Lamb took the name of Elia, which should, he said, be pronounced Ellia, from an old clerk, an Italian, at the South–Sea House in Lamb’s time: that is, in 1791–1792. Writing to John Taylor in July, 1821, just after he had taken over the magazine (see below), Lamb says, referring to the South–Sea House essay, “having a brother now there, and doubting how he might relish certain descriptions in it, I clapt down the name of Elia to it, which passed off pretty well, for Elia himself added the function of an author to that of a scrivener, like myself. I went the other day (not having seen him [Elia] for a year) to laugh over with him at my usurpation of his name, and found him, alas! no more than a name, for he died of consumption eleven months ago, and I knew not of it. So the name has fairly devolved to me, I think; and ’tis all he has left me.”
In the library at Welbeck is a copy of a pamphlet, in French, entitled Considérations sur l’état actuel de la France au mois de Juin 1815, par un Anglais, which was presented to the Duke of Portland by the author, F.A. Elia. This was probably Lamb’s Elia. The pamphlet is reprinted, together with other interesting matter remotely connected with Lamb, in Letters from the Originals at Welbeck Abbey, privately printed, 1909.
Elia. Essays which have appeared under that signature in the London Magazine, was published early in 1823. Lamb’s original intention was to furnish the book with a whimsical preface, as we learn from the following letter to John Taylor, dated December 7, 1822:—
“DEAR SIR— I should like the enclosed Dedication to be printed, unless you dislike it. I like it. It is in the olden style. But if you object to it, put forth the book as it is; only pray don’t let the printer mistake the word curt for curst.
“TO THE FRIENDLY AND JUDICIOUS READER, who will take these Papers, as they were meant; not understanding every thing perversely in its absolute and literal sense, but giving fair construction, as to an after-dinner conversation; allowing for the rashness and necessary incompleteness of first thoughts; and not remembering, for the purpose of an after taunt, words spoken peradventure after the fourth glass, the Author wishes (what he would will for himself) plenty of good friends to stand by him, good books to solace him, prosperous events to all his honest undertakings, and a candid interpretation to his most hasty words and actions. The other sort (and he hopes many of them will purchase his book too) he greets with the curt invitation of Timon, ‘Uncover, dogs, and lap:’ or he dismisses them with the confident security of the philosopher — ‘you beat but on the case of Elia.’
“On better consideration, pray omit that Dedication. The Essays want no Preface: they are all Preface. A Preface is nothing but a talk with the reader; and they do nothing else. Pray omit it.
“There will be a sort of Preface in the next Magazine, which may act as an advertisement, but not proper for the volume.
“Let ELIA come forth bare as he was born.
“N.B. —No Preface.”
The “sort of Preface in the next number” was the character sketch of the late Elia on page 171.
Elia did not reach a second edition in Lamb’s lifetime — that is to say, during a period of twelve years — although the editions into which it has passed between his death and the present day are legion. Why, considering the popularity of the essays as they appeared in the London Magazine, the book should have found so few purchasers is a problem difficult of solution. Lamb himself seems to have attributed some of the cause to Southey’s objection, in the Quarterly Review, that Elia “wanted a sounder religious feeling;” but more probably the book was too dear: it was published at 9s. 6d.
Ordinary reviewers do not seem to have perceived at all that a rare humorist, humanist and master of prose had arisen, although among the finer intellects who had any inclination to search for excellence for excellence’s sake Lamb made his way. William Hazlitt, for example, drew attention to the rich quality of Elia; as also did Leigh Hunt; and William Hone, who cannot, however, as a critic be mentioned with these, was tireless in advocating the book. Among strangers to Lamb who from the first extolled his genius was Miss Mitford. But Elia did not sell.
Ten years passed before Lamb collected his essays again, and then in 1833 was published The Last Essays of Elia, with Edward Moxon’s imprint. The mass of minor essays in the London Magazine and elsewhere, which Lamb disregarded when he compiled his two collections, will be found in Vol. I. of the present edition. The Last Essays of Elia had little, if any, better reception than the first; and Lamb had the mortification of being asked by the Norris family to suppress the exquisite and kindly little memoir of Randal Norris, entitled “A Death–Bed” (see page 279), which was held to be too personal. When, in 1835, after Lamb’s death, a new edition of Elia and The Last Essays of Elia was issued, the “Confessions of a Drunkard” took its place (see Vol. I.).
Meanwhile a Philadelphian firm had been beforehand with Lamb, and had issued in 1828 a second series of Elia. The American edition of Elia had been the same as the English except for a slightly different arrangement of the essays. But when in 1828 the American second series was issued, it was found to contain three pieces not by Lamb at all. A trick of writing superficially like Lamb had been growing in the London Magazine ever since the beginning; hence the confusion of the American editor. The three articles not by Lamb, as he pointed out to N.P. Willis (see Pencillings by the Way), are “Twelfth Night,” “The Nuns and Ale of Caverswell,” and “Valentine’s Day.” Of these Allan Cunningham wrote the second, and B.W. Procter (Barry Cornwall) the other two. The volume contained only eleven essays which Lamb himself selected for The Last Essays of Elia: it was eked out with the three spurious pieces above referred to, with several pieces never collected by Lamb, and with four of the humorous articles in the Works, 1818. Bernard Barton’s sonnet “To Elia” stood as introduction. Altogether it was a very interesting book, as books lacking authority often are.
In the notes that follow reference is often made to Lamb’s Key. This is a paper explaining certain initials and blanks in Elia, which Lamb drew up for R.B. Pitman, a fellow clerk at the East India House. I give it here in full, merely remarking that the first numerals refer to the pages of the original edition of Elia and those in brackets to the present volume:—
|M.||Page||13||(7)||Maynard, hang’d himself.|
|G.D.||“||21||(11)||George Dyer, Poet.|
|Dr. T----e||“||46||(24)||Dr. Trollope.|
|S.||“||47||(24)||Scott, died in Bedlam.|
|M.||“||47||(24)||Maunde, dismiss’d school.|
|C.V. le G.||“||48||(25)||Chs. Valentine le Grice.|
|F.||“||49||(25)||Favell; left Camb’rg because he was asham’d of his father, who was a house-painter there.|
|Fr.||“||50||(26)||Franklin, Gramr. Mast., Hertford.|
|K.||“||59||(30)||Kenney, Dramatist. Author of Raising Wind, &c.|
|S.T.C.||“||60||(31)||Samuel Taylor Coleridge. [Not in Lamb’s autograph.]|
|Alice W----n||“||63||(32)||Feigned (Winterton).|
|Mrs. S.||“||87||(44)||Mrs. Spinkes.|
|R..||“||98||(50)||Ramsay, London Library, Ludg. St.; now extinct.|
|Granville S.||“||98||(50)||Granville Sharp. [Not in Lamb’s autograph.]|
|E.B.||“||130||(65)||Edward Burney, half-brother of Miss Burney.|
|B.||“||141||(71)||Braham, now a Xtian.|
|Susan P.||“||198||(99)||Susan Peirson.|
|R.N.||“||206||(103)||Randal Norris, Subtreasr, Inner Temple.|
|B.F.||“||238||(118)||Baron Field, brother of Frank.|
|Lord C.||“||243||(121)||Lord Camelford.|
|Sally W----r||“||248||(123)||Sally Winter.|
|J.W.||“||248||(123)||Jas. White, author of Falstaff’s Letters.|
|St. L.||“||268||(133)||No meaning.|
|B., Rector of ——||“||268||(133)||No meaning.|
The London Magazine, with John Scott (1783–1821) as its editor was founded in 1820 by Baldwin, Cradock & Joy. Its first number was dated January, 1820, and Lamb’s first contribution was in the number for August, 1820. Lamb had known Scott as editor of The Champion in 1814, but, according to Talfourd, it was Hazlitt who introduced Lamb to the London Magazine.
John Scott, who was the author of two interesting books of travel, A Visit to Paris in 1814 and Paris Re-visited in 1815, was an admirable editor, and all was going exceedingly well until he plunged into a feud with Blackwood’s Magazine in general, and John Gibson Lockhart in particular, the story of which in full may be read in Mr. Lang’s Life and Letters of Lockhart, 1896. In the duel which resulted Scott was shot above the hip. The wound was at first thought lightly of, but Scott died on February 27, 1821 — an able man much regretted.
The magazine did not at first show signs of Scott’s loss; it continued to bear the imprint of its original publishers and its quality remained very high. With Lamb and Hazlitt writing regularly this could hardly be otherwise. But four months after the death of Scott and eighteen months after its establishment the London Magazine passed into the hands of the publishers Taylor & Hessey, the first number with their imprint being dated August, 1821. Although for a while no diminution of merit was perceptible and rather an access of gaiety — for Taylor brought Hood with him and John Hamilton Reynolds — yet the high editorial standards of Scott ceased to be applied. Thenceforward the decline of the magazine was steady.
John Taylor (1781–1864), senior partner in the firm of Taylor & Hessey, was known as the identifier of Sir Philip Francis with the author of “Junius,” on which subject he had issued three books. Although unfitted for the post, he acted as editor of the London Magazine until it was again sold in 1825.
With the beginning of 1825 Taylor made a change in the magazine. He started a new series, and increased the size and the price. But the experiment did not answer; the spirit had evaporated; and in the autumn he sold it to Henry Southern (1799–1853), who had founded the Retrospective Review in 1820. The last number of the London Magazine to bear Taylor & Hessey’s name, and (in my opinion) to contain anything by Lamb, was August, 1825. We have no definite information on the matter, but there is every indication in Lamb’s Letters that Taylor was penurious and not clever in his relations with contributors. Scott Lamb seems to have admired and liked; but even in Scott’s day payment does not seem to have been prompt. Lamb was paid, according to Barry Cornwall, two or three times the amount of other writers, who received for prose a pound a page. But Lamb himself says that the rate for him was twenty guineas a sheet, a sheet being sixteen pages; and he told Moore that he had received £170 for two years’ Elia. In a letter to Barton in January, 1823, Lamb remarks: “B—— [Baldwin] who first engaged me as ‘Elia’ has not paid me up yet (nor any of us without repeated mortifying appeals).”
The following references to the London in Lamb’s letters to Barton tell the story of its decadence quite clearly enough. In May, 1823:—“I cannot but think the London drags heavily. I miss Janus [Wainewright]. And O how it misses Hazlitt — Procter, too, is affronted (as Janus has been) with their abominable curtailment of his things.”
Again, a little later, in September:—“The ‘London’ I fear falls off. — I linger among its creaking rafters, like the last rat. It will topple down, if they don’t get some Buttresses. They have pulled down three, W. Hazlitt, Procter, and their best stay, kind light-hearted Wainwright, their Janus.”
In January, 1824, at the beginning of his eight months’ silence:—“The London must do without me for a time, a time, and half a time, for I have lost all interest about it.”
Again, in December, 1824:—“Taylor & Hessey finding their magazine goes off very heavily at 2s. 6d., are prudently going to raise their price another shilling; and having already more authors than they want, intend to increase the number of them. If they set up against the New Monthly, they must change their present hands. It is not tying the dead carcase of a Review to a half-dead Magazine will do their business.”
In January, 1825 (to Sarah Hutchinson):—“You ask about the editor of the Lond. I know of none. This first specimen [of a new series] is flat and pert enough to justify subscribers, who grudge at t’other shilling.”
Next month Lamb writes, again to Barton:—“Our second Number [of the new series] is all trash. What are T. & H. about? It is whip syllabub, ‘thin sown with aught of profit or delight’. Thin sown! not a germ of fruit or corn. Why did poor Scott die! There was comfort in writing with such associates as were his little band of scribblers, some gone away, some affronted away, and I am left as the solitary widow [in one of Barton’s poems] looking for watercresses.”
Finally, in August, 1825:—“Taylor has dropt the ‘London’. It was indeed a dead weight. It was Job in the Slough of Despond. I shuffle off my part of the pack, and stand like Christian with light and merry shoulders.”
In addition to Lamb and Hazlitt the London Magazine had more or less regular contributions, in its best days, from De Quincey, Allan Cunningham (Nalla), T.G. Wainewright, afterwards the poisoner, but in those days an amusing weaver of gay artificial prose, John Clare, Bernard Barton, H.F. Cary, Richard Ayton, George Darley, Thomas Hood, John Hamilton Reynolds, Sir John Bowring, John Poole, B.W. Procter; while among occasional writers for it were Thomas Carlyle, Landor and Julius Hare.
The essay, “Stage Illusion,” in the number for August, 1825, was, I believe, the last that Lamb contributed. (In this connection see Mr. Bertram Dobell’s Sidelights on Charles Lamb, 1903.) Lamb then passed over to Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine, where the “Popular Fallacies” appeared, together with certain other of his later essays. His last contribution to that magazine was dated September, 1826. In 1827 he was chiefly occupied in selecting Garrick play extracts for Hone’s Table Book, at the British Museum, and for a while after that he seems to have been more interested in writing acrostics and album verses than prose. In 1831, however, Moxon’s Englishman’s Magazine offered harbourage for anything Lamb cared to give it, and a brief revival of Elia (under the name of Peter) resulted. With its death in October, 1831, Lamb’s writing career practically ceased.
Page 1. THE SOUTH-SEA HOUSE.
London Magazine, August, 1820.
Although the “Bachelor’s Complaint of the Behaviour of Married People,” “Valentine’s Day,” and “On the Acting of Munden,” were all written before this essay, it is none the less the first of the essays of Elia. I have remarked, in the notes to a small edition of Elia, that it is probably unique in literature for an author to find himself, as Lamb did, in his forty-fourth year, by recording impressions gathered in his seventeenth; but I think now that Lamb probably visited his brother at the South–Sea House from time to time in later years, and gathered other impressions then. I am led to this conclusion partly by the fact that Thomas Tame was not appointed Deputy–Accountant until four or five years after Lamb had left.
We do not know exactly what Lamb’s duties were at the South–Sea House or how long he was there: probably only for the twenty-three weeks — from September, 1791 — mentioned in the receipt below, discovered by Mr. J.A. Rutter in a little exhibition of documents illustrative of the South Sea Bubble in the Albert Museum at Exeter:—
Rec’d 8th feby 1792 of the Honble South Sea Company by the hands of their Secretary Twelve pounds 1s. 6d. for 23 weeks attendance in the Examiners Office.
£12 1 6. CHAS. LAMB.
This shows that Lamb’s salary was half a guinea weekly, paid half-yearly. His brother John was already in the service of the Company, where he remained till his death, rising to Accountant. It has been conjectured that it was through his influence that Charles was admitted, with the view of picking up book-keeping; but the real patron and introducer was Joseph Pake, one of the directors, whom we meet on page 92. Whether Lamb had ideas of remaining, or whether he merely filled a temporary gap in the Examiners’ Office, we cannot tell. He passed to the East India House in the spring of 1792.
The South Sea Company was incorporated in 1710. The year of the Bubble was 1720. The South–Sea House, remodelled, is now a congeries of offices.
Page 2, line 11. Forty years ago. To be accurate, twenty-eight to thirty.
Page 3, line 1. Accounts . . . puzzle me. Here Elia begins his “matter-of-lie” career. Lamb was at this time in the Accountants’ Office of the India House, living among figures all day.
Page 3, line 7 from foot. Evans. William Evans. The Directories of those days printed lists of the chief officials in some of the public offices, and it is possible to trace the careers of the clerks whom Lamb names. All are genuine. Evans, whose name is given one year as Evan Evans, was appointed cashier (or deputy-cashier) in 1792.
Page 4, line 4. Ready to imagine himself one. Lamb was fond of this conceit. See his little essay “The Last Peach” (Vol. I.), and the mischievous letter to Bernard Barton, after Fauntleroy’s trial, warning him against peculation.
Page 4, line 7. Anderton’s. Either the coffee-shop in Fleet Street, now Anderton’s Hotel, or a city offshoot of it. The portrait, if it ever was in existence, is no longer known there.
Page 5, line 17. John Tipp. John Lamb succeeded Tipp as Accountant somewhen about 1806.
Page 5, line 27. I know not, etc. This parenthesis was not in the London Magazine, but the following footnote was appended to the sentence:—
“I have since been informed, that the present tenant of them is a Mr. Lamb, a gentleman who is happy in the possession of some choice pictures, and among them a rare portrait of Milton, which I mean to do myself the pleasure of going to see, and at the same time to refresh my memory with the sight of old scenes. Mr. Lamb has the character of a right courteous and communicative collector.”
Mr. Lamb was, of course, John Lamb, or James Elia (see the essay “My Relations”), then (in 1820) Accountant of the South–Sea House. He left the Milton to his brother. It is now in America.
Page 6, line 5 from foot. Henry Man. This was Henry Man (1747–1790), deputy-secretary of the South–Sea House from 1776, and an author of light trifles in the papers, and of one or two books. The Miscellaneous Works in Verse and Prose of the late Henry Man was published in 1802, among the subscribers being three of the officials named in this essay — John Evans, R. Plumer, and Mr. Tipp, and also Thomas Maynard, who, though assigned to the Stock Exchange, is probably the “childlike, pastoral M——” of a later paragraph. Small politics are for the most part kept out of Man’s volumes, which are high-spirited rather than witty, but this punning epigram (of which Lamb was an admirer) on Lord Spencer and Lord Sandwich may be quoted:—
Two Lords whose names if I should quote,
Some folks might call me sinner:
The one invented half a coat,
The other half a dinner.
Such lords as these are useful men,
Heaven sends them to console one;
Because there’s now not one in ten,
That can procure a whole one.
Page 7, line 13. Plumer. Richard Plumer (spelled Plomer in the directories), deputy-secretary after Man. Lamb was peculiarly interested in the Plumers from the fact that his grandmother, Mrs. Field, had been housekeeper of their mansion at Blakesware, near Ware (see notes to “Dream–Children” and “Blakesmoor in H—— shire”). The fine old Whig was William Plumer, who had been her employer, and was now living at Gilston. He died in 1821.
The following passage from the memoir of Edward Cave (1691–1754), which Dr. Johnson wrote for the Gentleman’s Magazine (which Cave established) in 1754, shows that Lamb was mistaken about Plumer:—
He [Cave] was afterwards raised to the office of clerk of the franks, in which he acted with great spirit and firmness; and often stopped franks which were given by members of parliament to their friends; because he thought such extension of a peculiar right illegal. This raised many complaints, and having stopped, among others, a frank given to the old dutchess of Marlborough by Mr. Walter Plummer, he was cited before the house, as for breach of privilege, and accused, I suppose very unjustly, of opening letters to detect them. He was treated with great harshness and severity, but declining their questions by pleading his oath of secrecy, was at last dismissed. And it must be recorded to his honour, that when he was ejected from his office, he did not think himself discharged from his trust, but continued to refuse to his nearest friends any information about the management of the office.
I borrow from Canon Ainger an interesting note on Walter Plumer, written in the eighteen-eighties, showing that Lamb was mistaken on other matters too:—
The present Mr. Plumer, of Allerton, Totness, a grandson of Richard Plumer of the South–Sea House, by no means acquiesces in the tradition here recorded as to his grandfather’s origin. He believes that though the links are missing, Richard Plumer was descended in regular line from the Baronet, Sir Walter Plumer, who died at the end of the seventeenth century. Lamb’s memory has failed him here in one respect. The “Bachelor Uncle,” Walter Plumer, uncle of William Plumer of Blakesware, was most certainly not a bachelor (see the pedigree of the family in Cussans’ Hertfordshire).
Page 7, line 10 from foot. M——. According to the Key to the initials and blanks in some of the essays, which Lamb filled in for a curious correspondent, M—— stood for one Maynard. “Maynard, hang’d himself” is Lamb’s entry. He was chief clerk in the Old Annuities and Three Per Cents, 1788–1793.
