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this, partaking of some of the beat characteristics of both—whose first poem sparkled in the closing darkness of the last century ** like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear," and who was advancing from a youth which had anticipated memory, to an age of kindness and hope; and Moore, who paused in the
which adorned the "Edinburgh Review," just after Lord Holland's death.
"The time is coming when, perhaps a few old men, the last survivors of our generation, will in vain seek, amidst new streets, and squares, and railway stations, for the site of that dwelling which was in their youth the favourite resort of wits and beauties—of painters and poets—of scholars, philosophers, and statesmen. They will then remember, with strange tenderness, many objects once familiar to them—the avenue and the terrace, the busts and the paintings; the carving, the grotesque gilding, and the enigmatical mottoes. With peculiar fondness, they will recal that venerable chamber, in which all the antique gravity of a college library was so singularly blended with all that female grace and wit could devise to embellish a drawing-room. They will recollect, not unmoved, those shelves loaded with the varied learning of many lands and many ages; those portraits in which were preserved the features of the best and wisest Englishmen of two generations. They will recollect how many men who have guided the politics of Europe—who have moved great assemblies by reason and eloquence—who have put life into bronze and canvas, or who have left to posterity things so written as it shall not willingly let them (In-—were there mixed with all that was loveliest and gayest in the society of the most splendid of capitals. They will remember the singular character which belonged to that circle, in which every talent and accomplishment, every art and science, had its place. They will remember how the last debate was discussed in one corner, and the last comedy of Scribe in another; while Wilkic gazed with modest admiration on Reynolds' Baretti; while Mackintosh turned over Thomas Aquinas to verify a quotation; while Talleyrand related his conversations with Barras at the Luxemburg, or his ride with Lannes over the field of Austerlitz. They will remember, above all, the grace—and the kindness, far more admirable than grace—with which the princely hospitality of that ancient mansion was dispensed. They will remember the venerable and benignant countenance, and the cordial voice of him who bade them welcome. They will remember that temper which years of pain, of sickness, of lameness, of confinement, seemed only to make sweeter and sweeter; and that frank politeness, which at once relieved all the embarrassment of the youngest and most timid writer or artist, who found himself for the first time among Ambassadors and Earls. They will remember that constant flow of conversation, so natural, so animated, so various, so rich with observation and anecdote; that wit which never gave a wound; that exquisite mimicry which ennobled, instead of degrading; that goodness of heart which appeared in every look and accent, and gave additional value to every talent and acquirement. They will remember, too, that he whose name they hold in reverence was not less distinguished by the inflexible uprightness of his political conduct, than by his loving disposition and his winning manners. They will remember that, in the last lines which he traced, he expressed his joy that he had done nothing unworthy of the friend of Fox and Grey; and they will have reason to feel similar joy, if, in looking back on many troubled years, they cannot accuse themselves of having done anything unworthy of men who were distinguished by the friendship of Lord Holland."
fluttering expression of graceful trifles, to whisper some deep-toned thought of Ireland's wrongs and sorrows.
