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for it by day and by night, caused her loss of reason at the time. It has been stated in some of the morning papers, that she has an insane brother in confinement, but this is without foundation.'
The following is Lamb's account of the event to Coleridge :•MY DEAREST FRIEND, — White, or some of my friends, or the public papers, by this time may have informed you of the terrible calamities that have fallen on our family. I will only give you the outlines :-My poor dear, dearest sister, in a fit of insanity, has been the death of her own mother. I was at hand only time enough to spatch the knife out of her grasp. She is at present in a madhouse, from whence I fear she must be moved to a hospital. God has preserved me my senses,—I eat, and drink, and sleep, and have my judgment, I believe, very sound. My poor father was slightly wounded, and I am left to take care of him and my aunt. Mr. Norris, of the Blue-coat school, has been very kind to us, and we have no other friend: but, thank God, I am very calm and composed, and able to do the best that remains to do. Write as religious a letter as possible, but no mention of what is gone and done with. With me, 'the former things are passed away,' and I have something more to do than to feel. God Almighty have us well in his keeping,
C. Lamb. • Meption nothing of poetry. I have destroyed every vestige of past vanities of that kind. Do as you please, but if you publish, publish mine, (I give free leave) without name or initial, and never send me a book, I charge you.
• Your own judgment will convince you not to take any notice of this yet to your dear wife. You look after your family, I have my reason and strength left to take care of mine. I charge you, don't think of coming to see me-write. I will not see you if you come. God Almighty love you and all of us,
C. LAMB.” A portion of his next letter to Coleridge will complete the view of this melancholy affair :
Your letter was an inestimable treasure to me. It will be a comfort to you, I know, that our prospects are somewhat brighter. My poor, dear, dearest sister, the unhappy and unconscious instrument of the Almighty's judgments on our house, is restored to her senses; to a dreadful sense and recollection of what has past, awful to her mind, and impressive, (as it must be to the end of life,) but tempered with reli. gious resignation and the reasonings of a sound judgment, which, in this early stage, knows how to distinguish between a deed committed in a transient fit of frenzy, and the terrible guilt of a moiher's murder. I have seen her. I found her this morning calm and serene ; far, very far from an indecent, forgetful serenity ; she has a most affectionate and tender concern for what has happened. Indeed, from the beginning, frightful and hopeless as her disorder seemed, I had confidence enough in her strength of mind and religious principle, to look forward to a time when even she might recover tranquillity. God be praised, Cole.
ridge, wonderful as it is to tell, I have never once been otherwise than collected and calm; even on the dreadful day, and in the midst of the terrible scene, I preserved a tranquillity which bystanders may have construed into indifference — a tranquillity, not of despair. Is it folly or sin in me to say that it was a religious principle that most sup. ported me? I allow much to other favourable circumstances. I felt that I had something else to do than to regret. On that first evening, my aunt was lying insensible, to all appearance like one dying,--my father, with his poor forehead plastered over, from a wound he had received from a daughter dearly loved by him, and who loved him no less dearly,—my mother, a dead and murdered corpse, in the next room —yet was I wonderfully supported. I closed not my eyes in sleep that night, but lay without terrors and without despair. I have lost no sleep since. I had been long used not to rest in things of sense,-had endeavoured after a comprehension of mind, unsatisfied with the 'ignorant present time,' and this kept me up. I had the whole weight of this family thrown on me; for my brother, little disposed (I speak not without tenderness for him) at any time to take care of old age and infirmi. ties, had now, with his bad leg, an exemption from such duties, and I was now left alone. One little incident may serve to make you under. stand my way of managing my mind. Within a day or two after the fatal event, we dressed for dinner a tongue, which we had had salted for some weeks in the house. As I sate down, a feeling like remorse struck me; this tongue poor Mary got for me, and I can partake of it now, when she is far away! A thought occurred and relieved me-if I give in to this way of feeling, there is not a chair, a room, an object in our rooms, that will not awaken the keenest griefs ; I must rise above such weaknesses. I hope this was not want of feeling. I did not let this carry me too far. On the very second day, (I date from the day of horrors) as is usual in such cases, there were a matter of twenty people, I do think, supping in our room ; they prevailed with me to eat with them, (for to eat I never refused). They were all making merry in the room ! Some had come from friendship, some from busy curiosity, and some from interest. I was going to partake with them, when my recollection came, that my poor, dead mother was lying in the next room, the very next room; a mother who through life wished nothing but her children's welfare. Indignation, the rage of grief, something like remorse, rushed upon my mind. In an agony of emotion, I found my way mechanically to the adjoining room, and fell on my knees by the side of the coffin, asking forgiveness of heaven, and sometimes of her, for forgetting her so soon. Tranquillity returned, and it was only the violent emotion that mastered me, and I think it did me good.
