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1826

XCI.

TO BERNARD BARTON.

March 20, 1826.

Dear B. B.,--You may know my letters by the paper and the folding. For the former, I live on scraps obtained in charity from an old friend, whose stationery is a permanent perquisite; for folding, I shall do it neatly when I learn to tie my neckcloths. I surprise most of my friends by writing to them on ruled paper, as if I had not got past pothooks and hangers. Sealing-wax I have none on my establishment; wafers of the coarsest bran supply its place. When my epistles come to be weighed with Pliny's, however superior to the Roman in delicate irony, judicious reflections, etc., his gilt post will bribe over the judges to him. All the time I was at the E. I. H. I never mended a pen; I now cut 'em to the stumps, marring rather than mending the primitive goose-quill. I cannot bear to pay for articles I used to get for nothing. When Adam laid out his first penny upon nonpareils at some stall in Mesopotamos, I think it went hard with him, reflecting upon his old goodly orchard, where he had so many for nothing. When I write to a great man at the court end, he opens with surprise upon a naked note, such as Whitechapel people interchange, with no sweet degrees of envelope. I never enclosed one bit of paper in another, nor understood the rationale of it. Once only I sealed with borrowed wax, to set Walter Scott a-wondering, signed with the imperial quartered arms of England, which my friend Field bears in compliment to his descent, in the female line, from Oliver Cromwell. It must have set his antiquarian curiosity upon watering. To your questions upon the currency, I refer you to Mr. Robinson's last speech, where, if you can find a solution, I cannot. I think this, though,--the best ministry we ever stumbled upon,--gin reduced four shillings in the gallon, wine two shillings in the quart! This comes home to men's minds and bosoms. My tirade against visitors was not meant particularly at you or Anne Knight. I scarce know what I meant, for I do not just now feel the grievance. I wanted to make an article. So in another thing I talked of somebody's insipid wife without a correspondent object in my head; and a good lady, a friend's wife, whom I really love (don't startle, I mean in a licit way), has looked shyly on me ever since. The blunders of personal application are ludicrous. I send out a character every now and then on purpose to exercise the ingenuity of my friends. "Popular Fallacies" will go on; that word "concluded" is an erratum, I suppose, for "continued." I do not know how it got stuffed in there. A little thing without name will also be printed on the Religion of the Actors; but it is out of your way, so I recommend you, with true author's hypocrisy, to skip it. We are about to sit down to roast beef, at which we could wish A. K., B. B., and B. B.'s pleasant daughter to be humble partakers. So much for my hint at visitors, which was scarcely calculated for droppers-in from Woodbridge; the sky does not drop such larks every day. My very kindest wishes to you all three, with my sister's best love.

C. LAMB.



XCII.

TO J. B. DIBDIN.

June, 1826.

Dear D.,--My first impulse upon seeing your letter was pleasure at seeing your old neat hand, nine parts gentlemanly, with a modest dash of the clerical; my second, a thought natural enough this hot weather: Am I to answer all this? Why, 't is as long as those to the Ephesians and Galatians put together: I have counted the words, for curiosity.... I never knew an enemy to puns who was not an ill-natured man. Your fair critic in the coach reminds me of a Scotchman, who assured me he did not see much in Shakspeare. I replied, I daresay not. He felt the equivoke, looked awkward and reddish, but soon returned to the attack by saying that he thought Burns was as good as Shakspeare. I said that I had no doubt he was,--to a Scotchman. We exchanged no more words that day.... Let me hear that you have clambered up to Lover's Seat; it is as fine in that neighborhood as Juan Fernandez,--as lonely, too, when the fishing-boats are not out; I have sat for hours staring upon a shipless sea. The salt sea is never as grand as when it is left to itself. One cock-boat spoils it; a seamew or two improves it. And go to the little church, which is a very Protestant Loretto, and seems dropped by some angel for the use of a hermit who was at once parishioner and a whole parish. It is not too big. Go in the night, bring it away in your portmanteau, and I will plant it in my garden. It must have been erected, in the very infancy of British Christianity, for the two or three first converts, yet with all the appurtenances of a church of the first magnitude,--its pulpit, its pews, its baptismal font; a cathedral in a nutshell. The minister that divides the Word there must give lumping pennyworths. It is built to the text of "two or three assembled in my name." It reminds me of the grain of mustard-seed. If the glebe land is proportionate, it may yield two potatoes. Tithes out of it could be no more split than a hair. Its First fruits must be its Last, for 't would never produce a couple. It is truly the strait and narrow way, and few there be (of London visitants) that find it. The still small voice is surely to be found there, if anywhere. A sounding-board is merely there for ceremony. It is secure from earthquakes, not more from sanctity than size, for't would feel a mountain thrown upon it no more than a taper-worm would. Go and see, but not without your spectacles.


Charles Lamb

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