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In another letter, about this time (December, 1796), Lamb transmitted to Coleridge two Poems for the volume—one a copy of verses "To a Young Lady going out to India," which were not inserted, and are not worthy of preservation; the other, entitled, " The Tomb of Douglas," which was inserted, and which he chiefly valued as a memorial of his impression of Mrs. Siddons' acting in Lady Randolph. The following passage closes the sheet.
"At length I have done with versemaking; not that I relish other people's poetry less; their's comes from 'em without effort, mine is the difficult operation of a brain scanty of ideas, made more difficult by disuse. I have been reading 'The Task' with fresh delight. I am glad you love Cowper: I could forgive a man for not enjoying Milton, but I would not call that man my friend who should be offended with the 'divine chit-chat of Cowper.' Write to me. God love you and yours. C. L."
The following, of 10th December, 1796, illustrates Lamb's almost wayward admiration of his only friend, and a feeling—how temporary with him !—of vexation with the imperfect sympathies of his elder brother.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"You sent me some very sweet lines relative to Burns, but it was at a time when in my highly agitated and perhaps distorted state of mind, I thought it a duty to read 'em hastily and burn 'em. I burned all my own verses; all my book of extracts from Beaumont and Fletcher and a thousand sources: I burned a little journal of my foolish passion which I had a long time kept—
'Noting ere they past away
I almost burned all your letters,—I did as bad, Ilent'em to a friend tokeepoutof my brother's sight, should he come and make inquisition into our papers, for much as he dwelt upon your conversation, while you were among us, and delighted to be with you, it has been his fashion ever since to depreciate and cry you down,—you were the cause of my madness— you and your damned foolish sensibility and melancholy—and he lamented with a true
brotherly feeling that we ever met, even as the sober citizen, when his son went astray upon the mountains of Parnassus, is said to have ' cursed wit and Poetry and Pope.' I quote wrong, but no matter. These letters I lent to a friend to be out of the way, for a season, but I have claimed them in vain, and shall not cease to regret their loss. Your packets, posterior to the date of my misfortunes, commencing with that valuable consolatory epistle, are every day accumulating— they are sacred things with me."
The following long letter, bearing date on the ou?side, 5th January, 1797, is addressed to Mr. Coleridge at Stowey, near Bridgewater, whither he had removed from Bristol, to enjoy the society and protection of his friend Mr. Poole. The original is a curious specimen of clear compressed penmanship; being contained in three sides of a sheet of foolscap.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
'"' Sunday morning.—You cannot surely mean to degrade the Joan of Arc into a potgirl. You are not going, I hope, to annex to that most splendid ornament of Southey's poem all this cock-and-a-bull story of Joan, the publican's daughter of Neufchatel, with the lamentable episode of a waggoner, his wife, and six children. The texture will be most lamentably disproportionate. The first forty or fifty lines of these addenda are, no doubt, in their way, admirable, too; but many would prefer the Joan of Southey.
'On mightiest deeds to brood
'They wondered at me, who had known me once
That of the circling throng and of the visible
I see nothing in your description of the Maid equal to these. There is a fine originality certainly in those lines—
'For she had lived in this bad world
but your'fierce vivacity'is a faint copy of the 'fierce and terrible benevolence' of Southey ; added to this, that it will look like rivalship in you, and extort a comparison with Southey,—I think to your disadvantage. And the lines, considered in themselves as an addition to what you had before written, (strains of a far higher mood,) are but such as Madame Fancy loves in some of her more familiar moods, at such times as she has met Noll Goldsmith, and walked and talked with him, calling him 'old acquaintance.' Southey certainly has no pretensions to vie with you in the sublime of poetry ; but he tells a plain tale better than you. I will enumerate some woful blemishes, some of 'em sad deviations from that simplicity which was your aim. 'Hailed who might be near' (the 'canvascoverture moving,' by the by, is laughable); 'a woman and six children' (by the way,— why not nine children 1 It would have been just half as pathetic again): 'statues of sleep they seemed': 'frost-mangled wretch ': 'green putridity': 'hailed him immortal' (rather ludicrous again): 'voiced a sad and simple tale' (abominable !): 'improvendered': 'such his tale ': 'Ah ! suffering to the height of what was suffered' (a most insufferable lint): 'amazements of affright': 'the hot sore brain attributes its own hues of ghastliness and torture' (what shocking confusion of ideas)!
