BY BARRY CORNWALL
In my seventy-seventh year. I have been invited to place on record my recollections of Charles Lamb.
I am, I believe, nearly the only man now surviving who knew much of the excellent "Elia." Assuredly I knew him more intimately than any other existing person, during the last seventeen or eighteen years of his life.
In this predicament, and because I am proud to associate my name with his, I shall endeavor to recall former times, and to bring my old friend before the eyes of a new generation.
I request the "courteous reader" to accept, for what they are worth, these desultory labors of a lover of letters; and I hope that the advocate for modern times will try to admit into the circle of his sympathy my recollections of a fine Genius departed.
No harm—possibly some benefit—will accrue to any one who may consent to extend his acquaintance to one of the rarest and most delicate of the Humorists of England.
B. W. PROCTER. May, 1866.
Introduction. Biography: Few Events. One predominant. His Devotion to it. Tendency to Literature. First Studies. Influence of Antique Dwellings. Early Friends. Humor. Qualities of Mind. Sympathy for neglected Objects. A Nonconformist. Predilections. Character. Taste. Style.
Birth and Parentage. Christ's Hospital. South Sea House and India House. Condition of Family. Death of Mother. Mary in Asylum. John Lamb. Charles's Means of Living. His Home. Despondency. Alice W. Brother and Sister.
Jem White. Coleridge. Lamb's Inspiration. Early Letters. Poem published. Charles Lloyd. Liking for Burns, &c. Quakerism. Robert Southey. Southey and Coleridge. Antijacobin. Rosamond Gray. George Dyer. Manning. Mary's Illnesses. Migrations. Hester Savory.
(Migrations.) "John Woodvil." Blackesmoor. Wordsworth. Rickman. Godwin. Visit to the Lakes. Morning Post. Hazlitt. Nelson. Ode to Tobacco. Dramatic Specimens, &c. Inner Temple Lane. Reflector. Hogarth and Sir J. Reynolds. Leigh Hunt. Lamb, Hazlitt, and Hunt. Russell Street and Theatrical Friends.
My Recollections. Russell Street. Personal Appearance. Manner. Tendency of Mind. Prejudices. Alleged Excesses. Mode of Life. Love of Smoking. His Lodgings. His Sister. Costume. Reading aloud. Tastes and Opinions. London. Love of Books. Charity. Wednesday Parties. His Companions. Epitaph upon them.
London Magazine. Contributors. Transfer of Magazine. Monthly Dinners and Visitors. Colebrook Cottage. Lamb's Walks. Essays of Elia: Their Excellence and Character. Enlarged Acquaintance. Visit to Paris. Miss Isola. Quarrel with Southey. Leaves India House. Leisure. Amicus Redivivus. Edward Irving.
Specimen of Lamb's Humor. Death of Mr. Norris. Garrick Plays. Letters to Barton. Opinions on Books. Breakfast with Mr. N. P. Willis. Moves to Enfield. Caricature of Lamb. Albums and Acrostics. Pains of Leisure. The Barton Correspondence. Death of Hazlitt. Munden's Acting and Quitting the Stage. Lamb becomes a Boarder. Moves to Edmonton. Metropolitan Attachments. Death of Coleridge. Lamb's Fall and Death. Death of Mary Lamb.
Introduction.—Biography: Few Events.—One predominant.—His Devotion to it.—Tendency to Literature.—First Studies.—Influence of Antique Dwellings.—Early Friends.—Humor.—Qualities of Mind.—Sympathy for neglected Objects.—A Nonconformist.—Predilections.—Character.—Taste.— Style.
The biography of CHARLES LAMB lies within a narrow compass. It comprehends only few events. His birth and parentage, and domestic sorrows; his acquaintance with remarkable men; his thoughts and habits; and his migrations from one home to another,—constitute the sum and substance of his almost uneventful history. It is a history with one event, predominant.
For this reason, and because I, in common with many others, hold a book needlessly large to be a great evil, it is my intention to confine the present memoir within moderate limits. My aim is not to write the "Life and Times" of Charles Lamb. Indeed, Lamb had no influence on his own times. He had little or nothing in common with his generation, which was almost a stranger to him. There was no reciprocity between them. His contemplations were retrospective. He was, when living, the centre of a small social circle; and I shall therefore deal incidentally with some of its members. In other respects, this memoir will contain only what I recollect and what I have learned from authentic sources of my old friend.
The fact that distinguished Charles Lamb from other men was his entire devotion to one grand and tender purpose. There is, probably, a romance involved in every life. In his life it exceeded that of others. In gravity, in acuteness, in his noble battle with a great calamity, it was beyond the rest. Neither pleasure nor toil ever distracted him from his holy purpose. Everything was made subservient to it. He had an insane sister, who, in a moment of uncontrollable madness, had unconsciously destroyed her own mother; and to protect and save this sister—a gentle woman, who had watched like a mother over his own infancy—the whole length of his life was devoted. What he endured, through the space of nearly forty years, from the incessant fear and frequent recurrence of his sister's insanity, can now only be conjectured. In this constant and uncomplaining endurance, and in his steady adherence to a great principle of conduct, his life was heroic.
We read of men giving up all their days to a single object—to religion, to vengeance, to some overpowering selfish wish; of daring acts done to avert death or disgrace, or some oppressing misfortune. We read mythical tales of friendship; but we do not recollect any instance in which a great object has been so unremittingly carried out throughout a whole life, in defiance of a thousand difficulties, and of numberless temptations, straining the good resolution to its utmost, except in the case of our poor clerk of the India House.
This was, substantially, his life. His actions, thoughts, and sufferings were all concentred on this one important end. It was what he had to do; it was in his reach; and he did it, therefore, manfully, religiously. He did not waste his mind on too many things; for whatever too much expands the mind weakens it; nor on vague or multitudinous thoughts and speculations; nor on dreams or things distant or unattainable. However interesting, they did not absorb him, body and soul, like the safety and welfare of his sister.
Subject to this primary unflinching purpose, the tendency of Lamb's mind pointed strongly towards literature. He did not seek literature, however; and he gained from it nothing except his fame. He worked laboriously at the India House from boyhood to manhood; for many years without repining; although he must have been conscious of an intellect qualified to shine in other ways than in entering up a trader's books. None of those coveted offices, which bring money and comfort in their train, ever reached Charles Lamb. He was never under that bounteous shower which government leaders and persons of influence direct towards the heads of their adherents. No Dives ever selected him for his golden bounty. No potent critic ever shouldered him up the hill of fame. In the absence of these old-fashioned helps, he was content that his own unassisted efforts should gain for him a certificate of capability to the world, and that the choice reputation which he thus earned should, with his own qualities, bring round him the unenvying love of a host of friends.
Lamb had always been a studious boy and a great reader; and after passing through Christ's Hospital and the South Sea House, and being for some years in the India House, this instinctive passion of his mind (for literature) broke out. In this he was, without doubt, influenced by the example and counsel of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, his school-fellow and friend, for whom he entertained a high and most tender respect. The first books which he loved to read were volumes of poetry, and essays on serious and religious themes. The works of all the old poets, the history of Quakers, the biography of Wesley, the controversial papers of Priestley, and other books on devout subjects, sank into his mind. From reading he speedily rose to writing; from being a reader he became an author. His first writings were entirely serious. These were verses, or letters, wherein religious thoughts and secular criticisms took their places in turn; or they were grave dramas, which exhibit and lead to the contemplation of character, and which nourish those moods out of which humor ultimately arises.
So much has been already published, that it is needless to encumber this short narrative with any minute enumeration of the qualities which constitute his station in literature; but I shall, as a part of my task, venture to refer to some of those which distinguish him from other writers.
Lamb's very curious and peculiar humor showed itself early. It was perhaps born of the solitude in which his childhood passed away; perhaps cherished by the seeds of madness that were in him, that were in his sister, that were in the ancestry from which he sprung. Without doubt, it caught color from the scenes in the midst of which he grew up. Born in the Temple, educated in Christ's Hospital, and passed onwards to the South Sea House, his first visions were necessarily of antiquity. The grave old buildings, tenanted by lawyers and their clerks, were replaced by "the old and awful cloisters" of the School of Edward; and these in turn gave way to the palace of the famous Bubble, now desolate, with its unpeopled Committee Rooms, its pictures of Governors of Queen Anne's time, "its dusty maps of Mexico, dim as dreams, and soundings of the Bay of Panama." These things, if they impressed his mind imperfectly at first, in time formed themselves into the shape of truths, and assumed significance and importance; as words and things, glanced over hastily in childhood, grow and ripen, and enrich the understanding in after days.
Lamb's earliest friends and confidants, with one exception, were singularly void of wit and the love of jesting. His sister was grave; his father gradually sinking into dotage; Coleridge was immersed in religious subtilties and poetic dreams; and Charles Lloyd, sad and logical and analytical, was the antithesis of all that is lively and humorous. But thoughts and images stole in from other quarters; and Lamb's mind was essentially quick and productive. Nothing lay barren in it; and much of what was planted there, grew, and spread, and became beautiful. He himself has sown the seeds of humor in many English hearts. His own humor is essentially English. It is addressed to his own countrymen; to the men "whose limbs were made in England;" not to foreign intellects, nor perhaps to the universal mind. Humor, which is the humor of a man (of the writer himself or of his creations), must frequently remain, in its fragrant blossoming state, in the land of its birth. Like some of the most delicate wines and flowers, it will not bear travel.
