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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 1821

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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[Dated at end: Jan. 23, 1821.]

DEAR Mrs. Ayrton, my sister desires me, as being a more expert penman than herself, to say that she saw Mrs. Paris yesterday, and that she is very much out of spirits, and has expressed a great wish to see your son William, and Fanny——

I like to write that word Fanny. I do not know but it was one reason of taking upon me this pleasing task——

Moreover that if the said William and Frances will go and sit an hour with her at any time, she will engage that no one else shall see them but herself, and the servant who opens the door, she being confined to her private room. I trust you and the Juveniles will comply with this reasonable request.

& am
Dear Mrs. Ayrton
yours and yours’
C. Lamb.
Cov. Gar.
23 Jan. 1821.

[Mrs. Ayrton (née Arnold) was the wife of William Ayrton, the musical critic (see Letter 223).]

London 27 Jany. 1821.

DEAR Madam, Carriages to Cambridge are in such request, owing to the Installation, that we have found it impossible to procure a conveyance for Emma before Wednesday, on which
day between the hours of 3 and 4 in the afternoon you will see your little friend, with her bloom somewhat impaired by late hours and dissipation, but her gait, gesture, and general manners (I flatter myself) considerably improved by —— somebody that shall be nameless. My sister joins me in love to all true Trumpingtonians, not specifying any, to avoid envy; and begs me to assure you that Emma has been a very good girl, which, with certain limitations, I must myself subscribe to. I wish I could cure her of making dog’s ears in books, and pinching them on poor Pompey, who, for one, I dare say, will heartily rejoyce at her departure.

Dear Madam,
Yours truly
foolish C. L.

[The letter is addressed to “Miss Humphreys, with Mrs. Paris, Trumpington Street, Cambridge.” Franked by J. Rickman.

This letter contains the first reference in the correspondence to Emma Isola, daughter of Charles Isola, Esquire Bedell of Cambridge University, and granddaughter of Agostino Isola, the Italian critic and teacher, of Cambridge, among whose pupils had been Wordsworth. Miss Humphreys was Emma Isola’s aunt. Emma seems to have been brought to London by Mrs. Paris and left with the Lambs.

Pompey seems to have been the Lambs’ first dog. Later, as we shall see, they adopted Dash.]

[See facsimile on opposite page]
[Dated at end: March 15, 1821.]

DEAR Madam, We are out of town of necessity till Wednesday next, when we hope to see one of you at least to a rubber. On some future Saturday we shall most gladly accept your kind offer. When I read your delicate little note, I am ashamed of my great staring letters.

Yours most truly
Charles Lamb.
Dalston near Hackney
15 Mar. 1821.
1821b THREE NOTES 551
30 March, 1821.

MY dear Sir—If you can come next Sunday we shall be equally glad to see you, but do not trust to any of Martin’s appointments, except on business, in future. He is notoriously faithless in that point, and we did wrong not to have warned you. Leg of Lamb, as before; hot at 4. And the heart of Lamb ever.

Yours truly,
C. L.
Indifferent Wednesday [April 18], 1821.

DEAR Hunt,—There was a sort of side talk at Mr. Novello’s about our spending Good Friday at Hampstead, but my sister has got so bad a cold, and we both want rest so much, that you shall excuse our putting off the visit some little time longer. Perhaps, after all, you know nothing of it.—Believe me, yours truly,

C. Lamb.
May 1st [1821],
Mr. Gilman’s, Highgate.

MR C.—I will not fail you on Friday by six, and Mary, perhaps, earlier. I very much wish to meet “Master Mathew,” and am much obliged to the G——s for the opportunity. Our kind respects to them always.—


Extract from a MS. note of S. T. C. in my Beaumont and Fletcher, dated April 17th 1807.


“God bless you, dear Charles Lamb, I am dying; I feel I have not many weeks left.”


[Master Mathew is in Ben Jonson’sEvery Man in His Humour.”

Lamb’s “Beaumont and Fletcher,” is in the British Museum. The note quoted by Lamb is not there, or perhaps it is one that has been crossed out. This still remains: “N.B. I shall not be long here, Charles! I gone, you will not mind my having spoiled a book in order to leave a Relic. S. T. C., Oct. 1811.”

