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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 1811

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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[? End of 1810 or early 1811.]

MY dear Sarah,—I have taken a large sheet of paper, as if I were going to write a long letter; but that is by no means my intention, for I only have time to write three lines to notify what I ought to have done the moment I received your welcome letter. Namely, that I shall be very much joyed to see you. Every morning lately I have been expecting to see you drop in, even before your letter came; and I have been setting my wits to work to think how to make you as comfortable as the nature of our inhospitable habits will admit. I must work while you are here; and I have been slaving very hard to get through with something before you come, that I may be quite in the way of it, and not teize you with complaints all day that I do not know what to do.

I am very sorry to hear of your mischance. Mrs. Rickman has just buried her youngest child. I am glad I am an old maid; for, you see, there is nothing but misfortunes in the marriage state.

Charles was drunk last night, and drunk the night before; which night before was at Godwin’s, where we went, at a short summons from Mr. G., to play a solitary rubber, which was interrupted by
the entrance of
Mr. and little Mrs. Liston; and after them came Henry Robinson, who is now domesticated at Mr. Godwin’s fireside, and likely to become a formidable rival to Tommy Turner. We finished there at twelve o’clock (Charles and Liston brim-full of gin and water and snuff): after which Henry Robinson spent a long evening by our fireside at home; and there was much gin and water drunk, albeit only one of the party partook of it. And H. R. professed himself highly indebted to Charles for the useful information he gave him on sundry matters of taste and imagination, even after Charles could not speak plain for tipsiness. But still he swallowed the flattery and the spirits as savourily as Robinson did his cold water.

Last night was to be a night, but it was not. There was a certain son of one of Martin’s employers, one young Mr. Blake; to do whom honour, Mrs. Burney brought forth, first rum, then a single bottle of champaine, long kept in her secret hoard; then two bottles of her best currant wine, which she keeps for Mrs. Rickman, came out; and Charles partook liberally of all these beverages, while Mr. Young Blake and Mr. Ireton talked of high matters, such as the merits of the Whip Club, and the merits of red and white champaine. Do I spell that last word right? Rickman was not there, so Ireton had it all his own way.

The alternating Wednesdays will chop off one day in the week from your jolly days, and I do not know how we shall make it up to you; but I will contrive the best I can. Phillips comes again pretty regularly, to the great joy of Mrs. Reynolds. Once more she hears the well-loved sounds of, ‘How do you do, Mrs. Reynolds? How does Miss Chambers do?’

I have spun out my three lines amazingly. Now for family news. Your brother’s little twins are not dead, but Mrs. John Hazlitt and her baby may be, for any thing I know to the contrary, for I have not been there for a prodigious long time. Mrs. Holcroft still goes about from Nicholson to Tuthil, and from Tuthil to Godwin, and from Godwin to Tuthil, and from Tuthil to Godwin, and from Godwin to Tuthil, and from Tuthil to Nicholson, to consult on the publication, or no publication, of the life of the good man, her husband. It is called the Life Everlasting. How does that same Life go on in your parts? Good bye, God bless you. I shall be glad to see you when you come this way.

Yours most affectionately,
M. Lamb.

I am going in great haste to see Mrs. Clarkson, for I must get back to dinner, which I have hardly time to do. I wish that dear, good, amiable woman would go out of town. I thought she was
clean gone; and yesterday there was a consultation of physicians held at her house, to see if they could keep her among them here a few weeks longer.


[This letter is dated by Mr. Hazlitt November 30, 1810, but I doubt if that can be right. See extract from Crabb Robinson in the note to Letter 185, on page 422, testifying to Lamb’s sobriety between November 9 and December 23.

Liston was John Liston (1776?-1846), the actor, whose mock biography Lamb wrote some years later (see Vol. I. of this edition, page 248). His wife was a diminutive comedienne, famous as Queen Dollalolla in “Tom Thumb.” Lamb may have known Liston through the Burneys, for he is said to have been an usher in Dr. Burney’s school—Dr. Charles Burney, Captain Burney’s brother.

“Henry Robinson.” Crabb Robinson’s Diary shows us that his domestication by Godwin’s fireside was not of long duration. I do not know who Tommy Turner was. Mr. Ireton was probably William Ayrton, the musical critic, a friend and neighbour of the Burneys, and later a friend of the Lambs, as we shall see.

“The alternating Wednesdays.” The Lambs seem to have given up their weekly Wednesday evening, which now became fortnightly. Later it was changed to Thursday and made monthly. Mrs. Reynolds had been a Miss Chambers.]

[No date. ? 1811.]

MY dear Matilda,—Coleridge has given me a very chearful promise that he will wait on Lady Jerningham any day you will be pleased to appoint; he offered to write to you; but I found it was to be done tomorrow, and as I am pretty well acquainted with his tomorrows, I thought good to let you know his determination today. He is in town today, but as he is often going to Hammersmith for a night or two, you had better perhaps send the invitation through me, and I will manage it for you as well as I can. You had better let him have four or five days’ previous notice, and you had better send the invitation as soon as you can; for he seems tolerably well just now. I mention all these betters, because I wish to do the best I can for you, perceiving, as I do, it is a thing
you have set your heart upon. He dined one [d]ay in company with
Catilana (is that the way you spell her Italian name?—I am reading Sallust, and had like to have written Catiline). How I should have liked, and how you would have liked, to have seen Coleridge and Catilana together!

You have been very good of late to let me come and see you so seldom, and you are a little goodish to come so seldom here, because you stay away from a kind motive. But if you stay away always, as I fear you mean to do, I would not give one pin for your good intentions. In plain words, come and see me very soon; for though I be not sensitive as some people, I begin to feel strange qualms for having driven you from me.

