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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 1814

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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[p.m. (? Feb.), 1814.]

“SIR—Your explanation is perfectly pleasant to me, and I accede to your proposal most willingly.

As I began with the beginning of this month, I will if you please
call upon you for your part of the
engagement (supposing I shall have performed mine) on the 1st of March next, and thence forward if it suit you quarterly.—You will occasionally wink at Briskets & Veiny Pieces.

Your hble. Svt.
C. Lamb.

[John Scott (1783-1821) we shall meet later, in 1820, in connection with the London Magazine, which he edited until the fatal termination of his quarrel with Blackwood’s. Scott had just become editor of The Champion.

Lamb’s only contribution to The Champion under Scott, which can be identified, is the essay “On the Melancholy of Tailors,” but there is little doubt that he supplied many of the extracts from old authors which were printed from time to time, and possibly one or two comic letters also.

See Letter 201 on page 449.]

[Dated at end: August 9, 1814.]

DEAR Wordsworth, I cannot tell you how pleased I was at the receit of the great Armful of Poetry which you have sent me, and to get it before the rest of the world too! I have gone quite through with it, and was thinking to have accomplishd that pleasure a second time before I wrote to thank you, but M. Burney came in the night (while we were out) and made holy theft of it, but we expect restitution in a day or two. It is the noblest conversational poem I ever read. A day in heaven. The part (or rather main body) which has left the sweetest odour on my memory (a bad term for the remains of an impression so recent) is the Tales of the Church yard. The only girl among seven brethren, born out of due time and not duly taken away again—the deaf man and the blind man—the Jacobite and the Hanoverian whom antipathies reconcile—the Scarron-entry of the rusticating parson upon his solitude—these were all new to me too. My having known the story of Margaret (at the beginning), a very old acquaintance, even as long back as I saw you first at Stowey, did not make her re-
appearance less fresh. I don’t know what to pick out of this Best of Books upon the best subjects for partial naming.

That gorgeous Sunset is famous, I think it must have been the identical one we saw on Salisbury plain five years ago, that drew Phillips from the card table where he had sat from rise of that luminary to its unequall’d set, but neither he nor I had gifted eyes to see those symbols of common things glorified such as the prophets saw them, in that sunset—the wheel—the potter’s clay—the wash pot—the wine press—the almond tree rod—the baskets of figs—the fourfold visaged head, the throne and him that sat thereon.

One feeling I was particularly struck with as what I recognised so very lately at Harrow Church on entering in it after a hot and secular day’s pleasure,—the instantaneous coolness and calming, almost transforming, properties of a country church just entered—a certain fragrance which it has—either from its holiness, or being kept shut all the week, or the air that is let in being pure country—exactly what you have reduced into words but I am feeling I cannot. The reading your lines about it fixed me for a time, a monument, in Harrow Church, (do you know it?) with its fine long Spire white as washd marble, to be seen by vantage of its high scite as far as Salisbury spire itself almost—

I shall select a day or two very shortly when I am coolest in brain to have a steady second reading, which I feel will lead to many more, for it will be a stock book with me while eyes or spectacles shall be lent me.

There is a deal of noble matter about mountain scenery, yet not so much as to overpower and discountenance a poor Londoner or South country man entirely, though Mary seems to have felt it occasionally a little too powerfully, for it was her remark during reading it that by your system it was doubtful whether a Liver in Towns had a Soul to be Saved. She almost trembled for that invisible part of us in her.

Save for a late excursion to Harrow and a day or two on the banks of the Thames this Summer, rural images were fast fading from my mind, and by the wise provision of the Regent all that was countryfy’d in the Parks is all but obliterated. The very colour of green is vanishd, the whole surface of Hyde Park is dry crumbling sand (Arabia Arenosa), not a vestige or hint of grass ever having grown there, booths and drinking places go all round it for a mile and half I am confident—I might say two miles in circuit—the stench of liquors, bad tobacco, dirty people and provisions, conquers the air and we are stifled and suffocated in Hyde Park.

Order after Order has been issued by Ld. Sidmouth in the name of the Regent (acting in behalf of his Royal father) for the dispersion of the varlets, but in vain. The vis unita of all the
Publicans in London, Westmr., Marybone, and miles round is too powerful a force to put down. The Regent has rais’d a phantom which he cannot lay. There they’ll stay probably for ever. The whole beauty of the Place is gone—that lake-look of the Serpentine—it has got foolish ships upon it—but something whispers to have confidence in nature and its revival—
at the coming of the milder day
These monuments shall all be overgrown.
Meantime I confess to have smoked one delicious Pipe in one of the cleanliest and goodliest of the booths—a tent rather, “O call it not a booth!”—erected by the public Spirit of Watson, who keeps the Adam and Eve at Pancras (the ale houses have all emigrated with their train of bottles, mugs, corkscrews, waiters, into Hyde Park—whole Ale houses with all their Ale!) in company with some of the guards that had been in France and a fine French girl (habited like a Princess of Banditti) which one of the dogs had transported from the Garonne to the Serpentine. The unusual scene, in H. Park, by Candlelight in open air, good tobacco, bottled stout, made it look like an interval in a campaign, a repose after battle, I almost fancied scars smarting and was ready to club a story with my comrades of some of my lying deeds.

