem I shall be tempted to repeat oftenest, as Human poems take me in a mood more frequently congenial than Divine. The character of Llewellyn pleases me more than any thing else, perhaps; and then some of the Lyrical Pieces are fine varieties.

It was quite a mistake that I could dislike anything you should write against Lord Byron, for I have a thorough aversion to his character and a very moderate admiration of his genius; he is great in so little a way. To be a poet is to be the man—not a petty portion of occasional low passion worked up into a permanent
form of humanity.
Shakespear has thrust such rubbishy feelings into a corner—the dark, dusky heart of Don John, in the Much Ado about Nothing. The fact is, I have not seen your “Expostulatory Epistle” to him. I was not aware, till your question, that it was out. I shall inquire, and get it forthwith.

Southey is in town, whom I have seen slightly; Wordsworth expected, whom I hope to see much of. I write with accelerated motion; for I have two or three bothering clerks and brokers about me, who always press in proportion as you seem to be doing something that is not business. I could exclaim a little profanely, but I think you do not like swearing.

I conclude, begging you to consider that I feel myself much obliged by your kindness, and shall be most happy at any and at all times to hear from you.

Dear Sir, yours truly,

Charles Lamb.

[Joseph Cottle, the Bristol publisher, had apparently just sent Lamb a copy of his Fall of Cambria, although it had been published some years before. Perhaps Lamb had sent him his Works, and it was a return gift. Cottle’s very serious Expostulatory Epistle to Lord Byron (who had cast ridicule upon him and his brother in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers) was issued in 1820, after the publication of Don Juan had begun.

Southey arrived in London on May Day, 1820. Wordsworth followed early in June.]

[May 25, 1820.]

DEAR Miss W.—There can be none to whom the last volume of W. W. has come more welcome than to me. I have traced the Duddon in thought and with repetition along the banks (alas!) of the Lea—(unpoetical name); it is always flowing and murmuring and dashing in my ears. The story of Dion is divine—the genius of Plato falling on him like moonlight—the finest thing ever expressed. Then there is Elidure and Kirkstone Pass—the last not new to me—and let me add one of the sweetest of them all to me,
The Longest Day. Loving all these as much as I can love poetry new to me, what could I wish or desire more or extravagantly in a new volume? That I did not write to W. W. was simply that he was to come so soon, and that flattens letters. . . .

C. L.

[I print from Professor Knight’s text, in his Life of Wordsworth. Canon Ainger supplies omissions—a reference to Martin Burney’s black eye.

The Wordsworths were in town this summer, to attend the wedding of Thomas Monkhouse and Miss Horrocks. We know from Crabb Robinson’s Diary that they were at Lamb’s on June 2: “Not much was said about his [W. W.’s] new volume of poems. But he himself spoke of the ‘Brownie’s Cell’ as his favourite.” The new volume was The River Duddon, a Series of Sonnets, . . . 1820. “The Longest Day” begins:—
Let us quit the leafy arbour.

Between this letter and the next Lamb wrote and sent off his first contribution to the London Magazine over the signature Elia—“The South-Sea House,” which was printed in the number for August, 1820.

Here should come a letter to Allsop. See Appendix II., page 973.]

London, 16 Aug., 1820.

DEAR Field,—Captain Ogilvie, who conveys this note to you, and is now paying for the first time a visit to your remote shores, is the brother of a Gentleman intimately connected with the family of the Whites, I mean of Bishopsgate Street—and you will much oblige them and myself by any service or civilities you can shew him.

I do not mean this for an answer to your warm-hearted Epistle, which demands and shall have a much fuller return. We received your Australian First Fruits, of which I shall say nothing here, but refer you to **** of the Examiner, who speaks our mind on all public subjects. I can only assure you that both Coleridge and
Wordsworth, and also C. Lloyd, who has lately reappeared in the poetical horizon, were hugely taken with your Kangaroo.

When do you come back full of riches and renown, with the regret of all the honest, and all the other part of the colony? Mary swears she shall live to see it.

Pray are you King’s or Queen’s men in Sidney? Or have thieves no politics? Man, don’t let this lie about your room for your bed sweeper or Major Domo to see, he mayn’t like the last paragraph.

This is a dull and lifeless scroll. You shall have soon a tissue of truth and fiction impossible to be extricated, the interleavings shall be so delicate, the partitions perfectly invisible, it shall puzzle you till you return, & [then] I will not explain it. Till then a . . . adieu, with kind rembrces. of me both to you & . . . [Signature and a few words torn off.]


[Barron Field, who was still in New South Wales, had published his poems under the title First-Fruits of Australian Poetry, and Lamb had reviewed them in The Examiner for January 16, 1820, over his usual signature in that paper, * * * *. “The Kangaroo” is quoted in that review (see Vol. I. of the present edition, page 199).

Captain Ogilvie was the brother of a clerk at the India House, who gave Mr. Joseph H. Twichell some reminiscences of Lamb, which were printed in Scribner’s Magazine.

