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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [5 February 1797]

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 Sunday, February 5, 1797.
Dated on address by mistake: January 5, 1797.]

SUNDAY MORNING.—You cannot surely mean to degrade the Joan of Arc into a pot girl. You are not going, I hope, to annex to that most splendid ornament of Southey’s poem all this cock and a bull story of Joan the publican’s daughter of Neufchatel, with the lamentable episode of a waggoner, his wife, and six children; the texture will be most lamentably disproportionate. The first forty or fifty lines of these addenda are, no doubt, in their way, admirable, too; but many would prefer the Joan of Southey.

“On mightiest deeds to brood Of shadowy vastness, such as made my heart Throb fast. Anon I paused, and in a state Of half expectance listen’d to the wind;” “They wonder’d at me, who had known me once A chearful careless damsel;” “The eye, That of the circling throng and of the visible world Unseeing, saw the shapes of holy phantasy;” I see nothing in your description of the Maid equal to these. There is a fine originality certainly in those lines—“For she had lived in this bad world as in a place of tombs, And touch’d not the pollutions of the Dead”—but your “fierce vivacity” is a faint copy of the “fierce & terrible benevolence” of Southey. Added to this, that it will look like rivalship in you, & extort a comparison with S,—I think to your disadvantage. And the lines, consider’d in themselves as an addition to what you had before written (strains of a far higher mood), are but such as Madame Fancy loves in some of her more familiar moods, at such times as she has met Noll Goldsmith, & walk’d and talk’d with him, calling him old acquaintance. Southey certainly has no pretensions to vie with you in the sublime of poetry; but he tells a plain tale better than you. I will enumerate some woeful blemishes, some of ’em sad deviations from that simplicity which
was your aim. “Hail’d who might be near” (the canvas-coverture moving, by the by, is laughable); “a woman & six children” (by the way,—why not nine children, it would have been just half as pathetic again): “statues of sleep they seem’d.” “Frost-mangled wretch:” “green putridity:” “hail’d him immortal” (rather ludicrous again): “voiced a sad and simple tale” (abominable!): “unprovender’d:” “such his tale:” “Ah! suffering to the height of what was suffer’d” (a most insufferable line): “amazements of affright:” “the hot sore brain attributes its own hues of ghastliness and torture” (what shocking confusion of ideas!) In these delineations of common & natural feelings, in the familiar walks of poetry, you seem to resemble Montauban dancing with Roubigné’s tenants, “much of his native loftiness remained in the execution.” I was reading your
Religious Musings the other day, & sincerely I think it the noblest poem in the language, next after the Paradise lost; & even that was not made the vehicle of such grand truths. “There is one mind,” &c., down to “Almighty’s Throne,” are without a rival in the whole compass of my poetical reading. “Stands in the sun, & with no partial gaze Views all creation”—I wish I could have written those lines. I rejoyce that I am able to relish them. The loftier walks of Pindus are your proper region. There you have no compeer in modern times. Leave the lowlands, unenvied, in possession of such men as Cowper & Southey. Thus am I pouring balsam into the wounds I may have been inflicting on my poor friend’s vanity. In your notice of Southey’s new volume you omit to mention the most pleasing of all, the Miniature “There were Who form’d high hopes and flattering ones of thee, Young Robert. Spirit of Spenser!—was the wanderer wrong?” Fairfax I have been in quest of a long time. Johnson in his life of Waller gives a most delicious specimen of him, & adds, in the true manner of that delicate critic, as well as amiable man, “it may be presumed that this old version will not be much read after the elegant translation of my friend, Mr. Hoole.” I endeavour’d—I wish’d to gain some idea of Tasso from this Mr. Hoole, the great boast and ornament of the India House, but soon desisted. I found him more vapid than smallest small beer sun-vinegared. Your dream, down to that exquisite line—“I can’t tell half his adventures,” is a most happy resemblance of Chaucer. The remainder is so so. The best line, I think, is, “He belong’d, I believe, to the witch Melancholy.” By the way, when will our volume come out? Don’t delay it till you have written a new Joan of Arc. Send what letters you please by me, & in any way you choose, single or double. The India Co. is better adapted to answer the cost than the generality of my friend’s correspondents,—such poor & honest dogs as John Thelwall, particularly. I can
not say I know
Colson, at least intimately. I once supped with him & Allen. I think his manners very pleasing. I will not tell you what I think of Lloyd, for he may by chance come to see this letter, and that thought puts a restraint on me. I cannot think what subject would suit your epic genius; some philosophical subject, I conjecture, in which shall be blended the Sublime of Poetry & of Science. Your proposed Hymns will be a fit preparatory study wherewith “to discipline your young noviciate soul.” I grow dull; I’ll go walk myself out of my dulness.

