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TO MR. MANNING.
Frenchmen, and the Abbé Sièyes and his accepted at Drury-Lane Theatre, and anconstitutions, I cannot make these present nounced for representation on Saturday the times present to me. I read histories of the 13th December in this year. Lamb supplied past, and I live in them; although, to the epilogue, which he copied in the following abstract senses, they are far less momentous, letter addressed to Manning on the eventful than the noises which keep Europe awake. day :I am reading 'Burnet's own Times.' Did Fou ever read that garrulous, pleasant history? He tells his story like an old man
“Dec. 13th, 1800. past political service, bragging to his sons on “I have received your letter this moment, winter evenings of the part he took in public not having been at the office. I have just transactions, when his old cap was new.' time to scribble down the epilogue. To your Full of scandal, which all true history is. epistle I will just reply, that I will certainly No palliatives; but all the stark wickedness, come to Cambridge before January is out: that actually gives the momentum to national I'll come when I can. You shall have an actors. Quite the prattle of age, and outlived emended copy of my play early next weok. importance. Truth and sincerity staring out Mary thanks you ; but her handwriting is upon you perpetually in alto relievo. Himself too feminine to be exposed to a Cambridge a party man-he makes you a party man, gentleman, though I endeavour to persuade None of the cursed philosophical Humeian her that you understand algebra, and must indifference, so cold, and unnatural, and understand her hand. The play is the man's inhuman! None of the cursed Gibbonian you wot of; but for Heaven's sake do not fine writing, so fine and composite. None mention it—it is to come out in a feigned
of Dr. Robertson's periods with three mem- name, as one Tobin’s. I will omit the intro| bers. None of Mr. Roscoe's sage remarks, ductory lines which connect it with the play,
all so apposite, and coming in so clever, lest and give you the concluding tale, which is the reader should have had the trouble of the mass and bulk of the epilogue. The drawing an inference. Burnet's good old name is Jack INCIDENT. It is about promiseprattle I can bring present to my mind; I breaking—you will see it all, if you read the can make the revolution present to me—the
papers. French revolution, by a converse perversity in my nature, I fling as far from me. To Jack, of dramatic genius justly vain,
Purchased a renter's share at Drury-lane; quit this tiresome subject, and to relieve you
A prudent man in every other matter, from two or three dismal yawns, which I Known at his club-room for an honest hatter hear in spirit, I here conclude my more than
Humane and courteous, led a civil life,
And has been seldom known to beat his wife; commonly obtuse letter; dull, up to the
But Jack is now grown quite another man, dulness of a Dutch commentator on Shaks Frequents the green-room, knows the plot and plan
of each new piece, peare.
And has been seen to talk with Sheridan! “My love to Lloyd and to Sophia.
In at the play-house just at six he pops,
Is never absent on the author's night,
Or take a pipe with plain Jack Bannister; While Lamb's dramatic destinies were in Nay, with an author has been known so free, suspense, he was called on “ to assist ” at the He once suggested a catastrophe
In short, John dabbled till his head was turn'd : production of a tragedy, by a friend, whose
His wife remonstrated, his neighbours mourn'd, more mature reputation gave him readier His customers were dropping off apace, access to the manager, but who had no better
And Jack's affairs began to wear a piteous face.
One night his wife began a curtain lecture; claim to success than himself. Mr. Godwin,
My dearest Johnny, husband, spouse, protector, whose powerful romance of Caleb Williams Take pity on your helpless babes and me, had supplied the materials for “ The Iron
Save us from ruin, you from bankruptcy-
Look to your business, leave these cursed plays, Chest” of Colman, naturally aspired, on his And try again your old industrious ways.' own account, to the glory of the scene, and
Jack, who was always scared at the Gazette,
And had some bits of scull uninjured yet, completed a tragedy under the title of “An
Promised amendment, vow'd his wife spake reason, tonio, or the Soldier's Return,” which was He would not see another play that season
Three stubborn fortnights Jack his promise kept, fate. The tragedy turned out a miracle of Was late and early in his shop, eat, slept,
dulness for the world to wonder at, although And walk'd and talk'd, like ordinary men ; No uit, but John the hatter once again
Lamb always insisted it had one fine line, Visits his club: when lo! one fatal night
which he was fond of repeating-sole relic His wife with horror view'd the well-known sightJohn's hat, wig, snuff-box-well she knew his tricks- of the else forgotten play. Kemble and And Jack decamping at the hour of six.
