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stances of his boyish days. He had become familiar with the vestiges of antiquity, both in his school and in his home of the Temple; and these became dear to him in his serious and affectionate childhood. But, perhaps, more even than those external associations, the situation of his parents, as it was elevated and graced by their character, moulded his young thoughts to the holy habit of a liberal obedience, and unaspiring self-respect, which led rather to the embellishment of what was near than to the creation of visionary forms. He saw at home the daily beauty of a cheerful submission to a state bordering on the servile; he looked upward to his father's master, and the old Benchers who walked with him on the stately terrace, with a modest erectness of mind; and he saw in his own humble home how well the decencies of life could be maintained on slender means, by the exercise of generous principle. Another circumstance, akin to these, tended also to impart a tinge of venerableness to his early musings. His maternal grandmother was for many years housekeeper in the old and wealthy family of the Plumers of Hertfordshire, by whom she was held in true esteem; and his visits to their ancient mansion, where he had the free range of every apartment, gallery and terraced-walk, gave him "a peep at the contrasting accidents of a great fortune," and an alliance with that gentility of soul, which to appreciate, is to share. He has beautifully recorded his own recollections of this place in the essay entitled
"Blakesmoor in H shire," in which he
modestly vindicates his claim to partake in the associations of ancestry not his own, and shows the true value of high lineage by detecting the spirit of nobleness which breathes around it, for the enkindling of generous affections, not only in those who may boast of its possession, but in all who can feel its influences.
While the bias of the minds of Coleridge and Lamb thus essentially differed, it is singular that their opinions on religion, and ou those philosophical questions which border on religious belief, and receive their colour from it, agreed, although probably derived from various sources. Both were Unitarians, ardent admirers of the writings and character of Dr. Priestley, and both believers in necessity, according to Priestley's exposition, and in the inference which he drew from that
doctrine respecting moral responsibility, and the ultimate destiny of the human race. The adoption of this creed arose in Lamb from the accident of education; he was brought up to receive and love it; and attended, when circumstances permitted, at the chapel at Hackney, of which Mr. Belsham, afterwards of Essex Street, was then the minister. It is remarkable that another of Lamb's most intimate friends, in whose conversation, next to that of Coleridge, he most delighted, Mr. Hazlitt, with whom he became acquainted at a subsequent time, and who came from a distant part of the country, was educated in the same faith. With Coleridge, whose early impressions were derived from the rites and services of the Church of England, Unitarianism was the result of a strong conviction; so strong, that with all the ardour of a convert, he sought to win proselytes to his chosen creed, and purposed to spend his days in preaching it. Neither of these young men, however, long continued to profess it. Lamb, in his maturer life, rarely alluded to matters of religious doctrine ; and when he did so, evinced no sympathy with the professors of his once-loved creed. Hazlitt wrote to his father, who was a Unitarian minister at Wem, with honouring affection; and of his dissenting associates with respect, but he had obviously ceased to think or feel with them; and Coleridge's Remains indicate, what was well known to all who enjoyed the privilege of his conversation, that he not only reverted to a belief in the Trinitarian mysteries, but that he was accustomed to express as much distaste for Unitarianism, and for the spirit of its more active advocates, as the benignity of his nature would allow him to feel for any human opinion honestly cherished. Perhaps this solitary approach to intolerance in the universality of Coleridge's mind arose from the disapproval with which he might justly regard his own pride of understanding, as excited in defence of the doctrines he had adopted. To him there was much of devotional thought to be violated, many reverential associations, intertwined with the moral being, to be rent away in the struggle of the intellect to grasp the doctrines which were alien to its nurture. But to Lamb these formed the simple creed of his childhood; and slender and barren as they seem, to those who are united in religious sympathy with the great body of their fellow-countrymen, they sufficed for affections which had so strong a tendency to find out resting-places for themselves as his. Those who only knew him in his latter days, and who feel that if ever the spirit of Christianity breathed through a human life, it breathed in his, will, nevertheless, trace with surprise the extraordinary vividness of impressions directly religious, and the self-jealousy with which he watched the cares and distractions of the world, which might efface them, in his first letters. If in a life of ungenial toil, diversified with frequent sorrow, the train of these solemn meditations was broken; if he was led, in the distractions and labours of his course, to cleave more closely to surrounding objects than those early aspirations promised; if, in his cravings after immediate sympathy, he rather sought to perpetuate the social circle which he charmed, than to expatiate in scenes of untried being; his pious feelings were only diverted, not destroyed. The stream glided still, the under current of thought sometimes breaking out in sallies which strangers did not understand, but always feeding and nourishing the most exquisite sweetness of disposition, and the most unobtrusive proofs of self-denying love.
