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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Letters: 1826

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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[See Note].

DEAR Allsop—I acknowledge with thanks the receipt of a draft on Messrs. Wms. for £81: 11: 3 which I haste to cash in the present alarming state of the money market. Hurst and Robinson gone. I have imagined a chorus of ill-used authors singing on the occasion:
What should we when Booksellers break?
We should rejoice
da Capo.

We regret exceedly. Mrs. Allsop’s being unwell. Mary or both will come and see her soon. The frost is cruel, and we have both colds. I take Pills again, which battle with your wine & victory hovers doubtful. By the bye, tho’ not disinclined to presents I remember our bargain to take a dozen at sale price and must demur. With once again thanks and best loves to Mrs. A.

Turn over—Yours,

C. Lamb.

[This is dated in Harper’s Magazine January 7, 1826. I have since discovered that the date is January 17, 1825.

Hurst and Robinson were publishers. Lamb (see Letter 381) took the idea for his chorus from Davenant’s version of “Macbeth” which he described in The Spectator in 1828 (see Vol. I. of the present edition, page 322). It is there a chorus of witches—
We should rejoice when good kings bleed.]

Colebrook Cottage, Colebrook Row,
Tuesday [early 1826].

DEAR Ollier,—I send you two more proverbs, which will be the last of this batch, unless I send you one more by the post on Thursday; none will come after that day; so do not leave any open room in that case. Hood sups with me to-night. Can you come and eat grouse? ’Tis not often I offer at delicacies.

Yours most kindly,
C. Lamb.
January, 1826.

DEAR O.,—We lamented your absence last night. The grouse were piquant, the backs incomparable. You must come in to cold mutton and oysters some evening. Name your evening; though I have qualms at the distance. Do you never leave early? My head is very queerish, and indisposed for much company; but we will get Hood, that half Hogarth, to meet you. The scrap I send should come in After the “Rising with the Lark.”

Yours truly.

Colburn, I take it, pays postages.


[The scrap was the Fallacy “That we Should Lie Down with the Lamb,” which has perhaps the rarest quality of the series.

Here perhaps should come two further notes to Ollier, referring to some articles on Chinese jests by Manning.]

[p.m. February 7, 1826.]

My kind remembrances to your daughter and A. K. always.

DEAR B. B.—I got your book not more than five days ago, so am not so negligent as I must have appeared to you with a fortnight’s sin upon my shoulders. I tell you with sincerity that I think you have completely succeeded in what you intended to do. What is poetry may be disputed. These are poetry to me at least. They are concise, pithy, and moving. Uniform as they are, and unhistorify’d, I read them thro’ at two sittings without one sensation approaching to tedium. I do not know that among your many kind presents of this nature this is not my favourite volume. The language is never lax, and there is a unity of design and feeling, you wrote them with love—to avoid the cox-combical phrase, con amore. I am particularly pleased with the “Spiritual Law,” page 34-5. It reminded me of Quarles, and Holy Mr. Herbert, as Izaak Walton calls him: the two best, if not only, of our devotional poets, tho’ some prefer Watts, and some Tom Moore.


I am far from well or in my right spirits, and shudder at pen and ink work. I poke out a monthly crudity for Colburn in his magazine, which I call “Popular Fallacies,” and periodically crush a proverb or two, setting up my folly against the wisdom of nations. Do you see the “New Monthly”?

One word I must object to in your little book, and it recurs more than once—FADELESS is no genuine compound; loveless is, because love is a noun as well as verb, but what is a fade?—and I do not quite like whipping the Greek drama upon the back of “Genesis,” page 8. I do not like praise handed in by disparagement: as I objected to a side censure on Byron, etc., in the lines on Bloomfield: with these poor cavils excepted, your verses are without a flaw.

C. Lamb.

[Barton’s new book was Devotional Verses: founded on, and illustrative of Select Texts of Scripture, 1826. See the Appendix, page 957, for “The Spiritual Law.”

“Holy Mr. Herbert.” Writing to Lady Beaumont in 1826 Coleridge says: “My dear old friend Charles Lamb and I differ widely (and in point of taste and moral feeling this is a rare occurrence) in our estimate and liking of George Herbert’s sacred poems. He greatly prefers Quarles—nay, he dislikes Herbert”.

Barton whipped the Greek drama on the back of Genesis in the following stanza, referring to Abraham’s words before preparing to sacrifice Isaac:—
Brief colloquy, yet more sublime,
To every feeling heart,
Than all the boast of classic time,
Or Drama’s proudest art:
Far, far beyond the Grecian stage,
Or Poesy’s most glowing page.

For Lamb’s reference to Byron see Letter 311.]

[p.m. March 16, 1826.]

DR Ollier if not too late, pray omit the last paragraph in “Actor’s Religion,” which is clumsy. It will then end with the word Mugletonian. I shall not often trouble you in this manner, but I am suspicious of this article as lame.

C. Lamb.

[“The Religion of Actors” was printed in the New Monthly Magazine for April, 1826. The essay ends at “Muggletonian.” See Vol. I. of this edition, page 287.]

[p.m. March 20, 1826.]