I mention these things because I hate concealment, and love to give a faithful journal of what passes within me Our friends have been very good. Sam Le Grice, who was then in town, was with me the three or four first days, and was a brother to me, gave up every hour of his time, to the very hurting of his health and spirits, in constant attendance, and humoring my poor father; talked with him, read to him, played at cribbage with him, for so short is the old man's recollection, that he was playing at cards, as though nothing had happened, while the coro
ner's inquest was sitting over the way! Samuel wept tenderly when he went away, for his mother wrote him a very severe letter on his loitering so long in town, and he was forced to go. Mr. Norris, of Christ's Hospital, has been a father to me-Mrs. Norris, as a mother; though we had few claims on them. A gentleman, brother to my godmother, from whom we never had right or reason to expect any such assistance, sent my father twenty pounds; and to crown all these God's blessings to our family at such a time, an old lady, a cousin of my father and aunt, a gentlewoman of fortune, is to take my aunt and make her comfortable for the short remainder of her days. My aunt is recovered, and as well as ever, and highly pleased at thoughts of going, and has generously given up the interest of her little money, which was formerly paid my father for her board, solely and wholly to my sister's use. Reckoning this, we have, Daddy and I, for our two selves, and an old maid-servant to look after him, when I am out, £170, or £180, rather, a-year, out of which we can spare £50 or £60, at least, for Mary while she stays at Islington, where she must and shall stay during her father's life, for his and her comfort. I know John will make speeches about it, but she shall not go into an hospital. The good lady of the madhouse, and her daughter, an elegant, sweet-behaved young lady, love her, and are taken with her amazingly; and I know from her own mouth that she loves them, and longs to be with them as much. Poor thing, they say she was, but the other morning, saying, she knew she must go to Bethle’m for life ; that one of her brothers would have it so, but the other would wish it not, but be obliged to go with the stream ; that she had, often as she passed Bethle'm, thought it likely, ' here it may be my fate to end my days,' conscious of a certain flightiness in her poor head oftentimes, and mindful of more than one severe illness of that nature before. A legacy of £100, which my father will have at Christmas, and this £20 I mentioned before, with what is in the house, will more than set us clear. If my father and old servant-maid, and I, can't live, and live comfortably, on £130, or £120 a-year, we ought to burn by slow fires ; and I almost would that Mary might not go into an hospital. Let me not leave an unfavourable impression on your mind, respecting my brother. Since this has happened, he has been very kind and brotherly ; but I fear for his mind,-he has taken his ease in the world, and is not fit himself to struggle with difficulties, nor has much accustomed himself to throw himself into their way; and I know his language already, · Charles, you must take care of yourself, you must not abridge yourself of a single pleasure you have been used to,' etc., etc., in that style of talking. But you, a necessarian, can respect a difference of mind, and love what is amiable in a character not perfect. He has been very good—but I fear for his mind. Thank God, I can unconnect myself with him, and shall manage all my father's moneys in future myself, if I take charge of Daddy, which poor John has not even hinted a wish, at any future time, even, to share with me.'— Vol. i. p. 51.
