Page images
PDF
EPUB

corner.

detail ;

in the play was gross—wheedling an old man In less than a fortnight I heard the principal into marriage. But the mortal blunder of part was given to Elliston, who liked it and the play was that which, oddly enough, H. only wanted a prologue, which I have since took pride in, and exultingly told me of the done and sent, and I had a note the day before night before it came out, that there were no yesterday from the manager, Wroughton less than eleven principal characters in it,' (bless his fat face-he is not a bad actor in and I believe he meant of the men only, for some things), to say that I should be the playbill exprest as much, not reckoning summoned to the rehearsal after the next, one woman—and true it was, for Mr. Powell, which next was to be yesterday. I had no Mr. Raymond, Mr. Bartlett, Mr. H. Siddons, idea it was so forward. I have had no Mr. Barrymore, &c. &c.,—to the number of trouble, attended no reading or rehearsal, eleven, had all parts equally prominent, and made no interest; what a contrast to the there was as much of them in quantity and usual parade of authors ! But it is peculiar rank as of the hero and heroine—and most to modesty to do all things without noise or of them gentlemen who seldom appear but pomp! I have some suspicion it will appear as the hero's friend in a farce—for a minute in public on Wednesday next, for W. says in or two-and here they all had their ten- his note, it is so forward that if wanted it minute speeches, and one of them gave the may come out next week, and a new meloaudience a serious account how he was now drame is announced for every day till then; a lawyer but had been a poet, and then a and a new farce is in rehearsal,' is put up long enumeration of the inconveniences of in the bills. Now you'd like to know the authorship), rascally booksellers, reviewers, subject. The title is 'Mr. H.,'no more ; how &c. ; which first set the audience a gaping; simple, now taking! A great H. sprawling but I have said enough. You will be so over the play-bill and attracting eyes at every sorry, that you will not think the best of me

The story is a coxcomb appearing for

my but news is news at Canton. at Bath, vastly rich—all the ladies dying for Poor H. I fear will feel the disappointment him--all bursting to know who he is—but very seriously in a pecuniary light. From he goes by no other name than Mr. H.-a what I can learn he has saved nothing. You curiosity like that of the dames of Strasburg and I were hoping one day that he had, but about the man with the great nose. But I I fear he has nothing but his pictures and won't tell you any more about it. Yes, I books, and a no very flourishing business, and will : but I can't give you an idea how I to be obliged to part with his long-necked have done it. I'll just tell you that after Guido that hangs opposite as you enter, and much vehement admiration, when his true the game-piece that hangs in the back draw- name comes out, ' Hogsflesh,' all the women ing-room, and all those Vandykes, &c. God shun him, avoid him, and not one can be should temper the wind to the shorn connois. found to change their name for him—that's seur. I hope I need not say to you, that I the idea-how flat it is here — but how feel for the weather-beaten author, and for whimsical in the farce ! and only think how all his household. I assure you his fate has hard upon me it is that the ship is despatched soured a good deal the pleasure I should to-morrow, and my triumph cannot be ascerhave otherwise taken in my own little farce tained till the Wednesday after-but all being accepted, and I hope about to be acted China will ring of it by and by. N.B. (But --it is in rehearsal actually, and I expect it this is a secret.) The Professor has got a to come out next week. It is kept a sort of tragedy coming out with the young

Roscius secret, and the rehearsals have gone on in it in January next, as we say-January privately, lest by many folks knowing it, the last it will be with you—and though it is a story should come out, which would infallibly profound secret now, as all his affairs are, it damn it. You remember I had sent it before cannot be much of one by the time you read you went. Wroughton read it, and was much this. However, don't let it go any further. pleased with it. I speedily got an answer. I understand there are dramatic exhibitions I took it to make alterations, and lazily kept in China. One would not like to be foreit some months, then took courage and stalled. Do you find in all this stuff I have furbished it up in a day or two and took it. written anything like those feelings which