DEAR B. B.—You may know my letters by the paper and the folding. For the former, I live on scraps obtained in charity from an old friend whose stationary is a permanent perquisite; for folding, I shall do it neatly when I learn to tye my neckcloths. I surprise most of my friends by writing to them on ruled paper, as if I had not got past pothooks and hangers. Sealing wax, I have none on my establishment. Wafers of the coarsest bran supply its place. When my Epistles come to be weighed with Pliny’s, however superior to the Roman in delicate irony, judicious reflexions, etc., his gilt post will bribe over the judges to him. All the time I was at the E. I. H. I never mended a pen; I now cut ’em to the stumps, marring rather than mending the primitive goose quill. I cannot bear to pay for articles I used to get for nothing. When Adam laid out his first penny upon nonpareils at some stall in Mesopotamos, I think it went hard with him, reflecting upon his old goodly orchard, where he had so many for nothing. When I write to a Great man, at the Court end, he opens with surprise upon a naked note, such as Whitechapel people interchange, with no sweet degrees of envelope: I never inclosed one bit of paper in another, nor understand the rationale of it. Once only I seald with borrow’d wax, to set Walter Scott a wondering, sign’d with the imperial quarterd arms of England, which my friend Field gives in compliment to his descent in the female line from O. Cromwell. It must have set his antiquarian curiosity upon watering. To your questions upon the currency, I refer you to Mr. Robinson’s last speech, where, if you can find a solution, I cannot. I think this tho’ the best ministry we ever stumbled upon. Gin reduced four shillings in the gallon, wine 2 shillings in the quart. This comes home to men’s minds and bosoms. My tirade against visitors was not meant particularly at you or A. K. I scarce know what I meant, for I do not just now feel the grievance. I wanted to
make an article. So in another thing I talkd of somebody’s insipid wife, without a correspondent object in my head: and a good lady, a friend’s wife, whom I really love (don’t startle, I mean in a licit way) has looked shyly on me ever since. The blunders of personal application are ludicrous. I send out a character every now and then, on purpose to exercise the ingenuity of my friends. “Popular Fallacies” will go on; that word concluded is an erratum, I suppose, for continued. I do not know how it got stuff’d in there. A little thing without name will also be printed on the
Religion of the Actors, but it is out of your way, so I recommend you, with true Author’s hypocrisy, to skip it. We are about to sit down to Roast beef, at which we could wish A. K., B. B., and B. B.’s pleasant daughter to be humble partakers. So much for my hint at visitors, which was scarcely calculated for droppers in from Woodbridge. The sky does not drop such larks every day.

My very kindest wishes to you all three, with my sister’s best love.

C. Lamb.

[“Mr. Robinson’s last speech.” Frederick John Robinson, afterwards Earl of Ripon, then Chancellor of the Exchequer under the Earl of Liverpool. The Government had decided to check the use of paper-money by stopping the issue of notes for less than £5; and Robinson had made a speech on the subject on February 10. The motion was carried, but to some extent was compromised. It was Robinson who, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, found the money for building the new British Museum and purchasing Angerstein s pictures as the beginning of the National Gallery.

“Men’s minds and bosoms.” Bacon’s phrase in the Dedication to the Essays: “come home to men’s business and bosoms.”

“My tirade against visitors”—the Popular Fallacy “That Home is Home,” in the New Monthly Magazine for March.

“Somebody’s insipid wife.” In the Popular Fallacy “That You Must Love Me and Love My Dog,” in the February number, Lamb had spoken of Honorius’ “vapid wife.”

Barton and his daughter visited Lamb at Colebrooke Cottage somewhen about this time. Mrs. FitzGerald, in 1893, wrote out for me her recollections of the day. Lamb, who was alone, opened the door himself. He sent out for a luncheon of oysters. The books on his shelves, Mrs. FitzGerald remembered, retained the price-labels of the stalls where he had bought them. She also remembered a portrait over the fireplace. This would be the Milton. In the Gem for 1831 was a poem by Barton, “To Milton’s Portrait in a Friend’s Parlour.”]

March 22nd, 1826.

DEAR C,—We will with great pleasure be with you on Thursday in the next week early. Your finding out my style in your nephew’s pleasant book is surprising to me. I want eyes to descry it. You are a little too hard upon his morality, though I confess he has more of Sterne about him than of Sternhold. But he saddens into excellent sense before the conclusion. Your query shall be submitted to Miss Kelly, though it is obvious that the pantomime, when done, will be more easy to decide upon than in proposal. I say, do it by all means. I have Decker’s play by me, if you can filch anything out of it. Miss Gray, with her kitten eyes, is an actress, though she shows it not at all, and pupil to the former, whose gestures she mimics in comedy to the disparagement of her own natural manner, which is agreeable. It is funny to see her bridling up her neck, which is native to F. K.; but there is no setting another’s manners upon one’s shoulders any more than their head. I am glad you esteem Manning, though you see but his husk or shrine. He discloses not, save to select worshippers, and will leave the world without any one hardly but me knowing how stupendous a creature he is. I am perfecting myself in the “Ode to Eton College” against Thursday, that I may not appear unclassic. I have just discovered that it is much better than the “Elegy.”

In haste,
C. L.

P.S.—I do not know what to say to your latest theory about Nero being the Messiah, though by all accounts he was a ’nointed one.


[“Next week early.” Canon Ainger’s text here has: “May we venture to bring Emma with us?”

“Your nephew’s pleasant book”—Henry Nelson Coleridge’s Six Months in the West Indies in 1825. In the last chapter but one of the book is an account of the slave question, under the title “Planters and Slaves.”

“Sternhold”—Thomas Sternhold, the coadjutor of Hopkins in paraphrasing the Psalms.

“The pantomime.” Coleridge seems to have had some project
for modernising
Dekker for Fanny Kelly. Mr. Dykes Campbell suggests that the play to be treated was “Old Fortunatus.”

Miss Gray.” I have found nothing of this Lady.

