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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 1796

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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1796 1
[Postmark May 27, 1796.]

DEAR C—— make yourself perfectly easy about May. I paid his bill, when I sent your clothes. I was flush of money, and am so still to all the purposes of a single life, so give yourself no further concern about it. The money would be superfluous to me, if I had it.

With regard to Allen,—the woman he has married has some money, I have heard about £200 a year, enough for the maintenance of herself & children, one of whom is a girl nine years old! so Allen has dipt betimes into the cares of a family. I very seldom see him, & do not know whether he has given up the Westminster hospital.

When Southey becomes as modest as his predecessor Milton, and publishes his Epics in duodecimo, I will read ’em,—a Guinea a book is somewhat exorbitant, nor have I the opportunity of borrowing the Work. The extracts from it in the Monthly Review and the short passages in your Watchman seem to me much superior to any thing in his partnership account with Lovell.

Your poems I shall procure forthwith. There were noble lines in what you inserted in one of your Numbers from Religious Musings, but I thought them elaborate. I am somewhat glad you have given up that Paper—it must have been dry, unprofitable, and of “dissonant mood” to your disposition. I wish you success in all your undertakings, and am glad to hear you are employed about the Evidences of Religion. There is need of multiplying such books an hundred fold in this philosophical age to prevent converts to Atheism, for they seem too tough disputants to meddle with afterwards. I am sincerely sorry for Allen, as a family man particularly.

Le Grice is gone to make puns in Cornwall. He has got a tutorship to a young boy, living with his Mother, a widow Lady. He will of course initiate him quickly in “whatsoever things are lovely, honorable, and of good report.” He has cut Miss Hunt com-
pleatly,—the poor Girl is very ill on the Occasion, but he laughs at it, and justifies himself by saying, “she does not see him laugh.”
Coleridge, I know not what suffering scenes you have gone through at Bristol—my life has been somewhat diversified of late. The 6 weeks that finished last year and began this your very humble servant spent very agreeably in a mad house at Hoxton—I am got somewhat rational now, and don’t bite any one. But mad I was—and many a vagary my imagination played with me, enough to make a volume if all told.

My Sonnets I have extended to the number of nine since I saw you, and will some day communicate to you.

I am beginning a poem in blank verse, which if I finish I publish.

White is on the eve of publishing (he took the hint from Vortigern) Original letters of Falstaff, Shallow &c—, a copy you shall have when it comes out. They are without exception the best imitations I ever saw.

Coleridge, it may convince you of my regards for you when I tell you my head ran on you in my madness, as much almost as on another Person, who I am inclined to think was the more immediate cause of my temporary frenzy.

The sonnet I send you has small merit as poetry but you will be curious to read it when I tell you it was written in my prison-house in one of my lucid Intervals.

If from my lips some angry accents fell,
Peevish complaint, or harsh reproof unkind,
’Twas but the error of a sickly mind,
And troubled thoughts, clouding the purer well,
And waters clear, of Reason; and for me,
Let this my verse the poor atonement be,
My verse, which thou to praise wast ever inclined
Too highly, and with a partial eye to see
No blemish: thou to me didst ever shew
Fondest affection, and woud’st oftimes lend
An ear to the desponding love sick lay,
Weeping my sorrows with me, who repay
But ill the mighty debt of love I owe,
Mary, to thee, my sister and my friend.

With these lines, and with that sister’s kindest remembrances to C——, I conclude—

Yours sincerely

Your Conciones ad populum are the most eloquent politics that ever came in my way.

Write, when convenient—not as a task, for there is nothing in this letter to answer.

1796 COLERIDGE IN 1796 3

You may inclose under cover to me at the India house what letters you please, for they come post free.

We cannot send our remembrances to Mrs. C not having seen her, but believe me our best good wishes attend you both.

My civic and poetic compts to Southey if at Bristol.—Why, he is a very Leviathan of Bards—the small minnow I—


[This is the earliest letter of Lamb’s that has come down to us. On February 10, 1796, he was just twenty-one years old, and was now living at 7 Little Queen Street (since demolished) with his father, mother, Aunt Sarah Lamb (known as Aunt Hetty), Mary Lamb and, possibly, John Lamb. John Lamb, senior, was doing nothing and had, I think, already begun to break up: his old master, Samuel Salt, had died in February, 1792. John Lamb, the son (born June 5, 1763), had a clerkship at the South-Sea House; Charles Lamb had begun his long period of service in the India House; and Mary Lamb (born December 3, 1764) was occupied as a mantua-maker.

At this time Coleridge was twenty-three; he would be twenty-four on October 21. His military experiences over, he had married Sara Fricker on October 4, 1795 (a month before Southey married her sister Edith), and was living at Bristol, on Redcliffe Hill. The first number of The Watchman was dated on March 1, 1796; on May 13, 1796, it came to an end. On April 16, 1796, Cottle had issued Coleridge’s Poems on Various Subjects, containing also four “effusions” by Charles Lamb (Nos. VII., XL, XII. and XIII.), and the “Religious Musings.” Southey, on bad terms with Coleridge, partly on account of Southey’s abandonment of Pantisocracy, was in Lisbon. His Joan of Arc had just been published by Cottle in quarto at a guinea. Previously he had collaborated in The Fall of Robespierre, 1794, with Coleridge and Robert Lovell. Each, one evening, had set forth to write an act by the next. Southey and Lovell did so, but Coleridge brought only a part of his. Lovell’s being useless, Southey rewrote his act, Coleridge finished his at leisure, and the result was published. Robert Lovell (1770?-1796) had also been associated with Coleridge and Southey in Pantisocracy and was their brother-in-law, having married Mary Fricker, another of the sisters. When, in 1795, Southey and Lovell had published a joint volume of Poems, Southey took the pseudonym of Bion and Lovell of Moschus.

May was probably the landlord of the Salutation and Cat. The London Directory for 1808 has “William May, Salutation Coffee House, 17 Newgate Street.” We must suppose that when
Coleridge quitted the Salutation and Cat in January, 1795, he was unable to pay his bill, and therefore had to leave his luggage behind. Cottle’s story of Coleridge being offered free lodging by a London inn-keeper, if he would only talk and talk, must then either be a pretty invention or apply to another landlord, possibly the host of the Angel in Butcher Hall Street

Allen was Robert Allen, a schoolfellow of Lamb and Coleridge, and Coleridge’s first friend. He was born on October 18, 1772. Both Lamb and Leigh Hunt tell good stories of him at Christ’s Hospital, Lamb in Elia and Hunt in his Autobiography. From Christ’s Hospital he went to University College, Oxford, and it was he who introduced Coleridge and Hucks to Southey in 1794. Probably, says Mr. E. H. Coleridge, it was he who brought Coleridge and Stoddart (afterwards Sir John and Hazlitt’s brother-in-law) together. On leaving Oxford he seems to have gone to Westminster to learn surgery, and in 1797 he was appointed Deputy-Surgeon to the 2nd Royals, then in Portugal. He married a widow with children; at some time later took to journalism, as Lamb’s reference in the Elia essay on “Newspapers” tells us; and he died of apoplexy in 1805.

The phrase “dissonant mood” (Samson Agonistes, line 662) had been used by Coleridge in line 6 of his Effusion 22, “To a Friend with an Unfinished Poem,” the friend being Lamb.

Coleridge’s employment on the Evidences of Religion, whatever it may have been, did not reach print.

Le Grice was Charles Valentine Le Grice (1773-1858), an old Christ’s Hospitaller and Grecian (see Lamb’s Elia essays on “Christ’s Hospital” and “Grace before Meat”). Le Grice passed to Trinity College, Cambridge. He left in 1796 and became tutor to William John Godolphin Nicholls of Trereife, near Penzance, the only son of a widowed mother. Le Grice was ordained in 1798 and married Mrs. Nicholls in 1799. Young Nicholls died in 1815 and Mrs. Le Grice in 1821, when Le Grice became sole owner of the Trereife property. He was incumbent of St. Mary’s, Penzance, for some years. Le Grice was a witty, rebellious character, but he never fulfilled the promise of his early days. It has been conjectured that his skill in punning awakened Lamb’s ambition in that direction. Le Grice saw Lamb next in 1834, at the Bell at Edmonton. His recollections of Lamb were included by Talfourd in the Memorials, and his recollections of Coleridge were printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine, December, 1834. I know nothing of Miss Hunt.

“Whatsoever things are honest . . .” See Philippians iv. 8.

Of Lamb’s confinement in a madhouse we know no more than is here told. It is conjectured that the “other person” to whom
Lamb refers a few lines later was
Ann Simmons, a girl at Widford for whom he had an attachment that had been discouraged, if not forbidden, by her friends. This is the only attack of the kind that Lamb is known to have suffered. He once told Coleridge that during his illness he had sometimes believed himself to be Young Norval in Home’sDouglas.”

The poem in blank verse was, we learn in a subsequent letter, “The Grandame,” or possibly an autobiographical work of which “The Grandame” is the only portion that survived.

White was James White (1775-1820), an old Christ’s Hospitaller and a friend and almost exact contemporary of Lamb. Lamb, who first kindled his enthusiasm for Shakespeare, was, I think, to some extent involved in the Original Letters, &c., of Sir John Falstaff and his Friends, which appeared in 1796. The dedication—to Master Samuel Irelaunde, meaning William Henry Ireland (who sometimes took his fathers name Samuel), the forger of the pretended Shakespearian play “Vortigern,” produced at Drury Lane earlier in the year—is quite in Lamb’s manner (see Vol. I. of this edition, page 465). White’s immortality, however, rests not upon this book, but upon his portrait in the Elia essay on “Chimney-Sweepers.”

The sonnet “To my Sister” was printed, with slight alterations, by Lamb in Coleridge’s Poems, second edition, 1797, and again in Lamb’s Works, 1818.

Coleridge’s Conciones ad Populum; or, Addresses to the People, had been published at Bristol in November, 1795.

Close students of Lamb’s Letters will observe that this, together with many of the early letters to Coleridge which follow, differs from the text of the other editions, new copies having been made from the originals in the Morrison Collection.]

[Probably begun either on Tuesday, May 24, or Tuesday,
May 31, 1796. Postmark? June 1.]

I AM in such violent pain with the head ach that I am fit for nothing but transcribing, scarce for that. When I get your poems, and the Joan of Arc, I will exercise my presumption in giving you my opinion of ’em. The mail does not come in before tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. The following sonnet was composed during a walk down into Hertfordshire early in last Summer.
* Drowsyhed I have met with I think in Spencer. Tis an old thing, but it rhymes with led & rhyming covers a multitude of licences.
The lord of light shakes off his drowsyhed.*
Fresh from his couch up springs the lusty Sun,
And girds himself his mighty race to run.
Meantime, by truant love of rambling led,
I turn my back on thy detested walls,
Proud City, and thy sons I leave behind,
A selfish, sordid, money-getting kind,
Who shut their ears when holy Freedom calls.
I pass not thee so lightly, humble spire,
That mindest me of many a pleasure gone,
Of merriest days, of love and Islington,
Kindling anew the flames of past desire;
And I shall muse on thee, slow journeying on,
To the green plains of pleasant Hertfordshire.
The last line is a copy of
Bowles’s, “to the green hamlet in the peaceful plain.” Your ears are not so very fastidious—many people would not like words so prosaic and familiar in a sonnet as Islington and Hertfordshire. The next was written within a day or two of the last, on revisiting a spot where the scene was laid of my 1st sonnet that “mock’d my step with many a lonely glade.”
When last I roved these winding wood-walks green,
Green winding walks, and pathways shady-sweet,
Oftimes would Anna seek the silent scene,
Shrouding her beauties in the lone retreat.
No more I hear her footsteps in the shade;
Her image only in these pleasant ways
Meets me self-wandring where in better days
I held free converse with my fair-hair’d maid.
I pass’d the little cottage, which she loved,
The cottage which did once my all contain:
It spake of days that ne’er must come again,
Spake to my heart and much my heart was moved.
“Now fair befall thee, gentle maid,” said I,
And from the cottage turn’d me, with a sigh.

The next retains a few lines from a sonnet of mine, which you once remarked had no “body of thought” in it. I agree with you, but have preserved a part or it, and it runs thus. I flatter myself you will like it.
A timid grace sits trembling in her Eye,
As loth to meet the rudeness of men’s sight,
Yet shedding a delicious lunar light,
That steeps in kind oblivious extacy
The care-craz’d mind, like some still melody;
Speaking most plain the thoughts which do possess
Her gentle sprite, peace and meek quietness,
* Cowley uses this phrase with a somewhat different meaning: I meant loves of relatives friends, &c.
And innocent loves,* and maiden purity.
A look whereof might heal the cruel smart
Of changed friends, or fortune’s wrongs unkind;
Might to sweet deeds of mercy move the heart
Of him, who hates his brethren of mankind.
Turned are those beams from me, who fondly yet
Past joys, vain loves, and buried hopes regret.


The next and last I value most of all. ’Twas composed close upon the heels of the last in that very wood I had in mind when I wrote “Methinks how dainty sweet.”
We were two pretty babes, the youngest she,
The youngest and the loveliest far, I ween,
And Innocence her name. The time has been,
We two did love each other’s company;
Time was, we two had wept to have been apart.
But when, with shew of seeming good beguil’d,
I left the garb and manners of a child,
And my first love for man’s society,
Defiling with the world my virgin heart,
My loved companion dropt a tear, and fled,
And hid in deepest shades her awful head.
Beloved, who can tell me where Thou art,
In what delicious Eden to be found,
That I may seek thee the wide world around.
Since writing it, I have found in a poem by
Hamilton of Bangour, these 2 lines to happiness
Nun sober and devout, where art thou fled
To hide in shades thy meek contented head.
Lines eminently beautiful, but I do not remember having re’d ’em previously, for the credit of my 10th and 11th lines.
Parnell has 2 lines (which probably suggested the above) to Contentment
Whither ah! whither art thou fled,
To hide thy meek contented head.*

Cowley’s exquisite Elegy on the death of his friend Harvey suggested the phrase of “we two”
“Was there a tree that did not know
The love betwixt us two?——”

So much for acknowledged plagiarisms, the confession of which I know not whether it has more of vanity or modesty in it. As to my blank verse I am so dismally slow and steril of ideas (I speak from my heart) that I much question if it will ever come to any issue. I have hitherto only hammered out a few indepen[den]t unconnected snatches, not in a capacity to be sent. I am very ill, and will rest till I have read your poems—for which I am very thankful. I have one more favour to beg of you, that you never mention Mr. May’s affair in any sort, much less think of repaying. Are we not flocci-nauci-what-d’ye-call-em-ists?

We have just learnd, that my poor brother has had a sad accident: a large stone blown down by yesterday’s high wind has bruised bis leg in a most shocking manner—he is under the care of Cruikshanks. Coleridge, there are 10,000 objections against my paying
you a visit at Bristol—it cannot be, else—but in this world ’tis better not to think too much of pleasant possibles, that we may not be out of humour with present insipids. Should any thing bring you to London, you will recollect No. 7, Little Queen St. Holborn.

I shall be too ill to call on Wordsworth myself but will take care to transmit him his poem, when I have read it. I saw Le Grice the day before his departure, and mentioned incidentally his “teaching the young idea how to shoot”—knowing him and the probability there is of people having a propensity to pun in his company you will not wonder that we both stumbled on the same pun at once, he eagerly anticipating me,—“he would teach him to shoot!”—Poor Le Grice! if wit alone could entitle a man to respect, &c. He has written a very witty little pamphlet lately, satirical upon college declamations; when I send White’s book, I will add that.

I am sorry there should be any difference between you and Southey. “Between you two there should be peace,” tho’ I must say I have borne him no good will since he spirited you away from among us. What is become of Moschus? You sported some of his sublimities, I see, in your Watchman. Very decent things. So much for to night from your afflicted headachey sorethroatey, humble Servant C. Lamb——Tuesday night——.

Of your Watchmen, the Review of Burke was the best prose. I augurd great things from the 1st number. There is some exquisite poetry interspersed. I have re-read the extract from the Religious musings and retract whatever invidious there was in my censure of it as elaborate. There are times when one is not in a disposition thoroughly to relish good writing. I have re-read it in a more favourable moment and hesitate not to pronounce it sublime. If there be any thing in it approachgto tumidity (which I meant not to infer in elaborate: I meant simply labord) it is the Gigantic hyperbole by which you describe the Evils of existing society. Snakes, Lions, hyenas and behemoths, is carrying your resentment beyond bounds. The pictures of the Simoom, of frenzy and ruin, of the whore of Babylon and the cry of the foul spirits disherited of Earth and the strange beatitude which the good man shall recognise in heaven—as well as the particularizing of the children of wretchedness—(I have unconsciously included every part of it) form a variety of uniform excellence. I hunger and thirst to read the poem complete. That is a capital line in your 6th no.: “this dark freeze-coated, hoarse, teeth-chattering Month”—they are exactly such epithets as Burns would have stumbled on, whose poem on the ploughd up daisy you seem to have had in
mind. Your complaint that [of] your readers some thought there was too much, some too little, original matter in your Nos., reminds me of poor dead
Parsons in the Critic—“too little incident! Give me leave to tell you, Sir, there is too much incident.” I had like to have forgot thanking you for that exquisite little morsel the 1st Sclavonian Song. The expression in the 2d “more happy to be unhappy in hell”—is it not very quaint? Accept my thanks in common with those of all who love good poetry for the Braes of Yarrow. I congratulate you on the enemies you must have made by your splendid invective against the barterers in “human flesh and sinews.” Coleridge, you will rejoice to hear that Cowper is recovered from his lunacy, and is employ’d on his translation of the Italian &c. poems of Milton, for an edition where Fuseli presides as designer. Coleridge, to an idler like myself to write and receive letters are both very pleasant, but I wish not to break in upon your valuable time by expecting to hear very frequently from you. Reserve that obligation for your moments of lassitude, when you have nothing else to do; for your loco-restive and all your idle propensities of course have given way to the duties of providing for a family. The mail is come in but no parcel, yet this is Tuesday. Farewell then till to morrow, for a nich and a nook I must leave for criticisms. By the way I hope you do not send your own only copy of Joan of Arc; I will in that case return it immediately.

Your parcel is come, you have been lavish of your presents. Wordsworth’s poem I have hurried thro not without delight. Poor Lovell! my heart almost accuses me for the light manner I spoke of him above, not dreaming of his death. My heart bleeds for your accumulated troubles, God send you thro’ ’em with patience. I conjure you dream not that I will ever think of being repaid! the very word is galling to the ears. I have read all your Rel: Musings with uninterrupted feelings of profound admiration. You may safely rest your fame on it. The best remaing things are what I have before read, and they lose nothing by my recollection of your manner of reciting ’em, for I too bear in mind “the voice, the look” of absent friends, and can occasionally mimic their manner for the amusement of those who have seen ’em. Your impassioned manner of recitation I can recall at any time to mine own heart, and to the ears of the bystanders. I rather wish you had left the monody on C. concluding as it did abruptly. It had more of unity.—The conclusion of your R Musings I fear will entitle you to the reproof of your Beloved woman, who wisely will not suffer your fancy to run riot, but bids you walk humbly with your God. The very last words “I exercise my young noviciate thot in ministeries of heart-stirring song,” tho’ not now new to me, cannot be enough
admired. To speak politely, they are a well turnd compliment to Poetry. I hasten to read
Joan of Arc, &c. I have read your lines at the beging of 2d book, they are worthy of Milton, but in my mind yield to your Rel Musgs. I shall read the whole carefully and in some future letter take the liberty to particularize my opinions of it. Of what is new to me among your poems next to the Musings, that beginning “My Pensive Sara” gave me most pleasure: the lines in it I just alluded to are most exquisite—they made my sister and self smile, as conveying a pleasing picture of Mrs. C. chequing your wild wandrings, which we were so fond of hearing you indulge when among us. It has endeared us more than any thing to your good Lady; and your own self-reproof that follows delighted us. ’Tis a charming poem throughout. (You have well remarked that “charming, admirable, exquisite” are words expressive of feelings, more than conveying of ideas, else I might plead very well want of room in my paper as excuse for generalizing.) I want room to tell you how we are charmed with your verses in the manner of Spencer, &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. I am glad you resume the Watchman—change the name, leave out all articles of News, and whatever things are peculiar to News Papers, and confine yourself to Ethics, verse, criticism, or, rather do not confine yourself. Let your plan be as diffuse as the Spectator, and I’ll answer for it the work prospers. If I am vain enough to think I can be a contributor, rely on my inclinations. Coleridge, in reading your Rs Musings I felt a transient superiority over you: I have seen Priestly. I love to see his name repeated in your writings. I love and honor him almost profanely. You would be charmed with his sermons, if you never read ’em.—You have doubtless read his books, illustrative of the doctrine of Necessity. Prefixed to a late work of his, in answer to Paine, there is a preface, given [? giving] an account of the Man and his services to Men, written by Lindsey, his dearest friend,—well worth your reading.

