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1827

XCIII.

TO HENRY CRABB ROBINSON.

January 20, 1827.

Dear Robinson,--I called upon you this morning, and found that you had gone to visit a dying friend. I had been upon a like errand. Poor Norris [1] has been lying dying for now almost a week,--such is the penalty we pay for having enjoyed a strong constitution! Whether he knew me or not, I know not, or whether he saw me through his poor glazed eyes; but the group I saw about him I shall not forget. Upon the bed, or about it, were assembled his wife and two daughters, and poor deaf Richard, his son, looking doubly stupefied. There they were, and seemed to have been sitting all the week. I could only reach out a hand to Mrs. Norris. Speaking was impossible in that mute chamber. By this time I hope it is all over with him. In him I have a loss the world cannot make up. He was my friend and my father's friend all the life I can remember. I seem to have made foolish friendships ever since. Those are friendships which outlive a second generation. Old as I am waxing, in his eyes I was still the child he first knew me. To the last he called me Charley. I have none to call me Charley now. He was the last link that bound me to the Temple. You are but of yesterday. In him seem to have died the old plainness of manners and singleness of heart. Letters he knew nothing of, nor did his reading extend beyond the pages of the "Gentleman's Magazine." Yet there was a pride of literature about him from being amongst books (he was librarian), and from some scraps of doubtful Latin which he had picked up in his office of entering students, that gave him very diverting airs of pedantry. Can I forget the erudite look with which, when he had been in vain trying to make out a black-letter text of Chaucer in the Temple Library, he laid it down and told me that "in those old books Charley, there is sometimes a deal of very indifferent spelling;" and seemed to console himself in the reflection! His jokes--for he had his jokes--are now ended; but they were old trusty perennials, staples that pleased after decies repetita, and were always as good as new. One song he had, which was reserved for the night of Christmas Day, which we always spent in the Temple. It was an old thing, and spoke of the flat-bottoms of our foes and the possibility of their coming over in darkness, and alluded to threats of an invasion many years blown over; and when he came to the part--

"We'll still make 'em run, and we'll still make 'em sweat, In spite of the devil and 'Brussels Gazette,'"--

his eyes would sparkle as with the freshness of an impending event. And what is the "Brussels Gazette" now? I cry while I enumerate these trifles. "How shall we tell them in a stranger's ear?" His poor good girls will now have to receive their afflicted mother in an inaccessible hovel in an obscure village in Herts, where they have been long struggling to make a school without effect; and poor deaf Richard--and the more helpless for being so--is thrown on the wide world.

My first motive in writing, and, indeed, in calling on you, was to ask if you were enough acquainted with any of the Benchers to lay a plain statement before them of the circumstances of the family. I almost fear not, for you are of another hall. But if you can oblige me and my poor friend, who is now insensible to any favors, pray exert yourself. You cannot say too much good of poor Norris and his poor wife.

Yours ever,

CHARLES LAMB.

[1] Randal Norris, sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple, an early friend of the Lambs.



XCIV.

TO PETER GEORGE PATMORE.

LONDRES, Julie 19th, 1827.

Dear P.,--I am so poorly. I have been to a funeral, where I made a pun, to the consternation of the rest of the mourners. And we had wine. I can't describe to you the howl which the widow set up at proper intervals. Dash [1] could; for it was not unlike what he makes.

The letter I sent you was one directed to the care of Edward White, India House, for Mrs. Hazlitt. Which Mrs. H. I don't yet know; but Allsop has taken it to France on speculation. Really it is embarrassing. There is Mrs. present H., Mrs. late H., and Mrs. John H.; and to which of the three Mrs. Wigginses it appertains, I know not. I wanted to open it, but 'tis transportation.

I am sorry you are plagued about your book. I would strongly recommend you to take for one story Massinger's "Old Law." It is exquisite. I can think of no other.

Dash is frightful this morning. He whines and stands up on his hind legs. He misses Becky, who is gone to town. I took him to Barnet the other day, and he couldn't eat his vittles after it. Pray God his intellectuals be not slipping.

Mary is gone out for some soles. I suppose 'tis no use to ask you to come and partake of 'em; else there is a steam vessel.

I am doing a tragi-comedy in two acts, and have got on tolerably; but it will be refused, or worse, I never had luck with anything my name was put to.

Oh, I am so poorly! I waked it at my cousin's the bookbinder, who is now with God; or if he is not,'tis no fault of mine.

We hope the Frank wines do not disagree with Mrs. Patmore. By the way, I like her.

Did you ever taste frogs? Get them if you can. They are like little Lilliput rabbits, only a thought nicer.

How sick I am!--not of the world, but of the Widow Shrub. She's sworn under £6,000; but I think she perjured herself. She howls in E la, and I comfort her in B flat. You understand music?

If you haven't got Massinger, you have nothing to do but go to the first Bibliothèque you can light upon at Boulogne, and ask for it (Gifford's edition); and if they haven't got it, you can have "Athalie," par Monsieur Racine, and make the best of it. But that "Old Law" is delicious.

