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they are yours. Young Evans (W. Evans, a branch of a family you were once so intimate with) is come into our office, and sends his love to you! Coleridge! I devoutly wish that Fortune, who has made sport with you so long, may play one freak more, throw you into London, or some spot near it, and there snug-ify you for life. 'Tis a selfish, but natural wish for me, cast as I am 'on life's j wide plain, friendless.' Are you acquainted with Bowles? I see, by his last Elegy, (written at Bath,) you are near neighbours. Thursday.
"I do not know that I entirely agree with you in your stricture upon my sonnet' To Innocence.' To men whose hearts are not quite deadened by their commerce with the world, innocence (no longer familiar) becomes an awful idea. So I felt when I wrote it. Your other censures (qualified and sweetened, though, with praises somewhat extravagant) I perfectly coincide with; yet I choose to retain the world' lunar'—indulge a' lunatic' in his loyalty to his mistress the moon! I have just been reading a most pathetic copy of verses on Sophia Pringle, who was hanged and burnt for coining. One of the strokes of pathos (which are very many, all somewhat obscure), ia 'She lifted up her guilty forger to heaven.' A note explains, by 'forger,' her right hand, with which she forged or coined the base metal. For pathos read bathos. You have put me out of conceit with my blank verse by your 'Religious Musings.' I think it will come to nothing. I do not like 'em enough to send 'em. I have just been reading a book, which I may be too partial to, as it was the delight of my childhood; but I will recommend it to you ;—it is Izaak Walton's ' Complete Angler.' All the scientific part you may omit in reading. The dialogue is very simple, full of pastoral beauties, and will charm you. Many pretty old verses are interspersed. This letter, which would be a week's work reading only, I do not wish you to answer it in less than a month. I shall be richly content with a letter from you some day early in July; though, if you get any how settled before then, pray let me know it immediately; 'twould give me much satisfaction. Concerning the Unitarian chapel, the salary is the only scruple that the most rigid moralist would admit as valid. Concerning the tutorage, is
not the salary low, and absence from your family unavoidable 1 London is the only fostering soil for genius. Nothing more occurs just now; so I will leave you, in mercy, one small white spot empty below, to repose your eyes upon, fatigued as they must be, with the wilderness of words they have by this time painfully travelled through. God love you, Coleridge, and prosper you through life; though mine will be loss if your lot is to be cast at Bristol, or at Nottingham, or anywhere but London. Our loves to Mrs. C . C. L.
"Friday, 10th June, 1796."
Coleridge, settled in his melancholy cottage invited Lamb to visit him. The hope —the expectation—the disappointment, are depicted in the following letter, written in the summer of the eventful year 1796.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"July 1st, 1796.
"The first moment I can come I will; but my hopes of coming yet a while, yet hang on a ticklish thread. The coach I come by is immaterial, as I shall so easily, by your direction, find ye out. My mother is grown so entirely helpless (not having any use of her limbs) that Mary is necessarily confined from ever sleeping out, she being her bedfellow. She thanks you though, and will accompany me. in spirit. Most exquisite are the lines from Withers. Your own lines, introductory to your poem on 'Self,' run smoothly and pleasurably, and I exhort you to continue 'em. What shall I say to your 'Dactyls?' They are what you would call good per se, but a parody on some of 'em is just now suggesting itself, and you shall have it rough and unlicked; I mark with figures the lines parodied :—
4.—Sorely your Dactyl* do drag along limp-footed.
5.—Sad is the measure that hongs a clog round 'em so.
6.—Meagre and languid, proclaiming its wretchedness.
1.—Weary, unsatisfied, not a little sick of 'em. 11.—Cold is my tired heart, I have no charity.
2.—Painfully travelling thus oyer the rugged road.
7.—O begone, measure, half Latin, half English, then. 12.—Dismal your Dactyls are, God help ye, rhyming ones I
"I possibly may not come this fortnight; therefore, all thou hast to do is not to look for me any particular day, only to write word immediately, if at any time you quit Bristol, lest I come and Taffy be not at home. I hope I can come in a day or two ; but young
S , of my office, is suddenly taken ill in
this very nick of time, and I must officiate for him till he can come to work again: had the knave gone sick, and died, and been buried at any other time, philosophy might have afforded one comfort, but just now I have no patience with him. Quarles I am as great a stranger to as I was to Withers. I wish you would try and do something to bring our elder bards into more general fame. I writhe with indignation when, in books of criticism, where common-place quotation is heaped upon quotation, I find no mention of such men as Massinger, or Beaumont and Fletcher, men with whom succeeding dramatic writers (Otway alone excepted)* can bear no manner of comparison. Stupid Knox hath noticed none of 'em among his extracts.
