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1806

XLVI. [1]

TO MANNING.

May 10, 1806.

My Dear Manning,--I didn't know what your going was till I shook a last fist with you, and then 'twas just like having shaken hands with a wretch on the fatal scaffold, and when you are down the ladder, you can never stretch out to him again. Mary says you are dead, and there's nothing to do but to leave it to time to do for us in the end what it always does for those who mourn for people in such a case. But she'll see by your letter you are not quite dead. A little kicking and agony, and then--Martin Burney took me out a walking that evening, and we talked of Manning; and then I came home and smoked for you, and at twelve o'clock came home Mary and Monkey Louisa from the play, and there was more talk and more smoking, and they all seemed first-rate characters, because they knew a certain person. But what's the use of talking about 'em? By the time you'll have made your escape from the Kalmuks, you'll have stayed so long I shall never be able to bring to your mind who Mary was, who will have died about a year before, nor who the Holcrofts were! Me perhaps you will mistake for Phillips, or confound me with Mr. Dawe, because you saw us together. Mary (whom you seem to remember yet) is not quite easy that she had not a formal parting from you. I wish it had so happened. But you must bring her a token, a shawl or something, and remember a sprightly little mandarin for our mantelpiece, as a companion to the child I am going to purchase at the museum. She says you saw her writings about the other day, and she wishes you should know what they are. She is doing for Godwin's bookseller twenty of Shakspeare's plays, to be made into children's tales. Six are already done by her; to wit: "The Tempest," "Winter's Tale," "Midsummer Night's Dream," "Much Ado," "Two Gentlemen of Verona," and "Cymbeline;" and "The Merchant of Venice" is in forwardness. I have done "Othello" and "Macbeth," and mean to do all the tragedies. I think it will be popular among the little people, besides money. It's to bring in sixty guineas. Mary has done them capitally, I think you'd think. [2] These are the humble amusements we propose, while you are gone to plant the cross of Christ among barbarous pagan anthropophagi. Quam homo homini pręstat! but then, perhaps, you'll get murdered, and we shall die in our beds, with a fair literary reputation. Be sure, if you see any of those people whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders, that you make a draught of them. It will be very curious. Oh, Manning, I am serious to sinking almost, when I think that all those evenings, which you have made so pleasant, are gone perhaps forever. Four years you talk of, maybe ten; and you may come back and find such alterations! Some circumstances may grow up to you or to me that may be a bar to the return of any such intimacy. I daresay all this is hum, and that all will come back; but indeed we die many deaths before we die, and I am almost sick when I think that such a hold as I had of you is gone. I have friends, but some of 'em are changed. Marriage, or some circumstance, rises up to make them not the same. But I felt sure of you. And that last token you gave me of expressing a wish to have my name joined with yours, you know not how it affected me,--like a legacy.

God bless you in every way you can form a wish! May He give you health, and safety, and the accomplishment of all your objects, and return you again to us to gladden some fireside or other (I suppose we shall be moved from the Temple). I will nurse the remembrance of your steadiness and quiet, which used to infuse something like itself into our nervous minds. Mary called you our ventilator. Farewell! and take her best wishes and mine. Good by.

C.L.

[1] Addressed: "Mr, Manning, Passenger on Board the 'Thames,' East Indiaman, Portsmouth." Manning had set out for Canton.

[2] Miss Lamb has amusingly described the progress of their labors on this volume; "You would like to see us, as we often sit writing on one table (but not on one cushion sitting), like Hermia and Helena, in the 'Midsummer Night's Dream;' or rather like an old literary Darby and Joan, I taking snuff, and he groaning all the while, and saying he can make nothing of it, which he always says till he has finished, and then he finds out that he has made something of it."



XLVII.

TO WORDSWORTH.

June, 1806.

Dear Wordsworth,--We are pleased, you may be sure, with the good news of Mrs. Wordsworth. [1] Hope all is well over by this time. "A fine boy! Have you any more?--One more and a girl,--poor copies of me!" vide "Mr. H.," a farce which the proprietors have done me the honor--But I set down Mr, Wroughton's own words, N. B.--The ensuing letter was sent in answer to one which I wrote, begging to know if my piece had any chance, as I might make alterations, etc, I writing on Monday, there comes this letter on the Wednesday. Attend.

[Copy of a letter from Mr. R. Wroughton.]