While Lamb was enjoying habits of the closest intimacy with Coleridge in London, he was introduced by him to a young poet whose name has often been associated with his—Charles Lloyd—the son of a wealthy banker at Birmingham, who had recently cast off the trammels of the Society of Friends, and, smitten with the love of poetry, had become a student at the University of Cambridge. There he had been attracted to Coleridge by the fascination of his discourse; and having been admitted to his regard, was introduced by him to Lamb. Lloyd was endeared both to Lamb and Coleridge by a very amiable disposition and a pensive cast of thought; but his intellect bore little resemblance to that of either. He wrote, indeed, pleasing verses and with great facility, —a facility fatal to excellence ; but his mind was chiefly remarkable for the fine power of analysis which distinguishes his "London," and other of his later compositions. In this power of discriminating and distinguishing
—carried to a pitch almost of painfuluess— Lloyd has scarcely been equalled; and his poems, though rugged in point of versification, will be found by those who will read them with the calm attention they require, replete with critical and moral suggestions of the highest value. He and Coleridge were devoted wholly to literary pursuits; while Lamb's days were given to accounts, and only at snatches of time was he able to cultivate the faculty of which the society of Coleridge had made him imperfectly conscious.
Lamb's first compositions were in verse— produced slowly, at long intervals, and with self-distrust which the encouragements of Coleridge could not subdue. With the exception of a sonnet to Mrs. Siddons, whose acting, especially in the character of Lady Randolph, had made a deep impression upon him, they were exclusively personal. The longest and most elaborate is that beautiful piece of blank verse entitled "The Grandame," in which he so affectionately celebrates the virtues of the "antique world" of the aged housekeeper of Mr. Plumer. A youthful passion, which lasted only a few months, and which he afterwards attempted to regard lightly as a folly past, inspired a few sonnets of very delicate feeling and exquisite music. On the death of his parents, he felt himself called upon by duty to repay to his sister the solicitude with which she had watched over his infancy ;—and well indeed he performed it! To her, from the age of twentyone, he devoted his existence ;— seeking thenceforth no connexion which could interfere with her supremacy in his affections, or impair his ability to sustain and to comfort her.
LETTERS TO COLER1DGE.
In the year 1796, Coleridge, having married, and relinquished his splendid dream of emigration, was resident at Bristol; and Lamb, who had quitted the Temple, and lived with his father, then sinking into dotage, felt his absence from London bitterly, and sought a correspondence with him as, almost, his only comfort. "In your absence," he writes, in one of the earliest of his letters,* " I feel a stupor that makes me indifferent to the hopes and fears of this life. I sometimes wish to introduce a religious turn of mind; but habits are strong things, and my religious fervours are confined, alas! to some fleeting moments of occasional solitary devotion. A correspondence opening with you has roused me a little from my lethargy, and made me conscious of existence. Indulge me in it! I will not be very troublesome." And again, a few days after: "You are the only correspondent, and, I might add, the only friend, I have in the world. I go no-where, and have no acquaintance. Slow of speech, and reserved of manners, no one seeks or cares for my society, and I am left alone. Coleridge, I devoutly wish that Fortune, which has made sport with you so long, may play one freak more, throw you into London, or some spot near it, and there snugify you for life. 'Tis a selfish, but natural wish for me, cast as I am 'on life's wide plain friendless.'" These appeals, it may well be believed, were not made in vain to one who delighted in the lavish communication of the riches of his own mind even to strangers ; but none of the letters of Coleridge to Lamb have been preserved. He had just published his "Religious Musings," and the glittering enthusiasm of its language excited Lamb's pious feelings, almost to a degree of pain. "I dare not," says he of this poem, "criticise it. I like not to select any part where all is excellent. I can only admire and thank you for it, in the name of a lover of true poetry—
1 Believe thou, O my soul,
I thank you for these lines in the name of a necessarian." To Priestley, Lamb repeatedly alludes as to the object of their common admiration. "In reading your 'Religious Musings,'" says he, " I felt a transient superiority over you: I have seen Priestley. I love to see his name repeated in your writings;—I love and honour him almost
• These and other passages are extracted from letters which are either too personal or not sufficiently interesting for entire publication.
profanely."* The same fervour glows in the sectarian piety of the following letter addressed to Coleridge, when fascinated with the idea of a cottage life.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"Oct. 24th, 1796.