After all, the fireworks were splendent—the Rockets in clusters, in trees and all shapes, spreading about like young stars in the making, floundering about in Space (like unbroke horses) till some of Newton’s calculations should fix them, but then they went out. Any one who could see ’em and the still finer showers of gloomy rain fire that fell sulkily and angrily from ’em, and could go to bed without dreaming of the Last Day, must be as hardened an Atheist as * * * * * *.

Again let me thank you for your present and assure you that fireworks and triumphs have not distracted me from receiving a calm and noble enjoyment from it (which I trust I shall often), and I sincerely congratulate you on its appearance.

With kindest remembrances to you & household, we remain—yours sincerely

C. Lamb and sister.
9 Aug., 1814.

[With this letter Lamb’s second epistolary period may be said to begin.

Wordsworth had sent Lamb a copy of The Excursion, which had been published in July, 1814. In connection with this letter Lamb’s review of the poem in the Quarterly (see Vol. I. of this
edition, page 160) should be read. The tales of the churchyard are in Books VI. and VII. The story of Margaret had been written in 1795.

The “sunset scene” (see Letter 199, page 444) is at the end of Book II. Lamb refers to his visit to Hazlitt at Winterslow, near Salisbury, in 1809, with Mary Lamb, Colonel Phillips and Martin Burney. Wordsworth was not with them. This is the passage:—

So was he lifted gently from the ground,
And with their freight homeward the shepherds moved
Through the dull mist, I following—when a step,
A single step, that freed me from the skirts
Of the blind vapour, opened to my view
Glory beyond all glory ever seen
By waking sense or by the dreaming soul!
The appearance, instantaneously disclosed,
Was of a mighty city—boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a boundless depth,
Far sinking into splendour—without end!
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes, and silver spires,
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
Uplifted; here, serene pavilions bright,
In avenues disposed; there, towers begirt
With battlements that on their restless fronts
Bore stars—illumination of all gems!
By earthly nature had the effect been wrought
Upon the dark materials of the storm
Now pacified; on them, and on the coves
And mountain-steeps and summits, whereunto
The vapours had receded, taking there
Their station under a cerulean sky.
Oh, ’twas an unimaginable sight!
Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald turf,
Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,
Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,
Molten together, and composing thus,
Each lost in each, that marvellous array
Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge
Fantastic pomp of structure without name,
In fleecy folds voluminous, enwrapped.
Right in the midst, where interspace appeared
Of open court, an object like a throne
Under a shining canopy of state
Stood fixed; and fixed resemblances were seen
To implements of ordinary use,
But vast in size, in substance glorified;
Such as by Hebrew Prophets were beheld
In vision—forms uncouth of mightiest power
For admiration and mysterious awe.

In August, 1814, London was in a state of jubilation over the declaration of peace between England and France. Lord Sidmouth, late Mr. Addington, the Home Secretary, known as “The Doctor,” was one of Lamb’s butts in his political epigrams.


“At the coming of the milder day.” A quotation from Wordsworth’s “Hart-Leap Well.”

“O call it not a booth!” I have not traced this.

“* * * * * *.” I assume these stars to stand for Godwin.]

