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1796

I.

TO SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.

May 27, 1796.

Dear Coleridge,--Make yourself perfectly easy about May. I paid his bill when I sent your clothes. I was flush of money, and am so still to all the purposes of a single life; so give yourself no further concern about it. The money would be superfluous to me if I had it.

When Southey becomes as modest as his predecessor, Milton, and publishes his Epics in duodecimo, I will read 'em; a guinea a book is somewhat exorbitant, nor have I the opportunity of borrowing the work. The extracts from it in the "Monthly Review," and the short passages in your "Watchman," seem to me much superior to anything in his partnership account with Lovell. [1] Your poems I shall procure forthwith.

There were noble lines in what you inserted in one of your numbers from "Religious Musings," but I thought them elaborate. I am somewhat glad you have given up that paper; it must have been dry, unprofitable, and of dissonant mood to your disposition. I wish you success in all your undertakings, and am glad to hear you are employed about the "Evidences of Religion." There is need of multiplying such books a hundred-fold in this philosophical age, to prevent converts to atheism, for they seem too tough disputants to meddle with afterwards....

Coleridge, I know not what suffering scenes you have gone through at Bristol. My life has been somewhat diversified of late. The six weeks that finished last year and began this, your very humble servant spent very agreeably in a madhouse at Hoxton. I am got somewhat rational now, and don't bite any one. But mad I was and many a vagary my imagination played with me,--enough to make a volume, if all were told. My sonnets I have extended to the number of nine since I saw you, and will some day communicate to you. I am beginning a poem in blank verse, which, if I finish, I publish. White [2] is on the eve of publishing (he took the hint from Vortigern) "Original Letters of Falstaff, Shallow," etc.; a copy you shall have when it comes out. They are without exception the best imitations I ever saw. Coleridge, it may convince you of my regards for you when I tell you my head ran on you in my madness as much almost as on another person, who I am inclined to think was the more immediate cause of my temporary frenzy.

The sonnet I send you has small merit as poetry; but you will be curious to read it when I tell you it was written in my prison-house in one of my lucid intervals.

TO MY SISTER.

If from my lips some angry accents fell, Peevish complaint, or harsh reproof unkind, 'T was but the error of a sickly mind And troubled thoughts, clouding the purer well And waters clear of Reason; and for me Let this my verse the poor atonement be,-- My verse, which thou to praise wert e'er inclined Too highly, and with partial eye to see No blemish. Thou to me didst ever show Kindest affection; and wouldst oft-times lend An ear to the desponding love-sick lay, Weeping my sorrows with me, who repay But ill the mighty debt of love I owe, Mary, to thee, my sister and my friend.

With these lines, and with that sister's kindest remembrances to Cottle, I conclude.

Yours sincerely,

LAMB.

[1] Southey had just published his "Joan of Arc," in quarto. He and Lovell had published jointly, two years before, "Poems by Bion and Moschus."

[2] A Christ's Hospital schoolfellow, the "Jem" White of the Elia essay, "The Praise of Chimney-Sweepers."



II.

TO COLERIDGE.

(No month) 1796.

Tuesday night.--Of your "Watchman," the review of Burke was the best prose. I augured great things from the first number. There is some exquisite poetry interspersed. I have re-read the extract from the "Religious Musings," and retract whatever invidious there was in my censure of it as elaborate. There are times when one is not in a disposition thoroughly to relish good writing. I have re-read it in a more favorable moment, and hesitate not to pronounce it sublime. If there be anything in it approaching to tumidity (which I meant not to infer; by "elaborate" I meant simply "labored"), it is the gigantic hyperbole by which you describe the evils of existing society: "snakes, lions, hyenas, and behemoths," is carrying your resentment beyond bounds. The pictures of "The Simoom," of "Frenzy and Ruin," of "The Whore of Babylon," and "The Cry of Foul Spirits disinherited of Earth," and "The Strange Beatitude" which the good man shall recognize in heaven, as well as the particularizing of the children of wretchedness (I have unconsciously included every part of it), form a variety of uniform excellence. I hunger and thirst to read the poem complete. That is a capital line in your sixth number,--

"This dark, frieze-coated, hoarse, teeth-chattering month."

They are exactly such epithets as Burns would have stumbled on, whose poem on the ploughed-up daisy you seem to have had in mind. Your complaint that of your readers some thought there was too much, some too little, original matter in your numbers, reminds me of poor dead Parsons in the "Critic." "Too little incident! Give me leave to tell you, sir, there is too much incident." I had like to have forgot thanking you for that exquisite little morsel, the first Sclavonian Song. The expression in the second, "more happy to be unhappy in hell," is it not very quaint? Accept my thanks, in common with those of all who love good poetry, for "The Braes of Yarrow." I congratulate you on the enemies you must have made by your splendid invective against the barterers in human flesh and sinews. Coleridge, you will rejoice to hear that Cowper is recovered from his lunacy, and is employed on his translation of the Italian, etc., poems of Milton for an edition where Fuseli presides as designer. Coleridge, to an idler like myself, to write and receive letters are both very pleasant; but I wish not to break in upon your valuable time by expecting to hear very frequently from you. Reserve that obligation for your moments of lassitude, when you have nothing else to do; for your loco-restive and all your idle propensities, of course, have given way to the duties of providing for a family. The mail is come in, but no parcel; yet this is Tuesday. Farewell, then, till to-morrow; for a niche and a nook I must leave for criticisms. By the way, I hope you do not send your own only copy of "Joan of Arc;" I will in that case return it immediately.

Your parcel is come; you have been lavish of your presents.