“King’s or Queen’s men”—supporters of George IV. or Caroline of Brunswick. Lamb was very strongly in favour of the Queen, as his Champion epigrams show (see Vol. V.).

“You shall soon see.” Lamb’s first reference to the Elia essays, alluding here to “The South-Sea House.”

Here should come a letter from Lamb to Hazlitt, not available for this edition, printed by Mr. Hazlitt in his edition of the letters in Bonn’s library. Lamb says that his sister is ill again and that the last thing she read was Hazlitt’s “Thursday Nights” which gave her unmixed delight—the reference being to the second part of the essay “On the Conversation of Authors,” which was printed in the London Magazine for September, 1820, describing Lamb’s evenings. Stoddart, Hazlitt’s brother-in-law, Lamb adds, says it is better than Hogarth’s “Modern Midnight Conversation.”]

[No date. ? Autumn, 1820.]

DEAR C,—Why will you make your visits, which should give pleasure, matter of regret to your friends? You never come but you take away some folio that is part of my existence. With a great deal of difficulty I was made to comprehend the extent of my loss. My maid Becky brought me a dirty bit of paper, which contained her description of some book which Mr. Coleridge had taken away. It was “Luster’s Tables,” which, for some time, I could not make out. “What! has he carried away any of the tables, Becky?” “No, it wasn’t any tables, but it was a book that he called Luster’s Tables.” I was obliged to search personally among my shelves, and a huge fissure suddenly disclosed to me the true nature of the damage I had sustained. That book, C., you should not have taken away, for it is not mine; it is the property of a friend, who does not know its value, nor indeed have I been very sedulous in explaining to him the estimate of it; but was rather contented in giving a sort of corroboration to a hint that he let fall, as to its being suspected to be not genuine, so that in all probability it would have fallen to me as a deodand; not but I am as sure it is Luther’s as I am sure that Jack Bunyan wrote the “Pilgrim’s Progress;” but it was not for me to pronounce upon the validity of testimony that had been disputed by learneder clerks than I. So I quietly let it occupy the place it had usurped upon my shelves, and should never have thought of issuing an ejectment against it; for why should I be so bigoted as to allow rites of hospitality to none but my own books, children, &c.?—a species of egotism I abhor from my heart. No; let ’em all snug together, Hebrews and Proselytes of the gate; no selfish partiality of mine shall make distinction between them; I charge no warehouse-room for my friends’ commodities; they are welcome to come and stay as long as they like, without paying rent. I have several such strangers that I treat with more than Arabian courtesy; there’s a copy of More’s fine poem, which is none of mine; but I cherish it as my own; I am none of those churlish landlords that advertise the goods to be taken away in ten days’ time, or then to be sold to pay expenses. So you see I had no right to lend you that book; I may lend you my own books, because it is at my own hazard, but it is not honest to hazard a friend’s property; I always make that distinction. I hope you will bring it with you, or send it by
Hartley; or he can bring that, and you the “Polemical Discourses,” and come and eat some atoning mutton with us one of these days shortly. We are engaged two or three Sundays deep, but always dine at home on week-days at half-past four. So come all four—men and books I mean—my third shelf (northern compartment) from the top has two devilish gaps, where you have knocked out its two eye-teeth.

Your wronged friend,
C. Lamb.

[This letter is usually dated 1824, but I think it was written earlier. For one reason, Hartley Coleridge was not in London in that year, and for another, there are several phrases in the Elia essay “Two Races of Men” (printed in the London Magazine, December, 1820) that are so similar to some in this letter that I imagine the letter to have suggested the subject of the essay, the composition of which immediately followed it. Thus, in the essay we read:—

“That foul gap in the bottom shelf facing you, like a great eyetooth knocked out—(you are now with me in my little back study in Bloomsbury, reader!)——with the huge Switzer-like tomes on each side (like the Guildhall giants, in their reformed posture, guard ant of nothing) once held the tallest of my folios, Opera Bonaventuræ, choice and massy divinity, to which its two supporters (school divinity also, but of a lesser calibre,—Bellarmine, and Holy Thomas), showed but as dwarfs,—itself an Ascapart!—that Comberbatch abstracted upon the faith of a theory he holds, which is more easy, I confess, for me to suffer by than to refute, namely, that ‘the title to property in a book (my Bonaventure, for instance) is in exact ratio to the claimant’s powers of understanding and appreciating the same.’ Should he go on acting upon this theory, which of our shelves is safe?”

“Luster’s Tables”—Luther’s Table Talk.

“Hebrews and Proselytes of the gate.” The proselyte of the gate—that is the stranger—was only partly admitted to Judaism. The proselyte of righteousness, that is to say, of conviction rather than convenience, was a true Hebrew.

“More’s fine poem.” The Psychozoia Platonica, 1642, of Henry More, the Platonist. Lamb seems to have returned the book, for it was not among his books that he left. Luther’s Table Talk seems also to have been given up.

The Polemical Discourses”—by Jeremy Taylor.]