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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning, 19 February 1803

Contents vol. VI
Letters: 1796
Letters: 1797
Letters: 1798
Letters: 1799
Letters: 1800
Letters: 1801
Letters: 1802
Letters: 1803
Letters: 1804
Letters: 1805
Letters: 1806
Letters: 1807
Letters: 1808
Letters: 1809
Letters: 1810
Letters: 1811
Letters: 1812
Letters: 1814
Letters: 1815
Letters: 1816
Letters: 1817
Letters: 1818
Letters: 1819
Letters: 1820
Letters: 1821
Contents vol. VII
Letters: 1821
Letters: 1822
Letters: 1823
Letters: 1824
Letters: 1825
Letters: 1826
Letters: 1827
Letters: 1828
Letters: 1829
Letters: 1830
Letters: 1831
Letters: 1832
Letters: 1833
Letters: 1834
Appendix I
Appendix II
Appendix III
List of Letters
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[Dated at end: 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 have you to do among such Ethiopians? Is there no lineal descendant of Prester John?

Is the chair empty? Is the sword unswayed?—depend upon’t they’ll never make you their king, as long as any branch of that great stock is remaining. I tremble for your Christianity. They’ll certainly circumcise you. Read Sir John Maundevil’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 favorable 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—pun-divinity. 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’s 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, smouchey 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’re 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. There’s your friend Holcroft now, has written a play. You used to be fond of the drama. Nobody went to see it. Notwithstanding this, with an audacity perfectly original, he faces the town down in a preface, that they did like it very much. I have heard a waspish punster say, “Sir, why did you not laugh at my jest?” But for a man boldly to face me out with, “Sir, I maintain it, you did laugh at my jest,” is a little too much. I have seen H. but once. He spoke of you to me in honorable terms. H. seems to me to be drearily dull. Godwin is dull, but then he has a dash of affectation, which smacks of the coxcomb, and your coxcombs are always agreeable. 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. Rickman 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. But if you do go among [them] pray contrive to stink as soon as you can that you may [?not] hang a [?on] hand at the Butcher’s. ’Tis terrible to be weighed out for 5d. 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 frd,

C. Lamb.
19th Feb., 1803, London.