Page 8. OXFORD IN THE VACATION.
London Magazine, October, 1820, where it is dated at the end, “August 5, 1820. From my rooms facing the Bodleian.” My own belief is that Lamb wrote the essay at Cambridge, under the influence of Cambridge, where he spent a few weeks in the summers of 1819 and 1820, and transferred the scene to Oxford by way of mystification. He knew Oxford, of course, but he had not been there for some years, and it was at Cambridge that he met Dyer and saw the Milton MSS.
Concerning a visit to Oxford (in 1810), Hazlitt had written, in his Table Talk essay “On the Conversation of Authors,” in the preceding (the September) number of the London Magazine:—
L—— [that is, Lamb] once came down into the country to see us. He was “like the most capricious poet Ovid among the Goths.” The country people thought him an oddity, and did not understand his jokes. It would be strange if they had; for he did not make any while he staid. But when we crossed the country to Oxford, then he spoke a little. He and the old colleges were hail-fellow well-met; and in the quadrangles, he “walked gowned.”
The quotation is a reference to Lamb’s sonnet, “I was not Trained in Academic Bowers,” written at Cambridge in 1819:—
Yet can I fancy, wandering ‘mid thy towers,
Myself a nursling, Granta, of thy lap;
My brow seems tightening with the Doctor’s cap,
And I walk gownèd.
Page 8, line 6 from foot. Agnize. Lamb was fond of this word. I have seen it stated ingeniously that it was of his own coinage — from agnus, a lamb — but the derivation is ad gnoscere, to acknowledge, to recognise, and the word is to be found in other places — in “Othello,” for example (Act I., Scene 3, line 232):—
I do agnise
A natural and prompt alacrity.
Page 9, middle. Red-letter days. See note on page 351. The holidays at the India House, which are given in the London directories of Lamb’s early time there, make a considerable list. But in 1820 the Accountants’ Office, where Lamb was, kept only five days in the year.
Page 10, line 11. I can here . . . enact the student. Lamb had distilled the matter of this paragraph into his sonnet, “I was not Trained in Academic Bowers,” written at Cambridge in August of the preceding year (see above and Vol. IV.).
Page 11, line 12 from foot. Unsettle my faith. At this point, in the London Magazine, Lamb appended the footnote:—
“There is something to me repugnant, at any time, in written hand. The text never seems determinate. Print settles it. I had thought of the Lycidas as of a full-grown beauty — as springing up with all its parts absolute — till, in evil hour, I was shown the original written copy of it, together with the other minor poems of its author, in the Library of Trinity, kept like some treasure to be proud of. I wish they had thrown them in the Cam, or sent them, after the latter cantos of Spenser, into the Irish Channel. How it staggered me to see the fine things in their ore! interlined, corrected! as if their words were mortal, alterable, displaceable at pleasure! as if they might have been otherwise, and just as good! as if inspirations were made up of parts, and those fluctuating, successive, indifferent! I will never go into the work-shop of any great artist again, nor desire a sight of his picture, till it is fairly off the easel; no, not if Raphael were to be alive again, and painting another Galatea.”
In the Appendix to Vol. I., page 428, I have printed a passage from the original MS. of Comus, which there is reason to believe was contributed to the London Magazine by Lamb.
Page 11, line 9 from foot. G.D. George Dyer (1755–1841), Lamb’s friend for many years. This is the first mention of him in the essays; but we shall meet him again, particularly in “Amicus Redivivus.” George Dyer was educated at Christ’s Hospital long before Lamb’s time there, and, becoming a Grecian, had entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He became at first an usher in Essex, then a private tutor to the children of Robert Robinson, the Unitarian, whose life he afterwards excellently wrote, then an usher again, at Northampton, one of his colleagues being John Clarke, father of Lamb’s friend, Charles Cowden Clarke. In 1792 he settled in Clifford’s Inn as a hack; wrote poems, made indexes, examined libraries for a great bibliographical work (never published), and contributed “all that was original” to Valpy’s classics in 141 volumes. Under this work his sight gave way; and he once showed Hazlitt two fingers the use of which he had lost in copying out MSS. of Procrus and Plotinus in a fine Greek hand. Fortunately a good woman took him under her wing; they were married in 1825; and Dyer’s last days were happy. His best books were his Life of Robert Robinson and his History of the University and Colleges of Cambridge. Lamb and his friends laughed at him and loved him. In addition to the stories told by Lamb in his letters and essays, there are amusing characteristics of Dyer in Crabb Robinson’s diary, in Leigh Hunt, in Hazlitt, in Talfourd, and in other places. All bear upon his gentleness, his untidiness and his want of humour. One of the most famous stories tells of Dyer’s criticism of Williams, the terrible Ratcliffe Highway murderer. Dyer, who would never say an ill word of any one, was asked his opinion of this cold-blooded assassin of two families. “He must,” he replied after due thought, “be rather an eccentric character.”
Page 12, line 10. Injustice to him. In the London Magazine the following footnote came here, almost certainly by Lamb:—
“Violence or injustice certainly none, Mr. Elia. But you will acknowledge that the charming unsuspectingness of our friend has sometimes laid him open to attacks, which, though savouring (we hope) more of waggery than malice — such is our unfeigned respect for G.D. — might, we think, much better have been omitted. Such was that silly joke of L[amb], who, at the time the question of the Scotch Novels was first agitated, gravely assured our friend — who as gravely went about repeating it in all companies — that Lord Castlereagh had acknowledged himself to be the author of Waverly! Note — not by Elia.“
Page 12, line 11. “Strike an abstract idea.“ I do not find this quotation — if it be one; but when John Lamb once knocked Hazlitt down, during an argument on pigments, Hazlitt refrained from striking back, remarking that he was a metaphysician and dealt not in blows but in ideas. Lamb may be slyly remembering this.
Page 12, line 15. C——. Cambridge. Dyer added a work on Privileges of the University if Cambridge to his History.
Page 12, line 8 from foot. Our friend M.‘s. Basil Montagu, Q.C. (1770–1851), legal writer, philanthropist, editor of Bacon, and the friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge. The Mrs. M. here referred to was Montagu’s third wife, a Mrs. Skepper. It was she who was called by Edward Irving “the noble lady,” and to whom Carlyle addressed some early letters. A.S. was Anne Skepper, afterwards Mrs. Bryan Waller Procter, a fascinating lady who lived to a great age and died as recently as 1888. The Montagus then lived at 25 Bedford Square.
Page 13, line 17. Starts like a thing surprised. Here we have an interesting example of Lamb’s gift of fused quotation. Wordsworth’s line in the “Ode on Intimations of Immortality,”
Tremble like a guilty thing surprised,
and Shakespeare’s phrase in “Hamlet” (Act I., Scene 1, line 148),
Started like a guilty thing,
were probably both in his mind as he wrote.
Page 13, line 24. Obtruded personal presence. In the London Magazine the following passage came here:—
“D. commenced life, after a course of hard study in the ‘House of pure Emanuel,’ as usher to a knavish fanatic schoolmaster at ***, at a salary of eight pounds per annum, with board and lodging. Of this poor stipend, he never received above half in all the laborious years he served this man. He tells a pleasant anecdote, that when poverty, staring out at his ragged knees, has sometimes compelled him, against the modesty of his nature, to hint at arrears, Dr. *** would take no immediate notice, but, after supper, when the school was called together to even-song, he would never fail to introduce some instructive homily against riches, and the corruption of the heart occasioned through the desire of them — ending with ‘Lord, keep thy servants, above all things from the heinous sin of avarice. Having food and raiment, us therewithal be content. Give me Agar’s wish,’— and the like; — which to the little auditory, sounded like a doctrine full of Christian prudence and simplicity — but to poor D. was a receipt in full for that quarter’s demands at least.
“And D. has been under-working for himself ever since; — drudging at low rates for unappreciating booksellers — wasting his fine erudition in silent corrections of the classics, and in those unostentatious but solid services to learning, which commonly fall to the lot of laborious scholars, who have not the art to sell themselves to the best advantage. He has published poems, which do not sell, because their character is inobtrusive like his own — and because he has been too much absorbed in ancient literature, to know what the popular mark in poetry is, even if he could have hit it. And, therefore, his verses are properly, what he terms them, crotchets; voluntaries; odes to Liberty, and Spring; effusions; little tributes, and offerings, left behind him, upon tables and window-seats, at parting from friends’ houses; and from all the inns of hospitality, where he has been courteously (or but tolerably) received in his pilgrimage. If his muse of kindness halt a little behind the strong lines, in fashion in this excitement-craving age, his prose is the best of the sort in the world, and exhibits a faithful transcript of his own healthy natural mind, and cheerful innocent tone of conversation.”
The foregoing passage called forth a protest from one W.K. necessitating the following reply from Lamb, which was printed in the London Magazine, under the “Lion’s Head,” for December, 1820:—
“Elia requests the Editor to inform W.K. that in his article on Oxford, under the initials G.D., it is his ambition to make more familiar to the public, a character, which, for integrity and single-heartedness, he has long been accustomed to rank among the best patterns of his species. That, if he has failed in the end which he proposed, it was an error of judgment merely. That, if in pursuance of his purpose, he has drawn forth some personal peculiarities of his friend into notice, it was only from the conviction that the public, in living subjects especially, do not endure pure panegyric. That the anecdotes, which he produced, were no more than he conceived necessary to awaken attention to character, and were meant solely to illustrate it. That it is an entire mistake to suppose, that he undertook the character to set off his own wit or ingenuity. That, he conceives, a candid interpreter might find something intended, beyond a heartless jest. That G.D., however, having thought it necessary to disclaim the anecdote respecting Dr. — — it becomes him, who never for a moment can doubt the veracity of his friend, to account for it from an imperfect remembrance of some story he heard long ago, and which, happening to tally with his argument, he set too hastily to the account of G.D. That, from G.D.‘s strong affirmations and proofs to the contrary, he is bound to believe it belongs to no part of G.D.‘s biography. That the transaction, supposing it true, must have taken place more than forty years ago. That, in consequence, it is not likely to ‘meet the eye of many who might be justly offended.’
“Finally, that what he has said of the Booksellers, referred to a period of many years, in which he has had the happiness of G.D.‘s acquaintance; and can have nothing to do with any present or prospective engagements of G.D., with those gentlemen, to the nature of which he professes himself an entire stranger.”
The result of the protest was that Lamb omitted the passage objected to when he collected Elia in 1823. It might well be restored now; but I have preferred to print everything in the body of this edition as Lamb arranged it for press.
Page 14. CHRIST’S HOSPITAL FIVE AND THIRTY YEARS AGO.
London Magazine, November, 1820.
This essay, which is based upon the “Recollections of Christ’s Hospital” in Vol. I., is a curious blend of Lamb’s own experiences at school with those of Coleridge. Both boys entered at the same time — on July 17, 1782: Coleridge was then nearly ten, Lamb was seven and a half. Coleridge was “clothed” on July 18 and went to Hertford for a while; Lamb was clothed on October 9. Lamb left the school in November, 1789, Coleridge in September, 1791.
The school which Lamb knew is now no more. The boys are now all in new buildings in the midst of green fields near Horsham, many miles from Lamb’s city and its roar.
Page 14, line 15. The worthy sub-treasurer. Randal Norris (see note to “A Death–Bed”). I have not been able to discover the cause of his influence.
Page 14, lines 18, 19. Crug . . . piggins. Crug is still current slang. In the school museum one of these piggins is preserved.
Page 14, line 25. Three banyan days. Three vegetarian days. Coleridge complains (in a letter to Poole) that he was never sufficiently fed except on Wednesdays. He gives the following table of food:—
Our diet was very scanty. Every morning a bit of dry bread and some bad small beer. Every evening a larger piece of bread, and cheese or butter, whichever we liked. For dinner — on Sunday, boiled beef and broth; Monday, bread and butter, and milk and water; Tuesday, roast mutton; Wednesday, bread and butter, and rice milk; Thursday, boiled beef and broth; Friday, boiled mutton and broth; Saturday, bread and butter, and pease-porridge. Our food was portioned; and, excepting on Wednesdays, I never had a bellyfull. Our appetites were damped, never satisfied; and we had no vegetables.
Page 14, line 8 from foot. Caro equina. Horseflesh. Mr. Pearce’s chapter on food at the school in his excellent Annals of Christ’s Hospital is very interesting, and records great changes. Rotten-roasted or rare, i.e., over-roasted or under-done.
Page 15, line 3. The good old relative. Aunt Hetty, or more properly, Sarah Lamb. Compare the “Lines written on the Day of my Aunt’s Funeral,” Vol. IV.:—
I have not forgot
How thou didst love thy Charles, when he was yet
A prating schoolboy: I have not forgot
The busy joy on that important day,
When, childlike, the poor wanderer was content
To leave the bosom of parental love,
His childhood’s play-place, and his early home,
For the rude fosterings of a stranger’s hand,
Hard, uncouth tasks, and schoolboys’ scanty fare.
How did thine eyes peruse him round and round
And hardly knew him in his yellow coats,
Red leathern belt, and gown of russet blue.
Page 15, line 13. I was a poor friendless boy. Here Lamb speaks as Coleridge, who came all the way from Ottery St. Mary, in Devonshire (not Calne, in Wiltshire), and had no London friends. In John Woodvil Lamb borrowed St. Mary Ottery again (see Vol. IV.). Coleridge has recorded how unhappy he was in his early days at school.
Page 15, line 12 from foot. Whole-day-leaves. In this connection the following passage from Trollope’s History of Christ’s Hospital, 1834, is interesting:—
Those days, on which leave is given to be absent from the Hospital during the whole day, are called whole-day leaves. . . . A ticket is a small oval medal attached to the button-hole, without which, except on leaves, no boy is allowed to pass the gates. Subjoined is a list of the holidays, which have been hitherto kept at Christ’s Hospital; but it is in contemplation to abridge them materially. Of the policy of such a measure great doubts may fairly be entertained, inasmuch as the vacations are so short as to give sufficient respite neither to master nor scholar; and these occasional breaks, in the arduous duties of the former more especially, enable him to repair the exhausted energies of body and mind by necessary relaxation. If those days, which are marked with an asterisk, fall on a Sunday, they are kept on the Monday following; and likewise the state holidays.
|Jan.||25.||St. Paul’s conversion.|
|* 30.||King Charles’s martyrdom.
|May||1.||St. Philip and St. James.|
|* 29.||Restoration of King Charles II.|
|24.||St. John Baptist.|
|Thursday after St. James. (Nurses’ Holiday.)|
|Sept.||* 2.||London burnt.|
|* 21.||St. Matthew.|
|* 23.||King Edward VI. born.|
|28.||St. Simon and St. Jude.|
|* 5.||Gunpowder Plot.|
|* 9.||Lord Mayor’s Day.|
|* 17.||Queen Elizabeth’s birthday.|
Also the birthdays of the King and Queen, and the Prince and Princess of Wales: and the King’s accession, proclamation, and coronation.
In addition to the generous allowance of holidays above given the boys had every alternate Wednesday for a whole day; eleven days at Easter, four weeks in the summer, and fifteen days at Christmas. In 1837 the holiday system was remodelled. Compare Lamb’s other remarks on his whole-day rambles in “Recollections of Christ’s Hospital” (Vol. I.) and in the essays in the present volume entitled “Amicus Redivivus” and “Newspapers.”
Page 16, line 14. The Tower. Blue-coat boys still have this right of free entrance to the Tower; but the lions are no more. They were transferred to the Zoological Gardens in 1831.
Page 16, line 16. L.‘s governor. Meaning Samuel Salt, M.P.; but it was actually his friend Mr. Timothy Yeats who signed Lamb’s paper. More accurately, Lamb’s father lived under Salt’s roof.
Page 16, line 7 from foot. H——. According to Lamb’s Key this was Hodges; but in the British Museum copy of Elia, first edition, some one has written Huggins. It is immaterial. Nevis and St. Kitt’s (St. Christopher’s) are islands in the British West Indies. Tobin would be James Webbe Tobin, of Nevis, who died in 1814, the brother of the playwright John Tobin, author of “The Honeymoon.”
Page 17, line 2. A young ass. The general opinion at Christ’s Hospital is that Lamb invented this incident; and yet it has the air of being true.
Page 17, line 18. L.‘s admired Perry. John Perry, steward from 1761 to 1785, mentioned in Lamb’s earlier essay.
Page 17, foot. Gags. Still current slang.
Page 17, foot. ——. No name in the Key. The quotation is an adaptation of:—
It is reported thou didst eat strange flesh
Which some did die to look on.
“Antony and Cleopatra,” Act I., Scene 4, lines 67–68.
It is perhaps worth remarking that in David Copperfield Dickens has a school incident of a similar character.
Page 18, line 14 from foot. Mr. Hathaway. Matthias Hathaway, steward from 1790 to 1813.
Page 19, line 8. I was a hypochondriac lad. Here Lamb drops the Coleridge mask and speaks as himself.
Page 20, line 15. Bamber Gascoigne, and Peter Aubert. Bamber Gascoigne, M.P. (1725–1791), of Bifrons, in Essex. Of Peter Aubert I can find nothing, except that the assistant secretary of the East India Company at the time Lamb wrote this essay was Peter Auber, afterwards full secretary. His name here may be a joke.
Page 20, line 6 from foot. Matthew Field. The Rev. Matthew Feilde, also vicar of Ugley and curate of Berden. For the Rev. James Boyer see below.
Page 21, line 18. “Peter Wilkins,” etc. The Adventures of Peter Wilkins, by Robert Paltock, 1751, is still read; but The Voyages and Adventures of Captain Robert Boyle, 1736, has had its day. It was a blend of unconvincing travel and some rather free narrative: a piece of sheer hackwork to meet a certain market. See Lamb’s sonnet to Stothard, Vol. IV. The Fortunate Blue–Coat Boy I have not seen. Canon Ainger describes it as a rather foolish romance, showing how a Blue-coat boy marries a rich lady of rank. The sub-title is “Memoirs of the Life and Happy Adventures of Mr. Benjamin Templeman; formerly a Scholar in Christ’s Hospital. By an Orphanotropian,” 1770.
Page 22, footnote. I have not discovered a copy of Matthew Feilde’s play.
Page 23, line 17 from foot. Squinting W——. Not identifiable.
Page 23, line 7 from foot. Coleridge, in his literary life. Coleridge speaks in the Biographia Literaria of having had the “inestimable advantage of a very sensible, though at the same time a very severe master, the Reverend James Bowyer [Boyer],” and goes on to attribute to that master’s discrimination and thoroughness much of his own classical knowledge and early interest in poetry and criticism. Coleridge gives this example of Boyer’s impatient humour:—
In our own English compositions (at least for the last three years of our school education), he showed no mercy to phrase, metaphor, or image, unsupported by a sound sense, or where the same sense might have been conveyed with equal force and dignity in plainer words. Lute, harp and lyre, Muse, Muses and inspirations, Pegasus, Parnassus and Hippocrene, were all an abomination to him. In fancy I can almost hear him now exclaiming, “Harp? Harp? Lyre? Pen and ink, boy, you mean! Muse, boy, muse? Your nurse’s daughter, you mean! Pierian spring? Oh, aye! the cloister pump, I suppose!”
Touching Boyer’s cruelty, Coleridge adds that his “severities, even now, not seldom furnish the dreams by which the blind fancy would fain interpret to the mind the painful sensations of distempered sleep.”
In Table Talk Coleridge tells another story of Boyer. “The discipline at Christ’s Hospital in my time,” he says, “was ultra-Spartan; all domestic ties were to be put aside. ‘Boy!’ I remember Bowyer saying to me once when I was crying the first day of my return after the holidays, ‘Boy! the school is your father! Boy! the school is your mother! Boy! the school is your brother! the school is your sister! the school is your first cousin, and your second cousin, and all the rest of your relations! Let’s have no more crying!’”