"In these delineations of common and natural feelings, in the familiar walks of poetry, you seem to resemble Montauban dancing with Roubigne's tenants, 'much of his native loftiness remained in the execution.'
"I was reading your ' Religious Musings' the other day, and sincerely I think it the noblest poem in the language, next after the 'Paradise Lost,' and even that was not made the vehicle of such grand truths. 'There is one mind,' &c., down to ' Almighty's throne,' are without a rival in the whole compass of my poetical reading.
* Stands in the nun, and with no partial gaze,
I wish I could have written those lines. I rejoice that I am able to relish them. The loftier walks of Pindus are your proper region. There you have no compeer in modern times. Leave the lowlands, unenvied, in possession of such men as Cowper and Southey. Thus am I pouring balsam into
I the wounds I may have been inflicting on
my poor friend's vanity.
"In your notice of Southey's new volume
you omit to mention the most pleasing of all,
the 'Miniature' —
* There were Who formed high hopes and nattering ones of thee, Young Robert! .
1 Spirit of Spenser!—was the wanderer wrong!'
"Fairfax I have been in quest of a long time. Johnson, in his ' Life of Waller,' gives a most delicious specimen of him, and adds, in the true manner of that delicate critic, as well as amiable man,' It may be presumed that this old version will not be much read after the elegant translation of my friend, Mr. Hoole.' I endeavoured—I wished to gain some idea of Tasso from this Mr. Hoole, the great boast and ornament of the India House, but soon desisted. I found him more vapid than smallest small beer 'sunvinegared.' Your 'Dream,' down to that exquisite line—
'I can't tell half his adventures,'
is a most happy resemblance of Chaucer. The remainder is so so. The best line, I think, is, 'He belong'd, I believe, to the witch Melancholy.' By the way, when will our volume come out? Don't delay it till you have written a new Joan of Arc. Send what letters you please by me, and in any way you choose, single or double. The India Company is better adapted to answer the cost than the generality of my friend's correspondents—such poor and honest dogs as John Thelwall, particularly. I cannot say I know Colson, at least intimately; I once supped with him and Allen ; I think his manners very pleasing. I will not tell you what I think of Lloyd, for he may by chance come to see this letter, and that thought puts a restraint on me. I cannot think what subject would suit your epic genius; some philosophical subject, I conjecture, in which shall be blended the sublime of poetry and of science. Your proposed 'Hymns' will be a fit preparatory study wherewith 'to discipline your young noviciate soul.' I grow dull; I'll go walk myself out of my dulness.
"Sunday night.—You and Sara are very good to think so kindly and so favourably of poor Mary; I would to God all did so too. But I very much fear she must not think of coming home in my father's lifetime. It is very hard upon her; but our circumstances are peculiar, and we must submit to them. God be praised she is so well as she is. She bears her situation as one who has no right to complain. My poor old aunt, whom you have seen, the kindest, goodest creature to me when I was at school; who used to toddle there to bring me good things, when I, school-boy like, only despised her for it, and used to be ashamed to see her come and sit herself down on the old coal-hole steps as you went into the old grammar-school, and open her apron, and bring out her bason, with some nice thing she had caused to be saved for me ; the good old creature is now lying on her death-bed. I cannot bear to think on her deplorable state. To the shock she received on that our evil day, from which she never completely recovered, I impute her illness. She says, poor thing, she is glad she is come home to die with me. I was always her favourite:
'No after friendship e'er can raise
"Lloyd has kindly left me, for a keep-sake, 'John Woolman.' You have read it, he says, and like it. Will you excuse one short extract? I think it could not have escaped you.—' Small treasure to a resigned mind is sufficient. How happy is it to be content with a little, to live in humility, and feel that in us, which breathes out this language—
Abba! Father!' I am almost ashamed
to patch up a letter in this miscellaneous sort —but I please myself in the thought, that anything from me will be acceptable to you. I am rather impatient, childishly so, to see our names affixed to the same common volume. Send me two, when it does come out; two will be enough—or indeed one— but two better. I have a dim recollection that, when in town, you were talking of the Origin of Evil as a most prolific subject for a long poem ;—why not adopt it, Coleridge? —there would be room for imagination. Or the description (from a Vision or Dream, suppose) of an Utopia in one of the planets (the moon for instance.) Or a Five Days' Dream, which shall illustrate, in sensible
imagery, Hartley's five Motives to Conduct: —1. Sensation; 2. Imagination; 3. Ambition; 4. Sympathy; 5. Theopathy :—First. Banquets, music, &c., effeminacy,—and their insufficiency. Second. 'Beds of hyacinth and roses, where young Adonis oft reposes;' 'Fortunate Isles ;' 'The pagan Elysinm,' &c.; poetical pictures ; antiquity as pleasing to the fancy;—their emptiness; madness, &c. Third. Warriors, Poets; some famous yet, more forgotten ; their fame or oblivion now alike indifferent; pride, vanity, &c. Fourth. All manner of pitiable stories, in Spenser-like verse; love; friendship, relationship, &c. Fifth. Hermits; Christ and his apostles; martyrs; heaven, &c . An imagination like yours, from these scanty hints, may expand into a thousand great ideas, if indeed you at all comprehend my scheme, which I scarce do myself.
