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NEARLY twelve years have elapsed since the Letters of Charles Lamb, accompanied by such slight sketch of his Life as might link them together, and explain the circumstances to which they refer, were given to the world. In the Preface to that work, reference was made to letters yet remaining unpublished, and to a period when & more complete estimate might be formed of the singular and delightful character of the writer than was there presented. That period has arrived. Several of his friends who might possibly have felt a moment's pain at the publication of some of those effusions of kindness, in which they are sportively mentioned, have been removed by death; and the dismissal of the last, and to him the dearest of all, his sistėr, while it has brought to her the repose she sighed for ever since she lost him, has released his biographer from a difficulty which has hitherto prevented a due appreciation of some of his noblest qualities. Her most lamentable, but most innocent agency in the event which consigned her for life to his protection, forbade the introduction of any letter, or allusion to any incident, which might ever, in the long and dismal twilight of consciousness which she endured, shock her by the recurrence of long past and terrible sorrows; and the same consideration for her induced the suppression of every passage which referred to the malady with which she was through life at intervals afflicted. Although her death had removed the objection to a reference to her intermittent suffering, it still left a momentous question, whether even then, when no relative remained to be affected by the disclosure, it would be right to unveil the dreadful calamity which marked one of its earliest visitations, and which, though known to most of those who were intimate with the surviving sufferers, had never been publicly associated with their history. When, however, I reflected that the truth, while in no wise affecting the gentle excellence of one of them, casts new and solemn lights on the character of the other; that while his frailties have received an ample share of that indulgence which he extended to all human weaknesses, their chief exciting cause has been hidden ; that his moral strength and the extent of his self-sacrifice have been hitherto unknown to the world; I felt that to develope all which is essential to the just appreciation of his rare excellence, was due both to him and to the public. While I still hesitated as to the extent of disclosure needful for this purpose, my lingering doubts were removed by the appearance of a full statement of the melancholy event, with all the details capable of being collected from the
newspapers of the time, in the “ British Quarterly Review," and the diffusion of the passage, extracted thence, through several other journals. After this publication, no doubt could remain as to the propriety of publishing the letters of Lamb on this event, eminently exalting the characters of himself and his sister, and enabling the reader to judge of the sacrifice which followed it.
I have also availed myself of the opportunity of introducing some letters, the objection to publishing which has been obviated by the same great healer, Time; and of adding others which I deemed too trivial for the public eye, when the whole wealth of his letters lay before me, collected by Mr. Moxon from the distinguished correspondents of Lamb, who kindly responded to his request for permission to make the public sharers in their choice epistolary treasures. The appreciation which the letters already published, both in this country and in America-perhaps even more remarkable in America than in England—have attained, and the interest which the lightest fragments of Lamb's correspondence, which have accidentally appeared in other quarters, have excited, convince me that some letters which I withheld, as doubting their worthiness of the public eye, will not now be unwelcome. There is, indeed, scarcely a note-a notelet-(as he used to call his very little letters) Lamb ever .wrote, which has not some tinge of that quaint sweetness, some hint of that peculiar union of kindness and whim, which distinguish him from all other poets and humorists. I do not think the reader will complain that with some very slight exceptions, which personal considerations still render necessary-I have made him a partaker of all the epistolary treasures which the generosity of Lamb's correspondents placed at Mr. Moxon's disposal.
When I first considered the materials of this work, I purposed to combine them with a new edition of the former volumes ; but the consideration that such a course would be unjust to the possessors of those volumes induced me to present them to the public in a separate form. In accomplishing that object, I have felt the difficulty of connecting the letters so as to render their attendant circumstances intelligible, without falling into repetition of passages in the previous biography. My attempt has been to make these volumes subsidiary to the former, and yet complete in themselves ; but I fear its imperfection will require much indulgence from the reader. The italics and capitals used in printing the letters are always those of the writer; and the little passages sometimes prefixed to letters, have been printed as in the originals.
In venturing to introduce some notices of Lamb's deceased companions, I have been impelled partly by a desire to explain any allusion in the letters which might be misunderstood by those who are not familiar with the fine vagaries or Lamb's affection, and partly by the hope of giving some faint notion of the entire circle with which Lamb is associated in the recollection of a few survivors.
T. N. T.
LONDON, July, 1848.
FINAL MEMORIALS OF CHARLES LAMB.