Wordsworth's poem I have hurried through, not without delight. Poor Lovell! my heart almost accuses me for the light manner I lately spoke of him, not dreaming of his death. My heart bleeds for your accumulated troubles; God send you through 'em with patience. I conjure you dream not that I will ever think of being repaid; the very word is galling to the ears. I have read all your "Religious Musings" with uninterrupted feelings of profound admiration. You may safely rest your fame on it. The best remaining things are what I have before read, and they lose nothing by my recollection of your manner of reciting 'em, for I too bear in mind "the voice, the look," of absent friends, and can occasionally mimic their manner for the amusement of those who have seen 'em. Your impassioned manner of recitation I can recall at any time to mine own heart and to the ears of the bystanders. I rather wish you had left the monody on Chatterton concluding, as, it did, abruptly. It had more of unity. The conclusion of your "Religious Musicgs," I fear, will entitle you to the reproof of your beloved woman, who wisely will not suffer your fancy to run riot, but bids you walk humbly with your God. The very last words, "I exercise my young novitiate thought in ministeries of heart-stirring song," though not now new to me, cannot be enough admired. To speak politely, they are a well-turned compliment to poetry. I hasten to read "Joan of Arc," etc. I have read your lines at the beginning of second book; [1] they are worthy of Milton, but in my mind yield to your "Religious Musings." I shall read the whole carefully, and in some future letter take the liberty to particularize my opinions of it. Of what is new to me among your poems next to the "Musings," that beginning "My Pensive Sara" gave me most pleasure. The lines in it I just alluded to are most exquisite; they made my sister and self smile, as conveying a pleasing picture of Mrs. C. checking your wild wanderings, which we were so fond of hearing you indulge when among us. It has endeared us more than anything to your good lady, and your own self-reproof that follows delighted us. 'T is a charming poem throughout (you have well remarked that charming, admirable, exquisite are the words expressive of feelings more than conveying of ideas, else I might plead very well want of room in my paper as excuse for generalizing). I want room to tell you how we are charmed with your verses in the manner of Spenser, etc. I am glad you resume the "Watchman." Change the name; leave out all articles of news, and whatever things are peculiar to newspapers, and confine yourself to ethics, verse, criticism; or, rather, do not confine yourself. Let your plan be as diffuse as the "Spectator," and I 'll answer for it the work prospers. If I am vain enough to think I can be a contributor, rely on my inclinations. Coleridge, in reading your "Religious Musings," I felt a transient superiority over you. I have seen Priestley. I love to see his name repeated in your writings. I love and honor him almost profanely. You would be charmed with his Sermons, if you never read 'em. You have doubtless read his books illustrative of the doctrine of Necessity. Prefixed to a late work of his in answer to Paine, there is a preface giving an account of the man and his services to men, written by Lindsey, his dearest friend, well worth your reading.

Tuesday Eve.--Forgive my prolixity, which is yet too brief for all I could wish to say. God give you comfort, and all that are of your household! Our loves and best good-wishes to Mrs. C.

C. LAMB.

[1] Coleridge contributed some four hundred lines to the second book of Southey's epic.



III.

TO COLERIDGE.

June 10, 1796.

With "Joan of Arc" I have been delighted, amazed, I had not presumed to expect anything of such excellence from Southey. Why, the poem is alone sufficient to redeem the character of the age we live in from the imputation of degenerating in poetry, were there no such beings extant as Burns, and Bowles, Cowper, and ----, ---- fill up the blank how you please; I say nothing. The subject is well chosen; it opens well. To become more particular, I will notice in their order a few passages that chiefly struck me on perusal. Page 26: "Fierce and terrible Benevolence!" is a phrase full of grandeur and originality, The whole context made me feel possessed, even like Joan herself. Page 28: "It is most horrible with the keen sword to gore the finely fibred human frame," and what follows, pleased me mightily. In the second book, the first forty lines in particular are majestic and high-sounding. Indeed, the whole vision of the Palace of Ambition and what follows are supremely excellent. Your simile of the Laplander, "By Niemi's lake, or Balda Zhiok, or the mossy stone of Solfar-Kapper," [1] will bear comparison with any in Milton for fulness of circumstance and lofty-pacedness of versification. Southey's similes, though many of 'em are capital, are all inferior. In one of his books, the simile of the oak in the storm occurs, I think, four times. To return: the light in which you view the heathen deities is accurate and beautiful. Southey's personifications in this book are so many fine and faultless pictures. I was much pleased with your manner of accounting for the reason why monarchs take delight in war. At the 447th line you have placed Prophets and Enthusiasts cheek by jowl, on too intimate a footing for the dignity of the former. Necessarian-like-speaking, it is correct. Page 98: "Dead is the Douglas! cold thy warrior frame, illustrious Buchan," etc., are of kindred excellence with Gray's "Cold is Cadwallo's tongue," etc. How famously the Maid baffles the Doctors, Seraphic and Irrefragable, "with all their trumpery!" Page 126: the procession, the appearances of the Maid, of the Bastard Son of Orleans, and of Tremouille, are full of fire and fancy, and exquisite melody of versification. The personifications from line 303 to 309, in the heat of the battle, had better been omitted; they are not very striking, and only encumber. The converse which Joan and Conrade hold on the banks of the Loire is altogether beautiful. Page 313: the conjecture that in dreams "all things are that seem," is one of those conceits which the poet delights to admit into his creed,--a creed, by the way, more marvellous and mystic than ever Athanasius dreamed of. Page 315: I need only mention those lines ending with "She saw a serpent gnawing at her heart!" They are good imitative lines: "he toiled and toiled, of toil to reap no end, but endless toil and never-ending woe." Page 347: Cruelty is such as Hogarth might have painted her. Page 361: all the passage about Love (where he seems to confound conjugal love with creating and preserving love) is very confused, and sickens me with a load of useless personifications; else that ninth book is the finest in the volume,--an exquisite combination of the ludicrous and the terrible. I have never read either, even in translation, but such I conceive to be the manner of Dante or Ariosto. The tenth book is the most languid.

On the whole, considering the celerity wherewith the poem was finished, I was astonished at the unfrequency of weak lines, I had expected to find it verbose. Joan, I think, does too little in battle, Dunois perhaps the same; Conrade too much. The anecdotes interspersed among the battles refresh the mind very agreeably, and I am delighted with the very many passages of simple pathos abounding throughout the poem,--passages which the author of "Crazy Kate" might have written. Has not Master Southey spoke very slightingly in his preface and disparagingly of Cowper's Homer? What makes him reluctant to give Cowper his fame? And does not Southey use too often the expletives "did" and "does"? They have a good effect at times, but are too inconsiderable, or rather become blemishes when they mark a style. On the whole, I expect Southey one day to rival Milton; I already deem him equal to Cowper, and superior to all living poets besides. What says Coleridge? The "Monody on Henderson" is immensely good; the rest of that little volume is readable and above mediocrity? [2] I proceed to a more pleasant task,--pleasant because the poems are yours; pleasant because you impose the task on me; and pleasant, let me add, because it will confer a whimsical importance on me to sit in judgment upon your rhymes. First, though, let me thank you again and again, in my own and my sister's name, for your invitations. Nothing could give us more pleasure than to come; but (were there no other reasons) while my brother's leg is so bad, it is out of the question. Poor fellow! he is very feverish and light-headed; but Cruikshanks has pronounced the symptoms favourable, and gives us every hope that there will be no need of amputation. God send not! We are necessarily confined with him all the afternoon and evening till very late, so that I am stealing a few minutes to write to you.

