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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [9 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
[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.”