Leigh Hunt in his autobiography also has reminiscences of Boyer and Feilde.
James Boyer or Bowyer was born in 1736, was admitted to the school in 1744, and passed to Balliol. He resigned his Upper Grammar Mastership in 1799, and probably retired to the rectory of Gainscolne to which he had been appointed by the school committee six years earlier. They also gave him £500 and a staff.
Page 23, line 6 from foot. Author of the Country Spectator. Thomas Fanshaw Middleton (1769–1822), afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, who was at school with Lamb and Coleridge. In the little statuette group which is called the Coleridge Memorial, subscribed for in 1872, on the centenary of Coleridge’s birth, and held in rotation by the ward in which most prizes have been gained in the year, Middleton is the tallest figure. It is reproduced in my large edition. The story which it celebrates is to the effect that Middleton found Coleridge reading Virgil in the playground and asked him if he were learning a lesson. Coleridge replied that he was “reading for pleasure,” an answer which Middleton reported to Boyer, and which led to Boyer taking special notice of him. The Country Spectator was a magazine conducted by Middleton in 1792–1793.
Page 23, line 3 from foot. C——. Coleridge again.
Page 24, line 4. Lancelot Pepys Stevens. Rightly spelled Stephens, afterwards Under Grammar Master at the school.
Page 24, line 6. Dr. T——e. Arthur William Trollope (1768–1827), who succeeded Boyer as Upper Grammar Master. He resigned in 1826.
Page 24, line 21. Th ——. Sir Edward Thornton (1766–1852), diplomatist, who was sent as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Lower Saxony, to Sweden, to Denmark and other courts, afterwards becoming minister to Portugal.
Page 24, line 23. Middleton. See note above. The treatise was The Doctrine of the Greek Article as applied to the Criticism and the Illustration of the New Testament, 1808. It was directed chiefly against Granville Sharpe. Middleton was the first Bishop of Calcutta.
Page 24, line 8 from foot. Richards. This was George Richards (1767–1837). His poem on “Aboriginal Britons,” which won a prize given in 1791 by Earl Harcourt, is mentioned favourably in Byron’s English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. Richards became vicar of St. Martin’s-inthe-Fields and a Governor of Christ’s Hospital. He founded a gold medal for Latin hexameters.
Page 24, foot. S—— . . . M——. According to the Key “Scott, died in Bedlam,” and “Maunde, dismiss’d school.”
Page 24, foot. “Finding some of Edward’s race.” From Prior’s Carmen Seculare for 1700:—
Finding some of Stuart’s race
Unhappy, pass their annals by.
Lamb alters Stuart to Edward because Edward VI. founded Christ’s Hospital.
Page 25, line 12. C.V. Le G——. Charles Valentine Le Grice (1773–1858), whom we meet also in the essay on “Grace Before Meat.” Le Grice, in his description of Lamb as a schoolboy in Talfourd’s Memorials, remarked: “I never heard his name mentioned without the addition of Charles, although, as there was no other boy of the name of Lamb, the addition was unnecessary; but there was an implied kindness in it, and it was a proof that his gentle manners excited that kindness.”
Page 25, line 20. Allen. Robert Allen, whom we meet again in the essay on “Newspapers.” After a varied and not fortunate career he died of apoplexy in 1805.
Page 25, line 8 from foot. The junior Le G——. Samuel Le Grice became a soldier and died in the West Indies. Lamb wrote of him to Coleridge in 1796, after the tragedy at his home, at a time when friends were badly needed, “Sam Le Grice who was then in town was with me the first 3 or 4 days, and was as a brother to me, gave up every hour of his time to the very hurting of his health and spirits, in constant attendance and humouring my poor father.”
Page 25, line 8 from foot. F——. Joseph Favell, afterwards Captain, who had a commission from the Duke of York — as had Sam Le Grice — and was killed in the Peninsula, at Salamanca, 1812. Lamb states in the essay on “Poor Relations,” where Favell figures as “W.,” that he met his death at St. Sebastian. Both Sam Le Grice and Favell were to have accompanied Coleridge and Southey to the Susquehanna as Pantisocrats.
Page 26, line 1. Fr ——. Frederick William Franklin, master of the Hertford branch of the school from 1801 to 1827. He died in 1836.
Page 26, line 2. Marmaduke T——. Marmaduke Thompson, to whom Lamb dedicated Rosamund Gray in 1798.
Page 26, line 3. Catalogue of Grecians. Lamb was at Christ’s Hospital from 1782 to 1789, and his list is not quite complete. He himself never was a Grecian; that is to say, one of the picked scholars on the grammar side of the school, two of whom were sent up to Cambridge with a hospital exhibition every year, on the understanding that they should take orders. Lamb was one of the Deputy–Grecians from whom the Grecians were chosen, but his stammer standing in his way and a Church career being out of the question, he never became a full Grecian. Writing to George Dyer, who had been a Grecian, in 1831, Lamb says: “I don’t know how it is, but I keep my rank in fancy still since school days. I can never forget I was a deputy Grecian! . . . Alas! what am I now? What is a Leadenhall clerk, or India pensioner, to a deputy Grecian? How art thou fallen, O Lucifer!”
Lamb’s memory is preserved at Christ’s Hospital by a medal which is given for the best English essays. It was first struck in 1875, the centenary of his birth.
Page 26. THE TWO RACES OF MEN.
London Magazine, December, 1820.
Writing to Wordsworth in April of 1816, Lamb says:—“I have not bound the poems yet. I wait till people have done borrowing them. I think I shall get a chain and chain them to my shelves, more Bodleiano, and people may come and read them at chain’s length. For of those who borrow, some read slow; some mean to read but don’t read; and some neither read nor meant to read, but borrow to leave you an opinion of their sagacity. I must do my money-borrowing friends the justice to say that there is nothing of this caprice or wantonness of alienation in them. When they borrow my money they never fail to make use of it.”
Probably the germ of the essay is to be found in this passage, as Lamb never forgot his thoughts.
Page 26, line 17 of essay. Brinsley. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the dramatist and a great spendthrift. He died in 1816. Lamb knew him slightly.
Page 26, line 9 from foot. Beyond Tooke. That is, beyond the philological theories of The Diversions of Purley by John Home Tooke (1736–1812).
Page 27, line 22. Ralph Bigod. John Fenwick, an unlucky friend of the Lambs, an anticipatory Micawber, of whom we know too little, and seem likely to find out little more. Lamb mentions him again in the essay on “Chimney Sweepers,” and in that on “Newspapers,” in his capacity as editor of The Albion, for which Lamb wrote its extinguishing epigram in the summer of 1801. There are references to the Fenwicks in Mary Lamb’s letters to Sarah Stoddart and in Lamb’s letters; but nothing very informing. After financial embarrassments in England they emigrated to America.
Page 29, line 12. Comberbatch. Coleridge, who had enlisted as a young man in the 15th Light Dragoons as Silas Titus Comberback.
Page 29, line 16. Bloomsbury. Lamb was then in rooms at 20 Great Russell Street (now Russell Street), Covent Garden, which is not in Bloomsbury.
Page 29, line 27. Should he go on acting. The Letters contain references to this habit of Coleridge’s. Writing to him in 1809 Lamb says, referring among other loans to the volume of Dodsley with Vittoria Corombona (“The White Devil,” by John Webster) in it:—“While I think on it, Coleridge, I fetch’d away my books which you had at the Courier Office, and found all but a third volume of the old plays, containing the ‘White Devil, ‘Green’s ‘Tu Quoque,’ and the ‘Honest Whore,’ perhaps the most valuable volume of them all —that I could not find. Pray, if you can, remember what you did with it, or where you took it out with you a walking perhaps; send me word, for, to use the old plea, it spoils a set. I found two other volumes (you had three), the Arcadia and Daniel, enriched with manuscript notes. I wish every book I have were so noted. They have thoroughly converted me to relish Daniel, or to say I relish him, for after all, I believe I did relish him.”
And several years later (probably in 1820) we find him addressing Coleridge with reference to Luther’s Table Talk:—“Why will you make your visits, which should give pleasure, matter of regret to your friends? You never come but you take away some folio, that is part of my existence. With a great deal of difficulty I was made to comprehend the extent of my loss. My maid, Becky, brought me a dirty bit of paper, which contained her description of some book which Mr. Coleridge had taken away. It was Luster’s Tables, which, for some time, I could not make out. ‘What! has he carried away any of the tables, Becky?’ ‘No, it wasn’t any tables, but it was a book that he called Luster’s Tables.’ I was obliged to search personally among my shelves, and a huge fissure suddenly disclosed to me the true nature of the damage I had sustained.”
Allsop tells us that Lamb once said of Coleridge: “He sets his mark upon whatever he reads; it is henceforth sacred. His spirit seems to have breathed upon it; and, if not for its author, yet for his sake, we admire it.”
Page 30, line 1. John Buncle. Most of Lamb’s books are in America; Lamb’s copy of John Buncle, with an introductory note written in by Coleridge, was sold, with other books from his library, in New York in 1848. The Life of John Buncle, Esq., a book highly praised by Hazlitt, was by Thomas Amory (1691?-1788), published, Part I. in 1756 and Part II. in 1766. A condensed reprint was issued in 1823 entitled The Spirit of Buncle, in which, Mr. W.C. Hazlitt suggests, Lamb may have had a hand with William Hazlitt.
Page 30, line 19. Spiteful K. James Kenney (1780–1849), the dramatist, then resident at Versailles, where Lamb and his sister visited him in 1822. He married Louisa Mercier, daughter of Louis Sebastian Mercier, the French critic, and widow of Lamb’s earlier friend, Thomas Holcroft. One of their two sons was named Charles Lamb Kenney (1821–1881). Lamb recovered Margaret of Newcastle’s Letters (folio, 1664), which is among the books in America, as is also the Fulke Greville (small folio, 1633).
Page 31, line 4. S.T.C. . . . annotations. Lamb’s copy of Daniel’s Poetical Works, two volumes, 1718, and of Browne’s Enquiries into Vulgar and Common Errors, folio, 1658, both with marginalia by himself and Coleridge, are in existence, but I cannot say where: probably in America. Lamb’s copy of Beaumont and Fletcher, with Coleridge’s notes (see “Old China”), is, however, safe in the British Museum. His Fulke Greville, as I have said, is in America, but I fancy it has nothing of Coleridge in it, nor has his Burton — quarto, 1621 — which still exists.
Coleridge’s notes in the Beaumont and Fletcher folio are not numerous, but usually ample and seriously critical. At the foot of a page of the “Siege of Corinth,” on which he had written two notes (one, “O flat! flat! flat! Sole! Flounder! Place! all stinking! stinkingly flat!”), he added:—
N.B.— I shall not be long here, Charles! — I gone, you will not mind my having spoiled a book in order to leave a Relic.
Underneath the initials S.T.C. are the initials W.W. which suggest that Wordsworth was present.
The Museum also has Lamb’s Milton, with annotations by himself and Coleridge.
In the Descriptive Catalogue of the Library of Charles Lamb, privately issued by the New York Dibdin Club in 1897, is a list of five of Lamb’s books now in America containing valuable and unpublished marginalia by Coleridge: The Life of John Buncle, Donne’s Poems (“I shall die soon, my dear Charles Lamb, and then you will not be vexed that I have scribbled your book. S.T.C., 2d May, 1811”), Reynolds’ God’s Revenge against . . . Murder, 1651 (“O what a beautiful concordia discordantium is an unthinking good man’s soul!”), The History of Philip de Commines in English, and Petwin’s Letters Concerning the Mind.
Page 31. NEW YEAR’S EVE.
London Magazine, January, 1821.
The melancholy pessimism of this essay led to some remonstrance from robuster readers of the London Magazine. In addition to the letter from “A Father” referred to below, the essay produced, seven months later, in the August number of the London Magazine, a long poetical “Epistle to Elia,” signed “Olen,” in which very simply and touchingly Lamb was reminded that the grave is not the end, was asked to consider the promises of the Christian faith, and finally was offered a glimpse of some of the friends he would meet in heaven — among them Ulysses, Shakespeare and Alice W——n. Taylor, the publisher and editor of the magazine, sent Lamb a copy. He replied, acknowledging the kindness of the author, and adding:—“Poor Elia . . . does not pretend to so very clear revelations of a future state of being as ‘Olen’ seems gifted with. He stumbles about dark mountains at best; but he knows at least how to be thankful for this life, and is too thankful, indeed, for certain relationships lent him here, not to tremble for a possible resumption of the gift. He is too apt to express himself lightly, and cannot be sorry for the present occasion, as it has called forth a reproof so Christian-like.”
Lamb thought the poet to be James Montgomery, but it was in reality Charles Abraham Elton. The poem was reprinted in a volume entitled Boyhood and other Poems, in 1835.
It is conceivable that Lamb was reasoned with privately upon the sentiments expressed in this essay; and perhaps we may take the following sonnet which he contributed over his own name to, the London Magazine for April, 1821, as a kind of defiant postscript thereto, a further challenge to those who reproached him for his remarks concerning death, and who suggested that he did not really mean them:—
They talk of time, and of time’s galling yoke,
That like a millstone on man’s mind doth press,
Which only works and business can redress:
Of divine Leisure such foul lies are spoke,
Wounding her fair gifts with calumnious stroke.
But might I, fed with silent meditation,
Assoiled live from that fiend Occupation —
Improbus labor, which my spirits hath broke —
I’d drink of time’s rich cup, and never surfeit —
Fling in more days than went to make the gem
That crowned the white top of Methusalem —
Yea on my weak neck take, and never forfeit,
Like Atlas bearing up the dainty sky,
The heaven-sweet burthen of eternity.
It was also probably the present essay which led to Lamb’s difference with Southey and the famous letter of remonstrance. Southey accused Elia of wanting “a sounder religious feeling,” and Lamb suggests in his reply that “New Year’s Eve” was the chief offender. See Vol. I. for Lamb’s amplification of one of its passages.
It may be interesting here to quote Coleridge’s description of Lamb as “one hovering between heaven and earth, neither hoping much nor fearing anything.”
Page 31, line 10 from foot. Bells. The music of bells seems always to have exerted fascination over Lamb. See the reference in the story of the “First Going to Church,” in Mrs. Leicester’s School, Vol. III.; in his poem “Sabbath Bells,” Vol. IV.; and his “John Woodvil,” Vol. IV.
Page 31, foot. “I saw the skirts of the departing Year.” From Coleridge’s “Ode to the Departing Year,” as printed in 1796 and 1797. Lamb was greatly taken by this line. He wrote to Coleridge on January 2, 1797, in a letter of which only a small portion has been printed:—“The opening [of the Ode] is in the spirit of the sublimest allegory. The idea of the ‘skirts of the departing year, seen far onwards, waving in the wind,’ is one of those noble Hints at which the Reader’s imagination is apt to kindle into grand conceptions.” Afterwards Coleridge altered “skirts” to “train.”
Page 32, line 21. Seven. . . . years. See note to “Dream–Children.” Alice W— n is identified with Ann Simmons, who lived near Blakesware when Lamb was a youth, and of whom he wrote his love sonnets. According to the Key the name is “feigned.”
Page 32, line 25. Old Dorrell. See the poem “Going or Gone,” Vol. IV. There seems really to have been such an enemy of the Lamb fortunes. He was one of the witnesses to the will of John Lamb, the father — William Dorrell.
Page 33, line 5. Small-pox at five. There is no other evidence than this casual mention that Lamb ever suffered from this complaint. Possibly he did not. He went to Christ’s Hospital at the age of seven.
Page 33, line 13. From what have I not fallen. Lamb had had this idea many years before. In 1796 he wrote this sonnet (text of 1818):—
We were two pretty babes, the youngest she,
The youngest, and the loveliest far, I ween,
And Innocence her name. The time has been
We two did love each other’s company;
Time was, we two had wept to have been apart:
But when by 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 dropp’d a tear, and fled,
And hid in deepest shades her awful head.
Beloved, who shall tell me where thou art —
In what delicious Eden to be found —
That I may seek thee the wide world around?
Page 33, line 27. Phantom cloud of Elia. The speculations in the paragraph that ends with these words were fantastical at any rate to one reader, who, under the signature “A Father,” contributed to the March number of the London Magazine a eulogy of paternity, in which Elia was reasoned with and rebuked. “Ah! Elia! hadst thou possessed ‘offspring of thine own to dally with,’ thou wouldst never have made the melancholy avowal that thou hast ‘almost ceased to hope!’” Lamb did not reply.
Page 33, line 7 from foot. Not childhood alone . . . The passage between these words and “freezing days of December” was taken by Charles Lloyd, Lamb’s early friend, as the motto of a poem, in his Poems, 1823, entitled “Stanzas on the Difficulty with which, in Youth, we Bring Home to our Habitual Consciousness the Idea of Death.”
Page 34, line 15 from foot. Midnight darlings. Leigh Hunt records, in his essay “My Books,” that he once saw Lamb kiss an old folio — Chapman’s Homer.
Page 34, line 8 from foot. “Sweet assurance of a look.” A favourite quotation of Lamb’s (here adapted) from Matthew Roydon’s elegy on Sir Philip Sidney:—
A sweet attractive kind of grace,
A full assurance given by looks.
A portion of the poem is quoted in the Elia essay on “Some Sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney.”
Page 37. MRS. BATTLE’S OPINIONS ON WHIST.
London Magazine, February, 1821.
Mrs. Battle was probably, in real life, to a large extent Sarah Burney, the wife of Rear–Admiral James Burney, Lamb’s friend, and the centre of the whist-playing set to which he belonged. The theory that Lamb’s grandmother, Mrs. Field, was the original Mrs. Battle, does not, I think, commend itself, although that lady may have lent a trait or two. It has possibly arisen from the relation of the passage in the essay on Blakesware, where Mrs. Battle is said to have died in the haunted room, to that in “Dream–Children,” where Lamb says that Mrs. Field occupied this room.
The fact that Mrs. Battle and Mrs. Burney were both Sarahs is a small piece of evidence towards their fusion, but there is something more conclusive in the correspondence. Writing in March, 1830, concerning the old whist days, to William Ayrton, one of the old whist-playing company, and the neighbour of the Burneys in Little James Street, Pimlico, Lamb makes use of an elision which, I think, may be taken as more than support of the theory that Mrs. Battle and Mrs. Burney were largely the same — practically proof. “Your letter, which was only not so pleasant as your appearance would have been, has revived some old images; Phillips (not the Colonel), with his few hairs bristling up at the charge of a revoke, which he declares impossible; the old Captain’s significant nod over the right shoulder (was it not?); Mrs. B——‘s determined questioning of the score, after the game was absolutely gone to the d —— l.” Lamb, I think, would have written out Mrs. Burney in full had he not wished to suggest Mrs. Battle too.
This conjecture is borne out by the testimony of the late Mrs. Lefroy, in her youth a friend of the Burneys and the Lambs, who told Canon Ainger that though Mrs. Battle had many differing points she was undoubtedly Mrs. Burney. But of course there are the usual cross-trails — the reference to the pictures at Sandham; to Walter Plumer; to the legacy to Lamb; and so forth. Perhaps among the Blakesware portraits was one which Lamb chose as Mrs. Battle’s presentment; perhaps Mrs. Field had told him of an ancient dame who had certain of Mrs. Battle’s characteristics, and he superimposed Mrs. Burney upon this foundation.
For further particulars concerning the Burney whist parties see the notes to the “Letter to Southey,” Vol. I.
