Зображення сторінки

rapid in succession, and the thoughts suggested -saw Lamb smoking the strongest prepaso new, that one destroyed the other, and left ration of the weed, puffing out smoke like only the sense of delight behind. Frequently some furious Enchanter, he gently laid down as I had the happiness of seeing him during his pipe, and asked him, how he had acquired twenty years, I can add nothing from my his power of smoking at such a rate ? Lamb own store of recollection to those which replied, "I toiled after it, sir, as some men have been collected by others, and those toil after virtue.” Partly to shun the I will abstain from repeating, so vapid temptations of society, and partly to preserve would be their effect when printed com- his sister's health, he fled from London, pared to that which they produced when, where his pleasures and his heart were, and stammered out, they gave to the moment buried himself in the solitude of the country, its victory.

to him always dismal. He would even deny It cannot be denied or concealed that himself the gratification of meeting WordsLamb's excellences, moral and intellectual, worth or Southey, or use it very sparingly were blended with a single frailty ; so inti- during their visits to London, in order that mately associating itself with all that was the accompaniments of the table might not most charming in the one, and sweetest in entice him to excess. And if sometimes, the other, that, even if it were right to with- after miles of solitary communing with his draw it wholly from notice, it would be own sad thoughts, the village inn did invite impossible without it to do justice to his him to quaff a glass of sparkling ale; and if virtues. The eagerness with which he would when his retreat was lighted up with the quaff exciting liquors, from an early period presence of some old friend, he was unable to of life, proved that to a physical peculiarity refrain from the small portion which was too of constitution was to be ascribed, in the first much for his feeble frame, let not the stoutinstance, the strength of the temptation with limbed and the happy exult over the consewhich he was assailed. This kind of corporeal quence! Drinking with him, except so far need; the struggles of deep thought to over- as it cooled a feverish thirst, was not a come the bashfulness and the impediment of sensual, but an intellectual pleasure ; it speech which obstructed its utterance; the lighted up his fading fancy, enriched his dull, heavy, irksome labours which hung humour, and impelled the struggling thought heavy on his mornings, and dried up his or beautiful image into day; and perhaps by spirits ; and still more, the sorrows which requiring for him some portion of that had environed him, and which prompted him allowance which he extended to all human to snatch a fearful joy; and the unbounded frailties, endeared him the more to those craving after sympathy with human feelings, who so often received, and were delighted to conspired to disarm his power of resisting bestow it. when the means of indulgence were actually Lamb's indulgence to the failings of others before him. Great exaggerations have been could hardly indeed be termed allowance ; prevalent on this subject, countenanced, no the name of charity is too cold to suit it. doubt, by the “Confessions” which, in the He did not merely love his friends in spite of prodigality of his kindness, he contributed to their errors, but he loved them errors and his friend's collection of essays and autho- all ; so near to him was everything human. rities against the use of spirituous liquors; He numbered among his associates, men of for, although he had rarely the power to all varieties of opinion-philosophical, reliovercome the temptation when presented, he gious, and political—and found something to made heroic sacrifices in flight. His final like, not only in the men themselves, but in abandonment of tobacco, after many inef- themselves as associated with their theories fectual attempts, was one of these-a princely and their schemes. In the high and calm, sacrifice. He had loved smoking, “not but devious speculations of Godwin ; in the wisely, but too well,” for he had been content fierce hatreds of Hazlitt; in the gentle and to use the coarsest varieties of the “

great glorious mysticism of Coleridge; in the sturdy plant.” When Dr. Parr,—who took only the opposition of Thelwall to the government; finest tobacco, used to half fill his pipe with in Leigh Hunt's softened and fancy-streaked salt, and smoked with a philosophic calmness, patriotism ; in the gallant Toryism of Stoddart; he found traits which made the indi- his school-days or the joyous associate of his viduals more dear to him. When Leigh convivial hours, and he did not even make Hunt was imprisoned in Cold Bath Fields penitence or reform a condition of his regard. for a libel, Lamb was one of his most constant Perhaps he had less sympathy with phivisitors—and when Thelwall was striving to lanthropic schemers for the improvement bring the “Champion ” into notice, Lamb of the world than with any other class of was ready to assist him with his pen, and to men ; but of these he numbered two of the fancy himself, for the time, a Jacobin.* In greatest, Clarkson the destroyer of the this large intellectual tolerance, he resembled slave-trade, and Basil Montague the conProfessor Wilson, who, notwithstanding his stant opponent of the judicial infliction of own decided opinions, has a compass of mind death ; and the labours of neither have been large enough to embrace all others which in vain ! have noble alliances within its range.f But Tothose who were not intimately acquainted not only to opposite opinions, and devious with Lamb, the strong disinclination to conhabits of thought, was Lamb indulgent; he template another state of being, which he discovered “the soul of goodness in things sometimes expressed in his serious conversaevil” so vividly, that the surrounding evil tion, and which he has solemnly confessed in disappeared from his mental vision. Nothing his “New Year's Eve,” might cast a doubt -no discovery of error or of crime-could on feelings which were essentially pious. divorce his sympathy from a man who had The same peculiarity of nature which attached once engaged it. He saw in the spendthrift, him to the narrow and crowded streets, in the outcast, only the innocent companion of preference to the mountain and the glen