Literature and Art supplied the favourite topics to each of these assemblies,—both discussed with earnest admiration, but surveyed in different aspects. The conversation at Lord Holland's was wont to mirror the happiest aspects of the living mind; to celebrate the latest discoveries in science; to echo the quarterly decisions of imperial criticism; to reflect the modest glow of young reputations ;—all was gay, graceful, decisive, as if the pen of Jeffrey could have spoken; or, if it reverted to old times, it rejoiced in those classical associations which are always young. At Lamb's, on the other hand, the topics were chiefly sought among the obscure and remote ; the odd, the quaint, the fantastic were drawn out from their dusty recesses; nothing could be more foreign to its embrace than the modern circulating library, even when it teemed with the Scotch novels. Whatever the subject was, however, in the more aristocratic, or the humbler sphere, it was always discussed by those best entitled to talk on it; no others had a chance of being heard. This remarkI able freedom from bores was produced in Lamb's circle by the authoritative texture of I its commanding minds; in Lord Holland's, I by the more direct, and more genial inI fluence of the hostess, which checked that tenacity of subject and opinion which sometimes broke the charm of Lamb's parties by "a duel in the form of a debate." Perhaps beyond any other hostess,—certainly far beyond any host, Lady Holland possessed the tact of perceiving, and the power of evoking the various capacities which lurked in every part of the brilliant circles over which she presided, and restrained each to its appropriate sphere, and portion of the evening. To enkindle the enthusiasm of an artist on the theme over which he had achieved the most facile mastery; to set loose the heart of the rustic poet, and imbue his speech with the freedom of his native hills ; to draw from the adventurous traveller a breathing picture of his most imminent danger ; or to embolden the bashful soldier to disclose his own share in the perils and glories of some famous battle-field ; to encourage the generous praise of friendship when the speaker and the subject reflected interest on each other; or win from an awkward man of science the secret history of a discovery which had astonished the world ; to conduct these brilliant developments to the height of satisfaction, and then to shift the scene by the magic of a word, were among her nightly successes. And if this extraordinary power over the elements of social enjoyment was sometimes wielded without the entire concealment of its despotism; if a decisive check sometimes rebuked a speaker who might intercept the variegated beauty of Jeffrey's indulgent criticism, or the jest announced and selfrewarded in Sydney Smith's cordial and triumphant laugh, the authority was too clearly exerted for the evening's prosperity, and too manifestly impelled by an urgent consciousness of the value of these golden hours which were fleeting within its confines, to sadden the enforced silence with more than a momentary regret. If ever her prohibition — clear, abrupt, and decisive, — indicated more than a preferable regard for livelier discourse, it was when a depreciatory tone was adopted towards genius, or goodness, or honest endeavour, or when some friend, personal or intellectual, was mentioned in slighting phrase. Habituated to a generous partisanship, by strong sympathy with a great political cause, she carried the fidelity of her devotion to that cause into her social relations, and was ever the truest and the fastest of friends. The tendency, often more idle than malicious, to soften down the intellectual claims of the absent, which so insidiously besets literary conversation, and teaches a superficial insincerity, even to substantial esteem and regard, and which was sometimes insinuated into the conversation of Lamb's friends, though never into his own, found no favour in her presence; and hence the conversations over which she presided, perhaps beyond all that ever flashed with a kindred splendour, were marked by that integrity of good nature which might admit of their exact repetition to every living individual whose merits were discussed, without the danger of inflicting pain. Under her auspices, not only all critical, but all personal talk was tinged with kindness ; the strong interest which she took in the happiness of her friends, shed a peculiar sunniness over the aspects of life presented by the common
topics of alliances, and marriages, and promotions; and there was not a hopeful engagement, or a happy wedding, or a promotion of a friend's son, or a new intellectual triumph of any youth with whose name and history she was familiar, bat became an event on which she expected and required congratulation as on a part of her own fortune. Although there was necessarily a preponderance in her society of the sentiment of popular progress, which once was cherished almost exclusively by the party to whom Lord Holland was united by sacred ties, no expression of triumph in success, no virulence in sudden disappointment, was ever permitted to wound the most sensitive ears of her conservative guests. It might be that some placid comparison of recent with former times, spoke a sense of freedom's peaceful victory; or that, on the giddy edge of some great party struggle, the festivities of the evening might take a more serious cast, as news arrived from the scene of contest, and the pleasure might be deepened by the peril; but the feeling was always restrained by the supremacy given to those permanent solaces for the mind, in the beautiful and the great, which no political changes disturb. Although the death of the noble master of the veneratsd mansion closed its portals for ever on the exquisite enjoyments to which they had been so generously expanded, the art of conversation lived a little longer in the smaller circle which Lady Holland still drew almost daily around her; honouring his memory by following his example, and struggling against the perpetual sense of unutterable bereavement, by rendering to literature that honour iyid those reliefs, which English aristocracy has too often denied it; and seeking consolation in making others proud and happy. That lingering happiness is extinct now; Lamb's kindred circle—kindred, though so different—dispersed almost before he died; the "thoughts that wandered through eternity," are no longer expressed in time ; the fancies and conceits, " gay creatures of the element" of social delight, "that in the colours of the rainbow lived, and played in the plighted clouds," flicker only in the backward perspective of waning years; and for the survivors, I may venture to affirm, no such conversation as they have shared in either circle will ever be theirs again in this world!
