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"What endless egression of phrases the dog commands!
"Take another, Agamemnon wounded, bearing his wound heroically for the sake of the army (look below) to a woman in labour.
• He, with his lance, sword, mighty stones, pour'd his
heroic wreak On other squadrons of the foe, whiles yet warm blood
did break Thro' his cleft veins: but when the wound was quite
exhaust and crude, The eager anguish did approve his princely fortitude. As when most sharp and bitter pangs distract a labouring
dame, Which the divine liithia', that rule the painful frame Of human childbirth, pour on her; the Ilithise that are The daughters of Saturnia; with whose extreme repair The woman in her travail strives to take the worst it
gives; With thought, it must be, 'tis love's fruit, the end for
which she lives; The mean to make herself new born, what comforts will
redound: So,' &c.
"I will tell you more about Chapman and his peculiarities in my next. I am much interested in him.
"Yours ever affectionately, and Pi-Pos's,
TO MR. COLERIDGE.
"Nov. 4th, 1802.
"Observe, there comes to you, by the Kendal waggon to-morrow, the illustrious 5th of November, a box, containing the Mil tons, the strange American Bible, with White's brief note, to which you will attend; 'Baxter's Holy Commonwealth,' for which
you stand indebted to me 3s. 6d.; an odd volume of Montaigne, being of no use to me, I having the whole; certain books belonging to Wordsworth, as do also the strange thickhoofed shoes, which are very much admired at in London. All these sundries I commend to your most strenuous looking after. If you find the Miltons in certain parts dirtied and soiled with a crumb of right Gloucester blacked in the candle, (my usual supper,) or peradventure a stray ash of tobacco wafted into the crevices, look to that passage more especially: depend upon it, it contains good matter. I have got your little Milton, which, as it contains 'Salmasius'—and I make a rule of never hearing but one side of the question (why should I distract myself?) I shall return to you when I pick up the Latino, opera. The first Defence is the greatest work among them, because it is uniformly great, and such as is befitting the very mouth of a great nation, speaking for itself. But the second Defence, which is but a succession of splendid episodes, slightly tied together, has one passage, which, if you have not read, I conjure you to lose no time, but read it; it is his consolations in his blindness, which had been made a reproach to him. It begins whimsically, with poetical flourishes about Tiresias and other blind worthies, (which still are mainly interesting as displaying his singular mind, and in what degree poetry entered into his daily soul, not by fits and impulses, but engrained and innate,) but the concluding page, i. e. of this passage, (not of the Defensio,) which you will easily find, divested of all brags and flourishes, gives so rational, so true an enumeration of his comforts, so human, that it cannot be read without the deepest interest. Take one touch of the religious part:—' Et sane haud ultima Dei cura cseci—(we blind folks, I understand it; not nos for ego)—sumus; qui nos, quominus quicquam aliud prseter ipsum cernere valemus, eo clementius atque benignius respicere dignatur. Ts qui illudit nos, vse qui lsedit, execratione publica devovendo; nos ab injuriis hominum non modo incolumes, sed pene sacros divina lex reddidit, divinus favor: nee tam oculorum hebetudine quam coclestium alarum umbrd has nobis fecisse tenebras videtur, factas illustrare rursus interiore ac longe prsestabiliore lumine haud raro solet. Hue refero, quod et amici officiosius nunc etiam quam solebant, colunt, observant, adsunt; quod et nonnulli sunt, quibuscum Pyladeas atque Theseas alternare voces verorum amicorum liceat,
"Yade gubernaculum mei pedis. Da manurn ministro amico. Da collo mamim tuaui, ductor autem vice cro tibi ego."'
All this, and much more, is highly pleasing to know. But you may easily find it;—and I don't know why I put down so many words about it, but for the pleasure of writing to you, and the waut of another topic.
"Yours ever, C. Lamb."
"To-morrow I expect with anxiety S.T. C.'s letter to Mr. Fox."
The year 1803 passed without any event to disturb the dull current of Lamb's toilsome life. He wrote nothing this year, except some newspaper squibs, and the delightful little poem on the death of Hester Savory. This he sent to Manning at Paris, with the following account of its subject:—
"Dear Manning, I send you some verses I have made on the death of a young Quaker you may have heard me speak of as being in love with for some years while I lived at Pentonville, though I had never spoken to her in my life. She died about a month since. If you have interest with the Abbe de Lisle, you may get 'em translated: he has done as much for the Georgics."