LETTERS OF LAMB TO COLERIDGE, IN THE SPRING AND
SUMMER OP 1796.
the society of Coleridge, who had just left London-of Coleridge in the first bloom of
| life and genius, unshaded hy the mysticism In the year 1795, Charles Lamb resided which it afterwards glorified-full of boundwith his father, mother, and sister, in lodg- less ambition, love, and hope! There was a ings at No. 7, Little Queen-street, Holborn. tendency to insanity in his family, which had The father was rapidly sinking to dotage ; been more than once developed in his sister; the mother suffered under an infirmity which and it was no matter of surprise that in deprived her of the use of her limbs ; and the dreariness of his solitude it fell upon the sister not only undertook the office of him ; and that, at the close of the year, he daily and nightly attendance on her mother, was subjected for a few weeks to the rebut sought to add hy needle-work to their straint of the insane. The wonder is that, slender resources. Their income then con- amidst all the difficulties, the sorrows, and sisted of an annuity which Mr. Lamb the the excitements of his succeeding forty years, elder derived from the old Bencher, Mr. Salt, it never recurred. Perhaps the true cause whom he had faithfully served for many of this remarkable exemption-an exemption years ; Charles's salary, which, being that of the more remarkable when his afflictions a clerk of three years' standing in the India are considered in association with one single House, could have been but scanty; and a frailty—will be found in the sudden claim small payment made for board by an old made on his moral and intellectual nature maiden aunt, who resided with them. In by a terrible exigency, and by his generous this year Lamb, being just twenty years of answer to that claim ; so that a life of selfage, began to write verses--partly incited by sacrifice was rewarded by the preservation the example of his old friend, Coleridge, of unclouded reason. whom he regarded with as much reverence The following letter to Coleridge, then as affection, and partly inspired by an attach- residing at Bristol, which is undated, but ment to a young lady residing in the neigh- which is proved by circumstances to have bourhood of Islington, who is commemorated been written in the spring of 1796, and which in his early verses as “the fair-haired maid." is probably the earliest of Lamb's letters How his love prospered we cannot ascertain ; which have been preserved, contains his own but we know how nobly that love, and all account of this seizure. Allusion to the hope of the earthly blessings attendant on same event will be perceived in two letters such an-affection, were resigned on the catas- of the same year, after which no reference trophe which darkened the following year. to it appears in his correspondence, nor can In the meantime, his youth was lonely- any be remembered in his conversations rendered the more so by the recollection of with his dearest friends.
TO MR. COLERTDGE.
TO MY SISTER.
‘Original letters of Falstaff, Shallow,' &c., a copy you shall have when it comes out.
They are without exception the best imita“Dear C, make yourself perfectly easy tions I ever saw. Coleridge ! it may conabout May. I paid his bill when I sent your vince you of my regards for you when I tell clothes. I was flush of money, and am so still you my head ran on you in my madness, as to all the purposes of a single life ; so give much almost as on another person, who I am yourself no further concern about it. The inclined to think was the more immediate money would be superfluous to me if I had it. cause of my temporary frenzy.
“ When Southey becomes as modest as “The sonnet I send you has small merit his predecessor Milton, and publishes his as poetry; but you will be curious to read it Epics in duodecimo, I will 'read 'em ; a when I tell you it was written in my prisonguinea a book is somewhat exorbitant, house in one of my lucid intervals. nor have I the opportunity of borrowing the work. The extracts from it in the Monthly Reviews, and the short passages “ If from my lips some angry accents fell, in your Watchman, seem to me much Pcevish complaint, or harsh reproof unkind,
'Twas but the error of a sickly mind superior to anything in his partnership
And troubled thoughts, clouding the purer well, account with Lovell. Your poems I shall And waters clear, of Reason ; and for me
Let this my verse the poor atonement be procure forthwith. There were noble lines
My verse, which thou to praise wert e'er inclined in what you inserted in one of your
Too highly, and with partial eye to see
Thou to me didst ever show from ‘Religious Musings ;' but I thought
Kindest affection; and wouldst oft-times lend them elaborate. I am somewhat glad you An ear to the desponding love-sick lay, have given up that paper ; it must have been Weeping my sorrows with me, who repay
But ill the mighty debt of love I owe, dry, unprofitable, and of dissonant mood to
Mary, to thee, my sister and my friend. your disposition. I wish you success in all your undertakings, and am glad to hear you “ With these lines, and with that sister's are employed about the 'Evidences of Re- kindest remembrances to C, I conclude, ligion. There is need of multiplying such “ Yours sincerely,
LAMB." books a hundredfold in this philosophical age, to prevent converts to atheism, for they " Your. Conciones ad populum' are the seem too tough disputants to meddle with most eloquent politics that ever came in my afterwards.