“Manning.” Writing to Robert Lloyd twenty-five years earlier Lamb had said of Manning: “A man of great Power—an enchanter almost.—Far beyond Coleridge or any man in power of impressing—when he gets you alone he can act the wonders of Egypt. Only he is lazy, and does not always put forth all his strength; if he did, I know no man of genius at all comparable to him.”

“Against Thursday.” Coleridge was “at home” on Thursday evenings. Possibly on this occasion some one interested in Gray was to be there, or the allusion may be a punning one to Miss Gray.

“Your latest theory.” I cannot explain this.

“’Nointed one”—“Anoint: ironically to beat soundly, to baste. In the North they say humorously ‘to anoint with the sap of a hazel rod.’ ‘An anointed rogue’ means either one who has been well thrashed, or who deserves to be. In the latter case it expresses the opinion and wish of the speaker” (Skeat, A Student’s Pastime).]

April 3, 1826.

DEAR Sir,—It is whispered me that you will not be unwilling to look into our doleful hermitage. Without more preface, you will gladden our cell by accompanying our old chums of the London, Darley and Allan Cunningham, to Enfield on Wednesday. You shall have hermit’s fare, with talk as seraphical as the novelty of the divine life will permit, with an innocent retrospect to the world which we have left, when I will thank you for your hospitable offer at Chiswick, and with plain hermit reasons evince the necessity of abiding here.

Without hearing from you, then, you shall give us leave to expect you. I have long had it on my conscience to invite you, but spirits have been low; and I am indebted to chance for this awkward but most sincere invitation.

Yours, with best love to Mrs. Cary,

C. Lamb.

Darley knows all about the coaches. Oh, for a Museum in the wilderness!


[Cary, who had been afternoon lecturer at Chiswick and curate of the Savoy, this year took up his post as Assistant Keeper of the Printed Books at the British Museum. George Darley, who wrote some notes to Cary’s Dante, we have met. Allan Cunningham was the Scotch poet and the author of the Lives of the Painters, the “Giant” of the London Magazine. The Lambs seem to have been spending some days at Enfield.

Here should come a note from Lamb to Ollier asking for a copy of the April New Monthly Magazine for himself, and one for his Chinese friend (Manning) if his jests are in.]

[p.m. May 9, 1826.]

DEAR N. You will not expect us to-morrow, I am sure, while these damn’d North Easters continue. We must wait the Zephyrs’ pleasures. By the bye, I was at Highgate on Wensday, the only one of the Party.

Yours truly

C. Lamb.

Summer, as my friend Coleridge waggishly writes, has set in with its usual severity.

Kind remembces to Mrs. Novello &c.

[p.m. May 16, 1826.]

DEAR B. B.—I have had no spirits lately to begin a letter to you, though I am under obligations to you (how many!) for your neat little poem. ’Tis just what it professes to be, a simple tribute in chaste verse, serious and sincere. I do not know how Friends will relish it, but we out-lyers, Honorary Friends, like it very well. I have had my head and ears stuff’d up with the East winds. A continual ringing in my brain of bells jangled, or The Spheres touchd by some raw Angel. It is not George 3 trying
1826A MAY COLD705
the 100th psalm? I get my music for nothing. But the weather seems to be softening, and will thaw my stunnings.
Coleridge writing to me a week or two since begins his note—“Summer has set in with its usual Severity.” A cold Summer is all I know of disagreeable in cold. I do not mind the utmost rigour of real Winter, but these smiling hypocrites of Mays wither me to death. My head has been a ringing Chaos, like the day the winds were made, before they submitted to the discipline of a weathercock, before the Quarters were made. In the street, with the blended noises of life about me, I hear, and my head is lightened, but in a room the hubbub comes back, and I am deaf as a Sinner. Did I tell you of a pleasant sketch Hood has done, which he calls Very Deaf Indeed? It is of a good naturd stupid looking old gentleman, whom a footpad has stopt, but for his extreme deafness cannot make him understand what he wants; the unconscious old gentleman is extending his ear-trumpet very complacently, and the fellow is firing a pistol into it to make him hear, but the ball will pierce his skull sooner than the report reach his sensorium. I chuse a very little bit of paper, for my ear hisses when I bend down to write. I can hardly read a book, for I miss that small soft voice which the idea of articulated words raises (almost imperceptibly to you) in a silent reader. I seem too deaf to see what I read. But with a touch or two of returning Zephyr my head will melt. What Lyes you Poets tell about the May! It is the most ungenial part of the Year, cold crocuses, cold primroses, you take your blossoms in Ice—a painted Sun—
Unmeaning joy around appears,
And Nature smiles as if she sneers.
It is ill with me when I begin to look which way the wind sits. Ten years ago I literally did not know the point from the broad end of the Vane, which it was the [? that] indicated the Quarter. I hope these ill winds have blowd over you, as they do thro’ me. Kindest remembces to you and yours.

C. L.

[“Your neat little poem.” It is not possible to trace this poem. Probably, I think, the “Stanzas written for a blank leaf in Sewell’s History of the Quakers,” printed in A Widow’s Tale, 1827.

George 3.Byron’sVision of Judgment” thus closes:—
King George slipp’d into Heaven for one;
And when the tumult dwindled to a calm,
I left him practising the hundredth psalm.


This is Hood’s sketch, in his Whims and Oddities:— [figure]

“Unmeaning joy around appears . . .” I have not found this.]

June 1st, 1826.

