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with Mr. Southey, to send him portions ofI his play, and to reciprocate criticisms with I him. The following three letters, addressed to Mr. Southey in the spring of this year, require no commentary.
TO MR. SOUTHEY.
"Jan. 21st, 1799.
"I am to blame for not writing to you before on my own account; but I know you can dispense with the expressions of gratitude or I should have thanked you before for all May's kindness.* He has liberally supplied the person I spoke to you of with money, and had procured him a situation just after himself had lighted upon a similar one, and engaged too far to recede. But May's kindness was the same, and my thanks to you and him are the same. May went about on this business as if it had been his own. But you knew John May before this, so I will be silent.
"I shall be very glad to hear from you when convenient. I do not know how your Calendar and other affairs thrive; but above all, I have not heard a great while of your Madoc—the opus magnum. I would willingly send you something to give a value to this letter ; but I have only one slight passage to send you, scarce worth the sending, which I want to edge in somewhere into my play, which, by the way, hath not received the addition of ten lines, besides, since I saw you. A father, old Walter Woodvil, (the witch's Protege) relates this of his son John, who 'fought in adverse armies,' being a royalist, and his father a parliamentary man.
'I saw him in the day of Worcester fight,
* See ante, p. 31.
Seeing such hope and virtue in the boy.
"Lloyd objects to 'pourtrayed in his face,* do you? I like the line.
"I shall clap this in somewhere. I think there is a spirit through the lines; perhaps the 7th, 8th, and 9th owe their origin to Shakspeare, though no image is borrowed.
He says in Henry the Fourth—
'This infant Hotspur, Mars in swathing clothes.'
But pray did Lord Falkland die before Worcester fight? In that case I must make bold to unclify some other nobleman. "Kind love and respects to Edith.
TO MR. SOUTHEY.
"March 15th, 1799.
"Dear Southey,—I have received your little volume, for which I thank you, though I do not entirely approve of this sort of intercourse, where the presents are all on one side. I have read the last Eclogue again with great pleasure. It hath gained considerably by abridgment, and now I think it wants nothing but enlargement. You will call this one of tyrant Procrustes' criticisms, to cut and pull so to his own standard; but the old lady is so great a favourite with me, I want to hear more of her; and of' Joanna' you have given us still less. But the picture of the rustics leaning over the bridge, and the old lady travelling abroad on summer evening to see her garden watered, are images so new and true, that I decidedly prefer this 'Ruin'd Cottage' to any poem in the book. Indeed I think it the only one that will bear comparison with your ' Hymn to the Penates,' in a former volume.
"I compare dissimilar things, as one would a rose and a star, for the pleasure they give us, or as a child soon learns to choose betweeu a cake and a rattle; for dissimilars have mostly some points of comparison. The next best poem, I think, is the first Eclogue ; 'tis very complete, and abounding in little pictures and realities. The remainder Eclogues, excepting only the ' Funeral,' I do not greatly admire. I miss one, which had at least as good a title to publication as the 'Witch,' or the ' Sailor's Mother.' You call'd it the 'Last of the Family.' The 'Old Woman of Berkeley' comes next; in some humours I would give it the preference above any. But who the devil is Matthew of Westminster? You are as familiar with these antiquated monastics, as Swedenborg, or, as his followers affect to call him, the Baron, with his invisibles. But you have raised a very comic effect out of the true narrative of Matthew of Westminster. 'Tis surprising with how little addition you have been able to convert, with so little alteration, his incidents, meant for terror, into circumstances and food for the spleen. The Parody is not so successful; it has one famous line, indeed, which conveys the finest death-bed image I ever met with:
"The doctor whispered the nurse, and the surgeon knew what he said.'
But the offering the bride three times bears not the slightest analogy or proportion to the fiendish noises three times heard! In 'Jaspar,' the circumstance of the great light is very affecting. But I had heard you mention it before. The 'Rose' is the only insipid piece in the volume ; it hath neither thorns nor sweetness; and, besides, sets all chronology and probability at defiance.