"Thursday.—Mrs. C can scarce guess
how she has gratified me by her very kind letter and sweet little poem. Ifeelthatla^ouW thank her in rhyme, but she must take my acknowledgment, at present, in plain honest prose. The uncertainty in which I yet stand, whether I can come or no, damps my spirits, reduces me a degree below prosaical, and keeps me in a suspense that fluctuates between hope and fear. Hope is a charming, lively, blue-eyed wench, and I am always glad of her company, but could dispense with the visitor she brings with her—her younger sister, Fear, a white-livered, lily-cheeked, bashful, palpitating, awkward hussy, that hangs, like a green girl, at her sister's apronstrings, and will go with her whithersoever • '»- goes. For the life and soul of me, I could not improve those lines in your poem on the Prince and Princess, so I changed them to
what you bid me, and left 'em at Perry's.t I think 'em altogether good, and do not see why you were solicitous about any alteration. I have not yet seen, but will make it my business to see, to-day's Chronicle, for your verses on Horne Tooke. Dyer stanza'd him in one of the papers tother day, but, I think, unsuccessfully. Tooke's friends meeting was, I suppose, a dinner of condolence.^ I am not sorry to find you (for all Sara) immersed in clouds of smoke and metaphysics. You know I had a sneaking kindness for this last noble science, and you taught me some smattering of it. I look to become no mean proficient under your tuition. Coleridge, what do you mean by saying you wrote to me about Plutarch and Porphyry? I received no such letter, nor remember a syllable of the matter, yet am not apt to forget any part of your epistles, least of all, an injunction like that. I will cast about for 'em, tho' I am a sad hand to know what books are worth, and both these worthy gentlemen are alike out of my line. To-morrow I shall be less suspensive, and in better cue to write, so good bye at present.
"Friday Evening.—That execrable aristocrat and knave R has given me an absolute refusal of leave. The poor man cannot guess at my disappointment. Is it not hard, 'this dread dependence on the low-bred mind 1' Continue to write to me tho', and I must be content. Our loves and best good wishes attend upon you both. Lamb."
"S did return, but there are two or
three more ill and absent, which was the plea for refusing me. I shall never have heart to ask for holidays again. The man
next him in office, C , furnished him with
the objections. C. Lamb."
The little copy of verses in which Lamb commemorated and softened his disappointment, bearing date (a most unusual circumstance with Lamb), 5th July, 1796, was inclosed in a letter of the following day, which refers to a scheme Coleridge had formed of settling in London on an invitation to share
• An exception he certainly would not have made a few yean afterwards; for he used to mention two pretty lines in the " Orphan,"
"Sweet as the shepherd's pipe upon the mountains, With all his fleecy flock at feed beside him,"
as a redeeming passage amidst mere stage trickeries. The great merit which lies in the construction of "Venice Preserved." was not in his line of appreciation; and he thought Thomson's reference to Otway's ladies—
'poor Monimia moans,
And Belvidera pours her soul in love," worth both heroines.
t Some " occasional" verses of Coleridge's written to order for the Morning Chronicle.
X This was just after the Westminster Election, in which Mr. Tooke was defeated.
the Editorship of the Morning Chronicle. The poem includes a lamentation over a fantastical loss—that of a draught of the Avon "which Shakespeare drank ;" somewhat strangely confounding the Avon of Stratford with that of Bristol. It may be doubted whether Shakespeare knew the taste of the waves of one Avon more than of the other, or whether Lamb would not have found more kindred with the world's poet in a glass of sack, than in the water of either stream. Coleridge must have enjoyed the misplaced sentiment of his friend, for he was singularly destitute of sympathy with local associations, which he regarded as interfering with the pure and simple impression of great deeds or thoughts; denied a special interest to the Pass of Thermopylse: and instead of subscribing to purchase "Shakespeare's House," would scarcely have admitted the peculiar sanctity of the spot which enshrines his ashes.
TO SARA AND HER SAMUEL.