Before closing these last Memorials of Charles and Mary Lamb, it may be permitted me to glance separately at some of the friends who are grouped around them in memory, and who, like them, live only in recollection, and in the works they have left behind them.
George Dyer was one of the first objects of Lamb's youthful reverence, for he had attained the stately rank of Grecian in the venerable school of Christ's Hospital, when Charles entered it, a little, timid, affectionate child; but this boyish respect, once amounting to awe, gave place to a familiar habit of loving bauter, which, springing from the depths of old regard, approximated to schoolboy roguery, and, now and then, though very rarely, gleamed on the consciousness of the ripe scholar. No contrast could be more vivid than that presented by the relations of each to the literature they both loved; one divining its inmost essences, plucking out the heart of its mysteries, shedding light on its dimmest recesses; the other devoted, with equal assiduity, to its externals. Books, to Dyer, " were a real world, both pure and good ;" among them he passed, unconscious of time, from youth to extreme age, vegetating on their dates and forms, and " trivial fond records," in the learned air of great libraries, or the dusty confusion of his own, with the least possible apprehension of any human interest vital in their pages, or of any spirit of wit or fancy glancing across them. His life was an Academic pastoral. Methinks I see his gaunt, awkward form, set off by trousers too short, like those outgrown by a gawky lad, and a rusty coat as much too large for the wearer, hanging about him like those garments which the aristocratic Milesian peasantry prefer to the most comfortable rustic dress; his long head silvered over with short yet straggling hair, and his dark grey eyes glistening with faith and wonder, as Lamb satisfies the curiosity which has gently disturbed his studies as to the authorship of the Waverley Novels, by telling him, in the strictest confidence, that they are the works of Lord Castlereagh, just returned from the Congress of Sovereigns at Vienna! Off he runs, with animated stride and shambling enthusiasm, nor stops till he reaches Maida Hill, and breathes his news into the startled ear of Leigh Hunt, who,
"as a public writer," ought to be possessed of the great fact with which George is laden! Or shall I endeavour to revive the bewildered look with which, just after he had been announced as one of Lord Stanhope's executors and residuary legatees, he received Lamb's grave inquiry, "Whether it was true, as commonly reported, that he was to be made a Lord?" "O dear no! Mr. Lamb," responded he with earnest seriousness, but not without a moment's quivering vanity, "I could not think of such a thing; it is not true, I assure you." "I thought not," said Lamb, " and I contradict it wherever I go; but the government will not ask your consent; they may raise you to the peerage without your even knowing it." "I hope not, Mr. Lamb ; indeed, indeed, I hope not; it would not suit me at all," responded Dyer, and went his way, musing on the possibility of a strange honour descending on his reluctant brow. Or shall 1 recall the visible presentment of his bland unconsciousness of evil when his sportive friend taxed it to the utmost, by suddenly asking what he thought of the murderer Williams, who, after de stroying two families in Ratcliffe Highway, had broken prison by suicide, and whose body had just before been conveyed, in shocking procession, to its cross-road grave! The desperate attempt to compel the gentle optimist to speak ill of a mortal creature produced no happier success than the answer, "Why, I should think, Mr. Lamb, he must have been rather an eccentric character." This simplicity of a nature not only unspotted by the world, but almost abstracted from it, will seem the more remarkable, when it is known that it was subjected, at the entrance of life, to a hard battle with fortune. Dyer was the son of very poor parents, residing in an eastern suburb of London, Stepney or Bethnal-greenward, where he attracted the attention of two elderly ladies as a serious child, with an extraordinary love for books. They obtained for him a presentation to Christ's Hospital, which he entered at seven years of age; fought his way through its sturdy ranks to its head ; and, at nineteen, quitted it for Cambridge, with only an exhibition and his scholarly accomplishments to help him. On he went, however, placid, if not rejoicing, through the difficulties of a life illustrated only by scholarship; encountering tremendous labours; unresting yet serene ; until at eighty-five he breathed out the most blameless of lives, which began in a struggle to end in a learned dream!