"Coleridge, I feel myself much your debtor for that spirit of confidence and friendship which dictated your last letter. May your soul find peace at last in your cottage life! I only wish you were but settled. Do continue to write to me. I read your letters with my sister, and they give us both abundance of delight. Especially they please us two, when you talk in a religious strain,— not but we are offended occasionally with a certain freedom of expression, a certain air of mysticism, more consonant to the conceits of pagan philosophy, than consistent with the humility of genuine piety. To instance now in your last letter—you say, 'it is by the press, that God hath given finite spirits both evil and good (I suppose you mean simply bad men and good men), a portion as it were of His Omnipresence!' Now, high as the human intellect comparatively will soar, and wide as its influence, malign or salutary, can extend, is there not, Coleridge, a distance between the Divine Mind and it, which makes such language blasphemy? Again, in your first fine consolatory epistle you say, 'you are a temporary sharer in human misery, that you may be an eternal partaker of the Divine Nature.' What more than this do those men say, who are for exalting the man Christ Jesus into the second person of an unknown Trinity,—men, whom you or I scruple not to call idolaters? Man, fail of imperfections, at best, and subject to wants which momentarily remind him of dependence; man, a weak and ignorant being, 'servile ' from his birth 'to all the skiey influences,' with eyes sometimes open to discern the right path, but a head generally too dizzy to pursue it; man, in the pride of speculation, forgetting his nature,
"He probably refers to the following lines in the Religious Musings :•—
So Priestley, their patriot, and saint, and sage, Him, full of years, from his loved native land. Statesmen blood-stained, and priests idolatrous, Drove with vain hate. Calm, pitying, he return'd. And mused expectant on those promised years!
and hailing in himself the future God, must make the angels laugh. Be not angry with me, Coleridge; I wish not to cavil; I know I cannot instruct you; I only wish to remind you of that humility which best becometh the Christian character. God, in the New Testament (our best guide,) is represented to us in the kind, condescending, amiable, familiar light of a parent: and in my poor mind 'tis best for us so to consider of him, as our hca eenly father, and our best friend, without indulging too bold conceptions of his nature. Let us learn to think humbly of ourselves, and rejoice in the appellation of 'dear children,' 'brethren,' and 'co-heirs with Christ of the promises,' seeking to know no further.
"I am not insensible, indeed I am not, of the value of that first letter of yours, and I shall find reason to thank you for it again and again long after that blemish in it is forgotten. It will be a fine lesson of comfort to us, whenever we read it; and read it we often shall, Mary and I.
"Accept our loves and best kind wishes for the welfare of yourself and wife and little one. Nor let me forget to wish you joy on your birth-day, so lately past; I thought you had been older. My kind thanks and remembrances to Lloyd.
"God love us all, and may He continue to be the father and the friend of the whole human race!
The next letter, commencing in a similar strain, diverges to literary topics, and especially alludes to "Walton's Angler,"—a book which Lamb always loved as it were a living friend.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"Oct. 28th, 1796.
"My dear friend, I am not ignorant that to be a partaker of the Divine Nature is a phrase to be met with in Scripture: I am only apprehensive, lest we in these latter days, tinctured (some of us perhaps pretty deeply) with mystical notions and the pride of metaphysics, might be apt to affix to such phrases a meaning, which the primitive users of them, the simple fisher of Galilee for instance, never intended to convey. With that other part of your apology I am not
quite so well satisfied. You seem to me to have been straining your comparing faculties to bring together things infinitely distant and unlike; the feeble narrow-sphered operations of the human intellect; and the everywhere diffused mind of Deity, the peerless wisdom of Jehovah. Even the expression appears to me inaccurate—portion of omnipresence— omnipresence is an attribute whose very essence is unlimitedness. How can omnipresence be affirmed of anything in part 1 But enough of this spirit of disputatiousness. Let us attend to the proper business of human life, and talk a little together respecting our domestic concerns. Do you continue to make me acquainted with what you are doing, and how soon you are likely to be settled once for all.