The verses must have been written in the very happiest of Lamb's serious mood. I cannot refrain from the luxury of quoting the conclusion, though many readers have it by heart.
"My sprightly neighbour, gone before
Some summer morning.
When from thy cheerful eyes a ray
A sweet forewarning I"
The following letters were written to Manning, at Paris, while still haunted with the idea of oriental adventure.
TO MR. MANNING.
"Feb. 19th, 1803.
"My dear Manning,—The general scope of your letter afforded no indications of insanity, but some particular points raised a scruple. For God's sake don't think any more of 'Independent Tartary.' What are you to do among such Ethiopians 1 Is there no lineal descendant of Prester John? Is the chair empty 1 Is the sword unswayed ?— depend upon it they'll never make you their king, as long as any branch of that great stock is remaining. I tremble for your Christianity. They will certainly circumcise you. Read Sir John Mandeville's travels to cure you, or come over to England. There is a Tartar-man now exhibiting at Exeter Change. Come and talk with him, and hear what he says first. Indeed, he is no very favourable specimen of his countrymen! But perhaps the best thing you can do, is to try to get the idea out of your head. For this purpose repeat to yourself every night, after you have said your prayers, the words Independent Tartary, Independent Tartary, two or three times, and associate with them the idea of oblivion, ('tis Hartley's method with obstinate memories,) or say, Independent, Independent, have I not already got an independence? That was a clever way of the old puritans, pundivinity. My dear friend, think what a sad pity it would be to bury such parts in heathen countries, among nasty, unconversable, horse-belching, Tartar-people! Some say, they are Cannibals; and then, conceive a Tartar-fellow eating my friend, and adding the cool malignity of mustard and vinegar! I am afraid 'tis the reading of Chaucer has misled you; his foolish stories about Cambuscan, and the ring, and the horse of brass. Believe me, there are no such things, 'tis all the poet's invention; but if there were such darling things as old Chaucer sings, I would up behind you on the horse of brass, and frisk off for Prester John's country. But these are all tales; a horse of brass never flew, and a king's daughter never talked with birds! The Tartars, really, are a cold, insipid, smouchy set. You'll be sadly moped (if you are not eaten) among them. Pray try and cure yourself. Take hellebore (the counsel is Horace's, 'twas none of my thought originally). Shave yourself oftener. Eat no saffron, for saffron-eaters contract a terrible Tartar-like yellow. Pray, to avoid the fiend. Eat nothing that gives the heart-burn. Shave the upper lip. Go about like an European. Read no books of voyages (they are nothing but lies), only now and then a romance, to keep the fancy under. Above all, don't go to any sights of wild beasts. That has been your ruin. Accustom yourself to write familiar letters, on common subjects, to your friends in England, such as are of a moderate understanding. And think about common things more. I supped last night with Rickman, and met a merry natural captain, who pleases himself vastly with once having made a pun at Otaheite in the O. language.* "Tis the same man who said Shakspeare he liked, because he was so much of the gentleman. Kickman is a man ' absolute in all numbers.' I think I may one day bring you acquainted, if you do not go to Tartary first; for you'll never come back. Have a care, my dear friend, of Anthropophagi! their stomachs are always craving. 'Tis terrible to be weighed out at fivepence a-pound. To sit at table (the reverse of fishes in Holland), not as a guest, but as a meat.
"God bless you: do come to England. Air and exercise may do great things. Talk with some minister. Why not your father?
"God dispose all for the best. I have discharged my duty.
"Your sincere friend,
To Mr. Manning.
"Not a sentence, not a syllable of Trismegistus, shall be lost through my neglect. I am his word-banker, his store-keeper of puns and syllogisms. You cannot conceive (and if Trismegistus cannot, no man can) the strange joy which I felt at the receipt of a letter from Paris. It seemed to give me a learned importance, which placed me above all who had not Parisian correspondents. Believe that I shall carefully husband every scrap, which will save you the trouble of
* Captain, afterwards Admiral Barney, who became one of the most constant attendants on Lamb's parties, and whose son, Martin, grew up in his strongest regard, and received the honour of the dedication of the second volume of his works.
