LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Charles Lamb III

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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Just before the Lambs quitted the metropolis for the voluntary banishment of Enfield Chace, they came to spend a day with me at Fulham, and brought with them a companion, who, “dumb animal” though it was, had for some time past been in the habit of giving play to one of Charles Lamb’s most amiable characteristics—that of sacrificing his own feelings and inclinations to those of others. This was a large and very handsome dog, of a rather curious and singularly sagacious breed, which had belonged to Thomas Hood, and at the time I speak of, and to oblige both dog and master, had been transferred to the Lambs,—who made a great pet of him, to the entire disturbance and discomfiture, as it appeared, of all Lamb’s habits of life, but especially of that most favourite and salutary
of all, his long and heretofore solitary suburban walks: for Dash (that was the dog’s name) would never allow Lamb to quit the house without him, and, when out, would never go anywhere but precisely where it pleased himself. The consequence was, that Lamb made himself a perfect slave to this dog,—who was always half-a-mile off from his companion, either before or behind, scouring the fields or roads in all directions, up and down “all manner of streets,” and keeping his attendant in a perfect fever of anxiety and irritation, from his fear of losing him on the one hand, and his reluctance to put the needful restraint upon him on the other. Dash perfectly well knew his host’s amiable weakness in this respect, and took a due dog-like advantage of it. In the Regent’s Park in particular Dash had his quasi-master completely at his mercy; for the moment they got within the ring, he used to squeeze himself through the railing, and disappear for half-an-hour together in the then enclosed and thickly planted greensward, knowing perfectly well that Lamb did not dare to move
from the spot where he (Dash) had disappeared till he thought proper to show himself again. And they used to take this walk oftener than any other, precisely because Dash liked it and Lamb did not.

The performance of the Pig-driver that Leigh Hunt describes so capitally in the “Companion,” must have been an easy and straightforward thing compared with this enterprise of the dear couple in conducting Dash from Islington to Fulham. It appeared, however, that they had not undertaken it this time purely for Dash’s gratification; but (as I had often admired the dog) to ask me if I would accept him,—“if only out of charity,” said Miss Lamb, “for if we keep him much longer, he’ll be the death of Charles.”

I readily took charge of the unruly favourite, and soon found, as I suspected, that his wild and wilful ways were a pure imposition upon the easy temper of Lamb; for as soon as he found himself in the keeping of one who knew what dog-decorum was, he subsided into the best bred and best behaved of his species.

A few weeks after I had taken charge of
Dash, I received the following letter from
Lamb, who had now removed to Enfield Chace. Exquisitely characteristic of their writer as are the “Elia” Essays of Charles Lamb, I doubt if any one of them is superior in this respect to the letter I am about to cite:—

“Charles Lamb to P. G. Patmore.
Mrs. Leishman’s, Chace, Enfield.

Dear Patmore—Excuse my anxiety—but how is Dash? (I should have asked if Mrs. Patmore kept her rules and was improving—but Dash came uppermost. The order of our thoughts should be the order of our writing.) Goes he muzzled, or aperto ore? Are his intellects sound, or does he wander a little in his conversation?* You cannot be too careful to watch the first symptoms of incoherence. The first illogical snarl he makes, to St. Luke’s with him. All the dogs here are going mad, if you believe the overseers; but I protest they seem to me very rational and collected. But nothing is

* A sly hint, I suspect, to one who did—and does.

so deceitful as mad people to those who are not used to them. Try him with hot water. If he wont lick it up, it is a sign he does not like it. Does his tail wag horizontally or perpendicularly? That has decided the fate of many dogs in Enfield. Is his general deportment cheerful? I mean when he is pleased—for otherwise there is no judging. You can’t be too careful. Has he bit any of the children yet? If he has, have them shot, and keep him for curiosity, to see if it was the hydrophobia. They say all our army in India had it at one time—but that was in
Hyder-Ally’s time. Do you get paunch for him? Take care the sheep was sane. You might pull out his teeth (if he would let you), and then you need not mind if he were as mad as a bedlamite. It would be rather fun to see his odd ways. It might amuse Mrs. Patmore and the children. They’d have more sense than he! He’d be like a Fool kept in the family, to keep the household in good humour with their own understanding. You might teach him the mad dance set to the mad howl. Madge Owl-et would be
nothing to him. ‘My, how he capers!’ (One of the children speaks this.) . . . . .

(Here three lines are erased.)

“What I scratch out is a German quotation from Lessing on the bite of rabid animals; but, I remember, you don’t read German. But Mrs. Patmore may, so I wish I had let it stand. The meaning in English is—‘Avoid to approach an animal suspected of madness, as you would avoid a fire or a precipice:’—which I think is a sensible observation. The Germans are certainly profounder than we.

“If the slightest suspicion arises in your breast, that all is not right with him (Dash), muzzle him, and lead him in a string (common packthread will do; he don’t care for twist) to Hood’s, his quondam master, and he’ll take him in at any time. You may mention your suspicion or not, as you like, or as you think it may wound or not Mr. H.’s feelings. Hood, I know, will wink at a few follies in Dash, in consideration of his former sense. Besides, Hood is deaf, and if you hinted anything, ten to one he would not hear you. Besides, you will have discharged your con-
science, and laid the child at the right door, as they say.

