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We passed a very pleasant little time with the Clarksons. The Wordsworths are at Montague's rooms, near neighbours to us.* They dined with us yesterday, and I was their guide to Bartlemy Fair!"
TO MR. MANNING.
"24th Sept. 1802, London. "My dear Manning,—Since the date of my last letter, I have been a traveller. A strong desire seized me of visiting remote regions. My first impulse was to go and see Paris. It was a trivial objection to my aspiring mind, that I did not understand a word of the language, since I certainly intend some time in my life to see Paris, and equally certainly intend never to learn the language; therefore that could be no objection. However, I am very glad I did not go, because you had left Paris (I see) before I could have set out. I believe, Stoddart promising to go with me another year, prevented that plan. My next scheme, (for to my restless, ambitious mind London was become a bed of thorns) was to visit the far-famed peak in Derbyshire, where the Devil sits, they say, without breeches. Thit my purer mind rejected as indelicate. And my final resolve was, a tour to the Lakes. I set out with Mary to Keswick, without giving Coleridge any notice, for, my time being precious, did not admit of it. He received us with all the hospitality in the world, and gave up his time to show us all the wonders of the country. He dwells upon a small hill by the side of Keswick, in a comfortable house, quite enveloped on all sides by a net of mountains: great floundering bears and monsters they seemed, all couchant and asleep. We got in in the evening, travelling in a post-chaise from Penrith, in the midst of a gorgeous sunshine, which transmuted all the mountains into colours, purple, &c. &c. We thought we had got into fairy-land. But that went off (as it never came again, while we stayed we had no more fine sunsets) ; and we entered Coleridge's comfortable study just in the dusk, when the mountains were all dark with clouds upon their heads. Such an impression I never received from objects of sight before,
* Mr. Basil Montague and his lady, who were, during Lamb's life, among his most cordial and most honoured friends.
nor do I suppose that I can ever again. Glorious creatures, fine old fellows, Skiddaw, &c. I never shall forget ye, how ye lay about that night, like an intrenchment; gone to bed, as it seemed for the night, but promising that ye were to be seen in the morning. Coleridge had got a blazing fire in his study; which is a large, antique, ill-shaped room, with an old-fashioned organ, never played upon, big enough for a church, shelves of scattered folios, an iEolian harp, and an old sofa, half bed, &c. And all looking out upon the last fading view of Skiddaw, and his broad-breasted brethren: what a night! Here we stayed three full weeks, in which time I visited Wordsworth's cottage, where we stayed a day or two with the Clarksons (good people, and most hospitable, at whose house we tarried one day and night,) and saw Lloyd. The Wordsworths were gone to Calais. They have since been in London, and past much time with us: he is now gone into Yorkshire to be married. So we have seen Keswick, Grasmere, Ambleside. Ulswater (where the Clarksons live), and a place at the other end of Ulswater: I forget the name ;* to which we travelled on a very sultry day, over the middle of Helvellyn. We have clambered up to the top of Skiddaw, and I have waded up the bed of Lodore. In fine, I have satisfied myself, that there is such a thing as that which tourists call romantic, which I very much suspected before: they make such a spluttering about it, and toss their splendid epithets around them, till they give as dim a light as at four o'clock next morning the lamps do after an illumination. Mary was excessively tired, when she got about half-way up Skiddaw, but we came to a cold rill (than which nothing can be imagined more cold,running over cold stones), and with the reinforcement of adraught of cold water she surmounted it most manfully. Oh, its fine black head, and the bleak air atop of it, with a prospect of mountains all about and about, making you giddy; aud then Scotland afar off, and the border countries so famous in song and ballad! It was a day that will stand out, like a mountain, I am sure, in my life. But I am returned (I have now been come home near three weeks—I was a month out), and you cannot conceive the degradation I felt at first, from being * Patterdalc.
