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of intimation that a resignation might be well accepted from me. This was a kind bird's whisper. On that hint I spake. G and T furnished me with certificates of wasted health and sore spirits—not much more than the truth, I promise you— and for nine weeks I was kept in a fright. I had gone too far to recede, and they might take advantage, and dismiss me with a much less sum than I had reckoned on. However, liberty came at last, with a liberal provision. I have given up what I could have lived on in the country; but have enough to live here, by management and scribbling occasionally. I would not go back to my prison for seven years longer for 10,00$. a year— seven years after one is fifty, is no trifle to give up. Still I am a young pensioner, and nave served but thirty-three years; very few, I assure you, retire before forty, fortyfive, or fifty years' service.
"You will ask how I bear my freedom? Faith, for some days I was staggered; could not comprehend the magnitude of my deliverance; was confused, giddy; knew not whether I was on my head or my heel, as they say. But those giddy feelings have gone away, and my weather-glass stands at a degree or two above
"I go about quiet, and have none of that restless hunting after recreation, which made holydays formerly uneasy joys. All being holydays, I feel as if I had none, as they do in heaven, where 'tis all red-letter days. I have a kind letter from the Wordsworths, congratulatory not a little. It is a damp, I do assure you, amid all my prospects, that I can receive none from a quarter upon which I had calculated, almost more than from any, upon receiving congratulations. I had grown to like poor Monkhouse more and more. I do not esteem a soul living or not living more warmly than I had grown to esteem and j value him. But words are vain. We have none of us to count upon many years. That: is the only cure for sad thoughts. If only I some died, and the rest were permanent on earth, what a thing a friend's death would be then!
"I must take leave, having put off answering a load of letters to this morning, and this
alas ! is the first. Our kindest remembrances to Mrs. Monkhouse,
"And believe us yours most truly, "C. Lamb."
In this summer Lamb and his sister paid a long visit to Enfield, which induced their removing thither some time afterwards. The following letter is addressed thence,
TO MR. SOUTHEY.
"August 19th, 1825.
"Dear Southey,—You'll know who this letter comes from by opening slap-dash upon the text, as in the good old times. I never could come into the custom of envelopes; 'tis a modern foppery; the Plinian correspondence gives no hint of such. In singleness of sheet and meaning, then, I thank you for your little book. I am ashamed to add a codicil of thanks for your 'Book of the Church.' I scarce feel competent to give an opinion of the latter; I have not reading enough of that kind to venture at it. I can only say the fact, that I have read it with attention and interest. Being, as you know, not quite a Churchman, I felt a jealousy at the Church taking to herself the whole deserts of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, from Druid extirpation downwards. I call all good Christiana the Church, Capillarians and all. But I am in too light a humour to touch these matters. May all our churches flourish! Two things staggered me in the poem, (and one of them staggered both of us), I cannot away with a beautiful series of verses, as I protest they are, commencing ' Jenner.' 'Tis like a choice banquet opened with a pill or an electuary—physic stuff. T'other is, we cannot make out how Edith should be no more than ten years old. By'r Lady, we had taken her to be some sixteen or upwards. We suppose you have only chosen the round number for the metre. Or poem and dedication may be both older than they pretend to ; but then some hint might have been given ; for, as it stands, it may only serve some day to puzzle the parish reckoning. But without inquiring further, (for 'tis ungracious to look into a lady's years,) the dedication is evidently pleasing and tender, and we wish Edith May Southey joy of it. Something, too, struck us as if we had heard of the death of John May. A John May's death was a few years since in the papers. We think the tale one of the quietest, prettiest things we have seen. You have been temperate in the use of localities, which generally spoil poems laid in exotic regions. You mostly cannot stir out (in such things) for humming-birds and fire-flies. A tree is a Magnolia, &c.—Can I but like the truly Catholic spirit ?' Blame as thou mayest the Papist's erring creed'—which, and other passages, brought me back to the old Anthology days, and the admonitory lesson to 'Dear George' on 'The Vesper Bell,' a little poem which retains its first hold upon me strangely.