Admiral Burney (1750–1821), a son of Dr. Burney, the historian of music, and friend of Johnson and Reynolds, was the brother of Fanny Burney, afterwards Madame d’Arblay. See also “The Wedding,” page 275 of this volume, for another glimpse of Lamb’s old friend. Admiral Burney wrote An Essay on the Game of Whist, which was published in 1821. As he lived until November, 1821, he probably read the present essay. Writing to Wordsworth, March 20, 1822, Lamb says: “There’s Capt. Burney gone! — what fun has whist now; what matters it what you lead, if you can no longer fancy him looking over you?”
Page 37, line 1 of essay. “A clean hearth.” To this, in the London Magazine, Lamb put the footnote:—
“This was before the introduction of rugs, reader. You must remember the intolerable crash of the unswept cinder, betwixt your foot and the marble.”
Page 37, line 8 of essay. Win one game, and lose another. To this, in the London Magazine, Lamb put the note:—
“As if a sportsman should tell you he liked to kill a fox one day, and lose him the next.”
Page 38, line 26. Mr. Bowles. The Rev. William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850), whose sonnets had so influenced Coleridge’s early poetical career. His edition of Pope was published in 1806. I have tried in vain to discover if Mr. Bowles’ MS. and notes for this edition are still in existence. If so, they might contain Lamb’s contribution. But it is rather more likely, I fear, that Lamb invented the story. The game of ombre is in Canto III. of The Rape of the Lock.
The only writing on cards which we know Lamb to have done, apart from this essay, is the elementary rules of whist which he made out for Mrs. Badams quite late in his life as a kind of introduction to the reading of Admiral Burney’s treatise. This letter is in America and has never been printed except privately; nor, if its owner can help it, will it.
Page 40, line 26. Old Walter Plumer. See the essay on “The South–Sea House.”
Page 42, line 18 from foot. Bad passions. Here came in the London Magazine, in parenthesis, “(dropping for a while the speaking mask of old Sarah Battle).”
Page 43, line 2. Bridget Elia. This is Lamb’s first reference in the essays to Mary Lamb under this name. See “Mackery End” and “Old China.”
A little essay on card playing in the Every–Day Book, the authorship of which is unknown, but which may be Hone’s, ends with the following pleasant passage:—
Cousin Bridget and the gentle Elia seem beings of that age wherein lived Pamela, whom, with “old Sarah Battle,” we may imagine entering their room, and sitting down with them to a square game. Yet Bridget and Elia live in our own times: she, full of kindness to all, and of soothings to Elia especially; — he, no less kind and consoling to Bridget, in all simplicity holding converse with the world, and, ever and anon, giving us scenes that Metzu and De Foe would admire, and portraits that Deuner and Hogarth would rise from their graves to paint.
Page 43. A CHAPTER ON EARS.
London Magazine, March, 1821.
Lamb was not so utterly without ear as he states. Crabb Robinson in his diary records more than once that Lamb hummed tunes, and Barron Field, in the memoir of Lamb contributed by him to the Annual Biography and Obituary for 1836, mentions his love for certain beautiful airs, among them Kent’s “O that I had wings like a dove” (mentioned in this essay), and Handel’s “From mighty kings.” Lamb says that it was Braham who awakened a love of music in him. Compare Lamb’s lines to Clara Novello, Vol. IV., page 101, and also Mary Lamb’s postscript to his “Free Thoughts on Eminent Composers,” same volume.
Page 43, foot. I was never . . . in the pillory. This sentence led to an amusing article in the London Magazine for the next month, April, 1821, entitled “The Confessions of H.F.V.H. Delamore, Esq.,” unmistakably, I think, by Lamb, which will be found in Vol. I. of this edition, wherein Lamb confesses to a brief sojourn in the stocks at Barnet for brawling on Sunday, an incident for the broad truth of which we have the testimony of his friend Brook Pulham.
Page 44, lines 6 and 7. “Water parted from the sea,” “In Infancy.” Songs by Arne in “Artaxerxes,” Lamb’s “First Play” (see page 113).
Page 44, line 11. Mrs. S——. The Key gives “Mrs. Spinkes.” We meet a Will Weatherall in “Distant Correspondents,” page 120; but I have not been able to discover more concerning either.
Page 44, line 17. Alice W——n. See note to “Dream Children.”
Page 44, line 26. My friend A. Probably William Ayrton (1777–1818), the musical critic, one of the Burneys’ whist-playing set, and a friend and correspondent of Lamb’s. See the musical rhyming letter to him from Lamb, May 17, 1817.
Page 47, line 5. My friend, Nov ——. Vincent Novello (1781–1861), the organist, the father of Mrs. Cowden Clarke, and a great friend of Lamb.
Page 47, footnote. Another friend of Vincent Novello’s uses the same couplet (from Watt’s Divine Songs for Children, Song XXVIII., “For the Lord’s Day, Evening”) in the description of glees by the old cricketers at the Bat and Ball on Broad Halfpenny Down, near Hambledon — I refer to John Nyren, author of The Young Cricketer’s Tutor, 1833. There is no evidence that Lamb and Nyren ever met, but one feels that they ought to have done so, in Novello’s hospitable rooms.
Page 48, line 3. Lutheran beer. Edmund Ollier, the son of Charles Ollier, the publisher of Lamb’s Works, 1818, in his reminiscences of Lamb, prefixed to one edition of Elia, tells this story: “Once at a musical party at Leigh Hunt’s, being oppressed with what to him was nothing but a prolonged noise . . . he said —‘If one only had a pot of porter, one might get through this.’ It was procured for him and he weathered the Mozartian storm.”
In the London Magazine this essay had the following postscript:—
“P.S. — A writer, whose real name, it seems, is Boldero, but who has been entertaining the town for the last twelve months, with some very pleasant lucubrations, under the assumed signature of Leigh Hunt29, in his Indicator, of the 31st January last, has thought fit to insinuate, that I Elia do not write the little sketches which bear my signature, in this Magazine; but that the true author of them is a Mr. L——b. Observe the critical period at which he has chosen to impute the calumny! — on the very eve of the publication of our last number — affording no scope for explanation for a full month — during which time, I must needs lie writhing and tossing, under the cruel imputation of nonentity. — Good heavens! that a plain man must not be allowed to be—
“They call this an age of personality: but surely this spirit of anti-personality (if I may so express it) is something worse.
“Take away my moral reputation: I may live to discredit that calumny.
“Injure my literary fame — I may write that up again —
“But when a gentleman is robbed of his identity, where is he?
“Other murderers stab but at our existence, a frail and perishing trifle at the best. But here is an assassin who aims at our very essence; who not only forbids us to be any longer, but to have been at all. Let our ancestors look to it —
“Is the parish register nothing? Is the house in Princes-street, Cavendish-square, where we saw the light six-and-forty years ago, nothing? Were our progenitors from stately Genoa, where we flourished four centuries back, before the barbarous name of Boldero30 was known to a European mouth, nothing? Was the goodly scion of our name, transplanted into England, in the reign of the seventh Henry, nothing? Are the archives of the steel yard, in succeeding reigns (if haply they survive the fury of our envious enemies) showing that we flourished in prime repute, as merchants, down to the period of the commonwealth, nothing?
“Why then the world, and all that’s in’t is nothing —
The covering sky is nothing, Bohemia is nothing. —
“I am ashamed that this trifling writer should have power to move me so.”
Leigh Hunt, in The Indicator, January 31 and February 7, 1821, had reprinted from The Examiner a review of Lamb’s Works, with a few prefatory remarks in which it was stated: “We believe we are taking no greater liberty with him [Charles Lamb] than our motives will warrant, when we add that he sometimes writes in the London Magazine under the signature of Elia.”
In The Indicator of March 7, 1821, Leigh Hunt replied to Elia. Leigh Hunt was no match for Lamb in this kind of raillery, and the first portion of the reply is rather cumbersome. At the end, however, he says: “There was, by the bye, a family of the name of Elia who came from Italy — Jews; which may account for this boast about Genoa. See also in his last article in the London Magazine [the essay on “Ears”] some remarkable fancies of conscience in reference to the Papal religion. They further corroborate what we have heard; viz. that the family were obliged to fly from Genoa for saying that the Pope was the author of Rabelais; and that Elia is not an anagram, as some have thought it, but the Judaico–Christian name of the writer before us, whose surname, we find, is not Lamb, but Lomb; — Elia Lomb! What a name! He told a friend of ours so in company, and would have palmed himself upon him for a Scotchman, but that his countenance betrayed him.”
It is amusing to note that Maginn, writing the text to accompany the Maclise portrait of Lamb in Fraser’s Magazine in 1835, gravely states that Lamb’s name was really Lomb, and that he was of Jewish extraction.
The subject of Lamb’s birth reopened a little while later. In the “Lion’s Head,” which was the title of the pages given to correspondence in the London Magazine, in the number for November, 1821, was the following short article from Lamb’s pen:—
“ELIA TO HIS CORRESPONDENTS. — A Correspondent, who writes himself Peter Ball, or Bell — for his hand-writing is as ragged as his manners — admonishes me of the old saying, that some people (under a courteous periphrasis I slur his less ceremonious epithet) had need have good memories. In my ‘Old Benchers of the Inner Temple,’ I have delivered myself, and truly, a Templar born. Bell clamours upon this, and thinketh that he hath caught a fox. It seems that in a former paper, retorting upon a weekly scribbler who had called my good identity in question, (see P.S. to my ‘Chapter on Ears,’) I profess myself a native of some spot near Cavendish Square, deducing my remoter origin from Italy. But who does not see, except this tinkling cymbal, that in that idle fiction of Genoese ancestry I was answering a fool according to his folly — that Elia there expresseth himself ironically, as to an approved slanderer, who hath no right to the truth, and can be no fit recipient of it? Such a one it is usual to leave to his delusions; or, leading him from error still to contradictory error, to plunge him (as we say) deeper in the mire, and give him line till he suspend himself. No understanding reader could be imposed upon by such obvious rhodomontade to suspect me for an alien, or believe me other than English. — To a second Correspondent, who signs himself ‘a Wiltshire man,’ and claims me for a countryman upon the strength of an equivocal phrase in my ‘Christ’s Hospital,’ a more mannerly reply is due. Passing over the Genoese fable, which Bell makes such a ring about, he nicely detects a more subtle discrepancy, which Bell was too obtuse to strike upon. Referring to the passage (in page 484 of our second volume31), I must confess, that the term ‘native town,’ applied to Calne, primâ facie seems to bear out the construction which my friendly Correspondent is willing to put upon it. The context too, I am afraid, a little favours it. But where the words of an author, taken literally, compared with some other passage in his writings, admitted to be authentic, involve a palpable contradiction, it hath been the custom of the ingenuous commentator to smooth the difficulty by the supposition, that in the one case an allegorical or tropical sense was chiefly intended. So by the word ‘native,’ I may be supposed to mean a town where I might have been born; or where it might be desirable that I should have been born, as being situate in wholesome air, upon a dry chalky soil, in which I delight; or a town, with the inhabitants of which I passed some weeks, a summer or two ago, so agreeably, that they and it became in a manner native to me. Without some such latitude of interpretation in the present case, I see not how we can avoid falling into a gross error in physics, as to conceive that a gentleman may be born in two places, from which all modern and ancient testimony is alike abhorrent. Bacchus cometh the nearest to it, whom I remember Ovid to have honoured with the epithet ‘Twice born.’32 But not to mention that he is so called (we conceive) in reference to the places whence rather than the places where he was delivered — for by either birth he may probably be challenged for a Theban — in a strict way of speaking, he was a filius femoris by no means in the same sense as he had been before a filius alvi, for that latter was but a secondary and tralatitious way of being born, and he but a denizen of the second house of his geniture. Thus much by way of explanation was thought due to the courteous ‘Wiltshire man.’— To ‘Indagator,’ ‘Investigator,’ ‘Incertus,’ and the rest of the pack, that are so importunate about the true localities of his birth — as if, forsooth, Elia were presently about to be passed to his parish — to all such churchwarden critics he answereth, that, any explanation here given notwithstanding, he hath not so fixed his nativity (like a rusty vane) to one dull spot, but that, if he seeth occasion, or the argument shall demand it, he will be born again, in future papers, in whatever place, and at whatever period, shall seem good unto him.
“Modò me Thebis — modò Athenis.
29 “Clearly a fictitious appellation; for if we admit the latter of these names to be in a manner English, what is Leigh? Christian nomenclature knows no such.”
30 “It is clearly of transatlantic origin.”
31 See page 15 of this volume.
“Imperfectus adhuc infans genetricis ab alvo
Eripitur, patrioque tener (si credere dignum est)
Insuitur femori —
Tutaque bis geniti sunt incunabula Bacchi.
“Metamorph. lib. iii., 310.”
Page 48. ALL FOOLS’ DAY.
London Magazine, April, 1821.
Page 49, line 1. Empedocles. Lamb appended this footnote in the London Magazine:—
He who, to be deem’d
A god, leap’d fondly into Etna’s flames.
Paradise Lost, III., lines 470–471 [should be 469–470].
Page 49, line 5. Cleombrotus. Lamb’s London Magazine footnote:—
He who, to enjoy
Plato’s Elysium, leap’d into the sea.
Paradise Lost, III., lines 471–472.
Page 49, line 8. Plasterers at Babel. Lamb’s London Magazine note:—
The builders next of Babel on the plain
Paradise Lost, III., lines 466–467.
Page 49, line 10. My right hand. Lamb, it is probably unnecessary to remind the reader, stammered too.
Page 49, line 13 from foot. Duns, Duns Scotus (1265?-1308?), metaphysician, author of De modis significandi sive Grammatica Speculativa and other philosophic works. Known as Doctor Subtilis. There was nothing of Duns in the London Magazine; the sentence ran: “Mr. Hazlitt, I cannot indulge you in your definitions.” This was at a time when Lamb and Hazlitt were not on good terms.
Page 49, last line. Honest R——. Lamb’s Key gives “Ramsay, London Library, Ludgate Street; now extinct.” I have tried in vain to find out more about Ramsay. The London Library was established at 5 Ludgate Street in 1785. Later, the books were lodged at Charles Taylor’s house in Hatton Garden, and were finally removed to the present London Institute in Finsbury Circus.
Page 50, line 6. Good Granville S——. Lamb’s Key gives Granville Sharp. This was the eccentric Granville Sharp, the Quaker abolitionist (1735–1813).
Page 51. A QUAKER’S MEETING.
London Magazine, April, 1821.
Lamb’s connection with Quakers was somewhat intimate throughout his life. In early days he was friendly with the Birmingham Lloyds — Charles, Robert and Priscilla, of the younger generation, and their father, Charles Lloyd, the banker and translator of Horace and Homer (see Charles Lamb and the Lloyds, 1898); and later with Bernard Barton, the Quaker poet of Woodbridge. Also he had loved from afar Hester Savory, the subject of his poem “Hester” (see Vol. IV.). A passage from a letter written in February, 1797, to Coleridge, bears upon this essay:—“Tell Lloyd I have had thoughts of turning Quaker, and have been reading, or am rather just beginning to read, a most capital book, good thoughts in good language, William Penn’s ‘No Cross, No Crown,’ I like it immensely. Unluckily I went to one of his meetings, tell him, in St. John Street [Clerkenwell] yesterday, and saw a man under all the agitations and workings of a fanatic, who believed himself under the influence of some ‘inevitable presence.’ This cured me of Quakerism; I love it in the books of Penn and Woolman, but I detest the vanity of a man thinking he speaks by the Spirit. . . . ”
Both Forster and Hood tell us that Lamb in outward appearance resembled a Quaker.
Page 52, line 13. The uncommunicating muteness of fishes. Lamb had in mind this thought on the silence of fishes when he was at work on John Woodvil. Simon remarks, in the exquisite passage (Vol. IV.) in reply to the question, “What is it you love?”
The fish in th’ other element
That knows no touch of eloquence.
Page 53, second quotation. “How reverend . . . ” An adaptation of Congreve’s description of York Minster in “The Mourning Bride” (Mary Lamb’s “first play”), Act I., Scene 1:—
How reverend is the face of this tall pile . . .
Page 53, middle. Fox and Dewesbury. George Fox (1624–1691) founded the Society of Friends. William Dewesbury was one of Fox’s first colleagues, and a famous preacher. William Penn (1644–1718), the founder of Pennsylvania, was the most illustrious of the early converts to Quakerism. Lamb refers to him again, before his judges, in the essay on “Imperfect Sympathies,” page 73. George Fox’s Journal was lent to Lamb by a friend of Bernard Barton’s in 1823. On returning it, Lamb remarked (February 17, 1823):—“I have quoted G.F. in my ‘Quaker’s Meeting’ as having said he was ‘lifted up in spirit’ (which I felt at the time to be not a Quaker phrase),’ and the Judge and Jury were as dead men under his feet.’ I find no such words in his Journal, and I did not get them from Sewell, and the latter sentence I am sure I did not mean to invent. I must have put some other Quaker’s words into his mouth.”
Sewel was a Dutchman — William Sewel (1654–1720). His title runs: History of the Rise, Increase and Progress of the Christian People called Quakers, written originally in Low Dutch by W. Sewel, and by himself translated into English, 1722. James Naylor (1617–1660) was one of the early Quaker martyrs —“my favourite” Lamb calls him in a letter. John Woolman (1720–1772) was an American Friend. His principal writings are to be found in A Journal of the Life, Gospel Labours, and Christian Experiences of that faithful minister of Jesus Christ, John Woolman, late of Mount Holly in the Province of Jersey, North America, 1795. Modern editions are obtainable.
Page 56. THE OLD AND THE NEW SCHOOLMASTER.
London Magazine, May, 1821.
Page 56, line 9. Ortelius . . . Arrowsmith. Abraham Ortellius (1527–1598), the Dutch geographer and the author of Theatrum Orbis Terræ, 1570. Aaron Arrowsmith (1750–1823) was a well-known cartographer at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Lamb would perhaps have known something of his Atlas of Southern India, a very useful work at the East India House.
Page 56, line 13. A very dear friend. Barren Field (see the essay on “Distant Correspondents”).
Page 56, line 10 from foot. My friend M. Thomas Manning (1772–1840), the mathematician and traveller, and Lamb’s correspondent.
Page 56, last line. “On Devon’s leafy shores.” From Wordsworth’s Excursion, III.
Page 57, line 16. Daily jaunts. Though Lamb was then (1821) living at 20 Great Russell Street, Covent Garden, he rented rooms at 14 Kingsland Row, Dalston, in which to take holidays and do his literary work undisturbed. At that time Dalston, which adjoins Shackleton, was the country and Kingsland Green an open space opposite Lamb’s lodging.
Page 58, line 23. The North Pole Expedition. This would probably be Sir John Franklin’s expedition which set out in 1819 and ended in disaster, the subject of Franklin’s book, Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the years 1819, 20, 21, 22 (1823). Sir John Ross made an expedition in 1818, and Sir William Edward Parry in 1819, and again in 1821–1823 with Lyon. The panorama was possibly at Burford’s Panorama in the Strand, afterwards moved to Leicester Square.
Page 60, line 17. Tractate on Education. Milton’s Tractate on Education, addressed to his friend, Samuel Hartlib, was published in 1644. The quotation above is from that work. This paragraph of Lamb’s essay was afterwards humorously expanded in his “Letter to an Old Gentleman whose Education has been Neglected” (see Vol. I.).
Page 60, last line. Mr. Bartley’s Orrery. George Bartley (1782?-1858), the comedian, lectured on astronomy and poetry at the Lyceum during Lent at this time. An orrery is a working model of the solar system. The Panopticon was, I assume, a forerunner of the famous Panopticon in Leicester Square.
Page 61, line 8. “Plaything for an hour.” A quotation, from Charles and Mary Lamb’s Poetry for Children—“Parental Recollections”:—
A child’s a plaything for an hour.