SIR,--Your piece of "Mr. H.," I am desired to say, is accepted at Drury Lane Theatre by the proprietors, and if agreeable to you, will be brought forwards when the proper opportunity serves. The piece shall be sent to you for your alterations in the course of a few days, as the same is not in my hands, but with the proprietors,

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

RICHARD WROUGHTON.

[Dated] 66, Gower Street, Wednesday, June 11th, 1806.

On the following Sunday Mr. Tobin comes. The scent of a manager's letter brought him. He would have gone farther any day on such a business. I read the letter to him. He deems it authentic and peremptory. Our conversation naturally fell upon pieces, different sorts of pieces,--what is the best way of offering a piece; how far the caprice of managers is an obstacle in the way of a piece; how to judge of the merits of a piece; how long a piece may remain in the hands of the managers before it is acted; and my piece, and your piece, and my poor brother's piece,--my poor brother was all his life endeavoring to get a piece accepted. I wrote that in mere wantonness of triumph. Have nothing more to say about it. The managers, I thank my stars, have decided its merits forever. They are the best judges of pieces, and it would be insensible in me to affect a false modesty, after the very flattering letter which I have received.

[Illustration: Admit to Boxes. Mr. H. Ninth Night Charles Lamb]

I think this will be as good a pattern for orders as I can think on. A little thin flowery border, round, neat, not gaudy, and the Drury Lane Apollo, with the harp at the top. Or shall I have no Apollo,--simply nothing? Or perhaps the Comic Muse?

The same form, only I think without the Apollo, will serve for the pit and galleries. I think it will be best to write my name at full length; but then if I give away a great many, that will be tedious. Perhaps Ch. Lamb will do.

BOXES, now I think on it, I'll have in capitals; the rest, in a neat Italian hand. Or better, perhaps, BORES in Old English characters, like Madoc or Thalaba?

A propos of Spenser (you will find him mentioned a page or two before, near enough for an ą propos), I was discoursing on poetry (as one's apt to deceive one's self, and when a person is willing to talk of what one likes, to believe that be also likes the same, as lovers do) with a young gentleman of my office, who is deep read in Anacreon Moore, Lord Strangford, and the principal modern poets, and I happened to mention Epithalamiums, and that I could show him a very fine one of Spenser's. At the mention of this my gentleman, who is a very fine gentleman, pricked up his ears and expressed great pleasure, and begged that I would give him leave to copy it; he did not care how long it was (for I objected the length), he should be very happy to see anything by him. Then pausing, and looking sad, he ejaculated, "POOR SPENCER!" I begged to know the reason of his ejaculation, thinking that time had by this time softened down any calamities which the bard might have endured. "Why, poor fellow," said he, "he has lost his wife!" "Lost his wife!" said I, "who are you talking of?" "Why, Spencer!" said he; "I've read the Monody he wrote on the occasion, and a very pretty thing it is." This led to an explanation (it could be delayed no longer) that the sound Spenser, which, when poetry is talked of, generally excites an image of an old bard in a ruff, and sometimes with it dim notions of Sir P. Sidney and perhaps Lord Burleigh, had raised in my gentleman a quite contrary image of the Honorable William Spencer, who has translated some things from the German very prettily, which are published with Lady Di Beauclerk's designs. Nothing like defining of terms when we talk. What blunders might I have fallen into of quite inapplicable criticism, but for this timely explanation!

N.B.--At the beginning of Edm. Spenser (to prevent mistakes), I have copied from my own copy, and primarily from a book of Chalmers's on Shakspeare, a sonnet of Spenser's never printed among his poems. It is curious, as being manly, and rather Miltonic, and as a sonnet of Spenser's with nothing in it about love or knighthood. I have no room for remembrances, but I hope our doing your commission will prove we do not quite forget you.

C. L.

[1] Wordsworth's son Thomas was born June 16, 1806.



XLVIII.

TO MANNING

December 5, 1806.