Apart from his humor and other excellences, Charles Lamb combined qualities such as are seldom united in one person; which indeed seem not easily reconcilable with each other: namely, much prudence, with much generosity; great tenderness of heart, with a firm will. To these was superadded that racy humor which has served to distinguish him from other men. There is no other writer, that I know of, in whom tenderness, and good sense, and humor are so intimately and happily blended; no one whose view of men and things is so invariably generous, and true, and independent. These qualities made their way slowly and fairly. They were not taken up as a matter of favor or fancy, and then abandoned. They struggled through many years of neglect, and some of contumely, before they took their stand triumphantly, and as things not to be ignored by any one.
Lamb pitied all objects which had been neglected or despised. Nevertheless the lens through which he viewed the objects of his pity,—beggars, and chimney-sweepers, and convicts,—was always clear: it served him even when their short-comings were to be contemplated. For he never paltered with truth. He had no weak sensibilities, few tears for imaginary griefs. But his heart opened wide to real distress. He never applauded the fault; but he pitied the offender. He had a word of compassion for the sheep-stealer, who was arrested and lost his ill-acquired sheep, "his first, last, and only hope of a mutton pie;" and vented his feelings in that sonnet (rejected by the magazines) which he has called "The Gypsey's Malison." Although he was willing to acknowledge merit when it was successful, he preferred it, perhaps, when it was not clothed with prosperity.
By education and habit, he was a Unitarian. Indeed, he was a true Nonconformist in all things. He was not a dissenter by imitation, nor from any deep principle or obstinate heresy; nor was he made servile and obedient by formal logic alone. His reasoning always rose and streamed through the heart. He liked a friend for none of the ordinary reasons; because he was famous, or clever, or powerful, or popular. He at once took issue with the previous verdicts, and examined the matter in his own way. If a man was unfortunate, he gave him money. If he was calumniated, he accorded him sympathy. He gave freely; not to merit, but to want.
He pursued his own fancies, his own predilections. He did not neglect his own instinct (which is always true), and aim at things foreign to his nature. He did not cling to any superior intellect, nor cherish any inferior humorist or wit.
Perhaps no one ever thought more independently. He had great enjoyment in the talk of able men, so that it did not savor of form or pretension. He liked the strenuous talk of Hazlitt, who never descended to fine words. He liked the unaffected, quiet conversation of Manning, the vivacious, excursive talk of Leigh Hunt. He heard with wondering admiration the monologues of Coleridge. Perhaps he liked the simplest talk the best; expressions of pity or sympathy, or affection for others; from young people, who thought and said little or nothing about themselves.
He had no craving for popularity, nor even for fame. I do not recollect any passage in his writings, nor any expression in his talk, which runs counter to my opinion. In this respect he seems to have differed from Milton (who desired fame, like "Blind Thamyris and blind Maeonides"), and to have rather resembled Shakespeare, who was indifferent to fame or assured of it; but perhaps he resembled no one.
Lamb had not many personal antipathies, but he had a strong aversion to pretence and false repute. In particular, he resented the adulation of the epitaph-mongers who endeavored to place Garrick, the actor, on a level with Shakespeare. Of that greatest of all poets he has said such things as I imagine Shakespeare himself would have liked to hear. He has also uttered brave words in behalf of Shakespeare's contemporary dramatists; partly because they deserved them, partly because they were unjustly forgotten. The sentence of oblivion, passed by ignorant ages on the reputation of these fine authors, he has annulled, and forced the world to confess that preceding judges were incompetent to entertain the case.
I cannot imagine the mind of Charles Lamb, even in early boyhood, to have been weak or childish. In his first letters you see that he was a thinker. He is for a time made sombre by unhappy reflections. He is a reader of thoughtful books. The witticisms which he coined for sixpence each (for the Morning Chronicle) had, no doubt, less of metallic lustre than those which he afterwards meditated; and which were highly estimated. Effodiuntur opes. His jests were never the mere overflowings of the animal spirits, but were exercises of the mind. He brought the wisdom of old times and old writers to bear upon the taste and intellect of his day. What was in a manner foreign to his age, he naturalized and cherished. And he did this with judgment and great delicacy. His books never unhinge or weaken the mind, but bring before it tender and beautiful thoughts, which charm and nourish it as only good books can. No one was ever worse from reading Charles Lamb's writings; but many have become wiser and better. Sometimes, as he hints, "he affected that dangerous figure, irony;" and he would sometimes interrupt grave discussion, when he thought it too grave, with some light jest, which nevertheless was "not quite irrelevant." Long talkers, as he confesses, "hated him;" and assuredly he hated long talkers.
In his countenance you might sometimes read—what may be occasionally read on almost all foreheads—the letters and lines of old, unforgotten calamity. Yet there was at the bottom of his nature a buoyant self- sustaining strength; for although he encountered frequent seasons of mental distress, his heart recovered itself in the interval, and rose and sounded, like music played to a happy tune. Upon fit occasion, his lips could shut in a firm fashion; but the gentle smile that played about his face showed that he was always ready to relent. His quick eye never had any sullenness: his mouth, tender and tremulous, showed that there would be nothing cruel or inflexible in his nature.
On referring to his letters, it must be confessed that in literature Lamb's taste, like that of all others, was at first imperfect. For taste is a portion of our judgment, and must depend a good deal on our experience, and on our opportunities of comparing the claims of different pretenders. Lamb's affections swayed him at all times. He sympathized deeply with Cowper and his melancholy history, and at first estimated his verse, perhaps, beyond its strict value. He was intimate with Southey, and anticipated that he would rival Milton. Then his taste was at all times peculiar. He seldom worshipped the Idol which the multitude had set up. I was never able to prevail on him to admit that "Paradise Lost" was greater than "Paradise Regained;" I believe, indeed, he liked the last the best. He would not discuss the Poetry of Lord Byron or Shelley, with a view of being convinced of their beauties. Apart from a few points like these, his opinions must be allowed to be sound; almost always; if not as to the style of the author, then as to the quality of his book or passage which he chose to select. And his own style was always good, from the beginning, in verse as well as in prose. His first sonnets are unaffected, well sustained, and well written.
I do not know much of the opinion of others; but to my thinking the style of Charles Lamb, in his "Elia," and in the letters written by him in the later (the last twenty) years of his life, is full of grace; not antiquated, but having a touch of antiquity. It is self-possessed, choice, delicate, penetrating, his words running into the innermost sense of things. It is not, indeed, adapted to the meanest capacity, but is racy, and chaste, after his fashion. Perhaps it is sometimes scriptural: at all events it is always earnest and sincere. He was painfully in earnest in his advocacy of Hazlitt and Hunt, and in his pleadings for Hogarth and the old dramatists. Even in his humor, his fictitious (as well as his real) personages have a character of reality about them which gives them their standard value. They all ring like true coin. In conversation he loved to discuss persons or books, and seldom ventured upon the stormy sea of politics; his intimates lying on the two opposite shores, Liberal and Tory. Yet, when occasion moved him, he did not refuse to express his liberal opinions. There was little or nothing cloudy or vague about him; he required that there should be known ground even in fiction. He rejected the poems of Shelley (many of them so consummately beautiful), because they were too exclusively ideal. Their efflorescence, he thought, was not natural. He preferred Southey's "Don Roderick" to his "Curse of Kehama;" of which latter poem he says, "I don't feel that firm footing in it that I do in 'Roderick.' My imagination goes sinking and floundering in the vast spaces of unopened systems and faiths. I am put out of the pale of my old sympathies."
Charles Lamb had much respect for some of the modern authors. In particular, he admired (to the full extent of his capacity for liking) Coleridge, and Wordsworth, and Burns. But with these exceptions his affections rested mainly on writers who had lived before him; on some of them; for there were "things in books' clothing" from which he turned away loathing. He was not a worshipper of the customs and manners of old times, so much as of the tangible objects that old times have bequeathed to us; the volumes tinged with decay, the buildings (the Temple, Christ's Hospital, &c.) colored and enriched by the hand of age. Apart from these, he clung to the time present; for if he hated anything in the extreme degree, he hated change.
He clung to life, although life had bestowed upon him no magnificent gifts; none, indeed, beyond books, and friends (a "ragged regiment"), and an affectionate, contented mind. He had, he confesses, "an intolerable disinclination to dying;" which beset him especially in the winter months. "I am not content to pass away like a weaver's shuttle. Any alteration in this earth of mine discomposes me. My household gods plant a terrible fixed foot, and are not rooted up without blood." He seems never to have looked into the Future. His eyes were on the present or (oftener) on the past. It was always thus from his boyhood. His first readings were principally Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, Isaac Walton, &c. "I gather myself up" (he writes) "unto the old things." He has indeed extracted the beauty and innermost value of Antiquity, whenever he has pressed it into his service.
Birth and Parentage.—Christ's Hospital.—South Sea House and India House.—Condition of Family.—Death of Mother.—Mary in Asylum.—John Lamb.—Charles's Means of Living.—His Home.—Despondency.—Alice W.— Brother and Sister.
On the south side of Fleet Street, near to where it adjoins Temple Bar, lies the Inner Temple. It extends southward to the Thames, and contains long ranges of melancholy buildings, in which lawyers (those reputed birds of prey) and their followers congregate. It is a district very memorable. About seven hundred years ago, it was the abiding-place of the Knights Templars, who erected there a church, which still uplifts its round tower (its sole relic) for the wonder of modern times. Fifty years since, I remember, you entered the precinct through a lowering archway that opened into a gloomy passage—Inner Temple Lane. On the east side rose the church; and on the west was a dark line of chambers, since pulled down and rebuilt, and now called Johnson's Buildings. At some distance westward was an open court, in which was a sun-dial, and, in the midst, a solitary fountain, that sent its silvery voice into the air above, the murmur of which, descending, seemed to render the place more lonely. Midway, between the Inner Temple Lane and the Thames, was, and I believe still is, a range of substantial chambers (overlooking the gardens and the busy river), called Crown Office Row. In one of these chambers, on the 18th day of February, 1775, Charles Lamb was born.
