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strive to fancy that this world is not “all barrenness.'”
After several disappointments, occasioned by the state of business in the India House, Lamb achieved his long-checked wish of visiting Coleridge at Stowey, in company with his sister, without whom he felt it almost a sin to enjoy anything. Coleridge, shortly after, abandoned his scheme of a cottage-life; and, in the following year, left England for Germany. Lamb, however, was not now so lonely as when he wrote to Coleridge imploring his correspondence as the only comfort of his sorrows and labours; for, through the instrumentality of Coleridge, he was now rich in friends. Among them he marked George Dyer, the guileless and simplehearted, whose love of learning was a passion, and who found, even in the forms of verse, objects of worship; Southey, in the young vigour of his genius; and Wordsworth, the great regenerator of English poetry, preparing for his long contest with the glittering forms of inane phraseology which had usurped the dominion of the public mind, and with the cold mockeries of scorn with which their supremacy was defended. By those the beauty of his character was felt; the original cast of his powers was appreciated ; and his peculiar humour was detected and kindled into fitful life.
CHAPTER IV. ' [1798.]
LAMB's LITERARY EFForts AND correspoxDENCE with south EY.
In the year 1798, the blank verse of Lloyd and Lamb, which had been contained in the volume published in conjunction with Coleridge, was, with some additions by Lloyd, published in a thin duodecimo, price 2s. 6d, under the title of “Blank Verse, by Charles
by their genius, were usually named to be dismissed with a sneer. After a contemptuous notice of “The Mournful Muse” of Lloyd, Lamb receives his quietus in a line:— “Mr. Lamb, the joint author of this little volume, seems to be very properly associated with his plaintive companion.” " In this year Lamb composed his prose tale, “Rosamund Gray,” and published it in a volume of the same size and price with the last, under the title of “A Tale of Rosamund Gray and Old Blind Margaret,” which, having a semblance of story, sold much better than his poems, and added a few pounds to his slender income. This miniature romance is unique in English literature. It bears the impress of a recent perusal of “The Man of Feeling,” and “Julia de Roubigné; ” and while on the one hand it wants the graphic force and delicate touches of Mackenzie, it is informed with deeper feeling and breathes a diviner morality than the most charming of his tales. Lamb never possessed the faculty of constructing a plot either for drama or novel; and while he luxuriated in the humour of Smollett, the wit of Fielding, or the solemn pathos of Richardson, he was not amused, but perplexed, by the attempt to thread the windings of story which conduct to their most exquisite passages through the maze of adventure. In this tale, nothing is made out with distinctness, except the rustic piety and grace of the lovely girl and her venerable grandmother, which are pictured with such earnestness and simplicity as might beseem a fragment of the book of Ruth. The villain who lays waste their humble joys is a murky phantom without individuality; the events are obscured by the haze of sentiment which hovers over them; and the narrative gives way to the reflections of the author, who is mingled with the persons of the tale in visionary confusion, and gives to it the character of a sweet but disturbed dream. It has an interest now beyond that of fiction; for in it we may trace, “as in a glass darkly,” the characteristies of
Lloyd and Charles Lamb.” This unpre- the mind and heart of the author, at a time tending book was honoured by a brief and when a change was coming upon them. scornful notice in the catalogue of “ The There are the dainty sense of beauty just Monthly Review,” in the small print of weaned from its palpable object, and quiverwhich the works of the poets who are now ing over its lost images; feeling grown recognised as the greatest ornaments of their
age, and who have impressed it most deeply * Monthly Review, Scpt. 1798.
retrospective before its time, and tinging all Southey as early as the year 1795; but no things with a strange solemnity; hints of intimacy ensued until he accompanied Lloyd that craving after immediate appliances in the summer of 1797 to the little village of which might give impulse to a harassed Burton, near Christchurch, in Hampshire, frame, and confidence to struggling fancy, where Southey was then residing, and where and of that escape from the pressure of they spent a fortnight as the poet's guests. agony into fantastic mirth, which in after After Coleridge's departure for Germany, in life made Lamb a problem to a stranger, 1798, a correspondence began between Lamb while they endeared him a thousand-fold to and Southey, which continued through that those who really knew him. While the and part of the following year;-Southey fulness of the religious sentiments, and the communicates to Lamb his Eclogues, which scriptural cast of the language, still partake he was then preparing for the press, and of his early manhood, the visit of the narrator Lamb repaying the confidence by submitting of the tale to the churchyard where his the products of his own leisure hours to his parents lie buried, after his nerves had been 'genial critic. If Southey did not, in all strung for the endeavour by wine at the respects, compensate Lamb for the absence village inn, and the half-frantic jollity of his of his earlier friend, he excited in him a
old heart-broken friend (the lover of the
more entire and active intellectual sympathy; as the character of Southey's mind bore more resemblance to his own than that of Coleridge. In purity of thought ; in the love of the minutest vestige of antiquity; in a certain primness of style bounding in the rich humour which threatened to overflow it ; they were nearly akin : both alike reverenced childhood, and both had preserved its best attributes unspotted from the world. If Lamb bowed to the genius of Coleridge with a fonder reverence, he felt more at home with Southey ; and although he did not pour out the inmost secrets of his soul in his letters to him as to Coleridge, he gave more scope to the “first sprightly runnings” of his humorous fancy. Here is the first of his freaks:–
TO MR. SOUTHEY.