accustomed to wander free as air among mountains, and bathe in rivers without being controlled by any one, to come home and work. I felt very little. I had been dreaming I was a very great man. But that is going off, and I find I shall conform in time to that state of life to which it has pleased God to call me. Besides, after all, Fleetstreet and the Strand are better places to live in for good and all than amidst Skiddaw. Still, I turn back to those great places where 1 wandered about, participating in their greatness. After all, I could not live in Skiddaw. I could spend a year, two, three years among them, but I must have a prospect of seeing Fleet-street at the end of that time, or I should mope and pine away, I know. Still, Skiddaw is a fine creature. My habits are changing, I think, i. e. from drunk to sober. Whether I shall be happier or not, remains to be proved. I shall certainly be more happy in a morning ; but whether I shall not sacrifice the fat, and the marrow, and the kidneys, i. e. the night, glorious care-drowning night, that heals all our wrongs, pours wine into our mortifications, changes the scene from indifferent and flat to bright and brilliant ?—O Manning, if I should have formed a diabolical resolution, by the time you come to England, of not admitting any spirituous liquors into my house, will you be my guest on such shameworthy terms? Is life, with such limitations, worth trying? The truth is, that my liquors bring a nest of friendly harpies about my house, who consume me. This is a pitiful tale to be read at St. Gothard, but it is just
now nearest my heart. F is a ruined
man. He is hiding himself from his creditors, and has sent his wife and children into the country. , my other drunken companion (that has been: nam hie csestus artemque repono), is turned editor of a Naval Chronicle. Godwin continues a steady friend, though the same facility does not remain of visiting him often. Holcroft is not yet come to town. I expect to see him, and will deliver your message. Things come crowding in to say, and no room for 'em. Some things are too little to be told, t. e. to have a preference; some are too big and circumstantial. Thanks for yours, which was most delicious. Would I had been with you, benighted, &c. I fear my head is turned
with wandering. I shall never be the same acquiescent being. Farewell; write again quickly, for I shall not like to hazard a letter, not knowing where the fates have carried you. Farewell, my dear fellow.
Lamb was fond of Latin composition when at school, and was then praised for it. He was always fond of reading Latin verse, and late in life taught his sister to read it. About this time, he hazarded the following Latin letter to Coleridge, of whose classical acquirements he stood in awe.
CAROLUS AGNUS COLERIDGIO BUO S.
"Carissime,—Scribis, ut nummos scilicet epistolarios solvam et postremo in Tartara abeam: immo tu potius Tartaricum (ut aiunt) deprehendisti, qui me vernacula mea lingu& pro scriba conductitio per tot annus satis eleganter usum ad Latine" impure et canino fere ore latrandum per tuasmet epistolas bend compositas et concinnatas percellire studueris. Conabor tamen: Attamen vereor, ut /Edes istas nostri Christi, inter quas tanta diligentia magistri improba bonis liternlis, quasi per clysterem quendam injectis, infra supraque olim penitus imbutus fui, Barnesii et Marklandii doctissimorum virorum nominibus adhuc gaudentes, barbarismis meis peregrinis et aliunde queesitis valde dehonestavero. Sed pergere quocunque placet. Adeste igitur, quotquot estis, conjugationum declinationumve turma?, terribilia spectra, et tu imprimis ades, Umbra et Imago maxima obsoletse (Diis gratise) Virgse, qua novissime in mentem recepta, horrescunt subito natales, et parum deest quo minus braccas meas ultro usque ad crura demittam, et ipse puer pueriliter ejulem.
"Ista tua Carmina Chamouniana satis grandia esse mihi constat; sed hoc mihi nonnihil displicet, quod in iis illie montium Grisosonum inter se responsiones totidem reboant anglicd, God, God, haud aliter atque temet audivi tuas montes Cumbrianas resonare docentes, Tod, Tod, nempe Doctorem infelicem: vocem certe haud Deum Sonantem. Pro cseteris plaudo.
