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by giving me a sight of it. Lloyd is sadly deficient in some of those virtuous vices. “George Dyer is the only literary character I am happily acquainted with. The oftener I see him, the more deeply I admire him. He is goodness itself. If I could but calculate the precise date of his death, I would write a novel on purpose to make George the hero. I could hit him off to a hair.”
The tragedy which Lamb was thus anxious to read, has been perseveringly withheld from the world. A fine passage, quoted in one of Hazlitt's prose essays, makes us share in his earnest curiosity:—
“Action is momentary—a word, a blow— The motion of a muscle—this way or that ; Suffering is long, drear, and infinite.”
Wordsworth's genius is perhaps more fitly employed in thus tracing out the springs of heroic passion, and developing the profound elements of human character, than in following them out through their exhibition in violent contest or majestic repose. Surely he may now afford to gratify the world !
The next is a short but characteristic letter
to Manning. TO Mr. MANNING. “Aug. 11th, 1800.
“My dear fellow, (N.B. mighty familiar of late 1) for me to come to Cambridge now is one of Heaven's impossibilities. Metaphysicians tell us, even it can work nothing which implies a contradiction. I can explain this by telling you that I am engaged to do double duty (this hot weather l) for a man who has taken advantage of this very weather to go and cool himself in ‘green retreats’ all the month of August.
“But for you to come to London instead —muse upon it, revolve it, cast it about in your mind. I have a bed at your command. You shall drink rum, brandy, gin, aqua-vitae, usquebaugh, or whiskey a' nights; and for the after-dinner trick, I have eight bottles of genuine port, which, mathematically divided, gives 1} for every day you stay, provided you stay a week. Hear John Milton sing,
‘Let Euclid rest and Archimedes pause.” Twenty-first Sonnet.
“What neat repast shall feast us, light" and choice, Of Attic taste, with wine,+ whence we may rise To hear the lute well touch'd, or artful voice Warble immortal notes and Tuscan air 2'
“Indeed the poets are full of this pleasing morality,+
‘Venicito, Domine Manning !”
“Think upon it. Excuse the paper, it is all I have. “C. LAMB.”
Lamb now meditated a removal to the home-place of his best and most solemn thoughts—the Temple; and thus announced it in a letter to Manning.
TO Mr. MANNING.
“You masters of logic ought to know (logic is nothing more than a knowledge of words, as the Greek etymon implies), that all words are no more to be taken in a literal sense at all times than a promise given to a tailor. When I exprest an apprehension that you were mortally offended, I meant no more than by the application of a certain formula of efficacious sounds, which had done in similar cases before, to rouse a sense of decency in you, and a remembrance of what was due to me! You masters of logic should advert to this phenomenon in human speech, before you arraign the usage of us dramatic geniuses. Imagination is a good blood mare, and goes well; but the misfortune is, she has too many paths before her. 'Tis true I might have imaged to myself, that you had trundled your frail carcass to Norfolk. I might also, and did imagine, that you had not, but that you were lazy, or inventing new properties in a triangle, and for that purpose moulding and squeezing Landlord Crisp's three-cornered beaver into fantastic experimental forms; or, that Archimedes was meditating to repulse the French, in case of a Cambridge invasion, by a geometric hurling of folios on their red caps; or, peradventure, that you were in extremities, in great wants, and just set out for Trinity-bogs when my letters came. In short, my genius ! (which is a short word now-a-days, for what-a-great-man-am-I")
* “We, poets' generally give light dinners.” + No doubt the poet here alludes to port-wine at 38s. the dozen.
“N.B.-I don't charge anything for the additional manuscript notes, which are the joint productions of myself and a learned translator of Schiller, Stoddart, Esq.
“N.B. the 2d.-I should not have blotted your book, but I had sent my own out to be bound, as I was in duty bound. A liberal criticism upon the several pieces, lyrical, heroical, amatory, and satirical, would be acceptable. So, you don't think there's a Word's—worth of good poetry in the great L. B. Idaren't put the dreaded syllables at their just length, for my back tingles from the northern castigation.