"Have you seen Bowles's new poem on 'Hope 1' What character does it bear? Has he exhausted his stores of tender plaintiveness ! or is he the same in this last as in all his former pieces? The duties of the day call me off from this pleasant intercourse with my friend—so for the present adieu. Now for the truant borrowing of a few minutes from business. Have you met with a new poem called the 'Pursuits of Literature?' from the extracts in the ' British Review' I judge it to be a very humorous thing, in particular I remember what I thought a very happy character of Dr. Darwin's poetry. Among all your quaint readings did you ever light upon 'Walton's Complete Angler?' I asked you the question once before; it breathes the very spirit of innocence, purity, and simplicity of heart; there are many choice old verses interspersed in it; it would sweeten a man's temper at any time to read it; it would Christianise every discordant angry passion; pray make yourself acquainted with it. Have you made it up with Southey yet? Surely one of you two must have been a very silly fellow, and the other not much better, to fall out like boarding school misses; kiss, shake hands, and make it up.
"When will he be delivered of his new epic 1 Madoc, I think, is to be the name of it, though that is a name not familiar to my ears. What progress do you make in your hymns? What'Review ' are you connected with? if with any, why do you delay to notice White's book 1 You are justly offended at its profaneness, but surely you have undervalued its wit, or you would have been more loud in its praises. Do not you think that in Slender's death and madness there is most exquisite humour, mingled with tenderness, that is irresistible, truly Shakspearian? Be more full in your mention of it. Poor fellow, he has (very undeservedly) lost by it, nor do I see that it is likely ever to reimburse him the charge of printing, &c. Give it a lift, if you can. I am just now wondering whether you will ever come to town again, Coleridge; 'tis among the things I dare not hope, but can't help wishing. For myself, I can live in the midst of town luxury and superfluity, and not long for them, and I can't see why your children might not hereafter do the same. Remember, you are not in Arcadia, when you are in the west of England, and they may catch infection from the world without visiting the metropolis. But you seem to have set your heart upon this same cottage plan, and God prosper you in the experiment! I am at a loss for more to write about, so 'tis as well that I am arrived at the bottom of my paper.
"God love you, Coleridge !—our best loves and tenderest wishes await on you, your Sara, and your little one. „ „ T „
Having been encouraged by Coleridge to entertain the thought of publishing his verses, he submitted the poem called "The Grandame " to his friend, with the following letter :—
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"Unfurnished at present with any sheetfilling subject, I shall continue my letter gradually and journal-wise. My second thoughts entirely coincide with your comments on 'Joan of Arc,' and I can only wonder at my childish judgment which overlooked the 1st book and could prefer the 9th: not that I was insensible to the soberer beauties of the former, but the latter caught me with its glare of magic,—the former, however, left a more pleasing general recollection in my mind. Let me add, the 1st book was the favourite of my sister—and / now, with Joan, often' think on Domremi and the fields of Arc.' I must not pass over without acknowledging my obligations to your full and satisfactory account of personifications. I have
read it again and again, and it will be a guide to my future taste. Perhaps I had estimated Southey's merits too much by number, weight, and measure. I now agree completely and entirely in your opinion of the genius of Southey. Your own image of melancholy is illustrative of what you teach, and in itself masterly. I conjecture it is 'disbranched' from one of your embryo 'hymns.' When they are mature of birth (were I you) I should print 'em in one separate volume, with 'Religious Musings,' and your part of the ' Joan of Arc.' Birds of the same soaring wing should hold on their flight in company. Once for all (and by renewing the subject you will only renew in me the condemnation of Tantalus), I hope to be able to pay you a visit (if you are then at Bristol) some time in the latter end of August or beginning of September, for a week or fortnight—before that time, office business puts an absolute veto on my coming.
'And if a siga that speaks regret of happier times
appear, A glimpse of joy that we have met shall shine and dry the tear.'
Of the blank verses I spoke of, the following lines are the only tolerably complete ones I have writ out of not more than one hundred and fifty. That I get on so slowly you may fairly impute to want of practice in composition, when I declare to you that (the few verses which you have seen excepted) I have not writ fifty lines since I left school. It may not be amiss to remark that my grandmother (on whom the verses are written) lived housekeeper in a family the fifty or sixty last years of her life—that she was a woman of exemplary piety and goodness— and for many years before her death was terribly afflicted with a cancer in her breast which she bore with true Christian patience. You may think that I have not kept enough apart the ideas of her heavenly and her earthly master, but recollect I have designedly given in to her own way of feeling—and if she had a failing, 'twas that she respected her master's family too much, not reverenced her Maker too little. The lines begin imperfectly, as I may probably connect 'em if I finish at all,—and if I do, Biggs shall print 'em, in a more economical way than you yours, for (sonnets and all) they won't