Thank you for your frequent letters; you are the only correspondent and, I might add, the only friend I have in the world. I go nowhere, and have no acquaintance. Slow of speech and reserved of manners, no one seeks or cares for my society, and I am left alone. Austin calls only occasionally, as though it were a duty rather, and seldom stays ten minutes. Then judge how thankful I am for your letters! Do not, however, burden yourself with the correspondence. I trouble you again so soon only in obedience to your injunctions. Complaints apart, proceed we to our task. I am called away to tea,--thence must wait upon my brother; so must delay till to-morrow. Farewell!--Wednesday.

Thursday.--I will first notice what is new to me. Thirteenth page: "The thrilling tones that concentrate the soul" is a nervous line, and the six first lines of page 14 are very pretty, the twenty-first effusion a perfect thing. That in the manner of Spenser is very sweet, particularly at the close; the thirty-fifth effusion is most exquisite,--that line in particular, "And, tranquil, muse upon tranquillity." It is the very reflex pleasure that distinguishes the tranquillity of a thinking being from that of a shepherd,--a modern one I would be understood to mean,--a Damoetas; one that keeps other people's sheep. Certainly, Coleridge, your letter from Shurton Bars has less merit than most things in your volume; personally it may chime in best with your own feelings, and therefore you love it best. It has, however, great merit. In your fourth epistle that is an exquisite paragraph, and fancy-full, of "A stream there is which rolls in lazy flow," etc. "Murmurs sweet undersong 'mid jasmin bowers" is a sweet line, and so are the three next. The concluding simile is far-fetched; "tempest-honored" is a quaintish phrase.

Yours is a poetical family. I was much surprised and pleased to see the signature of Sara to that elegant composition, the fifth epistle. I dare not criticise the "Religious Musings;" I like not to select any part, where all is excellent. I can only admire, and thank you for it in the name of a Christian, as well as a lover of good poetry; only let me ask, is not that thought and those words in Young, "stands in the sun,"--or is it only such as Young, in one of his better moments, might have writ?

"Believe thou, O my soul, Life is a vision shadowy of Truth; And vice, and anguish, and the wormy grave, Shapes of a dream!"

I thank you for these lines in the name of a necessarian, and for what follows in next paragraph, in the name of a child of fancy. After all, you cannot nor ever will write anything with which I shall be so delighted as what I have heard yourself repeat. You came to town, and I saw you at a time when your heart was yet bleeding with recent wounds. Like yourself, I was sore galled with disappointed hope; you had

"Many an holy lay That, mourning, soothed the mourner on his way."

I had ears of sympathy to drink them in, and they yet vibrate pleasant on the sense. When I read in your little volume your nineteenth effusion, or the twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth, or what you call the "Sigh," I think I hear you again. I image to myself the little smoky room at the "Salutation and Cat," where we have sat together through the winter nights, beguiling the cares of life with poesy. When you left London, I felt a dismal void in my heart. I found myself cut off, at one and the same time, from two most dear to me, "How blest with ye the path could I have trod of quiet life!" In your conversation you had blended so many pleasant fancies that they cheated me of my grief; but in your absence the tide of melancholy rushed in again, and did its worst mischief by overwhelming my reason. I have recovered, but feel a stupor that makes me indifferent to the hopes and fears of this life. I sometimes wish to introduce a religious turn of mind; but habits are strong things, and my religious fervours are confined, alas! to some fleeting moments of occasional solitary devotion,

A correspondence, opening with you, has roused me a little from my lethargy and made me conscious of existence. Indulge me in it; I will not be very troublesome! At some future time I will amuse you with an account, as full as my memory will permit, of the strange turn my frenzy took. I look back upon it at times with, a gloomy kind of envy; for while it lasted, I had many, many hours of pure happiness. Dream not, Coleridge, of having tasted all the grandeur and wildness of fancy till you have gone mad! All now seems to me vapid,--comparatively so. Excuse this selfish digression. Your "Monody" [3] is so superlatively excellent that I can only wish it perfect, which I can't help feeling it is not quite. Indulge me in a few conjectures; what I am going to propose would make it more compressed and, I think, more energetic, though, I am sensible, at the expense of many beautiful lines. Let it begin, "Is this the land of song-ennobled line?" and proceed to "Otway's famished form;" then, "Thee, Chatterton," to "blaze of Seraphim;" then, "clad in Nature's rich array," to "orient day;" then, "but soon the scathing lightning," to "blighted land;" then, "sublime of thought," to "his bosom glows;" then

"But soon upon his poor unsheltered head Did Penury her sickly mildew shed; Ah! where are fled the charms of vernal grace, And joy's wild gleams that lightened o'er his face."

Then "youth of tumultuous soul" to "sigh," as before. The rest may all stand down to "gaze upon the waves below." What follows now may come next as detached verses, suggested by the "Monody," rather than a part of it. They are, indeed, in themselves, very sweet;

"And we, at sober eve, would round thee throng, Hanging enraptured on thy stately song!"

in particular, perhaps. If I am obscure, you may understand me by counting lines. I have proposed omitting twenty-four lines; I feel that thus compressed it would gain energy, but think it most likely you will not agree with me; for who shall go about to bring opinions to the bed of Procrustes, and introduce among the sons of men a monotony of identical feelings? I only propose with diffidence.

Reject you, if you please, with as little remorse as you would the color of a coat or the pattern of a buckle, where our fancies differed.

The "Pixies" is a perfect thing, and so are the "Lines on the Spring." page 28. The "Epitaph on an Infant," like a Jack-o'-lantern, has danced about (or like Dr. Forster's [4] scholars) out of the "Morning Chronicle" into the "Watchman," and thence back into your collection. It is very pretty, and you seem to think so, but, may be, overlooked its chief merit, that of filling up a whole page, I had once deemed sonnets of unrivalled use that way, but your Epitaphs, I find, are the more diffuse. "Edmund" still holds its place among your best verses, "Ah! fair delights" to "roses round," in your poem called "Absence," recall (none more forcibly) to my mind the tones in which you recited it, I will not notice, in this tedious (to you) manner, verses which have been so long delighful to me, and which you already know my opinion of. Of this kind are Bowles, Priestley, and that most exquisite and most Bowles-like of all, the nineteenth effusion. It would have better ended with "agony of care;" the last two lines are obvious and unnecessary; and you need not now make fourteen lines of it, now it is rechristened from a Sonnet to an Effusion.

Schiller might have written the twentieth effusion; 't is worthy of him in any sense, I was glad to meet with those lines you sent me when my sister was so ill; I had lost the copy, and I felt not a little proud at seeing my name in your verse. The "Complaint of Ninathoma" (first stanza in particular) is the best, or only good, imitation of Ossian I ever saw, your "Restless Gale" excepted. "To an Infant" is most sweet; is not "foodful," though, very harsh? Would not "dulcet" fruit be less harsh, or some other friendly bi-syllable? In "Edmund," "Frenzy! fierce-eyed child" is not so well as "frantic," though that is an epithet adding nothing to the meaning. Slander couching was better than "squatting." In the "Man of Ross" it was a better line thus,--

"If 'neath this roof thy wine-cheered moments pass,"

than as it stands now. Time nor nothing can reconcile me to the concluding five lines of "Kosciusko;" call it anything you will but sublime. In my twelfth effusion I had rather have seen what I wrote myself, though they bear no comparison with your exquisite lines,--

"On rose-leaf beds amid your faery bowers," etc.