He was the son of John and Elizabeth Lamb; and he and his brother John and his sister Mary (both of whom were considerably older than himself) were the only children of their parents. John was twelve years, and Mary (properly Mary Anne) was ten years older than Charles. Their father held the post of clerk to Mr. Samuel Salt, a barrister, one of the benchers of the Inner Temple; a mild, amiable man, very indolent, very shy, and, as I imagine, not much known in what is called "the profession."
Lamb sprang, paternally, from a humble stock, which had its root in the county of Lincoln. At one time of his life his father appears to have dwelt at Stamford. In his imaginary ascent from plain Charles Lamb to Pope Innocent, one of the gradations is Lord Stamford. His mother's family came from Hertfordshire, where his grandmother was a housekeeper in the Plumer family, and where several of his cousins long resided. He did not attempt to trace his ancestry (of which he wisely made no secret) beyond two or three generations. In an agreeable sonnet, entitled "The Family Name," he speaks of his sire's sire, but no further: "We trace our stream no higher." Then he runs into some pleasant conjectures as to his possible progenitors, of whom he knew nothing.
"Perhaps some shepherd on Lincolnian plains,"
he says, first received the name; perhaps some martial lord, returned from "holy Salem;" and then he concludes with a resolve,—
"No deed of mine shall shame thee, gentle Name,"
which he kept religiously throughout his life.
When Charles was between seven and eight years of age, he became a scholar in Christ's Hospital, a presentation having been given to his father, for the son's benefit. He entered that celebrated school on the 9th of October, 1782, and remained there until the 23d November, 1789, being then between fourteen and fifteen years old. The records of his boyhood are very scanty. He was always a grave, inquisitive boy. Once, when walking with his sister through some churchyard, he inquired anxiously, "Where do the naughty people lie?" the unqualified panegyrics which he encountered on the tombstones doubtless suggesting the inquiry. Mr. Samuel Le Grice (his schoolfellow) states that he was an amiable, gentle youth, very sensible, and keenly observing; that "his complexion was clear brown, his countenance mild, his eyes differing in color, and that he had a slow and peculiar walk." He adds that he was never mentioned without the addition of his Christian name, Charles, implying a general feeling of kindness towards him. His delicate frame and difficulty of utterance, it is said, unfitted him for joining in any boisterous sports.
After he left Christ's Hospital, he returned home, where he had access to the large miscellaneous library of Mr. Salt. He and his sister were (to use his own words) "tumbled into a spacious closet of good old English reading, and browsed at will on that fair and wholesome pasturage." This, however, could not have lasted long, for it was the destiny of Charles Lamb to be compelled to labor almost from, his boyhood. He was able to read Greek, and had acquired great facility in Latin composition, when he left the Hospital; but an unconquerable impediment in his speech deprived him of an "exhibition" in the school, and, as a consequence, of the benefit of a college education.
The state of Christ's Hospital, at the time when Lamb was a scholar there, may be ascertained with tolerable correctness from his two essays, entitled "Recollections of Christ's Hospital" and "Christ's Hospital five and thirty years ago." These papers when read together show the different (favorable and unfavorable) points of this great establishment. They leave no doubt as to its extensive utility. Although, strictly speaking, it was a charitable home for the sustenance and education of boys, slenderly provided, or unprovided, with the means of learning, they were neither lifted up beyond their own family nor depressed by mean habits, such as an ordinary charity school is supposed to generate. They floated onwards towards manhood in a wholesome middle region, between a too rare ether and the dense and abject atmosphere of pauperism. The Hospital boy (as Lamb says) never felt himself to be a charity boy. The antiquity and regality of the foundation to which he belonged, and the mode or style of his education, sublimated him beyond the heights of the laboring classes.
From the "Christ's Hospital five and thirty years ago," it would appear that the comforts enjoyed by Lamb himself exceeded those of his schoolfellows, owing to his friends supplying him with extra delicacies. There is no doubt that great tyranny was then exercised by the older boys (the monitors) over the younger ones; that the scholars had anything but choice and ample rations; and that hunger ("the eldest, strongest of the passions") was not a tyrant unknown throughout this large institution.
Lamb remained at Christ's Hospital for seven years; but on the half- holidays (two in every week) he used to go to his parents' home, in the Temple, and when there would muse on the terrace or by the lonely fountain, or contemplate the dial, or pore over the books in Mr. Salt's library, until those antiquely-colored thoughts rose up in his mind which in after years he presented to the world.
Amongst the advantages which Charles derived from his stay at Christ's Hospital, was one which, although accidental, was destined to have great effect on his subsequent life. It happened that he reckoned amongst his schoolfellows one who afterwards achieved a very extensive reputation, namely, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This youth was his elder by two years; and his example influenced Lamb materially on many occasions, and ultimately led him into literature. Coleridge's projects, at the outset of life, were vacillating. In this respect Lamb was no follower of his schoolfellow, his own career being steady and unswerving from his entrance into the India House until the day of his freedom from service—between thirty and forty years. His literary tastes, indeed, took independently almost the same tone as those of his friend; and their religious views (for Coleridge in his early years became a Unitarian) were the same.
When Coleridge left Christ's Hospital he went to the University—to Jesus College, Cambridge; but came back occasionally to London, where the intimacy between him and Lamb was cemented. Their meetings at the smoky little public house in the neighborhood of Smithfield—the "Salutation and Cat"—consecrated by pipes and tobacco (Orinoco), by egg-hot and Welsh rabbits, and metaphysics and poetry, are exultingly referred to in Lamb's letters. Lamb entertained for Coleridge's genius the greatest respect, until death dissolved their friendship. In his earliest verses (so dear to a young poet) he used to submit his thoughts to Coleridge's amendments or critical suggestions; and on one occasion was obliged to cry out, "Spare my ewe lambs: they are the reflected images of my own feelings."
It was at a very tender age that Charles Lamb entered the "work-a-day" world. His elder brother, John, had at that time a clerkship in the South Sea House, and Charles passed a short time there under his brother's care or control, and must thus have gained some knowledge of figures. The precise nature of his occupation in this deserted place, however (where some forms of business were kept up, "though the soul be long since fled," and where the directors met mainly "to declare a dead dividend"), is not stated in the charming paper of "The South Sea House." Charles remained in this office only until the 5th April, 1792, when he obtained an appointment (through the influence, I believe, of Mr. Salt) as clerk in the Accountant's Office of the East India Company. He was then seventeen years of age.
About three years after Charles became a clerk in the India House, his family appear to have moved from Crown Office Row into poor lodgings at No. 7 Little Queen Street, Holborn. His father at that time had a small pension from Mr. Salt, whose service he had left, being almost fatuous; his mother was ill and bedridden; and his sister Mary was tired but, by needle-work all day, and by taking care of her mother throughout the night. "Of all the people in the world" (Charles says), "she was most thoroughly devoid of all selfishness." There was also, as a member of the family, an old aunt, who had a trifling annuity for her life, which she poured into the common fund. John Lamb (Charles's elder brother) lived elsewhere, having occasional intercourse only with his kindred. He continued, however, to visit them, whilst he preserved his "comfortable" clerkship in the South Sea House.
It was under this state of things that they all drifted down to the terrible year 1796. It was a year dark with horror. There was an hereditary taint of insanity in the family, which caused even Charles himself to be placed, for a short time, in Hoxton Lunatic Asylum. "The six weeks that finished last year and began this (1796), your very humble servant spent very agreeably in a madhouse, at Hoxton." These are his words when writing to Coleridge.
Mary Lamb had previously been repeatedly attacked by the same dreadful disorder; and this now broke out afresh in a sudden burst of acute madness. She had been moody and ill for some little time previously, and the illness came to a crisis on the 23d of September, 1796. On that day, just before dinner, Mary seized a "case-knife" which was lying on the table, pursued a little girl (her apprentice) round the room, hurled about the dinner forks, and finally, in a fit of uncontrollable frenzy, stabbed her mother to the heart.
Charles was at hand only in time to snatch the knife out of her grasp, before further hurt could be done. He found his father wounded in the forehead by one of the forks, and his aunt lying insensible, and apparently dying, on the floor of the room.
This happened on a Thursday; and on the following day an inquest was held on the mother's body, and a verdict of Mary's lunacy was immediately found by the jury. The Lambs had a few friends. Mr. Norris—the friend of Charles's father and of his own childhood—"was very kind to us;" and Sam. Le Grice "then in town" (Charles writes) "was as a brother to me, and gave up every hour of his time in constant attendance on my father."
After the fatal deed, Mary Lamb was deeply afflicted. Her act was in the first instance totally unknown to her. Afterwards, when her consciousness returned and she was informed of it, she suffered great grief. And subsequently, when she became "calm and serene," and saw the misfortune in a clearer light, this was "far, very far from an indecent or forgetful serenity," as her brother says. She had no defiant air, no affectation, nor too extravagant a display of sorrow. She saw her act, as she saw all other things, by the light of her own clear and gentle good sense. She was sad; but the deed was past recall, and at the time of its commission had been utterly beyond either her control or knowledge.