Tuesday Eve.—Forgive my prolixity, which is yet too brief for all I could wish to say.—God give you comfort and all that are of your household.—Our loves and best good wishes to Mrs. C.

C. Lamb.

[The postmark of this letter looks like June 1, but it might be June 7. It was odd to date it “Tuesday night” half way through, and “Tuesday eve” at the end. Possibly Lamb began it on Tuesday, May 24, and finished it on Tuesday, May 31; possibly he began it on Tuesday, May 31, and finished it and posted it on Tuesday, June 7.


The Hertfordshire sonnet was printed in the Monthly Magazine for December, 1797, and not reprinted by Lamb. The last line, which he says here is from Bowles (the last line of the sonnet “To a Friend”), has a nearer counterpart in William Vallan’s Tale of Two Swans (1590), quoted in Leland’s Itinerary, Hearne’s edition:—
About this time the Lady Venus views
The fruitful fields of pleasant Hertfordshire.
This interesting discovery was made by
Mr. W. J. Craig.

The sonnet that “mock’d my step with many a lonely glade” is that beginning—
Was it some sweet device of Faery,
which had been printed in
Coleridge’s Poems, 1796. The second, third and fourth of the sonnets that are copied in this letter were printed in the second edition of Coleridge’s Poems, 1797. Anna is generally supposed to be Ann Simmons, referred to in the previous note.

The lines from Hamilton of Bangor are in his “Epistle to the Countess of Eglintoun (with ‘The Gentle Shepherd’)”: “where” should be “why.” Parnell’s lines are in his “Hymn to Contentment”: “ah” should be “O” and “hide” “lay.” In Cowley’s poem the first of the quoted lines runs:—
Was there a tree about which did not know
The love, &c.

Concerning “Flocci-nauci-what-d’ye-call-’em-ists,” Canon Ainger has the following interesting note: “‘Flocci, nauci’ is the beginning of a rule in the old Latin grammars, containing a list of words signifying ‘of no account,’ floccus being a lock of wool, and naucus a trifle. Lamb was recalling a sentence in one of Shenstone’s Letters:—‘I loved him for nothing so much as his floccinauci-nihili-pili-fication of money.’” But “Pantisocratists” was, of course, the word that Lamb was shadowing. Pantisocracy, however—the new order of common living and high thinking, to be established on the banks of the Susquehanna by Coleridge, Southey, Lovell, Burnett and others—was already dead.

William Cumberland Cruikshank, the anatomist, who attended Lamb’s brother, had a great reputation. He had attended Dr. Johnson in his last illness.

Le Grice’s pamphlet was A General Theorem for A ******* Coll. Declamation, by Gronovius, 1796.—The phrase “teaching the young idea how to shoot” is from Thomson’s Seasons.

Southey and Coleridge had been on somewhat strained terms for some time; possibly, as I have said in the previous note, owing to
Southey’s abandonment of Pantisocratic fervour, which anticipated Coleridge’s by some months. Also, to marry sisters does not always lead to serenity. The spiriting away of Coleridge had been effected by Southey in January, 1795, when he found Coleridge at the Angel in Butcher Hall Street (vice the Salutation in Newgate Street) and bore him back to Bristol and the forlorn
Sara Fricker, and away from Lamb, journalism and egg-hot.

“Between you two there should be peace”—
Between us two let there be peace.
Paradise Lost, X., 924.

Moschus was, as we have seen, Robert Lovell. No. V. of The Watchman contained sonnets by him.

The review of Burke’s Letter to a Noble Lord was in No. I. of The Watchman.—The passage from “Religious Musings,” under the title “The Present State of Society,” was in No. II.—extending from line 260 to 357.1—The capital line in No. VI. is in the poem, “Lines on Observing a Blossom on the First of February, 1796.”—Poor dead Parsons would be William Parsons (1736-1795), the original Sir Fretful Plagiary in Sheridan’sCritic.” Lamb praises him in his essay on the Artificial Comedy.—In No. IX. of The Watchman were prose paraphrases of three Sclavonian songs, the first being “Song of a Female Orphan,” and the second, “Song of the Haymakers.”—John Logan’sBraes of Yarrow” had been quoted in No. III. as “the most exquisite performance in our language.”—The invective against “the barterers” refers to the denunciation of the slave trade in No. IV. of The Watchman.

Cowper’s recovery was only partial; and he was never rightly himself after 1793. The edition of Milton had been begun about 1790. It was never finished as originally intended; but Fuseli completed forty pictures, which were exhibited in 1799. An edition of Cowper’s translations, with designs by Flaxman, was published in 1808, and of Cowper’s complete Milton in 1810.

Wordsworth’s poem would be “Guilt and Sorrow,” of which a portion was printed in Lyrical Ballads, 1798, and the whole published in 1842.

“The voice, the look.” Possibly a phrase in Coleridge’s letter, to which Lamb is replying. In one of Lloyd’s sonnets in Coleridge’s Poems, 1797 (page 205), are the words “That look, those accents.”

Coleridge’sMonody on Chatterton,” the first poem in his Poems on Various Subjects, 1796, had been written originally at Christ’s Hospital, 1790: it continued to be much altered before the final version.

The two lines from “Religious Musings” are not the last, but the beginning of the last passage.

1 These lines were 279-378 1st ed.; 264-363 2nd ed.


Coleridge contributed between three and four hundred lines to Book II. of Southey’s Joan of Arc, as we shall see later. The poem beginning “My Pensive Sara” was Effusion 35, afterwards called “The Æolian Harp,” and the lines to which Lamb refers are these, following upon Coleridge’s description of how flitting phantasies traverse his indolent and passive brain:—
But thy more serious eye a mild reproof
Darts, O beloved Woman! nor such thoughts
Dim and unhallow’d dost thou not reject,
And biddest me walk humbly with my God.

The plan to resume The Watchman did not come to anything.

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), the theologian, at this time the object of Lamb’s adoration, was one of the fathers of Unitarianism, a creed in which Lamb had been brought up under the influence of his Aunt Hetty. Coleridge, as a supporter of one of Priestley’s allies, William Frend of Cambridge, and as a convinced Unitarian, was also an admirer of Priestley, concerning whom and the Birmingham riots of 1791 is a fine passage in “Religious Musings,” while one of the sonnets of the 1796 volume was addressed to him: circumstances which Lamb had in mind when mentioning him in this letter. Lamb had probably seen Priestley at the Gravel Pit Chapel, Hackney, where he became morning preacher in December, 1791, remaining there until March, 1794. Thenceforward he lived in America. His Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion appeared between 1772 and 1774. The other work referred to is Letters to the Philosophers and Politicians of France, newly edited by Theophilus Lindsey, the Unitarian, as An Answer to Mr. Paine’s “Age of Reason,” 1795.]

[Begun Wednesday, June 8. Dated on address: “Friday 10th June,” 1796.]

WITH Joan of Arc I have been delighted, amazed. I had not presumed to expect any thing of such excellence from Southey. Why the poem is alone sufficient to redeem the character of the age we live in from the imputation of degenerating in Poetry, were there no such beings extant as Burns and Bowles, Cowper and——fill up the blank how you please, I say nothing. The subject is well chosen. It opens well. To become more particular, I will notice in their order a few passages that chiefly struck me on perusal. Page 26 “Fierce and terrible Benevolence!” is a phrase full of grandeur
and originality. The whole context made me feel possess’d, even like Joan herself. Page 28, “it is most horrible with the keen sword to gore the finely fibred human frame” and what follows pleased me mightily. In the 2d Book the first forty lines, in particular, are majestic and high-sounding. Indeed the whole vision of the palace of Ambition and what follows are supremely excellent. Your simile of the Laplander “by Niemi’s lake Or Balda Zhiok, or the mossy stone Of Sol far Kapper”—will bear comparison with any in
Milton for fullness of circumstance and lofty-pacedness of Versification. Southey’s similes, tho’ many of ’em are capital, are all inferior. In one of his books the simile of the Oak in the Storm occurs I think four times! To return, the light in which you view the heathen deities is accurate and beautiful. Southey’s personifications in this book are so many fine and faultless pictures. I was much pleased with your manner of accounting for the reason why Monarchs take delight in War. At the 447th line you have placed Prophets and Enthusiasts cheek by jowl, on too intimate a footing for the dignity of the former. Necessarian-like-speaking it is corect. Page 98 “Dead is the Douglas, cold thy warrior frame, illustrious Buchan” &c are of kindred excellence with Gray’s “Cold is Cadwallo’s tongue” &c. How famously the Maid baffles the Doctors, Seraphic and Irrefragable, “with all their trumpery!” 126 page, the procession, the appearances of the Maid, of the Bastard son of Orleans and of Tremouille, are full of fire and fancy, and exquisite melody of versification. The personifications from line 303 to 309 in the heat of the battle had better been omitted, they are not very striking and only encumber. The converse which Joan and Conrade hold on the Banks of the Loire is altogether beautiful. Page 313, the conjecture that in Dreams “all things are that seem” is one of those conceits which the Poet delights to admit into his creed—a creed, by the way, more marvellous and mystic than ever Athanasius dream’d of. Page 315, I need only mention those lines ending with “She saw a serpent gnawing at her heart”!!! They are good imitative lines “he toild and toild, of toil to reap no end, but endless toil and never ending woe.” 347 page, Cruelty is such as Hogarth might have painted her. Page 361, all the passage about Love (where he seems to confound conjugal love with Creating and Preserving love) is very confused and sickens me with a load of useless personifications. Else that 9th Book is the finest in the volume, an exquisite combination of the ludicrous and the terrible,—I have never read either, even in translation, but such as I conceive to be the manner of Dante and Ariosto. The 10th book is the most languid. On the whole, considering the celerity wherewith the poem was finish’d, I was astonish’d at the infrequency of weak lines. I had expected to find it verbose. Joan, I think, does too
little in Battle—Dunois, perhaps, the same—Conrade too much. The anecdotes interspersed among the battles refresh the mind very agreeably, and I am delighted with the very many passages of simple pathos abounding throughout the poem—passages which the author of “Crazy Kate” might have written. Has not Master Southey spoke very slightingly in his preface and disparagingly of
Cowper’s Homer?—what makes him reluctant to give Cowper his fame? And does not Southey use too often the expletives “did” and “does?” they have a good effect at times, but are too inconsiderable, or rather become blemishes, when they mark a style. On the whole, I expect Southey one day to rival Milton. I already deem him equal to Cowper, and superior to all living Poets Besides. What says Coleridge? The “Monody on Henderson” is immensely good; the rest of that little volume is readable and above mediocrity. I proceed to a more pleasant task,—pleasant because the poems are yours, pleasant because you impose the task on me, and pleasant, let me add, because it will confer a whimsical importance on me to sit in judgment upon your rhimes. First tho’, let me thank you again and again in my own and my sister’s name for your invitations. Nothing could give us more pleasure than to come, but (were there no other reasons) while my Brother’s leg is so bad it is out of the question. Poor fellow, he is very feverish and light headed, but Cruikshanks has pronounced the symptoms favorable, and gives us every hope that there will be no need of amputation. God send, not. We are necessarily confined with him the afternoon and evening till very late, so that I am stealing a few minutes to write to you. Thank you for your frequent letters, you are the only correspondent and I might add the only friend I have in the world. I go no where and have no acquaintance. Slow of speech, and reserved of manners, no one seeks or cares for my society and I am left alone. Allen calls only occasionally, as tho’ it were a duty rather, and seldom stays ten minutes. Then judge how thankful I am for your letters. Do not, however, burthen yourself with the correspondence. I trouble you again so soon, only in obedience to your injunctions. Complaints apart, proceed we to our task. I am called away to tea, thence must wait upon my brother, so must delay till to-morrow. Farewell—Wednesday.

Thursday. I will first notice what is new to me. 13th page. “The thrilling tones that concentrate the soul” is a nervous line, and the 6 first lines of page 14 are very pretty. The 21st effusion a perfect thing. That in the manner of Spencer is very sweet, particularly at the close. The 35th effusion is most exquisite—that line in particular, “And tranquil muse upon tranquillity.”
It is the very reflex pleasure that distinguishes the tranquillity of a thinking being from that of a shepherd—a modern one I would be understood to mean—a Dametas; one that keeps other people’s sheep. Certainly,
Coleridge, your letter from Shurton Bars has less merit than most things in your volume; personally, it may chime in best with your own feelings, and therefore you love it best. It has however great merit. In your 4th Epistle that is an exquisite paragraph and fancy-full of “A stream there is which rolls in lazy flow” &c. &c. “Murmurs sweet undersong ’mid jasmine bowers” is a sweet line and so are the 3 next. The concluding simile is far-fetch’d. “Tempest-honord” is a quaint-ish phrase. Of the Monody on H., I will here only notice these lines, as superlatively excellent. That energetic one, “Shall I not praise thee, Scholar, Christian, friend,” like to that beautiful climax of Shakspeare “King, Hamlet, Royal Dane, Father.” “Yet memory turns from little men to thee!” “and sported careless round their fellow child.” The whole, I repeat it, is immensely good. Yours is a Poetical family. I was much surpriz’d and pleased to see the signature of Sara to that elegant composition, the 5th Epistle. I dare not criticise the Relig Musings, I like not to select any part where all is excellent. I can only admire; and thank you for it in the name of a Christian as well as a Lover of good Poetry. Only let me ask, is not that thought and those words in Young, “Stands in the Sun”? or is it only such as Young in one of his better moments might have writ? “Believe, thou, O my Soul, Life is a vision, shadowy of truth, And vice and anguish and the wormy grave, Shapes of a dream!” I thank you for these lines, in the name of a Necessarian, and for what follows in next paragraph in the name of a child of fancy. After all you can[not] nor ever will write any thing, with which I shall be so delighted as what I have heard yourself repeat. You came to Town, and I saw you at a time when your heart was yet bleeding with recent wounds. Like yourself, I was sore galled with disappointed Hope. You had “many an holy lay, that mourning, soothed the mourner on his way.” I had ears of sympathy to drink them in, and they yet vibrate pleasant on the sense. When I read in your little volume, your 19th Effusion, or the 28th or 29th, or what you call the “Sigh,” I think I hear you again. I image to myself the little smoky room at the Salutation and Cat, where we have sat together thro’ the winter nights, beguiling the cares of life with Poesy. When you left London, I felt a dismal void in my heart, I found myself cut off at one and the same time from two most dear to me. “How blest with Ye the Path could I have trod of Quiet life.” In your conversation you had blended so many pleasant fancies, that they cheated me of my grief. But in your absence, the tide of melancholy rushd in again, and did its
worst Mischief by overwhelming my Reason. I have recoverd. But feel a stupor that makes me indifferent to the hopes and fears of this life. I sometimes wish to introduce a religious turn of mind, but habits are strong things, and my religious fervors are confined alas to some fleeting moments of occasional solitary devotion—A correspondence, opening with you, has roused me a little from my lethargy, and made me conscious of existence. Indulge me in it. I will not be very troublesome. At some future time I will amuse you with an account as full as my memory will permit of the strange turn my phrensy took. I look back upon it at times with a gloomy kind of Envy. For while it lasted I had many many hours of pure happiness. Dream not Coleridge, of having tasted all the grandeur and wildness of Fancy, till you have gone mad. All now seems to me vapid; comparatively so. Excuse this selfish digression.

Your monody is so superlatively excellent, that I can only wish it perfect, which I can’t help feeling it is not quite. Indulge me in a few conjectures. What I am going to propose would make it more compress’d and I think more energic, tho’ I am sensible at the expence of many beautiful lines. Let it begin “Is this the land of song-ennobled line,” and proceed to “Otway’s famish’d form.” Then “Thee Chatterton,” to “blaze of Seraphim.” Then “clad in nature’s rich array,” to “orient day;” then “but soon the scathing lightning,” to “blighted land.” Then “Sublime of thought” to “his bosom glows.” Then “but soon upon his poor unshelterd head Did Penury her sickly Mildew shed, and soon are fled the charms of vernal Grace, and Joy’s wild gleams that lightend o’er his face!” Then “Youth of tumultuous soul” to “sigh” as before. The rest may all stand down to “gaze upon the waves below.” What follows now may come next, as detached verses, suggested by the Monody, rather than a part of it. They are indeed in themselves very sweet “And we at sober eve would round thee throng, Hanging enraptured on thy stately song”—in particular perhaps. If I am obscure you may understand me by counting lines. I have proposed omitting 24 lines. I feel that thus comprest it would gain energy, but think it most likely you will not agree with me, for who shall go about to bring opinions to the Bed of Procrustes and introduce among the Sons of Men a monotony of identical feelings. I only propose with diffidence. Reject, you, if you please, with as little remorse as you would the color of a coat or the pattern of a buckle where our fancies differ’d. The lines “Friend to the friendless” &c. which you may think “rudely disbranched” from the Chatterton will patch in with the Man of Ross, where they were once quite at Home, with 2 more which I recollect “and o’er the dowried virgin’s snowy cheek bad bridal love
suffuse his blushes meek!” very beautiful. The
Pixies is a perfect thing, and so are the lines on the spring, page 28. The Epitaph on an Infant, like a Jack of lanthorn, has danced about (or like Dr. Forster’s scholars) out of the Morn Chron into the Watchman, and thence back into your Collection. It is very pretty, and you seem to think so, but, may be o’er looked its chief merit, that of filling up a whole page. I had once deemd Sonnets of unrivalled use that way, but your epitaphs, I find, are the more diffuse. Edmund still holds its place among your best verses. “Ah! fair delights” to “roses round” in your Poem called Absence recall (none more forcibly) to my mind the tones in which you recited it. I will not notice in this tedious (to you) manner verses which have been so long delightful to me, and which you already know my opinion of. Of this kind are Bowles, Priestly, and that most exquisite and most Bowles-like of all, the 19th Effusion. It would have better ended with “agony of care.” The last 2 lines are obvious and unnecessary and you need not now make 14 lines of it, now it is rechristend from a Sonnet to an Effusion. Schiller might have written the 20 Effusion. ’Tis worthy of him in any sense. I was glad to meet with those lines you sent me, when my Sister was so ill. I had lost the Copy, and I felt not a little proud at seeing my name in your verse. The complaint of Ninathoma (1st stanza in particular) is the best, or only good imitation, of Ossian I ever saw—your restless gale excepted. “To an infant” is most sweet—is not “foodful,” tho’, very harsh! would not “dulcet” fruit be less harsh, or some other friendly bi-syllable? In Edmund, “Frenzy fierce-eyed child,” is not so well as frantic—tho’ that is an epithet adding nothing to the meaning. Slander couching was better than squatting. In the Man of Ross it was a better line thus “If ’neath this roof thy wine-chear’d moments pass” than as it stands now. Time nor nothing can reconcile me to the concluding 5 lines of Kosciusko: call it any thing you will but sublime. In my 12th Effusion I had rather have seen what I wrote myself, tho’ they bear no comparison with your exquisite lines “On rose-leaf’d beds amid your faery bowers,” &c.—I love my sonnets because they are the reflected images of my own feelings at different times. To instance, in the 13th “How reason reel’d,” &c.—are good lines but must spoil the whole with Me who know it is only a fiction of yours and that the rude dashings did in fact not rock me to repose. I grant the same objection applies not to the former sonnet, but still I love my own feelings. They are dear to memory, tho’ they now and then wake a sigh or a tear. “Thinking on divers things foredone,” I charge you, Col., spare my ewe lambs, and tho’ a Gentleman may borrow six lines in an epic poem (I should have no objection to borrow 500 and without acknowledging) still in a Sonnet—a per-
sonal poem—I do not “ask my friend the aiding verse.” I would not wrong your feelings by proposing any improvements (did I think myself capable of suggesting ’em) in such personal poems as “Thou bleedest my poor heart”—“od so, I am catchd, I have already done it—but that simile I propose abridging would not change the feeling or introduce any alien ones. Do you understand me? In the 28th however, and in the “Sigh” and that composed at Clevedon, things that come from the heart direct, not by the medium of the fancy, I would not suggest an alteration. When my blank verse is finished, or any long fancy poems, “propino tibi alterandum, cut-up-andum, abridg-andum,” just what you will with it—but spare my ewe lambs! That
to Mrs. Siddons now you were welcome to improve, if it had been worth it. But I say unto you again, Col., spare my ewe lambs. I must confess were they mine I should omit, in Editione secundâ, Effusions 2-3, because satiric, and below the dignity of the poet of Religious Musings, 5-7, half of the 8th, that written in early Youth, as far as “Thousand eyes,”—tho’ I part not unreluctantly with that lively line “Chaste Joyance dancing in her bright-blue eyes” and one or 2 more just thereabouts. But I would substitute for it that sweet poem called “Recollection” in the 5th No. of the Watchman, better I think than the remainder of this poem, tho’ not differing materially. As the poem now stands it looks altogether confused. And do not omit those lines upon the “early blossom,” in your 6th No. of the Watchman, and I would omit the 10th Effusion—or what would do better, alter and improve the last 4 lines. In fact, I suppose if they were mine I should not omit ’em. But your verse is for the most part so exquisite, that I like not to see aught of meaner matter mixed with it. Forgive my petulance and often, I fear, ill founded criticisms, and forgive me that I have, by this time, made your eyes and head ach with my long letter. But I cannot forego hastily the pleasure and pride of thus conversing with you.