'"Cousin Margaret,' you know, I like. The allusions to the Pilgrim's Progress are particularly happy, and harmonise tacitly and delicately with old cousins and aunts. To familiar faces we do associate familiar scenes, and accustomed objects; but what hath Apollidon and his sea-nymphs to do in these affairs? Apollyon I could have borne, though he stands for the devil, but who is Apollidon? I think you are too apt to conclude faintly, with some cold moral, as in the end of the poem called ' The Victory'—
'Be thou her comforter, who art the widow's friend;'
a single common-place line of comfort, which bears no proportion in weight or number to the many lines which describe suffering. This is to convert religion into mediocre feelings, which should burn, and glow, and tremble. A moral should be wrought into the body and soul, the matter and tendency of a poem, not tagged to the end, like a 'God send the good ship into harbour,' at the con
clusion of our bills of lading. The finishing of the 'Sailor' is also imperfect. Any dissenting minister may say and do as much.
"These remarks, I know, are crude and unwrought, but I do not lay claim to much accurate thinking. I never judge systemwise of things, but fasten upon particulars. After all, there is a great deal in the book that I must, for time, leave unmentioned, to deserve my thanks for its own sake, as well as for the friendly remembrances implied in the gift. I again return you my thanks.
"Pray present my love to Edith.
TO MR. 80UTHEY.
"March 20th, 1799. "I am hugely pleased with your 'Spider,' 'your old freemason,' as you call him. The three first stanzas are delicious ; they seem to me a compound of Burns and Old Quarles, those kind of home-strokes, where more is felt than strikes the ear; a terseness, a jocular pathos, which makes one feel in laughter. The measure, too, is novel and pleasing. I could almost wonder, Rob. Burns, in his lifetime never stumbled upon it. The fourth stanza is less striking, as being less original. The fifth falls off. It has no felicity of phrase, no old-fashioned phrase or feeling.
'Young hopes, and love's delightful dreams,'
savour neither of Burns nor Quarles; they seem more like shreds of many a modern sentimental sonnet. The last stanza hath nothing striking in it, if I except the two concluding lines, which are Burns all over. I wish, if you concur with me, these things could be looked to. I am sure this is a kind of writing, which comes ten-fold better recommended to the heart, comes there more like a neighbour or familiar, than thousands of Hamnels and Zillahs and Madelons. I beg you will send me the 'Holly-tree,' if it at all resemble this, for it must please me. I have never seen it. I love this sort of poems, that open a new intercourse with the most despised of the animal and insect race. I think this vein may be further opened. Peter Pindar hath very prettily apostrophised a fly; Burns hath his mouse and his louse; Coleridge less successfully hath made overtures of intimacy to a jackass, therein only following at unresembling distance, Sterne and greater Cervantes. Besides these, I know of no other examples of breaking down the partition between us and our 'poor earth-born companions.' It is sometimes revolting to be put in a track of feeling by other people, not one's own immediate thoughts, else I would persuade you, if I could (I am in earnest), to commence a series of these animal poems, which might have a tendency to rescue some poor creatures from the antipathy of mankind. Some thoughts come across me ;—for instance—to a rat, to a toad, to a cockchafer, to a mole—people bake moles alive by a slow oven-fire to cure consumption—rats are, indeed, the most despised and contemptible parts of God's earth. I killed a rat the other day by punching him to pieces, and feel a weight of blood upon me to this hour. Toads you know are made to fly, and tumble down and crush all to pieces. Cockchafers are old sport; then again to a worm, with an apostrophe to anglers, those patient tyrants, meek inflictors of pangs intolerable, cool devils; to an owl; to all snakes, with an apology for their poison; to a cat in boots or bladders. Your own fancy, if it takes a fancy to these hints, will suggest many more. A series of such poems, suppose them accompanied with plates descriptive of animal torments, cooks roasting lobsters, fishmongers crimping skates, &c., &c. would take excessively. I will willingly enter into a partnership in the plan with you: I think my heart and soul would go with it too—at least, give it a thought. My plan is but this minute come into my head; but it strikes me instantaneously as something new, good, and useful, full of pleasure, and full of moral. If old Quarles and Wither could live again, we would invite them into our firm. Burns hath done his part."
In the summer Ijamb revisited the scenes in Hertfordshire, where, in his grandmother's time, he had spent so many happy holidays. In the following letter, he just hints at feelings which, many years after, he so beautifully developed in those essays of ' Elia,'
'Blakesmoor,' and 'Mackery End.'
TO MR. SOTJTHEY.
"Oct. 31st, 1799.