I love my sonnets because they are the reflected images of my own feelings at different times. To instance, in the thirteenth,--

"How reason reeled," etc.,

are good lines, but must spoil the whole with me, who know it is only a fiction of yours, and that the "rude dashings" did in fact not "rock me to repose." I grant the same objection applies not to the former sonnet; but still I love my own feelings,--they are dear to memory, though they now and then wake a sigh or a tear, "Thinking on divers things fordone," I charge you, Coleridge, spare my ewe-lambs; and though a gentleman may borrow six lines in an epic poem (I should have no objection to borrow five hundred, and without acknowledging), still, in a sonnet, a personal poem, I do not ask my friend the aiding verse; I would not wrong your feelings by proposing any improvements (did I think myself capable of suggesting 'era) in such personal poems as "Thou bleedest, my poor heart,"--'od so,--I am caught,--I have already done it; but that simile I propose abridging would not change the feeling or introduce any alien ones. Do you understand me? In the twenty-eighth, however, and in the "Sigh," and that composed at Clevedon, things that come from the heart direct, not by the medium of the fancy, I would not suggest an alteration.

When my blank verse is finished, or any long fancy poem, "propino tibi alterandum, cut-up-andum, abridgeandum," just what you will with, it: but spare my ewe-lambs! That to "Mrs. Siddons' now, you were welcome to improve, if it had been worth it; but I say unto you again, Coleridge, spare my ewe-lambs! I must confess, were the mine, I should omit, in editione secunda, effusions two and three, because satiric and below the dignity of the poet of "Religious Musings," fifth, seventh, half of the eighth, that "Written in early youth," as far as "thousand eyes,"--though I part not unreluctantly with that lively line,--

"Chaste joyance dancing in her bright blue eyes,"

and one or two just thereabouts. But I would substitute for it that sweet poem called "Recollection," in the fifth number of the "Watchman," better, I think, than the remainder of this poem, though not differing materially; as the poem now stands, it looks altogether confused. And do not omit those lines upon the "Early Blossom" in your sixth number of the "Watchman;" and I would omit the tenth effusion, or what would do better, alter and improve the last four lines. In fact, I suppose, if they were mine, I should not omit 'em; but your verse is, for the most part, so exquisite that I like not to see aught of meaner matter mixed with it. Forgive my petulance and often, I fear, ill-founded criticisms, and forgive me that I have, by this time, made your eyes and head ache with my long letter; but I cannot forego hastily the pleasure and pride of thus conversing with you. You did not tell me whether I was to include the "Conciones ad Populum" in my remarks on your poems. They are not unfrequently sublime, and I think you could not do better than to turn 'em into verse,--if you have nothing else to do. Austin, I am sorry to say, is a confirmed atheist. Stoddart, a cold-hearted, well-bred, conceited disciple of Godwin, does him no good. His wife has several daughters (one of 'em as old as himself). Surely there is something unnatural in such a marriage.

How I sympathize with you on the dull duty of a reviewer, and heartily damn with you Ned Evans and the Prosodist! I shall, however, wait impatiently for the articles in the "Critical Review" next month, because they are yours. Young Evans (W. Evans, a branch of a family you were once so intimate with) is come into our office, and sends his love to you. Coleridge, I devoutly wish that Fortune, who lias made sport with you so long, may play one freak more, throw you into London or some spot near it, and there snug-ify you for life. 'Tis a selfish but natural wish for me, cast as I am on life's wide plain, friendless," Are you acquainted with Bowles? I see by his last Elegy (written at Bath) you are near neighbors,--Thursday.

"And I can think I can see the groves again;" "Was it the voice of thee;" "Turns not the voice of thee, my buried friend;" "Who dries with her dark locks the tender tear,"--are touches as true to Nature as any in his other Elegy, written at the Hot Wells, about poor Kassell, etc. You are doubtless acquainted with it,

I do not know that I entirely agree with you in your stricture upon my sonnet "To Innocence," To men whose hearts are not quite deadened by their commerce with the world, innocence (no longer familiar) becomes an awful idea. So I felt when I wrote it. Your other censures (qualified and sweetened, though, with praises somewhat extravagant) I perfectly coincide with: yet I choose to retain the word "lunar,"--indulge a "lunatic" in his loyalty to his mistress the moon! I have just been reading a most pathetic copy of verses on Sophia Pringle, who was hanged and burned for coining. One of the strokes of pathos (which are very many, all somewhat obscure) is, "She lifted up her guilty forger to heaven." A note explains, by "forger," her right hand, with which she forged or coined the base metal. For "pathos" read "bathos." You have put me out of conceit with my blank verse by your "Religious Musings." I think it will come to nothing. I do not like 'em enough to send 'em. I have just been reading a book, which I may be too partial to, as it was the delight of my childhood; but I will recommend it to you,--it is Izaak Walton's "Complete Angler." All the scientific part you may omit in reading. The dialogue is very simple, full of pastoral beauties, and will charm you. Many pretty old verses are interspersed. This letter, which would be a week's work reading only, I do not wish you to answer in less than a month. I shall be richly content with a letter from you some day early in July; though, if you get anyhow settled before then, pray let me know it immediately; 't would give me much satisfaction. Concerning the Unitarian chapel, the salary is the only scruple that the most rigid moralist would admit as valid. Concerning the tutorage, is not the salary low, and absence from your family unavoidable? London is the only fostering soil for genius. Nothing more occurs just now; so I will leave you, in mercy, one small white spot empty below, to repose your eyes upon, fatigued as they must be with the wilderness of words they have by this time painfully travelled through. God love you, Coleridge, and prosper you through life! though mine will be loss if your lot is to be cast at Bristol, or at Nottingham, or anywhere but London. Our loves to Mrs. C--. C. L.

[1] Lapland mountains. From Coleridge's "Destiny of Nations."

[2] The "Monody" referred to was by Cottle, and appeared in a volume of poems published by him at Bristol in 1795. Coleridge had forwarded the book to Lamb for his opinion.

[3] The Monody on Chatterton.

[4] Dr. Faustus's.



IV.