"Itidem comparationes istas tuas satis callidas et lepidas cert£ novi: sed quid hoc ad verum? cum illi Consulari viro et mentem irritabilem istum Julianum; et etiam astutias Jrigidulas quasdem Augusto propriores, nequaquam congruenter uno afflatu comparationis causa insedisse affirmaveria: necnon nescio quid similitudinis etiam cum Tiberio tertio in loco solicite produxeris. Quid tibi equidem cum uno vel altero Csesare, cum universi Duodecim ad comparationes tuas se nltro tulerint 1 Prseterea, vetustati adnutans, comparationes iniquas odi.
"Istas Words worthianas nuptias (vel potius cujusdam Edmundii tui) te retulisse mirificum gaudeo. Valeas, Maria, fortunata nimium, et antiquse illse Marise Virgini (eomparatione plusquam Osesareana) forsitan eomparanda, quoniam 'beata inter mulieres:' et etiam fortasse Wordsworthium ipsum tuum maritum Angelo Salutatori sequare fas erit, quoniam e Coelo (ut ille) descendant et Musse et ipsse Musicolse: at Wordsworthium Musarum observantissimum semper novi Necnon te quoque affinitate hac nova, Dorothea, gratulor: et tu certe alterum donum Dei.
"Istum Ludum, qnem tu, Coleridgi, Amerieanum garris, a Ludo (ut Ludi sunt) maxime4 abhorrentem prsetereo: nempe quid ad Ludum attinet, tot ius illse gentis Columbians^ a nostra gente, eadem stirpe orta, ludi singuli causa voluntatem perperam alienare 1 Quseso ego materiam ludi: te Bella ingeris.
"Denique valeas, et quid de Latinitate mea putea, dicas: facias ut opossum ilium nostrum volantem vel (ut tu malis) quendam Piscem errabundum, a me salvum et pulcherrimum esse jubeas. Valeant uxor tua cum Hartleiio nostro. Soror mea salva est et ego: vos et ipsa salvere jubet. Ulterius progrediri non liquet: homo sum seratus.
"P.S. Pene mihi exciderat, apud me esse Librorum a Johanno Miltono Latine scriptorum volumina duo, quse (Deo volente) cum cseteris tuis libris ocyus citius per Maria ad te missura curabo; sed me in hoc tali genere rerum nullo modo festinanttm novisti: habes confitentem reum. Hoc solum dici restat, prsedicta volumina pulchra esse et omnia opera Latina J. M. in se continere. Circa defensionem istam Pro Pop". Ang°. acerrimam in prsesens ipse prseclaro gaudio moror.
"Jussa tua Stuartina faciam ut diligenter colam.
"Iterum iterumque valeas.
"Et facias memor sis nostri."
The publication of the second volume of the "Anthology" gave occasion to the following letter:—
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"In the next edition of the 'Anthology' (which Phoebus avert, and those nine other wandering maids also!) please to blot out gentle-hearted, and substitute drunken dog, ragged-head, seld-shaven, odd-eyed, stuttering, or any other epithet which truly and property belongs to the gentleman in question. And for Charles read Tom, or Bob, or Richard for mere delicacy. Hang you, I was beginning to forgive you, and believe in earnest that the lugging in of my proper name was purely unintentional on your part, when looking back for further conviction, stares me in the face Charles Lamb of the 1ndia House. Now I am convinced it was all done in malice, heaped sack-upon-sack, congregated, studied malice. You dog! your 141st page shall not save you. I own I was just ready to acknowledge that there is a something not unlike good poetry in that page, if you had not run into the unintelligible abstraction-fit about the manner of the Deity's making spirits perceive his presence. God, nor created thing alive, can receive any honour from such thin show-box attributes. By-the-by, where did you pick up that scandalous piece of private history about the angel and the Duchess of Devonshire? If it is a fiction of your own, why truly it is a very modest one for you. Now I do affirm, that Lewti is a very beautiful poem. I was in earnest when I praised it. It describes a silly species of one not the wisest of passions. Therefore it cannot deeply affect a disenthralled mind. But such imagery, such novelty, such delicacy, and such versification never got into an 'Anthology' before. I am only sorry that the cause of all the passionate complaint is not greater than the trifling circumstance of Lewti being out of temper one day. Gaulberto certainly has considerable originality, but sadly wants finishing. It is, as it is, one of the very best in the book. Next to Lewti I like the Raven, which has a good deal of humour. I was pleased to see it again, for you once sent it me, and I have lost the letter which contained it. Now I am on the subject of Anthologies, I must