"The compliment to the translatress is daintily conceived. Nothing is choicer in that sort of writing than to bring in some remote, impossible parallel,—as between a great empress and the inobtrusive quiet soul who digged her noiseless way so perseveringly through that rugged Paraguay mine. How she Dobrizhoffered it all out, it puzzles my slender Latinity to conjecture. Why do you seem to sanction Landor's unfeeling allegorising away of honest Quixote! He may as well say Strap is meant to symbolise the Scottish nation before the Union, and Random since that act of dubious issue; or that Partridge means the Mystical Man, and Lady Bellaston typifies the Woman upon Many Waters. Gebir, indeed, may mean the state of the hop markets last month, for anything I know to the contrary. That all Spain overflowed with romancical books (as Madge Newcastle calls them) was no reason that Cervantes should not smile at the matter of them ; nor even a reason that, in another mood, he might not multiply them, deeply as he was tinctured with the essence of them. Quixote is the father of gentle ridicule, and at the same time the very depository and treasury of chivalry and highest notions. Marry, when somebody persuaded Cervantes that he meant only fun, and put him upon writing that unfortunate Second Part with the confederacies of that unworthy duke and most contemptible duchess, Cervantes sacrificed his instinct to his understanding.
"We got your little book but last night, being at Enfield, to which place we came about a month since, and are having quiet holydays. Mary walks her twelve miles a day some days, and I my twenty on others.
"Tis all holiday with me now, you know.
"For literary news, in my poor way, I have a one-act farce going to be acted at Haymarket; but when 1 is the question. 'Tis an extravaganza, and like enough to follow Mr. H. 'The London Magazine ' has shifted its publishers once more, and I shall shift myself out of it. It is fallen. My ambition is not at present higher than to write nonsense for the playhouses, to eke out a something contracted income. Tempua erat. There was a time, my dear Cornwallis, when the Muse, &c. But I am now in Mac Fleckno's predicament,—
* Promised a play, and dwindled to a farce.'
"Coleridge is better (was, at least, a few weeks since) than he has been for years. His accomplishing his book at last has been a source of vigour to him. We are on a half visit to his friend Allsop, at a Mrs. Irishman's, Enfield, but expect to be at Colebrookcottage in a week or so, where, or anywhere, I shall be always most happy to receive I tidings from you. G. Dyer is in the height' of an uxorious paradise. His honeymoon will not wane till he wax cold. Never was a more happy pair, since Acme and Septimius, and longer. Farewell, with many thanks, dear S. Our loves to all round your Wrekin. Your old friend,
The farce referred to in this letter was founded on Lamb's essay "On the Inconvenience of being Hanged." It was, perhaps, too slight for the stage, and never was honoured by a trial; but was ultimately published in "Blackwood's Magazine."
[1820 to 1828.]
T.F.TTERS TO HOBINsON, CARY, COLERIDGE, PATMORE, PROCTER, AMD BARTON.
When the first enjoyment of freedom was over, it may be doubted whether Lamb was happier for the change. He lost a grievance on which he could lavish all the fantastical exaggeration of a sufferer without wounding
the feelings of any individual, and perhaps the loss was scarcely compensated by the listless leisure which it brought him. Whenever the facile kindness of his disposition permitted, he fled from those temptations of society, which he could only avoid by flight; and his evening hours of solitude were hardly so sweet as when they were the reliefs and resting-places of his mind,—" glimpses which might make him less forlorn" of the world of poetry and romance. His mornings were chiefly occupied in long walks, sometimes
"It is a sort of office work to me," says Lamb, in a letter to Barton; "hours ten to four, the same. It does me good. Man must have regular occupation that has been used to it."
The Christmas of 1825 was a melancholy season for Lamb. He had always from a boy spent Christmas in the Temple with Mr. Norris, an officer of the Inner Temple, and this Christmas was made wretched by the last illness of his oldest friend. Anxious to
extending to ten or twelve miles, in which at excite the sympathy of the Benchers of the
this time he was accompanied by a noble Inn for the survivors, Lamb addressed the
dog, the property of Mr. Hood, to whose following letter to a friend as zealous as
humours Lamb became almost a slave,* and I himself in all generous offices, in order that
who, at last, acquired so portentous an he might show it to some of the Benchers.
ascendancy that Lamb requested his friend
Mr. Patmore to take him under his care.
At length the desire of assisting Mr. Hone,
in his struggle to support his family by
antiquarian research and modern pleasantry,
renewed to him the blessing of regular
labour ; he began the task of reading through
the glorious heap of dramas collected at the
British Museum under the title of the
"Garrick Plays," to glean scenes of interest
and beauty for the work of his friend; and
the work of kindness brought with it its own
* The following allusion to Lamb's subservience to Dash is extracted from one of a series of papers, written
TO MR. H. C. ROBINSON.
"Colebrooke Row, Islington.
"Saturday, 20th Jan. 1826.