You did not tell me whether I was to include the Conciones ad Populum in my remarks on your poems. They are not unfrequently sublime, and I think you could not do better than to turn ’em into verse,—if you have nothing else to do. Allen I am sorry to say is a confirmed Atheist. Stodart, or Stothard, a cold hearted well bred conceited disciple of Godwin, does him no good. His wife has several daughters (one of ’em as old as himself). Surely there is something unnatural in such a marriage. How I sympathise with you on the dull duty of a reviewer, and heartily damn with you Ned Evans and the Prosodist. I shall however wait impatiently for the articles in the Crit. Rev., next month, because they are yours. Young Evans (W. Evans, a branch of a family
you were once so intimate with) is come into our office, and sends his love to you.
Coleridge, I devoutly wish that Fortune, who has made sport with you so long, may play one freak more, throw you into London, or some spot near it, and there snug-ify you for life. ’Tis a selfish but natural wish for me, cast as I am “on life’s wide plain, friend-less.” Are you acquainted with Bowles? I see, by is last Elegy (written at Bath), you are near neighbours. “And I can think I can see the groves again—was it the voice of thee—Twas not the voice of thee, my buried friend—who dries with her dark locks the tender tear”—are touches as true to nature as any in his other Elegy, written at the hot wells, about poor Russell, &c.— You are doubtless acquainted with it.—Thursday.

I do not know that I entirely agree with you in your stricture upon my Sonnet to Innocence. To men whose hearts are not quite deadend by their commerce with the world, Innocence (no longer familiar) becomes an awful idea. So I felt when I wrote it. Your other censures (qualified and sweeten’d, tho’, with praises somewhat extravagant) I perfectly coincide with. Yet I chuse to retain the word “lunar”—indulge a “lunatic” in his loyalty to his mistress the moon. I have just been reading a most pathetic copy of verses on Sophia Pringle, who was hanged and burn’d for coining. One of the strokes of pathos (which are very many, all somewhat obscure) is “She lifted up her guilty forger to heaven.” A note explains by forger her right hand with which she forged or coined the base metal! For pathos read bathos. You have put me out of conceit with my blank verse by your Religious Musings. I think it will come to nothing. I do not like ’em enough to send ’em. I have just been reading a book, which I may be too partial to, as it was the delight of my childhood; but I will recommend it to you—it is “Izaak Walton’s Complete Angler!” All the scientific part you may omit in reading. The dialogue is very simple, full of pastoral beauties, and will charm you. Many pretty old verses are interspersed. This letter, which would be a week’s work reading only, I do not wish you to answer in less than a month. I shall be richly content with a letter from you some day early in July—tho’ if you get any how settled before then pray let me know it immediately—’twould give me such satisfaction. Concerning the unitarian chapel, the salary is the only scruple that the most rigid moralist would admit as valid. Concerning the tutorage—is not the salary low, and absence from your family unavoidable? London is the only fostering soil for Genius.

Nothing more occurs just now, so I will leave you in mercy one small white spot empty below, to repose your eyes upon, fatigued as they must be with the wilderness of words they have by this time painfully travell’d thro’. God love you, Coleridge, and prosper you
thro’ life, tho’ mine will be loss if your lot is to be cast at Bristol or at Nottingham or any where but London. Our loves to
Mrs. C——

C. L.

[Southey’s Joan of Arc, with contributions to Book II. by Coleridge, had been published in quarto by Cottle. Coleridge contributed to Book II. the first 450 lines, with the exception of 141-143, 148-222, 266-272 and 286-291. He subsequently took out his lines and gave them new shape as the poem “The Destiny of Nations,” printed in Sibylline Leaves, 1817. All subsequent editions of Southey’s poem appeared without Coleridge’s portion. The passages on page 26 and page 28 were Southey’s. Those at the beginning of the second book were Coleridge’s. The simile of the Laplander may be read in “The Destiny of Nations” (lines 63-79). These were the reasons given by Coleridge for monarchs making war:—
When Luxury and Lust’s exhausted stores
No more can rouse the appetites of Kings;
When the low Flattery of their reptile Lords
Falls flat and heavy on the accustomed ear;
When Eunuchs sing, and Fools buffoon’ry make,
And Dancers writhe their harlot limbs in vain:
Then War and all its dread vicissitudes
Pleasingly agitate their stagnant hearts. . . .

The 447th line was Coleridge’s. This is the passage:—
Whether thy Law with unrefracted Ray
Beam on the Prophet’s purged Eye, or if
Diseasing Realms the Enthusiast, wild of thought,
Scatter new frenzies on the infected Throng,
Thou, Both inspiring and foredooming, Both
Fit Instruments and best of perfect End. Lines 446-451.
With page 98 we come to
Southey again, the remaining references being to him. “Cold is Cadwallo’s tongue” is from Gray’s Bard; “with all their trumpery” is from Paradise Lost, III., 475. The maid baffles the doctors in Book III.; page 126 is in Book IV.; the personifications are in Book VI.; the converse between Joan and Conrade is in Book IV.; page 313 is at the beginning of Book IX.; and pages 315, 347 and 361 are also in Book IX. Southey in the preface to Joan of Arc, speaking of Homer, says: “Pope has isguised him in fop-finery and Cowper has stripped him naked.” “Crazy Kate” is an episode in The Task (“The Sofa”).

The “Monody on John Henderson,” by Joseph Cottle, was printed anonymously in a volume of poems in 1795, and again in The Malvern Hills. John Henderson (1757-1788) was an eccen-
tric scholar of Bristol. The lines praised by
Lamb are the 4th, 12th and 64th. The poem must not be confused with the Monody on Henderson, the actor, by G. D. Harley. Lamb misquotes the line in “Hamlet”: see Act I., Sc. 4, 44, 45. Lamb now turns again to Coleridge’s Poems. The poem on the 13th and 14th pages of this little volume was “To the Rev. W. J. H.” The 21st Effusion was that entitled “Composed while Climbing the Left Ascent of Brockley Coomb.” The 35th Effusion is known as “The Æolian Harp.” The letter from Shurton Bars is the poem beginning—
Nor travels my meand’ring eye.
The 4th Epistle is
that to Joseph Cottle, Coleridge’s publisher and the author of the “Monody on Henderson,” referred to in Coleridge’s verses. The lines which Lamb quotes are Cottle’s. The poem by Sara Coleridge is “The Silver Thimble.” The passage in the “Religious Musings,” for which Lamb is thankful as a “child of fancy,” is the last paragraph:—
Contemplant Spirits! ye that hover o’er
With untired gaze the immeasurable fount
Ebullient with creative Deity!
And ye of plastic power, that interfused
Roll through the grosser and material mass
In organising surge! Holies of God!
(And what if Monads of the infinite mind?)
I haply journeying my immortal course
Shall sometime join your mystic choir!
Till then
I discipline my young noviciate thought
In ministeries of heart-stirring song,
And aye on Meditation’s heaven-ward wing
Soaring aloft I breathe the empyreal air
Of Love, omnific, omnipresent Love,
Whose day-spring rises glorious in my soul
As the great Sun, when he his influence
Sheds on the frost-bound waters—The glad stream
Flows to the ray and warbles as it flows.

“You came to Town . . .” Soon after his engagement with Sara Fricker, his heart being still not wholly healed of its passion for Mary Evans, Coleridge had gone to London from Bristol, nominally to arrange for the publication of his Fall of Robespierre, and had resumed intercourse with Lamb and other old Christ’s Hospital friends. There he remained until Southey forcibly took him back in January, 1795. From what Lamb says of the loss of two friends we must suppose, in default of other information, that he had to give up his Anna at the same time. The loss of reason, however, to which he refers did not come until the end of the year 1795.


“Many an holy lay . . .” The lines of which Lamb is thinking are these—
Holy be the Lay,
Which mourning soothes the mourner on his way!
quoted by
Coleridge in the preface to his Poems, 1796.

The 19th Effusion, afterwards called “On a Discovery Made Too Late;” the 28th, “The Kiss;” the 29th, “Imitated from Ossian.”

“How blest with Ye the Path . . .” Lines 1 and 2 of Bowles’ sonnet “In Memoriam.”

“Your monody.” This, not to be confounded with Cottle’sMonody on Henderson,” was Coleridge’sMonody on Chatterton.” Lamb’s emendations were not accepted. As regards “The Man of Ross,” the couplet beginning “Friend to the friendless” ultimately had a place both in that poem and in the Monody, but the couplet “and o’er the dowried virgin” was never replaced in either. The lines on spring, page 28, are “Lines to a Beautiful Spring.” Dr. Forster (Faustus) was the hero of the nursery rhyme, whose scholars danced out of England into France and Spain and back again. The epitaph on an infant was in The Watchman, No. IX. (see note on page 63). The poem “Edmund” is called “Lines on a Friend who died of a frenzy fever induced by calumnious reports.” The lines in “Absence” are those in the second stanza of the poem. They run thus:—
Ah fair Delights! that o’er my soul
On Memory’s wing, like shadows fly!
Ah Flowers! which Joy from Eden stole
While Innocence stood smiling by!—
But cease, fond Heart! this bootless moan:
Those Hours on rapid Pinions flown
Shall yet return, by Absence crowned,
And scatter livelier roses round.
The 19th Effusion, beginning, “Thou bleedest, my poor heart,” is known as “
On a Discovery Made Too Late.” The 20th Effusion is the sonnet to Schiller. The lines which were sent to Lamb, written in December, 1794, are called “To a Friend, together with an unfinished poem” (“Religious Musings”). Coleridge’s “Restless Gale” is the imitation of Ossian, beginning, “The stream with languid murmur creeps.” “Foodful” occurs thus in the lines “To an Infant”:—
Alike the foodful fruit and scorching fire
Awake thy eager grasp and young desire.
Coleridge did not alter the phrase.

Lamb contributed four effusions to this volume of Coleridge’s: the 7th, to Mrs. Siddons (written in conjunction with Coleridge),
the 11th, 12th and 13th. All were signed C. L. Coleridge had permitted himself to make various alterations. The following parallel will show the kind of treatment to which Lamb objected:—
Lamb’s Original Effusion (ii)
Was it some sweet device of Faery
That mock’d my steps with many a lonely glade,
And fancied wanderings with a fair-hair’d maid?
Have these things been? or what rare witchery,
Impregning with delights the charmed air,
Enlighted up the semblance of a smile
In those fine eyes? methought they spake the while
Soft soothing things, which might enforce despair
To drop the murdering knife, and let go by
His foul resolve. And does the lonely glade
Still court the foot-steps of the fair hair’d maid?
Still in her locks the gales of summer sigh?
While I forlorn do wander reckless where,
And ’mid my wanderings meet no Anna there.
As Altered by Coleridge
Was it some sweet device of faery land
That mock’d my steps with many a lonely glade,
And fancied wand’rings with a fair hair’d maid?
Have these things been? Or did the wizard wand
Of Merlin wave, impregning vacant air,
And kindle up the vision of a smile
In those blue eyes, that seem’d to speak the while
Such tender things, as might enforce Despair
To drop the murth’ring knife, and let go by
His fell resolve? Ah me! the lonely glade
Still courts the footsteps of the fair hair’d maid,
Among whose locks the west-winds love to sigh:
But I forlorn do wander, reckless where,
And mid my wand’rings find no Anna there!

In Effusion 12 Lamb had written:
Or we might sit and tell some tender tale
Of faithful vows repaid by cruel scorn,
A tale of true love, or of friend forgot;
And I would teach thee, lady, how to rail
In gentle sort, on those who practise not
Or Love or pity, though of woman born.
Coleridge made it:—
But ah! sweet scenes of fancied bliss, adieu!
On rose-leaf beds amid your faery bowers
I all too long have lost the dreamy hours!
Beseems it now the sterner Muse to woo,
If haply she her golden meed impart
To realize the vision of the heart.

Again in the 13th Effusion, “Written at Midnight, by the Seaside, after a Voyage,” Lamb had dotted out the last two lines. Coleridge substituted the couplet:—
How Reason reel’d! What gloomy transports rose!
Till the rude dashings rock’d them to repose.


“Thinking on divers things foredone.” Adapted from Burton’s “Author’s Abstract of Melancholy,” prefixed to the Anatomy:
When I go musing all alone,
Thinking of divers things fore-known.

“Ask my friend the aiding verse.” From Coleridge’s lines “To a Friend” (Lamb), line 4:—
I ask not now, my friend! the aiding verse.

Propino tibi alterandum . . .”—“I pass it on to you for alteration,” etc. Probably a modification of Terence (Eun., V., 9, 57), “hunc comedendum et deridendum vobis propino.”

Effusion 2, which Lamb would omit, was the sonnet “To Burke;” Effusion 3, “To Mercy” (on Pitt); Effusion 5, “To Erskine;” Effusion 7, Lamb and Coleridge’s joint sonnet “To Mrs. Siddons;” and Effusion 8, “To Koskiusko.” The “Lines Written in Early Youth” were afterwards called “Lines on an Autumnal Evening.” The poem called “Recollection,” in The Watchman, was reborn as “Sonnet to the River Otter.” The lines on the early blossom were praised by Lamb in a previous letter (see page 8). The 10th Effusion was the sonnet to Earl Stanhope.

Godwin was William Godwin, the philosopher. We shall later see much of him. It was Allen’s wife, not Stoddart’s, who had a grown-up daughter.

I have not identified the prosodist, but Ned Evans was a novel in four volumes, published in 1796, an imitation of Tom Jones, which presumably Coleridge was reviewing for the Critical Review. A notice, a very short one, appeared in the November number.

Young W. Evans is said by Mr. Dykes Campbell to have been the only son of the Mrs. Evans who befriended Coleridge when he was at Christ’s Hospital, the mother of his first love, Mary Evans. Evans was at school with Coleridge and Lamb. We shall meet with him again.

“On life’s wide plain, friendless.” From Bowles’ sonnet “At Oxford, 1786”:—
Yet on life’s wide plain
Left fatherless, where many a wanderer sighs
Hourly, and oft our road is lone and long.

William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850), the sonneteer, who had exerted so powerful a poetical influence on Coleridge’s mind, was at this time rector of Cricklade in Wiltshire (1792-1797), but had been ill at Bath. The elegy in question was “Elegiac Stanzas written during sickness at Bath, December, 1795.” The lines quoted by Lamb are respectively in the 6th, 4th, 5th and 19th Stanzas.

This was Lamb’s sonnet to Innocence:—
We were two pretty babes, the youngest she,
The youngest, and the loveliest far, I ween,
And Innocence her name. The time has been,
We two did love each other’s company;
Time was, we two had wept to have been apart.
But when by show of seeming good beguiled,
I left the garb and manners of a child,
And my first love for man’s society,
Defiling with the world my virgin heart—
My loved companion dropped a tear, and fled,
And hid in deepest shades her awful head.
Beloved, who shall tell me where thou art—
In what delicious Eden to be found—
That I may seek thee the wide world around?
Coleridge’s strictures upon it no longer exist. In a footnote to the pamphlet of sonnets which he compiled during this year (see page 69) he praised it.

Sophia Pringle. Probably the subject of a Catnach or other popular broadside. I have not found it.

Izaak Walton. Lamb returns to praises of The Compleat Angler in his letter to Robert Lloyd referred to on page 212.

The reference to the Unitarian chapel bears probably upon an offer of a pulpit to Coleridge, who at that time occasionally preached. The tutorship was probably that offered to Coleridge by Mrs. Evans of Darley Hall (no relation to Mary Evans) who wished him to teach her sons. Neither project was carried through.]

(Apparently a continuation of a letter the first part of which is missing)
[Begun] Monday Night [June 13, 1796].

UNFURNISHED at present with any sheet-filling subject, I shall continue my letter gradually and journal-wise. My second thoughts entirely coincide with your comments on “Joan of Arc,” and I can only wonder at my childish judgment which overlooked the 1st book and could prefer the 9th: not that I was insensible to the soberer beauties of the former, but the latter caught me with its glare of magic,—the former, however, left a more pleasing general recollection in my mind. Let me add, the 1st book was the favourite of my sister—and I now, with Joan, often “think on Domremi and the fields of Arc.” I must not pass over without acknowledging my obligations to your full and satisfactory account
1796MRS. FIELD27
of personifications. I have read it again and again, and it will be a guide to my future taste. Perhaps I had estimated
Southey’s merits too much by number, weight, and measure. I now agree completely and entirely in your opinion of the genius of Southey. Your own image of melancholy is illustrative of what you teach, and in itself masterly. I conjecture it is “disbranched” from one of your embryo “hymns.” When they are mature of birth (were I you) I should print ’em in one separate volume, with “Religious Musings” and your part of the “Joan of Arc.” Birds of the same soaring wing should hold on their flight in company. Once for all (and by renewing the subject you will only renew in me the condemnation of Tantalus), I hope to be able to pay you a visit (if you are then at Bristol) some time in the latter end of August or beginning of September for a week or fortnight; before that time, office business puts an absolute veto on my coming.
“And if a sigh that speaks regret of happier times appear,
A glimpse of joy that we have met shall shine and dry the tear.”
Of the blank verses I spoke of, the following lines are the only tolerably complete ones I have writ out of not more than one hundred and fifty. That I get on so slowly you may fairly impute to want of practice in composition, when I declare to you that (the few verses which you have seen excepted) I have not writ fifty lines since I left school. It may not be amiss to remark that my grandmother (on whom the
verses are written) lived housekeeper in a family the fifty or sixty last years of her life—that she was a woman of exemplary piety and goodness—and for many years before her death was terribly afflicted with a cancer in her breast which she bore with true Christian patience. You may think that I have not kept enough apart the ideas of her heavenly and her earthly master but recollect I have designedly given in to her own way of feeling—and if she had a failing, ’twas that she respected her master’s family too much, not reverenced her Maker too little. The lines begin imperfectly, as I may probably connect ’em if I finish at all,—and if I do, Biggs shall print ’em in a more economical way than you yours, for (Sonnets and all) they won’t make a thousand lines as I propose completing ’em, and the substance must be wire-drawn.