“I am going to change my lodgings, having received a hint that it would be agreeable, at our Lady's next feast. I have partly fixed upon most delectable rooms, which look out (when you stand a tip-toe) over the Thames, and Surrey Hills; at the upper end of King's Bench walks, in the Temple. There I shall have all the privacy of a house without the encumbrance, and shall be able to lock my friends out as often as I desire to hold free converse with my immortal mind, for my present lodgings resemble a minister's levee, I have so increased my acquaintance (as they call 'em) since I have resided in town. Like the country mouse, that had
tasted a little of urbane manners, I long to
be nibbling my own cheese by my dear self, without mouse-traps and time-traps. By my new plan, I shall be as airy, up four pair of stairs, as in the country; and in a garden, in the midst of enchanting, more than Mahometan paradise, London, whose dirtiest drabfrequented alley, and her lowest bowing tradesman, I would not exchange for Skiddaw, Helvellyn, James, Walter, and the parson into the bargain. O ! her lamps of a night! her rich goldsmiths, print-shops, toyshops, mercers, hardwaremen, pastry-cooks : St. Paul's churchyard the Strand Exeter Change Charing Cross, with the man upon a black horse ! These are thy gods, O London An’t you mightily moped on the banks of the Cam Had not you better come and set up here 7 You can't think what a difference. All the streets and pavements are pure gold, I warrant you. At least, I know an alchemy that turns her mud into that metal,—a mind that loves to be at home in crowds. “'Tis half-past twelve o'clock, and all sober people ought to be a-bed. “C. LAMB (as you may guess).”
The following two letters appear to have been written during Coleridge's visit to Wordsworth.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
“By some fatality, unusual with me, I have mislaid the list of books which you want. Can you from memory, easily supply me with another ?
“I confess to Statius, and I detained him wilfully, out of a reverent regard to your style. Statius, they tell me, is turgid. As to that other Latin book, since you know neither its name nor subject, your wants (I crave leave to apprehend) cannot be very urgent. Meanwhile, dream that it is one of the lost Decades of Livy.
“Your partiality to me has led you to form an erroneous opinion as to the measure of delight you suppose me to take in obliging. Pray, be careful that it spread no further. 'Tis one of those heresies that is very pregnant. Pray, rest more satisfied with the portion of learning which you have got, and disturb my peaceful ignorance as little as possible with such sort of commissions.
“Did you never observe an appearance plays. Congreve, and the rest of King well known by the name of the man in the Charles's moralists, are cheap and accessible. moon? Some scandalous old maids have set The works on Ireland I will inquire after, on foot a report, that it is Endymion. but, I fear, Spenser's is not to be had apart
“ Your theory about the first awkward from his poems; I never saw it. But you step a man makes being the consequence may depend upon my sparing no pains to of learning to dance, is not universal. We furnish you as complete a library of old have known many youths bred up at Christ's, poets and dramatists as will be prudent to who never learned to dance, yet the world buy ; for, I suppose you do not include the imputes to them no very graceful motions. 201. edition of Hamlet, single play, which I remember there was little Hudson, the Kemble has. Marlowe's plays and poems immortal precentor of St. Paul's, to teach are totally vanished; only one edition of us our quavers ; but, to the best of my recol- Dodsley retains one, and the other two of lection, there was no master of motions when his plays : but John Ford is the man after we were at Christ's.
Shakspeare. Let me know your will and “ Farewell, in haste.
pleasure soon, for I have observed, next to “C. L.” the pleasure of buying a bargain for one's
self, is the pleasure of persuading a friend to TO MR. WORDSWORTH.
buy it. It tickles one with the image of an “Oct, 13th, 1800.