After the inquest, Mary Lamb was placed in a lunatic asylum, where, after a short time, she recovered her serenity. A rapid recovery after violent madness is not an unusual mark of the disease; it being in cases of quiet, inveterate insanity, that the return to sound mind (if it ever recur) is more gradual and slow. The recovery, however, was only temporary in her case. She was throughout her life subject to frequent recurrences of the same disease. At one time her brother Charles writes, "Poor Mary's disorder so frequently recurring has made us a sort of marked people." At another time he says, "I consider her as perpetually on the brink of madness." And so, indeed, she continued during the remainder of her life; and she lived to the age of eighty-two years.
Charles was now left alone in the world. His father was imbecile; his sister insane; and his brother afforded no substantial assistance or comfort. He was scarcely out of boyhood when he learned that the world has its dangerous places and barren deserts; and that he had to struggle for his living, without help. He found that he had to take upon himself all the cares of a parent or protector (to his sister) even before he had studied the duties of a man.
Sudden as death came down the necessary knowledge: how to live, and how to live well. The terrible event that had fallen upon him and his, instead of casting him down, and paralyzing his powers, braced and strung his sinews into preternatural firmness. It is the character of a feeble mind to lie prostrate before the first adversary. In his case it lifted him out of that momentary despair which always follows a great calamity. It was like extreme cold to the system, which often overthrows the weak and timid, but gives additional strength and power of endurance to the brave and the strong.
"My aunt was lying apparently dying" (writes Lamb), "my father with a wound on his poor forehead, and my mother a murdered corpse, in the next room. I felt that I had something else to do than to regret. I had the whole weight of the family upon me; for my brother—little disposed at any time to take care of old age and infirmity—has now, with his bad leg, exemption from such duties; and I am now left alone."
In about a month after his mother's death (3d October), Charles writes, "My poor, dear, dearest sister, the unhappy and unconscious instrument of the Almighty's judgment on our house, is restored to her senses; to a dreadful sense of what has passed; awful to her mind, but tempered with a religious resignation. She knows how to distinguish between a deed committed in a fit of frenzy and the terrible guilt of a mother's murder." In another place he says, "She bears her situation as one who has no right to complain." He himself visits her and upholds her, and rejoices in her continued reason. For her use he borrows books ("for reading was her daily bread"), and gives up his time and all his thoughts to her comfort.
Thus, in their quiet grief, making no show, yet suffering more than could be shown by clamorous sobs or frantic words, the two—brother and sister— enter upon the bleak world together. "Her love," as Mr. Wordsworth states in the epitaph on Charles Lamb, "was as the love of mothers" towards her brother. It may be said that his love for her was the deep life-long love of the tenderest son. In one letter he writes, "It was not a family where I could take Mary with me; and I am afraid that there is something of dishonesty in any pleasures I take without her." Many years afterwards (in 1834, the very year in which he died) he writes to Miss Fryer, "It is no new thing for me to be left with my sister. When she is not violent, her rambling chat is better to me than the sense and sanity of the world." Surely there is great depth of pathos in these unaffected words; in the love that has outlasted all the troubles of life, and is thus tenderly expressed, almost at his last hour.
John Lamb, the elder brother of Charles, held a clerkship, with some considerable salary, in the South Sea House. I do not retain an agreeable impression of him. If not rude, he was sometimes, indeed generally, abrupt and unprepossessing in manner. He was assuredly deficient in that courtesy which usually springs from a mind at friendship with the world. Nevertheless, without much reasoning power (apparently), he had much cleverness of character; except when he had to purchase paintings, at which times his judgment was often at fault. One of his sayings is mentioned in the (Elia) essay of "My Relations." He seems to have been, on one occasion, contemplating a group of Eton boys at play, when he observed, "What a pity it is to think that these fine ingenuous lads will some day be changed into frivolous members of Parliament?" Like some persons who, although case-hardened at home, overflow with sympathy towards distant objects, he cared less for the feelings of his neighbor close at hand than for the eel out of water or the oyster disturbed in its shell.
John Lamb was the favorite of his mother, as the deformed child is frequently the dearest. "She would always love my brother above Mary," Charles writes in 1796, "although he was not worth one tenth of the affection which Mary had a right to claim. Poor Mary! my mother never understood her right." In another place (after he had been unburdening his heart to Coleridge), he writes cautiously, "Since this has happened,"— the death of his mother,—"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 to struggle with difficulties. Thank God, I can unconnect myself with him, and shall manage my father's moneys myself, if I take charge of Daddy, which poor John has not hinted a wish at any future time to share with me." Mary herself, when she was recovering, said that "she knew she must go to Bethlehem for life; that one of her brothers would have it so; the other would not wish it, but would be obliged to go with the stream."
At this time, reckoning up their several means of living, Charles Lamb and his father had together an income of one hundred and seventy or one hundred and eighty pounds; out of which, he says, "we can spare fifty or sixty pounds at least for Mary whilst she stays in an asylum. If I and my father and an old maid-servant can't live, and live comfortably, on one hundred and thirty or one hundred and twenty pounds a year, we ought to burn by slow fires. I almost would, so that Mary might not go into a hospital." She was then recovering her health; had become serene and cheerful; and Charles was passionately desirous that, after a short residence in the lunatic establishment wherein she then was, she should return home: "But the surviving members of her family" (these are Sir Thomas Talfourd's words), "especially John, who enjoyed a fair income from the South Sea House, opposed her discharge." Charles, however, ultimately succeeded in his pious desire, upon entering into a solemn undertaking to take care of his sister thereafter.
He provided a lodging for her at Hackney, and spent all his Sundays and holidays with her. I never heard of John Lamb having contributed anything, in money or otherwise, cowards the support of his deranged sister, or to assist his young struggling brother.
Soon after this time Charles took his sister Mary to live with himself entirely. Whenever the approach of one of her fits of insanity was announced by some irritability or change of manner, he would take her, under his arm, to Hoxton Asylum. It was very afflicting to encounter the young brother and his sister walking together (weeping together) on this painful errand; Mary herself, although sad, very conscious of the necessity for temporary separation from her only friend. They used to carry a strait jacket with them.
In the latter days of his father's life, Charles must have had an uncomfortable home. "I go home at night overwearied, quite faint, and then to cards with my father, who will not let me enjoy a meal in peace. After repeated games at cribbage" (he is writing to Coleridge), "I have got my father's leave to write; with difficulty got it: for when I expostulated about playing any more, he replied, 'If you won't play with me, you might as well not come home at all.' The argument was unanswerable, and I set to afresh."
Soon after this, the father, who at last had become entirely imbecile, died; and the pension which he had received from Mr. Salt, the old bencher, ceased. The aunt, who had been taken for a short time to the house of a rich relation, but had been sent back, also died in the following month. "My poor old aunt" (Chailes writes), "who was the kindest creature to me when I was at school, and used to bring me good things; when I, schoolboy-like, used to be ashamed to see her come, and open her apron, and bring out her basin with some nice thing which she had saved for me; the good old creature is now lying on her death-bed. She says, poor thing, she is glad she has come home to die with me. I was always her favorite." Thus Charles was left to his own poor resources (scarcely, if at all, exceeding one hundred pounds a year); and these remained very small for some considerable time. His writings were not calculated to attract immediate popularity, and the increase of his salary at the India House was slow. Even in 1809 (November), almost fifteen years later, the addition of twenty pounds a year, which comes to him on the resignation of a clerk in the India House, is very important, and is the subject of a joyful remark by his sister Mary.
The impression made, in the first instance, on Charles Lamb, by the terrible death of his mother, cannot be explained in any condensed manner. His mind, short of insanity, seems to have been utterly upset. He had been fond of poetry to excess; almost all his leisure hours seemed to have been devoted to the books of poets and religious writers, to the composition of poetry, and to criticising various writers in verse. But afterwards, in his distress, he requests Coleridge to "mention nothing of poetry. I have destroyed every vestige of past vanities of that kind. Never send me a book, I charge you. I am wedded" (he adds) "to the fortunes of my sister and my poor old father." At another time he writes, "On the dreadful day I preserved a tranquillity, not of despair." Some persons coming into the "house of misery," and persuading him to take some food, he says, "In an agony of emotion, I found my way mechanically into the adjoining room, and fell on my knees by the side of her coffin, asking forgiveness of Heaven, and sometimes of her, for forgetting her so soon."
A few days later, he says to his friend, "You are the only correspondent, and, I might add, the only friend I have in the world. I go nowhere and see no acquaintance." At this time he gave away all Coleridge's letters, burned all his own poetry, all the numerous poetical extracts he had made, and the little journal of "My foolish passion, which I had a long time kept." Subsequently, when he becomes better, he writes again to his friend, "Correspondence with you has roused me a little from my lethargy, and made me conscious of my existence."
Charles was now entirely alone with his sister. She was the only object between him and God, and out of this misery and desolation sprang that wonderful love between brother and sister, which has no parallel in history. Neither would allow any stranger to partake of the close affection that seemed to be solely the other's right. Doubts have existed whether Charles Lamb ever gave up for the sake of Mary the one real attachment of his youth. It has been considered somewhat probable that Alice W. was an imaginary being—some Celia, or Campaspe, or Lindamira; that she was in effect one of those visions which float over us when we escape from childhood. But it may have been a real love, driven deeper into the heart, and torn out for another love, more holy and as pure: for he was capable of a grand sacrifice. No one will, perhaps, ever ascertain the truth precisely. It must remain undiscovered—magnified by the mist of uncertainty—like those Hesperian Gardens which inspired the veises of poets, but are still surrounded by fable.
