« AnteriorContinuar »
if you can, and stay your own time. I have a good large room, with two beds in it, in the handsomest of which thou shalt repose a-nights, and dream of Spheroides. I hope you will understand by the nonsense of this letter that I am not melancholy at the thoughts of thy coming: I thought it necessary to add this, because you love precision. Take notice that our stay at Dyer's will not exceed eight o'clock, after which our pursuits will be our own. But indeed, I think a little recreation among the Bell Letters and poetry will do you some service in the interval of severer studies. I hope we shall fully discuss with George Dyer what I have never yet heard done to my satisfaction, the reason of Dr. Johnson's malevolent strictures on the higher species of the Ode."
Manning could not come; and Dyer's subsequent symptoms are described in the following letter :—
TO MR. MANNING.
"December 27th, 1800.
"At length George Dyer's phrenesis has come to a crisis; he is raging and furiously mad. I waited upon the Heathen, Thursday was a se'nnight; the first symptom which struck my eye and gave me incontrovertible proof of the fatal truth was a pair of nankeen pantaloons four times too big for him, which the said Heathen did pertinaciously affirm to be new.
"They were absolutely ingrained with the accumulated dirt of ages; but he affirmed them to be clean. He was going to visit a lady that was nice about those things, and that's the reason he wore nankeen that day. And then he danced, and capered, and fidgeted, and pulled up his pantaloons, and hugged his intolerable flannel vestment closer about his poetic loins; anon he gave it loose to the zephyrs which plentifully insinuate their tiny bodies through every crevice, door, window or wainscot, expressly formed for the exclusion of such impertinents. Then he caught at a proof sheet, and catched up a laundress's bill instead—made a dart at Bloomfield's Poems and threw them in agony aside. I could not bring him to one direct reply; he could not maintain his jumping mind in a right line for the tithe of a
moment by Clifford's Tnn clock. He must go to the printer's immediately—the most unlucky accident—he had struck off five hundred impressions of his Poems, which were ready for delivery to subscribers, and the Preface must all be expunged; there were eighty pages of Preface, and not till that morning had he discovered that in the very first page of said Preface he had set out with a principle of Criticism fundamentally wrong, which vitiated all his following reasoning; the Preface must be expunged, although it cost him 30J., the lowest calculation, taking in paper and printing! In vain have his real friends remonstrated against this Midsummer madness. George is as obstinate as a Primitive Christian—and wards and parries off all our thrusts with one unanswerable fence ;—' Sir, it's of great consequence that the world is not misled!'
"I've often wished I lived in the Golden Age, before doubt, and propositions, and corollaries, got into the world. Now, as
Joseph D , a Bard of Nature, sings, going
up Malvern Hills.
* How steep! how painful the ascent;
You must know that Joe is lame, so that he had some reason for so singing. These two lines, I assure you, are taken totidem Uteris from a very popular poem. Joe is also an Epic Poet as well as a Descriptive, and has written a tragedy, though both his drama and epopoiea are strictly descriptive, and chiefly of the Beauties of Nature, for Joe thinks man with all his passions and frailties not a proper subject of the Drama. Joe's tragedy hath the following surpassing speech in it. Some king is told that his enemy has engaged twelve archers to come over in a boat from an enemy's country and way-lay him; he thereupon pathetically exclaims—
* Twelve, dost thou say? Curse on those dozen villains 1'
D read two or three acts out to us, very
gravely on both sides till he came to this heroic touch,—and then he asked what we laughed at 1 I had no more muscles that day. A poet that chooses to read out his own verses has but a limited power over you. There is a bound where his authority
The following letter, written sometime in 1801, shows that Lamb had succeeded in obtaining occasional employment as a writer of epigrams for newspapers, by which he added something to his slender income. The disparaging reference to Sir James Mackintosh must not be taken as expressive of Lamb's deliberate opinion of that distinguished person. Mackintosh, at this time, was in great disfavour, for his supposed apostasy from the principles of his youth, with Lamb's philosophic friends, whose minds were of temperament less capable than that of the author of the Vindicice Gatticce of being diverted from abstract theories of liberty by the crimes and sufferings which then attended the great attempt to reduce them to practice. Lamb, through life, utterly indifferent to politics, was always ready to take part with his friends, and probably scouted, with them, Mackintosh as a deserter.
