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1829

XCIX.

TO PROCTER.

January 22, 1829.

Don't trouble yourself about the verses. Take 'em coolly as they come. Any day between this and midsummer will do. Ten lines the extreme. There is no mystery in my incognita. She has often seen you, though you may not have observed a silent brown girl, who for the last twelve years has rambled about our house in her Christmas holidays. She is Italian by name and extraction. [1] Ten lines about the blue sky of her country will do, as it's her foible to be proud of it. Item, I have made her a tolerable Latinist. She is called Emma Isola. I shall, I think, be in town in a few weeks, when I will assuredly see you. I will put in here loves to Mrs. Procter and the Anti-Capulets [Montagus], because Mary tells me I omitted them in my last. I like to see my friends here. I have put my lawsuit into the hands of an Enfield practitioner,--a plain man, who seems perfectly to understand it, and gives me hopes of a favorable result.

Rumor tells us that Miss Holcroft is married. Who is Baddams? Have I seen him at Montacute's? I hear he is a great chemist. I am sometimes chemical myself. A thought strikes me with horror. Pray Heaven he may not have done it for the sake of trying chemical experiments upon her,--young female subjects are so scarce! An't you glad about Burke's case? We may set off the Scotch murders against the Scotch novels,--Hare the Great Unhanged. [2]

Martin Burney is richly worth your knowing. He is on the top scale of my friendship ladder, on which an angel or two is still climbing, and some, alas! descending. I am out of the literary world at present. Pray, is there anything new from the admired pen of the author of "The Pleasures of Hope"? Has Mrs. He-mans (double masculine) done anything pretty lately? Why sleeps the lyre of Hervey and of Alaric Watts? Is the muse of L. E. L. silent? Did you see a sonnet of mine in Blackwood's last? [3] Curious construction! Elaborata facilitas! And now I 'll tell. 'Twas written for "The Gem;" but the--editors declined it, on the plea that it would shock all mothers; so they published "The Widow" instead. I am born out of time, I have no conjecture about what the present world calls delicacy. I thought "Rosamund Gray" was a pretty modest thing. Hessey assures me that the world would not bear it. I have lived to grow into an indecent character. When my sonnet was rejected, I exclaimed, "Damn the age; I will write for Antiquity!"

Erratum in sonnet. Last line but something, for "tender" read "tend," The Scotch do not know our law terms, but I find some remains of honest, plain old writing lurking there still. They were not so mealy mouthed as to refuse my verses. Maybe, 't is their oatmeal,

Blackwood sent me ú20 for the drama. Somebody cheated me out of it next day; and my new pair of breeches, just sent home, cracking at first putting on, I exclaimed, in my wrath, "All tailors are cheats, and all men are tailors." Then I was better.

C. L.

[1] Emma Isola, Lamb's ward, daughter of one of the Esquire Bedells of Cambridge University, and granddaughter of an Italian refugee. The Lambs had met her during one of their Cambridge visits, and finally adopted her.

[2] Burke and Hare, the Edinburgh resurrection-men.

[3] The Gypsy's Malison.



C.

TO BERNARD BARTON.

ENFIELD CHASE SIDE,

Saturday, 25th of July, A.D. 1829, 11 A.M.

There! a fuller, plumper, juicier date never dropped from Idumean palm. Am I in the dateive case now? If not, a fig for dates,--which is more than a date is worth. I never stood much affected to these limitary specialities,--least of all, since the date of my superannuation.

"What have I with time to do? Slaves of desks, 't was meant for you."

Dear B. B.,--Your handwriting has conveyed much pleasure to me in respect of Lucy's restoration. Would I could send you as good news of my poor Lucy! [1] But some wearisome weeks I must remain lonely yet. I have had the loneliest time, near ten weeks, broken by a short apparition of Emma for her holidays, whose departure only deepened the returning solitude, and by ten days I have passed in town. But town, with all my native hankering after it, is not what it was. The streets, the shops, are left, but all old friends are gone. And in London I was frightfully convinced of this as I passed houses and places, empty caskets now. I have ceased to care almost about anybody. The bodies I cared for are in graves, or dispersed. My old clubs, that lived so long and flourished so steadily, are crumbled away. When I took leave of our adopted young friend at Charing Cross,'t was heavy unfeeling rain, and I had nowhere to go. Home have I none, and not a sympathizing house to turn to in the great city. Never did the waters of heaven pour down on a forlorner head. Yet I tried ten days at a sort of a friend's house; but it was large and straggling,--one of the individuals of my old long knot of friends, card-players, pleasant companions, that have tumbled to pieces, into dust and other things; and I got home on Thursday, convinced that I was better to get home to my hole at Enfield, and hide like a sick cat in my corner. Less than a month, I hope, will bring home Mary. She is at Fulham, looking better in her health than ever, but sadly rambling, and scarce showing any pleasure in seeing me, or curiosity when I should come again. But the old feelings will come back again, and we shall drown old sorrows over a game of piquet again. But it is a tedious cut out of a life of fifty-four, to lose twelve or thirteen weeks every year or two. And to make me more alone, our ill-tempered maid is gone, who, with all her airs, was yet a home-piece of furniture, a record of better days; the young thing that has succeeded her is good and attentive, but she is nothing. And I have no one here to talk over old matters with. Scolding and quarrelling have something of familiarity and a community of interest; they imply acquaintance; they are of resentment, which is of the family of dearness.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

