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twenty years together, you must not expect seat; and then the genial hubbub of voices numerically the same population to congratu- was still; critics, philosophers, and poets, late your return which wetted the sea- were contented to listen; and toil-worn beach with their tears when you went away. lawyers, clerks from the India House, and Have you recovered the breathless stone- members of the Stock Exchange, grew rostaring astonishment into which you must mantic while he spoke. Lamb used to say have been thrown upon learning at landing that he was inferior then to what he had that an Emperor of France was living in been in his youth; but I can scarcely believe St. Helena ? What an event in the solitude it; at least there is nothing in his early of the seas ! like finding a fish's bone at the writing which gives any idea of the richness top of Plinlimmon; but these things are of his mind so lavishly poured out at this nothing in our western world. Novelties time in his happiest moods. Although he cease to affect. Come and try what your looked much older than he was, his hair presence can.
being silvered all over, and his person tending God bless you.-Your old friend, to corpulency, there was about him no trace
“C. LAMB." of bodily sickness or mental decay, but rather
an air of voluptuous repose. His benignity The years which Lamb passed in his of manner placed his auditors entirely at chambers in Inner Temple Lane were, per- their ease; and inclined them to listen dehaps, the happiest of his life. His salary was lighted to the sweet, low tone in which he considerably augmented, his fame as an began to discourse on some high theme. author was rapidly extending; he resided Whether he had won for his greedy listener near the spot which he best loved ; and was only some raw lad, or charmed a circle of surrounded by a motley group of attached beauty, rank, and wit, who hung breathless friends, some of them men of rarest parts, on his words, he talked with equal eloquence ; and all strongly attached to him and to his for his subject, not his audience, inspired sister. Here the glory of his Wednesday him. At first his tones were conversational; nights shone forth in its greatest lustre. If he seemed to dally with the shadows of the you did not meet there the favourites of subject and with fantastic images which borfortune ; authors whose works bore the dered it; but gradually the thought grew highest price in Paternoster Row, and who deeper, and the voice deepened with the glittered in the circles of fashion ; you might thought; the stream gathering strength, find those who had thought most deeply ; seemed to bear along with it all things which felt most keenly; and were destined to pro- opposed its progress, and blended them with duce the most lasting influences on the lite- its current; and stretching away among rature and manners of the age. There regions tinted with ethereal colours, was lost Hazlitt, sometimes kindling into fierce pas- at airy distance in the horizon of fancy. His sion at any mention of the great reverses of hearers were unable to grasp his theories, his idol Napoleon, at other times bashfully which were indeed too vast to be exhibited enunciated the finest criticism on art; or in the longest conversation; but they perdwelt with genial iteration on a passage in ceived noble images, generous suggestions, Chaucer; or, fresh from the theatre, ex- affecting pictures of virtue, which enriched patiated on some new instance of energy in their minds and nurtured their best affecKean, or reluctantly conceded a greatness to tions. Coleridge was sometimes induced to Kemble ; or detected some popular fallacy recite portions of " Christabel," then enwith the fairest and the subtlest reasoning. shrined in manuscript from eyes profane, There Godwin, as he played his quiet rubber, and gave a bewitching effect to its wizard or benignantly joined in the gossip of the lines. But more peculiar in its beauty than day, sat an object of curiosity and wonder to this, was his recitation of Kubla Khan. As the stranger, who had been at one time he repeated the passageshocked or charmed with his high specula
A damsel with a dulcimer tion, and at another awe-struck by the force
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid, and graphic power of his novels. There
And on her dulcimer she played, Coleridge sometimes, though rarely, took his
Singing of Mont Abora !