"Dear Manning,—I have forborne writing so long (and so have you for the matter of that), until I am almost ashamed either to write or to forbear any longer. But as your silence may proceed from some worse cause than neglect—from illness, or some mishap which may have befallen you, I begin to be anxious. You may have been burnt out, or you may have married, or you may have broken a limb, or turned country parson; any of these would be excuse sufficient for not coming to my supper. I am not so unforgiving as the nobleman in Saint Mark. For me, nothing new has happened to me, unless that the poor Albion died last Saturday of the world's neglect, and with it the fountain of my puns is choked up for ever.
"All the Lloyds wonder that you do not write to them. They apply to me for the cause. Relieve me from this weight of ignorance, and enable me to give a truly oracular response.
"I have been confined some days with swelled cheek and rheumatism—they divide and govern me with a viceroy-headache in the middle. I can neither write nor read without great pain. It must be something like obstinacy that I choose this time to write to you in after many months interruption.
Some sportive extravagance which, however inconsistent with Lamb's early sentiments of reverent piety, was very far from indicating an irreligious purpose, seems to have given offence to Mr. Walter Wilson, and to have induced the following letter, illustrative of the writer's feelings at this time, on the most momentous of all subjects :—
TO MB, WALTER WIISON.
"August 14 th, 1801.
"Dear Wilson,—I am extremely sorry that any serious difference should subsist between us, on account of some foolish behaviour of mine at Richmond; you knew me well enough before, that a very little liquor will cause a considerable alteration in me.
"I beg you to impute my conduct solely to that, and not to any deliberate intention of offending you, from whom I have received so many friendly attentions. I know that you think a very important difference in opinion with respect to some more serious subjects between us makes me a dangerous companion; but do not rashly infer, from some slight and light expressions which I may have made use of in a moment of levity, in your presence, without sufficient regard to your feelings—do not conclude that I am an inveterate enemy to all religion. I have had a time of seriousness, and I have known the importance and reality of a religious belief. Latterly, I acknowledge, much of my seriousness has gone off, whether from new company, or some other new associations; but I still retain at bottom a conviction of the truth, and a certainty of the usefulness of religion. I will not pretend to more gravity or feeling than I at present possess; my intention is not to persuade you that any great alteration is probable in me; sudden converts are superficial and transitory; I only want you to believe that I have stamina of seriousness within me, and that I desire nothing more than a return of that friendly intercourse which used to subsist between us, but which my folly has suspended. "Believe me, very affectionately, yours,
In 1803 Coleridge visited London, and at his departure left the superintendence of a new edition of his poems to Lamb. The following letter, written in reply to one of Coleridge's, giving a mournful account of his journey to the north with an old man and his influenza, refers to a splendid smokingcap which Coleridge had worn at their evening meetings:—
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"April 13th, 1803.
"My dear Coleridge,—Things have gone on better with me since you left me. I expect to have my old housekeeper home again in a week or two. She has mended most rapidly. My health too has been better since you took away that Montero cap. I have left offcayenned eggs and such bolsters to discomfort. There was death in that cap. I mischievously wished that by some inauspicious jolt the whole contents might be shaken, and the coach set on fire; for you said they had that property. How the old gentleman, who joined you at Grantham, would have clapt his hands to his knees, and not knowing but it was an immediate visitation of heaven that burnt him, how pious it would have made him ; him, I mean, that brought the influenza with him, and only took places for one—an old sinner; he must have known what he had got with him! However, I wish the cap no harm for the sake of the head it fits, and could be content to see it disfigure my healthy side-board again.
"What do you think of smoking 1 I want your sober, average, noon opinion of it. I generally am eating my dinner about the time I should determine it.
"Morning is a girl, and can't smoke— "he's no evidence one way or the other ; and
Night is so bought over, that he can't be a very upright judge. May be the truth is, that one pipe is wholesome; two pipes toothsome ; three pipes noisome ; four pipes fulsome ; five pipes quarrelsome, and that's the sum on't. But that is deciding rather upon rhyme than reason. . . . After all, our instincts may be best. Wine, I am sure, good, mellow, generous Port, can hurt nobody, unless those who take it to excess, which they may easily avoid if they observe the rules of temperance.