"Dear Southey,—I have but just got your letter, being returned from Herts, where I have passed a few red-letter days with much pleasure. I would describe the county to, you, as you have done by Devonshire, but alas! I am a poor pen at that same. I could tell you of an old house with a tapestry bedroom, the 'Judgment of Solomon' composing one pannel, and 'Acteon spying Diana naked' the other. I could tell of an old marble hall . with Hogarth's prints, and the Roman Csesars in marble hung round. I could tell of a wilderness, and of a village church, and where the bones of my honoured grandam lie ; but there are feelings which refuse to be translated, sulky aborigines, which will not be naturalised in another soil. Of this nature are old family faces, and scenes of infancy.
"I have given your address, and the books you want, to the Arch's; they will send them as soon as they can get them, but they do not seem quite familiar to their names. I shall have nothing to communicate, I fear, to the Anthology. You shall have some fragments of my play, if you desire them, but I think I had rather print it whole. Have you seen it, or shall I lend you a copy 1 I want your opinion of it.
"I must get to business, so farewell ; my kind remembrances to Edith. "C. L."
In the autumn of this year Lamb's choice list of friends received a most important addition in Mr. Thomas Manning, then a mathematical tutor at Cambridge ; of whom he became a frequent correspondent, and to whom he remained strongly attached through life. Lloyd had become a graduate of the university, and to his introduction Lamb was indebted for Manning's friendship. The following letters will show how earnestly, yet how modestly, Lamb sought it.
TO MR. MANNING.
"Dear Manning,—The particular kindness, even up to a degree of attachment, which I have experienced from you, seems to claim some distinct acknowledgment on my part . I could not content myself with a bare
remembrance to you, conveyed in some letter to Lloyd.
"Will it be agreeable to you, if I occasionally recruit your memory of me, which must else soon fade, if you consider the brief intercourse we have had. I am not likely to prove a troublesome correspondent. My scribbling days are past. I shall have no sentiments to communicate, but as they spring up from some living and worthy occasion.
"I look forward with great pleasure to the performance of your promise, that we should meet in London early in the ensuing year. The century must needs commence auspiciously for me, that brings with it Manning's friendship, as an earnest of its after gifts.
"I should have written before, but for a troublesome inflammation in one of my eyes, brought on by night travelling with the coach windows sometimes up.
"What more I have to say shall be reserved for a letter to Lloyd. I must not prove tedious to you in my first outset, lest I should affright you by my ill-judged loquacity. "I am, yours most sincerely,
TO MR. MANNING.
"Dec. 28th, 1799. "Dear Manning,—Having suspended my correspondence a decent interval, as knowing that even good things may be taken to satiety, a wish cannot but recur to learn whether you be still well and happy. Do all things continue in the state I left them in Cambridge?
"Do your night parties still flourish? and do you continue to bewilder your company, with your thousand faces, running down through all the keys of idiotism (like Lloyd over his perpetual harpsichord), from the smile and the glimmer of half-sense and quarter-sense, to the grin and hanging lip of Betty Foy's own Johnny? And does the face-dissolving curfew sound at twelve? How unlike the great originals were your petty terrors in the postscript, not fearful enough to make a fairy shudder, or a Lilliputian fine lady, eight months full of child, miscarry. Yet one of them, which had more beast than the rest, I thought faintly resemj bled one of your brutifications. But, seriously, I long to see your own honest Manning-face
again. I did not mean a pun,—your man's face, you will be apt to say, I know your wicked will to pun. I cannot now write to Lloyd and you too, so you must convey as much interesting intelligence as this may contain or be thought to contain, to him and Sophia, with my dearest love and remembrances.
"By the by, I think you and Sophia both incorrect with regard to the title of the flay* Allowing your objection (which is not necessary, as pride may be, and is in real life often, cured by misfortunes not directly originating from its own acts, as Jeremy Taylor will tell you a naughty desire is sometimes sent to cure it. I know you read these practical divine*)—but allowing your objection, does not the betraying of his father's secret directly spring from pride 1—from the pride of wine and a full heart, and a proud overstepping of the ordinary rules of morality, and contempt of the prejudices of mankind, which are not to bind superior souls—'as trust in the matter of secrets all ties of blood, &c. &c., keeping of promises, the feeble mind's religion, binding our morning knowledge to the performance of what last night's ignorance spake'—does he not prate, that 'Great Spirits' must do more than die for their friend—does not the pride of wine incite him to display some evidence of friendship, which its own irregularity shall make great? This I know, that I meant his punishment not alone to be a cure for his daily and habitual pride, but the direct consequence and appropriate punishment of a particular act of pride.
