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first humoured him with a specious proposition, but have since joined his true friends in advising him to give it up. He did it with a pang, and is to print it as his.
In another letter, a few days after, Lamb thus recurs to the subject, and closes the century in anticipation of a visit to his friend at Cambridge.
TO MR. MANNING. “Dec. 27th, 1800. “As for the other Professor, he has actually begun to dive into Tavernier and Chardin's Persian Travels for a story, to form a new drama for the sweet tooth of this fastidious age. Hath not Bethlehem College a fair action for non-residence against such professors 2 Are poets so few in this age, that He must write poetry Is morals a subject so exhausted, that he must quit that line ! Is the metaphysic well (without a bottom) drained dry “If I can guess at the wicked pride of the Professor's heart, I would take a shrewd wager, that he disdains ever again to dip his pen in Prose. Adieu, ye splendid theories! Farewell, dreams of political justice Lawsuits, where I was counsel for Archbishop Fenelon versus my own mother, in the famous fire cause ! “Vanish from my mind, professors, one and all. I have metal more attractive on foot. “Man of many snipes, I will sup with thee, Deo volente, et diabolo nolente, on Monday night, the 5th of January, in the new year, and crush a cup to the infant century. “A word or two of my progress. Embark at six o'clock in the morning, with a fresh gale, on a Cambridge one-decker; very cold till eight at night; land at St. Mary's light-house, muffins and coffee upon table (or any other curious production of Turkey, or both Indies), snipes exactly at nine, punch to commence at ten, with argument; difference of opinion is expected to take place about eleven ; perfect unanimity, with some haziness and dimness, before twelve.—N. B. My single affection is not so singly wedded to snipes; but the curious and epicurean eye would also take
Letters to MANNING, wordsworth, AND colleridge; Jolix woodvil. REJECTED, Publish ED, AND REviewED. THE ominous postponement of Lamb's theat
rical hopes was followed by their disappoint
ment at the commencement of the century.
He was favoured with at least one inter
view by the stately manager of Drury-lane,
Mr. Kemble, who extended his high-bred
courtesy even to authors, whom he invariably attended to the door of his house in Great Russell-street, and bade them “beware of the step.” Godwin's catastrophe had probably rendered him less solicitous to encounter a similar peril; which the fondest admirers of “John Woodvil” will not regret that it escaped. While the occasional roughness of its verse would have been felt as strange to ears as yet unused to the old dramatists whom Lamb's Specimens had not then made familiar to the town, the delicate beauties enshrined within it would scarcely have been perceived in the glare of the theatre. Exhibiting “the depth, and not the tumults of the soul,”—presenting a female character of modest and retiring loveliness and noble purpose, but undistracted with any violent emotion,-and developing a train of circumstances which work out their gentle triumphs on the heart only of the hero, without stirring accident or vivid grouping of persons,—it would scarcely have supplied sufficient of coarse interest to disarm the critical spirit which it would certainly have encountered in all its bitterness. Lamb cheerfully consoled himself by publishing it; and at the close of the year 1801 it appeared in a small volume, of humble appearance, with the “Fragments of Burton,” (to which Lamb alluded in one of his previous letters,) two of his quarto ballads, and the “Helen" of his sister. The daring peculiarities attracted the notice of the Edinburgh reviewers, then in the infancy of their slashing career, and the volume was immolated, in due form, by the self-constituted judges, who, taking for their motto “Judea, damnatur cilm nocens absolwitur,” treated our author as a criminal convicted of publishing, and awaiting his doom from their sentence. With the gay recklessness of power, at once usurped and irresponsible, they introduced Lord Mansfield's wild construction of the law of libel into literature; like him, holding every man prima facie guilty, who should be caught in the act of publishing a book, and referring to the court to decide whether sentence should be passed on him. The article on “John Woodvil,” which adorned their third number, is a curious example of the old style of criticism vivified by the impulses of youth. We wonder now—and probably the writer of the article, if he is living, will wonder with us—that a young critic should seize on a little eighteen-penny book, simply printed, without any preface; make elaborate merriment of its outline, and, giving no hint of its containing one profound thought or happy expression, leave the reader of the review at a loss to suggest a motive for noticing such vapid absurdities. This article is written in a strain of grave banter, the theme of which is to congratulate the world on having a specimen of the rudest condition of the drama, “a man of the age of Thespis.” “At length,” says the reviewer, “even in composition a mighty veteran has been born. Older than AEschylus, and with all the spirit of originality, in an age of poets who had before them the imitations of some thousand years, he comes forward to establish his claim to the ancient hircus, and to satiate the most remote desires of the philosophic antiquary.” On this text the writer proceeds, selecting for his purpose whatever, torn from its context, appeared extravagant and crude, and ending without the slightest hint that there is merit, or promise of merit, in the volume. There certainly was no malice, or desire to give pain, in all this; it was merely the result of the thoughtless adoption, by lads of gaiety and talent, of the old critical
canons of the Monthly Reviews, which had
been accustomed to damn all works of unpatronised genius in a more summary way, and after a duller fashion. These very critics wrought themselves into good-nature as they broke into deeper veins of thought; grew gentler as they grew wiser: and sometimes, even when, like Balaam, they came to curse, like him, they ended with “blessing altogether,” as in the review of the “Excursion,” which, beginning in the old strain, “This will never do,” proceeded to give examples of its noblest passages, and to grace them with worthiest eulogy. And now, the spirit of the writers thus ridiculed, especially of Wordsworth, breathes through the pages of this very Review, and they not seldom wear the “rich embroidery” of the language of the poet once scoffed at by their literary corporation as too puerile for the nursery.