"Bless you, old sophist, who next to human nature taught me all the corruption I was capable of knowing! And bless your Montero cap, and your trail (which shall come after you whenever you appoint), and your wife and children—Pipos especially.
"When shall we two smoke again 1 Last night I had been in a sad quandary of spirits, in what they call the evening, but a pipe, and some generous Port, and King Lear (being alone), had their effects as solacers. I went to bed pot-valiant. By the way, may not the Ogles of Somersetshire be remotely descended from King Lear. C. L."
The next letter is prefaced by happy news.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"Mary sends love from home.
"1808. •' "Dear C,—I do confess that I have not sent your books as I ought to have done; but you know how the human free-will is tethered, and that we perform promises to ourselves no better than to our friends. A watch is come for yon. Do you want it soon, or shall I wait till some one travels your way 1 You, like me, I suppose, reckon the lapse of time from the waste thereof, as boys let a cock run to waste; too idle to stop it, and rather amused with seeing it dribble. Your poems have begun printing; Longman sent to me to arrange them, the old and the new together. It seems you have left it to him; so I classed them, as nearly as I could, according to dates. First, after the Dedication, (which must march first,) and which I have transplanted from before the Preface, (which stood like a dead wall of prose between,) to be the first poem—then comes' The Pixies,' and the things most juvenile—then on 'To Chatterton,' &c.—on, lastly, to the 'Ode on the Departing Year,' and ' Musings,' —which finish. Longman wanted the Ode first, but the arrangement I have made is precisely that marked out in the Dedication, following the order of time. I told Longman I was sure that you would omit a good portion of the first edition. I instanced several sonnets, &c.—but that was not his plan, and, as you have done nothing in it, all I could do was to arrange 'em on the supposition that all were to be retained. A few I positively rejected; such as that of 'The Thimble,' and that of 'Flicker and Flicker's wife,' and that not in the manner of Spenser, which you yourself had stigmatised—and 'The Man of Ross,' — I doubt whether I should this last. It is not too late to save it. The first proof is only just come. I have been forced to call that Cupid's Elixir, 'Kisses.' It stands in your first volume, as an Effusion, so that, instead of prefixing The Kiss to that of' One Kiss, dear Maid,' &c., I have ventured to entitle it' To Sara.' I am aware of the nicety of changing even so mere a trifle as a title to so short a piece, and subverting old associations; but two called " Kisses' would have been absolutely ludicrous, and 'Effusion' is no name, and these poems come close together. I promise you not to alter one word in any poem whatever, but to take your last text, where two are. Can you send any wishes about the book? Longman, I think, should have settled with you; but it seems you have left it to him. Write as soon as you possibly can; for, without making myself responsible,' I feel myself, in some sort, accessary to the selection, which I am to proof-correct; but I decidedly said to Biggs that I was sure you would omit more. Those I have positively rubbed off, I can swear to individually, (except the 'Man of Ross,' which is too familiar in Pope,) but no others—you have your cue. For my part, I had rather all the Juvenilia were kept—memories causd.
"Robert Lloyd has written me a masterly letter, containing a character of his father; —see how different from Charles he views the old man! (Literatim.) 'My father smokes, repeats Homer in Greek, and Virgil, and is learning, when from business, with all the vigour of a young man, Italian. He is,
really, a wonderful man. He mixes public and private business, the intricacies of disordering life with his religion and devotion. No one more rationally enjoys the romantic scenes of nature, and the chit-chat and little vagaries of his children; and, though surrounded with an ocean of affairs, the very neatness of his most obscure cupboard in the house passes not unnoticed. I never knew any one view with such clearness, nor so well satisfied with things as they are, and make such allowance for things which must appear perfect Syriac to him.' By the last he means the Lloydisms of the younger branches. His portrait of Charles (exact as far as he has had opportunities of noting him) is most exquisite. 'Charles is become steady as a church, and as straightforward as a Roman Road. It would distract him to mention anything that was not as plain as sense; he seems to have run the whole scenery of life, and now rests as the formal precisian of non-existence.' Here is genius I think, and 'tis seldom a young man, a Lloyd, looks at a father (so differing) with such good nature while he is alive. Write— "I am in post-haste, C. Lamb.
"Love,&c., to Sara, P. and H."
