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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Walter Wilson, 16 December 1822

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
E. I. H. 16 dec. 22.

DEAR Wilson
Lightening I was going to call you—
You must have thought me negligent in not answering your letter sooner. But I have a habit of never writing letters, but at the office—’tis so much time cribbed out of the Company—and I am but just got out of the thick of a Tea Sale, in which most of the Entry of Notes, deposits &c. usually falls to my share. Dodwell is willing, but alas! slow. To compare a pile of my notes with his little hillock (which has been as long a building), what is it but to compare Olympus with a mole-hill. Then Wadd is a sad shuffler.—

I have nothing of Defoe’s but two or three Novels, and the Plague History. I can give you no information about him. As a slight general character of what I remember of them (for I have not look’d into them latterly) I would say that “in the appearance of truth in all the incidents and conversations that occur in them they exceed any works of fiction I am acquainted with. It is perfect illusion. The Author never appears in these self-narratives (for so they ought to be called or rather Auto-biographies) but the narrator chains us down to an implicet belief in every thing he says. There is all the minute detail of a log-book in it. Dates are painfully pressed upon the memory. Facts are repeated over and over in varying phrases, till you cannot chuse but believe them. It is like reading Evidence given in a Court of Justice. So anxious the story-teller seems, that the truth should be clearly comprehended, that when he has told us a matter of fact, or a motive, in a line or two farther down he repeats it with his favorite figure of speech, ‘I say’ so and so,—though he had made it abundantly plain before. This is in imitation of the common people’s way of speaking, or rather of the way in which they are addressed by a master or mistress, who wishes to impress something upon their memories; and has a wonderful effect upon matter-of-fact readers. Indeed it is to such principally that he writes. His style is else-
where beautiful, but plain & homely.
Robinson Crusoe is delightful to all ranks and classes, but it is easy to see that it is written in phraseology peculiarly adapted to the lower conditions of readers: hence it is an especial favorite with sea-faring men, poor boys, servant maids &c. His novels are capital kitchen-reading, while they are worthy from their deep interest to find a shelf in the Libraries of the wealthiest, and the most learned. His passion for matter of fact narrative sometimes betrayed him into a long relation of common incidents which might happen to any man, and have no interest but the intense appearance of truth in them, to recommend them. The whole latter half, or two thirds, of Colonel Jack is of this description. The beginning of Colonel Jack is the most affecting natural picture of a young thief that was ever drawn. His losing the stolen money in the hollow of a tree, and finding it again when he was in despair, and then being in equal distress at not knowing how to dispose of it, and several similar touches in the early history of the Colonel, evince a deep knowledge of human nature; and, putting out of question the superior romantic interest of the latter, in my mind very much exceed Crusoe. Roxana (1st Edition) is the next in Interest, though he left out the best part of it subsequent Editions from a foolish hypercriticism of his friend, Southerne. But Moll Flanders, the account of the Plague &c. &c. are all of one family, and have the same stamp of character.”—

[At the top of the first page is added:—]

Omitted at the end . . . believe me with friendly recollections, Brother (as I used to call you)

C. Lamb.
[Below the “Dear Wilson” is added in smaller writing:—]

The review was not mine, nor have I seen it.