memory, when you come back. You cannot write things so trifling, let them only be about Paris, which I shall not treasure. In particular, I must have parallels of actors and actresses. I must be told if any building in Paris is at all comparable to St. Paul's, which, contrary to the usual mode of that part of our nature called admiration, I have looked up to with unfading wonder, every morning at ten o'clock, ever since it has lain in my way to business. At noon I casually glance upon it, being hungry; and hunger has not much taste for the fine arts. Is any night-walk comparable to a walk from St. Paul's to Charing Cross, for lighting, and paving, crowds going and coming without respite, the rattle of coaches, and the cheerfulness of shops? Have you seen a man guillotined yet? is it as good as hanging? are the women all painted, and the men all monkeys? or are there not a few that look like rational of both sexes? Are you and the first consul thick? All this expense of ink I may fairly put you to, as your letters will not be solely for my proper pleasure ; but are to serve as memoranda and notices, helps for short memory, a kind of Rumfordising recollection, for yourself on your return. Your letter was just what a letter should be, crammed, and very funny. Every part of it pleased me, till you came to Paris, and your philosophical indolence, or indifference, stung me. You cannot stir from your rooms till you know the language! What the devil! are men nothing but word-trumpets 1 are men all tongue and ear 1 have these creatures, that you and I profess to know something about, no faces, gestures, gabble, no folly, no absurdity, no induction of French education upon the abstract idea of men and women, no similitude nor dissimilitude to English! Why! thou cursed Smellfungus! your account of your landing and reception, and Bullen, (I forget how you spell it, it was spelt my way in Harry the Eighth's time,) was exactly in that minute style which strong impressions Inspire (writing to a Frenchman, I write as a Frenchman would). It appears to me, as if I should die with joy at the first landing in a foreign country. It is the nearest pleasure, which a grown man can substitute for that unknown one, which he can never know, the pleasure of the first entrance into life from the womb. I dare say, in a short time, my habits would come back like a ' stronger man' armed, and drive out that new pleasure ; and I should soon sicken for known objects. Nothing has transpired here that seems to me of sufficient importance to send dry-shod over the water: but I suppose you will want to be told some news. The best and the worst to me is, that I have given up two guineas a week at the 'Post,' and regained my health and spirits, which were upon the wane. I grew sick, and Stuart unsatisfied. Ludisti satis, tempus abireest; I must cut closer, that's all. Mister Fell, or as you, with your usual facetiousness and drollery, call him Mr. F + ll has stopped short in the middle of his play. Some friend has told him that it has not the least merit in it. O! that I had the rectifying of the Litany! I would put in a libera nos (Scriptores videlicet) ab amicis! That's ail the news. A propos (is it pedantry, writing to a Frenchman, to express myself sometimes by a French word, when an English one would not do as well? methinks, my thoughts fall naturally into it)— C. L."
TO MR. MANNING.
"My dear Manning,—Although something of the latest, and after two months' waiting, your letter was highly gratifying. Some parts want a little explication ; for example, 'the god-like face of the first consul.' What god does he most resemble, Mars, Bacchus, or Apollo? or the god Serapis, who, flying (as Egyptian chronicles deliver) from the fury of the dog Anubis (the hieroglyph of an English mastifl'), lighted upon Monomotapa (or the land of apes), by some thought to be Old France, and there set up a tyranny, &c. Our London prints of him represent him gloomy and sulky, like an angry Jupiter. I hear that he is very small, even less than me. I envy you your access to this great man, much more than your seances and conversaziones, which I have a shrewd suspicion must be something dull. What you assert concerning the actors of Paris, that they exceed our comedians, bad as ours are, is impossible. In one sense it may be true, that their fine gentlemen, in what is called genteel comedy, may possibly be more brisk and (Ugage than Mr. Caulfield, or Mr. Whitfield; but have any of them the power to move
laughter in excess? or can a Frenchman laugh? Can they batter at your judicious ribs till they shake, nothing loth to be so shaken? This is John Bull's criterion, and it shall be mine. You are Frenchified. Both your taste and morals are corrupt and perverted. By-and-by you will come to assert, that Buonaparte is as great a general as the old Duke of Cumberland, and deny that one Englishman can beat three Frenchmen. Read Henry the Fifth to restore your orthodoxy. All things continue at a stay-still in London. I cannot repay your new novelties with my stale reminiscences. Like the prodigal, I have spent my patrimony, and feed upon the superannuated chuff and dry husks of repentance; yet sometimes I remember with pleasure the hounds and horses, which I kept in the days of my prodigality. I find nothing new, nor anything that has so much of the gloss and dazzle of novelty, as may rebound in narrative, and cast a reflective glimmer across the channel. Did I send you an epitaph I scribbled upon a poor girl who died at nineteen, a good girl, and a pretty girl, and a clever girl, but strangely neglected by all her friends and kin?