Tuesday Evening, June 14, 1796.

I am not quite satisfied now with the Chatterton, and with your leave will try my hand at it again. A master joiner, you know, may leave a cabinet to be finished, when his own hands are full. To your list of illustrative personifications, into which a fine imagination enters, I will take leave to add the following from
Beaumont and Fletcher’sWife for a Month;” ’tis the conclusion of a description of a sea-fight;—“The game of death was never played so nobly; the meagre thief grew wanton in his mischiefs, and his shrunk hollow eyes smiled on his ruins.” There is fancy in these of a lower order from “Bonduca;”—“Then did I see these valiant men of Britain, like boding owls creep into tods of ivy, and hoot their fears to one another nightly.” Not that it is a personification; only it just caught my eye in a little extract book I keep, which is full of quotations from B. and F. in particular, in which authors I can’t help thinking there is a greater richness of poetical fancy than in any one, Shakspeare excepted. Are you acquainted with Massinger? At a hazard I will trouble you with a passage from a play of his called “A Very Woman.” The lines are spoken by a lover (disguised) to his faithless mistress. You will remark the fine effect of the double endings. You will by your ear distinguish the lines, for I write ’em as prose. “Not far from where my father lives, a lady, a neighbour by, blest with as great a beauty as nature durst bestow without undoing, dwelt, and most happily, as I thought then, and blest the house a thousand times she dwelt in. This beauty, in the blossom of my youth, when my first fire knew no adulterate incense, nor I no way to flatter but my fondness; in all the bravery my friends could show me, in all the faith my innocence could give me, in the best language my true tongue could tell me, and all the broken sighs my sick heart lend me, I sued and served; long did I serve this lady, long was my travail, long my trade to win her; with all the duty of my soul I served her.” “Then she must love.” “She did, but never me: she could not love me; she would not love, she hated,—more, she scorn’d me; and in so poor and base a way abused me for all my services, for all my bounties, so bold neglects flung on me”—“What out of love, and worthy love, I gave her (shame to her most unworthy mind,) to fools, to girls, to fiddlers and her boys she flung, all in disdain of me.” One more passage strikes my eye from B. and F.’s “Palamon and Arcite.” One of ’em complains in prison: “This is all our world; we shall know nothing here but one another, hear nothing but the clock that tells our woes; the vine shall grow, but we shall never see it,” &c. Is not the last circumstance exquisite? I mean not to lay myself open by saying they exceed Milton, and perhaps Collins, in sublimity. But don’t you conceive all poets after Shakspeare yield to ’em in variety of genius? Massinger treads close on their heels; but you are most probably as well acquainted with his writings as your humble servant. My quotations, in that case, will only serve to expose my barrenness of matter. Southey in simplicity and tenderness, is excelled decidedly only, I think, by Beaumont and F. in his [their]
Maid’s Tragedy” and some parts of “Philaster” in particular, and elsewhere occasionally; and perhaps by Cowper in his “Crazy Kate,” and in parts of his translation, such as the speeches of Hecuba and Andromache. I long to know your opinion of that translation. The Odyssey especially is surely very Homeric. What nobler than the appearance of Phœbus at the beginning of the Iliad—the lines ending with “Dread sounding, bounding on the silver bow!”

I beg you will give me your opinion of the translation; it afforded me high pleasure. As curious a specimen of translation as ever fell into my hands, is a young man’s in our office, of a French novel. What in the original was literally “amiable delusions of the fancy,” he proposed to render “the fair frauds of the imagination!” I had much trouble in licking the book into any meaning at all. Yet did the knave clear fifty or sixty pounds by subscription and selling the copyright. The book itself not a week’s work! To-day’s portion of my journalising epistle has been very dull and poverty-stricken. I will here end.

Tuesday Night.

I have been drinking egg-hot and smoking Oronooko (associated circumstances, which ever forcibly recall to my mind our evenings and nights at the Salutation); my eyes and brain are heavy and asleep, but my heart is awake; and if words came as ready as ideas, and ideas as feelings, I could say ten hundred kind things. Coleridge, you know not my supreme happiness at having one on earth (though counties separate us) whom I can call a friend. Remember you those tender lines of Logan?—
“Our broken friendships we deplore,
And loves of youth that are no more;
No after friendships e’er can raise
Th’ endearments of our early days,
And ne’er the heart such fondness prove,
As when we first began to love.”

I am writing at random, and half-tipsy, what you may not equally understand, as you will be sober when you read it; but my sober and my half-tipsy hours you are alike a sharer in. Good night.
“Then up rose our bard, like a prophet in drink,
Craigdoroch, thou’lt soar when creation shall sink.”

Thursday [June 16, 1796].

I am now in high hopes to be able to visit you, if perfectly convenient on your part, by the end of next month—perhaps the last week or fortnight in July. A change of scene and
a change of faces would do me good, even if that scene were not to be Bristol, and those faces
Coleridge’s and his friends. In the words of Terence, a little altered, “Tædet me hujus quotidiani mundi.” I am heartily sick of the every-day scenes of life. I shall half wish you unmarried (don’t show this to Mrs. C.) for one evening only, to have the pleasure of smoking with you, and drinking egg-hot in some little smoky room in a pot-house, for I know not yet how I shall like you in a decent room, and looking quite happy. My best love and respects to Sara notwithstanding.

Yours sincerely,
Charles Lamb.

[Coleridge’s image of melancholy will be found in the lines “Melancholy—a fragment.” It was published in Sibylline Leaves, 1817, and in a note Coleridge said that the verses were printed in the Morning Chronicle in 1794. They were really printed in the Morning Post, December 12, 1797. Coleridge had probably sent them to Lamb in MS. The “hymns” came to nothing. “Disbranched” is a quotation from “Religious Musings”:—
From the tree
Of Knowledge, ere the vernal sap had risen,
Rudely disbranch’d!
Lines 283-285 (1796).

“And if a sigh that speaks . . .” Cowper, “To the Rev. Mr. Newton: an Invitation into the Country.” From the last stanza, incorrectly quoted.

“The following lines.” Lamb’s poem “The Grandame” was presumably included in this letter. I give the text as it was printed in Charles Lloyd’s Poems on the Death of Priscilla Farmer later in the year:—

On the hill top green
Hard by the house of prayer (an humble roof,
In nought distinguish’d from its neighbour barn
Save by a slender tapering length of spire),
The Grandam sleeps. A plain stone barely tells
Her name and date to the chance passenger:
For lowly born was she, and long had eat
Well-earn’d the bread of service; hers was else
A mounting spirit; one that entertain’d
Scorn of base action, deed dishonourable,
Or aught unseemly. I remember well
Her reverend image; I remember too
With what a zeal she serv’d her master’s house;
And how the prattling tongue of garrulous age
1796 “THE GRANDAME” 31
Delighted to recount the oft-told tale,
Or anecdote domestic: wise she was,
And wond’rous skill’d in genealogies,
And could in apt and voluble terms discourse
Of births, of titles, and alliances;
Of marriages and intermarriages;
Relationships remote or near of kin;
Of friends offended, family disgrac’d,
Maiden high-born but wayward, disobeying
Parental strict injunction, and regardless
Of unmix’d blood, and ancestry remote,
Stooping to wed with one of low degree.
But these are not thy praises, and I wrong
Her honour’d memory, recording chiefly
Things light or trivial. Better ’twere to tell,
How with a nobler zeal and warmer love
She serv’d her heavenly Master. I have seen
That reverend form bent down with age and pain,
And rankling malady—yet not for that
Ceas’d she to praise her Maker, or withdrew
Her trust from him, her faith, and humble hope:
So meekly had she learn’d to bear her cross.
For she had studied patience in the school
Of Christ; much comfort she had thence deriv’d,
And was a follower of the Nazarene.

Mary Field, Lamb’s grandmother, died July 31, 1792, aged seventy-nine, and was buried in Widford churchyard. She had been for many years housekeeper in the Plumer family at Blakesware. On William Plumer’s moving to Gilston, a neighbouring seat, in 1767, she had sole charge of the Blakesware mansion, where her grandchildren used to visit her. Compare Lamb’s Elia essays “Blakesmoor in H——shire” and “Dream-Children.”

N. Biggs was the printer of Coleridge’s Poems, 1797.

Lamb had begun his amendment of Coleridge’sMonody on the Death of Chatterton” in his letter of June 10. Coleridge’s illustrative personifications, here referred to, are in that poem. The extract book from which Lamb copied his quotations from Beaumont and Fletcher and Massinger was, he afterwards tells us, destroyed; but similar volumes, which he filled later, are preserved at Rowfant by Mr. Godfrey Locker-Lampson. The extract from “A Wife for a Month“ is in Act VI., Scene 1. The extract from “Bonduca” is from Act I., Scene 1; the whole passage was included in Lamb’s Dramatic Specimens, 1808. The extract from Palamon and Arcite (“The Two Noble Kinsmen”) is in Dramatic Specimens in full: from Act II., Scene 2. The passage from Massinger, which is also in Dramatic Specimens, we shall meet again as the motto to Lamb’s part in Coleridge’s Poems, second edition, 1797.

Cowper’s translation.—Writing to Charles Lloyd, sen., in 1809, Lamb says of Cowper as a translator of Homer that he “delays you . . . walking over a Bowling Green.”


Canon Ainger possessed a copy of the book translated by Lamb’s fellow-clerk. It was called Sentimental Tablets of the Good Pamphile. “Translated from the French of M. Gorjy by P. S. Dupuy of the East India House, 1795.” Among the subscribers’ names were Thomas Bye (5 copies), Ball, Evans, Savory (2 copies), and Lamb himself.

Logan’s lines are in the “Ode on the Death of a Young Lady,” 8th Stanza, lines 3 and 4, and 9th Stanza, lines 1-4; Burns’ in “The Whistle,” Stanza 17.

Tædet me hujus quotidiani munndi.Terence’s words are (Eunuchus, II., 3, 6): “Taedet quotidianarum harum formarum”—“I am aweary of these everyday shapes.” Lamb was very fond of this quotation.]

[Probably begun on Wednesday, June 29. p.m. July 1, 1796.]

THE first moment I can come I will, but my hopes of coming yet a while yet hang on a ticklish thread. The coach I come by is immaterial as I shall so easily by your direction find ye out. My mother is grown so entirely helpless (not having any use of her limbs) that Mary is necessarily confined from ever sleeping out, she being her bed fellow. She thanks you tho’ and will accompany me in spirit. Most exquisite are the lines from Withers. Your own lines introductory to your poem on Self run smoothly and pleasurably, and I exhort you to continue ’em. What shall I say to your Dactyls? They are what you would call good per se, but a parody on some of ’em is just now suggesting itself, and you shall have it rough and unlicked. I mark with figures the lines parodied.
4—Sórely your Dáctyls do drág along límp-footed.
5—Sád is the méasure that hángs a clod roúnd ’em so,
6—Méagre, and lánguid, procláiming its wrétchedness.
1—Wéary, unsátisfied, nót little síck of ’em,
11—Cóld is my tíred heart, Í have no chárity.
2—Paínfully tráveling thus óver the rúgged road.
7—Ó begone, Méasure, half Látin, half Énglish, then.
12—Dísmal your Dáctyls are, Gód help ye, rhýming Ones.
I possibly may not come this fortnight—therefore all thou hast to do is not to look for me any particular day, only to write word immediately if at any time you quit Bristol, lest I come and Taffy be not at home. I hope I can come in a day or two. But young Savory of my office is suddenly taken ill in this very nick of time and I must officiate for him till he can come to work again. Had
the knave gone sick and died and putrefied at any other time, philosophy might have afforded one comfort, but just now I have no patience with him.
Quarles I am as great a stranger to as I was to Withers. I wish you would try and do something to bring our elder bards into more general fame. I writhe with indignation when in books of Criticism, where common place quotation is heaped upon quotation, I find no mention of such men as Massinger, or B. and Fl, men with whom succeeding Dramatic Writers (Otway alone excepted) can bear no manner of comparison. Stupid Knox hath noticed none of ’em among his extracts.

Thursday.—Mrs. C. can scarce guess how she has gratified me by her very kind letter and sweet little poem. I feel that I should thank her in rhyme, but she must take my acknowledgment at present in plain honest prose. The uncertainty in which I yet stand whether I can come or no damps my spirits, reduces me a degree below prosaical, and keeps me in a suspense that fluctuates between hope and fear. Hope is a charming, lively, blue-eyed wench, and I am always glad of her company, but could dispense with the visitor she brings with her, her younger sister, Fear, a white-liver’d, lilly-cheeked, bashful, palpitating, awkward hussey, that hangs like a green girl at her sister’s apronstrings, and will go with her whithersoever she goes. For the life and soul of me I could not improve those lines in your poem on the Prince and Princess, so I changed them to what you bid me and left ’em at Perry’s. I think ’em altogether good, and do not see why you were sollicitous about any alteration. I have not yet seen, but will make it my business to see, to-day’s Chronicle, for your verses on Horne Took. Dyer stanza’d him in one of the papers t’other day, but I think unsuccessfully. Tooke’s friends’ meeting was I suppose a dinner of condolence. I am not sorry to find you (for all Sara) immersed in clouds of smoke and metaphysic. You know I had a sneaking kindness for this last noble science, and you taught me some smattering of it. I look to become no mean proficient under your tuition. Coleridge, what do you mean by saying you wrote to me about Plutarch and Porphyry—I received no such letter, nor remember a syllable of the matter, yet am not apt to forget any part of your epistles, least of all an injunction like that. I will cast about for ’em, tho’ I am a sad hand to know what books are worth, and both those worthy gentlemen are alike out of my line. To-morrow I shall be less suspensive and in better cue to write, so good bye at present

Friday Evening.—That execrable aristocrat and knave Richardson has given me an absolute refusal of leave! The poor man
cannot guess at my disappointment. Is it not hard, “this dread dependance on the low bred mind?” Continue to write to me tho’, and I must be content—— Our loves and best good wishes attend upon you both.


Savory did return, but there are 2 or 3 more ill and absent, which was the plea for refusing me. I will never commit my peace of mind by depending on such a wretch for a favor in future, so shall never have heart to ask for holidays again. The man next him in office, Cartwright, furnished him with the objections.

C. Lamb.

[The Dactyls were Coleridge’s only in the third stanza; the remainder were Southey’s. The poem is known as “The Soldier’s Wife,” printed in Southey’s Poems, 1797, running thus:—

Weary way-wanderer languid and sick at heart
Travelling painfully over the rugged road,
Wild-visag’d Wanderer! ah for thy heavy chance!
Sorely thy little one drags by thee bare-footed,
Cold is the baby that hangs at thy bending back,
Meagre and livid and screaming its wretchedness.
Woe-begone mother, half anger, half agony,
As over thy shoulder thou lookest to hush the babe,
Bleakly the blinding snow beats in thy hagged face.
Thy husband will never return from the war again,
Cold is thy hopeless heart even as Charity—
Cold are thy famish’d babes—God help thee, widow’d One
Bristol, 1795.

Later Southey revised the verses. The Anti-Jacobin had the following parody of them:—

Come, little drummer boy, lay down your knapsack here:
I am the soldier’s friend—here are some books for you;
Nice clever books, by TOM PAINE, the philanthropist.
Here’s half-a-crown for you—here are some hand-bills too—
Go to the barracks, and give all the soldiers some.
Tell them the sailors are all in a mutiny.
[Exit drummer boy, with hand-bills and
half-crown.—Manet soldier’s friend
Liberty’s friends thus all learn to amalgamate,
Freedom’s volcanic explosion prepares itself,
Despots shall bow to the fasces of liberty,
Reason, philosophy, “fiddledum piddledum,”
Peace and fraternity, higgledy, piggledy,
Higgledy, piggledy, “fiddledum diddledum.”
Et caetera, et caetera, et caetera.

Young Savory was probably a relative of Hester Savory, whom we shall meet on page 261. He entered the East India House on the same day that Lamb did.

We do not know what were the lines from Wither which Coleridge had sent to Lamb; but Lamb himself eventually did much to bring him and the elder bards into more general fame—in the Dramatic Specimens, 1808, and in the essay “On the Poetical Works of George Wither,” in the Works, 1818.

Stupid Knox was Vicesimus Knox (1752-1821), the editor of Elegant Extracts in many forms.

“Her . . . sweet little poem.” Sara Coleridge’s verses no longer exist. See Lamb’s next letter for his poetical reply.

“Like a green girl.” See “Hamlet,” I., 3, 101.

Coleridge’s poem on the Prince and Princess, “On a Late Connubial Rupture in High Life,” was not accepted by Perry, of the Morning Chronicle. It appeared in the Monthly Magazine, September, 1796. The “Verses addressed to J. Horne Tooke and the company who met on June 28, 1796, to celebrate his poll at the Westminster Election” were not printed in the Morning Chronicle. Tooke had opposed Charles James Fox, who polled 5,160 votes, and Sir Alan Gardner, who polled 4,814, against his own 2,819.

Dyer was George Dyer (1755-1841), an old Christ’s Hospitaller (but before Lamb and Coleridge’s time), of whom we shall see much—Lamb’s famous G. D.

William Richardson was Accountant-General of the East India House at that time; Charles Cartwright, his Deputy.

“The dread dependance on the low-bred mind.” From the first version (1790) of Coleridge’sMonody on Chatterton.”]

The 5th July, 1796. [p.m. Same date.]
WAS it so hard a thing? I did but ask
A fleeting holy day. One little week,
Or haply two, had bounded my request.
What if the jaded Steer, who all day long
Had borne the heat and labour of the plough,
When Evening came and her sweet cooling hour,
Should seek to trespass on a neighbour copse,
Where greener herbage waved, or clearer streams
Invited him to slake his burning thirst?
That Man were crabbed, who should say him Nay:
That Man were churlish, who should drive him thence!
A blessing light upon your heads, ye good,
Ye hospitable pair. I may not come,
To catch on Clifden’s heights the summer gale:
I may not come, a pilgrim, to the “Vales
Where Avon winds,” to taste th’ inspiring waves
Which Shakespere drank, our British Helicon:
Or, with mine eye intent on Redcliffe towers,
To drop a tear for that Mysterious youth,
Cruelly slighted, who to London Walls,
In evil hour, shap’d his disastrous course.
Complaints, begone; begone, ill-omen’d thoughts—
For yet again, and lo! from Avon banks
Another “Minstrel” cometh! Youth beloved,
God and good angels guide thee on thy way,
And gentler fortunes wait the friends I love.
C. L.
the 6th July [p.m. July 7, 1796.]

SUBSTITUTE in room of that last confused & incorrect Paragraph, following the words “disastrous course,” these lines

Vide 3d page of this epistle. No
With better hopes, I trust, from Avon’s vales
This other “minstrel” cometh. Youth endear’d,
God & Angels guide thee on thy road,
And gentler fortunes wait the friends I love.

[Lamb has crossed through the above lines.]

Let us prose.