Mrs. Siddons, the brother and sister of the Just at the counter's edge a playbill lay, Announcing that . Pizarro' was the play
drama, toiled through four acts and a half O Johnny, Johnny, this is your old doing.'
without applause or disapprobation; one Quoth Jack, Why what the devil storm's a-brewing? speech was not more vapid than another; About a harmless play why all this fright?
and so dead was the level of the dialogue, I'll go and see it, if it's but for spite Zounds, woman! Nelson's* to be there to-night.' that, although its destiny was seen from afar,
it presented no opportunity for hissing. But “N.B.—This was intended for Jack Ban- as the play drew towards a close, when, after nister to speak; but the sage managers
a scene of frigid chiding not vivified by any chosen Miss Heard, except Miss Tidswell, fire of Kemble's own, Antonio drew his the worst actress ever seen or heard. Now, sword and plunged it into the heroine's I remember I have promised the loan of my bosom, the “ sad civility” of the audience play. I will lend it instantly, and you shall vanished, they started as at a real murder, get it ('pon honour !) by this day week.
and hooted the actors from the stage. “I must go and dress for the boxes! First
Philosophy," which could not “make a night! Finding I have time, I transcribe Juliet,” sustained the author through the the rest. Observe, you have read the last trial. He sat on one of the front benches of first; it begins thus :— The names I took the pit, unmoved amidst the storm. When from a little outline G. gave me. I have not the first act passed off without a hand, he read the play!
expressed his satisfaction at the good sense • Ladies, ye've seen how Guzman's consort died,
of the house ; "the proper season of applause Poor victim of a Spaniard brother's pride,
had not arrived ;” all was exactly as it When Spanish honour through the world was blown,
should be. The second act proceeded to its And Spanish beauty for the best was known.t In that romantic, unenlighten'd time,
close in the same uninterrupted calm ; his A breach of promise I was a sort of crime
friends became uneasy, but still his optimism Which of you handsome English ladies here, But deems the penance bloody and severe?
prevailed; he could afford to wait. And A whimsical old Saragossa & fashion,
though he did at last admit the great moveThat a dead father's dying inclination, Should live to thwart a living daughter's passion, |
ment was somewhat tardy, and that the Unjustly on the sex wef men exclaim,
audience seemed rather patient than interRail at your vices,—and commit the same ;
ested, he did not lose his confidence till the Man is a promise-breaker from the womb, And goes a promise-breaker to the tomb
tumult arose, and then he submitted with What need we instance here the lover's vow, quiet dignity to the fate of genius, too lofty The sick man's purpose, or the great man's bow?It
to be understood by a world as yet in its The truth by few examples best is shownInstead of many which are better known,
childhood! Notwithstanding this rude reTake poor Jack Incident, that's dead and gone.
pulse, Mr. Godwin retained his taste for the Jack, &c. &c. &c.'
theatre to the last. On every first night of “Now you have it all—how do you like a new piece, whether tragedy, comedy, or it? I am going to hear it recited !!!
farce, whether of friend or foe, he sat with “C. L." gentle interest in a side-box, and bore its
fate, whatever it might be, with resignation,
as he had done his own. The following is Alas for human hopes! The play was de- Lamb's account of the catastrophe rendered cisively damned, and the epilogue shared its to Manning, in which the facetious charge
against the unlucky author of “ Violent and • “A good clap-trap. Nelson has exhibited two or Satanical Pride of Heart,” has reference to three times at both theatres—and advertised himself.” “Four easy lines."
some banter which Lamb had encountered “For which the heroine died.”
among his friends by the purposed title of “ In Spain !!”
|| “Two neat lines.” ( “Or you." **"Or our, as they have altered it.” his own play, “Pride's Cure," and his dis17 “Antithesis !!”
quisition in its defence.
TO MR. MANNING,
never answer; Dodsley's Old Plays, Malone's
Shakspeare (still harping upon thy play, thy
“Dec. 16th, 1800. philosophy abandoned meanwhile to chris“We are damned !-Not the facetious tians and superstitious minds); nay, I beepilogue itself could save us. For, as the lieve (if I can believe my memory), that the editor of the Morning Post, quick-sighted ambitious Encyclopedia itself was part of gentleman! hath this morning truly ob- thy meditated acquisitions ; but many a served, (I beg pardon if I falsify his words, playbook was there. All these visions are their profound sense I am sure I retain,) both damned; and thou, Professor, must read prologue and epilogue were worthy of accom- Shakspeare in future out of a panying such a piece ; and indeed (mark the edition ; and, hark ye, pray read him to a profundity, Mr. Manning) were received with little better purpose! Last and strongest proper indignation by such of the audience against thee (in colours manifest as the hand only as thought either worth attending to. upon Belshazzar's wall), lay a volume of Professor, thy glories wax dim! Again, the poems by C. Lloyd and C. Lamb. Thy heart incomparable author of the ‘True Briton' misgave thee, that thy assistant might posdeclareth in his paper (bearing same date) sibly not have talent enough to furnish thee that the epilogue was an indifferent attempt an epilogue! Manning, all these things came at humour and character, and failed in both. over my mind; all the gratulations that I forbear to