say I am sorry the old pastoral way is fallen into disrepute. The gentry which now indite sonnets axe certainly the legitimate descendants of the ancient shepherds. The same simpering face of description, the old family face, is visibly continued in the line. Some of their ancestors' labours are yet to be found in Allan Ramsay's and Jacob Tonson's Miscellanies. But miscellanies decaying, and the old pastoral way dying of mere want, their successors (driven from their paternal acres) now-a-days settle and live upon Magazines and Anthologies. This race of men are uncommonly addicted to superstition. Some of them are idolators and worship the moon. Others deify qualities, as love, friendship, sensibility; or bare accidents, as Solitude. Grief and Melancholy have their respective altars and temples among them, as the heathens builded theirs to Mors, Febris, Pallor, &c. They all agree in ascribing a peculiar sanctity to the number fourteen. One of their own legislators affirmeth, that whatever exceeds that number 'encroacheth upon the province of the elegy'—vice versa, whatever 'cometh short of that number abutteth upon the premises of the epigram.' I have been able to discover but few images in their temples, which, like the caves of Delphos of old, are famous for giving echoes. They impute a religious importance to the letter O, whether because by its roundness it is thought to typify the moon, their principal goddess, or for its analogies to their own labours, all ending where they began, or for whatever other high and mystical reference, I have never been able to discover, but I observe they never begin their invocations to their gods without it, except indeed one insignificant sect among them, who use the Doric A, pronounced like Ah! broad, instead. These boast to have restored the old Dorian mood. C. L."
The following fragment of a letter about this time to Coleridge refers to an offer of Coleridge to supply Lamb with literal translations from the German, which he might versify for the "Morning Post," for the increase of Lamb's slender income.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"Oct. 11th, 1802.
"Dear Coleridge,—Your offer about the German poems is exceedingly kind; but I
do not think it a wise speculation, because the time it would take you to put them into prose would be nearly as great as if you versified them. Indeed I am sure you could do the one nearly as soon as the other; so that instead of a division of labour, it would be only a multiplication. But I will think of your offer in another light. I dare say I could find many things, of a light nature, to suit that paper, which you would not object to pass upon Stuart as your own, and I should come in for some light profits, and Stuart think the more highly of your assiduity. 'Bishop Hall's Characters* I know nothing about, having never seen them. But I will reconsider your offer, which is very plausible; for as to the drudgery of going every day to an editor with my scraps, like a pedlar, for him to pick out and tumble about my ribbons and posies, and to wait in his lobby, &c., no money could make up for the degradation. You are in too high request with him to have anything unpleasant of that sort to submit to.
[The letter refers to several articles and books which Lamb promised to send to Coleridge, and proceeds :—]
"You must write me word whether the Miltons are worth paying carriage for. You have a Milton; but it is pleasanter to eat one's own peas out of one's own garden, than to buy them by the peck at Covent Garden; and a book reads the better, which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's-ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins, or over a pipe, which I think is the maximum. But, Coleridge, you must accept these little things, and not think of returning money for them, for I do not set up for a factor or general agent. As for fantastic debts of 15&, I'll think you were dreaming, and not trouble myself seriously to attend to you. My bad Latin you properly correct; but natales for nates was an inadvertency: I knew better. Progrediri, orprogredi,! thought indifferent, my authority being Ainsworth. However, as I have got a fit of Latin, you will now and then indulge me with an epistola. I pay the postage of this, and propose doing it by turns. In that case I can now and then write to you without remorse ; not that you would mind the money, but you have not always ready cash to answer small demands, the epistolarii nummi.