IT

one should send my old adventuring friend, Wednesday, 10th December, 1806, was the
that is gone to wander among Tartars and wished-for evening which decided the fate of
may never come again? I don't—but your “Mr. H.” on the boards of Drury. Great
going away, and all about you, is a thread- curiosity was excited by the announcement ;
bare topic. I have worn it out with thinking the house was crowded to the ceiling ; and
-it has come to me when I have been dull the audience impatiently awaited the con-
with anything, till my sadness has seemed clusion of the long, dull, intolerable opera of
more to have come from it than to have “The Travellers,” by which it was preceded.
introduced it. I want you, you don't know At length, Mr. Elliston, the hero of the farce,
how much—but if I had you here in my entered, gaily dressed, and in happiest spirits,
European garret, we should but talk over -enough, but not too much, elated,—and
such stuff as I have written—so— Those delivered the prologue with great vivacity
* Tales from Shakspeare' are near coming and success. The farce began ; at first it was
out, and Mary has begun a new work. Mr. much applauded; but the wit seemed wire-
Dawe is turned author, he has been in such drawn; and when the curtain fell on the
a way lately—Dawe, the painter, I mean—he first act, the friends of the author began to
sits and stands about at Holcroft's and says fear. The second act dragged heavily on, as
nothing—then sighs and leans his head on his second acts of farces will do ; a rout at Bath,
hand. I took him to be in love—but it peopled with ill-dressed and over-dressed
seems he was only meditating a work,- actors and actresses, increased the disposition
‘The Life of Morland,'—the young man is to yawn; and when the moment of disclosure
not used to composition. Rickman and came, and nothing worse than the name
Captain Burney are well ; they assemble at Hogsflesh was heard, the audience resented
my house pretty regularly of a Wednesday the long play on their curiosity, and would
a new institution. Like other great men hear no more. Lamb, with his sister, sat, as
I have a public day, cribbage and pipes, with he anticipated, in the front of the pit, and
Phillips and noisy

having joined in encoring the epilogue, the
"Good Heaven ! what a bit only I've got brilliancy of which injured the farce, he
left! How shall I squeeze all I know into gave way with equal pliancy to the common
this morsel! Coleridge is come home, and is feeling, and hissed and hooted as loudly as
going to turn lecturer on taste at the Royal any of his neighbours. The next morning's
Institution. I shall get 2001. from the theatre play-bill contained a veracious announcement,
if 'Mr. H.' has a good run, and I hope 1001. that the new farce of Mr. H., performed for
for the copyright. Nothing if it fails ; and the first time last night, was received by an
there never was a more ticklish thing. The overflowing audience with universal applause,
whole depends on the manner in which the and will be repeated for the second time to-
vame is brought out, which I value myself morrow ; " but the stage lamps never that
on, as a chef-d'oeuvre. How the paper grows morrow saw! Elliston would have tried it
less and less! In less than two minutes I again : but Lamb saw at once that the case
shall cease to talk to you, and you may rave was hopeless, and consoled his friends with
to the great Wall of China. N.B. Is there a century of puns for the wreck of his
such a wall! Is it as big as Old London dramatic hopes.
Wall, by Bedlam ? Have you met with a
friend of mine, named Ball, at Canton ?--if
you are acquainted, remember me kindly to
him. N.B. If my little thing don't succeed,
I shall easily survive, having, as it were,

CHAPTER IX, compared to H.'s venture, but a sixteenth

[1807 to 1814.) in the lottery. Mary and I are to sit next the orchestra in the pit, next the tweedledees. She remembers you. You are more From this period, the letters of Lamb which to us than five hundred farces, clappings, have been preserved are comparatively few, &c.

with reference to the years through which “Come back one day.

C. LAMB." they are scattered. He began to write in

1

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

LETTERS TO MANNING, MONTAGUE, WORDSWORTH, AND

COLERIDGE,

earnest for the press, and the time thus Stoddart. Something about settlements only occupied was withdrawn from his correspon- retards it. Little Fenwick (you don't see the dents, while his thoughts and feelings were connexion of ideas here, how the devil should developed by a different excitement, and you ?) is in the rules of the Fleet. Cruel expressed in other forms. In the year 1807 creditors ! operation of iniquitous laws ; is the series of stories founded on the plays of Magna Charta then a mockery? Why, in Shakspeare, referred to in his last letter to general (here I suppose you to ask a question) Manning, was published; in which the my spirits are pretty good, but I have outlines of his plots are happily brought my depressions, black as a smith's beard, within the apprehension of children, and his Vulcanic, Stygian. At such times I have language preserved wherever it was possible recourse to a pipe, which is like not being at to retain it; a fit counterpoise to those works home to a dun; he comes again with tenfold addressed to the young understanding, to bitterness the next day.—(Mind, I am not in which Lamb still cherished the strong distaste debt, I only borrow a similitude from others; which broke out in one of his previous it shows imagination.) I have done two letters. Of these tales, King Lear, Macbeth, books since the failure of my farce ; they will Timon of Athens, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, both be out this summer. The one is a and Othello, are by Charles, and the others juvenile book— The Adventures of Ulysses,' by Mary Lamb; hers being, as Lamb always intended to be an introduction to the reading insisted, the most felicitolis, but all well of Telemachus ! it is done out of the adapted to infuse some sense of the nobleness Odyssey, not from the Greek. I would not of the poet's thoughts into the hearts of their mislead you: nor yet from Pope's Odyssey, little readers. Of two other works preparing but from an older translation of one Chapman. for the press, he thus speaks in a letter The 'Shakspeare Tales' suggested the doiug which bears date 26th February, 1808, it. Godwin is in both those cases my bookaddressed to Manning at Canton, in reply to seller. The other is done for Longman, and a letter received thence, in which Manning is ‘Specimens of English Dramatic Poets informed Lamb, that he had consigned a contemporary with Shakspeare.' Specimens parcel of silk to a Mr. Knox for him. are becoming fashionable. We have