Page 63, end of essay. “Can I reproach her for it.” After these words, in the London Magazine, came:—
“These kind of complaints are not often drawn from me. I am aware that I am a fortunate, I mean a prosperous man. My feelings prevent me from transcribing any further.”
Page 63. VALENTINE’S DAY.
This essay first appeared in The Examiner, February 14 and 15, 1819, and again in The Indicator, February 14, 1821. Signed ***
Page 64, line 18. Twopenny postman. Hone computed, in his Every–Day Book, Vol. I., 1825, that “two hundred thousand letters beyond the usual daily average annually pass through the two-penny post-office in London on Valentine’s Day.” The Bishop’s vogue is now (1911) almost over.
Page 65, line 15 from foot. E.B. Lamb’s Key gives “Edward Burney, half brother of Miss Burney.” This was Edward Francis Burney (1760–1848), who illustrated many old authors, among them Richardson.
Page 66. IMPERFECT SYMPATHIES.
London Magazine, August, 1821, where the title ran: “Jews, Quakers, Scotchmen, and other Imperfect Sympathies.”
Page 69, line 18 from foot. A print . . . after Leonardo. The Virgin of the Rocks. See Vol. IV. for Lamb’s and his sister’s verses on this picture. Crabb Robinson’s MS. diary tells us that the Scotchman was one Smith, a friend of Godwin. His exact reply to Lamb’s remark about “my beauty” was: “Why, sir, from all I have heard of you, as well as from what I have myself seen, I certainly entertain a very high opinion of your abilities, but I confess that I have not formed any opinion concerning your personal pretensions.”
Page 70, line 10. The poetry of Burns. “Burns was the god of my idolatry,” Lamb wrote to Coleridge in 1796. Coleridge’s lines on Burns, “To a Friend who had declared his intention of writing no more poetry,” were addressed to Lamb. Barry Cornwall records seeing Lamb kiss his copy of the poet.
Page 70, line 17. You can admire him. In the London Magazine Lamb added:—
“I have a great mind to give up Burns. There is certainly a bragging spirit of generosity, a swaggering assertion of independence, and all that, in his writings.”
Page 70, line 18. Smollett. Tobias George Smollett (1721–1771), the novelist, came of a Dumbartonshire family. Rory was Roderick Random’s schoolboy name. His companion was Strap. See Roderick Random, Chapter XIII., for the passage in question. Smollett continued the History of England of David Hume (1711–1776), also a Scotchman, and one of the authors whom Lamb could not read (see “Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading,” page 196).
Lamb’s criticism of Scotchmen did not pass without comment. The pleasantest remark made upon it was that of Christopher North (John Wilson) some dozen years later (after he had met Lamb), in a Blackwood paper entitled “Twaddle on Tweedside” (May, 1833), wherein he wrote:—
Charles Lamb ought really not to abuse Scotland in the pleasant way he so often does in the sylvan shades of Enfield; for Scotland loves Charles Lamb; but he is wayward and wilful in his wisdom, and conceits that many a Cockney is a better man even than Christopher North. But what will not Christopher forgive to Genius and Goodness? Even Lamb bleating libels on his native land. Nay, he learns lessons of humanity, even from the mild malice of Elia, and breathes a blessing on him and his household in their Bower of Rest.
Coleridge was much pleased by this little reference to his friend. He described it as “very sweet indeed” (see his Table Talk, May 14, 1833).
Page 70, line 14 from foot. Hugh of Lincoln. Hugh was a small Lincoln boy who, tradition states, was tortured to death by the Jews. His dead body being touched by a blind woman, she received sight.
Many years earlier Lamb had spoken of the Jew in English society with equal frankness (see his note to the “Jew of Malta” in the Dramatic Specimens).
Page 71, line 18. B——. John Braham, née Abraham (1774?-1856), the great tenor. Writing to Manning in 1808, Lamb says:—“Do you like Braham’s singing? The little Jew has bewitched me. I follow him like as the boys followed Tom the Piper. He cures me of melancholy as David cured Saul. . . . I was insensible to music till he gave me a new sense. . . . Braham’s singing, when it is impassioned, is finer than Mrs. Siddons’s or Mr. Kemble’s acting! and when it is not impassioned it is as good as hearing a person of fine sense talking. The brave little Jew!”
Two years later Lamb tells Manning of Braham’s absence from London, adding: “He was a rare composition of the Jew, the gentleman, and the angel; yet all these elements mixed up so kindly in him that you could not tell which preponderated.” In this essay Lamb refers to Braham’s singing in Handel’s oratorio “Israel in Egypt.” Concerning Braham’s abandonment of the Jewish faith see Lamb’s sarcastic essay “The Religion of Actors,” Vol. I., page 338.
Page 73, line 17 from foot. I was travelling. Lamb did not really take part in this story. It was told him by Sir Anthony Carlisle (1768–1840), the surgeon, as he confessed to his Quaker friend, Bernard Barton (March 11, 1823), who seemed to miss its point. Lamb described Carlisle as “the best story-teller I ever heard.”
Page 74. WITCHES, AND OTHER NIGHT-FEARS.
London Magazine, October, 1821.
Compare with this essay Maria Howe’s story of “The Witch Aunt,” in Mrs. Leicester’s School (see Vol. III.), which Lamb had written thirteen years earlier.
Page 75, line 12 from foot. History of the Bible, by Stackhouse. Thomas Stackhouse (1677–1752) was rector of Boldon, in Durham; his New History of the Holy Bible from the Beginning of the World to the Establishment of Christianity— the work in question — was published in 1737.
Page 75, line 6 from foot. The Witch raising up Samuel. This paragraph was the third place in which Lamb recorded his terror of this picture of the Witch of Endor in Stackhouse’s Bible, but the first occasion in which he took it to himself. In one draft of John Woodvil (see Vol. IV.), the hero says:—
I can remember when a child the maids
Would place me on their lap, as they undrest me,
As silly women use, and tell me stories
Of Witches — make me read “Glanvil on Witchcraft,”
And in conclusion show me in the Bible,
The old Family Bible, with the pictures in it,
The ‘graving of the Witch raising up Samuel,
Which so possest my fancy, being a child,
That nightly in my dreams an old Hag came
And sat upon my pillow.
Then again, in Mrs. Leicester’s School, in the story of Maria Howe, called “The Witch Aunt,” one of the three stories in that book which Lamb wrote, Stackhouse’s Bible is found once more. In my large edition I give a reproduction of the terrible picture. Page 77, foot. Dear little T.H. This was the unlucky passage which gave Southey his chief text in his criticism of Elia as a book wanting “a sounder religious feeling,” and which led to Lamb’s expostulatory “Letter” (see Vol. I.). Southey commented thus:—
This poor child, instead of being trained up in the way in which he should go, had been bred in the ways of modern philosophy; he had systematically been prevented from knowing anything of that Saviour who said, “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven;” care had been taken that he should not pray to God, nor lie down at night in reliance upon His good Providence!
T.H. was Thornton Hunt, Leigh Hunt’s eldest son and Lamb’s “favourite child” (see verses to him in Vol. IV.).
Page 79, line 18 from foot. Barry Cornwall. Bryan Waller Procter (1787–1874), Lamb’s friend. The reference is to “A Dream,” a poem in Barry Cornwall’s Dramatic Scenes, 1819, which Lamb greatly admired. See his sonnet to the poet in Vol. IV., where it is mentioned again.
Page 80, last paragraph of essay. In the original MS. of this essay (now in the Dyce and Forster collection at South Kensington) the last paragraph ran thus:—
“When I awoke I came to a determination to write prose all the rest of my life; and with submission to some of our young writers, who are yet diffident of their powers, and balancing perhaps between verse and prose, they might not do unwisely to decide the preference by the texture of their natural dreams. If these are prosaic, they may depend upon it they have not much to expect in a creative way from their artificial ones. What dreams must not Spenser have had!”
Page 80. MY RELATIONS.
London Magazine, June, 1821.
Page 80, beginning. At that point of life. Lamb was forty-six on February 10, 1821.
Page 80, line 12 of essay. I had an aunt. Aunt Hetty, who died in 1797 (see the essay on “Christ’s Hospital”).
Page 81, line 6. The chapel in Essex-street. The headquarters of “that heresy,” Unitarianism. Lamb was at first a Unitarian, but afterwards dropped away from all sects.
Page 81, line 23. Brother, or sister, I never had any — to know them. Lamb is writing strictly as the imagined Elia, Elia being Lamb in mind rather than Lamb in fact. It amused him to present his brother John and his sister Mary as his cousins James and Bridget Elia. We have here an excellent example of his whimsical blending of truth and invention: brothers and sisters he denies, yet admits one sister, Elizabeth, who died in both their infancies. Lamb had in reality two sisters named Elizabeth, the former of whom he never knew. She was born in 1762. The second Elizabeth, his parents’ fifth child, was born in 1768, seven years before Charles. Altogether the Lambs had seven children, of whom only John (born 1763), Mary Anne (born 1764) and Charles (born 1775) grew up. Again Lamb confesses to several cousins in Hertfordshire, and to two others. The two others were fictitious, but it was true that he had Hertfordshire relations (see the essay “Mackery End, in Hertfordshire”).
John Lamb’s character is perhaps sufficiently described in this essay and in “Dream–Children.” He was a well-to-do official in the South–Sea House, succeeding John Tipp as accountant. Crabb Robinson found him too bluff and noisy to be bearable; and he once knocked Hazlitt down in a dispute about painting. He died on October 26, 1821, to his brother’s great grief, leaving Charles everything. He married late in life a Mrs. Dowden. Probably she had her own money and needed none of her second husband’s. Hence the peculiarity of the will. Mrs. John Lamb died in 1826.
John Lamb’s sympathy with animals led him to write in 1810 a pamphlet entitled A Letter to the Right Hon. William Windham, on his opposition to Lord Erskine’s Bill for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals— Mr. Windham having expressed it as his opinion that the subject was not one for legislation. Lamb sent the pamphlet to Crabb Robinson on February 7, 1810, saying:—“My Brother whom you have met at my rooms (a plump good looking man of seven and forty!) has written a book about humanity, which I transmit to you herewith. Wilson the Publisher has put it in his head that you can get it Reviewed for him. I dare say it is not in the scope of your Review — but if you could put it into any likely train, he would rejoyce. For alas! our boasted Humanity partakes of Vanity. As it is, he teazes me to death with chusing to suppose that I could get it into all the Reviews at a moment’s notice. — I!! who have been set up as a mark for them to throw at and would willingly consign them all to Hell flames and Megæra’s snaky locks.
“But here’s the Book — and don’t shew it Mrs. Collier, for I remember she makes excellent Eel soup, and the leading points of the Book are directed against that very process.”
This is the passage — one red-hot sentence — concerning eels:—
“If an eel had the wisdom of Solomon, he could not help himself in the ill-usage that befalls him; but if he had, and were told, that it was necessary for our subsistence that he should be eaten, that he must be skinned first, and then broiled; if ignorant of man’s usual practice, he would conclude that the cook would so far use her reason as to cut off his head first, which is not fit for food, as then he might be skinned and broiled without harm; for however the other parts of his body might be convulsed during the culinary operations, there could be no feeling of consciousness therein, the communication with the brain being cut off; but if the woman were immediately to stick a fork into his eye, skin him alive, coil him up in a skewer, head and all, so that in the extremest agony he could not move, and forthwith broil him to death: then were the same Almighty Power that formed man from the dust, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, to call the eel into a new existence, with a knowledge of the treatment he had undergone, and he found that the instinctive disposition which man has in common with other carnivorous animals, which inclines him to cruelty, was not the sole cause of his torments; but that men did not attend to consider whether the sufferings of such insignificant creatures could be lessened: that eels were not the only sufferers; that lobsters and other shell fish were put into cold water and boiled to death by slow degrees in many parts of the sea coast; that these, and many other such wanton atrocities, were the consequence of carelessness occasioned by the pride of mankind despising their low estate, and of the general opinion that there is no punishable sin in the ill-treatment of animals designed for our use; that, therefore, the woman did not bestow so much thought on him as to cut his head off first, and that she would have laughed at any considerate person who should have desired such a thing; with what fearful indignation might he inveigh against the unfeeling metaphysician that, like a cruel spirit alarmed at the appearance of a dawning of mercy upon animals, could not rest satisfied with opposing the Cruelty Prevention Bill by the plea of possible inconvenience to mankind, highly magnified and emblazoned, but had set forth to the vulgar and unthinking of all ranks, in the jargon of proud learning, that man’s obligations of morality towards the creatures subjected to his use are imperfect obligations!”
The poem “The Beggar–Man,” in Poetry for Children, 1809 (see Vol. III.), was also from John Lamb’s pen.
Page 85, asterisks. Society for the Relief of— Distrest Sailors, says Lamb’s Key.
Page 86, last line of essay. “Through the green plains of pleasant Hertfordshire.” This line occurs in a sonnet of Lamb’s written many years before the essay (see Vol. IV.). Probably, however, Lamb did not invent it, for (the late W.J. Craig pointed out) in Leland’s Itinerary, which Lamb must have known, if only on account of the antiquary’s remarks on Hertfordshire, is quoted a poem by William Vallans (fl. 1578–1590), “The Tale of the Two Swans,” containing the line —
The fruitful fields of pleasant Hertfordshire —
which one can easily understand would have lingered in Lamb’s mind very graciously.
In the London Magazine the essay ended with the words, “Till then, Farewell.”
Page 86. MACKERY END, IN HERTFORDSHIRE.
London Magazine, July, 1821. Reprinted in Elia, 1823, as written, save for the omission of italics from many passages.
Bridget Elia, who is met also in “Mrs. Battle,” in “My Relations,” and in “Old China,” was, of course, Mary Lamb.
Page 86, line 11 from foot. She must have a story. Thomas Westwood, in his reminiscences of the Lambs in later years, printed in Notes and Queries, speaks of Mary Lamb’s passion for novel-reading in the Enfield days, when he was a boy.
Page 87, line 6. Margaret Newcastle. Lamb’s devotion to this lady is expressed again in the essay on “The Two Races of Men,” in the essay on Beggars, and in “Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading.”
Page 87, line 8. Free-thinkers . . . William Godwin, perhaps alone among Lamb’s friends, quite answers to the description of leader of novel philosophies and systems; but there had been also Thomas Holcroft and John Thelwall among the Lambs’ acquaintance. And Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt would come within this description.
Page 87, foot. Good old English reading. The reference is to Samuel Salt’s library in the Temple (see note to “The Old Benchers of the Inner Temple”).
Page 88, line 14. Mackery End. The farmhouse still stands, although new front rooms have been added. At the end of the present hall, one passes through what was in Lamb’s time the front door, and thereafter the house is exactly as it used to be save that its south windows have been filled in. By kind invitation of Mr. Dolphin Smith, the farmer, who had been there over forty years, I spent in 1902 some time in the same parlour in which the Lambs had been entertained. Harpenden, on the north-west, has grown immensely since Lamb’s day, and the houses at the Folly, between Wheathampstead and the Cherry Trees, are new; but Mackery End, or Mackrye End as the farmer’s waggons have it, remains unencroached upon. Near by is the fine old mansion which is Mackery End house proper; Lamb’s Mackery End was the farm.
Lamb’s first visit there must have been when he was a very little boy — somewhere about 1780. Probably we may see recollections of it in Mary Lamb’s story “The Farmhouse” in Mrs. Leicester’s School (see Vol. III. of this edition).
Page 88, line 18. A great-aunt. Mary Field, Lamb’s grandmother, was Mary Bruton, whose sister married, as he says, a Gladman, and was the great-aunt mentioned. The present occupier of the farm is neither Gladman nor Bruton; but both names are still to be found in the county. A Miss Sarah Bruton, a direct descendant of Lamb’s great-aunt, was living at Wheathampstead in 1902. She had on her walls two charming oval portraits of ancestresses, possibly — for she was uncertain as to their identity — two of the handsome sisters whom Lamb extols.
Writing to Manning, May 28, 1819, Lamb says:—“How are my cousins, the Gladmans of Wheathampstead, and farmer Bruton? Mrs. Bruton is a glorious woman.
“Hail, Mackery End!
“This is a fragment of a blank verse poem which I once meditated, but got no further.”
Page 89, verse. “But thou, that didst appear so fair . . . ” From Wordsworth’s “Yarrow Visited,” Stanza 6. Writing to Wordsworth in 1815, Lamb said of this stanza that he thought “no lovelier” could be found in “the wide world of poetry.” From a letter to Taylor, of the London Magazine, belonging to the summer of 1821, we gather that the proof-reader had altered the last word of the third line to “air” to make it rhyme to “fair.” Lamb says: “Day is the right reading, and I implore you to restore it.”
Page 90, line 4. B.F. Barron Field (see note to “Distant Correspondents”), then living in Sydney, where he composed, and had printed for private circulation in 1819, a volume of poems reviewed by Lamb (see Vol. I.), in 1819, one of which was entitled “The Kangaroo.” It was the first book printed in Australia. Field edited Heywood for the old Shakespeare Society. Although a Field, he was no kinsman of Lamb’s.
Page 90. MODERN GALLANTRY.
London Magazine, November, 1822.
De Quincey writes in “London Reminiscences” concerning the present essay:—
Among the prominent characteristics of Lamb, I know not how it is that I have omitted to notice the peculiar emphasis and depth of his courtesy. This quality was in him a really chivalrous feeling, springing from his heart, and cherished with the sanctity of a duty. He says somewhere in speaking of himself[?] under the mask of a third person, whose character he is describing, that, in passing a servant girl, even at a street-crossing, he used to take off his hat. Now, the spirit of Lamb’s gallantry would have prompted some such expression of homage, though the customs of the country would not allow it to be literally fulfilled, for the very reason that would prompt it —viz., in order to pay respect — since the girl would, in such a case, suppose a man laughing at her. But the instinct of his heart was to think highly of female nature, and to pay a real homage (not the hollow demonstration of outward honour which a Frenchman calls his “homage,” and which is really a mask for contempt) to the sacred idea of pure and virtuous womanhood.
Barry Cornwall has the following story in his Memoir of Lamb:—
Lamb, one day, encountered a small urchin loaded with a too heavy package of grocery. It caused him to tremble and stop. Charles inquired where he was going, took (although weak) the load upon his own shoulder, and managed to carry it to Islington, the place of destination. Finding that the purchaser of the grocery was a female, he went with the urchin before her, and expressed a hope that she would intercede with the poor boy’s master, in order to prevent his being over-weighted in future. “Sir,” said the dame, after the manner of Tisiphone, frowning upon him, “I buy my sugar and have nothing to do with the man’s manner of sending it.” Lamb at once perceived the character of the purchaser, and taking off his hat, said, humbly, “Then I hope, ma’am, you’ll give me a drink of small beer.” This was of course refused. He afterwards called upon the grocer, on the boy’s behalf. With what effect I do not know.
Page 90, line 2 of essay. Upon the point of gallantry. Here, in the London Magazine, came the words:—
“as upon a thing altogether unknown to the old classic ages. This has been defined to consist in a certain obsequiousness, or deferential respect, paid to females, as females.”
Page 92, line 3. Joseph Paice. Joseph Paice was, as Lamb pointed out to Barton in a letter in January, 1830, a real person, and all that Lamb records. According to Miss Anne Manning’s Family Pictures, 1860, Joseph Paice, who was a friend of Thomas Coventry, took Lamb into his office at 27 Bread Street Hill somewhere in 1789 or 1790 to learn book-keeping and business habits. He passed thence to the South–Sea House and thence to the East India House. Miss Manning (who was the author of Flemish Interiors) helps to fill out Lamb’s sketch into a full-length portrait. She tells us that Mr. Paice’s life was one long series of gentle altruisms and the truest Christianities.