"Your 'Epigram on the Sun and Moon in Germany' is admirable. Take 'em all together, they are as good as Harrington's. I will muster up all the conceits I can, and you shall have a packet some day. You and I together can answer all demands surely: yon, mounted on a terrible charger, (like Homer, in the Battle of the Books,) at the head of the cavalry: I will lead the light horse. I have just heard from Stoddart. Allen and he intend taking Keswick in their way home. Allen wished particularly to have it a secret that he is in Scotland, and wrote to me accordingly very urgently. As luck was, I had told not above three or four; but Mary had told Mrs. Green of Christ's Hospital! For the present, farewell: never forgetting love to Pipos and his friends.
The following letter embodies in strong language Lamb's disgust at the rational mode of educating children. While he gave utterance to a deep and hearted feeling of jealousy for the old delightful books of fancy, which were banished by the sense of Mrs. Barbauld, he cherished great respect for that lady's power as a true English prose Titer; and spoke often of her "Essay on Inconsistent Expectations," as alike bold and original in thought and elegant in style.
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"Oct. Mrd, 1802.
I read daily your political essays. I was
particularly pleased with ' Once a Jacobin:'
though the argument is obvious enough, the
rtyle was less swelling than your things
sometimes are, and it was plausible adpopvr
'Km. A vessel has just arrived from Jamaica
with the news of poor Sam Le Grice's death.
He died at Jamaica of the yellow fever. His
course was rapid and he had been very
foolish, but I believe there was more of
Kindness and warmth in him than in almost
MT other of our schoolfellows. The annual
Meeting of the Blues is to-morrow, at the
London Tavern, where poor Sammy dined
*ith them two years ago, and attracted the
notice of all by the singular foppishness of
his dress. When men go off the stage so early, it scarce seems a noticeable thing in their epitaphs, whether they had been wise or silly in their lifetime.
"I am glad the snuff and Pi-pos's * books please. 'Goody Two Shoes' is almost out of print. Mrs. Barbauld's stuff has banished all the old classics of the nursery; and the shopman at Newberry's hardly deigned to reach them off an old exploded corner of a shelf, when Mary asked for them. Mrs. B.'s and Mrs. Trimmer's nonsense lay in piles about. Knowledge insignificant and vapid as Mrs. B.'s books convey, it seems, must come to a child in the shape of knowledge, and his empty noddle must be turned with conceit of his own powers when he has learnt, that a horse is an animal, and Billy is better than a horse, and such like; instead of that beautiful interest in wild tales, which made the child a man, while all the time he suspected himself to be no bigger than a child. Science has succeeded to poetry no less in the little walks of children than with men. Is there no possibility of averting this sore evil? Think what you would have been now, if instead of being fed with tales and old wives' fables in childhood, you had been crammed with geography and natural history!
"Hang them!—I mean the cursed Barbauld crew, those blights and blasts of all that is human in man and child.
"As to the translations, let me do two or three hundred lines, and then do you try the nostrums upon Stuart in any way you please. If they go down, I will bray more. In fact, if I got or could but get 501. a year only, in addition to what I have, I should live in affluence.
"Have you anticipated it, or could not you give a parallel of Bonaparte with Cromwell, particularly as to the contrast in their deeds affecting foreign states? Cromwell's interference for the Albigenses, B.'s against the Swiss. Then religion would come in; and Milton and you could rant about our countrymen of that period. This is a hasty suggestion, the more hasty because I want my supper. I have just finished Chapman's Homer. Did you ever read it ?—it has most the continuous power of interesting you all along, like a rapid original, of any ; and in
• A nickname of endearment for little Hartley Coleridge.