We have given the scene and accompaniments of this catastrophe at considerable length, as they show so completely the genius and unworldly character of Charles Lamb, and so entirely
interweave the whole history of his life. There never was a more unselfish specimen of human nature; as there never was a nobler one of devoted affection. We see him at the very outset of life, at only two-and-twenty, with all the care and reflection of an old man. He takes upon himself the whole anxiety and drudgery of providing security and comfort for the unhappy sister and the superannuated father. He devotes his days to the task-work of the office, and his evenings to amusing the old man, who, in the dilapidated condition of his faculties, is querulous and complaining, if the wearied son desists from his attentions for a moment. Deeply attached to intellectual pursuits, and finding his only pleasure and almost his only companion in them, he freely relinquishes them to discharge these family duties, which the elder and more worldly brother does not trouble himself to share in any degree with him, though enjoying a far better income. So far, however, from resenting this selfishness, Lamb, on the contrary, finds excuses for it. This poor brother is very good, because it would seem he had not in fact been very antagonistic to his arrangements; "he has taken his ease in the world,' poor fellow! and is not fit to struggle with difficul. ties.'
Never did that charity which is the soul of domestic life, and which breathes so benignantly, and even smilingly, from Charles Lamb's writings, more perfectly spread itself over the whole life and mind of the man than in his case. Not only did he excuse the cold and selfish, but set himself steadily to make up for every one's deficiencies, by his own tho• rough self-devotion. From this moment, he seems to have renounced any idea of marrying and surrounding himself with the blessings of a family, and determined to live for and with this beloved and unfortunate sister. So far from allowing her to go into a hospital, he resolved to have her out of the asylum as soon as possible. In this he was opposed by his brother, at the South Sea House, who does not seem to have contributed anything towards the support of father or sister, leaving it all to Charles. Oh, these brothers ! how many of them there are in this world! Charles, however, persevered, though the parish authorities raised objections, and asserted the necessity of their taking proceedings to secure Mary Lamb's confinement for life. All these obstacles he overcame, by giving security against any such frightful recurrence as was apprehended, and brought his sister home to be his life-long companion. Fears for himself he never had, though he had seen that when his sister was in a state of derangement, the dearest individual might become her victim. His was that perfect love that casteth out fear.
This love and the unselfish magnanimity which accompanied it, may be estimated by the circumstances under which it showed itself. The old aunt, whom a wealthy relative had taken off his hands, was soon returned upon them, in a state of helpless decline. His father, in his childish state, made the most rigorous and unceasing demands on his evenings, the only time exempt from his clerkship. If he ceased, out of weariness, to play at cribbage with him, he would petulantly exclaim, 'If you don't play with me, you might just as well not come home at all!' Under such circumstances did Charles Lamb bring back his sister from the asylum, and endeavour to make her life comfortable. The father at length died, then the poor old aunt; but before this, Miss Lamb's cares and attention to the old lady had again brought on her insanity, and he was obliged to take her back to the asylum. Poor Lamb's desolate condition at this moment may be conceived from the following note to Coleridge:
MY DEAR COLERIDGE,—I don't know why I write, except from the propensity misery has to tell her grief. Kitty died on Friday night, about eleven o'clock, after her long illness ; Mary, in consequence of fatigue and anxiety, is fallen ill again, and I was obliged to remove her yesterday. I am left alone in a house, with nothing but Kitty's dead body to keep me company. To-morrow I bury her, and then I shall be quite alone, with nothing but a cat, to remind me that the house has been full of living beings like myself. My heart is quite sunk, and I don't know where to look for relief. Mary will get better again, but her constantly being liable to such relapses is dreadful : nor is it the least of our evils, that her case and all our story is so well known around us. We are in a manner marked. Excuse my troubling you, but I have nobody by me to speak to me. I slept out last night, not being able to endure the change and the stillness. But I did not sleep well, and I must come back to my own bed. I am going to try and get a friend to come and be with me to-morrow. I am completely shipwrecked. My head is quite bad. I almost wish that Mary were dead. God bless you. Love to Sarah and Hartley,
Perhaps none of Charles Lamb's letters express so utter a misery; none in which he did not still throw out words and phrases, as if jesting in some degree with his troubles. Nor can any situation be conceived much more desolate. But he did not suffer himself to be long cast down; he had resolved to go through life with a stout heart for Mary's sake, and nobly did he fulil his resolve. There is nothing on record more beautiful than the affection of this brother and sister, nothing finer than the brother's devotion. He was never weary of speaking in her praise. Of all the people I ever saw,' he writes to Coleridge, . my poor sister was most and thoroughly devoid of the least