Lamb's occasional connexion with newspapers introduced him to some of the editors and contributors of that day, who sought to repair the spirit wasted by perpetual exertion, in the protracted conviviality of the evening, and these associates sometimes left poor Lamb with an aching head, and a purse exhausted by the claims of their necessities upon it. Among those was Fenwick, immortalised as the Bigod of “Elia,” who edited several ill-fated newspapers in succession, and was the author of many libels, which did his employers no good and his Majesty's government no harm. These connexions will explain some of the allusions in the following letters.
TO MR. MANNING.
“I heard that you were going to China," with a commission from the Wedgwoods to collect hints for their pottery, and to teach the Chinese perspective. But I did not know that London lay in your way to Pekin. I am seriously glad of it, for I shall trouble you with a small present for the Emperor of Usbeck Tartary, as you go by his territories: it is a fragment of a ‘Dissertation on the state of political parties in England at the end of the eighteenth century, which will no doubt be very interesting to his Imperial Majesty. It was written originally in English
• Mr. Manning had begun to be haunted with the idea of China, and to talk of going thither, which he accomplished some years afterwards, without any motive but a desire to see that great nation.
for the use of the two and twenty readers of “The Albion,' (this calculation includes a printer, four pressmen, and a devil); but becoming of no use, when ‘The Albion' stopped, I got it translated into Usbeck Tartar by my good friend Tibet Kulm, who is come to London with a civil invitation from the Cham to the English nation to go over to the worship of the Lama. “‘The Albion' is dead—dead as nail in door—and my revenues have died with it; but I am not as a man without hope. I have got a sort of an opening to the ‘Morning Chronicle ' ' ' ' Mr. Manning, by means of that common dispenser of benevolence, Mister Dyer. I have not seen Perry, the editor, yet: but I am preparing a specimen. I shall have a difficult job to manage, for you must know that Mr. Perry, in common with the great body of the Whigs, thinks “The Albion' very low. I find I must rise a peg or so, be a little more decent, and less abusive ; for, to confess the truth, I had arrived to an abominable pitch ; I spared neither age nor sex when my cue was given me. M'importe, (as they say in French,) any climate will suit me. So you are about to bring your old face-making face to London. You could not come in a better time for my purposes; for I have just lost Rickman, a faint idea of whose character I sent you. He is gone to Ireland for a year or two, to make his fortune; and I have lost by his going, what seems to me I can never recover—a finished man. His memory will be to me as the brazen serpent to the Israelites, I shall look up to it, to keep me upright and honest. But he may yet bring back his honest face to England one day. I wish your affairs with the Emperor of China had not been so urgent, that you might have stayed in Great Britain a year or two longer, to have seen him; for, judging from my own experience, I almost dare pronounce you never saw his equal. I never saw a man, that could be at all a second or substitute for him in any sort. “Imagine that what is here erased, was an apology and explanation, perfectly satisfactory you may be sure for rating this man so highly at the expense of—, and —, and , and M—, and , and —, and —. But Mr. Burke has explained this phenomenon of our nature very prettily in his letter to a Member of the National
Assembly, or else in Appeal to the old Whigs, I forget which—do you remember an instance from Homer, (who understood these matters tolerably well,) of Priam driving away his other sons with expressions of wrath and bitter reproach, when Hector was just dead. “I live where I did in a private manner, because I don't like state. Nothing is so disagreeable to me as the clamours and applauses of the mob. For this reason I live in an obscure situation in one of the courts of the Temple. “C. L.
