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1816

LX.

TO WORDSWORTH

April 9, 1816.

Dear Wordsworth,--Thanks for the books you have given me, and for all the books you mean to give me. I will bind up the "Political Sonnets" and "Ode" according to your suggestion. I have not bound the poems yet; I wait till people have done borrowing them. I think I shall get a chain and chain them to my shelves, more Bodleiano, and people may come and read them at chain's length. For of those who borrow, some read slow; some mean to read but don't read; and some neither read nor meant to read, but borrow to leave you an opinion of their sagacity. I must do my money-borrowing friends the justice to say that there is nothing of this caprice or wantonness of alienation in them; when they borrow my money they never fail to make use of it, Coleridge has been here about a fortnight. His health is tolerable at present, though beset with temptations. In the first place, the Covent Garden Manager has declined accepting his Tragedy, [1] though (having read it) I see no reason upon earth why it might not have run a very fair chance, though it certainly wants a prominent part for a Miss O'Neil or a Mr. Kean. However, he is going to write to-day to Lord Byron to get it to Drury. Should you see Mrs. C., who has just written to C. a letter, which I have given him, it will be as well to say nothing about its fate till some answer is shaped from Drury. He has two volumes printing together at Bristol, both finished as far as the composition goes; the latter containing his fugitive poems, the former his Literary Life. Nature, who conducts every creature by instinct to its best end, has skilfully directed C. to take up his abode at a Chemist's Laboratory in Norfolk Street. She might as well have sent a Helluo Librorum for cure to the Vatican. God keep him inviolate among the traps and pitfalls! He has done pretty well as yet. [2]

Tell Miss Hutchinson my sister is every day wishing to be quietly sitting down to answer her very kind letter; but while C. stays she can hardly find a quiet time. God bless him!

Tell Mrs. Wordsworth her postscripts are always agreeable. They are legible too. Your manual-graphy is terrible,--dark as Lycophron. "Likelihood," for instance, is thus typified.... I should not wonder if the constant making out of such paragraphs is the cause of that weakness in Mrs. W.'s eyes, as she is tenderly pleased to express it. Dorothy, I hear, has mounted spectacles; so you have deoculated two of your dearest relations in life. Well, God bless you, and continue to give you power to write with a finger of power upon our hearts what you fail to impress, in corresponding lucidness, upon our outward eyesight!

Mary's love to all; she is quite well.

I am called off to do the deposits on Cotton Wool. But why do I relate this to you, who want faculties to comprehend the great mystery of deposits, of interest, of warehouse rent, and contingent fund? Adieu!

C. LAMB.

[1] Zapolya.

[2] Lamb alludes, of course, to Coleridge's opium habit.



LXI.

TO WORDSWORTH.

April 26, 1816.

Dear W.,--I have just finished the pleasing task of correcting the revise of the poems and letter. [1] I hope they will come out faultless. One blunder I saw and shuddered at. The hallucinating rascal had printed battered for battened, this last not conveying any distinct sense to his gaping soul. The Reader (as they call 'em) had discovered it, and given it the marginal brand; but the substitutory n had not yet appeared. I accompanied his notice with a most pathetic address to the printer not to neglect the correction. I know how such a blunder would "batter at your peace." With regard to the works, the Letter I read with unabated satisfaction. Such a thing was wanted, called for. The parallel of Cotton with Burns I heartily approve, Iz. Walton hallows any page in which his reverend name appears. "Duty archly bending to purposes of general benevolence" is exquisite. The poems I endeavored not to understand, but to read them with my eye alone; and I think I succeeded, (Some people will do that when they come out, you'll say.) As if I were to luxuriate to-morrow at some picture-gallery I was never at before, and, going by to-day by chance, found the door open, and having but five minutes to look about me, peeped in,--just such a chastised peep I took with my mind at the lines my luxuriating eye was coursing over unrestrained, riot to anticipate another day's fuller satisfaction. Coleridge is printing "Christabel," by Lord Byron's recommendation to Murray, with what he calls a vision, "Kubla Khan," which said vision he repeats so enchantingly that it irradiates and brings heaven and elysian bowers into my parlor while he sings or says it; but there is an observation, "Never tell thy dreams," and I am almost afraid that "Kubla Khan" is an owl that won't bear daylight. I fear lest it should be discovered, by the lantern of typography and clear reducting to letters, no better than nonsense or no sense. When I was young, I used to chant with ecstasy "MILD ARCADIANS EVER BLOOMING," till somebody told me it was meant to be nonsense. Even yet I have a lingering attachment to it, and I think it better than "Windsor Forest," "Dying Christian's Address," etc. Coleridge has sent his tragedy to D.L.T.; it cannot be acted this season, and by their manner of receiving I hope he will be able to alter it to make them accept it for next. He is at present under the medical care of a Mr. Gilman (Killman?) at Highgate, where he plays at leaving off laud---m. I think his essentials not touched; he is very bad, but then he wonderfully picks up another day, and his face, when he repeats his verses, hath its ancient glory,--an archangel a little damaged. Will Miss H. pardon our not replying at length to her kind letter? We are not quiet enough; Morgan is with us every day, going betwixt Highgate and the Temple. Coleridge is absent but four miles; and the neighborhood of such a man is as exciting as the presence of fifty ordinary persons. 'Tis enough to be within the whiff and wind of his genius for us not to possess our souls in quiet. If I lived with him or the Author of the "Excursion," I should, in a very little time, lose my own identity, and be dragged along in the current of other people's thoughts, hampered in a net. How cool I sit in this office, with no possible interruption further than what I may term material! There is not as much metaphysics in thirty-six of the people here as there is in the first page of Locke's "Treatise on the Human Understanding," or as much poetry as in any ten lines of the "Pleasures of Hope," or more natural "Beggar's Petition." I never entangle myself in any of their speculations. Interruptions, if I try to write a letter even, I have dreadful. Just now, within four lines, I was called off for ten minutes to consult dusty old books for the settlement of obsolete errors. I hold you a guinea you don't find the chasm where I left off, so excellently the wounded sense closed again and was healed.