What can I do till you send word what priced and placed house you should like? Islington (possibly) you would not like, to me ’tis classical ground. Knightsbridge is a desirable situation for the air of the parks. St. George’s Fields is convenient for its contiguity
to the Bench. Chuse! But are you really coming to town? The hope of it has entirely disarmed my petty disappointment of its nettles. Yet I rejoice so much on my own account, that I fear I do not feel enough pure satisfaction on yours. Why, surely, the joint editorship of the
Chron: must be a very comfortable & secure living for a man. But should not you read French, or do you? & can you write with sufficient moderation, as ’tis call’d, when one suppresses the one half of what one feels, or could say, on a subject, to chime in the better with popular lukewarmness?—White’sLetters” are near publication. Could you review ’em, or get ’em reviewed? Are you not connected with the Crit: Rev:? His frontispiece is a good conceit: Sir John learning to dance, to please Madame Page, in dress of doublet, etc., from [for] the upper half; & modern pantaloons, with shoes, etc., of the 18th century, from [for] the lower half—& the whole work is full of goodly quips & rare fancies, “all deftly masqued like hoar antiquity”—much superior to Dr. Kenrick’s Falstaff’s Wedding, which you may have seen. Allen sometimes laughs at Superstition, & Religion, & the like. A living fell vacant lately in the gift of the Hospital. White informed him that he stood a fair chance for it. He scrupled & scrupled about it, and at last (to use his own words) “tampered” with Godwin to know whether the thing was honest or not. Godwin said nay to it, & Allen rejected the living! Could the blindest Poor Papish have bowed more servilely to his Priest or Casuist? Why sleep the Watchman’s answers to that Godwin? I beg you will not delay to alter, if you mean to keep, those last lines I sent you. Do that, & read these for your pains:—
Cowper, I thank my God that thou art heal’d!
Thine was the sorest malady of all;
And I am sad to think that it should light
Upon the worthy head! But thou art heal’d,
And thou art yet, we trust, the destin’d man,
Born to reanimate the Lyre, whose chords
Have slumber’d, and have idle lain so long,
To the immortal sounding of whose strings
Did Milton frame the stately-paced verse;
Among whose wires with lighter finger playing,
Our elder bard, Spenser, a gentle name,
The Lady Muses’ dearest darling child,
Elicited the deftest tunes yet heard
In Hall or Bower, taking the delicate Ear
Of Sydney, & his peerless Maiden Queen.

Thou, then, take up the mighty Epic strain,
Cowper, of England’s Bards, the wisest & the best.


I have read your climax of praises in those 3 reviews. These mighty spouters-out of panegyric waters have, 2 of ’em, scattered their spray even upon me! & the waters are cooling & refreshing. Prosaically, the Monthly Reviewers have made indeed a large article of it, & done you justice. The Critical have, in their wisdom, selected not the very best specimens, & notice not, except as one name on the muster-roll, the “Religious Musings.” I suspect Master Dyer to have been the writer of that article, as the substance of it was the very remarks & the very language he used to me one day. I fear you will not accord entirely with my sentiments of Cowper, as exprest above, (perhaps scarcely just), but the poor Gentleman has just recovered from his Lunacies, & that begets pity, & pity love, and love admiration, & then it goes hard with People but they lie! Have you read the Ballad called “Leonora,” in the second Number of the “Monthly Magazine”? If you have!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There is another fine song, from the same author (Berger), in the 3d No., of scarce inferior merit; & (vastly below these) there are some happy specimens of English hexameters, in an imitation of Ossian, in the 5th No. For your Dactyls I am sorry you are so sore about ’em—a very Sir Fretful! In good troth, the Dactyls are good Dactyls, but their measure is naught. Be not yourself “half anger, half agony” if I pronounce your darling lines not to be the best you ever wrote—you have written much.

For the alterations in those lines, let ’em run thus:

I may not come a pilgrim, to the Banks
(inspiring wave) was too common place.
of Avon, lucid stream, to taste the wave
which Shakspere drank, our British Helicon;
or with mine eye, &c., &c.
(better than “drop a tear ”)
To muse, in tears, on that mysterious Youth, &c.

Then the last paragraph alter thus

better refer to my own “complaint” solely than half to that and half to Chatterton, as in your copy, which creates a confusion—“ominous fears “&c.
Complaint begone, begone unkind reproof
Take up, my song, take up a merrier strain,
For yet again, & lo! from Avon’s vales,
Another minstrel cometh! youth endeared,
God & good angels &c, as before.

Have a care, good Master poet, of the Statute de Contumelia. What do you mean by calling Madame Mara harlot & naughty things? The goodness of the verse would not save you in a court of Justice. But are you really coming to town?

Coleridge, a gentleman called in London lately from Bristol, & inquired whether there were any of the family of a Mr. Chambers living—this Mr. Chambers he said had been the making of a friend’s fortune who wished to make some return for it. He went
away without seeing her. Now, a
Mrs. Reynolds, a very intimate friend of ours, whom you have seen at our house, is the only daughter, & all that survives, of Mr. Chambers—& a very little supply would be of service to her, for she married very unfortunately, & has parted with her husband. Pray find out this Mr. Pember (for that was the gentleman’s friend’s name), he is an attorney, & lives at Bristol. Find him out, & acquaint him with the circumstances of the case, & offer to be the medium of supply to Mrs. Reynolds, if he chuses to make her a present. She is in very distrest circumstances. Mr. Pember, attorney, Bristol—Mr. Chambers lived in the Temple. Mrs. Reynolds, his daughter, was my schoolmistress, & is in the room at this present writing. This last circumstance induced me to write so soon again—I have not further to add—Our loves to Sara.

C. Lamb.

[The passage at the beginning, before “Let us prose,” together with the later passages in the same manner, refers to the poem in the preceding letter, which in slightly different form is printed in editions of Lamb as “Lines to Sara and Her Samuel.” In order to complete the letter I have copied the version printed in the Monthly Magazine, January, 1797:—

Was it so hard a thing? I did but ask
A fleeting holiday, a little week.
What, if the jaded steer, who, all day long,
Had borne the heat and burthen of the plough,
When ev’ning came, and her sweet cooling hour,
Should seek to wander in a neighbour copse,
Where greener herbage wav’d, or clearer streams
Invited him to slake his burning thirst?
The man were crabbed who should say him nay;
The man were churlish who should drive him thence.
A blessing light upon your worthy heads,
Ye hospitable pair! I may not come
To catch, on Clifden’s heights, the summer gale;
I may not come to taste the Avon wave;
Or, with mine eye intent on Redcliffe tow’rs,
To muse in tears on that mysterious youth,
Cruelly slighted, who, in evil hour,
Shap’d his advent’rous course to London walls!
Complaint, be gone! and, ominous thoughts, away!
Take up, my Song, take up a merrier strain;
For yet again, and lo! from Avon’s vales,
Another Minstrel1 Cometh. Youth endear’d,
God and good Angels guide thee on thy road,
And gentler fortunes ’wait the friends I love!

Coleridge had just received a suggestion, through Dr. Beddoes of Bristol, that he should replace Grey, the late co-editor (with James Perry) of the Morning Chronicle. It came to nothing; but Coleridge had told Lamb and had asked him to look out a house in town for him.

“All deftly masqued like [as] hoar antiquity.” From Coleridge’sMonody on Chatterton.”

Dr. Kenrick’sFalstaff’s Wedding,” 1760, was a continuation of Shakespeare’sHenry IV.”

We do not know what were the last lines that Lamb had sent to Coleridge. The lines to Cowper were printed in the Monthly Magazine for December, 1796.

Coleridge’s Poems were reviewed in the Monthly Review, June, 1796, with no mention of Lamb. The Critical Review for the same month said of Lamb’s effusions: “These are very beautiful.”

Burger’sLeonora,” which was to have such an influence upon English literature (it was the foundation of much of Sir Walter Scott’s poetry), was translated from the German by William Taylor of Norwich in 1790 and printed in the Monthly Magazine in March, 1796. Scott at once made a rival version. The other fine song, in the April Monthly Magazine, was “The Lass of Fair Wone.”

“Sir Fretful.” Sir Fretful Plagiary in Sheridan’sCritic.”

“Half anger, half agony.” See the Dactyls, on page 34.

The mention of the Statute de Contumeliâ seems to refer to the “Lines Composed in a Concert-Room,” which were first printed in the Morning Post, September 24, 1799, but must have been written earlier. Madame Mara (1749-1833) is not mentioned by name in the poem, but being one of the principal singers of the day Lamb probably fastened the epithet upon her by way of pleasantry; or she may have been referred to in the version of the lines which Lamb had seen.

The passage about Mr. Chambers is not now explicable; but we know that Mrs. Reynolds was Lamb’s schoolmistress, probably when he was very small, and before he went to William Bird’s Academy, and that in later life he allowed her a pension of £30 a year until her death.

Between this and the next letter came, in all probability, a number of letters to Coleridge which have been lost. It is incredible that Lamb kept silence, at this period, for eleven weeks.]

1 “From vales where Avon winds, the Minstrel came.” Coleridge’sMonody on Chatterton.’

1796 SEPTEMBER 22, 1796 41
[p.m. September 27, 1796.]

MY dearest friend—White or some of my friends or the public papers by this time may have informed you of the terrible calamities that have fallen on our family. I will only give you the outlines. My poor dear dearest sister in a fit of insanity has been the death of her own mother. I was at hand only time enough to snatch the knife out of her grasp. She is at present in a mad house, from whence I fear she must be moved to an hospital. God has preserved to me my senses,—I eat and drink and sleep, and have my judgment I believe very sound. My poor father was slightly wounded, and I am left to take care of him and my aunt. Mr. Norris of the Bluecoat school has been very very kind to us, and we have no other friend, but thank God I am very calm and composed, and able to do the best that remains to do. Write,—as religious a letter as possible—but no mention of what is gone and done with.—With me “the former things are passed away,” and I have something more to do that [than] to feel——

God almighty have us all in his keeping.——

C. Lamb.

Mention nothing of poetry. I have destroyed every vestige of past vanities of that kind. Do as you please, but if you publish, publish mine (I give free leave) without name or initial, and never send me a book, I charge you.

You [your] own judgment will convince you not to take any notice of this yet to your dear wife.—You look after your family,—I have my reason and strength left to take care of mine. I charge you, don’t think of coming to see me. Write. I will not see you if you come. God almighty love you and all of us—


[This letter tells its own story.

The following is the report of the inquest upon Mrs. Lamb which appeared in the Morning Chronicle for September 26, 1796. The tragedy had occurred on Thursday, September 22:—

On Friday afternoon the Coroner and a respectable Jury sat on the body of a Lady in the neighbourhood of Holborn, who died in consequence of a wound from her daughter the preceding day. It appeared by the evidence adduced, that while the family were preparing for dinner, the young lady seized a case knife laying on
the table, and in a menacing manner pursued a little girl, her apprentice, round the room; on the eager calls of her helpless infirm mother to forbear, she renounced her first object, and with loud shrieks approached her parent.

The child by her cries quickly brought up the landlord of the house, but too late—the dreadful scene presented to him the mother lifeless, pierced to the heart, on a chair, her daughter yet wildly standing over her with the fatal knife, and the venerable old man, her father, weeping by her side, himself bleeding at the forehead from the effects of a severe blow he received from one of the forks she had been madly hurling about the room.

For a few days prior to this the family had observed some symptoms of insanity in her, which had so much increased on the Wednesday evening, that her brother early the next morning went in quest of Dr. Pitcairn—had that gentleman been met with, the fatal catastrophe had, in all probability, been prevented.

It seems the young Lady had been once before, in her earlier years, deranged, from the harassing fatigues of too much business.—As her carriage towards her mother was ever affectionate in the extreme, it is believed that to the increased attentiveness, which her parents’ infirmities called for by day and night, is to be attributed the present insanity of this ill-fated young woman.

It has been stated in some of the Morning Papers, that she has an insane brother also in confinement-this is without foundation.

The Jury of course brought in their Verdict, Lunacy.

In the Whitehall Evening Post the first part of the account is the same, but the end is as follows:—

The above unfortunate young person is a Miss Lamb, a mantua-maker, in Little Queen-street, Lincoln’s-inn-fields. She has been, since, removed to Islington madhouse.

Mr. Norris of the Blue-Coat School has been confounded with Randal Norris of the Inner Temple, another friend of the Lambs, but is not, I think, the same.

“The former things . . .” See Revelation xxi. 4.

The reference to the poetry and Coleridge’s publication of it shows that Lamb had already been invited to contribute to the second edition of Coleridge’s Poems. The words “and never” in the original have a line through them which might mean erasure, but, I think, does not.

“Your own judgment . . .” Mrs. Coleridge had just become a mother: David Hartley Coleridge was born on September 19.

This was Coleridge’s reply to Lamb’s letter, as given in Gillman’s Life of Coleridge:—

“[September 28, 1796.]

“Your letter, my friend, struck me with a mighty horror. It rushed upon me and stupified my feelings. You bid me write you a religious letter; I am not a man who would attempt to insult the greatness of your anguish by any other consolation. Heaven knows that in the easiest fortunes there is much dissatisfaction and weariness of spirit; much that calls for the exercise of patience and resignation; but in storms, like these, that shake the dwelling and make the heart tremble, there is no middle way between despair and the yielding up of the whole spirit unto the guidance of faith.
And surely it is a matter of joy, that your faith in Jesus has been preserved; the Comforter that should relieve you is not far from you. But as you are a Christian, in the name of that Saviour, who was filled with bitterness and made drunken with wormwood, I conjure you to have recourse in frequent prayer to ‘his God and your God,’ the God of mercies, and father of all comfort. Your poor father is, I hope, almost senseless of the calamity; the unconscious instrument of Divine Providence knows it not, and your
mother is in heaven. It is sweet to be roused from a frightful dream by the song of birds, and the gladsome rays of the morning. Ah, how infinitely more sweet to be awakened from the blackness and amazement of a sudden horror, by the glories of God manifest, and the hallelujahs of angels.

“As to what regards yourself, I approve altogether of your abandoning what you justly call vanities. I look upon you as a man, called by sorrow and anguish and a strange desolation of hopes into quietness, and a soul set apart and made peculiar to God; we cannot arrive at any portion of heavenly bliss without in some measure imitating Christ. And they arrive at the largest inheritance who imitate the most difficult parts of his character, and bowed down and crushed under foot, cry in fulness of faith, ‘Father, thy will be done.’

“I wish above measure to have you for a little while here—no visitants shall blow on the nakedness of your feelings—you shall be quiet, and your spirit may be healed. I see no possible objection, unless your father’s helplessness prevent you, and unless you are necessary to him. If this be not the case, I charge you write me that you will come.

“I charge you, my dearest friend, not to dare to encourage gloom or despair—you are a temporary sharer in human miseries, that you may be an eternal partaker of the Divine nature. I charge you, if by any means it be possible, come to me.

“I remain, your affectionate,
“S. T. Coleridge.”]
[p.m. October 3, 1796.]

MY dearest friend, your letter was an inestimable treasure to me. It will be a comfort to you, I know, to know that our prospects are somewhat brighter. My poor dear dearest sister,
the unhappy and unconscious instrument of the Almighty’s judgments to our house, is restored to her senses; to a dreadful sense and recollection of what has past, awful to her mind, and impressive (as it must be to the end of life) but temper’d with religious resignation, and the reasonings of a sound judgment, which in this early stage knows how to distinguish between a deed committed in a transient fit of frenzy, and the terrible guilt of a
Mother’s murther. I have seen her. I found her this morning calm and serene, far very very far from an indecent forgetful serenity; she has a most affectionate and tender concern for what has happend. Indeed from the beginning, frightful and hopeless as her disorder seemed, I had confidence enough in her strength of mind, and religious principle, to look forward to a time when even she might recover tranquillity. God be praised, Coleridge, wonderful as it is to tell, I have never once been otherwise than collected, and calm; even on the dreadful day and in the midst of the terrible scene I preserved a tranquillity, which bystanders may have construed into indifference, a tranquillity not of despair; is it folly or sin in me to say that it was a religious principle that most supported me? I allow much to other favorable circumstances. I felt that I had something else to do than to regret; on that first evening my Aunt was lying insensible, to all appearance like one dying,—my father, with his poor forehead plaisterd over from a wound he had received from a daughter dearly loved by him, and who loved him no less dearly,—my mother a dead and murder’d corpse in the next room—yet was I wonderfully supported. I closed not my eyes in sleep that night, but lay without terrors and without despair. I have lost no sleep since. I had been long used not to rest in things of sense, had endeavord after a comprehension of mind, unsatisfied with the “ignorant present time,” and this kept me up. I had the whole weight of the family thrown on me, for my brother, little disposed (I speak not without tenderness for him) at any time to take care of old age and infirmities, had now, with his bad leg, an exemption from such duties, and I was now left alone. One little incident may serve to make you understand my way of managing my mind. Within a day or 2 after the fatal one, we drest for dinner a tongue, which we had had salted for some weeks in the house. As I sat down a feeling like remorse struck me,—this tongue poor Mary got for me, and can I partake of it now, when she is far away—a thought occurrd and relieved me,—if I give in to this way of feeling, there is not a chair, a room, an object in our rooms, that will not awaken the keenest griefs, I must rise above such weaknesses.—I hope this was not want of true feeling. I did not let this carry me, tho’, too far. On the very 2d day (I date from the day of horrors) as is usual in such cases there were a
matter of 20 people I do think supping in our room. They prevailed on me to eat with them (for to eat I never refused). They were all making merry! in the room,—some had come from friendship, some from busy curiosity, and some from Interest; I was going to partake with them, when my recollection came that my poor dead mother was lying in the next room, the very next room, a mother who thro’ life wished nothing but her children’s welfare—indignation, the rage of grief, something like remorse, rushed upon my mind in an agony of emotion,—I found my way mechanically to the adjoining room, and fell on my knees by the side of her coffin, asking forgiveness of heaven, and sometimes of her, for forgetting her so soon. Tranquillity returned, and it was the only violent emotion that mastered me, and I think it did me good.

I mention these things because I hate concealment, and love to give a faithful journal of what passes within me. Our friends have been very good. Sam Le Grice who was then in town was with me the first 3 or 4 first days, and was as a brother to me, gave up every hour of his time, to the very hurting of his health and spirits, in constant attendance and humouring my poor father. Talk’d with him, read to him, play’d at cribbage with him (for so short is the old man’s recollection, that he was playing at cards, as tho’ nothing had happened, while the Coroner’s Inquest was sitting over the way!) Samuel wept tenderly when he went away, for his mother wrote him a very severe letter on his loitering so long in town, and he was forced to go. Mr. Norris of Christ Hospital has been as a father to me, Mrs. Norris as a mother; tho’ we had few claims on them. A Gentleman, brother to my Godmother, from whom we never had right or reason to expect any such assistance, sent my father twenty pounds,—and to crown all these God’s blessings to our family at such a time, an old Lady, a cousin of my father and Aunt’s, a Gentlewoman of fortune, is to take my Aunt and make her comfortable for the short remainder of her days.

My Aunt is recover’d and as well as ever, and highly pleased at thoughts of going,—and has generously given up the interest of her little money (which was formerly paid my Father for her board) wholely and solely to my Sister’s use. Reckoning this we have, Daddy and I, for our two selves and an old maid servant to look after him, when I am out, which will be necessary, £170 or £180 (rather) a year, out of which we can spare 50 or 60 at least for Mary, while she stays at Islington, where she must and shall stay during her father’s life for his and her comfort. I know John will make speeches about it, but she shall not go into an hospital. The good Lady of the mad house, and her daughter, an elegant sweet behaved young Lady, love her and are taken with her amazingly,
and I know from her own mouth she loves them, and longs to be with them as much.—Poor thing, they say she was but the other morning saying, she knew she must go to Bethlem for life; that one of her brothers would have it so, but the other would wish it not, but be obliged to go with the stream; that she had often as she passed Bedlam thought it likely “here it may be my fate to end my days—”conscious of a certain flightiness in her poor head oftentimes, and mindful of more than one severe illness of that nature before. A Legacy of £100, which my father will have at Xmas, and this 20 I mentioned before, with what is in the house will much more than set us Clear;—if my father, an old servant maid, and I, can’t live and live comfortably on £130 or £120 a year we ought to burn by slow fires, and I almost would, that Mary might not go into an hospital. Let me not leave one unfavourable impression on your mind respecting my Brother. Since this has happened he has been very kind and brotherly; but I fear for his mind,—he has taken his ease in the world, and is not fit himself to struggle with difficulties, nor has much accustomed himself to throw himself into their way,—and I know his language is already, “
Charles, you must take care of yourself, you must not abridge yourself of a single pleasure you have been used to,” &c &c and in that style of talking. But you, a necessarian, can respect a difference of mind, and love what is amiable in a character not perfect. He has been very good, but I fear for his mind. Thank God, I can unconnect myself with him, and shall manage all my father’s monies in future myself, if I take charge of Daddy, which poor John has not even hinted a wish, at any future time even, to share with me. The Lady at this mad house assures me that I may dismiss immediately both Doctor and apothecary, retaining occasionally an opening draught or so for a while, and there is a less expensive establishment in her house, where she will only not have a room and nurse to herself for £50 or guineas a year—the outside would be 60—You know by œconomy now much more, even, I shall be able to spare for her comforts.

