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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [8 June 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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[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.