'Specimens of Ancient English Poets'

'Specimens of Modern English Poets'“Dear Missionary,—Your letters from the Specimens of Ancient English Prose farthest ends of the world have arrived safe. Writers,' without end. They used to be Mary is very thankful for your remembrance called “Beauties.' You have seen • Beauties of her; and with the less suspicion of mer- of Shakspeare ?' so have many people cenariness, as the silk, the symbolum materiale that never saw any beauties in Shakspeare. of your friendship, has not yet appeared. I Longman is to print it, and be at all the think Horace says somewhere, nox longa. expense and risk, and I am to share the I would not impute negligence or unhand- profits after all deductions, i. e. a year or two some delays to a person whom you have hence I must pocket what they please to tell honoured with your confidence, but I have me is due to me. But the book is such as I not heard of the silk, or of Mr. Knox, save am glad there should be. It is done out of by your letter. Maybe he expects the first old plays at the Museum, and out of Dodsley's advances ! or it may be that he has not collection, &c. It is to have notes. So I go succeeded in getting the article on shore, for creeping on since I was lamed with that it is among the res prohibita et non nisi cursed fall from off the top of Drury-lane smuggle-ationis við fruendæ. But so it is, in Theatre into the pit, something more than a the friendships between wicked men, the very year ago. However, I have been free of the expressions of their good-will cannot but be house ever since, and the house was pretty sinful. I suppose you know my farce was free with me upon that occasion. Hang 'em damned. The noise still rings in my ears. how they hissed ! it was not a hiss neither, Was you ever in the pillory ?-being damned but a sort of a frantic yell, like a congregation is something like that. A treaty of marriage of mad geese, with roaring something like is on foot between William Hazlitt and Miss bears, mows and mops

like

apes, sometimes

TO MR. MANNING.

snakes, that hiss'd me into madness. 'Twas fell from the Doctor's mouth. White is at like St. Anthony's temptations. Mercy on Christ's Hospital, a wit of the first magnius, that God should give his favourite tude, but had rather be thought a gentleman, children, men, mouths to speak with, to like Congreve. You know Congreve's repulse discourse rationally, to promise smoothly, to which he gave to Voltaire, when he came to flatter agreeably, to encourage warmly, to visit him as a literary man, that he wished counsel wisely, to sing with, to drink with, to be considered only in the light of a private and to kiss with, and that they should turn gentleman. I think the impertinent Frenchthem into mouths of adders, bears, wolves, man was properly answered. I should just byenas, and whistle like tempests, and emit serve any member of the French institute in breath through them like distillations of the same manner, that wished to be introaspic poison, to asperse and vilify the innocent duced to me. Labours of their fellow-creatures who are “Does any one read at Canton ? Lord desirous to please them! Heaven be pleased Moira is President of the Westminster to make the teeth rot out of them all, there- Library. I suppose you might have interest fore! Make them a reproach, and all that with Sir Joseph Banks to get to be president pass by them to loll out their tongue at them! of any similar institution that should be set Blind mouths ! as Milton somewhere calls up at Canton. I think public reading-rooms them. Do you like Braham's singing ? The the best mode of educating young men. little Jew has bewitched me. I follow him Solitary reading is apt to give the headache. like as the boys follow Tom the Piper. I Besides, who knows that you do read ? There was insensible to music till he gave me a new

are ten thousand institutions similar to the sense. Oh that you could go to the new opera Royal Institution which have sprung up of Kais to-night! "Tis all about Eastern from it. There is the London Institution, manners; it would just suit you. It describes the Southwark Institution, the Russellthe wild Arabs, wandering Egyptians, lying square Rooms Institution, &c.College quasi dervises, and all that sort of people, to a hair. Con-lege, a place where people read together. You needn't ha' gone so far to see what you Wordsworth, the great poet, is coming to see, if you saw it as I do every night at Drury- town; he is to have apartments in the lane Theatre. Braham's singing, when it is Mansion-House. Well, my dear Manning, impassioned, is finer than Mrs. Siddons', or talking cannot be infinite; I have said all I Mír. Kemble's acting; and when it is not have to say ; the rest is but remembrances, impassioned, it is as good as hearing a person which we shall bear in our heads of you of fine sense talking. The brave little Jew! while we have heads. Here is a packet of I made a pun the other day, and palmed it trifles nothing worth ; but it is a trifling upon Holcroft, who grinned like a Cheshire part of the world where I live ; emptiness cat. (Why do cats grin in Cheshire ?— abounds. But in fulness of affection, we Because it was once a county palatine, and remain yours,

“C. L." the cats cannot help laughing whenever they think of it, though I see no great joke in it.)

