LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Mary Lamb and Charles Lamb to Sarah Stoddart Hazlitt, [June 1804]

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
[Late July, 1804.]

MY dearest Sarah,—Your letter, which contained the news of Coleridge’s arrival, was a most welcome one; for we had begun to entertain very unpleasant apprehensions for his safety; and your kind reception of the forlorn wanderer gave me the greatest pleasure, and I thank you for it in my own and my brother’s name. I shall depend upon you for hearing of his welfare; for he does not write himself; but, as long as we know he is safe, and in such kind friends’ hands, we do not mind. Your letters, my dear Sarah, are to me very, very precious ones. They are the kindest, best, most natural ones I ever received. The one containing the news of the arrival of Coleridge perhaps the best I ever saw; and your old friend Charles is of my opinion. We sent it off to Mrs. Coleridge and the Wordsworths—as well because we thought it our duty to give them the first notice we had of our dear friend’s safety, as that we were proud of shewing our Sarah’s pretty letter.

The letters we received a few days after from you and your brother were far less welcome ones. I rejoiced to hear your sister is well; but I grieved for the loss of the dear baby; and I am sorry to find your brother is not so successful as he at first expected to be; and yet I am almost tempted to wish his ill fortune may send him over [to] us again. He has a friend, I understand, who is now at the head of the Admiralty; why may he not return, and make a fortune here?

I cannot condole with you very sincerely upon your little failure in the fortune-making way. If you regret it, so do I. But I hope to see you a comfortable English wife; and the forsaken, forgotten William, of English-partridge memory, I have still a hankering after. However, I thank you for your frank communication, and I beg you will continue it in future; and if I do not agree with a good grace to your having a Maltese husband, I will wish you
happy, provided you make it a part of your marriage articles that your husband shall allow you to come over sea and make me one visit; else may neglect and overlookedness be your portion while you stay there.

I would condole with you when the misfortune has fallen your poor leg; but such is the blessed distance we are at from each other, that I hope, before you receive this, that you forgot it ever happened.

Our compliments [to] the high ton at the Maltese court. Your brother is so profuse of them to me, that being, as you know, so unused to them, they perplex me sadly; in future, I beg they may be discontinued. They always remind me of the free, and, I believe, very improper, letter I wrote to you while you were at the Isle of Wight. The more kindly you and your brother and sister took the impertinent advice contained in it, the more certain I feel that it was unnecessary, and therefore highly improper. Do not let your brother compliment me into the memory of it again.

My brother has had a letter from your Mother, which has distressed him sadly—about the postage of some letters being paid by my brother. Your silly brother, it seems, has informed your Mother (I did not think your brother could have been so silly) that Charles had grumbled at paying the said postage. The fact was, just at that time we were very poor, having lost the Morning Post, and we were beginning to practise a strict economy. My brother, who never makes up his mind whether he will be a Miser or a Spendthrift, is at all times a strange mixture of both: of this failing, the even economy of your correct brother’s temper makes him an ill judge. The miserly part of Charles, at that time smarting under his recent loss, then happened to reign triumphant; and he would not write, or let me write, so often as he wished, because the postage cost two and four pence. Then came two or three of your poor Mother’s letters nearly together; and the two and four pences he wished, but grudged, to pay for his own, he was forced to pay for hers. In this dismal distress, he applied to Fenwick to get his friend Motley to send them free from Portsmouth. This Mr. Fenwick could have done for half a word’s speaking; but this he did not do. Then Charles foolishly and unthinkingly complained to your brother in a half serious, half joking way; and your brother has wickedly, and with malice afore thought, told your Mother. O fye upon him! what will your Mother think of us?

I too feel my share of blame in this vexatious business; for I saw the unlucky paragraph in my brother’s letter; and I had a kind of foreboding that it would come to your Mother’s ears—although I had a higher opinion of your brother’s good sense than I find he deserved. By entreaties and prayers, I might have pre-
vailed on my brother to say nothing about it. But I make a point of conscience never to interfere or cross my brother in the humour he happens to be in. It always appears to me to be a vexatious kind of Tyranny, that women have no business to exercise over men, which, merely because they having a better judgement, they have the power to do. Let men alone, and at last we find they come round to the right way, which we, by a kind of intuition, perceive at once. But better, far better, that we should let them often do wrong, than that they should have the torment of a Monitor always at their elbows.

Charles is sadly fretted now, I know, at what to say to your Mother. I have made this long preamble about it to induce [you,] if possible, to reinstate us in your Mother’s good graces. Say to her it was a jest misunderstood; tell her Charles Lamb is not the shabby fellow she and her son took him for; but that he is now and then a trifle whimsical or so. I do not ask your brother to do this, for I am offended with him for the mischief he has made.

I feel that I have too lightly passed over the interesting account you sent me of your late disappointment. It was not because I did not feel and compl[ete]ly enter into the affair with you. You surprise and please me with the frank and generous way in which you deal with your Lovers, taking a refusal from their so prudential hearts with a better grace and more good humour than other women accept a suitor’s service. Continue this open artless conduct, and I trust you will at last find some man who has sense enough to know you are well worth risking a peaceable life of poverty for. I shall yet live to see you a poor, but happy, English wife.

Remember me most affectionately to Coleridge; and I thank you again and again for all your kindness to him. To dear Mrs. Stoddart and your brother, I beg my best love; and to you all I wish health and happiness, and a soon return to Old England.

I have sent to Mr. Burrel’s for your kind present; but unfortunately he is not in town. I am impatient to see my fine silk handkerchiefs; and I thank you for them, not as a present, for I do not love presents, but as a [word illegible] remembrance of your old friend. Farewell.

I am, my best Sarah,
Your most affectionate friend,
Mary Lamb.

Good wishes, and all proper remembrances, from old nurse, Mrs. Jeffries, Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Rickman, &c. &c. &c.

Long live Queen Hoop-oop-oop-oo, and all the old merry phantoms!

[Charles Lamb adds:—]

My Dear Miss Stoddart,—Mary has written so fully to you, that I have nothing to add but that, in all the kindness she has exprest, and loving desire to see you again, I bear my full part. You will, perhaps, like to tear this half from the sheet, and give your brother only his strict due, the remainder. So I will just repay your late kind letter with this short postscript to hers. Come over here, and let us all be merry again.

C. Lamb.