Elia and The Last Essays of Elia / Charles Lamb, by Charles Lamb

To the Shade of Elliston

Joyousest of once embodied spirits, whither at length hast thou flown? to what genial region are we permitted to conjecture that thou has flitted.

Art thou sowing thy WILD OATS yet (the harvest time was still to come with thee) upon casual sands of Avernus? or art thou enacting ROVER (as we would gladlier think) by wandering Elysian streams?

This mortal frame, while thou didst play thy brief antics amongst us, was in truth any thing but a prison to thee, as the vain Platonist dreams of this body to be no better than a county gaol, forsooth, or some house of durance vile, whereof the five senses are the fetters. Thou knewest better than to be in a hurry to cast off those gyves; and had notice to quit, I fear, before thou wert quite ready to abandon this fleshly tenement. It was thy Pleasure House, thy Palace of Dainty Devices; thy Louvre, or thy White Hall.

What new mysterious lodgings dost thou tenant now? or when may we expect thy aërial house-warming?

Tartarus we know, and we have read of the Blessed Shades; now cannot I intelligibly fancy thee in either.

Is it too much to hazard a conjecture, that (as the school-men admitted a receptacle apart for Patriarchs and unchrisom Babes) there may exist — not far perchance from that storehouse of all vanities, which Milton saw in visions — a LIMBO somewhere for PLAYERS? and that

Up thither like aërial vapours fly

Both all Stage things, and all that in Stage things

Built their fond hopes of glory, or lasting fame?

All the unaccomplish’d works of Authors’ hands,

Abortive, monstrous, or unkindly mix’d,

Damn’d upon earth, fleet thither —

Play, Opera, Farce, with all their trumpery —

There, by the neighbouring moon (by some not improperly supposed thy Regent Planet upon earth) mayst thou not still be acting thy managerial pranks, great disembodied Lessee? but Lessee still, and still a Manager.

In Green Rooms, impervious to mortal eye, the muse beholds thee wielding posthumous empire.

Thin ghosts of Figurantes (never plump on earth) circle thee in endlessly, and still their song is Fye on sinful Phantasy.

Magnificent were thy capriccios on this globe of earth, ROBERT WILLIAM ELLISTON! for as yet we know not thy new name in heaven.

It irks me to think, that, stript of thy regalities, thou shouldst ferry over, a poor forked shade, in crazy Stygian wherry. Methinks I hear the old boatman, paddling by the weedy wharf, with raucid voice, bawling “SCULLS, SCULLS:” to which, with waving hand, and majestic action, thou deignest no reply, other than in two curt monosyllables, “No: OARS.”

But the laws of Pluto’s kingdom know small difference between king, and cobbler; manager, and call-boy; and, if haply your dates of life were conterminant, you are quietly taking your passage, cheek by cheek (O ignoble levelling of Death) with the shade of some recently departed candle-snuffer.

But mercy! what strippings, what tearing off of histrionic robes, and private vanities! what denudations to the bone, before the surly Ferryman will admit you to set a foot within his battered lighter!

Crowns, sceptres; shield, sword, and truncheon; thy own coronation robes (for thou hast brought the whole property man’s wardrobe with thee, enough to sink a navy); the judge’s ermine; the coxcomb’s wig; the snuff-box à la Foppington— all must overboard, he positively swears — and that ancient mariner brooks no denial; for, since the tiresome monodrame of the old Thracian Harper, Charon, it is to be believed, hath shown small taste for theatricals.

Aye, now ’tis done. You are just boat weight; pura et puta anima.

But bless me, how little you look!

So shall we all look — kings, and keysars — stript for the last voyage.

But the murky rogue pushes off. Adieu, pleasant, and thrice pleasant shade! with my parting thanks for many a heavy hour of life lightened by thy harmless extravaganzas, public or domestic.

Rhadamanthus, who tries the lighter causes below, leaving to his two brethren the heavy calendars — honest Rhadamanth, always partial to players, weighing their parti-coloured existence here upon earth — making account of the few foibles, that may have shaded thy real life as we call it, (though, substantially, scarcely less a vapour than thy idlest vagaries upon the boards of Drury,) as but of so many echoes, natural repercussions, and results to be expected from the assumed extravagancies of thy secondary or mock life, nightly upon a stage — after a lenient castigation, with rods lighter than of those Medusean ringlets, but just enough to “whip the offending Adam out of thee”— shall courteously dismiss thee at the right hand gate — the O.P. side of Hades — that conducts to masques, and merry-makings, in the Theatre Royal of Proserpine.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lamb/charles/elia/book2.4.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38