13 August, 1814.

DEAR Resuscitate,—there comes to you by the vehicle from Lad Lane this day a volume of German; what it is I cannot justly say, the characters of those northern nations having been always singularly harsh and unpleasant to me. It is a contribution of Dr. Southey towards your wants, and you would have had it sooner but for an odd accident. I wrote for it three days ago, and the Dr., as he thought, sent it me. A book of like exterior he did send, but being disclosed, how far unlike. It was the Well-bred Scholar,—a book with which it seems the Dr. laudably fills up those hours which he can steal from his medical avocations. Chesterfield, Blair, Beattie, portions from “The Life of Savage,” make up a prettyish system of morality and the Belles Lettres, which Mr. Mylne, a Schoolmaster, has properly brought together, and calls the collection by the denomination above mentioned. The Doctor had no sooner discovered his error than he despatched man and horse to rectify the mistake, and with a pretty kind of ingenuous modesty in his note seemeth to deny any knowledge of the Well-bred Scholar; false modesty surely and a blush misplaced; for, what more pleasing than the consideration of professional austerity thus relaxing, thus improving; but so, when a child I remember blushing, being caught on my knees to my maker, or doing otherwise some pious and praiseworthy action; now I rather love such things to be seen. Henry Crabb Robinson is out upon his circuit, and his books are inaccessible without his leave and key. He is attending the Midland Circuit,—a short term, but to him, as to many young Lawyers, a long vacation sufficiently dreary. I thought I could do no better than transmit to him, not extracts, but your very letter itself, than which I think I never read any thing more moving, more pathetic, or more conducive to the purpose of persuasion. The Crab is a sour Crab if it does not sweeten him. I think it would draw another third volume of Dodsley out of me; but you say you don’t want any English books?
Perhaps, after all, that’s as well; one’s romantic credulity is for ever misleading one into misplaced acts of foolery. Crab might have answered by this time: his juices take a long time supplying, but they’ll run at last,—I know they will,—pure golden pippin. His address is at
T. Robinson’s, Bury, and if on Circuit, to be forwarded immediately—such my peremptory superscription. A fearful rumour has since reached me that the Crab is on the eve of setting out for France. If he is in England, your letter will reach him, and I flatter myself a touch of the persuasive of my own, which accompanies it, will not be thrown away; if it be, he is a Sloe, and no true-hearted crab, and there’s an end. For that life of the German Conjuror which you speak of, “Colerus de Vita Doctoris vix-Intelligibilis,” I perfectly remember the last evening we spent with Mrs. Morgan and Miss Brent, in London-Street,—(by that token we had raw rabbits for supper, and Miss Brent prevailed upon me to take a glass of brandy and water after supper, which is not my habit,)—I perfectly remember reading portions of that life in their parlour, and I think it must be among their Packages. It was the very last evening we were at that house. What is gone of that frank-hearted circle, Morgan and his cos-lettuces? He ate walnuts better than any man I ever knew. Friendships in these parts stagnate.1 I am going to eat Turbot, Turtle, Venison, marrow pudding—cold punch, claret, madeira,—at our annual feast at half-past four this day.2 They keep bothering me, (I’m at office,) and my ideas are confused. Let me know if I can be of any service as to books. God forbid the Architectonicon should be sacrificed to a foolish scruple of some Book-proprietor, as if books did not belong with the highest propriety to those that understand ’em best.

C. Lamb.

[Since Lamb’s last letter to him (October 30, 1809) Coleridge had done very little. The Friend had been given up; he had made his London home with the Morgans; had delivered the lectures on Shakespeare and contributed to The Courier;Remorse” had been produced with Lamb’s prologue, January 23, 1813; the quarrel with Wordsworth had been to some extent healed; he had sold his German books; and the opium-habit was growing on him. He was now at Bristol, living with Joseph Wade, and meditating a great work on Christianity which Cottle was to print, and which ultimately became the Biographia Literaria.

The term “Resuscitate” may refer to one of Coleridge’s frequent threats of dying (see Letter 257, page 551).

1 [See Appendix II., page 972.] 2 [Ibid., page 972.]


Dr. Henry Herbert Southey (1788-1866) was brother of the poet. He had just settled in London.

“Mylne” was William Milns, author of the Well-Bred Scholar, 1794.

Crabb Robinson does not mention Coleridge’s letter, nor make any reference to it, in his Diary. He went to France in August after circuit. It was at this time (August 23) that Coleridge wrote to John Murray concerning a translation of Goethe’s Faust, which Murray contemplated (see Letters, E. H. Coleridge, page 624). The suggestion that Coleridge should translate Faust for Murray came viâ Crabb Robinson viâ Lamb.

The “life of the German conjuror.” There were several Colerus’. John Colerus of Amsterdam wrote a Life of Spinoza. Lamb may have meant this. John Colerus of Berlin invented a perpetual calendar and John Jacob Colerus examined Platonic doctrine. There are still others.

The Morgans had moved to Ashley, near Box. Miss Brent was Mrs. Morgan’s sister.

“Friendships in these parts stagnate.” Here comes, in Mr. Macdonald’s transcript, a long and very interesting passage concerning Lamb’s card-playing friend Phillips, who has been appointed by Rickman, the new Clerk Assistant, to the House of Commons, to a secretaryship. Lamb suggests that in the past he has been guilty of writing Phillips love poems for him. My text has also another unavoidable omission.

“Our annual feast”—the annual dinner of the India House clerks.

“The Architectonicon.” Lamb refers possibly to some great projected work of Coleridge’s. The term is applied to metaphysicians. Possibly Goethe is referred to.]

26th August, 1814.

LET the hungry soul rejoice: there is corn in Egypt. Whatever thou hast been told to the contrary by designing friends, who perhaps inquired carelessly, or did not inquire at all, in hope of saving their money, there is a stock of “Remorse” on hand, enough, as Pople conjectures, for seven years’ consumption; judging from experience of the last two years. Methinks it makes for the benefit of sound literature, that the best books do not always go off best. Inquire in seven years’ time for the “Rokebys” and the “Laras,” and where shall they be found?—fluttering fragmentally in
some thread-paper—whereas thy “
Wallenstein” and thy “Remorse” are safe on Longman’s or Pople’s shelves, as in some Bodleian; there they shall remain; no need of a chain to hold them fast—perhaps for ages—tall copies—and people shan’t run about hunting for them as in old Ezra’s shrievalty they did for a Bible, almost without effect till the great-great-grand-niece (by the mother’s side) of Jeremiah or Ezekiel (which was it?) remembered something of a book, with odd reading in it, that used to lie in the green closet in her aunt Judith’s bedchamber.