1 Under this cold marble stone
"Brief, and pretty, and tender, is it not? I send you this, being the only piece of poetry I have done, since the muses all went with T. M. to Paris. I have neither stuff in my brain, nor paper in my drawer, to write you a longer letter. Liquor, and company, and wicked tobacco, a'nights, have quite dispericraniated me, as one may say; but you, who spiritualise upon Champagne, may continue to write long long letters, and stuff 'em with amusement to the end. Too long they cannot be, any more than a codicil to a will, which leaves me sundry parks and manors not specified in the deed. But don't be two months before you write again.—These from merry old England, on the day of her valiant patron St. George.
[1804 to 1806.]
LETTERS TO MANNING, WORDSWORTH, HICEMAN, AND HAZLITT. "HE. H." WRITTEN, ACCEPTED, DAMNED.
There is no vestige of Lamb's correspondence in the year 1804, nor does he seem to have written for the press. This year, however, added to his list of friends—one in whose conversation he took great delight, until death severed them—William Hazlitt. This remarkable metaphysician and critic had then just completed his first work, the "Essay on the Principles of Human Action," but had not entirely given up his hope of excelling as a painter. After a professional tour through part of England, during which he satisfied his sitters better than himself, he remained some time at the house of his brother, then practising as a portrait painter with considerable success; and while endeavouring to procure a publisher for his work, painted a portrait of Lamb, of which an engraving is prefixed to the present volume.* It is one of the last of Hazlitt's efforts in an art which he afterwards illustrated with the most exquisite criticism which the knowledge and love of it could inspire.
Among the vestiges of the early part of 1805, are the four following letters to Manning. If the hero of the next letter, Mr. Richard Hopkins, is living, I trust he will not repine at being ranked with those who
"Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame."
TO MR. MANNING.
"16, Mitre-court Buildings,
"Saturday, 24th Feb. 1805. "Dear Manning,—I have been very unwell since I saw you. A sad depression of spirits, a most unaccountable nervousness; from which I have been partially relieved by an odd accident. You knew Dick Hopkins, the swearing scullion of Caius? This fellow, by industry and agility, has thrust himself into the important situations (no sinecures, believe me) of cook to Trinity Hall and Caius College: and the generous creature has contrived, with the greatest delicacy imaginable, to send me a present of Cambridge brawn.
What makes it the more extraordinary is, that the man never saw me in his life that I know of. I suppose he has heard of me. I did not immediately recognise the donor; but one of Richard's cards, which had accidentally fallen into the straw, detected him in a moment. Dick, you know, was always remarkable for flourishing. His card imports, that'orders (to wit, for brawn) from any part of England, Scotland, or Ireland, will be duly executed,' &c. At first, I thought of declining the present; but Richard knew my blind side when he pitched upon brawn. "Tis of all my hobbies the supreme in the eating way. He might have sent sops from the pan, skimmings, crumpets, chips, hog's lard, the tender brown judiciously scalped from a fillet of veal (dexterously replaced by a salamander), the tops of asparagus, fugitive livers, runaway gizzards of fowls, the eyes of martyred pigs, tender effusions of laxative woodcocks, the red spawn of lobsters, leveret's ears, and such pretty filchings common to cooks; but these had been ordinary presents, the everyday courtesies of dish washers to their sweethearts. Brawn was a noble thought. It is not every common gullet-fancier that can properly esteem of it. It is like a picture of one of the choice old Italian masters. Its gusto is of that hidden sort. As Wordsworth sings of a modest poet, —' you must love him, ere to you he will seem worthy of your love ;' so brawn, you must taste it ere to you it will seem to have any taste at all. But 'tis nuts to the adept: those that will send out their tongue and feelers to find it out. It will be wooed, and not unsought be won. Now, ham-essence, lobsters, turtle, such popular minions, absolutely court you, lay themselves out to strike you at first smack, like one of David's pictures (they call him Darveed), compared with the plain russet-coated wealth of a Titian or a Correggio, as I illustrated above. Such are the obvious glaring heathen virtues of a corporation dinner, compared with the reserved collegiate worth of brawn. Do me the favour to leave off the business which you may be at present upon, and go immediately to the kitchens of Trinity and Caius, and make my most respectful compliments to Mr. Richard Hopkins, and assure him that his brawn is most excellent; and that I am moreover obliged to him for his innuendo