“I send you all of Coleridge's letters" to me, which I have preserved : some of them are upon the subject of my play. I also send you Kemble's two letters, and the prompter's courteous epistle, with a curious critique on ‘Pride's Cure,' by a young physician from EDINBRO', who modestly suggests quite another kind of a plot. These are monuments of my disappointment which I like to preserve.
“In Coleridge's letters you will find a good deal of amusement, to see genuine talent struggling against a pompous display of it. I also send you the Professor's letter to me, (careful professor! to conceal his name even from his correspondent,) ere yet the Professor's pride was cured. Oh! monstrous and almost satanical pride
“You will carefully keep all (except the Scotch Doctor's, which burn) in statu quo, till I come to claim mine own.
The following is in reply to a pressing invitation from Mr. Wordsworth, to visit him at the Lakes.
TO Mr. WORDSWORTH. “Jan. 30th, 1801. “I ought before this to have replied to your very kind invitation into Cumberland. With you and your sister I could gang anywhere ; but I am afraid whether I shall ever be able to afford so desperate a journey. Separate from the pleasure of your company, I don't much care if I never see a
• Lamb afterwards, in some melancholy mood, destroyed all Coleridge's Letters, and was so vexed with what he had done, that he never preserved any letters which he received afterwards.
mountain in my life. I have passed all my
days in London, until I have formed as many and intense local attachments, as any of you
him any longer a pleasure. So fading upon me, from disuse, have been the beauties of Nature, as they have been confidently called ;
mountaineers can have done with dead so ever fresh, and green, and warm are all
nature. The lighted shops of the Strand and Fleet-street; the innumerable trades, tradesmen, and customers, coaches, waggons, playhouses ; all the bustle and wickedness round about Covent Garden; the very women of the Town; the watchmen, drunken scenes, rattles—life awake, if you awake, at all hours of the night; the impossibility of being dull in Fleet-street; the crowds, the very dirt and mud, the sun shining upon houses and pavements, the print-shops, the old-book stalls, parsons cheapening books, coffee-houses, steams of soups from kitchens, the pantomimes—London itself a pantomime and a masquerade—all these things work themselves into my mind, and feed me without a power of satiating me. The wonder of these sights impels me into night-walks about her crowded streets, and I often shed tears in the motley Strand from fulness of joy at so much life. All these emotions must be strange to you; so are your rural emotions to me. But consider, what must I have been doing all my life, not to have lent great portions of my heart with usury to such scenes? “My attachments are all local, purely local —I have no passion (or have had none since I was in love, and then it was the spurious engendering of poetry and books,) to groves and valleys. The rooms where I was born, the furniture which has been before my eyes all my life, a book-case which has followed me about like a faithful dog, (only exceeding him in knowledge,) wherever I have moved, old chairs, old tables, streets, squares, where I have sunned myself, my old school, -these are my mistresses — have I not enough, without your mountains ! I do not envy you. I should pity you, did I not know that the mind will make friends with anything. Your sun, and moon, and skies, and hills, and lakes, affect me no more, or scarcely come to me in more venerable characters, than as a gilded room with tapestry and tapers, where I might live with handsome visible objects. I consider the clouds above me but as a roof beautifully painted, but unable to satisfy the mind: and at last, like the pictures of the
apartment of a connoisseur, unable to afford
the inventions of men, and assemblies of men in this great city. I should certainly have laughed with dear Joanna." “Give my kindest love, and my sister's to D. and yourself. And a kiss from me to little Barbara Lewthwaite. Thank you for liking my play ! “C. L.”
The next two letters were written to Manning when on a tour upon the Contiment.
TO Mr. MANNING.
“A propos, I think you wrong about my play. All the omissions are right. And the supplementary scene, in which Sandford narrates the manner in which his master is affected, is the best in the book. It stands where a hodge-podge of German puerilities used to stand. I insist upon it that you like that scene. Love me, love that scene. I will now transcribe the ‘Londoner’ (No. 1), and wind up all with affection and humble servant at the end.”