Thy caterer Price was at Hamburgh when last Pople heard of him, laying up for thee, like some miserly old father for his generous-hearted son to squander.

Mr. Charles Aders, whose books also pant for that free circulation which thy custody is sure to give them, is to be heard of at his kinsmen, Messrs. Jameson and Aders, No. 7, Laurence-Pountney-Lane, London, according to the information which Crabius with his parting breath left me. Crabius is gone to Paris. I prophesy he and the Parisians will part with mutual contempt. His head has a twist Alemagne, like thine, dear mystic.

I have been reading Madame Stael on Germany. An impudent clever woman. But if “Faust” be no better than in her abstract of it, I counsel thee to let it alone. How canst thou translate the language of cat-monkeys? Fie on such fantasies! But I will not forget to look for Proclus. It is a kind of book which when one meets with it one shuts the lid faster than one opened it. Yet I have some bastard kind of recollection that somewhere, some time ago, upon some stall or other, I saw it. It was either that or Plotinus, 205-270 a.d., Neoplatonist, or Saint Augustine’sCity of God.” So little do some folks value, what to others, sc. to you, “well used,” had been the “Pledge of Immortality.” Bishop Bruno I never touched upon. Stuffing too good for the brains of such “a Hare” as thou describest. May it burst his pericranium, as the gobbets of fat and turpentine (a nasty thought of the seer) did that old dragon in the Apocrypha! May he go mad in trying to understand his author! May he lend the third volume of him before he has quite translated the second, to a friend who shall lose it, and so spoil the publication; and may his friend find it and send it him just as thou or some such less dilatory spirit shall have announced the whole for the press; lastly, may he be hunted by Reviewers, and the devil jug him! So I think I have answered all the questions except about Morgan’s cos-lettuces. The first personal peculiarity I ever observed of him (all worthy souls are subject to ’em) was a particular kind of rabbit-like delight in munching salads with oil without vinegar after dinner—a steady contemplative browsing on them—didst never take note of it? Canst think of
any other queries in the solution of which I can give thee satisfaction? Do you want any books that I can procure for you? Old
Jimmy Boyer is dead at last. Trollope has got his living, worth £1000 a-year net. See, thou sluggard, thou heretic-sluggard, what mightest thou not have arrived at! Lay thy animosity against Jimmy in the grave. Do not entail it on thy posterity.

Charles Lamb.

[Coleridge’s play “Remorse” had been published by Pople in 1813. A copy of the first edition now brings about thirty shillings; but this is largely owing to the presence in the volume of Lamb’s prologue. But Rokeby and Lara bring their pounds too.

“Thy caterer Price.” I do not identify.

Charles Aders was a friend of Robinson’s, and through him of Lamb’s: a collector of pictures, particularly of the German school, whose house was in Euston Square. Lamb’s poem “Angel Help” (see Vol. V., page 48) describes a picture in Mrs. Aders’ album; and his poem “To C. Aders, Esq.” (Vol. V., page 85), his collection. Crabius was, of course, Crabb Robinson.

Madame Stael on Germany”—De l’Allemagne.

“Fie on such fantasies!”—“Fie on sinful luxury.” See the fairies’ song in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” V., 5.

Proclus”—the Neo-Platonist, 412-485 a.d., “‘Well used,’ had been the ‘Pledge of Immortality.’” See Paradise Lost, IV., 200-201.

“Bishop Bruno.” St. Bruno, Bishop of Wurzburg, author of S. Brunonis Opera.

“Such ‘a Hare.’” Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855), who afterwards knew Coleridge, was then at Cambridge, after living at Weimar. I find no record of his translating Bruno; but this possibly was he.

“Old dragon in the Apocrypha.” See “Bel and the Dragon,” verse 27.

“Jimmy Boyer.” The Rev. James Boyer, Headmaster of Christ’s Hospital in Lamb and Coleridge’s day, died in 1814. His living, the richest in the Hospital’s gift, was that of Colne Engaine, which passed to the Rev. Arthur William Trollope, Headmaster of Christ’s Hospital until 1826. Boyer had been a Spartan, and Coleridge and he had had passages, but in the main Coleridge’s testimony to him is favourable and kindly (see Lamb’s Christ’s Hospital essay, Vol. II. of this edition, and notes).

“Entail”—A punning reference to Boyer’s “whipping propensities.”]

1814 “THE EXCURSION” 443
[p.m. illegible. Sept. 19, 1814.]