which made him loth to quit even painful The following little poem-quite out of Lamb's circumstances and unpleasant or ill-timed usual style-was written for that journal.

company; the desire to seize and grasp all THE THREE GRAVES.

that was nearest, bound him to earth, and Close by the ever-burning brimstone beds,

prompted his sympathies to revolve within a Where Bedloe, Oates, and Judas hide their heads, narrow circle.

Yet in that very power of I saw great Satan like a sexton stand,

adhesion to outward things, might be disWith his intolerable spade in hand, Digging three graves. Of coffin-shape they were,

cerned the strength of a spirit destined to For those who, coffinless, must enter there,

live beyond them. Within the contracted The shrouds were of that cloth Which Clotho weaved in her blackest wrath ;

sphere of his habits and desires, he detected The dismal tint oppress'd the eye, that dwelt

the subtlest essences of Christian kindliness, Upon it long, like darkness to be felt.

shed over it a light from heaven, and peopled The pillows to these baleful beds were toads, Large, living, livid, melancholy loads,

it with divine fancies and Whose softness shock'd. Worms of all monstrous size Crawl'd round; and one upcoil'd, which never dies,

“Thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof A doleful bell, inculcating despair,

That they were born for immortality.”
Was always ringing in the heavy air.
And all around the detestable pit

Although he numbered among his asso-
Strange headless ghosts and quarter'd forms did flit; ciates freethinkers and sceptics, he had a
Rivers of blood from living traitors spilt,
By treachery stung from poverty to guilt.

great dislike to any profane handling of I ask'd the fiend, for whom those rites were meant ? sacred subjects, and always discouraged "These graves," quoth he, “when life's brief oil is spent,

polemical discussion. One evening, when When the dark night comes, and they're sinking bed- Irving and Coleridge were in company, and

wards, I mean for Castles, Oliver, and Edwards.”

a young gentleman had spoken slightingly of

religion, Lamb remained silent; but when * Lamb only once met that remarkable person,—who the party broke up, he said to the youth who has probably more points of resemblance to him than had thus annoyed his guests, “Pray, did you any other living poet,—and was quite charmed with him. They walked out from Enfield together, and come here in a hat, sir, or in a turban ?” strolled happily a long summer's day, not omitting, The range of Lamb's reading was varied, however, a call for a refreshing draught. Lamb called

but yet peculiar. He rejoiced in all old for a pot of ale or porter-half of which would have been his own usual allowance; and was delighted to English authors, but cared little for the hear the Professor, on the appearance of the foaming moderns, except one or two; and those whom tankard, say reproachfully to the waiter, “And one for me!"

he loved as authors because they were his

With unblest rites.