"Was it so hard a thing !—I did but ask
What, if the jaded steer, who all day long
Complaint begone; begone, unkind reproof:
Islington, possibly, you would not like; to me 'tis classical ground. Knightsbridge is a desirable situation for the air of the parks; St. George's Fields is convenient for its contiguity to the Bench. Choose! But are you really coming to town? The hope of it has entirely disarmed my petty disappointment of its nettles, yet I rejoice so much on my own account, that I fear I do not feel enough pure satisfaction on yours. Why, surely, the joint editorship of the Chronicle must be very comfortable and secure living for a man. But should not you read French, or do you? and can you write with sufficient moderation, as 'tis called, when one suppresses the one half of what one feels or could say on a subject, to chime in the better with popular lukewarmness 1 White's 'Letters' are near publication; could you review 'em or get 'em reviewed? Are you not connected with the Critical Review 1 His frontispiece is a good conceit—Sir John learning to dance to please Madam Page, in dress of doublet, &c., from the upper half, and modern pantaloons with shoes, &c., of the eighteenth century, from the lower half; and the whole work is full of goodly quips and rare fancies, 'all deftly masqued like hoar antiquity'—much superior to Dr. Kenrick's 'FalstafFs Wedding,'
which you have seen. A sometimes
laughs at superstition, and religion, and the like. A living fell vacant lately in the gift of the Hospital: White informed him that he stood a fair chance for it. He scrupled and scrupled about it, and at last, to use his own words, 'tampered' with Godwin to know whether the thing was honest or not .
Godwin said nay to it, and A rejected
the living! Could the blindest poor papist have bowed more servilely to his priest or casuist? Why sleep the Watchman's answers to that Godwin i I beg you will not delay to alter, if you mean to keep those last lines I sent you. Do that and read these for your pains :—
TO THE POET COWPER.
"Cowper, I thank my God that thou art heal'd!
Among whose wires with light finger playing,
Thou, then, take up the mighty epic strain,
"I have read your climax of praises in those three Reviews. These mighty spouters out of panegyric waters have, two of 'em, scattered their spray even upon me, and the waters are cooling and refreshing. Prosaically, the Monthly reviewers have made indeed a large article of it, and done you justice. The Critical have, in their wisdom, selected not the very best specimens, and notice not, except as one name on the muster-roll, the 'Religious Musings.' I suspect Master Dyer to have been the writer of that article, as the substance of it was the very remarks and the very language he used to me one day. I fear you will not accord entirely with my sentiments of Cowper, as expressed above (perhaps scarcely just); but the poor gentleman has just recovered from .his lunacies, and that begets pity, and pity love, and love admiration; and then it goes hard with people but they lie! Have you read the Ballad called' Leonora,' in the second number of the Monthly Magazine! If you have!!!! There is another fine song, from the same author (Burger), in the third number, of scarce inferior merit; and (vastly below these) there are some happy specimens of English hexameters, in an imitation of Ossian, in the fifth number. For your Dactyls—I am sorry you are so sore about 'em—a very Sir Fretful! In good troth, the Dactyls are good Dactyls, but their measure is naught. Be not yourself' half anger, half agony,' if I pronounce your darling lines not to be the best you ever wrote in all your life—you have written much.
"Have a care, good Master Poet, of the Statute de Contumdid. What do you mean by calling Madame Mara, — harlot and naughty things 1 * The goodness of the verse
would not save you in a court of justice. But are you really coming to town I Coleridge, a gentleman called in London lately from Bristol, and inquired whether there were any of the family of a Mr. Chambers living: this Mr. Chambers, he said, had been the making of a friend's fortune, who wished to make some return for it. He went away without seeing her. Now, a Mrs. Reynolds, a very intimate friend of ours, whom you have seen at our house, is the only daughter, and all that survives, of Mr. Chambers; and a very little supply would be of service to her, for she married very unfortunately, and has parted with her husband. Pray find out this Mr. Pember (for that was the gentleman's friend's name) ; he is an attorney, and lives at Bristol. Find him out, and acquaint him with the circumstances of the case, and offer to be the medium of supply to Mrs. Reynolds, if he chooses to make her a present. She is in very distressed circumstances. Mr.Pember, attorney, Bristol. Mr. Chambers lived in the Temple ; Mrs. Reynolds, his daughter, was my schoolmistress, and is in the room at this present writing. This last circumstance induced me to write so soon again. I have not further to add. Our loves to Sara. Thursday. C. Lamb."