"No shrimps!" (that's in answer to Mary's question about how the soles are to be done.)

I am uncertain where this wandering letter may reach you. What you mean by Poste Restante, God knows. Do you mean I must pay the postage? So I do,--to Dover.

We had a merry passage with the widow at the Commons. She was howling,--part howling, and part giving directions to the proctor,--when crash! down went my sister through a crazy chair, and made the clerks grin, and I grinned, and the widow tittered, and then I knew that she was not inconsolable. Mary was more frightened than hurt.

She'd make a good match for anybody (by she, I mean the widow).

"If he bring but a relict away, He is happy, nor heard to complain."

SHENSTONE.

Procter has got a wen growing out at the nape of his neck, which his wife wants him to have cut off; but I think it rather an agreeable excrescence,--like his poetry, redundant. Hone has hanged himself for debt. Godwin was taken up for picking pockets. Moxon has fallen in love with Emma, our nut-brown maid. Becky takes to bad courses. Her father was blown up in a steam machine. The coroner found it "insanity." I should not like him to sit on my letter.

Do you observe my direction? Is it Gallic, classical? Do try and get some frogs. You must ask for "grenouilles" (green eels). They don't understand "frogs," though 't is a common phrase with us.

If you go through Bulloign (Boulogne), inquire if Old Godfrey is living, and how he got home from the Crusades. He must be a very old man.

[1] A dog given to Lamb by Thomas Hood. See letter to Patmore dated September, 1827.



XCV.

TO BERNARD BARTON.

August 10, 1827.

Dear B. B.,--I have not been able to answer you, for we have had and are having (I just snatch a moment) our poor quiet retreat, to which we fled from society, full of company,--some staying with us; and this moment as I write, almost, a heavy importation of two old ladies has come in. Whither can I take wing from the oppression of human faces? Would I were in a wilderness of apes, tossing cocoa-nuts about, grinning and grinned at!

Mitford was hoaxing you surely about my engraving; 't is a little sixpenny thing, [1] too like by half, in which the draughtsman has done his best to avoid flattery. There have been two editions of it, which I think are all gone, as they have vanished from the window where they hung,--a print-shop, corner of Great and Little Queen Streets, Lincoln's Inn Fields,--where any London friend of yours may inquire for it; for I am (though you won't understand it) at Enfield Chase. We have been here near three months, and shall stay two more, if people will let us alone; but they persecute us from village to village. So don't direct to Islington again till further notice. I am trying my hand at a drama, in two acts, founded on Crabbe's "Confidant," mutatis mutandis. You like the Odyssey: did you ever read my "Adventures of Ulysses," founded on Chapman's old translation of it? For children or men. Chapman is divine, and my abridgment has not quite emptied him of his divinity. When you come to town I'll show it you. You have well described your old-fashioned grand paternal hall. Is it not odd that every one's earliest recollections are of some such place? I had my Blakesware [Blakesmoor in the "London"]. Nothing fills a child's mind like a large old mansion; better if un--or partially--occupied,--peopled with the spirits of deceased members of the county and justices of the quorum. Would I were buried in the peopled solitudes of one, with my feelings at seven years old! Those marble busts of the emperors, they seemed as if they were to stand forever, as they had stood from the living days of Rome, in that old marble hall, and I too partake of their permanency. Eternity was, while I thought not of Time. But he thought of me, and they are toppled down, and corn covers the spot of the noble old dwelling and its princely gardens, I feel like a grasshopper that, chirping about the grounds, escaped the scythe only by my littleness. Even now he is whetting one of his smallest razors to clean wipe me out, perhaps. Well!

[Footnote 1:] An etching of Lamb, by Brooke Pulham, which is said to be the most characteristic likeness of him extant.



XCVI.

TO THOMAS HOOD,

September 18, 1827.

Dear Hood,--If I have anything in my head, I will send it to Mr. Watts. Strictly speaking, he should have all my album-verses; but a very intimate friend importuned me for the trifles, and I believe I forgot Mr. Watts, or lost sight at the time of his similar "Souvenir." Jamieson conveyed the farce from me to Mrs. C. Kemble; he will not be in town before the 27th.

Give our kind loves to all at Highgate, and tell them that we have finally torn ourselves outright away from Colebrooke, where I had no health, and are about to domiciliate for good at Enfield, where I have experienced good.

"Lord, what good hours do we keep! How quietly we sleep!" [1]

See the rest in the "Compleat Angler."

We have got our books into our new house. I am a dray-horse if I was not ashamed of the indigested, dirty lumber, as I toppled 'em out of the cart, and blessed Becky that came with 'em for her having an unstuffed brain with such rubbish. We shall get in by Michael's Mass. 'T was with some pain we were evulsed from Colebrooke.

