Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344




January 6, 1823.

The pig was above my feeble praise. It was a dear pigmy. There was some contention as to who should have the ears; but in spite of his obstinacy (deaf as these little creatures are to advice), I contrived to get at one of them.

It came in boots, too, which I took as a favor. Generally these petty-toes, pretty toes I are missing: but I suppose he wore them to look taller.

He must have been the least of his race. His little foots would have gone into the silver slipper. I take him to have beec a Chinese and a female.

If Evelyn could have seen him, he would never have farrowed two such prodigious volumes, seeing how much good can be contained in--how small a compass!

He crackled delicately.

I left a blank at the top of my letter, not being determined which to address it to j so farmer and farmer's wife will please to divide our thanks. May your granaries be full, and your rats empty, and your chickens plump, and your envious neighbors lean, and your laborers busy, and you as idle and as happy as the day is long!


How do you make your pigs so little? They are vastly engaging at the age. I was so myself. Now I am a disagreeable old hog, A middle-aged gentleman-and-a-half; My faculties (thank God!) are not much impaired.

I have my sight, hearing, taste, pretty perfect, and can read the Lord's Prayer in common type, by the help of a candle, without making many mistakes....

Many happy returns, not of the pig, but of the New Year, to both. Mary, for her share of the pig and the memoirs, desires to send the same.

Yours truly,


[1] Hertfordshire connections of the Lambs.



January 9, 1823.

Throw yourself on the world without any rational plan of support beyond what the chance employ of booksellers would afford you!

Throw yourself, rather, my dear sir, from the steep Tarpeian rock slap-dash headlong upon iron spikes. If you had but five consolatory minutes between the desk and the bed, make much of them, and live a century in them, rather than turn slave to the booksellers. They are Turks and Tartars when they have poor authors at their beck. Hitherto you have been at arm's length from them. Come not within their grasp. I have known many authors want for bread, some repining, others envying the blessed security of a counting-house, all agreeing they had rather have been tailors, weavers,--what not,--rather than the things they were. I have known some starved, some to go mad, one dear friend literally dying in a workhouse. You know not what a rapacious, dishonest set these booksellers are. Ask even Southey, who (a single case almost) has made a fortune by book-drudgery, what he has found them. Oh, you know not--may you never know!--the miseries of subsisting by authorship. 'Tis a pretty appendage to a situation like yours or mine, but a slavery, worse than all slavery, to be a bookseller's dependant, to drudge your brains for pots of ale and breasts of mutton, to change your free thoughts and voluntary numbers for ungracious task-work. Those fellows hate us. The reason I take to be that, contrary to other trades, in which the master gets all the credit (a Jeweller or silversmith for instance), and the journeyman, who really does the fine work, is in the background, in our work the world gives all the credit to us, whom they consider as their journeymen, and therefore do they hate us, and cheat us, and oppress us, and would wring the blood of as out, to put another sixpence in their mechanic pouches! I contend that a bookseller has a relative honesty towards authors, not like his honesty to the rest of the world. Baldwin, who first engaged me as Elia, has not paid me up yet (nor any of us without repeated mortifying appeals). Yet how the knave fawned when I was of service to him! Yet I daresay the fellow is punctual in settling his milk-score, etc.

Keep to your bank, and the bank will keep you. Trust not to the public; you may hang, starve, drown yourself, for anything that worthy personage cares. I bless every star that Providence, not seeing good to make me independent, has seen it next good to settle me upon the stable foundation of Leadenhall. Sit down, good B.B., in the banking-office; what! is there not from six to eleven P.M. six days in the week, and is there not all Sunday? Fie! what a superfluity of man's time, if you could think so,--enough for relaxation, mirth, converse, poetry, good thoughts, quiet thoughts. Oh, the corroding, torturing, tormenting thoughts that disturb the brain of the unlucky wight who must draw upon it for daily sustenance! Henceforth I retract all my foul complaints of mercantile employment; look upon them as lovers' quarrels. I was but half in earnest. Welcome, dead timber of a desk, that makes me live! A little grumbling is a wholesome medicine for the spleen, but in my inner heart do I approve and embrace this our close, but unharassing, way of life. I am quite serious. If you can send me Fox, I will not keep it six weeks, and will return it, with warm thanks to yourself and friend, without blot or dog's-ear. You will much oblige me by this kindness.