imprudency, without the penalty usually “Dear Wordsworth, I have not forgot
“ C. LAMB." your commissions. But the truth is,-and why should I not confess it? I am not plethorically abounding in cash at this present. Merit, God knows, is very little rewarded ; but it does not become me to
CHAPTER VI. speak of myself. My motto is, 'contented with little, yet wishing for more.' Now, the
[1800.) books you wish for would require some LETTERS TO MANNING, AFTER LAMB'S REMOVAL TO THE
TEMPLE. pounds, which, I am sorry to say, I have not by me; so, I will say at once, if you
In the year 1800, Lamb carried into effect will give me a draft upon your town banker
his purpose of removing to Mitre-court for any sum you propose to lay out, I will
Buildings, Temple. During this time he dispose of it to the very best of my skill in
wrote only a few small poems, which he
transmitted to Manning. In his letters to choice old books, such as my own soul loveth. In fact, I have been waiting for the liquida
Manning a vein of wild humour breaks out,
of which there are but slight indications in tion of a debt to enable myself to set about
the correspondence with his more sentimenyour commission handsomely ; for it is a
tal friends; as if the very opposition of scurvy thing to cry, 'Give me the money first,' and I am the first of the family of the
Manning's more scientific power to his own
force of sympathy provoked the sallies which Lambs that have done it for many centuries ; |
the genial kindness of the mathematician but the debt remains as it was, and my old friend that I accommodated has generously
fostered. The prodigal and reckless humour forgot it! The books which you want, I
of some of these letters forms a striking calculate at about 81. Ben Jonson is al
contrast to the deep feeling of the earlier
letters to Coleridge. His ‘Essays of Elia' guinea book. Beaumont and Fletcher, in
show the harmonious union of both. The folio, the right folio not now to be met with ; the octavos are about 31. As to any other
following letter contains Lamb's description
of his new abode. dramatists, I do not know where to find them, except what are in Dodsley's Old Plays, which are about 31. also. Massinger
TO MR. MANNING. I never saw but at one shop, but it is now “I was not aware that you owed me anygone ; but one of the editions of Dodsley thing beside that guinea ; but I dare say you contains about a fourth (the best) of his are right. I live at No. 16, Mitre-court
Buildings, a pistol-shot off Baron Maseres'.
You must introduce me to the Baron. I think we should suit one another mainly. Helives on the ground floor, for convenience of the gout; I prefer the attic story, for the air! He keeps three footmen and two maids; I have neither maid nor laundress, not caring to be troubled with them . His frte, I understand, is the higher mathematics; my turn, I confess, is more to poetry and the belles lettres. The very antithesis of our characters would make up a harmony. You must bring the baron and me together. —N.B. when you come to see me, mount up to the top of the stairs—I hope you are not asthmatical—and come in flannel, for it's pure airy up there. And bring your glass, and I
will show you the Surrey Hills. My bed
âces the river, so as by perking up upon my launches, and supporting my carcase with my elbows, without much wrying my neck, I an see the white sails glide by the bottom of the King's Bench walks as I lie in my bed. An excellent tiptoe prospect in the best room :—casement windows, with small panes, to look more like a cottage. Mind, I have got no bed for you, that's flat; sold it to pay expenses of moving. The very bed on which Manning lay; the friendly, the mathematical Manning ! How forcibly does it remind me of the interesting Otway ! “The very bed which on thy marriage night gave thee into the arms of Belvidera, by the coarse hands of ruffians—” (upholsterers’ men,) &c. My tears will not give me leave to go on. But a bed I will get you, Manning, on condition you will be my day-guest.
“I have been ill more than a month, with a bad cold, which comes upon me (like a murderer's conscience) about midnight, and vexes me for many hours. I have successively been drugged with Spanish licorice, opium, ipecacuanha, paregoric, and tincture of foxglove (tinctura purpurae digitalis of the ancients). I am afraid I must leave off drinking.”
Lamb then gives an account of his visit to
an exhibition of snakes—of a frightful vivid
less and interesting—as all details of these fascinating reptiles are, whom we at once kathe and long to look upon, as the old enemies and tempters of our race.
TO MR. MANNING.