"If you do not understand it so, it is my fault in not explaining my meaning.
"I have not seen Coleridge since, and scarcely expect to see him,—perhaps he has been at Cambridge.
"Need I turn over to blot a fresh clean
half-sheet? merely to say, what I hope you
are sure of without my repeating it, that I
would have you consider me, dear Manning,
"Your sincere friend, "C. Lamb."
Early in the following year (1800), Lamb, with his sister, removed to Chapel-street, Pentonville. In the summer he visited Coleridge, at Stowey, and spent a few delightful holidays in his society and that of Wordsworth, who then resided in the neighbourhood. This was the first opportunity Lamb had enjoyed of seeing much of the poet, who was destined to exercise a beneficial and lasting influence on the literature and moral sense of the opening century. At this time Lamb was scarcely prepared to sympathise with the naked simplicity of the "Lyrical Ballads," which Wordsworth was preparing for the press. The " rich conceits" of the writers of Elizabeth's reign had been blended with his first love of poetry, and he could not at once acknowledge the serene beauty of a style, in which language was only the stainless mirror of thought, and which sought no aid either from the grandeur of artificial life or the pomp of words. In after days he was among the most earnest of this great poet's admirers, and rejoiced as he found the scoffers who sneered at his bold experiment gradually owning his power. How he felt when the little golden opportunity of conversation with Wordsworth and Coleridge had passed will appear from the following letter, which seems to have been addressed to Coleridge shortly after his return to London.
* It had been proposed to entitle John Woodvil "Pride's Cure."
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"I am scarcely yet so reconciled to the loss of you, or so subsided into my wonted uniformity of feeling, as to sit calmly down to think of you and write to you. But I reason myself into the belief that those few and pleasant holidays shall not have been spent in vain. I feel improvement in the recollection of many a casual conversation. The names of Tom Poole, of Wordsworth and his good sister, with thine and Sarah's, are become ' familiar in my mouth as household words.' You would make me very happy, if you think W. has no objection, by transcribing for me that inscription of his. I have some scattered sentences ever floating on my memory, teasing me that I cannot remember more of it. You may believe I will make no improper use of it. Believe me I can think now of many subjects on which I had planned gaining information from you; but I forgot my 'treasure's worth' while I possessed it. Your leg is now become to me a matter of much more importance—and many a little thing, which
when I was present with you seemed scarce to indent my notice, now presses painfully on my remembrance. Is the Patriot come yet? Are Wordsworth and his sister gone yet? I was looking out for John Thelwall all the way from Bridgewater, and had I met him, I think it would have moved almost me to tears. You will oblige me too by sending me my great-coat, which I left behind in the oblivious state the mind is thrown into at parting — is it not ridiculous that I sometimes envy that great-coat lingering so cunningly behind !—at present I have none—so send it me by a Stowey waggon, if there be such a thing, directing for C. It, No. 46, Chapel-street, Pentonville, near London. But above all, that Inscription! —it will recall to me the tones of all your voices—and with them many a remembered kindness to one who could and can repay you all only by the silence of a grateful heart. I could not talk much, while I was with you, but my silence was not sullenness, nor I hope from any bad motive; but, in truth, disuse has made me awkward at it. I know I behaved myself, particularly at Tom Poole's, and at Cruikshank's, most like a sulky child; but company and converse are strange to me. It was kind in you all to endure me as you did.
"Are you and your dear Sarah—to me also very dear, because very kind—agreed yet about the management of little Hartley? and how go on the little rogue's teeth? I will see White to-morrow, and he shall send you information on that matter; but as perhaps I can do it as well after talking with him, I will keep this letter open.
"My love and thanks to you and all of you.
"C. L." "Wednesday Evening."
Coleridge shortly after came to town, to make arrangements for his contributions to the daily press. The following note is addressed to him when in London.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"Jan. 2nd, 1800. "Dear Coleridge,—Now I write, I cannot miss this opportunity of acknowledging the obligations myself, and the readers in general of that luminous paper, the ' Morning Post,' are under to you for the very novel and