Mr. Godwin, who during the happiest I period of Lamb's weekly parties, was a con- I stant assistant at his whist-table, resembled I Dyer in simplicity of manner and devotion to letters; but the simplicity was more superficial, and the devotion more profound than the kindred qualities in the guileless' scholar; and, instead of forming the entire being, only marked the surface of a nature beneath which extraordinary power lay j hidden. As the absence of worldly wisdom subjected Dyer to the sportive sallies of, Lamb, so a like deficiency in Godwin ex- . posed him to the coarser mirth of Mr. Horne Tooke, who was sometimes inclined to seek relaxation for the iron muscles of his imperturbable mind in trying to make a philosopher look foolish. To a stranger's gaze the author of the "Political Justice" and "Caleb Williams," as he appeared in the Temple, always an object of curiosity except to his familiars, presented none of those characteristics with which fancy had invested the daring speculator and relentless novelist; nor, when he broke silence, did his language tend to reconcile the reality with the expectation. The disproportion of a frame which, low of stature, was surmounted by a massive head which might befit a presentable giant, was rendered almost imperceptible, not by any vivacity of expression, (for his countenance was rarely lighted up by the deep-seated genius within,) but by a gracious suavity of manner which many "a fine old English gentleman " might envy. His voice was small; the topics of his ordinary conversation trivial, and discussed with a delicacy and precision which might almost be mistaken for finical; and the presence of the most interesting persons in literary society, of which he had enjoyed the best, would not prevent him from falling after dinner into the most profound sleep. This gentle, drowsy, spiritless demeanour, presents a striking contrast to a reputation which once filled Europe with its echoes; but it was, in truth, when rightly understood, perfectly consistent with those intellectual elements which in some raised the most enthusiastic admiration, and from
others elicited the wildest denunciations of visionary terror.
In Mr. Godwin's mind, the faculty of abstract reason so predominated over all others, as practically to extinguish them; and his taste, akin to this faculty, sought only for its development through the medium of composition for the press. He had no imagination, no fancy, no wit, no humour; or if he possessed any of those faculties, they were obscured by that of pure reason; and being wholly devoid of the quick sensibility which irritates speech into eloquence, and of the passion for immediate excitement and applause, which tends to its presentment before admiring assemblies, he desired no other audience than that which he could silently address, and learned to regard all things through a contemplative medium. In this sense, far more than in the extravagant application of his wildest theories, he levelled all around him; admitted no greatness but that of literature; and neither desired nor revered any triumphs but those of thought. If such a reasoning faculty, guided by such a disposition, had been applied to abstract sciences, no effect remarkable beyond that of rare excellence, would have been produced; but the apparent anomalies of Mr. Godwin's intellectual history arose from the application of his power to the passions, the interests, and the hopes of mankind, at a time when they enkindled into frightful action, and when he calmly worked out his problems among their burning elements with the "ice-brook's temper," and the severest logic. And if some extreme conclusions were inconsistent with the faith and the duty which alone can sustain and regulate our nature, there was no small compensation in the severity of the process to which the student was impelled, for the slender peril which might remain lest the results should be practically adopted. A system founded on pure reason, which rejected the impulses of natural affection, the delights of gratitude, the influences of prejudice, the bondage of custom, the animation of personal hope; which appealed to no passion — which suggested no luxury — which excited no animosities—and which offered no prize for the observance of its laws, except a participation in the expanding glories of progressive humanity, was little calculated to allure from the accustomed paths of ancient ordinance any man disposed to walk in them by the lights