She will, I fancy, if she stays, make one of the family, rather than of the patients, and the old and young ladies I like exceedingly, and she loves dearly, and they, as the saying is, take to her very extraordinarily, if it is extraordinary that people who see my sister should love her. Of all the people I ever saw in the world my poor sister was most and thoroughly devoid of the least tincture of selfishness—I will enlarge upon her qualities, poor dear dearest soul, in a future letter for my own comfort, for I understand her throughly; and if I mistake not, in the most trying situation that a human being can be found in, she will be found (I speak not with sufficient humility, I fear, but humanly and foolishly speaking) she
will be found, I trust, uniformly great and amiable; God keep her in her present mind, to whom be thanks and praise for all His dispensations to mankind.


Coleridge, continue to write; but do not for ever offend me by talking of sending me cash. Sincerely, and on my soul, we do not want it. God love you both!

I will write again very soon. Do you write directly.

These mentioned good fortunes and change of prospects had almost brought my mind over to the extreme the very opposite to Despair; I was in danger of making myself too happy; your letter brought me back to a view of things which I had entertained from the beginning; I hope (for Mary I can answer) but I hope that I shall thro’ life never have less recollection nor a fainter impression of what has happened than I have now; ’tis not a light thing, nor meant by the Almighty to be received lightly. I must be serious, circumspect, and deeply religious thro’ life; by such means may both of us escape madness in future, if it so please the Almighty.

Send me word, how it fares with Sara. I repeat it, your letter was and will be an inestimable treasure to me; you have a view of what my situation demands of me like my own view; and I trust a just one.


[A word perhaps on Lamb’s salary might be fitting here. For the first three years, from joining the East India House on April 5, 1792, he received nothing. This probationary period over, he was given £40 for the year 1795-1796. This, however, was raised to £70 in 1796 and there were means of adding to it a little, by extra work and by a small holiday grant. In 1797 it was £80, in 1799 £90, and from that time until 1814 it rose by £10 every second year.

“Ignorant present time” (“Macbeth,” I., 5, 58).

Samuel Le Grice was the younger brother of Valentine Le Grice. Both were at Christ’s Hospital with Lamb and Coleridge and are mentioned in the Elia essay on the school. Sam Le Grice afterwards had a commission in the 60th Foot, and died in Jamaica in 1802, as we shall see.

I have not the name of Lamb’s godmother, nor of the old lady of fortune.]

[p.m. October 17, 1796.]

MY dearest friend, I grieve from my very soul to observe you in your plans of life veering about from this hope to the other, and settling no where. Is it an untoward fatality (speaking humanly) that does this for you, a stubborn irresistible concurrence of events? or lies the fault, as I fear it does, in your own mind? You seem to be taking up splendid schemes of fortune only to lay them down again, and your fortunes are an ignis fatuus that has been conducting you, in thought, from Lancaster Court, Strand, to somewhere near Matlock, then jumping across to Dr. Somebody’s whose son’s tutor you were likely to be, and would to God the dancing demon may conduct you at last in peace and comfort to the “life and labors of a cottager.” You see from the above awkward playfulness of fancy, that my spirits are not quite depressed; I should ill deserve God’s blessings, which since the late terrible event have come down in mercy upon us, if I indulged regret or querulousness,—Mary continues serene and chearful,—I have not by me a little letter she wrote to me, for, tho’ I see her almost every day yet we delight to write to one another (for we can scarce see each other but in company with some of the people of the house), I have not the letter by me but will quote from memory what she wrote in it. “I have no bad terrifying dreams. At midnight when I happen to awake, the nurse sleeping by the side of me, with the noise of the poor mad people around me, I have no fear. The spirit of my mother seems to descend, and smile upon me, and bid me live to enjoy the life and reason which the Almighty has given me—I shall see her again in heaven; she will then understand me better; my Grandmother too will understand me better, and will then say no more, as she used to do, ‘Polly, what are those poor crazy moyther’d brains of yours thinking of always?’”—Poor Mary, my Mother indeed never understood her right. She loved her, as she loved us all, with a Mother’s love; but in opinion, in feeling, and sentiment, and disposition, bore so distant a resemblance to her daughter, that she never understood her right. Never could believe how much she loved her—but met her caresses, her protestations of filial affection, too frequently with coldness and repulse.—Still she was a good mother, God forbid I should think of her but most respectfully, most affectionately. Yet she would always love my brother above Mary, who was not
worthy of one tenth of that affection, which Mary had a right to claim. But it is my sister’s gratifying recollection, that every act of duty and of love she could pay, every kindness (and I speak true, when I say to the hurting of her health, and, most probably, in great part to the derangement of her senses) thro’ a long course of infirmities and sickness, she could shew her, she ever did. I will some day, as I promised, enlarge to you upon my Sister’s excellencies; ’twill seem like exaggeration; but I will do it. At present short letters suit my state of mind best. So take my kindest wishes for your comfort and establishment in life, and for
Sara’s welfare and comforts with you. God love you; God love us all—

C. Lamb.

[This letter is the only one in which Lamb speaks freely of his mother. He dwells on her memory in Blank Verse, 1798, but in later years he mentioned her in his writings only twice, in the Elia essays “New Year’s Eve” and “My First Play,” and then very indirectly: probably from the wish to spare his sister pain, although Talfourd tells us that Mary Lamb spoke of her mother often. Compare the poem on page 112.

In Letter 110, written by Mary Lamb to Sarah Stoddart (afterwards Mrs. William Hazlitt), printed on page 279, there is further light on Mrs. Lamb’s want of sympathetic understanding of certain characters.

The references at the beginning are to Coleridge’s idea of joining Perry on the Morning Chronicle; of teaching Mrs. Evans’ children; of establishing a school at Derby, on the suggestion of Dr. Crompton; and finally of moving from Bristol to settle down in a cottage at Nether Stowey, and support himself by husbandry and literature.

“Life and labors of a cottager” sounds like Coleridge’s own phrase (see note on page 86).]

Oct. 24th, 1796. [Monday.]

COLERIDGE, I feel myself much your debtor for that spirit of confidence and friendship which dictated your last letter. May your soul find peace at last in your cottage life! I only wish you were but settled. Do continue to write to me. I read your letters with my sister, and they give us both abundance of delight.
Especially they please us two, when you talk in a religious strain,—not but we are offended occasionally with a certain freedom of expression, a certain air of mysticism, more consonant to the conceits of pagan philosophy, than consistent with the humility of genuine piety. To instance now in your last letter—you say, “it is by the press [sic], that God hath given finite spirits both evil and good (I suppose you mean simply bad men and good men), a portion as it were of His Omnipresence!” Now, high as the human intellect comparatively will soar, and wide as its influence, malign or salutary, can extend, is there not, Coleridge, a distance between the Divine Mind and it, which makes such language blasphemy? Again, in your first fine consolatory epistle you say, “you are a temporary sharer in human misery, that you may be an eternal partaker of the Divine Nature.” What more than this do those men say, who are for exalting the man Christ Jesus into the second person of an unknown Trinity,—men, whom you or I scruple not to call idolaters? Man, full of imperfections, at best, and subject to wants which momentarily remind him of dependence; man, a weak and ignorant being, “servile” from his birth “to all the skiey influences,” with eyes sometimes open to discern the right path, but a head generally too dizzy to pursue it; man, in the pride of speculation, forgetting his nature, and hailing in himself the future God, must make the angels laugh. Be not angry with me, Coleridge; I wish not to cavil; I know I cannot instruct you; I only wish to remind you of that humility which best becometh the Christian character. God, in the New Testament (our best guide), is represented to us in the kind, condescending, amiable, familiar light of a parent: and in my poor mind ’tis best for us so to consider of Him, as our heavenly Father, and our best Friend, without indulging too bold conceptions of His nature. Let us learn to think humbly of ourselves, and rejoice in the appellation of “dear children,” “brethren,” and “co-heirs with Christ of the promises,” seeking to know no further.

I am not insensible, indeed I am not, of the value of that first letter of yours, and I shall find reason to thank you for it again and again long after that blemish in it is forgotten. It will be a fine lesson of comfort to us, whenever we read it; and read it we often shall, Mary and I.

Accept our loves and best kind wishes for the welfare of yourself and wife, and little one. Nor let me forget to wish you joy on your birthday so lately past; I thought you had been older. My kind thanks and remembrances to Lloyd.

God love us all, and may He continue to be the father and the friend of the whole human race!

C. Lamb.
Sunday Evening.

[It is interesting to notice that with these letters Lamb suddenly assumes a gravity, independence and sense of authority that hitherto his correspondence has lacked. The responsibility of the household seems to have awakened his extraordinary common sense and fine understanding sense of justice. Previously he had ventured to criticise only Coleridge’s literary exercises; he places his finger now on conduct too.

Coleridge’s “last letter “has not been preserved; but the “first fine consolatory epistle” is printed on page 42.

“Servile . . . to all the skiey influences” (“Measure for Measure,” III., 1, 9).

“Dear children . . . brethren . . . co-heirs with Christ of the promises ...” A memory of Ephesians v. 1; Romans viii. 15-17; and Ephesians iii. 6.

This letter contains the first mention of Charles Lloyd (1775-1839), who was afterwards to be for a while so intimately associated with Lamb. Charles Lloyd was the son of a Quaker banker of Birmingham. He had published a volume of poems the year before and had met Coleridge when that magnetic visionary had visited Birmingham to solicit subscribers for The Watchman early in 1796. The proposition that Lloyd should live with Coleridge and become in a way his pupil was agreed to by his parents, and in September he accompanied the philosopher to Nether Stowey a day or so after David Hartley’s birth, all eager to begin domestication and tutelage. Lloyd was a sensitive, delicate youth, with an acute power of analysis and considerable grasp of metaphysical ideas. No connection ever began more amiably. He was, I might add, by only two days Lamb’s junior.]

Oct. 28th, 1796.

MY dear Friend, I am not ignorant that to be a partaker of the Divine Nature is a phrase to be met with in Scripture: I am only apprehensive, lest we in these latter days, tinctured (some of us perhaps pretty deeply) with mystical notions and the pride of metaphysics, might be apt to affix to such phrases a meaning, which the primitive users of them, the simple fishermen of Galilee for instance, never intended to convey. With
that other part of your apology I am not quite so well satisfied. You seem to me to have been straining your comparing faculties to bring together things infinitely distant and unlike; the feeble narrow-sphered operations of the human intellect and the everywhere diffused mind of Deity, the peerless wisdom of Jehovah. Even the expression appears to me inaccurate—portion of omnipresence—omnipresence is an attribute whose very essence is unlimitedness. How can omnipresence be affirmed of anything in part? But enough of this spirit of disputatiousness. Let us attend to the proper business of human life, and talk a little together respecting our domestic concerns. Do you continue to make me acquainted with what you were doing, and how soon you are likely to be settled once for all.

I have satisfaction in being able to bid you rejoice with me in my sister’s continued reason and composedness of mind. Let us both be thankful for it. I continue to visit her very frequently, and the people of the house are vastly indulgent to her; she is likely to be as comfortably situated in all respects as those who pay twice or thrice the sum. They love her, and she loves them, and makes herself very useful to them. Benevolence sets out on her journey with a good heart, and puts a good face on it, but is apt to limp and grow feeble, unless she calls in the aid of self-interest by way of crutch. In Mary’s case, as far as respects those she is with, ’tis well that these principles are so likely to co-operate. I am rather at a loss sometimes for books for her,—our reading is somewhat confined, and we have nearly exhausted our London library. She has her hands too full of work to read much, but a little she must read; for reading was her daily bread.

Have you seen Bowles’s new poem on “Hope?” What character does it bear? Has he exhausted his stores of tender plaintiveness? or is he the same in this last as in all his former pieces? The duties of the day call me off from this pleasant intercourse with my friend—so for the present adieu.

Now for the truant borrowing of a few minutes from business. Have you met with a new poem called the “Pursuits of Literature?” From the extracts in the “British Review” I judge it to be a very humorous thing; in particular I remember what I thought a very happy character of Dr. Darwin’s poetry. Among all your quaint readings did you ever light upon Walton’sComplete Angler?” I asked you the question once before; it breathes the very spirit of innocence, purity, and simplicity of heart; there are many choice old verses interspersed in it; it would sweeten a man’s temper at any time to read it; it would Christianise every discordant angry passion; pray make yourself acquainted with it. Have you made it up with Southey yet? Surely one of you two must have been
a very silly fellow, and the other not much better, to fall out like boarding-school misses; kiss, shake hands, and make it up?

When will he be delivered of his new epic? Madoc I think, is to be the name of it; though that is a name not familiar to my ears. What progress do you make in your hymns? What Review are you connected with? If with any, why do you delay to notice White’s book? You are justly offended at its profaneness; but surely you have undervalued its wit, or you would have been more loud in its praises. Do not you think that in Slender’s death and madness there is most exquisite humour, mingled with tenderness, that is irresistible, truly Shakspearian? Be more full in your mention of it. Poor fellow, he has (very undeservedly) lost by it; nor do I see that it is likely ever to reimburse him the charge of printing, etc. Give it a lift, if you can. I suppose you know that Allen’s wife is dead, and he, just situated as he was, never the better, as the worldly people say, for her death, her money with her children being taken off his hands. I am just now wondering whether you will ever come to town again, Coleridge; ’tis among the things I dare not hope, but can’t help wishing. For myself, I can live in the midst of town luxury and superfluity, and not long for them, and I can’t see why your children might not hereafter do the same. Remember, you are not in Arcadia when you are in the west of England, and they may catch infection from the world without visiting the metropolis. But you seem to have set your heart upon this same cottage plan; and God prosper you in the experiment! I am at a loss for more to write about; so ’tis as well that I am arrived at the bottom of my paper.

God love you, Coleridge!—Our best loves and tenderest wishes await on you, your Sara, and your little one.

C. L.

[Bowles’s poem was “Hope, an allegorical sketch on slowly recovering from sickness.” See note on pages 79 and 80.

The Pursuits of Literature was a literary satire in the form of dialogues in verse, garnished with very outspoken notes, by Thomas James Mathias (1754?-18S5), which appeared between 1794 and 1797.

Southey had returned from Portugal in the summer, when the quarrel between Coleridge and himself revived; but about the time of Hartley’s birth some kind of a reconciliation was patched up. Madoc, as it happened, was not published until 1805, although in its first form it was completed in 1797.

“What Review are you connected with?” Writing to Charles Lloyd, sen., in December, 1796, Coleridge says that he gives his
evenings to his engagements with the
Critical Review and New Monthly Magazine.

This is the passage in Falstaff’s Letters describing Slender’s death:—


Master Abram is dead, gone, your Worship—dead! Master Abram! Oh! good your Worship, a’s gone.—A’ never throve, since a’ came from Windsor—’twas his death. I call’d him a rebel, your Worship—but a’ was all subject—a’ was subject to any babe, as much as a King—a’ turn’d, like as it were the latter end of a lover’s lute—a’ was all peace and resignment—a’ took delight in nothing but his book of songs and sonnets—a’ would go to the Stroud side under the large beech tree, and sing, till ’twas quite pity of our lives to mark him; for his chin grew as long as a muscle—Oh! a’ sung his soul and body quite away—a’ was lank as any greyhound, and had such a scent! I hid his love-songs among your Worship’s law-books; for I thought if a’ could not get at them, it might be to his quiet; but a’ snuff’d ’em out in a moment.—Good your Worship, have the wise woman of Brentford secured—Master Abram may have been conjured—Peter Simple says, a’ never look’d up, after a’ sent to the wise woman—Marry, a’ was always given to look down afore his elders; a’ might do it, a’ was given to it—your Worship knows it; but then ’twas peak and pert with him—a’ was a man again, marry, in the turn of his heel.—A’ died, your Worship, just about one, at the crow of the cock.—I thought how it was with him; for a’ talk’d as quick, aye, marry, as glib as your Worship; and a’ smiled, and look’d at his own nose, and call’d “Sweet Ann Page.” I ask’d him if a’ would eat—so a’ bad us commend him to his Cousin Robert (a’ never call’d your Worship so before) and bade us get hot meat, for a’ would not say nay to Ann again.1—But a’ never liv’d to touch it—a’ began all in a moment to sing “Lovers all, a Madrigal.” ’Twas the only song Master Abram ever learnt out of book, and clean by heart, your Worship—and so a’ sung, and smiled, and look’d askew at his own nose, and sung, and sung on, till his breath waxed shorter, and shorter, and shorter, and a’ fell into a struggle and died. I beseech your Worship to think he was well tended—I look’d to him, your Worship, late and soon, and crept at his heel all day long, an it had been any fallow dog—but I thought a’ could never live, for a’ did so sing, and then a’ never drank with it—I knew ’twas a bad sign—yea, a’ sung, your Worship, marry, without drinking a drop.]

Nov. 8th, 1796.

MY Brother, my Friend,—I am distrest for you, believe me I am; not so much for your painful, troublesome complaint, which, I trust, is only for a time, as for those anxieties which brought it on, and perhaps even now may be nursing its malignity. Tell me, dearest of my friends, is your mind at peace, or has anything, yet unknown to me, happened to give you fresh disquiet, and steal from you all the pleasant dreams of future rest? Are you still (I

1 [Vide “Merry Wives of Windsor.” Latter part of the 1st Scene, 1st Act.]

fear you are) far from being comfortably settled? Would to God it were in my power to contribute towards the bringing of you into the haven where you would be! But you are too well skilled in the philosophy of consolation to need my humble tribute of advice; in pain and in sickness, and in all manner of disappointments, I trust you have that within you which shall speak peace to your mind. Make it, I entreat you, one of your puny comforts, that I feel for you, and share all your griefs with you. I feel as if I were troubling you about little things; now I am going to resume the subject of our last two letters, but it may divert us both from unpleasanter feelings to make such matters, in a manner, of importance. Without further apology, then, it was not that I did not relish, that I did not in my heart thank you for, those little pictures of your feelings which you lately sent me, if I neglected to mention them. You may remember you had said much the same things before to me on the same subject in a former letter, and I considered those last verses as only the identical thoughts better clothed; either way (in prose or verse) such poetry must be welcome to me. I love them as I love the
Confessions of Rousseau, and for the same reason: the same frankness, the same openness of heart, the same disclosure of all the most hidden and delicate affections of the mind: they make me proud to be thus esteemed worthy of the place of friend-confessor, brother-confessor, to a man like Coleridge. This last is, I acknowledge, language too high for friendship; but it is also, I declare, too sincere for flattery. Now, to put on stilts, and talk magnificently about trifles—I condescend, then, to your counsel, Coleridge, and allow my first Sonnet (sick to death am I to make mention of my sonnets, and I blush to be so taken up with them, indeed I do)—I allow it to run thus, “Fairy Land,” &c. &c., as I [? you] last wrote it.

The Fragments I now send you I want printed to get rid of ’em; for, while they stick burr-like to my memory, they tempt me to go on with the idle trade of versifying, which I long—most sincerely I speak it—I long to leave off, for it is unprofitable to my soul; I feel it is; and these questions about words, and debates about alterations, take me off, I am conscious, from the properer business of my life. Take my sonnets once for all, and do not propose any re-amendments, or mention them again in any shape to me, I charge you. I blush that my mind can consider them as things of any worth. And pray admit or reject these fragments, as you like or dislike them, without ceremony. Call ’em Sketches, Fragments, or what you will, but do not entitle any of my things Love Sonnets, as I told you to call ’em; ’twill only make me look little in my own eyes; for it is a passion of which I retain nothing; ’twas a weakness, concerning which I may say, in the words of Petrarch (whose life is
now open before me), “if it drew me out of some vices, it also prevented the growth of many virtues, filling me with the love of the creature rather than the Creator, which is the death of the soul.” Thank God, the folly has left me for ever; not even a review of my love verses renews one wayward wish in me; and if I am at all solicitous to trim ’em out in their best apparel, it is because they are to make their appearance in good company. Now to my fragments. Lest you have lost my
Grandame, she shall be one. ’Tis among the few verses I ever wrote (that to Mary is another) which profit me in the recollection. God love her,—and may we two never love each other less!