DEAR Coleridge,—If I know myself, nobody more detests the display of personal vanity which is implied in the act of sitting for one’s picture than myself. But the fact is, that the likeness which accompanies this letter was stolen from my person at one of my unguarded moments by some too partial artist, and my friends are pleased to think that he has not much flattered me. Whatever its merits may be, you, who have so great an interest in the original, will have a satisfaction in tracing the features of one that has so long esteemed you. There are times when in a friend’s absence these graphic representations of him almost seem to bring back the man himself. The painter, whoever he was, seems to have taken me in one of those disengaged moments, if I may so term them, when the native character is so much more honestly displayed than can be possible in the restraints of an enforced sitting attitude. Perhaps it rather describes me as a thinking man than a man in the act of thought. Whatever its pretensions, I know it will be dear to you, towards whom I should wish my thoughts to flow in a sort of an undress rather than in the more studied graces of diction.

I am, dear Coleridge, yours sincerely,

C. Lamb.

[The portrait to which Lamb refers will be found opposite page 706. It was etched by Brook Pulham of the India House. It was this picture which so enraged Procter when he saw it in a printshop (probably that referred to by Lamb in Letter 404) that he reprimanded the dealer.]

Friday, some day in June, 1826. [p.m. June 30, 1826.]

DEAR D.—My first impulse upon opening your letter was pleasure at seeing your old neat hand, nine parts gentlemanly, with a modest dash of the clerical: my second a Thought, natural enough this hot weather, Am I to answer all this? why ’tis as long as those to the Ephesians and Galatians put together—I have counted the words for curiosity. But then Paul has nothing like the fun which is ebullient all over yours. I don’t remember a good thing (good like yours) from the 1st Romans to the last of the Hebrews. I remember but one Pun in all the Evangely, and that was made by his and our master: Thou art Peter (that is Doctor Rock) and upon this rock will I build &c.; which sanctifies Punning with me against all gainsayers. I never knew an enemy to puns, who was not an ill-natured man. Your fair critic in the coach reminds me of a Scotchman who assured me that he did not see much in Shakspeare. I replied, I dare say not. He felt the equivoke, lookd awkward, and reddish, but soon returnd to the attack, by saying that he thought Burns was as good as Shakspeare: I said that I had no doubt he was—to a Scotchman. We exchangd no more words that day.—Your account of the fierce faces in the Hanging, with the presumed interlocution of the Eagle and the Tyger, amused us greatly. You cannot be so very bad, while you can pick mirth off from rotten walls. But let me hear you have escaped out of your oven. May the Form of the Fourth Person who clapt invisible wet blankets about the shoulders of Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, be with you in the fiery Trial. But get out of the frying pan. Your business, I take it, is bathing, not baking.

Let me hear that you have clamber’d up to Lover’s Seat; it is as fine in that neighbourhood as Juan Fernandez, as lonely too, when the Fishing boats are not out; I have sat for hours, staring upon a shipless sea. The salt sea is never so grand as when it is left to
itself. One cock-boat spoils it. A sea-mew or two improves it. And go to the little church, which is a very protestant Loretto, and seems dropt by some angel for the use of a hermit, who was at once parishioner and a whole parish. It is not too big. Go in the night, bring it away in your portmanteau, and I will plant it in my garden. It must have been erected in the very infancy of British Christianity, for the two or three first converts; yet hath it all the appertenances of a church of the first magnitude, its pulpit, its pews, its baptismal font; a cathedral in a nutshell. Seven people would crowd it like a Caledonian Chapel. The minister that divides the word there, must give lumping pennyworths. It is built to the text of two or three assembled in my name. It reminds me of the grain of mustard seed. If the glebe land is proportionate, it may yield two potatoes. Tythes out of it could be no more split than a hair. Its First fruits must be its Last, for ’twould never produce a couple. It is truly the strait and narrow way, and few there be (of London visitants) that find it. The still small voice is surely to be found there, if any where. A sounding board is merely there for ceremony. It is secure from earthquakes, not more from sanctity than size, for ’twould feel a mountain thrown upon it no more than a taper-worm would. Go and see, but not without your spectacles. By the way, there’s a capital farm house two thirds of the way to the Lover’s Seat, with incomparable plum cake, ginger beer, etc.
Mary bids me warn you not to read the Anatomy of Melancholy in your present low way. You’ll fancy yourself a pipkin, or a headless bear, as Burton speaks of. You’ll be lost in a maze of remedies for a labyrinth of diseasements, a plethora of cures. Read Fletcher; above all the Spanish Curate, the Thief or Little Nightwalker, the Wit Without Money, and the Lover’s Pilgrimage. Laugh and come home fat. Neither do we think Sir T. Browne quite the thing for you just at present. Fletcher is as light as Soda water. Browne and Burton are too strong potions for an Invalid. And don’t thumb or dirt the books. Take care of the bindings. Lay a leaf of silver paper under ’em, as you read them. And don’t smoke tobacco over ’em, the leaves will fall in and burn or dirty their namesakes. If you find any dusty atoms of the Indian Weed crumbled up in the Beaumt and Fletcher, they are mine. But then, you know, so is the Folio also. A pipe and a comedy of Fletcher’s the last thing of a night is the best recipe for light dreams and to scatter away Nightmares. Probatum est. But do as you like about the former. Only cut the Baker’s. You will come home else all crust; Rankings must chip you before you can appear in his counting house. And my dear Peter Fin Junr., do contrive to see the sea at least once before you return. You’ll be ask’d about it in the Old Jewry. It will appear singular not to
have seen it. And rub up your Muse, the family Muse, and send us a rhyme or so. Don’t waste your wit upon that damn’d Dry Salter. I never knew but one Dry Salter, who could relish those mellow effusions, and he broke. You knew
Tommy Hill, the wettest of dry salters. Dry Salters, what a word for this thirsty weather! I must drink after it. Here’s to thee, my dear Dibdin, and to our having you again snug and well at Colebrooke. But our nearest hopes are to hear again from you shortly. An epistle only a quarter as agreeable as your last, would be a treat.

