LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Charles Lamb IX

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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As it is not the aim of this work to exalt or aggrandize the intellectual pretensions of the persons to whom it relates, but only to give true sketches of them as they appeared from the point of view from which the writer looked at them, I shall resort very sparingly to those daily records which I occasionally made, of my personal intercourse with them at set literary or other meetings, where they were more or less on show, and consequently never perfectly themselves—any more than a sitter for his portrait is until the artist has talked and enticed him into forgetfulness of the occasion of his visit. What I profess to know and to depict of the persons I treat of was gathered chiefly in that familiar tête-à-tête intercourse in which alone men show themselves for what they really are. The startling strangeness of
Lamb’s utterances at those social meetings in which he joined, either at his own house or elsewhere, though strikingly characteristic of the turn of thought and tone of feeling which prompted them, were anything but indicative of his personal and intellectual character, except as these were momentarily coloured and modified by the circumstances acting upon them. Still, as these colourings and modifications are part and parcel of the picture he has left on my recollection, the reader may like, and, indeed, may be considered as entitled in Lamb’s case, to see a few of those traits and touches which the self-painter was accustomed to throw in when the beloved solitude of his studio was disturbed by the presence of comparative strangers. And to this end I shall copy verbatim from a diary which, when made at all, was invariably made on the night of the day to which it refers.

“December 5, 1826.—Spent the evening at Lamb’s. When I went in, they (Charles and his sister) were alone, playing at cards together.

“I took up a book on the table—
Almack’s’—and Lamb said—‘Ay; that must be all max to the lovers of scandal.’

“Speaking of Northcote, he related a story of him, illustrating his love for doing and saying little malicious things. It was at a party at Sir Joshua Reynolds’s, where Boswell was present, and they were talking of Malone, and somebody said that Malone seemed to live in Shakespeare, and not to have a feeling or thought connected with anything else; upon which Northcote said—‘Then he must have been the meanest of mankind. The man who sets up any other man as a sort of God, and worships him to the exclusion of all other things and thoughts, must be the meanest of men;—and everybody,’ said Northcote (who was himself the original relator of the story), ‘everybody turned and looked at Boswell.’

“We spoke of L. E. L., and Lamb said—‘If she belonged to me, I would lock her up and feed her on bread and water till she left off writing poetry. A female poet, or female author of any kind, ranks below an actress, I think.’

“—— was mentioned, and Lamb said
he seemed to him to be a sort of
L. E. L. in pantaloons.

Bernard Barton was mentioned, and Lamb said that he did not write nonsense, at any rate—which all the rest of them did (meaning the Magazine poets of the day). He was dull enough; but not nonsensical. ‘He writes English, too,’ said Lamb, ‘which they do not.’

H. C. R. came in about half-past eight, and put a stop to all further conversation— keeping all the talk to himself.

“Speaking of some German story, in which a man is made to meet himself—he himself having changed forms with some one else—the talk turned on what we should think of ourselves, if we could see ourselves without knowing that it was ourselves. R. said that he had all his life felt a sort of horror come over him every time he caught a sight of his own face in the glass; and that he was almost afraid to shave himself for the same reason. He said that he often wondered how anybody could sustain an intimacy with, much less feel a friendship for, a man with such a face. Lamb said—‘I hope you have
mercy on the barbers, and always shave yourself.’

“Speaking of names, Lamb said—‘John of Gaunt, time-honoured Lancaster,’ was the grandest name in the world. On this R. spoke of a Spanish pamphlet he had lately met with, describing the Reformation, in which all the English names were changed to Spanish ones, and the fine effect it had. It began by relating that a great prince named Don Henriquez (Henry VIII.) was married to a beautiful princess called La Donna Catalina (Queen Catherine)—that he was under the influence of a wily priest named il Cardinal Bolseo (Wolsey), who advised him to divorce his chaste wife la Donna Catalina, and unite himself to a foul though beautiful witch named La Donna Anna Volena (Anna Boleyn). Jane Seymour was called La Donna Joanna Sumaro, and her house (at Greenwich) the castle of Grenuccio.

“Friday, July 13.—Spent the evening at Leigh Hunt’s, with the Lambs, Atherstone, Mrs. Shelley, and the Gliddons. Lamb talked admirably about Dryden and some of the older poets, in particular of Davenant’s
Gondibert. Of this Hunt wanted to show that it consisted almost entirely of monosyllables, which give a most heavy and monotonous effect to the versification; and he read some passages to that effect. Lamb would not admit this, and he read an admirable passage in reply, about a Museum of Natural Curiosities in which Man, the pretended Lord of all the other creatures, hung by the wall, dry, like all the rest, and even Woman, the Lord of Man, hung there too—‘and she dried by him.’ The effect of the passage was prodigious. . . .

“He (Lamb) spoke of Dryden as a prodigious person, so far as his wonderful power of versification went, but not a first-rate poet, or even capable of appreciating such—giving instances from his prefaces in proof of this. He spoke of Dryden’s prefaces as the finest pieces of criticism, nevertheless, that had ever been written, and the better for being contradictory to each other, because not founded on any pretended rules.

Hunt was asking how it was necessary to manage in order to get Coleridge to come and dine. Lamb replied that he believed he (Cole-
ridge) was under a kind of watch and ward—alluding to the watchful care taken of him by the
Gilmans, with whom he was then residing. ‘Ah,’ said H., ‘vain is the watch (Mrs. G.), and bootless is the ward’ (Mr. G.), who always wore shoes.

Lamb repeated one of his own enormous puns. He had met Procter, and speaking of his little girl (then an infant), Procter said they had called her Adelaide. ‘Ah,’ said Lamb, ‘a very good name for her—Addle-head.’”

The two following anecdotes are so characteristic that, although they reached me at second-hand, and may possibly, therefore, have been printed before, I will not omit them. They were told me by James Smith (of the “Rejected Addresses”), at a dinner at the late Charles Matthews’s:—

Lamb and Coleridge were talking together on the incidents of Coleridge’s early life, when he was beginning his career in the Church, and Coleridge was describing some of the facts in his usual tone, when he paused, and said: “Pray, Mr. Lamb, did you ever
hear me preach?” “Damme,” said Lamb, “I never heard you do anything else.”

The other anecdote was of a lady—a sort of social Mrs. Fry—who had been for some time lecturing Lamb on his irregularities. At last, she said: “But, really, Mr. Lamb, I’m afraid all that I’m saying has very little effect on you. I’m afraid, from your manner of attending to it, that it will not do you much good.” “No, ma’am,” said Lamb, “I don’t think it will. But as all that you have been saying has gone in at this ear (the one next her) and out at the other, I dare say it will do this gentleman a great deal of good,” turning to a stranger who stood on the other side of him.