MY dear W. I have scarce time or quiet to explain my present situation, how unquiet and distracted it is. . . . Owing to the absence of some of my compeers, and to the deficient state of payments at E. I. H. owing to bad peace speculations in the Calico market (I write this to W. W., Esq. Collector of Stamp duties for the conjoint northern counties, not to W. W. Poet) I go back, and have for this many days past, to evening work, generally at the rate of nine hours a day. The nature of my work too, puzzling and hurrying, has so shaken my spirits, that my sleep is nothing but a succession of dreams of business I cannot do, of assistants that give me no assistance, of terrible responsibilities. I reclaimed your book, which Hazlit has uncivilly kept, only 2 days ago, and have made shift to read it again with shatterd brain. It does not lose—rather some parts have come out with a prominence I did not perceive before—but such was my aching head yesterday (Sunday) that the book was like a Mountn. Landscape to one that should walk on the edge of a precipice. I perceived beauty dizzily. Now what I would say is, that I see no prospect of a quiet half day or hour even till this week and the next are past. I then hope to get 4 weeks absence, and if then is time enough to begin I will most gladly do what you require, tho’ I feel my inability, for my brain is always desultory and snatches off hints from things, but can seldom follow a “work “methodically. But that shall be no excuse. What I beg you to do is to let me know from Southey, if that will be time enough for the “Quarterly,” i.e. suppose it done in 3 weeks from this date (19 Sept.): if not it is my bounden duty to express my regret, and decline it. Mary thanks you and feels highly grateful for your Patent of Nobility, and acknowleges the author of Excursion as the legitimate Fountain of Honor. We both agree, that to our feeling Ellen is best as she is. To us there would have been something repugnant in her challenging her Penance as a Dowry! the fact is explicable, but how few to whom it could have been renderd explicit!

The unlucky reason of the detention of Excursion was, Hazlit and we having a misunderstanding. He blowed us up about 6 months ago, since which the union hath snapt, but M. Burney borrowd it for him and after reiterated messages I only got it on
Friday. His
remarks had some vigor in them, particularly something about an old ruin being too modern for your Primeval Nature, and about a lichen, but I forget the Passage, but the whole wore a slovenly air of dispatch and disrespect. That objection which M. Burney had imbibed from him about Voltaire, I explaind to M. B. (or tried) exactly on your principle of its being a characteristic speech. That it was no settled comparative estimate of Voltaire with any of his own tribe of buffoons—no injustice, even if you spoke it, for I dared say you never could relish Candide. I know I tried to get thro’ it about a twelvemonth since, and couldn’t for the Dullness. Now, I think I have a wider range in buffoonery than you. Too much toleration perhaps.

I finish this after a raw ill bakd dinner, fast gobbled up, to set me off to office again after working there till near four. O Christ! how I wish I were a rich man, even tho’ I were squeezed camel-fashion at getting thro’ that Needles eye that is spoken of in the Written Word. Apropos, are you a Xtian? or is it the Pedlar and the Priest that are?

I find I miscalld that celestial splendor of the mist going off, a sunset. That only shews my inaccuracy of head.

Do pray indulge me by writing an answer to the point of time mentioned above, or let Southey. I am asham’d to go bargaining in this way, but indeed I have no time I can reckon on till the 1st week in Octor. God send I may not be disappointed in that!

Coleridge swore in letter to me he would review Excn. in the Quarterly. Therefore, tho’ that shall not stop me, yet if I can do anything, when done, I must know of him if he has anything ready, or I shall fill the world with loud exclaims.

I keep writing on, knowing the Postage is no more for much writing, else so faggd & disjointed I am with damnd India house work, I scarce know what I do. My left arm reposes on “Excursion.” I feel what it would be in quiet. It is now a sealed Book.

O happy Paris, seat of idleness and pleasure! From some return’d English I hear that not such a thing as a counting house is to be seen in her streets, scarce a desk—Earthquakes swallow up this mercantile city and its gripple merchants, as Drayton hath it, “born to be the curse of this brave isle.” I invoke this not on account of any parsimonious habits the mercantile interest may have, but, to confess truth, because I am not fit for an office.

Farewell, in haste, from a head that is ill to methodize, a stomach to digest, and all out of Tune. Better harmonies await you.

C. Lamb.

[Wordsworth had been appointed in 1813 Distributor of Stamps for the county of Westmoreland. Lamb is writing again about The Excursion, which at the instigation of Southey, to whom Wordsworth had made the suggestion, he is to review for the Quarterly.

