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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to John Fuller Russell, [Summer 1834]

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
[Summer, 1834.]

SIR,—I hope you will finish “Emily.” The story I cannot at this stage anticipate. Some looseness of diction I have taken liberty to advert to. It wants a little more severity of style. There are too many prettinesses, but parts of the Poem are better than pretty, and I thank you for the perusal.

Your humble Servt.
C. Lamb.

Perhaps you will favour me with a call while you stay.


Line 42. “The old abbaye” (if abbey was so spelt) I do not object to, because it does not seem your own language, but humoursomely adapted to the “how folks called it in those times.”

82. “Flares”! Think of the vulgarism “flare up;” let it be “burns.”

[In her pale countenance is blent
The majesty of high intent
With meekness by devotion lent,
And when she bends in prayer
Before the Virgin’s awful shrine,—
The rapt enthusiast might deem
The seraph of his brightest dream,
Were meekly kneeling there.]
“Was “decidedly, not “were.” The deeming or supposition, is of a reality, not a contingency. The enthusiast does not deem that a thing may be, but that it is.

[When first young Vernon’s flight she knew,
The lady deemed the tale untrue.]
“Deemed”! This word is just repeated above; say “thought” or “held.” “Deem” is half-cousin to “ween “and “wot.”

[By pure intent and soul sincere
Sustained and nerved, I will not fear
Reproach, shame, scorn, the taunting jeer,
And worse than all, a father’s sneer.]
A father’s “sneer”? Would a high-born man in those days sneer at a daughter’s disgrace—would he only sneer?
Reproach, and biting shame, and—worse
Than all—the estranged father’s curse.
I only throw this hint out in a hurry.

177. “Stern and sear”? I see a meaning in it, but no word is good that startles one at first, and then you have to make it out: “drear,” perhaps. Then why “to minstrel’s glance”? “To fancy’s eye,” you would say, not “to fiddler’s eye.”

422. A knight thinks, he don’t “trow.”

424. “Mayhap” is vulgarish. Perchance.

464. “Sensation” is a philosophic prose word. Feeling.

[The hill, where ne’er rang woodman’s stroke,
Was clothed with elm and spreading oak,
Through whose black boughs the moon’s mild ray
As hardly strove to win a way,
As pity to a miser’s heart.]
Natural illustrations come more naturally when by them we expound mental operations than when we deduce from natural objects similes of the mind’s workings. The miser’s struggle thus com-
pared is a beautiful image. But the storm and clouds do not inversely so readily suggest the miser.

[Havock and Wrath, his maniac bride,
Wheel o’er the conflict, &c]
These personified gentry I think are not in taste. Besides, Fear has been pallid any time these 2,000 years. It is mixing the style of
Æschylus and the Last Minstrel.

175. Bracy is a good rough vocative. No better suggests itself, unless Grim, Baron Grimm, or Grimoald, which is Saxon, or Grimbald! Tracy would obviate your objection [that the name Bracy occurs in Ivanhoe] but Bracy is stronger.

[The frown of night
Conceals him, and bewrays their sight.]
Betrays. The other has an unlucky association.

[The glinting moon’s half-shrouded ray.]
Why “glinting,” Scotch, when “glancing” is English?

[Then solemnly the monk did say,
(The Abbot of Saint Mary’s gray,)
The leman of a wanton youth
Perhaps may gain her father’s ruth,
But never on his injured breast
May lie, caressing and caressed.
Bethink you of the vow you made
When your light daughter, all distraught,
From yonder slaughter-plain was brought,
That if in some secluded cell
She might till death securely dwell,
The house of God should share her wealth.]
Holy abbots surely never so undisguisedly blurted out their secular aims.

I think there is so much of this kind of poetry, that it would not be very taking, but it is well worthy of pleasing a private circle. One blemish runs thro’, the perpetual accompaniment of natural images. Seasons of the year, times of day, phases of the moon, phenomena of flowers, are quite as much your dramatis personæ as the warriors and the ladies. This last part is as good as what precedes.