Manning, your letter, dated Hottentots, August the what-was-it? came to hand. I can scarce hope that mine will have the same luck. China, Canton,--bless us, how it strains the imagination and makes it ache! I write under another uncertainty whether it can go to-morrow by a ship which I have just learned is going off direct to your part of the world, or whether the despatches may not be sealed up and this have to wait; for if it is detained here, it will grow staler in a fortnight than in a five months' voyage coming to you. It will be a point of conscience to send you none but bran-new news (the latest edition), which will but grow the better, like oranges, for a sea-voyage. Oh that you should be so many hemispheres off!--if I speak incorrectly, you can correct me. Why, the simplest death or marriage that takes place here must be important to you as news in the old Bastile. There's your friend Tuthill has got away from France--you remember France? and Tuthill?--ten to one but he writes by this post, if he don't get my note in time, apprising him of the vessel sailing. Know, then, that he has found means to obtain leave from Bonaparte, without making use of any incredible romantic pretences, as some have done, who never meant to fulfil them, to come home; and I have seen him here and at Holcroft's. An't you glad about Tuthill? Now then be sorry for Holcroft, whose new play, called "The Vindictive Man," was damned about a fortnight since. It died in part of its own weakness, and in part for being choked up with bad actors. The two principal parts were destined to Mrs. Jordan and Mr. Bannister; but Mrs. J. has not come to terms with the managers,--they have had some squabble,--and Bannister shot some of his fingers off by the going off of a gun. So Miss Duncan had her part, and Mr. De Camp took his. His part, the principal comic hope of the play, was most unluckily Goldfinch, taken out of the "Road to Ruin,"--not only the same character, but the identical Goldfinch; the same as Falstaff is in two plays of Shakspeare. As the devil of ill-luck would have it, half the audience did not know that H. had written it, but were displeased at his stealing from the "Road to Ruin;" and those who might have home a gentlemanly coxcomb with his "That's your sort," "Go it,"--such as Lewis is,--did not relish the intolerable vulgarity and inanity of the idea stripped of his manner. De Camp was hooted, more than hissed,--hooted and bellowed off the stage before the second act was finished; so that the remainder of his part was forced to be, with some violence to the play, omitted. In addition to this, a strumpet was another principal character,--a most unfortunate choice in this moral day. The audience were as scandalized as if you were to introduce such a personage to their private tea-tables. Besides, her action in the play was gross,--wheedling an old man into marriage. But the mortal blunder of the play was that which, oddly enough, H. took pride in, and exultingly told me of the night before it came out, that there were no less than eleven principal characters in it, and I believe he meant of the men only, for the play-bill expressed as much, not reckoning one woman and one--; and true it was, for Mr. Powell, Mr. Raymond, Mr. Bartlett, Mr. H. Siddons, Mr. Barrymore, etc., to the number of eleven, had all parts equally prominent, and there was as much of them in quantity and rank as of the hero and heroine, and most of them gentlemen who seldom appear but as the hero's friend in a farce,--for a minute or two,--and here they all had their ten-minute speeches, and one of them gave the audience a serious account how he was now a lawyer, but had been a poet; and then a long enumeration of the inconveniences of authorship, rascally booksellers, reviewers, etc.; which first set the audience a-gaping. But I have said enough; you will be so sorry that you will not think the best of me for my detail: but news is news at Canton. Poor H. I fear will feel the disappointment very seriously in a pecuniary light. From what I can learn, he has saved nothing. You and I were hoping one day that he had; but I fear he has nothing but his pictures and books, and a no very flourishing business, and to be obliged to part with his long-necked Guido that hangs opposite as you enter, and the game-piece that hangs in the back drawing-room, and all those Vandykes, etc.! God should temper the wind to the shorn connoisseur. I hope I need not say to you that I feel for the weather-beaten author and for all his household. I assure you his fate has soured a good deal the pleasure I should have otherwise taken in my own little farce being accepted, and I hope about to be acted,--it is in rehearsal actually, and I expect it to come out next week. It is kept a sort of secret, and the rehearsals have gone on privately, lest by many folks knowing it, the story should come out, which would infallibly damn it. You remember I had sent it before you went. Wroughton read it, and was much pleased with it. I speedily got an answer. I took it to make alterations, and lazily kept it some months, then took courage and furbished it up in a day or two and took it. In less than a fortnight I heard the principal part was given to Elliston, who liked it, and only wanted a prologue, which I have since done and sent; and I had a note the day before yesterday from the manager, Wroughton (bless his fat face, he is not a bad actor in some things), to say that I should be summoned to the rehearsal after the next, which next was to be yesterday. I had no idea it was so forward. I have had no trouble, attended no reading or rehearsal, made no interest; what a contrast to the usual parade of authors! But it is peculiar to modesty to do all things without noise or pomp! I have some suspicion it will appear in public on Wednesday next, for W. says in his note, it is so forward that if wanted it may come out next week, and a new melodrama is announced for every day till then; and "a new farce is in rehearsal," is put up in the bills. Now, you'd like to know the subject. The title is "Mr. H.," no more; how simple, how taking! A great H. sprawling over the play-bill and attracting eyes at every corner. The story is a coxcomb appearing at Bath, vastly rich, all the ladies dying for him, all bursting to know who he is; but he goes by no other name than Mr. H.,--a curiosity like that of the dames of Strasburg about the man with the great nose. But I won't tell you any more about it. Yes, I will, but I can't give you an idea how I have done it. I'll just tell you that after much vehement admiration, when his true name comes out, "Hogs-flesh," all the women shun him, avoid him, and not one can be found to change their name for him,--that's the idea,--how flat it is here; [1] but how whimsical in the farce! And only think how hard upon me it is that the ship is despatched to-morrow, and my triumph cannot be ascertained till the Wednesday after; but all China will ring of it by and by. N.B. (But this is a secret,) The Professor [2] has got a tragedy coming out, with the young Roscius in it, in January next, as we say,--January last it will be with you; and though it is a profound secret now, as all his affairs are, it cannot be much of one by the time you read this. However, don't let it go any farther. I understand there are dramatic exhibitions in China. One would not like to be forestalled. Do you find in all this stuff I have written anything like those feelings which one should send my old adventuring friend, that is gone to wander among Tartars, and may never come again? I don't, but your going away, and all about you, is a threadbare topic. I have worn it out with thinking, it has come to me when I have been dull with anything, till my sadness has seemed more to have come from it than to have introduced it. I want you, you don't know how much; but if I had you here in my European garret, we should but talk over such stuff as I have written, so--Those "Tales from Shakspeare" are near coming out, and Mary has begun a new work, Mr. Dawe is turned author; he has been in such a way lately,--Dawe the painter, I mean,--he sits and stands about at Holcroft's and says nothing, then sighs, and leans his head on his hand. I took him to be in love, but it seems he was only meditating a work,--"The Life of Morland:" the young man is not used to composition. Rickman and Captain Burney are well; they assemble at my house pretty regularly of a Wednesday, a new institution. Like other great men, I have a public day,--cribbage and pipes, with Phillips and noisy Martin Burney.