These, Coleridge, are the few sketches I have thought worth preserving; how will they relish thus detached? Will you reject all or any of them? They are thine: do whatsoever thou listest with them. My eyes ache with writing long and late, and I wax wondrous sleepy; God bless you and yours, me and mine! Good night.

C. Lamb.

I will keep my eyes open reluctantly a minute longer to tell you, that I love you for those simple, tender, heart-flowing lines with which you conclude your last, and in my eyes best, sonnet (so you call ’em),
“So, for the mother’s sake, the child was dear,
And dearer was the mother for the child.”

Cultivate simplicity, Coleridge, or rather, I should say, banish elaborateness; for simplicity springs spontaneous from the heart, and carries into daylight its own modest buds and genuine, sweet, and clear flowers of expression. I allow no hot-beds in the gardens of Parnassus. I am unwilling to go to bed, and leave my sheet unfilled (a good piece of night-work for an idle body like me), so will finish with begging you to send me the earliest account of your complaint, its progress, or (as I hope to God you will be able to send me) the tale of your recovery, or at least amendment. My tenderest remembrances to your Sara.

Once more good night.


[Coleridge, on November 2, had begun to suffer from his lifelong enemy, neuralgia, the result largely of worry concerning his future, so many of his projects having broken down. He was subduing it with laudanum—the beginning of that fatal habit.

“The haven where you would be.” See Psalms cvii. 30.


We do not know what were the verses which Coleridge had sent Lamb, possibly the three sonnets on the birth of Hartley, the third of which is referred to below.

Lamb’s decision in September to say or hear no more of his own poetry here breaks down. The reference to the Fairy Land sonnet is only partially explained by the parallel version which I printed on page 24; for “Fairy Land” was Coleridge’s version. Either Lamb had made a new version, substituting “Fairy Land” for “Faery,” or he wrote, “I allow it to run thus: Fairy Land, &c., &c., as you last wrote it.” When reprinted, however, it ran as Lamb originally wished. The other fragments were those afterwards included in Coleridge’s Poems, second edition, 1797.

“Love Sonnets.” Lamb changed his mind again on this subject (see page 58) and yet again.

I nave not found the particular Life of Petrarch from which Lamb quotes.

Coleridge’s last of the three sonnets on the birth of Hartley was entitled “Sonnet to a Friend [Charles Lloyd] who asked how I felt when the Nurse first presented my Infant to me.” It closed with the lines which Lamb copies.]

Nov. 14th, 1796.

COLERIDGE, I love you for dedicating your poetry to Bowles. Genius of the sacred fountain of tears, it was he who led you gently by the hand through all this valley of weeping, showed you the dark green yew trees and the willow shades where, by the fall of waters, you might indulge an uncomplaining melancholy, a delicious regret for the past, or weave fine visions of that awful future,
“When all the vanities of life’s brief day
Oblivion’s hurrying hand hath swept away,
And all its sorrows, at the awful blast
Of the archangel’s trump, are but as shadows past.”

I have another sort of dedication in my head for my few things, which I want to know if you approve of, and can insert. I mean to inscribe them to my sister. It will be unexpected, and it will give her pleasure; or do you think it will look whimsical at all? As I have not spoke to her about it, I can easily reject the idea. But there is a monotony in the affections, which people living together or, as we do now, very frequently seeing each other, are apt to give in to: a sort of indifference in the expression of kindness for each
other, which demands that we should sometimes call to our aid the trickery of surprise. Do you publish with
Lloyd or without him? in either case my little portion may come last, and after the fashion of orders to a country correspondent I will give directions how I should like to have ’em done. The title-page to stand thus:—



Under this title the following motto, which, for want of room, I put over leaf, and desire you to insert, whether you like it or no. May not a gentleman choose what arms, mottoes, or armorial bearings the herald will give him leave, without consulting his republican friend, who might advise none? May not a publican put up the sign of the Saracen’s Head, even though his undiscerning neighbour should prefer, as more genteel, the Cat and Gridiron?

“This beauty, in the blossom of my youth,
When my first fire knew no adulterate incense,
Nor I no way to flatter but my fondness,
In the best language my true tongue could tell me,
And all the broken sighs my sick heart lend me,
I sued and served. Long did I love this lady.”



This is the pomp and paraphernalia of parting, with which I take my leave of a passion which has reigned so royally (so long) within me; thus, with its trappings of laureatship, I fling it off, pleased and satisfied with myself that the weakness troubles me no longer. I am wedded, Coleridge, to the fortunes of my sister and my poor old father. Oh! my friend, I think sometimes, could I recall the days that are past, which among them should I choose? not those “merrier days,” not the “pleasant days of hope,” not “those wanderings with a fair hair’d maid,” which I have so often and so feelingly regretted, but the days, Coleridge, of a mother’s fondness for her school-boy. What would I give to call her back to earth for one day, on my knees to ask her pardon for all those little asperities of temper which, from time to time, have given her gentle spirit pain; and the day, my friend, I trust will come; there will be “time enough” for kind offices of love, if “Heaven’s eternal year” be ours. Hereafter, her meek spirit shall not reproach me. Oh, my friend, cultivate the filial feelings! and let no man think himself released from the kind “charities” of relationship: these shall give him peace at the last; these are the best foundation for every species of benevolence. I rejoice to hear, by certain channels, that you, my friend, are reconciled with all your relations. ’Tis the most kindly and natural species of love, and we have all the associated train of early feelings to secure its strength and perpetuity. Send me an account of your health; indeed I am solicitous about you. God love you and yours.

C. Lamb.

[It seems to have been Coleridge’s intention to dedicate the second edition of his Poems to Bowles; but he changed his mind and dedicated it to his brother, the Rev. George Coleridge. A sonnet to Bowles was included in the volume, a kind of subdedication of the other sonnets, but it had appeared also in the 1796 volume.

Lamb’s instructions concerning his share in the 1797 volume were carried out, except that the sub-title (which I supply from an old interleaved edition of Talfourd in my possession) was omitted. For the passage from Massinger see note on page 31.

“When all the vanities of life’s brief day . . .” This is a composite quotation. The first couplet, slightly altered, is from Bowles’ “On Mr. Howard’s Account of Lazarettos,” and the second from a companion poem, “The Grave of Howard.”

The quotations “merrier days” (“happier days”) and “wanderings with a fair-hair’d maid” are from Lamb’s own sonnets. I do not find “pleasant days of hope.”


“Time enough . . . Heaven’s eternal year.” From Dryden’sElegy on Mrs. Killigrew,” lines 14 and 15:—
Thou wilt have time enough for hymns divine,
Since Heaven’s eternal year is thine.

“Charities . . .” Possibly from Cowper’s Task, “Winter Evening,” line 677:—
The charities of domestic life.

Coleridge had paid in the summer a long-deferred visit of reconciliation to his family at Ottery St. Mary.]

[p.m. December 2, 1796 (Friday).]

I HAVE delay’d writing thus long, not having by me my copy of your poems, which I had lent. I am not satisfied with all your intended omissions. Why omit 40: 63: 84: above all, let me protest strongly against your rejecting the “Complaint of Ninathoma,” 86. The words, I acknowledge, are Ossian’s, but you have added to them the “Music of Caril.” If a vicarious substitute be wanting, sacrifice (and ’twill be a piece of self-denial too) the Epitaph on an Infant, of which its Author seems so proud, so tenacious. Or, if your heart be set on perpetuating the four-line-wonder, I’ll tell you what [to] do: sell the copy wright of it at once to a country statuary; commence in this manner Death’s prime poet laureat; and let your verses be adopted in every village round instead of those hitherto famous ones “Afflictions sore long time I bore, Physicians were in vain”. I have seen your last very beautiful poem in the Monthly Magazine—write thus, and you most generally have written thus, and I shall never quarrel with you about simplicity. With regard to my lines “Laugh all that weep,” etc.—I would willingly sacrifice them, but my portion of the volume is so ridiculously little, that in honest truth I can’t spare them. As things are, I have very slight pretensions to participate in the title-page.—White’s book is at length reviewed in the Monthly; was it your doing, or Dyer’s to whom I sent him? Or rather do you not write in the Critical? for I observed, in an Article of this Month’s a line quoted out of that sonnet on Mrs. Siddons “with eager wond’ring and perturb’d delight”—and a line from that sonnet would not readily have occurred to a stranger.
That sonnet, Coleridge, brings afresh to my mind the time when you wrote those on
Bowles, Priestly, Burke—’twas 2 Christmases ago, and in that nice little smoky room at the Salutation, which is even now continually presenting itself to my recollection, with all its associated train of pipes, tobacco, Egghot, welch Rabbits, metaphysics and Poetry.

Are we never to meet again? How differently I am circumstanced now—I have never met with any one, never shall meet with any one, who could or can compensate me for the loss of your society—I have no one to talk all these matters about to—I lack friends, I lack books to supply their absence. But these complaints ill become me: let me compare my present situation, prospects, and state of mind, with what they were but 2 months back—but 2 months. O my friend, I am in danger of forgetting the awful lessons then presented to me—remind me of them; remind me of my Duty. Talk seriously with me when you do write. I thank you, from my heart I thank you, for your sollicitude about my Sister. She is quite well,—but must not, I fear, come to live with us yet a good while. In the first place, because at present it would hurt her, and hurt my father, for them to be together: secondly from a regard to the world’s good report, for I fear, I fear, tongues will be busy whenever that event takes place. Some have hinted, one man has prest it on me, that she should be in perpetual confinement—what she hath done to deserve, or the necessity of such an hardship, I see not; do you? I am starving at the India house, near 7 o’clock without my dinner, and so it has been and will be almost all the week. I get home at night o’erwearied, quite faint,—and then to cards with my father, who will not let me enjoy a meal in peace—but I must conform to my situation, and I hope I am, for the most part, not unthankful.

I am got home at last, and, after repeated games at Cribbage have got my father’s leave to write awhile: with difficulty got it, for when I expostulated about playing any more, he very aptly replied, “If you won’t play with me, you might as well not come home at all.” The argument was unanswerable, and I set to afresh.

I told you, I do not approve of your omissions. Neither do I quite coincide with you in your arrangements: I have not time to point out a better, and I suppose some self-associations of your own have determined their place as they now stand. Your beginning indeed with the Joan of Arc lines I coincide entirely with: I love a splendid Outset, a magnificent Portico; and the Diapason is Grand—the Religious Musings—when I read them, I think how poor, how unelevated, unoriginal, my blank verse is, “Laugh all that weep” especially, where the subject demanded a grandeur of conception: and I ask what business they have among yours—but
Friendship covereth a multitude of defects. Why omit 73? At all events, let me plead for those former pages,—40. 63. 84. 86. I should like, for old acquaintance sake, to spare 62. 119 would have made a figure among
Shenstone’s Elegies: you may admit it or reject, as you please. In the Man of Ross let the old line stand as it used: “wine-cheer’d moments” much better than the lame present one. 94, change the harsh word “foodful” into “dulcet” or, if not too harsh, “nourishing.” 91, “moveless”: is that as good as “moping”?—8, would it not read better omitting those 2 lines last but 6 about Inspiration? I want some loppings made in the Chatterton; it wants but a little to make it rank among the finest irregular Lyrics I ever read. Have you time and inclination to go to work upon it—or is it too late—or do you think it needs none? Don’t reject those verses in one of your Watchmen—“Dear native brook,” &c.—nor, I think, those last lines you sent me, in which “all effortless” is without doubt to be preferred to “inactive.” If I am writing more than ordinarily dully, ’tis that I am stupified with a tooth-ache. 37, would not the concluding lines of the 1st paragraph be well omitted—& it go on “So to sad sympathies” &c.? In 40, if you retain it, “wove” the learned Toil is better than “urge,” which spoils the personification. Hang it, do not omit 48. 52. 53. What you do retain tho’, call sonnets for God’s sake, and not effusions,—spite of your ingenious anticipation of ridicule in your Preface. The last 5 lines of 50 are too good to be lost, the rest is not much worth. My tooth becomes importunate—I must finish. Pray, pray, write to me: if you knew with what an anxiety of joy I open such a long packet as you last sent me, you would not grudge giving a few minutes now and then to this intercourse (the only intercourse, I fear we two shall ever have), this conversation, with your friend—such I boast to be called.

God love you and yours.

Write to me when you move, lest I direct wrong.

Has Sara no poems to publish? Those lines 129 are probably too light for the volume where the Religious Musings are—but I remember some very beautiful lines addrest by somebody at Bristol to somebody at London.

God bless you once more.

C. Lamb.
Thursday Night.

[This letter refers to the preparation of Coleridge’s second edition of his Poems. “Why omit 40, 63, 84?”—these were “Absence,” “To the Autumnal Moon” and the imitation from Ossian.

The “Music of Caril.” Carril was the bard of Cuhullin (see Ossian’s Fingal).


The “Epitaph on an Infant” ran thus:—
Ere Sin could blight, or Sorrow fade,
Death came with friendly care;
The opening bud to Heaven conveyed
And bade it blossom there.

Lamb applied the first two lines to a sucking pig in his Elia essay on “Roast Pig” many years later. The old epitaph runs:—
Afflictions sore long time I bore,
Physicians were in vain;
Till Heaven did please my woes to ease,
And take away my pain.

Coleridge’s very beautiful poem in the Monthly Magazine (for October) was “Reflections on Entering into Active Life,” beginning, “Low was our pretty cot.”

Lamb’s lines, “Laugh all that weep,” I cannot find. We learn later that they were in blank verse.

Falstaff’s Letters was reviewed in the Monthly Review for November, 1796, very favourably. The article was quite possibly by Coleridge.

The sonnet on Mrs. Siddons was written by Lamb and Coleridge together when Coleridge was in London at the end of 1794, and it formed one of a series of sonnets on eminent persons printed in the Morning Chronicle, of which those on Bowles, Priestley and Burke were others. The quotation from it was in an article in the November Critical Review on the “Musae Etonenses.”

“One man has prest it on me.” There is reason to suppose that this was John Lamb, the brother.

As it happened Coleridge did not begin his second edition with the “Joan of Arc” lines, but with the “Ode to the New Year.” The “Religious Musings” brought Coleridge’s part of the volume to a close.

The poem on page 73 was “In the Manner of Spenser.” The poems on pages 40, 63, 84, we know; that on page 86 was “The Complaint of Ninathoma.” “To Genevieve” was on page 62. That on page 119 was “To a Friend in Answer to a Melancholy Letter.” Coleridge never restored the phrase “wine-cheer’d moments” to “The Man of Ross.” He did not change “foodful” to “dulcet” in “To an Infant.” He did not alter “moveless” to “moping” in “The Young Ass.” He left the Inspiration passage as it was in the “Monody on Chatterton.” Not that he disregarded all Lamb’s advice, as a comparison of the 1796 and 1797 editions of the Poems will show.

The poem “Dear native brook” was the sonnet “To the River Otter.” Coleridge took Lamb’s counsel. The poem containing
the phrase “all effortless” was that “
Addressed to a Young Man of Fortune” (Charles Lloyd). Coleridge did not include it. The poem on page 37 was “To a Young Lady with a Poem on the French Revolution.” Nos. 48, 52 and 53 were the sonnets to Priestley, Kosciusko and Fayette. The last five lines of 50 were in the sonnet to Sheridan. The lines on page 129 were Sara’s verses “The Silver Thimble.” None of these were reprinted in 1797. The beautiful lines addressed from somebody at Bristol to somebody at London were those from Sara Coleridge to Lamb, referred to on page 33. Coleridge persisted in the use of the word “effusion”.]

[Dated at end: Dec. 5, 1796.]
To a young Lady going out to India
HARD is the heart, that does not melt with Ruth
When care sits cloudy on the brow of Youth,
When bitter griefs the female bosom swell
And Beauty meditates a fond farewell
To her loved native land, and early home,
In search of peace thro’ “stranger climes to roam.”1
The Muse, with glance prophetic, sees her stand,
Forsaken, silent Lady, on the strand
Of farthest India, sickening at the war
Of waves slow-beating, dull upon the shore
Stretching, at gloomy intervals, her eye
O’er the wide waters vainly to espy
The long-expected bark, in which to find
Some tidings of a world she has left behind.
In that sad hour shall start the gushing tear
For scenes her childhood loved, now doubly dear,
In that sad hour shall frantic memory awake
Pangs of remorse for slighted England’s sake,
And for the sake of many a tender tye
Of Love or Friendship pass’d too lightly by.
Unwept, unpitied, midst an alien race,
And the cold looks of many a stranger face,
How will her poor heart bleed, and chide the day,
That from her country took her far away.

[Lamb has struck his pen through the foregoing poem.]

1 Bowles. [“The African,” line 27.]


Coleridge, the above has some few decent [lines in] it, and in the paucity of my portion of your volume may as well be inserted; I would also wish to retain the following if only to perpetuate the memory of so exquisite a pleasure as I have often received at the performance of the tragedy of Douglas, when Mrs. Siddons has been the Lady Randolph. Both pieces may be inserted between the sonnets and the sketches—in which latter, the last leaf but one of them, I beg you to alter the words “pain and want” to “pain and grief,” this last being a more familiar and ear-satisfying combination. Do it I beg of you. To understand the following, if you are not acquainted with the play, you should know that on the death of Douglas his mother threw herself down a rock; and that at that time Scotland was busy in repelling the Danes.

See the Tragedy of that name
When her son, her Douglas died,
To the steep rock’s fearful side
Fast the frantic mother hied.
O’er her blooming warrior dead
Many a tear did Scotland shed,
And shrieks of long and loud lament
From her Grampian hills she sent.
Like one awakening from a trance,
She met the shock of Lochlin’s lance. Denmark
On her rude invader foe
Return’d an hundred fold the blow.
Drove the taunting spoiler home:
Mournful thence she took her way
To do observance at the tomb,
Where the son of Douglas [lay].
Round about the tomb did go
In solemn state and order slow,
Silent pace, and black attire,
Earl, or Knight, or good Esquire,
Who e’er by deeds of valour done
In battle had high honors won;
Whoe’er in their pure veins could trace
The blood of Douglas’ noble race.
With them the flower of minstrels came,
And to their cunning harps did frame
In doleful numbers piercing rhimes,
Such strains as in the olden times
Had soothed the spirit of Fingal
Echoing thro’ his fathers’ Hall.
“Scottish maidens, drop a tear
O’er the beauteous Hero’s bier.
Brave youth and comely ’bove compare;
All golden shone his burnish’d hair;
Valor and smiling courtesy
Played in the sunbeams of his eye.
Closed are those eyes that shone so fair
And stain’d with blood his yellow hair.
Scottish maidens drop a tear
O’er the beauteous Hero’s bier.”
“Not a tear, I charge you, shed
For the false Glenalvon dead;
Unpitied let Glenalvon lie,
Foul stain to arms and chivalry.”;
“Behind his back the traitor came,
And Douglas died without his fame.”

[Lamb has struck his pen through the lines against which I have put an asterisk.]

Is “morbid wantonness of woe” a good and allowable phrase?
* “Scottish maidens, drop a tear,
* O’er the beauteous hero’s bier.”
* “Bending warrior, o’er thy grave,
Young light of Scotland early spent!”
Thy country thee shall long lament,
* Douglas ‘Beautiful and Brave’!
And oft to after times shall tell,
In Hope’s sweet prime my Hero fell.

[Lamb has struck his pen through the remainder.]