TO COLERIDGE,

June 14, 1796,

I am not quite satisfied now with the Chatterton, [1] and with your leave will try my hand at it again. A master-joiner, you know, may leave a cabinet to be finished, when his own hands are full. To your list of illustrative personifications, into which a fine imagination enters, I will take leave to add the following from Beaumont and Fletcher's "Wife for a Month;" 'tis the conclusion of a description of a sea-fight: "The game of death was never played so nobly; the meagre thief grew wanton in his mischiefs, and his shrunk, hollow eyes smiled on his ruins." There is fancy in these of a lower order from "Bonduca": "Then did I see these valiant men of Britain, like boding owls creep into tods of ivy, and hoot their fears to one another nightly." Not that it is a personification, only it just caught my eye in a little extract-book I keep, which is full of quotations from B. and F. in particular, in which authors I can't help thinking there is a greater richness of poetical fancy than in any one, Shakspeare excepted. Are you acquainted with Massinger? At a hazard I will trouble you with a passage from a play of his called "A Very Woman." The lines are spoken by a lover (disguised) to his faithless mistress. You will remark the fine effect of the double endings.

You will by your ear distinguish the lines, for I write 'em as prose. "Not far from where my father lives, a lady, a neighbor by, blest with as great a beauty as Nature durst bestow without undoing, dwelt, and most happily, as I thought then, and blest the house a thousand times she dwelt in. This beauty, in the blossom of my youth, when my first fire knew no adulterate incense, nor I no way to flatter but my fondness; in all the bravery my friends could show me, in all the faith my innocence could give me, in the best language my true tongue could tell me, and all the broken sighs my sick heart lend me, I sued and served; long did I serve this lady, long was my travail, long my trade to win her; with all the duty of my soul I SERVED HER." "Then she must love." "She did, but never me: she could not love me; she would not love, she hated,--more, she scorned me; and in so a poor and base a way abused me for all my services, for all my bounties, so bold neglects flung on me." "What out of love, and worthy love, I gave her (shame to her most unworthy mind!), to fools, to girls, to fiddlers and her boys she flung, all in disdain of me." One more passage strikes my eye from B. and F.'s "Palamon and Arcite." One of 'em complains in prison: "This is all our world; we shall know nothing here but one another, hear nothing but the clock that tells us our woes; the vine shall grow, but we shall never see it," etc. Is not the last circumstance exquisite? I mean not to lay myself open by saying they exceed Milton, and perhaps Collins in sublimity. But don't you conceive all poets after Shakspeare yield to 'em in variety of genius? Massinger treads close on their heels; but you are most probably as well acquainted with his writings as your humble servant. My quotations, in that case, will only serve to expose my barrenness of matter. Southey in simplicity and tenderness is excelled decidedly only, I think, by Beaumont and F. in his "Maid's Tragedy," and some parts of "Philaster" in particular, and elsewhere occasionally; and perhaps by Cowper in his "Crazy Kate," and in parts of his translation, such as the speeches of Hecuba and Andromache. I long to know your opinion of that translation. The Odyssey especially is surely very Homeric. What nobler than the appearance of Phoebus at the beginning of the Iliad,--the lines ending with "Dread sounding, bounding on the silver bow!"

I beg you will give me your opinion of the translation; it afforded me high pleasure. As curious a specimen of translation as ever fell into my hands, is a young man's in our office, of a French novel. What in the original was literally "amiable delusions of the fancy," he proposed, to render "the fair frauds of the imagination." I had much trouble in licking the book into any meaning at all. Yet did the knave clear fifty or sixty pounds by subscription and selling the copyright. The book itself not a week's work! To-day's portion of my journalizing epistle has been very dull and poverty-stricken. I will here end.

Tuesday night,

I have been drinking egg-hot and smoking Oronooko (associated circumstances, which ever forcibly recall to my mind our evenings and nights at the "Salutation"). My eyes and brain are heavy and asleep, but my heart is awake; and if words came as ready as ideas, and ideas as feelings, I could say ten hundred kind things. Coleridge, you know not my supreme happiness at having one on earth (though counties separate us) whom I can call a friend. Remember you those tender lines of Logan?--

"Our broken friendships we deplore, And loves of youth that are no more; No after friendships e'er can raise Th' endearments of our early days, And ne'er the heart such fondness prove, As when we first began to love."

I am writing at random, and half-tipsy, what you may not equally understand, as you will be sober when you read it; but my sober and my half-tipsy hours you are alike a sharer in. Good night.

"Then up rose our bard, like a prophet in drink, Craigdoroch, thou'lt soar when creation shall sink."

BURNS.

[1] Coleridge's "Monody" on Chatterton.



V.

TO COLERIDGE.

September 27, 1796.

My Dearest Friend,--White, or some of my friends, or the public papers, by this time may have informed you of the terrible calamities that have fallen on our family. I will only give you the outlines: My poor dear, dearest sister, in a fit of insanity, has been the death of her own mother. I was at hand only time enough to snatch the knife out of her grasp. She is at present in a madhouse, from whence I fear she must be moved to an hospital. God has preserved to me my senses,--I eat, and drink, and sleep, and have my judgment, I believe, very sound. My poor father was slightly wounded, and I am left to take care of him and my aunt. Mr, Norris, of the Blue-coat School, has been very kind to us, and we have no other friend; but, thank God, I am very calm and composed, and able to do the best that remains to do. Write as religious a letter as possible, but no mention of what is gone and done with. With me "the former things are passed away," and I have something more to do than to feel.

God Almighty have us all in his keeping!

C. LAMB.

Mention nothing of poetry. I have destroyed every vestige of past vanities of that kind. Do as you please, but if you publish, publish mine (I give free leave) without name or initial, and never send me a book, I charge you.

Your own judgment will convince you not to take any notice of this yet to your dear wife. You look after your family; I have my reason and strength left to take care of mine. I charge you, don't think of coming to see me. Write. I will not see you, if you come, God Almighty love you and all of us!

C. LAMB.



VI.

TO COLERIDGE.

October 3, 1796.