his voice seemed to mount, and melt into air, he stammered out a reference to the name as the images grew more visionary, and the which he would not utter. “There is only suggested associations more remote. He one other person I can ever think of after usually met opposition by conceding the point this," said he. “If Shakspeare was to come to the objector, and then went on with his into the room, we should all rise to meet high argument as if it had never been raised : him; but if That Person were to come into thus satisfying his antagonist, himself, and it, we should all fall down and kiss the hem all who heard him ; none of whom de- of his garment.” sired to hear his discourse frittered into points, or displaced by the near encounter Among the frequent guests in Inner-Temple even of the most brilliant wits. The first Lane was Mr. Ayrton, the director of the time I met him, which was on one of those music at the Italian Opera. To him Lamb Wednesday evenings, we quitted the party addressed the following rhymed epistle on together between one and two in the morn- 17th May, 1817. ing; Coleridge took my arm and led me nothing loath, at a very gentle pace, to his
TO WILLIAM AYRTON, ESQ. lodgings, at the Gloucester Coffee-house,
My dear friend,
Before I end, pouring into my ear the whole way an
Have you any argument by which he sought to reconcile
More orders for Don Giovanni, the doctrines of Necessity and Free-will
Him that doth live winding on through a golden maze of ex
Your faithful Zany? quisite illustration ; but finding no end,
Without raillery, except with the termination of that (to me)
I mean Gallery enchanted walk. He was only then on the
Ones : threshold of the Temple of Truth, into which
For I am a person that shuns
All ostentation, his genius darted its quivering and uncertain
And being at the top of the fashion; rays, but which he promised shortly to light
And seldom go to operas up with unbroken lustre. “I understood a
But in formá pauperis ! beauty in the words, but not the words :”
I go to the play
In a very economical sort of a way, “ And when the stream of sound,
Rather to see Which overflowed the soul, had passed away,
Than be seen ; A consciousness survived that it had left,
Though I'm no ill sight Deposited upon the silent shore
Neither, of memory, images and gentle thoughts,
By candle-light Which cannot die, and will not be destroyed."
And in some kinds of weather.
You might pit me
For height Men of “great mark and likelihood”
Against Kean; attended those delightful suppers, where the
But in a grand tragic scene utmost freedom prevailed-including politi
It would create a kind of loathing cians of every grade, from Godwin up to the
To see me act Hamlet; editor of the “New Times.”
There'd be many a damn let Hazlitt has alluded con amore to these
At my presumption, meetings in his Essay “On the Conversation
If I should try, of Authors," and has reported one of the
Being a fellow of no gumption. most remarkable discussions which graced By the way, tell me candidly how you relish them in his Essay "On Persons one would
This, which they call
The lapidary style ? wish to have seen,” published by his son,
Opinions vary. in the two volumes of his remains, which
The late Mr. Mellish
Could never abide it ; with so affectionate a care he has given to the
He thought it vile, world. In this was a fine touch of Lamb's
And coxcombical. pious feeling, breaking through his fancies
My friend the poet laureat,
Who is a great lawyer at and his humours, which Hazlitt has recorded,
Anything comical, but which cannot be duly appreciated,
Was the first who tried it;
But Mellish could never abide it ; except by those who can recall to memory
But it signifies very little what Mellish said, the suffused eye and quivering lip with which
Because he is dead.
For who can confute
memory does not deceive me, you have had A body that's mute ? Or who would fight
some knowledge heretofore as editor of The With a senseless sprite ?
Statesman,' a man of talent, and patriotic.
If you can show him any facilities in his
arduous undertaking, you will oblige us And stiff as stone,
much. Well, and how does the land of To convince him with arguments pro and con, As if some live logician,
thieves use you ? and how do you pass your Bred up at Merton,
time, in your extra-judicial intervals ? Going Or Mr. Hazlitt, the metaphysician,
about the streets with a lantern, like Hey, Mr. Ayrton! With all your rare tone..
Diogenes, looking for an honest man ? You For tell me how should an apparition
may look long enough, I fancy. Do give me List to your call,
some notion of the manners of the inhabitThough you talk'd for ever,
ants where you are. They don't thieve all Ever so clever : When his ear itself,
day long do they? No human property By which he must hear, or not hear at all, could stand such continuous battery. And Is laid on the shelf !
what do they do when they an't stealing ? Or put the case (For more grace),
"Have you got a theatre ? What pieces It were a female spectre
are performed ? Shakspeare's, I suppose ; How could you expect her To take much gust
not so much for the poetry, as for his having In long speeches,
once been in danger of leaving his country With her tongue as dry as dust,
on account of certain 'small deer.'
“ Have you poets among you ? Cursed
would not trust an idea, or a pocket-handkerWith their sweet drench,
chief of mine, among 'em. You are almost The fiery pangs which the worms inflict, With their endless nibblings,
competent to answer Lord Bacon's problem, Like quibblings,
whether a nation of atheists can subsist Which the corpse may dislike, but can ne'er contradict, together. You are practically in one:
Hey, Mr. Ayrton ?
* So thievish 'tis, that the eighth commandment itself
Scarce seemeth there to be.'
