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

1828

XCVIII.

TO BERNARD BARTON.

October 11, 1828.

A splendid edition of Bunyan's Pilgrim! [1] Why, the thought is enough to turn one's moral stomach. His cockle-hat and staff transformed to a smart cocked beaver and a jemmy cane; his amice gray to the last Regent Street cut; and his painful palmer's pace to the modern swagger! Stop thy friend's sacrilegious hand. Nothing can be done for B. but to reprint the old cuts in as homely but good a style as possible,--the Vanity Fair and the Pilgrims there; the silly-soothness in his setting-out countenance; the Christian idiocy (in a good sense) of his admiration of the shepherds on the Delectable mountains; the lions so truly allegorical, and remote from any similitude to Pidcock's; the great head (the author's), capacious of dreams and similitudes, dreaming in the dungeon. Perhaps you don't know my edition, what I had when a child.

If you do, can you bear new designs from Martin, enamelled into copper or silver plate by Heath, accompanied with verses from Mrs. Hemans's pen? Oh, how unlike his own!

"Wouldst thou divert thyself from melancholy? Wouldst thou be pleasant, yet be far from folly? Wouldst thou read riddles and their explanation? Or else be drowned in thy contemplation? Dost thou love picking meat? or wouldst thou see A man i' the clouds, and hear him speak to thee? Wouldst thou be in a dream, and yet not sleep? Or wouldst thou in a moment laugh and weep? Or wouldst thou lose thyself, and catch no harm, And find thyself again without a charm? Wouldst read thyself, and read thou knowest not what, And yet know whether thou art blest or not By reading the same lines? Oh, then come hither, And lay my book, thy head, and heart together."

Show me any such poetry in any one of the fifteen forthcoming combinations of show and emptiness 'yclept "Annuals." So there's verses for thy verses; and now let me tell you that the sight of your hand gladdened me. I have been daily trying to write to you, but [have been] paralyzed. You have spurred me on this tiny effort, and at intervals I hope to hear from and talk to you. But my spirits have been in an oppressed way for a long time, and they are things which must be to you of faith, for who can explain depression? Yes, I am hooked into the "Gem," but only for some lines written on a dead infant of the editor's [2] which being, as it were, his property, I could not refuse their appearing; but I hate the paper, the type, the gloss, the dandy plates, the names of contributors poked up into your eyes in first page, and whisked through all the covers of magazines, the barefaced sort of emulation, the immodest candidateship. Brought into so little space,--in those old "Londons," a signature was lost in the wood of matter, the paper coarse (till latterly, which spoiled them),--in short, I detest to appear in an Annual. What a fertile genius (and a quiet good soul withal) is Hood! He has fifty things in hand,--farces to supply the Adelphi for the season; a comedy for one of the great theatres, just ready; a whole entertainment by himself for Mathews and Yates to figure in; a meditated Comic Annual for next year, to be nearly done by himself. You'd like him very much.

Wordsworth, I see, has a good many pieces announced in one of 'em, not our "Gem." W. Scott has distributed himself like a bribe haunch among 'em. Of all the poets, Cary [3] has had the good sense to keep quite clear of 'em, with clergy-gentlemanly right notions. Don't think I set up for being proud on this point; I like a bit of flattery, tickling my vanity, as well as any one. But these pompous masquerades without masks (naked names or faces) I hate. So there's a bit of my mind. Besides, they infallibly cheat you,--I mean the booksellers. If I get but a copy, I only expect it from Hood's being my friend. Coleridge has lately been here. He too is deep among the prophets, the year-servers,--the mob of gentleman annuals. But they'll cheat him, I know. And now, dear B. B., the sun shining out merrily, and the dirty clouds we had yesterday having washed their own faces clean with their own rain, tempts me to wander up Winchmore Hill, or into some of the delightful vicinages of Enfield, which I hope to show you at some time when you can get a few days up to the great town. Believe me, it would give both of us great pleasure to show you our pleasant farms and villages.

We both join in kindest loves to you and yours.

C. LAMB redivivus.

[1] An Údition de luxe, illustrated by John Martin, and with an Introduction by Southey. See Macaulay's review of it.

[2] Hood's.

[3] The translator of Dante.


Charles Lamb

Sorry, no summary available yet.