Charles Lamb speaks of his holding an umbrella over a market-woman’s fruit-basket, lest her store should be spoilt by a sudden shower; and his uncovering his head to a servant-girl who was requesting him to direct her on her way. These traits are quite in keeping with many that can still be authenticated:— his carrying presents of game himself, for instance, to humble friends, who might ill have spared a shilling to a servant; and his offering a seat in his hackney-coach to some poor, forlorn, draggled beings, who were picking their way along on a rainy day. Sometimes these chance guests have proved such uncongenial companions, that the kind old man has himself faced the bad weather rather than prolong the acquaintance, paying the hackney-coachman for setting down the stranger at the end of his fare. At lottery times, he used to be troubled with begging visits from certain improvident hangers-on, who had risked their all in buying shares of an unlucky number. About the time the numbers were being drawn, there would be a ring at the gate-bell, perhaps at dinner time. His spectacles would be elevated, an anxious expression would steal over his face, as he half raised himself from his seat, to obtain a glance at the intruder —“Ah, I thought so, I expected as much,” he would gently say. “I expected I should soon have a visit from poor Mrs. —— or Mrs. ——. Will you excuse me, my dear madam,” (to my grandmother) “for a moment, while I just tell her it is quite out of my power to help her?” counting silver into his hand all the time. Then, a parley would ensue at the hall-door — complainant telling her tale in a doleful voice: “My good woman, I really cannot,” etc.; and at last the hall-door would be shut. “Well, sir,” my grandmother used to say, as Mr. Paice returned to his seat, “I do not think you have sent Mrs. —— away quite penniless.” “Merely enough for a joint of meat, my good madam — just a trifle to buy her a joint of meat.”
Family Pictures should be consulted by any one who would know more of this gentleman and of Susan Winstanly.
Page 92, line 5. Edwards. Thomas Edwards (1699–1757), author of Canons of Criticism, 1748. The sonnet in question, which was modelled on that addressed by Milton to Cyriack Skinner, was addressed to Paice, as the author’s nephew, bidding him carry on the family line. Paice, however, as Lamb tells us, did not marry.
Page 94. THE OLD BENCHERS OF THE INNER TEMPLE.
London Magazine, September, 1821.
Lamb’s connection with the Temple was fairly continuous until 1817, when he was thirty-eight. He was born at No. 2 Crown Office Row in 1775, and he did not leave it, except for visits to Hertfordshire, until 1782, when he entered Christ’s Hospital. There he remained, save for holidays, until 1789, returning then to Crown Office Row for the brief period between leaving school and the death of Samuel Salt, under whose roof the Lambs dwelt, in February, 1792. The 7 Little Queen Street, the 45 and 36 Chapel Street, Pentonville, and the first 34 Southampton Buildings (with Gutch) periods, followed; but in 1801 Lamb and his sister were back in the Temple again, at 16 Mitre Court Buildings, since rebuilt. They moved from there, after a brief return to 34 Southampton Buildings, to 4 Inner Temple Lane (since rebuilt and now called Johnson’s Buildings) in 1809, where they remained until the move to 20 Great Russell Street in 1817. With each change after that (except for another and briefer sojourn in Southampton Buildings in 1830), Lamb’s home became less urban. His last link with the Temple may be said to have snapped with the death of Randal Morris, sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple, in 1827 (see “A Death–Bed”), although now and then he slept at Crabb Robinson’s chambers.
The Worshipful Masters of the Bench of the Hon. Society of the Inner Temple — to give the Benchers their full title — have the government of the Inner Temple in their hands.
Page 97, line 12 from foot, J—— ll. Joseph Jekyll, great-nephew of Joseph Jekyll, Master of the Rolls, well known as a wit and diner-out. He became a Bencher in 1795, and was made a Master in Chancery in 1815, through the influence of the Prince Regent. Under his direction the hall of the Inner Temple and the Temple Church were restored, and he compiled a little book entitled Facts and Observations relating to the Temple Church and the Monuments contained in it, 1811. He became a K.C. in 1805, and died in 1837, aged eighty-five. Jekyll was a friend of George Dyer, and was interested in Lamb’s other friends, the Norrises. & letter from him, thanking Lamb for a copy of the Last Essays of Elia, is printed in Mr. W.C. Hazlitt’s The Lambs. He had another link of a kind with Lamb in being M.P. for “sweet Calne in Wiltshire.” Jekyll’s chambers were at 6 King’s Bench Walk. On the same staircase lived for a while George Colman the Younger.
Page 97, line 9 from foot. Thomas Coventry. Thomas Coventry became a Bencher in 1766. He was the nephew of William, fifth Earl of Coventry, and resided at North Cray Place, near Bexley, in Kent, and in Serjeant’s Inn, where he died in 1797, in his eighty-fifth year. He is buried in the Temple Church. Coventry was a sub-governor of the South–Sea House, and it was he who presented Lamb’s friend, James White, to Christ’s Hospital. He was M.P. for Bridport from 1754 to 1780. As an illustration of Coventry’s larger benefactions it may be remarked that he presented £10,000 worth of South Sea stock to Christ’s Hospital in 1782.
Page 98, line 9. Samuel Salt. Samuel Salt was the son of the Rev. John Salt, of Audley, in Staffordshire; and he married a daughter of Lord Coventry, thus being connected with Thomas Coventry by marriage. He was M.P. for Liskeard for some years, and a governor of the South–Sea House. Samuel Salt, who became a Bencher in 1782, rented at No. 2 Crown Office Row two sets of chambers, in one of which the Lamb family dwelt. John Lamb, Lamb’s father, who is described as a scrivener in Charles’s Christ’s Hospital application form, was Salt’s right-hand man, not only in business, but privately, while Mrs. Lamb acted as housekeeper and possibly as cook. Samuel Salt played the part of tutelary genius to John Lamb’s two sons. It was he who arranged for Charles to be nominated for Christ’s Hospital (by Timothy Yeats); probably he was instrumental also in getting him into the East India House; and in all likelihood it was he who paved the way for the younger John Lamb’s position in the South–Sea House. It was also Samuel Salt who gave to Charles and Mary the freedom of his library (see the reference in the essay on “Mackery End”): a privilege which, to ourselves, is the most important of all. Salt died in February, 1792, and is buried in the vault of the Temple Church. He left to John Lamb £500 in South Sea stock and a small annual sum, and to Elizabeth Lamb £200 in money; but with his death the prosperity of the family ceased.
Page 98, line 21. Lovel. See below.
Page 98, line 9 from foot. Miss Blandy. Mary Blandy was the daughter of Francis Blandy, a lawyer at Henley-on-Thames. The statement that she was to inherit £10,000 induced an officer in the marines, named Cranstoun, a son of Lord Cranstoun, to woo her, although he already had a wife living. Her father proving hostile, Cranstoun supplied her with arsenic to bring about his removal. Mr. Blandy died on August 14, 1751. Mary Blandy was arrested, and hanged on April 6 in the next year, after a trial which caused immense excitement. The defence was that Miss Blandy was ignorant of the nature of the powder, and thought it a means of persuading her father to her point of view. In this belief the father, who knew he was being tampered with, also shared. Cranstoun avoided the law, but died in the same year. Lamb had made use of Salt’s faux pas, many years earlier, in “Mr. H.” (see Vol. iv.).
Page 99, line 13. His eye lacked lustre. At these words, in the London Magazine, came this passage:—
“Lady Mary Wortley Montague was an exception to her sex: she says, in one of her letters, ‘I wonder what the women see in S. I do not think him by any means handsome. To me he appears an extraordinary dull fellow, and to want common sense. Yet the fools are all sighing for him.’”
I have not found the passage.
Page 99, line 14. Susan P——. This is Susannah Peirson, sister of the Peter Peirson to whom we shall come directly. Samuel Salt left her a choice of books in his library, together with a money legacy and a silver inkstand, hoping that reading and reflection would make her life “more comfortable.” B——d Row would be Bedford Row.
Page 99, line 12 from foot, F., the counsel. I cannot be sure who this was. The Law Directory of that day does not help.
Page 99, foot. Elwes. John Elwes, the miser (1714–1789), whose Life was published in 1790 after running through The World— the work of Topham, that paper’s editor, who is mentioned in Lamb’s essay on “Newspapers.”
Page 100, line 15. Lovel. Lovel was the name by which Lamb refers to his father, John Lamb. We know nothing of him in his prime beyond what is told in this essay, but after the great tragedy, there are in the Letters glimpses of him as a broken, querulous old man. He died in 1799. Of John Lamb’s early days all our information is contained in this essay, in his own Poetical Pieces, where he describes his life as a footman, and in the essay on “Poor Relations,” where his boyish memories of Lincoln are mentioned. Of his verses it was perhaps too much (though prettily filial) to say they were “next to Swift and Prior;” but they have much good humour and spirit. John Lamb’s poems were printed in a thin quarto under the title Poetical Pieces on Several Occasions. The dedication was to “The Forty–Nine Members of the Friendly Society for the Benefit of their Widows, of whom I have the honour of making the Number Fifty,” and in the dedicatory epistle it is stated that the Society was in some degree the cause of Number Fifty’s commencing author, on account of its approving and printing certain lines which were spoken by him at an annual meeting it the Devil Tavern. The first two poetical pieces are apologues on marriage and the happiness that it should bring, the characters being drawn from bird life. Then follow verses written for the meetings of the Society, and miscellaneous compositions. Of these the description of a lady’s footman’s daily life, from within, has a good deal of sprightliness, and displays quite a little mastery of the mock-heroic couplet. The last poem is a long rhymed version of the story of Joseph. With this exception, for which Lamb’s character-sketch does not quite prepare us, it is very natural to think of the author as Lovel. One of the pieces, a familiar letter to a doctor, begins thus:—
My good friend,
For favours to my son and wife,
I shall love you whilst I’ve life,
Your clysters, potions, help’d to save,
Our infant lambkin from the grave.
The infant lambkin was probably John Lamb, but of course it might have been Charles. The expression, however, proves that punning ran in the family. Lamb’s library contained his father’s copy of Hudibras.
Lamb’s phrase, descriptive of his father’s decline, is taken with a variation from his own poems — from the “Lines written on the Day of my Aunt’s Funeral” (Blank Verse, 1798):—
One parent yet is left — a wretched thing,
A sad survivor of his buried wife
A palsy-smitten, childish, old, old man,
A semblance most forlorn of what he was —
A merry cheerful man.
Page 100, line 17. “Flapper.” This is probably an allusion to the flappers in Gulliver’s Travels— the servants who, in Laputa, carried bladders with which every now and then they flapped the mouths and ears of their employers, to recall them to themselves and disperse their meditations.
Page 100, line 9 from foot. Better was not concerned. At these words, in the London Magazine, came:—
“He pleaded the cause of a delinquent in the treasury of the Temple so effectually with S. the then treasurer — that the man was allowed to keep his place. L. had the offer to succeed him. It had been a lucrative promotion. But L. chose to forego the advantage, because the man had a wife and family.”
Page 101, line 10. Bayes. Mr. Bayes is the author and stage manager in Buckingham’s “Rehearsal.” This phrase is not in the play and must have been John Lamb’s own, in reference to Garrick.
Page 101, line 23. Peter Pierson. Peter Peirson (as his name was rightly spelled) was the son of Peter Peirson of the parish of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, who lived probably in Bedford Row. He became a Bencher in 1800, died in 1808, and is buried in the Temple Church. When Charles Lamb entered the East India House in April, 1792, Peter Peirson and his brother, John Lamb, were his sureties.
Page 101, line 11 from foot. Our great philanthropist. Probably John Howard, whom, as we have seen in the essay on “Christ’s Hospital,” Lamb did not love. He was of singular sallowness.
Page 101, line 9 from foot. Daines Barrington. Daines Barrington (1727–1800), the correspondent of Gilbert White, many of whose letters in The Natural History of Selborne are addressed to him. Indeed it was Barrington who inspired that work:— a circumstance which must atone for his exterminatory raid on the Temple sparrows. His Chambers were at 5 King’s Bench Walk. Barrington became a Bencher in 1777 and died in 1800. He is buried in the Temple Church. His Episcopal brother was Shute Barrington (1734–1826), Bishop successively of Llandaff, Salisbury and Durham.
Page 102, line 1. Old Barton. Thomas Barton, who became a Bencher in 1775 and died in 1791. His chambers were in King’s Bench Walk. He is buried in the vault of the Temple Church.
Page 102, line 6. Read. John Reade, who became a Bencher in 1792 and died in 1804. His rooms were in Mitre Court Buildings.
Page 102, line 6. Twopenny. Richard, Twopenny was not a Bencher, but merely a resident in the Temple. He was strikingly thin. Twopenny was stockbroker to the Bank of England, and died in 1809.
Page 102, line 8. Wharry. John Wharry, who became a Bencher in 1801, died in 1812, and was buried in the Temple Church.
Page 102, line 22. Jackson. This was Richard Jackson, some time M.P. for New Romney, to whom Johnson, Boswell tells us, refused the epithet “Omniscient” as blasphemous, changing it to “all knowing.” He was made a Bencher in 1770 and died in 1787.
Page 102, foot. Mingay. James Mingay, who was made a Bencher in 1785, died in 1812. He was M.P. for Thetford and senior King’s Counsel. He was also Recorder of Aldborough, Crabbe’s town. He lived at 4 King’s Bench Walk.
Page 103, line 1. Baron Maseres. This was Francis Maseres (1731–1824), mathematician, reformer and Cursiter Baron of the Exchequer. He lived at 5 King’s Bench Walk, and at Reigate, and wore a three-cornered hat and ruffles to the end. In April, 1801, Lamb wrote to Manning:—“I live at No. 16 Mitre-court Buildings, a pistol-shot off Baron Maseres’. You must introduce me to the Baron. I think we should suit one another mainly. He Jives on the ground floor, for convenience of the gout; I prefer the attic story, for the air. He keeps three footmen and two maids; I have neither maid nor laundress, not caring to be troubled with them! His forte, I understand, is the higher mathematics; my turn, I confess, is more to poetry and the belles lettres. The very antithesis of our characters would make up a harmony. You must bring the Baron and me together.”
Baron Maseres, who was made a Bencher in 1774, died in 1824.
Page 104, line 13. Hookers and Seldens. Richard Hooker (1554?-1600), the “judicious,” was Master of the Temple. John Selden (1584–1654), the jurist, who lived in Paper Buildings and practised law in the Temple, was buried in the Temple Church with much pomp.
Page 104. GRACE BEFORE MEAT.
London Magazine, November, 1821.
This was the essay, Lamb suggested, which Southey may have had in mind when in an article in the Quarterly Review he condemned Elia as wanting “a sounder religious feeling.” In his “Letter to Southey” (Vol. I.), which contained Lamb’s protest against Southey’s strictures, he wrote:—“I am at a loss what particular essay you had in view (if my poor ramblings amount to that appellation) when you were in such a hurry to thrust in your objection, like bad news, foremost. — Perhaps the Paper on ‘Saying Graces’ was the obnoxious feature. I have endeavoured there to rescue a voluntary duty — good in place, but never, as I remember, literally commanded — from the charge of an undecent formality. Rightly taken, sir, that paper was not against graces, but want of grace; not against the ceremony, but the carelessness and slovenliness so often observed in the performance of it.”
Page 108, line 12 from foot. C——. Coleridge; but Lamb may really have said it.
Page 108, foot. The author of the Rambler. Veal pie with prunes in it was perhaps Dr. Johnson’s favourite dish.
Page 109, line 10. Dagon. The fish god worshipped by the Philistines. See Judges xvi. 23 and I Samuel v. for the full significance of Lamb’s reference.
Page 110, line 16. C.V.L. Charles Valentine le Grice. Later in life, in 1798, Le Grice himself became a clergyman.
Page 110, line 19. Our old form at school. The Christ’s Hospital graces in Lamb’s day were worded thus:—
Give us thankful hearts, O Lord God, for the Table which thou hast spread for us. Bless thy good Creatures to our use, and us to thy service, for Jesus Christ his sake. Amen.
Blessed Lord, we yield thee hearty praise and thanksgiving for our Founders and Benefactors, by whose Charitable Benevolence thou hast refreshed our Bodies at this time. So season and refresh our Souls with thy Heavenly Spirit, that we may live to thy Honour and Glory. Protect thy Church, the King, and all the Royal Family. And preserve us in peace and truth through Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Page 110. MY FIRST PLAY.
London Magazine, December, 1821.
Lamb had already sketched out this essay in the “Table Talk” in Leigh Hunt’s Examiner, December 9, 1813, under the title “Playhouse Memoranda” (see Vol. I.). Leigh Hunt reprinted it in The Indicator, December 13, 1820.
Page 111, line 1. Garrick’s Drury. Garrick’s Drury Lane was condemned in 1791, and superseded in 1794 by the new theatre, the burning of which in 1809 led to the Rejected Addresses. It has recently come to light that Lamb was among the competitors who sent in to the management the real addresses. The present Drury Lane Theatre dates from 1812.
Page 111, line 11. My godfather F. Lamb’s godfather was Francis Fielde. The British Directory for 1793 gives him as Francis Field, oilman, 62 High Holborn. Whether or no he played the part in Sheridan’s matrimonial comedy that is attributed to him, I do not know (Moore makes the friend a Mr. Ewart); but it does not sound like an invented story. Richard Brinsley Sheridan carried Miss Linley, the oratorio singer, from Bath and the persecutions of Major Mathews, in March, 1772, and placed her in France. They were married near Calais, and married again in England in April, 1773. Sheridan became manager of Drury Lane, in succession to Garrick, in 1776, the first performance under his control being on September 21. Lamb is supposed to have had some personal acquaintance with Sheridan. Mary Lamb speaks of him as helping the Sheridans, father and son, with a pantomime; but of the work we know nothing definite. I do not consider the play printed in part in the late Charles Kent’s edition of Lamb, on the authority of P.G. Patmore, either to be by Lamb or to correspond to Mary Lamb’s description.
Page 118, line 8. His testamentary beneficence. Lamb was not joking. Writing to The Athenæum, January 5, 1901, Mr. Thomas Greg says:—
Three-quarters of a century after it passed out of Lamb’s possession I am happy to tell the world — or that small portion of it to whom any fact about his life is precious — exactly where and what this landed property is. By indentures of lease and release dated March 23 and 24, 1779, George Merchant and Thomas Wyman, two yeomen of Braughing in the county of Hertford, conveyed to Francis Fielde, of the parish of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, in the county of Middlesex, oilman, for the consideration of £20., all that messuage or tenement, with the orchard, gardens, yards, barns, edifices, and buildings, and all and singular the appurtenances therewithal used or occupied, situate, lying, and being at West Mill Green in the parish of Buntingford West Mill in the said county of Hertford, etc. On March 5, 1804, Francis Fielde, of New Cavendish Street, Esq., made his will, and, with the exception of two, annuities to female relatives, left all his residuary estate, real and personal, to his wife Sarah Fielde.
This will was proved on November 5, 1809. By indentures of lease and release dated August 20 and 21, 1812, Sarah Fielde conveyed the said property to Charles Lamb, of Inner Temple Lane, gentleman. By an indenture of feoffment dated February 15, 1815, made between the said Charles Lamb of the first part, the said Sarah Fielde of the second part, and Thomas Greg the younger, of Broad Street Buildings, London, Esq., the said property was conveyed to the said Thomas Greg the younger for £50.
The said Thomas Greg the younger died in 1839, and left the said property to his nephew, Robert Philips Greg, now of Coles Park, West Mill, in the same county; and the said Robert Philips Greg in 1884 conveyed it to his nephew, Thomas Tylston Greg, of 15 Clifford’s Inn, London, in whose possession it now is in substantially the same condition as it was in 1815.
