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Why, half the truths I have sent you in this letter will become lies before they reach you, and some of the lies (which I have mixed for variety's sake, and to exercise your judgment in the finding of them out) may be turned into sad realities before you shall be called upon to detect them. Such are the defects of going by different chronologies. Your now is not my now ; and again, your then is not my then; but my now may be your then, and vice versa. Whose head is competent to these things 1
"How does Mrs. Field get on in her geography! Does she know where she is by this time? I am not sure sometimes you are not in another planet; but then I don't like to ask Capt. Burney, or any of those that know anything about it, for fear of exposing my ignorance.
"Our kindest remembrances, however, to Mrs. F., if she will accept of reminiscences from another planet, or at least another hemisphere. C. L."
Lamb's intention of spending the rest of his days in the Middle Temple was not to be realised. The inconveniences of being in chambers began to be felt as he and his sister grew older, and in the autumn of this year they removed to lodgings in Russell-street, Covent Garden, the corner house, delightfully situated between the two great theatres. In November, 1817, Miss Lamb announced the removal to Miss Wordsworth in a letter, to which Lamb added the following:—
TO MISS WORDSWORTH.
"nov. 21st, 1817. "Dear Miss Wordsworth,—Here we are, transplanted from our native soil. I thought we never could have been torn up from the Temple. Indeed it was an ugly wrench, but like a tooth, now 'tis out, and I am easy. We never can strike root so deep in any other ground. This, where we are, is a light bit of gardener's mould, and if they take us up from it, it will cost no blood and groans, like man-drakes pulled up. We are iu the individual spot I like best, in all this great city. The theatres, with all their noises. Covent Garden, dearer to me than any gardens of Alcinous, where we are morally sure of the earliest peas and 'sparagus.
Bow-street, where the thieves are examined, within a few yards of us. Mary had not been here four-and-twenty hours before she saw a thief. She sits at the window working; and casually throwing out her eyes, she sees a concourse of people coming this way, with a constable to conduct the solemnity. These little incidents agreeably diversify a female life.
"Mary has brought her part of this letter to an orthodox and loving conclusion, which is very well, for I have no room for pansies and remembrances. What a nice holyday I got on Wednesday by favour of a princess dying!" C. L."
[1818 to 1820.]
LETTERS TO WORDSWORTH, SOUTHEY, MANNING, AND COLERIDGE.
Lamb, now in the immediate neighbourhood of the theatres, renewed the dramatic associations of his youth, which the failure of one experiment had not chilled. Although he rather loved to dwell on the recollections of the actors who had passed from the stage, than to mingle with the happy crowds who hailed the successive triumphs of Mr. Kean, he formed some new and steady theatrical attachments. Hia chief favourites of this time were Miss Kelly, Miss Burrell of the Olympic, and Munden. The first, then the sole support of the English Opera, became a frequent guest in Great Russell-street, and charmed the circle there by the heartiness of her manners, the delicacy and gentleness of her remarks, and her unaffected sensibility, as much as she had done on the stage. Miss Burrell, a lady of more limited powers, but with a frank and noble style, was discovered by Lamb on one of the visits which he paid, on the invitation of his old friend Elliston to the Olympic, where the lady performed the hero of that happy parody of Moncrieff's Giovanni in London. To her Lamb devoted a little article, which he sent to the Examiner, in which he thus addresses her:— "But Giovanni, free, fine, frank-spirited single-hearted creature, turning all the mischief into fun as harmless as toys, or children's make believe, what praise can we repay to you adequate to the pleasure which you have given us? We had better be silent, for you have no name, and our mention will but be thought fantastical. You have taken out the sting from the evil thing, by what magic we know not, for there are actresses of greater merit and likelihood than you. With you and your Giovanni our spirits will hold communion, whenever sorrow or suffering shall be our lot. We have seen you triumph over the infernal powers; and pain and Erebus, and the powers of darkness, are shapes of a dream." Miss Burrell soon married a person named Gold, and disappeared from the stage. To Munden in prose, and Miss Kelly in verse, Lamb has done ample justice.
Lamb's increasing celebrity, and universal kindness, rapidly increased the number of his visitors. He thus complained, in wayward mood, of them to Mrs. Wordsworth:—
TO MRS. WORDSWORTH.
