LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Charles Lamb X

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
‣ Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII
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In glancing through the foregoing “Recollections” of Charles Lamb, it seems probable that they may be deemed liable to the objection of not being sufficiently specific—of not dealing enough with facts—of expressing rather what the writer thought and felt of Lamb than what he knew. Should this complaint be made, it will doubtless be a valid one for those who make it; but it is one against which I cannot defend myself, because it points at the precise object, not only of these Recollections, but of all the others of which the work consists. In fact, I did not go to Charles Lamb’s house with a note-book in my pocket, ready to slip aside at every opportunity, and record his “good things” for the benefit of the absent, or the amusement of those who, had they been present, would have disputed his wit because it
was not dressed in the received mode, and yawned over (if they had not felt scandalized at) his wisdom, because it was dictated by the heart rather than the head. Moreover, Lamb was anything but what is understood by “a wit” and a diseur de mots, in the ordinary and “company” sense of the phrase,—as the respectable Lord Mayor who invited him to the City feast of Lord Mayor’s-day in that capacity would have found to his cost, had Lamb, in that spirit of contradiction which sometimes beset him, accepted the invitation. Though for the mere sitters-by it would have been capital fun to see him mystifying my Lord Mayor, scandalizing my Lady Mayoress, confounding the sheriffs, and putting the whole Court of Aldermen and their wives into a fever of mingled wonder and indignation, at the unseemly revival of an exploded barbarism; for they would doubtless have mistaken our incomparable Elia for the Lord Mayor’s Fool.* The

* I am supposing that Lamb did not accept this tribute offered to his literary fame; but he may have done so for anything I know to the contrary. What I am sure of is, that if he had gone, he would have

Boswells of the literary world are excellent and admirable persons in their way—that is, when they have Doctor Johnson to deal with. But Lamb was, of all men that ever lived, the least of a Doctor Johnson; and Heaven preserve us from a Boswell in his case!—for he would infallibly dissipate the charm and the fragrance that at present encircle the personal memory of Lamb in the minds of his friends, and which, if not so disturbed, may descend with him to that posterity which his name and writings will surely reach.

As my opening Recollections of Charles Lamb have necessarily connected themselves with the name of William Hazlitt, I shall, perhaps, not be improperly departing from the spirit of my theme if I allow my closing remarks to again couple them together. And I do so the rather that my impulse to the act involves in its explanation certain cha-

taken care to remunerate his inviter as well as himself in a manner and to an effect something like that which I have supposed in the text. The story of the invitation I find in Hazlitt’s notice of him in “The Spirit of the Age.”

racteristic features in the minds of both these remarkable men.

The truth is, that though Lamb and Hazlitt were strangely different from each other in many features of their minds, they were singularly alike in many others—more so, perhaps, than any other two men of their day. There was a general sympathy between them, which served to melt away, and as it were fuse together, and bring into something like a friendly unison and correspondence, those differences themselves,—till they almost took the character of meeting-points, which brought the two extremes together, when perhaps nothing else could.

In confirmation of this seemingly fanciful theory, I would refer to two facts only, as almost demonstrative of it:—I allude first to that magnanimous letter of Charles Lamb’s to Southey, on the latter paying him some public compliment which could only be accepted, as it was only offered, at the cost of some imputation on Hazlitt’s character and pursuits. Lamb, on that occasion, flung back to Southey, with a beautiful indignation almost bordering on contempt, and in a tone
of but half-suppressed bitterness which I do not believe he ever exhibited on any other occasion, a testimony to his talents and character which he could not have merited, had the qualifying insinuation, or regret, or whatever it might be called that accompanied it, also been deserved. If I remember the circumstances rightly (for I have no means at hand of referring to the record of them on either side), the gist of Southey’s double offence was a mingled remonstrance and lamentation at the melancholy fact, that such a man as Lamb should consort with such a man as Hazlitt! As if any two men that ever lived were more exquisitely constituted and qualified to appreciate and admire the large balance of good over evil that existed in each, and to explain, account for, and excuse the ill, than those two men! Lamb never did a more noble or beautiful or characteristic thing than the writing of that memorable letter; and Hazlitt never experienced a higher or purer intellectual pleasure than in reading it: and though at the period of its publication Hazlitt had for a long time absented himself from Lamb’s house and so-
ciety, on account of some strange and gratuitous crotchet of his brain, respecting some imagined offence on the part of Lamb or of himself (for in these cases it was impossible to tell which)—the letter instantly brought them together again; and there was no division of their friendship till Hazlitt’s death, fifteen years afterwards.

