LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Charles Lamb VI

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
‣ Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII
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Hazlitt has somewhere said of Charles Lamb speculatively, that he was a man who would laugh at a funeral and cry at a wedding. How far the first branch of the proposition was true may be seen by the following exquisite effusion:—

Charles Lamb to P. G. Patmore.

“Dear P.—I am so poorly! I have been to a funeral, where I made a pun, to the consternation of the rest of the mourners. And we had wine. I can’t describe to you the howl which the widow set up at proper intervals. Dash could, for it was not unlike what he makes.

“The letter I sent you was one directed to the care of E. White, India House, for Mrs. Hazlitt. Which Mrs. Hazlitt I don’t yet know, but A. has taken it to France on
speculation. Really it is embarrassing. There is
Mrs. present H., Mrs. late H., and Mrs. John H., and to which of the three Mrs. Wiggins’s it appertains I don’t know. I wanted to open it, but it’s transportation.

“I am sorry you are plagued about your book. I would strongly recommend you to take for one story Massinger’sOld Law.’ It is exquisite. I can think of no other.

“Dash is frightful this morning. He whines and stands up on his hind legs. He misses Beckey, who is gone to town. I took him to Barnet the other day, and he couldn’t eat his victuals after it. Pray God his intellects be not slipping.

Mary is gone out for some soles. I suppose it’s no use to ask you to come and partake of ’em; else there’s a steam-vessel.

“I am doing a tragi-comedy in two acts, and have got on tolerably; but it will be refused, or worse. I never had luck with anything my name was put to.

“Oh, I am so poorly! I waked it at my cousin’s the bookbinder’s, who is now with God; or if he is not, it’s no fault of mine.

“We hope the frank wines do not disagree
Mrs. Patmore. By the way, I like her.

“Did you ever taste frogs? Get them, if you can. They are like little Lilliput rabbits, only a thought nicer.

“Christ, how sick I am!—not of the world, but of the widow’s shrub. She’s sworn under £6000, but I think she perjured herself. She howls in E la, and I comfort her in B flat. You understand music?

“If you haven’t got Massinger, you have nothing to do but go to the first bibliotheque you can light upon at Boulogne, and ask for it (Gifford’s Edition), and if they haven’t got it, you can have “Athalie,” par Monsieur Racine, and make the best of it. But that ‘Old Law’’s delicious.*

“‘No shrimps!’ (That’s in answer to

* This refers to a series of tales that I was writing, (since published under the title of, “Chatsworth, or the Romance of a Week,”) for the subject of one of which he had recommended me to take “The Old Law.” As Lamb’s critical faculties (as displayed in the celebrated “specimens” which created an era in the dramatic taste of England) were not surpassed by those of any writer of his day, the reader may like to see a few “specimens” of some notes which Lamb took the pains to make on two of the tales that were

Mary’s question about how the soles are to be done.)

“I am uncertain where this wandering

shown to him. I give these the rather that there is occasionally blended with their critical nicety of tact, a drollery that is very characteristic of the writer. I shall leave these notes and verbal criticisms to speak for themselves, after merely explaining that they are written on separate bits of paper, each note having a numerical reference to that page of the MS. in which occurs the passage commented on.

“Besides the words ‘riant’ and ‘Euphrosyne,’ the sentence is senseless. ‘A sweet sadness’ capable of inspiring ‘a more grave joy”—than what?—than demonstrations of mirth? Odd if it had not been. I had once a wry aunt, which may make me dislike the phrase.

“‘Pleasurable:’—no word is good that is awkward to spell. (Query.) Welcome or Joyous.

“‘Steady self-possession rather than undaunted courage,’ &c. The two things are not opposed enough. You mean, rather than rash fire of valor in action.”

“‘Looking like a heifer,’ I fear wont do in prose. (Qy.) ‘Like to some spotless heifer,’—or,‘that you might have compared her to some ‘spotless heifer,’ &c.—or,’ Like to some sacrificial heifer of old.’ I should prefer, ‘garlanded with flowers as for a sacrifice’—and cut the cow altogether.”