The evidence that the Charles Lamb who conveyed the property in 1815 is Elia himself is overwhelming.
1. The essay itself gives the locality correctly: it is about two and a half miles from Puckeridge.
2. The plot of land contains as near as possible three-quarters of an acre, with an old thatched cottage and small barn standing upon it. The barn, specially mentioned in all the deeds, is a most unusual adjunct of so small a cottage. The property, the deeds of which go back to 1708, appears to have been isolated and held by small men, and consists of a long narrow tongue of land jutting into the property now of the Savile family (Earls of Mexborough), but formerly of the Earls of Hardwicke.
3. The witness to Charles Lamb’s signature on the deed of 1815 is William Hazlitt, of 19, York Street, Westminster.
4. Lamb was living in Inner Temple Lane in 1815, and did not leave the Temple till 1817.
5. The essay was printed in the London Magazine for December, 1821, six years after “the estate has passed into more prudent hands.”
6. And lastly, the following letter in Charles Lamb’s own handwriting, found with the deeds which are in my possession, clinches the matter:—
“MR. SARGUS— This is to give you notice that I have parted with the Cottage to Mr. Grig Junr. to whom you will pay rent from Michaelmas last. The rent that was due at Michaelmas I do not wish you to pay me. I forgive it you as you may have been at some expences in repairs.
“Inner Temple Lane, London,
“23 Feb., 1815.”
It is certainly not the fact that Lamb acquired the property, as he states, by the will of his godfather, for it was conveyed to him some three years after the latter’s death by Mrs. Fielde. But strict accuracy of fact in Lamb’s ‘Essays’ we neither look for nor desire. In all probability Mrs. Fielde conveyed him the property in accordance with an expressed wish of her husband in his lifetime. Reading also between the lines of the essay, it is interesting to notice that Francis Fielde, the Holborn oilman of 1779, in 1809 has become Francis Fielde, Esq., of New Cavendish Street. In the letter quoted above Lamb speaks of his purchaser as “Mr. Grig Junr.,” more, I am inclined to think, from his desire to have his little joke than from mere inaccuracy, for he must have known the correct name of his purchaser. But Mr. Greg, Jun., was only just twenty-one when he bought the property, and the expression “as merry as a grig” running in Lamb’s mind might have proved irresistible to him. Lastly, the property is now called, and has been so far back as I can trace, “Button Snap.” No such name is found in any of the title-deeds, and it was impossible before to understand whence it arose. Now it is not: Lamb must have so christened his little property in jest, and the name has stuck.
Page 113, line 1. The maternal lap. With the exception of a brief mention on page 33 —“the gentle posture of maternal tenderness”— this is Lamb’s only reference to his mother in all the essays — probably from the wish not to wound his sister, who would naturally read all he wrote; although we are told by Talfourd that she spoke of her mother with composure. But it is possible to be more sensitive for others than they are for themselves.
Page 113, line 3. The play was Artaxerxes. The opera, by Thomas Augustine Arne (1710–1778), produced in 1762, founded on Metastasio’s “Artaserse.” The date of the performance was in all probability December 1, 1780, although Lamb suggests that it was later; for that was the only occasion in 1780–81-82 on which “Artaxerxes” was followed by “Harlequin’s Invasion,” a pantomime dating from 1759, the work of Garrick. It shows Harlequin invading the territory of Shakespeare; Harlequin is defeated and Shakespeare restored.
Page 113, line 20. The Lady of the Manor. Here Lamb’s memory, I fancy, betrayed him. This play (a comic opera by William Kenrick) was not performed at Drury Lane or Covent Garden in the period mentioned. Lamb’s pen probably meant to write “The Lord of the Manor,” General Burgoyne’s opera, with music by William Jackson, of Exeter, which was produced in 1780. It was frequently followed in the bill by “Robinson Crusoe,” but never by “Lun’s Ghost,” whereas Wycherley’s “Way of the World” was followed by “Lun’s Ghost” at Drury Lane on January 9, 1782. We may therefore assume that Lamb’s second visit to the theatre was to see “The Lord of the Manor,” followed by “Robinson Crusoe,” some time in 1781, and his third to see “The Way of the World,” followed by “Lun’s Ghost” on January 9, 1782. “Lun’s Ghost” was produced on January 3, 1782. Lun was the name under which John Rich (1682?-1761), the pantomimist and theatrical manager, had played in pantomime.
Page 113, last line. Round Church . . . of the Templars. This allusion to the Temple Church and its Gothic heads was used before by Lamb in his story “First Going to Church” in Mrs. Leicester’s School (see Vol. III.). In that volume Mary Lamb had told the story of what we may take to be her first play (see “Visit to the Cousins”), the piece being Congreve’s “Mourning Bride.”
Page 114, line 1. The season 1781–2. Lamb was six on February 10, 1781. He says, in his “Play-house Memoranda,” of the same occasion, “Oh when shall I forget first seeing a play, at the age of five or six?”
Page 114, line 3. At school. Lamb was at Christ’s Hospital from 1782 to 1789.
Page 114, end. Mrs. Siddons in “Isabella.“ Mrs. Siddons first played this part at Drury Lane on October 10, 1782. The play was “Isabella,” a version by Garrick of Southerne’s “Fatal Marriage.” Mrs. Siddons also appeared frequently as Isabella in “Measure for Measure;” but Lamb clearly says “in” Isabella, meaning the play. Lamb’s sonnet, in which he collaborated with Coleridge, on Mrs. Siddons, which was printed in the Morning Chronicle in December, 1794 (see Vol. IV.), was written when he was nineteen. It runs (text of 1797):—
As when a child on some long winter’s night
Affrighted clinging to its Grandam’s knees
With eager wond’ring and perturb’d delight
Listens strange tales of fearful dark decrees
Mutter’d to wretch by necromantic spell;
Or of those hags, who at the witching time
Of murky midnight ride the air sublime,
And mingle foul embrace with fiends of Hell:
Cold Horror drinks its blood! Anon the tear
More gentle starts, to hear the Beldame tell
Of pretty babes, that lov’d each other dear,
Murder’d by cruel Uncle’s mandate fell:
Ev’n such the shiv’ring joys thy tones impart,
Ev’n so thou, SIDDONS! meltest my sad heart!
Page 115. DREAM-CHILDREN.
London Magazine, January, 1822.
John Lamb died on October 26, 1821, leaving all his property to his brother. Charles was greatly upset by his loss. Writing to Wordsworth in March, 1822, he said: “We are pretty well save colds and rheumatics, and a certain deadness to every thing, which I think I may date from poor John’s Loss. . . . Deaths over-set one, and put one out long after the recent grief.” (His friend Captain Burney died in the same month.) Lamb probably began “Dream–Children,”— in some ways, I think, his most perfect prose work — almost immediately upon his brother’s death. The essay “My Relations” may be taken in connection with this as completing the picture of John Lamb. His lameness was caused by the fall of a stone in 1796, but I doubt if the leg were really amputated.
The description in this essay of Blakesware, the seat of the Plumers, is supplemented by the essay entitled “Blakesmoor in H—— shire.” Except that Lamb substitutes Norfolk for the nearer county, the description is accurate; it is even true that there is a legend in the Plumer family concerning the mysterious death of two children and the loss of the baronetcy thereby — Sir Walter Plumer, who died in the seventeenth century, being the last to hold the title. In his poem “The Grandame” (see Vol. IV.), Lamb refers to Mrs. Field’s garrulous tongue and her joy in recounting the oft-told tale; and it may be to his early associations with the old story that his great affection for Morton’s play, “The Children in the Wood,” which he so often commended — particularly with Miss Kelly in the caste — was due. The actual legend of the children in the wood belongs, however, to Norfolk.
William Plumer’s newer and more fashionable mansion was at Gilston, which is not in the adjoining county, but also in Hertfordshire, near Harlow, only a few miles distant from Blakesware. Mrs. Field died of cancer in the breast in August, 1792, and was buried in Widford churchyard, hard by Blakesware.
According to Lamb’s Key the name Alice W——n was “feigned.” If by Alice W——n Lamb, as has been suggested, means Ann Simmons, of Blenheims, near Blakesware, he was romancing when he said that he had courted her for seven long years, although the same statement is made in the essay on “New Year’s Eve.” We know that in 1796 he abandoned all ideas of marriage. Writing to Coleridge in November of that year, in reference to his love sonnets, he says: “It is a passion of which I retain nothing. . . . Thank God, the folly has left me for ever. Not even a review of my love verses renews one wayward wish in me.” This was 1796. Therefore, as he was born in 1775, he must have begun the wooing of Alice W——n when he was fourteen in order to complete the seven long years of courtship. My own feeling, as I have stated in the notes to the love sonnets in Vol. IV., is that Lamb was never a very serious wooer, and that Alice W——n was more an abstraction around which now and then to group tender imaginings of what might have been than any tangible figure.
A proof that Ann Simmons and Alice W——n are one has been found in the circumstance that Miss Simmons did marry a Mr. Bartrum, or Bartram, mentioned by Lamb in this essay as being the father of Alice’s real children. Bartrum was a pawnbroker in Princes Street, Coventry Street. Mr. W.C. Hazlitt says that Hazlitt had seen Lamb wandering up and down before the shop trying to get a glimpse of his old friend.
Page 118. DISTANT CORRESPONDENTS.
London Magazine, March, 1822.
The germ of this essay will be found in a letter to Barron Field, to whom the essay is addressed, of August 31, 1817. Barron Field was a son of Henry Field, apothecary to Christ’s Hospital. His brother, Francis John Field, through whom Lamb probably came to know Barron, was a clerk in the India House.
Barron Field was associated with Lamb on Leigh Hunt’s Reflector in 1810–1812. He also was dramatic critic for The Times for a while. In 1816 he was appointed judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, where he remained until 1824. For other information see the note, in Vol. I., to his First–Fruits of Australian Poetry, reviewed by Lamb. In the same number of the London Magazine which included the present essay was Field’s account of his outward voyage to New South Wales.
Page 119, line 24. Our mutual friend P. Not identifiable: probably no one in particular. The Bench would be the King’s Bench Prison. A little later one of Lamb’s friends, William Hone, was confined there for three years.
Page 121, line 8. The late Lord C. This was Thomas Pitt, second Baron Camelford (1775–1804), who after a quarrelsome life, first in the navy and afterwards as a man about town, was killed in a duel at Kensington, just where Melbury Road now is. The spot chosen by him for his grave was on the borders of the Lake of Lampierre, near three trees; but there is a doubt if his body ever rested there, for it lay for years in the crypt of St. Anne’s, Soho. Its ultimate fate was the subject of a story by Charles Reade.
Page 123, line 11. Bleach. Illegitimacy, according to some old authors, wears out in the third generation, enabling a natural son’s descendant to resume the ancient coat-of-arms. Lamb refers to this sanction.
Page 123, line 20. Hare-court. The Lambs lived at 4 Inner Temple Lane (now rebuilt as Johnson’s Buildings) from 1809 to 1817. Writing to Coleridge in June, 1809, Lamb says:—“The rooms are delicious, and the best look backwards into Hare Court, where there is a pump always going. Hare Court trees come in at the window, so that it’s like living in a garden.”
Barron Field was entered on the books of the Inner Temple in 1809 and was called to the Bar in 1814.
Page 123, last paragraph. Sally W——r. Lamb’s Key gives “Sally Winter;” but as to who she was we have no knowledge.
Page 123, end. J.W. James White. See next essay.
Page 124. THE PRAISE OF CHIMNEY-SWEEPERS.
London Magazine, May, 1822, where it has a sub-title, “A May–Day Effusion.”
This was not Lamb’s only literary association with chimney-sweepers. In Vol. I. of this edition will be found the description of a sweep in the country which there is good reason to believe is Lamb’s work. Again, in 1824, James Montgomery, the poet, edited a book —The Chimney–Sweepers’ Friend and Climbing Boys’ Album— with the benevolent purpose of interesting people in the hardships of the climbing boys’ life and producing legislation to alleviate it. The first half of the book is practical: reports of committees, and so forth; the second is sentimental; verses by Bernard Barton, William Lisle Bowles, and many others; short stories of kidnapped children forced to the horrid business; and kindred themes. Among the “favourite poets of the day” to whom Montgomery applied were Scott, Wordsworth, Rogers, Moore, Joanna Baillie and Lamb. Lamb replied by copying out (with the alteration of Toddy for Dacre) “The Chimney–Sweeper” from Blake’s Songs of Innocence, described by Montgomery as “a very rare and curious little work.” In that poem it will be remembered the little sweep cries “weep, weep, weep.” Lamb compares the cry more prettily to the “peep, peep” of the sparrow.
Page 125, line 6. Shop . . . Mr. Thomas Read’s Saloop Coffee House was at No. 102 Fleet Street. The following lines were painted on a board in Read’s establishment:—
Come, all degrees now passing by,
My charming liquor taste and try;
To Lockyer come, and drink your fill;
Mount Pleasant has no kind of ill.
The fumes of wine, punch, drams and beer,
It will expell; your spirits cheer;
From drowsiness your spirits free.
Sweet as a rose your breath will be,
Come taste and try, and speak your mind;
Such rare ingredients here are joined,
Mount Pleasant pleases all mankind.
Page 127, line 12 from foot. The young Montagu. Edward Wortley Montagu (1713–1776), the traveller, ran away from Westminster School more than once, becoming, among other things, a chimney-sweeper.
Page 127, line 9 from foot. Arundel Castle. The Sussex seat of the Dukes of Norfolk. The “late duke” was Charles Howard, eleventh duke, who died in 1815, and who spent enormous sums of money on curiosities. I can find no record of the story of the sweep. Perhaps Lamb invented it, or applied it to Arundel.
Page 128, line 14 from foot. Jem White. James White (1775–1820), who was at Christ’s Hospital with Lamb, and who wrote Falstaff’s Letters, 1796, in his company (see Vol. I.). “There never was his like,” Lamb told another old schoolfellow, Valentine Le Grice, in 1833; “we shall never see such days as those in which he flourished.” See the essay “On Some of the Old Actors,” for an anecdote of White.
Page 128, line 8 from foot. The fair of St. Bartholomew. Held on September 3 at Smithfield, until 1855. George Daniel, in his recollections of Lamb, records a visit they paid together to the Fair. Lamb took Wordsworth through its noisy mazes in 1802.
Page 129, line 14. Bigod. John Fenwick (see note to “The Two Races of Men”).
Leigh Hunt, in The Examiner for May 5, 1822, quoted some of the best sentences of this essay. On May 12 a correspondent (L.E.) wrote a very agreeable letter supporting Lamb’s plea for generosity to sweeps and remarking thus upon Lamb himself:—
I read the modicum on “Chimney–Sweepers,” which your last paper contained, with pleasure. It appears to be the production of that sort of mind which you justly denominate “gifted;” but which is greatly undervalued by the majority of men, because they have no sympathies in common with it. Many who might partially appreciate such a spirit, do nevertheless object to it, from the snap-dragon nature of its coruscations, which shine themselves, but shew every thing around them to disadvantage. Your deep philosophers also, and all the laborious professors of the art of sinking, may elevate their nasal projections, and demand “cui bono”? For my part I prefer a little enjoyment to a great deal of philosophy. It is these gifted minds that enliven our habitations, and contribute so largely to those every-day delights, which constitute, after all, the chief part of mortal happiness. Such minds are ever active — their light, like the vestal lamp, is ever burning — and in my opinion the man who refines the common intercourse of life, and wreaths the altars of our household gods with flowers, is more deserving of respect and gratitude than all the sages who waste their lives in elaborate speculations, which tend to nothing, and which we cannot comprehend — nor they neither.
On June 2, however, “J.C.H.” intervened to correct what he considered the “dangerous spirit” of Lamb’s essay, which said so little of the hardships of the sweeps, but rather suggested that they were a happy class. J.C.H. then put the case of the unhappy sweep with some eloquence, urging upon all householders the claims of the mechanical sweeping machine.
Page 130. A COMPLAINT OF THE DECAY OF BEGGARS IN THE METROPOLIS.
London Magazine, June, 1822.
The origin of this essay was the activity at that time of the Society for the Suppression of Mendicity, founded in 1818, of which a Mr. W.H. Bodkin was the Hon. Secretary. The Society’s motto was “Benefacta male collocata, malefacta existima;” and it attempted much the same work now performed by the Charity Organisation Society. Perhaps the delight expressed in its annual reports in the exposure of impostors was a shade too hearty — at any rate one can see therein cause sufficient for Lamb’s counter-blast. Lamb was not the only critic of Mr. Bodkin’s zeal. Hood, in the Odes and Addresses, published in 1825, included a remonstrance to Mr. Bodkin.
The Society’s activity led to a special commission of the House of Commons in 1821 to inquire into the laws relating to vagrants, concerning which Lamb speaks, the clergyman alluded to being Dr. Henry Butts Owen, of Highgate. The result of the commission was an additional stringency, brought about by Mr. George Chetwynd’s bill.
It was this essay, says Hood, which led to his acquaintance with Charles Lamb. After its appearance in the London Magazine, of which Hood was then sub-editor, he wrote Lamb a letter on coarse paper purporting to come from a grateful beggar; Lamb did not admit the discovery of the perpetrator of the joke, but soon afterwards Lamb called on Hood when he was ill, and a friendship followed to which we owe Hood’s charming recollections of Lamb — among the best that were written of him by any one.
Page 131, line 14. The Blind Beggar. The reference is to the ballad of “The Beggar’s Daughter of Bednall Green.” The version in the Percy Reliques relates the adventures of Henry, Earl of Leicester, the son of Simon de Montfort, who was blinded at the battle of Evesham and left for dead, and thereafter begged his way with his pretty Bessee. In the London Magazine Lamb had written “Earl of Flanders,” which he altered to “Earl of Cornwall” in Elia. The ballad says Earl of Leicester.
Page 131, line 28. Dear Margaret Newcastle. One of Lamb’s recurring themes of praise (see “The Two Races of Men,” “Mackery End in Hertfordshire,” and “Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading”). “Romancical,” according to the New English Dictionary, is Lamb’s own word. This is the only reference given for it.
Page 133, line 7. Spital sermons. On Monday of Easter week it was the custom for the Christ’s Hospital boys to walk in procession to the Royal Exchange, and on Tuesday to the Mansion House; on each occasion returning with the Lord Mayor to hear a special sermon — a spital sermon, as it was called — and an anthem. The sermon is now preached only on Easter Tuesday.
Page 133, line 24. Overseers of St. L——. Lamb’s Key states that both the overseers and the mild rector were inventions. In the London Magazine the rector’s parish is “P——.”
Page 133, line 27. Vincent Bourne. See Lamb’s essay on Vincent Bourne, Vol. I. This poem was translated by Lamb himself, and was first published in The Indicator for May 3, 1820. See Vol. IV. for Lamb’s other translations from Bourne.
Page 135, line 2. A well-known figure. This beggar I take to be Samuel Horsey. He is stated to have been known as the King of the Beggars, and a very prominent figure in London. His mutilation is ascribed to the falling of a piece of timber in Bow Lane, Cheapside, some nineteen years before; but it may have been, as Lamb says, in the Gordon Riots of 1780.
There is the figure of Horsey on his little carriage, with several other of the more notable beggars of the day plying their calling, in an etching of old houses at the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, made by J.T. Smith in 1789 for his Ancient Topography of London, 1815. I give it in my large edition.
Page 137, end of essay. Feigned or not. In the London Magazine the essay did not end here. It continued thus:—
“‘Pray God your honour relieve me,’ said a poor beadswoman to my friend L—— one day; ‘I have seen better days.’ ‘So have I, my good woman,’ retorted he, looking up at the welkin which was just then threatening a storm — and the jest (he will have it) was as good to the beggar as a tester.