Our old honest world goes on with little One of Lamb's most intimate friends and perceptible variation. Of course you have warmest admirers, Barron Field, disappeared heard of poor Mitchell's death, and that from the circle on being appointed to a G. Dyer is one of Lord Stanhope's residuaries. judicial situation in New South Wales. In I am afraid he has not touched much of the the following letter to him, Lamb renewed residue yet. He is positively as lean as the feeling with which he had addressed Cassius. Barnes is going to Demerara, or Manning at the distance of a hemisphere. Essequibo, I am not quite certain which.
A— is turned actor. He came out in TO MR. FIELD.
genteel comedy at Cheltenham this season,
“ Aug. 31st, 1817. and has hopes of a London engagement. “My dear Barron,-The bearer of this “For my owu history, I am just in the letter so far
the seas is Mr. same spot, doing the same thing, (videlicet, Lawrey, who comes out to you as a mis- little or nothing,) as when you left me ; only sionary, and whom I have been strongly I have positive hopes that I shall be able to importuned to recommend to you as a most conquer that inveterate habit of smoking worthy creature by Mr. Fenwick, a very old, which you may remember I indulged in. I honest friend of mine; of whom, if my think of making a beginning this evening,
viz., Sunday, 31st Aug., 1817, not Wednesday, * From this it may at first appear, that the author meant to ascribe vocal talents to his friend, the Director 2nd Feb., 1818, as it will be perhaps when you of the Italian Opera ; but it is merely a “line for read this for the first time. There is the rhyme.” For, though the public were indebted to Mr. A. for many fine foreign singers, we believe that he difficulty of writing from one end of the never claimed to be himself a singer.
globe (hemispheres I call 'em) to another !
LETTERS TO WORDSWORTH, SOUTHEY, MANNING, AND
Why, half the truths I have sent you in this Bow-street, where the thieves are examined, letter will become lies before they reach you, within a few yards of us. Mary had not and some of the lies (which I have mixed been here four-and-twenty hours before she for variety's sake, and to exercise your saw a thief. She sits at the window working ; judgment in the finding of them out) may and casually throwing out her eyes, she sees be turned into sad realities before you shall a concourse of people coming this way, with be called upon to detect them. Such are the a constable to conduct the solemnity. These defects of going by different chronologies. little incidents agreeably diversify a female Your now is not my now; and again, your life. then is not my then ; but my now may be “Mary has brought her part of this letter your then, and vice versa. Whose head is to an orthodox and loving conclusion, which competent to these things ?
is very well, for I have no room for pansies “How does Mrs. Field get on in her and remembrances. What a nice holyday I geography? Does she know where she is by got on Wednesday by favour of a princess this time? I am not sure sometimes you dying !
C. L." are not in another planet ; but then I don't like to ask Capt. Burney, or any of those that know anything about it, for fear of exposing my ignorance. “Our kindest remembrances, however, to
CHAPTER XI. Mrs. F., if she will accept of reminiscences
(1818 to 1820.) from another planet, or at least another hemisphere.
LAMB, now in the immediate neighbourLamb’s intention of spending the rest of hood of the theatres, renewed the dramatic his days in the Middle Temple was not to be associations of his youth, which the failure of realised. The inconveniences of being in one experiment had not chilled. Although he chambers began to be felt as he and rather loved to dwell on the recollections of his sister grew older, and in the autumn the actors who had passed from the stage, of this year they removed to lodgings in than to mingle with the happy crowds who Russell-street, Covent Garden, the corner hailed the successive triumphs of Mr. Kean, house, delightfully situated between the two he formed some new and steady theatrical great theatres. In November, 1817, Miss attachments. His chief favourites of this Lamb announced the removal to Miss Words- time were Miss Kelly, Miss Burrell of the worth in a letter, to which Lamb added the Olympic, and Munden. The first, then the following
sole support of the English Opera, became a
frequent guest in Great Russell-street, and TO MISS WORDSWORTH.
charmed the circle there by the heartiness
“Nov. 21st, 1817. of her manners, the delicacy and gentleness “Dear Miss Wordsworth,Here we are, of her remarks, and her unaffected sensibility, transplanted from our native soil. I thought as much as she had done on the stage. Miss we never could have been torn up from the Burrell, a lady of more limited powers, but Temple. Indeed it was an ugly wrench, but with a frank and noble style, was discovered like a tooth, now 'tis out, and I am easy. by Lamb on one of the visits which he paid, We never can strike root so deep in any other on the invitation of his old friend Elliston ground. This, where we are, is a light bit of to the Olympic, where the lady performed gardener's mould, and if they take us up the hero of that happy parody of Moncrieff’s from it, it will cost no blood and groans, Giovanni in London. To her Lamb devoted like man-drakes pulled up. We are in the a little article, which he sent to the Exaindividual spot I like best, in all this great miner, in which he thus addresses her :city. The theatres, with all their noises." But Giovanni, free, fine, frank-spirited Covent Garden, dearer to me than any single-hearted creature, turning all the misgardens of Alcinoüs, where we are morally chief into fun as harmless as toys, or sure of the earliest peas and 'sparagus. children's make believe, what praise can we
TO MRS. WORDSWORTH.