"East-India House, 18th Feb., 1818. "My dear Mrs. Wordsworth,—I have repeatedly taken pen in hand to answer your kind letter. My sister should more properly have done it, but she having failed, I consider myself answerable for her debts. I am now trying to do it in the midst of commercial noises, and with a quill which seems more ready to glide into arithmetical figures and names of gourds, cassia, cardemoms, aloes, ginger, or tea, than into kindly responses and friendly recollections. The reason why I cannot write letters at home, is, that I am never alone. Plato's—(I write to W. W. now)— Plato's double-animal parted never longed more to be reciprocally re-united in the system of its first creation, than I sometimes do to be but for a moment single and separate. Except my morning's walk to the office, which is like treading on sands of gold for that reason, I am never so. I cannot walk home from office, but some officious friend offers his unwelcome courtesies to accompany me. All the morning I am pestered. I could sit and gravely cast up sums in great books, or compare sum with sum, and write 'paid' against this, and 'unpaid' against t'other, and yet reserve in some corner of my mind, 'some darling thoughts all my own'—faint memory of some passage in a book, or the tone of an absent friend's voice—a snatch of
Miss Burrell's singing, or a gleam of Fanny Kelly's divine plain face. The two operations might be going on at the same time without thwarting, as the sun's two motions (earth's I mean), or, as I sometimes turn round till I am giddy, in my back parlour, while my sister is walking longitudinally in the front; or, as the shoulder of veal twists round with the spit, while the smoke wreathes up the chimney. But there are a set of amateurs of the Belles Lettres—the gay science—who come to me as a sort of rendezvous, putting questions of criticism, of British Institutions, Lalla Rookhs, &c.—what Coleridge said at the lecture last night—who have the form of reading men, but, for any possible use reading can be to them, but to talk of, might as well have been AnteCadmeans born, or have lain sucking out the sense of an Egyptian hieroglyph as long as the pyramids will last, before they should find it. These pests worrit me at business, and in all its intervals, perplexing my accounts, poisoning my little salutary warming-time at the fire, puzzling my paragraphs if I take a newspaper, cramming in between my own free thoughts and a column of figures, which had come to an amicable compromise but for them. Their noise ended, one of them, as I said, accompanies me home, lest I should be solitary for a moment; he at length takes his welcome leave at the door; up I go, mutton on table, hungry as hunter, hope to forget my cares, and bury them in the agreeable abstraction of mastication ; knock at the door, in comes
Mr. , or M , or Demi-gorgon, or my
brother, or somebody, to prevent my eating alone—a process absolutely necessary to my poor wretched digestion. O, the pleasure of eating alone!—eating my dinner alone! let me think of it. But in they come, and make it absolutely necessary that I should open a bottle of orange—for my meat turns into stone when any one dines with me, if I have not wine. Wine can mollify stones ; then that wine turns into acidity, acerbity, misanthropy, a hatred of my interrupters—(God bless 'em! I love some of 'em dearly), and with the hatred, a still greater aversion to their going away. Bad is the dead sea they bring upon me, choking and deadening, but worse is the deader dry sand they leave me on, if they go before bed-time. Come never, I would say to these spoilers of my dinner; but if you come, never go! The fact is, this interruption does not happen very often, but every time it comes by surprise, that present bane of my life, orange wine, with all its dreary stifling consequences, follows. Evening company I should always like had I any mornings, but I am saturated with human faces (divine forsooth !) and voices, all the golden morning ; and five evenings in a week, would be as much as I should covet to be in company, but I assure you that is a wonderful week in which I can get two, or one to myself. I am never C. L., but always C. L. & Co. He, who thought it not good for man to be alone, preserve me from the more prodigious monstrosity of being never by myself! I forget bed-time, but even there these sociable frogs clamber up to annoy me. Once a week, generally some singular evening that being alone, I go to bed at the hour I ought always to be a-bed ; just close to my bed-room window is the club-room of a public-house, where a set of singers, I take them to be chorus singers of the two theatres (it must be both of them), begin their orgies. They are a set of fellows (as I conceive) who, being limited by their talents to the burthen of the song at the play-houses, in revenge have got the common popular airs by Bishop, or some cheap composer, arranged for choruses, that is, to be sung all in chorus. At least I never can catch any of the text of the plain song, nothing but the Babylonish choral howl at the tail on't. 'That fury being quenched'—the howl I mean —a burden succeeds of shouts and clapping, and knocking of the table. At length overtasked nature drops under it, and escapes for a few hours into the society of the sweet silent creatures of dreams, which go away with mocks and mows at cockcrow. And then I think of the words ChristabeFs father used (bless me, I have dipt in the wrong ink) to say every morning by way of variety when he awoke:
'Every knoll, the Baron saith,
or something like it. All I mean by this senseless interrupted tale, is, that by my central situation I am a little over-companied. Not that I have any animosity against the good creatures that are so anxious to drive
away the harpy solitude from me. I like 'em, and cards, and a cheerful glass ; but I mean merely to give you an idea between office confinement and after-office society, how little time I can call my own. I mean only to draw a picture not to make an inference. I would not that I know of have it otherwise. I only wish sometimes I could exchange some of my faces and voices for the faces and voices which a late visitation brought most welcome, and carried away, leaving regret but more pleasure, even a kind of gratitude, at being so often favoured with that kind northern visitation. My London faces and noises don't hear me—I mean no disrespect, or I should explain myself, that instead of their return 220 times a year, and the return of W. W., &c., seven times in 104 weeks, some more equal distribution might be found. I have scarce room to put in Mary's kind love, and my poor name, C. Lamb."