Hazlitt and we having a misunderstanding.” The precise cause of the trouble we do not know, but in Crabb Robinson’s Diary, in 1811, it is said that a slight coolness had begun between the two men on account of money which Lamb did not feel justified in lending to Hazlitt. Between 1811 and 1814, however, they were friendly again. It was Hazlitt’s hostile attitude to Wordsworth that brought about Robinson’s split with him, although that also was mended: literary men are short haters. Hazlitt reviewed The Excursion—from Lamb’s copy, which in itself was a cause of grievance—in The Examiner, in three numbers, August 21, 28 and October 2. Wordsworth had described Candide, in Book II., as the “dull product of a scoffer’s pen.” Hazlitt wrote thus:—

. . . We cannot however agree with Mr. Wordsworth that Candide is dull. It is, if our author pleases, “the production of a scoffer’s pen,” or it is any thing, but dull. Rasselas indeed is dull; but then it is privileged dulness. It may not be proper in a grave, discreet, orthodox, promising young divine, who studies his opinions in the contraction or distension of his patron’s brow, to allow any merit to a work like Candide; but we conceive that it would have been more in character, that is, more manly, in Mr. Wordsworth, nor do we think it would have hurt the cause he espouses, if he had blotted out the epithet, after it had peevishly escaped him. Whatsoever savours of a little, narrow, inquisitorial spirit, does not sit well on a poet and a man of genius. The prejudices of a philosopher are not natural. . . .

Lamb himself made the same criticism, three years later, at Haydon’s dinner party (see page 954).

Hazlitt had also said of The Excursion that—

Such is the severe simplicity of Mr. Wordsworth’s taste, that we doubt whether he would not reject a druidical temple, or time-hallowed ruin, as too modern and artificial for his purpose. He only familiarises himself or his readers with a stone, covered with lichens, which has slept in the same spot of ground from the creation of the world, or with the rocky fissure between two mountains, caused by thunder, or with a cavern scooped out by the sea. His mind is, as it were, coeval with the primary forms of things, holds immediately from nature; and his imagination “owes no allegiance “but “to the elements.”

“In the Written Word.” See Matthew xix. 24.

“Are you a Xtian?”—referring to the sentiments of Wanderer and the Pastor—two characters of The Excursion.

“A sunset” See preceding letter to Wordsworth, page 435.

“Gripple merchants.” See Drayton’s lines “Upon the noble Lady Aston’s departure for France.” Lamb had used this quotation before, in his essay “The Good Clerk,” in The Reflector.


Here should come a letter from Lamb to Southey, dated October 20, 1814, not available for this edition (printed by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt in The Lambs), stating that Lamb has deposited with Mr. Grosvenor Bedford, Southey’s friend and correspondent, his review of The Excursion. “Who can cram into a strait coop of a review any serious idea of such a vast and magnificent poem?”]

Novr. 2, 1814.

IT is very long since I have met with such an agreeable surprise as the sight of your letter, my kind young friend, afforded me. Such a nice letter as it is too. And what a pretty hand you write. I congratulate you on this attainment with great pleasure, because I have so often felt the disadvantage of my own wretched handwriting.

You wish for London news. I rely upon your sister Ann for gratifying you in this respect, yet I have been endeavouring to recollect whom you might have seen here, and what may have happened to them since, and this effort has only brought the image of little Barbara Betham, unconnected with any other person, so strongly before my eyes that I seem as if I had no other subject to write upon. Now I think I see you with your feet propped upon the fender, your two hands spread out upon your knees—an attitude you always chose when we were in familiar confidential conversation together—telling me long stories of your own home, where now you say you are “Moping on with the same thing every day,” and which then presented nothing but pleasant recollections to your mind. How well I remember your quiet steady face bent over your book. One day, conscience struck at having wasted so much of your precious time in reading, and feeling yourself, as you prettily said, “quite useless to me,” you went to my drawers and hunted out some unhemmed pocket-handkerchiefs, and by no means could I prevail upon you to resume your story books till you had hemmed them all. I remember, too, your teaching my little maid to read—your sitting with her a whole evening to console her for the death of her sister; and that she in her turn endeavoured to become a comforter to you, the next evening, when you wept at the sight of Mrs. Holcroft, from whose school you had recently eloped because you were not partial to sitting in the stocks. Those tears, and a few you once dropped when my brother teased you about
your supposed fondness for an apple dumpling, were the only interruptions to the calm contentedness of your unclouded brow. We still remain the same as you left us, neither taller nor wiser, or perceptibly older, but three years must have made a great alteration in you. How very much, dear Barbara, I should like to see you!