"Dear Robinson,—I called upon you this morning, and found that you were gone to visit a dying friend. I had been upon a like errand. Poor Norris has been lying dying for now almost a week, such is the penalty we pay for having enjoyed a strong constitution! Whether he knew me or not, I know not; or whether he saw me through his poor glazed eyes; but the group I saw about him I shall not forget. Upon the bed, or about it, were assembled his wife and two daughters,
in a most cordial spirit, and with great characteristic and P°or deaf Richard, his son, looking P°*er, by the friend to whom Dash was assigned, which j doubly stupified. There they were, and •ppearcd in the "Court Magazine." "During these I 0„_„j *„ u v •»,." u .. , T
interminable rambles-horetofore pleasant in virtue of I 8eemed to h»ve been Sitting all the week. I their profound loneliness and freedom from restraint, could only reach Out a hand to Mrs. Norris. Lamb made himself a perfect slave to the dog-whose Speaking was impossible in that mute chamMoits were of the most extravagantly errant nature, , _ ° , . . r . .
'or, generally speaking, the creature was half a mile off I ber' By this time I hope it 18 all over With from his companion either before or behind, scouring j him. In him I have a loss the world Cannot
the fields or roads in all directions, scampering up or down 'all manner of streets,' and leaving Lamb in a perfect fever of irritation and annoyance; for he was •fraid of losing the dog when it was out of sight, and W could not persuade himself to keep it in sight for a
make up. He was my friend and my father's friend all the life I can remember. I seem to have made foolish friendships ever since.
moment, by curbing its roving spirit. Dash knew j Those are friendships which outlive a second Limb's weakness in these particulars as well as he did generation. Old as I am waxing, in his eyes
I was still the child he first knew me. To
nimself, and took a dog-like advantage of it. In the Regent's Park, in particular, Dash had his master completely at his mercy; for the moment they got into the tin?, he used to get through the paling on to the green "rard, and disappear for a quarter or half an hour toptber, knowing perfectly well that Lamb did not dare more from the spot where he (Dash) had disappeared, till such time as he thought proper to show himself •?>in. And they used to take this particular walk much oftener than they otherwise would, precisely because Dwh Uked it and Lamb did not."—Under his second ffluter, we learn from the same source, that Dash "'ubfided into the best bred and best behaved of his •ptties."
the last he called me Charley. I have none to call me Charley now. He was the last link that bound me to the Temple. You are but of yesterday. In him seem to have died the old plainness of manners and singleness of heart. Letters he knew nothing of, nor did his reading extend beyond the pages of the ' Gentleman's Magazine.' Yet there was a pride of literature about him from being
amongst books (he was librarian), and from
* We'll still make 'em run, and we'll still make 'em
his eyes would sparkle as with the freshness of an impending event. And what is the Brussels Gazette now 1 I cry while I enumerate these trifles. 'How shall we tell them in a stranger's ear 1'
"My first motive in writing, and, indeed, in calling on you, was to ask if you were enough acquainted with any of the Benchers, to lay a plain statement before them of the circumstances of the family. I almost fear not, for you are of another hall. But if you can oblige me and my poor friend, who is now insensible to any favours, pray exert yourself. You cannot say too much good of poor Norris and his poor wife.
"Yours ever, Charles Lamb."
In the spring of 1826, the following letters to Bernard Barton were written.
TO BERNARD BARTON.
"Feb. 7th, 1826. "Dear B. B.,—I got your book not more than five days ago, so am not so negligent as I must have appeared to you with a fortnight's sin upon my shoulders. I tell you with sincerity, that I think you have com
pletely succeeded in what you intended to do. What is poetry may be disputed. These are poetry to me at least. They are concise, pithy, and moving. Uniform as they are, and untristorify'd, I read them through at two sittings, without one sensation approaching to tedium. I do not know that among your many kind presents of this nature, this is not my favourite volume. The language is never lax, and there is a unity of design and feeling. You wrote them with love—to avoid the coxcombical phrase, con amore. I am par. ticularly pleased with the 'Spiritual Law,' j pages 34 and 35. It reminded me of Quarles, J and 'holy Mr. Herbert,' as Izaak Walton 'calls him ; the two best, if not only, of our devotional poets, though some prefer Watts, I and some Tom Moore. I am far from well, or I in my right spirits, and shudder at pen-and, ink work. I poke out a monthly crudity for Colburn in his magazine, which I call 'Popular Fallacies,' and periodically crush a proverb or two, setting up my folly against the wisdom of nations. Do you see the 'New Monthly?'
"One word I must object to in your little book, and it recurs more than once—-faddtts , is no genuine compound; loveless is, because love is a noun as well as verb; but what is a 'fade? And I do not quite like whipping the Greek drama upon the back of 'Genesis,' page 8. I do not like praise handed in by disparagement; as I objected to a side censure on Byron, &c. in the 'Lines on Bloomfield.' With these poor cavils excepted, your verses are without a flaw.