The next letter, containing a further account of Lamb's superintendence of the new edition, bears the date of Saturday, 27th May, 1803.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"My dear Coleridge,—The date of my last was one day prior to the receipt of your letter, full of foul omens. I explain, lest you should have thought mine too light a reply to such sad matter. I seriously hope by this time you have given up all thoughts of journeying to the green Islands of the Blest— voyages in time of war are very precarious —or at least, that you will take them in your way to the Azores. Pray be careful of this letter till it has done its duty, for it is to inform you that I have booked off your watch (laid in cotton like an untimely fruit), and with it Coudillac, and all other books of yours which were left here. These will set out on Monday next, the 29th May, by Kendal waggon, from White Horse, Cripplegate. You will make seasonable inquiries, for a watch mayn't come your way again in a hurry. I have been repeatedly after Tobin, and now hear that he is in the country, not to return till middle of June. I will take care and see him with the earliest. But cannot you write pathetically to him, enforcing a speedy mission of your books for literary purposes 1 He is too good a retainer to Literature, to let her interests suffer through his default. And why, in the name of Beelzebub, are your books to travel from Barnard's Inn to the Temple, and thence circuitously to Cripplegate, when their business is to take a short cut down Holbornhill, up Snow do., on to Wood-street, &c.? The former mode seems a sad superstitious subdivision of labour. Well! the 'Man of Boss' is to stand ; Longman begs for it; the printer stands with a wet sheet iu one hand, and a useless Pica in the other, in tears, pleading for it; I relent. Besides, it was a Salutation poem, and has the mark of the beast' Tobacco' upon it. Thus much I have done; I have swept off the lines about vidmcs and orphans in second edition, which (if you remember) you most awkwardly and illogically caused to be inserted between two Ifs, to the great breach and disunion of said lfs, which now meet again (as in first edition), like two clever lawyers arguing a case. Another reason for subtracting the pathos was, that the ' Man of Ross' is too familiar, to need telling what he did, especially in worse lines than Pope told it, and it now stands simply as ' Reflections at an Inn about a known Character,' and sucking an old story into an accommodation with present feelings. Here is no breaking spears with Pope, but a new, independent, and really a very pretty poem. In fact 'tis as I used to admire it in the first volume, and I have even dared to restore
'If 'neath this roof thy Kine-cheer'd moments pass,'
'Cheer'd' is a sad general word,'wine-cheer 'd' I'm sure you'd give me, if I had a speakingtrumpet to sound to you 300 miles. But I am your factotum, and that save in this instance, which is a single case, and I can't get at you, shall be next to a fac-nihil—at most, & facsimile. I have ordered ' Imitation
of Spenser' to be restored on Wordsworth's authority; and now, all that you will miss will be ' Flicker and Flicker's Wife,' ' The Thimble,' 'Breathe, dear harmonist, ' and 1 believe, 'The Child that was fed with Manna.' Another volume will clear off all your Anthologic Morning-Postian Epistolary Miscellanies; but pray don't put 'Christabel' therein; don't let that sweet maid come forth attended with Lady Holland's mob at her heels. Let there be a separate volume of Tales, Choice Tales, 'Ancient Mariners,' &c.
The following is the fragment of a letter (part being lost), on the re-appearance of the Lyrical Ballads, in two volumes, and addressed
TO MR. WORDSWORTH.
"Thanks for your letter and present. I had already borrowed your second volume. What most please me are, 'The Song of Lucy;' Simon's sickly daughter, in 'The Sexton' made me cry. Next to these are the description of the continuous echoes in the story of 'Joanna's Laugh,' where the mountains, and all the scenery absolutely seem alive; and that fine Shakspearian character of the 'happy man,' in the 'Brothers,'
'that creeps about the fields,
Following his fancies by the hour, to bring
I will mention one more—the delicate and curious feeling in the wish for the 'Cumberland Beggar,' that he may have about him the melody of birds, altho' he hear them not. Here the mind knowingly passes a fiction upon herself, first substituting her own feelings for the Beggar's, and in the same breath detecting the fallacy, will not part with the wish. The 'Poet's Epitaph' is disfigured, to my taste, by the common satire upon parsons and lawyers in the beginning, and the coarse epithet of 'pinpoint,' in the sixth stanza. All the rest is eminently good, and your own. I will just add that it appears to me a fault in the 'Beggar,' that the instructions conveyed in it are too direct, and like a lecture: they