For my own part, I am persuaded that the attachment was real. He says that his sister would often "lend an ear to his desponding, love-sick lay." After he himself had been in a lunatic asylum, he writes to Coleridge, that his "head ran upon him, in his madness, as much almost as on another person, who was the more immediate cause of my frenzy." Later in the year he burned the "little journal of his foolish passion;" and, when writing to his friend on the subject of his love sonnets, he says, "It is a passion of which I retain nothing." It is clear, I think, that it was love for a real person, however transient it may have been. But the fact, whether true or false, is inexpressibly unimportant. It could not add to his stature: it could not diminish it. His whole life is acted; and in it are numerous other things which substantially raise and honor him. The ashes (if ashes there were) are cold. His struggles and pains, and hopes and visions, are over. All lie, diffused, intermingled in that vast Space which has No Name; like the winds and light of yesterday, which came and gave pleasure for a moment, and now have changed and left us, forever.
In contrast with this apocryphal attachment stands out his deep and unalterable love for his sister Mary. "God love her," he says; "may we two never love each other less." They never did. Their affection continued throughout life, without interruption; without a cloud, except such as rose from the fluctuations of her health. It is said that a woman rises or falls with the arm on which she leans. In this case, Mary Lamb at all times had a safe support; an arm that never shook nor wavered, but kept its elevation, faithful and firm throughout life.
It is difficult to explain fully the great love of Charles for his sister, except in his own words. Whenever her name occurs in the correspondence, the tone is always the same; always tender; without abatement, without change. "I am a fool" (he writes) "bereft of her cooperation. I am used to look up to her in the least and biggest perplexities. To say all that I find her, would be more than I think anybody could possibly understand. She is older, wiser, and better than I am; and all my wretched imperfections I cover to myself, by resolutely thinking on her goodness. She would share life and death with me." This (to anticipate) was written in 1805, when she was suffering from one of her attacks of illness. After she became better, he became better also, and opened his heart to the pleasures and objects around him. It was open at all times to want, and sickness, and wretchedness, and generally to the friendly voices and homely realities that rose up and surrounded him in his daily walk through life.
During all his years he was encircled by groups of loving friends. There were no others habitually round him. It is reported of some person that he had not merit enough to create a foe. In Lamb's case, I suppose, he did not possess that peculiar merit; for he lived and died without an enemy.
Jem White.—Coleridge.—Lamb's Inspiration.—Early Letters.—Poem published.—Charles Lloyd.—Liking for Burns, &c.—Quakerism.—Robert Southey.—Southey and Coleridge.—Antijacobin.—Rosamond Gray.-George Dyer.-Manning.—Mary's Illnesses.—Migrations.—Hester Savory.
After the pain arising from the deaths of his parents had somewhat subsided, and his sorrow, exhausting itself in the usual manner, had given way to calm, the story of Lamb becomes mainly an account of his intercourse with society. He was surrounded, during his somewhat monotonous career, by affectionate and admiring friends, who helped to bring out his rare qualities, who stimulated his genius, and who are in fact interwoven with his own history.
One of the earliest of these was his schoolfellow James (familiarly Jem) White. This youth, who at the beginning of this period was his most frequent companion, had great cleverness and abundant animal spirits, under the influence of which he had produced a small volume, entitled "Original Letters of Sir John Falstaff and his Friends." These letters were ingenious imitations of the style and tone of thought of the celebrated Shakespearian knight and his familiars. Beyond this merit they are, perhaps, not sufficiently full of that enduring matter which is intended for posterity. Nevertheless they contain some good and a few excellent things. The letter of Davy (Justice Shallow's servant) giving an account to his master of the death of poor Abram Slender is very touching. Slender dies from mere love of sweet Ann Page; "Master Abram is dead; gone, your worship. A' sang his soul and body quite away. A' turned like the latter end of a lover's lute."
White's book was published in 1796; and one of the early copies was sold at the Roxburgh sale for five guineas. Is it possible that the imitations could have been mistaken for originals? Afterwards, the little book could be picked up for eighteenpence; even for sixpence. It was always a great favorite with Lamb. He reviewed it, after White's death, in the Examiner. Lamb's friendship and sympathy in taste with White induced him to attach greater value to this book than it was, perhaps, strictly entitled to; he even passes some commendation on the frontispiece, which is undoubtedly a very poor specimen of art. It is remarkable how Lamb, who was able to enter so completely into Hogarth's sterling humor, could ever have placed any value upon this counterfeit coin.
But Lamb had a great regard for Jem White. They had been boys together, school-fellows in Christ's Hospital; and these very early friendships seldom undergo any severe critical tests. At all events, Lamb thought highly of White's book, which he used often to purchase and give away to his friends, in justification of his own taste and to extend the fame of the author. The copy which he gave me I have still. White, it seems, after leaving Christ's Hospital as a scholar, took some office there; but eventually left it, and became an agent for newspapers.
In one of the Elia essays, "The Praise of Chimney-sweepers," Lamb has set forth some of the merits of his old friend. Undoubtedly Jem White must have been a thoroughly kind-hearted man, since he could give a dinner every year, on St. Bartholomew's day, to the little chimney-sweepers of London; waiting on them, and cheering them up with his jokes and lively talk; creating at least one happy day annually in each of their poor lives. At the date of the essay (May, 1822) he had died. In Lamb's words, "James White is extinct; and with him the suppers have long ceased. He carried away with him half the fun of the world when he died—of my world, at least. His old clients look for him among the pens; and, missing him, reproach the altered feast of St. Bartholomew, and the glory of Smithfield departed forever."
The great friend and Mentor, however, of Charles Lamb's youth, was (as has frequently been asserted) Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was a philosopher, and who was considered, almost universally, to be the greater genius of the two. It may be so; and there is little doubt that in mere capacity, in the power of accumulating and disbursing ideas, and in the extent and variety of his knowledge, he exceeded Lamb, and also most of his other contemporaries; but the mind of Lamb was quite as original, and more compact. The two friends were very dissimilar, the one wandering amongst lofty, ill-defined objects, whilst the other "clung to the realities of life." It is fortunately not necessary to enter into any comparative estimate of these two remarkable persons. Each had his positive qualities and peculiarities, by which he was distinguishable from other men; and by these he may therefore be separately and more safely judged.
In his mature age (when I knew him) Coleridge had a full, round face, a fine, broad forehead, rather thick lips, and strange, dreamy eyes, which were often lighted up by eagerness, but wanted concentration, and were adapted apparently for musing or speculation, rather than for precise or rapid judgment. Yet he was very shrewd, as well as eloquent; was (slightly) addicted to jesting; and would talk "at sight" upon any subject with extreme fluency and much knowledge. "His white hair," in Lamb's words, "shrouded a capacious brain."
Coleridge had browsed and expatiated over all the rich regions of literature, at home and abroad. In youth his studies had, in the first instance, been mainly in theology, he having selected the "Church" for his profession. Although he was educated in the creed and rites of the Church of England, he became for a time a Unitarian preacher, and scattered his eloquent words over many human audiences. He was fond of questions of logic, and of explaining his systems and opinions by means of diagrams; but his projects were seldom consummated; and his talk (sometimes) and his prose writing (often) were tedious and diffuse. His "Christabel," from which he derived much of his fame, remained, after a lapse of more than thirty years, incomplete at his death. He gained much reputation from the "Ancient Mariner" (which is perhaps his best poem); but his translation of Schiller's "Wallenstein" is the only achievement that shows him capable of a great prolonged effort. Lamb used to boast that he supplied one line to his friend in the fourth scene of that tragedy, where the description of the Pagan deities occurs. In speaking of Satan, he is figured as "an old man melancholy." "That was my line," Lamb would say, exultingly. I forget how it was originally written, except that it had not the extra (or eleventh) syllable, which it now possesses.
There is some beautiful writing in this fourth scene, which may be read after Mr. Wordsworth's equally beautiful reference to the Olympian gods and goddesses, in the fourth book of the "Excursion," entitled "Despondency Corrected." The last explains more completely than the other the attributes of the deities specially named.
The most elaborate (perhaps impartial) sketches of Coleridge—his great talents, combined with his great weaknesses—may be found in Hazlitt's Essays, "The Spirit of the Age" and "My First Acquaintance with Poets;" and in the eighth chapter of Mr. Carlyle's "Life of John Sterling."
In Lamb's letters it is easy to perceive that the writer soon became aware of the foibles of his friend. "Cultivate simplicity, Coleridge," is his admonition as early as 1796. In another place his remark is, "You have been straining your faculties to bring together things infinitely distant and unlike." Again, "I grieve from my very soul to observe you in your plans of life veering about from this hope to the other, and settling nowhere." Robert Southey, whose prose style was the perfection of neatness, and who was intimate with Coleridge throughout his life, laments that it is "extraordinary that he should write in so rambling and inconclusive a manner;" his mind, which was undoubtedly very pliable and subtle, "turning and winding, till you get weary of following his mazy movements."
Charles Lamb, however, always sincerely admired and loved his old schoolfellow, and grieved deeply when he died. The recollection of this event, which happened many years afterwards (in 1834), never left Lamb until his own death: he used perpetually to exclaim, "Coleridge is dead, Coleridge is dead," in a low, musing, meditative voice. These exclamations (addressed to no one) were, as Lamb was a most unaffected man, assuredly involuntary, and showed that he could not get rid of the melancholy truth.