Yours most truly
C. Lamb.
Timothy B. Dibdin, Esq.,
No. 9, Blucher Row,
Priory, Hastings.

[Dibdin, who was in delicate health, had gone to Hastings to recruit, with a parcel of Lamb’s books for company. He seems to have been lodged above the oven at a baker’s. This letter contains Lamb’s crowning description of Hollingdon Rural church (see also pages 617 and 648). I subjoin a cut of the building as it is to-day:— [figure]


“A Caledonian Chapel.” Referring to the crowds that listened to Irving (see note on page 661).

“A headless bear.” From the rhyming abstract of melancholy prefixed to the Anatomy.

“Peter Fin.” A character in Jones’Peter Finn’s Trip to Brighton,” 1822, as played by Liston.

“Tommy Hill.” In the British Museum is preserved the following brief note addressed to Mr. Thomas Hill—probably the same. The date is between 1809 and 1817:—

“Dr Sir

“It is necessary I see you sign, can you step up to me 4 Inner Temple Lane this evening. I shall wait at home.

“C. Lamb.”

I have no notion to what the note refers. It is quite likely, Mr. J. A. Rutter suggests, that Hill the drysalter, a famous busybody, and a friend of Theodore Hook, stood for the portrait of Tom Pry in Lamb’sLepus Papers” (see Vol. I, page 498). S. C. Hall, in his Book of Memories, says of Hill that “his peculiar faculty was to find out what everybody did, from a minister of state to a stable-boy.”]

[p.m. July 14, 1826.]
BECAUSE you boast poetic Grandsire,
And rhyming kin, both Uncle and Sire,
Dost think that none but their Descendings
Can tickle folks with double endings?
I had a Dad, that would for half a bet
Have put down thine thro’ half the Alphabet.
Thou, who would be Dan Prior the second,
For Dan Posterior must be reckon’d.
In faith, dear Tim, your rhymes are slovenly,
As a man may say, dough-baked and ovenly;
Tedious and long as two Long Acres,
And smell most vilely of the Baker’s.
(I have been cursing every limb o’ thee,
Because I could not hitch in Timothy.
Jack, Will, Tom, Dick’s, a serious evil,
But Tim, plain Tim’s—the very devil.)
Thou most incorrigible scribbler,
Right Watering place and cockney dribbler,
What child, that barely understands A
B, C, would ever dream that Stanza
Would tinkle into rhyme with “Plan, Sir”?
Go, go, you are not worth an answer.
I had a Sire, that at plain Crambo
Had hit you o’er the pate a damn’d blow.
How now? may I die game, and you die brass,
But I have stol’n a quip from Hudibras.
’Twas thinking on that fine old Suttler,
That was in faith a second Butler;
Had as queer rhymes as he, and subtler.
He would have put you to’t this weather
For rattling syllables together;
Rhym’d you to death, like “rats in Ireland,”
Except that he was born in High’r Land.
His chimes, not crampt like thine, and rung ill,
Had made Job split his sides on dunghill.
There was no limit to his merryings
At christ’nings, weddings, nay at buryings.
No undertaker would live near him,
Those grave practitioners did fear him;
Mutes, at his merry mops, turned “vocal,”
And fellows, hired for silence, “spoke all.”
No body could be laid in cavity,
Long as he lived, with proper gravity.
His mirth-fraught eye had but to glitter,
And every mourner round must titter.
The Parson, prating of Mount Hermon,
Stood still to laugh, in midst of sermon.
The final Sexton (smile he must for him)
Could hardly get to “dust to dust” for him.
He lost three pall-bearers their livelyhood,
Only with simp’ring at his lively mood:
Provided that they fresh and neat came,
All jests were fish that to his net came.
He’d banter Apostolic castings,
As you jeer fishermen at Hastings.
When the fly bit, like me, he leapt-o’er-all,
And stood not much on what was scriptural.
P. S.
I had forgot, at Small Bohemia
(Enquire the way of your maid Euphemia)
Are sojourning, of all good fellows
The prince and princess,—the Novellos
Pray seek ’em out, and give my love to ’em;
You’ll find you’ll soon be hand and glove to ’em.

In prose, Little Bohemia, about a mile from Hastings in the Hollington road, when you can get so far. Dear Dib, I find relief in a word or two of prose. In truth my rhymes come slow. You have “routh of ’em.” It gives us pleasure to find you keep your good spirits. Your Letter did us good. Pray heaven you are got out at last. Write quickly.

This letter will introduce you, if ’tis agreeable. Take a donkey. ’Tis Novello the Composer and his Wife, our very good friends.

C. L.

[Dibdin must have sent the verses which Lamb asked for in the previous letter, and this is Lamb’s reply. Pride of ancestry seems to have been the note of Dibdin’s effort. Probably there is a certain amount of truth in Lamb’s account of the resolute merriment of his father. It is not inconsistent with his description of Lovel in the Elia essay “The Old Benchers of the Inner Temple.”

“Dan Prior”—Matthew Prior, the poet, “Dan” meaning “master” (a corruption of “dominus”.)

“I have stol’n a quip.” The manner rather than the precise matter, I think.

“Rats in Ireland.” Rosalind says in “As You Like It” (III., 2, 181-188) “I was never so berhymed since . . . I was an Irish rat.”

“Routh of ’em.” From Burns’Poem to J. S.” Verse 21—“rowth o’ rhymes.”