"Monday mom.—' A London letter—Ninepence half-penny!' Look you, master poet, I have remorse as well as another man, and my bowels can sound upon occasion. But I must put you to this charge, for I cannot keep back my protest, however ineffectual, against the annexing your latter lines to those former—this putting of new wine into old bottles. This my duty done, I will cease from writing till you invent some more reasonable mode of conveyance. Well may the 'ragged followers of the Nine!' set up I for flocci-nauci-what-dc-you-call-'em-ists! and I do not wonder that in their splendid visions of Utopias in America, they protest against the admission of those yeSow-conrplexioned, I copper-coloured, wAite-livered gentlemen, who never prove themselves their friends! Don't you think your verses on a 'Young Ass' too trivial a companion for the 'Religious Musings t'—' scoundrel monarch,' alter that; I and the ' Man of Ross' is scarce admissible, I as it now stands, curtailed of its fairer half: reclaim its property from the 'Chatterton,' which it does but encumber, and it will be a rich little poem. I hope you expunge great part of the old notes in the new edition: that, in particular, most barefaced, unfounded, impudent assertion, that Mr. Rogers is indebted for his story to Loch Lomond, a poem by Bruce! I have read the latter. I scarce think you have. Scarce anything is common to them both. The author of the 'Pleasures of Memory' was somewhat hurt, Dyer says, by the accusation of unorigiriality. He never saw the poem. I I long to read your poem on Burns—I retain so indistinct a memory of it. In what shape and how does it come into public? As you leave off writing poetry till you finish your Hymns, I suppose you print, now, all you have got by you. You have scarce enough imprinted to make a second volume with Lloyd? Tell me all about it. What is become of Cowper 1 Lloyd told me of some verses on his mother. If you have them by you, pray send 'em me. I do so love him! Never mind their merit. May be / may like 'fin, as your taste and mine do not always exactly identify. Yours, unless you print those very schoolboy-ish verses I sent you on not getting leave to come down to Bristol last summer. I say I shall be sorry that I have addressed you in nothing which can appear in our joint volume ; so frequently, so habitually, as you dwell in my thoughts, 'tis some wonder those thoughts came never yet in contact with a poetical mood. But you dwell in my heart of hearts, and I love you in all the naked honesty of prose. God bless you, and all your little domestic circle — my tenderest remembrances to your beloved Sara, and a smile and a kiss from me to your dear dear little David Hartley. The verses I refer to above, slightly amended, I have sent (forgetting to ask your leave, tho' indeed I gave them only your initials), to the Monthly Magazine, where they may possibly appear next month, and where I hope to recognise your poem on Burns.
