LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Charles Lamb IV

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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Another characteristic instance of Lamb’s sacrifice of his own most cherished habits and feelings to those of other people was in the case of a favourite servant, “Beckey,” to whose will and pleasure both Charles Lamb and his sister were as much at the mercy as they were to those of Dash.

This Beckey was an excellent person in her way, and not the worse that she had not the happiness of comprehending the difference between genius and common sense—between “an author” and an ordinary man. Accordingly, having a real regard for her master and mistress, and a strong impression of what was or was not “good for them,” she used not seldom to take the liberty of telling them “a bit of her mind,” when they did anything that she considered to be “odd” or out of the way. And as (to do them jus-
tice) their whole life and behaviour were as little directed by the rules of common-place as could well be, Beckey had plenty of occasions for the exercise of her self-imposed task, of instructing her master and mistress in the ways of the world. Beckey, too, piqued herself on her previous experience in observing and treating the vagaries of extraordinary people; for she had lived some years with
Hazlitt before she went to the Lambs.

In performing the duties of housekeeping the Lambs were something like an excellent friend of mine, who, when a tradesman brings him home a pair of particularly easy boots, or any other object perfectionated in a way that peculiarly takes his fancy, inquires the price, and if it happens to be at all within decent tradesmanlike limits, says—“No—I cannot give you that price—it is too little—you cannot afford it, I’m sure—I shall give you so and so”—naming a third or fourth more than the price demanded. If the Lambs’ baker, for example, had charged them (as it is said bakers have been known to do) a dozen loaves in their weekly bill, when they must have known that they had not eaten
two-thirds of that number, the last thing they would have thought of was complaining of the overcharge. If they had not consumed the proper quantity to remunerate him for the trouble of serving them, it was not the baker’s fault, and the least they could do was to pay for it!

Now this kind of logic was utterly lost upon Beckey, and she would not hear of it. Her master and mistress, she fully admitted, had a right to be as extravagant as they pleased; but they had no right to confound the distinctions between honesty and roguery, and it was what she would not permit.

There are few of us who would not duly prize a domestic who had honesty and wit enough to protect us from the consequences of our own carelessness or indifference; but where is the one who, like Lamb, without caring one farthing for the advantages he might derive from Beckey’s unimpeachable honesty, and her genius for going the best way to market, could not merely overlook, but be highly gratified and amused by, the ineffable airs of superiority, amounting to nothing less than a sort of personal patronage, which she
assumed on the strength of these? The truth is, that Beckey used to take unwarrantable liberties with her quasi-master and mistress—liberties that amounted to what are usually deemed, in such cases, gross and unpardonable impertinences. Yet I do not believe any of their friends ever heard a complaint or a harsh word uttered of her, much less to her; and I believe there was no inconvenience or privation they would not have submitted to, rather than exchange her blunt honesty for the servile civility, whether accompanied by honesty or not, of anybody else. And I believe, when Beckey at last left them, to be married, it was this circumstance, much more than anything else, which caused them to give up housekeeping, never afterwards to resume it.

Another notable instance may here be cited of Lamb’s habitual disposition to bend and vail his own feelings, inclinations, and personal comforts to those of other people. When they left off housekeeping, and went to reside at Enfield, they boarded for some time in the house of a reputable old couple, to whom they paid, for the plainest possible
accommodation, a price almost sufficient to keep all the household twice over, but where, nevertheless, they were expected to pay for every extra cup of tea, or any other refreshment, they might offer to any occasional visitor. Lamb soon found out the mistake he had made in connecting himself with these people, and did not fail to philosophise (to his friends) on their blind stupidity, in thus risking what was almost their sole means of support, in order to screw an extra shilling out of his easy temper. But he endured it patiently, nevertheless. One circumstance I remember his telling me with great glee, which was evidently unmixed with any anger or annoyance at the cupidity of these people, but only at its blindness.
Wordsworth and another friend had just been down to see them, and had taken tea; and in the next week’s bill one of the extra “teas” was charged an extra sixpence, and on Lamb’s inquiring what this meant, the reply was, that “the elderly gentleman,” meaning Wordsworth, “had taken such a quantity of sugar in his tea.”

Yet this sort of thing Lamb bore patiently,
month after month, for years, under the feeling, or rather on the express plea of—What was to become of the poor people if he left them?

The Protectionists never pleaded harder for their “vested rights” than did Lamb for the claims of these people to continue to live upon him, and affront him every now and then into the bargain, because they had been permitted to begin to do so.