mention the other papers, would have thickened upon him, and even because I have not read them. O Professor, some have glanced aside upon his humble how different thy feelings now (quantum friend ; the vanity, and the fame, and the mutatus ab illo professore, qui in agris profits (the Professor is 500l. ideal money out philosophiæ tantas victorias acquisivisti),- of pocket by this failure, besides 2001. he how different thy proud feelings but one would have got for the copyright, and the little week ago,—thy anticipation of thy nine Professor is never much beforehand with the nights,—those visionary claps, which have world; what he gets is all by the sweat of his soothed thy soul by day, and thy dreams by brow and dint of brain, for the Professor, night! Calling in accidentally on the Pro- though a sure man, is also a slow); and now fessor while he was out, I was ushered into to muse upon thy altered physiognomy, thy the study; and my nose quickly (most pale and squalid appearance (a kind of blue sagacious always) pointed me to four tokens sickness about the eyelids), and thy crest lying loose upon thy table, Professor, which fallen, and thy proud demand of 2001. from indicated thy violent and satanical pride of thy bookseller changed to an uncertainty of heart. Imprimis, there caught mine eye a his taking it at all, or giving thee full 501. list of six persons, thy friends, whom thou The Professor has won my heart by this his didst meditate inviting to a sumptuous dinner mournful catastrophe. You remember Maron the Thursday, anticipating the profits of shall, who dined with him at my house ; I thy Saturday's play to answer charges; I met him in the lobby immediately after the was in the honoured file! Next, a stronger damnation of the Professor's play, and he evidence of thy violent and almost satanical looked to me like an angel : his face was pride, lay a list of all the morning papers lengthened, and all over perspiration; I never (from the 'Morning Chronicle'downwards to saw such a care-fraught visage ; I could have the ‘Porcupine '), with the places of their hugged him, I loved him so intensely. ‘From respective offices, where thou wast meditating every pore of him a perfume fell.' I have to insert, and didst insert, an elaborate seen that man in many situations, and, from sketch of the story of thy play; stones in my soul, I think that a more god-like honest thy enemy's hand to bruise thee with, and soul exists not in this world. The Professor's severely wast thou bruised, 0 Professor ! poor nerves trembling with the recent shock, nor do I know what oil to pour into thy he hurried him away to my house to supper, wounds. Next, which convinced me to a and there we comforted him as well as we dead conviction, of thy pride, violent and could. He came to consult me about a almost satanical pride-lay a list of books, change of catastrophe ; but alas! the piece which thy un-tragedy-favoured pocket could was condemned long before that crisis. I at
first humoured him with a specious proposi- a pleasure in beholding a delicate and welltion, but have since joined his true friends chosen assortment of teals, ortolans, the in advising him to give it up. He did it unctuous and palate-soothing flesh of geese, with a pang, and is to print it as his. wild and tame, nightingales' brains, the
“L." sensorium of a young sucking pig, or any
other Christmas dish, which I leave to the
judgment of you and the cook of Gonville. In another letter, a few days after, Lamb
“C. LAMB." thus recurs to the subject, and closes the century in anticipation of a visit to his friend at Cambridge.
LETTERS TO MANNING, WORDSWORTH, AND COLERIDGE;
TO MR. MANNING.
CHAPTER VII. “Dec. 27th, 1800. “As for the other Professor, he has actually
[1801 to 1804.) begun to dive into Tavernier and Chardin's Persian Travels for a story, to form a new drama for the sweet tooth of this fastidious The ominous postponement of Lamb's theatage. Hath not Bethlehem College a fair rical hopes was followed by their disappointaction for non-residence against such profes- ment at the commencement of the century. sors ? Are poets so few in this age, that He He was favoured with at least one intermust write poetry? Is morals a subject so view by the stately manager of Drury-lane, exhausted, that he must quit that line ? Is Mr. Kemble, who extended his high-bred the metaphysic well (without a bottom) courtesy even to authors, whom he invadrained dry?
riably attended to the door of his house in “If I can guess at the wicked pride of the Great Russell-street, and bade them “beware Professor's heart, I would take a shrewd of the step.” Godwin's catastrophe had wager, that he disdains ever again to dip his probably rendered him less solicitous to pen in Prose. Adieu, ye splendid theories ! encounter a similar peril ; which the fondest Farewell, dreams of political justice! Law- admirers of “ John Woodvil” will not regret suits, where I was counsel for Archbishop that it escaped. While the occasional roughFenelon versus my own mother, in the famous ness of its verse would have been felt as fire cause !
strange to ears as yet unused to the old “Vanish from my mind, professors, one dramatists whom Lamb's Specimens had not and all. I have metal more attractive on then made familiar to the town, the delicate foot.
beauties enshrined within it would scarcely “Man of many snipes,—I will sup with have been perceived in the glare of the thee, Deo volente, et diabolo nolente, on theatre. Exhibiting “ the depth, and not the Monday night, the 5th of January, in the tumults of the soul,”—presenting a female new year, and crush a cup to the infant character of modest and retiring loveliness century.