Good Heaven, what a bit only I've got left! How shall I squeeze all I know into this morsel! Coleridge is come home, and is going to turn lecturer on taste at the Royal Institution. I shall get £200 from the theatre if "Mr. H." has a good run, and I hope £100 for the copyright. Nothing if it fails; and there never was a more ticklish thing. The whole depends on the manner in which the name is brought out, which I value myself on, as a chef d'oeuvre. How the paper grows less and less! In less than two minutes I shall cease to talk to you, and you may rave to the Great Wall of China. N.B.--Is there such a wall? Is it as big as Old London Wall by Bedlam? Have you met with a friend of mine named Ball at Canton? If you are acquainted, remember me kindly to him. Maybe you'll think I have not said enough of Tuthill and the Holcrofts. Tuthill is a noble fellow, as far as I can judge. The Holcrofts bear their disappointment pretty well, but indeed they are sadly mortified. Mrs. H. is cast down. It was well, if it were but on this account, that Tuthill is come home. N.B.--If my little thing don't succeed, I shall easily survive, having, as it were, compared to H.'s venture, but a sixteenth in the lottery. Mary and I are to sit next the orchestra in the pit, next the tweedle-dees. She remembers you. You are more to us than five hundred farces, clappings, etc.

Come back one day. C. LAMB.

[1] It was precisely this flatness, this slightness of plot and catastrophe, that doomed "Mr. H." to failure. See next letter.

[2] Godwin. His tragedy of "Faulkner" was published in 1808.



XLIX.

TO WORDSWORTH.

December, II, 1806.

Mary's love to all of you; I wouldn't let her write.

Dear Wordsworth,--"Mr. H." came out last night, and failed. I had many fears; the subject was not substantial enough. John Bull must have solider fare than a letter. We are pretty stout about it; have had plenty of condoling friends; but, after all, we had rather it should have succeeded. You will see the prologue in most of the morning papers. It was received with such shouts as I never witnessed to a prologue. It was attempted to be encored. How hard! a thing I did merely as a task, because it was wanted, and set no great store by; and "Mr. H."! The quantity of friends we had in the house--my brother and I being in public offices, etc.--was astonishing; but they yielded at last to a few hisses.

A hundred hisses (Damn the word, I write it like kisses,--how different!)--a hundred hisses outweigh a thousand claps. [1] The former come more directly from, the heart. Well, 't is withdrawn, and there is an end.

Better luck to us,

C. LAMB.

[1] Lamb was himself in the audience, and is said to have taken a conspicuous share in the storm of hisses that followed the dropping of the curtain.


Charles Lamb

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