At this distance of time, many persons (judging by what he has left behind him) wonder at the extent of admiration which possessed some of Coleridge's contemporaries: Charles Lamb accorded to his genius something scarcely short of absolute worship; Robert Southey considered his capacity as exceeding that of almost all other writers; and Leigh Hunt, speaking of Coleridge's personal appearance, says, "He had a mighty intellect put upon a sensual body." Persons who were intimate with both have suggested that even Wordsworth was indebted to him for some of his philosophy. As late as 1818, Lamb, when dedicating his works to him, says that Coleridge "first kindled in him, if not the power, the love, of poetry, and beauty, and kindness." He must be judged, however, by what he has actually done.
I am not here as the valuer of Coleridge's merits. I have no pretensions and no desire to assume so delicate an office. His dreams and intentions were undoubtedly good, and, had he been able to carry them out for the benefit of the world, would have entitled himself to the name of a great poet, a great genius. His readiness to discuss all subjects, and his ability to talk on most of them with ease, were marvellous. But he was always infirm of purpose, and never did justice to his own capacity.
Amongst other men of talent who have sung Coleridge's praises should be named Hazlitt, who knew him in 1798, and has enshrined him in the first of his charming papers, entitled "Winterslow Essays." Hazlitt admits his feebleness of purpose, but speaks of his genius, shining upon his own (then) dumb, inarticulate nature, as the sun "upon the puddles of the road." Coleridge at that time was a Unitarian minister, and had come to preach, instead of the minister for the time being, at Shrewsbury. Hazlitt rose before daylight (it was in January), and walked from Wem to Shrewsbury, a distance of ten miles, to hear the "celebrated" man, who combined the inspirations of poet and preacher in one person, enlighten a Shropshire congregation. "Never, the longest day I have to live" (says he), "shall I have such another walk as this cold, raw, comfortless one, in the winter of 1798. When I got there [to the Chapel], the organ was playing the one hundredth Psalm; and when it was done, Mr. Coleridge rose and gave out his text—'And he went up into the mountain to pray, HIMSELF ALONE.' The preacher then launched into his subject, like an eagle dallying with the wind," &c. Coleridge was at that time only five and twenty years of age; yet he seems even then to have been able to decide on many writers in logic and rhetoric, philosophy and poetry. Of course he was familiar with the works of his friend Wordsworth, of whom he cleverly observed, in reply to the depreciating opinion of Mackintosh, "He strides on so far before you, that he dwindles in the distance." 
It would be very interesting, were it practicable, to trace with certainty the sources that supplied Charles Lamb's inspiration. But this must always be impossible. For inspiration, in all cases, proceeds from many sources, although there may be one influence predominating. It is clear that a great Tragedy mainly determined his conduct through life, and operated, therefore, materially on his thoughts as well as actions. The terrible death of his mother concentrated and strengthened his mind, and prevented its dissipation into trifling and ignoble thoughts. The regularity of the India House labor upheld him. The extent and character of his acquaintance also helped to determine the quality of the things which he produced. Had he seen less, his mind might have become warped and rigid, as from want of space. Had he seen too much, his thoughts might have been split and exhausted upon too many points, and would thus have been so perplexed and harassed, that the value of his productions, now known and current through all classes, might scarcely have exceeded a negative quantity.
Then, in his companions he must be accounted fortunate. Coleridge helped to unloose his mind from too precise notions: Southey gave it consistency and correctness: Manning expanded his vision: Hazlitt gave him daring: perhaps even poor George Dyer, like some unrecognized virtue, may have kept alive and nourished the pity and tenderness which were originally sown within him. We must leave the difficulty, as we must leave the great problems of Nature, unexplained, and be content with what is self-evident before us. We know, at all events, that he had an open heart, and that the heart is a fountain which never fails.
The earliest productions of Lamb which have come down to us, namely, verses, and criticism, and letters, are all in a grave and thoughtful tone. The letters, at first, are on melancholy subjects, but afterwards stray into criticism or into details of his readings, or an account of his predilections for books and authors. At one or two and twenty, he had read and formed opinions on Shakespeare, on Beaumont and Fletchcr, on Massinger, Milton, Cowley, Isaac Walton, Burns, Collins, and others; some of these, be it observed, lying much out of the ordinary course of a young man's reading. He was also acquainted with the writings of Priestley and Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards; for the first of whom he entertained the deepest respect.
Lamb's verses were always good, steady, and firm, and void of those magniloquent commonplaces which so clearly betray the immature writer. They were at no time misty nor inconsequent, but contained proof that he had reasoned out his idea. From the age of twenty-one to the age of fifty- nine, when he died, he hated fine words and flourishes of rhetoric. His imagination (not very lofty, perhaps) is to be discovered less in his verse than in his prose humor, than in his letters and essays. In these it was never trivial, but was always knit together by good sense, or softened by tenderness. Real humor seldom makes its appearance in the first literary ventures of young writers. Accordingly, symptoms of humor (which, nevertheless, were not long delayed) are not to be discovered in Charles Lamb's first letters or poems; the latter, when prepared for publication in 1796, being especially grave. They are entitled "Poems by Charles Lamb of the India House," and are inscribed to "Mary Anne Lamb, the author's best friend and sister."
After some procrastination, the book containing them was published in 1797, conjointly with other verses by Coleridge and Charles Lloyd. "We came into our first battle" (Charles says in his dedication to Coleridge, in 1818) "under cover of the greater Ajax." In this volume Lloyd's verses took precedence of Lamb's, at Coleridge's suggestion. This suggestion, the reason of which is not very obvious, was very readily acceded to, Lamb having a sincere regard for Lloyd, who (with a fine reasoning mind) was subject to that sad mental disease which was common to both their families. Lamb has addressed some verses to Lloyd at this date, which indicate the great respect he felt towards his friend's intellect:—
"I'll think less meanly of myself, That Lloyd will sometimes think of me."
This joint volume was published without much success. In the same year Lamb and his sister paid a visit to Coleridge, then living at Stowey, in Somersetshire; after which Coleridge, for what purpose does not very clearly appear, migrated to Germany. This happened in the year 1798.
Charles Lloyd, one of the triumvirate of 1797, was the son of a banker at Birmingham. He was educated as a Quaker, but seceded from that body, and afterwards became "perplexed in mind," and very desponding. He often took up his residence in London, but did not mingle much with society. An extreme melancholy darkened his latter days; and, as I believe, he died insane. He published various poems, and translated, from the Italian into English blank verse, the tragedies of Alfieri. His poems are distinguished rather by a remarkable power of intellectual analysis than by the delicacy or fervor of the verse.
The last time I saw Charles Lloyd was in company with Hazlitt. We heard that he had taken lodgings at a working brazier's shop in Fetter Lane, and we visited him there, and found him in bed, much depressed, but very willing to discuss certain problems with Hazlitt, who carried on the greater part of the conversation. We understood that he had selected these noisy apartments in order that they might distract his mind from the fears and melancholy thoughts which at that time distressed him.
It was soon after the publication of the joint volume that Charles chronicles the different tastes of himself and his friend. "Burns," he says, "is the god of my idolatry, as Bowles of yours." Posterity has universally joined in the preference of Lamb. Burns, indeed, was always one of his greatest favorites. He admired and sometimes quoted a line or two from the last stanza of the "Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn," "The bridegroom may forget his bride," &c.; and I have more than once heard him repeat, in a fond, tender voice, when the subject of poets or poetry came under discussion, the following beautiful lines from the Epistle to Simpson of Ochiltree:
"The Muse, nae poet ever fand her, Till by himsel he learn'd to wander, Adown some trotting burn's meander An' no think't lang."
These he would press upon the attention of any one present (chanting them aloud), and would bring down the volume of Burns, and open it, in order that the page might be impressed on the hearer's memory. Sometimes—in a way scarcely discernible—he would kiss the volume; as he would also a book by Chapman or Sir Philip Sidney, or any other which he particularly valued. I have seen him read out a passage from the Holy Dying and the Urn Burial, and express in the same way his devotion and gratitude.
Lamb had been brought up a Unitarian; but he appears to have been occasionally fluctuating in a matter as to which boys are not apt to entertain very rigid opinions. At one time he longed to be with superior thinkers. "I am always longing to be with men more excellent than myself," are his words. At another time he writes, "I have had thoughts of turning Quaker lately." A visit, however, to one of the Quaker meetings in 1797, decides him against such conversion: "This cured me of Quakerism. I love it in the books of Penn and Woodman; but I detest the vanity of man, thinking he speaks by the Spirit." A similar story is told of Coleridge. Mr. Justice Coleridge's statement is, "He told us a humorous story of his enthusiastic fondness for Quakers when at Cambridge, and his attending one of their meetings, which had entirely cured him."
In 1797 Charles Lamb (who had been introduced to Southey by Coleridge two years previously) accompanied Lloyd to a little village near Christchurch, in Hampshire, where Southey was at that time reading. This little holiday (of a fortnight) seems to have converted the acquaintanceship between Southey and Lamb into something like intimacy. He then paid another visit (which he had long meditated) to Coleridge, who was residing at Stowey.
It must have been shortly after this first visit (for Lamb went again to Stowey, and met Wordsworth there in 1801) that Coleridge undertook the office of minister to a Unitarian congregation at Shrewsbury, and preached there, as detailed by Hazlitt in the manner already set forth. In 1798 he took his departure for Germany, and this led to a familiar correspondence between Lamb and Southey. The opening of Lamb's humor may probably be referred to this friendship with a congenial humorist, and one, like himself, taking a strong interest in worldly matters. Coleridge, between whom and Lamb there was not much similarity of feeling, beyond their common love for poetry and religious writings, was absent, and Lamb was enticed by the kindred spirit of Southey into the accessible regions of humor. These two friends never arrived at that close friendship which had been forming between Coleridge and Lamb ever since their school-days at Christ's Hospital. But they interchanged ideas on poetical and humorous topics, and did not perplex themselves with anything speculative or transcendental.