Here should come a letter from Lamb to the Rev. Edward Coleridge, Coleridge’s nephew, dated July 19, 1826, printed by Mr. Hazlitt in Bohn’s edition of the letters, not available for the present volume. It thanks the recipient for his kindness to the child of a friend of Lamb’s, Samuel Anthony Bloxam, Coleridge having assisted in getting Frederick Bloxam into Eton (where he was a master) on the foundation. Samuel Bloxam and Lamb were at Christ’s Hospital together.]

[p.m. September 6, 1826.]

MY dear Wordsworth, The Bearer of this is my young friend Moxon, a young lad with a Yorkshire head, and a heart that would do honour to a more Southern county: no offence to West-
moreland. He is one of
Longman’s best hands, and can give you the best account of The Trade as ’tis now going; or stopping. For my part, the failure of a Bookseller is not the most unpalatable accident of mortality:
sad but not saddest
The desolation of a hostile city.
Constable fell from heaven, and we all hoped Baldwin was next, I tuned a slight stave to the words in Macbeth (D’avenant’s) to be sung by a Chorus of Authors,
What should we do when Booksellers break?
We should rejoyce.
Moxon is but a tradesman in the bud yet, and retains his virgin Honesty; Esto perpetua, for he is a friendly serviceable fellow, and thinks nothing of lugging up a Cargo of the Newest Novels once or twice a week from the Row to Colebrooke to gratify my
Sister’s passion for the newest things. He is her Bodley. He is author besides of a poem which for a first attempt is promising. It is made up of common images, and yet contrives to read originally. You see the writer felt all he pours forth, and has not palmed upon you expressions which he did not believe at the time to be more his own than adoptive. Rogers has paid him some proper compliments, with sound advice intermixed, upon a slight introduction of him by me; for which I feel obliged. Moxon has petition’d me by letter (for he had not the confidence to ask it in London) to introduce him to you during his holydays; pray pat him on the head, ask him a civil question or two about his verses, and favor him with your genuine autograph. He shall not be further troublesome. I think I have not sent any one upon a gaping mission to you a good while. We are all well, and I have at last broke the bonds of business a second time, never to put ’em on again. I pitch Colburn and his magazine to the divil. I find I can live without the necessity of writing, tho’ last year I fretted myself to a fever with the hauntings of being starved. Those vapours are flown. All the difference I find is that I have no pocket money: that is, I must not pry upon an old book stall, and cull its contents as heretofore, but shoulders of mutton, Whitbread’s entire, and Booth’s best, abound as formerly.

I don’t know whom or how many to send our love to, your household is so frequently divided, but a general health to all that may be fixed or wandering; stars, wherever. We read with pleasure some success (I forget quite what) of one of you at Oxford. Mrs. Monkhouse (. . . was one of you) sent us a kind letter some [months back], and we had the pleasure to [see] her in tolerable spirits, looking well and kind as in bygone days.


Do take pen, or put it into goodnatured hands Dorothean or Wordsworthian-female, or Hutchinsonian, to inform us of your present state, or possible proceedings. I am ashamed that this breaking of the long ice should be a letter of business. There is none circum præcordia nostra I swear by the honesty of pedantry, that wil I nil I pushes me upon scraps of Latin. We are yours cordially:

Chas. & Mary Lamb.
Septemr. 1826.

[In this letter, the first to Wordsworth for many months, we have the first mention of Edward Moxon, who was to be so closely associated with Lamb in the years to come. Moxon, a young Yorkshireman, educated at the Green Coat School, was then nearly twenty-five, and was already author of The Prospect and other Poems, dedicated to Rogers, who was destined to be a valuable patron. Moxon subsequently became Wordsworth’s publisher.

“Sad but not saddest . . .” From “Samson Agonistes,” lines 1560-1561, condensed.

“Constable . . . Baldwin.” Archibald Constable & Co., Scott’s publishers, failed in 1826 (see note on page 697). Baldwin was the first publisher of the London Magazine. See mention of him in Letter 290.

Esto perpetua”—“Be thou perpetual!” Here referring, I take it, to Moxon’s honesty—“May it be perpetual!”

“I pitch Colburn and his magazine.” Lamb wrote nothing in the New Monthly Magazine after September, 1826.

Circum præcordia nostra.” Chill about the midriff.

I append an abstract of what seems to be Lamb’s first letter to Edward Moxon, obviously written before this date, but not out of place here. The letter seems to have accompanied the proof of an article on Lamb which he had corrected and was returning to Moxon. I quote from Sotheby’s catalogue, May 13, 1903: “Were my own feelings consulted I should print it verbatim, but I won’t hoax you, else I love a Lye. My biography, parentage, place of birth, is a strange mistake, part founded on some nonsense I wrote about Elia, and was true of him, the real Elia, whose name I took. . . . C. L. was born in Crown Office Row, Inner Temple in 1775. Admitted into Christs Hospital, 1782, where he was contemporary with T. F. M. [Thomas Fanshawe Middleton], afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, and with S. T. C. with the last of these two eminent scholars he has enjoyed an intimacy through life. On quitting this foundation he became a junior clerk in the South Sea House under his Elder Brother who died accountant there some years since. . . . I am not the author of the Opium Eater, &c.” I have not succeeded in finding the article in question.]

[p.m. September 9, 1826.]

An answer is requested.


