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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [1 December 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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Produced by CATH
[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.