The first letter to Southey, which has been preserved (July, 1798), announces that Lamb is ready to enter into any jocose contest. It includes a list of queries to be defended by Coleridge at Leipsic or Gottingen; the first of which was, "Whether God loves a lying angel better than a true man?" Some of these queries, in all probability, had relation to Coleridge's own infirmities: at all events, they were sent over to him in reply to the benediction which he had thought proper to bequeath to Charles on leaving England. "Poor Lamb, if he wants any knowledge he may apply to me." I must believe that this message was jocose, otherwise it would have been insolent in the extreme degree. Coleridge's answers to the queries above adverted to are not known; I believe that the proffered knowledge was not afforded so readily as it was demanded.
It has been surmised that there was some interruption of the good feeling between Coleridge and Lamb about this period of their lives; but I cannot discern this in the letters that occurred between the two schoolfellows. The message of Coleridge, and the questions in reply, occur in 1798; and in May, 1800, there is a letter from Lamb to Coleridge, and subsequently two others, in the same year, all couched in the old customary, friendly tone. In addition to this, Charles Lamb, many years afterwards, said that there had been an uninterrupted friendship of fifty years between them. In one letter of Lamb's, indeed (17th March, 1800), it appears that his early notions of Coleridge being a "very good man" had been traversed by some doubts; but these "foolish impressions" were short-lived, and did not apparently form any check to the continuance of their life-long friendship.
It is clear that Lamb's judgment was at this time becoming independent. In one of his letters to Coleridge, when comparing his friend's merits with those of Southey, he says, "Southey has no pretensions to vie with you in the sublime of poetry, but he tells a plain story better." Even to Southey he is equally candid. Writing to him on the subject of a volume of poems which he had lately published, he remarks, "The Rose is the only insipid poem in the volume; it has neither thorns nor sweetness."
In 1798 or 1799, Lamb contributed to the Annual Anthology (which Mr. Cottle, a bookseller of Bristol, published), jointly with Coleridge and Southey. In 1800 he was introduced by Coleridge to Godwin. It is clear that Charles's intimacy with Coleridge, and Southey, and Lloyd, was not productive of unmitigated pleasure. For the "Antijacobin" made its appearance about this time, and denounced them all in a manner which in the present day would itself be denounced as infamous. Some of these gentlemen (Lamb's friends), in common with many others, augured at first favorably of the actors in the great French Revolution, and this had excited much displeasure in the Tory ranks. Accordingly they were represented as being guilty of blasphemy and slander, and as being adorers of a certain French revolutionist, named Lepaux, of whom Lamb, at all events, was entirely ignorant. They wore, moreover, the subject of a caricature by Gilray, in which Lamb and Lloyd were portrayed as toad and frog. I cannot think, with Sir T. Talfourd, that all these libels were excusable, on the ground of the "sportive wit" of the offending parties. Lamb's writings had no reference whatever to political subjects; they were, on the contrary, as the first writings of a young man generally are, serious,—even religious. Referring to Coleridge, it is stated that he "was dishonored at Cambridge for preaching Deism, and that he had since left his native country, and left his poor children fatherless, and his wife destitute:" ex his disce his friends Lamb and Southey. A scurrilous libel of this stamp would now be rejected by all persons of good feeling or good character. It would be spurned by a decent publication, or, if published, would be consigned to the justice of a jury.
The little story of Rosamond Gray was wrought out of the artist's brain in the year 1798, stimulated, as Lamb confesses, by the old ballad of "An old woman clothed in gray," which he had been reading. It is defective as a regular tale. It wants circumstance and probability, and is slenderly provided with character. There is, moreover, no construction in the narrative, and little or no progress in the events. Yet it is very daintily told. The mind of the author wells out in the purest streams. Having to deal with one foul incident, the tale is nevertheless without speck or blemish. A virgin nymph, born of a lily, could not have unfolded her thoughts more delicately. And, in spite of its improbability, Rosamond Gray is very pathetic. It touches the sensitive points in young hearts; and it was by no means without success—the author's first success. It sold much better than his poems, and added "a few pounds" to his slender income.
George Dyer, once a pupil in Christ's Hospital, possessing a good reputation as a classical scholar, and who had preceded Lamb in the school, about this time came into the circle of his familiars. Dyer was one of the simplest and most inoffensive men in the world: in his heart there existed nothing but what was altogether pure and unsophisticated. He seemed never to have outgrown the innocence of childhood; or rather he appeared to be without those germs or first principles of evil which sometimes begin to show themselves even in childhood itself. He was not only without any of the dark passions himself, but he would not perceive them in others. He looked only on the sunshine. Hazlitt, speaking of him in his "Conversation of Authors," says, "He lives amongst the old authors, if he does not enter much into their spirit. He handles the covers, and turns over the pages, and is familiar with the names and dates. He is busy and self-involved. He hangs like a film and cobweb upon letters, or is like the dust upon the outside of knowledge, which should not too rudely be brushed aside. He follows learning as its shadow, but as such he is respectable. He browses on the husks and leaves of books." And Lamb says, "The gods, by denying him the very faculty of discrimination, have effectually cut off every seed of envy in his bosom."
Dyer was very thin and short in person, and was extremely near-sighted; and his motions were often (apparently) spasmodic. His means of living were very scanty; he subsisted mainly by supervising the press, being employed for that purpose by booksellers when they were printing Greek or Latin books. He dwelt in Clifford's Inn, "like a dove in an asp's nest," as Charles Lamb wittily says; and he might often have been seen with a classical volume in his hand, and another in his pocket, walking slowly along Fleet Street or its neighborhood, unconscious of gazers, cogitating over some sentence, the correctness of which it was his duty to determine. You might meet him murmuring to himself in a low voice, and apparently tasting the flavor of the words.
Dyer's knowledge of the drama (which formed part of the subject of his first publication) may be guessed, by his having read Shakespeare, "an irregular genius," and having dipped into Rowe and Otway, but never having heard of any other writers in that class. In absence of mind, he probably exceeded every other living man. Lamb has set forth one instance (which I know to be a fact) of Dyer's forgetfulness, in his "Oxford in the Vacation;" and to this various others might be added, such as his emptying his snuff-box into the teapot when he was preparing breakfast for a hungry friend, &c. But it is scarcely worth while to chronicle minutely the harmless foibles of this inoffensive old man. If I had to write his epitaph, I should say that he was neither much respected nor at all hated; too good to dislike, too inactive to excite great affection; and that he was as simple as the daisy, which we think we admire, and daily tread under foot.
In 1799 Charles Lamb visited Cambridge, and there, through the introduction of Lloyd, made the important acquaintance of Mr. Thomas Manning, then a mathematical tutor in the university. This soon grew into a close intimacy. Charles readily perceived the intellectual value of Manning, and seems to have eagerly sought his friendship, which, he says, (December, 1799), will render the prospect of the approaching century very pleasant. "That century must needs commence auspiciously for me" (he adds), "that brings with it Manning's friendship as an earnest of its after gifts." At first sight it appears strange that there should be formed a close friendship between a youth, a beginner, or student in poetry (no more), and a professor of science at one of our great seats of learning. But these men had, I suppose, an intuitive perception of each other's excellences. And there sometimes lie behind the outer projections of character a thousand concealed shades which readily intermingle with those of other people. There were amongst Lamb's tender thoughts, and Manning's mathematical tendencies, certain neutral qualities which assimilated with each other, and which eventually served to cement that union between them which continued unshaken during the lives of both.
Lamb's correspondence assumed more character, and showed more critical quality, after the intimacy with Manning began. His acquaintance with Southey, in the first instance, had the effect of increasing the activity of his mind. Previously to that time, his letters had consisted chiefly of witticisms (clever indeed, but not of surpassing quality), religious thoughts, reminiscences, &c., for the most part unadorned and simple. Afterwards, especially after the Manning era, they exhibit far greater weight of meaning, more fecundity, original thoughts, and brilliant allusions; as if the imagination had begun to awaken and enrich the understanding. Manning's solid, scientific mind had, without doubt, the effect of arousing the sleeping vigor of Lamb's intellect.
A long correspondence took place between them. At first Lamb sent Manning his opinions only: "Opinion is a species of property that I am always desirous of sharing with my friends." Then he communicates the fact that George Dyer, "that good-natured poet, is now more than nine months gone with twin volumes of odes." Afterwards he tells him that he is reading Burnet's History of his own Times—"full of scandal, as all true history is."
On Manning quitting England for China (1806), the letters become less frequent; they continue, however, during his absence: one of them, surpassing the Elia essay, to "Distant Correspondents," is very remarkable; and when the Chinese traveller returned to London, he was very often a guest at Lamb's residence. I have repeatedly met him there. His countenance was that of an intelligent, steady, almost serious man. His journey to the Celestial Empire had not been unfruitful of good; his talk at all times being full of curious information, including much anecdote, and some (not common) speculations on men and things. When he returned, he brought with him a native of China, whom he took one evening to a ball in London, where the foreigner from Shanghai, or Pekin, inquired with much naivete as to the amount of money which his host had given to the dancers for their evening's performance, and was persuaded with difficulty that their exertions were entirely gratuitous.