friends. Attached always to things of flesh renders our own passions and frailties and and blood rather than to “the bare earth virtues strange to us ; presents them at a and mountains bare, and grass in the green distance in splendid masquerade ; exalts them field,” he chiefly loved the great dramatists, into new and unauthorised mythology, and whose beauties he supported, and sometimes crystallises all our freshest loves and mantheightened, in his suggestive criticisms. ling joys into clusters of radiant fancies. He While he enjoyed Wordsworth's poetry, made some amends for his indifference to especially “The Excursion,” with a love Shelley, by his admiration of Mrs. Shelley's which grew upon him from his youth, he “Frankenstein,” which he thought the most would repeat some of Pope's divine compli- extraordinary realisation of the idea of a ments, or Dryden's lines, weighty with being out of nature which had ever been sterling sense or tremendous force of satire, effected. For the Scotch novels he cared with eyes trembling into tears. The come- very little, not caring to be puzzled with dies of Wycherley, and Congreve, and new plots, and preferring to read Fielding, Farquhar, were not to him gross and sensual, and Smollett, and Richardson, whose stories but airy, delicate creations, framed out of were familiar, over and over again, to being coarse materials it might be, but evaporating worried with the task of threading the maze in wit and grace, harmless effusions of the of fresh adventure. But the good-naturedintellect and the fancy. The ponderous ness of Sir Walter to all his contemporaries dulness of old controversialists, the dead won his admiration, and he heartily rejoiced weight of volumes of once fierce dispute, of in the greatness of his fame, and the rich which time had exhausted the venom, did rewards showered upon him, and desired not appal him. He liked the massive reading they might accumulate for the glory of of the old Quaker records, the huge density literature and the triumph of kindness. He of old schoolmen, better than the flippancy was never introduced to Sir Walter ; but he of modern criticism. If you spoke of Lord used to speak with gratitude and pleasure of Byron, he would turn the subject by quoting the circumstances under which he saw him the lines descriptive of his namesake in once in Fleet-street. A man, in the dress Love's Labour Lost—“Oft have I heard of of a mechanic, stopped him just at Inner you, my Lord Byron,” &c.—for he could find Temple-gate, and said, touching his hat, nothing to revere or love in the poetry of “I beg your pardon, sir, but perhaps you that extraordinary but most uncomfortable would like to see Sir Walter Scott; that is poet ; except the apostrophe to Parnassus, he just crossing the road;" and Lamb stamin which he exults in the sight of the real mered out his hearty thanks to his truly mountain instead of the mere poetic image. humane informer. All the Laras, and Giaours, and Childe Of his own writings it is now superfluous Harolds, were to him but “unreal mockeries,” to speak ; for, after having encountered long --the phantasms of a feverish dream,-forms derision and neglect, they have taken their which did not appeal to the sympathies of place among the classics of his language. mankind, and never can find root among They stand alone, at once singular and them. Shelley's poetry, too, was icy cold to delightful. They are all carefully elaborated; him ; except one or two of the minor poems, yet never were works written in a higher in which he could not help admiring the defiance to the conventional pomp of style. exquisite beauty of the expression ; and the A sly hit, a happy pun, a humorous com“Cenci,” in which, notwithstanding the bination, lets the light into the intricacies painful nature of the subject, there is a of the subject, and supplies the place of warmth and passion, and a correspondent ponderous sentences.

As his serious consimplicity of diction, which prove how versation was his best, so his serious writing mighty a poet the author would have become is far preferable to his fantastical humours, had he lived long enough for his feelings to cheering as they are, and suggestive ever have free discourse with his creative power. as they are of high and invigorating thoughts. Responding only to the touch of human Seeking his materials, for the most part, in affection, he could not bear poetry which, the common paths of life, often in the instead of making the whole world kin, humblest,—he gives an importance to every

thing, and sheds a grace over all. The spirit of gentility seems to breathe around all his persons; he detects the venerable and the excellent in the narrowest circumstances and humblest conditions, with the same subtilty which reveals the hidden soul of the greatest works of genius. In all things he is most human. Of all modern writers, his works are most immediately directed to give us heart-ease and to make us happy.

Among the felicities of Lamb's chequered life, that which he esteemed most, was his intimate friendship with some of the greatest of our poets, — Coleridge, Southey, and Wordsworth; the last and greatest of whom has paid a tribute to his memory, which may fitly close this memoir.

Had from a faltering pen been asked in vain :
Yet, haply, on the printed page received,
The imperfect record, there, may stand unblamed
As long as verse of mine shall breathe the air
Of memory, or see the light of love.

Thou wert a scorner of the fields, my friend,
But more in show than truth; and from the fields,
And from the mountains, to thy rural grave
Transported, my soothed spirit hovers o'er
Its green untrodden turf, and blowing flowers ;
And taking up a voice shall speak (though still
Awed by the theme's peculiar sanctity,
Which words less free presumed not even to touch)
Of that fraternal love, whose heaven-lit lamp
From infancy, through manhood, to the last
Of threescore years, and to thy latest hour,
Burnt on with ever-strengthening light, enshrined
Within thy bosom.