[Dated at end: 2 May, 1821.]

DEAR Sir—You dine so late on Friday, it will be impossible for us to go home by the eight o’clock stage. Will you oblige us by securing us beds at some house from which a stage goes to the Bank in the morning? I would write to Coleridge, but cannot think of troubling a dying man with such a request.

Yours truly,
C. Lamb.

If the beds in the town are all engaged, in consequence of Mr. Mathews’s appearance, a hackney-coach will serve.

Wednesy. 2 May ’21.

We shall neither of us come much before the time.


[Mrs. Mathews (who was half-sister of Fanny Kelly) described this evening in her Memoirs of her husband, 1839. Her account of Lamb is interesting:—

Mr. Lamb’s first approach was not prepossessing. His figure was small and mean; and no man certainly was ever less beholden to his tailor. His “bran” new suit of black cloth (in which he affected several times during the day to take great pride, and to cherish as a novelty that he had long looked for and wanted) was drolly contrasted with his very rusty silk stockings, shown from his knees, and his much too large thick shoes, without polish. His shirt rejoiced in a wide ill-plaited frill, and his very small, tight, white neckcloth was hemmed to a fine point at the ends that formed part of the little bow. His hair was black and sleek, but not formal, and his face the gravest I ever saw, but indicating great intellect, and resembling very much the portraits of King Charles I. Mr. Coleridge was very anxious about his pet Lamb’s first impression upon my husband, which I believe his friend saw; and guessing that he had been extolled, he mischievously resolved to thwart his panegyrist, disappoint the strangers, and altogether to upset the suspected plan of showing him off.


The Mathews’ were then living at Ivy Cottage, only a short distance from the Grove, Highgate, where the famous Mathews collection of pictures was to be seen of which Lamb subsequently wrote in the London Magazine.]

May 16, 1821.

DEAR J. P. C.,—Many thanks for the “Decameron:” I have not such a gentleman’s book in my collection: it was a great treat to me, and I got it just as I was wanting something of the sort. I take less pleasure in books than heretofore, but I like books about books. In the second volume, in particular, are treasures—your discoveries about “Twelfth Night,” etc. What a Shakespearian essence that speech of Osrades for food!—Shakespeare is coarse to it—beginning “Forbear and eat no more.” Osrades warms up to that, but does not set out ruffian-swaggerer. The character of the Ass with those three lines, worthy to be set in gilt vellum, and worn in frontlets by the noble beasts for ever—
“Thou would, perhaps, he should become thy foe,
And to that end dost beat him many times:
He cares not for himself, much less thy blow.”
Cervantes, Sterne, and Coleridge, have said positively nothing for asses compared with this.

I write in haste; but p. 24, vol. i., the line you cannot appropriate is Gray’s sonnet, specimenifyed by Wordsworth in first preface to L. B., as mixed of bad and good style: p. 143, 2nd vol., you will find last poem but one of the collection on Sidney’s death in Spenser, the line,
Scipio, Cæsar, Petrarch of our time.”
This fixes it to be
Raleigh’s: I had guess’d it to be Daniel’s. The last after it, “Silence augmenteth rage,” I will be crucified if it be not Lord Brooke’s. Hang you, and all meddling researchers, hereafter, that by raking into learned dust may find me out wrong in my conjecture!

Dear J. P. C., I shall take the first opportunity of personally thanking you for my entertainment. We are at Dalston for the
most part, but I fully hope for an evening soon with you in Russell or Bouverie Street, to talk over old times and books. Remember us kindly to
Mrs. J. P. C.

Yours very kindly,
Charles Lamb.

I write in misery.

N.B.—The best pen I could borrow at our butcher’s: the ink, I verily believe, came out of the kennel.