“Dear Manning-Had you written one week before you did, I certainly should have obeyed your injunction ; you should have seen me before my letter. I will explain to you my situation. There are six of us in one department. Two of us (within these four days) are confined with severe fevers; and two more, who belong to the Tower Militia, expect to have marching orders on Friday. Now six are absolutely necessary. I have already asked and obtained two young hands to supply the loss of the feverites. And, with the other prospect before me, you may believe I cannot decently ask leave of absence for myself. All I can promise (and I do promise, with the sincerity of Saint Peter, and the contrition of sinner Peter if I fail) that I will come the very first spare week, and go nowhere till I have been at Cambridge. No matter if you are in a state of pupilage when I come; for I can employ myself in Cambridge very pleasantly in the mornings. Are there not libraries, halls, colleges, books, pictures, statues 7 I wish you had made London in your way. There is an exhibition quite uncommon in Europe, which could not have escaped your genius, a live rattlesnake, ten feet in length, and the thickness of a big leg. I went to see it last night by candlelight. We were ushered into a room very little bigger than ours at Pentonville. A man and woman and four boys live in this room, joint tenants with nine snakes, most of them such as no remedy has been discovered for their bite. We walked into the middle, which is formed by a half-moon of wired boxes, all mansions of snakes, whip-snakes, thundersnakes, pig-nose-snakes, American vipers, and this monster. He lies curled up in folds; and immediately a stranger enters (for he is used to the family, and sees them play at cards,) he set up a rattle like a watchman's in London, or near as loud, and reared up a head, from the midst of these folds, like a toad, and shook his head, and showed every sign a snake can show of irritation. I had the foolish curiosity to strike the wires with my finger, and the devil flew at me with his toad-mouth wide open: the inside of his mouth is quite white. I had got my finger away, nor could he well have bit me with his
big mouth, which would have been certain young philosopher at Keswick, with the death in five minutes. But it frightened me Wordsworths. They have contrived to spawn so much, that I did not recover my voice for a new volume of lyrical ballads, which is to a minute's space. I forgot, in my fear, that see the light in about a month, and causes no he was secured. You would have forgot too, little excitement in the literary world. George for 'tis incredible how such a monster can be Dyer too, that good-natured heathen, is more confined in small gauzy-looking wires. Ithan nine months gone with his twin volumes dreamed of snakes in the night. I wish to of ode, pastoral, sonnet, elegy, Spenserian, heaven you could see it. He absolutely Horatian, Akensidish, and Masonic verseswelled with passion to the bigness of a large Clio prosper the birth! it will be twelve thigh, I could not retreat without infringing shillings out of somebody's pocket. I find on another box, and just behind, a little devil he means to exclude 'personal satire,' so it not an inch from my back, had got his nose appears by his truly original advertisement. out, with some difficulty and pain, quite Well, God put it into the hearts of the through the bars! He was soon taught English gentry to come in shoals and subbetter manners. All the snakes were curious, scribe to his poems, for He never put a and objects of terror : but this monster, like kinder heart into flesh of man than George Aaron's serpent, swallowed up the impres- Dyer's! sion of the rest. He opened his cursed "Now farewell, for dinner is at hand. mouth, when he made at me, as wide as his
“C. L.” head was broad. I hallooed out quite loud, and felt pains all over my body with the fright.
Lamb had engaged to spend a few days “I have had the felicity of hearing George when he could obtain leave, with Manning Dyer read out one book of “The Farmer's at Cambridge, and, just as he hoped to Boy.' I thought it rather childish. No accomplish his wish, received an invitation doubt, there is originality in it, (which, in from Lloyd to give his holiday to the poets your self-taught geniuses, is a most rare assembled at the Lakes. In the joyous quality, they generally getting hold of some excitement of spirits which the anticipated bad models, in a scarcity of books, and form- visit to Manning produced, he thus plays off ing their taste on them,) but no selection. Manning's proposal on his friend, abuses Al is described.
mountains and luxuriates in his love of “Mind, I have only heard read one book. London :
TO MR. MANNING.
kind invitation from Lloyd and Sophia, to go
and spend a month with them at the Lakes. The following are fragments from a letter Now it fortunately happens, (which is so chiefly on personal matters, the interest of seldom the case !) that I have spare cash by which is gone by :
me, enough to answer the expenses of so long
a journey ; and I am determined to get away TO MR. MANNING.
from the office by some means. The purpose “And now, when shall I catch a glimpse of of this letter is to request of you (my dear your honest face-to-face countenance again ? friend), that you will not take it unkind, if I Your fine dogmatical sceptical face by punch- decline my proposed visit to Cambridge for light? O! one glimpse of the human face, the present. Perhaps I shall be able to take and shake of the human hand, is better than Cambridge in my way, going or coming. I whole reams of this cold, thin correspondence; need not describe to you the expectations yea, of more worth than all the letters that which such an one as myself, pent up all my have sweated the fingers of sensibility, from life in a dirty city, have formed of a tour to Madame Sévigné and Balzac to Sterne and the Lakes. Consider Grasmere! AmbleShenstone.
side! Wordsworth! Coleridge! Hills, woods, “Coleridge is settled with his wife and the lakes, and mountains, to the eternal devil.