"S. T. C. is lecturing with success. I mean to hear some of the course, but lectures are not much to my taste, whatever the lecturer may be. If read, they are dismal flat, and you can't think why you are brought together to hear a man read his works, which you could read so much better at leisure yourself; if delivered extempore, I am always in pain, lest the gift of utterance should suddenly fail the orator in the middle, as it did me at the dinner given in honour of me at the London Tavern. 'Gentlemen,' said I, and there I stopped; the rest my feelings were under the necessity of supplying. Mrs. Wordsworth mil go on, kindly haunting us with visions of seeing the lakes once more, which never can be realised. Between us there is a great gulf, not of inexplicable moral antipathies and distances, I hope, as there seemed to be between me and that gentleman concerned in the stamp-office, that I so strangely recoiled from at Haydon's. I think I had an instinct that he was the head of an office. I hate all such people— accountants' deputy accountants. The dear abstract notion of the East India Company, as long as she is unseen, is pretty, rather poetical; but as she makes herself manifest by the persons of such beasts, 1 loathe and detest her as the scarlet what-dc-you-call-her of Babylon. I thought, after abridging us of all our red-letter days, they had done their worst, but I was deceived in the length to which heads of offices, those true libertylaters, can go. They are the tyrants, not Ferdinand, nor Nero—by a decree passed this week, they have abridged us of the immemorially-observed custom of going at one o'clock of a Saturday, the little shadow of a holiday left us. Dear W. W. be thankful for liberty."
Among Lamb's new acquaintances was Mr. Charles Oilier, a young bookseller of considerable literary talent, which he has since exhibited in the original and beautiful tale of " Inesilla," who proposed to him the publication of his scattered writings in a collected form. Lamb acceded; and nearly all he had then written in prose and verse, were published this year by Mr. Oilier and his brother, in two small and elegant volumes. Early copies were despatched to Southey and Wordsworth; the acknowledgments of the former of whom produced a reply, from which the following is an extract:—
TO MR. SOUTHEY.
"Monday, Oct. 26th, 1818. "Dear Southey,—I am pleased with your friendly remembrances of my little things. I do not know whether I have done a silly thing or a wise one, but it is of no great consequence. I run no risk, and care for no censures. My bread and cheese is stable as the foundations of Leadenhall-street, and if it hold out as long as the 'foundations of our empire in the East,' I shall do pretty well . You and W. W. should have had your presentation copies more ceremoniously sent, but I had no copies when I was leaving town for my holidays, and rather than delay, commissioned my bookseller to send them thus nakedly. By not hearing from W. W. or you, I began to be afraid Murray had not sent them. I do not see S. T. C. so often as I could wish. I am better than I deserve to be. The hot weather has been such a treat! Mary joins in this little corner in kindest remembrances to you all . C. L."
Lamb's interest was strongly excited for Mr. Kenney, on the production of his comedy entitled " A Word to the Ladies." Lamb had engaged to contribute the prologue; but the
promise pressed hard upon him, and he procured the requisite quantity of verse from a very inferior hand. Kenney, who had married Holcroft's widow, had more than succeeded to him in Lamb's regards. Holcroft had considerable dramatic skill; great force and earnestness of style, and noble sincerity and uprightness of disposition ; but he was an austere observer of morals and manners; and even his grotesque characters were hardly and painfully sculptured; while Kenney, with as fine a perception of the ludicrous and the peculiar, was more airy, more indulgent, more graceful, and exhibited more frequent glimpses of "the gayest, happiest attitude of things." The comedy met with less success than the reputation of the author and brilliant experience of the past had rendered probable, and Lamb had to perform the office of comforter, as he had done on the more unlucky event to Godwin. To this play Lamb refers in the following note to Coleridge, who was contemplating a course of lectures on Shakspeare, and who sent Lamb a ticket, with sad forebodings that the course would be his last.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"Deo. 24th, 1818. "My dear Coleridge,—I have been in a state of incessant hurry ever since the receipt of your ticket. It found me incapable of attending you, it being the night of Kenney's new comedy. You know my local aptitudes at such a time; I have been a thorough rendezvous for all consultations; my head begins to clear up a little, but it has had bells in it. Thank you kindly for your ticket, though the mournful prognostic which accompanies it certainly renders its permanent pretensions less marketable, but I trust to hear many a course yet. You excepted Christmas week, by which I understood next week; I thought Christmas week was that which Christmas Sunday ushered in. We are sorry it never lies in your way to come to us; but, dear Mahomet, we will come to you. Will it be convenient to all the good people at Highgate, if we take a stage up, not next Suiiday, but the following, viz., 3rd January, 1819—shall we be too late to catch a skirt of the old out-goer ?—how the years crumble from under us! We shall hope to see you before then; but, if not, let us know if then will be convenient. Can we secure a coach home?