Manning had a curious habit of bringing with him (in his waistcoat pocket) some pods of the red pepper, whenever he expected to partake of a meal. His original intention (as I understood) when he set out for China, was to frame and publish a Chinese and English dictionary; yet—although he brought over much material for the purpose—his purpose was never carried into effect. Lamb had great love and admiration for him. In a letter to Coleridge, in after years (1826), he says, "I am glad you esteem Manning; though you see but his husk or shrine. He discloses not, save to select worshippers, and will leave the world without any one hardly but me knowing how stupendous a creature he is."
During these years Lamb's correspondence with Coleridge, Wordsworth, Walter Wilson, and Manning (principally with Manning) goes on. It is sometimes critical, sometimes jocose. He discusses the merits of various authors, and more than once expresses his extreme distaste for didactic writing. Now, he says, it is too directly instructive. Then he complains that the knowledge, insignificant and vapid as it is, must come in the shape of knowledge. He could not obtain at Newberry's shop any of the old "classics of the Nursery," he says; whilst "Mrs. Barbauld's and Mrs. Trimmer's nonsense lay in piles about."
His own domestic affairs struggle on as usual; at one time calm and pleasant, at another time troubled and uncomfortable, owing to the frequent recurrence of his sister's malady. In general he bore these changes with fortitude; I do not observe more than one occasion on which (being then himself ill) his firmness seemed altogether to give way. In 1798, indeed, he had said, "I consider her perpetually on the brink of madness." But in May, 1800, his old servant Hetty having died, and Mary (sooner than usual) falling ill again, Charles was obliged to remove her to an asylum; and was left in the house alone with Hetty's dead body. "My heart is quite sick" (he cries), "and I don't know where to look for relief. My head is very bad. I almost wish that Mary were dead." This was the one solitary cry of anguish that he uttered during his long years of anxiety and suffering. At all other times he bowed his head in silence, uncomplaining.
Charles Lamb, with his sister, left Little Queen Street on or before 1800; in which year he seems to have migrated, first to Chapel Street, Pentonville; next to Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane; and finally to No. 16 Mitre Court Buildings, in the Temple, "a pistol shot off Baron Masere's;" and here he resided for about nine years.
It was during his stay at Pentonville that he "fell in love" with a young Quaker, called Hester Savory. As (he confesses) "I have never spoken to her during my life," it may be safely concluded that the attachment was essentially Platonic. This was the young girl who inspired those verses, now so widely known and admired. I remember them as being the first lines which I ever saw of Charles Lamb's writing. I remember and admire them still, for their natural, unaffected style; no pretence, no straining for images and fancies flying too high above the subject, but dealing with thoughts that were near his affections, in a fit and natural manner. The conclusion of the poem, composed and sent after her death (in February, 1803) to Manning, who was then in Paris, is very sad and tender:—
My sprightly neighbor, gone before To that unknown and silent shore, Shall we not meet, as heretofore, Some summer morning?
When from thy cheerful eyes a ray Hath struck a bliss upon the day, A bliss that will not go away, A sweet forewarning.
 The most convincing evidence of Coleridge's powers is to be found in his Table Talk. It appears from it that he was ready to discuss (almost) any subject, and that he was capable of talking ably upon most, and cleverly upon all.
(Migrations.)—"John Woodvil."—Blackesmoor.—Wordsworth.—Rickman.— Godwin.—Visit to the Lakes.—Morning Post.—Hazlitt.—Nelson.—Ode to Tobacco.—Dramatic Specimens, &c.—Inner Temple Lane.—Reflector.—Hogarth and Sir J. Reynolds.—Leigh Hunt.—Lamb, Hazlitt, and Hunt.—Russell Street and Theatrical Friends.
It is not always easy to fix Charles Lamb's doings (writings or migrations) to any precise date. The year may generally be ascertained; but the day or month is often a matter of surmise only. Even the dates of the letters are often derived from the postmarks, or are sometimes conjectured from circumstances.  Occasionally the labors of a drama or of lyric poems traverse several years, and are not to be referred to any one definite period. Thus "John Woodvil" (his tragedy) was begun in 1799, printed in 1800, and submitted to Mr. Kemble (then manager of Drury Lane Theatre) in the Christmas of that year, but was not published until 1801.
After this tragedy had been in Mr. Kemble's hands for about a year, Lamb naturally became urgent to hear his decision upon it. Upon applying for this he found that his play was—lost! This was at once acknowledged, and a "courteous request made for another copy, if I had one by me." Luckily, another copy existed. The "first runnings" of a genius were not, therefore, altogether lost, by having been cast, without a care, into the dusty limbo of the theatre. The other copy was at once supplied, and the play very speedily rejected. It was afterwards facetiously brought forward in one of the early numbers of the Edinburgh Review, and there noticed as a rude specimen of the earliest age of the drama, "older than AEschylus!"
Lamb met these accidents of fortune manfully, and did not abstain from exercising his own Shandean humor thereon. It must be confessed that "John Woodvil" is not a tragedy likely to bring much success to a playhouse. It is such a drama as a young poet, full of love for the Elizabethan writers, and without any knowledge of the requisitions of the stage, would be likely to produce. There is no plot; little probability in the story; which itself is not very scientifically developed. There are some pretty lines, especially some which have often been the subject of quotation; but there is not much merit in the characters of the drama, with the exception of the heroine, who is a heroine of the "purest water." Lamb's friend Southey, in writing to a correspondent, pronounces the following opinion: "Lamb is printing his play, which will please you by the exquisite beauty of its poetry, and provoke you by the exquisite silliness of its story."
In October, 1799, Lamb went to see the remains of the old house (Gilston) in Hertfordshire, where his grandmother once lived, and the "old church where the bones of my honored granddame lie." This visit was, in later years, recorded in the charming paper entitled "Blakesmoor in H——shire." He found that the house where he had spent his pleasant holidays, when a little boy, had been demolished; it was, in fact, taken down for the purpose of reconstruction; but out of the ruins he conjures up pleasant ghosts, whom he restores and brings before a younger generation. There are few of his papers in which the past years of his life are more delightfully revived. The house had been "reduced to an antiquity." But we go with him to the grass plat, were he used to read Cowley; to the tapestried bedrooms, where the mythological people of Ovid used to stand forth, half alive; even to "that haunted bedroom in which old Sarah Battle died," and into which he "used to creep in a passion of fear." These things are all touched with a delicate pen, mixed and incorporated with tender reflections; for, "The solitude of childhood" (as he says) "is not so much the mother of thought as the feeder of love." With him it was both.
Lamb became acquainted with Wordsworth when he visited Coleridge, in the summer of 1800. At that time his old schoolfellow lived at Stowey, and the greater poet was his neighbor. It is not satisfactorily shown in what manner the poetry of Wordsworth first attracted the notice of Charles Lamb, nor its first effect upon him. Perhaps the verse of Coleridge was not a bad stepping-stone to that elevation which enabled Charles to look into the interior of Wordsworth's mind. The two poets were not unlike in some respects, although Coleridge seldom (except perhaps in the "Ancient Mariner") ventured into the plain, downright phraseology of the other. It is very soon apparent, however, that Lamb was able to admit Wordsworth's great merits. In August, 1800 (just after the completion of his visit to Stowey), he writes, "I would pay five and forty thousand carriages" (parcel fares) "to read Wordsworth's tragedy. Pray give me an order on Longman for the 'Lyrical Ballads.'" And in October, 1800, the two authors must have been on familiar terms with each other; for in a letter addressed by Lamb to Wordsworth, "Dear Wordsworth," it appears that the latter had requested him to advance money for the purchase of books, to a considerable amount. This was at a time when Lamb was "not plethorically abounding in cash." The books required an outlay of eight pounds, and Lamb had not the sum then in his possession. "It is a scurvy thing" (he writes) "to cry, Give me the money first; and I am the first of the Lambs that has done this for many centuries." Shortly afterwards Lamb sent his play to Wordsworth, who (this was previous to 30 January, 1801) appears to have invited Charles to visit him in Cumberland. Our humorist did not accept this invitation, being doubtful whether he could "afford so desperate a journey," and being (he says) "not at all romance-bit about Nature;" the earth, and sea, and sky, being, "when all is said, but a house to live in."
It is not part of my task to adjust the claims of the various writers of verse in this country to their stations in the Temple of Fame. If Keats was by nature the most essentially a poet in the present century, there is little doubt that Wordsworth has left his impress more broadly and more permanently than any other of our later writers upon the literature of England. There are barren, unpeopled wastes in the "Excursion," and in some of the longer poems; but when his Genius stirs, we find ourselves in rich places which have no parallel in any book since the death of Milton. When his lyrical ballads first appeared, they encountered much opposition and some contempt. Readers had not for many years been accustomed to drink the waters of Helicon pure and undefiled; and Wordsworth (a prophet of the true faith) had to gird up his loins, march into the desert, and prepare for battle. He has, indeed, at last achieved a conquest; but a long course of time, although sure of eventual success, elapsed before he could boast of victory. The battle has been perilous. When the "Excursion" was published (in 1814), Lamb wrote a review of it for "The Quarterly Review." Whatever might have been the actual fitness of this performance, it seems to have been hacked to pieces; more than a third of the substance cut away; the warm expressions converted into cold ones; and (in Lamb's phrase) "the eyes pulled out and the bleeding sockets left." This mangling (or amendment, as I suppose it was considered) was the work of the late Mr. Gifford. Charles had a great admiration for Wordsworth. It was short of prostration, however. He states that the style of "Peter Bell" does not satisfy him; but "'Hartleap Well' is the tale for me," are his words in 1819.