Yours truly,


[1] The Quaker poet. Mr. Barton was a clerk in the bank of the Messrs. Alexander, of Woodbridge, in Suffolk. Encouraged by his literary success, he thought of throwing up his clerkship and trusting to his pen for a livelihood,--a design from which he was happily diverted by his friends.



April 25, 1823.

Dear Miss H.,--Mary has such an invincible reluctance to any epistolary exertion that I am sparing her a mortification by taking the pen from her. The plain truth is, she writes such a mean, detestable hand that she is ashamed of the formation of her letters. There is an essential poverty and abjectness in the frame of them. They look like begging letters. And then she is sure to omit a most substantial word in the second draught (for she never ventures an epistle without a foul copy first), which is obliged to be interlined,--which spoils the neatest epistle, you know. Her figures, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., where she has occasion to express numerals, as in the date (25th April, 1823), are not figures, but figurantes; and the combined posse go staggering up and down shameless, as drunkards in the daytime. It is no better when she rules her paper. Her lines "are not less erring" than her words; a sort of unnatural parallel lines, that are perpetually threatening to meet,--which, you know, is quite contrary to Euclid. Her very blots are not bold, like this [here a large blot is inserted], but poor smears, half left in and half scratched out, with another smear left in their place. I like a clear letter; a bold, free hand and a fearless flourish. Then she has always to go through them (a second operation) to dot her i's and cross her t's. I don't think she could make a corkscrew if she tried,--which has such a fine effect at the end or middle of an epistle, and fills up.

There is a corkscrew! One of the best I ever drew. [1] By the way, what incomparable whiskey that was of Monkhouse's! But if I am to write a letter, let me begin, and not stand flourishing like a fencer at a fair.

April 25, 1823.

Dear Miss H.,--It gives me great pleasure [the letter now begins] to hear that you got down so smoothly, and that Mrs. Monkhouse's spirits are so good and enterprising. [2] It shows, whatever her posture may be, that her mind at least is not supine. I hope the excursion will enable the former to keep pace with its outstripping neighbor. Pray present our kindest wishes to her and all (that sentence should properly have come into the postscript; but we airy, mercurial spirits, there is no keeping us in). "Time" (as was said of one of us) "toils after us in vain." I am afraid our co-visit with Coleridge was a dream. I shall not get away before the end or middle of June, and then you will be frog-hopping at Boulogne. And besides, I think the Gilmans would scarce trust him with us; I have a malicious knack at cutting of apron-strings. The saints' days you speak of have long since fled to heaven with Astrĉa, and the cold piety of the age lacks fervor to recall them; only Peter left his key,--the iron one of the two that "shuts amain,"--and that is the reason I am locked up. Meanwhile, of afternoons we pick up primroses at Dalston, and Mary corrects me when I call 'em cowslips. God bless you all, and pray remember me euphoniously to Mr. Gruvellegan. That Lee Priory must be a dainty bower. Is it built of flints? and does it stand at Kingsgate?

[1] Lamb was fond of this flourish, and it is frequently found in his letters.

[2] Miss Hutchinson's invalid relative.



September 2, 1823.

Dear B.B.,--What will you not say to my not writing? You cannot say I do not write now. Hessey has not used your kind sonnet, nor have I seen it. Pray send me a copy. Neither have I heard any more of your friend's MS., which I will reclaim whenever you please. When you come Londonward, you will find me no longer in Covent Garden: I have a cottage in Colebrook Row, Islington,--a cottage, for it is detached; a white house, with six good rooms, The New River (rather elderly by this time) runs (if a moderate walking pace can be so termed) close to the foot of the house; and behind is a spacious garden with vines (I assure you), pears, strawberries, parsnips, leeks, carrots, cabbages, to delight the heart of old Alcinous. You enter without passage into a cheerful dining-room, all studded over and rough with old books; and above is a lightsome drawing-room, three windows, full of choice prints. I feel like a great lord, never having had a house before.