We still live in Temple Lane, but I am now sitting in a room you never saw. Soon after you left us we we[re] distressed by the cries of a cat, which seemed to proceed from the garrets adjoining to ours, and only separated from ours by a locked door on the farther side of my brother’s bedroom, which you know was the little room at the top of the kitchen stairs. We had the lock forced and let poor puss out from behind a pannel of the wainscot, and she lived with us from that time, for we were in gratitude bound to keep her, as she had introduced us to four untenanted, unowned rooms, and by degrees we have taken possession of these unclaimed apartments—First putting up lines to dry our clothes, then moving my brother’s bed into one of these, more commodious than his own room. And last winter, my brother being unable to pursue a work he had begun, owing to the kind interruptions of friends who were more at leisure than himself, I persuaded him that he might write at his ease in one of these rooms, as he could not then hear the door knock, or hear himself denied to be at home, which was sure to make him call out and convict the poor maid in a fib. Here, I said, he might be almost really not at home. So I put in an old grate, and made him a fire in the largest of these garrets, and carried in one table, and one chair, and bid him write away, and consider himself as much alone as if he were in a new lodging in the midst of Salisbury Plain, or any other wide unfrequented place where he could expect few visitors to break in upon his solitude. I left him quite delighted with his new acquisition, but in a few hours he came down again with a sadly dismal face. He could do nothing, he said, with those bare whitewashed walls before his eyes. He could not write in that dull unfurnished prison.

The next day, before he came home from his office, I had gathered up various bits of old carpetting to cover the floor; and, to a little break the blank look of the bare walls, I hung up a few old prints that used to ornament the kitchen, and after dinner, with great boast of what an improvement I had made, I took Charles once more into his new study. A week of busy labours followed, in which I think you would not have disliked to have been our assistant. My brother and I almost covered the walls with prints, for which purpose he cut out every print from every book in his old library, coming in every now and then to ask my leave to strip a fresh poor author—which he might not do, you know, without my
permission, as I am elder sister. There was such pasting, such consultation where their portraits, and where the series of pictures from
Ovid, Milton, and Shakespear would show to most advantage, and in what obscure corner authors of humbler note might be allowed to tell their stories. All the books gave up their stores but one, a translation from Ariosto, a delicious set of four and twenty prints, and for which I had marked out a conspicuous place; when lo! we found at the moment the scissars were going to work that a part of the poem was printed at the back of every picture. What a cruel disappointment! To conclude this long story about nothing, the poor despised garret is now called the print room, and is become our most favorite sitting room.

Your sister Ann will tell you that your friend Louisa is going to France. Miss Skepper is out of town, Mrs. Reynolds desires to be remembered to you, and so does my neighbour Mrs. Norris, who was your doctress when you were unwell, her three little children are grown three big children. The Lions still live in Exeter Change. Returning home through the Strand, I often hear them roar about twelve oclock at night. I never hear them without thinking of you, because you seemed so pleased with the sight of them, and said your young companions would stare when you told them you had seen a Lion.

And now my dear Barbara fare well, I have not written such a long letter a long time, but I am very sorry I had nothing amusing to write about. Wishing you may pass happily through the rest of your school days, and every future day of your life,

I remain, your affectionate Friend,
M. Lamb.

My brother sends his love to you, with the kind remembrance your letter shewed you have of us as I was. He joins with me in respects to your good father and mother, and to your brother John, who, if I do not mistake his name, is your tall young brother who was in search of a fair lady with a large fortune. Ask him if he has found her yet. You say you are not so tall as Louisa—you must be, you cannot so degenerate from the rest of your family. Now you have begun, I shall hope to have the pleasure of hearing from [you] again. I shall always receive a letter from you with very great delight.


[This charming letter is to a younger sister of Matilda Betham.

What the work was which in 1814 drove Lamb into an empty room I do not know. It may have been something which came to nought. Beyond the essay on Tailors (see Vol. I., page 172) and
a few brief scraps for
The Champion he did practically nothing that has survived until some verses in 1818, a few criticisms in 1819, and in 1820 the first of the Elia essays for the London Magazine. Louisa was Louisa Holcroft, about to go to France with her mother and step-father, James Kenney. Miss Skepper was Basil Montagu’s step-daughter, afterwards the wife of B. W. Procter (Barry Cornwall). Exeter Change, where there was a menagerie, was in the Strand (see note on page 217). There is a further reference to the tallness of John Betham in Lamb’s letter to Landor in 1832 (see page 889).]

LETTER 201 (See Letter 195).
Dated at end: Dec. 12, 1814.

SIR, I am sorry to seem to go off my agreement, but very particular circumstances have happened to hinder my fulfillment of it at present. If any single Essays ever occur to me in future, you shall have the refusal of them. Meantime I beg you to consider the thing as at an end.

with thanks & acknowlgnt
C. Lamb.
Monday ev: 12 Dec., 1814.
[p.m. Dec. 28, 1814.]