The other proof I would offer of the natural sympathy between Lamb and Hazlitt, of which I have spoken, is to be found in the fact, that of all the associates of Hazlitt’s early days—indeed of his whole literary and social life—the only one, except his son and myself, who followed him to his grave was Charles Lamb.

But, perhaps, those readers who are unacquainted with the literary table-talk of the last twenty years, or have become acquainted with it through a discolouring and distorting medium, may imagine that there was some good and sufficient reason for the double-edged insult of Southey, and the seeming desertion of Hazlitt by his early friends and associates.

If any reader of this page has imbibed such a notion, I call upon him, in the name
of our common nature, and of that sense of justice which is its fairest and noblest feature, to disabuse himself of the unworthy and utterly unfounded impression. And that he is bound in truth and honesty to do so, I appeal to every individual who really knew
Hazlitt during the last fifteen years of his life. That Hazlitt had great and crying faults, nobody intimately acquainted with him will deny. But they were faults which hurt himself alone, and were, moreover, inextricably linked with the finer qualities of his nature. The only one of those faults which brought upon him the obloquy to which the peace and comfort of his life were sacrificed, was the result of a virtue which nine-tenths of the world (his maligners included) have the wit to divest themselves of:—what he thought and felt about other people, whether friends or foes, that he spoke or wrote,—careless of the consequences to himself, and sparing himself as little as he spared any one else. Moreover, if a man smote him on one cheek, he did not meekly turn the other, and crave for it the same process; nor could he ever persuade himself
to carry away the affront quietly, merely because it might consist with his worldly interest to do so. If he was hated and feared more than any other living man, it was because he saw more deeply than any other man into the legitimate objects of hatred, and was, by habit as well as temper, not amenable to those convenient restraints and mental reservations which custom has imposed, in order to guard against the social consequences of such untoward discoveries. Iago says it was the virtue of the Venetian dames of his day, “not to leave undone, but to keep unknown.” It was Hazlitt’s virtue—or vice, if you please—not merely “to spy into abuses” (for that we can all of us do), but to feel a sort of moral necessity for dragging them into the light, when he had found them. He could neither conceal nor palliate a single fault or weakness of his own. Was it likely, then, that he would be at the trouble of throwing a veil over those of other people—especially when the only passion of his soul was a love of Truth!

Charles Lamb knew and appreciated these qualities of Hazlitt’s mind more truly and
entirely than any one else, because he found the types of them in his own; the only but signal difference being, that he (Lamb), while he saw the truth with an intellectual vision as clear as that of Hazlitt, was, by the gentleness and moral sweetness of his nature, not merely deterred from exposing it to those who might have overlooked it, but was impelled to transform or translate it into symbols of its most striking opposite. Like the “sweet Ophelia,” he “turned to favour and to prettiness” all the moral evil and deformity that presented itself to his observation. He could not, or would not, see ugliness anywhere,—except as a sort of beauty-spot upon the face of beauty; but beauty he could see everywhere, and nowhere shining so brightly as when in connexion with what others called ugliness.

In a subsequent portion of these volumes—that devoted to the late accomplished author of “Tremaine,” “De Vere,” &c.—I have referred in detail to the singular fact, that no part of the family of either Lamb himself or of Mr. Plumer Ward seem to have
been aware that the beautiful Elizabethan mansion and splendid domain of Gilston Park, which passed into the possession of Mr. Ward, on his marriage with the relict of “the last of the Plumers” (in 1828), is the identical place so celebrated by Lamb in his exquisite Eliaism entitled “
Blakesmoor in H——shire,” as the almost life-long residence of his maternal grandmother, the respected housekeeper of the Plumers, and the scene where the happiest days of Lamb’s childhood were spent. This interesting fact, which confers a twofold classicality on Gilston, was certainly not known to Mr. Plumer Ward himself, and is, I believe, now for the first time disclosed to the world.

There is something inexpressibly shocking in first hearing of a dear friend’s death through the medium of a public newspaper, at a time, perhaps, when you believe him to be in perfect health, and are on the point of paying him a too long delayed visit. Such was my case in respect to Charles Lamb. Still more painful was the case of a lady, formerly a distinguished ornament of the
English stage, to whom Lamb was attached by the double tie of admiration and friendship.* Several days after Lamb’s death, she was conversing of him with a mutual friend, who, taking for granted her knowledge of Lamb’s death, abruptly referred to some circumstance connected with the event, which for the first time made her acquainted with it.

* Miss Kelly.