I bragged formerly that I could not have too much time; I have now a surfeit. With few years to come, the days are wearisome. But weariness is not eternal. Something will shine out to take the load off that flags me, which is at present intolerable. I have killed an hour or two in this poor scrawl. I am a sanguinary murderer of time, and would kill him inch-meal just now. But the snake is vital. Well, I shall write merrier anon. 'T is the present copy of my countenance I send, and to complain is a little to alleviate. May you enjoy yourself as far as the wicked world will let you, and think that you are not quite alone, as I am! Health to Lucia and to Anna, and kind remembrances.

Your forlorn C. L.

[1] Mary Lamb.



CI.

TO MR. GILLMAN.

November 30, 1829.

Dear G.,--The excursionists reached home and the good town of Enfield a little after four, without slip or dislocation. Little has transpired concerning the events of the back-journey, save that on passing the house of 'Squire Mellish, situate a stone bow's cast from the hamlet, Father Westwood [1], with a good-natured wonderment, exclaimed, "I cannot think what is gone of Mr. Mellish's rooks. I fancy they have taken flight somewhere; but I have missed them two or three years past." All this while, according to his fellow-traveller's report, the rookery was darkening the air above with undiminished population, and deafening all ears but his with their cawings. But nature has been gently withdrawing such phenomena from the notice of Thomas Westwood's senses, from the time he began to miss the rooks. T. Westwood has passed a retired life in this hamlet of thirty or forty years, living upon the minimum which is consistent with gentility, yet a star among the minor gentry, receiving the bows of the tradespeople and courtesies of the alms-women daily. Children venerate him not less for his external show of gentry than they wonder at him for a gentle rising endorsation of the person, not amounting to a hump, or if a hump, innocuous as the hump of the buffalo, and coronative of as mild qualities. 'T is a throne on which patience seems to sit,--the proud perch of a self-respecting humility, stooping with condescension. Thereupon the cares of life have sat, and rid him easily. For he has thrid the angustiŠ domus with dexterity. Life opened upon him with comparative brilliancy. He set out as a rider or traveller for a wholesale house, in which capacity he tells of many hair-breadth escapes that befell him,--one especially, how he rode a mad horse into the town of Devizes; how horse and rider arrived in a foam, to the utter consternation of the expostulating hostlers, inn-keepers, etc. It seems it was sultry weather, piping-hot; the steed tormented into frenzy with gad-flies, long past being roadworthy: but safety and the interest of the house he rode for were incompatible things; a fall in serge cloth was expected; and a mad entrance they made of it. Whether the exploit was purely voluntary, or partially; or whether a certain personal defiguration in the man part of this extraordinary centaur (non-assistive to partition of natures) might not enforce the conjunction, I stand not to inquire. I look not with 'skew eyes into the deeds of heroes. The hosier that was burned with his shop in Field Lane, on Tuesday night, shall have passed to heaven for me like a Marian Martyr, provided always that he consecrated the fortuitous incremation with a short ejaculation in the exit, as much as if he had taken his state degrees of martyrdom in formÔ in the market vicinage. There is adoptive as well as acquisitive sacrifice. Be the animus what it might, the fact is indisputable, that this composition was seen flying all abroad, and mine host of Daintry may yet remember its passing through his town, if his scores are not more faithful than his memory.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

To come from his heroic character, all the amiable qualities of domestic life concentre in this tamed Bellerophon. He is excellent over a glass of grog; just as pleasant without it; laughs when he hears a joke, and when (which is much oftener) he hears it not; sings glorious old sea-songs on festival nights; and but upon a slight acquaintance of two years, Coleridge, is as dear a deaf old man to us as old Norris, rest his soul! was after fifty. To him and his scanty literature (what there is of it, sound) have we flown from the metropolis and its cursed annualists, reviewers, authors, and the whole muddy ink press of that stagnant pool.

[1] Lamb's landlord. He had driven Mary Lamb over to see Coleridge at Highgate. The Lambs had been compelled, by the frequent illnesses of Mary Lamb, to give up their housekeeping at Enfield and to take lodgings with the Westwoods.


Charles Lamb

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