My dearest friend,--Your letter was an inestimable treasure to me. It will be a comfort to you, I know, to know that our prospects are somewhat brighter. My poor dear, dearest sister, the unhappy and unconscious instrument of the Almighty's judgments on our house, is restored to her senses, to a dreadful sense and recollection of what has past, awful to her mind and impressive (as it must be to the end of life), but tempered with religious resignation and the reasonings of a sound judgment, which in this early stage knows how to distinguish between a deed committed in a transient fit of frenzy, and the terrible guilt of a mother's murder. I have seen her. I found her, this morning, calm and serene; far, very, very far, from an indecent, forgetful serenity. She has a most affectionate and tender concern for what has happened. Indeed, from the beginning, frightful and hopeless as her disorder seemed, I had confidence enough in her strength of mind and religious principle to look forward to a time when even she might recover tranquillity. God be praised, Coleridge, wonderful as it is to tell, I have never once been otherwise than collected and calm; even on the dreadful day and in the midst of the terrible scene, I preserved a tranquillity which bystanders may have construed into indifference,--a tranquillity not of despair. Is it folly or sin in me to say that it was a religious principle that most supported me? I allow much to other favorable circumstances. I felt that I had something else to do than to regret. On that first evening my aunt was lying insensible, to all appearance like one dying; my father with his poor forehead plastered over, from a wound he had received from a daughter dearly loved by him, and who loved him no less dearly; my mother a dead and murdered corpse in the next room,--yet was I wonderfully supported, I dosed not my eyes in sleep that night, but lay without terrors and without despair, I have lost no sleep since, I had been long used not to rest in things of sense,--had endeavored after a comprehension of mind unsatisfied with the "ignorant present time;" and this kept me up. I had the whole weight of the family thrown on me; for my brother, [1] little disposed (I speak not without tenderness for him) at any time to take care of old age and infirmities, had now, with his bad leg, an exemption from such duties; and I was now left alone.

One little incident may serve to make you understand my way of managing my mind, Within a day or two after the fatal one, we dressed for dinner a tongue which we had had salted for some weeks in the house. As I sat down, a feeling like remorse struck me: this tongue poor Mary got for me, and can I partake of it now, when she is far away? A thought occurred and relieved me; if I give in to this way of feeling, there is not a chair, a room, an object in our rooms, that will not awaken the keenest griefs; I must rise above such weaknesses. I hope this was not want of true feeling. I did not let this carry me, though, too far. On the very second day (I date from the day of horrors), as is usual in such cases, there were a matter of twenty people, I do think, supping in our room; they prevailed on me to eat with them (for to eat I never refused). They were all making merry in the room! Some had come from friendship, some from busy curiosity, and some from interest. I was going to partake with them, when my recollection came that my poor dead mother was lying in the next room,--the very next room; a mother who through life wished nothing but her children's welfare. Indignation, the rage of grief, something like remorse, rushed upon my mind. In an agony of emotion I found my, way mechanically to the adjoining room, and fell on my knees by the side of her coffin, asking forgiveness of Heaven, and sometimes of her, for forgetting her so soon. Tranquillity returned, and it was the only violent emotion that mastered me; and I think it did me good.

I mention these things because I hate concealment, and love to give a faithful journal of what passes within me. Our friends have been very good. Sam Le Grice, [2] who was then in town, was with me the three or four first days, and was as a brother to me, gave up every hour of his time, to the very hurting of his health and spirits, in constant attendance and humoring my poor father; talked with him, read to him, played at cribbage with him (for so short is the old man's recollection that he was playing at cards, as though nothing had happened, while the coroner's inquest was sitting over the way!). Samuel wept tenderly when he went away, for his mother wrote him a very severe letter on his loitering so long in town, and he was forced to go. Mr. Norris, of Christ's Hospital, has been as a father to me, Mrs. Norris as a mother, though we had few claims on them. A gentleman, brother to my god-mother, from whom we never had right or reason to expect any such assistance, sent my father twenty pounds; and to crown all these God's blessings to our family at such a time, an old lady, a cousin of my father and aunt's, a gentlewoman of fortune, is to take my aunt and make her comfortable for the short remainder of her days. My aunt is recovered, and as well as ever, and highly pleased at thoughts of going, and has generously given up the interest of her little money (which was formerly paid my father for her board) wholely and solely to my sister's use. Reckoning this, we have, Daddy and I, for oar two selves and an old maid-servant to look after him when I am out, which will be necessary, 170, or 180 rather, a year, out of which we can spare 50 or 60 at least for Mary while she stays at Islington, where she roust and shall stay during her father's life, for his and her comfort. I know John will make speeches about it, but she shall not go into an hospital. The good lady of the madhouse and her daughter, an elegant, sweet-behaved young lady, love her, and are taken with her amazingly; and I know from her own mouth she loves them, and longs to be with them as much. Poor thing, they say she was but the other morning saying she knew she must go to Bethlem for life; that one of her brothers would have it so, but the other would wish it not, but be obliged to go with the stream; that she had often, as she passed Bethlem, thought it likely, "here it may be my fate to end my days," conscious of a certain flightiness in her poor head oftentimes, and mindful of more than one severe illness of that nature before. A legacy of 100 which my father will have at Christmas, and this 20 I mentioned before, with what is in the house, will much more than set us clear. If my father, an old servant-maid, and I can't live, and live comfortably, on 130 or 120 a year, we ought to burn by slow fires; and I almost would, that Mary might not go into an hospital.

Let me not leave one unfavorable impression on your mind respecting my brother. Since this has happened, he has been very kind and brotherly; but I fear for his mind. He has taken his ease in the world, and is not fit himself to struggle with difficulties, nor has much accustomed himself to throw himself into their way; and I know his language is already, "Charles, you must take care of yourself, you must not abridge yourself of a single pleasure you have been used to," etc., and in that style of talking. But you, a necessarian, can respect a difference of mind, and love what is amiable in a character not perfect. He has been very good, but I fear for his mind. Thank God, I can unconnect myself with him, and shall manage all my father's moneys in future myself, if I take charge of Daddy, which poor John has not even hinted a wish, at any future time even, to share with me. The lady at this madhouse assures me that I may dismiss immediately both doctor and apothecary, retaining occasionally a composing draught or so for a while; and there is a less expensive establishment in her house, where she will only not have a room and nurse to herself, for 50 or guineas a year,--the outside would be 60. You know, by economy, how much more even I shall be able to spare for her comforts. She will, I fancy, if she stays, make one of the family rather than of the patients; and the old and young ladies I like exceedingly, and she loves dearly; and they, as the saying is, take to her very extraordinarily, if it is extraordinary that people who see my sister should love her.

Of all the people I ever saw in the world, my poor sister was most and thoroughly devoid of the least tincture of selfishness, I will enlarge upon her qualities, poor dear, dearest soul, in a future letter, for my own comfort, for I understand her thoroughly; and if I mistake not, in the most trying situation that a human being can be found in, she will be found (I speak not with sufficient humility, I fear, but humanly and foolishly speaking),--she will be found, I trust, uniformly great and amiable. God keep her in her present mind, to whom be thanks and praise for all His dispensations to mankind!

C. LAMB.

These mentioned good fortunes and change of prospects had almost brought my mind over to the extreme the very opposite to despair. I was in danger of making myself too happy. Your letter brought me back to a view of things which I had entertained from the beginning. I hope (for Mary I can answer)--but I hope that I shall through life never have less recollection, nor a fainter impression, of what has happened than I have now. 'T is not a light thing, nor meant by the Almighty to be received lightly. I must be serious, circumspect, and deeply religious through life; and by such means may both of us escape madness in future, if it so please the Almighty!