N.B.--Nothing said above to the contrary, but that I hold the personal presence of the two mentioned potent spirits at a rate as high as any: but I pay dearer: what amuses others robs me of myself; my mind is positively discharged into their greater currents, but flows with a willing violence. As to your question about work, it is far less oppressive to me than it was, from circumstances; it takes all the golden part of the day away, a solid lump, from ten to four; but it does not kill my peace, as before. Some day or other I shall be in a taking again. My head aches, and you have had enough, God bless you!

C. LAMB.

[1] Wordsworth's "Letter to a Friend of Burns" (London, 1816).

"Wordsworth had been consulted by a friend of Burns as to the best mode of vindicating the reputation of the poet, which, it was alleged, had been much injured by the publication of Dr. Carrie's 'Life and Correspondence of Burns.'"--AINGER.



LXII.

TO H. DODWELL [1]

July, 1816.

My dear Fellow,--I have been in a lethargy this long while, and forgotten London, Westminster, Marybone, Paddington,--they all went clean out of my head, till happening to go to a neighbor's in this good borough of Calne, for want of whist-players we fell upon Commerce: the word awoke me to a remembrance of my professional avocations and the long-continued strife which I have been these twenty-four years endeavoring to compose between those grand Irreconcilables, Cash and Commerce; I instantly called for an almanac, which with some difficulty was procured at a fortune-teller's in the vicinity (for happy holiday people here, having nothing to do, keep no account of time), and found that by dint of duty I must attend in Leadenhall on Wednesy morning next; and shall attend accordingly. Does Master Hannah give maccaroons still, and does he fetch the Cobbetts from my attic? Perhaps it wouldn't be too much trouble for him to drop the enclosed up at my aforesaid chamber, and any letters, etc., with it; but the enclosed should go without delay. N.B.--He isn't to fetch Monday's Cobbett, but it is to wait my reading when I come back. Heigh-ho! Lord have mercy upon me, how many does two and two make? I am afraid I shall make a poor clerk in future, I am spoiled with rambling among haycocks and cows and pigs. Bless me! I had like to have forgot (the air is so temperate and oblivious here) to say I have seen your brother, and hope he is doing well in the finest spot of the world. More of these things when I return. Remember me to the gentlemen,--I forget names. Shall I find all my letters at my rooms on Tuesday? If you forget to send 'em never mind, for I don't much care for reading and writing now; I shall come back again by degrees, I suppose, into my former habits. How is Bruce de Ponthieu, and Porcher and Co.?--the tears come into my eyes when I think how long I have neglected--.

Adieu! ye fields, ye shepherds and--herdesses, and dairies and cream-pots, and fairies and dances upon the green.

I come, I come. Don't drag me so hard by the hair of my head, Genius of British India! I know my hour is come, Faustus must give up his soul, O Lucifer, O Mephistopheles! Can you make out what all this letter is about? I am afraid to look it over.

CH. LAMB.

[1] A fellow-clerk in the India House. This charming letter, written evidently during a vacation trip, was first published entire in Canon Ainger's edition (1887) of Lamb's Letters.


Charles Lamb

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