repay to you adequate to the pleasure which Miss Burrell's singing, or a gleam of Fanny you have given us? We had better be silent, Kelly's divine plain face. The two operafor you have no name, and our mention will tions might be going on at the same time but be thought fantastical. You have taken without thwarting, as the sun's two motions out the sting from the evil thing, by what (earth’s I mean), or, as I sometimes turn magic we know not, for there are actresses round till I am giddy, in my back parlour, of greater merit and likelihood than you. while my sister is walking longitudinally in With
you and your Giovanni our spirits will the front; or, as the shoulder of veal twists hold communion, whenever sorrow or suffer- round with the spit, while the smoke wreathes ing shall be our lot. We have seen you up the chimney. But there are a set of triumph over the infernal powers ; and pain amateurs of the Belles Lettres—the gay and Erebus, and the powers of darkness, science-who come to me as a sort of renare shapes of a dream.” Miss Burrell soon dezvous, putting questions of criticism, of married a person named Gold, and disap- British Institutions, Lalla Rookhs, &c.—what peared from the stage. To Munden in prose, Coleridge said at the lecture last night—who and Miss Kelly in verse, Lamb has done have the form of reading men, but, for any ample justice.
possible use reading can be to them, but to Lamb's increasing celebrity, and universal talk of, might as well have been Antekindness, rapidly increased the number of Cadmeans born, or have lain sucking out the his visitors. He thus complained, in way- sense of an Egyptian hieroglyph as long as ward mood, of them to Mrs. Wordsworth :- the pyramids will last, before they should
find it. These pests worrit me at business,
and in all its intervals, perplexing my “East-India House, 18th Feb., 1818. accounts, poisoning my little salutary warm“My dear Mrs. Wordsworth, I have ing-time at the fire, puzzling my paragraphs repeatedly taken pen in hand to answer your if I take a newspaper, cramming in between kind letter. My sister should more properly my own free thoughts and a column of have done it, but she having failed, I consider figures, which had come to an amicable myself answerable for her debts. I am now compromise but for them. Their noise trying to do it in the midst of commercial ended, one of them, as I said, accompanies noises, and with a quill which seems more me home, lest I should be solitary for a ready to glide into arithmetical figures and moment; he at length takes his welcome names of gourds, cassia, cardemoms, aloes, leave at the door ; up I go, mutton on table, ginger, or tea, than into kindly responses and hungry as hunter, hope to forget my cares, friendly recollections. The reason why I can- and bury them in the agreeable abstraction not write letters at home, is, that I am never of mastication ; knock at the door, in comes alone. Plato's—(I write to W. W. now)- Mr. or M—, or Demi-gorgon, or my Plato's double-animal parted never longed brother, or somebody, to prevent my eating more to be reciprocally re-united in the alone—a process absolutely necessary to my system of its first creation, than I sometimes poor wretched digestion. O, the pleasure of do to be but for a moment single and separate. eating alone!—eating my dinner alone ! let Except my morning's walk to the office, me think of it. But in they come, and make which is like treading on sands of gold for it absolutely necessary that I should open a that reason, I am never so. I cannot walk bottle of orange—for my meat turns into home from office, but some officious friend stone when any one dines with me, if I have offers his unwelcome courtesies to accompany not wine. Wine can mollify stones ; then me. All the morning I am pestered. I could that wine turns into acidity, acerbity, misansit and gravely cast up sums in great books, thropy, a hatred of my interrupters—(God or compare sum with sum, and write 'paid' bless 'em! I love some of 'em dearly), and against this, and “unpaid' against t'other, with the hatred, a still greater aversion to and yet reserve in some corner of my mind, their going away. Bad is the dead sea they
some darling thoughts all my own—faint bring upon me, choking and deadening, but memory of some passage in a book, or the worse is the deader dry sand they leave me tone of an absent friend's voicema snatch of on, if they go before bed-time. Come never,