Send me word how it fares with Sara. I repeat it, your letter was, and will be, an inestimable treasure to me. You have a view of what my situation demands of me, like my own view, and I trust a just one.

Coleridge, continue to write, but do not forever offend me by talking of sending me cash. Sincerely and on my soul, we do not want it. God love you both!

I will write again very soon. Do you write directly.

[1] John Lamb, the "James Elia" of the essay "My Relations."

[2] A Christ's Hospital schoolfellow.



VII.

TO COLERIDGE,

October 17, 1796.

My dearest friend,--I grieve from my very soul to observe you in your plans of life veering about from this hope to the other, and settling nowhere. Is it an untoward fatality (speaking humanly) that does this for you,--a stubborn, irresistible concurrence of events,--or lies the fault, as I fear it does, in your own mind? You seem to be taking up splendid schemes of fortune only to lay them down again; and your fortunes are an ignis fatuus that has been conducting you in thought from Lancaster Court, Strand, to somewhere near Matlock; then jumping across to Dr. Somebody's, whose son's tutor you were likely to be; and would to God the dancing demon may conduct you at last in peace and comfort to the "life and labours of a cottager"! You see from the above awkward playfulness of fancy that my spirits are not quite depressed. I should ill deserve God's blessings, which, since the late terrible event, have come down in mercy upon us, if I indulge in regret or querulousness. Mary continues serene and cheerful. I have not by me a little letter she wrote to me; for though I see her almost every day, yet we delight to write to one another, for we can scarce see each other but in company with some of the people of the house. I have not the letter by me, but will quote from memory what she wrote in it: "I have no bad, terrifying dreams. At midnight, when I happen to awake, the nurse sleeping by the side of me, with the noise of the poor mad people around me, I have no fear. The spirit of my mother seems to descend and smile upon me, and bid me live to enjoy the life and reason which the Almighty has given me. I shall see her again in heaven; she will then understand me better. My grandmother, too, will understand me better, and will then say no more, as she used to do, 'Polly, what are those poor crazy, moythered brains of yours thinking of always?'" Poor Mary! my mother indeed never understood her right. She loved her, as she loved us all, with a mother's love; but in opinion, in feeling and sentiment and disposition, bore so distant a resemblance to her daughter that she never understood her right,--never could believe how much she loved her, but met her caresses, her protestations of filial affection, too frequently with coldness and repulse. Still, she was a good mother. God forbid I should think of her but most respectfully, most affectionately. Yet she would always love my brother above Mary, who was not worthy of one tenth of that affection which Mary had a right to claim. But it is my sister's gratifying recollection that every act of duty and of love she could pay, every kindness (and I speak true, when I say to the hurting of her health, and most probably in great part to the derangement of her senses) through a long course of infirmities and sickness she could show her, she ever did. I will some day, as I promised, enlarge to you upon my sister's excellences; 't will seem like exaggeration, but I will do it. At present, short letters suit my state of mind best. So take my kindest wishes for your comfort and establishment in life, and for Sara's welfare and comforts with you. God love you; God love us all!

C. LAMB.



VIII.

TO COLERIDGE.

November 14, 1796.

Coleridge, I love you for dedicating your poetry to Bowles. [1] Genius of the sacred fountain of tears, it was he who led you gently by the hand through all this valley of weeping, showed you the dark green yew-trees and the willow shades where, by the fall of waters, you might indulge in uncomplaining melancholy, a delicious regret for the past, or weave fine visions of that awful future,--

"When all the vanities of life's brief day Oblivion's hurrying hand hath swept away, And all its sorrows, at the awful blast Of the archangel's trump, are but as shadows past."

I have another sort of dedication in my head for my few things, which I want to know if you approve of and can insert. [2] I mean to inscribe them to my sister. It will be unexpected, and it will gire her pleasure; or do you think it will look whimsical at all? As I have not spoke to her about it, I can easily reject the idea. But there is a monotony in the affections which people living together, or as we do now, very frequently seeing each other, are apt to give in to,--a sort of indifference in the expression of kindness for each other, which demands that we should sometimes call to our aid the trickery of surprise. Do you publish with Lloyd, or without him? In either case my little portion may come last, and after the fashion of orders to a country correspondent, I will give directions how I should like to have 'em done. The title-page to stand thus:--


POEMS

BY CHARLES LAMB, OF THE INDIA HOUSE.

Under this title the following motto, which, for want of room, I put over-leaf, and desire you to insert whether you like it or no. May not a gentleman choose what arms, mottoes, or armorial bearings the herald will give him leave, without consulting his republican friend, who might advise none? May not a publican put up the sign of the Saracen's Head, even though his undiscerning neighbor should prefer, as more genteel, the Cat and Gridiron?

[MOTTO.]

"This beauty, in the blossom of my youth, When my first fire knew no adulterate incense, Nor I no way to flatter but my fondness, In the best language my true tongue could tell me, And all the broken sighs my sick heart lend me, I sued and served. Long did I love this lady." [1] MASSINGER.

THE DEDICATION.

THE FEW FOLLOWING POEMS, CREATURES OF THE FANCY AND THE FEELING IN LIFE'S MORE VACANT HOURS, PRODUCED, FOR THE MOST PART, BY LOVE IN IDLENESS, ARE, WITH ALL A BROTHER'S FONDNESS, INSCRIBED TO

MARY ANN LAMB,

THE AUTHOR'S BEST FRIEND ANB SISTER.


This is the pomp and paraphernalia of parting, with which I take my leave of a passion which has reigned so royally (so long) within me; thus, with its trappings of laureateship, I fling it off, pleased and satisfied with myself that the weakness troubles me no longer. I am wedded. Coleridge, to the fortunes of my sister and my poor old father. Oh, my friend, I think sometimes, could I recall the days that are past, which among them should I choose? Not, those "merrier days," not the "pleasant days of hope," not "those wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid," [2] which I have so often, and so feelingly regretted, but the days, Coleridge, of a mother's fondness for her schoolboy. What would I give to call her back to earth for one day, on my knees to ask her pardon for all those little asperities of temper which from time to time have given her gentle spirit pain. And the day, my friend, I trust will come; there will be "time enough" for kind offices of love, if "Heaven's eternal year" be ours. Hereafter, her meek spirit shall not reproach me. Oh, my friend, cultivate the filial feelings, and let no man think himself released from the kind "charities" of relationship. These shall give him peace at the last; these are the best foundation for every species of benevolence. I rejoice to hear, by certain channels, that you, my friend, are reconciled with all your relations. 'T is the most kindly and natural species of love, and we have all the associated train of early feelings to secure its strength and perpetuity. Send me an account of your health; indeed I am solicitous about you. God love you and yours!