[Collier’s Poetical Decameron, in two volumes, was published in 1820: a series of imaginary conversations on curious and little-known books. His “Twelfth Night” discoveries will be found in the Eighth Conversation; Collier deduces the play from Barnaby Rich’s Farewell to Military Profession, 1606. He also describes Thomas Lodge’sRosalynde,” the forerunner of “As You Like It,” in which is the character Rosader, whom Lamb calls Osrades. His speech for food runs thus:—

It hapned that day that Gerismond, the lawfull king of France banished by Torismond, who with a lustie crew of outlawes lined in that Forrest, that day in honour of his birth, made a feast to all his bolde yeomen, and frolickt it with store of wine and venison, sitting all at a long table vnder the shadow of Limon trees: to that place by chance fortune conducted Rosader, who seeing such a crew of braue men, hauing store of that for want of which hee and Adam perished, hee stept boldly to the boords end, and saluted the Company thus.—Whatsoeuer thou be that art maister of these lustie squires, I salute thee as graciously as a man in extreame distresse may: knowe that I and a fellow friend of mine, are here famished in the forrest for want of foode: perish we must, vnlesse relieued by thy fauours. Therefore if thou be a Gentleman, giue meate to men, and such as are euery way worthie of life: let the proudest Squire that sits at thy table rise and encounter with me in any honourable point of activitie whatsoeuer, and if he and thou proue me not a man, send mee away comfortlesse: if thou refuse this, as a niggard of thy cates, I will haue amongst you with my sword, for rather wil I die valiantly, then perish with so cowardly an extreame (Collier’s Poetical Decameron, 174, Eighth Conversation).

Lamb compares with that the passage in “As You Like It,” II., 7, 88, beginning with Orlando’s “Forbear, and eat no more.”

The character of the ass is quoted by Collier from an old book, The Noblenesse of the Asse, 1595, in the Third Conversation:—
Thou wouldst (perhaps) he should become thy foe,
And to that end doost beat him many times;
He cares not for himselfe, much lesse thy blowe.
Lamb wrote more fully of this passage in an article on the ass contributed to Hone’s Every-Day Book in 1825 (see Vol. I. of the present edition, page 303).

The line from Gray’s sonnet on the death of Mr. Richard West was this:—
And weep the more because I weep in vain.


“Scipio, Cæsar,” etc. This line runs, in the epitaph on Sidney, beginning “To praise thy life”—
Scipio, Cicero, and Petrarch of our time!
It is generally supposed to be by
Raleigh. The next poem, “Silence Augmenteth Grief,” is attributed by Malone to Sir Edward Dyer, and by Hannah to Raleigh.]

[No date. ? Summer, 1821.]

DEAR Sir, The Wits (as Clare calls us) assemble at my Cell (20 Russell St. Cov.-Gar.) this evening at ¼ before 7. Cold meat at 9. Puns at—a little after. Mr. Cary wants to see you, to scold you. I hope you will not fail.

Yours &c. &c. &c.
C. Lamb.

I am sorry the London Magazine is going to be given up.


[I assume the date of this note to be summer, 1821, because it was then that Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, the London Magazine’s first publishers, gave it up. The reason was the death of John Scott, the editor, and probably to a large extent the originator, of the magazine. It was sold to Taylor & Hessey, their first number being dated July, 1821.

Scott had become involved in a quarrel with Blackwood, which reached such a pitch that a duel was fought, between Scott and Christie, a friend of Lockhart’s. The whole story, which is involved, and indeed not wholly clear, need not be told here: it will be found in Mr. Lang’s memoir of Lockhart. The meeting was held at Chalk Farm on February 16,1821. Peter George Patmore, sub-editor of the London, was Scott’s second. Scott fell, wounded by a shot which Christie fired purely in self-defence. He died on February 27.


Mr. Cary. Henry Francis Cary the translator of Dante and a contributor to the London Magazine.

The London Magazine had four periods. From 1820 to the middle of 1821, when it was Baldwin, Cradock & Joy’s. From 1821 to the end of 1824, when it was Taylor & Hessey’s at a shilling. From January, 1825, to August of that year, when it was Taylor & Hessey’s at half-a-crown; and from September, 1825, to the end, when it was Henry Southern’s, and was published by Hunt & Clarke.]

Margate, June 8, 1821.