The two books referred to in this letter I said that Holcroft said, being asked who were shortly after published. « The Advenwere the best dramatic writers of the day, tures of Ulysses” had some tinge of the "HOOK AND I.' Mr. Hook is author of quaintness of Chapman ; it gives the plot of several pieces, Tekeli, &c. You know what the earliest and one of the most charming of hooks and eyes are, don't you? Your letter romances, without spoiling its interest. The had many things in it hard to be understood: “Specimens of English Dramatic Poets who

the puns were ready and Swift-like; but lived about the time of Shakspeare,” were | don't you begin to be melancholy in the received with more favour than Lamb's

midst of Eastern customs! "The mind does previous works, though it was only by slow not easily conform to foreign usages, even in and imperceptible degrees that they won trifies: it requires something that it has their way to the apprehensions of the most been familiar with.' That begins one of influential minds, and wrought out the genial Dr. Hawkesworth’s papers in the Adventurer, purpose of the editor in renewing a taste for and is, I think, as sensible a remark as over the great contemporaries of Shakspeare,

“The Monthly Review” vouchsafed a notice* again! Perhaps the next fleet may bring in its large print, upon the whole favourable, you a letter from Martin Burney, to say that according to the existing fashion of criticism, he writes by desire of Miss Lamb, who is but still “ craftily qualified.” It will scarcely not well enough to write herself, to inform be credited, without reference to the article you that her brother died on Thursday last, itself, that on the notes the critic pronounces 14th June, &c. But I hope not. I should this judgment: “The notes before us indeed be sorry to give occasion to open a correshave nothing very remarkable, except the pondence betwen Martin and

you.

This style, which is formally abrupt and elabo- letter must be short, for I have driven it off rately quaint. Some of the most studied to the very moment of doing up the packets ; attempts to display excessive feeling we had and besides, that which I refer to above is a noted for animadversion, but the task is very long one ; and if you have received my unnecessary,” &c.

books, you will have enough to do to read It is easy to conceive of readers strongly them. While I think on it, let me tell you, dissenting from some of the passionate eulo- we are moved. Don't come any more to gies of these notes, and even taking offence Mitre-court Buildings. We are at 34, at the boldness of the allusions ; but that any Southampton Buildings, Chancery-lane, and one should read these essences of criticism, shall be here till about the end of May, then suggesting the profoundest thoughts, and we remove to No. 4, Inner Temple-lane, replete throughout with fine imagery, and where I mean to live and die ; for I have find in them "nothing remarkable,” is a such horror of moving, that I would not mystery which puzzles us. But when the take a benefice from the King, if I was not same critic speaks of the heroine of the indulged with non-residence. What a dis“Broken Heart” as "the light-heeled Ca- location of comfort is comprised in that word lantha,” it is easy to appreciate his fitness moving ! Such a heap of little nasty things, for sitting in judgment on the old English after you think all is got into the cart : old drama and the congenial expositor of its dredging-boxes, worn-out brushes, gallipots, grandeurs !

vials, things that it is impossible the most In this year Miss Lamb published her necessitous person can ever want, but which charming work, entitled “Mrs. Leicester's the women, who preside on these occasions, School,” to which Lamb contributed three of will not leave behind if it was to save your the tales. The best, however, are his sister's, soul; they'd keep the cart ten minutes to as he delighted to insist; and no tales more stow in dirty pipes and broken matches, to happily adapted to nurture all sweet and show their economy. Then you can find childlike feelings in children were ever nothing you want for many days after you written. Another joint-publication, “Poetry get into your new lodgings. You must comb for Children,” followed, which also is worthy your hair with your fingers, wash your hands of its title.

without soap, go about in dirty gaiters. Was Early in 1809, Lamb removed from Mitre- I Diogenes, I would not move out of a court Buildings to Southampton Buildings, kilderkin into a hogshead, though the first but only for a few months, and preparatory had had nothing but small beer in it, and to a settlement (which he meant to be final) the second reeked claret. Our place of final in the Temple. The next letter to Manning, destination,—I don't mean the grave, but (still in China,) of 28th March, 1809, is from No. 4, Inner Temple-lane,-looks out upon a Southampton Buildings.

gloomy churchyard-like court, called Harecourt, with three trees and a pump in it. Do you know it? I was born near it, and

used to drink at that pump when I was a “Dear Manning, -I sent you a long letter by the ships which sailed the beginning of

Rechabite of six years old. If you see newslast month, accompanied with books, &c. papers you will read about Mrs. Clarke. The Since I last wrote is dead. So there is

sensation in London about this nonsensical one of your friends whom you will never see

business is marvellous. I remember nothing

in my life like it. Thousands of ballads, April, 1809.

caricatures, lives of Mrs. Clarke, in every

TO MR. MANNING.

« PreviousContinue »