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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [26 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
August 26th, 1800.

HOW do you like this little epigram? It is not my writing, nor had I any finger in it. If you concur with me in thinking it very elegant and very original, I shall be tempted to name the author to you. I will just hint that it is almost or quite a first attempt.

High-born Helen, round your dwelling
These twenty years I’ve paced in vain:
Haughty beauty, your lover’s duty
Has been to glory in his pain.
High-born Helen! proudly telling
Stories of your cold disdain;
I starve, I die, now you comply,
And I no longer can complain.
These twenty years I’ve lived on tears,
Dwelling for ever on a frown;
On sighs I’ve fed, your scorn my bread;
I perish now you kind are grown.
Can I, who loved my Beloved
But for the “scorn was in her eye,”
Can I be moved for my Beloved,
When she “returns me sigh for sigh?”
In stately pride, by my bed-side,
High-born Helen’s portrait’s hung;
Deaf to my praise; my mournful lays
Are nightly to the portrait sung.
To that I weep, nor ever sleep,
Complaining all night long to her!
Helen, grown old, no longer cold,
Said, ‘You to all men I prefer.”

Godwin returned from Wicklow the week before last, tho’ he did not reach home till the Sunday after. He might much better have spent that time with you.—But you see your invitation would have been too late. He greatly regrets the occasion he mist of visiting you, but he intends to revisit Ireland in the next summer, and then he will certainly take Keswick in his way. I dined with the Heathen on Sunday.


By-the-by, I have a sort of recollection that somebody, I think you, promised me a sight of Wordsworth’s Tragedy. I should be very glad of it just now; for I have got Manning with me, and should like to read it with him. But this, I confess, is a refinement. Under any circumstances, alone in Cold Bath Prison, or in the desert island, just when Prospero & his crew had set off, with Caliban in a cage, to Milan, it would be a treat to me to read that play. Manning has read it, so has Lloyd, and all Lloyd’s family; out I could not get him to betray his trust by giving me a sight of it. Lloyd is sadly deficient in some of those virtuous vices. I have just lit upon a most beautiful fiction of hell punishments, by the author of “Hurlothrumbo,” a mad farce. The inventor imagines that in hell there is a great caldron of hot water, in which a man can scarce hold his finger, and an immense sieve over it, into which the probationary souls are put.
“And all the little souls
Pop through the riddle holes.”

Mary’s love to Mrs. Coleridge—mine to all.

N.B.—I pays no Postage.—

George Dyer is the only literary character I am happily acquainted with. The oftener I see him, the more deeply I admire him. He is goodness itself. If I could but calculate the precise date of his death, I would write a novel on purpose to make George the hero. I could hit him off to a hair.

George brought a Dr. Anderson to see me. The Doctor is a very pleasant old man, a great genius for agriculture, one that ties his breeches-knees with Packthread, & boasts of having had disappointments from ministers. The Doctor happened to mention an Epic Poem by one Wilkie, called the “Epigoniad,” in which he assured us there is not one tolerable line from beginning to end, but all the characters, incidents, &c., are verbally copied from Homer. George, who had been sitting quite inattentive to the Doctor’s criticism, no sooner heard the sound of Homer strike his pericraniks, than up he gets, and declares he must see that poem immediately: where was it to be had? An epic poem of 800 [? 8,000] lines, and he not hear of it! There must be some things good in it, and it was necessary he should see it, for he had touched pretty deeply upon that subject in his criticisms on the Epic. George has touched pretty deeply upon the Lyric, I find; he has also prepared a dissertation on the Drama and the comparison of the English and German theatres. As I rather doubted his competency to do the latter, knowing that his peculiar turn lies in the lyric species of composition, I questioned George what English plays he had read.
I found that he had read
Shakspere (whom he calls an original, but irregular, genius), but it was a good while ago; and he has dipt into Rowe and Otway, I suppose having found their names in Johnson’s Lives at full length; and upon this slender ground he has undertaken the task. He never seem’d even to have heard of Fletcher, Ford, Marlow, Massinger, and the Worthies of Dodsley’s Collection; but he is to read all these, to prepare him for bringing out his “Parallel” in the winter. I find he is also determined to vindicate Poetry from the shackles which Aristotle & some others have imposed upon it, which is very good-natured of him, and very necessary just now! Now I am touching so deeply upon poetry, can I forget that I have just received from Cottle a magnificent copy of his Guinea Epic. Four-and-twenty Books to read in the dog-days! I got as far as the Mad Monk the first day, & fainted. Mr. Cottle’s genius strongly points him to the Pastoral, but his inclinations divert him perpetually from his calling. He imitates Southey, as Rowe did Shakspeare, with his “Good morrow to ye; good master Lieutt.” Instead of a man, a woman, a daughter, he constantly writes one a man, one a woman, one his daughter. Instead of the king, the hero, he constantly writes, he the king, he the hero—two flowers of rhetoric palpably from the “Joan.” But Mr. Cottle soars a higher pitch: and when he is original, it is in a most original way indeed. His terrific scenes are indefatigable. Serpents, asps, spiders, ghosts, dead bodies, staircases made of nothing, with adders’ tongues for bannisters—My God! what a brain he must have! He puts as many plums in his pudding as my Grandmother used to do; and then his emerging from Hell’s horrors into Light, and treading on pure flats of this earth for twenty-three Books together!

C. L.