These scented rooms, where, to a gaudy throng,
Lines composed in a Concert Room, by S. T. C.
LETTEHS OP LAMB TO COLEniDOE, CHIEFLY RELATING TO THE DEATH OF MRS. LAMB, AND MISS LAMB'S SUBSEQUENT CONDITION.
The autumn of 1796 found Lamb engaged all the morning in task-work at the India House, and all the evening in attempting to amuse his father by playing cribbage; sometimes snatching a few minutes for his only pleasure, writing to Coleridge; while Miss Lamb was worn down to a state of extreme nervous misery, by attention to needlework by day, and to her mother by night, until the insanity, which had been manifested more than once, broke out into frenzy, which, on Thursday, 22nd of September, proved fatal to her mother. The following account of the proceedings on the inquest, copied from the "Times" of Monday, 26th September, 1796, supplies the details of this terrible calamity, doubtless with accuracy, except that it would seem, from Lamb's ensuing letter to Coleridge, that he, and not the landlord, took the knife from the unconscious hand.
"On Friday afternoon, the coroner and a jury sat on the body of a lady in the neighbourhood of Holborn, who died iu consequence of a wound from her daughter the preceding day. It appeared, by the evidence adduced, that, while the family were preparing for dinner, the young lady seized a case-knife lying on the table, and in a menacing manner pursued a little girl, her apprentice, round the room. On the calls of her infirm mother to forbear, she renounced her first object, and, with loud shrieks, approached her parent. The child, by her cries, quickly brought up the landlord of the house, but too late. The dreadful scene presented to him the mother lifeless, pierced to the heart, on a chair, her daughter yet wildly standing over her with the fatal knife, and the old man, her father, weeping by her side, himself bleeding at the forehead from the effects of a severe blow he received from one of the forks she had been madly hurling about the room.
"For a few days prior to this, the family had observed some symptoms of insanity in her, which had so much increased on the Wednesday evening, that her brother, early the next morning, went to Dr. Pitcairn, but that gentleman was not at home.
"It seems the young lady had been once before deranged.
"The jury, of course, brought in their verdict—Lwnacy" *
The following is Lamb's account of the event to Coleridge:—
"September 27th, 1796. "My dearest Friend,—White, or some of my friends, or the public papers, by this time may have informed you of the terrible calamities that have fallen on our family. I will
only give you the outlines :—My poor dear, dearest sister, in a fit of insanity, has been the death of her own mother. I was at hand only time enough to snatch the knife out of her grasp. She is at present in a madhouse, from whence I fear she must be moved to an hospital. God has preserved to me my senses,—I eat, and drink, and sleep, and have my judgment, I believe, very sound. My poor father was slightly wounded and I am left to take care of him and my aunt. Mr. Norris, of the Blue-coat School, has been very very kind to us, and we have no other friend; but, thank God, I am very calm and composed, and able to do the best that remains to do. Write as religious a letter as possible, but no mention of what is gone and done with. With me 'the former things are passed away,' and I have something more to do than to feel .
"God Almighty have us well in his keeping. C. Lamb."
"Mention nothing of poetry. I have destroyed every vestige of past vanities of that kind. Do as you please, but if you publish, publish mine (I give free leave) without name or initial, and never send me a book, I charge you.
"Your own judgment will convince you not to take any notice of this yet to your dear wife. You look after your family,—I have my reason and strength left to take care of mine. I charge you, don't think of coming to see me. Write. I will not see you if you come. God Almighty love you and all of us. C. Lamb."
After the inquest, Miss Lamb was placed in an Asylum, where she was, in a short time, restored to reason. The following is Lamb's next letter:—
TO Mil. COLERIDGE.
"October 3rd, 1796. "My dearest Friend,—Your letter was an inestimable treasure to me. It will be a
* A statement nearly similar to this will be found in several other journals of the day, and in the Annual Rcpjistor for the year. The " True Briton" adds:—" It appears she had been before, in the earlier part of her life, deranged, from the harassing fatigues of too much business. As her carriage towards her mother had always been affectionate in the extreme, It is believed her increased attachment to her, as her infirmities called
for it by day and by night, caused her loss of reason at this time. It has been stated in some of the morning papers that she has an insane brother in confinement; but this is without foundation." None of the accounts give the names of the sufferers ; but in the index to the Annual Register, the anonymous account is referred to with Mrs. Lamb's name.