from heaven. On the other hand, it was a healthful diversion from those seductions in which the heart secretly enervates and infects the understanding, to invite the revolutionary speculator to the contemplation of the distant and the refined; by the pursuit of impracticable error to brace the mind for the achievement of everlasting truth; and on the "heat and flame of the distemper" of an impassioned democracy to "sprinkle cool patience." The idol Political Justice, of which he was the slow and laborious architect, if it for a while enchanted, did not long enthral or ever debase its worshippers; "its bones were marrowless, its blood was cold,"—but there was surely "speculation in its eyes" which "glared withal" into the future. Such high casuistry as it evoked has always an ennobling tendency, even when it dallies with error; the direction of thought in youth is of less consequence than the mode of its exercise; and it is only when the base interests and sensual passions of mortality pander to the understanding that truth may fear for the issue.
The author of this cold and passionless intellectual phantasy looked out upon the world he hoped to inform from recesses of contemplation which the outward incidents of life did not disturb, and which, when closed, left him a common man, appearing to superficial observers rather below than above the level of ordinary talkers. To his inward gaze the stupendous changes which agitated Europe, at the time he wrote, were silent as a picture. The, pleasure of his life was to think; its business was to write; all else in it was vanity. Regarding his own being through the same spiritualising medium, he saw no reason why the springs of its existence should wear out, and, in the spring-time of his speculation, held that man might become immortal on earth by the effort of the will. His style partook of the quality of his intellect and the character of its purposes —it was pure, simple, colourless. His most imaginative passages are inspired only by a logic quickened into enthusiasm by the anticipation of the approaching discovery of truth—the dawning Eureka of the reasoner; they are usually composed of "line upon line and precept upon precept," without an
involution of style, or an eddy in the thought. He sometimes complained, though with the benignity that always marked his estimate of his opponents, that Mr. Malthus's style was too richly ornamented for argument; and certainly, with all its vivacity of illustration it lacks the transparent simplicity of his own. The most palpable result which he ever produced by his writings was the dark theory in the first edition of the work on Population, which was presented as an answer to his reasoning on behalf of the perfectibility of man; and he used to smile at his ultimate triumph, when the writer, who had only intended a striking paradox, tamed it down to the wisdom of economy, and adapted it to Poor-law uses; neutralised his giant spectres of Vice and Misery by the practical intervention of Moral Restraint; and left the optimist, Godwin, still in unclouded possession of the hope of universal peace and happiness, postponed only to that time when passion shall be subjected to reason, and population, no more rising like a resistless tide, between adamantine barriers to submerge the renovated earth, shall obey the commands of wisdom; rise and fall as the means of subsistence expand or contract; and only contribute an impulse to the universal harmony.
The persons of Mr. Godwin's romances— stranger still—are the naked creations of the same intellectual power, marvellously endowed with galvanic life. Though with happier symmetry, they are as much made out of chains and links of reasoning, as the monster was fashioned by the chemistry of the student, in the celebrated novel of his gifted daughter. Falkland, and Caleb Williams, are the mere impersonations of the unbounded love of reputation, and irresistible curiosity; these ideas are developed in each with masterly iteration—to the two ideas all causes give way; and materials are subjected, often of remarkable coarseness, to the refinement of the conception. Hazlitt used to observe of these two characters, that the manner they are played into each other, was equal to anything of the kind in the drama ; and there is no doubt that the opposition, though at the cost of probability, is most powerfully maintained: but the effect is partly owing to the absence of all extrinsic interest which could interfere