DEAR W. your experience about tailors seems to be in point blank opposition to Burton, as much as the author of the Excursion does toto cœlo differ in his notion of a country life from the picture which W. H. has exhibited of the same. But with a little explanation you and B. may be reconciled. It is evident that he confined his observations to the genuine native London tailor. What freaks Tailor-nature may take in the country is not for him to give account of. And certainly some of the freaks recorded do give an idea of the persons in question being beside themselves, rather than in harmony with the common
moderate self enjoymt. of the rest mankind. A flying tailor, I venture to say, is no more in rerum naturâ than a flying horse or a Gryphon. His wheeling his airy flight from the precipice you mention had a parallel in the melancholy Jew who toppled from the monument. Were his limbs ever found? Then, the man who cures diseases by words is evidently an inspired tailor. Burton never affirmed that the act of sewing disqualified the practiser of it from being a fit organ for supernatural revelation. He never enters into such subjects. ’Tis the common uninspired tailor which he speaks of. Again the person who makes his smiles to be heard, is evidently a man under possession; a demoniac taylor. A greater hell than his own must have a hand in this. I am not certain that the cause which you advocate has much reason for triumph. You seem to me to substitute light headedness for light heartedness by a trick, or not to know the difference. I confess, a grinning tailor would shock me.—Enough of tailors.—

The “’scapes” of the great god Pan who appeared among your mountains some dozen years since, and his narrow chance of being submerged by the swains, afforded me much pleasure. I can conceive the water nymphs pulling for him. He would have been another Hylas. W. Hylas. In a mad letter which Capel Loft wrote to M. M. Phillips (now Sr. Richd.) I remember his noticing a metaphysical article by Pan, signed H. and adding “I take your correspondent to be the same with Hylas.” Hylas has [? had] put forth a pastoral just before. How near the unfounded conjecture of the certainly inspired Loft (unfounded as we thought it) was to being realized! I can conceive him being “good to all that wander in that perilous flood.” One J. Scott (I know no more) is editr. of Champn.

Where is Coleridge?

That Review you speak of, I am only sorry it did not appear last month. The circumstances of haste and peculiar bad spirits under which it was written, would have excused its slightness and inadequacy, the full load of which I shall suffer from its lying by so long as it will seem to have done from its postponement. I write with great difficulty and can scarce command my own resolution to sit at writing an hour together. I am a poor creature, but I am leaving off Gin. I hope you will see good will in the thing. I had a difficulty to perform not to make it all Panegyrick; I have attempted to personate a mere stranger to you; perhaps with too much strangeness. But you must bear that in mind when you read it, and not think that I am in mind distant from you or your Poem, but that both are close to me among the nearest of persons and things. I do but act the stranger in the Review. Then, I was puzzled about extracts and determined upon
not giving one that had been in the
Examiner, for Extracts repeated give an idea that there is a meagre allowce. of good things. By this way, I deprived myself of Sr. W. Irthing and the reflections that conclude his story, which are the flower of the Poem. H. had given the reflections before me. Then it is the first Review I ever did, and I did not know how long I might make it. But it must speak for itself, if Giffard and his crew do not put words in its mouth, which I expect. Farewell. Love to all. Mary keeps very bad.

C. Lamb.

[Lamb seems to have sent Wordsworth a copy of The Champion containing his essay, signed Burton, Junior, “On the Melancholy of Tailors.” Wordsworth’s letter of reply, containing the examples of other tailors, is no longer in existence. “A greater hell” is a pun: the receptacle into which tailors throw scraps is called a hell. See Lamb’s “Satan in Search of a Wife” and notes (Vol. V., pages 110 and 344) for more on this topic.

“W. H.”—Hazlitt: referring again to his review of The Excursion in The Examiner.

“The melancholy Jew”—Mr. Lyon Levy, a diamond merchant, who jumped off the Monument commemorating the Fire of London, on January 18, 1810. “Wheeling his airy flight” is an adaptation of Gray’s beetle which “wheels its droning flight” in the “Elegy.”

“The ‘’scapes’ of the great god Pan.” A reference to Hazlitt’s flirtation with a farmer’s daughter in the Lake country, ending almost in immersion (see page 376). Hylas, seeking for water with a pitcher, so enraptured the nymphs of the river with his beauty that they drew him in.

Capell Lofft (1751-1824) was a lawyer and philanthropist of independent means who threw himself into many popular discussions and knew many literary men. He was the patron of Robert Bloomfield. Lamb was amused by him, but annoyed that his initials were also C. L. “M. M. Phillips”—for Monthly Magazine, which Phillips published.

“Good to all that wander in that perilous flood.” See Lycidas, 184, 185.

“One J. Scott.” See note on page 434.

“Where is Coleridge?” Coleridge was now at Calne, in Wiltshire, with the Morgans. He was being treated for the drug habit by a Dr. Page.

“That Review.” Lamb’s review of The Excursion, which, although the Quarterly that contains it is dated October, 1814, must have been delayed until the end of the year. The episode
of Sir W. Irthing (really Sir Alfred Irthing) is in Book VII. Lamb’s foreboding as to
Gifford’s action was only too well justified, as we shall see. Lamb’s statement that it is his first review is interesting in connection with Letters 111 and 112.

“Mary keeps very bad.” Mary Lamb, we learn from Crabb Robinson’s Diary, had been taken ill some time between December 11 and December 24, having tired herself by writing an article on needlework for the British Lady’s Magazine (see Vol. I. of this edition, page 176). She did not recover until February, 1815.]