“We are dawdling our time away very idly and pleasantly, at a Mrs Leishman’s, Chace, Enfield, where, if you come a-hunting, we can give you cold meat and a tankard. Her husband is a tailor; but that, you know, does not make her one. I knew a jailor (which rhymes), but his wife was a fine lady.

“Let us hear from you respecting Mrs. Patmore’s regimen. I send my love in a —— to Dash.

C. Lamb.”

On the outside of the letter (a letter sent by the public post) is written—“Seriously, I wish you would call on Hood when you are that way. He’s a capital fellow. I sent him a couple of poems—one ordered by his wife, and written to order; and ’tis a week since, and I’ve not heard from him. I fear something is the matter.

“Omitted within:

“Our kindest remembrance to Mrs. P.”

Is the reader acquainted with anything in its way more exquisite than this letter, in the whole circle of our epistolary literature—
anything more buoyant with wit, drollery, and humour, and, at the same time more pregnant with that spirit of self-contradiction which was so singularly characteristic of
Lamb in almost all he said and did. His broadest jokes have a sentiment in them, and his most subtle and refined sentiment always takes the form of a joke. Whole pages or chapters of critical comment on his intellectual character would not speak its chief features more clearly and emphatically than the three first lines of this letter, especially when coupled with the three last—“Excuse my anxiety—but how is Dash? I should have asked if Mrs. Patmore kept her rules, and was improving; but Dash came uppermost.”—“Let us hear from you respecting Mrs. P.’s regimen. I send my love in a —— to Dash.” Lively and sincere as was the interest that he felt for the lady referred to (whose health was at that time in a very delicate state), he never would have written the letter at all, but for his still livelier interest about Dash. And he could not, and would not, conceal the truth—though he did not object to disguise it in the form of a seeming joke.


As Dash was one of the very few objects of Lamb’s “Hero-worship,” the reader may like to learn a little more about him from my reply to the foregoing letter:—

P. G. Patmore to Charles Lamb.

Dear Lamb,—Dash is very mad indeed. As I knew you would be shocked to hear it, I did not volunteer to trouble your peaceful retreat by the sad information, thinking it could do no good, either to you, to Dash, to us, or to the innocent creature that he has already bitten, or to those he may (please God) bite hereafter. But when you ask it of me as a friend, I cannot withhold the truth from you. The poor little patient has resolutely refused to touch water (either hot or cold) ever since, and if we attempt to force it down her throat, she scratches, grins, fights, makes faces, and utters strange noises, showing every recognised symptom of being very mad indeed. . . . As for your panacea (of shooting the bitten one), we utterly set our faces against it, not thinking death ‘a happy release’ under any given circumstances, and being specially averse to
it under circumstances given by our own neglect.

“By the bye, it has just occurred to me, that the fact of the poor little sufferer making a noise more like a cat’s than a dog’s, may possibly indicate that she is not quite so mad as we at first feared. Still there is no saying but the symptom may be one of aggravation. Indeed I shouldn’t wonder if the ‘faculty’ preferred the bark, as that (under the queer name of quinine) has been getting very fashionable among them of late.

“I wish you could have seen the poor little patient before we got rid of her—how she scoured round the kitchen among the pots and pans, scampered about the garden, and clambered up to the tops of the highest trees. (No symptoms of high-drophobia, you will say, in that). . . .

“By the bye again, I have entirely forgotten to tell you, that the injured innocent is not one of our children, but of the cat’s; and this reminds me to tell you that, putting cats out of the question (to which, like some of his so-called ‘betters,’ Dash has evidently a ‘natural antipathy’), he comports himself
in all other respects as a sane and well-bred dog should do. In fact, his distemper, I am happy to tell you, is clearly not insanity, but only a temporary hallucination or monomania in regard (want of regard, you will say) to one particular species of his fellow-creatures—videlicet, cats. (For the delicate distinctions in these cases, see
Haslam passim; or pass him, if you prefer it). . . .

“With respect to the second subject of your kind inquiries—the lady, and the success of her prescribed regimen—I will not say that she absolutely barks at the sight of water when proffered to her, but she shakes her head, and sighs piteously, which are bad symptoms. In sober seriousness, her watery regimen does not yet show any signs of doing her good, and we have now finally determined on going to France for the summer, and shall leave North End, with that purpose, in about three weeks.

“I was going up to Colnbrook Cottage on the very Monday that you left; but (for a wonder) I took the precaution of calling on your ancient friend at the factory in my way, and learned that you had left. . . .
I hope you will not feel yourselves justified in remaining long at Enfield, for if you do, I shall certainly devise some means of getting down to see you, in which case I shall inevitably stay very late at night, and in all human probability shall be stopped and robbed in coming back; so that your sister, if not you, will see the propriety of your returning to town as soon as may be.

“Talking of being stopped on the King’s Highway, reminds me of Dash’s last exploit. He was out at near dusk, down the lane, a few nights ago, with his mistress (who is as fond of him as his master—please to be careful how you construe this last equivocally expressed phrase, and don’t make the ‘master’ an accusative case), when Dash attacked a carpenter, armed with a large saw—not Dash, but the carpenter—and a ‘wise saw’ it turned out, for its teeth protected him from Dash’s, and a battle royal ensued, worthy the Surrey Theatre. Mrs. Patmore says that it was really frightful to see the saw, and the way in which it and Dash gnashed their teeth at each other.” . . . .

“Ever yours,
P. G. P.”