“(Say) ‘Like the muttering of some strange spell,’omitting the demon,—they are subject to spells, they don’t use them.”

“‘Feud’ here (and before and after) is wrong. (Say) old malice, or, difference. Feud is of clans. It

letter may reach you. What you mean by Poste Restante, God knows. Do you mean I must pay the postage? So I do to Dover.

might be applied to family quarrels, but is quite improper to individual fallings out.”

“‘Apathetic’ Vile word.

“‘Mechanically,’ faugh!—insensibly—involuntarily—in-anything-ly but mechanically.”

“Calianax’s character should be somewhere briefly drawn, not left to be dramatically inferred.”

“‘Surprised and almost vexed while it troubled her.’ (awkward.) Better, ‘in a way that while it deeply troubled her, could not but surprise and vex her to think it should be a source of trouble at all.”

“‘Reaction’ is vile slang. ‘Physical’—vile word.”

“Decidedly, Dorigen should simply propose to him to remove the rocks as ugly or dangerous, not as affecting her with fears for her husband. The idea of her husband should be excluded from a promise which is meant to be frank upon impossible conditions. She cannot promise in one breath infidelity to him, and make the conditions a good to him. Her reason for hating the rocks is good, but not to be expressed here.”

“Insert after ‘to whatever consequences it might lead,’—‘Neither had Arviragus been disposed to interpose a husband’s authority to prevent the execution of this rash vow, was he unmindful of that older and more solemn vow which, in the young days of their marriage, he had imposed upon himself, in no instance to control the settled purpose or determination of his wedded wife;—so that by the chains of a double contract he seemed bound to abide by her decision in this instance, whatever it might be.’”


“We had a merry passage with the widow at the Commons. She was howling—part howling and part giving directions to the proctor—when crash! down went my sister through a crazy chair, and made the clerks grin, and I grinned, and the widow tittered—and then I knew that she was not inconsolable. Mary was more frightened than hurt.

“She’d make a good match for anybody (by she, I mean the widow.)
“‘If he bring but a relict away
He is happy, nor heard to complain.’

Procter has got a wen growing out at the nape of his neck, which his wife wants him to have cut off; but I think it rather an agreeable excrescence—like his poetry—redundant. Hone has hanged himself for debt. Godwin was taken up for picking pockets. Beckey takes to bad courses. Her father was blown up in a steam machine. The coroner found it Insanity. I should not like him to sit on my letter.*

* The reader need scarcely be told that all the above items of home news are pure fiction.


“Do you observe my direction? Is it Gallic?—Classical?*

“Do try and get some frogs. You must ask for ‘grenouilles’ (green-eels). They don’t understand ‘frogs,’ though it’s a common phrase with us.

“If you go through Bulloign (Boulogne) enquire if old Godfrey is living, and how he got home from the Crusades. He must be a very old man now.

“If there is anything new in politics or literature in France, keep it till I see you again, for I’m in no hurry. Chatty-Briant (Chateaubriand) is well, I hope.

“I think I have no more news; only give both our loves (‘all three,’ says Dash) to Mrs. Patmore, and bid her get quite well, as I am at present, bating qualms, and the grief incident to losing a valuable relation.

“C. L.”
“Londres, July 19, 1827.

If I give this imcomparable letter in all its disjointed integrity, with its enormous jokes

* By this it should seem that the direction was written before the letter, for the passage is not interlined.

in the shape of pretended domestic news, about
Procter, Hone, Godwin, Beckey, &c; its inimitable tableau vivant of the “merry passage with the widow at the Commons;” its “and then I knew that she was not inconsolable,” which cannot be paralleled out of Shakespeare; its startling dramatic interpolations, “No shrimps!” and “All three, says Dash;” its sick qualms, curable only by puns; its deliberate incoherencies; its hypothetical invitation to dinner, (I was at Paris at the time);—if I venture to give all these in their naked innocence, it is because I do not dare to tamper, even to the amount of a single word, with an epistolary gem that is worth the best volume of Horace Walpole’s, and half the “Elegant Extracts” from Pope and Atterbury to boot.