DEAR D.—I have observed that a Letter is never more acceptable than when received upon a rainy day, especially a rainy Sunday; which moves me to send you somewhat, however short. This will find you sitting after Breakfast, which you will have prolonged as far as you can with consistency to the poor handmaid that has the reversion of the Tea Leaves; making two nibbles of your last morsel of stale roll (you cannot have hot new ones on the Sabbath), and reluctantly coming to an end, because when that is done, what can you do till dinner? You cannot go to the Beach, for the rain is drowning the sea, turning rank Thetis fresh, taking the brine out of Neptune’s pickles, while mermaids sit upon rocks with umbrellas, their ivory combs sheathed for spoiling in the wet of waters foreign to them. You cannot go to the library, for it’s shut. You are not religious enough to go to church. O it is worth while to cultivate piety to the gods, to have something to fill the heart up on a wet Sunday! You cannot cast accounts, for your ledger is being eaten up with moths in the Ancient Jewry. You cannot play at draughts, for there is none to play with you, and besides there is not a draught board in the house. You cannot go to market, for it closed last night. You cannot look in to the shops, their backs are shut upon you. You cannot read the Bible, for it is not good reading for the sick and the hypochondriacal. You cannot while away an hour with a friend, for you have no friend round that Wrekin. You cannot divert yourself with a stray acquaintance, for you have picked none up. You cannot bear the chiming of Bells, for they invite you to a banquet, where you are no visitant. You cannot cheer yourself with the prospect of a tomorrow’s letter, for none come on Mondays. You cannot count those endless vials on the mantlepiece with any hope of making a variation in their numbers. You have counted your spiders: your Bastile is exhausted. You sit and deliberately curse your hard exile from all familiar sights and sounds. Old Ranking poking in his head unexpectedly would just now be as good to you as Grimaldi. Any thing to deliver you from this intolerable weight of Ennui. You are too ill to shake it off: not ill enough to submit to it, and to lie down as a lamb under it. The Tyranny of Sickness is nothing to the Cruelty of Convalescence: ’tis to have Thirty
Tyrants for one. That pattering rain drops on your brain. You’ll be worse after dinner, for you must dine at one to-day, that Betty may go to afternoon service. She insists upon having her chopped hay. And then when she goes out, who was something to you, something to speak to—what an interminable afternoon you’ll have to go thro’. You can’t break yourself from your locality: you cannot say “Tomorrow morning I set off for Banstead, by God”: for you are book’d for Wednesday. Foreseeing this, I thought a cheerful letter would come in opportunely. If any of the little topics for mirth I have thought upon should serve you in this utter extinguishment of sunshine, to make you a little merry, I shall have had my ends. I love to make things comfortable. [Here is an erasure.] This, which is scratch’d out was the most material thing I had to say, but on maturer thoughts I defer it.

P.S.—We are just sitting down to dinner with a pleasant party, Coleridge, Reynolds the dramatist, and Sam Bloxam: tomorrow (that is, today), Liston, and Wyat of the Wells, dine with us. May this find you as jolly and freakish as we mean to be.

C. Lamb.

[Addressed to “T. Dibdin Esqre. No. 4 Meadow Cottages, Hastings, Sussex.”

“You have counted your spiders.” Referring, I suppose, to Paul Pellisson-Fontanier the academician, and a famous prisoner in the Bastille, who trained a spider to eat flies from his hand.

“Grimaldi”—Joseph Grimaldi, the clown. Ranking was one of Dibdin’s employers.

“A pleasant party.” Reynolds, the dramatist, would be Frederic Reynolds (1764-1841); Bloxam we have just met; and Wyat of the Wells was a comic singer and utility actor at Sadler’s Wells.

Canon Ainger remarks that as a matter of fact Dibdin was a religious youth.]

[p.m. September 26, 1826.]

DEAR B. B.—I don’t know why I have delay’d so long writing. ’Twas a fault. The under current of excuse to my mind was that I had heard of the Vessel in which Mitford’s jars were to come;
that it had been obliged to put into Batavia to refit (which accounts for its delay) but was daily expectated. Days are past, and it comes not, and the mermaids may be drinking their Tea out of his China for ought I know; but let’s hope not. In the meantime I have paid £28, etc., for the freight and prime cost, (which I a little expected he would have settled in London.) But do not mention it. I was enabled to do it by a receipt of £30 from
Colburn, with whom however I have done. I should else have run short. For I just make ends meet. We will wait the arrival of the Trinkets, and to ascertain their full expence, and then bring in the bill. (Don’t mention it, for I daresay ’twas mere thoughtlessness.)

I am sorry you and yours have any plagues about dross matters. I have been sadly puzzled at the defalcation of more than one third of my income, out of which when entire I saved nothing. But cropping off wine, old books, &c. and in short all that can be call’d pocket money, I hope to be able to go on at the Cottage. Remember, I beg you not to say anything to Mitford, for if he be honest it will vex him: if not, which I as little expect as that you should [not] be, I have a hank still upon the jars.

Colburn had something of mine in last month, which he has had in hand these 7 months, and had lost, or cou’dnt find room for: I was used to different treatment in the London, and have forsworn Periodicals.

I am going thro’ a course of reading at the Museum: the Garrick plays, out of part of which I formed my Specimens: I have Two Thousand to go thro’; and in a few weeks have despatch’d the tythe of ’em. It is a sort of Office to me; hours, 10 to 4, the same. It does me good. Man must have regular occupation, that has been used to it. So A. K. keeps a School! She teaches nothing wrong, I’ll answer for’t. I have a Dutch print of a Schoolmistress; little old-fashioned Fleminglings, with only one face among them. She a Princess of Schoolmistress, wielding a rod for form more than use; the scene an old monastic chapel, with a Madonna over her head, looking just as serious, as thoughtful, as pure, as gentle, as herself. Tis a type of thy friend.