and noble purpose, but undistracted with any “A word or two of my progress. Embark violent emotion,-and developing a train of at six o'clock in the morning, with a fresh gale, circumstances which work out their gentle on a Cambridge one-decker ; very cold till triumphs on the heart only of the hero, eight at night; land at St. Mary's light-house, without stirring accident or vivid grouping muffins and coffee upon table (or any other of persons, it would scarcely have supplied curious production of Turkey, or both Indies), sufficient of coarse interest to disarm the snipes exactly at nine, punch to commence at critical spirit which it would certainly have ten, with argument ; difference of opinion is encountered in all its bitterness. Lamb expected to take place about eleven ; perfect cheerfully consoled himself by publishing it; unanimity, with some haziness and dimness, and at the close of the year 1801 it appeared before twelve.—N. B. My single affection is in a small volume, of humble appearance, not so singly wedded to snipes ; but the with the "Fragments of Burton,” (to which curious and epicurean eye would also take Lamb alluded in one of his previous letters,)
two of his quarto ballads, and the “Helen" been accustomed to damn all works of unof his sister.
patronised genius in a more summary way, The daring peculiarities attracted the notice and after a duller fashion. These very critics of the Edinburgh reviewers, then in the wrought themselves into good-nature as they infancy of their slashing career, and the broke into deeper veins of thought; grew volume was immolated, in due form, by the gentler as they grew wiser: and sometimes, self-constituted judges, who, taking for their even when, like Balaam, they came to curse, motto “ Judex damnatur cùm nocens absol- like him, they ended with “ blessing altoritur,” treated our author as a criminal con- gether," as in the review of the “Excursion," victed of publishing, and awaiting his doom which, beginning in the old strain, “This from their sentence. With the gay reckless will never do,” proceeded to give examples of ness of power, at once usurped and irrespon- its noblest passages, and to grace them with sible, they introduced Lord Mansfield's wild worthiest eulogy. And now, the spirit of construction of the law of libel into litera- the writers thus ridiculed, especially of ture; like him, holding every man prima Wordsworth, breathes through the pages of facie guilty, who should be caught in the act this very Review, and they not seldom wear of publishing a book, and referring to the the “rich embroidery” of the language of court to decide whether sentence should be the poet once scoffed at by their literary passed on him. The article on “John corporation as too puerile for the nursery. Woodvil,” which adorned their third num Lamb's occasional connexion with newsber, is a curious example of the old style of papers introduced him to some of the editors criticism vivified by the impulses of youth. and contributors of that day, who sought to We wonder now—and probably the writer of repair the spirit wasted by perpetual exerthe article, if he is living, will wonder with tion, in the protracted conviviality of the us—that a young critic should seize on a evening, and these associates sometimes left little eighteen-penny book, simply printed, poor Lamb with an aching head, and a purse without any preface; make elaborate merri- exhausted by the claims of their necessities ment of its outline, and, giving no hint of its upon it. Among those was Fenwick, immorcontaining one profound thought or happy talised as the Bigod of “ Elia,” who edited expression, leave the reader of the review at several ill-fated newspapers in succession, a loss to suggest a motive for noticing such and was the author of many libels, which did vapid absurdities. This article is written in his employers no good and his Majesty's a strain of grave banter, the theme of which government no harm. These connexions is to congratulate the world on having a will explain some of the allusions in the specimen of the rudest condition of the following letters. drama, “a man of the age of Thespis.” length,” says the reviewer, “even in composition a mighty veteran has been born. “I heard that you were going to China, * Older than Æschylus, and with all the spirit with a commission from the Wedgwoods to of originality, in an age of poets who had collect hints for their pottery, and to teach before them the imitations of some thousand the Chinese perspective. But I did not know years, he comes forward to establish his claim that London lay in your way to Pekin. I am to the ancient hircus, and to satiate the most seriously glad of it, for I shall trouble you remote desires of the philosophic antiquary.” with a small present for the Emperor of On this text the writer proceeds, selecting Usbeck Tartary, as you go by his territories : for his purpose whatever, torn from its it is a fragment of a 'Dissertation on the context, appeared extravagant and crude, state of political parties in England at the and ending without the slightest hint that end of the eighteenth century, which will there is merit, or promise of merit, in the no doubt be very interesting to his Imperial volume. There certainly was no malice, or Majesty. It was written originally in English desire to give pain, in all this; it was merely the result of the thoughtless adoption, by
• Mr. Manning had begun to be haunted with the lads of gaiety and talent, of the old critical idea of China, and to talk
of going thither, which he
accomplished some years afterwards, without any motive canons of the Monthly Reviews, which had but a desire to see that great nation.
TO MR. MANNING.