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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 14 August 1800

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
Aug. 14, 1800.

READ on and you’ll come to the Pens. My head is playing all the tunes in the world, ringing such peals. It has just finished the “Merry Christ Church Bells,” and absolutely is beginning “Turn again, Whittington.” Buz, buz, buz: bum, bum, bum: wheeze, wheeze, wheeze: feu, feu, feu: tinky, tinky, tinky: craunch. I shall certainly come to be damned at last. I have been getting drunk for two days running. I find my moral sense in the last stage of a consumption, and my religion burning as blue and faint as the tops of burning bricks. Hell gapes and the Devil’s great guts cry cupboard for me. In the midst of this infernal torture, Conscience (and be damn’d to her), is barking and yelping as loud as any of them. I have sat down to read over again, and I think I do begin to spy out something with beauty and design in it. I perfectly accede to all your alterations, and only desire that you had cut deeper, when your hand was in.

In the next edition of the “Anthology” (which Phœbus avert and those nine other wandering maids also!) please to blot out gentle-hearted, and substitute drunken: dog, ragged-head, seld-shaven, odd-eyed, stuttering, or any other epithet which truly and properly belongs to the gentleman in question. And for Charles read Tom, or Bob, or Richard for more delicacy. Damn you, I was beginning to forgive you and believe in earnest that the lugging in of my proper name was purely unintentional on your part, when looking back for further conviction, stares me in the face Charles Lamb of the India House. Now I am convinced it was all done in malice, heaped sack-upon-sack, congregated, studied malice. You Dog! your 141st page shall not save you. I own I was just ready
to acknowledge that there is a something not unlike good poetry in that page, if you had not run into the unintelligible abstraction-fit about the manner of the Deity’s making spirits perceive his presence. God, nor created thing alive, can receive any honour from such thin show-box attributes. By-the-by, where did you pick up that scandalous piece of
private history about the angel and the Duchess of Devonshire? If it is a fiction of your own, why truly it is a very modest one for you. (Now I do affirm that “Lewti” is a very beautiful poem. I was in earnest when I praised it. It describes a silly species of one not the wisest of passions. Therefore it cannot deeply affect a disenthralled mind. But such imagery, such novelty, such delicacy, and such versification never got into an “Anthology” before,) I am only sorry that the cause of all the passionate complaint is not greater than the trifling circumstance of Lewti being out of temper one day. In sober truth, I cannot see any great merit in the little Dialogue called “Blenheim.” It is rather novel and pretty; but the thought is very obvious and children’s poor prattle, a thing of easy imitation. Pauper vult videri et est. “Gualberto” certainly has considerable originality, but sadly wants finishing. It is, as it is, one of the very best in the book. Next to “Lewti” I like the “Raven,” which has a good deal of humour. I was pleased to see it again, for you once sent it me, and I have lost the letter which contained it. Now I am on the subject of Anthologies, I must say I am sorry the old Pastoral way has fallen into disrepute. The Gentry which now indite Sonnets are certainly the legitimate descendants of the ancient shepherds. The same simpering face of description, the old family face, is visibly continued in the line. Some of their ancestors’ labours are yet to be found in Allan Ramsay’s and Jacob Tonson’s Miscellanies. But, miscellanies decaying and the old Pastoral way dying of mere want, their successors (driven from their paternal acres) now-a-days settle and hive upon Magazines and Anthologies. This Race of men are uncommonly addicted to superstition. Some of them are Idolators and worship the Moon. Others deify qualities, as love, friendship, sensibility, or bare accidents, as Solitude. Grief and Melancholy have their respective altars and temples among them, as the heathens builded theirs to Mors, Febris, Palloris. They all agree in ascribing a peculiar sanctity to the number fourteen. One of their own legislators affirmeth, that whatever exceeds that number “encroacheth upon the province of the Elegy”—vice versa, whatever “cometh short of that number abutteth upon the premises of the Epigram.” I have been able to discover but few Images in their temples, which, like the Caves of Delphos of old, are famous for giving Echoes. They impute a religious importance to the
letter O, whether because by its roundness it is thought to typify the moon, their principal goddess, or for its analogies to their own labours, all ending where they began; or whatever other high and mystical reference, I have never been able to discover, but I observe they never begin their invocations to their gods without it, except indeed one insignificant sect among them, who use the Doric A, pronounced like Ah! broad, instead. These boast to have restored the old Dorian mood.

Now I am on the subject of poetry, I must announce to you, who, doubtless, in your remote part of the Island, have not heard tidings of so great a blessing, that George Dyer hath prepared two ponderous volumes full of Poetry and Criticism. They impend over the town, and are threatened to fall in the winter. The first volume contains every sort of poetry except personal satire, which George, in his truly original prospectus, renounceth for ever, whimsically foisting the intention in between the price of his book and the proposed number of subscribers. (If I can, I will get you a copy of his handbill.) He has tried his vein in every species besides—the Spenserian, Thomsonian, Masonic and Akensidish more especially. The second volume is all criticism; wherein he demonstrates to the entire satisfaction of the literary world, in a way that must silence all reply for ever, that the pastoral was introduced by Theocritus and polished by Virgil and Pope—that Gray and Mason (who always hunt in couples in George’s brain) have a good deal of poetical fire and true lyric genius—that Cowley was ruined by excess of wit (a warning to all moderns)—that Charles Lloyd, Charles Lamb, and William Wordsworth, in later days, have struck the true chords of poesy. O, George, George, with a head uniformly wrong and a heart uniformly right, that I had power and might equal to my wishes!—then I would call the Gentry of thy native Island, and they should come in troops, flocking at the sound of thy Prospectus Trumpet, and crowding who shall be first to stand in thy List of Subscribers. I can only put twelve shillings into thy pocket (which, I will answer for them, will not stick there long), out of a pocket almost as bare as thine. [Lamb here erases six lines.] Is it not a pity so much fine writing should be erased? But, to tell the truth, I began to scent that I was getting into that sort of style which Longinus and Dionysius Halicarnassus aptly call “the affected.” But I am suffering from the combined effect of two days’ drunkenness, and at such times it is not very easy to think or express in a natural series. The Only useful Object of this Letter is to apprize you that on Saturday I shall transmit the Pens by the same coach I sent the Parcel. So enquire them out. You had better write to Godwin here, directing your letter to be forwarded to him. I
don’t know his address. You know your letter must at any rate come to London first.

C. L.