Will you pardon my neglect? Mind, again I say, don’t shew this to M.; let me wait a little longer to Know the event of his Luxuries. (I am sure he is a good fellow, tho’ I made a serious Yorkshire Lad, who met him, stare when I said he was a Clergyman. He is a pleasant Layman spoiled.) Heaven send him his jars uncrack’d, and me my—— Yours with kindest wishes to your daughter and friend, in which Mary joins

C. L.

[“I saved nothing.” This is a rather curious statement; for Lamb, according to Procter, left £2000 at his death eight years later. He must have saved £200 a year from his pension of £441, living at the rate of £241 per annum, plus small earnings, for the rest of his life, and investing the £200 at 5 per cent, compound interest.

Colburn had something of mine.” The Popular Fallacy “That a Deformed Person is a Lord,” not included by Lamb with the others when he reprinted them. Printed in Vol. I. of this edition, page 290.

“Reading at the Museum.” Lamb had begun to visit the Museum every day to collect extracts from the Garrick plays for Hone’s Table Book, 1827.

“A. K.”—Anne Knight again.

The pleasant Yorkshire lad whom Mitford’s secular air surprised was probably Moxon.

Here might come a purely business letter of no interest, from Lamb to Barton, preserved in the British Museum, relating to Mitford’s jars.]

[No date. ? Sept., 1826.]

I HAVE had much trouble to find Field to-day. No matter. He was packing up for out of town. He has writ a handsomest letter, which you will transmit to Murry with your proofsheets. Seal it.—

C. L.

Mrs. Hood will drink tea with us on Thursday at ½ past 5 at Latest.

N.B. I have lost my Museum reading today: a day with Titus: owing to your dam’d bisness.—I am the last to reproach anybody. I scorn it.

If you shall have the whole book ready soon, it will be best for Murry to see.


[I am not clear as to what proof-sheets of Moxon’s Lamb refers. His second book, Christmas, 1829, was issued through Hurst, Chance & Co.

Barron Field and John Murray were friends.

“A day with Titus.” Can this (a friend suggests) have any connection with the phrase Diem perditi? There is no Titus play among the Garrick Extracts.]

[No postmark or date. Soon after preceding letter to Barton. 1826.]

DEAR B. B.—the Busy Bee, as Hood after Dr. Watts apostrophises thee, and well dost thou deserve it for thy labors in the Muses’ gardens, wandering over parterres of Think-on-me’s and Forget-me-nots, to a total impossibility of forgetting thee,—thy letter was acceptable, thy scruples may be dismissed, thou art Rectus in Curiâ, not a word more to be said, Verbum Sapienti and so forth, the matter is decided with a white stone, Classically, mark me, and the apparitions vanishd which haunted me, only the Cramp, Caliban’s distemper, clawing me in the calvish part of my nature, makes me ever and anon roar Bullishly, squeak cowardishly, and limp cripple-ishly. Do I write quakerly and simply, ’tis my most Master Mathew-like intention to do it. See Ben Jonson.—I think you told me your acquaintce with the Drama was confin’d to Shakspeare and Miss Bailly: some read only Milton and Croly. The gap is as from an ananas to a Turnip. I have fighting in my head the plots characters situations and sentiments of 400 old Plays (bran new to me) which I have been digesting at the Museum, and my appetite sharpens to twice as many more, which I mean to course over this winter. I can scarce avoid Dialogue fashion in this letter. I soliloquise my meditations, and habitually speak dramatic blank verse without meaning it. Do you see Mitford? he will tell you something of my labors. Tell him I am sorry to have mist seeing him, to have talk’d over those Old Treasures. I am still more sorry for his missing Pots. But I shall be sure of the earliest intelligence of the Lost Tribes. His Sacred Specimens are a thankful addition to my shelves. Marry, I could wish he had been more careful of corrigenda. I have discover’d certain which have slipt his Errata. I put ’em in the next page, as perhaps thou canst transmit them to him. For what purpose, but to grieve him (which yet I should be sorry to do), but then it shews my learning, and the excuse is complimentary, as it implies their correction in a future Edition. His own things in the book are magnificent, and as an old Christ’s Hospitaller I was particularly refreshd with his eulogy on our Edward. Many of the choice excerpta were new to me. Old Christmas is a coming, to the confusion of Puritans, Muggletonians, Anabaptists, Quakers, and that Unwassailing Crew. He cometh not with his wonted gait, he is shrunk 9 inches in the girth, but is yet a Lusty fellow. Hood’s book is mighty clever, and went off 600 copies the 1st day. Sion’s Songs do not disperse so
quickly. The next leaf is for Revd J. M. In this Adieu thine briefly in a tall friendship

C. Lamb.

[Barton’s letter, to which this is an answer, not being preserved, we do not know what his scruples were. B. B. was a great contributor to annuals.

Rectus in Curiâ.” A law phrase, “Upright in the court.”

Verbum Sapienti”—“Verbum sat sapienti”—“A word to the wise is sufficient.”

“With a white stone.” In trials at law a white stone was cast as a vote for acquittal, a black stone for condemnation (see Ovid, Metamorphoses, 15, 41).

“Caliban’s distemper”:—
Prospero (to Caliban), To-night thou shalt have cramps.
Tempest,” I., 2, 325.

“Master Mathew”—in Ben Jonson’sEvery Man in His Humour.”

“Croly”—the Rev. George Croly (1780-1860), of the Literary Gazette, author of The Angel of the World and other pretentious poems.

“Mitford’s Sacred Specimens”—Sacred Specimens Selected from the Early English Poets, 1827. The last poem, by Mitford himself, was “Lines Written under the Portrait of Edward VI.

Hood’s book”—Whims and Oddities, second series, 1827.]