" To a good Man of most dear memory
This Stone is sacred. Here he lies apart
From the great city where he first drew breath,
Was reared and taught; and humbly earned his

To the strict labours of the merchant's desk
By duty chained. Not seldom did those tasks
Tease, and the thought of time so spent depress
His spirit, but the recompense was high ;
Firm Independence, Bounty's rightful sire;
Affections, warm as sunshine, free as air ;
And when the precious hours of leisure came,
Knowledge and wisdom, gained from converse sweet
With books, or while he ranged the crowded streets
With a keen eye, and overflowing heart :
So genius triumphed over seeming wrong,
And poured out truth in works by thoughtful love
Inspired-works potent over smiles and tears.
And as round mountain-tops the lightning plays,
Thus innocently sported, breaking forth
As from a cloud of some grave sympathy,
Humour and wild instinctive wit, and all
The vivid flashes of his spoken words.
From the most gentle creature nursed in fields
Had been derived the name he bore-a name,
Wherever Christian altars have been raised,
Hallowed to meekness and to innocence;
And if in him meekness at times gave way,
Provoked out of herself by troubles strange,
Many and strange, that hung about his life ;
Still, at the centre of his being, lodged
A soul by resignation sanctified:
And if too often, self-reproached, he felt
That innocence belongs not to our kind,
A power that never ceased to abide in him,
Charity, ʼmid the multitude of sins
That she can cover, left not his exposed
To an unforgiving judgment from just Heaven.
O, he was good, if e'er a good man lived !

Wonderful' hath been
The love established between man and man,
* Passing the love of women;' and between
Man and his help-mate in fast wedlock joined
Through God, is raised a spirit and soul of love
Without whose blissful influence Paradise
Had been no Paradise; and earth were now
A waste where creatures bearing human form,
Direst of savage beasts, would roam in fear,
Joyless and comfortless. Our days glide on;
And let him grieve who cannot choose but grieve
That he hath been an Elm without his Vine,
And her bright dower of clustering charities,
That, round his trunk and branches, might have

Enriching and adorning. Unto thee,
Not so enriched, not so adorned, to thee
Was given (say rather thou of later birth
Wert given to her) a Sister—'tis a word
Timidly uttered, for she lives, the meek,
The self-restraining, and the ever-kind;
In whom thy reason and intelligent heart
Found—for all interests, hopes, and tender cares,
All softening, humanising, hallowing powers,
Whether withheld, or for her sake unsought
More than sufficient recompense !

Her love
(What weakness prompts the voice to tell it here?)
Was as the love of mothers; and when years,
Lifting the boy to man's estate, had called
The long-protected to assume the part
of a protector, the first filial tie
Was undissolved; and, in or out of sight,
Remained imperishably interwoven
With life itself. Thus, 'mid a shifting world,
Did they together testify of time
And seasons' difference-a double tree
With two collateral stems sprung from one root;
Such were they—and such through life they might

have been
In union, in partition only such ;
Otherwise wrought the will of the Most High ;
Yet, through all visitations and all trials,
Still they were faithful ; like two vessels launched
From the same beach one ocean to explore
With mutual help, and sailing-to their league
True, as inexorable winds, or bars
Floating or fixed of polar ice, allow.

But turn we rather, let my spirit turn
With thine, O silent and invisible Friend !
To those dear intervals, nor rare nor brief,
When reunited, and by choice withdrawn
From miscellaneous converse, ye were taught
That the remembrance of foregone distress,


From a reflecting mind and sorrowing heart
Those simple lines flowed with an earnest wish,
Though but a doubting hope, that they might serve
Fitly to guard the precious dust of him
Whose virtues called them forth. That aim is

For much that truth most urgently required


And the worse fear of future ill (which oft
Doth hang around it, as a sickly child
Upon its mother) may be both alike
Disarmed of power to unsettle present good
So prized, and things inward and outward held
In such an even balance, that the heart
Acknowledges God's grace, his mercy feels,
And in its depth of gratitude is still.

The hermit, exercised in prayer and praise,
And feeding daily on the hope of heaven,
Is happy in his vow, and fondly cleaves
To life-long singleness; but happier far
Was to your souls, and, to the thoughts of others,
A thousand times more beautiful appeared,
Your dual loneliness. The sacred tie
Is broken ; yet why grieve? for Time but holds
His moiety in trust, till Joy shall lead
To the blest world where parting is unknown."

O gift divine of quiet sequestration !

« НазадПродовжити »