Sunday Night.—You & Sara are very good to think so kindly & so favourably of poor Mary. I would to God all did so too. But I very much fear she must not think of coming home in my father’s lifetime. It is very hard upon her. But our circumstances are peculiar, & we must submit to them. God be praised she is so well as she is. She bears her situation as one who has no right to complain. My poor old aunt, whom you have seen, the kindest, goodest creature to me when I was at school; who used to toddle there to bring me fag, when I, school-boy like, only despised her for it, & used to be ashamed to see her come & sit herself down on the old coal hole steps as you went into the old grammar school, & opend her apron & bring out her bason, with some nice thing she had caused to be saved for me—the good old creature is now lying on her death bed. I cannot bear to think on her deplorable state. To the shock she received on that our evil day, from which she never completely recovered, I impute her illness. She says, poor thing, she is glad she is come home to die with me. I was always her favourite: “No after friendship e’er can raise The endearments of our early days, Nor e’er the heart such fondness prove, As when it first began to love.” Lloyd has kindly left me for a keep-sake, John Woolman. You have read it, he says, & like it. Will you excuse one short extract? I think it could not have escaped you:—“Small treasure to a resigned mind is sufficient. How happy is it to be content with a little, to live in humility, & feel that in us which breathes out this language—Abba! Father!” I am almost ashamed to patch up a letter in this miscellaneous sort; but I please myself in the thought, that anything from me will be acceptable to you. I am rather impatient, childishly so, to see our names affixed to the same common volume. Send me two, when it does come out; 2 will be enough—or indeed 1—but 2 better. I have a dim recollection that, when in town, you were talking of the Origin of Evil as a most prolific subject for a long poem. Why not adopt it, Coleridge? there would be room for imagination. Or the description (from a Vision or Dream, suppose) of an Utopia in one of the planets (the Moon,
for instance). Or a Five Days’ Dream, which shall illustrate, in 1 sensible imagery,
Hartley’s 5 motives to conduct:—1 sensation, 2 imagination, 3 ambition, 4 sympathy, 5 Theopathy. 1st banquets, music, etc., effeminacy,—and their insufficiency. 2d “beds or hyacinth & roses, where young Adonis oft reposes;” “fortunate Isles;” “The pagan Elysium,” &c., &c.; poetical pictures; antiquity as pleasing to the fancy;—their emptiness, madness, etc. 3d warriors, poets; some famous, yet more forgotten, their fame or oblivion now alike indifferent, pride, vanity, &c. 4th all manner of pitiable stories, in Spenser-like verse—love—friendship, relationship, &c. 5th Hermits—Christ and his apostles—martyrs—heaven—&c., &c. An imagination like yours, from these scanty hints, may expand into a thousand great Ideas—if indeed you at all comprehend my scheme, which I scarce do myself.

Monday Morn.—“A London letter. 9½.” Look you, master poet, I have remorse as well as another man, & my bowels can sound upon occasion. But I must put you to this charge, for I cannot keep back my protest, however ineffectual, against the annexing your latter lines to those former—this putting of new wine into old bottles. This my duty done, I will cease from writing till you invent some more reasonable mode of conveyance. Well may the “ragged followers of the nine” set up for flocci-nauci-what-do-you-call-’em-ists! And I do not wonder that in their splendid visions of Utopias in America they protest against the admission of those yellow-complexioned, copper-color’d, white-liver’d Gentlemen, who never proved themselves their friends. Don’t you think your verses on a Young Ass too trivial a companion for the Religious Musings? “Scoundrel monarch,” alter that; and the Man of Ross is scarce admissible as it now stands curtailed of its fairer half: reclaim its property from the Chatterton, which it does but encumber, & it will be a rich little poem. I hope you expunge great part of the old notes in the new edition. That, in particular, most barefaced unfounded impudent assertion, that Mr. Rogers is indebted for his story to Loch Lomond, a poem by Bruce! I have read the latter. I scarce think you have. Scarce anything is common to them both. The poor author of the Pleasures of Memory was sorely hurt, Dyer says, by the accusation of unoriginality. He never saw the Poem. I long to read your Poem on Burns; I retain so indistinct a memory of it. In what shape and how does it come into public? As you leave off writing poetry till you finish your Hymns, I suppose you print now all you have got by you. You have scarce enough unprinted to make a 2d volume with Lloyd. Tell me all about it. What is become of Cowper? Lloyd told me of some verses on
his mother. If you have them by you, pray send ’em me. I do so love him! Never mind their merit. May be I may like ’em—as your taste and mine do not always exactly indentify. Yours,