[Here was transcribed the essay called “The Londoner,” which was published some years afterwards in “The Reflector,” and which forms part of Lamb's collected works.] He then proceeds:—
“‘What is all this about !” said Mrs. Shandy. “A story of a cock and a bull,' said Yorick : and so it is ; but Manning will take good-naturedly what God will send him across the water: only I hope he won't shut his eyes, and open his mouth, as the children say, for that is the way to gape, and not to read. Manning, continue your laudible purpose of making me your register. I will render back all your remarks; and I, not you, shall have received usury by having read them. In the mean time, may the great Spirit have you in his keeping, and preserve
• Alluding to the Inscription of Wordsworth's, entitled “Joanna,” containing a magnificent description of the effect of laughter echoing amidst the great mountains of Westmoreland.
f Alluding to Wordsworth's poem, “The Pet Lamb.” our Englishman from the inoculation of frivolity and sin upon French earth. “Allons—or what is it you say, instead of good-bye * “Mary sends her kind remembrance, and covets the remarks equally with me. “C. LAMB.”
TO MR. MANNING.
“My dear Manning-I must positively write, or I shall miss you at Toulouse. I sit here like a decayed minute-hand (I lie; that does not sit,) and being myself the exponent of no time, take no heed how the clocks about me are going. You possibly by this time may have explored all Italy, and toppled, unawares, into Etna, while you went too near those rotten-jawed, gap-toothed, old worn-out chaps of hell,—while I am meditating a quiescent letter to the honest postmaster of Toulouse. But in case you should not have been felo de se, this is to tell you, that your letter was quite to my palate—in particular your just remarks upon Industry, cursed Industry, (though indeed you left me to explore the reason) were highly relishing. I have often wished I lived in the golden age, when shepherds lay stretched upon flowers, the genius there is in a man's natural idle face, that has not learned his multiplication table before doubt, and propositions, and corollaries, got into the world!
+ + + +
“Apropos: if you should go to Florence or to Rome, inquire what works are extant in gold, silver, bronze, or marble, of Benvenuto Cellini, a Florentine artist, whose Life, doubtless, you have read ; or, if not, without controversy, you must read, so hark ye, send for it immediately from Lane's circulating library. It is always put among the romances, very properly; but you have read it, I suppose. In particular, inquire at Florence for his colossal bronze statue (in the grand square, or somewhere) of Perseus. You may read the story in ‘Tooke's Pantheon.” Nothing material has transpired in these parts. Coleridge has indited a violent philippic against Mr. Fox in the ‘Morning Post,’ which is a compound of expressions of humility, gentlemen-ushering-in most arrogant charges. It will do Mr. Fox no real injury among those that know him.”
In the summer of 1802, Lamb, in company with his sister, visited the Lakes, and spent three weeks with Coleridge at Keswick. There he also met the true annihilator of the slave-trade, Thomas Clarkson, who was then enjoying a necessary respite from his stupendous labours, in a cottage on the borders of Ulswater. Lamb had no taste for oratorical philanthropy; but he felt the grandeur and simplicity of Clarkson's character, and appreciated the unexampled self-denial with which he steeled his heart, trembling with nervous sensibility, to endure intimate acquaintance with the foulest details of guilt and wickedness which he lived, and could have died, to abolish. Wordsworth was not in the Lake-country during Lamb's visit ; but he made amends by spending some time in town after Lamb's return, and then quitted it for Yorkshire to be married. Lamb's following letters show that he made some advances towards fellowship with the hills which at a distance he had treated so cavalierly; but his feelings never heartily associated with “the bare earth, and mountains bare,” which sufficed Wordsworth ; he rather loved to cleave to the little hints and suggestions of nature in the midst of crowded cities. In his latter years I have heard him, when longing after London among the pleasant fields of Enfield, declare that his love of natural scenery would be abundantly satisfied by the patches of long waving grass, and the stunted trees, that blacken in the old-church-yard nooks which you may yet find bordering on Thames-street.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
“Dear Coleridge-I thought of not writing till we had performed some of our commissions; but we have been hindered from setting about them, which yet shall be done to a tittle. We got home very pleasantly on Sunday. Mary is a good deal fatigued, and finds the difference of going to a place, and coming from it. I feel that I shall remember your mountains to the last day I live. They haunt me perpetually. I am like a man who has been falling in love unknown to himself, which he finds out when he leaves the lady. I do not remember any very strong impression while they were present ; but, being gone, their mementos are shelved in my brain.