Yours affectionately,
M. Lamb.

Alas! Wednesday shines no more to me now.

Miss Duncan played famously in the new comedy, which went off as famously. By the way, she put in a spiteful piece of wit, I verily believe of her own head; and methought she stared me full in the face. The words were “As silent as an author in company.” Her hair and herself looked remarkably well.


[I place this undated letter here on account of that which follows.

Angelica Catalani (1782-1849) was the great singer. I find no record of Coleridge’s meeting with her.

Miss Duncan.” Praise of this lady in Miss Hardcastle and other parts will be found in Leigh Hunt’s Critical Essays on the Performers of the London Theatres, 1807. At this time she was playing with the Drury Lane Company at the Lyceum. They produced several new plays.]

[Dated at end: March 8, 1811.]

THERE—don’t read any further, because the Letter is not intended for you but for Coleridge, who might perhaps not have opened it directed to him suo nomine. It is to invite C. to
Lady Jerningham’s on Sunday. Her address is to be found within. We come to Hammersmith notwithstanding on Sunday, and hope Mrs. M. will not think of getting us Green Peas or any such expensive luxuries. A plate of plain Turtle, another of Turbot, with good roast Beef in the rear, and, as Alderman Curtis says, whoever can’t make a dinner of that ought to be damn’d.

C. Lamb.
Friday night, 8 Mar., 1811.

[This is Lamb’s only existing letter to Coleridge’s friend, John Morgan.

Coleridge had not found a lodging and was still with the Morgans at 7 Portland Place, Hammersmith.

Alderman Sir William Curtis, M.P., afterwards Lord Mayor of London, was the subject of much ridicule by the Whigs and Radicals, and the hero of Peter Pindar’s satire “The Fat Knight and the Petition.” It was he who first gave the toast of the three R.’s—“reading, riting and rithmetic” (see Letter 328).]

2 Oct., 1811. Temple.

MY dear Sarah,—I have been a long time anxiously expecting the happy news that I have just received. I address you because, as the letter has been lying some days at the India House, I hope you are able to sit up and read my congratulations on the little live boy you have been so many years wishing for. As we old women say, ‘May he live to be a great comfort to you!’ I never knew an event of the kind that gave me so much pleasure as the little long-looked-for-come-at-last’s arrival; and I rejoiced to hear his honour has begun to suck—the word was not distinctly written and I was a long time making out the solemn fact. I hope to hear from you soon, for I am desirous to know if your nursing labours are attended with any difficulties. I wish you a happy getting-up, and a merry christening.

Charles sends his love, perhaps though he will write a scrap to Hazlitt at the end. He is now looking over me, he is always in my way, for he has had a month’s holydays at home, but I am happy to say they end on Monday—when mine begin, for I am going to pass a week at Richmond with Mrs. Burney. She has been dying, but she went to the Isle of Wight and recovered once more, and she is
finishing her recovery at Richmond. When there I intend to read Novels and play at Piquet all day long.

Yours truly,
M. Lamb.
LETTER 192 (continued)
DEAR Hazlitt,

I cannot help accompanying my sister’s congratulations to Sarah with some of my own to you on this happy occasion of a man child being born—

Delighted Fancy already sees him some future rich alderman or opulent merchant; painting perhaps a little in his leisure hours for amusement like the late H. Bunbury, Esq.

Pray, are the Winterslow Estates entailed? I am afraid lest the young dog when he grows up should cut down the woods, and leave no groves for widows to take their lonesome solace in. The Wem Estate of course can only devolve on him, in case of your brother leaving no male issue.

Well, my blessing and heaven’s be upon him, and make him like his father, with something a better temper and a smoother head of hair, and then all the men and women must love him.

Martin and the Card-boys join in congratulations. Love to Sarah. Sorry we are not within Caudle-shot.

C. Lamb.

If the widow be assistant on this notable occasion, give our due respects and kind remembrances to her.


[William Hazlitt’s son, William Hazlitt, afterwards the Registrar, was born on September 26, 1811. He had been preceded by another boy, in 1809, who lived, however, only a few months.

“H. Bunbury.” Henry William Bunbury, the caricaturist and painter, and the husband of Goldsmith’s friend, Catherine Horneck, the “Jessamy Bride.” He died in 1811.

The Card-boys would be Lamb’s Wednesday visitors.

Here should come a letter from Lamb to Charles Lloyd, Senior, dated September 8, 1812, not available for this edition. It is printed in Charles Lamb and the Lloyds: a letter of criticism of Mr. Lloyd’s translation of the Epistles of Horace.


A letter from Lamb to Charles Lloyd, Junior, belonging to this period, is now no more, in common with all but two of his letters, the remainder of which were destroyed by Lloyd’s son, Charles Grosvenor Lloyd. Writing to Daniel Stuart on October 13, 1812, Wordsworth says, “Lamb writes to Lloyd that C.’s play [Coleridge’sRemorse”] is accepted.”

We now come to a period of three years in Lamb’s life which is represented in the correspondence by only two or three letters. Not until Letter 196, August 9, 1814, does he return to his old manner. During this time Lamb is known to have written his first essay on Christ’s Hospital, his “Confessions of a Drunkard,” the little but excellent series of Table-Talk in The Examiner and some verses in the same paper. Possibly he wrote many letters too, but they have disappeared. We know from Crabb Robinson’s Diary that it was a social period with the Lambs; the India House work also becoming more exacting than before.]