You may find some of our flesh sticking to the doorposts. To change habitations is to die to them; and in my time I have died seven deaths. But I don't know whether every such change does not bring with it a rejuvenescence. 'T is an enterprise, and shoves back the sense of death's approximating, which, though not terrible to me, is at all times particularly distasteful. My house-deaths have generally been periodical, recurring after seven years; but this last is premature by half that time. Cut off in the flower of Colebrooke! The Middletonian stream and all its echoes mourn. Even minnows dwindle. A parvis fiunt minimi!

I fear to invite Mrs. Hood to our new mansion, lest she should envy it, and hate us. But when we are fairly in, I hope she will come and try it. I heard she and you were made uncomfortable by some unworthy-to-be-cared-for attacks, and have tried to set up a feeble counteraction through the "Table Book" of last Saturday. Has it not reached you, that you are silent about it? Our new domicile is no manor-house, but new, and externally not inviting, but furnished within with every convenience,-- capital new locks to every door, capital grates in every room, with nothing to pay for incoming, and the rent £10 less than the Islington one.

It was built, a few years since, at £1,100 expense, they tell me, and I perfectly believe it. And I get it for £35, exclusive of moderate taxes. We think ourselves most lucky.

It is not our intention to abandon Regent Street and West End perambulations (monastic and terrible thought!), but occasionally to breathe the fresher air of the metropolis. We shall put up a bedroom or two (all we want) for occasional ex-rustication, where we shall visit,--not be visited. Plays, too, we'll see,--perhaps our own; Urbani Sylvani and Sylvan Urbanuses in turns; courtiers for a sport, then philosophers; old, homely tell-truths and learn-truths in the virtuous shades of Enfield, liars again and mocking gibers in the coffee-houses and resorts of London. What can a mortal desire more for his bi-parted nature?

Oh, the curds-and-cream you shall eat with us here!

Oh, the turtle-soup and lobster-salads we shall devour with you there!

Oh, the old books we shall peruse here!

Oh, the new nonsense we shall trifle over there!

Oh, Sir T. Browne, here!

Oh, Mr. Hood and Mr. Jerdan, there!

Thine,

C. (URBANUS) L. (SYLVANUS)--(Elia ambo).

[1] By Charles Cotton.



XCVII.

TO P. G. PATMORE.

September, 1827.

Dear P.,--Excuse my anxiety, but how is Dash? I should have asked if Mrs. Patmore kept her rules and was improving; but Dash came uppermost. The order of our thoughts should be the order of our writing. Goes he muzzled, or aperto ore? Are his intellects sound, or does he wander a little in his conversation. You cannot be too careful to watch the first symptoms of incoherence. The first illogical snarl he makes, to St. Luke's with him! All the dogs here are going mad, if you believe the overseers; but I protest they seem to me very rational and collected. But nothing is so deceitful as mad people, to those who are not used to them. Try him with hot water; if he won't lick it up, it's a sign he does not like it. Does his tail wag horizontally or perpendicularly? That has decided the fate of many dogs in Enfield. Is his general deportment cheerful? I mean when he is pleased, for otherwise there is no judging. You can't be too careful. Has he bit any of the children yet? If he has, have them shot, and keep him for curiosity, to see if it was the hydrophobia. They say all our army in India had it at one time; but that was in Hyder-Ally's time. Do you get paunch for him? Take care the sheep was sane. You might pull his teeth out (if he would let you), and then you need not mind if he were as mad as a Bedlamite.

It would be rather fun to see his odd ways. It might amuse Mrs. P. and the children. They'd have more sense than he. He'd be like a fool kept in a family, to keep the household in good humor with their own understanding. You might teach him the mad dance, set to the mad howl. Madge Owlet would be nothing to him. "My, how he capers!" (In the margin is written "One of the children speaks this.") ... What I scratch out is a German quotation, from Lessing, on the bite of rabid animals; but I remember you don't read German. But Mrs. P. may, so I wish I had let it stand. The meaning in English is: "Avoid to approach an animal suspected of madness, as you would avoid fire or a precipice,"--which I think is a sensible observation. The Germans are certainly profounder than we. If the slightest suspicion arises in your breast that all is not right with him, muzzle him and lead him in a string (common packthread will do; he don't care for twist) to Mr. Hood's, his quondam master, and he'll take him in at any time. You may mention your suspicion, or not, as you like, or as you think it may wound, or not, Mr. H.'s feelings. Hood, I know, will wink at a few follies in Dash, in consideration of his former sense. Besides, Hood is deaf, and if you hinted anything, ten to one he would not hear you. Besides, you will have discharged your conscience, and laid the child at the right door, as they say.

We are dawdling our time away very idly and pleasantly at a Mrs. Leishman's, Chase, Enfield, where, if you come a-hunting, we can give you cold meat and a tankard. Her husband is a tailor; but that, you know, does not make her one. I know a jailor (which rhymes), but his wife was a fine lady.

Let us hear from you respecting Mrs. P.'s regimen. I send my love in a-- to Dash.

C. LAMB.


Charles Lamb

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