"Believe me ever yours,
"I have but one holiday, which is Christmas-day itself nakedly: no pretty garnish and fringes of St. John's-day, Holy Innocents, &c., that used to bestud it all around in the calendar. Improbe labor/ I write six hours every day in this candle-light fogden at Leadenhall."
In the next year  Lamb was greatly pleased by the dedication to him of Wordsworth's poem of "The Waggoner," which Wordsworth had read to him in MS. thirteen years before. On receipt of the little volume, Lamb acknowledged it as follows:—
TO MR. WORDSWORTH.
"June 7th, 1819.
"My dear Wordsworth,—You cannot imagine how proud we are here of the dedication. We read it twice for once that we do the poem. I mean all through; yet 'Benjamin' is no common favourite; there is a spirit of beautiful tolerance in it; it is as good as it was in 1806; and it will be as good in 1829, if our dim eyes shall be awake to peruse it. Methinks there is a kind of shadowing affinity between the subject of the narrative and the subject of the dedication ;—but I will not enter into personal themes, else, substituting *********** for Ben, and the Honourable United Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies, for the master of the misused team, it might seem, by no far-fetched analogy, to point its dim warnings hitherward; but I reject the omen, especially as its import seems to have been diverted to another victim.
"I will never write another letter with alternate inks. You cannot imagine how it cramps the flow of the style. I can conceive, Pindar (I do not mean to compare myself to him), by the command of Hiero, the Sicilian tyrant (was not he the tyrant of some place 1 fie on my neglect of history); I can conceive him by command of Hiero or Perillus set down to pen an Isthmian or Nemean panegyric in lines, alternate red and black. I maintain he couldn't have done it; it would have been a strait-laced torture to his muse;
he would have call'd for the bull for a relief. Neither could Lycidas, or the Chorics (how do you like the word?) of Samson Agonistes, have been written with two inks. Your couplets with points, epilogues to Mr. H.'s, &c., might be even benefited by the twyfount, where one line (the second) is for point, and the first for rhyme. I think the alternation would assist, like a mould. I maintain it, you could not have written your stanzas on pre-existence with two inks. Try another; and Rogers, with his silver standish, having one ink only, I will bet my ' Ode on Tobacco,' against the ' Pleasures of Memory,' —and ' Hope,' too, shall put more fervour of enthusiasm into the same subject than you can with your two; he shall do it stans pede in uno, as it were.
"The 'Waggoner' is very ill put up in boards, at least it seems to me always to open at the dedication; but that is a mechanical fault. I re-read the 'White Doe of Rylstone ;' the title should be always written
at length, as Mary Sabilla N , a very
nice woman of our acquaintance, always signs hers at the bottom of the shortest note. Mary told her, if her name had been Mary
Ann, she would have signed M . A. N , or
M. only, dropping the A.; which makes me think, with some other trifles, that she understands something of human nature. My pen goes galloping on most rhapsodically, glad to have escaped the bondage of two inks.
"Manning has just sent it home, and it came as fresh to me as the immortal creature it speaks of. M . sent it home with a note, having this passage in it: 'I cannot help writing to you while I am reading Wordsworth's poem. I am got into the third canto, and say that it raises my opinion of him very much indeed.* 'Tis broad, noble, poetical, with a masterly scanning of human actions, absolutely above common readers. What a manly (implied) interpretation of (bad) partyactions, as trampling the Bible, &&,' and so he goes on.
"I do not know which I like best,—the prologue (the latter part especially) to P. Bell, or the epilogue to Benjamin. Yes, I tell stories; I do know I like the last best;
• "N.B.—M.. from his peregrinations, is twelve or fourteen years behind in his knowledge of who has or has not written good verse of late."