DEAR Sir,—I am extremely sorry to be obliged to decline the article proposed, as I should have been flattered with a Plate accompanying it. In the first place, Midsummer day is not a topic I could make anything of—I am so pure a Cockney, and little read, besides, in May games and antiquities; and, in the second, I am here at Margate, spoiling my holydays with a Review I have undertaken for a friend, which I shall barely get through before my return; for that sort of work is a hard task to me. If you will excuse the shortness of my first contribution—and I know I can promise nothing more for July—I will endeavour a longer article for our next. Will you permit me to say that I think Leigh Hunt would do the article you propose in a masterly manner, if he has not outwrit himself already upon the subject. I do not return the proof—to save postage—because it is correct, with one exception. In the stanza from Wordsworth, you have changed day into air for rhyme-sake: day is the right reading, and I implore you to restore it.

The other passage, which you have queried, is to my ear correct. Pray let it stand.

Dr Sr, yours truly,
C. Lamb.

On second consideration, I do enclose the proof.


[John Taylor (1781-1864), the publisher, with Hessey, of the London Magazine was, in 1813, the first publicly to identify Sir Philip Francis with Junius. Taylor acted as editor of the London
Magazine from 1821 to 1824, assisted by
Thomas Hood. Later his interests were centred in currency questions.

“I am here at Margate.” I do not know what review Lamb was writing. If written and published it has not been reprinted. It was on this visit to Margate that Lamb met Charles Cowden Clarke.

“My first contribution.” The first number to bear Taylor & Hessey’s name was dated July, but they had presumably acquired the rights in the magazine before then. Lamb’s first contribution to the London Magazine had been in August, 1820, “The South-Sea House.”

The proof which Lamb returned was that of the Elia essay on “Mackery End in Hertfordshire,” printed in the July number of the London Magazine, in which he quoted a stanza from Wordsworth’sYarrow Visited”:—
But thou, that didst appear so fair
To fond imagination,
Dost rival in the light of day
Her delicate creation.

Here should come a scrap from Lamb to Ayrton, dated July 17, 1821, referring to the Coronation. Lamb says that in consequence of this event he is postponing his Wednesday evening to Friday.]

July 21, 1821.

DR Sir,—The Lond. Mag. is chiefly pleasant to me, because some of my friends write in it. I hope Hazlitt intends to go on with it, we cannot spare Table Talk. For myself I feel almost exhausted, but I will try my hand a little longer, and shall not at all events be written out of it by newspaper paragraphs. Your proofs do not seem to want my helping hand, they are quite correct always. For God’s sake change Sisera to Jael. This last paper will be a choke-pear I fear to some people, but as you do not object to it, I can be under little apprehension of your exerting your Censorship too rigidly. Thanking you for your extract from Mr. E.’s letter,

I remain, Dr Sir,
Your obliged,
C. Lamb.

[Hazlitt continued his Table Talk in the London Magazine until December, 1821.

Lamb seems to have been treated foolishly by some newspaper critic; but I have not traced the paragraphs in question.

The proof was that of the Elia essay “Imperfect Sympathies,” which was printed (with a fuller title) in the number for August, 1821. The reference to Jael is in the passage on Braham and the Jewish character.

I do not identify Mr. E. Possibly Elton.

Here should come a further letter to Taylor, dated July 30, 1821, not available for this edition, in which Lamb refers to some verses addressed to him by “Olen” (Charles Abraham Elton: see note to Letter 333) in the London Magazine for August, remonstrating with him for the pessimism of the Elia essay “New Year’s Eve” (see Vol. II. of this edition, page 328).

Lamb also remarks that he borrowed the name Elia (pronounced Ellia) from an old South-Sea House clerk who is now dead.]

[Summer, 1821.]