TO BERNARD BARTON.
"March 20th, 1S26.
"Dear B. B.,—You may know my letters by the paper and the folding. For the former, I live on scraps obtained in charity from an old friend, whose stationery is a permanent perquisite; for folding, I shall do it neatly when I learn to tie my neckcloths. I surprise most of my friends, by writing to them on ruled paper, as if I had not got past pothooks and hangers. Sealing-wax, I have none on my establishment; wafers of the coarsest bran supply its place. When my epistles come to be weighed with Pliny's, however superior to the Roman in delicate irony, judicious reflections, &c., his gilt post will bribe over the judges to him. All the time I was at the E. I. H., I never mended a pen ; I now cut 'em to the stumps, marring rather than mending the primitive Eoose-quill. I cannot bear to pay for articles I used to get for nothing. When Adam laid out his first penny upon nonpareils at some stall in Mesopotamos, I think it went hard with him, reflecting upon his old goodly orchard, where he had so many for nothing. When I write to a great man at the court end, he opens with surprise upon a naked note, such as Whitechapel people interchange, with no sweet degrees of envelope. I never enclosed one bit of paper in another, nor understood the rationale of it. Once only I sealed with borrowed wax, to set Walter Scott a wondering,Signedwith the imperial quartered arms of England, which my friend Field bears in compliment to his descent, in the female line, from Oliver Cromwell. It must have set his antiquarian curiosity upon watering. To your questions upon the currency, I refer you to Mr. Robinson's last speech, where, if you can find a solution, I cannot. I think this, though, the best ministry we ever stumbled upon ;—gin reduced four shillings in the gallon, wine two shillings in the quart! This comes home to men's minds and bosoms. My tirade against visitors was not meant
yirticularlt/ at you or A. K . I scarce
know what I meant, for I do not just now feel the grievance. I wanted to make an ortide. So in another thing I talked of somebody's insipid wife, without a correspondent object in my head: and a good lady, a friend's wife, whom I really love, (don't startle, I mean in a licit way,) has looked shyly on me ever since. The blunders of personal application are ludicrous. I send out a character every now and then, on purpose to exercise the ingenuity of my friends. 'Popular Fallacies' will go on; that word concluded is an erratum, I suppose for continued, I do not know how it got stuffed in there. A little thing without name will also be printed on the Religion of the Actors, but it is out of your way, so I recommend you, with true author's hypocrisy, to skip it . We are about to sit down to roast heef, at which we could wish A. K., B. B., md B. B.'s pleasant daughter to be humble partakers. So much for my hint at visitors, which was scarcely calculated for droppers
in from Woodbridge; the sky does not drop such larks every day. My very kindest wishes to you all three, with my sister's best love. C. Lamb."
TO BERNARD BARTON'.
"May 16th, 1826.
"Dear B. B.,—I have had no spirits lately to begin a letter to you, though I am under obligations to you (how many!) for your neat little poem. 'Tis just what it professes to be, a simple tribute, in chaste verse, serious and sincere.
"I do not know how friends will relish it, but we outlyers, honorary friends, like it very well. I have had my head and ears stuffed up with the east winds. A continual ringing in my brain of bells jangled, or the spheres touched by some raw angel. It is
I not George the Third trying the Hundredth Psalm? I get my music for nothing. But
'the weather seems to be softening, and will thaw my stunnings. Coleridge, writing to me a week or two since, begins his note— 'Summer has set in with its usual severity.' A cold summer is all I know of disagreeable in cold. I do not mind the utmost rigour of real winter, but these smiling hypocrities of Mays wither me to death. My head has been a ringing chaos, like the day the winds were made, before they submitted to the discipline of a weathercock, before the quarters were made. In the street, with the blended noises of life about me, I hear, and my head is lightened; but in a room the hubbub comes back, and I am deaf as a sinner. Did I tell you of a pleasant sketch Hood has done, which he calls—' Very deaf indeed?' It is of a good-natured stupid-looking old gentleman, whom a footpad has stopped, but for his extreme deafness cannot make him understand what he wants. The unconscious old gentleman is extending his ear trumpet very complacently, and the fellow is tiring a pistol into it to make him hear, but the ball will pierce his skull sooner than the report reach his sensorium. I choose a very little bit of paper, for my ear hisses when I bend down to write. I can hardly read a book, for I miss that small soft voice which the idea of articulated words raises (almost imperceptibly to you) in a silent reader. I seem too deaf to see what I read. But with a touch or two of returning zephyr my head will