way. “ Le Grice is gone to make puns in Corn “ Write when convenient-not as a task, wall. He has got a tutorship to a young boy for here is nothing in this letter to answer. living with his mother, a widow-lady. He “We cannot send our remembrances to will, of course, initiate him quickly in 'what- Mrs. C., not having seen her, but believe me soever things are lovely, honourable, and of our best good wishes attend you both. good report.' Coleridge ! I know not what “My civic and poetic complinients to suffering scenes you have gone through at Southey if at Bristol ; — why, be is a Bristol. My life has been somewhat diver- very Leviathan of Bards—the small minsified of late. The six weeks that finished last year and began this, your very humble servant spent very agreeably in a madhouse, at Hoxton. I am got somewhat rational In the spring of this year, Coleridge pronow, and don't bite any one. But mad I posed the association of those first efforts of was! And many a vagary my imagination the young clerk in the India House, which he played with me, enough to make a volume, if had prompted and praised, with his own, in all were told. My sonnets I have extended a new edition of his Poems, to which Mr. to the number of nine since I saw you, and Charles Lloyd also proposed to contribute. will some day communicate to you. I am The following letter comprises Sonnets transbeginning a poem in blank verse, which, if I mitted to Coleridge for this purpose, accomfinish, I publish. White is on the eve of panied by remarks so characteristic as to publishing (he took the hint from Vortigern) induce the hope that the reader will forgive
the introduction of these small gems of verse you, but have preserved a part of it, and it which were published in due course, for the runs thus. I fatter myself you will like it :sake of the original setting.
“ A timid grace site treinbling in her eye,
As loth to meet the rudeness of men's sight;
Yet shedding a delicious lunar light,
That steeps in kind oblivious ecstacy “I am in such violent pain with the head The care-crazed mind, like some still melody : ache, that I am fit for nothing but tran
Speaking most plain the thoughts which do possess
Her gentle sprite, peace and meek quietness, scribing, scarce for that. When I get your And innocent loves, and maiden purity : poems, and the 'Joan of Arc,'I will exercise A look whereof might heal the cruel smart
of changed friends; or Fortune's wrongs unkind; my presumption in giving you my opinion of
Might to sweet deeds of mercy move the heart 'em. The mail does not come in before to
Of him, who hates his brethren of mankind : morrow (Wednesday) morning. The fol Turned are those beams from me, who fondly yet
Past joys, vain loves, and buried hopes regret. lowing Sonnet was composed during a walk down into Hertfordshire early in last
“The next and last I value most of all.
'Twas composed close upon the heels of the “ The Lord of Light shakes off his drowsyhed. last, in that very wood I had in mind when
Fresh from his couch up springs the lusty sun,
I wrote — Methinks how dainty sweet.'
“ We were two pretty babes, the youngest she, I turn my back on thy detested walls,
The youngest, and the loveliest far, I ween, Proud city, and thy sons I leave behind
And Innocence her name. The time has been A selfish, sordid, money-getting kind,
We two did love each other's company ; Who shut their ears when holy Freedom calls.
Time was, we two had wept to have been apart : I pass not thee so lightly, humble spire, Taat mindest me of many a pleasure gone,
But when, with show of seeming good beguil'd,
I left the garb and manners of a child,
And my first love for man's society,
Defiling with the world my virgin heart
My loved companion dropt a tear, and ficd, To the green plains of pleasant Hertfordshire.
And hid in deepest shades her awful head.
Beloved ! who can tell me where thou art "The last line is a copy of Bowles's, 'To In what delicious Eden to be found the green hamlet in the peaceful plain.'
That I may seek thee the wide world around ! Your ears are not so very fastidious; many people would not like words so prosaic and
“Since writing it, I have found in a poem familiar in a Sonnet as Islington and Hert- by Hamilton of Bangor, these two lines to fordshire. The next was written within a ‘Happiness.' day or two of the last, on revisiting a spot Nun, sober and devout, where art thou fled where the scene was laid of iny first Sonnet
To hide in shades thy ineek contented head ? that mocked my step with many a lonely Lines eminently beautiful; but I do not reglade.'
member having read them previously, for the " When last I roved these winding wood-walks green, credit of my tenth and eleventh lines. Parnell
Green winding walks, and shady pathways sweet; Oft-times would Anna seck the silent scene,
has two lines (which probably suggested the Shrouding her beauties in the lone retreat. above) to 'Contentment.' No more I hear her footsteps in the shade; Her image only in these pleasant ways
Whither, ah! whither art thou fleå Meets me self-wandering, where in happier days
To hide thy meek contented + head ? I held free converse with my fair-haired maid.
I passed the little cottage which she loved, The cottage which did once my all contain;
“ Cowley's exquisite 'Elegy on the death It spake of days that ne'er must come again ; of his friend Harvey, suggested the phrase
Spake to my heart, and much my heart was moved. of we two.'
Was there a tree that did not know
The love betwixt us two? " The next retains a few lines from a Sonnet of mine which you once remarked
"So much for acknowledged plagiarisms, had no 'body of thought ’in it. I agree with • Cowley uses this pbrase with a somewhat different
meaning. I meant, loves of relatives, friends, &u.• "Drowsphed ” I have met with, I think, in Spenser. C. Lamb's Manuscripts. Tis an old thing, but it rhymes with led, and rhyming * An odd epithet for Contentment in a poet so poetical corers a multitude of licences.-C. Lamb's Manuscripts. as Parnell.-C. Lamb's Manuscripts.