C. LAMB.

[1] From "A Very Woman."

[2] An allusion to Lamb's first love,--the "Anna" of his sonnets, and the original, probably, of "Rosamund Gray" and of "Alice W---n" in the beautiful essay "Dream Children."

[3] The earliest sonnets of William Lisle Bowles were published in 1789, the year of Lamb's removal from Christ's Hospital.

[4] Alluding to the prospective joint volume of poems (by Coleridge, Lamb, and Charles Lloyd) to be published by Cottle in 1797. This was Lamb's second serious literary venture, he and Coleridge having issued a joint volume in 1796.



IX.

TO COLERIDGE.

[Fragment.]

Dec. 5, 1796.

At length I have done with verse-making,--not that I relish other people's poetry less: theirs comes from 'em without effort; mine is the difficult operation of a brain scanty of ideas, made more difficult by disuse. I have been reading "The Task" with fresh delight. I am glad you love Cowper. I could forgive a man for not enjoying Milton; but I would not call that man my friend who should be offended with the "divine chit-chat of Cowper." Write to me. God love you and yours!

C. L.



X.

TO COLERIDGE,

Dec. 10, 1796.

I had put my letter into the post rather hastily, not expecting to have to acknowledge another from you so soon. This morning's present has made me alive again. My last night's epistle was childishly querulous: but you have put a little life into me, and I will thank you for your remembrance of me, while my sense of it is yet warm; for if I linger a day or two, I may use the same phrase of acknowledgment, or similar, but the feeling that dictates it now will be gone; I shall send you a caput mortuum; not a cor vivens. Thy "Watchman's," thy bellman's verses, I do retort upon thee, thou libellous varlet,--why, you cried the hours yourself, and who made you so proud? But I submit, to show my humility, most implicitly to your dogmas, I reject entirely the copy of verses you reject. With regard to my leaving off versifying [1] you have said so many pretty things, so many fine compliments, Ingeniously decked out in the garb of sincerity, and undoubtedly springing from a present feeling somewhat like sincerity, that you might melt the most un-muse-ical soul, did you not (now for a Rowland compliment for your profusion of Olivers),--did you not in your very epistle, by the many pretty fancies and profusion of heart displayed in it, dissuade and discourage me from attempting anything after you. At present I have not leisure to make verses, nor anything approaching to a fondness for the exercise. In the ignorant present time, who can answer for the future man? "At lovers' perjuries Jove laughs,"--and poets have sometimes a disingenuous way of forswearing their occupation. This, though, is not my case. The tender cast of soul, sombred with melancholy and subsiding recollections, is favorable to the Sonnet or the Elegy; but from--

"The sainted growing woof The teasing troubles keep aloof."

The music of poesy may charm for a while the importunate, teasing cares of life; but the teased and troubled man is not in a disposition to make that music.

You sent me some very sweet lines relative to Burns; but it was at a time when, in my highly agitated and perhaps distorted state of mind, I thought it a duty to read 'em hastily and burn 'em. I burned all my own verses, all my book of extracts from Beaumont and Fletcher and a thousand sources; I burned a little journal of my foolish passion which I had a long time kept,--

"Noting, ere they past away, The little lines of yesterday."

I almost burned all your letters; I did as bad,--I lent 'em to a friend to keep out of my brother's sight, should he come and make inquisition into our papers; for much as he dwelt upon your conversation while you were among us, and delighted to be with you, it has been, his fashion, ever since to depreciate and cry you down,--you were the cause of my madness, you and your damned foolish sensibility and melancholy; and he lamented with a true brotherly feeling that we ever met,--even as the sober citizen, when his son went astray upon the mountains of Parnassus, is said to have cursed wit, and poetry, and Pope. [2] I quote wrong, but no matter. These letters I lent to a friend to be out of the way for a season; but I have claimed them in vain, and shall not cease to regret their loss. Your packets posterior to the date of my misfortunes, commencing with that valuable consolatory epistle, are every day accumulating,--they are sacred things with me.

Publish your Burns [3] when and how you like; it will "be new to me,"--my memory of it is very confused, and tainted with unpleasant associations. Burns was the god of my idolatry, as Bowles of yours. I am jealous of your fraternizing with Bowles, when I think you relish him more than Burns or my old favorite, Cowper, But you conciliate matters when you talk of the "divine chit-chat" of the latter; by the expression I see you thoroughly relish him. I love Mrs. Coleridge for her excuses an hundred-fold more dearly than if she heaped "line upon line," out-Hannah-ing Hannah More, and had rather hear you sing "Did a very little baby" by your family fireside, than listen to you when you were repeating one of Bowles's sweetest sonnets in your sweet manner, while we two were indulging sympathy, a solitary luxury, by the fireside at the "Salutation." Yet have I no higher ideas of heaven. Your company was one "cordial in this melancholy vale,"--the remembrance of it is a blessing partly, and partly a curse. When I can abstract myself from things present, I can enjoy it with a freshness of relish; but it more constantly operates to an unfavorable comparison with the uninteresting converse I always and only can partake in. Not a soul loves Bowles here; scarce one has heard of Burns; few but laugh at me for reading my Testament,--they talk a language I understand not; I conceal sentiments that would be a puzzle to them. I can only converse with you by letter, and with the dead in their books. My sister, indeed, is all I can wish in a companion; but our spirits are alike poorly, our reading and knowledge from the selfsame sources, our communication with the scenes of the world alike narrow. Never having kept separate company, or any "company together;" never having read separate books, and few books together,--what knowledge have we to convey to each other? In our little range of duties and connections, how few sentiments can take place without friends, with few books, with a taste for religion rather than a strong religious habit! We need some support, some leading-strings to cheer and direct us. You talk very wisely; and be not sparing of your advice. Continue to remember us, and to show us you do remember us; we will take as lively an interest in what concerns you and yours. All I can add to your happiness will be sympathy. You can add to mine more; you can teach me wisdom. I am indeed an unreasonable correspondent: but I was unwilling to let my last night's letter go off without this qualifier: you will perceive by this my mind is easier, and you will rejoice. I do not expect or wish you to write till you are moved; and of course shall not, till you announce to me that event, think of writing myself. Love to Mrs. Coleridge and David Hartley, and my kind remembrance to Lloyd, if he is with you.

C. LAMB.

[1] See preceding letter.

[2] Epistle to Arbuthnot:--

"Poor Cornus sees his frantic wife elope, And curses wit, and poetry, and Pope."

[3] The lines on him which Coleridge had sent to Lamb, and which the latter had burned.


Charles Lamb

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