MY dear Sir—Your letter has lain in a drawer of my desk, upbraiding me every time I open the said drawer, but it is almost impossible to answer such a letter in such a place, and I am out of the habit of replying to epistles otherwhere than at office. You express yourself concerning H. like a true friend, and have made me feel that I have somehow neglected him, but without knowing very well how to rectify it. I live so remote from him—by Hackney—that he is almost out of the pale of visitation at Hampstead. And I come but seldom to Covt Gardn this summer time—and when I do, am sure to pay for the late hours and pleasant Novello suppers which I incur. I also am an invalid. But I will hit upon some way, that you shall not have cause for your reproof in future. But do not think I take the hint unkindly. When I shall be brought low by any sickness or untoward circumstance, write just such a letter to some tardy friend of mine—or come up yourself with your friendly Henshaw face—and that will be better. I shall not forget in haste our casual day at Margate. May we have many such there or elsewhere! God bless you for
your kindness to H., which I will remember. But do not show N. this, for the flouting infidel doth mock when Christians cry God bless us. Yours and his, too, and all our little circle’s most affecte.

C. Lamb.

Mary’s love included.


[Charles Cowden Clarke (1787-1877) was the son of a schoolmaster who had served as usher with George Dyer at Northampton. Afterwards he established a school at Enfield, where Keats was one of the scholars. Charles Cowden Clarke, at this time a bookseller, remained one of Keats’ friends and was a friend also of Leigh Hunt’s, on whose behalf he seems to have written to Lamb. Later he became a partner of Alfred Novello, the musical publisher, son of Vincent Novello. In 1828 he married Mary Victoria Novello.

“Friendly Henshaw face.” I cannot explain this.

Leigh Hunt left England for Italy in November, 1821, to join Shelley and Byron.]

[No date. ? 1821.] Thursday Morning.

MY dear friend, The kind interest you took in my perplexities of yesterday makes me feel that you will be well pleased to hear I got through my complicated business far better than I had ventured to hope I should do. In the first place let me thank you, my good friend, for your good advice; for, had I not gone to Martin first he would have sent a senseless letter to Mr. Rickman, and now he is coming here to-day in order to frame one in conjunction with my brother.

What will be Mr. Rickman’s final determination I know not, but he and Mrs. Rickman both gave me a most kind reception, and a most patient hearing, and then Mr. R. walked with me as far as Bishopsgate Street, conversing the whole way on the same unhappy subject. I will see you again the very first opportunity till when farewel with grateful thanks.

How senseless I was not to make you go back in that empty coach. I never have but one idea in my poor head at a time.

Yours affectionately
M. Lamb.
at Mr. Coston’s
No. 14 Kingsland Row Dalston.

[The explanation of this letter is found in an entry in Crabb Robinson’s Diary, the unpublished portion, which tells us that owing to certain irregularities Rickman, who was Clerk Assistant at the table of the House of Commons, had been obliged to discharge Martin Burney, who was one of his clerks.

Here should come another scrap from Lamb to Ayrton, dated August 14, stating that at to-morrow’s rubber the windows will be closed on account of Her Majesty’s death. Her Majesty was Queen Caroline, whom Lamb had championed. She died on August 7.

Here should come an unavailable letter from Lamb to Allsop, dated October 19, 1821. In it Lamb thanks Allsop for a hare, which had come as from Mr. Talfourd. Lamb decides to divide his gratitude between Allsop and Talfourd. Mary Lamb, he says, has been and is ill. They are at Dalston. The subscription is Piscatorum Amicus, C. L.]

[Oct. 27, 1821.]

I COME, Grimalkin! Dalston, near Hackney, 27th Octr. One thousand 8 hundred and twenty one years and a wee-bit since you and I were redeemed. I doubt if you are done properly yet.


[A further letter to Ayrton, dated from Dalston, October 30, is printed by Mr. Macdonald, in which Lamb speaks of his sister’s illness and the death of his brother John, who died on October 26, aged fifty-eight. It is reasonable to suppose that Lamb, when the above note was written, was unaware of his brother’s death (see note to Letter 267 on page 564). On October 26, however, he had written to the editor of the London Magazine saying that he was most uncomfortably situated at home and expecting some trouble which might prevent further writing for some time—which may have been an allusion to his brother’s illness or to signs of Mary Lamb’s approaching malady.

Here should come a note to William Hone, printed by Mr. Macdonald, evidently in reply to a comment on Lamb’s essay on “Saying Grace.” Also a letter to Rickman. See Appendix II., page 974.]