“It was at all events kinder than consigning her to the stocks, or the parish beadle —
“But L. has a way of viewing things in rather a paradoxical light on some occasions.
“P.S. — My friend Hume (not MP.) has a curious manuscript in his possession, the original draught of the celebrated ‘Beggar’s Petition’ (who cannot say by heart the ‘Beggar’s Petition?’) as it was written by some school usher (as I remember) with corrections interlined from the pen of Oliver Goldsmith. As a specimen of the doctor’s improvement, I recollect one most judicious alteration —
“A pamper’d menial drove me from the door.
“It stood originally —
“A livery servant drove me, &c.
“Here is an instance of poetical or artificial language properly substituted for the phrase of common conversation; against Wordsworth.
“I think I must get H. to send it to the LONDON, as a corollary to the foregoing.”
The foregoing passage needs some commentary. Lamb’s friend L—— was Lamb himself. He tells the story to Manning in the letter of January 2,1810. — Lamb’s friend Hume was Joseph Hume of the victualling office, Somerset House, to whom letters from Lamb will be found in Mr. W.C. Hazlitt’s Lamb and Hazlitt, 1900. Hume translated The Inferno of Dante into blank verse, 1812. — The “Beggar’s Petition,” a stock piece for infant recitation a hundred years ago, was a poem beginning thus:—
Pity the sorrows of a poor old man
Whose trembling limbs have borne him to your door,
Whose days are dwindled to the shortest span;
Oh give relief, and Heaven will bless your store.
In the reference to Wordsworth Lamb pokes fun at the statement, in his friend’s preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, that the purpose of that book was to relate or describe incidents and situations from common life as far as possible in a selection of language really used by men.
Lamb’s P.S. concerning the “Beggar’s Petition” was followed in the London Magazine by this N.B.:—
“N.B. I am glad to see JANUS veering about to the old quarter. I feared he had been rust-bound.
“C. being asked why he did not like Gold’s ‘London’ as well as ours — it was in poor S.‘s time — replied —
“— Because there is no WEATHERCOCK
And that’s the reason why.”
The explanation of this note is that “Janus Weathercock”— one of the pseudonyms of Thomas Griffiths Wainewright — after a long absence from its pages, had sent to the previous month’s London Magazine, May, 1822, an amusing letter of criticism of that periodical, commenting on some of its regular contributors. Therein he said: “Clap Elia on the back for such a series of good behaviour.”— Who C. is cannot be said; possibly Lamb, as a joke, intends Coleridge to be indicated; but poor S. would be John Scott, the first editor of the London Magazine, who was killed in a duel. C.‘s reply consisted of the last lines of Wordsworth’s “Anecdote for Fathers; or, Falsehood Corrected.” Accurately they run:—
At Kelve there was no weather-cock
And that’s the reason why.
The hero of this poem was a son of Lamb’s friend Basil Montagu.
Gold’s London Magazine was a contemporary of the better known London magazine of the same name. In Vol. III. appeared an article entitled “The Literary Ovation,” describing an imaginary dinner-party given by Messrs. Baldwin, Cradock & Joy in February, 1821, at which Lamb was supposed to be present and to sing a song by Webster, one of his old dramatists. Mr. Bertram Dobell conjectures that Wainewright may have written this squib.
Page 137. A DISSERTATION UPON ROAST PIG.
London Magazine, September, 1822.
There has been some discussion as to the origin of the central idea of this essay. A resemblance is found in a passage in The Turkish Spy, where, after describing the annual burnt-offering of a bull by the Athenians, The Spy continues:—
In process of time a certain priest, in the midst of his bloody sacrifice, taking up a piece of the broiled flesh which had fallen from the altar on the ground, and burning his fingers therewith, suddenly clapt them to his mouth to mitigate the pain. But, when he had once tasted the sweetness of the fat, not only longed for more of it, but gave a piece to his assistant; and he to others; who, all pleased with the new-found dainties, fell to eating of flesh greedily. And hence this species of gluttony was taught to other mortals.
“Este,” a contributor to Notes and Queries, June 21, 1884, wrote:—
A quarto volume of forty-six pages, once in “Charles Lamb’s library” (according to a pencilled note in the volume) is before me, entitled: Gli Elogi del Porco, Capitoli Berneschi di Tigrinto Bistonio P.A., E. Accademico Ducale de’ Dissonanti di Modena. In Modena per gli Eredi di Bartolmeo Soliani Stampatori Ducali MDCCLXI. Con Licenza de’ Superiori, [wherein] some former owner of the volume has copied out Lamb’s prose with many exact verbal resemblances from the poem.
It has also been suggested that Porphyry’s tract on Abstinence from Animal Food, translated by William Taylor, bears a likeness to the passage. Taylor’s translation, however, was not published till 1823, some time after Lamb’s essay.
These parallels merely go to show that the idea was a commonplace; at the same time it is not Lamb, but Manning, who told him the story, that must declare its origin. Not only in the essay, but in a letter to Barton in March, 1823, does Lamb express his indebtedness to his traveller friend. Allsop, indeed, in his Letters of Coleridge, claims to give the Chinese story which Manning lent to Lamb and which produced the “Dissertation.” It runs thus:—
A child, in the early ages, was left alone by its mother in a house in which was a pig. A fire took place; the child escaped, the pig was burned. The child scratched and pottered among the ashes for its pig, which at last it found. All the provisions being burnt, the child was very hungry, and not yet having any artificial aids, such as golden ewers and damask napkins, began to lick or suck its fingers to free them from the ashes. A piece of fat adhered to one of his thumbs, which, being very savoury alike in taste and odour, he rightly judged to belong to the pig. Liking it much, he took it to his mother, just then appearing, who also tasted it, and both agreed that it was better than fruit or vegetables.
They rebuilt the house, and the woman, after the fashion of good wives, who, says the chronicle, are now very scarce, put a pig into it, and was about to set it on fire, when an old man, one whom observation and reflection had made a philosopher, suggested that a pile of wood would do as well. (This must have been the father of economists.) The next pig was killed before it was roasted, and thus
“From low beginnings,
We date our winnings.”
Manning, by the way, contributed articles on Chinese jests to the New Monthly Magazine in 1826.
A preliminary sketch of the second portion of this essay will be found in the letter to Coleridge dated March 9, 1822. See also the letters to Mr. and Mrs. Bruton, January 6, 1823, to Mrs. Collier, November 2, 1824, and to H. Dodwell, October 7, 1827, all in acknowledgment of pigs sent to Lamb probably from an impulse found in this essay.
Later, Lamb abandoned the extreme position here taken. In the little essay entitled “Thoughts on Presents of Game,” 1833 (see Vol. I.), he says: “Time was, when Elia . . . preferred to all a roasted pig. But he disclaims all such green-sickness appetites in future.”
Page 141, verse. “Ere sin could blight . . . ” From Coleridge’s “Epitaph on an Infant.”
Page 142, line 7 from foot. My good old aunt. Probably Aunt Hetty. See the essay on “Christ’s Hospital,” for another story of her. The phrase, “Over London Bridge,” unless an invention, suggests that before this aunt went to live with the Lambs — probably not until they left the Temple in 1792 — she was living on the Surrey side. But it was possibly an Elian mystification. Lamb had another aunt, but of her we know nothing.
Page 143, line 11 from foot. St. Omer’s. The French Jesuit College. Lamb, it is unnecessary to say, was never there.
Page 144. A BACHELOR’S COMPLAINT OF THE BEHAVIOUR OF MARRIED PEOPLE.
This is, by many years, the earliest of these essays. It was printed first in The Reflector, No. IV., in 1811 or 1812. When Lamb brought his Works together, in 1818, he omitted it. In September, 1822, it appeared in the London Magazine as one of the reprints of Lamb’s earlier writings, of which the “Confessions of a Drunkard” (see Vol. I.)was the first. In that number also appeared the “Dissertation upon Roast Pig,” thereby offering the reader an opportunity of comparing Lamb’s style in 1811 with his riper and richer style of 1822. The germ of the essay must have been long in Lamb’s mind, for we find him writing to Hazlitt in 1805 concerning Mrs. Rickman: “A good-natured woman though, which is as much as you can expect from a friend’s wife, whom you got acquainted with as a bachelor.”
Page 147, line 6. “Love me, love my dog.” See “Popular Fallacies,” page 302, for an expansion of this paragraph.
Page 150. ON SOME OF THE OLD ACTORS.
In February, 1822, Lamb began a series of three articles in the London Magazine on “The Old Actors.” The second was printed in April and the third in October of the same year. Afterwards, in reprinting them in Elia, he rearranged them into the essays, “On Some of the Old Actors,” “On the Artificial Comedy of the Last Century,” and “On the Acting of Munden,” omitting a considerable portion altogether. The essay in its original tripart form will be found in the Appendix to this volume.
In one of his theatrical notices in The Examiner (see Vol. I.) Lamb remarks, “Defunct merit comes out upon us strangely,” and certain critics believe that he praised some of the old actors beyond their deserts. But no one can regret any such excesses.
Page 150, beginning. Twelfth Night. When recalling early playgoing days in “Old China,” Lamb refers again to this play — Viola in Illyria.
Page 150, foot. Whitfield, Packer, Benson, Burton, Phillimore and Barrymore. Whitfield, who made his London début as Trueman in “George Barnwell” about 1776, was a useful man at Covent Garden and Drury Lane. — John Hayman Packer (1730–1806), known in Lamb’s time for his old men. He acted at Drury Lane until 1805. — Benson, who married a sister of Mrs. Stephen Kemble, wrote one or two plays, and was a good substitute in emergencies. He committed suicide during brain fever in 1796. — Burton was a creditable utility actor at Covent Garden and Drury Lane. — Phillimore filled small parts at Drury Lane. — Barrymore was of higher quality, a favourite character actor both at Drury Lane and the Haymarket.
Page 151, line 6. Mrs. Jordan. Mrs. Jordan, born in 1762, ceased to act in England in 1814 and died in 1816. Nell was her famous part, in Coffey’s “The Devil to Pay.” Miss Hoyden is in Vanbrugh’s “Relapse.” Lamb is referring to Viola in Act I., Scene 5, and Act II., Scene 4, of “Twelfth Night.”
Page 151, line 8 from foot. Mrs. Powel. Mrs. Powel, previously known as Mrs. Farmer, and afterwards Mrs. Renaud, was at Drury Lane from 1788 to 1811. She ended her London career in 1816 and died in 1829.
Page 152, line 8. Of all the actors. The London Magazine article began at this point. Robert Bensley (1738?-1817?) was at Drury Lane from 1775 to 1796, when he retired (alternating it with the Haymarket). G.H. Boaden and George Colman both bear out Lamb’s eulogy of Bensley as Malvolio; but otherwise he is not the subject of much praise.
Page 152, line 15. Venetian incendiary. Pierre in Otway’s “Venice Preserved.” Lamb appended the passage in a footnote in the London Magazine.
Page 153, line 12. Baddeley . . . Parsons . . . John Kemble. Robert Baddeley (1733–1794), the husband of Mrs. Baddeley, and the original Moses in the “School for Scandal.” William Parsons (1736–1795), the original Crabtree in the “School for Scandal,” and a favourite actor of Lamb’s. John Philip Kemble (1757–1823), who managed Drury Lane from 1788 to 1801.
Page 153, line 11 from foot. Of birth and feeling. In the London Magazine a footnote came here (see page 316).
Page 153, line 6 from foot. Length of service. In the London Magazine a footnote came here (see page 316).
Page 154, line 24. House of misrule. A long passage came here in the London Magazine (see page 317).
Page 154, line 8 from foot. Hero of La Mancha. Compare a similar analysis of Don Quixote’s character on page 264.
Page 155, line 23. Dodd. James William Dodd (1740?-1796).
Page 155, line 24. Lovegrove. William Lovegrove (1778–1816), famous in old comedy parts and as Peter Fidget in “The Boarding House.”
Page 155, foot. The gardens of Gray’s Inn. These gardens are said to have been laid out under the supervision of Bacon, who retained his chambers in the Inn until his death. As Dodd died in 1796 and Lamb wrote in 1822, it would be fully twenty-six years and perhaps more since Lamb met him.
Page 156, lines 26–29. Foppington, etc. Foppington in Vanbrugh’s “Relapse,” Tattle in Congreve’s “Love for Love,” Backbite in Sheridan’s “School for Scandal,” Acres in “The Rivals” by the same author, and Fribble in Garrick’s “Miss in her Teens.”
Page 157, line 13. If few can remember. The praise of Suett that follows is interpolated here from the third part of Lamb’s original essay (see page 332). Richard Suett, who had been a Westminster chorister (not St. Paul’s), left the stage in June, 1805, and died in July.
Page 157, footnote, Jem White. See note above.
Page 158, line 22. His friend Mathews. Charles Mathews (1776–1835), whom Lamb knew.
Page 159, line 1. Jack Bannister. John Bannister retired from the stage in 1815. He died in 1836.
Page 159, line 7. Children in the Wood. Morton’s play, of which Lamb was so fond. It is mentioned again in “Barbara S——” and “Old China.”
Page 159, line 19. The elder Palmer. The first part of the essay is here resumed again. The elder Palmer was John Palmer, who died on the stage, in 1798, when playing in “The Stranger.” Lamb’s remarks tend to confuse him with Gentleman Palmer, who died before Lamb was born. Robert Palmer, John’s brother, died about 1805.
Page 159, line 22. Moody. John Moody (1727?-1812), famous as Teague in “The Committee.”
Page 159, lines 31 to 36. The Duke’s Servant, etc. The Duke’s servant in Garrick’s “High Life below Stairs,” Captain Absolute in Sheridan’s “Rivals,” Dick Amlet in Vanbrugh’s “Confederacy.”
Page 160, line 1. Young Wilding . . . Joseph Surface. In Foote’s “Liar” and Sheridan’s “School for Scandal.”
Page 161. ON THE ARTIFICIAL COMEDY OF THE LAST CENTURY.
See note to the essay “On Some of the Old Actors.”
See also “A Vision of Horns” (Vol. I.) for, as it seems to me, a whimsical extension to the point of absurdity of the theory expressed in this essay — a theory which Lord Macaulay, in his review of Leigh Hunt’s edition of the Dramatic Works of Wycherley, Congreve, etc., in 1840, opposed with characteristic vigour.
Hartley Coleridge, in a letter to Edward Moxon concerning Leigh Hunt’s edition of Wycherley and Congreve, happily remarked: “Nothing more or better can be said in defence of these writers than what Lamb has said in his delightful essay . . . which is, after all, rather an apology for the audiences who applauded and himself who delighted in their plays, than for the plays themselves. . . . But Lamb always took things by the better handle.”
Page 163, line 16. The Fainalls, etc. Fainall in Congreve’s “Way of the World,” Mirabel in Farquhar’s “Inconstant,” Dorimant in Etheredge’s “Man of Mode,” and Lady Touchstone in Congreve’s “Double Dealer.”
Page 163, line 12 from foot. Angelica. In “Love for Love.”
Page 164, line 26, etc. Sir Simon, etc. All these characters are in Wycherley’s “Love in a Wood.”
Page 166, line 21. King. Thomas King (1730–1805), at one time manager of Drury Lane, the original Sir Peter Teazle, on May 8, 1777, the first night of the “School for Scandal,” and the most famous actor in the part until he retired in 1802.
Page 167, line 14. Miss Pope. Jane Pope (1742–1818), the original Mrs. Candour, left the stage in 1808.
Page 167, line 15 from foot. Manager’s comedy. Sheridan was manager of Drury Lane when the “School for Scandal” was produced.
Page 167, same line. Miss Farren . . . Mrs. Abingdon. Elizabeth Farren, afterwards Countess of Derby, played Lady Teazle for the last time in 1797. Mrs. Abingdon had retired from Drury Lane in 1782.
Page 167, line 10 from foot. Smith. “Gentleman” Smith took his farewell of the stage, as Charles Surface, in 1788.
Page 168, end of essay. Fashionable tragedy. See page 328, line 21, for the continuation of this essay in the London Magazine.
Page 168. ON THE ACTING OF MUNDEN.
See note to the essay “On Some of the Old Actors” above. Lamb lifted this essay into the London Magazine from The Examiner, where it had appeared on November 7 and 8, 1819, with slight changes.
Page 168, title. Munden. Joseph Shepherd Munden (1758–1832) acted at Covent Garden practically continuously from 1790 to 1811. He moved to Drury Lane in 1813, and remained there till the end. His farewell performance was on May 31, 1824. We know Lamb to have met Munden from Raymond’s Memoirs of Elliston.
Page 168, line 2 of essay. Cockletop. In O’Keeffe’s farce “Modern Antiques.” This farce is no longer played, although a skilful hand might, I think, make it attractive to our audiences. Barry Cornwall in his memoir of Lamb has a passage concerning Munden as Cockletop, which helps to support Lamb’s praise. Support is not necessary, but useful; it is one of the misfortunes of the actor’s calling that he can live only in the praise of his critics.
In the Drama of “Modern Antiques,” especially, space was allowed him for his movements. The words were nothing. The prosperity of the piece depended exclusively on the genius of the actor. Munden enacted the part of an old man credulous beyond ordinary credulity; and when he came upon the stage there was in him an almost sublime look of wonder, passing over the scene and people around him, and settling apparently somewhere beyond the moon. What he believed in, improbable as it was to mere terrestrial visions, you at once conceived to be quite possible — to be true. The sceptical idiots of the play pretend to give him a phial nearly full of water. He is assured that this contains Cleopatra’s tear. Well; who can disprove it? Munden evidently recognised it. “What a large tear!” he exclaimed. Then they place in his hands a druidical harp, which to vulgar eyes might resemble a modern gridiron. He touches the chords gently: “pipes to the spirit ditties of no tone;” and you imagine Æolian strains. At last, William Tell’s cap is produced. The people who affect to cheat him, apparently cut the rim from a modern hat, and place the scull-cap in his hands; and then begins the almost finest piece of acting that I ever witnessed. Munden accepts the accredited cap of Tell, with confusion and reverence. He places it slowly and solemnly on his head, growing taller in the act of crowning himself. Soon he swells into the heroic size; a great archer; and enters upon his dreadful task. He weighs the arrow carefully; he tries the tension of the bow, the elasticity of the string; and finally, after a most deliberate aim, he permits the arrow to fly, and looks forward at the same time with intense anxiety. You hear the twang, you see the hero’s knitted forehead, his eagerness; you tremble; — at last you mark his calmer brow, his relaxing smile, and are satisfied that the son is saved! — It is difficult to paint in words this extraordinary performance, which I have several times seen; but you feel that it is transcendent. You think of Sagittarius, in the broad circle of the Zodiac; you recollect that archery is as old as Genesis; you are reminded that Ishmael, the son of Hagar, wandered about the Judæan deserts and became an archer.
Page 169, line 16. Edwin. This would probably be John Edwin the Elder (1749–1790). But John Edwin the Younger (1768–1805) might have been meant. He was well known in Nipperkin, one of Munden’s parts.
Page 169, line 21. Farley . . . Knight . . . Liston. Charles Farley (1771–1859), mainly known as the deviser of Covent Garden pantomimes; Edward Knight (1774–1826), an eccentric little comedian; John Listen (1776?-1846), whose mock biography Lamb wrote (see Vol. I.).
Page 169, line 7 from foot. Sir Christopher Curry . . . Old Dornton. Sir Christopher in “Inkle and Yarico,” by the younger Colman; Old Dornton in Holcroft’s “Road to Ruin.”
Page 170, line 6. The Cobbler of Preston. A play, founded on “The Taming of the Shrew,” by Charles Johnson, written in 1716.
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