“My tailor has brought me home a new coat lapelled, with a velvet collar. He assures me everybody wears velvet collars now. Some are born fashionable, some achieve fashion, and others, like your humble servant, have fashion thrust upon them. The rogue has been making inroads hitherto by modest degrees, foisting upon me an additional button, recommending gaiters, but to come upon me thus in a full tide of luxury, neither becomes him as a tailor or the ninth of a man. My meek gentleman was robbed the other day, coming with his wife and family in a one-horse shay from Hampstead; the villains rifled him of four guineas, some shillings and half-pence, and a bundle of s
customers' measures, which they swore were but I have forgot what church), attesting bank-notes. They did not shoot him, and that enormous legend of as many children as when they rode off he addrest them with days in the year. I marvel her impudence profound gratitude, making a congee : | did not grasp at a leap-year. Three-hundred ‘Gentlemen, I wish you good night, and we and sixty-five dedications, and all in a family
are very much obliged to you that you have not used us ill !’ And this is the cuckoo that has had the audacity to foist upon me ten buttons on a side, and a black velvet collar.—A cursed ninth of a scoundrel !
“When you write to Lloyd, he wishes his Jacobin correspondents to address him as Mr. C. L.”
TO MR. SOUTHEY.
“I am ashamed that I have not thanked you before this for the ‘Joan of Arc, but I did not know your address, and it did not occur to me to write through Cottle. The poem delighted me, and the notes amused me, but methinks she of Neufchatel, in the print, holds her sword too “like a dancer.' I sent your notice to Phillips, particularly requesting an immediate insertion, but I suppose it came too late. I am sometimes curious to know what progress you make in that same “Calendar: whether you insert the nine worthies and Whittington what you do or how you can manage when two Saints meet and quarrel for precedency? Martlemas, and Candlemas, and Christmas, are glorious themes for a writer like you, antiquity-bitten, smit with the love of boars’ heads and rosemary; but how you can ennoble the 1st of April I know not. By the way I had a thing to say, but a certain false modesty has hitherto prevented me: perhaps I can best communicate my wish by a hint, my birth-day is on the 10th of February, New Style, but if it interferes with any remarkable event, why rather than my country should lose her fame, I care not if I put my nativity back eleven days. Fine family patronage for your “Calendar, if that old lady of prolific memory were living, who lies (or lyes) in some church in London (saints forgive me,
—you might spit in spirit, on the oneness of
thing in the manner of mortal lookingglasses?” viii. “‘Whether an “immortal and amenable soul” may not come to be damned at last, and the man never suspect it beforehand **
“Samuel Taylor hath not deigned an answer; was it impertinent of me to avail myself of that offered source of knowledge “Wishing Madoc may be born into the world with as splendid promise as the second birth, or purification, of the Maid of Neufchatel,-I remain yours sincerely, “C. LAMB.
“I hope Edith is better; my kindest remembrances to her. You have a good deal of trifling to forgive in this letter.”
The two next letters to Southey illustrate strikingly the restless kindness and exquisite spirit of allowance in Lamb's nature; the first an earnest pleading for a poor fellow whose distress actually haunted him ; the second an affecting allusion to the real goodness of a wild untoward school-mate, and fine self-reproval — in this instance how unmerited
TO MR. SOUTHEY.