“Thane or Lordling, think no scorn
Of the poor and lowly-born.
In brake obscure or lonely dell
The simple flowret prospers well;
The gentler virtues cottage-bred, omitted
Thrive best beneath the humble shed.
Low-born Hinds, opprest, obscure,
Ye who patiently endure
To bend the knee and bow the head,
And thankful eat another’s bread
Well may ye mourn your best friend dead,
Till Life with Grief together end:
He would have been the poor man’s friend.”
“Bending, warrior, o’er thy grave,
Young light of Scotland early spent! omitted
Thy country thee shall long lament,
Douglas, ‘Beautiful and Brave’!
And oft to after times shall tell, omitted
In life’s young prime my Hero fell.

At length I have done with verse making. Not that I relish other people’s poetry less,—theirs comes from ’em without effort, mine is the difficult operation of a brain scanty of ideas, made more difficult by disuse. I have been reading the “Task” with fresh delight. I am glad you love Cowper. I could forgive a man for not enjoying Milton, but I would not call that man my friend, who should be offended with the “divine chit-chat of Cowper.” Write to me.—God love you and yours.

C. L.

[The name of the young lady going out to India is not known; the verses were printed in the Monthly Magazine for March, 1797, but not in Coleridge’s Poems, 1797. “The Tomb of Douglas” was included in that volume. The poem in which the alteration “pain and want” was to be made (but was not made, or was made and cancelled later) was “Fancy Employed on Divine Subjects.”

The “divine chit-chat of Cowper” was Coleridge’s own phrase. It is a pretty circumstance that Lamb and Cowper now share a memorial in Edmonton church.]

[Little Queen Street, Night of Dec. 9th,] 1796.

I AM sorry I cannot now relish your poetical present as thoroughly as I feel it deserves; but I do not the less thank Lloyd and you for it.

In truth, Coleridge, I am perplexed, & at times almost cast down. I am beset with perplexities. The old hag of a wealthy relation, who took my aunt off our hands in the beginning of trouble, has found out that she is “indolent and mulish”—I quote her own words—and that her attachment to us is so strong that she can never be happy apart. The Lady, with delicate Irony, remarks that, if I am not an Hypocrite, I shall rejoyce to receive her again; and that it will be a means of making me more fond of home to have so dear a friend to come home to! The fact is, she is jealous of my aunt’s bestowing any kind recollections on us, while she enjoys the patronage of her roof. She says she finds it inconsistent with her own “ease and tranquility” to keep her any longer, & in fine summons me to fetch her home. Now, much as I should rejoyce to transplant the poor old creature from the chilling air of such patronage, yet I know how straitend we are already, how unable already to answer any demand which sickness or any extraordinary expence may make. I know this, and all unused as I am to struggle with perplexities I am somewhat nonplusd, to say no worse. This prevents me from a thorough relish of what Lloyd’s kindness and yours have furnished me with. I thank you tho from my heart, and feel myself not quite alone in the earth.


Before I offer, what alone I have to offer, a few obvious remarks on the poems you sent me, I can[not] but notice the odd coincidence of two young men, in one age, carolling their grandmothers. Love—what L[loyd] calls “the feverish and romantic tye”—hath too long domineerd over all the charities of home: the dear domestic tyes of father, brother, husband. The amiable and benevolent Cowper has a beautiful passage in his “Task,”—some natural and painful reflections on his deceased parents: and Hayley’s sweet lines to his mother are notoriously the best things he ever wrote. Cowper’s lines, some of them, are—
“How gladly would the man recall to life
The boy’s neglected sire; a mother, too,
That softer name, perhaps more gladly still,
Might he demand them at the gates of death.”
I cannot but smile to see my
Granny so gayly deck’d forth: tho’, I think, whoever altered “thy” praises to “her” praises, “thy” honoured memory to “her” honoured memory, did wrong—they best exprest my feelings. There is a pensive state of recollection, in which the mind is disposed to apostrophise the departed objects of its attachment, and, breaking loose from grammatical precision, changes from the 1st to the 3rd, and from the 3rd to the 1st person, just as the random fancy or the feeling directs. Among Lloyd’s sonnets, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 11th, are eminently beautiful. I think him too lavish of his expletives; the do’s and did’s, when they occur too often, bring a quaintness with them along with their simplicity, or rather air of antiquity which the patrons of them seem desirous of conveying.

The lines on Friday are very pleasing—“Yet calls itself in pride of Infancy woman or man,” &c., “affection’s tottering troop”—are prominent beauties. Another time, when my mind were more at ease, I could be more particular in my remarks, and I would postpone them now, only I want some diversion of mind. The Melancholy Man is a charming piece of poetry, only the “whys” (with submission) are too many. Yet the questions are too good to be any of ’em omitted. For those lines of yours, page 18, omitted in magazine, I think the 3 first better retain’d—the 3 last, which are somewhat simple in the most affronting sense of the word, better omitted: to this my taste directs me—I have no claim to prescribe to you. “Their slothful loves and dainty sympathies” is an exquisite line, but you knew that when you wrote ’em, and I trifle in pointing such out. Tis altogether the sweetest thing to me you ever wrote—tis all honey. “No wish profaned my overwhelmed heart, Blest hour, it was a Luxury to be”—I recognise feelings, which I may taste again, if tranquility has not taken
his flight for ever, and I will not believe but I shall be happy, very happy again. The next
poem to your friend is very beautiful: need I instance the pretty fancy of “the rock’s collected tears”—or that original line “pour’d all its healthful greenness on the soul”?—let it be, since you asked me, “as neighbouring fountains each reflect the whole”—tho’ that is somewhat harsh; indeed the ending is not so finish’d as the rest, which if you omit in your forthcoming edition, you will do the volume wrong, and the very binding will cry out. Neither shall you omit the 2 following poems. “The hour when we shall meet again,” is fine fancy, tis true, but fancy catering in the Service of the feeling—fetching from her stores most splendid banquets to satisfy her. Do not, do not omit it. Your sonnet to the River Otter excludes those equally beautiful lines, which deserve not to be lost, “as the tired savage,” &c., and I prefer that copy in your Watchman. I plead for its preference.

Another time, I may notice more particularly Lloyd’s, Southey’s, Dermody’s Sonnets. I shrink from them now: my teazing lot makes me too confused for a clear judgment of things, too selfish for sympathy; and these ill-digested, meaningless remarks I have imposed on myself as a task, to lull reflection, as well as to show you I did not neglect reading your valuable present. Return my acknowledgments to Lloyd; you two appear to be about realising an Elysium upon earth, and, no doubt, I shall be happier. Take my best wishes. Remember me most affectionately to Mrs. C., and give little David Hartley—God bless its little heart!—a kiss for me. Bring him up to know the meaning of his Christian name, and what that name (imposed upon him) will demand of him.

C. Lamb.

God love you!

I write, for one thing, to say that I shall write no more till you send me word where you are, for you are so soon to move.

My sister is pretty well, thank God. We think of you very often. God bless you: continue to be my correspondent, and I will strive to fancy that this world is not “all barrenness.”


[The poetical present, Mr. Dykes Campbell pointed out in The Athenæum, June 13, 1891, consisted of Lloyd’s Poems on the Death of Priscilla Farmer, to which Lamb had contributed “The Grandame,” and of a little privately-printed collection of poems by Coleridge and Lloyd, which they had intended to publish, but did not. The pamphlet has completely vanished. In addition to these two works the poetical present also comprised another privately-printed collection, a little pamphlet of twenty-
eight sonnets which Coleridge had arranged for the purpose of binding up with those of
Bowles. It included three of Bowles’, four of Coleridge’s, four of Lamb’s, four of Southey’s, and the remainder by Dermody, Lloyd, Charlotte Smith, and others. A copy of this pamphlet is preserved in the South Kensington Museum.

“The poems you sent me.” This would be Lloyd’s Poems on the Death of Priscilla Farmer. When Lamb reprinted “The Grandame” in Coleridge’s second edition, 1797, he put back the original text.

Lloyd called Love “the fev’rish and romantic tie” in the first sonnet on the death of Priscilla Farmer.

The lines in The Task are in the “Winter Walk at Noon,” 42-45.

Lloyd’s 6th sonnet begins:—
When Thou that agonized Saint dost see,
The 7th—
Oft when I brood on what my heart has felt,
The 8th—
My Bible, scarcely dare I open thee!
The 9th—
When from my dreary home I first mov’d on.
and the 11th—
As o’er the dying embers oft I cower.
In Lloyd’s part of the 1797 edition of
Coleridge’s Poems these sonnets are re-numbered V., VI., VII., VIII. and X.

The lines on Friday bore the title “Lines written on a Friday, the Day in each Week formerly devoted by the Author and his Brothers and Sisters to the Society of their Grandmother.” The passage which Lamb singled out runs thus:—
. . . Faint-heard the rumbling wheels
Proclaim the kind conveyance sent by her,
The watchful Friend, to bear the feeble ones:
Perchance some babe that still in helplessness
Clings to its Mother’s breast, or one that left
But now its Nurse’s lap, another yet
That scarcely lisps its benefactress’ name,
Yet calls itself in pride of infancy,
Woman or Man! Ah, enviable state,
When in simplicity of heart we’re pleas’d
With misery-meaning names! The mother still
With kisses fond, or smiles of anxious hope
Tended affection’s tott’ring troop. . . .


I now take up Mr. Dykes Campbell’s comments on the letter, where it branches off from the Priscilla Farmer volume to the vanished pamphlet of poems by Coleridge and Lloyd:—

Beginning with Lloyd’sMelancholy Man” (first printed in the Carlisle volume of 1795), he [Lamb] passes to Coleridge’s poem on leaving the honeymoon-cottage at Clevedon, “altogether the sweetest thing to me,” says Lamb, “you ever wrote.” The verses had appeared in the Monthly Magazine two months before. . . . That Lamb’s counsel was followed to some extent may be gathered from a comparison between the text of the magazine and that of 1797:—

“Once I saw
(Hallowing his sabbath-day by quietness)
A wealthy son of Commerce saunter by,
Bristowa’s citizen: he paus’d, and look’d,
With a pleas’d sadness, and gazed all around,
Then ey’d our Cottage, and gaz’d round again,
And said, it was a blessed little place!
And we were blessed!” Monthly Magazine.
“Once I saw
(Hallowing his Sabbath-day by quietness)
A wealthy son of Commerce saunter by,
Bristowa’s citizen. Methought it calm’d
His thirst of idle gold, and made him muse
With wiser feelings: for he paus’d, and look’d
With a pleas’d sadness, and gaz’d all around,
Then ey’d our cottage, and gaz’d round again,
And sigh’d and said, it was a blessed place.
And we were blessed.” Poems, 1797.

It will be observed that Coleridge in 1797 inserted some lines which were not in the magazine. They were probably restored from a MS. copy Lamb had previously seen, and if Coleridge did not cancel all that Lamb wisely counselled, he certainly drew the sting of the “affronting simplicity” by removing the word “little.” The comical ambiguity of the Bristol man’s exclamation as first reported could hardly have failed to drive Lamb’s dull care away for a moment or two.

[In] “the next poem to your friend,” . . . [Lamb is] speaking of Coleridge’s lines “To Charles Lloyd”—those beginning
“A mount, not wearisome and bare and steep.”
In the “forthcoming edition” the poet improved a little the barely tolerated line, making it read,—
“As neighb’ring fountains image, each the whole,”
but did not take
Lamb’s hint to omit the five which closed the poem. Lamb, however, got his way—perhaps took it—when the verses were reprinted in 1803, in the volume he saw through the press for Coleridge.

“Neither shall you omit the 2 following poems. ‘The hour when we shall meet again’ is [only?] a fine fancy, ’tis true, but fancy catering in the service of the feeling—fetching from her stores most splendid banquets to satisfy her. Do not, do not, omit it.”

So wrote Lamb of these somewhat slender verses, but his friend had composed them “during illness and in absence,” and Lamb in his own heart-sickness and loneliness detected the reality which underlay the conventionality of expression. The critic slept, and even when he was awake again in 1803 was fain to let the lines be reprinted with only the concession of their worst couplet:—
“While finely-flushing float her kisses meek,
Like melted rubies, o’er my pallid cheek.”

The second of the “2 following poems” was Coleridge’sSonnet to the River Otter.” The version then before him “excludes,” complains Lamb, “those equally beautiful lines which deserve not to be lost, ‘as the tir’d savage,’ &c, and I prefer the copy in your Watchman. I plead for its preference.” This pleading . . . was not responded to in the way Lamb wanted, but in the appendix to the 1797 volume Coleridge printed the whole of the poem on an “Autumnal Evening,” to which the “tir’d savage” properly belonged. . . .

Lloyd’s, Southey’s, Dermody’s Sonnets.” Lamb here refers to the third portion of the poetical present—the twenty-eight sonnets to be bound up with those of Bowles. Thomas Dermody (1775-1802) was an Irish poet of squalidly dissolute life. A collection of his verses appeared in 1792.

“All barrenness.” From Southey’s poem “The Pauper’s Funeral,” line 16:—
And thine old age all barrenness and blast!]

Dec. 10th, 1796.

I HAD put my letter into the post rather hastily, not expecting to have to acknowledge another from you so soon. This morning’s present has made me alive again: my last night’s epistle was childishly querulous; but you have put a little life into me, and I will thank you for your remembrance of me, while my sense of it is yet warm; for if I linger a day or two I may use the same phrase of acknowledgment, or similar; but the feeling that dictates it now will be gone. I shall send you a caput mortuum, not a cor vivens. Thy Watchman’s, thy bellman’s, verses, I do retort upon thee, thou libellous varlet,—why, you cried the hours yourself, and who made you so proud? But I submit, to show my humility, most implicitly to your dogmas. I reject entirely the copy of verses you reject. With regard to my leaving off versifying, you have said so many pretty things, so many fine compliments, ingeniously decked out in the garb of sincerity, and undoubtedly springing from a present feeling somewhat like sincerity, that you might melt the most un-muse-ical soul,—did you not (now for a Rowland compliment for your profusion of Olivers)—did you not in your very epistle, by the many pretty fancies and profusion of heart displayed in it, dissuade and discourage me from attempting anything after you. At present I have not leisure to make verses, nor
anything approaching to a fondness for the exercise. In the ignorant present time, who can answer for the future man? “At lovers’ perjuries Jove laughs”—and poets have sometimes a disingenuous way of forswearing their occupation. This though is not my case. The tender cast of soul, sombred with melancholy and subsiding recollections, is favourable to the Sonnet or the Elegy; but from
“The sainted growing woof,
The teasing troubles keep aloof.”
The music of poesy may charm for a while the importunate teasing cares of life; but the teased and troubled man is not in a disposition to make that music.

You sent me some very sweet lines relative to Burns, but it was at a time when, in my highly agitated and perhaps distorted state of mind, I thought it a duty to read ’em hastily and burn ’em. I burned all my own verses, all my book of extracts from Beaumont and Fletcher and a thousand sources: I burned a little journal of my foolish passion which I had a long time kept—
“Noting ere they past away
The little lines of yesterday.”
I almost burned all your letters,—I did as bad, I lent ’em to a friend to keep out of my
brother’s sight, should he come and make inquisition into our papers, for, much as he dwelt upon your conversation while you were among us, and delighted to be with you, it has been his fashion ever since to depreciate and cry you down,—you were the cause of my madness—you and your damned foolish sensibility and melancholy—and he lamented with a true brotherly feeling that we ever met, even as the sober citizen, when his son went astray upon the mountains of Parnassus, is said to have “cursed wit and Poetry and Pope.” I quote wrong, but no matter. These letters I lent to a friend to be out of the way for a season; but I have claimed them in vain, and shall not cease to regret their loss. Your packets, posterior to the date of my misfortunes, commencing with that valuable consolatory epistle, are every day accumulating—they are sacred things with me.

Publish your Burns when and how you like, it will be new to me,—my memory of it is very confused, and tainted with unpleasant associations. Burns was the god of my idolatry, as Bowles of yours. I am jealous of your fraternising with Bowles, when I think you relish him more than Burns or my old favourite, Cowper. But you conciliate matters when you talk of the “divine chit-chat” of the latter: by the expression I see you thoroughly relish him. I love Mrs. Coleridge for her excuses an hundredfold more dearly than if she heaped “line upon line,” out-Hannah-ing Hannah More, and had rather hear you sing “Did a very little baby”
by your family fire-side, than listen to you when you were repeating one of Bowles’s sweetest sonnets in your sweet manner, while we two were indulging sympathy, a solitary luxury, by the fire-side at the Salutation. Yet have I no higher ideas of heaven. Your company was one “cordial in this melancholy vale”—the remembrance of it is a blessing partly, and partly a curse. When I can abstract myself from things present, I can enjoy it with a freshness of relish; but it more constantly operates to an unfavourable comparison with the uninteresting: converse I always and only can partake in. Not a soul loves Bowles here; scarce one has heard of Burns; few but laugh at me for reading my Testament—they talk a language I understand not: I conceal sentiments that would be a puzzle to them. I can only converse with you by letter and with the dead in their books. My
sister, indeed, is all I can wish in a companion; but our spirits are alike poorly, our reading and knowledge from the self-same sources, our communication with the scenes of the world alike narrow: never having kept separate company, or any “company” “together”—never having read separate books, and few books together—what knowledge have we to convey to each other? In our little range of duties and connexions, how few sentiments can take place, without friends, with few books, with a taste for religion rather than a strong religious habit! We need some support, some leading-strings to cheer and direct us. You talk very wisely, and be not sparing of your advice. Continue to remember us, and to show us you do remember us: we will take as lively an interest in what concerns you and yours. All I can add to your happiness, will be sympathy. You can add to mine more; you can teach me wisdom. I am indeed an unreasonable correspondent; but I was unwilling to let my last night’s letter go off without this qualifier: you will perceive by this my mind is easier, and you will rejoice I do not expect or wish you to write, till you are moved; and of course shall not, till you announce to me that event, think of writing myself. Love to Mrs. Coleridge and David Hartley, and my kind remembrance to Lloyd, if he is with you.

C. Lamb.

I will get “Nature and Art,”—have not seen it yet—nor any of Jeremy Taylor’s works.


[“Caput mortuum . . . cor vivens.” Lamb contrasts the thanks that come from a cold intellect (dead head) with those proceeding quick and warm from the heart

The reference to the bellman’s verses (the bellman, or watchman, used to leave verses at the houses on his beat at Easter as a re-
minder of his deserts) is not quite clear.
Lamb evidently had submitted for the new volume some lines which Coleridge would not pass—possibly the poem in Letter No. 16.

Coleridge some time before had sent to Lamb the very sweet lines relative to Burns, under the title, “To a Friend who had Declared His Intention of Writing no more Poetry.”

“At lovers’ perjuries, they say, Jove laughs” (“Romeo and Juliet,” II., 2, 92, 93). “Ignorant present.” See note on page 47.

“The sainted growing woof,” etc. From Collins’Ode on the Poetical Character”:—
The dangerous Passions kept aloof,
Far from the sainted growing woof.

“Noting ere they past away . . .” From Rogers’Pleasures of Memory,” Part II.—“past” for “fade.”

“Cursed wit and Poetry and Pope.” A slight confusion is in Lamb’s mind: the passage in Pope’s “Epistle to Arbuthnot” runs (23-26):—
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,
Imputes to me and my damn’d works the cause:
Poor Cornus sees his frantic wife elope,
And curses Wit, and Poetry, and Pope.

Hannah More.” The reference is to the prolixity of the author of Sacred Dramas. “Line upon line” (Isaiah xxviii. 13).

“Did a very little baby.” In the Appendix to Vol. I. of the 1847 edition of the Biog. Lit., Sara Coleridge writes, concerning children and domestic evenings, “‘Did a very little babby make a very great noise?’ is the first line of a nursery song, in which Mr. Coleridge recorded some of his experience on this recondite subject.” The song has disappeared.

“Cordial in this melancholy vale.” From Burns’Cotter’s Saturday Night,” verse ix., line 6.

Nature and Art was Mrs. Inchbald’s story, published in 1796. Lamb later became an enthusiast for Jeremy Taylor (see page 218).]