Soon after the date of this letter, death released the father from his state of imbecility and the son from his wearisome duties. With his life, the annuity he had derived from the old bencher he had served so faithfully, ceased; while the aunt continued to linger still with Lamb in his cheerless lodging. His sister still remained in confinement in the asylum to which she had been consigned on her mother's death—perfectly sensible and calm,—and he was passionately desirous of obtaining her liberty. The surviving members of the family, especially his brother John, who enjoyed a fair income in the South Sea House, opposed her discharge ;—and painful doubts were suggested by the authorities of the parish, where the terrible occurrence happened, whether they were not bound to institute proceedings, which must have placed her for life at the disposition of the Crown, especially as no medical assurance could be given against the probable recurrence of dangerous frenzy. But Charles came to her deliverance; he satisfied all the parties who had power to oppose her release, by his solemn engagement that he would take her under his care for life; and he kept his word. Whether any communication with the Home Secretary occurred before her release, I have been unable to ascertain ; it was the impression of Mr. Lloyd, from whom my own knowledge of the circumstances, which the letters do not ascertain, was derived, that a communication took place, on which a similar pledge
was given; at all events, the result was, that she left the asylum and took up her abode for life with her brother Charles. For her sake, at the same time, he abandoned all thoughts of love and marriage; and with an income of scarcely more than 1001. a-year, derived from his clerkship, aided for a little while by the old aunt's small annuity, set out on the journey of life at twenty-two years of age, cheerfully, with his beloved companion, endeared to him the more by her strange calamity, and the constant apprehension of a recurrence of the malady which had caused it!
LETTERS TO COLERIDGE AND MANNINQ IN LAMD'S FIRST TEARS OF LIFE WITH HIS 8I8TER.
[1797 to 1800.]
The anxieties of Lamb's new position were assuaged during the spring of 1797, by frequent communications with Coleridge respecting the anticipated volume, and by some additions to his own share in its pages. He was also cheered by the company of Lloyd, who, having resided for a few months with Coleridge, at Stowey, came to London in some perplexity as to his future course. Of this visit Lamb speaks in the following letter, probably written in January. It contains some verses expressive of his delight at Lloyd's visit, which, although afterwards inserted in the volume, are so well fitted to their frame-work of prose, and so indicative of the feelings of the writer at this crisis of his life, that I may be excused for presenting them with the context.
CHARLES LLOYD, AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR.
Alone, obscure, without a friend,
A cheerless, solitary thing.
What offering can the stranger bring
Of social scenes, home-bred delights,
For Stowey's pleasant winter nights,
In brief oblivion to forego
Friends, such as thine, so justly dear,
To stay, a kindly loiterer, here!
For this a gleam of random joy
Hath flush'd my unaccustom'd cheek;
And, with an o'er-charged bursting heart,
O! sweet are all the Muse's lays,
And sweet the charm of matin bird—
'Twas long, since these estranged ears
The voice hath spoke: the pleasant sounds
In memory's ear, in after time
And sometimes prompt an honest rhyme.
For when the transient charm is fled,
And when the little week is o'er,
When I return, as heretofore—
Long, long, within my aching heart
I'll think less meanly of myself,
That Lloyd will sometimes think on me.
"O Coleridge, would to God you were in London with us, or we two at Stowey with
you all. Lloyd takes up his abode at the Bull and Mouth Inn ; the Cat and Salutation would have had a charm more forciWe for me. 0 noctes ccenceque Deum! Anglice— Welch rabbits, punch, and poesy. Should you be induced to publish those very schoolboy-ish verses, print 'em as they will occur, if at all, in the Monthly Magazine ; yet I should feel ashamed that to you I wrote nothing better: but they are too personal, and almost trifling and obscure withal. Some lines of mine to Cowper were in last Monthly Magazine ; they have not body of thought enough to plead for the retaining of 'em. My sister's kind love to you all.
It would seem, from the following fragment of a letter of 7th April, 1797, that Lamb, at first, took a small lodging for his sister apart from his own—but soon to be for life uuited.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"By the way, Lloyd may have told you about my sister. I told him. If not, I have taken her out of her confinement, and taken a room for her at Hackney, and spend my Sundays, holidays, &c. with her. She boards herself. In one little half year's illness, and in such an illness of such a nature and of such consequences! to get her out into the world again, with a prospect of her never being so ill again—this is to be ranked not among the common blessings of Providence."
The next letter to Coleridge begins with a transcript of Lamb's Poem, entitled "A Vision of Repentance," which was inserted in the Addenda to the volume, and is preserved among his collected poems, and thus proceeds:
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"April 15th, 1797.
"The above you will please to print immediately before the blank verse fragments. Tell me if you like it. I fear the latter half is unequal to the former, in parts of which I think you will discover a delicacy of pencilling not quite un-Spenser-like. The latter half aims at the measure, but has failed to attain the poetry of Milton in his