“Dear Southey, Your friend John May has formerly made kind offers to Lloyd of serving me in the India House, by the interest of his friend Sir Francis Baring. It is not likely that I shall ever put his goodness to the test on my own account, for my prospects are very comfortable. But I know a man, a young man, whom he could serve through the same channel, and, I think, would be disposed to serve if he were acquainted with his case. This poor fellow (whom I know just enough of to vouch for his strict integrity and worth) has lost two or three employments from illness, which he cannot regain; he was once insane, and, from the distressful uncertainty of his livelihood, has reason to apprehend a return of that malady. He has been for some time dependent on a woman whose lodger he formerly was, but who can
ill afford to maintain him; and I know that
on Christmas night last he actually walked about the streets all night, rather than
accept of her bed, which she offered him, and offered herself to sleep in the kitchen; and that, in consequence of that severe cold, he is labouring under a bilious disorder, besides a depression of spirits, which incapacitates him from exertion when he most needs it. For God's sake, South&y, if it does not go against you to ask favours, do it now ; ask it as for me ; but do not do a violence to your feelings, because he does not know of this application, and will suffer no disappointment. What I meant to say was this, there are in the India House what are called extra clerks, not on the establishment, like me, but employed in extra business, by-jobs; these get about 50l. a year, or rather more, but never rise; a director can put in at any time a young man in this office, and it is by no means considered so great a favour as making an established clerk. He would think himself as rich as an emperor if he could get such a certain situation, and be relieved from those disquietudes which, I do fear, may one day bring back his distemper. “You know John May better than I do, but I know enough to believe that he is a good man; he did make me that offer I have mentioned, but you will perceive that such an offer cannot authorise me in applying for another person. “But I cannot help writing to you on the subject, for the young man is perpetually before my eyes, and I shall feel it a crime not to strain all my petty interest to do him service, though I put my own delicacy to the question by so doing. I have made one other unsuccessful attempt already ; at all events I will thank you to write, for I am tormented
with anxiety. “C. LAMB.” “DEAR SouTHEY, “Poor Sam. Le Grice I am afraid the
world, and the camp, and the university, have spoilt him among them. 'Tis certain he had at one time a strong capacity of turning out something better. I knew him, and that not long since, when he had a most warm heart. I am ashamed of the indifference I have sometimes felt towards him. I think the devil is in one's heart. I am under obligations to that man for the warmest friendship, and heartiest sympathy, even for an agony of sympathy exprest both by word, and deed,
and tears for me, when I was in my greatest
TO MR. SOUTHEY. distress. But I have forgot that! as, I fear, I
“I just send you a few rhymes from my he has nigh forgot the awful scenes which were before his eyes when he served the pla
he play, the only rhymes in it. A forest-liver office of a comforter to me. No service was givin
giving an account of his amusements. too mean or troublesome for him to perform. "What sports have you in the forest ? I can't think what but the devil, that old
Not many,--some few,-as thus,
To see the sun to bed, and see him rise, spider,' could have suck'd my heart so dry
Like some hot amourist with glowing eyes, of its sense of all gratitude. If he does come Bursting the lazy bands of sleep that bound him:
With all his fires and travelling glories round him : in your way, Southey, fail not to tell him that
Sometimes the moon on soft night-clouds to rest, I retain a most affectionate remembrance Like beauty nestling in a young man's breast, of his old friendliness, and an earnest wish to
And all the winking stars, her handmaids, keep
Admiring silence, while those lovers sleep : resume our intercourse. In this I am serious.
Sometimes outstretch'd in very idleness, I cannot recommend him to your society, Nought doing, saying little, thinking less, because I am afraid whether he be quite
To view the leaves, thin dancers upon air,
Go eddying round; and small birds how they fare, worthy of it. But I have no right to dismiss When mother Autumn fills their beaks with corn, him from my regard. He was at one time,
Filch'd from the careless Amalthea's horn ;
And how the woods berries and worms provide, and in the worst of times, my own familiar
Without their pains, when earth hath nought beside friend, and great confort to me then. I have To answer their small wants ;
To view the graceful deer come trooping by, known him to play at cards with my father,
Then pause, and gaze, then turn they know not why, meal-times excepted, literally all day long, in Like bashful younkers in society;
To mark the structure of a plant or tree; long days too, to save me from being teased
And all fair things of earth, how fair they be!' &c. &c. by the old man, when I was not able to bear it.
“I love to anticipate charges of unorigin“God bless him for it, and God bless you, ality: the first line is almost Shakspeare's :Southey.
To hare my love to bed and to arise,'
Midsummer Night's Dream.
Lamb now began to write the tragedy of “I think there is a sweetness in the versiJohn Woodvil. His admiration of the fication not unlike some rhymes in that dramatists of Elizabeth's age was yet young, exquisite play, and the last line but three is and had some of the indiscretion of an early yours : love ; but there was nothing affected in the antique cast of his language, or the frequent
That met the gaze, or turn'd it knew not why.'
Rosamund's Epistle. roughness of his verse. His delicate sense of beauty had found a congenial organ in the “I shall anticipate all my play, and have style which he tasted with rapture; and nothing to show you. An idea for Leviathan criticism gave him little encouragement to - Commentators on Job have been puzzled adapt it to the frigid insipidities of the time. to find out a meaning for Leviathan,—'tis a “My tragedy," says he in the first letter to whale, say some; a crocodile, say others. Southey, which alludes to the play, “will be In my simple conjecture, Leviathan is neither a medley (or I intend it to be a inedley) of more nor less than the Lord Mayor of London laughter and tears, prose and verse ; and, in for the time being." some places, rhyme ; songs, wit, pathos, humour ; and, if possible, sublimity ;-at least, 'tis not a fault in my intention if it! He seems also to have sent about this does not comprehend most of these discordant time the solemnly fantastic poem of the atoms—Heaven send they dance not the “ Witch," as the following passage relates to dance of death!” In another letter he there one of its conceits : introduces the delicious rhymed passage in the “Forest Scene,” which Godwin, having
TO MR. SOUTHEY. accidentally seen quoted, took for a choice “ Your recipe for a Turk’s poison is fragment of an old dramatist, and went to invaluable, and truly Marlowish. ... Lamb to assist him in finding the author. Lloyd objects to shutting up the womb of