The "London," I fear, falls off. I linger among its creaking rafters, like the last rat; it will topple down if they don't get some buttresses. They have pulled down three,--Hazlitt, Procter, and their best stay, kind, light-hearted Wainewright, their Janus. [1] The best is, neither of our fortunes is concerned in it.

I heard of you from Mr. Pulham this morning, and that gave a fillip to my laziness, which has been intolerable; but I am so taken up with pruning and gardening,--quite a new sort of occupation to me. I have gathered my jargonels; but my Windsor pears are backward. The former were of exquisite raciness. I do now sit under my own vine, and contemplate the growth of vegetable nature. I can now understand in what sense they speak of father Adam. I recognize the paternity while I watch my tulips. I almost fell with him, for the first day I turned a drunken gardener (as he let in the serpent) into my Eden; and he laid about him, lopping off some choice boughs, etc., which hung over from a neighbor's garden, and in his blind zeal laid waste a shade which had sheltered their window from the gaze of passers-by. The old gentlewoman (fury made her not handsome) could scarcely be reconciled by all my fine words. There was no buttering her parsnips. She talked of the law. What a lapse to commit on the first day of my happy "garden state"!

I hope you transmitted the Fox-Journal to its owner, with suitable thanks. Mr. Cary, the Dante man, dines with me to-day. He is a mode of a country parson, lean (as a curate ought to be), modest, sensible, no obtruder of church dogmas, quite a different man from Southey. You would like him. Pray accept this for a letter, and believe me, with sincere regards, yours,


[1] Wainewright, the notorious poisoner, who, under the name of "Janus Weathercock," contributed various frothy papers on art and literature to the "London Magazine."



November, 1823.

Dear Mrs. H.,--Sitting down to write a letter is such a painful operation to Mary that you must accept me as her proxy. You have seen our house. What I now tell you is literally true. Yesterday week, George Dyer called upon us, at one o'clock (bright noonday), on his way to dine with Mrs. Barbauld at Newington. He sat with Mary about half an hour, and took leave. The maid saw him go out from her kitchen window, but suddenly losing sight of him, ran up in a fright to Mary. G.D., instead of keeping the slip that leads to the gate, had deliberately, staff in hand, in broad, open day, marched into the New River. [1] He had not his spectacles on, and you know his absence. Who helped him out, they can hardly tell; but between 'em they got him out, drenched thro' and thro'. A mob collected by that time, and accompanied him in. "Send for the doctor!" they said; and a one-eyed fellow, dirty and drunk, was fetched from the public-house at the end, where it seem he lurks for the sake of picking up water-practice, having formerly had a medal from the Humane Society for some rescue. By his advice the patient was put between blankets; and when I came home at four to dinner, I found G.D. a-bed, and raving, light-headed with the brandy-and-water which the doctor had administered. He sang, laughed, whimpered, screamed, babbled of guardian angels, would get up and go home; but we kept him there by force; and by next morning he departed sobered, and seems to have received no injury. [2] All my friends are open-mouthed about having paling before the river; but I cannot see that because a ... lunatic chooses to walk into a river, with his eyes open, at mid-day, I am any the more likely to be drowned in it, coming home at midnight.

[1] See Elia-essay, "Amicus Redivivus."

[2] In the "Athenĉum" for 1835 Procter says: "I happened to call at Lamb's house about ten minutes after this accident; I saw before me a train of water running from the door to the river. Lamb had gone for a surgeon; the maid was running about distraught, with dry clothes on one arm, and the dripping habiliments of the involuntary bather in the other. Miss Lamb, agitated, and whimpering forth 'Poor Mr. Dyer!' in the most forlorn voice, stood plunging her hands into the wet pockets of his trousers, to fish up the wet coin. Dyer himself, an amiable little old man, who took water internally and eschewed strong liquors, lay on his host's bed, hidden by blankets; his head, on which was his short gray hair, alone peered out; and this, having been rubbed dry by a resolute hand,--by the maid's, I believe, who assisted at the rescue,--looked as if bristling with a thousand needles. Lamb, moreover, in his anxiety, had administered a formidable dose of cognac and water to the sufferer, and he (used only to the simple element) babbled without cessation."

Charles Lamb

Sorry, no summary available yet.